Politics & Culture
Top 10 Articles
Politics & Culture Blog
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
The 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.
Promote safety through law, not regulation
Feb 06, 2015
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.
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.”
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.
- William R Thomas, “Objectivism Is Not Anti-Family.” August 13, 2014. Thomas called Salon out the last time they got Rand wrong.
- Laurie Rice, “Myths About Ayn Rand: A Challenge To Journalists.” Rice demands that the likes of the Salon writer get Rand right for a change.
- Edward Hudgins, “Make Trade, Not War.“
Jan 27, 2015
The anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death
camp is now marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Ideas have consequences
Ideas can destroy civilizations
Evil 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
Nazi ideas live on in Islamism
Cultural relativism gives in to evil
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
- David Kelley, “The Assault on Civilization.” (September 13, 2001.)
- Edward Hudgins, “Israeli Independence and Libertarian Blindness.” (May 6, 2014.)
- Edward Hudgins and William R Thomas , “The Challenges of the 21st Century.” (October 4, 2013.)
- William R Thomas, “Crimea - Russian Nationalism Imperialism.” (March 19, 2014.)
- 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
- William R Thomas, "The Conceptual Faculty." (video lecture).
Jan 22, 2015
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.
Divide and exploit
Job of confusing
Not so stupid?
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted January 22, 2015.
Hollande ignoring Islamists
French anti-Semitism and Israel's founding
A sanctuary for Jews today
It is about Islam
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted on January 16, 2015.
- Edward Hudgins, “Global Jihad vs. Islamic Enlightenment. “ January 9, 2015.
- Edward Hudgins, “Israeli Independence and Libertarian Blindness.” May 6, 2014.
- David Kelley, Does Islam Need a Reformation? Spring 2011.
- Edward Hudgins, “Allah Bless America!” November-December 2002.
Jan 09, 2015
How many Islamist massacres?
Islam values violence
A new Dark Age?
A ray of Islamic hope
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
- Robert Bidinotto, “Cartoon Journalists.” Winter 2005.
- Edward Hudgins, “The Jihad Against Free Speech.” Winter 2005.
- Edward Hudgins, “The Means and Ends of Islamists.” July/August 2005.
- David Kelley, “9/11 and the War Against Modernity.” May 2002.
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 expense.
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.
Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, is half-hearted about economic freedom but is full-on against value-creation.
Libertarian reasons for freedom...
...aren't Objectivist reasons for freedom.
Add casinos to fix the economy?
Dec 23, 2014
The “Ell Donsaii” series by Laurence Dahners is a series of science-fiction novels that a certain kind of Ayn Rand fan could 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.
Interstellar shouts to the world that Americans should be achievers, but then it steals from them the ability to succeed.
Interstellar film values
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.
Nov 24, 2014
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 immigration
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 motives vs. immigrants’ virtues
Abuses of power
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.
Four Facts for Conservatives about Immigration Policy, Edward Hudgins
Obama vs. the GOP
The GOP civil war
Pipeline, Obamacare, or disunity?
Unite in liberty?
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?
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.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
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.
- Who: Ed Hudgins, director of advocacy for The Atlas Society, is 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.)
Is Ayn Rand the epitome of bad taste?
That’s the one thing the New York literary world can agree on, it seems.
William R Thomas is director of programs at The Atlas Society.
October 22, 2014 -- Governor Huckabee, you recently reaffirmed
your strong opposition to same-sex marriage and said “If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue.” If the GOP takes this path, you say “I’m gone, I’ll become an independent.”
Please, do a huge favor for all who want the GOP to become a consistently liberty-loving party: Leave!
As you know, three factions are fighting a civil war for the soul of the party.
Establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and John McCain want to keep the current big-government welfare state, just tweak it to make it more efficient. The Goldwater-Reagan and libertarian-leaning Republicans believe the current regime is collapsing and must be fundamentally transformed, with radical reductions in government control over our lives and with private options replacing most social welfare programs.
Then there are the extreme social conservatives like you who give priority to an agenda of using government to restrict liberty and to engineer society based on your religious ideology. You are especially obsessed with banning same-sex unions.
But a basic test of a proposed policy is whether it limits the liberty of others or takes their money. Same-sex marriage does neither, and it is presumptuous to use government to dictate what kind of contracts consenting adults can make. Don’t like gay marriage? Then don’t marry a gay. And I would think you, a family values man, would prefer that gays commit to long-term monogamous relationships. Further, how would you even know whether the gay couple down the street has a piece of paper in the bottom of their sock drawer with the letter M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E inscribed on it?
