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  1. Originally posted by Paul from NoodleFood, How can a busy CEO determine if one of his employees is genuinely nice or is a jerk merely pretending to be nice in order to suck up to the boss? According to this article, the most reliable test is how he or she treats the waiter: Having slowly worked my way up the medical hierarchy from college student hospital volunteer to medical student to resident to fellow to attending physician, I can totally attest to the truth of this rule. Back when I was a professor at Washington University Medical School, I knew that my residents and medical students would always treat me with a certain degree of respect, since I controlled their grades for their radiology rotation. But I made a point to see how they treated the nurses and x-ray techs; the ones that treated the support staff with respect when they were still at the bottom of the medical ladder were also the ones that turned out to be the best doctors once they reached the top. For some reason, there's a particular type of sycophantic personality that's deferential (sometimes exaggeratedly so) to their superiors, but also demands bootlicking from those below them on the ladder. Their peers generally know them for what they are, but their superiors might not always be able to tell, and hence the utility of the Waiter Rule. Diana's observation (which I agree with) is that this type of sycophantic person is essentially a second-hander. They view others (either above or below them on the ladder) as merely a means to an end, and the key attribute they focus on with respect to other people is the power relationship. Hence, they are just another variant of what Objectivists call "social metaphysicians". (Via Plastic.)
  2. Originally from Gus Van Horn, As China's President visits America, it might be worthwhile to consider who the President is dealing with. At FrontPage Magazine is this general overview of China's extensive and growing sphere of worldwide influence. Given our current nuclear confrontation with Iran, our long-running game of "six-party appeasement talk tag" with North Korea, and Iran's cozy relationship with Venezuela, three paragraphs are of particular interest. Here they are, in order: And China's actions have not been limited to countries foreign to the United States. In addition to China's operating an extensive espionage network here, and possibly attacking an American citizen in his own home, its military has recently been implicated in a missile-smuggling case! This isn't that surprising to me. What surprises and disappoints me is that this is the first I've heard about the Chinese military attempting to sell weapons to our criminal element! And finally, via TIA Daily , is an article whose title says it all: "Confront China's Support for Iran's Nuclear Weapons".
  3. Originally posted by Paul from NoodleFood, Among the many good lectures at the recent Front Range Objectivism Weekend Law Conference was the pair of talks given by Amy Peikoff on "Privacy Rights". In a nutshell, her position (which I agree with) is that the so-called "right" to privacy does not exist as a separate right, and that cases involving privacy issues can and should instead be dealt with by traditional laws on property rights, right to contract, etc. Diana briefly summarized Amy's views in an earlier blog post: However, during the Q&A and (a lively informal follow-up standing-in-the-hallway bull session), we spent a great deal of time discussing one interesting concrete hypothetical case: Consider two neighbors Alice and Ben, each residing on their own adjacent private property plots. Alice is standing on her property, and she sees or hears events taking place in her neighbor Ben's house. Alice then publishes what she learns on her popular blog, to Ben's detriment. (For instance, she overhears Ben discussing the details of a commercial trade secret with a co-worker.) Alice does not physically step onto Ben's property; all the information she gains is from sound waves or light photons emananting from Ben's property onto her property. Can Ben successfully sue her for publishing his secret? (We'll assume that it's easily proven that Alice was the one who released the secret and that there's a provable harm.) Under current law, there's a principle called "reasonable expectation of privacy" on one's property. So if Ben took the usual precautions to keep his conversation private (i.e., closed the windows, shut the windowshades, etc.), and Alice used unusual technical means (such as special amplifying microphones) to eavesdrop, then Alice would be liable. But if Ben carelessly left his window open such that any random passerby could overhear his conversation, then the release of information would be his fault, and Alice would not be liable. However, Amy Peikoff argued that the concept of "reasonable expectation of privacy" was ill-founded. Nonetheless, she did support the standard of "unaided senses" as the dividing line as to whether there was a rights-violation or not. So if Ben took measures so that Alice using her "unaided senses" could not see/hear what was going on inside his house, then that should be sufficient. If Alice were then to use special equipment to gather information about the events in Ben's house and proceeded to disclose it to others, then by that standard that would be a violation of Ben's rights. So the central question in the follow-up discussion was can one defend the "unaided senses" standard as a corollary of property rights, without having to invoke a separate right to a "reasonable expectation of privacy"? (During the