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Post Force
I want to take a look at and compare two books by two authors which have been discussed within this book discussion. The two books are Atlas Shrugged and The Grapes of Wrath, written by Rand and Steinbeck respectively.

I want to show the difference of what should/can happen versus what will happen, the focus of both books, their final causes, and when the use of force is justified as it is a major question that both books seek to find out.

These two books provide views on different ends of a spectrum. Atlas Shrugged shows how welfare can be detrimental to growth/freedom and in Grapes of Wrath we see that lack of some sort of social engineering can lead to a loss of freedom and wealth. Both books show that individuality, pursuit of happiness, and justice is squashed.

While Rand's book is pure fiction, Grapes presents a more plausible argument and displays a reality that did happen rather than something that may happen. While Rand's book is threatening and is based in the hypothetical, Steinbeck uses history to show what 'does' happen as a proof. While we can use Rand's ideas as something to think about, we must put more weight in Steinbeck as it is more squarely and firmly based in reality.

With that in mind, I'll continue.

Rand's idea of social welfare is not fully developed in the book and Steinbeck presents no direct argument for or against the level of welfare needed or justified within a state. Rand doesn't explore just how little social welfare is needed but there is a strong undercurrent in the book which promotes laissez faire with respect to how people succeed - leaving the free market to decide on who gets what jobs and earns what based on their ability.

The beneficial aspect of comparing these two books is that Steinbeck's story is based in a free market and occurs in the type of society/economy that Rand is promoting. Steinbeck's story shows the effects of what can happen rather than what could. He shows the effects rather than presents a case of mere conjecture.

Rand's idea of government is incomplete. Her only goal is to limit the government's ability to abridge the freedoms of business. In what way she means this is not 100% certain from her book but the idea of welfare is out of the question.

Steinbeck's main focus in his story is the plight of tenant farmers that are made that way through the leveraging of their homes in order to survive. When they find that they can't compete because of environmental factors, technological advancements they can't afford, and the ability of large farms to produce with economies of scale, they're forced to give up the land their fore-fathers owned and move to find a job that they hope will be waiting for them in California. No social safety net is set in place to retrain them or support them briefly while they transition.

The people in Steinbeck's novel represent those without special ability. They represent less than average minds who know only a single skill set. They are mature adults well past the age when most go to college, they have children, and support their parents with their earnings. They are hard working in the physical sense of the word - not in the sense in which Dagny sits at her desk and barks orders. They are Rand's mindless. The ones with the least value.

There are thousands of these people. As the land refuses to give, they are subject to the free market and find they must find a different career or another job in the same career. As they have no other skills and no time to learn them as they must feed themselves and their families immediately, they seek employment elsewhere rather than change career fields. They move to California. Thousands of them. They use their savings to do so without any help from anyone.

When they get to California they find that they've flooded the labor market and that there isn't work for them. The wages, because of all the surplus of labor, get severely depressed. The owners of the farms in California use this to their advantage and in various ways make good their attempt to turn these people in flight into chattel slaves.

The only real government help comes in the form of camps. These camps are run by, policed by, cleaned by, and lived in by the people in flight. This is federal land. Anyone not living in these camps, as there's not room for all of them, are again subject to the free market and there are no free rides. The local police continual burn any squatters quarters that they find, harass non-residents, and make life impossible for the men and women trying to find work. The only other alternative for these people is to stay in quarters made by the farmers for their workers. These quarters are slave barracks. The grocery store they must purchase from is owned by the farmer. He sells them food at high prices that they buy with the depressed wages he pays them. Now the people make only enough money to be able to eat and barely survive in the most basic and crude way imaginable. They exist and nothing more. They exist solely to work. They are trapped. If they get fired, they die. If they don't work 12 hour days, they die. The reward for their slavery is being able to exist another day in a situation that is dirty, precarious, and hopeless.

They live this way while the farmer, made wealthy by their labor, remains profitable. He uses his money to buy more lands and hire more armed guards to suppress any worker who snaps due to the sudden realization that their plight is a hopeless one and that they're working to support a system that enslaves them.

So, Rand proposes that men of ability are made to produce at the cost of their freedom and Steinbeck's argument is a similar one.

