(Classical) Liberalism [CF Article]

I wrote the most drafts about the harmony of men’s interests

Is there a reason why you used men instead of people or humans, etc.? If I wanted to send this to my wife it might seem a little exclusionary.

That means everyone can win, rather than some people having to lose. It means people can work together instead of working against each other. It means no one has to be sacrificed or victimized. Everyone can succeed without violently oppressing anyone else.

A hypothetical I’ve been thinking about is a Fortune 500 company CEO retiring and needing a replacement. There are two top candidates for the job, S. Emiya and Elliot Temple. Elliot is a stand-up guy with great thinking skills. He’s the best choice for the job, and the universes where he becomes CEO are more prosperous for the average person than the ones where he doesn’t.

S. Emiya, not so much. He’ll do an ok job as CEO, not great. He’s not really a stand-up guy either. In fact, he’s thinking Elliot is going to get the job. So he decides to set up some project with the purpose of having it fail and scapegoating Elliot. Or he spreads some embellished stories or rumors in private conversations with his friends on the board of directors. Or he points out some of Elliot’s potentially unpopular personal beliefs and starts an uproar on social media. etc. etc.

Most of the time S. Emiya is happy to cooperate with everyone and let them live freely, working together for our greater good. But when he has a lot on the line, like a once in the lifetime opportunity to become CEO, he might act in his own self-interest rather than doing the “right thing”.

Government is (or at least should be ) the institution which defends men from violence (including from breach of contract without proper compensation). Government makes large societies work by addressing the main risk of society (violence). So government helps us get benefits of society (trade and sharing ideas).

S. Emiya might make sure that he never does anything explicitly illegal. Like telling an embellished story in a private conversation isn’t illegal, to the best of my knowledge. Should it be? Is this something we have to worry about?

I think most people are happy to cooperate until there’s a situation where they have a lot to gain or lose. They recognize that cooperating benefits them (and everyone else) most of the time but sometimes they don’t care about everyone else.

More people are better off overall when Elliot becomes CEO, but S. Emiya stays in his current role. He might not get another shot at being promoted internally to CEO, he doesn’t have the CEO experience to reliably get a job at another Fortune 500 company, etc. He personally stands to gain a lot more if he just becomes CEO now and might not care that he wouldn’t do quite as good of a job as Elliot.

How would you convince S. Emiya that he should cooperate with Elliot in this situation instead of acting selfishly?

Side note - I didn’t understand what the unbounded category was for until now. I like the idea.

It’s an old idea that a lot has already been written about, which I’ve read a bunch of, so I echo the existing phrasing partly because I’m used to it and partly to more strongly connect to it and have better callbacks to it that more people will catch. Also, the phrasing is more awkward with “people” or “humans”.

Competing job candidates is the example Ayn Rand uses in her article Chapter 4. - The “Conflicts” of Men’s Interests in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, so you can find some answers there.

Depends. There are laws about defamation. The basic issue is you can’t lie about facts about people and cause damages, but you’re entitled to express your opinions and to share true facts (even if that causes damages).

PS I moved this to the existing topic about the article. Also, please give source links when sharing quotes (the quote from my CF article is OK now that your post is in a thread where the OP links it, but the quotes from Liberalism: Reason, Peace and Property · Elliot Temple are unsourced.)

I will look into it, thanks.

PS I moved this to the existing topic about the article.

I considered posting it here at first. But I liked the idea of receiving harsher criticism in the Unbounded category. Do the Unbounded rules apply here or the friendly rules?

I’ll make sure to properly source quotes in the future as well.

Like at other forums in general, it’s basically up to the people in a discussion to figure out what’s OK with them.

You can mention that you want unbounded responses in a brief note at the start or end of a post if you want to. When looking at forums I was hoping to be able to add tags to comments so people could give meta data info like that, but Discourse only allows tags on top level posts.

I read Chapter 4 of the book “The Virtue of Selfishness”. I actually read it the day you recommended it and have been thinking about it. I’m not sure that it entirely answers my scenario about the job interview. I will address the 4 points she makes at the end of the chapter without copying and pasting them here.

(a) Reality - In my example S. Emiya never thought he was entitled to or deserved the job of CEO. He still wants it though because it offers considerable personal benefits.

(b) Context - I don’t disagree that businesses requires multiple applicants for job postings.

(c) Responsibility - Most of the time S. Emiya cares about moral responsibility. But in this instance he doesn’t because he stands to gain a lot by ignoring his moral responsibility.

(d) Effort - I don’t disagree that if both agents act morally then whoever gets the job will have “earned” it.

These are my remaining questions that I need help with:

Will rational people always act morally?

Are there certain situations (like interviewing for the position of CEO) that could cause formerly rational people to act irrationally?

If there are such certain situations then how do we take those into account when designing a system that assumes people are rational?

Do you think reading the rest of the book would convince me that rational people always act morally? Or help me in answering the rest of my questions?

Not directly. It’s an essay collection. You can check the chapter names and see if you’re interested.

And I don’t think rational people always act morally. People make mistakes. But I think they should try to. Morality is the field of knowledge about how to live life effectively and make good choices.

I was going to ask what examples of irrational actions you had in mind, but found some above:

Do you think it’s in your interest, or anyone’s, for the system of job candidate selection, promotion, etc., to be vulnerable to these tactics and incentivize them? Note that they may be done to you. And note that every time strangers do this to someone, it’s an efficiency loss, which makes society (including you) a little worse off, because some company is a bit less productive (there’s a productivity loss when these tactics are attempted, regardless of who gets the job – the tactics themselves are damaging in addition to the wrong person getting the job being damaging).

