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How Anti-Individualist Fallacies Prevent Us from Curing Death

Are you excited about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs investing billions of dollars to extend life and even “cure” death?

It's amazing that such technologically challenging goals have gone from sci-fi fantasies to fantastic possibilities. But the biggest obstacles to life extension could be cultural: the anti-individualist fallacies arrayed against this goal.Peter Thiel
 

Entrepreneurs defy death

 
A recent Washington Post feature documents the “Tech titans’ latest project: Defy death. “ Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist, has led the way, raising awareness and funding regenerative medicines. He explains: “I’ve always had this really strong sense that death was a terrible, terrible thing… Most people end up compartmentalizing and they are in some weird mode of denial and acceptance about death, but they both have the result of making you very passive. I prefer to fight it.”
 
Others prefer to fight as well. Google CEO Larry Page created Calico to invest in start-ups working to stop aging. Oracle’s Larry Ellison has also provided major money for anti-aging research. Google’s Sergey Brin and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg both have funded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation.
 
Beyond the Post piece we can applaud the education in the exponential technologies needed to reach these goals by Singularity U., co-founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil, who believes humans and machines will merge in the decades to become transhumans, and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis.
 
The Post piece points out that while in the past two-thirds of science and medical research was funded by the federal government, today private parties put up two-thirds. These benefactors bring their entrepreneurial talents to their philanthropic efforts. They are restless for results and not satisfied with the slow pace of government bureaucracies plagued by red-tape and politics.
 
“Wonderful!” you’re thinking. “Who could object?”
 

Laurie Zoloth's inequality fallacy

 
Laurie Zoloth for one. This Northwestern University bioethicist argues that “Making scientific progress faster doesn’t necessarily mean better — unless if you’re an aging philanthropist and want an answer in your lifetime.” The Post quotes her further as saying that “Science is about an arc of knowledge, and it can take a long time to play out.”
Understanding the world through science is a never-ending enterprise. But in this case, science is also about billionaires wanting answers in their lifetimes because they value their own lives foremost and they do not want them to end. And the problem is?
 
Zoloth grants that it is ”wonderful to be part of a species that dreams in a big way” but she also wants “to be part of a species that takes care of the poor and the dying.” Wouldn’t delaying or even eliminating dying be even better?
 
The discoveries these billionaires facilitate will help millions of people in the long-run. But her objection seems rooted in a morally-distorted affinity for equality of condition: the feeling that it is wrong for some folks to have more than others—never mind that they earned it—in this case early access to life-extending technologies. She seems to feel that it is wrong for these billionaires to put their own lives, loves, dreams, and well-being first.
 
We’ve heard this “equality” nonsense for every technological advance: only elites will have electricity, telephones, radios, TVs, computers, the internet, smartphones, whatever. Yes, there are first adopters, those who can afford new things. Without them footing the bills early on, new technologies would never become widespread and affordable. This point should be blindingly obvious today, since the spread of new technologies in recent decades has accelerated. But in any case, the moral essential is that it is right for individuals to seek the best for themselves while respecting their neighbors’ liberty to do the same.
 

Leon Kass's “long life is meaningless” fallacy

 
The Post piece attributes to political theorist Francis Fukuyama the belief that “a large increase in human life spans would take away people’s motivation for the adaptation necessary for survival. In that kind of world, social change comes to a standstill.”
 
Nonsense! As average lifespans doubled in past centuries, social change—mostly for the better—accelerated. Increased lifespans in the future could allow individuals to take on projects spanning centuries rather than decades. Indeed, all who love their lives regret that they won’t live to see, experience, and help create the wonders of tomorrow.
 
The Post cites physician and ethicist Leon Kass who asks: “Could life be serious or meaningful without the limit of mortality?”
 
Is Kass so limited in imagination or ignorant of our world that he doesn’t appreciate the great, long-term projects that could engage us as individuals seriously and meaningfully for centuries to come? (I personally would love to have the Mars Society's meaningful projectcenturies needed to work on terraforming Mars, making it a new habitat for humanity!)
 
Fukuyama and Kass have missed the profound human truth that we each as individuals create the meaning for our own lives, whether we live 50 years or 500. Meaning and purpose are what only we can give ourselves as we pursue productive achievements that call upon the best within us.
 

Francis Fukuyama's anti-individualist fallacy

 
The Post piece quotes Fukuyama as saying “I think that research into life extension is going to end up being a big social disaster… Extending the average human life span is a great example of something that is individually desirable by almost everyone but collectively not a good thing. For evolutionary reasons, there is a good reason why we die when we do.”
 
What a morally twisted reason for opposing life extension! Millions of individuals should literally damn themselves to death in the name of society. Then count me anti-social.
 
Some might take from Fukuyama’s premise a concern that millions of individuals living to 150 will spend half that time bedridden, vegetating, consuming resources, and not producing. But the life extension goal is to live long with our capacities intact—or enhanced! We want 140 to be the new 40!
 
What could be good evolutionary reasons why we die when we do? Evolution only metaphorically has “reasons.” It is a biological process that blindly adapted us to survive and reproduce: it didn't render us immune to ailments. Because life is the ultimate value, curing those ailments rather than passively suffering them is the goal of medicine. Life extension simply takes the maintenance of human life a giant leap further.
 

Live long and prosper

 
Yes, there will be serious ethical questions to face as the research sponsored by benevolent billionaires bears fruit. But individuals who want to live really long and prosper in a world of fellow achievers need to promote human life as the ultimate value and the right of all individuals to live their own lives and pursue their own happiness as the ultimate liberty.
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Hudgins is a senior scholar and the director of advocacy at The Atlas Society.
 
