Saturday, March 04, 2006

Welcome to the Inaugural Carnival of the Objectivists!

Welcome! I'm Nicholas Provenzo, founder and chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, and I'd like to welcome you to the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Objectivists. For those unfamiliar with Objectivism, it is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and an uncompromising advocate for reason, egoism, and capitalism. Today’s mission is to highlight just a few of the many Objectivist blogs on the Internet, so without further adieu, let me introduce . . .

::Noodlefood

Noodlefood is a group blog primarily written by Objectivist graduate student Diana Hsieh and includes posts from her husband Paul Hsieh as well as Don Watkins. This has been a bellwether week for Noodlefood, which is helping Denver-based Front Range Objectivism host this weekend’s Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial System. The conference received an excellent op-ed mention by Ari Armstrong in the Boulder Weekly. Other posts of interest include the flood of replies to Diana Hsieh's post asking her readers what originally "hooked" them into studying Objectivism.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Diana Hsieh holds a coveted position on Instapundit's blogroll, which means either her blog is just that good, or she's got dirt on Glenn Reynolds nasty habits. Heh--Indeed!

::Gus Van Horn

Gus Van Horn is the nom de plume of a scientist residing in Houston, Texas and author of a popular pro-reason, pro-individual rights political and cultural blog. This week, Van Horn dipped his toes into editorial waters, writing the following op-ed on the contrast between the American response to the Kelo decision and the Islamic response to the Mohammad cartoons.

Van Horn’s key observation:

A man's home is his castle, but only if he is a free man. Yet if we here in America are afraid simply to print some innocuous cartoons, our home is no longer our castle. It has become our prison, and the Moslems have become our jailers. The fight to protect our home was not won after Kelo. It really only began in earnest with the cartoon riots and the threat to freedom of speech they represent.

Our press has been deterred from its duty to report the news -- by printing the cartoons the rioters used as an excuse for murder -- by that very same violence. The threat to our home, America, may be more abstract this time around, but it is no less immediate or important. The time to defend it – by demanding that our politicians stand up for freedom of speech -- is now.

I'm pleased to report that Van Horn allowed CAC to add his article our op-ed collection and I hope this collaboration continues to bear fruit.

::The Objective Standard

The Objective Standard is Craig Biddle's new journal. Biddle sent me an advance copy and he clearly has set a new high-watermark for Objectivist commentary and critical review. Biddle defines the Standard as follows:

It is widely believed today that our cultural and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left—or to those of the religious, absolutist right—or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, one’s ideas are supposedly either extremely liberal or extremely conservative or somewhere in-between. We at The Objective Standard reject this false alternative and embrace an entirely different view of the world.

Our view is fully secular and absolutist; it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in-between. Our philosophy uncompromisingly recognizes and upholds the natural (this-worldly), factual, moral foundations of a fully free, civilized society.

Culturally, we advocate scientific advancement, productive achievement, objective (as opposed to “progressive” or faith-based) education, romantic art—and, above all, reverence for the faculty that makes all such values possible: reason. Politically, we advocate pure, laissez-faire capitalism—the social system of individual rights and strictly limited government—along with the whole moral and philosophical structure on which it depends. In a word, we advocate Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and apply its principles to the cultural and political issues of the day.

Ayn Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth.” The reason why it is a philosophy for living on earth is that its every principle is derived from the observable facts of reality and the demonstrable requirements of human life and happiness.
Needless to say, The Objective Standard is going to be an important tool in the advance of Ayn Rand’s ideas.

::Cox and Forkum

No Carnival of Objectivists would ever be complete without noting the stupendous achievements of Cox and Forkum, the hands-down most intelligent, most original editorial cartoonists in America today. Here's their latest:




These men are incredible and I wish them continued success.

::Literatrix

Literatrix is the personal blog of Jennifer Snow, who posts include book reviews such as her recent examination of the works of Thomas Paine. According to Snow:

My initial impression is that this man was the absolute nuclear generator of quotes; even more so than Ayn Rand, and she is eminently quotable. The reason that both were very quotable is, in my mind, that both spent their time turning a vast complexity of information into simple, memorable principles. They are different, though, in that when you quote Ayn Rand, you have to remember that you are summoning up a vast context for your quote and be careful not to oversimplify the case. Thomas Paine’s quotes generally require little or no context, and he frequently manages to oversimplify the case without the interference of any outside agency.


