The Anthem Foundation provides grants for the benefit of academic professionals engaged in serious, scholarly work based on the philosophy and writings of Ayn Rand, and provides resources to others in academia interested in understanding her ideas.They have done -- and continue to do -- great work. If you'd like to support their efforts, you can do so here.
Isaac Newton Christmas Cards(John also did free web design for the FIRM site.)
Celebrate reason and science on December 25th, instead of the same old bearded mystic!
I like to send Christmas cards, but as an atheist, I have had to limit myself to the hundreds of bland cards that neutrally say "Happy Holidays." I decided that if it's okay for (almost) everyone else to stamp, seal, and deliver their philosophy to me every Christmas, I'll do just the same.
Sir Isaac Newton's ideas helped to rescue mankind from drudgery and propel it into the space age. I am a lover of reason, and I love it unashamedly, and I want my friends to know it too. They will this Christmas. Yours can, too.
Outside: "On December 25th, a Savior was born. He revealed eternal Truth, bringing Joy to millions. He astonished the world with His command over Nature. He changed history forever."
Inside: "Happy Birthday, Sir Isaac Newton. December 25, 1642 - March 20, 1726".
Web site and greeting card designs are copyright © 2008 John Powers.
Thanksgiving, properly conceived, is a time to pay tribute, or as Craig Biddle puts it, “say justice“–to those who have created the values that sustain us. In that vein, I would like to offer thanks to those whose life-giving contribution makes it possible for me to stomach the morass of the modern world. This is my “top ten” list of human beings in history, to whom I would like to say “thank you.”
Aristotle - “The Philosopher” — the fountainhead of Western civilization — the greatest man of the greatest civilization in history. When I think of Aristotle, I think of the dead end that Greek philosophy (and Western civilization) was headed towards in the subjectivism of the Presocratics and idealism of Plato. Then along comes a mammoth intellect, who corrects all the fundamental errors of his predecessors, enshrining this-worldliness, rationality, logic, self-interest and aesthetic romanticism as key answers to the major questions that philosophy poses. Listening to Leonard Peikoff explain Aristotle’s achievement in terms of fundamentals in his History of Philosophy lecture series was the first time I cried as an adult.
Thomas Aquinas - If Aristotle is the greatest mind in history, then Aquinas is the most important intellect of the second millennium. After a Dark Age of Christian mysticism and asceticism, where the light of reason was nearly extinguished but for the embers with the Islamic and Scholastic traditions, one man stepped forward to re-establish the validity of reason. Not surprisingly, he was an Aristotelian thinker. Though it is often said that Aquinas stood for two ways of reaching the truth–reason and faith–to appreciate Aquinas is to see him as the greatest advocate of the return to reason in the face of a thousand-year period of faith-induced intellectual stagnation.
Ayn Rand - the greatest philosopher of all time — if there is to be a Second Renaissance, it will be because of her. Like so many young people, I came upon Ayn Rand at a time in my life when I was desperate for clarity. I had sought sanctuary from the corruptions of the humanities in the rationality of engineering, only to find that modern philosophical ideas had stripped the world of steel and concrete of its cleanliness as well. I was beginning to fail, to lose motivation, to capitulate to the mediocrity that is modernity. Then I read The Fountainhead. Then I devoured Atlas Shrugged in a weekend–I got almost no sleep! “Thank you” cannot capture what I feel for Ayn Rand.
I cannot explain how I knew, but as I was completing my first pass through Ayn Rand’s corpus, I knew that I wanted to be a historian. Not a philosopher, but a historian. After passing through the gauntlet of a college history education, I began to try to really learn history–and to study the history of history to try to learn how the science had been created and where it had wrong. There I found my first historian-hero: Thucydides. This Greek giant of the intellect understood the importance of history to the conceptual mind. He perceived the need to establish an accurate factual record of men’s experiences in order to provide an empirical and moral guide to life.
The study of history provides one with many values. There are trends to be grasped and conceptual lessons to be learned. There are also real “larger-than-life” heroes to be found in the past who saw further, worked harder, and achieved more than others even conceived was possible to man. These real-life John Galts — the prime movers of history — took the world as they found it and transformed for the better it into the one we live in now. Among these, few are more amazing than Christopher Columbus. For all those to whom America is an irreplaceable value, the story of his discovery of America is an epic of independence and courage. The path his virtue trod has since been despoiled by renunciations that are egalitarianism and multiculturalism, but his reputation will endure beyond the thankless people of our time.
Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence established the principle that governments are to be instituted among men for the purpose of securing the individual’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The founding of the United States upon such principles is so profound and revolutionary an accomplishment that it had never before been attempted in history, has never been matched since, and its full meaning and value continue to elude the very Americans who inherited Jefferson’s accomplishment and now heap scorn upon him from nearly every corner of the free nation he and the Founders created.
The torturous climb out of mysticism that culminated in the Enlightenment has as its awe-inspiring beacon of intellect Isaac Newton. It was Newton who demonstrated that man’s mind could penetrate to nature’s deepest secrets.
“Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.”
As far as intellectual sustenance is concerned, Ayn Rand and Thucydides are enough for me, but the mind needs emotional fuel too. This can take many forms–as many as there are forms of art, recreation, and personal relationships. For me, two arts are most important: music and painting. In the former area, I find Verdi the most uplifting and Chopin the most beautiful. Nonetheless, it is in Beethoven — despite his malevolent temperament, or perhaps because of its root in the great conflicts he experienced — that I find the greatest overall satisfaction. No one has composed music of comparable grandeur.
I agree with Ayn Rand that Johannes Vermeer is the greatest visual artist in history, and some day I will have the time to dedicate to explaining how it’s possible that I should derive so much inspiration from his paintings when everyone (including Ayn Rand) has believed him to be a naturalist. (Hint: it’s because he’s not!) Vermeer saw the world with a clarity and passion of the highest order. He perceived and portrayed with unparalleled virtuosity the essence of the historical transition of the Age of Reason in his pendants The Geographer and The Astronomer. In a more private and subtle way he used art to enshrine his most cherished values through the portrayal of essentialized psychological moments.
Sharon (properly pronounced “shah-rhone”, not “share-rin”) is the person who every day makes my life worth living. Over the past eleven years we’ve been together–ten of them married–Sharon has been my partner in the odyssey that we chose to make our lives. I have never met anyone who can delight in the everyday values life has to offer while holding on to, projecting, and acting to achieve profound values that others cannot grasp. She is the only hero in my world of heros whose eyes I can look into when I say, “thank you.”
“Humor is a metaphysical negation. We regard as funny that which contradicts reality: the incongruous and the grotesque.”*
“What you find funny depends on what you want to negate. It is proper to laugh at evil (the literary form of which is satire) or at the negligible. But to laugh at the good is vicious.”**
“How can you laugh at a woman convincing a murderer that it isn’t his fault that he used a gun to kill a man because, after all, the purpose of a gun is to kill?”
“Good natured, charming humor is never directed at a value, but always at the undesirable or negligible. It has the result of confirming values; if you laugh at the contradictory or pretentious, you are in that act confirming the real or valuable.”***
Yesterday I read Clay Shirky’s essay “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy” from Joel Spolsky’s book “The Best Software Writing I.” Clay makes some great observations on group dynamics, but that’s not my point.
What struck me is how utterly useless the leadership training seminars I’ve attended were. I learned more from a single essay than a lifetime of worthless and sometimes counter-productive seminars. From the Boy Scouts to assorted honor societies, to leadership training events in college, nowhere did I learn the basics of conflict resolution, group psychology, rule-making heuristics, and project management. Typical leadership training usually consists of variations of “trust” exercises - as if trusting people actually makes them trustworthy. (Teaching people to trust others blindly actually results in leaders too jaded by failure to trust others or to train them to rise to the occasion.)
I think the problem may be that that leadership is treated as an intuitive/emotional process that must be learned by repetition and inspiration rather than a scientific analysis of the principles of group dynamics. The worst school is the one that views talent as genetic, as it conspires to actively prevent improvement through study and hard work.
I’ve never thought of myself as a great leader, but I’ve learned some basic principles of leadership and group dynamics through trial and error:
Nationalization Is Theft
November 25, 2008
Washington, D.C.--A huge Venezuelan gold project known as Las Cristinas is the latest victim of dictator Hugo Chavez’s long-running socialist power grab. “This mine will be seized and managed by a state administration” with help from the Russians, said Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz. Rights to the mine had been purchased by a Canadian company, Crystallex International Corporation.
“It’s not surprising that brutes like Chavez grab gold, oil, and other resources from the companies that discover and mine them,” said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “What’s more puzzling is the lack of moral indignation at a system that condones the theft of private property.
“Ownership of natural resources belongs by right to the companies whose entrepreneurs, engineers, and drillers transform hidden potential into actual wealth. Government’s role is to protect those owners’ rights, not violate them.
“Just as a bodyguard’s task is protecting clients from physical attacks, a government’s function is safeguarding people and property against criminals and foreign invaders. A bodyguard who claimed to own his client’s house, cars, and jewelry would be immediately fired. Yet governments continue to claim a moral right to all natural resources within their borders, as if ownership could be conjured from the barrel of a gun.
“Power-grasping dictators like Venezuela’s Chavez and Russia’s Putin assert moral authority to treat foreign investors the way they treat their own citizens--as cattle to be herded, milked, or slaughtered for society’s sake. But nationalization, stripped of all rationalization, is naked theft. A blow for justice will be struck by the first public figure to denounce it as such.”
Ending Piracy Should be a U.S. Government Priority
November 24, 2008
Washington, D.C.-- “It is unbelievable that one of the top news stories, today in the 21st century, is that pirates are seizing ships, cargo and people off the high seas,” said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.
“The Gulf of Aden is a major international shipping route. The Somali pirates are snatching cargo destined for all corners of the globe. To the extent that American commercial interests are being impacted, the U.S. government should immediately and decisively secure the shipping route by whatever military means necessary. Why have a navy if not to safeguard the rights of Americans to participate in and benefit from trade on the high seas?
“The American government should act swiftly: the ransom money collected by the pirates is at least in part being filtered to Islamic totalitarian groups, which have openly declared ‘Death to America.’ Our failure to act is providing additional strength to our known enemies.”
"...exists to expose all members of the Haverford community, but especially students, to the key global issues of the day so that they can better equip themselves to help solve these problems after they leave Haverford's campus. In this regard, the CPGC is one of the most visible examples of the College's Quaker ethos, grounded in testimonies of peace, lives of service, and a concern for the world at large." (emphasis mine)Regardless, what I can say is that one of society's best-recognized experts on the American economy makes absolutely no defense of capitalism in anyway whatsoever. He not only credits government in "creatively" tackling the crisis, he tacitly accepts the premise that government bureaucrats, regulators and legislators should play a fundamental and sweeping role in managing the economy. Furthermore, he flagrantly denies that government is the problem.
My employer, Match.com, offers a $3,000 referral bonus for salaried employees. It also offers a 100% matching program for gifts to charitable organizations.
If anyone gets a job at match.com through me, I will use the referral bonus with the matching gifts program to give the Ayn Rand Institute $6,000.
So, if you are interested in a job in a great environment in north-central Dallas, here is the list open positions.
If you’re interested, please send me your resume with your contact info, and I’ll do the rest.
If you get an interview, be sure to mention me, so I can put in a word for you. They offer a $1000 bonus for hourly positions - I will donate $2,000 in that case.
Feel free to let anyone else who may be interested know about my offer too.
(Certain conditions and limits apply, but I promise to contribute 100% of the “free” money I do get.)
Back from his trip to Seattle, Mosley returns this week to host the show. After querying the chat room for show topics, he and Arthur decide to discuss the morality of gambling.
Topics include: taking advantage of other people’s irrationality; gambling as not categorically immoral; gambling with false belief of luck vs. rational understanding or skill; gambling as possibly a form of rational recreation; gambling as skill or luck or combination of both; morality and responsibility of casino owners; analogy to bar owners and tobacco companies; fraud vs. asymmetric information; morality of card counting; stock markets and gambling; Arthur and Leonard Peikoff anecdote; playing the lotto.
Larry Genkin, the founder and editor of Blogger and Podcaster Magazine, is looking to help the long tail of bloggers turn their hobby into a lucrative job. He has started the Blogger and Podcaster Media Network, a consortium of bloggers and related companies looking to help bloggers of all sizes effectively monetize their sites without having to worry about having a relatively small audience. The site is currently open for signups, but won't go live until early next year.
At launch the BPMN is a rollup of companies including Genkin's magazine, Fuel My Blog (A bloggers' social network based in the UK), Podcast Pickle (a podcasters' social network), and SocialRank, a company similar to Sphere that monitors blogs for related and popular content.
Each of these companies will help promote the new network, and will also offer technology to help bloggers build out their site (for example, they'll be able to use SocialRank's technology). The BPMN will also try to partner with large media companies to help give blogs more exposure. To help each blog get started, the company has partnered with PR NewsWire, which will offer each blogger a promotion package Genkin says is worth $2000. (Washington Post / TechCrunch, October 28, 2008.)
It was he who had invested in Rearden Steel at its start, thus helping Rearden to complete the purchase of the abandoned steel mills in Pennsylvania. When an economist referred to him once as an audacious gambler, Mulligan said, "The reason why you'll never get rich is because you think that what I do is gambling." [Atlas Shrugged]I was reminded of Mulligan, when I read the following description of James Stillman, a prosperous banker from the late 1800's:
"A caller would enter Stillman's office, assured, perhaps a little enthusiastic. Without a word the dark, elegant little man at the big clean desk would motion him to a chair upon which the light fell full. He would look at him, quite impassively, through veiled, impersonal eyes. The man would begin stating his case.
Minutes would pass. The caller would make assertions that seemed to require response. Not a sound from the grave, composed Buddha at the desk, whose eyes seemed to have penetrated through the other to some distant spot in the room. The visitor would fidget, cough, and finally finish what he had come to say.
Invariably would follow a long, cruel pause.
Then, as if from far away, [Stillman] would begin to speak. In low, impressive tones he would rip the proposal to shreds". (Source: John Wrinkler, quoted in Money of the Mind, James Grant, 1992 page 67)
The rest of the world may well have missed the unfolding of his tragedy. Behind it, however, is a bigger trend. Blogging has entered the mainstream, which—as with every new medium in history—looks to its pioneers suspiciously like death. To the earliest practitioners, over a decade ago, blogging was the regular posting of text updates, and later photos and videos, about themselves and their thoughts to a few friends and family members. Today lots of internet users do this, only they may not think of it as blogging. Instead, they update their profile pages on Facebook, MySpace or other social networks.
They may also “micro-blog” on services such as Twitter, which recreate the raw, immediate and intimate feel of early blogs. Twitter messages, usually sent from mobile phones, are fewer than 140 characters long and answer the question “What are you doing?” Tellingly, Evan Williams, the co-founder of Blogger—an early blogging service that is now owned by Google, the Wal-Mart of the internet—now runs Twitter, which he regards as the future.
As for traditional (if that is the word) blog pages, these tend increasingly to belong to conventional media organisations. Nearly every newspaper, radio and television channel now runs blogs and updates them faster than any individual blogger ever could. (The Economist, November 6, 2008.)
I will try to follow some kind of weekly schedule, but now and then I will take a break from my EGO blog, concentrating on other assignments, for example writing pieces for other sites and preparing interviews for my podcasting show. I want to get into the right flow and start to microblog on a regular basis. (EGO, November 11, 2008.)
The Left and the Right vs. Free Speech
November 6, 2008
Washington, D.C.--Calling for a return of the Fairness Doctrine, Senator Chuck Schumer noted that some of the same people who oppose such “equal time” mandates support restrictions on broadcasting they deem offensive. According to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, “Schumer’s comments highlight an ominous fact: that both the left and the right are opponents of free speech.
“Conservatives have long supported the FCC’s war on so-called indecency, arguing that broadcasters should not have the right to engage in ‘offensive’ speech. The liberals, meanwhile, have been eagerly trying to resurrect the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which would allow the government to dictate which ideas deserve how much airtime, and lead many radio stations to avoid discussing controversial issues altogether.
“In fact, this is a disagreement without a difference: both sides endorse the principle that the government should be dictating what Americans can and can’t say--they just want to use the censor’s pen to support their own political agendas.
“Whoever values free speech should oppose government regulation of the airwaves. Freedom of speech is the freedom of every American to say whatever he wants, regardless of how offensive others find it, through any medium he can rightfully access. There seem to be no such defenders among liberals or conservatives--and that is truly offensive.”
“I think…he [Jefferson] would have risked a wry smile at the spectacle of our colleges annually turning out whole battalions of bachelors in the liberal arts who could no more read their diplomas than they could decipher the Minoan linear script. He might also find something to amuse him in the appearance of eminent shysters, jobholders, politicians, and other unscholarly and unsavory characters, on parade in gowns and hoods of the honorary doctorate.”*
“If all I had casually seen…was of the essence of politics, if it was part and parcel of carrying on the country’s government, then obviously a decent person could find no place in politics, not even the place of an ordinary voter, for the forces of ignorance, brutality and indecency would outnumber him ten to one.”
