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Wednesday, July 01, 2015
  • Wednesday, June 24, 2015 8:44 PM

    No one should attempt to treat Ayn Rand and Murray N. Rothbard as uncomplicated and rather similar defenders of the free society although they have more in common than many believe. As just one example, neither was a hawk when it comes to deploying military power abroad. There is evidence, too, that both considered it imprudent for the US government to be entangled in international affairs, such as fighting dictators who were no threat to America. Even their lack of enthusiasm for entering WW II could be seen as quite similar.

     
  • Wednesday, June 10, 2015 8:03 PM

    Despite what Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has reportedly believed throughout much of his political career, it seems that his parents didn’t flee Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba for political freedom in the US. What some media appear to have “revealed” is that they came to the US in 1956, prior to Castro’s rise to power, so as to improve their lives. And, as reports to tellingly make clear, this is a mere economic reason for emigrating, not the noble one of escaping oppression.

     
  • Wednesday, June 03, 2015 10:19 PM

    For most people taxation is a burden that’s accepted in large part because they know the alternative is worse. As a friend pointed out, it is like dealing with someone who holds you up in a back alley: “Your money or your life!” To put up a fight can be fatal and up to a point almost everyone can tolerate the loss. But as the economist Arthur Laffer observed, everyone has a point at which no further taxation can be lived with. Kind of like pain–we can all put up with some of it and will not succumb until the level is just too high. But it is never a good thing.

     
  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 9:01 PM

    Katherine Rushton of The Daily Telegraph wrote a column trying to embarrass those in America, like Republican lawmaker Kieran Michael Lalor, who oppose bringing in Al Jazeera television on to the American television news market. Ms. Rushton feels such opposition is a kind of ethnic prejudice, not sound journalism. Dubbing Al Jazeera “Al Jihad,” such efforts may well be over the top but not necessarily.

     
  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015 8:51 PM

    There’s been a pretty impressive movement afoot for over a century or even more championing the idea that human beings are but complicated machines, nothing special at all in the world. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) folks tend to hold this view—machines, in time at least, will do whatever people can, maybe even much better than we do it, like thinking, feeling guilt, empathizing, regretting, apologizing, and the whole gamut of stuff many think is unique to human life. No, say the AI folks, it’s just a matter of handling some of the technicalities and then, voila, we will have machines just like us. After all, aren’t machines already doing many of the tasks most of us had once thought only people could do? Sure.

     
  • Wednesday, May 13, 2015 10:37 PM

    The New York Times blog featured a debate recently, in the wake of the Tucson massacre, among several people on the insanity defense. One of the debaters, Kent Scheidegger, wrote a comment that included a point that’s often proposed but that needs some amendment.

    Scheidegger said “The traditional test [of criminal responsibility] is whether the defendant was able to understand the nature of the act and understand that it was wrong. This test … remains the proper legal and moral test. A person who understands what he is doing and that it is wrong but does it anyway is morally responsible for his act.”

     
  • Thursday, May 07, 2015 1:00 AM

    The New York Times editorialized in panic, predictably, in the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Chicago’s ban on handgun ownership. Lamenting the Court’s highly abstract debate about the constitutional clause that needed to be considered, The Times alleged that Monday’s ruling will “undermin[e] Chicago’s [sensible] law” and lead to “results [that] will be all too real and bloody.”

    The Times’ central complaint amounted to the claim that the freedom to own handguns is entirely too risky. It threw out some completely discredited statistics that suggest a link between the striking down of such bans and the fostering gun violence. (This allegation is discredited in part by the failure to compare it with the beneficial results of handgun ownership, a result that has by now been demonstrated and published, for example in John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998].)

     
  • Wednesday, April 22, 2015 9:28 PM

    Though this is a topic that I have visited on several occasions, having recently become an avid fan of the Discovery Channel’s series on life in the deep oceans and other seas, I am motivated to observe just how absurd the notion of animal rights really is.

    Here we have the oceans of the globe teeming with billions of critters of immense variety. Looked at close up these are often very beautiful animals, indeed, and their agility is fantastic, to say the least. Not that people cannot match what these animals can do, although some of their feats are not within human reach except with extensive technological assistance. But it is undeniable that the wales, octopuses, herrings, crabs, seals, sharks; they do have amazing lives and incidentally put on a great show. At times what they do takes one’s breath away!

     
  • Wednesday, April 01, 2015 6:31 PM
    Whenever a good idea surfaces, there will surely be many who will try to hitch their wagon to it filled with corrupt versions that aim to serve numerous purposes having little to do with the original good idea. One example is the idea of individual natural human rights.

    Some simply disagree with the idea, like Jeremy Bentham did, denouncing it in various terms (e.g., "nonsense upon stilts"). Others do not like going about it straightforwardly. Instead they try to recast the idea to mean what it didn't. A good case in point is the idea of welfare rights.

    The rights John Locke identified as belonging to every adult human being are prohibitions, aimed at spelling out a sphere of personal jurisdiction, a private domain, for us all, one within which the individual is sovereign, the ruler of the realm as it were. For example one's right to private property spells out the area of the world that one is free to use and roam with no need for anyone else's permission; to enter this realm one must give one's permission without which others must remain outside. One's right to one's life is similar. No one may interfere with one's life without having gained permission, not even someone who means to do one no harm but only provide help (e.g., a physician).

     
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 6:08 PM
    Among the elements of a free society looms very large the institution of private property rights. It is this element that gives concrete, practical expression to a citizen's right to liberty. The reason is that living free means doing what one chooses to do someplace, connected to the world around oneself. John Locke, the major theorists of individual rights in the history of political thought, believed that private property rights punctuate our jurisdiction over our lives since what our lives amount to is to a large extent interacting, mixing our labor, with the rest of nature. If we lack the right to private property, we lack the freedom to live on our own terms. Although he wrote that God owns everything, he also believe that God gave it all to humankind and the principle of private property rights served as the best rationing device henceforth.

    No one who defends freedom suffers from the illusion that free men and women always do what is right. And this is true about how they make use of their property. But in a genuinely free society that is one of the troubling yet unavoidable conditions of living with others people. Just as one is, so are others free to use what belongs to them as they judge proper. If this is undermined, so is human freedom.

     

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