Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Exploiting Dr. King and What He Stood For for the War on Free Speech

I recently engaged in a Facebook discussion on the occasion of Martin Luther King Day. It’s a personal experience but it shows the deteriorating state of freedom of speech in America. The post included this political cartoon:



The owner of the Facebook page in which this cartoon appeared I will go unnamed, out of respect for this person’s privacy. [I will refer to this person simply as “the person”.] Likewise, in the interests of privacy, I won’t provide links. And to be fair, I will state that the person’s interpretation of the poster is that “it's a request for a pause and consideration of spoken words and actions.” I agree that people should think before speaking and acting. So this post should not be construed as criticizing the person’s belief, which I agree with.

However, I disagree with the person’s interpretation of the poster. My interpretation is what this post is about.

Along with that political cartoon, which led off the post, the person cited these quotes from Dr. King:

  • Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
  • I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  • The time is always right to do what is right.
  • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.
      ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you see any contradictions between the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the political poster? To start, here is the comment I posted on the person’s Facebook page, slightly edited for clarity:

The political cartoon above implies that King would have met disagreeable ideas with censorship rather than rational rebuttal. This flies in the face of the American ideals he not only exercised but openly championed. Freedom of speech allowed King to fight Jim Crow oppression and win political equality for black Americans. Why would he oppose freedom of expression, even of ideas he considered offensive or “hateful”? I believe he wouldn’t. Instead, he would seek to educate and persuade—to meet the darkness of racism and bigotry with enlightenment.

The cartoon showing King shutting Trump up is a false, unjustified, and wholly unwarranted attack on King’s integrity. As proof, I can point to the series of inspirational quotes presented by [the person] above. Does censorship jibe with the sentiment that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”? Censorship, by definition, is darkness.

In one respect King was a deeply conflicted man, in that his politics clashed with his Americanist ideals. I had serious disagreement with King’s politics, especially his turn toward socialistic “solutions” to the problems of government-caused black economic struggles, which would in effect replace one form of political repression with another.

But in any clash between a man’s ideals and his politics, a man’s ideals hold sway. He sought to improve things by working within the American system, rather than overturn it, because in the tradition of Frederick Douglass, he saw Americanism as the solution rather than the problem—a fact for which I will be forever grateful. Here is my tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., published in The Objective Standard in 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fundamental Principle of America.


I replied to others’ comments, as well. Others’ comments are indented. My replies are in italics. Once again, no names or links will be provided. Referring to the slam at Trump, my wife Kathy posted this comment.

Unfortunately, this post can be applied to both sides.

Another rebutted:

These are Dr. King's words, beautiful and timely, and I think it serves us well to sit with them reflectively instead of needing to respond defensively. I feel that the biggest problem we have is the very fact of seeing two sides, instead of one humanity.

Two others agreed with this rebuttal. Kathy replied:

I do think we all need to see both sides. That is why I responded as I did.

I left this comment in support of Kathy:

"Humanity" is an abstraction, not an entity. The view of "one humanity" is the tool of utopians who have inflicted great harm on mankind through efforts to improve or perfect this “one humanity”. The result has been rivers of blood and massive misery. “Humanity” is really the individuals who inhabit the Earth—each with his own mind, convictions, and ideas which should always be open to debate and truth-seeking. As King once said, “Communism forgets that life is individual.” I agree with Kathy. There are different sides and views. Let’s debate them. If you seek change, you seek to persuade one mind at a time, not “one humanity”.

Another correspondent commented elsewhere:
I look at that photo as silencing hate.

I replied, King would disagree, as do I. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

And another correspondent commented:

That photo to me represents non violent silencing of hate.

I replied, Non-violent? The picture portrays King physically clamping his hand over a man’s mouth, stopping him from speaking his mind. It’s physical force; an incitement to violence. Would King ever resort to physical force in this aggressive manner against another human being? I think not. King’s mission was a philosophical fight for political equality for blacks, not a street fight.

The poster, in my view, is a smear of King: We’re told we should “reflect on Dr. King’s words. Very well. I agree. So let’s reflect:

  • Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. 

What can be more ignorant and stupid than silencing others? The path away from ignorance and stupidity is to listen and understand. Does that jibe with the cartoon that led off the person’s post?

  • I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

A key window into a person’s character is what he says and the ideas he holds—and expresses. If you shut him up, no matter how objectionable his ideas may be to you—and let’s be honest; The poster is about shutting up, not “pausing”—you close that window. If you close that window, you shut yourself off from knowledge necessary to ascertain the content of a person’s character. What, then, is left by which to judge a person?

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. 
What can be darker than censorship? What can be more hateful than denying the other person the inalienable individual moral right to speak his mind, or to speak his mind in a forum that clearly invited it, no matter how objectionable the person’s viewpoint may be?

  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

What is shutting out others’ ideas without rebuttal, if not an admission of one’s desire to keep silent about things that matter to one?

  • The time is always right to do what is right.

What, exactly, is “right” about silencing what one considers “hateful” ideas, thus driving them into the darkness of the intellectual underground where they can’t be beaten by better ideas?

  • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

This is the most telling: Where is the intelligence plus character in silencing Donald Trump—or anyone? By burying the expression by others of ideas one disagrees with, one is in effect burying one’s own intensive and critical thinking—assuming one is even capable of thinking.

The person deleted my comments. If the person didn’t want to be challenged, the person should not have put out a challenge to others’ deeply held beliefs and convictions. This cartoon hit too close to home for me. Martin Luther King is a hero of mine and I believe a true American hero. That cartoon is deeply offensive to my wife and I. We could not, and should not be expected to, let it go. And we didn’t. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised.

