Thanks to my lovely bride, I follow the Heart and Stroke Foundation on Facebook. They are slightly lest fascist than the egregious MS Society, but they don't shy from coercion.
A post concerning the Province of Ontario failed to mention the Leafs' loss the Avalanche last night but did congratulate the government:
We applaud the Ontario government for taking action to strengthen the Smoke-Free Ontario Act through regulatory changes designed to protect children and youth from the deadly effects of tobacco use. This achievement will go a long way towards helping Ontarians live healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke.
I posted a snarky comment (this is the Internet, dammit!) and was pleased to see that the first 12 or so comments all took exception to nannying. Hooray for us. However, I just received a reply:
Something a bit different from obsessively following a dozen senatorial and gubernatorial races.
A terrific issue of Imprimis, headed by William Voegeli, whose The Pity Party must be on the TS review page soon (hint, hint). To best defeat something, one must first understand it. My BFF and I have gone back and forth on "what liberalism is REALLY about..." Voegeil nails it to the wall, then takes it down!
He sets the stage nicely;
All conservatives are painfully aware that liberal activists and publicists have successfully weaponized compassion... it follows that its adversary, conservatism, is the politics of cruelty, greed, and callousness. Small-d democratic politics is Darwinian: Arguments and rhetoric that work—that impress voters and intimidate opponents—are used again and again. Those that prove ineffective are discarded.
Properly noting that conservatives have yet to bottle a sufficient (nay, any!) rejoinder to the uncaring meme.
He cites both sides: first FDR from 1936
“Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”
then some Mitch Daniels:
disciplining government according to “measured provable performance and effective spending” ought to be a “completely philosophically neutral objective.” Skinflint conservatives want government to be thrifty for obvious reasons, but Daniels maintained that liberals’ motivations should be even stronger. “I argue to my most liberal friends: ‘You ought to be the most offended of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered in some way.’ And,” the governor added slyly, “some of them actually agree.” The clear implication—that many liberals are not especially troubled if government dollars that could help poor people are squandered—strikes me as true, interesting, and important.
Then gets to the meat:
if you’re trying to prove your heart is in the right place, the failure of government programs to alleviate suffering is not only an acceptable outcome but in many ways the preferred one. Sometimes empathizers, such as those in the “helping professions,” acquire a vested interest in the study, management, and perpetuation—as opposed to the solution and resulting disappearance—of sufferers’ problems. This is why so many government programs initiated to conquer a problem end up, instead, colonizing it by building sprawling settlements where the helpers and the helped are endlessly, increasingly co-dependent.
The money quote: liberals care about helping much less than they care about caring.
Sprinkled with some awesome quotes:
“If you’re trying to prove your heart is in the right place, it isn’t.” -- Prof. David Schmidtz
as well as Barbara Oakley, and Rousseau and the OED: “compassion” means, literally, “suffering together with another”—it’s the “feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it.” then Voegeli notes, suffering together does not mean suffering identically.
All in under 3 pages; can't wait to see what he does in his book! It's supposed to feature some wicked humor. He doesn't bottle or provide a response, rejoinder or weapon against the uncaring characterization, but I took these away by (1) quoting one and (2) obverting one Voegeli's sentences:
1. "The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do."
2. it’s more important to accomplish something rather than to be seen doing something.
Now I'm remembering a phrase, which might indeed be that rejoinder:
I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer.
-- Ben Franklin
Now that the election has taken liberalism down a few notches, I say put the stake in 'em!
So is the bag slogan a proletarian fig-leaf for the Bourgeiose Chipotle corporatists? For its part I am critical of TPNN's take that "the Mexican grill took another step to the left by writing slogans on their bags that include plainly Communist rhetoric" with the slogan:
"Hope that, in future, all is well, everyone eats free, no one must work, all just sit around feeling love for one another."
I wrote on their FB post, "Am I the only one who recognizes the difference between "no one must work" and "no one DOES work?"
I'm going to risk a step away from Adam Smith "loveliness" and seek assistance in a Libertario Delenda Est Facebook fight. These are as productive as name calling all caps discussions with progressives -- but there remains a specter of ability to reach with reason.
A very bright buddy is on a tear against conservatives and tea partiers and other foul not-libertarian-enough-for-me vermin and pestilence. I counseled, of course, that we might work together with those who wanted lower taxes, less spending, fewer regulations, and constitutionally limited government. He comes back with the Ayn Rand quote "In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit."
I replied "SO'S YOUR OLD MAN!!" that yet Rand appreciated both President Reagan, with whom she'd have had many disagreements, and the US Constitution which is poised to foster compromise.
It seems that I have heard Rand quotes about electoral strategy that are pragmatic if not quite fusionism. Am I barking up the wrong tree?
While the friend is too People's Front of Judea to be reachable, there may be others on the thread who waver.
UPDATE: I am getting less lovely by the minute . . . But here is the meme that inspired the thread.
My buddy takes exception to the phrase "moral absolutes." To him it is code:
Does It mean the person who posts this wants to throw you in jail for things you do with your own body that don't damage anyone else.
Is that what they think Limited Government is?
I suggest both that there are less illiberal translations of "moral absolutes" and that when you agree with somebody on 11/12 things maybe is best not to focus on the 1/12.
Hard core Randians will recognize that Alissa Rosenbaum was the birth name of Ayn Rand (though The Refugee will sheepishly admit that he did not). Such Randians will likely greatly enjoy an article in The Federalist by Charles Murray, titled, "How Ayn Rand Captured the Magic of American Life."
Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at AEI. His article is part book review, part biography and part confessional. While clearly a Rand fan, Murray attempts to apply some "objectivism" to the persona that Rand created for herself. At the charge that Murray puts toward Rand as a hypocrite, one might shrug (no pun intended) and say that even Objectivists are human.
The Refugee believes that this article will cause much thought among Three Sourcers. He will only pull two quotes, both from very late in the piece:
That world came together in the chapters of “Atlas Shrugged” describing Galt’s Gulch, the chapters I most often reread when I go back to the book. The great men and women who have gone on strike are gathered there, sometimes working at their old professions, but more often being grocers and cabbage growers and plumbers, because that’s the niche in which they can make a living. In scene after scene, Rand shows what such a community would be like, and it does not consist of isolated individualists holding one another at arm’s length. Individualists, yes, but ones who have fun in one another’s company, care about one another, and care for one another—not out of obligation, but out of mutual respect and spontaneous affection.
Better than any other American novelist, she captured the magic of what life in America is supposed to be. The utopia of her novels is not a utopia of greed. It is not a utopia of Nietzschean supermen. It is a utopia of human beings living together in Jeffersonian freedom.
Give it a read and contemplate the greater meaning.
Or All Hail Arnold Kling! He explicitly states something I have long implied. The nonprofit sector is neither the Tocquevillian collection of little platoons envisioned by the right, nor the sainted centre of altruism as seen by the left. It is actually an excuse for bloat and misdirected efforts.
For-profit firms are accountable to customers and subject to the discipline of competition. Nonprofits need only please their donors to remain in existence, regardless of whether they effectively serve their mission.
Any change in the tax status of nonprofits raises difficult issues. For example, the longstanding policy of not taxing religious institutions is viewed by many as an element of the separation of church and state. However, apart from religious institutions, I would advocate that nonprofits be subject to the same taxes as for-profit firms. In particular, I believe that exempting hospitals and universities from real estate taxes gives these institutions an unfair advantage in expensive urban areas.
Other tax issues might be moot if instead of taxing income or profits we shifted to a tax on the consumption of goods and services. Such a tax system would place profit-seeking firms and nonprofits on an equal footing. It would continue to exempt donations from tax, but it would equally exempt other forms of saving and investment.
Regardless of what might be done with tax policy, I can definitely advocate for a change in the perceived moral status of the nonprofit sector. We should not elevate nonprofits to a higher pedestal than that of for-profit firms. We should stop telling our children that working for a nonprofit is in any way morally superior to working for a profit-seeking enterprise.
I tell people I have bad luck with nonprofits. It is something of a joke in that every time I have been involved with one it has ended badly for me. But ThreeSourcers know I do not consider myself anything but fortunate -- the problem is the lack of discipline in the sector.
You get your license from the King 501(c)3 (well, if Ms. Lerner likes the cut of your jib...) and you get deals on postage and freedom from taxes. Your donors can now deduct contributions. All because you cleared a government hurdle. Distortionary much?
The charity deduction is sacrosanct and will likely survive any reform ever. But it should not; giving the government power to define "good charities" is a mistake.
Author Robert Tracinski, one of the best Objectivist authors I know, cites the Wilhelm piece as a "less charitable" (to Rand) response to Hunter Baker's earlier piece in The Federalist: 'The Devil and Ayn Rand: Extending Christian Charity to John Galt's Creator.' Of which Trancinski writes, "I have a few quibbles with this piece, but as an advocate of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, I appreciate its spirit."
RT summarizes Wilhelm as "basically conceding the point: that the various wings of the right need to work together in a common cause, that
"what pushes these two groups together -- the fact that a big, bureaucratized, powerful government will inevitably smother freedom, crush creativity, and bulldoze people's rights -- also might be one of the few things that Ayn Rand got right."
He then accepts that feeble twig of olive branch and suggests that conservatives "examine Ayn Rand's literature a little more closely and less grudgingly and to take her ideas a little more seriously" before offering "the top five things I think the right can learn from Ayn Rand."
I'll just list the item titles, which he explains fully in his piece. Tell me if any of them sound familiar:
1. The crucial importance of reason.
2. The pathology of altruism.
3. The meaning of work.
4. A third alternative in the culture wars.
5. The importance of big ideas.
The strongest disagreement on these pages has regarded item 2. I suggest that is a case of inconsistent terminology, where the grim and gritty reality of altruism as a code of self-sacrifice is confused with what Baker described as "human solidarity" of which he said, "[Rand] was an atheist and clearly had an insufficient appreciation for (and accounting of) human solidarity, but she loved freedom and she understood the importance of work for human flourishing."
So in conclusion: Remove the devil-horns from Rand, consider her ideas of freedom, self-sufficiency and rational self-interest, and of "dignity, joy and love in work rather than in wealth per se." And then ask yourself if you can find common cause with those other wings in order to defeat the champions of "big, bureaucratized, powerful government."
President Obama famously said that he believes "in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
So one may wonder why he didn't balk when Teleprompter instructed him to say this:
It's part of what attracts people from every corner of the globe to this country, understanding that for all our flaws there's something essential that we stand for that nobody else does, and we're willing to put our money and time and effort and resources and occasionally our lives on behalf of that.
Something essential... that we stand for... that nobody else does. This, friends, is the definition of an "exception" and makes "this country" exceptional.
And even more directly, when he said that "America continues to be the one indispensable nation..." one might be forgiven for thinking that, perhaps, President Obama is proud to be an American. He continued:
...and that what we stand for - liberty and democracy and conservation and fairness and justice - those are the things that people around the world aspire to and seek, and they expect the United States to be on their side.
I agree, Mr. President. Me too. Although I suspect we may differ on the meaning and intent of "democracy and conservation and fairness" and yes, probably even "justice." You did notice that only one of the values you expressed is a part of the name for "that lady with the torch in the middle of the water" didn't you?
I have been deeply skeptical over the years, even banging heads with the überrespected Professor Mankiw. Nudging -- and its promiscuous little sister, Pigouvian Taxation -- is all about friendly authority. "We're not going to tell you you can't smoke! We're just going to tax tobacco," "We're not going to make you exercise, we're just going to reduce you license plate fees if you can prove a health club membership." In Mankiw-land, "we suspect greenhouse gases are bad so let's tax carbon instead of income and earnings."
I reject setting government up as arbiter of good and bad. Are we going to tax fat, salt, sugar, BPA water bottles, GMOs? It's a huge expansion of government power, even if applied in small amounts. (Read Thomas Hall's Aftermath [Review Corner] to see the unintended consequences of punitive tobacco taxes.)
Stephen Poole suggests that the growth in the movement is based on underestimations of human rationality. Anecdotal examples abound on our Facebook feeds, but if we're not going to have our energy choices dictated by Bernie Sanders or our diet by the First Lady, we need to take a stand that humans are fit to care for themselves.
This is a scientised version of original sin. And its eager adoption by today's governments threatens social consequences that many might find troubling. A culture that believes its citizens are not reliably competent thinkers will treat those citizens differently to one that respects their reflective autonomy. Which kind of culture do we want to be? And we do have a choice. Because it turns out that the modern vision of compromised rationality is more open to challenge than many of its followers accept.
It's a rich and fascinating column. At 3500 words you'll want to set some time aside. But it is well worth it.
A favorite on these pages, well after Buffy, is the importance of the source of rights. Ayn Rand and those who subscribe to Objectivism make a compelling case. Here is Craig Biddle:
People should be free because people have a moral right to live their lives as they see fit (life), to act in accordance with their own judgment (liberty), to keep and use the product of their effort (property), and to pursue the goals and values of their choice (pursuit of happiness). This is the principle of individual rights.
Where does this principle come from? Why do individuals have rights? We have rights because rights are requirements of human life in a social context. Man's basic means of living is his reasoning mind. We live by using reason, observing reality, identifying the nature of things, making causal connections, integrating these into concepts and principles, and acting in accordance with our consequent knowledge. To the extent that we are forced to act against our judgment, we cannot live fully as human beings; we are relegated to "living" as puppets, serfs, or slaves.
Others, myself included, find the above not incorrect, but unwieldy as a persuasion tool and not required to understand liberty. Here is Max Borders, responding to Biddle.
Now, there are a number of alternative moral considerations that will be competing with rational egoism, and these moral systems will be wired deep within people. Altruism competes among them. Should defending liberty leave these off the table?
What fun -- it's the same argument we have around here every now and then. Both essays are presented side-by-side and you can vote at the end -- it's pretty close now...
Dagny and I saw it last night. In every scene, actually, but particularly, when Leader Thompson attempted to negotiate a "name your price" deal with Galt.
The movie was superb. Like the book, it was too short, but you'd expect me to say that. No, I realize that every nuance that I know and love from the book could not be included. And Dagny regretted that Hank Rearden was almost completely left on the cutting room floor. But we are "steeped in the lore." I fear that so much was included and happened so quickly that the neophyte will miss many points. But he won't miss the big point. And if he gets that one he will be back for viewing after viewing. I think the most important message is loud and clear:
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
"The world you desire can be won. It exists... It is real... It is possible... It is yours."
The title of this post is my answer to the question: Who is John Galt? For fun I did a global search on that phrase and found a very interesting blog by one jg lenhart. (Et tu, jg?)
This blog presents the non-contradictory explanation for God's Nature and Grace...which is the key to resisting Universalism.
But the first thing I saw of it was this page which, among other impressive insights in Part II, Chapter 9, included this about the title phrase:
Eddie – Dagny is Eddie's sound moral code. Not only does he think this moral code is flawed, he found this out at the same moment he discovered what this moral code was. Eddie is reeling. And since he is in the middle of the scale, he can go to the negative side very easily. He ends up going to his only other "friend". Eddie's confessional is no longer set apart from the story. With this visit, the worker enters the narrative. "You know, I never thought you cared whether you saw me or not, me or anybody, you seemed so complete in yourself, and that's why I liked to talk to you, because I felt that you always understood, but nothing could hurt you." The worker is not Eddie's sound moral code because the relationship is one sided; he doesn't know what this worker stands for. Eddie does the overwhelming majority of talking (praying?). "Do you know what's strange about your face? You look as if you've never known pain or fear or guilt…" Isn't that the kind of face God would have?
On this 13th Anniversary of 9/11 I will post a 9 year old article by Atlas Society Founder David Kelley (who is also a Consulting Producer on the Atlas Shrugged films, the third of which premieres nation wide tomorrow.) The Ideas That Promote Terrorism. Hint: It is not, primarily, religious faith. I will excerpt rather liberally:
The war on jihadist terrorism is a battle of ideas, a battle against the ideology of Islamism from which the terrorists emerged.
Though Osama bin Laden and other terrorists constantly invoke the Islamic past, their ideology is actually a modern one. It has more in common with fundamentalist movements in other religions, and with secular totalitarian ideologies like Marxism, than with any historic school of Islamic thought. What all of these movements have in common is a hatred for the values of modern liberal society, values that we in America tend to take for granted because they are so much a part of our culture.
The Islamists, like the communist and fascist totalitarians, hate individualism. There is no room in their worldview for individual freedom of thought, or for the pursuit of individual happiness. Mawlana Mawdudi, founder of Jama`at-i Islami in India and Pakistan and one of the most important and influential theorists of Islamism, advocated a theocratic state in which, as he said, "no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states." The Islamists want a society of rigid orthodoxy and censorship, just as communists sought to enforce Marxist dogmas and punish deviants.
Ultimately, Islamism is not a positive vision of a good society. Beyond the slogans of imposing sharia and the fantasy of restoring the caliphate, Islamists have no real political philosophy or program, and in the few places like Afghanistan where their ideas have been put into practice, the result has been chaos, poverty, and oppression. Islamism is essentially a negative movement, a movement of hostile opposition to the modern world. And, at the extreme, it descends into sheer nihilistic destruction and cult of death, the glorification of killing themselves as well as others, the reveling in gruesome bloody spectacle that is more decadent and degraded than the worst filth coming out of Hollywood.
Those are the ideas that spawned the terrorists: the hatred of individualism, of reason, of progress, of capitalism, of freedom and secular government. Those are the very sources of modern civilization, the sources of all the benefits that we enjoy in America, the benefits we would like to see enjoyed by people everywhere. This is not a conflict between Islam and the West. It is a conflict within the Islamic world, and within the West, between those who accept the values of modern civilization and the nihilists who reject them.
In return for my bald-faced theft of so many paragraphs for their unauthorized reprinting here, I have left a comment on the linked article. The subject: Islamists' claim that they "love death for Allah, like our enemies love life."
In this 2-week old article from Fox News, contributor Walid Phares gets the problem correct, but the solution all wrong.
"The problem in Western liberal societies... is that we don't act against ideology, we don't have legislation against ideology as the Germans or French have against Nazism, for example," Phares said. "And because we haven't had this possibility, we are waiting - law enforcement are waiting for [Choudary] to make a mistake, to make a mistake with the law."
The correct response to bad ideological speech is good ideological speech, not censorship.
I was a Joan Baez Trotskyist if you can feature that. I was a folkie and then I started studying economics and I said Oh wait! The way to help the poor is to make the pie bigger and that got clearer and clearer to me.
Yes, it is an hour lecture with a half hour of Q&A. I prefer reading and find it almost impossible to slate out blocks of time on that size. One good friend is always sending me TED talks of 40+ minutes and I get exasperated -- don't you have something I can read in five minutes? I'm supposed to be working here!
So feel free to ignore, but the "rockstar economist" (Bryan's words) limns out the basic theme of her "Bourgeois Dignity" [Review Corner] and the Q&A is brilliant.
On the right, where the timewasters at YouTube tempt you with other offerings, I saw yet another lecture on a formative book: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist" [Review Corner]
One hour here includes the Q&A (It's at GMU and I believe the first questioner is Don Boudreaux) and I'll warn you the audio is less-than perfect. But Ridley is funny and wide-ranging.
The Ming Emperors shut down their economy pretty effectively, but they could only shut down a third of humanity, they could not shut down the whole thing.
Despite numerous high-level voices in his administration giving clear signals that Islamic State is unambiguously evil and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully, President Obama said yesterday that, "we don't have a strategy yet." And, really, who is surprised at this development, given that his response to the decapitation murder of James Foley was to say of ISIS: "People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy."
Daily Beast contributor Stuart Stevens writes what essentially occurred to me the moment I heard that:
"But it seems incredibly naïve and American-centric not to grasp that the Islamic fanatics of ISIS are very much about building - building a new world in their vision."
As a post-Cold War figure who matured through "movements," Barack Obama is drawing from a distinct tradition. He is clearly more comfortable talking about "justice" than "evil." The "oppressed" to him are much more likely to be victims of society's prejudice than communism. Some on the right argue that Barack Obama rejects the concept of America as a force for good but I think that's a misjudgment. It's more that he defaults to a fundamentally different test than his predecessors.
More often than not, Barack Obama defines America's moral worth - our "goodness" - by comparing America's past to some future in which the values in which he believes will be the norm. In that matrix, it's not about us versus them - it's about what we are versus what we can be. It's us vs. us. America is "good" because we are getting "better." We are at our best not when we fight the evils of the world, but the "injustice" of our society, primarily prejudice, for which there is an evolving test.
This explains the Progressive apology for Islamism wherein their heinous acts are caused, not by an innately barbaric interpretation of a "pure" principle, but by the "injustices" visited upon them by prosperous westerners and their governments. They are supposedly "radicalized" in response to our prosperity. (And "inequality" perhaps?)
But moral ambiguity is not a condition which afflicts the Islamists. Right or wrong, they know what they want and they believe they are justified in doing anything to achieve it. That kind of moral certainty is a very powerful motivator. It can provoke millions of people to vote for you, if you articulate it in a political contest. It can also provoke a convicted mass murderer to seek to join your movement, as former Army Major Nidal Hassan reportedly attempted:
""It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."
Would but the President of the United States be so certain as to say, "Anyone on this Earth may believe anything he wants, but there is no justification to initiate force against anyone else. You don't have to get along with us, but you most certainly may not kill or injure us, except in physical self-defense."
A friend of dagny's has shared the TED article The Four Biggest Reasons Why Inequality is Bad for Society and she disagreed with what the article says. I am told her friend, whom I also know but not as well, would like to discuss it with others at length so dagny asked me to post it here where, hopefully among others, "jk will do Austrian vs. Keynsian economics with him all day long." Personally I think most of the objections are philosophical rather than economic, but not all of them. I'll break with my typical modus operandi and restrict my opinions to the comments section.
The author is T. M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University. He also references Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' which was discussed here a few times. Most seriously, perhaps, here.
Some time back we considered a variation on the "pick one" voting scheme that was dubbed "approval voting." I mention this as evidence that democracy is broken. It has many flaws as a system of governing free peoples.
Yesterday I asked on Facebook, Why are so many so quick to condemn "unlimited capitalism" while at the same time advocating for unlimited democracy? Obviously neither does, has, or possibly even can exist, so my point was whether one should have more limits at the same time as the other has its limits diminished.
An interlocutor suggested that "everyone puts limits on democracy too" thus indicating, I suppose, he has no quibble with limits on capitalism. So I searched for any organized group that advocates for "unlimited democracy." The highest search engine result was Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (California.) Natch.
The most dangerous threat to democracy is the mistaken belief that the US is a democracy. People and communities need assistance and support to believe we have a right to resist corporate rule and to see that a democratic world is not only possible – but necessary for the survival of life on earth. Our education work provides an historical and analytic framework for understanding the mechanisms ruling elites have used to manipulate our laws, our government and our culture in order to maintain their power.
Replace the word "corporate" with "private" for a clearer understanding. So the United States is not a democracy, but "a democratic world is possible - and necessary - for the survival of life on earth."
These folks certainly don't seem to place any limits on democracy.
Okay, fringe leftists from Cali. I get it. How about the national Democratic Party? How is the tension between Constitutional limits and their namesake principle holding up?
Heh. Don't get many opportunities to use the "slavery" category these days but such is the gift that is the darkness of [they refer to it as, simply] IS. (Islamic State)
In the first comment to this oft-cited (at least by yours truly) post I riffed on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's claim in a WSJ piece that a central part of what the jihadists are about is the oppression of women.
The central issue here, morally justified by the "pure principles of the Prophet" is a profound illiberalism. One which permits one class - devout Muslim men - to do anything his heart desires to every member of any other group. A "license to rape" is a popular selling point to young men.
This idea was horrific enough in the antiseptic realm of the intellect. Today I find purportedly devout young Muslim men Tweeting about what a believer is permitted to do with his female slaves.
Islam allows "slavery". Women can be captured, men can be killed. The Prophet approved this ...
is their a limit to how many slave women can have?
I'm not sure there's a fixed limit.
that in islam u dont need to marry a slave to have physical relationship with her
a slave is not one of your wives, you can have relationship with her as long as she's your slave
Don't worry, though, because "slaves" have "rights."
Sex has to be consentual though and it only applies to concubines. Mut'ah [temporary marriage for pleasure] is a big no no
whats the definition of concubine, isnt it the same as a person u own, obvious in islam they have rights
But their intentions are "good" right? As AHA explained, "Boko Haram [and all Islamists, by extension] sincerely believes that girls are better off enslaved than educated." Noble even. With benefactors like that, who needs an evil overlord?
After I posted my jingoistic screed against the deeply held spiritual thought that I find common in Eastern Religions, I finished Matt Ridley's awesome-on-stilts "Genome." Review Corner on its way but I had to share this quote from the last chapter:
The Maternal and Infant Health Care Law, which came into effect only in 1994, makes premarital check-ups compulsory and gives to doctors , not parents , the decision to abort a child. Nearly ninety per cent of Chinese geneticists approve of this compared with five per cent of American geneticists; by contrast eighty-five per cent of the American geneticists think an abortion decision should be made by the woman, compared with forty-four per cent of the Chinese.
Ridley, Matt (2013-03-26). Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 4841-4844). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I cannot help but believe that this is not a byproduct of authoritarianism, but that authoritarianism and acceptance of the State's aborting a child have a common ancestor.
I very much enjoyed Helen Raleigh's talk at Liberty on the Rocks - Flatirons a week ago. She was promoting her book: Confucius Never Said.
The title comes from "Confucius Say.." jokes -- but Raleigh reminds us what he did not say: "All Men are Created Equal." The Eastern thought accepted a much more hierarchical and less individualistic existence. Her -- grisly -- tales of Mao's Great Leap Forward, the privations and famine, and the barbaric treatment of her family in her native China are sobering consequences of this omission.
I've railed against the uncritical acceptance of what I call "Eastern Thought:" an admittedly overbroad collection of different and substantive philosophies and religion. But I considered them connected by a shared acceptance of the mystic and spiritual over the rational and the communal over the individual. (In humility I must point out that I could not get the author to assent to a broad condemnation of Confucianism as a foundation of China's historical struggles.)
With that preface, here is my elevator talk for Western Enlightenment values that I have been mulling. Per the objectivist/source of rights discussion below, I offer my own source of rights.
I don't want to be jingoist to my Hemisphere. There has, I purport, only been one good idea in the history of man. It happened to be Western. Flip of the coin: 50% chance. I also don't claim credit because it happened 200+ years ago to those to whom I am unrelated. But the one good idea is "all men are created equal."
From this, I can derive all the Lockean Values: man has a right to life, liberty and property -- not given by God or enforceable by the world, but vis-à-vis other men. I cannot take your sandwich. A bear can still eat you. But you and I, being equal cannot claim another's life, liberty, or property.
From Lockean values, I can derive the full set of Enlightenment values. Free will is based on equality as my thoughts are as valuable as yours. Reason is based on free will; innovation, science, and Popperian epistemology all follow from reason.
Where "all men are created equal" has been applied, pari-passu with the purity of its application, it has produced innovation, affluence, and empowerment of the individual. America became richer when the domain was expanded, China became richer when it was applied even in a limited fashion.
I have, of late, been at a loss to explain my philosophical differences with the Libertarian Party. Its siren song of "because: freedom" has a sweet, sweet sound, after all, and the threat of an all-encompassing government constitutes a desperate time, possibly justifying desperate measures like, say, voting Libertarian. But Craig Biddle's 2013 article in The Objective Standard is both thorough and precise in explaining the folly of libertarianism, with a big or small L. Essentially, Biddle explains, libertarianism is a political philosophy without a moral philosophy, thus making it "compatible" with multiple moral philosophies. Or so they claim.
Libertarianism is an effort to establish a big tent under which everyone who advocates "rights" or the "nonaggression axiom" can gather and get along and fight for "liberty" -- regardless of any moral or philosophic differences they may have. As Alexander McCobin, executive director of Students for Liberty, explains, "libertarianism is a political philosophy that prioritizes the principle of liberty":
[Y]ou can be a libertarian and be a Hindu, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Deist, an agnostic, an atheist, or a follower of any other religion, so long as you respect the equal rights of others. . . . Libertarianism is not a philosophy of life . . . or metaphysics or religion . . . or value, though it's certainly compatible with an infinite variety of such philosophies.16
McCobin is correct. You can be a libertarian regardless of any deeper philosophic ideas you might have. Libertarianism is precisely a big-tent ideology that is not concerned with deeper moral or philosophic issues. But this is not a favorable feature of libertarianism; it is a fatal flaw.
People cannot credibly, coherently, or effectively defend liberty if their more fundamental moral and philosophic ideas are in conflict with rights. And the fundamental tenets of most people's philosophies and religions flatly contradict the idea that rights should be respected -- or that they even exist.
I highly encourage reading the entire article here. It is long but, as I said, thorough. (If you're into that kind of thing.)
I gave a glowing review to Randy Barnett's "The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law" last month. It got five stars and the Editor's Choice Award. My admiration for Barnett is without bound and I think this is a very important book.
My blog brother threatens suggests a crowdsourced, ThreeSources Constitution and I applauded the suggestion. As big a fan as I am of James Madison, Barnett makes an uncomfortable point, viz., a centralized authority will be suborned by those with interest and power.
It is difficult to imagine a better start than the US Constitution. The depth of thought shown in The Federalist Papers and the ratification process is shocking to the modern eye and ear. We cannot have a Colorado Senator's race without gross distortions and exaggeration of picayune issues. The balance, the seriousness, and the intellectual depth of the founders -- and the public -- continues to stagger.
Yet it is parchment and has been evaded for hundreds of years by those with or seeking interest and power. And its protections are ineffective.
Barnett solves this with "a polycentric legal order in which consumer choice and competition would provide a better check on the abuse of the powers of law enforcement." Under this, more property is private and subject to the owner's jurisdiction. You can wear your gym shorts at Walmart* but not a Saks. Without the vast public areas we have today, law enforcement and justice remains more in private hands. Again, I weaken his arguments by paraphrasing, but I was for the first time truly compelled to accept a more anarchist view.
But I believe I have found the flaw. What if there were a place like Barnett suggests where this theory could be tested? No, not Somalia -- you guys shut up in the back!!!
Worse than Somalia -- America's University Campuses. On Campus, you are subject to the Constitution and Local laws, but to an extent you have traded them away. Your legal order is polycentric as you manage outside laws with inside laws. On the first read through The Structure of Liberty, it is easy to image an America of Disneylands where you are comfortable in a private purview whose owners interest is tied closely to your safety. But you aren't guaranteed Bill-of-Rights rights in Disneyland -- and that has been my hang-up in accepting private law enforcement and justice.
The new University guidelines for sexual assault cement my case. If the Utopian vision is an America of Disneylands, I posit the dystopia is a nation under the aegis of "The Dean of Diversity and Equality."
