Just Released: The Merchant of Mars: A Novella by Ron Pisaturo

Just Released: The Merchant of Mars: A Novella by Ron Pisaturo

The head of NASA convinces the President that space exploration should be done by private industry, and the United States government declares, “The first person to land on Mars, live there a year, and return alive owns the whole Red Planet.” Capitalists compete to win the greatest race in history. Environmentalists plot to make them all fail.

That is the premise of Ron Pisaturo’s novella, The Merchant of Mars, now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook. That premise draws on a political idea by Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger.

Author Pisaturo says about his story:

The story’s heroes are greedy capitalists who want to exploit Mars, and the villains are environmentalist progressives who want to ‘save’ the planet—Mars, that is. The story illustrates that there is virtually no limit to what capitalists can achieve when the government recognizes and protects property rights.

The pro-capitalist perspective of the story flows naturally from deeper elements. The good guys drive the action. They don’t merely react to the diabolical plans of an evil mastermind. It is the heroes who are the masterminds, the ones with gigantic plans, the ones who build great and powerful machines; and it is the villains who react by trying to destroy those machines.

The heroes are not grim loners who reluctantly become heroes only after their loved ones have been killed by the arch-villain and his all-powerful organization. The heroes don’t wait for bad things to happen. They make good things happen. The heroes are already-successful and happy individuals who risk everything—their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor—to achieve something beyond the dreams of others. Their conflicts are great because they have a lot to lose and a lot to gain, and they and their loved ones face all-or-nothing, life-and-death choices throughout their journey.

It’s not easy to build a business. Many people in today’s society think that only society as a whole can do it. This story shows individuals doing it. They have to raise money, make payroll, meet deadlines, mortgage their personal property, lay off employees, fight regulations and government-subsidized competitors, turn down government subsidies that come with strings, drive competitors they admire and love out of business, or lose everything.

The novella can be read in one sitting.

UPDATE: You can read an excerpt at The New Romanticist.

Daraprim Saga and Shkreli

Everyone Hates Martin Shkreli. Everyone Is Missing the Point – The New Yorker:

[W]as Shkreli’s performance actually more objectionable than that of the legislators who were performing alongside him? Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, is the ranking Democrat on the committee, and he used his allotted time to deliver a scolding. “Somebody’s paying for these drugs, and it’s the taxpayers that end up paying for some of them,” he said. “Those are our constituents.” In fact, it’s hard to figure out exactly who is paying what for Daraprim. Shkreli and Turing have claimed that hospitals and insurance companies will pay, while patients who can’t afford it will get a discount, or get it for free. And Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, told the committee about her company’s efforts to get the drug to people who can’t afford it. The arrangement she described sounded like a hodge-podge, an ungainly combination of dizzyingly high prices, mysterious corporate bargaining, and occasional charitable acts—which is to say, it sounded not so much different from the rest of our medical system.

[…]

The Daraprim saga has as much to do with the Food and Drug Administration as with Shkreli: although the drug’s patent expired in the nineteen-fifties, the F.D.A. certification process for generic drugs is gruelling enough that, for the moment, whoever owns Daraprim has a virtual monopoly in America. (Overseas, it is much cheaper.)

Shkreli is selling a drug in America where the PATENT HAS EXPIRED — other people cannot sell it in America, not because of Shkreli, but because of the FDA. It is cheap outside the country where there is no FDA!!!! Perhaps congress is going after the wrong entity.

One of the strangest things about the anti-Shkreli argument is that it asks us to be shocked that a medical executive is motivated by profit. And one of the strangest things about Shkreli himself is that he doesn’t seem to be motivated by profit—at least, not entirely.

Bernie The Bum Who Never Produced Anything Wants Your Money

Bernie Sanders, The Bum Who Wants Your Money | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis – IBD

Sanders spent most of his life as an angry radical and agitator who never accomplished much of anything. And yet now he thinks he deserves the power to run your life and your finances — “We will raise taxes;” he confirmed Monday, “yes, we will.”

One of his first jobs was registering people for food stamps, and it was all downhill from there.

Sanders took his first bride to live in a maple sugar shack with a dirt floor, and she soon left him. Penniless, he went on unemployment. Then he had a child out of wedlock. Desperate, he tried carpentry but could barely sink a nail. “He was a shi**y carpenter,” a friend told Politico Magazine. “His carpentry was not going to support him, and didn’t.”

Then he tried his hand freelancing for leftist rags, writing about “masturbation and rape” and other crudities for $50 a story. He drove around in a rusted-out, Bondo-covered VW bug with no working windshield wipers. Friends said he was “always poor” and his “electricity was turned off a lot.” They described him as a slob who kept a messy apartment — and this is what his friends had to say about him.

The only thing he was good at was talking … non-stop … about socialism and how the rich were ripping everybody off. “The whole quality of life in America is based on greed,” the bitter layabout said. “I believe in the redistribution of wealth in this nation.”

[…]

The choice in this election is shaping up to be a very clear one. It will likely boil down to a battle between those who create and produce wealth, and those who take it and redistribute it.

