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  1. By: Alex Epstein There is no such thing as "price gouging" by private businesses. Many consumers are angry about alleged price gouging at the pump, and politicians are listening. States with anti-"price gouging" laws are investigating and prosecuting complaints, while Washington is discussing a federal anti-"price gouging" law. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist promises that "if the facts warrant it, I will support a federal anti-price gouging law." But there are no facts that could warrant such a law, because there is no such thing as "price gouging" by private businesses.... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000571.html
  2. In response to the new proposal of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to regulate space tourism, Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, said: "If we want to encourage space tourism, the last thing we want is for the government to regulate it." "Safety concerns," said Dr. Brook, "should be addressed by those who are actually developing this cutting-edge technology. It is up to their potential customers, not government officials, to evaluate the risks involved." Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has appeared hundreds of times on radio and TV shows, including FOX News (The O'Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, At Large with Geraldo Rivera), CNN's Talkback Live, CNBC's Closing Bell and On the Money, and C-SPAN.... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000570.html
  3. Originally from Gus Van Horn, There's an article at City Journal called "Reagan's Unlikely Heir" that details a politician who is less interesting for his point of view (typical Reagan conservative) than for what he represents: the next step in the emancipation of black America from single-party rule. His own political education is one of the most intriguing parts. Those who must live under a dictatorship often hate it more than those outside its confines. This is the kind of phenomenon that we are seeing here in relation to the welfare state.
  4. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Have you read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell? Its subtitle, "The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking" had me concerned. But...upon reading it, I found it to be a neither mystical nor subjective look at the subconscious. Let us not judge a book by its cover. The essential quote (p.114) from "Blink": Spontaneity isn't random...How good people's decisions are under the fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal. "Blink" is not explicitly philosophical. But it inspired me to put Dr. Harry Binswanger's "Psycho-Epistemology I" on my Christmas list. As an introduction, Dr. Binswanger gave the simple example of how we can provide the answer to "7 plus 2" instantly. We don't calculate it consciously. It is because we, in "Blink" terms, "rehearsed" it as a child. We give the answer in a "Blink". Another point Gladwell makes is: that extra information is more than useless. It's harmful. It confuses the issues. (p. 137) Sounds similar to crow epistemology to me. He provides an example of how a hospital focused upon determining the essential information for analyzing chest pains in an emergency room. The approach saved lives and money. I could share more, but most importantly, I think "Blink" will help people to understand the nature of the subconscious. I think the lack of understanding of the subconscious is one of the great, if not *the* great, philosophical and psychological issues. All of the gods of the sun and seas are dead because scientists have provided explanations for their identity and causality. People explain away the actions of their subconscious through mysticism ("God or The Holy Ghost provided me the answer.") or subjectively ("I don't really have to think or plan, I just wing it.") In many cases, this "works" for people only because their subconscious is working the way it should -- based upon "training and rules and rehearsal". They are simply failing to identify the real root. "Blink" is not Objectivist. It has its faults. But "Blink" is overall rational. And it points out the value for studies of the subconscious such as Dr. Binswanger's.
  5. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Since 1997 Oregon physicians have been permitted by statute to help their patients commit suicide. On Tuesday the Supreme Court upheld this controversial law, reaching the right result for the wrong reasons. By basing its decision on legal technicalities, the Court managed to avoid addressing the real issue: an individual's unconditional right to commit suicide. More from Tom Bowden at The American Chronicle here. Am I pro-suicide? Uhhh...No. Do I defend the right of the individual to make his or her own decisions about their life in the context of individual and property rights? Yes. The Catholic response: Physician-assisted suicide is not an act that directly ends the suffering of a patient. Rather, this act deliberately takes the life of a person who receives his or her life as a gift from God. Physician-assisted suicide represents a fundamental violation of this gift and of human dignity. Translation: "It's not your life. It's God's." Sounds like Terry Schiavo all over again. No matter how bad someone's life is, it must be sustained." Tom adds: The Declaration of Independence proclaimed, for the first time in the history of nations, that each person exists as an end in himself. This basic truth--which finds political expression in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--means, in practical terms, that you need no one's permission to live and that no one may forcibly obstruct your efforts to achieve your own personal happiness. But what if happiness becomes impossible to attain? What if a dread disease, or some other calamity, drains all joy from life, leaving only misery and suffering? The right to life includes and implies the right to commit suicide. To hold otherwise--to declare that society or God must give you permission to kill yourself--is to contradict the right to life at its root. If you have a duty to go on living, despite your better judgment, then your life does not belong to you, and you exist by permission, not by right. Thanks Tom.
