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Dollars & Crosses

Supreme Court’s “Retaliation” Decisions Raise New Obstacles for Employers

Irvine, CA–In two recent decisions, the Supreme Court has determined that blacks and over-40 workers may sue for “retaliation” under federal employment discrimination laws.


In the case of CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, a Cracker Barrel restaurant manager was fired for leaving the store safe open overnight. He sued for retaliation, alleging he was really being punished for having previously complained about racial discrimination against a fellow employee. The Supreme Court decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 allows such a retaliation claim. In the other case, Gomez-Perez v. Potter, the Court held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act grants older workers a similar right to sue.


“These decisions erect new obstacles to rational employers whose goal is to market good products and services,” said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. “Most Americans think discrimination laws simply stop irrational employers from making decisions based on race, age, or sex when those factors are irrelevant to performance. In fact, however, such laws burden all employers by jacking up the costs and risks of hiring the so-called protected classes, such as minorities, women, and disabled or older workers.


“Any employer who disciplines, demotes, or fires a protected worker must be prepared to prove, to the government’s satisfaction in a court of law, that the decision stemmed entirely from legitimate business reasons. Given the huge number of employment decisions made every day, the costs associated with maintaining evidence of those decisions’ validity are staggering.


“A protected employee can file a charge of discrimination with little or no evidence. Then the burden of proof–along with attorneys’ fees, lost employee work time, and the risk of large monetary awards, including punitive damages–falls on the employer. Predictably, therefore, employers end up giving preferential treatment to members of the protected classes.


“Outlawing retaliation clothes the protected classes in yet another layer of legal insulation. An employee whose bad performance puts him in danger of discipline or discharge need only make a complaint of discrimination as a ‘pre-emptive strike.’ Now if his employer fires him, he can cry ‘retaliation’ and drag his boss into court, without further evidence of wrongdoing.


“The ever-present threat of discrimination and retaliation suits prevents rational employers from acting on their own best thinking about who is most fit for a job. Congress should address the continuing injustice of laws that encourage irrational discrimination in the name of preventing irrational discrimination.


“The best weapon against irrational discrimination is a free market, in which those who act on their stupid prejudices are shunned and lose out on talented minority, female, or older employees. The solution is not to make hiring such employees a nightmare.”

Video: Thomas Sowell on Economic Facts and Fallacies

Peter Robinson speaks with Thomas Sowell about his new book Economic Facts and Fallacies in which Sowell exposes some of the most popular fallacies about economic issues. Sowell takes on the conventional thinking on a wide swath of America’s economic life, from male-female economic differences to income stagnation, executive pay, and social mobility to economics of higher education. In all cases he demonstrates how economics relates to the social issues that deeply affect our country.

Link

Woodstock’s Legacy: The Rise of Environmentalism and the Religious Right

In 1969 Ayn Rand’s Ford Hall Forum talk, “Apollo and Dionysus,” addressed the nearly simultaneous events of Woodstock and the first lunar landing. Employing Greek mythology’s god of the sun and god of wine, she compared the awe-inspiring accomplishments of NASA’s Apollo space program to the famous three-day concert that has come to exemplify the counterculture of the 1960s and the “hippie era.” Almost four decades later, Dr. Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, reflects on her words and explores the implications of how American culture since Woodstock has valued individualism relative to collectivism and civilization relative to primitivism.


Who: Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute


What: A Ford Hall Forum talk that will consider how the opposing forces of reason and emotionalism have manifested themselves in American culture in the four decades since Woodstock, with special focus on the rise of religion and environmentalism. A Q&A will follow.


Where: Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA


When: Thursday, May 8, 2008, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


The public and media are invited. Admission is FREE.


Yaron Brook is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and is a contributing editor to The Objective Standard. A former finance professor, he has published in academic as well as popular publications. He is frequently interviewed in the media and appears weekly on the new Fox Business Network to debate and discuss current economic and business news. His columns and opinion-editorials are published on forbes.com and in many major newspapers. Dr. Brook lectures on Objectivism, business ethics and foreign policy at college campuses, community groups and corporations across America and throughout the world.

Social Engineering and Taxes

Yaron Brook has an excellent op-ed on Life and Taxes in Forbes:

Your taxes are overdue, if you’re just reading this now. But the fact is that every day is April 15 for Jane and John Smith, America’s most tax-savvy couple.


