Archive for March, 2009

It’s About Time!

by Jason Stotts

ACLU Sues Prosecutor Over ‘Sexting’ Child Porn Charges

I think that many prosecutors around the country are being ridiculous in their application of “child pornography laws” to issues where a teen has taken a picture of herself and sent it to one of her friends. The original justification for these laws was that if children were allowed to be sexual objects, they would be harmed by the adults taking the pictures of them. Yet, it’s not clear how these minors are being harmed by taking pictures of themselves. Certainly, they are not yet full adults and do not have a fully developed decision making capacity, but it hardly seems like designating them as felons and “sex offenders” is the way to help educate them about sexuality.

I think the true solution is to recognize that humans are always sexual beings and that we should be taught from an early age to embrace our sexuality in a healthy way. To pretend that teenagers are not sexual beings is beyond absurd.

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Objectivist Blog Carnival

Welcome to the March 26, 2009 edition of objectivist round up!

This is the first time Erosophia has hosted and we’re really excited to be hosting this week. For those of you who do not know, Objectivism is the Philosophy of Ayn Rand. When asked one time to explain it as quickly as she could, she said that the core of Objectivism is:
1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-Interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

So, without further ado, here’s this week’s Carnival!

Michael Labeit presents On Celebrating 50 Years of Marxist Misery posted at Philosophical Mortician, saying, “A reformulation of my description of the socialist agony that is Cuba.”

Rebecca Knapp presents No Bonuses = No Contract Law posted at The Undercurrent, saying, “Washington’s attempts to stop AIG executive bonuses through legislative means are a direct attack on contract law and rights. While Obama and legislators may protest that they are pursuing legal means to snuff the contracts, there can be no legal means of annihilating freedom of contract as such, the sine qua non of all other economic freedoms.”

Ari Armstrong presents Quillen Misses Atlas’s Point posted at FreeColorado.com, saying, “Ed Quillen often writes good columns for the Denver Post, but his review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged misses the point of the book and distorts Rand’s ideas.”

West presents The Shirt-Sleeve Millionaires posted at The Pursuit.

Diana Hsieh presents Laws Versus Regulations posted at NoodleFood, saying, “This post on the distinction between legislation and regulation sparked some quite a bit of interesting discussion.”

Roberto Sarrionandia presents Bigger & Better: Celebrating Market Success posted at Tito’s Blog, saying, “An analysis of the hatred towards big business, and the proper recognition that the values of the profitable deserve.”

Brian Phillips presents You Can’t Fly a Plane with Chains Around Your Neck posted at Houston Property Rights, saying, “Continental Airlines Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner wants more government regulation of his industry. The only solution to the industry’s woes, according to Kellner, is more government control. But he wants those controls to be different from what existed prior to airline deregulation. In other words, Kellner wants to be put in chains, but he doesn’t want those chains to be too tight.”

Alex Moya presents Stimulus Checks vs. Our Rights posted at The Undercurrent, saying, “How can redistributed tax money be considered an “investment”?.”

Paul Hsieh presents PajamasMedia OpEd: “Health Insurance Industry Sells Its Soul to the Devil” posted at NoodleFood, saying, “PajamasMedia has published another one of my OpEds, this time on health care.”

Rajesh Dhawan presents The Unearthly Earth hour posted at The Objectiveman, saying, “American cities shinning with lights makes me feel like they are celebrating civilization’s birthday everyday. So when somebody talks about switching lights off voluntarily and celebrating the Earth hour I feel like telling them- don’t be a fool, that’s the unearthly hour- which from where I come from, we are always trying to escape.”

Rajesh Dhawan presents Go green, just don’t do it here posted at The Objectiveman, saying, “Ayn Rand said in the “The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution” that there is no such thing as a “restrained progress”. Mitigated development is a contradiction in terms. As for the conservation, it is clear that they want to conserve anything, except man.”

Paul McKeever presents For the Aspiring Politician: What to Study posted at Paul McKeever, saying, “the fact that somebody is asking me for such advice is promising.”

Miranda Barzey presents Not the Time to “Go Galt” posted at Ramen & Rand, saying, “As Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged gain publicity, the “Going Galt” movement has erupted. But the philosophy behind the novel’s strike is being missed.”

Rational Jenn presents Discipline Without Punishment posted at Rational Jenn, saying, “This is a brief review of some of the Positive Discipline principles we use with our kids (ages 6.5, 4, and 9 months). Our focus is to help them learn appropriate behaviors, and punishment is not a part of our discipline strategy.”

Jason presents Objectivism and Taxation posted at Erosophia, saying, “Does Objectivism really necessitate a blanket condemnation of taxation?”

