By email@example.com (Edward Cline) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog
President Barack Obama has implied more than once that the current system of “capitalism“ is doomed in the face of his intended “reorganization“ of American society -- oblivious to the fact that full-scale, unregulated capitalism has never existed in this country or anywhere else in the world. “Capitalism” was blamed for the financial debacle of last fall; spokesmen for government policies and the news media deftly shifted the blame for it from those policies to the private sector with the swiftness of a card sharp.
Watching these spokesmen and the news media discuss the crisis, one has the unique experience of watching men identify the causes -- such as the government extorting the cooperation of banks and other loan institutions to accept bad loans tied to discounted mortgage obligations, or bribing them with the carrot of federal guarantees, yet refuse to acknowledge the fact that it was, and continues to be, government interference that is the root of the problem -- and then call for more of the same or greater intervention as a solution.
This is not evidence of stupidity. The phenomenon is a demonstration of evasion of the facts of reality, a decision to disconnect from reason, and an overriding urge to make reality conform to an ulterior agenda, an urge driven by a hatred of freedom, prosperity, and man.
It is the same policy of craven evasion and dishonesty that accounts for the phenomenon of little over a decade ago, when climate alarmists, moved by a panic and “concern” that seemed like scientific certainty, disseminated computer models that predicted catastrophic, man-caused global cooling that would cause falling sea levels, galloping glaciers crushing everything in their path, mass extinctions of animal species, a “nuclear winter," and the deaths of millions. Those predictions had the substance of gossamer, because none of those things occurred.
Now, when the average “global” temperature has fallen by one or a fraction of a degree, indicating -- but not predicting -- a cooling trend, the same alarmists are predicting catastrophic, man-caused global warming leading to melting icecaps, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, mass extinctions of animal species, a “greenhouse summer“ of indefinite length, and the deaths of millions. (Hollywood, always loyal to fantasy and fallacy, did its bit to propagate apocalyptic doom with disaster movies such as “Soylent Green” and “The Day After Tomorrow.“) The evidence is that these predictions likewise are not coming to pass, and have also been proven to be made of gossamer. Politicians and anti-industrial groups resist or ignore the scientific evidence. The facts do not fit their wishes or their agenda.
Such mental stonewalling underscores the religious character of the global warming movement, a character reminiscent of the heyday of the Catholic Church (or, today, of Islam) when it had the power to punish those of little or no faith. Anyone who questions the “proofs” and pseudo-science of the creed is branded a skeptic, a heretic, or an unbeliever, is granted few or no chances of rebuttal, and is punished in a multitude of ways, such as professional ostracism or excommunication.
As reported in an earlier commentary, British scientist Lord Christopher Monckton was disinvited by Henry Waxman and his House energy and commerce committee to testify with former vice president Al “the debate is closed” Gore, lest Monckton’s testimony embarrass Gore and burn their ears and incinerate their premises. While the truth will free many men, it can deflate liars, charlatans, and politicians. Truth is a prison that will not allow them to fantasize and enact an alternative universe. They hate the truth-sayers as much as they hate the truth.
But, Obama and Gore are not the only doomsayers. There are others.
On May 23 the Townhall site published one of its very few articles that did not parenthetically sabotage its reasoning and allegiance to truth by citing, faith, God or religion, “Climate Change ‘morality,'” by Paul Driessen, an apostate from the Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth and a prolific champion of free enterprise and the truth. Not a wrinkle of mysticism taints it. His article excoriates the whole premise of anthropogenic global warming and in addition cites the projected catastrophic costs of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which, if ever enacted and enforced, would guarantee this country’s economic collapse and the impoverishment of Americans who would be expected to shut up and put up.
“Global average temperatures stabilized in 1998 and have even cooled slightly, despite steadily rising CO2 levels. [Which can be attributed to what? An increasing world population that exhales CO2? The effects on the atmosphere of the emission of industrial “greenhouse“ gases cannot even be measured. A single volcanic eruption spews more “pollutants“ into the air than the total emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.] Except in its Western Peninsula, Antarctica is gaining ice. Arctic ice is seasonably normal. Land-based temperature data have been corrupted by air-conditioner exhausts and other heat sources.”
As for the computer models on which extortionate and confiscatory environmentalist legislation is based, Driessen notes that:
“Climate models are no more reliable than computer predictions of future Super Bowl winners and scores. Their Frankenstein scenarios are no more valid as a basis for law and policy than the special effects in The Day After Tomorrow or Jurassic Park.”
Driessen cites several studies that project costs to the economy and to taxpayers that rocket up to the billions and accomplish little or nothing except the redirection of industry to produce “green” energy sources such as thousands of wind turbines and hundreds of square miles of solar panels, aside from adding thousands of dollars to the average taxpayer’s cost of living. These projections have been made by the Congressional Budget Office, the Heritage Foundation, Harvard economists, and independent think tanks not suborned by federal study grants. The only catch, however -- although Driessen does not raise the issue, the logic must sit in the back of his mind -- is that these dire projections are based on the assumption that the economy and nation could survive such costs without plummeting us into civil strife, political and economic disintegration, and probable dictatorship.
“President Obama says the Bush administration ‘made decisions based upon fear, rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.’ He and his Democrat allies in Congress should take that critique to heart on global warming.”
Obama, Waxman, and their global warming card sharps are, in short, pots calling the kettle black.
Driessen ends his article with:
“As it stands, this Congress is rapidly shaping up to be the most unethical, immoral and dictatorial in history. When the people finally rebel, it won’t be a pretty sight.”
Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death (2003), also wrote another interesting article for The National Free Press, “Back To The ‘Good Old Days’” (May 1), in which he projects a regression in living standards back to 1905 or 1862. In 1905,
“Coal and wood heated homes. Few had telephones or electricity. AC units were handheld fans. Ice blocks cooled ice boxes. New York City collected 900,000 tons of vehicle emissions -- horse manure -- annually, and dumped it into local rivers. Lung and intestinal diseases were rampant. Life expectancy was 47.”
The facts Driessen cites for 1862 are even more horrendous. These facts are readily accessible to Obama, Waxman, Congress and anyone else who might value the truth. Yet facts and truth play no role in their decisions.
“None of this seems to matter to the Obama administration or liberal Democrats. The 648-page Waxman-Markey climate bill would compel an 80% CO2 reduction, by imposing punitive cap-and-tax restrictions on virtually every hydrocarbon-using business, motorist and family.”
Later on in his hard-hitting article, Driessen notes that the alarmists’ computer models
“…cannot accurately replicate last year’s regional climate shifts or predict changes even one year in the future. They ignore Earth’s history of repeated climate changes and failed to anticipate the slowly declining global temperatures of 1995-2008.”
“Failed to anticipate” them, or deliberately discounted them, because they did not fit?
Driessen writes that
“President Obama says cap-and-trade will ‘raise’ $656 billion over the next decade. The National Economic Council and other analysts put the tax bite at $1.3 to $3.0 trillion.”
Presumably that does not take into account the hyper-inflated cost of living and of doing business. Again, the scenario is predicated on a functioning, productive economy and a civil society that could pay the tax, which is aside from the trillions of dollars in Medicare and Social Security entitlements and other programs to be funded also by a surviving but crippled private sector, not to mention the trillions spent on government pork barrel projects and government subsidies to maintain the “infrastructure.”
How can any rational person claim that the “computer model” of a regulated, nationalized, fascist economy has more credibility than any gossamer-woven climate forecast and which would last any measurable length of time? It is expecting that the hydraulic press of government force, fraud and deception can continue to squeeze blood from a rock and that the rock will not crack and explode under the pressure. The Tea Parties of March and April were cracks appearing in that rock.
No rational person would vouch for such a computer model. But career looters and enemies of freedom, such as Representative Henry Waxman of California, would. To him, men in the private sector are just so many serfs who will automatically keep creating wealth and values to tax and regulate for the government and its dependents to consume. And should the serfs realize that they have been indentured to a life of sacrifice, service and toil for the sake of the elderly, the lame and the halt, for the environment and what-not, and show signs of rebellion, Waxman and his ilk would prefer they not be able to do anything about it. During an interview on MSNBC in 2001, Waxman stated:
“If someone is so fearful that they’re going to start using their weapons to protect their rights, [it] makes me very nervous that these people have these weapons at all.”
Why would Americans protecting and asserting their rights make Waxman nervous? Does or does not the Second Amendment of the Constitution recognize that our government can become an enemy of the citizenry and that the citizenry had the right to form militias in self-defense? Did or did not the Founders mean that it was the federal and state governments that could become hostile to the citizenry?
Is he suggesting that his record in Congress, for example, in which he has voted for every proposed extension of federal power, and voted against every proposed limit on that power, has justifiably caused worry among the citizenry that the federal government is squeezing it dry, and that he, Henry Waxman, is in prominent, enabling and culpable company responsible for those encroachments? What doom does he wish to delay?
Just as climate alarmists ignore facts which do not fit into or which contradict their doomsday global warming scenarios, Waxman and his ilk ignore the facts stated in the Bill of Rights which do not fit into or which contradict their collectivist, and fundamentally man-hating vision of America.
Waxman’s offensively imperious and arrogant attitude is that of a privileged oligarch who believes he has first title to the lives, productive work and futures of Americans. Like Obama, like Nancy Pelosi, like Harry Reid, like the majority of Democrats and Republicans, he does not concede that Americans are the owners of their own lives. But his expression of fear is an invaluable clue to his deepest premises and outlook. One does not fear what one knows cannot harm or destroy one. That kind of man secretly fears retribution or justice, and so hates it and the prospect of it. He would prefer to dispense with the fear by emasculating the power of the citizenry to question and oppose him and his policies, so he can get on with further “public service.” Other men, after all, he believes, have mastered reality, and so they must be mastered in turn, necessarily with lies, whips, and government guns.
He would rather such rebellious Americans did not exist at all, so he could effortlessly lord it over a nation of selfless, obedient, dependent serfs, and thus postpone his own doom and that of the nation. He would hate the idea and fear the chance that Americans would say “no” to his power-grubbing, and so necessarily hate them. Ultimately, in the final analysis, he would rather they just shut up, or go away -- or die.
That is what Ayn Rand called the death premise. It is the core death-worshipping nature of such men which the Paul Driessens and other advocates of the paramount role of reason and facts in man’s existence must first grasp in order to understand why their arguments fall on so many deaf ears and have no effect on so many self-induced, comatose minds. It is the death premise that renders such minds in such men impervious to any presentation of reality and of the destructive consequences of their actions and policies.
Such men understand and know that if their wishes and fantasies cannot be “realized” in reality, then their chosen fate is to perish with those whom they have sentenced to certain death. When the champions of reason and man compel such men to face the nature of their hatred, as Driessen noted, that will not be a pretty sight, either.
But that will be a first step in freeing ourselves from them and their morality of death.
By Elan Journo from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Diplomacy Encourages North Korea’s Belligerence
Washington, D.C., May 28, 2009--In reaction to North Korea’s explosion of what appears to have been a nuclear device and its launching of long-range missiles, Elan Journo, fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, said America should stop appeasing North Korea’s dictatorial regime and face up to the enormous threat it poses.
“The US should stop rewarding North Korea for its aggression.
“North Korea has become a significant threat precisely because we have appeased it for years with boatloads of oil, food and money.
“The pattern of America's suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence.”
According to Mr. Journo, this cycle of appeasement was made possible by the fact that our political and intellectual leaders cling to the amoral fiction that North Korea shares the basic goal of prosperity and peace. “This fantasy,” said Mr. Journo, “underlies the notion that the right mix of economic aid and military concessions can dissuade North Korea from its nuclear ambition. It evades the fact that the North is a militant dictatorship that acquires and maintains its power by force, looting the wealth of its enslaved citizens and threatening to do the same to its neighbors.
“Years of rewarding a petty dictatorship for its belligerent actions did not disarm it, but helped it become a significant threat to America.
“There is only one solution to the ‘North Korea problem’,” concluded Mr. Journo: “the United States and its allies must abandon the suicidal policy of appeasement.”
By Thomas A. Bowden from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Sotomayor Unqualified for Supreme Court
Washington, D.C., May 27, 2009--“Judge Sonia Sotomayor is unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Sotomayor was nominated yesterday for the seat being vacated by the retiring Justice David Souter.
“What disqualifies Judge Sotomayor,” said Bowden in his new commentary at the Voices for Reason blog, “is a judicial philosophy that explicitly rejects objectivity and impartiality. She has declared that ‘the aspiration to impartiality is just that--it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact’ that ‘our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.’
“Elsewhere in her 2001 speech titled ‘A Latina Judge’s Voice,’ she noted that judges are typically unable to ‘transcend . . . personal sympathies and prejudices’ and that ‘gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.’ She also stated that ‘there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives.’
“Referring repeatedly to her ‘Latina soul’ and ‘Latina identity,’ Sotomayor rejected the view often expressed by the Court’s first female Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, that ‘a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.’
“On the contrary, Sotomayor said, ‘I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.’
“This is a blatant endorsement of subjective emotional decision-making, which has no place on the Court and will swiftly corrupt what’s left of its integrity,” said Bowden.
“The Supreme Court has a solemn duty to interpret and apply the Constitution. That is an intellectual task requiring ruthless objectivity--which, contrary to Judge Sotomayor, is not an illusory ‘aspiration’ but a requirement of justice.
“A conscientious judge strives to banish all emotional influences from the decision-making process. But here is Judge Sotomayor declaring herself helpless to resist--indeed, even welcoming--the influence of personal intuitions that cannot be grasped or shared by persons of another gender or ethnicity.
“Although Judge Sotomayor has many of the tools necessary for service on the Supreme Court--judicial experience, intelligence, legal knowledge--she has adopted a philosophy of judging that makes all of those qualities irrelevant.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee should expose Judge Sotomayor’s dangerous judicial philosophy, and the Senate should vote to reject her nomination.”
I have accepted a five-year position at Duke University as Visiting Associate Professor in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program. This is made possible with the awesome support of BB&T and Anthem, and with the support of the academics associated with PPE. The program is based jointly at Duke and at University of North Carolina, and will allow me to teach at both schools. In addition to UG courses, I will be doing a graduate course on Thucydides in the spring.