I accept that the Constitution did not have the protections to save itself, though we've had a great run and still enjoy many protections. Do not take me too pessimistically, but everybody who has read this far understands my concerns. The preponderance of private bodies -- identical to the Universities -- could collectively go to Nanny Defcon 5 in a short time. And we would be looking for our monocentric Constitutional protection.
I think we'll get the gun laws and the panic-of-the-day "protections" currently seen on Campuses. Everywhere.
Here's George Will having his column dropped by the St. Louis Dispatch for the temerity of questioning Campuses' capacity to adjudicate sexual assaults.
Of course, if you don't like a college that has such rules, you can go to another college well, you can go online.
The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily. This is the man of moderation, the man of manly character and of wisdom. -Plato
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/plato_2.html#8puyA1pRkPdO2XYP.99
Roger Simon highlights a Kevin Williamson essay, where Williamson goes all Michael Novak on an Honduran Cardinal's ass:
You cannot redistribute what you don’t have -- and that holds true not only for countries but, finally, for the planet and the species, which of course is what globalization is all about. That men of the cloth, of all people, should be blind to what is really happening right now on the global economic scale is remarkable, ironic, and sad. Cure one or two people of blindness and you're a saint; prevent blindness in millions and you’re Monsanto
David Azerrod has an interesting piece at Heritage's The Foundry Blog. He suggests that conservatives fall into a trap when they accept the Left's analogy of a race.
What Quinn's avowedly discomfiting conclusion reveals is that it is time to drop the flawed race of life analogy once and for all. Life is not race. Life is a journey whose goal is happiness. And happiness is not a finite national resource--there is plenty of it to go around. My happiness need not come at the expense of others.
In a race, I can only win if all the others lose. In life, my happiness leaves you perfectly free to go about your life and find your own happiness. We can't all be happy all the time, of course, but that is not because we are all racing against one another, but because the crooked timber of mankind is subjected to the endless vagaries of life.
If we take our bearings from the Declaration of Independence rather than from a metaphorical footrace, we can see that we are not all racing toward the same finish line, but each pursuing happiness in our own way. Some want to be baseball players; others choose to become priests--occasionally, some will even forego a promising baseball career to enter the priesthood. Some are gifted musicians; others have a knack for languages. We've got introverts and extroverts; men of action and dreamers; those who can and those who teach. Human beings in all their marvelous diversity!
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, jk has to make tortured segues. Here's John Lawlor, a guy who likes to play the tenor guitar. He's an iconoclast, not a hipster. If you can find 52 minutes, I don't think you'll be disappointed. If you cannot, scroll to 45:00 and listen to "Take me Out to the Ball Game."
If you listen to all 52, you'll know that happiness really is not finite.
I live and think and act under the premise that the universal natural state of man is freedom.
I asked a friend recently if he thinks that liberty is a universal ambition of every person. He wasn't sure. So I asked him if he had to choose between total liberty and total control, which he would prefer for himself? Would he prefer to work and earn and choose which "hovel" (his word) to rent, or to be given some sort of "hovel" by someone else with no freedom to choose anything about it. His delay in answering suggested an attempt to evade the question asked, which he did by replying that being given a hovel is better because he would know that more people are thus able to have similar hovels and fewer people would be homeless.
There were other beliefs expressed, such as "man is no better than nature" and "humanity can't expand without harming nature." I relate this story because it gave me insight into the thinking of lefty Facebook Friends: "I believe we are all sailors on the same ship, and we have to work together for the common good. The earth is our ship and the universe is our ocean." I didn't think to remind him of the myriad mutinies and riots that happen when order breaks down during long and indeterminate journeys, but I did ask him to consider my original question only in terms of his own desires. His own needs and wants, notwithstanding the effects of his choice on anyone else.
"That's not fair," he replied.
It wasn't that he couldn't answer the question, I think, but that he didn't believe he had any right to consider the question in such a way. I wasn't suggesting - yet - that he actually live his life that way, but merely asking him to think about how he might do so. He stood up, said he couldn't do this, and walked away.
You have permission, lefty Facebook Friends, to stop worrying about everyone else every moment, with every act you take or sentence you utter. I'm not saying you may be inconsiderate, only that you are an end in yourself. Why does that threaten you so?
While reading William Perry Pendley's excellent Sagebrush Rebellion Redivivous in the current issue of Imprimus online I noted the parallel between western liberalism, which I've been discussing of late, and the American environmental movement. Both started with good principles and worthy goals but grew and evolved, or more correctly metastasized, into something that was not only bad but contradictory to its origin.
Devon Downes, a Michigan high school student and Young American for Liberty, gives an excellent summary of the Evolution of Liberalism in his undated article.
From Epiphany to Epithet
So how could "liberalism," a word representative of so anti-statist a philosophy, come to represent such a very different prescription for government? How did the term lose its history as a great liberator in the history of ideas and, among many on the American right, become little better than a slur? Even more significantly, why did this etymological reversal occur?
The answer lies in the development of another new political philosophy: Progressivism. As Mises Institute scholar Ralph Raico puts it, progressivism is "a vague term, but one that connote[s] a new readiness to use the power of government for all sorts of grand things."
Though it originated and made its way into both the Democratic and Republican party in the late 19th century, Progressivism highjacked the term "Liberal" during FDR's New Deal, with the help of Progressive philosophers such as John Dewey (yes, the decimal system creator.)
It was around this time that the adherents of progressivism took for themselves a new name which has stuck to their ideas to this day: Liberal. Progressives controlled the terms of the debate, and went on to control the agenda that followed.
As progressive philosopher John Dewey wrote in his Liberalism and Social Action in 1935, "measures went contrary to the idea of liberty" as defined by Locke and Jefferson "have virtually come to define the meaning of liberal faith. American liberalism as illustrated in the political progressivism of the early present century has so little in common with British liberalism of the first part of the last century that it stands in opposition to it." This change effectively camouflaged what were in many ways very new ideas (progressivism) in a very old American tradition (liberalism)—and it was a camouflage which would make its wearer stronger. [emphasis mine]
I do disagree that progressivism represents "very new ideas" for it is merely a rebranding of Marxist egalitarian socialism, but the point remains - the new progressive liberal "faith" stands in opposition to the anti-statist foundation of the United States of America and all of western civilization that was known simply as "liberalism."
But this transformation did not result from a natural evolution. The original cause was corrupted by an outside influence, a "genetic modification" if you will, that was not recognized quickly or widely enough to be discredited in its infancy.
Returning to environmentalism, Pendley writes:
Reagan had seen firsthand the transformation of the environmental movement from one of conservation and stewardship, in which the part played by human beings and technology was vital, to a movement in which humans and technology were understood to be enemies of nature. As articulated by Reagan, opposition to extreme environmentalism represented a return to true environmentalism. America’s "environment[al] heritage" will not be jeopardized, he promised, while at the same time insisting that "we are going to reaffirm that the economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our environment."
Sadly, that message vanished from our discourse when President Reagan did. I think I can quip, ironically, "It's Bush's fault" for senior's failure to maintain the important message that "freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction." It is left to us, defenders of liberty, to discredit and strangle the Genetically Modified Environmentalism to make way for true environmentalism - one where nature and man can both prosper.
In an IBD editorial Campus Intolerance Endangers America's Free Speech. Economics Hoss Walter E. Williams treads the same waters of western illiberalism that we discussed May 9th regarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Readers may recall I drew a simile between western "liberals" and central Africa's Boko Haram ["non-Muslim teaching is forbidden"].
Williams quotes Charles Murray to explain what the academy used to be all about, at least when it was devoted to science instead of indoctrination: "The task of the scholar is to present a case for his or her position based on evidence and logic. Another task of the scholar is to do so in a way that invites everybody into the discussion rather than demonize those who disagree."
But today, every challenge to the orthodoxy of the illiberal left is met with precisely the opposite reaction - demonization. Williams summarizes in elevator-ese:
Western values of liberty are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America.
So confident are they in the Righteousness or "purity" of their egalitarian socialist ideals that there is no limit - in their minds - to the legitimate infringement of the rights of others, if those others question the validity of their "pure" ideal. So damn the Constitution, damn the First Amendment, damn the free speech of the Academic Infidel.
In the example of Boko Haram we may suggest a name for the post-modern academics and the politicians, talking heads, environmental cultists and Facebook Friends who take this path. "Teaching Liberty is Forbidden."
Fortunately, Americans have never taken kindly to being told what to do.
UPDATE: Changed the title to Latin from the original, and ambiguous, French: "La liberté d'enseignement est interdit." Thanks to my father for the translation.
A Facebook Friend shared this story on collusion: big tech firms' agreeing not to recruit each others workers. There is much to discuss in this story, but my friend used it to call for more regulation and used the phrase "the invisible hand is bullshit."
I thought it funny that the story actually validates Adam Smith, and replied:
I'll defend Adam Smith if not Apple. Smith suggested the invisible hand in "Theory of Moral Sentiments." In "Wealth of Nations" he says "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
I once heard of an economics professor who offered an A to any student who could find pro-business sentiment in the nine hundred eleventy-two pages of Wealth of Nations.
But the invisible hand refers to the lack of planning required to get to produce the subordinate parts or materials of (in his case, breakfast). I don't see collusion as counter-example. (And while I'll admit it's wrong, wrong, wrong, I cannot engender great sympathy for the greatest treated workforce in the history of the world: tech workers in this time period did okay as I recall.)
Friend (okay, it's this blog's own "LatteSipper...") has a point that I am so used to defending capitalism from the Occupy crowd, I fall into the bad habit of defending businesses. Is this a crack in the heretofore unscathed "Bourgeois Dignity" theory of Deirdre McClosky? Not a direct contradiction -- but something to be considered.
Truth is, I thought it just some crazy Facebook, <earnest-sounding-phrase>.ORG story and was prepared to seek out cute puppies. Then, Insty linked. You know my appreciation and general agreement for "The Sage of Knoxville," but his comment was "You can see why they want a lot of temporary visas for cheap foreign workers." Oh, man, dude's been hanging out with Mickey Kaus too much -- we're going to have to seat them in different sides of the room.
I want justice for all, but these are the least sympathetic clients since the Westboro Morons had their free speech rights underscored in Snyder v Phelps. Poor Apple coder has to live with $165K, free lunches and an iridium health care plan -- the recruiter from Intuit can't call with an offer of $190! Boo-flippin'-hoo! Lawr is lawr and I wish them luck in court.
But the Insty accusation is a disconnect. They cannot find enough workers to continue -- neither can my firm. It's a great company, if some of you want to come write software for us, tell them I sent you and I get a cool five grand.
There are a lot of codified and assumed rules among partners and collaborators (I've broken a few of both) about not "sniping" each others' talent. I can accept this is different, but still want to call somebody a waaaaaahmbulance.
I would like to get together with my lefty friends -- I'll buy each a beer -- watch and discuss this:
Education, abortion, gay-rights, drugs, and welfare all engender powerful emotions in people. I was thinking that most of my friends could handle transportation and zoning with limited tears. And, yet, here is a (yet another even better) microcosm of what I believe. The planners are making things worse: worse for the poor, worse for the environment, worse for transportation. Some good old Hayekian spontaneous order would improve so much. But, as Insty would say, there are insufficient opportunities for graft.
Then, perhaps, if liberty gets a small foothold...
Mollie Zieglar Hemingway has a guest editorial in the WSJ that might warm the cold, unfeeling hearts of ThreeSourcers. She takes to task one Dalai Lama. "The longtime Marxist doesn't seem to realize markets are the best way to 'take care of others.'"
She mentions the AEI visit and his admission that he has come to better respect Capitalism. "But that respect seems grudging. He also criticized 'the capitalist country, United States,' as 'the richest, but you also see a big gap between rich and poor.' And he said of capitalism that it 'only takes the money, then exploitation.'"
While the Dalai Lama was bringing his critique of capitalism to Washington, Venezuelans were continuing their sustained protests against a Marxist government that they blame for high inflation, rampant crime and the imprisonment of opposition leaders. Then there are the Communist regimes in China, Cuba and North Korea, which remain far more repressive and unequal than any capitalist democracy. Yet the Dalai Lama didn't mention Communist oppression.
The fact that Marxism has achieved the opposite of what it promises hasn't seemed to move the Dalai Lama. On this trip, the Dalai Lama told a Vanity Fair reporter that the issue is not Marxist ideology, just its practitioners: "I think the Marxist economics is right. But gradually Lenin, [though he was] supposed to apply that concept, he sacrificed individual rights, individual freedom."
Yeah, Lenin was swell before he turned away from his dedication to individual rights and individual freedom.
Holler if you want this mailed over Rupert's pay wall -- I'm, like, totally prepared to "fight the man" today.
Capitalism is as misunderstood as it is maligned. Mostly, I think, because of all the government "smoothing of rough edges." Dictionary.com defines capitalism as,
an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
But this must be some kind of brainwashing or something, cuz the internets give the real definition:
The system in which some people own businesses and stock and others have no choice but to work for them and generate surplus value is called capitalism.
I guess the people who do have a choice are born with a dollar sign on their bellies or some such.
This comes from a largely anonymous website that has as its homepage a 7-point bullet list explaining what capitalism is and why it is inferior to "many noncapitalist systems." Applying a new skill that JK taught me, bullet 1 misdefines capitalism and throws in a false criticism for good measure; bullet 7 baldly asserts that capitalism is obviously an inferior system; and bullets 2-6 attempt to establish the connection between the false premise and the premeditated "conclusion."
May I indulge the reader to consider my take on a few points?
2) "Wealth is power" but government is absolute power. Shall we talk about increased government?
3) I like to keep what I create or earn, and feel justified in doing so and supporting laws that protect my right to keep what's mine. No apology or defense is required. After all, it didn't exist before I made it.
4) There are no "classes" of people. There are individuals who choose in varying degrees to be productive, thrifty and ambitious - or not.
5) In order to end misery one must recognize that he is as capable of spending less than he earns as is anyone else. Since wealth is power, earn some and save some, then use it wisely.
6) What was wrong with wealth "stratification" in the first place? Can't you be happy enough with a home and some savings and a loving family that thinks the world of you because you can comfortably support them, despite what anyone else has?
"Unfair" is a word invented by social organizers to keep you feeling "poor, hopeless, desperate, distracted, overbusy, deluded, oppressed and generally miserable." Why not just be happy instead?
Think carefully for a moment about the phrase, "The science is settled." That would make the issue in question an "absolute" would it not? And absolutism is what Democrats of all flavors most often criticize Republicans for believing.
This is the topic of an entertaining column by Andrew Quinn at The Federalist. The fun begins with his headline: "The Party of Science Has Absolutely No Clue What It's Talking About."
To an intellectually honest observer, these findings compel more questions. What are reasonable expectations for health insurance? Should we be satisfied if Medicaid helps people sleep easier but makes them no healthier? Even if so, is health insurance the most effective way to convert taxpayer dollars into peace of mind for the poor?
Virtually no prominent progressives join center-right commentators in positing such questions.
Because, like most people, progressives are more comfortable with facts that agree with how their mind is already made up. But there is a difference between progressives and the rest of us: They have so convinced themselves that theirs is an ideology rooted in objective science, and any contradictory ideology is rooted in Revealed Truth, that they don't even recognize when their ideology becomes exactly that - an article of faith.
So the next time a Facebook friend tells you his ideas are scientific be sure to ask him for his Hypothesis, Evidence and Analysis that support his Conclusion. If you are sufficiently skeptical he will eventually balk. Then you can ask him to who's authority he is subservient. After all, "consensus" is just another way of saying "I don't want to know any more than I already know." And isn't that why they like to laugh at the Religious Right?
Before I learned why, I wondered how an entire national population could support a government that murdered millions of its own citizens. Among other places, it happened in Nazi Germany when the populist regime whipped up anger and resentment against the small and distinct set of individuals who were identified by their Jewish heritage. On Saturday Tom Perkins, a co-founder of a successful investment firm, opined, "I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent." His short letter to WSJ ended thusly:
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
Given attitudes like this being spoken out loud, in public, by prominent members of society, is there any wonder why President Obama and Congressional Democrats are sparing no effort to demonize the TEA Party, and anyone who says that everyone has a right to his own liberty and his own opinions, even the "obscenely" rich?
Yet every single commenter to this Fox Denver article on the subject is disapprobative of the "delusional" billionaire. Notably, however, none of them posits that there is not a "rising tide of hatred for the successful one percent." Instead, they just call him names. But apparently that's all it takes to win a philosophical battle in today's world, since even the firm Perkins founded threw him under the bus.
I rantedadmitted in June 2012 that, of all the nonsense out there, Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me!" is among the most offensive.
David Mirman makes similar arguments to mine, if much more eloquently, today in The Objective Standard.
Some writers claim that [high school science teacher John] Cisna's all-McDonald's diet is unhealthy. Although Cisna and his students made an effort to make his diet nutritionally sound, that wasn't his primary purpose. As Cisna explains, the point of the experiment was not to recommend eating only McDonald's; "The point . . . is: Hey, it's a choice. We all have choices. It's our choices that make us fat. Not McDonald's."
Cisna has provided a dramatic demonstration of the fact that we guide our own fates by the choices we make. This is a truth that more Americans desperately need to grasp.
If, for some reason, you do not have a low enough opinion of east coast yuppie scum, I refer you to Russ Douthat's perceptive yet disturbing NYTimes column. Douthat has found this mysterious new überprogressive voting block that launches candidates like Sen Elizabeth Warren (Wahoo McDaniels - MA) and Mayor Bill DeBlasio (Politburo - NYC) to victory. It's the poor, downtrodden, $400K earners who want to stick it to those who make five:
But is this constituency actually "a powerful voting bloc against inequality," or is it just a powerful voting bloc in favor of raising taxes on the super-rich? Because these aren't quite the same thing, and it seems to me that in New York and nationally, the class interests of the so-called HENRYs ("high earners, not rich yet") still basically align with some form of late-1990s Clintonism rather than the more sweeping post-Obama populism than liberals are getting excited about today. That is, the allegedly "radicalized" professional class would say yes, yes, to a higher top rate on the people currently outbidding them for schools and property (and making them feel the angst of status-income disequilibrium), and yes as well to the existing welfare state and entitlements that higher rate helps sustain. But the same feeling of precariousness that makes these radicalized professionals thrill to populist rhetoric also means they’re more likely to say no to anything that might require them to sacrifice their income (or, in case of a left-libertarian housing agenda, their brownstone property values) on behalf of their working class coalition partners.
"Why do we see an article at the leading libertarian think tank (Cato) advocating legalized plunder on the basis of a philosophy that denies the possibility of rights? Because other libertarians characteristically ignore or deny the need to focus on philosophy at all--and, because, in philosophy, as in physics, nature abhors a vacuum." --Craig Biddle
The legalized plunder being the Basic Guaranteed Income (BIG), discussed on these pages by brother jg. You can put Mr. Biddle down as a "no." I am not compelled to abandon the idea based on his TOS article. His points are likely all true, but I think he is making the perfect the enemy of the good. Yet I have to give him points for the term "Bleeding Heart Libertarians." That's good.
I'm not sure -- is this Upworthy thing working out?
But I want to politely reintroduce a topic that might be annoying a reader or two. This morning on Facebook, I trip across this from a wife of an old musician buddy. She is interesting in that she went in for both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
Our true populist has seen through the lies and veneer of ObamaCare to become a fulsome opponent of the law and the administration's attempts to promote it. This has led to a string of fun posts.
Today, the streak breaks with: "Pope Francis Hurts The Tender Feelings Of A Billionaire Republican." Larry Kudlow had a segment on this (from a slightly different perspective). It seems Ken Langone is helping St. Patrick's Church raise funds:
Home Depot founder and investor Ken Langone, who is currently leading the $180 million fundraising efforts to complete the renovations on St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, recently told CNBC that a potential million dollar donor has voiced apprehension about donating to the project after Pope Francis critiqued trickle-down economics in November as "naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."
"Give me a million to help me spread the word that you're wicked" is perhaps flawed as a fundraising theme. Although it would work pretty well on Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, I don't think either are Catholic.
I've read that this is just because he is from Argentina or that the Media has distorted his words and cherry-picked small economic statements from a larger work. All well and good, but he has to know his audience and the power of his pulpit. And this is where it leads.
Why doesn't Pope Francis support the GOP?
That's a tricky question. Maybe it's because in the richest country in the world the rich have invested enormous amounts of money in order to bribe pay off buy persuade politicians. Their goal? To cut food stamps to hungry children, deny healthcare to the sick and otherwise slash the social safety net all while giving more tax breaks to the already mega-wealthy. Whatever could Pope Francis find objectionable about that?
But poor Ken isn't buying it (an unusual experience for him, no doubt):
The snarky lefty populist post is moderately entertaining if you know the backstory, but it caught at least one who did not. She said "looks like somebody is irritating the right people!"
I appreciated the props from jk for recognizing early on that the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle was a seminal moment in American politics. American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord has a very good article that explains why. Here is but one insightful passage:
The key to GLAAD’s millions [of tax-exempt profits] — and the power all these "fascist bands" have exercised over the last several decades — is guilting Americans into believing that if they don't go along with the latest "non-negotiable" left-wing demand they are somehow…well….pick one. Racist, homophobic, pro-war, greedy, sexist and on and on and on…yada yada yada. In fact, one is doubtless more than safe in suspecting that in those millions of Phil Robertson fans are people with gay family or friends who decidedly could not be considered "anti-gay" -- but refuse to sit by silently and watch an obviously good person be lynched in the name of some left-wing conception of gay rights.
What's happened here with this Phil Robertson episode is more than about Mr. Robertson himself. Much more.
The backlash against A&E and GLAAD says in plain language that Americans are fed up with being routinely confronted by Reagan's "cowardly little fascist bands."
Blog friend sc sends a link to an interesting post.
God, Hayek and the Conceit of Reason
Friedrich Hayek: In later life he worked on his moral philosophy
A quarter of a century ago, Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, published his final contribution to his considerable corpus, an eloquent exposition of his enduring concerns. But The Fatal Conceit (1988) sought not to recapitulate the intricacies of his economic thought (despite its subtitle, "The Errors of Socialism"), or to revisit his postulated and widely celebrated connection of economic collectivism and political tyranny. Rather, he was now, four years from his death, occupied in this short and forgotten volume with one of the most fundamental questions of humankind: the basis and preservation of our civilisation.
Anybody want to play? I will post my response in the comments.
#1. Worldwide, Poverty Is Dropping at a Shocking Rate
And these aren't just statistical tricks here -- when they calculate this, they're not just counting income, they account for total living conditions -- infrastructure, schools, access to clean water, everything. A billion people have that stuff for the first time. And what's really encouraging is that this all happened three years ahead of the official estimates, which pegged 2015 as the soonest such a lofty goal could be achieved.
So how did this happen? International aid helped, but the big jump has been in the increased participation of previously isolated countries in international trade. You know how people are always complaining about how "they're shipping our jobs overseas!" Well, this is where they went -- to people who previously had no jobs at all. And that boom that swept across China and India is expected to continue in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Rwanda -- all of the places you previously only heard about in the context of heart-breaking ads begging for donations. If things continue at this pace, countries like Nepal and Bangladesh would likely see extreme poverty shrink to near-nonexistent levels.
On the down side, Cracked.com still loads so many scripts and banners and pop up attempts that it will take you three minutes to load each page. But it's Christmas; be nice.
Last month blog friend T Greer suggested "a lump-sum 'demogrant' or Milton Friedman's negative taxes" as a funding alternative for private health insurance, which would replace Obamacare. His premise was that the needy could be provided for with minimal distortions to the free market. I found the idea meritorious and proposed extending it to every area of government assistance, replacing every single solitary government aid program with an unrestricted cash income for every adult. I pitched it as "Uncle Sam's Allowance" to be used in an otherwise purely capitalistic unregulated free-market."
I was hoping for robust discussion but even TG was mute. Re-reading my proposal today I see I was very short on details of the principle, but a segment on last week's MSNBC Krystal Ball show brings the idea into mainstream conversation. Prompted by a publicity stunt in Switzerland she asked why not "eliminate poverty" by giving everyone a minimum income or "mincome" from the government?
"Every non-incarcerated adult citizen gets a monthly check from the government. Other safety net programs are jettisoned to help pay for the mincare, and poverty is eliminated."
First off, I might never have taken such an idea seriously had I not read Friedman propose a negative income tax or R.A. Heinlein describe a birthright paycheck from a fabulously productive and prosperous civil society. But I and Reason's Matthew Feeney am willing to entertain this proposal by Ball, although my conditions may be non-starters for her. Nonetheless, I would like a discussion here on the subject because I agree with Feeney's conclusion:
"Rather than make the principled argument against the redistribution of wealth, libertarians would do better if they were to argue for a welfare system that promotes personal responsibility, reduces the humiliations associated with the current system, and reduces administrative waste in government."
Very well, here are my Terms:
1) ALL other safety net programs must be jettisoned. Permanently.
2) Executive branch agencies created to carry out safety net programs must be jettisoned. Permanently.
3) Mincome payments must not be means tested. Everyone qualifies and is due the same monthly (or weekly) amount, regardless of income or wealth.
4) Anyone who does not voluntarily decline his mincome is ineligible to vote.
I won't go into all of the advantages of this system since most of you are already preparing to pounce on it's failings. Let me address one of them preemptively - immigration.
Expand the system beyond national borders. Make it internationally universal. I haven't run any numbers but my starting point for negotiating the monthly mincome is to divide the cumulative sum of every national tax in the world by the number of adult humans in the world, and negotiate downward from there. Instead of funding waste and corruption we could be giving cash to folks to "feed their families." What could be more swell?
I still have my doubts. Give some people a dollar and they will demand two, then three. But at least such a plan would make the nature and extent of redistribution fully transparent, rip out government waste fraud and abuse root and limb, and make it possible to cease the practice where the takers are permitted to vote the amount of their share from the makers.
The only reason Obama and his fellow Democrats aren't constantly tagged as extreme is because the press is so far left that it treats them as reasonable centrists. Meanwhile, by skewing the polls, the increasingly radicalized Democratic Party manages to make the country appear more liberal than it really is.
I would say "more socialist" instead of more liberal. I still believe Americans are quite liberal in the classical sense, i.e. individual liberty.
James Pethokoukis posts a response from ThreeSources' Fave (or at least jk's) Deirdre McCloskey to Pope Francis's latest whack at Capitalism.
I'm going to lift it in its entirety -- sorry Mr. Brooks! You can click through for backstory and Jimi's introduction.
Friedrich Hayek, the modern master of what people in the USA call "libertarianism" and what others call "real liberals," once wrote an essay entitled "Why I Am Not a Conservative." He was not a conservative, nor am I or Robert Nozick or Tom Palmer or Donald Boudreaux or Ronald Hamowy or John Locke or Thomas Paine or (the Blessed) Adam Smith.
I am a Christian Liberal. That is, I believe on the one hand that in human affairs the best policy is to let people alone to exercise their creativity. Such creativity has made the modern world. We should take power away from the massive modern state, which so often follows the Other Golden Rule: Those who have the gold, rule. States are corrupted by the rich …
But on the other hand as a Christian I also believe that as a spiritual affair we should love God and love God's creatures, that is, our neighbors as ourselves. (It is Jewish and Muslim law, too: Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize the law and the prophets while standing one leg. His reply was: to love God , the commandments 1-4, and our neighbors, 5-10.) In consequence, unlike fatherly and unChristian liberals, I believe in helping the poor.
At a meeting libertarians/liberals last year in the Bahamas I expressed to someone what I thought was an axiom, "But of course we all want to help the poor." He instantly retorted, "No: only if they help me." It took my breath away. I want to help the poor, period, not only as part of an exchange ... And my liberal part adds to my Christian duty: Help the poor really, not by making them unemployable by raising the minimum wage, or uneducated by forcing them into public schools, or violent and victimized by outlawing recreational drugs.
UPDATE: Need we add a "Papal Encyclicals" category? An alert reader offers a link to this commentary by Rev. James Martin. Plus an admonition to be wary of accepting a WaPo summary of anything that concerns economics or Catholicism.
Evangelii Gaudium is difficult to summarize, so wide-ranging is it. Ironically, something that would at first appear to be a narrow topic -- how to spread the Gospel today -- offers Francis the latitude to address many topics in his trademark open style. The exhortation moves easily from a discussion on joy as a requirement for evangelization, to how "personal dialogue" is needed for any authentic invitation into the faith, to the difficulty of being a church when Catholics are "warring" against one another, to the need for priests and deacons to give better homilies, to an overriding concern for the poor in the world -- the last being a special concern of the Pope.
To that end, some will be surprised that Francis champions an idea that has lately been out of favor: the church's "preferential option" for the poor. "God's heart has a special place for the poor," the Pope says. But it is not enough simply to say that God loves the poor in a special way and leave it at that. We must be also vigilant in our care and advocacy for them. Everyone must do this, says the Pope.
I would refer his excellency to last week's Review Corner or perhaps Prof. McCloskey. Sometimes a little bit of trading in the back of thy Father's House can do more than alms.
Solidarity--the concept that we have concrete duties to others with whom we share society, especially the poor and marginalized--has never been a word with much cachet in American politics. It's not that Americans lack compassion for the poor; we appreciate the concept, but not so much the word itself.
Not only is this due to the importance of individualism to the American mythos, but it is also presumably due to the fact that the concept of solidarity is primarily associated with Catholic social teaching. And the relationship between America and the Catholic Church has been, to use the parlance of Facebook, complicated.
ThreeSourcers will enjoy a sound and consistent refutation of the Administration's complicity in facilitating the dependence society. [I will not rewrite that sentence; it is unwieldy but it says what I mean.] My favorite is its tying the controversial Brosurance and Hosurance PSAs to the Administration's "Life of Julia;"
"The Life of Julia" is, of course, presidential campaign propaganda, and so we should expect a focus on federal interventions in Julia's life. What is extraordinary is how alone Julia is. She has none of the connections or responsibilities that are intrinsic to natural human society. Her only duties are those which she chooses--even having a child is rendered sterile, framed as a discrete, consumerist, individual decision, rather than the natural result of forming a family with another person. And it is the state--specifically in the person of President Obama--that is promoted as enabling this alienation.
Now think back to the "Got Insurance?" campaign. The ads are not about fulfilling social responsibilities and liberation from want, but fulfilling personal desires and liberation from responsibilities. They, like Julia, posit a society in which we are responsible for no one and no one is responsible for us--except, in both cases, the state.
Even having a child is rendered sterile, framed as a discrete, consumerist, individual decision, rather than the natural result of forming a family.
