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What If Atlas Shrugged

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Ron
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Member Rara Avis
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25 posted 04-20-2009 09:50 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
For that matter, cause and effect itself is an artifact of human convenience which may or may not be the way things actually work in the world. It is a nice way to fix blame, but you'll notice that in scientific reasoning, the concept is not so popular as the notion of correlation, which is simpler to show.

I sure don't know what science you're reading, Bob? Astrology, perhaps?

quote:
If you are very successful, at least in this country, then you are able to take advantage of tax breaks and tax shelters and shield a large amount of your income from the government.

I question your accuracy (and cynicism), but let's say for a moment that I grant you your contention. So? The answer, obviously, is that everyone should try really hard to be very successful. Or does your cynicism extend to people? Do you doubt that everyone is capable of being successful in life? What percentage to do you believe are too dumb or too lazy or too unlucky to aspire to a better life?

quote:
"I" expect that a society take care of its members as best it can, with the emphasis on the poor and the folks who can't for one reason or another take care of themselves. I'm not a Christian, but that is, traditionally, "The Christian" thing to do. It's traditionally the ethical thing to do.

I think you're mistaken, Bob. God doesn't want society to take care of people, and He doesn't want government to take care of people. He wants people to take care of people. Welfare and entitlements rob them of that opportunity.

quote:
It is useful to remember the unbroken back, and the mat that keeps it that way. It is useful to sweep the mats, to keep them clean, and to keep them in repair. Even when the mats are working well, many of us still get injured despite our best efforts.

Then I guess you need to get new mats.

I trained in a much different environment, Bob. We didn't have mats. Sand if we were lucky, hard packed dirt when we weren't. We learned to depend not on mats, but on our own skills. And we learned to trust the people we trained with.

People are worth trusting, Bob. A whole more than institutions. Er, I mean mats.

quote:
Those who would not support the homeless are perfectly willing to fasten on any excuse. That the government helps, is as good as any.

That's a cynical way of looking at it, I suppose. Personally, I tend to think better of people and believe most are good people trying to do good things. These are the unwilling-looking-for-any-excuse ones, I guess, that you want to force to do the right thing, Bob? I assume they're the vast majority of our society? Else there would be no need to pass laws for everyone?

quote:
My notion about the usefulness of the safety net, however, is not solely because of the fact that it is charity. It is charity, and it is good for all of that. But it cushions the effects of economic downturns, and makes the cycle less damaging for the entire economy. It mitigates to some extent the cycle of boom and bust, and makes sure that the lows are not quite so bad, and the the recoveries happen more quickly, thus providing a benefit for everybody. Not to supply this sort of cushion is not only uncharitable, but it prolongs recessions and undercuts everybody's stability.

Okay, Bob. So we can toss your charity out the door when the economy gets better again?

I find it interesting, Bob, that you started out telling Ringo it was insurance, but now have decided to call it charity. A rose by any other name still needs a whole lot of dung to grow tall, I guess.

I also find it interesting that so far you haven't actually denied that you haven't read Atlas Shrugged. Have you? I hope you'll understand, it's very difficult to reconcile what you say Rand said with what it is very commonly agreed she actually did say? Your interpretation, at least as you've expressed it here, is not just a little wrong; it's pretty much in direct opposition to Objectivism. Surely, you can't blame us for wondering?


Local Rebel
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26 posted 04-20-2009 11:54 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Gentlemen.  Do we call the Bill of Rights charity or insurance?  It is the entire notion that every person is not afforded the basic rights of existence with which I disagree.  It is not charity that we extend -- and one does not have to earn these rights by paying insurance or serving in the military -- our rights are our rights.

Under Mosaic Law -- a poor person had the RIGHT (not charity) to enter any field and eat his fill.  In our non-agrarian society though we have no such measure to be afforded unless an undue burden be placed on the grocer.

Why is it that a woman is afforded the protection of the Commander in Chief from those who would do harm to life and limb -- from all enemies foriegn and domestic -- but we do not protect her from the same threat to life and limb if it is microscopic?

If we keep her or her children from death by starvation or exposure to the elements we call that WELFARE.  

No.  These are her rights.

quote:

Mostly, though, I suspect we'd disagree on this thing you call a base standard of living. I get the impression you want to work towards one? I'm willing to wait for one. Heck, I suspect we're already closer than some might think and getting closer every year.

This would be another minor quibble, I guess. From where I sit, you might be able to eliminate John Boy's job, but you can't outsource it. Not unless you're sending it to Mars? We live in a global economy and I think the sooner we start seeing it as a global economy, the sooner our vision will match our reality.



If we're going to embrace the current brand of globalism I agree that we are headed toward a minimal standard of living.

I would suggest all Capitalist actually read Adam Smith -- he was a mercantilist when it came to trade.

Me -- I'm for free market trade -- that is -- everybody gets treated the same and pays the same tariffs -- just like we get treated around the globe -- we've been chumps.

There is no unique comparative or competitive value to any modern industrialized society with the exception of natural resources -- everything else is parity with the exception of the price of labour -- if we're just going to race to the bottom there's little point in running.

quote:

That's not disrespect for John Janitor, Reb, because Rand would say exactly the same thing if it was John Galt suddenly demanding entitlements. It is the demand, not the person, with which she would disagree.



