Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who kidnapped Ben Stein?

I used to get a kick out of Ben Stein, he was a funny, nerdy guy who appeared to understand economics and markets. He was a pop culture voice for freedom and economic education.

Now he's claiming that Darwinism is just a form of imperialism that has no proof and gave us the Holocaust.


There might be intelligent critiques of Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, evolutionary theory, but Stein demonstrates that he knows neither about the theories nor the criticisms.

He should clearly stick to economics and Ferris Bueller movies.

NY Times article about the movie.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bidinotto goes after Ron Paul

Robert Bidinotto has his take on Ron Paul and why his foreign policy view "is sufficient to completely disqualify him for any American public office, let alone for the role of commander in chief of the U.S. military."

Bidinotto frames his analysis in a unique and interesting way, comparing non-interventionist libertarians to those who are always making excuses--sociological, environmental, or otherwise--for domestic crime. He argues that at root both views share an attack on American culture and values because these are held to be the causal factors behind the terrorists and the criminal. It is our cultural 'imperialism' that causes the terrorists to attack us and it is our culture that causes the criminal to be a criminal. The analogy is a bit of a stretch, but I think it does provide some food for thought on parallels between libertarians like Paul and Rothbard before him and modern liberals.

(See my post on Ron Paul).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

CFP: What is Liberty Studies

What should undergraduate college students be learning about liberty? That's a great question, one posed by the The Center for Liberty Studies at the first Liberty Studies Conference. Below is the CFP for the conference.

First Conference on Liberty Studies

What is Liberty Studies?

5 - 6 April 2008

The College of New Jersey
Ewing, New Jersey

Call for Papers

The first annual Liberty Studies Conference, sponsored by The Center for Liberty Studies, will be held this April 5 - 6 at The College of New Jersey in Ewing New Jersey. The theme of our conference is "What is Liberty Studies?" This conference will put forth various ideas of what would constitute Liberty Studies by starting a debate and discussion concerning what undergraduate students ought to be learning about liberty. We are looking to disseminate substantive ideas that professors can consider for their own classes and home institutions.

Papers are welcome on any topic in liberty and from any discipline. We are looking for submissions that are accessible to a wide audience. Bibliographies and works cited should be limited to those works that either will be directly used in the classroom or are deemed important for instructor reference. Reading time of papers should be approximately 20 minutes. Accepted papers will be published in the new online Journal of Liberty Studies.

Abstracts of no less than 250 words are due by January 15th. Email submissions to Early submission is encouraged.

For more information about Liberty Studies and The Center for Liberty Studies, please visit our website at

This year we are holding our conference in conjunction with the 35th Conference on Value Inquiry "Values and Medicine". For information on the Conference on Value Inquiry go to

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Orthodoxy to Humanism

Here's an interesting post by Rabbi David Gruber explaining why he left Orthodox Judaism for secular humanism. He starts with the growth of his misgivings and then goes into detail on why he thinks the main claims of Orthodoxy are wrong--even immoral, because, as he says "it had robbed me of my individuality."

His new philosophy of life is:
I wish to base my life on a non-theistic world outlook that recognizes the supremacy of reason, and the dignity of the human being, who can and must stand alone in this world, and whose accomplishments and perseverance in an incredible and beautiful, while hostile and indifferent universe can and should be celebrated.

Hear! Hear!

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Python...No it isn't

The famous Argument Sketch:

Nietzsche's piling up the yellow cards

Monty Python's International Philosophy Match sketch:

Favorite Line: "Aristotle very much the man in form"

Hat tip: Philosopher Stone

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In Memoriam: Sylvia (2001-2007)

Our little Sylvia is gone. She died Monday evening.

Sylvia was battling cancer since August. She had a brief remission after chemo treatment (from the wonderful UW-Vet hospital and Mostly Cats) and seemed to be doing better until about 2 weeks ago. The cancer was back and she began to regress quickly. There just wasn’t anything more to be done for her.

Kristen called me around 5pm and told me Sylvia was fading fast. I canceled class and rushed to the vet’s office to meet Kristen. When Kristen and I met there, Sylvia was already gone.

Sylvia will be cremated and buried with a perennial plant as memorial.

She will be greatly missed by Kristen and I, and Malcom and Bella. There is a void in our hearts that will never be filled.

Update: Added the link to Mostly Cats on 11/14, 5.36 PM

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Book Meme Part two

Patrick added some books to the book meme, So I thought I’d add them to my list as well.


The Lord of the Rings

Harry Potter (1-7)

The Wheel of Time

To Kill a Mockingbird

I am embarrassed about not having ever finished this.

The Great Gatsby

First read for school, but have since reread and still like it.

A Room with a View

Read for a girl. Have to say from what I remember, I didn’t like it. As a man of more mature taste, I’d like to give it another shot at some point.

The Princess Bride

Does the movie count?

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

I Know. What kind of libertarian am I??!

Smilla's Sense of Snow

Animal Farm

Gone With the Wind

Lord of the Flies


A Passage to India

I saw the movie and liked it. This is what makes me want to give E M Forester another chance.