“History…represents things only as they are, while fiction represents them as they might and ought to be; and therefore of the two, he adds, ‘fiction is the more philosophical and the more highly serious.’”(Nock’s own translation from the Greek from Aristotle’s Poetics.)**
“Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports, and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job -- if not a better one -- of representing and communicating the realities of international development….And fiction often reaches a much larger and diverse audience than academic work and may therefore be more influential in shaping public knowledge and understanding of development issues.”
“Megas postulates an alternative America where the founding fathers created an aristocracy instead of a democracy, and centers on a detective investigating the seedy underbelly of the American royal family.”
I have been wondering how the Left will eventually try to find a way to impose a de facto form of censorship on the Internet. Turns out that South Korea is already blazing the path for that in the name of stopping cyber-bullying.This he follows with an excerpt from a posting at The Far Eastern Economic Review:
The proposed legislation 1) requires real-name identification system for all who post comments online; 2) mandates portals to delete "malicious entries" within 24 hours of receiving complaints; 3) requires sites with more than 100,000 visitors, rather than the current 300,000, to verify user identities. Violators -- both providers and consumers -- can face jail time and/or substantive monetary fines. And the national police has been deployed to "hunt, arrest, and punish" individuals who upload falsities and pernicious rumors.I agree that a proposal like this is very likely down the pike, but the prevention of "bullying" as an excuse here seems unlikely, and a more likely excuse, the prevention of "hate speech" would probably draw too much fire.
If Web sites required posters to use their real names, while giving the shield of pseudonymity when it's merited, spirited online debate would continue unimpeded. It might even be enhanced by attracting contributors who are turned off today by name calling and worse. Except for the hate-mongers, who wouldn't want that? [bold added]There's a sample at the end of the kind of "argument" we can expect. (I'd take name-calling over that any day.) The operative method of this scheme is force. And there are so many ways it would be open to abuse that it is mind-boggling to contemplate.
Mr. Obama must be looking around and beginning to suspect he will be pouring his political capital, along with considerable taxpayer capital, down bottomless holes for the next four years. He won't be building a legacy as the new FDR, but cleaning up after the last one.That's the best we can hope for, and probably unrealistic. Obama thinks that socialism is good, and too many people think that it will work "this time", thanks to pragmatism.
One has to wonder how many other perceptive men like Mr. Hoekstra will continue to be disillusioned by the repeated failures of their party, simply because they aren't thinking in terms of principles.This is a shame.I recall that shortly after the repeal of the "Fairness" Doctrine, a very common thing I'd hear about on talk radio was the fact that many people had felt isolated, as if they were the only ones who disagreed with the way the left ran everything.
Paul Hsieh's NoodleFood post Leaving the Country? Pay the Price! about the exit tax contained in the HEART bill has given me serious concerns. It is another measure removing freedoms that was attached to a complex bill with a deceptive name. It is reminiscent of the internet gaming restrictions attached to the safe ports act.Here's my reply to him, somewhat edited:
Ayn Rand said that we should continue to fight and attempt to influence events as long as free speech remains. Lately I've been questioning whether we really have free speech in this country.
When the CEO of a major bank is afraid to speak out publicly even though he was forced to sign over part of his company to the government for a bailout that they didn't need, I question whether we really have free speech. That was the case recently with the CEO of Wells Fargo. After the meeting detailed in the linked article, Wells Fargo has made statements about the use of the bailout money, but no statement about why they accepted it, or the pressure that was put on them.
We have speech codes in colleges, although FIRE fights very hard to limit the worst effects of them.
We have limitations on advertisements during elections due to McCain-Feingold. We have state level restrictions on political speech as well. Unrestricted political speech is necessary for a free country.
There is a strong movement toward reinstating the "fairness" doctrine, which is a further limitation on speech.
On the other hand we do have free speech in some contexts. Yaron Brook and the other ARI intellectuals are not stopped from making their statements in media venues. The people on the OActivists list are not stopped from writing Letters to the Editor and op-eds -- and many of them are published.
Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM) and the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG) have had major successes thanks to the hard and smart work of Lin Zinser, Paul Hsieh, Diana Hsieh, Ari Armstrong, Gina Liggett and others.
So I think that we have free speech to some extent, but it is not a fully robust freedom of speech. At what point do we decide that we don't have freedom of speech to the extent that it is safe to speak?
I'm not advocating leaving the country (to go where?); I'm not advocating setting up some kind of Galt's Gulch. I've even been considering starting a group to deal with a looming issue that is very important to me, and doing advocacy about it with FIRM and the Coalition for Secular Government as models.
Rand famously said, "It's earlier than you think," when asked about some types of advocacy. That has become an overused cliche in some circles. But now I wonder whether it is later than we think.
I think that your concerns about free speech are very real -- particularly having dealt with some of Colorado's campaign finance laws these past few months. The federal and state governments won't outright ban speech anytime soon, as is happening in Europe and Canada. However, they are increasingly regulating it with campaign finance laws and the like. These laws are so burdensome that most people would rather shut up than attempt to comply with them -- and risk legal action if they do so wrongly.I will have more to say about the burdens of campaign finance laws -- including my own experiences with them -- in future posts.
More generally, my thought from the first serious talk of the financial bailout has been that perhaps we have less than the 20 years that Yaron Brook speculated at OCON to turn around the culture. That's a very scary thought. Unless more Objectivists ramp up their advocacy efforts, we might go down in flames just as we're gaining a real foothold.
Personally, my plan is to (1) finish my dissertation and then (2) speak in every forum open to me, full-time. I do plan to actively fight for free speech, because like you, I think it's in very serious danger.
Beijing can afford a $580 billion stimulus package because it has nearly $2 trillion in reserves. But for all its cash, China's actions may not be enough. Aredux of Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown is not a good option: Two decades ago, the number of educated protestors was far smaller, and China had less interest in protecting its global reputation. At the same time, China has granted enough freedoms that average Chinese now demand wages, fair housing, and other rights. So, unless Beijing can get its economy going again, they are likely to face the first sustained wave of protests in decades. Thus far, China has kept the labor protests separate from one another, preventing them from developing a common theme or a common leader. But if China's downturn turns into an outright recession, the country could face its first serious threat to the regime. [link dropped, bold added]It's too bad for many reasons that, "this nominally communist country now [only] seems more capitalist than Wall Street"[bold added].
The area around the Caracas Country Club used to sit on thick foundations of old money, but no longer. These days many of the old members cannot afford their subscriptions.The article fails to report one substantive change Chavez has wrought. In capitalism, which Venezuela has never tried, the newly wealthy would generally be the most productive and money would have little to do with political power due to separation of economy and state.
The club no longer tries to shame them into doing so, as it once did, by pinning their names up on public display - there are simply too many defaulters.
Meanwhile the Chavistas, as the president's fans are known, buy so many Hummers that the vehicles have their own assembly plant in Venezuela.
Petro-money has seen sales of Rolexes rise sevenfold and clubs like Sawu, where the new elite pour Johnnie Walker Blue - that elixir of the ultra rich - into their Coca-Colas, flourish.
The fact that the institutions of privilege have merely changed hands increasingly angers ordinary people who were promised everything and have been given very little.
Chavez has long railed against the Venezuelan ''oligarchy", clans he claims used to rule the country and control its wealth. But among the poor, incidents such as "Suitcasegate" are prompting accusations that the Chavistas have become an oligarchy themselves.
It is worth noting to whom the great benefits of socialism are being touted: Those naive souls imported into Cuba [at Venezuela's expense] for the "free" [eye] operations. Anyone already under Castro's thumb is left to deal with shortages even though the Cuban economy is said to be improving at a 9% per annum clip. Ironically, [reporter] Gary Marx mentions blackouts. In one sense, then, while the Cuban government is restoring site to foreigners, it is blinding its own citizens! Or perhaps if Marx were a betterThe people of Venezuela are now wondering about this loudly. The rest of Latin America should take note.
spinmeisterreporter, he'd say something like, "the almost-daily restoration of sight to the customers of the state power company also fits neatly into Castro's agenda".
Meanwhile, their president sends millions overseas to help like-minded socialist regimes in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. Workers are now protesting: "How come he has money for them and not for us?"And then, Chavez is acting even more frequently like the non-powerful person I once said he was: "Faced with crucial poll defeats, Chavez is showing the strain. As the elections near, he is lashing out in a manner more commonly associated with the continent's [other] dictators."
I had a discussion today with the editor of the paper for which I work. I had, days before, handed in a piece on an AIDS awareness event. Sections of my piece were taken and combined with another author’s piece in order to avoid the printing of some facts which I brought up in the original piece. Now, I understand why the piece was not run in its originality. It was not my best work and was written in a slight state of emotional flurry, and some of the information I highlighted in my account might have caused a backlash. I do not blame them for not running it, and was in fact surprised that they used even parts of it. Discussing this though, one editor commented that the piece I turned in was too “sensational” and another commented that I should not “sensationalize” things. The main editor did not say that I was unobjective in my reporting per se, but that I focused too much on one aspect. I then commented that we perhaps did not have the same understanding of “objective.” I told her that being objective meant being totally honest and truthful. She agreed, but with the caveat that one should be unbiased as well. This began my thinking; what exactly does it mean to be objective, and how does this effect the nature of thinking and with a more specific focus on the field of journalism?
Objective means, quoting from the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.” Bias means “an inclination of temperament or outlook ; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.” Another definition listed for objective is; “relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy b: of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind.” So then, it is possible, using those definitions, that a part of being objective is to be “unbiased.” But what do these terms mean when people use them today? Objective, using the provided definitions, can be perhaps rephrased as relation of facts without imparting value to your narrative. Is this how the term is used today? Today, unbiased is often related to telling a story without taking a side or without presenting any facts in a manner which could lead to or hint at judgement. Is this being objective though? The other definition of objective states “relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence.” Can an account be objective if certain facts are ignored or unstressed in the name of being unbiased? I do not think so.
Now as to the event I attended as part of my job for the school paper; it was an AIDS awareness event sponsored by the Beacon of Light Baptist Church. This was by no means a secular event. In the first minutes of the ceremony the entire room broke out into dance and Gospel music. The guest-speaker, a gynecologist, told the audience half-way through her own presentation that AIDS was the Devil’s way of “taking us out.” Afterward an Evangelist came on and related how her husband had gotten AIDS by cheating on her with another man. She also related to the audience not to “go gay.” During the Question and Answer period the guest doctor stated that there was “no such thing as safe sex,” and then went on to make several unverified statements attacking the effectiveness of condom use.
All of this information was cut from the final article.
I was told my article was sensationalistic. What I was reporting was sensational. To be objective in this matter, it was not well written, and I perhaps did not take the greatest care in conveying these facts in a manner that did appear totally rational. I did make note of the valid scientific information presented, but this does not change the fact that the presentation was a religiously motivated and attempting to scare young African American women into religious abstinence with misinformation and mystic beliefs. I do not think that is objective in the least to ignore these facts at all, even in the name of being “unbiased” or “fair.”
To be objective is to consider all the facts of reality, and, as a corollary, judging them and giving them value. To ignore certain facts in the name of being “unbiased” is to be dishonest. Just as you do not want to give facts that create a false image of an entity, you should not withhold information which would do the same. It perhaps is true that the man who reports should not hand judgement to those he reports to, but it is not his place to decide which facts should and should not be included solely on the basis of bias. Facts are facts and nothing can change that. Some facts are not essential, such as the ethnicity of the man the Evangelist’s husband slept with. Some facts, such as the rhetoric and obvious motivation of the assembly, are. Not making explicit judgement is part of the reporting process, but avoiding facts because they would lead to a negative judgement is not objective in the least.
Was my article objective though? Looking it over now with a cool head, I feel that it is. It does not seem that sensationalistic looking at it now after several days have gone by. It could use some editing and touching up, I can see that now. One phrase does come across as perhaps condescending, although that is a honest mistake on my part and not an act of conscious malevolence.
Ultimately, to be objective is to take in all facts of reality and integrate them, even those that would make people uncomfortable or angry. Anything less is simply evading the truth in part, and in whole.
The Ayn Rand Bookstore is pleased to announce a clearance sale on all audiocassette products published by the Ayn Rand Bookstore, while supplies last.Listen and learn!
In order to clear out our existing audiocassette supplies, we are now discounting prices to $4.95 per cassette. A single-cassette item will be $4.95; a two-cassette product will sell for $9.90; and so on. In some cases, prices are now as much as 75% below list price.
Sale prices will remain effective until all of our audiocassette products are sold out. Audiocassette products will later be reintroduced in other formats.
Don’t Bailout U.S. Automakers--Untie Them
November 20, 2008
Washington, D.C. --Politicians across the spectrum are calling for an auto bailout, arguing that we cannot allow such large companies to fail.
“If U.S. automakers cannot find a market fix for their problems, they must fail,” said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “They should go through bankruptcy proceedings so that creditors and owners can redeploy their assets as efficiently as possible.
“Every day these companies remain in existence in their current form, they are destroying shareholder wealth and wasting worker effort. To preserve these companies with a bailout would be obscenely unfair. Every dollar of a bailout would come at the expense of those who did nothing to cause the auto mess.
“There is one thing the government does owe the auto companies, however: freedom. For example, however the industry shakes out, automakers must be liberated from CAFE fuel economy laws that arbitrarily dictate what kind of cars they must sell, forcing them to sell millions of small cars that have no chance of profitability given consumer preferences. The auto industry must also be liberated from the Wagner Act, which gives unions the coercive negotiating power that railroaded the Big Three into their lavish, unprofitable wage and health plans. If a liberated Big Three can rejuvenate themselves, great; otherwise, a liberated next generation will be able to succeed where they failed.
“Economic freedom is what created the American automotive industry and made it the envy of the world. Economic freedom is the only thing that can bring it back.”
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Mr. Epstein is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on business issues.
Mr. Epstein’s op-eds and letters to the editor have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Canada’s National Post, and the Washington Times. He is also a contributing writer for The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of culture and politics. Mr. Epstein has been a guest on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs.
Alex Epstein is available for interviews.
Contact: David Holcberg
Phone: (949) 222-6550 ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism's unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
Drop the SEC Investigation Against Cuban
November 19, 2008
Washington, D.C. --Billionaire Mark Cuban is under investigation for “insider trading” by the SEC.
“This case is a travesty,” said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “Cuban is accused of selling his stock in Mamma.com after the CEO told Cuban that the company would be making a new stock offering that Cuban thought was a bad idea. But there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever--unless Cuban had a contractual obligation or fiduciary duty not to act on the information. And if Cuban violated a contract, which there is no evidence of, then that is the injured party’s--the company’s--job to pursue, not the SEC’s. In all likelihood, if there is anyone who violated a contractual obligation, it is the CEO who divulged confidential, unsolicited information--not the famous billionaire recipient who just happens to make a juicy target for SEC bureaucrats thirsting for another high-profile case to justify their regulatory power.
“The question of ‘insider trading’--when employees and investors of a company can act on certain information--should be left entirely up to private contract, such as restrictions on CEOs shorting their own stock. The criminalization of ‘insider trading’ has authorized the SEC to terrorize those whose only sin was to be a savvy investor. The Mark Cubans of the world deserve to be left free to make investment decisions under a government with clear laws against force, fraud, and breach of contract--not to spend years of their lives enduring witch hunts and prisons.”
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Mr. Epstein is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on business issues.
Mr. Epstein’s op-eds and letters to the editor have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Canada's National Post, and the Washington Times. He is also a contributing writer for The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of culture and politics. Mr. Epstein has been a guest on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs.
Alex Epstein is available for interviews.
Contact: Larry Benson
Phone: (949) 222-6550 ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism’s unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
AYN RAND CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS
555 12th Street NW, Suite 620 N, Washington, DC 20004
November 20, 2008
The Menace of Pragmatism
How Aversion to Principle Is Destroying America
Who: Dr. Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas and speaker for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.
What: A talk explaining the influence and the destructive nature of pragmatism in our culture. A Q&A will follow.
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, 13th floor, Washington, DC 20045.
When: Monday, December 8, 2008, at 6:30 pm.
Admission: FREE. The public and media are invited.
Shouldn't we be pragmatic?
While Americans disagree vehemently about all manner of moral and political issues, beneath that disagreement rests the shared presumption that the way forward is always through moderation and compromise. In intellectual method--i.e., in our way of addressing problems and disagreements--Americans are united as pragmatists. Contrary to pragmatism’s image of reason and practical good sense, however, pragmatic methodology is actually self-destructive.
This talk explains what pragmatism is and the countless ways it is manifested across the cultural spectrum. It analyzes the major elements of pragmatism’s appeal as well as its fundamental errors. It also surveys the vast damage that pragmatic methods inflict, damage that is spiritual as well as material. Finally, the talk considers the most effective means of dethroning this pervasive--and destructive--mindset.