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Google's Pony Express & An Objectivist Theory of Video Games

Around midnight on April 14th, 1860, the rider on the first westbound run of the Pony Express clattered into San Francisco, California, on his horse. The mail he carried had been borne at a gallop across the desert of the American West. He was the last rider in a ten-day relay that began in St. Joseph, Missouri. Ultimately, the journey of the Pony Express would continue criss-crossing the country for eighteen months, transmitting messages about the gold rush in California, Lincoln’s inauguration, and the Civil War.

The Pony Express company conceded to the transcontinental telegraph in 1861, losing the government mail contract the company’s founders had sought. But it had forever heightened expectations of speed in letter delivery, and, of course, had gained a place in the American imagination.

155 years have passed since that day, and there was no better celebration of the Pony Express’s memory than Google’s instantly iconic doodle last week. And there was no better entity to do it: The Pony Express’s founders sought to compartmentalize and distribute a 1900 mile pilgrimage across America in order to speed up communication. Google now compresses massive amounts of data and connects billions of people in order to put a world of information at our fingertips.

The doodle was one of Google’s occasional interactive logos, meaning it was actually a short video game, and it can now be found and played in the archives, here: http://goo.gl/AJldjs 
It was designed by Mark Ivey, Kris Hom, Brian Murray, Kevin Laughlin, Greg Capuano, and Matt Cruickshank.

I was completely charmed by this game, and it’s another instance of video games becoming a common cultural medium, emerging as a mainstream art form out of its rarified audiences, such as gamers or technology geeks. (See Minecraft, Video Games, and Objectivist Values). A search of the hashtag #ponyexpress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram revealed people all over the internet sharing their high scores and their delight at the game’s illustrations.
 
The game begins with a “play” prompt embedded in the Google logo, written out in Wild West font based on the real-life advertisements used by the Pony Express. A stylized, cartoon cowboy rides atop a comically round horse, their silliness heightened by the furious pace of the pony’s tiny animated legs and the determined expression on the cowboy’s face.
 


The game’s soundtrack kicks in, which is a full-throttle clip-clopping gallop effect, three beats up and three beats down, with two extra beats which somehow ratchet up the excitement and heighten the sense of riding a slightly out-of-control horse in a slightly out-of-control commercial venture.

Real life riders ended their stint with either a handsome paycheck or various terrible incidents, such as exhaustion, injury, or attacks by native tribes. The Google pony rider faces cactuses, avalanches, rocks, structures, and bandits. Google’s pony has its own idea of things, and glares at the rider for mishaps, sympathizes about the snowbanks, mocks him for falling in water troughs, and claims all the credit at the end of the ride. The pony has its independent streak, but as the doodle’s summary says, “Ultimately, what's more important than earning trust and respect from a horse?”


The one thing rider and pony always agree on is the importance of the letters, which you collect at top speed as you race through the route. The game entertainingly calls on references which are just at the corners of cultural memory, such as the special mail bag, called a Mochila, developed for the Pony Express to fit over the top of a saddle. In the game, when your pony skids to a halt at the station, the mail bag flips forward through the air with the rider, both landing in place in a funny way on the next horse.
 
 

Although the silliness of the illustrations invites us to laugh, we’re also earnestly engaged with the rider’s task of getting the mail to its destination. Whatever the obstacles of his adventure, he is met at the end by a glorious reception line in an old-timey town, people cheering and waving parasols as pony and messenger sprint to the final station.
 
The lightness of the game isn’t at the expense of the Pony Express, but reflects the lightness of hope in an amazing historical moment. We know the “Wild West” was a dangerous and difficult experience, and a complicated period in history, but it also represents a fantastic individualism and freedom.
 
We celebrate the off-screen entrepreneurs of the Pony Express, who saw an opportunity to create value and pursued it. We celebrate the adventurousness of the employees of the Pony Express (this is where Buffalo Bill rose to fame). And we celebrate the small town—an emerging social order receiving new information to be used for the next step toward prosperity.
 
 

 

We can see from the Pony Express game in what ways a video game is a form of art. In The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand said, “The proper forms of art present a selective re-creation of reality [...] according to an artists's metaphysical value judgments. [...] Art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. [...] It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important." 

Literature reveals the artist's value judgments through the use of concepts. The visual arts reveal the artist’s recreation of existence through sight and touch. Music reveals the musician’s choices about audio perception, and provides a direct experience of certain abstract cognitive and emotional processes.

Motion pictures, when presented as stories and not just as a record of information, became a form of art after the technology became available. (Incidentally, the first motion picture ever created featured a running horse, and solved the mystery of whether the horse completely leaves the ground while running: It does.)

 
 
Like motion pictures, video games combine the story telling of literature, the visual arts, and sometimes music. They are representational, as art must be. And they bring man's concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness, allowing him to grasp them directly, as if they were precepts. Video games are even implicitly Romantic, as they most often present a protagonist deliberately pursuing a goal within a knowable universe.
 
In some ways video games push the boundaries of Ayn Rand's definition of art, which presupposes that the enjoyment of art is contemplative: the artist is the one who does the selective re-creating, the viewer responds. But the player's participation in a game is still within the selective power of the game's creator—I can move the rider and pony within a certain range, but I can't direct the rider to do something else entirely. 

The video game is a form of art which can present and explore human will. In the Pony Express game, I can have contained experiences of rationality, independence, and courage. I respond with emotions of determination, fear, frustration, excitement, and pride—a smaller scale of the same emotions that the owners and riders of the actual Pony Express must have felt in their adventures. 

Video games let us live in a created world and make our own choices. They let us experience art in a manner similar to how we experience real life. Google’s Pony Express doodle is a fine example of how video games are expanding their power as art, showing us how life could and ought to be.
 
