Experts Assess Pandemic’s Damage to the Economy – New Ideal

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on all aspects of human life, and the U.S. economy is no exception. The virus outbreak and governmental reactions to it have sent the stock market crashing and dealt a major economic blow.

In a special installment of our webinar series Philosophy for Living on Earth, the Ayn Rand Institutes chief philosophy officer, Onkar Ghate, sat down with finance and economics specialists Yaron Brook and Rob Tarr to talk about the effects of the virus and government intervention on the markets and the economy. The discussion covered many aspects of the ongoing financial crisis and approached the topic from a perspective informed by the philosophy of Objectivism.

Some of the questions covered in the discussion include:

Stay tuned for future installments of our webinar series, where we willcontinue to analyze the effects of the pandemic from the principled perspectiveof Ayn Rands philosophy. And please consider donating to ARI if you value ourunique and rational evaluation of this crisis.

Watch the full discussion between Ghate, Brook and Tarr, below.

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Experts Assess Pandemic's Damage to the Economy - New Ideal

New Ideal ‘s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic – New Ideal

Already, in these early days, the COVID-19 pandemic and government responses to it have drastically reshaped life and society. Lockdowns. Stay at home directives. Millions of businesses, schools, and organizations shuttered. So far more than 370,000 confirmed cases have been reported worldwide. In the U.S. that number exceeds 33,000, with 400 dead. On the front lines are heroic doctors and nurses, battling the virus amid shortages of medical supplies and mounting risk.

We at New Ideal (along with the rest of the Ayn Rand Institute) feel very fortunate that we are able to continue our work, remotely. Our hearts go out to the many in-person businesses restaurants, theaters, airlines, etc. that are closed down with an uncertain future. Were awed by the ongoing efforts of medical professionals and scientists racing to slow the spread and find treatments for the virus.

The mission of this journal is to explore pressing culturalissues from the perspective of Ayn Rands philosophy, Objectivism, and, amidthe havoc and upheaval brought on by the novel coronavirus outbreak, theresmuch to cover.

For the weeks to come, perhaps longer, well be putting aspecial focus on pandemic-related content (publishing on other issuesoccasionally). Here, in case you missed them, are two insightful conversationsabout the pandemic:

1. In a recent special episode of Philosophy for Living on Earth, Ben Bayer interviewed Onkar Ghate and Greg Salmieri on how to think philosophically about the pandemic and the complex scientific and political issues we are confronting. Topics included the ongoing heroic efforts to stem the viruss spread, the destructive impact of government force in medicine, the need for government to make its reasoning clear when imposing controls, the need for regulatory decontrol, the role of altruism in distorting impact assessment, techniques for evaluating the flood of information were all receiving, and the vital importance of reason in coping with the crisis.

Audio of this event is available on the Philosophy for Living on Earth podcast (Apple and Stitcher). You can watch the entire discussion here:

Toget you started, here are some short clips that focus on particular topics:

2. In another episode, Onkar Ghate interviewed finance experts Yaron Brook and Rob Tarr about the economic ramifications of the pandemic, and the governments reaction to it:

Audio only:

Theres more coming up, so please subscribe to our emailupdates to stay in the loop.

Finally, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.

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New Ideal 's Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic - New Ideal

Sen. Rand Paul’s reply to why he risked exposing people, or Selfish is as selfish does – Louisville Eccentric Observer

We make fun of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul a lot. OK, more than a lot. Going waayy back.

But who deserves it more? Befitting his status as Kentuckys junior senator, only our senior senator Mitch McConnell suffers more scorn and bad-natured roasting from us at LEO.

Now, in The Time of Corona, Paul, a doctor and obstructionist of virus relief bills, gets a special poke with a hot stick for reportedly getting tested and going to the gym and consorting with colleagues before he got back the result.

And guess what?

He tested positive.

Paul released a statement this week defending his decision to not self-quarantine, saying he shouldnt have been tested at all. Whaat? Read this convoluted reasoning and let us know what kind of byzantine map of logic we would need to understand it.

Paul should have known better than to risk the health of other people. But we must understand that Rand Paul, who might as well have been named after the purposely selfish, libertarian, wack-job Ayn Rand, would be thinking about himself only.

Here is what he had to say:

Given that my wife and I had traveled extensively during the weeks prior to COVID-19 social distancing practices, and that I am at a higher risk for serious complications from the virus due to having part of my lung removed seven months ago, I took a COVID-19 test when I arrived in D.C. last Monday. I felt that it was highly unlikely that I was positive since I have had no symptoms of the illness, nor have I had contact with anyone who has either tested positive for the virus or been sick.

Since nearly every member of the U.S. Senate travels by plane across the country multiple times per week and attends lots of large gatherings, I believed my risk factor for exposure to the virus to be similar to that of my colleagues, especially since multiple congressional staffers on the Hill had already tested positive weeks ago.

As for my attendance at the Speed Art Museum fundraiser on March 7, unlike the other Kentucky government officials there, I had zero contact or proximity with either of the two individuals who later announced they were positive for COVID-19. The event was a large affair of hundreds of people spread throughout the museum.

There was an announcement by the Museum and Metro Louisville Communicable Disease department that those who public health officials consider at higher risk from possible exposure are being notified. Louisvilles health director put out a statement in The Courier Journal that most of the people at the Speed Ball were at very minimal risk. I was not considered to be at risk since I never interacted with the two individuals even from a distance and was not recommended for testing by health officials.

I believe we need more testing immediately, even among those without symptoms. The nature of COVID-19 put me and us all in a Catch-22 situation. I didnt fit the criteria for testing or quarantine. I had no symptoms and no specific encounter with a COVID-19 positive person. I had, however, traveled extensively in the U.S. and was required to continue doing so to vote in the Senate. That, together with the fact that I have a compromised lung, led me to seek testing. Despite my positive test result, I remain asymptomatic for COVID-19.

For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol. The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined. It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested.

Perhaps it is too much to ask that we simply have compassion for our fellow Americans who are sick or fearful of becoming so. Thousands of people want testing. Many, like Daniel Newman of The Walking Dead, are sick with flu symptoms and are being denied testing. This makes no sense.

The broader the testing and the less finger-pointing we have, the better. America is strong. We are a resilient people, but were stronger when we stand together.

Here is what one person tweeted in response to his statement:

You did not need to go to the gym. Americans all over this country cannot go to theirs, or do much of anything else. You felt you could do as you pleased and risked others. I hope you recover well, but you are not excused from being entirely selfish and overly privileged.

And, our favorite: Atlas Coughed.

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Sen. Rand Paul's reply to why he risked exposing people, or Selfish is as selfish does - Louisville Eccentric Observer

This is why everyone loathes Congress – The Week

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March 25, 2020

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Where would we be in these troubled times without our federal government? I don't mean the executive branch, which has, ably or otherwise, gone about the business of governing, much less the Supreme Court, whose justices recently delivered their opinions remotely for the first time since Bush v. Gore in 2000. I am talking about Congress, which for all practical purposes might not have existed since March 18 or so.

For weeks now it has been clear to everyone that some sort of comprehensive economic relief package will have to be prepared in response to the coronavirus outbreak. This is especially true for the millions of people employed in the restaurant business and other industries, where hourly earnings and tips began to decrease long before they actually lost their ability to work. As far as I am aware no meaningful segment of the population not conservatives, not progressives, not even libertarians is opposed to such action. One likes to think that even Ayn Rand would probably have conceded that people who are told by the government that they cannot report to their places of employment cannot be faulted for not having money to pay their bills and provide for the other basic necessities of life.

You could be forgiven, then, for imagining that this would be a perfect opportunity for the legislative branch to do all the things members of both parties are always saying they want to do: to "put politics aside" and "reach across the aisle" feel free to insert more of your favorite clichs in order to "get something done" on behalf of the American people.

Nothing of the kind has happened. It would take a narrative historian of genius (and infinite patience for unrewarding archival work) to give an account of the wrangling between the two parties in both chambers of our federal legislature during the past two weeks. Many observers have drawn attention to attempts by both parties to use this crisis legislation to further their long-standing agendas (the usual carve-outs for business; a bizarre requirement that beginning in 2023 airplanes provide passengers with real-time estimates of the carbon expended over the day's flight along with their boarding passes.) But really ideology has played a very minor role in this week-long spectacle of performative disagreement. At one point or another during the debate surrounding the relief package, bills favored at least temporarily by both parties have both featured and rejected means testing, for example, and providing direct cash payments in addition to expanded unemployment benefits.

This is exactly what we have all come to expect from Congress in moments of crisis. Instead of swift, decisive action we are treated to absurd, unserious proposals, partisan theatrics, obstruction for its own sake. It is, after all, what happened in 2008, when Republicans decided that all the relief measures they had supported at the end of the Bush administration had suddenly metamorphosed into "socialism" the moment the junior senator from Illinois took the Oath of Office. It would be hilarious if it weren't, you know, deadly serious business.

This is why I am not even remotely surprised that the actions being praised by journalists (and earning the tacit approval of public health authorities) in other countries were not the result of a deliberative process. China, Singapore, and South Korea did not spend weeks allowing nihilist legislators to stall their responses. Even in Britain, where a nation-wide shelter-in-place order was announced on Monday, Parliament had no say. This should not, technically speaking, have been possible under the British constitution. Boris Johnson assumed the role of Lord Protector and suspended public life unilaterally, without votes in the Commons or the Lords, much less Royal Assent.

Was this a good thing? I am inclined to say no, but only because I continue to believe that we have overestimated the seriousness of this virus. The horrifying reality about coronavirus is that if skeptics are proven right, we will still have been afforded a preview of what would happen if this country actually faced a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. A feckless president would worry about his or her approval rating; the two parties in Congress would squabble over pointless details, while the gas-lighting media, only a few weeks removed from scolding the president for taking any interest in the problem at all, prided itself on the thoroughgoingly woke nature of its response to the final doom. And somewhere, the people suffering the most, the people who suffer the most in every crisis, ordinary decent men and women and their families, with little or no help from those ostensibly responsible for their interests, would find a way to survive.

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Gerth: Rand Paul’s me-first mentality exposed the US Senate to coronavirus – Courier Journal


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LOUISVILLE, Ky. Rand Paul is giraffish.

