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It is looking like Syria’s civil war is going the central government’s way. The dictatorship of King (I mean, “President” for life) Bashar al-Assad looks likely to remain in power. The New York Times reports, for instance, that the government is planning for a new “election,” and looks able to hold it. By “election,” the government means a celebration of itself and a sub-selection amongst its cronies.
Forbes.com has posted an opinion piece by Kerri Toloczko with the damning title “How Obama's Justice Department Selectively Blocks Mergers By Republican CEOs.” And this is not merely a headline, as Ms. Toloczko summarizes her piece with this sentence: “If money buys favors from the Obama Administration, a lack of it produces the opposite.” She means that the Obama administration’s law enforcement agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the FCC, are biased against Republicans.
Apr 14, 2014
Today, I sent in my taxes. Tonight, I’ll eat the bread of affliction.
The combination got me thinking.
Passover—the only Jewish holiday I’ve honored throughout my decades as an atheist—celebrates the mythic liberation of my ancestors from slavery. More than that, it asks each participant to imagine himself as a liberated slave.
It'a vast distance to cross in the imagination. Taxation is not slavery. But in a mixed economy, such as we have now, taxation has something important in common with slavery.
In a mixed economy, we are forced to pay taxes not only for the good we all need—the enforcement of our rights—but to serve the good of others at the expense of our own. Some of those others are the poor; some are the connected. But whenever the government taxes you for the sake of others, it violates the principle that you have a right to live for yourself, and to devote your efforts to your own life. It redirects the fruit of your efforts to sustain others instead of you, and to build their projects instead of yours. This is part of the essence of slavery: the slave is treated as existing to serve his master’s needs and plans, not his own. And perhaps the saddest part about drawing a comparison between taxation and slavery is that I could have compared antitrust to slavery instead, or numerous other policies.
At the birth of America, real slavery was practiced here. If you are ever tempted to equate taxation—or anything else modern Americans experience—with slavery, stop, stop immediately, and reread Frederick Douglass. The thought of slavery should always make us appreciate how free we are, even if this year it also points out how free we aren’t.
And yet, at the birth of America, the foundation of this country was laid on the principle that is the opposite of slavery—the principle of rights, including the right to the pursuit of happiness. It’s the political equivalent of the moral principle that, in Ayn Rand’s words, “your life belongs to you, and ... the good is to live it.” America has never fully lived up to the Declaration of Independence, but it gave our country its most essential spirit. Let us remember that spirit on this night and on all other nights, and let us appreciate how free we are, how free we aren’t, and how free we ought to be.
Next year in America!
- Alexander R. Cohen, Living for Yourself (webinar)
- David Kelley, A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State (Kindle)
- Edward Hudgins, Tax Codes Reflect Moral Codes
Apr 11, 2014
Does the Internet security disaster known as “Heartbleed” mean we need regulation of Internet security software, so that our passwords won’t be leaked and our personal information compromised?
Heartbleed is a vulnerability in OpenSSL. OpenSSL is an open-source security program used by a wide variety of websites—including Facebook, Netflix, the Washington Post’s site, and some Google services—to protect data traveling between them and their users. Those sites and many others have now eliminated the vulnerability, but while it was there, Heartbleed made it possible for hackers to get your username and password for those sites. Here are Wikipedia’s explanation and, if you want the simplest version, geeky webcomic xkcd’s.
James Lyne, security research chief for the security software firm Sophos suggests that governments can help protect us from future Internet security disasters. “This should be stuff that’s taken seriously—regulated even—given the serious role that it plays in the internet,” he said. And there is an argument that the open-source movement as we know it, which produces a lot of key Internet software, has a fundamental weakness that contributed to Heartbleed. Still, anyone who wants to run to government to solve the problem should remember what the last great Internet security disaster was. It’s known as “the United States Government.”
The full scope of the government’s monitoring of Internet users’ communications is still unknown— because the government works hard to keep it unknown. But we do know that the government tries to get a great deal of information about people’s online communications, both through ostensibly lawful demands with which Internet companies comply and through hacking. We know that in at least one case, it demanded security keys that completely obliterated an email provider’s ability to keep users’ information—including their passwords—private. And we know that one of the most important technology companies, Microsoft, has labeled government surveillance an “advanced persistent threat.”
