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A Concrete-Bound State of the Union

President Obama's 2015 State of the Union speech was full of examples of concrete-bound thinking.
Obama seems to think that if he likes something, a law will make it happen.
 
  • Are some people poor? Have the government give them money!
  • Should women and men both be treated like the individuals they are? Make it illegal to treat them any other way!
  • Is college education a good thing? Make it free, by law!

 The concrete-bound mentality, Ayn Rand explained, is one that focuses on what can be seen and eschews thinking in the abstract about long-range consequences that can't be seen.

 

Obama's policy ideas are concrete-bound

 
Obama can see that some people are poor. He can't see the stutifying, prosperity-destroying effects of his socialist economic policies. He can't see the counter-factual, flourishing America that would exist but for those regulations, subsidies, and taxes.
 
Obama can see that both men and women are people. He can't see the crushing effect a law mandating “just” pay would have—the lawsuits it would engender, the damage it would do to the rule of law itself through the inherent vagueness of its charge. What jobs are the same? What is fair pay? In private life, these questions are resolved through endless interaction and renegotiation. Obama can't see the teams of investigators that would be needed to judge the rightness of every contract and pay rate, disrupting the private market.
 
It takes abstract thinking to appreciate why freedom is the best policy. It takes conceptual thought, not the perceptual level limitations of the concrete-bound.

 

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William R Thomas is Director of Programs at The Atlas Society. Posted 1/23/15.

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Obama's 2015 State of the Stupid

In his 2015 State of the Union speech, President Obama counted on the American people being too ignorant to see that he was offering the same old failed policies and sugar-coated demagoguery.Obama assumes you're stupid

Just how stupid does Obama assume the American people are?
 

Rational ignorance?

 
Most Americans don’t have the time or stomach to digest the spoiled bromides offered by most politicians. Thus, avoiding such fare except, perhaps, at election time might seem like rational ignorance. Why waste time sorting out politics when you’re busy living your life?
 
Unfortunately, the problem often goes deeper. Comedians and man-on-the-street interviewers for years have highlighted a level of ignorance that is disturbing and anything but rational. For example, on Martin Luther King Day, the day before Obama’s speech, video-provocateur Mark Dice approached San Diego citizens—white and black—with a camera and mic. He asked them their reaction to the news that Dr. King had died that day at the age of 93; King, of course, was actually assassinated 46 years ago. Many expressed their regret. Some agreed they would likely watch his funeral on TV.
 
Obama must have assumed the alleged “rational”—as well as deep—ignorance of a large number of Americans, because otherwise he must have known he would be laughed out of the house.
 

Divide and exploit

 
In the State of the Union, for example, Obama asked, “Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another—or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?” He was assuming that Americans never registered the fact that he has been one of the most divisive presidents of our times.
 
Stoking the fires of class envy with “Let’s tax the rich” and “You didn’t build that” rhetoric is a key component of his ideology.
 
Obama posed as a president who would transcend race. Yet a Gallup survey found a dramatic jump in the number of Americans who see race relations deteriorating. Obama is assuming that his kumbaya slick talk will make Americans disconnect from the fact that he has had the notorious race-hustler Al Sharpton to the White House over 80 times and embraces this bigot at every opportunity.
 
And bipartisan? Unlike Bill Clinton when he was president, Obama has made little attempt to work with Republicans on Capitol Hill; he’s had only a handful of meetings with GOP House leader John Boehner. I guess he was too busy with Sharpton.
 

Job of confusing

 
Obama declared that “Over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs” and that unemployment was down. He was betting that too few Americans—unless, perhaps, they were Fox News junkies—would know that since he took office in January 2009 workforce participation dropped from 65.7 percent to 62.7 percent today, a 36 year low. Fewer people are even bothering to look for work. And if they don't look for work, they don't count as “unemployed.”
 
When he took office 154.2 million were seeking work. After an actual drop, today that number is only 156.1 million, less than 2 million more. When he was first sworn in, 142.2 million were working. Today it’s about 147.4 million, a 5 million increase, not an 11 million net gain.
 
Yes, the job situation has improved in the past seven years but in spite of, not because of, Obama’s policies; this has been one of the slowest economic recoveries since the Depression. And there are more Americans getting food stamps and living in poverty than when The One blessed the White House with his audacity.
 
Obama could only make happy-face claims about the job scene because he’s confident that most Americans can’t do basic math.
 

Stupid school

 
Which brings us Obama’s assertion that “More of our kids are graduating than ever before” followed by his “plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.” Of course, the cost can never be “zero.” The question is, who pays the cost?
 
Whether the graduation numbers are doctored or not misses the main point that Obama counts on the American people to miss—most of our wits were no doubt dulled in government schools.
 
Presidents since George H.W. Bush have been calling for more federal education spending. The Department of Education appropriation in 1989 was $22.8 billion. By 2013 it was $39.9 billion. Of course, local government appropriations make up the largest share of government education spending.  State and local education spending jumped from $288 billion in 1990 to nearly $1 trillion today.
 
The results? High school students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have been flat for years, as have SAT scores. The mean score on the math part of the SAT college entrance exams was 502 in 1988 but only 513 in 2014. The scores on the verbal part dropped from 504 in 1988 to 497 in 2014.
 
Government junior colleges are needed to make up for the failures of government high schools. Is Obama savoring the fact that he’s asking for more money for the same government schools that addle people’s minds so they can’t figure out that this money is wasted?
 

Not so stupid?

 
But maybe the American people do appreciate that Obama is distorting the truth, even if they don't follow the details. After all, the majority did vote in a Republican Congress in 2014.
 
And maybe the fact that Obama was not welcomed on the campaign trail by his fellow Democrats suggests that more and more Americans see through his hollow rhetoric and BS promises.
 
But will Republicans be able to go on the offensive, educating Americans to the truth and showing that ignorance is not rational? They are stupid if they don’t.
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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted January 22, 2015.
 
For further information:
 
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama offers more of the same failed education ideas.” February 15, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Poison For Entrepreneurs.” July 24, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism.” April 4, 2009.
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Hollande's Netanyahu Snub Proves the Need for Israel

 We took hope at the sight of French President Francoise Hollande marching in solidarity with dozens of world leaders to denounce the Islamist massacres of Charlie Hebdo journalists and Jewish shoppers in Paris. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas marched in the frontNetanyahu and Hollande row, so maybe Hollande could have taken this rare occasion of accord to play the diplomat and further Middle East peace.
 
But hope became disappointment when it was reported that Hollande, in fact, had informed Israel that he did not want Netanyahu or Abbas at the event. He was particularly angry when Netanyahu decided to come anyway. The French then made sure that Abbas was there as well. When Hollande walked out of the Paris Grand Synagogue when Netanyahu got up to speak at a unity service, he seemed to snub the Israeli leader.
 

Hollande ignoring Islamists

 
Hollande’s supposed motive for wanting to bar Netanyahu and Abbas was to keep the focus of the solidarity events on France and not introduce distractions from the Israel-Arab and Jewish-Muslim conflicts. But Islamists committed the carnage in Paris, targeting Jews in the process. Returning to Israel along with Netanyahu were the bodies of these victims, who have since been buried in Jerusalem. And Israel is a principal target of Islamist terrorism.
 
A rally of three million individuals and over 40 world leaders to protest political murders becomes a shallow exercise when those leaders, especially Hollande, bend over backwards to ignore the Islamic roots of the crime.
 

French anti-Semitism and Israel's founding

 
Under the influence of the Enlightenment, Western European Jews in nineteenth century were gaining civilDreyfus degraded liberties such as the right to vote and equality before the law, rights that had been denied them in nearly two millennia of ghettos, oppression, expulsions, and pogroms. Many Jews thought they could assimilate into the wider world.
 
But in 1894 French military officer Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, was wrongly convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island. During the trial, writer-journalist Theodor Herzl witnessed massive anti-Semitic demonstrations in Paris. He concluded that assimilation and the law could not protect Jews from persecution, and that the only way Jews might live and flourish would be by establishing their own homeland. So began Zionism and the aliyahs, the waves of immigrants to Palestine.
 
Most European Jews who made their way to Palestine in the following half century survived the Holocaust (America was the first choice of many, but it was closing to immigrants); most who stayed in Europe did not. The day after the State of Israel was founded in 1948, the armies of five Arab countries attacked with the goal of finishing the job Hitler had started. They lost, and Israel has survived as a place of refuge for Jews around the world.
 

A sanctuary for Jews today

 
And such a place of sanctuary might especially be needed again today. In Europe anti-Semitism is on the rise, principally because of the influx of Muslim immigrants, with attacks on Jews becoming more frequent including in France.
 
In Paris, after the unity rally that the French did not want Netanyahu to attend, Israel’s Prime Minister visited the site where Jews were murdered and declared that “A direct line leads between the attacks of extremist Islam around the world to the attack that took place here at a kosher supermarket in the heart of Paris. … I expect all of the leaders, with whom we marched in the streets of Paris yesterday, to fight terrorism wherever it is, also when it is directed against Israel and Jews.”
 
He then said "To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home," and he invited them to migrate, as so many first did over a century ago.
 

It is about Islam

 
Let’s grant that there has been progress over the past century. At least the throngs in the street on this occasion were opposing violence rather than shouting “Kill the Jews” as the Parisians did during the Dreyfus affair. But such shouts can be heard from Muslims in Europe. And perhaps Hollande himself doesn't understand that by seemingly snubbing Netanyahu rather than reaching out to him in the face of Jews murdered in France, he was proving the need for an Israel as a sanctuary for Jews and as a strong force against terrorism today just as the Dreyfus affair demonstrated the need for the establishment of an Israel long ago.
 
But the need for Islam to reform itself, to adopt Enlightenment principles, and to clean up its own ranks is not lost now on many, now including Muslims. Many Muslims did, indeed, denounce the Charlie Hebdo murders. But others still endorsed those atrocities. And many Westerners, including Pope Francis, suggested that individuals bring such fates on themselves when they don’t censor themselves.
 
The only way Europe, the Middle East, and the world can survive in peace and prosperity is for the Enlightenment principles of reason and individual liberty to be promoted clearly and unapologetically, especially by those in Europe and America who are the most direct heirs to those principles.
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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted on January 16, 2015.
 
For further information:
 

 

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Global Jihad vs Islamic Enlightenment

 The murders of French journalists by Islamist jihadists make clear even to the dogmatically self-blinded that the values of the modern world are in mortal danger. But an under-reported ray of hope came recently from Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has called for a revolution to banish violent jihad from Islam.Charlie hebdo paris attacks shootings
 

How many Islamist massacres?

