Saturday, October 31, 2009

Global Warming:Trick or Treat?

WSJ video via Market Watch.

Is the world warming?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Is the global climate changing because of man's activities?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Will limits on the use of fossil fuels slow, or even more likely reverse, economic growth?

Definitely---that's their whole object.

Do the projected gains from CO2 limitations outweigh the benefits?

No. And no.

Is a warming world the greatest threat to human well-being?


So is the push for political action to limit Co2, which means reducing energy consumption, which means reducing wealth production and prosperity, a trick or a treat?


What is Seen and Not Seen

What is seen:

What is not seen:

[Cut and paste a photo of what you would have bought or invested in or invented or the business you could have started if you had more money, i.e. paid less taxes---either directly to the tax boards or indirectly through lost purchasing power due to the Fed's increase in the money supply.]

That Which is Seen and that Which is Not Seen, by Frederic Bastiat, 1850

(For a concrete example of this principle as it relates to the recent Cash-for-Clunkers program, see the latest post by The Rational Capitalist.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Men of Progress

Christian Schussele’s 1892 painting Men of Progress portrays 19 of the era’s greatest living inventors, the heroes of America’s recent technological ascendancy.

Today I am renewing my subscription to Invention and Technology Magazine. For several years, my family has been receiving this quarterly publication dedicated to highlighting the amazing achievements of the human mind. I don't spend enough time reveling in man's great accomplishments so I am grateful for this periodic reminder when it arrives in the mail.

The painting above is presented in the Spring 2009 issue, accompanied by an article describing tensions which developed between 19th century inventors and scientists. That same issue covers a fascinating array of topics including the history of the deceptively simple-appearing safety pin, the high-tech tools of cinematography--steadicams and skycams, and both constructive ingenuity (paper boats) as well as destructive (bazookas and RPGs.)

This weekend, I plan to take a break from my focus on the discouraging developments in politics, and find a sunny spot on my deck to sit, relax and read about the wonders of human reason.

From left to right, the inventors in the painting are:

1. William Morton, 1819-1868. Co-discoverer of anesthesia.

2. James Bogardus, 1800-1874. Inventor whose varied output ranged from engraving machines to the cast-iron building.

3. Samuel Colt, 1814-1862. Gun inventor and manufacturer.

4. Cyrus McCormick, 1809-1884. Inventor and manufacturer of the reaping machine and other agricultural equipment.

5. Joseph Saxton, 1799-1873. Inventor whose devices included tide gauges, hydrometers, and minting machinery.

6. Charles Goodyear, 1800-1860. Inventor whose vulcanization process made rubber useful.

7. Peter Cooper, 1791-1883. Built the first American steam locomotive; innovated in iron and glue manufacture; founded Cooper Union.

8. Jordan Mott, 1799-1866. Inventor and manufacturer in iron and related technologies.

9. Joseph Henry, 1797-1878. Physicist, electric-motor inventor, and first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

10. Eliphalet Nott, 1773-1866. Stove inventor and president of Union College for sixty-two years.

11. John Ericsson, 1803-1889. Developed marine steam engines and the screw propeller and designed the revolutionary warship Monitor.

12. Frederick Sickels, 1819-1895. Inventor of cutoff valve crucial to later stationary steam engines.

13. Samuel Morse, 1791-1872. Inventor of the electric telegraph.

14. Henry Burden, 1791-1871. Inventor of horseshoe-making machine and agricultural machinery.

15. Richard Hoe, 1812-1886. Inventor of the rotary printing press.

16. Erastus Bigelow, 1814-1879. Inventor of power carpet looms.

17. Isaiah Jennings, 1792-1862. Inventor of friction matches.

18. Thomas Blanchard, 1788-1864. Inventor of numerous lathes and steam vehicles.

19. Elias Howe, 1819-1867. Inventor of the sewing machine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Virtue of Selfishness

A recent commenter made an observation which deserves attention:

"[T]he dominant argument on the right these days is simply 'I, me, me, mine.' It comes off as mere selfishness, which is not a virtue, but a base instinct."

