Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Short-Sighted Businessmen

My best friend, Rob Tarr, sent me these excerpts from the Wall Street Journal ("J.P. Morgan Adopts 'Green' Lending Policies", 4/25/05) along with his comments as an illustration of why businessmen need a philosophy if they hope to succeed (or even survive) in the long term.
"Following pressure by ecological activists and shareholder groups, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will adopt sweeping guidelines that restrict its lending and underwriting practices for industrial projects that are likely to have an environmental impact.

The New York banking giant--third largest in assets in the U.S.--is expected to issue a 10-page environmental policy today that takes an aggressive stance on global warming...

And J.P. Morgan plans to lobby the U.S. government to adopt a national policy on greenhouse-gas emissions, becoming the first big American bank to pledge that kind of activism on such a contentious issue, according to shareholder activists.

The bank's move, on the heels of activist campaigns that produced similar pledges from Citigroup Inc., and Bank of America Corp., suggest that a shift in tactics by the environmental movement is paying off."
This last paragraph, though, was particularly maddening:

"Whether the environmental policies amount to much more than window dressing is still an open question. Some officials at oil companies who have bowed to environmentalists' demands, for example, privately say they did so because the move didn't require much new substantive action on their part--basically they agreed publicly that global warming is a legitimate issue. Most companies adopting green policies haven't lost much business as a result, nor spent huge sums of money on abiding by the principles, industry executives say."
An *oil* company (oil!) 'only' had to publicly agree that global warming is a legitimate issue. "Hey, all we had to do is admit that we have no right to exist as a business, and that we produce an inherently evil product that threatens to destroy all humanity! It didn't cost us a penny!!"

Blog Baptism

Now that this blog is up and running, I figured I ought to come up with a better name for it. The name should be short, catchy, and hip; so that on the off-chance someone links to it, they can “hat tip” a cool name, not “Amit’s Blog”. Given that my primary hobby is bouldering, I thought picking a word from its jargon fit the need for the blog's name to be vaguely self-referential, while still being unusual enough not to pop up everywhere on the internet.

Thrutch. You won’t find it any dictionary, which in and of itself indicates how cool it is, but as far as I can make out, “to thrutch (vt.) is to extend one’s reach using momentum gained by thrusting of one’s pelvis and hips”. Now, any word that denotes thrusting of the pelvis is already one I’m predisposed to, but I also like the metaphor of learning to extend oneself to grasp that which had previously been just out of reach.

So there you have it, I proudly give you Thrutch.

Monday, April 25, 2005

An Educational Interview

A good friend of mine, Andrew Coulson, was recently interviewed on the Larry Elder show to discuss free market education. I think he did an excellent job, both in presentation and in his ability to cite the relevant facts extemporaneously. I was particularly interested to learn that he now prefers tax credits to vouchers, since the latter leave too much leeway for continued government interference. (Scroll to minute 26:30).

Ultimately, the battle for free markets in education (and in everything else) has to be fought by defending man's rights -- and their basis: egoism and reason. But in validating the global principles involved, it's essential to examine the historical records and to confirm that the moral is indeed the practical. In this regard, Andrew's work on education is without peer.

So thanks again Andrew for all your efforts.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Original Sin

I’ve been re-reading Galt’s speech in preparation for the OAC entrance exam, and was struck by the force and clarity of Ayn Rand’s devastating critique of the whole concept and doctrine of Original Sin. So, in (dis)honor of the new Pope who, by all accounts, will be enforcing said doctrine more stridently than ever, I thought I’d quote the excerpt from Galt’s speech here for all to enjoy:

“Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accepts his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not.

It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some explicable claim upon him - it does not matter, the good is not for him to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is non-man.

The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.
A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code...

...What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge - he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil - he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor - he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire - he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy - all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was - that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love - he was not man.

Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.

They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man."

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, (reprinted in For the New Intellectual, 1961, Pages 136-137)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Brash Americans

You gotta love the way Americans go after their goals, as opposed to Europeans who seem primarily concerned with their place in society.

Vision and Perseverance

I love stories about people who have a clear vision of what they want to do and then pursue it unrelentingly. Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick, architects of the dynasty team - the New England Patriots, seem to have done this with their love for football and their desire to build a winning organization. Congrats to them.

Friday, April 22, 2005

John Lewis' Homeland Defense - The Lessons from History

ARI has put up a free link to John Lewis' public talk on the historical experience with homeland defense (registration required). I found the example of Sherman's march during the American Civil war of particular interest (scroll to minute 43:35).

In addition to his main thesis, there are a couple of other worthwhile side notes that come out of the talk. For example, many people ask: "If you had a truly capitalist society, how could you be sure that people would fund the minimal but essential government functions?" Personally I don't think there is any question that if people recognized the value of a free society that they wouldn't contribute voluntarily to its infrastructure -- but for those with such doubts, John offers an historical example where Romans funded a war effort voluntarily, even on top of the taxes they were already paying (minute 27:30).

During the Q&A (not recorded) John makes an excellent observation in response to the perennial criticism presented by most appeasers: "By waging war, don't we just make our enemy hate us more and perpetuate a cycle of unending violence?" He notes that we annihilated Japan and Germany during WWII, while we mollycoddled Cuba and North Korea in the second half of the 20th century. By the appeaser's claim, we should be at mortal war with the former group and in joyous partnership with the latter. Facts just don't bear out arguments for appeasement....