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What Obama Got and Missed on Mistrusting Police

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

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

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

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

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are often enforced in discriminatory and rights-violating ways, but also violate rights by their own nature, can be repealed.

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

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Don't ban religious teaching, teach reason

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

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

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

Degrees of abuse

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

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

Degrees of indoctrination

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

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

Degrees of repression

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

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

Philosopher-king fallacy

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

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

A vision of rational values

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

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

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

For further information:

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

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

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

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Paul Ryan Rejects Ayn Rand in the New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The establishment Republicans found him too extreme.

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

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

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

But this was not a victory for the libertarian faction.

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

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

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

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

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

For further information:

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

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

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Transhumanism vs. a Conservative Death Ethos

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

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

Too many people?

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


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

Dying for love?

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

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

The future is now

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

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


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


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Suicide and Reasons to Live

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

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

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

Clinical depression

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

Depression and illusion of worthlessness

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

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

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

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

Tragedy for others

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

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

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


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

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

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Objectivism is Not Anti-Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rand Paul Revolution in Silicon Valley

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

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

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

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


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Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Corpses, and Context

Television newscasts over the past week have featured videos of corpses, including the bodies of children, piled in hospitals and morgues in Gaza, surrounded by grieving family and friends. The natural and angry human reaction to such scenes is, “What monsters did this?” But the rational response should also be, “What is the full context of this suffering and death?”

There are World War II photos that show German women and children killed in Allied bombings. Taken out of all context, these gruesome pictures could elicit anger without revealing the monIsrael Hamas Gaza rockets missiles iron dome Tel Aviv Airport strous regime that itself inflicted death on so many and made that war necessary.

While Israeli bombs and bullets were the immediate cause of the carnage in Gaza, the need to resort to war was caused by Hamas, a fact not communicated well if at all by the American media.

Gaza was occupied by Israel in the aftermath of one of the many attempts by Israel’s Arab neighbors and terrorist groups to kill the Jews or drive them into the sea. But after Israel unilaterally pulled out its military and settlements—the military had to forcibly remove many Jewish settlers who refused to leave—the people of Gaza in 2005 elected as its government Hamas, a group of thugs who made the destruction of Israel Job One.

Any Palestinian who suggests making trade, not war, with Israel is killed by Hamas.

Hamas did not build schools to train its children in the enterprises of peace. Rather, it trained military units for attacks on Israel and trained its children as suicide bombers; indeed, it celebrates and honors those who kill themselves in the process of killing Jewish children. It did not build businesses and promote prosperity. Rather, it built tunnels to infiltrate Israel, and smuggled into Gaza rockets and mortars to fire at its neighbor. It intentionally places its weapons in or near civilian housing, schools, and hospitals, using its own children as human shields, so that counterattacks that produce corpses will elicit sympathy among those in the West naïve or blind enough to ignore the full context of the conflict.

And any Palestinian who suggests making trade, not war, with Israel is killed by Hamas.

In light of the anti-Semitism that drove the original Jewish settlers from Europe to Palestine, that produced the Holocaust, and that today is seen again in the streets of Europe and cesspools of American academia and leftist circles, Israel has no choice but to fight when it is attacked. The blood in Gaza is on the hands of Hamas. And it is Hamas that has always maintained that it is at war with Israel and that it will never cease to be so. To merely utter the truism that Israel should avoid inflicting unnecessary civilian casualties ignores that fact that ridding Israel of its Jewish civilian population is the aim of Hamas.

Ridding Israel of its Jewish civilian population is the aim of Hamas.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pinpointed the nature of the conflict: “If Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.”

Golda Meir put it well some four decades ago: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Such forgiveness, in fact, should not be granted. But Meir was right about the warped values of the enemies of Israel and, more broadly, of the civilized world. Osama bin Laden echoed his fellow Islamists when he said, “We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.” Yes, it is. And a favorite saying among Jews is “L’Chaim,” “To life!”

That is the nature of the conflict in Gaza. It is life versus death. To the extent that their hate has not extinguished their humanity, Gaza Palestinians are anguished by the carnage that is the consequence of Hamas’s goal of destroying Israel. Israelis take no joy in killing. If Palestinians take no joy in dying, they must overthrow Hamas and choose the side of life.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

Edward Hudgins, “Israeli Independence and Libertarian Blindness.” May 6, 2014.

Edward Hudgins, “Egypt Revolts Against Islamists and Obama.” July 3, 2013.

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

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The First Moon Landing 45 Years On

 July 18, 2014 – On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to land and walk on the Moon. Armstrong is no longer with us to mark the anniversary of this incredible achievement. But Buzz has been active in keeping the dream of human space exploration alive.

Forty-five years after making those famous footprints on the lunar surface, Aldrin’s #Apollo45 Facebook and social media celebration features videos of prominent folks answering the question “Where were you when men landed on the Moon?” Most of the comments exude the excitement that this achievement inspired. And some also express sadness at the fact that only twelve humans have ever kicked up the dust on Earth’s satellite and that no one has gone on to build lunar bases and settlements.

