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Edward Snowden thinks he isn’t a hero. That’s sad.
Snowden released secrets about the U.S. government’s domestic spying to the public. He paid a high price for this deed, going from a six-figure job in Hawaii to unemployment and exile, not to mention walking away from the girlfriend who had followed him to Hawaii. And he did it because of his commitment to online freedom and privacy: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
If heroism is commitment to one’s chosen values, surely Snowden qualifies. If the key is that the values be great ones, keeping government in its place is as great as they come, and ensuring that people can keep secrets from the government qualifies too. If the key is great virtue, one would have to know the facts better than I do to be sure his action was rational, but that isn’t the cause of Snowden’s doubts. He plainly thinks he made the right decision.
Snowden denies his own heroism “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” That means: He denies that he’s a hero because he acted for the protection of values that were tremendously important to him.
He might as well say, I’m not a hero because I’m a hero. A person who paid a high price to prevent something of no importance to him would have wasted that price. Heroes pursue real values—values that have meaning in their lives. The great heroes of American freedom fought for their own freedom, not just other people’s.
Sadly, Snowden seems to have bought into the principle of altruism—that only what one does for others, and not what one does for oneself, has moral value. To be heroic, he seems to think, his action would have had to be self-sacrificial. He would have had to pay a high price for nothing that he wants. He would have had to have given up the job, the wealth, and the romance he had earned—and done it for no purpose of his own, not even to create the kind of world he wants to live in. That would not have been heroic, but pitiable and, quite simply, stupid.
True heroes fight for real values—and a real world—they really want. They should be proud of that.
Other thoughts on heroism:
Jun 12, 2013
June 12, 2013 – Republican Party self-destruction is on display in Virginia as the E.W. Jackson, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, is looking foolish for his assertion in a 2008 book that biological evolution is disproven because chimpanzees can’t talk:
“Scientists have made much of the fact that chimpanzees have been trained to use sign language. They take this as proof that primates are our ancestors because they, like us, have ‘language capacity.’ It is amazing the length to which people will go to prove what is so palpably false.”
Scientists don’t claim, as Jackson implies, that humans evolved from chimps, nor do they prove the laws of evolution based on chimps’ use of sign language.
Is Jackson purposely distorting the findings of over a century-and-a-half of scientific inquiry? Or is he just ignorant? Possibly a bit of both! But is this a media-manufactured “gotcha!” moment?
Jackson isn’t alone in his beliefs. A 2012 Gallup survey found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans pretty much in their present form within the past ten thousand years, while 5 percent believe humans evolved but with God guiding the process. So chances are most GOP candidates and officeholders buy into Creationism. If so, they’re mistaken.
But the real issue is whether these GOPers drag these and other religious beliefs into the political arena. Many don’t. They’re concerned foremost about high taxes, out-of-control government spending, skyrocketing debt, and the intrusion of government into our economic lives. Their religious beliefs are personal matters and they can stand with individuals of different denominations as well as secularists in the fight to restore liberty and to limit government.
Last year, for example, Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, dodged a question about Creationism. He didn’t want to offend his religious supporters but said the question “has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow” and he called for “a pro-science and pro-technology” party.
But others, the hard-core social conservatives, reveal different priorities and mindsets when they inject such issues into campaigns and policy discussions. This might mean mandating that their faith-based views about human origins be taught in schools as if they stand on equal footing with the hard-won truths garnered through the scientific process. But in any case, it makes conservatives look foolish. And it often means losing elections by scaring away voters both sectarian and secular.
In 2010, Delaware GOP senate candidate Christine O’Donnell wouldn’t distance herself from her assertion that evolution is a myth, asking, “Why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?” This was one of a string of stupid statements, including an admission that she dabbled in witchcraft. She lost.
Speaking of which, Jackson in Virginia has also claimed that yoga makes one susceptible to satanic possession. And of gay and lesbian pride he tweeted “Yuk!” So his evolution assertion seems one of a string of stupid statements.
The kook quotient in the GOP is too high and the result in the fall could be an election loss in Virginia.
For further information:
*Edward Hudgins, “Rubio, GOP Stumbling Away From Creationist Nonsense.” December 4, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Webinar: An Objectivist Guide to Evaluating Candidates.” February 27, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Tea Party Candidates and The ‘Crane Rule’.” September 28, 2010.
June 11, 2012 -- A soon-to-be-released study on future activities in space suggests that private Moon bases could be a reality as early as 2020.
Recently, NASA accepted a proposal by Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, to report on private-company plans for the final frontier. NASA was interested in learning more about private capabilities and plans for a Moon base, launch services, and other hardware developments. Bigelow submitted the first part of his report last week, well ahead of schedule. And the second and final part will come out over the summer.
Since humans first ventured off the planet half a century ago there has been no shortage of enthusiasts promoting every imaginable enterprise in orbit or on other worlds. But government regulations made many private projects nearly impossible. Further, NASA built hardware and performed operations that might have been contracted out to private companies; by contrast, in the early years of aviation the Post Office, rather than building its own planes, simply paid private pilots and companies to carry air mail.
But a loosening of regulations and a new NASA policy of contracting out for services have changed the space sector landscape. Now many too-costly endeavors could soon be fiscally—as well as technologically—feasible.
Bigelow himself is one of a new breed of entrepreneurs revolutionizing space-based enterprise. He has committed half a billion dollars of his personal fortune to developing innovative inflatable habitat modules that he wants to put into orbit at costs well below the equivalent modules for the International Space Station. And he wants them to be the habitats for a future Moon base as well. Bigelow already has launched two one-third size prototypes into orbit. And NASA has contracted with him to have one of his modules tested at the ISS (in 2015).
Bigelow hopes to have his modules placed into orbit by SpaceX, the cutting-edge space company headed by PayPal co-creator Elon Musk. Musk’s company already has launched three spacecraft that have berthed with the ISS and returned safely to Earth. In the future his rockets and spacecraft could carry humans to ISS, Bigelow’s orbiting private station, and even to the Moon. For his part, Musk says the long-term goal is Mars.
Of course, when NASA contracts for services, the taxpayers still foot the bill, though they pay less than if NASA were performing these operations itself. Still, what Bigelow and other out-of-this-world entrepreneurs want is a private market in space in which they can make profits. As private providers bring down the cost of space activities, private operations should supersede those undertaken by NASA. The Bigelow report reinforces a paradigm shift: space is a place, not a government program. And it is a place like the American West, one where private individuals are the best pioneers.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*Aaron Day, “Steve Davis, SpaceX, And The Power Of Human Achievement.” May 16, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “SpaceX’s Entrepreneurial Triumph!” May 25, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, editor, Space: The Free-Market Frontier. Cato Institute, 2002.
