Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What it Means to Truly Win a War

J. David Lewis has written an excellent piece on what a nation must do to win a war. Below are a few excerpts, but I urge everyone to read the article in its entirety. (As an aside, I must say that up until about last year, I was under the false belief that to win a war, all one had to do was to defeat the enemy militarily. Listening to Dr. Brook and Dr. Lewis' public talks have since clarified the issue in my mind, and Mr. Lewis' article does a fantastic job of presenting the essentials of their arguments.)
...But even if this were true, the goal of a war must not be “to end it” by accepting terms from a weakened aggressor. This leaves the enemy in place, but claims that he no longer matters, because his capacity to fight us is gone for the moment. The aim must rather be “to win,” which means an unconditional victory over a defeated enemy that permanently destroys his motivations to fight. It is a serious error to focus on capacities and ignore motivations. To do so is to ignore the causes of wars.
Surrender does not mean that an aggressor offers terms to stop attacking because he is weak. It means abject surrender, before an utterly overwhelming power, and the repudiation of the very idea of war through a brutal demonstration of what it actually means. Defeat has an existential and an intellectual aspect. Existentially, a nation's capacity to fight is destroyed; it cannot wage war now. But intellectually the culture gives up. Under the shock of overwhelming defeat a stunned silence results; voices once clamoring for war and the motivations they engender are decimated; and the nation never again arms for attack. Intransigence in the victor is vital; he does not accept terms, he demands surrender, or death, for everyone on the other side if necessary.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Investing In China

I have always been leery of investing in China because of the country's complete abrogation of individual rights and the absence of any form of objective law. Yet I'm continually surprised that most large businesses vigorously downplay the risks and claim to see nothing but opportunity in China. This article makes the case that not only may there be no profits to be had for the particular Western businesses who invest there, but that eventually losses in China may prove to be a threat to the entire global financial system. Of course, any single article on its own is not enough to allow us to draw firm conclusions on so complex a subject, but it's definitely a different perspective, and one that gibes with overall philosophical principles. So caveat emptor to any prospective investors in China and here's hoping that they don't drag us all down with them.

Hat Tip: John Mauldin's Outside the Box

Monday, August 29, 2005


Diana managed to (slightly) dampen my enthusiasm for the future of philosophy with this post. The WSJ has an interesting discussion on the global move toward flat taxes (unfortuantely still justified by altruistic arguments). John Mauldin has more thoughts on the housing market (scroll to paragraph beginning with "Gary North writes"). Finally, here is an older article presenting data showing just how badly public schools are failing. I'm generally not a fan of Reason magazine due to its libertarian slant, but every now and then they have an article that simply reports facts, and these are normally quite good.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Libertarianism and the French Revolution

I thought that this post at Passing Thoughts made some excellent identifications and I hope that the author has time to expand on the subject. I have to say that I'm simply amazed at the high quality of work that is coming from so many young Objectivists. It's a great sign for the future...

Friday, August 26, 2005


I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on a posting from Daniel Schwartz’s blog in which he discusses recycling. The post in question begins:
“While I do not know enough about economics in general or the economics ofwaste disposal in particular to have staked out a firm and final position with regard to recycling (other than that, properly, the government ought not to have a role in it) ….”
Now, I think the bracketed portion of that opening sentence is the key to the topic, and if it were truly understood and implemented within society, nothing more would need be said. For, in my opinion, the whole concept of recycling only has any meaning as a governmentally or socially ordained activity (proceeding from environmentalist/statist premises). In fact, in a free society one wouldn’t distinguish recycling from other kinds of for-profit exchanges. That is, just as today when you re-sell your car or your house, you don’t think of it as “recycling”, so too in a free market you wouldn’t distinguish returning bottles or newsprint for credit from other types of trade – provided that these actions were taken because it was in your own economic interest, not because the government or society was compelling or haranguing you in to doing so.

In other words, in a truly free society the issue of recycling would disappear because deciding whether it is best to re-use an item represents just another allocation of resources that the free market routinely (and silently) takes care of in its normal course.