In his latest book Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, Aldrin and co-author Leonard David suggest that a next great human achievement should be the human exploration of the Red Planet.

Aldrin offers his own perspective on the best way to get there. But two facts are crucial to keep in mind when contemplating such missions.

First, it is best for the private sector to lead the way. For example, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose company has already launched private cargo rockets to the International Space Station, has said his goal is to die on Mars—but not on landing! And the private Mars One project wants to send settlers to Mars not to explore and then return but, rather, to stay there permanently.

And second, space exploration represents humanity at its best. It’s an amazing achievement of human reason.

So let’s celebrate the 45th anniversary of that one giant leap for mankind and let the spirit of that mission inspire even greater achievements in the future.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

*Edward Hudgins, “Neil Armstrong: American Hero.” August 27, 2012.

*Edward Hudgins, When We Walked on the Moon, July 17, 2009. 

*Edward Hudgins, “Apollo 11 on Human Achievement Day.” July 20, 2005. 

*Edward Hudgins, The Spiritual Significance of Mars. August 12, 2003.

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Highway Trust Fund Injustice

 The US federal government is holding one of its periodic debates about highway funding. President Obama says that the federal highway trust fund, which is primarily funded by gasoline taxes paid by

Light rail construction in Arizona: this is what motorists are forced to pay for.

motorists, will soon run out. The House has pushed through a jury-rigged fix to keep funds flowing, and, by August, the Senate is expected to approve it.

The president and the New York Times editorial board say the problem is that the gas tax is too low: it hasn’t risen enough to keep up with economic growth and inflation.
What they aren’t mentioning is that the gas tax funds are actually still pretty adequate for highway and road projects: the problem is that over 20 percent of the fund these days doesn’t go for roads and highways at all. Instead, as Randall O’Toole at Cato regularly points out, these funds are spent on bus and rail transit, and sometimes on other pork-barrel goodies, like museums.
So there is an easy way for Congress to shore up the highway trust fund: stop forcing motorists to pay for non-motorists’ transit.

Over 20 percent of the fund isn't spent on roads or highways.
 In fact, here’s an idea: How about if transit riders pay for their own services? They buy tickets, after all. Why can’t tickets cover the costs of the trains and buses?  Inter-city buses and airplanes are covered by ticket costs. Urban transit buses and trains could be, too.
A full, free market in transportation would be best, with no taxes or subsidies. Highways could be toll roads, and in fact, with today’s RFID technology (like EZ-Pass), it’s not hard to charge road users for exactly what roads they use. So it’s never been easier to privatize the roads.
But in the meantime, while the government runs the roads, the gas tax is a pretty good user fee. Those who drive more tend to pay more. In fact, heavier vehicles, which do more damage to roadways, pay more, too, because they typically use more gas per mile. (Electric cars and high-efficiency hybrids complicate the matter, but I didn’t say gas taxes were perfect, just pretty good.)
It’s simple justice that the people who use the roads should pay for the roads. And it’s simple justice that they shouldn’t have to pay for bus riders and train passengers’ commutes: transit riders should pay for their own services.
Yet since 1982, the federal government has been sucking more and more funds out of the highway trust fund to pay for transit. Behind this pillaging are two immoral and pernicious ideas.
The first nasty idea is plain old collectivism: it holds that (somehow) the motorists and the transit riders are the same people in the same respect: all part of the collective. “People in both parties ride in cars or take trains and buses,” notes the Times: so it doesn’t matter that the motorists are being robbed. Since we are all part of the collective, anyone can be taxed to pay for anyone else’s benefits.
But the real reason Congress is sticking it to the motorists is environmentalism. Cars, it is assumed, are evil, polluting vehicles that promote wasteful living. Buses and trains are less-polluting, more modest means of getting around. And why shouldn’t people be free to choose their mode of transportation, if they’ll bear the costs? Environmentalism, when you get right down to it, holds that humans don’t have a right to their lives.
It’s bad enough when justice is plainly ignored in making government policy. It’s worse when anti-man ideas are moving the needle as well.
Congress should fix the highway fund by cutting off transit projects now. And for the long term, it should move transportation to a private, user-pays system that will encourage the best technologies and allow individuals to live as they judge best—and pay for it themselves. 
William R Thomas is Director of Programs at The Atlas Society. 
Sam Kazman, "Automobility and Freedom," Navigator, September, 2001. 


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The Single Bullet That Killed 16 Million

June 27, 2014 – A century ago, on June 28, 1914, Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the emperorship of Austria-Hungary, along with his wife, on their visit to Sarajevo. Gavrilo Pirincip fires on the Archduke and Archduchess, June 28, 1914

In retaliation, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Serbia’s ally Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany declared war both on Russia and Russia’s ally France. France’s ally Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. By the time it was all over, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, Japan, and the USA were notably involved. 