May 24, 2013
Apple Inc. is under attack by politicians for “avoiding” paying $44 billion in American corporate taxes.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) complained about tax “gimmicks” and Apple’s “unfair behavior,” saying “loopholes in our tax laws and regulations allow many companies … to shift enormous amounts of income from this country to other countries.” Making the whining bipartisan, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) complained that Apple “is one of the largest corporate tax avoiders.”
But in fact it's the politicians who deserve condemnation, not Apple.
First, as Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out in Congressional testimony, his company paid all the corporate taxes it legally owed—estimated to be around $6 billion. It broke no law.
Second, anyone with a proper sense of self-worth seeks to pay no more taxes than they legally owe. If that’s “tax avoidance,” everyone does it and should do it. What kind idiot would Cook be if he said to his shareholders “Gee guys, let’s fork over tens of billions more to the feds above and beyond what we’re required to do”?
Third, if Apple had shoveled more of its cash into the federal government’s insatiable maw, this would have meant some combination of higher prices for Apple consumers, less Apple investment in developing cool new products, lower prices for Apple stock (check your portfolio!), and less profits for the individuals who earned it. Note: none of those “earning it” are members of Congress.
Fourth, the huge, arcane, incomprehensible tax code is a political document. Every deduction is there because Congress put it into law, whether it’s for oil companies purchasing drilling equipment or Green consumers purchasing Chevy Volts. Yes, it’s a mess. But…
Fifth, the reason the tax code is a mess is that political power is the coin of the realm. Few companies can stay “above politics” and survive. They always must watch for competitors who try to use the tax code or regulations to screw them. So every interest group—every business—tries to influence Congress to get benefits or at least protections worked into the law—and the politicians oblige. The result is a tangled, corrupt, crony-capitalist mess.
Conclusion: Apple was not trying to screw anyone, just trying to use every legal means to keep from being looted.
Neither Apple nor any enterprise or individual needs to justify why they should keep their own money. The government must justify why it should take it away since the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect our lives, liberty and—yes!—property. Most government activities nowadays are by no rational standard authorized by the Constitution. Most tax money is spent by political elites who arrogantly presume to run our lives.
So let’s praise Apple both for being one of the world’s most productive companies and for keeping its tax bill low. And let’s condemn politicians who try to cripple the productive while demanding that the productive turn over more of the fruits of their productive efforts to politicians to be wasted.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*Video: “The IRS Scandal and Tea Party Protests.” May 23, 2013.
*Video: “IRS Denied Non-profit Status To Free State Project.” May 20, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “The IRS and the Cult of Arbitrary Power." May 14, 2013.
*Aaron Day, “Voting With Your Wallet Against the IRS.” May 14, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “Steve Jobs vs. the Anti-Capitalists.” October 5, 2011.
Yesterday, I wrote a blog concerning the frustrations that we all face with the IRS and other bureaucracies. Today, my friend Steve Davis from SpaceX (a brilliant engineer and Objectivist with a great cameo in Atlas Shrugged II) reminded me of the awesome capacity for human achievement. The following video speaks for itself. I thank both Steve Davis and Elon Musk for this incredible feat of human achievement.
May 14, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service has targeted “Tea Party,” conservative-leaning, and even Jewish non-profits for special harassment. There is even an indication that the IRS might have targeted reporters perceived as hostile to President Obama.
Why are we surprised? This is the essence of the philosophy and politics of statist elites that are at war with the essence of America.
War over liberty
Our Founders held two basic principles: First, the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals. Second, government is the greatest potential danger to liberty that exists, and it thus must be constrained by a constitution of limited and enumerated powers, checks and balances, federalism, and a Bill of Rights.
Today, the Founders' ideals are opposed by statist elites with a multi-headed monster of motivations. Some want to “do good” by spending other peoples’ money and by directing other peoples’ lives. Some are ignorant control freaks who think they’re smarter than everyone else and who get their kicks from wielding power. Others are driven by envy, an immoral urge to punish the successful and the prosperous for the “sin” of being successful and prosperous.
Unlimited arbitrary power
In the way of the statist elites stands the Constitution. Over time they’ve chipped away at its limits on power, pushing the envelope as far as possible at any given time. Now the scope of federal power is virtually unlimited. Health care, schools, cars, guns, toilets, diets, gardens—can you think of anything over which the feds don’t wield power?
The targets of Obama’s power are those he demonizes as the “rich.” Not his crony capitalist buddies to whom he gives bailouts and subsidies, but those who don’t volunteer to foot more of the bill for his profligate spending. And it gets personal.
For example, when Chrysler went bankrupt the administration developed a bailout scheme to protect its union allies. Under normal bankruptcy law, investors holding certain bonds would receive more compensation than the administration favored. Some of institutional investors wanted to protect the wealth of their clients—e.g. large pension funds—and refused to voluntarily give up their legal rights and acquiesce in Obama’s scheme. So White House operatives personally threatened certain non-compliant investors that the government would use its power to destroy them if they didn’t go along with the Obama bailout.
So why is anyone surprised that the IRS now has targeted perceived political opponents of the administration? Wielding arbitrary power is the philosophy and spirit of our times. This is just the logical next step.
Revolution of restraint
Those appalled by the IRS’s behavior should be appalled at the political regime that has been replacing that of the Founders. They should be appalled at the immoral arrogance of politicians who presume to be our rulers, even in the guise of benefactors.
The revolution to restore liberty must restore constitutional limits to government and spread the love of our own lives and personal autonomy to all of our hearts and minds.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism.” April 4, 2009.
*David Mayer, “Completing the American Revolution.” Spring 2009.
*William Thomas, “What Is The Objectivist View Of Law And Government (Politics)?”
“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” -Ayn Rand
- Tea Party
- Government debt
- Government spending
- Criticize how the country is being run
- Make America a better place to live
- Educating on the constitution and bill of rights
- Prior to July 2011: the IRS used keywords for screening.
- July, 2011 – January 2012: “organizations involved with political, lobbying, or advocacy.”
- After January 2012: it was changed again to “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, social economic reform/movement”
Young America’s Foundation, the parent organization of Young Americans for Freedom, has released a new survey of young Americans. Apparently they’re for freedom. A large majority don’t want the federal government taking “an active role” in their daily lives, and a smaller majority don’t want it taking “an active role” in the lives of Americans in general—aside, of course, from its “essential functions.”