Doesnt make sense to compare a little sprite of a U.S. senator to a giraffe. But hang with me here.

The junior senator from Kentucky is now self-isolatingafter he learned Sunday that he is infected with the coronavirus.

But he didnt self-isolate before he saw fit to expose himself to other members of the U.S. Senate by attending a luncheon in the Senate, and according to The Washington Post, going to the Senate gym and taking a dip in the Senate pool.

Along the way, one can only suspect that he touched tables and chairs and door knobs and lockers and shower knobs and hands and, well, just about everything youd expect to touch if you went to a luncheon and a gym and a swimming pool.

Leaving the coronaviruseverywhere he went.

More: Kentucky's Rand Paul the first known US senator to test positive for coronavirus

All this after he was worried enough that he might have picked up the coronavirus in Louisville at the March 7 Speed Ball fundraiser an event at which at least three others who attended tested positivefor the virus that he went looking to be tested.

This really shouldnt surprise any of us.

It falls right in line with the second-rate political philosophy he ripped off from second-rate author Ayn Rand a philosophy that puts ones own personal desires and individual wants above all else.

But when he complained about rules limiting the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs because they use too much electricity, or when he ranted about the fact that the low-flow toilets in his house hadnt worked for 20 years, he became little more than a punchline.

Now hes a petri dish.

Spreading the potentially deadly virus among a population that is most at risk of dying from it.

Kentucky coronavirus live updates: The latest news

Kentucky coronavirus map: How many coronavirus cases are in Kentucky? Where are they?

According to the Congressional Research Service, the average U.S. senator is 62.9 years old. Its the oldest U.S. Senate in history, and it puts the average senator well over the age of 60, at which point the coronavirus becomes much more lethal.

Its hard to imaginea U.S. Senate headed by Mitch McConnell being more toxic than it already was, but congratulations Rand. You did it.

Now, youve got two other Republican members of the Senate in self-quarantine, one of whom is 73-year-old Sen. Mitt Romneyof Utah. Romneys wife, Ann, is 70 and has multiple sclerosis, which could put her at even greater risk.

And Paul subjected Romney and the others to this after he was worried enough about himself to get the test, but not worried enough about others to warn them?Who does that?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., arrives for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)

Obviously, someone who is more worried about their individual right to do whatever the hell they want and doesn'tgive a damn about the people they might harm.

Its the same type of person who would insist on burning incandescent lightbulbs even though they force us to burn more fossil fuels and then claim that their use of fossil fuels isnt causing climate change despite the fact that the scientists studying this stuff almost uniformly say it is.

Its the same type of person who would block funding after national disasters in an attempt to make some lame point about deficit spending, and then would vote for tax cuts for the wealthy that would put the country into even greater deficit spending.

Read this: Rand Paul's coronavirus infection sends shockwaves through Senate during major stimulus debate

Its the same type of person who looks up to Ayn Rand's objectivism philosophy a philosophy Paul ascribes to that says a persons own happiness" is "the moral purpose of his life.

In my house, wed call it giraffish, from an episode of the old "Andy Griffith Show" when Barney Fife is explaining to Opie why a pack of dogs hes worried about during a thunderstorm and one little trembly one in particular will be OK.

Dogs take care of one another, Barney explains. Not giraffes.

Boy, giraffes are selfish, Barney says. Running around, looking out for number one.

The fact that Paul was, as always, looking out for No. 1has exposed other members of the Senate, their families and staffs to this dreaded virus. He should be ashamed.

But, giraffes don't feel shame.

Joseph Gerth can be reached at 502-582-4702 or by email at jgerth@courierjournal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/josephg.

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Gerth: Rand Paul's me-first mentality exposed the US Senate to coronavirus - Courier Journal

Can The Coronavirus Potentially Lead To A More Humane And Effective Form Of Capitalism? – The Ring of Fire Network – The Ring of Fire Network

If there is a silver lining tothe current coronavirus pandemic, it is that it has exposed fundamentalweaknesses in the current capitalist free-market economic system that most ofus have taken for granted our entire lives. People in low-wage service jobs, food-serviceworkers, education support personnel, private tutors and instructors and otherswith jobs that frequently bring them into contact with the general public havebeen hit especially hard as restaurants, lounges, schools and even librarieshave been shut down for the duration.

It has gotten to the point thateven politically and fiscally conservative leaders, who typically expect mostof the people they claim to represent to fend for themselves, are actuallyproposing massive programs of direct financial aid. The Trump Administrationand Republican lawmakers have been working on a $2 trillion dollar stimulus package that for once, doesnt consist strictlyof bailouts for big business and industry (although that is certainly part ofit).

Other governments around theworld are following suit in one way or another. For example, the U.K. government recently announced that it will be paying 80 percent ofworker salaries up to 2500 per month($2900 USD) for 12 weeks, while offering tax breaks and interest-free loans forbusinesses. Across the Channel, France is preparing to nationalize several industries while suspendingtax, rent, and utility payments for small companies.

The problem is that we, as aglobal society with a tightly interconnected economic system, are enteringuncharted territory. That economic system is largely based on two fundamentalthings:

If there was ever a time to thinkoutside the box, it is now. Governments immediate solution is to throw moneyat the problem in one way or another cash payments, low interest rates,subsidized loans or grants, etc. In the short term, this is indeed necessaryfor the majority of people who have been left behind by capitalisms uncheckedexpansion over the past four decades, as well as small businesses andentrepreneurs who lack the resources of global corporations to weather suchstorms.

Such actions, howeverwell-intentioned, essentially treat the symptoms while ignoring the underlyingdisease. Biologically, coronavirus is most dangerous to those who have otherhealth problems, such as compromised immune function. Economically, it appearsto have a similar effect on unhealthy financial systems.

Would the type of socialismpromulgated by Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders save us? For awhile, itcould but like government stimulus programs, it would be a stopgap solution.The problem here is that socialism is not always conducive to the type ofinnovations that can benefit society and help us leap forward.

The idea that people shouldreceive free anything including housing, food, health care and education isanathema to those who espouse unbridled, free market capitalism. Yet, lack ofthese basic survival needs, or even the threat of losing them, is at the rootof virtually every problem society suffers today. People can live without jetskis or the latest and greatest smart phones. They cannot live without food,clean water, shelter and medical care when needed. Without some degree ofeducation, they cannot truly be productive members of society. Yet, the currentcapitalist system demands that all of these things be commodified and makeprofits for someone. Meanwhile, those who provide housing, food and health careare under pressure themselves, having to pay for labor, raw materials, taxesand legal costs.

To suggest that all of thesethings should be free may evoke hard resistance from supporters of the freemarket capitalist system, yet the poverty that results from a lack of basicneeds creates crime, disease (mental and physical), environmental degradationand more adding hugely to the cost of running a society. Perversely, themoney that is spent addressing these problems is considered part of a nationsGross Domestic Product (GDP). Ergo, someone who contracts cancer from livingnear a factory producing toxic waste actually contributes to the GDP when they(or someone else) pays for their treatment. Law enforcement officers who mustgo after criminals become part of the GDP as well when they receive theirpaychecks. Couples who divorce over economic issues contribute to the GDP whenthey hire lawyers and pay court fees.

These are hardly ways to makesociety and the world a better place. Is there a better way? Some visionariesbelieve so and are working to bring it about.

These visionaries recognize thata major part of the problem with our current capitalist system is notcapitalism itself, but rather the way the exchange of goods and services arefacilitated i.e., money, or currency. Whether it is tangible cash, an amountrecorded in a bank ledger or other account, or invested in securities, moneycan be transferred easily. That is a definite advantage, but there aredownsides; money can be lost, stolen, taxed away (directly and indirectly),devalued and manipulated, and withheld when someone is prevented from earningor receiving it as is happening today as a result of the coronaviruspandemic. The consequences can be devastating.

The idea of barter comes to manypeoples minds, but there are reasons that money has largely replaced thetrading of livestock, handicrafts, produce, etc. Unless people have manydifferent skills and abilities in the production of things that others need, orare able to offer a wide range of services, the barter system is unlikely tosolve the problems of poverty and inequality. Barter also involves materialthings that can be lost, stolen or destroyed (and even taxed, as many have discovered).

Imagine an alternative:

Such innovations are alreadyunderway, and have been for some time. They are being made possible by rapidadvances in communications technology. And now that growing numbers of workingpeople have suddenly found themselves with a great amount of downtime, theyare starting to reach out to neighbors and their local communities, where suchinnovations usually get started because no amount of technology can replacethe human factor.

That human factor particularlyin the light of multiple (and even conflicting) points of view is where greatideas come from.

Dr. Albert Einstein reportedlysaid, Imagination is more important than Knowledge. In light of Dr. AbrahamMaslows famous Hierarchy of Needs (a review and explanation for theuninitiated is available here), imaginewhat humans might achieve if they were liberated from the need to earn aliving, but were still expected and motivated to strive for more by simplymaking choices and acting in ways that serve the greater good.

We all see it happening now, withthe popularity of humanely raised eggs, poultry and meat, recycling andrepurposing, reducing ones ecological footprint, roadside miniature lendinglibraries, community tool and vehicle share programs and more. In Portland,Oregon, homeowners are being offered incentives to provide shelters for homeless people on their property.Some small businesses specialize in the manufacture of new products fromexisting and/or previously used components. Entrepreneurial individuals are creating solutions for environmental problems.

Admittedly, so-called Utopian societies have failed in the past. Asfloundering and corrupt as American capitalism has gotten over the past fourdecades, it has not yet become the total and abject failure that was the lateU.S.S.R.s Socialist Workers State. Western capitalism is nonetheless a verylarge, unwieldy vessel sailing at a high rate of speed one that needs tochange its course fairly soon, if it is to survive.

As the Captain Edward Smith ofthe R.M.S. Titanic discovered too late, such sudden course changes aredifficult at best.

Perhaps what needs to be changedis not so much the system itself, but rather the means of exchange. Such changeneeds to be carried out in such a way that nobody goes homeless, hungry,without medical and dental care, and has access to education in any field. Atthe same time, the new system must encourage industry and innovation whilerespecting private property rights. Nothing would be confiscatory orredistributive, nor would taxes be assessed.