Historically, the separation of the social sciences, in particular the divide between philosophy and economics, and between philosophy and political science, occurred only recently. If we look back to the founding fathers of economics such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and John Stuart Mill, it becomes clear how close these disciplines once were. Economics grew out of the moral considerations of those theorists and their aim of finding socially stable ways of mutually beneficial cooperation. Similarly, the political theories that shaped the work of the founding fathers, and indeed, the political constitutions of a broad range of other countries, have their roots in the work of philosophers.
The separation of the social sciences allowed the disciplines to narrow their fields of investigation and, as a consequence, to develop specific tools for their particular domains. In our highly interconnected world, however, such separation stands in the way of people developing the sort of comprehensive understanding that is demanded by the social, economic, and political problems that we face.
To overcome this shortcoming, the subjects of philosophy, politics, and economics need to be (re-)integrated. The PPE Program does precisely this."
Wow, that sounds like a great program. Congratulations, John!
Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily--because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.
The proper purpose of a government is to protect its citizens’ lives and freedom against the initiation of force by criminals at home and aggressors abroad. The American government has a sacred responsibility to recognize the individual value of every one of its citizens’ lives, and thus to do everything possible to protect the rights of each to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This absolutely includes our soldiers.
Soldiers are not sacrificial objects; they are full-fledged Americans with the same moral right as the rest of us to the pursuit of their own goals, their own dreams, their own happiness. Rational soldiers enjoy much of the work of military service, take pride in their ability to do it superlatively, and gain profound satisfaction in protecting the freedom of every American, including their own freedom.
Soldiers know that in entering the military, they are risking their lives in the event of war. But this risk is not, as it is often described, a “sacrifice” for a “higher cause.” When there is a true threat to America, it is a threat to all of our lives and loved ones, soldiers included. Many become soldiers for precisely this reason; it was, for instance, the realization of the threat of Islamic terrorism after September 11--when 3,000 innocent Americans were slaughtered in cold blood on a random Tuesday morning--that prompted so many to join the military.
For an American soldier, to fight for freedom is not to fight for a “higher cause,” separate from or superior to his own life--it is to fight for his own life and happiness. He is willing to risk his life in time of war because he is unwilling to live as anything other than a free man. He does not want or expect to die, but he would rather die than live in slavery or perpetual fear. His attitude is epitomized by the words of John Stark, New Hampshire’s most famous soldier in the Revolutionary War: “Live free or die.”
What we owe these men who fight so bravely for their and our freedom is to send them to war only when that freedom is truly threatened, and to make every effort to protect their lives during war--by providing them with the most advantageous weapons, training, strategy, and tactics possible.
Shamefully, America has repeatedly failed to meet this obligation. It has repeatedly placed soldiers in harm’s way when no threat to America existed--e.g., to quell tribal conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. America entered World War I, in which 115,000 soldiers died, with no clear self-defense purpose but rather on the vague, self-sacrificial grounds that “The world must be made safe for democracy.” America’s involvement in Vietnam, in which 56,000 Americans died in a fiasco that American officials openly declared a “no-win” war, was justified primarily in the name of service to the South Vietnamese. And the current war in Iraq--which could have had a valid purpose as a first step in ousting the terrorist-sponsoring, anti-American regimes of the Middle East--is responsible for thousands of unnecessary American deaths in pursuit of the sacrificial goal of “civilizing” Iraq by enabling Iraqis to select any government they wish, no matter how anti-American.
In addition to being sent on ill-conceived, “humanitarian” missions, our soldiers have been compromised with crippling rules of engagement that place the lives of civilians in enemy territory above their own. In Afghanistan, we refused to bomb many top leaders out of their hideouts for fear of civilian casualties; these men continue to kill American soldiers. In Iraq, our hamstrung soldiers for years were prevented from smashing a militarily puny insurgency--and to this day, the much-heralded “surge” notwithstanding, are being murdered unnecessarily at the hands of an undefeated enemy, with no end in sight.
To send soldiers into war without a clear self-defense purpose, and without providing them every possible protection, is a betrayal of their valor and a violation of their rights.
This Memorial Day, we must call for a stop to the sacrifice of our soldiers and condemn all those who demand it. It is only by doing so that we can truly honor not only our dead, but also our living: American soldiers who have the courage to defend their freedom and ours.
Steve Simpson of the Institute of Justice had the following excellent comments to make in response to some questions. With his permission, I'm reposting his remarks here.
With respect to the question that doctors know up front that they agree to certain terms before they accept a license, hence they've voluntarily contracted to any associated obligations:
First, doctors do not consent to medical licensing in the sense in which that consent could legitimately be said to impose further obligations on them, the way one consents to the obligations in a contract.
Doctors do not get to decide to practice with a license or without a license. They are compelled to practice with a license whether they want to or not. So it is wrong to claim that they somehow consent to whatever obligations come with licensing. The state offers them the "choice" of practicing with a license or not practicing at all. That is not a choice the state has to authority to impose upon doctors, any more than it has the moral authority to offer citizens the "choice" of being enslaved citizens or not being citizens at all. I could say much more about this, but I'll leave it at that.
With respect to the concern that private medical licensing groups would have a conflict of interest between setting high standards vs. retaining their members (and hence government would be better at protecting the public from shady practitioners):
Second, your view that private medical licensing would constitute an inherent conflict of interest because it would be doctors essentially engaging in self-regulation is wrong on many fronts. The fallacy at the root of your view is that individuals are capable of objectively governing the lives of others but not capable of governing their own lives because of their own self interest in the latter situation but not the former. There is much to say to this, and reading Atlas Shrugged would be a good place to start in learning why that view is the exact opposite of the truth, but let me say just a couple things.
You say that there is no guarantee that private medical boards will set high standards or improve them as necessary. But there is, and it's the best guarantee that has ever existed--rational self interest. Doctors are neither insane, nor irrational (indeed, if they were, I submit they would not be doctors now would they). Nor are their patients. Doctors have no desire to harm or injure their patients, for, among other reasons, if they do they will not remain doctors for very long, they will have no patients, they will get sued, etc.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that state regulatory boards will set high standards either. Indeed, state regulatory boards have no incentive whatsoever to keep current with the latest developments in medicine and to ensure that their standards are high. What is the cost to them if they do not do so? They are committees, and thus each individual can always shuffle off the responsiblity for their failures to someone else, and even if they are found to have failed to set high enough standards, they suffer no consequences whatsoever. Their income and careers are not on the line, they will never be fined or sanctioned for their failures, and rarely, if ever, are any regulatory boards ever held accountable for their failures.
But there's another mistake in your thinking about this that many people make, which is to consider any regulatory boards to be separate from the professions they regulate. This is flawed as a matter of both history and common sense. Historically, occupational licensing has typically been championed by the very professionals who are to be licensed. They do this both to "professionalize" their industries--because it is much better to be "state licensed" than simply to be qualified--and to make it much harder for others to compete with them.
As a result, all occupational licensing agencies or boards that exist today are composed of the very professionals that they regulate. This makes perfectly good sense when you consider that no one else is qualified to regulate them. Who is going to decide what the proper standards for doctors are but doctors? Likewise lawyers, plumbers, carpenters, engineers, architects, stenographers, morticians and funeral directors, barbers and cosmetologists, florists, etc. Do you know what standards even a licensed florist or interior decorator must meet to be qualified? I don't. So who, but other florists and interior designers are going to regulate the florists and interior designers?
The term for what I am talking about is "regulatory capture," which simply means that the idea that regulatory boards and agencies of any type are somehow "separate" from the industries they regulate and thus "objective" is utter, unbridled nonsense. It is a pipe dream. It is the sort of thing that we all believed in fourth grade when we thought that committees should run the whole wide world because that would be "fair." My point is not simply that regulatory capture is likely to happen.
My point is that occupational and industrial or economic regulation is virtually impossible without regulatory capture, and, indeed, the regulators actively want the participation of the industries they regulate because otherwise they would not know what the hell they were doing. So your view that regulatory boards are somehow more "objective" and less "conflicted" than private boards is just not true factually and by the very logic of what such regulation aims to do.
And with respect to occupational licensing in general:
I could go on about occupational licensing all day. At IJ, we've done quite a lot of work on the subject, so if anyone is interested in more concrete examples of how licensing evolves in a given profession, check out our website, particularly the economic liberty cases and some of our research publications (www.ij.org). Or just shoot me an email (or ask a question here) and I'll do my best to answer it or direct you to more information.
The idea that licensed workers voluntarily consent to the obligations imposed on them by states is really unjust in more ways than I mentioned. As a lawyer, I see this all the time.
The states in which I'm licensed are constantly imposing new requirements, like mandatory pro bono, additional "continuing legal education" and the like to which I never consented and that are burdensome, costly, almost always a complete waste of time, and useless from the standpoint of improving my qualifications. In fact, what does motivate me to do a good job is precisely the opposite of all of these (and more) unchosen obligations.
I am motivated by the chosen obligations I freely decided to accept when I became a lawyer. My own desire to produce excellent work, to give my client the best work I can, to win my cases or at least to outlitigate the other side at every step, and to constantly produce a better brief or better argument or better analysis than I did the last time out.
But even if those things didn't motivate me, I and every other regulated professional would be motivated by the desire not to be embarrassed or to develop a bad reputation (and I have both colleagues, clients, and judges to worry about) or the other things I mentioned in my last post. In fact, I have never in my 15 year career met anyone who was ever motivated to produce good work by the states in which they were licensed. I could produce consistently incompetent and crappy work for years before any of the three states in which I'm licensed would take notice. My colleagues, my employer, my clients, and all the judges I appear before would take notice long before the state bars.
So my point is that the notion that we voluntarily assume the obligations of our state licenses is both a classic moral inversion--because it is in fact the voluntary obligations that motivate professionals and regulated occupations to produce high quality work--and it is illogical in that it contradicts the supposed purpose of licensing, which is to impose obligations on regulated occupations that they did not choose, because, allegedly, they can't voluntarily regulate themselves. See the contradiction? On the one hand, the obligations of licensing are "voluntary." On the other, licensed occupations can't be self-regulated because "voluntary" regulation would not work. Heads they win, tails we lose.
Thank you, Steve, for this great impromptu analysis!
By Martin Lindeskog from EGO,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Four years ago I debated with myself if I should vote in the European Parliament election. That time I ended up voting for the new Euro-skeptic party called the "June List." This time I am thinking of voting for the new "anti-Lisbon Treaty" party called Libertas.
My own advice on what to drink is something sweet, light, easy to swallow, has more fruit than character and most of all has a good looking bottle - just like many of the candidates! (May 18, 2009, Wine Freedom - Vinfrihet / The Local.)
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Off and on, I have used the term "dictator fantasy" to refer to a type of context-dropping I see time and time again on the left and the right:
[P]eople who dream of imposing their will on others through force [are] short-sighted at best. Why? Because one moment's thought would indicate that, aside from the inherent difficulties (i.e., opposition from others) to such a goal, there is the inconvenient fact that one is quite likely himself to go under the yoke of an alleged ally or someone one has had to dupe along the way.
Related to this fantasy is the notion that ethical ideas held, untested against and untied to reality as floating abstractions, will somehow lead to paradise on earth. A tale from the sixties that popped into my head recently illustrates this point quite well.
We [commune-dwellers] were supposed to be heroes, you know, and a hero is not supposed to get jealous because somebody is f-- your old lady, or upset because somebody has left the sink a greasepit. The day-to-day, quotidian stresses and tensions -- exacerbated by having 20 people in a one family house. That wore thin.
The very ideals of our narrator -- and 0f the current administration -- have already been been tried and found wanting, at least in terms of leading to an enjoyable and fulfilling life. But a moment's thought could have told you that: If you're supposed to subordinate your self to the collective, the question is not whether you will lose a major value like your partner or your ability to sleep at night, but when. (Or, perhaps, how often.)
And this leads us to another lesson.
If you look at all the political agendas of the 1960s, they basically failed. We didn't end capitalism, we didn't end imperialism, we didn't end racism. Yeah, the war ended. But if you look at the cultural agendas, they all worked. There's no place in the United States you can go today where you can't find organic food, alternative medical practices, alternative spiritual practices, women's issues and groups, environmental issues and groups. All those things got injected into the culture on a very deep level.My feeling is, and my hope is, that those things will eventually change the politics. The politics, obviously, are influenced by huge historical forces and a lot of base human impulses. [bold added]
This passage immediately followed the last! Our hippie has lived through his ideals being put into practice and even been honest enough to admit that they have failed very unpleasantly, and yet he still supports them, and hopes they will continue to shape the world.
Why on earth would he ever wish for that?
He is impervious to evidence because he has decided that he will never call altruism into question. The best he ever did was choose hypocrisy occasionally in order to keep on living while paying lip-service to an ethics that would kill him if carried out consistently.
The idea that collectivist restraints are good, and yet also meant for the hoi polloi has exactly this as its basis. This is why so many nominees and officials in Obama's idealistic kleptocracy are tax cheats.
This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 5:00 A.M. on May 20, 2009.
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
I am intermittently working my way through the book version of Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture." Some time this weekend, I encountered his advice on time management and found it particularly worthwhile.
Curious as to whether he had anything further to say on the subject, I was delighted to find that Pausch had delivered an hour-long lecture on the subject at the University of Virginia. As I will from time to time over the next few weeks, I am noting it here in part to remind myself about it later on when I have more time for it. I look forward to it, and have no doubt that it will be good.
UVA Todayreviewed the lecture and, in the process, recapitulated some of the points I remember Pausch making in his book. I particularly enjoyed his advice regarding telephone calls, and am always impressed with his value-driven approach to any subject he considers:
Urging the audience to balance work and family life, he said people with partners and children are often good models for time management, because they have a more immediate sense of the cost of time.
Pausch, a father of three, talked about how to set goals, how to avoid wasting time, how to delegate and how to deal with stress and procrastination. One of his goals for passing along this advice, he said, is to allow time for having fun.
A master multi-tasker, he said a speaker-phone is a must to free up your hands, as are two or three computer screens -- it's the big desk you need, he declared. His latest time-saver is making necessary phone calls while riding his bicycle for exercise, talking via a headset.
If you can't pull off that feat, make calls right before lunch to help keep them short. "You may think you're important, but you're not as important as lunch," he said.
