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  1. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason

    That is, why don't they recommend books? After re-reading my post on IP, it dawned on me that while the history of property law is important, I personally don?t know much of that history. Wouldn't it be nice if an Objectivist put out a reccomend reading list of good books on the subject like Objectivist and Ph.D. student in economics Isaac DiIanni does on his website for texts on economics? Wouldn't it be nice if every Objectivist scholar listed five essential texts for his field so if you needed to get your bearings on a topic, you would have an easy resource to call upon?

    After all, how long does it take to write a handful of 100-word book reviews of texts that are useful and important in your field of study?

  2. By David Holcberg:

    It is highly disingenuous for President Bush to call on oil companies to expand refining capacity, when environmental regulations enforced by his administration continue to make it extremely costly to open new refineries.

    And it is totally inappropriate for the President to call on oil companies to invest in research of "alternative" energy--he doesn't own these companies and should not use his position to pressure them. What if oil companies judge that investing in the discovery of new oil deposits makes more sense than improving wind turbines?

    In a free economy the government has an obligation to protect the right of businessmen to make their own decisions and to run their companies as they see fit. How energy companies want to use their profits is their own business--not the government's.

  3. After stumbling across yet another libertarian the idea of intellectual property (one who was specifically taking Rand to task for her defense of IP in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal), Don Watkins invited me to investigate the issue for the January issue of Axiomatic Magazine. Recycled here for your philosophical enjoyment is the result of immersing myself in the strongest arguments I could find against the legitimacy of IP.

    For a little bonus, try this experiment: Go read Rand's "Patents and Copyrights" essay before reading this article. No hurry, I'll wait. Heck, it's only about 1600 words, barely more than two standard op-eds in length. (At the very least, pause to recall the "sure, sounds okay" nod you likely gave it back when you read it.) Okay, now go ahead and read my article here -- then re-read Rand's essay.

    If you are anything like me, that second reading will leave your jaw in your lap. Until I'd engaged the sharp thorns of the issue, I really didn't appreciate Rand's brilliant, economical, focused coverage of the essentials, seemingly tossed off in response to some reader's query. Astonishing.


  4. Originally from Gus Van Horn,

    I just encountered a rather alarming article from The Chronicle of Higher Education in which Todd Gitlin, a leftist intellectual (an author and professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University), almost hits the nail squarely on the lead when he considers the subject matter summarized by its title, "The Self-Inflicted Wounds of the Academic Left." (Or he perhaps he does, but fails to apply his conclusions to his own thinking....)

    I'll briefly consider in turn his nearly-profound point, how he failed to see the light, and what I found so alarming about the article -- namely the total intellectual collapse Gitlin chronicles.

    Gitlin has a stunningly good paragraph at the end of his essay that mirrors the larger point I made in a recent blog post on "The Left as Religion" -- that the left has abandoned reason in favor of faith.

    [Timothy]Brennan [a professor of comparative literature, cultural studies, and English at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities] is right that the academic left is nowhere today. It matters more to David Horowitz than to anyone else. The reason is that its faith-based politics has crashed and burned. It specializes in detraction. It offers no plausible picture of the world. Such spontaneous movements as do crop up in America -- like the current immigrant demonstrations -- do not emerge from the campus left. Neither do reformers' intermittent attempts to eject the party of plutocracy and fundamentalism from power, to win universal health care, to protect the planet from further convulsions, to enlarge the rights of the least privileged. If more academics deigned to work toward reforms, they might contribute ideas about taxes, education, trade, employment, investment, foreign policy, and security from jihadists. But the academic left is too busy guarding the flame of nullification. They think they can fortify themselves with vigilance. In truth, their curses are gestures of helplessness. [bold added]

    Wow! I haven't seen such a frank assessment of the state of the left from a leftist in a long time, if ever -- and I am drawing a blank on that "ever" part. But even within that paragraph, we see the seeds of Gitlin's failure to completely nail his point home. These seeds take the form of the euphemism "universal health care" -- which means "socialized medicine", itself a euphemism for: "enslavement of physicians".

    And Gitlin's thinking gets choked from the fully-grown weeds earlier in his essay when he levels what should be a blistering attack against George Bush's anti-intellectualism.

    Conservative pundits apologize for [bush]. According to his rapturous chronicler, Fred Barnes
    , early in 2005, Bush devoured Michael Crichton's novel
    State of Fear,
    which maintains that global warming is a scientific fraud, and met with Crichton at the White House for an hour. They were, Barnes writes, "in near-total agreement." Meanwhile, the great straight-talking hope of the ruling party makes ready to traipse off to Jerry Falwell's university, while another leading candidate for the presidency, a medical doctor, diagnoses a brain-damaged patient from a family videotape. Nor is the reign of fantasy limited to the titular leaders. One year ago, 79 percent of Republicans (and 37 percent of Democrats) still believed that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction when the war began, according to public-opinion experts Yaeli Bloch-Elkon and Robert Y. Shapiro.

    But claims that global warming -- if it is indeed occurring -- is caused by human activity are scientifically controversial, and it is foolhardy (not to mention immoral) to base public policy upon such claims. And plenty of evidence that there had been WMDs in Iraq has turned up since our invasion. Such untenable positions as Gitlin himself holds not only severely compromise any of his valid criticisms of Bush -- by undercutting the case that any are rational criticisms -- but they also reveal that Gitlin suffers from the same disease that he has diagnosed in his intellectual spawn.

    And so, we are treated to the following astounding example of how the bad premises of leftism have driven out the good. Todd Gitlin, like some pot-smoking, irresponsible hippie who somehow still has some modicum of sense left, seems to become aware of his intellectual offspring for the first time in a decade and gasps when he sees how they have turned out after having him (or at least intellectuals like him) as an example to emulate.

    Where Brennan writes a muffled prose, Eric Lott comes out blasting. Intellectuals who want "social-democratic reform" stand for "little more than political complacency with a relatively youthful face." He wants to "take out bourgeois thinkers," and he doesn't mean on dates. They, or we, are guilty of "crimes." They commit "treason against the left, if not indeed against the very vocation of the intellectual." Perhaps the person Professor Lott wants to take out is Ann Coulter.

    Enamored of his gestures of virulence, Professor Lott is at pains to add that he has nothing against treason, mind you. What he wants is a "better treason" ....

    Like George W. Bush, Professor Lott doesn't "do nuance." He has reissued one of the oldest, stalest stories in the annals of left-wing heresy-sniffing. It goes like this: Marx's "old mole" of "the revolution" is eternally burrowing upward toward the light, whatever obstacles "boomer-liberal nation-love" throws in its way. But misleaders slow it down. What Professor Lott calls "new social movements" (i.e., movements some 30 or 40 years old now), like "blacks, Chicanos, gays, lesbians, women, the disabled, and the working class" ... "any one of these movements is liable to engage a dominant social formation at one of its weak points and spark a fire that will earn widespread solidarities." Professor Lott awaits the bracing whiff of a cleansing conflagration in that revolutionary morning. In the meantime: "I smell boomer blood."

    It's hard to get on Professor Lott's left side unless one sticks with the uncontaminated "everyday resistances and activisms of many stripes all across the country," which are his only hope. "The New Black Intellectuals," by contrast -- Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Michael Eric Dyson, et al. -- are "too often at ease with the compromises of liberalism," guilty of "a sometimes ingenuous faith in the educability of white Americans" -- which, were it so, makes one wonder how the African-American minority is ever to improve anything. Sociologists like Mary Waters, historians like David Hollinger, critics like Ross Posnock and Stanley Crouch, philosophers like K. Anthony Appiah -- all who challenge fixed notions of ethnic purity -- are members of what Professor Lott considers (no compliment) "the color-blind club." Even so "great" a multiculturalist historian of American literature as Eric Sundquist has signed on to "the devil of liberal nationalism," a.k.a. "Americanism," a.k.a. "a logical bourgeois result of the bourgeois, albeit black, nationalism Sundquist espouses." There's no thought-crime Lott cannot charge by sprinkling a "bourgeois" or two on his sentences. [bold added]

    Gitlin, the man who said, "[D]issenting intellectuals might gain some traction by standing for reason," but yet indulges his own articles of faith is, fundamentally of the same cloth as Brennan. Brennan simply indulges other articles of faith, including the notion that the "bourgeoise" (i.e., those he disagrees with) ought to be "taken out" because they lack "educatabilty".

    Whatever you might say about Gitlin, he is absolutely right on two counts: (1) The left is dying (at least) -- as an opponent of the religious right -- as a consequence of an orgy of blind faith. (2) Dissenting intellectuals can "gain some traction by standing for reason".

    But if Todd Gitlin is the voice of reason from the academic left, it is clear that these "dissenting intellectuals" will not originate from the left any time soon.

  5. Originally posted by Greg from NoodleFood,

    After stumbling across yet another libertarian slamming the idea of intellectual property (one who was specifically taking Rand to task for her defense of IP in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal), Don Watkins invited me to investigate the issue for the January issue of Axiomatic Magazine. Recycled here for your philosophical enjoyment is the result of immersing myself in the strongest arguments I could find against the legitimacy of IP.

    For a little bonus, try this experiment: Go read Rand's "Patents and Copyrights" essay before reading this article. No hurry, I'll wait. Heck, it's only about 1600 words, barely more than two standard op-eds in length. (At the very least, pause to recall the "sure, sounds okay" nod you likely gave it back when you read it.) Okay, now go ahead and read my article here -- then re-read Rand's essay.

    If you are anything like me, that second reading will leave your jaw in your lap. Until I'd engaged the sharp thorns of the issue, I really didn't appreciate Rand's brilliant, economical, focused coverage of the essentials, seemingly tossed off in response to some reader's query. Astonishing.