So the proposal is to rely on an advanced persistent threat to keep your information secure. But the U.S. government’s policies and actions make clear that its goal for your information is to devour it, not to keep it safe. And other governments, most notably Britain’s, have been right alongside it.
Heartbleed itself may give us a preview of what government regulation of Internet security would be like. According to two Bloomberg sources, the National Security Agency actually knew about Heartbleed and deliberately left it in place so that it could exploit it to spy on people. The NSA denies this. But the NSA has actively worked to make encryption less secure. Would a separate agency, accountable to the same president who supervises the NSA, have done differently?
Now, people do argue that the government needs access to our information in order to keep us safe from other threats. That’s a debate worth having. In the offline world, the police have the technological ability to bust down our doors and ransack our homes—and with proper warrants, they have the legal right to do it. And sometimes that’s justified, to solve real crimes.
But whether or not it should be, the fact is the government is trying to get a lot of access to our private information. That means it values having our information be accessible to at least some people—its spies and investigators—against our will. That means it can’t focus uncompromisingly on keeping our information secure.
If we want better security, we’d better look elsewhere.
- Alexander R. Cohen, The NSA Surveillance Scandal and Its Fallout: Ladar Levison in Extensive Interview
- Alexander R. Cohen, When Government Demanded Lavabit's Keys
- Alexander R. Cohen, Internet Privacy and Corporate Free Speech
EXPLORE IN PERSON:
- Ladar Levison, who shut down his secure email service, Lavabit, rather than expose all his users' data to the government, will speak at this year's Atlas Summit.
April 11, 2014 – In Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, we finally have a Republican who recognizes that illegal immigration can be a highly moral act.
He recently said that “Someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
He is right on the mark! Jeb’s views are a sharp and welcomed contrast to the morally misplaced anger aimed by so many Republicans at immigrants for “breaking the law” by coming here illegally. After all, the mere act of illegally entering the U.S. does not limit the liberty of American citizens nor does it initiate the use of force or fraud against anyone. So why such venom directed at these such immigrants?
In my book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? I make points like Jeb’s and expand upon them like so:
Most illegals come to America to live better lives and prosper through their own efforts.
American laws and government bureaucracy—usually loathed by Republicans—make it almost impossible for hardworking immigrants to come here legally.
Would-be immigrants who simply ignore red tape that would damn them and their families to poverty and who come to America illegally to work for a better life are doing the morally right thing! They are manifesting the best of the American spirit.
Republicans should welcome Jeb’s remarks because the GOP is facing demographic disaster. Mitt Romney received 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, down from 31 percent for McCain; Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush, got 44 percent in 2004.
Hispanics are a fast-growing portion of the population. Today nearly 17 percent of the nation’s citizens are Hispanic, with 30 percent projected by 2050.
And Hispanic citizens see the anger directed by many Republicans at illegal Hispanic immigrants as a manifestation of bigotry. It is not enough for Republicans to trot out elected officials with Hispanic names to try to show that they are not anti-Hispanic.
It is necessary for Republicans to point out, as a growing number of them do, that immigrants as well as Hispanic citizens have everything to gain from free markets and limited government. They should call on Hispanics to take pride in running their own lives rather than relying on government.
But it is even more important for Republicans to do the right thing, to seize the moral high ground, and to make a moral appeal to Hispanic voters, one that recognizes their right to live where they choose. While honest individuals can debate the best way to deal with illegal immigrants already in this country, Jeb Bush’s views provide just the right foundation for this debate.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? February 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Immigration, Liberty, And The American Character.” The New Individualist, Summer 2006.
April 9, 2014 - The Georgia GOP leader is working to turn the Republican state Democratic again with her idiotic obsession with her neighbors’ genitals.
As if her concern for other peoples’ “equipment” weren’t bad enough, she went on to explain what she considers a true dangers of same-sex unions:
“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
Are you serious? I might ask if there’s an epidemic today of hetero friends staging such sham marriages for better benefits since they currently face that temptation.