Proponents of individual rights are often accused of considering ONLY themselves. This may be true in some cases, in which case the term "mere selfishness"* may apply. In the vast majority of cases, however, those who promote individual rights as the moral guide to social interaction, are referring to the consistent and equal application of those rights to all individuals.

In fighting for and insisting on the respect of MY individual rights, I am also limiting myself and all others to respecting YOUR individual rights.

Individual rights, properly understood, means equality before the law. It means the equal application of rights to all people, myself included.

Insisting on individual rights means insisting there not be separate laws or standards of behavior based on race or income level or gender or sexual orientation or occupation, or any other limited identification.

I can see that this aspect of individual rights can become lost as people speak out in self-defense. In attempt to offset centuries of philosophy and religious teachings which call for the sacrifice of oneself to others, an understandable and natural response is to speak loudest and most often about the right to live one's life for one's own sake. But an inseparable aspect of denying the morality of self-sacrifice is denying any claim on my part to sacrificial acts of others.

Individual rights apply to individuals, and that includes me. Rational consistency requires that I apply moral standards equally. A moral code which can not be consistently applied is irrational and arbitrary. A moral code that demands or accepts sacrifice is one that defines a single act as both moral and immoral at the same time. (If the act of sacrifice makes the giver moral, what is the moral status of the receiver?)

Ayn Rand named the moral virtue of rationally and consistently respecting the right to life of all individuals: "selfishness." Even if you don't like the term she chose, can you disagree with the moral concept it stands for? Can you deny that everyone, including you yourself (and me myself), has a right to live his own life as a end in itself?

The right of an individual to live his life for his own sake, for his own values and happiness, has so long been besmirched that it is important to make the defense of this right clear and explicit. But it is also important to keep in the forefront that this same right is granted to each and everyone, equally and consistently. The moral standard of individual rights is not "mere selfishness" but Selfishness in its grandest most universal form. The fullest respect of human individual life possible is the respect for the lives of others AND for one's self.

The true virtue of selfishness is its rational, consistent application to every Self --and that includes you as well as "I, me, me, mine."

* I interpret "mere selfishness" to refer to the narrow consideration of how something effects only oneself and only the direct and obvious effects. A full concept of selfishness takes into consideration the entire relevant context: long and short term effects, logical consistency, as well direct and indirect consequences.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Statism: The Essence of Government-Run Health Care Reform

Arthur Brooks' editorial in the Wall Street Journal, "Why Government Health Care Keeps Falling in the Polls" provides a brief analysis of some key reasons more and more people are rejecting current healthcare "reform" proposals.

A few essential points:

1. All of the proposals limit the freedom of choice.

Limiting choice is the main purpose of mandates.

2. They all discourage (and in some cases prevent) self-responsibility.

The moral hazard of wealth-transfer is inescapable.

3. Decreasing reimbursement to providers (doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and medical device companies) robs our professionals of the incentive maintain thier businesses, let alone the means for improvements and growth.

Strangle the innovators, and you strangle innovation.

His concluding paragraph captures the most important issue: the debate is not just political, but moral. Which will be the guiding principle of our country: freedom or statism?

The health-care debate is part of a moral struggle currently being played out over the free enterprise system. It will be replayed in every major policy debate in the coming months, from financial regulatory reform to a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions. The choices will ultimately always come down to competing visions of America's future. Will we strengthen freedom, individual opportunity and enterprise? Or will we expand the role of the state and its power?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Momnipotence, the FTC and the Freedom to Blog

Ooooo. What a great word–even if the concept it represents is one I would never want or seek. For a great post on just what this is, and why the FTC sharpening its regulatory sword in order to protect us all from ourselves–see Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! by Rational Jenn.

The desire for absolute power over others is as sick and evil as it is impossible. If there was such thing as a Soul-O-Meter, I envision it clicking backwards toward empty each and every time I attempted to gain power over another–for being a Master is even more self-destructive than being a slave. Both lose their independence, but a slave, at least, can still retain his dignity, self-respect and integrity.

