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  1. Four Things 1. Here's some good news in the fight against hemophilia: The therapy is a genetically engineered virus. It contains the instructions for factor VIII that Jake was born without. The virus is used like a postman to deliver the genetic instructions to the liver, which then starts producing factor VIII. In the first trials, low doses of gene therapy had no effect. Of the 13 patients given higher doses, all are off their haemophilia medication a year on and 11 are producing near-normal levels of factor VIII. Prof John Pasi, who led the trials at Barts and Queen Mary University of London, said: "This is huge."The news story also links to a peer-reviewed study on the impressive results. 2. The following comes from a story about the tentative beginnings and eventual wild success of the ready-made sandwich: A delicious muffuletta. Image cropped from collage in Wikipedia article about the best kind of sandwich known to man.Every supermarket jumped on the trend. Up and down the country, chefs and bakers and assorted wheeler-dealers stopped whatever they were doing and started making sandwiches on industrial estates. The sandwich stopped being an afterthought, or a snack bought out of despair, and became the fuel of a dynamic, go-getting existence. "At Amstrad the staff start early and finish late. Nobody takes lunches -- they may get a sandwich slung on their desk," Alan Sugar told an audience at City University in 1987. "There's no small-talk. It's all action." By 1990, the British sandwich industry was worth £1bn.Now they're so ubiquitous that it's hard to imagine not being able to find one. 3. The following is one of a series of answers to a query about amusing software bugs: [A]n image thumbnailer on a website for a very popular all-girl band ... was "smart" and cropped images to the right aspect ratio based on entropy in the image. In practice, this manifested itself as a foot fetish -- if a photo included feet, it would centre the thumbnail on the feet almost every time. The gallery index pages looked quite odd.I didn't read much of the rest of the thread, but in case it isn't there, I'll nominate one I stumbled across while trying to solve a software problem: "Dwarf Fortress Starting During apt-get upgrade." (Spoiler/Linux pro tip: Make sure you don't stomp on the name of a major system utility when you install software.) 4. Sitting at my desk and finishing up a report for a client one afternoon, I heard a noise and experienced an odd sensation of movement or vibration. I didn't know what it was, but it got me to look around the house and outside for an explanation. Finding nothing, I concluded that there must have been an explosion somewhere in the vicinity. A few days later, I learned that, thanks to the most intense earthquake in Delaware's history, I now know what a distant earthquake feels like. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. I've been thinking off and on about choice a lot lately, so the title of a recent post on the subject by Jean Moroney of Thinking Directions piqued my interest. I am glad it did, and I think others will find it valuable, too. The post offers advice on re-framing both hard choices and the "no-brainers" that often lead us to say things like, "I had no choice." Here's Moroney's summary: t matters for your long-term happiness and sense of efficacy that when you think you have "no choice" you consider the option you've rejected out of hand, and make a conscious, considered decision based on all of the values at stake. Because you really do have a choice, and it matters for you that you know it. [bold added] The earlier part of the post goes a long way towards helping the reader see how to discover these options, or even develop others by considering them, sometimes even if the options are bad. To be clear, this isn't the only respect in which that knowledge matters. Moroney's post reminded me of a short TED talk on hard choices I've known about for a while, but hadn't gotten around to listening to. In that talk, philosopher Ruth Chang focuses on hard choices. These are the kind, often (but not always) at life's crossroads, for which the options are on a par within one's hierarchy of values, but which are not easily comparable. Ruth Chang, discussing one of her hard choices. Click image for talk. Chang, too, offer a better way of looking at these than comes naturally to many people: Now, people who don't exercise their normative powers in hard choices are drifters. We all know people like that. I drifted into being a lawyer. I didn't put my agency behind lawyering. I wasn't for lawyering. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment -- pats on the head, fear, the easiness of an option -- to determine what they do. So the lesson of hard choices: reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person. Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition, that the reasons that govern our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out, and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are. And that's why hard choices are not a curse but a godsend. [bold added] What great advice! A good thing about the advice that might not be apparent, since most people who will seek it out are facing a big decision, is that it can even apply to a past decision, such as a good one made that one might have had lingering doubts about for whatever reason. In my case, Chang helped me realize that I didn't fully embrace a hard decision I had to make some years ago. I'd come to terms with parts of it over time, but, if you listen to the talk, I think you will see that there can be a much happier outcome than just "coming to terms" with the decision one has made about a hard choice. -- CAV Link to Original
