Quick Roundup 298

Monday, February 04, 2008

Anti-Berkeley Petition at the CAC

Nick Provenzo of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism has been blogging about the recent treasonous resolution against the United States Marines passed by the Berkeley city council and is asking you to sign his petition urging a boycott of that municipality.

Regarding one question I and others have had regarding the propriety of a boycott, I quote the following from an exchange of comments from Rule of Reason:

Why advocate not doing business with businesses located in Berkeley?

Why? Because even if one is in the opposition, one is still responsible for their government. The Berkeley City Council has out-stepped its legitimate mandate, and this did not occur in a vacuum.

Innocent businessmen should demand that the City Council redirect its activities toward its actual responsibilities and not take actions that turn its people into national pariahs. [my italics]
There also remain some questions of the practicality of implementing such a boycott. (For one thing: How can one generate a list of companies headquartered in Berkeley?) Despite these reservations, I think that signing the petition is an excellent way to make sure that this story "grows legs". This outrage is a direct assault on rule of law as well as a deliberate attempt to sow confusion about the proper purpose of government.

Yet Another Busy Week

I'm hoping to post at least once daily this week, but on Thursday, already the most awkward day of the week for me, doing so will be especially hard. I have a presentation to make in the morning and some speaker-hosting activities in the evening, just to name the two extra biggies on my plate....

Ayn Rand, Neocon?!?!

Via the OList, I have learned that a former writer for the National Review, which periodically goes out of its way to demonize Ayn Rand (including by re-publishing an ancient and ludicrously inaccurate and hostile review of Atlas Shrugged), has penned a history of the Neoconservative movement that wrongly implies that Ayn Rand forms part of its intellectual pedigree.

The Washington Post reviews it here, below a graphic that shows a picture of Ayn Rand next to a box containing her name and -- you might have guessed it already -- that of the one who wrote said infamous review, Whittaker Chambers!

I haven't the time to debunk the implied claim that Rand helped give rise to the Neoconservatives, which the review defines (by nonessentials) at one point as "militaristic idealists", but I will quote from some notes I made after a recent reading of Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy:
Sharansky states that, "Only those who have no understanding of tyranny could take such nonsense [i.e., nostalgia for communism] seriously. Russians do not want to return to totalitarianism. To believe that the Russians long for a return to a totalitarian past because of the difficulties they have encountered in the present is like believing that African-Americans who suffer from unemployment and poverty long for a return to slavery. Even those Russians who claim to want to go back to the 'Russia of old' do not want to return to a world where people are arbitrarily killed, where family can be suddenly arrested or imprisoned, or where the government controls nearly every aspect of life." (29)

Only someone who does not understand the power of philosophical ideas to affect man's actions could fail to grasp that some people are capable of wanting to live as free men while seeking political goals that would endanger that very freedom. [I have Ayn Rand to thank for this insight, but my term for this the "dictator fantasy".]

The government benefits that so many unemployed blacks demand are nothing but slavery -- for the people whose wealth must be confiscated to fund them. And as for Russians, who have little experience living in a society where the government protects individual rights, the government, rather than being the guarantor of individual rights, is [often seen as] just another criminal gang.

If someone sees a life of terrorization by gangs as metaphysically normal, the choice to have one gang always in charge, while wrong, is understandable on the level of at least being able to predict its behavior. A society that sees being pushed around as normal may hate its oppressors, but this hatred does not come with automatic knowledge of the requirements of a free society. Such a society is quite likely to simply choose a new tyranny to replace an older one.
Sharansky's book, when it does address the obvious question of whether democracy alone can guarantee freedom, implies that free nations must altruistically sacrifice themselves fostering freedom through various kinds of foreign aid to those (e.g., the Palestinians) who are not quite ready for self-rule (my formulation, not his).

At the same time, Shransky repeatedly ignores the importance of specific philosophical ideas being widespread within a culture in order for that culture to be able to remain free on its own.

Sharansky and the Neoconservatives who lionize him differ fundamentally from Rand in that they seem to make the same fundamental error as the libertarians: They pretend that philosophical ideas are irrelevant to politics. To hear the neocons, you would think that everyone wants freedom just like they want to breathe.

Not so, as any serious student of Ayn Rand will quickly realize.

[Update: Burgess Laughlin reminds me that Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein recently offered an extensive critique of the Forward Strategy of Freedom in The Objective Standard and answered some further questions about their critique in the subsequent edition.]

Super Bowl Excellence

I was rooting for the New York Giants yesterday, and I wasn't disappointed in them or their worthy opponents, the New England Patriots. What a hard-fought game! What heroics by Eli Manning!
Manning's signature moment, perhaps one of the signature moments in the history of the NFL, came on third-and-5 from the New England 44-yard line with 1:15 remaining.

Manning was smothered in the pocket, pulled himself away from one, two, three defenders and lobbed a ball down the field. Tyree soared into the air, trapped the ball against his helmet with defenders hanging on and somehow held on. Four plays later, the Giants won it.
"They deserve to win!" I shouted after seeing that play. And then they proceeded immediately to do so.

The Super Bowl has also become famous in recent years for the impressive display of marketing creativity in its commercials, so I would be remiss not to name my favorite from this year: Tide's "talking stain".

Hands down, buddy!

-- CAV


: Added update to section on Neoconservatism.


Burgess Laughlin said...

At the same time, Shransky repeatedly ignores the importance of specific philosophical ideas being widespread within a culture in order for that culture to be able to remain free on its own.

In replying to a reader who supports the neo-con War in Iraq because he thinks ordinary Iraqis want "security" for their families, Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein make this same point in a detailed argument. For those who haven't read it already, see the Letters and Replies section of the Winter 2007-2008 issue of The Objective Standard.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for bringing up the TOS LTE and replies (and the article! I'm adding that as an update to the main post.


Nicholas Provenzo said...

Thanks for mentioning the "Boycott Berkeley" petition, Gus.

Despite it being up for little under 72 hours, the petition already has 2,100 signatures.

Richard said...

The video is no longer available, sheesh.

Gus Van Horn said...


You're welcome, and thanks for starting it and making sure word got out.


I can still see the video. Try refreshing your browser or closing it entirely and restarting it. You won't be sorry!


Richard said...

Gus, Thanks. Misleading error messages can be so darned annoying. That advert sure makes its point!!!

Jennifer Snow said...

I ran across another petition you may want to push, entirely by accident:www.petitiononline.com/af8f6912/petition.html

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. I'll look into it.

Jim May said...

I thought the same thing when I saw that Tyree catch; until that moment, the Patriots had coated the game with a heavy blanket of inevitability. But when that happened, suddenly it was anyone's game to win.

That catch was almost as good as the one by Antonio Freeman of Green Bay, one Monday night game some years ago, when the defender batted a Brett Favre bomb away from him, only to put it into the air, where it dropped right onto Freeman's back as he lay on the field. It rolled off his back and down his arm, where he snatched it, got up and ran it in -- it never touched the ground.

Gus Van Horn said...

The Patriots did, sort of, but the Giants were keeping them in check, too.

That last touchdown by the Patriots came with just enough time left on the clock, acrobatics or not, for the Giants to make one more good drive.

What a game!

Anonymous said...


Brook and Epstein had another article in TOS (Summer 2007) entitled "Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy" in which they show that the movement is totally alturistic and inimical to U.S. national interest.

Ayn Rand was certainly NOT an neoconservative.

Waly Bussey

Gus Van Horn said...


Although that article, unlike the other one mmentioned in the blog update, requires a subscription to view, I'll provide the link to it here for interested subscribers.