World War I led to 16 million military and civilian deaths, plus nearly 20 million wounded. And the misery and horror of that war resulted in another casualty: confidence in the Enlightenment enterprise and human progress. 

Enlightenment Europe 

In the late seventeenth century Isaac Newton’s discovery of the laws of universal gravitation dramatically demonstrated the power of the human mind. Understanding of the world and the universe—what we call modern science—became a central Enlightenment goal. 

At the same time, the struggle for Parliamentary supremacy in England led John Locke to pen his powerful treatise on individual liberty. Creating governments limited to protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness also became a central Enlightenment goal, which culminated in the creation of United States. 

Enlightenment values were not limited to Britain or America. They were universal and created a European-wide culture of individualism, freedom, and reason. 

Collectivist anti-Enlightenment 

But Enlightenment thinkers and activists not only had to fight entrenched oligarchs and rigid religious dogma. Starting with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a school of thought—if thought it could be called—arose that opposed individualism with the good of “society,” or the group, and rejected reason in favor of emotion and instinct. 

The French Revolution starting in 1789 saw Enlightenment ideas losing ground to reactionary and collectivist forces. The result was the Terror and the guillotine, dictatorship and a new monarchy, and the carnage of the Napoleonic wars--the first great modern global conflict, which ended in 1815 at Waterloo. 

In the century that followed Europe suffered only short regional conflicts, most relating to the unification of Italy and of Germany. The Industrial Revolution was creating prosperity. Governments were granting citizens rights to political participation and were recognizing their civil liberties. By the early twentieth century, continued progress seemed inevitable. 

Pernicious nationalism

But the pernicious collectivist ideology combined with a major European cultural defect: nationalism. This form of collectivism meant more than just an appreciation for the aesthetic achievements—art, music, literature—of the individuals in one’s ethnic group. It meant putting one’s group or one’s country, right or wrong, ahead of universal values and principles. Kill for King or Kaiser! 

There’s an irony in the fact that poor Franz Ferdinand wanted to recreate Austria-Hungary as a federation in which the minority groups—that were always either dominated by Viennese elites or at one another’s throats—would have autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the American states. If only Princip had waited a while. 

Unfortunately, the volatile combination of nationalism, an interlocking treaty system, and the Britain-Germany imperial rivalry only required a spark like the Sarajevo assassination to set off a global conflagration. 

Collectivism vs. collectivism 

After World War I, individualism and “selfishness” got much of the blame for the conflict.  And science was no longer associated only with progress. It had created machine guns, tanks, and poison gas, and made possible a fearful slaughter. 

Idealists created the League of Nations to prevent such wars in the future. But they tried to cure the problem of nationalism with more nationalism, simply accentuating the problem. Indeed, Hitler used the principle of self-determination of peoples as an excuse to unify all Germans into one Reich by force. His form of collectivism also entailed enslaving and wiping out “inferior” races. 

The catastrophe of World War II was followed by a Cold War, which saw the Soviet Union asserting another form of collectivism, pitting one economic “class” against another. Western Europe opposed the brutal Soviet kill-the-rich socialism with a kinder, gentler, loot-the-rich democratic socialism. The Soviet Union with its communist empire collapsed in 1991, and Western European democratic socialism is going through a similar disintegration in slow motion. 

Still recovering from the Great War 

Today, Enlightenment values are making a comeback. The communications and information revolutions, and the application of new technologies in medicine, transportation, and other fields, again demonstrate the power of the human mind and the benefits it confers. 

Furthermore, many of the new entrepreneurs understand that it is they as individual visionaries who are transforming the world. And while their achievements benefit everyone, they strive because they love their work and they love to achieve. They pursue happiness. They hold Enlightenment values—though in many cases their politics still need to catch up. 

The world is still digging out from the consequences of that single bullet a century ago, which led to the deaths of millions. Putting our country and the world back on the path to liberty and prosperity will require a recommitment to the Enlightenment values that created all the best in the modern world.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. 

For further information: 

Edward Hudgins, “D-Day and Enlightenment Values.” June 6, 2014.

*Marsha Enright, “Education for a New Enlightenment.” Winter 2010.

*David Mayer, “Completing the American Revolution.” Spring, 2009.

*David Kelley, “The Fourth Revolution.” Spring 2009

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Cantor's Defeat and the GOP Establishment's Dilemma

June 11, 2014 -- Establishment Republicans are in shock over the Virginia primary loss by GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor at the hands of Dave Brat, an economics professor and Tea Party-backed political novice.

Many conservatives chalked up Cantor’s defeat to his support for immigratEric Cantor's defeat by David Brat is historic GOP civil war establishmention reform, which they interpret as “amnesty and citizenship for lawbreakers.” And Brat made remarks ciritical of immigration reform. But a survey released by the liberal Public Policy Polling found some 70 percent of voters in Cantor’s district favor reform that includes securing the border, barring businesses from hiring illegals, but also allowing undocumented aliens a way to legally remain in the U.S.