So, just as when you buy a jug of milk, it’s not necessary for you to consider whether the farmer is using each square foot of his farm most efficiently in feeding and raising the cows, nor whether the route that the dairy collection truck uses to pick up the milk follows the shortest path, nor whether the refrigeration is at the most efficient temperature to minimize spoilage yet not waste energy, nor whether your local store is using the minimum amount of advertising necessary to make you aware that they have the product and that it’s reasonably priced, nor to the millions of other similar issues and decisions that go into that simple purchase of milk – so too you wouldn’t have to be concerned that potentially re-usable items aren’t being re-used if it is economical to do so. Just as milk suppliers, in whose economic interest it lies to ensure that milk is produced at the lowest cost possible, attend to all the myriad of details involved in its manufacture and trade; so too would all those producers who could cut costs by re-using a good ensure that – where it was economically advantageous to do so – the good would be re-used.

Only because environmentalists and statists have so muddied the waters do we sometimes forget that these types of issues are precisely those that a free market takes care of on its own, without the need for us to address them in any explicit form.

Or to put it another way: the beauty of a free market is that – just as you don’t have to have a “position” on all the issues involved in producing and exchanging milk – so too you don’t have to have a “position” on recycling, much less a “firm and final” one.

So in a proper society, I think the concept of recycling is a useless one. But since we do not (yet) live in such a society, it may be worthwhile to spend a few minutes examining the term as it is used today.

As popularly employed, particularly with regard to individuals, the term “recycling” is not simply synonymous with “re-use” (as mentioned above, typically one does not count re-selling a house or a car as instances of “recycling”). Rather, I submit that the true defining characteristic of “recycling” is that it involves re-use of goods which an actor wouldn’t pursue if he were driven exclusively by his own profit motive (including accounting for his own time and energy). In other words, only when an individual acts to have an item re-used due to government compulsion or moral suasion by environmentalists is he said to be engaged in recycling. (In this analysis, I count laws which fine you if you don’t participate or ones which levy recycling deposits among instances of government compulsion, as are government subsidies given to producers for the purpose of encouraging them to use recycled goods).

Understood this way, recycling always results in men acting in contradiction to how they would act if left un-coerced, and for this reason recycling is universally wasteful and harmful – both to the individual and to society. But because the term is so poorly defined and so emotionally-charged, I think the best solution is not to argue about whether recycling per se is good or bad, but rather to take the discussion to the level of the free market and its workings, after which, as I’ve shown above, the whole issue of recycling disappears.

Now, as a final comment on the subject, I think that for anyone who understands the principles required to achieve a proper society and government – including most notably that the government’s role must be restricted to the exercise of retaliatory force – there is no reason to spend time championing anything less than full-fledged laissez faire capitalism with its complete separation of economy and state.

However, for those readers not yet persuaded of these over-arching political principles, yet who still wish to use resources in the best way possible; or for those who want to take some incremental steps on the way to full privatization of the economy; to them I would say: Forget about any mandated recycling programs – as shown above, as well as in the article to which Daniel links – these are always wasteful. Instead, do everything you can to externalize societal costs and to have users pay directly for goods and services, as this will ensure that consumer choices are reflected accurately in the market. Such is the logic behind education tax credits and school vouchers, and similar programs would go a long way towards rationalizing transportation and other government-controlled activities. (For example, if everyone paid for road usage directly, say per mile traveled, instead of paying for it indirectly through taxes whether or not they use the roads; one might find that trains become more economic relative to trucking, and that mass transit suddenly gains much wider appeal.)

Of course, in the end no political or economic system can stand and persevere without a solid philosophical underpinning, so it is to those issues that I hope to return in future postings.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

FDA and Maggots

Is it just me, or do others find it kind of fitting for the FDA to now have to study leeches and maggots, in order to figure out how to regulate their use:
But neither leeches nor maggots have ever been subject to thorough regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. So the medical advisers are being asked to create general guidelines about how they should be safely grown, transported and sold.

Since 1976, the F.D.A. has required that makers of medical devices prove that their products are safe and effective. Those already on the market as of that year had to prove their worth; those invented later had to get approval before marketing.

There are unexplored corners of the nation's medical market, however - no one knows how many, but they are certainly a vanishing few - in which doctors and manufacturers have been doing business since well before 1976 without much notice from the agency. The sale of maggots and leeches is one of those corners.

In addressing it, officials first had to decide which part of the agency had oversight: its biological or device division.

"The primary mode of action for maggots is chewing," said Mark Melkerson, acting director of the Division of General, Restorative and Neurological Devices. "For leeches, it's the eating of blood. Those are mechanical processes." Thus, the agency decided that maggots and leeches were devices, Mr. Melkerson said.