Pausch told the audience to "find your creative time and defend it ruthlessly." [bold added]
In the event that quarantine and isolation measures are needed, physicians should ensure that the least restrictive measures are employed in a manner that does not discriminate against particular socioeconomic, racial or ethnic groups.
OK, let me try to unpack this.
A physician makes a determination that a patient sick with swine flu (or any other communicable disease) is so dangerous that isolation and quarantine is warranted. The factors which the physician took into account in reaching this determination are scientific: how easily the disease spreads, what stage of illness the patient is in, and so on. The socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status of the patient is immaterial to this determination. The only question is: does the patient's condition pose a danger to the public?
If the patient is a danger to the public, does he or she become any more or less of a danger depending on his or her socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status? Are rich white people more dangerous when sick with the swine flu than poor black people? If there is no difference in communicability of a disease based on socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status, what possible rationale is there for basing decisions to isolate or quarantine based on socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status?
Clearly, there is none. So the only point of the AMA's exhortation is to remind physicians: your decision to quarantine a rich white guy will not be subject to second-guessing, but you must be prepared to defend as medically necessary your decision to isolate or quarantine any poor, non-WASP.
If doctors' decisions to quarantine poor non-whites are vulnerable to attack as discriminatory, don't you think it's likely that some doctors will tend to quarantine fewer dangerous patients simply to avoid the charge that they're prejudiced?
It looks like the AMA is saying: it's OK to endanger the public if your reason is to avoid hurting the feelings of some hypersensitive tribalists. To which I say -- say what?
By Greg Perkins from NoodleFood,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Brian Jennings is the author of a new book on the Fairness Doctrine, Censorship: The Threat to Silence Talk Radio, and he came through Boise on his promotional tour a couple days ago. The biggest talk-radio station in the area had a live-broadcast event featuring him and local talk show host Nate Shelman (who was the anchor speaker for Boise's Tax Day Tea Party). It was all about free speech, censorship, and the Fairness Doctrine.
The book's author is a Conservative, distressed at the Left's use of the Fairness Doctrine to disrupt or destroy Conservative talk radio, and most everyone in the audience seemed to identify as a Conservative as well. After listening for a while, I decided to actually go there in person to see if I could get some mic time and maybe inject a little principled thought into the conversation. I figured a couple minutes on air had to be at least as effective as a letter to the editor. :^)
Why did I go there? Well, people recognize there's something seriously wrong with the Fairness Doctrine, and they can (and did) talk about how it is a blunt political weapon involving arbitrary powers and undefined terms, constitutes censorship, is a violation of free speech, and so on. But what I wasn't hearing was any principled stand for the absolute right to free speech and the consistent rejection of censorship. Without this, their argument is basically reduced to a flowery appeal to partisan interests. Demanding that people follow a principle only works if you're doing so yourself! More important, they should uphold the crucial ideas that make human life possible in society, and which brought about the best country in the world.
So there I was, sitting among a couple hundred conservative folks, trying to figure out how I could point out hypocrisy and inspire a genuine stand for liberty without being booed out of the room.
I waited, surveying the discussion... Eventually, a lady who was known and liked by the host and audience took the mic and talked about how the Left says the Right is "just as bad" and should therefore feel guilty, which she and the audience of course rejected out of hand. Sweet! Now all I had to do was try to springboard from her comments, contradict her in a way that wouldn't make me seem like a jerk, articulate my point while the host did his thing, and keep my own off-the-cuff mental chaos from making me look like a fool or a crank. :^)
I think it was worth the effort. While I wasn't nearly as smooth and clear as I would have liked, I managed to get the essential points across, and in a way that worked for an audience that could have easily been alienated. Either way, it was good training for the next opportunity! And nice fodder for a letter to the editor I'm about to go write.
Over a Million Ayn Rand Novels in Classrooms This Year
By from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Over a Million Ayn Rand Novels in Classrooms This Year
IRVINE, CA, May 18, 2009--As part of its mission to promote Ayn Rand’s ideas in today’s culture, during this school year the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) shipped 350,000 free copies of Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to high school teachers across North America. Adding these books to those sent in recent years, and which remain in classrooms today, ARI estimates that more than 1 million students studied Ayn Rand’s novels in 25,000 classrooms this year. More than 32,000 teachers and 1.4 million students have participated in this program since it began in 2002. The program is funded through the generosity of ARI’s contributors.
Each school year ARI distributes promotional flyers that offer free classroom sets of Ayn Rand’s novels to English and language arts teachers, department heads and principals, as well as selected counselors and high school administrators. “This offer,” said Marilee Dahl, ARI’s Education department manager, “is available to both public and private high schools throughout the United States and Canada.”
“Each teacher who requests these books,” explained Ms. Dahl, “receives a classroom set of the novels, along with a teacher’s guide, lesson plans and information about ARI’s annual Anthem, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged essay contests. We also offer phone and e-mail support to teachers, as needed, to facilitate their teaching of the books in their classes. The response has been fantastic and a very positive sign for America’s future.”
US President Barack Obama has announced tough targets for new fuel efficient vehicles in order to cut pollution and lower dependence on oil imports.
Describing the move as "historic", Mr Obama said the country's first-ever national standards would reduce vehicle emissions by about a third by 2016.
Mr Obama thinks that vehicle efficiency is a matter of legislation. Not the product of investment and thinking.
This highlights the ridiculous nature of efficiency legislation. Obama is essentially putting a gun to the automobile industry and demanding they invent something. He, clearly, could not design a new engine - yet he feels he should have some control over the process.
Perhaps, for his next trick, he will legislate a new cure for cancer.
By firstname.lastname@example.org (Edward Cline) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog
One of the most bizarre characters in the huge menagerie of odd creatures in the “Star Trek” corpus is Deanna Troi, counselor on the starship Enterprise in the “Next Generation” series. She is a half-alien “empath” and telepath who can not only “feel” what others are feeling, but read minds, as well. These talents saved Captain Picard and his ship and crew a number of times, and have also solved more mundane episodes of angst and dementia on the Enterprise. She was even able to “sense” the presence of another psychic on a hostile warship from thousands of miles away, somehow allowing the Enterprise to spot and target it for a photon hit. She was a combination séance medium and crystal ball reader.
Believe it or not, the Pentagon’s Darpa division is investigating the feasibility of employing telepathy on the battlefield; to date, the cost has reached $8 million. That is a measure of the state of the culture. It is no longer inconceivable that West Point and the Naval Academy will include tarot card reading and horoscopes in their war-fighting curricula.
Back in the real world, or what he perceives is the real world, President Barack Obama wants to investigate the feasibility of appointing an empath to the Supreme Court. That is, he would like to see someone, preferably from a “minority” (gender optional), team up with the other liberals on that bench to find more often in favor of those whose injured feelings and tort-worthy pain are a consequence of an unjust society governed by a code of laws that allegedly favors the rich and oppresses the poor. He wishes to install someone who, like him, regards empathy more important than facts or the sanctity of contracts or personal responsibility.
Empathy is included in the “traits he admires in a Supreme Court justice…intellect, integrity, respect for the Constitution and the law.” These attributes, however, are just semantic eye-candy spoken by a man who does not embody either intellect or integrity, and who has shown no evidence, given his actions during his first one hundred days in office, that he respects the Constitution or the law. In the real world, in practice, “empathy” in a person would contradict and negate any intellect, integrity and respect for the Constitution and the law he might have, provided he even developed them.
“Obama, preparing to nominate a successor to Justice David H. Souter, has often said that the best judges take note of the real world. By making empathy a core qualification, he is uniting his own eclectic experience as a community organizer and constitutional-law professor while demanding what he has called ‘a broader vision of what America should be.’”
“Six months after he was elected on a promise to change the country’s direction, Obama will be the first Democrat since 1994 to name a new justice. His choice will be informed by his conviction that the United States has become a meaner, less fair society and his belief that the court should play a ‘special role.’”
But, what is the “real world” to Obama? What is his “broader vision“ of America? And what “special role” should the court play? Should it help change the country’s direction, or simply act as a passive imprimatur of the administration‘s collectivist policies?
The answer to all of these questions is easy: It is a Democratic version of a “kinder, gentler America” that is his agenda, or, in other words, an essentially fascist/socialist one whose legal dice are loaded in favor of whoever can claim victimhood, social inequality, need or any other imagined inequity. A society in which no incompetent, parasite or mediocrity is left behind. Not even pirates or enemy combatants or foreign terrorists who attack Americans here or abroad. All may become litigants in the pursuit of “social justice.”
In fact, the whole character of his administration to date -- and there is no reason to think it will ever change -- has been marked by “empathy” for everything but individual rights, reason and freedom, and certainly not for the Constitution or for any objective, reason-based law. He wishes Justice to remove her blindfold, discard her scales, and become a be-robed grief counselor to anyone who can demonstrate his hostility or indifference to individual rights, reason and freedom, or who can itemize all the ways he has suffered because of them.
One of the leading candidates to replace Souter is Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Apparently she does not believe in blindfolds or scales, either. She
“…gave a speech declaring that the ethnicity and sex of a judge ‘may and will make a difference in our judging.’ In her speech, Judge Sotomayor questioned the famous notion -- often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor -- that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.
“’I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life…’”
Race and gender are the determining -- and supposedly deterministic -- ingredients that govern her thinking. I say “supposedly deterministic” because that is what she chooses to allow into her thinking.
She’s no Judge Judy. And certainly no Justice Clarence Thomas. The New York Times wrote:
“This month…a video surfaced of Judge Sotomayor asserting in 2005 [during a panel discussion for law students] that a ‘court of appeals is where policy is made.’ She then immediately adds: ‘And I know -- I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law. I know. Okay. I know. I’m not promoting it. I’m not advocating it. I’m -- you know.’”
No, I don’t know. I doubt if any of the other panelists or any of the law students knew, either. But one doesn’t need to be a mind reader or an empath to make an educated guess. Sotomayor makes it clear what she knows:
“…[H]er remarks at Berkeley, which were published by the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, went further, asserting that judges’ identities will affect legal outcomes.
“’Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultures differences,’ she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, ‘our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.’”
She and Obama are on the same pragmatist page. Wrote the Washington Post on May 13 about Obama‘s years as a lecturer on constitutional law:
“Former colleagues and students say he incorporated the real world into his legal approach by asking how rulings would affect people. He explored the Supreme Court’s power, along with its limits.
“’He didn’t seem to really want to talk theory in the classes,’ said onetime student David Franklin….’He wanted to talk about what worked and what the real-world testing of those theories had yielded.’”
Later the Post observes:
“After Souter’s plans to retire became public, Obama spoke of empathy as ‘an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.’ He said he would look for someone ‘who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory.’”
He did not need to look far. Sotomayor is a legacy of President George H.W. Bush, who appointed her to a federal district court in 1991, and of President Bill Clinton, who raised her to the appeals court in 1997. Now she is Obama’s first choice to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
And if anyone doubted that Obama is not only not intellectual, but anti-intellectual, that disdain for “abstract legal theory,” which the Founders absorbed and mastered in order to write a Constitution which Obama swore to protect in his oath of office (but is not protecting), ought to alert anyone that his intentions are not only bad, but intentionally bad.
Understanding others is “at the heart of my moral code,” he wrote in his second book The Audacity of Hope. It is his smiley faced, soft-shoe version of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s, “God damn America.” Obama may have publicly distanced himself from his controversial (and retired) pastor, but morally he is still in that minister‘s congregation. At the hearts of their moral codes, their empathy or “understanding” is symphonious. In the person of Barack Obama, Wright is enacting his hatred of America and his vengeance on it by proxy in his protégé’s march to the same “broader vision of what America should be.”
What do the Republicans and conservatives think of Sotomayor and her telegraphed intention to indulge in judicial activism and gender- and race-flaunting in the highest court in the land?
“Republicans have signaled that they intend to put the eventual nominee under a microscope, and they say they were put on guard by Mr. Obama’s statement that judges should have ‘empathy,’ a word they suggest could be code for injecting liberal ideology into the law.”
It is much too late to worry about injecting liberal ideology into the law. One did not need to exert much effort to “decode” Obama’s disingenuous campaign rhetoric, and one certainly doesn’t need to decipher his statements now, now that Obama is in the White House and has made his ideology all too obvious. American law on all levels of government and the judiciary is top-heavy with liberal collectivist ideology -- how else to account, for example, for the welfare state and the ten thousand commandments of regulatory law? -- much of which the Republicans proposed and helped the liberals make possible over the decades. On philosophical and ideological levels, the Republicans have more “empathy” with Obama and the Democrats than either group will concede. It is the Republicans’ own moral premises which they ought to examine under a microscope.
The Republicans, too, lack any intellect or integrity. If they had any, they would not waste time attacking Speaker Nancy Pelosi for lying about the intelligence community or bothering with any of the administration’s and Congress’s other scandals and peccadilloes, and instead ruthlessly attack their moral philosophy root and branch.
That would require a consistent philosophy of reason, one absolutely and without exception anchored in the real world, but that is what the Republicans disdain and reject, as well, in the name of God and pragmatism. They are the buffoonish Witch Doctor to Obama’s Attila.
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
The Worst of Both Worlds
As John Marshall once put it, "The power to tax is the power to destroy." (Too bad he did not apply this wisdom with any degree of consistency.) Every government tax reduction in the name of "saving" an industry or "incentivizing" economic growth is a tacit admission of this fact, as well as a desire by voters to have their cake and eat it, too. Otherwise, there would be demands for permanent tax and spending cuts across the board.
The practice of many politicians of pretending that such measures are capitalistic cedes the whole premise of property rights and muddies the vital debate over the proper role of government. This is bad enough, but at least the public remains free to debate. Enter Washington State to endanger that freedom with a tax cut:
Gov. Chris Gregoire has approved a tax break for the state's troubled newspaper industry.
The new law gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in the state's main business tax. The discounted rate mirrors breaks given in years past to the Boeing Co. and the timber industry.
The similarity of the tax cut to that for Boeing is a red herring, and it obscures an essential difference between the industries in question. Boeing is not in the business of publishing news or opinion.