Establishment Republicans must understand the deeper causes for Cantor’s defeat and learn lessons that will better ensure general election victories. And those who back candidates like Brat must understand what errors they must avoid in order to avoid election defeats.

Such an understanding begins with a recognition that the GOP is in a three-way civil war.

The corrupt Republican establishment

 The first GOP faction, establishment Republicans, includes Cantor, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. They want to keep the welfare state but tweak it to make it work a little better, perhaps with some free-market reforms. And they would also argue that it’s one thing to talk about abolishing the welfare state, as do many Tea Partiers, but it’s quite another matter to actually pass legislation to pare the state down.GOP civil war David Brat Eric Cantor Republican establishment

 The problem is that these establishment Republicans present no long-term coherent vision or guiding principles for changing a corrupt paternalist and crony-capitalist regime, a system that is rightly seen by many voters as rotten to the core but propped up by Republicans and Democrats alike. Such voters see Cantor and others like him as flip-flopping pragmatists who are not even pragmatic since they’ve been unable to counter the growth of government under President Obama. Such disillusioned voters took their frustration out on Cantor.

Scary social conservatives

 A second GOP faction, extreme social conservatives, includes Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. They give priority to an agenda that limits civil liberties and is often even squishy on economic liberty, with government wielding power to support “family values.” Establishment Republicans rightly worry that candidates from this faction will lose elections the way Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock did in running for U.S. Senate from Missouri and Indiana, respectively, in 2012. Both candidates tripped over their foolish statements about abortion, scaring away the growing number of socially-liberal voters. Democrat Party leaders love such easy-target Republicans!

 How, establishment Republicans will ask, can the GOP do anything to stop the growth of government if they can’t win the Senate?

Real libertarian radicals

 The third GOP faction actually wants to roll back the power of government and begin to dismantle the welfare state. But such economic conservatives come in two flavors. Some are more libertarian, favoring both economic and personal liberty, e.g., the freedom to form same-sex marriages.Others are more socially conservative. But unlike their more extreme comrades, their priority is to fight the policies of Obama and his ilk, which are sinking the economy, reducing living standards, and destroying personal autonomy.

David Brat’s formula

Winning candidate Dave Brat might offer a David Brat with talk radio host and author Laura Ingraham
winning paradigm. Brat the economics professor campaigned on the economy, on the problem of the skyrocketing federal debt, and on government direction and regulation. Brat has written about Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, and even about moral foundations based in Ayn Rand. While not an Objectivist, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged.

He is also a strong supporter of the Tenth Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Wow, a politician who takes the Constitution seriously! And this is an appeal to a principle that voters can appreciate. It is not the usual pandering and the usual mealy-mouthed promising that treats voters like spoiled children who the candidates will offer to spoil even more in return for votes.

Brat has a Master of Divinity in Theology and is no doubt socially conservative. But pushing a religion-based agenda so far has not been his campaign priority. He seems to appreciate that no one’s personal values are safe if the government continues to grow and to control every aspect of our lives.

Will Brat continue to avoid the errors made by so many social conservatives? That has yet to be seen, but he does seem to have a winning paradigm.

Dedicated to liberty

Eric Cantor defeat David Brat GOP civil war establishment RepublicansIn light of Cantor’s defeat, Establishment Republicans must understand that they are part of the problem, at best slowing the nation’s decline with their support of the current corrupt regime. They should remember that George W. Bush contributed to this regime with expansions of the welfare and regulatory state. They should remember the defeats of their standard-bearers McCain and Romney. And thus they should seek out and support principled candidates like Dave Brat

Yes, passing—and repealing!—laws takes political skill. Compromises and deals will need to be made. But only if establishment Republicans abandon the establishment and if social conservatives give priority to limiting government, only if all GOP factions dedicate themselves to the principles of liberty can the party triumph and the country be saved.

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

Family Values Still Threaten GOP
.” May 30, 2014, Ed Hudgins

McConnell Should Unleash Our Inner John Galt. June 10, 2014, Ed Hudgins

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McConnell Should Unleash Our Inner John Galt

 June 10, 2014 -- GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says that Republicans “have often lost sight of the fact that our average voter is not John Galt.” The Kentucky Senator, fresh from a primary victory over a Tea Party-backed candidate, was referring to the inventor-hero in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged who favored complete free markets and who rebelled against a government that persecuted him for the virtue of being productive.

McConnell believes that the GOP appears too elitist when it emphasizes policies that seem most to help to rich. But the problem is that, in addition to not understanding Ayn Rand, McConnell needs clarity about the country’s problems and, thus, their solutions.

