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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Michael Crichton On The Pernicious Nature of Consensus Science

"Aliens Cause Global Warming" - A lecture that Michael Crichton gave at the California Institute of Technology (17 January 2003), he said:

I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.

In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ayn Rand Called Hayek a "Compromiser"

In 1961, when Friedrich A. Hayek was visiting Cornell, he spoke at a political economy class. Here he recounted an encounter that he had with Ayn Rand at a party.

Hayek said:

“We had a very brief exchange. She swelled in anger and spun away, remaining only long enough to say, ‘You are a compromiser.’”

Source: Theodore J. Lowi, Professor, Cornell (NY Times)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thomas Paine in Common Sense

Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession

MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never the MEANS of riches; and tho' avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.

But there is another and great distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.

On George Orwell


Eric Blair (George Orwell) was born in Motihari, India, on 25 June, 1903. The picture shows Eric Blair, with his mother Ida, in the autumn of 1903.

Orwell's 'Animal Farm' was published was published in 1945. A political fable set in a farmyard but based on Stalin's betrayal of the Russian Revolution, it made Orwell's name. 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' was published in 1949. Set in an imaginary totalitarian future, the book made a deep impression, with its title and many phrases - such as 'Big Brother is watching you', 'newspeak' and 'doublethink' - entering popular use.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Review: Trump—The Art of The Deal

Trump: The Art of The Deal 
By Donald J. Trump with Tony Schwartz
Ballantine Books

You read The Art of The Deal almost surprised at how little effort Trump puts into any deal that he strikes. In the book, he does some blunt talk; he calls his detractors “phonies and hypocrites” and even “life’s losers,” but he doesn’t elucidate his strategy for making successful deals. The book doesn't live up to its billing.

But he did make those magnificent buildings, so he must have a strategy—he must have the vision for real-estate development. He doesn't talk about all that in the book.

You get the feeling that many of Trump’s projects are successful because he has a knack for managing the politicians, the media, the celebrities and the tycoons. He doesn't squander his resources or time on developing a great business plan. His name recognition, his image as a successful tycoon, his exposure on the media, and his contacts with the politicians and celebrities, beckon more seductively to those with whom he is negotiating.

He usually doesn't award much importance to the intellectuals or artists. He prefers to evaluate people on the basis of their material accomplishments. About academics, he says: “My father could run circles around most academics.” He suggests that instead of relying on experts or intellectuals one should listen to one’s gut feeling. “Listen to your gut,” he says, “no matter how good something sounds on paper.”

About a painter, who, according to Trump, is highly successful and well-known, he writes: “I get a great kick out of this guy because, unlike some artists I’ve met, he’s totally unpretentious.” Apparently, in Trump’s world, being unpretentious means that the person has the ability to effortlessly and pointlessly make huge sums of money. Here’s an excerpt:

“A few months back he invited me to come to his studio. We were standing around talking, when all of a sudden he said to me, “Do you want to see me earn twenty-five thousand dollars before lunch?” “Sure,” I said, having no idea what he meant. He picked up a large open bucket of paint and splashed some on a piece of canvass stretched on the floor. Then he picked up another bucket, containing a different color, and splashed some of that on the canvas. He did this four times, and it took him perhaps two minutes. When he was done, he turned to me and said, 'Well, that’s it. I’ve earned twenty-five thousand dollars. Lets’s go to lunch.'”

The idea that a leading painter will splash buckets of paint on a stretched canvas to create his work of art is implausible, but Trump presents it as a fact, and goes on to deliver his bromide on modern art: “a lot of modern art is a con, and…the most successful painters are often better salesmen and promoters than they are artists.” If he thinks that lot of modern art is con, then what kind of art, according to him, isn’t con?

Trump doesn't seem inclined towards art, but he gives ample evidence of his flashy taste in decor. When he saw the home of Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian billionaire, he was awed by the huge size of the rooms. He decided that he would make his then-under-construction penthouse apartment as flashy as Khashoggi’s home. He got two adjacent apartments in Trump Tower merged, so that he could have an eighty-foot long living room. He also got the living room embellished with 27 hand-carved Italian marble columns.

He has a simple way of looking at the world, those who back his deals are the life’s winners, and those who oppose him are the “life’s losers.”

“Even if I never went on the offensive, there are a lot of people gunning for me now. One of the problems when you become successful is that jealousy and envy inevitably follow. There are people—I categorize them as life’s losers—who get their sense of accomplishment and achievement from trying to stop others. As far as I’m concerned, if they had any real ability they wouldn’t be fighting me, they’d be doing something constructive themselves.”

Trump repeatedly refers to the media coverage, good or bad, that he has received. He understands the power of the media—he knows that generating controversy isn’t always a bad thing. He writes: “good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.”

When he announced his plan to build the world’s tallest building, it became a media event. The building never got built, but Trump was satisfied by the media hype that he got.

“Then I announced I was going to build the world’s tallest building on the site. Instantly, it became a media event: the New York Times put it on the front page, Dan Rather announced it in the evening news, and George Will wrote a column about it in Newsweek. Every architecture critic had an opinion, and so did a lot of editorial writers. Not all of them liked the idea of the world’s tallest building. But the point is that we got a lot of attention, and that alone creates value.”

The last sentence, in the above quote, makes you wonder, if Trump really believes that it’s only the media hype that creates value?

In recent years, the conservative columnist, George Will, has called Trump all kinds of names, and Trump has called Will “stupid,” a “political moron,” and a “disaster.” In one instance, Trump levelled the ultimate epithet on Will, by calling him “boring.” But in the 1980s both of them had lots of nice things to say about each other. George Will’s article on Trump’s world’s tallest tower project, is according to Trump, his favorite. As per the book, in his column, Will wrote:

“Trump, who believes that excesses can be a virtue, is as American as Manhattan’s skyline, which expresses the Republic’s erupting energies. He says the super-skyscraper is necessary because it is unnecessary. He believes architectural exuberance is good for us [and] he may have a point. Brashness, zest and élan are part of this country’s character.”