The problem is, what are the “essential functions” of government? The Objectivist answer can be summarized in familiar words: “to secure these rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (I’ll explain more in a webinar Monday night.)
The YAF survey, however, has a broader idea of government’s essential functions. It lists as examples “a capable military, food inspection, air, rail and road safety.” I’ll grant a capable military, but food inspection? If the government must inspect food, then the government can decide what kinds of foods people can sell, buy and eat, and maybe even what labels they may and may not put on it. Then if you want to try a cutting-edge food (or an old-fashioned one most people have moved away from), or if you want to avoid a new technology you don’t trust, you may not be able to.
And how about air safety? It’s not clear that that means groping at the airports—but it’s also not clear it doesn’t mean that, and the federal government thinks it does.
That ambiguity is emblematic. Food inspection and air safety are only offered as examples, which are supposed to indicate the nature of an open-ended list of government functions. Who knows what other regulations might be included on that list. Don’t forget: Advocates of regulations generally consider their programs important. Without a principled view of the function of government, how can you say any law isn’t “essential”? You may want fewer regulations in total, which would mean moving in the direction of freedom, but will you be able to specify any regulations to eliminate? Yet you can't reduce total regulations without eliminating some specific ones.
The survey shows an interest in moving in the direction of freedom, and that's good news. But a survey that asks whether government should go beyond an open-ended list of “essential” government functions doesn't tell us enough. If you want to know what percentage of young Americans really want a free society, you’ll need a better survey than this—a survey based on a clear understanding of how a free society would be governed.
Want to improve your understanding? Attend my webinar!
May 10, 1013 — Several days ago Amanda Berry escaped from a house of horrors where she’d been held as a kidnapped sex slave since 2003, along with two other women and her daughter, who was born of one of the rapes she suffered. The details of this shocking crime disgust all decent people and the monster responsible should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
But a bit of that disgust should be saved for a tormentor of Amanda’s mother, Louwana Miller. I mean the self-styled “psychic” Silvia Browne.
The year after her daughter went missing, this desperate mom appeared on the Montel Williams TV show, where the psychic Browne told her, concerning Amanda, “She’s not alive, honey.” Louwana reluctantly accepted the psychic’s word. She gave up hope. Her health suffered and she died a year later, never knowing her daughter was alive.
Psychics, at best, are self-deluded, addled-brained individuals who, in their unfocused minds, believe they have special powers, but who don’t have the mental or moral power to question their own delusions. At worst, they’re vile exploiters who bilk money from the fears and suffering of the emotionally vulnerable.
Browne is a particularly disgusting example of such a creature. As a media hog she has been able to abuse far more victims than your average hole-in-the-wall tarot card or palm reader. In 2001 she was challenged on a TV show to take the James Randi Educational Foundation test, which offers a $1 million prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult powers. She agreed to do it but has dodged the challenge for a decade. Is this because she doesn’t need the money, having amassed a fortune from the gullible? No, it’s because she’s a fraud!
And if she were anything but a moral midget she would acknowledge that her life has been one of harming others, and she would spend the rest of it exposing and debunking others like herself. But she is unapologetic about her “Amanda’s dead” declaration, arguing “I have been more right than wrong.”
In a rational culture, psychics would be as rare at flat-Earth advocates. Sadly, psychics and their kind are still around; indeed, some of the more foolish police actually use psychics in hunts for missing persons.
You my readers here probably don’t need to be told not to visit psychics. But you might do a little consciousness-raising. Next time you’re in the company of others and walk past a psychic business or see a psychic ad on TV, remind them of Amanda’s mother and Silvia Browne. Remind them that lies kill hope and spread misery.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “Is Miss Cleo a Criminal? She’s Certainly a Fraud!” March 2002.
*Edward Hudgins, “Scientology, Seizures, and Science.” January 13, 2009.
*Edward Hudgins, “After The Apocalypse, Try Reason!” May 27, 2011.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library is ready to open and the former president is giving interviews doubling down on the mantra that guided his administration: compassionate conservatism.
So it is time to decisively and deeply bury the decayed remnant of the Bush years in an impenetrable political tomb with a stake through its heart.
Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater both wished to limit government and defend individual liberty. Unlike them, Dubya sought to use the federal government as a tool to create a better society in accordance with his vision.
Bush simply accepted that that the welfare state was here to stay, explaining recently that “entitlement was already in place” and “we were modernizing an antiquated system.”
He explained that “The best way … to understand what I meant by ‘compassionate conservative’ is to look at the programs we implemented and look at the results.” Okay, let's do that!
Bush increased the federal budget during his eight years by over 100 percent adjusting for inflation, more than any of his recent predecessors, including Lyndon Johnson. Bush also pushed up discretionary spending by nearly 100 percent as well. So blame him for setting the pace for Obama’s even-greater spending spree.
The Bush prescription drug mandate not only added to the national debt but also set the groundwork and momentum for Obamacare.
The Bush “No Child Left Behind” program to mandate federal education standards on local schools has been fraught with problems, such as “teaching to the test.” Education has not improved because of this costly and intrusive program; in fact, over the past three decades, as federal spending on education has grown, education results have stagnated.
Today Bush argues that he wants to “defend principles and help implement policy based upon those principles.” But “compassionate conservatism” has nothing to do with principles. It’s an arbitrary hash of subjective “feel-good” big-government policies that push America further down the road to Western-European-style welfare state collapse.
The Republican Party is engaged in a civil war concerning which ideas should guide it in the future. The statist policies of Bush and other establishment Republicans—John McCain, Mitt Romney—are to blame for tarnishing the GOP brand, resulting in recent election losses. If the Republicans want to return from the political dead, they’d better bury the Bush legacy for good.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar for The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “GOP Should Invite Social Conservative Extremists To Leave.” April 4, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama Offers More of the Same Failed Education Ideas.” February 15, 2013.
*Robert Bidinotto, “Up From Conservatism.” March, 2007.
April 8, 2013 -- A criticism of the late, great Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990, echoes the digs at her political friend and ally Ronald Reagan: that she was an uncaring, dogmatic political ideologue. In 1986, The Sunday Times wrote “The Queen reportedly … believes that Mrs. Thatcher's Conservative Party Government lacks compassion and should be more caring toward less privileged members of society.”
