Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The response to Nick Provenzo's blog post on Sarah Palin and abortion continues and has reached even more outrageous and offensive levels. It is now reported on Nick's blog Rule of Reason that Barbara Simpson, a right wing talk show host, has said the following:
There was a day when someone would take somebody like this Provenzo guy out in an alley and beat him beyond whatever. He deserves it.
As Nick writes, "this is the disgusting nature of the "Pro-Life" movement in action." Clearly this is the logical consequence of talking about "killing" and "murdering babies" when describing abortions. In this respect Nick's response is the proper one, I quote his conclusion below:
And if some moron you whipped up into a frenzy does beat me or does kill me as so many who think like you have wished in this past week, I feel secure in guaranteeing you this: thousands will take my place. You and your ilk cannot win here and you will not; not when right and reason are on the side of the good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Abortion as a Moral Right

My friend Nick Provenzo has stirred up quite the controversy at his blog The Rule of Reason. Nick has written a perfectly reasonable, thoughtful article about the Palin's decision to give birth to a Down syndrome baby. For that he is now being unjustly insulted on the comments to the blog which number 115 as I'm writing this. Nick points out that:
Given that Palin's decision is being celebrated in some quarters, it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)—a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny.
I think this is the crucial issue which hinges on the more fundamental right to abortion, a derivative right which is derived from two principles: The woman's right to her own life and therefore her right to control what happens within her own body, and the fact that individual rights belong to separate actual individuals, not embedded potential ones.

Therefore, it is the woman's right to have an abortion as part of the right to her own life -- yes, contrary to what the anti-abortionists would have you believe, abortion is pro-life, pro-the life of the only actual individual involved -- the woman.

With respect to Down syndrome, I also agree with Nick here:
...it is completely legitimate for a woman to look at the circumstances of her life and decide that having a child with Down syndrome (or any child for that matter) is not an obligation that she can accept. After all, the choice to have a child is a profoundly selfish choice; that is, a choice that is an expression of the parent's personal desire to create new life.
This is what the opponents of abortion will never understand since they take the morality of sacrifice as a given and apply it to parenting. In accordance with altruism, devoting your life to a being that will always lead a somewhat stunted existence would be considered highly virtuous. But I think it is profoundly wrong to view parenting as a sacrifice. As Ayn Rand pointed out:
“Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as more virtuous, less “selfish,” than help to those one loves). The rational principle of conduct is the exact opposite: always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values, and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.
But your children, if you love them, can be your highest values, therefore what you do for them need not be considered a sacrifice but rather an instance of the virtue of integrity, of standing in action by the values you hold dear. It is true that if you love your children you will deal with the inevitable illnesses and the like but why should it be highly moral to give birth to what amounts to a kind of permanently ill child. If one had a choice, and fortunately we still do, one would make the perfectly moral choice and prefer to have a healthy child, at least so far as one knows.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Marriott on McCain

I have just read and have to highly recommend Alexander Marriot's excellent post on John McCain. Marriot's elegant and erudite post goes to the heart of McCain's claim to fame and shows that "the North Vietnamese Got the Last Laugh on McCain" as the posts title indicates. Here's an excerpt to wet your appetite but be sure to read the whole thing:
...I will instead dedicate my analysis to John McCain's heroic battle with his North Vietnamese captors and his ultimate tragic defeat at their hands. Evidence for this defeat (which Senator McCain interprets as his victory) is drawn strictly from his nomination acceptance speech which was full of implicit admissions of the North Vietnamese triumph over Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain.

Register publishes my letter

Yesterday the print edition of the Orange County Register published my letter to the editor in support of Craig Biddle's column from September 10 that McCain, Obama are soul mates. It can be found here (second letter from top):


It was edited only slightly:

Craig Biddle's op-ed correctly illustrates the essential moral equivalence of the two major candidates for president. Some who might agree with Biddle may think the solution is to vote for a third-party candidate. If so, they missed the point. The point is to create cultural conditions – specifically, greater support for reason, liberty and justice among the public – so that the likes of McCain and Obama would not have a chance of winning a national election: They would both be booed of the stage.