There you go again Ron....   Why does John Gault get to name his price?  But if John Janitor names his price you call it demanding an entitlement.  He gets no respect.

quote:

Since you brought up the Prisoner's Dilemma first, Reb, let's not forget that Phillip Pettit has pointed out that many-player PDs (typified by the Tragedy of the Commons) come in two flavors: free-rider problems and foul-dealer problems. People who choose to not cooperate do so for one of those two reasons. Both reasons hurt the society represented by the dilemma. I'm sure you would never want to advocate the foul-dealer, someone who intentionally hurts others. Why would you want to advocate the free-rider? The better answer, I think, is to advocate universal cooperation.



And if everyone would just behave we could get rid of the police department and save a ton of taxpayers money too?  Let's take it back to the Bill of Rights -- we need to throw out our civil liberties in exchange for safety because some people want to hurt us?

There aren't foul dealers and freeloaders in capitalism?  About 2% of the population are just plain sociopaths -- and they make great CEO's too.

Rand's treatement of the Twentieth Century Motor company belies respect for people (even though you say you trust people Ron -- you don't seem to either) because when there is a system of pay structured to meet needs instead of the merits of work -- the workers become deparaved and unmotivated.  If the objectivists only trust in people is to try to stay alive then it is no more trust than any other world view.

Empirical evidence belies Rand's premise that 'the mind' is inhabited by a few elite -- Deming proved that the real key to improvement was to empower those people on the assembly line -- or the ones with the broom in thier hand -- because they are the ones closest to the work -- not ivory tower innovation.

quote:

Well, actually, I guess we're not exactly in perfect agreement. For example, though I agree with your conclusion, I probably wouldn't call J.K. Rowling or American Idol shining examples of creativity?



It depends on what we call creativity.  They certainly have fulfilled a market haven't they?  But have they done it because they are the best product -- or because they are the one that was available to the investor?  Because in 'capitalist' America no one wants to invest in something original anymore -- so we have to borrow our pop culture from across the pond.  Capitalism is stifling creativity in America.

Bob K
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27 posted 04-21-2009 03:08 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


     I have read Rand.  I read Atlas Shrugged.  I read The Fountainhead.  I've Read, Heaven help me, The Virtue of Selfishness, and I believe one other.  I read them in the early sixties.  I thought they were wonderful, and in some ways I still do.  I reread The Fountainhead several times because I enjoyed the story as the story of an artist making his way in the word without making compromises.  I believe I actually have stated previously that I have read them.  

     I remember all that wonderful stuff about how people would support others naturally if government didn't force them to do so, then I found out that unless some effort was made,  government actually sided with folks who tended to prey on the poor.  This is one of the ways that we got debtor's prisons, where the debtors who were locked up were forced to pay for their incarceration and medical care and food.  America, you may recall, caused a big ruckus overseas when she came out against that when she revolted against England.

     Binding surfs to the land was another attempt to solve some of the same problems, a Feudal solution.  Nowadays some folks call that sort of thing slavery when we talk about it in terms of Tzarist Russia, for example.  This may be accurate.   The Industrial revolution helped folks extend help to their fellows by making eight and ten year old children work sixty and seventy hour work weeks in the glorious old days when there wasn't any of this namby pamby government forcing of people to help out their fellows.  

     If I understand you correctly, you would suggest that we'd do much better going back to that.

     I say that the poor and the underprivileged were crushed under debt.  They were preyed upon by companies who had no regard for anybody's health or safety, but only for the money they could squeeze out of their hides; and that these same companies fought every step of the way against any improvement in the health and welfare of their workers whenever they could.  I would suggest to you that there were some exceptions from time to time, because some of these guys realized that squeezing every single penny out of everybody they could meant that in the long run they were cutting their own throats.  

     I suspect that Ms. Rand had some of these guys in mind.  I don't think that she was especially settled on them as examples of what she wanted to have for her ideal society.  I'd suggest that Henry Ford, when he realized that he needed to pay a decent living wage to his workers so they could afford to buy his products, had the right idea.  I'd suggest to you that there were lots of coal mines that couldn't care less how many people they killed,  or how many families they destroyed in the process of strip mining Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  

     I suspect that they're still willing to do the same thing today with their lies about "the new clean coal."

     This money only accidently goes toward helping anybody other than the owners, managers and stockholders of these companies.  Despite the damage these folks do to the rest of us in their search for money, their return in terms of social utility is in my opinion (opinion, yes) quite small.

     If provision weren't made for some sort of programs to help deal with the ups and downs of the economy, history offers us little evidence that a voluntary safety net will spring up spontaneously.  You suggest that the existence of government programs prevents such things from happening, but of course you have the totality of human existence to draw examples from.  When humans were Hunter-gatherers, perhaps, we may have been more generous with each other; but we have no record to show it.  You can suggest that such things should happen and we are preventing them, but social programs such as the ones we are talking about are a recent invention, and you have all human history to ransack to show times when people gave in an un-coerced fashion.

     When would these times have been?

     And why, when people have more now than they have ever had before in the history of the world, should people adopt a more self-righteous stance about being asked to give enough to keep the economy running with reasonable smoothness, and to keep people from starving in this country at a minimum, and to keep people from dying of illnesses that can be prevented with minimal intervention.

