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Advocate Reason

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message 1: by Ilyn (last edited Jan 03, 2009 11:27AM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Reason is a prerequisite to happiness and freedom.

“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

- Thomas Jefferson

Please share your thoughts. Advocate reason.

message 2: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from the late great Thomas Paine:

Arguing with one who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

message 3: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Hello Matthew. Thank you for posting this quote.

message 4: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Thank you so much, Gary.

message 5: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 6 comments It was, of course, Descartes who declared, "I think, therefore I am." However, he does not address the moral obligation we have to ourselves to excercize reason. I have alway felt that my very existence demands my rational thought: "I am, therefore I will think."

In other words: Descartes before de horse.

message 6: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Hi Gary and Matthew.

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures
By John Allison

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

When your beliefs are in conflict with reality, it is never reality which is mistaken.

message 9: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Thank you, Brian, Matthew, & Gary.

message 10: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
New South Objectivists

message 11: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod

UCLA climate change panel — follow-up

Posted by Keith Lockitch: 17 Apr 2009 02:32 AM PDT

My speaking event with Willie Soon went off well. This is the third panel event we have done together and I expect we’ll continue to do them as opportunities arise.

Willie gave an excellent presentation that focused on debunking the claim that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the dominant driver of changes to the Earth’s climate.

I argued that the real threat we face is not the threat of becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate disasters, but the threat of coercive political policies aimed at cutting off our access to cheap, abundant energy. I also presented some basic facts concerning current energy consumption and the inadequacies of so-called green energy sources to supply our energy needs.

During the Q&A, I was challenged on the latter point by a student claiming that by covering the land area adjacent to American’s freeways with solar cells, one could produce enough electricity to meet America’s current demand.

I hadn’t heard that one before. I haven’t tried to dig up data regarding the surface area covered by our freeways, but I don’t dispute it in terms of the quantity of energy flowing from sunlight: it’s also true that if you covered the entire state of Utah with solar panels you could generate power equal to the whole world’s energy consumption–at least when the sun is out. But so what? Such facts are beside the point because they completely ignore practical realities.

To try to drive those realities home, I suggested to the questioner that if he thought it was such a great idea to install solar cells next to freeways then he should go ahead and launch it as a venture: start a company, draft a business plan, seek out investors and so on–and then go ahead and try to sell his electricity on the market.

I told him that my prediction would be that his venture would fail because among the myriad practical obstacles to the idea is the bottom line fact that there would be no way he could deliver power at anywhere close to a competitive per-kilowatt-hour rate.

I tried to make it clear that I have no objection to people exploring new ways of producing energy, including energy from solar and wind–as long as they do it on their own initiative, on their own property, and fund it with private capital.

What’s objectionable is the fact that technologies that are currently impractical and expensive are going to be forced upon us by sundry “energy czars” who, in the name of the latest environmentalist scare-scenario (the claim of catastrophic climate change), will blithely wreak havoc on the economy–and therefore on all of our lives.

The real threat we face is not “anthropogenic climate change,” but what you could call misanthropogenic climate policy.

message 12: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod

CO2 Restrictions: The real danger to “the health and welfare of current and future generations”

Posted by Alex Epstein: 24 Apr 2009 02:24 AM PDT

What is the biggest danger to Americans’ health and welfare? No, it’s not global warming — but it may well be global warming policy. In the name of fighting off hypothetical rises in average global temperature, our government has given itself draconian power to throttle energy sources that emits CO2 — which means, well over 80% of American production.

The first step was the Supreme Court’s decision last year that carbon dioxide, which every human breath produces and every green plant eats for breakfast, is a “pollutant” — and therefore subject to potentially unlimited control by the EPA. Now, the Obama EPA has announced that it plans to use its newfound power to the fullest.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration declared Friday that carbon dioxide and five other industrial emissions threaten the planet. The landmark decision lays the groundwork for federal efforts to cap carbon emissions — at a potential cost of billions of dollars to businesses and government.

The Environmental Protection Agency finding that the emissions endanger “the health and welfare of current and future generations” is “the first formal recognition by the U.S. government of the threats posed by climate change,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in a memo to her staff.

The power that this decision gives the EPA is enormous.