    On the Libertarian Critique of Intellectual Property

    by Greg Perkins

    Marxist scholars don't have much interest in defending individual rights, private property, and free markets -- so their antipathy to intellectual property rights in patent and copyright isn't surprising. In contrast, there are a significant number of libertarian scholars who proclaim individual rights and free markets to be good and desirable, yet who share an antipathy to intellectual property. That is, they systematically defend material property rights while decrying intellectual property as a confused, destructive, and morally bankrupt idea that should be abolished for the protection of our true individual rights.

    In making their case, these libertarian scholars[1] cite a blizzard of puzzles and problems surrounding intellectual property. They see incoherency: how is it that, unlike all other rights, intellectual property rights should abruptly vanish after some set number of years? They see arbitrariness: why single out for reward the mental work behind the practical inventions of industry, but deny it for the mental effort behind the theoretical discoveries of science that make those inventions possible? Besides, they maintain, the line between invention and discovery is inherently vague and artificial. And they see a fundamental contradiction: inalienable rights cannot logically conflict with one another, but they find that intellectual property rights violate material property rights in an automatic and unchosen transfer of partial ownership to inventors and authors. Owners of paper and ink can use their property in certain ways only by permission of copyright holders; owners of metal and tools can use their property in certain ways only by permission of patent holders.

    To resolve such issues, these libertarian scholars seek a theory of property that will firmly establish material property rights while excluding intellectual property.[2] Stephan Kinsella explains its basis:

    Let us take a step back and look afresh at the idea of property rights. Libertarians believe in property rights in tangible goods (resources). Why? What is it about tangible goods that makes them subjects for property rights? Why are tangible goods property?

    A little reflection will show that it is these goods'
    -- the fact that there can be
    over these goods by multiple human actors. The very possibility of conflict over a resource renders it scarce, giving rise to the need for ethical rules to govern its use. Thus, the fundamental social and ethical function of property rights is to prevent interpersonal conflict over scarce resources. ...

    Others [in addition to Hoppe] who recognize the importance of scarcity in defining what property
    include Plant, Hume, Palmer, Rothbard, and Tucker.

    Nature, then, contains things that are economically scarce. My use of such a thing
    with (excludes) your use of it, and vice versa. The function of property rights is to prevent interpersonal conflict over scarce resources, by allocating exclusive ownership of resources to specified individuals (owners).[3]

    Thus Kinsella concludes that "[t]he problem with IP rights is that the ideal objects protected by IP rights are not scarce..." Property rights "are not applicable to things of infinite abundance, because there cannot be conflict over such things."[4] As our first patent examiner, Thomas Jefferson, put it: "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."[5]

    Finally, Kinsella points to the ironic twist that "IP laws create an artificial, unjustifiable scarcity" which "itself needs a justification." On this last, he quotes Arnold Plant:

    It is a peculiarity of property rights in patents (and copyrights) that they do not arise out of the scarcity of the objects which become appropriated. They are not a
    of scarcity. They are the deliberate creation of statute law, and, whereas in general the institution of private property makes for the preservation of scarce goods, tending ... to lead us "to make the most of them," property rights in patents and copyrights make possible the
    of a scarcity of the products appropriated which could not otherwise be maintained.[6]

    Other contemporary libertarian scholars echo the same ideas, and Tom Palmer's analysis emphasizes the same essential points regarding the basis of property and our right to it:

    The key to all of this is scarcity. ... Tangible goods are clearly scarce in that there are conflicting uses. It is this scarcity that gives rise to property rights. Intellectual property rights, however, do not rest on a natural scarcity of goods, but on an 'artificial, self created scarcity.' That is to say, legislation or legal fiat limits the use of ideal objects in such a way as to create an artificial scarcity that, it is hoped, will generate greater revenues for innovators... But the attempt to generate profit opportunities by legislatively limiting access to certain ideal goods, and therefore to mimic the market processes governing the allocation of tangible goods, contains a fatal contradiction: It violates the rights to tangible goods, the very rights that provide the legal foundations with which markets begin.[7]

    The above stands as the core theory offered in the libertarian case against intellectual property rights. What is particularly striking is that none of the contemporary heavyweights like Palmer and Kinsella grapple with the meaning of individual rights in general, nor their still-deeper basis in ethics, epistemology, and human nature. That is, their chief observation begs the question: is the splendid characteristic of conflict-prevention the central purpose of property rights, or merely a benefit -- is it the cause or an effect? To determine this, we need to investigate the source of rights in general. These scholars seem hesitant to do so, but Ayn Rand wasn't, and her perspective illuminates the central difficulty in their case: they have missed the essence of all rights.

    * *

    Rand noted that rights -- including property rights -- are ultimately based in the needs of man's life: if a man is to live, he must be able to act to sustain his life. An objective morality defines the broad principles by which men must act to sustain their lives, and a proper government preserves the conditions required for men to do so when living among others. This is why Rand described a right as "a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context."[8] More broadly, she explained,

    "Rights" are a moral concept -- the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual's actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others -- the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context -- the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics
    . Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law
    ... The principle of man's individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system -- as a limitation on the power of the state, as man's protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of

    There is only
    fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action -- which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. [9]

    The immediate corollaries of the right to life are the rights to liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Each flows from an essential aspect of the Objectivist ethics, which is itself rooted in epistemology and the nature of man.[10] Consider liberty. Reason is our basic means of survival and so rationality is our primary virtue; in general, we must have the liberty to grasp the nature of the world and act accordingly to live. That is, the right to liberty flows from a recognition of our primary virtue of rationality. And consider happiness. It is our emotional reward for achieving values over time, the emotional experience of living. The right to life entails the right to pursue and achieve values to serve our individual lives -- and the concomitant right to the pursuit of our individual happiness. That is, the right to the pursuit of happiness flows from a recognition of the individualistic, egoistic nature of life and morality.

    Finally, consider property. While other animals adjust themselves to nature, man adjusts nature to his own needs by creating the values that sustain his life -- everything from food and shelter, to transport systems and communication networks, to medical technologies and art. We need to produce, keep, use, and dispose of values to serve our lives, and productiveness is the virtue by which we do so. The right to property flows from a recognition of the cardinal virtue of productiveness. Rand singled out the right to property as having special significance in the implementation of all rights:

    The right to life is the source of all rights -- and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.[11]

    This brief sketch of the Objectivist view of rights indicates why, contrary to the view of libertarians opposed to intellectual property, the essential basis of property is not scarcity -- it is production. Their complaint that intellectual property is an oxymoron because ideas are not scarce in the same way as apples has no merit, for the concepts of property and ownership lie fundamentally in the need for men to produce and enjoy values in support of their lives -- not merely in the narrower and subsidiary need to avoid conflict with one another in that enjoyment.

    * *

    Studying the most challenging puzzles and problems raised by libertarian scholars against intellectual property will help us to better understand the requirements of man's life as the basis of rights in general, production as the basis of property in particular, and the role of the mind throughout. In each case we will dive below the surface to appreciate the implications of essential facts from ethics, epistemology, and the nature of man to enrich our understanding of intellectual property and reinforce the principles at play.

    Consider the issue of recognizing inventions as intellectual property while excluding discoveries. Kinsella discusses how "the distinction between the protectable and the unprotectable is necessarily arbitrary" in his view:

    [P]atents can be obtained only for so-called "practical applications" of ideas, but not for more abstract or theoretical ideas... But the distinction between creation and discovery is not clearcut or rigorous. Nor is it clear why such a distinction, even if clear, is ethically relevant in defining property rights...
    t is arbitrary and unfair to reward more practical inventors and entertainment providers, such as the engineer and songwriter, and to leave more theoretical science and math researchers and philosophers unrewarded. The distinction is inherently vague, arbitrary, and unjust.[12]

    To gain some purchase on this issue it is helpful to distinguish between wealth and other things we value in markets. Carefully drawing this contrast, economist George Reisman describes wealth as specifically material economic goods.[13] Goods, as beneficial and life-preserving rather than merely any object; economic goods as against "free goods," which are benefits that do not need to be created (such as air and sunlight); material economic goods as existing benefits to men's lives -- rather than potential economic goods, or mere proxies (like stocks and money) or means (like labor) or preconditions (like ideas). Labor and ideas are valued as economic goods, not because they are themselves wealth, but because they are the indispensable means to wealth.

    The distinction between wealth and its preconditions lets us clarify the ethical significance of inventions: inventors use their understanding of nature (often involving discoveries made by scientists) to solve specific problems in human welfare. Inventors are not recognizing some general fact about reality, but creating a recipe for producing wealth, thereby enabling the production of specific life-serving objects which would not have existed without their mental work. The crucial distinction between discovery and invention lies in their object: facts of nature are what they are and exist waiting to be discovered, while inventions are objects which would not exist without a creator. So intellectual property rights are a recognition of a crucial precondition of the life-serving creation of wealth -- and they are not, contrary to this complaint, a general reward for mental effort that is arbitrarily denied for some classes of thought.

    Moreover, a failure to distinguish between practical invention and theoretical discovery in intellectual property protection would work directly against the very purpose of individual rights. It would be unjust and contrary to the requirements of man's life to protect discoveries as intellectual property, by making possible the demand that people ignore facts and act on known falsehoods in lieu of paying for the privilege of living. It would mean people being prohibited from acting in accordance with a fact once it is known -- including barring their taking life-sustaining actions and using that knowledge to create new, life-serving objects. In contrast, there is no injustice when inventors or artists peacefully withhold the use of their recipes for manufacturing things that could not otherwise exist. Indeed, injustice would lie in denying creators the right to set their terms for providing the necessary means to life-serving wealth.

