The Undercurrent is planning a number of programs designed to spark an Objectivist student movement on college campuses. To make these programs possible, they are asking for your support.
Foremost among their 2011-2012 programs is an event called “Capitalism Awareness Week.” This week-long event will consist of a series of lectures and discussions at different college campuses across the country. Each lecture will be broadcast live via the Internet so students elsewhere may participate. Learn more here.
From Scott Holleran’s blog:
The goal of a war is to defeat an enemy’s will to fight. So argues the author of Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History (Princeton University Press, 2010), who makes the case that a strong military offense can win a war and establish lasting peace while playing defense often leads to destruction. This study of six major wars, from the Second Punic War to World War 2, by historian John David Lewis, contrasts the use of overwhelming force, such as the Greek victory over Xerxes’ army and navy, with a lack of reason, purpose, and commitment to fight. On the eve of the 10th year since the worst attack in American history, I turned to my friend John Lewis, a visiting associate professor of philosophy, politics, and economics at Duke University and teacher at Objectivist Conferences (OCON), to discuss today’s war from an historical perspective. Dr. Lewis is the author of Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens and Early Greek Lawgivers.
Scott Holleran: What is the theme of Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History?
John David Lewis: That wars are driven and caused by people’s decisions to fight and that those decisions are based on the ideas they hold. This has enormous implications for what victory means, because it means discrediting the ideas we’re trying to defeat. For example, one could never explain Germany’s massive attacks [against other countries] or Japan’s massive attack on America, in which they launched into intercontinental warfare, without understanding the ideals that they held. The theme of Nothing Less Than Victory is that one must defeat the enemy by discrediting his ideas.
Scott Holleran: How was Nothing Less Than Victory suggested by your students?
John David Lewis: I was teaching a class on ancient and modern warfare and it became clear that a comparative history would be useful. My students posed good questions.
Scott Holleran: While writing about the rise of the Nazis, did The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America by Leonard Peikoff help your understanding?
John David Lewis: Yes, because it’s the only book I know of that places philosophical ideas as the lesson of history. It’s not only an explanation of Nazi Germany in terms of ideas but, much more deeply and widely, it demonstrates how ideas move history.
Scott Holleran: The current administration supports military involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as other underreported incursions in nations such as Yemen and Pakistan, with something other than, or less than, a purpose let alone a victory. The Oxford English Dictionary defines warmonger as “a person who seeks to bring about or promote war.” As a commander-in-chief who supports and initiates militarism with no purpose or end, is President Obama a warmonger?
John David Lewis: I think he’s incompetent but I don’t think Obama is a warmonger. He inherited those wars but he’s simply unable to bring those wars… [Read the rest at Scott Holleran’s blog.]
It has been a decade since the Sept. 11 attacks shocked and angered our nation. What lessons have we learned since then? Join us at a symposium, “Sept. 11—A Decade Later: Lessons for the Future,” on September 8, in Washington, D.C. The program will feature three panel discussions, presenting a range of viewpoints.
Upheavals in the Middle East: Assessing the Political Landscape
What lessons can be drawn from the popular rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab-Islamic world? Will these uprisings lead to fundamental changes to the political landscape? Who stands to gain the most from these changes? What impact might they have for U.S. interests in the region?
The Islamist Threat: From AfPak to Jyllands-Posten and Times Square
In the years since the attacks of 9/11, what have we learned about the nature of the enemy that struck that day? What have we learned from the U.S. response, under G.W. Bush and now Barack Obama, that should shape current and future policy? If a failure of pre-9/11 policy-thinking was to neglect ‘connecting the dots,’ what patterns or trends can be identified now about developments in the Middle East, Europe (such as the furor over cartoons of Mohammad) and North America?
Iran, Israel and the West
If—or when—Iran gains nuclear-weapons capability, what would be the impact on the region, on Israel, and on American interests? What lessons can be learned from America’s policy toward Iran—not only in recent years, but going back to the emergence of the Islamist regime in Teheran? What policy options are available to the U.S. for responding to Iran and its Islamist affiliates?
For full details visit here.
From Alex Epstein’s newsletter:
Last month I left my position as the Ayn Rand Institute’s Fellow on energy issues to start a new energy startup called the Center for Industrial Progress. Before I say anything about the new project, I just want to thank the Institute for all the support, intellectual and financial, that it has given me over the last decade–and that includes support for my decision to strike out on my own, which has always been a dream of mine.
