Friday, November 30, 2018

The ‘RIGHT’ to Disagree Must Also Mean the Right Not to be Forced

In a contentious Facebook debate over the Kavanaugh fight, a commenter who opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination said:

What I truly love about this country is our RIGHT to disagree. My only hope is that we can all sit around the table and talk. Guess what? We all live here, we all have families, we all want what is best. If we can’t meet somewhere in the middle, we are doomed.

So true. But the “RIGHT to disagree” has a vital corollary--the right NOT TO BE FORCED by those with whom one disagrees. If two people disagree but one then pulls a gun on the other in order to force submission to his purpose, there is no real “RIGHT to disagree.” For the “RIGHT to disagree” to mean anything, the two who disagree must not only be ready to let each other go their separate ways in peace; they must be legally forbidden to do otherwise--and government should be subordinated to the same principle.


It is crucial that this principle--live-and-let-live--must be extended to government, given its unique nature as the one institution that can legally compel obedience to its edicts. All people accept the right NOT TO BE FORCED principle in their private lives. But more and more people don’t see it as applying to government, so the government is increasingly becoming the tool or “hired gun” for victorious electoral factions to force their values on those who disagree. The conflict between those who believe live-and-let-live must apply to government and those who don’t lies at the heart of the increasingly hostile SCOTUS nomination process. It’s destined to get a lot worse, because there’s no middle ground between the two sides.

Related Reading:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Stop ‘Denying’ the View From Outside the Climate Catastrophist Government Establishment

You’ve probably heard about the latest government climate catastrophe report, this one put out by a group of federal government agencies. The report focussed on the increasing damages brought on by extreme weather, allegedly due to climate change, and asserted that the damage will get worse. As the Washington Post reported:

The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The authors argue that global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” And they conclude that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“The impacts we’ve seen the last 15 years have continued to get stronger, and that will only continue,” said Gary Yohe, a professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the report.

Of course, these dangers have always existed. What’s changed is that there is more development and thus more economic damage by fires, heat waves, and hurricanes. Of course the impacts have gotten stronger. And of course, humans have always had to adapt to the ongoing reality of climate change. True, humans often contribute to climate change--but usually in the process of improving the human condition, as has been the case over the most recent Century or so.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger expressed surprise that the Trump Administration released the report in unadulterated form, but nonetheless lambasted Trump for relying on “climate change deniers” in his policy decisions. In Now Trump doesn't believe his own scientists on climate change, the Star-Ledger editorialized:

This is a report that the White House is required to put out every four years, and the initial fear was that Trump officials would tamper with its findings. Its data will certainly be an impediment in court, as they seek to roll back environmental protections.

But apparently, the White House allowed it to be released as is, because it believes that even in the face of dire warnings from Trump's own administration, his fans will be undeterred.

A climate denier on Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, Steven J. Milloy, put it this way: "We don't care."

He blamed this report on the "deep state," as if thousands of scientists all over the globe, and in a consortium of 13 U.S. federal agencies, are conspiring to hide the truth from the American public. Yet we see the impact firsthand.

I left these comments:

Imagine you as a kid who loves weather and climate. You are in school, but you get a one-sided view of anthropogenic climate change as bad and the solution as banning of fossil fuels. You get to college, and the one-sided view is intensified. But you keep your objectivity, your “open mind.” Then you turn your attention to a career in climate science, your first love. But you learn that funding for climate science research has been hijacked by government, and that funding only goes to people who will produce “research” that furthers the politicians’ climate catastrophist, anti-fossil fuel, anti-nuclear, statist agenda. You find out that the climate scientists with the best chance of getting funding for their work, or getting a job in one of the government agencies, are the ones who swallowed the schools’ one sided view hook, line, and sinker.

Welcome to the politicized government climate establishment.

It’s time for the climate catastrophist establishment to be called out. There is a huge body of mostly private sector work pointing to a completely different viewpoint that sees no impending climate catastrophe; that there is no call for crippling forced government curtailment of vital energy from fossil fuels, or of totalitarian, global government-imposed "unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society," as the U.N. urged; or that humans can flourish better by remaining free and adapting to climate change.

