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Posts posted by Charles

  1. The role of government in a proper society is far narrower than justice. It is, instead, to protect individual rights from aggression and fraud. Many injustices may occur in a laissez-faire society and the government would take no action at all.

    Do you not think the United States should have a foreign policy?

    Do you agree that the IMF and WTO should be abolished?

    I don't know enough about the details to give a definite answer, but from what I do know I would conclude they are counterproductive, creating more problems than they solve. The fact that these organizations are covered by members states cash flow, i.e. tax payers money, makes them even more undesirable. Ideally a World Trade Organization would be an international charity aiming to spread individual rights and responsible business practice. So a tentative yes.

    Objectivists aren't pragmatists, and so they would not support such a program, right?

    Well, I've never called myself an Objectivist, my views are my own. I am an opportunist/pragmatist when it comes to shifting the status quo in the right direction. Example - It was in the interests of Britain to have a Conservative PM, Maggie Thatcher instead of a Labour PM that couldn't deal with Unions. She dramatically shifted Britain back in the direction of a free market, yet she was by no means an Objectivist, she on occasion centralized things for short terms solutions and privatized things in an in-effective manner.

    As to international aid programs, I would say a reform based aid program was preferable to a blank-cheque-to-despot based program. Ideally there would no tac funded aid programs. Ideally.

    I should point out that I draw the line for opportunistic/pragmatic support at the 'joining government' level. I can support others campaigns when they suit me, but I do not see myself the centre of a campaign where my views are compromised by the ideals of a party, which I do not totally agree with.

  2. Oakes: "Imagine a massive, digital dictionary/encyclopedia that integrated every single piece of knowledge from the broadest concepts down to the most palpable concretes."

    Well...I guess wikipedia is the fastest growing thing analogous to this in existence - but its not as integrated as you prescribe.

    There are also some very nice etymology dictionaries on the web which give a sense of origin of concepts in words. Personally I find this a very effective way of learning new things and putting them in context...even spelling them. (Example: Muscle - from *mus* and *mys* meaning small mouse in latin and greek respectively, A muscle is mouse shaped - biceps)

    Is it possible? Can one draw up an entire tree of knowledge? This is the question I've been pondering for a long time; Objectivism holds that all knowledge is integrated, which is what leads me to believe it is possible.

    I agree with Betsy's point that the only true integrating centres of knowledge are individual conscious minds because everyone has their own models, their own values. Hence I tend to think of databases like your describing as shaped for trees than as trees - the challenge is to create massive knowledge banks that are accessible by the senses - voice activated computers which give visual/audio displays and options for the knowledge requested.

  3. Do you believe that giving aid is a proper function of government?

    In the interests of spreading individual rights on an international level, perhaps - today, pragmatically speaking. At any rate, the strict 'reform-for-aid' system i'm suggesting would be an improvement on the current system. Idealistically speaking, the sole role of government is justice and that includes a foreign policy. The governments of free nations would have an ethically consistent foreign policy that barred trading/diplomatic relations with nations that abuse human rights etc. They could then offer easings in trade sanctions in reponse to reform rather than hefty aid packages consisting of tax payers money.

    Some argue the WTO, IMF etc simply maintain the status quo - discouraging the growth of new markets in developing countries at the expense of existing industries in the developed. God forbid the Brazilians start marketing their own coffee...

  4. BBC News

    ...and they say Kim Jung Il's nuclear policy isn't working! I'm told even China is currently giving less aid than that! Preimier Hu Jintao has stationed heavy troops all along the North Korean border (in contrast with his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who left it unguarded and freely supported the regime). To put this in context though - the US food has dropped from 100,000 tonnes in 2003 to 50,000 in 2004.

    US President George W Bush did not "believe food should be used as a diplomatic weapon"

    I think this is the issue at hand. My personal thoughts on this are that aid, whether in Africa or North Korea, or wherever, should be offered in return for reform. This also applies to IMF/World Bank loans, which should secure political reform in return for aid. If North Korea fails to reform, which is likely, they should as a matter of consistent policy, be left to starve until they collapse or rebel. Tough but realistic.