    * *

    This brings us to the central problem cited by libertarians opposed to intellectual property: that intellectual property rights conflict with material property rights. Palmer introduces the issue this way:

    Arguments such as Spooner's and Rand's encounter a fundamental problem. While they pay homage to the right of self-ownership, they restrict others' uses of their own bodies in conjunction with resources to which they have full moral and legal rights.[14]

    And I'll let Kinsella flesh it out with his explanation of the exact nature of the alleged "taking" involved in intellectual property rights:

    Let us recall that IP rights give to pattern-creators partial rights of control -- ownership -- over the tangible property of everyone else. The pattern-creator has partial ownership of others' property, by virtue of his IP right, because he can prohibit them from performing certain actions
    with their own property
    . Author
    , for example, can prohibit a third party,
    , from inscribing a certain pattern of words on
    's own blank pages with
    's own ink.

    That is, by merely authoring an original expression of ideas, by merely thinking of and recording some original
    of information, or by finding a new way to use his own property (recipe), the IP creator instantly, magically becomes a partial owner of others' property. He has some say over how third parties can use their property. IP rights change the
    status quo
    by redistributing property from individuals of one class (tangible-property owners) to individuals of another (authors and inventors).
    Prima facie
    , therefore, IP law trespasses against or "takes" the property of tangible property owners, by transferring partial ownership to authors and inventors. It is this invasion and redistribution of property that must be justified in order for IP rights to be valid.[15]

    The first thing to note is the plain fact that people are routinely prevented from using their material property when it would violate any right -- so the protection of intellectual property rights would not be unique in so "controlling" other people in their use of their material property. For example, my neighbor's person and property rights are not violated when he is not allowed to spontaneously whack me in the head with his fully-owned two-by-four. His rights are not violated in preventing him from using his tangible truck to pull up to my house and drive off with my entertainment center. We are all restricted from using our persons and property to violate the rights of others, and such restrictions do not themselves constitute an infringement of rights because nobody has the right to violate rights.

    It is bad enough that these libertarian scholars ignore such an obvious point, but the evasion reaches full bloom in Kinsella's explanation of the alleged "taking" caused by the appearance of intellectual property. The charge is that, as intellectual property comes into existence, liberty is lost in a magical transfer of partial ownership from the owners of material property to an author or inventor, thereby unjustly preventing them from doing something they were otherwise free to do with their own property. But in no sense is any ability, permission, or liberty lost. Recall that intellectual property rights protect the manufacture of creations -- objects which did not and would not otherwise exist. Before a novel has been written, absolutely nobody has the power to publish it, so its being authored cannot remove any liberty previously enjoyed by printers. And before some better mousetrap is invented, nobody has the power to produce it -- so its being invented cannot deny manufacturers any previously enjoyed freedom.

    Indeed, far from losing any power or liberty, the options available to owners of material property only increase with the appearance of intellectual property: they are presented with at least the potential to use their property in the production of new, life-serving objects in collaboration with an inventor or artist.

    * *

    Finally, we turn to the subtlest issue we will explore: time limits. Libertarians opposed to intellectual property see unprincipled arbitrariness in protecting it for some given number of years; for if intellectual property is legitimate, why wouldn't we provide unlimited protection as with material property? But they also note that if there were no time limits, then people would become mired in impossible record-keeping, drained by endless royalties, paralyzed in innovation. In the face of both limited and unlimited protection seeming unprincipled and heinously impractical, they reject intellectual property protection altogether -- and this is further justified in light of their scarcity-based theory of property.

    Certainly the practical point about the crushing burden of endless royalties and record-keeping is a useful sign that unlimited patent and copyright protection is a bad idea we should reject. But that alone does not constitute the full case against the idea; we also need to look to the nature of man's life to identify what is wrong with unlimited intellectual property rights. Further, in seeing the trouble there, we can identify what gives rise to the need for time limits in the first place -- and we can identify principles to guide us in the delicate challenge of determining just intellectual property durations which are not arbitrary.

    Our starting point is the examination of what would be entailed in owners enjoying both material and intellectual property in perpetuity. First, recall that in discussing wealth as material economic goods we carefully distinguished it from its essential means (ideas, labor). In the present point, this distinction appears again in understanding material property rights as a claim on a specific amount of existing wealth, where intellectual property rights are a claim on limitless potential future wealth in the application of an idea.[16]

    Regarding the former, Rand observed that material property "can be left to heirs, but it cannot remain in their effortless possession in perpetuity: the heirs can consume it or must earn its continued possession by their own productive work."[17] Value evaporates if a farmer neglects his land, an apartment owner neglects his building, or the owner of a business neglects its operation. Even a trust-fund baby must manage his investments lest they wither or be lost due to mismanagement -- consider the recurring story of lottery winners who quickly find themselves back where they were before winning. People may enjoy a lucky "leg up" in accumulating wealth, but they must be productive to maintain and grow that value, or suffer its disappearance. That is, they must earn its continued possession by their own productive work. Even under such favorable circumstances, the specific basis in ethics of the right to property -- the cardinal virtue of productiveness -- continues to stand as a broad requirement.

    In contrast, intellectual property cannot be so consumed and requires no productive effort on the part of its holder to maintain its value. No work would be demanded of an heir to intellectual property: he may continue to apply the idea to produce wealth, but he could just as well sit back and soak up royalties from others who use the idea to produce wealth. The owner of intellectual property need not earn its continued possession. Seeing the implications of this, Rand commented that if intellectual property were held in perpetuity, "it would lead to the opposite of the very principle on which it is based: it would lead, not to the earned reward of achievement, but to the unearned support of parasitism."[18] That is, a distant heir would effortlessly enjoy a share of the wealth being produced by others who alone are keeping the idea alive, embodying it in new life-serving goods. In the role of mere heir to intellectual property, one could not earn any part of that wealth. This follows from Rand's point that

    Intellectual achievement,
    in fact
    , cannot be transferred, just as intelligence, ability, or any other personal virtue cannot be transferred. All that can be transferred is the material results of an achievement, in the form of actually produced wealth. By the very nature of the right on which intellectual property is based -- a man's right to the product of his mind -- that right ends with him. He cannot dispose of that which he cannot know or judge: the yet-unproduced, indirect, potential results of his achievement four generations -- or four centuries -- later.[19]

    Thus by looking further into the meaning and purpose of property, we see how unlimited protection of intellectual property rights would not be analogous to unlimited material rights protection and would in fact be the very opposite in important ways.

    Regarding the delicate challenge of determining specific limits for the protection of various classes of intellectual property, the scope of "fair use," and so on: as with the above issues surrounding intellectual property, legal philosophers must look to politics, ethics, and the nature of man for the appropriate guiding principles to develop just implementations -- not interfering with the freedom of creators to profit by their creations while at the same time not enabling parasites to burden the productive.

    * *

    Lest we be driven by the difficulty of that challenge into entirely abandoning intellectual property protection, we should note that just as unlimited intellectual property protection would encourage destructive parasitism in future heirs, the absence of intellectual property protection would encourage destructive parasitism in present manufacturers.

    Abandoning intellectual property protection is saying that the author who invests thirteen years in writing a bestseller has no more right to profit from its sale than anybody else. It is saying the studio that risks $100 million on producing a blockbuster movie has no right to set the terms of its use to enjoy blockbuster profits, even though it retains the sole right to suffer the losses of a flop. The same is true for the labs that invest billions in developing mechanical, electronic, and virtual tools and toys that improve peoples' lives. It is saying that biotech companies who risk vast fortunes and decades of sweat in striving to create life-saving drugs and population-sustaining crops should simply give away the benefits of their risk, toil, and dedicated genius.

    It is true that the sudden abandonment of intellectual property rights would be a boon for manufacturers and customers, instigating a burst of wealth-creation as they deployed formerly protected ideas more freely. But this would be short-lived and stagnation would soon follow as those who might have risked, invested, toiled, and dedicated their genius to the next opportunity simply shrug. Creators would stand aside and not bother, or they would spend their minds on developing those (much more limited) things which aren't easily copied and imitated. Having killed the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs, countless life-serving creations would come more slowly or not at all. Why risk a billion dollars and half a lifetime attempting to develop a cure for cancer if others can profit by that achievement any way they see fit? Then decline would follow stagnation as shifting conditions in populations and resource availability bring new challenges that will go unmet.[20]

    But again, disastrous practical results alone are not a full justification; they are only a (very strong) hint that there is a deeper explanation we must appreciate, an important fact we need to respect. In this case, the numbingly unjust and destructive results are ultimately caused by the denial of the crucial role of ideas in wealth-creation. Rand summarized it this way:

    Every type of productive work involves a combination of mental and physical effort: of thought and of physical action to translate that thought into a material form. The proportion of these two elements varies in different types of work. At the lowest end of the scale, the mental effort required to perform unskilled manual labor is minimal. At the other end, what the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind's contribution in its purest form: the origination of an



    Looking below the surface to understand the role of reason in man's life and its connection to property rights is essential to grasping the importance of intellectual property -- and to achieving its proper implementation. But this is precisely what has gone missing in the accounts of libertarians against intellectual property. In a telling aside, Kinsella writes:

    Even Rand once elevated patents over mere property rights in tangible goods, in her bizarre notion that "patents are the heart and core of property rights."[22]Can we really believe that there were no property rights respected before the 1800s, when patent rights became systematized?[23]

    Consider: people employed reason before Aristotle systematized logic; they used geometry before Euclid organized the field; they lobbed rocks with catapults before Newton formulated the scientific principles by which missiles fly. There are countless cases where an implicit or partial understanding of a deep truth developed before some thinker explained and systematized it. Rand often commented that it was the advent of the Industrial Revolution that made it possible to fully appreciate the central role of reason in man's life: it was there all along, but hard to see in such stark relief until that point in history. The crucial role of reason in production was not fully recognized until then, and so the essential role of the mind -- of ideas -- in wealth-creation was not yet fully grasped, either.

    As the Industrial Revolution unfolded and it became easier to publish information and mass-produce objects for wide distribution, people began to grasp more fully the fundamental role of ideas in wealth-creation. They began attempting to protect the interests of the creators of ideas -- in fits and starts, justified by troubled appeals to utilitarianism in the US[24] and mystical appeals to extension of personality in Europe[25]. But problematic justifications and inconsistent implementations do not invalidate the reality of intellectual property.

