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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 12:24amSanction this postReply
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James, I think this article does a great job of capturing the "sense of life" reasons that capitalism is the morally ideal socio-economic system. It was a pleasure to read.



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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 1:15amSanction this postReply
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James,

One minor correction: in "near doubling of life expectancy in this century is the result," don't you mean "over the last century?" This century is only 5 years old!



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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 2:24amSanction this postReply
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James,as one of those people who recently moved cross country to try my hand at something I've always wanted to do, I thank you for writing this. It will help get me through the times I question my sanity.
Btw, a funny story: I had a conversation with a woman at work who lamented the fact that she was forced to work in a capitalist society. When I asked her why she hadn't defected, she replied that the U.S. would not let her. I told her she was free to defect, say, to Cuba, she complained that the government would not help her do so. Then she thought a minute, and supposed it wasn't impossible.
She's still working with us.

What a country.




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Post 3

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:49amSanction this postReply
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A wonderful article, James. Congratulations! Rand said, (in the person of Galt) about the businessman: "They knew that theirs was the power. I told them that theirs was the glory." That is what your particular slant on things does for capitalism.

Barbara



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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 7:01amSanction this postReply
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James said:
"Capitalism is superior to all other economic systems precisely because under it both the body and the mind thrive."

"In summary, capitalism creates an atmosphere which allows individuals to grow healthier, more knowledgeable, and happier than under any other system"

James, isn't this a purely pragmatic justification for capitalism?  i.e. capitalism is right because it works, as opposed to capitalism working because it is right?  Does it somewhat confuse the cause and the effect?

I have always thought something along the lines that if man has a right to exist, and existence in the material world requires material things, then he has a right to engage in capitalism and make a material foot print in the world.  Capitalism follows from the basic fundamental rights of man and the necessity to act in the world.  It's not right just because it happens to be the best system, its the best system because it lets man live his life.

Michael F Dickey




Post 5

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 7:37amSanction this postReply
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Dickey makes a good point.

James,

I enjoy your articles, and applaud your defense of capitalism in this particular, after all it is what Objectivists are all about.

However, I think you present too rosey a portrait of success with statements like:

No one seriously believes that you are monetarily better off under socialism than under capitalism

 

and

 

The expansion of the rights of its citizens has been a continuing process, which has gained speed since the end of the second World War.
Yes, they do, and individual freedom has consistantly decreased since 1945.




Post 6

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 10:00amSanction this postReply
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Thank you all for your comments.

Andrew and Barbara- the older I get, the more I think that AR's greatest gift to me was her explanation of a sense of life. I think I would have had it anyway, but I love the words she gave me to express it. And Barbara, I hadn't thought of the ones you quote here in a while, and they are beautiful.

Adam- yes, I stand corrected. Once again, it will take me a few decades to realize that the century has changed again. I had the same trouble in the early 1800's and the early 1900's...
Joe- we should start a collection to help "liberate" this poor, oppressed victim.

Michael and Robert- the statement I made is meant to tie the practical to the moral. The assignment here was not to argue the moral, but the moral is the practical.

Robert- I do have to check myself to constantly to be sure that I am not once again being too optimistic. However, anyone of thinks that the world (including America) is less free since 1945 has a serious problem with pessimism. I am well aware that is some areas our freedoms have been eroding, but in the big picture, I mean, my God, man! I'll take terrorism and political correctness over gas ovens and collective farms any day!





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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 10:23amSanction this postReply
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That final line is very telling Robert,

I fear for our future James.  Your article presents the ideal; and is founded on a society of rational beings; but how many rational thoughtful persons live on your street?

Coincidently, I read a very disturbing piece  last night    www.g-r-e-e-d.com   that speaks to capitalism gone mad.  It has the same theme as a book I read a couple of years ago: WEALTH BY STEALTH.

Humankind's need for immediate gratification will be the downfall of  North American life as we know it. Was this assumed at the onset?  A quote from the above wesite:

                                Inside the coop where he'll stay 'til he's killed
                                The rooster sings anthems of Liberty
                                Because he was given two roosts.                Fernando Pessoa 

You can call me Cassandra; forewarned is forearmed.  Perhaps I'm just feeling my age.