conference, Amy proposed one possible defense, but we learned later that she changed her mind on its merits.) Now there are some folks (whom my friend Andrew Breese pejoratively refers to as "photon mystics") who take the position that if any photons (or sound waves) travelled from Ben's property to Alice's, then Alice can do whatever she wants with the information contained within. If Ben doesn't like that, then it's up to him to "harden" his house with lead shielding, special soundproof walls, or whatever it takes to prevent any leakage of information. Hence according to the "photon mystic" theory, if Alice uses special technology to gather some information from the ether despite Ben's best technical efforts, then it's too bad for Ben; he has no legal recourse. I disagree with the "photon mystic" viewpoint (although I must confess that in the past I had some sympathy for this line of argument), and I think there is a way to preserve the "unaided senses" standard without having to invoke any pre-existing "reasonable expectation of privacy". The following is my theory alone, and any errors should not be attributed to Amy Peikoff or anyone else: My theory takes some time-tested concepts from the common law (specifically the common law tort of nuisance) and uses them to formulate some wider principles which also subsume these types of alleged privacy violations. The current (and I believe correct) law on nuisance is as follows: If neighbors Alice and Ben are sitting on their own respective private property, and Ben is having a normal outdoor barbecue and a little bit of the smoke and cooking aroma drifts onto Alice's property, then under normal circumstances Alice cannot make a claim of nuisance against Ben for such a minor incursion of smoke onto her property. The law correctly recognizes that in the context of normal residential life, neighbors will be routinely subjected to sights and sounds from adjacent property owners, and that's just part of life. It is not reasonable to expect Ben to take extraordinary measures to completely prevent any sights, sounds, aromas, etc. whatsover that originate on his property from impinging on Alice's property. Only when those sights/sounds/aromas cause a "substantial interference" with Alice's "use and enjoyment" of her property would this meet the criteria for the tort of nuisance and hence constitute a violation of Alice's property rights. Hence, if Ben were to play the radio softly in his backyard at 3 in the afternoon that would be legally permissible, but Ben were to blast his backyard stereo system at 3 in the morning so that Alice couldn't sleep that would constitute nuisance. The other significant provision of nuisance law is the way it handles the so-called "hypersensitive neighbor". Hence, if Ben played his radio at a level that that would not be a nuisance to a normal neighbor, but Alice was hypersensitive to sound and goes into seizures at that particular decibel level, then that's Alice's problem, not Ben's. Alice is the one that should take special measures to prevent painful sounds from reaching her ears in those circumstances; Ben is not required to adjust his actions to suit Alice's unusual hypersensitive state. As long as Ben keeps the sound level down to the point that it would not interfere with a normally-sensitive neighbor, then he has done his part. So the principles here are: <1> Ben does not need to prevent all sights/sounds/smells originating on his property for reaching Alice's property. That would be an unreasonable burden. He only needs to take measures that would be reasonable, i.e., would not cause substantial interference with Alice's use and enjoyment of her property. <2> The standard imposed on Ben for levels of sight/sound/smell is what would bother a hypothetical neighbor Alice of normal sensitivity, not a hypersensitive Alice. Now we can apply these principles to the cases of alleged privacy invasion, to reach the "unaided senses" standard. Suppose that Ben is conducting business in his own house that he wishes to remain private, and he doesn't wish neighbor Alice to blab about it to the world. Ben should not be required to "harden" his house with expensive lead shields and soundproof insulation to prevent all sights/sounds/infrared radiation originating on his property from entering Alice's property. That would be an unreasonable demand on Ben, given the context of normal life in a residential neighborhood. Instead, if he takes reasonable measures so that a normally sensitive Alice (i.e., with her unaided senses) cannot see or hear what's going on inside Ben's house, then Ben has fulfilled his legal requirement to protect his privacy. Furthermore, Ben is not required to protect against a hypersensitive Alice, especially an Alice that has deliberately made herself hypersensitive by employing special high-tech microphones or infrared cameras capable of penetrating normal brick walls, etc. If Ben takes the usual protective measures against normally-sensitive neighbors and Alice deliberately makes herself hypersensitive in order to gather information about Ben, then she is causing substantial interference with Ben's use and enjoyment of his property, and hence violating Ben's property rights. Summary: By applying the "substantial interference" standard and the "normal sensitivity" standard previously validated for the tort of nuisance, we end up with the "unaided senses" standard for these cases of alleged neighbor-to-neighbor privacy violations. But everything still falls under the general principles governing property rights, without having to invoke a pre-existing "reasonable expectation of privacy".
