Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Michael and You: Deconstructing Michael Moore and the Modern Left

Michael Moore is out with yet another populist documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, decrying the evils of what he apparently defines as "capitalism". According to this Huffington Post review
[The movie] is not really a chronicle of the financial crisis or a dummies guide to economics and high finance. Instead, it's a populist analysis of the role of money—Wall Street money, in particular—in politics and government and the unequal distribution of wealth in the U.S., personified by a new group of robber barons.
Michael Moore himself says the film is "dedicated to 'good people ... who've had their lives ruined' by the quest for profit." He adds:
I am personally affected by good people who struggle, who work hard and who've had their lives ruined by decisions that are made by people who do not have their best interest at heart, but who have the best interest of the bottom line, of the company, at heart.
Not surprisingly, the film has garnered positive reviews with Time calling it the filmmaker's "magnum opus" and Variety dubbing it one of Moore's "best films."

Moore was recently interviewed on CNBC, where he was asked to summarize the essence of the movie. He said:
This movie is about the legalization of greed, and we call it capitalism these days. It's a system that encourages people to make as much money as they can any way they can and never ask some basic questions...is this good for the people, is this good for the country...the moral issue of this never gets talked about because, of course, capitalism isn't supposed to have any morals attached to it, its just supposed to be about making money - and we're at a point now where the working people of this country have suffered enough - there is a boiling anger out there in the country...
A host then asked, "If capitalism is not the answer, what is the alternative? Moore replied:

I am so bored with the capitalism versus socialism debate - we're taking a 16th century economic idea and debating it with a 19th century economic idea. We are in the 21st century. We have got to be smart enough to develop our own economic order and that's what we are lacking right now - the problem here is we have lost our compass - we don't have democratic values attached to our economy ,i.e, the people have little to say as to what's going on and our Judeao-Christian ethics that we claim to have in this country, simply don't seem to exist any more when it comes to the decisions on Wall Street

he added
what i'm celebrating is Christianity, all the great religions say the same thing...that we're going to be judged how we treat the least among us. How often is that question asked on Wall Street every day?
Moore's position is important because, as this NYT article shows, it mirrors the philosophy of the modern left, that is, the philosophy that is destroying the world. For instance, Moore's desire to develop a new "economic order" that is neither capitalism nor socialism mirrors the thinking of pragmatist socialists in Europe.
Enrico Letta, 43, is one of the hopes of Italy’s left, currently in disarray in the face of Silvio Berlusconi’s nationalist populism. “We have to understand that Socialism is an answer of the last century,” Mr. Letta said. “We need to build a center-left that is pragmatic, that provides an attractive alternative, and not just an opposition.”
Mr. Letta argues that Socialist policies will have to be transmuted into a more fluid form to allow an alliance with center, liberal and green parties that won’t be called “Socialist.”
Apparently, "transmuted to a more fluid form" means that they will pursue the same policies but call it something other than socialism.

First, note that Moore, like all modern intellectuals, does not ever bother to define capitalism? I highlighted this issue in a previous post, To Know Capitalism is to Love Capitalism, saying:
the meaning of capitalism has become completely blurred by modern academics who do not think in principles or essentials. For example, I would say that most intellectuals implicitly define capitalism as "anything America does or has done". So, for example, if the United States had slavery, then that is an example of "capitalism". If the United States authorizes a Federal Reserve Bank to print money endlessly causing credit expansion, malinvestment predicated on the illusion of profits, and a boom-bust economic cycle then that is an example of "capitalism." If the federal government encourages employer sponsored health insurance through its manipulation of the tax code and then offers health care entitlements to a third of the of the population thus exploding health care costs it is an example of "capitalism".
Moore's equivocation on the meaning of capitalism is precisely of this form. To him, "capitalism" is simply anything that America does. This is not just an issue of semantics. As I stated previously:
the concept of capitalism is implicitly being defined in terms of non-essentials. Such definitions blur the essential distinguishing characteristics of capitalism and have the effect of packaging the concept of capitalism together with concepts that represent its antithesis. In these cases, because capitalism is defined improperly, it is literally regarded as its opposite and held accountable for the deleterious effects of its opposite. Therefore, before arguing over capitalism versus socialism one should understand and clarify what exactly capitalism is.
And so, what is capitalism? Ayn Rand defined capitalism as follows:

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

Why is this a definition by essentials? In reality, either you own property or you do not. If the state can control and dispose of your property through taxation, regulations, mandates, etc. then you do not actually own the property. If the state controls the use and disposal of the means of production (private property) the economic system can not be described as capitalism. Such a system is socialism. (The difference between fascism and socialism is only the difference of whether the state's control is de facto or de jure and is inconsequential from a practical perspective.)

Defining capitalism by essentials enables us to grasp the following crucial principle as stated by Ayn Rand:

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.

From the above, it can be seen that America today is not a capitalist society. We live in a mixed economy, i.e., a system of freedom and controls. Sorting out the economic and financial consequences of free markets amidst state intervention in the economy can be complicated. For example, real innovation and prosperity follow from the entrepreneur's "quest for profits" while government intervention in the monetary system dramatically distorts the flow of capital, leading to malinvestment, extreme leverage, and a devastating boom-bust cycle that does ruin peoples lives.

Moore's implicit definition of capitalism by non-essentials
package deals actual capitalism (private property and free trade) with socialism (government control) and therefore lays all of the deleterious effects of the federal government's socialistic policies at capitalism's doorstep. Ironically, the very government control's which Moore supports are, in fact, responsible for the economic devastation that Moore properly abhors.

Although it is crucial to define capitalism properly, I do not believe this is the essential issue, and, I will give Moore credit for defining the essential issue. In fact, he rightly observes that the "moral" issue is rarely discussed in economics and finance. Unfortunately, Moore tells us explicitly that he is "celebrating Christianity" and "Judeao-Christian ethics" which he accepts unquestioningly by default. In other words, Moore endorses the ethics of altruism. What is the essence of Judeao-Christian ethics? Quoting Ayn Rand:
What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

Such an ethical view is responsible for all of Moore's other premises. He decries the "quest for profit" saying "we will be judged by how we treat the least among us." He implicitly denies the possibility that the pursuit of one's values could be moral when he states that capitalism is not about "morals" but merely about "making money." This leads Moore to a crude form of collectivism when he admonishes businessmen for not taking into account the "good of the people" or the "good of the country" when making decisions.

