Tuesday, January 30, 2007

5 Minutes of Unnatural Disaster

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070130/sc_afp/franceeiffeltourism_070130192956

"The Eiffel Tower's lights will be turned off for five minutes on Thursday as part of a campaign to save energy and draw attention to the plight of the planet."

This is significant symbolically but not for the reasons intended by the environmentalists.

First, note that there is literally no energy crisis. Energy is plentiful and cheap thanks to human ingenuity and relatively free markets. In fact, to paraphrase economist George Reisman, the earth is for all intents and purposes a giant ball of practically limitless resources ready to serve the human race for eons.

Furthermore, the planet is hardly in a state of "plight." In the sense that weather changes, species go instinct, meteors hit the earth, volcanoes erupt, land masses move, ice ages occur, etc. the planet is as it always has been and always will be until it is ultimately destroyed when the sun dies out billions of years from now. It is changing.

So what really concerns the environmentalists? They don't seem to be upset about the tsunami that hit southeast asia or the various volcanic eruptions that have decimated cities. They don't seem concerned about wildfires, meteors crashing into the earth or tornado's destroying towns. They don't seem to be concerned with the various plagues and diseases that have wiped out large populations and whole civilizations over the millenia. Yet, these are environmental disasters which are known certainly to affect the "planet" and kill people. So then what concerns them?

They are only concerned when man changes the earth. This is the dirty secret of the environmental movement.

The environmentalists are not concerned with human life. If they were they would recognize the inestimable benefit of industrial civilization. They would be eternally grateful that technology has rescued us from the daily "plight" of subsisting like animals in nature, scavenging for food and shelter at the mercy of the next disease or storm that comes along. If theories purported that human caused carbon emissions were globally raising temperatures they would insist on proof of harm TO MAN before upending the economy and then seek a technological solution.

Environmentalists oppose man's nature. Since unlike animals, man uses his mind to survive we must transform nature to survive. Environmentalists regard nature as intrinsically valuable, i.e., valuable apart from human life. Therefore, to the extent that man must transform nature, according to this philosophy, he is destroying value. This philosophy is what leads them to chain themselves to trees and blow up science labs.

So how would the environmentalist have us live? How do we live simply in "harmony" with nature? What is the difference in principle from burning logs for fire, making rocks into tools, stones into pillars, silicon into computer chips, crude oil into gasoline, metal into engines, etc.? Where does the environmentalist want us to stop? They don't answer.

The environmentalists are a new age religion that wishes man to sacrifice himself on nature's altar. They combine altruistic platitudes readily accepted by the eager masses and shroud them with a pseudo-scientific veneer. The pseudo-science gives it plausibility and the altruistic component renders it unquestionably "moral."

As noted author Michael Chrichton argued in a 2003 speech:

"...environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe."

The reason this blackout is symbolic is not as a moment of "respite" for a dying planet. It is symbolic specifically because the lights are NOT going out as a result of a shortage of energy or a natural disaster or even a foreign enemy. They are being turned out willfully. For those that value human life, this is an ominous unnatural disaster.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Separation of Film and State

http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070126/NEWS/701260363

Here is the pattern that gets repeated thousands of times. The state interferes in some area of the economy and when a controversy erupts or the program inevitably fails the government calls for more regulation rather than removal of the original government interference. (Then, more regulation leads to more controversies and disasters and even further calls for regulation. All the while, the intellectuals cynically blame the free market, "greedy profiteers", "evil" businessmen, "narrow minded" public, etc. as the state erects a never ending series of byzantine rules and regulations and calls for more taxpayer funding. Then the persons affected hire lobbyists who pay the politicians to try and game the rule making in their favor. Since the persons with the most money usually win, efforts made to "reform" the system consist of direct and indirect government reprisals aimed at throttling the rich who allegedly are the source of all the corruption. Then comes more payoffs to stop the reprisals ad infinitum.)