It sounds almost like BernieSanders Meets Ayn Rand. This has been one of the primary issues in recentelections: do we want or need the State to own and operate everything,distributing to each according to their needs while taxing from each,according to their abilities? Or do we want to do away with government andregulation altogether, and allow individuals and organizations to become aswealthy and powerful as possible, regardless of any harm in done the process?

What if a society could have thebest of both? What if one fed the other? What if, through Bernie-stylesocialist programs, more people were unleashed from having to have jobssimply to pay the bills in order to survive, and instead were free to pursuetheir passions, such as science, research, technology, engineering andinvention as well culture, humanities and the arts? Can one imagine the newRenaissance that might come about?

Such a system has the potential of generating wealth and well-being in aprivate, free-market system beyond Rands wildest dreams.

You dont have to look very far back in history to find examples. Would theworld have had the genius of Leonardo da Vinci without the patronage of theMedicis? Would we have heard the music of Franz Josef Haydn without PrinceEsterhazy?

Now, multiply those two examples by a few billion.

Would everyone throw themselvesinto their passions? No. Many may not even know what their passions are. Forthem, there are educational opportunities (which would bring their ownrewards), or they may decide to sit on the beach all day and as long as theydo no harm, thats fine. If they ever want something more, theyll find ways tomake the world a better place.

If not at least they wont go hungry and homeless. But really, earning thatsomething more would not be difficult under such a system. In fact, it wouldbe more difficult not to contribute in some way.

If the 1933 Harold Arlen YipHarburg song Paper Moon comesto mind, youre not alone. Indeed, some skepticism is warranted. Nonetheless,two communities, one in California and the other in Oregon, have been testingout such a comprehensive economic system, with considerable success. A devotedgroup in Portland has been considering such a system for at least four years,and it has generated significant attention around the world.

This groups website recentlycame online, where one can go to learn more about this alternative economicsystem in which there are no losers, and winners victories do not come at theexpense of someone else. Under such a system, disparities of wealth willcertainly still exist, but the kind of grinding poverty that causes hunger,disease, crime and other problems will not. Meanwhile, the barriers to peoplewho want to accumulate more will have been largely erased; there will truly beequal access to opportunity and tools to improve ones material lot in life forthose who choose to do so. Greed will still exist, but it will be harnessed and channeled intopositive outcomes for everyone.

Now that so many of us are underlockdown or quarantine and are starting to clearly see the problems that existin the current system, it is as good a time as ever to consider alternatives.

Learn more here.

Continued here:

Can The Coronavirus Potentially Lead To A More Humane And Effective Form Of Capitalism? - The Ring of Fire Network - The Ring of Fire Network

Armstrong: Liberty in the midst of a pandemic – Complete Colorado

The mortgage meltdown of 2008 was rough, but to me it seems that the last time life was so thoroughly upended was 9/11, nearly two decades ago. Since the first reports of positive tests for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Colorado on March 5, it feels like were living in a different world.

If youve been glued to your cable news or Twitter feed, you probably feel like youve been drinking from the proverbial firehouse. Whats a coronavirus, whats different about this one, whats its R naught, how likely are people to die from it, and what can we do, if anything, to beat it? For most of us the learning curve has been both steep and slippery, as even experts have struggled to get a handle on aspects of this disease.

Meanwhile, as government shuts down businesses across the state, the unemployment forms pile up, and people start to go stir-crazy from social distancing, a lot of us are wondering how far government should go in restricting peoples liberties. Is a heavy government hand really the only or best way to prevent needless death? And how should we weigh the harms of the disease against the harms of a devastated economy? Or is that question too horrible even to consider?

Bluntly, I dont have many definitive answers. And anyone who promises you easy answers to these questions is, well, lets just say they should get in line for some more toilet paper. What I think I can do is help set some context for fruitful ways to think about the questions.

Free-market advocates have pointed to the myriad ways that stupid government policies have hampered the response to the virus. For example, did you know that hospitals often have to (in effect) ask permission from their competitors in order to open new facilities and buy new equipment? Ridiculous. Indeed, one of the major steps that Governor Jared Polis and governors elsewhere took was to remove government barriers to the disease response, as by loosening regulations on hospitals and health professionals. The federal government notoriously tied up testing for the disease in bureaucratic red tapea profound failure.

Free-market advocates also have pointed to the crucial ways that private enterprise has stepped up to address the problem. As economist Tyler Cowen puts the point, Big business is helping America survive the coronavirus.

But even if we grant that politicians and bureaucrats have done a lot of really stupid things, and that business leaders have done many wonderful things to respond, it might still be the case that an important response to the virus (maybe the most important response) is the one by government. Thats the key question I want to consider here.

First, though, I need to dispel a common confusion. A lot of people, whether Progressive, conservative, or libertarian, see the fundamental issue as government power versus individual freedom. Often pitting power against freedom is a useful way to look at things, but it isnt the fundamental.

The fundamental is individual rights. Generally, although the form matters, government power exercised to protect rights is good, and an individual freely violating others rights is bad. The key point is theres nothing inherently suspect about government power; it depends on how and for what that power is used.

What does this have to do with the coronavirus? Here is the key point, as put by philosopher Michael Huemer of the University of Colorado at Boulder: Any individual who is at risk of carrying a communicable disease, such as COVID-19, is posing a risk of physical harm to others when he interacts with them. This potentially justifies government intervention, depending on details. In some contexts, government best preserves liberty by stopping people from infecting others. Your rights to publicly breathe out your germs may end where another persons lungs begin.

(Huemer actually is a libertarian anarchist. But he points out that most libertarians advocate government, and he thinks a private analogue to government properly may impose quarantines in certain circumstances. Im not a libertarian but I broadly agree with Huemer about the just use of force. I also recommend a video from the Ayn Rand Institute on this topic.)

What this principle does not do is give us easy answers for specific cases. A great deal depends on how contagious and deadly the virus is. We continually impose all sorts of risks on others, as by accidentally passing along the flu or by adding another vehicle to a busy road. If we knew the new coronavirus were as deadly as other coronaviruses or even a common flu, we certainly would not be talking about shutting down a huge chunk of the economy because of it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 seems to be quite a lot more contagious and deadly than more-common viral diseases, although, due to lack of widespread testing, we are to a large degree flying blind.

If you were hoping for a pat answer for what specifically government should do here, Im sorry, I cant give you one. What I can say is that individual rights matter and should set the framework for how government responds. I do think that current circumstances warrant some restrictions of movement.

Meanwhile, we can cheer on the people working on the new antivirals, vaccines, and expanded testing that promise to make social distancing and government quarantines a thing of the past.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.



Armstrong: Liberty in the midst of a pandemic - Complete Colorado

Armstrong: Polis just bet on individuals over harsher crackdown – Complete Colorado

Everyone I heard from fully expected Colorado Governor Jared Polis to issue a severe state-wide shelter in place order at his Sunday press conference.

George Brauchler seemed to think he would. Brauchler, recall, is a district attorney in the state and a prominent Republican who, in an alternate universe, might have been in the governors seat during all this. Shortly before Poliss media conference, Brauchler pleaded, Please do not issue any sweeping shelter-in-place order without first consulting with the agencies across the state who will be called upon to enforce such an order.

On Friday, Colorado Public Radios Ben Markus asked, Why Isnt Colorado Sheltering In Place Like Other States? During Sundays conference, several journalists seemed shocked that Polis did not issue such an order. Meanwhile, Colorados journalists have worried how to keep themselves in the essential services category and therefore exempt from any statewide crackdown. (Obviously I agree journalists need the freedom to keep working during this critical time.)

Rather than impose an extreme statewide crackdown, Polis instead did something remarkable, something that politicians often have trouble doing. He chose, at least to a substantial degree, to trust individuals to rise to the challenge, do the right thing, and do their part to keep Coloradans safe. Polis chose to lead with moral authority rather than the point of a government gun. And now it is up to us. It is up to you, me, and every other person in Colorado to act responsibly during the coronacrisis.

Polis said that the ultimate enforcer for physical distancing guidelines is not the state of Colorado, it is the grim reaper. To the degree that people act recklessly, they put their parents, grandparents, health-compromised friends and family members, and themselves at risk, Polis explained. The governor also said that he wants his measures to be practical for people to follow for a number of weeks.

The thrust of Poliss remarks on Sunday is that businesses need to do better to achieve physical distancing in the workplace. The way Polis put it is that so-called non-essential businesses should reduce their in-person workforces by 50 percent. He suggested that businesses go for telework to the extent feasible, and when people absolutely must come in that businesses do things like stagger shifts and ensure adequate physical separation among employees.

Make no mistake: Polis still has imposed some dramatic restrictions on peoples movements. Bars and restaurants are shut down except for takeout. Hair, nail, massage, and tattoo businesses are shut down. Social gatherings of over ten people are out. And he means the new workforce rules to be binding, not just recommendations. We should also remember that Polis still may issue more-severe emergency measures in the future. But, so far, Polis has not followed such states as California in issuing a shelter-in-place order, so in the scope of things he is applying a relatively light touch.

Polis is taking a bit of a gamble here. He must know that, if the death toll reaches anything like worst-case numbers, many people will criticize him for not taking an even more severe approach, and critics may not think too carefully about whether that harsher crackdown would have worked better. So those of us who think he did the right thing by holding back should be especially motivated to make his bet a winner.

Polis is taking flak from both sides, both from those who think hes close to an irresponsible anarchist for not imposing stricter controls and those who think he has strapped on the jack boots too tightly. I think both extremes are overreacting.

As Ive said, I do think some restrictions on gatherings are reasonable here to prevent the spread of infectious disease. As best as I can tell, the dominant view among health experts is that COVID-19, this dreadful new coronavirus, is highly contagious, quite a lot more deadly that the flu, and easily spread by people before they show any symptoms. Models of the potential exponential spread and damage of the disease are frankly terrifying. Theyre not Zombie Apocalypse terrifying or wipe out a quarter of the population terrifying, but they are maybe kill hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans terrifying.

So I for one intend to stay isolated with my family to the greatest degree possible. Id go even further than Polis and recommend that people not even go to grocery stores where delivery is available. If you dont have to be around other people, dont be. The life you save could be your loved ones. Or yours. Or mine.

