A collection of essays written mostly by Ayn Rand, this book did a good job of getting out the over all message of Individual Rights superseding the c...moreA collection of essays written mostly by Ayn Rand, this book did a good job of getting out the over all message of Individual Rights superseding the collective.
Some of the most interesting bits I found were the parallels between the arguments taking place circa the mid- to late-1960's and today; we seem to still be facing all of the arguments coming out of D.C. now that we were then. Things like the false dichotomies of "whether government should do X or Y", when the question needs to be, "should government be involved at all?"
In "The Nature of Government", Rand makes a compelling case defining the role that government plays:
The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action - a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today - lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force.
Because of this, government must be narrowly defined and tightly controlled to prevent that legal monopoly from being wielded by those with political pull to harm particular individuals or groups.
In "What is Capitalism?", the argument is that pure capitalism as a system is the only social/political structure that relies solely on the rights of the individual to better themselves without resorting to the use of physical force and taking what is needed from others.
In "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise", (the lack of) these two concepts in particular are starkly portrayed with references to early American railroad systems:
There were many forms of government help for these projects, such as federal land grants, subsidies, state bonds, municipal bonds, etc. A great many speculators started railroad projects as a quick means to get some government cash, with no concern for the future or the commercial possibilities of their railroads. They went through the motions of laying so many miles of shoddy rail, anywhere at all, without inquiring whether the locations they selected had any need for a railroad or any economic future. Some of those men collected the cash and vanished, never starting any railroad at all. This is the source of the popular impression that the origin of American railroads was a period of wild, unscrupulous speculation. But the railroads of this period which were planned and built by businessmen for a proper, private, commercial purpose were the ones that survived, prospered, and proved unusual foresight in the choice of their locations.
In another section of the same essay, after quoting two liberal journalists decrying the corruption of the railroads who "had bought senators and congressmen, just as they bought rails and locomotives...", we are asked to identify the actual parties of the corruption:
"..what could the railroads do, except try to 'own whole legislatures' if these legislatures held the power of life or death over them? What could the railroads do, except resort to bribery, if they wished to exist at all? Who was to blame and who was 'corrupt'--the businessmen who had to pay 'protection money' for the right to remain in business--or the politicians who held the power to sell that right?"
Over all, I found the essays in this collection to be extremely thought provoking. Rand is utterly scathing in some instances when speaking directly about socialism and Soviet Russia, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Essays by Alan Greenspan, Robert Hessen and Nathaniel Branden help to break up Rand's almost single-minded attraction to concepts covered in her book "Atlas Shrugged", and, especially those of Greenspan, bring in pointed rebukes of particular instances in which public policy, in the name of protecting the average man, has actually done more harm by eroding individual rights than good.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in economics, politics and the philosophy of individualism.(less)
A Game of Thrones is a marvelous start to what is promising to end as one of the best adult fantasy fiction series of my generation.
Martin is relentl...moreA Game of Thrones is a marvelous start to what is promising to end as one of the best adult fantasy fiction series of my generation.
Martin is relentless and wholly unforgiving in his portrayal of medieval life for royalty; the intrigue, betrayal and wholesale slaughter of friend and foe alike is utterly abysmal, and Martin shows no compunction in severing the ties to characters who at first seem integral to plot and world. the affect is a brutal, yet realistic story of the politics and power plays of lords and ladies, and how those plays drag the "smallfolk" of the lands into wars of attrition over matters that are entirely out of their world view.
Along with the stark language and miserable depredations that lend this series its realism, the matter of the more "fantastic" elements in the storyline is handled beautifully; these elements are introduced so slowly, and with such derision from the surrounding characters, that they, also, are entirely believable. Superstition is rife throughout the populous but, as with modern societies, those who believe too strongly are looked upon as barbarians, simple-minded or uneducated. In this way, the surreal is brought into the story so slowly that there is no suspension of belief.
highly recommended for anyone who loves the fantasy genre, but is tired of the formulaic representation and childish delivery that is so prevalent in its constituent novels.(less)