Of course, if Moore were truly concerned with the welfare of others, he would look around him while driving in a limousine, flying in a private jet, or editing film in a digitial movie studio and grasp that capitalism is responsible for the greatest advances in the history of the human race and has led to untold prosperity and quality of life for billions of people. He would observe the suffocating poverty, privation and misery that accompanies socialism in fully Marxist countries or simply observe the monuments to America's socialist experiments such as government housing projects. He would also study history noting that the concentration camps of National Socialism, the gulags of Soviet Russia, the forced prison camps of Mao's China, or the Killing Fields of Cambodia are necessitated by altruism and collectivism.

Of course, all of this is available to Moore but it does not matter to him or to socialists. They regard the "quest for profit" as inherently evil and therefore seek to use the coercive power of the state to throttle businessmen. As I stated in a previous post, to the socialist, since the businessman has "evil intentions" (he seeks profit) he must be regulated and controlled whereas the state has "good intentions" (they seek egalitarianism) so the ends justifies the means.

Moore is correct in identifying a crucial moral issue. Capitalism is incompatible with altruism. What he fails to grasp, however, is that the pursuit of one's own interests, values, and happiness is not evil but the height of morality. If one wishes to survive and be happy, he must pursue his own rational self-interest. Moore's view of selfishness is a common one. When he says that the capitalism encourages people to "make money any way they can", he equates "selfishness" with brutality and a wanton disregard for other's rights. In fact, rational selfishness requires the opposite of this approach. In order to properly pursue one's own life, one must respect the rights of others to do the same. Anyone who rationally defines his own long term self-interest grasps that other people are great values both spiritually and economically. In fact, as I argued in a previous post, individualism and freedom lead to a culture of benevolence. Quoting Harry Binswanger:

Contrary to Marxism, one does not benefit from the poverty or incompetence of others. It is in your interest that other men -- in every country -- be smart, ambitious, and productive, not stupid, lazy, or incompetent. Would you be better off if Thomas Edison had been dim-witted?

Moore's view of selfishness is the underlying premise behind an incredible irony. Socialists hysterically condemn and vilify the businessman, distrusting and fearing the power of the corporation that on a free market has no power other than to contract for labor or offer a product for sale. Meanwhile, they will grant the state, which enjoys a monopoly on the use of armed force, unlimited power to control every aspect of an individual's life. Only, the ethics of altruism could explain such a bizarre and deadly premise.

At some level, socialists like Moore and the Europeans quoted earlier recognize that practicing altruism is a contradiction and an economic dead end. They recognize at some level that "capitalism" works. Their inability to reconcile the contradiction of an anti-human ethical code like altruism with a system that results in phenomenal human progress and happiness leads them to uphold a ridiculous contradiction. Moore rejects capitalism, but he also rejects socialism! Instead, he wishes for some other way - a "new economic order" he calls it. And, what exactly is that? "We got to be smart enough to come up with it", he says. In other words, "somehow."

This last claim represents the essence of the socialist mindset and the mindset of the central planner. Somehow, they will find a way to have their cake and eat it too. Somehow, they will make reality something it is not.

"Deliver Us, Obama": Religious Left Update

In a previous post, Intellectual Role Reversal: Towards 'The Good Deal', I stated the following:
In fact, just like the Religious Right, the Left has rejected reason as a means of knowledge, and so the only alternative open to them is faith, i.e., belief in the absence of evidence or mysticism. Many socialists, like Obama, have turned to movements like Liberation Theology which fuses Christianity with Marxism described in my post At Least Pastor Wright Is Consistent. This trend was on full display at the Democratic National Convention which I described in my post The Religious Left.
In my post, Voting for Our Masters: The 2008 Election, I stated: 
Although Obama is a pragmatist philosophically his default ideology is liberation theology which I also described in the linked posts. Liberation theology fuses christian altruism with the political ideals of Marxism. Although socialism as a political ideal is dead, the underlying philosophy of altruism (particularly in a culture steeped in religious altruism) in the hands of a young, articulate opportunist is dangerous. Just as Objectivists were warning of the dangers of religious altruism dominating the right and subverting any rational defense of capitalism on the part of Republicans, religion of the leftist variety must be also be feared practically. The combination of altruism, collectivism, and mysticism in Weimar Germany were the philosophical preconditions which led to the rise of the Nazi's. Obama gives these philosphical conditions an articulate charismatic voice.
Keep this in mind while you watch this video (sent to me by a friend) that shows community organizers literally praying to Obama as they demand socialized medicine. At the end of each demand by the speaker, the crowd chants, "Hear Our Cry, Obama" or "Deliver Us, Obama".  I think the conclusion now is the same conclusion I reached then:
If the Democrats adopt religion they will officially and properly be recognized as The Party of Big Government and there will be an opening to reshape the Republican Party into the party of classic liberalism... The Democrats should be the party of Big Government in all of its manifestations and perhaps those on the Religious Right who seek to use the power of the State to impose religion will realize that they have a new home elsewhere.
and
My view generally is let the Democrats have religion, altruism, Marxism and ultimately fascism in the form of Obama. Let them take their rightful place as the Party of Big Government. Secondly, a resounding defeat of the Republicans may force a revolution in the party and fall out in the top leadership (although I doubt it). 
At least part of this seems to be happening.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama Takes the Tiger Out of Paper Tiger



World government is officially here.

With the click of a gavel, Obama became "the first American president to preside over a Security Council summit" thus marking the moment when America officially abandoned its sovereignty, prostrating itself to a world body representing every freedom hating tin-pot dictatorship in the world.

The details of this meeting are not relevant. The fact that an American president now overtly sanctions the legitimacy of this body and subordinates American interests to its policies, in principle, means that the United States government has ceded its Constitutional authority to a global governmental organization.

The loss of American sovereignty is a direct result of the modern philosophical assault on objectivity. Obama seeks to operate under the auspices of organizations like the United Nations because he rejects the idea that America has any objective moral authority in the world. This is because Obama rejects the idea of objective morality. He would ask: "who is the United States to tell other countries what to do?" Asserting America's interests requires a commitment to the principle that freedom and individual rights are objectively better than slavery and dictatorship. To the moral relativist, no culture is superior to any other.

If one has no objective principles to guide his actions, he must turn to a group. He must seek only compromise and consensus. Such an approach necessitates a rejection of "unilateralism":

Mr Obama proclaimed a sharp break with the previous US administration, acknowledging perceived American unilateralism had fed skepticism and distrust of his country.

What's ironic about that statement is that "trust" depends on one's willingness to commit to a plan of action. If one is principled, it becomes perfectly obvious how they will react to any situation. For example, if a country holds firm to a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, then any would-be terrorist knows their tactics are futile. In other words, an approach in which one is willing to act on principle despite the objections of others or regardless of its perceived popularity could not result in "skepticism" or "distrust." Such an approach results in certainty in the minds of your allies and enemies. Only an unprincipled, pragmatic approach based on the pursuit of short run objectives that may or may not conflict with longer term goals could cause capricious, contradictory policies. Only this approach could feed skepticism and distrust.