Trump goes on to suggest that his regret was that “George Will didn't have a seat on the City Planning Commission.” This may seem like a lighthearted comment, but Trump, in all probability, means it. If he had his way, the City Planning Commission would be full of people who will enthusiastically say, “Yes, yes, yes,” to his every real-estate project.

Trump speaks repeatedly about his ability to get the talented people to work for him. But he seems to suggest that he regards only those as “talented” who are in agreement with him. About Helmut Jahn, whom he hired as the architect for the world’s tallest tower project, Trump says: “What I liked most about Helmut was that he believed, as I did, that big can be beautiful. He liked spectacle.” Apparently liking what Trump liked was the necessary condition for Jahn to be hired.

Being a real-estate developer, Trump has frequent encounters with politicians. Not all politicians are helpful, but he knows that those who oppose him are “life’s losers.”

When New York City was planning to build its convention centre, they estimated that it would cost $260 million. Trump announced that he could build the convention centre for $110 million and save the city $150 million. Even though his proposal got some media coverage, the politicians didn't react to it. Then, Trump says, he discovered for the first time “that politicians don’t care too much what things cost. It’s not their money.”

But if the politicians are not caring about what things cost, then what is the way of stopping them from pouring public money down the drain? While Trump identifies some of the regulatory problems that the real estate sector faces, he does not provide any concrete political or social ideas for solving these problems. In the comments that he makes on certain politicians and government institutions, he sounds quite unexceptional and pedestrian.

He ends the book in the typical Trump style, with effusive praise for himself. But he also indicates that he would like to move into politics. “In my life, there are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work. One of the challenges ahead is how to use those skills as successfully in the service of others as I’ve done, up to now, on my own behalf.” On the whole The Art of The Deal offers a compelling and revealing portrait of Trump, the real-estate tycoon.

Main interest [of people] is liberty ~ Barry Goldwater

"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is to not pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I first determine if it is Constitutionally permissible. And if I should ever be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can." ~ Barry Goldwater

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chuck Norris vs Communism Official Trailer

Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

Mao: The Unknown Story,’  by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, is an interesting study of the megalomaniac communist dictator, Mao Zedong.

Here are some quotes that have been attributed to Mao Zedong in the well-researched book:

“You’d better have less conscience. Some of our comrades have too much mercy, not enough brutality, which means that they are not so Marxist. On this matter, we indeed have no conscience! Marxism is that brutal.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 411)

“People say that poverty is bad, but in fact poverty is good. The poorer people are, the more revolutionary they are. It is dreadful to imagine a time when everyone will be rich... From a surplus of calories people will have two heads and four legs.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 428)

“Let’s contemplate this, how many people would die if war breaks out. There are 2.7 billion people in the world. One-third could be lost; or, a little more, it could be half... I say that, taking the extreme situation, half dies, half lives, but imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 428)

“There should be celebration rallies when people die... We believe in dialectics, and so we can’t not be in favor of death.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 457)

“Deaths have benefits. They can fertilise the ground.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 457)

“We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 457-8)

“Don’t make a fuss about a world war. At most, people die... Half the population wiped out – this happened quite a few times in Chinese history... It’s best if half the population is left, next best one-third...” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 458)

“The weeds of socialism are better than the crops of capitalism.” ~ Mao Zedong (Page 643) 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Banning DDT killed more people than Hitler." ~ Michael Crichton

State of Fear, by Michael Crichton, is a great book. It exposes the gangs of liberal socialites, environmental crazies and so-called scientists who use fake data to promote their global warming and climate change ideology.

Crichton doesn't buy one bit of the environmentalist baloney, and he discredits their entire theory.

Here is an excerpt, in which the characters from State of Fear are talking about how the illogical and unscientific ban of DDT has led to tens of millions of people dying from malaria:

"Banning DDT."

"Arguably the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. DDT was the best agent against mosquitoes, and despite the rhetoric there was nothing anywhere near as good or as safe. Since the ban, two million people a year have died unnecessarily from malaria, mostly children. All together, the ban has caused more than fifty million needless deaths. Banning DDT killed more people than Hitler, Ted. And the environmental movement pushed hard for it."

"But DDT was a carcinogen."

"No, it wasn't. And everybody knew it at the time of the ban."

"It was unsafe."

"Actually, it was so safe you could eat it. People did just that for two years, in one experiment.* After the ban, it was replaced by parathion, which is really unsafe. More than a hundred farm workers died in the months after the DDT ban, because they were unaccustomed to handling really toxic pesticides."

"We disagree about all this."

"Only because you lack the relevant facts, or are unwilling to face up to the consequences of the actions of organizations you support. Banning DDT will someday be seen as a scandalous blunder."

"DDT was never banned."

"You're right. Countries were just told that if they used it, they wouldn't get foreign aid." Kenner shook his head. "But the unarguable point, based on UN statistics, is that before the DDT ban, malaria had become almost a minor illness. Fifty thousand deaths a year worldwide. A few years later, it was once again a global scourge. Fifty million people have died since the ban, Ted. Once again, there can be no action without harm."

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Thinker

"If devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking." ~ Ayn Rand in For The New Intellectual


Friday, June 17, 2016

Thomas Paine in Common Sense

"To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores instruct us to detest, is madness and folly. Every day wears out the little remains of kindred between us and them, and can there be any reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection will increase, or that we shall agree better, when we have ten times more and greater concerns to quarrel over than ever?

"Ye that tell us of harmony and reconciliation, can ye restore to us the time that is past? Can ye give to prostitution its former innocence?"

