5-7-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 07, 2016


Dick Morris draws an interesting parallel between the current presidential election and the one in 1952:

Eisenhower's victory demonstrated that voters were not so much fed up with liberalism as with all ideology. They no more wanted a doctrinaire conservative than a liberal. Ike's victory was a triumph of nationalism and a victory for someone from outside the political process over a conservative leader from within it.
I think this is a good point, although it is worth asking why so many Americans would reject ideology as such. To understand this, it might be worth considering a comment about the role of intellectuals by Ayn Rand:
[The intellectuals] are a group that holds a unique prerogative: the potential of being either the most productive or the most parasitical of all social groups.

The intellectuals serve as guides, as trend-setters, as the transmission belts or middlemen between philosophy and the culture. If they adopt a philosophy of reason -- if their goal is the development of man's rational faculty and the pursuit of knowledge -- they are a society's most productive and most powerful group, because their work provides the base and the integration of all other human activities. If the intellectuals are dominated by a philosophy of irrationalism, they become a society's unemployed and unemployable.

From the early nineteenth century on, American intellectuals -- with very rare exceptions -- were the humbly obedient followers of European philosophy, which had entered its age of decadence. Accepting its fundamentals, they were unable to deal with or even to grasp the nature of this country.
What have the vast majority of intellectuals been preaching and whom have they supported for the past few decades? Your answer comes from the insults spewing from the mouth of Donald Trump and the notion that his trappings of success make him a good candidate: egalitarianism and government looting. Mostly ignorant of viable ideological alternatives to the ethics of altruism and the statist politics of collectivism, it is understandable that Americans unhappy with their results would discard ideology as such in a desperate attempt to regain some degree of normalcy.

On the other hand, their college-educated children, whose brains have marinated in these very ideas, are making the opposite mistake, doubling down on these failed ideas under the false impression that we haven't been looting enough from "the rich".

The Americans whose minds haven't been rid of every last vestige of free-market liberalism want to fire these intellectuals; those who are now thorough leftists, by conviction or default, want to keep them on, also being "unable to grasp the nature of this country." What the above quote doesn't emphasize (but Rand does elsewhere, particularly in Philosophy: Who Needs It), is that the intellectuals are actually always a society's most influential members. This is because, as she once put it:
As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation -- or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.
Those who want to fire the intellectuals thus fall for the false alternative of Donald Trump; those who think we've been ignoring the intellectuals likewise fall for Sanders. At a time when America desperately needs a pro-individual rights ideology, the vast majority are: (1) rejecting all ideology, (2) doubling down on the opposite ideology, or (3) indifferent.

Weekend Reading

"People who gossip have already revealed something about themselves." -- Michael Hurd, in "Gossip: The Hobgoblin of Insecure Minds" at The Delaware Wave

"[B]y acting as if you don't believe in him or trust him to cope with living on his own, you're implying that you don't believe in him, either." -- Michael Hurd, in "Grown Kids Who Won't Move Out" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[T]here would be no power to broker if economics and state were separated." -- Michael Hurd, in "Govt. Regulation, Spending, Victimizes All" at Newsmax

"The real threat to opportunity in America is increasing political inequality." -- Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, in "Who Cares about Inequality?" at The Freeman

Caveat Emptor

A musician, who at least concedes that her agreement with Apple permitted the computer giant to rifle through her original music files and remove them from her hard drive, offers (HT: Snedcat) a cautionary tale in, "Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously". She also well describes the kind of autonomy that is at stake when we too easily leave the driving to somebody else:
If Apple serves me my music, that means that when I don't have wifi access, I can't listen to it. When I say "my music," I don't just mean the music that, over twenty years (since before iTunes existed), I painstakingly imported from thousands of CDs and saved to my computer's internal hard drive. I also mean original music that I recorded and saved to my computer. Apple and wifi access now decide if I can hear it, and where, and when.
For most people, such an arrangement is satisfactory. But if you are a content creator of any kind, you should well understand the ramifications of any software agreement you sign. (That said, there is a case for being suspicious even of agreements with third parties who offer to help you do so much as control your thermostat remotely.)

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,
Apple has always trod very closely to the line of "What's ours is ours and what's yours is ours too." Even though Apple disrupted, with the Apple II, the IBM market model of leasing rather than outright buying of hardware, it seems that their entire corporate strategy since that day has been to get back to their own version of the IBM model.

The first computer store that I worked at had dropped Apple literally the month before I started. Apparently some marketing genius at Apple figured that if they just changed pinouts on certain peripherals, they could force their retailers to carry a separate set of peripherals (monitors, printers, etc.) for each iteration of the present Apple models, which at the time were the II, the IIa, and the III. In other words, they wanted the retailers to triple their inventory costs in order to sell Apple products. A great many retailers declined that signal honor and moved to the IBM PC which, contrary to IBM general policies, actually had a rational inventory requirement.

I use Photoshop, but like you, tend to be a 'leaping laggard'* with my upgrades since I don't have to have the latest and greatest. The last leapfrog I was contemplating stopped short when Adobe mandated the 'cloud' version of their product. A perusal of the terms and conditions of that product made it clear that Adobe would have access to your creative work on their terms, including the dissemination and use of original creative material without your consent, 'for marketing purposes'. Nuts to that! My creative work may not be earth-shaking but it is and will continue to be mine. No Thanks, Adobe.

Interesting how a company so concerned about their own intellectual property rights seem to be so cavalier about the property rights of others. On a slight tangent, regarding the appropriate limits on copyright duration, I guess that I would have less problem with the Disney copyrights being held in effective perpetuity if they started paying royalties to the descendants of Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, and Sir Richard Burton.

c. andrew

* (I just replaced my 10 year old flip phone with my first HTC 'smartphone')

Gus Van Horn said...


Except for the minor detail of the brand of smart phone and the fact that I don't use Photoshop unless I am paid to, I could have written that.