Objectivist MetaEthics: Four

By Jimmy Wales

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 22:17:43 -0400

From: Jimmy -Jimbo- Wales jwales@indiana.edu

To: ASP-Disc lsanger@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: A Challenge for Jimbo

Hi, gang, I don't often get such easy challenges. :-)

I think that the philosophical essence of this question is "Jimbo, do you really mean it?" And my answer is "Yes, I do

It is not in your self-interest to steal from me because you can benefit in a far greater fashion by trading with me

The claim that it is in your self-interest up until the point that I decide to go on strike isn't correct. By weighing me down with all manner of taxes, rules, regulations, and the like, you severely delimit my ability to produce values

You want good cheap schools? The best way to get them is not to use the government to tax me and institute them. If you try that, you'll inevitably wind up with problems like those faced by our current public schools

You want good cheap transportation? The best way to get that is not to have the government involved in taxing and spending to get them. You'll inevitably wind up with pork-barrell projects and all manner of subtle inefficiencies

The proof of these claims is not via a kind of a priorism, intuitionism, emotionalism, or anything of the sort. The proof of these claims lies in a good hard look at the facts of economic reality. Among rational people, the initiation of force is always a suboptimal strategy. Feel free to dispute my claims about THIS if you like, and then we can argue about economics if you like. But I take the real question here to be a philosophical one, namely this: "Do you REALLY think that respecting other people's rights is in your self interest? Or do you appeal to something else?" The answer is: Yes, I really do. And furthermore, I think that it should be almost intuitively obvious to any well-educated person that this is the case

What's different about this case and the kinds of cases that we talked about before? Bryan correctly identified one difference, although I contend that in some ways (not all ways) it is a difference in degree and not in kind

In our earlier examples, we talked about why one shouldn't concoct some scheme to rob people, some elaborate financial fraud. In those examples, we all implicitly agreed that the discussion was taking place within the context of assuming that the sort of fraud contemplated would be illegal. This, of course, gives one additional reasons not to do it (you might get thrown in jail), but I correctly and cleverly didn't give this as a primary reason. :-) In this case, Bryan asks us to consider whether or not it would make since to elevate thievery into a principle of law, on an egoist view. If I may be permitted the indelicacy of quoting a rock song in defense of an abstract theoretical claim in political economy, I'll quote the Rush song which says "There's no safe seat at the feast." What that means, in this context, is that by abandoning the most rigorous defense of property rights in your governmental system, you open the doors *in principle* to all manner of pressure groups. You may think that _somehow_, in contradiction to the entire history of humankind, you will be able to safely and easily enjoy your plunder with no negative consequences, but, well, you'll just be kidding yourself

A mixed economy will always underperform a true laissez-faire economy, with the degree of underperformance correlated (and caused by) the degree of departure from principles of individual rights. I consider this to be a by-now well-establish fact of political economy

Here is another way to look at it. (I'm trying to give several angles, because I know people have a hard time understanding what I mean when I talk about the importance of principles.) Who serves to benefit the most from a laissez-faire economy? At the risk of jading you with my knowledge of pop culture, I refer you this time to a quote from the movie "Other People's Money." Danny DeVito points out that all the laws in the world can't stop him. Well, he's right and he's wrong. Smart people do o.k. (though not great) under lots of different systems. But it *is* your regular joe who gets the boot shoved up his arse in various socialistic, communistic, or mixed-economy schemes. The pyramid of ability means that it is the *poor* who will benefit the most from raw, unregulated capitalism

Like I say, we can quibble if you like about the economic facts. But maybe we don't need to do that right now. I think that the real issue is settled: does Jimbo pull some kind of question-begging trick at the base of his views on egoism and capitalism? I think the answer is no

Still, I would like to point out that there is a way to include psychological facts here in a nonquestion-begging manner. Your psychological machinery has an identity. It is an automatic response to your prior value judgments, but that doesn't mean that if you make all kinds of mistaken judgments that lead you to near-death, you will respond to that near-death-agony with joy! No, the relationship between emotions, values, and biological/psychological machinery is much more complex than that. To be really joyful, you have to make sure that your happiness is noncontradictory, which is to say, that your values are in accordance with the successful carrying on of the business of living. So there is a non-question-begging way for me to say that you _won't_ be happy if you steal from me, even if you attempt like the dickens to evade that fact that by stealing from me you are acting in contradiction to your own self-interest

I hope this clarifies and enlightens. :-)




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