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Galileo Blogs

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Posts posted by Galileo Blogs

  1. I agree with Moebius' comment, with the proviso that I have not been to China, nor have I spent a large amount of time studying China. Having said that, from the knowledge I do have China seems to have essentially moved towards a more capitalist future. Its economy is growing at an incredible rate, nearly 10% a year, and exceeding that in many regions. This assumes official statistics are valid, although it is confirmed by other statistics such as electricity growth that is some 13%-15% per year.

    This kind of growth is not happening because of central planning. It is happening despite the central planning that is still extensive in this economy. It is the result of private businesspeople building factories, businesses, buildings and homes. China has become the manufacturer to the world. Government still has a heavy hand, which it may use to thwart some businesses and unfairly help others, using many evil tactics, such as eminent domain, arbitrary regulations and taxation, confiscations, etc. However, through it all, an increasingly capitalist economy based on private property has emerged, de facto and increasingly de jure.

    China still has the potentially fatal problem of a Communist Party that wants to retain control. The Communist Party rulers are increasingly trying to maintain that control through such silly and disturbing tactics as having Internet warning cartoons appear on people's computers. I predict they will grow more desperate to control the Chinese as the people become wealthier and exercise more de facto freedoms. Will we see another massive Tiananmen Square uprising in China? I don't know.

    Over the long haul, our trade with China will increase the wealth of the Chinese people and our wealth. Trade will abet their path toward greater capitalism and hasten the day when the Communist Party must step down, although that outcome is not inevitable.

    Although it is in our interest to trade with China, that is only true if American property rights are protected. We should demand that the Chinese respect our property and contractual rights when we trade with them. For example, the U.S. government should encourage adjudication of claims against Chinese theft of our intellectual property in American courts, if the Chinese won't enforce such rights. Naturally, if shoddy or unsafe Chinese goods hurt American customers, those customers and the American importers can sue for damages in American courts.

    Much trade with China will not involve the moral dilemma of sanctioning government evil such as censorship. Simply buying manufactured goods in China, which is the country's principal export, does not involve sanctioning that government.

    However, I do not have an answer for what Microsoft and Google should do. I do not think they are breaking any American laws by participating in the Chinese censorship of their internet services. However, helping the Chinese police to round up political prisoners or enabling censorship is immoral. If I were running these companies, I would refuse to cooperate, under the principle that it is not in my or my shareholders' long-run self-interest to abet such violations of core individual rights. But to really make that decision, I would need to know the full context.

    The full context of Microsoft and Google's Chinese business is unknown to me. How egregious is the government censorship they abet? How successful is it? Do their Chinese customers have ways around the censorship? If the censorship is easily beaten, that changes things. As for Microsoft and Google helping Chinese police chase down specific users, how often does that happen, and for what "crimes" are these people apprehended?

    My apologies if these questions have been answered in an earlier post. I have not read all of the posts on this thread.

  2. The Life and Legend of Jay Gould by Maury Klein is a book you should read. It was cited by Objectivists a while back. It is probably the definitive biography of Gould. I read it years ago, but I would want to re-read it before I stated my own opinion on Gould now.

    My method for evaluating businesspeople in a mixed economy is to try to identify the essential nature of their actions. At root, are they creating value? Or, at root are they just political opportunists using political power to illicitly obtain their wealth? Quite often, actions such as bribery of government officials are defensive actions against a corrupt government that holds power over a businessman's livelihood. For example, Cornelius Vanderbilt illegally broke the legal monopoly Robert Fulton had on steamship travel. Now, if it turned out he also had to bribe some New Jersey congressmen to do it (I don't think he did; I'm using it as an example), was that immoral behavior? Clearly not, since those congressmen should not have been able to prevent him from operating his ferries in the first place. On the other hand, if Fulton bribed New York congressmen to get them to pass a law giving him a legal monopoly, that was clearly immoral.

    Gould may be a mixed case. I welcome your opinion, should you decide to do more research.

  3. It is hard to predict cat dynamics. You should try it out for a couple weeks and see if it works. However, don't get the new cat unless you are sure you can return it or you have someone else lined up for it.

    I have seen surprising cat combinations where cats get along unexpectedly well or not. It could be that three is the magic number, or that all hell breaks loose.