The Simpsons on The Fountainhead

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Metaphysics of The Wine

The thirsty earth soaks up the Rain,
And drinks, and gapes for drink again;
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking fresh and fair;
The sea itself (which one would think
Should have but little need of drink)
Drinks ten thousand rivers up,
So fill’d that they o'reflow the cup.
The busy Sun (and one would guess
By ’s drunken fiery face no less)
Drinks up the Sea, and when he's done,
The Moon and Stars drink up the Sun:
They drink and dance by their own light,
They drink and revel all the night:
Nothing in Nature’s sober found,
But an eternal Health goes round.
Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high,
Fill all the glasses there—for why
Should every creature drink but I?
Why, man of morals, tell me why?

~ ‘Drinking’ by Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry

J H Randall makes the following commentary on Aristotle’s theory of poetry:

“The poet thus makes the universal pattern of nature clearer than nature unaided by art is able to do, “just as a good portrait-painter reproduces the distinctive features of a man, and at the same time, without losing the likeness, makes him handsomer than he is.” The poet clarifies nature’s pattern. The poet depicts things as they are, or as they are said to be, or as they ought to be—as they ought to be if nature’s aim is to be fully realized. Sophocles, who was Aristotle’s favorite tragic poet, just as he was to be Hegel’s, said, he drew men as they ought to be, while Euripides drew them as they actually are—as they “ought” to be if they were to be fully men. Since the aim of poetry is to “convince,” a convincing impossibility is preferable, and certainly far more effective, than an unconvincing possibility. In other words, it is no answer to the critic to say, “It actually happened! I knew a man who did just that!” If this model is in fact improbable, the poet ought to improve upon nature.”

(Source: Aristotle by J H Randall; Chapter: The Productive Sciences; Page: 291) 

Monday, June 13, 2016

On Reading Donald Trump

A Donald Trump presidency in US now seems inevitable. So yesterday, I finally purchased his book: “Trump—The Art of The Deal.” On my bookshelf, I have made a special place for it—between the books of Aristotle, Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff.

When Trump wrote this book, he wasn't a politician, he was a celebrity businessman. Yet I hope to find in this book some clues about his political ideas.

The book opens with these lines:

“I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it.”

I think, he sounds whimsical in these opening lines. But I am yet to read the book, and I am hopeful of finding better ideas as I read further.

During the last 3 or 4 months, Trump has not given a clear view of his political ideas. He keeps changing his policy positions—at times he refuses to address policy questions directly.

He claims that his unpredictability is a good thing, because it will allow him to cut better deals. The dichotomy between his past and present stances, makes it difficult to know what he really thinks.

About the arrangement of the books in my bookshelf—this represents the view that the world would be a much better place if we had politicians who are motivated by the philosophy of reason. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Is The Rice Theory of Socialism Valid?

Does rice lead to interdependence and socialism? Can wheat inspire the rise of individualism and capitalism? A controversial study, “Large-Scale Psychological Differences Within China Explained by Rice Versus Wheat Agriculture,” published by the journal Science, proposes that people in countries where rice is the staple crop are less self-centred, and are likely to see themselves as being interwoven with other members of the society.

In China, the study claims, the wheat-rice divide runs deep. The wheat-eating people living in the northern China are taller and more individualistic than the rice-eating southerners. The northern Chinese tend to think analytically, and their divorce rates are higher. On the other hand, the rice-growing southerners are rooted in the traditional Asian culture—they tend to think holistically and have lower divorce rates.

The study also points out that the people in rice-eating countries like South Korea, Japan, India and Hong Kong, are much less individualistic than their counterparts in the West, even though these countries have a capitalist environment and are relatively well-off.

On the basis of these trends can we draw the inference that rice is the primary driver of culture? The answer, to my mind, is no. To bring down the idea of development of culture to the level of rice or wheat amounts to a wilful denial of the role that the human thought plays in cultural evolution. The intellectual, religious and political movements, which the society or nation has witnessed in the past, have the maximum influence on culture.

The differences in the psychology of the rice and wheat growing populations, that the study is citing, can be the result of diverse historical and geographical factors, which the authors of the study have not taken into account.

But Dr. Thomas Talhelm, a University of Virginia psychologist, and his colleagues, who are behind the study, seem to think that rice is the primary determinant of human psychology and culture. They propose that rice leads to the development of holistic thought and interdependence because cultivating it is much harder. The rice plant is a delicate entity—it grows in a bed of water and requires careful tending. Also, since a rice paddy needs large amounts of water, the farmers have to rely on irrigation systems which can only be created through neighborly cooperation.

In comparison, the study says, wheat is easier to grow. “Wheat does not need to be irrigated, so wheat farmers can rely on rainfall, which they do not coordinate with their neighbors. Planting and harvesting wheat certainly takes work, but only half as much as rice. The lighter burden means farmers can look after their own plots without relying as much on their neighbors.”

For their study, Dr. Talhelm and his colleagues have tested 1162 Han Chinese participants in six sites. To control for confounds like climate, they tested “people from neighboring counties along the rice-wheat border” and in this case also they found differences that were just as large. However, a sample size of 1162 is not enough for a populous country like China. Also, culture is a vast subject and it’s not possible to gain insight into its fundamentals by merely evaluating the inputs collected from a few locals. An in depth exploration of the historical and geographical factors is necessary for understanding the process by which the culture has evolved.

It’s clear that the authors of the study have made selective usage of the inputs, which they have collated from a relatively small sample size, to rationalize that rice is the primary driver of culture. If rice had the power to determine culture, the world would still be an agrarian society. It’s not rice that determines culture, rather it’s the other way round: It’s culture which determines whether people prefer rice or wheat. Also, the psychology of a person is the matter of individual choice, a man can be a rice-eater and yet be an individualist, or he may be a wheat-eater and yet be of an interdependent mindset. Human beings have free will.

Also, the rice theory of culture is not a new idea. Many intellectuals, in the past 50 years have proposed such ideas. In some rice-growing areas in Asia, the intellectuals have gone to the extent of proclaiming that socialism and communism are inevitable is such areas because rice has made the people interdependent and holistic-thinking. Such stereotyping of entire populations can mislead the people into believing that they are incapable of rejecting socialism and communism because of their food habits.