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Play Google's Pony Express game here: http://goo.gl/AJldjs
 

Obama Disproves His Own Assumptions About Iran

 Barack Obama is pushing for a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran because he believes “the more people interact with open societies, the more they will want to be part of an open society,” according to former NATO ambassador Ivo Daalder (quoted in the Washington Post).iran obama treaty death to american rouhani

But Obama himself disproves his own belief in the open society.
 

Why Obama is giving in to Iran

 Critics and even some supporters are baffled by Obama’s eagerness to secure from Iran any deal that pretends to prevent that theocratic tyranny from getting the bomb. But he has essentially let Iran get what it wants—it can continue to enrich uranium and develop ballistic missiles, avoid serious inspections, and not close down key facilities.
iran obama treaty nuclear rouhani death to america
It continues its quest for nukes even as it continues to spout its “Death to America” rhetoric, declare that the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable, and support Islamist terrorism and its political proxies throughout the Middle East. This current behavior makes clear that, when armed with nukes, it will be one of the most dangerous regimes in the world. So why is Obama letting Iran continue to prepare for mass murder?
 
Ambassador Daalder’s remark seems to confirm what many opponents think: that Obama is dangerously naive about the world. He believes that arrogant American foreign policy is the root of most of the world’s problems, and that if America just makes nice, a friendlier world will result. Commentator Charles Krauthammer even suggests that Obama thinks he can make Iran his partner in managing affairs in the Middle East. If Nixon can go to China, he can go to Iran!
 
This belief is, at best, delusional and, at worse, malicious. But it is important to sort out why.
 

The virtues of the open society

The best advertisement for the virtues of an open society is to spend time in one. Students from overseas who study in America can take back to their countries an appreciation for the free exchange of ideas and the prosperity that results when entrepreneurs are allowed to follow their visions in a free market. Military officers from other countries who train here can see how an army can remain under civilian control while Constitutional safeguards keep government power in check.
 
But those virtues will only be appreciated by those individuals who already hold at least some of the corresponding Enlightenment values: a love of life, a respect for individual autonomy, an appreciation for the power of human reason, and a desire for economic prosperity. But many don’t share these values.
 

The Islamist enemies of freedom

Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian on a student scholarship in Colorado, was appalled by the materialism, individualism, the elevated status of women, and the sexual openness in American society. And that was in the America of 1950! On his return to Egypt, he became a leading ideologue in the murderous Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Osama Bin Laden was from a wealthy Saudi family. He was educated in a Saudi school that had a more modern Western-style curriculum and allowed Western dress. He traveled for vacations in the West. But he founded al Qaeda. The 9/11 terrorists who followed his orders to fly planes into buildings in America were mostly Middle Eastern students studying in Western countries. And the Islamists who’ve carried out attacks in European countries in recent years have mainly been home grown or living in these Western countries for some time.
 

Islamists reject the Enlightenment

Islamists don’t fall in love with open societies because they do not share Enlightenment values. Instead of peaceful coexistence with others, they violently force others to adhere to every barbaric prescription of their religious dogma, no matter how much poverty and misery they inflict on the world. And killing anyone who disagrees is central to their dogma.
Further, they refuse to reflect on their values; that is central to their dogmatism. So exposure to the prosperity and peace of open societies will only infuriate them and reinforce their commitment to their dogmas.
 

Obama rejects Americanism

 And does this mindset not describe Obama? He has spent much of his life in open America. Yet, in a dogmantic pursuit of “equality,” he has made himself the mortal enemy of the entrepreneurs, businessmen, and businesswomen who make everyone wealthy. Never mind that his policies clearly impoverish the very people he claims to be helping.
 
He has made himself the enemy of the Constitutional checks and balances on government, unilaterally assuming powers not granted to the executive, using the government to punish enemies, all in the name of creating “social harmony.” Never mind that this has made the country become increasingly polarized.
 
If Obama looks in the mirror and understands his own mindset, he would understand that his belief that Iran will grow kinder and gentler because of interactions with an open America—which Obama is trying to close—is an illusion. But he can’t or won’t. This is why both the nuclear deal with Iran and Obama are dangerous to a peaceful and open world.
 
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Secular Sharia Law in Indiana

Americans cannot tell the difference between ethics and politics.

The Indiana religious freedom law—now being amended, it appears—has exposed the American version of sharia: Americans want to require people to be moral.
 

Indiana's freedom to be immoral

 
Indiana recently passed a law that mimics the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Arkansas is considering something similar. All these laws allow people to exempt themselves from laws or regulations on the basis of their religious beliefs.
 
These laws are a sop to the religious right. They attempt to assure the cultural conservatives that their liberty to follow their own beliefs will be protected. It is the essence of liberty that it protect one's ability to act on one's judgment. But since these laws endorse only irrational judgments—religious beliefs—and say nothing of the freedom to act on one's rational judgment, they are, at best, weak blows for freedom.Indiana Governor Mike Pence
 
But all liberty, while it frees us to do what is best for us, also includes the freedom to do wrong. The Indiana law is supported by corporations like Hobby Lobby, whose owners want to tailor their hiring and benefits to their Christian beliefs (e.g. not covering certain contraceptiives in their health plans). And some Christians who would like to refuse to support gay marriage also back the law (they hope it would let halls refuse to host gay ceremonies, for example, though the courts haven't tended to rule that way).
 
I think both of the policies I mentioned are wrong-headed, and a chorus of left-leaning celebrities, politicians, and business leaders agrees, accusing Indiana of endorsing sexual discrimination and hatred of gays.
 

The difference between politics and ethics

 
But in a free society, there would be no question that wrong-headed people have the right to discriminate or express hatred, so long as they didn't initiate the use of force against others. There is a difference between politics and morality: politics concerns how to arrange the use of force in society; ethics concerns how individuals should act—and how their actions should be judged—generally.
 
