Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yaron Brook on Capitalism

ARI has posted a video of Dr. Brook's talk at UCI in which he defended capitalism. I attended the lecture and thought it was one of his best talks -- highly recommended to anyone interested in the topic. (Navigate through ARI's Media tab, or try this page.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008



Principled Education

I've been enjoying Doug Reich's musings over at the Rational Capitalist, including this recent post on the unprincipled, concrete-bound nature of today's politics. But in keeping with his conclusions, over the past few years I've realized how much work I personally need to do on both approaching knowledge inductively and then integrating the results. Recent articles in the Objective Standard (e.g. on Newton and Darwin) highlight the proper approach, and my coursework at the OAC emphasizes it (particularly in the third year). So I now have a better sense of what I'm aiming at, but I still have a long ways to go in making it my basic approach. [Feel free to insert a rant against public education here.]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lisa Van Damme in EdNews

An interesting interview with Lisa Van Damme: About Education and Objectivism.

HT: Principles in Practice

Friday, April 25, 2008

Greens Make "Progress"

Looks like the environmentalists' agenda is making headway, more and more people no longer can afford basic energy costs:
The most immediate challenge is to help the high number of consumers who are far behind in electric and gas payments, said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which represents state aid officials in Washington.

“Based on discussions with major utility companies around the country, we will see record numbers of families facing shut-offs,” Mr. Wolfe said.


Well I finally watched the Firefly series and now understand what all the fuss was about. It's by far the best TV show I've ever seen, and I was surprised at how sad I was to watch the last episode, knowing they're won't be anymore. I only wish I'd have known about it when it was on air so that I could have added my voice to those who were trying to keep it alive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Madison on Principles

I ran across this quote from James Madison the other day, and was impressed not just by his strong defense of liberty, but by his attitude towards acting on principle as such. Indeed, it seems that much of what the Founding Fathers were able to accomplish stems from their ability to hold moral principles as absolutes. I'm still working on my ability to hold ideas as clearly and resolutely (though I'm finding the OAC to be of significant help in this regard)...
It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freeman of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Exploit the Earth Day

Craig Biddle has a good editorial up at Principles in Practice. (As he lays out the environmentalist argument, see how similar, though even less plausible, it is to the religious one by simply substituting "God" for "Earth". That's why I always laugh when environmentalists self-righteously condemn religionists as irrational, as if they weren't also, if not more so.)

Eplc. Don Herman "H&R"

Not the absolute best specimen, but enough to brighten my day a bit...


Monday, April 21, 2008

Taxation as Social Engineering

Yaron Brook has another good column up at An excerpt:
Here's the point: Government's job is not to dictate your values but to protect them. In a free country, you choose values and then use your own money as a tool to achieve them. But a value-rigged tax policy reverses this cause and effect--it uses your money against you, bribing you with tax breaks that let you keep some of your earnings in exchange for abandoning your preferred values.
P.S. Comments on any of these articles are always appreciated.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Intrinsicism Grounds American Airlines

Today's NYT's features a story on the FAA's grounding of American's airplanes last week. The story provides a glimpse into the capricious nature of regulation and non-objective law, and is worth reading from that standpoint alone.

But I was struck by how the FAA's whole approach and justification relies on an intrinsic view of knowledge. Specifically, these scientist-kings believe that they have unique insight into the True and the Good which they must righteously impose on airlines and passengers alike. And given that said airlines and passengers are nothing but helpless dolts, on whom the Truth fails to shine, only a political system in which the good can be forced on them is to their, and the FAA's, interest.

If, on the other hand, the FAA subscribed to an objective view of knowledge, they would realize that men can (indeed must) be convinced of the good by reason, and in such a case, the best political system would be one of freedom and free markets. For under such a system, the super-smart FAA bureaucrats could simply go out, start the absolute best airline possible, and then attract every traveler at the expense of the existing, supposedly incompetent, competitors.

That this never occurs to any FAA "expert" nor to their legion of defenders and advocates, says as much about their actual "expertise" as it does about the implicit view of knowledge necessary to champion such a widespread use of government force on innocent men.

Diana Hsieh on Regulation

Diana has a great, essentialized, post on regulation and "consumer protection". Check it out.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mauldin on Immigration

John Mauldin makes an interesting observation in this week's letter:
When I travel around the world, I am used to a certain amount of America and/or Bush bashing. It is just part of the background noise.