You ask, should government force business folks, against their religious convictions, to provide services at same-sex ceremonies? My consistent pro-individual liberty answer is that government should neither bar gays from marrying nor force others to provide them such services.
But let’s look at the effects of your overall agenda on the GOP. Currently white evangelicals make up a major voting bloc within the party yet a declining portion of the general population. Of voters aged 50 to 64, 29 percent are white evangelicals, while only 11 percent are unaffiliated with a religion. But of voters 18 to 29, only 12 percent are white evangelicals, while a full 35 percent are unaffiliated. And the Millennials not only are more socially liberal in general: some 60 percent of younger Republicans support gay marriage.
Speaking of young people, only 37 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 backed Romney in 2012, down from the 43 percent who backed Bush in 2004. Your agenda would ensure that the GOP lose the voters who will make up the majority in the future.
Worse, there is a new class of young entrepreneurs, the Silicon Valley types, who are visionary individualists who love their work, who generally favor a free market system, and who are socially liberal. But few want anything to do with a Republican Party that includes you pushing a religious agenda. You are making them into future Democrats.
If you leave the GOP and take with you some of your more fanatical followers, the young and the entrepreneurial could well find their way into the party’s ranks.
But I doubt you would take with you as many followers as you think. Surveys indicate, for example, that about half of Tea Party members are socially conservative like you and the other half are more libertarian. But the priorities of most Tea Party social conservatives are to stop the growth of the state, of out-of-control spending, and of regulations over every aspect of our lives. They understand that as social conservatives, they will simply see their liberty to live in accordance with their own values further restricted if they tilt at windmills like gay marriage while the “total control” regime in Washington further metastasizes.
By the way, I’m a secular, married heterosexual with two wonderful little fraternal twin daughters. I don’t want them ruled by statist apparatchiks of any party.
In any case, you are not even a limited-government guy in areas where many of your co-religionists are. You spoke positively about federal government-imposed Common Core education standards. Want the feds to apply those to standards to home schooling as well? You were a big-taxing, big-spending governor in Arkansas. As Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller rightly explained in 2012, “[Huckabee] believes that government should play a role in the lives of everyday people and he adopted a sort of populist, anti-capitalism stance.”
It would be best for the GOP and for the country if you and your followers stay in the party and back a pro-liberty, limited government agenda. But if you insist that the GOP back your losing, anti-liberty agenda, chasing away the support of young people and others as the party further declines, it would be best if you leave.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society and recently produced the book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, “GOP Sound Bites vs. Libertarian Trends.” October 21, 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Family Values Still Threaten GOP.” May 30, 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Questions for Conservatives about Gay Marriage and Sock Drawers.” July 1, 2011.
GOP Chair Reince Priebus has released his party’s “Principles for American Renewal.” By coincidence, Grover Norquist, longtime political activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, penned a piece entitled “Beyond Rand Paul: The Libertarians Are Coming!”
The Principles might contribute in some minor way to the Republican’s chances of taking the Senate in 2014. But Norquist’s insights not only could help the GOP gain long-term political dominance but also could lead to a true renewal of American freedom.
General to specific
Flashback to 1994. House Republican leaders put together the “Contract with America” to contrast their positions with those of President Clinton, offering specific proposals to address general problems.
For “Job Creation” it called for a cost-benefit analysis for potentially employment-killing federal regulations. For "Legal Reform” it called for a “losers pay” rule to reduce nuisance law suits. For “American Dream Restoration” it sought a higher child tax credit.
The Contract helped focus Republicans in the 1992 election and no doubt helped them win control of the House for the first time in some four decades.
Principles or sound bites?
While winning elections is the aim of the new GOP Principles, the similarity with the Contract pretty much ends there.
Under “Economy” in the Principles we find “Start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that hard-working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.” Under “Constitution” we’re told it “should be preserved, valued and honored.” And under “Poverty” we find “The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job.” Nothing wrong with these, but they’re more like sound bites, albeit goods ones, offering few specifics.
On the controversial issue of “Values” we’re told “Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.” (Should have mentioned cute puppies as well.) And for hot-button “Immigration” we’re told we need a system “that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.”
This weak consensus is the best the GOP can offer because it is currently engaged in a three-way civil war.