 

 

Progress in the global war on poverty

Progress in the global war on poverty – CSMonitor.com

Global poverty has fallen faster during the past 20 years than at any time in history. Around the world hunger, child death, and disease rates have all plummeted. More girls are getting into school. In fact, never before have so many people, in so many poor countries, made so much progress in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy.

Some of these gains – especially the declines in poverty and child mortality – rank among the greatest achievements in history. Yet few people are aware that they are even happening. Most people believe that, apart from a few special cases such as China and India, developing countries by and large remain hopelessly mired in poverty, stagnation, and dictatorship. Yet the reality is quite different: A major transformation is quietly under way, affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people in nearly every corner of the world.

[…]

What sparked these changes? […] First, the end of the cold war, the demise of communism, and the collapse of the Soviet Union dramatically improved the global environment for sustained and peaceful development. The United States and the Soviet Union stopped propping up some of the world’s nastiest dictators. Proxy wars and political violence associated with the cold war came to an end in Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and elsewhere. Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia gained their freedom. Perhaps most powerfully, economic and political ideologies shifted substantially. Communism and strong state control lost credibility. A new consensus began to form around more market-based economic systems and – at least in many countries – more accountable and democratic governance, along with greater respect for basic freedoms and rights. Developing countries around the world introduced major economic and political reforms and began to build institutions more conducive to growth and social progress.

Second, globalization and international access to new technologies brought more trade and finance and a far greater exchange of ideas and information. Exports from developing countries are five times as large today as they were just 20 years ago, and financial flows are 12 times as large, creating many more economic opportunities. With deeper global integration came technologies that spurred progress: vaccines, medicines, new seed varieties, mobile phones, the Internet, and faster and cheaper air travel. To be sure, globalization has brought challenges, risks, and volatility, not least the 2007 food and 2008 financial crises. [These in fact were caused by government policy.–Ed.] But it has also brought investment, jobs, ideas, and markets, all of which stimulated progress. 

Third, while global changes mattered, the countries that began to move forward did so primarily because of strong leadership and courageous actions by the people in those countries themselves. Where new leaders at all levels of society stepped forward to forge change, progress ensued; where old dictators stayed in place, or new tyrants stepped in to replace the old, political and economic systems remained rigged. ….

Revitalizing Objectivity in Judicial Review

How should courts interpret the law? Strictly according to the text? By lawmakers’ original intent? By the needs of today’s society? Philosophical ideals? In this talk and Q&A, Tara Smith, professor of philosophy and BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas – Austin, argues that the best laws in the world are useless if misunderstood – yet today, the debate over proper interpretation is a minefield of loaded concepts and false alternatives.

Smith’s new book, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System, explains the pillars of proper review by grounding it in the function of an objective legal system. As the Rule of Law teeters, as presidential candidates stake radical claims about judges and the Constitution, and as issues ranging from abortion rights to medical care to war powers come before the courts, the question couldn’t be more timely.

 

The New Road to Serftdom: A Letter of Warning to America

Daniel Hannan’s book, The New Road to Serftdom: A Letter of Warning to America, urges Americans not to take such things as federalism, the rule of law and limited government for granted. He believes the United States could find itself lurching toward European-style socialism even more quickly. We have points we disagree with but his knowledge, eloquence and passion for freedom is something missing in the bulk of today’s politicians.

 

Leonard Peikoff on Obama, The First New Left President

“The best evidence of this [Progressive] power to date has been the policies of Obama, the first New Left president….

“Besides working energetically to expand the reach of political correctness and environmentalism—and besides his unprecedentedly militant replay of the standard attacks on business, banks and Wall Street—Obama has endorsed some new measures and defended them on new grounds. Obamacare, for example, was defended not as compassion for those in medical need, but because equality of healthcare is a value in itself, quite apart from any special needs of the poor. The attorney general, Eric Holder, wanted American civilians and captured terrorists to be tried in the same courts, not because he sympathised with terrorism, but because all men, Americans and jihadists alike, being equal, have equal rights. Mr. Holder in this instance was applying to a legal situation the president’s own approach to foreign policy in general, exemplified by his regular apologies to other countries for America’s long and harmful delusion of “exceptionalism”—a delusion because all countries equal, and should have been so treated by the United States.

“To my mind, the most eloquent indication of Obama’s mindset is his demand for confiscatory taxation of what he calls “millionaires and billionaires,” not because these individuals are misusing their wealth or obtained it immorally, but simply because they have it, an unacceptable condition, since inequality of income, no matter its source, is unfair. It was once the American dream to climb “from rags to riches,” to make it big, to be able to crow proudly about becoming a millionaire. Now the administration tells us that it is unfair to achieve the dream because some people haven’t, and that the successes must be shot down until everyone’s rags match….” [The DIM Hypothesis 295-296]

NC Forfeiture Victim Wins Final Vindication In Fight Against IRS

[Institute for Justice] Arlington, Va.—This week a federal court handed down a long-awaited decision vindicating Lyndon McLellan in his fight against the IRS.