The other main aspect of Poliss approach that I love is his emphasis on getting the hell out of this mess as quickly as we can. We cannot make distancing and economic shutdowns the new normal, he said. Right now we need to lock down fairly tightly to buy ourselves time to find the longer-term measures that will enable us to get back to near-normal.

The main thing that Polis emphasized, and I completely agree, is the need for mass testing. If doctors can more-carefully track the disease and isolate the sick even before they show symptoms, then most people can basically get back to normal. In this way, Polis said, we should strive to look more like South Korea or Taiwan than Italy. I think thats exactly right.

Polis has issued the call. Now it is up to you to answer.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.


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Armstrong: Polis just bet on individuals over harsher crackdown - Complete Colorado

Is There Such a Thing as a Lutheran Novel? – Patheos

The best academic writing in the humanities, in my opinion, is the kind that makes a careful theoretical argument while simultaneously buttressing it with 3-4 deeply specific examples. In the closing pages of Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, Alasdair MacIntyre describes the growth in and practice of the virtues in the lives of four diverse individualsranging from Trinidadian socialist author C.L.R. James to U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day OConnor. In Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, Anthony Kronman discusses the latent Spinozist philosophy permeating the paintings of the Renaissance, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and the fiction of George Eliot. And in his titanic The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity, Eugene McCarraher traces the history of theological reception of capitalismboth positive and negativethrough the works of John Ruskin, Henry Ford, Ayn Rand, Peter Drucker, and countless others. The genius of this approach is that it demands so deep a knowledge of the field under investigation that one can sift the representative exemplars from the inferior imitations.

Joseph Bottums slim new volume, The Decline of the Novel, is a masterful example of this approach to inquiry. Through close readings of Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Thomas Mann, and Tom Wolfe, Bottum outlines a fascinating and original thesis: the novel, as a genre of fiction writing, is a distinctly Protestantphenomenon, one that centers on the spiritual journey of individual human beings rather than describing the broad drama of social order.

Specifically, Bottum distinguishes between the chanson fictionof Catholic society and the roman fictionof Protestant-dominated culture. The former type of fictionepitomized by texts like Chaucers Canterbury Talesand Cervantess Don Quixoteframes the central narrative conflict around the individuals performance of societal duties that transcend the individual self. The drama is as much communal as it is personal. The latteras reflected in the dominant trajectory of Western literatureunderstands conflict as a matter of individualprogress along some spiritual dimension or another, toward some kind of individualized resolution or realization. Dickenss David Copperfield carries the day once he grows to maturity and exercises his rational faculties in the proper manner, overcoming the deceptive forces that surround him; similarly, Wolfes Charlotte Simmons triumphs when she rejects the exploitative social patterns of her university setting and affirms her individual value and capacities.

That thesis, at least, feels intuitively correct. But it nevertheless seems to me that the particular disjunction upon which Bottums argument relies does not perfectly correspond to the distinction between Catholicand non-Catholic; more accurately, it seems to reflect the gap between Catholicand Calvinist. Though plenty of criticism has been levied against Max Webers seminal argument that Puritan salvation-anxiety drove the emergence of contemporary capitalism, one can surely speak of the Calvinist tendency to seek evidence of ones election to eternal life through ones good worksand, more broadly, ones desire to performsuch works. Thisnot the Protestant critique of Rome per seis the particular type of anxiety that animates the texts Bottum surveys, although the theological underpinnings never come fully into view.

Applying Bottums specific criteria, I find it difficult to conceive of a distinctly Anglicannovel, say, oras is relevant to mea uniquely Lutherannovel. (I would welcome thoughts on this front from my former professor and fellow Patheos blogger, Gene Veith, if he has any!) The existential anxiety and motif of spiritual progress that Bottum identifies as definitive characteristics of the Western novel dont seem to logically correlate with the Anglican and Lutheran traditions, both of which share a distinct sacramental and ecclesological consciousness absent from the Reformed paradigm. Im halfway tempted to suggest that the definitive narrative expression of Lutheran theology is the congregational hymna literary form harmonizing theological concerns with cultural ones (how else should one take Luthers pleato restrain the murderous Pope and Turk?) as well as one that invites the participation of both clergy and laity, But that doesnt seem to directly address Bottums questionwhat sort of fictionemerges from a given Christian tradition.

What say you, blog readers? Is the concept of a Lutheran novelor, more broadly, a non-Calvinist, yet Protestant novel intelligible? If so, where might one find such a text?

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Is There Such a Thing as a Lutheran Novel? - Patheos

Ayn Rand | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

Ayn Rand, original name Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, (born February 2, 1905, St. Petersburg, Russiadied March 6, 1982, New York, New York, U.S.), Russian-born American writer whose commercially successful novels promoting individualism and laissez-faire capitalism were influential among conservatives and libertarians and popular among generations of young people in the United States from the mid-20th century.

Top Questions

Ayn Rand was a Russian-born American author and philosopher. Rand authored two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Her novels were especially influential among conservatives and libertarians from the mid-20th century.

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. When the tsarist regime was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, her family moved to Crimea, where she finished high school. She returned to Russia in 1921 and then moved to the United States in 1926.

Ayn Rand is the pen name of Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum. She adopted it when she moved to the United States in 1926. The first name, which rhymes with pine, was inspired by the name of a Finnish writer (whom she declined to identify), and the surname she described as an abbreviation of Rosenbaum.

Ayn Rand arrived in Chicago in 1926 and then moved to Hollywood, where she met American filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. Her chance encounter with DeMille led to work as a movie extra and eventually to a job as a screenwriter. Rand sold her first screenplay, Red Pawn, to Universal Studios in 1932.

Rands first major work, The Fountainhead, was published in 1943. It details the struggle of a genius architect against mediocrity. Her second major work, Atlas Shrugged, was published in 1957. It follows a railroad executive and a steel magnate as they grapple with a collectivist government. Both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged explicate Rands personal philosophy of objectivism.

Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982, in New York City. At the time, she had been working on a television adaptation of her novel Atlas Shrugged.

Her father, Zinovy Rosenbaum, was a prosperous pharmacist. After being tutored at home, Alissa Rosenbaum, the eldest of three children, was enrolled in a progressive school, where she excelled academically but was socially isolated. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, her fathers shop was confiscated by communist authorities, an event she deeply resented. As a student at Leningrad State University, she studied history and became acquainted with the works of Plato and Aristotle. After graduating in 1924, she enrolled in the State Institute for Cinematography, hoping to become a screenwriter.

The arrival of a letter from cousins in Chicago gave her an opportunity to leave the country on the pretext of gaining expertise that she could apply in the Soviet film industry. Upon her arrival in the United States in 1926, she changed her name to Ayn Rand. (The first name, which rhymes with pine, was inspired by the name of a Finnish writer, whom she never identified, and the surname she described as an abbreviation of Rosenbaum.) After six months in Chicago she moved to Hollywood, where a fortuitous encounter with the producer Cecil B. DeMille led to work as a movie extra and eventually to a job as a screenwriter. In 1929 she married the actor Frank OConnor. Soon hired as a filing clerk in the wardrobe department of RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she rose to head of the department within a year, meanwhile writing stories, plays, and film scenarios in her spare time. She became an American citizen in 1931.

Rands first successful play, Night of January 16th (1933; originally titled Penthouse Legend), was a paean to individualism in the form of a courtroom drama. In 1934 she and OConnor moved to New York City so that she could oversee the plays production on Broadway. That year she also wrote Ideal, about a self-centred film star on the run from the law, first as a novel and then as a play. However, she shelved both versions. The play was not produced until 1989, and the novel was not published until 2015. Her first published novel, We the Living (1936), was a romantic tragedy in which Soviet totalitarianism epitomized the inherent evils of collectivism, which she understood as the subordination of individual interests to those of the state. A subsequent novella, Anthem (1938), portrayed a future collectivist dystopia in which the concept of the self and even the word I have been lost.

Rand spent more than seven years working on her first major work, The Fountainhead (1943), the story of a handsome architectural genius whose individualism and integrity are evinced in his principled dedication to his own happiness. The hero, Howard Roark, blows up a public housing project he had designed after it is altered against his wishes by government bureaucrats. On trial for his crime, he delivers a lengthy speech in his own defense in which he argues for individualism over collectivism and egoism over altruism (the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self). The jury votes unanimously to acquit him. Despite generally bad reviews, the book attracted readers through word of mouth and eventually became a best seller. Rand sold it to Warner Brothers studio and wrote the screenplay for the film, which was released in 1949.

Having returned to Los Angeles with OConnor to work on the script for The Fountainhead, Rand signed a contract to work six months a year as a screenwriter for the independent producer Hal Wallis. In 1945 she began sketches for her next novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957; film part 1, 2011, part 2, 2012, part 3, 2014), which is generally considered her masterpiece. The book depicts a future United States on the verge of economic collapse after years of collectivist misrule, under which productive and creative citizens (primarily industrialists, scientists, and artists) have been exploited to benefit an undeserving population of moochers and incompetents. The hero, John Galt, a handsome and supremely self-interested physicist and inventor, leads a band of elite producers and creators in a strike designed to deprive the economy of their leadership and thereby force the government to respect their economic freedom. From their redoubt in Colorado, Galts Gulch, they watch as the national economy and the collectivist social system are destroyed. As the elite emerge from the Gulch in the novels final scene, Galt raises his hand over the desolate earth andtrace[s] in space the sign of the dollar.

Atlas Shrugged was notable for making explicit the philosophical assumptions that underlay The Fountainhead, which Rand described as only an overture to the later work. In an appendix to Atlas Shrugged, Rand described her systematic philosophy, which she called objectivism, as in essencethe 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.

Although the book was attacked by critics from across the political spectrum for its perceived immorality and misanthropy and its overt hostility to religion (Rand was an atheist), it was an instant best seller. It was especially well received by business leaders, many of whom were impressed by its moral justification of capitalism and delighted to think of their occupations as noble and virtuous. Like The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged also appealed widely to young people through its extreme romanticism, its accessible and comprehensive philosophy, its rejection of traditional authority and convention, and its implicit invitation to the reader to join the ranks of the elite by modeling himself on the storys hero.