Protestors against the Indiana religious freedom law, March 2015The Indiana boycotters have their hearts in the right place—they see what appears to be an endorsement of immorality, and they have organized a protest to shame the Indiana right-wing into approving of gays and contraception. That's how we should respond to promotions of immorality in a free society. You have the right to be a jerk. And we have the right to tell you that you are being a jerk.
 
But in fact, what the boycotters are attacking is the Indiana law. The action step they demand is not a change in Hobby Lobby's or other Christians' actions. Instead, they want Indiana to affirm that discrimination is illegal. And Gov. Mike Pence has declared his desire to do just that. That is a matter of politics, though, not of morality.
 

Secular sharia: you are required to be good

 
Isn't it obvious that Americans are now just arguing over which morality will be required by law—and which will be banned? It is to morality what the bad old days of the religious wars were to religion. As long as people insist on making the state the enforcer of what is thought good (in morality) or true (in religion), they are destroying the freedom we need to make authentic, reality-based choices.
 
In America, religious toleration has given birth to a flourishing and constructive conversation about what the truth is in religious issues. It's central to our tradition of freedom of speech, too. We need to have the same freedom over our moral principles. People should be free to live as they deem best—and to take the consequences. We need a flourishing, constructive conversation about morality and right action—one based in a fundamental freedom to live as we choose.
 
If we require people to be good, on pain of jail time, we will leach out any understanding of what makes the good good and what makes the bad bad. We should reject hatred of gays because we understand that being gay doesn't determine someone's moral status—and not just because we fear being fined or imprisoned.
 
The left is fighting religious conservatism by making America into a dull, rainbow-flagged, kumbaya-singing, politically correct, secular-sharia state. The cure to immorality is more freedom and more moral debates that focus on reality, not smothering us with law.
 
 
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Time Again to Celebrate Human Achievement!

 It is again Human Achievement Hour! On March 28, celebrate all that the modern world offers us as a result of the efforts of the human mind!

Our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute came up with this idea to crystalize the efforts and sentiments of many other groups and individuals opposing the morally ugly trend of marking what is called “Earth Hour.” This is the call for everyone turn off their lights between 8:30 and 9:30 pm local time to “protect the planet.”

But this is another way of saying that we humans are actually a burden on the Earth. We don’t belong. We should apologize and feel guilty for every blade of grass we step on, every tree we cut down to build our homes, every bit of food we eat—in other words, we should feel guilty of our own existence. Of course, Earth Hour is wrapped up in touchy-feely theatrics to the effect that turning off our lights expresses our caring about “Gaia” without requiring us to actually think about what values we are actually accepting.
 
So during Human Achievement Hour, reflect on humans as the source and object of all that is of value. Reflect on the fact that you are reading this message on some marvelous device that did not exist even a few decades ago, a device that allows you instant access to an almost unlimited amount of information and gives you the capacity to communicate with almost anyone anywhere in the world at any time. What an achievement! Reflect on the new applications of technologies that are doing everything from helping us better educate ourselves, to curing our diseases, to expanding the lengths of our lives. Oh yes, and our technologies allow us to eliminate real—as opposed to imagined—environmental problems: ones that actually can harm us.
 
When a blackout occurs because of a storm or some other cause, when the lights, refrigerator, AC, heat, computers, and TVs go out, we don’t cheer, we curse the darkness. Earth Hour asks us to bring a curse down upon ourselves.
 
So on the evening of March 28, turn on all your lights, celebrate all that humans have achieved, and commit yourself to more achievements in the future!
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Hudgins is a senior scholar and director of advocacy at The Atlas Society.
 
Explore:

Robert Bidinotto, “Death by Environmentalism,” March, 2004.
Edward Hudgins, “Vanquishing Earth Hour Darkness.” March 27, 2013.
Edward Hudgins, “Reducing Humans to Carbon Ash.” November 9, 2009.
Edward Hudgins, “Light Up the World for Humans!“ March 27, 2009.
 

Politico Writer Plays Race Card by Calling Millennials Racist

 In a Politico article Sean McElwee of Demos argues that, in the words of his title, “Millennials Are More Racist Than You Think.”  In fact, the Pew study he cites shows the contrary and reflects on his own race-tainted ideology.

How tolerant are millenials?

Using Pew data, McElwee acknowledges that Millennials [those born after 1980] “are indeed less likely than baby boomers to say that more people of different races marrying each other is a change for the worse (6 percent compared to 14 percent).” Further, he notes that 92 percent of Millennials are okay with interracial dating.
 
However, he notes that by both these measures Millennials are pretty much on par with GenXers, those born from 1965 through 1980. So what? You’d
 think two generations that are more tolerant than the previous ones would be occasion for applause.
 

McElwee equates leftism with antiracism

 
So where’s the racism? McElwee tells us that questions like the above “don’t really say anything about racial justice” and that Millennials “simply ignore structural racism rather than try to fix it.”
 
McElwee complains that to the question, “How much needs to be done in order to achieve Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality?” the opinions of white Millennials are little different from those of previous generations—42 percent of them answer “a lot” compared to 41 percent of white GenXers and 44 percent of white baby boomers, those born from 1946 through 1964.
 
McElwee then lets his full dogma spill out. He supports his contention by citing the work of Professor Spencer Piston who “examined a tax on millionaires, affirmative action, a limit to campaign contributions and a battery of questions that measure egalitarianism.” The professor found that young whites were not enamored of those policies, evidence for McElwee that they are racists. And McElwee is even more depressed because in the Pew data “there is also evidence that young blacks are more racially conservative than their parents, as they are less likely to support government aid to blacks.”
 