In other words, the arguments made allegedly justifying government intervention coupled with the economic reality that intervention has to fail means logically that government intervention necessarily begets more intervention.

Linked above is a classic example. The state of North Carolina decided to use taxpayer money to provide "incentives" to film studios to produce movies in the state by rebating 15% of costs to the studios. In other words, the state forcibly expropriated money from individuals that have nothing to do with the film (other than having lived in rough geographical proximity to its production) and transfered it to the filmmakers. Then, when the filmmaker produced a film that was "controversial" the state demanded the right to begin "approving" film scripts citing the usage of state money as necessitating state control. Of course what is never questioned is whether the government should be funding filmmakers or any private business in the first place.

Other historical examples of this pattern include public education, medicare and medicaid, state insurance regulations, social security, bank and S&L regulation, farm subsidies and price controls, the national endowment for the arts, sports stadium funding, just to name a few.

What do all of these have in common? Note that in every case the argument is always made that the "public interest" is somehow at stake. Of course, in the sense that mathematically every action in the universe somehow affects every other aspect of the universe this is true. If a new business employs people and makes useful products then it certainly does benefit the public. So should the "public" therefore be coerced into funding every new business startup or any expansion of current businesses? This argument can be used to justify infinite government intrusion into our lives and property.

Afterall, if the government pays for your health care shouldn' t the government regulate what you eat or make sure you don't go outside without a jacket when its cold to "control" costs?

If the government funds education shouldn't the state determine education standards?

If the government insures the banks shouldn't the government regulate bank activity?

If the government is funding films shouldn't the "public" approve of the script?

There is no such thing as the "public interest". The public is a collection of individuals with different opinions, tastes, and appetites for risk. The coercion of some for the benefit of others is immoral and necessarily leads to conflict between warring interest groups fighting for control of the means to define and implement their version of the "public interest."

To paraphrase Ayn Rand, the state needs to be constitutionally separate from economics in the same way and for the same reason as it is separate from the Church.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wait, I Was Wrong

I thought the "global warming causes terrorism" concept (see my post "Warm Weather Causes Terrorism!?) was the most absurd claim I had heard related to global warming. But, I was wrong. Here is a link to an actual journal that purports a link between global warming and suicide. The classic "correlation is not causation" fallacy aside, I hope they are right. Then, as the weather gets warmer perhaps the terrorists will all just commit suicide instead of attacking the West.

Global warming possibly linked to an enhanced risk of suicide: Data from Italy, 1974–2003Journal of Affective Disorders, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 17 January 2007, A. Preti, G. Lentini and M. Maugeri
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T2X-4MV71C2-1&_user=777686&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000043031&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=777686&md5=30dc7fda0cf2ed6cd676fe99048ba4c0

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reisman on Tradable Emission Rights and Artificial Scarcity Caused by Environmentalists

http://georgereisman.com/blog/2006/07/how-environmentalism-raises-profits-at.html#links

In George Reisman's article "How Environmentalism Raises Profits at the Expense of Wages" he demonstrates the economic effects resulting from so called tradable emission rights which are now being promoted in the US http://money.cnn.com/2007/01/22/news/companies/climate_emissions/index.htm?postversion=2007012215
He also shows that "the effect of imposing laws and regulations based on environmentalism is to make land and natural resources artificially scarce relative to human labor and thus to enhance the economic value of land and natural resources while reducing the economic value of human labor, above all, wage rates." In other words, environmentalist restrictions are causing dramatic increases in oil, natural gas, real estate, and other physical commodities which shows up economically as higher profits and reduced wages. He then demonstrates how "a free market operates to increase the supply of useable, accessible land and mineral deposits relative to the supply of human labor and thus to make them progressively cheaper in real terms" concluding that "Environmentalism is a movement dedicated to the undoing of the Industrial Revolution."

Warm Weather Causes Terrorism!?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070124/sc_nm/climate_security_dc
In case you thought that apocalyptic claims regarding global warming could not get more absurd - think again.