  4. Originally from Gus Van Horn, What with Paul Hsieh and David Veksler recently blogging about some interesting innovations brought to us by capitalism, I have not only felt a little left out. I have wanted to be able to blog one of my own and say, "Top this!" Well. I think I can now. Yes. We are now outsourcing surrogate motherhood! And given the recent rise of India as a destination for medical tourism, as well as the hostility of the American legal system to surrogate motherhood, it was, in retrospect, only a matter of time before this innovation would happen. Given the trend towards many women seeking professional careers and so putting off childbirth, I would expect this practice to become much more common as word spreads.
  5. Originally from Gus Van Horn, Tuesday night, my wife and I saw The March of the Penguins , the famous documentary on the Emperor penguin, which I recommend. (The movie -- not the bird!) By coincidence, I received an email about Antarctica the next morning from my friend Adrian Hester, who is fascinated by polar exploration. Being in a time crunch and finding the email very interesting, I got his permission to essentially lift it for a blog post. Here it is with some minor editing. *** As you've probably divined by now, I love reading books about Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Today we got in a real treat at the bookstore, an encyclopedia of Antarctica published by the New Zealand agency in charge of their Antarctic activities. ... The most interesting things in it ... were the bits about saline lakes and subglacial lakes. Once I got off work and ate dinner I came straight to campus to read more about them. This is one that was discovered after the book was published, I think. The most striking one, however, is Lake Vanda. It has twelve distinct layers differing in salinity and temperature, and the bottom averages about 77 degrees F when the surface is at freezing because of the peculiar way it freezes at the surface: The water freezes downwards and evaporates off the top, causing vertical ice tunnels through which sunlight is focused into the depths, trapping the heat underneath. Another lake, Don Juan Pond, is so saline it contains 1 kg of salts for every 2 kgs of water, and contains so much calcium chlorate that all but the heaviest winds don't stir up more than tiny ripples on the surface. Around it are deposits of antarcticite, which is largely calcium chlorate. And the biggest of the subglacial lakes is Lake Vostok, which might have been isolated from the rest of the world by 2 1/2 miles of ice for half a million years or more. *** Some additional reading and images concerning Antarctica can be had courtesy of the CIA and the Cool Antarctica web site. (But please go here before using images from the latter.)
  6. Just a reminder that ObjectivismOnline provides free hosting for Objectivism clubs, and free blogs and email for everyone. Several clubs have taken advantage of this opportunity, including the clubs at , Utah, , and most recently, John Hopkins. We also have a directory of Objectivism Clubs. If your club is missing, let me know! http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000795.html
  7. ObjectivismOnline.net is participating in the new Gmail domain program. This means that you can get an @objectivismonline.net email address and use Gmail as your mail interface. Google will manage your mail and provides the storage, so you don't have to worry about the security or reliability of the service. To sign up, or reply to this thread. I need your full name, desired email address, and optionally, a password. Patron members may choose from additional domains: @SelfMadeHero.net @RationalMind.net @Objectivistr.us @Objectivist.name To login to your email, go to http://mail.objectivismonline.net http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000794.html
  8. Posted by David Veksler... While the media obsesses with the doomsday scenario of the month, the advance of industrial civilization continues to increase our life expectancy: "In what appears to be an amazing success for American medicine, preliminary government figures released Wednesday showed that the annual number of deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004 -- the biggest decline in nearly 70 years" While it is commonly believed that the increase is due to improvements in medicine, Don Boudreaux comments on a new book which theorizies that is has much more to do with economic growth:
  9. By Dr. Yaron Brook: After yesterday's horrific suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, President Bush's statement that "all parties . . . must be mindful of whatever actions they take and mindful of the consequences," is a moral equivocation between Palestinian violence and Israel's attempts at self-defense and is a moral travesty. Bush, while claiming to support Israel, is actually an obstacle to its ability to defend itself. If the United States were serious about its support of Israel and committed to winning its own war with Islamic terrorists, it would be urging Israel to do whatever is necessary to eradicate the threat from the Palestinians. Only a commitment by Israel to victory over the Palestinians and by the United States to victory over Islamic totalitarianism will end the terrorist attacks. Indeed, to the extent Israel acts in a restrained manner, as Bush urges, the blood of future victims will be on his and Israeli leaders' hands. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000792.html