Another consequence of relativism is appeasement manifest in Obama's global tours of apology. C. August discusses this in detail in his recent post Apologizer-in-Chief saying:

The nations of the world recognize that Obama is one of them. Not only does he agree that America should feel guilty for its successes, but it should actively work to level the playing field by sacrificing itself. Publicly, other nations welcome Obama's cosmopolitan attitude, but privately they know they can exploit his weaknesses.

America's actions over the past decades have caused our enemies to regard us as a paper tiger. In other words, despite hawkish rhetoric, our past administrations' unwillingness to identify our enemies and persecute total war has emboldened America's enemies around the world. However, past administrations at least felt a need to pay lip service to a strong defense even if their actions belied their words. Obama has taken this a step further. His policy of overt appeasement, apology, and surrender of our sovereignty to foreign diplomats has taken the tiger out of paper tiger. Evidently,

as Obama left the Security Council chamber, he told the Associated Press: "It was an excellent day."

I can objectively and confidently say on behalf of anyone who seeks to subjugate individual rights and excise the last vestiges of spirit from those who look to the United States as a beacon of moral certitude and a symbol of freedom - it certainly was.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is "Time" Really "The Enemy of Reform"?

What if someone offered you the following bet: heads you win, tails they lose? Would you take it? Say, that the counter party offering the bet asked you only to pay a portion of your "earnings" into a pool to cover potential losses. Would you still take the bet? Now, let's say that the counter party allowed you to create money out of thin air (say up to 10 times whatever capital you actually possess) to risk on the bet? Wouldn't virtually everyone who breathes want to take part in this "gamble" - a gamble that is essentially a no-lose proposition that can be made on "capital" that you literally can create out of thin air?

Extending this analogy further, say at some point, you flipped tails 10 times in a row thus causing sizable losses to the counter party under the terms of the bet. Mathematically, given that the bettors created capital out of nothing and continually made this bet, wouldn't the counter party now potentially face losses orders of magnitude greater than his ability to pay? But, would you really care? Of course not. You would simply hope that at some point they make the game available to you again.

Now, if you were the counter party who offered this bet and the one who faced untold losses, what might you conclude from this series of events, i.e., how would you go about "reforming" this bet? Would it dawn on you, that this is a bad bet to make in the first place? Would it dawn on you that the nature of this bet systematically provides incentives for anyone to take the other side and mathematically insures that you will face significant losses at some point? Really, wouldn't you just stop?

Or, would you take a different approach?

Would you continue to offer the bet but attempt to "oversee" or "regulate" the coin flip in such a way as to prevent it from landing on tails too many times? Would you continue to offer the bet but just "cap" how many times bettors could flip? Would you continue to offer the bet but turn around and castigate the bettors as greedy profiteers and threaten them with retribution if and when you face the inevitable carnage? Would you just raise the amount they pay from their earnings into the loss pool?

Does this sound like an insanely idiotic example that would never take place in real life? Well, in fact, this bet is the essence of the United States banking system, because it is the essence of the FDIC. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is a government program which insures bank deposits. In other words, if a bank takes a risk and makes a lot of money - they win, but if they don't, the FDIC loses. And, unlike private insurance, which would discriminate against poorly run banks by not agreeing to insure their depositors - the FDIC must insure every bank that meets its regulatory criteria. Not surprisingly, the
FDIC is broke:
The FDIC estimates bank failures will cost the fund around $70 billion through 2013. Ninety-two banks have failed so far this year. Hundreds more are expected to fall in coming years largely because of souring loans for commercial real estate.

The FDIC's fund has slipped to 0.22 percent of insured deposits, below a congressionally mandated minimum of 1.15 percent. The $10.4 billion in the fund at the end of June is down from $13 billion at the end of March, and $45.2 billion in the second quarter of 2008.

The FDIC board will meet at the end of the month and will likely put out several options, Bair said Friday, including tapping a Treasury credit line, assessing fees on banks in advance and again increasing the fees that banks must pay.
Did you catch that? The FDIC is now considering borrowing from the taxpayers!
The chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says she is "considering all options, including borrowing from Treasury," to replenish the dwindling fund that insures bank deposits.

"I never say never," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair told an audience at Georgetown University Friday.
Please, please say "never"!

The
moral hazard created by the FDIC is compounded by the government run banking system's ability to literally create money . First, the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air whenever it purchases government securities on the open market. Second, banks, which receive these reserves, pyramid them by lending multiples of the reserves in their possession to businesses and the public. This creates massive amounts of leverage in the banking system all backed by the FDIC's explicit guarantee. This inflation, which causes malinvestment predicated on continually increasing nominal prices, coupled with regulations and other government policies that explicitly encourage bad loans (see The Community Reinvestment Act) render this system a house of cards waiting to collapse.

In fact, such a system necessitates a recurring cycle of booms and busts. No amount of central planning, oversight, or threats can stop the laws of reality from operating. With that in mind, consider Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's recent
testimony to the House Financial Services Committee on Financial Regulatory Reform. Rarely do we see such a blatant demonstration of utter intellectual bankruptcy. Consider the following:

But make no mistake: The flaws in our financial system and regulatory framework that allowed this crisis to occur, and in many ways helped cause it, are still in place.

Uh, ok, I actually agree with that. What else?:
We may disagree over details of how to best fix those flaws, but that cannot mean we do not act.
Well, at least we had a sentence together. Consider the literal meaning of that last sentence. How can we disagree "over the details of how to best fix those flaws"? They are logically obvious. In any case, if we do disagree, how could we act? What exactly would we do? Let's say that I hold that logic dictates that the system be dismantled and replaced with a completely private banking system based on a 100% reserve hard money standard under a system that respects private property and upholds contracts. On the other hand, let's say that Geithner thinks we must leave the system completely intact but increase the budget of the regulators by $500 billion so that there are 185 regulators for every employee of every bank on the planet that watch and monitor them even when they go to the bathroom. What would we do?

Of course, as a
pragmatist, Geithner does not literally think we could disagree over essentials. He takes for granted that businessmen who seek profit are evil and must be throttled by the state. How exactly you do that in terms of fines, jail sentences, and how many regulators to send to the bathroom with the bankers is a "detail" that he is open to discussing, but "action" is what is truly important - as long as it is action in the direction of statism and more government control.