The basic concept behind the Center for Industrial Progress is that our culture desperately needs to re-embrace industrial progress as a cultural ideal. America’s industrial progress has been declining, and with it, our economy–in large part thanks to the influence of the “green” movemenet, which has opposed industrial progress in the name of minimizing man’s impact on nature. At CIP, we celebrate man’s impact on nature, just as our ancestors celebrated Americans’ ability to “tame a continent.” We celebrate the never-ending project of the industrial revolution: to harness more and more energy to feed machines that do more and more work to make our lives better and better. This project is the key both to taking the American standard of living to the next level and to improving conditions for the desperately poor–the industrially poor–around the world.
We reject the false dichotomy between industrial progress and environmental progress; historically, industrialization has brought with it a radical improvement of the human environment. Indeed, industrial progress is the improvement of the human environment, from sanitation systems to sturdier buildings to less onerous job conditions to the production of creature comforts to having healthy, fresh food at one’s disposal year round, to the luxury of being able to preserve and travel to the most beautiful parts of nature. And so long as we embrace policies that protect property rights, including air and water rights, we protect industrial development and protect individuals from pollution. What “green” policies do is not improve the human environment, but sacrifice it to the non-human environment–just ask anyone trying to build an industrial project today.
For too long, Americans have taken industrial progress for granted, and carelessly embraced “going green” as an ideal–expecting that the unprecedented standard of living we had would automatically continue, even though we permitted environmentalists to oppose new energy production and new development at every turn. Today, we are paying the price, with an economy whose productive fundamentals are less and less sound. This needs to change–but not just to stave off the current problems. At CIP, our goal is not simply to stop bad policies and preserve the status quo. It is to champion great policies, policies that fully respect property rights and fully allow free markets, such that the brilliantly talented individuals of this great country can lead us to the next industrial renaissance.
At CIP, we believe that the potential for industrial progress is unlimited. Human beings, if left free, have unlimited potential to produce more energy, create more wealth, create more productivity, raise living standards for every hard-working person, increase leisure time, transport things more quickly, conduct more complex scientific experiments, build sturdier, more comfortable places to live, travel farther and faster, experience more, and generally make life better and better. We can do this as a nation if we make industrial progress a cultural ideal, a goal to strive for. That is the goal of the Center for Industrial Progress. Or, to use one of our slogans, our goal is to convince Americans to stop “Going Green” and start “Going Industrial.”
As for how we’re going to do that, including what collaborators will be involved, stay tuned. And keep up with our various websites:
Also, note that I will be doing a lot more public speaking this coming Fall and Winter, so if you want to hear an illuminating, entertaining talk on today’s most important energy/industrial/environmental issues, go www.alexepstein.com and click on “Book Me” for my all new lineup, including “The Green Blackout,” “In Defense of Fracking,” and “Why America Needs to Stop Going Green and Start Going Industrial.”
From Don’t Let It Go:
I am pleased to share, as a podcast, my interview with Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of many books, including two New York Times bestsellers, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). We have been reading Mr. Spencer’s Qur’an Commentary as a supplement to our reading of the Koran for our Koran Reading Group. Mr. Spencer answers a range of questions in the interview, from general observations about the poetic nature of the Koran, to discussion and interpretation of specific passages of it–including those that call for the use of violence against non-Muslims and require women to produce four witnesses in order to prove that they were raped. You can listen to and download the interview here: Robert Spencer Interview
Writes Richard M. Salsman on Warren Buffett and Other Anti-Rich Capitalists:
Omaha-based billionaire investor Warren Buffet announced this week that he’d invest $5 billion in newly-issued preferred stock of troubled Bank of America (yielding 6%), not unlike the $10 billion he invested in the preferred shares of a shaky Goldman Sachs (yielding 10%) back in 2008. Neither bank would exist today absent the billions-of-dollars in bailouts they got from Washington (taxpayers) or the billions in cheap loans they got from the Federal Reserve. Buffet simultaneously complains that he and other rich Americans are materially under-taxed. But if he had any real integrity on such matters, if Buffet were to practice what he preaches, he’d send his $15 billion to the U.S. Treasury, via PayPal, here. Yet he refuses to do so. Why?
Read the rest in Warren Buffett and Other Anti-Rich Capitalists.
Ms. Kennedy Townsend is very confused about Ayn Rand.
Sadly, because like many of Rand’s critics, her views on Ayn Rand are based on third-rate biographies as opposed to actually reading Ayn Rand’s views first hand. Take for example Kennedy Townsend’s straw man attack on Ayn Rand’s view of government.
Writes Townsend in The Atlantic:
America was a beacon of freedom from its earliest days. But the freedom to earn one’s living is not the same as the freedom to emasculate government. It’s a mistake to enshrine individual liberty without acknowledging the role that a good government plays in preserving and promoting it. Look at places like Haiti, Somalia, and the Congo to see what happens when governments aren’t around much.