Bio: Tara Smith is a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, where she currently holds the Anthem Foundation Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism. She is the author of the books “Moral Rights and Political Freedom,” “Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality,” and “Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist,” as well as numerous articles.
For more information on this talk, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dr. Tara Smith is available for interviews now and after her talk.
Contact: Larry Benson
Phone: (949) 222-6550, ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism’s unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
As some of us have continued to say, it will continue to get worse until fundamentals are addressed. Money was given to banks, but balance sheets were not restructured. As such it is only a temporary delay in financial troubles. As long as financial markets are stopped up, demand freezes, and the longer that persists the more impact it has on actual demand. A general slow down ensues, and real firms, the worst run, and most at risk, begin to falter. Voila, autos slump; retailers are next.
The financial bail-out has failed. Primarily this is indicated by the precipitous drop in selected financial stocks after they were infused with cash. Bank of America, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs are off more than 50%. There was no need to hide which banks were in trouble, since the bailout wouldn't work, we were bound to find out by watching their stocks.
Some suggest that this is not yet as bad as The Great Depression, pointing at the jobless rate as a key indicator. However, we must remember that in the Depression our economy was much more self-providing than it is now. Most of our manufacturing has been moved off shore to places like China. If you look at what's happening to factories, and unemployment there, it is not pretty.
Our government continues to throw money at the problem, and attempt to improve things by stimulating consumers to buy. However, this is attempting to change the cause by stimulating the effect. It is doomed to failure. What does the Federal Government risk through this policy? It already is close to lowering interest rates as much as it possibly can (to 0% effectively). But that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Lower rates are what got us into this problem, and it only encourages poor investing. Capital has already been destroyed. What we need is higher rates to spur conservative investing and capital preservation, but this does not fit with the stimulatory policy of the monetarist Fed. While sound policy guarantees a protracted recession, doing the opposite is now almost sure to guarantee a depression. The Fed has thrown so much money at this, that it now threatens the viability of the dollar as a currency of standard. If dollar confidence erodes enough, expect massive dollar flight and a significant decline in dollar values, making the problem even worse. We're in a deflationary period now, but that is due to real demand destruction. If the Fed continues its stimulatory policy, expect the deflation cycle to turn to rapid inflation.
We also do not need industry bail-outs. This phenomenon is nothing more than poorly run company "pigs" to an ever widening trough. The other half of the US auto industry is fine. Why do we continue to reward failure? Every bail-out, the financial one included, has done nothing but reward those who have failed to manage their companies well, and punished those who have succeeded. While some advocates of a bail-out continue to think that it can be structured in such a way as to force Detroit to restructure, Megan McCardle points out that things have become so cynical back in Washington, the those who support the auto bailout there now nakedly see it for what it is, a cash grab, "Hail Mary" play. Yet, they advocate it anyway. My God, what have we become!
Citi begs for help, and Wells Fargo has "help" forced upon it. A free market would work in reverse. Wells would gobble up Citi, but as long as the govt is in play, Citi resists, holding out for a hand-out. When strong banks suggest that they will use bail-out funds to make acquisitions, the one rational, helpful action in this crisis, tax payers howl.
This crisis could have been avoided. If the government had only stayed out when the banking sector worsened, and let the natural course of bankruptcy restructure sick balance sheets.
There are letters being penned to my congressmen, and I'm planning a few LTE's as well. Now more than ever, there is only one thing to advocate, lasseiz faire!
In TIA Daily Rob Tracinski writes of Obama's planned $50 billion bailout of the "Big Three" Detroit auto manufacturers:
It is actually a plan for de facto nationalization which will turn the Big Three into permanent wards of the state whose purpose is not to make a profit but to serve the "social goals" set by government.
Obama is backing a plan to pump $50 billion into the big American automakers, while also establishing "a czar or board to oversee the companies"—call it Gosplan—which will supervise "a restructuring of the auto industry." That's exactly what Detroit needs to recover: the benefit of government central planning.
In essence, this is a plan for nationalization of the American auto industry under a new government-appointed board of directors who will supposedly tell the Big Three how to make a profit again.
Blinkered pragmatists will sputter, "But the government is not seizing the property, so it's not socialism!" No, that would be socialism on the communist plan. This is socialism on the fascist plan, in which the property remains nominally in private ownership, but the government dictates what the owner will do with his property. In America the dictation is called "regulation." In this case the dictator will be an "auto czar."
As Tracinski goes on to demonstrate, this is being done to protect a powerful pressure group, the unions. If the Big Three went bankrupt and were bought up by other auto makers, the power of the United Auto Workers would suffer.
American fascism makes corporations bureaucratic managers of the welfare state. Instead of just paying workers, corporations also provide health care and retirement pensions. These functions, along with a sea of regulations, give corporations two missions: make a profit and serve as a mini-welfare state. By passing welfare state functions to the corporations, the government expands the welfare state, but evades any censure for the expansion or any blame for the corporations' failures.
The Democrats are driving this intervention in auto manufacturing, but is there any doubt they were emboldened by the Republicans' bailout of Wall Street? (The Republican led bailout started at $700 million, then was revised to $1 trillion. Now the cost is estimated at $1.8 trillion. The plan has been around less than two months.)
Michael Barone writes,
The Detroit Three are taking advantage of the passage of the $700 billion financial bailout to argue that they, too, need government money to go on.
The conservative David Brooks thinks the bailout is a bad idea, but gets the cause wrong:
It is all a reminder that the biggest threat to a healthy economy is not the socialists of campaign lore. It’s C.E.O.’s. It’s politically powerful crony capitalists who use their influence to create a stagnant corporate welfare state.
But if America had a laissez-faire capitalist economy, then C.E.O.'s would have no influence and no recourse but to pursue a profit in the free market. By Brooks' thinking, if we just had virtuous people in the private sector, then statists such as Obama would never dream of increasing state intervention in the economy.
America's descent into fascism proceeds by the script written by Ludwig von Mises. Government intervention (regulations and government backed union power) have created a crisis in automobile manufacturing. This crisis does not inspire the government to withdraw its intervention, but to increase it with a $50 billion subsidy and the creation of an auto czar who will dictate even further to the industry. In the end we will have the same result as communism, but with private ownership serving to hide the extent of state control.
We are at a turning point in America. The state is about to make an enormous power grab. In addition to the de facto nationalizing of Wall Street and the auto industry, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support are plotting to nationalize 401k pension funds. This plan would give the government trillions of dollars in pension funds to spend now; the money would be replaced by government IOU's like the nonexistent social security trust fund. With Obama in the White House and increased Democrat majorities in the Senate and House, can this looting be stopped?
Mr. President-elect: What if as your campaign raised more and more money it was taxed away and given to Mr. McCain to level the field? Or think of this: What if you were not allowed to opt out of the public financing scheme that left Mr. McCain with a paltry $84 million, about a quarter of your autumn total? [emphasis added]Now, this is a great example that should show even the most myopic person the realities of taxing the great producers to pay for welfare state programs. Sadly, this is not at all what Swanson means by this example.
Welcome to Despotism 2.0
Mr. Obama should throw away his tax-regulate-and-centralize white papers. Instead, he should follow his campaign playbook and trust the networked masses. The best way to harness their power is to undo the reins. [emphasis added]
Crows make monkeys out of chimps in mental test
17 September 2008
Crows seem to be able to use causal reasoning to solve a problem, a feat previously undocumented in any other non-human animal, including chimps.
Alex Taylor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and his team presented six New Caledonian crows with a series of "trap-tube" tests.
A choice morsel of food was placed in a horizontal Perspex tube, which also featured two round holes in the underside, with Perspex traps below.
For most of the tests, one of the holes was sealed, so the food could be dragged across it with a stick and out of the tube to be eaten. The other hole was left open, trapping the food if the crows moved it the wrong way.
Three of the crows solved the task consistently, even after the team modified the appearance of the equipment. This suggested that these crows weren't using arbitrary features – such as the colour of the rim of a hole – to guide their behaviour. Instead they seemed to understand that if they dragged food across a hole, they would lose it...
Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record....Somehow, I don't expect to be hearing Heidi "Lysenk0" Cullen calling for any type of censure against James Hansen any time soon -- or for a formal retraction of her claims that privately-funded climate research is inherently biased. (And see the interesting quote by James Spann at that last link.)
But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.
The error was so glaring that ... GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.
A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. [Translation: We want even more grant money. --ed] This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen's institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.
If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change. (He was recently in the news here for supporting the Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminally damaging a coal-fired power station in Kent, on the grounds that the harm done to the planet by a new power station would far outweigh any damage they had done themselves.) [bold added]
This is what happens when everyone in a "debate" is actually in full agreement on the essential issue, yet refuses to discuss it, instead electing to prattle incessantly about something entirely tangential. In the misnamed "global warming" debate, both sides agree that the government ought to "do something" about climate change. This fundamental premise is almost never questioned or even named.Not to downplay the sloppy (at best) science here, but the real debate is the one that still isn't happening.
But laymen all over the place are arguing themselves blue in the face over whether climate change is occurring and, if so, how. Unfortunately, this second debate would remain (properly) confined to scientists if more people understood the proper role of government, namely the protection of individual rights. Not setting the Earth's thermostat.
It is early yet. The election was one week ago. Obama will be President-Elect until January 20, 2009.
After one week it looks like the defining theme of Obama's presidency will be his famous self-definition, "blank screen." I think it was Tallulah Bankhead who said, "Deep down I'm really quite shallow." I'm beginning to think this a good description of Obama. At his core he has no core. He is a man whose essence is the desire to show other people what they want to see.
What would you expect from a Democrat blank screen? The Democrat status quo. Ron Radosh writes,
The appointment of Rahm Emanuel is more evidence for what I suggested the other day, that Barack Obama will seek to govern from the political center. As Ben Smith and John Harris suggest on Politico.com today, one must not confuse Emanuel’s tough game playing with ideology. As they and others have argued, Emanuel’s reputation is that of a centrist, who has often sought to reign in the left-wing of his party, “who does not share the reflexively liberal views of many of his House colleagues.” That judgment was seconded by Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA) who said that Emanuel “is closer to the center, from a policy standpoint, than many of the Democratic Party.” It was also shared by Lindsey Graham, who said that while a “tough partisan, he understands the need to work together.” Graham called him “honest, direct, and candid” and a man who will “work to find common ground.”
Max Boot sees Encouraging Signs From Obama:
I worked for the other guy in the presidential race, but I have been cheered so far by the early indications of how the Obama administration is shaping up. Scuttlebutt has it that the front-runners for Treasury secretary are economist Larry Summers and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner. Either one would be a good, centrist choice. So, too, would be Jim Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser for Bill Clinton, who is now a rumored choice for national security adviser in the Obama administration.
It goes almost without saying that nothing would signal Obama’s moderate credentials more than retaining Bob Gates at Defense. So it is encouraging to read in the Wall Street Journal that the president-elect is “leaning toward” such a move, and that Gates “would likely accept the offer if it is made.” As the Journal notes: “the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.”
Going with the status quo is better than the wildest fears of the right, that Obama would try to create a socialist dictatorship from day one. However, in a time when Republicans socialize Wall Street with some trillion dollars and Democrats want to nationalize 401k plans, the status quo is bad enough. There is no widespread movement to cut spending and dismantle government intervention in the economy.
But what choice does Obama have, if he wants experienced hands in his administration, than to choose from, well, those who have experience? Radical leftists are a double risk in that they have no experience. In today's climate, when politicians are terrified of taking blame for anything that goes wrong, it's hard to see how the Democrat establishment would let Obama fill his administration with unknown faces.
Another sign of Obama's deep down shallowness -- an amateurishness that merits watching in the coming years -- is his uncertainty and flip-flopping, the same stuff we saw during the campaign.
First, he was for involuntary servitude for college students, then he decided that it should be voluntary and pay $40 per hour! Then he deleted his website and we have no idea what he wants.
Then, he was for the Polish missile-shield when he was talking to Poland's president, but backtracked when he was talking to the U.S. press. (Now, Poland is kowtowing to Obama, saying it was all a misunderstanding.) This is an echo of Obama's NAFTA gaffe with Canada, which was also blamed on a misunderstanding with one of Obama's advisers.
This morning he was for closing Guantanamo Bay, and having the detainees face criminal charges in U.S. criminal courts, courts using the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or new, specially created national security courts. This evening, he has backtracked yet again.
"There is absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled," said Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser for the transition team, in a statement.
So where did those original reports come from? According to the AP, Obama's legal advisers.
One hand doesn't know what the other is doing so we end up with many conflicting statements. Mr. President-elect has to keep "clarifying" the positions his subordinates keep releasing on his behalf. It's almost like he has no leadership experience whatsoever.
If this goes on, then Obama will quickly disappoint his more intelligent supporters.
Competence isn't just a technique you learn from reading management books. It rests on having firm convictions. A man who can be blown one way or another by any gust of wind will be incompetent. All the evidence we have so far, from the campaign and one week as President-Elect, points to a man without principles, a man who can change 180 degrees on an issue if the need of the moment requires it.
I find all this immensely encouraging. If my analysis is correct, then Obama will be the second Democrat president in a row who was a social metaphysician -- a man who primary orientation to reality was not the facts but what others think of the facts.
A man without a core is easy to push around. Look at what the Republicans did to Clinton, a Democrat who was so intimidated by the right that he declared the era of big government to be over. The best thing that could happen to America right now is a neutered Obama worrying about uniforms for school children.
But it is still early and Obama could have big surprises in store for us. Clinton had to suffer the national health care debacle before his presidency diminished. Plus, Obama will not be hampered by Clinton's sexual appetite and risky behavior.
Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, "There is no there there." Will Obama be an Oakland president?
UPDATE: From Gabriel Melor:
Obama appears to be abandoning his promised commitment to end government torture.
The Administration-elect is only a week old and already it's foundering because of a lack of leadership.
[T]he government's role is to protect each person's right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party's embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous.And he hasn't even touched the sprint towards socialism we have witnessed during the Bush administration, which would be bad enough alone!
If a woman chooses not to have an abortion for reasons of personal faith, then I completely respect her right to do so. But she cannot impose her particular religious views on others. Other women must have the same right to decide that deeply personal issue for themselves.
Anyone who has ever read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, both of which are novels by Ayn Rand, knows that the most dangerous traitor of all is the compromiser. Quite ironically as a former Ayn-Rander, Alan Greenspan proved Rand’s point most dramatically before Congress, last week.The other one appears in the Grand Junction Free Press, and is by Linn and Ari Armstrong.
With this in mind, I would not wish to grant my intellectual foes a favor by contributing, however inadvertently, to the idea that Objectivists are followers of a "gospel according to Rand." When I argue points with friends and colleagues, I do not frame my statements in the form, "Well, Ayn Rand said..." or, "As an Objectivist, I believe that..." Why should this convince anybody? Listeners (or readers) who disagree with Ayn Rand to begin with will not be convinced by merely repeating her position on matters, and those who are unfamiliar with her work should not take her - or anyone else's - word for it. Anyone who is worth arguing with should care only about facts and their connections to principles. Mentioning Ayn Rand every few sentences would do more harm than good.His focus is on intellectual activism, but he takes LB's essay, also worth a read, on the personal importance of the philosophy as his point of departure. And watch out for an interesting identification there regarding a common saying. I was lucky enough to have had my teach me that very distinction when I was very young. And no, Dad was not an Objectivist and, I am sure, had never heard of Ayn Rand at that age.
The Zone was my first introduction to "paleo"-type diets about ten years ago. It definitely helped me get my blood sugar under some control: mostly by eating more protein, I stopped crashing and burning as I had been doing on a regular basis. So in that respect, it was good.And that's just one problem among many.
However, the allowed calories from carbs was simply way too high -- such it was easy to eat "in the Zone" while still eating tons of processed carbs, including sugars and grains. So I maintained my quasi-addiction to carbs on the diet. As a result, I achieved nothing like the results I've gotten over the past few months.
It's frustrating to think that Sears understands so much, yet ultimately misses the boat so completely.
Bush Is No Champion of the Free Market
November 14, 2008
Washington, D.C.--In a recent speech on the financial crisis, President Bush said, “If you seek economic growth, if you seek opportunity, if you seek social justice and human dignity, the free market system is the way to go.”
According to Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, “It’s true that free markets are the source of economic prosperity and individual liberty--but President Bush, while he may pay lip service to free markets, has been a consistent opponent of them.
“Did Bush abolish the countless regulations and controls strangling businessmen? No. But he did sign into law Sarbanes-Oxley--the largest expansion of business regulation in decades. Did Bush consistently push for free trade? No. But he did give us a new steel tariff. Did Bush attempt to roll back America’s massive welfare state? No. But he did pass the prescription drug benefit, the largest new entitlement program since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Did Bush curtail government spending? Far from it. Bush presided over an unprecedented increase in the federal budget: from $1 trillion at the time he took office to more than $3 trillion today. This is to say nothing of Bush’s response to the financial crisis. He has completely evaded his administration’s responsibility for the Fed and housing policies that created the housing bubble. Instead, he has led the chorus blaming the market and calling for unprecedented handouts, bailouts, and nationalizations as the cure.
