Wednesday, September 19, 2012

417: The Aftermath of Neoliberalism: Libertarianism

In 2009, Paul Ryan, running mate of Mitt Romney, said "What's unique about what's happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it's as if we're living in an Ayn Rand novel right now.

I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault." 

So let's investigate whether this assault on the morality of  capitalism is justified.

The richest 1% of Americans  possesses over a third of the country's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90% of American families. The top 10% of American households are taking 42% of all income and hold 71% of all wealth.

Economic inequality is steeper in the United States than in other democracies. Some people think that such inequality is unjust and favor taxing the rich to help the poor. 

Others disagree. They say there is nothing unfair about economic inequality, provided it arises without force or fraud to the choices people make in a market economy.

The toughest defenders of the later point of view are the Libertarians, like Paul Ryan. You find these ideas among conservative Republicans, members of the Tea-Party movement. Even in the Netherlands we seem to have a libertarian party.

Libertarians reason that taxing the rich to help the poor violates a fundamental right. Taking money from the rich is coercive. It violates their liberty to do with their money whatever they please. 

Our liberty is based on what Robert Nozick (1938 - 2002) claims: "individuals have rights which may not be violated by other individuals" in his book : "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" (1974)

According to him, we have natural rights, especially our liberty and self-ownership (we own ourselves). This leads to his idea that we must see humans as ends in themselves and redistribution of goods is only justified on condition of consent.

This means that everything can be regulated by the free market. If this leads to winners and losers, there is nothing wrong with economic inequality as such. 

You can conclude nothing about the justice or injustice of this situation. What matter is  how the distribution came about.

All kinds of government rules and regulations to redistribute wealth, enforce health care, provide for social security for the poor and unemployed, are one by one serious infringements of the individual's right to liberty.

This is, because all is financed by imposing taxes, which even can be regarded as theft. 
Check this: 

There is the natural right of self-ownership. If I own myself, I own my labour. If I own my labour I must be entitled to the fruits of my labour. 

If someone else was entitled to the fruits of my labour, he would own my labour, so in fact own me. This is almost close to slavery.

If the state takes a part of my money, the fruit of my labour, it in fact takes my labour, which means that e.g. for 30% I am forced to work for the state, which is an infringement of my liberty.

We could object….hold on….you are a democratic citizen and thus subjected to laws which passed by majority vote.
The Libertarian reply would be: But what becomes of my individual rights?

May the majority deprive me of the freedom of speech and religion, as it deprives me of part of my income by taxation, claiming that as a democratic citizen I already have given my consent to whatever it decides by majority?

Does this argument hold? Are we indeed morally free in our self-ownership? Let me give you two examples.

Example one: Kidney donation is meant to save lives. You can donate one to your child because you can live with one. 

But if you OWN your body, these considerations do not matter. You are free to do with your property, i.e. kidney, as you please.

Suppose some art dealer offers you US$20.000 for a kidney. He makes coffee table ornaments of human kidneys. What prohibits you to take the money? Who cares about one kidney less?

Or suppose in a poor Indian village a father wants money for sending his son to college, so he'll have a better future. He sells a kidney to a rich American for transplantation.

Two years later he needs again money, now for sending his second son to college. He owns his body in absolute liberty and there is again a rich buyer for his second kidney…….