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Ayn Rand | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

Ayn Rand – – Biography

Who Was Ayn Rand?

Born in Russia in 1905, Ayn Rand moved to the United States in 1926 and tried to establish herself in Hollywood. Her first novel, We the Living (1936), championed her rejection of collectivist values in favor of individual self interest, a belief that became more explicit with her subsequent novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Following the immense success of the latter, Rand promoted her philosophy of Objectivism through courses, lectures and literature. She died in New York City on March 6, 1982.

Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The oldest daughter of Jewish parents (and eventually an avowed atheist), she spent her early years in comfort thanks to her dad's success as a pharmacist, proving a brilliant student.

In 1917, her father's shop was suddenly seized by Bolshevik soldiers, forcing the family to resume life in poverty in the Crimea. The situation profoundly impacted young Alissa, who developed strong feelings toward government intrusion into individual livelihood. She returned to her city of birth to attend the University of Petrograd, graduating in 1924, and then enrolled at the State Institute for Cinema Arts to study screenwriting.

Granted a visa to visit relatives in Chicago, Alissa left for the United States in early 1926, never to look back. She took on her soon-to-be-famous pen name and, after a few months in Chicago, moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter.

Following a chance encounter with Hollywood titan Cecil B. DeMille, Rand became an extra on the set of his 1927 film The King of Kings, where she met actor Frank O'Connor. They married in 1929, and she became an American citizen in 1931.

Rand landed a job as a clerk at RKO Pictures, eventually rising to head of the wardrobe department, and continued developing her craft as a writer. In 1932, she sold her screenplay Red Pawn, a Soviet romantic thriller, to Universal Studios. She soon completed a courtroom drama called Penthouse Legend, which featured the gimmick of audience members serving as the jury. In late 1934, Rand and her husband moved to New York City for its production, now renamed Night of January 16th.

Around this time, Rand also completed her first novel, We the Living. Published in 1936 after several rejections, We the Living championed the moral authority of the individual through its heroine's battles with a Soviet totalitarian state. Rand followed with the novella Anthem (1938), about a future collectivist dystopia in which "I" has been stamped out of the language.

In 1937, Rand began researching a new novel by working for New York architect Ely Jacques Kahn. The result, after years of writing and more rejections, was The Fountainhead. Underscoring Rands individualistic underpinnings, the books hero, architect Howard Roark, refuses to adhere to conventions, going so far as to blowing up one of his own creations. While not an immediate success, The Fountainhead eventually achieved strong sales, and at the end of the decade became a feature film, with Gary Cooper in the role of Roark.

Rand's ideas became even more explicit with the 1957 publication of Atlas Shrugged. A massive work of more than 1,000 pages, Atlas Shrugged portrays a future in which leading industrialists drop out of a collectivist society that exploits their talents, culminating with a notoriously lengthy speech by protagonist John Galt. The novel drew some harsh reviews, but became an immediate best seller.

Around 1950, Rand met with a college student named Nathan Blumenthal, who changed his name to Nathaniel Braden and became the author's designated heir. Along with his wife, Barbara, Braden formed a group that met at Rand's apartment to engage in intellectual discussions. The group, which included future Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, called itself the Collective, or the Class of '43 (the publication year of The Fountainhead).

Rand soon honed her philosophy of what she termed "Objectivism": a belief in a concrete reality, from which individuals can discern existing truths, and the ultimate moral value of the pursuit of self interest. The development of this system essentially ended her career as a novelist: In 1958, the Nathaniel Branden Institute formed to spread her message through lectures, courses and literature, and in 1962, the author and her top disciple launched The Objectivist Newsletter. Her books during this period, including For the New Intellectual (1961) and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), were primarily comprised of previously published essays and other works.

Following a public split with Braden, the author published The Romantic Manifesto (1969), a series of essays on the cultural importance of art, and repackaged her newsletter as The Ayn Rand Letter. She continued traveling to give lectures, though she was slowed by an operation for lung cancer. In 1979, she published a collection of articles in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, which included an essay from protg Leonard Peikoff.

Rand was working on a television adaptation of Atlas Shrugged when she died of heart failure at her home in New York City on March 6, 1982.

Although she weathered criticism for her perceived literary shortcomings and philosophical arguments, Rand undeniably left her mark on the Western culture she embraced. In 1985, Peikoff founded the Ayn Rand Institute to continue her teachings. The following year, Braden's ex-wife, Barbara, published a tell-all memoir, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which later was made into a movie starring Helen Mirren.

Interest in Rand's works resurfaced alongside the rise of the Tea Party movement during President Barack Obama's administration, with leading political proponents like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz proclaiming their admiration for the author. In 2010, the Ayn Rand Institute announced that more than 500,000 copies of Atlas Shrugged had been sold the previous year.

In 2017,Tony-winning director Ivo van Hove reintroduced The Fountainhead to the American public with a production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Having originated at Toneelgroep Amsterdam in the Netherlands, van Hove's version featured his performers speaking in Dutch, with their words projected onto a screen in English.


Ayn Rand - - Biography

Who Is Ayn Rand? – The Objective Standard

Ayn Rand (19051982) was an American novelist and philosopher, and the creator of Objectivism, which she called a philosophy for living on earth.

Rands most widely read novels are The Fountainhead, a story about an independent and uncompromising architect; and Atlas Shrugged, a story about the role of the mind in human life and about what happens to the world when the thinkers and producers mysteriously disappear. Her most popular nonfiction books are The Virtue of Selfishness, a series of essays about the foundations and principles of the morality of self-interest; and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, a series of essays about what capitalism is and why it is the only moral social system.

Rand was born in Russia, where she attended grade school and university; studied history, philosophy, and screenwriting; and witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution and the birth of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1925, she left the burgeoning communist state, telling Soviet authorities she was going for a brief visit with relatives in America, and never returned.

She soon made her way to Hollywood, where she worked as a screenwriter, married actor Frank OConnor, and wrote her first novel, We The Living. She then moved to New York City, where she wrote Anthem (a novelette), The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, numerous articles and essays, and several nonfiction books in which she defined and elaborated the principles of Objectivism.

Rands staunch advocacy of reason (as against faith and whim), self-interest (as against self-sacrifice), individualism and individual rights (as against collectivism and group rights), and capitalism (as against all forms of statism) make her both the most controversial and most important philosopher of the 20th century.

Describing Objectivism, Rand wrote: My philosophy, in essence, is 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.

For a good biography of Rand, see Jeffery Brittings Ayn Rand or Scott McConnells 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand. For a brief presentation of the principles of Objectivism, see What is Objectivism? For the application of these principles to cultural and political issues of the day, subscribe to The Objective Standard, the preeminent source for commentary from an Objectivist perspective.

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Who Is Ayn Rand? - The Objective Standard

Clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand helped turn the US into a selfish and greedy nation – Raw Story

The Atlas Shrugged author made selfishness heroic and caring about others weakness.

This story first appeared at AlterNet.

Ayn Rands philosophy is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society.To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil. Gore Vidal, 1961

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Rands impact has been widespread and deep. At the icebergs visible tip is the influence shes had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her Collective, Rands ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, Am an admirer of Ayn Rand. Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his foundation book. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bushs second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

But Rands impact on U.S. society and culture goes even deeper.

The Seduction of Nathan Blumenthal

Ayn Rands books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, nearly perfect in its immorality. But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rands psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?

While Greenspan (tagged A.G. by Rand)was the most famous name that would emerge from Rands Collective, the second most well-known name to emerge from the Collective was Nathaniel Branden, psychotherapist, author and self-esteem advocate. Before he was Nathaniel Branden, he was Nathan Blumenthal, a 14-year-old who read Rands The Fountainhead again and again. He later would say, I felt hypnotized. He describes how Rand gave him a sense that he could be powerful, that he could be a hero. He wrote one letter to his idol Rand, then a second. To his amazement, she telephoned him, and at age 20, Nathan received an invitation to Ayn Rands home. Shortly after, Nathan Blumenthal announced to the world that he was incorporating Rand in his new name: Nathaniel Branden. And in 1955, with Rand approaching her 50th birthday and Branden his 25th, and both in dissatisfying marriages, Ayn bedded Nathaniel.

What followed sounds straight out of Hollywood, but Rand was straight out of Hollywood, having worked for Cecil B. DeMille. Rand convened a meeting with Nathaniel, his wife Barbara (also a Collective member), and Rands own husband Frank. ToBrandensastonishment, Rand convinced both spouses that a time-structured affairshe andBrandenwere to have one afternoon and one evening a week togetherwas reasonable. Within the Collective, Rand is purported to have never lost an argument. On his trysts at Rands New York City apartment,Brandenwould sometimes shake hands with Frank before he exited. Later, all discovered that Rands sweet but passive husband would leave for a bar, where he began his self-destructive affair with alcohol.

By 1964, the 34-year-old Nathaniel Brandenhad grown tired of the now 59-year-old Ayn Rand. Still sexually dissatisfied in his marriage to Barbara and afraid to end his affair with Rand,Brandenbegan sleeping with a married 24-year-old model, Patrecia Scott. Rand, now the woman scorned, calledBrandento appear before the Collective, whose nickname had by now lost its irony for both Barbara andBranden. Rands justice was swift. She humiliatedBrandenand then put a curse on him: If you have one ounce of morality left in you, an ounce of psychological healthyoull be impotent for the next 20 years! And if you achieve potency sooner, youll know its a sign of still worse moral degradation!

Rand completed the evening with two welt-producing slaps across Brandens face. Finally, in a move that Stalin and Hitler would have admired, Rand also expelled poor Barbara from the Collective, declaring her treasonous because Barbara, preoccupied by her own extramarital affair, had neglected to fill Rand in soon enough onBrandensextra-extra-marital betrayal. (If anyone doubts Alan Greenspans political savvy, keep in mind that he somehow stayed in Rands good graces even though he, fixed up byBrandenwith Patrecias twin sister, had double-dated with the outlaws.)

After being banished by Rand, Nathaniel Branden was worried that he might be assassinated by other members of the Collective, so he moved from New York to Los Angeles, where Rand fans were less fanatical. Branden established a lucrative psychotherapy practice and authored approximately 20 books, 10 of them with either Self or Self-Esteem in the title. Rand and Branden never reconciled, but he remained an admirer of her philosophy of self-interest until his recent death in December 2014.