So when is use of force justified? If the people take the farm and divide it up amongst themselves it will make everyone all the poorer - yet if they stay in the position that they're in, they're doomed. What's to be done? Is it preferable to steal than to die? Is it preferable to use force to see your child live? Who is social engineering?

The final effect of Rand's philosophy does not show the person who, not being able to compete finds a different career and succeeds, but shows the person who is unable to do so along with thousands of others and is put in a condition infinitely worse than their previous one. It shows how the people who have benefited use their new wealth to oppress those who they once competed with - making them servants rather than free men. Democracy? Is democracy able to survive in this environment?

Aristotle invites you on a journey. He wants you to join him in trying to find out why things are the way they are. This is a major difference between him and Rand. Aristotle invites while Rand compels. Aristotle asks while Rand tells.

Aristotle considered that too much aristocracy or too much democracy were evil things. He didn't despise the middle as Rand seems too. He finds a great stabilizer in a wide middle class and there is value in that. I believe this is for a reason. He understands that all people are different with varying degrees of ability and with varying degrees of moral correctness. He understands that all men are grasping. He also understands that a government can be a power that influences individual behavior.

Rand is not advocating the oppression of the many but Steinbeck shows how her lack of consideration can create an intolerable human state and one that is justified in the use of force to seek advantage.



Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:15 pm
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Post Re: Force
Wow. Awesome. Please continue... I brought up Steinbeck early on mainly to illustrate that I was surprised how well Rand employs poetic imagery at times to break up the didactic train ride. :wink:

I suspect many conservatives and libertarians who are completely mystified by liberal ideas would gain understanding by reading the Grapes of Wrath. Here are poor Okies, not laying down, not asking for hand outs, but taking bold initiatives to escape intolerable situations only to encounter even worse conditions which you so well describe. There seems to be a contemporary fallacy that the free market would never allow such things to happen even after completely eliminating regulation on business. Wrong. It happened.

In fact, I'm sure Rand would say there was too much Government/business regulation even at that time as indicated by the title Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal . She would have supported this notorious decision by President Cleveland:
Quote:
One of Cleveland’s most famous vetoes was his veto of the Texas Seed Bill in 1887. A long and severe drought had stricken areas of Texas. With no grass to graze, eighty-five percent of cattle in the western part of the state died. Those cattle that remained were starving, often motherless calves. Many farmers were also close to starvation and had eaten their seed corn to survive. Congress authorized a special appropriation to send => seeds <= to the drought-stricken farmers. The amount ($10,000, or approximately $223,000 in today’s dollars) was small and the need was great, but Cleveland vetoed the bill.

http://billofrightsinstitute.org/resour ... seed-bill/



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Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:05 pm
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Post Re: Force
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Rand proposes that men of ability are made to produce at the cost of their freedom


No, she does not propose that the men of ability are made to produce. They should be free to produce.

Quote:

Rand's idea of government is incomplete. Her only goal is to limit the government's ability to abridge the freedoms of business. In what way she means this is not 100% certain from her book but the idea of welfare is out of the question.


It is certain which way she means this in that book. Look at what Judge Narragansatt writes at the end for a quick example off the top of my head:

"Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of production and trade"

This essentially means a separation of state and economics. Also see Galt's speech, there we see clearly what she means by limited government, a government whose purpose is to recognize, uphold, and protect man's rights. This is essentially what limits the government to doing.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:36 am
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Post Re: Force
I need to wrap my head around a part of this ideology. Do Objectivists believe that there are no downsides to an unrestrained free market?


There's also the sense that the market is more important than human flourishing, and should be held in higher esteem than human flourishing when and where the two are at odds.


Extremist ideologies born from the opposite extreme. Ayn Rand, Alissa, was born in the darkest times of Communist Russia, wasn't she?


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:30 pm
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Post Re: Force
Mr. A,

The first quote you've taken grossly out of context. The full quote was "So, Rand proposes that men of ability are made to produce at the cost of their freedom and Steinbeck's argument is a similar one."

I never said that's what she's advocating. She isn't advocating men of ability being taken advantage of and their freedoms being limited. She is presenting an argument in her book which shows why men of ability should not be taken advantage of. She is proposing that they are. She is showing why they shouldn't be. Steinbeck does something similar but with men of little ability. I hope I've cleared it all up. Why would you think that after having read the book that I would interpret her argument completely opposite of the one she puts forward? It's impossible.


