Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ayn Rand, Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise
The show is called "Corporatocracy" and is described as:
Satire and negative sentiments prevail in an exhibit exploring "the impact of large corporations"Strawmen and stereotypes and bromides, oh my!
And that's all the coverage of this event that I have the stomach to give.
They . . . said they would mobilize corporations who have contributed millions of dollars to put on the convention . . . to raise money for relief efforts.This, I submit, is a kind of power and influence over private industry that crosses the line from 'mere' corporate welfare. There is no way I can take claims of Republican support for free markets seriously any longer.
I suspect that Gustav has given the Republicans the perfect opportunity to pull out all the stops in an attempt to out-do the Democrats at putting on a three-ring circus of altruism over the next few days.
Thus demonstrating why it is crucial to recognize the moral foundation of Capitalism and to frame the debate about Capitalism in moral terms.
(By the way, the title of this post comes from a comment by Burgess Laughlin to Ed Cline's latest post at Rule of Reason:
I think of the difference between McCain and Obama as the difference between "NATIONAL socialism" and "national SOCIALISM.")
Those who give in to unearned guilt by giving God the credit for the results of using their own judgement to achieve success in this life, thereby earn guilt by slandering themselves.I would add that giving someone else the credit for the results of your effort is anti-justice.
Hmmm . . . justice and selfishness . . . I'll be thinking about this further . . . Could it be said that selfishness - rational selfisness, that is - is a form of justice?
Faith itself is enemy of freedom
The Oklahoman published five letters in Your Views on Aug. 22 criticizing Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) of the Coalition for Secular Government, for arguing that a free society can't be founded upon religious dogma, Judeo-Christian or otherwise. None of these writers objecting to Hsieh's position were able to articulate how mysticism leads to individual freedom beyond their merely asserting it. After all, there were 1,776 years between Christ's birth and the establishment of America as the world's first individual rights republic.
If the Holy Bible is full of ideas that lead to individual freedom, why the long disconnect? Why did other religious thinkers give us the Dark Ages, the divine right of kings and the Inquisition, while the supposedly equally religious American founders gave us the First Amendment? The reality is that faith itself is the enemy of freedom. It takes reason to look at humankind and see beings who require liberty in order to prosper.
We owe the liberty we enjoy today to the champions of reason; we owe our freedom more to a man like Galileo turning his telescope toward the heavens and accurately reporting what he saw (in bold defiance of the faith-based tyrants of his day) than to any religious prophet or savior.
Nicholas Provenzo, Washington, D.C.
Provenzo is chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.
Friday, August 29, 2008
In my Aug. 14th post, "Two Governors", I wrote,
On June 25th, Governor Jindal signed Senate Bill 733 into law. He issued no public statement.Apparently this is incorrect. According to the article, Jindal did issue a brief statement:
Despite all the controversy surrounding this issue, Jindal barely publicized his signing of the new law. The press was not invited to witness the signing, and Jindal issued only a brief statement, in which he promised to "consistently support the ability of school boards and BESE [the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education] to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."
Perhaps Jindal’s hush-hush behavior results from his indifference to the many educational, science and legal organizations that pleaded for a veto of the measure. Even Jindal’s former college professor released a statement through the Louisiana Coalition for Science.
“Gov. Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor,” said Prof. Arthur Landy of Brown University, “and I hope he doesn’t do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana’s doctors.”
Nine of the nation’s most prestigious scientific societies sent letters to the governor asking him to veto the bill.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Adherents to the "prosperity gospel" confuse the issue by claiming that their success on earth was achieved by God, not them, regardless of the actual circumstances and the amount of actual effort they made, themselves. They evade the guilt inculcated by altruism by claiming, in effect, "But it's God's will! My own judgement had nothing to do with it!"
The person who has abandoned his own independent judgement has abandoned rationality, which is the human means of survival. Such a person has defaulted on the basic responsibility of being human: the responsibility to think.