As I noted in January when I heard the first whispers about newspaper "bailouts" coming from Frank Nicastro, a Connecticut lawmaker:
Certainly, if Nicastro thinks the papers should start making changes to how they report the news, he has them where he wants them: by the purse-strings. Nicastro is, perhaps (and at best) well-intentioned, but suffering from the "dictator fantasy", and needs help imagining just how much worse his idea is than doing nothing, and allowing the papers to fail.
Along those lines, I would first suggest that Nicastro imagine a hated political opponent succeeding him and leaning on the papers to make sure he looks good. Second, I would remind him that we already have examples of government "encouragement" of media tempting officials with having a say. For an example of this, note that Phil Berger, a counterpart of his from North Carolina, recently proposed to have the government review movie scripts before "incentivized" cameras could roll in his state.
And, on top of all of this, there is the question of what constitutes a newspaper (and therefore qualifies for the tax break. This is a losing proposition for freedom of speech as well: The government will end up (a) deciding that certain outlets aren't "real" newspapers and taxing them fully, to their relative detriment, or (b) regulating what they can and cannot say, in the name of making sure the tax breaks are properly implemented, or (c) some combination of both.
This measure not only does nothing to advance economic freedom, it is very bad news for freedom of the press in particular and freedom of speech generally.
No sooner do I comment on Barack Obama's unspoken message of contempt for the rulers of his country does he prove me right. He has apparently taken to lecturing us on indebtedness right on the heels of "throwing trillions down a rathole," as Instapundit puts it.
Regarding my use above of the phrase "cutting up:" That comes straight from my arrival at work the morning I wrote a post concerning Obama's obvious pleasure at Wanda Sykes' distasteful "jokes."
As I passed a group of people chatting, someone saying, "Boom!" at the top of his lungs caught my attention, and it was immediately obvious that this was about the White House Correspondents' Dinner. "Wanda Sykes cuttin' up wit' de President!" was the last comment I could make out as I walked by.
"Cuttin' up?", I thought. "I haven't heard or used that phrase since approximately middle school." The whole idea of five grown men having a conversation about politics while assuming a schoolyard subtext with Obama in the role of favorite teacher was momentarily jarring. People like this vote, and they are impervious to reason.
Yep. That's about the demographic Obama's aiming for. To the extent that he regards people with this mentality as his constituency, his contempt for voters has a basis in fact.
Properly, one interested in cultural change writes off such flotsam and works to persuade thinking adults. And one shrugs such incidents off, and considers why there is cause for optimism in that regard.
In my class, Tap Your Own Brilliance, I teach you exactly what to do if you feel overloaded, confused, conflicted, or blank. At such times you may feel like your brain has stopped functioning and has nothing to offer, but that's not true. I guarantee there is crucial information in your mental databanks that could help right at that moment. In my course, I'll teach you what to do. We'll cover one issue in each of four sessions:
Picking Someone's Brain (Yours!): Learn how to get helpful, relevant information flowing from your databanks at the first sign of problems.
Lassoing Runaway Thoughts: Find how to capture the good ideas when you're feeling overloaded, confused, or overwhelmed by emotions.
Resolving Hidden Conflicts: See how to easily uncover and resolve conflicts that are causing you to flounder.
Triggering New Insights: Discover a reliable way to prod new, helpful ideas from your subconscious when it feels like you've run dry.
I will present a tool, explain what it is, how it works, and when to use it. Then you'll get to try out the tool, on an issue of your choice. You try the tactics on a real-life problem, in an in-class individual exercise. Each exercise is fairly short, usually only a few minutes, but they are long enough for you to see how powerfully the tactics focus your attention on top issues and help you zero in on answers. Plus, immediately after trying the technique, you'll have a chance to ask questions, hear other people's comments and questions, and get help and clarification.
The class will take place over four ninety-minute sessions and will be limited to 15 participants.
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
The first time I heard the term "access" used as a euphemism for theft, I played hooky from work, endured a long wait for the pleasure of seeing a government official of the Virgin Islands texting, and got to hear a union thug in a Hawaiian shirt say, "we have the rocks." In other words, I was present for "testimony" at an "unofficial hearing of the House Judiciary Committee" regarding HR 676, aka the "Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act").
The poor, as they claim, lack "access" to medical care. The implied solution, government insinuation in and control of medical care necessarily involves stealing from physicians, as put so well by the character Dr. Hendricks in Atlas Shrugged (HT: Doug Reich):
I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind--yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it--and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't." (687)
And now, from the very same people who are proclaiming that they'll take care of you comes the following admission that they will "take care of" you:
Treasure the tax benefits from your health savings account? Some experts say the accounts encourage "excess consumption" of health services -- and committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) agreed they're worth a look. Money in the pot: $60 billion over 10 years.
That's right: If you obtain more medical care than John Conyers, Barack Obama, or Donna Christian-Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) feel like allowing you to have, that's "excess consumption."
I suppose that one way to get around your constituents not having "access" to medical care is to effectively make it illegal.
This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 5:00 A.M. on May 14, 2009.
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
"So here I am -- Comrade Sonia -- ready to serve you all! Comrade students! We've got to stand up for our rights. We've got to learn to speak our proletarian will and make our enemies take notice. We've got to stamp our proletarian boot into their white throats and their treacherous intentions. Our Red schools are for Red students." -- Comrade Sonia in Ayn Rand's We the Living, p.64
The latest egalitarian to raise her combat boot for the purpose of planting it firmly on the throats of American citizens is Representative Linda Sanchez of California, who has introduced a bill, HR-1966, which is ostensibly to prevent "cyber--bullying," but which -- like a Texas bill that literally bans marriage -- is so vaguely written that it can be construed to criminalize a wide array of ordinary Internet activities. (Note that my link to the bill differs from that on page 2 of the Network Worldarticle cited by Ars Technica: Thomas, the web presence of the Library of Congress, seems to have a case of amnesia as I write this. OpenCongress, on the other hand, is working. Remember this the next time you hear some official complain that private enterprise can't be depended upon to get information out to the public.)
Here is the text of the bill pertaining to cyber-bullying, as quoted by Network World:
(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
The article goes on to elaborate:
The bill defines "communication" as "the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received."
Electronic means" is defined as "any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, Web sites, telephones, and text messages."
HR 1966, formally an amendment to Title 18, "Crimes and Criminal Procedure," of the U.S. Code, does not define any other term, including "severe emotional distress," "hostile" or even "behavior."
"The law, if enacted, would clearly be facially overbroad (and probably unconstitutionally vague), and would thus be struck down on its face under the First Amendment," wrote Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and blogger in chief at The Volokh Conspiracy, an online legal blog.
Volokh offered six quick sketches of the kinds of activities that could be prosecuted if HR 1966 becomes law, including trying to pressure a politician, organizing a boycott against a company with whose policies you disagree, or even sending angry e-mails to an unfaithful lover.
Network World also notes that this bill has gotten very little attention so far.
We live in interesting times -- made morbidly so by widespread confusion over the nature (and evil) of the initiation of physical force (and the proper role of government as an agent of retaliation against same). Mere words are being used as justification for real, unwarranted intrusions of force into the lives of people who merely want to exchange ideas.
And thus it is that the real bully poses as a champion of the oppressed.
PS: I just remembered that "linda" is Spanish for "nice" or "pretty." As Fred G. Sanfordmight put it if he were an Objectivist blogger, "Beauty may be skin deep, but irony goes clear to the bone."
This may be a cheap shot, but I do not deserve criminal prosecution for it. Nor has the government any right to to impose it upon me.
By from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Atlas Shrugged Triples in Sales
Irvine, CA, May 12, 2009--Reports from trade sources indicate that consumer purchases of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged have tripled in the first four months of 2009 compared to the first four months of 2008.
According to Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, “The tripling in sales of Atlas Shrugged is remarkable, especially considering that in 2008 a new all-time record in annual sales of the novel was established with more than 200,000 copies sold in the United States.”
As Dr. Brook pointed out, “Annual sales of Atlas Shrugged have been increasing for decades to a level not seen in Ayn Rand’s lifetime. Sales of the U.S. paperback editions averaged 74,000 copies a year in the 1980s, 95,000 copies a year in the 1990s and 139,000 copies a year in the current decade. After reaching an all-time high during the novel’s 50th anniversary in 2007, another new high was reached in 2008 and an even higher mark is expected for 2009.”
More than 6,500,000 copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold to date.
“As America faces a devastating economic crisis fundamentally caused by government policies, it is a hopeful sign for the future that increasing numbers of concerned Americans are turning to Atlas Shrugged and discovering Ayn Rand’s original morality of rational egoism and her uncompromising defense of laissez faire capitalism.”
Contrary to widespread cries that media consolidation threatens free speech, the real threat comes from laws regulating media ownership.
By Don Watkins
Self-appointed consumer watchdogs--including Obama's recent pick for FCC chair, Julius Genachowski--have long complained about media consolidation. So it was no surprise that when the FCC recently loosened restrictions barring companies from owning a newspaper and TV station in the same city, these critics went apoplectic and are now urging the House to follow the Senate in blocking the measure.
Media consolidation supposedly threatens free speech. A few conglomerates, critics warn, have seized control of our media outlets, enabling these companies to shove a single "corporate-friendly" perspective down our throats. As Senator Byron Dorgan put it, "The free flow of information in this country is not accommodated by having fewer and fewer voices determine what is out there. . . . You have five or six corporate interests that determine what Americans can see, hear, and read."
Leave aside that Dorgan's comments are hard to take seriously in the age of the Internet: his position is still a fantasy. Media consolidation is no threat to free speech--it is the result of individuals exercising that right.
All speech requires control of material resources, whether by standing on a soapbox, starting a blog, running a newspaper ad, or buying a radio station. Media corporations simply do this on a larger scale.
Consider the critics' favorite bogeyman, News Corp. When Rupert Murdoch launched the company, he and his fellow shareholders pooled their wealth to create a communications platform capable of reaching millions. They further expanded their ability to communicate through mergers and acquisitions--that is, through media consolidation. As News Corp.'s owners, shareholders were able to exercise their freedom of speech by deciding what views their private property would (and wouldn't) be used to promote--the same way a blogger decides what ideas to champion on his blog. Like most other media companies, News Corp. even extended the use of its platforms to speakers from all over the ideological map--including opponents of media consolidation.
Do News Corp.'s resources give Murdoch an advantage when it comes to promoting his views? Absolutely. Free speech doesn't guarantee that everyone will have equal airtime, any more than free trade guarantees that every business will have the same amount of goods to trade. What it does guarantee is that everyone has the right to use his own property to speak his mind.
Some of today's most prominent voices, such as Matt Drudge, have succeeded without huge financial resources. But regardless of how large a media company grows, it can never--Dorgan's complaints notwithstanding--determine what media Americans consume. It must continually earn its audience. Fox News may be the leading news channel today, but if it doesn't produce shows people want to watch, it will have all the influence of ham radio. Just think of how newspapers and the big-three network news stations are losing audiences to Web-based sources.
Now consider the actual meaning of government restrictions on media ownership. The FCC is telling certain Americans that they cannot operate a printing press or its equivalent. Such restrictions cannot protect free speech--they are in fact violations of the right to free speech. There is no essential difference between smashing someone's printing press and threatening to fine and jail him if he uses one; either way, he can't use it to express his views.
What galls critics of media consolidation is not that News Corp. stops anyone from speaking--it's that they don't like the choices Americans make when free speech is protected. In the words of one critic: "[M]arket forces provide neither adequate incentives to produce the high quality media product, nor adequate incentives to distribute sufficient amounts of diverse content necessary to meet consumer and citizen needs." Translation: Can you believe what those stupid consumers willingly pay for? If I got to decide what Americans watched, read, and listened to, things would be different.
In order to "correct" the choices Americans make, these critics demand that the FCC violate the free speech rights of some speakers in order to prop up other speakers who, absent such favors, would be unable to earn an audience. In short, they want a gun-wielding Uncle Sam--not the voluntary choices of free individuals--to determine who can speak and therefore who you can listen to.
The critics of media consolidation are frauds. They are not defenders of free speech--they are dangerous enemies of that freedom.
Don Watkins is a writer and research specialist at 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."
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
This week, we were all over the place!
Voices for Reason, the blog of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, reportsseveral appearances by Yaron Brook on PJTV last week. On top of that, other writers for the Ayn Rand Institute are starting to show up there, as well.
You can see Harry Binswanger on YouTube after his appearance on Glenn Beck:
Closer to home, Houston's own Brian Phillips received an Instalanche after using a very interesting statistic to illustrate a point about the relatively free economy America's fourth-largest city enjoys.
Last but not least, Titanic Deck Chairs is hosting the ninety-fifth weekly Objectivist Blog Carnival. We're now approaching two years of solid roundups on a weekly basis. Back when I started blogging, I don't think there were even as many Objectivist blogs as there are features to this week's roundup.
That's good progress, and I'm not sure I would have believed it possible back in 2004 to have come so far so fast.
And now? I'm wondering whether I've left anything out! If so, feel free to leave a comment.
By email@example.com (David Veksler) from One Minute Cases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
The term “designer baby” is a derogative term for the use of reproductive and genetic technologies in order to accomplish an optimal recombination of the parents’ genes. This case argues that the voluntary use of genetic technologies, as well as prenatal screening and abortion is both moral and desirable.It does not address the morality of abortion (defended in this case) or the safety of particular technologies – an important consideration, but not a fundamental issue.
Parents ought to desire healthy children
While there are many valid motivations to become a parent, in choosing to create a human being, parents assume a moral obligation to provide for and educate their children to become independent, mature adults. Beyond the legal obligation of providing minimum care, to the extent that parents love and value their children (and there is no reason to have children otherwise), parents ought to strive to maximize their child’s ability to become fully functional adult human beings - physically, spiritually, socially, romantically, etc. This means providing both appropriate education, and taking care of their physical needs.
Health can be objectively defined in relation to the requirements of human life
It is possible to make judgments about which mental and physical states are objectively superior in relation to other states. For example, a broken leg, a bout of flu, or a headache are undesirable because they prevent one from accomplishing a whole range of actions which are required for human life. We recognize this when we use technology (medicine) to help people overcome and heal from their injuries and illnesses. The same applies to genetic physical and mental deformities, which adversely impact one’s ability to accomplish his values. If someone suffers from clinical depression or schizophrenia, we offer them drugs that improve their ability to use reason to deal with reality and achieve the values they desire. If healthy, successful, productive human life is a value, then it is moral to use all available technology to maximize human potential to achieve the values they desire.