::Alexander Marriott's Wit and Wisdom

Alexander Marriott is another graduate student blogger and occasional editorialist. Most recently, he is laughing at a Democrat blog promoting a children's book called "Why Mommy is a Democrat." According to Marriott:


This book shows the utter bankruptcy of Democrats in terms of ideas, their conception of keeping people safe it protect them from elephant monsters (Republicans), their conception of economic policy equates to kids sharing their toys (as if this in any way relates to the hard earned fortunes of individuals in the economy at large, not to mention you typically don't pull a gun on a kid to get him to share his "toys").
Marriott goes on to observe that both parties are short of serious ideas, and "Why Mommy is a Democrat" is simply the latest illustration of the general trend.

::The Dougout

The Dougout is a history, politics and current events blog run by Grant Jones and named in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. Jones gets the hat tip for his initial reporting of the University of Washington "Pappy" Boyington outrage that inspired me to write an open letter to the university and get 120 of my Marine buddies to sign along with me. Jones most recently chronicles the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and remarks on Inside Higher Education's review of David Horowitz's 101 Most Dangerous Professors.

::Armchair Intellectual

Armchair Intellectual is the personal blog of Gideon Reich, an old college friend of mine from my George Washington University days. At his blog, Reich reports on some good news for Objectivists:

The first item is Robert Tracinski's article The Lessons of the Cartoon Jihad is featured at the top of the Friday, March 3 edition of RealClearPolitics.com. This is an excellent article which criticizes both right and left for their inadequate response to this controversy.

The second item is a hopeful sign that another important book by a prominent Objectivist may be published by a distinguished publisher. One of my daily pastimes is to check the resume of John Lewis, Assistant Professor of History at Ashland University. I check the resume because he has a section in which he notes the publication status of the books he has written. Specifically, I was very interested in seeing his Nothing Less than Victory published as it includes the details of his argument against the inadequacy of the present war effort with some comparison to a number of historical wars. Over the last few months the listing on the website has mostly been "in progress", which I surmise means that no publisher is looking at it. There was a brief time a while ago when it was listed as "under press review" -- presumably that means that some unidentified publisher was reviewing the book. However, after a week or so of this status, the page was updated back to "in progress." Now however the listing has not only returned to "under press review" but has in fact been updated as follows: "under review, Princeton University Press." This is certainly a very positive and hopeful sign.

I agree. I've seen a draft copy of Lewis' book and he makes many vital arguments. Reich also recently contributed book reviews of The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein and The Abolition of Antitrust by Gary Hull for CAC's Capitalist's Book Club. Eat that for dinner, Oprah.

::The Charlotte Capitalist

Andy Clarkson is the Charlotte Capitalist, and he's posted about my work so many times it's high time I paid him back the favor. Clarkson covers North Carolina and national politics and his most recent posting of note is a parody of the Charlotte Mecklenburg government’s management of the public schools.

For decades the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have run the nutritional system. While a few private grocery stores and restaurants exist, 96% of Charlotte citizens’ food is supplied through a number of Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Board distribution centers. Traditionally, most of the distribution centers have been located close to uptown.

As CharMeck growth has exploded, pressure on the food system has created shortages and conflicts. The suburbs are demanding more food distribution centers and better nutrition. The inner city is demanding renovation of aging centers. The food board says there is nothing it can do without more local, state, and national funding. Without that funding, it will need to sell food bonds for the renovation and building of food distribution centers.

Meanwhile, Charlotte national and state nutritional rankings are far below where they should be. People, particularly the children, are not getting the nutrition they should be getting. The food board points to occasionally spotty areas of improvement, while critics point out longer-term problems.

In order to get to the root of the problem, The Charlotte Capitalist sponsored a workshop to drive discussion of the CharMeck nutritional system. It invited both politicians and pundits. While no ideas or action items, or for that matter anything worthwhile was created, there was a lot of revealing discussion.

As Andy says, here are some, ugh, highlights from the workshop.

::Ego

Ego is American-in-spirit Martin Lindeskog’s blog. Always plently of good material and lots of cross-posting; in fact, you should just head on over and have a look-see for yourself.