Flibbert presents Movie Review: Knowing posted at Flibbertigibbet, saying, “Blogging has been light lately, but I did manage to write up this review of “Knowing,” which was billed as a “supernatural thriller” on CNN the other day. I watched it and found that it really wasn’t that apart from the way that it seemed to have some sort of odd connection to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Stella presents Insurers offer to start charging healthy people more posted at ReasonPharm, saying, “When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so good any more, does it?”

M. presents Valuing People, Not Just Their Achievements posted at Erosophia, saying, “Is a person worth more than her achievements?”

C. August presents Obama’s grassroots volunteers lost battle, but are they preparing for war? posted at Titanic Deck Chairs, saying, “The Obama administration is oddly still in campaign mode. Who are they, is Obama aware of what they’re doing, did this grassroots mobilization work, and why is this happening in the first place? I present a summary of this new issue, and discuss what we might expect in the future.”

Gus Van Horn presents Gus Van Horn: Quick Roundup 415 posted at Gus Van Horn, saying, “National Review on Ayn Rand: Less erudite than the talking stain, and ultimately, less effective!”

Michael Labeit presents On the Populism Smear posted at Philosophical Mortician, saying, “Those who defend Obama’s economic policies deride the opposition with a term who’s connotation and denotation conflict.”

Tom Stelene presents Old, Obscure, Great Books: Review No. 2 posted at The Imaginary Philosophy, saying, “Here is a brief review of an old, out of print book by a scholar of long ago, just one of many, many great, old books I have acquired that do not deserve to be forgotten. I started these reviews because I am sure there are other bibliophiles out there who can enjoy learning from them as much as I have.”

Michael Labeit presents On Our “Freedom” posted at Philosophical Mortician, saying, “You will be disappointed.”

Daniel presents Tax Credits for Education 1 posted at The Nearby Pen, saying, “Should tax credits for education be advocated? I think they should, state why, and deal with two major objections.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of objectivist round up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: objectivist round up, blog carnival.

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Objectivism and Taxation

by Jason Stotts

The pivotal essays for the Objectivist position on taxation are “Man’s Rights,” “The Nature of Government”, and “Government Financing in a Free Society”, all of which can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness. In these essays the Objectivist position is clear: each individual person has inalienable rights from his nature and that it is the function of the government to protect these rights. As a consequence, the Objectivist position on taxation is that it is a violation of the function of government, as it is an initiation of force on the very citizenry that it is supposed to protect. This essay will seek to analyze this position to ascertain whether it is, in fact, self-consistent, rational, and whether it can justify a blanket condemnation of taxes.

Let us begin with the essay “Man’s Rights.” Rights, Ayn Rand argues, are the “extension of morality into the social system” (109). This is important because she wants to stress that “a ‘right’ is a moral principle” (110) that “pertains only to…freedom of action” (110). This puts the Objectivist theory of rights into the camp of what is called “negative rights”, or rights which cause no obligations on others except for their non-violation. This is contrasted in philosophy with systems of positive rights that do cause obligations on others. For objectivism, rights are the “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival” (111). It is important to note here that Ayn Rand does not mean that rights are the necessary conditions for mere physical survival, but intends a richer conception of what it means to be alive as in the Aristotelian tradition of flourishing. Thus, the Objectivist position on rights is that they represent a negative obligation on the part of people not to violate the necessary conditions for the flourishing of others.

In order to make these rights a reality and to preserve these conditions, men need a government to institute these rights as law (more specifically, they would be the basis of law). For this reason, Ayn Rand insists that: “the protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government” (128). The way in which the government is supposed to do this is through prohibiting the use of force, whether initiatory or retaliatory, since the use of force is the only way to violate the rights of others. For Objectivism, this puts the government in a different position that most other political theories: “the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens” (129). In order to achieve its end of protecting rights, a government needs to perform certain functions that “fall into three broad categories, all of them involving the issues of physical force and the protection of men’s rights: the police, to protect men from criminals – the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders – the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws.” (131).

Now, obviously in order to fulfill these functions, the government will need to spend money and in order to spend money, the government must first raise money. But how can the government do this? This is a problem for Objectivism because “the imposition of taxes does represent an initiation of force” (135) and this would defeat the very function of government. Thus, Ayn Rand had to maintain that: “in a fully free society, taxation – or, to be exact, payment for governmental services – would be voluntary” (135). In order to show how such a voluntary system might be effected, she gives the example of a government paid through the use of optional percentages on contracts. In her example, only those contracts that paid the specified percentage would be legally enforceable in courts. The problem with this is that if it is necessary that the government perform certain functions, then they need to do this in all cases as a matter of principle. To not enforce a legal contract because the parties did not pay a fee is like not prosecuting a rapist because his victim did not pay for governmental rape insurance. A government that only sometimes protects rights is not a true government.

