Thursday, July 19, 2018

No Oil Industry, No Tourism Industry

The New Jersey Star-Ledger ran an editorial—Trump oil, gas plan imperils Jersey Shore (as of this writing not available online)—claiming that the Trump Administration’s policy of opening the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil drilling ia an “attack” on coastal states “waged on behalf of oil companies” and “oil interests,” which supposedly clash with the “interests” of just about everyone else. “[T]his,” the S-L argues, “is an aggressive assault on our ecosystem and on a gargantuan economic engine.” While grudgingly acknowledging that the state would gain revenues (though no mention of private-sector job and other gains), becoming “a petrostate” would put . . .

our shoreline, businesses, homes, fishing industry and tourism business at risk.

You would think that even Trump and his creepily worshipful colleagues would recognize our value to the national economy. Instead, they have unleashed another attack on what most makes New Jersey unique.

Our 130-mile coastline is an economic powerhouse. It is the epicenter of a $44 billion tourism industry that supports a half-million jobs. It is home to more than $800 billion in coastal properties. Our commercial fishing industry supports another 50,000 jobs and generates $8 billion annually. And we have one of the largest recreational fishing industries in the nation.

“[C]lean coasts,” the S-L concludes, “are vital to the economic viability of every coastal state. They cannot be compromised or put at risk — full stop. And they must not be prostituted for oil interests without a fight.”

Pretty much all negative.


No acknowledgement of what powers this “gargantuan economic engine?”

Energy is the industry of industries. Without a reliable, economical, clean, mass-scale supply of energy, no modern industry exists. And what is the only energy capable of carrying that load? Oil and gas. Without it, there is no tourism industry; no fishing industry; no transportation industry; no modern housing industry, with its indoor plumbing, clean running water, heat & cooling systems; no agriculture industry capable of feeding the country; no any industry--not even a pollution control industry.

There may be valid reasons for not drilling in certain areas. But any discussion must take these facts into account: Those “oil interests” are human interests. They are our interests. The companies that produce the fossil fuels and we consumers who buy the fuels are not antagonists. They represent are harmony of interests.

The Left Environmentalists’ bullying and demonization aside, the men and women of the oil industry are not villains. They are heros. Thankfully, some people are willing to go to bat “on behalf of oil companies.” Trump’s many faults aside, his energy policy is spot on.

Related Reading:

The Suicidal Demonization of Fossil Fuels

A Humanist Approach To Environmental Issues—Alex Epstein @ Forbes

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: Remember Life Before Them

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century—Ronald Bailey

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Was Ayn Rand’s "Zeal to Stamp Out 'Pure Altruism'” Pointless?

I received several comments to my QUORA answer to Is Ayn Rand wrong about altruism?

From Mike Thompson

Well, that is a very interesting philosophical argument, but considering that in the history of humanity there have been exactly zero “pure altruists,” it would seem that Ms. Rand’s zeal to stamp out “pure altruism” was rather pointless.

My reply:

It’s true that, in the personal, private realm, there are no “pure altruists,” in the sense of someone who voluntarily self-sacrifices 100% of the time. A “pure altruist” is literally a dead altruist. But every individual act of altruism is, by definition, pure. Of course, one cannot live without being self-interested--and most people are self-interested in motivation most of the time. But since the selfish actions needed to support one’s life clashes with altruism, a person who accepts self-sacrifice as his standard of being moral is subject to a vague sense of unearned guilt, which can undermine happiness, self-confidence, and motivation. Curing that guilt is reason enough to conclude that Rand’s identification of the true nature of altruism in not pointless.

But altruism manifested in the political arena is a much clearer story.

Consider the collectivist dictatorships of the past 100 years. When you consider that plenty of political leaders have been inspired by altruism and tried to implement it, I would say Rand’s zeal was far from pointless. Millions of people were sacrificed in the name of the economic class, the race, the “people,” the “ideal” of equality, and on and on. I don’t see how it can be denied thar Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Mao’s Red China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and others were the handiwork of “pure altruists”. And they keep trying, albeit not always on so extreme a level. People have othen noted how the American regulatory welfare state never seems to stop growing, gradually undermining our individual freedoms, self-responsibility, and prosperity. That’s pure altruism at work, inexorably infiltrating and undermining the rational selfishness that implicitly underpins a free society. Notice that welfare state defenders are always concerned with the beneficiaries, but rarely with those whose forced sacrifices pay for it. That is altruism. The acceptance of altruism as a moral virtue points down a dangerous road, and we’ve seen the ultimate consequences. Hopefully, we heed Rand’s warning before that happens.

“Pure” (practiced consistently) or “impure” (practiced occasionally), altruism is a bad idea, with real-life consequences in both the personal and political realms. 