It’s time to stop denying the works of the un-establishment, including energy expert Alex Epstein; Ron Bailey, expert on science as it relates to human progress; and climate scientists like Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger.

The real deniers are the establishmentarians who ignore the opposing view. Kudos to Trump and his team for ignoring the deniers.


In the end, it all comes down to faith. Yes, faith. From the Washington Post article:

For many Americans, however, no simulations are necessary. The effects of climate change are already playing out daily.
“We don’t debate who caused it. You go outside, the streets are flooded. What are you going to do about it? It’s our reality nowadays,” said Susanne Torriente, who also reviewed the report.

On the other side of the country from Washington, at least one well-known atmospheric scientist this week was wrestling not with the contents of a climate report but with the changing view from his window.

“Normally, I can see San Francisco Bay from my home,” said Ken Caldeira, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “Today and for the past few days, I could not see the bay for all the smoke from the Paradise fire. Fires that approach the size of the Paradise fire are most common in the hot dry years — the kind of years that we are likely to see many more of.”

“We are trained to be skeptical and resist jumping to quick conclusions,” he said. “But looking at the smoke, I could not help but think: ‘This is climate change. This is what climate change looks like.’ ”

See a flooded roadway or smoke in the air or (fill-in-the-blank) weather effect, and conclude climate change. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Don’t consider all facts and viewpoints. That’s the way the establishment wants us to behave--blind belief in “the scientists” and blind obedience to the Leftist political establishment’s “solutions.”

Related Reading:

Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything
—Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Confederate Statue Controversy vs. the ‘alt-Left’s ‘Effort to Cleanse American History’

The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine took on the “national effort by the left to cleanse history of  historical figures with checkered pasts.” In The alt-left's attack on history: And they think Trump's crazy?, Mulshine notes that “New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio [sic] has called for a review of the historic relevance of public monuments in the city.” Among them are monuments to Ulysses S. Grant and Christopher Columbus.

Like a lot of conservatives, [[U.S. Senate candidate Jeff] Bell argues that the effort to remove historical artifacts has its roots in the Stalin methodology that George Orwell highlighted in "1984."

 "Orwell satirized the idea of a 'memory hole' and  now the left is starting to have a memory hole for anything they don't believe in," he said. "They don't want Americans to be proud of their country. They want to change the story into a triumph of evil."

True enough. But Mulshine goes on to include Confederate monuments in the category of historic American artifacts that deserve to be preserved. That’s where we differ.

First of all, there is no “alt-Left”. The Left has always been anti-American, at least since the rise of the New Left half a century ago. It stands to reason that they’d want to remove true American heroes, and morally equate a Washington with a Lee. Under cover of the white nationalist, alt-Right controversy, the New Left is making a direct assault on reason, individual rights, limited rights-protecting government, and free market capitalism.

Having said that, count me among those who would remove statues that hold up Confederate leaders among America’s heros. They are no such thing. True, history is messy. Most historical figures were mixed bags, morally. Plus, context is everything. We should be very careful about where we draw the moral lines. It should not be taken lightly. Many factors must be balanced. But we can and should draw moral lines.  

People like George Washington, despite being a slave owner, fought for and help Found a country based on the principles of political equality that rips the “justifications” for slavery to shreds. It is they who gave the philosophic firepower to the Abolitionist Movement led by people like former slave Frederick Douglass. Christopher Columbus’s courageous explorations and discovery of the New World, extending Western Civilization with its science and progress to a primitive land, ultimately setting in motion the chain of events that resulted in Founding of the United States of America.

Confederate “heroes” fought to create and protect a reactionary breakaway nation that explicitly rejected the proposition that all men are equal in unalienable rights. The Confederacy had to reject those principles and turn its back on America: slavery could not indefinitely coexist with the Declaration of Independence, America’s philosophic blueprint. One or the other had to go, and they knew it. The Confederates dumped the Declaration of Independence.