Those who give in to unearned guilt by giving God the credit for the results of using their own judgement to achieve success in this life, thereby earn guilt by slandering themselves.
http://newsok.com/letters-to-the-editor-wednesday-august-27-2008/article/3289117And only 2 days after I sent it in!
On Aug. 22, several contributors to Your Views responded to Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) of the Coalition for Secular Government. They disagreed with her assertion that the United States wasn't founded on Christian principles. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren't Christian principles and have nothing to do with Christian morality. To me, life, liberty and especially the pursuit of happiness are complete opposites of the worship of the suffering of another. How, then, could the U.S. be said to be founded on Christianity?
I see nothing in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution about worshipping the suffering of another.
Rob Abiera, Oklahoma City
Here's the letter as I originally emailed it on Monday:
In the August 22nd Your Views column, several letter-writers responded to the August 14th letter by Diana Hsieh, of the Coalition for Secular Government, to disagree with her assertion that the United States was not founded on Christian principles.While I had thought my letter was short enough as it was, The Oklahoman trimmed it even further. Perhaps this was due to the length of the other letters they printed today. Interesting that they chose to excise the line, "I am not surprised that so many Christians are unwilling to face the truth about their own morality, which makes this life on this earth impossible."
I am not surprised that so many Christians are unwilling to face the truth about their own morality, which makes this life on this earth impossible. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not Christian principles and have nothing to do with Christian morality. To me, Life, Liberty and especially the Pursuit of Happiness are complete opposites of the worship of the suffering of others. How, then, could the United States of America be said to be founded on Christianity? I see nothing in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution about worshipping the suffering of others.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Ms. Hall wrote, in part (starting with an excerpt from "The Ethics of Emergencies"):
One of the commenters to this post, Grant Williams, wrote:The psychological results of altruism may be observed in the fact that a great many people approach the subject of ethics by asking such questions as: "Should one risk one's life to help a man who is: a) drowning, b) trapped in a fire, c) stepping in front of a speeding truck, d) hanging by his fingernails over an abyss?"Her point was that altruism doesn't tell you how to live, but only under what conditions you're supposed to sacrifice your life. Rand explained this approach to ethics as follows:If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance): ...Altruism is the dominant morality in our culture, meaning there are a lot of people for whom morality is irrelevant, most of the time. Yet no-one wants to think of himself as amoral. So when can an altruist take morality seriously? In a hypothetical life-or-death situation. The ferry dilemma in The Dark Knight provides a perfect outlet for seeming to take seriously the morality of altruism--in a fantasy world where it doesn't matter if you practice what you preach.
[A] lethargic indifference to ethics, a hopelessly cynical amorality--since his questions involve situations which he is not likely ever to encounter, which bear no relation to the actual problems of his own life and thus leave him to live without any moral principles whatever.
"This post clarified fully for me why so many Americans choose to fixate on every random, minor, more or less inconsequential injustice that occurs in the world."This had the effect of concretizing for me how some people are able to accept altruism. Since they cannot consistently apply altruism to their own lives - due to the fact that it is impossible to practice in reality - they grasp at anything which alleviates the sense of guilt which results.
Moral fantasies about helpless people suffering in need somewhere, out there, far enough away that they do not have to see altruism's flaws - or as Ms. Hall put it, "where it doesn't matter if you practice what you preach" - give them a cover for their evasion.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
What does it do to a society when the concern for others becomes enshrined - and enforced - as the highest ideal?
A person who is taught to live for others learns that his life is supposed to be lived for him by others. What does this do to his sense of responsibility? How does a person who is not allowed to live his own life even develop one?
When a person fails to develop a sense of responsibility, does this not fit the definition of a sociopath?
This explains to me how, for instance, the Dark Ages became dark, including such things as entire towns being swept by mass hysteria.
I find this passage interesting also:
"Land said he is encouraging evangelicals to vote based on their moral convictions and not necessarily their thoughts about the economy. "They need to make certain they are informed and know where their candidates stand on the issues,” he said. "Your convictions and values should override your narrow economic standards.”"Coming from someone like Land, this sounds to me like code for: "Forget your quaint notions about limited government, we need more faith-based bureaucracy!"