Ayn Rands personal life was consistent with her philosophy of not giving a shit about anybody but herself. Rand was an ardent two-pack-a-day smoker, and when questioned about the dangers of smoking, she loved to light up with a defiant flourish and then scold her young questioners on the unscientific and irrational nature of the statistical evidence. After an x-ray showed that she had lung cancer, Rand quit smoking and had surgery for her cancer. Collective members explained to her that many people still smoked because they respected her and her assessment of the evidence; and that since she no longer smoked, she ought to tell them. They told her that she neednt mention her lung cancer, that she could simply say she had reconsidered the evidence. Rand refused.

How Rands Philosophy Seduced Young Minds

When I was a kid, my reading included comic books and Rands The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasnt much difference between the comic books and Rands novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness.

Rand said, Capitalism and altruism are incompatible.The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and mans happiness on earthor the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces. For many young people, hearing that it is moral to care only about oneself can be intoxicating, and some get addicted to this idea for life.

I have known several people, professionally and socially, whose lives have been changed by those close to them who became infatuated with Ayn Rand. A common theme is something like this: My ex-husband wasnt a bad guy until he started reading Ayn Rand. Then he became a completely selfish jerk who destroyed our family, and our children no longer even talk to him.

To wow her young admirers, Rand would often tell a story of how a smart-aleck book salesman had once challenged her to explain her philosophy while standing on one leg. She replied: Metaphysicsobjective reality. Epistemologyreason. Ethicsself-interest. Politicscapitalism. How did that philosophy capture young minds?

Metaphysicsobjective reality. Rand offered a narcotic for confused young people: complete certainty and a relief from their anxiety. Rand believed that an objective reality existed, and she knew exactly what that objective reality was. It included skyscrapers, industries, railroads, and ideasat least her ideas. Rands objective reality did not include anxiety or sadness. Nor did it include much humor, at least the kind where one pokes fun at oneself. Rand assured her Collective that objective reality did not include Beethovens, Rembrandts, and Shakespeares realitiesthey were too gloomy and too tragic, basically buzzkillers. Rand preferred Mickey Spillane and, towards the end of her life, Charlies Angels.

Epistemologyreason. Rands kind of reason was a cool-tool to control the universe. Rand demonized Plato, and her youthful Collective members were taught to despise him. If Rand really believed that the Socratic Method described by Plato of discovering accurate definitions and clear thinking did not qualify as reason, why then did she regularly attempt it with her Collective? Also oddly, while Rand mocked dark moods and despair, her reasoning directed that Collective members should admire Dostoyevsky, whose novels are filled with dark moods and despair. A demagogue, in addition to hypnotic glibness, must also be intellectually inconsistent, sometimes boldly so. This eliminates challenges to authority by weeding out clear-thinking young people from the flock.

Ethicsself-interest. For Rand, all altruists were manipulators. What could be more seductive to kids who discerned the motives of martyr parents, Christian missionaries and U.S. foreign aiders? Her champions, Nathaniel Branden still among them, feel that Rands view of self-interest has been horribly misrepresented. For them, self-interest is her hero architect Howard Roark turning down a commission because he couldnt do it exactly his way. Some of Rands novel heroes did have integrity, however, for Rand there is no struggle to discover the distinction between true integrity and childish vanity. Rands integrity was her vanity, and it consisted of getting as much money and control as possible, copulating with whomever she wanted regardless of who would get hurt, and her always being right. To equate ones selfishness, vanity, and egotism with ones integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.

Politicscapitalism. While Rand often disparaged Soviet totalitarian collectivism, she had little to say about corporate totalitarian collectivism, as she conveniently neglected the reality that giant U.S. corporations, like the Soviet Union, do not exactly celebrate individualism, freedom, or courage. Rand was clever and hypocritical enough to know that you dont get rich in the United States talking about compliance and conformity within corporate America. Rather, Rand gave lectures titled: Americas Persecuted Minority: Big Business. So, young careerist corporatists could embrace Rands self-styled radical capitalism and feel radical radical without risk.

Rands Legacy

In recent years, we have entered a phase where it is apparently okay for major political figures to publicly embrace Rand despite her contempt for Christianity. In contrast, during Ayn Rands life, her philosophy that celebrated self-interest was a private pleasure for the 1 percent but she was a public embarrassment for them. They used her books to congratulate themselves on the morality of their selfishness, but they publicly steered clear of Rand because of her views on religion and God. Rand, for example, had stated on national television, I am against God. I dont approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.

Actually, again inconsistent, Rand did have a God. It was herself. She said:

I am done with the monster of we, the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: I.

While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United States dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it moral for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she liberated millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children.

The good news is that Ive seen ex-Rand fans grasp the damage that Rands philosophy has done to their lives and to then exorcize it from their psyche. Can the United States as a nation do the same thing?

Bruce E. Levineis a practicing clinical psychologist. His latest book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

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Clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand helped turn the US into a selfish and greedy nation - Raw Story

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words – Arkansas Online

Clarence Thomas is a famous sphinx, a Supreme Court justice who typically sits silently through oral arguments, who has carefully selected his audiences since his infamous 1991 confirmation hearings during which his former colleague Anita Hill accused him of making unwelcome sexual comments to her when the two worked together at the Department of Education.

In light of his silence and the relatively few opinions Thomas has written during his time on the Court, there might be a tendency to cast him as something of a conservative mascot, a predictable vote for the Red Team.

Created Equal:

Clarence Thomas in His Own Words

86 Cast: documentary, with Clarence Thomas, Virginia Thomas

Director: Michael Pack

Rating: PG-13, for language

Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Whatever your political leanings, you might come into a documentary about Thomas thinking of him as having been deeply wounded by what he called his "electronic lynching"; you might sense in his long silence protest or petulance. You might, as my wife has been known to observe, feel like sometimes quiet people simply have little to say -- remaining mute might signal mysteriousness and depth where none exists.

Whether you might think him an intellectual lightweight, a true believer, a good soldier, a hero or a fool, it's likely to be revised after watching Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.

That's not to say that the film by conservative filmmaker Michael Pack will make you change your mind about Thomas' politics or re-evaluate your position vis--vis l'affaire Anita Hill. But what it will show you is a flesh-and-blood Thomas, with a complicated history and a complex psychology -- a thinking person, both engaging and thoughtful. Clarence Thomas presents as a normal, thoroughly decent dude.

The whole idea of the movie is to show Thomas as an avuncular gentleman of high principles and ideals. Just like the whole purpose of the 2018 documentary RBG is to present Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a kind of left-progressive superhero. There's no pretense otherwise, and though I guess you could call this agitprop, it's a very honest kind of agitprop.

It's a chance for Thomas to tell his story his way, to explain why he is who he is and why he does what he does. Some tough questions about the nominations come up, and you may not believe he's telling the entire truth. But you might grant that he's telling his truth -- a truth he no doubt believes.

Actors say that every villain is misunderstood. Certainly, Thomas, who admits his mantra in law school was "leave me alone," must feel that he's been misjudged by enemies and allies. And he's probably right about that; maybe you can believe Anita Hill and still grant that the man has had quite the journey.

It started in south Georgia, in the rural community of Pin Point, where he was born into a penniless family descended from West Indians (they are called Geechee in Georgia; Gullah in South Carolina).

He says he never really knew his father, but that his early years of rural poverty were "very livable" compared to the grinding racism that went along with being black and poor in Savannah in the mid-1950s. He says he was a feral kid, wild on the street when he was 6 years old; the next year, he was taken in hand by a stern Catholic grandfather who welcomed Thomas and his younger brother into his house by telling them "the damn vacation is over."

It was his "rules and regulations," and he left the boys no doubt they were "there by his grace." The same door that opened for them could be shut with them on the other side.

But they felt they had been delivered -- Grandfather's house had a bathtub and a flush toilet, and Thomas' grandmother was as kind as he was strict.

So Thomas began his education in segregated Catholic schools under the tutelage of fierce Irish nuns. "They didn't much like [segregation]," he says. "They were always on our side."

When he was a high school sophomore, Thomas entered St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary and went on to Conception Seminary College in Missouri to study for the priesthood. He flourished there under the guidance of a priest who impressed upon the need for speaking standard English. (Thomas' wife, Virginia, the only other interviewee in the film, says that when she visited her husband's extended family in Pin Hook she couldn't understand their Geechee patois -- she just smiled and nodded a lot.)

Thomas understood the need to perform better academically than his white peers. He didn't want to leave anyone any reason other than race to try to discredit him.

But after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was 16, Thomas was upset by comments made by his fellow seminarians. So he quit. And when he went back to his grandfather's house he was turned away -- as the old man said he would be. He lived with his mother for a while before being accepted to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and costumed himself as a black radical. From there, he went on to Yale Law School, where he describes himself as adopting a "lazy libertarian" philosophy.

His eventual conversion to natural law conservative occupies the second half of the film, and while it's nowhere near as compelling as the first half, it's never insulting to one's intelligence.

Apparently, it was precipitated by the realization that his radical play-acting was ridiculous and the fact that the schools in South Boston to which black kids from Roxbury were being forcibly bused to achieve integration were just as shabby as the ones in their neighborhood.

And yes, he's thought about Ayn Rand; though he's insulted that anyone would think that he might have had an offhand conversation about Roe v. Wade.

And the whole Anita Hill debacle was a liberal smear campaign.

OK, let Thomas have his say. It's only fair.

He doesn't ask questions during oral arguments because he doesn't believe that justices should ask questions. He thinks lawyers should make arguments, and judges should decide cases.

He has a simple solution to America's seemingly intractable problem of racism: Cut it out. Treat everybody the same. And quit complaining, because if he could make it, coming from where he came from, anyone should be able to.

But that ignores what the movie has just demonstrated: Clarence Thomas is a person of uncommon ability; a super-competent man of high intellect and -- who would have thought it -- genuine charisma. He is decidedly not just anyone.

Future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his younger brother Myers about the time they were were taken to live with his maternal grandparents in Savannah, Georgia. Thomas was 7 years old at the time.