In any case, let’s put Everhart’s silly scenario in political context. Georgia Republicans are going into a primary to select a candidate to run for Senate to replace a retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. The Democratic nominee will likely be is Michelle Nunn, the daughter of popular former Senator Sam Nunn. Already one of the leading GOPers, U.S. Congressman Paul Broun, has shown himself a fool by loudly denouncing “evolution, embryology, big bang theory” and most of modern science. This ignoramus sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. And now we have Everhart reinforcing the image of the Republican Party as a bunch of yahoos, making a Democratic Senate victory that much more probable.
Even if Miss Peach State or the GOP Senatorial hopefuls hold whacky beliefs, they need to shut up about them and worry about getting their own priorities straight rather than worrying about whether their neighbors are straight. Obama and his cronies are growing government control over every aspect of our lives and these are the issues that these Republicans spout off about?
This is why the Republican Party needs to go through a radical realignment. The legal and personal relationships that consenting adults make with one another, and which in no way limit the liberty of others, are none of the government’s business. Extreme social conservatives who won’t get with the limited government GOP program should leave the party.
If the GOP is to win elections in the future, it must become a modernist party that consistently stands for individual liberty. It must attract new constituents, especially young people looking for futures full of opportunities and the new entrepreneurs who understand the power of the human mind to create such better futures. And this means shedding the likes of Everhart.
The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? Ed Hudgins, David Kelley, William R Thomas, David N. Mayer, and Walter Donway
GOP Helps North Carolina, Georgia Democrats Win, Ed Hudgins, March 18, 2014.
Reporting in the Huffington Post, Matt Sheehan relates a story that is both sad and hilarious at the same time. Laugh and cry along with me, as we survey this tale of green do-gooderism and crony capitalism gone wrong.
The Mississippi state government has enacted a law that illustrates most of what is wrong with the way conservatives promote freedom. It expands freedom slightly, mostly to facilitate conservatives’ own immoral behavior, while betraying the principles on which freedom rests.
Apr 03, 2014
The producers of House of Cards are learning what a house of cards they’ve built for themselves.
As part of financing its Netflix series about a less-than-idealistic politician, Media Rights Capital used Maryland tax credits targeted to the film and video industry. This year, while planning the show’s third season, MRC wrote to Maryland officials threatening to leave the state if the legislature didn’t budget enough money for tax credits for films.
Now, trying lawfully to keep your money out of the government’s claws is generally a good thing. But MRC hasn’t just been using the tax code as it found it, nor (so far as I’ve seen) has it argued that taxes should be low for everyone on principle. Rather, it has sought tax credits as special favors, by such methods as bringing star Kevin Spacey to drink with lawmakers and giving the state House speaker’s wife the chance to appear in the show. And it has argued for tax credits on the ground of public benefit, pointing to the revenue it brings to the state treasury.
But once you accept favoritism as a governing principle, what can you say if those in power turn against you? And once you accept that the law shouldn’t be applied evenly to all, but should give some people different treatment in order to benefit the state treasury, what can you say if the state thinks it can make more money treating you worse than others instead of better?
Delegate William Frick, Democrat of Montgomery County (in the D.C. suburbs), responded to MRC’s aggressive lobbying with an aggressive move of his own: threatening to seize the sets of House of Cards by eminent domain. Strictly speaking, that would be an injustice: MRC owns its sets, tax credits notwithstanding. And yet it would be a striking act of poetic justice: MRC tried to rely on special favors and the whims of politicians, instead of on principles of rights and equally applied laws, and now the whim may have turned against it, blowing on its house of cards.
March 27, 2014 — A NASA-commissioned study predicting civilization’s imminent collapse actually demonstrates what’s wrong with both government and academia.
Goddard Space Flight Center commissioned mathematician Safa Motesharrei and his team at the nearby University of Maryland to play Nostradamus. But Motesharrei isn’t calculating the odds of an errant asteroid impacting Earth. He’s not even crystal-balling, based on politicized science, a cataclysm caused by global warming or a new Ice Age, whichever happens to be in vogue.
Given that Motesharrei’s group is named the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, we should not be surprised that he blames our coming doomsday, as well as past collapses of civilizations over the millennia, on economic and political factors, not just resource issues.