  6. Originally from Myrhaf, I'm a basketball fan. It's a beautiful game. Watching the players move as a play develops is fascinating. And the athleticism is amazing. I still remember the first time Michael Jordan caught my eye in the mid-'80s. He was on the baseline and he jumped toward the basket. At the point that most humans begin their descent, he continued ascending. Two things I hear all the time during broadcasts bother me. 1. Giving back. Basketball players talk about giving back to the community, meaning their charity efforts. This implies that they have taken something from the community in the first place. The money they took in salary and endorsements was a trade. Owners pay players because they expect to make a profit. Fans buy tickets to be entertained. Basketball players have taken nothing they need to give back. Someone like Magic Johnson provided so much value to so many millions of people when he played that it is an injustice to imply that he owes anyone a damned thing. It is we who owe him gratitude for providing with his play the concrete image of human greatness. People struggling to pursue goals, sometimes overwhelmed by doubt of their eventual success, could look at Magic Johnson and see that values can be achieved on this earth. Because altruism and collectivism dominate our culture, every NBA game has commercials full of basketball players doing social work, usually with children. It's fine if they want to do spend time inspiring kids. There is nothing wrong with that -- although I suspect that a lot of players don't really care about children, they just do these photo ops to improve their image. Pictures of basketball players doing social work are not inspiring. Charity is insignificant compared to a their achievement on the court. When they play the game, that is when they give the most value to the world. Those charity commercials disgust me. It is as if NBA players feel they have to apologize for their greatness by humbling themselves. "If we read to children and feed bums, will you leave us alone and let us play basketball?" That is how the morality of sacrifice twists our culture. We make midgets out of giants. 2. Selfless play. When a basketball player passes a lot, he is called "unselfish." Is it selfish to want to win the game? If passing helps a team win, then isn't it just as selfish as shooting? Some players such as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson shoot a lot because they are great scorers. They put the round ball in the cylinder. Getting the basketball to their hands, especially at crunch time, helps win games. Players pass to them because they want to win. Players who shoot too much to the detriment of the team are not selfish, they're bad. They don't last long on the team. They don't get big contracts. They don't win. What is so selfish about shooting too much when it does not help a team win? In the long run it is self-destructive. It is ridiculous to hold passers as some sort of moral exemplar -- St. Lamar of the Hardwood, who sacrifices himself so that selfish Kobe can get all the glory! All elements of the game should have one purpose: to win the game. The educated basketball fan knows that a pass can be as important as a score.
  7. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, New research, published in the journal Nature, indicating that plants produce 10-to-30 percent of the methane that causes global warming, sparked former Vice President Al Gore today to call for clear-cutting the Amazon rainforests in order to "save Mother Earth from these silent, but deadly, methane merchants." More satire from Scrappleface here....
  8. Originally from Myrhaf, Bill Quick speculates in a long post that America will be seeing a political realignment in the near future. His analysis of America's class system (not the Marxist model you expect) is fascinating. I would disagree on a minor point, his historical explanation of the conservatives' failure to fight big government. Their confidence was shaken because they accept the moral premise of altruism, which undercuts their free market economic ideas. We saw the same thing happen in 1995 with the government shutdown. The Democrats and the MSM stood firm and the Republicans collapsed in disarray. They did not really believe in fighting big government because they were undercut by their moral premises. One realignment I fear is that the religious right will make a deal with the environmentalist left. They both oppose freedom and want to take society back -- the right wants to take us to the middle ages and the left wants to take us to the Pleistocene. I fear they will make a deal saying, essentially, "The right can have its way on abortion if the left can have its way on the economy. The right can enchain man's spirit, whereas the left enchains his body." Such a realignment would put America into two clear-cut camps, individualists and collectivists.
  9. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Here's another story that caught my eye by Phil Stewart at Reuters: What's wrong with this case? Cascioli is attacking the right to hold a private view. If it's permissible for a government to rule on religion on the basis of "Abuse of Popular Belief," then it's permissible for a government to rule on politics, ethics, or any other realm it desires. Did marketing sway you to buy that car on the promise that it would increase your feeling of prestige or personal satisfaction? Abuse of Popular Belief. Did Atlas Shrugged sway you away from religion and toward Objectivism? Abuse of Popular Belief. There is a reason government must stay out of the realm of ideas, and that is that no man may presume to think for another. Men like Cascioli are only acting against the dawn of a future age of reason, by undercutting the very intellectual freedom that would make such an age possible.