Sir Crispin Tickell (this is a real name), the former British ambassador to the United Nations, warns us that due to global warming:

"Violence within and between communities and between nation states, we must accept, could possibly increase, because the precedents are all around."

He cited Rwanda and Sudan's Darfur region as two examples where drought and overpopulation, relative to scarce resources, had helped to fuel deadly conflicts. "

Experts at the conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute said it was likely that global warming would create huge flows of refugees as people tried to escape areas swamped by rising sea levels or rendered uninhabitable by desertification.

Tickell said terrorists were likely to seek to exploit the tensions created."

The article even quotes yes, you guessed it, Bin Laden's 2002 letter to the American people:

"You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries."

But here is my favorite quote from Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies (is that really a major?) at Bradford University, said:

"any attempt by countries to build fortress walls to keep out climate change refugees -- what he called the 'barbarians at the gate' mentality -- was doomed to fail."

So let me get this straight. The weather will get warmer leading to rising sea levels AND more desertification (not quite sure how rising seas lead to deserts but whatever). This will make people in Rwanda and Sudan angry (since now everything is grand). Consequently, they will make a run for somewhere most likley Western countries (apparently the place where global warming hasn't destroyed everything). So when this all goes down we shouldn't even consider building a "fortress" to keep them out because that would fail. And, also, because these people will suddenly become poor and desperate and starving this will incite them to kill people in the West out of frustration.

Hmmmm, this is an interesting theory but I have a few questions.

How is it that the city of Las Vegas which has a population of over 1 million people manages to feed, water, house, and entertain millions of people every year in the most gluttonous orgy of food, product, and convenience in human history all from land that Al Gore would likely consider "uninhabitable due to desertification"?

According to these "experts", aren't local communities determined by the fertility and/or natural resources of the land they immediately inhabit and so shouldn't everyone in Las Vegas be killing each other by now?

What about Manhattan which has over 10 million people on a small island. Theoretically this is a densely populated land with seas (oooh scary) all around it. Shouldn't everyone be drowning, fighting for food, and exploding bombs out of frustration?

Even a cursory glance at reality reveals that intelligent, free people find a way to prosper wherever they go under practically any conditions through ingenuity, hard work, and free trade. (Note that the premise of the article is that the third world will be affected by global warming and will want to come to the West so are they even admitting that global warming will somehow not affect the West - no answer)

If terrorists are extremely pissed off because they are poor and starving shouldn't they be emulating the West instead of trying to destroy it? Why doesn't Bin Laden use his millions of dollars to build roads, schools, and factories to educate the population and attract investment capital? (But wait, that might spoil that beautiful desert landscape with "industrial waste and gases" so maybe that's why he chose flying planes into buildings.)

Note what Bin Laden actually says in his quote. He's not mad because he's poor or because he is starving and miserable. He is mad because America is rich and happy. If he cared about human life then he would recognize that life expectancy in the West is higher than it has ever been and has gone up 25 years in the short span of the last century thanks to capitalism and its "industrial waste and gases".

Also note the connection between environmentalism and the terrorists that Bin Laden makes explicit. Both demand sacrifice either to the earth or to Allah. Both ideologies contradict man's fundamental nature which requires reason and production to survive, i.e., free rational thought and the transformation of nature into useful products. Both naturally see the West and capitalism as antithetical to their ideology and thus seek to destroy it albeit to different degrees.

Terrorism is not caused by frustrated, starving people or deserts. If the third world wants to be rich, prosperous and happy they could become capitalists and join the rest of the civilized world. The Islamic fanatics worship death and the afterlife and suffering in service to God and seek to impose Islamic or Shariah law on the rest of the world. They do not seek wealth they despise capitalist "decadence" and seek to destroy the West. If they wanted to be rich they would have tried to steal the World Trade Center not destroy it.