And whereas previous generations of big government advocates suggested that federal bureaucracies fulfill our own moral responsibilities to our fellow citizens, even that facade has eroded. It's no longer about us taking care of our brethren through the medium of government so much as it is government, as an entity distinct from the people, taking care of all of us.
Pretty good stuff, non?
Those not still choking on the lede and our "concrete duties to others with whom we share society, especially the poor and marginalized" will cough a lung at the conclusion.
Conservatives can't condemn political marketing like "Life of Julia" or "Got Insurance?," then pivot and peddle our own hackneyed individualism. We must be the voice for civil society, for social responsibility, for solidarity. We cannot let solidarity die, because with it will pass away limited government as well.
Compelling. I bristle at the dismissal of "Individualism" even if I overestimate ThreeSourcers' opposition. But just as Burkean fuddy-duddy law and order is a sturdy foundation for liberty, the Tocquevillian formation is worthy of consideration.
Promoted to embed from a comment by brother Keith, offered in response to melancholy references to the archaic and the obsolete, that among these are the idea that every man is an end within himself. And yes, it is today's ACA Horror Story.
Making the rounds on Facebook. The three minute commercial that puts all movies to shame. Better than the last movie you saw. People really do love this.
Funny, it seems rather like every movie you see. Is it that well done? May I use the term "cloying?"
But I don't post so that I can whack it down. (Of course, if anyone else wants to, go ahead). I post it to remind ThreeSourcers that Jonathan Haidt is correct and there are multitudes out there that see the world this way, wish the world were this way, and enjoy wishing.
Great three minute video about paying it forward. We have a long road ahead of us in the dozens of communities impacted by this tragedy. We are Coloradans. We will band together and take care of each other! Pass it on!
Much as I admire George Will, I have derided him on occasion as a conventional wisdom guy. I take all of that back. He and I have some differences but they are all well founded and philosophically consistent on "the Indiana Whig."
Click it on, you can work. But this is a masterful interview:
At The Objective Standard Blog, Robert Begley takes up a ThreeSources-esque argument. He rightfully dishes approbation for T. J. Rodgers's Wall Street Editorial "Targeting the Wealthy Kills Jobs." But...
But he also shares disappointment that the argument is not rights-based.
Such an answer implies that the reason Rodgers should be free to use his wealth as he sees fit is so that he can provide more jobs for others. But the reason a producer should be free to keep and use his wealth is not that this will enable him to create jobs for others. Of course, it will--but that's not the justification. The justification for a producer's freedom to keep and use his wealth is that he has a moral right to keep and use it, a right grounded in the fact that he produced the wealth through his own thinking and effort--and the fact that he, like all individuals, is morally an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others.
It is easier to follow the argument when you're not in it and I take Begley's point. At the same time it strikes me as an argument not worth having. One of the greatest Capitalists of our generation shares a true defense of freedom -- not the rent-seeking "business" pep talk we get from so many of his peers. If T.J. Rodgers thought his right to earn was beamed down from a satellite circling a Jovian moon by sentient badgers, I'd be tempted to say "cool."
We can choose to argue or not, but I wanted to share a story. I ran into blog brother Bryan at our place of employment (the Capitalist running dogs who supervise us allow a slight bit of conversation....) The lovely bride and I shared our enthusiasm for the 51st State Initiative. Bryan was sympathetic but dismissive. I hope I paraphrase fairly when I say "good idea, but they have no chance in hell; not sure I care to devote too much energy toward such a quixotic task."
The talk then turned toward Objectivism and the need to step outside politics and train everyone in ethics. Y'know, an easy and attainable goal...
The infamous Internet Segue Machine brought this page to my screen today, offering a hand of friendship to Ralph Benko, who asks the GOPs libertarians to "bend a bit." I read it as the author counseling the faithful to keep Truth and law in their separate and proper stations.
Throughout his work, Lewis infused an interconnected worldview that championed objective truth, moral ethics, natural law, literary excellence, reason, science, individual liberty, personal responsibility and virtue, and Christian theism. In so doing, he critiqued naturalism, reductionism, nihilism, positivism, scientism, historicism, collectivism, atheism, statism, coercive egalitarianism, militarism, welfarism, and dehumanization and tyranny of all forms. Unlike “progressive” crusaders for predatory government power over the peaceful pursuits of innocent people, Lewis noted that "I do not like the pretensions of Government - the grounds on which it demands my obedience - to be pitched too high. I don’t like the medicine-man’s magical pretensions nor the Bourbon’s Divine Right. This is not solely because I disbelieve in magic and in Bossuet’s Politique. I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands 'Thus saith the Lord,' it lies, and lies dangerously."
Yes, "Lewis" is indeed C.S. Lewis, a thinker and author I had previously dismissed as an overt religionist. It appears the waters of his writing run deeper that that, and I am eager to go for a swim. I have made glacial progress in the winning of hearts and minds with the teachings of Rand. Perhaps I can have more success, in a practical endeavor, quoting Lewis and others who admire him. A good starting place may well be the founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Society of California, David J. Theroux.
It's actually worse that worthless, it's misleading: Conservative isn't always good and liberal always bad.
The National Journal ranks Todd Akin the "most conservative" representative but as br'er JK notes, "he has much to answer for." Far more than just canceling Firefly.
And then we have "most liberal" which, amongst Republicans, is hung by the old guard [thought of something besides "establishment" to use there] around the necks of the so-called libertarians like Justin Amash, Rand Paul, and probably even Ted Cruz. From where I sit being "liberal," as in preferring liberty of individuals from coercion, is a compliment. That's why it irked me when Louisiana's Elbert Guillory said that "liberalism has nearly destroyed the black community, and it's time for the black community to return the favor."
In this otherwise excellent announcement of the Free at Last PAC, which observes that,
"Our communities are just as poor as they have always been. Our schools continue to fail children. Our prisons are filled with young black men who should be at home being fathers."
Guillory also said that "Democrat leadership has failed the black community." This is closer to the mark. I understand that "liberalism" is a modern euphemism for socialist, redistributionist, egalitarian policies but while those labels are, to some, too judgmental or extreme, liberalism is too vague and nebulous. I will suggest to Guillory, and to Free at Last PAC, that instead they name the precise cause - Progressivism. And yes, Democrats.
I'm quite sure blog brother jk linked the George Will piece on Detroit already, but I just got around to reading it today via a still prominent position on the IBD Ed page. It contains an analogy just as apt as Starnesville.
The ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg, he said, "gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part of it except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on that of the insect on which it preys!"
Detroit's union bosses and "auto industry executives, who often were invertebrate mediocrities" were not, however, quite as intelligent as the lowly ichneumonidae. They knawed right through the alimentary canal. Why did the executives go along? Did they not know the lavish compensations were unsustainable? This matters little, for government followed the private-sector lead:
Then city officials gave their employees - who have 47 unions, including one for crossing guards - pay scales comparable to those of autoworkers.
Thus did private-sector decadence drive public-sector dysfunction - government negotiating with government-employees' unions that are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it wants to do: Grow.
And grow it did, in Detroit and in cities and states as far and wide as union influence stretched.
Detroit, which boomed during World War II when industrial America was "the arsenal of democracy," died of democracy.
Yet democracy lives on, an unnoticed and unindicted threat to the life of all American cities, states, and nation.
At the Republican Governors Association gathering in Aspen, CO this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sounded the alarm against the danger of too many people having too much freedom.
"As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought," Christie said.
Christie's statement was in the context of the narrowly defeated bill that would have reduced funding for NSA collection of Americans' phone records, a subject that Christie dismissed as "esoteric."
Rand Paul tweeted a response:
Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.
But what I really want to know is, where the hell is the libertarian streak that's going through the Democrat party right now?
The more-philosophically-inclined 'round these parts can perhaps tell me why I respond so negatively to what I call "Saganism," after Carl Sagan. It suggests that we humans with our free will and deferred production should not think too highly of ourselves, considering astronomical scale.
I'm not familiar enough with his scientific contributions to comment. I'll assume he has made important contributions. But his considerable pop-science cred was built telling PBS viewers that they're insignificant.
We're just a speck! Bill-e-uns and Bill-e-uns of stars! You think you're so cool in your Air Jordans®? You ain't! A speck I tell you!
Sagan quotes (which differ less from my satirical ones than you think) appear on Facebook memes, typeset over lovely galaxy pictures. The newest doesn't even require Sagan -- you can hear his voice in the back of your head. This insanely cool photo:
In fewer than 200 years we've gone from an altitude of one mile to seeing the Earth from a distance of nearly a billion miles. To some people, I know, the Earth looks tiny, insignificant, in these pictures from Saturn. But to me it says "Look, we tiny creatures from that tiny planet -- we climbed this mountain, and we'll climb others."
Indeed. Reading Buzz Aldrin's book (I mentioned to jg and dagny that it is quite good!) we only have 56 years to go to launching a trip to Alpha Centauri
"I am proud of my company's product and the profit we make by selling it to others - freely, and to our mutual benefit. Since certain government entities have materially restricted my ability to produce and profit it is no longer beneficial for me to sell my product in the jurisdictions of those government entities. I therefore pledge that I will no longer sell my product through distribution channels that serve the state, county, or local governments that restrict or prohibit my ability to produce my product."
The idea here is that when the voters of, say, Boulder County, Colorado, find their gasoline prices spiking and supplies becoming scarce they will finally make the connection between their voting habits and the supply of daily conveniences that they have come to take for granted.
If you are interested in the supporting "rant" for this idea, read on below.
Ayn Rand said,
"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work—pride is the result."
Anyone who has ever felt the gratifying sense of an accomplishment after making or building something has a hint that this is true. But the central purpose? The central value? To answer those questions ask this one: What else, other than productiveness, gives man pride?
Just as the passage of the 2009 "Stimulus" Bill precipitated a civil uprising known as the TEA Party, the partisan overreach of Colorado's 2013 legislative session produced a movement advocating that many rural Colorado counties secede from the rest of the state. Practical problems with that idea spawned a call to rearrange Colorado's legislature such that every county is represented by its own state senator, regardless of population, as is the case regarding the several states in the United States Senate. But this too has a practical problem. The same problem that led to both the 2013 Colorado legislature and the 2009 United States legislature being controlled by a single political party. The problem is something Americans have long been taught to hold as a virtue. The problem is democracy.
Democracy is not the same thing as freedom. Democracy is the idea, not that people decide how to live their own lives, but that a large enough group of people can decide how everyone is to live his life. To understand if an idea is virtuous or not imagine its extreme. The extreme of democracy is ochlocracy. (Look it up.) The extreme of freedom is, liberty. And to understand just how mixed up and turned around political philosophy has become, consider the fact that those who once advocated for extreme freedom, whether from a monarch or from a religion, were called "liberals" but those known as liberals today are advocates of "social equality" and/or "environmental protection" via democracy - a decidedly anti-liberty prescription.
The men and women of rural Colorado have many reasons to seek separation from their neighbors in the urban counties but as one county commissioner said, "The mandate that tells us what kind of energy sources we may use was the last straw." And understandably so. In addition to producing food that feeds the urban county populations, many of the rural counties produce another valuable export product that results in billions of dollars in wealth creation and millions of dollars in tax revenues to state and local governments. That product, actually many products, is known as oil and natural gas.
For economic reasons the fastest growing process used today to extract oil and gas in the United States is hydraulic fracturing, or fracing. (Also spelled "fracking.") The only real difference between fracking and conventional drilling is that a water-based solution is pumped into the well after drilling and before pumping to create pathways through which the oil may escape to the well bore. That's it. It's not polluting and it's not sinister, although its detractors do everything possible to convince us, the people who vote, that it is both of those things. And many people are convinced. One such person is Washington County resident Steve Frey who said, "I don't want be [sic] in a 51st state. I don't want any part of their fracking that they're doing in Weld County."
I could not possibly agree more with Mr. Frey's contention that he has a right to be free from every aspect of the oil extraction process called "fracking" that he disagrees with, for whatever reason he chooses to do so. Industry must begin taking immediate steps, doing everything in its power, so that those who oppose its practices must not be forced to accept the severance tax revenues accorded to their local government by fracking. Unfortunately, government holds the reins on virtually every aspect of this unfair treatment of Mr. Frey and others similarly situated. Industry has but one thing it may control. Namely, to whom and to where it chooses to sell its product.
There are many reasons to embed the preceding promotional video. I'll try to hit them all, in no particular order.
Product placements for HTC phones and Windows Phone OS, which they refer to as "Surface" at the end of the promo.
A hip soundtrack, featuring a group I'd never heard before.
Feminist schadenfreude. After all, has there ever been, in the history of advertising, a man who complained that a woman in a commercial was "sexualised?" The commenter's mindset is clearly revealed by the term "typical blonde size six surfer girl." Jealous much?
Equality. This one nearly provokes me to profanity. It is fast replacing altruism as, in my opinion, the most dangerous and dispicable idea in human thought. To wit:
So what exactly is so offensive this time, as the surfing giant is merely using a tried and tested marketing approach? Probably the fact that this little voyeuristic semi soft-core porn clip is representing a professional sport which has been fighting a long and ongoing battle for gender equality.
Please. Men and women are - wait for it - differ'nt. Commercial advertising is as free-market as anything else left in this world and its practitioners have discovered a formula that works. You may not like the formula, and you may not like that it works, but no amount of snippy commentary will ever change those facts.
Freedom. Freedom to voluntarily participate in a promo video featuring ass shots, of your own ass. "12 butt shots in one minute and 46 seconds exactly." Huzzah! Perhaps you'd prefer if she wore a burka, Ms. Salvo? As a father of daughters, I have no objections whatsoever to this promo. Natural, athletic beauty is nothing to hide or to battle against using shame, much less the government regulation that is so routinely resorted to in such matters of "inequality." You, who claim to seek "gender equality" would have more credibility if you didn't object to the same "offenses" as does the Taliban.
Mike Rosen did a very good job deconstructing the "America sucks" diatribe of a Denver Post columnist on his radio show Tuesday, but for those who don't have time or inclination to listen I'll do it again here, hitting just the high points.
First the title: "Beware of zealots this Independence Day." That's right, flag-waving Americans should remind "thoughtful" people of bomb-throwing Islamists. But perhaps I'm just too sensitive.
In recent times, we've seen an uptick in gratuitous, obsequious, false patriotism, rooted in empty slogans and reflexive - not thoughtful - displays of bravado rather than heartfelt allegiance and love of country.
Recent times? I believe this began in earnest on a particular date: September 11, 2001. Didn't something memorable happen that day, Steve?
They proclaim love of country is exhibited in the absolute defense and embrace of the Second Amendment, typically above all other constitutional provisions, as a critical defense against a paranoia-imagined government takeover.
And here the - thoughtful - Mr. Lipsher either denies or ignores history. Take your pick. Why can boy scouts take "Be Prepared" as their motto but the rest of us should, instead, place complete faith in a government that says, "trust us, we'll take care of you?" A government operated by other men, no better nor worse than those whom it serves, but entrusted with the authority to use force. Like all other powers in government, that force must be checked.
They throw around terms such as "liberty" and "tyranny" without any apparent appreciation for their meaning: They are mere buzzwords, dog-whistles to help them identify "us" and "them" in their quixotic quest to "take America back" from implied - but rarely explicitly stated - minorities, liberals, Muslims, Hollywood, welfare recipients and the Kenyan/socialist/America-hating President Obama.
This is mere rant, intended to detract from concrete ideas of liberty and tyranny. While it is true that some Americans are xenophobic this by no means describes the majority of American patriots, much less their motives. They merely seek to maintain what is great about America - individual freedom and the right to create one's own prosperity - without having it "spread around a little" against his will.
Like most Americans, I truly love my country and the unparalleled opportunities it affords me, and I'm proud of our achievements as a nation. But I also see its flaws - often cloaked in our incredible wealth and national arrogance - and I want it to be better.
But are you proud of your achievements as an individual? Or, more importantly, do you believe others have the right to be proud of their own achievements? Achievements like incredible wealth and, not arrogance, but pride in their "heartfelt allegiance and love" of a nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal?
I believe you when you say you want America to be better. So do I. But there may be a great divide between what each of us would prescribe as "better." For my part that would be more freedom not less, less regulation and compulsion not more, more charity and volunteerism not more taxation and redistribution. These principles should extend beyond our shores as well: Free trade with other nations not free aid, defense cooperation not replacement of their armed forces with ours. Every nation, like every person, is free to work and achieve and own the fruits of those labors without threat of being pillaged by others, like redistributive governments that employ a Viking morality under the guise of democratic "majority rule." These principles would make not just America better, but the world.
On this day, July 4, 2013, Happy Independence Day people of the earth.
Taranto discussed it and I know I saw references elsewhere, but Ronald Baily provides a short and excerpt-rich summary.
The above list of pathologies afflicting public policy sounds all too familiar. Although Oakley doesn't bluntly say so, the modern welfare state can be conceived of as being largely a collection of enterprises conjured into existence by pathological altruism. Social security -- discourages citizens from saving and is going bankrupt. Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, ObamaCare, employer based health insurance -- a dysfunctional system of third party payments that boosts overall health care costs without fostering improved care or services. AFDC (now defunct but replaced by lots of other programs) -- encouraged single motherhood and near-permanent unemployment. Subsidized student loans -- enable university bureaucracies to enlarge without improving educational outcomes. Obviously some people have benefited from these programs, but it is at least arguable that the unanticipated consequences, e.g., bankruptcy, dysfunctional families, higher unemployment, worse medical care, and so forth, are likely to overwhelm the good intentions behind them.
The crushing rational advantage that Judaism has over Christianity is that the Jew is responsible (as this neither Talmudic nor Biblical scholar understands it) for the actual results of his charity, not just the intentions. No points for trying. Don't give the junkie enough "food money" to buy his overdose.
I think that changes the world more than a thousand copies of "Atlas Shrugged." I cannot tell you any place where Rand is wrong. But explaining it is a fat lot of unpleasant work, and I lack the gifts of a Yaron Brook.
Yet Oakley's Pathological Altruism -- I can sell that. Look at the housing projects we're now blowing up. Look at the disconnect from family that Daddy Sugar has facilitated. Even Vonnegut had a character who's day was made by doing a simple repair with his own hands.
I sense some people may not be pleased with some implicit concessions that elevate the pragmatic over the philosophical. But this has captured hearts at Reason, the WSJ Ed Page and National Review. This my friends, is a keeper.
Bob Zubrin debates anti-Humanist Professor Phil Cafaro. There is video at the link which I look forward to watching. And Zubrin's admittedly one-sided account of the evening (not sure he really saved that child with the Heimlich Maneuver while raising $11 Billion for clean water in Africa...)
Many many ThreeSources tropes are raised and debated. I'm considering inviting some lefty pals to watch the debate over some beverages somewhere.
Zubrin points to a graph of per-capita-GDP versus carbon use (hello ThreeSourcers!):
Now this is so obviously good, who could oppose it? Cafaro does. He says, repeatedly, in his writings that "the last thing the world needs is more Americans." Well, I say that the first thing the world needs is more Americans. And here is why: Because we need to ask ourselves who did this [pointing to the line on the graph rising from $180 per year in 1800 to nearly $9,000 per year in 2010]? Who is responsible for this miracle? Well, for the first part [pointing to the region of the graph from 1800 to 1875], the answer is, the British. There are others who play a supporting role, including Americans and continental Europeans, but in the main, this is a British show, and it's a great achievement, raising the world from $180 per year to $500 per year. But after that [pointing to the graph from 1875 to 2010], it's the U.S.A. It's America, inventing oil drilling, and light bulbs, and recorded sound, and centrally generated electric power, and telephones, and airplanes, and motion pictures, and mass-produced automobiles, and radio, and television, and nuclear power, and modern agriculture, and computers, and transistors, and micro-electronics, and all the rest. We are 4 percent of the world's population, but for the past century we've been responsible for half the world's inventions. That's why the world needs more Americans.
UPDATE:Fascinating! I sent the link to a couple liberty lovers. Both find Zubrin's position lacking (& I am being kind) because he does not refute Cafaro's central premise that too many people == too much global warming. I am gonna have to watch that video...
I enjoy most of what you see reviewed here. Dreary and turgid though some of it may be, it is interesting.
I'll confess, however, that I had a stack of "homework." Three books I really did not look forward to reading. And I do mean stack: While I prefer Kindle books, these were corporeal incarnations of guilt. First was "The Blueprint" reviewed last week. That wasn't bad at all.
Second was Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. That was the one I really wanted to avoid. And it is awesome! I have decried the Progressives' lack of a canon. This is a beautiful and well thought out book. Let's hit the plusses:
It explains what the hell a "Community Organizer" is.
It is well written
It deals with the world more honestly than modern progressive pundits.
It is not without thought and rationality.
And yes, Newt, it does help you recognize some of the current left's tactics.
Alinsky on the always-interesting topic of "Self Interest:"
Self-interest, like power, wears the black shroud of negativism and suspicion. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. The word is associated with a repugnant conglomeration of vices such as narrowness, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, everything that is opposite to the virtues of altruism and selflessness. This common definition is contrary, of course, to our everyday experiences, as well as to the observations of all great students of politics and life. The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arise and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality and tied together with the ribbons of Madison Avenue public relations. It is one of the classic American fairy tales.
From the great teachers of Judaeo-Christian morality and the philosophers, to the economists, and to the wise observers of the politics of man, there has always been universal agreement on the part that self-interest plays as a prime moving force in man's behavior. The importance of self-interest has never been challenged; it has been accepted as an inevitable fact of life. In the words of Christ, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
I hear my Randian pals parsing words to contradict (they parse very loudly), but compare this to a screed from a Rachel Maddow, Paul Krugman, or E. J. Dionne. And that honesty is a consistent and compelling theme.
I will turn to Rand, however, for the BIG minus. Rand tells rational men in honest disagreement to "check their premises." And Alinsky has built his beautiful prosaic edifice on a weak philosophical foundation: zero sum economics.
But let us go deeper into the psyche of this Goliath. The Haves possess and in turn are possessed by power. Obsessed with the fear of losing power, their every move is dictated by the idea of keeping it. The way of life of the Haves is to keep what they have and wherever possible to shore up their defenses.
This opens a new vista--not only do we have a whole class determined to keep its power and in constant conflict with the Have-Nots; at the same time, they are in conflict among themselves. Power is not static; it cannot be frozen and preserved like food; it must grow or die. Therefore, in order to keep power the status quo must get more. But from whom? There is just so much more than can be squeezed out of the Have-Nots--so the Haves must take it from each other. They are on a road from which there is no turning back. This power cannibalism of the Haves permits only temporary truces, and only when equally confronted by a common enemy. Even then there are regular breaks in the ranks, as individual units attempt to exploit the general threat for their own special benefit. Here is the vulnerable belly of the status quo.
I have always held that if you really believe this -- and I know many who do -- Progressivism, wealth redistribution -- hell, even Communism -- is legitimate. Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mister Rosewater" espouses this. Everyone is born in some proximity to the money river, and the whole morality play is how to pass it around form those fortunate "Haves" near the river to the "Have-Nots" further inland. (This is my überlefty brother's favorite Vonnegut book and my least).
If this is not your first trip to ThreeSources, you'll know I fulsomely disagree. Wealth is created; its distribution is far less interesting than its growth and its totality. Or as President Bush put it so eloquently: "make the pie higher!"
Once you are imbued with this bad idea, however, Alinskyism makes perfect sense. If Mom has three candy bars and three kids, egalitarianism has a place. Alinsky is clever -- and far more moral than a Bill Ayers -- in getting Mom to do things fairly:
TACTICS MEANS doing what you can with what you have. Tactics are those consciously deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. In the world of give and take, tactics is the art of how to take and how to give. Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.
A beautiful and fundamentally wrong book. But it should be read by everyone. Four stars.
In a global recovery, Venezuela cannot produce enough wine and communion wafers for the Catholic Church (and take it from this altar boy, we ain't talking a 1949 Chateau le Fete) and Argentinians travel to trade currency at market rates. Professor Mead suggests it's "More Glittering Success for Latin American Socialism"
This is only one of the bizarre economic policies wreaking havoc on Argentina. The quack economists now running the country into the ground will continue to try one eccentric experiment after another until the money eventually runs out.
Amazingly, Venezuela and Argentina have every abundant natural resource needed to make them two of the most prosperous places on earth. It's almost as if socialism tends to end in poverty and misery, no matter how rich the soil at its disposal.
Hat-tip: Insty, who adds "Socialism never works as a policy, but thanks to human traits of envy and gullibility, it's often successful as a con."
Arnold Kling was the subject of a recent Review Corner, as well as a post before there was a Review Corner (we call those the Dark Ages...). Today, commenter tg directs me to Kling's review of Mark S. Weiner's The Rule of the Clan which "makes a libertarian case for a strong central state. In it, he directly challenges what many libertarians currently believe."
Societies of Contract enable citizens to forge their own professional lives and personal identities, but societies of Status provide their members with deep social and psychological security. Societies of Contract foster the economic growth that comes from individual competition, but societies of Status advance the principle of social justice. Societies of Contract liberate citizens from the dead hand of tradition, while societies of Status initiate kinsmen into a profound communion across generations. At bottom, liberal societies offer citizens personal freedom, whereas the rule of the clan provides its members with a powerful feeling of community and solidarity.
From a legal perspective, societies of Status are not a distant Other. Instead, they are what liberal societies would quickly become, in a process of evolutionary reversion, if we lost our political will to maintain an effective state dedicated to public purposes.
It is an excellent review. It underscores what I describe as "Deepak Lal libertarianism" and the tradeoff I suggested of abstract rights for prosperity. Per Weiner -- and I suspect Lal -- the trade is not giving away rights but accepting civilization and rule of law. I give away my right to drive 100 mph down County Road 7 in exchange for safety -- I don't think Ben Franklin would object.
It also ties together, per Kling's "Three Languages," the natural fusionism between conservatives who value civilization over barbarism and libertarians who value liberty over coercion. I want to be free to shoot heroin and marry my three hottest neighbors. That might disturb some conservatives. But my anarcho-capitalist friends are unconvincing that 65,000 private local constabularies can provide regular protection of rights consistent with the US Constitution.
This also segues nicely to a link going around "Are Savages Noble?" [SPOILER ALERT: No.]
Mister Jefferson nailed it:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Deirdre McCloskey at the Hayek Auditorium! Man, that rivals The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East.
Alas and alack (what is an alack?) I fear I will be watching the live feed on cato.org. But still:
Featuring Deirdre N. McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago, Author, The Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity; with comments by Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, George Mason University; moderated by Dalibor Rohac, Policy Analyst, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.
The rise of the West can be understood only as a result of an ideological change that occurred in England in the 17th century and of the emergence of a "bourgeois deal" through which entrepreneurs were let free to engage in innovation and creative destruction, so argues Deirdre McCloskey in her forthcoming book, The Treasured Bourgeoisie: How Markets and Innovation Became Ethical, 1600-1848, and Then Suspect. Please join us for a discussion that will link culture, ethics and rhetoric with entrepreneurship and economic development.
I must thank blog brother jg for dredging up my old post "On Prosperitarianism." And saying some kind words about it. I think it holds up pretty well from 2008 -- far better than Senator McCain's liberty bona-fides from the same year. (Now, that was just plain mean!)
A quick Bing® search shows the unwieldy neologism has not caught on. Three of the four links returned are ThreeSources (or nascarretards.com). The other is a deeply hidden joke. But a preference for solutions which optimize Prosperity and Liberty seems worthy of a few more hits.
I offer it not as special philosophy but as a branch in the complex ontology of Libertarian thought. Some revel in privacy, absolute property rights -- any one of the ideals of a free society. I certainly like them all -- but I most like the ones which will promote innovation and prosperity. And more controversially, I am more willing than some to trade some absolute and abstract liberty for prosperity. A real Prosperitarian (of which it seems I am still -- like Tigger -- the only one) must concede this point. That's the dark side and we all must be willing to be honest.
I bring this up in the context of an exciting innovation which intrigues me to no end: the self-driving car.
I was only slightly surprised to hear that Greg Beato of Reason is less than enthused allowing Google to track our motion as well as our thoughts. Randall O'Toole denies it, much as I appreciate O'Toole, not totally convincingly.
Timothy B. Lee links to both arguments today and makes a Prosperitarian summary:
Beato is right: Self-driving cars will make it easier for the authorities to track you everywhere you go. But the benefits of self-driving cars are likely to be so enormous that American consumers will sign up in droves, regardless of the privacy implications.
I fear the tort bar will not allow driverless cars. The technology would save tens of thousands of lives every year. But it would completely extirpate the responsibility case law. We can somehow handle 40,000 deaths caused by culpable actors with insurance and sleazy lawyers who advertise on daytime TV. But will Google or Microsoft be sufficiently indemnified if somebody dies for the lack of a closing brace in version 2.04.22? We'll have laws named after victims and coders in prison before we go back to the numerous but litigable fatalities.
If Wally "The Killer Harp Seal" Ventricle, Esq. can be contained, however, I am -- like Lee -- ready to trade privacy for lives saved, fuel saved -- and a sudden billion man-hours of new productivity as commuters can truly focus on their texting and emails.
We have not taken potshots at a popular religious figure since, well let's see it's 2:06 Mountain...
Pope blasts "cult of money" that tyrannizes poor
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis has denounced the global financial system, blasting the "cult of money" that he says is tyrannizing the poor and turning humans into expendable consumer goods.
In his first major speech on the subject, Francis demanded Thursday that financial and political leaders reform the global financial system to make it more ethical and concerned for the common good. He said: "Money has to serve, not to rule!"
It's a message Francis delivered on many occasions when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, and it's one that was frequently stressed by retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis, who has made clear the poor are his priority, made the comments as he greeted his first group of new ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
No doubt a good Jesuit has read more Michael Novak than I. Does he need a refresher? I would also suggest some Deirdre McClosky [Review Corner]. I take him at his word for his compassion for the poor. Yet they'd be better served by some papal recognition of bourgeois dignity.
Actually, Sir, it is tyranny that tyrannizes the poor. The "cult of money" lifts them up.
"But it doesn't make any sense for us to use the coercive powers of the state to avoid the creation of future Teen Mom Porn Stars -- what are we going to do, imprison every knocked up moron teenager? What does make sense is to use the coercive powers of society. And society has few tools more powerful than shame. Pretending that an action is value-neutral to spare the feelings of a miscreant will only create more miscreants. I, for one, would prefer a society with fewer miscreants." -- Free Beacon Blogger Sonny Bunch, on model Christine Teigen's Tweet: I believe in shame and having shame and being shamed.
UPDATE: I rushed this to press and relied on readers to click through for the rest of the tweets. The one I cited was her conclusion, but she began by telling a young woman known as "Teen Mom Porn Star" that "you're a whore and everyone hates you..."
And if that's not tittilating enough to elicit commentary... Christine Christie Chrissy Teigen Pics Pictures Photos. (Check the traffic stats!)