Open-ended and unfocused compassion should not guide public policy; rather, governments should guide policies by whether they protect an individual's rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
But let’s consider for a minute how Thatcher’s goals and policies stack up against more “compassionate” politicians, conservative or otherwise.
Thatcher understood that Britain’s economy in the late 1970s was stagnating because of socialist redistribution of wealth and heavy-handed regulations placed on enterprises. Unions , backed by government, could extort from employers unsustainably high wages and benefits and demand crippling work workplace rules. Thatcher privatized industries like air travel, telephone, gas, and electric. She cut the top tax rate on earned income from over 80 percent down to 40 percent. She tamed the unions. And government revenues actually went up as the economy grew, while the national debt as a percentage of GDP went down. In the 1980s Britain’s economy grew and strengthened.
Now look at the results of the more “caring,” dogmatic socialist policies in Greece. That country is bankrupt. The production of wealth has been so penalized by government that there is little wealth left to redistribute. People demonstrate in the streets about government austerity, but what’s the alternative? Do like the government of Cyprus and steal what money people still have deposited in banks?
Is it really “compassionate” to expropriate other peoples’ money, to penalize producers, to tell the recipients of state-stolen goods that they are entitled to such redistribution, and then blame the expropriated wealth creators for the misery that ensues?
Thatcher observed in a 1976 interview that “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money.” Thatcher’s goal was to restore individual liberty to the citizens of her country. It turns out that this is one of the most compassionate things one can do—if economic opportunity and prosperity are one’s goals.
So here’s to Margaret Thatcher, who helped return to her people some of the liberties they had lost, who stood against Soviet tyranny, and who made the world a better place in the process!
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “Brits Escalate Global War on Producers.” January 8, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism.” April 4, 2009.
What a sorry spectacle! People in the world’s most developed countries turn off their brains and thus are guilt-tripped by environmentalists into turning off their lights for Earth Hour on Saturday. They visit upon themselves the curse of darkness that the poor in less developed countries pray will be lifted with an abundant supply of inexpensive electricity.
It would be one thing if the purpose of sitting sans illumination for one hour was to remind us of how wonderful it is to have energy for every modern convenience, and to encourage us rededicate ourselves to unleashing even more of it.
It would be one thing if the purpose was to remind us that we can cut our electric bills by clicking the off switch on lamps in rooms we’re not using though since it is our money, we know that anyway.
But the purpose of Earth Hour is “a massive show of concern for the environment.” It does not simply raise consciousness about real issues like polluted water or air that might harm human beings. It most of all perpetuates the radical environmentalist idea that the earth itself is of value apart from and even above humans, that it must be accorded “respect” as if it were a person, and that we humans must sacrifice our well-being and comfort in order to protect it from harm. Earth Hour perpetuates a wider, anti-human agenda.
Consider some of the efforts of the environmental extremists who are dedicated to limiting our access to inexpensive energy. They’re the ones behind the ban on tapping into an ocean of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. That area is larger than ten of America’s states. The drilling rigs altogether would cover only the area of an international airport. And the only “wildlife” drilling would really disturb would be mosquitoes in the endless wastes of mud and muck in the summer.
They’re the ones who want to ban the Keystone pipeline that would bring oil from Canada because that oil is extracted from tar sands. What’s so bad about tar sands? Nothing, other than the fact that using them “disturbs” the environment,” like every other human activity.
Environmental extremists are the ones who want to ban “fracking,” a way of safely open up huge reserves of natural gas trapped deep below the surface. They and their Hollywood friends have created the fiction that fracking poisons the land, livestock, and people in the area. But no credible study, including those by the often-alarmist EPA, have found such a problem. For more info on this, check out the eye-opening movie FrackNation.
No fun in the dark
Those who want to fuzzy-mindedly feel good about themselves by turning off their lights on Saturday should reflect on what a boon it is to have electricity and what a burden it is to not have it.
Last summer the people in the Washington, D.C. area didn’t like one bit finding themselves in the position of their impoverished neighbors of other country. A storm knocked out the electricity, in some areas for a week. And D.C. in July without air conditioning, to say nothing of TV, internet, cell phones and anything needing plugs or chargers, underscores the meaning of primitive.
In fall 2012 Hurricane Sandy devastated houses, businesses, and lives in the northeast. Some 6 million people were without power in its wake. The misery was compounded for of hundreds of thousands who had to suffer without electricity in the following weeks.
Perhaps you’ve seen the now-iconic satellite photo of the East Asian area at night. We see lights forming a slight crescent-shape, the island of Japan, surrounded by the darkness of the sea. To the bottom left of the crescent we see another pattern of lights which looks like another island in the sea. Then a little further left we see a blaze of lights forming a huge Chinese mainland. But that seemingly isolated island is, in fact, South Korea. It is connected to the mainland via North Korea, which is virtually light-free; In North Korea, it’s Earth Hour every hour, a radical Gaea-worshipper’s paradise. (And there's no evil capitalism there, either!)|
For the love of humanity
Symbolism as well as substance matters. And the symbolism of Earth Hour is truly antithetical to human well-being. The “environment” is of value only relative to humans. We might value a forest because we can walk through it and enjoy its beauty or because we can harvest its trees to build our homes.
And what distinguishes we humans from lower animals is that we use our minds to utilize the material world for our own benefit, so we can survive in comfort and realize our own dreams. And unleashing energy is key to any worthwhile human achievement.
So don’t be suckered into turning off your lights for Earth Hour. Leave them all on as a sign of your support for a human-centered morality and as a celebration of human achievement.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
Robert James Bidinotto, “Death by Environmentalism.” March, 2004.
Edward Hudgins, “Energy & Environment: The Moral Battle of Our Day.” August 8, 2008.
William R Thomas, “Why Ecology Requires Economics.” April, 2005.
Francis I, the newly installed Pope, has called on Catholics to protect all humanity, “especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.”
If the Pope really wants to see a world in which all people can prosper, he needs to understand that the route to that goal is not government redistribution of wealth or even private charity. It is free markets.
Cry for Argentina
Consider his native country of Argentina. In the early twentieth century it was one of the top ten in GDP and per capita income, giving rise to the saying “Rich as an Argentine.” It had first-world infrastructure—rail transport, electricity—thanks mainly to British capital, and a world-class agricultural sector, with its beef especially prized. Argentina was really a European country that just happened to be in South America.