The article also quotes someone calling Land the "consummate culture warrior.” I hope Sally Kern doesn't get too jealous.
I wonder if The Oklahoman religion editor Carla Hinton will be doing a follow-up on this.
Friday, August 22, 2008
But between those five letters and the Parker op-ed, it does make me wonder just what's going on with the editorial staff over there on North Broadway.
My local paper, The Oklahoman, printed an op-ed by the Washington Post's Kathleen Parker today.
Excerpts:Hopefully this syndicated column will be showing up in other papers across the country.
"At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister — no matter how beloved — is supremely wrong.
It is also un-American."
"The winner, of course, was Warren, who has managed to position himself as political arbiter in a nation founded on the separation of church and state.
The loser was America."
"This is about higher principles that are compromised every time we pretend we're not applying a religious test when we're really applying a religious test."
"The past few decades of public confession and Oprah-style therapy have prepared us perfectly for a televangelist probing politicians about their moral failings. The Warren Q&A wasn't an inquisition exactly, but viewers would be justified in squirming."
"For the moment, let's set aside our curiosity about what Jesus might do in a given circumstance and wonder what our founding fathers would have done at Saddleback Church. What would have happened to Thomas Jefferson if he had responded as he wrote in 1781:
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Would the crowd at Saddleback have applauded and nodded through that one? Doubtful.
By today's new standard of pulpits in the public square, Jefferson — the great advocate for religious freedom in America — would have lost."
While this and the new Pew survey are causes for optimism, I remain cautious due to the fact that we still have people like Sally Kern to contend with, among other things.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Kant's agenda was to limit knowledge to make room for belief. Pragmatism is Kant on steroids: it reduces conceptual knowledge to zero, and gives religion all the room in the world. Pragmatism is the ultimate handmaiden of theocracy. And today, unfortunately, it is this combination of Pragmatism and theocracy that has become America's de-facto national political ideology.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
This indicates to me that the religionists' strategy to compromise the teaching of evolution is part of a much broader strategy aimed at getting religious strictures enforced throughout the entire field of education.
Obviously the long-term solution would be to place education on a completely free and open market with absolutely no governmental involvement whatsoever. The question is: how do we get there?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
"The men's comments came at a two-hour forum on faith hosted by the minister Rick Warren at his megachurch in Orange County, Calif."OH!
"Obama said America's greatest moral failure is its insufficient help to the disadvantaged."
"McCain said the nation's greatest moral shortcoming is its failure to "devote ourselves to causes greater than our self-interests.""
(Hat tip: Ari Armstrong)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Yet Jindal, who might legitimately have been expected to veto the bill - given his background - signed it into law instead, thus creating an opening for creationists to undermine the teaching of evolution in Louisiana's public schools.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Check this out:
Social Security is now out of control and is one of the main factors in the currently ballooning federal budget. Democrats cannot be held solely responsible for this. The Republican Party leadership has abandoned their commitment to limited government and plunged headlong into corporate welfare and faith-based bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, this is a trend that seems likely to continue regardless of which party's candidate attains the presidency this year. Reversing this trend cannot be a political project alone: it requires reversing Americans' acceptance of the moral premises underlying Social Security and a return to the pride and independence which would motivate them to provide for their own future and retirement.
This is a moral crusade, not just a political one.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Kern seeking to destroy protective wall
Regarding "Kern vows to fight for morals in government; The legislator's anti-gay remarks drew ire earlier this year” (news story, Aug. 6): State Rep. Sally Kern describes herself as a "cultural warrior for Judeo-Christian values.” Such claims should raise alarm bells for patriotic Americans. A free society can't be founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The Bible doesn't uphold capitalism, nor support our individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It demands only that we suffer and sacrifice in obedience to God's will.
Individual rights are based on the objective requirements of human life in society. A person must be free to act on his own rational, independent judgment — without forcible interference from others — to survive and flourish. The only proper purpose of government is the protection of individual rights. For a government to do anything else — including promote religion — is tyranny. That's why a free society must, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, build "a wall of separation” between church and state.