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:24] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman
[13:24] herman Bergson: You may think it over...of course...
[13:24] Velvet (velvet.braham): thank you
[13:24] Multiphilosophy: *nods*
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: hmm interesting issues for sure
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well let me reveal my main point.....
[13:25] Velvet (velvet.braham): but first, who says that capitalism has a morality?
[13:25] Velvet (velvet.braham): it seems amoral
[13:25] herman Bergson: the examples at the end of the lecture show us that the situation of self -ownership is not so simple in an ethical sense as some would let you believe
[13:25] Umae Ying: Do you expect free police and fire services? What if there was an attack by a foreign nation… free protection? Do you want to pay your own way on the services you receive?
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: i say we need to share and not take all for ourself, to care for others too¨
[13:26] herman Bergson: Ok...hold on....two matter here...
[13:26] herman Bergson: one..capitalism is amoral....
[13:26] Umae Ying: what if you could not pay the police yourself
[13:26] herman Bergson: Let's focus on that first...
[13:27] herman Bergson: there does not exist something like capitalism on the one hand and human beings at the other hand....
[13:27] herman Bergson: capitalism is the result of interacting individuals....
[13:27] herman Bergson: the ethics of capitalism is in the actions of the agents
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): pure capitalism is just a transfer of funds for good or services
[13:28] herman Bergson: It is often said that economy is amoral....
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): there's no judgement about those goods or services
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): peaches, kidneys,
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): etc
[13:28] herman Bergson: that sounds easy Velvet....but it already implies a value judgement....
[13:29] herman Bergson: You say GOOD services....
[13:29] Velvet (velvet.braham): ahhh yes
[13:29] Velvet (velvet.braham): okay
[13:29] herman Bergson: WHo decides what is good...where are the standards etc.
[13:29] Velvet (velvet.braham): the purchaser, I suppose
[13:29] herman Bergson: that is an ethical question
[13:29] Umae Ying: Marketing and advertising take advantage of knowledge about how to influence people... is that fair that the rich can access that… education in the art of manipulation is not equal…for all
[13:29] Multiphilosophy: I think I agree with the professor. Capitalism does not necessarily carry morality. It's a creation. I think we should question the morality of those who put the system in place.
[13:30] Velvet (velvet.braham) nods at multi
[13:30] Velvet (velvet.braham): yeo
[13:30] Velvet (velvet.braham): yes
[13:30] herman Bergson: You have ann important point there Umae.....
[13:30] Umae Ying: propaganda
[13:30] herman Bergson: and yes are right...
[13:30] herman Bergson: To get back to Umae....
[13:31] herman Bergson: Libertarians value liberty highly.....
[13:31] herman Bergson: but in what sense can we speak of liberty indeed in our world of commercials and advertizements...
[13:31] Umae Ying: superpacks
[13:31] herman Bergson: or...
[13:31] herman Bergson: Maybe someone knows the book of John Grisham..."The Brethern"
[13:32] Velvet (velvet.braham): oh please no grisham.
[13:32] Velvet (velvet.braham): smiles
[13:32] Velvet (velvet.braham): sorry
[13:32] herman Bergson: Part of the plot is that the head of the CIA "makes" the president by manipulation of all kinds of communication channels
[13:33] herman Bergson: Who has the money becomes president is th emessage
[13:33] Umae Ying whispers: FOX news
[13:33] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:33] herman Bergson: Even I know where FOX stands for :-))
[13:33] herman Bergson: You don't like Grisham Velvet? :-)
[13:34] Umae Ying: murdock
[13:34] Velvet (velvet.braham): no :)
[13:34] Umae Ying: beck
[13:34] herman Bergson: Tell me after class why if you have a moment ^_^
[13:34] Velvet (velvet.braham): smiles. okay
[13:35] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think who has money is a large part of becoming the US president
[13:35] herman Bergson: Economics seems to be amoral....
[13:35] Velvet (velvet.braham): sad but true
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: basically corruption
[13:35] Velvet (velvet.braham): exactly. we as people decide morality
[13:35] herman Bergson: when you look at news from the stock exchange you only see screens...all is run by computer programs
[13:35] Velvet (velvet.braham): but money just goes where it goes.
[13:35] herman Bergson: as if it is pure mathematics and science
[13:36] herman Bergson: which of course isn't true at all
[13:36] herman Bergson: economics WAS a part of psychology...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: yes the computers do all by themselves without intervention and make the economy spin out of control
[13:36] Umae Ying: insider trading... in washington also
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: giving even more money to the ones already have by automatics i guess
[13:36] Velvet (velvet.braham): no, the federal reserve has a lot of power
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: and draining the poor
[13:36] herman Bergson: No is the people at the keyboards that makes things rock :-))
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham) nods
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: it is the middle class that has to pay everything Bejiita
[13:37] Umae Ying: in london they phoned or e-mailed each other to "fix" a number for a little while
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): the rapidly shrinking middle class.
[13:37] herman Bergson: the Libor-interest....