In short, the West stands for life, freedom, and happiness. The terrorists stand for death, slavery, and suffering.

If there are any barbarians at the gate it is Mr. Tickell and his cronies who worship nature apart from human life and who do not understand the precondition and true source of wealth: human reason and the political freedom to exercise it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Super Heroes Need Super Powers

Have you ever wondered why it is that the fictional heroes celebrated in modern culture generally have some type of supernatural power?

In my post "The Moral Case for Price 'Gouging'", I claimed that altruism or self-sacrifice is the dominant ethic of our age. The concept of Super Hero is a derivative of altruism.

A hero is distinguished by exceptional attributes such as courage or strength and typically symbolizes devotion to some moral ideal. Now, assume that it is widely held that altruism represents moral virtue, i.e., self-sacrifice is the good. In this case, a Super Hero would need to be a Super Altruist. However, to be a Super Altruist would require Super Sacrifices.

This presents a practical problem for the producer or author of the fictional hero and exposes the essence of altruism. To the extent that you practice altruism, you will necessarily have to come close to death or actually die thus ending the series in the first scene. So for the Super Altruist to survive stepping in front of bullets and the like he must have supernatural powers. Otherwise, he would not live to the next episode nor could he perform super sacrifices.

It is not coincidental that altruistic ideals are necessarily "other-worldly." The concept of sacrifice as a virtue is an inversion of man's fundamental nature. Heroes under an egoistic ethics pursue real values in the real world against overwhelming odds and succeed. These heroes have extraordinary ability but their example is so powerful artistically because they are "possible."

Alternatively, altruistic heroes or "Super Heroes" are literally comic book figures with no actual referent in reality. In some essential respects, the Super Heroes represent heroism conceptually to the extent that they are generally fighting for "good" and have extraordinary ability. To that extent, they are better than nothing and in today's culture of nihilism that is saying something. However, their essential altruistic nature forces them to be other-worldly characters divorced from reality and largely relegated to the comic book world of young children.

The Moral Case for Price "Gouging"

In a previous post, I demonstrated that price gouging laws actually cause shortages during storms and only serve to add mile long lines, empty gas stations, and gas station bouncers to the list of problems experienced by victims of storms or other natural disasters.

However, this was an economic argument that presupposes that people value happiness and would therefore demand political conditions or rights that would result in freedom and prosperity. Believe it or not, this premise is not axiomatic and in fact, as I will show, the opposite premise leads to price "gouging" laws in the first place.

Before I get to my explanation, let's take the economic argument a step further. As George Reisman describes in detail in his book "Capitalism", price controls by virtue of their fundamental violation of property rights are tantamount to de facto socialism and the resulting shortages (described in detail in my last post) are the basis for the economic chaos, stagnation, and misery unleashed by every socialist regime in history. Price controls by definition force individuals to relinquish their property or labor at a lower price than they would agree to voluntarily. Under price controls therefore there is literally no actual ownership of property (or at best nominal ownership) since an individual by definition can not voluntarily choose how to dispose of it. The resulting situation is chaos and economic stagnation as logic and history show us.

A government can only force price controls to the extent it is willing to unleash massive violence on its own people to force them to relinquish their property or labor for nothing (total slavery) or at prices to which they would not otherwise volunatarily submit. This is the case in the most vicious socialist states in history such as Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, among others. Fascism is equivalent to socialism in principle but generally the state allows a facade of private property and intervenes as it deems necessary but this is only a matter of degree. In the United States today and in Europe, price controls are imposed less frequently since the governments of these countries to this point have not been willing to persecute their people on the scale of the other countries. However, in principle, private property is not considered an absolute right and is frequently violated even in these relatively less socialist countries (price "gouging" laws, minimum wage laws, anti-trust laws, tariffs, etc.). It is not a coincidence, that these relatively more free countries are prosperous and the relatively less free countries are mired in stagnation, poverty, and misery.

