Archive for May, 2011

Hayek – Collectivism and Morality

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This is from Chapter 10 of Hayek‘s The Road to Surfdom, Why the Worst Get on Top. Good stuff.

From the two central features of every collectivist system, the need for a commonly accepted system of ends of the group and the all-overriding desire to give to the group the maximum of power to achieve these ends, grows a definite system of morals, which on some points coincides and on others violently contrasts with ours-but differs from it in one point which makes it doubtful whether we can call it morals: that it does not leave the individual conscience free to apply its own rules and does not even know any general rules which the individual is required or allowed to observe in all circumstances. This makes collectivist morals so different from what we have known as morals that we find it difficult to discover any principle in them, which they nevertheless possess.

The difference of principle is very much the same as that which we have already considered in connection with the Rule of Law. Like formal law, the rules of individualist ethics, however imprecise they may be in many respects, are general and absolute; they prescribe or prohibit a general type of action irrespective of whether in the particular instance the ultimate purpose is good or bad.

To cheat or steal, to torture or betray a confidence, is held to be bad, irrespective of whether or not in the particular instance any harm follows from it. Neither the fact that in a given instance nobody may be the worse for it, nor any high purpose for which such an act may have been committed, can alter the fact that it is bad. Though we may sometimes be forced to choose between different evils, they remain evils.

The principle that the end justifies the means in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves “the good of the whole,” because the “good of the whole” is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.

The raison d’etat, in which collectivist ethics has found its most explicit formulation, knows no other limit than that set by expediency-the suitability of the particular act for the end in view. And what the raison d’etat affirms with respect to the relations between different countries applies equally to the relations between different individuals within the collectivist state. There can be no limit to what its citizen must be prepared to do, no act which his conscience must prevent him from committing, if it is necessary for an end which the community has set itself or which his superiors order him to achieve.

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Bastiat – The Law

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Big Government tipped me to one of Frederic Bastiat‘s greatest works, The Law:

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

Life Is a Gift from God

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

Life, faculties, production–in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What Is Law ?

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right–from God–to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?

If every person has the right to defend — even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.


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Bernie Sanders: Capitalist

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The Truth About Greenhouse Gases

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Excellent article by William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University. (h/t Watts Up With That?/Doug Ross)

I am a strong supporter of a clean environment. We need to be vigilant to keep our land, air, and waters free of real pollution, particulates, heavy metals, and pathogens, but carbon dioxide (CO2 ) is not one of these pollutants. Carbon is the stuff of life. Our bodies are made of carbon. A normal human exhales around 1 kg of CO2 (the simplest chemically stable molecule of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere) per day. Before the industrial period, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 270 ppm. At the present time, the concentration is about 390 ppm, 0.039 percent of all atmospheric molecules and less than 1 percent of that in our breath. About fifty million years ago, a brief moment in the long history of life on earth, geological evidence indicates, CO2 levels were several thousand ppm, much higher than now. And life flourished abundantly.


What, besides the bias toward a particular result, is wrong with the science? Scientific progress proceeds by the interplay of theory and observation. Theory explains observations and makes predictions about what will be observed in the future. Observations anchor our understanding and weed out the theories that don’t work. This has been the scientific method for more than three hundred years. Recently, the advent of the computer has made possible another branch of inquiry: computer simulation models. Properly used, computer models can enhance and speed up scientific progress. But they are not meant to replace theory and observation and to serve as an authority of their own. We know they fail in economics. All of the proposed controls that would have such a significant impact on the world’s economic future are based on computer models that are so complex and chaotic that many runs are needed before we can get an “average” answer. Yet the models have failed the simple scientific test of prediction. We don’t even have a theory for how accurate the models should be.


In our efforts to conserve the created world, we should not concentrate our efforts on CO2. We should instead focus on issues like damage to local landscapes and waterways by strip mining, inadequate cleanup, hazards to miners, and the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, and organic carcinogens. Much of the potential harm from coal mining can be eliminated, for example, by requirements that land be restored to a condition that is at least as good as, and preferably better than, when the mining began.

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Converting Mamet

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From iOwnTheWorld

Glengarry Glenn Ross – great friggin movie. The Verdict – great friggin movie. House of Games – Great friggin movie. I haven’t seen any Mamet plays, but reviews at the time hailed him as the best American playwright, and a genius.

I wonder just how stupid these same critics think Mamet is now?

From Weekly Standard

His fame was enough to fill the stalls of Memorial Hall at Stanford University when he came to give a talk one evening a couple of years ago. About half the audience were students. The rest were aging faculty out on a cheap date with their wives or husbands. You could identify the male profs by the wispy beards and sandals-’n’-socks footwear. The wives were in wraparound skirts and had hair shorter than their husbands’.

He arrived late and took the stage looking vaguely lost. He withdrew from his jacket a sheaf of papers that quickly became disarranged. He lost his place often. He stumbled over his sentences. But the unease that began to ripple through the audience had less to do with the speaker’s delivery than with his speech’s content. Mamet was delivering a frontal assault on American higher education, the provider of the livelihood of nearly everyone in his audience.

Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom—“Thomas Jefferson: slave owner, adulterer, pull the lever”—and is rewarded with his pellet: a grade, a degree, and ultimately a lifelong membership in a tribe of people educated to see the world in the same way.

“If we identify every interaction as having a victim and an oppressor, and we get a pellet when we find the victims, we’re training ourselves not to see cause and effect,” he said. Wasn’t there, he went on, a “much more interesting . . . view of the world in which not everything can be reduced to victim and oppressor?”

This led to a full-throated defense of capitalism, a blast at high taxes and the redistribution of wealth, a denunciation of affirmative action, prolonged hymns to the greatness and wonder of the United States, and accusations of hypocrisy toward students and faculty who reviled business and capital even as they fed off the capital that the hard work and ingenuity of businessmen had made possible. The implicit conclusion was that the students in the audience should stop being lab rats and drop out at once, and the faculty should be ashamed of themselves for participating in a swindle—a “shuck,” as Mamet called it.

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New Page: Resources

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New tab at the top: Resources.

Hoping to expand the skeleton of links of resources to look up bills, politicians, edicts, etc. from government.

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Walter E. Williams on Rights

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ht iotw. Reminds me of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights

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Bloomington, IN 2011 Elections

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Added a page for the Bloomington, IN 2011 Elections, which I’ll be updating, so bookmark it if you’re interested. Realized there’s no comments on the page, so add them here.

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Tea Party and Hippies Unite: Food Safety and the President’s Food Safety Czar

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I saw in their newsletter that my local coop, Bloomingfoods, is carrying organic milk from Kokomo (IN, my state) area, Nature’s Farm Milk, so I picked some up (review: good). I brought it home and was reading the label, when I saw that in addition to boasting of its lack of rBST, it had the following note: no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST and non rBST treated cows. So it was fortuitous that moments later, I found an article that explained the history of that note.

I’m not anti-agricultural technology. Modern agriculture allows us to feed more people more economically than any other method. Organics are a luxury that I indulge in as I do think they are generally better. I’m not sure of their overall ecological impact compared to modern farming, especially if you throw in whether there’s enough food or not. I’m more excited about local food, organic or not, which clearly diminishes the transportation footprint.

To me, that label on my milk carton is cronyism. There’s an hour and fifty minute documentary basically purporting that Monsanto is straight up evil, The World According to Monsanto, which should be taken with a grain of salt, but the revolving door of Michael R. Taylor (see below) seems pretty shady to me.

The article goes on to explain how The Food Safety Modernization Act (S510) will, in the author’s words, “undermine the small farmers, the organic farmers, by mandating cost-prohibitive reporting, evaluating, monitoring and maintaining of records to comply with these rules and “prohibits” those operations that are not considered to be in compliance.”

While we’re on the subject, I’m ambivalent about GMOs a/k/a “frankenfoods”.

From BigGovernment:

Why has the Food Safety Modernization Act (S510) encountered opposition from the Tea Partiers and their unlikely ally, the hippy, natural food, organic farmer, granola crowd?  Look at the history of the FDA and see if they truly have the best interests of America’s health and food safety at the core of their concerns.

In the early 1990s the FDA was constructing their genetically modified organisms (GMO) policy.  During the Clinton Administration Michael R. Taylor was appointed policy chief at the FDA, whose job it was to make policy with regards to these GMOs.  Prior to working at the FDA he had been Monsanto’s attorney. One of the products of Monsanto was Posilac, which is the brand name of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).  This product, when injected into dairy cows, causes them to produce 10 to 15% more milk on average.  This was marketed as a safe drug to increase milk production and therefore increase revenues for dairy farmers.  Michael R. Taylor declared all GMOs, including rBGH/rBST, to be essentially identical to the natural product and therefore safe for human consumption, even though no safety studies were done. In late1993 Monsanto received permission from the FDA to market Posilac.

Farmers began purchasing Posilac and injecting their cows and found that it did indeed cause the cows to increase their milk production.  What they also discovered is that these cows began to suffer with mastitis (infected udders) continuously and they had to inject them with antibiotics to fight these infections, resulting in pus being present in the milk the cows produced.  They also suffered with fertility problems, hoof diseases and lameness among other illnesses.  The cows were producing milk constantly and were living shorter, unhealthier lives.  The farmers decided that the health of their cows was not worth the increased profits and began to market their milk products as not containing milk from rBGH or rBST treated cows.

The FDA took swift action, at the insistence of Monsanto, and told them that if they were going to continue to label their products, they must also add the statement that “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST and non rBST treated cows.” rBST/rBGH can be found in milk, ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, yogurt, baby formula, cereals, cheese, cream cheese.  Think powdered milk products, too.

Read the rest at BigGovernment

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Red Eye is on Hulu

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I don’t have cable or TiVo and don’t watch shows regularly online, but if you’ve never seen Greg Gutfield’s  Red Eye, I find it irreverent and often hilarious. It’s currently on Fox at 3am (there is a movement to move it to prime time). I generally keep up with Greg via his posts on Breitbart’s BigHollywood. If I did TiVo, I would TiVo this show. Anyway, here’s an episode from April. (ht/


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