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Syria-The King Wins

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.

It’s been a terrible war. And it’s having a terrible result. But some time has passed since it looked like it could be any other way.Hejeira, outside Damascus, Syria, after being recaptured by government troops, Nov. 13, 2013
 
What good can come, when a war ends up being a fight for dominance between a brutal, if rather secular, tyranny, and Muslim fanatics yearning for a revival of the Caliphate circa 1000 AD, Taliban-style?
 
The truth is, Syria isn’t ready to join the modern world, at least not in its fundamental culture and view of the individual.
 
But cry, all lovers of freedom, for the relatively reasonable, Modernist, rebels who’ve been crushed between the two great forces of mid-East illiberalism.
 
Cry for the decent, ordinary people killed in the fighting, over 100,000 dead.
 
Cry for the refugees, whose lives are turned upside-down.
 
Now all that’s left is the brutal, depressing hangover from this latest binge of collectivism and irrationalism. 
 
 
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Objectivity toward Obama

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.

The article is a lively collection of anti-Obama anecdotes. If you are inclined to believe its thesis, then you will find red meat in its lurid tales of influence.  
 
But, as a piece of political analysis, it stinks. In fact, it’s a sad example of the non-objective journalism that increasingly dominates our culture.
 
About those anecdotes: Ms. Toloczko trots out affecting accounts of a subsidy showered on an unworthy company here, a merger blocked there. In these cases, Democratic donors received benefits, and Republican donors were disadvantaged. Noting that Comcast “CEO Brian Roberts is an Obama golfing buddy whose political giving is 90% Democratic,” she implies that the proposed merger of Comcast with Time-Warner Cable will likely be approved by anti-trust authorities just because of Roberts’ politics and those of other staff.
 
But three stories do not a statistical analysis make. (Nor do four, as in the more extended version of her argument posted at Frontiers of Freedom). A few stories just aren’t sufficient evidence of a wide-spread pattern of political discrimination.
Objectivists stand for individual liberty, so we stand against much of what the Obama administration is doing in economic and tax policy. But more than that, we stand for objectivity.
 
And objectivity is based in marshalling sufficient evidence for general claims. A few anecdotes rarely prove anything.
I’m sure I could find you a story of a strong woman who was a violent murderer. And I’m sure I could identify a weak man who was peaceable. But it would be wrong to infer from those two cases that women are more likely to commit violent crimes than men. They aren’t.
 
What Ms. Toloczko has not provided is any proof at all that the Justice Department is biased against Republican CEOs.
In our crony-capitalist, war-of-all-against all, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, but Ms. Toloczko hasn’t shown that it is.
 
And by pretending that she has, she has undermined the very objectivity that she claims to favor.
We will win nothing, if in advancing pro-freedom ideas, we destroy the public’s ability to discern truth from falsehood and logic from fallacy. Any President, including President Obama, merits objective scrutiny, and nothing less. 
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Is Taxation Slavery? Reflections on Passover and Tax Time

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!

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How Not to Secure the Internet after Heartbleed: Regulation

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.

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Jeb Bush Right on Illegal Immigration

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 le99 cents for a limited time | Applies to Kindle version onlygally, 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. 

jeb bush immigration gop civil war

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.
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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.

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Georgia GOP's Genital Obsession

 April 9, 2014 - The Georgia GOP leader is working to turn the Republican state Democratic again with her idiotic obsession with her neighbors’ genitals.

 The party’s state chair, Sue Everhart, said “Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this [she got that right!], but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married,” adding that “If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.” 

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.”

"Sue Everhart is reinforcing the image of the Republican Party as a bunch of yahoos."

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 neighboGOP civil war rs 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.

EXPLORE:

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.

 

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BYD America - A Crony Capitalist Comedy

 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.

L-R: BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu, Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway, and Warren Buffet celebrating BYD non-electric car sales in China in 2010Shake your head in wonder, as you travel back to 2008: Warren Buffet and American and Chinese officials fawn over Chinese battery maker BYD’s plans to sell electric vehicles worldwide. BYD (the name stands for “Build Your Dreams”) had bought a car factory in China and was launching electric car manufacturing. World domination was just a few years away. The sage of Omaha said so: it had to be true, right?
 