So, I was somewhat surprised to see the professor, in the middle of a talk on why some businesses succeed and others fail, put up a rather large flag of the United States and went on to say that the US would be the dominant developed country for his life, the life of his children and the life of their children's children. You could feel the surprise in the room. It is not what they were expecting to hear. I certainly did not.

He started out saying that someone could come to the US and within 3-5 years you could become a citizen. Making a long story short, in his native Finland it took 3-4 generations before you would be considered Finnish. He went on around the world. There are very few cultures where an immigrant can become a naturalized citizen and be accepted into the culture. China? No. Japan? No.

In Germany, the professor recently talked to the top 100 managers of Siemens. This is a company that employs 462,000 people doing business in 192 countries. In that room of the top management there were 99 Germans and one Austrian. Think of similar multi-national companies in the US. Such a room would be full of diversity.

A young lady Ph.D in physics in Lajore, Pakistan does not dream at night of immigrating to China or Germany, where opportunities would be very limited. No, she and millions more like her dream of coming to the US. He said that 85% of the people living in Silicon Valley were immigrants. The best and brightest in the world choose to go there.

Because for him, America is not a country, but an idea. It is the idea that any person can come and make a life for themselves as an equal. And it is that freedom to rise or fall that makes the US what it is.
These observations gibe with my experience, and help illustrate another aspect of the benefits of freedom. Indeed in very a real sense, the anti-immigration forces are anti-American.

Alt-A vs. Subprime

For those following the credit crisis, this video may be of interest. In particular, I was surprised at the percentage of loans that were simply for the purpose of pulling cash out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baptistonia Echinata


Go Along to Get Along

I think that in order to effect even a very radical cultural change, it only takes changing the minds of a relatively small minority -- that of the intellectually active. In a recent post, Myraf illustrates how the remainder of the population will likely fall into place.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Trust, Don't Judge?

Too bad the irony of this story would probably be lost on those who could most learn from it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mass. "Health Care"

This story, which describes the predictable, nay inevitable, failure of the Massachussetts "health care" plan, is interesting not only for the facts it conveys, but perhaps even more so for the attitudes of those debating the issue.

First a few of the facts:
One of the most radical fixtures of the law is the so-called "individual mandate" — the requirement that virtually everyone have health insurance or face tax penalties.

Anyone deemed able to afford health insurance but who refused to buy it during 2007 already faces the loss of a $219 personal tax exemption. New monthly fines that kicked in this year could total as much as $912 for individuals and $1,824 for couples by December.
Businesses are also on the hook. Those with 11 or more full time employees who refuse to offer insurance face $295 annual penalties per employee. Already, 748 employers have failed to meet that threshold and have paid $6.6 million to the state.
The euphemism "individual mandate" is intended to hide the fact that this is just another tax by which the individual forfeits his rights to the state. The proponents of the plan of course don't even feel the perfunctory need to couch the penalty to businesses in such language because, according to them, it's widely understood that businesses not only don't have rights, but are the root of all evil.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out which type of people this will attract to the state, and which it will repel.

In terms of attitudes, the fact that the obvious and abject failure of the plan doesn't phase any proponent is telling, but even more so is this observation:
"The two sides agree on nothing accept[sic] for one thing: They hate our little ecumenical experiment here in Massachusetts," he said. "It's almost as if they are the health care fundamentalists and we're like the heretics because we are coming together."
This is indicative of how the modern world approaches issues: either you're a dogmatic authoritarian (in this case advocating freedom!) or you're a pragmatic skeptic (in this case "trying out" socialism). I fear that until the idea that issues can be discussed and resolved objectively (i.e. by reasoning based on facts and principles) is revived, no progress will be made on these matters, and the culture will continue to spiral downwards.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Study of Philosophy on the Rise

Overall this seems like good news. People are recognizing the value of philosophy, which in turn means a potentially greater audience for Ayn Rand, and a concommitant greater demand for professors and teachers trained in her thought.
“If I were to start again as an undergraduate, I would major in philosophy,” said Matthew Goldstein, the CUNY chancellor, who majored in mathematics and statistics. “I think that subject is really at the core of just about everything we do. If you study humanities or political systems or sciences in general, philosophy is really the mother ship from which all of these disciplines grow.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Foxes Guarding the Hen House

One of the key assumptions underlying arguments for government regulation is that when people switch over from the private sector to the public sector, they're somehow transformed from devils to angels. I've never understood any part of this -- most people I see in the private sector are more conscientious and harder working than those I see in the public sector; and more importantly, the market provides an incentive to do good, honest work lest a competitor unseat you -- no such mechanism is at work in the public sector.