Using the Clean Air Act, the EPA could raise fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, such as by authorizing nationwide adoption of California’s rules for greenhouse-gas tailpipe emissions. [Given the state of California's economy, perhaps our policies should not be treated as a model.--AE:]

That could require auto makers to produce more hybrid and electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid under development by General Motors Corp. The Volt, however, is expected to carry a sticker of about $40,000, or roughly twice the price of a conventional Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

In electric power, the EPA could force new power plants to include emissions-reduction technology, although it is unclear whether emerging technologies to capture carbon-dioxide emissions would be feasible.

The EPA could order older power plants to be retrofitted, such as with more-efficient boilers, and it could mandate more reliance on wind and other renewable energy if coal-fired power plants can’t be made to run more cleanly. That could present technological and infrastructure challenges.

In other words, the EPA can dictate what kind of cars we may drive, what energy sources we use for power, what expensive add-ons are necessary for power plants, and anything else that is connected to CO2 emissions–i.e., everything else. (Note: in the article, the Obama administration says it supports global warming legislation that will transfer much of the power to dictate emissions from the EPA to other regulators; I find this no more comforting than Soviet citizens used to find a shuffling of chairs at the Politburo.) All of this power is justified by the view that CO2 emissions are a negative thing — which is justified by the theory that the aggregate CO2 emissions of all the world’s people are raising the average global temperature.

But all of this evades the incredible value of CO2 emissions in every aspect of our lives. Carbon energy has been and remains vital to the industrial society that has doubled human life-expectancies, and, among a million other benefits, enables us to cope with all manner of changes in climate (natural or manmade). There is simply no economic evidence that other sources of energy (besides nuclear, also opposed by environmentalists) can produce comparable amounts of energy at affordable prices. Therefore, CO2 emissions are a vital component of a modern standard of living. To call carbon energy harmful because it may create some warming through CO2, is like is like calling eating harmful because human beings create waste, or breathing harmful because it creates…CO2.

Right now, carbon-based sources of energy produce the most, cheapest energy, period — while sunshine and wind gusts, despite decades of subsidies and propaganda, produces an expensive 1% of our energy. If scientists and entrepreneurs can discover and implement superior sources that happen not to omit CO2, at better prices than today’s energy sources, great. But whether that happens or not, we need to recognize that our “health and welfare” depend on free markets producing industrial scale energy above all else — and that anyone who tries to shut down life-giving coal plants and oil rigs, in the name of avoiding bad weather, is an enemy of humanity.

message 13: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod

Pakistan’s Descent

Posted by Elan Journo: 27 Apr 2009 03:01 PM PDT

“Every day I see armed Taliban move around freely. At the time of prayer, if they see anyone in his shop or walking about, they whip him with a stick,” said a resident of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Yet those who are whipped can count themselves lucky by comparison with a man and woman who were executed for the alleged crime of adultery. This is the grisly reality of Islamist rule now swallowing up chunks of Pakistan.

The brazenness of the Islamists is astounding; the other day the Taliban stopped a Pakistani Army convoy heading into Swat and forced it to turn back. In large measure this confidence stems from the so-called peace deal that allows them to enforce sharia law in Swat Valley.

But the Pakistani government’s surrender has had another, little noted, effect: it has understandably demoralized many Pakistani citizens. This poignant story in the NYT sheds light on the experience of people in the area of Buner. There are also reports that people elsewhere are contemplating an exodus, for fear of what will become of their lives under Islamist rule.

I’m not sure which has a greater demoralizing effect on the innocents in Pakistan–the growing strength of the Islamists, or their national government’s capitulation (and perfunctory military responses). My sense is that it’s the latter, because it enables the gains of so vile a movement as the Taliban.

message 14: by Ilyn (last edited Apr 29, 2009 06:39PM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod

What’s wrong with bans on indecency?

Posted by Don Watkins: 28 Apr 2009 12:00 PM PDT

The Supreme Court has now upheld the FCC’s ability to regulate fleeting expletives. The Court sidestepped the constitutional question of whether such restrictions are at odds with the First Amendment. Instead, it stuck to procedural questions and reversed the Court of Appeals’ finding that the FCC’s fleeting expletive policy was “arbitrary and capricious.”

I’ve argued elsewhere that “indecency” regulations are inherently “arbitrary and capricious” (albeit not, perhaps, in the technical legal sense). One question I often get, however, is: Who cares? Why get so worked up about a few restrictions on vulgar language?