Related Audio:

The saga of The Twentieth Century Motor Company in Atlas Shrugged, in which the company founder’s heirs implemented the Marxist principle, “From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to his Need.” Parts one, two, and three.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reply Responses to QUORA *: ‘Is Ayn Rand wrong about altruism?’

I received several comments to my QUORA answer to Is Ayn Rand wrong about altruism?

From Steven Johnston

one can have degrees of altruism. It is not undermining one's indivuality to help others out from time to time. We are a Social species after all. Even other primates display degrees of altruism within their groups. (sic)

My reply:


Of course one’s individuality needn’t be undermined by helping others out from time to time. Helping out implies doing what one can afford for someone one values, whom one believes deserves it, who appreciates the help but does not “take the help for granted,” within the context of fitting the effort within one’s own more important hierarchy of priorities.

But that is beside the point. Altruism is not about helping others out from time to time. Altruism is giving an unconditional benefit regardless of personal harm or pain to oneself, even for the sole advantage of an unappreciative jerk who has no regard for the giver’s well-being because he thinks one unconditionally owes it to him. The question is not, to paraphrase Rand, whether one should or should not “help others out from time to time.” The issue is, does one have the moral right not to help out in any given circumstance? Common decency and respect answers yes, one does. Altruism answers no, one has no such right. That is the wickedness of altruism. One must conceptually distinguish between the two.

True, one can practice altruism (self-sacrifice) some of the time, as a token nod to one’s “duty” to be moral, and then go about his normal self-interested way (essentially cheating on one’s accepted morals). But there are no degrees of altruism, in that every individual act of altruism is an act of a specific nature--an act that by definition involves a sacrifice. (“Sacrifice,” properly understood, does not mean simply giving up a value in exchange for another, as in a trade. It means basically making one’s own life worse off by giving up a value and in return getting something you value less, not at all, or at the price of literal self-harmful.)

As to “other primates,” they are irrelevant to the moral issue. They do not have the uniquely human capacity for reason and free will, and thus no need or use for a moral code, let alone the capacity to even understand it. Human beings are not other primates. Other primates have their own unique identities and requirements for survival. We are human beings, and we have our own unique identities and requirements. You cannot discover a moral code suitable to human life by studying the instinctive habits of jungle animals.

Related Reading:

Is Science Catching Up to the Objectivist Ethics?

"Give Back" is a Sinister Ploy to Guilt Achievers Into Giving Up What They Have Earned

Is It Now ‘Respectable’ to be a Moocher?

The Worship of Need: The Path to Communism

Our Pick-Pocket Nation

Bezos Should Focus On Running His Company

Friday, July 13, 2018

Don’t Allow the Left to Own ‘Diversity’

In Diversity is 'a bunch of crap and un-American.' So says this N.J. Republican running for Congress, Jonathan D. Salant reports for the New Jersey Star Ledger:

The Republican candidate who won the nomination to succeed retiring New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo described diversity as a "bunch of crap and un-American". . .

Lawyer Seth Grossman, who emerged victorious from a three-way primary June 5, made the comments during the just-concluded primary campaign. Grossman won the GOP nomination to take on state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, for the seat LoBiondo is giving up after 24 years.

"The best way to bring diversity to the Republican Party is for Republicans to openly say that the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American," Grossman said at an April 21 Republican debate at the Centerton Country Club in Pittsgrove.

"Diversity has become is an excuse by Democrats -- communists and socialists basically -- to say that we're not all created equal, that if somebody is lesser qualified, they will get a job anyway or they'll get into college anyway because of the tribe that they're with, what group, what box they fit into," he said.

"I believe in America that each individual should be judged on nothing but his or her talent, character and hard work," he said. "I'm rejecting the whole premise of diversity as a virtue."

I posted these comments:

I sympathize with Grossman. But I think he’s making a grave mistake. Diversity is a valid concept, not “crap.” The Left has hijacked the term in order to advance a highbrow collectivist agenda based on Marxist theory of group conflict.

Note that meaningful human diversity of uniquely individual attributes is brushed off by the Left as irrelevant. Yet in a free society it is these individual attributes—such as intelligence, ability, ambition, moral character, values, goals, experience, personal circumstances, temperament, etc.—that allows each individual to flourish as much as those attributes will carry him on whatever path he chooses. If the Left really valued diversity, they’d be crusaders for the economic and political freedom that allows individual human diversity to flourish. But this sense of meaningful diversity belongs to individualism, the core of Americanism.