  4. Andrew West,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment on China. Certain qualities you mention appear to be true for Asians generally, certainly for Japanese and Koreans. In particular, I am referring to the strong sense of duty toward family and the second-handedness. As you said, both characteristics hold them back.

    The pragmatism you point to in China probably does explain the lack of respect for Western business standards, such as the rampant piracy in China, and the willingness to export unsafe products such as dangerous toothpaste and pet food.

    Another comment of yours is interesting, the this-worldliness of Asian religious belief. When I traveled to Japan, I found it astonishing that at a temple I went to, all of the Japanese were praying for money, a good marriage, etc. I did not detect the Christian adoration of the hereafter. That is one thing I like about Asian culture, the fact that it is generally non-Christian. In that sense, Asian culture reminds me of Jewish culture.

  5. With all due respect, Inspector, I agree with an aspect of Moebius' argument. There are cultural characteristics that are non-philosophical and can be enjoyed by a person, such as food, music, clothing, many customs, etc. People in a country can also celebrate true heroes from their history. Such heroes exist in Asian cultures. An example I am modestly familiar with is Korea's King Sejong. Under his direction, scholars in Korea created a simple, phonetic, alphabet-style writing system that helped spread literacy widely in Korea, essentially doing away with the much more difficult to learn Chinese character-based writing system. I believe it is was the first alphabet of its kind in Asia. (I am not sure when Japan began adopting a similar alphabet.) The achievement he sponsored is a monumental one that I would compare to Gutenberg's printing press that spread literacy in the West. (Incidentally, Koreans had a form of moveable type before Gutenberg.)

    Also, I object to your incorrect pejorative language. China is not a "rights-trampling hole." Yes, they are still heavily statist, but rights are beginning to be protected there. Hopefully the trend continues.

    One does not have to be a cultural relativist to appreciate the tremendous contributions from Asian countries. In particular, I would cite the emphasis on education and learning, and the value placed on what I would call "working with devotion." That is not just hard work, but working well. I would also cite the tremendous benefit of trade with Asian countries. (May I tee up a pejorative response for you, Inspector. You can come back with mentioning Chinese poisoned cat food, lead-painted toys, etc. By all means offer that response, so I can reply.)

    The rise of Asian countries beginning in the last century is an astounding accomplishment. Yes, it is definitely the result of the adoption of Western values of individualism and capitalism, and to the degree those values have been adopted, the Asian countries are successful. Fact is, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are far wealthier today than China and will remain so until China more rigorously adopts (proper) Western values and institutions.

    As an Objectivist, I applaud the rise of Asia. I also personally enjoy many aspects of Asia, in their goods I buy, in my travels there, in their food, and in my association with Asian friends and acquaintances.

    Let's be objective in evaluating Asia.

  6. Personally, I -prefer- liberty, but I have shown that is a personal preference and not a requirement for long-term survival.

    Whose survival, the state's?! That is the wrong standard. The only proper standard is the individual. As an individual, I want to be able to pursue my life, liberty and happiness.

    A statist standard is not an Objectivist standard, nor is it a proper human standard.

  7. The very reason your "massive, right-trampling slave state" is moving up in the pecking order is because they have adopted capitalism and, to some extent, began to embrace individual rights. To me it is very clear that if they ever overtook the United States, it would be because they have adopted similar values to the United States.

    The fact is they are Westernizing China, in the sense that they are clearly moving toward a capitalistic society and hence inevitably becoming a freer society.

    I agree with these statements.

    So no, it's not a very scary concept at all, rationally speaking.

    I agree. In fact, I welcome any and all advancement by Asian societies or any other societies, insofar as it represents the triumph of rational principles. Everyone on earth benefits through peaceful intercourse when societies advance.

    Everything else though remains very much Chinese -- and that's as it should be.

    Whatever its fault, China remains by far the oldest and one of the most dominant civilization on Earth.

    I am not sure of the relevance of these statements. Should China be Chinese? China is Chinese, by definition. What is relevant is that all Chinese should be completely free to peacefully pursue their values, whether those values are Chinese calligraphy and Chinese food, or eating at McDonald's and listening to American jazz. If a Chinese pursues "American" values, is he not still Chinese?

    Conversely, if an American becomes a "Chinophile", learning the language and immersing himself in the culture, is he any less an American?