  3. I was relieved to learn this morning that, Roy Moore lost in Alabama. Moore was an atrocious candidate for reasons I previously gave here, but a recent article in National Review underscored just how bad: Map via Wikipedia. Moore believes he's a law unto himself. For those unfamiliar with Moore's history, let's take a quick walk down memory lane. He's been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice. The first time, in 2003, he defied a federal court order requiring him to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument -- a monument he'd commissioned -- from the Alabama Supreme Court building. The second time, he was suspended without pay after issuing an order to Alabama probate judges declaring that they had a "ministerial duty" not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. He issued this order six months after the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Constitution protected a right to same-sex marriage. [formatting and links in original]Note that the above was written by a Christian, and while I disagree with his contention that harming the "pro-life" cause would be a bad thing, his overall argument, regarding the damage Moore would have inflicted on the GOP, is correct. In addition to Roy Moore setting a dangerous precedent, he would have been a convenient millstone around the necks of Republicans and a distraction in the fight for any of the better causes they might have an opportunity to advance. David French correctly notes the following: The GOP will enjoy its majority in the short term with or without Moore. It will confirm judges between now and 2018 with or without Moore. It cannot, however, continue to drift toward vile, malicious ignorance and hope to remain the majority party...The GOP, and the cause of limited government -- they are not the same -- have dodged a bullet, thanks to a combination of principled Republicans and those Democrats who rallied around his opponent. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. The good news? Engineer Mats Järlström of Oregon, aided by the good folks of the Institute for Justice, has won a round of the litigation he has rightly pursued after officials of his state sued him for stating the truth without their permission. As noted here in April: The state fined the man $500.00 -- while ignoring everything of substance he said about a traffic hazard he was trying to help a local traffic authority correct[.]The better news is that this fight isn't over. According to the Washington Post: Image of signal still being sent regarding freedom of speech, via Pixabay.The state has already cut a check to Järlström for $500, but the traffic-camera saga is not over. Oregon wants the lawsuit thrown out, but Järlström and his attorneys from the Institute for Justice want the law itself declared unconstitutional. They say others have been improperly investigated and fined for protected speech.My thanks and congratulations to Mr. Järlström and his legal team. May their further efforts successfully aid the cause of liberty. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. Jazz Shaw of Hot Air has a complaint about some "renewable" energy subsidies, but it isn't what you might expect from an ally of capitalism: If you think leftists are the only ones who complain about recycling or renewable energy that makes actual economic sense, read Jazz Shaw. (Image from Wikipedia article on black liquor.) ["Black liquor"] isn't actually a "new" form of energy. Paper mills have been burning it since the 30s and there have been complaints about the burning of black liquor for years now. The Washington Post featured a number of paper mills engaging in this type of scheme back in 2013, finding them in various spots around the nation. And they're all using the corrosive substance as a way to either get around or even profit from government mandates requiring the use of renewable energy. ... It's not just the pollution angle that has people angry. This scheme is allowing the paper mills to not only comply with, but exceed government mandates for using renewable energy. This means that they're not only saving money on fuel and earning subsidies, but they can sell renewable energy credits to other industries (such as fossil fuel plants) who can't meet their government quotas. This is the same sort of scheme that goes on with the RINs (renewable identification numbers) in the ethanol game. At any rate, next time