Naturally, Geithner goes on to detail his plans for more regulation, more oversight, etc., i.e., more "action", without ever questioning the essence of the nationalized banking system or evaluating the causes of the collapse. In fact, he regards the collapse as "sudden" as if on the basis of hundreds of years of economic history and theory, no one could possibly have foresaw such an outcome. Then, in a final demonstration of the essence of all that is destroying this country, Geithner makes the following statement:
But as we do this, we must remember the President's admonition on Wall Street last week. Time is the enemy of reform.
Is there any better expression of the philosophy of pragmatism than that last line? To the pragmatist mind, "time", meaning some form of reasoned deliberation over the causes and therefore fundamental solutions to the crisis, is regarded as the "enemy". To him, facts, reason, principles, i.e., thought is the enemy. "Action" is paramount and, implicitly, "reform" is statism not "efforts to make something better."

Geithner is literally saying that "reason is the enemy of statism". For the second time, we agree.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Socialism

I recall in the mid 1980's or 10 B.I. (Before Internet), as the Ayn Rand Institute was just being formed, about the only existing national connection to Objectivism was through the sporadically published Intellectual Activist. I then remember the excitement I had helping to form an Objectivist club in college and having the opportunity to bring in national speakers and host local meetings. I was naively shocked by the seeming paradox of such intense and widespread interest in Ayn Rand amid a complete shut out by official academia. I remember leftist thugs literally stealing our pamphlets and assorted literature from outside a lecture hall and throwing them in the Mississippi River. (By the way, that demonstrated to me the essential difference between fascists and socialists - fascists burn books while socialists drown them.) I remember the same group coming into one of our meetings and brazenly stealing the literature off of the table. When we chased them down and asked them if they had ever bothered to read anything they stole from us, a pale frumpy girl from the thought police posse snapped: "All you have to do is read the titles." Well, give them credit for one thing - they feared the right "titles."

In the intervening years, a lot has happened. ARI has steadily grown, the internet has given an impassioned voice to Objectivism, and incremental but necessary steps have been taken. However, even as of a few years ago, I had the same sense of foreboding that I had while attending a disappointing auction of Ayn Rand memorabilia in the 1990's - a sense that we had a long way to go.

How inspiring then, all these years later, to have attended the Atlas Shrugged Revolution benefit in New York City a few days ago. To see a packed room full of successful businessmen, prominent media personalities, and brilliant intellectuals in an event to raise serious money for the Ayn Rand Institute was unlike any event I had previously attended. This came on the heels of manning a table at a Tea Party Express event a few weeks ago where thousands of people gathered on the way to the larger Washington D.C. march that attracted over one hundred thousand outraged Americans. All of this is occurring amidst daily mentions of Ayn Rand in the national media, Objectivist intellectuals appearing regularly on national television, and record sales of Atlas Shrugged. Sitting at this benefit, listening to speeches by front line educators and businessmen, presentations on the startling successes to date, and plans for efforts to literally change the world, it dawned on me in a way that was not as abstract as it had been in the past - it dawned on me that we could win this thing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chavez, Jones, and Obama: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions and Red Carpet

Chavez's red carpet junket to a Venice film festival where he was treated to Oliver Stone's gushing propaganda film celebrating his "revolution", Van Jones's recent claim that he was the victim of a "smear campaign", and recent comments made by Obama related to his push for a government takeover of the medical profession perfectly illustrate a reoccurring theme on this blog - the nature and consequences of pragmatism and altruism. Analyzing these examples helps to demonstrate how these abstractions play out in practice and points the way towards defeating the root cause of evil - bad ideas.

Reuters reports:
Chavez was in Venice for the world premiere of "South of the Border," director Oliver Stone's sympathetic portrait of a leader he says has championed the poor and who has been unfairly demonized by the U.S. media.
Keep in mind that as Chavez swaggered down the red carpet, his goons were busy shutting down dissenting radio stations in an effort to "democratize" the airwaves:
More than a dozen of 34 radio stations ordered shut by the Venezuelan government went off the air on Saturday, part of President Hugo Chavez's drive to extend his socialist revolution to the media.
Do you think the armed closure of independent media outlets to stifle dissent concerns the Hollywood glitterati or the left wing intelligentsia? Consider this statement:

Noam Chomsky ... was asked in an interview what would happen if Fox News or CNN had supported a coup against a president. Chomsky replied that not only would those channels have been closed, but their owners would have been sent to the electric chair.
Note the equivocation made by Chavez's apologist, Comrade Professor Chomsky. In a constitutional republic based upon laws that protect individual rights, a "coup" or armed overthrow of that nation's government would properly be regarded as treason and subject to the harshest criminal penalties. On the other hand, if a government violates its constitutional authority or systematically abrogates individual rights, individuals have a moral right to rebel. Quoting the Declaration of Independence (a document that no good modern philosophy professor would be caught dead reading):
[But] when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
In this case, the Venezuelan radio stations are not threatening a coup against a law abiding regime. They are exercising their inalienable right to speak out against the Chavez regime while this madman initiates brute force to silence anyone that dares criticize him. They would have every right to support a coup in the same way and for the same reasons the American colonists rebelled against the British monarchy.

Note the sickening liberal reaction to Chavez's regime. Rather than calls for their proverbial "tolerance" and "diversity", his regime's brutal suppression of dissent and wholesale abrogation of individual freedom receive ringing endorsements from prestigious American professors and twisted Hollywood propaganda glorifying his dictatorship (a la Che Guevara).

Amid this repulsive milieu, the statement that really caught my attention was Chavez's view of Obama:

"I have no reason to call him (Obama) the devil, and I hope that I am right," Chavez told reporters in Venice.

"With Obama we can talk, we are almost from the same generation, one can't deny that Obama is different (from Bush). He's intelligent, he has good intentions and we have to help him." [emphasis added]

"Good intentions"...where have we heard this one before?

Before I answer, consider another recent story related to Van Jones, Obama's erstwhile grand poobah of Green Job globety gook blah blah, who recently resigned amid charges that he is a radical left-wing maniac. When various facts came to light, including that he is a radical left-wing maniac, he claimed that 'he was the victim of a "vicious smear campaign" and that "opponents of reform" had used "lies and distortion" against him.' But, in fact, all the bloggers and media did was quote him [1, 2]. After all, was it a burning obsession amongst members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to oust Obama's grand poobah of Green Job globety gook blah blah by "smearing" him and "distorting" his record? He is only important in providing more evidence of a more ominous trend toward Obama stacking the executive branch with communist radicals.