Establishment Republicans simply want to tweak the welfare state to make it run a bit better. Extreme social conservatives give priority to a liberty-limiting agenda, for example, opposing same-sex unions. And limited-government and libertarian-leaning Republicans, including many social conservatives, give priority to rolling back the welfare state and restoring individual autonomy.
So the Principles must be generic to avoid offending any faction.
Four freedoms trending
And here’s where Grover Norquist comes in. For decades he’s touted a “Leave Us Alone” coalition of economic and social conservatives. To that end he runs weekly “Big tent” meetings in D.C.: a kind of bulletin board for center-right groups, a model now reproduced in most states. Norquist has always been a uniter, not a divider.
But Norquist’s latest piece affirms his place in the freedom faction, both challenging the agendas of the extreme social conservative and establishment Republicans while inviting them, in their own best interests, to join the liberty camp.
On school choice, Norquist observes that “Thirty years ago home schooling was illegal in all 50 states.” Today 10 million have been home schooled, a growing trend. All GOP factions should celebrate this.
On Gay marriage, he offers that “Thirty years ago there were laws actually criminalizing gays.” Today, legal and public opinion have shifted and gay marriage is spreading. But some protest that individuals should not be forced by government to cater or officiate at gay weddings if it’s against their religion. Norquist says the “team that frames its side as ‘defending and expanding liberty’ will win.”
On the Second Amendment, Norquist notes that “Thirty years ago, 80 percent of Americans supported stricter gun control laws. … Today, 41 states have enacted concealed carry laws.” Surely all factions can agree on this one.
And finally, on drugs he reminds us that “Thirty years ago, marijuana was illegal as medicine or even as a ‘recreational use’ drug in 50 states. Today, 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana,” with Colorado and Washington legalizing all sales. Not a user? Norquist argues you should welcome the “Right to Try” trend. Some states are allowing individuals to treat their illnesses with medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe but not certified as “effective,” the part of the process that delays new cures and life-saving products for years.
Embrace the free future
The GOP might chalk up important victories in upcoming elections, more because of President Obama’s failures than because of its Principles statement. But in the long run, the only way the GOP can stop its death spiral as its ranks decline and younger voters, minorities, and new entrepreneurs drift toward the Democrats, is to embrace a bold liberty agenda that will truly lead to American renewal!
Hudgins is director of advocacy at The Atlas Society and editor of the new book The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, “Michigan, Georgia pols show the fork in the GOP's road.” August 12, 2014.
*Edward Hudgins, “Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley.” July 25, 2014.
In a speech Sunday, President Obama highlighted the “gulf of mistrust” that separates the police from too many of the Americans they’re employed to protect. He was right to do so. But in focusing on the racial aspect of the problem, the president left out an important cause—and an important part of the solution.
As President Obama didn’t quite make explicit, too many police officers and law enforcement agencies have earned that mistrust by the way they have treated black Americans in too many cases—and by the way supervisors, agencies, and the courts have responded to police misconduct.
The president is quite right that perceived racial discrimination by police, prosecutors, and courts corrodes our society. And that’s true even in those cases where the only clear wrong is the discrimination itself. Indeed, even if considering race in a given context helps fight crime, it can still have a corrosive effect.
But many of the worst things police do to black Americans, the things that most justify mistrust, aren’t just discriminatory; they are violations of individual rights whatever the race of the victim and whether or not his race played a role. And when the police disproportionately violate the rights of black people, there are two issues to be addressed: One is the disproportionality. The other is the lack of respect for rights.
And there are many things the federal and state governments can do to make law enforcement more rights-respecting. They can work on prosecuting police officers who commit unjustified acts of violence. Forfeiture laws can be reformed to stop encouraging legalized theft. The Pentagon can stop giving military equipment to police departments, especially police departments that are suspected of civil rights violations. (The president has already taken a step on this one.) The Supreme Court’s doctrines limiting police officers’ and other government employees’ liability to lawsuits for violating people’s rights can be trimmed back or eliminated. The Court’s decision authorizing police to stop and frisk people without probable cause can be overturned—by a constitutional amendment, if need be. And the drug laws, which not only are often enforced in discriminatory and rights-violating ways, but also violate rights by their own nature, can be repealed.
The more our federal and state governments can restrain the police from violating individual rights, the more they’ll protect black Americans—and the rest of us—from the police. But making sure the police uphold individual rights requires focusing on the issue of respect for rights. The president didn’t even mention it.