Such an educational (not political) campaign takes time but is worthwhile, and it has been done before, in the 19th-century abolition movement.

Gideon Reich, Aliso Viejo

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 11, 2008

Tomorrow it will be seven years since the that murderous day, 9/11/2001. It is a sad statement on the state of the culture that for the most part the misnamed "war on terror" has receded from the headlines. This despite the fact that the perpetrators of that atrocity have not been destroyed, and more importantly the overall enemy, namely totalitarian Islam or Islamism, is still alive and getting stronger. It is even more depressing that even though we're in the middle of a presidential election neither candidate seems to understand these facts.

Our fundamental problem with this conflict lies in the intellectual weakness of the victim (the United States and Western countries in general). It is not that Islamism possesses any strength of arms -- far from it. Rather, the Islamists possess the strength of their convictions that they are right and stand for what is right. The United States for the most part has lacked this and is undermined by altruism emanating from both secular and religious sources. The West has appeased and sanctioned the terror coming from the Islamists by refusing to draw the proper moral and political conclusions about its sources.

If the United States (and the West in general) is to prevail, its intellectuals must first recall what about its ideas and culture is superior to the kind of society that the Islamists are fighting for. The intellectuals must remember that some ideas such as reason, egoism, individualism, capitalism are worth fighting for and furthermore that savage murderers who violently threaten our lives, liberty, and property ought to be met with overwhelming deadly force so that there be no mistake about who was in the right and who was wrong.

Only when a significant number of intellectuals in this country start agreeing with such ideas will there be a chance for a future anniversary for rejoicing in the defeat of the enemy and not another reminder of the self-enforced impotence of this great country.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Announcement from The Undercurrent

For some time now I've read the student publication The Undercurrent online and enjoyed it very much. At the request of the publication's distribution manager Guy Barnett I'm posting the following announcement:

The Undercurrent (TU) is an independent, student-run Objectivist newsletter distributed twice a year to college campuses across America. TU is currently looking for distributors and donors for its fall edition, and will stop taking orders on or about September 22, 2008.
If you would like to distribute, please visit http://the-undercurrent.com/subscribe/ and buy your copies of TU today. If money is an issue, please contact Guy Barnett, our head of distribution, at guy@the-undercurrent.com. There is limited funding from donors for students who want to buy and distribute TU but cannot afford to do so. If you're part of an Objectivist campus club, you may want to see if your college will fund distribution of TU as a club activity.

If you would like to donate, please visit http://the-undercurrent/donate/ and contribute directly using PayPal. If you have any questions about donating, please contact Guy Barnett, our head of distribution, at guy@the-undercurrent.com.

Spreading rational ideas on college campuses is critical to making this world a better place. Your assistance is necessary for the achievement of that goal.

Thank you for your support.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Reisman on Obamanomics

