10-16-10 Hodgepodge

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More on the Peikoff-McCaskey Dispute

I commend to the reader the following blog posts:

I look forward to perusing the very long comment thread at the NoodleFood post upon my return to Boston this evening. Just scanning, I see that it includes comments by Dismuke, North Bridge, and Travis Norsen, all of whom I respect. Also, I became aware of Travis Norsen's review of David Harriman's The Logical Leap long before I was aware that there was any kind of dispute. I found the review thought-provoking.

As Objectivism continues to grow and to gather momentum as an intellectual movement, Objectivist thinkers will necessarily grapple both with complex philosophical questions outside of Objectivism, such as the theory of induction -- and with non-obvious applications of the philosophy to other areas, some of them new, or difficult to investigate for some other reason. In each case, there can sometimes be lots of room for honest disagreement, unlike in the case of fundamental philosophical principles. This dispute, as well as some non-philosophical disagreements I have recently had with other Objectivists, makes this issue starkly apparent to me.

In a past job, a coworker explained to me our boss's practice of raking people over the coals during lab meetings. "Would you rather have him ask the hard questions now, among friends, or would you rather get them at a conference?" This is what we Objectivists must do for each other when we can on these new frontiers. I have nothing to say one way or the other about how this book was critiqued before it was released, but suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is flawed. I'd rather see another Objectivist be the first to point that out.

My naive sense of this dispute is that there has been at least some kind of misunderstanding on the order of the etiquette necessary to handle such disagreements. (I claim no particular expertise in that department.) And even if I am completely wrong about that, the issue remains that sometimes the best way to support a colleague is to challenge what he says.

Whether or not my impression is correct, this dispute has helped me see that there is an important issue here that isn't going to go away any time soon.

Weekend Reading

"... 87% of individual investors throw away their proxy statements, which is unfortunate considering how – as Western’s gutsy activism demonstrates – those votes directly impact how companies and funds are managed." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "The Case for Shareholder Activism" at Smart Money

"[T]he silent killer would take its toll in the form of additional expenses $5,000 more -- each year -- larger than their entire medical budget. Had they known this, they would have begged the president to forget about ObamaCare and get this relentless and remorseless killer out of their lives." -- Gus Van Horn, in "Government Regulation of the Economy Is the 'Silent Killer'," Pajamas Media

Comment of the Week

This one's over at Pajamas Media: "I am an entrepreneur. As little as 5 yrs ago I would tell myself it cost $50k to create a 'Sam' job. The number is now $100k and rising rapidly, especially with ObieCare." -- Ben Cook

From the Vault

Around this time in 2007, I quoted the following from the '92 platform of a major U. S. political party. It seems remarkably apropos now, with the midterm elections fast approaching:
Freedom of education, being an essential of civil and religious liberty ... must not be interfered with under any pretext whatever.... We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental ... doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best government.
No. Were we so lucky that this had been in the Republican platform! This is from the Democratic platform ... in 1892. I'd be happy to see something like this in at least one of the major parties' platforms ... on the way towards a pledge to realize laissez-faire capitalism.

A Triumph of Capitalism

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal writes about the pivotal role of the profit motive in the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners.
The Center Rock drill, heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo, is in fact a piece of tough technology developed by a small company in it for the money, for profit. That's why they innovated down-the-hole hammer drilling. If they make money, they can do more innovation.

This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine. The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above.

A remarkable Sept. 30 story about all this by the Journal's Matt Moffett was a compendium of astonishing things that showed up in the Atacama Desert from the distant corners of capitalism.
It was nice to see an article like this after seeing "greed" blamed for the miners' predicament several times on the news.

That said, a newscast I watched did grudgingly report that a Bolivian miner rebuffed an offer of free (confiscated?) land from leftist president Evo Morales: "The miner has agreed to visit Bolivia next week. But his family says he wants to remain in Chile – a setback to Morales, who promised to bring Bolivia's most famous miner home with him."

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

re: 1892 platform plank on education.

I wonder if it would be possible to create a modern political platform &/or overarching campaign message for the Republican party taken entirely from old Democrat party planks? Modern conservatism being defined as "classical liberalism", which is what the Democrat party of the 19th century was...

I don't know that it could be effectively used by a modern Republican, but it would be an interesting exercise for those who want to clearly illustrate how party label has little or nothing to do with a consistent philosophy over time.

Gus Van Horn said...

That's an amusing idea and I dare say it would be an improvement, but I think decent party platforms will evolve incrementally as the influence of respect for individual rights becomes a more potent cultural force.