Syria poses little danger to the United States. But there are demonstrable threats to us elsewhere, such as from North Korea and Iran. A genuine act of self-assertiveness would be to eliminate those threats, which for a long time we have not only tolerated but actively abetted.
When a country’s foreign policy rests on no clear principles—when it’s an unpredictable and indecipherable hash of emotionalism, altruism and ad hoc machinations—when no firm guidelines exist to determine when we will or won’t use force—then “red lines” sprout up everywhere. And if America has an obligation to take action against “any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” then any failure to do so becomes evidence of weakness. If every evil committed by some vicious dictator is an assault against “America’s interests,” then inaction against such dictators shows a lack of will to uphold those “interests.”
If, however, we had a principled foreign policy, our government would understand that politically Americans have only one fundamental interest: their freedom—and that our policymakers’ sole task is to protect that freedom. When facing a situation like the one in Syria, therefore, they would morally condemn Assad’s tyranny while remaining true to the principle that we use force only when the liberty of Americans is threatened. They would refuse to treat Americans as selfless servants to the needs of the world. And they would make sure to employ force decisively against those who actually threaten us.
My brief remarks at CPAC were based on my decade-plus research on the natural rights justification for patents and other IP rights (see here, here, here, here, and here), and on how this theory was applied in the uniquely American approach to securing patents as property rights (see here, here, and here). To take but one example of this American approach, a Supreme Court Justice said in 1845 that “we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, . . . as much a man’s own, and as much the fruit of his honest industry, as the wheat he cultivates, or the flocks he rears.”
On the basis of this classic moral justification for all property rights — that people should have the fruits of their productive labors secured to them as their property — early American legislators and judges secured stable and effective property rights to innovators and creators.
This was part-and-parcel of American exceptionalism. The U.S. was the first country to protect true property rights in inventions and creative works. It was also the first country to recognize patents and copyrights in its Constitution, and to provide for their protection.
As the Founding Father James Madison wrote in 1792, the right to property “embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right,” and “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” As Madison and most early American judges recognized, the natural right to property was never limited—as Mr. Holt claims—to only physical land and other tangible goods. Even John Locke recognized in 1695 that copyright is property (see here).
Wilders has called for banning the Quran. He wants to close mosques and ban the building of new ones, and he has proposed a change to the Dutch Constitution that would outlaw faith-based schools for Muslims but not for Christians and citizens committed to other religions and life philosophies.
As a justification for his position on Islam, Wilders often quotes Abraham Lincoln’s words from a letter written in 1859: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” But one could turn Lincoln’s words against Wilders himself. By calling for a ban on the Quran and for the closing of mosques and faith-based schools for Muslims, he insists on denying freedom of speech and religion to Muslims.
Wilders’s support for the First Amendment was based on the fact that it would protect his own speech, but when he found out that the First Amendment would also provide a robust protection of the freedom of speech and religion for Muslims, he was reluctant to support it.
In doing so, he failed the acid test for the support of free speech in a democracy. It was first formulated by the legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who issued a famous dissenting opinion in 1929: “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Freedom for the speech that we hate. That’s the acid test. This principle embodies the essence of tolerance. You do not ban, intimidate, threaten or use violence against speech that you deeply dislike or hate.
Wilders thinks only speech that he approves of should be uncensored. He is no friend of free speech. For a real defense of free speech check out Fleming Rose’s book, The Tyranny of Silence, along with Steve Simpson’s book, Defending Free Speech.
It’s Presidents Day in America and below I offer a list of the five best and five worst among the 44 men who’ve served in the office since 1789. My standard is this: how closely did the president hew to the U.S. Constitution (as required by oath) and how much did he preserve individual rights, a free economy, and national security.
I believe the five best U.S. presidents were Washington (1789-1797), Lincoln (1861-1865), Grant (1869-1877), Coolidge (1923-1929), and Reagan (1981-1989). Runner-up: Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897).
In contrast, I contend that the five worst presidents were Madison (1809-1817), Wilson (1913-1921), FDR (1933-1945), LBJ (1963-1969), and Nixon (1969-1974). Runner-up: Hoover (1929-1933).
To fight these ideas and the culture they’ve spawned on campus will require more than complaining about college “snowflakes” or political correctness. We need to defend the ideas on which free speech depends, most notably reason and individual rights.
The purpose of the right to free speech is to protect our right to think for ourselves and to communicate with others, which are two of the pillars of a modern, free society. True, people can and often do say absurd and horrible things. But it’s false to equate even hateful speech with use of force.
Force is qualitatively different from speech. No matter how harsh speech is, you are always free to ignore it and walk away. Not so with force. If you doubt this, ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Flemming Rose, or the many other individuals currently on jihadist hit lists whether they would prefer to live under the threat of death or the threat of hateful speech.
That’s not to say that speech can never be used in the commission of a crime. It is entirely proper to criminalize actual threats, incitement to violence, and the like. But that’s because what is being threatened is the use of force. If those who use offensive or hateful speech cross the line into actual threats or incitement, then it is proper to prosecute them. But short of that, they must be free to speak.
Ayn Rand once said that “a gun is not an argument.” The reverse is also true: an argument is not a gun. If we forget the difference, we will end up with guns settling our disputes, rather than arguments.
Simpson’s article is excellent and the entire piece is worth a read as well as the collection of essays he has put together in his book Defending Free Speech.