    As for China being old and dominant for much of its history, that may be true, but what does it matter? Ancient Rome was a dominant society. Today Italy is much less dominant. What really matters is why societies rise and fall. For example, why did China lose its dominance? What will make China dominant again? (You have provided the answer to that one. Of course, the jury is still out whether China truly adopts the principles of individualism and limited government, especially when the leading exponent of such values, the United States, is gradually losing them.)

    I am also equivocating on the meaning of dominant. The dominance that matters is the dominance of freedom, not military dominance. In that sense, human history is generally poor, until the emergence of freedom in Europe and America beginning several hundred years ago. That was a Western achievement, made possible by the re-introduction of the ideas of Greece during the Renaissance. Could that be why Objectivist intellectuals are so Grecophilic?

  8. Being forced to do something takes it out of the realm of morality. There is nothing wrong at all in handing over your wallet to a mugger who demands it at the price of your life. The same principle applies to paying taxes, which is compulsory under threat of legal sanction.

    The Atlas Shrugged quote refers not to someone who is forced to give up his property who at the same time morally denounces it as theft. Rather, it refers to someone who approves of the theft of his property. Perhaps a modern-day example is Warren Buffett who supports taxes on inheritances or other wealthy people who support progressive income taxes.

    To use the tax example, I am moral if I pay taxes under threat of force, but I would be immoral if I then turned around and wrote an editorial extolling the virtues of compulsory taxation!

    Morality only applies where one has the freedom to choose. Compulsion negates morality. An action under compulsion is neither moral nor immoral. Taxes fall in that category. However, one still must consider one's self-interest in the decision whether to comply with the law and pay taxes. As pointed out by DavidOdden, it would be self-sacrificial to live a life of poverty in the woods just in order to avoid paying taxes. The benefits of living lawfully in a prosperous and largely free society, even if it means having to obey immoral laws such as taxation, should be clear.

    Of course, if you can think of a way to not pay taxes and be free and prosperous, let me know!!

  9. Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Aztec empire, had 200,000 inhabitants in the 1400s, when London had fewer than 50,000 people. Tenochtitlan had a functioning sewage system and running water, when Western Europe had none.

    Tenochtitlan also had human sacrifices, and the Aztecs, despite tens of thousands of men in their army, allowed themselves to be defeated by a few hundred dirty Spaniards [the Spaniards did not believe in bathing, while the Aztecs did].

    As for China, why did it sink in stagnation while the West rose from the Renaissance era onward? For that matter, why was China unable to resist the Western pressure to trade in opium and other goods, and for Western enclaves to be established on its soil? Why did the Industrial Revolution happen in the West and not in China, despite China's impressive technological advances such as gunpowder and steelmaking?

    These are some questions I would ask.

    In the modern era, equivalent questions are worth asking. Why are the Asian countries rising so quickly now? What accounts for it? Why is Africa so backward? Why can't Latin America get ahead? Why is Ireland the Celtic Tiger today when it was a basket-case a decade ago?

    I would suggest that the presence or absence of certain *ideas* explain these differences. Specific ideas lead to specific institutions (or lack of them), with specific political and economic consequences.

  10. These two statements seem a bit contradictory. Property rights are individual rights, so which other individual rights were you thinking of? I would agree that rule of law existed, but I disagree with GB that this is in any way fundamental. INdividual rights are much more fundamental as a concept and as you've said, this is the most important external introduction into modern Asia.

    As an example, is this the type of "property right" you are thinking of (from online Encyclopedia Brittannica regarding the height of the Tang Dynasy):

    This is a property right, but not one which stems from any sort of concept of individual rights. That is the problem. This is what property rights look like under a system of monarchy.

    To clarify, I did not intend to imply any separation of individual versus property rights, or that the rule of law is more fundamental than individual rights. I singled out property rights to emphasize it, because property rights, specifically, are the rights that are most relevant for economic advancement. Of course, there is no way to have secure property rights without a secure right to life, which is the base of property rights, and all the other rights that implies: right to free speech, fair trials, etc.

    As for the rule of law, I also meant it in the context of a society based on reason and individual rights. If that was not clear from my post, I will make it clear here. I would never support the rule of just any laws, such as the laws that existed in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. Rather, when I said rule of law, I meant the rule of law as it exists in a free society.