Over the past 2 years of blogging, I have intermittently posted quotes which spoke bits of truth to me. They are all worth reading again and again–each one a gem worth prolonged contemplation. Here are some I gathered to think about in relationship to current attempts by the FTC to regulate bloggers. (But be sure to read Jenn’s post too as she takes a slightly different –but equally important–tact on this issue.

As I would not be a slave,

so I would not be a master.

--Abraham Lincoln(1809-1865) 16th US President

If I want to be free from any other man’s dictation, I must understand that I can have no other man under my control.”

– William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) American professor at Yale College

Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so.

– Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish philosopher and economist

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Source: Letter, 23 December 1791

Here the great art lies,
to discern in what the law
is to be to restraint and punishment,
and in what things

persuasion only is to work.

– John Milton (1608-1674) Poet 1644

That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.

– Alabama, Declaration of Rights Article I Section 35

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they have resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.

– Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), escaped slave, Abolitionist, author, editor of the North Star and later the New National Era

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money and promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one….”

--James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security is so powerful a principle that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often incumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom, or to diminish its security.

– Adam Smith (1723-1790) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776, par. IV.5.82

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that, too.
– W. Somerset Maugham(1874-1965)Source: Strictly Personal, 1941

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly
is to fill the world with fools.

– Herbert Spencer(1820-1903) British author, economist, philosopher 1891

If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs.

– Theodore Roosevelt(1858-1919) 26th US President

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

–Milton Friedman (1912-2006) Nobel Prize-winning economist, economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

The battle I am fighting is not Right vs. Left or Republican vs. Democrat. The principles I believe in are all variations of one essential battle:
for Individual Rights and against Statism.

–Beth Haynes, 09-13-09, Values Clarification

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Obama and Freedom of the Press

Sometimes the attack hits close enough to home that even the liberal main stream media can see Obama's power grabs for what they are.

(HT Gus van Horn)

The irony of Obama's attack on Fox News is that even a study by the liberal Pew Research Center showed that Fox News was the most even-handed during the last presidential campaign.

40 percent of Fox News stories on Obama in the last six weeks of the campaign were negative. Similarly, 40 percent of Fox News' stories on Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, were negative.

On CNN, by contrast, there was a 22-point disparity in the percentage of negative stories on Obama (39 percent) and McCain (61 percent). The disparity was even greater at MSNBC, according to Pew, where just 14 percent of Obama stories were negative, compared to a whopping 73 percent of McCain stories -- a spread of 59 points.

Although the article quoted above does not provide the source for the Pew study it mentions, I did find this through my own search.

"The Color of News : How different media have covered the general election." Oct. 29, 2008

In the original article, various news agencies are compared to the "media overall." Given the strong liberal bias of the general news media, I find this use of it as a "control" biased from the start. To place the focus more directly on comparing one news agency to another, I cropped the graphs from the article and recombined them to come up with the following visuals. It's rather stunning.


MSNBC: Obama-------McCain--------NBC: Obama-------McCain

Newspapers---------------Media Overall:McCain-----Obama

It's a shame they didn't include NPR, PBS and other government-subsidized media. It would have been even more informative.

Looking at the relative sizes of the various color boxes, you can see for yourself which news agency handled the candidates most similarly: FOX.

Obama's recent attempt to exclude Fox News is not just miscalculated hubris but an act of thuggery, and an attack on one of our country's most sacred freedoms.

It is not his only attack on our liberty-- just the one which most directly threatens the media. I am grateful they took the stance they did and rallied in defiance. It is tragic they do not see the other attacks as clearly.

Update 10/25/09: For those interested in reading the detailed methodology of the above study, see here and here.


Friday, October 23, 2009

True Freedom is Non-contradictory

"If I want to be free from any other man’s dictation,
I must understand that I can have no other man under my control."

-- William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) American professor at Yale College

HT Liberty Quotes

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Robert Reich on Health care Reform: No Additional Comments Needed

Former Labor Secretary and Obama adviser Robert Reich speaking at UC Berkeley on Sept. 26, 2007.