::Daily Dose of Reason

Daily Dose of Reason is Dr. Michael Hurd's blog in support of his private psychotherapy and life coaching practice. Dr. Hurd has the uncanny ability to be published in USA Today, in fact, they have ran his essays more times than I can count, which is quite a remarkable achievement. His most recent "Daily Dose" is on the continued fallout from Hurricane Katrina:

People continue to blame President Bush for the Katrina disaster; but how come nobody blames government itself? The abysmal federal response to the hurricane relief effort was a great opportunity for advocates of limited government (including Republican conservatives, you would think) to point out how government can never do the job that private groups and individuals can. Instead, the media has fixated on Bush and, in the absence of any comments to the contrary, the impression becomes embedded in most Americans' minds that it's all Bush's fault. This is dangerous, because people are now left with the assumption that if only we get the "right" government leader -- not Bush, but somebody else -- then the government will be able to do what no government has ever done or will do: rebuild people's lives after a disaster. Victims of the next natural disaster shouldn't view the Katrina debacle as proof that Bush is bad; they should view it as proof that government is by its nature incompetent, particularly when expected to do what it cannot and should not do.
Exactly.

::Mike’s Eyes

Mike is well, Mike, a retired supervisor from the Detroit, Michigan area. He echos Robert W. Tracinski’s displeasure with the recent anti-American Turkish movie "Valley of the Wolves" and George Clooney’s "Syriana."

Do these actors have the right to smear America? Absolutely. Do they have the right to do it with impunity? Absolutely not. Just as they have a right to condemn America, Americans have the right to condemn them. So, I hereby declare I will not spend a cent to see any movie which casts sirs Zane, Busey or Clooney.

I saw "Syriana" and let us just say that's two hours I'll never get back . . .

::Oak Tree

This blog is by an undergraduate student who often comments on the inanity of some of his classes. Here's his latest:

Summary of today’s Business Ethics class: Won’t someone please [pretend to] think about the children?

Here’s what I learned:

1. Boycotting child labor may hurt the kids even more, but I’m willing to pay the price to feel morally righteous.

Here’s how the actual dialog went between me and prof:

Me: I’m assuming that the poor families are having their children work because they need the money. So abstaining from buying child-labor carpets is essentially a kiss of death for those families.

Prof: It’s true that if children lose these jobs, they will either have to resort to prostitution or starvation. But isn’t this still a rationalization to keep child labor alive?

2. Economic development is an important solution to child labor, but let’s ignore that for now and think about these feel-good solutions.

Again, me and prof:

Me: I agree that child labor is terrible, but it won’t end until these families become wealthier. So I think the only solution is capitalism and economic development.

Prof: I think we can all agree that economic development is ultimately needed, but right now I want you all to choose one of these five. [points to the slide with five possible solutions, all of them suggesting either abstain from buying child-labor products, donating to charity, or a combination of the two]

3. Alright, if you’re going to insist on economic development, can’t we at least do it altruistically?

I was confused by this at the time, but now I realize he was actually trying to come up with an altruistic way to bring about economic development:

Prof: Wouldn’t a country like Nepal achieve “economic development” by using its lack of child labor as a selling point?

Me: I don’t see why. Again, I don’t think the solution is to boycott child labor. Ideally, companies will employ poor children and as the economy grows they will
be employed less and less.

It seems old Oaks is the only ethical person in his Business Ethics class. I recall the feeling.

::Quent Cordair Fine Art

Quent Cordair has Dianne Durante looking at film as an art form in anticipation of Sunday's Oscars:

Evaluating a film esthetically means looking at the "how" of the movie. Do all its elements work together to convey the theme? There may be subplots, plot twists, flashbacks and dream sequences, but once you've watched the end of the film, you should be able to analyze how every gesture, every line of dialogue, every costume and every camera angle contributed to the theme. To put it negatively, nothing should be inexplicable or pointless, and nothing should be confusing unless (as in many mysteries or thrillers) confusion is necessary at a certain point in the plot development.
Read the whole article here.

::Lee Sandstead

Lee Sandstead is simply one of the most brilliant art historians and photographers I know. Sandstead’s website is the photo journal of his adventures in art history as he travels far and wide to capture the most beautiful and inspiring art, wherever it may be. My fiancĂ©e recently purchased one of his fine art prints he has available at his commercial website (Monument Light) and we both wholeheartedly recommend Sanstead’s photography to anyone who wants to bring beauty into their lives.

This week, Sanstead highlights this lost gem—lost, that is, to the world of art history, which instead worships in the cult of the ugly. According to Sanstead:

There are so many books that need to be written about nineteenth-century art—thousands actually. While there have been many books documenting the influence of Spanish artists on the French modernists, a more interesting book would concern the Spanish artists that trained, worked and excelled in Academic Paris. This particular artist, Raimundo de Madrazo Y Garreta would be the subject of one such book. (Or maybe several such books.)