 Lack of freedom

 Concerning the Republican Party’s emphasis on free markets, McConnell states that “It’s a good impulse to be sure, but for most Americans whose daily concerns revolve around aging parents …, shrinking budgets, and obscenely high tuition bills, these hymns to entrepreneurialism are as a practical matter largely irrelevant.”  He added that “the audience for them is probably a lot smaller than we think.” In other words, freedom doesn’t sell well at the polls.

 But McConnell’s desire to appeal to voters will not negate the fact that the reason most Americans struggle is a lack of freedom, that is, too much government control over the economy and our lives, which thwarts the entrepreneurship that is the sparkplug of prosperous.

 Just consider a few numbers. By one estimate, the burden of federal regulations alone is $1.9 trillion or $6,200 per American, or about $15,000 per family. Most of this cost is not offset by protection of public health and safety. It simply lowers living standards.gop civil war mitch mcconnell establishment republicans

 McConnell’s fellow Republicans have identified many specific government chains and offered ways to cut them: Help reduce high prices at the gas pump by removing federal prohibitions on oil drilling. Help ease health care costs plus increase patient choice by allowing more tax-exempt medical savings accounts.

 Corrupt to the core

 But McConnell must appreciate a deeper truth: The current political system is at root corrupt. The country is in a civil war. Makers prosper by producing goods and services to trade with their fellows. Takers employ political elites expropriate from those producers. Those takers include crony capitalist bankers, auto and “clean” energy companies, and labor unions.  The political elites who secure for them special favors and handouts at the expense of the productive class include Republicans and Democrats.

 The more political power becomes the coin of the realm, the more the productive achievers—those John Galts—are punished and, therefore, the less they produce. As economic hardship grows, more otherwise decent Americans turn to political elites, further punishing production and plunging the economy into death spiral.

 This corrupt system also erodes the ethos of personal responsibility as more and more people come to believe they are “entitled” to housing, health care, you name it, at the expense of their fellows.

 Establishment or entrepreneurs

 McConnell might resent the label but he represents the GOP establishment. He is one of those who want to appear “responsible” and to win elections by promising to tweak the current system but still keep it in place. He sees the Tea Partiers as impractical extremists preaching to one another and ignoring the need to win elections and actually change public policy.

 But establishment Republicans—McCain, Romney—have hardly shined at the polls. And in any case, the system cannot be saved.

 The challenge for McConnell and all Republicans is to effectively frame political discussions and campaigns in terms of the need for fundamental reform. It is to offer a vision for a bright future, especially to young people, many of whom are disillusioned Obama voters. It is to articulate policies that will replace, piece by piece, over time, the current corrupt system, giving every American the opportunity to be entrepreneurs in their own lives.

 After the 2014 elections, McConnell will likely be the Senate Majority Leader. He should commit to unleashing the John Galt in all of us!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society, and editor and principal author of a new book, The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win?

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D-Day and Enlightenment Values

June 6, 2014 – My late Uncle “Boots” Van Pelt was almost killed 70 years ago. He went ashore on Omaha Beach with the 29th Infantry Division on D-Day. After the initial troop landings, he was found and thought dead, but he roused as they were putting him into a body bag.

 He got to Paris with the American forces and was later wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.

 On the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, we reflect on the heroism of those who fought to liberate Europe. But we should also consider why the conflagration of World War II occurred and why Europe found itself in need of liberation to begin with.

 Rise of Enlightenment

 We need to start with history. Europe’s civilization at its best flourished because of the ideas and values manifest in its culture and institutions. Its philosophical culmination was the Enlightenment.

 Enlightenment philosophy acknowledged the power of human reason to understand the world and to transform it in order to make life on earth for human beings better. It recognized that individuals are ends in themselves, with their own happiness as their legitimate goal. And it accepted that individuals have the right to live their lives as they will, dealing with others based on mutual consent, with the implication that the purpose of government is to secure those rights.

 This philosophy, which transcended national borders, helped transform Europe, but only imperfectly and incompletely; that philosophy was best manifest in Europe’s stellar child, the United States.

 Casus belli

 At the beginning of the twentieth century, the European countries and peoples were still very nationalistic and tribal, not simply celebrating their own cultures but denigrating others. The interlocking treaty system that European nation-states set up almost ensured the outbreak of a major war.

 The appalling 20 million battlefield deaths of World War I did not give leaders, citizens, and subjects of European governments the wisdom to prevent another war. The defeated Germans, for example, resented the crippling reparations with which they were burdened. They were incensed by the requirement of the victors that they sign a “War Guilt” clause acknowledging that they were solely responsible for World War I. While they were a principal cause of the war, the victors and the treaty system deserved censure as well.

 Hitler is the single individual who deserves the most blame for World War II, though we should never forget the role Stalin and the expansionist Japanese government played as well. But more fundamentally, fascism and communism both arose because of an eclipse of the Enlightenment principles. Fascism and communism held the group—the “race” and the “proletariat” respectively—as superior to the individual. They rejected reason as a guide to life in favor of a mindless, emotional obedience to authority. And they accepted force as the way for individuals and nations to deal with one another.