There are basically only two ways for human beings to deal with one another; by reason and persuasion, of which the freedom to speak unfettered is integral, or by force, of which violence—the very thing King stood up against—is integral. Freedom of speech is integral to the intellectual freedom to think. The expression of one’s thoughts leads to debate, which leads to knowledge, intelligence, truth-seeking, and character, which is in turn integral to a civil society of peaceful coexistence—the very things King urged. Thinking and civility end where force begins. The cartoon urges force. There is no other way to interpret it, in my view.

Yet, here we have a poster of Martin Luther King being used to make a statement against freedom of speech, thus using the intellectual stamina a man who stood for reason, education, and non-violence being exploited to advocate ignorance, intolerance, and ultimately violence. And when I try to point out the contradiction in the poster, I get no answer, no reply, no challenge. Not a word of what I said was refuted. It was wiped out as if it didn’t exist.

But it did and does exist. I said what I said, no matter who tries to pretend otherwise. That’s the reason for writing this blog post. I can handle challenge and dissent. That’s why I have the saying “Home of the Free, Because of the Brave” prominently displayed in my home. Sadly, not everyone values freedom, or values it as I do and as it should be by every American. Thus, it takes bravery to fight for freedom. (It shouldn't. But, sadly in America today, it does.) But how do you fight for freedom of speech when the enemies of freedom of speech won’t even listen to you, let alone debate the issue?

Indeed, the person and those who agreed on the person’s post and other like-minded folks may not even realize the anti-free of speech implications of their position, or of the poster. But that makes it even more egregious that I was summarily cut from the discussion. It shows they don’t even want to listen—“to think intensively and to think critically”—and to learn. But then, here’s the question I would pose to them. They obviously don’t like Donald Trump, his ideas, or what he says. So I ask the person, do you really think that the ideas that lie behind his words will go away if you silence him—or anybody else you may disagree with? They will not, no matter how far into the sand you bury your head.

If your impulse is to run from opposing opinions is counter-productive. Prohibition doesn’t work. It didn’t work for alcohol. It doesn't work with drugs. And above all, it won’t work with ideas. You won’t kill them. They’ll just go underground, where they’ll fester in the underworld of ideas you helped create. Bismarck tried to outlaw the socialists. They resurfaced as national socialism (Nazism). The Weimers tried to outlaw the Nazis. The Nazis rose to power—democratically*. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” By silencing those with whom you disagree, you will just be depriving yourself of the chance to defeat the ideas you abhor in the light of open discussion, thus feeding the growth of the very “hate” you want to eradicate.

Contrary to the urge to silence ideas you abhor, you should want those holding these ideas to express themselves as often and as loudly as they like. Not only do you then give yourself the opportunity to defeat these ideas. There is an added bonus: You will open up the chance of learning that can come with vigorous exchange of viewpoints. It’s always possible that you may find that the person opining those “hateful” ideas actually has a point you hadn’t considered, in which case you’ve expanded your knowledge and perspective. Listening and understanding: That’s called thinking intensively and critically leading to intelligence plus character.

As we can see, the poster of Dr. King shoving his hand against President Trump’s mouth runs contrary to everything the person believes he stood for and which she condones. Every single MLK quote the person posted is a refutation of what the picture of King and Trump implies and condones. But how would the person ever learn, if the person’s response is to shove a hand against my mouth, or the mouths of any other dissenter the person can’t or won’t handle intellectually?

It is said that America is politically polarized. This is true in the sense that there is a battle between two fundamentally opposed philosophical ideas underlying every issue—individualism versus collectivism. That’s ok—as long as people are willing to listen and understand each other. As long as all people are free to express themselves as much as they like, the good and the truth and the right and the light have a chance to win in the end.

I don’t need to be reminded that the person has every right to delete comments from the Facebook page. It’s the person’s private page, and Facebook allows users to manage the content. So why make such a “big deal” out of the shabby treatment that my contribution to the conversation the person started received? Because of what it says about the level of respect for freedom of speech in the culture. Unfortunately, the person is not alone. As Kathy said, the urge to shut people up is true to some extent on both political sides. The state of freedom of speech is precarious in America today precisely because so many people are willing to scurry for the cover of self-censorship rather than listen and debate. President Trump himself has proposed to make it much easier to sue journalists who criticize politicians. Campaign finance reform and the proposed Democracy for All Amendment follow from Trump’s viewpoint. Calls for laws to fight “fake news” and laws against “hate speech” are a palm across the mouths of others. On college campuses, over-schooled, undereducated children in adult bodies demand “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” and the “right” to ban certain speakers so they can run for cover from “offensive” ideas—ideas they are intellectually afraid of and/or incapable of answering.

This rising tide of intellectual intolerance in the culture can and will have dangerous repercussions. Politics follows culture, reflecting the most commonly held beliefs. Get enough people who are comfortable with shutting people up in their private lives, and soon enough you’ll get politicians rising to power by catering to these cultural censors. A person who would delete opposing viewpoints from a private Facebook page will likely vote for politicians who would legally restrict freedom of speech in the public domain.

No. Freedom of speech won’t disappear overnight because the person deleted my comments. But it is a warning sign. This personal experience I’ve recounted here is a strong indication of the dark place we’re headed toward in America. That’s why I take my treatment by the person, and that poster, so seriously.

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* [Flemming Rose covers the importance of unfettered free speech in Chapter 4 of his great book The Tyranny of Silence, in which he highlights the counterproductive attempts by the German Weimar government to silence the Nazis in the 1920s. “The widely touted claim that hate speech against the Jews was a primary cause of the Holocaust [or that] forbidding evil words will lead to fewer evil deeds . . . has no empirical support,” Rose writes. Just the opposite, in fact:

Leading Nazis, such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch, and Julius Streicher were prosecuted by the Weimar Republic for their anti-Semitic speech. Streicher served two prison sentences. But those court cases served as an effective public-relations machinery for his efforts. The more charges he faced, the greater became the admiration of his supporters.
In 1925, Adolf Hitler was prohibited by Bavarian authorities from speaking in public. The Nazis reacted by producing a poster of Hitler, with his lips sealed with tape on which was written, “Alone among 2 billion people of the world, he is not allowed to speak in Germany.” The propaganda poster so enhanced Hitler’s popularity that the authorities felt obliged to lift the ban.

