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The Republican Hydra

This year’s Republican nomination process was interesting, because the candidates who contested through the process represented distinct ideological perspectives.  Thus, they are proxies for the relative strength of contesting ideas within the Republican Party.

The ability of candidates with these clear distinctions to maintain the contest as long as they did may be attributed to an increase in protection of free speech rights from the Citizens United decision (see post “Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap” by Ray La Raja on Riding the Tiger).

In order of their relative electoral strength, the candidates and their ideas were as follows:

Mitt Romney, the victor, is the standard bearer for pragmatic stewardship, which is the dominate ideology of the Republican Party.

Rick Santorum evangelized for the religion right.  His electoral failure demonstrates the weakness of the theocrat faction.  For all their huffing and puffing, they are a minority within the party.

Newt Gingrich’s government reform platform expressed the agenda of the neoconservatives.  Republicans proclaimed him the candidate of ideas, and most Republicans don’t like ideas.

Ron Paul was followed by the ‘libertarians’.  While I disagree that Ron Paul is an advocate for freedom and limited government, his mistaken and passionate supporters label him so.  Based upon his supporters’ narrative, Paul’s showing demonstrates the electoral weakness of advocates of limited government within the Republican ranks.

A relevant mention is merited for Rick Perry, who championed the neoconfederates and was quickly booted from contention by the party of Lincoln.

Given the results on the primaries and caucuses, the Republicans have demonstrated themselves to be primarily a pragmatic party, not a conservative party.  This supports my frequent contention that those that complain loudest about RINOs as not really Republicans, but they hope that they can pretend to be the dominate voice in the party without being challenged for their fraud.

Because pragmatists oppose principles on principles, Romney’s policies will be implanted in his mind by those who do express ideas.  The changes brought into being during his potential Administration will be big government reforms from the neoconservatives, who will give empty promises that big government will be changed into better big government.  Meanwhile, the religious right will be thrown sufficient policy concessions to keep them obedient within the Republican coalition.  However, those that advocate limited government will be given rhetoric without implementing policies.

For an examination of the neoconservatives as the ideological bastard love children of Leon Trotsky and Plato, I recommend C. Bradley Thompson’s book Neoconservativism: An Obituary for an Idea.

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Friendly Discrimination

Listening to a Mixergy’s interview with Gabriel Machuret of InternetNinja, his reference to the Time Doctor application caused me to reface the fact that I spend too much time unproductively on Facebook.  I am not saying that Facebook is unproductive, because I find a lot of rich value in it.  Yet, I had not been using it efficiently and effectively.

For me, the newsfeed is an unwieldy beast that hides more than it shows.  Previously, I had tried organizing my friends into “circle like” lists, but that did not work for me as some list still hid more than they showed.

So the other night, I decided to take a decidedly selfish approach to organizing my list of friends based upon their individual value to me.

Repurposing the First Things First approach to tasks, I assigned each of my Facebook friends to one of four lists: A, B, C, and Newbies.  When I assigned a friend to a list, I removed them from my newsfeed, so that I would eliminate duplication.  For my convenience, I added each of these lists to by Favorites list on Facebook.

The A list contains friends from whom I did not want to miss a single post.  Not only would these get more of my time, attention, and responses, but these were the ones that I wanted to hear from first.

The B list contains friends from whom it was import to me to see each day.  While I would not want to miss any of their posts, in the context of everything else, I would be less diligent and timely than the A listers.  I found that this resulted in a list of Facebook friends that I valued highly and wanted to consciously enhance our relationship.

The C list (yes, I think mainframe whenever I reference that) contains friends whom are more acquaintances…I know them, enjoy them, and could become closer to them if I find more value in our interactions.  These include people I knew pre-Facebook (but would probably not be seeing without it), and individuals with whom I had some interaction and who I met through Facebook, YouTube, or other online interactions.  It is a list of developing and yet unrealized opportunity.

The Newbies are individuals who invited me to Facebook friendship and with whom I shared important values, but I do not really interact with them.  After segregating my friends, I found that the newsfeed had previously given these friends an oversized share of by attention.  While I could simply unfriend them, I would then lose the value that I was finding with them.   By being discriminating with them, I can also be discriminating with my time, attention, and priorities.

Experimenting with this for a few day, I have found: (1) I could focus on the posts that are more important to me, (2) I get through all of my friends’ posts without limiting it to a cursory effort, and (3) I could enjoy interacting on Facebook instead of reducing it to a slog.

If you would like to try this experiment for yourself, as you go through your regular newsfeed process, start assigning friends to the A, B, C, and Newbie lists, then remove them from your newsfeed.  To do so within the newsfeed, (1) put your cursor over your friend’s name, (2) put your cursor within the popup over the “Friend” button,  and (3) use the resulting list box to change list assignments.  I expect that you will find that by being discriminating according to your values that you will be able to make your friends on Facebook the priority that they deserve to be.

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My New MP3 Player

Although I have purchased four Ipods for my kids, I have never had an MP3 player. As part of my choices to increase my productivity this year, I purchased a Creative Zen 2 GB player, as it was compatible with the NetLibrary on-line audio book service offered by my local library.