     Does it hurt you that your kids grow up in a country that doesn't have a yearly polio outbreak to deal with?  That it's less likely that a serious depression will come along instead of an occasional painful recession?  That you don't see double amputees wheeling themselves along on roller-skate wheeled wooden platforms selling pencils any more?  

     It's tough enough that there are still over 35,000,000 folks without health insurance.  These people, you know, still get some sort of health care.  It's just that you and I end up paying much much much more than it would cost if we put them through a planned health care system rather than a system of already over-priced emergency care channels.  We've been offered a choice of paying x dollars or 10x dollars, and we've not only taken the choice of the 10x dollars, but we've asked the folks doing the work to do an extra slapdash job, so that these same folks will need to come back again soon, and a lot of times thereafter because the problems aren't really solved.

     Actually, I have considerably less respect for both Astrology and Alchemy that either Robert Boyle or Isaac Newton.  I know enough about both to know that I don't understand them, and to take a good guess that you don't either, at least only enough to take somebody's predigested skeptical opinion of both.  There are modern retreatments of the effects of the thinking of at least alchemy on Boyle and on Newton written within the last ten years.  At least half of Newton's work was in Alchemy; but, of course, he was only Isaac Newton.  Pretty much the same with Boyle.

     Recent re-evaluation of Galeleo's quarrel with the pope  is interesting, too.  The smirking comments about the pope and pitying comments about Galeleo no longer see quite so apt on closer examination of the facts.  As long as we're looking at what appear to be overly hasty comments.  

     Having worked with Retarded Men in a Half-way House, I can say that I haven't met anybody who believes they don't have a chance, even people who don't have a chance.  Just because they believe it, however, doesn't make it true.  Out of curiosity, I wonder, what would you do with these guys?  The old solution was to leave them out on a hillside, I mean back in the good old days.  Or lock them in the attic or cellar, or chain them there, or put them in asylums in conditions that you should research yourself to fully appreciate.

     We pay taxes so we can take care of these situations.  Some of these taxes are in the form of mandatory insurance.  Unemployment insurance that I recall was paid in part by the employer, and in part by the employee, by the way.  And as I recall, the employer could certainly block the payment of that insurance to the employee for at least a time if the employer was unhappy.  This was occasionally the case for cause, this was occasionally the case for supporting the union as opposed to the business during contract negotiations.  (By the way.)  As I recall, the employee contributes as well, and the employer contribution is designed to make sure that the lay off isn't arbitrary; that there's more than just a whim involved.  I believe that's fair, some employers don't.

     As a psychotherapist, I am a professional optimist.  

     As a person, I am not a cynic, but I do pay very close attention to what people say and the way in which they say it.  I find that you need to compare what they actually say and their actual history.  You will generally find these in close agreement.  If you compare either of these with what you think they say or what they'd like you to think they've said, you will frequently find a large disconnect.

     It isn't cynical to listen to what is said.  It simply sounds that way to people who listen to what they want to hear.

     If you actually have a discussion with somebody about what they have actually said, it can be shocking at times how quickly the discussion becomes emotional.  Anger or sadness are the two most frequent emotions that show up when you check to see if a person actually meant what they said.  

     Since you asked about my cynicism, I felt you deserved a straight answer.  If I go on any longer, I'll be leading the subject off onto psychology, I'm afraid.  

     I suspect the distinction between realism and cynicism is the test of predictive value.  That's a philosophical statement of sorts.

quote:

I think you're mistaken, Bob. God doesn't want society to take care of people, and He doesn't want government to take care of people. He wants people to take care of people. Welfare and entitlements rob them of that opportunity.



     This reminds me of a story told me by my analyst once about another of her patients.  The other patient was talking about how she was going to really mess up this person that she'd had a love rivalry with, and was going on at length, culminating with the statement, "An eye for an Eye."

     The analyst had broken in at that point to remind the patient that God had also reserved vengeance for Himself.  "'Vengeance is Mine,' saith the Lord."

     To which to patient quickly followed, "And I am His Instrument!"

     Riding on the back of that cheerfully grandiose utterance, and responding to your serene confidence in knowing what God wants, I will presume to follow you lead, if only in the most tongue in cheek fashion, and suggest to you that if you can assume to know His will in this matter, it is not at all inconsistent for fools on the other side of the debate to reflect the same point of view by saying that this sort of welfare is correct because, "We are His Instruments."

     The risability factor must surely be the same.

See you later alligator.

Mr. Bob

     It's been quite a while since I did any coursework in management and business, by the way, but there is actually some research as to what motivates people to work and to succeed.  Some of it was done by people who actually ran businesses and did academic stuff too.  The same holds true of Administration, both public and private.

     I've always wondered why the Ayn Rand folks always talk about the philosophy of Objectiveism and her novels and don't get much into the research or the business case studies on these fields.  Instead a lot of the discussion is on the philosophical and belief levels, and little discussion is devoted to Theory X and Theory Y or Maslow's Eupsychian Management or about organizational theory in general.

     Are the two literature so much in conflict?
serenity blaze
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28 posted 04-21-2009 04:06 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

quote:
I grant you your contention


I just popped in to say I'm stealing that.



That's gonna tick my son right the hell off.