 
How many Islamist massacres will it take to make the point that the values of the modern world are under threat? A dozen at Charlie Hebdo in Paris? Hundreds of school children with their teachers in Pakistan? Hundreds more in a subway in London, a restaurant in Bali, and trains in Madrid? Thousands in the World Trade Center? Tens of thousands in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan?
 
These slaughters are not simply blowback from American foreign policy. They are manifestations of a clash of values between the civilized world and the Islamic one. It is true that there are Muslims who support tolerance for different religions and lifestyles, and who give priority to peace and prosperity. Many say that “true” Islam does not involve jackbooted theocracy. But for millions of others, Islam demands violence, or at least finds it acceptable.
 
A religion is to a great extent a construct of its adherents. It consists of the beliefs, values, priorities, assumptions, and expectations shared by those adherents and reinforced by their culture and institutions. Academics arguing that particular acts of violence and repression are not condoned by the Koran do not negate the fact that millions of Muslims still believe they are.
 
Islam is in a civil war with itself.
 

Islam values violence

 
What values are reflected in the fact that when Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed were published ten years ago, tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets of Europe calling for repression and violence against the infidel, while others murdered hundreds, especially Christians, worldwide in orgies of mindless revenge?
 
What does it say about peaceful Islam when, on the anniversaries of the September 11 attacks, there were no massive demonstrations in America or elsewhere to mourn the dead and to declare “Ours is a religion of peace,” but on the first anniversary there was a major conference in London by Muslim leaders to celebrate the attacks?
 
What can we deduce about Muslim culture when we consider that the Nazis had to hide their genocide for fear that Germans, even the most anti-Semitic ones, would be repulsed by death camps, but that ISIS sees it as an effective recruiting strategy to post videos of beheadings, butchery, and mass murder?
 
These facts reflect the pre-modern values that still permeate many Muslim communities—dogmatic orthodoxy and superstition; rejection of reason and free expression; contempt of individual autonomy and dignity; subservience to dictatorial authority; death doled out casually to all who disagree. Add to this the model of Mohammad spreading the religion with the sword and the ideal of a Caliphate that unites church and state, and the distance between the sentiments of many Muslims and those of more secular Westerners is clear.
 

A new Dark Age?

 
The West went through centuries of religious wars and oppression before gradually integrating Enlightenment values into its culture and political institutions, and they’re still only imperfectly realized. The Islamic world never went through such a transformation. It now struggles to do so in only a few decades lest it continue to be the vanguard of war and oppression.
 
The problem is acute in European countries where Muslims have become a large portion of those countries’ populations through immigration and high birth rates. But a legacy of European nationalism means Muslims are not integrated well into those countries, nor are they instilled with the values of open societies. As Muslims become the majority in those countries in decades to come, the remnants of Enlightenment culture could succumb to demands for Dark Age sharia law.
 

A ray of Islamic hope

 
One ray of hope comes from Egypt. After its Arab Spring, with the thousands rising up to overthrow the repressive Mubarak regime, the potentially even more repressive Muslim Brotherhood took power. Another uprising, backed by the military, overthrew the Brotherhood.
 
Now Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a Muslim, is trying to bring his country into the ranks of modernity in terms of religious toleration.Enlightened Egyptian Sisi
 
On Christmas Day, for example, he became the first Egyptian president to attend mass at a Coptic Christian church. And in an extraordinary speech marking the birth of Mohammad, he declared, “We are in need of a religious revolution.”
 
He asked, “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people (Muslims worldwide) should want to kill the rest of the world’s population—that is, 7 billion people—so that they themselves may live? Impossible.”
 
He argued that “We need a revolution of the self, a revolution of consciousness and ethics to rebuild the Egyptian person.”
 
He maintained that "It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” And concerning the thinking behind extremist opinion, he stated, “You have to get out of it, inspect it, and read it with a real enlightened thought.”
 
Sisi addressed his remarks to Dar al-Iftaa, a prestigious Sunni religious institution founded over a millennium ago and sponsored by the Egyptian government. It is carrying out Sisi’s enterprise. For example, it has launch a campaign to rectify what it considers to be an incorrect image of Islam with views that “suit the modern age,” and it recently held an interfaith conference to combat extremism.
 

Celebrate Enlightenment

 
If Sisi and his allies make a priority of bringing Islam into modernity, they could be a major force offering the alternative to al Qaida, ISIS, Hamas, and the theocrats both in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
 
Ironically, a major barrier to this alternative could be the politically correct or cowardly leaders in the West who coddle extremists rather than celebrate Enlightenment values and insist that Muslims and everybody else be held to their standards.
 
Those are the values of civilization that apply to all individuals at all times, and will make Europe, America, and the Middle East places fit for human life and achievement.
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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
Posted on January 9, 2014.
 
For further information:
 

 

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Martin Anderson Remembered

Friends of freedom have lost a friend. Martin Anderson, 78, a Hoover Institution scholar and policy advisor to presidents, has passed away. Among his achievements were helping to eliminate the military draft and heading off a national ID card.

Anderson was a life-long fighter for freedom. From the 1960s he was part of Ayn Rand’s New York circle and he helped make real the principles of individual liberty and limited that she espoused.

In his 1964 book The Federal Bulldozer: A Critical Analysis of Urban Renewal, 1942-1962 Anderson demonstrated how government policy was actually destroying affordable housing and at huge taxpayer expeMartin Anderson libertarian influence military draft Ayn Rand Nixon Reagannse.

Martin Anderson’s fight for liberty

Anderson was a leading advocate of eliminating the military draft. In 1968 he was instrumental in persuading then-candidate Richard Nixon to make replacing conscription with an all-volunteer army a central part of his presidential campaign. Nixon carried through on that promise, at least.

Anderson made his mark as domestic policy advisor for Ronald Reagan. For example, at a cabinet meeting early in Reagan’s first term, Attorney General William French Smith presented a plan to require a national ID card for anyone working in the United States, in part to deal with illegal immigrants.

Anderson, who normally didn’t speak at those meetings, raised his hand and, when called on by Reagan, explained that such a card could easily be faked or lost. So why not tattoo a number on everyone’s wrist? Reagan immediately understood the illusion to Nazi practices and the threat such a “Papers please” dictate would pose to liberty. The proposal died there and then.

Documenting Reagan’s legacy

Anderson, a trustee of the Ronald Reagan Library, documented the achievements of the Reagan administration in his aptly-titled book Revolution. And as a Reagan biographer with his wife Annelise, he set the record straight about the country’s 40th president.

For example, Reagan, a hardline anti-communist, was perceived by many as a war-monger. But when I visited Anderson’s Hoover Institute office in the mid-2000s, he explained to me that too few people appreciated just how strongly Reagan had as a top priority—along with cutting taxes and eliminating government intrusion in the economy—eliminating the possibility of nuclear war. Before Reagan was elected, America practiced a strategy of “mutual assured destruction.” The notion was that if the Soviets launched a nuclear attack on the United States, this country would retaliate by destroying every major Soviet city. Both countries would be destroyed and fear of such a holocaust would keep the country safe.

Reagan rejected this “balance of terror” strategy. With the Strategic Defense Initiative he sought to create a system to protect American cities by shooting down incoming Soviet nukes. And on a parallel track he sought to negotiate actual reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, not out of a naïve view of benevolent Communist leaders but under the sound principle of “trust but verify.”

Martin and Annelise documented the Gipper’s success in their 2010 book Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster.

Martin Anderson’s legacy

Anderson’s scholarly work also included Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the United States published in 1978, a few years before he brought his insights to the Reagan administration. And his 1992 book Impostors in the Temple: The Decline of the American University called attention to a reality that is all-too clear to day. In the words of the book’s subtitle, “American intellectuals are destroying our universities and cheating our students of their future.” We're living that future now and seeing the effects that Anderson predicted.

Martin Anderson’s was a life of the mind and a life of achievement. His life should be celebrated and he will be missed.
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Hudgins is Director of Advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted January 5, 2015.

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New York for Disvalue

 Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, is half-hearted about economic freedom but is full-on against value-creation.

In Albany on December 17, the Governor (and possible future Presidential candidate) announced the licensing of three new casinos—striking a minor blow for freedom—while declaring a permanent ban on fracking for natural gas—striking a major blow against freedom.
 

Libertarian reasons for freedom...

 
From a libertarian point of view, these two acts kind of balance each other out. But in real life, they don't.

Slot machine gamblers: do they look like they're living well?

A libertarian would point out that both Cuomo's acts relate to government prohibitions against voluntary acts. By banning and restricting trades related to vices—like pot sales or casino betting—the government just creates more criminals and exposes the people most attached to vice to shady dealings. It's economically inefficient, in other words. And economically speaking, banning trades related to virtues has similar deliterious effects, plus it prevents people from doing what they need to do to live well.
 

...aren't Objectivist reasons for freedom.

 
Still, in real life, it makes a huge difference whether we have freedom to harm ourselves or whether we have freedom to do what makes a flourishing life possible. What Cuomo has done is offer more opportunities for people to waste money on bets that are rigged to be losers, while at the same time banning profitable investments in a basic good—energy—that all of us need for the achievement of every good thing we do.
 
new york's andrew cuomo banned fracking economic repercussionsWe have the right to do wrong. Indeed, freedom to make mistakes is the flip side of freedom to make good choices—it's hard to succeed without screwing up now and then. And sometimes what one person calls a vice—Islam looks down on interest payments, for instance—is something others can use to create great values. So there are good reasons to value freedom as such—to be, politically, a libertarian in other words.
 
But in the end, we need freedom in order to live. And the core freedom we then need is the right to use property to create values—goods that promote our lives and our projects. That's what fracking does: it has created an explosion of wealth and made energy—both natural gas and petroleum—cheaper and more amply supplied than ever.
 
By banning fracking and licensing casinos, New York State has wedded itself to abetting unreason and disvalue, while banning reason and value-creation.
 

Add casinos to fix the economy?

 
The fracking ban has hit the “Southern Tier” of New York particularly hard. South of the state border, fracking is in full swing in Pennsylvania, exploiting the Marcellus Shale the two states share. But in the Southern Tier, unemployment is high and prospects are bleak. Taking note of this, today Governor Cuomo has sent a letter to the casino board, demanding an extra casino be licensed somewhere in the southern part of the state.
 
It is plain that the Governor thinks allowing gambling will make up for all the industry that has been destroyed by state's high taxes, heavy regulation, and its—longstanding but now permanent—ban on fracking.
 
Is it any wonder most of New York State is an economic basket case? Value-creation is unwelcome there—but the door is open to disvalue and vice.
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Review - Quicker, Smarter, Wiser, Freer

 The “Ell Donsaii” series by Laurence Dahners is a series of science-fiction novels that a certain kind of Ayn Rand fan Laurence Dahners Quicker novel review Ayn Rand objectivism William R Thomascould love.