But now, here we are in 2014. Snicker sardonically as you realize there are few BYD battery electric cars anywhere. If you haven’t heard much about BYD's electric car revolution, you’re not the only one.
But our tale has just begun!
 
Grimace as the US federal and California state governments shovel subsidies and “stimulus” spending at BYD for opening an American operation.
 
Snicker as BYD decides to build electric buses rather than cars, because, supposedly, selling buses to governments is easier than selling cars to individuals. Riiiight! For Orren Boyle, maybe. But BYD soldiers ahead, and gets contracts with some California transit systems.Antonio Viillaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, at the opening ceremony for BYD's North American headquarters (in LA) in 2011
 
Cry as BYD tries to practice capitalism in America: hiring whom it wants, paying them what it wants. So it is raided by the California Labor Commission. And oh, because BYD didn’t subcontract to enough minority-owned businesses, its contracts with the government transit authorities are now void.
 
Read all the details for yourself. Sheehan calls BYD’s business results in America “a nightmare.” But its electric car business in China is scarily bad, too.
 
What we need is a real free market, where businesses do business, and governments just govern. Instead, we have governments that try to be investors, and businesses that focus more on manipulating the government than on making products to sell. 
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Mississippi Conservatives Betray Freedom and Reality

 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.

The law is called “the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Summed up, it says the state may not regulate business and other peaceable activities undertaken for religious reasons, unless the state has a “compelling interest” that overrides religious freedom. Plus: it adds “In God We Trust” to the state seal. The act is part of the same reactionary movement that produced Arizona’s recent Senate Bill 1062, the ostensibly anti-gay, pro-religious liberty bill that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed on February, 26, 2014. 

The new Mississippi State Seal

Far be it from me to decry an expansion of freedom. The Mississippi law does, indeed, move the needle a bit toward economic liberty.
 
Oh, heck, let me decry it!
 
In first place, maybe it doesn’t move the needle much at all. Over at Washington Post GovBeat, Reid Wilson isn’t sure the law will have much effect (except for gratuitously defacing the state seal with vacuous religiosity).
 
Furthermore, the law doesn’t promote freedom as a right. Instead, it carves out an exception to state power for a hodge-podge of activities. And because it explicitly endorses the power of government to do anything it deems a “compelling interest,” the law doesn’t do much for freedom in the long run, anyway. I expect the courts to find that ensuring universal health care coverage is a compelling interest, or that protecting the environment is a compelling interest, most any time they feel like it.
 
The law also enshrines an ongoing confusion of religion with morality. We need economic freedom, but not to make us right with the God of the Bible and not for sake of complying with holy writ. We need economic freedom because we are all morally entitled, as independent living beings, to act in the ways that we best judge to constitute our happiness and well-being. Giving religion special liberties is to give most freedom to some of the most irrational beliefs known to man, beliefs that are fundamentally disconnected from a focus on reality. What will Christians in Mississippi think when fundamentalist Muslims assert their desire to follow the more savage practices of Sharia law? 
 
If freedom to engage in anti-gay discrimination is the goal some of the supporters of this law have in mind, then far from enshrining the freedom to act morally, the law enshrines the freedom to act immorally. Now, one should have that right. But irrational hatred will never be a bulwark of freedom. 
 
So here’s a challenge for conservative lovers of freedom: next time, keep God out of the state seal, and instead, promote the full separation of the state and the economy, as well as the full separation of Church and state, for the same basic reason: that the reasoning mind needs to be free.
 
 
For further information:
 
 
Edward Hudgins, “GOP Helps North Carolina, Georgia Democrats Win.” March 18, 2014.
 
Edward Hudgins, “Rick Santorum: The Most Anti-Reagan Republican.” January 6, 2012.
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Maryland Proposal Warns: Political Favors Are a House of Cards

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. 

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NASA Wastes Money on Doomsday Report

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!

Leftist canards

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!
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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “It’s Getting Better All the Time -- Book review of Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think.