  10. The strong affinity between subjectivism and faith, two forms of whim-worship, were illustrated for me in three stories which seem, prima facie, to be all over the map with respect to the relationship between the intellectually-bankrupt left and religionists. First, there is this article that notes a growing acceptance of open source software (OSS) among the religious. This is not so much for the reasons I use it -- because it is more economical, reliable, and customizable -- but on "ethical grounds". Unsurprisingly, these just happen to be identical to those of open source guru Richard Stallman, an atheist, who said, of remarks that some Vatican documents concerning technology and the Internet "could have been written by" him: People who don't really know my views might think so. Since values such as access, equality, and more equitable distribution of wealth are widely understood, while few understand the concept that freedom to redistribute and change software, people often mistakenly suppose that the Free Software movement is about the former three rather than the last. And they often tell others this. The misinformation has spread widely, but it remains erroneous. I am in favor of extending access to the Internet to everyone, provided that this is done in a way that respects their freedom (i.e., with Free Software). I am in favor of equal rights, and in distributing wealth more equitably. But the primary goal of the Free Software movement is something different and more focused: freedom in using your computer, and freedom to cooperate in a community when doing so. Here, Stallman admits that he has an altruistic ethical system like Christians do, but stresses that his emphasis has been on giving end users the ability to alter their software as they see fit. Indeed, contrary to some rumors, it is possible for commercial software vendors to sell products that work with open source software without forfeiting proprietary information. Stallman offers an objective value -- a license that permits a user to examine and change his software -- for a mixture of good (e.g., user freedom) and bad (e.g., communal ownership of the Internet) reasons. Nevertheless, anyone who has used much OSS will note the animus against proprietary software held by many OSS users (in various forums), and indeed by Stallman himself in his alternate name for the Gnu Public License, the "Copyleft". (See the URL. I recall this having once been within the document itself, though this appears to have changed.) And Stallman makes that animus explicit. t seems to me that a sincere Christian must condemn non-free software as satanic in spirit. If you were Satan, and you wanted to corrode the bonds of society, what could be more effective than offering individuals something attractive, profitable or fun, on condition that they refuse to share it with anyone else? ... Christians should reject proprietary software because it forbids people to express love for their neighbors. So somehow, if you wish to make money off your software by not simply giving away, say, an algorithm you invented, your desire to profit from your own efforts is "satanic" because it is a refusal to "share". This is obviously a condemnation of the trader principle. Insofar as he is describing the similarity of his moral views on property to those of Christians, he is correct. Consider this statement from the papal encyclical Laborem exercens. Christian tradition has never upheld [ownership of property] as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone. As the and the "Crunchy Conservatives" point out, it is the economic dogmas of the left, not capitalism, which are consistent with Christian morality. It appears from this story that this realization is spreading. And so, with this story, there would seem to be a strong affinity between the left and the religionists. Indeed, this seems doubly the case with the second story, in which it is noted that many evangelicals are becoming "green". While some evangelicals seem less committed to environmentalism than others, two quotes are relevant. First, many Christians take very seriously scriptural injunctions to act as "stewards" of God's creation. When asked for comment on that peculiar recommendation, [Jay] Richards expressed little surprise: "Perhaps many of those who signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative were primarily concerned with the issue of whether we should be stewards of God's creation, which, of course, yes, that's non-negotiable. But the specific policy position, I don't know if everyone that signed it looked carefully and thought carefully about the consequences of that." Never made explicit is why our creative use of nature never seems to qualify as "stewardship". (A recent papal denunciation of genetic engineering indicates that, since nature constantly changes anyway, that it is actually man's use of reason that is being condemned.) Be that as it may, Richards clearly seeks only to "limit" man's use of reason beyond a certain point. Others seem to be salivating at the prospect of stopping the Industrial Revolution in its tracks. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla., defended his signing of ECI on moral grounds: " Whether or not the other side is right, we're still doing the right thing because we're treating the earth with respect." Mr. Hunter views the science and economics surrounding the issue as secondary: " The moral command to take care of the earth in Genesis 2:15 really doesn't need to wait on scientific conclusion. We need to do this regardless of what the science of it is. We need to take care of the earth and do what we can to stop the pollution and accumulation of greenhouse gases, because it's just the right thing to do." [bold added] Note the explicit subordination of the facts of reality to what the Reverend Hunter regards as a biblical imperative! It is instructive to note that, epistemologically, the environmentalist left and the "green right" are on the same page. The leftists -- including many in science -- selectively evidence against man-made global warming, while dressing their propaganda up to sound scientific. The religionists simply scrap science outright. Both want to believe that agendas predicated on "global warming" are moral and worthy of implementation. In other words, both the subjectivist and dogmatists "sides" scorn objectivity in favor of whim, as noted in a recent article about the "mysterious" conversion of yet another Western youth to Islam. It is only on the surface, however, that the dogmatist is opposed to the subjectivist; at root, the two share a fundamental similarity. In denying that there are any objective standards by which to choose how to think or act, the subjectivist makes clear that his choices are ruled by blind feelings. This is precisely also the basic policy of the religious dogmatist. There are an infinite number of opposing religious sects. How does the religionist decide which faith to embrace, which revelations to follow and which authority to obey? Does he scientifically gather the evidence, carefully weigh it, and then adopt the conclusion to which reason and logic point? Obviously not. He feels it. He feels that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, astrology or [the environmentalist agenda], is the right faith for him. It should, finally, come as no surprise that religionists, no strangers to staking major claims on feelings, should begin to realize that this is precisely what the left has come to -- and hope to cash in on it. As I have blogged before, the science is (and increasingly undeservingly) associated with the left. It thus was really just a matter of time before someone like Ann Coulter would come along and attack (HT: Adrian Hester) science itself -- on the grounds that it is a false religion! Consider this glowing review of her latest book in Human Events. Coulter reveals that the so-called "gaps" in the theory of evolution are all there is -- Darwinism is nothing but a gap. After 150 years of dedicated searching into the fossil record, evolution's proponents have failed utterly to substantiate its claims. And a long line of supposed evidence, from the infamous Piltdown Man to the "evolving" peppered moths of England, has been exposed as hoaxes. Still, liberals treat those who question evolution as religious heretics and prohibit students from hearing about real science when it contradicts Darwinism. And these are the people who say they want to keep faith out of the classrooms? Liberals' absolute devotion to Darwinism, Coulter shows, has nothing to do with evolution's scientific validity and everything to do with its refusal to admit the possibility of God as a guiding force. They will brook no challenges to the official religion. [bold added] And so we see yet more evidence of the total collapse of the supposedly rational left as an intellectual opponent of religion. In our first two examples, the left and the religionists seemed to fit hand-in-glove as religionists openly adopted elements of leftism. Here, the religionists nominally oppose the leftists -- but actually show their greatest similarity of the three stories! They share the same epistemological method. The religionists merely like their own creation myth more than that of the leftists, in whose hands evolution has effectively become a myth (link below). The leftist's desire for a free lunch trumps the need to discover what about man requires him to have a moral code and what that moral code should be. And so the religionists, knowing that altruism also means that people may be commanded to give out these free lunches, egg on people like Richard Stallman. The desire to throttle capitalism makes any shred of pseudoscientific evidence in favor of "global warming" a cudgel by which the left can whip the public into a froth of panic -- during which legislation to ruin the economy can be passed. The religionists, seeing the opportunity to shackle independent minds everywhere, jump on the global warming bandwagon and even try to drive it themselves. The left preaches that objectivity is not really possible to man in any field, including science. The religionists take them at their word, call them heretics, and act as if they alone ever marshal facts and evidence for their beliefs. The left, in abandoning reason, has made the choice between itself and religion into a choice between two religions, and has sold reason down the river in the process. It will be up to others to ensure that reason is offered again in the marketplace of ideas. -- CAV http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000791.html
  11. Originally posted by David from Truth, Justice, and the American Way, On June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese army’s deadly crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, a single, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world. In one of the sections, four students at one of China’s most prestigious universities fail to identify where the famous Tianamen Square photo of the “Tank Man” is from.