Banking Info

This post is somewhat off-topic, but hopefully of interest to many of you out there. In the past I'd identified two personal banking/investment problems that I was unable to address. First, I'd often wished that there were an unleveraged way for a small investor to diversify into foreign currencies. Second, as a business owner, I'd been unhappy that ING bank only offers its high interest paying accounts to individuals, i.e. they won't offer them to businesses.

A post by John Mauldin alerted me to a potential solution to both of these problems: Everbank. I haven't yet used their services, so can't vouch for them, but they definitely bear looking into.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Keeping Australian Culture Western

Peter Costello, the Australian Treasurer, made some interesting statements as a prologue to a forthcoming terrorist summit:
"This is the way I look at it: Australia is a secular society, with parliamentary law, part of the Western tradition of individual rights."

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Costello said migrants needed to understand and respect the "core values" of democracy, a secular society and the equality of women.

And he warned that Australia needed to be clear that the nation's core values would not change.

"If you are looking for a country that practises theocracy, sharia law -- which is anti-Western -- there are those countries in the world ... you will be happy there. But you won't be happy in Australia."
Hat Tip: Fiftieth Star

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Comment Workaround

As I mentioned in a previous post, I find Diana's "All Comments" page a very useful tool. I have been unable to duplicate it using blogger, so have resorted to a "poor man's" workaround, which is also available on the sidebar.

Monday, August 22, 2005

P/E Ratios as Predictive of Future Returns

I personally don't believe that P/E ratios of themselves are a determinant of stock prices, rather it is discounted cash flows that matter. But a good case can be made that P/E's and their trends are a proxy for causes which determine future stock prices (and thus P/E's can be used predictively). John Mauldin presents a couple of the supporting arguments in his April 8th and April 22nd newsletters.

The first comes from his review of Ed Easterling's book Unexpected Returns: Understanding Secular Stocks Market Cycles. The second is from work done by Jeremy Grantham. You can read the links for more details, but here's a quick synopsis of each:
"Easterling demystifies secular cycles and explains that they are not an unexplainable pattern or coincidence; rather secular cycles are caused by the trend in the P/E ratio. Corporate earnings tend to grow over time, whether in secular bull or bear periods. During the periods of secular bulls, earnings growth is magnified by a rising P/E ratio. For example, when earnings grow by 6% annually over a 12- year period, they double. Compounding has a powerful effect. If the P/E ratio remains the same over that period, the stock market would double based upon the increase in earnings. During a secular bull cycle, P/Es have often started near 10 and ended over 20, a doubling of the P/E ratio. When combined together, however, the effect is a four-fold increase in the market! A raging bull that provides stellar returns.

In a secular bear cycle, P/E ratios fall from high to low. In the prior example, had the P/E started at 20 and ended at 10, the change in the P/E would have offset the rise in earnings to produce a flat result. Many secular bear markets have been long, volatile periods with little to show at the end. And some of them start with P/Es well over 20 and end well under 10--those periods deliver negative returns. Even when the market is flat over a long period, Easterling points out that the effects of inflation cause investors to have a substantial loss in purchasing power.

His fourth section in Unexpected Returns explains the reasons that P/Es tend to rise and fall over many years. In a step-by-step process, he builds the components that tie factors in the economy to the stock market. The result is a clear understanding of the impact of inflation on P/E ratios. With inflation recently at low levels, the likely direction for the stock market is down, because rising inflation is never good for the stock market, nor is deflation. To expect inflation to always be low and stable simply ignores history."
"Here's a study done by Jeremy Grantham, where he breaks up the years from 1925-2001 by looking at the average price to earnings level for the year. He then groups the years based on this valuation into 5 different buckets. The highest price to earnings years was labeled the "most expensive 20% of history"; the lowest price to earnings years was labeled the "cheapest 20% of history." What he found is that over the next 10 years the cheapest or second cheapest quintiles had an average compound return of 11%. However, if you invested in the most expensive quintile in history, the average compound return over the next 10 years was zero."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