Still, why would he claim that he was "smeared" and that the truth was "distorted", a charge eerily reminiscent of those made by the left against the raucous town hall opponents of socialized medicine? Before I answer, consider one more recent event. This article reports:

In Cincinnati on Monday, Obama blamed the "usual bickering in Washington" for the "funk" supporters of health care reform were enduring. And in a discussion with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday, Obama said "there are a lot of politicians like that who, all they're thinking about is just, ‘How do I get reelected?’ and so they never actually get anything done."

Then on Wednesday night, Obama sought to portray his health reform plan as one that contains both Republican and Democratic ideas.

"The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed," Obama said. "Now is the season for action." [emphasis added]

Really? Obama dismisses the intense outrage being directed at his proposed enslavement of the medical industry as mere "bickering" and "games"? It's almost as if he is implying that there could not be a rational argument against his proposal, as if to say: "sure, you can haggle over the details, but fundamentally any opposition to this idea is nothing more than politics, bickering, or games." In fact, so confident is Dear Leader, evidently, he now realizes it was a mistake to allow the representatives of the American people a chance to express themselves:

He also acknowledged he made a tactical error in giving lawmakers too much leeway to craft a bill. "I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and to fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense," Obama said.

Yeah, in hindsight, allowing those wacky Congress guys "to do their thing" probably was a "tactical error." C'mon Obama, your buddy Chavez could have told you that! This view is now the basis of consideration to ram the health care bill through based on a procedural technicality known as "reconciliation" that allows for a simple majority vote. He continues:

Part of the frustration I have is, is that on the Republican side there are wonderful people who really operated on the basis of pragmatism and common sense and getting things done,” Obama said. “Those voices have been — been, I think, shouted down on that side.”

So, the "wonderful people" who operate on "pragmatism" are good, but those nuts out there who believe in principles like individual rights, the rule of law, and the pursuit of happiness expressed their outrage or, in his words ,"shouted down" the dumbfounded pragmatists and, therefore, nothing is "getting done"! Evidently, Obama regards principled opposition to his policies to be literally noise or "shouting" which he is unable to process.

What fundamentally unites all of these events?

First, note that in each case, each man regards his political views as unquestionably right.

* Chavez doesn't want to hear dissenting views from 'bourgeoisie" intellectuals. He has good intentions. He needs time (10 years according to the article) to implement his "socialist reforms" so everyone better shut up and come along or go to jail.

* Obama's not a devil like Bush because he has "good intentions". He made a "tactical error" by letting the Congress get involved. They always let their "ideology" or "bickering" derail efforts to "get things done". After all, since he has good intentions, any opposition to him must be based on partisan gamesmanship and petty bickering not on any actual fundamental objection, which is impossible. In fact, he might just use a procedural technique to ram the bill through over the public's vehement objection since he knows what is best.

* In Van Jones's mind, he can not be the villainous caricature portrayed by Fox News. He has good intentions, so any opposition to him must be based on distortions and lies, and any characterization of him other than as a moral hero crusading for social justice is nothing but a vicious smear campaign orchestrated by right wing extremists.

In each case, facts, logic, and principles are regarded as superfluous to their good intentions to be dismissed, swept aside, or violently dispelled. And why do they believe they have "good intentions"? Because their political views are predicated on altruism, the reigning ethical code of our age. Quoting Ayn Rand:

The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Altruism is the essence of socialism - a system which demands sacrifice to the state. To the socialist, as long as a political policy is predicated on self-sacrifice, i.e., as long as the policy legally prohibits decisions being made based upon selfish motives like profit or happiness, the policy is regarded as morally good. The practical details are virtually irrelevant and amount to little more than minor nuances requiring some degree of negotiation, consensus, and compromise - of course assuming any dissent or "counter revolutionary" thought is even tolerated by the thugs in power.

Also irrelevant to the socialist, are the practical consequences. Socialism everywhere has resulted in nothing but privation, misery, suffering, poverty, tyranny, gulags, and death. Still we hear the mantra of the left: "socialism is good in theory", i.e., it is moral in theory since it is based on the egalitarian concept of social justice. Therefore, socialism must be pursued at any cost because it is "just", regardless of the consequences. The revolution, they say, demands sacrifice - to your neighbor, to the state, to the poor, to the destitute, to Mother Earth and her ecosystem. To the socialist, you are your brother's keeper, and the ends justifies the means.

More importantly, ask yourself, could you argue this point with Obama, Chavez, or Jones in an attempt to rationally persuade them? In other words, what if you challenged the notion that altruism is moral? What if you pointed out the fact that a man must pursue his own self-interest in order to survive, prosper, and achieve happiness? If one pursues a course of self-sacrifice or self-destruction it represents a negation of life and must lead to misery, suffering and death. If man's life is the standard of value, altruism can be seen to be profoundly evil, and a social system based on altruism or self-sacrifice logically necessitates suffering and misery. On the other hand, a social system that acknowledges man's nature as an individual reasoning being would be founded upon a base of rights to protect the freedom to think and produce leading to prosperity and happiness.

Ask yourself how far such an argument will take you with modern intellectuals - an argument that relies on observations, facts, definitions, concepts, principles and induction, i.e., reason? Modern intellectuals tell us that we can not know anything for sure - that everything is subjective, that there are no black and whites. The rejection of the absolutism of reason is what leads to the relativistic abyss of post-modernism and pragmatism, which denies the possibility of absolute knowledge and urges action to test "provisional hypotheses". I discussed Obama's pragmatism in a series of posts in 2008. In my June 2008 post, The Pragmatist Fascist, I said:

Obama's philosophy is textbook pragmatism. He literally calls for "facts" not "ideology". An ideology is a set of interrelated principles and principles are essential to rational thought. Without principles (abstract concepts), our minds would be reduced to the level of an animal consciousness reacting on the range of the moment to every sensation. Note that Obama does not reject a particular ideology - he rejects the concept of ideology as such. He does not want to hear about individual rights or the law of supply and demand. When the time comes, he will assess the "facts" or "want to see what is going on at the moment" and take a poll of experts or "ask a wide range of viewpoints from business leaders." Is the forced expropriation of one's earnings for the unearned benefit of others right, i.e., are taxes immoral? Is the confiscation of a producer's wealth and capital "practical"? He doesn't know. In fact, he might "possibly defer" tax increases depending on the situation.

The current instance is another rousing example of his pragmatism. Any principled opposition is equated to a mindless mob shouting down Truth as revealed to Obama and his Philosopher Kings. Any resistance is equated with political opportunism, bickering, or petty partisanship. To the pragmatist mind, a rational, principled argument is literally noise serving only to obfuscate and delay the "season for action."