But things went south with a military dictatorship in the 1930s followed by the accession to power of the demagogue Juan Peron in 1945. He modeled the country’s economy after the “corporatism” pioneered by his recently-executed hero Benito Mussolini. Government had a heavy hand in managing the various sectors of the economy. When he was driven from power by another military coup, his country’s economy was in shambles. But in the following decades, the government never allowed true free markets to operate and the country went back and forth between unstable democracy and military juntas.
So as the then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, the now-new Pope was wrong to complain concerning his country that “the social-economic crisis and the resulting poverty has its causes in policies inspired by forms of neo-liberalism that considers earnings and market laws as absolute parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of persons and peoples.” In fact, the Heritage Foundation’s latest Index of Economic Freedom gave Argentina only a score of 46.7 out of 100, ranking it as the 160th freest economy. Argentines don’t enjoy economic liberty, “neo” or otherwise but, rather, suffer under statism.
If Pope Francis seeks economic salvation for the world, he might peruse The Other Path, the revolutionary 1987 book by Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto. That author documented how in his own country the poor were kept in their place by government regulations that restricted economic freedom in order to protect corrupt vested interests. For example, DeSoto and his researchers found that it would take a poor Peruvian 289 days to get permission from the government to set up a small business with two sewing machines. To secure a piece of abandoned land would take nearly seven years.
Because of heavy-handed regulations, the poor in Peru—and in most other less developed countries—simply operate in the “informal sector” or “black market.” Some 90 percent of the bus and public transportation in Lima was performed outside the law. Retail markets were mostly informal. So was housing construction.
But while the informal sector affords the poor an opportunity to literally survive, it does not allow them to fully flourish. This is because their property and contracts are not protected by the law. So if Pope Francis wants to see the wealth-creating capacities of individuals unleashed, he should speak up loud and clear for private property rights in free markets. He might also read DeSoto’s follow-up book The Mystery of Capital, published in 2000, which details the legal structures needed to protect property.
In his desire to help the poor, Pope Francis must face a moral challenge at the heart of his theology. Like his predecessors, this Pope is concerned about “materialism” and speaks of self-sacrifice as the highest virtue. But are not better material conditions just what he wants for the poor? But is it not “selfish” for the poor to desire such conditions and to seek them through their own honest efforts?
Religions have always been at best confused on these goals. Perhaps deists two centuries ago might have argued that the “pursuit of happiness” was instilled in us by God and should be our highest goal as individuals. But that’s hardly what the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church is proposing.
Pope Francis will have to wrestle with these theological conundrums. But if he’s serious about seeing a world in which all can prosper, he needs to understand that individuals acting in their own self-interest, dealing with their fellows based on mutual consent, is the way to such earthly salvation.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “Make Trade, Not War.”
*Edward Hudgins, “Why Africa Needs Economic Freedom.” February 16, 2008.
*Edward Hudgins, “Secular Spirituality." December 2006.
Mar 20, 2013
The world is thankfully rid of Hugo Chávez, the president and strongman demagogue of Venezuela. But it is not rid of the problems he exploited—and often created—nor of the morally shameless individuals who pimped for him in the United States.
After a failed military coup in 1992, Chávez came to power through election in 1999 intending to transform his country into a socialist regime. He wanted to be the next Fidel Castro.
His first weapon of choice was demagoguery. Venezuela had a democratic tradition, however imperfect. And democracies have been prone to demagogues since the first ones whipped up angry mobs in ancient Athens. The tyrants of North Korea, by contrast, are not demagogues since the people are thoroughly under the heel of the government.
Chávez fanned the flames of class hatred, appealing to envy, naming as villains the “rich” and the bourgeoisie who he proposed to loot in the name of the poor. Of course, Venezuela, like most Latin American regimes, does not have true free markets that allow individuals to prosper only by producing goods and services with which to trade with their fellows. Rather, most Latin American countries are to some degree “corporatist,” meaning that politically-connected individuals, businesses, labor unions, or government elites prosper by getting special favors from government. So Chávez offered himself as the thug at the top doling out the goodies.
Yet there was a difference between Chávez and other such strongmen. He worked to limit further what liberty people in his country did have. When he came to power his country had an Index of Economic Freedom score of 56.1 out of 100. By 2013 its score had plummeted to 36.1. It is now ranked 174th out of 177 countries in economic liberty, the next to the worst in the Western Hemisphere, just above Cuba.
And, predictably, the economy began to suffer as a result. His policies have led to shortages of electricity and water and thus a surplus of misery for the Venezuelan people. Price controls led to shortages of food and other goods. And despite having one of the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela's oil production has fallen by about a quarter since Chávez came to power.
Of course, many Venezuelans weren’t buying this. So Chávez reacted to the thousands who opposed him, who marched in the streets, and who went on strike with typical strongman tactics—with intimidation, demagoguery, and even bullets. He had the country’s largest independent television station shut down for opposing him and for failing to broadcast his political propaganda. He worked to eliminate the two-term limit so he could remain in office as long as he could rig himself into reelection.
In the end Chávez didn’t help the poor but he certainly helped himself. After his death it was revealed that Chávez had a fortune, certainly stolen or extorted from Venezuelans.
Chávez also needed external enemies as a focus of hatred. Following in Castro’s jackboot-steps his target was America. He welcomed America’s enemies to his country—most notably Iran’s Islamist leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—, praised terrorists, and formed alliances with such types against the United States. He made deals to purchase military equipment from the Russians.
And he was a paranoid nut. The late Christopher Hitchens visited Chávez, along with Chávez acolyte Sean Penn, and reported that Chávez:
essentially doubted the existence of al-Qaida, let alone reports of its attacks on the enemy to the north. "I don't know anything about Osama Bin Laden that doesn't come to me through the filter of the West and its propaganda." To this, Penn replied that surely Bin Laden had provided quite a number of his very own broadcasts and videos. I was again impressed by the way that Chávez rejected this proffered lucid-interval lifeline. All of this so-called evidence, too, was a mere product of imperialist television. After all, "there is film of the Americans landing on the moon," he scoffed. "Does that mean the moon shot really happened? In the film, the Yanqui flag is flying straight out. So, is there wind on the moon?" As Chávez beamed with triumph at this logic, an awkwardness descended on my comrades, and on the conversation.
Pimping for the dictator
As disgusting as Chávez ‘s legacy is, perhaps more disgusting is the support he has received from America’s homegrown America-haters. The aforementioned actor Sean Penn made himself a personal friend of Venezuela’s top thug. And professional America-hating filmmakers Michael Moore had only good things to say about Hugo. Of course, one might note that few take moral mutants like Moore and Penn seriously.