  5. Serenity looks great. Check out the trailer on the Apple website. Looks like its got some of that great Whedon wit in it. Personally I enjoy Angel quite a lot - the psycho vamp gone dark brooding hero...until he loses his soul. Which he does..frequently :D

    My favourite quote from that is when Angel returns from 3 months locked in a chest under the Atlantic (between series) as a result of his son (Connor, a 20 yr old boy who grew up too fast...or should I say, on a different time line) and tells him off (having just thrown him against the wall):

    "What you did to me - was unbelievable, Connor. - But then I got stuck in a hell dimension by my girlfriend one time for a hundred years, so three months under the ocean actually gave me perspective. Kind of a M. C. Esher perspective - but I did get time to think. About us, about the world. - Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. - It's harsh, and cruel. - But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be. - You're not a part of that yet. - I hope you will be. (Angel moves to stand in front of Connor) I love you, Connor. (Quietly, after a beat) Now get out of my house." :D

  6. Firstly, thanks for these informative first replies - Im still following up the links and shall report back shortly. I am familiar with PNAC, and the Neo-Cons more than any other group.

    One term that's different in the US and Europe is "liberal", I've been told.  Today's American liberal is usually an advocate of statism.  I've been told by European co-workers I've known that "liberal" in Europe means more like an advocate of liberty, in a loose sense.  Which I think is what it used to mean in the US maybe 100 years ago, and I've heard the term "classical liberal" used in the US to describe this.  (I believe I once heard economist Walter Williams, who is a strong advocate of free markets, describe himself as a classical liberal.)

    As to the word Liberal in Europe I have no idea what it means on the continent, but in the UK in the 19th and beginnings of the 20th Century the Liberals, or Whigs, described as 'classically liberal', were the progressive party in terms of free trade economics. Conservatives but plain ol' pro establishment. Then we got Ramsay McDonald's first Labor (socialist) government in 1923 swinging the nation status quo left (as everyone began to get the vote). Liberal has always meant reformist, its just then it was economic reform, and now the so called liberal democrats its social(ist). It is strange that the Labor party is now a centre party compared to the Lefty Lib-Dems. The conservatives are today the party of free trade and small government - as has been alluded to Maggie Thatcher took a course of deregulation, but only after decades of Labor nationalisation. In practice Thatcherites tended to centralize things to solve them. The Cons (Tories) today are now in a peroid of self-determination where factions are fighting for the next leader and a value set for the party. For its best hopes look at . Our previous deputy shadow PM (Tory), Oliver Letwin likened himself and the cabinet more to 19th Century Classical liberals than royalist/racist Tories.

    I shall now continue to read about HL Mencken.



  7. To all,

    I'm British as you may have gathered from my posts, and I'm reading through some old posts on as background to a current discussion there (Start A New Country -- Or Change The Old Ones?, initiated by Burgess Laughlin) - I am struggling with some of the terms used, particularly when Betsy talks of the similarity between Old Left & New Right as opposed to New Right/Old Left. Right and Left; Liberal & Conservative (& neo-con?), obviously have different connotations in our different countries, but with the added confusion of the meanings changing over time I'm finding in hard to place ideological borders through American culture as an outsider. Could you explain some of these terms - specifically New/Old Left/Right? I am especially interesting in seeing where our own Conservative party stands relative to the Republicans - religion certainly doesn't factor in as much in British politics. Any links to people whos views in public life represent a particular grouping are appreciated.


    Charlie Groome

  8. i] It's not possible to somehow stand outside it all and choose between entering into life or into non-life (i.e. death).

    No, its more like a continuum where choices hinge on specific instances, which stand relative to these juxtaposed opposites. The skill developed in consciously narrowing your choices to a certain goal is rationality and the standard reality.

  9. I am not sure I understand. Doesn't every individual animal act according to its individual nature?

    Or do you mean some individuals in a species don't act in a certain way to the extent that other members do generally?