How do they know that altruism is right? Also from my previous post:

since the pragmatist rejects principle on principle, he must accept the prevailing views of others. And what is the prevailing view? It is altruism, collectivism and America's current system: the mixed economy. This is what accounts for Obama's unoriginality politically and why he says that he is "predisposed to a certain set of policies." He literally has nothing to new to offer accept the same worn out platitudes and policies of the Left. The political system necessitated by such a philosophy is fascism. If one upholds self-sacrifice ethically, he must desire a dictator or in Obama's words a "manager" to enforce these sacrifices to be made as most will not voluntarily give up their life, liberty and property.

Ayn Rand was able to project the consequences of modern philosophy over 50 years ago based on reason and a principled grasp of the role of ideas in human life. Americans today are bewildered by Obama's breathtaking power lust and only now are grasping the practical consequences of these more abstract ideas. Philosophy gives us the power to understand seemingly disparate events on a fundamental level and insight on how to reverse the ominous trends taking place before our eyes. Nothing could be more practical than understanding this.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How The GOP Should Have Responded to Obama's Health Care Speech

Alex Epstein's post, The health care speech: a moral Obamination, is exactly how the GOP should have responded to Obama's health care speech. Quoting Epstein:

President Obama defended his latest health care plan—yet another sprawling mass of dictates, mandates, prohibitions, and subsidies—as not only economically practical but above all moral. Quoting the late Senator Kennedy, he said: “What we face, is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

The President and the Senator are right about one thing: health care is above all a moral issue. Unfortunately, the ‘social justice’ morality behind universal health care is utterly un-American and destructive.
This short, concise post offers an essentialized refutation of socialized medicine and provides a simple and powerful response to Obama's monstrous plan.

A proper response is crucial since it will determine the outcome of this battle. Pointing to the impracticality and destructiveness of socialized medicine is important, but it is not enough. People will continue to support socialized medicine if they think it is just, so the GOP must challenge Obama's view of justice, i.e., they must challenge the morality of altruism and collectivism. Defenders of freedom and individual rights can win if they mount a vigorous, principled campaign against socialized medicine based on the premise that freedom is moral and government controls are immoral. On the other hand, if the GOP concedes the moral premise that government should have any role in health care (other than dismantling regulations and restoring a free market), then the party that consistently offers the most control will win since, in effect, they offer the most "justice." In that case, the Democrats, as usual, will drag the Republicans kicking and screaming down the path towards more statism and tyranny.

So what did the GOP have to say? Rep. Charles Boustany offers the GOP response to Obama [HT: Ari Armstrong] which consisted of a milquetoast call for compromise and appeasement or a "targeted approach" based on "common sense reforms." Quoting Boustany:

We can do better, with a targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems. Here are four important areas where we can agree, right now:

One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.

Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do.

Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor.

And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention — something particularly important to me. I operated on too many people who could have avoided surgery if they'd simply made healthier choices earlier in life.

Besides the ridiculous contention that "all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions", a policy I debunked here, he concedes that the government should "provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor" [emphasis added], i.e., to those who can not pay for it. What if I can not "access" a hamburger, a stereo, or a massage? Should someone else be forced to provide me "access"?

Nowhere does he challenge the premise of government intervention in the health care market in principle. Nowhere does he acknowledge the individual's right to freely and voluntarily contract with doctors or insurance companies. Nowhere does he acknowledge a doctor's right to his own life and the right to freely determine under what terms he chooses to work. Nowhere does he challenge Obama's policy of initiating force against individuals and doctors to prohibit, mandate, and restrict. Nowhere does he challenge the premise that it is moral for the state to expropriate the earnings of some to benefit another. Nowhere does he assert the American principle of individual rights, i.e., that rights pertain to the freedom of action - not an outcome which implies an obligation on others to provide it.

While Obama relies on soaring, emotional appeals to "social justice", the GOP offers a "targeted approach" that relies on "common sense reforms", i.e., a combination of a few good ideas (like liability reforms) and their own watered down version of socialized medicine. Ask yourself which side is likely to win?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Literally Experiencing the Broken Window Fallacy

In several past posts [1,2,3], I used the parable of the Broken Window to demonstrate why "stimulus" spending can not benefit the economy. In another post [1], I explained how government tax incentives encourage employer sponsored insurance coverage to pay for routine services which when coupled with Medicare and state coverage mandates, creates a system that has the essential attributes of socialized medicine along with the necessary consequences - exploding prices, declining quality, and waiting lines. (Naturally, the dire consequences of government regulation in health care is now being used to justify more government regulation).

A week ago, I experienced both of these issues first hand after my car window was literally broken. Fortunately, the thief did not take anything. All that was in my car was Reisman's Capitalism and Norberg's In Defense of Global Capitalism. I claimed that he broke the window and realized there was nothing of value to them and went away. My wife claims he saw the books first...

Anyway, I called a glass repair shop and they quoted me about $400. If I had paid them, someone like Obama or Paul Krugman, seeing that an economic transaction took place, might conclude that the broken window was "stimulative". In fact, that line of thinking is exactly the basis for the entire trillion dollar stimulus program. The goal of such programs is simply to get economic transactions to take place. After all, according to them, "consumption" is what leads to prosperity.

But, of course, as we saw earlier, although the glass repair shop would have been happy to have received new business, many other businesses would be unhappy since I now will not spend that money at their place. For example, now, my wife and may not go out to dinner or buy a new television. Or, worse yet, since I can not save the money, an entrepreneur or inventor may not benefit by having access to the capital. Far from being "good" for the economy, this act of destruction is simply destructive.

Keep the previous in mind when you read an article making the absurd claim that "cash for clunkers" has somehow been good for the economy. Of course, this transfer of billions of dollars from taxpayers to car buyers was great for the automobile companies. But if we transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to jelly bean companies under "cash for jelly beans" it would be good for jelly bean companies. What's missing is the billions of dollars that will not be spent or invested on anything else in the world.

Worse, cash for clunkers encouraged people that had functioning cars to destroy them in order to go into debt to buy a new one that they wouldn't have otherwise purchased. (In fact, the car dealers had to prove that they literally destroyed the clunkers in order to get reimbursed by the government.) Such subsidies divert production from things people really want to things they only want because they got a subsidy. In summary, some taxpayers have billions of dollars less than otherwise, a bunch of perfectly fine cars have been destroyed, a bunch of people who had perfectly fine cars now have a new car plus debt, and the car companies have billions of dollars more than otherwise with which to produce more cars that no one wants.