An anti-modernization stance is also palpable in the study. For instance, towards the end of the study we find these lines:

“There is also the question of how long rice culture will persist after the majority of people stop farming rice. There is evidence that U.S. regions settled by Scottish and Irish herders have higher rates of violence, even though most locals stopped herding long ago. This is one example of how subsistence style can shape culture long after people have stopped relying on that subsistence style. In the case of China, only time will tell.”

It's unclear why the authors of the study seek to blame modernity for failing to curb the violent tendencies of the Scottish and Irish herders. Also, they sound ominous, when they say: “In the case of China, only time will tell.” Are they trying to warn that modernity is not good for China, and that in order to ensure peace in the future, China must keep its population bound to an agrarian way of life? But there is no logic in connecting modernity with threat of violence, or an agrarian way of life with peaceful coexistence.

There are several inadequacies in this study by Dr. Talhelm and his colleagues. There are many unanswered questions and loopholes that they have allowed to creep into their study.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Paul Krugman Has Gone Too Far This Time: Let’s Re-train Him As a Cosmonaut

"Were there any justice in this world, he [Paul Krugman] would be drummed out of town. A harsher man than me would have him tarred and feathered." ~ Kevin Dowd in his article in Adam Smith Institute. 

BREXIT THE MOVIE FULL FILM

Friday, June 10, 2016

Charles Darwin on Aristotle

As biology came to the fore, it was realized that Aristotle was the greatest biologist until the eighteenth century.  Darwin made the enthusiast remark, “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods; but they were mere schoolboys compared to Aristotle.” ~ J H Randall

(Source: Aristotle by J H Randall; Chapter: Understanding Natural Processes) 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Critique of Amartya Sen’s Theory of Justice, by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen have written a critique of Amartya Sen’s book The Idea of Justice. The critique, "Why Justice? Which Justice? Impartiality or Objectivity?" has been published in The Independent Review.

Den Uyl and Rasmussen begin by pointing out that while Amartya Sen is known as an economist, he writes mostly on political and social philosophy. They state:

And although it may be news to some that a Nobel Laureate in economics is dealing with a basic issue of philosophy, it is no surprise to those who have followed the vast array of articles and books that Sen has produced over the years. He has dealt with questions of justice, inequality, and freedom for a long time. 

In the course of their 20-page critique, the authors provide an analysis and rebuttal of the major ideas that Amartya Sen has proposed in his book.

On Sen’s attempt to justify impersonalism, Den Uyl and Rasmussen have this to say:

One way to try to get around these concerns is to emphasize that Sen focuses primarily on justice in an interpersonal sense and to claim that interpersonal justice requires impersonal justice. In this regard, Sen follows John Rawls, who states in A Theory of Justice that “we think of the original position as the point of view from which noumenal selves see the world” (1971, 225). But does commitment to interpersonal living (even in a most open-ended and universal sense) require that one take on the viewpoint of a noumenal self or adopt ethical impersonalism? To say the least, it is highly unlikely that human beings are noumenal selves, and it seems that the goods and personal projects of individual human beings differ in real and legitimate ways. Hence, individuality matters with respect to morals and also in regard to making comparative judgments of justice that are supposed to apply to every human being. Regardless of how inconvenient individuality may be, political philosophers may not simply disregard it. Indeed, among political philosophers’ desiderata is an accommodation of both individualism’s moral propriety and human life’s profoundly social character. Thus, it is by no means clear how helpful Sen’s disregard of the individuality of persons and their lives is as an argumentative ploy.

They go on to state:

But this account simply does not work, and it smacks of a conformism that is antithetical to the very character of human flourishing. Certainly, to think of human flourishing without thinking of whose flourishing it is is not to think falsely, but to think that human flourishing can exist, or provide guidance for conduct, without being the flourishing of some individual or other is to think falsely. Moreover, it is false to regard the individual as simply a place-holder that instantiates the human good or various combinations of human capabilities. Such thinking turns human flourishing into an abstraction and denies it reality, and it forbids the very individuality of persons from entering into an account of human flourishing or playing a role in the judgments of practical reason. Indeed, to hold such a conception is to hold no conception of human flourishing at all.

Sen’s attempt to explain an ethical or political belief’s objectivity in terms of its ability to pass the scrutiny of the public-reasoning process does not suffice because although impartiality understood in an ordinary way is not controversial, it helps very little in providing a basis for determining what to select in making comparative judgments of justice. Moreover, if impartiality is understood in an impersonalist sense, it is unjustified and conflicts with the individualistic and personal features of human flourishing. We have, of course, an alternative way to understand the objectivity of an ethical or political belief: the realistic—and, for us, ultimately naturalistic—account of ethical objectivity that we champion. Such an approach to ethical objectivity is explicitly tethered to specific metaphysical and epistemological positions. Sen has chosen the particular route of public reasoning to account for ethical objectivity because he also has tethered himself to deep philosophical commitments.

Overall, the critique has many good ideas and it is worth reading.

It is also noteworthy that in the new book by Den Uyl and Rasmussen, The Perfectionist Turn: From Metanorms to Metaethics, the criticism of Amartya Sen has been expanded and integrated with the criticism of John Rawls, Martha Craven Nussbaum and others.

*************

Douglas B. Rasmussen is a professor of philosophy at St. John’s University.
Douglas J. Den Uyl is vice president of educational programs and a senior fellow at the Liberty Fund.

The Dog Called Grammar


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ayn Rand on Welfare-Statists

"It is true that the welfare-statists are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property, that they want to “preserve” private property—with government control of its use and disposal. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism."

(Source: 'Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal' by Ayn Rand: Chapter: The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On The Egalitarian Ideas in Amartya Sen’s Nobel Lecture

Amartya Sen is not a real economist; he is a social welfare warrior. The Nobel Prize that he won in 1998 was, as per the press release from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, for “his contributions to welfare economics.” It is noteworthy that Sen’s Nobel Prize was not for “economics,” it was for “welfare economics,” which is a polite name for “public economics,” which, in turn, is a polite name for the so-called “trickle-down economics.” 

