Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Gus Van Horn blog

  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Gus Van Horn blog last won the day on May 15

Gus Van Horn blog had the most liked content!

1 Follower

About Gus Van Horn blog

  • Rank

Previous Fields

  • Country
    Not Specified
  • State (US/Canadian)
    Not Specified
  • Copyright

Recent Profile Visitors

13042 profile views
  1. A criminal, not a capitalist. (Image via Wikipedia.)Notable Commentary "[C]onservatives would do well to offer what Ocasio-Cortez can only pretend to: real concern for our problems, the freedom to find the best solutions, and a moral commitment to capitalism." -- Gus Van Horn, in "When They Reduce It to 'Cost,' Conservatives Lose Fight Against Socialism" at RealClear Markets. "Fortunately, there are organizations like the Institute of Justice working hard to reverse this trend of pointless and counterproductive licensing laws." -- Paul Hsieh, in "How Licensing Laws Harm Mothers, Infants, and Lactation Consultants" at Forbes. "The t-shirts that says, 'American Capitalist' on the front, with a target printed on the back ... was born after the Madoff scandal, when suddenly every American profit-seeking capitalist was assumed to be up to no good." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Jonathan Hoenig: Capitalist Pig, Ayn Rand Fan, Highly Successful Manager" (Interview, 2014) at ThinkAdvisor. "The currently-prevailing view of the dollar as money, has its own Medieval retrograde motion to explain." -- Keith Weiner, in "Monetary Consequence of Tariffs" at SNB & CHF. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. In "Democratic Socialism Is Totalitarian Slavery," a remarkable essay at Medium, S.G. Cheah builds an inductive and very readable case for capitalism and against socialism. I'll present two excerpts here, the first as an example of how she builds her case: Making everyone into slaves is ... a way ... to do away with slave markets. But I'd prefer doing away with slavery, thank you very much. (Image via Wikipedia.)It is important for people to learn the connection between property rights as being directly protected by liberty, and how this connection ensures life. To help picture this clearly, think of yourself as Robinson Crusoe. Or Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Or if you're talking to the very young, Matt Damon in The Martian. These fictional characters illustrate this bond between property and life. When these castaways were shipwrecked alone, the only choices presented to them is either to survive or to perish. In order to live, they will have to employ the use of their mind and direct their body to produce the necessary requirement of survival: shelter, water, food. Socialist Guilt Tripping A socialist will bring up the example: imagine if a year later, another castaway is stranded on the same patch of land as you. Don't you have the moral obligation to share your shelter, water and food with him? The answer to this is not "yes you're obligated morally to share" nor "no, you're not obligated morally to share", but rather, the correct answer is: "you shall decide". Why is "you shall decide" the right answer? It is because the shelter, water and food you've created is a product of your mind and body, which is an extension to your very life. The laws of survival which applies to you when you were first shipwrecked applies to the new castaway, as well.... [format edits]Almost anyone who has sought advice on writing has heard the maxim, "Show, don't tell." Much of what you'll find in this essay is a good example of putting that advice into practice. Cheah builds up in her closing to what ought to become a rallying cry against Bernie Sanders and his acolyte, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: In their narrative, Democratic Socialism might not be a logical nor is it even a reasonable way to organize society. This is why they brazenly brush away and ignore the many economic and historic evidence of its consistent failure. Rather, their argument is built upon on how Socialism is the moral system politically because it is the system which "takes care of the needy in society", even if that outcome is just a pipe dream. Fortunately what you, the vigilant and the informed, have in your arsenal is more powerful, because you can address this farce with both logic and morality on your side. Now that you understand the principles behind property rights as being indispensable to life and liberty, you can properly address the perils of Democratic Socialism. Socialism's goal is to eradicate the power of private property. Without control over your own private property, you will not hold any power on your own life and liberty. The threat of slavery is how you should advocate against socialism. Let it be said, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants socialism, and Socialism is slavery. In truth, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocates for slavery. [emphasis in original]Thank you, Ms. Cheah, and I hope I have persuaded a few more people to read this piece. (The site estimates it to be a ten minute read.) -- CAV Link to Original
