Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Books on My Bookshelf

 It has become a trend to talk about the books on someone's bookshelf that you see in the background of people on their Zoom meetings, and to analyze what their books say about a person's personality. The way my webcam is set up, my bookshelf is not in the background, so you would never see it. So I thought I would share a list of the books on my bookshelves:

Harry Potter Books 1 through 7

Dragons of Autumn Twilight

The Crystal Shard

A Spell for Chameleon

ElfQuest Volume 1

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

John Locke's Second Treatise of Government

F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom

A copy of all of my own books: Rob Seablue and the Eye of Tantalus, The Office of Heavenly Restitution, Project Utopia, The Prince, The Girl and The Revolution, The Golden Wand Trilogy, The Apple of Knowledge, Golden Rule Libertarianism, What They Won't Tell You About Objectivism, XYAB Economics, A Law and Economics Approach to Litigation Costs, A System of Legal Logic, and On Forgiveness

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead

Ten Philosophical Mistakes by Mortimer J. Adler

That's it (other than some "Teach Yourself How to Speak Spanish" books that I bought when I went through a phase where I tried to learn Spanish, only to learn that I am not good at learning other languages.) The reason why there aren't more is that, usually, after I read a book, I donate it to my local public library! Or buy a Kindle edition.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

About Me

 I was reading the entry entitled "Contemporary Philosophy" on Wikipedia and reading the subsection on "The Professionalization of Philosophy" and it said something like, and I paraphrase: "Now only philosophy professors can be philosophers, and philosophy is something that is done by publishing academic papers in highly technical trade journals, which non-philosophers cannot understand and which are not designed to be read by non-philosophers, and the age of the amateur philosopher with no technical training and no PhD who writes genius philosophy books intended for a mass audience, the age of philosophers like Descartes or Spinoza, is over," and I remember thinking, "That's me! They're talking about me! I'm a precocious amateur genius who writes philosophy books! They are saying the age of me is over!" And I don't think my age is over. Here I am.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Objectivism in Ten Quotes

1. "Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away? And if it is not moral for you to keep a value, why is it moral for others to accept it? If you are selfless and virtuous when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they take it?" (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, which is an almost verbatim statement of one of the ideas of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, although Rand spent her entire life denying that Nietzsche influenced her.)
2. "...for these truths hold good for everything that is, and not for some special genus apart from others. And all men use them, because they are true of being qua being. ... For a principle which every one must have who understand anything that is, is not a hypothesis. ... Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject in the same respect..." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged, quoting Aristotle.)
3. "No one survives in this valley by faking reality in any way." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)
4. "You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island--it is on a desert island that he would need it most. Let him try to claim, when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his seed stock today--and reality will wipe him out, as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)
5. "I am, therefore I'll think." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)
6. "My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists--and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)
7. "Reason, man's only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth. The most depraved sentence you can now utter to ask is: Whose reason? The answer is: Yours." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)
8. "Life, Liberty and Property." (John Locke's statement of basic human rights, which America's Founders, lacking the political consensus to use that phrase, changed to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.")
9. "In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was God, and Logic was of God." (Alternate English translation of the original Greek version of the opening passage of The Gospel of John, The Christian Bible. Although a Platonic doctrine based on the Greek philosophical concept of logos, which means "the logical understanding understood expressed in words" but which is often mistranslated in Bibles as "The Word", this might as well be an Objectivist slogan.)
10. "I swear--by my life and my love of it--that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." (Rand, Atlas Shrugged.)

Monday, August 10, 2020

Top Ten Famous People Quotes

These are my 10 favorite quotes by random famous people:

1. "Always do right. This will please some people, and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain.

2. "Lack of money is the root of all evil." - Mark Twain.

3. "Suppose you were a member of Congress. And suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain.

4. "The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated." - Mark Twain.

5. "Learn like you'll live forever, live like you'll die tomorrow." - Mohatma Ghandi.

6. "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." - Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, himself quoting Pablo Picasso, while discussing the Mac Operating System.

7. "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde.

8. "It's a republic, if you can keep it." - Benjamin Franklin, when asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention had chosen for the USA.

9. "You are never alone, when alone." - Cicero.

10. "I'm gay, and that's a good thing." - quote attributed to the first openly gay Mayor of Berlin, Germany.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche - The Top Ten Quotes

These are the top ten (my ten favorite) quotes said by philosophers Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche:

1. "How can you return to me if you do not leave me?" - Nietzsche

2. "Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours . . . and could have been mine." - Rand

3. "Sometimes, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you." - Nietzsche

4. "Insist on it." - Rand

5. "God is dead, and we are the ones who killed Him." - Nietzsche

6. "Are you happy, Mr. Superman?" - Rand (Yes, this is Rand, not Nietzsche - she is referring to him. It's one of my favorite lines from The Fountainhead.)

7. "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." - Rand

8. "A philosopher must always be forgiven for his first followers." - Nietzsche

9. "It's the soul, Peter, the soul, not whips or swords or fire or guns." - Rand

10. "He didn't want to make money, only to get it." - Rand

The Top Ten Virtues from The John Galt Speech in Atlas Shrugged

 I have not seen a simple list of the virtues enumerated in Atlas Shrugged, so I made this list:

1. Reason

2. Purpose

3. Self-Esteem

4. Rationality

5. Independence

6. Integrity

7. Honesty

8. Justice

9. Productiveness

10. Pride

For Ayn Rand's explication of these virtues, see pages 932-33, Atlas Shrugged, Signet Paperback Edition.

One can further subdivide this list: Reason, Purpose and Self-Esteem are "the Big Three Virtues," Rationality, Independence and Integrity are "The Intellectual Virtues," and Honesty, Justice, Productiveness and Pride are "The Social Virtues." These three sets of values comprise the bedrock foundation of Objectivist morality.