Sharon







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Post 8

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 11:46amSanction this postReply
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Sharon, apart from the fact that his statistics are vastly exaggerated, the Greed writer's ascription of guilt makes no sense. It is not capitalism that causes drug addiction, mental illness, alcoholism, the gang problem, or school drop-outs. In any society, so long as men have free will, problems will exist that cause some people to eke out a precarious existence. But here, no one starves and no one is denied medical care -- facts unheard of in much of the world.

Barbara



Post 9

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 8:22amSanction this postReply
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Good article but shouldn't it just be called Free to Live?



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Post 10

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 2:42pmSanction this postReply
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Avarice is avarice, Barbara.

In a finite world; if I take more freedom; you must accept less. If  I clean out the cupboard before you get there; you are faced with less.

Capitalism is based on an infinite world.  As scarce resources are monopolized by an ever diminishing small number of entrepreneurs; we will be given fewer and fewer choices; until we find ourselves  (as already some poor do) between a rock and a hard place. The natural inequality of capitalism will become intolerable to those who are not afraid to look into the eyes of poverty.

This lack of tolerance is not guilt Barbara, it is ordinary human compassion; it comes from a recognition that love has failed.  It comes from empathy for a victim born in poverty and given just enough so that animal survival has been possible; but a brute has been raised. The children always suffer Barbara; but when they become adults they are held responsible for the consequences of their victimization. 

It would be more humane to murder these children at birth; rather than to observe their destructions and deaths by a million cuts.

The   www.g-r-e-e-d.com  article was more than statistics Barbara; it was also a history of economics.  Is this a history that Objectivists must ignore in order to retain a detached air of superiority?    My freedom is determined by the sense of freedom of those with whom I share life.           sigh



Post 11

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 2:58pmSanction this postReply
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James:

Thank you for this fine and inspiring essay!!!!

Cheers!!!

Ed




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Post 12

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:29pmSanction this postReply
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Sharon, the resources available to us are essentially infinite. The only resource that is in limited supply is human labor.

Capitalism is based on both of those facts. Capitalism exploits both of those facts to create ever increasing prosperity for ever increasing numbers of people.

Under capitalism there is no single "cupboard" with a fixed supply. There are multiple cupboards that are constantly being replenished. What was not a cupboard yesterday is a cupboard today.

Take away capitalism and you no longer have the multiple, replenishing cupboards. Take away capitalism and you are faced with diminishing wealth and increasing poverty.

Take away capitalism and you take away freedom.

And vice-versa.



Post 13

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:46pmSanction this postReply
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Rick,
     Beautifully stated.  Many who read your post will understand it and appreciate it.  Sharon is not one of them.

Thanks,
Glenn




Post 14

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:53pmSanction this postReply
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Sharon,
Rand addressed the issue of compassion regarding capitalism in ATLAS SHRUGGED and elsewhere. The choice is not capitalism and meanness versus altruism and compassion...I don't know what you've read by her, so it might help to clarify that now...

Since you've mentioned Alfred Adler on another thread, I am going to take a guess here...are you thinking of compassion in the sense of Adler's theory of the inferiority complex? If so, that may be the cause of the split here...Objectivism would reject the idea of compassion based on shared weaknesses (though it doesn't mean it doesn't happen, just that it is not held up as an ideal, see Lillian Reardon and James Taggart...). I don't know enough about Adler to comment too much (but don't get me started on Jung!). Objectivism would see compassion based on mutual admiration of strengths and like values (maybe a superiority complex?), and the idea is that capitalism is based on non coercive trade and exchanged benevolence, that the other party is held to be or have something of value. That doesn't mean everyone will be able to compete, and their is allowance for charity and such for those who may in some ways be inferior, but still have something of value in the eyes of the other, be it personal, spiritual, whatever. (In this case, maybe the person giving the charity once shared that person's weakness, or just out of benevolent empathy to see the other improve, and the inferiority complex may have some relevance here...).

This is again, just an educated guess at what may be behind your thoughts here.



Post 15

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:59pmSanction this postReply
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Rick,

Please,  what is the difference between "infinite" and "essentially infinite" ?  My argument is  against corporatism which has corrupted the "good" in capitalism.