They awaken in their highly mortgaged house (interest deduction), make breakfast for their adopted child (tax credit and exemption), then drive their hybrid cars (more tax credits) to work. John, at his office, signs a contract for solar energy panels (tax credit), but he turns down a promotion that would launch the couple into a higher tax bracket. Meanwhile, across town, Jane signs an application to get historic preservation status (tax credits) for her office building.


Back home that evening, the Smiths write a few tax-deductible checks to charities and then discuss where to put their savings–into a tax-free retirement account, or a start-up business whose income would be taxed at the highest marginal rate? Just before sleep, their thoughts drift to energy-efficient appliance credits and carbon-emission taxes.


Since it’s an election year, the presidential candidates are busy figuring ways to add still more carrots to the tax code–so that the Smiths will become still more entangled in a tax policy that fears and distrusts the goals that individuals would select if guided only by rational self-interest.

Tax policy works by attaching financial incentives to a long list of values deemed morally worthy. If you want to maximize your wealth come tax time–and who doesn’t?–you must look at the world through tax-colored glasses, “voluntarily” adjusting your behavior to suit social norms and thereby qualifying for tax breaks. In this way, the social engineers of tax policy preserve the impression that you’re exercising free choice, while they’re actually dispensing with your reason and your judgment.


As an example, consider the choice between buying and renting a home. In a free market, a dollar paid in rent is equivalent to a dollar paid for mortgage interest. But when the federal government offers a mortgage interest deduction–based on some alleged need for an “ownership society”–then each purchase dollar saves a few pennies in tax that a rental dollar does not. So the path to wealth maximization suddenly veers away from renting and toward home ownership.


Over the past century, such social engineering has inflated the nation’s tax laws to an estimated 66,000 pages of statutes, regulations and rulings. […]


Read the rest here.

Ben Stein’s “Expelled” Gets an F

Irvine, CA–Today Ben Stein’s anti-evolution documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens in theaters. The film claims that advocates of “intelligent design”–the view that life is so complex it must be the product of a “higher intelligence”–are the persecuted victims of a “scientific establishment” dogmatically committed to evolution.

“The premise of Expelled is that proponents of ‘intelligent design’ have been shunned, denied tenure, and even fired because of a conspiracy to quash the scientific evidence supporting their theory,” said Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. “But the truth is: there is no evidence supporting their theory. Intelligent design is completely devoid of any positive scientific content, and consists of nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on evolution. To the extent intelligent design advocates are facing obstacles in academia it is because they are not doing real science: they haven’t been ‘expelled’ they have flunked out of the scientific community, just as a faith healer would flunk out of medical school.

“Observe that intelligent design advocates have pumped millions into publicity-seeking, rather than appealing to scientists with facts and logical arguments. They have spent more time at Christian ‘apologetics seminars’ than scientific conferences, and have attempted to use the courts to force schools to teach their ideas. Now they are hoping to dupe the movie-going public with a film that misrepresents Darwin’s theory and the array of facts that support it–just as the makers of Expelled misrepresented the nature of the film in order to bamboozle respected evolutionary scientists into participating in it.

“Intelligent design advocates will do anything to advance their views–except science.

“The reason for that is simple: doing science has never been their goal. Their goal is to make biblical creationism appear scientific in order to skirt the constitutional ban on religion in public schools. Contrary to the film’s claims, the real dogmatists are not the defenders of Darwin, but the religiously motivated advocates of intelligent design.”

Defender of Civilization: Andrew Bostom

Those interested in cutting to the truth about the Islamic Totalitarian threat that is descending upon—and arising among—all of us should pay special attention to the works of Andrew Bostom. His blog is a must-read, and his articles in The American Thinker are not to be missed.


Bostom’s major works are The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History (Prometheus, 2008). The latter (to be released next week) promises the same profound expertise and virtuous commitment to the truth as found in the former. His works are required reading for anyone who wants to understand the nature of jihad and the hostile attitudes of Muslims toward Jews throughout history.


Dr. Bostom is not a scribbler. He is a scientist, and he approaches his subject with the meticulous loyalty to facts and evidence that define a man of reason. His works do not merely present his conclusions; they detail how his conclusions accurately reflect the relevant facts and available sources. In an article three years ago, for instance, he took on the widespread Muslim claim that “jihad” refers to some kind of “inner struggle” as against external war. In historical terms, “it is a complete crock” he wrote to me in an email—and his article “Sufi Jihad?” shows us why.