Heart of Darkness

The World According to Garp

The Cider House Rules

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Stranger in a Strange Land

The Stand



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

On the Beach

The Sun Also Rises

Women in Love

The Trial

As I Lay Dying

The Tin Drum

The Tropic of Cancer

Fahrenheit 451

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Ah the simpler times of Judy Blume

Naked Lunch

The Big Sleep

Chandler’s great and is a must read for anyone who likes mysteries. And of course Marlowe is the inspiration for Spenser.

The Maltese Falcon

See the previous entry but change Chandler to Hammett. Is anyone as cool as Sam Spade?
Never Let Me Go

Remains of the Day

The Red Badge of Courage

Kill me now!

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Hunt for Red October

The Dark Knight


Invisible Man

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Read for school during spring break trip in Jamaica. Clearly I recall nothing.

The Stranger

Bonfire of the Vanities

The Right Stuff

Things Fall Apart

The Way of All Flesh

The Wizard of Oz

Little Women

Tom Sawyer

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

And I was an English major. Go figure.

Charlotte's Web

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

James and the Giant Peach

Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of Nimh

The Little House Books

Remembrance of Things Past

Tom Jones

The Wings of the Dove

Brideshead Revisited


The Hound of the Baskervilles

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Paul Follow-Up

Several readers have charged me with misunderstanding or misconstruing Paul's position on some or another area, usually citing some op-ed or other piece Paul has written. Now these may be Paul's positions; however, I really only know what is on his campaign website and his statement on the issues posted there. I have not followed Paul's career and writings.

I find it curious, though, that his campaign website doesn't make Paul's best case. Several readers have indicated that Paul is all about free trade, not protectionism; so why doesn't he say this on his campaign website? He focuses there only on international agreements and how they undermine our sovereignty. Why doesn't he say, Social Security is unconstitutional and we should work to replace it. Instead he focuses there on keeping our promises to our seniors.

This may just be campaign rhetoric, but then where is the great principled defender of liberty? He hides his most important liberty views on his official campaign website statement of the issues. How odd.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Book Meme

These meme is making its way around. I got it from Freespace.

1. Bold what you have read
2. Italicize what you started but couldn’t finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Anna Karenina

Crime and Punishment
Started for some class, but never finished. I intend to finish at some point.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion

Life of Pi: a novel

The Name of the Rose

Don Quixote

Moby Dick
One day, that's right, read it one day for a class in college. I remember being more interested that I expected too. Skip the chapters that covering the history of whales and whaling.


Madame Bovary

The Odyssey
Audio books count, right?
Pride and Prejudice

Jane Eyre

A Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov
Really wanted to like this, but just couldn't get through it.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies

War and Peace
BBC radio dramatization count?
Vanity Fair

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Iliad
Currently making my way through Lattimore's translation.

The Blind Assassin

The Kite Runner

Mrs. Dalloway

Great Expectations

American Gods

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Atlas Shrugged

Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books

Memoirs of a Geisha



Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales

The Historian: a novel

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera

Brave New World

The Fountainhead

Foucault’s Pendulum



The Count of Monte Cristo


A Clockwork Orange
Hated it. Too violent and weird.
Anansi Boys

The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible: a novel


Angels & Demons

The Inferno

The Satanic Verses

Sense and Sensibility

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

To the Lighthouse

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Oliver Twist

Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables

The Corrections

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time


The Prince

The Sound and the Fury

Angela’s Ashes: a memoir

The God of Small Things

A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present



A Confederacy of Dunces

A Short History of Nearly Everything


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Always heard such wonderful things. Couldn't get through the first 20 pages.


The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Should be mandatory reading for anyway who ever uses the English language.

The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake : a novel

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Cloud Atlas

The Confusion



Northanger Abbey

The Catcher in the Rye
Holden was my hero when I first read this as a young teenage. Totally connected with him when I reread it in high school. Thought he was silly when I read it again in college.
On the Road

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an Inquiry into Values

The Aeneid

Watership Down

Gravity’s Rainbow

The Hobbit

In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

White Teeth

Treasure Island

David Copperfield

The Three Musketeers

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ron Paul: More Robertson than Goldwater

We inaugurated The Rockford Individualist Collective (TRIC) on Saturday, October 27, 2007. Our discussion was on Congressman Ron Paul and whether Objectivist or “Objectivish” folks should support his president candidacy. The informal consensus appeared to be a ‘no.’

I thought I’d share some of my reasons for not supporting Congressman Paul. My read is that Ron Paul is more Pat Robertson than Barry Goldwater.

His campaign website presents 11 issues. I’ll comment on each of the issues below.

Debt and Taxes

I don’t have any serious objections to Paul’s view here. Essentially, he seems to want to limit and control federal spending by sticking to the Constitution and powers expressed granted by that document. He does some overly worried about foreign banks owning Federal debt. This fact, in it of itself, doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, it seems to show a fundamental long-term soundness to the American economy because foreign banks are willing to buy US treasury bonds and the like.

