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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Blog Roundup

1. After a series of debates between Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of the socialist organ Jacobin, ARI's Ben Bayer writes a thought-provoking analysis of Sunkara's "anti-intellectual case for socialism." He concludes in part:
Rather than answering Brook's facts, Sunkara invokes his pragmatism as a virtue. He echoes a point he made in the first debate, that if socializing a sector of the economy doesn't work, "we" could always vote to re-privatize [it]. There actually is a governing principle here, though Sunkara doesn't seem to want to name it: it's that the whim of the majority is supreme. The majority that gets to decide what counts as important, what counts as outcomes that "work," and, ultimately, whose lives should be interfered with or uprooted, and to what extent.

Sunkara had claimed that workers' collectives under socialism could be as innovative as capitalists in a free market. But given his pragmatism, we should now ask: how can human beings be expected to innovate in a system in which they must live in fear of how the majority will decide to experiment the day after tomorrow? How can they innovate when no clearly defined principle stops the majority from voting to rob them of their property, their freedom, or their lives? These are dots Sunkara does not do the intellectual work to connect. [footnotes omitted, emphasis added]
The cultural dominance of Pragmatism, goes a long way towards explaining how so many can find such "arguments" persuasive.

It also makes this piece disturbing news, to say the least.

One of the debates mentioned above.

2. Within the appendix of the second edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology are excerpts, in Q and A format, from a series of workshops on the subject involving Ayn Rand and various participants listed only as Prof. A, Prof. B, etc. If you've ever wondered who they are, wonder no more. Harry Binswanger names them all, starting with the full participants:
There were only five full participants, if I recall correctly: Leonard Peikoff, George Walsh, John O. Nelson, Allan Gotthelf, and me. The rest were "auditors" or "guests."
Binswanger notes that the workshops occurred fifty years ago now, and eventually gets around to identifying each "professor."

3. Brian Phillips of the Texas Institute for Property Rights offers a timely corrective to a popular misconception in a post titled "Cronysism Isn't Capitalism:"
Cronyism cannot exist in a capitalist society. If government is limited to the protection of individual rights, it cannot dispense political favors. There are no political favors to dispense. With government prohibited from interfering in the voluntary and consensual activities of individuals, politicians and bureaucrats cannot award benefits to some at the expense of others.
And, for anyone wondering what cronyism is, he covers that in another post.

4. I meant to mention this post at Tracking Zebra before now, but it remains timely. The health security expert reviews Peter Hotez's Vaccines Didn't Cause Rachel's Autism, calling it a tour de force defense of vaccines and science:
... I have read many book on vaccines and vaccine policies and this one stands out among all of them. Perhaps it is the way Dr. Hotez seamlessly weaves in his and his family's experiences with Rachel's autism. He covers the diagnosis, the daily trials and tribulations, the frustrations, and the successes.

Over 12 chapters, Dr. Hotez expertly addresses each vaccine "controversy" ("whack-a-mole") and illustrates with data and scientific reasoning why such controversies are manufactured and, in my view, essentially arbitrary. He discusses the celebrity culture that abets the anti-vaccine movement as well as the history of the anti-vaccine movement in the US.
Adalja goes on to discuss the fact that too many academic scientists neither engage with the public nor regard doing so as an important part of their work. Hotez argues that this fact is aiding the spread of misinformation about vaccines.

-- CAV

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