Kern and her fellow culture warriors seek to destroy that protective wall, thereby paving the way for a repressive theocracy. In the name of freedom, they must be opposed at every step.
Diana runs the blog NoodleFood and is the founder of the Coalition for Secular Government. She wrote the letter in response - at least in part - to my posting to the OActivists List about 3 articles in the August 6th Oklahoman.
I think she did a fantastic job!
AND it proves to me that her OActivists List is an effective tool for networking with other Objectivists.
In fact, these laws would undermine the ability of teachers to maintain discipline and focus in their classrooms and open up local school systems to lawsuits which they may not be able to afford.
In Oklahoma, state legislator Sally Kern - who received national attention by declaring that homosexuality was worse than terrorism - managed to get her "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act", HB2633, passed and onto the desk of Governor Brad Henry.
Here is part of what Tulsa World editorial writer, David Averill, had to say about the bill:
House Bill 2633 mandates that school districts "shall treat the voluntary expression by a student of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats the voluntary expression by a student of a secular or other viewpoint ... and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject."
It goes on to say in the next section that "students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions."
Those two unwieldy sentences can certainly be read to require that a teacher accept a students' religion- based explanation of a natural occurrence or phenomenon.
HB 2633 also includes a provision that "Homework and classroom assignments shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district."
What does that mean? The terms "ordinary academic standards" and "legitimate pedagogical concerns" would seem to suggest that teachers could grade schoolwork exclusively on accepted scientific explanations of how things happen. But if that is the case that provision of the bill would appear to be in conflict with the other provisions.
Here's an obvious prediction: Sorting out what HB 2633 says or doesn't say will require lawsuits.
This bill is unneeded. It attempts to fix a problem that doesn't exist. Worse, its muddy and unwieldy language is bound to cause problems for school districts attempting to implement it.
While Kern and Williamson titled the measure the "Religious Viewpoint Antidiscrimination Act," they could have just as aptly called it the "Full Employment for Lawyers Act."
Oklahoma law provides that a governor may veto a bill directly or allow it to die by simply leaving it on his desk (also known as "pocket veto"). Governor Henry - a Democrat in his second term in office - chose not only to veto the bill on June 6th, but to issue a public statement about his action:
"This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 and 12 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED House Bill 2633. Under current state and federal law, Oklahoma public school students are already allowed to express their faith through voluntary prayer and other activities. While well intended, this legislation is vaguely written and may trigger a number of unintended consequences that actually impede rather than enhance such expression. For example, under this legislation, schools could be forced to provide equal time to fringe organizations that masquerade as religions and advocate behaviors, such as drug use or hate speech, that are dangerous or offensive to students and the general public. Additionally, the bill would presumably require school officials to determine what constitutes legitimate religious expression, subjecting them to an explosion of costly and protracted litigation that would have to be defended at taxpayer’s expense."
On June 16, 2008, the Louisiana Senate approved Senate Bill 733, the "Louisiana Science Education Act". It was sent to the desk of Louisiana's newly-elected Republican governor Bobby Jindal.
The (Baton Rouge) Advocate quoted bill supporter Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum:
"It provides assurances to both teachers and students that academic inquiries are welcome and appropriate in the science classroom."
In a press release announcing an open letter opposing the bill, National Center for Science Education board member Barbara Forrest - a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University - wrote,
"Governor Jindal surely knows that evolution is not controversial in the mainstream scientific community. He majored in biology at Brown University, and he belongs to a church that considers evolution to be established science and approves of its being taught in its own parochial schools. The LA Family Forum is pushing this bill over the objections of scientists and teachers across the state. The governor has a moral responsibility to Louisiana children to veto this bill."On June 15th, Governor Jindal had appeared on Face The Nation, where he was asked about Senate Bill 733:
"I don't think this is something the federal or state government should be imposing its views on local school districts. … I think local school boards should be in a position of deciding the curricula and also deciding what students should be learning. … I don't think students learn by us withholding information from them. Some want only to teach intelligent design, some only want to teach evolution. I think both views are wrong, as a parent."