So, the economic argument made earlier and above has been known and understood for over 100 years. The effects of price gouging laws and the like have been understood for over 200 years at least. If the economic argument against the various types of price controls have been understood why is it that not only the average person not educated in economics so easily accepts these laws but even educated politicians and intellectuals accept them? Is economic ignorance so widespread or is there a more fundamental reason?

While the basic laws of economics are not widely understood even at the most basic level there is a more profound reason. There is a knee-jerk response to the notion of an individual raising the price of his property during a storm that immediately evokes hostility from most people. "How could someone do that" or "it's not fair" is a typical response. Personally, I would not be hostile to someone raising their price in a disaster - I would expect and welcome it. Why?

The answer lies in a fundamental conflict in moral philosophy: the supposed morality of altruism versus the morality of rational self-interest or egoism. This conflict has been identified and analysed best by Ayn Rand and other Objectivist philosophers in my view which can be accessed through my links.

Put simply, the dominant ethic of our time is the morality of altruism. Altruism is not defined as benevolence or good will although it is commonly mistaken as such. Altruism is the doctrine of self-sacrifice. It is the idea that you should give up something more than you gain. The historical concept of sacrifice can be traced back even before the rise of Christianity and is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say that religion generally (not just Christianity but virtually all major religions) adopted the notion that sacrifice to god is virtuous. The socialists merely replaced god with state and more recently the ecology movement has replaced god and state with nature or Mother Earth. The Nazi's (national socialists) added race to the list. These various movements disagree as to the recipient of the sacrifice but do not differ in believing that sacrifice is the essence of virtue.

What does this have to do with price "gouging" laws, minimum wage laws, price controls, and socialism in general? Everything. According to altruism it would be considered unethical to raise your price during a disaster. Would raising your price be the "Christian" thing to do? Of course not. Would Jesus raise his price during a disaster? Of course not. This would be "evil, greedy, profit seeking." Marx might even say this is another example of capitalist "exploitation." These ethical theories are at the base of all government intervention in the economy. Therefore, the most rational economic argument carries little weight if people believe it is immoral.

Many intellectuals accept the basic premise of altruism but recognizing that it is "impractical" have then argued that the most people will still benefit from freedom since given the economic argument it is for the most people's good to avoid shortages, long lines, misery, etc. Many on the right would still accept some variant of this argument as an attempt to reconcile freedom and profit seeking with the altruistic ethic.

When today's liberals argue for more goverment intervention in the economy what is the response from the conservatives on the right? Well, given the conservatives religious philosophy (altruism) they are trapped in a contradiction and unable to defend freedom against the charge that businessman are "greedy, profit seekers", etc. According to the conservatives' own religious philosophy the liberals are correct. This is why despite the Republican's rhetoric upholding free markets they are responsible for some of the worst expansions of government power and do nothing in practice to fundamentally stop it.

So then why not question the altruist ethic? Would if sacrifice is not virtuous? Would if it could be shown that rational self-interest is the good and that it is actually virtuous to be selfish and evil to sacrifice? Shouldn't individuals be left alone to think freely and make their own choices? Shouldn't two individuals be left free to trade to the mutual benefit of both parties? If so then shouldn't the government protect private property instead of routinely violating it? Why would any individual wish to join in a society where they are not free to keep the fruits of their labor and to dispose of their property as they wish?

Capitalism, freedom and profit seeking are incompatible with the doctrine of altruism. So despite all the economic arguments, it is the ethics of altruism that must be challenged if freedom, individual rights, and capitalism are to be defended and saved.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Price "Gouge" Me, Please!

During the hurricanes in Florida, it became common for local politicians to stress that price "gouging", i.e. raising the price of any commodity, would actually be prosecuted by the state. (In fact, these proclamations do not just occur during so called disasters. Everytime there is a spike in the price of gasoline, it is met by calls for investigations of the evil oil companies, allegations of conspiracies between gas station owners, calls for taxes on the profits of "big" oil, etc.)

