Separation of Church & State
Thomas Bowden has written an excellent piece on the separation of church and state. I urge everyone to read it.
Commentary from a pro-reason, pro-egoism, pro-capitalism perspective
Thomas Bowden has written an excellent piece on the separation of church and state. I urge everyone to read it.
Onk was on BBC radio 3 today discussing altruism. You can listen here (though I don't know how long this link will be up). Be warned that he gets very little air time, but the contrast between his focus on the essentials of the argument -- as against the ramblings of altruism's proponents -- is quite illuminating.
From Iran Focus (original includes photo):
It's fun to point out this kind of thing, but ultimately it's useless since you can only win by fighting for positive changes, not merely by pointing out absurdity and contradictions in a false argument. But like with an itch begging to be scratched, sometimes I can't help myself....
Given the series of assaults on our citizens and country, culminating most recently with the horrors of 9/11 -- and faced with threat of yet more attacks to come -- America’s first priority is one of self defense. This requires the eradication of our immediate enemies by an overwhelming military response. But we must not stop there. To safeguard our future, we must recognize that these attacks were perpetrated and sponsored by foreigners and foreign nations, raising the vital question: How should the U.S. properly deal with the world outside her borders?
To begin, we should note that the fundamental role of the U.S. government is neither to act as a peacekeeper to the world, nor to provide for the world’s sick and needy; rather its sole legitimate function is to defend the individual rights and liberty of her own citizens. Understood this way, we can say that the proper purpose of the government is to advance and protect the nation’s self-interest.
This purpose, when formulated as a guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy, would read: “America will intransigently, and without exception, pursue its own self-interest by defending the sovereign rights of her citizens from foreign aggression, whether at home or abroad.” Such a principle is not a call to imperialism, but merely a re-statement of the central idea upon which this great nation was founded.
With our guiding principle thus stated to the world, a foreign group or government has the basic choice to either recognize and uphold the rights of our citizens -- or to threaten and deny them. Our response to their choice is our foreign policy put in practice.
The implementation of a rational foreign policy therefore begins with an evaluation of every foreign group and nation. The standard of evaluation is the advancement of our national self-interest; the body of evidence is the actions, statements and intent of each foreign regime. Those regimes which we identify as friends are to be encouraged, while those which we identify as enemies are to be neutralized. For nations which fall somewhere in between, the knowledge that we consistently uphold and defend our rights will enable them to make their choices without any doubt as to our eventual response.
Once we have identified our friends and enemies around the world, here’s what we can do.
With regard to our enemies:
=> Let reality reign. The anti-life policies that make these countries our enemies, greatly simplify our task of defending ourselves from them. Regimes which threaten us have no life-sustaining values to offer: they are implicitly or explicitly cultures of death. The totalitarian and fundamentalist regimes which head the list of our enemies, consistently substitute dogma for reason, obedience for independent judgment, duty for happiness, and the afterlife for life on earth. Guided by these tenets, they are completely incapable of producing anything of human value, as their histories have so poignantly proven. Left to their own devices, the harsh and unforgiving hand of reality would quickly incapacitate them, thereby negating any threat they pose.
It is only when we allow these foreign regimes to steal and usurp our creations and values, e.g. the nationalization of our oil -- or worse, when we willingly present them with our donations and “humanitarian” aid -- that they come to pose any credible threat to us.
So, to heed the guiding principle of our rational foreign policy, we must protect our citizens’ property, and not permit nationalization or other forms of theft by foreign governments. Equally importantly, we must recognize that providing aid to our enemies is evil. Our “humanitarian” aid postpones their just demise, and the respite we grant permits them the time and means to perform their unspeakable acts of evil. Any government aid is a violation of its citizens’ individual rights, since the funds are expropriated by force -- but the crime is multiplied a thousandfold when the loot goes to supporting our enemies. We would be infinitely better off to take every government-expropriated dollar of aid, and burn it, than to give it to those who threaten and condemn us. (This said, we should continue to allow individuals and charitable organizations to give aid to citizens of neutral or sympathetic countries, but must prohibit any form of aid or trade with our avowed enemies.)
=> Reject the notion that we need external sanction for our actions. Announce to the world what we stand for, what we will accept and what we will oppose. Consistently preach, and then practice, that the U.S. acts exclusively on moral grounds -- not on the grounds of what some coalition of nations, through whatever twists of mind and backroom payoffs, has decided is expedient in the moment.