Ron
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29 posted 04-21-2009 12:49 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
It is the entire notion that every person is not afforded the basic rights of existence with which I disagree. It is not charity that we extend -- and one does not have to earn these rights by paying insurance or serving in the military -- our rights are our rights.

I agree completely, Reb. I'll even go you one better. The Bill of Rights doesn't afford us any rights at all, it merely acknowledges them and guarantees the government won't impede them.

And therein, I think, lies the fallacy with your argument.

The Bill of Rights guarantees the right to bear arms. It doesn't give a man a gun. In fact, I can't think of a single right guaranteed in our Constitution that gives an American anything at all. It's not a list of entitlements, nor do I think the framers ever meant it to become one.

quote:
Under Mosaic Law -- a poor person had the RIGHT (not charity) to enter any field and eat his fill. In our non-agrarian society though we have no such measure to be afforded unless an undue burden be placed on the grocer.

Why is it more of an undue burden on the grocer, Reb, than it was the farmer? Hint: Who gets to define poor person?

quote:
Why is it that a woman is afforded the protection of the Commander in Chief from those who would do harm to life and limb -- from all enemies foriegn and domestic -- but we do not protect her from the same threat to life and limb if it is microscopic?

We do, Reb. We provide adequate sewers and clean water. We subsidize research that produces polio (and now, it seems, e.coli) vaccines. I think we do a lot to guard against microscopic invaders.

Do you think we should protect Americans from their own bad choices? If they don't want to drink the clean water, should we force them? Should we assign someone to monitor their health choices? At what point do we protect people, not from invaders, but from themselves?

I honestly don't see how we can talk about health care without answering these kinds of questions first.

quote:
There is no unique comparative or competitive value to any modern industrialized society with the exception of natural resources -- everything else is parity with the exception of the price of labour -- if we're just going to race to the bottom there's little point in running.

Is there really a choice, Reb? I think we're running whether we want to or not.

I don't see it as a race to the bottom, though. I think natural marketing forces -- that free trade you like -- will raise the bottom just as much as it lowers the top. Yea, it sucks if you're already on top. Not so much if you're on the bottom.

quote:
Why does John Gault get to name his price? But if John Janitor names his price you call it demanding an entitlement. He gets no respect.

I think we must be talking in circles, Reb. My emphasis was on the word demand, both for Gault and for Janitor. In Rand's philosophy both get to "name his price," but both must also be willing to accept no for an answer. Naming your price doesn't always mean someone is willing to pay it.

John Gault gets to name his price. John Janitor also gets to name his price. Neither of them gets to force their price on another. It only becomes an entitlement when one of them wants to pass a law to get his way, substituting force for negotiation and cooperation.

quote:
Rand's treatement of the Twentieth Century Motor company belies respect for people (even though you say you trust people Ron -- you don't seem to either) because when there is a system of pay structured to meet needs instead of the merits of work -- the workers become deparaved and unmotivated. If the objectivists only trust in people is to try to stay alive then it is no more trust than any other world view.

I can only speak to my understanding of Rand's philosophy, Reb, and at this point we're getting into subtleties. Nonetheless, I don't think I would be far off the mark if I was to say that Rand trusts people to follow their nature. That's not always the same as trusting them to do "what's right," as defined by honor, duty, and an outwardly imposed sense of obligation.

I honestly don't know enough about the Soviet Union to say with certainty that Rand's treatment of the Twentieth Century Motor company was an accurate analogy. I do know the Soviet Union apparently didn't work?

FWIW, there's a lot of tenets of Objectivism with which I don't agree, Reb. I think hypnotism really exists, for one.

Like Rand, however, I too am convinced that people are driven by self-interest. And, again like Rand, I don't think that has be a bad thing.

quote:
I have read Rand. I read Atlas Shrugged. I read The Fountainhead. I've Read, Heaven help me, The Virtue of Selfishness, and I believe one other. I read them in the early sixties.

I'm glad to hear that, Bob. Honestly, you might want to try reading some of that stuff again. With the benefits of age and wisdom, you might get a little more out of it. I sure don't pretend to understand everything about Objectivism, but I think I can say with some safety that your interpretation is flawed.

Rand would be much easier for most people to grasp, I think, if rational selfishness had been hyphenated into a single word, a single noun, a single concept. Objectivism, I think, recognizes selfishness but advocates rational-selfishness. That's an important distinction.

quote:
If I understand you correctly, you would suggest that we'd do much better going back to that.

Not at all, Bob. You cite the elimination of debtor's prisons, serfdoms, and child labor as if they were entitlements? Those are examples of government protecting people from other people, which is of course the prime function of government.

Your examples, as best I can tell, have nothing at all to do with welfare and socialism?

quote:
When would these times have been?

I don't know, Bob. When you and I were growing up, perhaps? When farm houses almost always harbored more than two generations? When neighbors brought food to funerals and their strong, willing backs to house-raisings? When this country survived a real depression by helping each other, not depending solely on government?

How about today, Bob? Those times aren't entirely gone. My nearest Amish neighbor, Harvey, has FOUR generations living under his roof. And Harvey still finds a way to support his neighbors when they need it. That's not welfare. That's people helping people.

quote:
Unemployment insurance that I recall was paid in part by the employer, and in part by the employee, by the way.