    Now as we enjoy the rise of the information age, the critical role of reason in the life of man is more prominent than ever, and facing the implications squarely is paramount. So it can be no accident that in addressing a reader's query about intellectual property, Rand opened her essay with an integrative statement reflecting this fundamental fact and inviting us to appreciate its fuller meaning. "Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man's right to the product of his mind."[26]


    [1] In this article I will rely on two noted contemporary scholars to speak for libertarians opposed to intellectual property: Tom G. Palmer and N. Stephan Kinsella. Each has produced an extensive survey covering the subject, drawing on the thoughts of a long line of historic libertarian thinkers.

    [2] Tom G. Palmer, "Are Patents and Copyrights Morally Justified?: The Philosophy of Property Rights and Ideal Objects," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, vol. 13, no. 3 (Summer 1990): 817-865, available online at http://www.tomgpalmer.com/papers/palmer-mo...rvard-v13n3.pdf, 855.

    [3]Stephan Kinsella, "Against Intellectual Property," Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 15, no.2 (Spring 2001):1-53, available online at http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/15_2/15_2_1.pdf, 19-20.

    [4] Kinsella, 22.

    [5] Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, Monticello, August 13, 1813, letter, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 13, ed. A.A. Lipscomb and A.E. Bergh (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), pp. 326-38.

    [6] Kinsella, 23, from Arnold Plant, "The Economic Theory Concerning Patents for Inventions," Selected Economic Essays and Addresses (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), 36.

    [7] Palmer, 864.

    [8] Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1986), 321.

    [9] Rand, "Man's Rights," 320-321.

    [10] Much in these two paragraphs is paraphrased from Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Plume, 1993), 354.

    [11] Rand, "Man's Rights," 322.

    [12] Kinsella, 15.

    [13] George Reisman, "Wealth and Goods," Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Jameson Books, 1996), viewable online at http://capitalism.net/Capitalism/CAPITALISM%20Internet.pdf, 39-41.

    [14] Palmer, 827.

    [15] Kinsella, 25.

    [16] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 132.

    [17] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 131.

    [18] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 131.

    [19] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 132.

    [20] Reisman, "Diminishing Returns and the Need for Economic Progress," 70-71.

    [21] Rand, "Copyrights and Patents," 130.

    [22] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 133.

    [23] Kinsella, 18.

    [24] The Constitution of the United States of America, available online at http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/constitution/, Article I Section 8.

    [25] Palmer, 835, 843, 862.

    [26] Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," 130.

  6. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,

    As promised, here is my report on The Objective Standard's debate on eminent domain between Jeffrey Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council (arguing to preserve eminent domain), and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute (arguing to abolish it).

    On one level, one has to admire Jeffrey Finkle for chutzpah. Given the massive backlash against the Kelo decision that enshrined the use of takings for private economic development, one would think that here is an issue where one would wish to tread softly, if only out of fear of being tarred and feathered by angry homeowners. Not so with Finkle; for him, eminent domain is a failing community?s tool of choice so it can provide the needy with services such as Meals on Wheels.

    I?m not kidding. Meals on Wheels was among the central moral justifications for taking of property?and I use the term ?property? loosely. When I asked him for an explicit definition of what he thought the word meant, Finkle outright evaded a question. And in a statement that would make Mussolini proud, Finkle argued that he would not sacrifice the needs of an entire community to some obstinate property holder. At root, Finkle believes that need is virtue.

    It was intriguing to see how Finkle arrived at his position. Individuals acting out of self-interests are usurious slugs; as an example, Finkle argued that grocery stores avoid the inner-city while simultaneously overcharge their inner city customers. Yet put those same people into groups and give them power over other people's lives and they become omni-benevolent. At root here, Finkle believes that selflessness is a virtue.

    And all the while, Finkle battered the audience with package deals. Houston is a disaster because it doesn't have zoning; families are forced to live next to chemical factories. New Orleans could never be redeveloped without eminent domain; abandoned property would remain titled to its last owner forever. No highway would exist without eminent domain; a minority of one could squelch every new avenue and no alternatives save for the takings power exist.

    In contrast, Yaron Brook simply argued that individual rights matter. The right to property is a corollary of the right to life and no less important. People should deal with one another though persuasion and voluntary exchange; not to is to enshrine force as a means to an end and threaten all rights accordingly. The desire for growth is not license to usurp the rights of others. Brook?s arguments were clear, they flowed logically, and they explicitly addressed the fundamentals of the debate.

    And in the debate's most telling moment, Brook expanded Finkle?s claim that he supported a Quaker's right not to serve in the military (don't ask me what made Finkle mention this; it seemingly fell out of nowhere) to the right of a property holder not to give his property to others. Where Finkle disintegrated, Brook integrated. That?s what Objectivists do.

    So in the end, score one for the Objectivists and the debate host The Objective Standard (and its editor Craig Biddle). In my view, The Objective Standard is proving to be everything an Objectivist publication should be and more and I look forward to more events of this caliber.

  7. The concept of freedom rests on a government limited to the protection of individual rights, while the concept of democracy rests on a government run by unlimited majority rule; we need to stop confusing these two opposite ideas.

    By Peter Schwartz

    America's foreign policy has led to a bizarre contradiction. President Bush claims to be pursuing freedom in the world, so that Americans will be safer. Yet this campaign's results--a more zealous proponent of terrorism in the Palestinian Authority, and the prospect of theocracy in Iraq--are posing even greater threats to us.

    The cause of this failure is Mr. Bush's hopeless view that tyranny is reversed by the holding of elections--a view stemming from the widespread confusion between freedom and democracy.

    Ask a typical American if there should be limits on what government may do, and he would answer: yes. He understands that each of us has rights which no law--regardless of how much public support it happens to attract--is entitled to breach. An advocate of democracy, however, would answer: no.

    The essence of democracy is unlimited majority rule. It is the notion that the government should not be constrained, as long as its behavior is sanctioned by majority vote. It is the notion that the function of government is to implement the "will of the people." It is the notion we are espousing when we tell the Iraqis, the Palestinians and the Afghanis that the legitimacy of their new governments rests essentially on their being democratically approved.

    And it is the notion that was repudiated by the founding of the United States.

  8. Originally from Gus Van Horn,

    Where are all the strident denunciations? When will the "documentary" air? Where are the human shields?

    The army has been sent to the oil fields and the president of a certain kelptocracy in the West has acted unilaterally to seize the oil wealth belonging to others!

    Where is the constant harangue from the loony left?

    Nowhere, because it's OK to make men risk their lives for oil -- if you're from the left.

    President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to immediately occupy Bolivia's natural gas fields today and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they sign new contracts within six months giving Bolivia majority control over the entire chain of production.

    Morales said soldiers and engineers with Bolivia's state-owned oil company would be sent to installations operated by foreign petroleum companies.

    "The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources," Morales said in a speech from the San Alberto petroleum field in southern Bolivia to decree what he called a nationalization of the natural gas industry. The field has been operated by Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA in association with the Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF SA and France's Total SA. [bold added]

    Whatever you might say about Bush's invasion of Iraq, it clearly has not been motivated by a desire to take its oil fields, although for reasons unlike Morales's, that would have been a legitimate objective.

    Aside from noting -- again -- that Bush's failure to do anything about Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has served to encourage thugs like Chavez all over Latin America, I have nothing much else to say about the situation in Bolivia but to note the amazing gall made possible to Morales by the fact that everyone he is plundering accepts his basic premise, that it is okay to steal property from the rich to give loot to the poor.

    Morales has acknowledged that nationalization will not mean a complete state takeover, because Bolivia lacks the ability to tap all its natural gas on its own. [bold added]

    Boo hoo! Poor Bolivia can't take all the oil wealth and needs the help of its own robbery victims! Morales can say this with a straight face and expect all those foreign doormats to keep on building infrastructure for him to plunder later on, when he's more "able". Sadly, everyone will grouse a little, and then go right in and take what pittance they can before being robbed. Oil executives will behave like chumps because under altruism, it's just the way things are done for Evo Morales to act as he does, and for America to fail to act, as it does.

    If the looted were all state-owned companies like Petroleo Brasileiro SA, this would be hysterically funny. Unfortunately, some private property is also being stolen from Americans, in the form of Exxon-Mobil holdings, for example.

    The proper responses to this move -- for a free nation whose citizens have been robbed of private property -- vary, depending on that nation's military capabilities and other such factors as whether its oil executives were careful about the chances something like this might happen going in. In such cases, proper responses range from invading to take the oil fields back (to be returned to their owners) from the organized mob running the government to destroying the fields. Note that this is not happening and will not happen, because Bolivia's need trumps the rights of the men whose effort and capital made Bolivia's oil production possible.

    But the left claims to see looting where there is not even a legitimate reclamation of private property and remains silent when the very sin they damn Bush for -- sending soldiers on missions to take oil from its rightful owners -- is being committed. This speaks volumes about their sincerity, including the claim that they will invariably make, to the effect that Morales was acting on behalf of "the people". In fact, the very premise of the left -- that governments should seize oil fields -- makes all of them hypocrites for denouncing Bush for supposedly doing so.

    Men who receive booty stolen from others have no freedom. They are merely well-fed prisoners, or slaves, who live their lives at the mercy of the same tyrants at whose mercy the looted once owned property.

    Socialism is a fool's bargain.

  9. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,

    This article by University of Chicago doctorial candidate Jay Cost in the Wall Street Journal has been sitting on my desk for over a week and in my mind it underscores the need for an alternative voice within the Republican Party. Cost believes it likely that the Republicans will keep control of the Congress this November.

    At best, many facts of importance, like 2004's 98.8% incumbent retention rate or 2006's incredibly low 4.6% incumbent retirement rate, are mentioned only to be unceremoniously dismissed. This is the sign of poor argumentation. It is not enough to proffer one's case by rallying the supporting facts. One must also handle the opposing facts.