*William R Thomas, “Why Ecology Requires Economics -- Book review of Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”

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Contraception And The Case For Free-Market Feminism

By Laurie Rice

Mar 23, 2014

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. 

Plan B, or “the morning-after pill,” is a drug that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 3 days (72 hours) of a high-risk sexual encounter. It’s produced and marketed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use with a prescription in 1999. But since then, it’s been embroiled in government regulation. In 2006, Plan B became available over-the-counter, but not to young women under 18. In 2009, the FDA approved a new variety of Plan B called “One Step,” which condensed the drug into one pill rather than the two-pill process used previously. Also in 2009, the FDA approved “Next Choice,” a generic form of Plan B, which became available over-the-counter to women 17 or older, and with a prescription for anyone younger. 2011 was a setback year, with secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius rejecting Plan B’s application for full over-the-counter status, without age restrictions. 
 
In 2013, Plan B became available over-the-counter to women of all ages. But the FDA’s approval in 2013 included a deal with Teva Pharmaceuticals for the FDA to suppress competition from products like Next Choice by continuing to enforce age restrictions on the generic drugs. Just a few weeks ago, March 2, marked a new milestone in accessible contraception when the FDA reconsidered this deal and wrote a letter to Plan B’s generic competitors, finally allowing them to sell their product over-the-counter and without age restrictions, competing fully in the market alongside name-brand Plan B.
 
As Cathy Reisenwitz points out at Sex and The State, “the war against reason and young women regarding access to reproductive healthcare has been perpetrated, counterintuitively, by both the left and the right.” Conservative opposition to Plan B was predictablethat it’s an abortion pill (no), that it promotes promiscuity (no), that it strips away the moral fabric of our country (?), etc. But the democratic opposition was more unexpected. Democrat Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius opposed open access to Plan B in 2011, and her decision was backed by Barack Obama. Obama cited parental concern for the safety of his daughters and the unknown risks the drug might have for young women’s bodies. (This is glaringly omitting the known risks pregnancy definitely has for young women’s bodies. Also omitted: that it’s immoral for anyone to use the force of government to control other people’s sexual health decisions.)
 
Liberal feminists still aren’t identifying the actual problem: government power. 
 Beyond left and right, though, the good guys and bad guys in the contraception battle are all mixed up. Liberal feminists with the best intentions for women’s reproductive freedoms still aren’t identifying the actual problem: government power. There isn’t enough criticism of the government’s authority, as such, to control the market and thus control women’s access to the products that can improve their lives. Left feminists laud each successive FDA decision as carrying out justice, forgetting that the FDA created the injustice in the first place. For its latest change-of-heart, allowing Next Choice to compete fully on the market, Jessica Arons, president of the advocacy group Reproductive Health Technologies Project, “commend[s] the FDA… everyone deserves a second chance to get it right, including the FDA,” Arons said.
  
The FDA isn’t to be commendedit did nothing to add value, at any point. Teva Pharmaceuticals created a valuable product; a product that provides women with relief, control over their own reproduction, and a lifestyle with more possibilities and happiness than the experience of an unwanted pregnancy. The FDA obstructed women from this product for 15 years. That’s a window of time big enough to include two generations of unwanted teen pregnancies: scared young women who did not get their Plan Btheir second chanceat a brighter, less fearful, less stressful adolescence. At a life unmarked by either the massive commitment of having a child or the difficult decision of abortion.
The FDA doesn’t need a second chance; it needs to be undermined, disobeyed, and abolished.  
 
There also isn’t enough advocacy by feminists for a free-market, or enough understanding by feminists of the differences between corporatism and capitalism. The power of the government to regulate business provides opportunities for companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals to exert control over women’s choices, even while they otherwise provide women with valuable products. When the government’s ability to control the market exists, large companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals are incentivized to use the government to suppress their competitors. This is the structure of corporatism, the context of every “sweetheart deal,” as it was called by Maya Dusenberry, executive editor at Feministing. The competition in this case was the generic drug Next Choice. In a free market, instead of wasting millions of dollars in negotiations and lawsuits with the government, Teva could have spent its money and time honing the Plan B product to beat the competition, with consumers as the ultimate winners of a much lower cost morning-after pill. 
 