If you look for fiction about achievement, reason, courage, and integrity, you will find it in this series. And if you look for fiction that understands how creativity and private business underlie the economy and society, look no further.

Ell Donsaii is the name of the series' heroine. She is something very special: the titles of the first two novels in the series, Quicker and Smarter, hint at why. As Dahners explains in a “pre-prologue” and in the scientific post-script he adds to his novels, Donsaii has exceptional quickness and strength, and has “a new mutation affecting the myelin sheaths surrounding her nerves” which helps make her even quicker and lot smarter than she would otherwise be. She’s also amazingly beautiful. In other words, she's an ubermensch.
 
But Donsaii is the very model of a modern major ubermensch. She is hard-working, creative, straightforward, positive, and value-focused. Spending time with her is rather like riding the John Galt Line with hot super-industrialists Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden.
 
The novels center on her adventures and achievements, set in a near-future time. She gets in major sports competitions, serves with distinction in the military, does great science, and founds companies. The villains are boorish guys and jealous girls, crony capitalists, terrorists, kidnappers, dictatorial regimes (including a power-mad US President), and natural disasters. She has trouble in love, and the stories are generally not care-free larks.
 
For the Objectivist, there’s a lot to love here, although it won't all come together until one has read a few books in the series. Donsaii is a world-beater, but isn’t interest in beating the world: she’s about achievement and happiness, not about proving she’s the best. When we meet her, she is shy and learning to stand on her own two feet. By the end of the first novel, she is famous. But she isn’t interested in fame, and spends much of the rest of the series building a set of secret identities that let her pass unnoticed. When one is famous, beautiful, and successful, how can one tell real friends from gold-diggers and the blindly lustful? What matters, Dahners reminds us, is real friendship , value-creation, and honest dealing.
 
The author is no libertarian, but libertarian-ish themes abound: he’s suspicious of bureaucracy and thinks less government regulation would be better than more, most of the time. Donsaii is a scientist, and she’s also a technologist and a businesswoman: that’s just how Ayn Rand would have liked it. Business practice and business decisions feature heavily in the stories, but the only evil businesspeople are the political cronies and those engaged in organized crime. Of course, the business issues are made more interesting than normal when they deal with quantum wormholes , international spies, and faster-than-light travel.
 
The writing style isn’t brilliant, but it’s effective and clear. Dahners builds a world populated with many sympathetic characters with motivations and stories of their own. And he explores the possibilities of unforeseen technologies with gusto.He shows real skill in presenting interesting, engaging scenes of scientific and technological invention being created.
 
So if you want to spend a little time in world of possibilities and achievement, and delight in what a talented person with integrity could do, I recommend the “Ell Donssai” series.
 
-posted December 23, 2014 by William R Thomas--
 
For further information:
 
*William Thomas, “Review of Interstellar.” December 2, 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Are the Sith Selfish.” May 25, 2005.
*Edward Hudgins, “Star Wars and Falling Republics.” May 20, 2002.
*Edward Hudgins, “Hayek vs. Asimov: Spontaneous Order or Failed Foundations.” January 1996.
 
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Review of Interstellar

By William R Thomas

Dec 02, 2014

 Interstellar shouts to the world that Americans should be achievers, but then it steals from them the ability to succeed.Interstellar-movie-negative-review-objectivism

This is the contradiction at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s new film. It is set up as a story about indomitable individuals, but sets them up to be unable to succeed on their own terms.
 
Interstellar is in many ways an excellent film: it is moving and features some first-rate acting. It has many dramatic scenes that are rooted in crucial values. It makes one think a bit about what’s possible in the future, both good and bad. And it isn’t predictable: it’s a Nolan film—expect to be surprised.
 
The basic story is this: a some-what future Earth is going to the dogs. We are told there has been a war. Some kind of plague or parasite is attacking the Earth’s crops and eating up the atmosphere itself. No wheat can be grown, so Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a frustrated former test pilot living with his two children, farms corn, amid dust-clouds and a hopeless culture. His daughter, Murph (various actresses), is suspended from school for telling the story of the moon landings: the government has announced that the moon landings were faked. What has happened
The intergalactic wormhole in Interstellar
to America? Cooper wants to know. Didn’t we use to create great things and dream great dreams? Weren’t we darers and problem-solvers?
 
Then, through what appears to be the intervention of a “ghost” who can manipulate gravity, Cooper stumbles upon a secret NASA project. A mysterious wormhole has appeared out near Saturn. NASA is using it to explore to a distant galaxy where there might be worlds humanity can colonize before the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Can they succeed?
The story that follows is trippy in the best science-fictional way: relativistic time-dilation plays a big role in what happens next. One wonderful aspect of the film is the degree to which it is based in good science: at least, nothing happens that isn’t, in some sense, still scientifically conceivable, at least in broad strokes, and much that happens trades on aspects of known science. Are gravitational wormholes in space-time likely? Maybe not. Is it probable that space-ships can fly through them? Again, unlikely: but maybe, just maybe, it could be.
 

Interstellar film values 

 
Interstellar cheers for values an Objectivist can love. The film several times explicitly and approving quotes Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night,” with its refrain “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” In this and other ways, the film thus directly says that we should strive to survive, know, achieve, and live.
 
For all their striving, the heroes in Interstellar are incapable of succeeding on their own.
But here’s the thing: for all their striving, the heroes are incapable of succeeding on their own. Instead, a deus-ex-machina rescue saves them at the crucial junctures. Cooper has no plan to fly again before a strange message delivered by gravitational fluctuations in some dust directs him to NASA’s secret project. And there would be no NASA project without the wormhole that someone (a being from the 5th—physical—dimension?) has plonked there out by Saturn. And this feature carries over into the climax of the film. The heroes cope and deal as best they can with what opportunity gives them, but we see that they could not solve their problems themselves.
 
That is a spiritually enervating betrayal of the film’s key themes. It says, in effect, “Pray, pray, for someone else to set things right.”
 
There are other, smaller betrayals of the reason-achievement theme as well.
 Interstellar negative review objectivism William R Thomas

The Earth’s crisis, though never fully explained, is put down at least in part to human arrogance and industrial farming. No one seems able to engineer a response to the plagues, nor does anyone appear to be trying. Environmentalists will feel vindicated.
 
Another theme in the film, repeated at key moments, is that emotions, or at least love, allow us to form connections across space and time: they are lauded as a form of intuitive awareness transcending our three dimensions. In fact, the full arc of the story trades on this insight. When the most scientific people in the universe recur to this idea, the film paints reason as a hollow and insufficient exercise.
 
Enjoy Interstellar for the fascinating story and the inspiring struggles of the heroes against big challenges. Enjoy it for the mind-bending “what if?” aspects. Enjoy it for the moving scenes and excellent acting. (To avoid spoilers I’ve left out so much of the good stuff!)
 
But if you are an Ayn Rand fan, come prepared to be a little bit let-down by a story that shouts out our need to strive, but paints us as unable to succeed on our own.
 
 
EXPLORE:
 
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Illegal Immigrants, Tax Evaders, and Imperial Power

Are you, like me, pro-immigrant and in favor of a path to legal residency for illegal immigrants? If you are, you nevertheless must understand that President Obama’s use of executive action in this matter undermines what’s left of our Constitution, and this is a far greater evil than the problem he is trying to address.

Obama’s actions on immigrationObama immigration speech undocumented workers deportation work permits executive action constitution


Obama claims he’s frustrated by the failure of Congress to pass legislation to give many of the estimated 12 million “undocumented” immigrants a way to legitimize their residency and perhaps even become citizens. Thus, he has announced that he will act unilaterally to achieve this goal using executive powers he claims to have, power he declared dozens of times until recently that he didn’t have. And he challenges the Republican Congress to send him an acceptable bill that deals with the immigration situation.
 
Obama’s order specifies that he will defer prosecution of undocumented immigrants so they will need not fear deportation if they have children who were born here or are legal residents, are able to pass a criminal background check, and can meet other conditions.
 
Interestingly, one condition is that they have been here for at least five years. But how will undocumented individuals without stamped passports, social security cards or other legal documentation be able to document their statuses? No doubt Obama’s operatives will mandate that the mere assertion of having been here for half a decade, or the most dubious documentation will be sufficient.
 

Obama’s motives vs. immigrants’ virtues

 
Obama immigration reform speech -is his executive action constitutional? Critics point out that Obama’s failure to seek reform legislation when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress is proof that his current executive action is a disingenuous political stunt. They argue that Obama wants to legalize immigrants so they can become staunch supporters of the Democratic Party in exchange for every manner of welfare state handouts. The critics are probably right.
 
But whatever Obama’s motives, Republicans are wrong and, indeed, seem mean-spirited to deny the virtues of immigrants, whether legal or not. Most come here to better their lives through hard work. That is, indeed, the American spirit that we should celebrate.
 
 Republicans are wrong and, indeed, seem mean-spirited to deny the virtues of immigrants
Those who complain that illegals broke the law because they didn’t even try to go through the dysfunctional American immigration system should direct their anger at the system, not the immigrants.
 
Obama rightly points out that it’s unrealistic to expect the government to round up and deport millions of illegal immigrants. Something must be done.
 
So are Obama’s actions justified?
 
No.
 

Abuses of power

 
Ask yourself this. What would a liberal Democrat (perhaps you, dear reader!) say of a president (probably a Republican!) who asserts executive authority to order the IRS to cease prosecution of anyone accused of tax evasion? What if such a president argued that the tax code is corrupt beyond redemption? It has thousands of pages of special interest loopholes. It takes an army of attorneys and accountants to sort through its contradictory, convoluted clauses. Its “progressive” rate system is a malicious, envy-based punishment of the most productive and prosperous individuals for the “sin” of being productive. And its enforcement arm, the IRS, has become a vehicle for presidents like Obama to punish political enemies.

President Obama’s use of executive action in this matter undermines what’s left of our Constitution.
 My first instinct (I’m not a liberal Democrat) would be to stand up and cheer: “Got you, you rotten statist bastards! No more loot for you!!”
 
But the more sober me would understand that such executive action would undermine and help destroy the separation of powers and checks and balances system set up by our Founders. That would be an evil that, in the long run, could be even worse than the current tax system. And that’s pretty bad.
 

Rule of law


 Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, you need to understand that the rule of law and constitutional limits on political power are essential to a free society. Imagine the horrific instability of abandoning the rule of law for the whims of a capacious ruler. A new president reinstates the immigration rules suspended by Obama, makes them even harsher, and suspends collection of all corporate taxes. A later president suspends the enforcement of all drug laws and reinstates corporate taxes with penalties and late fees for those who didn’t pay because of the prior suspension.Obama november 2014 immigration speech executive action is it constitutional?
 