  12. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The Wall Street Journal has been doggedly pursuing the story of Yale's admission of a Taliban official and today stops just short of naming the larger problem of which this is merely a symptom -- and giving it its proper moral appraisal. Today, John Fund starts off by comparing the Taliban student Yale chose to admit with one it did not. Besides noting their different paths to the Ivy League -- the Taliban has a fourth-grade education whereas Farivar had to attend a year of high school before being admitted -- the article notes their different perspectives on the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Does that statement in bold not sound exactly like the kind of leftist context-dropping and moral relativism one might expect to hear from -- oh, an Ivy League professor? And might such moral relativism at least partially explain how Yale could say that these two men were of "similar caliber" and keep a straight face? After discussing the various ways Yale continues trying to spin the controversy rather than admit a mistake, so to speak, the article then passes on the following interesting observation concerning the rationale behind Hashemi's admission. This precedes an account of two Hispanic students -- one with a solid record and another with a criminal one -- that suggests that academic criteria are no longer such a big deal in some admissions decisions. Indeed, the fact that the lousy student was regarded as a more "authentic" Hispanic suggests that academic standards have been trumped by multiculturalist (read: anti-Western) dogma. This isn't just a "moral blind spot" and the students we're talking about aren't merely "exotic". This is a deliberate elevation of the undeserving into prestigious positions, and an attack on the whole concept of academic standards. Interestingly, the story also reveals, perhaps, some developing fault lines within the left. While Oppenheimer is not exactly rallying 'round the flag, he at least deserves credit for noticing that Yale's decision flies in the face of many things the left claims to hold dear. Keep it up Yale! It appears that you may be providing a few people with an education despite your best efforts.
  13. By David Holcberg: What a wonderful thing to hear from Oprah that she doesn't feel guilty for being wealthy, even if others are destitute. Neither Oprah nor anyone else who earns a lot of money is responsible for the poverty and misery of the poor around the world. High earners make their fortunes by creating products or services that others gladly pay for--not by exploiting the destitute. Would that more of them follow Oprah's example and reject any unearned guilt about their success. http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/000787.html
  14. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, Today, millions of Americans will struggle to bring themselves into compliance with the Internal Revenue Code. Every year the nation goes though the same circus, juggling with its tax forms, groping to find its receipts, and trying to make sense out of a seemingly endless maze of instructions, assessments and deductions. Typically, one overhears people talking about how the whole process is something the government does to us, tormenting us against our will. Such claims forget who it is who ultimately shapes the destiny of this nation. America is a constitutional republic. Its leaders and the laws they enact are made possible by the will of the majority. Any citizen is free to comment on the affairs of state. So why then do Americans allow themselves to suffer a tax code that is coercive, unfair, needlessly complex, and provides little clarity as to the real cost of government? Because that's precisely what the majority of Americans have chosen to accept. A just people would demand a government that charges for services rendered and no more. They would oppose the paternalism and retribution of wealth schemes that comprise most government spending today. They would not allow their government to use coercion to pay for the protections government provides. They would demand a moral way to pay for government. In contrast, the system we have today is a near polar opposite. The government spends money it doesn't have-which only means future taxes down the road. It takes money from producers to give to others. Its taxes are designed to do little more than hide the real cost of government-after all, who, of anyone, knows the sum total they pay the government in income, sales and excise taxes, let alone the cost of the corporate taxes that are passed on to them though the price of the goods that they buy? What could explain such a tax system? What could explain the seeming inability to reform it even incrementally, such as through the flat tax or a national retail sales tax? Only a moral force could be powerful enough to squelch all debate with the seeming unassailability of its premise and explain the monster that we live with today. Only the morality of altruism explains From 1040. Altruism holds that the highest moral value is to live for others, and the more that one gives the least deserving, the better. That is why the most productive are taxed at a higher rate than those who are less productive. That is why the owners of corporations-nothing more than people assembled together for a productive purpose-are double taxed. For such a system to be sustained, two forms of ignorance are required: first, moral ignorance, and second, "rational ignorance." Moral ignorance is simply falling to recognize that you as a person have a right to live your life for your own sake. Objectivism cures that ailment rather quickly. In contrast, "rational ignorance" is the recognition that the cost of educating oneself about an issue sufficiently to make an informed decision can outweigh the benefit one could reasonably expect to gain from that decision, and so it would be irrational to waste time thinking about it. Rational ignorance applied to intellectual activism is simply recognizing that one can't change the world by oneself, and it explains the people who come to Objectivism, but who are then are content to retreat into their own private worlds. After all, we can insulate ourselves from the world's faults most of the time and be quite happy despite the burdens we have been given. The problem is, the boot still rests upon each of our necks. It doesn't go away and not to challenge the premise that animates it only allows it to become stronger and more threatening by default. And that's why I launched the Center-to fight back and challenge the wrong-headed premises that nevertheless dominate our lives. But to do it, I need your help. I thought Jim Woods, a long-time supporter of the Center and a frequent commenter on this blog put it quite well: So thinking as Jim does, how much of your time did you spend filing your taxes? How much time did you spend earning the money it took to pay them? In contrast, how much will you dedicate to fighting for your freedom to be released from these burdens? Or do you instead hold that the battle for freedom is just to big to be won and that there is nothing you can do help change the tide? If that be the case, it is tragic, but it reminds me of a quote by Samuel Adams in 1776, when many in his generation of Americans held a similar view. I'd rather us be countrymen though. Please, make a donation in the name of your freedom today.
