Tuesday, March 31, 2009

the good the bad the ugly

Depressing things I've head lately (in no particular order):
1. New York Times headline, "US Moves to Overhaul Ailing Car Makers" (NYT)
2. Canada's Science Minister is a creationist (theglobeandmail.com)
3. Senator Kennedy's "Service Bill" ("mandatory volunteerism" - ugh)

Hopeful things I've heard lately (also in no particular order):
1. Atlas Shrugged is high on the best seller lists and bookstore shelves (OActivists)
2. The president of the EU said that Obama's economic plan is "a way to hell" (NYT)
3. People are actually questioning the role of the federal government and whether it is to blame for this financial crisis (here and here)

Good things in my life these days:
1. Aikido (bendaikido.com)
2. Our cozy house
3. The Duke (see photo)

Bad things in my life these days:
1. The National Park Service and it's complete lack of ability to be reasonable
2. Inconsiderate, whiny, paranoid person we are deep into a business deal with
3. Not enough time before heading north (one month from tomorrow)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Redistribution of Wealth

This was a treasure in a randomly forwarded email...

Yesterday on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama/Biden 08" pin, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept.

He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need, the homeless guy outside.

The server angrily stormed away.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $5 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was really pissed that I gave away the money he did earn even though the homeless guy seemed to need the money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Objectivist Round-Up for this week

This week's Objectivist Round-Up was hosted by Amy at The Little Things. Once again I didn't get to reading every post, but there are always at least a few that catch my eye. One of these weeks I will write something worth adding to the round-up myself...

I have also really been enjoying Amy's style on The Little Things so I've been checking in there regularly. I like her mixture of political, philosophical and personal ramblings and want to try to incorporate more variety myself.

Google - a Threat?!

Voices for Reason had a great post today about the possibility of antitrust lawsuit being brought against Google due to the market power it has gained by being the dominant search engine. I found the post very easy to understand and think Alex Epstein makes a clear argument for why antitrust laws actually harm competition and therefore the customers. One of my favorite points:

"Google famously encourages employees to devote 20% of their time to creative projects of their own choosing. An antitrust case could effectively force much of that time and energy, especially for top performers, to be devoted to convincing the Department of Justice that Google did not engage in “unfair competition” or some other undefined antitrust term."

I wonder who first thought of the idea that a few individuals in government could decide what was right for the general public better than the general public themselves...

Click here for the whole article.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Objectivist Round-Up

I just found out that each week someone compiles a collection of the best posts on Objectivist Blogs. This week's round-up can be found here. Some of them I have read and others I haven't gotten to yet, but looks like an interesting list. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Atlas Everywhere

The New York Times "Freakonomics" column had a brief entry about the recent spikes in sales seen by Ayn Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. I submitted the following comment. While possibly interesting on it's own, it is probably best put in context by the comments that come before.

Reading Atlas Shrugged because you’ve been hearing about it in the news is certainly understandable and I personally hope that trend continues! However, just reading the book won’t make you truly understand Ayn Rand’s philosophy or its implications and connections with what is happening today.

I encourage everyone to read AS, read a bit about her philosophy in a non-fiction context (there are a lot of good resources at http://www.aynrand.org, including a summary of her ideas), and then try to apply it to your life. Think about examples that you see around you, big and small, and how they might play out in a system based on reason, self-interest and free markets. Think about what is happening now and it’s true causes and how things would be different under different scenarios.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not a religion - you can’t just read the book and follow it and have a happy life. You have to understand the ramifications, internalize it, apply it and live it. So before you judge, start with understanding. I think you’ll come to understand that living in a reasonable society where people work for their own self-interest is the best possible scenario for everyone.

Along those lines, the upcoming issue of The Objective Standard has an interview with Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute where he talks about the messages in Atlas Shrugged and how, even more than being political, "it is a novel about what happens to a world that denounces its best minds as greedy and immoral". Of course that relates directly to todays politics, but it speaks to the deeper reasons behind our policies today and why they are so damaging. TOS is offering the interview free of charge on their website.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On Health Care, etc

I just stumbled across "We Stand FIRM", the blog of the group "Freedom and Individual Right in Medicine", run by Paul Hsieh, MD. They have a lot of great entries and links and I recommend that everyone check it out.

I find the health care debate one of the more interesting topics these days. It always baffles me that so many people decide that health care is a "right". There are a number problems with that idea, but first of all, how do you then define health care? Is a visit to the emergency room a right? What if you were doing a dangerous activity like riding a motorbike off road without a helmet and you screwed up - do the rest of us pay for the consequences? Is medicine for your illness a right? How about a flu shot? What if you need physical therapy or chiropractic work? Should we all pay for your regular massages to keep you healthy and pain-free? Yearly dental check-ups? While you're at it, why don't we all cover that teeth whitening treatment you've been wanting ever since you stopped smoking?

Just like all social programs, these questions illustrate the problems behind government intervention in individual lives. Not only do you have the basic (major) problem of it being entirely immoral to forcibly take money from some to give it to others, but you also have this issue of line-drawing. Someone has to sit there and say, "no, I think they don't get this, but they do get that", and who is possible qualified to make those decisions?!

I remember having this discussion with Wayne back when I was still "liberal" and trying to understand the contradictions. I was arguing that there was a certain level of wealth and material possessions that was OK, and then there was unnecessary extravagance and someone should draw that line and share the wealth around. But who is to say where that line is? Who is to tell someone "no you can't send your child to the private college they want to go to", or, "nope, sorry, we're going to tax you so much that when you get that rare form of cancer that you don't know you're going to next year you won't be able to afford the cutting-edge treatment". Unfairness is inherent in that system in addition to blatent immorality.

Ok, I'm done for now :-)

Somewhat connected, I really liked this post on the "unexpected consequences" of Obama's tax plans on individuals and health care... from the FIRM blog.

For a great, clear overview on the many issues with socialized medicine, I recommend "Moral Health Care vs. Universal Health Care" from this winter's Objective Standard.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Super Dukie!

Our illegitimate black son on his 4th birthday today... (three years since we adopted him when he was approx 1 y.o.). Deschutes River a few miles from our house.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why I Never Get Invited to Parties

Noodlefood had a link to this painfully real comic strip that explains why I never get invited to parties... ;-) Click it to go to the site for a bigger version.

Ayn Rand on Atheism

For those of you who wonder how to explain your atheist views, check out this video that contains several clips of Ayn Rand explaining the immorality of religion.

I think this quote sums up her argument concisely and clearly: "When you accept such an important issue as the creation of the universe, on faith, you're destroying your confidence and the validity of your own mind."

Not only is it awesome to see such a great mind in action, but she also has a sense of humor (she threatens to turn the host into an atheist!) and a rad accent :-)