Frankly, a state with wide authority to control every aspect of our lives is the liberal Democrat aim. But what will you, dear Dem, do when a conservative Republican president that uses the sword Obama is forging to go after some of the personal liberties—mostly ones involving sex—that you still support?
 
It’s even tempting for limited government advocates to wonder whether it’s time of a future president like a Rand Paul to use the accumulated power of the executive as a meat cleaver to chop the state down to size. But I say not yet.
 
Republicans should join with Democrats and Obama to work out a legislative solution to the immigration problem, not an executive one. But all parties must understand that if Obama’s executive actions stand, the stage will be set for future abuses by presidents of both parties.
 
EXPLORE:

Four Facts for Conservatives about Immigration Policy,  Edward Hudgins

 

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After the Elections: The GOP Civil War

 November 12, 2014 -- Impressed by the Republican Party’s 2014 election victories? Not so fast!
 
 At best their wins are opportunities to offer a positive agenda. But this might not be possible because the GOP is still engaged in a three-way civil war that could doom the party’s prospects for future victories and the country’s prospects for freedom and prosperity.
 

Obama vs. the GOP

 
For the GOP the election was the easy part. The Republicans beat the party of Barack Obama, whose policies have been abject failures, whose incompetence has been appalling, and whose lust for arbitrary power has been unbounded. Now comes the tough part.
 
Obama remains arrogant and unapologetic in the face of his party’s defeats. He’ll disingenuously deign to consider GOP proposals only if they’re the sort of measures that most voters rejected in the election.
 
So the Republicans will be offering proposals that they expect Obama will often veto. The Republicans will probably use those proposals to rebrand their party’s tarnished image and to highlight their governing principles and policies for the 2016 elections.
 

The GOP civil war

 
But there’s a problem. There is not a strong consensus on those principles and policies. This is because three factions are battling for the soul of the Republican Party.
 
First, establishment Republicans want to tweak the welfare state to make it work a little more efficiently. These are the McCains and Romneys who want to “save” Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the like.
 
Second, extreme social conservatives would give priority to a liberty-limiting, religious-based agenda. These are the Santorums and Huckabees, the latter of whom threatens to leave the GOP if, for example, it doesn’t oppose same-sex marriage.
 
Third, there are the libertarian-leaning and traditional limited-government Republicans with a number of Tea Party folks thrown in. This coalition of freedom-lovers actually wants to repeal oppressive programs and roll back the government’s scope and power. Rand Paul and a few others are leaning in this direction while trying to keep a foot in the social conservative camp as well.
 

Pipeline, Obamacare, or disunity?

 
So what does the GOP’s internal conflict mean for its external offerings? There are some proposals upon which the factions can agree, that enjoy widespread public support, and could even garner votes from some Congressional Democrats. For instance, approving the Keystone pipeline from Canada is popular with labor unions and free marketers alike.
 
The Republicans will certainly take a stab at repealing Obamacare in its entirety. Obama would certainly veto the bill, but the Republicans who campaigned on repeal will have honored their commitment.
 
But here’s where the situation gets dicey. Republicans could then try to repeal specific parts of Obamacare, for example, the tax on medical devices, which punishes production of life-enhancing technologies, or now-the delayed Obamacare employer mandate. They might even pick up some Democrat votes for such measures.
 
But would libertarian Republicans see this as a move by the establishment GOP to merely tweak the law? After all, it would keep major parts of Obamacare in place. Worse, it could enshrine the principle that subsidized healthcare is a right that we owe one another, with the government as the wealth redistributor.
 
Remember that a number of Republicans at the state level have worked to expand Medicaid coverage in keeping with provisions of Obamacare, much to the chagrin of the libertarians, sparking primary challenges to establishment Republicans.
 
And could we see in Congress social conservatives pushing for gay marriage bans? Will they push for so-called family-favoring rather than neutral tax or welfare programs, the kind of discrimination favored by Mike Huckabee when he was Arkansas governor?
 

Unite in liberty?

 
If the GOP in the next two years offers a contradictory hash of limited government and paternalistic, interventionist programs, they might not only lose the elections in 2016. They might also lose their party. Millennial generation voters tend to like economic opportunity but they are socially liberal and thus tend to lean against the GOP. They will be the majority of voters in the future.
 
Hispanic citizens, who make up 17 percent of the population today will make up 50 percent by 2030. They are heavily pro-Democrat.
 
White evangelicals are the largest voting bloc in the GOP but a declining portion of the population.
 
The Republican Party’s death spiral might have slowed in the 2014 election. Or perhaps the low voter turnout simply gave more weight to the party’s shrinking base. But if its internal conflicts continue, if it does not adopt a consistent pro-freedom, limited government agenda, the GOP could slip into the dustbin of history.
 
The pro-freedom faction has an opportunity in the next two years to educate the public on their vision of a free society with a culture that celebrates achievers and wealth-creating entrepreneurs. But they will also have to convince their fellow Republicans to join them or else the victories of 2014 will simply be blips as the party declines along with the country.
----
Hudgins is the director of advocacy and a senior scholar at the Atlas Society. His latest book is The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?
 
For further information:
 
*Edward Hudgins, “GOP Sound Bites vs. Libertarian Trends.” October 21, 2014
 
*Edward Hudgins, “Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley.” July 25, 2014.
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Redskins Name and Warped Liberal Minds

November 7, 2014 — Some 5,000 demonstrators in Minneapolis denounced the Washington Redskins’ team name just before the team’s game with the Minnesota Vikings. Sure, your visceral reaction is to hope footballs connect with their 5,000 butts. But let’s use this as an opportunity to understand the warped American liberal mind.

Who’s offended by “Redskins”?
 
The protesters argue that the Redskins’ name is offensive. But who is offended and who cares?
 
First, the Redskins and their fans have used the name for some seven decades with nothing but affection. No one has ever meant it as an insult. In fact, back in the day the team owners supposedly chose “Redskins” to honor a coach who was part Sioux. The Redskins are like the Indians, Braves, Chiefs, Blackhawks, and other sports teams with Native American names: great warriors!
 
Second, few Native Americans have found the name offensive. A 2004 survey found that 90 percent were okay with the name. Numerous American schools have used “Redskins” as a name. And recently some of the famous World War II Navaho code talkers had no problem being honored by the Redskins and wearing Redskins jerseys.
 
So who is offended by the name? Liberals!
 
Please offend me
 
Many liberals seem to get a weird emotional high and a pseudo-sense of self-worth from being offended and from empathizing with those who are offended by the same things that offend them. They then charge off with moral indignation coursing through their veins to right the alleged wrong. And in the case of the Redskins, they won’t let the fact that no offense is meant or taken stop them. They’ll just take offense anyway!
 
Further, they want the rest of us to help them pretend that there’s something offensive going on. And if we don’t, if we refuse to play their stupid game, they’ll be offended by our callousness for not pretending to be offended.
 
Raping and pillaging
 
If liberals want to be offended by the names of sports teams, they’re missing some even more obvious opportunities. Those 5,000 Al Franken voters in Minnesota should address their ire at their own team, the “Vikings.” What were they? White men from Northern Europe who raided, looted, raped, pillaged, and murdered for centuries across a continent, making the Dark Ages truly dark and giving rise to the saying “Beware the fury of the Norsemen.”
 
Worse, those Vikings invaded the land of the noble Redskins, a.k.a. “America,” half a millennium before Columbus.
 
Warped liberal priorities
 
Getting back to Native Americans, there are indeed terrible current problems that deserve to be addressed—poor schools, unemployment, and alcohol and drug abuse.
 
And yet the “evil” to which liberals give priority is the Redskins’ name. Democrat Senate Majority leader Harry Reid whipped his troops into a lather to get them to vote on a call for the team to change its name. And politically-correct cowards at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office cancelled the Redskins’ trademark.
 
Ethnic accidents
 
But let’s look to the deeper, morally repugnant principles of so many liberals in their war against the Redskins’ name. These liberals reject Martin Luther King’s dream that individuals “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
 
Such liberals don’t want Native Americans to transcend ethnicity, an accident of birth. They want them to think only in group terms. They don’t help them to appreciate the pride—to say nothing of the prosperity—that they can earn through their own merit. Such liberals want Native Americans to take offense at a word that means no offense rather than to take steps to be the best that they can be.
 
One great thing about sports is that merit counts. It’s not your ethnic background that matters. It’s how well you play.
 
So next time you see the Redskins playing and yapping liberals protesting the team’s name, understand you’re watching a philosophical battle, between a vision of a world in which individual merit counts and one in which we all just wallow in group resentment.
-----
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
 
For further information:
 
*William Thomas, “How Racist Are We?
 
*Edward Hudgins, Video: “What the Redskins’ Name Says About the Liberal Brain.” October 22, 2013.

 

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Radio: Ed Hudgins tomorrow morning on the GOP win

Note: If you missed this morning's show, don't fret: we'll post a recording of the show as soon as the producers make it available.

  • WhoEd Hudgins, director of advocacy for The Atlas Society, is Ed Hudgins Atlas Society media appearances Gop 2014 wins house joni ernst mia love scott walker a radio guest tomorrow morning on "Your money talks"
  • Topic: The GOP electoral win, the Fed and monetary policy
  • When: Thursday, Novermber 6, 7:40am PST
  • What radio station? You can listen live on KSPA (am 1510) in Orange County, California and the Greater L.A. Inland Empire and on KFSD (am 1450) in North San Diego County.
  • Listen online: Live streaming will be at www.financialnewsandtalk.com.  ( On the left side of www.financialnewsandtalk.com. are buttons for each station, clicking on either one will allow anyone to hear the broadcast live.)

GOP election victory 2014 mia love joni ernst scott walker obamacre

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Ayn Rand is Bad Taste

Is Ayn Rand the epitome of bad taste?ayn rand atlas shrugged have you ever had a relationship end because of a book?

That’s the one thing the New York literary world can agree on, it seems.

In the New York Times Book Review on Sunday, November 2, two writers opined on the burning question: Can what a friend or lover reads ruin the relationship? Mostly, they say that one must recognize that tastes vary. But, writing independently, they both reference certain books as self-evidently corrupt, such as Mein Kampf—and Atlas Shrugged??
 
It’s striking that both of them mention Ayn Rand off-hand—as the epitome of bad taste. They mean that one can’t be friends with someone who keeps a well-read copy of an Ayn Rand book on their bookshelf.
 
Both of them mention one writer as the epitome of good taste: Jane Austen. Austen is a thoughtful writer concerned with values, individual merit, and crucial choices, so one would think that anyone who appreciates Austen at least reads novels as art, that is, as speaking to fundamental values.
 