  3. About four years ago, I commented on the ridiculous amount of time the FAA was taking to make a ruling that could clarify the legal status of an Uber-like general aviation app: For anyone who subscribes to the notion that we need the government to monitor and regulate every last move we make, I ask this question: "If the government is supposed to be so wise and powerful, why can't it answer even a simple question like this one in the more-than-ample time it gave itself?" This is not to frame the issue of government regulation as a matter of mere competence, although it is an interesting way of considering that issue. As it turns out, the wisdom of the FAA is even less impressive than its speed: Flytenow, the company behind the app, has had to push for legislation just so pilots and passengers can take advantage of electronic communications to share expenses for private flights: ... For decades, private pilots have been legally sharing flying expenses with passengers. For pilots, flight-sharing defrays the high costs of flying, and for passengers, it's an alternative way to reach a destination or experience flying in a private plane. Image via Wikipedia.In 2013, we founded Flytenow, an Internet-based, flight-sharing startup offering an online bulletin board to facilitate cost-sharing arrangements between pilots and passengers. By showing a pilot’s qualifications, confirming them with the Federal Aviation Administration, and enabling both parties to connect via social media and direct messaging, we created a safe, efficient method of flight-sharing that can help pilots defray the costs of aircraft operation and ownership by as much as 75 percent. That was, until the FAA ruled in mid-2014 that any pilot using the Internet to communicate had to comply with the same regulations applicable to commercial airlines. With that ruling, flight-sharing in the U.S. came to an abrupt halt, ...This is a ridiculous intrusion on individual rights, and should be scrapped, along with the FAA, whose job a professional standards body ought to perform, anyway. Flyetnow is pushing legislation in Congress, but I am saddened to see that it is based on the following "guiding principle:" A pilot should be able to communicate to an audience of any size using whatever means he or she chooses to share a flight, including the Internet, so long as the flight is not for profit. [bold added]I suppose it is possible that some aspect of the regulatory or political landscape makes this the best they can get in the current circumstances. Barring that, this sounds more like a plea for permission than a demand that the government do its job, which is to protect individual rights. Although the FAA is unlikely to be devolved from the government any time soon, it has no business blatantly violating right to contract for any purpose, and particularly when someone's ability to earn a living is at stake. This article, by the cofounders of Flytenow, speaks of this bill as possibly saving general aviation in the United States. Maybe so, but unless pilots are free to profit from these arrangements if they wish, general aviation will remain on life support -- as will freedom. Whether the founders are being less ambitious than they should or think this is all they can get, the fact remains that freedom is dying in its cradle, and this bill will not-quite-save an industry that would thrive if it were set fully free. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. The municipalities of Silicon Valley have decided to stop letting tech companies offer their own employees free lunches in any new facilities they build. Demonstrating complete ignorance of both why people run businesses and the purpose of government, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association explains why she supports such government meddling: "With food being provided for free ... there's no competition in terms of choice, nor a reason for employees to leave their building," Borden said. "Perhaps that's great social engineering to get employees to work longer hours and never leave their offices, but it doesn't do much to support the city around them." Image via Unsplash.Whatever one might think of "social engineering", it doesn't hold a candle to the central planning Borden seems so fond of: At least these employers aren't threatening anyone with fines or imprisonment for participating in a particular kind of lunch arrangement. Government is supposed to protect freedom for everyone, making it possible for them to run a business or pursue any other activity that does not harm anyone else. By forcing "employees to leave the building" for a decent lunch, these laws are interfering with how many individuals plan their days. This will probably cause many to work less efficiently -- or stay at work later than they'd like, and perhaps eat out with their families less often during the week ... incidentally harming other restaurants. But that's beside the point. It's wrong to unleash the government on non-criminals for whatever purpose, no matter how kind one's stated intentions. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. Over at the Manhattan Contrarian is a connection I've never seen made in the immigration debate -- between immigration and the distribution of congressional seats among states with more vs. fewer immigrants: Image via Wikipedia. Granted, the effect of this phenomenon only registers with the decennial census, and nothing about new immigration this year is going to affect the apportionment for the 2018 or 2020 elections. Nevertheless, the overall effect is that Democrats get to represent in Congress something in the range of 15 to 20 million non-citizen immigrants, without those immigrants ever needing to vote. As a rough approximation, this represents about 20 or so seats in Congress, and it could even go up somewhat after the next apportionment. This swing dwarfs any possible effect of actual illegal voting. [bold added]In my own thinking about immigration, I have long advocated reform of the process by which immigrants can become citizens. Should we also rethink how we apportion representation? It might help to consider the hypothetical situation of this "bump" being in support of whichever party you find most congenial to America's best interests. I haven't thought for long about the issue, so won't offer an opinion on it now. Having said that, I do find it worthwhile to recall something frequently missing from conversations about immigration. As I noted some time ago: [T]he real problem is the existence of the welfare state. Immigrants did not start socialized education. Immigrants did not force law-abiding emergency care personnel to accept non-paying customers. Immigrants did not make it illegal for some of us to ingest chemicals that others disapprove of. Americans, forgetting that their government was established to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, passed (and support) these laws. Americans chose to plunder each other's pockets and run each other's lives.The "freeloading" problem is one created by improper government rather than immigration. Likewise, the importance of apportioning our representation precisely might be less important were our government confined to its proper scope, leaving us less at the mercy of Democrats wanting to put their hands on our wallets, not to mention Republicans wanting to put their hands in our pants. In such a context, the strongest case I can imagine for representation reform along the lines the first quote suggests would be: Large numbers of immigrants in some area might sway voters one way or another on a foreign policy issue pertinent to an election. But I can see such an effect going either way, so even that case seems difficult to make. -- CAVLink to Original
  6. Blog Roundup 1. At Roots of Progress, Jason Crawford explores the transition, during the nineteenth century, away from the use of biological sources for many common materials. (He provides interesting synopses for ivory, fertilizer, fuels for lighting and smelting, and shellac.) The humpback whale, an unsustainable source of industrial feedstocks, in either sense of the term. (Image via Pixabay.)These are just a handful of examples. There are many other biomaterials we once relied on -- rubber, silk, leather and furs, straw, beeswax, wood tar, natural inks and dyes -- that have been partially or fully replaced by synthetic or artificial substitutes, especially plastics, that can be derived from mineral sources. They had to be replaced, because the natural sources couldn't keep up with rapidly increasing demand. The only way to ramp up production -- the only way to escape the Malthusian trap and sustain an exponentially increasing population while actually improving everyone's standard of living -- was to find new, more abundant sources of raw materials and new, more efficient processes to create the end products we needed. As you can see from some of these examples, this drive to find substitutes was often conscious and deliberate, motivated by an explicit understanding of the looming resource crisis. In short, plant and animal materials had become unsustainable. [bold added, link omitted]His exploration of the very common misuse of that last word is as timely as the rest of his post is interesting. 2. In "Sully vs Sully," the proprietor of You Can and Did Build That compares the book to the movie and finds the former far more profitable in terms of understanding the heroism of Sully Sullenberger, who famously saved all his passengers by landing his aircraft on the Hudson in 2009. [T]he passionate pursuit of excellence in a career, the commitment to a lifetime of choices directed at acquiring knowledge and improving one's skills, is as far from "selfless" as could be imagined. Sully's choices (including an awareness of his own motivations and self-critical appraisal of his own near misses) represent the creation of a self. Only devotion to one's own chosen goals over the span of decades could result in a man becoming the kind of person, the kind of character or self, who could accomplish what he did on the Hudson. [emphasis in original]Although I think I rate the movie higher than he does, I found the discussion of the kind of context required to evaluate an action quite enlightening. 