Biotechnology adds new tools to an ancient arsenal of genetic techniques for better offspring
If health is desirable and can be objectively defined, then parents ought to choose to have healthy children. They do this in a variety of means: Genetically, humans instinctively seek mates likely to produce healthy offspring - this is the basis of selective sexual attraction based on physical traits. Consciously, parents choose partners who share their child-rearing values. They also take measures to prevent child defects, such as abstaining from drugs during pregnancy and choosing to have children earlier in their life. Genetic counseling and prenatal screening are just two new tools for enhancing an ancient process.
The Gattaca objection confuses the potential for the actual
The Gattaca objection to screening undesirable traits is that people with undesirable traits have made many valuable contributions, and are capable of living fully productive lives.Supporters often give examples of great scientists like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawkins with genetic or developmental abnormalities, or of people with serious impairments such as Down Syndrome who nevertheless hold jobs and assume most of the functions of normal adults.
This objection confuses between the seen and the unseen.What we see is that many people with undesirable traits are unusually successful, either in relation the average person, or in relation to people with their symptoms.What we don’t see are all the people who failed to achieve their values because of their symptoms.If their genotype or embryo had been eliminated before birth, the unhealthy people would not exist, but an equivalent number of healthy people would.Unless the undesirable symptom itself contributed to their success, the percentage of unusually successful healthy people would be far higher than the number of extraordinarily successful unhealthy people.Certainly, healthy people would have a better chance at a normal life than someone with a chronic syndrome such as Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs, or Spina bifida.
Genetic diversity is valuable – but only if it is used to enhance human life, not impair it
The “neurodiversity” movement opposes genetic screening on the grounds that atypical neurological development should be recognized and respected.The movement has a valid point insofar as neurodiversity has played a critical part in the development of human civilization.If every human being had exactly the same intelligence and developed in the same way, we would have no great scientists, artists, intellectuals, or entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, the neurodiversity advocates only support “diversity” when it is due to ignorance, not conscious choice.They support a baby being born with Autism, Parkinson’s disease, dyslexia, or other disorders because the parents had no choice in the matter, but they oppose giving the parents the power to choose to have a child which is healthier than he would “naturally” be.If most parents could consciously choose what traits to give their children, they might prefer more intelligence, curiosity, a longer life, or stronger muscles.These are also varieties of genetic diversity.
Objections to genetic counseling and gene engineering are ultimately objections to technology
Few parents would choose to have their children be born blind, deaf, retarded, or crippled.Yet this is precisely what the “diversity” advocates want: to prevent parents from being able to improve on the “natural” forms of biodiversity. Traits due to sexual selection, random genetic mutation, and embryonic variation are acceptable to them, but traits due to conscious human choice are not.
Genetic screening via sexual selection has been practiced since the dawn of life itself. No one suggests that we should pick a mate entirely at random, so the objection to genetic screening and engineering is due to the element of technology. Their objections are not to “designer babies” as such, but to the use of technology to improve the lives of human beings. They apply equally to a child whose genes are altered after birth, or to an adult.The logical conclusion of this neo-luddism is the opposition of all man-made improvements to human life as “unnatural.”
By Bibliophile Style... from The Pursuit,cross-posted by MetaBlog
I consider myself somewhat of a film connoisseur and enjoy watching them even though I find so few that are worthy of a second viewing. I rented Vitus on the tip of a somewhat-promising trailer, even though that method tends to let me down sometimes.
Let me tell you, this film blew me away. The theme of Vitus is "the necessity of freedom to pursue your values." Vitus, a Swiss film released in 2006, is about a young piano prodigy. His mother is so overbearing that he is forced to seek freedom in order to nurture his talents on his own. Though the film is quite long at 1h40, we watch the progression of Vitus' relationship with his parents as they try to best raise their 'wunderkind' -- all the while, he tries to find a way to explore his intelligence and creativity through his own choices (with the help of his wonderful grandpa). Vitus, as a character, is incredibly charming and it is a pleasure to watch his mind at work. The 12-year old Vitus is played by Swiss piano-prodigy Teo Gheorghiu, who brings quite a spark and talent to the role.
Though there are a few minute things I would change about the movie (such as completely cutting out the sub-story with a ~romantic interest~), it is pretty much exactly what I look for in a film: The movie has a Romantic plot and an affirmable protagonist. It is extremely well-executed and well acted, there are exciting/surprising elements that create conflict in the plot, and there is complete catharsis in the end, where the conflicts are resolved and Vitus has succeeded in his goals. I have never cried so many tears of joy at a movie before. When I saw it, I was reminded of the part in Atlas Shrugged where Dagny sees Kay Ludlow's performances in the valley:
"It was an experience she had not known since childhood -- the experience of being held for three hours by a play that told a story she had not seen before, in lines she had not heard, uttering a theme that had not been picked from the hand-me-downs of the centuries. It was the forgotten delight of being held in rapt attention by the reigns of the ingenious, the unexpected, the logical, the purposeful, the new..."
I cannot promote this wonderful film enough. Even from the first viewing, Vitus catapulted its way onto my list of 'top 5 films of all time'. Vitus is a must-see.
By Diana Hsieh from NoodleFood,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Wow: A police officer refuses to handle the repeated 911 calls of a panicked young woman as her father has a seizure on the kitchen floor. Why? She used the f-word to express her frustration -- before the officer even answered the call. He scolds her, refuses to hear about her emergency, hangs up on her repeatedly, delays calling for rescue, lies about the calls, and then arrests the poor girl.
Based on this report, the officer ought to be fired, not merely suspended and trained. He behaved infamously -- in a way thoroughly inexcusable to a police officer in a free society -- not merely once but repeatedly. (Via The Agitator.)
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Warner Todd Huston discusses a report that ranks personal freedom by state. Apparently, I will be moving myself from the fifth-freest state in the union to the forty-second later this month:
According to a new study released by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, some of our most liberal states rank at the bottom in a measure of personal freedom. "Freedom in the 50 States, an index of personal and economic freedom," finds the most free states to be first New Hampshire, then Colorado, followed by S. Dakota, Idaho, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia and N. Dakota.The bottom ten least free states in the U.S. are (in descending order) Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and bringing up the bottom is New York.
Huston cites the excerpt about New York, the least-free state in the union according to the study, to give us a feel for what went into the rankings:
New York is by far the least free state in the Union (#50 economic, #48 personal). One of us lives in New York and can attest to the fact that few New Yorkers would be surprised by such a finding. Sadly, equally few New Yorkers seem to believe that anything can be done about the situation. New York has the highest taxes in the country. Property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate income taxes are particularly high. Spending on social services and “other” is well above national norms. Only Massachusetts has more government debt as a percentage of the economy. Government employment is higher than average. On personal freedoms, gun laws are extremely restrictive, but marijuana laws are better than average (while tobacco laws are extremely strict). Motorists are highly regulated, but several kinds of gambling are allowed statewide (not casinos, except on reservations). Home school regulations are burdensome, but asset forfeiture has been reformed. Along with Vermont, New York has the strictest health insurance community rating regulations. Mandated coverages are also very high. Eminent domain is totally unreformed. Perversely,the state strictly limits what grassroots PACs may give to candidates and parties, but not what corporations and unions may give.
On page 5 of the PDF, available at the link, the criteria for the rankings are made more explicit. In part:
We rank all fifty states on overall respect for individual freedom and on components of freedom: "Fiscal Policy," "Regulatory Policy," and "Paternalism." Our approach in this report is to weight policies according to the number of people affected by the policy, the intensity of preferences on the issue, and the importance of state policy variation. However, we happily concede that different people value aspects of freedom differently. Hence, we provide the raw data and weightings on our website...
It should come as no surprise that I learned of this study through a conservative-leaning web site, RealClear Politics or that Huston writes for a blog called The Next Right. Indeed, Huston even headlines his entry, "New Study: America's Most Liberal States Rank Least Free." At long last, the ailing conservative movement has something to crow about.
Or has it?
Having grown up in Mississippi and lived over half my life in Texas, I am all too familiar with the theocratic tendencies of some of the "redder" parts of the electoral map. Blue laws weren't off the books in my home town until just as I was leaving for college, nor did I ever see an entire commercial for wine until I'd left for college in Texas. Much later on, a friend in Texas who was considering a run for public office (and wanted to allow grocery stores in his city to sell wine) told me about the unbelievable pressure various local ministers were placing on him to forget about that part of his platform.
And then, of course, my adopted state has fairly recently passed sloppy, theocratically-motivated legislation that makes it possible to charge some physicians who perform abortions with murder and arguably bans marriage. And, oh yeah, a theocrat -- same link -- was talking about charging soon-to-wed couples a fee for not taking a marriage counseling course. This is the fifth-freest state in the union? This is Texas?
To be fair, Huston links to the study, which openly admits not weighing certain things, like abortion and capital punishment:
Our definition of freedom presents specific challenges on some high-profile issues. Abortion is a critical example. On one account, the fetus is a rights-bearing person, and abortion is therefore an aggressive violation of individual rights that ought to be punished by government. On another account, the fetus does not have rights, and abortion is a permissible exercise of an individual liberty, in which case government regulation of abortion would be an unjust violation of a woman’s rights. Rather than take a stand on one side or the other (or anywhere in between), we have coded the data on state abortion restrictions but have not included the policy in our overall index.
Another example is the death penalty. Some would argue that a murderer forfeits her own right to life, and therefore state execution of a murderer does not violate a basic right to life. Others contend that the right to life can never be forfeited or that the state should never risk taking away all the rights of innocent individuals by mistakenly executing them.
The authors of the study claim to view freedom in terms of individual rights, but they sidestep the issue of whether a fetus has rights. At least they admit doing so.
This does not make their work useless, but as an advocate of individual rights, I will not play into the hands of theocrats by uncritically spouting these rankings, nor will I sit idly by while religionists (and their "battered wife" secular allies) use them to sweep under the rug the vital, fundamental issue of what constitutes the basis for individual rights. If a fetus has rights, states that attempt to restrict abortion are more free. If not, then such states are less free. I think that the latter is the case, because fetuses are only potential human beings, not actual human beings.
So when conservatives start talking about how the "red states" are not just freer in economic terms, but in terms of personal freedom, remember the qualifications stated in this report. The odds are good that someone is pulling a fast one -- or being duped into helping someone else do the same.
I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm in substantial agreement with the abstract:
In anticipation of pandemics and other mass disasters, several states have enacted little-known laws that authorize government officials to order health care professionals to work during declared public health emergencies, even when doing so would pose life-threatening risks. Health care professionals who violate these orders could face substantial penalties, ranging from license revocations to fines and imprisonment. The penalties would apply even to individuals whose jobs do not normally involve clinical responsibilities, as well as to health care professionals who are retired or taking time off from work to care for their families. This Article argues that these laws impose burdens that exceed the ethical commitments individuals make when they accept a professional license. In so doing, they compel health care professionals to engage in what is normally considered supererogatory behavior -- i.e., acts that are commendable if done voluntarily, but that go beyond what is expected.
In making this argument, the Article rejects commonly-made assertions about health care professionals' ethical obligations, including the claim that health care professionals assumed the risk of infection; that a social contract requires health care professionals to work despite potential health risks; and that individuals who have urgently-needed skills have an obligation to use them. It concludes that, while health care professionals can legitimately be sanctioned for violating voluntarily-assumed employment or contractual agreements, they should not be compelled to assume life-threatening risks based solely on their status as licensed professionals. In place of singling out health care professionals for punitive measures, the Article argues that policy-makers should institute mechanisms to promote volunteerism.
1) I'm encouraged that there's a recognition that there is no such thing as a duty to engage in suicidal self-sacrifice.
2) This shows what happens when the government is granted the power to license practitioners in any field, whether it be medicine, nursing, cosmetology, etc. The government can then claim, "We've granted you this privilege, now you have to pay for it by performing additional duty on our terms rather than your own".
By firstname.lastname@example.org (Edward Cline) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog
I have emphasized in the past why the Republicans and conservatives are becoming irrelevant, chiefly because they dare not challenge the political philosophy and political agenda of the Democrats, for the philosophy and agenda are fundamentally their own, as well, but in watered-down form. In morality, it is altruism; in politics, collectivism. The Democrats brazenly advocate socialism (under the euphemism of “progressivism”), fascism in various newly-instituted government-business “partnerships,” and involuntary servitude, and rush through Congress bailouts, more controls, and expropriating legislation. The Republicans clamor that such tactics will not work and will lead to collapse and disaster. Their solution, under the cloak of moderation, is to creep up on the same things using different labels, and then they will work.
The Democrats, being consistent pragmatists, claim neither omnipotence nor omniscience; they simply hope their policies and actions will work. They have often said so. They are the “brave” pragmatists. The Republicans and conservatives do not challenge the Democrats on that score; instead, they protest the policies of the Democrats on the issues of speed and scale. They are the “moderate” pragmatists. Individual rights, capitalism, freedom of speech -- these issues do not exist in either camp.
In his May 2 article “National Service: Now Bigger than Ever,” Carl Horowitz questions, for example, the speed and scale of the AmeriCorps volunteer service legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on April 21. He does not question the idea that young Americans ought to serve.
“Who could argue with so noble an idea as ’national service’? On the surface, the idea is irresistible.”
Who could? Individuals who value their freedom would find the idea not only iniquitous, but ignoble, and condemn it as slavery. Horowitz, however, questions only the cost and scope of the bill and suspects that Obama and the Democrats are preparing the way for compulsory national service, with which he is uncomfortable.
“Underlying such noble intentions…is the reality that the track record of service programs has been less than stellar. And more problematic, ‘voluntary’ service, as supporters themselves have admitted over the years in unguarded moments, contains more than a whiff of compulsion. That’s why, if fully realized, national service programs would capture an enormous portion of the entry-level labor market and, worse, militarize our national identity.”
Yes, that might happen. He does not understand that, to the Obamacrats and their allies in and out of Congress, the term “compulsion” is synonymous with “obligation” vis-à-vis “giving back,” the latter being their preferred term. The mental gymnastics of collectivists does not view paying a “debt” to society as a matter of force or extortion. “Society” is the master unit, the individual its indebted but often ungrateful servant. After all, runs the patter, if it were not for the existence of society, where would the individual be? Society makes his life tolerable and comfortable; it is only fair that he “give back” something.