  10. Paul just reminded me that tonight will be The Night of January 16th!... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000560.html
  11. Originally from Gus Van Horn, I recently learned, via MEMRI, of the following indicator of the state of intellectual discourse in the Arab world, specifically in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our self-proclaimed "friends". The fact that the treatise is a glorified hit list is bad enough, but it is instructive to note further just how well-received it was by our "friends" and when. If a regime permits (to speak very euphemistically here) someone like Al-Ghamdi to level death threats at some of its own citizens over things like "heresy, ... politics, economics, society, arts, and ethics", not to mention citizens of other , friendly Arab states, we should keep that in mind every time we hear its leaders proclaiming their friendship with us. At least with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we know exactly where we stand. Read the whole thing. It is incredible.
  12. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Via Instapundit is an article that, although it is doubtless all over the place anyway, I will post it here and urge my readers to read in its entirety. My reaction follows. The article details massive efforts underway to severely curtail freedom of speech by means of reigning in talk radio and the blogosphere. *** Ayn Rand once said, "A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war." ("What Can One Do?", The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. I) This quote is particularly chilling in today's context: We are, in fact, facing the prospect of nuclear war with a deranged enemy, Iran. We could very easily wipe out the threat posed by Iran, but we haven't yet and we still haven't decided what to do. Our political will has been sapped by a war of ideas over the battle of Iraq because (1) its proponents in our administration have done a poor job of justifying and defending it to the American public, and (2) there has been a constant drumbeat of opposition from the political left and the media. This is not the drumbeat of a loyal opposition that would have had us fight harder in Iraq, or even to have started the war in a different theater altogether, but an opposition that would have us surrender on the battlefield and accept dhimmitude at home. Despite the fact that we have an inarticulate president who does not seem to appreciate the importance of appealing to the minds of his electorate, we differ from most of Europe in having shown the political will to fight back in this war. Why? In large part, it is because ordinary citizens have stepped forward in the alternative media to supply the facts and arguments (Rand would have said, the "intellectual ammunition") that should have come from our elected officials far more often than they did, and (more importantly) which should have gotten a hearing in our traditional news media and universities, but which almost uniformly did not. Why are ideas and arguments important in a time of war? Since we do not live in a dictatorship, our nation does not wage a war unless the politicians in power think that there is a broad enough consensus in favor of doing so. This is a very small, but relevant portion of the meaning of the Ayn Rand quote I started with above. For our country to fight an actual war, its people must first fight a battle of ideas. In other words, for us to go to war, we must hold a public debate and at the end of that debate, we must end up broadly accepting the premise that our enemy is a threat and that we must do what it takes to defeat him. Is sharia incompatible with freedom? Is it OK to kill others when their leaders threaten our lives or those of our friends in Israel? Is the purpose of diplomacy to settle a dispute between equally moral peoples or is it to buy time for a madman to develop a bomb? These are all questions whose answers depend not just on the factual context of our situation, but upon the values we generally accept as a people. And we must answer questions like these before we decide to go to war. We cannot all be moral philosophers. We also cannot all be military or foreign policy experts. But in a free society, those who do specialize in these disciplines are free to make their arguments for or against a given course of public action. It is their job as intellectuals to help a people make an informed choice about what we should do as a nation, not just in a time of national crisis (as we are in now), but always. This is why freedom of speech is by far the most potent weapon in the American arsenal. When a nation permits the free exchange of ideas, we are free -- unfettered by such considerations as political correctness -- to, say, examine the religion of Islam and accept it or to find it wanting as the guide for our lives. Because we are free, we have all the information we need, and because we are free, we do not have to pretend, out of fear for our lives, to disagree with what our own minds tell us. And we have all the help we need from intellectuals, the specialists in their fields. But all this information and help do not relieve us of the need to make our own minds up about the issues of the day. This is where, on a more modest level, freedom of speech shows its value again. In the times leading up to the American Revolution, the colonists would meet in taverns to discuss the issues of the day with their peers. Today, we do the same thing on a national scale by way of radio and the Internet. Why? Aren't the pronouncements of the experts enough? If the town crier or Dan Rather says something a common man can understand, is that not good enough? Suppose for a moment that our criers and our newscasters are infallible. What if someone misses something, or wishes to be sure of grasping it fully? Fortunately for the town criers then, and the Dan Rathers now, they don't have to take each individual question from their audiences. Others who heard them could share the load of making sure everyone got what they needed, be that in the form of factual information or intellectual argument, to make an informed decision on the issues of the day. This is why, leading up to the Revolution, groups of ordinary men would get together over ale and hash things out. Sometimes, they would even evaluate the same ideas and information and come out in disagreement anyway, but they all evidently found some value in the process most of the time since they kept meeting to discuss politics over and over again. Eventually, enough of them decided to support a war for their freedom against one of the strongest nations of the time. They succeeded. There must have been some actual value in their quaint habit of arguing with one another all the time. Again, as I said, the responsibility for protecting freedom lies with each man in a free nation. It is up to him to understand the rationales and facts behind the course of action he will advocate for any given issue of his day. Take the last election. Was the service of our current wartime President in the National Guard relevant or not to the job he had done for the past four years and would be expected to continue doing? And if so, were the allegations that he did not do so substantiated? These were important questions that no one in the business of providing facts to his public should mind that public discussing among themselves until they feel like they understand the point. And certainly, any politician genuinely concerned for the welfare of his nation would want his people to have nothing but all the facts about himself and his opponent, and the time to weigh them carefully before choosing to cast their ballots. I will not belabor the details of Rathergate, but merely note that it demonstrates that in a free society, even a corrupt press cannot stop the common man from learning, by means of his own honest effort, what he needs to make an informed decision. The importance of this transcends party lines as well as the results of that election. Instead, I will only ask a few pertinent questions. Given that it is necessary, with the way our republic conducts its affairs, for large numbers of ordinary men to access and evaluate arguments and factual data, what possible motivation could someone have for wanting to throttle the flow of those arguments and that information? What consequences would such a achievement, such a throttling as it were, have? And most importantly, why are you letting them do this to you? Now go, if you haven't read that article already, and read it, please. And if you have, read it again. Make sure you have a copy handy, and make damn sure everyone you know finds out about it. A repeal of McCain-Feingold and will not solve all our problems, but it would be an excellent place to get started.