The Hitler poster has a striking similarity to the poster of King silencing Trump! And these anti-free speech attempts to silence the Nazis backfired big time. As R.C. Hicks documents in Nietzsche and the Nazis,
By 1928, the Nazis had twelve seats in the Reichstag. In 1930 they increased that to 107. And in 1932 they increased that to 230. In the March 1933 election they garnered 288 seats, "more seats than their next three competitors combined".

Once in power, the Nazis set out to consolidate their gains and increase their grip on the machinery of the state. First they purged dissident elements within the party. And by purge, we mean murder. "Forty-three conspirators and rivals were executed."

In 1934, President Hindenburg died and the Nazis combined the position of chancellor and president with Hitler filling the role, a move endorsed by 90 percent of the electorate in a plebiscite. The Nazis were now in "firm control".]






Related Reading:

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. For His Moral Ideals Rather Than His Politics

Martin Luther King: An 'Authentic American Hero'—or Not?

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fundamental Principle of America

“I Have a Dream”: Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty—Timothy Sandefur

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal—Ayn Rand

Martin Luther King: Right On Racial Justice, Wrong On ‘Economic Justice’

Racism—Ayn Rand

Monday, February 26, 2018

School Choice Doesn’t ‘Discriminate’; It Expands Opportunity Through Liberation

Betsy DeVos, the Education Department Secretary, was opposed by leftists during her confirmation period. As NICHOLAS BALLASY reports for PJ Media in NAACP Argues That DeVos' School Choice Programs Discriminate:

A coalition of civil rights organizations criticized Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s nominee for education secretary, for her support of charter schools and school choice programs. 
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said school choice programs weaken the public school system. 
“School choice is an interesting phrase because it implies that the choice that parents make is just about the school when in fact school choice really only works for those parents who have other choices – to be able to select a school across town that you think is better means that you have to have the ability to get your child to that school and the ability to pick your child up from that school.,” Ifill said on a conference call with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights last week shortly before DeVos’ confirmation hearing.

Translation: Parents who succeed in getting their child a better education should be stopped because other parents can't. This is the evil of egalitarianism: a war on excellence and success. Of course, if real education freedom existed—that is, no smothering government "oversight"—education entrepreneurs would create myriad new opportunities to cover the wide diversity of child learning capabilities and parent economic means to serve the market demand from parents who "can't." There are no guarantees, of course. But the bottom line is, anyone who denies any parent their moral right to direct their own child's education simply for equality reasons cannot claim to be "for education." The only equality that matters—the only equality that is moral—is the equal right to choose. This does not mean equal opportunity. It simply means equal right for each parent to choose from whatever options are available to them at any given time, and/or the freedom to create their own opportunities. A parent without the ability to take advantage of opportunities across town gains nothing by preventing parents who do from capitalizing on the opportunity.

The fact that some people can better avail themselves of their freedom is not discrimination. To call it that is one of the most idiotic pronouncements possible—one that only an egalitarian can come up with.

We need to challenge the whole concept of "equality" adopted by the statist egalitarians. What they mean by equality is antithetical to the equality that America is based on. Egalitarianism is tailor made for the envious, the resentful, and the kind of people who hate personal achievement so much that they'd rather see someone else fail than for themselves to succeed. What it is not made for is improved education.

Of course, Ifill has a point when criticizing existing school choice programs, from school vouchers to charters: They do limit choice. But the answer to limited choice is not to eliminate school choice altogether and throw more money and more federal control at the traditional government schools, as Ifill advocates. The answer is to expand school choice to everyone through tax credits or Education Savings Accounts and the like, while limiting government interference so as to invite increased entrepreneurialism, and move toward an eventual fully free market. This will not create “equal opportunity”, which by the nature of man is impossible short of destroying all opportunity and all freedom. But it will raise the general educational excellence and opportunities for all who have the motivation.

Let’s recognize these anti-school choice reactionaries for what they are; modern-day George Wallaces. Whereas the original George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to keep black kids out, today’s Wallaces can be seen standing in the schoolhouse door, not to keep any kids out, but to keep all but the kids with the most well-to-do parents trapped in schools that their parents judge to be inferior or even detrimental. The moral standing of today’s George Wallaces is just as bad as the original’s.

Related Reading:

‘Unqualified’ DeVos Could Be Just the Education Secretary We Need

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools

Newark's Successful Charter Schools Under Attack—for Being Successful

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





Saturday, February 24, 2018

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

NJ Congressman Donald M. Payne’s letter, published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger under the heading DeVos poses threat to education, claimed that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos poses a “direct threat” to traditional public education:

The president of Michigan's State Board of Education warned against DeVos' nomination, saying that her "agenda is to break the public education system, not educate kids, and replace it with a for-profit model."

I wish it were true! While DeVos is a well-known advocate of parental school choice, I doubt the government school establishment has much to worry about.

Nonetheless, I left these comments:

Let’s examine the difference between the public education system and the for-profit model.

Profits are earned by persuading consumers to buy what you are selling. For-profit schools, whether public charters or private schools relying on vouchers or education tax credits, essentially rely on voluntarism. Traditional public schools, when parents are forbidden choice, require no effort to persuade. They are held in place by force. Voluntarism versus force: The moral difference is like day and night.

Charter school options and school choice programs are thus the moral thing to do—but also the practical thing to do. They only exist to the extent parents chose them. True, school choice programs reduce traditional public school funding. So what? All parents are taxpayers. We’re all taxpayers. If we’re going to have tax-funded education, why shouldn’t all schools, not only certain politically connected schools, be afforded a claim on education tax dollars? Why shouldn’t education tax dollars follow the child to the school she attends, whether it is a traditional public school or another choice made by her taxpaying parents? It’s only fair.