OPEC Reserves

John Mauldin writes a free weekly newsletter in which he shares his thoughts on the markets and economic data. While he's not a free-market economist, I find that he does a great job in surveying the literature and presenting arguments from various viewpoints. I'm currently behind in my readings, but hope to catch up and will post interesting snippets as I do. Here's the first one that caught my attention:
As an aside, and for something else to add to your worry closet, my friend and expert natural resource analyst and economist, Don Coxe recently wrote about a fascinating report by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, which refers to 1985 when OPEC members were "competing with each other to be allotted bigger OPEC quotas." Coxe writes "OPEC has always allotted quotas to members in proportion to their proven reserves. Kuwait's geologists must have had a pretty good year, because their reserves climbed from 64 bn bbls to 92 bn. But the Kuwaitis were pikers compared to their brethren in the Emirates, who said that, upon reflection, they needed to boost their reserves from 31 bn to 92 bn. Not to be outdone, Iran announced its real reserves were 93 bn, up just a tad from a previous 47 bn. The 1985 champ, though, was the savvy Saddam, who was not content with double digits: his reserves went to 100 bn, up slightly from the previous 47 bn." According to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, those reserve figures remain today.

There are serious reasons to doubt the truth of OPEC oil reserves, or there ability to increase production fast enough to keep up with projected world demand. Oil prices may not be dropping back into the 30's or low 40's again, without a sharp worldwide recession lowering demand big-time.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

How To Deal with Iran

I agree with the gist of this post and particularly liked these three paragraphs:
We should skip all of the dancing around and go straight to the military action. Iran pines for America's destruction. They certainly must see nukes as one way of helping bring that about--another tool to add to the spawning and supporting terrorist organizations. The only sure way to stop them from getting nuclear weapons and continuing their support for the killing of Americans is to show them that the struggle is hopeless.

Death does not deter the suicide bombers and jihadis that Iran recruits, because they see it as part of a glorious struggle against the Great Satan. And given our weak, vacillating attitude, where our biggest threat is that we may talk about things in front of the Security Council, why shouldn't they think they can win?

If, however, we went out tomorrow and declared war on Iran, and bombed their nuclear facilities and cities until they surrendered or were blasted into the Stone Age, the glorious struggle would be a lot less glory, and a lot more struggle. Iran would have difficulty supplying terrorists, for one. Enthusiasm for risky terrorist ventures and suicide missions would wane, since there is a difference between dying for a cause and dying for nothing. Also, rather than guessing that Iran may have nuclear weapons in ten years, we would have a better estimate: never.
I would also add that Iran doesn't just "pine" for our destruction, they are actively and explicitly at war with us, as first evidenced by the taking of American hostages in 1979; then by the state's fatwah against Salman Rushdie, including his American publishers; and ever since them by the continued training, arming and sponsoring of terrorists who specifically target Americans.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Results of Faith

In one of today’s WSJ editorials, Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, gives more evidence of how terrible life is under Islam, particularly for women. But she completely undermines her call for help when she says:
“Muslim women across the world are caught in a terrible predicament. They aspire to live by their faith as best they can, but their faith robs them of their rights.”
If -- despite understanding that their faith strips them of their rights -- she and other Muslim women are unwilling to follow their minds and let go of their irrational religion, how can they appeal to anyone else to do something about it? And by what means could it be done?

The arguments which Ms. Ali's presents in her editorial would only make sense if she held that reason is supreme and faith invalid -- but she obviously does not. For if she did, she would begin by convincing the abused women whom she allegedly defends to give up their faith and adopt a better, more rational, approach to living. Yet this is not even a conceivable option!

And that it is not, sadly suggests that there really is no hope for them.

But they can at least serve as a lesson to those free men and women who still do not see the true dangers of acting on faith…

New Magazine - Axiomatic

Don Watkins is starting a new Objectivist magazine. Here's the info.

Monday, August 15, 2005

On Immigration

In a NY Times editorial dated August 14, David Brooks looks at some of the immigration problems now facing the nation. He begins the piece by correctly identifying two key problems, both economic. In his words (emphasis added):
"What do you say to the working-class guy from the south side of San Antonio? He feels his wages are stagnating because he has to compete against illegal immigrants. He watches thousands of people streaming across the border, bankrupting his schools and health care system, while he plays by the rules."
Brooks goes on to observe that the current government policy in this regard is to try to reduce the number of illegal immigrants by protecting the border and by hunting down illegal aliens who do make it into the country. He notes that in this on-going effort, the number of Border Patrol agents has increased threefold since 1986, while the enforcement budget has ballooned to 10X what it was in that same year, yet the results are unencouraging.

