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Everything posted by Dismuke

  1. Moral Dilemma #1

    I once drove up to a drive-through at a bank and inside the pneumatic tube was a number of $20 bills. I don't know how many there were because I immediately hit the "send" button and asked the clerk if he perhaps had record of the name of the person who last used the lane. I have no idea what the legality of a situation like that is, but, morally, in my book taking that money would be theft, pure and simple. On the other hand, I once put 50 cents into a soda pop machine - and out came two cans of soda pop and approximately $5 worth of quarters. I thought: "Gee, this must be what it feels like to play the slot machines at Vegas!" Since I had no idea how to contact the owner of the machine, I just drank the extra can of soda and pocketed the quarters. I basically chalked it up to the Almighty Vending Machine Gods paying me reparations for all the times a clunk of junk vending machine has swallowed my money without giving me any product in return.
  2. forging the Union & compromise with slavery

    Hmmmmm. After giving this some thought, I think I may be using the term "compromise" a bit too narrowly. In my posting, I basically equated "compromise" with "betrayal of or selling out one's principles." Clearly there are many instances of compromise that are valid and do not constitute a betrayal of anything. My overall point is this: I don't think that the anti-slavery Founders necessarily compromised their pro-freedom principles by acknowledging the fact that there was little they could do to change the status quo with regard to slavery and acting accordingly. As long as such individuals expressed their opposition to slavery in ways that were appropriate and open to them, I don't think they should be regarded as sell-outs.
  3. forging the Union & compromise with slavery

    I am not sure that it is fully correct to regard it as a compromise. Slavery was already a long-standing institution in certain sections of the USA and was part of the status quo. Rather than a "compromise" perhaps it would be better to look at is as the recognition by the anti-slavery Founders of the very real fact of reality that ending slavery was a battle that they simply were not in a position to win at that time. In any area of endeavor, you have to carefully choose your battles. There will always be far more battles and worthwhile causes needing to be fought than you will ever have the time and resources to get to. There are many different factors to consider when choosing one's battles - but chief among them is: can the battle be won? Slavery was going to exist in the Southern states no matter what the anti-slave Founders did in the late 1700s. That was a cold, hard fact of reality that they had no choice but to take into consideration and deal with. Choosing to direct one's focus and energy on those areas where one can bring about positive change is NOT a compromise. To make the case that the anti-slave Founders were guilty of compromise, I would think one would have to first demonstrate that their actions somehow helped strengthen the institution of slavery. I am far from an expert on such things - but I am not aware that such was the case. In order for one's actions to be considered a compromise, one must be guilty of sacrificing a higher value in return for a lesser value or a non-value. The freedom of the slaves in the South was not a value the anti-slave Founders were in a position to sacrifice because it was something that was way beyond their power to bring about in the first place. To use a contemporary example, President Bush pushing for only 4% of a person's Social Security taxes to be returned to its rightful owner with lots and lots of strings attached because that's the best he can hope to accomplish in the current political climate is not a compromise - it is a very small baby step in the right direction. But his delaying any military action in the Middle East in order to send Colin Powell out to lick the filthy, smelly rear ends of the thugs in the UN and to pander to French and German public opinion very much a compromise because we had absolutely nothing of any rational value to gain from it whatsoever.
  4. Bush's Social Security

    I don't think that Bush should even try to go down that path - assuming that he would even be capable of fully grasping what that path is, which I don't think he is. Political office is not an especially effective platform from which to spread radical new concepts in morality. How would one communicate something like that in 15 second soundbites? How would one do it in such a manner that would not alienate large segments of one's constituents and supporters? All any politician can do - even if the politician is very knowledgeable about Objectivism - is try to appeal to the public's existing philosophical premises. In today's America, those existing philosophical premises are a mixed bag. If Bush basis his call for Social Security reform on a consistent practical appeal to the better elements of that mixed bag - for example, people's selfish concern for their future and the future and economic well being of their children and grandchildren, I will be VERY happy. Leave it to Ayn Rand to educate people about the moral issues involved. My concern about Bush is that he will instead try make his case, in part, by also appealing to the bad elements in that mixed philosophical bag - i.e. on an appeal to altruism. Such an appeal would be a dead weight acting to slow down the real progress that needs to be made.
  5. Bush's Social Security

    Here is an example that I heard a few years back when I joined the 401(k) plan of the company I was working for. Person A is 20 years old and makes (pick any number) per year. Person B is 30 years old and makes the same amount per year as person A. For the purpose of this example, assume that both people continue to make the exact same rate of pay for the rest of their working lives without any raises.(Very unlikely in real life). Person A sets aside a certain percentage of his pay and puts it into a 401 (k) at age 20 and continues to do so until age 30. At age 30, he decides that he will no longer make any further contributions to his plan and will simply stay invested in what he has accumulated so far and let it grow. Person B at age 30 sets aside the exact same percentage of his pay that Person A does and continues to make contributions until he is 65 years old. Now, assuming that both people in our example consistently get an 8% annual return on their investment, guess who will end up with more money in his 401(k) account at age 65? The answer is Person A - the one who began saving at age 20 and did not save another penny after he reached age 30. That example is a very powerful illustration of the power of compounding - and of the profound wisdom of starting to save as early as possible.
  6. Moral Dilemma #1