“If Bush is a friend of the free market, who needs enemies? By praising the free market while systematically undermining it, Bush has done more to discredit capitalism than any open critic could. Like a con artist who undercuts the reputation of Mercedes by selling lemon look-alikes, Bush has now led people to associate his failed policies with capitalism. That association needs to be erased. We must make it clear: Bush is no friend of free markets.”
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Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com and a contributing editor of The Objective Standard. His articles have been featured in major newspapers such as USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Providence Journal and the Orange County Register. Dr. Brook is often interviewed on radio and is a frequent guest on a variety of national TV shows, having appeared in the new Fox Business Network, FOX News Channel, CNN, CNBC, and C-SPAN. Dr. Brook, a former finance professor, lectures on Objectivism, capitalism, business and foreign policy at college campuses, community groups and corporations across America and throughout the world.
To interview Dr. Brook or book him for your show, please contact Larry Benson:
949-222-6550, ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism’s unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
In this paper Dennett's method of heterophenomenology is discussed. After a brief explanation of the method, three arguments in support of it are considered in turn. First, the argument from the possibility of error and self-delusion of the subject is found to ignore the panoply of intermediate position that one can take with regard to the epistemic status of first-personal knowledge. The argument is also criticized for employing an epistemic double-standard. Second, the argument from the neutrality of heterophenomenology is found to be defeated by the fact that, contrary to Dennett's claims, third-person, functionalist and instrumentalist assumptions substantially underpin and inform the method. Similarities between heterophenomenology and the Turing Test are furthermore explored, and it is shown that a weaker version of the neutrality claim also fails. Third, the argument from the appeal to the standard practice of science is shown to substantially rest on an equivocation on the term 'heterophenomenology' and is therefore rejected. Finally, it is suggested that the use of introspective reports is not inherently at odds with sound scientific procedures.I haven't read it yet, but it looks of interesting! (It should be available for free via university accounts.)
"When I suggest that socialism often leads to tyranny," wrote Prelutsky, "I am not indulging in right-wing hyperbole. After all, aside from control of capital and the means of production, one of the essentials of all dictatorships is central control of the media. In 2008, the left already controls most of the MSM, not to mention the liberal arts departments on most college campuses."The news media surrendered their moral and philosophical press passes to Obama a year ago.
"If there has been a conspiracy among liberal faculty members to influence students, 'they've done a pretty bad job,' said A. Lee Fritschler, professor of public policy at George Mason University and an author of the new book 'Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities' (Brookings Institution Press).But college students can be and are softened up beginning in primary schools with an insidious combination of politically-correct textbooks, mandatory group think and "team work," and the subtle or not-so-subtle power of teachers to punish non-conformity and reward conformity to comply with local school board and federal and state guidelines. Combine those factors with speech codes and mandatory or "voluntary" community servitude and a host of other collectivist imperatives extorted from 15-year-olds, and helpless students, by the time they reach a college campus, will be unable to think or speak for themselves.
"The notion that students are induced to move leftward 'is a fantasy,' said Jeremy D. Mayer, another of the book's authors....When it comes to shaping a young person's political views, 'it is really hard to change the mind of anyone over 15,' said Mr. Meyer, who did extensive research on faculty and students."
"What is strange is that now we depend on the state to re-establish trust by rescuing and even nationalizing financial institutions, relying on the same authority that gives paper money its value. But after the events of the last century, can anyone fully believe that the state should be the ultimate standard for trust and fiscal faith? And would even a real-life George Bailey be able to coax us into confidence, let alone belief that good intentions have power over principles of finance? We are in for perilous times."Perilous and dangerous times, to be sure. The times ahead of us will be perilous, because of the government's powers to enforce obedience and conformity with little chance of dissention; and dangerous, because so many Americans are comfortable with those powers, and see in them the ingredients for "hope" and "change."
The topic for Show 080 arose from a conversation between Mosley and regular listener iheartcells. Mosley made a comment about the status of homeless people, saying that they are lazy people who made bad decisions. iheartcells asked, “Are you sure that you have enough information to make that judgment?” In the show Mosley and Arthur discuss this.
Topics in the show include: Mosley and iheartcell’s discussion; making unwarranted judgments; judgments as not just for the bad, but for the good; today’s negative connotation with judging others; different types of judgment; justice as a virtue of making rational judgments and acting accordingly; judgments as requiring rational standards; the need for and evaluation of evidence; judging friends; moral agnosticism; the morality of being overweight; making assumptions; the source of the need of rational judgment as self-preservation; praising the good as of primary importance; rash judgments; judgment applied to the financial crisis.
In the end, Mosley concluded that he did not have enough information to make his judgment, with the understanding that judging others and making sure that one does so rationally is of crucial importance.
On this topic, Ayn Rand said:
One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment.
Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.
These notes were written by a listener, Steve, who is a member of the talkObjectivism Facebook group.
Is there something wrong with labor unions? Mosley questions the source of his dislike for unions: Maybe people have a right to collaborate in order to fight for their needs, higher wages, etc.
When unions are in private companies, there is a ceiling to claims that unions can make. When the company can no longer make a profit, the union can’t keep demanding raises and benefits. (The current GM troubles are a good example of this). When unions are in government industries, there is no ceiling to the costs of demands, because the government (therefore the taxpayer) has an essentially bottomless pocket.
One example of unions and related government/labor issues is the minimum wage. We discussed the alleged benefits of government mandated wages. While some claim these mandates benefit “the poor,” in fact they only benefit those who are already employed at some level above the minimum wage. When minimum wage levels are increased, the pool of capital available for labor has to be distributed among fewer people. This means people get laid-off, or at least not hired. Historically, every time the minimum wage has been increased, unemployment has gone up. Since the minimum wage keeps the unemployed from entering at the bottom of the economic ladder, it keeps unskilled laborers (who are willing to work for less) from competing with the more experienced, higher paid workers.
A coalition of “bootleggers and Baptists” is formed. Those who honestly believe (however misguided) that wage increases benefit people are joined by the labor union elders who have a stake in protecting themselves from competition.
Mosley goes on to explain the background of the Pittsburgh public port authority system, and rumors of a private system coming along. Steve calls in with the story of the Trans-Santiago bus system as told by Professor Mike Munger of Duke University, on the EconTalk podcast put out weekly by the Library of Economics and Liberty. The Chilean government municipalized what was once an open market of over 300 private bus companies. The bus market used to run in the black, about a $60 million dollar per year industry. After outlawing private buses and municipalizing the service, the government bus system is now about $600 million in the red.
Arthur calls in to remind that in weighing any two “imperfect systems” there is a difference between a government system and a private system. Government systems tend to be stagnant, and can only be as good as the committee that engineers it. In a public system, the goods and services offered improve through a constant process of trying to satisfy the consumer. Arthur also points out that all goods have to be produced by someone, even when they are paid for by the government (the taxpayer). The government doesn’t produce - it can only redistribute the funds of those who do.
Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures
By Yaron Brook and Don Watkins
Speaking of the financial crisis, French president Nicolas Sarkozy recently said, “Laissez-faire is finished. The all-powerful market that always knows best is finished.”
Sarkozy was echoing the views of many, including president-elect Obama, who assume that the financial crisis was caused by free markets--by “unbridled greed” unleashed by decades of deregulation and a “hands off” approach to the economy. And given this premise, the solution, they say, is obvious. To solve this crisis and prevent another one, we need a heavy dose of Uncle Sam’s elixir: government intervention. Whether it’s more bailouts, stricter regulation, a new round of nationalizations, or some other scheme, the only question since day one has been how, not whether, government is going to intervene.
And the issue is wider than the financial crisis. Millions of Americans don’t have health insurance? Well, says Obama, that’s because we’ve left the health-care system to the free market. The solution: a complete government takeover of medicine. A few companies engaged in accounting fraud? It must be because we didn’t impose enough regulations on businessmen. The solution: rein in corporations with Sarbanes-Oxley.
But while capitalism may be a convenient scapegoat, it did not cause any of these problems. Indeed, whatever one wishes to call the unruly mixture of freedom and government controls that made up our economic and political system during the last three decades, one cannot call it capitalism.
Take a step back. In the lead up to the “Reagan Revolution,” the explosive growth of government during the ’60s and ’70s had left the American economy in disarray. A crushing tax burden, runaway inflation, brutal unemployment, and economic stagnation had Americans looking for an alternative. That’s what Reagan offered, denouncing big government and promising a new “morning in America.”
Under Reagan, some taxes were reduced, inflation was subdued, a few regulations were relaxed--and the economy roared back to life. But while markets were able to function to a greater degree than in the immediate past, the regulatory and welfare state remained largely untouched, with government spending continuing to increase, as well as some taxes. Later administrations were even worse. Bush Jr., often laughably called a champion of free markets, presided over massive new governmental controls like Sarbanes-Oxley and massive new welfare programs like the prescription drug benefit.
None of this is consistent with capitalism. As the economic system that fully recognizes and protects individual rights, including the right to private property, capitalism means, in Ayn Rand’s words, “the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.” Laissez-faire means laissez-faire: no welfare state entitlements, no Federal Reserve monetary manipulation, no regulatory bullying, no controls, no government interference in the economy. The government’s job under capitalism is single but crucial: to protect individual rights from violation by force or fraud.
America came closest to this system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The result was an unprecedented explosion of wealth creation and consequent rise in the standard of living. Even now, when the fading remnants of capitalism are badly crippled by endless controls, we see that the freest countries--those which retain the most capitalist elements--have the highest standard of living.
Why then should capitalism take the blame today--when capitalism doesn’t even exist? Consider the current crisis. The causes are complex, but the driving force is clearly government intervention: the Fed keeping interest rates below the rate of inflation, thus encouraging people to borrow and providing the impetus for a housing bubble; the Community Reinvestment Act, which forces banks to lend money to low-income and poor-credit households; the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with government-guaranteed debt leading to artificially low mortgage rates and the illusion that the financial instruments created by bundling them are low risk; government-licensed rating agencies, which gave AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities, creating a false sense of confidence; deposit insurance and the “too big to fail” doctrine, whose bailout promises have created huge distortions in incentives and risk-taking throughout the financial system; and so on. In the face of this long list, who can say with a straight face that the housing and financial markets were frontiers of “cowboy capitalism”?
This is just the latest example of a pattern that has been going on since the rise of capitalism: capitalism is blamed for the ills of government intervention--and then even more government intervention is proposed as the cure. The Great Depression? Despite massive evidence that the Federal Reserve’s and other government policies were responsible for the crash and the inability of the economy to recover, it was laissez-faire that was blamed. Consequently, in the aftermath, the government’s power over the economy was not curtailed but dramatically expanded. Or what about the energy crisis of the 1970s? Despite compelling evidence that it was brought on by monetary inflation exacerbated by the abandonment of the remnants of the gold standard, and made worse by prices controls, “greedy” oil companies were blamed. The prescribed “solution” was for the government to exert even more control.
It’s time to stop blaming capitalism for the sins of government intervention, and give true laissez-faire a chance. Now that would be a change we could we believe in.
Yaron Brook is the president of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Don Watkins is a writer at the Ayn Rand Center. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.Without any further adieu, it is my pleasure to present this week's round-up:
"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.
The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) - nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.The following thought then occurred to me. One day, the US is going to face a financial crisis due to the insolvency of Social Security that will make the current mortgage crisis look like chump change in comparison. And everyone who advocates privatizing Social Security also points out that there would be huge transition costs.
This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:
1. Nevada 84.5%
2. Alaska 69.1%
3. Utah 57.4%
4. Oregon 53.1%
5. Idaho 50.2%
6. Arizona 48.1%
7. California 45.3%
8. Wyoming 42.3%
9. New Mexico 41.8%
10. Colorado 36.6%
An internet blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on Burma's dictator in the form of a love poem were among dozens of activists sentenced to draconian jail terms as the junta ordered a fresh crackdown on dissidents.That is just the sort of thing I could imagine doing (and have done, but not in a political vein). I suspect that the "alternative" being immorally forced on Saw Wai by his government is: "Your life or your life!" That's what being silent or -- worse, being told to write only what one knows to be ugly and wrong -- is for someone who loves to write. And, now that I think of it, that is the ultimate, though not always so stark, choice any tyranny puts to us, and which gives meaning to the motto, "Live free or die."
Nay Myo Kyaw, 28, who wrote blogs under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and 6 months in jail by a court in Rangoon. The poet, Saw Wai, received a two-year sentence for an eight-line Valentine's Day verse published in a popular magazine.
Aung Thein, the lawyer for the men, was given four months in prison on Monday for contempt of court during his defence.
Mr Saw Wai’s poem, entitled 14th February, was ostensibly a Valentine's Day verse published in January last year in a weekly magazine. "You have to be in love truly, madly, deeply and then you can call it real love," it read. "Millions of those who know how to love, Laugh and clap those gold-gilded hands."
The first word of each line, however, spelt out a message about the leader of the country's military government: "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe". Mr Saw Wai was charged with harming "public tranquillity". [bold added]
Socialism has nothing to do with Burma's situation. The country is run as selfish regime. China supplies regime expertise and equipment while all the big powers including China extract raw materials and profit. The population are treated as a disposable nuisance. Just the same as Congo and Zimbabwe.First of all, given that freedom of speech can and does greatly accelerate the discovery of the truth, which man must have to survive and flourish, to call a regime that suppresses freedom of speech "selfish" borders on the patently absurd. This is not to say that it is unimportant to defend the virtue of selfishness whenever possible, for its opposite, altruism, is what is used to justify socialism and dictatorship, including the poet's very sentence! The rulers of China, Burma, Congo, and Zimbabwe are anything but "selfish".
the cost of government is forced upon all citizens ... every tax dollar taken forces everyone to work, part-time, for the government.The emphasis is mine. I find it truly impressive to hear a 20th century U.S. president acknowledge taxes as a use of force instead of an admirable sacrifice or a moral duty. Of course, President Coolidge is not calling for the abolition of taxes; he is just honestly stating the reality of what they are. Here is another refreshing quote:
I want the people of America to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want the people to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.From what I recall from Robert Sobel's Coolidge: An American Enigma, Coolidge viewed taxes as a necessary evil to fund the basic functions of government. Needless to say, Coolidge's perception of what was necessary went beyond police, military and a court system as it included public works and schools. However, as a general standard, he seemed to strive to avoid expanding the government's role beyond its current functions, he seemed to work to improve the overall efficiency of government so as to reduce the tax burden on America and he tried to let the "business of America [be] business". Of course, it would have been much better had the Coolidge Administration actively fought to undo the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission or the Anti-trust laws. Nevertheless, Coolidge's Administration still sounds very good relative for the early 20th century.
Last week on Show 081 Mosley and Arthur began to discuss their views on the nature of volition. Arthur presented a perspective, as he cautioned, that may not be in complete coherence with the Objectivist position. Dr. Paul Hsieh, of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM) and the NoodleFood blog, wrote us an email that offers his views from an Objectivist perspective and indicates where he differs with Arthur. After review, Arthur still maintains his position, but believes that Paul brings up several important points which he proceeds to discuss.
Topics include: TalkObjectivism blog and content; upcoming Objectivist events (see post below for more information); Paul’s email; choice and being able to do otherwise; the introspective evidence for volition; development of life compared to development of volition; volition and deliberation; determinism as an excuse; “could have done otherwise” as shorthand; determinism as necessary for understanding; genetic influences on behavior; what is under volitional control; sexual attractions; can choices be foreseen; volition and animals; consciousness as an action process; emotions; and much more.
My brother is a tattoo artist. He reports he is getting college girls who want the Obama O tattooed on them. (Is this better than a tramp stamp?)
Have you ever heard of people getting a tattoo of a politician's symbol? Did any Republican girls get W tattoos in 2000? Obama is an entirely new phenomenon. He brings a cult of personality into American politics.
Peggy Noonan notes,
...[The GOP] lost the vote of two-thirds of those aged 18 to 29. They lost a generation!
Two thirds of young voters voted for Obama. Most of these people, I suspect, did not question Obama when he said in his typically gaseous victory speech,
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.
It did not occur to them to ask, "Where? What the hell are you talking about, Obama? Exactly what is your goal?" Instead, they cheered. Wherever you want to take us, our leader, we will follow.
Some Obama supporters, like Peggy Joseph, who thinks voting for Obama means she won't have to pay for her own gas or mortgage, are the product of the welfare state. These people have been taught all their life to look to the state for handouts.
Others are the fruit of progressive education. These are socialized people. They are collectivists terrified to think for themselves. They want to be told by the group what is cool, what is hip, what bears the stamp of approval of the group. Obama is so cool! Let's get his tattoo!