So it’s puzzling, to say the least, why they don’t take reading Rand as a sign that someone cares about values and choices.  Of course, the most obvious answer is that they associate Rand with conservatism, which, in their comments, they associate with racism and mass murder.

The writers reference certain books as self-evidently corrupt, such as Mein Kampf—and Atlas Shrugged.
 These sallies against Rand remind me of the clucking that surrounds Howard Roark in the high society world of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. They can’t ignore Rand, but, having made themselves incapable of even understanding why someone would appreciate her, they just yip and yap at her. All they do is reveal the extent to which theirs is a closed-off, modish social circle.
 
Meanwhile, Rand readers will continue to discover just how great a modern novel can be when it comes at the world first hand, beautifully and incisively, and declares itself for the values of human flourishing, celebrating the importance of life on this earth.
 
——

William R Thomas is director of programs at The Atlas Society.
 
Posted November 2, 2014.
 
Explore:
 
Atlas Shrugged as Literature” by Robert James Bidinotto. Before he was a successful thriller writer, Bidinotto knew good writing when he saw it.
 
Kirsti Minsaas on Ayn Rand’s writing techniques. Learn more about Rand’s literary techniques in these two classic essays, originally published in a volume I edited, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand
 
Myths About Ayn Rand Would the literary world sneer at Rand so much if they realiized she wasn't a conservative and wasn't for mass murder?

 

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Memo to Mike Huckabee: Leave the GOP

October 22, 2014 -- Governor Huckabee, you recently reaffirmedMike Huckabee gays God GOP 2016 election gop civil war leave republican party
your s
trong opposition to same-sex marriage and said “If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue.” If the GOP takes this path, you say “I’m gone, I’ll become an independent.”

Please, do a huge favor for all who want the GOP to become a consistently liberty-loving party: Leave!

As you know, three factions are fighting a civil war for the soul of the party.

Establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and John McCain want to keep the current big-government welfare state, just tweak it to make it more efficient. The Goldwater-Reagan and libertarian-leaning Republicans believe the current regime is collapsing and must be fundamentally transformed, with radical reductions in government control over our lives and with private options replacing most social welfare programs.

Then there are the extreme social conservatives like you who give priority to an agenda of using government to restrict liberty and to engineer society based on your religious ideology. You are especially obsessed with banning same-sex unions.

Ed Hudgins is the editor of this No. 1 Amazon best-seller. But a basic test of a proposed policy is whether it limits the liberty of others or takes their money. Same-sex marriage does neither, and it is presumptuous to use government to dictate what kind of contracts consenting adults can make. Don’t like gay marriage? Then don’t marry a gay. And I would think you, a family values man, would prefer that gays commit to long-term monogamous relationships. Further, how would you even know whether the gay couple down the street has a piece of paper in the bottom of their sock drawer with the letter M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E inscribed on it?

You ask, should government force business folks, against their religious convictions, to provide services at same-sex ceremonies? My consistent pro-individual liberty answer is that government should neither bar gays from marrying nor force others to provide them such services.

But let’s look at the effects of your overall agenda on the GOP. Currently white evangelicals make up a major voting bloc within the party yet a declining portion of the general population. Of voters aged 50 to 64, 29 percent are white evangelicals, while only 11 percent are unaffiliated with a religion. But of voters 18 to 29, only 12 percent are white evangelicals, while a full 35 percent are unaffiliated. And the Millennials not only are more socially liberal in general: some 60 percent of younger Republicans support gay marriage.

Speaking of young people, only 37 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 backed Romney in 2012, down from the 43 percent who backed Bush in 2004. Your agenda would ensure that the GOP lose the voters who will make up the majority in the future. 

Three factions are fighting a civil war for the soul of the GOP.

Worse, there is a new class of young entrepreneurs, the Silicon Valley types, who are visionary individualists who love their work, who generally favor a free market system, and who are socially liberal. But few want anything to do with a Republican Party that includes you pushing a religious agenda. You are making them into future Democrats. 

If you leave the GOP and take with you some of your more fanatical followers, the young and the entrepreneurial could well find their way into the party’s ranks. 

But I doubt you would take with you as many followers as you think. Surveys indicate, for example, that about half of Tea Party members are socially conservative like you and the other half are more libertarian. But the priorities of most Tea Party social conservatives are to stop the growth of the state, of out-of-control spending, and of regulations over every aspect of our lives. They understand that as social conservatives, they will simply see their liberty to live in accordance with their own values further restricted if they tilt at windmills like gay marriage while the “total control” regime in Washington further metastasizes. 

By the way, I’m a secular, married heterosexual with two wonderful little fraternal twin daughters. I don’t want them ruled by statist apparatchiks of any party. 

In any case, you are not even a limited-government guy in areas where many of your co-religionists are. You spoke positively about federal government-imposed Common Core education standards. Want the feds to apply those to standards to home schooling as well? You were a big-taxing, big-spending governor in Arkansas. As Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller rightly explained in 2012, “[Huckabee] believes that government should play a role in the lives of everyday people and he adopted a sort of populist, anti-capitalism stance.”

It would be best for the GOP and for the country if you and your followers stay in the party and back a pro-liberty, limited government agenda. But if you insist that the GOP back your losing, anti-liberty agenda, chasing away the support of young people and others as the party further declines, it would be best if you leave.
----
Hudgins is director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society and recently produced the book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “GOP Sound Bites vs. Libertarian Trends.” October 21, 2014.

*Edward Hudgins, “Family Values Still Threaten GOP.” May 30, 2014.

*Edward Hudgins, “Questions for Conservatives about Gay Marriage and Sock Drawers.July 1, 2011.

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GOP Sound Bites vs. Libertarian Trends

GOP Chair Reince Priebus has released his party’s “Principles for American Renewal.” By coincidence, Grover Norquist, longtime political activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, penned a piece entitled “Beyond Rand Paul: The Libertarians Are Coming!”

The Principles might contribute in some minor way to the Republican’s chances of taking the Senate in 2014. But Norquist’s insights not only could help the GOP gain long-term political dominance but also could lead to a true renewal of American freedom.

General to specific

Flashback to 1994. House Republican leaders put together the “Contract with America” to contrast their positions with those of President Clinton, offering specific proposals to address general problems.

For “Job Creation” it called for a cost-benefit analysis for potentially employment-killing federal regulations. For "Legal Reform” it called for a “losers pay” rule to reduce nuisance law suits. For “American Dream Restoration” it sought a higher child tax credit.

The Contract helped focus Republicans in the 1992 election and no doubt helped them win control of the House for the first time in some four decades.

Principles or sound bites?

While winning elections is the aim of the new GOP Principles, the similarity with the Contract pretty much ends there.

Under “Economy” in the Principles we find “Start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that hard-working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.” Under “Constitution” we’re told it “should be preserved, valued and honored.” And under “Poverty” we find “The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job.” Nothing wrong with these, but they’re more like sound bites, albeit goods ones, offering few specifics.

On the controversial issue of “Values” we’re told “Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.” (Should have mentioned cute puppies as well.) And for hot-button “Immigration” we’re told we need a system “that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.”

Weak consensus

This weak consensus is the best the GOP can offer because it is currently engaged in a three-way civil war.

Establishment Republicans simply want to tweak the welfare state to make it run a bit better. Extreme social conservatives give priority to a liberty-limiting agenda, for example, opposing same-sex unions. And limited-government and libertarian-leaning Republicans, including many social conservatives, give priority to rolling back the welfare state and restoring individual autonomy.

So the Principles must be generic to avoid offending any faction.

Four freedoms trending

And here’s where Grover Norquist comes in. For decades he’s touted a “Leave Us Alone” coalition of economic and social conservatives. To that end he runs weekly “Big tent” meetings in D.C.: a kind of bulletin board for center-right groups, a model now reproduced in most states. Norquist has always been a uniter, not a divider.

But Norquist’s latest piece affirms his place in the freedom faction, both challenging the agendas of the extreme social conservative and establishment Republicans while inviting them, in their own best interests, to join the liberty camp.

On school choice, Norquist observes that “Thirty years ago home schooling was illegal in all 50 states.” Today 10 million have been home schooled, a growing trend. All GOP factions should celebrate this.

On Gay marriage, he offers that “Thirty years ago there were laws actually criminalizing gays.” Today, legal and public opinion have shifted and gay marriage is spreading. But some protest that individuals should not be forced by government to cater or officiate at gay weddings if it’s against their religion. Norquist says the “team that frames its side as ‘defending and expanding liberty’ will win.”

On the Second Amendment, Norquist notes that “Thirty years ago, 80 percent of Americans supported stricter gun control laws. … Today, 41 states have enacted concealed carry laws.” Surely all factions can agree on this one.

And finally, on drugs he reminds us that “Thirty years ago, marijuana was illegal as medicine or even as a ‘recreational use’ drug in 50 states. Today, 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana,” with Colorado and Washington legalizing all sales. Not a user? Norquist argues you should welcome the “Right to Try” trend. Some states are allowing individuals to treat their illnesses with medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe but not certified as “effective,” the part of the process that delays new cures and life-saving products for years.

Embrace the free future

The GOP might chalk up important victories in upcoming elections, more because of President Obama’s failures than because of its Principles statement. But in the long run, the only way the GOP can stop its death spiral as its ranks decline and younger voters, minorities, and new entrepreneurs drift toward the Democrats, is to embrace a bold liberty agenda that will truly lead to American renewal!
----
Hudgins is director of advocacy at The Atlas Society and editor of the new book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “Michigan, Georgia pols show the fork in the GOP's road.” August 12, 2014.

*Edward Hudgins, “Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley.” July 25, 2014.

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What Obama Got and Missed on Mistrusting Police

In a speech Sunday, President Obama highlighted the “gulf of mistrust” that separates the police from too many of the Americans they’re employed to protect. He was right to do so. But in focusing on the racial aspect of the problem, the president left out an important cause—and an important part of the solution.

As President Obama didn’t quite make explicit, too many police officers and law enforcement agencies have earned that mistrust by the way they have treated black Americans in too many cases—and by the way supervisors, agencies, and the courts have responded to police misconduct. 

The president is quite right that perceived racial discrimination by police, prosecutors, and courts corrodes our society. And that’s true even in those cases where the only clear wrong is the discrimination itself. Indeed, even if considering race in a given context helps fight crime, it can still have a corrosive effect.

But many of the worst things police do to black Americans, the things that most justify mistrust, aren’t just discriminatory; they are violations of individual rights whatever the race of the victim and whether or not his race played a role. And when the police disproportionately violate the rights of black people, there are two issues to be addressed: One is the disproportionality. The other is the lack of respect for rights.