    Yes, I though of changing that but though I'd give peoplet he benefit of the doubt. To clarify I mean the latter, as you so eloquently put it.

    One's destiny (outcome) will be a result, to a great extent, of that commitment to work on problems, but sometimes individuals suffer and die (failing to reproduce) because of ignorance or forces beyond their control (exploding volcanoes, for example).

    Point taken, I've given a sloppy definition - but exploding volcanoes aside you can see my argument: Volition is both the origin of good and evil by Objectivist standards. Im going to try and flesh these ideas out a bit.

  10. Aurelia: "I know, of course, that humans also have volition (unlike my animal examples) and can choose actions which are contrary to their nature. But I am at a loss as to why they would do so. Can it just be laziness, and a slippery slope of evasion? I would find that to be astounding!  Especially since it is so common."

    Animals may not have volition but they don't always act according to their nature - there ARE cheetahs who run slow, it is through those differences that natural selection occurs. The interesting point here is that volition allows for natural selection to be by-passed; the lazy survive. We still evolve though - you can't escape reality, so I like to think the primary mechanism for human evolution is volition, the ability to determine ones own destiny. Betsy mentioned O'Hara's quote:

    Betsy Speicher: "Sometimes it is laziness, particularly when the answer isn't obvious. Some people want an easier way out than doing all the mental work. Maybe they can get all the Right Answers by following the right religion or Guru or social movement. Maybe they can put off thinking about a tough problem, a la Scarlett O'Hara's "I'll think about it tomorrow."[/QUOTE] (my italics)

    That got me thinking that its the human ability to see causal chains further into the future than animals that allow certain people to develop a strategy of leeching of others in order to survive, as a way of life. That its the power of foresight, as well as the ability to interact with whats seen (adapt your enviroment), that negates natural selection, allowing choice (god knows how!) and laziness.

  11. (He does violate reality in the second film, at one point apparently using in-Matrix powers in the real world, which is one of the things that made it hugely disappointing for me.)

    I thought the point was that the 'real world' of Zion was just a machine creation like the matrix Neo usually broke rules in.

  12. Yes, great review Helen. I agree, some of the actors were perfect - though I didn't think the graphics format or script did Stephen Fry Justice, or for that matter Marvin. Slartibartfast was good, and so was Bill Bailey as the falling sperm whale. Its a shame they didn't include the reincarnated fly scenes, but like you say - it doesn't really suit feature length film production.

  13. This film was not a patch on the book. For those who read it the very essence of its humor is the quintessential Britishness of the protagonist, Arthur Dent, and the situations he ends up in at various points up and down the length and depth of space-time. The film had a soppy ending with Arthur getting the girl, cut out the funniest scenes, added unamusing, unecessary bits to excuse all it left out...*argh!*...I'm going to stop ranting now.

  14. The Chancellor? He says, in effect, the Jedi are dogmatic and are telling you to evade thinking about the half of the Force that they're afraid of. He says: I know what you're going through. It's rough, but I'll help you through it. If I'm Anakin, I'm listening to this guy more than I'm listening to Yoda. But that's just because I want to pursue my own happiness.

    Palpatine is offering emotionally appealing prospects to Anakin - agreed. But lets look at Anakin - his ethics, everything he has learn't as a Jedi, somehow does not encapsulate the concept of democracy - several times he states his preference for Palpatine's increased powers and rubbishes the senate as ineffective and slow. Given this, its certainly no wonder he rated Palpatines offer above Yodas, but an Objectivist would know regardless of what Palpatine offered he was pure evil, being a wannabe tyrant and all! Question is then; what was Yoda offering, and is it a good thing.

    Incidentally, a point I didnt make earlier - I thought the saber fight between Palpatine and Mace Windu was excellent - the look of pleasure on Palpatines face! (Ian McDiarmid has obviously relished the thought for the last 27 years! B) )

    Helen: "The main flaw? No Han Solo  Well, that and the giant plot hole of Leia remembering her mother."

    Wow! True say - I hadnt considered that - theres no excuse!