I think you're recalling wrong, Bob. Maybe you're confusing it with California's Disability Insurance, which indeed, IS forcefully extracted from both employee and employer? UI premiums are paid solely by the employer in every state I know, typically at about 12 percent of the first $12-14,000 of wages. Been there, done that.

Doesn't matter, though, because that's not the point.

If we gave that same money directly to the workers every week they earned it, it would accomplish exactly the same thing. The only reason not to do so, of course, is because you don't trust the individual to use it wisely. You want to force them to save it.

Do you really not see a problem with that, Bob?

quote:
... and responding to your serene confidence in knowing what God wants, I will presume to follow you lead, if only in the most tongue in cheek fashion, and suggest to you that if you can assume to know His will in this matter, it is not at all inconsistent for fools on the other side of the debate to reflect the same point of view by saying that this sort of welfare is correct because, "We are His Instruments."

LOL. Which, of course, is exactly what you meant, Bob, when you said in your own serene confidence, "... but that is, traditionally, The Christian thing to do. It's traditionally the ethical thing to do."

Please don't chide me, Bob, for being no less assured of my interpretation of Scripture than you were in yours.

quote:
... but there is actually some research as to what motivates people to work and to succeed.

I think that would be a very interesting discussion, Bob. It wouldn't have much to do with this one, though, because there's been much less research into what demotivates people to work and succeed.

You mention Eupsychian Management, for example. And what was Maslow's very first required assumption?

1. Assume everyone is to be trusted.

Okay. Let's try trusting the individual, then, to handle their own money wisely?


Grinch
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30 posted 04-21-2009 03:54 PM       View Profile for Grinch   Email Grinch   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Grinch

I live in a welfare state, I like it, I can see the sense in it. Both employee and employer pay a percentage into a central pot which funds health care, unemployment benefit and a state pension on retirement.

To me it’s exactly the same as an Amish barn raising, I put in my share when required and it gets returned in kind if, and when, I need it. Is it ideal? No, I don’t think so, I have some sympathy with Ron’s contention that it takes the choice and responsibility away from the individual. If it were up to me the system would be optional, if you are able and chose to help build the barn you’d get help building your barn when the time comes, if you are able and chose not to then building your barn is your own responsibility.

I think even the Amish would call that fair and amicable

In fact isn’t that part of the Ordnung? We call it insurance they call it a tithe, only theirs is optional, unlike ours which is compulsory.

I really admire the Amish for that, among other things, I think they’ve got this insurance lark just about right.

So much in fact that if I believed in god I think I wouldn’t mind being one, though I’d probably need to work on my humility and modesty - more gelassenheit less hochmut.

Huan Yi
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31 posted 04-21-2009 06:59 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

.


“ 32. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35. And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. ”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_each_according_to_his_ability,_to_each_according_to_his_need
.
Bob K
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32 posted 04-21-2009 07:35 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Yep.

     To be fair, I should point out that in the immediate wake of the death of Jesus, it seems there was a belief that the Kingdom of God was coming urgently and immediately.  This is my Liberal side, mind you, wanting to make sure that a fair presentation is being offered, and not to take away from Huan Yi's welcome contribution.  For which I do thank him.  As I must thank him for opening up this thread.
Balladeer
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33 posted 04-21-2009 09:07 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

I have read Rand.  I read Atlas Shrugged.  I read The Fountainhead. I thought they were wonderful, and in some ways I still do.

Bob, upon claiming that Atlas was about rich guys rebeling against higher taxes and hiding from Democracy, why would you consider it wonderful? What is it that you considered wonderful about AS?

I reread The Fountainhead several times because I enjoyed the story as the story of an artist making his way in the word without making compromises.

Howard Roark blew up a low-rent housing project, depriving many families of shelter,  because it was not built to his specifications. From posts you have made in various threads in the Alley, I would hardly consider something like that to endear such a  character to you.

Can you understand my confusion?
Ron
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34 posted 04-21-2009 10:11 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
So much in fact that if I believed in god I think I wouldn’t mind being one ...

You'd want to be a god? (Gotta watch them antecedents, Grinch.)

John and Bob, it's always difficult to respond to nothing but a quotation, but I should remind you that the Scripture being cited is describing a family of twelve individuals, not a society or government. I had much the same arrangement with my wives. Uh, separately, that is. Not at the same time.


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35 posted 04-21-2009 11:12 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Mike,

          The quality of a piece of fiction for me has to do with narrative power and the ability of an author to get a reader to identify.  I enjoyed MacBeth and Othello without making plans to kill a king or wife.  Even in a far more literal age than our own, where you could be imprisoned for writing stuff that was dangerous to the ruler, nobody popped Shakespeare in jail, though he may have gotten some heat on occasion.  Not being psychotic and never having been psychotic, I am able to separate fantasy and reality.  I am frequently able to enjoy fantasies that I would not countenance in reality.  This depends partly on my own sense of exploration and partly on an author's skill on helping me achieve a "willing sense of disbelief," as Keats put it, or the thing that helps keep me from walking out of movie theaters.  I'm better at extending it in books and in poems, and Ms. Rand writes good fiction.

     I even enjoy a lot of Robert Heinlein, whose politics I disagree with, but whose fiction I love, for the most part at least.  I'll read one or two modern Sci-fi writers whose politics, which figure strongly in their stories, I don't like but whose fiction is fun; though I'm less amused by some of them recently.  That could be lack of decent editing, however.