3. At New Ideal, Ben Bayer of the Ayn Rand Institute argues that the "Trump-Kim Summit Betrays Victims of Dictatorship." The entire post is worth reading, but I think presenting two paragraphs of it in quick succession might show why. Bayer opens: In a video that went viral in October 2014, Yeonmi Park gave an emotional speech about her escape from North Korea. She recounts how she was nine years old when she witnessed the public execution of her friend's mother, thirteen when she saw her mother raped as the price for escaping the country, and fourteen when she had to bury her father secretly in China. [links in original]Later, comes the following after he notes Ayn Rand's commentary about Richard Nixon's 1972 meeting with Mao Zedong: Every word of this applies to Trump's meeting with Kim. This time the president has not only shaken hands with the dictator but has gone further by calling him "very talented" and a "funny guy" with a "great personality" who "loves his people." Asked whether it was wise to sit down with a killer, the most Trump could bring himself to disparage about Kim was to say "it is a rough situation over there." Asked how Kim could love his people and oppress them, Trump said "he's doing what he's seen done." [links in original]Regarding Trump's last remark in light of what Yeonmi Park and other North Koreans have "seen done," this is outrageous. That said, Trump doesn't own all of the blame for it. As unprincipled and coarse as he is, Trump is regurgitating (and acting on) the same kind of garbage leftists have spewed about criminals for the past few decades. But the juxtaposition should illustrate how disgusting this stew of determinism and moral relativism really is. Obscene notions left unquestioned lead to obscene actions. 4. At Separate!, Anders Ingemarson takes the impending Supreme Court nomination battleas his cue to consider an interesting question: With the range of views being closer to a bell curve than what media talking heads would like us to believe, is there an opportunity for breaking the supposed deadlock and come to some level of mutual understanding? Perhaps not tomorrow, next year or in a decade, but maybe in a generation? [bold added]This comes after a quick review of American polling data and a look at a couple of historical instances of religious people accommodating scientific discoveries in the West. I'm not as sanguine as he, but he raises good points to remember should Brett Kavanaugh be named to the Supreme Court. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Or: Every Yes Begins With a Bunch of Nos I ran across a list of items by Greg Wilson on how to run a meeting, but that's not the take-home for this post. Rather, it was an aside near the end of his piece that caught my eye: Image via Pixabay.I once chaired a one-day meeting in New Orleans where I tried to introduce a whole bunch of meeting management techniques at once while also contributing. I did it so badly that they replaced me as chair at the mid-point, and were right to do so.This is interesting because so much of Wilson's own advice could be subsumed under the umbrella of delimitation: Have a purpose. Formulate a clear agenda. Lead with the most important topics. All of these things pertain to the need for the human mind to be able to focus in order to be effective. Each of these positive goals -- choosing a subject, concentrating on different aspects of that subject, and deciding what was most urgent about it -- required eliminating a whole host of other considerations. The cause of running an effective meeting is no different, although that might not seem apparent. To his credit and our benefit, Wilson admits this, and I think it's his most important point. Taking all of Wilson's advice at face value for the sake of argument, if one's goal is to run effective meetings, one can run with his anecdote and think of that goal as a meeting. What points about how your organization runs meetings depart furthest from this ideal? Which improvements would pack the most punch, and maybe even kill two birds with one stone? Start with those, most urgent first, order the rest, and create a time table for implementing improvements at a pace that will show results quickly enough to get others on board, but is slow enough to allow everyone to acclimate themselves to a set of changes before introducing others. Wilson has given us a wealth of information, but it, like the topics of a meeting, must be organized within the contexts of what an organization needs and how human minds can grasp and hold on to it. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Image via Wikipedia.Or: Appeasing Socialism Always Fails The recent primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a golden opportunity to advance capitalism, but conservatives don't seem to realize it. Joe Crowley assumed voters would tolerate the status quo, disdained his opponent, and counted on inertia. This was a bad strategy against an energetic opponent. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez seemed concerned with voters' problems, offered a means of solving them, and stood behind her solution. Yet, conservatives seem intent on channeling the defeated Crowley, despite the fact they could offer a real choice, instead. The following are poor ways to advocate capitalism: Repeating ad nauseum that socialism always fails, calling her voters stupid, and not challenging the principle that socialism is an ideal. This is unfortunate, because capitalism is the real alternative to our current stagnant mixture of freedom and smothering government control -- and the alternative to the century's worth of slavery, starvation, and death that is socialism. First came the smug jokes: The Democrats have gone "full Venezuela." "What could possibly go wrong?" "How many times do we have to learn that socialism doesn't work?" Unfortunately, the answer to the last joke is: As many times as we fail to oppose it on moral grounds.... To continue reading my latest column, please proceed to RealClear Markets. I would like to thank my wife and Steve D. for their comments on earlier versions of this piece. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. ... to Make Beggars of the Elderly Upon hearing of a recent protest by starving pensioners in Venezuela, the phrases "widows and orphans" and "throw them out into the streets" came to my mind from some time in my very early adulthood. I no longer recall the exact context, but someone bandied about such phrases in a show of horror after I'd expressed an admiration of Ayn Rand. I might have also admitted both my atheism and my admiration for capitalism. (I still am and still do to this day, only more so.) There are many sad things to comment on about the following story, but I will limit myself to an excerpt and one short comment: I fibbed: Socialism eventually throws everyone out on the streets. Hooray for equality! (Image via Wikipedia.)Perched on plastic lawn chairs and leaning on canes, scores of retirees protested Wednesday to demand payment of their retirement benefits in crisis-hit Venezuela. About 200 senior citizens blocked traffic on Urdaneta Avenue, a stone's throw from the presidential palace. "They are not paying people's whole pension. We are just getting two million" bolivars, worth 60 US cents at black market rates, said Basilio Octo, 68.There's nothing quite like socialism to throw the elderly out into the streets en masse. For starters: How many of these poor souls might have planned better for their later years absent the laughable guarantee of a government pension? Well, okay. Here's another: The whole idea that conservatives can't muster a response to insinuations that more freedom (or even the same amount we have now) would result in similar problems here is troubling, to say the very least. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. As part of her discussion of moral perfection in Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith considers what that ideal really means: To complain that the dart is off by a fraction of a millimeter is silly. (Image via Pixabay. On Rand's view, a person is perfect when he does his best. A person's best must be understood relative to his particular circumstances, however. It cannot be identified apart from the individual's knowledge, experience, abilities, resources, or options. Notice that many everyday references to perfection recognize the importance of context. We do not dispute a test score as perfect simply because the test was not more difficult (being pitched to 4th graders, for instance, rather than 12th graders). We do not deny that a person has perfect vision because other animals or machines can see something that he cannot. The perfect is construed as the best possible to a certain type of being in a certain situation, on a reality-governed conception of the possible. (238-239)In her discussion, Smith also notes the damage caused by irrational, deity-inspired notions of perfection, which, among other things, undermine the morale of some and provide a ready-made excuse for moral failing to others. One just about cannot read this book without improving one's understanding at every turn, thereby attaining both hope for perfection and the knowledge of how to get there. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Notable Commentary Image via Pixabay."Given the benefits of free trade, the best policy any government can adopt is unilateral free trade (with other non-enemy governments), which means: free trade regardless of whether other governments also adopt freer trade." -- Richard Salsman, in "Protectionism as Mutual Masochism" at Intermarket Forecasting. "[T]he best one can say is that the court unintentionally protected the baker's rights. " -- Don Richmond, in "Letter: Understanding the Nature of Rights" at Naples Daily News. "Opening immigration does not necessitate opening citizenship." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: Immigration Foes Should Learn From Civil Rights Movement" at The Aiken Standard. "We shouldn't just wait passively for [the dollar to collapse], we should change course if possible." -- Keith Weiner, in "The Great Reset" at SNB & CHF. "Proponents of free-market health reforms will need to persuade voters based on moral grounds, not just economic reasons." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Why the Idea of Single Payer Heath Care Won't Die" at Forbes. "My accompanying cartoon has actual comments from Muslims to me, about the Mohammad cartoon contest, and the fourth panel is about an actual Pakistani Muslim politician who wants to Nuke Holland over the Mohammad cartoon contest." -- Bosch Fawstin, in "Muslims vs. Free Speech" at Frontpage Magazine. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. Image via Wikipedia. ... but Still Want to Work Remotely I no longer remember where, but I recall someone writing of his remote work arrangement that the biggest irritant was figuring out where to spend the day. That doesn't bother me that much, but a change of scenery is still nice once in a while. With that in mind, I found a couple of pieces listing a total of fourteen alternatives to the coffee shop. A good one that could double as a shopping trip was IKEA, which is the first listed at the first link: Call me crazy, but I loved IKEA. I find the company's marketing and design work inspiring (gotta love the Swedes), and the restaurant is large enough that it's easy to get up and walk around, while still keeping an eye on your things. For much of the first year running my business, IKEA served as my "home office away from home." Of course, the electrical outlets at my Ikea were few and far between, which proved to be problematic. It can also get pretty noisy, which means no conferences at mealtimes... [link in original, minor edits]Justin Bariso's Inc. piece also mentions empty restaurants, which a startup is trying to coordinate via a smartphone app in some cities. In the meantime, Blake Oliver has numerous suggestions of his own, including Museums, in the second link above. That comment brought back memories of my Boston days, when I lived within walking distance of the public library at Copley Square. There were numerous good places to work there, including the cafe, all with wi-fi. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Slate gleefully trumpets, as a "political own goal," a cost projection regarding a plan by wanna-be slave driver Bernie Sanders for "Medicare for All": The study was published by Charles Blahous of the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who is known, among other things, for arguing that Social Security retirement benefits need to be cut. Blahous seems to have set out to show that, even if you assume switching to a single-payer system will lead to major cost savings on medical care and administrative expenses, it will still require a massive increase in federal spending. He calculates that if Sanders' bill delivered on all of its promises, it would increase federal spending on health care by $32.6 trillion between 2022 and 2031 -- which is, of course, quite a bit of money, and the number that conservatives are choosing to focus on. But as economist Ernie Tedeschi noted on Twitter this morning, Blahous' report also shows that total U.S. health care spending would fall by about $2.05 trillion during that time period, even as all Americans would finally have insurance, because the plan would reduce payments to doctors and hospitals to Medicare rates (which are lower than what private insurance pays) while saving on prescription drug costs and administrative expenses. [links in original, bold added]First off, advocates of individual rights can take this as an object lesson in not letting your opponents dictate the terms of your arguments. In other words, Blahous in particular and conservatives in general should take a cue from Ayn Rand and argue against schemes like this on moral grounds instead of or in addition to any analysis they might perform. Whatever socialized medicine might cost, it is wrong because it involves forcibly taking money from someone or violating their right to contract or both (as does Sanders's plan). Second, it would be amusing to see author Jordan Weissmann of Slate make such an argument if I weren't in mortal danger of having to live as he chooses to. Ayn Rand noted this folly in her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, through the words of a character who was a brain surgeon: Do you want a doctor willing to work for whatever loot Bernie Sanders is willing to dole out? (Image via Pixabay.)"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything -- except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards -- never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. 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? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. 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." [bold added]Congratulations, Slate. You have helped legions of people who already agree with you continue to imagine that socialism will work "this time," and pat themselves on the back for how "smart" they are -- by focusing on something that supports their cause if lots of unrealistic assumptions hold and lots of people are willing to underpay their own doctors. Perhaps, rather than cheer on ripping off physicians, Weissmann would consider how lucky he is that he lives in a semi-capitalist system. Thanks to freedom of contract, he holds a job at all. Judging by his product, but thanks to the fact that someone is free to offer him whatever he's getting, he is way overpaid. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Have this guy free to create new marvels -- or have a bunch of busybodies chain us all down behind our backs? (Image via Pixabay.)Writing for the the Foundation for Economic Education, economist Richard Ebeling writes an essay titled, "Socialism, Like Dracula, Rises Again from the Grave." Although the whole thing is worth a read, I think the most valuable point it raises pertains to how advocates of the capitalist alternative can make our cases. The example is negative, but it is part of the answer to what the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seem to be doing, which is not quite as simple as shouting "free stuff!" just as people enter their voting booths. The below is the beginning of a section titled, "'Democratic Socialism' Means the Tyranny of the Meddler": Since everything would be politicized with government involvement even more than currently in America to supply this promised "free" life of material post-scarcity existence, democratic decision-making would be extended to, well, everything. The [Democratic Socialists of America] says the U.S. Senate should be abolished, and the entire electoral process replaced with a system of proportional representation in more directly democratically elected bodies. There would be "civilian boards for various government services, program councils (at the national, state, and local levels) for those who receive government services, and municipal and state-level citizens assemblies that would be open to all that would be tasked with making budget decisions." [bold added]Ebeling explores the implications of this further, noting that while most of us are busy with the work of our lives, the primary participants in these "civilian boards" would be "people with too much time on their hands possessing political and ideological axes to grind." (I recall reading that this happened during the height of the (initial phase of the) "occupy" movement, to the boards they used to run their encampments.) In other words, while the current crop of socialists are inviting people to imagine a utopia, Ebeling is improving their imaginations by grounding them in reality. As, I believe Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute once indicated in a podcast, many young voters support socialism because they mistakenly believe it will improve their lives personally -- an imperfectly selfish motive. Part of addressing this imperfection is to help some of these people see how their lives really will be affected personally, but long before the deadlier consequences of socialism begin setting in. (Although starvation and death are hazards, they seem far off to most voters, making it too easy for people like Bernie Sanders to plead that they aren't talking about the same thing as Soviet Russia -- or even Venezuela.) Indicating the more immediate negative consequences is a good point of entry, but we can improve on this by recalling what Alex Epstein has said in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels about the way people argue today: There is a strong tendency -- often by people on the left arguing against some aspect or benefit of capitalism -- to focus on the negatives to the near exclusion of the positives (e.g., honing in on the fact that petroleum use can cause pollution, but glossing over the numerous benefits of same). Debunking socialism is important, but we must remember that much of its momentum relies on taking for granted the many benefits of the capitalist aspects of our mixed economy. In addition to debunking socialism, we should also speak up for capitalism at relevant points, including by more directly appealing to self-interest. Furthermore, such more direct appeals ought to clarify, whenever possible, that the rational pursuit of self-interest (which most emphatically does not include taking things from other people) is virtuous. As that last sentence demonstrates, there is great confusion about morality and politics in our culture today, to the point that advocates of the pursuit of happiness are practically dragged into a defensive posture at the outset, by the need to clarify basic terms. We have to learn how to quickly shift to offense, however, or we will allow ourselves to be defeated miss out on opportunities to win -- by making our case for justice and prosperity. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Matt Gaetz, R-FL (Image via Wikipedia.)As if bringing back protectionism (a major cause of the Great Depression) weren't bad enough, Donald Trump and his cronies now appear to be breathing new life into another idea that has no place in a free society: the "Fairness" Doctrine. Taylor Millard of Hot Air reports that a couple of pro-Trump congressmen have "launched a multi-pronged attack on Twitter" over "shadow-banning" conservatives. Part of this attack is an FCC complaint that is all but explicitly hostile to Twitter's property rights. Regarding Twitter's alleged practice of making it hard for people to find conservatives, Representative Matt Gaetz stated: It gives advantages to our political opponents. It gives them access to the platform that we don't have.Since when does freedom of speech include entitlement to being given a platform for speaking? Twitter can run its own forum any way it pleases because it owns the forum. This is bad enough, but the following is a particularly disturbing development: This is, of course, a major problem and only likely to grow exponentially as "the mob" looks to regulate whoever can express what opinion. Democrats -- along with some conservatives -- suggested it was time for big data regulations due to Russia"s use of Facebook ads during the 2016 election. Republicans are now pushing for more government oversight because social media isn't giving "equal time" to certain Trump supporters. The hypocrisy is apparent, but no one cares because it's "owning the libs/cons."The phrase "equal time" hearkens back to the era of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," in which the threat of the loss of a broadcasting license was used to violate both the property and free speech rights of the owners of broadcasting media. Philosophy professor Tara Smith recently discussed in great detail how confused our national dialogue on freedom of speech has become, as well as the great risk this poses to our republic. It becomes clear later in the Hot Air piece that this problem is deeper among the Republicans than many might realize. Trump and his unprincipled, grasping supporters, are making it much worse. -- CAV Link to Original