The defense of our self-interest can not be conditional on the approval of foreigners. In her youth, America acted unilaterally and proudly, because she was convinced of the justice of her cause. It is time to readopt this policy.
=> Immediately withdraw from the United Nations. There can be no unity with terror sponsors like Syria or with perennial human rights violators like China. Any pretense of unity serves only to sully our moral standing and, simultaneously, to legitimize that of evil nations.
=> Discard the idea that having a common enemy creates a friend. Friends and allies are only so by virtue of accepting the basic principles required for a free and lawful society. We must be extremely wary of “pragmatic alliances” with those with whom we share no basic principles, as these have often resulted in new, and graver, problems for the U.S.
With regard to our friends:
=> Export capitalism. Lead by example and reaffirm the values which make America great. Eliminate the bureaucrats and the regulators. Allow competition and free enterprise, proudly fly the banner of productivity and success. Then promote these values to the rest of the world.
=> Present the argument that if others enact the same causes, i.e., liberty, respect for the individual and his rights, a lawful society and limited government, then they too will obtain the same brilliant results. Proclaim that the division of the world into “haves” and “have nots” is not some geographic accident, but the result of actions and policies -- those that are pro-life, i.e. capitalist, create “haves”; while those that are anti-life, i.e., totalitarian, fundamentalist religious, communists and/or fascist, create “have nots”. Be proud (and thankful) to be part of the set who has discovered, and chosen to enact, the causes of wealth, happiness and success.
=> Acknowledge moral countries –- those which promote liberty and individual rights -- not by aid and handouts, but by free trade on free markets. Explain that free trade is mutually beneficial to every productive person, and that it is the only proper way for peaceful nations to interact.
Only by establishing and consistently practicing a principled foreign policy dedicated to America’s self-interest can we secure the rights and safety of our citizens from foreign enemies. Erecting such a policy would have the immediate benefit of putting our mortal enemies on notice that –- until and unless they radically change course -- we will use every means at our disposal to eradicate them. In the mid-term it would prevent the rise and empowerment of hostile, but impotent, nations such as North Korea had been just a scant few decades ago. And in the long term, it is the only way to foster a peaceful global environment: one in which those who choose to embrace the values of the Enlightenment –- reason, freedom and progress –- will flourish.
Today's NY Times had a news story about the emergence and rise of a very misleadingly-named group called the "Islamic Thinkers Society". As far as I could make out, the group's raison-d'etre is to oppose everything that America stands for. With that in mind, you would think that they would be on the defensive and have to hide or smuggle-in their principles, while those who are pro-America would proudly state theirs. Instead it is they who try to name the essential difference between them and the pro-life, secular West; while people like President Bush either evade or make excuses for it (e.g. his comments about "hijacking a great religion").
"Wake up and realize that the line has been drawn between the camp of Emaan and the camp of Kufr and there is no middle ground as of right now," reads a glossy publication by the group that is titled "Islamic Revival." In Arabic, Emaan can be translated to mean "faith" and Kufr, "disbelief."Of course the crucial difference is not between "faith" and "disbelief"; but between "faith" and "reason" (or between "belief" and "thought" - which is why the group's use of "thinking" in its name is so inappropriate). But it is telling that the religionists are comfortable trying to name their principles, while most of their supposed opponents are not.
In my youth, I thought that the most important factors in being successful were one's intelligence and the number of facts one knew. While I still think these are extremely important factors, I'm now of the opinion that consistency and persistence are more important - and definitely less appreciated - traits. For example, I've read a number of stock and futures traders comment: "Even if I gave you my complete system, you would fail because you wouldn't have the discipline to follow it." In other words all the relevant knowledge isn't enough, it also takes consistency ("discipline"), to succeed. Similarly, for my own trading, I find it much more difficult to stay the course with certain trades, and not over allocate, or get bored, than I do to come up with reasonable ideas.
Shortly after 9/11 I wrote, but never distributed, an article/editorial on foreign policy. The piece was styled as a "punch list" or "action list" of the principles to keep in mind when pursuing foreign policy. At the time I thought and hoped that our military response would be much stronger, and better directed, than it has been, so I did not include short term military principles in it.