More loathsome is Joseph Kennedy Jr., the son of the late senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of JFK. Since 2006 he has been pimping for Chávez in TV commercials for the oil company Citgo. We see poor Americans complaining about the high costs of heating their homes and fears of freezing or going hungry. Kennedy then announces heating oil discounts for such folks “from our friends in Venezuela at Citgo.” And in the latest version of the commercial, broadcast the week before Chávez’s death, Kennedy thanks Chávez by name.
Citgo is owned by Venezuela’s government-owned oil company, PVSA. In the past it has operated to some extent above politics, with Americans holding many top executive positions. But because of opposition within PVSA to his communist policies, Chávez replaced the company’s leaders with his own cronies. PVSA's revenues as well as its leadership fueled Chávez and his authoritarian regime, and the company is collapsing due to his depredations.
After Chávez’s death, American flags at the Houston headquarters of Citgo flew at half mast.
It is good that Chávez is gone. But freedom-loving Venezuelans still have quite a fight ahead of them. And here in America we must recognize that the elements we saw in Chávez can also be seen in the current occupant of the White House. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a number of times on the Senate floor this Wednesday in Paul’s heroic 13-hour “Mr. Smith” style filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Among a series of thought-provoking questions on the role of government in a free society, praise of Sen. Paul’s excellent character as a statesman and for the first time in history giving a voice to the “twitterverse” in the US Senate, Sen. Cruz did something you see almost as rarely as an elected official actually fighting for the heart and soul of constitutional government: he brought Ayn Rand to Capitol Hill.
“One of my all time heroes, Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged described how the parasitical class would put into place arbitrary power. Standard-less rules precisely so the productive citizens in the private sector would have to come on bended knee to those in government seeking special dispensation, seeking special favors because that arbitrary and standard-less rule empowers the political class and disempowers the people. I couldn’t help but think about Ayn Rand’s observations.”
Referring to a hearing earlier that day, in which Eric Holder was grilled on whether or not it would be constitutional for the federal government to kill US citizens on US soil, Cruz found himself “thinking of those arbitrary standards Ayn Rand talked about. That if the only protection we the people have against the federal government choosing to take the life of a US citizen on US soil is our trust that they would refrain from doing what is inappropriate rather than the protections of the constitution then I would suggest that our liberty is fragile, indeed.”
Although Cruz may be correct that American liberty is fragile, it is the long awaited arrivals of leaders like him, Mike Lee, and others who stood with Rand Paul on Wednesday that give Americans a powerful sense of hope for the future. And in that future, our liberties are not fragile. They are not weak, nor fleeting. They are robust and long-lasting and will finally reopen the way for the heroic individualism that made America everything it is today, and everything it has the potential of being tomorrow.
On March 1st, $85 billion in sequester federal budget cuts are scheduled to "kick in" and President Obama is trying as hard as ever to paint the most catastrophic picture possible of the consequences, never mind the fact that Obama proposed this sequestration in 2011.
Obama claims “border patrol agencies will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed, federal prosecutors will have to close cases and lest suspects go … [there will be] more delays at airports across the country, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care.”
But is any part of that even true?
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doubts Obama will let this happen, pointing out that “the president won’t cut funds to first responders when just last year Washington handed out an estimated $115 billion in payments to individuals who weren’t even eligible to receive them, or at a time when eleven different government agencies are funding 90 different green energy programs.” With these being just of few of many examples of incredible waste, it's hard to argue that there isn't money available to fund critical government services.
But it gets worse! Not only is there money that could be spent more efficiently, but thanks to built-in increases in both discretionary and nondiscretionary spending, even with the planned sequestration, the national debt will still grow by between $7 trillion and $9 trillion in the next decade—and that's under the rosy assumption that our benevolent rulers don't create even more spending mammoths like Obamacare, Medicare Part D, or another full-blown war.
You might be asking, "How can the debt get that much bigger? I thought spending was being cut?" If so, you're probably better at math than D.C.'s big spenders. The $85 billion in “cuts” isn't actually a cut at all. It's a slowdown in projected spending.
Only in Washington, D.C. could the idea of slowing the rate of spending growth by an amount that would fund our current government for only one week be decried as a harbinger of criminals being set loose on the streets, planes falling out of the sky, education falling apart, and the sick being left untreated—many of which occur right now thanks to the failures of government.
Early this week NBC created a stir after reporting they had obtained a 16-page memo leaked from the U.S. Department of Justice that revealed new details on President Obama’s controversial “kill list.” Although still leaving many unanswered questions about the Obama administration’s policy on extrajudicial killings of American citizens, it does move this secretive practice further into light.
In response to the media’s coverage of the leak, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continues to champion the bi-partisan consensus that the American people must be willing to give up their freedom if they want to be safe. But safe from what? From terrorists? If just the idea that one politician has the “legal” authority to deny you a fair trial, as the constitution demands, and imprison you indefinitely or even have you killed doesn’t terrify someone, they have a funny sense of what it means to live without terror.
But Graham doesn’t stop at simply supporting the president’s ability to target and kill Americans. Graham is actually upset enough by the backlash to Obama’s kill-list that he is urging all of his fellow congressmen to “get on board” and come to the president's defense saying “It’s not fair to the president to [...] leave him out there alone quite frankly. He’s getting hit from libertarians and the left.”
If Obama continues to usurp unconstitutional powers, acting not as a president but as a king, then it is Obama who is choosing to be left “out there alone.” After all, no mere citizen exists on the same level as a monarch—neither does any law.
Graham attempted to draw support for Obama from the “middle of America” saying he thinks they understand “why you would want a drone program to go after a person like Anwar al-Awlaki.” Yes, most Americans would likely agree there should be a way to deal with legitimate enemies of this country. But hopefully, just as many also want to know that their government operates within its own laws, just as average citizens are expected to do. Giving one man the power to circumvent the law of the land and “determine who an enemy combatant is and what kind of force to use” is the exact opposite of what it means to abide by legal restraints.
Unfortunately for Sen. Graham, this issue doesn’t seem to be losing steam in the media as many Americans are not ready to leave Obama alone on this, and continue to seek more information on Obama’s kill-program—it’s about time.
Just a few years ago, if someone would have told me that a member of Ron Paul’s family would have been invited to speak to an audience of over 200 at The Heritage Foundation on “Restoring the Founders’ vision of foreign policy,” I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have believed it. But at 11 AM this morning, that is exactly what Rand Paul did.