Although I’m still having some trouble working out issues with permissions related to the library files, I just filled my player with lots of good stuff.

Since November, I have been accumulating audio files through my RSS feed that I have not had time to enjoy yet. Now, I have started copying these files to my player so that I can consume them during unproductive time driving Ms. Daisy, or multitask while doing things around the house like chores or painting.

What kinds of good things have I added to the player and will be adding to my life?

* Art lectures from the National Gallery of Art.
* Author interviews from C-SPAN.
* Interviews and commentary related to business from Wharton
* Philosophic answers from Leonard Peikoff’s weekly pod cast
* Interviews by Prodos on SolidVox

The player was like $50, but the increased access to great ideas is priceless.

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I Am Important

Beethovens7th has a good vid response to someone who commented that the individual alone is not important.


Another invalid alternative perspective, on the “you are not important” premise, is that you are not important to other people, until you serve them and devote yourself to their needs. By patronizing the weaker, you demonstrate your own capacity and value; further, as a darker and unspoken consequence, you gain power over them. Seems very tied back to feudalism and finding your place in the “great chain of being” as defined by your relationship to others.

OK, that rot said, I’m going to go puke now.

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Capitalist of the Year 2006

Who is the Capitalist of the Year?

In the past, Secretary of War Rumsfeld was worthy of such honors, but thanks to his subordination to the policies of a misintegrated President not this year.

There have been several individuals who have really distinguished themselves in important ways this year.

John Allison for prompting the teaching of ethics in business schools and propagating lending policies against theft via eminent domain.

Dana Berliner’s work advocating the protection of property rights from eminent domain has dominated the political debate on this issue.

Yaron Brook continues to be a strong public advocate for capitalism in the media across a broad range of topics while at the same time being fully engaged in the educational outreach to bring Reason to the Echo Boom generation.

Edward Cline completed publication of his Sparrowhawk series of novels, which dramatize the ideas resulting in American independence. As literature, these novels infuse the reader with the experience and choices that faced the Founding generation.

John Lewis has not only continued his aggressive advocacy for a correct war policy but has had his past statements and criticisms proven to be correct.

Prodos Marinakis expanded popular intellectual inquiry and advocacy through various projects including ThinkertoThinker and the Solid Vox network, and his personal activism in Australian politics.

Nicholas Provenzo continues to do the necessary organizing and development that is below the waterline today but will produce substantial progress in the future.

Lee Sandstead has been inspiring and brilliant in his rediscovery and broadcasting of forgotten art treasures of the Capitalist era.

Lisa VanDamme has done breakthrough work in education reform.

While I encourage everyone to consider worthy candidates and pick their own favorite, my choice for Capitalist of the Year 2006 is CRAIG BIDDLE, publisher of The Objective Standard. His new publication and sponsorship of important public lectures has created an important forum for the aggregation and dissemination of ideas promoting Reason, Justice, Freedom, Production, and Achievement.

Update 12/30/2006: Reviewing the list of honorable mentions, one name standouts out as an omission on my part for not being there: Andrew Bernstein.

Because his excellent book The Capitalist Manifesto was published in 2005, I did not consider that achievement within the 2006 class. While I did not name my personal judgments for Capitalist of the Year in 2004 and 2005, in retrospect, Dr. Bernstein earned the 2005 distinction based upon his book and continuous advocacy of capitalism as the solution to political problems around the world.

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Quick Hits 12/30/2005

A new item for my wish list: Motivation in Education by Lisa VanDamme. From the product description, “Properly understood, education consists of training in the knowledge and skills necessary for one to function as a mature, informed, rational adult, i.e., to efficaciously pursue a fulfilled human life. Knowledge is practical and selfish and to fully grasp any item of knowledge is to understand its power to help one achieve values in the real world. Proper motivation consists, first and foremost, of demonstrating the selfish value of knowledge.” My high school Sophomore frequently expresses her dissatisfaction with compulsory public education by lamenting its complete disconnect from her current and future life.

Evan Weiner has an excellent article explaining how Senator Arlen “Thug” Spector’s idea of antitrust prosecutions of the NFL would destroy the league and would have the opposite of its professed goal by resulting in less broadcast televised games. The history of how Congress passed a law to protect individual rights for the NFL by blocking the impact of arbitrary court action via antitrust was instructive. Imagine if we had a Congress today that respected individual rights and would do more than ignore the Senator’s bill but instead make everyone exempt from antitrust persecution.

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Best and Worst Presidents

Two years ago on US Election 2004, I posted a list of best and worst presidents. Having recently received comments on that old post, I am re-posting it here.Â

Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily had a great question that could be used to evaluate presidential candidates based upon the qualities of past presidents. Who are the five best and the three worst presidents in US history, and briefly with a focus on essentials why?

Below is my judgment on the question:


    ** The Worst List **Â

    3)Â John F. Kennedy ! His failed administration became a false ideal that subsequent Presidents (Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Clinton) followed toÂweaken America through collectivist politics.