See also:
Still Not Convinced the Public Option is a Trojan Horse for Single-Payer?
One of five short video clips from the above article:


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Financial Times' Feature Video on Banking

On Oct. 14, 2009 John Bird and John Fortune discussed Lehman, banking, CEO compensation, the housing market, CDO's, and the recent economic boom and bust. Their conversation is posted on the Financial Times.

There's no way to embed this 9 minute video, so you will have to go here to watch.


Freedom to Blog Under Attack

Blogging, in fact--the entire internet, is an amazing expression of ingenuity, creativity and individualism. I am constantly amazed at the variety of human beings and the capacity for self-expression, invention and entrepreneurship which is manifested through this medium. What a wonderful, uninhibited exchange of information and ideas!! Blogging is grass-roots, good-old-fashioned independence at its best.

And it is currently under atttack by the government which should be most diligent in protecting it: the federal government of the United States of America.

One attack on the internet itself, and at the most fundamental level, on the 1st Amendment rights of free speech and free press, is the attempt to impose "net neutrality" and government oversight by declaring the internet "public property." Whatever is "public property" can not be private property, and ownership and control are transferred from individuals to government. To better understand the implications of this move, please read Raymond Niles' article, "Net Neutrality:Toward a Stupid Internet." (Although, it wouldn't just be a stupid internet, it would be one which has lost essential liberty.)

A second serious attack on internet (and thus individual) freedom is the growing intrusion of FCC oversight into blogging. In the post "Oh Say Can You Say, " Don Watkins explains the unpredictable liability and arbitrary rule which new regulations impose on bloggers---and which will go into effect on December first. Bloggers beware!

These are NOT harmless precedents which are being set here. We Americans will not lose our freedoms by a frontal attack, but we are very vulnerable to the steady incremental erosion of our liberties.

Please pay attention and speak up when you see things go awry.

To remain silent is to give your consent.

(10/14/09 Update: Also check out You Can't Say That.)


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nationalized Medicine: A War of All Against All

Taking one more step in the direction of statism, the Senate Finance Committee Passes Healthcare Reform Bill. Too many of the rebuttals focus on the astronomical cost, or the detrimental effect it will have on the affordability of private health insurance, or the expected decline in quality of care. But the most fundamental problem is a moral one. There is no right to the life, labor or property of an other human being.

from "Morality Ends Where a Gun Begins"

by Robert Tracinski, TIA Daily, 10/6/09

Serious moral thinking about public policy requires, first and foremost, a consideration of what happens when we replace persuasion with coercion as the guiding power in human affairs.It requires that we begin by grasping the role of liberty and individual rights in keeping a civilized society civilized.

The basic moral principle that limits the actions of government is the fact that other people's lives and livelihoods are not yours to dispose of. If you want someone else to provide you with a good or service, you have to be willing to offer something of value in return, in a voluntary trade. And if you can't afford to pay for what you need, then you have to ask politely for charity, knowing that the other person has a right to refuse. He has that right because his time and his money are his.

To act otherwise—and acting otherwise is the whole essence of the case for further government intrusion—is to turn a civilized society into an uncivilized war of all against all.When the basic principle of government control is stated in individual terms—I need something, so I'm going to use force to take it from you—it sounds like what it is: a criminal act. So most people try to dress it up by stating it in collective terms. "We as a people decide what social benefits will be provided, what taxes people have to pay, and what terms insurance companies will be allowed to operate under." But this is actually worse. What this means is: the group has a right to dispose of the life, liberty, and property of the individual. That's a criminal act, too. The sacrifice of the individual to the collective is the basic atrocity committed by some of history's worst criminal regimes.

Obama and Afghanistan

"Whatever this is, it isn't leadership."

(--Elliot Abrams, senior foreign policy adviser Bush and Reagan, speaking of President Obama's handling of Afghanistan.)

"I think I'll ... " by the California artist Ed Ruscha.
Painting on loan to the White House.

And from The Atlantic: Time for Decisiveness on Afghanistan

The greatest wealth is human lives. What price indecision?


Monday, October 12, 2009

Christopher Columbus--Cause to Celebrate

Thomas Bowden has written several articles to help us celebrate Columbus Day by understanding the great achievement which occurred, as well as how and why.