So, rather than protecting the border, he endorses two bills floating around in the Senate, which he says will help mitigate the problem and “re-establish order by opening up legal, controllable channels through which labor can flow in an aboveground, orderly way.”

On a cursory glance, both of the bills he mentions seem to have some merit as compared to the status quo, and if the only choices possible were to keep things as they are, or to adopt one of these bills (or some amalgamation of the two) I would choose to enact the bills into law.

But these aren’t the only two options available. Much better would be to take a step back and look at our overall domestic policy, especially in light of the excellent observations Brooks makes at the outset of his editorial. The real problem is not that people enter the country illegally instead of legally, but that we as a nation think it proper to offer “free” or subsidized services to any and all comers — services which ultimately are paid for by forcefully transferring wealth from one group of individuals to another (via taxes). This is the root problem which has to be solved, yet neither of the two senate bills address it in any form whatsoever. In fact, both bills will allow in more people who will put more stress on free services, particularly on education and healthcare.

So why not address these directly? Why not privatize health care and education, such that everyone pays as they go, regardless of their immigration status? At that point there would be no conflicts of interest between established citizens and recent immigrants, and we as a nation could stop pursuing and punishing those whose sole crime is striving for a better life -- a “crime” which I remind you that every American or his forefathers committed, a “crime” which is responsible for making the country the great nation that it is.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

No Time for Law School?

Then read this. Hat Tip: Benjo Blog

NoodleFood Discussions

There is currently a lot of excellent discussion taking place over on Diana's NoodleFood blog. You can access it all via the all comments link, or if you come to this post at a later date, check out the comments to these threads (noting particularly comments by "L.S." & "G.S."):

Nathaniel Branden Versus Objectivism

Stinky Garbage on Islam
BTW, I really like the "all comments" link that Diana has. Does anyone know if a similar feature can be incorporated into the blogger templates? (My searches of the blogger help and faq's have so far proven fruitless in this regard.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cultural Ideas

A recent NY Times story examining Muslims in Britain is worth reading because it (unintentionally) illustrates the central role that ideas play in shaping a culture. Now, to be clear, I do not recommend the article, entitled “Anger Burns on the Fringe of Britain’s Muslims”, per se, since it takes an apologetic tone towards the suicide bombers who killed 56 and wounded more than 700 Londoners. But it is of value in that it presents the thoughts of several leaders within the Muslim community and offers some observations and (unanswered) questions which are quite revealing.

Consider first the author’s puzzlement that Muslims are not seeking to integrate into British society. In his words (emphasis added):
“The bombers are an exception among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims. But their actions have highlighted a lingering question: why are second-generation British Muslims who should seemingly be farther up the road of assimilation rejecting the country in which they were born and raised?”
Given our intellectuals’ teachings -- best exemplified by the NY Times’ editorial stance itself -- the better question is: “Why would anyone ever expect them to?”

When every Westerner is fed, from early childhood on, the multiculturalist mantra that all cultures are equal, and that each individual is defined, not by the ideas that he chooses, but solely by the group into which he was born and to which he belongs -- what would possibly lead to integration or assimilation?

To expect integration only makes sense if one believes that it is possible to identify some values -- and by extension, some cultures -- as better than others. Integration requires an active choice, and choice requires options of differing value to the chooser. For example, only if a man regards such ideas as the right to freely exercise his mind, respect for the individual and life on earth as different and better than unthinking obedience, collectivism and death worship, will he have the impetus to leave his native Islamic culture and embrace Western culture in its stead. On the other hand, if he believes that these ideas are all equal, or that the question is irrelevant since he is determined by his birth/blood -- as the multiculturalists have taken great pains to teach him -- what could possibly motivate him to integrate or assimilate?

So at one level, the decades-long advocacy of multiculturalism by every Western intellectual has helped foster the divisive -- and deadly -- culture now existing in Britain and elsewhere.

But unfortunately multiculturalism is only an aspect of a deeper false idea promoted and entrenched within our modern culture: that of subjectivism. Subjectivism holds that there is no definite objective reality independent of man’s wishes or whims. Rather, it asserts that reality is created in the mind of each subject, so that what’s real for me may not be real for you. It also implies that truth is relative, i.e. what’s true for me may not be true for you (since reality on this view is indeterminate and mutable, taking different forms for each observer).