    I agree with Kendall's point about property "rights" in the Tang dynasty. Those weren't property rights. To the degree they weren't, economic growth was slower than it could have been in China. That is true even though China at that time was much wealthier than the West. Fact is, the West had even less respect for property rights in that era, which was called the "Dark Ages".

    Confusion over what are truly property rights clouds discussions in other contexts. For example, in many parts of Latin America, it is illegal to sell off pieces of large estates. As a modern-day offshoot of the ancient law of primogeniture, these estates must be passed down intact from one generation to the next. So, farmers and others complain they cannot get land to farm or build houses on. What is the solution typically offered by the Latin American governments (and, incidentally, encouraged by the United States)? The forceful expropriation and redistribution of this land. This occurs all over the world. Of course, the proper solution is a system of true property rights. Let land owners have the freedom to simply sell all or part of their land.

    As for the Tang system, I would call it or the modern day variation of primogeniture practiced in Latin America, a system of property grants, not rights, since a true property right implies the complete freedom to dispose of one's property how one chooses. That includes selling it to anyone, or not, without restrictions. Calling it property grants keeps in mind the distinguishing point that these grants are bestowed at the pleasure of the state, who can restrict them or revoke them at any time. Interestingly, that appears to be a good description of property "rights" in China today. Any property owner holds his property at the discretion of the local Communist official who can expropriate it any time. Of course, that same terror, to a much lesser degree, exists in America in the post-Kelo world.

  11. I would add to my comments that certain Asian values are tremendously valuable, in particular the emphasis on scholarship and education, and on pursuing work with the highest devotion. Undoubtedly, those values have helped Asians, whether they live in America or another non-Asian country, or as residents of China, Japan, etc. Because of the combination of those beneficial Eastern values and the beneficial influence of Western ideals and institutions, individual Asians in the West and Asian countries achieve very high incomes and rapidly growing economies, respectively.

    As for Americans being afraid of Asians, many are. They are also afraid of Mexicans, blacks, rich people, poor people, you name it. As Americans understand and value individualism less, they will increasingly turn to racist and other irrational ideas. What is the solution to those mistaken beliefs? The solution is the re-adoption of the Greek principles of reason, and the Western principles of individualism. In its highest form, it is the adoption of the premier Western philosophy, Objectivism.

    The "Western ideal" is really the human ideal. That it happened to begin in Greece and later on in Europe and America is an accident of geography. Hell, it should probably be called Eastern, at least from my vantage point. Europe and Greece are much closer to me in an easterly direction than they are in a western direction. (I live in New York.) The terms "Eastern" and "Western" are just so Old World-centric. ;)

  12. The obvious answer is that you live in the west, and therefore most western education is going to be slanted towards western civilizations.

    The adoption of the values of Western civilization is the reason the East is rising up today. That is no slant.

    ...western civilization has been the undisputed dominant global culture for the past two hundred some odd years.

    Is that causeless? That occurred because of the widespread adoption of Western principles of reason, scientific discovery, individualism and capitalism.

    ...it should be obvious that the rest of the world is rapidly catching up to the west at an extremely rapid rate.

    That is true to the degree those societies have adopted the Western values of property rights and individual rights. For example, Japan began prospering when the country began adopting Western institutions after the Meiji Restoration in 1867. Hong Kong prospered under the near laissez faire economic policies of Great Britain. South Korea and Taiwan all prospered after adopting Western principles of property rights and the rule of law. China is emerging today because of the limited emergence of property rights, and the demise of Communism as a potent intellectual force.

    It isn't inconceivable for instance that in our children's life time China/India (and the greater Asia in general) will catch up to or even surpass the United States and become the dominant global superpower -- economically, scientifically, or even militarily.

    That could happen if those countries adopt the Western principle of capitalism and what lies at its base, individual rights and a respect for reason. If they don't, they will sink back into poverty. If they do adopt Western principles, the West will have nothing to fear from the East, and vice versa. In fact, all parties benefit as trading partners. Observe the tremendous mutual benefit of trade between Japan and the U.S. today, or between the U.S. and any other "Westernized" Eastern country.

  13. I wanted to raise just this question of nudity=sexual communication?

    My two cents on this issue.

    I've been to several nude beaches. The first time I went, I was a little nervous about being naked. However, after a short period, I became unconscious of it. I found that the nudity of all the people around me was not sexually arousing.