Let's Take Back Columbus Day (and another one here)
"Columbus Day Celebrates Western Civilization"
The Enemies of Christopher Columbus
by Thomas Bowden

Scott Powell has put together a gallery of great art with the same purpose.

Columbus at Salamanca by William Powell

Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn

Happy Columbus Day!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Real Winner

If I were on the Nobel Prize committee, I'd vote for William Kamkwamba.

Or see his TED Talk here.
Or read his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Poverty is the problem. Wealth is the solution.
But it takes a mind to envision the possibilities and to bring them to fruition.

HT: Gus Van Horn.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Prize for Surrender

President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought is was a joke. Actually it is a joke. The entire Nobel Peace Prize of late has been a travesty, as evidenced by recent recipients such as Al Gore and the IPCC. As so aptly put by one blogger at The New Clarion:

It is more of a booby prize than an honest recognition of something good. Among its recent past recipients are Yasser Arafat and Jimmy Carter, a terrorist and the American president who passively acquiesced to terrorism. For the current award, the Nobel Committee apparently passed over a Chinese dissident, among many other honorable and dishonorable nominees. This “prize” has nothing to do with peace, and everything to do with advancing the cause of statism and destroying the values that America stood for.

Perhaps it could more correctly be called the Nobel Statism Prize.

Why did President Obama receive the prize? Not for what he has done...but for his "efforts," for what he has promised to do. In fact, the deadline for nominations was Feb. 9th, only two weeks after the president was sworn into office, when all he had accomplished were campaign speeches and winning the election.

The Nobel Committee said he won it for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples". The committee highlighted Mr Obama's efforts to support international bodies and promote nuclear disarmament. BBC News

Or as summarized by BBC'c Paul Reynolds:

The award is certainly unexpected and might be regarded as more of an encouragement for intentions than a reward for achievements.

After all, the president has been in office for a little over eight months and he might hope to serve eight years. His ambition for a world free of nuclear weapons is one that is easier to declare than to achieve and a climate control agreement has yet to be reached.

Reynolds elaborated further on the rationale for awarding the prize at this time:

The committee "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." But it also mentioned the UN, climate change and the "strengthening" of democracy and human rights.

But President Obama's "vision" includes includes actions which enable, if not encourage, Iran's continued efforts to develop nuclear weapon capability, as evidenced by Ahmadinejad's missile launch response to Obama's conciliatory UN speech.

The Washington Times points out:

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

There are two paths to peace: victory and surrender. What President Obama promises is the path of surrender.

Surrender of US sovereignty to the the UN and world opinion.

Surrender of wealth and prosperity to the myths of shrinking resources and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

Surrender of the Rule of Law to a Latin American would-be-dictator.

Surrender of the moral basis of all government (the protection of individual rights) to the brute whims of the collective.

And with his refusal to condemn as immoral and evil the tyranny and aggression of our Islamic enemies, surrender of the moral superiority of individual rights and liberty to multiculturalism and ethical egalitarianism. Islam itself means surrender and the surrender of non-Muslim infidels to Islam is dhimmitude.

It is for his promises of dhimmitude to the principles of cooperation and compromise, at the expense of the principles of liberty, individual rights and limited government, that President Obama has been awarded this prize. It is an anti-honor, a mark of of his capitulation to world opinion, a world which includes tyrants, oppressors and growing statism. It is a world in which Mr. Obama feels at home and is determined to impose upon our country: through implementing national health care, and environmental legislation and regulation; through big business and union bailouts, and through ignoring the growing threat of militant Islam throughout the Middle East.

For his Socialism at home and his dhimmitude in foreign affairs, President Obama has earned the Peace Prize, but it is the peace of surrender.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

de Tocqueville decribes Obamacare

and the cap-and-trade bill and bailouts and stimulus bills and......

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

-- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French historian
Source: Democracy in America, Vol. II (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899), Chap. 6 (HT Liberty Quotes)

Only de Tocqueville doesn't quite get it right.