The Nobel Lecture that Sen gave at the Nobel Award Ceremony, titled ‘The Possibility of Choice,’ was mostly focused on Kenneth Arrow’s so-called impossibility theorem, which suggests that it is impossible for a group to make decisions that would satisfy everyone's wishes.

Here is an excerpt from Sen’s Nobel Lecture.   

If there is a central question that can be seen as the motivating issue that inspires social choice theory, it is this: how can it be possible to arrive at cogent aggregative judgments about the society (for example, about "social welfare," or "the public interest," or "aggregate poverty"), given the diversity of preferences, concerns, and predicaments of the different individuals within the society? How can we find any rational basis for making such aggregative judgements as "the society prefers this to that," or "the society should choose this over that," or "this is socially right"? Is reasonable social choice at all possible, especially since, as Horace noted a long time ago, there may be "as many preferences as there are people”?

Further in the lecture, Sen posits the following questions:

When would majority rule yield unambiguous and consistent decisions? How can we judge how well a society as a whole is doing in the light of the disparate interests of its different members? How do we measure aggregate poverty in view of the varying predicaments and miseries of the diverse people that make up the society? How can we accommodate rights and liberties of persons while giving adequate recognition to their preferences? How do we apprise social valuations of public goods such as the natural environment, or epidemiological security?

The egalitarian questions that Sen proposes with the aplomb of a muddled welfarist are based on the notion that the concepts such as "social welfare," or "the public interest," or "aggregate poverty,” or “social choice,” or “socially right,” or “social valuations,” are valid. But this is not true. These are invalid concepts that Sen is using to conjure mythical questions. 

There is nothing called social welfare: Society consists of individuals, whose interests can only be protected when individual rights and property rights are safeguarded by the constitution.

There is nothing called public interest: There is only the rational self-interest of the individual citizens.

There is nothing called aggregate poverty: There is only “poverty,” which is the result of government intervention in the economy. If the government stops meddling in the economy, people will find a way of improving their financial condition.

There is nothing called social choice, or socially right: The basic purpose of having rule of law, is to prevent any group of people from imposing on others their vision of what is “social choice” or “socially right.”

There is nothing called social valuation: Valuations ascribed through government orders are unreal. Only the free market is capable of discovering the financial value of anything.

In his Nobel Lecture, Sen offers a glimpse of his totalitarian ideas when he pontificates about his methodologies for identifying the so-called poor and deprived people who will be the recipients of his welfare largesse. 

Do we get enough of a diagnosis of individual poverty by comparing the individual's income with a socially given poverty-line income? What about the person with an income well above the poverty line, who suffers from an expensive Illness (requiring, say, kidney dialysis)? Is deprivation not ultimately a lack of opportunity to lead a minimally acceptable life, which can be influenced by a number of considerations, including of course personal income, but also physical and environmental characteristics, and other variables (such as the availability and costs of medical and other facilities)?

In Sen’s egalitarian utopia, anyone suffering from an expensive illness will have the first claim on the earnings of other individuals in the society. This is a typical argument, which socialists use to make a case for state control of healthcare. However, government’s meddling in healthcare only leads to the creation of a huge bureaucracy, which stifles competition, makes innovation impossible, and paves way for a massive rise in the price of healthcare services.

Amartya Sen’s entire Nobel Lecture is full of socialist ideas which have failed so many times in so many countries. But with progressivism running amok in the world, such ideas are deemed important enough to be glorified with the prestigious Nobel Prize.

A look at Sen’s body of work makes it abundantly clear that he is a socialist. Among Indian economists, he is probably the biggest repository of socialist cliches. But the surprising thing is that he has never publicly confessed that he is a socialist. Journalists have asked him, on many occasions, if he was a socialist—a simple question that he can answer in yes, or no. But he always dodges such questions by claiming that he prefers not to be bound by any dogma. 

In the speech that he gave at the Nobel Banquet, on December 10, 1998, he whined about the sheer injustice of people having the temerity to ask him if he was a socialist.

Here’s an excerpt from his speech at the Nobel Banquet:

Now a seriously silly thought. From this focus on open-minded reasoning, there is much that economists too can learn. The subject stands to lose a lot from dogmatic beliefs of one kind or another (for example, we are constantly asked: "Are you against or in favour of the market? Against or in favour of state action? Just answer the question - no qualifications, no 'ifs' and 'buts,' please!"). This is an invitation to replace analysis by slogans - to be guided by grand dogma, either of one kind, or of another.

But it is not at all silly to inquire if Sen is for free markets or for state action. Questioning him about his economic ideology does not amount to replacing analysis by slogans. People have the right to know the truth about Amartya Sen’s economic ideology, because he is a very influential crony-economist. For decades he has been in the business of advising governments and international organizations on social welfare and famine control. He was an advisor to the Congress led regime, when it was in power in India for 10 years (2004 to 2014).

Every real economist knows that instead of helping the poor the welfare state perpetuates poverty. Countries that were once socialist or communist are now making efforts to open their markets and cut down on welfare, which they know from past experience has a disastrous impact on the economy. But all this doesn't matter to Sen, who has no moral qualms about being economical with facts while conjuring ideas for supporting welfarism. It's clear that he supports welfarism because he derives his sustenance from the mammaries of the welfare state.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ayn Rand's Word Marathon in For The New Intellectual

This excellent quote is, I think, the longest line in Ayn Rand's philosophical works. It is of 371 words:

"Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live—that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values—that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others—that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human—that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay—that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live—that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road—that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust, that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap, and the man who makes another man his goal is a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up—that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction."

(Source: For The New Intellectual by Ayn Rand; Chapter: Galt's Speech) 

John Stossel ~ Socialist Disasters

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Can Science Explain the Origin of Life?