Great - let's continue the story. As it turns out, I didn't pay the $400. I called my insurance company and they informed me that the state mandates full coverage of glass breakage so it was covered. Yeah! I called another glass repair place who said they would take care of it and would submit the bill directly to the insurance company. Out of curiosity, I asked her how much they were charging, to which she asked, "why do you care, you are not paying?" But still I asked, "how much?". "$650", she said. Hmmm...

So, if I had shopped around for 2 minutes, it turned out I could have replaced the window for $400 or maybe less since I only called one other place. Since the insurance company most likely has a schedule for how much this costs, the glass repair place just charges them the max, i.e., whatever they can get away with. Of course, I didn't care, since I was not paying for it.

This is exactly the problem with third party payer systems and state mandates. When an individuals pays, he has an incentive to shop around and economize or even defer an unnecessary purchase if it is too much. Such behavior forces businesses to compete and offer the best quality for the lowest price. However, when someone else is footing the bill (such as an insurance company) - who cares - give him the works. This is exactly what has happened in America's health care system as the government has encouraged employer provided health insurance.

It's amazing that such a simple experience can explain economic principles that affect millions of people and trillions of dollars. Of course, several hundred years of economics already had given me the answer, and I really didn't need a broken window to figure it out. The good thing is that my story will supplement my original posts by providing actual data to go along with my theoretical explanation. Such "data" should now be able to even convince the pragmatist who denies knowledge and can only grasp "experience". Naturally, I would not expect them to induce the more general principles involved. They will have to repeatedly experience broken windows and wish that the result differs from every other time. I just hope it's not my windows.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Inside a Bubble

Say an alcoholic goes to rehab, and after a few days on the wagon, develops serious withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal effects are so severe the doctor decides to simply give him a beer to temporarily ameliorate his condition. Seeing "improvement", the doctor proceeds to give him more beer, and finally, just gives him the key to the liquor cabinet. The alcoholic immediately begins to show outward signs of “improvement” as he no longer shakes. His spirit improves, and, in the short run, all is well. Now, would you consider this man to be in a state of “recovery” or would you consider him to be only delaying the inevitable, and perhaps, making the inevitable worse when it does come? And, on a related matter, would you consider the doctor to be a "healer" or a quack?

Like beer flowing from an open tap atop the alcoholics keg, central bank generated liquidity is flooding the monetary system, and global banks find themselves awash in cash. China alone has created over 1 trillion dollars which has mostly found its way into stock and real estate markets and is engendering what Kirby Daley aptly called a "medicated high". According to this article:

...while investors expect the market — up more than 80 percent this year — to keep rising, Chinese leaders are alarmed. They worry that too much of the $1 trillion lending binge by state banks that paid for China's nascent revival was diverted into stocks and real estate, raising the danger of a boom and bust cycle and higher inflation less than two years after an earlier stock market bubble burst.

Another recent article notes:

The country's banks have lent nearly 7.4 trillion yuan (1.08 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first half of the year - far higher than the initial full-year target of 5 trillion yuan.

On the back of the unprecedented rise in credit, the Shanghai Composite Index has rallied about 80 percent this year and real estate prices have rebounded to record levels in some major cities.

Some economists say much of the country's massive 586-billion-dollar stimulus package and record lending in the first half may not have been spent on real economic activities and created asset bubbles.

And what does China's central planners intend to do about this?

The Chinese government will not change its stimulus policies because it could derail its hard-won economic recovery, though record bank lending in the first half of the year has raised fears over credit risks and asset bubbles.

"The central bank is still committed to a 'moderately loose monetary policy'," said Su Ning, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), at a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

"When we say 'dynamic fine-tuning', we do not mean the monetary policy but the monetary policy operations. We will sharpen the focus and intensify the pace of the policies," Su said.

Note what the Chinese government considers to be "hard-won economic recovery": not increasing productivity built upon a foundation of hard work and thrift, but the creation of paper money. (Incidentally, if they consider the creation of 1 trillion dollars to be "moderately loose", what would they consider to be "really loose"?)

In Hugh Hendry's recent investor letter, he draws an interesting parallel between today's U.S. - China relationship and the relationship of the U.S. and Great Britain before the Great Depression. Today, in the midst of a massive creation of dollars by the U.S. central bank, China is inflating its money supply in order to keep its own currency from appreciating relative to the dollar which it believes would reduce the competitiveness of its export based economy. The U.S. "benefits" since China lends it surplus of dollars back to the United States in the form of purchases of an ever increasing supply of treasury bonds which tends to keep interest rates relatively low. This symbiotic relationship is analogous to the relationship of Britain and the U.S. in the 1920's with the U.S. then in the same position as China now.

In the wake of World War I, Europe was in ruins and in debt. America had accumulated a vast portion of the world's gold reserves and had become a net creditor and a net exporter (like China today). American interest rates were relatively low and the U.S. Dollar had appreciated dramatically relative to European currencies, especially the British pound sterling. Generally, this should have led to an increase of imports to America but Britain wished to increase the sterling back to pre-war levels and the U.S., taking a page out of the mercantilist handbook, wished to maintain its export industries. In order to accomplish this, the nascent Federal Reserve created massive amounts of dollars to artificially cheapen the dollar (strengthen the pound). This massive "pool of liquidity" found its way into the stock market and when the bubble finally burst (coupled with more destructive statist intervention into the economy), it led to the Great Depression.

The condition discussed above should sound familiar. It is virtually identical to the situation that exists today as China inflates its own currency to maintain its value relative to the dollar. Like the drug addict's fix, this inflation of the money supply props up bad investments, induces malinvestment, and prevents the market from fully recovering upon a sound economic foundation. Perpetuating this illusion requires continual credit expansion to fuel investments made upon the basis of expectations of continually increasing prices. Consider this quote:

"The central government has to fulfill their promise of 8 percent economic growth," said Wu Jun, 62, a retired civil servant who invested part of his life savings of 50,000 yuan ($7,300) and lives on a 2,000 yuan-a-month ($290 a month) pension. "They'll come up with measures to keep the market in good shape."

And what happens when the government stops the liquidity spigot to avoid a Latin American style hyperinflation? Of course, the bust portion of the boom-bust cycle occurs which leads statists to support creating ever more money out of thin air to prop up the malinvestments resulting from the previous boom and so on. Except, there is an end to the "so on." Such cycles can not continue indefinitely without an eventual breakdown of the economic system as has been the case throughout history.

For a direct look inside this bubble, here is a video in which Hendry walks through the streets of a city in China and observes fantastic skyscrapers all recently constructed. The only problem - they have no occupants. Despite this fact, we see cranes everywhere on the horizon, building ever more capacity. "Who is going to pay the debt that this building rests upon", Hendry asks rhetorically?