Obama speech police brutality Ferguson blacks incarceration ratesAnd there are many things the federal and state governments can do to make law enforcement more rights-respecting. They can work on prosecuting police officers who commit unjustified acts of violence. Forfeiture laws can be reformed to stop encouraging legalized theft. The Pentagon can stop giving military equipment to police departments, especially police departments that are suspected of civil rights violations. (The president has already taken a step on this one.) The Supreme Court’s doctrines limiting police officers’ and other government employees’ liability to lawsuits for violating people’s rights can be trimmed back or eliminated. The Court’s decision authorizing police to stop and frisk people without probable cause can be overturned—by a constitutional amendment, if need be. And the drug laws, which not only are often enforced in discriminatory and rights-violating ways, but also violate rights by their own nature, can be repealed.

The more our federal and state governments can restrain the police from violating individual rights, the more they’ll protect black Americans—and the rest of us—from the police. But making sure the police uphold individual rights requires focusing on the issue of respect for rights. The president didn’t even mention it.

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Don't ban religious teaching, teach reason

Recently Zoltan Istvan, author of the provocative book The Transhumanist Wager, called for “regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let's say, 16 years of age.”

He presents us with horrific visions of indoctrination: “Religious child soldiers carrying AK-47s. Bullying anti-gay Jesus kids. Infant genital mutilation. Teenage suicide bombers. Child Hindu brides.” He also argues that young children are extremely susceptible to the teachings of their parents. But this is obvious! The rational capacity develops in humans over time and young ones only survive to adulthood because they are guided by adults.

Unfortunately, Istvan’s proposal for dealing with the irrationality to which humans are prone would, in fact, undermine his goal of creating a rational culture.

Degrees of abuse

In the first place, the Constitution does not grant government the power to restrict what religious doctrines parents teach their children; indeed, the First Amendment prohibits laws interfering with the free exercise of religion. It is true that “free exercise” does not allow parents to abuse children in certain ways—raping, starving, torturing them—whether in the name of religion or not.

But filling a child’s head with tales of virgin births, multi-armed goddesses, or prophets flying to an invisible place called “heaven” on a winged horse is a long way from breaking a child’s bones with a baseball bat or strapping explosives to a child in order to blow up infidel children.

Degrees of indoctrination

Let’s grant that religious teaching could confuse children, hamper the development of their thinking skills, or even inflict psychological damage. Still, there are different degrees of teaching or “indoctrination.”

It is reasonable for government to require parents to provide some level of general education for their children. And in America, Christians generally raise their children with reasonable, secularly defensible values in addition to the religious theology with which Istvan takes issue. Such parents generally want their children taught reading, writing, and math. They want them to learn history. And they want them to learn about the sciences that have created our current, advanced industrial society, though granted, too many have a bizarre aversion to accepting the truth of evolution, even though they accept the science concerning, for example, the heliocentric understanding of the solar system.

Degrees of repression

Further, Istvan’s suggestion would require the government to take on totalitarian powers. Would government agents be stationed at the doors of every church, synagogue, and mosque to check IDs and chase away anyone under sixteen? Would listening devices and 1984-style view screens be placed in every home and monitored 24/7 to make sure parents aren’t reading their children Bible stories? Would setting up a Christmas tree or nativity scene in one’s own home be considered “indoctrination?”

Furthermore, what about Eastern religions, which are more ways of life than theologies? Would teaching one’s children mediation as such be a crime or would it be legal as long as one never stated “The Buddha taught…” as an historical fact?

Philosopher-king fallacy

In a country in which 85 percent of people profess religious belief, is it plausible that legislators would ever pass a ban on religious education of children? And where would the government find the army of snoops to monitor their fellows to make sure they’re not corrupting the youth? Finally, does Istvan imagine that he or someone of like mind would be made the anti-indoctrination czar, the philosopher-king?

In recent years local child protective service officers have increasingly been arresting parents for alleged child abuse. Their crimes? Engaging in practices considered perfectly innocent in decades past, for example, letting a nine-year old play in a public park alone without a parent. (What has changed so radically since I was that age and played safely in my neighborhood with my friends?) But the kind of ban that Istvan suggests, combined with stupid government bureaucrats and busy-body neighbors, would multiply such abuses a thousand-fold.

A vision of rational values

One can understand Istvan’s frustration with the irrationality that plagues our world. But he also must appreciate that suggesting a ban on religious indoctrination of children ignores the dangers of an all-powerful government, dangers that Istvan otherwise seems to appreciate.

Further, his recommendation comes off as so ill-conceived that it paints transhumanists as dangerously detached from reality and, thus, dangerous if they ever get political power in their hands. One doesn’t promote the virtue of rationality by countering irrationality with proposals that, given a moment’s thought, can easily be rejected.

Those who want humans to live longer lives with enhanced capacities need to focus their creative efforts not only on the science and technology necessary to transform humans physically. They must also actively and intelligently promote a flourishing life as the goal for each individual, with reason as life’s guide and productive achievement as life’s purpose. And they must not employ the fear of government guns as motivation to abandon questionable or false beliefs. Rather, they should offer the shining vision of human life as it can be and should be as the compelling reason to strive for a better self and a better world.
---
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, Transhumanism vs. a Conservative Death Ethos. August 20, 2012.

*Edward Hudgins, “Book Review: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.” ISkeptic, April 24, 2013.

*William Thomas, Transhumanism: How Does it Relate to Objectivism?

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Paul Ryan Rejects Ayn Rand in the New York Times

 Paul Ryan just can’t get away from Ayn Rand.

In the September 14, 2014 New York Times Magazine, Ryan was the feature interviewee of the “Talk” page. Among the questions:
 

I always understood you as being an Ayn Rand aficionado. But you distanced yourself from her writing during the campaign. What’s your real view of her? No, I wasn’t distancing. I adored her novels when I was young, and in many ways they gave me an interest in economics. But as a devout, practicing Catholic, I completely reject the philosophy of objectivism.

There’s a lot more to Atlas Shrugged than free-market economics, and Ryan used to have a more appreciative and nuanced understanding of that content.Paul Ryan Ayn Rand distancing himself Pope Catholicism objectivism
 
But perhaps in saying he “completely rejects” Objectivism, Ryan may have meant that he:
 
  • . . . doesn’t advocate dog-eat-dog-selfishness.  But then, Objectivism doesn’t either. It advocates the pursuit of happiness in life. What’s wrong with that?
  • . . . isn’t for the rich and against the poor. But then, neither is Objectivism. Ayn Rand was for the productive, responsible, and independent, not for one class or another.
I have a positive overall view of Ryan’s politics. I think he wants to move government policy in generally the right direction: towards more respect for the individual and towards a more sustainable, more limited government.
 
And I realize that it’s hard for a politician with national ambitions to be associated with a radical view like Objectivism, which so many people misunderstand. But Ryan would do himself and Objectivism a service if he would represent his disagreements with Rand more clearly.
 
And it’s a sad commentary on our culture that it’s viewed as better to swear fealty to the Pope and to Catholic doctrine, neither of them known for standing staunchly for science or individualism, than it is to agree with even the least little thing that Ayn Rand said, even though she stood for reason, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom.
 
 
EXPLORE:paul ryan ayn rand
 
Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's Ideas: In the Hot Seat Again
The original 2005 audio of Ryan, speaking at an Atlas Society event, and detailing the significant influence that Ayn Rand's ideas and writings have had on his public career, thinking, and policy views. Cited by ProPublica as excellent reporting.
 
The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? Edited by Edward Hudgins.
What will the outcome be of the "GOP civil war"? What changes need to happen? (This book will be available for free this week, starting Tuesday and ending Saturday.) Previously a #1 best-seller on Amazon.
 
Myths About Ayn Rand: Popular Errors and the Insights They Conceal, by David Kelley, William R Thomas, Alexander R. Cohen, and Laurie Rice. 
A short, informative read. Previously #2 in the Amazon best-seller list in "political philosophy" and "ethics and morality."
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Atlas Shrugged: Now Non-Fiction

Atlas Shrugged Part III, the concluding installment of the film trilogy of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, is now in theaters. Its producers are on the mark to promote the film as “Now non-fiction.”atlas shrugged now non-fiction atlas shrugged movie part 3 III

A reason for the resurgence of interest in Atlas Shrugged over the past decade is that its plot of a collapsing America parallels the sad situation in the country today. As important, the novel reveals the moral causes behind our world’s crisis.
 
In Atlas Shrugged, Rand paints a picture of two types of business people. There are creators who grow rich because they run efficient, productive enterprises or invent and manufacture revolutionary products. They thrive in a system in which individuals trade goods and services with one another based on mutual consent. In today’s world these are the real capitalists, such as the new tech entrepreneurs like the late Steve Jobs or like Elon Musk, creator of private rockets and the Tesla cars.
 Just published: a powerful and unique reader's guide to Atlas Shrugged: the Novel, the Films, the Philosophy | Kindle version is FREE until end of day Sept. 18. 2014
And there are the “crony capitalists,” those who use the government to secure special taxpayer handouts or regulations that cripple their competitors. They battle in a system in which raw political power determines who survives or parishes. In today’s world they are found in “green” companies like the energy firm Solyndra that cannot make products that actually works, in Wall Street banks that make reckless investments, and in auto companies like GM that build cars that are too costly to sell without massive subsidies. They are the corruption in our system.
 
In Atlas Shrugged, Rand shows the creators demonized as “selfish” because they love their work and grow rich through their own honest efforts. President Obama’s whole ideology is based on whipping up envy against the “one percent” and even belittling their achievements with “You didn’t build that. Someone else made it happen.” By contrast, the cronies pose as friends of the downtrodden, even as they destroy the morality of enterprise necessary for anyone who wishes to improve their lot in life.
 
In Atlas Shrugged, Rand shows the results of this anti-individualist dogma and the policies that follow from it: businesses, banks, and cities collapsing into bankruptcy and ruin. In today’s world, can you say “Detroit?”
 
In Atlas Shrugged, Rand also shows the creators who refuse to sanction their own destroyers, who refuse to be sacrificial victims, who refuse to suffer as they hold up the world for those who condemn them taking the only moral action they can. They go on strike. They shrug. One outstanding entrepreneur after another quietly disappears, leaving the looters to fight over what few crumbs are left.
 
In today’s world, we more and more see Atlases shrugging. We see investors sitting on perhaps $1 trillion in capital that they refuse to put into productive enterprises that are vulnerable to Obama’s jihad against the “wealthy.” We see businesses moving from high tax states with heavy-handed regulations to more friendly jurisdictions, for example, a flood of firms moving from California to Arizona and Nevada.
 