  15. Originally from Gus Van Horn, From time to time (read: on at least a near-weekly basis), the multiculturalists at the Houston Chronicle have to remind their loutish subscribers that Moslems are "just like us" by white-washing some aspect of the "religion of peace". Recently, for example, there was a story about an anti-cartoon "rally" in downtown Houston. A protestor was pictured with a sign that gratuitously blamed a ... ... (read more)
  16. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Go see V For Vendetta. I just left the theatre and I love it. "Ideas are bulletproof" -- fantastic. In the end, they were. "V", the leading character, is a great blend of focused body and mind. Over the top, yeah. Still good. The movie shows how fear is used against you and me. Stop being afraid. "Street Fighting Man" is one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs. Some minor downsides: ... ... (read more)
  17. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Reader Suzanne Stallings shares the Top 10 Junk Science Stories Of The Past Decade: PETA's "Milk-Stealing Ming," for example, was depicted with his mouth attached to an unhappy cow's udder, alongside a "wanted poster" describing his crimes and exclaiming, "cows make milk for their babies, not for maniacs like Ming." and... But even if lab animals were reasonable predictors of cancer risk in humans -- a notion yet to be validated -- someone of average bodyweight would have to eat 35,000 potato chips (about 62.5 pounds) per day for life to get an equivalent dose of acrylamide as the lab animals. Lots more. Be sure to scroll down to number 10 to see the biggest one. I think we will look back at bird flu, maybe not as junk science -- it has killed people after all, in a similar vein. Hysteria driven by ignorance of the facts. In the long run, I think we will all look back at much of late 20th century, early 21st century the way we look back at the mystic Dark Ages.
  18. Originally from Gus Van Horn, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who themselves admitted two years ago that Iran has an "impressive" nuclear power infrastructure, still haven't adjusted the silly "Doomsday Clock" by which they profess to gauge the threat of nuclear war. Nevertheless, the world has today moved much closer to a nuclear weapon being used offensively by a totalitarian regime. Iran's messianic President, ... ... (read more)
  19. Originally posted by Martin Lindeskog from EGO, Have you filed your taxes? Read Richard Ralston's article, Health Care on Tax Day: How Government Spending Damages Your Health. What will you do on Tax Freedom Day on April 26? Here is an excerpt from Patrick Graham's article, When do you start working for yourself? Here is an interesting historical tidbit from ShopFloor.org: The Manufacturers' Blog:
  20. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, I am not Jewish -- either from a racial or religious standpoint. If I were to become religious, I would become Jewish. The Jews value education, wealth, and living on this earth more than any other religion. While I don't agree fully with the following, for a religion, I like it very much. From The Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs: Jewish values are grounded on and derived from the idea of covenant which in itself embodies a basic value: the idea that humans establish institutions and relationships on grounds of a fundamental equality and based upon freely choosing to do so. Thus covenantal relationships and the institutions built upon them stand in great contrast to hierarchical ones in which every person has his or her place in the political social pyramid at a higher or lower level with the higher ruling the lower, or by some kind of natural elite that gravitates to positions of power which it retains unrestrained. Such Jewish ideas as tzimtzum, God's partial withdrawal to make space for the world including humanity, and the view dominant throughout Jewish history from the biblical portrayal of the patriarchs and Moses through the ideas of hassidism that humans can indeed argue with God and attempt to convince Him to change His course of action are all grounded in this fundamental covenantalism. According to this view, while God may be all powerful, He does not rule humans hierarchically and thereby empowers humans to rule themselves. In the final analysis, this may be the ultimate Jewish value. But I am not a Jew, or a Christian, or an Islamist, or a Hindu. I disagree with those religions. I think they are just plain wrong and I would not recommend them to anyone. I am often offended by those religions. At the same time, I also think it is an individual's choice to choose to be religious or not -- and if they choose to be religious, to choose the religion of their choice. Some have problems with that. ***Part of a special series: Celebrating The Moral And The Beautiful***
  21. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, This story caught my eye: Did it ever dawn on anyone on the Northern Lebanon school-board that any attempt to coerce the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and has explicitly been so for over 65 years. In its decision on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the First Amendment protected students from being compelled to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. According to the Court: So neither Daniel Martel nor Stephen Lum understand the freedom of expression, the role of the Constitution in protecting that freedom, or the role of the courts in checking the power of the public officials to do whatever they want just because they win an election every few of years, but Mr. Martel served in the military. Well so did I, but in contrast, I realized that it wasn't the Pledge that was sacrosanct, but the principle of individual rights.