Reactionary defenders of the status quo, by fighting to keep kids trapped in schools their parents judge not to be the best option for their kids, are the real roadblocks to good education for many kids. True, not all parents will make good choices. But neither do many traditional public schools do a good job with every kid. It is morally the parents’ choice, not the states’, and good parents shouldn’t be punished for the bad choices of some parents.

There is nothing sacred about the tradition public school establishment. A good injection of for-profit educational entrepreneurialism competing for and accountable to parental choice, rather than government bureaucracies, is just what education needs in this country. Anyone who denies parents their rights to direct the course of their own children’s education cannot claim to be proponents of “high-quality education”and “educational success.” DeVos will head the Department of Education, not the Department of Traditional Public Education. If DeVos can leverage the DOE to expand school choice and diminish the iron-clad grip of the coercive and monopolistic public school establishment across America, she will have been a great Education Secretary.


--------------------------------------

My comments were tempered to conform to and support DeVos’s school choice leanings. Of course, I advocate the ultimate realistic education ideal—a fully free, individual rights-based, laissez-faire market in education.

Related Reading:

‘Unqualified’ DeVos Could Be Just the Education Secretary We Need

DeVos Could Advance the ‘Civil Right’ of School Choice Across America

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

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government SchoolsAndrew Bernstein for The Objective Standard

Thursday, February 22, 2018

America: A History of Racism or the History of Individualism? - - 2

[RE: Black history is U.S. history — but some of my students don’t want to hear it by Donald Earl Collins. Continued from my last post of 2/20/18. All Collins quotes in this article are posted there.]

American history is the history of individualism, not collectivism. True, a heavy strain of collectivism remained to undercut American individualism (It still does). That’s why slavery survived until the capitalist North destroyed the racist, slave Confederate South (albeit at the price of a bloody Civil War).

Why did Europe end slavery just as it flourished under “modern capitalism”—free commerce and industry? Because commerce and industry did not rely on the slave trade. It relied on Enlightenment principles of individual freedom—the opposite of slavery. As historian Arthur Herman documents:

[T]he overwhelming bulk of Europe's affluence sprang from inter-European trade, not its slaveholding colonies; indeed, those countries most dependent on those slaveholding colonies, Spain and Portugal, showed the slowest rates of growth. Some of the important beneficiaries of that affluence, like Austria and Germany, had no colonies at all. And money from the slave trade played almost no part in the economic development of countries like France and Britain, compared to other sources of capital.

It’s true that some of the profits of slave plantations may have provided some of the capital that fueled industry. But much more of the capital came from other sources, including capital generated by free commerce.

Why did industry flourish in the American North, but not in the slave plantation South? Why did America’s (and the world's) greatest economic explosion of progress happen during the period of the most capitalist economic freedom ever—the years between the Civil War and World War I, after slavery was abolished?

Slavery and capital have existed throughout human history. Why did industry flourish during the Enlightenment period of capitalism, but not before? Why then? What ignited it? Certainly, not because of the unthinking brute labor of slaves; nor of the mere availability of capital. It flourished because the source of progress is ideas, which require free minds, free markets, and individual rights—i.e., capitalism, which the Enlightenment unleashed. Once again Herman:

Slave labor [did not] play any part in what were the real drivers of Enlightenment Europe’s economic takeoff, commerce and manufacturing. The reason wasn’t moral but (as we might guess) practical: to a man counting his costs, unwilling labor was expensive compared to the willing kind. As Adam Smith pointed out in his Wealth of Nations, “the experience of all agents and nations . . . [is] that the work done by freeman comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves.” The reason is “the slave consults his own ease by making the land produce as little as possible,” while the free worker has a self-interested stake in making it more productive, or any other trade he is engaged in, even at the most menial level—and production was at the heart and soul of the new capitalist order. 
Far from depending on slave labor and the slave trade, the age of commerce signaled their doom, just as the factory foretold the demise of the plantation. 
Aristotle had been right all along. Freedom and slavery were indeed mutually exclusive states. . .

Is it any wonder that it was the Capitalist West, before anyone else, that abolished slavery?

Capitalism is a knowledge system. It is a thinking system. It depends on the free flow of ideas voluntary exchange, including between businessman and worker. As such, the central economic product of capitalism, the industrial enterprise, relies on knowledge and ideas, and thus on motivated thinking employees who are there because they want to be. Slaves are forbidden to act on their own judgement, so their minds go to waste along with their potential for achievement as they perform only the task they are ordered to perform, with only enough effort to avoid the whip. A primitive cotton plantation can scrape along on slave labor (though not flourish to its full potential). An industrial enterprise, including modern industrial agriculture, cannot. Everyone from the entrepreneur/businessman/CEO that guides the productive mission of the enterprise to every employee on every level, free thinking and action are vital. Slavery forbids free minds. It holds progress back. It doesn’t and logically cannot foster progress. It can not form the basis of any industrial enterprise. Slavery is inimical to genuine capitalism—and must eventually, of moral and practical necessity, “die on the vine”.

That’s why “slavery was codified into state laws” in the South.* Collins horrifically implies that slavery is good for prosperity. He could not be more wrong. Slavery could not coexist with the dynamic commerce and principles of capitalism, for good reason. As Andrew Bernstein explains:

Because racists recognize that the ethnic minorities they oppose will flourish under the political and economic freedom of capitalism, they conduct a relentless war against the free-market system. The antebellum South not only created and supported a legal system that sanctioned the enslavement of blacks, but also mandated that blacks be kept illiterate. Indeed, [Thomas] Sowell wrote, “many Southern states not only refused to educate free Negroes but made it a crime for them even to attend private schools at their own expense.” In the postbellum South, Jim Crow legislation made it illegal for blacks to attend the better schools, be hired for the best jobs, or live in white neighborhoods, no matter how qualified the individual.11 Bigots know that without the coercive power of the state to enforce their prejudices, they are powerless to prevent the advancement of the ethnic minorities they fear. Capitalism is the bigot’s worst enemy.