  13. Originally from Myrhaf, Today Senator Dick Durbin fired a salvo in what the Democrats hope will be an effective strategy this year, attacking the Republican "culture of corruption." America deserves honest leadership in Washington to replace the current Republican-dominated government, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. The concentrated power of the current GOP-controlled Congress and executive branch has produced "a culture of corruption that is preventing government from dealing with the real needs of our nation," Durbin said. This line of attack was immensely successful for Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in the late'80s and early '90s. The House post office scandal, pay raises, Jim Wright's book deal and Dan Rostenkowski's corruption -- these scandals I remember off the top of my head, and there were more. After decades of power the Democrats were complacent, arrogant and corrupt. Now that Republicans have the power, Democrats are hoping they can repeat Newt Gingrich's success. The issue of corruption is not an abstract policy issue. It's easy for people to understand. A Congressman took money from a lobbyist; he is a bad man. It's more interesting than social security. The Republicans will counter by arguing that the Democrats are corrupt too. Since the MSM is now the media arm of the Democrat Party, I expect the narrative to be that it is a heavily Republican scandal. A few Democrats might be sacrificed to prove the media's objectivity. An added attraction of this strategy to the Democrats: they can integrate a leftist attack on corporations. "Powerful corporate special interests control the agenda and people who don't have paid lobbyists really don't have much of a voice," he said. "To these power players, the challenges facing America are not problems to solve, but opportunities to exploit." Those challenges include the lack of affordable health insurance, dwindling pension plans and rising energy costs, Durbin said. Durbin's argument is, to put it in my words, that because corporate special interests are able to buy off Republicans, Americans don't have socialism. Of course, Democrats never utter the word socialism because it would be electoral suicide. Instead, they focus on concrete issues like health insurance and rising gas prices, expecting Americans to be incapable of understanding the principles behind the pinch on their checkbooks. This is not cynicism; I doubt that Senator Durbin has a clue about the economic and political reasons behind today's urgent problems. So we can look forward to another year of scorched earth politics. In the end, some politicians will be ruined, perhaps deservedly, but the fundamental problem -- government intervention into the economy -- will not be any better. If anything, the Democrat strategy of tying corruption to corporations (i.e. capitalism) will increase government regulations and diminish freedom in America.