Monday, June 1, 2020

What is the Libertarian Axiom? Politics, Reimagined

Most libertarians would point to the principle that one should never initiate violence and use force only for self defense as the core axiom for liberty—the axiom that I call NVP, the Non-Violence Principle. Here I write to propose a second axiom, based on some recent conversation with my fellow Libertarian Party members.
I know one LP member who opposes big government except for public education to give poor kids a leg up. I know another who opposes big government except for Social Security for retirees, on the belief it isn't fair to deny someone benefits they paid into for decades. I know a third who opposes big government except for welfare and food stamps for the very poor. This person is convinced that a Marxist revolution will happen if all welfare is cut. I have also heard a Libertarian talk about the "real" pain and suffering of the poor that is alleviated by welfare, as if the pain caused by big government is not equally real.
These people, and I now suspect most Americans, understand libertarian economics, but they think that theft (in the form of taxation) is justified if it is for a good, worthy cause. Each person has his own pet cause that he wants government to fund, even while wanting taxes cut to pay for anything else.
I propose a new axiom: that the ends never justify the means. I term this the Anti-Marxist Axiom. If you believe this, then theft is never justified, even for the noblest purpose, and even if the rich have more money than they need. My justification for this axiom is moral, not pragmatic, and, in a weird way, Kantian. Kant's signature contribution to ethics is the theory of the Categorical Imperative, which I interpret to mean that, for something to be good, it must be right at all times and places universally. If there is an exception to an ethical (or political) principle then it was not rational or true, it was merely an expediency of the moment. To be a coherent theory, libertarianism needs the Anti-Marxist Axiom, otherwise it is just a rule of thumb to be compromised or abandoned when someone feels justified in doing so. If you use evil means to achieve good ends, logically the result will not be ethical, because you conceded to evil in order to achieve your goal.
If you want to fund a good cause with taxes then you conceded the validity of statism. If you accept that people make and earn money, and thereby morally deserve to own wealth, and then say that you can take someone's money away from them to spend as you see fit, even for a good cause, you have conceded and condoned widespread systemic theft. It should not then surprise you that a bunch of crooks, literally thieves, actual criminals, will run for office to acquire this opportunity and then will raise taxes on you to pay for evil things while spouting all sorts of virtuous good causes to justify it. There is a saying "power corrupts, and power attracts the corruptible." (Attributed to Frank Herbert.) I can say something similar: theft attracts criminals. This is a necessary and sufficient explanation for why big government is evil and will always become evil even if it begins as good.
Absent this axiom, you will find good cause after good cause, requiring tax raise after tax raise, and more and more theft to pay for your virtuous plans, until, from a libertarian starting point, you inevitably collapse into socialism. Either you have a universal, absolute axiom, or you face a very realistic slippery slope--even if sliding down it takes a nation 200 years.
Libertarians should consider abandoning their pet causes and commit to the Anti-Marx Axiom, to protect the purity of our principles. Libertarianism as a political theory needs an axiom, a self-evident principle to justify itself. If it does not have a principle then it is not a theory, it would be a mere pragmatic movement, or merely a feeling that government is bad. NVP is a good axiom, but many libertarians feel justified in making exceptions. The axiom that the ends never justify the means says there are no exceptions. If people want compromise, let them vote for the establishment. If they want principled politics, then they should vote for us. But how can we be a party of principles if we don't know what our core principle is?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Are libertarians left or right?

Are libertarians left or right?

Are libertarians left or right? This is not an easy question to answer, for several reasons. First, no one definition exists of what is a libertarian. Ask twenty libertarians, by which I mean people who self-define as libertarian, what is a libertarian? and you will get twenty different answers. Being libertarian might mean you consider yourself a member of a libertarian movement, or a Libertarian Party, of that you believe in one of the many different types of libertarian philosophy, like Austrian or AnCap. Second, when you ask are libertarians left or right, you assume that left and right are the only two options. Many libertarians think of themselves as neither left nor right.

What is left? what is right?

Many libertarians say that the left vs. right analysis is a false dichotomy. The famous libertarian Nolan Chart was designed to be a visual explanation of this fact. These libertarians do not choose to see things as left vs. right. They see left as social freedom plus economic control. And they see right as economic freedom plus social control. Libertarians want economic freedom plus social freedom. This is why libertarians sometimes say they are fiscally conservative, socially liberal. In fact, this became an old pun. Libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially awkward.

However, libertarians exist in the GOP who self-define as being on the right, are pro-life, support the conservative Republican movement, and support Donald Trump. The conservatives and the libertarians share many positions. We support free market capitalism. We take pride in the United States of America. And we hold a belief that the rich are good for society. Libertarians and the right hold a strong desire for tax cuts. Also, we both express staunch opposition to gun control legislation. The libertarians on the right may hold even more in common. They oppose immigration. They say abortion is murder.

However, points of disagreement exist between libertarians and the right. Many libertarians support legalized abortion. And many libertarians want open borders and free and open immigration. Libertarians are usually antiwar pacifists. In contrast, most conservatives on the right want a strong military. Libertarians are isolationists. Isolationism has grown in the right under Donald Trump. But previously, conservatives had wanted a strong foreign policy that would aggressively police the world. The Afghan and Iraqi Wars under George W. Bush are examples of right foreign policy.

Furthermore, most libertarians support legalizing marijuana. That position is almost universally hated on the right. Some libertarians would even go as far as legalizing sex work and all recreational drugs, things like cocaine and opioids. As you might expect, conservatives turn pale at the thought of such things.

What is libertarian?

Are libertarians left or right? In fact, you can have many different answers to that question. My own answer is that some libertarians are right, but most are neither left nor right, and a very small minority are left. The ones on the left are sometimes referred to as left-libertarians. The left-libertarians have carved out their own special niche. But they are a small minority within the movement.

Libertarians are right in some ways. And we are left in a few ways. Also, in some ways do not fit neatly into a left vs. right analysis. We simply do not have a place in the world seen from the left-right Democrats vs. Republicans point of view. We have our own unique worldview, where we are the alternative to both liberals and conservatives.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

My Two Newest Books: On Forgiveness and Law and Economics

I recently pushed two new nonfiction books:
On Forgiveness
A Law and Economics Approach to Litigation Costs.
On Forgiveness explores forgiveness, not from a religious point of view, but instead from a psychological perspective. It explains self-forgiveness, and the way your self-esteem benefits if you forgive yourself for your own flaws.
The other book is aimed at lawyers, and people who hire and pay lawyers. If you are grappling with understanding why your lawsuit is so expensive, this book may help. Fans of the Law and Economics jurisprudence also have to read this book. I present some new ideas on that topic, and those ideas are must-read ideas.
Please do check them out on Amazon!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Government is Borrowing Money to Fight Coronavirus. What Does That Mean?

The Government is Borrowing Money to Fight Coronavirus. What Does That Mean?

Russell Hasan

Where is All This Money Coming From?

The federal government is borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for the coronavirus bailout. What does that actually mean? Where does that money come from? Who pays for it? And if the government can give away $2 trillion, why don't they do so more frequently?
The best analogy is a farmer and seed stock. A farmer harvests seed. Some of the seed, he and his family eats. Some of the seed, he saves to plant a future harvest. The seed he saves? That's his seed stock.

Economics is simple, with a few basic premises. To spend money is to consume stuff. To make money is to create stuff. You pay for the stuff you consume with the stuff you create. If someone spends money to eat food, that's like eating some of the seed. The consumer's money pays for the seed. If someone invests money, that's like paying for seed stock. If someone gives you a loan, it's like they're buying seed stock for you. You pay them back from next year's harvest.
The American economy has an enormous amount of what is metaphorically seed stock. Americans invest wealth in productive activities and reap their profits in the future. For example, an investment in real estate buys food to feed the workers who are building a skyscraper set to open in five years.

When government borrows money to give to people for them to consume with no return on investment, it is taking wealth that was slated to pay for future profits, and consuming it today. You pay the workers so they can eat, but the building isn't built.

Death Now, Death Later

The government borrowing money to give to people during the age of coronavirus is as if the farmer is about to starve to death, so he eats some of his seed stock. That is the correct decision for him. He would die otherwise. But he can't eat so much of his seed stock that he doesn't have enough left to plant for next year's harvest. If he did, he would die of starvation when next year's harvest is due to be eaten.