MovieStyle on 02/21/2020

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Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words - Arkansas Online

A counter-revolution is brewing in the U.K. and Europe – The Advocate

Behind the headlines about Brexit, a counter-revolution has quietly occurred in Britain in recent years. Its reverberations seemed certain to reach beyond the English Channel when last week the guillotine unexpectedly came down on Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the British Exchequer.

Javid, a devotee of the libertarian philosopher Ayn Rand and alumnus of Deutsche Bank, was edged out of Boris Johnson's Cabinet largely because he seemed too much a foot soldier of the ideological revolution that occurred in the 1980s in, first, Britain, and then, the United States.

In that upheaval, the hyper-individualist free-marketeering of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan became dominant across the West. Thatcher aimed to "roll back the frontiers of the state." Her ideological kin Ronald Reagan claimed that "government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."

In this view, the primary, if not the only, legitimate economic role of the government is to guarantee price stability rather than to intervene repeatedly to stem inequality and protect the weakest members of the population.

Today, however, many citizens buffeted by global economic headwinds have come to see government yet again as a necessary player in the national economy.

Javid is actually the latest casualty of the counter-revolutionary urge to overthrow obsolete pieties. The much bigger victims have been left-leaning parties across Europe, such as the Labour Party, the creator of Britain's welfare state.

Rebranded as New Labour under Tony Blair, it embraced Thatcherism - to the point where Thatcher identified Blair as her heir. During its 13 years in power, New Labour pushed through Thatcher-style deregulation and privatization, often disguising it through "public-private partnerships."

Failing to check de-industrialization, or rising social inequality, New Labour started to lose the party's traditional working-class base in the manufacturing and mining districts of North England.

Claiming to be Blair's "true heir," the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, together with his Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne, more aggressively advanced policies of "austerity" that further shrunk the remnants of the welfare state.

The eventual outcome of Thatcherism on steroids was Brexit: a furious rejection by Britain's working class of a long ideological status quo that seemed to benefit only a rich metropolitan minority.

An early beneficiary of the anti-establishment mood was Jeremy Corbyn, who, in elections held one year after the Brexit referendum, dramatically increased his party's vote share.

Corbyn belonged to the marginalized left wing of the Labour Party, which had always seen the European Union (EU) as an enforcer of free-market fundamentalism, drastically constraining the British state's ability to intervene in the economy.

Accepting that Brexit had to get done, Corbyn offered in his popular election manifesto of 2017 a bonanza of spending promises. The manifesto was pathbreaking not only because it broke with the Thatcherite orthodoxy of non-intervention that for decades had prevailed inside the Labour Party.

It was extraordinary also because the Conservative party, traditionally representatives of big business and the landed aristocracy, rushed to imitate Corbyn's rhetoric, and to disown Thatcherism, claiming in own manifesto that "we do not believe in untrammeled free markets" and that "we reject the cult of selfish individualism."

"She has even adopted," the Economist complained of the then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, "Labour's 'Marxist' policy of energy-price caps."

In last year's elections, the Conservative Party under Johnson competed even more fiercely with Labour to offer spending plans (much to the despair of orthodox economists and balanced-budget diehards).

Johnson carefully distanced himself from his posh Tory pals, such pro-EU architects of austerity as Cameron and Osborne. He promised to use Brexit to re-engineer British laws in favor of British people. He even abandoned an earlier promise to cut corporation tax from 19% to 17%.

Johnson, closely identified all his life with Tory free-marketeers, was responding to an altered public mood. According to a recent British Social Attitudes survey, 60 percent support more government spending.

As it turned out, Johnson's gamble succeeded. While the London-based leadership of the Labour party strove futilely for a second referendum on Brexit, many of its lifelong voters in the Northern England lent their support to a party that seemed more capable of extracting Britain from the EU and turning on the spending taps.

Johnson is moving fast to please his new and potentially fickle constituency, nationalizing Northern Rail and increasing public spending. Sajid Javid, with his tattered copy of The Fountainhead, clearly stood in his boss's (and neighbor's) way, insisting that Britain should run a balanced budget by 2023. Javid's replacement, Rishi Sunak, a hurriedly promoted Johnson loyalist, has no such constricting goal.

As a political insider told the Financial Times about the new occupants of Downing Street: "It wasn't a question of what they wanted to spend more money on; it was more a question of whether there was anything they didn't want to spend more money on."

Johnson is, of course, an opportunist; and his actual ability to spend, already limited, may shrink even more by the time Brexit gets done. Moreover, he has barely started on his impossible task: triangulating the clashing demands of rich Tory grandees and North England's immiserated working class.

Nevertheless, the political alignments and re-alignments of the last three decades are now in plain sight.

During the ideological hegemony of Reagan and Thatcher, left-leaning parties with electoral bases among working classes moved right - or, to the "center," in their preferred euphemism.

One unexpected outcome of this shift is that, today, they appear complicit in extensive social and economic breakdown. Worse: Their founding ideas about beneficent government, which they have steadily discarded since the 1980's, are being stolen by carpetbaggers and the far-right.

Indeed, Boris Johnson's success in the UK could be paralleled by Marine Le Pen in France.

Presidential elections are due in two years, and Le Pen, pitted against a weakened Emmanuel Macron (hailed early and fatefully in his tenure as the "French Blair") is surging on the back of her promise to deepen the activist role of the state in the national economy.

France may witness in 2022 what has already occurred in Britain: a counter-revolution that sends both free-marketeers and self-proclaimed "centrists" to the guillotine.

- - -

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners. Pankaj Mishra is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. His books include "Age of Anger: A History of the Present," "From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia," and "Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond."

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A counter-revolution is brewing in the U.K. and Europe - The Advocate

A World to Win – The New Republic

J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph Stalin shared one passionately held belief: that socialism denoted the one-party dictatorship in Moscow and its satellites. The fact that this dictatorship would have been emphatically repudiated by a great many people with a much better right to adjudicate the use of the word socialismMarx, Engels, William Morris, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Jean Jaurs, Bertrand Russell, Eugene Debs, Antonio Gramsci, Ignazio Silone, George Orwell, Dwight Macdonald, and C.L.R. James, among many otherswould have made no impression on Hoover or Stalin. The terminological status quo was far too convenient for both of them. It allowed Hoover to pretend that socialism was Stalinist tyrannytout courtrather than the democratic movement that he had helped destroy in the United States earlier in the century, before the Bolshevik Revolution provided even the excuse of hysterical overreaction. And it allowed Stalin to claim the moral prestige of the socialist tradition, chief repository of the ideals of equality and full democracy, even as he was murdering every socialist he could get his hands on. I imagine the two old malefactors cackling together now in the lowest circle of Hell, comparing notes on their outrages against decency and humanity.

It is long, very long, past time Americans discarded Cold War shibboleths and talked sense to one another about equality, democracy, and cooperation. When we do, we will be talking about socialism, though it doesnt matter what we call it. We may even have to give up the worddepressingly many Americans still believe what J. Edgar Hoover believed or, even more depressingly, what Ayn Rand believed: that solidarity is a delusion and altruism a pathology. A lot of fancy stepping may be required to avoid the deadly bog of misunderstanding that almost immediately materializes when a left-wing American engages in political discussion with a right-wing fellow citizen. But theres no avoiding it.

Two new books should make the left-wingers job much easier, supplying many telling facts, much relevant history, and, in these spiritually parched times, a welcome spritz of utopian imagination. Both aged 30, Nathan Robinson and Bhaskar Sunkara are leading left intellectuals and entrepreneurs. In the latter capacity, each started a radical magazine in print formRobinsonsCurrent Affairsand SunkarasJacobinand within a few years made a financial success of it. Compared with that remarkable feat, organizing a socialist revolution will doubtless present few difficulties. Not surprisingly, these two books reflect the personalities of the two magazines. LikeCurrent Affairs,Why You Should Be a Socialistis first-person and playful, anecdotal and indignant. LikeJacobin,The Socialist Manifestois earnest and analytical, sober and strategic. Two guides, with something for every temperament.

The root of socialism, Robinson writes, is revulsion. Unnecessary suffering, untasted joys, unexercised talents, wasted lives: These are everywhere, if you have eyes to see; and if you also have a heart to feel, then youre on the threshold of socialism. Robinson aims to bring you over. In the United States last year, 41 percent of workers didnt have evenone dayof paid vacation, he writes. Thirty-six percent didnt have a single day of paid sick leave. Half of all private-sector pensions have disappeared. One in five households has zero or negative net worth. The net worth of the top one percent is greater than the net worth of the bottom 95 percent. Suicide and depression rates are up; life expectancy in the bottom half of the income distribution is down; and poor adults are five times as likely to report being in poor health as rich adults. Hundreds more examples follow in the same vein. Robinson preaches this familiar socialist sermon with wit and fervor. Your mileage may vary, but I find it never gets old.

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A World to Win - The New Republic

Trump Pardons Every Criminal He Knows, Which Is A Lot Of Criminals – Wonkette

Donald Trump was feeling merciful today, so he did us a favor though and granted clemency to a load of famous crimers, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik, former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and fraudy inside trader Michael Milken. Kerik, Milken, and DeBartolo all received full pardons, while Blago only had his 14-year sentence commuted, allowing him out of prison but leaving his conviction for trying to sell an appointment to the US Senate seat that had been held by Barack Obama.

Trump also granted clemency to a number of less well-known people, including some women convicted of drug offenses, who appear to have actually turned their lives around in prison. It is not yet known whether the women were insulted by being included in a clemency spree with those scummy fraud men.

The Chicago Tribune's headline for the story was a masterpiece of pointed omission:

On his way to a West Coast campaign trip that will feature three big slob picnics over four days, Trump told reporters,

Trump denies knowing him? Crom only knows what sort of hinky business deals they may have been up to! Trump had reportedly been talking about helping out Blagojevich for years, although some Republicans, quaintly enough, urged him not to because the former governor's scheme sure looked swampy. Pardon me (and he will) but the swamp is full of Democrats and never-Trumpers only, not people like Blagojevich who were on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Bernard Kerik, who like Trump pal Rudy Giuliani got and then squandered a lot of public goodwill for the NYPD response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, pleaded guilty in 2009 to multiple counts of tax fraud and obstruction of justice; the judge who sentenced him actually gave Kerik 48 months in prison, more than the sentencing guidelines, saying Kerik's abuse of his office over the 10 years he was commissioner had done "immeasurable" damage to the public trust, and that "the guidelines don't take fully into account the operatic proportions of this case."