  14. Originally from Myrhaf, Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House thinks we might have reached a turning point. Sweaty palms at DNC headquarters"You mean we have to do more than ritually mouth the words racist and sexist? We have to, like, think about deep stuff? Form intelligent arguments? Pass the Rolaids..." The end of liberals attacking character instead of ideas cannot come soon enough. I don't think dinosaurs like Kennedy can change, but maybe the younger ones like Obama will. It's doubtful. There's a cliche that says generals fight the last war. In 1939 the French were prepared to refight WWI; the German Blitzkrieg blew them away. The Democrats have been fighting the same war for over 30 years. The Democrats' fundamental problem is the same one that devastated them in the 1972 election: they have become a New Leftist party. The American people are still not as far left as the Democrat base, although there has been some shift. California used to be a more Republican state, but recently it has been reliably blue. The Democrats learned that their electoral survival depends on concealing their agenda. The only two Democrats to be elected President since the '72 landslide are southern governors who campaigned as moderates. In the '80s the word "libera" became such a liability that even Senator Kennedy dances around it. Instead of arguing issues honestly, the Democrats have relied on vilifying their opponents. Their opposition research focuses on any variations from political correctness they can use to cry racism, sexism, insensitive, and so on. When researchers found the Concerned Alumni of Princeton connection to Alito, they were overjoyed. They were like Linus after he gets back his security blanket. The Democrats are waiting for that genius to arrive who can repackage statism so that it sells. Since giving up the welfare state is inconceivable, this is their best hope for finding a new tactic. Their other hope is that the American people become more like the Democrat base. Here the left relies on public education. The Democrats dominate the education establishment. From kindergarten through college, students are fed a constant diet of New Leftist propaganda; environmentalism, identity politics, welfare, the UN -- issues such as these are held up as unquestioned ideals. After 12 years of this statist propaganda and four years of even more intense doctrination at college, including sensitivity and sexual harassment training, it is a wonder that any educated American can think independently at all. So far the only thing that has kept a majority of American voters from agreeing with the Democrat base is the American sense of life, the last glow of our Enlightenment heritage. The Enlightenment was a long time ago. After two centuries of anti-Enlightenment, irrational philosophy, the character of the American common man is not much of a guarantee against the encroaching state. It is becoming clear to the generals that the old war cannot be refought. New tactics are needed. But the shape of the new war is still unclear. Will the left find a way to bring the American people over to their side? I tremble at the prospect of the Democrats finding their Napoleon.
  15. Originally posted by Diana from NoodleFood, Novelist Erika Holzer has a new book: Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher. I don't know much about her, although she seems entirely too friendly with The Objectivist Center. Yet she doesn't seem to be one of the Ayn Rand bashers, based upon this interview with Front Page Magazine. So has anyone read the book? Is it worth reading? And what about her fiction?
  16. Originally from Myrhaf, Why do politicians allow themselves to take money from people like Jack Abramoff? Is it the Republican culture of corruption? Is it what Lord Acton said about power corrupting? Are humans just weak and sinful by nature? The federal government spends something like $2.7 trillion a year. This presents politicians with a problem: how do they make rational decisions about how to spend that money? How do they allocate resources? In capitalism the system of prices gives everyone precise information on how to allocate resources. If the demand for roofing nails goes up .1% and the demand for screws goes down .2%, producers know to make more roofing nails. Hardware store owners know how much of each product to stock depending on supply and demand. With double-entry bookkeeping, they can make calculations down to pennies. In socialism chaos reigns because they do not have a system of prices to provide information. Should Comrade Boobikoff order factories to produce more roofing nails or screws? The hardware stores always have empty shelves because everything is free -- demand always exceeds supply. Comrade Boobikoof shrugs. Whether he makes more roofing nails or screws, no one will notice anyway. A mixed economy is, as the name indicates, a mixture of capitalism and socialism. The $2.7 trillion that politicians control is the socialist part. They cannot use the pricing system to make decisions because their function is not to make a profit. On what knowledge do they base their decisions? That is where Jack Abramoff and his lobbyist colleagues come in. They provide politicians with an ersatz method of calculation. Should group x get $1.1 billion or $1.2 billion? Abramoff says, "If you give $1.2 billion, then group x will donate $15,000 to your next campaign."The politician's political self-interest replaces the pursuit of profit by 300 million Americans in the free market as the standard of measurement. The inevitable corruption of politicians in a mixed economy comes about not because man is innately depraved, but because he is not omniscient. Politicians need knowledge on which to base their calculations of how to allocate resources. They find themselves besieged by countless pressure groups hoping for a piece of the action. How do they decide who gets what? Imagine you're a Senator who is promised $50,000 for his next campaign by Lobbyist A. At the same time, Lobbyist B ignores the Senator. Which cause gets a spending increase in the next budget? If the Senator ignore Lobbyist A's cause, he risks losing that $50,000 he desperately needs to win his next election. Campaign finance regulations do not end the corruption. As long as politicians have resources to allocate, people will find ways around the laws to get at that wealth. Even if all the money were taken out of political campaigns, some form of influence such as media time would replace it. The only way to end corruption in Washington, D.C. is to get rid of the socialist part of our mixed economy. When the politicians have no money to give interest groups, then people like Jack Abramoff will have to find honest work.