  22. Originally from Gus Van Horn, This is a very good article on how government funding and publication practices are used to intimidate climatologists who don't toe the global warming party line. A few choice excerpts will speak for themselves. Awhile back, I blogged about the complicity of Science and Nature in perpetuating the myth of anthropogenic global warming.
  23. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, Why the right to disagree in society is so important. From Today In History at The History Channel (April 12): The inquisition of physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei for holding the heretical belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun begins. The chief inquisitor was Father Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola, who was appointed by Pope Urban VIII. Galileo was forced to turn himself in to the ...
  24. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™, From Austin Cline at Agnosticism/Atheism: The school board in Brunswick County, North Carolina, has voted to invite the Gideons into public schools to distribute free Bibles. Supporters think that this is necessary for the sake of Christians' freedom. Critics point out that it's wrong to give Christianity special support and privileges like this. To count as even vaguely legal, they'll have to do ...
  25. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason, The Massachusetts proposal [update: law] for universal healthcare is a boondoggle. Rather than admit that the problems with healthcare in America are the caused by the government's interference with the personal choices of its citizens, the Massachusetts proposal mandates that every state resident and every employer purchase health insurance regardless of whether they want it or not. Yesterday, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney pitched his heath care plan at the Wall Street Journal. According to Romney: Sure, it's a personal responsibility principle of the "I mandate, you pay" variety. Romney is no dummy though and he has an answer to this point. So why not end the free ride that government made possible in the first place and let individuals make their own healthcare choices--and live by those choices accordingly? Why not encourage people to save for their healthcare, for starters, by not taxing healthcare savings? That option doesn't even show up on the radar. Offered instead are subsidies for the poor. According to Romney: Oh, so it's not a tax--it is an "assessment" matched with a "contribution." The taxpayer can now rest easy. Romney continues: Bipartisan market reforms? He's kidding, right? Mandating more government interference in the market is hardly a market reform. And since Romney notes the "bipartisan" support for his plan, it is interesting to note his citation of one of the architects of his plan: Rather than craft trivial measures, why isn't the conservative Heritage Foundation blasting this proposal for its fundamental faults and arguing for the free market in medicine? Why? Because the conservatives do not stand for the free market and they never have. The free market works because it recognizes that if we are to prosper, we must take it upon ourselves to create the values we needs in life and it leaves us free to choose our path accordingly. The free market rewards us for our wise choices and does not burden us with claims for the unearned. The Massachusetts plan does the exact opposite. It fails to address the existing cost of government interference in medicine. It disconnects individuals from the costs they incur. It fails to properly address the problem of poor people being provided free care at the expense of others. The plan's entire premise is predicated on the argument that everyone "needs" healthcare regardless of whether they work to obtain it and thus "need" is a mortgage upon the lives of the responsible and hardworking. It mandates that an entire costly and coercive system be built under the guise of "personal responsibility" and "market reform." At root, the Massachusetts plan is nothing less that a morally bankrupt and practically inefficient attempt to socialize medicine. That such a plan is being championed by conservatives yet again reveals just how useless the conservatives are in protecting individual rights and advancing capitalism.
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