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A Friday Hodgepodge

1. It's from 2019 but, sadly, quite relevant today. Onkar Ghate's "Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump" names what is fundamentally wrong with the GOP's indicted front-runner:
Image by Nils Leonhardt, via Unsplash, license.
Rand puts it like this: to an anti-intellectual mentality, words are not instruments of knowledge but tools of manipulation. Trump's description of how he came to use the phrase "Drain the swamp" captures this kind of attitude perfectly.

The phrase, of course, in this context is hollow. By his own admission, Trump was part of the swamp, a master at playing every side of a corrupt political system. To drain the swamp would be to get rid of people like him -- not elect them to the presidency. But somebody suggested to Trump that he use the phrase. "I said, 'Oh, that is so hokey. That is so terrible.' And I said, all right, I'll try it. So, like, a month ago, I said, 'Drain the swamp,' and the place went crazy. I said, 'Whoa, what's this?' Then I said it again. And then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it -- I started loving it, and the place loved it." [link omitted]
I am no news addict but I think of myself as reasonably well-informed. Nevertheless, this was the first time I'd heard this account.

I think it says something about Trump's opponents and supporters alike that this story isn't much more widely known.

2. In "Why We Need More Capitalism Not Less -- and How to Advocate for It," Jaana Woicheshyn concludes with two fundamentals for advocacy after making her case -- which even opponents acknowledge in various ways -- that capitalism brings prosperity:
Taking the moral high ground means asserting the moral right of business to pursue its self-interest: profit maximization by producing material values while respecting the rights of others. This entails only voluntary, mutually beneficial trade with employees, customers, and suppliers and therefore, no violation of others' rights.

Defining the capitalism by essentials means identifying individual rights as the central principle protecting people's freedom from coercion by others -- without which capitalism cannot survive. [bold omitted]
It is good to have these fundamentals in mind. It is woozy, altruistic emotionalism that makes it possible and excusable to motivate attacking "capitalism" through the proxy of the mixed economy. The former needs to be called out as wrong and the latter as the straw man that it is. Only then will people be ready, able, and willing to learn of a real alternative.

3. Whether or not you have ever availed yourself of any of the excellent offerings at Jean Moroney's Thinking Directions web site, you would do well to consider her thoughts on the subject of "Deep Rational Values."

It's a long read, but I am impressed by how well everything comes together towards the end, as shown by her analysis of organization, one of these values:
  • Organization is better than disorganization, for the simple reason that it makes it easier to find and use things that you are interested in. Less effort expended to get what they need is good for living organisms. (It's a value.)
  • The reason it helps is that it reduces the number of units you need to hold in mind -- it connects directly to the need to avoid crow overload in order to think. (It's rational.)
  • It's good in principle. It's an abstract, general concept that could be applied in many areas. Organization is relevant to anything, from tidying up your desk to clarifying the relationships between people or categorizing your knowledge. (It's deep.)
I'll close by quoting a commenter who nicely summarizes: Deep rational values meet "the three criteria of aiding life, supporting the reasoning mind, and being good in principle"

4. At the Texas Institute for Property Rights, Brian Phillips addresses an oversight in a recent opinion piece about the connection between free will and property rights.

I especially like his closing summary:
Fundamentally, free will means our freedom to think or not think. But thought without the freedom to act is meaningless. Property rights protect our freedom to put our thoughts into action.
Phillips notes the motivations of those who would abuse government to violate our property rights. They are notably other-focused and threat-oriented: Considered in that light, the psychological projection of other people as evil or drifting (and so in need of constraint) makes perfect sense, as wrong as it is.

-- CAV

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