“The picture was made for the apple--not the apple for the picture.” - Abraham Lincoln
The Declaration of Independence is a document for all people, for all time, and from all walks of life. It recognizes the moral principle of individual rights, and by implication, the facts of reality that give rise to it. In doing so, it sets the ethical standard by which all systems of government can be judged, and forms the moral foundation of a free society. Lincoln correctly understood this relationship when he described the apple and the frame; governments must have a moral foundation to claim legitimacy.
Moral principles, such as individual rights, are not created by whim or impulse. They are derived from an objective moral code based on the fact that an individual’s life is an end unto itself. This fact forms the system of teleological measurement an individual uses to make choices. That which sustains, improves, or enriches the life of the individual is the good; that which does not is the evil. The primary method by which man distinguishes between the two is his mind.
The requirements of rational human existence are not tied to race, ethnicity, creed, nationality, or any other means of demographic categorization; to live, man must hold his own existence as the standard of moral value, and he must use his mind to provide for the material and spiritual necessities of his life. From the creation of tools to the composition of symphonies, the source of every life-affirming value is man’s reason.
To exist in a social setting, man requires one thing: Freedom. He must be free to think, to act upon the conclusions of his own judgment, and be the beneficiary of his actions. It is therefore essential that he be free from the initiation of force, fraud, or coercion. It is this fact that undergirds the only moral purpose of government: the protection of individual rights; it is on this premise that the Declaration of Independence is based.
By identifying these facts, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the requirements of human existence and creates the standard by which social systems are to be judged.
A moral government protects the individual rights of its citizens and derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed”. The word just in this context means, “Acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good.” This distinction is vital, as it qualifies to what end government power will be used, thus forming the principle of limited government.
If one holds man’s life as the standard, reason as his means of gaining knowledge, and the pursuit and achievement of values as the requirement of his life, it is unreasonable to judge any form of collectivist government as moral. Those social systems hold that the group is the standard of moral and political value, that the individual’s reason is impotent, and that one’s values should be sacrificed for the good of society. The foundation upon which collectivist societies are built is anathema to the requirements of human life and as such cannot claim legitimacy.
The practical results from these two governing philosophies are easy to distinguish. In those societies founded on individualism, there is eudemonia; in those where the collective is the standard, there is decay. However, despite this fact, advocates of collectivist ideologies continue to allure new acolytes. Through the siren song of altruism, they deceive would be followers by claiming egalitarianism as the ethical standard upon which the United States was built.
Like Lincoln, the Founders understood the relationship between morality and politics. They understood that man would not be willing to pledge his life, fortune, and sacred honor for political revolution without first knowing that he was morally right in doing so. The enemies of individualism have exploited this fact to erode the moral foundation upon which the Constitution is based.
Those who champion these principles must learn to defend them on moral grounds. They must understand that not only is it practical for man to be free, it is moral for him to be free. It is only on this foundation that a society can flourish, and it is because of this foundation that government may exercise legitimate power. If the political system created by the Constitution is to survive, the foundation created by the Declaration of Independence must be defended on the grounds that it is morally right.
A beloved relative posted this today. I cannot embed, but you'll want to go read the headline on Upworthy.com. "The Earth-Shatteringly Amazing Speech That'll Change The Way You Think About Adulthood."
For those who do not have progressive friends on Facebook: a) what in the hell do you do for aggravation?, and, b) know that Upworthy.com belches out a constant stream of stuff like this which is fawned over by Facebook Progs in search of something really deep. I'm being mean and petty -- but you have not yet watched the video. Watch it coast to coast and tell me I am being harsh.
It's humorous in a David Sedaris -NPR kind of way; you can hear the chattering classes tittering in the audience. Talk about first world problems -- the wheel on his shopping cart sticks! Can't Harry Reid do something about that? Children ride in these carts ferchrissakes!
Yes, life sucks so bad. Your sweet car gets stuck in traffic, and the supermarket is so full of plenty that you have to walk through clean and "over-lit" aisles full of inexpensive varieties of goods to get what you want. The f***ing humanity!
But the solution, kindly provided (that's what makes it soooo amazing!) is to realize everybody else's life sucks too! Maybe worse! Damn, I feel better.
How about you appreciate the affluence that a bad shopping cart wheel is the worst part of your food acquisition experience (vis-a-vis hunting down a mammoth with a spear...)? Or hows and aboutin' you plan ahead to shop at a less congested time. Or order online? Or start a company that delivers groceries to the others who find this unpleasant?
I came here to rant, but I left a comment for my dear cousin:
"I hope this guy does not work the 'suicide hotline.'"
I'm an optimist. Larry Kudlow took on his old boss, David Stockman, last Friday. Go Larry! Even Jon Caldera and Governor Richard Lamm's bipartisan admission that the national debt is too huge to ever be paid just took me down a couple pegs.
But when the subject nears academia... I emailed this to a good friend of this blog. It should be good for seven days irrespective of subscriber status.
"Democracy May Have Had Its Day" Donald Kagan, Yale's great classicist gives his final lecture, fighting as ever for Western civilization.
Donald Kagan is engaging in one last argument. For his "farewell lecture" here at Yale on Thursday afternoon, the 80-year-old scholar of ancient Greece--whose four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War inspired comparisons to Edward Gibbon's Roman history--uncorked a biting critique of American higher education.
Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. Curricula are "individualized, unfocused and scattered." On campus, he said, "I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness." Rare are "faculty with atypical views," he charged. "Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values." He counseled schools to adopt "a common core of studies" in the history, literature and philosophy "of our culture." By "our" he means Western.
It's more than a retelling of "Closing of the American Mind," though Bloom gets a cameo and is certainly not refuted. One certainly fears for the Republic...
I am remiss in not linking his superb post on Nanny Mayor Bloomberg. Seems Hizzonner thinks "our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change." Harsanyi points out that "All said, he's exactly the type of person who makes the Constitution a necessity."
Anyone who believes your caloric intake is government's prime concern should be watched carefully, of course; but no matter what crusade the man's on, his rationalization for limiting personal freedom is a dangerous one. Some of his proposals are popular (smoking bans), and others are less so (limiting portion sizes and banning ingredients), but all of them set precedents that distort the relationship between government and citizens. The jump from minor infringements on personal liberty to giant ones is a shorter one than you think. Allow a politician to tell you what your portion sizes should be and the next thing you know you're letting Washington force you to buy insurance you don't want.
The whole short post is excellent. The great hook for ThreeSourcers, however, is this one:
When Justice Milton Tingling struck down Bloomberg's pathetic soda ban as "arbitrary and capricious" last year, he might as well have been talking about the mayor's overall disposition. Bloomberg likes to act as if he's a man free of the unpleasantness of political ideology or party. He's the driving force behind the inane No Labels group -- which, in addition to having no labels, has no ideas and no support. But pretending to be without a guiding philosophy doesn't by default make you a moderate. It can just as easily mean you support using arbitrary and capricious power to get your way.
GOOD ADVICE, from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon:"Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be -- or to be indistinguishable from -- self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time." -- Glenn Reynolds
A good column for ThreeSourcers on the WSJ Ed Page today (I know -- what are the odds?)
Dan Henninger has a smart piece suggesting that anti-Capitalism should really be anti-Corruption -- and that that is a value worthy of a position from the new Pontiff.
I'm going to guess that Pope Francis and Messrs. Obama and Hollande aren't singing from the same hymnal here. The pope couldn't care less about Barack Obama's and François Hollande's running battle with the income-distribution tables in countries that measure their gross domestic product in the trillions.
But make no mistake: This pope, with every waking hour, cares about the shafting of the world's poor, and soon is likely to talk about it at length. It would be a breath of fresh air (another papal concern) in the social-justice debates if a pope set aside the capitalist straw man. The mere presence of men making money is an insufficient explanation for the persistence of poverty. You have to look elsewhere.
I will confess I was saddened to hear some boilerplate blasting of "globalization" when the new guy got the big hat. I wondered: should I send him a copy of Michal Novak's "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism?"
I was not certain if I had heard a direct quote, or the summation of a journalist. And I always extend everyone the benefit of the doubt in a new leadership position.
Henninger's advice might be suitable for non-popes as well.
Global poverty persists because corruption kills capitalism. History's most recent exhibit is the Arab Spring, a product of economic exasperation, especially in Egypt. In time, corruption accelerates political instability, erodes democratic order if it exists, and someone from the outside has to clean up the mess. Think Syria or Mali.
One may ask, what is a pope supposed to do? One might ask in reply, what will be gained spending another century railing against the shapeless clouds of capitalism? Appeals to justice can be shrugged off because the idea is undefinable and endlessly arguable. By contrast, if a pope, or even an American president, were to visit a country and talk bluntly about ruinous effects of bribery, collusion and cronyism, he would be talking about real people. The corrupt know who they are, and their impoverished victims know who they are.
1) Every individual is [morally]* entitled to birthright liberty and ownership of his life, including all of his preferences and actions that do not involve initiation of force against others.
2) In every question, refer back to premise number 1.
Erickson's ultimate conclusion is that, "Libertarians will have to decide which they value more - the ability of a single digit percentage of Americans to get married or the first amendment. The two are not compatible." Why?
Once the world decides that real marriage is something other than natural or Godly, those who would point it out must be silenced and, if not, punished. The state must be used to do this. Consequently, the libertarian pipe dream of getting government out of marriage can never ever be possible.
Here he diverges into the other half of a package deal: That everyone be forced to accept a belief that contradicts his own. This is a key tenet of collectivism rather than liberalism. My counsel would be to ignore the latter and instead wage legal and ideological war on the former.
I made a brief attempt to argue this point with Mike Rosen today. There wasn't enough time for him to say more than, "There is no individual right to gay marriage, any more than there is a right to marriage to animals or to more than one other person." And in rebuttal to my suggestion that in accordance with Loving v. Virginia a STATE may not discriminate against individuals (due to race or, by extension, gender) but an individual SHOULD be able to discriminate against ANY individual for ANY reason, he simply said, "That's a weak argument."
UPDATE: * Added the word "morally" to distinguish vis-a-vis "legally." The law still has some distance to travel.
I have told this story many times, perhaps once or twice around these parts.
I went to CU for Engineering Days between my Junior and Senior year in high school to get recruitimented for possible matriculation. It was a lot of fun. We stole the lightning rods off the planetarium, visited Ball Aerospace, and saw some very cool exhibits.
And I attended a lecture by a Math Professor. The lecture sent me home in full-tilt, know-it-all-college-hippie furor about the scourge of over population. This brilliant neo-Malthusian captured my imagination and it took me decades to overcome his arguments. It's not fair to call it indoctrination; the man had his beliefs. I felt that I was one of the few cognoscenti to understand this great secret. Kirkpatrick Sale's "Human Scale" would be released in a couple of years. The Simon Erlich wager was down the road. President Ford was in the White House. It was easy to believe the worst.
The speaker is Professor Albert Bartlett and the math in the video is solid. I have used much of it since. I do not present is an object of ridicule.
And yet, this video was recorded sometime after 2000. After Erlich had lost the wager, Bartlett gives about the same talk. I'm guessing most of our CU Engineering alumnae might have seen it in between.
While his math is solid, the failure to appreciate the boundlessness of human is reason is not. Peak Oil? Meet fracking. Over population? Meet affluence and abundance. Out of space? Let's populate the universe!
I object to the Malthusian subtext, but they are well worth a watch. Well done, You Tube!
Otherwise known as Senator Rand Paul's incredibly disappointing 'Life at Conception Act.'
I suggested in a comment on the previous post that Democrats are the most popular at election time, when the possibility that a Republican might be elected exists. The two chief reasons for this are, in my opinion, gay marriage and abortion rights. Here is Ari Armstrong discussing Rand Paul's extremely disappointing position on the latter:
Do Republicans really believe this is a winning political strategy in 21st-century America? If so, we're more likely to see Democrats take back the House in 2014.
But the criticism is not just political, it is also rooted in moral philosophy.
The government properly recognizes each pregnant woman's right to choose whether to seek an abortion or carry her embryo or fetus to term. If the government instead pretended that an embryo is a "person" with full legal rights from the moment of conception, the government would face an immediate and stark contradiction: It would have to outlaw all abortion along with common forms of birth control and fertility treatments, which would clearly violate women's rights to their bodies, their pursuits of happiness, their liberties, their lives. Paul's position is not only logically absurd; it is also patently immoral.
A state that was once friendly to gun rights has now become a hotbed of leftwing political activism that directly challenges citizen rights -- unless that citizen wishes to smoke pot legally.
This scenario only further enrages gun rights activists who view such things as the height of hypocrisy -- touting citizen rights to smoke pot while at the same time attacking citizen rights when it comes to guns.
If you want to read about the "civil war" part you'll have to click through. I'll not be accused of incitement.
<homer_simpson_voice>Jimmy Carter! He' s History's greatest monster!</homer_simpson_voice>
The Obama Administration does much to rehabilitate the legacy of our 39th. But one thing -- honest and true -- is that President Carter deregulated air travel and trucking. We forget about that's impact on our lives but it is huge.
Professor Perry also makes some trenchant points about the hated-by-travelers fees as loved-by-economists unbundling.
At the end of the day, though, you can draw that graph for almost everything provided by a market not controlled by regulation. (I doubt many attorneys in the aviation industry would accept that it is "unregulated.") It is the government-meddled industries that show the rising costs.
I've mentioned once or twice a relative who took to dating a redistributionist, and the heated discussions which were thus precipitated during family gatherings. She says she just wants us all to get along or "enjoy each other" because all of us are "great people" and should share some "common ground." So an article called Science Asks: Why Can't We All Just Get Along? was just what I needed at the moment.
We've discussed Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind' here several times, most notably, I think, here. But Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward prefaced an excerpt with a summary that parallels Rand's idea (in 'Philosophy: Who Needs It?') that all of us have a philosophy but while some of us arrive at it consciously, others form their philosophy by accident through the myriad experiences of life.
Haidt theorizes that this kind of blindness to the real motivations of others is driving discord in Washington and around the country. Our political personalities emerge from a stew of nature, nurture (which is in part a result of feedback from the world on our natures), and the narratives we build up to explain the progression of our own lives and the working of the world around us. But they also wall us off from others:
Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects. Morality binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say
I challenge the conclusion that "we all" suffer from the delusion he describes, but I agree it largely applies to every ideological bent. The essential point here is that "everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects." Again, I dispute that "everyone" does but for the most part, yes.
So what can be done about this? Before reading the article I proposed to aforementioned family member a new discussion. One relating to premises and not conclusions:
"The idea is everyone can state as many premises as they like and others simply agree or disagree. No debating. We find all the things everyone agrees on."
Premise -n. (World English Dictionary) 1. logic Also: premissa statement that is assumed to be true for the purpose of an argument from which a conclusion is drawn
I'm crafting, as a background task, a post on libertarians and conspiracy theories. Being willing to "buck the trend" and disagree with Hollywood, 60 Minutes, and the NYTimes opens one up to questioning, perhaps, global warming or Keynesian economics.
Or fluoride in the water. Immunizations. Whether the shootings at Sandy Hook happened. President Bush's inside job of 9/11. Where President Obama was born. The moon landing. Genetically Modified crops. FEMA's coffins. Realistic targets for government ranges.
I am losing some libertarian friends to the items in my second paragraph. I don't want to insult somebody who is concerned about some of those -- but if you are invested in all of them, you may need to stock up on tinfoil headwear for the spring fashion season.
I have some severely heterodox beliefs and a contrarian nature. But I have NEVER SEEN THIS! Is this true?
Oil chemistry and engine technology have evolved tremendously in recent years, but you'd never know it from the quick-change behavior of American car owners. Driven by an outdated 3,000-mile oil change commandment, they are unnecessarily spending millions of dollars and spilling an ocean of contaminated waste oil.
Although the average car's oil change interval is around 7,800 miles -- and as high as 20,000 miles in some cars -- this wasteful cycle continues largely because the automotive service industry, while fully aware of the technological advances, continues to preach the 3,000-mile gospel as a way to keep the service bays busy. As a result, even the most cautious owners are dumping their engine oil twice as often as their service manuals recommend.
There are companies that strive to be environmentally responsible. And then there is a different category of firms altogether--those on the radical extreme, which use investor dollars to wage open green activism. REI is among these. Ms. Jewell, who joined the REI board in 1996 and rose to CEO in 2005, has been central to campaigns that have squelched thousands of jobs in the name of environmental purity.
That's Kim Strassel describing Sally Jewell, President Obama's nominee for Interior Secretary: "a woman who 'knows the link between conservation and good jobs.'" Why do I link?
A) Because it's Friday, and b) Jewell and REI are lauded in John Mackey's "Conscious Conservatism," which received a paltry 2.5 stars in last Sunday's Review Corner.
REI went through this a few years ago. CEO Sally Jewell describes the process the company used: We spent time as a large leadership group, 150 people, asking, "Why does REI exist?" Then we asked ourselves five times, "Why is that important?" And two more questions: "What would happen if REI went away?" and then, "Why do I devote my creative energies to this organization?"
Mackey, John; Sisodia, Rajendra (2012-12-25). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (Kindle Locations 2003-2004). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.
Mackey paints her as a great and visionary female leader, and highlights her compassionate treatment of suppliers. This is not explicitly at odds with Strassel's rather different portrayal as radical environmentalist, but I cannot ignore the dark shadow on Mackey's book celebrating capitalism.
Jewell participated in the opposition to the oyster farm brother jg highlighted. Strassel:
Mr. Lunny runs an 80-year-old California oyster business that had the bad luck decades ago of being enclosed in a federal park. On Monday, as Ms. Jewell polished her acceptance speech, a federal judge ordered the business evicted. Among the organizations working hardest to destroy the livelihood of Mr. Lunny and his 30 workers was the National Parks Conservation Association. Ms. Jewell is vice-chairman of its board.
REI's bigger influence, however, has come from funneling money to radical groups via the Conservation Alliance, a foundation it created with Patagonia, The North Face and Kelty in 1989. Ms. Jewell was lauded by the group in 2010 for committing REI to giving more than $100,000 a year to this outfit.
The Conservation Alliance maintains a list of the "successes" it has notched via the dollars it sends to militant environmental groups like Earthjustice. In the past few years alone that list has included "77 oil and gas leases halted" in Utah, 55,000 acres put off limits to oil and gas jobs in Colorado, the destructions of functioning dams, and the removal of millions of new acres from any business pursuit.
The Alliance is particularly proud of its role in getting the Obama team in 2012 to lock up half of Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve--set aside 90 years ago specifically for oil and gas. Rex Rock, the president of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which represents the economic interests of the Inupiat Eskimos, wrote that the decision will "cripple the lone economic driver for our communities," and make the Inupiat "exhibits in an outdoor museum."
Unadjectived Capitalism empowers individuals. Conscious Capitalism can employ the tools of production to a statist agenda. Whole Foods pushes organic farming and a dietary vision. REI shuts down an 80 year old business. I'm quite pleased that Mackey has expressed clear appreciation for capitalism and taken some brave stands against ObamaCare®.
I feel I'm attacking a friendly flank, but "Conscious Capitalism" includes some profoundly wrong ideas.
We've discussed this around here. It speaks to me of why it is so unsatisfying to argue with those on the left. They have no literary canon and little foundational philosophy.
Insty linked this yesterday, but I wanted to wait until at least midnight of Christmas before posting an "everybody who disagrees with is an irrational, unlearned fool" post. And yet, it is true:
The real intellectual vacuum underlies not the Left as such but people who style themselves liberals, but not socialists—i.e., I’m guessing, most Democrats. Where are their intellectual roots?
For about a decade I team-taught a course on Contemporary Moral Problems with a prominent philosopher of language. He argued the liberal side of each issue; I argued the conservative side. I had no shortage of philosophical material on which to rely. He and I both assumed, since liberalism is supposedly the position that informed, intelligent people occupy, that there were similar philosophical foundations for liberalism. We were both astounded that there were not. For someone who seeks to be a liberal, but not a totalitarian, there is Rousseau, on one interpretation of his thought. And that’s about it.
I'd kill for my lefty friends to throw Marx or Rousseau at me. I am more likely to get a link to a Jon Stewart clip or a TED talk -- but that might speak more against my friends than the movement. Yet I have never heard anyone say the left can match our Cannon:
But their real question isn’t about literature. It’s about philosophy. The conservative movement rests on a series of great thinkers: Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Burke, Mill, Hayek, von Mises, etc. Where are the intellectual foundations of the Left?
Popper spends Volume I of "The Open Society and its Enemies" dismantling the Plato - Kant - Hegel philosophical wing. Add Marx and Schopenhauer and I'll give the left an honest thought tradition (if it indeed tends sadly towards totalitarianism).
But I sure like the skill and depth of our side.
UPDATE: Mea Culpa! "Cannon" corrected to "canon" twice.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -- Robert A. Heinlein
I'm going to try unfurling the Ricardo flag one more time as it seems my work here is not done. On Facebook today, I find my fundamental beliefs under siege from a diverse coalition.
Two ThreeSources heroes, Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein pay homage to the titans of industry that can dig a mine and grow tomatoes. Yet I remain a Ricardian and a Schumpeterian. I don't want to farm. Nor do I want the CEO of my company, or the lady who's going to cure cancer, or my favorite musicians spending half their day with a hoe wishing for rain. Comparative advantage is counter-intuitive but makes us all richer. In my personal instance it is the difference between life and death.
I wrote an essay long ago on a great speech by former Fed President Robert McTeer. The link to the whole speech is busted, but I found it here. (McTeer's speech is much better than my essay.)
The broken window fallacy is perpetrated in many forms. Most of the time, jobs are invoked. Whenever job creation or retention is the primary objective I call it the job-counting fallacy. Economics majors understand the nonintuitive reality that real progress comes from job destruction. It once took 90 percent of our population to grow our food. Now it takes less than 3 percent. Pardon me, Willie, but are we worse off because of the job losses in agriculture? The would-have-been farmers are now college professors and computer gurus or singing the country blues on Sixth Street.
By all means, put me down for the Heinleinian ideal hog-butcherin', invasion-plannin', poet guy. Always good to know more than less. But I see a luddite coalition that is ready to organize society that way. A frequent ally in the Facebook philosophical soup says:
Never in the history of mankind has the population been so disconnected from the land from which we all come. Christ, 40%+ of the population would starve to death without electricity -- let than damning statement sink in for a minute -- and yet we endeavor to make life easier still?!? really?
Um, yeah. Food comes from the store and the real opportunities to explore the upper bounds of human reason are higher up Maslow's pyramid.
Insty links to a fascinating piece today by Professor Paul Rahe. It's longer and deeper than a typical blog post or opinion column, but it contains food for thought for ThreeSourcers of all stripes and spots.
I debase it by excerpting, but the ThreeSources Style Guide is pretty strict:
Lest I bore you and fail to provoke sound and fury, let me preface my remarks by saying two things: that libertarians should be social conservatives and vice-versa.
My argument with regard to social conservatives is implicit in the criticism that I addressed to the Catholic hierarchy in a series of posts in and after February, 2012, the first and fiercest of which can be found here. It comes down to this: In embracing the administrative entitlements state, as they have, Catholic churchmen and their Protestant counterparts have lent aid and comfort to those who believe that we can establish heaven right here on earth and they have led their flocks to mistake the Machiavellian maneuver of forcefully taking from one citizen to support another for a fulfillment of the Christian duty of charity. Moreover, their desire to sustain the political alliance devoted to expanding the welfare state caused them to knowingly downplay the enormity of murdering 50 million unborn children, and now their erstwhile allies are rewarding them for their moral obtuseness over many years by making them complicit with mass murder. In sum, they made a pact with the devil, and payment is now due. The proper setting for the practice of Christian charity is a free-market society. The rise of the welfare state and the decline of Christianity go hand in hand. To see this, one need only go to church in Europe.
But why should libertarians be social conservatives? Why shouldn't they embrace libertinism in the manner of the folks at Reason?
Why, then, you may ask -- if you even remember the question I posed some paragraphs back -- should libertarians be social conservatives? The answer is simple. Single mothers and their offspring are bound for the most part to become wards of the state. For a man and a woman who are married to rear offspring is a chore. It may be fulfilling, but it is demanding and hard. It requires sacrifice and discipline. For a single person to do so and to do it well requires a species of heroism. For a single person to do so at all requires help -- and that is where we are. For we now take it for granted that we are to pay for the mistakes that the single mother (and her sexual partner) made. We now, in fact, presume that she is entitled to our help -- and we now have a political party in power built on that premise. We are to pay for her groceries through WIC (Women, Infants, Children), for her medical care through Medicaid, for the contraceptives that she does not have the discipline to use properly and for the morning-after pill should she slip up and need an abortion. Her right to be promiscuous trumps our right to the fruits of our own labor.
What I would say to libertarians is this: Liberty requires a responsible citizenry, and the sexual revolution (very much like the drug culture, which was and is its Doppelgänger) promotes irresponsibility of every kind. It promotes dependence, and it fosters an ethos in which those who exercise the virtues fostered by the market are punished for doing so and in which those who live for present pleasure are rewarded.
He links to some video excerpts from his interview and -- again -- the column offers much more than ThreeSources internecine fodder.
Lastly, I am going to spike the football and digress. I'm struck by the paucity (that's being generous) of anything half this serious from my friends on the left. Yes I receive (and forward and provide) inane stuff from the right -- they do not have a monopoly on the puerile. But, when I see something remotely serious advocating progressive policies, it usually comes from a liberty loving friend (Sugarchuck reads The Nation so I don't have to). My FB friends put up Jon Stewart clips or a Thomas Friedman column. Maybe it is my cross-section.
Hat-tip: Instapundit for the intelligent Rahe piece; the rant at the end is mine.
For a guy who started with Rand and then went on to economists, I was pretty impressed on my return trip with her grasp of free market economics. Atlas Shrugged is built on respect for property rights and capitalism, but her love for hard money and her understanding of spontaneous order seem deft in the middle of "a philosophy book." The invisible hand is well represented as is the nature of economic actors as both producers and consumers.
But it struck me this morning that she is missing Ricardo's comparative advantage, and that this omission leads to the suspicions of the heroic ideal nature of the characters. Eddie Willers is important to Taggart Transcontinental and Ms. Ives at Rearden Steel. I don't know if they are purposefully undervalued or merely overlooked, but it is never recognized that Hank should not be picking up his own dry cleaning.
Maybe Midas Mulligan grows a fine tomato and John Galt can swap out a faucet washer as quick as you please -- but recognizing a truly modern economy requires not only the benefit of trade but also of organization and comparative advantage. A is A, but Apple requires a Steve Jobs and a battery engineer and a type designer and some folks to keep the trash baskets emptied.
Maybe it's a small thing, but it is a miss. Left Eddie on the flippin' train, she did...
Do we require a new category for all our antipathy toward the great spiritual leaders of the world? I gotta be me. A drummer I've known for forever posts this on Facebook. It's from LoveMeditationCenter.
I will aggravate one blog friend by bashing a man he admires and I will annoy one blog brother by doing it on a weekend he is moving and cannot join in. But this is simply wrong and untrue.
It sounds great -- I can see the appeal. But it is at best a false dichotomy: "successful people" and "peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds" are two different groups? Stephen King? JK Rowling? Joss Whedon? Dr. Phil? And if they were -- is it prima facie obvious that the latter is better? Another Bill Gates or another Mother Theresa?
This is perhaps harmless twaddle (although a guy in the middle of Atlas is not full of treacle forgiveness and twaddle tolerance). I would not put it with his embrace of Marxism. But twaddle is a known gateway drug to irrationality, is it not? Saying something that sounds good but is not is a special brand of perfidy.
I have discovered a research institute at Stanford University that was established "to support and conduct rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior." Naturally my interest was piqued (and my antennae were raised.)
The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education or CCARE states its vision thusly:
Create a multi-disciplinary environment whereby compassion and altruism studies are supported and legitimized within the broader scientific community. To use research advances to create tools that allow humans to become more compassionate and to engage more readily in altruistic behaviors toward themselves and others.
First I note that I have yet to see the term "altruism" appear without the companion term "compassion." I assert that it cannot stand on its own. Altruism requires the aid of compassion to gain "support" and "legitimacy."
Secondly, the institute appears to not fully comprehend the full meaning of the concept of altruism:
1. the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others ( opposed to egoism).
By the stated intent to promote within humans "altruistic behaviors toward themselves" they have revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the notion of altruism. Their vision can be interpreted as promoting selfishness or egoism as self-altruism, though I wholly doubt that is their intent. I would be tempted to adopt that more "socially acceptable" description into a defense of rational self-interest, but it is a meaningless term: Unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of, yourself. (Harcourt Fenton Mudd, call your office.)
So here, at a scientific institute devoted to the study and advancement of altruism, at one of the nation's most prestigious research universities, the principals are unable to assert that their motive is to "allow humans to become more compassionate and to engage more readily in altruistic behaviors toward others." Even with the support of the term compassion, selflessness is a non-starter.
Sadly for ThreeSourcers, a great mind and good friend of this blog is more comfortable engaging me personally on some issues. Y'all are the poorer for this person's reticence. I will summarize, badly, the key points of the thread. And then of course crash down to prove I am right!
Summary point number one is a pragmatic response to our little party bashing the Dalai Lama, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Mahatmas Gandhi. There's a great old saying about "picking one's battles" and I think I was close to my interlocutor's side when I asked blog brother jg whether we really had to open multiple fronts on belief in a Supreme Being and the plotline of every successful piece of fiction save seven since the dawn of time.
It seems a far steeper climb than liberty. I am comfortable making economic arguments and I can see that every now and then, somebody actually listens and considers them. My interlocutor suggests that atheism and anti-altruism are nonstarters and that few will ever hear the message of liberty that underpins it.
I made a valiant effort. "Philosophy should seek truth and not an electoral plurality," says I. "And besides, you misspelled 'pillock.'"
But I confess I lack the heart for the quixotic quest. I'd rather play at the margins. So I pick one fight, one unbeatable foe. And that is, of course, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And in this post, I will run where the brave dare not go. I will use the only tool at my disposal: the Internet segue.
Segue intro: Great Chinese Famine starves 36 million people to death. (Link tries to sign you up for readability.com but you can tough it out and read if you scroll down.)
The Great Leap Forward that Mao began in 1958 set ambitious goals without the means to meet them. A vicious cycle ensued; exaggerated production reports from below emboldened the higher-ups to set even loftier targets. Newspaper headlines boasted of rice farms yielding 800,000 pounds per acre. When the reported abundance could not actually be delivered, the government accused peasants of hoarding grain. House-to-house searches followed, and any resistance was put down with violence.