Meanwhile, the Center For Reproductive Rights, the legal organization that petitioned the FDA on behalf of Teva Pharmaceuticals’ Plan B, has moved onto new projects. Namely, a twitter campaign called #NotMyBossBusiness to raise awareness about the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on whether ideological businesses can deny women insurance coverage for birth control. Should a business prevent its female employees from using birth control on its insurance plan? Morally speaking, no. But a legal decision just further enmeshes the government with the private sector. In a fully free market, health insurance companies would be able to do business directly with their customers, instead of through employers. The current system is cobbled together through decades of mandates, subsidies, and regulation.
 
Liberal feminists and groups like the Center For Reproductive Rights are still missing the larger picture: that government involvement in the market is the reason why so many women have to get insurance through their employer in the first place. That government involvement in women's health means today’s contraception victory is tomorrow’s political bargaining chip, to be traded by people like Kathleen Sebelius. That state power is more inescapable, more inflexible, and more insidious to women’s freedoms than any Hobby Lobby conservative craft store could ever be. Feminists need to embrace free-market capitalism. They should take a cue from the Plan B commercials: that no one should stand between women and their freedom to earn money and spend it on the products they choose. Not the right. Not the left. Not the government itself. No one. No one. No one.   
 
Further Reading: 
Feminism and Objectivism by William R Thomas 
 
[Photo credit Kile Brewer/News Tribune]
 

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Crimea - Russian Nationalist Imperialism

 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.

Sudetenland redux?

 Vladimir Putin’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea put me in mind of Hitler’s invasion of the (pro-German) Sudetenland in 1938. Now we can sympathize with the despised Neville Chamberlain. After all, Hitler’s means and rhetoric were noxious, but the truth was that in the Sudetenland regions of then-Czechoslovakia, a sizable majority could have been expected to favor unity with Nazi Germany. And Czechoslovakia’s borders seemed arbitrary: the country had only existed for 20 years at the time of the crisis.
 
Similarly, a sizable majority in Crimea might well be expected to favor annexation by Russia. The recent trumped-up plebiscite in Crimea under de facto Russian control is not what a free, legal process would produce, but it is probably indicative. And this attitude among the ethnic-Russian populace there has been known for some time. Plus the borders of Ukraine hardly seem set in stone: the country itself has only been independent for a bit more than 20 years itself.
 

Don’t fence Russia in?

 But the Russian invasion and Putin’s justifications for his actions, combined with the very nature of the Putin-ruled corporatist Russian state, signal that Russia is a dangerous and aggressive threat to the free world. It is clear that the goal of the Putin regime is both to enhance its own power and to enhance the size and power of the Russian state. Putin complains that NATO seeks to hem Russia in—yes, just as Mexico and Canada “hem” the US in and just as Germany and France are “hemmed” in. NATO is a defensive alliance devoted to protecting the rule of law and democracy. It asks nothing of Russia but that it live within its borders, respect international law, and deal with other countries through trade. What does NATO seek to constrain Russian from doing? Well, NATO opposes Russia annexing its neighbors, invading other countries, that kind of thing.
 
The fundamental motivations for Putin’s annexation of Crimea are nationalism and imperialism. It’s imperialism that seeks military expansion as the measure of a country’s greatness. Imperialism makes one country the enemy of others, whereas countries should exist in harmony and become great through their citizen’s achievements in freely producing value. If Russia seeks the power to extend its military sway, it can only be a threat to freedom in its region and in the world at large.
 
Meanwhile nationalism, the idea that people of one ethnicity or language should live under one government, is the grossest tribalism. It claims that one’s ancestors and the dialect of one’s childhood justify binding one to other people by force. It assumes that one is defined by those traits. But there is a better way for people to associate, one enshrined in law in the US Constitution and elsewhere: to associate based on values. It is to say that what makes a citizen is one’s willingness to embrace certain values, regardless of one’s race or language-group. Ultimately, what we need is a world where people can freely choose to immigrate or emigrate as suits their needs. This is what individualism and justice imply that everyone has the right to do. Ethno-linguistic community is a matter for voluntary comunities, not politics.
 