It’s a fair enough question. Who wants to hear four-letter words every time they turn on the TV, after all? But it’s not that opponents of indecency restrictions desperately crave crudity. It’s that we see the principle such restrictions endorse–and how threatening that principle is to the speech we do care about.

Consider how the Court justifies restrictions on indecent speech. According to the Court, free speech is not an absolute. It must be balanced against other “interests,” such as the state’s “interest” in the “well-being of its youth.” (No, that’s not a typo: its youth.) These interests can justify “the regulation of otherwise protected expression.” What about the speech curbed by indecency regulations? It lies “at the periphery of First Amendment concerns,” and since “Congress has made the determination that indecent material is harmful to children,” then the FCC can go ahead and fine broadcasters for it.
Now, ask yourself: what speech could possibly be safe in light of that kind of logic? What’s to stop Washington from determining that, say, the teaching of evolution is harmful to children, or that the state has an “interest” in silencing critics of Obama’s economic plan?

The principle endorsed by “indecency” regulations is that the state gets to decide what Americans can and can’t say. You cannot oppose that policy by haggling over what speech Washington decides is off limits this week–you have to challenge the notion that the government can make any speech off limits. You have to stand for a different principle: that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.”

message 15: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod

Ayn Rand: Capitalism’s enduring crusader

Posted by Tom Bowden: 30 Apr 2009 04:35 PM PDT

The title of this article in The Week magazine was so perfect, I made it the title of this post. Ayn Rand was indeed a crusader for capitalism, one whose works have proven to be enduring. Just witness the surging sales of Atlas Shrugged and the burgeoning interest in her philosophy.

The article has some factual errors (such as describing Alan Greenspan’s tenure at the Federal Reserve as the “apogee of Objectivism”) and misses some big points. However, I can’t resist quoting a few of the article’s better passages:

[I:]t was Atlas Shrugged that made her a national institution and gave the world a new philosophy, known as Objectivism.

What is Objectivism? Rand described it as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” The only social system consistent with this morality, Rand insisted, is pure, unfettered capitalism, and the only function of government is the protection of individual rights.
John Galt in his own words. The hero of Atlas Shrugged outlines Objectivism in a 60-page speech. These excerpts provide a sense of the character’s-and the author’s-intensity: “While you were dragging to your sacrificial altars the men of justice, of independence, of reason, of wealth, of self-esteem, I beat you to it, I reached them first. I told them the nature of the game you were playing and the nature of that moral code of yours, which they had been too innocently generous to grasp. I showed them the way to live by another morality-mine. It is mine that they chose to follow.”

…”The world will change when you are ready to pronounce this oath: I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.”

It’s never a bad day when thousands more readers are treated to a taste of Ayn Rand’s provocative point of view, in her own words. Qualified kudos to the editors of The Week.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Are you willing to follow reason to truth, even if or perhaps especially when reality (truth) is not of your liking?

message 17: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
I follow my convictions. Excerpt from Royal Serf:

In a live broadcast, Apollo declared his party’s fundamentals. “A political party based on reason, the MikeMilkenist Party honors the most glorious achievement on Earth: the Declaration of Independence. This party adheres to the philosophy of Objectivism, and holds that religion is a private choice for each individual.

My party’s concretes shall never contradict these fundamentals.

The MikeMilkenist Party salutes the uncommon man. A man of integrated body and soul, the uncommon man esteems his own mind and values happiness. He respects himself no matter how poor he may be and endeavors to rise to the greatest heights. He takes pride in work and achievement. He glories in pursuits of genius and happiness. He reveres Liberty. He cannot be ruled by men because he is ruled by reason.

The Declaration of Independence states, ‘We hold these truths …’

The truth is what conforms to reality. Honesty is the pursuit of truth; it is the refusal to evade or fake reality. George Washington said, ‘I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.’

The exalted purity to the pursuit of truth belongs to the field of philosophy. Objectivism advocates capitalism as the consequence and the ultimate practical application of its fundamental philosophical principles. Politics, the fourth branch of philosophy, is based on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. The political principles of this party are based on the facts of man’s nature and of man’s relationship to existence.

An intellectually honest individual concerned about alleviating human poverty and suffering uses the law of identity and the law of causality to discover their cause. A century laden with proofs, the unprecedented prosperity-explosion after the founding of the United States of America, would shine light on the answer: capitalism is the only social system that enables men to produce abundance - and the key to capitalism, to a coercion-free economic system, is individual freedom.