You don’t have to excuse their ownership of slaves to recognize the great achievements of a Washington or a Jefferson. America inherited slavery, and thanks to visionary leaders like Washington and Jefferson, America became part of the solution. They were on the right side of the struggle for a fully free country for all people, and on balance we have a much better country and world for their heroic efforts. The Confederacy was part of the problem. It was willing to reject America’s Founding principles and tear the United States apart to protect a racist slave dictatorship.

We should always remember history in its full context. But that principle does not forbid moral evaluations or require moral agnosticism. The Confederacy is part of history—but not part of American history. The same applies to the New Left. Both promote slavery—in the case of the Confederacy, racist slavery; for the New Left, Marxist egalitarian slavery. Both represent the rejection of Americanism.

Related Reading:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

QUORA: ‘Is it fair to say capitalism has killed more people than communism?’

I posted this answer:

The question makes sense only within the context of government and government’s relationship to the governed. Also, it is understood that when we talk about “people killed,” we to mean innocents, not criminals. So, let’s first compare the two governmental systems in their essentials.

Communism** is force: As China’s communist mass murderer, Mao Zedong, famously said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." He understood that Communism can only be imposed from the top down through government’s military power, because few people would ever willingly submit to giving up their individual rights and sovereignty to government master planners. Communism thus turns government into a criminal aggressor, of necessity. If you doubt that, then name one communist (i.e., socialist) initiative that does not begin with legal, that is, armed, aggression by the government against its own citizens. Communism grows out of the barrel of a gun.

Capitalism is voluntarism. It grows out of the Enlightenment principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Capitalism restrains government behind a constitutional firewall that restricts government power to protecting individual rights, so the people can go about living their lives according to their own judgement, freely associating, cooperating, and trading. The government’s power of the gun is limited to protecting the people as individuals, and their property, from criminals and foreign aggressors, but is constitutionally forbidden from ever becoming the criminal aggressor.

The two systems have diametrically opposed systems of government. So the question boils down to, which system of government kills? The answer is simple: Only Communist government kills. Communism features top down government control of people’s lives. The communist death toll is related to direct aggressive government action to manage people’s lives. Capitalist government refrains from such aggressive action, leaving people free to control and improve their own lives. Only the Communist government is permitted to initiate force against non-criminal innocents. Capitalist government is constitutionally forbidden to take any such action. Does it make sense that “capitalism kills?” Of course not--its government is forbidden from initiating the necessary actions. Communist government is built on such action. Does it make sense that Communism kills? Of course: It does and it has, because killing is built into its government’s ideological DNA.

Related Reading:

The Roots of War—Ayn Rand

Why Marxism—Evil Laid Bare--C. Bradley Thompson for The Objective Standard

“Victims” of capitalism? By Jaana Woiceshyn: "Capitalism is the only victimless social system."

* [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.]

** [I am  speaking here of “modern” Communism, upper case “C”--that is, as conceived by Karl Marx. The concept of communism goes back at least to Plato, the original totalitarian. But the concept could also refer to voluntary communes. I assume that the question above is taken to mean totalitarian Marxian socialism, or communism.]

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Thanksgiving Message

[The Internet has improved our lives immensely. It has saved us time in our shopping. It has expanded entertainment choices. It has opened up new business, job, and investment opportunities. It has benefited existing and traditional businesses. It has put the whole catalogue of human knowledge at the disposal of every individual on the planet. It has greatly enhanced and amplified freedom of speech. And much more. It has become ubiquitous to our lives. It has literally connected the world.

This year, I’m thankful to the men and women of science and invention who played a part in creating the internet, and the entrepreneurial businessmen who created the content that fills the internet, and made it cheaply available to everyday people.]


Reprinted below are two thanksgiving messages that I think captures the true essence of Thanksgiving, a holiday practiced only in America. Regardless of how one believes he came into existence (God or nature), the reality is that man is a being of self-generated wealth based on reason who requires certain social conditions for his survival. America was the first country founded explicitly on those conditions; i.e., a country where every individual owns his own life and possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and to the pursuit of his own happiness, coupled inextricably with the obligation to accept the reality that all people are equally endowed with these rights and to treat them accordingly.