“There has always been a tension between the antitrust laws and patent law,” Adam Mossoff, co-founder of the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property and professor at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, told Watchdog.org. “[A]ntitrust authorities have historically been very skeptical [of innovative companies] and have tended to find so-called monopolization activities when in fact it’s just the evolution and development of a new market that never existed before.”
Mossoff and others worry that the commission has undermined property rights, threatening companies’ incentives to invest and innovate and encouraging foreign countries to disregard IP protections, all the while basing its enforcement actions on theoretical injury to consumers, rather than demonstrated harm.
“Caught up in a ‘moral panic’ over IP, the FTC is trying to remedy uncertain consumer ‘harms,’ Mossoff said, while threatening innovative companies’ research-and-development-driving revenue streams. By calling the stability of intellectual property rights into question, the FTC could undermine the ‘web of commercial transactions, thousands of commercial transactions’ that go into every smartphone, ever car, and many more products. Those commercial webs depend, he said, on companies knowing whose IP is what, and what it’s worth.”
Work is well underway on a new graphic novel based on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, to be published in the next couple of years by New American Library (NAL), a division of Penguin Random House with the approval of Leonard Peikoff. The designer and artist is Bosch Fawstin with a script by him and Amy Peikoff, adapted from the novel. The graphic novel will most likely be published in three volumes over a period of a few months after it is completed.
As is necessarily the case when adapting a novel to a new medium, considerable condensation is required in a treatment appropriate for that medium. The publisher is now reviewing some substantial early work by Mr. Fawstin and Ms. Peikoff in order to determine the appropriate length of the work.
NAL, a division of Penguin Random House, will not make any public announcement about the project until the editorial issues are finalized, covers are designed, etc. Knowing the interest that the project will generate among Ayn Rand’s readers, they have kindly given us permission to informally make ARI supporters aware of the project.
We look forward to letting you know more about the project as it develops. We expect you will be as excited as those now working on this new opportunity to bring Ayn Rand’s artistic achievement to a wider audience and a new generation of young readers.
Bosch Fawstin is the author of the controversial Infidelgraphic novel and is the winner of the award-winning cartoon of Mohammed contest. His image that was self-censored in reporting by the American media when the contest became the target of Islamic State in Garland Texas. Thankfully the two Islamic terrorists were killed before they could kill anybody. Professor Amy Peikoff is a philosopher and lawyer who specializes on privacy issues and runs a podcast: Don’t Let It Go! She is also currently working on a book, Legalizing Privacy: Why and How, which discusses the value of privacy for the virtuous life and the proper means of protecting it.
We should debate all of these replacement ideas on the same day we pass Repeal, but we will have to separate the debate into at least two different bills because there is no consensus with leadership on replacement. While the vast majority of Republicans have come out in favor of the principals of our replacement bill, some in leadership have offered starkly different ideas.
Republican leadership wants to keep several variations of ObamaCare:
1. Leadership wants to keep ObamaCare-like subsidies to buy insurance but rename them refundable tax credits (families will be given up to $14,000 dollars of other people’s money)
2. Leadership wants to keep the ObamaCare Cadillac tax but rename it a tax on the top 10% of people who have the best insurance.
3. Leadership wants to keep the individual mandate but instead of mandating a tax penalty to the government they mandate a penalty to the insurance company (can it possibly be Constitutional to mandate a penalty to a private insurance company?)
4. Leadership wants to keep $100 billion of the insurance company subsidies from ObamaCare but call them “reinsurance”. (Why? Because insurance companies love guaranteed issue as long as the taxpayer finances it!)
Conservatives don’t want new taxes, new entitlements and an “ObamaCare Lite” bill. If leadership insists on replacing ObamaCare with ObamaCare-lite, no repeal will pass.
Stephen Knott talked about his book, Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth. In his book, Mr. Knott questions the accuracy of the historical accounts written about Alexander Hamilton and examines the Founder’s legacy. Mr. Knott also highlights the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and its impact on restoring Alexander Hamilton’s reputation.
C. Bradley Thompson, professor of political philosophy and executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, explains why Trump won the election in his essay Donald Trump and the Revolt of the Unseen. (Hint: It was not because of the Russians.)
For better or worse, November 8, 2016, will go down in American history as a watershed election. Donald J. Trump’s victory represents a profound realignment in American politics. This much seems certain: the ancien régime is dead.
Our challenge is not to praise Trump’s virtues or to condemn his vices, but to understand why tens of millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump—the unlikeliest of candidates—to become the president of the United States.
In his inaugural address, President Trump voiced a theme that ran throughout his campaign: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” Trump’s political genius was to find the lost, the forgotten, the dispossessed, and the invisible.
Ironically, the billionaire from Manhattan became the voice of the Forgotten Man—the man who works hard, pays his taxes, supports his family, and volunteers in his community as a soccer coach and a Boy Scout leader. When Trump said “We will make America great again,” he spoke to the deepest aspirations of ordinary Americans who love their country but see it crumbling all around them. He waged war on their behalf.
And now his supporters have fundamentally altered the traditional left-right political spectrum. A social-political-ideological realignment is underway, transitioning the country to a new party system that has been developing, mostly unseen, for two or three decades. The new political spectrum is less ideological and more cultural. It is divided between the Ruling Elite and the Deplorables. […]