The metaphysically given is the standard of right or wrong. In order to succeed, an individual’s values and actions must conform to metaphysically given facts. Man cannot fly, so the Wright brothers invented the airplane; they found a way to counteract the force of gravity. Man cannot walk on water, so we build boats. Man cannot move a mountain, but we can build a tunnel through it. We can’t prevent earthquakes, so we must erect buildings that could withstand them. Man is a mortal being - doctors and pharmaceutical industries try to save and prolong lives.

The purpose of epistemology is to define a method of cognition that makes a fallible being capable of truth, a method that enables man to gain knowledge of an independent reality. Objectivity requires this method of cognition: logic.

Logic is noncontradictory identification within the full context of one’s knowledge.

Epistemology is a practical necessity – it guides man in the proper use of his conceptual faculty. Thinking, to be valid, must adhere to reality. If man’s goal is knowledge, rather than error or delusion, he must use reason.

Reason is the faculty that organizes perceptual units in conceptual terms by following the principles of logic. Reason is the existence-oriented faculty. It is the faculty of proof.

Knowledge, i.e. knowledge of reality, is contextual and hierarchical. Man’s only direct contact with reality is the data of sense – therefore, they are the standard of objectivity. Reduction is the means of connecting an advanced knowledge to reality, i.e. to the perceptually given, by retracing the essential logical structure of its hierarchical roots. Proof is a form of reduction.

Logic is the means of validating a conclusion objectively. Including the recognition of context and hierarchy, logic is the method of achieving objectivity. Only by using logic could man base his conclusions on reality.

message 18: by Ilyn (last edited May 10, 2009 06:44AM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
I totally agree with the reasoning and conclusions of the Signers:

The Declaration of Independence explicitly states the only function of government: ‘ — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — …’

message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited May 10, 2009 07:41AM) (new)

So that is a no... Hopefully others will answer in the affirmative.

That said clearly we have different goals then. I desire justice, liberty, and knowledge of reality (the last being necessary for the first two, and the first two being for all, not merely for myself). I am perfectly willing to follow where reason and reality lead, if I do not like what is necessarily true, then I abandon that false belief, because reality simply is never wrong.

As Thoreau realized so long ago, to be a philosopher is to so love reason as to live according to its dictates. I gladly live according to the dictates of reason and reality. And whenever and wherever belief (mine or that of others) is in conflict with reason and reality, I always place my bet on the sure thing: reality!

message 20: by Ilyn (last edited May 10, 2009 08:53AM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
It is very clear that we have different values, and that your understanding of concepts, like liberty - reason - reality, differs from mine. Clearly, you differ from Ayn Rand - Objectivism is not for anarchy.

Kudos to the Declaration signers and their concepts of government and liberty. Kudos to Thomas Jefferson, his definition of liberty, and his thoughts about reason.

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited May 10, 2009 08:44AM) (new)

You make a rather basic error when you embrace equivocation with regard to the ideas "liberty" "justice" "reason" and "reality"

None of these are subjective, as you clearly assert. These are objectively determined, not subject to changing to suit whim or desire.

BTW You differ from Rand and Objectivism as well as I have shown repeatedly previously. Your embracing of X = - X is but one fine example, as is the abandoning of reason for faith, but what is truly telling is that even here you are employing a fallacy: Appeal to (pseudo) authority. If you embraced reason, as you claim to, then you would seek to avoid such clear and simple fallacies (well you would seek to avoid all fallacies, but avoiding these clear and simple ones is quite easy.) Where Rand was right was where her statements corresponded with reality. Those statements were not right because she uttered them, but rather were correct because they correspond with reality.

If as you seem to imply, we are supposed to deny reality where it conflicts with your desires, then reality has a harsh lesson waiting for you at some point. Truth is determined not by matching with your desires, but rather with corresponding to reality.

For clarity's sake:

Reason: logic. (the application of logic, the following of logic to necessary conclusions)

Liberty: Self-ownership, self-rule, the absence of rulers, the absence of slavery, freedom. The state in which no other person or entity has a claim over your life.

Reality: what is.

True: the condition in which the belief, statement, assertion, etc. corresponds with reality.

False: condition in which the belief, statement, desire, assertion, etc. is not identical to reality, or is in conflict with reality.

