June 7, 2006

"Defending Yourself"--Comment

Thanks AlexC!! I enjoyed that!! I recommend the "Destination Earth" video, too; here is what I say:

Once upon a time, people had a much cleaner epistemology -- for the non-philosophers, that means they could understand the world sharper and more clearly, because they followed better rules of logic and reasoning than most people now-a-day. (Well...should I say, simply, they followed rules at all!!)

Following the post of AlexC (thanks!!), I highly recommend you watch the short cartoon Destination Earth, made in 1956.

Here is a good review of it:

Reviewer: jr0dy - - December 26, 2005
Subject: Makes Economic Sense

This was a great piece of animation and an even better explanation of market forces. Essentially, Ogg is any statist, command economy that publicly owns the means of production - most likely an allusion to Stalin, particularly because of his mustache. The sequence that shows the Martian energy source as an enslaved Martian running on a gear is probably allegorical for the fact that under Stalin's rule, his economic plan consisted primarily of collectivizing farms, seizing all crops produced, and selling them and using the money to invest in state-owned industry, despite the mass starvation of those working the farms. A theme of Austrian economics, particularly F.A. Hayek's variety, is the fact that collectivism is slavery - which is exactly what it is shown as in this film. Competition, the use of market forces to more efficiently distribute scarce resources, is obviously the better alternative. I also loved the way in which Ogg arbitrarily chose the Earth as Colonel Cosmic's destination - a great critique of central planning, as essentially all decisions made by planners are misinformed and to a large degree arbitrary. Only the free market can provide reliable information and provide a guide as to where resources would be best allocated. In addition, I particularly enjoyed the way in which it showed that the oil industry has its own costs with which it must contend, showing why it cannot simply be distributed freely, as some people seem to think it should be. Furthermore, price acts as a signal and a method through which oil can be rationed and distributed to those that need it most urgently. When price is high, it acts as a signal not only to current oil producers to rev-up production and increase quantity supplied, but also acts as a signal for new producers to enter into the market. This is where competition comes into play. The more firms acting in a market, the higher the liklihood that some will invent new cost-cutting measures that will allow them to cut prices and supply the consumer with more oil at a cheaper price, essentially the paradigm of any free economic system. Our own economy was consistently a laissez-faire prior to the Progressive movement of the early 20th Century - it worked, plain and simple, and it was the most efficient and best for all involved; there is no "optimism" necessary. I do not consider this film propaganda in the least, but instead a call to return to the economic system that served us so well in the past. Sure, perhaps a laissez-faire system would be the best for the oil companies that produced this film, but the truth is it would be the best for anyone and everyone; the film serves as a great example of the way in which the private ownership of the means of production can bring about an unprecedented high standard of living, and in the Martian case, facilitate the overthrow of a totalitarian dictator. The Martians did not want to be forced into going to see Ogg and Colonel Cosmic speak, let alone labor for Ogg as he told them to, they wanted to do their own thing, decide how best to apply their own faculties and labor to better themselves - shouldn't everyone be given that ability? C'mon Americans, if the Martians gained this ability, shouldn't we reclaim it?

I highly recommend the cartoon. It gets a lot right, and is a joy to watch. You will be hard-pressed to find anything like it today.

Unfortunately, the film makers did not grasp that capitalism is based on natural, individual rights. It is NOT based on "competition." Competition is a secondary by-product -- one that has great benefits, as the film points out, but still secondary.

Yes, they point out the importance of freedom, but still, that is not fundamental enough. What grounds freedom in reality? Only the concept of natural, individual rights can do that. You have freedom in society because, in this universe, you are rational and self-sovereign, and own what you create -- if you are the cause of something, it is proper to you...i.e., it is your property. That applies to the good you do, and any harm or evil you do -- you are responsible, and reap what you sow.

Since you are rational and self-sovereign by nature, it is right and proper that you should be free in a social context -- i.e., that you should not be subject to coercion by other people. But that means only coercion they initiate; they are free to defend themselves against any coercive action you might make against them. It is proper that each person take whatever action he sees fit to take, as long as he does not initiate force against another.

It would be better if the film makers pointed out how capitalism is based on reason and objectivity -- but that would be way too much to expect of them...

The short cartoon Make Mine Freedom, from 1948, is also good, but not as good as "Destination Earth." And it has the same shortcomings.

The short What We Have, from 1950, is lame. It white-washes communism and totalitarianism. If you want to see what totalitarianism is like in practice -- outside of living there -- read We the Living by Ayn Rand. Rand tells it like it is: harsh, brutal, and hazardous to human health.

One idea in "What We Have" which is wrong, is the idea that 'there are the same brains and brawn' in a dictatorship as in a free society. (The same ideas is seen implicitly in "Destination Earth.") They are totally off the track here -- downright derailed. Minds do not function under coercion. The society on Mars in "Destination Earth" could not invent and maintain the technology it did independently. Like any other dictatorship, it would decay and collapse under its own malignant weight. Minds, trained in the educational system to obey orders, not to see things independently, would stagnate through the years.

There are other features of the short film which make me call it lame, but We the Living will clear up enough...

Oil and Energy Posted by Cyrano at June 7, 2006 9:56 PM

Excellent stuff, Cyrano. Thanks.

Another film in the same vein, although feature length rather than a short, is the 1944 adaptation of Pearl S. Buck's 'Dragon Seed.' If you can get past the idea of Katherine Hepburn as a Chinese woman the movie is quite excellent. (It's also notable as a part of the filmography of actress Agnes Moorehead. Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? ... She played Samantha's mother Endora on TV's 'Bewitched.')

Posted by: johngalt at June 9, 2006 3:51 PM | What do you think? [1]