Yes, the line by the Judge is what concerns me the most. Her idea of government is incomplete because she does not say how far government should intervene. EPA? Wildlife protection? City Parks? The EPA helps make a clean and healthy environment to live in - so business is possible. But what of the factory that got closed down because the product they were producing was hurting the environment? Well, government has just hurt business. They have abridged the freedom of that business, haven't they? And there are other examples in which having protectionist measures are better for the whole but that Rand never discusses. She doesn't discuss or explore many issues in her book. To say that she doesn't make herself 100% clear is to give her the courtesy of wiggle room. To pin her down is to acknowledge her as naive, shortsighted, and myopic... in a word: ignorant.


From you reference Judge N's quote:

"This essentially means a separation of state and economics."

So monopolies are ok? What about companies that charge less than it costs to produce an item just so another company goes out of business? What about when all the wealth is tied into a few hands and the average pay for labor drops to slave wages? What happens then? Feudal society? Rand is living in fantasy land if she thinks it can't happen. Does she really think that men will stop the pursuit of advantage and that when such a difference in wealth occurs between workers and employers that a stable society will be possible? That Democracy will be possible? If the people can't appeal to the government for help they'll just have to organize and use force - something painted in a very bad light in Rand's book.


Her argument isn't for the rights of all men. It doesn't recognize hard working men and women of little ability that have the potential to be taken advantage of, used as slaves, and have no recourse but the use of force to better their condition. Rand is on the wrong side of history.



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Post Re: Force
Quote:


There's also the sense that the market is more important than human flourishing, and should be held in higher esteem than human flourishing when and where the two are at odds.


Laissez-faire capitalism is the only moral political economic social system that upholds and protects mans rights, so it is a system that is supportive of human flourishing, and most certainly not at odds against human flourishing. It leaves one alone, to live.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:33 pm
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Post Re: Force
President, there is much I will comment on your response to me.

Quote:
Her idea of government is incomplete because she does not say how far government should intervene


Again, Galts speech goes into the nature and purpose of government and mans rights. The government does not intervene at all in economics, like controls, regulations, taxation. All it is there for is to protect mans rights, so if someone violates your rights, like not paying you the agreed to amount in working for them, you can take them to court, but governemnt cannot intervene at all in what your agreement is, like how much you should be paid, and so forth, for a quick example. I wil continue to address more of your response as I have time to.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:43 pm
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Post Re: Force
"The government does not intervene at all in economics, like controls, regulations, taxation."

Yeah? What of the military???? Who pays for that??? Police?? Roads???? I'm sorry but this is just ridiculous.




Comments like those are the reason I think Rand's book is so dangerous and why I wanted to read it. As a counterweight to a movement which Rand is against, the book is a win. For someone to buy into complete hands off capitalism as a protector of rights and not at all against human flourishing is false. This is the sentiment and intention of the law written by Judge N, and something that's as dangerous as tyranny to the stability and prosperity of a nation.

Now, I am for very limited government involvement in business. But when there is no government involvement, you have the disappearance of the American buffalo, monopolies, a polluted environment, and the oppression of the working poor.

Not so I'm misunderstood about the oppression of the working poor, as so many conservatives (who are the working poor!) enjoy grabbing onto that and perverting my views, I mean I intend to stop the creation of a servile class that's largely denied opportunity, hope, and happiness. I don't want slaves. Good working conditions for all and for those who wish not to work when they are able - let them starve.

All throughout history, only in states which have popular governments do the rich contribute a larger portion of their earnings and are conscious of how they flaunt their wealth as to not make people jealous. In societies run by tyrannies you see the opposite happen. Look at the prosperity of popular governments. They are not only wealthier but they produce more variety. This is because the wealth is spread and it enables most of the entire population to pursue what they love, perfect it, and pass it on to the rest of society for their benefit.

If the bottom line is creating wealth, increasing happiness and prosperity, and supporting human flourishing - it's government regulation and not Laissez Faire that's going to do it. Government regulation can also be something which does the opposite as well. Good laws and good men are a must.



Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:01 pm
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Post Re: Force
Quote:
Laissez-faire capitalism is the only moral political economic social system that upholds and protects mans rights, so it is a system that is supportive of human flourishing, and most certainly not at odds against human flourishing. It leaves one alone, to live.