Meanwhile, since the Great Leap Forward mandated rapid industrialization, even peasants' cooking implements were melted down in the hope of making steel in backyard furnaces, and families were forced into large communal kitchens. They were told that they could eat their fill. But when food ran short, no aid came from the state. Local party cadres held the rice ladles, a power they often abused, saving themselves and their families at the expense of others. Famished peasants had nowhere to turn.
In the first half of 1959, the suffering was so great that the central government permitted remedial measures, like allowing peasant families to till small private plots of land for themselves part time. Had these accommodations persisted, they might have lessened the famine's impact. But when Peng Dehuai, then China's defense minister, wrote Mao a candid letter to say that things weren't working, Mao felt that both his ideological stance and his personal power were being challenged. He purged Peng and started a campaign to root out "rightist deviation." Remedial measures like the private plots were rolled back, and millions of officials were disciplined for failing to toe the radical line.
The result was starvation on an epic scale. By the end of 1960, China's total population was 10 million less than in the previous year. Astonishingly, many state granaries held ample grain that was mostly reserved for hard currency-earning exports or donated as foreign aid; these granaries remained locked to the hungry peasants. "Our masses are so good," one party official said at the time. "They would rather die by the roadside than break into the granary."
Segue conclusion: And, yet, the Dalai Lama prefers this "let these swell masses die by the roadside" philosophy to that which brought them out of privation and provided a taste of freedom and natural rights. (I linked before, with actual, all caps profanity).
"Still I am a Marxist," the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived today with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.
"(Marxism has) moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits," the Dalai Lama, 74, said.
However, he credited China's embrace of market economics for breaking communism's grip over the world's most populous country and forcing the ruling Communist Party to "represent all sorts of classes".
"(Capitalism) brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people's living standards improved," he said.
Yeah, that is swell and all. But I think I like the system that starves 36 million. Just personal preference, y'know, tomato-tomahto...
The dangerous ideas of the Dalai Lama. Loved by all. The high priest of Facebook philosophy.
When asked about the tens of millions of Chinese who dug themselves out of privation and poverty after being gifted a small portion of their natural rights to property and self-ownership. Robespierre in robes thought it nice but that Marxism has "moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits." What's the death of 100 million at the hands of the state and billions kept in hunger and squalor? As long as his delicate sensibilities are preserved.
The Refugee promised to help bring Blog Brother JK out of his post-election funk. Never let it be said that he isn't there for a friend. Especially if it involves coffee.
Many on the right, perhaps including our illustrious blog leader, postulate that we have crossed a rubicon of takers versus makers, never to return. They are ready to Go Galt. However, The Refugee can recall his grandfather having a similar view in the '70s. Of course, Ronald Reagan was later elected to the great benefit of the American ideal.
The problem with making long-range forecasts is that they assume linear events. An unforeseen event of sufficient magnitude can completely alter the tragectory of a society's direction. The depression certainly did so by making conditions ripe for the era of big government. It could be argued that the Iran hostage crisis make Reagan's ascension possible. Such events, in this case, might include the financial meltdown of Europe or major war in the Middle East. The Refugee sees these events as virtual certainties (although he will not make predictions of timing, having been wrong about Israel attacking Iran before the election). Either of these events would change this country's trajectory, although the revised course is unpredictable. Nevertheless, such events are opportunities to reassert ideas at a time when people are listening.
The fundamental human yearning to be free is unquenchable. Good ideas will always come back into fashion, often when least expected. Keep blogging, my friend.
Have you read the Book of Isiah lately? As we head into tomorrow and the Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes, I recall what the great Albert Jay Nock had to say in The Atlantic Monthly back in 1936:
It was one of those prosperous reigns, however — like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington — where at the end the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash. (...)
"Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life." (...)
Why, if all that were so — if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start — was there any sense in starting it? "Ah," the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it." (...)
As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians, and it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great and overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.
One may, if one has actually had a semblance of an education, recall that the Founders made sure the masses would not have a real voice in how the United States was to be run. As in every Republic in history, this gradually broke down. 1913, 1933, 1965...each step in the process seemed right at the time. There were good reasons; all the best professors at America's finest universities taught them.
And so we have come to this pass. Tomorrow, I expect that the masses will reelect the President and accelerate the time whent he Remant must again rebuild a failing society. Take a deep breath, Three Sourcers. We are a piece of the Remnant and better put on our armor and sharpen our swords, for truly the Scheiss is coming.
A Facebook friend -- not one of those, just an old musician buddy -- pens a poetic post about how nature reclaimed the island of Manhattan in the storm. It was well written.
But it was, of course, complete balderdash: hooey, if I may use such low tones.
Nature, threw a 100-year-storm punch at 50 million people. Thanks to the powers of reason and our accumulated innovation, those 50 million predicted and projected the storm, then took action to evade or prepare for it. Then they commenced to mop up.
The last death toll I saw was 61 and you know me better than to make light of it. Sadly, it is sure to increase substantially. But we are talking on the order of 1 in 1,000,000. I regret to remind that a similar storm hitting the Serengeti or the Island as purchased for $24 would kill almost everything in its wake, likely eradicating whole species.
We fangless, hairless, shivering homo sapiens watched the storm from our satellites and drove away in our SUVs or hunkered down in reinforced shelters with copious amounts of alcohol.
The lights were on in Times Square in every shot I saw. And now:
NEW YORK (AP) -- Two major airports reopened and the floor of the New York Stock Exchange came back to life Wednesday, while across the river in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to rescue flood victims and fires still raged two days after Superstorm Sandy.
For the first time since the storm battered the Northeast, killing at least 61 people and inflicting billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over the nation's largest city -- a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind.
At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.
So hooray for our side! If it was exacerbated by global warming -- which I do not accept -- even if, the products of that innovation and wealth saved millions of people.
I took a philosophy class at one of America's most famous public universities. The day after the first meeting I came upon the professor urinating into the flower bed at the side of the building. When I confronted him about his action, he turned to me, without stopping, and said:
"Keep in mind that the universe is in constant flux, nothing that occurs one moment has any relevance to anything else. Everything you believe, feel, or think is based on the false assumption that truth exists. Thus, you are free to do any action which brings you pleasure. That humanity feels restricted by morals is one of the funniest jokes I've ever heard."
So I beat the shit out of him and took his wallet.
Colorado has been in the national news again for the past weeks, and for another horrific reason. Ten year-old Jessica Ridgeway disappeared on her way to school October 5th and was found dead some days later. I hung on every bit of news with an uneasy combination of need to know, fear, and a simmering rage and hatred for the unhuman monster who could perpetrate such a crime. I was not surprised to learn that the confessed suspect is a maladjusted male who was teased mercilessly by classmates, including girls, and with bizarre interests such as medical examination and mortuary science. I was surprised to learn that he is but 17 years old himself.
I haven't written anything about this before now since I'm confident my thoughts and feelings are universal, particularly amongst parents. But today I want to cite a coincidence that I think is at least a partial clue into the devolution of a human mind to the level we witness here. Last weekend, while harvesting the season's final hay crop, I found a book discarded along the county road that passes our farm. I picked it up. I was mildly taken aback by the doodled word-cloud that covered the outside in half-inch tall red letters:
FEAR, PAIN, SICK BOY, Tourtcher, MADDNE$$, Die By The Sword, DEATH, suicide, I For AN Eye, Blood For Blood, F*** The World, Vengeance I Demand, War, MEth, F*** Sleep, Murder, CRip, KillER, No Mercy, Lust, NO $URENDER, HATE, Rage, REtROBution.
My Hunger, LiES, TRUE Love (garbled), -> Killa, WASTED Time, TRust no Bitch, Kill All that Snitch, F*** The PiG$, ANti Government!, Anti ChRISt, Anti All Realigion.
104% Blood BANG 104% the Punnisher. Demon. Joda Vida Loco.
I have no idea whose this is, or how it got on the side of my road. But it seems obvious to me it is a school-aged rant. I remember my high school years. It wasn't easy trying to fit in and be myself all at the same time, particularly when I didn't even really know how to "be myself" or who I was. I scribbled kill this, kill that. But this seems beyond anything I ever thought or felt. It brings my constantly integrating mind back to one thing: The crippling of young minds.
If one doesn't have time to read a whole thick book on the subject, one could do worse than read this post by modern Thomist-Scholastic Edward Feser.
If a squirrel were rational, it would be natural and good for him to will to escape predators and to gather nuts for the winter and unnatural and bad for him to will to offer himself up to predators and to eat only toothpaste or stones. And the latter would be unnatural and bad for him whatever was the reason why he willed these things -- brain damage, genetic anomalies giving rise to odd desires, bad squirrel upbringing, squirrel peer pressure, the influence of squirrel pop culture, arguments from squirrel philosophers who were hostile to natural law, or whatever.
Remember the level of consternation when nominee Mr. Justice Thomas spoke of natural rights at his confirmation hearing? A continuation of the quote shows why:
They would also be unnatural and bad for him however strongly he wanted to eat the toothpaste and offer himself to the predators, and even if he found the idea of eating nuts and fleeing from predators repulsive. The provenance and strength of the desires wouldn’t show that they were somehow natural (again, in the relevant sense) but on the contrary indicate instead how deeply distorted and unnatural the squirrel’s character had become -- like a hose that’s gotten so many kinks in it that it is hard to get water through it anymore, or a vine whose growth pattern has gotten so twisted that it ends up choking itself to death.
Some of those "liberal" Senators knew exactly where Thomas's theories would lead--to the fact of "how deeply distorted and unnatural" certain behaviors are, behaviors once condemned by a healthy society. Why, there might even be basic, unchangeable differences between men and women! It might be impossible that "No Child" be "Left Behind!" Some "lifestyles" might be bad for individual and societal health!
And so, Anita Hill was brought out of the shadows and, despite Thomas's confirmation, in my view the nation was degraded and weakened.
I believe Atlas Shrugged has Francisco asking a woman at Rearden's party something like, "Don't you believe in the working of the natural law, madam?" If one of you could call that up I'd be interested in seeing what Rand said there and elsewhere on the subject.
Think of it as morality tales for the iPod generation.
Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute credits Arthur Brooks at American Enterprise Institute as the most influential proponent of the morality of free markets and capitalism. The results of AEI's Video Contest will show you why.
I posted the First Prize winner, as determined by a collection of judges, on my Facebook page. But I think they're all great. Each one is a 2-minute lesson in anti-statism, and in true free market fashion I'm linking to the full page of finalists for you to pick your own winner. As for me, I'm the father of three daughters and I choose for my favorite: Suzie's Lemonade Stand.
Many of these teach lessons that used to reside in public education. This is an excellent opportunity to return them there.
Watch them. Share them. Promote them.
UPDATE: I may have awarded too soon. I'll stand by my favorite but honorable mention also to "Pet Enterprise" and "Making Pie." I also predict JKs fave will be "FES International." Like I said: Awesome ... Every ... One.
Perhaps my favorite of all time -- and I am not going to mention drugs:
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise or even right. -- JS Mill
I saw several tweets about but missed the story (and sadly, the pix).
Today I find a good story that all ThreeSourcers will dig -- as soon as they get over their disappointment at the lack of accompanying photos. One Guy Bentley (Briton name out of Central Casting) takes The Guardian to the woodshed for their accusations and, more fundamentally, misunderstanding freedom qua freedom:
However, the substance of the article is that The Sun is embroiled in hypocrisy for supporting the Duke and Duchess in their bid to sue the photographer, while displaying their page three model's breasts as per usual.
Let me be quite clear: there is absolutely no hypocrisy here. In fact, The Sun's position is by default, a defence of freedom of the individual.
The Sun supports the Duchess for the same reason many of its readers will. An invasion of privacy which has no public interest attached to it should be condemned. However, a young woman who chooses to reveal her breasts to the readers of The Sun, either for money, publicity or both, is doing so voluntarily exercising her freedom of contract.
This is the healthy attitude of a free society, not hypocrisy. The public can see the distinction between voluntary contract and the violation of someone's privacy on private property.
Brits, by and large, have no problem with breasts being used to sell magazines as we can see from numerous publications such as Loaded, Nuts and Maxim. The reasonable attitude of the tolerant majority in this country is, "if you don’t like it, don’t buy it".
I love Mike Rowe. My young daughters, I'm proud to say, also love Mike Rowe's Discovery Channel show 'Dirty Jobs.' Consequently, I'm a bit perplexed that I hadn't heard of this before today:
Dear Governor Romney,
My name is Mike Rowe and I own a small company in California called mikeroweWORKS. Currently, mikeroweWORKS is trying to close the country’s skills gap by changing the way Americans feel about Work. (I know, right? Ambitious.) Anyway, this Labor Day is our 4th anniversary, and I’m commemorating the occasion with an open letter to you. If you read the whole thing, I’ll vote for you in November.
Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers…they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again – our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce. We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it.
Today, we can see the consequences of this disconnect in any number of areas, but none is more obvious than the growing skills gap. Even as unemployment remains sky high, a whole category of vital occupations has fallen out of favor, and companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills. The causes seem clear. We have embraced a ridiculously narrow view of education. Any kind of training or study that does not come with a four-year degree is now deemed “alternative.” Many viable careers once aspired to are now seen as “vocational consolation prizes,” and many of the jobs this current administration has tried to “create” over the last four years are the same jobs that parents and teachers actively discourage kids from pursuing. (I always thought there something ill-fated about the promise of three million “shovel ready jobs” made to a society that no longer encourages people to pick up a shovel.)
I watched the Dinesh D'Souza film 2016-Obama's America yesterday with family and friends. My brother and father were the driving force and dad thought it so important we all see it that he paid for all of us. Having been cautioned by JK's distaste for D'Souza's conspiratism I was eager to see and hear for myself what evidence Dinesh presents, and what hypothesis he has formed.
As a starting point I read this critical review by Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan. His instinct is to dismiss it as a rehash of prior Obama hatred, but some of his dissmissals ring hollow.
As readers of the Forbes article know, the central thesis of "2016" is that Obama's worldview -- his "compass," as D'Souza calls it -- was largely shaped by the anti-colonialist, anti-white and anti-Christian politics of Obama's supposedly radical Kenyan father. Never mind that Obama, growing up, spent precious little time with the man, who for most of his son's early life was estranged from Obama's mother. D'Souza trots out a professional psychologist to speculate on how the senior Obama's absence reinforced his influence, rather than weakened it.
D'Souza makes it all sound almost plausible, but only if you're predisposed to believe that Obama hates America. It's bashing, all right, but with a velvet-gloved fist.
What is glossed over here is how he makes it sound plausible. That explanation is omitted and replaced with a cautionary "almost" to convince readers they need not bother to evaluate the plausability on their own. D'Souza explains that Obama's worldview was constructed not in the image of his absentee father, rather in the idealized image of him portrayed by his mother. Ann Dunham, an almost completely overlooked component of Barack's formative years, was as anti-American, or at least anti-capitalist and anti-"colonialist" as they come. So says D'Souza. He supports this claim with multiple facts. He concludes that diminishing America's influence in the world, in effect punishing America for its colonial heritage, is fully consistent with many of the previously inexplicable acts of President Obama: To repair America's "plunder" of foreign resources he gave billions of American taxpayer's dollars to Brazil and others to build up those nations' oil industries; to push back present-day colonialism he has sided with Argentina over Great Britain in the Falklands conflict; his mideast policy arguably reflects a prejudice against western influence in favor of native rule, whatever that may happen to become. Actions as seemingly unimportant as returning a bust of Winston Churchill and presenting gag gifts to the Queen of England also betray a lifelong hatred for that country, the once great colonial power which had colonized and "exploited" his father's native land - Kenya.
In the film D'Souza also shows how then candidate Obama diverted attention from these beliefs and tendencies by suggesting his goal was a racial reconciliation within America. When longtime mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright's anti-Americanism threatened to derail his campaign, Barack gave a nationally televised speech on race relations and distanced himself from the anti-colonialist values. And when other formative influences were called into question his campaign skillfully portrayed them as good-ol American leftists rather than the world socialists they would likely call themselves. When the President lectures America about the unfairness of the "one percenters" Americans think of wealthy corporate titans standing unapologetically on the shoulders of the working or "middle" class. But to a world socialist, EVERY American is a one-percenter, right down to the homeless shelter or overpass dweller who may freely beg for change and sleep opon the paved streets of American cities, free from scourges like disease, garbage dumps and open sewage running through the streets of a typical third-world village, always with ready access to medical treatment-on-demand in the shiny hospitals of the most prosperous nation on earth.
My opinion of the validity of D'Souza's original conclusions is buttressed by Elizabeth Reynolds' 'D'Souza's "Rage" a Middling Psychoanalysis' in The Dartmouth Review. After labeling Dinesh as an "ultra-conservative member of the Dartmouth Class of 1983" and praising Obama's book 'Dreams From My Father' she presents a fair, perhaps more fair than she intended, interpretation of the facts in D'Souza's book. Her conclusion:
Perhaps D'Souza's anti-colonial theory does help explain, as the Weekly Standard put it, Obama's omnipotence at home and impotence abroad. It is a matter of the reader's opinion. Regardless, D'Souza brings something new to the table with his latest book. It seems clear to me that D'Souza has done his research, with his extensive history of colonial Africa and insightful background information on Obama's early life. His concept of investigating the impact of Barack Obama's father had potential, but I'm afraid that D'Souza's conclusion, that Obama is trying to essentially destroy America, ultimately takes it too far.
Ironically, it is Reynolds who takes it too far for "essentially destroying America" is not D'Souza's claimed goal for Barack Obama. He merely wants to diminish our nation, not destroy it. The call to action at the end of the film? Every American must decide for himself if America should be diminished - and vote accordingly.
Philosopher Edward Feser has posted an exploration of how reason moved him from libertarianism to limited government conservatism. It fits beautifully with the naming of Paul Ryan as Romney's VP and with Libertario Delenda Est:
For reasons I have explained in my Social Philosophy and Policy article “Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights, and Taxation” -- where the interested reader can find my current views on the matters referred to in the title -- I think that an A-T natural law approach to those matters entails the rejection of libertarianism, socialism, and egalitarian liberalism alike, and in most areas requires at least a presumption in favor of private enterprise and against government action. In other words, I think that moral principle should lead us to take a broadly center-right approach to matters of politics rather than a broadly center-left approach. But beyond that, abstract moral principle cannot tell us much, and we have to look to common sense, experience, history, current circumstances, and whatever economics and the other social sciences can tell us in order to decide upon concrete policy. That doesn’t give us anything like the “single magic bullet” approach to politics that the thesis of self-ownership seemed to provide. But if there’s one thing any conservative should know, it’s that looking for single magic bullets is after all a pretty stupid project where social and political philosophy are concerned. All the same, on some matters -- such as opposition to the abomination that is Obamacare -- I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with libertarians.
Paul Ryan's statements about Rand, Aquinas and Catholic social teaching have received a great deal of scrutiny in the last few days: a professor who claims Ryan the social conservative is actually Rand's nightmare; another professor who produces at the Puffington Host what can only be described as an incoherent stew; a potty mouth in the Village Voice who puts long Aquinas quotes and the words "fucking" and "bullshit" in close proximity.
The quote which all of these people reference, directly or indirectly (and unfairly truncated in the first piece) is:
"If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."
Emphasis added! Epistemology is not Catholic social thought. It is not economics. It is not political philosophy. These losers, and many others now coming out of the woodwork like carpenter ants either don't know the difference, or are intellectually dishonest hacks.
Feser's piece doesn't mention Paul Ryan, but I speculate that Ryan's intellectual development ran a similar course. Growing up Catholic, inspired as an undergraduate by Rand, Friedman and Hayek, he eventually came to a mature, limited government conservatism. That's not so hard to understand, and there is no inherent contradiction in it as imagined by those who are frightened by Ryan's intelligence, charisma and ability to explain the consequences of four more years of Obama.
Happy sounding words that mean, "If you have something we're going to make you share it." I was enlightened just how powerful the world socialism movement has become when researching examples of "global fairness" advocacy in defense of Dinesh D'Souza's latest works. Two examples from Progressive Australia:
Australia stands at an intersection. Can Australians be convinced to forgo short-term benefits to secure greater prosperity in the future?
California’s referendum last November over Proposition 23 shows voters can still reject short-term populism. Polluting industries poured millions into a proposal to delay cuts in greenhouse gas emissions until the economy was back to full employment. But Californians said no – 62 to 38 per cent – because the debate was framed in terms of embracing the clean energy jobs and industries of the future.
Meanwhile, under the influence of the Tea Party, Kansas voted last November to make gun ownership a constitutional right. It’s not the kind of issue that will build a better future – but it was clever politics. Kansas embraced it lock, stock and barrel, 88 to 12 per cent. The Tea Party militancy of states such as Kansas is now infecting Australia’s Coalition parties and many opinion makers – parochial, inward-looking and uninterested in the economics of the future.
Will Australia follow the road to California or to Kansas?
Individuals have also become less willing to sacrifice short-term prosperity in the pursuit of long-term outcomes which combine fairness and prosperity. Responses to Per Capita’s annual tax survey show that Australians want higher spending on public services and infrastructure, but believe their taxes are too high. They believe higher income earners are taxed too little, even when they are themselves high income earners who describe themselves as overtaxed.
This community sentiment has got politicians scared. The Rudd Government retreated from the CPRS in the face of focus group pressure, and Labor has been surprisingly reluctant to trumpet the success of its Keynesian response to the global financial crisis, presumably for fear of being painted as antiquated Lefties addicted to debt.
The list of policy ideas that builds on these insights is long. We can capture the dividends of the mining boom by channeling super-profits tax into a sovereign wealth fund. We can increase housing supply by restricting negative gearing to new-build dwellings only. We can finance infrastructure by tapping the nation’s superannuation pool. We can stimulate R&D, not only through extra public spending, but also by promoting competition so that our large oligopolists are forced to compete on innovation as well as price.
Each of these initiatives will attract resistance from privileged incumbents threatened by change. Yet each advances fairness as well as long-term prosperity. As we’ve seen in the carbon tax debate, the battle will be fierce. Progressive leaders face no more important fight.
There is absolutely, without any doubt, a global movement toward an "egalitarian" world order. This means that the peoples of prosperous nations - America, Australia, Germany, Great Britain - must be made to "sacrifice short-term prosperity" in the dubious cause of a combined "fairness and prosperity" which these extreme ideologues promise as some indefinite "long-term" outcome. The foregoing is proof positive of such an ideology. Conspiracy theories not required. Does President "Spread the Wealth Around" and his "Forward" campaign for re-election and "Progress" adhere to that ideology? You be the judge.
Join us on Monday, August 13th, where your featured speaker will be Dr. Diana Hsieh, who will be discussing the importance of philosophy in our political economy. After Dr. Hsieh's presentation there will be a short Q&A session, followed by the opportunity to network with other local liberty supporters. Come for the event, stay for the food and networking -- you're guaranteed a great evening no matter what!
This event is open to the public, you're welcome to bring friends!
Ralphie's Sports Tavern
585 E. SOUTH BOULDER RD., Louisville, Colorado 80027
My biological brother and my lovely bride are joining me tonight.
Thomas Sowell wonders "Do our IQs just drop spontaneously when we turn to politics?" Why can we not exhibit the rationality we use for sports?
To take one common example, there are many people who believe that if the market fails, the government should step in. But, if Robinson Cano strikes out, does anyone suggest that the Yankees should send in a pinch hitter for him his next time at bat?
Everyone understands that a pinch hitter can also strike out, and is less likely than Cano to get a hit or a home run. But the very possibility that the government can fail when it steps in to substitute for a failing market seldom occurs to people. Even among some economists, "market failure" is a magic phrase that implies a need for government intervention.
Government hits well below the Mendoza line, and dreams of the Win-Loss record of my beloved 2012 Colorado Rockies.
I took to the comments of a recent post to defend the Olympic movement on the basis of individual competition and excellence, and the opportunity for athletes to measure themselves against each other to find the best in the world. I also said, "If the Olympics were a competition to see who could be the most "average" I would ridicule and despise them." I meant this as comparative example rather than the prescience it has now become.
United States artistic gymnast Jordyn Wieber is the reigning world champion in her sport. In qualifying events for the final field of twenty-four gymnasts from which medals in the Individual All Around competition will be awarded based on score, Wieber's score was the fourth highest. Despite this, Wieber will not be allowed to compete for a medal versus the three who scored higher than her and the twenty who scored lower. Jordan Wieber was disqualified, not by some infraction she committed, but because two of her American teammates also made the All Around final and did so with scores higher than hers. For reasons that can only be interpreted as egalitarian, IOC rules prohibit more than two individual athletes from the same nation advancing to the finals.
Boo! Ridiculous. Two other athletes, one from Great Britain and another from China, suffered the same injustice although their scores ranked them 21 and 22 respectively and neither of them is the REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION IN HER SPORT.
Weiber is not the only loser in this sad saga. Whomever ultimately wins the gold medal will not be able to say she is the best artistic woman gymnast in the world. One who may have kicked her ass all over the spring floor was told "get lost - thanks for playing."
I plan to write my congressman. On this count, the Olympics suck.
UPDATE: David Wallechinsky, author of 'The Complete Book of the Olympics' saidthe Olympic philosophy is "we want to spread the wealth, we want to spread sport to other parts of the world."
But Wieber's failure to make a final that her scores suggest she clearly deserved points to a philosophy run amok, says Mr. Wallechinsky. "Sure, let them compete in the Olympics, but you don't have to let them compete in the final," he says.
Click through for a good background on the rule, first imposed for the 2004 games.
I'm going to stretch for a segue here. Very young or feeble readers may want to hang on to something.
But there is an important aspect of liberty hiding in a frivolous and a not frivolous example. When somebody calls for regulation, I always ask "Who draws the line?" If there is no regulation, free people will choose.
Mayor Bloomberg of NYC, of course, thinks he can draw the magic line at 16 ounces. Seth Goldman of Honest TEA dissents. He makes healthy, low calorie, all natural drinks that Boulder Mommies would love. Uh-oh...
Under the proposed changes to Article 81 of the NYC Health Code, food-service establishments would not be able to sell packages larger than 16 ounces for drinks that have more than 25 calories per eight-ounce serving. Honest Tea's top-selling item is our organic Honey Green Tea, which has 35 calories per eight-ounce serving and is in a 16.9 oz. bottle. We label 70 calories on the front of the package so consumers know what's in the full bottle.
We initially went with 16.9 oz. (which is 500 milliliters) because it is a standard size that our bottle supplier had in stock at the time. We subsequently invested several hundred thousand dollars for 16.9 oz. bottle molds. Is 16.9 ounces the perfect size? Who knows? As a beverage marketer, we willingly submit to the unforgiving judgment of the market. What we did not anticipate was an arbitrary decision to constrain consumer choice
So 16oz of Mountain Dew is fine; 16.9 of organic Honey Green Tea -- not so much. Not that I am going to outlaw Dew, but climbing into the nanny brain, this seems an unintended consequence at best.
I could quit now and this would be a good post, but I promised a tortured segue.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) was on FOX News Sunday yesterday, bravely drumming up interest in her lapsed "Assault Weapons Ban." She disingenuously rattled off statistics of gun violence after it was not renewed implying it would have helped. Her most convincing point was railing against 100-round magazines: "Why do you need that?"
Well, Senator, as an inalienable right, one doesn't have to explain to you. I'd agree it sounds pretty excessive -- Jeeburz, that would cost a lot to fill it. But you are asking me to let you declare the right number. Ten rounds? Five? Twenty? If we're attempting to impede mass murders, smaller is better. But manufacturers like Seth Goldman (Tea guy, remember?) have capital invested in making certain sizes. Larger firms will be able to lobby Congress to allow my seven-round but not my competitors' eight -- why eight is irresponsible!
Frighten people with 100-round clips and 44 oz sodas, then you can take away their 500ml Teas and 11-round magazines -- all the while arrogating power over the manufacturers and consumers.
Insty links to a poignant piece on, well, the Humanities and Liberal Arts, President Obama's "Julia" character, Elvis, Freedom, Jack Ruby...
The right wing commentariat was in stitches about Julia (who resembles an international symbol for "Ladies Room"), but really, her story is not funny at all; it is chilling to someone who has experienced the liberal arts. The practice of the liberal arts, especially literature, involves comparison, contrast, allusion, resonance, recognition of irony, suggestion, implication--all the artistic architectonics of meaning and sensation that arouse in us what it is to be human. Julia is only a cartoon but what is so unfunny and repellant about her is that she represents what her creators think about human beings. Let me explain by contrast and allusion.
The whole thing is great and super short. Sadly, one is shocked to encounter liberal arts used in defense of liberty. It is sad that that is sad, but I don't want to get too meta. David Clemens knows that liberty is universal from literature. What an odd thought that must be in a modern classroom.
No risk of dating myself further after posting a wedding picture, but the post below reminded me of the first intelligent political argument I ever made. There have been so few it seems I can catalog them.
But Kirkpatrick Sale's "Human Scale" was the it book when Georgia Gov. James Earl Carter was president. I was running with a fairly apolitical crowd, but everybody I knew had read it. And everyone accepted its Malthusian limitations. It is thankfully out of print, but Amazon has links to used sellers and this handy blurb:
Size matters. And "progress", as it translates into sprawl, congestion, resource depletion, overpopulation, the decline of communities and the rise of corporate rule, is quite literally killing us. In his landmark work Human Scale, Kirkpatrick Sale details the crises facing modern society and offers real solutions, laying out ways that we can take control of every facet of our lives by building institutions, workplaces and communities that are sustainable, ecologically balanced, and responsive to the needs of the individual. As relevant today as when it was first published in 1980, this remarkable book provides a fascinating perspective on the last quarter-century of "growth" and anticipates by decades the current movement towards relocalization in response to the end of cheap oil.
I was accosted by some Sale-ite that it was obvious that our resources were limited. I shrugged and said "they make computer chips out of sand. I don't think we're running out of sand."
Pre Rand. Pre Kudlow. But I saw T.J. Rodgers and Andy Grove as the first sand millionaires.
Someday, I might have another good one -- I'm not giving up yet!
Even without a segue, it is an important piece, summarized perfectly in its subtitle: "There was a lot more income inequality on the Chicago Bulls roster after Michael Jordan's years with the team, but everyone was better off." Did the third-stringers sit around and stew that their big star was overpaid? I am guessing not.
An hour later -- or a millennium in Internet Segue Time (IST) -- I was alerted to a real estate transaction in the Denver post.
Peyton Manning buys Denver Mansion for $4.5 Million.
With only two weeks to go until the start of training camp, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has found his new home.
Manning finalized the purchase of a seven-bedroom home in Cherry Hills Village on Tuesday, according to a Denver real estate source.
Manning purchased the home for $4,575,000. The home was originally listed in March 2011 at $5.25 million.