 Add to that a value malaise in France, England, and elsewhere and the stage was set for war and repression.

 A new heroism

 World War II resulted in over 60 million dead. And at least in its wake, the countries of Western Europe have overcome many historical animosities and avoided launching a World War III. With the help of America, Europe avoided coming under the yoke of the surviving collectivist tyranny, the Soviet Union, which finally collapsed under its own contradictions.

 But Europe and the West today have not recovered the Enlightenment principles that they need to flourish. The welfare state and Euro-socialism are forms of collectivism that, though ostensibly kinder and gentler, are today going through their own version of the collapse that occurred in the East Bloc 25 years ago.

 The soldiers like my Uncle Boots who landed in Normandy 70 years ago to help liberate Europe were true heroes. Today we need a new heroism, the courage to stand up for the Enlightenment principles that are necessary to make sure that the horrors of tyranny and world war never plague the planet again.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

 *William R Thomas, “Crimea – Russian Nationalist Imperialism.” March 19, 2014.

*William Thomas, “War: And Objectivist View.

 *Edward Hudgins, “The Need for a New Individualism.” January 2005.

*David Kelley, “The Party of Modernity.” November 2003.

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Family Values Still Threaten GOP

May 30, 2014 — In another skirmish in the GOP’s civil war, Ken Blackwell recently linked mass killings with same-sex unions. This is why, in spite of the prospects for a Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014, the party is still in a death spiral.

Blackwell’s Christian traditionalism echoes too many social conservatives who, by giving priority to a social agenda that limits liberty, actually empower the welfare statists whom they denounce.

Blackwell is a prominent Republican: a former Ohio secretary of state and now a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. On May 27, reacting to the recent shootings in Isla Vista, California by a young mentally unbalanced nut, Blackwell placed part of the blame for the killings on “the crumbling of the moral foundation of the country” and on “the attack on natural marriage and the family.” He made the even more outrageous assertion that “Throughout history, in order for totalitarianism, Marxism or a welfare state to occur two things have to happen—the marginalization of the church and the destruction of the family.”

First, Blackwell’s history is bad. Churches and religions have as often backed and even spearheaded political Kenneth Blackwell blames Elliot Rodgers rampage on lack of "family values" in nation. Part of GOP civil warrepression as opposed it. And the preservation of family and tradition has often been used as an excuse for repression.

Second, the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals, not to dictate to them how they should live their lives. People should be free to enjoy their liberty and use their property, whether or not Blackwell or anyone else approves of their choices. If two gay individuals want to enter into the particular contractual relationship referred to as “marriage,” this does not limit the freedom of anybody else and is not anyone else’s political business.

Third, Blackwell is correct that the moral foundation of the country is crumbing. But the problem is not same-sex marriage or the erosion of the family as such. Rather, it is the erosion of individualism. Individualism is the understanding that individuals should pursue their own happiness and flourishing, guided by their reason, to produce the means of their own survival, prosperity, and spiritual well-being, dealing with their fellows based on mutual consent. This country’s liberty, which is rooted in this philosophy, has allowed millions of realize the “American Dream”—individual flourishing. This country’s individualist culture has nurtured and encouraged the entrepreneurship that has made America the richest country in the world. But the welfare state, which Blackwell and most social conservatives denounce, has had a major role in destroying this philosophy, the morality of personal responsibility, and individual liberty.

The purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals, not to dictate to them how they should live their lives.

Blackwell’s Christian traditionalism echoes too many social conservatives who, by giving priority to a social agenda that limits liberty, actually empower the welfare statists whom they denounce. For example, these intolerant polemics distract the political debate from the clash between individualism and collectivism, between producers and expropriators, between liberty-lovers and control freaks. They drive away from the Republican Party young people who are socially liberal, accepting of same-sex unions, and who want nothing to do with what they see as a bigoted GOP. GOP civil war: a best-selling book about the conflct in the Republican Party

The more social conservatives push their liberty-limiting conception of “family values” as a political priority, the more they will not only see their own agenda fail but, in the process, will cripple the pro-freedom faction within the GOP, leaving the country open for an ever-more expansive, repressive, and family-destroying welfare state.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.


Edward Hudgins, The Republican Party’s Civil War: Will Freedom Win? February 2014.

Edward Hudgins, “Questions for Conservatives about Gay Marriage and Sock Drawers,” July1, 2011.

William R Thomas, “Myth: Ayn Rand was a Conservative,” 2012.


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Climate Kerfuffle on Cosmos

May 23, 2014 -- I’m a big fan of the Cosmos reboot series, just as I was of the Carl Sagan original. But the host Neil deGrasse Tyson recently stumbled very unscientifically when discussing climate change. 