My emphasis. Slavery wasn’t codified into state law in order to “create modern capitalism.” It was codified into law to prevent capitalism for blacks. Collins ignores the fact that slavery holds back industrial progress, by ignoring the nature of capitalism. Otherwise, why did black entrepreneurs and innovators only flourish under capitalist freedom, rather than while chained into slavery? **




Did some businessmen, including some of the Founding Fathers, owned slaves? Are some college professors rapists or sexual harassers of women? Yes and yes. But just as sexual abuse is not inherent in the requirements of college professorship, so slavery is not inherent in the capitalist principles of America’s Founding—and the Founders embedded America with the principles that would end slavery.

It is not necessary nor desirable nor moral to ignore the racism that has permeated American society from its start. But one must also recognize that racism—collectivism, or tribalism—was inherited by America, and that the individualism embodied in the Declaration of Independence is and always has been the antidote to racism. The idea that All Men are Created Equal—equal not in character or natural attributes or luck or goals or individual success and the like—but equal in their basic humanity as rational beings capable of reasoned action, is what Americanism is. And that all men—regardless of race, national origin, cultural heritage, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else—possess the same unalienable individual rights to life, liberty, to earn and keep property, and to pursue person happiness. Capitalism is not a system “imposed by powerful white men”. The white men, the Founding Fathers, in fact personally risked it all to create America. Capitalism—the system of voluntary cooperation and trade—is the natural outgrowth of the political principles outlined in the Declaration. Capitalism wasn’t imposed. It is what happens when every individual on every level of ability is freed from tribalism by individualism, and left free and unimpeded to pursue his own life independently and in voluntary cooperation with others.

Frederick Douglass the Abolitionist once said during his fight against slavery:

Everybody has asked the question … “What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! . . . If the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

That, in a nutshell, is what capitalism offers to all oppressed people—laissez-faire, which means “Let us be”.

By all means, let’s talk about race and America; the whole story about race and America. The litany of racist horrors listed by Collins are largely true. But they are not America. They are not capitalism. They are what America was founded to combat. Americanism didn’t win unconditional victory against the tribal, racist tide of history right away. But Americanism did provide the philosophical firepower to fight it back. The real failure is the failure of people to live up to Americanism. The battle continues to this day. “Modern capitalism” is capitalism infiltrated by massive rights-violating doses of government intervention. It is corrupted by cronyism; hobbled by regulation; restrained by welfare state disincentives. But it is not a result of racism and slavery. Capitalism—which, to be more precise, should be called Americanism—is exactly what must be saved and rediscovered; or, as Ayn rand would say, the unknown ideal that must be discovered. It is the only social system that can eliminate the remnants of racism and tribalism, and save us from its resurgence.

The idea that “The profits and products of slavery made industrialization possible, and supplied the United States and Europe with the cotton that would create modern capitalism” is mental garbage, plain and simple. It makes no sense, logically. The source of wealth is the free mind, not involuntary servitude. A little introspection will prove that: Can you do your job well without thinking; with someone with a whip dictating your every move? Would you even want to try? By the basic nature of man as a being whose survival depends on the individual mind, Collins’s claim is not, was not, and cannot be true. Can Collins, a university professor, in the 21st Century, be that ignorant of the history of the last 300 years, or of human nature, or of the role of the individual free mind in human existence and flourishing? Can he really not understand the difference between the cause of racism (collectivism) and the antidote to racism (individualism)? Is he just badly mistaken? Perhaps. After the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil War, the rise of capitalism and its consequences, the rise of socialism and its consequences, I find that hard to swallow.

Whatever his reasons, Collins does history, America, and his students a terrible disservice. Race is not, as Collins asserts, “central to almost every aspect of American life.” Individual freedom is central. America was not built, as he claims, by “the millions who arrived in America in chains.” If that were true, progress would have stopped in 1865. Instead, it took off. America was built in spite of those chained peoples—that is, by people to the extent they were free.

Collins claims that “modern capitalism [is] so contradictory to American ideals.” Really? When in the late 1830s Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in the South, and traveled North to Massachusetts where he became “my own master,” earning his first free dollar, what he escaped to was capitalism. It is racism and slavery that is contradictory to American ideals. That statement about “modern capitalism” strongly indicates that this professor’s goal is anti-capitalism, not education about race in America. His goal is to undermine and taint and discredit and smear any advocate of individual rights and free markets with the broad brush of racism. To what end? To destroy capitalism once and for all? To advance socialism? Some other goal?

“There’s nothing anti-patriotic in examining America’s great flaws and failings,” Collins says. I agree. Have horrible injustices been perpetrated upon minority groups within America’s political borders? Yes, of course. But America, unlike other nations, is not about borders. Contrary to Collins’s description of America as “a story mostly about rich and powerful white men,” America is a story about ideas. Has he never read what Martin Luther King described as “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?” Has he never studied the great debates over the drafting of the U.S. Constitution? It’s about protecting the individual by limiting government power. Ideas don’t come in colors or economic classes. “This country,” observed Ayn Rand through a character in Atlas Shrugged, “was the only country in history born, not of chance and blind tribal warfare, but as a rational product of man’s mind. This country was built on the supremacy of reason.” Reason is the faculty of the individual, and the heart and soul of individualism. The battle between individualism and collectivism was raging before America was born. The battle continued after, within its borders.