They showed some video on the TeeVee news last night; it looks like a nice place.
Aside from a few disgruntled union teachers, I am thinking most Denverites will be pretty placid with our now elevated Gini coefficient if we make the playoffs.
UPDATE: Even the DP Comments feature minimal kvetching. I dug:
Hope they're comfortable, because I don't want him going anywhere!
"...the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them..."
Courtesy the New York Times, which ran a companion piece yesterday describing their history of printing the Declaration on July 4. Take a close look at the image accompanying that article. (Who knew that "18th-century English extant" read right-to-left?
But they redeem themselves today with this nicely transcribed reprint:
[Hint: Right-click and "save picture as" to open in a viewer allowing magnification.]
Many have publicly encouraged the reading of this foundational document on the holiday celebrating our nation's birth. I was surprised to learn one of them is Bill Moyers, but not surprised to learn why.
Moyers calls it "the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation." Jefferson, he said, got it right when he wrote about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the core of our human aspirations," but he denied these liberties to others on the basis of their race.
In this way, Jefferson embodies "the oldest and longest battle of all," Moyers asserted, "the battle of the self with the truth, between what we know, and how we live."
Let us hope that future historians have the luxury of a similarly derisive view of Chief Justice Roberts' majority opinion on the 2012 'Obamacare' case, for buttressing an originalist interpretation of the commerce clause but "allowing the prevailing mood of the era to dictate his ruling on questions of taxation." Thomas Jefferson and John Roberts - apparently, a pair of "cowardly clowns."
CPAC Wünderkind Jonathan Krohn "took the conservative world by storm" in a 2009 speech about Conservative values.
Now that he's 17, however, he doesn't buy it. He was simply parroting things he had heard around him in Georgia.
"I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff," Krohn said. "I started getting into philosophy -- Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers."
I think it is great now that he is so grown up that he is not merely repeating what people around him think. It is great that he has formed his own adult intellectual self.
Gay marriage? In favor. Obamacare? "It's a good idea." Who would he vote for (if he could) in November? "Probably Barack Obama." His favorite TV shows? "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." His favorite magazine? The New Yorker. And, perhaps telling of all, Krohn is enrolling this fall at a college not exactly known for its conservatism: New York University.
Thirteen-year-olds are so impressionable. But a 17-year-old reading Wittgenstein and watching the Daily Show, that's a powerful thing.
Hat-tip @jamestaranto, who adds: "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! "
This is a collection of essays, reprints and even an interview. The book is a verdant pasture for excerpting; I highlighted many quotes. But I'll share one from Jane Arunga, a Kenyan (see if she'll ever be President!) filmmaker. She argues for free market capitalism instead of foreign aid. The aid distorts the market as it always has concomitant regulation.
All of these regulations restrict our markets and our freedom. We are left purchasing goods and services that may not be of the highest quality or the best price, because we don’t have freedom of choice. That lack of freedom keeps us down and perpetuates poverty.
We aren’t just robbed of lower prices and better quality, though. We are robbed of the opportunity to innovate, to make use of our minds, to improve our situations through our own energy and intellect. In the long run, that is the greater crime against us.
This is the second in a series to present "the other side" to college students. The first [Review Corner] was a collection of Bastiat essays. Either can be purchased for $0.99 on Kindle and both are worth quite a bit more. Four and a half stars because it could have been longer.
It happens now and then. Andrew Puzder of CKE is a Hoss and Carl's Jr. probably offers the finest low carb burger in the hemisphere. If you get a chance, find Penn & Teller's B***S*** on fast food. He has also appeared on Stossel. They're not all Jeff Immelts, yet too many of them are ready to sell out the system that launched them.
Last night, however, Home Depot's Bernie Marcus was on Kudlow & Company with Governor Howard Dean. Jason Mattera tweeted from the green room: "Home Depot founder is destroying Howard Dean right now on @larry_kudlow's show It's a beautiful thing."
And it is. I cannot find embed code, but I recommend you follow the link to read some of it and vote on the online poll "who won?" There is video there and while I don't like to tell people what to do, find some time to watch it. A beautiful thing indeed.
UPDATE: When I posted this morning, the online poll was running 50/50. I figured liberty was finished if half of CNBC's viewers thought the Gov got the better licks in. In an email with a good friend of this blog, I looked up the link and see it is now 79-19 for capitalism.
"I'm a big believer in stuff. It can be very comforting. You can't have too much stuff. You have too little storage space. (...) As you get older, you hang on to pieces of detritus that keeps you connected with the past. It breaks my heart when I see people selling comics collections they've spent a lifetime collecting.
Q: Why are they selling their collections? For money?
A: Sometimes it's money. More often, it's a woman. They're the de-clutterers most often."
It is a well travelled Republican talking point that the gay marriage issue is a distraction from President Obama's economic record. It's true of course, but the Republicans are as much to blame for said distraction as the Democrats.
A friend from suburban Wichita, Kansas emails a link to this story about a public school teacher posting his views against gay marriage on his Facebook page. He has every right to his beliefs, of course, and to speak them publicly. But by continuing to oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage we allow him to become the face of our conservative party. I will not stand silently by. How many of us have wished we could have been present in the face of an incident of racial discrimination in the segregated south and that we would have had the courage to say, "No, that is wrong?" Same story, different age.
My Kansas friend sent the link with the note "Need your comments here" to both me and my brother. What follows is my response, which rebutted my brother's.
[Brother] writes that it is "nonsense" that established law denies a right for same-sex marriage, then declares there is "no defined right for same sex couples to "marry." Which is it?
[Brother] writes that "The majority of the country does not care what people do in their own bedrooms or whom they decide to 'love'" but then proclaims homosexuality "abnormal" and that he doesn't support homosexual weddings because that would "redefine something that has been a pillar of communities for 5000+ years" and "the more we break down the institution of marriage to simply be a whim, the more our society will continue to degrade." So you, and "the majority of the country" are fine with homosexuality, you just don't want to acknowledge it in law?
[Brother] faults Conkling, the Hutchinson teacher, for "taking the cause backwards" and "fuel[ing] the opposition" by opposing gay marriage on religious grounds. I say [brother] is no different by attempting to oppose this individual liberty on non-religious grounds, whatever those might be. Until he clarifies his contradictions there's no way to know what objective basis he claims.
Conkling's "logic" is even more fallacious: Homosexuality is wrong because it is a sin, equal in God's eyes to all other sins, and we are ALL sinners. He says all sins are equal in God's eyes so homosexuality is equal to murder, but it's also equal to lying. Do you agree that lying is as wrong as murder? I don't. Conkling says he condemns gay marriage "because those who embrace it will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." First of all, doesn't the bible teach man to "judge not?" Secondly, there are other beliefs about heaven and sin and for one man to impose his own upon all other men is just as wrong as Sharia law.
Would it not be better to simply allow civil unions, conferring all the legal rights of marriage while witholding the term "marriage" than to continue to allow this issue to divide Americans and distract from issues that actually matter to all of us, like whether or not America will be a socialist country? And even if they aren't satisfied with civil unions and come back next year demanding "marriage" who cares? Whatever it is called it will still be a minority behavior. Unlike drug legalization nobody makes a legitimate case that legal homosexual marriage will cause more homosexuality. (But so what if it did? Will that affect you? Your children? Anyone who is not "abnormal?")
The cause of western laissez-faire capitalism is a cause of individual liberty. Individual liberty in commerce is a human birthright, as is individual liberty in social relations. Individuals are, by their nature, free to join a commune or establish a nuclear family; free to love another of the same gender or of the opposite gender. If you want to live free of oppressive taxation and wealth redistribution your only argument is individual liberty as a human birthright. But you weaken that argument by denying others a liberty of which you disapprove. Stop it. Admit your mistake and strengthen your position in the debate that really matters - that really affects you and your family's lives - by abandoning a debate that doesn't matter. Don't insist that your beliefs hold dominion over the beliefs of others lest they turn your logic back on you and insist that you are your brother's keeper.
What is free enterprise? It is the system of values and laws that respects private property and limits government, encourages competition and industry, celebrates achievement based on merit, and creates individual opportunity. Under free enterprise, people can pursue their own ends, and they reap the rewards and consequences, positive and negative, of their own actions. Free enterprise requires trust in markets to produce the most desirable outcomes for society. It is the opposite of statism, which is the belief that government is generally the best, fairest, and most trustworthy entity to distribute resources and coordinate our economic lives.
Vacation was fun. Don't short your Disney stock just yet, that thing is the real deal. I spent two days on Mickey's Plantation (one chortles but it is an impressive organization). Then I rented a car because landlubbers like me cannot miss a chance to see the ocean. We drove up to Cape Canaveral and happened to arrive on an Atlas V launch day. That's my picture in the dictionary, next to "fortuitous."
A swell time, but I missed a couple big political stories. I kept up with the Chen Guangcheng case through ThreeSources and the WSJ Ed Page. I do not know that I have my head around that one yet. I believe in the liberalizing power of trade and remain unsure that a hard line stance from an American President who is not committed to liberty qua liberty is a good idea. I hope things turn out well but am not ready to take shots at Secretary Clinton or the President over this just yet.
However. The other story. Jee. Burzzz. Julia. I think they took the mask off and let the country peer deeply into their belief system. This is not dog eating; this is the philosophical debate of which ThreeSourcers dream.
As Russ Douthat mentions, we might lose. But we have a chance to discuss competing visions.
At the same time, the slide show's vision of the individual's relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. The liberalism of "the Life of Julia" doesn't envision government spending the way an older liberalism did -- as a backstop for otherwise self-sufficient working families, providing insurance against job loss, decrepitude and catastrophic illness. It offers a more sweeping vision of government's place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision -- personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual -- can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.
The condescension inherent in this vision is apparent in every step of Julia's pilgrimage toward a community-gardening retirement. But in an increasingly atomized society, where communities and families are weaker than ever before, such a vision may have more appeal -- to both genders -- than many of the conservatives mocking the slide show might like to believe.
Game on. This is the question, and if liberty loses the American experiment is over. But I would rather discuss Julia than canines and contraception. It's [Wo]Man's relationship to the State. Game on.
UPDATE: I posted this before I had seen blog friend Terri's excellent take:
Creepy. And very disdainful of women. Julia being the example woman who receives government help throughout her whole life. (though there is that one section where she is probably paying more in taxes than she is receiving. I'm surprised Obama didn't mention the interstate highways that allow Julia to get from web job to web job or to go on vacations.)
It's an odd thing that they didn't mention those taxpaying years when Julia can "give back" to others who could use a leg up. That sort of thing. But no, instead Julia, little girl that she is, just relies on the government and doesn't contribute. Creepy.
Mama, don't take my blog pragmatist title away -- even though one can argue that Brother BR has done better in practice this quadrennial.
But Mary Anastasia O'Grady, whom I revere mightily, hits it out of the park today. How can Chile, which has lit the way for Latin-American prosperity, always be on the cusp of a socialist uprising?
How this can be in Chile, the poster-child of liberal economic reform, is at first a puzzle. The answer--and this is a cautionary tale for Americans--may lie in Chile's political and intellectual climate, which is desperately short of voices able to defend the morality of the market and the sanctity of individual rights.
Even while the material benefits of the market economy have been piling up for decades, Chile has been intellectually swamped by leftist ideas. The common principle: Economic inequality is immoral and the state has an obligation to correct it.
Cautionary indeed. I must also excerpt the subhead "A free economy is at risk when a demand for equality is not answered by a defense of liberty."
Editor's note: Books discussed in this essay include Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind; Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow; Bruce Schneier's Liars and Outliers; and Jim Manzi's Uncontrolled.
Kling weaves them into a common theme that is well worth a read. We spend a lot of time trying to explain our positions to beloved relatives and Facebook friends. Kling extracts important themes from each of these books to aid in that task.
But be forewarned, (Haidt and) Kling challenge like-minded readers to examine their own proclivities and tendencies.
Dang. It was just lying there and I walked right by.
My post on the Planetary Resources failed to capture my wonder. First, that this clearly a step toward an actual instance of "Red Dwarf." Secondly, that this is an actual instance of wonder, a "step into a larger world" if I may mix a Star Wars quote and a Red Dwarf reference in the same paragraph.
I recognized Eric Schmidt's name from Google. And I was familiar with the name Peter Diamandis, partially conflating it with Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan.
But Diamandis is the X-Prize guy and co-author of the superb Abundance which was reviewed on these pages. He and David Deutsch are both positive about tapping potential bounty beyond Earth. And I hear the last lefty argument of resource limitations falling in an organic forest where no-one is around to hear.
UPDATE: Ari Armstrong writes about Planetary Resources (and other big ideas) in The Objective Standard
Sweeney is new to the franchise, partly because the John Galt character had a minor role in the first film and partly because the producers have chosen to recast the entire movie! There has been much consternation about this on the movie's discussion boards but I'm looking forward to it. My sense is that the first movie wasn't as well acted as it could have been. The leading roles of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden were played by Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler who, while attractive, didn't seem to have their hearts in their roles. They are replaced by Samantha Mathis and Jason Beghe.
Mathis is a better fit in the role, being born in 1970 instead of 1984, and starring in major motion pictures like Broken Arrow, where she played the fetching park ranger who tracked down John Travolta and his nuclear missle.
And Beghe's name may not be familiar but viewers will recognize him from Judging Amy, G.I. Jane, Thelma and Louise, Castle, and dozens more TV series' where he had supporting roles.
Perhaps the only recognizable name in the cast is Esai Morales who replaces Jsu Garcia as Francisco. Garcia gave, I thought, the best performance of the heroic characters in Part I but Morales is still an upgrade. A consistent theme of the new cast is more experience and more maturity. It can't help but show up as a more compelling movie than the brave and fearless but out-of-its-league production of Part I.
And finally, who is D.B. Sweeney? New York-born in 1961, he set his sights on a pro baseball career. When a motorcycle accident scuttled that he pursued acting. His filmography is heavy on television roles and he had starring and supporting film roles as well, including Eight Men Out, No Man's Land and The Cutting Edge. [The last of these has special meaning to me and dagny. As washed out hockey player Doug Dorsey, Sweeney takes up figure skating with Olympian Kate Moseley and when they first meet, on the ice, Sweeney's effort to impress the young lady is dashed when he catches the ice with the toepick of his figure skate (non-existent on hockey skates) and face plants on the ice. I did the exact same thing on my first date with dagny.] Sweeney has the right build for the role of John Galt, and a natural smirking swagger that both fits the role and can lend it warmth and likeability.
I, for one, am really looking forward to the premier of Atlas Shrugged: Part II in October.
Jonathan Haidt gets five stars for "The Righteous Mind." I do not think there is a sentient human that would not have some of his base beliefs -- or even core principles -- challenged by the book. Yet, the treatment is so fundamentally serious and fair that one cannot help but to give these ideas a serious hearing.
The book has attracted much buzz because the long time Democrat, liberal pointy head college professor explains the seriousness and nuance of conservative thought. It's not the story of a David Mamet-esque conversion, but rather an acceptance of the seriousness of their moral beliefs and their position in the moral framework he has constructed.
Likewise, I got some schooling as to where my lefty friends are coming from. If I have a gripe it is that libertarians get short shift in his world. Though his last chapter provides a superb "elevator talk" for libertarianism, the book focuses on the split between religious social conservatives and secular progressives.
At the end of so many arguments comes "how do my intelligent friends think these things?" This is as good -- and as interesting -- an explanation as you'll ever get.
I hate boycotts. I do not listen to Rush Limbaugh. I do not call myself a conservative.
But I am pretty tired of pointy-heads telling us how to live. The lovely bride and I were considering dinner plans last night and Arby's came up (yup, nothing but the finest when you're married to me!) We simultaneously said "Nah..."
If you're going to commit to team blue, I'll probably not boycott you for all time but I will look for substitutes. As DaTechGuy says -- in my favorite blogger locution -- "How fortunate for Arby's that they have a monopoly on fast food -- so conservatives have no other choices. Oh, wait . . ."
So I will not forego roast beef for all time (the nearest Arby's is something of a drive) but they lost a sale last night. And they'll see a bit less of our debased fiat currency in the future.
I just started Jonathan Haidt's (so far superb!) The Righteous Mind. I was surprised to see the Psychologist attribute my favorite Maslow quote "When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" to Mark Twain. I've been using that so long, I'm afraid to look it up.
Either way, Maslow is a rare gift to a science littered with -- shall we agree -- some non-Hosses.
It's easy to imagine how this works. Showing up at a rally increases the chances of getting more involved, making a donation or bringing a friend to another event. Larger and more successful rallies also boost subsequent news media coverage of the movement, further stimulating community interest.
What's more, the Tea Party experiment shows that the activism catalyzed by those sunny days translates into real political influence. Politicians whose districts were sunny on tax day voted in a more reliably conservative fashion throughout 2009 and 2010. Indeed, the absence of rain in a congressional district on April 15, 2009, made its representative 8.7 percentage points more likely to vote against the Affordable Care Act. Had the weather at those early rallies been sunnier, it's possible that Obama’s signature legislation wouldn’t have passed.
Without minimizing the power of ideas, liberty, and limited government, I think it pays to accept the randomness of exogenous events. General Washington was righteous and all -- but some lucky fog in the Battle of Brooklyn kept the revolution from getting squashed in an early outing; maybe a lovely spring 200 some years later might have done the same.
There's a great line in Pippin where Charlemagne says "It's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."
Lawrence Lindsey has a superb guest editorial in the WSJ today, critiquing Secretary Geithner's call for more taxes from the "most fortunate Americans." Geithner said this was responsible for the "privilege of being an American." No phrase has hit me harder than this in some time. I suggest the WSJ Editor who wrote the subhead nailed it:
The Founders argued that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were rights that preceded government--not things to be granted by it.
The whole piece is great and reminds of the stakes in the next election. No the Governor of the Commonwealth still fails to excite me. But I suggest that he would nominate a SecTreas who comprehends birthright liberty.
This is an age-old view that our Founding Fathers rejected. First, they argued that the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., economic liberty) were natural rights, endowed by our Creator, not by government. Second, the governing powers do not out-rank the citizens. Rather it is the citizens who grant government officials their "just powers." As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, governments are instituted among men based on their consent in order to secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The notion that a governing authority grants privileges to those it governs directly contradicts Jefferson's declaration.
I've been enjoying a trip back through the original liberty thinkers. John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women are all available for little or no money on a Kindle®
But more importantly, they show how we stand on the shoulders of giants. Centuries ago, these people all got it. While the language is sometimes archaic (not too bad in most I referenced) the thoughts and ideas are modern and germane. Here's some JS to whet your liberty whistle. Our hero is concerned with conformity and authorities' using differences with custom to exclude and diminish original thinkers.
There is now scarcely any outlet for energy in this country except business. The energy expended in that may still be regarded as considerable. What little is left from that employment, is expended on some hobby; which may be a useful, even a philanthropic hobby, but is always some one thing, and generally a thing of small dimensions. The greatness of England is now all collective: individually small, we only appear capable of anything great by our habit of combining; and with this our moral religious philanthropists are perfectly contented. But it was men of another stamp than this that made England what it has been; and men of another stamp will be needed to prevent its decline.
Mill, John Stuart (2010-06-24). On Liberty and Other Essays (p. 46). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.
Among the "gifts" afforded us by the advent of the Obama Administration has been talk of state nullification of federal authority over American citizens. Now there are similar musings at the next closer level of government to the individual - counties.
The headline tells enough of the story for my purposes here so I won't excerpt. Please click through if you want the details. Unsurprisingly, news of the Arizona Convention that prompted the story has generated controversy. A Denver blogger wrote about it as "Sheriffs for Treason." But is it? Does our nation not operate under the "consent of the governed?"
I wanted to post this as a companion to JK's Craig Colorado vs. Renewable Energy Mandates post last week. The mental image of Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz and his deputies meeting briefcase-wielding EPA bureaucrats at the front gate of the Craig power plant is a reassuring prospect. And today's story about the Gibson guitar raid is another case where one starts to wonder, Who is the sheriff in that county and what was he doing that day?
"What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend." --George Washington, Letter to John Jay, 15 August, 1786
Hillsdale College's Paul Rahe has done it again. Being thrice granted Quote of the Day honors on our humble blog (here, here and most notably here) his posting of last Friday explains in grand detail and with far greater authority the warning I've been sounding for just a few short years of my relatively young life - that Christian altruism enables Marxist-Leninist policies in the west. I called it The Virtue of Selfishness. Rahe calls it American Catholicism's Pact With the Devil and says it goes back to FDR and the New Deal in the 1930's.
In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States -- the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity -- and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism -- the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people's money and redistribute it.
Dan Henninger hits one out of the park today. I enjoy his work, but he is one of my least linked from the WSJ Ed Page. Today, he sums up the Catholic - Health - Charity - Birth Control imbroglio. Faustian, indeed. Pardon an extended excerpt, Rupert, but this is good stuff:
But the depth of anger among Catholics over this suggests they recognize more is at stake here than political results. They are right. The question raised by the Catholic Church's battle with ObamaCare is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost.
Older Americans have sought for years to drop out of Medicare and contract for their own health insurance. They cannot without forfeiting their Social Security payments. They effectively are locked in. Nor can the poor escape Medicaid, even as the care it gives them degrades. Farmers, ranchers and loggers struggled for years to protect their livelihoods beneath uncompromising interpretations of federal environmental laws. They, too, had to comply. University athletic programs were ground up by the U.S. Education Department's rote, forced gender balancing of every sport offered.
With the transformers, it never stops. In September, the Obama Labor Department proposed rules to govern what work children can do on farms. After an outcry from rural communities over the realities of farm traditions, the department is now reconsidering a "parental exemption." Good luck to the farmers.
The Catholic Church has stumbled into the central battle of the 2012 presidential campaign: What are the limits to Barack Obama's transformative presidency? The Catholic left has just learned one answer: When Mr. Obama says, "Everyone plays by the same set of rules," it means they conform to his rules. What else could it mean?
I've long felt that Heinlein and Rand were intellectual partners. Rand gave us the indisputible philosophical foundation for mankind's heroic existence and Heinlein provided the warm, soft, yet grittily-realistic interpretation that makes us more comfortable with the idea of individualism and self-sufficiency within and around a community of others. Rand denounced religion. Heinlein explained it. He really did have an amazing way with words:
I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.
I believe in my neighbors.
I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults. Take Father Michael down our road a piece --I'm not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee -- no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.
I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town say, 'I'm hungry,' and you will be fed. Our town is no exception; I've found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, 'To heck with you -- I got mine,' there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, 'Sure, pal, sit down.'
I know that, despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, 'Climb in, Mac. How how far you going?'
I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime, yet for every criminal there are 10,000 honest decent kindly men. If it were not so, no child would live to grow up, business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries --but it is a force stronger than crime.
I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses...in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.
I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.
I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.
I believe in Rodger Young. You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River.
I believe in -- I am proud to belong to -- the United States. Despite shortcomings, from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.
And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown --in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability....and goodness.....of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth --but that we will always make it....survive....endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure --will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage --and his noble essential decency.
Too many good things to discuss at too great a length on Caucus Day. But I'll add this to Brother br's awesome and frightening post.
A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. "The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere," according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.
The study, to be published in June in The New York University Law Review, bristles with data. Its authors coded and analyzed the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and they considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them.
It is disturbing and chock full'o NYTimes smug, but the greatest blueprint of all time for the organization of society is losing out to those "that offer more rights" (I'm guessing heath care and dry cappuccinos in the lunch room but I have not completed the requisite research.
I need more time with this, but it strikes me as extremely sad.
The American economic engine is an amazing, robust, self-correcting system. Even the policies of the 111th Congress and 44th President cannot keep it down forever.
Sure, Pethokoukis has a point "trying to place in context the Great Recession's aftermath and the nature of the economic recovery." But I see The Herman Cain, and Jimi P, and a host of bloggers yelling "Obama's Recession!" after 847,000 jobs are added (household survey).
We can say it could be better, we can say the Obama Recovery is tepid and fragile -- hell, we can ask to see his birth certificate (just kidding on that last one...) But, if we deny a recovery and create a general election strategy against the recession we think his policies will cause, we run the risk of looking foolish, losing the election -- and having to cover shorts at high prices.
Don't fight the tape; the economy might be improved by November. That's why we should choose a candidate based on ideas. I fear "Obama's Recession" is the only arrow in Governor Romney's quiver.
Don Luskin is right, this guy really is Ellsworth Toohey:
Mitch Daniels, the former Bush budget director who is now Indiana's governor, made the Republicans' reply to President Obama's State of the Union address. His performance was, well, boring. But he did say something thought-provoking -- and I mean that in the worst way.
There is a cottage industry devoted to criticizing Krugman: from economic, political, and stylistic perspectives. I generally prefer to pretend that he doesn't exist. But my (biological) brother posted a link to this column, and a friend of his with whom I've tussled comments:
I so enjoyed the SOTU, I didn't want to ruin it by listening to one of my fellow Hoosiers. It started out sounding like the usual fur-ball coughed up by Republican puppets who can't think for themselves and it seems it didn't get any better after I turned it off.
Yes. When someone says something you don't agree with, stick your fingers in your ears and yell "la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!"
But that's not important. And the etiquette of reposting friend's comment is borderline at best. What is important is the anti-Randian thesis of the piece. China (leftists and dictatorships, no no pattern, move along, pilgrim...) is economically swell because they have a concentration of factories. Apple is not swell because they outsource and do not contribute to the collective industrial community in the good old USA.
Now, I am an underlying fan of the first half. Colonial Connecticut, Silicon Valley, and the Jazzmen of 52nd Street demonstrate the power of critical mass. But Krugman wants to do it via top-down economics.
But the current Republican worldview has no room for such considerations. From the G.O.P.'s perspective, it's all about the heroic entrepreneur, the John Galt, I mean Steve Jobs-type "job creator" who showers benefits on the rest of us and who must, of course, be rewarded with tax rates lower than those paid by many middle-class workers.
And this vision helps explain why Republicans were so furiously opposed to the single most successful policy initiative of recent years: the auto industry bailout.
In '88, Gov Dukakis championed the "Massachusetts Miracle" and touted that he would bring Route 128 prosperity to the whole country. Vice President Bush's team responded with video of a filthy Boston Harbor, decrepit homes in Roxbury, &c. I suggest that "President Obama wants to bring Detroit to the whole country" would be a good campaign issue -- for both sides.
I was pundited out on Tuesday night and left John Stossel's special "libertarian response to the SOTU" on TiVo. MERCIFUL ZEUS! It was awesome. David Boaz from CATO, Matt Welch from Reason, Megan McArdle and Gov. Gary Johnson joined Stossel and a hard-Stossel-leaning studio audience to react to the speech.
As David Boaz said last night, Obama's talk of blueprints was telling. A blueprint is a simple plan that an architect imposes on an inanimate object. Obama really does seem to think that he can manage the economy in the same way. No, I don't think that he is a socialist. Rather, I think that he really believes there are technocratic levers that can make the income distribution flatter, the rate of innovation faster, and the banking system safer, without undesireable side effects.
Yet another -- not another, the best -- response to Elizabeth's Warren's "Nobody go rich on his own" diatribe, which lives on at moveon.org and in the (cold, dark) hearts of my Facebook friends. Richared Epsein, hoss of hosses, provides a clear and stirring response. Keep a link to this baby for the upcoming Massachusetts Senate election:
Her first sentence is meant as a direct assault on the notion of radical individualism. Yes, it is obvious that no person "ever got rich on his own." But that statement does nothing to undermine sensible forms of laissez-faire individualism. The reason why people do not get rich by themselves is not that they lack self-reliance or ambition. It is because the individuals who succeed understand the key proposition that personal gains result only through cooperation with others. The common business school refrain of win/win deals is not an observation about one person: it is, at its core, about two (or more) people, all of whom win through cooperative arrangements.
Rush Limbaugh, discussing Newt Gingrich being interviewed by FNC's Megyn Kelley about his criticism of Romney's history at Bain Capital:
GINGRICH: There has to be some sense of everybody's in the same boat -- and I think again, as I said, he's gonna have to explain why would Bain have taken $180 million out of a company and then have it go bankrupt, and to what extent did they have some obligation to the workers? Remember, there are a lot of people who I had a that $180 million, it wasn't just six rich guys at the top, and yet somehow they walked off from their fiduciary obligation to the people who had made the money for them.
RUSH: (sigh) Folks, things happen. Sometimes they happen for a reason. Now, one of the things that you have to say that is happening here is (whether he intends it or not) we're finding out some things about Newt that we didn't know. We're finding out that he looks at "these rich guys," six rich guys and they have an obligation. He sounds like Elisabeth Warren.
"Fiduciary obligation?" I do not think it means what you think it means!
Ask any young person and you'll be told that as you get older you (tend to) get more cynical. Perhaps it's a fair cop, guv. I think it is certain that one gets more skeptical - perhaps the gold prize is to acquire skepticism without cynicism.
Because there's a damned lot about which to be skeptical!
Andrew Ferguson has an awesome article in The Weekly Standard, lovingly titled "The Chump Effect."
Entire journalistic enterprises, whole books from cover to cover, would simply collapse into dust if even a smidgen of skepticism were summoned whenever we read that "scientists say" or "a new study finds" or "research shows" or "data suggest." Most such claims of social science, we would soon find, fall into one of three categories: the trivial, the dubious, or the flatly untrue.
I use the tinfoil hat title and mention cynicism because I am seriously concerned with both the frequency and amplitude of my heterodoxy. Even people who like me dismiss my thoughts on liberty because "he doesn't even believe in global warming!" I only tell my closest friends -- and the Internet -- that I don't believe oil comes from dead dinosaurs. I scoff at the Keynesian multiplier, Hegelian didactics, almost everything I see on teevee news, and now -- thanks to Gary Taubes -- all that is holy and sacred in dietary advice.
If you're on Facebook and have one friend who is not in Club for Growth, you've probably seen a picture of a woman who, 99% style, holds up a handwritten note with her life story. She is 34, doesn't get heath insurance at work, and now has cancer. Thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Crappy Care Act®, she is able to sign up for insurance. Ain't life grand.
My brother and two of my friends have posted this. I have made comments about right to contract, the blessings of liberty, and the suggestion that we could help people without outlawing insurance and redesigning 16% of the economy (obviously I want this poor woman to die of cancer). After all the democratic imposters over the years whose tearful plights have withered under scrutiny, I wonder a) if the woman has any health problems at all; b) what things did a working, 34-year-old prioritize over health insurance; and c) what is this job and how much does she make?
Two layers of tinfoil make a pretty nice capacitor -- you could charge your iPod from the government's rays.