Since being elected to the US Senate from Kentucky in 2010’s Tea Party takeover of the GOP, Sen. Paul has lead the charge for a return of common sense in American foreign policy. Whether suggesting that sending F-16’s, tanks, and other sophisticated weaponry to nations like Egypt who may use them against America or our allies isn’t a very good way to spend money we don’t even have, or that our military “could be somewhere, some of the time and do so while respecting our Constitution and the legal powers of Congress and the Presidency,” Paul is nothing if not reasonable.
In his speech today, Paul condemned neo-conservative tendencies to get involved in foreign military entanglements that have nothing to do with American interests and sacrifice American resources, while also erroneously wrapping themselves in the “mantle” of Ronald Reagan. However, Paul was equally successful in maintaining a strong anti-isolationist and Reaganesque position arguing for a return to the humble foreign policy encouraged by the Founders—a platform that George W. Bush was elected on in 2000.
-Sen. Rand Paul
Continuing his walk across the foreign policy tightrope he’s raised between two extremes, Paul stated that “foreign policy is uniquely an arena where we should base decisions on the landscape of the world as it is . . . not as we wish it to be. I see the world as it is. I am a realist, not a neoconservative, nor an isolationist.”
Paul went on to draw comparisons between today’s threat of radical Islam and the Cold War Era’s threat of an expanding support of communism and proposed the former be understood as the latter was saying “radical Islam, like communism is an ideology with far reach and will require a firm and patient opposition.”
“Reagan’s foreign policy was much closer to what I am advocating than what we have today,” he said. “The former Chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene noted that Reagan’s policy was much less interventionist than the presidents of both parties who came right before him and after him.”
If Sen. Paul does make a presidential bid in 2016, you had better believe the GOP will resume its quest to find a candidate who can fill Ronald Reagan’s shoe—it’s beginning to look like Rand Paul might be a good place for them to both begin and end their search.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that the U.S. military will make its default policy one of equality for women. No general class of jobs, including combat-related positions, will be off-limits to female soldiers once a transition phase is completed. (Apparently, some case-by-case exclusions may continue.)
It's about time!
People are individuals most of all, and it is rare for any skill-based job to be one that only people of one sex can perform. It's a principle of rational individualism to judge people by their abilities and actions, not by their race, sex, hair color, or any other less essential characteristic. It is right, just, and is the most effective policy to employ those most qualified on objective grounds.
But now, a new challenge may arise. In many fields, the opening of opportunity to excluded groups, including women, has quickly lead to collectivist benchmarking. The military currently insists that each solider be objectively qualified for the work he or she does. But how soon will it become imperative to include more women, no matter how standards must be twisted? How soon will people just ask why the percentage of women is not such-and-such, rather than asking whether an objective process of assessment has been applied to all soldiers in all positions.
Still, for now, let's congratulate the Joint Chiefs of Staff for taking this long-needed step forward.
I am a critic of subsidies for green technologies. I don't think it is at all certain how efficient technologies like solar and wind power will ever become. I certainly disagree with President Obama's view that we must all be forced to subsidize his favored environmentalist projects.
The Individualist's Guide to Progressive Change by Will Thomas
Progressives: Are they for Progress? Webinar by Will Thomas
Jan 21, 2013
President Barack Obama’s inauguration for his second term was held on Martin Luther King’s birthday with Obama’s hand on King’s and President Lincoln’s Bibles. The event was tinged with grim irony.
Four years ago most Americans, no matter their party, could celebrate the election of a black American to the presidency. Obama's election showed that one’s race need not be a barrier to the highest aspirations. Yet today we witnessed the celebration of enslavement by those being enslaved.
Nature of liberation
To understand this sad spectacle let’s start with race. Dr. King rightly fought against laws that overtly discriminated against blacks. And he was fond of quoting the Declaration of Independence’s understanding that “all Men are created equal” and its vision that each individual is endowed “with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Let’s fill in here the unique vision of America, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
King also famously declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In a free society that moral code would mean that we each strive for our own happiness and pursue our own dreams through our own individual efforts; that we each take responsibility for our own lives and actions; and that we accord our fellows equal rights to live their own lives, dealing with them based on mutual consent, and judging them based on who they are.
Since King’s times, most black leaders and white liberals have insisted that blacks be judged first and foremost as members of their racial group rather than by the extent to which they take charge of their own lives and take pride in their achievements as individuals. Worse, these leaders have encouraged blacks to think of themselves as helpless victims, as children entitled to special state-provided handouts and privileges.
The morality of irresponsibility created the pathologies of broken families, crime, and chronic poverty. This benefits only the race hustlers—touted by the liberal media—who require a dependent class to exploit, hustlers such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Obama’s preacher Reverend Wright, and Rep. Maxine Waters.
Obama could have broken this pathology. In his second inaugural address he spoke of “Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.” But these were empty, cynical words.
Rather than using the bully pulpit of his office to celebrate individual achievers, the theme of his administration has been to demonize them, as he did again in his inaugural address by declaring that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” It’s tax time!
Obama has pushed the entitlement mindset as well as actual handouts into overdrive, for example, with more individuals on food stamps than ever. Blacks are more entrapped in the plantation of a soul-killing moral code than ever before.
Obama is in one true sense a president who has transcended race. He is foisting on all Americans, regardless of race, the morality of entitlement as well as the entitlements themselves that have created the pathologies that make so miserable the lives of many blacks. Obamacare is but the most notable example.
In his inaugural address Obama quoted the Declaration on the rights of individuals to our own lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But he then distorted the meaning of those words by stating, for example, that “Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” Not individuals caring for their own families and friends but the “nation”--that is, the collective as manifest in paternalist political elites.
Obama then turned truly Orwellian. He stated that “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” And that action was not based on voluntary cooperation but, rather, on government action and mandates.
We heard nothing in Obama’s speech about the record deficits that he has racked up with his profligate spending. We heard nothing of the continued economic stagnation and high unemployment, especially in the black community. We simply heard a celebration of the welfare state and a promise of something even worse. Obama proposed to make the fight against global warming a priority, a war on energy production that strikes at the heart of our industrial economy and that will depress living standards for all Americans.
Perhaps the most depressing part of the inauguration was the throngs of those Americans who are being slowly enslaved to the state by Obama’s policies and collectivist views cheering their enslaver.