It is thus that America, born of the enlightenment ideas of individualism, reason, and republican government, achieved in the span of a mere two hundred-plus years (following centuries of stagnation) its spectacular standard of living. The ensuing excerpts are from two essays that I believe correctly recognize where the credit for America's material plenty belongs: to any man or woman, on whatever level of ability or accomplishment, who contributed in a great or small way to American greatness by doing an honest and productive day's work in pursuit of his or her own well-being.

Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.

What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right.

What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.

How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.

So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.

As you sit down to your decadent Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."

Debi Ghate is associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.

The religious tradition of saying grace before meals becomes especially popular around the holidays, when we all are reminded of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of life-sustaining goods and services at our disposal. But there is a grave injustice involved in this tradition.

Where do the ideas, principles, constitutions, governments, and laws that protect our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness come from? What is the source of the meals, medicines, homes, automobiles, and fighter jets that keep us alive and enable us to flourish? Who is responsible for our freedom, prosperity, and well-being?

Since God is responsible for none of the goods on which human life and happiness depend, why thank him for any such goods? More to the point: Why not thank those who actually are responsible for them? What would a just man do?

Justice is the virtue of judging people rationally--according to what they say, do, and produce--and treating them accordingly, granting to each man that which he deserves.

To say grace is to give credit where none is due--and, worse, it is to withhold credit where it is due. To say grace is to commit an act of injustice.

Rational, productive people--whether philosophers, scientists, inventors, artists, businessmen, military strategists, friends, family, or yourself--are who deserve to be thanked for the goods on which your life, liberty, and happiness depend. ... Thank or acknowledge the people who actually provide the goods. Some of them may be sitting right there at the table with you. And if you find yourself at a table where people insist on saying grace, politely insist on saying justice when they're through. It's the right thing to do.

I couldn't have said it better myself. These truths are obvious. A simple rudimentary knowledge of history, coupled with basic observation and logic, are all that's required to realize it. Thank you Debi Ghate and Craig Biddle!

Have a joyous, and well earned, Thanksgiving.

Related Reading:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The ‘Wild West’ of Government Regulation Caused the 2008 Financial Meltdown

On the occasion of her “farewell” address,” outgoing Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen warned against repeal or major roll-back of the Dodd-Frank regulatory bill passed as an alleged “fix” for the cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger piled on in support of Yellen. In its Central bank to Trump: Keep your tiny hands off Dodd-Frank editorial, the S-L chastised President Trump and Republicans for launching a “deregulation bonfire.” Building on the statists’ lie about the causes of the crisis, the S-L announced, with an apparent straight face, “But the Wild West days of hands-off central banking - which peaked during [the crisis] - should remain dead and buried.”

I left these comments:

When, in recent decades, did we ever see “Wild West days of hands-off central banking?”

When we think of the Wild West, we think of lawlessness, where people with guns, usually outlaws, “governed” at whim.

Well, that’s a good description of the financial regulatory regime of then, and today. After all, who has the guns? The regulators, not the banks. And they used them to create the conditions that led to the financial crisis. Contrary to the Big Lie being peddled by statists and government apologists, financial regulation—every bit of which is backed by the armed power of the state—was at a peak when the crisis hit. Government spending on financial regulation, adjusted for inflation, tripled after 1980, peaking in 2007. Keep in mind that three big new regulatory bills were passed under Bush, the Privacy Act, Patriot Act, and Sarbanes-Oxley. That massive regulatory apparatus was put to use imposing ever-weaker mortgage standards to force banks to comply with the politicians affordable housing goals under Clinton and Bush. This was aided and abetted by Fannie and Freddie, which were ordered by both Clinton and Bush to massively ramp up purchases of subprime mortgages.

As to central banking, the Federal Reserve under Greenspan and Bernanke inflated the biggest ever asset inflation, the 1997-2007 housing bubble, which distorted incentives and caused a massive malinvestment of capital. Is it any wonder that a Fed Chairwoman would hide her own agency’s leading culpability in order to shift blame to private banks?