Collins laments the accusation “anti-patriotic” hurled at him by a student. I don’t know the students’ reasons. But there is something anti-patriotic in ignoring America’s great virtue. Given its uniquely philosophical origins, America must be judged on an entirely different standard from other nations: It must be judged on its philosophy—a philosophy that transcends its borders and is applicable to all human beings everywhere. Its people may properly be judged according to how well they lived up to that philosophy—and plenty of “Americans” have not. But America is individualism. American history is not, as Collins asserts, “the history of modern racism.” It is the history of anti-racism—a history of throwing off the chains of tribalism, from which slavery and Jim Crow is born, and liberating the individual to become his own master.

Rather than condemn America, condemn people who deny or disparage Americanism. The best way to extract racism from America is to recommit to upholding American ideals.

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* But not, contrary to Collins, in the U.S. Constitution, about which escaped slave and Abolitionist intellectual Frederick Douglass observed as "Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document." True, the Constitution included compromises that allowed the continuation of slavery in the South. As Constitutional scholar Randy E. Barnett explains, “Though one of the most glaring defects of the Constitution was its failure to prohibit slavery in the states, the framers carefully avoided mentioning slavery by name or empowering Congress to enslave any person.” In short, anti-slave forces got about as much as they could at the Founding, and still craft a nation. But they did not, as Collins asserts, codify “the connection between African skin and slavery” in the Constitution.

** Consider, for example, “Elijah McCoy, the son of fugitive slaves, [who] invented what ended up saving the locomotive industry countless hours of time and all the associated money.” Or agricultural giant George Washington Carver.

LINKS:


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

America: A History of Racism or the History of Individualism?

February is Black History Month. It’s an interesting time, because two diametrically opposed views come to the fore. One view sees the history of Blacks in America as a failure of the American experiment. The opposite view sees the history of Blacks as an American success story—black liberation.

In “honor” of Black History Month, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by a historian and college professor titled Black history is U.S. history — but some of my students don’t want to hear it. It is written by Donald Earl Collins, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland University College. The article’s subtitle is “History class should be the last place where we stop talking about race.”

I agree: We should be talking about race—how America makes race irrelevant in life. That, however, is not Collins’s message, which is why I put the word honor in scare quotes. Collins gives us a mouthful. But this paragraph encapsulates the thrust of his theme:

American history is the history of modern racism. Native Americans numbered around 10 million to 15 million in what would become British North America at the time of the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Diseases, wars, starvation and constant encroachment would reduce this population by 90 percent. White migrants and West Africans were used as indentured servants and slaves to make the colonies profitable through tobacco, rice and indigo. Eventually the connection between African skin and slavery was codified into state laws and the U.S. Constitution. The profits and products of slavery made industrialization possible, and supplied the United States and Europe with the cotton that would create modern capitalism. It was this system, so contradictory to American ideals, that led to a civil war that killed and maimed 1.1 million soldiers, civilians and sailors.

This is only U.S. history until 1865. There’s also Indian removal, the stealing of land from Mexican Americans in the Southwest, Southern and Eastern European immigrants and the idea that Irish, Italian, and Polish newcomers weren’t white (scientific racism), Jim Crow, lynchings, race riots, black migration, Mexican migration, the assimilation of white ethnics, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement. This list is hardly exhaustive, but its topics are the key ones in any U.S. history course. Race is critical to how and where Americans live, how Americans vote and why politicians continue in their attempts to gerrymander voting districts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Race is central to almost every aspect of American life. Yet for some students, I’m “anti-patriotic” for talking about it, as one white student hollered in one of my world history classes a few years ago.

A lot of truth—and falsehood. Is Collins describing America? Or are these horrors things that happened inside America’s borders despite America? I’ll give my analysis in my next post.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass

In regard to people worthy of my admiration, there is a special place reserved for people who explicitly affirm or reaffirm America’s fundamental Founding principles in a big way. Obviously, the Founding Fathers fit that bill. So do Ayn Rand, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Harvey Milk.

True, most of this group held political views that, to varying extent, that contradict their stated principles. But, though important, that is beside the larger point.

What point?

Practical politics is a shifting morass of short term swings. Political principles determine the long term trend. Keeping alive America’s principles—that all men, regardless of race, national origin, gender, and other factors, are created equal as individual beings of reason, and possessing of inalienable individual rights to life, liberty, earned property, and the pursuit of happiness—is America’s, and, really, mankind’s, only hope for freedom, prosperity, and civil society. That’s the point. .

Contradictions aside, keeping those principles alive is what puts these individuals in a class by themselves. And few are more deserving of being in the honor roll elite of that class than Frederick Douglass.

Douglass faced horrendous personal conditions. Right under the glow of the Declaration of Independence, which promised freedom and political equality for every man, Douglass was born into slavery, and only became free by breaking the law and escaping from his chains. If anybody had good reason to spit on America’s Declaration, it was Douglass.

And for awhile, he did. But Douglass was an intellectual. As he rose to become a leader in the Abolitionist Movement of the mid-19th Century, he took a serious new look at the Founding documents. What he found was that the fundamental principles of America did not fail. Instead, he concluded, America largely failed to fully live up to its own principles; principles that he came to realize were the best ally of the movement to abolish slavery in America. Often butting heads even with some prominent fellow Abolitionists, Douglass saw something great there: "Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted,” Douglass urged, “the Constitution is a glorious liberty document."

I’ve noticed that Douglass has been getting increased attention in recent years. That’s a wonderful thing. Douglass is believed to have been born sometime in the month of February, 1818. So, this month marks the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass. It’s an interesting and fitting coincidence that Douglass was born in the same month as America’s first President, George Washington. Douglass deserves a place among the very biggest giants of American history.

I have chosen the occasion of the weekend of President’s Day to say:

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass.

Related Reading:

July 4, 1776: Words that Will Never Be Erased

When the Constitution Was 'At War With Itself,' Frederick Douglass Fought on the Side of Freedom—Damon Root

The Colorblind Constitution: Frederick Douglass on Race and America’s Founding—Hannah Sternberg

Lincoln and Race—Alexander V. Marriott

Friday, February 16, 2018

QUORA: Why is There a Need of Electors Choosing President in December?