     Blowing up — was it Van Cordtland Park or something like that — was a terribly romantic and self destructive gesture, bound to appeal to the adolescent that was then and is still a large part of me.  I identified with the romance of the gesture and never even really thought of the poor folks that got put out into the cold, though as I recall the thing hadn't yet been occupied.

     I'd have to re-read the book to tell you.  

     Atlas Shrugged had much the same romantic turn to it, and it portrayed  all these wealthy creative types in quite a marvelous light indeed.  They were pretty much all misunderstood genius type folks.  My dad was a guy who started out as a businessman and who switched to academics.  He taught administration, economics and marketing at the University of Virginia and at Cornell, and our house was frequently filled with interesting people.  Some of them were businessmen, some of them were union organizers, but they were all energetic guys, and they were all basically decent folks.  Some of them might have been pretty hostile to others had they met directly mind you, but they were all decent guys.

     I guess the ones who weren't never got invited.

     This is why I've always been a bit suspicious of Ms. Rand, who reduces the folks on the other side to caricatures of humanity.  I know it isn't so.  I've met Lefties, by the way, that I've seen do the same, and I don't like that any more.  I am a liberal, but I will always defend the decency of most of the Republicans I've known.
There are simply certain issues that I happen to feel quite strongly about, as you know well.  I make no secret of them.

     I admire Ms Rand's fictional world.  

     That doesn't mean that I'm somebody who thinks Onjectivism's a practical solution to the issues of this world.  But I'm mostly pretty fond of the idealists who think it is.
Balladeer
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36 posted 04-21-2009 11:46 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

  I identified with the romance of the gesture and never even really thought of the poor folks that got put out into the cold, though as I recall the thing hadn't yet been occupied.

Interesting. I had thought you would have thought of the poor folks first. My mistake..

I appreciate your taking the time to respond.
Bob K
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37 posted 04-22-2009 02:08 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     When I'm caught up in a story, if the story is a good one and it's well told, then I follow the attention and the direction of the author.  That's what "Willing suspension of disbelief" is all about, and why it's so important to the actual process of writing.  If you have a reader questioning your story while you're writing it, questioning its detail, questioning why you put this thing in front of him instead of that thing, then you really don't have a story, do you?  You have a tug of war between the writer and the reader.  Because the writer depends on the reader's smooth cooperation with the text, that means that the writer will lose, and the text will go unread.  Perhaps it may function as a philosophy text or some other sort of prose, but as fiction or poetry, it's dead in the water.

     If Ms. Rand was nothing else, she wrote compelling fiction, at least much of the time.  Your surprise that I would be willing to overlook the plight of the poor in the face of a compelling romance of the Right actually surprises me.  I'm quite capable of getting lost in any fairly well written book, and only later looking back and considering the pro and con of what I've read.  With really good writing, the complexity is enough to keep you busy for a lifetime — as with the Shakespeare I referenced above.  Ms. Rand is more a melodrama or a morality play, like the work that Shakespeare drew from, with stock characters like Virtue, and Vice.  She's nevertheless worth rereading for her plotting and her ability to tell a story.

     On these things, I will not try to sell her short.

     I hope you are feeling better, by the way.

All my best, Bob Kaven
Bob K
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38 posted 04-22-2009 03:05 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Ron,


        You were curious about what demotivates people.  There actually is some literature on that, and some of it’s pretty good.  It starts with animal models and works up into human behavior.  Most is under the rubric of “Learned Helplessness.”  Here’s some intro from the psych side.  You might also check under “Locus of Control” and see what you come up with.  The same group of people are starting to do research on empowerment that looks fairly promising.  As is generally the case, there are more ways of breaking something than fixing it, at least at this point.  And sometimes things simply start off broken for one reason or another.
http://www.unfetteredmind.com/articles/helplessness.php

http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/lh.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness


     They have even found a method of extracting research data from everyday verbatim speech that seems to hold some promise for research.  I don’t know how good it is on interrater reliability, but you might be able to get some insight on that and other methodological issues  from

http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~fresco/cites.html


these folks.  The U of Penn folks have made quite a name for themselves in researching psychotherapy, a notoriously difficult area to investigate, and they’ve had Aaron T. Beck and Lester Luborsky doing research with them.  Seligman is right up there with these guys.  Top notch researchers, all of them, doing cutting edge research.  Zimbardo as well, who did the research in inmate and prisoner differences that was so startling.

     I am all for trusting people, but I have to ask, “Trust them to do what?”  Generally, the answer to that is, to do what they’re used to doing or are trained to do.  If you want somebody to do something different, you need to take responsibility for finding a real way of offering them a different choice that is a realistic other option that you have helped them experience as a realistic other choice that’s really within their power to make.

     Otherwise it’s like asking somebody if they want to jump over the empire state building now or take this ten dollar bill.  If you don’t explain the bit about the free helicopter ride and the job on the other side, you’re going to have a lot of folks asking for that ten dollar bill, aren’t you?  Of course that’s a total fantasy and stretched out of all proportion, but sometimes that’s what education can feel like to some folks.

     Anyway, thanks for the patience, and the learned helplessness stuff is worth a look, if you’re actually as interested as you suggest in what demotivates people.

All my best, Bob Kaven
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She's nevertheless worth rereading for her plotting and her ability to tell a story.