Lyndon’s case came to the nation’s attention after the IRS seized his entire bank account in July 2014 using civil forfeiture for the innocent act of depositing his hard-earned money in the bank in amounts under $10,000. The Institute for Justice took Lyndon’s case to clear his name and get back his property, and in June 2015, the government finally returned Lyndon’s money.

In returning Lyndon’s money, however, the government sought to avoid its obligation under federal law to pay Lyndon’s attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Lyndon racked up nearly $20,000 in fees owed to his accountant and lawyer before the Institute for Justice took his case on a pro bono basis.

The district court’s decision rejected the government’s maneuver, stating:

Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized. Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. . . . This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded.

“Today’s decision recognizes that Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s outrageous use of civil forfeiture laws against a totally innocent property owner,” said IJ Attorney Robert Everett Johnson. “The government took Lyndon’s property even though he did nothing wrong, forcing him into a prolonged and expensive legal nightmare. Now the government will have to comply with its obligation to make Lyndon at least partly whole.”

The decision comes just as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit prepares to consider the government’s similar attempt to avoid paying fees, costs, and interest to Carole Hinders—an Iowa restaurant owner who also had her entire bank account seized and then returned. The Eighth Circuit will hold oral argument in that case on February 9 in St. Paul, MN.

“The government cannot turn a citizen’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” said IJ Attorney Wesley Hottot, who will argue the case for Carole Hinders. “Now that Lyndon has been vindicated, we look forward to holding the government to account in Carole’s case as well.”

Ayn Rand on How to Pick a President

Jonathan Hoenig over at Capitalistpig reminds us of philosopher Ayn Rand’s advice on “How to Pick a President?”:

“In view of the general confusion on this subject, it is advisable to remind prospective voters of a few basic considerations, as guidelines in deciding what one can properly expect of a political candidate, particularly of a presidential candidate.

One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate’s total philosophy — only with his political philosophy (and only in terms of essentials). It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job. It is only political consistency that we can demand of him; if he advocates the right political principles for the wrong metaphysical reasons, the contradiction is his problem, not ours.

A contradiction of that kind, will, of course, hamper the effectiveness of his campaign, weaken his arguments and dilute his appeal — as any contradictions undercut any man’s efficacy. But we have to judge him as we judge any work, theory, or product of mixed premises: by his dominant trend.

A vote for any candidate does not constitute an endorsement of his entire position, not even of his entire political position, only of his basic political principles.

It is the basic — and, today, the only — issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom vs. statism.

If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay, or stop the march towards statism?”

— Ayn Rand in The Objectivist Newsletter, March 1964

A Color-Blind or Color-Conscious Academy Awards

From Oscars’ Diversity Controversy: Michael Caine Speaks Out : People.com

As the diversity debate embroiling the Academy Awards continues, Michael Caine is the latest star to speak out – and he’s not holding back. For the second year in a row, no actors of color received Oscar nominations, a reality that has prompted some stars to boycott the show and examine the deeper issues surrounding race and the entertainment industry.

When asked to address the controversy during a BBC Radio 4 interview this week, Caine said, per The Hollywood Reporter: “There’s loads of black actors. You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You got to give a good performance, and I’m sure there were very good [performances].”

[…]

Caine’s comments come around the same time current Best Actress Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling raised eyebrows for telling French Radio network Europe 1 on Friday morning that the Oscars are “racist to whites” and speaking out against the possibility of a quota system to ensure [racial] diversity. Her comments stand in contrast to other actors who have spoken out, including fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo, past winner George Clooney and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Grammys host LL Cool J has also added his voice to the debate. Speaking to the Associated Press Thursday after receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said his advice to fellow African America actors is, “Don’t get bitter, get better.” “Is there room for improvement? Yes,” he said. “But let’s just put the work in. And ultimately, if the work is good enough, and it’s great enough and there’s enough of it, the door gets kicked in.”

On the issue of race quotas the philosopher Ayn Rand had this to say almost a half century ago:

Instead of fighting against racial discrimination, they are demanding that racial discrimination be legalized and enforced. Instead of fighting against racism, they are demanding the establishment of racial quotas. Instead of fighting for “color-blindness” in social and economic issues, they are proclaiming that “color-blindness” is evil and that “color” should be made a primary consideration. Instead of fighting for equal rights, they are demanding special race privileges.

They are demanding that racial quotas be established in regard to employment and that jobs be distributed on a racial basis, in proportion to the percentage of a given race among the local population. For instance, since Negroes constitute 25 percent of the population of New York City, they demand 25 percent of the jobs in a given establishment.

Racial quotas have been one of the worst evils of racist regimes. There were racial quotas in the universities of Czarist Russia, in the population of Russia’s major cities, etc. One of the accusations against the racists in this country is that some schools practice a secret system of racial quotas. It was regarded as a victory for justice when employment questionnaires ceased to inquire about an applicant’s race or religion.

Today, it is not an oppressor, but an oppressed minority group that is demanding the establishment of racial quotas. (!)

The call for “diversity” — racial quotas — in awards based on the color of ones’ skin is racist. The only thing that should matter is the performance. Imagine if such a standard were applied to the NBA? Would that be justice?

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