QUORA: Why is there a need of electors choosing president in December in constitution when a candidate has already won majority of electoral votes in Nov?

Here is my answer:

The Electors are actual human beings, not an abstract formality. The Electors are pledged to vote a certain way. But they are not legally or constitutionally bound to honor their pledge. So an actual Electoral College vote is necessary to officially choose the president.

In 2016, Trump won the Electoral vote by 306-232 based on the popular voting. But in the Electoral College election in December, seven electors voted for people other than those they were pledged to, with Trump losing two votes and Clinton losing five, leaving a final tally 304-227 for Trump. The defections went to John Kasich [1], Ron Paul [1], Bernie Sanders [1], Colin Powell [3], and Faith Spotted Eagle [1].


Keep in mind that the popular vote is not binding. The state legislatures are constitutionally charged with the responsibility to choose the Electors. All state legislatures have chosen to have Electors allocated by popular vote. But the legislatures can and must step in to override the popular vote should there be a problem. After all, Article II of the constitution states that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature there of may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress”

A state’s legislature can pick the Electors without any direct input from voters. This is fine, given that the legislators are themselves elected.

Related Reading:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Warning Signs of Impending Tyranny Begin in the Culture

A QUORA correspondent replying to my answer to the question “Why is Donald Trump able to get away with violating so many of our set standards of political correctness without even being required to submit formal apologies or acknowledging the fact of wrongdoings?” [post of 2/10/17] replied to my statement that “Political correctness is a form of self-censorship, a precursor to government censorship and the rise of totalitarianism” with; “hyperbole much?”

I answered:

Quite the opposite. I’m not suggesting tyranny is right around the corner in America. I’m saying that Political Correctness is a guidepost pointing down the road that leads to that outcome.

Politics doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Politics, and thus government and law, follows the culture. A culture is defined by the ideas that predominate among its people. Free people who fail to acknowledge the role of ideas in shaping the kind of government they get are impotent to defend against anti-liberty ideas, thus missing the warning signs threatening their freedom, and end up by helplessly asking “How could this happen?”

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There are many bad signs beside Political Correctness” threatening free speech. Campaign finance “reform”; agitation for “hate speech” laws; the attempts at government control of internet content in the name of “net neutrality” or “fighting fake news”; prosecution of “climate deniers”; the growing tendency toward “safe spaces” and the like on college campuses—all of these are warning signs.

No dictatorship can consolidate its power or remain for long without crushing intellectual freedom. Threats to intellectual freedom are definitely the path to totalitarianism. Any threat to free speech and expression must be challenged in the strongest possible terms.

Related Reading:

The Tyranny of Silence by Flemming Rose

Related Viewing:

STEVE SIMPSON SPEAKS AT HARVARD LAW SCHOOL ON FREE SPEECH—Steve Simpson of ARI

Monday, February 12, 2018

Note to Anti-Pipeline Activists: ‘Unsafe Bridges’ a Good Argument for Pipelines



The War on Pipelines is part of the Environmentalist’s War on Fossil Fuels (itself part of the War on Reliable Energy, including nuclear power). A key object of this assault is fracked oil and gas. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, the miraculous process which has opened up vast new fossil fuel resources. Environmentalists view pipelines as a means of transporting fracked fossil fuels. So they’ve been waging their War on Pipelines under the logic that if you can’t transport fracked fuels, fracking can be restrained.


But where pipelines are lacking, producers have simply found other ways to transport their product—ways that are often less efficient and, more importantly, less safe. Not to be dissuaded, anti-fossil activists have launched a campaign to stop tanker trains from transporting fracked oil on the grounds that the bridges they cross are not safe. In Bridges used to carry combustible crude oil need repairs, activists say, Sara Jerde reported:


Combustible Bakken oil is too dangerous to be transported along Bergen County's aging bridges and rail ways, activists and environmentalists protested on Sunday.


Despite assurances from CSX, the railroad company, that bridges are regularly monitored and upgraded as necessary,


Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, pointed to the potential of dangerous incidents, such as in Quebec, where a derailment of a train carrying oil -- dubbed a "bomb train" -- resulted in 47 people dying.


"Bakken oil is one of the most dangerous form of chemicals we can put on the rail lines," he said. "We're playing Russian roulette that can, one day, lead to a catastrophic tragedy."


This is the same Sierra Club that can regularly be observed leading anti-pipeline protests. If Tittel really cared about safety, wouldn’t he see that the answer to the dangers of transporting oil by rail is pipelines?   


I left these comments, edited for clarity:


This is a good argument for pipelines. As the Star-Ledger has noted, pipelines are a much safer way to transport oil. The trouble is, these anti-rail activists are the same activists who oppose pipelines on principle, including the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline which could alleviate the need to transport Bakken oil by rail and truck.


These activists are not primarily concerned with safety. They’re concerned with shutting down reliable, affordable energy production, the lifeblood of our industry and our standard of living. Their main target is fossil fuels, but also nuclear. Why? Because environmentalists are driven by the principle of minimizing human impact on raw nature, rather than maximizing human well-being by promoting reliable energy development while minimizing the impacts of the negative side-effects of industrialization. Put in simple terms, they’re not about solving problems. They’re about “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”


These activists have no credibility. They never recognize the enormous benefits that fossil fuels provide for humans. They shout “STOP, STOP, STOP” at every progressive energy project, if the energy is produced from fossil fuels. Rather than help figure out the safest way possible based on current technology to move the Bakken Oil, the result of the incredibly progressive technology of fracking, they oppose, oppose, oppose—without due respect for the benefits. (Never mind so-called “renewable” green energy. Every kilowatt of solar and wind generation needs backup from fossil, nuclear, and hydro sources. With today’s technology, no matter how many solar panels or wind turbines are built, we’ll still need the oil. We’ll need it, that is, from the perspective of human well-being, not “saving our planet,” as the moral standard of value.)