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: yes but don't they just program it and then let it just run cause the computers are making 10000 s or more transactions per second
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): Umae, what number fixed?
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes that was manipulated to make quick profits....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: no human can follow that
[13:38] Umae Ying: it was in the trading...
[13:38] Umae Ying: i want to run this deal through...can you change the rate for a min while i run it through
[13:38] herman Bergson: But what nobody is talking about......
[13:38] Velvet (velvet.braham): ahhhh I see
[13:39] herman Bergson: when you make a profit...
[13:39] herman Bergson: some one else makes a loss!
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: true
[13:39] Velvet (velvet.braham): so?
[13:39] herman Bergson: and the person who takes the loss as a result of manipulated figures is ripped off...
[13:40] herman Bergson: so the people who do that are real thieves...nothing less
[13:40] Velvet (velvet.braham): ah, excuse me. manipulating figures is unethical.
[13:40] Umae Ying: it is common
[13:40] herman Bergson: Don't you think so, Velvet?
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: bankers who sell us investments induce the loss of middle class people
[13:40] Multiphilosophy: Yet are the ones defending their rights to be free of taxation.
[13:40] herman Bergson: The fact that is is common practice doesn't justify a thing of course
[13:40] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think that profit/loss is amoral.
[13:41] Umae Ying: stacking the deck is not amoral
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think that manipulation is not moral.
[13:41] herman Bergson: I wouldn't agree Velvet....
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: no
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: or i don't know
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: tricky
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): no, I agree that stacking the deck is not fair
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: how it all works
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: but one thing for sure is as u said when someone win some other loose
[13:42] herman Bergson: If I have a product of which I KNOW that is is a bad product and yet I sell it to some one promissing him a good deal and profit
[13:42] herman Bergson: I am a thief
[13:42] herman Bergson: a fraud
[13:42] Velvet (velvet.braham): unethical
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:42] Velvet (velvet.braham): but if you sell a good product and make a profit
[13:42] Velvet (velvet.braham): all is well
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: there are too many such products on the market
[13:42] Umae Ying: not if you had your friends create a loophole for you in the laws
[13:42] Umae Ying: then it is legal
[13:42] Umae Ying: not nice...or moral..but legal
[13:42] herman Bergson: I take the profit and the buyer takes a big loss based on intentionally misleading information
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: we get a ton of commercials for them in the mail we go buy and then turn out to be just crap
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: and end up on the scrap heap
[13:43] Velvet (velvet.braham): If I buy crap I blame myself.
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes UMAE...There you hit the bull's eye of banking ethics at the moment...
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yhere attitude is...
[13:43] Umae Ying: that is the reason the big shots in wall street are not in jail
[13:43] Velvet (velvet.braham): I would say that some of them are in jail!
[13:43] Velvet (velvet.braham): not nearly enough
[13:44] Umae Ying: looopholes created by their friends that they helped to get elected
[13:44] Velvet (velvet.braham): but some
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: i myself have concluded that to find the really good stuff i have to do hours of research on forums ect. before i can tell many things are really worth to buy
[13:44] herman Bergson: as long as there isn't a rule that forbids it, why should I stop selling this crab then?
[13:44] herman Bergson: I make a good profit with it....
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: i dont trust commercials except for some brands that I know make good quality
[13:44] Velvet (velvet.braham): because if you do, your clients will not return.
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: like Samsung and Philips
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: they make good things I've never had problem with them
[13:44] herman Bergson: There are always new clients Velvet....
[13:45] Velvet (velvet.braham): okay, good point.
[13:45] herman Bergson: if we have used up all 300 million americans we move to Europe...:-))
[13:45] Velvet (velvet.braham): Barnum said there is a sucker born every minute.
[13:45] Multiphilosophy waves at Amadeus.
[13:45] herman Bergson: Ok....back to the beginning....
[13:46] herman Bergson: a free market which is said ti be based on liberty and self-ownership
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Amadeus
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: hi Amadeus
[13:46] herman Bergson: I think, that at least we have an indication now that there are more values involved than only these two
[13:47] Umae Ying: what does ayn rand say?
[13:47] Umae Ying: does she include these others?
[13:47] herman Bergson: she would stick to the ideas of the Libertarians, Umae
[13:47] herman Bergson: No....
[13:48] herman Bergson: an idea of moral duty in a Kantian sense...
[13:48] Amadeus Semper (amadeussemper): Hi all
[13:48] herman Bergson: the possibility of the existence of altruism as a moral value...
[13:48] Amadeus Semper (amadeussemper) waves to Multi