Oct 02, 2014
Recently Zoltan Istvan, author of the provocative book The Transhumanist Wager, called for “regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let's say, 16 years of age.”
He presents us with horrific visions of indoctrination: “Religious child soldiers carrying AK-47s. Bullying anti-gay Jesus kids. Infant genital mutilation. Teenage suicide bombers. Child Hindu brides.” He also argues that young children are extremely susceptible to the teachings of their parents. But this is obvious! The rational capacity develops in humans over time and young ones only survive to adulthood because they are guided by adults.
Unfortunately, Istvan’s proposal for dealing with the irrationality to which humans are prone would, in fact, undermine his goal of creating a rational culture.
Degrees of abuse
In the first place, the Constitution does not grant government the power to restrict what religious doctrines parents teach their children; indeed, the First Amendment prohibits laws interfering with the free exercise of religion. It is true that “free exercise” does not allow parents to abuse children in certain ways—raping, starving, torturing them—whether in the name of religion or not.
But filling a child’s head with tales of virgin births, multi-armed goddesses, or prophets flying to an invisible place called “heaven” on a winged horse is a long way from breaking a child’s bones with a baseball bat or strapping explosives to a child in order to blow up infidel children.
Degrees of indoctrination
Let’s grant that religious teaching could confuse children, hamper the development of their thinking skills, or even inflict psychological damage. Still, there are different degrees of teaching or “indoctrination.”
It is reasonable for government to require parents to provide some level of general education for their children. And in America, Christians generally raise their children with reasonable, secularly defensible values in addition to the religious theology with which Istvan takes issue. Such parents generally want their children taught reading, writing, and math. They want them to learn history. And they want them to learn about the sciences that have created our current, advanced industrial society, though granted, too many have a bizarre aversion to accepting the truth of evolution, even though they accept the science concerning, for example, the heliocentric understanding of the solar system.
Degrees of repression
Further, Istvan’s suggestion would require the government to take on totalitarian powers. Would government agents be stationed at the doors of every church, synagogue, and mosque to check IDs and chase away anyone under sixteen? Would listening devices and 1984-style view screens be placed in every home and monitored 24/7 to make sure parents aren’t reading their children Bible stories? Would setting up a Christmas tree or nativity scene in one’s own home be considered “indoctrination?”
Furthermore, what about Eastern religions, which are more ways of life than theologies? Would teaching one’s children mediation as such be a crime or would it be legal as long as one never stated “The Buddha taught…” as an historical fact?
In a country in which 85 percent of people profess religious belief, is it plausible that legislators would ever pass a ban on religious education of children? And where would the government find the army of snoops to monitor their fellows to make sure they’re not corrupting the youth? Finally, does Istvan imagine that he or someone of like mind would be made the anti-indoctrination czar, the philosopher-king?
In recent years local child protective service officers have increasingly been arresting parents for alleged child abuse. Their crimes? Engaging in practices considered perfectly innocent in decades past, for example, letting a nine-year old play in a public park alone without a parent. (What has changed so radically since I was that age and played safely in my neighborhood with my friends?) But the kind of ban that Istvan suggests, combined with stupid government bureaucrats and busy-body neighbors, would multiply such abuses a thousand-fold.
A vision of rational values
One can understand Istvan’s frustration with the irrationality that plagues our world. But he also must appreciate that suggesting a ban on religious indoctrination of children ignores the dangers of an all-powerful government, dangers that Istvan otherwise seems to appreciate.
Further, his recommendation comes off as so ill-conceived that it paints transhumanists as dangerously detached from reality and, thus, dangerous if they ever get political power in their hands. One doesn’t promote the virtue of rationality by countering irrationality with proposals that, given a moment’s thought, can easily be rejected.
Those who want humans to live longer lives with enhanced capacities need to focus their creative efforts not only on the science and technology necessary to transform humans physically. They must also actively and intelligently promote a flourishing life as the goal for each individual, with reason as life’s guide and productive achievement as life’s purpose. And they must not employ the fear of government guns as motivation to abandon questionable or false beliefs. Rather, they should offer the shining vision of human life as it can be and should be as the compelling reason to strive for a better self and a better world.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, Transhumanism vs. a Conservative Death Ethos. August 20, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Book Review: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.” ISkeptic, April 24, 2013.