Those who do not go along with the group will be denounced as unpatriotic, racist and selfish. The popular phrase, "They just don't get it" will be used. It's a convenient phrase for those who follow the vibe of the group, as it obviates any rational argument. You either feel it or you don't, you get it or you don't.
These people are ready for a dictatorship. They are a collective waiting to be told what to do.
You can't have a dictatorship without a significant portion of the population that is willing to follow orders blindly. Benjamin Franklin's words haunt us. When asked what they were creating in the Constitutional Convention, he said, "A republic -- if you can keep it."
We cannot keep it with a nation of people who are unquestioning, passive sheep.
..."Going John Galt" is not that easy -- Congress quietly passed an "exit tax" earlier this year to penalize any (somewhat) high net worth US resident that decides to vote with their feet.And regular NoodleFood commenter Jim May gets a mention from Instapundit with this quote:
As quoted in the links below, the U.S. government, through the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act of 2008 (the HEART bill, for short, and I am not making this up), effective June 17, 2008, imposes an "exit tax" on certain citizens and long-term residents who expatriate or terminate their long-term residency. Such individuals, called covered expatriates, will be deemed to have sold all of their worldwide property for its fair market value on the day before expatriating or terminating U.S. residency, and will be liable for U.S. tax on the amount deemed realized in excess of $600,000 (subject to cost of living adjustments).
Covered expatriates are: citizens and long-term residents who (a) have an average annual U.S. tax liability for the previous five years of $139,000 (adjusted for inflation), (b) have a net worth of at least $2,000,000 on the expatriation date, or (c) fail to certify compliance with all U.S. federal tax obligations for the previous five years.
...I left Canada for the greater opportunity and freedom in America. I never expected Canada to follow me here.I still agree with Dr. Leonard Peikoff's assessment in his November 3, 2008 podcast -- I'd still rather stay in the US and fight for good ideas than leave, at least at this point in time
When Argentina moved to nationalize pension funds, the media correctly identified it as a “grab” and people took to the streets in protest. I think Americans might just roll over, however.
Spread the word, please! Announcing a very special event:Wow, now that's a lecture I wish I could attend!
A Lecture by Mr. John Allison, President and CEO of BB&T Corporation: "Financial Trauma: Causes and Possible Cures"
November 19, 2008, 3:30 PM
Griffith Theatre, at the Bryan Center, Duke University (Directions)
As the world struggles with the current financial crisis, we should listen to the executives of successful financial institutions. BB&T is such an institution.
Mr. Allison will outline the causes of today's financial chaos, including the errors that led to the crisis. He will discuss the broader implications for the economy, including the effects on the housing and mortgage industries, and offer economic and political suggestions for both short-term and long-term cures.
John A. Allison became CEO of BB&T on July 7, 1989. At the end of 1989, BB&T was ranked 96th largest bank in the nation with $4.8 billion in assets. After 60 bank and thrift acquisitions, and the implementation of innovative training and measurement programs, the former eastern North Carolina farm bank has grown to become the nation's 14th largest financial holding company. Assets have increased from $4.8 billion, when Allison began his tenure as CEO, to $137 billion today.
Sponsor: The Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, Duke University
Contact: John Lewis, john.d.lewis (at) duke.edu
For Halloween weekend, Mosley and Arthur discuss various relevant topics starting with the supernatural then moving on to Halloween and the significance of the various activities surrounding it. Toward the end of the show, they discuss the election, which is almost here.
Being somewhat distracted in the chat room, I was not able to note all the topics, but they include: the supernatural; ghost stories for entertainment; philosophic significance of Halloween; dressing up and trick-or-treating; haunted houses; horror movies; fiction vs. non-fiction movies & TV shows; benevolent and malevolent universe premise; the election; Obama & religion; lesser of two evils; voting; and more.
We hope you enjoyed the show and will see you next week!
We continued our discussion about Steve Ditko and how his Objectivist views shaped his artwork and career. Thanks to Javier Hernandez, we were able to get Blake Bell, the writer of the new book about Steve Ditko, and Mort Todd, who worked closely with Steve on several projects since the 1980s. This was a very interesting show. If you enjoyed last week’s show you are going to love this one.
I would like to thank everyone that was on the show. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to talking with you again sometime.
I disagree with Nick Provenzo’s post alleging that Mr. John Allison is guilty of giving the “sanction of the victim.” Other readers of this webblog have expressed their agreement with Nick’s post. For example, in the comments section, Ed Cline refers to John Allison’s recent press release as a “defection”. There are also several anonymous posts that are far more incendiary but are not worth deigning to address.
Rest assured that I found the BB&T press release  to be a grave concern. The particular statement that expresses open support for the U.S. Treasury’s efforts to achieve financial stabilization is the most unsettling part. At first glance, this certainly seems unnecessary and unjust. However, Burgess Laughlin raises the valid point that it is unclear to what extent Mr. Allison, as CEO, has control over this statement compared to, say, the Board of Directors. We also presently have no idea of Mr. Allison’s motivation for releasing this statement. The fact is, there is presently an enormous amount of uncertainty surrounding this press release.
Nevertheless, if any of us who value Objectivism is to judge Mr. Allison properly, then we must consider the entire context of his actions and his public statements. First, consider Mr. Allison’s many ostensible commitments to spreading Objectivism. He:
In my opinion, John Allison has probably done more to effectively spread Objectivism than just about anybody sans a handful for ARI intellectuals and employees. This strongly suggests that Mr. Allison is not an individual who concedes the sanction of the victim at the slightest increase of pressure.
Second, before making our judgment, we should recognize that even Yaron Brook expresses the necessity for the short-term economic stabilization of the housing market, the banking industry and the stock market . Of course, this does not say that supporting the Treasury’s efforts for financial stabilization is justified, especially since Dr. Brook goes on to suggest free market solutions to achieve this stabilization. Nevertheless, Dr. Brook’s opinion still suggests that it is not unreasonable to support some effort for stabilization.
Lastly, I wanted to address the broader issue of life and philosophy. Being an Objectivist does not mean that you refuse to file your income taxes because not doing so will result in your incarceration. Nor does being an Objectivist mandate that you actively and publicly denounce Islamic Totalitarians, as it could force you and your family to go into hiding for fear of your life. Being an Objectivist also does not require that you risk your life by defiantly standing in front of the tanks at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />
Again, this is not to say that the infamous press release is worded well or is morally justifiable. However, we must not forget that it is only moral for John Allison to take a defiant stance if it will make his own life better. It is not moral for him to martyr himself to ignite an Objectivist cultural revolt that he may not be able to enjoy.
In summary, I do not think it is fair to debate John Allison’s commitment to Objectivism. His actions prior to this press release show he has lived his life and conducted his business according to Objectivist principles. Furthermore, as previously discussed, he has been monumentally successful in spreading Objectivism. Further still, there is presently an enormous amount of uncertainty underlying both the motivation for releasing the press release as well as the amount of creative control Mr. Allison had over its content. We should take the full scope of his life as well as this great uncertainty into account when judging Mr. Allison’s integrity. Anyone who values Objectivism owes him this much.
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 Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein on "Real Orange" (KOCE)
"We support the Treasury's efforts to stabilize the credit markets and restore confidence in the financial system," said BB&T Chairman and CEO John A. Allison.Mr. Allison may have had no choice when it came to accepting government control over his bank. He may have had his reasons as we all do when faced with a mixed economy. Nevertheless, Mr. Allison was under no obligation to publicly praise the government for its latest encroachment.
I am not enough of a political scientist to be sure, but recent conversations I have had with some Harvard undergrads have led me to a conjecture: It was largely noneconomic issues. These particular students told me they preferred the lower tax, more limited government, freer trade views of McCain, but they were voting for Obama on the basis of foreign policy and especially social issues like abortion. The choice of a social conservative like Palin as veep really turned them off McCain. [bold added]Or, as Paul Hsieh recently informed the GOP -- who asked -- awhile back:
The Republican Party must promote the strict separation of church and state. I used to support the Republican Party because I believe in individual rights, free markets, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms.I agree.
However, the Republican Party alliance with the religious right on "social issues" like abortion and gay marriage has turned off many former supporters such as myself.
The proper function of the government is to protect individual rights, as philosopher Ayn Rand notes:
"The Nature of Government"
The government should not force one group's religious views on everyone. Hence, I no longer have a home in any political party. To paraphrase a quote from Ronald Reagan, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me." [bold added, raw URLs converted into hyperlinks]
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and a top UN official urged industrialised nations Friday to alter their lifestyles and investment modes as part of efforts to tackle global warming.Translation: "Don't forget to pass the goodies before you turn out the lights!"
"The developed countries have a responsibility and an obligation to respond to global climate change by altering their unsustainable way of life," Wen was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Developed nations should also help developing countries respond to climate change, Wen said at the opening of a two-day international meeting on global warming in Beijing.
The gathering in Beijing, which is being attended by representatives from 76 nations, is focusing on the development and transfer of technology that can help tackle climate change ahead of next month's talks on creating a new global treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. [bold added]
In 1986, Peter Davies from Newfoundland was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Memorial University . On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.I'd get ready to forward one of the schmaltzy ones, but change the payload before sending. (HT: Mom)
He got down on one knee, inspected the elephant’s foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Toronto Zoo with his teen-aged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.
I bought about a pound of almonds yesterday for a backpacking trip I'll be doing this weekend. I like to soak raw almonds, then lightly toast them. It sweetens them and breaks down some of their anti-nutrients.Here's what Wikipedia says about the change:
When I arrived at the grocery store, the only raw almonds they had were from California. I prefer to buy domestic products when I can, but in case you haven't heard, "raw" almonds from California are no longer raw. They are required to be sterilized using steam or antiseptic gases, despite their relative safety as a raw food.
The worst part is that they are not required to label them as pasteurized; they can still be labeled as raw. The Almond Board's argument is that there's no difference in quality and pasteurized almonds are safer. I find this highly offensive and deceptive. It flies in the face of common sense. If you walked up to someone in the street and asked them what the phrase "raw milk" means, would they say "oh yeah, that means pasteurized"? A raw seed can sprout. A pasteurized seed can't. Remember all those enzymes that break down anti-nutrients when you soak beans, grains and nuts? Denatured by heat.
I tried soaking them like I would regular raw almonds. I covered them in water overnight. In the morning, I noticed that the soaking water was milky and had an unpleasant smell. The outer layer of the almonds (the most cooked part) was falling apart into the water. They also didn't have the crisp texture of soaked raw almonds.
Tonight, I toasted them lightly. They definitely taste "off", and the texture isn't as good. There's no doubt about it, pasteurized California almonds are inferior. Despite my preference for domestic products, I'll be buying Spanish almonds the next time around. If enough of us do the same, we'll hit the Almond Board in the only place that counts: its wallet.
Because of cases of Salmonella traced to almonds in 2001 and 2004, in 2006 the Almond Board of California proposed rules regarding pasteurization of almonds available to the public, and the USDA approved them. Since 1 September 2007, raw almonds have technically not been available in the United States. Controversially, almonds labeled as "raw" are required to be steam pasteurised or chemically treated with propylene oxide. This does not apply to imported almonds.According to this blog post, organic almonds are pasteurized with steam, whereas non-organic almonds may be treated with propylene oxide.
One of the most irritating things is that the new rule is designed to edge out small producers. I can't see any other reason for it. Raw almonds are a safe food. Far safer than lettuce. Should we pasteurize lettuce? Pasteurization requires specialized, expensive equipment that will be prohibitive for the little guys. I'm sure the bigger producers will generously offer to fill the production gap.Sadly, large food producers often seem eager to use the power of the government to prevent their smaller competitors from providing consumers with much-wanted goods. It's very frustrating -- and very wrong.
Wrong AnalogyGreat letter, John!
In Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," her hero, John Galt, refuses to accept the position of economic dictator. Alan Greenspan accepted such a position as head of the government's central bank, and his dictates were enforced over an economy burdened with thousands of pages of regulations.
Greenspan's own flawed ideas have nothing in common with Rand's philosophy. Nor was the U.S. economy ever set free of government control. Had Froma Harrop (Other Opinion, Oct. 30) discussed the content of Rand's philosophy along with the actual state of business regulation, this would have been clear.
John David Lewis, Durham
Nationalization Is Theft
Venezuela, Russia, and other countries that nationalize natural resources are violating private property rights.
For years, the Canadian operator of a huge Venezuelan gold project known as Las Cristinas has been seeking an environmental permit to start digging. Well, Crystallex International Corporation can stop waiting--the mine is being nationalized as part of dictator Hugo Chavez’s long-running program of socialist takeovers. “This mine will be seized and managed by a state administration” with help from the Russians, said Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz.
It’s not surprising that a brute like Chavez would want to grab the 16.9 million ounces of gold estimated to lie buried in the Las Cristinas reserve. But what’s more puzzling is why--when gold mines, oil rigs and refineries worth billions of dollars are nationalized by regimes such as Venezuela and Russia--the ousted companies can muster no moral indignation, only tight-lipped damage appraisal.
The reason, in a nutshell, is that resources like gold and petroleum in their natural state are universally regarded as public property that cannot be extracted by private companies except with government permission, revocable at will. “Venezuela will not accept that foreign organizations tell them what to do with their own resources,” said a local journalist recently.
But unexploited natural resources are unowned, not publicly owned. Ownership--the legal right to use and dispose of material resources--cannot exist until someone actually brings those resources under human control. A dictator cannot, by decree, bring hidden gold or oil deposits to the surface. Only the knowledge and effort of entrepreneurs, engineers and drillers can transform that hidden potential into actual wealth. Ownership is the law’s recognition that those particular producers deserve the legal right--as against every person on earth who didn’t tap that potential--to control the wealth they created.
Consider that Arabs wandered for centuries across desert sands that concealed vast petroleum deposits, but it was Western investors who actually made Middle Eastern petroleum valuable. These companies searched for many years in a vast wilderness, moving in frustration from one dry hole to another, risking utter failure and financial ruin. Eventually, by virtue of their ingenuity, courage and perseverance, world markets were flooded with oil that Middle Eastern governments should have deemed private property--100% private.
Instead, those governments muscled in, claiming public ownership based on nothing but their sovereignty over the geographical areas where oil deposits happened to reside. First through royalties, then by extorted royalty increases, and finally by outright nationalization, the descendants of nomads whose meager possessions fit on a camel’s back could now build palaces, buy airplanes and fund terrorism from the seemingly endless profits generated by Western technology and ingenuity.
But all this was a perversion of sovereignty. After all, why are states entrusted with exclusive power to use force within their borders? There’s only one legitimate reason: to protect individual rights, including property rights. Just as a bodyguard’s task is protecting clients from physical attacks, a government’s function is safeguarding people and property against criminals and foreign invaders.
Sovereignty exists to protect private property, not to destroy it. A bodyguard who claimed to own his client’s house, cars and jewelry would be immediately fired. Yet governments that claim to own all natural resources within their borders get a free pass, as if ownership could be conjured from the barrel of a gun.
Today, nationalization is endorsed not only by third world thugs but by the United Nations, which--with America’s full agreement--declared in 1962 that the “sovereign right of every State to dispose of its wealth and natural resources” is “recognized as overriding purely individual or private interests.” Even the victims agree. Said one CEO: “We do not see the issue of nationalization as a violation of the law but as a right of a government.”
This is why power-grasping dictators like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Russia’s Vladimir Putin can claim moral authority to treat foreign investors the way they treat their own citizens--as cattle to be herded, milked or slaughtered for society’s sake. Thus when ExxonMobil recently dared to dispute the pittance Venezuela offered in payment for seized assets, Chavez denounced “those bandits of ExxonMobil,” absurdly declaring they “will never rob us again.”
Nationalization, stripped of all rationalization, is naked theft. A blow for justice will be struck by the first public figure to denounce it as such. In the meantime, companies like Crystallex will continue to be bullied by dictators who know exactly how much they can get away with.
"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."That might have been the appeal uttered by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to support the subprime bailout, but it is actually an excerpt from president-elect Barack Obama's victory speech, reprinted in the Daily Telegraph (London) on November 5.
"The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all."That was Point Ten of the program of the NSDAP, or the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazi Party.
"John McCain and Sarah Palin, they call this socialistic. You know, I don't know when they decided they wanted to make a virtue of selfishness."That was Obama glibly papering over his attacks on "the rich" in defense of his proposed tax policies, which in spirit are little else but a populist appeal to envy, to counter John McCain's accusation late in the campaign that they were socialistic. Excuse the expression, but it was the pot calling the kettle black. McCain's proposed tax policies were watered down versions of Obama's, and no less socialistic than the Illinois senator's.
"The Promise of American life is to be fulfilled -- not merely by a maximum amount of economic freedom, but by a certain measure of discipline; not merely by the abundant satisfaction of individual desires, but by a large measure of individual subornation and self-denial....The automatic fulfillment of the American national Promise is to be abandoned, if at all, precisely because the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth."*Barack Obama would certainly agree with that assertion, because, among other recommendations, its author called for the expansion of executive authority, the growth of federal regulations and control of not only the economy, but of the personal lives of Americans to redirect them from their individualism to achieve social and nationalist ends, among them a morally and desirable redistribution of wealth. To make that possible, Obama proclaims, America must "break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution."