    One of these ignored items has to do with the Senate. It is, according to most, out of the Democrats' grasp. I strongly agree with this estimation. For the Democrats to take the Senate, they would have to defeat incumbents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Montana, Missouri and Rhode Island; win the open seat in Tennessee; and hold seats against strong challengers in Minnesota, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. This amounts to a sweep of all 10 of National Journal's 10 most vulnerable races. Most would thus admit that the Senate is not on the table; those who make no such admission usually grow silent when asked to explain why they refuse.

    The consensus on the Senate is actually a major problem for the consensus on the House. Historically speaking, the House switches only when the Senate switches. In other words, the improbability of a Democratic capture of the Senate is a sign that a capture of the House is improbable. Consider the following.

    The 17th Amendment, which mandates the direct election of senators, took effect prior to the 1914 election. Since then, the Senate has changed hands 10 times due to the biannual congressional election. The House, on the other hand, has changed hands only six times due to the biannual congressional election. (A seventh switch occurred in the middle of the 72nd Congress. The 1930 elections left the GOP with a slim majority. However, 14 representatives-elect died before the 72nd Congress convened, and the Democrats won enough of the subsequent special elections to take the House. This capture was "ratified" in the 1932 elections, which would have delivered Congress to the Democrats even if this tragedy had not occurred. So, let us henceforth identify 1932 as the seventh time that the House has switched since 1918.)

    Of these seven times the House has switched, the Senate has also switched. Not only does the Senate switch more frequently, it always switches with the House. A switch in the Senate, therefore, seems to be a necessary, but insufficient, condition for a switch in the House. Conversely, a switch in the House is a sufficient, but not necessary, condition for a switch in the Senate. Thus, historically speaking, three scenarios are possible: both House and Senate stay the same, the Senate alone changes, or both the House and the Senate change.

    Is this simply historical coincidence, or is a causal logic driving the correlation? A pattern that holds over 46 observations without exception is probably not random. Most important, however, is that this sort of pattern coheres with what we already know about Senate and House elections--namely, House elections are much less susceptible to national trends than Senate elections. This is the case for several reasons.

    First, senators lack the ability to draw district lines to minimize opposing partisans. Second, Senate challengers tend to be more qualified and better funded than House challenges. Third, these challengers can use campaign resources more efficiently. Many House challengers cannot efficiently spend money on television advertisements because it is wasted on voters in other districts; however, with Senate elections, there are efficient ad markets. Fourth, senators are less able to cultivate close relationships with constituents--they lack the requisite geographical proximity. Fifth, senators are much more visible to the public; whereas House members can operate in the Capitol without much scrutiny, constituents tend to be more aware of their senators' activities.

    Thus, Senate elections are contests where the partisan division is more equal, the average voter has a more balanced view of the candidates, and he has more information about the issues in the race. Like House races, they tend to be referendums on incumbents; Senate incumbents are simply less favored. It is thus no surprise that senators' re-election rate is consistently lower than representatives'. It also no surprise that control of the Senate is more susceptible to change. If individual senators face enhanced competition, so does their partisan caucus.

    Why, then, does the Senate always switch when the House does? National political moods do not usually translate into changes in party control in the House. The reason for this is that individual members of the House are fairly invulnerable to that mood. However, they are not perfectly invulnerable. If the mood is sufficiently strong or sufficiently directed against one party, the House incumbency advantage is not enough. Since the House incumbency advantage is greater than the Senate advantage, we should expect the Senate to switch when the House switches. If the mood is strong enough to change the House, it will be strong enough to change the Senate. On the flip side, we can expect relatively milder political moods to change the more competitive Senate, but not the House.

    Cost's premise passes the initial sniff test and it my mind, underscores the larger issue that there is no organized, credible voice for both secularism and lassie faire within the Republican Party. That needs to change, or Objectivists will have to simply get used to living under a governing party that is animated by evangelical Christianity and altruism. Yet again, the larger threat to freedom comes from the right.

  10. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,

    This wonderfully pompus article at Salon.com recounts the chilling steps a leftist parent took to scrub the mind of her young child for his innocent love of America. First, let's set the stage. Author Nina Burleigh would much rather live in France.

    Our family first arrived in Narrowsburg [NY]in 2000, as city people hunting for a cheap house. For barely $50,000 we were able to buy the "weekend house" we thought would complete our metropolitan existence. But soon after we closed on the home, we moved to Paris, spurred by the serendipitous arrival of a book contract. When our European idyll ended after two years, and with tenants still subletting our city apartment, we moved into the Narrowsburg house. After growing accustomed to the French social system -- with its cheap medicine, generous welfare, short workweek and plentiful child care -- life back in depressed upstate New York felt especially harsh. We'd never planned to get involved in the life of the town, nor had it ever occurred to us that we might send our son to the Narrowsburg School. But suddenly we were upstate locals, with a real stake in the community.

    And Narrowsburg is tough community for an enlightened Francophile such as Burleigh to endure.

    [F]or the first few months, we felt uneasy. Eighty of Narrowsburg's 319 adults are military veterans and at least 10 recent school graduates are serving in Iraq or on other bases overseas right now. The school's defining philosophy was traditional and conservative, starting with a sit-down-in-your-seat brand of discipline, leavened with a rafter-shaking reverence for country and flag. Every day the students gathered in the gym for the "Morning Program," open to parents, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a patriotic song, and then discussion of a "word of the week." During the first few weeks, the words of the week seemed suspiciously tied to a certain political persuasion: "Military," "tour," "nation" and "alliance" were among them.

    One shudders at the thought. How will Burleigh's six year old come to embrace her mother's highbrow contempt for the hypocritical betrayal that is America? This is a deep concern: Burleigh notes that "f you knew nothing else of the world, if you were just 5 or 6 or 10 years old, and this place was your only America, you wouldn't have any reason at all to question the Narrowsburg School's Morning Program routine."

    And why should you? There is a reason that we think of our childhoods as an age of innocence. It is a time when we are able to focus our embryonic minds on our relationship with existence. I was six when Saigon fell to the communists and I can remember watching the evacuation on the news and even thinking that it was something that must be important. Nevertheless, the egoistic thrill of riding around the block in my "green machine" and the joy of wiring together my toy train set held more sway for me. During childhood, one's focus is on things far more immediate and it ought to be.

    In contrast, Nina Burleigh has Iraq on the mind. She writes,

    [j]ust before Christmas, my son and I drove together into New York City with bags of children's clothes and shoes that he and his sister had outgrown. The Harlem unit of the National Guard was putting on a Christmas clothing drive for Iraqi children. On the way into the city, I tried to explain to my son what we were doing, and -- as best I could -- why. As we crossed the George Washington Bridge and the Manhattan skyline spread out below us, I began to give him a variation on the "Africans don't have any food, finish your dinner" talk. I wanted him to understand how privileged he was to live in a place where bombs weren't raining from the sky. It was a talk I'd tried to have before, but not one he'd ever paid much attention to until that day, trapped in the back seat of our car.

    In simple language, I told my son that our president had started a war with a country called Iraq. I said that we were bombing cities and destroying buildings. And I explained that families just like ours now had no money or food because their parents didn't have offices to go to anymore or bosses to pay them. "America did this?" my son asked, incredulous. "Yes, America," I answered. He paused, a long silent pause, then burst out: "But Mommy, I love America! I want to hug America!"

    Yeah kid, but the president invaded Iraq on a lark and is "bombing cities and destroying buildings" and starving families "like yours" just for the giggles it gives him. Why don't you wrap your arms around that, you little six-year-old twerp!

    No wonder so many leftists are so embittered. After all, what is a 6 year-old to do about geopolitics (or his mother's attendant rages) except sit there in helpless impotence? Burleigh has taught six-year old that America is a vicious place controlled by monsters--and that there's nothing he can do about it. And you thought learning that there was no Santa Claus was bad. At least with that horror you learn where the gifts really come from and that you can still give and receive them.

    If it were my child, I'd want to teach them that they were efficacious--if they kept their wits about them. During the developmental years, contemporary politics would be off the table altogether. In its stead, I'd share with my child everything I knew about history, be it the history of science, literature, philosophy, or nations. When my child understood how ideas shape both men and civilizations, then we could then talk about politics (and my attendant rages). Until that point, the message would be lost.

    Burleigh has one haughty observation to make before she concludes her article. You see, for all its jingoism, life in Narrowsburg actually expanded her child's mind.

    Now it has been almost a year since my son scampered down the steps of Narrowsburg Central Rural School for the last time. We've since returned to the city, driven back to urban life more by adult boredom than our children's lack of educational opportunities. Our son is enrolled in a well-rated K-5 public school on Manhattan's Upper West Side; not surprisingly, the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer part of his morning routine. Come to think of it, and I could be wrong, I've never seen a flag on the premises.

    My husband and I realized, though, that Narrowsburg did more than mold our boy into a patriot. He can, it turns out -- despite the warnings of other city parents -- read at a level twice that of his new peers. Since we returned to the city, he has learned how to ride a bike, long for an Xbox, practiced a few new swear words and, somehow, learned the meaning of "sexy." He has pretty much stopped favoring red, white and blue.

    Not surprising. I hear the culture in Manhattan can do that to you.

  11. Originally from Gus Van Horn,

    There's a Jeff Jacoby piece at the Boston Globe on "When parents' values conflict with public schools" that spends too much time on the "culture wars" aspect of whether and when to teach children about homosexuality, and too little (read: none) on whether we should have public education at all.

    Most of the article focuses on the fact that Kerry Healey, the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (and a gubernatorial candidate), said, in the way of explaining why she sends her children to private schools, "I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values ... in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting."