The idea that civilization is about to collapse is so wild that it raises a host of questions. But the existence of the project itself raises a more basic question: “Why on Earth—or any other planet—is NASA wasting taxpayer dollars on such stuff?” NASA is supposed to be pioneering space travel and exploring the solar system, not bankrolling dubious socio-economic studies. Talk about mission creep!
But, then, what of the study itself? Did NASA stumble onto some cosmic revelation that allows us overlook its misuse of funds? Hardly! Motesharrei’s study just repeats the usual leftist canards.
Motesharrei looks at five factors—population, climate, water, agriculture and energy—and concludes that our society hasn’t long to live because of 1) "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity [of the Earth]” and 2) “the economic stratification of society into Elites [the rich, of course] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’).”
He explains that “... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”
Poor growing richer
Wow! The Marxist paradigm is as alive and wrong today as it was in the nineteenth century. Let’s sort out this mess.
To begin with, when the term “inequality of wealth” is uttered, everyone on the left and confused folks across the political spectrum have an almost visceral reaction based on the premise that such inequality is immoral as such. It isn’t. Individuals who become more prosperous than others by producing goods and services with which to trade with their fellows are creators who should be celebrated. Individuals who gain more than others through government transfers or special favors are crony expropriators who should be condemned. The moral—and practical—meaning of wealth depends on how one earned it.
But Motesharrei’s study is also suggesting, as did Marx, that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer as the ranks of the latter swell. Marx predicted that the result would be the collapse of the capitalist system with socialism to follow. Motesharrei suggests a collapse of civilization and he seems pessimistic about whether a post-apocalyptic paradise can follow.
Marx was wrong because he failed to understand that as production skyrocketed because of the efficiencies of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, labor as well as capital and other resources came into greater demand. Over time, in a free market economy, all prospered and the “masses” or “Commoners” filled the ranks of the new Middle Class.
And key to the spread of prosperity to all was the fact that some individuals are responsible for creating more wealth than others. Think of Henry Ford who figured out how to mass produce automobiles and offer them for a price that the “Commoners” could afford. Or think of the information and telecommunications wizards who in recent decades have put computers in every home and smartphones in every hand. This is why their wealth is “unequal”: they are creators of immense value.
Famine of understanding
You might think that Motesharrei could easily see that technology today continues the process of enriching all. But, instead, he argues that “Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”
Consumption? Doesn’t increased consumption just mean more of every imaginable convenience of life for those supposed impoverished “Commoners?”
Speaking of historical patterns of collapse, he adds that “the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.”
Famine? (Wow! The “Elites” eat that much?) The fact is that after World War II new agricultural techniques and genetically modified strains of wheat and rice that can grow in a wider variety of environments and increase crop yields many-fold have vanquished the prospects of mass starvation. Surely genetically-modified food, if not stopped by governments cow-towing to eco-loonies, will continue to keep us all well-fed. And surely if governments stop mandating that we literally burn food such as corn as “alternative fuels,” a bigger concern will be obese “Commoners” rather than emaciated ones, as we see today in America.
The ultimate resource
Motesharrei seems to think economic gains are temporary because efficiency always leads to increased consumption which eventually means that resources are depleted.
Motesharrei could have avoided his most fundamental error if he had looked to another Maryland professor, the late, great Julian Simon. In his book The Ultimate Resource, Simon showed that there is no resource problem because the ultimate resource is the human mind. Ayn Rand made this point as well by observing that there is no such thing as a “natural resource,” that there is only raw material in our universe, raw material that human beings learn—by the use of their minds—to utilize for their survival and well-being—raw material we can make into spaceships that can travel to the Moon and the planets!
Which brings us back to NASA. If Motesharrei were right, if we’re all doomed in the coming decades, then NASA’s own projects are for naught and it should simply shut down. But since NASA was foolish enough to sponsor that study, it should probably shut down in any case!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
For a while, Youtube aired a commercial for Plan B, and it inspired me whenever I saw it. “No one is going to get in my way,” one actress says decisively—“No one,” “No one,” “No one,” comes the chorus of women, each one more emphatic. At first, it might seem overly righteous for a subtext which basically suggests, “the condom broke.” But the commercial is actually the market’s bold stance against a long history of regulation surrounding contraception. The women in the commercial are voices ringing out above one of the world’s loudest shouting matches, speaking to issues of sexuality, women’s reproductive freedom, healthcare, personal responsibility, and capitalism. Both the right and the left are harmful to women's reproductive freedom, but most harmful is government power, itself. Liberal feminists still haven't figured out the problem or its solution, free-market capitalism.