" . . . when my kids go to schools, when they go to public schools, I want them to be presented with the best thinking. I want them to be able to make decisions for themselves. I want them to see the best data. I personally think that the life, human life and the world we live in wasn't created accidentally. I do think that there's a creator. I'm a Christian. I do think that God played a role in creating not only earth, but mankind. Now, the way that he did it, I'd certainly want my kids to be exposed to the very best science. I don't want them to be--I don't want any facts or theories or explanations to be withheld from them because of political correctness. The way we're going to have smart, intelligent kids is exposing them to the very best science and let them not only decide, but also let them contribute to that body of knowledge. That's what makes the scientific process so exciting. You get to go there and find facts and data and test what's come before you and challenge those theories."
On June 25th, Governor Jindal signed Senate Bill 733 into law. He issued no public statement.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"It is time to revive the moral argument for protecting a woman's right to choose: Abortion is about the value of women's lives."I agree with this as far as it goes while contending that it does not go far enough: "a woman's right to her own life" means that a woman's life is that woman's property. This is what ultimately must be recognized: that property rights are the foundation of all rights.
The left has been unwilling to do this because of their antagonism towards property rights in general and the individualism they imply. This is why they base their argument for abortion on a right to 'privacy' instead. They also have failed to capitalize on the bankruptcy of the right's blatant evasion of the existence of the mother.
The right professes to be pro-property rights, while being unwilling to examine the full implications of such a position. A truly consistent defense of property rights would require recognizing that a mother's life is her property. When the government tells a woman what to do with her body, isn't that a kind of eminent domain?
I hope to write about this at length in the near future.
This is the best analysis I've seen so far of the situation in Georgia. Myrhaf sets the military action taken by Russia in context by reminding us of the circumstances of the long-standing dispute between Russia and Georgia. How dare Georgia stand up to Russia's economic sanctions - and succeed!
None of this makes me more inclined to vote for McCain, however.
No, I'm not going to elaborate on that.
(As for Andrew Sullivan: he's a religionist, therefore I dismiss him.)
Well, here we go again.
The income tax is immoral and the fact that corporations have to pay income taxes is immoral. That won't stop the left from indulging in the same old corporation-bashing and the right from making the same old weak, impotent apologies.
This state of affairs will continue until the moral case has become accepted in mainstream American culture for - not merely Capitalism as such - but for Capitalism's moral base, which is rational egoism.
"It’s possible, of course, that gene doping or other techniques could turn out to be much riskier. But is that a reason to ban them? Society has always allowed explorers and adventurers to take risks in exchange for glory. The climbers who died on K2 this month ascended it knowing that one climber dies for every four who scale it."
Let the Games Be Doped
Monday, August 11, 2008
I'd thought the premise of Igor seemed intriguing, based on what I'd seen in the trailer: apparently it involves some kind of competition between mad scientists. But a cartoon that actually rejects the idea of Original Sin just might be worth paying to see in a theater.
The movie comes out September 19th.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Niles has his own blog at http://galileoblogs.blogspot.com, where you can read even more about his article.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I've decided it might be worth composing that letter anyway, just for the practice. In thinking about what I would put in it, one of the things that struck me since I first read the piece by Michael Gershon this morning is that some of his statements regarding the meaning of Christianity might constitute proof at the most fundamental possible level that the United States is not a Christian nation and was not founded on Christian principles.
Arguments regarding the Christian status of the country have tended to center on such things as the Founders' supposed religious beliefs or the wording of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.
But what if it could be shown that the individualism implied by America's founding documents in fact ran counter to Christian morality?
In Gerson's op-ed - at http://newsok.com/gods-love-enough-to-scare-us/article/3279451 - he writes: " . . . the highest ideal is suffering for others . . . "
If Christianity's "highest ideal" is voluntary enslavement to mutual suffering, then why does the Declaration of Independence state that "all men" have the right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"?
For the record, the other 2 articles are at
When I've finished my letter I'll post it here.