By rejecting absolute reality, these subjectivists obliterate knowledge, cause and effect, and any judgments one might make about individual men or cultures as a whole. With no reality to limit them, anything goes, any idea is equally valid, and no explanations are possible. That is why the author of the article, an apparent subjectivist, has so many unanswered questions and unexplained observations.

For instance, in discussing the Muslims’ disappointment at not receiving the promised “relief from economic distress and discrimination” he observes that: “Still, Britain's Muslims have languished near the bottom of society since their influx here in the 1950's.”

Given his rejection of causality, a subjectivist can not explain such an observation, since he can’t comprehend that specific means are required to produce wealth and to succeed in life. So when devout Muslims -- who spend their days prostrate before their god -- are not as economically successful as secular Westerners -- who employ meticulous rational methods to study nature and then transform it to their benefit -- the subjectivist is incredulous, and if he tries to explain it at all, will attribute it to “social injustice”, and then use it as just another grievance against modern society.

So by teaching that “anything goes”, the subjectivists who dominated the Western intellectual scene for the past century are largely to blame for the faith-driven movements now on the rise all around the globe. When these intellectuals removed the distinction between “true” ideas signifying correspondence to reality, and “false” ideas contradicting it -- anyone was free to claim anything they pleased, and no recourse or method remained by which to dispute it.

But no matter what the subjectivists may claim, in truth there is an absolute reality, cause and effect are real, and there is a standard by which to measure and compare man’s ideas and actions, viz. by whether they further or hinder man’s life on earth.

So to challenge the multiculturalists, and to encourage Muslims and others to adopt the values and methods which will lead to success and happiness on Earth, one must first challenge the subjectivist teachings.

One must assert that there is a definite reality, which can only be dealt with by definite means. One must teach that to be successful on earth, only a certain type of course of action is feasible, and that that course requires one to adhere to the facts of reality; by first using one’s mind to observe and identify them, and then by acting in accordance with them to shape nature to one’s purposes. In other words, one must teach that because reality is real, only one human method exists to deal with it successfully: rationality.

Understanding all of this, one can also note that the concepts of “integration” or “assimilation” discussed earlier are not ends in themselves, since they merely indicate that everyone in a society accepts the same ideas. No, the proper goal -- if one wants to secure a peaceful and prosperous life for man on earth -- is to have people accept rational, this-worldly ideas: ideas first discovered in Greece and further developed to underlay the Enlightenment; ideas which are responsible for the best cultural periods mankind has ever known.

But issuing a call to challenge and replace certain core ideas held in our modern culture pre-supposes that those in the West already recognize the critical importance that ideas play in shaping a culture. Alas, this is not yet so. As evidence of this, consider the leitmotif of the article under discussion which is to feign surprise at what is occurring in Britain and yet to draw no connection to the ideas that have been espoused for the past half-century -- ideas that are featured daily and prominently on the paper’s own editorial page! It’s as if the NY Times is saying: “Sure we teach and promote all these ideas – but who knew anyone would listen or that they would have any consequences?”

Yet despite modern intellectuals’ inability to grasp the importance of ideas, the evidence in right there before them. Consider for instance that the Muslims cited in the article speak of being convinced intellectually, i.e. they were not all struck by revelations from out of nowhere. A few select quotes (with emphasis added) serve to illustrate this:

In interviews earlier this week in Birmingham, where they were born and bred, Dr. Waheed and Mr. Khan described the group's struggle as one for the very identity of Muslims in Britain.

"For our parents, the attention was focused on getting a job and building a life here," Mr. Khan said. "My generation had to go through more of a thinking process to discover who we are, our Islamic identity."


His nerves rattled, he chanced upon a leaflet from Hizb ut-Tahrir discussing media propaganda against Islam. "I met with members of the group and became convinced on an intellectual level of what the party was doing," he said.

Now sadly it is likely that those who have been convinced of these particular irrational ideas are largely lost to reason, since the central idea they now hold is blind faith. But for all those still searching for truth, or in their words, for their “identity”, it is essential to the very survival of civilization that they have a chance to hear the right ideas.

Thus to change the course of the world, it is ideas that are crucial, and it is here that the West must place its focus. First by re-identifying and understanding the core ideas that caused the rise of Greek culture and later underlay the Age of Enlightenment, and next by championing these ideas to others.