If you are using the words to mean something else, then you are engaging in yet another fallacy: that of equivocation.

message 22: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
I agree with Ayn Rand and Thomas Jefferson.

message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited May 10, 2009 05:19PM) (new)

For those interested in reason, civil discussion, and the basic elements of intellectual discussion check out The Reasonable Woman by Wendy McElroy.

Becoming familiar with the common errors in discussions and arguments, as well as the strengths of reason will help avoid many of the gaffs and unfortunate assertions we see so often. This book is a great tool for that end. Ms McElroy writes in a way to make the material very accessible to the layperson, while offering insights of value even to those who have studied logic/reason for years. Far from a boring dry text, this book reads easily and smoothly.

See why appeals to authority do not support any claim. See why fallacies should be avoided, even or perhaps especially when the argument reaches a conclusion you actually like. See why persuasive arguments do not necessarily lead to true conclusions. See why the emotional reactions some choose to have when another offers a better argument, or offers a refutation, simply have no merit nor any place in any civil discussion. As Socrates cautioned us over two thousand years ago: Ideas are not our children we should not treat them as such. The point is that ideas should be compared to reality to determine truth, not against some emotional reaction. Insulting someone who offers refutation serves no purpose and does not support nor refute any argument or claim. Only comparison to reality can determine truth. This book helps us all avoid these simple, common, emotion based reactions which detract from learning, knowledge, and civil discussion.

Anyone engaging in any honest civil intellectual discussion, or even reading the heated diatribes we so often see, should have this book on their shelves.

message 24: by Ilyn (last edited May 16, 2009 04:27AM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
VOICES for REASON - Here’s one you won’t hear from Al Gore

Posted by Keith Lockitch: 15 May 2009 02:27 AM PDT

For years, scientists critical of the claims of catastrophic, man-made climate change have pointed out that even if the earth were warming–whether from human causes or not–there would be many positive benefits. For instance, warmer climate conditions combined with higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide–a.k.a. plant food–would dramatically promote plant growth. (See here for evidence this has already occurred, due to today’s CO2 levels and the slight temperature increase since the ’80s.)

The response from climate change alarmists has been either to completely ignore or dismiss such evidence–or, more recently, to trot out all manner of studies asserting that higher CO2 levels would primarily benefit harmful, pollen-spewing villains such as ragweed. And the media, of course, dutifully chimes in with gloomy headlines such as “Allergies Getting Worse Due to Global Warming” or “Climate Change: Something to Sneeze At.”

Well, here are some other “inconvenient truths” you won’t hear from Al Gore.

Scientists attempting to explain why flu is so seasonal have found evidence suggesting that the flu virus spreads faster in colder, drier conditions. An author of the study, Dr. Peter Palese of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was interviewed on NPR last Friday:

“What we found specifically was that cold temperatures, around 40 degrees, and low humidity–exactly the conditions in temperate zones in winter–are much more favorable for transmission of flu,” Palese says. “At 75 to 80 degrees, we don’t see any transmission.”

That’s partly because of how temperature and humidity affect flu viruses, and partly because of how the environment affects the respiratory tracts of humans and other mammals.

Palese says flu viruses are more stable in colder, drier conditions.

Equally important, the droplets of fluid that people (and guinea pigs) spray with each sneeze and cough are much smaller at lower temperatures and humidity levels. So these droplets carry much farther and stay suspended in the air longer.

The droplets also penetrate deeper into the respiratory passages and lungs when breathed in, Palese says.

“At higher humidity, the droplets become much bigger and sink to the floor,” he adds.

Colder, drier air also affects mammals’ respiratory tracts in a way that gives flu viruses a boost.

So a warmer and more humid climate could be a huge benefit to flu sufferers. It’s too bad that global average temperatures have plateaued and currently appear to be declining.

message 25: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Video for Royal Serf, a political thriller:

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message 27: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Why we have free speech in America - Part I

Posted by Don Watkins: 17 Jun 2009 02:00 AM PDT

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of visiting Montpelier, the former home of James Madison. There were conspicuously few visitors–and none of the others appeared to be under 70 years of age. It was emblematic, I think, of how little awareness there is of the Founding Fathers today. Sure, we still invoke them regularly, but how many Americans actually study their writings?

Contrary to conservatives, the primary value of studying the Founders is not to learn about our “great traditions.” It’s to discover great minds wrestling with important ideas. And if you think their arguments aren’t relevant to today, think again.