"This is our time...to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth -- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, We Can."From beginning to end in his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama appealed to emotion, not to facts, not to men's reason, not to their repugnance for selfless service to causes higher than themselves. I do not believe, as some commentators claim, that the Americans who voted for Obama were "lulled" by his emotionalist oratory. These are the Americans whom Ayn Rand might have said had "let it go" -- "it" being the idea of a great nation founded on the recognition of inviolate individual rights and the liberty to enjoy them without interference or coercion -- and have settled for a demagogue who offers hope and promises change.
"We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press....Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands."While Obama is in office and while the Democrats control Congress, expect a demand to revive the "Fairness Doctrine," in addition to renewed demands to regulate the Internet. The federal government already monitors the Internet to detect terrorist plots and its actions often render it sluggish and even inoperable. There is no reason to doubt that a government which regards Americans answerable to the state for their ideas and opinions and whose freedom of speech would be deemed counter to the general good and a destructive influence would not refrain from silencing critics by every foul and coercive means imaginable.
A powerful new lobbying force is coming to town: Barack Obama's triumphant army of 3.1 million Internet-linked donors and volunteers.Read the whole thing. The best we can hope for is that Trippi is merely projecting his own masturbatory fantasy of power-lust onto the man he foolishly hopes will rule according to his own daydreams. But I doubt it.
In a mass e-mail thanking them, written moments before his Grant Park victory speech, Obama put them on notice. "We have a lot to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next," he wrote.
Many are eager. "I'm going to be sitting at the phone, asking, 'What do you want me to do next? I'm ready,' " said volunteer Courtney Hood, 37, a mother of three from Owings, Md.
Joe Trippi, the Internet politics guru whose computer geeks made Howard Dean a contender in 2004 and who went on to design Obama's socially networked campaign machine, offers a provocative and educated guess.
Trippi predicted that Obama would use his forces, first and foremost, to intimidate congressional foes of his agenda, rally his allies and forge "one of the most powerful presidencies in American history." [bold added]
What's the importance of credentials when writing or arguing for a cause? Is it important to have an MD or PHD when trying to persuade other people of an idea's creedence, namely Objectivism? Can an average, everyday, YOUNG person make an argument and be taken seriously without the pieces of paper backing them up? What about when trying to reach a large group of people? It just seems to me that a good argument is a good argument despite the background of the person giving it. What do you think?Paul wrote the following in reply:
That's an excellent question, Miranda! Here's my quick 2 cents' worth:And I wrote:
For technical subjects (law, medicine, engineering), the credential helps somewhat. If I needed to resolve a biochemistry argument, I'd definitely give more weight to someone with a PhD in biochemistry than someone with a masters' degree in English Literature.
For public policy, it's helps a little bit. But mostly it's a proxy marker to show that the person has done some level of advanced education and thus presumably is not just some random person with an opinion.
Of course we all know that this sort of proxy may have very little to do with the merits of the argument. For example, there are Nobel Prize winners in economics (like Paul Krugman) who support all sorts of bad ideas like "universal health care", when they should know better.
Yes, ultimately it's the quality of the argument that should matter. And it usually does. But for better or worse, the credential might help you get an initial hearing. But in sustained debates and discussions with a fair-minded audience, the quality of arguments (including reasoning and evidence used) and often the tone/demeanor (especially on the internet) make more difference in the end.
This is a great question to pose to the OActivists list. You're welcome to join it, if you meet the list qualifications.Further thoughts?
Let me just say the following, in addition to what Paul said:
It's hard to have credibility as a young person: I've noticed that people take me more seriously in my 30s than they did in my 20s, even when my views haven't changed one iota.
What every speaker needs is credibility -- at least to get his/her foot in the door. An audience needs some reason to think that this person will have something interesting and informed to say, rather than just a bunch of ill-conceived opinions. A degree can provide that, as can personal experience or proven expertise (e.g. working in a field for some years, authoring an issue paper, etc).
That kind of credibility is hard for a young person to gain, precisely because they're young. However, you need not be discouraged. A great deal of really important activism is totally (or mostly) blind to credentials. If you write a letter to the editor or web comment, no one will know how old you are. The same goes if you write an op-ed. (For an op-ed, I would definitely draw on people who do have experience in a given field -- i.e. act like a journalist in part -- to give your writing more credibility and power.)
Finally, I should mention that pursuing an advanced degree -- particularly one that will give you a title -- requires years of grueling work. So I don't recommend doing that unless you have a real interest in the topic and eagerness to learn it. The work is just too hard to do for a mere piece of paper.
"Argentina Makes Grab for Pensions Amid Crisis"The current financial crisis is being used as a pretext to confiscate that money, in the name of "protecting" the Argentinian workers. Of course, in reality it's just a way for a bankrupt government to attempt to steal enough money to keep going for a little while longer.
...President Kirchner painted the move as an attempt to help workers weather the financial crisis. The value of private retirement accounts in Argentina has probably fallen in recent months due to a declining stock market, economists say. President Kirchner said in a speech: "The main member countries of the [Group of Eight] are adopting a policy of protection of the banks and, in our case, we are protecting the workers and retirees."
Buenos Aires economist Aldo Abram, among many other economists, wasn't buying that argument. "They were in a tight situation and this was an accessible source of funds," he said.
The step requires approval of Congress, where the governing Peronist party has a majority. Opposition leader Elisa Carrio vowed to contest it, saying, "The government measures aren't designed to better the retirement system but rather to plunder the funds of the retirees."
"Would Obama, Dems Kill 401(k) Plans?"By taking over this huge pot of private 401(k) retirement money, but promising to pay out only a pittance to the nominal "owners", the government would (quite literally) make out like bandits.
House Democrats recently invited Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School of Social Research, to testify before a subcommittee on her idea to eliminate the preferential tax treatment of the popular retirement plans. In place of 401(k) plans, she would have workers transfer their dough into government-created "guaranteed retirement accounts" for every worker. The government would deposit $600 (inflation indexed) every year into the GRAs. Each worker would also have to save 5 percent of pay into the accounts, to which the government would pay a measly 3 percent return.
Barack Obama had to lie in order to win the presidency.
Obama had to lie that he would cut taxes. He had to act tough toward our enemies. He had to turn his back on radical anti-Americans he has allied with over the last 20 years.
Despite the urging of the netroots, Democrats still cannot campaign proudly and honestly as who they are. They cannot say, "I am a liberal. I want to expand government control over your lives. I want to raise your taxes and deny you the right to bear arms. And I intend to appease our enemies abroad."
So maybe America has not moved to the left. Maybe Obama won for superficial reasons in a country full of voters who don't give politics much deep thought. Given a choice of statists, they went with the charismatic young one.
The Republicans have a great thing thing going for them for the next two years: the Democrats control the Presidency, Senate and House.
Remember, the Jimmy Carter presidency led to the second best president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan.
National Surveys Show Atlas Shrugged Is Widely Read
November 5, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- For the second year in a row, a question included in a Zogby International omnibus telephone survey of American adults indicated that 8.1 percent of respondents have read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. The surveys conducted in October 2007 and again in October 2008 indicated that more than 17 percent of U.S. college graduates have read the novel. That is a remarkable number for a serious, intellectual novel of more than 1100 pages whose theme is the role of the mind in man’s existence.
Sales of Atlas Shrugged since its publication have reached a total of 6,500,000, with a record annual sale of 180,000 copies in 2007--the 50th anniversary year of the novel. The numbers indicated in the Zogby surveys implies three or more readers of each copy sold.
These millions of readers of Atlas Shrugged must recognize recent political and economic events as a disconcerting echo of scenes from the novel. The novel records a future society gradually collapsing from the cumulative effect of ever-increasing government intervention in the economy and in the individual lives of citizens--with catastrophic consequences. Each step in the disintegration of society becomes a justification for further government intervention and suppression of freedom until the economy is abandoned by its few remaining productive citizens.
In her 1964 lecture “Is Atlas Shrugging?” Ayn Rand described writing Atlas Shrugged “with a brief rule I had set for myself: The purpose of this book is to prevent itself from becoming prophetic.” The commitment of the Ayn Rand Center is to serve that purpose in two ways, by insuring an ever-increasing readership for Atlas Shrugged, and by the application of her ideas as the best antidote to contemporary economic folly and threats to individual rights.
### ### ###
Ayn Rand Center experts are available for interviews on this topic.
949-222-6550, ext. 213
For more information on Objectivism’s unique point of view, go to ARC’s Web site. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
A sharp lurch to the left and enactment of a liberal agenda, or major parts of it, are all but inevitable. The centrist limits in earlier eras of Democratic control are gone. In the short run, Democrats may be constrained by the weak economy and a large budget deficit. Tax hikes and massive spending programs, except those billed as job creation, may have to be delayed.Left unaddressed is whether the public will tolerate this agenda once it has been put into place and its effects have been felt. Part of such resistance, which would manifest during the mid-term congressional elections, will inhere in how -- damnably to Obama -- selfish Americans still are. But part could have been aided by the Republicans not having behaved so much like Democrats themselves to have screwed up the economy badly as it is. What will there be to provide contrast to the results of the policies of certain failure about to be enacted by the Democrats?
But much of their agenda -- the "card check" proposal to end secret ballots in union elections, the Fairness Doctrine to stifle conservative talk radio, liberal judicial nominees, trade restrictions, retreat from Iraq, talks with Iran -- doesn't require spending. And after 14 years of Republican control of Congress, the presidency, or both, Democrats are impatient. They want to move quickly.
Democrats had large majorities when Jimmy Carter became president in 1977 (61-38 in the Senate, 292-143 in the House) and when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 (56-44, 258-176). So why are their prospects for legislative success so much better now?
The most significant change is in the ideological makeup of the Democratic majorities. In the Carter and Clinton eras, there were dozens of moderate and conservative Democrats in Congress, a disproportionate number of them committee chairs. Now the Democratic majorities in both houses are composed almost uniformly of liberals. [links and bold added]
A year ago I predicted that a Republican would win in a landslide on November 4, 2008 because Hillary Clinton would be the Democrat nominee and America would never elect someone that far left as president. Today Barack Obama, who is even farther to the left than Hillary, won a solid victory as president.
I might have been right 20 years ago, but America has changed. It looks as if America has moved to the left.
People make much of Obama being the first black president, and indeed that is a good sign that America is not a racist nation. The ideal that all men are born equal lives in our country. Aside from this, I can find little to celebrate in an Obama victory. He is pro-choice, and the religious right has suffered a temporary setback; these are good things.
The bad far outweighs the good. Obama has promised some trillion dollars in new spending. He will probably appease our foreign enemies. As Biden said, he will be tested by enemies who smell weakness. He wants all Americans to sacrifice for the good of the collective. Reviving the Fairness Doctrine is a threat. Three Supreme Court Justices will retire in the next four years, and they will be replaced by the worst judges imaginable.
And the maddening thing is that we know very little about who Obama really is, so we don't know how bad the next four years will be. Is he your typical Democrat? Or is he a radical leftist with a hidden agenda? There were a lot of troubling little things during the campaign, such as Michelle Obama's ominous statement, "Barack Obama will require you to work." These folks don't seem to understand that in a free country the president does not force people to work.
But then, with large Democrat majorities in the Senate and the House, just being a typical Democrat might be bad enough to seriously expand state power and destroy liberty in America.
Well, congratulations to Barack Obama. And to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. It's their show now. Let us see what Democrat power brings to America.
UPDATE: In my channel surfing last night I heard Jeffrey Toobin on CNN say something about how wonderful it is to see "gender diversity" in the crowd at Obama's rally. Gender diversity. In other words, there were men and women there. As if only men go to Republican rallies, I guess.
New Leftist jargon leads one to sheer blithering idiocy.
The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.Let's consider what that would mean in practice.
This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.
The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.
The pre-born child, whose life begins at fertilization, is a human being created in God's image. The first duty of the law is to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. It is, therefore, the duty of all civil governments to secure and to safeguard the lives of the pre-born. ...On drugs:
We affirm the God-given legal personhood of all unborn human beings, without exception. As to matters of rape and incest, it is unconscionable to take the life of an innocent child for the crimes of his father.
No government may legalize the taking of the unalienable right to life without justification, including the life of the pre-born; abortion may not be declared lawful by any institution of state or local government - legislative, judicial, or executive. The right to life should not be made dependent upon a vote of a majority of any legislative body. ...
In addition, we oppose the funding and legalization of bio-research involving human embryonic or pre-embryonic cells.
Finally, we also oppose all government "legalization" of euthanasia, infanticide and suicide.
The Constitution Party will uphold the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs and to enforce such restrictions. We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into these United States from foreign sources. As a matter of self-defense, retaliatory policies including embargoes, sanctions, and tariffs, should be considered.On marriage:
The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted.Gambling:
... Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual unions.
... We affirm the value of the father and the mother in the home, and we oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.
Gambling promotes an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a decline in the moral fiber of our country. We are opposed to government sponsorship, involvement in, or promotion of gambling, such as lotteries, or subsidization of Native American casinos in the name of economic development. We call for the repeal of federal legislation that usurps state and local authority regarding authorization and regulation of tribal casinos in the states.On immigration:
We favor a moratorium on immigration to these United States, except in extreme hardship cases or in other individual special circumstances, until the availability of all federal subsidies and assistance be discontinued, and proper security procedures have been instituted to protect against terrorist infiltration.On the judiciary:
We commend Former Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court for his defense of the display of the Ten Commandments, and condemn those who persecuted him and removed him from office for his morally and legally just stand.On statehood:
We acknowledge that each state's membership in the Union is voluntary.By endorsing a candidate from the Constitution Party, Ron Paul has clearly shown that he's no friend of liberty. Instead, he's endorsed a theocratic government in which Christians would force everyone to comply with the demands of their faith at the point of a gun.
On March 5, 1770, a lone British private guarding the customs house found himself taunted by unruly Bostonians. Several British soldiers came to protect him. The crowd grew larger and started pelting the soldiers with snowballs. One of the soldiers was knocked down, and, as he came up, fired into the crowd. In the confusion, other shots were fired and, by the time the smoke cleared, 11 colonists were shot, five of them fatally.And, much later:
For Samuel Adams the incident demonstrated the tyranny of British rule, and, as importantly, provided an opportunity to galvanize support for the revolutionary cause. The facts surrounding the incident are still in dispute, but, writes Mr. Stoll, "what is certain is that Adams pressed immediately and aggressively to wring every possible bit of political advantage from the bloodshed." He started by giving it a name: the Boston Massacre. [bold added]
If Mr. Stoll's biography lacks the narrative power of books on other Founders, such as David McCullough's "John Adams," the reason may be that the paper trail left by Samuel Adams is frustratingly short. He destroyed much of his correspondence during the revolutionary years, fearful that it could fall into the wrong hands. Some of the letters that remain end with the words "burn this." This Adams wasn't playing for the history books. He was trying to plot a revolution. Mr. Stoll makes a convincing case that Samuel Adams is not just the most underrated of the Founders but also one of the most admirable, down-to-earth and principled (he worked to abolish slavery). [bold added]Read it all! If you're like me, you'll seriously consider buying the book.
I left the presidential vote blank. I voted for my Republican Congressman, Jerry Lewis. (Hey, lady!) He's a worthless old pragmatist and a champion of pork, but we need Republicans in the Senate and Congress to oppose the coming push for socialism from the Democrats.
I voted yes on Propositions 9 and 11. One was about notifying victims if criminals get bail and the other was about having a commission do redistricting instead of the politicians in Sacramento. Perhaps Proposition 11 will stop outrageous gerrymandering. On all the other propositions I was Dr. No.
There was no line at my polling place, as usual.
I remember on election day in 1992 when Bush was photographed in the afternoon, way before polls closed, carrying a fishing pole as he got in a car. That was the year the bizarre Ross Perot got 19%, which allowed Clinton to win. Bush knew it was over and was already thinking of fishing. It was the last symbolic act of his half-assed presidency. I'll be watching TV this afternoon for any shots of McCain carrying a fishing pole.
I would not expect Obama ever to carry a fishing pole, especially if it looks like he will lose. At that point he will be working hard with his advisers on how they can use legal maneuvers to undermine the election. Leftists are serious about power; they're not about to give up and go fishing.
Subject: My MotherOhmigod! A beautiful sunset! That's amazing! And wow, three geese! (I particularly love that that's one goose too many, hence the need for a goose to represent something totally different, namely "hope for the future." If only she had another dead relative...)
Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 6:45 PM
Just wanted you to know
After her fight with Alzheimer's Mother passed in the wee hours of the morning. Last night as they were giving her a pain reliever, we stepped outside and saw a miracle.