I'm really glad to hear that, Bob. I had thought for a minute that all you got out of the book was a bunch of rich people complaining about higher taxes since that was your original assessment, which was surprising to me. Ayn Rand stated on many occasions that here number one priority in writing a novel was to tell a good story. Glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for the well-wishes. Still having more pain than I'm supposed to have at this point and I go back tomorrow for more tests. Hoping for the best....
Huan Yi
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40 posted 04-22-2009 07:52 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

.


The one story I remember most
is of a hard working man who wanted
passionately to create a record collection,
but for any value he created beyond his needs
there was always someone who needed it more . . .


.

Bob K
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41 posted 04-22-2009 09:48 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Huan Yi,


http://www.essortment.com/all/whatisbodhisat_rfld.htm
Sincerely, Bob Kaven
rwood
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42 posted 04-24-2009 11:58 AM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

The “Welfare State….”

Objectively, our system is a foundational Failure, and it has allowed many the recipients to become a passive-aggressive drain on independent citizens.

Instead of logical, it’s Titanical.
“You fail to provide for self? No problem. We’ll provide for you.”

all aboard!

Above, you have 1 fully loaded face value derivative, 1 LIE, with “No problem.” And who is this We in the “We’ll?” and if We all climb aboard where’s the funds for the Good Ship Lollipop gonna come from? Ikea?

Anybody get a look at the parts manual for the ship?

Subjectively, people have to lie to self and nod where welfare helps while having to, purposefully, overlook the millions of invisible dollars rushing through a too open gateway of dependence, probably because of “Do not judge lest ye be judged,” mentality. Cool. However, poor judgment is the root cause of a heavy amount of poordome in our nation. This is where welfare sinks and, unfortunately, all those who are truly in dire need of assistance go down with them.

There’s a lot going on out there in the world of welfare that just ain’t right but nobody’s sayin’ it’s wrong in the captains’ seats, either.

Example 1: A single mom who became pregnant 17 years ago is still living on welfare. The father abandoned them. There has been little change in their status of living/being through the years: Same low income job, same education, no more children, no marriage, etc. No frills, just complacency. Now her daughter is pregnant and the soon to be delivered child will also receive benefits. The landlord of the mobile home the woman has rented is very pleased to receive rent, like clockwork, from the government for the past 17 years, and will do so until there are no more generations of welfare recipients within whatever trailer he provides them as shelter.

Example 2: A near-lifelong welfare recipient who is 39 years old has 7 children. 1 child was born while she was still at home with her mother who was also a welfare recipient. 5 more children were born from the daughter after marriage. Her husband divorced her and she received the marital home in the divorce settlement due to the children. The $1200 child support + welfare benefits she received a month was not enough. She refused to work. She poorly managed the money, did not pay her mortgage payment, and lost the family home. Meanwhile she found an 18 year old boy to father her 7th baby at 36. The 7th child is, more than likely, an attempt to recoup lost income support from the first child becoming an adult and joining the military. She is now receiving benefits from the state on 6 children, plus child support, plus grant money for college, which she has been a student for 9 years, and she openly states that she desires more children before her body gives out. The father of the five children filed for custody and lost due to him being a truck driver and her “a stay at home mom,” even though she lost the home. The father had remarried and built a seven bedroom home to shelter the children. The courts would rather them stay in the welfare state of living with their mother than award him sole custody. The children sleep on mattresses in the floor of any of her “family friend’s” homes she is able to squat in. They are already failing in school and are showing signs of social disorders due to their instable environment. The father has spent thousands in attorney fees and will spend thousands more trying to fight to provide a decent environment for the children. The courts are not concerned and provide 1-800 numbers for counseling.

I think example 1 is typical and both the renter and the landlord seem happy with the arrangement. Such is a complacent state of welfare where both the recipient and self-providing citizen are benefiting. But still there is no change from the initial status of need, even though the need is not so great that there is no peace of mind. The problem is: 3 generations of tax paying citizens have been/will be charged for all of her arrangements.

Example 2: No one is benefiting in any direction, except maybe the child who joined the military. He is the only one who has been able to “rise above” the status of need. Ironically, the father has had to pull back on his plight a bit in this economy so that he doesn’t wind up in the poor house. All children stand the chance of being nonproductive citizens, due to the mother teaching them to beg, borrow until they say no, then steal if they do, which he is fighting against this with all that he can with FAMILY assistance.


People can be creatively WRONG, too.


hence the banking "crises."
Bob K
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43 posted 04-24-2009 09:40 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


     Sources?  What are the possibilities?

     My understanding is that welfare records are confidential, so perhaps somebody is committing a felony by giving you information.  Should you expect information by a person self-defined as a criminal to be accurate?

     You are hearing stories from second and third hand folks who have axes to grind.  A lawyer, for example, has a specific case to present and the information will be biased in that direction, as, for example, in the direction of the father in the case you mention above.  If the truck driver is such a great guy, why would he hook up with a woman that he considers such a low-life?  Or might there be parts of the story you haven't heard?

     There is a history of folks telling stories about folks on welfare.  The stories didn't begin with President Reagan, who confided to the public about the story of a welfare queen, and then wasn't able to produce her.  We are a culture who believes in urban myths, and it behooves folks who pass on stories of this sort to distinguish their stories from urban myths by offering source material.  What distinguishes this from a Welfare Queen Story or a Vanishing Hitchhiker Story or a Mexican Pet Story or an alligators in the Sewers story?