We see American enterprises setting up legal residency in other countries to avoid the rising American tax burden, as Burger King recently did by becoming a Canadian company. Obama and the Democrats are desperate to stop this “tax inversion” because they are running out of victims. And we see medical doctors taking early retirement or going on a cash-only basis to avoid being under the weight of Obamacare.
 
And in Atlas Shrugged, Rand shows that the path to a free, prosperous society and to personal happiness is a philosophy of rational self-interest. Individuals must assert their right to their own lives and to the liberty to pursue values, careers, family and friends that fulfill them. They must take pride in their achievements, whether nurturing a child to maturity or a business to profitability; whether writing a song, poem, or business plan; whether designing a building, laying its bricks, or arranging for its financing. They must never be guilt-tripped into servitude.
 
Only then can we live in a world as it can be and should be.
---
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
 
EXPLORE: 
Explore the ideas in Atlas Shrugged Part 3:
 short video commentaries with clips from the movie.
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Illinois Establishment GOP Sinks in Sleaze

Illinois is well-known for corrupt Democratic governorsEd Hudgins is the editor of the No. 1 Amazon best-seller: "The Republican Party's Civil War: Will Freedom Win?"
and government. Sadly, establishment Republicans are joining in the sleazy moral morass.
 
To qualify to be on state-wide ballots, Democratic and Republican Party candidates in Illinois need only several hundred petition signatures while third party candidates need 20,000. The Libertarian Party collected 42,986, more than enough. But the GOP in the state decided not only to challenge nearly 24,000 signatures. Its operatives also sent out armed private agents to go to the homes of LP folks who had signed petitions or collected signatures, telling them they had done so illegally and intimidating them into signing forms recanting their support.
 
The reason for this shocking stupidity is as clear as it is unnecessary. This year the Republicans have a good chance of defeating Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat. In recent decades Illinois has led the nation in political corruption. The last two governors, George Ryan and Rob Blagojevich, both Democrats, have gone to jail. Two other Democratic governors, Otto Kerner in the 1960s and Daniel Walker in the 1970s, also did stints in prison after their stints in the state house. Current Governor Quinn is also under investigation for corruption.


 
So the Republican nominee Bruce Rauner could certainly run to restore honestly and integrity to the state. But Republicans are always concerned that Libertarians will siphon off some of their votes. So the GOP decided to counter Democratic corruption with their own form of criminality. It is a felony to engage in the kind of intimidation the Republicans have used. Naturally, Governor Quinn, posing as a crime fighter full of moxie, has promised to bring the perps to justice.
 
This incident, of course, signals voters “Here’s how we plan to govern,” e.g., with little regard for the law. But more fundamentally, this incident is another battle in the civil war for the soul of the GOP. It highlights a fundamental failing of establishment Republicans. They should seek the votes of LP members and libertarian-leaning Republicans by supporting liberty. Instead, they simply promise to be more honest and efficient managers of the collapsing welfare state, and Illinois Republicans now will have trouble making the “honesty” argument with straight faces.
 
Yes, Republicans must learn to make compelling, positive cases for personal autonomy that will appeal to voters other than hardcore libertarians. That takes political skill. But the GOP’s Illinois antics simply prove to uber-lovers of liberty as well as all other voters that the Republicans are just another collection of crooked statists.
 
Maybe in Illinois the stink of corruption on the Democrats will still overwhelm the rotten smell of the Republicans who have soiled themselves as well. But in the long-run, the Republicans must earn votes by fighting to restore liberty and by restraining abusive government or they and, sadly, this once-free country, will end up in the dustbin of history.

 
EXPLORE:
*Edward Hudgins, “Michigan, Georgia pols show the fork in the GOP's road.” August 12, 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley.” July 25, 2014.

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Michigan, Georgia pols show the fork in the GOP's road

(This piece originally appeared in The Detroit News on August 12, 2014.)

August 12, 2014 -- Rep. Justin Amash has just beat back a primary challenge and will now defend his seat in Congress from Michigan’s 3rd District in the general election. And recently Jody Hice won the nomination to be the GOP candidate for Congress from the 10th District of Georgia, replacing a retiring incumbent Republican.Justin Amash wins!

While in their general election runs both will face Democratic opponents, these two candidates are, in a sense, running against one another. They represent two of the three factions currently battling for the soul of the Republican Party.

Amash is from the libertarian faction. He is outspoken in his efforts to roll back the state’s role in our lives, both on the economic and civil liberties fronts. He famously voted against John Boehner for House speaker, seeing the GOP leader as too much of a sellout.

The establishment Republicans found him too extreme.

Thus, some of his own GOP colleagues from Michigan, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, backed businessman Brian Ellis as primary challenger. Amash won, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Much has been made of Amash’s anything-but-polite victory speech in which he said of Ellis: “You owe my family and this community an apology for your disgusting, despicable smear campaign. … I ran for office to stop people like you — to stop people who were more interested in themselves than in doing what’s best for their district.” Among other things, Ellis had called Amash, an American of Arab descent, al-Qaida’s best friend in Congress.

Down in Georgia, another candidate who is not a favorite of establishment Republicans triumphed as well. Jody Hice won a run-off election to replace retiring Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican.

But this was not a victory for the libertarian faction.

Hice, a right-wing Baptist preacher, is from the extreme social conservative faction of the GOP. He wants to break down the separation of church and state.

He has campaigned to have the Ten Commandments posted in government buildings. In a 2012 book he asserted that gays have launched a scheme to “sodomize” children. It sounds like he’s running for pope rather than Congress, though the current pope actually seems more open and tolerant than Mr. Hice.

Amash and Hice might be in the same party but they represent very different ideologies.

Amash has made a reputation taking establishment Republicans to task for not making the re-establishment of liberty and limited, Constitutional government Job One.

Friends of freedom should hope he and others in the GOP will similarly challenge extreme social conservatives who give priority to limiting liberty rather than defending it.
---
Edward Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley.” July 25, 2014.

*Edward Hudgins,
Georgia GOP's Genital Obsession.” April 9, 2014.

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Transhumanism vs. a Conservative Death Ethos

Zoltan Istvan, author of theLicense to thrill? Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan thinks you need a license to procreate provocative novel The Transhumanist Wager (I’ll review it soon), recently suggested in Wired that individuals be required to secure a government license before having a child. I disagree with Istvan. So does Wesley Smith, who pens the Human Exceptionalism column for National Review. But Smith disagrees because Istvan rejects the morality of individual self-sacrifice. Istvan’s rejection is, in fact, a good reason for anyone who loves life to consider the bright future that the Transhumanist enterprise can offer.

Transhumanists seek to develop and apply technologies to greatly enhance human physical and mental capacities. Centers like Singularity University, founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil and space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, are facilitating major advances toward this goal.
 

Too many people?

Istvan and many other Transhumanists argue that in a few decades technology and breakthroughs in biology and genetics will literally allow humans to live forever. But with thousands of children starving to death in our world every In the sci-fi film "The Island," government functionaries dictate whether citizens can touch each other. day, Istvan believes the situation will be even worse with a growing, undying population. This is one reason why he “cautiously endorse[s] the idea of licensing parents” and that “applicants who are deemed unworthy—perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry—would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents.”
 
But for two centuries technology has dispelled the myth of resource depletion and allowed billions of human to live long and prosper. Continued abject poverty and starvation is mostly due to a lack of free markets and property rights.
 

Self-refuting

But Istvan himself recognizes objections that, I would argue, require us to reject his proposal.
 
He says “Telling a person when and how many children they can have violates just about every core value we possess in a free society.” Precisely! Individuals have a right to their own lives and deserve the liberty to pursue their own happiness as long as they accord equal liberty to others.
 
Further, Istvan rightly asks, “who wants the government handling human breeding when it can't do basic things like balance its own budgets and stay out of wars?” His suggestion that a United Nations agency handle the matter is laughable. Further, Istvan’s description of irresponsible parents describes the behavior of most politicians, only they ruin entire countries, not just their own children. Do you really want to hand these dangerous authoritarians power to control the most intimate aspects of our lives?
 

Dying for love?

But while Istvan is wrong, his conservative critics are even worse. Wesley Smith objects to Istvan’s entire enterprise because “Transhumanism is selfish, all about me-me, I-I. It’s [sic] goal is immortality for those currently alive, and the right to radically remake themselves and their progeny in their own image.”

Istvan is wrong. His conservative critics are worse.
Yes, exactly! The essence of morality is “I.” Ethics exists to allow individuals to pursue their own happiness, flourishing, and fulfillment in life. To achieve these goals, we must use reason to guide our lives. We must pursue productive achievements. And we should accord to others the equal right to pursue their own happiness.
 
And what of our progeny? Smith offers the words of Leon Kass: “In perpetuation, we send forth not just the seed of our bodies, but also the bearer of our hopes… If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them, cultivate them in rich and wholesome soil, clothe them in fine and decent opinions and mores, and direct them toward the highest light.”
 
Okay, fine. But here’s the zinger. “If they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.”
What? If parents love their children they must die? My parents are 82 years old. I love them and want them to be around as long as possible. Damned selfish of me? And I’m an older father of very young fraternal twin girls. I want to live to see them graduate college, grow in careers, perhaps make me a grandfather, and much more.
 
But with or without kids, I want to live because I love my creative work, because I love to live in a world of achievers and to celebrate their achievements.
 

The future is now

Transhumanists today strive to be such achievers. Through their efforts our progeny could live in a world without Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, clinical depression, dementia, diabetes, and cancer, a world in which lives are not only longer—perhaps never-ending—but healthier."2001: A Space Odyssey" features the emergence of a Starchild, the first transhuman.
 
Smith reveals a fundamental moral error when he declares that “we owe duties to our posterity and not just ourselves.” But Transhumanists do offer incalculable goods for future generations.
 
Economist Walter Williams once quipped, “What have tomorrow's Americans done for today's Americans?” This witticism gets to the fact that each of us must pursue our own values and happiness in order to create the greatest meaning in our own lives. Out of love we help our children as best we can but they, too, will need to find their own meaning.
 
There are still many serious discussions to have concerning the Transhumanist enterprise.  For example, does that enterprise take away from current human exceptionalism and dignity? I say “No.”

But for love of self as well as love of our children and of what the future offers, we should embrace the Transhumanist goals.


­­­
Explore:

*Edward Hudgins, “Book Review: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.” ISkeptic, April 24, 2013.
*William Thomas, Transhumanism: How Does it Relate to Objectivism?

 

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Suicide and Reasons to Live

 August 15, 2014 -- The death of entertainer Robin Williams has again brought to public discussion the serious Robin Williams hope for those with depression and suicidal thoughtsmatter of suicide. My colleague Alexander Cohen has penned a reflection that is both personal and philosophical. He asserts, correctly, that if life is a value that we must choose and embrace, death in some cases might be a valid option as well.