When government is marginalized, it’s not just individual freedom that suffers; the economy suffers too. A vibrant capitalism requires a legal system: contracts must be honored, fraud punished. Markets have to work, and for that we need a strong infrastructure of roads, rail, energy, and water and sewage systems.
Ayn Rand was no anarchist as pure libertarians are.
Rather than blindly accepting Kennedy Townsend’s view that Ayn Rand was against a legal system that honors contracts, lets see what Rand actually wrote on this issue in The Virtue of Selfishness:
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. [“The Nature of Government“]
Ayn Rand was for good government. In Rand’s view the essence of good government was judged by one principle: the protection of individual rights, which means in practice the banning of the initiation of physical force from all human relationships. Rand would agree with a government to enforce contracts, however, there is no reason for government being required to build roads, railroads, build power plants or sewage systems. Practically, because private industry can do these things more efficiently and at a better bang for the buck, i.e., before they were nationalized, America’s railroads were actually built by private industry. Morally, because such endeavors by government can only be funded by robbing the wealth of those forced to finance such projects against their will.
Even worse is Ms. Townsend’s misunderstanding of the relationship of religion and the concept freedom, the latter of which she views as a competing set of contradictory freedoms as opposed to an inseparable whole:
I’ve always understood that one’s loyalty to God should take precedence over one’s patriotic duty. [As did the 9/11 terrorists! — D&C] Churches are exempt from taxation, and conscientious objectors aren’t required to serve in war. Our high regard for the First Amendment shows the preeminence of faith in the American consciousness.
But to place economics on the same level as religious freedom seemed to me almost blasphemous. Are we really to believe that the freedom to make money should stand on the same level of religious liberty?
Yes, because freedom is an inseparable whole.
The right to religious freedom is not merely the freedom for the individual to practice religion as he chooses (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), but is the freedom from religion being imposed on the individual whether by private criminals or public bureaucrats, i.e., the freedom to not practice any religious doctrine.
Quoting Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
Quoting Jefferson in a letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814:
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
Religious freedom is the application of the right to free speech and property applied to the religious sphere. You are free to say what you wish on these matters — even that God does not exist — and no one can physically force you to think or act differently. Remarks Jefferson’s on this point in his Notes on Virginia, 1782:
But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Religious freedom — the right to free speech and action so long as one does not violate the rights of others — and economic freedom — the right to produce values necessary to support ones own life so long as one does not violate the rights of others — are equals, because the right to life is an inseparable, non-contradictory whole.
Religious freedom (the freedom from the state forcing some religious doctrine upon you) is an instance of the principle of freedom applied to the religious sphere. It is hierarchically a derivative of the fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There is no compromise or antagonism between religious and economic freedom when the two are properly grasped and defined.
Or in Ayn Rand’s words:
It is not society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill—but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a “compromise” between two rights—but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not derived from an edict of society—but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society—but is implicit in the definition of your own right.
Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. [“Textbook of Americanism,”The Ayn Rand Column, 85]
As for charity and the “special responsibility” of the wealthy here is what Ayn Rand had to say:
The small minority of adults who are unable rather than unwilling to work, have to rely on voluntary charity; misfortune is not a claim to slave labor; there is no such thing as the right to consume, control, and destroy those without whom one would be unable to survive. [CUI]
Quoting Ayn Rand in her interview in Playboy, March 1964:
My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
Rand did not see charity — the benevolent act of giving away one’s wealth to aid someone in need — as a badge of moral honor; she did award such a badge for the ability to produce that wealth. In Rand’s view your only political responsibility in regards to others is not to violate their rights by initiating force against them:
The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force. [“The Objectivist Ethics,”The Virtue of Selfishness, 32 ]
And again quoting Rand in “The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 108:
Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.
The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.
The difference between Ayn Rand and Townsend’s ilk is that Ayn Rand leaves people free to be good as dictated by their own reason and free choice; Kennedy Townsend wishes to use the power of the government to force her altruistic conception of the good on others (i.e., robbing the “rich” to help those who sleep under bridges, i.e., Marxian “fair” taxation, etc.).
Kennedy Townsend wishes to unleash the criminal power of government to initiate force against those who violated the rights of no one — illegitimate and immoral means — to achieve her ends. In Rand’s view, rights are not things to be violated by regulation, but are to be protected by right. Quoting Ayn Rand:
Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state—and nothing else.