    The article then notes the divide between liberals (one of whom claims that Healey is "out of touch with the lives of regular people") and ordinary citizens (who are shocked, for example, at their second grade children being read a story that ended in a gay marriage in class).

    Although polls show that a slight majority of Americans favor civil unions for gay couples, I think that the article is probably correct that most Americans would be unhappy about such a matter being introduced to their children at such a young age.

    In fact, although I regard homosexuality to be a moral issue about on a par with hair color, I would prefer to at least know beforehand how the matter was dealt with in school for children that young. Indeed, I am not so sure children that young should have to think about sexual matters at all. As a parent, I would really appreciate the government butting out and letting me make up my own mind how and when to introduce my children to this subject.

    So the article gets one issue right....

    But homosexuality and gay marriage are not like subtraction or geography; they cannot be separated from questions of morality, justice, and decency. No matter how a school chooses to deal with sexual issues, it promotes certain values -- values that some parents will fervently welcome and that others will just as fervently reject. And what is true of human sexuality is true of other issues that touch on deeply felt religious, political, or ideological values. [bold added]

    ... while completely missing a more important point.

    When it comes to the education of children, there is always an agenda -- and those who don't share that agenda too often find themselves belittled, marginalized, or ignored. Perhaps it was true, as Thomas Reilly says, that the public schools his children attended "reinforced the values of our home." But as the Parkers and Wirthlins in Lexington can testify, other families have a very different experience. When Kerry Healey says she wants her children "to be in an environment where they can talk about values ..... in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting," many public-school parents will know exactly what she means.

    Great. You've defended Kerry Healey. But it is not some politician's choice to send her children to private schools that needs defending. It's the right of every parent not to have money taken from him for the purpose of indoctrinating his children (or at all) that needs defending!

    The only way to avoid having the government screw up large numbers of children at once by exposing them to things they aren't ready for -- or, conversely, to teach the mores of, say, a specific religious faith -- is to privatize the schools.

    And I could be mistaken in my view that young children should not be exposed to the concept of homosexuality. So what if I am? The government has no business imposing any ideology (even a correct one), be it a theory of psychological development, a political ideology, or a religion. This necessarily means that the government has no business being involved in education.

    For even the theories on such things as how best to educate children, what constitutes proper subject matter, and how best to arrive at knowledge in the first place are all based on some ideological perspective by their very nature.

    I should not be forced to endorse any of these, have my children used as guinea pigs for any of these, or be involved in making children captive audiences to ideas I oppose.

    Jacoby discusses some big issues in his piece, but the biggest one is this: Why is it that in the very state Paul Revere called home, it has come to pass that a candidate for office is being held to account for doing something that is her right? And why is that same right is made more difficult for everyone there to exercise by the taxation required to support the public schools?

  12. Originally posted by Paul from NoodleFood,

    When magician David Copperfield was recently mugged at gunpoint, he successfully used his skills to conceal his valuables from the thief:

    When Copperfield's turn came, [accused mugger Dwayne]Riley was bamboozled. Copperfield told Page Two he pulled out all of his pockets for Riley to see he had nothing, even though he had a cellphone, passport and wallet stuffed in them. "Call it reverse pickpocketing," Copperfield said. Riley jumped behind the wheel, and the car took off.

    Riley and three other accomplices were quickly apprehended and are now in police custody. (Via Fark.)

  13. Originally posted by Don from NoodleFood,

    David Rehm would like to announce that the DC Objectivist Salon now has a website: http://www.dcobjectivistsalon.com. According to the site:

    The DC Objectivist Salon is a group of individuals in the Washington, DC metro area dedicated to the serious study and practical application of
    Ayn Rand
    's philosophy of
    . (Please note that our primary focus is intellectual, not political; we simply happen to live in the vicinity of Washington, DC.)

    Activities of the DCOS include: holding a monthly discussion group (usually followed by a social dinner), supporting local campus clubs to promote awareness and discussion of Objectivism in the universities, maintaining a calendar of relevant DC-area (and significant, outside) events, and eventually hosting a wider range of social activities. For more information or to participate, send a message briefly introducing yourself and your interest in Objectivism to:
    [email protected]

    The DCOS is a proud supporter of (although neither sanctioned nor supported by) the
    Ayn Rand Institute

    I helped David start DCOS shortly before I left for California, and one of my (few) regrets is that I'm no longer able to participate in the club. Its members are friendly, active-minded, and committed to studying Objectivism. I urge everyone in the DC area to join them, although it should go without saying that my endorsement is personal and does not necessarily represent the views of ARI.

    (I should also note that David and I were inspired to start the club after seeing the success of Front Range Objectivism in Colorado--so many thanks to them!)

  14. Originally from Gus Van Horn,

    In Egypt, there is an encouraging movement among members of the judiciary, which has some popular support, seeking greater independence from the government.

    The judiciary not being independent is, of course, bad in itself. However, if you needed any further proof that the government of Egypt does not regard itself as being in the business of protecting the rights of its citizens, you got it today. According to The New York Times:

    Thousands of riot police officers sealed off access to the High Court on Thursday, beating and arresting protesters who had turned out to support two judges facing a disciplinary panel because they had accused the government of election fraud.

    Police beat and arrested protesters who turned out to support two judges brought before a disciplinary panel in Cairo.

    The huge show of force, appearing larger even than what was deployed in the Sinai after four bombings there this week, seemed to signal that President Hosni Mubarak's government had reached a breaking point over shows of dissent.

    The focus was a relatively small demonstration over the treatment of the two judges and in support of more than 80 others who had been staging a sit-in for more than a week at the stately old Judges Club to demand an independent judiciary. [link dropped, bold added]

    Read the rest. 7,000 of Egypt's 9,000 judges are pressing for reforms, including the right to monitor elections.

  15. By Alex Epstein:

    There is no such thing as price gouging by private oil companies.

    The term "price gouging" implies that oil companies and gas stations have an ability to forcibly inflict harm on us--but they do not. Any price we pay for a gallon of gasoline, we pay voluntarily, based on its value to us. If we think gasoline is too expensive, we are free to drive less, to buy more fuel-efficient cars, to use carpools or busses, or to travel by bicycle or on foot. Gas station owners cannot force us to buy gasoline; they can only offer us a trade, which we are free to accept or reject.

    Since the prevailing price of gasoline is the result of trade, it reflects not the arbitrary "greed" of gas station owners, but the facts of the market: the producers' costs, competition, and what customers are willing to pay.

    Oil company "greed" is not "hurting the nation"--it is making oil and gasoline available to all of us who are willing to pay market prices. We should be grateful for that.

    Alex Epstein
    Ayn Rand Institute

    [Ed. Note: To quote Brian Summers: "Too bad homeowners don't post their property taxes, and the prices of their homes, the same way that gasoline retailers post their prices."]

  16. Can Mag:

    Not only has Lionsgate Films picked up the reigns on the repeatedly-delayed Atlas Shrugged but they have also found a couple possibilities to star.

    According to Variety, Lionsgate has picked up worldwide distribution rights to Atlas Shrugged. The project, based on the novel by Ayn Rand, has been circulating Hollywood for some time now after multiple false starts.

    Not only has Lionsgate acquired the project but they also have a couple names in mind to star. Both fans of Ayn Rand's novel, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the top hopefuls to star in the film.

    The book, published in 1957, revolves around the economic collapse of the U.S. sometime in the future and espouses her individualistic philosophy of objectivism. The violent, apocalyptic ending has always posed a challenge but could prove especially so in the post-9/11 climate.

    Atlas Shrugged runs north of 1,100 pages, a length that offers a considerable challenge when adapting the story to film. Because of this length, there are many who have considered turning Atlas Shrugged into a miniseries or a two-part movie.

    Lionsgate Films, who like to keep their films under a $25M budget, are looking to spend north of $30M for Atlas Shrugged.

  17. Advocates of eminent domain often argue that it is necessary to prevent holdouts from bidding up prices as part of a large land purchase. But real estate companies have developed many strategies to deal with this problem long before governments started confiscating land on their behalf. Even if you are a brand-name company trying to build a 50 acre campus in the hottest real estate market in the country.


  18. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™,

    Most Charlotteans are familiar with Nucor here in Charlotte. Do you know the history? From Steven Brockerman at American Renaissance:

    Ken immediately reduced administrative staff from twelve to two. Then he packed up the company headquarters lock, stock & barrel into a couple of vans and moved it from Phoenix, Arizona, to Charlotte, North Carolina, near the profitable grate and joist operation at Vulcraft.

    There he fashioned a business plan that focused on Vulcraft while spinning off or closing the other seven unprofitable divisions. His focus on Vulcraft amounted to intense modernization. R&D became God at Nuclear. So much so that Douglas Sease would later write in 1981 in the Wall Street Journal that ?[M]odern technology is Nucor's long suit." That R&D laden suit was first dealt in 1965 by Ken Iverson.

    Steven provides part one. Part two coming soon I am sure.

  19. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,

    I firmly believe that there needs to be public outcry over the appallingly week defense of free speech rights in the wake of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, especially outcry directed at the Bush administration, which has refused to defend the freedom to criticize Islam without caveats or equivocation. The question is how to engineer it-and evidence the power of Objectivism in the process.

    I've mentioned in an earlier post that I want to host a free speech demonstration in Washington. I have received several messages in support and I think the times demand such an act. Yet at the same time, I have several reservations.

    Demonstrations are notoriously difficult to organize. I've organized three demonstrations in DC; two "countermarches" in defense of industry and technology on Earth Day in front of the White House and a protest in defense of Elian Gonzales in front of the Department of Justice. Additionally, I participated in a small demonstration in defense of Microsoft in front of the courthouse where the firm's antitrust trial was held and the ARI anti-volunteerism protest in Philadelphia.

    Each demonstration that I worked on took about a month to put together. Talking points had to be formulated, participants had to be recruited, accommodations and transportation secured, signs printed and press releases and position papers issued. All the while, the burden of fundraising hung over my head as each demonstration barely paid for themselves, let alone bring in money to be used for future endeavors.