The damage of leftist attitudes on race

 
So the racism is really in McElwee’s ideology. To begin with, the policies of race-based privileges and handouts run completely contrary to King’s goal of a world in which individuals “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
 
Those policies have encouraged in many blacks an entitlement mentality with a resentment at having to earn their way in the world rather and having the world given to them. Affirmative action policies and the ideology that goes with them have discouraged entrepreneurship and personal responsibility.
 
McElwee mentions the problem of “deep disparities in criminal justice” faced by blacks. Let’s grant that there are problems: the drug war hasn't helped poor blacks, that's for sure. But let's take note of the elephant in the room: disproportionate black involvement in violent crime. Since King’s inspiring speech five decades ago, over 400,000 blacks have been murdered mostly by other blacks. Blacks make up 12 percent of America’s population. Half of murder victims are blacks. About 38 percent of the murders are committed by blacks, with about one-third committed by whites and most of the rest by assailants of unknown race.
 
The deep racial problems in this country today are no longer the result of Southern bigots or Klan members but, rather, they are caused the ideology accepted by leftists like McElwee and promoted by race hustlers like Al Sharpton—as well as by the man Sharpton has visited in the White House over 60 times: President Obama.
 

Millennials as the individualist solution

 
Pew data also show that Millennials are very cynical about politics and politicians. For example, half of millennials consider themselves political independents, compared to only 37 percent of baby boomers, and only 31 percent believe there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, compared to 49 percent of boomers. Millennials overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008 but, like much of the country, have become disillusioned with him.
 
The fact that Millennials are anything but naïve means there is a good chance today that they will challenge that leftist racial orthodoxy. Rather than being more racist, as McElwee assets, they could help turn the country away from that collectivist orthodoxy and in the direction of King’s dream, so that individuals “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and so that our characters will manifest the best in all of us.

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Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years

 “Is it possible to live to be 500?”

“Yes,” answers Bill Maris of Google, without qualifications.
 
A Bloomberg Markets piece on “Google Ventures and the Search for Immortality” documents how the billions of dollars Maris invests each year is transforming life itself. But the piece also makes clear that the most valuable asset he possesses —and that, in others, makes those billions work—is entrepreneurship.
 

Google's Bio-Frontiers

 
Maris, who heads a venture capital fund set up by Google, studied neuroscience in college. So perhaps it is no surprise that he has invested over one-third of the fund's billions in health and life sciences. Maris has been influenced by futurist and serial inventor Ray Kurzweil who predicts that by 2045 humans and machines will merge, radically transforming and extending human life, perhaps indefinitely. Google has hired Kurzweil to carry on his work towards what he calls this “singularity.”
 
Maris was instrumental in creating Calico, a Google company that seeks nothing less than to cure aging, that is, to defeat death itself.  This and other companies in which Maris directs funds have specific projects to bring about this goal, from genetic research to analyzing cancer data.
 
Maris observes that “There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading for the same place. If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to live longer, what do you choose?”
 
Google Ventures does not restrict its investments to life sciences. For example, it helped with the Uber car service and has put money into data management and home automation tech companies.
 

“Entrepreneuring” tomorrow

 
Perhaps the most important take-away from the Bloomberg article is the “why” behind Maris’s efforts. The piece states that “A company with $66 billion in annual revenue isn’t doing this for the money. What Google needs is entrepreneurs.” And that is what Maris and Google Ventures are looking for.
 
They seek innovators with new, transformative and, ultimately, profitable ideas and visions. Most important, they seek those who have the strategies and the individual qualities that will allow them to build their companies and make real their visions.
 

Entrepreneurial life

 
But entrepreneurship is not just a formula for successful start-ups. It is a concept that is crucial for the kind of future that Google and Maris want to bring about, beyond the crucial projects of any given entrepreneur.
 
Entrepreneurs love their work. They aim at productive achievement. They are individualists who act on the judgments of their own minds. And they take full responsibility for all aspects of their enterprises.
 
On this model, all individuals should treat their own lives as their own entrepreneurial opportunities. They should love their lives. They should aim at happiness and flourishing—their big profit!—through productive achievement. They should act on the judgments of their own minds. And they should take full responsibility for every aspect of their lives.
 
And this entrepreneurial morality must define the culture of America and the world if the future is to be the bright one at which Google and Maris aim. An enterprise worthy of a Google investment would seek to promote this morality throughout the culture. It would seek strategies to replace cynicism and a sense of personal impotence and social decline with optimism and a recognition of personal efficacy and the possibility of social progress.
 
So let’s be inspired by Google’s efforts to change the world, and let's help promote the entrepreneurial morality that is necessary for bringing it about.
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Hudgins is a senior scholar and the director of advocacy at The Atlas Society.
 
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Self-Esteem is not Comparative

Is it narcissism to think you are better than other people at something? Is it self-esteem to just regard yourself as one of the herd?

Headlines this week have blared “How Parents Create Narcissist Children” and “Do Parents Nurture Narcissists By Pouring On The Praise?” They are reporting on “Origins of Narcissism in Children,”a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors surveyed children and parents over some years to test whether “narcissism” was associated with parental praise (as social learning theory predicts) or with a lack of parental warmth (as Freudian psychoanalysis predicts). They found positive correlations between narcissism and excessive parental praise and between self-esteem and parental warmth.
 
The takeaway is that parents would do better to give children general love and warmth, and to praise real accomplishments and virtuous traits, such as hard work, rather than saying things like “you are so special” and “you are the best.”
 
But people often are special in some respect. And every single person is immensely and uniquely valuable to himself.
 