In the recent Episode 11, entitled “The Immortals,” Tyson muses about a better human future. One highlight: “The last internal combustion engine is placed in a museum as the effects of climate change reverse and diminish.” He adds that, in this better future, “The polar ice caps are restored to the way they were in the nineteenth century.”

Climates always change

 The problem starts with the words “climate change” itself. Until recent years, the concern of Al Gore and the environmental establishment was “global warming.” Their scenario, whether mistaken or not, was that human activities were producing extreme climatic warming that would cause very serious damage to human well-being. Tough government action could slow or even stop that warming.

 But the Earth’s climate has been changing on its own since the Earth has had an atmosphere, with extreme swings over periods of millennia and even millions of years. The notion of stopping the climate from changing at all is, frankly, ludicrous. There is not even rudimentary thinking about how to stop the climate in its tracks, even if it were considered desirable.

 Why does Tyson love the cold?

 Further, Tyson’s suggestion that having the ice caps—and presumably the climate—in their nineteenth century state would be optimal for human life and well-being is as arbitrary an assumption as one will find. Why? The early part of that century was part of the “Little Ice Age.” Many considered it too cold. And into the 1980s, the concern of many scientists was that another ice age could plague the planet.

If we want to freeze the climate—no pun intended—into some ideal state, why not aim for the warming period in the early Middle Ages, when wine grapes were grown in usually too-chilly England and Greenland was actually green enough to grow crops?

 Commanding the tides

 King Cnut of England, during that period, is said to have taken his courtiers to the shore and commanded the tide not to come in. It did come in, of course, allowing King Cnut to make his point that there are limits to the power of secular rulers in the face of nature.

 It might well be possible for humans to do seemingly superhuman things in the future, for example, giving the planet Mars a breathable atmosphere. But there are forces of nature that humans will likely never control. Tyson must know, as many scientists have pointed out, that solar activity has a major effect on the Earth’s climate. Perhaps some super-evolved creatures in the future will be able to engineer whole stars. But while such creatures might arise from us, they will not be human.

 And Tyson is not speaking about some distant science fiction future. He speaks of the “scientific consensus that we’re destabilizing our climate” and says “Our civilization seems to be in the grip of denial, a kind of paralysis. There’s a disconnect between what we know and what we do.”

 Meaning that we should all follow the Al Gore action plan of abandoning our fossil fuels, the basis of our civilization and prosperity, in the name of a hopeless effort to create a climate future that might not even be desirable.

 Tyson rightly tries to project a human future of limitless possibilities. But he could better advance that future by bringing critical thinking rather than fuzzy assumptions to the global warming/climate change issue.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information:

 *Edward Hudgins, “Cosmos Reboot and Sagan’s Legacy.” March 10, 2014.

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

*William R Thomas, “Why Ecology Requires Economics.” April 2005.

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Israeli Independence and Libertarian Blindness

May 6, 2014 — When Israel declared its independence 66 years ago, pursuant to a UN resolution, David Ben Gurion promised the new state “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, la Palestinians in Gaza fire rockets into Israel.nguage, education and culture.”

The next day five Arab countries attacked it with the goal of killing all the Jews or driving them into the sea. To the world’s amazement, the fledgling state won and has continued to build a modern, free society.

Today, some American libertarians and friends of freedom, who rightly criticize certain Israeli policies, seem blind to the full context of that country’s struggle and the fundamental principles of its founding.

Israel for individuals

Modern Israel started in the 1880s with Jews immigrating to Ottoman-ruled Palestine. Jews from Western Europe, many secular, came because, in spite of the Enlightenment revolution, they were still subject to ethnic hate. Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia came because they were subject to ghettoization and murderous pogroms.

They purchased land, worked hard, and made the desert bloom, sharing many modern agricultural techniques with local Arab peasants, most living in conditions unchanged for a millennium. They were building a modernist, democratic and open society in the Middle East.

When the war of independence came, the government announced that Arab villages that did not take up arms against the new state would be left alone, but the inhabitants of those that did side with the invaders would be sent into exile. The invading armies urged Arabs to flee so they wouldn’t be in the way of the planned destruction of the Jews.

Today, Arabs and Muslims are among the citizens of Israel and are regularly elected to the Knesset.

Orthodoxy and statism vs. securalism and freedom

As a state founded by Jews, Israel has faced its own problems squaring its modernist principles with its religious ones. Its greatest internal threat comes not from its Muslim or Arab citizens but, rather, from the ultra-orthodox Haredi. They live off government handouts and push their Taliban-like rules on more traditional and secular Jews.

The most contentious issue that concerns friends of freedom in America and other countries is the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Arab inhabitants find their ability to travel freely curtailed because of the way the boundaries of settlements are drawn. Arab farmers find it difficult to access resources. Other rights are curtailed as well.

And there is the deeper problem. Haredim and other elements in Israel contend that what they call “Judea and Samaria” should simply be part of modern Israel because it was part of the ancient kingdom of Israel. In this respect, Israel now looks less like a state upholding the ideals articulated by Ben Gurion and more like an imperial power intent on ruling, never mind about the rights of the Arabs who share that territory.