    There's also another problem with demonstrations-it is next to impossible to get Objectivists to participate in them. We averaged around 50 participants for each of the demonstrations I organized. While I deeply appreciated every soul that came to march, that's still a paltry sum. I think there's a clear reason for this: many Objectivists are utterly controversy-shy. It takes both balls and a clear head to hold a sign saying that Earth Day or volunteerism is immoral or that Microsoft should not have to suffer antitrust and be able to quickly explain to non-Objectivists why. For some reason, too many Objectivists fail to possess both these attributes in sufficient numbers to bring 500 people to a protest, instead of the usual 50. (Well, that, and the "I have a job" claim that seems to exempt both physical participation in a demonstration and monetary support).

    And then there's the claim of anti-intellectualism. Protests are mostly exercises in marching and chanting (that's the charge at least), so what then is the point then in participating in them. Never mind that to be in the news, one often has to make news (which means the willingness to pound the pavement in defense of one's principles from time to time). Every demonstration that I organized had clear talking points and included pre-march briefings to bring all the participants up to speed with how to communicate our message effectively to the media and the public.

    So What were the dividends? The press conferences for both Earth Day countermarches were covered by C-SPAN. I was asked by a top-ten newspaper to write an anti-Earth Day op-ed. Ed Locke's speech in defense of Elian Gonzales was heavily quoted in the conservative press, and the protests received other news coverage as well. Young Objectivists who had never met anyone who shared their views in person made friendships that apparently have endured for years.

    Yet if all these achievements were valued, we simply would have raised more money. What else must one do to engage in Objectivist activism that is worthy of support-unless any such activism itself is frowned upon?

    I don't know anymore. In the case of the Muhammad cartoons controversy, I can't help but think that we need to go to the mattresses in defense of our free speech rights, and that even a protest manned by 50 Objectivists is an important contribution to this fight. No one is taking the administration to task for its failures on this issue. Everyone is terrified of violence if they show the cartoons, yet no one is demanding that the government do its job to protect against that threat. And if we are not free to criticize Islam-if we are not free to illustrate Islam's irrationality and barbarism-we are not free to defend our lives and address one of the central questions of our time. How can we allow this to happen without a fight?

    I say we cannot. That said, I'm not sure everyone else shares my enthusiasm. So I put it to you: is a weekend event defending free speech -a mini-conference and protest march-worth it to you? What would you be willing to do to make such an event possible? How hard will you be willing to work to stand up and defend your right to free speech?

    I'd like to know. Our rights deserve defending, but there's no point in issuing a call to action that will fall upon deaf ears. So please share with me where you stand.

  20. Originally from Gus Van Horn,

    John Fund continues his outstanding coverage of Yale's betrayal -- via the enrollment of a Taliban official with an elementary school education -- of academic standards, its proud history, and its country.

    Being an academic who will blog under a pseudonym for the foreseeable future thanks to advice from none other than The Chronicle of Higher Education (HT: Noodle Food), I was rather amused and amazed at the twist that the story has taken.

    Fund, after he first reports that Yale appears to be looking for a way to bow to pressure (without appearing to bow to pressure) to "lose" the Taliban official, notes that the university is apparently getting ready to "stick it" to alumnus, George Bush, in another way -- by hiring far-left moonbat blogger Juan Cole!

    Mr. Cole's appointment would be problematic on several fronts. First, his scholarship is largely on the 19th-century Middle East, not on contemporary issues. "He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary," says Michael Rubin, a Yale graduate and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Mr. Cole's postings at his blog, Informed Comment, appear to be a far cry from scholarship. They feature highly polemical writing and dubious conspiracy theories. [bold added]

    Compare this to what the Chronicle says about the usual shift given to bloggers who apply for academic positions. I present the two things most pertinent to the case of Juan Cole.

    The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

    A blog easily becomes a therapeutic outlet, a place to vent petty gripes and frustrations stemming from congested traffic, rude sales clerks, or unpleasant national news. It becomes an open diary or confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.

    Worst of all, for professional academics, it's a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation.


    It would never occur to the committee to ask what a candidate thinks about certain people's choice of fashion or body adornment, which countries we should invade, what should be done to drivers who refuse to get out of the passing lane, what constitutes a real man, or how the recovery process from one's childhood traumas is going. But since the applicant elaborated on many topics like those, we were all ears. And we were a little concerned. It's not our place to make the recommendation, but we agreed a little therapy (of the offline variety) might be in order. [bold added]

    So let's pretend we're on a hiring committee at Yale and ask ourselves why, exactly, we'd like to hire someone whose blog expresses agreement with a paper even Noam Chomsky won't touch with a ten-foot pole....

    Mr. Cole says that he is often unfairly attacked for being anti-Semitic, when in reality he claims he is only critical of Israeli policy. But Michael Oren, a visiting fellow at Yale, notes that in February 2003 Mr. Cole wrote on his blog that "Apparently [President Bush]has fallen for a line from the neo-cons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon's ass." Mr. Oren says "clearly that's anti-Semitism; that's not a criticism of Israeli policy." (Exit polls showed that 74% of the Jewish vote went to John Kerry.)

    Mr. Cole appears to be the only prominent academic in America to have embraced "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a highly controversial paper by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard. Mr. Cole told the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday that the paper argues the "virtually axiomatic" point held by the rest of the world that a "powerful pro-Israel lobby exists." The result is that "U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been dangerously skewed."

    But the paper has been roundly attacked for sloppy generalizations. The two authors claim that "neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel." Even Noam Chomsky, a far-left critic of Israel, wrote that we "have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion." But Mr. Cole praises the two professors for seeking "to end the taboo [on discussions of the "Israel lobby"], enforced by knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism." [bold added]

    Are these merely Cole's "unfiltered thoughts" -- or are they his professional opinions? Does Yale want a loose cannon or a crackpot, and why? And how will having hired someone like this undo the damage that Yale has already done to itself by enrolling that Taliban fellow?

    And consider Cole's respect for freedom of speech.

    Mr. Cole wants to enforce his own taboos on free expression. In February, he told the Detroit Metro Times that the federal government should close the leading cable news channel. "I think it is outrageous that Fox Cable News is allowed to run that operation the way it runs it," he said in summarizing his view that Fox "is polluting the information environment." He went on to claim that "in the 1960s the FCC would have closed it down. It's an index of how corrupt our governmental institutions have become, that the FCC lets this go on." [!]Appointing someone as hotheaded and intolerant as Mr. Cole to a prestigious appointment at Yale wouldn't seem to make any sense. The drive to hire him can be explained in part by the same impulses that prompted Yale to admit Mr. Hashemi. "Perhaps the folks who still want to let Taliban Man into the degree program are also thinking Cole would make a great faculty advisor for him," jokes Mr. Taylor, the alumnus leading the NailYale protest. [bold added]

    To the contrary, it is an "index" of how far our culture has declined that a prestigious university is seriously considering Cole for employment, and that he furthermore has employment in higher education in the first place! Of course, Yale probably thinks it will get away with this, considering how common people like Cole are on university faculties these days.... Perhaps, in bringing this little matter up, Yale has unwittingly brought it to the table for a public debate. Lord knows, it's about time.

    This hire would be an even worse sin than the prior one, for Cole, as a faculty member, would have the chance to shape the next generation of students from Yale. If nothing else, credit them for philosophical consistency: If they can't have an actual participant in a regime that stifled free speech, they'll settle for an advocate of the same thing.

    I hope the folks who are up in arms over Hashemi seize this opportunity to take this battle to the next level. If they do, Yale will have opened a can of worms that has been sitting on the shelf for, oh, about forty years too long.

  21. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo

    This report out of California is interesting.

    SACRAMENTO ? As the statewide average price for regular gasoline passed $3 a gallon Monday, politicians and grass-roots activists pumped up their calls for new taxes on companies that produce or refine oil in California.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the California Energy Commission to investigate possible gouging by gasoline refiners, wholesalers and retailers.

    "We must not rule out the possibility of market manipulation, price gouging or unfair business practices employed by oil companies," Schwarzenegger said.

    Also Monday, the chairman of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee won a first vote on his latest proposal to slap a 2% surtax on so-called windfall profits from petroleum producing, refining and sales activities.

    The bill garnered the minimum four votes needed to move to its next committee.

    "It's time we made these companies pay," said Assemblyman Johan Klehs (D-San Leandro), the bill's author. "They can avoid paying the tax by reducing their prices for gasoline."

    Klehs' proposal, an outgrowth of a bill defeated on the Assembly floor in January, would earmark proceeds to provide tax credits to middle- and lowincome seniors to buy prescription drugs. He estimates that the tax could amount to as much as $190 million annually.

    The new bill has won the endorsement of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). Nuñez said Monday that he was considering sponsoring his own windfall profit tax on oil company earnings in California.

    "We believe oil companies are ripping us off and artificially inflating the price of gas at the pump," Nuñez said. "The 120 legislators in Sacramento ought to be as outraged as the 14 million motorists in California," he said, referring to members of the Assembly and the Senate.

    Prices at the pump set a new record in California on Monday, after rising more than 17 cents in the last week, to an average of $3.068 for a gallon of regular, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Citing surging prices across the country, House Speaker J. Dennis J. Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) wrote Monday to President Bush, requesting that he order the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general to investigate oil company profits and executive pay, as well as the factors behind tight gasoline supplies.

    Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas) called for a similar probe by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

    Oil industry representatives expressed confidence that any new federal or state investigation would reveal no evidence of market manipulation.

    "There have been 30 investigations in the last 20 years. In not one case has there been any evidence of wrongdoing," said Joe Sparano, president of the Western States Petroleum Assn.

    He said gasoline prices were especially high in California because of a precarious balance between supply and demand. The state is served by only 14 refineries, compared with 32 in 1980.