My worry here with Paul is that he appears to be striking an anti-foreigner note. “It’s those pesky foreigners!”

American Independence and Sovereignty

This section raises some red flags. Paul believes that various free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico are threats to our freedoms, in part, because there is “a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico” and “create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system.”

Besides the worrisome and loony conspiracy-theorist elements, this highlights one of Paul’s great weaknesses. He’s against opening up of trade. He worries that foreign companies will take U.S. jobs and that free trade undermines sovereignty. This protectionism alone undermines the claim that Paul is a libertarian.

War and Foreign Policy

Though this is where much of Paul’s growing popularity is coming from, this is where I have the biggest problem with Paul. His isolationism is dangerous and unrealistic. He appears to accept the view, unfortunately peddled by the otherwise great Cato Institute, that if only we would leave the Islamists alone they would not attack us.

No. This is not a case of ignore the bully and hope he leaves us alone. Nor is this a case where the Islamists have legitimate or reasonable gripes against American foreign policy--certainly nothing that remotely justifies taking up arms against Americans. These Islamists are in this fight to destroy us because we are free and secular; because we are not strict Muslims. (See David Kelley's "The Assault on Civilization" They will not quit this fight because we leave Iraq or even stop our important support of Israel.

Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of invading Iraq when we did, it would be foolish and dangerous to leave now. It would quickly become a dangerous Islamist state. Also, we need to be there to attack Iran before it goes nuclear, but that’s another story.

I’ve always differed from the mainstream isolationist view of many libertarians. I believe we need a principled foreign policy that encourages and supports free societies through out the world. This sometimes requires providing military or other support to such societies: like Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, etc. This is justified on the basis of our self-interest in having more strong free societies through out the world. This also means that sometimes we have to destroy regimes that pose significant threats to ourselves and our allies.

Paul’s foreign policy is essentially: buy our goods but then go away and please don’t bomb us.

Life and Liberty

Another major strike against Paul is his anti-abortion stance. He has sponsored bills that would block Federal courts from protecting the reproductive rights of individuals where state laws prevent abortions.

Besides the problem of being anti-abortion, this points to a more general concern with Paul. He apparently thinks that State’s should be left free to violate individual rights. The Federal government on his view should not interfere with state laws that prohibit abortion, homosexuality, or religious freedom.

Related to this issue, Paul apparently doesn’t support the separation of church and state. He also advocates using federal power to prevent homosexual unions and marriage (and where’s the expressed authority for that in the Constitution, Mr. Paul?)

Second Amendment

No problems here.

Social Security

My biggest gripe here is that for a man that claims that he “never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution,” he does not speak out against Social Security. He merely wants to reform it and make it solvent and he’s introduced legislation to that effect.

Border Security and Immigration Reform

His anti-immigration stance is as unacceptable, and as un-libertarian, as his protectionist stance on trade.

Privacy and Personal Liberty

“The biggest threat to your privacy is the government” Hear! Hear! It is comments like this that attract the attention of libertarians and other pro-freedom advocates. Paul is also a strong critic of the Patriot Act. As a whole the Patriot Act is a dangerous threat to our freedoms, and Paul’s voice is important here.

Property Rights and Eminent Domain

Paul is pretty good here. Though he doesn’t mention any legislation he has sponsored on this front.

Health Freedom

My criticism here is similar to my concerns under Social Security. He appears to accept the current system and doesn’t speak out against the FDA. Most disconcerting, he doesn’t mention at all the plans by most of the other presidential candidates that would nationalize health care. He’s at the forefront of making sure we don’t lose our right to take what ever vitamins or supplements we want to take, but he has nothing to say about HillaryCare or Medicare? That seems out of whack to me.

Home Schooling

I don’t have a problem with his view’s on home schooling. The worry here is that while he wants to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home schooling, what about other types of schooling?

While Paul talks the talk at times for libertarianism and pro-liberty, I don’t think he walks the walk. He is on the side of anti-liberty forces on immigration, trade, reproductive rights, and religion. He advocates dangerous and irresponsible foreign policy views. He is, at worse, a hypocrite and, at best, inconsistent and superficial when he claims he only supports legislation expressly authorized by the Constitution. Legislation that he sponsored and cites on his own website belies this view. He doesn’t speak out against clearly un-constitutional proposals, such as nationalizing health care. Nor does he speak out against already established, yet not constitutionally authorized, programs and agencies, such as the FDA, Medicare, Social Security, and the Department of Education.

I do not see a principled defense or advocacy of liberty here. I see a man using the ideas of liberty to protect his view of America as a white, Christian country. That is not good for liberty, libertarianism, or America.

Update: I also recommend reading Timothy Sandefur's post Ron Paul: a threat to serious libertarians

Update 2(12/28/O7): Since I originally wrote this post, Paul has updated his website and added more issues. I hope to have an expanded analysis soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Review Online

My review of Tara Smith's Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist is now online at The New Individualist. The review was published in the magazine's Atlas Shrugged 50th Anniversary tribute.

The review summed up in a few words: worthwhile book that has some flaws.