But after years of occupation Israel did pull all of its settlements out of Gaza. This did not result in the inhabitants diving into the enterprises of peace, such as educating their children and building their economy. Rather, they elected Hamas leaders, authoritarian thugs bent on the destruction of Israel, who regularly fire rockets into Israel and who kill any Palestinian advocating peace and coexistence with Israel.

So libertarians and friends of freedom must appreciate that while Israel engages in some policies that might be politically foolish and not in keeping with Enlightenment principles, there is no comparison between it and its current neighbors. We see Egypt and other Arab and Muslims countries still struggling to come to grips with a culture of modernity and principles of an open, tolerant society.

Today’s anti-Semitism

Today we see anti-Semitism on the rise throughout the world. In Europe we see it in part because of the influence of Muslim immigrants who are not instilled with or initiated into the Enlightenment values that created modern Europe. We see it on American campuses with “boycott Israel” movements. And as Russia moves into Ukraine, we see reports that Jews are being ordered to “register” and that Jews in Odessa are considering an emergency evacuation.

Israel appealed to the highest standards at its founding 66 years ago. It should be held to those principles. But friends of freedom must avoid a double standard and realize that the real challenge is for Israel’s neighbors to truly become part of the modern world. Israel, for all its faults, remains a free country.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information

*Edward Hudgins, “Egypt Revolts Against Islamists and Obama.” July 3, 2013.

*Edward Hudgins, “Israel Vs. Palestinian Moral Smuggling.” June 10, 2010.

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Pope Francis: Beware of Earth Day Thinking

April 22, 2014 – Pope Francis’s Easter message included a prayer to “Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.”

Whatever one’s theology or views on religion, one can certainly agree on the desirability of world without hunger or war. But since Easter precedes another religious festival by only a few days—Earth Day—we should warn the Pope about the assumptions often associated with the buzzwords “immense wastefulness,” assumptions that can perpetuate hunger and poverty.

Your empty bottlePope Francis in St. Peter's Square | Credit: Francesco Zizola

Let’s take a classic example of waste often offered by environmentalists: an empty bottle. Is it more wasteful to use fleets of trucks to collect used bottles and take them to huge industrial facilities that consume many megawatts of electricity to melt or crush those bottles, perhaps using many gallons of water to rinse them out first, and then have the resulting products shipped to other enterprises that might make use of them? Or is it more wasteful simply to bury bottles in a landfill with a tightly sealed liner that is then covered with soil, grass, and plants and used as a park or golf course?

In any given case, I don’t know, and neither do most environmentalists. This is because “waste” in such cases is best determined by calculating the monetary costs of different uses of resources. And this cannot be done by government bureaucrats or central planners. It is best done by entrepreneurs in free markets, who risk their own money and who rely on customers for revenues to cover their costs and to make profits. And it was free individuals owning private property, along with advances in technology that has allowed humans to produce enough food to feed billions of people when, in the past, it was a challenge to feed only millions.

Celebrate or waste?

Consider again that empty bottle or, more broadly, packaging. One of the great problems throughout human history has been spoilage of food between the time it is produced and the time it is consumed by all those folks who do not wish to be hungry. Because there is great profit in not wasting what one produces, modern packaging—bottles, cans, vacuum-sealed bags—should be celebrated for its role in alleviating hunger rather than damned as “wasteful.”

 Here some environmentalists might begin talking about the “intrinsic” value of the Earth or Gaia, out of all context.  But in separating value from the standard of all value—that which is best for human beings—such environmentalists become the enemies of humans.

Some do so out of an unfocused, fuzzy-minded affection for nature. Others do so out of a hardcore anti-human ideology.

Overcoming hunger

And the Pope might consider one manifestation of this ideology. Many environmentalists worship at the altar of “renewable energy” even though fossil fuels are by far less costly. And they’ve used their political pull to have governments force us to literally burn crops in our gas tanks rather than use them to feed the hungry. That’s one reason why the price of corn, the basis for many staple foods in Mexico and elsewhere, has been on the rise, making food less affordable for those who already have less.

If the Pope truly wishes to see hunger eliminated, he would do well to understand that the reason starvation continues in the world is lack of free markets. And he would do well to understand that contained in the Earth Day message of many environmentalists are notions that place an out-of-context commitment to conservation above the well being of real, flesh-and-blood individuals.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further information

*Edward Hudgins, “Francis I: Pope of the Poor.” March 23, 2014.

*Edward Hudgins, “Light Up the World for Humans!” March 27, 2009.

*Edward Hudgins, “Anti-Human Earth Day.” April 22, 2005.

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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 “President Obama: Raw deal from Forbes?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.
Objectivists stand for individual liberty. But more than that, we stand for objectivity.
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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