     They may have forgotten the spate of legislation passed about ten to fifteen years ago that limited the amount of time that a person might collect welfare, and they may have forgotten the welfare to work laws that were a center-piece of the Republican Revolution, and which, unfortunately, President Clinton helped eagerly to pass.  Many of these provided a cut back in benefits after specified periods of time for people able to work.  They may also have forgotten the proportion of folks who collect government aid who are children and who are actually, disabled psychologically or physically, and of how small the benefits themselves actually are.

     I would suggest that you would not believe me if I mentioned these things to you, but that the figures are available, and that you might check them out.

     The research on Learned Helplessness is also of interest.  I offered some basic links to that in the thread above.  The programs that actually provide some inroads against Learned Helplessness seem to more than pay for themselves in the long run in reduction of prison costs and welfare costs down the road and in the increase in the number of taxpayers in the population.  Head Start is good for this, apparently, though I haven't checked recent figures.  The last I knew the program was facing cutbacks, though my information is more than a decade out of date.

     If you've got any solid attribution on those storied, I'd like to have a look, by the way, or any suggestion of where I might look to do the research myself.

     Sincerely, Bob Kaven    

[This message has been edited by Ron (04-24-2009 11:35 PM).]

Balladeer
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My understanding is that welfare records are confidential, so perhaps somebody is committing a felony by giving you information.  Should you expect information by a person self-defined as a criminal to be accurate?

Well, how do you want it, Bob?  If someone committed a felony by passing information, then the information would have to be accurate for him to be a felon...otherwise he would just be an urban myth provider, hardly illegal.

So easy to call something an urban myth to be able to attempt to discredit it but you know what? There WERE alligators flushed down toilets that grew in the sewers....one never knows.
rwood
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45 posted 04-24-2009 10:54 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Dear Mr. Bob,

Urban Myth? LOL. I wish that truly were the case.

No, Sir. We're a bit backwoods in these here Appalachian hollers, but no less real than the town folk. More mysterious maybe??

I personally know each of them, first hand, including the landlord. You'll have to forgive me for not disclosing names. I do wish things were Not true in my accounts. But they are. I'm actually a wee bit jealous of the mother in example 1. She has a nice Mustang. I love Mustangs.

I've fed and clothed the 5 children. Gorgeous kids. The mother is 3/4 Cherokee and the father is Scots. They all are olive complected with striking yellow/green eyes.

What myth is there to generational welfare? If such is a myth it would have been generated out and dissipated into the history books after the 1st generation of recipients, so many years ago.  


And the question on why would the father hook up with the mother? Oh, Bob. You know no one thinks the person they fall in love with is a low life. It's their actions that prove otherwise, most times, way down the marital road.

good night yall

Bob K
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46 posted 04-25-2009 07:14 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Rwood,

          You haven't had a look at what the law is about this stuff in a while, have you?  You are speaking as if the program governing things was AFDC instead of TANF, if I have my acronyms straight.  The latter was passed by the Republican Congress in 1996 with the signature of the President.  It dismantled AFDC and turned Block Grants over to the states to do with as they felt necessary to help those within their catchment  areas that needed some sort of help.  The overall slogan for this was Welfare-to-Work, and the idea was that all welfare was to be temporary.  This was, I believe, stupid.  Having spent time working in a school for the retarded, psychiatric hospitals and with  folks who are too messed up to work in one way or another, I can tell you that not everybody can work.  I'm surprised at what a large segment of the population actually can, but doesn't include folks with the IQ of rocks, or folks who will try to kill you or themselves if they are let out of restraints.  Nor does it include people too confused to navigate the streets or too depressed to get out of bed, though I've seen the government attempt to get folks in several of these categories taken off all social security support.  I am still angry at President Clinton about this.  What the heck.

     The way your block grant money is spent is up to the people of your state.  Whether this is true down to the county level or not, I can't tell you for your state; you might look that up yourself.  Rural poverty is in fact different than urban poverty, and the way the money is paid out is, I'm told, somewhat different.

     I can't tell you whether the way your county or state is deciding to spend is is good.  I suspect that the mother of seven that you're talking about has custody of her kids because courts tend to give custody to the mother, feeling this is generally in the best interest of the children.  This may be right, this may be wrong; this is generally the way courts seem to work.  Fathers are often upset about this.  The reasons for the upset will depend upon the person you ask about it.  I will not go into these details here because you have indicated that these people are people you know, and any discussion may get more personal than needed.  You can do the research as well as I can, though, and on the whole you should know that that favoring one side or the other in these cases needs to be done on a case by case basis, and that even then there is often good reason for advocates to argue well in both directions.

     You might also have a look at the literature on Learned Helplessness that I made reference to in my response to Ron a few postings above.  The research is good, and seems to be more dependable an explanation than the one that you seem to be offering.  It at least offers an explanation for the bad decision making, and offers a way to intervene in the process that is testable in its effects without running afoul of the human subjects study committee standards that academics are supposed to abide by.  By which I mean that no human subjects are supposed to be injured in the course of the study because that's considered unethical.  

Sincerely, Bob Kaven
 
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