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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Blog Roundup

1. If half of the Democrats running for office would only follow the below piece of advice, our political discourse would be far more productive and we might have something closer to a pro-capitalist party than we do with the Republicans:
efore you make a major change in a system, first understand and appreciate what works in the system.
This comes from Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress, who elaborates further:
When I hear people talking about "changing the system" who don't first appreciate the role of freedom and fossil fuels in our amazing way of life, I do not become inspired -- I become scared. What inspires me is when people appreciate what makes life great and then seek to learn from that to make life even better.
Amen.

2. Buying groceries at Walmart recently, I declined the "opportunity" to give money to "end hunger." I didn't do this merely because putting someone on the spot is rude -- which it is. I abstained because whatever charity would have gotten my money almost certainly has things bass-ackwards:
Recognizing that there is no magic wand to wipe out poverty overnight, I argue that it is possible to end poverty and increase prosperity for everyone. It will indeed require commitment by the government -- albeit undoubtedly a very different kind from what the anti-poverty activists envision.
This comes from Jaana Woiceshyn, and is one of the few calls for government action I have agreed with in a long time! Read the whole thing, but see also: understand and appreciate what works in the system.

3. After arguing that multiculturalism is an anti-social, anti-individual, and anti-reason ideology, Peter Schwartz makes the following useful generalization about understanding ideologies:
As a quick aside, let me say something more general about this subject. We've been trying to understand the essence of multiculturalism. But what we've been doing here applies elsewhere too. It applies to the method by which to identify the essence of any ideology. And I would summarize that method in three brief points...
Although Schwartz elaborates on each of these, I shall simply present them in order here: (1) Concretize all abstractions; When you've identified the concrete things the ideology supports, or opposes, you have to grasp the underlying idea, the underlying abstraction; and (3) It's important to note the range of positions an ideology finds tolerable. This method, as Schwartz indicates, can help one gain a better understanding of positions ranging from Objectivism to Libertarianism.

4. Jason Crawford's fascinating journal of "the ascent of mankind" recently features a discussion of valuable resources that were once regarded as useless or discarded as waste products. Along the way, he makes a point relevant to all of the previous posts in this list:
cliffs_mine.jpg
A mine tower in the Marquette Iron Range (Image by Gittinsj , via Wikipedia, license.)
But the more philosophical point is that all resources are the product of the human mind. A "natural" resource is only a resource at all in the context of a particular technology. It is only a resource to someone who can look at it and understand its use and value. And it is only a resource to someone who has the technology and the capital to extract it from its environment and put it to that use.

You can see this in the stories of the early development of industries. Before the oil industry, there were known places where oily sludge or tar would seep out of the ground; people might skim some of it off a pond to light a torch, but no one was drilling it and no one considered it "black gold". The Marquette Iron Range near Lake Superior, which disrupted compass readings and attracted lightning, was known to local Chippewa tribes only as the home of a thunder god, until miners arrived to prospect and extract the ore. The Chinchas Islands off the coast of Peru, covered in seagull droppings, were for a time the most valuable real estate in the world, owing to the value of guano as fertilizer -- but before that discovery I can only imagine that sailors literally steered clear of them, owing to the overpowering stench. [emphasis and link in original]
All of these things were regarded as useless of worse for ages, until someone understood their potential, took action, and deservedly profited.

-- CAV

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