somebody wants to talk to you about all the progress we're making on renewable energy, ask them how much of it is coming from black liquor in their state. It's yet another example of government mandate programs running off the rails and being wide open to fraud and abuse. [link in original, bold added, other minor format edits]Let that last sentence, in bold, sink in for a moment. Of all the things to complain about with a government subsidy that is fraudulent to begin with, the fact that a company inadvertently gets extra rewards for an intelligent work-around to a nasty waste problem is about the last thing I'd complain about. Indeed, unlike the "renewables" (read: unreliables) these subsidies are intended for, black liquor actually represents an economical source of energy, as witness the fact that it has been in use for nearly a century. Unfortunately, Shaw comes across like he is an environmentalist himself. This is because his post amounts to complaining that the subsidies aren't being directed efficiently enough to those who would continue throwing money down the rat-hole of "renewable" energy. Worse, in his last paragraph, he basically dares leftists to fix this problem. His time would be much more productive if he stopped worrying about what they think. Instead, he should focus on reaching an audience receptive to the idea that the use of black liquor, despite its flaws, represents a counterexample to the argument that government meddling is necessary to cause people to find creative ways to extract energy or control pollution. Government subsidies are immoral no matter who gets them, because, as wealth-redistribution schemes, they necessitate picking someone's pocket, which is exactly the opposite to what the government ought to be doing. Likewise for mandates, in which the government, rather than protecting freedom so that we might live according to our best judgement, issues marching orders. The real problem here is that there are mandates and subsidies in the first place, not that someone has managed to game the system for a tidy profit. Worse, from the standpoint of improving the situation, Shaw has opted to focus on some penny-ante profiteering rather than on the greater problem, and missed an opportunities to (a) name that real problem (misuse of government) and (b) suggest an alternative (such as better enforcement of property rights) that offers us more freedom and a real way to prevent companies or individuals from poisoning land, water, or air. I'm not thrilled with paper companies getting subsidies, either, but at least what they are doing is in line with how pollution problems would get solved in a capitalist economy. Rather than complaining that they get free money that shouldn't be on the table in the first place, or don't live up to some improper government mandate or other, we should applaud their enterprise and work to put an end, altogether, to "green" command-and-control schemes by our government. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Four Things I haven't written about the kids in a while, so here we go... 1. There is a small freezer with popsicles in the waiting area where I take my kids for gymnastics on weekends. Usually, I let them pick one out to take home for a dessert as we leave. But on the weekend of Halloween, I'd bought a pumpkin pie at my wife's request and I had told the kids about it in the morning. It was home, ready to eat, and eagerly anticipated by the kids, until... ... a little girl pranced by and taunted them with her popsicle : "I have a popsicle." Suddenly, the dessert markets were in turmoil, with pumpkin pies in free-fall against the mighty popsicle. Image of status symbol via Unsplash.My four-year-old son became upset. Both kids demanded a trip to the freezer. Dad's poll numbers were looking pretty grim. "Not tonight. We're having pumpkin pie. Remember?" They tried to wheedle a popsicle out of me a little, but I wasn't going to budge. Ultimately, they calmed down, possibly aided by a reminder-bribe of whipped cream on top. Then the girl came by again, and repeated herself. "We're having pumpkin pie!" my son replied. What passes for sanity in the life of a dad with two small kids had returned. 2. My daughter, who looks a lot like my mother did as a child, resembles her in another way, too: She likes stilts. She quickly picked up that skill while we visited my baby brother's family over Thanksgiving. And she'll have a set of her own on Christmas, thanks to my mother. 3. My daughter, always imaginative, came up with a funny turn of phrase one evening at bedtime. She declared that she was going to be a "bed potato" that night. 4. I can also be imaginative. My wife likes to have little elves sitting around the house during the holidays to keep an eye out for Santa. It was never a tradition in my family, so it slips my mind every year until she brings it up. This year, Mrs. Van Horn got them out while she worked from home one day. Apparently distracted from putting them on station by a call, she forgot about them, and left them lying on the coffee table. The next morning, my daughter spotted the elves, apparently asleep on the job, and asked about it. "They're taking a nap because they just got here, and have to stay up for the next few weeks to keep an eye on you. Let them sleep." -- CAV Link to Original