  17. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Quite awhile back, I blogged some cogent remarks by Thomas Friedman on the problem that terrorism poses for Moslems who do not sympathize with terrorism. Quoting him again: Today, I ran across a thoughtful, moderate Moslem commentator, Stephen Schwartz, who discusses such matters. In his archives at TCS Daily, for example, he explains some of the pressures on American Moslems against standing up to terrorism. While this does not excuse silence in the face of terrorism, it helps explain it, and it shows us why it is imperative that we stop giving groups like CAIR the benefit of the doubt. If the social/religious climate for American Moslems resembles that in a full-blown theocracy, our government and media could help matters by no longer granting CAIR moral sanction. But the reason I'm blogging Stephen Schwartz is because today he speaks to another issue. Recall that Friedman said, "[E]ither the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists ... or the West is going to do it for them ... in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out." A huge problem for moderate Moslems is this: how can Westerners, almost wholly ignorant of that religion, differentiate moderates from terrorists? Stephen Schwartz explains how. He starts with an executive summary, which is, ironically enough, the main thing I have an issue with. Schwartz goes on to explain why he thinks a terrorist would not lie in answer to such a question (now that Schwartz has supplied him with the "right answer"), but I am unconvinced. Indeed, since Islamists are trained to "blend in", the more sophisticated among them might dissemble about many things over a long period of time, making even the long, deliberate version of Schwartz's advice moot. This is where we would need the help of the (real) moderates, in the form of telling us of any suspicions of solidarity with terrorists. Nevertheless, despite the ill-advisability of simply posing a question, the rest of Schwartz's advice is pretty good: He advises that one consider the whole of a person's attitudes and actions. So his whole column is still worth a read. He then goes on to outline a fairly large constellation of factors to look for. PS: For those who wonder about the incident in which the Former Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens was denied entry into the United States, Schwartz also writes about that, saying that, "[A] look at the career and associations of Yusuf Islam since he became a Muslim in 1977 shows that the decision was correct."
  18. Originally from Myrhaf, It's easy for me to get pessimistic. I see stupidity and ugliness in our culture and think, "It's over. We're going down the toilet." I get the impression that Leonard Peikoff used to be of the same disposition, although he has sounded more optimistic in recent tapes. In the past, Dr. Peikoff even talked about directing the publishers of Ayn Rand's books to print some copies on acid-free paper and send them to places like India. I mean, to hear him talk, we were heading for another Dark Ages and we needed to be thinking about the preservation of knowledge -- the concerns of Benedict and Cassiodorus in the 6th century. Steven Brockerman is a wise man. He keeps track of the good news. Here is his list for 2005. Yes, there is good news, too. Remembering it helps keep the world in perspective. Ayn Rand used to think it was important to end a long philosophical conversation focusing on the positive. She didn't want to extend a bad mood. She held what she called the "benevolent universe premise." This does not mean that the universe is kindly toward man. It has nothing to do with Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide (based on Leibniz), who held that we live in the best of all possible worlds. The benevolent universe premise merely means that the universe is not out to get us. There is no fate, no destiny. There is no reason to fight against a malevolent universe like the heroes in Byron's poetry. Values can be achieved on this earth. Happiness, not suffering, should be the norm in life. **** Part of my gloominess, I believe, came from reading Austrian economists. For 25 years now I have read their dire predictions of economic collapse. We were supposed to be in Weimar-like hyperinflation by now. Listening to them and buying gold in the '80s instead of investing in the stock market would have been pretty stupid. Maybe the collapse will come when Baby Boomers retire and China attacks Taiwan and WWIII begins and President McCain orders every American under the age of 30 to serve two years of slavery to the state. Or maybe we'll keep muddling along as we have for decades. Does Alan Greenspan get credit for holding off the collapse? I really don't know. He gets a lot of negative press from economists I respect. Will Bernanke bring about the promised end? We'll see. Two things above all have kept our economy growing. First, the dynamic engine that is capitalism. Even a fettered, mixed economy produces remarkable wealth. Politicians can be great fools, filling tomes full of regulations and stealing mountains of wealth from taxpayers, but the free element of our economy covers their folly. Life keeps getting better. We don't feel the effects of our chains. Second, the invention of the computer. We still do not understand the extent of how computers are changing the west. They make everything more efficient. Every aspect of our economy, from factories to your grocery checkout line, has been made better by computers. Watch a movie from the '50s that features a corporation in Manhattan. It will have a scene with a vast room full of women at typewriters. These rooms were called secretarial pools. They have been replaced by the computer, freeing corporations to invest more money in production, raising our standard of living and creating better jobs. Remember standing for 45 minutes in a bank line? I have not done that for years because of ATM's. That's 45 minutes a week that is now mine to spend as I wish instead of standing in a line. **** In the near run, I must admit, I am still pessimistic. Ludwig von Mises argued that a mixed economy gets progressively worse until it becomes a dictatorship. As he explained, the government intervenes in some aspect of the economy, creates a crisis, then blames the crisis on the elements of freedom left. The government uses the crisis to further expand control over the economy. This is the process he saw first hand in the Weimar Republic that led to Hitler's dictatorship. Worse, the philosophic premises that dominate our culture are still bad. When a politician like John McCain waxes eloquent about the nobility of sacrifice, no major voice opposes him. Both the socialist left and the religious right agree on the morality of sacrifice. They disagree on what should be sacrificed and to whom, the state or God. However these disagreements are hammered out, the individual will be hammered on. In the long run I am optimistic. I think the power of capitalism will keep the economy growing long enough for the ideas of Ayn Rand to spread through our culture. Probably the Baby Boomers and even the Generation Xers will have to die before real change can come about. Alas, that means I probably will not live to see it, unless all that talk about life extension comes about. (There's a subject for another post altogether.) But as Ayn Rand wrote, anyone who works for the future lives in it today. UPDATE: I changed the title of this post to Good News. It was originally "Good News (Not From the Vatican)," which was a play on a science fiction short story by Robert Silverberg called "Good News From the Vatican." The old title probably had people scratching their heads.
