Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sixty Years Ago Today
Ludwig von Mises' Human Action was published. Debi Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute quotes a letter of Ayn Rand's on why the book is still relevant today:
As to your statement that "laissez-faire" capitalism is the cause of depressions-this is an issue of economic fact and is simply untrue. The cause of depressions is government interference into economics. For proof, I refer you to such books as Capitalism the Creator by Carl Snyder, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, How Can Europe Survive by Hans Sennholz, and the works of the great economist Ludwig von Mises.That recommendation should strike a chord with the public. As I write, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged ranks third in sales at Amazon.
For about a year, I have been slowly working my way though Always in Pursuit, a collection of essays by Stanley Crouch. In one of his shorter pieces, I encountered the following interesting revelation about a book that was part my high school literature curriculum:
Wright's actual struggle is usually misunderstood. As Black Boy shows, he realized early on that color preceded his essence as a human being. He was a Negro in the skin but intended to become a man of his own making. What he really wanted was to be a writer whose work could stand up next to the best.Or perhaps I should have said, "half a book" in reference to Black Boy.
Because of decision at his publishing house, Wright's original title for his autobiography, American Hunger, was changed and the second half of it was removed. That vital second half was set in the North and pulled the covers off the urban Communist movement. Now, in its full form, the book is remarkable.
The reader can feel the sweat, the bruises, and the cold, and understand the dreams as the boy fights the Southern restrictions imposed on him by the Negroes as well as the whites. When Wright comes North, he isn't overly impressed by the black or the white people nor is he taken in too long by the communists, who have no use for his intellectual probings and his desire for individuality. His insights into the totalitarian techniques of dominating mass thinking are as good as anyone's. [bold and hyperlink added] (115)
Human Action, Atlas Shrugged, and American Hunger: That's three books I wish the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could have read before he took office. But I'll settle for millions of voters discovering the second of these.
For once, ...
... the Texas legislature might pass a semi-good law! As quoted by Kingsport TN Government:
As College Station is expanding its red light camera program, a state representative is trying to stop it.I say "semi-good" (which may still be generous) because I don't know all the details of this law, and banning such cameras would not really be the right step to take. It is the use of such cameras by government entities to generate ticket revenue, and probably also for general surveillance, that should be banned.
A Lubbock legislator has filed a bill that would end red-light cameras in Texas, and a local driver is offering help.
Lubbock did away with its red-light cameras last year when the citizen group that oversaw the cameras, determined the cameras hadn’t made Lubbock’s streets any safer.
At that time, the cameras also hadn't made Lubbock any money. A College Station man is supporting that Lubbock legislator; he says money is what the cameras are all about.
While the use of such traffic cameras might be legitimate and useful in a society in which all roads were privately-owned, they are little more than automated bandits in our current context. (And, based on my experience of passing by one of them on my usual route to work each day, the "little more" consists of encouraging dangerous, sudden stops in heavy traffic, even when the roads are slick.)
Why do I hold that there is a difference?
A private road owner who abused such devices in order to cheat customers out of money would face bad publicity, boycotts, and litigation. This is because, in a free society, the government is delimited only to the task of protecting individual rights. Nobody would be forced to deal with such a business and anyone who did would have recourse to government protection if a business did attempt to resort to force or fraud.
On the other hand, the government, as the sole legal wielder of force in our semi-free society, is able to codify such abuses as law and is, therefore, all but immune to such corrective measures. As a further effect of the government illegitimately owning roads, the element of choice is guaranteed to be absent with its monopoly. (This does not mean that monopolies as such should be illegal: just government-created or -enforced monopolies.) The existence of competition alone would discourage the misuse of these cameras, while also encouraging their use in situations where having a camera around might actually promote better driving.
Fun with Math
En route to something else, I stumbled across a collection of humorous, mathematics-themed bumper stickers. My favorite was, "Alcohol and calculus don't mix Never drink and derive."