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Objectivism and Ayn Rand
Posted: 19 July 2006 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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homunculus:

Rand would only have insisted that any support that Raymond receives be donated voluntarily. Her objection was to the use of force to extract money to support Raymond.

Suppose that the society that Raymond lives in does not create enough wealth to provide Raymond with his comfortable existence? (“comfortable” was your description) Should they all be condemned to die of starvation because Raymond “needs” to be comfortable? If not, is it okay to reduce their lives to bare subsistence? At what point do you stop once you decide that it is okay to coerce one person to support another?

What if Raymond is only mildly autistic and can create enough wealth to just barely support himself? Is it OK to take money from him to support Jane who is in a permanent coma?

Human beings face raw nature and unlike other animals, they must create the values that they need to survive. Rand’s position was that the creator of wealth gets to determine how that wealth is used and no one may rightfully coerce that creator into giving up his creation against his will.  If you read “The Fountainhead” you will understand why I used the term “creator”.

The fact that Raymond has needs is irrelevant. “Need” doesn’t constitute a claim on anyone or anything. Suppose that Raymond had to face nature on the same terms as anyone else. What does “need” mean in that case? Will nature feed him and provide him with comfort because he has needs? Of course not, Raymond can only survive if someone else produces that things that Raymond needs.  So the real question is “Is it okay to enslave some people to support others?”

Either people have the right to their own lives and the wealth that they produce or they don’t.

In fact the central plot of Fountainhead relies on seeing the purposeful destruction of something the government subsidizes as being heroic. I don’t want to get more specific than that in case you want to read the book.

I’m not going to put in spoilers either but that is not a correct description of the plot. The question you refer to was “Can the government rightfully take whatever it wants from those who create wealth in order to support those who don’t?” The major character spends many pages arguing against that idea in exactly those terms.
However, this was not the central issue of the novel. The central issue was the individual vs the collective but not in the political sense. Rand was more interested in how individualism is related to creativity and happiness. She contrasts the people who live by their own independent judgment with those who simply “go along to get along”.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Mudfoot and Apollo, I was simply describing reality. Autism diagnosis has increased approximately 15-fold in the past two decades, for funding reasons. Psychiatric meds alone for guys like Raymond typically cost taxpayers $40,000 per year for no valid reason whatsoever.

The reality is that the Raymonds of the world are expensive. Churches are not able to take care of their needs. If your solution is to ignore their very real needs, then “man up” and declare that they be euthanized.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 19 July 2006 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Mudfoot and Apollo, I was simply describing reality. Autism diagnosis has increased approximately 15-fold in the past two decades, for funding reasons. Psychiatric meds alone for guys like Raymond typically cost taxpayers $40,000 per year for no valid reason whatsoever.

Do you have a source for these numbers for meds?  Just curious.  I have an autistic son and I’m pretty active with the autism community raising funds for research, and lobbying for support for families with autistic children, and I’ve never heard this number.

AG

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Posted: 19 July 2006 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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AG, my figure is strictly an estimate. It’s based on my direct-care experience. Once I started my own home I found out how much meds cost and was completely amazed.

About a week ago I attended a workshop on psych meds and the M.D. presenter made it very clear that drugs are only a bandaid. For the most part, prescriptions should be approached as temporary solutions. Unfortunately, careproviders, teachers and others are usually unwilling or unable to discover and solve core problems that result in drugs being prescribed.

By the way, I hope you have a copy of Paul Collins’ Not Even Wrong. But I’m sure you’re reading a lot. You’re properly skeptical about my claims, and I hope you’re equally skeptical about all other claims, even those that come properly footnoted and referenced.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 19 July 2006 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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I haven’t read that book.  I’ll add it to my list though.

There’s little more than a scattershot approach to treating autism with pharmaceuticals.  We are only just now beginning to understand what autism even is.

Part of the problem is that “autism” or and “autism spectrum disorder” (“ASD”) is diagnosed on the DSM-IV solely on the basis of behavioral, social and communicative symptoms - so it could (and increasingly apparently is) a term that catches a number of different children with different biomedical conditions. 

For a significant subset of ASD children, there is new research that they exhibit an autoimmune response that affects the electrical coordination between the different parts of their brains that govern speech, socialization and imaginitive play.  It creates a condition called microgliosis - an assymetric swelling of the glial tissues or white matter in the brain - indicative of toxic insult and neuronal injury.

There is also new research indicating a break down in key pathways for cellular metabolism (methylation and the activity of the enzyme methionine synthase) in many autistic children.
Other children may get the diagnosis under the DSM-IV criteria (or the Childhood Autism Ratings Scale or “CARS”) when they have a neurological condition known as dyspraxia.

Finding out what specifically is going on with a particular child is a complicated process that doesn’t lend itself to the “prescribe a drug based on the symptoms” approach that prevails in modern medicine.  Frankly, I’m unaware of any valid research demonstrating a significant, reliable impact on autism from any current drug.