  19. Originally from Gus Van Horn, At RealClear Politics is a review by Robert Samuelson of the book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, by Benjamin Friedman. This sounds good, but it quickly becomes clear that the author of the book accepts altruism, a type of morality incompatible with economic growth (i.e., capitalism -- I set aside the question of whether Friedman explicitly discusses "capitalism".). Note how government intrusion into the economy in the form of child labor laws sneaks into a list of actual improvements. And if the next paragraph is an accurate characterization of Friedman's views, it goes a long way in explaining why Samuelson finds so many holes in the book's central argument. I'm chalking the term "instinctively", which would altogether preclude morality, to sloppiness. But for an economist to make the point that people hope to live more comfortable lives out of one side of his mouth, but say that prosperity is not all about "greed" out of the other, he has to be someone who misunderstands or morally condemns greed. Take tolerance for example. It is common, when there are economic disparities between two racial or ethnic groups, for members of the less-prosperous group to regard the more prosperous group as having prevented them from achieving prosperity. Conversely, the more prosperous group fears that the ambition of the less-prosperous will endanger its material well-being. When there is greater prosperity in general, both sources of tension lessen. In fact, with more opportunity for all, it becomes clearer that one's effort is what matters, not what ethnic group one belongs to. In other words, for the poor to advance, it is not necessary that the more prosperous become "less greedy" and the success of the previously downtrodden is more easily understood as nonthreatening and, in fact, beneficial to those who were already prosperous. Not only is economic growth caused by greed, it makes the central role of greed clearer as individuals grow to appreciate the fact that life is not a zero-sum game, and that one man's success does not entail another's loss. But to a committed altruist, this point is lost entirely. And if tolerance is an unexplained byproduct of this mysterious, greedless system of capitalism "economic growth", then so will child labor laws be regarded as phenomenon of the same order and moral import. Might capitalism have raised living standards to the point that adults could support their families? Were such laws really necessary, then? But this author (at least from what this review implies) fails to give credit where credit is due -- to capitalism -- and instead appropriates it for the woozy idea that prosperity causes people in general to feel more altruistic, so such laws get passed. But altruism as such is only the half of the limitations in this analysis. The other half is the failure to appreciate the role of ideas in history, and this explains why Friedman's thesis falls apart later on. America and Europe did indeed make tremendous advances under capitalism while Germany, in an era of low prosperity, became a Nazi dictatorship. Yes. The Great Depression was worldwide and different countries reacted to it differently. Why? For the second time in less than a month, I find myself quoting the same passage from Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels. Now, ask yourself how many Americans really believe that "national unity" is more important than his freedom. Isn't our nation all about protecting that freedom? And might this little difference between the national characters of Germany and America have had something to do with how each reacted to the Great Depression? If one of these countries sounds like it is not "all about greed", it's Germany. And if the course of a nation is shaped not just by economics, but by the ideas held by its people, might there be many ways for these factors to interact with one another? The acceptance by its people of the notion that the state should run insurance and pension programs is why Britain passed "momentous reforms" during "a period of weak growth". That's no great mystery, but how did South Korea move from an authoritarian regime to a freer form of government? That's an interesting question which requires a proper understanding of the moral basis for capitalism. I don't plan to address that question, but I will sketch out how I might answer a question provoked by this book review: Does the prosperity achieved by capitalism increase a nation's overall level of morality? It certainly cannot make an individual more moral since we all have free will, but, as I pointed out in a comment on a post awhile back (and alluded to in my example on tolerance above), having many examples of people being rewarded for their efforts doubtless would make it easier for anyone growing up in such an environment to reach an implicit grasp of the idea that rational self-interest pays. In the sense that capitalism provides a child with a huge set of complex examples of (moral) cause and (practical) effect, he will have an easier time developing a morality of rational self-interest, or at least of overcoming the handicap of having been taught a flawed moral code. This is the kind of understanding missing in the book being reviewed and in the review itself. I suspect that the book will provide a great deal of interesting empirical data about how prosperous societies develop, but that it is mis-integrated and thus fails by a long shot to live up to its promise. This is why a book review that starts out with a bang ("[R]apid growth is morally uplifting[.]") ends with a whimper ("The immediate dilemma involves the welfare state.). The welfare state poses no dilemma. It must be destroyed.