Individual diversity clashes with the Left’s collectivism, so they smother individual diversity under a tribal agenda. Yes, the Left is socialist/communist oriented. It’s collectivist concept of diversity is un-American. The Left has defined diversity around a racial and gender narrative for a reason. It’s goes deeper than racism. A society that values individual diversity will never go for socialism. A society that values the collective over the individual as the standard of moral value is primed for socialist authoritarianism in one form or another. So far, they’re winning.

That’s why we shouldn’t allow the Left to define diversity in collectivist terms. Rather than brush off diversity as crap, we who believe in Americanism need to recapture the term. Diversity as applied to content of individual character, each with a mind is her own apart from any group characteristics, is what America is about.

Related Reading:

SEC’s Boardroom ‘Diversity’ Rule Is Racist, Unnatural, and Politically Motivated

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

DelBarton Student’s 'Diversity' Initiative, Though Well-Meaning, is Based on Counter-Productive Premises

The Founding Fathers, Not ‘Diversity,’ is the Solution to ‘Our Racialized Society’

Starbucks/USA Today’s Racist “Race Together” Campaign

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On Bathroom ‘Equality’

In Bathrooms for everyone a step toward equality, the South Jersey Times Editorial Board opined on the recent Starbucks fiasco in which two patrons who asked to use the store bathroom before they ordered anything ended up being arrested by police. TheTimes observed that “Starbucks executives apologized almost immediately, followed by the city's police commissioner. .” Other remedial actions were taken, including Starbucks pledging to give its employees “racial sensitivity training” (the two patrons were black).

The Times went on:

All good. But we wondered in an April 17 editorial why businesses that beckon people to come inside don't simply allow anyone who does to use the bathroom: "It's weird to think that a place that charges $7 or $8 for an upgraded cup-o-joe will suffer any economic harm from a few extra flushes of the hopper by non-imbibers."

Some readers accused us of wanting to force all businesses to let anyone in off the street to use the facilities. Not true. Other readers, more startlingly, linked our bathroom stance to off-the-point controversies about which public bathrooms transgendered individuals might be required to use. Huh?

Get this straight: Only certain businesses are places of public accommodation. An accounting office or newsroom should not be required to hang out a sign inviting the world to pee or poop inside. But, have you ever seen a "purchase required to use restroom" sign at Target or Kohl's? No. It would be ludicrous, especially now that brick-and-mortar stores depend on having people walk in and "look around" as one of their few advantages over online sellers.

I left these comments:

The editorial board loses me when it calls for a law, as it seems to do when it suports forcing “certain businesses . . . to hang out a sign inviting the world to pee or poop inside.” 

Private businesses have every right to hang out a "purchase required to use restroom" sign, regardless of whether or not they are labeled “places of public accommodation.” As long as no one’s rights are violated--such a policy, however stupid from a business standpoint or immoral from a personal standpoint one may think it is, violates no one’s rights--government coercion should be kept out of it. Free people have very effective individual rights-respecting ways to encourage social change, as the Starbucks episode shows. They can speak out against what they judge to be unfair (including racially insensitive) business practices, organize boycotts, or simply not patronize the business. The wrong thing to do is give government officials even more power to trample private property rights. There is no equality in the practice of some people using government force to impose their concept of good business on others who disagree.

Related Reading:

Property Rights—Ayn Rand Lexicon

How to Overcome Bigotry in a Free Society

Does rescinding laws banning private discrimination make a moral statement in support of bigotry?

Freedom, not Laws, is the Answer to Defeating Bigotry

Fighting Anti-Private Discrimination Laws: The Role of Principles in the Fight for Freedom

There is No ‘Right to Equal Treatment’; Only the Right to ‘Equal Protection of the Law’

Private Sector Anti-Discrimination Laws are Rights-Violating and Destruction

Monday, July 9, 2018

NJ: Focus on Educational Freedom, Not ‘Desegregation’

New Jersey is being sued. The suit alleges that NJ schools are the most segregated in the nation, and the suit seeks to compel the state government to take actions to “desegregate.”

Now, just to be clear, NJ schools are not segregated. That is, there are no laws that overtly require the separation of the races. In a article published in the NJ Star-Ledger, Will my child be forced to switch schools? What parents need to know about N.J. desegregation suit, Adam Clark explains:

Segregation is often thought of as the mandatory separation of whites and non-whites, like white and black bathrooms or lunch counters.

But New Jersey's Supreme Court has taken a different position, ruling in prior cases schools can be considered segregated even if it's "de facto segregation," the plaintiffs argue.

In other words, socioeconomics and race often go hand-in-hand in New Jersey. So, if black and Hispanic families would like to send their kids to a school with white children but can't afford to live in such a school district, they're effectively being segregated into a district such as Irvington, Plainfield or New Brunswick -- all places where fewer than 1 percent of students are white.

