Quick Roundup 105

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rich Lowry on Gitmo

There is a good article up at Jewish World Review about the danger still posed -- and the intel still to be gathered -- from the prisoners at Guantanamo, Cuba.

In one camp, detainees were taking apart the push-button faucets in their cells to get at a metal spring that they would stretch out to be used as a weapon. The Asian-style toilets on the floors of the cells used to have footrests, until detainees wrenched them from the floor to use as bludgeoning weapons. The guards are splashed routinely with urine and feces. The detainees have even been known to try to kick their soccer balls out of their recreation area into barbed wire, to cost the infidels the price of one ball.


The rest are considered too dangerous. One detainee has said that 85 percent of the Saudis would return to the fight if released. One hundred twenty-five detainees are still being interrogated. Just last year, an extremist cell of North Africans was broken up in Italy, based partly on information gleaned here. Last fall, FBI sketch artists were able to depict a wanted al-Qaida official from the Konar Province of Afghanistan, thanks to input from three Saudi detainees.
Remember this the next time you hear the loony left agitating for their release. And oh yeah. We're getting ready to release up to another 130 of these birds as it is!

Dick Morris on Boycotting Citgo

Dick Morris writes about the momentum for a boycott of Citgo and why he thinks it a good idea. After detailing how El Loco uses petro-dollars to finance repression in Venezuela and meddling throughout Latin America, Morris asks:
[A] goodly proportion of his revenue comes from us when we buy our gasoline at a Citgo station. Why continue to subsidize the Chavez regime and its anti-American activity? That is a question each of us must answer each time we gas up.
The major flaw in the reasoning behind such a boycott -- and behind all similar efforts for America to "declare energy independence" from repressive regimes, such as by wasting resources on "alternative fuels" -- is that we are not the only nation in the world that purchases oil. After all, Chavez himself routinely threatens to stop sending oil to America and even has a big contract to supply China's needs.

While I support the boycott as a good short-term measure, I feel obligated to point out that it is a poor long-term solution, unless it happens to cause enough instability in Chavez's regime to make it collapse. But then, this points to the real long-term solution to the problem posed by Chavez: The United States government must work for the end of this regime, using military force to do so if necessary.

From Far Left to Libertarian

In a recent thread on the HBL the kind of home environments experienced by Objectivists as they grew up was discussed. The gist of it was that people who grew up with lots of intellectual freedom and in families where ideas were considered important probably had the best chance of appreciating the ideas of Ayn Rand. I recall hearing at one point that many of my fellow Objectivists were from well-educated families and frequently had liberal, outspoken mothers.

As a result of this, I was mildly intrigued when I saw this article at TCS Daily about a man who started out as a far leftist and became a Libertarian. Was this man one of the "better" Libertarians, whose support of capitalism came from strong moral conviction? Or was he just a typical Libertarian? And was his explanation, whatever it was, correct? And how would a correct explanation explain his observation that few libertarians become hard-leftists?

He explains his journey as having been influenced by his study of economics, his accumulated life experience, and awareness of something he calls "Fundamental Attribution Error":
What I believe that Libertarians have learned is what social psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error. The error is to attribute behavior to a person's character when this behavior is in fact based on context. In one classic experiment, the subject is asked to watch a person read a speech that the subject knows that the speaker did not write. Subjects attribute to the person the beliefs contained in the speech. [bold added]
From the rest of his article, it is clear that Arnold Kling makes precisely the opposite error: of failing to attribute much of anything in the political realm to anyone's character (i.e., philosophical ideas). For example, Vietnam was just one big blunder. While this might be true in some respects, we did not fight a limited war once we got there by accident. We did so because the dominant philosophy, pragmatism (in a greater context of our society's dominant altruism) among our political leaders guided their actions.

In other words, Kling, like most other Libertarians, does not think that fundamental ideas are important.
My goal as a libertarian is to counter the heavy-handed marketing by politicians of bigger government. I want to constantly remind people that personal responsibility and free markets are more powerful forces for progress than is government. For those people who are still on the Far Left, my advice is to study the consequences of policy, not simply the motives and intentions of those who advocate the policy. Once one understands and corrects for the Fundamental Attribution Error, the passion for better public policy translates into a support for libertarian principles. [bold added]
So we have a huge welfare state not because people overwhelmingly think that the role of government is to make everyone take care of one another -- but because people in the government are such good "marketers" of "government solutions". (And never mind that for crime and military invasion, government is ultimately the only solution.) And the big problem with someone like Noam Chomsky is not that he hates or ideologically opposes freedom, but that he just hasn't considered the consequences of, say, cutting off all military aid to Israel. Freedom is self-evidently desirable, everyone wants it, and if they'd only observe cause-and-effect, they'd stop "blundering" into massive mistakes like Vietnam or the welfare state.

My take on Kling's journey is that he long ago made a common mistake with respect to the nature of ideas, a mistake I have already observed other Libertarians make:
[Such Libertarians] clearly think of principles in the same way that a fundamentalist views a scriptural injunction: as some arbitrary commandment imposed completely out of context that can only be followed, blindly to its consequences in reality, or selectively ignored, without bothering to check it against reality.
So while some hard leftists stick to their principles even when it may be clear that the consequences of doing so will imperil them, others, like Kling, simply give up on ideas as such.

Only a select few will take ideas seriously enough to see through the immorality (and impracticality) of the hard left as well as the intellectual bankruptcy of the Libertarian movement. Only they will move on to consider the ideas of Ayn Rand, which not only provide sound philosophical arguments for freedom, but also urge us to check our premises against reality every step of the way.

Carnival of History

Rob MacDougall
is playing host to the latest edition of the Carnival of History.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected links for CoH.
10-7-06: Link to Dick Morris changed to correct article vice default JWR page for Morris.

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