  20. Originally posted by Martin Lindeskog from EGO, I have been talking with Prodos and he is preparing for the start of a podcasting network. I will participate as a host, an assistant to the producer, and a mentor for future podcasters. I am planning to have the following types of guests: Fellow bloggers and Objectivists. Entrepreneurs and businessmen. Inventors, artists, and authors. If you want to be interviewed, or if you have a suggestion of a guest or topic, please feel free to comment on this post, or send me an email. [Editor's comment: I welcome you to "The Age of Egocasting"! http://forum.objectivismonline.com/uploads/emoticons/default_fool.gif' alt=':fool:'> Via collision detection, Ed Driscoll, InstaPundit.] For more on podcasting, read Glenn Reynolds's post. On a lighter note, check out the French Maids who are giving a lecture on how to create a video podcast. [Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog.]
  21. Posted by ARImedia... Dear Editor: Sending back to Cuba the 15 Cuban escapees who landed last week on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys was like sending escaping Jews back to Nazi Germany or escaping slaves back to the Southern plantations. Cuba is a brutal dictatorship based on the Marxist principle that individuals have no rights, that their lives are the state's to dispose of. As these refugees demonstrated, Cubans don't even have the right to leave the country. The U.S. government should have given asylum to these Cuban refugees who risked their lives to live in freedom. The decision to send them back to the prison-island may be their death sentence. And our government should put an end to the unconscionable "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy that sends freedom-seeking refugees back to a totalitarian dictatorship. David Holcberg Ayn Rand Institute Irvine, CA
  22. Charlotte's conservatives are on the wrong-side of Stonewall Street versus Martin Luther King Boulevard. Let's take away, for the sake of this discussion, that all roads should be privately owned and thus named by the owners. Since government does name the roads, we need to look at which name is most appropriate. Also, I am not going to address the cost changes to businesses and individuals... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000547.html
  23. Originally from Gus Van Horn, As long as the cause of death is heat stroke, I guess you could say that I'm blogging in the "dead of the winter" here in Texas.... The week before last, while I was out of state, I noticed news stories about wildfires in Texas. Living in the normally humid, southeastern corner of the state, I wasn't too terribly concerned for my own house, but I did follow the stories a little bit. Even so, I was surprised on my return by what I saw on freeway signs on the way home from the airport. Usually, the signs report travel times or road conditions, but then and now they flash something like "STATEWIDE FIRE DANGER", followed by "BURN BANS IN EFFECT". I doubted that there was much danger in the Houston area until yesterday, when I read this story in the Houston Chronicle. Brazoria County lies just south of Houston. Hmmmm. Reminds me a bit of the "fallacy of self-exclusion" here, as in, "Don't play with matches -- unless you're with the government." If there is a burn ban in effect, why is anyone deliberately starting marsh fires? This reminds me of the huge fires that burned out of control near Los Alamos a few years back. Although a similar planned fire (called a "controlled burn") was believed directly responsible at the time, it turned out that a fire fighting tactic called a "backfire" was the immediate cause. Of course, a backfire wouldn't have been necessary had a controlled burn not been initiated under dry, windy conditions in the first place,as the link above states. Thank heavens the government is looking out for all of us patsies out here who don't know when not to burn things outside. Sheesh!
  24. On this day in 1776, writer Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet Common Sense, setting forth his arguments in favor of American independence. Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries. Originally published anonymously, Common Sense advocated independence for the American colonies from Britain and is considered one of... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000544.html
  25. I like Coldplay, so I'd be inclined to buy their new album X&Y -- but not under these conditions. Boing Boing has the scoop, including an image listing all the insane DRM (digital rights management) rules. Here's the gist:Coldplay's new CD comes with an insert that discloses all the rules enforced by the DRM they included on the disc. Of course, these rules are only visible after you've paid for the CD and brought it home, and as the disc's rules say, "Except for manufacturing problems, we do not accept product exchange, return or refund," so if you don't like the rules, that's tough.What are the other rules? Here are some gems: "This CD can't be burnt onto a CD or hard disc, nor can it be converted to an MP3" and "This CD may not play in DVD players, car stereos, portable players, game players, all PCs and... http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000542.html
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