Managerial progressives see only the end -- preventing free-riders from riding for free. And they ignore the collateral damage done by way of the means selected. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have no understanding of first principles. For both of these social engineers, citizens are subjects to be worked-over by the government for their own good. Both men are inclined to treat us as children subject to the authority of a paternalistic state under the direction of a benevolent and omniscient managerial class. -- Paul Rahe in an awesome, comprehensive takedown of the individual mandate.
Whoops, I hope moveon-dot-org doesn't find out about this.
Barbara Walters, ABC News: "Mrs. Obama, you've recently said something that I thought was very interesting for other women to hear. You said 'you put your own self highest on your priority list.' That sounds selfish?"
Michelle Obama: "No, no, it's practical. It's something that I found I needed to do for quite some time, even before the presidency. And I found it other women, in similar situated balancing career family, trying to do it all and a lot of times we just slip pretty low on our own priority list because we're so busy caring for everyone else. And one of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others."
Yes, Michelle, it is selfish. What it is not is a shameful act. The next thing you know you'll be saying people should pay their own way. Baby steps.
A good friend of mine and this blog sends the following to a few friends. I choose to steal it outright and open it up the ThreeSourcers everywhere on the Internets:
Here is a game that's fun for the whole family; name the single worst political, cultural or judicial event in your lifetime. And in the bonus round describe the bright shiny world we'd now inhabit if that event never occured.
UPDATE: I rarely "bump" but there is some fun stuff here.
Oddly enough, Obama also praises [Theodore] Roosevelt for supporting a minimum wage for women. Chapter 4 of Rehabilitating Lochner describes the impetus for such laws, and much of the relevant the information in that chapter can be found in this paper published in Law and Contemporary Problems. The history is too rich to give an adequate summary here. Let's just say that the history of such laws is not pretty. The laws' primary supporters included male-only labor unions that wanted to keep women out of the workplace--women-only minimum wage laws almost never passed without strong from unions that typically opposed minimum wage laws for men; eugenicists who wanted women to stay home and take care of their children; bigots who thought that only the lower order of men (including Eastern European immigrants) would allow their women to work for wages; moralists who believed that low-wage women were susceptible to vice and should therefore stay out of the workforce; and economists who believed that, as Felix Frankfurter summarized in his brief in Adkins v. Children's Hospital, women who wanted to work but could not command a government-imposed minimum wage were "semi-employable" or "unemployable" workers who should "accept the status of a defective to be segregated for special treatment as a dependent." -- David Bernstein
UPDATE: Plus, an All Hail Harsanyi! Two of my favorite guys blast one of my least favorite Presidents -- it's like Christmas!
Obama, after all, is such a towering economic mind that in Osawatomie, he once again blamed ATMs (and the Internets) for job losses. This is a man we can trust. "Less productivity! More jobs!"
The Harsanyi quote does not reflect the seriousness of the piece, but I thought y'all might like it. These two articles, together, provide a superb view of Progressivism versus Liberalism.
In 1783, William Pitt warned the British Parliament about the dangers of those who would reflexively employ "necessity" as an argument in favor of their preferences. "Necessity," Pitt exclaimed, "is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves!" -- Charles C. W. Cooke
I give thanks again for our superior and gifted commentariat. If you've missed it, we have been having fun several posts south discussing the writing talents and political orientation of Stephen King.
The preponderance of left wing thought in Novels is worthy of more serious thought than I will give here, but to show the scale of the disparity, I enumerate five that support my beliefs. Spanning a few centuries. My rules prohibit multiple books by the same author, and I don't pretend to be an authority on literature. So it is not quite as bad as I make it. I seem to remember National Review listing 25 once, but they would load up on C.S. Lewis whom I would not critique except to say that that does not align exactly with my views. They would also list "Brideshead Revisited" out of homage to WFB, but while Waugh was "big-C Conservative," I'm not sure Brideshead truly flies the flag. Even Disraeli’s books skew a bit left.
Here is the jk list; let me know what I am missing:
I am Charlotte Simmonds -- Tom Wolfe
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress -- Robert Heinlein
Atlas Shrugged -- Ayn Rand
My Antonia -- Willa Cather
Bleak House -- Charles Dickens
I used to have a five great lefty list, just so I could count Dickens on both. But these are numerable entries against an ocean of Steinbeck, Cheever, Updike, Umberto Eco, Stephen King, Amy Tan -- you can think of them as fast as you can say them. Even my beloved "Art of Racing in the Rain" requires me to check my philosophy at the door a bit.
This does not defend King's explicit rants in 11/22/63, but it sets the bar of expectation pretty low on rational, individualist thought and appreciation for self-sovereignty in fiction.
Like in previous years, you probably didn't call your local supermarket ahead of time and order your Thanksgiving turkey this year. Why not? Because you automatically assumed that a turkey would be there when you showed up, and it probably was there when you showed up "unannounced" at your local grocery store to select your bird.
The reason your Thanksgiving turkey was waiting for you without an advance order? Because of "spontaneous order," "self-interest," and the "invisible hand" of the free market -- "the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many." And even if your turkey appeared in your local grocery stores only because of the "selfishness" or "corporate greed" of thousands of commercial turkey farmers, truckers, and supermarket owners who are complete strangers to you and your family, it's still part of the miracle of the marketplace where "individually selfish decisions lead to collectively efficient outcomes."
I winced when I saw that my favorite multi-national corporate chain was accepting $5 donations to "promote jobs." I knew it would be goofy, but I didn't know what -- I figured they would hire some kids to sort their recycling and blow real hard at windmills or something.
But it's worse. It's the somewhat seriously good idea of micro-finance, perverted by removing its free market element. You take something that is half-good, and extirpate the good half!
The $5 donation will help poor entrepreneurs start or maintain a business in typically underserved areas with the idea that this will help create or sustain small-business jobs. This sounds quite noble but mischaracterizes what jobs are and where they originate.
[Adam Stover] continues: "Furthermore, Opportunity Finance Network's website invests in businesses that are 'profitable, but not profit maximizing. They put the community first, not the shareholder.' Implicit in this statement is that turning a profit hurts someone, which is patently false. This is exactly what we as a society do not want."
All of this was done by a generation that never lost its confidence that it was smarter, better educated and more idealistic than its Depression-surviving, World War-winning, segregation-ending, prosperity-building parents. We didn't need their stinking faith, their stinking morals, or their pathetically conformist codes of moral behavior. We were better than that; after all, we grokked Jefferson Airplane, achieved nirvana on LSD and had a spiritual wealth and sensitivity that our boorish bourgeois forbears could not grasp. They might be doers, builders and achievers -- but we Boomers grooved, man, we had sex in the park, we grew our hair long, and we listened to sexy musical lyrics about drugs that those pathetic old losers could not even understand. -- Walter Russell Meade
This isn't, as the category suggests, merely a Colorado issue. The Tim Tebow phenomenon is a national one. For some reason this single player evokes or inspires either hatred or extreme admiration. Most seem to focus on his overt religiosity, and either despise or worship the example he sets. I don't see it that way at all.
I marvel at Tebow's ability to inspire and motivate his teammates. While sports professionals in the coaching, scouting and analysis business focus on his objective qualities they almost completely disregard his unique ability to lead. This causes them to make statements like "Tebow can't be an NFL quarterback." But many people believe that statement is wrong and I, for one, know it is wrong. And it has very little (but not nothing) to do with religion.
My sister emailed me a link to this TED Talk yesterday. The title is 'Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion' and it seems an unlikely place to find a key to success in life, but I did. It's 20 minutes long and you'll do yourself a favor to find that much time in your busy life to slow down, sit down, watch and listen and think. Here is Tebow's big "secret."
"It's one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt, for one moment, the capacity of the people he's leading to realize whatever he's dreaming."
Not only does this attitude make Tebow's teammates perform better, it makes him perform better. It does so in a way that manifests itself on the field of competition much more than on the practice field. And understanding it is so elusive that many deny its existence even after witnessing it with their own, "lying" eyes.
Tebow isn't the only NFL quarterback with this quality. I've seen it in Elway, Montana, Staubach, Griese, Jaworski, Fouts and Bradshaw among others. My dad saw it in Daryle Lamonica. It can be seen today in Brady, Rogers and Brees, and glimpses of it in many of the league's younger QBs. And just as importantly, some players of the position clearly do not have it. The ones I have noticed recently are Romo, Eli Manning and ... Kyle Orton. When a play fails each of them is as likely as not to yell, jesture, shrug or shake his head at one or more of his teammates. This is also inspirational leadership, but in the wrong direction.
I said Tebow's big secret has a little to do with religion and that something is "belief." Religion teaches men to believe.
UPDATE 2: Macho Duck challenged my inclusion of Donovan McNabb on the list of demotivational NFL quarterbacks. He's right. I put his name in my list before defining what it was a list of, i.e. finger pointers. An error of Saturday morning haste has been corrected.
He also spoke at the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington D.C., where King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, claimed that her father "moved us beyond the dream of racial justice to the action and work of economic justice."
No, I do not believe he did. The man who dreamed of a day when all of us are judged not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character, would have cheapened the ideal of racial fairness by linking it with President Obama's ideal of economic fairness. What he and King's daughter speak of is a sort of economic affirmative-action program. Fairness in government spending must be "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice" just as must be legal treatment by race.
Fairness in taxation must also be "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice." Like 9-9-9. If any contemporary black man is following the teaching of the Rev. Martin Luther King it is not Barack Obama, but Herman Cain.
UPDATE: (19 OCT) I have amended my construction slightly to comport with my brethren's comments, calling out my uncertainty about Dr. King's ideas about the concept we call "fair" or "fairness" in the realm of economics. And this was my intended focus: Some see fairmess as "everyone pays the same tax" while others will not accede to this position until everyone has the same ability to pay that tax, i.e. equal distribution of wealth.
This leads me to what seems the winning tack in the pro-liberty argument: No man is more or less important, relevant or responsible for our civil prosperity than any other. Taxes must therefore be equal. (This is my ideal of egalitarianism.) But since equality does not, can not and will not exist in the human domains of effort, ability and aspiration, some men will produce more than others. This inequality is to be celebrated, for the alternative is anti-prosperity.
But since the self-made man recognizes the benefit he derives from a more prosperous society he may accede to paying a higher tax than his less able neighbors. A natural mechanism for this is taxation as a non-variable percentage of income, or spending, or both. But this imposition of a greater burden upon oneself is voluntary. It is a grant that may be revoked, in spirit and deed if not in law, when the self-made man sees the fruits of his labor being wasted - such as to line the pockets of looters and grafters and influence peddling politicians, lobbyists and crony capitalists. He may declare that he is Taxed Enough Already and engage in civil rebellion of various sorts.
Herein lies the beauty of the 9-9-9 tax plan. It is a non-variable rate of taxation proportional to prosperity. It taxes income and consumption equally, such that neither is disadvantaged versus the other. It is a progressive tax, since those who earn more and spend more are taxed more. But for the man who knows a beggared neighbor is a liability rather than an asset, an unequal tax burden such as this becomes not only fair, but desirable. For those who are comforted by such things, let us call it a "compromise." But, most importantly of all, it is a tax in which all citizens participate and do so on a par with the greatest and least accomplished amongst us. Tolerance of government waste will diminish, while lines of class and station will be obliterated. America's prosperity will be shared, and it will be bountiful.
Taranto links to a NYTimes piece on the great chow available for the dirty hippies anti-property-rights protesters of #occupywallstreet. Being Taranto, he jokes that our First Lady may disapprove of the man who gained five pounds since he arrived.
Following the link, I noted that food for the gallant 99% just shows up:
Tom Hintze, 24, was volunteering in Zuccotti Park last week. "Just now there was a big UPS delivery," he said. "We don’t know where it comes from. It just appears, and we eat it."
It put me in mind of my favorite part of one of my favorite recent books: David Mamet's "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture." He tells of a time that his daughter had befriended a young heiress her age, and she was visiting:
The two were discussing their various bedtimes. And the heiress said that every evening, at ten o'clock, she went to the small refrigerator in her room, and took out her usual snack: fresh berries and organic yogurt dripped with honey.
My daughter asked, "Who puts it there?" The heiress paused for a while and said "...I don't know."
Mamet comes back a couple times and says "Who puts the snack in the refrigerator? Someone does."
Perhaps the best part is the credulity of the young lady who has never thought of this question before. Who puts the snack in the refrigerator?
My first impression of it was a "Creators Union." A collection of free-market capitalism's best informed businessmen and women speaking out against government interference with the American dream. I heard founder Bernie Marcus talk about it during a teleconference interview with Rusty Humphries of theteaparty.net yesterday. He espoused views of competition and creation that would make Ayn Rand proud. And with this effort he's standing up for his values as Rand insisted that businessmen must do, or perish.
JCA acts as a public advocate agressively making public appearances and interviews to evangelize the free market private sector's role in creating wealth, prosperity and jobs. Marcus' recent interview in IBD is a good example.
Are they making a difference? Perhaps I was too sanguine in a comment last October when I said, "Capitalism is becoming 'cool'". The nationwide "Occupy" protests underway might contradict my optimism. But an equally likely verdict is that the "we want our fair share" crowd is playing to an empty theater. Despite media attempts to portray it as "a pretty massive protest movement" that "could well turn out to be the protest of this current era" (- That NBC lead anchor guy with the crooked nose, Brian Williams I believe) there really aren't very many people involved. Compared to the TEA Party demonstrations of 2009 and 2010 the self-proclaimed "ninety nine percent" are a mockery.
President Obama is quick to make villains of anyone who earns "too much" money. Job Creators Alliance is a long overdue voice that counters, "Hey, wait just a minute."
Free societies have always been societies in which the belief in individual responsibility has been strong. They have allowed individuals to act on their knowledge and beliefs and have treated the results achieved as due to them. The aim was to make it worth while for people to act rationally and reasonably and to persuade them that what they would achieve depended chiefly on them. This last belief is undoubtedly not entirely correct, but it certainly had a wonderful effect in developing both initiative and circumspection. -- FA Hayek
He's pretty good with an "Occupy Wall Street: a Manifesto."
First, we are imbued with as many inalienable rights as a few thousand college kids and a gaggle of borderline celebrities can concoct, among them a guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment and immediate across-the-board debt forgiveness--even if that debt was acquired taking on a mortgage with a 4.1 percent interest rate and no money down, which, we admit, is a pretty sweet deal in historical context...
My Facebook friends keep posting the "super brilliant" Elizabeth Warren video, and I still lack the courage to post my favorite parody. But Robert Murphy at the Mises Institute provides a strong and short rebuttal on both practical and philosophical grounds.
Regarding skilled workers, here too the factory owner already pays for it: we call these payments "wages" or "salaries." If someone goes to the University of California at Berkeley and becomes an excellent engineer, who is able to deliver an extra $150,000 in revenues to a factory owner, then with competitive labor markets we'd expect the engineer to earn close to $150,000.
This analysis doesn't mean that business owners are indifferent to educational quality, but it does show that things aren't quite as obvious as Warren makes them out to be. If students at state schools are receiving subsidized education that raises their productivity, the primary beneficiaries are the students themselves. So Warren should be asking them to cough up more money, not the employers who have to pay full freight for their services.
The GMU professor, Cafe Hayek blogger, and author of "The Price of Everything" which is the perfect sticking-stuffer for your moonbat friends, takes to the WSJ Ed Page today to rebut Elizabeth Warren's viral progressive sensation comments. (Bonus points for diagramming that sentence in four-dimensional spacetime).
Russ Roberts suggests that if government kept to the activities applauded in her diatribe, most citizens would join her in happily paying taxes.
If the feds stopped all that, Ms. Warren would have a stronger point. We could all feel some gratitude for government's role in helping us live better lives. All of us, rich and poor, would look at government differently.
In a short column, Roberts nails the practical arguments: consent of the governed, local vs. federal, &c. He also makes some good philosophical arguments.
The other part that's missing from Ms. Warren's narrative is that all Americans, rich and poor, benefit from the public spending she mentions. It isn't just Steve Jobs who benefits because Apple iPads come to the Apple Store on public roads. All of Apple's customers benefit too. If her argument is that taxes should be related to benefit, should we raise taxes on the poor and the middle class? Sergey Brin and Larry Page became billionaires by creating Google, but the gains to the rest of us are much larger. Messrs. Brin and Page aren't able to capture anything close to the benefits they've created for the rest of society. So should the rest of us pay a bigger share of the taxes than Google's founders?
Ms. Warren is certainly correct that some rich people aren't carrying their weight--those who live off the rest of us by twisting the rules of the game in their direction: the sugar farmers who benefit from sugar quotas, the corn farmers who benefit from ethanol subsidies and those sugar quotas, and especially the Wall Street executives who have managed to convince both parties that the survival of their firms, even when they make disastrous loans to each other, benefits the rest of us.
But raising taxes on the rich is the wrong way to fix this problem.
Excellent! It chaps my hide that I have to hat-tip somebody for a Russ Roberts piece in the Wall Street Journal -- talk about home turf! But blog friend EE mailed me a link that I saw before I read it. Just doesn't seem fair somehow...
UPDATE: But it did come with a free link for seven days for non-subscribers.
On September 12, 2011, Professor Miller posted on his office door an image of Nathan Fillion in Firefly and a line from an episode: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed." On September 16, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter emailed Miller, notifying him that she had removed the poster and that "it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing."
Amazed that UWS could be so shockingly heavy-handed, Miller replied by email, "Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights." Walter responded that "the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed." Walter also threatened Miller with criminal charges: "If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct."
Later on September 16, Miller placed a new poster on his office door in response to Walter's censorship. The poster read "Warning: Fascism" and included a cartoon image of a silhouetted police officer striking a civilian. The poster mocked, "Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets."
Very very good Sunday read: Matt Ridley's From Phoenecia to Hayek to the 'Cloud'
Human progress has always depended on spontaneous collaboration to harness dispersed knowledge.
There was no sudden change in brain size 200,000 years ago. We Africans--all human beings are descended chiefly from people who lived exclusively in Africa until about 65,000 years ago--had slightly smaller brains than Neanderthals, yet once outside Africa we rapidly displaced them (bar acquiring 2.5% of our genes from them along the way).
And the reason we won the war against the Neanderthals, if war it was, is staring us in the face, though it remains almost completely unrecognized among anthropologists: We exchanged. At one site in the Caucasus there are Neanderthal and modern remains within a few miles of each other, both from around 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal tools are all made from local materials. The moderns' tools are made from chert and jasper, some of which originated many miles away. That means trade.
While the pattern in comics inverts the meritocratic ideal that seems to rule in most modern American fiction, it fits quite naturally with a pre-capitalist aristocratic ethos, which persisted at least through the early 20th century in the form of Old Money's contempt for the nouveau riche. Jane Jacobs, in her book Systems of Survival, contrasted this aristocratic view, which she dubbed the "Guardian" moral complex, with "bourgeois" or "mercantile" ethics. In this worldview, while wealth and the leisure time it affords may be necessary preconditions of cultivating certain noble qualities (whether that's appreciation of classical art and literature, or the martial, deductive, and scientific skills of a masked crimefighter), the grubby business of acquiring money is inherently corrupting. The ideal noble needs to have wealth, while being too refined to be much concerned with becoming wealthy. It's permissible for Stark and Kord to be largely responsible for the success of their companies because their contribution is essentially a side effect of their exercise of their intellectual virtues. Along similar lines, while the Fantastic Four have plainly become enormously wealthy from the income stream generated by Reed Richards' many patents, I don't recall many scenes in which we see Richards stepping out of the lab to apply his intelligence directly to their commercialization: His inventions are presumably sold or licensed to others who concern themselves with transforming Richards' genius into cash.
I confess I skipped over comic books, making me most unusual among the Buffy cognoscenti, Sci-Fi readers, and other phyla of geekdom. I'll leave it to others to establish veracity, but it strikes me as both true and insidious. Sort of a wicked plan to take over the world by degrading the rational faculties of America's youth...
Blog brother jk appealed for Randian elevator speeches to answer the latest liberal female candidate for Ted Kennedy's senate seat who said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own - nobody."
My first temptation was to say, "Please read Craig Biddle's (not Bill Whittle) essay on Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society. It is superb. But it is far more than an elevator ride. And that is the trouble. Americans have been taught for generations that it is unconscionable for "the richest nation in the world" to let any of our neighbors go hungry or be denied the latest medical treatments. How does anyone counter this belief in even the world's longest elevator ride? Perhaps like this...
A human is a living thing that cannot survive without using his or her mind to identify values and act to achieve them. Values begin with those things which a human needs for survival. They begin with food, shelter, clothing. They then progress on a scale from necessities to comforts and then luxuries.
Civilization and prosperity have made luxuries into comforts and comforts into necessities. But civilization also tries to make leisure into work. Our prosperity has convinced many of us that there is enough wealth to go around to everybody, so nobody needs to work any longer. This fiction is extended even beyond the realm of materials and into services, such as medical treatment and disaster assistance. But there is no free lunch. Without production and commerce there is no prosperity, and production is not automatic. No man will work to create something unless he will profit. No man will learn medicine and care for others unless he receives a comparable value in return.
Businessmen, of all people, recognize the value of a polite society. Why do you think they always tried to hire Clint Eastwood to protect their two-bit town from the local gang? This is why most people are happy to pay a nominal tax to support basic government services, or even a higher tax for some extra-special services. But still more taxes to transfer his wealth to the less industrious are another matter. Take away a man's profit without his consent and he will either stop producing things you used to get from him or he'll leave your civilization and start his own somewhere beyond your reach. Either way, you are worse off than when you worked for your own earnings and traded with him fairly.
Of course, all of this presumes that your goal is to be happy and prosperous in your own life. Some men aspire to nothing more than to harm others. Don't be that guy, and don't demand what you haven't earned.
At least she is honest about who she is and what she believes. I guess you don't have to hide your progressiove light under a bushel when you're running for the Senate in Massachusetts.
But I think I can suggest this is about as far away from ThreeSources theory as you can get:
In a video of a recent Warren appearance, posted online by an individual who says he or she is not affiliated with the campaign, Warren answered the charge. "I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,'" Warren said. "No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own -- nobody.
"You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory -- and hire someone to protect against this -- because of the work the rest of us did.
"So identified has the State become in the public mind with the provision of these services," Rothbard laments, "that an attack on State financing appears to many people as an attack on the service itself." The libertarian who wants to get the government out of a certain business is "treated in the same way as he would be if the government had, for various reasons, been supplying shoes as a tax-financed monopoly from time immemorial."
If everyone had always gotten their shoes from the government, writes Rothbard, the proponent of shoe privatization would be greeted as a kind of lunatic. "How could you?" defenders of the status quo would squeal. "You are opposed to the public, and to poor people, wearing shoes! And who would supply shoes . . . if the government got out of the business? Tell us that! Be constructive! It's easy to be negative and smart-alecky about government; but tell us who would supply shoes? Which people? How many shoe stores would be available in each city and town? . . . What material would they use? . . . Suppose a poor person didn't have the money to buy a pair?"
I get this from my receptive-to-liberty-theory sister all the time. If the USDA did not inspect meat, or the city not inspect restaurant bathrooms, we'd all die in a week.
No, Mister Jilette does not perform. But I found his interview with Mick Gillespie to be 16 minutes of magical thought. The main premise is atheism, as he is hawking a book, but they cover God, Libertarianism, Ayn Rand, Hillary Clinton, and Warren Buffett as well. True intellectual exploration:
I'm finally reading John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government." I have enjoyed his quotations and paraphrases and others' descriptions, but must admit this the first time I have read him natively. It's quite enjoyable. I had the same experience with Michael Oakeshott, only to find his prose too turgid to navigate. But Locke is fun. I actually laughed out loud (that's LOL to you kiddies) to this bit:
if God made all mankind slaves to Adam and his heirs by giving Adam dominion over every living thing that moveth on the earth, ch. i. 28. as our author would have it, methinks Sir Robert should have carried his monarchical power one step higher, and satisfied the world, that princes might eat their subjects too, since God gave as full power to Noah and his heirs, ch. ix. 2. to eat every living thing that moveth, as he did to Adam to have dominion over them, the Hebrew words in both places being the same.
At least the good folks of Dubuque will not be disarmed, thanks to the Second Amendment.
But, just like old blighty, it sucks to know you're funding the local criminal element. James Bovard has a WSJ Editorial today on "HUD Section 8 housing." The law gives public housing recipients vouchers, recognizing that the concentration of lower income people in dense housing projects concentrated crime. As the President told Plumber Joe, better when we spread it around:
Dubuque, Iowa, is struggling with an influx of Section 8 recipients from Chicago housing projects. Section 8 concentrations account for 11 of 13 local violent crime hot spots, according to a study by the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies. Though Section 8 residents account for only 5% of the local population, a 2010 report released by the city government found that more than 20% of arrestees resided at Section 8 addresses.
I'd let it slide as a sad but acceptable by-product of misguided gub'mint charity. Until I read
HUD now picks up the rent for more than two million households nationwide; tenants pay 30% of their income toward rent and utilities while the feds pay the rest. Section 8 recipients receive monthly rental subsidies of up to $2,851 in the Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., area, $2,764 in Honolulu and $2,582 in Columbia, Md.
T-t-t-t-t-t-two thousand, eight hundred? I have lived in flyover country too long, but that seems like quite a subsidy.
Whatever the price, there is no accountability. "Earlier this year, [HUD] decreed that Section 8 tenants (as well as other renters) who are evicted because of domestic violence incidents may sue for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act because women are 'the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims.' In essence, this gives troublesome tenants a federal trump card to play against landlords who seek to preserve the peace and protect other renters."
Your neighborhood goes to hell, you're paying for it, and if you complain you or your town are more likely to face legal problems than the trouble makers. All they need are hoodies and a British accent.
Awesome piece by Bruce Thornton at Hoover Institution on the dangers of direct democracy and parallels to failed democracy in Greece. Not like last week, but farther back:
In the next few years our country will be a sort of laboratory in which these old ideas about the dangers of democracy will be put to the test. Particularly worrisome is the increasing inclination to see the state not as an object of collective affection, duty, and loyalty in which individuals find some measure of their identities and meaning, but rather as a mere dispenser of entitlements that each faction tries to control for its own benefit. This weakness of democracy was apparent at its birth in ancient Athens. By the middle of the 4th Century B.C., an Athenian citizen could expect some form of state pay practically every day of the year, such as a stipend for attending the Assembly, serving on a jury, or attending a festival. Meanwhile, the citizen's responsibility to manage the state and its military was given over to professional generals and politicians.
UCLA's token conservative PoliSci professor Tim GroseClose has a new book out which examines, using objective measures, how a leftist press has distorted the political views of the American body politic. Called 'Left Turn' it includes a do-it-yourself version of the Political Quotient or PQ test they used to rank individual politicians. A PQ of 100 is completely "left" and 0 is completely "right." I'll caution that the 40-question quiz is time consuming.
Here's your PQ: 7.7
Politicians with similar PQs are:
James DeMint (R-S.C. 1999-2009) PQ=5.1
Newt Gingrich (R-Ga., 1979-94) PQ=11.4
Richard Nixon (R-Calif., 1947-52) PQ=12.5
Lindsay Graham (R-S.C., 1995-2009) PQ=14.9
John McCain (R-Az., 1983-2006, 2009) PQ=15.8
Joe Scarborough (R-Fla., 1995-2000) PQ=16.4
Maybe one reason I so enjoyed the movie "Pirate Radio" is a long fascination with Seasteading. Dan Mitchell at CATO discusses an effort by Peter Theil:
Advocates of limited government love to fantasize. But because we're strange people, we don't have ordinary fantasies about supermodels or playing pro baseball. We daydream about a libertarian nirvana, where the rights of individuals are protected, guided by a moral order based on freedom and responsibility, and the leviathan state is forever constrained.
Ayn Rand created a fictional version of this free society in Atlas Shrugged and called it Galt's Gulch. But some advocates of liberty want to turn fiction into reality.
Mitchell includes some serious warnings about escaping the IRS. But it remains an interesting idea.
"There are people here with nothing," this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate. -- Theodore Dalrymple
Seen in New York City -- not near NYU, with its longstanding program in Austrian economics, but uptown near Columbia University, at 112th Street and Broadway -- a sidewalk portrait of F. A. Hayek -- David Boaz
I don't want to go all Murray Rothbard on y'all, but it amuses me to no end that the rioters in the UK and recently in Greece are called "anarchists" when in reality they are the expected product of the welfare state. "Amuse" is the wrong word: the dangerously thin veneer of civilization is a deep concern to me. Modernity, liberty, property rights and the division of labor are never adequately protected from Hobbesian Chaos.
Dan Mitchell of CATO expounds on the relation to usufruct as well as the danger of disarming the population.
But what's happening now is not just some left-wing punks engaging in political street theater. Instead, the UK is dealing with a bigger problem of societal decay caused in part by a government's failure to fulfill one of its few legitimate functions: protection of property.
To make matters worse, the political class has disarmed law-abiding people, thus exacerbating the risks. These two photos are a pretty good summary of what this means. On the left, we have Korean entrepreneurs using guns to defend themselves from murdering thugs during the 1992 LA riots. On the right, we have Turkish entrepreneurs reduced to using their fists (and some hidden knives, I hope) to protect themselves in London.
Which group do you think has a better chance of surviving when things spiral out of control?
There are good click-throughs both to a piece he excerpts and his previous remarks on earlier UK violence.
Later, seven stories up, equipped with earplugs, and clad in bright blue overalls, I marveled at the cascades of black bitumen froth bubbling over the sides of a seperation cell like a giant witch's cauldron. The scale of the enterprise and the sheer ingenuity involved in wresting value and sustenance from the hands of a stingy Mother Nature provoked in me a feeling close to glory.
Yet as I stood at the edge of the mine, I understood that lots of people viewing the same sight would be horrified by it and outraged by my enthusiasm for it. They would, instead, see the pit as a deep wound in the earth, amounting almost to a desecration.
Can I explain myself to those who see mining oil sands as a moral offense? I plead humanism. Modern capitalism and the technology it engenders has lifted a significant proportion of humanity out of our natural state of abject poverty for the first time in history. Even now, depending on the cycles of nature to renew supplies of fuel (in the form of wood and manure) means poverty, disease, and early death for millions.
Ahhh, what's poverty, disease, and early death for millions compared to a big ugly hole in the ground?
More Keynesian Stimulus and the answer will, of course, be "all of us!"
But the lovely bride sends a link to an interesting column by a financial advisor. He references a few papers and sadly does not provide links. But he does provide a superb summary of America's Poor:
Rector summarizes the Census Bureau data this way: "Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs."
He adds, however, "Of course, the living conditions of the average poor American should not be taken as representing all the poor. There is actually a wide range in living conditions. While the majority of poor households do not experience significant material problems, roughly 30 percent do experience at least one problem, such as overcrowding, temporary hunger, or difficulty getting medical care."
