6-9-12 Hodgepodge

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Fighting to Make Advice Legal

I am happy to see that the Institute for Justice has taken up the case of a North Carolina blogger facing jail time for the horrendous crime of offering dietary advice.

[T]he First Amendment does not allow the government to ban people from sharing ordinary advice about diet, or scrub the Internet--from blogs to Facebook to Twitter--of speech the government does not like. North Carolina can no more force Steve to become a licensed dietitian than it could require Dear Abby to become a licensed psychologist.
The whole idea of government licensing is premised on the notion that ordinary people cannot adequately decide for themselves the merits and qualifications of someone whose advice or services they desire. As such, occupational licensing is antithetical to  freedom of speech. Unfettered communication of all kinds of ideas, right or wrong, is an important part of anyone's thinking.

No one is infallible, including the government: Neither forcing people to abide by guidelines that could well be wrong (but also see this), nor preventing them from exploring other possible courses of action protects the basic individual right of acting on his own judgment. Whether this man is completely right, full of poppycock, or anywhere in between, the fact that he is being censored means that we are all less free to discuss diet and uncover errors in this young, complicated science.

Whatever one's opinions on diet, this is great news. (HT: Dismuke)

Weekend Reading

"If something's really important to your spouse, then you're more than happy to 'give in.'" -- Michael Hurd, in "I'm Happy When You're Happy" at DrHurd.com

"Investors shouldn't worry about the Mayor's proposal denting soda stocks, most of which have powered higher in recent months despite a weak market for risk and the persistent threat of even greater government regulation." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Bloomberg Won't Flatten Soda Stocks" at SmartMoney

My Two Cents

Michael Hurd's column does the best job I have ever seen of explaining in rational terms what many good people are trying to say when they claim that "compromise" is necessary for a good romantic relationship.

A Well-Earned Evisceration

Via HBL, I have learned of a superb review, by Sarah Rolph, of Gary Weiss's Ayn Rand Nation. The below is but the tip of the iceberg:
His misunderstanding of Rand's work is something [Weiss] freely admits. He says he read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged a long time ago, isn't sure whether he finished them, and didn't understand them. Yet he wants us to take his word for what the books mean! Since he doesn't understand her ideas and doesn't seem able or willing to think in principle, he brings his own interpretation to her work and then proceeds to chop down the strawman he has created. [minor format edits]
Fellow admirers of Ayn Rand, take heart. Detractors, you have been warned (again).

Update: A commenter notes that, at Amazon, Rolph retracted her assertion that Weiss hadn't read Rand's two most important novels.



: (1) Added update to last section. (2) Corrected spelling of Rolph's first name.


Burgess Laughlin said...

Rolph: "Rand was a philosopher and a novelist; she had no involvement in politics and little interest in it."

I am glad to see Rolph skewer an ignorant detractor of Ayn Rand. However, the reviewer errs in saying Ayn Rand had no involvement in politics. Ayn Rand campaigned for presidential candidate Wendell Willkie and advocated for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. I wrote about that briefly in Ch. 8 of The Power and the Glory:The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith:

Rand also wrote about or published the writings of others about selecting a presidential candidate: www.aristotleadventure.blogspot.com/2012/01/ayn-rand-on-selecting-presidential.html

Gus Van Horn said...

I think the reviewer could have stood to say something to the effect that that Rand had very little involvement in politics, based on the two campaigns she participated in.

On the other hand, I don't see writing about politics as necessarily being involved in it, at least to the point that he reviewer should have qualified her point. In fact, perhaps her interest in politics was similar to the "interest" in warfare dramatized by Mel Gibson in The Patriot: forced upon her by current events, but not a major interest otherwise. So, while I concede that the review is not wholly accurate on the count of Rand's involvement in politics, I think its point about her lack of interest is, at worst, debatable.

Thanks for bringing this up, however.

Anonymous said...

On Amazon Rolph has retracted her claim that Weiss didn't read Rand's novels.

Gus Van Horn said...


Interesting. Not that actually reading the books seems to have done Weiss any good.


Sarah Rolph said...

Thank you very much for posting your updates about my updates at Amazon. I corrected my review on both of these counts just as soon as I learned I was in error.

The error about Rand's having had no involvement in politics was simply my lack of knowledge. I changed that passage to read "little involvement." My key point is that she lived for ideas, not politics. Weiss tries to paint her as a right-wing operative of some sort. His book is essentially a conspiracy theory, but a pernicious one because he Weiss is seriously anti-capitalist and is using a lot of the currently popular tropes to try to sell his anti-capitalism.

The second error, having thought Weiss didn't read the books, was made because I based my review on a partial reading of the book. He says this in the introduction, and since his knowledge of her work is so completely wrong it seemed to make sense. I deleted that passage. (In both cases, the corrections went live almost immediately at Amazon and I also sent them to Binswanger.)

I truly regret the errors. Again, thank you for posting the update.

By the way, because of the flap I invested more time in reading the book and will be posting a longer essay later this week.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hi Sarah,

I'm glad to hear you'll be posting a longer essay. I look forward to reading it.

As a blogger, I've occasionally been burned by plausible-sounding errors (and, I think, even a hoax or two), and have always retracted as soon as I learned the truth. So you definitely have my sympathy. Welcome to the club!

Best regards,