[October 15, 2002] After tonight’s meeting I had a debate with a friend of mine (the only other Objectivist on this list)
I took the opposite position of the one I held tonight and played devils advocate as he tried to prove why theft is always wrong.
Take a look, and skip to the bottom if it gets boring.
GreedyCapitalist: Give me a solid proof of why theft is always self-detrimental
RedRyan3523: First of all it may be wise to consult textbooks on egoism/altruism. They seem to say that both egoism and altruism say that you shouldn’t steal or do something against other people, but where they disagree is whether it’s wrong to refrain from doing something for other people. I’ve been thinking on the subject and think I’ve come up with an idea.
RedRyan3523: Your self-interest is your health and happiness. Happiness can only be achieved in a certain way, and it’s in the nature of happiness that you refrain from theft. You don’t refrain from theft because you care about the other guy, you refrain from theft for your own selfish reasons.
RedRyan3523: So all it has to be demonstrated is that by the nature of happiness and logic, and then it follows that theft is detrimental.
RedRyan3523: also one can’t have the value of pride if he steals. Altruism neglects this aspect of man’s character.
GreedyCapitalist: Can’t you be proud of being the best in your business (thievery)?
RedRyan3523: can you be proud of how many women you have sex with in a short period of time?
GreedyCapitalist: sure, why not?
RedRyan3523: what is the character of such a person?
RedRyan3523: is he really happy?
RedRyan3523: Happiness is dependent upon self-esteem. That which hurts self-esteem hurts happiness. Self-esteem entails self-reliance.
RedRyan3523: So while you may gain what you steal, you lose some degree of self-esteem because you aren’t being self-reliant.
GreedyCapitalist: why does self esteem entail self reliance?
GreedyCapitalist: can’t you have high esteem in your ability to steal?
RedRyan3523: Stealing only seems attractive because you are only taking under consideration material values.
GreedyCapitalist: why can’t you be satisfied by material values alone?
RedRyan3523: It’s not in your nature.
RedRyan3523: Man needs material to maintain homeostasis, but he will be little more than a vegetable unless he has other values.
GreedyCapitalist: why can’t he get those materials by theft?
RedRyan3523: that neglects his non-material values.
GreedyCapitalist: why does he have to fulfill them [non material values] to be happy?
RedRyan3523: it all falls back on self-esteem and its relationship to happiness and self-reliance and its relationship to self-esteem.
RedRyan3523: Feelings of helplessness are common symptoms of depression.
GreedyCapitalist: you still haven’t tied self reliance and self esteem
RedRyan3523: It seems there’s a relationship between self-esteem and competence, i.e. self-reliance.
RedRyan3523: Depression feeds on incompetence, and one’s evaluation of oneself is dependent upon what a person can do.
RedRyan3523: In other words, happiness is not independent of the path through which you try to achieve it.
GreedyCapitalist: ok, but why can’t you feel competent at thievery?
RedRyan3523: self-reliance entails dealing with reality independent of an agent. Theft is dependence.
GreedyCapitalist: ok, but why is self-reliance so important to self-esteem?
RedRyan3523: You judge how well you do on a test by how much you got right. Your evaluation of yourself entails a standard by which to evaluate. An evaluation of a particular entity entails a particular standard by which to judge that entity. Self-reliance is that standard.
GreedyCapitalist: why is it the only possible standard?
GreedyCapitalist: maybe you could have a standard of other-reliance, i.e. altruism
RedRyan3523: Evaluation of a particular entity entails evaluation by a particular standard. You don’t judge how well you did on a test by the same standard as how you would judge how ell you did building something. The standard of evaluation goes hand in hand with what you are evaluating. Altruism entails assuming that one’s self is worthless, so that in particular can’t be used as a standard.
GreedyCapitalist: but you are saying that actions can only be evaluated by one standard — self-reliance. Why are other standards not applicable?
RedRyan3523: Like you can only evaluate particular things according to the nature of the thing being evaluated, you can only evaluate people by a particular standard. How much is a person worth to you? That depends on what he can do for you and how well he can do it.
RedRyan3523: There may also be characteristics of character people may have to be worth something. What qualities do you find attractive in others? Ability and character are the standards by which you judge others, so those two are the standards by which you evaluate yourself.
GreedyCapitalist: I see
GreedyCapitalist: Going back to the thief, I think you correctly point out the necessity of self-reliance for self esteem — which is itself necessary for happiness
GreedyCapitalist: The nature of humans is such that they must be productive to survive, and being a thief violates that nature
GreedyCapitalist: One may confuse true productivity with proclivity in crime, but that will only worsen the thief’s reliance on others labor for his welfare
GreedyCapitalist: he cannot escape that fact because reality is such that if you are not producing your own daily sustenance, you are taking it from others
GreedyCapitalist: The professional thief lives a life that goes against the objective requirements needed for a human being to provide for his own sustenance, and as long as he obtains his sustenance by stealing from others, he cannot have any self-esteem. The same thing can be seen in lifelong welfare recipients and mooching bureaucrats. They may hide from that fact, but they cannot avoid it, and that fact probably account for why most of them are losers who are often depressed, don’t amount to much in life, and are afraid to get a real job that doesn’t involve stealing from others hard work