After an absence of three months, George Reisman returns to blogging with two posts. In the brief, more recent post, he shows that Sarah Palin and Barack Obama have much the same approach when it comes to economics. After illustrating how their equivalent policies are wrong headed, Reisman declares:
Obama and Palin are both obviously ignorant of economics. John McCain, who picked Palin to be his running mate, has admitted his own lack of knowledge of the subject. Knowing little or nothing of the subject himself, he could not be expected to realize that Palin knew nothing of the subject either. An examination of the record of Obama’s running mate, Senator Joseph Biden, would probably turn up a more extensive record of comparable ignorance of economics, given his greater number of years in public life as a leading spokesman for the Democratic Party.
But Reisman's long August 28 post is the more worthwhile one. In it Reisman defends the proposition "Why Everyone Should Be in Favor of Tax Cuts for the “Rich”" on detailed economic grounds, taking for granted that individuals are interested in greater prosperity and economic growth. In addition, it shows the counter productivity of tax cuts without corresponding reductions in government spending as well as the negative long term effects of the Federal Reserve's easy credit policy. Reisman's conclusion is as follows:
Of course, in a further display of their ignorance and blindness, members of the left will undoubtedly characterize the line of argument I’ve presented in this article as the “trickle‑down theory.” There is nothing trickle‑down about it. There is only the fact that capital accumulation and economic progress depend on saving and innovation and that these in turn depend on the freedom to make high profits and accumulate great wealth. The only alternative to improvement for all, through economic progress, achieved in this way, is the futile attempt of some men to gain at the expense of others by means of looting and plundering. This, the loot‑and‑plunder theory, is the alternative advocated by the redistributionist critics of the misnamed trickle‑down theory. The loot‑and‑plunder theory is the theory of Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of much of the Republican Party. It is time to supplant it with the sound economic theory developed by generations of intellectual giants ranging from Smith and Ricardo to Böhm-Bawerk and Mises.

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Book by Andrew Bernstein

On his website, Andrew Bernstein has just announced the release date of his new book Objectivism in One Lesson. The book will be available starting September 16, 2008. Dr. Bernstein describes its purpose as follows:

Ayn Rand wrote many non-fiction books and essays, as well, but no comprehensive theoretical presentation of her philosophy. The definitive treatment of her thought is Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). Dr. Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s leading student and long-time associate, wrote an in-depth work in philosophy that is ideal for advanced students; but it was never intended as an introduction to Objectivism. Consequently, a bridge is needed, an introductory text for the millions of readers who love Ayn Rand’s novels and who want to take the next step in understanding her philosophy that will culminate with their study of OPAR.

Objectivism in One Lesson is that text.

His approach:
...this book seeks to show that Ayn Rand’s philosophy, on every question, topic, and issue, from its commitment to logic to its advocacy of selfishness to its championing of laissez-faire capitalism, to every other, is integrated around one unifying theme: man’s rational mind is his sole means of gaining knowledge, survival, and happiness.
It is good to have a third introduction to the philosophy of Objectivism (the other two are Allan Gotthelf's On Ayn Rand and Craig Biddle's Loving Life). I find that a fresh presentation of the philosophy with original examples provides important reinforcement and clarification of the underlying ideas. If the content is as good as Bernstein's previous book, The Capitalist Manifesto, then it promises to be another excellent resource for beginners and experts alike.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Upcoming Fall 2008 Objective Standard

Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard has just announced the contents of the upcoming fall issue. With articles and reviews by Biddle, Tara Smith, Eric Daniels, and John Lewis, among others, this promises to be a particularly good issue. I also have it on good authority that this issue should be available in many Barnes & Noble bookstores so look for it there.

Two essays from the fall issue are available right now for free. Biddle's own "McBama vs. America" and Alan Germani's "The Mystical Ethics of the New Atheists". I have now read both.

Biddle's essay is a tightly written, clear argument for the basic altruistic equivalence of both major presidential candidates. I tend to think that there's only a slight difference in the emphasis of the altruism between McCain and Obama, namely that McCain wants to sacrifice for greater things (country, other countries, etc.), whereas Obama wants to sacrifice for littler things (the poor, the sick, etc.). Of course, this is really just a matter of emphasis and neither excludes sacrificing for the other's pet cause. Check out the article and Biddle's recommendation about what to do in this election.

Alan Germani presents us with an eloquent critique of the so-called "new atheists". Included in that category are Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. In particular Germani focuses on the fact that while most of these intellectuals support basing their views on facts and reason when it comes to the evaluation of religious factual claims, when it comes to the ethical principles held by religions, these supposed secular thinkers are at a loss to come up with anything more than "intuition" or "consensus," and the result is agreement with what religious authorities say on the matter. His dissection of their attempts is well worth reading.

I can't wait to get the print issue!

9/5/2008 Update: Fixed ungrammatical sentence in fourth paragraph.