In the wake of the recent series of apparently ideologically-motivated shootings, a growing number of voices are warning us that we are seeing the perils of free speech. The most open statement I found was on the Daily Kos blog; its author was someone who posts as “citisven.” The post was titled, “Why we don’t have ‘free speech’ in Germany.” (You’ll have to ask citisven why he put free speech in scare quotes.)

In Germany, where I’m from, we collectively decided after what happened in the 1930’s and 40’s that there are limits to free speech. Yes, you can have reasonable disagreements, but you cannot incite violence nor can you say things that are blatantly and patently false. Thus it is illegal to display swastikas or say that the holocaust never happened. . . . In light of the recent murders at the Holocaust Museum and the Wichita church it seems to be a fair question whether freedom of speech is an absolute right or whether it should be limited in certain circumstances.

You can read the entire thing for his defense of Germany’s restrictions. But the basic idea is that free speech goes too far. Sure, people should be able to have “reasonable” disagreements–but they shouldn’t be able to advocate any idea. Ideas that “incite violence” or are “blatantly and patently false” should be taken off the table.

Given how crucial the right to free speech is to the maintenance of a free society–and given how many martyrs to that freedom fill the pages of history–you might think that advocates of restricting speech would take great care to understand and grapple with the ideas of the Founding Fathers. But you would be wrong.

Notice, first of all, how citisven blends together two fundamentally different things: “blatant and patently false” speech, and “incitement to violence.” The Founders recognized that these were two essentially different issues that had to be addressed separately.

First, take the notion that the government should ban speech that is “blatantly and patently false.”

According to this view, we gain nothing from “blatant” falsehoods, and we risk much harm by failing to squelch them. We gain nothing by allowing people to deny the Holocaust–and we risk another one if those who hold this position are free to advocate it.

Before the Founders, virtually everyone took it for granted that the government should ban the communication of so-called “false facts.” But leading American thinkers identified that such a doctrine threatened all speech.

In his dazzling 1799 defense of free speech, George Hay (a member of the Virginia House of Delegates at the time) warned that, should the government start restricting “false” speech:

The officers of the government would have a right to invade this fortification, and to make prisoners of the garrison, whenever they thought there was a failure in the duty of publishing only the truth, of which failure persons chosen by the government are to judge. This is too absurd even for ridicule.

Hay was saying that allowing the government to suppress falsehoods would make the government the judge of truth–and that that would mean the end of free thought. He went on to argue that there is nothing to fear from falsehoods under a regime of free speech, that “truth was always equal to the task of combating falsehood without the aid of government; because in most instances it has defeated falsehood, backed by all the power of government. . . . [T:]ruth cannot be impressed upon the human mind by power, with which therefore, it disdains an alliance, but by reason and evidence only.”

And Hay wasn’t alone. A popular 1801 tract by John Thomson took up the issue of censoring falsehoods and concluded that, “Let not the Government interfere,” even in the communication of blatant untruths. “In no case whatever use coercive measures. . . . Coercion may silence, but it can never convince.”

In his Notes on the Virginia Resolutions, a tour de force in defense of free speech, James Madison argued that trying to limit censorship to false facts and opinions was hopeless. In order to protect the discovery and communication of true ideas, Madison argued that the Founders had made sure to erect an unqualified, unrestricted principle barring the government from restricting speech: “[I:]t would seem scarcely possible to doubt that no power whatever over the press was supposed to be delegated by the Constitution as it originally stood; and that the amendment was intended as a positive and absolute reservation of it.”

In my next post, I will discuss the Founders discussion of the second kind of case: ideas that should supposedly be suppressed on the grounds that they “incite violence.”

message 28: by Ilyn (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Republican Party of Virginia 2009 State Convention—Keynote Address

message 31: by Ilyn (last edited Jul 17, 2009 09:22PM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Voices for Reason

Wanted: serious students of Ayn Rand’s philosophy

Posted by Debi Ghate: 17 Jul 2009 02:14 AM PDT

The Objectivist Academic Center is currently accepting applications for its Fall 2009 incoming class. Designed to provide a comprehensive and systematic study of the philosophy of Objectivism and the art of objective communication as well as an introduction to philosophy more broadly, this unique program is for those who are serious about advocating pro-reason, pro-individual rights, pro-capitalism views.

The program is especially designed for full-time college students, for whom there is next to no cost. Applications from professionals interested in pursuing careers as intellectual activists are also welcome.