So the government can borrow the money, and the economy can pay for it. But there is a serious, fatal risk if Trump and Pelosi borrow and spend too much. They need just the right amount: enough for us to survive the coronavirus crisis, but not so much that the economy can't pay off the debt and goes bankrupt. Everyone dies if the government does too little or too much. Theirs is a grave responsibility. I hope they get it right.

Infrastructure and Jobs

Another recent policy proposal from Trump and Pelosi is borrowing money to build infrastructure to create jobs. That is not rational. The only reason why all the jobs went away is because of the coronavirus. If the coronavirus crisis ends, the jobs will come back. They will have no reason not to come back. And if the coronavirus crisis isn't over yet, then it's the wrong time to be gathering large groups of workers for construction projects. One infected worker could spread it to all the others. So it's pointless.

With small business loans so easy to get now, that money will be invested in private business if it doesn't end up in a federal infrastructure project. To return to my farmer analogy, it just shifts which fields the seed stock gets planted in. It does not actually create more seed for anyone to eat.

This concludes my explanation of federal debt for coronavirus relief.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Can Donald Trump Win in 2020?

The short answer is: no, and it's because of the coronavirus. In chess, when a player can take two of your pieces on his next move, if you move one to safety, then the other is lost, and this is called being forked. Donald Trump is forked. If he eases social distancing to save the economy, your grandparents die (along with up to a million other people), and the voters will blame him. If he doesn't, the economy dies and we all lose our job and starve to death. There is no winning move for him to make.
Voters won't understand, or won't care, that it is not his fault and the virus is to blame.
Ironically, the Democrats were weak foes whom I believe Trump would have beaten easily, but in the coronavirus, Trump faces an enemy as tough, as resilient, as crafty, and, yes, as contagious as he is. It is precisely the type of opponent he is ill equipped to handle and was not ready for.
I'll be voting Libertarian and have no skin in the RepPa vs. DemPa game, but right now this is Biden's election to lose.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What is the Libertarian Party?

Today we're going to learn about the Libertarian Party! Come on! It will be fun!
Everyone knows about the USA's two party system, with the Democrats and the Republicans. Did you know that there are other political parties in the United States? Well there are! And the Libertarian Party is the largest third party in America.
Generally, Democrats are liberals and Republicans are conservatives. Members of the Libertarian Party are usually libertarians. There is no one definition of what makes a person be libertarian, but their ideas are often based on one of four thinkers: philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, economist Murray Rothbard, or economist Ludwig von Mises.
Libertarians support unregulated free market capitalism. Issues they feel strongly about include: legalizing drugs, giving people the right to own guns, and cutting taxes. The Libertarian Party generally supports any policy that maximizes individual freedom and limits government intrusion.
Did you know? America is a republic, not a direct democracy, and when you vote for a president, you're really voting for your state to send an elector to the electoral college, which chooses the president. When Nixon was elected, there was a rogue elector who voted for the Libertarian Party candidate in the electoral college!
The Libertarian Party is divided into various caucuses, each of which promote different issues and a different point of view. The Anarcho-Capitalists (also called AnCaps) want anarchy. The Pragmatists Caucus wants to win elections. The Radicals Caucus wants to take extreme and shocking policy positions. And the Mises Caucus tries to promote the ideas of Mises and Rothbard within the Party.
Did you know? The Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate was John Hospers, who was not a politician but was instead a philosophy professor. He told a colleague "I'm running for president" and they said "of the American Philosophy Association?" and he replied "no, of the country!"
The Libertarian Party asks its members to take a loyalty pledge that they will never advocate for the use of violent force in society. Some members of the party disagree with requiring a pledge, but it remains to this day. Other areas of internal disagreement include immigration and abortion, which some in the Libertarian Party support and some oppose.
Did you know? The Libertarian Party is America's fastest growing and largest third political party!
As a third party, the Libertarian Party routinely does not have ballot access, and must petition and collect signatures to get on the ballot, unlike Democrats and Republicans. Despite this, many Libertarians have run for office, and dozens have won positions at the town and city level across America.
Did you know? Ron Paul, the longtime Republican Congressman from Texas, was a member of the Libertarian Party for many years, before switching to the GOP. His son Rand Paul went on to become a Republican Senator from Kentucky. The Koch Brothers, who were famous as billionaires who donated vast sums to conservative causes, also supported the Libertarian Party at one point, although they later shifted their allegiance to the GOP.
The Libertarian Party is actually a patchwork of organizations: the National Libertarian Party exists, and each of the 50 states has its own State Libertarian Party, and towns and cities can have their own Libertarian Party Affiliate. Joining one organization does not automatically sign you up for the others, so you could be a member of a state Libertarian Party but not the National Libertarian Party, or vice versa.
The Libertarian Party has an official mascot, the porcupine, to answer the donkey and elephant of the two major parties. The porcupine was chosen because it is typically non-violent but uses its spikes to defend itself if attacked.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Libertarian Party! I'll bet you thought there are only two parties, right? Now you know better!

Monday, March 16, 2020

What is Objectivism?

What is the philosophy of Objectivism? Let's learn about it together! I bet you'll learn something new!
Objectivism is the name of a philosophy--a set of ideas--developed by novelist Ayn Rand in the 20th Century. Objectivists are people who practice Objectivism. What do Objectivists believe? They think that a person should be happy, and that your happiness is the moral and ethical purpose of your life. They claim that rationality and reasoning are your main tools to succeed in the world, and that success causes happiness. They promote capitalism and individualism, feeling that the individual is more important than society.
Did you know? The 1980s were called The Decade of Greed because many people were influenced by Objectivism at that time, including high-ranking officials of the Reagan Administration. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was also a known Objectivist.
Who was Ayn Rand? She was born in 1905 in Russia to Jewish parents. She lived through the 1918 Communist Revolution in Russia, which gave her a lifelong hatred of Communism and socialism. Eventually she escaped the USSR and fled to the USA. She achieved wealth and fame with her bestselling novel The Fountainhead (1943), and followed it up with her novel Atlas Shrugged (1957). Atlas Shrugged is the foundation of Objectivism, and is over 1000 pages long!
Did you know? There was a surge of interest in Objectivism in the 1960s, and a large Objectivist movement, centered around New York City. But Ayn Rand had an affair with another one of the leaders of the movement, a man named Nathaniel Branden, and when they broke up in 1969, an explosive conflict developed and the fallout destroyed the Objectivist movement of the 1960s.
I hope you enjoyed learning this lesson about Objectivism as much as I did! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Online Classrooms and Remote Work Might be Here to Stay

As the coronavirus crisis triggers a forced switch for schools and colleges to online learning and for office workers to work from home, it is worth speculation that some of these changes are permanent. Schools and businesses are figuring out how to do everything remotely online. That know-how is worth money, and, even after the crisis is over, they will need to recover their investment in that know-how, probably by continuing to use it. Also, real estate costs money. People are always going to pay for their homes, so if people work at home or learn at home, then the cost of the office or the campus vanishes, costs go down, so profit goes up. Sadly the joy of the experience of being on campus or in the office is lost, but once people get used to its absence they may not care. Tomorrow may be here today, earlier than any of us wanted to see it.

Friday, March 13, 2020

What did the stock market do today? It went crazy

The coronavirus crisis has caused an unprecedented level of volatility on Wall Street, accompanied by one day which saw the largest single-day drop on almost 30 years. Why stocks are collapsing is simple: the coronavirus is going to cost every business money, so they will have less profit and pay smaller dividends, so their stock is worth less. Such a correction is actually how the market is supposed to work: prices send signals to tell people what things are really worth, and the stocks are now not worth as much as they were in our recent economic boom.
A more interesting question is why is there so much volatility? It has been reported in WSJ, and is obvious if you look at recent charts of the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, that most of the volatility is either right when the market opens or right before it closes. They say that investors buy and sell based on news. I think the major institutional investors have ways to buy and sell US stocks while the market is closed overnight, perhaps by using futures which they are covering, and then they all cover at the opening bell and buy their collateral for overnight at the closing bell. Not only is this causing chaotic wild swings every day, but it isn't fair to the small investors who can't afford to do this.
One solution would be for markets to be open 24/7, and be staffed by online systems only, not by floor traders. Such a move would create a more fair and less volatile stock market. If there is news at 2AM and 4AM those trades should be made at those times, not at the opening bell. This (and many other problems) need to be addressed--after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

6 Million Android Phones Hacked? Really?

It was recently in the news that "6 million Android phones are at risk of being hacked." Then if you dig deeper it turns out these are the older devices in poorer countries with versions of the Android OS which Google has stopped supporting. Let me explain what "not supported" means. It means if the OS developer finds a bug or exploit (a vulnerability a hacker can exploit) they are not legally obligated to push a fix or security update. So, yes, an unsupported OS is a hacker's paradise, but that's not news, every tech person already knows that. A lot of people say a lot of things are fake news these days, but that one might really actually deserve to be called fake news. It would be like saying that people have invented this great thing called the wheel and that's worth a headline. Wheels are great, but that's not news.

The Other Astros MLB Cheating Scandal

While everyone is aware now that the Astros stole signs using a camera in center field during their tainted World Championship 2017 season, everybody seems to have forgotten the initial allegations that made reporters begin to dig: New York Yankees players alleging the 'Stros were stealing signs during the 2019 playoffs. Why isn't MLB investigating and handing out punishment for that? Maybe because MLB in its fear of the players' union cut a deal for prosecution immunity if the Astros confessed, which is reason why the culprits, those Astros players, were not and never will be punished by MLB. Were the League to do its job and rake some muck, the Astros players and the union would call their lawyers and sue, and MLB fears messy litigation. Do you job, Rob Mansfred!

Monday, March 2, 2020

A System of Legal Logic: Using Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and Analytical Philosophy to Understand the Law, Interpret Cases, and Win in Litigation (A Scholarly Monograph)

Master legal reasoning. Improve your writing and hone how to draft a brief. Understand the intersection of political philosophy and the law, and how that should shape your legal arguments to judged and juries whether you are a seasoned lawyer or pro se. Impress your friends with your grasp of logic.
This paper provides a new system of logic, including philosophical principles and logical notation, based on the work in logic done by Aristotle and later by Ayn Rand but also with a nod to modern Analytical philosophy, which is extremely useful to lawyers for analyzing facts to determine whether they satisfy the elements of a claim, as well as organizing arguments to a jury and presenting evidence. A libertarian politics emerges from the system of logic as a byproduct of the logical analysis of the intersection of law, politics, and philosophy.
Required reading for lawyers and citizens who want to understand the law and how and why it impacts them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A New Theory of Investing

Here is a new theory of investing, inspired ny the libertarian belief that all government intervention in economics fails: try to guess where the market would have been, and then invest on that. In theory, eventually every government runs out of Other People's Money: the Fed can't drop rates below zero, there is a limit to how much money can be printed before inflation renders the currency worthless, they can only tax so much before a revolt. When the government fails, in theory your investment will make money. In an economic boom fueled by artificial manipulations, invest in a recession, or vice versa. Two objections can be raised: the government won't run out of money before you do betting against it, and your guess can only be mere conjecture with no proof in real financial data (because the "real" data comes from the Fed-manipulated economy). Both true. But for growth investors seeking a competitive edge against the efficient market, this a path--a risky path with no guarantees, but a new path, one which most other investors will shun. A government cannot create artificial prosperity forever, the only question is when the hammer will drop and on what, to correctly target your short sales and put options.

The Propertarian Solution to Climate Change

If climate change is real and is not a hoax (and that is a very big "if") then there is a distinctly libertarian solution. Imagine this world: all of the world's oceans and seas, and every cubic acre of air space in the sky, which right now are unowned, are put into lots and sold at auction. Then the sky and the sea are not public, instead they are privately owned. Each sky owner could post a drone sentry in his lot of air to monitor it. Now what would this mean for the pollutor who wants to dump poison into the air? The process would not be to lobby politicians and get a permit from the EPA. Instead, if a pollutor emits pollution into a privately owned lot of sky without permission, that is a violation of the rights of the owner. The pollutor must buy the right to pollute. And if the owner firmly decides "no", then that is the end of pollution in that air space, with no cost-benefit analysis weighing death against profits. If a robber wants to rob a home owner, we do not conduct a cost-benefit analysis to judge whether to issue a permit to the criminal, so why do we for pollution? This system would curtail pollution, and, if the rich liberals buy air, could end all climate change carbon emissions completely. A separate but related theory holds that if you breathe in or drink pollution you should have a legal cause of action for having your privately owned body poisoned under propertarian theory; this is probably true but the climate change argument is conceptually different. If we can license wavelength spectrum or govern ownership of lots of land, which we can, then auctioning and administering sky and sea lots should be logistically viable.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Golden Wand Trilogy

Lord of the Rings Meets Game of Thrones Plus Dungeons & Dragons

A chance encounter puts a young thief named Zandrew in possession of a mysterious magic wand. Zandrew's life is torn apart when kings, demons, monsters, and armies come after the wand, which holds the secret to winning an ancient war between the Lord of Light and the Lord of Darkness.

In the golden wand, Zandrew sees the opportunity to seek revenge for the murder of his parents, who were killed by followers of the Lord of Darkness, the Dark God Vladius. Zandrew embarks upon a brave quest to use the golden wand to defeat Vladius, joined by valiant companions such as Rellora the noblewoman, Gennis the knight, Sheila the ninja, and Tyrona the sorceress. Standing in his way lies the many servants of the Lord of Darkness, including the insane, evil Magician-King named Deathly, the devious, manipulative dark Queen called the Eliminator, and the powerful, arrogant Emperor Kindahl Laum. In the end, after countless battles against soldiers, wizards, and all sorts of monsters, Zandrew and his friends will face the Lord of Darkness Vladius himself, with the fate of the Living World hanging in the balance of their final duel.

This swords and sorcery dark fantasy epic trilogy will delight fans of fantasy novels and please readers looking for a fun, action-packed experience. Included in this box set are all three novels in the trilogy: The Golden Wand, The Shadow of Heaven, and The Castle in the Sky. Get ready for an exciting adventure!

"Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones plus Dungeons & Dragons. If you like Terry Goodkind, Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Mercedes Lackey, or Glen Cook, you will love these novels! Sort of like a Final Fantasy RPG video game in the form of a trilogy of novels, where a group of heroes fights through dungeons to slay foes and accomplish a heroic quest. And they have a subtle sense of humor too, like Tolkien and Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony and Douglas Adams did. Everything you love about fantasy novels, but done a lot better than your typical fantasy novel." Learn more

The Prince, The Girl and The Revolution: A Science Fiction Fairy Tale

Fans of Romeo and Juliet, The Hunger Games, 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, and Dune, will Love this Novel...

Chapter One: Prelude

An eternity ago, the human race spiraled out of control into wars between the nations of planet Earth. Genetically engineered super-soldiers were created to fight these wars. Eventually missiles were fired by many nations at each other, and a nuclear apocalypse brought about the collapse of human civilization into a wasteland of barbarians.
Now, centuries later, the world is comprised of independent city-states ruled by kings, and science is a forgotten memory. In the city-state of Aimsburg, the heirs of the genetically enhanced soldiers, now named the Elite, rule over the human population, called the Base.
Kevin, the Prince of the Elite, has been sent by his father the King on a dangerous mission. But Prince Kevin does not know that, instead of finding the secret society known only as the Rev, which he has been sent on a mission to destroy, he will discover the love of his life, and his empty, hollow existence will be given meaning and value, and a light of fire will be ignited within him that will make him see the world in a bold new way. He also does not know that, in his newfound love, lives the only hope for Aimsburg to escape from a war that is coming. For, just as war rocked the world ages ago, a new war, just as deadly, is brewing, and this war could destroy Prince Kevin and the love he will find....
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Golden Rule Libertarianism: A Defense of Freedom in Social, Economic, and Legal Policy

Gain Insight into Libertarian Politics and Free Market Economics. If you are interested in Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, or Ron Paul and Rand Paul, you should read this book!

An insightful mixture of political philosophy and policy advocacy, this book justifies libertarian politics using the Golden Rule of ethics to achieve a provocative new political theory called GOLD. GOLD defends the libertarian position on antiwar, drugs, prostitution, civil liberties, abortion rights, and gay marriage, GOLD explains why free market capitalism is necessary for freedom, and GOLD proves that capitalism helps the poor and racial minorities.

A sophisticated theory of GOLD economics is explained, which sheds light on the nature of money, prices, trade, supply and demand, inflation, and many other topics. The book also presents a bold new libertarian legal theory interpreting the United States Constitution and the common law. The book is organized into four parts, covering social policy, economic policy, legal policy, and the structure of government, and each part contains many different essays, with each essay analyzing an issue from the GOLD point of view.

Essential reading for libertarians and for everyone who wants to learn more about libertarian ideas.

The Apple of Knowledge: Introducing the Philosophical Scientific Method and Pure Empirical Essential Reasoning

"All Men by Nature Desire to Know" --Aristotle

This groundbreaking treatise challenges the philosophies of Kant, Hume, Plato, Descartes, and Ayn Rand, and disrupts the status quo of conventional wisdom on the methods and limits of human knowledge. The book describes how to use the scientific method to answer philosophical questions, explains why science achieves knowledge, shows that the mind and the brain are identical while presenting a new theory of consciousness, proves that God does not exist and that humans have free will, and untangles Objectivist epistemology. This book demonstrates how a philosophy based on empirical experience and essential reasoning can solve the problem of induction and learn the truth about objective reality.

The treatise presents a new philosophy that explores epistemology, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of mind, through two new, unique philosophical ideas: the philosophical scientific method, and pure empirical essential reasoning.

A must-read for students of philosophy and for people who want to learn more about knowledge and reason.

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What They Won’t Tell You About Objectivism: Thoughts on the Objectivist Philosophy in the Post-Randian Era

A Must-Read Book for Fans of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand and the Objectivist Philosophy

Everyone has heard dark whispers about the philosophy of Objectivism. People read Ayn Rand’s novels and fall in love with her ideas, only to collapse into one of two inevitable fates: (1) eventually give up on the ideas as childish and selfish, often complaining that the philosophy is a cult, or (2) develop a religious, zealous fanaticism, obeying the tenets of the philosophy in an obsessive, robotic, mindless manner.

But what is the truth about Objectivism? What is it in Rand’s novels that makes a light turn on in the minds of her readers, and why does that light always flare and then burn out, leaving behind either anger or mindless obedience? This book argues that Objectivism has been turned into a shallow, two-dimensional cartoon caricature of what the philosophy really is, by both Objectivism’s foes and its followers. The philosophy’s enemies fight against, and its followers worship, a misinterpretation, not the ideas that are actually in the novels. Rand’s novels present a vision of reality that is both heroic in its idealism and useful for real people in its practicality, with integrity as its highest moral value, but people forget that vision, and eventually the vision fades into the paper-thin cartoon that people think of when they hear the name Ayn Rand.

This groundbreaking, innovative book looks at Objectivism in a new light, and offers an analysis, rooted in quotes from the texts of Rand’s novels, that presents Objectivism as a deep, serious, thoughtful philosophy, with emotional depth and shades of gray, a philosophy of the mind designed for smart people to heighten their intellectual freedom, not merely a cult of robots or a cartoonish Right-wing extremist defense of rich businessmen.

If you want to know the truth about Objectivism then read this book.

XYAB Economics: A GOLD Libertarian Analysis of Money, Trade, and Freedom

The Economics Book Your Economics Professor Doesn't Want You to Read

This book presents the XYAB theory of economics. The XYAB theory of economics takes the basic idea that people create value, people consume value, and people trade what they create in return for what they consume, and then explains how this simple principle can be applied to macroeconomics. It explores the role of money as a means for complex multi-point trades among economic actors, and why value must be created by someone in order for a benefit to be consumed, even if it is not created by the person who consumes its reciprocal. XYAB explains why "making money" means creating value, and why to spend money is to consume resources that someone else made.

XYAB is explained lucidly using the visualizations of the triangle of trade and the circular pool of value, with a combination of scholarly precision and real world wisdom that is readable and clear. Here you will see, in detail, why capitalism works, and why socialism is not a superior alternative.

Many arguments are made that you will not find in any other book, such as precisely why the government printing new money causes inflation, and how the creation of new wealth causes deflation that helps poor people in proportion to how few dollars they own. The XYAB theory illuminates complex issues of economics in a way that makes it easier to understand the libertarian defense of capitalism.

Necessary reading for any serious student of free market economics.

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Project Utopia: A Libertarian Science Fiction Anthology

 Space explorers, time travel, artificial intelligence, the politics of freedom. What could be better?

Russell Hasan continues the proud tradition of libertarian science fiction with this contribution to the genre, a short fiction anthology featuring seven science fiction stories. Here you will find “Project Utopia,” a flash fiction story about control and freedom, “Stealth Stars,” a longer story in which an astronaut explorer lands on a strange planet and struggles to make sense of its political system, another story about a plot to travel back in time to destroy the philosophy of Objectivism before it begins, a story about a hero’s quest to defeat a sinister secret society of scientists bent on world domination, and other charming science fiction tales, each with a slant in favor of freedom.

If you like science fiction or libertarianism, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to like in this short fiction anthology.

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The Office of Heavenly Restitution: A Fantasy Fiction Anthology

A Great Fantasy Short Story Anthology. Fans of Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wrinkle in Time, and Harry Potter would especially like this.

These ten fantasy fiction short stories are rich in intriguing characters and suspenseful conflicts, and provide a fast, fun pace that will give you a sense of enjoyment while making you think about deep, meaningful issues in the human experience. Explore the conflict between resentment and freedom in “The Unsealed Heart” and “The Mine”, understand being true to yourself in the face of the pressure of conformity with the heroes of “The Office of Heavenly Restitution” and “Leshivia the Great”, grapple with religion and atheism in “The Blood of the New God” and “The Pearly Gates”, and witness rebellion against insurmountable odds in “The Philosopher’s Stone.” Each story, and each issue, is treated with artistic vision and thoughtful plot, and the prose is heavy with meaning and symbolism without sacrificing readability.

If you’re looking for something to read in the fantasy genre that’s not the same as everything else, please take a look at this short fiction anthology.

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Rob Seablue and the Eye of Tantalus

"Self-help for teens, cleverly wrapped in a YA urban fantasy novel. Fans of Wonder, Chicken Soup for the Soul, How to Win Friends and Influence People, A Separate Peace, and Bridge to Terabithia will want to read this book."

A magical curse has been unleashed and Connecticut teen Sorcerer Rob Seablue's best friend has been seduced by evil magic. To save his best friend--and to save the world from his best friend--Rob will fight magical duels, decipher an ancient riddle, and help sad, depressed teens recover their self-esteem so the curse can't destoy them. Will Rob save the world before it's too late?

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Author Update: Spring 2016

First, I am slashing the prices on all my ebooks. They are now down to 99 cents each. Please try them and buy them!
Not writing anything at the moment, but I will let you know here the moment I have any new books or short stories to sample!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring 2015 Author Update

As you may or may not have noticed, my long-anticipated move of this blog to a different web host did not materialize, so this blog will remain here for the time being. Some Author Update type stuff:
1. Last year I sold 30 copies of Golden Rule Libertarianism and 30 copies of The Apple of Knowledge, despite spending no money to promote them. Thank you to all my readers!
2. I am not writing anything right now, which is why I have not posted to this blog in many months. This is because I have discovered a passion for computer programming (seriously) and am spending all my free time coding. I should have some stuff finished fairly soon. Interestingly, I always thought my undergraduate degree as a philosophy major at Vassar would be totally financially worthless, and yet I find that my formal academic training in philosophical logic actually does translate quite well into computer program logic. Who would have thought?
3. I do need to make one correction: it has come to my attention that the chapter on immigration in Golden Rule Libertarianism is open to misinterpretation, namely, that the use by me of the anti-immigration article written by Mr. Stephen Cox of Liberty Magazine was an ad hominem attack against Mr. Cox on that basis. As he is my friend and editor at Liberty, I need to set the record straight, and make clear that his article was merely a convenient example of anti-immigration ideas which I had ready access so, and was used for no other reason. Certainly, had I intended the chapter as an attack, there are plenty of anti-immigrant racist right wing conservatives that I despise and would have chosen to attack, but that intention did not even occur to me when I was writing the book. For me, ideas are always distinct from people, which perhaps explains why I am a big fan of Ayn Rand's ideas while having nothing but distaste for virtually everything I know historically about Ayn Rand as a person, i.e. how she treated her friends and followers, her sex life, her homophobia and hatred of men with facial hair (seriously--look it up), etc.

Monday, February 17, 2014

GOLD vs. Nudge

I see the theory of GOLD articulated in my new book "Golden Rule Libertarianism" as the equal but opposite of the "Nudge" theory of law professor and Obama crony Cass Sunstein. He argued in his book of the same name that government policy should let people be as free as possible, which he calls the "Golden Rule of Libertarian Paternalism" (not to be confused with MY Golden Rule Libertarianism). But--and this is an important "but"! But Sunstein believes that, even if we let people be free, the government can "nudge" them into making better decisions and choices than they would do in a system of unrestrained freedom. He speaks of "choice architecture" as the set of policies which shape our choices, and he says that if he nudges people then they will make better choices and have fewer regrets from having made bad choices. All with freedom preserved, by magic.

When Obama talked about going to war against Syria last year, he said he wanted "pinprick strikes," to which one Pentagon official replied "the US military uses sledgehammers, not pinpricks." Similarly, the government, with the army, and the police, and the regulators, and criminal prosecutors, and laws, enforced by jails and fines, does not "nudge" people, it SHOVES people into the path that it desires for them. When you break the law then you go to jail. You are either free or else you are a slave. There is no in-between.

As you would know if you had read Golden Rule Libertarianism, one of the basic ideas of GOLD is that human minds are fallible and can always make mistakes, so it isn't fair for one person to force another person to obey his decisions about what the other person should do or which behavior is best for him, because the other person could be mistaken. GOLD goes on to posit the "government as God complex" idea, which states that individuals within and outside the government are basically the same, so the same rules of private people apply to government politicians. In other words, politicians and regulators are not gods who magically know the perfect choices for everyone to make, despite their claim to be experts and brilliant legal scholars. If Cass Sunstein wants to "nudge" me into drinking carrot juice and eating tofu, he doesn't have the right to do so, because he is not God, and I can make decisions for myself just as well as he can make them for me (despite his "impressive" pedigree of Yale Law professorship and degrees from top Ivy League universities). If I want coffee and he thinks I should drink carrot juice, I might be wrong and he might be right, or he might be wrong and I might be right. But the person who will prosper and be healthy and alert or else get food poisoning and get sick and die is me, not him, so the fair and just thing is for me to decide for myself, and let Cass decide for Cass.

Contrary to GOLD, Nudge is simply a sophisticated, complicated justification for liberal leftist dictatorship, couched in soft mushy language designed to soften the public's fear of going to jail or being shot when a person refuses to be "nudged" into the decision by the Big Government which "knows what's best for us." Cass Sunstein doesn't know what's best for us, but he does want the government to rule us.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cover Reveal!

I am presenting the ebook covers for my two new books, both of which should be available soon at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore (and I am also changing the cover for my novel Rob Seablue). These covers were designed by Graphicz X Designs, and they did a great job.  Take a look!

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 2013 Update: Staying Power, "Friends," The Hobbit, Upcoming Titles

Staying Power: In one week, on December 20th, I celebrate the four year anniversary of quitting smoking cigarettes. How did I stay quit? In all honestly, I drink 2 to 3 cups of coffee everyday, so I get my upper fix from caffeine instead of tobacco. That, combined with iron determination and willpower, is the reason why I haven't had a smoke in the last 4 years.

"Friends": My most recent legal document review project ended. The thought I want to post about in this blog, in regards to my job, is that working is a lot of stress, and to be a good worker you need a way to relax while at work in high pressure situations (e.g. deadlines, quotas, etc.). My coworkers would relax by talking a lot, e.g. about their girlfriends and sneakers, but I developed a very useful trick for how to relax at work. I own all 10 seasons of the TV show "Friends" starring Jennifer Aniston on DVD, and I have seen all 200 episodes at least 20 or 30 times. So while I am at work I will literally play jokes or scenes from "Friends" in my mind while I am working, over and over again, because I have probably 1000 jokes and scenes memorized. This puts me in a constant good mood at work, which I think makes me a better worker and breaks up the monotony.

The Hobbit: I saw the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy today. It was escapism at its best. A rich, vividly imagined world, with great acting and an awesome dragon (and I love dragons!). The only problem was that it cut out in the middle of the story when I was looking forward to the ending with great anticipation, and it will be a pain to wait, and wait, and wait for the third movie to come out. Here let me note a story common among fantasy fans, that the two founders of the fantasy genre, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis had a conversation, in which Lewis asked "they say our novels are escapism? What sort of person hates escapism?" to which Tolkien replied, "Jailors."

Upcoming Titles: I am putting the finishing touches on my two new nonfiction books, tentatively titled "The Apple of Knowledge" and "Golden Rule Libertarianism." You will be the first to know because I will post it here as soon as they are released, probably for Kindle, Nook and iPad via Amazon, BN and the iBookstore.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Just Checking In

I have been "working like a dog" recently, billing 55 to 60 hours a week at my job in Manhattan doing legal document review. My project ends soon, so expect a longer blog post around Christmas. I continue to plan to release my two independently published nonfiction books soon, so anyone reading this should have something to look forward to. Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, belatedly!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Work Portrayed on Television

The essay Thoughts on Work and Working in the October 2013 issue of The Freeman is the inspiration for this blog post, which will discuss the portrayal of working and jobs on television. In the essay, author Sarah Skwire reviews the book "Working" by Studs Terkel, which contained oral narratives of different types of workers talking about their jobs. The author uses her analysis of the book to argue that the public's view of free market capitalism is influenced by how we view and talk about work. Specifically, if we hate our job and view working for a salary as slavery to the rich then we will hate capitalism, and if we enjoy our job and take pride in doing good work then we are more likely to favor capitalism.

Ms. Skwire cites cases in Mr. Terkel's book which show that this hate-my-job vs. love-my-job dynamic does not line up neatly with poor vs. rich or working class job vs. upper class job. She describes blue collar workers, like cashiers and assembly line workers, who love their work. Here I will elaborate on this point that working class jobs are not exploitation with reference to the portrayal of jobs and working in two TV shows: Shark Tank and Project Runway. Up front I must confess that I watch and enjoy both of these shows, for reasons that should become clear below.

(1) Shark Tank is a show about a group of wealthy venture capitalists called "sharks," including famed Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who hear presentations by small business owners and then decide whether to invest in the business. This show is interesting to a libertarian because the rich investors are not portrayed as exploiting the small businessmen. Although the sharks do often make predatory initial offers, like buying 75% of a business for $10,000, the five sharks compete with each other and if the investment opportunity has merit then they frequently undercut each others' offers in ways that favor the entrepreneur, e.g. the initial offer could become a final offer of $20,000 for 20% of the equity.

The entrepreneurs who pitch ideas to the Sharks are frequently people who started off in a working class job and loved what they did and wanted to start or expand a business where they take their expertise and passion of an area and develop that passion into a brand or product, for which they need capital. Indeed, many of the Sharks themselves, including Mark Cuban, began as small businessmen and then got rich due to hard work and success. Shark Tank depicts in reality what it looks like for capitalism and Wall Street to help small business and create jobs, rather than describing that in disembodied abstract theory as so many libertarian economists have done.

For example, in the last season of Shark Tank a boy in middle school, who happened to be from a town close to where I live in Connecticut, dreamed of making gourmet dog food, and cooked up batches of dog treats in the early morning before school and sold dog treats to his friends and teammates' families at his sports teams' practices. Despite what some Marxists would assert as child labor, his story felt like an ambitious passionate young person wanting to work and make an honest living for himself. He pitched his dog treat business to the sharks and, although four of the sharks did not really take him seriously due to his age, one of the sharks liked his product and gave him a reasonable offer. He decided to take her offer and he did the deal to get her investment capital.

(2) Project Runway is a show, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, where a group of fashion designers compete in a series of challenges to win a $500,000 prize. Most of the contestants in this reality shows are poor and/or gay, and many of them have fascinating and eccentric personalities. Although the challenges are grueling and difficult, like sewing and working all day and all night to design a runway-ready evening gown from idea to finished clothing in 24 hours, the show does not depict the contestants as slaves in a sweatshop who are exploited by the $500,000 prize's control over them. The opposite is true: the show depicts the money as a prize for the worthy, not as an evil system of oppression. The contestants are young and ambitious and have a deep love of clothes and they enjoy the work they do despite it being very difficult. Most of them view Project Runway as an opportunity to show the world their talent and be rewarded for all their hard work and skill.

In the most recent season, the show ended in a competition between two designers, Alexandria and Dom, with everyone else having been eliminated by the end. Alexandria ended up losing and was very upset and bitter (despite winning $25,000 as runner up), but Dom, a poor young black woman from Philadelphia, had done what was in my opinion the best collection to show on the runway in the finale, with clothes that were exotic and attention-grabbing, and she worked hard and deserved her prize. Project Runway depicts work as good and something that earns its just reward, not as a necessary evil that we should all complain about and try to abolish.

Television, like Hollywood and the news media, has its fair share of Marxists. But these two shows, and others like them, are getting people to talk about work in ways that are accurate in assessing the values of freedom and capitalism.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Deconstructing the Motives of Marxist Professors

Deconstructing the Motives of Marxist Professors

By Russell Hasan

Most ideas which are too smart for their own good eventually end up in a Woody Allen movie. Continental philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theory of deconstruction was no different, showing up in the movie Deconstructing Harry. Deconstruction looks at something, typically a text, and peels away the layers of explicit meaning and logical order in order to see the bloody reality that lurks beneath. It is interesting to attempt to apply the theory of deconstruction for a libertarian analysis, specifically by deconstructing the motives of Marxist professors on college campuses and examining why so many academics are Marxists.

Marxist professors appear to preach the political philosophy of Marx because they believe in it. Or, perhaps, they are Marxists because that is what they were taught by their professors way back when they were themselves students in college. But a deeper motive can be discerned by looking underneath the surface. In Ayn Rand’s opus Atlas Shrugged, the physicist Dr. Robert Stadler justifies his betrayal of John Galt and his support for the State Science Institute by telling Galt that he wanted to set the mind free from money by getting government funding for scientific research. The deconstruction of this statement shows that the free market either does not, or might not, place a high value on the work that professors do, such that some scholars could go unfunded if left without state assistance. Generally, in a free market traders trade value for value, so that in order to buy something you must first be productive and actually make some money. What is it precisely that a Marxist professor of sociology, history, or political science really produces? Unless their scholarship and ideas have some sort of concrete financial value, the free market would not pay them very much in return for their work. On the other hand, government funding for universities, especially in the form of Department of Education-backed student loans but also from government grants for research, results in a situation where the salary of the typical college professor bears no relation whatsoever to his or her productive value.

The situation in the economics behind university education might accurately be called a higher education bubble. Spending on education, motivated by the Department of Education’s policies, goes ever higher and higher, as seen in data presented in the Wikipedia article Higher Education in the United States, while the actual productive value that results from a college education bears no real relation to rising spending. The university administrators and professors in general don’t seem to care. Indeed, the theory of a “liberal arts” education, as articulated by Progressive education pioneer John Dewey, believed that the purpose of an education was to free the mind, not to help the student make money. Dewey also asserted a belief that part of the purpose of education is to convert youth to Marxism, as seen in the Wikipedia article John Dewey, and Dewey’s influence upon modern education cannot be understated. Today’s students should thank Mr. Dewey for the fact that their minds have been set free while their bodies need to eat in a job market that has been mercilessly crushed by the Great Recession, which resulted from the statist policies of Bush and Obama.

Perhaps the situation will be rectified when the higher education bubble bursts and the forces of supply and demand wreak havoc on college funding and drag spending back down to what is fiscally justified by the return on investment for a college education. Bubbles usually burst when state-controlled systems run out of other people’s money, in this case, the taxpayer’s money which funds student loans and grants. If the economics of supply and demand are allowed to correct the higher education bubble, then many Marxist professors might be fired unless they can provide something to students which furthers the students’ careers or future earning capacity, which would mean that the professors are actually productive. A plausible deconstruction of the motives of Marxist professors is that the professors just want to maximize the amount of money in their salaries, because the state’s influence over education accomplishes a vast disconnect between the professors’ salary received and the value that they produce. Note that the state also receives a quid pro quo from the professors in the form of the Marxist propaganda which they teach to their students in order to persuade impressionable young minds to believe in statist economic policy, so that the achievements of Marxist professors would have no value in a free market economy but have a high importance in a centrally planned economy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Author Update

My two new nonfiction books, the first about the politics of libertarianism and the second about the philosophy of science, have now both been completed! The first drafts are written and I am editing, and I hope to release them within the next 6 months. Of course, the indie ebook self-publishing phenomenon has been driven by fiction, so indie nonfiction is something of a charting a new path, but hopefully it will go well! Although fiction is fun and entertaining, with nonfiction it is possible to sell ideas or information which are unique, so a nonfiction book can be truly one of a kind, whereas with most novels it is possible to find similar novels or substitutes. And both of my books offer content that is original and can't be found elsewhere.

In other news, I have been working a new job recently, a legal job in Manhattan. I have done legal internships and pro bono work in the past, for example I used to be an intern at the Connecticut Attorney General, but this is my first full time law job. For a lawyer to have a job that requires a law degree and bar admission, which my job does, is a great blessing, especially given the oft-chronicled collapse of the legal job market in the Great Recession era. The job is a temporary position which ends soon, but it is a nice step forward for my career. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Lamestream Media: Democratization vs. Nationalization as Solutions

This blog post is my reaction to the article Did Capitalism Give Us The Laugh Track? in The Freeman July/August 2013 issue. The article's main point is that the laugh track in television comedies, e.g. sitcoms, is ugly and stupid, and its widespread use was a flaw due to homogeneity caused by the fact that FCC regulations gave an oligopoly to the broadcast radio stations (ABC, CBS and NBC), and the laugh track was done in by evolution and innovation caused by the rise of free market competition in television, first with Fox and then with cable TV like HBO.

This article highlights a point that is hotly debates among the general public: what is the solution to the horrible, atrocious quality problem in the media? Most people agree that the most of the news shows on the media are stupid and offer cliched, hackneyed tripe, not deep, biting insight. Not surprisingly, the Left and the Right differ in their characterization of the problem, and in their proposed solution. The Left says that the profit motive drives news stations like CNN (and Fox News) to dumb down their news and turn the news into entertainment in order to get higher ratings. To the Left, the media can only improve if the profit motive is removed and the news is made into a public good, like PBS or the BBC. The Left in particular criticizes Fox News for being biased and stupid. The Right makes an argument not unlike Freeman author B.K. Marcus, that the government-sponsored FCC-administered monopolization of the media has stifled innovation, and the solution is deregulation and competition to improve quality. The Right complains that networks like CNN and MSNBC have a liberal agenda and view all policy debates through a Leftist lens.

In any political analysis which pits libertarian policy vs. statist policy, it is interesting to speculate about whether the findings lead to the conclusions as the result of empirical research, or whether the analysis uses a priori assumptions which conform the data to fit the desired result. The former is a neutral unbiased analysis, whereas the latter is bias contaminating the research. Can we say that the FCC helped the laugh track, or was it the low taste of the public that contributed to the laugh track? In the absence of empirical data capable of distinguishing these two possibilities with precision, we cannot achieve an answer to this question that possesses scientific certainty.

But in the case of freedom vs. tyranny in explaining the "Lamestream Media", reality is handing us something that approximates a neutral scientific experiment. This is, obviously, the internet, and podcasts and Youtube channels as independent media. The government has not yet shackled the internet media with regulatory controls, so independent internet media has the chance to break free from conformity and be innovative. If the Right interpretation is correct, then internet-based competition will produce lean, hungry new media stations which will abandon stupid shallow news shows and two-dimensional biases in favor of deep, honest, insightful analysis, and the free market will reward the new media, and the good media feeds will prosper and evolve and improve. But if the Left interpretation is correct then the profit motive will afflict new media just as it did old media, with the need for ads and ratings driving down the intelligence of the analysis. As a libertarian I predict that the evolution of media to an internet-based mode will lead to competition among thousands of news feeds, which will destroy the "lamestream" mainstream media and break the news free from the orthodox conformist paradigm through which the news is filtered in the process of being taught to the news-consuming public. Indeed, the internet is bringing new libertarian media like The Freeman of FEE, as well as other libertarian media like Reason Magazine and Liberty Magazine, to the attention of people who would never have had access to it in the absence of the internet. Internet media will enable libertarian news feeds to compete with the mainstream statist news feeds, and let the public, not the experts, decide whose accounts of the facts are most trustworthy. The eventual result of whether or not media enrichment happens once we fully transition to an internet-based media model will be a scientific proof supporting either the Right (if media gets better) or Left (if it does not) interpretation of what is wrong with the media.