But freedom cannot be snuffed out so easily. There are still enough Americans who understand where Obama is taking the country and who are acting to stop it. But they must not attack only the policies of Obama and his ilk as economically irresponsible. This is a battle of philosophies. They must counter Obama’s collectivism with a true individualism based on the morality of holding one’s own life as one’s highest value and accepting nothing less than the freedom to pursue one’s own happiness—the vision of America’s Founders.
Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Walter Donway, “Nationalizing the Financial Industry.” July 25, 2012.
*Alexander Cohen, “The Radical but Conservative Declaration of Independence.” January 31, 2011.
*Edward Hudgins, “Thoughts on Racial Thinking.” January 17, 2009.
*Edward Hudgins, “Will America Unite Under One Obama?” December 29, 2008.
*Edward Hudgins, “Color and Character.” January 17, 2003.
In his second inaugural address, President Obama said, “What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and [sic] among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
So far, so good: these words of President Obama’s, which remind us of the words on which our country was founded, are good words. But the purpose of words is to convey meaning, and the purpose of the words he quoted is to affirm meaningful principles. If we want to be faithful to the words of the Declaration, we must honor their meaning—and to do that, we must remember their meaning.
But other words in the president’s address suggest he does not understand what the Declaration of Independence really means.
The Declaration of Independence stands for the right of individuals to live their own lives and pursue their own happiness. To government, it assigns a specific role: “to secure these rights.” And it calls for unity only for a single purpose: to make sure we have a government that will secure everyone’s individual rights. For that is the only “this” we are all in together: if the government has contempt for anyone’s rights, we cannot be confident that it will respect ours.
But President Obama called on us to come together as a nation for a broader range of purposes, such as technological innovation, road-building, elder care, and science education, in which he wants to enlist the nation.
Some, perhaps all, of those are good values to pursue. (Far be it from me to speak ill of technological advancement!) But when a president chooses the projects of a nation, he supersedes and suppresses the projects of the individual citizens of that nation. Then instead of identifying and pursuing their own ambitions, young people are driven to the careers in which the president wants them to serve; instead of pursuing their own happiness, they become servants of an alleged “greater good.”
Under this view of government, throughout our lives, we are all asked—or forced—to subordinate the pursuit of our own goals to a national agenda and a “greater good” chosen by some combination of public and elite decision-making no one of us can control. But there is no greater good than the good of individuals, the good that is sacrificed by all such national planning.
The president said a society built to his specifications would ensure that every American’s “effort and determination” would be rewarded—and this would give “real meaning to our creed.” But the Declaration already has a real meaning, and it is not that we must unify behind the president’s goals and be rewarded for contributing to them. It is that we have the right to live our own lives, make our own judgments, and pursue our own happiness—and that the president’s job is not to impose his goals, but to make sure each of us is free to pursue ours.
For further reading:
- The Radical But Conservative Declaration of Independence, by Alexander R. Cohen
- The Declaration and a Revolution Today, by Edward L. Hudgins
- Yes, Mr. President, Ayn Rand Is for Teens—and Everyone Else, by Alexander R. Cohen
- Completing the American Revolution, by David N. Mayer
Obama also declared that he would bypass Congress by signing 23 executive orders to strengthen existing gun regulations and ease the transfer of information between government agencies.
This announcement will undoubtedly only stoke the emotional fires of the national gun debate. While arguments over gun control laws continue, opponents of increased restriction will attempt to persuade anti-gun zealots to trade in their emotional armor in favor of logical, intellectual weapons loaded with piercing facts. If this were an easy task, defenders of free markets would have a much easier job. But it’s not.
For example, commentators like MSNBC’s Ed Schultz are continuing attempts to convince audiences to give up their most basic freedoms for false promises of security. It is no secret that, in the last year, America has been host to a number of violent tragedies involving firearms. And it is understandable that in the wake of such horrendous events, Americans are deeply saddened and not only want to know why these things happen, but also what can be done to keep them from happening again.
The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to explicitly restrain the federal government from infringing on specific rights considered to be most sacrosanct. It was not created to define the proper use or regulation of any select or limited list of physical goods, but to protect principles or rights key to man's existence, success, and freedom. In the case of the Second Amendment, our right to defend our lives and our property is enshrined.
Stating that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” cannot be construed to mean “citizens may bear arms unless those guns become too effective at achieving the purposes for which they are created, in which case the only arms allowed are those listed in article ‘never written’, section ‘make it up as you go along’.”
As Ayn Rand said, "the right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. [...] It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”
If property is essential to man’s survival, then so is the ability to protect and preserve that property—our lives, our homes, and all other possessions. In order to do so, we must have the freedom to equip ourselves with the appropriate tools for the job.
Anyone who has been alive long enough to be aware of the happenings beyond their front door, knows that there are bad people who do bad things. Homes are broken into, cars are stolen, people are murdered, and often times the perpetrators are armed, even in areas with strict gun control. What’s worse is that typically it is the areas with the most restrictions on guns and the greatest government presence that actually have the highest crime rates. Defenders of government should not take this point lightly: across the country, it is the cities that have the worst violence that also have the most laws against gun ownership, the most government surveillance, and the strongest concentration of law enforcement officers. Protecting citizens from force is the entire point of government. If restrictions on private gun ownership and a state-monopoly on arms cannot protect the innocent adequately, citizens must be allowed to do so themselves rather than hoping that dialing 911 will resolve a crisis in which every second counts. That is the reality supporters of gun control seek to evade.
The same voices crying out to have all guns seized and banned, or even the “more reasonable” individuals who only want semi-auto—most guns are semi-auto now—and up banned, are also usually the ones who insist the idea of rounding up the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants and deporting them is completely unrealistic even if it was the right thing to do. They’re right--it is unrealistic. So why then do they consider rounding up over 200 million or more guns, which are much easier to hide than people are, to be a viable option?
Attempting to bring about a peaceful society by implementing laws which lack a basis in objective reality and deny basic human rights can only lead to ruin. Former congressman, Ron Paul, once said that “utopian wishes are dreams destined to become nightmares.” Let us hope that America will finally learn from such wisdom. If not, things will get much worse before they ever get better.
Aaron Rainwater is a Special Projects and Operations Executive at The Atlas Sociey
Video: Restoring the Constitutional Presidency
Has the U.S. Presidency effectively become an "absolute monarch" in the modern era as the Presidential powers have expanded far beyond the scope envisioned by the Constitution's framers? Law professor David N. Mayer presents a searing indictment in this 2-part video presentation. Includes information on how executive orders have been used in the past to violate the U.S. Constitution. Mayer is the author of The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson and Liberty of Contract