    I think context matters on the issue of nudity. Nudity in a romantic setting is different from nudity in a locker room (same sex) or at a nude beach (mixed sexes). The latter two settings are non-sexual.

    As an aside, I found bathing nude quite enjoyable, more enjoyable than bathing with a suit on.

    In other cultures and eras, nudity was not such a big deal. I believe (if I am not mistaken) that Japanese men, women and children regularly bathed nude together in communal baths until World War II, after which they switched to single sex bathing. Those bathing sessions were non-sexual.

    I think Christianity has imparted a lot of self-consciousness toward the nude human form. It is interesting to compare attitudes in non-Christian or pre-Christian cultures such as the modern Japanese or ancient Greeks.

  14. This is kind of a counter-intuitive standard of determining the worst president. After all, most of the really bad stuff didn't happen until after TR left office. But if you believe, as Objectivist historiography argues, that ideas are the fundamental motor of history, then we must look to ideological inflection points as being more fundamental and significant than the existential consequences which eventually flow from them.

    That is compelling. By that standard, one might be able to argue that Ronald Reagan was a very bad President, because he brought the Religious Right into the Republican Party. So, although some relatively good economic things happened in his presidency, such as a cut in income tax rates, and a slowing of the growth of regulation, his enduring legacy was... George Bush. Specifically, Reagan's ultimate legacy was George Bush, the explicitly religious Christian fundamentalist who puts anti-abortionists on the Supreme Court, and who presides over a Republican Party where secular Republicanism has almost been eradicated.

    I am playing Devil's Advocate a little bit here, because I have not thought through this issue, and I am not a historian. I also admire many aspects of Reagan's Presidency, including his stance toward the Soviet Union. At the same time, the rise of the Religious Right is so pernicious as to ultimately undercut any economic good that Reagan or "Reagan Republicans" achieved. The nearly complete gutting of the good economic policies of Reagan is represented by George Bush's "Compassionate Conservatism" with its bloated government spending, expansion of welfare programs, and regulatory attacks on business. Reagan's Revolution has morphed into a Christian-Republican morass, due to the empowerment of the Christian Right that began with Reagan.

  15. I'm hesitant to say that this is impossible because I'm not an architect, but this seems beyond current technology. How does the central column support such a massive and dynamic weight? How do you provide sewage, water and air conditioning? How do the elevators work? I think the central column would have to take up most of the diameter and contain some of the living space.

    I am not an engineer or architect, either, but I can envision how all of the central services will be provided. Air, water and sewage will be provided by pipes that extend from the apartment into the central core. At the center of the building, they are joined to the main lines by a rotating joint. Electricity will work similarly, joined to the central electricity line by a rotating connector.

    This seems feasible to me, speaking as a non-expert.

    As for the structural aspect, the building will either stand or not. I imagine that with enough structural steel and concrete and a sufficiently large core, the building will stand.

    Economically, I strongly suspect that the ratio of living space to support space will be much lower for this building than a traditional building. Also, such an innovative building is likely to be costly to maintain. However, if the buyers care to absorb that cost, why not? I only wish it were not corrupt Middle Easterners doing the buying (assuming that is the case). I would like to see buildings like this in New York, Hong Kong, London or Tokyo. Perhaps these buildings are so uneconomic that millionaires who earned their money would not find them worthwhile.

    In any case, I hope the building gets built. With the lessons learned from this one, perhaps cheaper ones will be built in the rest of the world. I would love to have a rotating view, and would definitely consider buying one of these apartments, especially after the concept was proven.

  16. I agree with many of the comments on this thread, in particular:

    * Invest in stocks because they grow in value very fast over the long haul (if you're 16, your investments get to benefit from a very long period of compounding)

    * Invest in yourself by developing lucrative skills, but only in a field you are passionate about

    I also agree with the warnings against accepting an apocalyptic vision, either broadly of the world or more specifically of the value of the fiat dollar. I do not think the world is going to collapse, at least not very quickly. I also think it is highly unlikely that the dollar will collapse due to some sort of hyper-inflation. Although the dollar has no gold backing, it does have the rather solid intellectual backing of some able economists. Even though many of their premises are incorrect, such as a reliance on Keynesian economic theory, nearly all economists understand the need to keep inflation low and to preserve the value of the dollar. These economists become future Federal Reserve chairmen.