But it is worth our trouble to reflect some more on the nature and obligations surrounding this option.

Human life is not a matter of mere survival. Rather, one lives to pursue rational values, to be happy, to flourish. An individual with a painful ailment who finds it impossible to enjoy anything in life—to read, to watch a movie on TV, to listen to music, to have a conversation with loved ones—might have valid reason for deciding that their life offers too little to continue.

Clinical depression

But more suicides are brought on by clinical depression than by a terrible existential situation. The excruciating pain of depression is real. But the cause is something biological and chemical. The individual cannot think straight about their situation not because they choose to be irrational or have failed to take enough courses in logic, and not because they are simply lazy and choose not to exercise the will power to focus their minds. Emotions that are extremely difficult to control blind their reason. Thus, while the desire to escape the pain of depression is valid, and suicide would be a quick way out, in such cases suicide is not necessarily a rational decision.

Depression and illusion of worthlessness

Clearly the best outcome is for clinically depressed individuals to receive treatment, at best with the aid and support of loved ones who value those individuals, so they can go on to live and to flourish.

Depressed individuals when they are back from the brink describe the general feeling of hopelessness dragging them down—Winston Churchill described his depression as his “black dog.” They also describe a feeling of worthlessness. One might understand an individual who has committed some horrible crime coming to the full moral realization of what they did and believing that they deserve to die. But clinical depression distorts an individual’s apprehension of reality in this most crucial aspect of life: their sense of self-worth.

One can take some comfort when a person in horrible pain passes away; I’ve felt that way when loved ones suffering from cancer finally succumbed. And in the case of someone like Robin Williams, who struggled for years with depressionalbeit in his case worsened by alcohol and drug abusewe can at least say they are now free; they suffer no more.

Depression distorts: LIke a carnival funhouse mirror, depression distorts our perception of our situation, our selves, our future, and our relationships. But clearly the best outcome is for clinically depressed individuals to receive treatment, at best with the aid and support of loved ones who value those individuals, so they can go on to live and to flourish. Pharmaceuticals currently help millions. And we can hope that in the future, genetic research will allow for the elimination of the inborn propensity some individuals have toward depression.

Tragedy for others

Speaking of loved ones, we can also ask about the obligation of depressed individuals to go on living for the sake of those who love and value them. There was no generic moral obligation for Robin Williams to continue to suffer because the millions who loved his work would miss him.

But consider the situation of a father with a wife and young children who, because of clinical depression, commits suicide. That father took on a moral and a legal commitment to care for those children. He would be inflicting terrible, long-lasting pain not only on the children but on the wife whom he loved and valued. Again, in such a case we might take cold comfort in the fact that such a father no longer suffers the pain of clinical depression. But his suicide can only be described as a tragedy, inflicting on his family undeserved pain because of a painful biological condition that drives such a father, beyond reason, to suicide.

Individuals don’t have a moral obligation to live for the sake of others. But the foundation and source of the need for morality is to guide us as we seek to live flourishing lives. Let us hope that Robin Williams’s death will raise awareness of the need for individuals who suffer from clinical depression to strive, with the help of loved ones, to overcome their condition just as they would strive to overcome any other illness. That is how life for them will continue to offer values and, indeed, will be the highest value.

EXPLORE: 

hope depression what to do sucidal thoughts Ten Habits of Hope
by Marsha Enright

Practical and liberating  tips from an educator with a background in psychology.  Are you focused on what you cannot do or what you can do? On what you do not control or what you do control?


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Objectivism is Not Anti-Family

Salon.com hates Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The latest evidence is a gratuitous jab, tarring AWriter Sean McElweeyn Rand a conservative and then declaring that Objectivism is anti-family. Why can’t the advocates of statism, self-sacrifice, and irrationality get Objectivism right? Oh, I did charge them with advocating irrationality, didn’t I?

In an article posted August 3, 2014, Sean McElwee charges that conservatives’ so-called “’family-friendly’ values are tough to reconcile with the market — one of the most anti-family institutions (there is a reason the Atlas Society, which exists to forward Randian ideas, harbors an open disdain for the family).”
 
The main point of McElwee’s article is that there is a “Raging Contradiction” in the the conservative movement. That’s true, as my colleague Ed Hudgins has already explained..But McElwee’s attack on Objectivism doesn’t make sense.
 
To begin with, Objectivism isn’t a conservative philosophy. And Ayn Rand wasn’t a conservative. So it shouldn’t be hard to find contradictions between Objectivism and conservative thinking. And it may be that their perspectives on the family are a point of tension between Objectivists and conservatives. Does McElwee know that Objectivists, like most leftists but not like many conservatives, believe individuals have a right to buy contraceptives and believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry?

McElwee’s attack on Objectivism doesn’t make sense. 
 But McElwee is wrong to call the Objectivist position on family “open disdain.” (Since he singles out the Atlas Society, I guess he doesn’t know that several of us, including myself, have children. Maybe he’d say we’re just hypocrites.) In a nutshell, the Objectivist view of family is that it is a wonderful social institution that brings immense value to many people and is a natural part of our propagation as a species. Is it disdainful to say that this doesn’t imply a blanket, open-ended, out-of-context obligation?
 
Objectivism holds that we should deal with others by trade, interacting voluntarily for the sake of mutual benefit. Inasmuch as this can be the leitmotif of family relations so much the better. Inasmuch as some family relations don’t measure up as being beneficial for their participants, so much the worse for those relations.

Family is a vital human institution.
Is it anti-family to say that a child isn’t obliged to honor an abusive parent? Is it anti-family to say that once one’s children are grown, the parents’ obligation to them ends and further relations should be based on mutual respect and voluntary association? Is it anti-family to say that one should love one’s loveable, ethical, siblings and cousins, and one may ignore and avoid unlikeable or unethical family members? None of those views are anti-family: they prize what is good in family relations and seek to make all family relations healthy and positive.
 
McElwee seems to think that a pro-family viewpoint amounts to a blanket obligation to serve one’s family no matter what.
The best theme in the liberal tradition (with which McElwee identifies) is the supreme worth of our own lives to ourselves. If one recognizes that basic moral truth, it has implications for all one’s relations. Family is a vital human institution. Let’s make it serve our lives, not harm them. 

 
EXPLORE:
Myths About Ayn Rand, a #2 Amazon best-seller
A easy and quick way to explore common myths about Ayn Rand's ideas

Up from Conservatism, the award-winning classic essay by Robert James Bidinotto
A devastating indictment of conservatism and many of its top leaders.

A Challenge to Journalists by Laurie Rice
"If you value your argument, you do it a disservice by misrepresenting its opponent."

"Objectivist Ethics for Parents and Childtren" a presentation by William R Thomas, given at the Atlas Summit, June 20, 2014. Why having children makes sense for egoists, and how Objectivist ethics applies to the case of children.

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Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley

(This piece first appeared in the Washington Times online edition on July 25 and in its print edition on July 28, 2014.)

July 25, 2014 -- Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, recently spoke at the “Rebooting Congress, Causes and Campaigns 2014” conference in Silicon Valley. The goal of Lincoln Labs, which put on the event, is to “create a bridge between technology and efforts to advance liberty.” The conference sought to “bring together technical talent and policy advocates to turn ideas into deliverables for liberty.”
 
Mr. Paul has also met in recent weeks with tech luminaries, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
 
This might seem like just the usual meet-and-greet in advance of a possible presidential run. The libertarian-leaning Mr. Paul’s efforts, though, could presage a radical realignment of the Republican Party and a revolution in American politics.
 
The GOP is in a demographic death spiral as its traditional voter base — for example, white evangelicals — shrinks. To survive, it must bring into its fold minorities, young people, and, especially, the new modernist achievers. These latter are the innovators who led the communications and information revolution and who are pioneering new technologies and services in areas such as medicine, robotics, energy, transportation, space and education.
 
Republicans usually overlook modernist achievers because such mostly young entrepreneurs are usually Obama supporters. Being a political entrepreneur, Mr. Paul seems to appreciate that perhaps they vote for statists because no one has offered them an attractive alternative.
 
These new entrepreneurs have an obvious interest in free markets. Most aspire to earn profits by attracting paying customers rather than by securing government handouts. In recent years, many have found government regulations hampering their freedom to innovate, whether it’s the Food and Drug Administration banning 23andMe from offering genetic-testing services by mail or local governments banning Uber ridesharing. On these issues, entrepreneurs are a better match for the GOP than for the Democrats, a point Mr. Paul no doubt is making.
 
Most of these new entrepreneurs loathe “crony capitalism,” the current system in which businesses profit principally through political pull, usually at the expense of competitors. They seem to prefer a system in which businesses succeed or fail on their merits. In other words, what they favor, whether or not they have the vocabulary to describe it, is a true free market.
 
In the past, the GOP has been perceived, with some truth, as the party pimping for business privileges. Today, however, Democrats want to blur this distinction between the two systems so they can punish achievers with taxes and regulations, all the while taking the lead from Republicans by giving special favors to their business buddies. Again, Mr. Paul and the GOP can offer the new entrepreneurs clarity about the crony system and the honest, free-market alternative.
 
More important in the long run than the political support these new entrepreneurs might offer the GOP are the values they hold and are promoting in our culture.
 
First, they respect the power of human reason, which gives us an almost infinite capacity to change the world for the better.
 
Second, they understand that individuals matter — that individuals, not government bureaucracies, are the driving force behind human progress.
 
Third, they love their work and seek personal fulfillment through productive achievement.
 
Fourth, they know that their efforts help to create a world as it can be and should be.
 
To put it in Ayn Rand language, they have the values and spirit of a Howard Roark and now need the politics of a John Galt. These are just the values that must triumph over the pernicious entitlement culture that today is replacing proud, personally responsible citizens with whining, servile subjects. In the end, only these values can provide the foundation for the restoration of individual liberty.
 
The new entrepreneurs tend to be socially liberal. Thus, they generally avoid a GOP that they perceive as dominated by intolerant, liberty-limiting social-conservative extremists. Mr. Paul is personally a social conservative, but gives political priority to limiting government. He will certainly try to retain the support of such conservatives while bringing in young wealth creators.
 
In the short term, that could be a winning formula. In the long term, though, the GOP likely will have to choose whether to continue with its crippling contradiction and decline, or to become a truly modernist, future-oriented party. The latter would not only be the best thing for the party. It would be the best thing for the country.

EXPLORE:
Edward Hudgins, “McConnell Should Unleash Our Inner John Galt.” June 10, 2014.
Edward Hudgins, “Book Review: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.” ISkeptic, April 24, 2013.


Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at the Atlas Society and the editor of The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?

 

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