For those who are not able to commit to a full program, the OAC offers an auditing option. Consider taking our “Seminar in Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism.”

The final application deadline for this year is July 31, 2009.

message 32: by Ilyn (last edited Jul 25, 2009 05:42AM) (new)

Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Ayn Rand Institute Announces $2 Million Fundraising Campaign—the Atlas Shrugged Initiative

IRVINE, CA, July 24, 2009—The Ayn Rand Institute has announced a $2 million fundraising campaign — the Atlas Shrugged Initiative—in an unprecedented effort to increase readership of Ayn Rand’s best-known novel, Atlas Shrugged.

The impetus behind the Atlas Shrugged Initiative, explains ARI President and Executive Director Yaron Brook, is the fact that “At no time in history has there been greater public interest in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. And its message has never been more urgent.

“The torrent of destructive, statist policies emanating from Washington represents both a crisis—and an opportunity. Through the Atlas Shrugged Initiative, we intend to capitalize on the soaring grassroots interest in Ayn Rand and her ideas.”

Adds Dr. Brook, “The Atlas Shrugged Initiative is off to an outstanding start. A very generous benefactor has already offered to match every dollar donated to this Initiative—up to a total of $500,000—and as a result of early and substantial funding, the bookstore promotions that are a key component of the Initiative are already well underway.”

Key elements of the Atlas Shrugged Initiative include significant bookstore promotions of the novel; an expansion of ARI’s web-based efforts to spur readership of Atlas Shrugged; expansion of ARI’s long-running educational programs for high school and college students; and targeted outreach to pro-liberty, pro-capitalist activists around the nation.

Visit the Ayn Rand Institute’s Atlas Shrugged Initiative campaign page to learn more or to support this campaign.

### ### ###

Dr. Yaron Brook is available for interviews. To interview Dr. Brook or book him for your show, please e-mail

For more articles by Yaron Brook, and his bio, click here:

Copyright © 2009 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.

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Voices for Reason

Sotomayor’s mask of objectivity

Posted by Tom Bowden: 31 Jul 2009 01:00 AM PDT

“Sotomayor Emphasizes Objectivity”—that was the headline in a recent Washington Post. It was a line worthy of the satirical newspaper known as The Onion, which deals routinely in turning the tables for humor’s sake, inverting truth and fiction. And the newly objective Sonia Sotomayor is a pure work of fiction.

During her hearings, Sotomayor said all the right things. She told the committee that her judicial philosophy is “fidelity to the law.” She told Senator Jon Kyl that the “job of the judge is to apply the law” and “it’s not the heart that compels conclusions in cases.” She told him: “We apply law to facts. We don’t apply feelings to facts….” And she passed off her famous “wise Latina” remark as a “rhetorical flourish” meant to inspire other minorities, not to express her philosophy of judging.

Based on this performance, Sotomayor is virtually certain to be confirmed for the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to submit her nomination to the full Senate. But how are the senators supposed to square her recent professions of judicial objectivity with her public paeans to the opposite view?

When Sotomayor claimed that a Latina judge will usually make better decisions than a white male, she was not just dispensing a “rhetorical riff” in the emotional heat of the moment. On the contrary, that claim was the thematic centerpiece of her 2001 speech, “A Latina Judge’s Voice.” You have to read the whole speech. It’s all of a piece. Anyone can be forgiven a “rhetorical flourish” which, taken out of context, conveys a view contrary to one’s well-considered opinions. But that’s not what happened in that speech (later authorized by her to be reprinted as a law review article). The speech/article is a complex, extended meditation on “how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul,” and the inevitable relativism that sex, race, and upbringing impose on the task of judging cases in court.

As Senator Kyl observed, the speech did not convey that prejudices based on race, gender, and upbringing must be fought and surmounted by careful, rational identification and extirpation. On the contrary, Kyl told her “you seem to be celebrating it.” And indeed, that’s the only objective interpretation of her speech/article.

At the hearing, she responded defiantly by saying: look at my written decisions and tell me where the prejudice is. But that’s no defense—it’s just a confession that she can’t get away with what she’s preaching, so long as objectivity retains any status as a judicial ideal. It’s as if a teacher who advocates for biblical creationism in the public schools were to say, “I’m no danger to the separation of church and state—just show me when I’ve ever taught the Bible in class before now.”