Self-esteem means you matter

 
"Self-esteem basically means you're a person of worth equal with other people," said one of the authors, Brad Bushman (quoted in the NPR Shots blog) "Narcissism means you think you're better than other people."
 
But as Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden argued, self-esteem is fundamentally a conviction that one is competent to live and that one is morally worthy of pursuing happiness. It is the sense of “I can do it” and “I am worth it” that underlies our daily get-up and go and our commitment to be the best person we can be.Pride: the virtue of cultivating self-esteem
 
Fundamentally, self-esteem has nothing to do with other people. In fact, basing one's valuation of one's self on others is what Rand decried as “social metaphysics”—substituting other people's thoughts for reality itself. The standard for judging oneself (which is half of the practice of pride) is one's own capacities and needs. The standard for moral ambitiousness (which is the other half of practicing pride) is the universal principles of ethics.
 
It is this sense of fundamental self-worth and competence that parents should help their children develop. And in this context, the advice to refrain from offering much socially comparative praise or blame is sound.
 

It's not narcissism to know when you're the best

 
But then, some people (including children) are sometimes better than their peers at something. It isn't narcissism to recognize however one falls in social comparisons; it's objectivity to recognize the facts, whatever they are. It's narcissism to insist that one is the best when one is not. Just as it's a vice, too, to think oneself humble and second-rate, when one is not.
 
Bushman's insistence that self-esteem consists in viewing ourselves as identical to others would be destructive if put into practice. We are self-authoring individuals, and we each need a selfish sense in our hearts that we matter without regard for our standing in society. We are each unique: we cannot be the same as everyone else. And self-esteem isn't about those others anyway.
 
--William R Thomas is Director of Programs at The Atlas Society.
 

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Poverty Rhetoric, Obama, and SNAP

Are you a whiner who doesn't know how rich you are?

A lot of Americans are. And their ignorance feeds common fictional narratives about poverty in America.
 
For most Americans, the cure for poverty is hard work, frugality, education, and drive. Most American poor have ample resources if they would only use them well. But the typical narrative about the poor is that they are helpless victims who scarcely manage to survive.
 

Obama's poverty humbugobama total welfare spending subdisides snap

 We saw this in the 2015 State of the Union speech, where President Obama, pushing for a rise in the minimum wage, declared: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.” In reality, it would be a grave mistake to have children if one could only earn minimum wage. But were a famiily so improvident, our current state welfare would shower benefits on them: the Earned Income Tax credit ($5,000) and the SNAP food benefit ($7,200) alone could easily add over $12,000 per year to the income of a family of four making $15,000. Do you think a family of four can't live on $27,000? I promise you, it can. And that doesn't even mention the free food the kids would get at public school or any private charity.
 
So the humbug narrative of pity just ignores the existing welfare state in order to argue for even more subsidies for poverty and improvidence.
 

SNAP is a rich subsidy

The pity narrative also has drummed up the idea that the SNAP food benefits are meager at $600 per month for a family of four. Well, my partner Susanna Fessler and I examined that issue and found that our luxurious, cosmopolitan foodie-ism was perfectly achievable within a SNAP diet of $1.50 per person per meal. Read Sue's account of the ridiculous whining that lay behind the pro-SNAP subsidy activism. Read about our principles of sensible food buying.
 
Arthur King teaches other students how to cook tasty meals on a budget, in his popular YouTube series "Cookin' for College." If you have never thought about how rich you are, I recommend you read Mr. Money Mustache. In the developed world, we reap the benefits of the Great Enrichment, which has put industry to work providing us with an amazing array of products and life options at very low cost. Of course, plenty of people try to sell luxury products that are expensive. But if you mostly ignore the expensive products, it’s incredible how much real luxury you can enjoy, from cheap travel, to free books and movies, to low cost food, comfortable housing, and on and on.
 
It's time to stop keeping up with the Joneses. It's time for everyone to start keeping up with their own needs and possibilities. It's time to stop excusing the improvident and blaming the productive.
 
Make the most of what you earn, and if you want more, earn more! That's good advice no matter what your income: that's what those who claim to sympathize with the poor should be preaching. The key is to make your own values the center of all your decision-making. That's what it takes to live and make the most of life, on your own terms, for yourself.
 
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Oil Trains are Life-Savers

The current debate over the safety of oil trains is the latest front in the anti-industrial movement's war on fossil fuels.

When brilliant, productive industrialists discovered how to “frack” for oil, and when others built huge projects to make use of sub-arctic oil sands, they unleashed a torrent of petroleum from places in North America that had never produced much oil before—places like North Dakota and Alberta. That's oil that heats homes and powers vehicles—it's the lifeblood of our modern click-and-ship economy, empowering individuals to live, travel, and trade as we choose.

The war on oil trains

Oil cars at the Port of Albany, NYThe enemies of industry struck back. They can't admit that they just want high oil prices, so instead they act to block the oil from getting to market. President Obama has just vetoed Keystone pipeline authorization, and other pipeline projects face political obstructionism as well.

But another transport industry was ready and willing to haul the oil. The railroads.
 
I remember reading about oil trains in Atlas Shrugged twenty-five years ago—the idea seemed so quaint then, so 1950s. Now, across the continent, oil train shipments have risen ten-fold, and the black tank-cars can be seen on many a siding, working to take the oil to the distant, coastal refineries that were originally sited to receive foreign oil.
 
Today, the burgeoning oil train business is the flowing life-blood of the industrial heart of North America.
 

Promote safety through law, not regulation

As the oil train shipments have increased, so too have accidents involving fuel cars. My local paper, the Albany Times Union, editorialized for more regulation (do they ever editorialize for less?). I replied that oil trains represent tremendous value, and that oil trains are far less risky than, say, truck transport—there are over 100,000 road-vehicle fires each year, and hundreds die each year in those accidents.
 