Recipients of welfare "benefits" are enervated and and stupefied, but the producers whose wealth is "redistributed" suffer force, destruction and tyranny.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Life-promoting Benefits of Capitalism

via Carpe Diem:

Capitalism: The Real Story

Economic freedom allows for the creation of the most wealth,

even to the poorest,

bringing longer lives

and goes hand in hand with political freedom.


What's not to like?

More info can be found at the Economic Freedom of the World 2009 Report.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

AAPS fights for Freedom

I am swamped by family matters, but am doing my best to find time to sift through tidbits on the web for interesting, informative or encouraging things to post. One group which has been fighting against government intrusion into medicine for a couple of decades is AAPS, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons. Below is the brief speech of the organization's president at the Sept. 12 rally in Washington D.C. (The meat of the speech is from minutes 2:15 to 5:30.) It's refreshing to hear people speak out with clarity on the real issue at stake: freedom vs. statism.

A few highlights:

"We do not need health care reform; we need government reform."

"Every problem we have in access to medical care is due to government rules and regulation."

"Use the Constitution in the way it was designed: as a protection of individual choice and freedom."

On President Obama's address to Congress:

"He spoke the words of freedom such as choice, competition, responsibility--yet every proposal he made spoke of rules,regulations, fees, taxes, mandates. In other words, Slavery is Freedom."

You can find more information on their website Take Back Medicine. In particular, I would recommend their series of Mythbusters. These brief exposes are variable in quality, but many of them are worthwhile and informative, with references to other sources for further information.

Here's to your health!!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

World Car-Free Day

An international organization dedicated to a car-free world has declared September 22 World Carfree Day. Although I would agree that it is a good idea to periodically stop and rethink our life styles choices and priorities, it is important when doing so to keep the whole context in mind. Those of us wealthy enough to afford alternatives--either in terms of time or money-- should not be so quick to condemn certain items or activities as mere convenience or luxury. This point is nicely made by the editorial excerpted below.

Cars can provide the freedom and flexibility required to achieve essential goals, such as making a job accessible, or the ability to live where housing is affordable. They are efficient in conserving the most precious and scarce "commodity" we have: our time. Some of us are wealthy enough to forgo that efficiency--but it is unfair, unkind and short-sighted to impose that choice on others.

by Sam Kazman, 9/29/09 the San Fransisco Examiner

It is easy to forget the incredibly liberating nature of the automobile. In the 1910s-1920s the car ended the crushing isolation of rural life. In 1955-56, it enabled black people to boycott the segregated buses of Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1970s-1980s, it gave mothers the ability to enter the job market while still getting their kids to day care and putting food on the table. Today, the car allows new immigrants to enter the American mainstream by vastly expanding their choices of where to work and where to live....

Being able to get around freely is not some superficial desire that can be dismissed as the product of an allegedly car-addicted Western culture....The car, it appears, satisfies a pretty basic human need.

A philosophy professor who emigrated here from Eastern Europe once commented on Car-Free Day by noting that, given his time behind the Iron Curtain, he’d already endured enough car-free decades.

Wealth is not the problem. Wealth, and freedom, are the solutions.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Which end of the Leash?

When Gen sent me notification of her op-ed in the Orange County Register, the first thing I saw was the title "Which end of the leash do we prefer?" Thinking that she was referring to whether, in our relations with other people, it was better to be the master or the dog, my response was "Neither." But it turns out she was thinking of something a little different. Here's her concluding paragraphs (though for the full effect, you should read the entire piece.)

Which End of the Leash do We Prefer?

---Gen LaGreca, OC Register, 10/2/09

Throughout history people have had their human potential choked off by a leash that autocratic rulers placed around their necks. The first country to set the individual free and to put the government on a leash was America.

President Barack Obama has begun his stated task of "fundamentally changing America." He promotes policies that are supposed to give us security from life's risks through government help and handouts. But these policies require an ever-increasing loss of our autonomy.

At the dawn of our country, Benjamin Franklin observed that anyone who would give up liberty to gain security will deserve neither and lose both. Will we heed our wise founder's warning and live up to our human potential? Or will we watch America reverse its historic achievement and descend into despotism by putting us, the people, at the wrong end of the leash?