Yellon left out most of the “whole truth.” The years leading up to the financial crisis certainly look like “Wild West days”—a Wild West of political, regulatory, and monetary interference in the housing and mortgage markets. Banks that acted badly were a secondary cause. The government was the primary cause—which is why I believe Dodd-Frank should be repealed in its entirety: It’s based on a lie. But, the whole truth is out there. It is grotesquely dishonest to assert that it was a free “Wild West” market that failed, when in fact it was a heavily regulated market that failed. It is therefore grossly unfair to burden the entire industry with another layer of suffocating controls for the wrongdoing of the few banks (like Angelo Mozilo’s Countrywide Financial) that did deliberately exacerbate the problem: This amounts to punishing the innocent many for the wrongdoing of the few.

To protect the guilty, Dodd-Frank was sold on a lie—the deliberate mis-identification of the fundamental causes of the financial crisis. And now the guilty will have even more Wild West power! Congress should start over, and start by not only looking at the secondary causes but also at the government’s—the politicians’ own—primary role.

Related Reading:

Myth: The Great Recession was caused by free-market policies that led to irrational risk taking on Wall Street.
Reality: The Great Recession could not have happened without the vast web of government subsidies and controls that distorted financial markets.

Department of Economics

The subprime mortgage crisis had its origin in the program the directors of Fannie Mae initiated in the late 1990's to pursue social welfare goals rather than maintain financial viability.

The Housing Boom and Bust—by Thomas Sowell

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Politics: Answering a ‘Diversity’ Public Debate Question

In October 2018, a New Jersey municipal election debate among four candidates running for two seats on the City Council got interesting when moderator Susan Ferris Rights posed the question, “What have you done to promote and encourage diversity and inclusion in your careers?”

As Rob Jennings reports for the Star-Ledger (10/19/18) in Councilman flubs diversity question at debate,

[Councilman Robert W.] Messler, who is white and holds an executive job, appeared to stumble over the question. “I have, in my career — I have promoted many people that are … that maybe didn’t deserve it and help include them.”

He later attempted to clarify:

“I meant to say that they might not have had a chance. I’m in a factory environment and I have people that have education — maybe have no education, maybe have language barriers, maybe are minorities,” Messler said.

“I’ve promoted them to management positions, gave them a chance, gave them a chance to have education, helped them out and their families, so what I said came across wrong,” he concluded.

For her part, one of Messler’s challengers, Anjali Mehrotra, did better--barely, in my view,

“I am a woman of color who grew up in India. I was not supposed to have a college education or a career. All my life, I had to fight against status quo to be here today. I am the picture of diversity, if you will give me that,” she said.

“Inclusion, itself, is important. But to me, diversity is not just diversity of, you know, ethnic. It’s gender. It’s diversity of thought. It’s diversity of ideas. And I think that is severely needed in our borough,” said Mehrotra.

Mehrotra noted that the police department — currently roiled by a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by five male officers and a female dispatcher over alleged misdeeds including repeated displays of a large dildo — is all-white and lacks any female officers.

“I would like to see more diversity throughout our government and throughout borough hall,” she said, to some applause in the audience.

At least she mentioned something other than race or sex--thought and ideas. And she was prepared. Messler was obviously not prepared, and very uncomfort with the question. To be fair, the question was rigged. Rights framed the question as if the issue of “diversity and inclusion” were settled--that some numerical race/gender/other balance must be accomplished. Messler, an executive, is probably used to deciding by merit, and sees “diversity” goals as giving the undeserved (which it can very well mean).

I think the question should be addressed by first asking the moderator to define diversity and inclusion. When Rights answers that by diversity and inclusion “I mean race, gender, or ethnicity” quotas, Messler could have answered, “I reject race or gender as major relevant considerations. I believe people should be judged as individuals, based on their character, ability, employment and life experience, job fitness, and merit. That’s the only kind of diversity I include in my decision-making. That’s the only kind of diversity I promote.”

Related Reading: