Friday, October 30, 2009

The Moral Meaning of Capitalism

From Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

This is a statement made by Hank Rearden at his trial for an illegal sale of a metal alloy which he had created and which had been placed under government rationing and control:
"I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record... I work for nothing but my own profit - which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them, nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage - and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with - the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people - the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay me. I refuse to apologize for my ability - I refuse to apologize for my success - I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests let the public destroy me. This is my code - and I will accept no other. I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow man than you can ever hope to accomplish - but I will not say it because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I recognize the good of others as a justification for their seizure of my property or their destruction of my life. I will not say that the good of others was the purpose of my work - my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his. I could say to you that you do not deserve the public good - that nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices - that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will achieve nothing but universal devastation - as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won't. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own - I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every power I posses, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being's right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Forgotten Man of Socialized Medicine

From Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

This is the explanation given by a distinguished brain surgeon of why he joined Galt’s strike:

"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observe that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything – except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought to those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire, or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only ‘to serve.’ That a man who’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards – never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at this smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind – yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kinds of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it – and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nut Up or Shut Up

This past Saturday, Smallholder, the Maximum Leader and I had a day of Manliness. Our itinerary: Lunch at the best Chinese Buffet in Charlottesville. A screening of Zombieland. Shooting many rounds through many weapons at both traditional and Zombie targets . Beer (NB - beer follows shooting). Dining on roasted hog flesh at a friend's 50th. More beer. Finally, maintaining the fire and stirring the kettle of apple butter for the local fest to be held the following day.

Our arsenal: Russian SKS, 9mm Makarov, .45 Long Colt revolver, 30-40 Krag, and a 12 gauge pump shotgun. Here is the Maximum Leader scoring a direct center-mass head shot on "Jimmy" with his .45 Long Colt, the "cowboy gun:"

Smallholder is scanning for more undead...

A busy day, I did not get into bed until after midnight.

Thanks to Smallholder for initiating the plan, and to the Maximum Leader for making the trip (and for being our taxi).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pleonastic Sciolism

A recent article in the Washinton Compost by Steven F. Hayward asks, "Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?"

The author laments the (perceived) dearth of true intellectual conservatives in the current political scene. "We've traded in Buckley for Beck, Kristol for Coulter, and conservatism has been reduced to sound bites." Hayward's assertion that "off-balance" conservative intellectuals are "struggling to come up with new ideas" is inaccurate. What Mr. Hayward wishes to imply is that conservative ideas do not work, a premise which does not hold water. Conservatives have many tried-and-true ideas, albeit old, or even ancient, but nonetheless effective when put into practice. Our freedom, as men and as Americans, derives from God, whom no government can supplant. It is the left, and its worn-out ideas of tyranny and oppression, which are off-balance.

In his assault on the popular face of conservatism, Mr. Hayward is using an old trick of the left: Instead of debating the issues on their merits, go for the throat and call you opponent an idiot.
The brain waves of the American right continue to be erratic, when they are not flat-lining.

Consider the "tea party" phenomenon. Though authentic and laudatory, it is unfocused, lacking the connection to a concrete ideology that characterized the tax revolt of the 1970s, which was joined at the hip with insurgent supply-side economics.

Over one million Americans protesting tyrannical government is an unfocused phenomenon? What will Mr. Hayward call the 2009 Gubernatorial and 2010 Congressional elections, which I predict will be won by the more conservative candidates? A statistical anomaly?

Consider the following:

Today, it is not clear that conservative thinkers have compelling alternatives to Obama's economic or foreign policy. At best, the right is badly divided over how to fix the economy and handle Iran and Afghanistan. So for the time being,the populists alone have the spotlight.
How about following the Constitution? How about tax cuts? How about victory? These ideas, while simple, are not simplistic. They are fundamental American ideas. They are why over one million people showed up in D.C. on September 12th. "The left thinks talk radio and Fox News are insidious forces, which shows that they are effective," writes Hayward. Effective and accurate, these ideas are promoted daily in conservative and conservative-leaning media, which is why they (both media and message) are hated by the left.

While praising its intelligence, Mr. Hayward claims that a recent book, Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, was not well received "because it deployed the incendiary f-word..." Without actually reading the book, one would conclude from this statement that Goldberg had generously sprinkled his book with F-bombs. But a quick search shows only two occurrences in the entire 405 pages, both included in quotations rather than Goldberg's own words. Where are the complaints against the left for using this word, and rather liberally at that? To put it simply, what the fuck?

Liberal Fascism is the only pro-conservative book Mr. Hayward cites as "intellectual," while decrying its popularity. He fails to mention Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin, which is both intellectual and popular. But I digress. More worthy of Hayward's attention is the forthcoming book by John Derbyshire, in which he calls "our present condition 'Happy Meal Conservatism,' cheap, childish and familiar," and another new book by Sam Tanenhaus titled The Death of Conservatism, whose title alone explains its appeal.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Irresponsible Gun Owners

C-Ville, one of the local "free alternative weekly" papers, has a regular column called "Ask Ace." Written by someone calling himself "Ace Adkins," the author attempts to answer obscure questions submitted to the paper about Charlottesville and central Virginia. This week's question is about firearms training:
The world is getting to be a pretty scary place, Ace. I don’t know how I’m supposed to protect myself, for example, from the type of person who would carry an assault rifle to a presidential speech. Or in the event of the zombie apocalypse, which is also starting to look pretty likely. Where can I learn how to shoot a gun around here?—N.E. Oakley

I will ignore the lead-in, except to say that a zombie apocalypse is the more likely scenario.

"Ace Adkins" endeavours to answer the question "Where can I learn to shoot a gun around here?" Mr. Adkins lists two local shooting clubs where firearms training is available. One of the local clubs, Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club, requires an extensive application process and a background check. To make his column palatable to the left-leaning readership, Mr. Adkins uses the restrictive membership requirements of this club as a cudgel to verbally assault non-member firearms owners. Here are his words:
Don’t let the prospect of an intensive auditing process discourage you, though. These safeguards are there for a reason: to separate the responsible firearms enthusiasts from everyone else in America who owns a gun.

The only responsible firearms owners are, according to "Ace," those who belong to a private shooting club which has very strict membership requirements. Everyone else who owns a firearm is an irresponsible trigger-happy boob.

I would remind Mr. Adkins that any adult who legally purchases a firearm at Wal-Mart (or any other retail store) is required to sign federal and state affidavits stating that he is not a felon, a fugitive from justice, a user of illegal drugs, abuser of legal drugs, subject to a restraining order, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unfit to own a firearm. Two forms of identification (at least one photo) showing the purchaser's address must be presented. Finally, a criminal background check is made, which the purchaser must also pay for. Virginia even requires a 30 day waiting period before a second handgun purchase may be made.

These days, all new firearms come with a locking device to render the firearm inoperable when installed. There are also various pieces of gun safety literature accompanying the firearm, which include language cautioning against easy access to firearms by children or irresponsible adults.

Owning a firearm is a heavy responsibility. It is an instrument of death, and demands respect. A fun time can easily turn to tragedy if carelessness, rather than caution, is exercised in its use. A simple idea to keep in mind is all firearms are always loaded. Based on this central premise, all other safety rules will easily fall in line.

There is no greater responsibility for a man than the safety and well-being of his family. A firearm is an effective tool to be used in this lofty endeavour.