So look out, world: the door is now open to naked military aggression in a way that hasn’t been acceptable since World War Two. And an alliance of the free countries is as needed now as it ever has been.
 
---
William R Thomas is the Director of Programs at The Atlas Society.
 
 
Explore:
 
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Literary Cruelty, Apathy, and Violence

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!

Did I mention that I'm a fan of Ayn Rand's novels

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GOP Helps North Carolina, Georgia Democrats Win

March 18, 2014 -- Leading candidates for the 2014 North Carolina and Georgia Republican nominations for Senate are throwing the election to Democrats.

 Planned pandering

 Let’s begin in North Carolina where Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, is very vulnerable. Greg Brannon is the frontrunner for the GOP primary to challenge her. Speaking about Planned Parenthood, Brannon alleged that “They said we already know abortion is fine, why stop in the womb? Why not three months after? Why should we end the responsibility at that point? It could happen in America. Florida's trying to do it right now and so is Georgia.”
 
This is not true. One Planned Parenthood lobbyist in Florida, as slow-witted as some Republicans, was asked what a Planned Parenthood physician should do in case an abortion actually results in a live birth. Instead of giving the obvious answer to this no-brainer, she said she’d have to check on the Planned Parenthood position. Planned Parenthood in Florida then stated unambiguously that physicians should “provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant.”
 
It’s one thing to oppose government funding of Planned Parenthood and abortions—and much else. It’s another thing to sound like a dogmatic ideologue who will make up anything to smear an opponent in order to pander to potential voters.
 

Georgian with no mind

Mosey down the Atlantic coast to Georgia and you’ll find Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, retiring and creating an open seat that you’d expect the GOP to easily hold. But the Democrat frontrunner for that seat is Michelle Nunn, the daughter of popular former Senator Sam Nunn. And in the top three of the crowded Republican primary field is U.S. Congressman Paul Broun.
 
In a video addressing a church audience, Broun asserts that “God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, big bang theory—all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” He went on to assert that the Earth is only about 9,000 years old.
 
Unbelievably, this ignoramus serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
 

Double damage

Extreme social conservatives like these two do double damage to the GOP.
 
First, they tend to lose elections. Both Todd Aikin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana lost Senate races in 2012 in part based on their inane remarks about abortion. And in Virginia, not only did Ken Cuccinelli’s socially-conservative views contribute to his loss in the governor’s race in 2013, E.W. Jackson, the GOP candidate for Free Kindle book | Offer ends April 11 at midnightlieutenant governor, looked foolish as well for his assertion (in a book) to the effect that biological evolution is disproven because chimpanzees can’t talk.
 
Such blinkered, dogmatic, and irrational Republicans scare away not only independent voters but also the emerging class of socially-liberal entrepreneurs that might turn to a pro-free market party if not for such embarrassing candidates.
 
Second, such extreme social conservatives empower the “let’s just make the welfare state work better” establishment Republicans like Karl Rove who rightly want to see fewer of Brannon and Broun types running under the GOP banner. Compared to such conservatives, even the RINOs can sound reasonable.
 
The Republicans need to get their priorities straight and focus on the need to roll back the scope of government. They would do well to keep their views on theology to themselves. They’re not running for pope. Only a modernist GOP will be able to succeed in the twenty-first century.

-------
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
 
Explore:

*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.
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Fatal Vision, Joe McGinniss, and Stalking the Criminal Mind

The American author Joe McGinniss died March 10. He was certainly not an Objectivist, nor a libertarian. But he was a superb writer, and I had a personal connection with him. 
 Joe McGinniss
The August, 1985, issue of Harper’s Magazine published my article “Stalking the Criminal Mind.” A reflection on efforts to explain crime, the article discussed a number of prominent books, but foremost among them was McGinniss’s Fatal Vision, a “true crime” account of Jeffrey MacDonald, an army doctor convicted of murdering his wife and two young children. 
 