Three weeks -- three magazine covers. First, Fortune magazine has a cover article on America's real estate mania. The next week, TIME magazine. This week, the Economist reports on the worldwide housing boom.
The fundamental argument for rejecting religion - of any denomination - is that its essence is the reliance on faith (with the concomitant repudiation of reason). These days we tend to think of fundamentalist Muslims and Christians as the only examples of what happens when religion is taken seriously. But there are other forms of religion, having equally terrible results, as shown by today's horrifying news from London:
I think that Peter Schwartz is far and away the best editorial-writer of all the Objectivist authors, and this editorial helps confirm my belief. The piece is excellent on several levels.
I prefer to include links to anything I comment on, but sometimes it's just not possible. The biggest reason for this is that in my capacity as a daytrader, I have several scrolling news sources which allow me to read the news, but not to cut and paste it. The news is very "fresh" and typically won't yet be available on any free web site. Thus in cases where I'm citing such news releases, e.g. the one below regarding Hydro One, I won't be able to include any source. If I find one subsequently, I'll post it to the comments.
I just read a short news release from Hydro One which "condemns the Society of Energy Professional's picketing activity at the Nanticoke Generating Station".
"The union's behaviour today sets a new low and is tantamount to industrial terrorism" said Peter Gregg, VP of Corporate Communications. "They are essentially telling Ontarians that the union's self-interested demands are more important than each Ontarian's right to electricity."
Yesterday's (6/10/05) NYT had a front page article headlined "Report Details F.B.I.'s Failure on 2 Hijackers", detailing "a series of bungled opportunities in an episode that many officials now regard as their best chance to have detected or disrupted the Sept. 11 plot."
"The report provides new information about the bureau's mishandling of a warning from an agent in Phoenix in July 2001 about Middle Eastern extremists connected to Osama bin Laden using American schools to receive aviation training.
"The F.B.I.'s cumbersome computer system - still beset by problems today - did not automatically forward the agent's memorandum to bureau officials who were supposed to receive copies of it, the report found. Those agents who did see the warning did not have the time to follow it up, or disregarded it because they felt the presence of Middle Eastern flight students was already commonly known. The agents were also concerned that racial profiling had become so "hot" an issue that they could not pursue the Phoenix agent's suspicions, according to the report." [italics added]
Earlier this year, when the Ward Churchill essay became news, my initial reaction was that he should be charged with a crime such as ‘treason’ or ‘aiding and abetting the enemy’. But through discussion with friends, I realized my reaction was wrong, and that his comments were covered by his right to free speech - no matter how despicable his ideas were.
“When Aristodemus returned to Lacedaemon, reproach and disgrace awaited him; disgrace, inasmuch as no Spartan would give him a light to kindle his fire, or so much as address a word to him; and reproach, since all spoke of him as the ‘craven’.”Now personally I wouldn’t shun a man who didn’t fight because he was afflicted with a disease(!), but the point is that ostracism is both realistic and practical. All it takes is a society of individuals who value morality and who have the right to act in accordance with it. The Greeks had both. As I noted in a previous post, they valued honor and acting for the good above all else. And they had no government regulations to prevent them from honoring those whom they found noble nor from shunning those whom they found immoral.
Good news for Canadians (or at least Quebecers) in that their Supreme Court today struck down a law forbidding private health care -- deciding that doing so would be a violation of Quebec's charter of rights. Of course it says a lot about the country that this could even be an issue...
"But the universal health-care system — while considered one of the fairest in the world — has been plagued by long waiting lists and a lack of doctors, nurses and new equipment. Some patients wait years for surgery, MRI machines are scarce and many Canadians travel to the United States for medical treatment."
The Wall Street Journal carried a couple of interesting editorials today. The first deals with the Supreme Court's ruling in Gonzales vs. Raich (which is a case about medical marijuana). The editorial rightly points out that the biggest danger with the ruling is that it establishes a further precedent allowing the federal government to regulate any matter (i.e. regardless of whether or not the subject is one enumerated in the Constitution as falling under federal jurisdiction).
"If, as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority concurrence, non-economic activities can be regulated so long as they are part of a "comprehensive scheme of regulation," there would appear to be no federal power the Commerce Clause couldn't theoretically justify. "