Milken, the "junk bond king" who was convicted for securities fraud and tax evasion in 1990, was originally sentenced to 10 years but later had his sentenced reduced to two years; Trump cited Milken's support in raising funds for cancer research as one reason for erasing his conviction.

The White House statement on the pardons and commutations called Milken "one of America's greatest financiers," and portrayed him as an Ayn Rand superman who was only accused of crimes because he was too smart for the puny mortals who went after him:

Get that Medal of Freedom ready, kids!

And the football guy got dinged for trying to bribe then-Louisiana Gov. Edwin "Vote for the crook; it's important" Edwards to get a riverboat gambling license and then covered it up. Honestly, who among us hasn't?

DeBartolo never went to jail, but was on two years' probation. He also hosted a pre-inauguration party for several Trump associates in 2017, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Bribery, insider trading, securities fraud, selling favors, abuse of office, tax evasion what's not for Donald Trump to like?

Mind you, none of this should be taken to suggest that Donald Trump is thinking about pardoning Roger Stone, because he says he hasn't given it any thought, so for sure he hasn't. The New York Times reports he's been talking with advisers about clemency for Stone, but that's obviously not true and the Times should go to jail for lying and never be pardoned.

So it was a pretty good day for several people who really like fraud and money, which proves that if you you make a mistake and have powerful friends, you'll be taken care of. After all, it's not like any of these guys did anything really bad, like illegally crossing the border and asking for asylum. That gets you locked up forever, and your conversations with a therapist can be used to portray you as a violent gangbanger.

Now, who wants tax cuts?

No? How about an OPEN THREAD?

[NYT / CNBC / ABC News / White House / Photo: The Publicity Agency, Creative Commons license 2.0]

Yr Wonkette is supported entirely by your donations, if you're among the less than one percent of readers who donate. Maybe you should become a One Percenter, huh? No insider trading necessary!

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Trump Pardons Every Criminal He Knows, Which Is A Lot Of Criminals - Wonkette

OPINION: Hateful, and then some | Cit – Independent Tribune

Nancy Pelosi says she doesnt hate anybody, and I have no reason to doubt her. She said so a few weeks ago in response to a reporter who asked why she hates Donald Trump. She cited her Catholicism for the conviction that hate has no place in human interactions. I am no longer a Catholic, but I am a liberal, so I think I understand how it works. I, too, if I am to maintain an honest self-awareness, do not hate the actual man so much as perceive what a grasping, transparently insecure, pathetic man-baby he is and always has been; but I hate every single thing he has done to my fellow citizens, and everything he seems poised to do. I not only want him out: I think he deserves prison.

If Im to talk honestly about my emotional and physiological response to the sight and sound of Donald Trump, it requires the airing of a long list of complaints encompassing not only what he does, but who he is; his projections of self upon our political and social landscape. I found I disliked him initially when he was just a bankrupt, two-bit showman and poseur with an unfathomable appeal to people who aspire to his level of vulgarity and ostentation. To me, hes a cartoon realization of what underprivileged people think a tycoon must be; an Ayn Rand captain of industry gone berserk.

My disrespect for the man is comprehensive. Im repelled by him for glibly mocking fellow humans at every turn, including all women, people with disabilities, anyone of non-European extraction, and any actual Europeans who fail to flatter him. I disdain him for his refusal or inability to learn, or to understand what he needs to learn; for his dismissal of science, his repeated attacks on the honest press, his frank racism and eagerness to inflame the worst racist hearts, his cruelty, his bottomless ignorance, his casual undermining of the very structure of democracy solely to enshrine himself as the biggest pig at the trough; for endangering the lives of desperate refugees; for sucking up to the worst dictators in the world; for lies and misrepresentation, at all times and about everything; for enriching himself and his entitled spawn at the expense of the American people; for dividing Americans at every opportunity; for false religiosity; for favoring the insatiable desires of billionaires over the needs of the people; for attacking public service; for open-faced corruption; for endangering our republic, spewing propaganda created by our adversaries, ballooning our debt and for his ridiculous haircut. All of it.

And most of all, I deplore him and every other member of the Republican Party for failing to rise to the most existential threat we have ever faced, an environmental catastrophe of our own making, a challenge for which they have not only failed to provide any leadership whatsoever, but have dedicated themselves to making things worse, sooner. That sort of ignorance deserves active and relentless derision. Trump and his Republicans have become insurgent outliers in American politics. They are ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The impending doom from the inaction of these institutionally obtuse Trumpites will be famine and drought, the collapse of the oceans, the deepening worldwide refugee crisis, looming wars over resources and territory, epidemics and spread of disease, and extinctions; and all of it sooner than we previously feared. All of it is on Trump, and on Republicans, every last feckless one of them.

Trump is a man so uneducated and, frankly, stupid that he either believes there is no crisis as long as he still has a bedroom thermostat, or he doesnt give a tinkers curse as long as hes still rich. His sole claim to respect comes from his Machiavellian self-preservation. But even this is in peril as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and others, ask questions about the fairness of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnells proposed approach to the impeachment trial. We cant impeach him for hatefulness or stupidity. We can, however, impeach him for corruption, for obstruction, for abuse of power all of it blatant and uncontested. In the pestilent cesspool of stupid that is the Republican defense of Donald J. Trump, the stupidest thing being said is that liberals are trying to undo his election because we hate him. If that actually did it for us, wed be the luckiest group of voters in the world.

Gerry Dionne is a writer, musician and coffee-table philosopher who moved to our area when he was 18. Hes in his 70s now, so yall give him a break.

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OPINION: Hateful, and then some | Cit - Independent Tribune

Bike about Vice City in GTA V with this mod – Rock Paper Shotgun

Theres always a man, a lighthouse, and a city. Sometimes, those cities are sucked from 2002 and splatted into modern videogames, like the Vice Cry: Remastered mod that takes the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City map and plops it into Grand Theft Auto V. Bet Ayn Rand didnt see that one coming.

The mods been floating about for years but only recently hit version 1.0. It started life as a makeover mod for the original Vice City, so in theory its a better version even before GTA Vs technobits.

Heres a trailer, which confusingly features remade cutscenes from Vice Citys singleplayer campaign that you cant play with the mod you only get to muck about with the map, and some homemade missions. GTA is obviously at its best when youre just larking about with trucks and drawbridges, so I wouldnt worry.

I say obviously, despite not having played any of Vice City. Six-year-old me was sadly deprived of gang violence. And these excellent fish.

The download page promises a full port of the original mod, plus modern enhancements I dont understand but would gladly sign up for. MLO interiors. Instanced Grass. Pour it all over me.

Youll need to faff around a tad with other, supporting mods, and faff a tad further if you want the cars to be authentically 80s.

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Bike about Vice City in GTA V with this mod - Rock Paper Shotgun

EDITORIAL: What next? – Washington Times


The beginning of a new year is a time to take stock in ourselves, to revise our goals and plans for the future, and to hope against hope the coming year will be better than the last. Frankly, there are lots of reasons for optimism. The economy is humming. The United States is as close to full employment as it is ever likely to get and, now that Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell has concluded things arent overheating and theres no need for a hike in interest rates to cool things off, growth and expansion should continue.

The beginning of a new decade, as this also is, presents an opportunity to take stock in the kind of nation we are and want to be in the future. Thats healthy, even as the rhetoric flies, reckless, hot, fast and furious out of our televisions and across our computer screens and smartphones. Theres a lot at stake. America is still, as Lincoln put it succinctly in his 1862 State of the Union message, the last, best hope of earth. We have to decide, all 300 million-plus of us, what kind of nation we want to be.

In that regard, there are warning signs many of us want to break significantly with the past. America was established as a place where the right of conscience was not only respected but protected, and not just in some ambiguous, amorphous way derived from traditions going back centuries as in England. Here, the founders took steps to ensure the right of conscience was enshrined in written law so that no man or woman could be forced to think as the government dictated.

That concept grew beyond the government to become a dominant theme in our common culture. As a nation, we are rightfully proud of what some call our free speech culture in which ordinary people can, as it was popularly put not all that long ago, speak truth to power without fear or reprisal.

That appears to be changing. The concept of victimization as embraced by the American left as a political organizing tool and path to power is an inherent assault on our individual right of conscience. All ideas are still said to be equal, as George Orwell might observe if he were writing today, but some ideas have become more equal than others. At Americas colleges and universities, there are countless examples of groupthink where debates over political, moral, and social issues have run freedom of expressed thought to ground, in many cases with the active assistance of university leaders.

Some might call that tyranny and, if it indeed is, be warned that it is spreading to all aspects of American life. Where no less a person than Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted during her husbands presidency that dissent was patriotic, thoughts deviating from so-called cultural norms expressed by the major and social media are now considered dangerous.

It is fair to ask now as we begin the decade in which the sester- or semiquincentennial of the American experiment will be celebrated what kind of a nation we want to be in the future. Do we still want the right of conscience to occupy its position of prominence atop the list of enumerated rights we enjoy? Do we expect or even want free men and women to still be able to think for themselves? Or are those intent on remaking the American system have it in mind to impose some kind of official or quasi-official standard against which the acceptability of thoughts expressed shall be measured? There are hints abundant that they do.

These questions matter as we debate seemingly mundane things like the responsibility of social media platforms for user-posted content and the requirement of non-for-profit groups engaged in issue advocacy to disclose their funding sources to the government. For most of its history, America has been a place where we have many times accepted that people have an intrinsic right to be wrong. There are a few notable exceptions none of us should forget that add fire to the arguments of those who would disagree with that premise. Yet we know from experience the government cannot make people virtuous. As people as varied as Hannah Arendt and Ayn Rand have observed, a government powerful enough to make people believe something is one with enough power to force people to believe, contrary to their personal knowledge and better judgment, that A is B.

We saw plenty of that in the last century. It always ended badly. Let us now, as we move into the future, be boundless in our optimism and continue to respect our traditions of decent respect for the various opinions of man and womankind. The right to be wrong may someday turn out to be the most important right we have.

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EDITORIAL: What next? - Washington Times