Sounds great, but you're wrong. Unrestrained capitalism is like an engine without a throttle. Stuff breaks. The baser drives of our kind ensures that unrestricted freedom leads to the leveraging and entrenchment of private interests in unfair ways. We all want more, and we want more of it than others. Laissez-faire leads to not only systemic market failures, but also an army of minor, barely traceable market failures scattered across the whole.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:39 pm
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Post Re: Force
Police, courts, national defense, the government itself would all be funded voluntarily in Rands laissez faire capitalism. Ways of financing the government through voluntary means, could include many different ways, the point being no ones rights are violated in its funding, like it is with taxation.

As far as monopolies go, government would not bar competition. So if a business, say a retailer, charges prices that higher then its market value, people are free to not do busines with them. If the business charges lower prices than other retailers in a given area, and people decide to shop there instead of at retailers that are unwilling or unable to price their products lower, then so be it. No ones rights are violated no matter what the price on the goods are in this scenerio, and the business that is able to price their goods at lower prices than other businesses, they are not violating anyones rights by doing so. If they are the only business in an area, and decide to dramaticaly increase prices, that is their right, and people have to right not to do business with them. And since government has not barred competion, any business can enter that area and compete. The market has its own built in self regulatory devices and does not need nor should have the government at its controls.


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Last edited by Mr A on Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:46 pm
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Post Re: Force
Quote:
governemnt cannot intervene at all in what your agreement is, like how much you should be paid, and so forth, for a quick example.


I'd like to see the privatized version of a fair pay act. What's the use of Fair Pay Acts, anyways? Employers have always paid their employees fairly, since the 1800's! This government intervention was definitely an overstep, it should not have intervened. :|


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Post Re: Force
Pay would be an amount decided upon by an employer and or potential employee. If they pay too low, then work elsewhere, the government would not be allowed to interfere with issuing a minumum wage, as that is a violation of rights. Now if you have a contract with an employer at 20.00usd an hour, and when payday comes, they decide not to pay you for the 80hours of work, that is a breach of contract and you can then take them to court over it.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Force
Quote:
Pay would be an amount decided upon by an employer and or potential employee. If they pay too low, then work elsewhere


Right, sounds great MrA. But we have tried that and it was a miserable failure.

Where else would the potential employee work? Down the street where the pay is also very low? Someone would eventually come along that would accept the offer. Some money is better than none, even if the situation isn't fair. A "potential employee" is someone who is desperate, and is willing to accept deals that are not fair.

Intervention is required to curb such unfairness. The free market does not solve such a problem.

Quote:
The market has its own built in self regulatory devices and does not need nor should have the government at its controls.


The market has SOME regulatory characteristics. But it's common knowledge amongst economists that the market also has some areas where third party intervention is required for a healthy economy.


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Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:12 pm
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Post Re: Force
Interbane wrote:

Where else would the potential employee work? Down the street where the pay is also very low? Someone would eventually come along that would accept the offer. Some money is better than none, even if the situation isn't fair. A "potential employee" is someone who is desperate, and is willing to accept deals that are not fair.


A potential employee is a person seeking employment. If they think a potential employers terms are unreasonable, unfair, then they can continue seeking employment, elsewhere. If other people are not wiling to work for them either, and for similar reasons, the employer, then would not have anyone willing to work that particular job for the amount they have set it at. This leaves them vulnerable in the marketplace, and open to any competition, that is willing to pay employees more for their services. If they are unable to pay them a higher wage or salary, their business wil go under, with no employees.

Charging ridiculously high prices way above market value, in a free market, they leave themselves vulnerable to anyone that can charge lower prices.

This is what I mean when I say that the market has its own built in self regulatory devices. Supply and demand, market values (for jobs, goods), etc.

One does not need a government to step in and say that one should lower their prices, or raise their wages. Nor should it step in. The market value dictates the prices, for the jobs, for the goods. What people are willing to spend, willing to work for. Nothing should come between that, in Rands view, the government has no right to. No rights are violated during pricing, whether at, above, or below, market value. What would violate rights, is for the government to bar competition, or issue a minimum wage, or price controls.


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Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:02 am
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Post Re: Force
MrA, the market does not correct these things. It has proven in the real world that it does not correct these things. I'm sorry that Ayn Rand mischaracterized how a market behaves in her book. The real world has proven her book to be fiction - go figure.


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