If you want to know how a drunk can recover by consuming alcohol, I would not ask the alcoholic. Ask the doctor who assuaged the alcoholic with advice he learned from the most famous and the most destructive economist of the 20th century: “in the long run”, this economist said, “you’ll be dead.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two "Visions" of a Sustainable Future






The top picture above was sent to me by a friend and shows a box he received under San Francisco's new "comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law". Under threat of fines, the law mandates that he shovel unused food scraps into this "specially designed composting pail" ( a green plastic box). Allegedly, this is all part of an "aggressive push to cut greenhouse gas emissions and have the city sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020." Quoting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom:

"San Francisco has the best recycling and composting programs in the nation," Newsom said, praising the board's vote on a plan that some residents had decried as heavy-handed and impractical. "We can build on our success."

Note that this plan, which has individuals sorting through their garbage like medieval serfs to separate soiled diapers from food scraps, is regarded as a "success" to the left-wing environmentalist. Consider another environmentalist plan:

UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Wednesday a vault carved into the Arctic permafrost, filled with samples of the world's most important seeds in case food crops are wiped out by a catastrophe.

"The world faces many daunting challenges today, one of the greatest of which is how to feed a growing population in the context of climate change," a bundled-up Ban told reporters after he toured the site in the Svalbard archipelago some 1,200 kilometres(745 miles) from the North Pole.

"The seeds stored here in Svalbard will help us do just that. Sustainable food production may not begin in this cold Arctic environment, but it does begin by conserving crop diversity," he said.

Ki-moon adds:

"This site, collated by all the countries, is really creative. I'm inspired by this vision to sustain the world in the future," he said.

Note, that collecting seeds in a frozen vault in the arctic is considered "creative" by environmentalists and this vault (Al Gore might call it a "lock box") represents their “vision of a sustainable future”.

It is never quite clear to me what environmentalists mean by "sustainable" so I googled it, and I found this definition:

Being sustainable is the goal of every environmentally conscious household and individual, because sustainability represents our ability to use Earth's resources to meet our present needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The article continues:

To use one small example with mighty consequences, sending your seemingly harmless salad leftovers to an already overflowing garbage dump will force more acreage to be taken over by landfills. More methane gas from the decomposition will be released into the environment, creating a slightly hotter, more dangerous and smellier climate for your children. By composting your food leftovers at home, you can greatly improve your sustainability by keeping those leftovers out of the landfill.

First, if I think about eating a plant in a forest, but then I don't eat it, I don't have to compost it, but if I put it on my plate but don't eat it, I should compost it? What is the difference? Could I just pretend that I didn't intend to eat the salad on my plate and throw it on the ground just like the plant I didn't eat in the forest? In other words, what about all the trees and flowers that die in nature - do they count or just the ones I did not eat (or think about eating...)? Further, where exactly are these "overflowing garbage dumps"? Has it been proven that methane gas creates a hotter more dangerous climate? Has it been proven that a hotter climate is more dangerous? Also, I don't smell any garbage dumps. If I did, I would simply move away from the garbage dump so that I didn't have to smell it anymore. In summary, what the hell is she talking about?

Of course, environmentalists never trouble themselves with logic. The real message is stated in the last paragraph when the author claims that:

approaching lifestyle changes with the size of one's eco-footprint in mind requires willpower, but the payoff of a healthier lifestyle and a happier planet is well worth the extra effort.

How can the planet be made "happier" since it is a ball of dirt? This is not a facetious question. Note, this anthropomorphication of the earth (ascribing human features to the earth) is not a charming little device intended to make a point. It is the essence of environmentalism. They literally regard the earth as a living entity, a deity to be worshiped and valued intrinsically, i.e., valued apart from man. However, since man must reshape the earth to survive, i.e., he must impinge on their deity, they must regard man as intrinsically evil. This concept is the environmentalist religion's form of Original Sin, popularly known as "eco-footprint". Consequently, their job, like Catholic priests, is to admonish the wicked to minimize their intrinsic imperfection or eco-sin in order to gain favor with Mother Earth and save future generations (the environmentalist version of the hereafter). Just as the religious offer sacrifices to gain favor with God, the environmentalist lives a life of self-abnegation, self-sacrifice and composting.

While capitalist entrepreneurs seek to invent medicines to destroy viruses and cure cancer, environmentalists regard man himself as a virus to be eradicated or a cancer on the planet which they seek to send into remission. Consequently, the environmentalist seeks to restrict technological progress in favor of bugs and swamps. They urge you to conserve, limit, restrict, recycle, and downsize. They fantasize about a global government empowered to centrally plan a man’s every waking breath. They rail against the “exploitation” of corporations which produce life enabling products while promoting the suicidal policies and apologizing for the bloody atrocities of socialist dictators like Stalin, Mao, Chavez and Castro.

The environmentalist concept of sustainability does not mean lengthening or prolonging man's life. It means the exact opposite. Policies that deny, restrict, and curtail human progress can not result in actual sustainability. Such policies result in privation, misery, and death.

What would actual sustainability entail? First and foremost, sustainability requires a standard of value based on human life not the impossible and meaningless standard of a "happier planet"! In order to prolong man's life, one must consider the requirements of man's survival, and what has sustained mankind for tens of thousands of years? The human mind.

Production is reason applied to the problem of survival. Reason and productivity are requirements of man's survival, and when government is strictly limited to protecting individual rights, i.e., the freedom to think, produce, trade, and own property, men produce in abundance because the limits of the human mind are boundless. The history of capitalism proves that to the extent men are free, man prospers, his life expectancy grows, and the quality of life improves dramatically. Consider the benefit to our lives from computers, air travel, refrigeration, microwave ovens, indoor plumbing, automobiles, cell phones, personal hygiene products, genetic engineering, pesticides, medicine, and vaccines to name a few. Man's mind is an infinite resource.

My vision of a sustainable future is one in which freedom, individual rights, and capitalism is adopted around the world. It is a future where billions of people are free to produce, innovate, and voluntarily trade unshackled from the yoke of statist dictators and leeching bureaucrats who strangle innovation and production. Consider the untold technological progress that would follow from such a system. Imagine new life prolonging medicines, new sources of energy, or the colonization of space.

The pictures at the top of this post dramatize these two warring visions. One picture represents retrogression back to the life of an ignorant peasant sorting through trash and hiding seeds in bunkers passively awaiting a prophesied global apocalypse. The other is a picture from another part of San Francisco. The Golden Gate bridge represents reason, production, progress, and human happiness. It represents true creativity and more importantly, true sustainability - the kind that follows from a moral philosophy which holds man’s life as the standard of value.