*William Thomas, Transhumanism: How Does it Relate to Objectivism?
Sep 15, 2014
Paul Ryan just can’t get away from Ayn Rand.
I always understood you as being an Ayn Rand aficionado. But you distanced yourself from her writing during the campaign. What’s your real view of her? No, I wasn’t distancing. I adored her novels when I was young, and in many ways they gave me an interest in economics. But as a devout, practicing Catholic, I completely reject the philosophy of objectivism.
- . . . doesn’t advocate dog-eat-dog-selfishness. But then, Objectivism doesn’t either. It advocates the pursuit of happiness in life. What’s wrong with that?
- . . . isn’t for the rich and against the poor. But then, neither is Objectivism. Ayn Rand was for the productive, responsible, and independent, not for one class or another.
- . . . isn’t for reason as an absolute. Oh, wait, that is a key principle of Objectivism. But if one isn’t for reason, what is one for?
Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's Ideas: In the Hot Seat Again
The original 2005 audio of Ryan, speaking at an Atlas Society event, and detailing the significant influence that Ayn Rand's ideas and writings have had on his public career, thinking, and policy views. Cited by ProPublica as excellent reporting.
What will the outcome be of the "GOP civil war"? What changes need to happen? (This book will be available for free this week, starting Tuesday and ending Saturday.) Previously a #1 best-seller on Amazon.
A short, informative read. Previously #2 in the Amazon best-seller list in "political philosophy" and "ethics and morality."
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
Explore the ideas in Atlas Shrugged Part 3: short video commentaries with clips from the movie.
Atlas Shrugged Part III is in theaters this weekend! Buy Part II today!
and government. Sadly, establishment Republicans are joining in the sleazy moral morass.
(This piece originally appeared in The Detroit News on August 12, 2014.)
August 12, 2014 -- Rep. Justin Amash has just beat back a primary challenge and will now defend his seat in Congress from Michigan’s 3rd District in the general election. And recently Jody Hice won the nomination to be the GOP candidate for Congress from the 10th District of Georgia, replacing a retiring incumbent Republican.
While in their general election runs both will face Democratic opponents, these two candidates are, in a sense, running against one another. They represent two of the three factions currently battling for the soul of the Republican Party.
Amash is from the libertarian faction. He is outspoken in his efforts to roll back the state’s role in our lives, both on the economic and civil liberties fronts. He famously voted against John Boehner for House speaker, seeing the GOP leader as too much of a sellout.
The establishment Republicans found him too extreme.
Thus, some of his own GOP colleagues from Michigan, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, backed businessman Brian Ellis as primary challenger. Amash won, 57 percent to 43 percent.
Much has been made of Amash’s anything-but-polite victory speech in which he said of Ellis: “You owe my family and this community an apology for your disgusting, despicable smear campaign. … I ran for office to stop people like you — to stop people who were more interested in themselves than in doing what’s best for their district.” Among other things, Ellis had called Amash, an American of Arab descent, al-Qaida’s best friend in Congress.
Down in Georgia, another candidate who is not a favorite of establishment Republicans triumphed as well. Jody Hice won a run-off election to replace retiring Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican.
But this was not a victory for the libertarian faction.
Hice, a right-wing Baptist preacher, is from the extreme social conservative faction of the GOP. He wants to break down the separation of church and state.
He has campaigned to have the Ten Commandments posted in government buildings. In a 2012 book he asserted that gays have launched a scheme to “sodomize” children. It sounds like he’s running for pope rather than Congress, though the current pope actually seems more open and tolerant than Mr. Hice.
Amash and Hice might be in the same party but they represent very different ideologies.
Amash has made a reputation taking establishment Republicans to task for not making the re-establishment of liberty and limited, Constitutional government Job One.
Friends of freedom should hope he and others in the GOP will similarly challenge extreme social conservatives who give priority to limiting liberty rather than defending it.
Edward Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
Aug 20, 2014
Zoltan Istvan, author of the provocative novel The Transhumanist Wager (I’ll review it soon), recently suggested in Wired that individuals be required to secure a government license before having a child. I disagree with Istvan. So does Wesley Smith, who pens the Human Exceptionalism column for National Review. But Smith disagrees because Istvan rejects the morality of individual self-sacrifice. Istvan’s rejection is, in fact, a good reason for anyone who loves life to consider the bright future that the Transhumanist enterprise can offer.
Too many people?
Dying for love?
The future is now