Based on legal precedent in New Jersey, that kind of segregation violates the state constitution, the suit claims.

The suit does not seek to force busing of students to correct the racial imbalances, as some initially feared, and which was done with great upheaval in the 1970s. The suit does not seek to forcibly transfer any students against the parents’ will. Instead, the suit seeks to overturn the requirement that students be assigned to a school based on the student’s zip code.

Suggesting several different possible options, the suit seeks to give parents choices within the government school system. But the suit leaves up to the state education commissioner the solutions “on a case-by-case basis.” The main point is “to get white and non-white students under the same roof.”:

The suit aims to strike down the requirement that students must attend schools where they live and force the state to come up with solutions for getting black and Hispanic kids into integrated schools.

This is nothing new. Milton Friedman long ago pointed out the absurdity and injustice of assigning children to a school based on their parents’ zip code. But:

"It would not blow up the whole system," said Gary Stein, a former state Supreme Court justice who spearheaded the lawsuit. "It would simply knock down a fence that is a barrier to diversity."

I left these comments:

What is the primary goal of “desegregation?” Racial diversity for the sake of racial diversity? Or is it individual student education? If it’s education, then what sense does it make to limit parental choice to existing government school districts or even magnet schools? Why not “blow up the whole system?” Open up the field of parental choice to all options, including charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling, regardless of location. Why not knock down all fences that are barriers to these other options, leaving it up to parental choice? I would say the rights of parents is one of the most basic of rights. Through tax credits or education savings accounts, relinquish power to the parents by letting education tax dollars follow the child to the option chosen by the parents.

Civil rights activists should focus more on individual rights--the right of the parent to seek out the best education options based on her own child’s needs from the offerings of education entrepreneurs who would flourish in an open education field. Racial diversity is fine, but not primary. Educational diversity to meet the diverse individual needs of individual students is paramount. Focus on education, not the desires of skin color-obsessed social planners or the monopoly-protecting dictates of the teachers unions.

Related Reading:

Is "Desegregation" the Answer to NJ's Education Problems?

A Newark, NJ Mother Demonstrates the Educational Power of Parental School Choice

Contra Congressman Donald M. Payne, a ‘For-Profit Model’ is Just What Education Needs

Saturday, July 7, 2018

QUORA *: ‘What appeals to you about Ayn Rand's philosophy?’

QUORA *: ‘What appeals to you about Ayn Rand's philosophy?

I posted this answer:

Quite a lot. But I will identify three main, interrelated things I like about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, listed in ascending order of importance. These are not the only things, but among the most important to me.

Politics: I was first attracted to Ayn Rand when, in browsing through a bookstore with some friends in the 1960s, I happened to pick up a book titled “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” by someone named Ayn Rand. I began reading the Introduction, which contained the phrase “Objectivists are not ‘conservatives.’ We are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish.” As a teenager already leaning pro-capitalist, my interest was aroused. Rand identified this “base” in the form of a moral defense of the individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, earned property, and the pursuit of happiness: These are the essential Founding principles of America as outlined (or implied) in the Declaration of Independence and which constitute the germinating seeds of capitalism. This individualist philosophy underpins Americanism, which embodies capitalism, because in order for people to live their lives for themselves--that is, in accordance with their own personal values, judgement, and goals--they need the individual freedom and liberty rights promised in the Declaration.

Personal: I subsequently came to realize that Rand’s Objectivism—the name she gave to her philosophy—was much richer than a social/economic system. Objectivism is first and foremost a powerful personal philosophy to live by--a philosophy drawn from the observable facts of human nature. She called Objectivism “a philosophy for living on Earth.” I call it a Philosophy of Life before Death, to clearly distinguish it from my Catholic upbringing. She demonstrates scientifically that, contrary to conventional (and outdated) moral “wisdom,” it’s morally right to live for yourself--an ethics that rejects both altruism and the conventional understanding of “selfishness,” which she proves constitute two predatory sides of the same moral coin. She called her ethical system rational selfishness, and named it the Objectivist Ethics. The Objectivist Ethics tells me I should never feel guilty to proudly uphold my own values, and with equal fervor never demand or expect that others give up theirs for me.

Thinking: She taught me the practical principles of how to think rationally and logically, and apply these principles to real life issues. Thinking properly, and independently, is the first requirement for human beings. Embodied in proper thinking include an understanding of the important roles of our emotions and of our subconscious mechanism, the importance of full context, and integration through principles.

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged – America's Second Declaration of Independence

The Fountainhead

Introduction to Objectivism

Philosophy: Who Needs It

The Objectivist ethics

* [Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

[Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

[You can also reply to other users’ answers.]