    At the same time, U.S. crude oil production has plummeted to 5 million barrels a day last year from 10 million in the 1980s, increasing the country's dependence on supplies imported from often politically unstable foreign countries, Sparano said. California currently produces about 773,000 barrels a day of crude oil. [
    Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

    So here we have a story that reports that US oil production has fallen, imports are up and refineries have shut down. What about California?s 7.25% state & county sales tax that taxes people more as fuel prices rise? What about the weak US dollar that makes imports more expensive? Why is the FTC brought in to put oil companies--the actual people who produce fuel--under the lens when the government?s own misguided policies don?t even merit a cursory glance?

    Why? Because businessmen are the easy villain in our culture. Self-interest is immoral and any-self-interested act is immediately suspect, while any altruistic act is immediately forgiven?even despite altruism being the source of the problem in the first place. It is altruism that causes high tax rates by giving government the moral case for massive spending and redistribution of wealth. It is altruism that blocks new energy production on the grounds that oil drilling despoils nature and nature must come first?even at the price of human suffering. And it is altruism that gives government license to threaten producers while ignoring the fact that without them, there would be no oil in the first place.

  22. Originally posted by Nicholas Provenzo from The Rule of Reason,

    So President Bush makes has made a statement:

    President George W. Bush pressured profit-rich oil companies to invest in new refineries on Tuesday and announced steps against any price gouging to contain gas prices that have soared while his popularity plummets.

    He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend federal clean-burning gasoline rules this summer that are forcing consumers to buy expensive new gasoline blends.

    Bush temporarily halted shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way to get more oil on the market and try to combat prices that have soared above $3 a gallon.

    But he acknowledged that Americans are in for a tough summer on the road.

    "Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer. And that's going to be a continued strain on the American people," he told the Renewable Fuels Association, a group advocating expanded use of ethanol as an alternative fuel source.

    Bush, his own popularity hitting a new low, is under pressure to do something about soaring gasoline prices in hopes of staving off a potential election-year problem for Republicans trying to hang on to control of the U.S. Congress.

    A former Texas oil man who in recent months has advocating curing America of its addiction to oil, Bush was unusually blunt with oil companies enjoying record profits. He said they should use some of their largesse to invest in new refineries and researching alternative fuel sources.

    "We expect there to be strong reinvestment to help us with our economic security needs and our national security needs," he said.

    He also said he wanted Congress to take away from the oil companies about $2 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, such as subsidizing research into deepwater drilling. He said the tax breaks are unnecessary at a time of "record oil prices and large cash flows."

    "Taxpayers don't need to be paying for certain of these expenses on behalf of the energy companies," Bush said.

    Bush said Congress should find a way to approve permits to build new refineries a year after they are filed.

    The fact that no new refineries have been built in 30 years is frequently cited as a reason contributing to soaring gas prices.

    [ . . .]Before the speech, the White House released a letter in which the federal government urged state attorneys general to vigorously enforce laws against price gouging that may have contributed to rising gasoline prices. [
    Steve Holland, Reuters

    I read this, and all I have are questions. What about the environmentalists who work to block the construction of new refiners? What about the environmentalists who block oil drilling in California or in Alaska?s ANWR? How is the suspension of a tax credit (effectively a tax increase) going to lower the price of gas? What about all the tax gouging that takes place when local sales taxes are levied upon gasoline? And how, if high prices and high profits are an incentive for existing firms to increase capacity and for new companies to enter into a market, does threatening these profits achieve lower gas prices?

  23. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™,

    Here's a story:

    The faculty at Meredith College in Raleigh struck a blow for academic freedom Friday, and in so doing, might've cost the college $420,000 from the BB&T Charitable Foundation.

    At issue: A grant from BB&T--$60,000 a year for seven years--for an honors program featuring, apparently at the bank's insistence, such left-wing texts as Karl Marx' Das Kapital and The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard Keynes.

    The faculty's position: We can't allow donors' money to dictate what we teach. The vote was 54-34.

    The problem, according to documents circulated to faculty in advance of the Friday meeting by Beth Mulvaney, chair of Meredith's Faculty Council, was that specific texts for the program's core course were negotiated as a condition of the grant by Maureen Hartford, Meredith's president, and BB&T.

    Okay, I...GOTCHA! In fact universities take millions, if not billions of dollars, every year to teach the destructive works of Marx and Keynes. Not to mention Kant, Hegel, and other nihilists.

    Here is the real story:

    The faculty at Meredith College in Raleigh struck a blow for academic freedom Friday, and in so doing, might've cost the college $420,000 from the BB&T Charitable Foundation. At issue: A grant from BB&T--$60,000 a year for seven years--for an honors program featuring, apparently at the bank's insistence, such right-wing texts as Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Frederick Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.

    The faculty's position: We can't allow donors' money to dictate what we teach. The vote was 54-34.

    The problem, according to documents circulated to faculty in advance of the Friday meeting by Beth Mulvaney, chair of Meredith's Faculty Council, was that specific texts for the program's core course were negotiated as a condition of the grant by Maureen Hartford, Meredith's president, and BB&T.

    Apparently there were "concerns about ethics course". Here are "contingencies the Meredith faculty decided it couldn't stomach":

    Thus, the faculty declined to approve the course, called "Global Capitalism and Ethical Values," unless it was clear to BB&T that "the faculty teaching this course now and in the future are free to design [it] with no pre-conditions."

    and another gastronomical disaster for PhDs...

    Students would be given "a solid understanding of capitalism," Harford assured Allison in her "Dear John" letter, and would be required to do extensive reading, including Atlas Shrugged and The Road to Serfdom.

    "Free enterprise" and "objectivism"--the latter Ayn Rand's pet theory--would both be central to the course, Hartford wrote.

    Moreover, every student in the Honors program, whether in the colloquium or not, would receive a copy of Atlas Shrugged, which would serve to underscore its importance.

    and..someone please get Professor Von Kantmarx his Maalox:

    Hartford assured Allison that she would be personally involved in the colloquium and would use part of BB&T's money to lead trips to New York City, where students could visit the stock exchange and meet with business leaders that she'd help choose--with Allison's recommendations welcomed.

    The stock exchange? Those poor students!!! The inhumanity!

    And of course, there is this quote from AR which the writer of the article saw as a self-evident reason to stop the course:

    "Man--every man--is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life," Rand wrote.

    "The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit.

    It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders."

    Rand continued: "In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church."

    The blow for "academic freedom" has been made -- students will not be exposed to pro-freedom, anti-slavery, pro-voluntary exchange, anti-physical force propaganda. They will continue to be taught the thuggery of Kant, Keynes, and Marx.

    Of course, we all know that "academic freedom" means freedom from reason, reality, rational self-interest, and rights.

    All things of which the students need more -- not less.

  24. Originally from The Charlotte Capitalist ™,

    Dr. George Reisman:

    Without the UAW, GM would have an average unit cost per automobile close to that of non-union Toyota. Toyota makes a profit of about $2,000 per vehicle, while GM suffers a loss of about $1,200 per vehicle, a difference of $3,200 per unit. And the far greater part of that difference is the result of nothing but GM's being forced to deal with the UAW. (Over a year ago, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that "the United Auto Workers contract costs GM $2,500 for each car sold."

    He has a long list of items which describe where General Motors would be without the UAW.

    What is happening is cruel justice, imposed by a reality that willfully ignorant people thought they could choose to ignore as long as it suited them: the reality that prosperity comes from the making of goods, not the making of work; that it comes from the doing of work, not from the shirking of it; that it comes from machines and methods of production that save labor, not the combating of those machines and methods; that it comes from the earning and reinvestment of profits not from seizure of those profits for the benefit of idlers, who do all they can to prevent the profits from being earned in the first place.


  25. Originally posted by Paul from NoodleFood,

    Here is a fun 13-minute video showing a variety of Rube Goldberg-type machines in action. (And unfortunately, no, I don't know what the Japanese text says on the pop-up flag at the end of each machine's run.)

    Exercise for the reader: How does this illustrate the Objectivist concept of causality as "the law of identity applied to action", as opposed to the standard Humean "billiard ball" concept of causality?

    Hints: Consider the following from OPAR, Chapter 1

    Since the Renaissance, it has been common for philosophers to speak as though actions directly cause other actions, bypassing entities altogether. For example, the motion of one billiard ball striking a second is commonly said to be the cause of the motion of the second, the implication being that we can dispense with the balls; motions by themselves become the cause of other motions. This idea is senseless. Motions do not act, they are actions. It is entities which act -- and cause. Speaking literally, it is not the motion of a billiard ball which produces effects; it is the billiard ball, the entity, which does so by a certain means. f one doubts this, one need merely substitute an egg or soap bubble with the same velocity for the billiard ball; the effects will be quite different.

    The law of causality states that entities are the cause of actions -- not that every entity, of whatever sort, has a cause, but that every action does; and not that the cause of action is action, but that the cause of action is entities.

    Or the following from "H Acstonus":

    Causality, at least since Hume, has been conceived of as a chain of events, each antecedent event causing the other. This conception has led to confusion. While it is true that antecedent factors play a role, a proper conception of causality would have to incorporate a wider context. In Aristotle's view, cause and effect is rooted in the identity of acting things. What a thing is, says Aristotle, will determine what it does. An acorn can become an oak tree, and not a catfish, because that is its nature. The actions an entity can take are determined by what that entity is. On this view, when one billiard ball strikes another it sends it rolling because of the nature of the balls and their surroundings, not just antecedent events.

    The incompleteness of modern science lies in the fact that it rests on a purely mechanistic, non-Aristotelian view of causation. Consequently it cannot be defended against critics such as Hume. Aristotle's view provides a basis for a better understanding of cause and effect, and has the potential to ground science and induction in first principles. Aristotle has the potential to provide for modern science the philosophic foundations it never had.

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