    If I actually watched the channels and was planning to subscribe to them anyway, I would be inclined to call the cable company and alert the person who answers the phone as to what happened. If that one phone call did not generate sufficient interest on the part of the cable company to take care of the matter, then I would figure it is their problem, not mine. The last thing in the world I am going to do is waste tons of time fighting an inept company's bureaucracy in order to help them solve problems brought on by their own incompetence. If I had no interest in the channels and never watched them, I would have even less patience to spend my time on the matter. I actually found myself in a similar situation. In December 2003, I discovered a subscription website that I thought would be beneficial to the department I run at work. I purchased a one year subscription - about $500 - using a company American Express card. Last summer, the company that runs the website sent me an email saying that if I renewed our subscription early, I could extend the subscription to December 2005 for a significant discount. I immediately took them up on the offer. Rather than using the company credit card again, it was much less hassle for me to simply charge the subscription to my personal card and submit a receipt to the accounting department for reimbursement. So I clicked on the link provided in the email to take advantage of the special offer and entered in the number on my Visa check card which draws directly from my checking account. To my surprise, I received an error message that my charge had been declined. I knew I had more than enough money in the account to cover the charge so I figured that my bank's computer system might be down, something that has occasionally happened when I needed to make ATM withdrawals. So I pulled out a Visa credit card and entered that number in - and, it too, resulted in a declined charge. Later I finally realized that the cards were probably declined because the billing address on my subscription renewal was that of the company's American Express card and not my personal cards. As a precaution, I logged into my online accounts with the bank and the credit card company - and I noticed that a hold had been placed on each card. So I immediately contacted the company's tech support and informed them what happened and told them that I did not want to be double charged. A few days later I got a reply back that I had only been charged once. It was true that the hold on my bank account had gone away. But the hold on my credit card had not yet been converted into an actual charge. I emailed back and told them that I did not see any indication that I had been charged at all. To make a long story less lengthy, for the next couple of days I went around and around through multiple emails with the tech support person who never seemed to grasp the point I was trying to make and kept insisting that I had indeed been charged. Figuring that I was dealing with someone who was not in the habit of actually reading the emails he responds to, I thought I might have better luck explaining the situation by phone. So I telephoned the tech support department - and ended up speaking with the same goofus I had been communicating with by email. He was an arrogant, condescending little snot who told me that my account clearly showed I was good to go until December 2005 and that I shouldn't "panic" so much. So, I decided to take him at his word. If he insists that he doesn't want to take my money, I sure as heck am not going to waste my time arguing with him why he should. Of course, it is not his money, but rather his employer's money. But that's their problem - not mine. If they haven't figured out by now that they have a goofus working for them, then they aren't paying very much attention. I have yet to be charged - and I don't feel one bit guilty that my department is getting a year's subscription "on the house."
  7. Bush's Social Security

    I think the significance of the Bush plan is not whatever compromises and half measures result from it but rather the very fact that it is even being discussed at all. It wasn't so very long ago that it would have been utterly inconceivable that a person with any serious political ambitions whatsoever - never mind the President of the United States - would have even considered partial privatization of Social Security. The fact that a cautious politician such as Bush feels confident enough to put proposals forward in that direction is evidence of a major shift in public opinion. It reminds me of something Ayn Rand said in "Don't Let It Go" in Philosophy: Who Needs It: I suspect that is exactly what is starting to happen. It certainly isn't due to any sort of uncompromising courage and intellectual consistency on the part of the Republicans. I think the upcoming debate over the Social Security issue is a great opportunity to educate people on the value of capitalism in daily conversation. I have already jumped into the middle of a few debates over the proposed reforms by asserting that Bush's plan will not go far enough and that Social Security needs to be phased out altogether. I usually get some rather stunned looks when I say that. But then I explain how everyone is currently paying over 15% of their earnings into the Social Security system when one considers the 7.65% employee payroll taxes plus their employer's "contribution" of the same amount. I then invite them to go to any retirement planning website and enter in the numbers for an 18 year old in a $10 per hour job who continues to earn the same amount for 47 years and never gets a pay raise and who invests 15 percent of his gross pay into a 401(k) with a conservative rate of return. Such a "little guy" underachiever would retire a millionaire. Then I rhetorically ask what the grand and glorious promise of Social Security is and answer: Give that 15% to the government and, when you get old, you will be allowed to go on welfare - that is, if the politicians in charge decide to pay you at all. Now, maybe its because I live in a "red" state (by the way, isn't this red state/blue state thing kind of backwards? As far as I am concerned, states that elect politicians such as Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton to high office are very Red.), but so far nobody has even attempted to challenge or dispute me on it. As a result, I am able to move the conversation on to the motives of those who support the present system and, in a very elementary sort of way, frame the issue in terms of individual rights verses altruism. I personally tend to find myself optimistic about the future prospects of our culture more days than I find myself pessimistic. I think there are far more reasons why we should regard the glass as half full rather than half empty - and the very fact that a successful politician is seriously proposing to tinker with one of the major pillars of FDR's legacy is just one such reason. Look how far so many people have come without much in the way of help from Objectivists. Imagine what will be possible as Objectivism continues to gain a wider level of visibility and acceptance.