As I wrote to McGinniss afterward, “Of all the nonfiction crime narratives I have read, including [Truman Capote’s] In Cold Blood, I thought yours was the most exhaustive and compelling.” We corresponded for a while, and he included some of my observations in the Afterward to 2nd edition of his work, particularly the connection I drew between his characterization of MacDonald and the work of criminal psychologist Stanton Samenow.
 

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
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Cosmos Reboot and Sagan's Legacy

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.

Stellar crew

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.Cosmos Carl Sagan

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.

EXPLORE:

*Edward Hudgins, “Cosmos: A Voyage Across The Final Frontier.” July/August 2007

 

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Obama Endangers Israel

By Edward Hudgins

Mar 07, 2014

 March 7, 2014 — President Obama’s ignorance, arrogance, and warped morality are endangering Israel and making another Middle East war more likely. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Obama this week. In an interview in advance of the meeting, Obama declared, “The U.S. won’t be able to defend Israel if peace talks fail. If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.” He went on to offer the barely-concealed threat that Israel could face international isolation and sanctions from countries and companies unnamed.
 
We can debate the extent to which Obama’s statements are ignorant, malicious, or both. But let’s look to the facts to put Israel’s situation in its full context.
 

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.
 
Many Jews settled in cities like Haifa and they founded their new city, Tel Aviv. Others purchased what was considered useless land from Arab landlords and created productive farming communities, often sharing their agricultural techniques with impoverished local Arabs. And because the Ottomans and, after World War I, the British rulers could not protect the Jews, they formed self-defense forces. This was a matter of life or death.
 
After World War II, with thousands of Holocaust survivors seeking entry into Palestine, the Jews finally gained U.N. approval for a new independent state.
 
The State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948, with the founders offering equal rights to Arabs, Muslims, and Christians in a multi-ethic community. The next day Israel was attacked by five Arab nations bent on driving the Jews into the sea.
 
To the world’s surprise, the new state beat back the Arab armies and survived. This was a matter of life or death.
 
The Arabs and Muslim inhabitants who did not take arms against the new state and, thus, were not sent into exile, remained in Israel and, along with their descendants, became Israeli citizens with rights not enjoyed elsewhere in the Arab world.
 

Seeking peace

 
Since independence Israel has been attacked many times by its national-state neighbors as well as by terrorist groups that specialize in murdering innocent men, women, and children.
 
Israel has extended its borders and occupied territory to ensure its security. And it has given back territory when it has been able to make peace with former enemies, a peace that recognizes and ensures Israel’s right to exist. Israel is at peace for example, with Egypt and Jordan. It has been a matter of life or death.
 
The Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank have been the most contentious issues in recent decades. While some West Bank settlements might serve security purposes, most settlements have become liabilities, created resentment and, in the end, should be dismantled, with any associated property rights issues dealt with.
 
In 2006, Israel did pull all its settlements and troops out of Gaza. But the inhabitants did not turn to building their economy, educating their children, and other enterprises of peace. Rather, the terrorist group Hamas took over, vowing to destroy Israel. Hamas regularly fires rockets into Israel and murders Palestinians who seek peace.
 
In 2009, Netanyahu froze new settlement construction in the West Bank in order to bring the Palestinians back into peace talks. His government has always maintained that the future of the settlements would be dealt with in a final peace agreement. And this week he said, “Of course some of the settlements won’t be part of the deal, everyone understands that.” But he indicated that most settlements would be dismantled when he said “I will make sure that [the number remaining] is as limited as possible.”
 
It is in this context that Obama makes his outrageous pronouncements that assume 1) that the Palestinians long for peace, and 2) that the Israelis are the only thing standing in the way.
 
Israel is hardly a perfect society. It has its own internal conflicts between secular and religious Jews. But a fundamental problem for the peace process is that Israel is a prosperous, open society with a culture of modernity in a region of countries and peoples still struggling to overcome authoritarian or theocratic systems rooted pre-modern cultures. Israel wants a peace that will ensure its survival, but it has good reasons to be suspicious of its neighbors, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza most of all.
 