Here in Alabama, we have had some really scary weather. I forgot how dark and mean the clouds can get. The sun was setting and suddenly, for a brief moment, we had the most beautiful sunset. In Alabama, this is a rare sight. Suddenly above our heads flew 3 geese. We immediately thought that was my Mother, my Father and the hope for the future giving us a message to be strong and have faith.
The Maestro vs. the Market
By Alex Epstein and Yaron Brook
Alan Greenspan claims that the free market failed to prevent the financial crisis, and that he is “shocked” that his professed “free-market ideology” turned out to contain a “flaw.”
But why should we take him seriously? Greenspan, while once associated with laissez-faire philosopher Ayn Rand, hasn’t advocated genuinely free markets for decades. Remember, this is a man who for two decades reveled in being, as the New York Times put it, “the infallible maestro of the financial system.”
Free markets don’t have “infallible maestros”; they liberate us from such “maestros”--the central planners who have time and again falsely claimed the ability and the right to orchestrate millions of economic lives. Free markets enable each of us to be our own maestro, conducting our own affairs, producing and trading as we judge best, and taking responsibility for the consequences when we fail.
Alan Greenspan’s entire tenure at the Federal Reserve was one devoted to distorting market outcomes in the pervasively controlled financial markets, including the mortgage market. The Fed by its nature wields enormous power over the market as it dictates the money supply and interest rates, which in turn determine lending, borrowing, and bank leverage throughout the economy. Early in Greenspan’s tenure, some expected the onetime opponent of the Fed and supporter of a gold standard to minimize the Fed’s distortion of markets. Instead, Greenspan became our Manipulator-in-Chief, repeatedly inflating the money supply and artificially lowering interest rates to allegedly magnify prosperity. Further, he voiced no substantial opposition to related market-distorters such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which incentivized lenders to make trillions in loans that they wouldn’t have made on a free market) and the cartel of government-supported rating agencies (whose absurd models gave AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities).
Thus, when Greenspan speaks, he does so not as the voice of a (non-existent) free market in finance and housing, but as the voice of government central-planning--a voice with every incentive to blame the market rather than the Fed’s market-distorting policies.
It is certainly not the voice of the Alan Greenspan who denounced the Fed and defended the gold standard in Ayn Rand’s 1960s compendium Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. That Alan Greenspan understood what free markets are, and explained how they encourage rational, self-interested behavior, so long as individuals were responsible for their own risks. He also explained how government handouts and bailouts reward irrational, destructive behavior. For example, when the government inflates the money supply and manipulates interest rates, it gives financial institutions new currency not backed by real assets, currency that gets funneled into certain sectors of the economy (such as dot-com stocks or houses), and creates artificial booms followed by catastrophic busts. Observe Greenspan’s 1966 analysis of the boom preceding the 1929 crash: “The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market--triggering a fantastic speculative boom.” Sound familiar? What would that Greenspan identify as the cause of the speculative housing boom at the center of today’s crisis--the market or the maestro?
Greenspan is entitled to change his mind, of course; but it is intellectually dishonest to pretend that the market he manipulated for 20 years was genuinely free. And those questioning Greenspan’s actions as Fed chief should not be asking him what he didn’t do to prevent the financial crisis; they should be asking what he did do to cause the crisis by using his enormous power to reward irrational behavior. They should ask him how he can deny that his inflationary printing press, along with the housing welfare state, created the false promise of ever-increasing home values that was at the root of all the market irrationality--from “flipping” houses endlessly for fun and profit to interest-only “liar loans” for poor people to Wall Street’s slicing, dicing, and gambling on dubious mortgage contracts.
If anyone wants to understand the free-market explanation of financial crises, they should read Ayn Rand, or Ludwig von Mises, or even Alan Greenspan of 42 years ago. But to listen to today’s Alan Greenspan talk about free markets is like listening to a Chinese censor talk about free speech.
Nothing good can come, intellectually or politically, from blaming our problems on something that didn’t exist--whether the mythical free market of the housing boom or Greenspan’s mythical free-market ideology. Americans need to understand Greenspan’s true nature as the bureaucrat manipulating the market so that we can investigate the government controls that are the real cause of the present mess, and save ourselves from disasters caused by an even less free market in the future.
Alex Epstein is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights (ARC). Yaron Brook, Ph.D., finance, is president of ARC. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
Not since President John Kennedy urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” has the rhetoric of sacrifice sat this well with the public. Concern that the US confronts a huge crisis in the form of a global financial meltdown, plus an untapped desire since 9/11 to help the nation more, makes the public more receptive to the idea that sacrifice can be noble instead of just inconvenient. (The Christian Science Monitor, November 2, 2008.)
IndianObjectivists is a private mailing list for Objectivists either based in India or with an interest in Indian society. Its purpose is to facilitate ideas for activism & also for promoting the philosophy of Objectivism in IndiaAnd don't forget that Diana Hsieh also runs three Objectivist lists.
As Adam Smith aptly put it in The Wealth of Nations in the 18th century, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." Without greed and selfishness -- by which I mean action taken in an individual’s own rational long-term self-interest -- we would all starve to death very quickly.The rural restaurant sign at the right sums this up very memorably!
If Obama is elected tomorrow, then for the first time in history America will have a president who loves America less than the President of France loves America. I do not write this in jest; I'm serious. Here is the highlight from President Sarkozy's speech to Congress:
America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who—with their hands, their intelligence and their heart—built the greatest nation in the world: "Come, and everything will be given to you." She said: "Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent." America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.
Here, both the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That's what constitutes the moral value of America. America did not teach men the idea of freedom; she taught them how to practice it.
On Friday Obama said electing him would "fundamentally transform" America. I believe the transformation he has in mind will be the death of the individualism that Sarkozy believes is the "moral value of America." Obama wants to destroy the remnants of individualism and turn American into France.
I watched CSNY/Deja Vu over the weekend. This is a documentary of their tour in 2006 to protest the war in Iraq. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young used to be smug, insufferable, moronic hippies. Now they are smug, insufferable, moronic, fat old hippies. Anyone who goes to any rock star for politics deserves what he gets, and this goes double for hippie rock stars. I knew the politics in this movies would be bad, but I was hoping for some good music. There is none. The songs are cut short to make way for more idiocy.
Not once in the entire film does anyone make a case against the war. Rational argumentation is ignored. Instead we get emotion. We are shown a group of veterans that needs to get together and hug and cry. (My liberal sister, watching with me, said they need to "man up.") We are shown a mother who lost her son in Iraq. She says the war is "just wrong" and then she cries a lot. This is not a film meant to persuade its opponents; it is emotion for those who agree to wallow in. A complete waste of time.
We hear a lot of talk about how blacks will riot if Obama loses. Do I detect wishful thinking among the liberals who make these predictions? Is this another form of intimidation? Hey, white people -- vote for Obama or else!
Do you remember one of the first things Clinton did as president? It was to throw out his promise to cut taxes. That promise was always a lie. Clinton never had any intention of cutting any tax, but he felt he had to lie about it to win the election.
Is there any doubt Obama's promise of cutting taxes is another lie meant to win an election? Already the Democrats are signaling it's a lie by throwing out different numbers of how much a taxpayer will have to make before he gets taxed-- $250,000, $200,000, $120,000. The top figure is pure fiction meant to win the election. The other figures are meant to confuse and to ease people into the reality that their taxes will be raised when Obama is election.
Sometime around mid-November, I would guess, one of Obama's economists will announce that the deficit is even greater than anyone had suspected -- damn that Bush and those careless Republicans! -- and the tax threshold will just have to be lowered. Everyone will be called to sacrifice.
If Obama is serious about spending and redistributing wealth -- and what else are Democrats serious about? -- then he will have to raise taxes, I believe, on the upper middle and middle middle class.
One option is to start at, say, $60,000 a year, gradually increasing the percentage of the tax increase as you go up from there. Then inflate the hell out of the currency so that your average clerk in a grocery store makes $60,000 a year. Thus you achieve your goal of making everyone in America work a little bit more for the state. The destruction of wealth will be ghastly, but if they cared about the destruction of wealth, they would not be Democrats.
All of the items in this post have been attacks on the left -- and yet, I kind of hope Obama wins tomorrow. Why? Clarity.
Obama has attacked the virtue of selfishness. It is clear that he opposes the philosophy of Ayn Rand. As his big government policies fail, many Americans will put two and two together, if they still teach putting two and two together in public schools.
Plus, an Obama presidency will provide limitless content for this blog.
Church and State: A Marriage Not Made in HeavenDiana and I wholeheartedly support gay marriage, and Diana has stated her reasons in this NoodleFood post:
October 31, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- Californians will soon have the chance to vote on Proposition 8, which would define marriage in the state constitution as being only between a man and a woman, denying marriage to same-sex couples. The proposition is heavily supported by the religious community. Said one religious leader who supports the measure, "We believe it is a religious issue as well as a political issue. That's where we feel the Church must have a word."
According to Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, "Regardless of how one thinks 'marriage' should be defined, there's a much graver issue at stake: this is a flagrant attempt to inject religion into politics.
"As our Founders understood, religion is properly a private matter -- not a legitimate basis for government action. The government's only role is to protect our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Under our secular political system, individuals are free to hold any religious views they wish, but they cannot impose their views on the rest of us. That is the meaning of freedom of religion.
"Once we accept the view that the 'Church must have a word' in the political sphere, we are accepting a principle completely opposed to freedom. If gay marriage can be barred because, as one supporter of Prop. 8 put it, 'I don't think God has ordained it,' then why, for instance, can't speech that similarly offends religionists also be banned? Indeed, this is the very principle that motivates the religious right's crusade against broadcast 'indecency' -- and the brutal principle that recently led the Afghani government to sentence a journalism student to 20 years in prison for
"The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of liberty. It protects our right to live by our own judgment, free from the dictates of ministers and mullahs. To protect that right, we should oppose any attempt to bring religion into politics."
The essence of marriage is the total integration of two lives: sexually, legally, socially, financially, geographically, sexually, morally, etc. The fact that most marriages involve two people with contrasting genitalia is not of any grand significance.What's also noteworthy is that Barack Obama explicitly cites religion as the basis for his opposition to gay marriage, as reported in the October 31, 2008 New York Times:
Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage(The article notes that McCain also opposes same-sex marriage.)
Several gay friends and wealthy gay donors to Senator Barack Obama have asked him over the years why, as a matter of logic and fairness, he opposes same-sex marriage even though he has condemned old miscegenation laws that would have barred his black father from marrying his white mother.
The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.
As a Christian -- he is a member of the United Church of Christ -- Mr. Obama believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively, according to these supporters and Obama campaign advisers. While he does not favor laws that ban same-sex marriage, and has said he is "open to the possibility" that his views may be "misguided," he does not support it and is not inclined to fight for it, his advisers say...
...I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country. As our founding fathers recognized when they made religious freedom a fundamental principle of our Constitution, our nation is home to people of a large variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs. Our government has no role to play in selecting those beliefs, in advocating for one religion over another religion, or in supporting the presence of religion in favor of no religion. I will continue to vote against legislation that compromises our country's ability to keep religion and government separate. That includes programs that discriminate against people based on their religious belief or that use government funds to support one religion over another.Although I sharply disagree with many of Udall's positions on other important issues, I applaud his clear and unambiguous position on this one.
IndianObjectivists is a private mailing list for Objectivists either based in India or with an interest in Indian society. Its purpose is to facilitate ideas for activism & also for promoting the philosophy of Objectivism in India.You can find more -- including the criteria for membership and the link to subscribe -- at this blog post.
Neither McCain nor Obama will nominate judges who understand the Constitution’s basic principle of individual rights.
By Thomas A. Bowden
No matter who wins the presidency--and with it, the power to appoint Supreme Court justices--America’s judiciary will remain locked into a crucial error that corrupts their interpretation of America’s bedrock constitutional principle: individual rights. That error consists in regarding rights as gifts from society, with judges as diviners of the so-called social will.
The most fundamental question a Supreme Court justice must answer is what in fact do the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness include? Only then can he determine if a certain law or government action is securing or violating those rights. But no justice asks this question anymore because none believes it objectively answerable.
Instead, and broadly speaking, judicial conservatives ask what privileges did American society at the time of ratification grant the individual. So when modern legislators make criminal offenses out of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and other acts said to be frowned upon centuries ago, conservative judges feel duty-bound to stand aside and do nothing. To conservatives, it’s meaningless to ask whether the right to liberty in fact includes the right to use contraception (a question 18th-century Americans may have answered incorrectly). The only question is whether society at that time meant to permit this action.
John McCain has pledged to appoint judges in this conservative mold.
Judicial liberals reject this worship of bygone days. Instead, liberals see constitutional values evolving like a motion picture, constantly updating to reflect current social mores. So when Congress declares federal dominion over every nut, bolt, and button of American industry, liberal judges feel duty-bound to stand aside and do nothing--not because earlier Americans intended to allow such controls, but because modern Americans want them. To liberals, it’s meaningless to ask whether the right to liberty in fact includes freedom of trade and contract (a question that a majority of Americans may be answering incorrectly today). The only question is whether the “will” of today’s society favors permitting such actions.
Barack Obama has pledged to appoint judges in this liberal mold.
But conservatives and liberals are both wrong about rights. It cannot be true that rights come from society. The very concept of a right identifies the actions you can take without anyone’s permission. Rights are not social privileges but objective facts, identifying the freedoms we need to live our lives--whether a majority in society agree or not. This is why the Founding Fathers dedicated their new government to the protection of each individual’s already-existing rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thus, the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments forbid the government to deprive you of “life, liberty, or property” (except when you have violated someone else’s rights, and even here the government must follow due process, such as holding a trial). The Ninth Amendment safeguards all “rights” not listed elsewhere. These principles encompass all the innumerable actions required for your survival and happiness over a lifetime--the right to make a contract, earn a profit, build a house, make a friend, speak your mind, and so on.
Because the Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land,” judges are duty-bound to strike down statutes that violate rights. This is not improper “judicial activism” but the robust, constitutional power of judicial review.
Judges must never bow to social opinion, historical or current, when exercising judicial review. For example, laws that institutionalized government discrimination against blacks in military service and voting deserved to be struck down, even if political majorities in both the Founders’ generation and modern times favored such rights violations.
To their discredit, today’s judges--conservatives and liberals alike--have all but abandoned this essential safeguard of our liberties.
The arch-conservative Robert Bork once declared that Ninth Amendment “rights” carry no more meaning than an accidental inkblot on the constitutional parchment. And according to Justice Antonin Scalia, there’s nothing in the Constitution “authorizing judges to identify what [those rights] might be, and to enforce the judges’ list against laws duly enacted by the people.” As for life, liberty, and property, government can smash them at will, if society so wishes. “Does [the Constitution] guarantee life, liberty or property?” asks Justice Scalia rhetorically. “No, indeed! All three can be taken away. . . . It’s a procedural guarantee.”
Judicial liberals don’t dispute that a judge must bow to the “social will”--they simply divine it differently. As one liberal Justice declared, the Constitution “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”
While conservatives and liberals squabble about whether society permits you this action or that, they are defaulting on their sacred constitutional duty of judicial review.
America desperately needs a new generation of judges who understand that their function is not to uphold social opinions but to protect our rights.
Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Mr. Bowden is a former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
I am 22 and my dad passed away almost 10 years ago. Every year a gathering is arranged in his memory. This is where the whole thing starts getting weird. According to Hinduism (which my family subscribes to), the son is obligated to perform a ritual every year. The ritual presumes the notion of an afterlife and is filled with the stuff of idealism.I wrote the following very hasty reply:
I have recently read OPAR [Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand] and have decided to live according to Objectivist principles to the best of my knowledge. In the present case, I have absolutely no problem with a gathering in his memory, but I stand opposed to these customs which believe in the afterlife and the like.
I will probably take a lot of heat for my decision considering the faith of Indian's in God or whatever. It's not the heat that am really worried about (although it makes me a little nervous sometimes), but the correctness of my decision. I would like to be very sure of my decision before I stand trial. I do not know anybody better to ask this question to. Please feel free to answer in any manner you choose to.
If possible, also do elaborate on stuff like marriages in Church or a funeral conducted by a Catholic priest.
I don't have time to write much, but I would say that you should not -- as an adult -- actively participate in a ceremony contrary to your beliefs. It's not a problem to attend such a ritual, but to actively participate in it implies that you agree with it. Some of your family members may be angry, but if you don't assert yourself on this point, how many other compromises will they be able to wheedle out of you? Plus, the better family members -- namely those who respect you as an individual -- will get over any initial feelings of anger or resentment.I'm posting this in the hopes that others will chime in with further remarks in the comments, as that was really far too brief.
In a previous post, I described Blackstone's approach: the laws of nature determine how inanimate objects act; the laws of nature determine what animals must do to subsist. Animals have no choice but to obey nature if they are to subsist.