Post 16

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 3:39pmSanction this postReply
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Since the days of slavery, American capitalism has depended on cheap foreign labor (though the labor has gotten a little more expensive over the years.)  It could be argued that this thoroughly expendable and ever-renewing resource has put us out front with the rest of the world scrambling to catch up.  'Course as the world gets smaller, we run into trouble with the whole "ever-renewing" part of the equation.  How do you expand markets, when all the untapped markets are tapped out?  It hasn't happened yet, so we can still pretend that wealth is produced out of the Ether, but sooner or later we will hit that wall, won't we?

Elsewhere on this website there's an invitation to write an article denying "zero-sum."
Write an article that explains how wealth is produced, not merely taken from a zero-sum source.  The article will fit into the "Foundations of Capitalism" category, and so should explain its importance to capitalism.  It should explain why it is that Capitalism requires this foundation.  The article should be aimed at laymen.  Capitalism will be defined in another essay.
I'd be really curious what y'all come up with.

I'm feeling a little self-conscious here, since I'm, more or less, an interloper.  I found this website entirely by accident, read your credo about rational discourse, after glancing at some of the threads on the board, found they reflected it for the most part, so here I am.  I've been curious about Ms. Rand and her followers for a while.  I have to admit, kind of assumed that she was the bunk, on account of because she denies anything spiritual (as a professional psychic--woowoo alert, feel free to write me off, used to it by now--I'm confronted with what I would term "spiritual" on a dayly basis).  You folks are interesting.  I didn't realize that she was such a fan of capitalism.  One of the peculiarities of capitalism among socio-economic models as I have understood it, is that it's not based in an ethic, but rather, what you might call "a mechanic."  Like a handgun, the principles of capitalism can be used for good or ill.  Yet here's a philosophy, Objectivism, that postulates capitalism as the ultimate expression of human potential.  Wowzers!  After reading this article, I can't help wondering if the old "Socialism is a lovely system, except in practice" wouldn't aply to your utopian capitalism.  I'm gonna have to read "The Fountainhead" for real now.  Thanks for keeping it lively! 

Oh, and Sharon, nice post.




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Post 17

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 4:40pmSanction this postReply
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Sharon, the point is that what are considered resources today is not the same as what will be considered resources tomorrow and what is a critical resource today may be useless tomorrow.

200 years ago Pennsylvania farmers were bothered by significant amounts of black goo that made their farming more difficult and there was concern about running out of whale oil. Today no one worries about whale oil and that black goo has made many men rich.

If you change your focus to what will be resources and realize that what will be resources depends on technology (ie, human knowledge) then you will start to understand why resources are essentially infinite.



Post 18

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 4:47pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Would you agree that everyone is inferior in some way to someone else?  It's a given that some are less perfect than others. I do not strive for the perfection  Adler described.  I've learned my lesson.  I seek improvement only. 

As a retired teacher I have bonded with hundreds of children from age 3 to 7, over a course of  35 years.  I have seen childhood pain in pupils from all walks of life. I suffered pain as a child; as did everyone else; that's how we learned about it.

Having resolved my own suffering does not deaden my recognition of it today. With adult eyes, I see the opportunity for benevolence; sharing the wealth;  to which I am committed.  It does not mean that I shouldn't follow the lead of Socrates and be the gadfly when I read articles such as that written by James. I have lived a privileged life having been fortunate to have been given a strong  gene pool and a pair of strong willed parents.  I appreciate those accidents of birth; and feel some obligation to show gratitude by sharing my talents with those who weren't as privileged; while simultaneously pricking the consciousness of the otherwise complacent privileged.     

If Corporatism carries on at will; we will be living as  Dickens wrote.  Is that okay with Objectivism?   Do some  have plans for workhouses and poorhouses?       Couldn't Objectivism become the conscience of the corporate ideal?  Isn't there some opportunity for positive action?

If you haven't read the Greed site, please try and read it with my eyes.  I think the white feather campaign would be a good idea. 

Linz wrote about the life of a bon vivant; he didn't say it meant sloth and unbridled consumption.   Jesus wasn't perfect; neither was Ayn Rand.      sigh



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Post 19

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - 4:52pmSanction this postReply
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Kevin, the North was far more capitalistic than the agrarian South yet it was the South that had the "cheap foreign labor" (slaves) while the North prospered by industrialization.

What put the US out in front was the ever expanding free trade zone that was the US. Markets can "expand" by evolving. What matters is increasing consumer satisfaction — and capitalism is the only way to achieve that.

Capitalism is the only system based on every individual's right to the product of his own labor and thus is the only moral system.



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