AG

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Posted: 19 July 2006 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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There is no drug, and that’s the problem, AG. Way too much prescribing to treat symptoms that are caused by undersupported environment.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 19 July 2006 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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I just remembered that Temple Grandin devoted a few pages to drug therapies in Thinking in Pictures. Her stance is that autistic people who feel neurologically uncomfortable can benefit by trying certain things out. She’s not a doctor, however. And of course children need to be kept drug free whenever possible.

Also, it’s sometimes difficult to sort out tendencies that are inherently autistic as opposed to those acquired environmentally. OCD, for instance, is treatable at least partly with drug therapy. But you need to ask, does the person really have OCD or is it part of his syndrome? Anti-anxiety meds as well: is the anxiety caused by improper environment or is it inherent to the autism? And does it even matter? Very difficult questions, and the answer all too often, even with children I come across, is to drug the hell out of the person in order to calm him down. Frustrating.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 19 July 2006 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]
Also, it’s sometimes difficult to sort out tendencies that are inherently autistic as opposed to those acquired environmentally. OCD, for instance, is treatable at least partly with drug therapy. But you need to ask, does the person really have OCD or is it part of his syndrome?

That’s a really good point.  People with ASD frequently depend on very rigorous schedules and familiar circumstances or they become agitated.  It looks a lot like OCD, but it really isn’t.  It’s a coping mechanism for ASD or for people suffering a sensory integration disorder.  Meanwhile OCD is a separate neurological disorder with a fairly well-identified neurological cause that often can be treated with drugs.

AG

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Posted: 19 July 2006 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]Mudfoot and Apollo, I was simply describing reality. Autism diagnosis has increased approximately 15-fold in the past two decades, for funding reasons. Psychiatric meds alone for guys like Raymond typically cost taxpayers $40,000 per year for no valid reason whatsoever.

The reality is that the Raymonds of the world are expensive. Churches are not able to take care of their needs. If your solution is to ignore their very real needs, then “man up” and declare that they be euthanized.

I wasn’t saying that I agreed with Ayn Rand’s position—merely describing my understanding of it to you since you asked what her position was vis a vis Raymond.  My personal belief is that I want to live in a civilization that helps Raymond to the extent that he cannot help himself.

I think that a much better liberal thinker and writer than Ayn Rand was F.A. Hayek.  He has a great quote, but I’m away from the book right now, and I’ll try to paraphrase.  Namely, a liberal system relies upon the dynamism of individuals and self-organizing groups.  Freedom, competition, and fluidity are more important than sticking to out-moded forms such as 19th century laissez faire.  Hayek probably wouldn’t expect Raymond himself to compete or die.  Nor would he inflexibly forbid a democratic majority to force the whole society to bear costs that he or his family cannot bear on their own like Ayn Rand would.  However, Hayek would probably like to see competition for service providers for Raymond.  Raymond’s family has a better idea of how to help him to be happy than a panel of experts 3 thousand miles away and all sorts of layers of social services bureaucracy.  Perhaps they should be able to choose from a variety of social service providers, and have some level of government subsidies.  In other words, large government bureaucracies and central planning is not the best way to maximize the quality of products or services for the greatest number of people.

Hayek’s most famous work is called “The Road To Serfdom”.  It’s very readable and polite to the reader as opposed to Rand’s screeching misanthropy.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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I’ll certainly look into Hayek, Mudfoot. Your points are well taken. I hate to say it, but we would seem to have Reagan to thank, at least in part, for starting the ball rolling in the enormous task of emptying the large mental hospitals. Unfortunately, many thousands of mentally ill folks were suddenly street people, and I spent most of the 1980s stepping around them on the streets of New York. I wish I had some expertise in how all of this took place, but I don’t. I only suspect that Reagan was instrumental in what eventually became a very positive social process.

Here in California, the big state facilities that used to house perfectly fine people (developmentally disabled) have managed to almost completely transfer their wards into regular neighborhood homes. Of course judges forced them to, and it took a few years. The result is an enormous cost savings. Last night I quoted $150,000 as a typical figure, but back when the big hospitals were in business with DD folks (and when the movie Rainman was produced) the cost was almost double that. I wish I had a source for this, but I can only say that I learned about this figure (approx. $250,000 per “patient” per year) years ago in a workshop presented by an administrator who knew what she was talking about.

Baby steps. I could go on for quite a while here, but I suspect that I’ve already strayed too far from the topic.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 19 July 2006 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Good to hear, homun—yeah, Reagan is “credited” with causing homelessness because he closed lots of mental hospitals when he was governor here in California.  But I don’t follow the mental health industry, so it’s good to hear that there have been positive results since then.