Oil is the lifeblood of our modern click-and-ship economy.
I don't think it is a good thing that anyone die in an accident. And powerful technologies, like flying and driving, do make terrible accidents possible. A careless train operator who left his train unattended burned down a town in Quebec in 2013, killing over forty people. It may well be reasonable for the oil companies and the railroads to enhance safety. A recent train derailment in West Virginia would perhaps have been less flammable had new standards for North Dakota oil—which contains high levels of light, flammable gasses—been already put into practice.
 
But we have a system for dealing with risky business actions—it's called tort law. We have a well-developed law based in property rights that can, if used properly, hold firms and individuals accountable for harms they inflict coercively on others—by, say, starting fires.
 
This allows decisions about risk to be balanced by considerations about reward. Despite all the car and truck fires, we are far better off with cars than without them. And despite the occasional oil train crashes, we are far better off with cheaper, more abundant energy than we would be without it.
 
Where I live, the anti-industrialists jump at any chance to attack the energy industry. Oil trains from North Dakota are deemed bad because their oil is too light. Oil trains from Alberta are deemed bad because their oil is too heavy. The truth is, having killed off local fracking, and working to block any gas or oil pipeline, the anti-industrialists have the oil trains in their sights, and will do their best to kill them off, too.
 
We need to stand up for the practical use of human reason to improve human life—to get rich—to thrive—to be happy—to live.
 
 
Explore:
 
Auto-mobility and Freedom by Sam Kazman (September, 2001)

Fracknation: the movie.
 

 

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Leftist Delusions, Honduras and Alleged Freedom Failures

 A recent piece by Mike LaSusa entitled “The Nightmare Libertarian Project to Turn This Central American Country Into Ayn Rand's Paradise,” published on Alternet and reposted on Salon, is a disjointed collection of out-of-context semi-factoids that bear no relationship to the title. The piece reveals what's wrong with the minds of the leftists who seem to lap this stuff up.

Crime in Honduras

LaSusa tells us that stating with a military coup in 2009 Honduras has had a succession of governments that have sought the “privatization of Honduran society” and “the militarization of public security efforts.” Crime in the country is out of control and growing, with gang activity contributing to corruption of the police and government.  But a group of leftists headed off a constitutional amendment to give “permanent status to the country’s militarized police force” which is under the control of the president. Further, while only 27 percent of the people have confidence in the ability of the police to deal with crime, 73 percent think the military should be involved in crime-fighting.

What does this have to do with libertarianism? Nothing!

LaSusa complains about the government’s “heavy-handed” approach to fighting crime. Since he is concerned with crime but also with the country’s constitution, shouldn't he prefer a more militarized police to a military prone to pulling off coups?

Be that as it may, what does it have to do with libertarians? For the record, libertarians oppose police states with open-ended powers but argue that the basic function of government is to provide police protection from the sort of crime about which LaSusa complains. But so far he offers no indictment of libertarians whatsoever.

Zones of development

LaSusa then turns to a discussion of special employment and economic development zones (Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico or ZEDEs) proposed by the Honduran government. Private investors would develop infrastructure, set up enterprises, establish educational and policing systems and, in effect, write laws. He quotes from the ZEDE website that they seek to provide “a 21st century, business-efficient, non-politicized, transparent, stable, system of administration, plus a special police and institutional security to overcome regional issues and meet world standards.” Sounds pretty good! And he tells us that lots of libertarian thinkers from around the world had a hand in developing this concept.

So are ZEDEs a bad idea? Why? LaSusa seems to have the usual leftist visceral hatred of private folks with money making money, since he complains about private investors exploiting “Honduras’ voluntary surrender of its national sovereignty to make a ‘legal’ profit.” Does he prefer the current corrupt system? And would private investors create conditions any worse than the poverty-stricken, crime-ridden dump that is Honduras today?

No libertarian nightmare

But the discussion of ZEDE's is irrelevant, it turns out. LaSusa provides us with no information whatsoever about how ZEDEs are functioning and no recitation of nightmare stories. Perhaps this is because none are actually functioning as yet. LaSusa tells us that the ZEDEs were declared unconstitutional. The government tried to change the law to allow them to operate legally but failed, and is now trying to allow ZEDEs and local municipalities to request help for security from the militarized police. And the problem is, what?

LaSusa’s attention then wanders to the fact that since 20008 the United States has provided $65 million in aid to Honduras for security. Libertarians generally oppose all foreign aid but again, where is the “nightmare?” Let's see: no libertarian policy has actually been put into effect in Honduras, so how on earth can Honduras's current problems be due to libertarianism? As Ayn Rand would say—Blank out!

Crony, Corrupt Honduras

Let’s put this discussion in a wider context by considering how Honduras does on the Index of Economic Freedom. (Full disclosure: I developed this index concept at the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s.) Honduras scores only 57.4 out of 100, meaning it is “Mostly Unfree.” Of special note, it only scored a 30 on protecting property rights. And it only scored 26 for freedom from corruption. Overall, Honduras ranks only 116th out of 178 countries evaluated, in terms of economic freedom. This country is not nor ever has been an Ayn Rand laissez-faire paradise.Hernando DeSoto

Here is a crucial point that leftists refuse to acknowledge. A free market system is built on the moral premise that individuals should deal with one another based on mutual consent. This requires the rule of law with governments protecting private property.

In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s villains are corrupt crony businessmen who use government force against competitors or to extract money from them through confiscatory taxes. The heroes are true capitalists who prosper by creating goods and services to sell to willing customers.