The bill signed by Obama is the Senate version, called the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The House version was called the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (GIVE). I leave to the reader to decide which name is more objectionable.
“…The law would more than triple the number of available AmeriCorps volunteer slots from the current 75,000 to 250,000 by fiscal year 2017, with 50 percent or more of these positions eventually being full time. The measure would also tie college tuition aid to demonstrated favorable community impacts….”
Horowitz discusses throughout his article the history of “volunteerism” and asserts that the trend towards federally mandated compulsion is impractical, and cites the “volunteerism” possible through private programs as being more effective and practical. He concludes:
“…The line between service and servility is often blurred. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act would blur it further.”
He does not see that the blurring is intentional. People drilled all throughout their lives that “service” is their natural duty will not regard it as servitude. The advocates of compulsory service understand this, if he does not.
There was the War on Poverty, followed by wars on smoking, obesity, salt-consumption, ability, ageism, sexism, homophobia, and “harmful“ speech and whatever else the social engineers frowned upon. In the course of reprising the political history of “volunteerism” in this country, including the Peace Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the role of the Clinton-inspired Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Horowitz at least credits the intellectual inspiration for these fascist programs: American philosopher William James (1842-1910) and his seminal essay, published in 1910, “The Moral Equivalent of War” (adapted from his 1906 address at Stanford University).
James, a pragmatist with strong subjectivist, religious and deterministic elements in his world view, argues that, lacking a cause, such as war, that would unify a nation and instill it with altruist vigor, a policy of civilian conscription should be implemented. Without such a program, he argues, a nation cannot help but grow soft, degenerate, and distracted by materialism. James could be deemed the father of American fascism.
The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia offers a general description of National Socialism, or Nazism.
“It had its roots in the tradition of Prussian militarism and discipline and German Romanticism, which celebrated a mythic past and proclaimed the rights of the exceptional individual over all rules and laws. Its ideology was shaped by Hitler’s beliefs in German superiority and the dangers of communism and need for an enemy.”*
James advocated compulsory servitude -- but to oppose what enemy? He also claimed that the nation needed an enemy to rouse its citizens from the spiritual laxness of industrial civilization. Men, he said, had a natural instinct for war. James was a pacifist and abhorred war. But at the same time he asserted that the fear of being conquered could unite citizens as nothing else could in terms of being imbued with the spirit of a “peaceful” common cause. If making war was in man’s nature, he asked, why not direct that instinct to more constructive purposes?
“If now -- and this is my idea -- there were, instead of military conscription, a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against Nature, the injustice would tend to be evened out, and numerous other goods to the commonwealth would remain blind as the luxurious classes now are blind, to man’s relations to the globe he lives on, and to the permanently sour and hard foundations of his higher life. To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clothes washing, and window washing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas. They would have paid their blood-tax….”
What injustices would be “evened out”? James mentions that the rich are rich through no credit of their own, and the poor are poor for no fault of their own. A nationalistic spirit would level everything out; the rich would not mind paying taxes to defeat an enemy; the poor would find a better purpose in life. James conceded, even in the early twentieth century, before the income tax and central banking were legislated in this country, that the country was on a path to socialism. What might help make it work would be to instill a militaristic, self-sacrificing ethic in Americans.
“All the qualities of a man acquire dignity when he knows that the service of the collectivity that owns him needs him. If proud of the collectivity, his own pride rises in proportion. No collectivity is like an army for nourishing such pride; but it has to be confessed that the only sentiment which the image of pacific cosmopolitan industrialism is capable of arousing in countless worthy breasts is shame at the idea of belonging to such a collectivity. It is obvious that the United States of America as they exist today impress a mind…as so much human blubber. Where is the sharpness and precipitousness, the contempt for life, whether one’s own or another’s? Where is the savage ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ the unconditional duty? Where is the conscription? Where is the blood-tax? Where is anything that one feels honored by belonging to?”
Substitute “race“ for “collectivity” and “Germany” for “the United States,” and one would discern little difference between James’s rhetoric and any one of Hitler’s public harangues to a rally of the Nazi converted. Remember that James uttered these words in 1906, when Hitler was just a “troubled teen“ and Mussolini was a twenty-something feeling his socialist oats. Indeed, as Leonard Peikoff points out, Mussolini credited James with much of his corporatist/fascist ideology. (The ultimate credit, as Peikoff points out in The Ominous Parallels, goes to Immanuel Kant and G.F. Hegel.) James wrote glowingly of what he considered to be adult sobriety:
“Martial virtues must be the enduring cement; intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command, must still remain the rock upon which states are built….”
These are some of the “healthier sympathies” and “soberer ideas” already being taught in American schools and absorbed by countless children, who have always been treated as the “rock” upon which statism is built.
James’s proposal is as far from the animating ideas of the Founders as one can go without falling off the edge of comprehension. And his notion of waging war against “nature” has been substituted with waging war against man himself. As Jon Roland of the Constitution Society notes in his introduction to James’s essay:
“This concept is regarded by some as the origin of the idea of organized national service. The line of descent can be traced directly from this address to the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, to the Peace Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps. Though some phrases grate upon modern ears, particularly the assumption that only males can perform such service, several racially-biased comments, and the now discredited notion that ‘nature’ should be treated as an enemy, it still sounds a rallying cry for services in the interests of the individual and the nation….The solution to the problem remains an open question, now that ‘nature’ is not to be regarded as an ‘enemy.’ The real ‘enemy’ is our own darker human nature….”
The “green revolution” and the anti-industrial movement have supplanted James’s “warfare against nature,” which means warfare against man. To the pragmatist open to the vociferous moral proposals of others (so long as they “work“), reason and reality can be dismissed as the subjectivist leanings of others and disregarded. Man is destroying the planet, those others claim, so something must be done about it, even if that means compulsion. For example, the Democrats would rather not hear the testimony of Britain’s Lord Christopher Monckton which would have shredded former Vice President Al Gore’s assertions about man-caused climate change in his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and retracted the invitation to Monckton to appear with Gore before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
This was more than just politicians wishing to save Gore the “climate authority” the humiliation of being trounced in a debate about climate change by a genuine scientist and consequently creating doubt about the efficacy of environmentalist legislation. If they do not hear the truth, then it can’t be real and can be ignored. (Recall Mr. Thompson’s first response after hearing Galt’s speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged -- “It wasn’t real, was it?”) Monckton has his assertions, the politicians have theirs, they think, but the politicians’ assertions carry more weight because they have the power and the guns and dubious opinion polls and a pliable news media, and all that comprises the “truth.” Reality is what the political elite make it. They are willing to bet the lives, fortunes and property of Americans on it.
While he is only the latest in a line of presidents and politicians who have advocated national service, Barack Obama wants to enact his own version of a “blood-tax.”
“…We need to create opportunities to serve. I’ll ask more young people to serve in uniform and expand the size of our military. And I’ll increase AmeriCorps -- our network of local, state and national service programs -- from 75,000 slots to 250,000.…That service should be directed toward pressing national challenges. We need more Americans to teach and an Energy Corps to help develop renewable and efficient energy….We need to invest in grass-roots ideas, because the ‘next great innovation’ usually doesn’t come from government [Never, in fact, but from unconquered minds and the freedom to act]. So I’ll create a Social Investment Fund Network and bring together faith-based organizations and foundations to expand successful programs across the country….We need to integrate service into education. We should help schools develop service programs outside the classroom….”
So, instead of being sent to coal and iron mines and the frames of skyscrapers, young Americans will be sent to assemble solar panels and windmills and hybrid plug-in cars, in addition to mentoring children of the poor and cleaning up public spaces and keeping the elderly company -- many of them lured by the carrot of college tuition, others by the prospect of wielding the stick themselves. Instead of adopting James’s bombastic “manly virtues,” Americans will be expected to become humble servants of society and believers in causes “higher than themselves,” especially the one that demands that restitution and reparations be paid to a despoiled planet. And if not enough Americans “volunteer” to serve, they can be made to. Obama’s and the Democrats’ “blood-tax” can take two forms: direct conscription, or a special tax on the recalcitrant and the non-volunteers to fund the $5.7 billion national service price tag of the bill Obama signed.
This also means drafting business and industry into the “army” by, among other measures, restricting CEO pay, taxing “unpatriotic“ offshore wealth, strong-arming solvent banks into participating in inflationary and risky “recovery” programs, and regulating industries and power companies to reduce “greenhouse” emissions. William James would be impressed. A whole nation has been put on a war footing -- to commit suicide.
Commenting on why Americans fell for the pragmatists’ assurances that they offered a way to live on earth, Leonard Peikoff observed that:
“…Americans…believed that they were joining a battle to advance their essential view of reality and of life. They did not know that they were being marched in the opposite direction, that the battle had been calculated for a diametrically opposite purpose, or that the enemy they were being pushed to destroy was: themselves.”**
The task before the advocates of reason and individual rights is to inform Americans and our political leaders in no uncertain terms that a volte-face is needed, beginning with the repeal of the administration’s blood-tax, before the destruction is too advanced to stop.
*See Chapter 3: Hitler’s War Against Reason, and Chapter 6: Kant Versus America, in Leonard Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (Stein & Day, 1982) for a more thorough discussion of James’s contribution to the philosophical and political underpinnings of American statism. **Op. cit. Chapter 6: Kant Versus America, pp. 137-138.
By Roberto 'Tito' Sarrionandia from Tito's Blog,cross-posted by MetaBlog
I had my poll card through the other day, meaning I can vote in the upcoming European Parliamentary election.
Earlier in the year I said I would vote for the UK Independence Party. I've now decided that is not rational.
All changes in government must begin as changes in philosophy. Before we can even think about taking to the ballot box, we must have our ideas widely accepted. Nobody should expect miracles at election time - which is precisely why Libertarians are always going to be unsuccessful.
The attitude to take at the ballot box right now is the lesser of evils approach. Not because you endorse a candidate, but because you wish to minimise the amount of damage that will be done to you.
However - this is no ordinary ballot box. This is the ballot box of a great talking shop. A worthless, irrelevant charade of a parliament. Ultimately powerless and in no way at the helm of anything. When you vote for a candidate in the European election, you are not awarding him real power - you are simply providing him with an (albeit small) platform. The UK Independence Party might have minimised the impact of the political machine on my life, had they been standing for a position of actual influence, but they are not. All electing them will do is provide them with a platform, and from this platform they will advocate ideas that are not mine.
The whole affair is a horrible mess. The outcome is lose/lose, with no potential to minimise personal damage. I withdraw my sanction from this scam election - I won't vote.
Maybe, at least, I will get to chuckle when the chatting classes inevitably complain about "voter apathy."
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
Voting with Their Feet
Before noting that Houston's leaders are working to kill the goose that lays its golden eggs, Brian Phillips cites a very interesting statistic:
When comparing California with Texas,U-Haul says it all. To rent a 26-foot truck one way from San Francisco to Austin, the charge is $3,236, and yet the one-way charge for that same truck from Austin to San Francisco is just $399. Clearly what is happening is that far more people want to move from San Francisco to Austin than vice versa, so U-Haul has to pay its own employees to drive the empty trucks back from Texas.
Our elected leaders enact policies -- obviously demanded by the body politic -- that destroy prosperity and yet people who have to live under such policies find that they cannot -- and leave.
This reminds me of Cass Sunstein.
This difference between the altruistic morality that people profess (and attempt to make others abide by through law) and the selfish one they actually live by (if with imperfect consistency), lends surface credibility to Sunstein's Platonic notion (summarized by Doug Reich) that:
Sunstein relies on a distinction between what he calls the "consumer" and "the citizen" arguing that our behavior as consumers differs from our behavior as "citizens". In other words, as "consumers" we act selfishly and might indulge in the inane mindlessness of "infotainment" or "sports" news whereas when we act as "citizens" we adopt the high minded aspirations of the thinker busily considering such monumental topics as "environmental protection" or "antidiscrimination". Note the Platonic separation of the world into a sort of "imperfect" realm of immediate, brute reality which we approach as a "consumer" and the higher, idealized realm of "the citizen"...
Of course, Sunstein disdains selfishness, and so focuses on things like "infotainment." As an altruist, he sees nothing wrong with this state of affairs. As a pragmatist and collectivist, he wants to use this to promote a state that forces people to act more in line with how they should, according to altruism. And as a determinist, he thinks the state has to do this.
At the end of his post, Reich points to web site focused on stopping Sunstein from being confirmed as Obama's "Regulatory Czar." And that may not be the only post we have to be concerned about. Sunstein's name is already appearing on "short lists" of possible replacements for David Souter, who recently announced plans to retire from the Supreme Court.
From several sources I am reading ominous reports of thuggery by the current administration on behalf of its efforts to "fix" our economy. Via Amit Ghate is a link to blog post that reproduces the following unsubstantiated story about an encounter between the "Car Czar" and the manager of a hedge fund owning some Chrysler debt:
Who the fuck do you think you're dealing with? We'll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.
Sadly, Respice Finem also produces ample documented accounts that collectively make the point that such an encounter is well within the realm of possibility.
A leading bankruptcy attorney representing hedge funds and money managers told ABC News Saturday that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's Auto Industry Task Force, threatened one of the firms, an investment bank, that if it continued to oppose the administration's Chrysler bankruptcy plan, the White House would use the White House press corps to destroy its reputation.
The White House and a spokesperson for the investment bank in question challenged the accuracy of the story.
Tapper is a senior White House correspondent for ABC News.
As Amit Ghate puts it, "I strongly suggest you make your voice heard before it's no longer possible."
Some of [these cartoons] are more wry observations, some laugh-out-loud funny. We all know a Caspar Milquetoast. Sometimes Webster used subtlety, as in the drawing where the census taker asks, "Are you the head of the household?" Caspar's sidelong glance at his wife tells us all we need to know.
Dianne Durante has set up a blog which she describes as a "trial run for a website I'd like to produce that would offer short essays on major events in American history, with suggested readings from Ayn Rand and Objectivist scholars." It's called Past - Present - Principles and she's looking for advertisers. You can also find Past - Present - Principles linked from Forgotten Delights, as well.