So it comes as no surprise to me that the government "watchdogs" are generally much less honest than anything you might find in the private sector:
The review of card spending at more than a dozen departments from 2005 to 2006 found that nearly 41 percent of roughly $14 billion in credit-card purchases, whether legitimate or questionable, did not follow procedure — either because they were not properly authorized or they had not been signed for by an independent third party as called for in federal rules to deter fraud.

For purchases over $2,500, nearly half — or 48 percent — were unauthorized or improperly received.

Out of a sample of purchases totaling $2.7 million, the government could not account for hundreds of laptop computers, iPods and digital cameras worth more than $1.8 million. In one case, the U.S. Army could not say what happened to computer items making up 16 server configurations, each of which cost nearly $100,000.

Agencies often could not provide the required paperwork to justify questionable purchases. Investigators also found that federal employees sometimes double-billed or improperly expensed lavish meals and Internet dating for many months without question from supervisors; the charges were often noticed only after auditors or whistle-blowers raised questions.

"Breakdowns in internal controls over the use of purchase cards leave the government highly vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse," investigators wrote, calling the governmentwide failure rate in enforcing controls "unacceptably high."
Now if we could only get the general public and our politicians to see this, we might actually be able to roll back some of the terrible regulations that have been instituted over the past 100+ years.

Dendrobium Gracilicaule - Kingianum


Monday, April 07, 2008

Atheists Not Entitled to Rights in Illinois

Via Mike of the OBloggers list comes this scary story of an Illinois state representative telling a constituent he had no right to his views on the propriety of public funding of a baptist church because he's an atheist. Apparently in Illinois it's not "no taxation without representation", but "no representation without belief in some supernatural contradiction". We're seeing more and more of this attitude in politics, so it's no wonder ARI chose Reason vs. Faith as the topic for their first set of video clips.


I've updated the blogroll over the past week and will probably continue to do so for the next month or so. There's lots of good stuff out there, so when you have a minute, check them out.

As an example, here's a very interesting post on ER's from FIRM's blog. Seems like a no-brainer to refuse Medicaid and Medicare patients given that doctors take a loss on every one of them. (And it sure would be nice to know that if you're actually willing to enter into a fair exchange with a doctor, his services will be available to you.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Pat Condell

I started watching some of Pat Condell's videos last week, and came away very impressed with his articulateness, insight and humor -- not to mention the immense courage he demonstrates in putting these out. And while I don't agree with some important premises he seems to hold, e.g. on the nature of rights, I highly recommend the videos. For more background, here is the wikipedia entry describing him.

HT Art De Vany

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Yaron Brook on Campaign Finance

I'm late in posting this, but Yaron has authored another excellent editorial for Forbes, this time on campaign finance restrictions and the right to free speech. Don't miss it.

Religious Denominations in the US

Thanks to Diana's post on GDP's of US states versus those of other countries, I started scrolling through the Strange Maps site. In so doing I came across this interesting map:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hoover <> Laissez Faire

The WSJ observes a common refrain from many of today's politicians is to hold, or imply, that Hoover caused the Great Depression by his hands-off approach. They then go on to argue that to avoid a similar situation, the government must do something (anything!). But in actuality, the facts belie their argument:
To hear Mr. Schumer and his fellow-traveling columnists tell it, Hoover's great policy blunder was to do nothing, all the while insisting that everything was fine. But the problem with Hoover's economic policy isn't that it was passive but that it was actively destructive.

In 1930, he signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, setting off a wave of protectionist retaliation that undid the globalization of the preceding decades and did far more harm to the world economy than the stock-market crash ever did. Two years later, amid a bad recession, he undid the Calvin Coolidge-Andrew Mellon tax cuts, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 63% from 25%. The recession became a Depression.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Wafa Sultan Fatwa

I agree completely with Nick Provenzo's take on it. (HT: Noodlefood)

Blc Alma Kee 'Tip Malee'