Sotomayor should not be allowed to get away with claiming that her stated ideas are just so much hot air, having no real-world significance. Consider, for example, the following statements from her speech: “Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see,” and “‘there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives.’” If those words mean anything, what do they permit? At a minimum, they permit trial judges to rationalize a choice to select which facts to consider, and which to ignore, based on his or her personal “perspective.” Which facts? Well, you might never know, because the decision to consider or ignore facts will be made in the privacy of the judge’s mind. This is subjectivism—the idea that one’s emotional reactions are a sufficient basis for making intellectual decisions. No appellate court, not even the Supreme Court, can be expected to catch and correct such subjective corruption of the fact-finding process.

And that’s just for starters. As the most prominent current advocate of non-objective judging, Sotomayor will be able to influence the entire judiciary in this direction, using the prestige of her new position on the nation’s highest court. Will her accession send the Court immediately into a downward spiral of blatant subjectivity? No, of course not. These things take time. She will be one among nine justices. She will be watched closely. But while her every word is parsed for subliminal racism, judges throughout the land will be able to cite a Supreme Court justice in their defense if they happen to get caught “choosing what facts to see” based on their race, gender, or upbringing.

In in the long run, Sotomayor’s subjectivism can be expected to further undermine the already-discredited idea that the U.S. Constitution has objective meaning. (See my article on “Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution.”) And that will spell disaster for the Supreme Court’s ability to protect individual rights.

Ask any parent. Which best reflects a child’s true beliefs: what he says to his friends when no one else is listening, or what he says to adults when they’ve called him on the carpet? When Sonia Sotomayor was chatting among friends (in speeches and articles), she revealed the soul of a thoroughgoing subjectivist. But now her “parents,” the members of the United States Senate, seem willing to accept her lip service to objectivity at face value. Unfortunately, it is the American people who will suffer for the Senate’s lack of intellectual discipline.

There is still an opportunity for the Senate to do the right thing: Sonia Sotomayor should be denied confirmation to the post of associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

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Where’s Exxon’s “windfall losses” tax credit?
Posted By Alex Epstein: 30 Jul 2009 01:26 PM PDT

For years, every time Exxon Mobil and other successful oil companies made a large profit, they were blasted for making “too much” money, hauled in front of Congress to explain themselves, and threatened with a “windfall profits” tax.

Well, now that Exxon and Shell have just revealed that their profits fell 2/3 from last year, is Congress going to offer them a sympathy card, an apology, and a “windfall losses” tax credit? After all, if the oil industry deserves extra taxation just for making unusually high profits, shouldn’t it receive compensatory tax credits when its profits crash? Why the double standard?

Of course, Congress has no interest in fairness or consistency with regard to oil companies. If it did, it would be grateful to them for providing a product vital to our lives, admire their efficiency and profitability, and recognize that what they really deserve — and have an inalienable right to — is to be free of government interference, with complete responsibility for their losses and an absolute right to their profits.

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Destination? Non-victory
August 4, 2009 by Elan Journo

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Ayn Rand on the Fairness Doctrine
August 3, 2009 by Don Watkins

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To give opinions unsupported by reasons might appear dogmatical. [George Washington, to Alexander Spotswood, November 22, 1798, from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover:]

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Genachowski is right to oppose the Fairness Doctrine – Part II
July 7, 2009 by Don Watkins

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UCLA climate change panel — follow-up
April 17, 2009 by Keith Lockitch

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Sotomayor’s oath: fingers crossed?
June 22, 2009 by Tom Bowden

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
The Iranian regime’s true character
June 19, 2009 by Elan Journo

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
The Vatican’s assault on capitalism (part 1)
August 5, 2009 by Alex Epstein

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The Vatican’s assault on capitalism (part 2)
August 6, 2009 by Alex Epstein

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
In Defense of Oil
August 19, 2009 by Alex Epstein

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Taliban wins in Afghan election
August 25, 2009 by Elan Journo

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
How to eliminate health care injustices (part 2)
August 28, 2009 by Alex Epstein

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Ilyn Ross (Ilyn_Ross) | 538 comments Mod
Government health care in America – part 1
September 2, 2009 by Jeff Scialabba

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Eminent domain “abuse”?
September 3, 2009 by Tom Bowden

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Surrender in book on Mohammad cartoons
September 4, 2009 by Elan Journo

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The unfairness of “fair speech”
September 10, 2009 by Don Watkins

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