Apparently, like the good witch and bad witch from Wizard of Oz, whenever prices rise whether a disaster is occuring or not, the bad witch is to blame and must be stopped by state intervention. All that is tolerable then is for someone (the good witch) somehow to insure that the prices of commodities decrease or that they stay the same relative to some arbitrary price point such as the recent past(?) determined somehow by the local politicians.

This level of economic ignorance sounds comical but it is the basis for federal and state laws which prosecute and jail businessman. Furthermore, these laws lead to shortages during disasters and wreak as much or more havoc then the storms themselves. If you don't believe it, sit in a gas station line a mile long waiting for hours while a bouncer with a billy club roams the parking lot (yes, this really happened in Florida last year).

Let's examine the concept of price "gouging" more closely. Say a storm creates a temporary surge in demand for a commodity which all else equal would result in an increased price for the commodity. But, according to the opponents of price increases it is "unfair" for a property owner to raise his price during a storm and in fact such a price increase is not just a temporary inconvenience but constitutes "gouging" which apparently is criminally evil. Why?

First, gas station owners actually own the gas that they buy from refineries. It is their gas just as your TV is your TV and your microwave oven is your microwave oven. Would if I showed up at your house and said that my TV doesn't work and I need to buy your TV from you right now. However, you must sell it to me at a "fair" price or else the state will throw you in jail. What would your reaction be to this and how is this different in principle from the storm scenario?

The premise of price "gouging" laws is that private property literally does not exist. The premise of these laws is that property owners are mere stewards of the property to be commanded by the state to sell it at a price deemed "fair" by local politicians and lawyers in hindsight. If the state can command you to dispose of your property on terms under which you would not voluntarily agree then in what sense is this actual ownership of property?

So, what is a "fair" price according to these politicians? Right now, gas is $2.37 per gallon at the local station. A few years ago it was $1.20. Twenty years ago it was different. Why is the current price "fair"? Would if I think the price should be 10 cents per gallon or free or should be the same as it was in 1958? So, let's say the storm is coming. Now what is a "fair" price? Should it be $2.37? Would if 500 cars show up demanding gas? Would if some people are willing to pay more so they don't have to line up?

The point is that there is no such thing as an arbitrarily "fair" price. The fair price is the price at which the gas station owner is voluntarily willing to sell his gas and which a buyer is voluntarily willing to pay. This actual fair price changes based on myriad factors which change from day to day, week to week, and year to year.

The reason the price right now is $2.37 is because all things considered it is the price that levels supply to demand which is the most fundamental economic law known to man. Let's say that right now a gas station owner began charging 10 cents per gallon. What would happen? There would be a line around the block probably for miles and people would be filling gas canisters to get as much as they could at the low price with the intention of storing it for future use. Very quickly, the gas station would be completely out of gas and he would put yellow tape around the pumps to signal that he is out (note to Florida residents: does this situation sound familiar?). Now, let's say he charges $50 per gallon. How many people would go to that gas station especially if the one next to it is charging $2.37?

So apparently, $2.37 is the perfect price since customers are willing to pay it and the owner is able to make a profit. So what is happening when the storm is coming and the state forces gas stations to not increase their price?

Effectively, it is equivalent to the situation above where the owner is charging 10 cents per gallon. When there is a major increase in demand due to the storm the price should no longer be $2.37 just as last year or 20 years ago the price was different due to differing demand and supply. If the state mandates that the gas station leave his price at $2.37 it is equivalent to the scenario where the state orders the station to charge 10 cents per gallon under normal conditions. Of course, this artifically low price resulting from government decree causes an artificial shortage which results in long lines, empty stations, and lack of incentives for more supplies.