There’s one question about if companies let these tactics work, should you do them? But I think the more important question is is it in your interests that companies let these tactics work? Would you prefer a career at a company that enables these things or one that doesn’t? Would you prefer a society full of companies that enable these things, or one where all companies have policies in place that prevent these tactics?

I think people have a shared, common interest in a system where these tactics don’t work (where they’re actually prevented, rather than being open to defectors/jerks), rather than a conflict of interests.


from the article:

I wrote over 20 separate draft articles about liberalism, then took my best ideas and explanatory approaches and used them for the final article.

Reminds me of this from Atomic Habits:

ON THE FIRST day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.*


A tiny bit of a tree of Liberalism: Reason, Peace and Property · Elliot Temple

Liberalism: Reason, Peace and Property · Elliot Temple

Violence (also called “force”) includes bodily harm and related issues: theft, fraud, and threats of violence.

I thought violence was more about hitting and force was the more general concept.

Liberalism: Reason, Peace and Property · Elliot Temple

Men use violence when their ideas aren’t powerful enough and they’re intolerant of disagreement with those inadequate ideas.

I would like “initiate force” better than “use violence” here. I think my objection is that there are cases when it’s okay to use violence (defensively). Also “initiate violence” would sound weird.

This wording isn’t a constraint because:

  • you understood it
  • defense vs. aggression is covered in the article
  • violence vs. force is covered in the article

Objectivism says – IMO correctly – that both threats and fraud are in some sense equivalent or reducible to brute physical force (violence). Sample quote:

“Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate —do you hear me? no man may start —the use of physical force against others.

Note the wording “physical force” – which I think you’ll recognize as reasonably equivalent to “violence”. In fact “physical force used to inflict injury or damage” is a definition of “violence” (the qualifier is to avoid a misunderstanding like that we’re discussing using physical force on a lever to get your car out of a ditch). Another dictionary definition is “exertion of any physical force so as to injure or abuse”.

from violentus “vehement, forcible,” probably related to violare (see violation). Weakened sense of “improper treatment” is attested from 1590s.

Note both “forcible” and “improper treatment” in the etymology of “violence”.

I think it was libertarians who thought additional, separate categories (fraud, threats) were necessary. Those categories are OK as clarifications to help people understand what’s included more easily, but are errors if regarded as logical nitpicking that necessitates constant qualifiers.

You can look into or consider the relationship between physical force, threats, and fraud. Besides Objectivist material, here’s the sort of lead that is readily available:

New Oxford dictionary for “violence” (my bold):

Law the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.

the tree doesn’t label what is and isn’t a quote of me


Ah, cuz threats rely on at least an implicit threat of force or background context of force being used, and cuz fraud is like stealing someone’s stuff?

Regarding force and fraud … like if you rob someone’s house, you might take their new iMac. If you use fraud to take money from their financial accounts (and leaving aside the issue of them being made whole by the bank or insurance or whatever), then you might take money they would have used to buy a new iMac. In either case, they don’t have an iMac that they are entitled to by the fruit of their voluntary exchanges. In one case, brute physical force was used, in the other, maybe deviousness or trickery was used, but same result in the end.

I think part of the reason I may have some idea that the robbery is worse is that there is a real risk of physical danger or even death that you are exposed to in a robbery and that doesn’t come up if like, someone uses your credit card without your authorization. But maybe that’s kind of a tangential point. Like, the enhanced risk of death in a robbery is a legit issue for criminal law and criminal sentencing, but the fact that robbery is worse in some way doesn’t mean there’s not a connection between fraud and force.


@JustinCEO IDK if open criticism is welcome in the #elliot-temple category, but I have some if you’re interested:

Collapsed Feedback

My main question with the vid is what was your goal?

I put your video on while I was doing some minor chores and found it difficult to keep track b/c there wasn’t an easy way to sync with where you were at. Like, if you had highlighted relevant text as you went (and left it highlighted until you needed to highlight something else); I think that would have made it easier to follow.

Sometimes you do that, like around 3:30 link – but those instances sorta make the problem worse because you jump around.

I think your point around that part was about how an idea is obvious only once you know of a way to frame it, but not necessarily beforehand (particularly the bit about intolerance, end of para2). But it’s not easy to tell that without following closely.

It seems like, at least in the few minutes after that, your thoughts are a bit disorganized (e.g. 5:10).

I skipped ahead a bit (to around 8:40 coincidentally) and I liked the discussion around 11:00 b/c it reminded me of an old FI conversation where I talked about why I wasn’t libertarian (I thought thinking was more important than freedom) and someone (Elliot, I think) made the counterpoint along the lines of what good is thinking if you’re not free (e.g. in a soviet gulag) – I think you were involved in that thread too (it might have been one of the flux threads or a tangent of those). I like that there’s a (v similar) counterpoint to both cases that one is more important than the other.

@admins pls LMK if this is not okay in this category (like, are the rules the same as #friendly or #unbounded or neither?)

Re: goal, I’m just trying to comment more, say more stuff, try making vids or writing posts or whatever.

ya gp

yeah it’s basically stray comments here and there

Right. You think primarily so you can figure out problems and act in the world in some way. If you’re not free to act in ways that implement your thinking (and don’t violate other people’s rights), then thinking is impotent and kinda pointless. (Trying to think up illegal plans to overthrow the tyrants or escape their control becomes the overriding imperative before you can do anything else). Thinking about this, it seems like the more comprehensively authoritarian the society is and the more people’s plans are thwarted, the more the “pressure” will build for a violent revolution, because there will be more and more people who’s plans are being thwarted and fewer and fewer options for trying to “route around” government control. This reminds me a bit of how the more comprehensive a system of price restrictions and controls, the more chaos is introduced into economic planning. I think there is some kind of connection there - like the greater the scope of plans being thwarted by the government (whether economic or personal/life plans or whatever) the more havoc will result.