Today, little is known about him. For instance, this gorgeous portrait has neither title, date, nor detailed provenance.

But the painting is gorgeous. The sitter, whoever she may be, has the look of intelligence, bearing, and surely commands the attention of whoever looks at her.
I admit, I feel passionately about Sanstead’s work because he is so inspiring and passionate himself. What else can I say? Visit his website today.

::The Secular Foxhole

Blair (not sure if he wants his last name public) is using Ayn Rand to get chatty with babes at the bookstore:

I've just returned from the bookstore, where I had a pleasant conversation with a fine looking young woman who, as it happened, was looking in the philosophy section at Rand's books :-) I couldn't let this opportunity slip by so I said, "excuse me, are you interested in Ayn Rand's ideas?" She said a friend had recommended her works to her and what would I recommend to her (!). I said she should read 'The Fountainhead' but then asked if she preferred fiction or non-fiction. She said non-fiction, and had 'Return of The Primitive' and 'Philosophy: Who Needs It?' already in hand, which I praised highly and also recommended to her 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' "which explains her theory of ethics". We then sauntered over to the Literature section, where I pulled out FH for her.

We continued our conversation about Rand and FH in particular briefly. I left before she did, but she had all four books in hand when we parted company.

I love it!

::Thruch

Thruch is Amit Ghate's blog. Ghate is enjoying a surge in traffic from this article on the cartoon jihad.


To stand together means to assert our rights with our government as our agent. To those who threaten us with force, asserting our rights means responding with force, in fact, with overwhelming force. We must say to Iran (which on February 14 just reconfirmed the Rushdie fatwa) “oust and turn over the regime which sees fit to condemn a single citizen of ours to death, or face all out war.” And if they refuse, give them the war they started, but be sure to win it decisively, not protecting their mosques and infrastructure, but instead doing everything necessary to ensure they have no capacity to ever threaten us again. To Pakistan and India, which host clerics bold enough to put bounties on the heads of our citizens, demand that they turn over the men and their supporters, and if they refuse, go in and take them by force.

For if we fail to reverse our pattern, men will continue to learn that their rights are a sham, that the government’s promise to protect the individual is a hoax, and that only by refraining from thinking and speaking out might they be momentarily safe. Men will then go on to realize that they must seek out true protectors, in the form of some gang; ethnic, religious or otherwise; who may afford them a measure of security, albeit at the cost of complete obedience. Eventually the gangs will fight it out in an effort to wrest absolute power and to subjugate the others.

So will end the great intellectual and political achievement of the West, which began 2,500 years ago in Greece with its discovery and reverence for the individual, and which culminated in the enunciation of the guiding principles of the United States. The end will not come because an over-powering enemy has arisen –- no, to our everlasting shame, the end will come because Western governments, in a display of incredible cowardice and treason, have abandoned and delivered their disarmed individual citizens to a mob of stone-age savages.
Well said.

::Witch Doctor Repellent

Witch Doctor Repellent is Andrew Dalton's cultural commentary blog. He's not sheeding a tear over the recent passing of perennial Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne:


Harry Browne, former presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, has died today. Color me unsad.

Why? This is why. Notice that he was pushing this tripe on September 12, 2001—the day after the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Browne's brand of triumphalist defeatism might seem unremarkable by the standards of today's "anti-war" Left, but he did have the remarkable dishonor of being first. Take that, Michael Moore! Does anyone needed a clearer concretization of why Objectivism is not "libertarian"?
In a word, No.

::Truth, Justice, and the American Way

TJAY is David Veksler’s blog of assorted commentary. Most recently, he writes that the U.A.E ports controversy is overblown:


The U.A.E has some significant freedoms compared to the U.S., especially in some areas that I find personally important. Whether economic or political freedom is more important to you personally is not the issue.

The issue is that the UAE has an economy that is mostly free, and further trade with the West will encourage the growth of productive values instead of the destructive values prevalent in the Arab world. Isolating a progressive country like the U.A.E will be a racist statement that will discourage the rest of the Islamic world from economic liberalization, and instead encourage their anti-Western sentiment—and in this case, with good reason.

This is not about the safety of our ports, as [Harry] Binswanger explained, or the totally irrelevant fact that the UAE is not a democracy. The issue is whether we will recognize the virtue of a society that has chosen civilization, or engage in collectivist thinking and refuse to distinguish a potential ally from our enemies.


* * *

So there we have it, the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Objectivists. The thing is, I only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Objectivists standing up for their values. So until next time . . .

Good Premises!

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