Fortunately, this task is much less daunting than it would have been a short century ago, as we now have the revolutionary work of Ayn Rand to assist and guide us. For in her, we not only have the sole modern Western intellectual who truly understands that ideas matter, but we also have a genius who has largely completed the work begun by Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago. Thanks to her achievements, we have in our hands a systematic set of ideas, devoid of the errors which capsized the promise of the Enlightenment, by which we can rebuild a world in which every rational individual can prosper. So in essence, all that remains for us now is to take these idea, make them our own, and then communicate them to others.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Redeeming Moment

For a change, Taranto posted something with which I agree (see, in particular, the last paragraph):
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement calling the attack 'a criminal act of a bloodthirsty terrorist targeting innocent Israeli civilians,' " the Jerusalem Post reports about a violent incident in the Israeli town of Shfaram yesterday. What makes this unusual is that the perpetrator was Jewish and his victims Arab. Agence France-Presse has the story:

A teenage Israeli soldier shot dead four people in a blazing row over the country's imminent withdrawal from Gaza before being lynched by furious residents of an Arab-Israeli town. . . .

The 19-year-old religiously observant Jew, dressed in army fatigues, unleashed a volley of fire inside a bus in the northern Galilee town of Shfaram in an argument over the pullout, police said.

Actually, as the Boston Globe notes, the attacker, Eden Natan-Zada, was a military deserter. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a statement that makes clear Sharon isn't just paying lip service to the victims:

The prime minister on Friday, 5 August 2005, instructed the National Insurance Institute and all related bodies to treat yesterday's murders in Shfaram as an act of terrorism in every respect and to grant all assistance as provided for by law to the bereaved families and the wounded.

Arutz Sheva reports that "the killer's parents, worried over their son's radical change, said they had asked the army to take away their son's weapon."

In the typical terrorist attack by Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian officials, if they criticize it at all, do so only on the ground that it's counterproductive, and the parents usually hail their child's "martyrdom." So, while Jewish terrorists are every bit as despicable as Arab ones, Israel's response to this atrocity shows that Jewish civilization is vastly superior to its Arab counterpart.

60th Anniversary of Nuclear Attack on Japan

Yaron Brook has written a good letter to the editor on the subject of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Since (as usual) I can't find it on the ARI website, I'm copying the email here. (Edit: The link is up now.)

Dear Editor:

On August 6, 1945, American airmen detonated a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. The bombs are estimated to have killed almost 300,000, most of them civilians.

Despite paroxysms of America-bashing by our professional intellectuals on the sixtieth anniversary of the bombings, America should be proud to have dropped the Bomb.

America was not the aggressor in World War II, but the victim of a brutal attack. Any deaths that occurred in America's self-defense, therefore, are to be blamed on the aggressors who made them necessary. It is the solemn responsibility of the U.S. government to protect American citizens, ruthlessly destroying those who threaten us. If civilians die in the process, as they did in Japan, it merely underscores the enormity of the stakes when a populace embraces (or submits to) a murderous, dictatorial regime.

Military historians may debate how much the Bomb shortened the war and how many American lives were saved. But the fact is American lives were saved--and this is the reason America should be proud of its grave decision sixty years ago.

It is worth remembering too that in the reconstruction of Japan there were no insurgents, no Japanese roadside bombs killing our soldiers. One reason is that the United States had shown, in the clearest possible terms, our willingness to wage total war against our enemies. Our military strategists in Iraq could learn from those who, sixty years ago, decided to spare no means in bringing the Japanese nation to its knees.

Dr. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute
To hear another historical example of this type of thinking, but this time involving American vs. American, listen to John Lewis' description of Sherman's march through the south during the civil war.

Gripe of the Day

Today's NY Times has a story on famine in Niger which it introduces/summarizes as follows:
"One child in five is dying - the result of a belated response by the outside world to a food crisis predicted nine months ago."
Now I fail to see how the fact that Niger has not adopted capitalism, nor any of the freedoms and lawfulness of the West, is in any way the fault of the "outside world". Nor can I understand how anyone can identify the problem as the lack of help -- not the lack of food and the means to produce it!

But worse still is that a supposed news organization of the calibre of the NY Times feels it normal and legitimate to smuggle-in such outlandish conclusions and judgments as though they are self-evident -- rather than taking the intellectually honest approach of presenting the facts and then asking "what makes it so?"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Appeasing North Korea

Elan Journo has written an excellent op-ed on the history and results of appeasing North Korea. I hope that some policy makers in Washington take note.