When you compare our "poor" with the rest of the world, our systemic prosperity as a country becomes astounding. As just one example, the average living space per person in the U.S. is 721 square feet; per poor person, it is 439 square feet. Our poor have more floor space per person than the average person (not the average poor person) living anywhere in the world except Australia, Norway, and Canada.
In the midst of the debt-ceiling contretemps, a Facebook friend (our own LatteSipper as it happens) posts a link to a thinkprogress.org screed on $4Billion of deductions taken by oil companies "commenting on a system that is slanted to the rich and powerful" and laments that programs for the poor will be cut because they lack the representations of the oil corporations (with a bonus whack at Citizen's United v FEC.
Yeah, clearly what the poor require is more government help.
A benefit to having no children is escaping some of the very bad children's stories. Don't get me wrong, I love children's stories and from our bookshelves and video collection, one would assume we had seven or eight. But Professor Mankiw provides a link to the original Rainbow Fish. (Warning: it is really, really bad!)
But as Mankiw taketh away, Mankiw giveth: The American Rainbow Fish:
I come to praise Lance Armstrong, not to bury him, for Lance is an honorable man...
[jk style rule #47: always try to say something nice about somebody before kneecapping them:] The Tour this year is missing Lance Armstrong. And I don't mean just a bunch of Jingoist Ugly 'Merkuns who won't watch if a US Citizen doesn't win (and it ain't looking good for that). Lance was a great "field general" who managed not only his team to perfection, but also crafted ad hoc alliances and impacted the entire peloton. Yes, the weather has been bad this year, but I think the alarming number of crashes and injuries are at partly because Armstrong's leadership is missing. There are several great riders to fill the athletic void, but none has the strategic sense or respect to deploy it. A lot of great riders but no Armstrong, Valverde, Indurain -- and it shows.
Another great thing about having Lance in the tour, is that it leaves him little time to write to the UN.
This September, world leaders are gathering at the UN for a historic summit on cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The agreement they reach--and how they put it into action back home--will mean life or death for millions of people.
I've just written an open letter to world leaders, calling on them to face up to the global cancer crisis and make NCDs a top health priority. I'm writing to ask you to add your name to this letter right now.
If we reach 100,000 signers before the summit, LIVESTRONG will hand-deliver this letter and your signature to the UN Secretary General and key Heads of State.
Holy, hand-breaded, deep-fried NED on a stick! The UN is going to cure Cancer now?
I "like" livestrong.org on Facebook so I get updates on Lance's advocacy. Most are great: supportive items, information sharing, &c. I bristle when he advocates for anti-smoking measures, but I see where he's coming from. But this is too far. O'Sullivan's First Law has been completely proven: "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing."
Lance, call your Texas buddy with the W in his name and ask him if this is a good idea.
These moronic things propagate on Facebook. I pick my battles and challenge more than I should. This one bugs me, but I have too many teacher friends on FB, including much of my natural family and in-laws. So this will be a ThreeSources' only rant, play along if you'd like.
The original, appearing both as text and a handy profile picture from moveon.org (which I love because nobody can actually read that entire bit of nonsense stuffed into a 100 x 100 bitmap, white on black).
Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in taxpayer funded bail outs, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither... Pass it on.
I'll open the bidding with:
Remember when Google and Apple forced our children to attend dangerous and ineffective schools; threatened to jail us at the point of gun if we did not pay for their products whether we used them or not; and coerced us to guarantee their employees' retirement at 50 by indebting our grandchildren? Yeah, me neither... Pass it on.
The good folks at mises.org made some of the faithful queasy by linking to this. Without going onto too much detail, it is called "The Liberty Scam" and it is subtitled "Why even Robert Nozick, the philosophical father of libertarianism, gave up on the movement he inspired."
I enjoyed it kinda sorta in that I wish my friends would send me stuff like this (I made the same comment on Mises.org's Facebook post). It has idiotic bits, and it's built on a strawman (did I mention it ran in Slate?) but it contains some serious accusations of libertarianism.
If my friends did send me something so substantive, I could respond with two CATO scholars' responses to the same piece.
How are you ever going to elect rational people without rational voters?
The Media Research Council circulates a petition to outlaw ATMs.
We had a lot of people who thought it made sense to get rid of cash machines and for a variety of reasons.
Some didn't like the usage fees and concluded that the best way to get rid of the hassle was to get rid of ATMs altogether.
Others wanted to see America return to a simpler time when we all got our money from our friendly neighborhood banker who knew your name, smiled at you and gave little Billy a lollipop after which you could hop in your horse drawn carriage and return to your candle lit home.
One woman even said that ATM machines were bad for the environment.
Had we stood out there all day we could have undoubtedly gotten hundreds of signatures on our fake petitions.
From the day when the first members of councils placed exterior authority higher than interior, that is to say, recognized the decisions of men united in councils as more important and more sacred than reason and conscience; on that day began lies that caused the loss of millions of human beings and which continue their unhappy work to the present day. -- Leo Tolstoy
Well-read people probably heard of David Mamet long before I did as the creator of CBS television's The Unit. A tough and realistic portrayal of life as an Army Special Forces soldier, I was convinced that its message was created by a conservative mind "behind enemy lines" in Hollywood.
With little fanfare in 2008 an article he wrote was published in the Village Voice with the title "Why I am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal." I don't believe I ever took the time to read the entire 3-page article when JK linked it, since it doesn't look familiar now, but the point is that he had a David Horowitz moment: He decided to stop swallowing the blue pill and became, philosophically, a free-market conservative and a warrior against anti-Americanism.
"There's a great quote in the Talmud: 'Who doesn't teach his son a trade teaches him to become a highway robber.' And I realized that one of the great failures of my baby boomer generation was we aren't teaching our children a trade, we're struggling and lying and scheming and scrimping and saving to get them into colleges which teach them that America is no good and that they don't have to work for a living. And it is absolutely immoral."
We've lost the capacity ... to stop government and say, you know, that just doesn't work. So we're now at the point where we need a complete revision. And that revision is a reversion to the principles of the Constitution. Which is, take care of the roads and sewers, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, provide the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, and if you don't - guess what - I'm gonna vote you out and you can go back home."
Rosen brings the book Lost Horizon into the discussion, and Mamet draws analogy between the ruling "good people" on the mountain top in Shangri La who know better than everyone else and our liberal government overlords.
And the worst of it is they want to be shielded from intellectual discourse. That the liberal community which never heard of Thomas Sowell, let alone of Freidrich Hayek, wants to be, needs to be shielded from responding to the question, what exactly are your precepts, what are your principles, what's the historical record of playing out and how do you account for the difference between the two?"
Voltaire said Every man is satisfied with his wit; no man is satisfied with his fortune. There's no one in the world who wouldn't like to have more money, both the one who is living from hand to mouth and the multi-billionaire who is investing his money. We'd all like to have more money. There's only three ways to get money in a free society - one is to steal it, the other is to get lucky, and the third is to fulfill someone else's needs, which is the way most of us earn money.
Dedicated to brother jg, a Taranto quote that isn't even humorous:
Still, there's a warning in all this: Hippy-dippy types are harmless enough in themselves, but their poorly developed critical thinking skills may leave them at increased risk of infection by the virus of hatred. -- James Taranto
I think there's an important point in the comic value [of Weinergate]: The people who think they're smart enough, and morally superior enough, to run everyone else's lives are risible. They're not smart enough to run their own lives competently, and they're actually, overall, morally inferior -- I mean, John Edwards, DSK, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barney Frank, Tax Cheat Tim Geithner, just go down the list '' and mocking them is inherently valuable. They pursue power, and they exercise power, as much for deference as anything else. Deny them that, and make it painful for them whenever possible. That's my take. -- Glenn Reynolds
The plight of the Dalits, those whom the Hindu caste system considers outcastes and hence Untouchables, was a rallying cry of Hindu reformers and Indian leftists for half a century. But today these victims of the caste system are finding that free markets and development bring advancement faster than government programs.
Historically, Dalits were left to do the most undignified work in society, and were denied education or job opportunities. After independence, not only was legal recognition of caste abolished, but Delhi also created affirmative action and welfare programs. Intellectuals who fought for the betterment of Dalits worked together with leftists to pass laws righting historical wrongs.
That alliance is now breaking down. India's economic reforms have unleashed enormous opportunities to elevate Dalits--materially and socially. In research published last year, Devesh Kapur at the University of Pennsylvania and others show this transformation occurring in Uttar Pradesh state in the north, a region notorious for clinging to caste traditions.
Mr. Kapur found that Dalits now buy TVs, mobile phones and other goods very easily--at rates similar to any other caste; they have also been spending more money on family weddings. These factors and others point to practical benefits Untouchables receive from growth, the same benefits accruing to other Indians. There are more such cases in the south and west of the country.
If you've sufficient stature in the Rupert Caste system, read the entire, moving column.
The toughest sell in the liberty handbook is "Tyranny of the Majority." Majority rule, democracy, self-determination, one-man-one-vote, apple-pie, motherhood... You're against ALL of these?
I dreamed the classic liberal pipe dream of repealing the 17th Amendment until the Ken Buck campaign for Senate in 2010. Buck had made a casual comment once, speaking to the Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce. It was (sadly) not in any way part of his platform or stump speeches. Yet the attacks came faster and furiouser than bad action movies: "Buck wants to rewrite the Constitution!" "Take away YOUR right to vote!" "Kick Puppies!" You get the idea.
Reading Eric Posner's "The Executive Unbound," he and co-author Adrian Vermeule lament the "plebiscitary Constitution" yet maddeningly fail to fault the 17th Amendment's part in this ignominious trend. Gene Healy does a far better job in "The Cult of the Presidency." If you start with a bent against it as I did, Robert Caro's "Master of the Senate" shows how the changes in the Senate under Lyndon Johnson were enabled by Senators' requiring support in popular elections. As a bonus, Caro describes how Tailgunner Joe McCarthy threatened those who would moderate his attacks with electoral opposition.
But this idea remains a hard sell, perhaps because it is so easy to demagogue. The UK House of Lords is flirting with it:
The current system, in which the government appoints peers for life more or less at whim, has seen the chamber grow to more than 800 members. It has become a vehicle for political patronage and favors.
That system is surely unsustainable, which is perhaps why Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg--fresh from the beatings he's taken in local elections and this month's referendum on the alternative-vote system--now proposes elections for the Lords in 2015, at the next election. But while the idea may offer political opportunities for the LibDems, it's bad for Britain and could well become the occasion of a constitutional crisis.
The current House of Lords shares one great virtue with the hereditary system it replaced--the very arbitrariness of the upper house's membership means that it is no threat to the House of Commons. Likewise, appointed peers lack any mandate to do more than advise and delay. Their very weakness gives them a clearly defined, and clearly limited, role in the governance of the country.
Elected Lords would suffer no such democratic deficit. Indeed, if the votaries of proportional representation are to be believed, a House of Lords elected by proportional representation would have more democratic legitimacy than the first-past-the-post members of the Commons
Hard Cases Make Bad Law? Bad Cases Make Hard Law? How's it go again?
Snyder v. Phelps proves our devotion to free speech. We let those execrable cretins protest at the funerals of our nation's greatest heroes. I'm pretty proud to live in such a country.
Therefore, I will not wither from standing up for efficient markets, even when it benefits big, fat, greedy, Sri Lankans with swarthy complexions and polysyllabic names. Raj Rajaratnam is few people's idea of a boy scout. And, as a believer in voluntary law enforcement, I'm sympathetic to the suggestion that he should have followed a stupid law. Just because.
But capital markets are more than pari-mutuel windows for investors; it is far more important that they get capital to its best use. And that means accepting all price signals -- even those not from squeaky clean sources.
Like many of his peers, Mr. Rajaratnam formed close relationships with a web of people who worked at America's most storied companies, from McKinsey to IBM. That isn't a crime. Markets rely on information to determine the appropriate price for stocks and securities. If anything, regulators have tried to impose an impossible standard that all investors, big and small, should have access to the same information at exactly the same time. See the SEC's Reg FD.
Joe DiGenova, Former U.S. Attorney, was on Kudlow last night asserting that Rajaratnam had personally stolen from him. Apparently, he was on E-Trade selling the same stocks and the Hedge Fund manager's inside dope gave him a leg up.
I say it's time we end this "we're all created equal" idea of trading. You're gonna go one-on-one with a hedge fund manager, I don't care if it's St. Paul (read prospectus carefully before investing...) you're going to get your ass kicked. I don't see that a facade of fairness does anybody any good.
He understands Constitution of Liberty about as well as Stephen Colbert undertstands Atlas Shrugged.
The publication of the definitive edition of Friedrich A. Hayek's "Constitution of Liberty" coincides with the unexpected best-seller status of his earlier book "The Road to Serfdom" as a result of its promotion by the conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck. In an age when many on the right are worried that the Obama administration's reform of health care is leading us toward socialism, Hayek's warnings from the mid-20th century about society's slide toward despotism, and his principled defense of a minimal state, have found strong political resonance.
Another rich, white, male, "gay-hater" says capitalism is better than socialism:
Yet, while [entitlements are] producing increasingly selfish people, the mantra of the left, and therefore of the universities and the media, has been for generations that capitalism and the free market, not the welfare state, produces selfish people.
They succeed in part because demonizing conservatives and their values is a left-wing art. But the truth is that capitalism and the free market produce less selfish people. Teaching people to work hard and take care of themselves (and others) produces a less, not a more, selfish citizen.
But does that make him wrong?
And I love his close: "Capitalism teaches people to work harder; the welfare state teaches people to want harder."
John Stossel strikes a resonant ThreeSources chord today. What's up with "giving back?" He quotes an awesome letter from Don Boudreaux:
Thanks for your e-mail celebrating your and your employees' participation in "Give Back Getaways" -- activities in which you and your employees (along with some of your customers) "give back to the community."
Have you taken something that doesn't belong to you? If so, by all means give it back!...If, though, you've not taken anything that doesn't belong to you, you possess nothing that you can give BACK.
Sadly, Mister Stossel's excellent TV show might fall to domestic budget cuts. FOX Business network requires the next programming level, and it occurs that his is the only show we watch in the extended package. Great show -- $4.50 apiece? I dunno.
No one will be surprised that I found these guys by searching for something relevant to Atlas Shrugged.
In the brief time I've spent perusing the voluminous content they offer on this controversial and revolutionary novel I have been greatly impressed. The treatment is honest, accurate and thorough. I hope to use it to help explain some of the book's themes to others. (And to refer to other literary titles and, when time permits, move on to history topics.)
So Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. In October 2009, the company settled on South Carolina, which, like the 21 other right-to-work states, has friendlier labor laws than Washington. As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn't have "strikes happening every three to four years." The union has shut down Boeing's commercial aircraft production line four times since 1989, and a 58-day strike in 2008 cost the company $1.8 billion.
This reasonable business decision created more than 1,000 jobs and has brought around $2 billion of investment to South Carolina. The aerospace workers in Puget Sound remain among the best paid in America, but the union nonetheless asked the NLRB to stop Boeing's plans before the company starts to assemble planes in North Charleston this July.
The NLRB obliged with its complaint yesterday asking an administrative law judge to stop Boeing's South Carolina production because its executives had cited the risk of strikes as a reason for the move. Boeing acted out of "anti-union animus," says the complaint by acting general counsel Lafe Solomon, and its decision to move had the effect of "discouraging membership in a labor organization" and thus violates federal law.
Ah, that must be the Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Law, or one of the Fairness Laws, or something, right? The WSJ isn't sure what law the NLRB is talking about, either. Not only do businesses routinely relocate to find the most advantageous environment possible, states and cities compete for that business by calculating their business climate. If this has escaped the notice of the NLRB, perhaps they should get out more.
UPDATE: Claire Berlinski adds "This could well be the most outrageous insult yet to the free market economy"
Remember those two recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board? The guys making these decisions about the commanding heights of the American economy have never even been confirmed by the Senate.
Going Galt - The Ayn Rand Factor and the Atlas Shrugged Movie
Robert Tracinski is one of the best Objectivist writers on the scene so I was very interested when I recieved this 'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' movie review from him in my inbox. In short, he is glad the film was made but thought it should have been of higher quality.
I have seen the film, at an advanced screening arranged by the producers, and I am afraid that it is a pale shadow of the book. A friend of mine calls it "a Roman copy of a Greek original," a reference to the Roman empire's penchant for copying Greek sculptures of gods and heroes--but when you compare the copy and the original side by side, you inevitably find that the energy in the limbs has gone slack and the life has gone out of the eyes. The details are reproduced, but the animating spirit has been lost.
But Tracinski does not suggest that all of the story's spirit has been lost.
This same combination--vaporous leftist "idealism" and cynical looting by gangster government, all of it wrapped up in appeals to "sacrifice"--might remind you of an important political leader in today's environment.
The movie's greatest signifance, according to Tracinski, is its relationship with the TEA Party.
The Tea Party movement began, in last 2008 and early 2009, during a huge surge in interest in Ayn Rand's masterwork, when talk of "going Galt"--a reference to one of the novel's heroes--sent Atlas Shrugged back onto the best-seller lists after more than 50 years. The two phenomena are connected. The financial crisis and the giant government bailouts sparked a renewed interest in Ayn Rand's intellectual and literary defense of capitalism, and in turn Atlas Shrugged helped give ideological confidence to the nascent Tea Party movement. Now the Tea Parties and their supporters have repaid the favor by winning a 300-theater opening for the small, unheralded film version of the novel. [emphasis mine]
[For the hopelessly obsessed, such as myself, I've posted the entire article including original hyperlinks below.]
TIA Daily • April 14, 2011
The Ayn Rand Factor and the Atlas Shrugged Movie
by Robert Tracinski
After more than 50 years, a movie version of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's perennially best-selling pro-capitalist epic in finally coming to the big screen—but through the strangest route possible.
That the film hasn't been made long ago, despite being one of world's most successful literary properties, is surprising—but not too surprising. No, it's not because the novel is difficult to adapt to the screen, as you will sometimes hear from both its critics and its admirers. Yes, the book has long, complex exchanges of dialogue that have to be ruthlessly condensed. But Ayn Rand started out her career—in the 1920s through the 1940s—as a Hollywood screenwriter, working for such legends as Cecil B. DeMille and Hal Wallis. She wrote her novels in a very cinematic style, with stark visuals, sharp exchanges of dialogue, and peaks of high drama. She gave a director everything he could ask for to keep the audience in their seats: visually beautiful settings from the skyline of New York City to the mountains of Colorado, large-scale action scenes set on railroad lines and in steel mills, big ideas expressed in sharp-witted exchanges of dialogue—and, of course, passionate love scenes with handsome leading men and beautiful leading ladies.
If you can't figure out how to make a good movie out of all of that, then brother, you don't know your own business.
Hollywood, as many of us have long suspected, does not know its own business. Plenty of big-name directors, writers, producers, and stars expressed interest over the years. But whether it was the pro-free-market politics, the larger-than-life heroic characters, or the big philosophical ideas, the book forced modern Hollywood outside its comfort zone, and no one was able or willing to figure out what to do with it.
So the version that comes to us now is one that was hastily put together at the last minute, with only weeks to go before the film rights lapsed. It has a small budget, no recognizable stars, an inexperienced director, and a script co-written by a producer with no literary or artistic experience whatsoever. The resulting film was unable to find a major distributor, so even though it was scheduled for April 15—a perfect symbolic date for a protest against big government—the movie was originally set to open only in a dozen small "art" theaters in a few big cities.
That was about six weeks ago. Then something remarkable happened.
Atlas Shrugged is set to open tomorrow in 300 theaters across the country. True, that's still a fraction of the opening distribution for a big blockbuster—but it's an awfully big fraction. This means that the film won't just be opening in a few big cities but will play in quite a number of towns across the heartland. Places like Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and Lakeville, Minnesota. In politics, we ask: but will it play in Peoria? Yes, it will, at the Grand Prairie 18 in Peoria, Illinois.
More remarkable is how this happened: as a result of grass-roots pressure and agitation from fans of the novel. This allowed the producers, who decided to self-distribute the film, to convince many local theater operators to give the movie a chance.
I know from local experience that a lot of this pressure came from Tea Party groups or individual Tea Party members, many of whom have taken inspiration from the novel, so this huge jump in distribution has to be seen as the latest success—and as a show of strength, numerical and ideological—for the Tea Party movement.
I have never seen a film spread through this kind of grassroots groundswell of enthusiasm, with zero support from movie critics, cultural elites, or celebrities. This is all the more remarkable because most of the people clamoring for the film are doing so sight unseen. So we have to interpret this as an enormous demonstration of support for Ayn Rand's novel, which readers hope will be faithfully adapted in the film.
I have seen the film, at an advanced screening arranged by the producers, and I am afraid that it is a pale shadow of the book. A friend of mine calls it "a Roman copy of a Greek original," a reference to the Roman empire's penchant for copying Greek sculptures of gods and heroes—but when you compare the copy and the original side by side, you inevitably find that the energy in the limbs has gone slack and the life has gone out of the eyes. The details are reproduced, but the animating spirit has been lost.
The movie does not adulterate or rewrite the ideological content of the novel. Rather, the script has a tendency to take Ayn Rand's complex and original characters and reduce them to Hollywood clichés. Yes, you read that right. Contrary to the usual literary smears against Rand, it is her characters who are fresh and complex, while it is Hollywood's stock heroes and villains who are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The novel's version of Lillian Rearden, for example, is a fascinating study in how the left uses its pose of moral and intellectual superiority to keep the people who do the actual thinking and the actual work—the world's innovators and wealth-creators—intimidated and suppressed. Lillian's goal is to prevent these men from expressing pride in their achievement and to make them eager to demonstrate their subservience to their "progressive" overlords. She does this in high society by using her husband's money and position to support a salon of leftist artists and intellectuals. Much more memorably, she does it at home by subjecting her husband—an innovative, self-made steel tycoon—to a constant drumbeat of emotional abuse intended to make him feel that business, like sex, is not a subject to be mentioned in polite company. (He eventually learns to question both of those assumptions.) Lillian Rearden is a totally original yet instantly recognizable archetype of manipulative power-lust—yet in the film, she is reduced to not much more than a catty trophy wife of the type we've seen many times before. So Hollywood found a way back to its comfort zone, after all.
Unfortunately, this persistent flaw takes a good deal of the ideological and dramatic punch out of the story and may leave some new viewers of the film wondering what all of the fuss is about. I hope they take the time to find out by picking up the original novel, because there is a lot there that will justify the enthusiasm of Ayn Rand's fans and of the Tea Partiers who have picked up her novel in recent years.
The film covers just the first part of the novel. The producers wisely chose to divide Ayn Rand's densely plotted thousand-page epic into three segments, with the plan of presenting them in a trilogy of films. The main story line in Part 1 is the struggle of the protagonist, railroad executive Dagny Taggart, to hold her railroad together and save an American economy dying from suffocating taxes and government regulations. Sound familiar?
But Dagny's story isn't just about economics. It is about her sense of loneliness and isolation in a world where men of enterprise, initiative, and ability seem to be disappearing. And more: we see her loneliness in a culture where clear-eyed rationality and self-assertive ambition are no longer valued. Dagny faces a world that has fully adopted, in all of its ugly actual details, the left's credo of "need, not greed." Everyone has needs—expressed in long, whining complaints about how "sensitive" they are—and no one has the guts to take responsibility for supporting his own life and achieving his own happiness. In short, these guys have taken over.
Dagny finds an ally in the steel tycoon, Hank Rearden, who helps her build a crucially needed rail line to the nation's last remaining industrial boomtown—and I think you can guess that they find, in each other, a solution to their problems.
Dagny's main obstacle is her older brother, Jim, who is no good at running the railroad but knows how to run to Washington. While Dagny tries to keep the railroad alive by supporting the last growing industrial enterprises, Jim is always scheming for short-term profits from political favors and government subsidies. Again, sound familiar? He is the perfect fictional villain for the age of bailouts—the era of Government Motors and banks being turned into "government sponsored entities."
It is Jim's cabal of politicians and politically connected businessmen who begin the action in Part 1 by plunging the nation into an economic crisis, from which Dagny saves them, and they end Part 1 by causing another, worse crisis. Again, sound familiar? But while the film presents Jim as another Hollywood cliché, a soulless young corporate schemer, the novel's portrayal is more complex, interesting, and relevant to today's political environment.
In the novel, Jim has pretentions of being an intellectual and a deep, sensitive, "spiritual" type. Even when his schemes have the obvious ulterior motive of extorting unearned wealth, they are always pitched in terms of altruist bromides. But he really means the bromides, and Ayn Rand's point is that you can't tell where the "idealist" motive leaves off and the cynical one takes over. Jim believes that someone needs to be sacrificed to "the public good"—and he always tries to make sure he is "the public" and not the one being sacrificed.
This is summed up in a scene early in the novel when Taggart concludes the negotiations for one of his corrupt deals by offering a macabre toast: "Let's drink to the sacrifices to historical necessity."
This same combination—vaporous leftist "idealism" and cynical looting by gangster government, all of it wrapped up in appeals to "sacrifice"—might remind you of an important political leader in today's environment.
This is just scratching the surface of an epic novel, and the story widens and deepens as it goes beyond Part 1. But I think you can now see how an obscure, low-budget film has become a grassroots crusade before it even opens in the theaters. The spread of the Atlas Shrugged movie is just part of a wider Atlas Shrugged phenomenon—and part of the Tea Party phenomenon.
The Tea Party movement began, in last 2008 and early 2009, during a huge surge in interest in Ayn Rand's masterwork, when talk of "going Galt"—a reference to one of the novel's heroes—sent Atlas Shrugged back onto the best-seller lists after more than 50 years. The two phenomena are connected. The financial crisis and the giant government bailouts sparked a renewed interest in Ayn Rand's intellectual and literary defense of capitalism, and in turn Atlas Shrugged helped give ideological confidence to the nascent Tea Party movement. Now the Tea Parties and their supporters have repaid the favor by winning a 300-theater opening for the small, unheralded film version of the novel.
The novel has not yet found anything near its fullest and best expression on the screen—nor have we seen anything near the full scope of its impact on American politics.
While introducing his deficit reduction proposal at George Washington University this week, President Obama justified raising income tax rates on Americans:
"Some will argue we should not even consider ever, ever, raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It's just an article of faith to them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more."
With all due respect, this is a strawman. I say we should not ever consider raising tax rates, even if only on the wealthiest Americans, because it is as unethical as forcing America's sons and daughters to go to war. It has absolutely nothing to do with "faith." I created this Xtranormal video to illustrate this.
I frequently refer to the classic Saturday Night Live skit where the sour milk is discovered. Then everybody has to smell it to see how bad it smells. There's probably a passage from Lord Byron or Voltaire that describes the same thing, but...
I thought of embedding this yesterday on the sour milk theory. If you have not seen it, take a whiff. Its creepiness nears if not matches the Demi Moore/will.i.am "I Pledge" (fealty to his lord majesty Obama) video.
Amy Alkon trashes it nicely, as do the three testosterone filled lads from Trifecta. I received a link in email from a good friend of the blog who "wanted to puke."
[Sorry I cannot embed. It seems that it is more tender and understanding to link...]
Ayn Rand does a great riff on racism as a symptom of collectivism. When we stop being and accepting others as individuals, it's a quick step to stereotypes and a short hop to racial animosity. I submit this to be the final step: cleave the world in half and dictate that the xy chromosomes are responsible for every crime, boorish impulse, or thought committed by any member.
I'm not apologizing for anything that somebody else did. Real sorry about slavery, abrogation of treaties with indigenous Americans, Koremastu v. United States, and the entire ABBA oeuvre. But you'll have to get your mea culpas from those more directly involved.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse: "That's patent idiocy, and a man trying to suck up to women by blabbing about energy... needs some better suck-up lines."
Insty brings us one from Robert A Heinlein. This should be recited every day, like the pledge of allegience:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 opens in a good lineup of Colorado Theaters. I'll probably go to the Westminster Promenade, but it would be fun to brave the belly-of-the-beast, and see it at the Century16 in Boulder. If only I could ride a train. Maybe Englewood or Lakewood would be close to "light rail..."
I thought I was reading "trash." After a long bout of non-fiction, punctuated by a few bits of serious fiction (and a children's book I received for Christmas), reading a pop mystery novel is fun but feels a lot like slacking.
My brother -in-law recommended the Millennium Trilogy and I am three-quarters-through "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It's fun, but I confess that I was going to finish the first book, then watch all three movies and move on.
But now I find out that I am reading "a libertarian parable for the ages."
The Objectivist with the Dragon Tattoo
Indeed, there are moments when the books seem to stop dead in their tracks so that one of Larsson's characters can deliver an NPR-style bromide on a subject dear to the liberal heart.
In the midst of all of this, Lisbeth Salander explodes like a grenade tossed into an ammunition dump. Ferociously individualist, incorruptible, disdainful, and suspicious of all forms of social organization, and dedicated to her own personal moral code, Salander often seems to have stepped into Larsson's world from out of an Ayn Rand novel. She despises all institutions, whether they are business corporations, government agencies, or the Stockholm police. Rejecting all forms of ideology, she is dedicated only to her own individual sense of justice. Relentlessly cerebral, she trusts only what she can ascertain with her own mind and her own formidable talents. She considers Blomquist a naive fool because of his belief that social conditions cause people to commit the horrible crimes he investigates.
I like it, but I miss the dark, dank, turgid prose of my 90-year-old economics books.
These can be dark days for the forces of freedom and light. But can you imagine watching this video and having to take the position of Michael Moore over Mary Katherine Ham?
A National Resource. By Ludwig von Mises's correct definition of a Socialist, President Obama is clear (though he loses points for the GM bailout). But Moore falls right in. This is "Communal ownership of the means of production" writ large. Or in Moore's case, XXLarge...
The usual post includes my relating something my Facebook friends post, reminding my blog brothers and sisters that our high ideals of reason and informed debate do not necessarily extend across the entire nation.
But today, I bring you tidings of great joy. My most (rhymes with "soon, daddy") friend salutes, ahem, Walmart
In perhaps the boldest example yet of "retail regulation," Wal-Mart is stepping ahead of federal regulators and using its muscle as the world's largest retailer to move away from a class of chemicals researchers say endanger human health and the environment.
I commented that "Walmart* could easily replace the FDA, USDA, and clearly the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. We would be safer, richer and have far greater innovation" and awaited the onslaught...that never came.
One person I did not know said "I posted this elsewhere and the 'haters' still complain about walmart. Walmart haters are the 'birthers' of the retail world."
UPDATE: Odd side note. Looking for my stupid car link the other day, I went to Oct 2003 instead of Oct 2004, and tripped over this post announcing my MS diagnosis. The title of this post comes from that.