    2)Â Woodrow Wilson ! He championed two concepts that continue to kill around the world: the racist idea of self-determination, and the elevation of majority rule over individual rights through the concept of democracy.

    1)Â James Buchanan ! His failure in his role as head of state to unify the nation resulted in the Civil War.

    ** The Best List **

    5)Â Ronald Reagan ! He strengthened America by restoring the position of President within our system of checks and balances after the failed presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.

    4)Â James Madison ! At a time of international crisis, he held firm to American principles and defended the country within the context of the then young Constitution.

    3)Â James Monroe ! Through his Monroe doctrine, he asserted America’s role and American ideas in the world.

    2)Â Thomas Jefferson ! Through the Louisiana Purchase, he established the precedent of America as expansionist, which is true not only physically but also intellectually.

    1)Â George Washington ! As the first President and a man of integrity, he established the precedents and standards by which all presidents are judged, including the critical role of the president as a unifying power for the country.

There are some interesting parallels between these two lists:

1) Washington v. Buchanan demonstrates that the most important role of the president is not partisan but unifying the country through his role as head of state.

2) Jefferson-Monroe-Madison v. Wilson contrasts American values and the values of collectivism.

3) Reagan v. Kennedy is a corollary to the second point: the impact of a flawed individual’s use of powerful ideas. In Reagan’s case, an individual horribly flawed by his belief in mysticism could by focusing upon a few key and valid ideas still achieve significant beneficial results even if limited.

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Washington the Egoist

Douglas Southall Freeman reportedly wrote the definitive biography of George Washington in seven volumes. Currently, I am reading the one volume abridgement of that work and found an interesting quote in the Introduction written by Michael Kammen.In 1948, Allan Nevins, a veteran biographer, wrote to Freeman about his work:

“You are admirably successful, I think, in making George Washington seem real; for the first time I realized, I think, just what sort of human being he was. Your analysis of him is masterly. I wonder if you realize that your portrait, so vivid and true, is a little bit disagreeable? He is not a likable young man. He was too much a careerist, even too much an egoist.”

Almost half way through it (where Washington is preparing New York City for invasion in 1776 after successfully expelling the British from Boston), I recommend the book. Living in Virginia, I have been to many of the sites described by Freeman through Washington’s experience and have enjoyed traveling hundreds of years into the past to see them again. Further, Freeman’s account of the Stamp Act controversy brought out vivid memories of Edward Cline’s account in his fictional Sparrowhawk series.

One aspect of the private life of Washington that catches my attention is the contrast between him and the policies of our modern and current politicians. Washington surveyed the Shenandoah Valley for human development while FDR restored large tracts of it to wilderness. Washington actively worked to drain portions of the Great Dismal Swamp for human development in contrast to current wetlands policy. Washington built a private canal around the Great Falls on the Potomac River that has been turned into a National Park and substantially is wilderness. Washington was what is lambasted by politicians today, a speculator in land development in Virginia and Ohio.

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Labor Market Reform

Prodos Worldwide on SolidVox has a 30 minute interview with Gerard Jackson about how economics and history refutes calls for state intervention in the labor market.

It has some important facts that are relevant to mid-term congressional election issues related to minimum wage increases proposed by Democrats and tax reductions proposed by some Republicans.

Mr. Jackson’s comments on how the depletion of capital leads to lower wages, which caused me to recognize how federal taxes attack capital accumulation. When it comes to Republican efforts to lower these taxes, they would benefit from instruction in valid arguments against these taxes by Mr. Jackson. Perhaps, if they were willing to be objectively correct, these congressman could be so bold as to eliminate the capital gains tax instead to hoping only to limit its damage by lowering that tax rate.

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Standing Up Against Appeasement

Having just finished Cline’s _Sparrowhawk Book IV: Empire_, I recommend it as instructive as to what happened when appeasement gives way to an assertive defense of rights.

For those that have not read it, this historical fiction examines the period in which the Stamp Act was enacted including the Virginia Burgesses’ responses before and after the Act passage.

In the debate between the conservative Burgesses who favored an inoffensive response to the Parliament and King, and the young Burgesses led by Patrick Henry favoring a clear response defending their rights against the unconstitutional law, Colonel Robert Munford identifies the danger the conservatives sought to appease and the common sense response:

    “The firelock has been rammed with double steel ball, sir, the priming pan packed with the driest power, and the cock pulled back!” He turned to address the House. “Must we now wait for the muzzle to be pressed against our heads before we are absolutely certain that our elective brothers across the sea mean us harm? I know of no rule of civility that commands a man to behave like an addled half-wit in the fact of a menace!” He gestured to the Stamp Act on the Clerk’s table. “There is the weapon, sirs! It will be leveled at us on November first! Let us disarm it, or move ourselves beyond its range!” [p. 212]

Unfortunately, in the face of terrorism sponsored by Syria and Iran, too many of our leaders behave as addled half-wits in the face of a menace.

I look forward to seeing if the appeasing conservatives redeem their honor in the next installment of Sparrowhawk. I understand that _Sparrowhawk Book V: Revolution_ is scheduled for release on 12/7.

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