The activists may have a point about the safety of the bridges. But why should anyone believe them? They logically should be demanding approval for the much safer pipeline method. They’re not. How do we know that the bridge safety issue isn’t just another cover for their war on fossil fuels (They’ve just embraced a new strategy to halt pipelines—defending property owners again eminent domaine. But the pipeline opponents have a double standard, as I’ve pointed out, defending private property against taking when it suits their agenda, and supporting the taking when it when it does)? Will any infrastructure improvements ever be enough to satisfy Jeff Tittel and his ilk that “the potential of dangerous incidents” has been minimized enough to be able to say that the benefits outweigh the risks? I doubt it. But remember; no risk means no progress and no industrial civilization.


Related Reading:







Saturday, February 10, 2018

QUORA: 'Why is Donald Trump able to get away with violating so many of our set standards of political correctness?'

QUORA: Why is Donald Trump able to get away with violating so many of our set standards of political correctness without even being required to submit formal apologies or acknowledging the fact of wrongdoings?

I left this answer:

The idea that there are “set standards of political correctness,” and that speaking one’s mind in defiance of those alleged standards is to “get away” with something, is an indication of the growing threat to free speech. Political correctness is a form of self-censorship, a precursor to government censorship and the rise of totalitarianism.

Perhaps the question was asked facetiously or as an experiment to gauge the support for this kind of thinking. Whatever the reason, I have to say that the mere fact that this question is even seriously posed is politically frightening, and a bad sign for the future of intellectual freedom. It shows that there are people out there who believe that some people have the right and power to set public speech standards or dictate what ideas others are allowed to express or silence people whom they disagree with. Political Correctness is intended to fraudulently distort meanings and concepts, one-sidedly frame the debate, and destroy the ability to counter bad ideas with better ideas. It is intellectual authoritarianism and I reject it completely.

Trump or anyone else can properly be challenged for what they say, but never that they said it. I suggest the author of the question as well as anyone concerned with preserving their freedom to express themselves pick up a copy of The Tyranny of Silence by Flemming Rose.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Prager U’s ‘4 New Arguments’ for God: The Same Old Arguments from Ignorance

I like Dennis Prager and his Prager U. They have many informative and easy-to-understand videos. I find much convincing and easy to agree with. But this video, Does God Exist? 4 New Arguments, is puzzling. It purports to “prove” the existence of God—but forgets the rules of proof, which starts with providing actual evidence. It even mentions Aristotle—while forgetting Aristotle, the father of modern science.


Frank Pastore poses this question:


Science tells us that the universe came into being via The Big Bang. But how do you get from energy and matter to a self-aware human being? That takes three additional Big Bangs that science can't explain.




Pastore then presents four “Big Bang” arguments for God: the origin of the universe, the rise of life from inanimate matter, the diversity of life on Earth and the igniting of evolution, and the rise of intelligent life (the cosmological, the biological, the anthropological, and the psychological).


What this amounts to is nothing new: There is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a supernatural God who created existence. Hence, many religionists trot out science’s inability (to date) to explain certain existential phenomena as proof that therefore the only logical explanation for such phenomena is that God did it.


The idea of proving the existence of God is the ultimate contradiction. The Christian God is believed to exist outside of nature; that is, in a supernatural realm. He is thought to be unknowable through mere reason. Man’s reason is “limited.” If that is so, then proof of God is logically impossible, for if God’s existence can be proved, it would by definition disprove the very existence of God, as conceived by Christianity. It would mean God is knowable and subject to the same laws of nature that everything existing in nature is subject to. He would not exist in a realm above nature—a supernatural realm. “Supernatural” implies beyond the laws of nature, and thus unprovable by definition.


The four “Big Bangs” may be arguments for God. Anybody can argue anything for any reason. But they don’t constitute proof. So, what’s the point? Pastore concludes, We must take God on faith—or, the only rational explanation for existence is faith in God!.


Religionists should give up trying to appeal to rationality in a vain attempt to prove the irrational—the existence of God. This video boils down to the argument from ignorance: we don’t know something yet, so God must have done it. But ignorance—we don’t know yet—does not prove God. It simply proves we don’t know everything yet (and probably never will). The four “Big Bangs” of “proof” in this video fail to prove anything but that there is more for science to discover and explain. Religionists could stick to faith if they want to. But forget proving God. The argument from ignorance is not an argument for God, new or otherwise.


Related Reading:


The Role of Religion in the Scientific Revolution—Frederick Seiler  for The Objective Standard



Dennis Prager’s False Alternative and Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Life—Craig Biddle for The Objective Standard

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

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

I've never bought into the "Give Back" campaign. It's a sinister attempt by parasites and achievement-haters to guilt people into giving up their hard earned money and/or valuable time in "atonement" for making their lives the best they can be. There's nothing wrong with voluntarism, of course. But charitable activity is not a moral duty. It should be an act of good will toward something one believes in, not an unearned guilt-induced duty to "give back" what you haven't taken. The success you earned, no matter what the level of success, comes from providing a value to people willing to pay you for it. You've already given through the act of making money. You haven't taken anything.

In this regard, I want to single out a good article by Mark J. Perry titled How Can You "Give Back" Something that Wasn't First Taken? Published on FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education), Perry argues that "Creating and producing are not theft." This article was Reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute. It includes excerpts from other articles attacking the "Give Back" campaign.

Related Reading:

Society’s ‘Lottery Winners’ and ‘Give Back’ vs. Win-Win

Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%—Harry Binswanger

'Give Back' Is One of the World's Most Impoverishing Commands—Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

QUORA: "How is becoming a billionaire even possible, chronologically?"


Peter Buffet: A Real Life Ivy Starnes?

THE GUILT PLEDGEDon Watkins and Yaron Brook