[13:48] herman Bergson: all crap for her
[13:48] Velvet (velvet.braham): Rand would say that you can sell your kidney.
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes she would agree to that indeed Velvet...even when it is your second one...
[13:49] Velvet (velvet.braham): your kidney, your choice
[13:49] Velvet (velvet.braham): see? amoral. just a transfer of funds.
[13:50] herman Bergson: that brings us to suicide and assistance with suicide.
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well Velvet...
[13:50] Velvet (velvet.braham): holy cow, herman.
[13:50] Velvet (velvet.braham): that's a hot topic
[13:50] herman Bergson: in the 90s there was a prisoner who wanted to donate his second kidney to his daughter....
[13:50] herman Bergson: he went to court for that ....
[13:51] herman Bergson: His request was denied as unethical....
[13:51] herman Bergson: so
[13:51] herman Bergson: even when we think we own ourselves....
[13:51] herman Bergson: it seems that it is not the whole truth of life....
[13:51] herman Bergson: an other example....
[13:52] herman Bergson: has really happened....
[13:52] herman Bergson: 4 men in a boat....their ship had sunk....
[13:52] herman Bergson: ten days at sea...almost starving..
[13:53] herman Bergson: one member of the group..orphan, young, sick because of drinking seawater...
[13:53] herman Bergson: they took a vote....
[13:53] herman Bergson: one refused to vote but eventually one killed the sick boy....
[13:54] herman Bergson: and the three survived 4 days on the blood and flesh of the boy when they eventually were saved...
[13:54] herman Bergson: was this murder?
[13:54] herman Bergson: or was this from a utilitarian point of view...the greatest happiness for the greatest number...
[13:54] herman Bergson: so taking the life of the boy was morally justified?
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well..think about that....
[13:55] Velvet (velvet.braham): gosh, who can judge the actions of people in such circumstances?
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: I cant
[13:55] herman Bergson: the men were taken to court and convicted
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:55] Multiphilosophy: It sounds gray, neither good or bad, they flipped a coin and their decision was to take this action.
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: very interesting!!! it stimulates my thoughts! ty class!!!!!!! and TY herman!! i look forward to the new philosyear!
[13:56] herman Bergson: ok Bergie.....
[13:56] herman Bergson: You say grey Multi.....
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: its a such hard question
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: see you thursday :-)
[13:56] herman Bergson: but did the others have the right to take a life?
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: killing the boy was murder but if they haven't all would have died
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye
[13:57] Multiphilosophy: Likewise, should they all have died of hunger instead?
[13:57] Velvet (velvet.braham): we decide to take lives all the time
[13:57] Multiphilosophy: Hence the decision of flipping a coin.
[13:57] herman Bergson: Oh my..I see people are breaking down ^_^
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: i hav to go too, good night everybody
[13:57] Multiphilosophy: Good night Lizzy
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: night Lizzy
[13:57] herman Bergson: Is it morally justified to flip a coin on a human life?
[13:57] Velvet (velvet.braham): sure it is
[13:57] herman Bergson: Well Lizzy...till next time
[13:58] Multiphilosophy: It depends.
[13:58] Multiphilosophy: It is wrong to flip the coin about life and death if death can be avoided.
[13:58] Multiphilosophy: It is different if death is a result on both sides of the coin.
[13:58] herman Bergson: then you cheat :-))
[13:58] Velvet (velvet.braham): that too
[13:58] Velvet (velvet.braham): :)
[13:58] Umae Ying: is it certain death or just inconvenience
[13:59] Velvet (velvet.braham): see, that's unknown at the time of the flip
[13:59] Velvet (velvet.braham): otherwise there would be no need for a flip
[13:59] herman Bergson: Well..I guess I gave you enough to think about.....
[13:59] Umae Ying: maybe they should all stick together...
[13:59] Umae Ying: help each other
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: hehe indeed
[14:00] herman Bergson: our main theme is still to show that the free market has entered areas of live where it doesn't belong for moral reasons
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: ok tome to head on
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: cu soon all
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: this was some really interesting stuff
[14:00] Multiphilosophy: It was too late to help each other, they would have died of hunger. But what they could have done was prepare better for the journey... but it was too late for that.
[14:00] herman Bergson: SO...thank you all for your participation again ...
[14:00] Velvet (velvet.braham): herman, you know I'm still going to argue with you that the market has no morality
[14:00] Umae Ying: hmmmm
[14:01] Multiphilosophy: Thank you for the class. I had ideas about freedom similar to this class, but you made these ideas even more clear. *nods*
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: cu
[14:01] herman Bergson: Ok...Velvet...just go on attending the lectures...
[14:01] Velvet (velvet.braham): lol
[14:01] herman Bergson: you'll get lots of opportunities then ^_^
[14:01] Velvet (velvet.braham): thank you Herman
[14:01] herman Bergson: class dismissed ^_^
[14:01] herman Bergson: And now...what is wrong with Grisham, Velvet? :-))
[14:01] Velvet (velvet.braham): oh my
[14:02] Velvet (velvet.braham): I'm chatty today I guess
[14:02] herman Bergson: I am just curious

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