It’s a very potent and well-marketed mis-characterization that economic liberals aka conservatives are Dickensian villians who relish causing pain in others in pursuit of their own aggrandizement.  But if one is willing to suspend pre-conceived notions momentarily it really just boils down to a couple of pretty simple axioms—it’s not the government’s place to solve every conceivable problem and bureaucratic central planning generally provides inferior results compared with individuals and groups choosing what they think is the best way to do things with the available resources.

Hayek also is interesting because he has an alternate explanation for WWII, fascism and communism.  Conventional belief is that fascists and communists hated each other because their viewpoints were diametrically opposed.  According to Hayek, however, fascists and communists warred just like two like-minded groups who saw the other as heretics—just like the Sunni vs the Shia.  Their underlying beliefs and structures were nearly identical—it was only the surface appearances which were different.  Replace “Aryan” with “Worker” and “Jew” with “Capitalist” and there’s not much difference between the two types of regimes.  Their real hatred and ideological opposition was against individualist liberal democracies.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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I’m another who admires Hayek more than Rand. It’s been over forty years since I read The Road to Serfdom. Inside the front cover of my copy is the date I finished reading it and the notation “Near the Date Line.” I was in the middle of the Pacific at the time on a Navy ship. (I was making about $50 a week but the cash wasn’t the total pay package. A friend of mine identified the fringe benefits of being in the Navy as “travel, adventure, sex, booze, and despair.”) I must have felt some wry amusement in reading the following passage of the book, underlined in my copy:

It is possible, of course, to organize sections of an otherwise free society on this (military) principle, and there is no reason why this form of life, with its necessary restrictions on individual liberty, should not be open to those who prefer it. Indeed, some voluntary labor service on military lines might well be the best form for the state to provide the certainty of an opportunity for work and a minimum income for all. That proposals of this sort have in the past proved so little acceptable is due to the fact that those who are willing to surrender their freedom for security have always demanded that if they give up their full freedom it should also be taken from those not prepared to do so. For this claim it is difficult to find a justification.—Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Chapter IX, Security and Freedom

A key expression there is “full freedom”. All the American military people I’ve ever met plan to return to the civilian world—with its attendant lower level of security—or they have done so already. They do not demand that others give up their freedom.

(Undiscovered typos in the preceding are my own fault. I don’t have a site address for that quotation. Also, there was another fringe benefit. I went to graduate school on the Viet Nam Veterans benefits.)

[ Edited: 11 September 2006 09:24 AM by ]
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Posted: 19 July 2006 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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[quote author=“Ted Shepherd”] A friend of mine identified the fringe benefits of being in the Navy as “travel, adventure, sex, booze, and despair.”

I guess that was before “Don’t ask, don’t tell” then.

:twisted:

—————


Here’s the Hayek quote I like, because it seems to sum up the whole thing:

[quote author=“The Road to Serfdom, paperback page 21”]
There is nothing in the basic principle of liberalism to make it a stationary creed; there are no hard-and-fast rules fixed once and for all. The fundamental principle that in the ordering of our affairs we should make as much use as possible of the spontaneous forces of society, and resort as little as possible to coercion, is capable of an infinite variety of applications.  There is, in particular, all the difference between deliberately creating a system within which competition will work as beneficially as possible and passively accepting institutions as they are.  Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 07:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Excerpt from Hayek on terminology:

The fact that this book was originally written with only the British public in mind does not appear to have seriously affected its intelligibility for the American reader. But there is one point of phraseology which I ought to explain here to forestall any misunderstanding. I use throughout the term “liberal” in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. (1944) In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that “liberal” has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.—Hayek, in the Forward to The Road to Serfdom

Ted, who is a conservative, er, ah, that is, a liberal, mm, I mean,  . . . oh hell, an eclectic

Post script to mudfoot on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
 
Winston Churchill, some sources say, addressed the British Sea Lords in 1912 with these words:

You say that I am ignoring the time-honored traditions of the Royal Navy? And what might they be? I shall tell you in three words. Rum, buggery, and the lash! Good morning sirs.

(The Navy taught me that the plural of “sir” is “gentlemen” but who am I to correct Winston Churchill? I have no comment on a sailor’s recreation.)

Ted, who wanders off to find a drop of rum . . .


(Edited to correct some spelling errors. I told you I couldn’t find this material on the net so I could have cut and pasted and avoided typos.)

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Posted: 19 July 2006 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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There’s somewhat of a resolution of that liberal/conservative misredefinition.  Namely, “socially liberal and fiscally conservative”.  I think that means that buggery is OK provided the price paid for it was determined by each party absent of government intervention.  Whereas I think that “socially conservative and fiscally liberal” means that buggery is not OK unless one of the parties needs it for their well-being—in which case it’s to be received by the other party without compensation as a matter of social duty.

And some people like to dress up like ponies.  But I’m not sure which political faction they’re a part of.

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