The FDA doesn’t need a second chance; it needs to be undermined, disobeyed, and abolished.
Russia is annexing Crimea. The act, in both means and motive, announces to the world that nationalist imperialism lives. Ironically, Russia's annexation of Crimea is an unobjectionable result, even though it has been undertaken in the wrong way and for one of the worst of reasons.
Don’t fence Russia in?
Mar 19, 2014
One reason I am an Objectivist is because I came to see all the hypocrisies and bad ideas floating around in our culture just in the way Ayn Rand picks them out in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There are wonders in the world, too, but sometimes the culture hits one in the face with a cow patty.
This week, reading the Atlantic, I got cow-pattied. I stumbled upon a pure expression of the sick, twisted world-view that drives much of today's intellectual and literary culture.
In "The Aliens Next Door," a review of a short-story collection by Lorrie Moore (a writer I'd never heard of) called Bark, reviewer Nathaniel Rich (whose name I don't recognize) writes: "Moore is not merely a brilliant noticer. She is also brilliant at noticing those things that 'one was supposed not to notice,' namely our seemingly limitless capacity for cruelty, apathy, and violence." (Emphasis added.)
Actually, this is mostly all that "literary" writers are praised for "noticing." But the truth is we, in the developed, free world, live amid little cruelty or violence, and apathy is more a trait of the lit-crit bien-pensants than of real people who work for a living. No one is praised for noticing the value and achievement created by most businesses; or the honor and decency of the vast majority; or way so many manage to pursue happiness with decent success.
The fact that people like Rich consider it the height of literary brilliance to wittily magnify what ills there are and lionize suffering, just shows how malevolent and out of touch with reality they are. And such are the intellectual leaders of our culture!
March 18, 2014 -- Leading candidates for the 2014 North Carolina and Georgia Republican nominations for Senate are throwing the election to Democrats.
Georgian with no mind
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
*Edward Hudgins, editor, The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? February 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “GOP Should Invite Social Conservative Extremists to Leave.” April 5, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “Republicans Help Virginia Evolve to Democrats.” June 12, 2013.
My article focused on the philosophical conflict between free will and determinism in trying to understand criminal actions. For those who are interested, we reprint the article, with permission from Harper’s Magazine.
Read Stalking the Criminal Mind
(Note: if your browser does not display the article properly, simply click on the button in the upper right hand corner of your browser to view the document in Adobe Reader.)
March 10, 2014 -- Fox and the National Geographic Channel are broadcasting a reboot of astronomer Carl Sagan’s classic 1980 TV series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, with the new series subtitled A Spacetime Odyssey. If the new series comes anywhere near the quality of the original, it too will become a classic.
Sagan (1934–1996) was a top planetary scientist who worked on most major probes to Mars and other planets during the first decades of the Space Age. He also was one of the most serious and insightful theorists concerning extraterrestrial intelligence. But he was perhaps best known for his path-breaking series Cosmos, which brought astronomy and scientific thinking to a popular audience. I rated this one of the top seven series of the broadcast TV era.
The new series is commanded by a stellar crew. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, takes the Sagan seat helming the “spaceship of the imagination.” Brannon Braga, a producer of Star Trek TV series and movies, directs. Alan Silvestri, who scored the excellent soundtrack for the movie version of Sagan’s novel Contact, provides the series’ music.
Steven Soter, a co-writer the original series, joins in the creation of the new series. With him is Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow who also wrote with Soter in the original, and who is a producer of the new series.
Some might be surprised that the producer who really pushed for the new series is Seth MacFarlane, creator of the Fox cartoon series Family Guy. MacFarlane was inspired by the original Cosmos series. He sees the reduction in interest in space travel in recent decades as part of “our culture of lethargy” and wants the new series to be as inspirational as the old one.
Testing for truth
In the first episode of the new series, Tyson sets the goal of inspiring imaginations but also of promoting a skeptical, scientific approach to truth, of showing the importance of testing theories and ideas rather than accepting them uncritically.