List of the Major Works of Tibor R. Machan

A Selection of Some of the Major Works of Tibor R. Machan (compiled by Douglas B. Rasmussen,  Douglas J. Den Uyl, and Aeon Skoble)

Books

Objectivity: Recovering Determinate Reality. London, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

Neither Left nor Right, Selected Columns. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2004.

Putting Human First: Why We are Nature’s Favorite. Lanham, MD. Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.

A Primer on Business Ethics (with James E. Chesher). Lanham. MD. Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

The Passion for Liberty. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

Initiative: Human Agency and Society. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2000.

The Business of Commerce: Examining an Honorable Profession (with James E. Chesher). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1999.

Classical Individualism: The Supreme Importance of Each Human Being. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Capitalism and Individualism: Reframing the Argument for the Free Society. New York: St. Martin, 1990.

Individuals and Their Rights. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1989.

Human Rights and Human Liberties: A Radical Reconsideration of the American Political Tradition Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1975.

The Pseudo-Science of B. F. Skinner New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974.

Edited Books

Business Ethics in the Global Market. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1999.

Political Philosophy: Essential Selections (with Aeon J. Skoble). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

Liberty for the 21st Century (with Douglas B. Rasmussen). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.

The Libertarian Reader. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allenheld, 1982.

The Libertarian Alternative. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1974.

Articles

“Stakeholder vs. Shareholder Theory of the Ethics of Corporate Management.” International Journal of Economics and Business Research (2009) Vol. 1, No. 1.

“Self-Ownership and the Lockean Proviso." Philosophy of the Social Sciences (2008) Vol. 38, No. 3.

“Why Moral Judgments Can be Objective.” Social Philosophy & Policy (2008) Vol. 25: 100-125.

“Free Markets & Morality.” Economic, Management, and Financial Markets, Vol. 2 (2007).

“Heretical Essay on Wittgenstein’s Meta-Ethics.” Analysis and Metaphysics (2007): Vol. 6: 413-430.

“Rights, Values, Regulation and Health Care.” Journal of Value Inquiry (2006) Vol. 40. Nos. 2–3: 155.

“Good God, Bad Deeds?” Think, (Winter 2007): 55-57.

“Is Free Will Real?” Think, Issue 12 (Spring 2006): 61-63.

“Why it Appears that Objective Ethical Claims Are Subjective.” Philosophia (1997) Vol. 26, Nos. 1- 4:1-23.

“Indefatigable Alchemist: Richard Rorty’s Radical Pragmatism.” The American Scholar (Summer1996).

“Posner’s Rortyite (Pragmatic) Jurisprudence.” American Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol. 40 (1995):1-15.

“Human Rights Reaffirmed.” Philosophy, Vol. 69 (1994): 479-489.

“Professional Responsibilities of Corporate Managers.” Business and Professional Ethics Journal (Fall, 1994) Vol. 13: 57-69.

“Environmentalism Humanized.” Public Affairs Quarterly (April 1993) Vol. 7: 131-147.

“Some Reflections on Richard Rorty's Philosophy.” Metaphilosophy (January/April 1993) Vol. 24: 123-135.

“Applied Ethics and Free Will.” Journal of Applied Philosophy (1993) Vol. 10: 59-72

“The Right to Private Property.” Critical Review (1992) Vol. 6: 81-90.

“Do Animals Have Rights?” Public Affairs Quarterly (April 1991) Vol. 5: 163-173.

“Sobre los derechos humanos.” Libertas (May 1991) Vol. 8: 39-114.

“Exploring Extreme Violence (Torture).” The Journal of Social Philosophy (Spring 1991) Vol. 21: 92-7.

“Politics and Generosity.” Journal of Applied Philosophy (1990) Vol. 7: 61-73.

“Natural Rights Liberalism.” Philosophy and Theology (Spring 1990) Vol. 4: 253-65.

“How Critical is Critical Legal Studies?” Academic Questions (1989) Vol. 1, No. 4.

“Should Cigarette Advertising Be Banned?” (with Douglas J. Den Uyl) Public Affairs Quarterly, (1988) Vol. 2 : 19-30.

“Terrorism and Objective Moral Principles.” International Journal of World Peace (Oct.-Dec. 1987) Vol. IV, No. 4: 31-40.

“Corporate Commerce vs. Government Regulation: The State & Occupational Health and Safety.” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy (Fall 1987) Vol. 2: 791-823.

“Towards A Theory of Natural Individual Human Rights.” New Scholasticism (Winter 1987) Vol. 61, No. 1: 33-78.

“Advertising: The Whole Or Only Some of the Truth.” Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 2 (1987): 59-71.

“Metaphysics, Epistemology and Natural Law Theory.” American Journal of
Jurisprudence (1986) Vol. 31: 65-77.

“Aiding A Suicide Attempt.” Criminal Justice Ethics (Winter 1986) Vol. 4: 73-74.

“Ethics and the Regulation of Professional Ethics.” Philosophia (1983) Vol. 13: 337-348.

“Ethics, Professionalism and Public Service.” Business and Professional Ethics Journal (November 1983) Vol. 2: 83-89.

“Individualism & the Problem of Political Authority.” The Monist (1983), Vol. 66: 500-516.

“A Reconsideration of Natural Rights Theory.” American Philosophical Quarterly (1982) Vol. 19: 61-72.

“Epistemology and Moral Knowledge.” The Review of Metaphysics (1982) Vol. 36 (1982): 23-49.

“Essentialism Sans Inner Natures.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences (1980) Vol. 10.

“C. S. Peirce and Absolute Truth.” Transactions of the C. S. Peirce Society (1980) Vol. 16: 153-161.

“Belief Within the Thought of Pierre Bayle.” (1978) Folia Humanistica, Vol. 16: 608-619, 687-695.

“Another Look at Logical Possibility.” Personalist (1970) Vol. 51: 246-249.