Iran rising


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.
 
Obama’s recent agreement with Iran does little to slow its development of nukes, and the Iranians publicly ridicule him; General Masoud Jazayeri called Obama “the low-IQ U.S. president” and declared the effectiveness of U.S. options “a joke among the Iranian nation, especially the children.” 
 
A strong, principled American president, Republican or Democrat, might be able to deal with the complex Middle East situation. But Obama’s lack of any moral compass makes it more likely that Israel will need to act unilaterally to prevent a mushroom cloud from wiping out Tel Aviv. It will be a matter of life or death. 
---
Edward Hudgins is Director of Advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
 
For further information:
 
Edward Hudgins, “Israel vs. Palestinian Moral Smuggling.” June 5, 2010.
 
Edward Hudgins, “Iran And Obama’s Hollow Moral Core.” June 25, 2009.
 
David Kelley, "Does Islam Need a Reformation?" Spring, 2011
 

William Thomas, “Free World Order.” November 9, 2011.

 

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Dallas Buyers Club Says “It’s your life!”

 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.

The film centers on a man who is diagnosed with AIDS and who is looking for ways to save his own life. The medical treatments offered him don’t look good, so he begins to research other pharmaceutical options. But in a conversation with a health care provider he’s told that those alternatives are not approved by the FDA. He responds that very soon he will be DOA.
 
The story then focuses on his attempts to get around government regulations so he and others afflicted with AIDS can take their fates into their own hands and have a fighting chance to live rather than to passively lie down and die.
 
The Food and Drug Administration is charged with certifying the safety and efficacy of drugs and medical devices. But while a company can rather quickly confirm the safety of products, government standards for proving effiicacy add years and millions of dollars to the approval process. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans suffer for want of those products and thousands die whose lives might have been saved with quicker access to medicines that are often available in other industrialized countries.
 
Further, in recent decades the FDA has interpreted “efficacy” in ways that bear no relationship to actually protecting individuals from ineffective products. For example, it recently barred the company 23andMe from offering individuals genetic testing concerning their propensity for certain illness not because of problems with the testing. Rather, the agency argued that individuals are too stupid to know what actions they should take to ensure their own health based on test results.
 
This brings us to the principle so well dramatized in Dallas Buyers Club. Your life belongs to you. It’s yours. It does not belong to the government or some collection of federal bureaucrats. You should not need their permission or anyone’s to act as you see fit to preserve your life.
 
Yes, there are quack treatments being peddled by the stupid and the malicious. The classic example is the archetypical snake oil salesman who travels from town to town selling a magic potion while a shill in the audience hypes the false benefits of the wonder elixir.  
 
But ultimately, choices about our lives and wellbeing must be made by us as individuals in open markets for both products and information. Of course, we best ensure our survival and happiness by making our choices based on reason and by cultivating in ourselves sound intellectual habits and independent judgment. Yet these are virtues that we will not acquire if we allow power-hungry government regulators to run our lives!
 
 
Aaron Day is CEO of The Atlas Society and founder of Tangerine Wellness.
 
 
EXPLORE:
 
Edward Hudgins, “FDA Stopping The Genetics Revolution.” December 11, 2013.
 
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Leftists Celebrate Anti-Semites

 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. 

Ruling lizards

 
In February, Leftist bastion PBS aired a documentary entitled Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth. Walker won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1982 novel The Color Purple, which was made into motion picture.
 
Walker is also a fan of the lunatic delusions British ex-sportscaster and Green Party spokesman David Icke. In an interview last year Walker said of Icke, “What I was remembering was how he called our oppressors ‘blue eyed devils.’ Now who could that have been? Well, we see them here in David Icke’s book as the descendants of the reptilian race that landed on our sweet planet.” 
 
 
(Photo: Alice Walker, left, David Icke, right.)
 