    Having said that, I do think inflation is on the rise, but it is still unlikely to approach the level we saw in the late 1970s. Therefore, invest in stocks. Either do it through a mutual fund or pick individual stocks of companies you know something about and like. For example, is there a computer gaming company you admire, or a clothing company? Etc.

    Investing successfully in individual stocks is difficult; it is a skill honed over a lifetime. You will make mistakes, some of them serious. Because of that, I recommend putting a significant portion of your funds in mutual funds and increase the amount you invest in individual stocks as you get more comfortable. Of course, many busy people never invest in individual stocks because of the time commitment. You will also do well if you only invest in mutual funds.

    As for investing in real estate, that is always worthwhile. The best investment you will make, because you will enjoy it every day you live in it, is your house. It is also a good inflation hedge.

    Gold can work as an investment. Personally, I think it is difficult to do successfully unless you have a strong view on whether inflation is growing or subsiding. If you do not have such a view, I would stay out of it. Even with such a view, I would not put a large percentage of my money into it.

    Finally, run screaming from ethanol, or anything related to it. It is an artificial boom spiked by subsidies. Already, politicians are beginning to back away from this one. When the bust hits, it will hit hard.

    Have fun. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. They are learning opportunities that enable you to keep getting better.

  17. Suits are the uniform of business. One dresses in a suit to acknowledge that he takes his business seriously.

    Having said that, suits are not always the uniform of business. It depends on the business, and the job function. In sales, on Wall Street, in law, in many professions, wearing a suit is the sign of taking business seriously. That is not true in plenty of other professions.

    I like wearing a suit, when it is called for. If it is not called for, I am glad that I don't have to wear a suit. I look good in a suit, but they are hot in summer, it requires more time to put them on, etc.

    A suit is also a sign of respect and esteem at a wedding for the couple being married. It is a sign of respect at a funeral.

    Showing respect or not is the philosophical/psychological significance of suits. There really is no philosophical meaning for suits per se. Hell, in the 1700s, men showed respect by wearing stockings and powdered wigs! The particular form of showing respect is entirely a function of custom. Today it is suits. Tomorrow it will be who knows? However, the fact that social customs will exist to show respect (or not) is unlikely ever to go away. Maybe clothing will no longer be used for that purpose, but that also seems unlikely, since throughout history particular items of clothing have been worn to signify respect.

  18. I have a similar story of one of these devious government tricks with our money. A few years ago New York City raised property taxes 23%. Then a few months later, the city gave all property owners a tax rebate check for $400. By curious happenstance, those checks arrived several weeks before the mayoral election. This "program" of giving our own money back to us was so popular that the city has repeated it several times since then, each time giving a fixed dollar amount "back" to property owners.

    Notice the Robin Hoodism of this program. Effectively, it steals from the "rich" and gives to the "poor". Certainly, it steals from those who own more valuable properties in order to give to those with less valuable properties.

    There are many ways to purchase votes in a democracy. All of them involve stealing from one group, generally the wealthy, and giving to another group, generally the less wealthy.

    While the morality of altruism remains in place, this practice will continue until the minds that are the motor of the world quit. If John Galt doesn't do it, rebellion over paying high taxes will. In economic terms, this means that the rich will stop producing and creating capital, and will consume it instead.

  19. Folk like the author of that article are complaining about a problem to which they themselves are primary intellectual contributors. For starters, the world has bad people who want to hurt others. That author is the type who does not want to take strong action against such bad people within the framework of the law. Instead, when the president tries to fight a war under the constraint of pandering to people like her (and to ideas like that that he himself holds), but sometimes tries to stretch the limits of the word-of-law to do a little more against the bad guys, she complains of his tyranny. Disingenuous.

    Yes, it is valid to argue that the president must stay within the strict rule of law, and that he cannot do anything he likes, willy-nilly, in going after violators of rights. However, when this criticism comes from someone who is an intellectual supporter of the bad guys, and would like to see laws weakened further and made less effective against the bad guys, then it is dishonest criticism.

    As for the question raised by the title, it appears that the author has no clear definition of "fascism".

    I agree with these comments. Any criticism by the Left is disingenuous since the Left is against any form of fighting the Islamo-fascists. As for what government can do in war-time, I do think government can exercise greater powers than it is permitted in peace-time. For instance, in an extreme example, such as the Civil War, habeas corpus was suspended, an action which is permissible under the Constitution (I believe).