By Paul Hsieh from NoodleFood,cross-posted by MetaBlog
The April 30, 2009 National Review Online published an excellent article on banker John Allison (former CEO of BB&T Bank), including an extended discussion on how his success in business was a consequence of following Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.
...The fact that BB&T didn't dive head-first into the shallow pool of subprime mortgages certainly goes a long way toward explaining the relative health of BB&T as an institution. But how was BB&T able to resist chasing after all that new mortgage money?
The answer is simple: Subprime mortgages were bad for the people who took them out. That went against BB&T's philosophy -- not for reasons of altruism but because it would have been poor strategy. "We're obviously a for-profit company, but we don't think that it's good business in the long term to do bad things to your clients, even if you make a profit doing it," Allison said. "So we chose not to do negative-amortization mortgages because we knew it was going to get a lot of people in financial trouble."
In retrospect, the wisdom of this approach might seem obvious. However, Allison navigated through the overheated mortgage market and the ensuing banking crisis by relying, in large part, on a philosophy that many others are now turning to: "I got interested in [Ayn] Rand in the late 1960s. I read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. I had already been interested in economics, and as I finished college, I got interested in finance. I saw the banking system as central to a capitalist economy."
Allison understands the tie between abstract philosophy and real-world business success:
..."A lot of people miss the fact that Rand has a very strong ethical system," he observes. "Rand says you can derive ethics from reality. If anything, Rand is more rigorous in her ethical system than most codes are. If you’re dishonest, you are disconnected from reality, and that has consequences."
However, simply because Rand doesn't endorse altruism for altruism's sake, many people misconstrue her to be amorally selfish. Rand "doesn't view ethics as self-sacrificial," Allison says, "she views ethics as a rational means to success and happiness. If you described her in principle, she would say that you shouldn't take advantage of other people because that is unethical behavior and self-defeating. But you also shouldn't self-sacrifice. What you really need to do is run your life in relationship to other people in context to what she calls the trader principle. The trader principle is about what I call creating win-win relationships. We trade value for value and we get better together, and we find these common grounds where we can get better together."
If that can be said to be BB&T's guiding principle, the empirical evidence would suggest that the bank's customers and shareholders are better off for it. In fact, it was misguided altruism that got us into the current financial crisis, and Allison has no problem identifying whose economic philosophy was flawed. "I think that government policy is the primary cause" of the financial crisis, he says. "Government policy set up the problems we have in the real-estate market, and it is the Big Kahuna in the room."
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
House Votes to Criminalize Opinion
Through this blog entry linked at The Houston Chronicle, I learned that the House was considering HR 1913, a "hate crime" bill. The writer at The Black Shards Chroniclemakes an argument against the very concept very much like one I made a few years ago in The Undercurrent. As I said then:
Punishing someone for his beliefs in addition to his actual crime is, in fact, exactly the opposite of what the government should be doing. For example, if someone gets ten years for a crime and has two more added on because he is "guilty" of a "hate crime," he's being jailed two years for his ideas by the government.
As of this morning, the bill has passed. I am not sure whether WorldNetDaily is correct that a minister can now be prosecuted under this bill, "should their teachings be linked to any subsequent offense," but it certainly paves the way for it. (Proper laws -- against actual incitement -- are already on the books, just as they are for assault, rape, and murder.)
Also, as I noted then, the conservative movement is hardly opposing this latest assault on freedom:
A 2007 Hart Research poll shows large majorities of every major subgroup of the American electorate -- including such traditionally conservative groups as Republican men and evangelical Christians -- expressing support for strengthening hate crimes laws.
The headline? "Log Cabin Republicans applauds passage of hate crimes prevention."
Last week, Rational Jenn hosted. This week, it will be is at Stephen Bourque's blog, One Reality.
Drat! Gotta make that submission deadline next time!
Additional note to self: Watch this video. Leonard Nimoy and hobbits! How can I lose? My wife will probably like it, too.
Handouts against Handouts!
Paul Hsieh notes that printouts of the PDF version of "Health Care is Not a Right" would make excellent handouts to have on hand for the next round of Tea Party protests and tells you how to get the PDF.
But saying that a woman who clearly has put in quite a lot of effort is "ugly"? To me, this is frankly disturbing. The ramifications of a statement like that are incredible, particularly when it is made in front of another woman as a sort of compliment, which is how I hear this most often. Even if I ascribe the best of intent to the man making the statement--he is saying this particular woman is not his type--it implies an ugly comparative standard. He is saying to the other woman present that she should be pleased because he is elevating HER appearance above that of this other, idolized woman. I'm sorry, but no rational person wants to be valued only because they're BETTER THAN someone else. They want to be valued because they are good by an objective standard. [bold added]
By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog
I was at the airport looking for a newspaper when I saw the headlines about GM's nationalization "deal." I immediately muttered something like, "I'll never buy anything from GM again."
Not that I was planning to do so, anyway.
Myrhaf and Billy Beck have already discussed the matter, with Beck specifically catching another blogger framing the event in a way I have seen before, but in another context. (More on that momentarily.)
After quoting TigerHawk referring to the government takeover as an "experiment," Beck weighs in:
I understand the man's sense of humor and its well-earned reputation 'sphere-wide. I would point out that this could only be considered an "experiment" in the style of fourth-grade baking soda and vinegar volcanoes in custard dishes. In other words, all grown-ups know what's going to happen here. The fact that it's unprecedented doesn't mean that it can't be seen coming... [bold added]
This is very succinctly put, although with the reign of confusion that permeates much conservative discourse, I am almost as loathe to speak of "grown-ups" as I am to call this foolishness an "experiment."
Regarding the GM "experiment," TigerHawk notes that its "lessons" will be applicable to the subject of socialized medicine. A commenter -- assuming, perhaps rhetorically, that evidence actually matters to advocates of socialized medicine -- notes that this "test" is happening too late in the game. Be that as it may, TigerHawk has a point: This maneuver will fail for the same reason that any government takeover of medicine will fail.
That's all fair and good, but this analogy very closely resembles a mistake I see time and time again by conservatives and libertarians: Treating public policy debates as if they exist outside the realm of ideology.
One prime example of this I saw awhile back when Arnold Kling proposed what I could only call, "Libertarian medical experiments," proposing in all seriousness that "four or five diverse states adopt" socialized medicine on an experimental basis for some sort of standardized comparison to other states a few years down the line.
Just a few issues: Whose standards would be used? Will four or five other states get government completely out of medicine as a control? The latter never comes up. Most important, by what right can people be compelled to participate? That also never comes up. If Arnold Kling can dislike socialized medicine, and yet end up proposing its liberty-crushing and life-threatening adoption in several states, it is precisely because he foolishly sees freedom as uncontroversial and in no need of an intellectual or moral defense. This attitude is reflected in his willingness to treat individual human beings as laboratory animals.
Another example comes from a favorite columnist of mine, Thomas Sowell, who makes this same error across the board when he speaks of "adolescent intellectuals." As I said then:
[Sowell's] error is a common one, in which he treats an implicitly rational, reality-oriented philosophical outlook as a given, rather than as an implicit example of just another possible ideology. My last would doubtless strike many, probably including Sowell himself, as moral relativism at first blush, but it is not. For if the rational, "adult" ideology that Sowell implicitly favors can be judged as an ideology, so must all other ideologies be examined under the cold light of reason, and compared against the facts of reality, which include the requirements for man's survival.
It is easy, but wrong, to hold all intellectuals in such disdain, for to do so is to cede the deadly premise that so many of them have that a rational philosophy is not worthy of consideration in the marketplace of ideas, that ideology is somehow the one realm of human endeavor that is exempt from reason. Indeed, it allows them to go on pretending this is the case. Worse, it allows them to continue their attack against rational morality openly and unashamedly, while doing real damage to our civilization. [bold added]
It is fine, but not enough, to liken the GM "experiment" to a middle school demo whose results are pre-ordained, but the comparison should go further than that. It's as if we're in a classroom with a sadistic instructor who knows that dropping water into concentrated acid will cause it to spatter -- or that elemental sodium dropped into a beaker of water can cause a glass-shattering explosion-- and yet he forces the whole class to perform these experiments again and again.
If your child were in such a school, you would withdraw him immediately, and would have no doubt that the "instructor" was a moral monster. And yet our public has no such qualms about government officials who play similar games with our freedom, our finances, and our lives.
This analogy partially breaks down when you remember that, we, the public, are both parent and child. Nevertheless, if you go just a bit further, and ask why so many "parents" are still willing to send their kids to such a "school", you will begin to see why -- if you don't already -- the battle for freedom is a moral one, and why massive cultural change must precede any lasting or significant political change.
Any parent who would permit his child to suffer such "instruction" would have to be very ignorant at best or in agreement that the such a method of instruction is acceptable. Unfortuanately, we who disagree with such parents live in the same republic, and can currently be compelled to live with many of their foolish choices. The only solution is to work to help as many of the mistaken partents see what is wrong, and to win allies in the fight to sack the sadists in charge.
By Paul Hsieh from NoodleFood,cross-posted by MetaBlog
In anticipation of the nationwide April 15 Tea Parties, FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine) offered free copies of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's "Health Care is Not a Right" brochures to Objectivists to distribute at their local Tea Parties. Based on feedback from around the country, these were popular items.
I've since received multiple requests for more brochures, but unfortunately I've given them all away.
However, Tod (the original designer of the brochure) has created a nicely-formatted PDF version of Dr. Peikoff's essay. Now anyone can download and print out copies to give out at future Tea Parties, community events, etc.
The link to this version, as well as to other OpEds and essays can be found at the main FIRM webpage.
By Don Watkins from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
The Supreme Court Abets the FCC’s War on Free Speech
Washington, D.C., April 28, 2009--Today the Supreme Court ruled in FCC v. Fox that the FCC can continue to fine broadcasters for “fleeting expletives.” According to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights:
“The Court failed to address the basic constitutional question in this case: are the non-objective ‘indecency’ laws that permit the FCC to dictate what Americans can say and hear on the airwaves consistent with the right to free speech? The answer to that is: absolutely not.
“The Supreme Court has defined ‘indecency’ as speech that ‘depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities and organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.’ But which Americans count as part of the community? Why are they king? And how are broadcasters to divine the community’s supposedly shared standards?
“As the history of the government’s anti-indecency regime has shown, these questions are unanswerable. The only way for broadcasters to play it safe is to engage in self-censorship, cutting any material regulators might declare indecent.
“And once the government becomes the enforcer of ‘community standards,’ no speech is safe. How long until the courts start rubber-stamping the Bible Belt’s efforts to suppress the theory of evolution on the grounds that it many find it offensive, or that it supposedly corrupts young minds and undermines community values?
“The government must stop telling Americans what we can say and hear on the airwaves. Sadly, the Supreme Court failed to take this opportunity to protect our constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech.”
By Alex Epstein from The Ayn Rand Institute Media Releases,cross-posted by MetaBlog
CO2 Restrictions Threaten Human Life
Washington, D.C., April 30, 2009--The Environmental Protection Agency’s “finding” that carbon dioxide emissions endanger “the health and welfare of current and future generations” is absurd, said Alex Epstein, analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. According to Mr. Epstein, the real danger to Americans’ “health and welfare” is policies designed to fight global warming by throttling energy sources that emit CO2.
“Carbon energy has been and remains vital to the industrial society that has doubled human life-expectancies, and, among a million other benefits, enables us to cope with all manner of changes in climate.
“Right now,” Mr. Epstein pointed out, “carbon-based sources of energy produce the most, cheapest energy, period—while sunshine and wind gusts, despite decades of subsidies and propaganda, produce an expensive 1 percent of our energy.
“If scientists and entrepreneurs can discover and implement superior sources that happen not to emit CO2, at better prices than today’s energy sources, great. But whether that happens or not, we need to recognize that our ‘health and welfare’ depend on free markets producing industrial-scale energy above all else—and that anyone who tries to shut down life-giving coal plants and oil rigs, in the name of avoiding bad weather, is an enemy of humanity.”
By email@example.com (Edward Cline) from The Rule of Reason,cross-posted by MetaBlog
It must be an uncontrollable compulsion in conservatives that in almost any discussion of the role of government, they cannot help taking a swipe at novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, denying that she was much of a novelist or even a philosopher, and devoting at least a few derogatory words to her and her novels, if not launching into a nearly frenzied tirade characterized by ad hominem charges against her and sneers at her work. Three of her most notorious American detractors were Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Granville Hicks, the latter a Marxist-cum-“humanist” editor, novelist and book critic. Since their scurrilous reviews were published decades ago, Rand-bashing has become a kind of fraternity initiation ritual for Right and Left alike.
Speculation on the root causes of the compulsion can range from envy for the sales of her books, which far outstrip the sales of anything ever written by any conservative, to moral opposition to her philosophy of selfishness and individualism, which they abhor, to a fear that she is and has been right about everything she ever wrote and spoke about, a fear and hatred hidden behind a mask of occasional dispassionate criticism.
Of her novels, Atlas Shrugged has drawn the largest dose of their venom, and that dosage has grown larger ever since the outset of the financial debacle last fall. Newspapers and other periodicals have noted, with a degree of objectivity and respect never granted to the novel in the past by the Left or Right, the parallels between the events in the novel and events in reality, which have helped to spur sales of the novel. No novel ever written by a member of the Right or Left has proven to be so prophetic in its essentials and even in some of its concretes.
Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, however, cautioned in an interview that Atlas Shrugged should not be seen exclusively as a prophetic playbook of how to cause economic disasters:
“Many of these commentators seem to view Atlas Shrugged as a novel that’s primarily about politics and economics. The main issue…and which we feel is extremely important to address…is that the origins of the crisis in Atlas Shrugged and the origins of today’s crisis are much deeper than that. They result from the prevailing morality of the culture, of which political systems are an extension. In Atlas Shrugged the political system is crumbling because of the morality of altruism, and that is also the root source of our current crisis. So Rand is relevant, and she’s relevant on a level far more fundamental than politics and economics.”
Historically, on a moral and political level, the Left has objected to her philosophy because it claimed the individual owes his existence to society or the state and so should not be free to act against it, while the Right claimed that the individual owes his existence to God and society, so his mind should not be free to question either. Over the last few decades, Left and Right have been converging to the same points of agreement: that the individual owes his existence to the state or society (God’s role being optional) and should not be free at all.