  7. I recently ran across an article that might have been much more useful to me about twenty years ago -- It's specifically dating advice -- but which has applications outside dating, as its author briefly acknowledges. Its title, "Fuck Yes or No," plays on a common problem I found particularly annoying about the whole process, namely wishy-washy answers: You need to "fail faster," and not dwell on this.Frustration with this grey area also drives many people to unnecessary manipulation, drama and game-playing. This is where you get rules about making men pay for this many dates before you can become intimate. Or how men need to transition from attraction phase to comfort phase by qualifying three times before they're allowed to commence an escalation ladder. These things may seem clever and exciting to some people who are stuck or frustrated. But this dating advice misses the point. If you're in the grey area to begin with, you've already lost. Let me ask again: Why would you ever be excited to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? If they're not happy with you now, what makes you think they'll be happy to be with you later? Why do you make an effort to convince someone to date you when they make no effort to convince you? [bold in original]This advice is brilliant, because it uses the value judgements of both people in a proposed interaction to cut through the fog generated by common practices (like not giving a direct rejection), uncertainty about social mores, uncertainty about one's level of attraction (or attractiveness) to the another, and just plain indecision (about which Mark Manson has interesting things to say later on). The gist, and why this has broader applications than dating, is that one should ideally be genuinely interested in making an offer, and should really only be interested in dealing with others who show an enthusiastic response. Everything else is a waste of time. If two people really are interested in the same thing, they will find a way to at least try to get it. This isn't to say this advice can be applied to just any interpersonal transaction, but, carefully applied, it can save lots of time and energy. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. There is an interesting look by the Niskan Center at how various economic freedom indexes quantify regulation. I find the fourth bullet point of the conclusions most interesting: A few shelf-feet of federal regulations. The ones you'd do anyway can make it harder to argue against central planning. (Image via Wikipedia.)Close examination reveals serious methodological problems in the way both the Fraser and Heritage regulation components are constructed. Neither makes adequate efforts to distinguish between helpful and harmful aspects of regulation. Both include some indicators that fit poorly with common notions of what the regulatory state really is and does, and both exclude important aspects of regulation (especially of international trade). [bold added]This is a problem I repeatedly encounter when I think about or discuss the effects of regulation, even though I am clear in my mind qbout the difference between central planning and legitimate laws (and the rules, called "regulations" in government, used to carry them out). Setting aside the fact that most people fail to be clear about such a distinction, the fact remains that many government regulations exist that are similar to standards or conventions that would evolve in a free society. (Consider independent standards-setting bodies, free market incentives that might prove fertile for same, and evolving case law. For example, nobody wants to run a restaurant that is reputed to sicken customers with undercooked food: It's easy to imagine industry standards that aren't dictated top-down, and yet are enforced by something like a UL or a Consumer's Union.) To the degree that the government regulations are like what might have arisen anyway and are effective at achieving legitimate purposes, they will look like "good regulations" and will confound attempts to argue that central planning harms the economy. That said, I regard it as a fundamental error to consider regulation in terms of its economic impact, absent first asking whether regulation violates individual rights. Put another way, while regulatory harm is not a central argument in favor of limited government, demonstrating it can bolster one's case. Conversely, failing to do so (or doing so poorly) can cause one's case to be overlooked for appearing weak or even discredited. See also the many pitfalls of cost-benefit analysis, of which this is an example. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Congress Must Probe Itself A state-of-the art ATM screen, brought to you by a public-private "partnership." (Original image of dirty tile via Unsplash.) The ongoing Congressional investigation of the Equifax data breach reminds me of a running joke my mother and I had about the old detective series, Murder She Wrote. What if the guilty party all along was the last person we expected, and Jessica Fletcher was really a serial killer who framed random strangers? Except that having our financial information written on a bathroom wall isn't a joke. And, as we shall see, Congress grandstanding about fixing it is a bad one. Let's consider how the current hearings might instead prevent us from finding out what really happened and how to prevent it from happening again. It may have been fun to hear about the new Equifax CEO admitting that he doesn't know whether his company encrypts our personal information. At least he's being held accountable Gus! you say. But this is a hard problem, which he was only very recently brought in to address. More to the point,Congress effectively made itself the CEO of every credit bureau nearly fifty years ago when it passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)... To continue reading my latest column, please proceed to RealClear Markets. I would like to thank reader Steve D. and my wife for their comments on earlier versions of this piece. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. The New York Times, fresh off celebrating a century of Communism, makes an astonishing report on living conditions in Venezuela. Here are a few highlights: Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, known to joke about how great for one's sex life starvation is. Really. Page the Times! (Image via Wikipedia.)A self-described bibliophile -- "my life is literature," he said -- [Carlos] Sandoval is one of Venezuela's foremost literary critics and a professor at two of the country's finest universities. Yet, Mr. Sandoval can no longer afford to buy books. ... This is an economy in which even the hourly rate in a parking lot recently ticked upward in the two hours it took a shopper to run some errands. ... The economic turmoil has put families -- poor and affluent alike -- at the intersection of some very tough choices, bred a stressful uncertainty about the course of any given day and turned the most basic tasks into feats of endurance. "Something so simple as taking money out of a bank machine or buying a coffee or taking a taxi has become a race for survival," Mr. Sandoval said. ... Like many poor Venezuelans, she has been gradually eliminating meals from her daily routine. She is now down to one, dinner, which usually consists of little more than rice and beans or pasta. ... David, like many Venezuelans, spends a lot of time waiting in line to buy basic goods -- when they are available. The other day he awoke before 5 a.m. and stood in line for nearly two and a half hours to buy a canister of cooking gas. By the time he got to the front of the line, the supply had run out. As he told the story, he seemed neither annoyed nor angry. Just resigned. "It's like something from a movie where you become accustomed to something that you shouldn't be accustomed to," he said. "Standing in line erodes the mind, erodes your thinking, the capacity to create." ... [T]o buy a pair of shoes, I have to put together two biweekly paychecks and hope that a light bulb doesn't break," he said.I meant to add "to them" to my description of the report. The word "socialism" doesn't come up a single time in the entire article. That fact, coming as it does from the same quarters who fling around terms like, "climate denier," is hardly astonishing to me. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Notable Commentary "As these systems become increasingly reliable and accurate, my hope is ... that regulators don't impede progress that could save millions of dollars -- and lives." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Will Computers Be Reading Your Chest X-Ray?" at Forbes. "Today, there are two groups who venerate the Confederate flag: 1) those honest people who are yet unclear about individual rights and, thus, do not question the myth and 2) racists, who as collectivists are opposed to individual rights and know the flag is a pro-slavery symbol." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: Civil War as Actually Fought Over Slavery" at The Aiken Standard. "The question should be: do [financiers] profit through creating values that enhance human well-being -- or are they parasites who line their pockets through short-range gambling and predatory exploitation?" -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "How to Recover Our Respect for the Finance Industry" at The Federalist. "While few of our beliefs are formed individually through algorithms enacted for the purpose of answering discrete questions, the acquisition and maintenance of at least many of our other beliefs depends on how we choose to conduct our cognition." -- Gregory Salmieri and Benjamin Bayer, in How We Choose Our Beliefs (PDF, 2013), in Philosophia 42: 41-53. From the Blogs Over at You Can and Did Build It is a post about a good article on free will by a contemporary defender of the concept, Albert Bandura: This concept of "top-down" cognitive regulation is the most important activates