Next, Blackstone turns to human beings. Unlike the lower animals, he notes, we have the faculty of reason, and must use our reason to understand the natural laws. Reason, he says, leads us to three fundamental principles of human action:
Notice the absence of altruism and patriotism. None of those laws says "help your neighbor" or "serve your country". Blackstone may agree that altruism is a virtue, but he does not list it as fundamental. (He notes that Justinian jurisprudence laid down the three fundamentals noted above.)
Next, Blackstone notes that man requires motivation to apply his reason. Man needs something to push him to use his reason, and discover the laws of nature. What is that universal human motivation? His answer: self-love. He calls self-love, "the universal principle of action". Blackstone says that we can reduce the laws of human action (i.e. ethics) to a single precept: "that man should pursue his own happiness." Notice that this is not a statement of Politics; Blackstone is not saying that the government ought to allow people to pursue their own happiness. He makes it clear that this is what people ought to be doing. He says: "This is the foundation of what we call ethics".
(After this, the text goes downhill as Blackstone tries to fit revelation into his epistemological framework. I won't comment on that. )
Here is the text described above:
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he ascribes to himself; but a state of dependence will inevitably oblige the inferior to take the will of him, on whom he depends, as the rule of his conduct: not indeed in every particular, but in all those points wherein his dependence consists. This principle therefore has more or less extent and effect, in proportion as the superiority of the one and the dependence of the other is greater or less, absolute or limited. And consequently, as man depends absolutely on his maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will.
This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.
Considering the Creator only as a being of infinite power, he was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws he pleased to his creature, man, however unjust or severe. But, as he is also a being of infinite wisdom, he has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept. These are eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself, in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to every one his due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole of the law.
But if the discovery of these first principles of the law of nature depended only upon the due exertion of right reason, and could not otherwise be attained that by a chain of metaphysical disquisitions, mankind would have wanted some inducement to have quickened their inquiries, and the greater part of the world would have rested content in mental indolence, and ignorance its inseparable companion. As therefore the creator is a being, not only of infinite power, and wisdom, but also of infinite goodness, he has been pleased so to contrive the constitution and frame of humanity, that we should want no other prompter to enquire after and pursue the rule of right, but only our self-love, that universal principle of action. For he has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter. In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, as some have vainly surmised; but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, "that man should pursue his own happiness." This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law. For several articles into which it is branched in our systems, amount to no more than demonstrating, that this or that action tends to man's happiness, and therefore very justly concluding that the performance of it is a part of the law of nature; or, on the other hand, that this or that action is destructive of real happiness, and therefore that the law of nature forbids it.
The first thing that [Alan] Greenspan and most other commentators on the crisis must do to understand why the crisis occurred is to learn that the free market did not cause the crisis because the U.S. is not even close to being a free-market economy. Massive government interventions in the market in the form of myriad regulations and financial irresponsibility on the part of the government are really to blame. This makes the "solution" being imposed doubly absurd: more government controls, borrowing, and spending to solve the problems created by government controls, borrowing, and spending.The best thing about this column is that Simpson does not just stop at refuting Alan Greenspan's ludicrous claim that capitalism caused the crisis. He swats Greenspan aside like a gnat and directly goes on the offensive!
I have not allowed myself to forget that the abolition of the Slave-trade by Great Britain, was agitated a hundred years before it was a final success; that the measure had its open fire-eating opponents; its stealthy "don't care" opponents; its dollar and cent opponents; its inferior race opponents; its negro equality opponents; and its religion and good order opponents; that all these opponents got offices, and the adversaries none. But I have also remembered that though they blazed, like tallow-candles for a century, at last they flickered in the socket, died out, and were remembered no more, even by the smell. [bold added]The fight against slavery is an inspiring and informative precedent indeed.
The real price of the $250 billion partial nationalization of America's leading financial firms will be much larger than just this dollar amount. We are only seeing the first signs of it now. Barney Frank and his minions are just fashioning the bibs to their bellies. Their feasting on America's leading banks and investment banks -- starting with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Citibank -- has just begun.Allow me to make an easy prediction: Our new, self-appointed "captains" of industry will very quickly live up to all the tired old stereotypes about businessmen the left has foisted on America for ages. Hell, Frank is already being chintzy with pay to workers whose initiative is vital to the work of the companies he's trying to run!
Free Market Policies Needed to Solve the Crisis
By David Holcberg (Guardian, October 15, 2008)
President Bush said the
Apparently, Bush’s “wide range of tools” is not wide enough to contain a single free market policy. All the “tools” our government has aggressively used to date--bailouts, takeovers, bans on short selling, manipulation of interest rates, creation of fiat money out of thin air, increased spending--have been yanked right out of the socialist and fascist toolkits.
We will only get out of the mess created by our government if it cans all of those “tools” that got us where we are and starts freeing the market from its statist policies.
No Copyright Exceptions
By Thomas A. Bowden (New York Times, October 28, 2008)
Re “Copyright and Politics Don’t Mix” (column, Oct. 21):
Lawrence Lessig’s proposal for copyright reform commits the same error as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Both take for granted that lawmakers should be carving up speech into political, commercial, artistic, and other categories, and then offering different legal protection according to how society values the output.
But speech is speech, and the individual speaks by right, not permission. Just as political speech deserves full First Amendment protection, it deserves full copyright protection as well. Media outlets that profit from disseminating political statements should have ready access to procedures for enforcing their property rights against YouTube or other infringers. That’s not censorship; that’s justice.
Let Them Fail
By Amit Ghate
Everywhere today politicians are blaring that they must save America’s financial institutions, alleging catastrophic risk to the economy were any to fail. Paulson and the entire Bush administration, in a discernible panic, are now pouring $700 billion into the big banks, having already bailed out AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Bear Stearns to the tune of $300 billion.
Capitalism doesn’t work, they declare, but fortunately the government is here to rescue us.
Sadly, they have it all backwards. The credit crisis is just more evidence that whenever the government supplants the free market and attempts to “manage,” i.e., control, the economy--disaster ensues.
Overlooked here is that in a free market business failures are not just normal, they’re crucial for the best products and ideas to emerge. Most restaurants fail in their first three years because customers have other preferences. Many mom-and-pop grocers go out of business because Walmart offers better selection and lower prices. Even whole industries--think typewriters, 8-tracks and horses and buggies--vanish because new inventions and competitors arise.
None of these failures are a problem, nor do they threaten the system. On the contrary, they are an inherent part of the progress which only capitalism makes possible.
So why would failures in the financial industry be any different?
Typically, the answer given is also the one used to rationalize the creation of the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the FSLIC and any number of other government agencies and regulations intended to “manage” the banking system: financial firms carry systemic risks for the nation’s economy and therefore can’t be allowed to fail. As evidence, bank failures from 1870 to 1913 (pre-Fed) are cited, followed by the assertion that their number was simply “unacceptable.”
But every business forms part of the economic system and thus has “systemic” impact. If Microsoft were to fail, thousands of suppliers, customers, and workers would be affected, as would their customers, suppliers, workers, etc. Yet this would be no reason to bail them out. We know that new businesses would arise to fill the void, better for having learned from Microsoft’s mistakes.
And as a historical fact, the U.S. economy during the period 1870 - 1913 grew significantly faster than it did after the Fed was established. True, there were many bank failures in this period, but there were also many business failures in general: banks were actually less likely to fail than were other businesses. The number of bank failures speaks to the dynamism of the period, not to anything fragile in the financial system. Precisely because market mechanisms were permitted to work, depositors, creditors and counterparties all kept a close eye on banks, monitoring leverage and withdrawing funds at the first sign of problems.
When the free market functions--and failure is allowed--people become viscerally aware of risk, with the result that they voluntarily assume less of it.
Conversely, when the government tries to “manage” the economy--when the consequences of risky behavior are shifted from self-interested actors to taxpayers, as was done by the creation of the Fed and its various insurance programs, or when weak financial firms are propped up rather than being allowed to fail--people take on risks they would not otherwise. Banks are less careful, depositors no longer evaluate their institutions, and risks are concealed and amplified until they become catastrophic.
So pre-Fed we had runs on banks, some undoubtedly severe--but with the Fed we’ve had the Great Depression, the S&L meltdown and now perhaps the greatest worldwide credit crisis ever.
An analogy may be helpful here. Historically certain types of forests naturally experienced frequent, but small, wildfires. Because their frequency kept deadwood at a minimum, the fires never grew into large conflagrations. However, when government forestry services instituted fire suppression policies, they eliminated most small fires, but caused deadwood and other fuel to accumulate. When at last a fire came that could not be suppressed, it grew into a devastating inferno.
Learning from their errors, forestry services have abandoned fire suppression policies.
It’s time for our government to do likewise. First, by immediately abandoning its bailout binge, and then by phasing out all of the economic controls by which it attempts to “manage” the financial system--from the FDIC to the Federal Reserve itself. Nothing less can reestablish the freedom essential for a sound and vibrant economy.
Amit Ghate is a guest writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”
Church and State: A Marriage Not Made in Heaven
October 30, 2008
Washington, D.C.--Californians will soon have the chance to vote on Proposition 8, which would define marriage in the state constitution as being only between a man and a woman, denying marriage to same-sex couples. The proposition is heavily supported by the religious community. Said one religious leader who supports the measure, “We believe it is a religious issue as well as a political issue. That’s where we feel the Church must have a word.”
According to Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, “Regardless of how one thinks ‘marriage’ should be defined, there’s a much graver issue at stake: this is a flagrant attempt to inject religion into politics.
“As our Founders understood, religion is properly a private matter--not a legitimate basis for government action. The government’s only role is to protect our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Under our secular political system, individuals are free to hold any religious views they wish, but they cannot impose their views on the rest of us. That is the meaning of freedom of religion.
“Once we accept the view that the ‘Church must have a word’ in the political sphere, we are accepting a principle completely opposed to freedom. If gay marriage can be barred because, as one supporter of Prop. 8 put it, ‘I don’t think God has ordained it,’ then why, for instance, can’t speech that similarly offends religionists also be banned? Indeed, this is the very principle that motivates the religious right’s crusade against broadcast ‘indecency’--and the brutal principle that recently led the Afghani government to sentence a journalism student to 20 years in prison for blasphemy.
“The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of liberty. It protects our right to live by our own judgment, free from the dictates of ministers and mullahs. To protect that right, we should oppose any attempt to bring religion into politics.”
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Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com and a contributing editor of The Objective Standard. His articles have been featured in major newspapers such as USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Providence Journal and the Orange County Register. Dr. Brook is often interviewed on radio and is a frequent guest on a variety of national TV shows, having appeared in the new Fox Business Network, FOX News Channel, CNN, CNBC, and C-SPAN.
To interview Dr. Brook or book him for your show, please contact Larry Benson:
949-222-6550, ext. 213
Recently I discussed the financial crisis with a Christian who has never read a book of economics. He began by denouncing the greedy CEO's on Wall Street. I argued that greed had nothing to do with the problem, but it was entirely the fault of government intervention in the economy. After all, how does it help a greedy CEO to bankrupt his company? He won't get another job if he does. How is it greedy to commit career suicide?
The Christian took my points several times. He is an honest man who wants to know the truth, and he accepted my arguments. Then a few minutes would pass and he would be back talking about greed. I was struck by how he would return to the point of greed even though he understood it was not really the issue. His morality and the premises he had automatized in his subconscious would not let him believe greed was not at fault.
I take this conversation as evidence that the entire political battle in America is really a battle of ethics. You can win economic arguments all day, but as long people think that morality is self-sacrifice, we will never make significant progress in rolling back the state. The 20th century is one long cautionary tale with a clear moral: socialism does not work. And yet both Republicans and Democrats are leaping over themselves to expand government control of the economy. Spending just keeps skyrocketing and liberals crow that the age of the free market is over. No more of that trickle down stuff for America! We're gonna take as much money from the rich as we want and shower in wealth!
Democrats know full well that the battle is moral. They never bother to make complicated economic arguments. In part this is from ignorance: somehow I don't think geniuses such as Henry Waxman or Robert Byrd have spent 10 minutes trying to understand Ludwig von Mises. But their ignorance is not the fruit of sloth. They don't care about economics because they know it's a waste of time. All they need do is mention obscene profits or greed, and conventional morality makes the rest of their case.
Those who pooh-pooh the fear that Republicans are becoming the party of religion are not paying attention. On my local right-wing talk radio station, part of Salem broadcasting, all the political ads are meant to appeal to the religious right. There are no ads for McCain (it's California), but there are ads about propositions. The two issues getting advertising are abortion and gay marriage (they're against both). Three of the stars on the Salem network are Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and Dennis Prager -- all religious conservatives. (Hewitt and Medved, at least, are very much economic pragmatists who denounce "extremism" because they think moderates only can be elected these days. Limbaugh is better in this respect.)
Former baseball pitcher Frank Pastore, who sometimes fills in for Hewitt, has titled his latest column, The Christian Case Against Barack Obama. He does not give any reasons in the column, just advertises some videos in which he supposedly lays out his case. My point is that you see more stuff like this than you used to.
20 years ago we knew that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were part of the Republican Party, but it felt like they were confined to a ghetto within the party. They were the voice of the Bible Belt. I was amused or sometimes disgusted by them, but I never took them too seriously. Now the religion is more widespread. Prager and Medved, intellectual Jews, would not be mistaken by anyone for Southern Bible thumpers.
John McCain had to pick the very religious Sarah Palin in order to win the base of the Republican Party.
President Bush is the religious right's greatest success so far. His pathbreaking presidency has integrated religion with the welfare state. He calls it "faith based initiatives." Dr. Peikoff says George W. Bush is to the religious state as FDR was to the welfare state.
The question of how dangerous the religious right is compared to the socialist/nihilist left, in both the near and long term, is legitimate; however, it cannot be argued any more that the religious right is increasing its hold on the Republican Party. Perhaps it controls the party.
In the comments on the last post on this blog I dismissed the idea of trying to predict the future. That was before I read this quote Donald J. Boudreaux uses from the socialist Norman Thomas in the early 20th century:
"The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened."
There is a man with a crystal ball.
We seem to be at the beginning of a new period in American history, a dark time of increasing state control. In such a moment people speculate a lot about the future. What will happen? Galileo Blogs thinks we will relive the '70s. (If so, can we do it without the bell bottom pants and leisure suits?) Arthur Laffer says the age of prosperity is over.
Those are educated guesses. We might live through something entirely unlike anything America has yet seen.
One event can change the world. World War I destroyed the benevolent and secure -- leftists would say smug and bourgeois -- culture of the 19th century. Things could never be quite the same after that cataclysm. As I have written several times on this blog, both Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises noted that no one who did not live before WWI can quite understand how positive and benevolent the west was then. The idea that fuels all of Joseph Roth's fiction is a longing for that era, a culture that would never live again. As another writer put it, you can't go home again.
The greatest world-changing event in history is Alaric and the Huns' sacking of Rome in 410 a.d. Until then the city of Rome had been accepted as a metaphysical fact of reality, like gravity or the sun rising in the east or the stars coming out at night. The sack of Rome shocked people throughout the Empire and destroyed their confidence. Augustine wrote City of God in response: all of man's creation on earth is impermanent; only the realm of God is permanent and real. The Roman Empire was over -- it was just a matter of time.
Could such an event happen in America? Yes, if there were a force in the world comparable to the barbarians in the 5th century. If, say, a religion wanted to destroy America and erect a worldwide theocracy -- a religion whose adherents believed God wanted them to kill infidels and who were willing to commit suicide in order to enjoy 72 virgins in paradise -- yes, there might be some danger if such a religion were at war with America. Fortunately, as we have been told, Islam is a religion of peace.
Besides, if such a totalitarian ideology were at war with us, we would quickly destroy all states that sponsored these warriors. We would wipe them out and demoralize their cause for all time. We would not make a half-hearted effort, swatting them down some, then appeasing this enemy and letting him survive to attack us another day. To take such a tremendous risk with America's security would be foolish and suicidal. Our leaders in Washington, D.C. are good and wise; why, they would sooner do something futile and senseless like socialize Wall Street than appease an enemy that wants to destroy us.
One suitcase nuke could change the world.
The news story also mentioned Ayn Rand and her book The Virtue of Selfishness, including hyperlinks to the book and the ARI.
The kind of selfishness that Ayn Rand advocated (and which Obama apparently opposes) is a completely noble and moral American virtue. This country was founded on the principle that men and women had the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" free from government interference and tyranny.If you've composed something on this topic that you like, then this is a good way to defend Ayn Rand and rational egoism with a minimum of additional effort.
Many immigrants (such as my parents) came to this country precisely to be able to work hard, prosper, and give their children a chance for a better life. They came to this country with little more than the clothes on their back, but did well over the years, sent two children to college and medical school, and are now enjoying a well-earned and comfortable retirement. Their lives have been a real-life embodiment of the American dream.
If we want America to remain a beacon of hope to millions around the world, we should re-affirm our commitment to free markets and capitalism, and reject calls for more socialism and "redistribution of wealth".
This country is great precisely because it allows people like my parents to attain selfish goals such as their lives and happiness. Americans should be proud of that fact, not condemn it.