“Was Rachels' Doctor Practicing Egoism?” Philosophia (1978) Vol. 8: 421-424.

“Prima Facie v. Natural (Human) Rights.” Journal of Value Inquiry (1976) Vol. 10, No. 1: 119-131.

“Back to Being Reasonable” (with Marty L. Zupan). Philosophy of Science, Vol. 142, No. 3: 307-310.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Harry Binswanger on "What Faith Is"

It is always galling when someone says, "I have faith" or "I take it as a matter of faith," because the person is pretending that "faith" denotes a channel through which information flows.

But "faith" means engaging in make-believe. So, to take something on faith is a double pretense: it's making believe that the make-believe is real. It's pretending that a pretense is not a pretence.

The man who admits to believing in God "on faith" actually agrees with the atheist that God is make-believe. The difference is that the theist commits himself to pretending that his made-up idea isn't made-up.

Just to make the point, picture an atheist who goes to church every Sunday and even prays (not that these acts would be morally proper). If he holds firmly to the idea that this is make-believe, and does it because he enjoys it as a kind of game, that does not contradict his atheism. (Again, it's objectionable on other grounds.)

When you read fiction, you "suspend disbelief"--i.e., switch on the mental "set" of treating the characters and actions, while reading, the same way you would a report of real characters and actions. But you know fully that that's what you are doing. So no "taking on faith" is involved.

There's nothing wrong with "Let's pretend," because it's identified as a pretense. "Let's have faith" is an act of wiping out the distinction between pretense and perception.

There's nothing wrong (and much right) with imagination. What's wrong--disastrously wrong--is the meta-pretense: pretending that the imagined is real. That's what "taking it as a matter of faith" means.
Faith is pretending that make-believe is real.

(This is from a post by Harry Binswanger in the HBL Platform

The Economical Economist


Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review — Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
Stephen Hicks
Ockham's Razor

The age in which we live, as understood by the leading intellectuals, is not the modern, it is the postmodern. The age of modernity is the age of reason and the postmodern intellectuals, being historically and philosophically opposed to modernity, speak about targeting the arrogance of reason. They want to attack the idea that we can comprehend reality only by applying reason.

What is the historical origin of the ideas which allow the intellectuals to attack reason, reject modernity, and embrace postmodernity? What are the political, social and cultural outcomes that the intellectuals want to achieve by embracing postmodernity? In Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, Stephen Hicks conducts a survey of the postmodernist movement which mainly through its dominance of the academia exercises critical intellectual influence on political, social and cultural issues.

Most post-Enlightenment era philosophers view the Enlightenment with suspicion, or at least a vague unease. Postmodernism represents the climax of the ideas of the counter-Enlightenment philosophers; it is another attempt to defeat the Enlightenment ideas by denying reason, values, and reality. To fuel unrest and confusion in capitalist societies, the postmodernists propose a toolkit of grievances—minorities issues, feminism, racism, income equality, free education and healthcare, higher minimum wage, animal rights, environmentalism, and the like.

Hicks explains that there is a clear change of guard in the intellectual scene and the “names of the postmodern vanguard are now familiar: Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Richard Rorty.” He describes these intellectuals as the leading strategists whose efforts have set the direction and tone of postmodernist movement.

Modernist philosophy, which has existed for several centuries, came to maturity in the Enlightenment. Hicks writes: “The Enlightenment philosophes quite rightly saw themselves as radical. The pre-modern Medieval worldview and the modern Enlightenment worldview were coherent, comprehensive—and entirely opposed—accounts of reality and the place of human beings within it.”

When postmodernism rejects modernism, it is essentially rejecting the Enlightenment ideas. Explaining the fundamental way in which postmodernism attacks the Enlightenment’s essential philosophical themes, Hicks says: “Postmodernism rejects the reason and the individualism that the entire Enlightenment world depends upon. And so it ends up attacking all of the consequences of the Enlightenment philosophy, from capitalism and liberal forms of government to science and technology.”

The postmodernists aim to re-shape the entire world in the same way as the Enlightenment project. For the achievement of such an ambition, individuals, across many generations, must be engaged for formulating the arguments and developing the intellectual strategies.

Hicks says that at the apex of the intellectual movement that has led to postmodernism there are figures like Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Immanuel Kant, and to a lesser extent David Hume. The ideas of these figures have been used by the likes of Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx. These figures, in turn, provide philosophical support to the likes of Rorty, Foucault, Leotard, and Derrida.

The early counter-Enlightenment philosophers were horrified by the Enlightenment’s championing of reason and individualism—they saw such ideas leading to godless, spiritless, passionless, and amoral world. Many of them got inspired by the collectivist philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hume’s attack on reason was a source of inspiration. Hicks is of the view that because of the weaknesses in the Enlightenment account of reason, the Counter-Enlightenment philosophers were able to win support for their ideas of skepticism, subjectivism and relativism.

The epistemological battle between the Enlightenment ideas and the Counter-Enlightenment ideas has been going on for more than two centuries. Hicks calls Immanuel Kant “the most significant thinker of the Counter-Enlightenment.” He regards Kant as the main culprit behind postmodernism’s strong anti-realist and anti-reason stances. Kant has claimed that we cannot know the world as it is in itself—the Kantian postmodernists believe that there is no reality, rather we create reality through our discourses and scientific methods.

Hegel has also made significant contributions to the Counter-Enlightenment. He explicitly rejected Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction. The Hegelian theory of dialectical reason, which implies strong relativism, is fundamentally opposed to the Enlightenment idea of reason.

Martin Heidegger absorbed the philosophy of Kant and Hegel and gave it a phenomenological twist. Heidegger proposed that by exploring his dark and anguished feelings of dread and guilt, he could approach Being. What Heidegger was aiming at was nihilism. Hicks points out: “So after abandoning reason and logic, after experiencing real boredom and terrifying dread, we unveil the final mystery of mysteries: Nothing. In the end, all is nothing and nothing is all. With Heidegger, we reach metaphysical nihilism.”