The episode is organized on establishing our cosmic address. Starting with the Earth, he shows our place in the solar system, the solar system’s place in the Milky Way, the Milky Way’s place in our local group of galaxies, that group’s place in the Virgo supercluster of galaxies, and the supercluster’s place in the observable universe.
Like the original series, Tyson offers historical vignettes to show how knowledge actually progresses. The first episode highlights Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake by the Catholic Church in 1600 for arguing that the universe is populated by multiple worlds like Earth and is infinitely large.
Tyson brings back the cosmic calendar from the original series to illustrate just how old the universe really is and just how recent is intelligent life and civilization on our own Earth.
The first episode of the new series was well done though it cover familiar ground from the original series.
The challenge of success
The great challenge of the new Cosmos series is to deal with the fruits of the success of Sagan’s original series. It should be no surprise that the series’ great popularity and the explosion of channels in the era of cable and satellite TV gave birth many new science series, many of good quality—The Universe, Through the Wormhole, How the Universe Works.
What, then, will distinguish the new Cosmos? We can hope that the first fine installment will be followed by others that will inspire wonder at the universe in which we live along with a desire to understand it and, most important, will teach how to think critically and apply reason to glean knowledge of the world in which we live!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
*Edward Hudgins, “Cosmos: A Voyage Across The Final Frontier.” July/August 2007
March 7, 2014 — President Obama’s ignorance, arrogance, and warped morality are endangering Israel and making another Middle East war more likely.
Seeking life and freedom
Jews began their modern migration to what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine in the 1880s to escape anti-Semitism and pogroms. Many of those pioneers brought with them Enlightenment and modernist values.
Israel now faces another mortal threat from the theocratic fanatics who rule Iran, who are the chief exporters of terrorism, who vow to wipe our Israel, and who are developing nuclear weapons with which to do so. This is a matter of life or death.
William Thomas, “Free World Order.” November 9, 2011.
Congratulations to Matthew McConaughey for winning the best actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club! The film and his fine performance highlight a simple, fundamental moral principle that is being lost in America: It’s your life.
February 28, 2014 — Who we celebrate as heroes says much about ourselves. The celebration by leftists of two anti-Jewish nuts is an advertisement of the celebrants’ own moral sickness and hypocrisy.
The Arizona Legislature passed a bill that
would make it legal for a business to deny service to homosexuals, just so long as the business can cite a religious reason for doing so.(Update: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill Feb 26, 2014.)
This bill defends a gross immorality, and it doesn’t go far enough in doing so.
On February 15, I participated in a panel called "Ayn Rand versus Jesus" at the International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) in Washington, DC. The panel was organized by the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, The Christian Post wrote the session up pretty accurately, and you can watch the whole thing and judge for yourself:
It was a pleasant, constructive experience. I thank Mark Henderson and David Kotter, the other panelists, for making it so positive. I don't think Prof. Kotter is right in arguing that Christianiity does not fundamentally endorse self-sacrificial altruism in the real world. But there is much to discuss in what I hope will be part of a longer-term discussion.
Professor Kotter is what one might call a fundamentalist, since he endorses the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, which means he takes the Bible to be entirely true. So it is interesting that he, and other Christians, find so little to object to in the basic way Objectivism views life.
I think there are two basic reasons for this. First, the Bible collects documents that treat, inter alia, how people have iived and should live. Inasmuch as it deals with real people and objective needs, it gets some things right. Secondly, American values are Enlightenment values. Amercans value reason, the pursuit of happiness, achievement, and liberty, variously construed. So Christian Americans take those values to be natural and good.
One quibble about the Christian Post piece: I don't think children are duty-bound to support parents in their old age. Catch me at the Atlas Summit 2014, where I will elaborate on my Objectivist theory of parent-child relations and discuss Objectivist ethics for children.
January 31, 2014 -- If you missed President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address or forgot about it as soon as he uttered the obligatory “God bless the United States of America,” you have at least this in common with your fellow Americans.
But in an election year it is useful to reflect on what Obama did in his address so you can anticipate how he might be selling his statism in the months to come.