    The key point, though, is that any necessary expansions of government power occur through a Constitutionally-sanctioned process involving action by the legislature. The most important step is that war is actually declared. Having a declaration of war ensures that the reasons for the war are vetted and the scope of the war is defined. This includes its geographical span and duration. None of those steps have been taken in the current open-ended, vague, ill-defined "War on Terror". In this context, expansions of government power have a more sinister air. They become just as open-ended, vague and ill-defined as the ersatz war they are supposedly designed to fight.

    The U.S. should take all necessary and Constitutional steps to win a true war against the Islamic states that sponsor terrorism. That is not the war we are fighting.

    A clear rationale for a declaration of war also contains a clear rationale for the ending of that war and the ending of any necessary war-time expansions of power assumed by the government. In the Civil War, World War I and World War II, those end-points were quite clear. Interestingly, when they were achieved, the bulk of the war-time restrictions were removed. Unfortunately, not all of them were removed, which points to the extreme care and limits which must be placed on any expansion of government powers in war-time.

    One war-time power that was never removed is the emergency war-time income tax imposed to pay for World War I. I believe the top marginal rate was initially set at 6%!!

    Another war-time power never removed were price controls on rental housing in New York City. Those controls were part of the general wage-price controls imposed economy-wide during World War II. The City of New York has kept these temporary, "emergency" rent controls in place ever since.

    Income taxes, wage-price controls and other controls, such as the extreme controls on industry placed especially during World War I but also during World War II, are the type of controls that should never be imposed at any time. They are egregious violations of rights and are not necessary to finance or win the war.

    Expansions of surveillance of Americans and resident foreigners from hostile countries appears to be an example of a permissible war-time expansion of power. Beyond that, I welcome thoughts from anyone who has given thought to the issue. Certainly, the issue is highly contextual, dependent on the actual facts at hand. For example, during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War, hostile forces were fighting on American soil. That would seem to require more drastic government action since the nation's very survival (or emergence in the Revolutionary War) is in imminent jeopardy. Our other wars were different.

    One could imagine a true war against Iran. I would suspect that few restrictions would be needed because that war would end very quickly. Of course, there could be mopping up operations or even lesser, short wars against smaller countries that continue to support terrorism. Residual surveillance and espionage work would probably be necessary for some time after winning such a war.

  20. This stuff makes me angry, too. Google is fast, efficient, and very user friendly. Everything the company does...it does well. What is the problem??? :P

    There is no problem, and that's the point. Antitrust is consistently used to attack the leading companies in an industry. There are so many examples, of which these are a small handful:

    Standard Oil, the leading oil company by far in the early 1900s (this was the landmark case that validated antitrust; the company was broken up)

    Alcoa Aluminum Company, approx. 1945, the leading aluminum company by far: "We can't wait for tomorrow." was their slogan. They dominated the aluminum industry by anticipating and even "creating" demand through finding new uses for aluminum. Their punishment for this success was that they had to hand over some of their plants to an upstart competitor.

    Microsoft, the leading software company, attacked by Lilliputian bureaucrats, both federal and state in the United States, and continuing today with the European Union

    Sirius and XM radio merger -- the antitrust people want to deny this merger of two companies that pioneered a brand-new industry, satellite radio.

    Google is the leader in its field of online advertising and searching. Now it is being punished.

    There is nothing good that can be said about antitrust. There is a lot of intellectual sophistry that rationalizes these attacks on the most productive businessmen, but they are specious. Perhaps in another post I might comment on it.

    [apologies for bad grammer; in hurry today!]

  21. How did you you gather this? The author of this piece does not pass over the gulags etc of the Soviet Union which most leftists try to ignore.

    Personally, I am impressed with the factual accuracy of this article. Or has he got some facts wrong?

    Yes, I was pleased that he mentioned the Soviet gulags. I suspect it was from a leftist perspective because of some of the people and groups he mentioned, which are leftist. Also, his article appears in the Guardian, which I suspect is a leftist newspaper.

    Regardless of whether he has a leftist slant, I thought he raised valid points. In many ways, the U.S. has been developing the legal and institutional apparatus that could be used by a dictatorship down the road.

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