After a roundup of almost 220 years of philosophy, Hicks presents his first hypothesis on the origin of postmodernism: “Postmodernism is the first ruthlessly consistent statement of the consequences of rejecting reason, those consequences being necessary given the history of epistemology since Kant.” He goes on to say that postmodernism is the “end result of the Counter-Enlightenment inaugurated by Kantian epistemology.”

Why are the postmodernists always Left leaning in their politics? In the chapter, “The Climate of Collectivism,” Hicks analyzes the connection between postmodern epistemology and postmodern politics. He points out: “Of the major names in the postmodernist movement, there is not a single figure who is not Left-wing in a serious way.” He posits that the postmodernism is an outcome of the same Counter-Enlightenment intellectual movement that gave rise to socialism and communism. Yesterday’s socialists are today’s postmodernists.

The socialists had to clamber aboard the postmodernist bandwagon, because, in theory, free-market thinkers have won the debate. All of socialism’s claims have been refuted. The capitalist nations are much more prosperous, productive and peaceful than the socialist nations. In context of the extreme leftist politics of the postmodernists, Hicks presents his second hypothesis on postmodernism: “Postmodernism is the academic far Left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in theory and practice.”

On the role that Rousseau has played in development of political ideas for the Counter-Enlightenment, Hicks says: “Rousseau’s writings were the Bible of the Jacobin leaders of the French Revolution, absorbed by many of the hopeful Russian revolutionaries of the late nineteenth century, and influential upon the more agrarian socialists of the twentieth century in China and Cambodia. In the theoretical world of academic socialism, Rousseau’s version of collectivism was eclipsed by Marx’s version for most of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century. Yet a large part of the explanation of the postmodern thought is a shift toward Rousseauian themes by thinkers who were originally inspired by Marx but who are now increasingly disillusioned.”

During the 1950s, the radical Left was hoping that the Soviet Union would outstrip the capitalist West and serve as an exemplar of moral idealism and economic production, but the information from Soviet Union showed that their economy was in a disastrous shape and in the countryside people were starving to death.

It also became widely known that Stalin had millions of people tortured, subjected to inhuman deprivations and executed. Khrushchev exposed Stalin’s crimes in the “secret speech” that he made to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union. On the other hand, the capitalist countries were having a booming economy and a massive rise in the standards of living for all. From the 1950s onwards, it became increasingly hard for the leftist intellectuals to argue that capitalism fails to provide for people’s needs. They had to devise new ideas for remaining relevant.

During the 1960s, the hardline Left tried to gain political power through terrorism. But the liberal capitalist governments were able to subdue the terrorists, killing some, imprisoning many, driving others underground more or less permanently. According to Hicks, the collapse of the terrorist wing of the hardline Left during the 1970s, finally drove the leftist intellectuals and their followers into postmodernism. The academia became the new postmodern bastion for the Left.

Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, and Rorty — the four intellectuals who came to prominence as the leaders of the postmodern movement were born in 1920s and 1930s, within a 7 year span. Describing their similar background, Hicks writes:

“All were well trained in philosophy at the best schools. All entered their academic careers in the 1950s. All were strongly committed to Left politics. All were well aware of the history of socialist theory and practice. All lived through the crises of socialism in the 1950s and 1960s. And come the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, all four had high standing in their professional academic disciplines and high standing among the intellectual Left.”

Explaining Postmodernism is an engaging book for those who wish to understand the modern left, which is the postmodern left. But this book also seeks to nourish the Enlightenment project, by explaining how the massive progress that mankind has made during the last 250 years is a result of the Enlightenment ideas. Even though the key ideas of the Enlightenment were philosophically incomplete and vulnerable, they have made such seminal improvements in human life. It is tempting to imagine the progress that the world will enjoy once the Enlightenment project is philosophically complete.

The book ends, as one would expect, with a suggestion for the way forward: “The Enlightenment was based on premises opposite to those of postmodernism, but while the Enlightenment was able to create a magnificent world on the basis of those premises, it articulated and defended them only incompletely. That weakness is the sole source of postmodernism’s power against it. Completing the articulation and defense of those promises is therefore essential to maintaining the forward progress of the Enlightenment vision and shielding it against postmodern strategies.”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Peter Schiff on Twitter: "Macro-economics is astrology"


George Reisman on Harmful Effect of Minimum-Wage Laws

"It should already be clear that minimum-wage laws cause unemployment. It should also be clear that the extent to which they do so depends on the extent of union activity in the economic system. The more the unions close off employment opportunities, the greater is the number of workers forced to seek employment else- where, and thus the greater is the downward pressure on wage rates elsewhere. Thus, the greater is the number who will be unemployed as the result of a minimum-wage law, which, in effect, closes the gates in the occupations still free from the imposition of union wage-scales against the workers streaming in from the branches of production subject to union wage-scales."

"An important implication of these facts is that the problem of low wages, which a minimum-wage law is intended to remedy, would be far less serious in the absence of the ability of labor unions to impose their artificially high pay-scales. If the power of the unions to impose such pay-scales ceased to exist, wages in the portion of the economic system that presently manages to remain free of union pay-scales would be higher, because fewer workers would need to seek employment in these industries, since they would be able to be em- ployed in what are now the industries subject to union pay-scales."

(Source: Capitalism by George Reisman; Chapter: The Productivity Theory of Wages)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

From J H Randall's Aristotle

“All men,” Aristotle starts in Metaphysics, “possess by nature the desire to know.” I am not at all sure that is literally true: Aristotle never had the privilege of teaching in an American University. Had he had that chance to observe human nature, he might not have been so rash. But that sentence is certainly true of Aristotle’s “nature.” His great aim in life was to understand—to understand the world in which the Greeks found themselves. This was Aristotle’s all consuming passion. Indeed his may well be the most passionate mind in history: it shines through every page, almost every line.

~ J H Randall in Aristotle