Rand herself marked the malaise of conservatism in 1962 in her essay, “Conservatism: An Obituary.” Identifying why conservatism was finished as a distinct political ideology and political force, she wrote:
“If the ‘conservatives’ do not stand for capitalism, they stand for and are nothing; they have no goal, no direction, no political principles, no social ideals, no intellectual values, no leadership to offer anyone. Yet capitalism is what the ‘conservatives’ dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: altruism.”*
The compulsion can be explained. They must attack Rand because her philosophy contradicts and refutes their core premises and assumptions. Atlas Shrugged demonstrates and dramatizes the moral and practical consequences of those premises and assumptions. It is not merely a matter of details. As Rand once put it, it is a matter of philosophical nuclear warfare. Conservatives cannot hide their recognition that Rand’s is not merely a rival philosophy; it is their chief, mortal enemy. In the meantime, the “atheistic” Left is their principal ally, today aggressively applying the collectivist and altruist principles which it shares with the Right.
A critic does not, as a rule, devote thousands of words and his best verbal pyrotechnics to dismissing a novel which he asserts in the beginning of a review should not be taken seriously. Granville Hicks (1901-1982) and Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961), however, did take Atlas Shrugged seriously when it appeared in 1957, not because they placed any personal importance on it, but because they feared with quivering, incensed certainty that it would be taken seriously and earn, over time, an esteemed place in the culture (which it has achieved). Their reviews of the novel were essentially flippant and snarling pleas to the reading public to ignore the novel. They protested too much the novel’s supposed insignificance.
Hicks, once an associate editor for the publisher that debuted Rand’s first novel, We the Living, but who fought against it, resigned from the Communist Party in 1939 over the Nazi-Soviet Warsaw “non-aggression” Pact.** Chambers, who was a courier between the Soviets and several Communists working in various federal bureaucracies, left the Party in 1937 or 1938 over the Soviet purge trials, and also because he did not want to risk being summoned to Moscow only to be “purged” from existence for having supposedly “ratted” on fellow American Communist agents in the U.S. He went into hiding, joined the staff of Time Magazine, and eventually became a conservative.
But a putative renunciation of communism (or of any other collectivist ideology) does not necessarily trigger an automatic recognition of the efficacy of reason and a concomitant endorsement of egoism, individual rights, and capitalism. Nor does it guarantee the acquisition of a better set of literary standards or values. Both Hicks and Chambers are cases in point. After “repudiating” communism, they remained hard-core collectivists to their dying days – Chambers would today probably be a “big-government” neoconservative – hostile to and consistently deprecatory of any degree of political and economic liberty, in fiction or in fact.
As for Buckley (1925-2008), I will simply repeat here some remarks from my March, 2008 obituary notice on the occasion of his death in February that year, “The Philosophic Postmortem of William F. Buckley, Jr.” He uttered and wrote numerous vicious comments about Rand over the years, but showcased conservative-convert Whittaker Chambers’ review of Atlas Shrugged in the National Review, Chambers acting as his proxy critic. On his role in serving as a moral guide for the morally bankrupt Republican Party, I noted:
“Buckley saved their necks and provided them with a ‘system’ of ideas they could feel at home with. He persuaded a spent and ideologically rudderless conservative movement to base its political philosophy on religion, altruism, and self-sacrifice as an alternative to the ‘atheistic’ liberal welfare state of society, altruism and self-sacrifice. Individual rights were nothing to him if not ‘God-given.’ He was as much an enemy of freedom – and of freedom of speech – as any holy-roller Democrat. Fundamentally, there is no difference between the policies advocated by ‘atheistic’ or secular collectivists and ‘religious’ ones. Buckley never seriously challenged the ‘status quo’ of controls, deficit spending, or the regulation of business and industry. He was one of the original advocates of volunteerism or mandatory public service.”
Sound familiar? Are these not points on which Republicans and Obamacrats agree? As for Buckley’s style and tone, I observed:
"Learned, glibly articulate with a penchant for obscure words and noted for a complex, obfuscating verbosity nearly as convoluted as Immanuel Kant’s, master of sardonic humor, often self-deprecatory, Buckley was the Ellsworth Toohey of the Right."
There is little irony in the fact that Atlas Shrugged was reviewed in two publications ostensibly on opposite ends of the political spectrum, the left-liberal The New York Times and the religious-right National Review. Both publications were then, and still are, united in their opposition to laissez-faire capitalism, individual rights, and man the individual with no duty or obligation to “serve society.” Although their political affiliations are hardly irrelevant, they are not the subject here. In the long run, it is the evaluations by Chambers, Hicks and Buckley of Atlas Shrugged that have been proven to be not only wrong, but themselves insignificant and futile.
As proof of how Left and Right are merging into a single, mongrelized enemy of capitalism and individual rights, Family Security Matters (FSM), a conservative Internet site, on April 23 ran a long article on the financial crisis by William R. Hawkins, who is billed as “a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues.” In his article, “Conservatism After the Tea Parties,“ Hawkins decries the Tea Parties of April 15 and expresses anger that they have been largely governed by the political thought of “libertarians” such as Rand. The problem, he claims, is not “big government,” but “big government” that has not behaved responsibly. And the protesters should not have sported signs and placards that cited Ayn Rand. Rather, he claims, these protesters should look to arch-conservative Russell Kirk and economist Milton Friedman for moral and economic guidance.
About the April 15 Tea Parties, Hawkins writes:
“More precise thought needs to be given to what the protests are about if effective reform is to result. The cry cannot simply be to oppose ‘government’ per se. In a major financial crisis like the current one, when comparisons to the Great Depression are not unwarranted, it is the responsibility of the Federal authorities to take action to stabilize the economy and lay the groundwork for recovery.”
Is this not what the Obama administration is attempting to do now? And why should it be the responsibility of the Federal authorities to have any role in the crisis? Is it not the government’s regulation of private sector banking and financial actions that was and continues to be the cause of the crisis? And is not “reform” of the economy along socialist/fascist lines what is on the administration’s agenda? Hawkins does not address these issues, except to endorse government action. By way of an authoritative sanction of government interventionist policies, he cites Milton Friedman, in his words, “the guru of modern capitalist ideology and foe of socialism.”
“Milton Friedman…laid out this responsibility in his monumental A Monetary History of the United States. He makes the now standard interpretation of what made the ‘great contraction’ so severe. During the years 1930-33, a wave of bank failures reduced the money supply by a third. Federal authorities did not take action on the scale needed to counteract the impact of the financial collapse on the real economy. No advocate of Big Government, Friedman could nevertheless declare this earlier dilatory attitude ‘confused and misguided.’”
Significantly, Hawkins states that Federal Reserve Board chairman, Bernard Bernanke, “is a student of Friedman, and his decision to buy $1.2 trillion of government bonds and mortgage-related securities last month makes more sense than trying to rebuild a financial system crippled with $2.7 trillion in toxic assets (according to the IMF) with tax money.” Echoing the assurances of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others in the administration, Hawkins agrees with their conclusions:
“These losses are too large to replace with fiscal measures, and the public is rightfully worried that to try would burden future taxpayers (and their children) with too much debt.”
How much debt is “too much”? Should there be any debt? Is there a feasible, non-coercive method to finance legitimate government functions -- that is, the courts, the military, and police -- that would not entail debt and economic interventionist policies and a wealth-redistributing welfare state? And will not the debt being rung up by the Obama administration be a burden for several generations of taxpayers, and not just future taxpayers and their children, provided the economy and country do not first collapse into anarchy and dictatorship because of that debt? Hawkins does not essay any suggestions on these issues. He sticks to the conservative line, and refuses to venture outside the boundaries of traditional conservative thought into the Uncharted Forest of reason.
More importantly, however, the article reveals that conservatives are afraid that men are realizing that Ayn Rand is fundamentally relevant to today’s political, moral and economic crises, and that they have grown irrelevant. The “transcendent order” of Russell Kirk (1918-1994), cited by Hawkins as a source of moral and political wisdom, was based “variously on tradition, divine revelation, or natural law,” but has made way for the “transcendent order” of the brute collectivism of the state, to which Americans are more and more expected to defer.
“What should really agitate the public is not the principle of government intervention to prevent an economic collapse, but how the politicians have seized the opportunity to spend huge sums on non-emergency, special interest programs.”
Where was Hawkins on April 15? The Tea Parties featured protests on a variety of issues, including Congress’s pork barrel projects, in addition to government intervention. And should anyone worried about the consequences of government interventionist policies discard the principle, and settle for just emoting against special interest programs?
Hawkins criticizes the $787 billion stimulus package, the Obama administration for exploiting the crisis to rush through social programs, the Republicans and Democrats for being corrupt, and “the very Wall Street entities whose blunders plunged the country into economic disaster.”
“These are the proper targets for outrage, not some formless chanting against ‘government’ per se. Such chanting is the nonsense of anarchists (known in polite circles as libertarians), not the wisdom of conservatives.”
And what is the wisdom of conservatives? It is the “dean of conservative thinking” Russell Kirk’s, which the reader may sample here, beginning with:
“….Conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”
So it is an anti-ideology, or a set of “sentiments” and non-ideas, or a “state of mind” which is supposed to animate anyone to try to dam the advancing, liberty-destroying lava of statism. Hawkins offers his conservative credentials in this outburst:
“The most alarming sign that the anarchists are trying to take over the Tea Party movement is the sudden revival of the amoral and anti-social screeds of the late and unlamented Ayn Rand. Her name has been bantered around far too often on talk radio and by Fox News commentators.”
Hawkins should wonder why her name is so frequently “bantered around,” and not Buckley’s or Russell Kirk’s. Perhaps it is because men are searching for answers and ideas, Rand has had them for decades, and answers and ideas are not to be found in conservatism. He should also learn that Rand was neither an anarchist nor a libertarian.
As if to underscore the religious, anti-reason color of conservatism, Hawkins manages to introduce Original Sin as an ingredient of the financial crisis:
“True conservatives know the character of Mankind is ’fallen’ and that there is a dark side to human nature to which bankers and fund managers are just as vulnerable as anyone else. Freedom without responsibility, and rights without duties, leads to license and wrong-doing.”
To which Presidents Bush, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Senator John McCain would say, “Amen.” Hawkins then descends into pure fantasy. He falls back on and endorses the assertions of Constitutional scholar Walter Berns.
“He warned that our modern problem is the retreat of government, not its growth. We have already instituted too much of a libertarian state, one ‘that does not get involved in censorship, in moral education….’”
This is Hawkins’ most bizarre statement. If a “libertarian” state is one of limited government whose powers are defined and delimited by the Constitution, how can he explain, as examples, court-upheld speech codes, restrictions on tobacco and pharmaceutical advertising, subsidies to banks and automakers, and the indoctrination of children in public schools in the guise of “moral education”? Where, exactly, is the government retreating, and not growing? What sector of the Twilight Zone has Hawkins emerged from?
Hawkins ends his article with more advice for the Tea Party movement:
“Hopefully, those attracted to the Tea Parties will follow the path of Kirk and not of Rand.”
Far be it from Hawkins to risk soiling his fingers by opening a copy of Atlas Shrugged to check on the spelling of names and the roles of the characters. So he misquotes another writer (of an April 20th Forbes article on the resurgence of interest in Rand) by describing Henry Rearden, the steel manufacturer and inventor of Rearden Metal, as Rand’s “most famous fictional character Hank Riordan.” Had he paid closer attention to the news coverage of the Tea Parties, he might have observed several protesters’ signs that read, “Who is John Galt?” and none that read, “Who is Hank Riordan?” He might have himself asked, “Who is John Galt?” but the connection between the name and the novel eluded him, because apparently he has never read that “amoral and anti-social screed.”
Conservatives were once noted, if not for their God-fearing rationalizations of why men should or should not be free, then for their fastidiousness concerning the facts and ideas they were attacking or twisting out of recognition. Now, in their desperate rush to de-emphasize the influence of Ayn Rand and her ideas, they are just growing sloppy. They are hurling spit balls at a photo of Rand pinned to a dartboard, but hitting only the wall around it.
Finally, I have gone to this length to rebut Hawkins because I have not encountered any better arguments by conservatives elsewhere; their common denominator is a congenital hostility to reason, Ayn Rand, and freedom. So this should serve as a blanket answer to any one or all of them. (Note: Appearance on the FSM site does not indicate endorsement of its overall political philosophy. FSM re-posts my commentaries at the peril of persuading its regular readers of the fallacies of conservative thought.)
*In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet softcover, 1967, pp. 193-201. **See Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004. Rand’s determination and confidence in the value of the novel allowed her to break through the “Red ceiling” of the New York publishing world in 1936. Richard Ralston’s essay on the novel’s publishing history is informative and illuminating.
By Roberto 'Tito' Sarrionandia from Tito's Blog,cross-posted by MetaBlog
BBC News Magazine, an online series of articles, has to be one of the best examples of bad writing in existence.
See, for example, this gem. The article doesn't make a single point, let alone maintain an argument. It simply throws together some quotes, quasi-relevant facts and rhetorical questions. The result is a reader who feels like he is dreaming, I actually feel slightly drunk reading it. The article just spoon feeds a lot of perceptual data without ever invoking the conceptual.
The magazine even takes this shallow, inhuman approach to serious subjects: such as sexual abuse.
In a way, this is symbolic of all modern trends. In journalism, all we ever experience is the perceptual, concepts are considered taboo or "biased" (see Burgess Laughlin's dissection of the term). In art we are shown smears and doodles, a canvas may well have lots of shapes to perceive, but overall there is no concept. In film, the more "high brow" productions are those that are complex on the perceptual level. The new release Watchmen takes this to the extreme, the plot and the characters are immensely complex, the viewer is expected to cram details to understand the movie - but on the conceptual level it flirts between non-existant and extremely simplistic.
The conceptual level is what makes a man. Art, literature, music, journalism and even science are all now so lacking in any conceptual substance, let alone conceptual innovation, that they have become unrecognisably sub human charades. The modern way of practising in such fields does not create intellectual nourishment, but rather an intellectual poison, destroying man's capacity and will to think.