We have seen that rights stem from the necessary conditions for human survival and that a government is necessary in order to secure these conditions. If this is the case, then it seems as though there could not be a blanket condemnation of taxation, since it is in the rational best interests of each citizen in order to pay taxes so that his rights are protected. To me, it seems that Ayn Rand was on the right path when she suggested a fee on contracts. The simplest way to achieve this would be to levy a percent tax on all sales, since sales are legal contracts that must be upheld by the government. This tax should be sufficient only to cover the costs of the governmental operations in protecting the rights of the citizens (in all three functions) and to maintain a small treasury that could be expended in case of an emergency. In this way, the tax would only represent a payment to the government for necessary services that all citizens objectively need.

While it is clear that redistributionary taxation is immoral, and is clearly the initiation of force by the government against those it is supposed to protect, it is not clear that taxation for supporting the government in its necessary functions is morally problematic. If the initiation of force is the only way to violate rights, and rights are moral principles that represent the necessary conditions of human flourishing, and it is necessary that a government exist to protect rights, then it seems that a government is also a necessary condition of human flourishing. If this is the case, then it seems as though reasonable people would want a government to protect their rights.

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Happy Every Day!

by Jason Stotts

I love Wal-Mart.

They have pretty much everything I need and at a price I can afford.

While I was at Wal-Mart today I noticed a new campaign they have out: “Happy Everyday!”

I think that this is a really life-affirming ideal and the kind of thing that we should all incorporate into our own lives.

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Atlas Shrugged

by Panoply

“Panoply thinks you should read Atlas Shrugged before it comes true.”

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Quote of the Day

The most perfidious way of harming a cause
consists of defending it deliberately
with faulty arguments.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

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Animals are Food

by Jason Stotts

Recently I was reminded that there are still eco-fascist idiots who believe that animals have full rights equivalent (or greater than) people.

This, of course, annoys me to no end. Rights are a moral concept that are the result of our specific human nature. Rights are a product of our rationality and represent the necessary conditions for survival qua human. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find this poster:


I think this poster captures the appropriate response to these eco-fascists: you don’t have to eat animals, but you’re not going to stop me.
Animals are food.

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Isn’t It Interesting?

by Jason Stotts

For those of you who don’t know, M. and I are getting married this summer. Part of the process of preparing for our wedding involves having to write a new kind of ceremony and vows that are consistent with our philosophic principles and atheism. While working on these things I was reminded of an essay that I wrote for my old blog “A Rational Perspective” back in 2006. I’m presenting it here, mostly unedited, as it still is an accurate description of my thoughts on love and its importance in life.

———————

Some men are wealthy, some men are poor. My uncle is of the former, I myself am as of yet of the latter. Yet one day he gave me advice which I have never forgotten and which, were it to be loosed upon men, would change the very world: that is, if anyone understood it.

When he asked me what me future plans were, at a rather young age, I informed him that I wanted to be rich. He asked me if I knew what riches were. I pointed around to his luxurious house, yard, and boat. He merely smiled and asked me if I thought that such things could make a man truly happy. Being young, and much before I would come into my philosophical prowess, I did not understand his intent. He smiled at my confusion and looked inside through the window to his wife who was inside. He told me this, which I shall never forget: “It is not by being wealthy that a man becomes truly rich.”

I did not then understand him, although the words had a profound impact on me. Today these words, no longer lost to time or enigma, revived in me a sense of the greatness that people can achieve when they do no more than recognize the goods they have. Striving, struggling, overcoming: these are virtuous and the path to Happiness. Yet, without the recognition of what you have now, they lead not to happiness, but to oblivion. The failure to recognize the value of your current state, to revel in your existence in every moment which you are alive, is to give your life away, piece by irreplaceable piece, into some future account upon which you will never be able to draw.

Let us always strive for the best within us and the best open to us. Let us immolate our weakness; commit our indecision, evasion, and compromise to the flame. Let us dash our decadence upon the rocks that lay at the crumbling temple of sacrifice, rendering unto it that which it had always couchedly demanded. Let us struggle to overcome ourselves and in the process become divine. Yet, let us never fail to regard the majesty of every day that we have, every hour, and every minute. Let us hold our values dear and let us never fall into the deadly trap of nihilism. For every moment that we live is one more moment in which we can revel in our existence. There is no dishonor in reveling alone, but to those who have come to know true love, it is clear that to be with your lover is the epitome of human happiness.

True love is the union of two spiritual titans and just as the Greek Titans defied the gods and threw them from their thrones, true love throws the light of truth upon the false idols who claim that happiness is not possible in a human life. True love is the greatest thing possible, the noblest state, the finest goal. It is no easy endeavor: it requires nobility of character for each of the lovers, it requires firm commitment and principled resolve, it requires the profound conviction that your life is worth living and that both you and your lover deserve the greatest thing in life.

To those who have ever known true love, I commend you. Yours was no easy path, revel in your achievement.

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