You read it right folks. This is not an Onion story. Icke believes that our world is ruled by an Illuminati Brotherhood of interplanetary reptilians from the constellation Draco who are disguised as humans, come here to steal “monatomic gold,” which supposedly has magical powers. If you stifle your gag reflex and get through the particulars of Icke’s insanity you would not be wrong to think it sounds like an interplanetary version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Icke is an admirer of that notorious anti-Semitic forgery. This suggests something about the weird workings of the minds of those prone to invent bizarre conspiracy theories to explain the problems of the world, with a focus on secret cabals.
 

Attacking Jews

 
Which brings us back to Walker. Has she done anything recently that might call her to the attention of PBS? Well, last year she published a book entitled, The Cushion in the Road. In it she compares Israelis to Nazis, declares that Israel has no right to exist, and defends terrorist attacks on Israelis.
 
Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman says that "Walker has sunk to new lows with essays that remove the gloss of her anti-Israel activism to reveal someone who is unabashedly infected with anti-Semitism.” Walker is not simply arguing against particular policies of the Israeli government; that’s fair game. Instead, she perpetuates the same hatred that has plagued Jews for centuries. And she gives a pass to the Islamist thugs in the Middle East and those among her beloved Palestinians who oppose every civilized and Enlightenment value.
 
And she is celebrated by PBS.
 

Double standard

 
When Mel Gibson makes anti-Jewish or racist slurs, liberals and leftists demand that he do the whole apology tour thing. Gibson is white and a Christian, though a particularly nutty version. But to show their “tolerance,” the liberals and leftists go out of their way to honor Walker, who is black, ignoring the bigotry she perpetrates. Leaders black and white should seek to overcome bigotry, promoting the goal of judging individuals by their merits rather than by membership in a particular racial or ethnic group.
 
These liberals and leftists deserve perhaps as much damnation as Walker. They should know better and it is their double standard that props up such haters.
 
 
Edward Hudgins is Director of Advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

 

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Arizona and anti-gay freedom

 The Arizona Legislature passed a bill that Arizona governor Jan Brewer
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.

First, the gross immorality: Homosexuality isn’t a sin and it’s wrong to penalize gays and lesbians for their sexuality. So what this law would make legal, no one ought to do.
 
But the issue here is the right of people to deal with each other by trade. And as far freedom to trade goes, the bill doesn’t go far enough.

No business person should be forced to deal with any client.
 Somehow, in the twentieth century, America segued from blue laws to anti-discrimination laws without missing a beat. In Arizona, they’ve gone from banning homosexuality (because it was considered immoral) to banning anti-gay business practices (because those are now considered immoral). But the government doesn’t exist to ban immoral acts. It exists to protect our individual rights. It exists to ban the initiation of force.
 
No business person should be forced to deal with any client he doesn’t choose to serve. And no client should be forced into a business deal it doesn’t want. And one shouldn’t have to cite a religious reason for denying service to a potential customer. A business should be free to act for whatever reason it chooses. Objective, non-religious reasons should always be permitted. So the new bill is just a half-step back towards freedom, at best. And Arizona’s continuing ban of gay marriage is a disgrace and a shame.

Government should stay out of our love life and our business life.
Homosexuals have the right to love whom they choose. The advocates of gay rights recognize that the government should stay out of people’s love lives. But for just the same reason, the government should stay out of our business life, too. We have the right to deal with whom we choose, whether we’re dealing kisses or wedding cake. 
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Do John Galt and Jesus Agree?

 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. 

 

 

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Obama's Subtle "You Didn’t Build That" Rhetoric

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.

Peppered propaganda

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."

Collective credit

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.”

Phony CEO

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.
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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.

 

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The NSA surveillance scandal and its fallout: Ladar Levison in extensive interview

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.

Since the interview, I’ve released two short videos based on it: one on the technology of private email, and one on the connection between his story and that of Ellis Wyatt in Atlas Shrugged.

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.

 

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Sen. Ron Johnson files lawsuit over Obamacare subsidies for Congress

By The Atlas Society

Jan 07, 2014

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. "

senator ron johnson lawsuit obamacare exemptions congress subsidies

"[M]any 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.

 

EXPLORE:

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."

Understanding Obamacare
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.

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A 2014 New Year's Wish

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.

Looking back

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!
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Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

 

 

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