National University of La Jolla, CA has a limited number of scholarships available for three online courses that focus on free-market economics and the philosophical foundations of capitalism. These scholarships are being funded by a grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The scholarships cover the full tuition for the courses plus the application fee to NU. Two courses (ECO 401 and 402, Market Process Economics I and II, respectively) use Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics by George Reisman as the required textbook. One course (ECO 430 – Economics and Philosophy) uses Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as the required textbooks. These courses can be taken from anywhere in the world, as long as one has access to the internet. The courses incorporate live chat sessions in which the professor and students interact in a virtual classroom, much as they would in a traditional classroom.
The courses run for the next time in the summer and fall of 2012. More information about the courses on the web can be found here:
ECO 401 – Market Process Economics I
ECO 402 – Market Process Economics II
ECO 430 – Economics and Philosophy
To apply for one or more of these scholarships, send your name, transcript from your high school or university, and an essay of no more than 750 words discussing why you believe you deserve a scholarship and your future education and career plans to Dr. Brian P. Simpson.
Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or 11255 North Torrey Pines Rd.; La Jolla, CA 92037. Please indicate which course or courses for which you are applying for a scholarship. You can apply for one to three scholarships, depending on how many courses you are interested in taking. Note that to receive a scholarship you will have to apply to National University and enroll in the course(s). If you have questions, please contact Dr. Simpson at the email address above or 858-642-8431.
From an interview by Chelsea Handler with Anne Hathaway in Interview Magazine:
HANDLER: […] But I know you’re an Ayn Rand fan, right?
HATHAWAY: Yeah, I am.
HANDLER: What’s your favorite Ayn Rand book?
HATHAWAY: Atlas Shrugged.
HANDLER: Did you like that better than The Fountainhead?
HATHAWAY: I did. When I began Atlas Shrugged, I was really excited, because Ayn Rand said that The Fountainhead was the overture to Atlas Shrugged. I was like, “Ooh! What am I getting into?” Whether or not you agree with Ayn Rand-and I have certain issues with some of her beliefs-the woman can tell a story. I mean, the novel as an art form is just in full florid bloom in Atlas Shrugged. It’s an unbelievable story. The characters are so compelling, and what she’s saying is mind-expanding. I really enjoyed that book, and it was kind of prophetic. I read that book for the first time during the Bush Administration and I was like, “People are governing with their feelings as opposed to their intellect. This is happening.” And she wrote this how many years ago?
HANDLER: Not only that, but I think a book like The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged is kind of a way to look at leading your life with your professionalism permeated by your value system and your moral rectitude. You’re able to kind of see everything as one whole thing rather than kind of compartmentalizing different things in your life, and being morally bound to your personal life and not your professional life or vice-versa. When I read The Fountainhead, I was 17, and I thought, “I am never, ever going to have a book impact me this much.” And I don’t know that I’ve had one that did. That book definitely changed me for good, and I think the biggest compliment that you can say about any book is that it does that.
HATHAWAY: It’s so true. If you’re going to sum up both of those books, then I think what they say is don’t be a hypocrite.
HATHAWAY: And whatever you are made of, be the best of that.
I left this comment on Daniel Pipes’ article on Breivik and Islam:
I’m firmly convinced that Breivik would have been an ardent Nazi in some notable capacity in Hitler’s time, perhaps as a functionary in Hitler’s outer cadre of supporters. Hitler also considered Muslims to be a useful tool to help exterminate Jews in Palestine, and approved the formation of brigades of Muslims in the Balkans (wearing German uniforms, but under the command of Germans). According to Breivik’s manifesto, he also planned to enlist the aid of Muslim “extremists” to wage a war of terror on Europe. But if Hitler had won the war, I often wonder what he would have done about his Muslim “allies.” After all, they weren’t Aryan, and I don’t think the compatibility of Nazi and Islamic ideologies would have mattered to him much. It wouldn’t have stopped him from beginning to exterminate Muslims just as he’d helped to exterminate Jews, gypsies, and other “impure” folk. Islam would have been a rival ideology that also required unqualified submission to the state, in this case, a caliphate. The racial supremacist elements in both ideologies were strikingly similar, as well.
Again, I disagree that there can be any such thing as “moderate Islam,” just as there could not have been any such thing as “moderate Nazism.” Nazism and Islam are ideologies, not tamable or modifiable religions. The religious character of each ideology (and Nazism certainly had its religious character) is just frosting on the cake. Excise either ideology of its totalitarian tenets, demote Hitler and Mohammad from their iconic roles as exemplars of their faiths, and condemn the primitive and brutal practices that are sanctioned by the Koran and Mein Kampf, and nothing inimical to the West would be left of the ideologies. They would be emasculated of their strength and appeal to anyone wishing to lose himself in a collectivist identity. Each would require a new name. They would not be the Nazism and Islam that we know all too well.