When LaSusa complains about a libertarian “Peruvian economist” he is no doubt referring to Hernando DeSoto. DeSoto documents how governments in his native country as well as throughout the region are crony, or what he calls “mercantilist,” systems. They are the principal reason that the poor are denied the opportunity to prosper through their own efforts. To the extent that ZEDEs would afford everyone a “non-politicized, transparent, stable, system of administration, plus a special police and institutional security,” this is just what Honduras needs.

Immigrating to freedom

LaSusa’s attention deficit discussion then swings to immigration. He complains about “U.S. government practice of deporting thousands of Hondurans with criminal records” thus contributing to crime in Honduras. What does he expect the United States to say? “Welcome criminals! Come here where the pickings are better!”

He also complains about deportation from the United States of women and children immigrants. But libertarians tend to oppose such deportations and favor an open and welcoming immigration policy.  LaSusa also complains about America’s war on drugs, but then, so do all libertarians.

LaSusa’s meandering mess offers no indictment of libertarians. He offers no evidence, data or logical connection at all between pro-freedom policies and Honduras’s sad state. Yet he declares the “disastrous results” of “neoliberal economic prescriptions.”

Leftist delusions

LaSusa’s piece is most interesting for what it reveals about the leftist mind. It is unfocused. It seems self-satisfied with lists of disconnected factoids that in no way hold together. A tone of indignation alone is supposed to prove the fallacies of political opponents.

The goal of DeSusa’s piece seems to be to damn libertarians and Objectivists in the minds of fellow leftist by plucking at their emotional chords rather than offering serious discussion concerning problems like crime and poverty that he claims to want to vanquish.

Relying on self-delusional rather than clear-eyed, honest analysis simply ensures that such problems will continue. All this obfuscation should suggest that there is much in the libertarian and Objectivist approaches to society and economy that should be seriously explored!
---
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted February 6, 2015.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2015

 The anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz deathSurvivors of Auschwitz
camp is now marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Jewish survivors who gathered there today escaped with their lives 70 years ago. They have lived to ripe old ages and experienced the joys of life denied to millions of their murdered fellows, and many are no doubt haunted by memories of those terrible times.
 
But what should remembrance of the Holocaust teach us?
 

Ideas have consequences

 Ideas have consequences, and evil ideas produce the greatest evils in this world. Irrational Nazi dogma taught that there are superior and inferior races, and that the superior should wield absolute power and should enslave—or even exterminate—the inferior. To the extent that individuals took that dogma seriously, they butchered millions of Jews, Slavs, and members of other groups not approved of by the self-declared Master Race.
 

Ideas can destroy civilizations

AuschwitzEvil ideas can metastasize to destroy the civilizations they infect. Humans have butchered each other since humans have been around. But they’ve also built cultures and institutions based on respect for the autonomy and dignity of individuals and on the highest human aspirations. It has become a cliché, but a true one, that Germany was the land of Beethoven and Schiller yet succumbed to Nazi brutality. The causes of the rise of Nazism are complex, but ultimately that rise showed that there is no guarantee that civilizations will endure without their defenders.

 

Without intellectual defenders, the good will perish

 The failure to oppose evil ideas and to defend civilized values allows the evil ones to crush the good. In the 1930s European leaders and thinkers, rightly seeking to avoid another world war, ignored the fact that Hitler’s ideology and actions showed that he was serious in his goal of creating a Greater German Reich dominated byhis Master Race. The result of their failure to oppose his ideas and policies led to another world war.
 

Nazi ideas live on in Islamism

The ideas that led to the Holocaust are infecting our world today, principally through Islam. Islamist dogma holds that theirs is the only true religion, that they should wield absolute power and should enslave or even exterminate the infidel.
 
How many butchers shrieking “Allah Akbar!” will it take to get this point through some people’s pig heads? How many World Trade Centers destroyed; London subways bombed; Paris journalists and Pakistani grade-school pupils murdered; African villagers gunned down; innocent men, women, and children beheaded; or Jews everywhere, but especially in Israel, targeted with destruction? The Nazis saw the need to hide their atrocities for fear that Germans, still holding a semblance of civilized values, would be appalled. ISIS, on the other hand, advertises its atrocities to attract recruits. Mullahs in Europe and America as well as in the Middle East declare the goal of subjecting the world to barbaric Sharia law and killing all who stand in their way. Muslim no-go zones in Europe and even in America allow this dogma to spread.Pro-Nazi Islamists
 

Cultural relativism gives in to evil

 The failure to oppose Nazi-style dogma and to defend civilized values is itself based on another irrational, confused doctrine. This doctrine holds that all cultures are “equal” because all values are relative. But relativists also single out Western culture as the unequal, ignoble exception. The West, they hold, is the root of much evil and repression, and Westerners should apologize for their values and history. Relativism holds that screamingly irrational, murder-minded Islamists—and their sympathizers who flood the streets demanding death for all who insult them—deserve respect to the extent that they are screamingly irrational and murder-minded. It holds that free speech should be limited to the extent that those holding the most morally odious beliefs feel offended by speech that opposes them.
 
As the death camps in Europe were being liberated 70 years ago, every civilized person was asking, “How could this have happened?” and vowing, “Never again.” The “how” is on display in our world today. The only way the “never again” vow can be fulfilled is for all individuals who aspire to be civilized stand up and fight for the values of reason and individual liberty, and against any dogmas and dogmatists who would oppose them.
-----
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
 
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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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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.

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.
----
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.
 

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.
----
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted on January 16, 2015.
 
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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 launched 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.
----
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
Posted on January 9, 2014.
 
For further information:
 

 

 

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.
----
Hudgins is Director of Advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted January 5, 2015.

 

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.
Tags: Cuomo, Fracking,
 

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

 

 

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.
 

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.

 

 

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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