Obama did not do what his PR folks had telegraphed to us, that is, hammer “inequality”—i.e., the need to steal from the makers to give to the takers—or, in leftist-speak, to make things “fair.” Oh, that goal was there in his policy prescriptions, but he wrapped redistribution in a rhetoric that would appeal to middle-of-the-spectrum Americans rather than hard-core expropriators.
He peppered his propaganda with words like “responsibility.” He used the word “work” 67 times, often in variations like “hard-working.” And to appeal to all the out-of-work and out-of-the-workforce Americans, he used the word “job” 38 times.
He highlighted and praised some entrepreneurs. Maybe this was his way of making the entrepreneurs sitting right there in the House chamber in front of him as well as those watching on TV forget that in 2012 he told them, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Of course, he gave the government credit for the achievements of others or argued, by implication, that private parties could achieve little without the state. Thus, he said, “My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies.”
Gee, how would such a thing ever happen without billions of dollars in federal deficit spending? And speaking of “jobs,” how did the one named “Steve” manage to bring his business from an operation in his parents’ garage to the star of Silicon Valley without heavy government handouts?
It is with the sort of rhetoric he used in the State of the Union speech that Obama and his ilk subtly imprint collectivism in the hearts and minds of Americans. They fuzzy up the picture. They speak of the activities of entrepreneurs and the help from or “partnership” with government in the same breath. Then who achieved what will blend together in people's minds. So, business folks, Obama’s sticking with “You didn’t build that.”
Obama was posing as the benevolent CEO of America, directing us all and bestowing on us benefits—health care, pay raises, whatever we want.
But, of course, the country is in such precarious economic shape because of his policies. He’s not the CEO. The country is not his “company” to manage.
He’s the doctor who breaks our legs and then offers quack remedies that in the long run only exacerbate our pain. And he charges an outrageous price, which includes the loss of our liberty and the destruction of the Constitutional system of checks and balances established by our Founders.
In his State of the Union address, Obama simply repackaged his collectivist and authoritarian ideology. So, if you missed it, you didn’t miss anything new. But you should be aware that he’s pushing the same old poison that continues to kill the country.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism.” April 4, 2009.
Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Poison For Entrepreneurs.” July 24, 2012.
Edward Hudgins, “Fighting For Freedom Against Reelected Obama.” November 7, 2012.
Jan 18, 2014
What kind of man refuses to cooperate with the government’s efforts to gain access to Americans’ information?
What kind of man shuts down his business rather than betray his customers?
What kind of man is trying to reinvent email to make it private?
Late last year, Ladar Levison sat down with me for a Skype interview. I didn’t expect it to go as long as it did. But when it was over, I had perhaps the most extensive, in-depth interview ever done with the man who, more even than Edward Snowden himself, represents the opposite of the NSA. Levison is the programmer who launched a small business and grew it without shareholders or venture capital in order to keep it true to its commitment to private email; who provided Snowden and other customers with private email; who went out of business rather than give the government access to all his customers’ email; and who has now joined forces with the “godfather of political cryptography,” Phil Zimmerman, to reinvent email.
Now, on this page, I’m releasing the whole thing. Well, virtually the whole thing. Eighty-four minutes.
Levison is fighting for email privacy on three fronts: technological, legal, and political. In the video, we discuss all three.
But we also discuss why he’s fighting, and whether he thinks other people should do what he did. It’s a discussion that takes us through his views of business ethics and the foundations of a free republic.
And that means it’s an opportunity to try to understand a man who has gone to great risk and expense to defend one of the most contested values in America today: privacy. Hear him talk about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged; about the moral lesson he learned traveling around the country with his grandfather, a retailer; and about the history of freedom in America.
What kind of man is Ladar Levison? Judge for yourself. But if I had to describe him in a single word, I would say that he is, in the best sense of our country’s traditions, an American.