Let's say that stations were allowed to charge whatever they want. What would happen? Well, in non-storms they charge whatever they want so it why wouldn't it look just like now except gas would be more expensive? In other words, the stations would charge more let's say $50 per gallon. People would then tend to buy less gas, i.e. they would ration their purchase in such a way to just buy what they need to get them out of town until they can get to a cheaper station. This would result in just enough gas for everybody with no lines and no bouncers with billy clubs. Furthermore, the high prices and therefore high profits would incentivise the gas station owners to work as hard as they could to get more supplies as soon as possible. This is called the profit motive and apparently it has worked pretty well during the last few million years.

The same thing has happened with roof repair where the state has "warned" against price "gouging". So what is the result? Two years after the storms, blue tarps still appear on Florida homes and waiting lists are still months long to get your roof repaired.

As always, the moral is the practical. Protecting private property and freedom for individuals to trade their property is morally good and it is practical.

Finally, I'm sure all the people of Florida with holes in their roof will join me in saying: Thanks State for not allowing anyone to "gouge" me...

Reisman on minimum wage

http://www.georgereisman.com/blog/
excerpt:
When it comes to matters such as the theory of evolution and stem-cell research, so-called liberals—i.e., socialists who have stolen the name that once meant an advocate of individual freedom—ridicule religious conservatives for their desire to replace science with the dictates of an alleged divine power. Yet when it comes to matters of economic theory and economic policy—for example, minimum-wage legislation—these same liberals themselves invoke the dictates of an alleged divine power. Their divine power, of course, is not the God of traditional religion, but rather a historically much more recent deity: namely, the great god State.

Traditional religionists believe that an omnipotent God came before all natural law and was not bound or limited by any such law, but rather created such natural laws as suited him, as he went along. Just so, today’s liberals believe, at least in the realm of economics, that the State is not bound or limited by any pre-existing natural laws. In the case in hand, the State, today’s liberals believe, is free to decree wage rates above the level that would exist without its interference and no ill-effects, such as unemployment, will arise.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Classical History and the Future

I strongly recommend visiting Professor John Lewis website (see links). I recently listened to Lewis taped course "Ideas and the Fall of Rome" and am currently taking his taped course "Greco-Persian Wars". His numerous articles and lectures are linked as well.

Often, classical and ancient history can seem incredibly boring or irrevelant if presented in the typical history book way which is to list king after king, date after date, place after place, battle after battle with no overall context or sense of the essential meaning of the events. This factoid approach strips history of its essential purpose which Professor Lewis eloquently states on his home page starting with the question "why study history?":

"We exist in an causal, understandable universe. If human beings choose to act in certain ways, then certain results must follow. The past offers us a vast palette of human events illustrating this principle. To understand the future we must understand what people have thought, and done, in the past, and why. When we learn about history we can understand not only that things happen, but also why they happen, and why they will, or will not, continue to happen."

In short, he presents history in way that is both entertaining and practical. Particularly, his relation of past conflicts to the present struggle of the West against Islamic totalitariansim is fascinating and provides a road map for how we should and should not defend civilization. In a previous post, I link to his recent article in The Objective Standard which I believe is a must read for anyone interested in understanding today's conflict.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Disliking College Football

One of my favorite writers, Bill Simmons aka "The Sports Guy" from ESPN.com, responded to a reader inquiring as to why he does not write about college football. I think his response is perfect.

SG: Here's my defense: From late September through Christmas, everyone spends three solid months complaining about how screwed up the BCS system is, how no other sport's championship would ever be decided by a voting process, how half of these kids don't even belong in school, how the coaches are constantly screwing over their players by switching colleges, how dumb it is that you have to wait 50 days between games for the national championship, how the officials are terrible, how the announcers are terrible, how everything's about the money now, how it would be so much better if there was a real playoff system, how the NCAA is more corrupt than the mafia, how there are way too many bowl games … I mean, what's so fun about college football? What am I missing? I spend enough time complaining about sports that I actually like -- I need more complaining in my life? I'll stick with the pros, thanks.