these subsystems. In simple terms, he is a causal agent in enabling these subsystems to function to his benefit. "Hmm. Exactly what are those pistons doing?" (Image via Pixabay.)contribution Bandura makes. What he is saying is that man actually exercises control over all these subsystems that operate in the background, but only at the "macrobehavioral" level (the "top"), i.e. only at the level of what one can directly choose. Man cannot choose or know about the details of the combustion engine's momentary operation (the "down"), just as he cannot choose or know about what his neurons are doing. When he chooses to do something, however, man This reminds me a little of Salmieri and Bayer's later discussion (linked above, and lighter on jargon after the first page or so) of choosing whether to believe something, especially when it's a less weighty decision about something we have read or heard about. Salmieri and Bayer take note of the countless prior cognitive choices that go into such a decision, consciously considered at the moment or not. Insofar as these have led to habits or assumptions, they seem to me a little like the "subsystems" mentioned by Bandura above, although "user-installed", if you will. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. If your mail includes piles of small packages from China that are clearly addressed to you -- but which may or may not contain anything -- blame postal subsidies: Would you, left to your own devices, pay to ship a white elephant to a random person, possibly yourself? (Image courtesy of Pixabay.)Basically, a "brushing" firm somehow got hold of McGeehan's name and address -- she imagines this happened from placing legitimate orders on AliExpress, the international wing of China's Alibaba -- and then created user profiles for "her" on the e-commerce sites that they wish to have higher sales ratings and favorable reviews on. They then shop for orders via the fake account, compare prices, and mimic everything an actual customer would do, before finally making a purchase from their client's store. When delivery is confirmed, they then leave positive reviews that appear to the e-commerce platform as "verified." The hair ties that McGeehan receives are more than likely not the actual items the Chinese brushers are leaving reviews for. Basically, they are low cost stand-ins for the real products. It doesn't really matter what is shipped in the packages in this case, as the person receiving it has nothing to do with the exchange. But at least McGeehan is actually receiving packages that contain something. I've also been receiving reports from unsuspecting and often confused people in the U.S. whose mailboxes are being filled with parcels from China which contain nothing. Due to the unbalanced pricing policies of the United Postal Union and subsidies from the U.S. Postal Service, it costs people in China virtually nothing to ship small packages to the U.S. That, combined with the super cheap price they pay for the junk they ship, makes brushing a quick and cost effective way to move up the sales rankings -- which means everything for e-commerce merchants. [links in original, bold added]This is annoying, but it -- and probably lots of other junk mail -- wouldn't happen* at all were it not for the government forcing us to deal with and pay for the Post Office. -- CAV * Interestingly, it appears that the junk mail we get from American businesses is, at least in part, subsidizing the junk mail we get from overseas. Link to Original
  13. Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist writes about the latest tempest in the media teapot Donald Trump has managed to provoke by the kind of remark he typically makes. Unlike the media -- and the cynical Elizabeth Warren, who is making money off of this -- Hemingway correctly appraises Trump's faux as du jour: t's beyond reasonable to criticize President Trump for mucking up a ceremony honoring World War II heroes with a petty invocation of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's false claim of Native American heritage. Yes. Why bring up that poser at all when honoring the Navajo code talkers of World War II? Hemingway identifies much of what went on since as "even greater silliness," but I don't think she goes far enough there. Hemingway describes at length how eagerly the leftist media have dropped all context and relentlessly gone after the President on the grounds that his remark was "racist." Whence the silliness? A recent Wall Street Journal article by Shelby Steele goes a long way towards answering that question. In "Why the Left Can't Let Go of Racism," he writes: Useful for keeping on the straight and narrow. Fishing, too. (Image via Wikipedia.) What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers. Racism was once just racism, a terrible bigotry that people nevertheless learned to live with, if not as a necessary evil then as an inevitable one. But the civil-rights movement, along with independence movements around the world, changed that. The '60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin, the very worst of all social