Don’t want to watch 84 minutes? Here are some tips: If you want to hear about Lavabit’s last days, start at the beginning, and if you get bored when the conversation shifts to other subjects, skip to about 40:00 or 46:51. If you want to hear about technology, jump 12 minutes in. If you’re interested in what Levison thinks other businesses should do, skip to 24:17 or 28:54. Atlas Shrugged fans might particularly enjoy the thread of conversation that starts at 31:28. He talks about politics, American history, and threats faced by dissidents beginning around 58:00. And at 1:16:55, he discusses a theme of President Obama’s NSA speech.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is in the news with his lawsuit over Obamacare. The lawsuit, filed Monday, targets exemptions for Congress. In an OpEd published Sunday in the Wall St. Journal Johnson wrote: "The president and his congressional supporters have also broken their promise to the American people that ObamaCare was going to be so good that they would participate in it just like everyone else. In truth, many members of Congress feel entitled to an exemption from the harsh realities of the law they helped jam down Americans' throats in 2010. "
~ Sen. Ron Johnson
The lawsuit has raised the ire of fellow Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner who labeled the action a "political stunt" and complained "Success in this suit will mean that Congress will lose some of its best staff."
Last year Atlas Society staffer Laurie Rice sat down to interview Johnson on the influence Atlas Shrugged has had on his life and career, and how it has inspired his "fight for freedom." "One of the reasons I ran is because I see... freedoms in America threatened," said Johnson. "I always call it a 236-year-old experiment, and that's what we have here in this country. It's something precious and I'm concerned that we're losing it."
What do you think of Johnson's lawsuit? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below the video.
What are Rights? (video)
Political controversies and protests are often dominated by the theme of rights or individual rights. We hear about a "right to education" or a "right to health care." Others claim there is no "right to health care" because such a right entails forcing others to pay for one's health care--and coercion they say is a violation of individual rights. How can we make sense of competing claims to rights? In this video Will Thomas shares footage from recent rights protests and gives us a fascinating "tool" to use to evaluate claims of "rights."
Aritcles on the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare, the nature of insurance, and some eye-opening investigative reporting on some of the ramifications of Obamacare, particularly on physician-owned specialty hospitals.
Discover the ideas in Atlas Shrugged
What explains the enduring popularity of this controversial novel? Explore the themes, ideas, and characters in the novel then make up your own mind about the foundational philosophy expressed in it.
Dec 31, 2013
December 31, 2013 – A new year is usually a time
when we recommit ourselves to making a difference in our own lives, when we reflect on our past achievements--and, perhaps, shortcomings--and anticipate with excitement the opportunities that tomorrow will offer.
I hope you’ll take a moment to check out “Every Day a New Year,” one of my past pieces in which I offer hope.
A new year also means pondering the past and presaging the future of our politics and culture. I see the future in the past--and, thus, reason for optimism.
On the political front, we saw in the past year the welfare state continue to collapse under its own contradictions. Obamacare not only made clear, even to many blinkered Barack backers, the gross incompetence of government. It also saw too few healthy young Americans—many of them early Obama boosters—agreeing to sacrifice their own self-interest by signing up to pay outrageously high insurance rates in order to foot the bill for the system. And it saw more and more physicians refusing to participate. Atlas was shrugging.
We saw in the past year revelations about government spying on almost everyone in the world. This made clear even to many who saw the state as a soft, benevolent puppy that, in fact, it is a monster growing more ravenous for total power and total control over our lives.
We saw in the past year lying by paternalist politicians taken to a new level, showing that deceit is essential to the statist.
And we saw in the past year mainstream recognition of a libertarian alternative to Democrats who want to control our pocketbooks and Republicans who want to control our pants.
But for skepticism about the state to transform society, a philosophical revolution is necessary.
Atlas on the offensive
And this is why I say that I see the future in the past--and, thus, reason for optimism. Last year, my Atlas Society colleagues and I continued our outreach to the young people who are our future. I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas with so many folks who are excited about their own lives and, thus, who want a free society in the future.
And last year, especially through our Business Rights Center, my Atlas Society colleagues and I reached out to even more entrepreneurs and business folks, those who help make our world prosper, who are persecuted for the virtue of being creative and productive.
And last year my Atlas Society colleagues and I revved up production of insightful videos on Objectivist philosophy.
And I’m excited about the new year because we have plans to build on these past achievements so that we can really make a difference.
Freedom to flourish
This brings me back to personal renewal and making a difference in our own lives. The reason a free society with a rational culture is to be sought is that it offers us opportunities to flourish and prosper as individuals.
So I hope for 2014 that you seek, above all else, these goals, and that you have a Happy New Year!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.