evils. Suddenly America was in moral trouble. The open acknowledgment of the nation's racist past had destroyed its moral authority, and affirming democratic principles and the rule of law was not a sufficient response. Only a strict moral accounting could restore legitimacy. Thus, redemption -- paying off the nation's sins -- became the moral imperative of a new political and cultural liberalism... ... Here we see redemptive liberalism's great ingenuity: It seized proprietorship over innocence itself. It took on the power to grant or deny moral legitimacy across society. Liberals were free of the past while conservatives longed to resurrect it, bigotry and all. What else could "Make America Great Again" mean? ... Steele sums things up: "The liberal identity must have racism, lest it lose innocence and the power it conveys." We're seeing a mixture here of idealism unmoored from reality and naked cynicism in an army of useful idiots and power-lusters. (And the power-lusters, whose defeated presidential candidate was a perfect embodiment of the left on many levels, know on some level that ginning up phony indignation is all they have left.) Steele sees the conservative movement as an alternative, his only main point I have issue with. A true alternative would be an individualist, radical pro-capitalist movement. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Over at The American Interest is an article that is highly critical of George Orwell. Ben Judah rightly faults Orwell for anti-Semitism, but his main complaints -- that Orwell (1) doesn't "honestly grapple with complexity" and (2) is "morally zealous" are, respectively, (1) worth considering and (2) not something to be concerned about. A counterexample, coming from the top authority on the thought of Ayn Rand might be helpful to consider here, both as a means of understanding these points and introducing a far better alternative to Orwell in terms of writing cautionary novels about collectivism and of predicting the future: Image via Wikipedia. Ayn Rand is more realistic than the panicky anti-communists of the Cold War era, who trembled before the alleged practicality of dictatorship. The best symbol of this issue is the contrast between two projections of a collectivist future: George Orwell's 1984 vs. Ayn Rand's Anthem (which was published more than a decade earlier, in 1938). Orwell regards freedom as a luxury; he believes that one can wipe out every vestige of free thought, yet still maintain an industrial civilization. Whose mind is maintaining it? Blank out. Anthem, by contrast, shows us "social cogs" who have retrogressed, both spiritually and materially, to the condition of primitives. When men lose the freedom to think, Ayn Rand understands, they lose the products of thought as well. [link added] (Leonard Peikoff, in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 362)Ayn Rand "grappled with complexity," throughout her literary career, notably creating an entire philosophic system for the purpose of being able to project a heroic man. Among the many fruits of this labor were an intimate understanding of the necessity of freedom for man to function as a rational animal within a society, something Orwell clearly lacks despite (perhaps, his anti-Semitism notwithstanding) his heart being in the right place. Note further that this grappling resulted in clarity about many other matters, such as about the issue of "extremism," of which I am sure the essayist might accuse Rand and Orwell equally, but wrongly. A strong moral stand, if for the right cause and the right reason, and taken effectively, is moral and practical. In this respect, the author is wrong to indict Orwell for zealousness as such, and opens the door to condemn Rand out of hand, before anyone even begins to consider her rich and fruitful thinking. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. For Thanksgiving, John Stossel wrote a piece on private property, something he clearly shows we should celebrate on that holiday: Of course, they might just answer, "Yeah, but what about ham?" (Image courtesy of Pixabay.)Had the Pilgrims continued communal farming, this Thursday might be known as "Starvation Day" instead of Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the Pilgrims were led not by Bernie Sanders fans or other commons-loving socialists, but by Governor Bradford, who wrote that he "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could ... that they might not still thus languish in misery ... After much debate (I) assigned each family a parcel of land ... (T)his had very good success, because it made every hand industrious." There's nothing like private ownership to make "every hand industrious."While Stossel does not discuss private property as a right, he does show how miserable we would be without the concept, using his historical example and explanation of the tragedy of the commons to do so. Be sure to read the whole thing: It might come in handy should you have a relative or friend who has an interest in learning about such issues. -- CAV Link to Original
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