Bostom cites a series of Sufi thinkers—the ones who are supposed to favor the spiritual meaning of Islam rather than the violence of the creed—to show that these mystics were in fact dedicated to violence. To take the most important: Al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a towering figure in Islamic thought, a Sufi Muslim who followed the Shafi’I school of Islamic jurisprudence, and an allegedly non-violent man, wrote this of jihad:



[O]ne must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year . . . one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them . . . [if one of them] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked. . . . One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide . . . on offering up the jizya [the tax levied on the dhimmis, the subjugated peoples], the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear . . . their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s. . . . They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths . . . [dhimmis] must hold their tongue. . . . [cited in Kitab al-Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al-imam al-Safi’i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190–91; 199–200; 202–203. English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.]


Some today claim that “jihad” means some kind of contemplative inner struggle, that non-Muslims under Muslim rule enjoy equal protection under the law, that there are no slaves in Islam, that non-Muslims need not wear an identifying patch to single them out, or that there is respect for civilians in Islamic thought. But to make this claim, one must disagree not merely with a modern commentator. One must repudiate the most authoritative Islamic mystic since the founding of Islam.


Such is the value of Dr. Bostom’s contribution. He has done the heavy lifting required to bring these kinds of sources to us and to show—not merely by the force of his own conclusions, but in the words of such Islamic authorities themselves—the intellectual origins of the war against the West today.

Lecture: Religion vs. Morality

Conventionally, most people believe that morality can only be based in religious faith that in a world without God no principles of right and wrong could exist. Related to this, philosophers have long held that no objective, fact-based, rational code of values is possible. Regarding both points, this talk shows that the exact opposite is true. The purpose of morality is to guide human life on earth and religion is utterly incapable of it. Flourishing life requires a code of secularism, rationality, egoism and freedom. Religious faith clashes with every principle of a proper moral code, and, as such, has led, and can only lead to, hell on earth.

Who: Dr. Andrew Bernstein, professor of philosophy and speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute
What: A talk arguing for a secular, rational basis for morality. A Q&A will follow.
Where: University of Colorado, Boulder, Wolf Law Building, Room 207
When: Thursday, April 10, 2008, at 7 pm


Dr. Bernstein is a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Marist College; he also teaches at SUNY Purchase. Dr. Bernstein lectures regularly at American universities and appears frequently on radio talk shows. His op-eds have been published in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Daily News, and The Houston Chronicle. Dr. Bernstein is the author of three Ayn Rand titles for CliffsNotes: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem. He also authored The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire.

Lecture: Global Capitalism – The Solution to World Oppression and Poverty

The opponents of global capitalism overlook the key points in the debate. The capitalistic nations of Europe, North America and Asia are by far the wealthiest societies of history—with per capita incomes in the range of at least $20,000 $30,000 annually. But capitalism is not merely the system of prosperity; fundamentally, it is the system of individual rights and freedom. Capitalistic nations protect their citizens’ freedom of speech, of the press and of intellectual expression. Similarly, their citizens possess economic freedom, including the right to own property, to start their own businesses and to seek profit. By stark contrast, the pre-capitalist systems of history, and the non-capitalist systems of the present, are politically oppressive and economically destitute; their citizens have no rights and, consequently, little or no wealth. What deeper principles make possible the freedom and wealth enjoyed under capitalism—and lacking in its political antipodes? How has capitalism already greatly enhanced the lives of millions of human beings in formerly impoverished Third World countries? What can the men of the free world do to further promote the spread of capitalism into the repressed nations of the globe?

Who: Dr. Andrew Bernstein, professor of philosophy and speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute


What: A talk arguing for the morality and practicality of global capitalism. A Q&A will follow.


Where: Rogers State University, Will Rogers Auditorium, Claremore, OK


When: Wednesday, April 9, 2008, at 7 pm


Dr. Bernstein is a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Marist College; he also teaches at SUNY Purchase. Dr. Bernstein lectures regularly at American universities and appears frequently on radio talk shows. His op-eds have been published in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Daily News, and The Houston Chronicle. Dr. Bernstein is the author of three Ayn Rand titles for CliffsNotes: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem. He also authored The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe

Recommended Reading:


A Cry from Zimbabwe by Steven Tennett
On behalf of the Zimbabweans who desire to live as human beings, free from the shackles of Mugabe’s tyranny, I have a favor to ask of you, America.
“Race Cleansing” in Zimbabwe: UN Sees No Evil by Tom DeWeese
The world condemned White Apartheid in South Africa. International boycotts were organized against South African gold, products and stocks. But Robert Mugabe is black and the world is silent. Where is the United Nations? Where is the indictment of Mugabe before the new International Criminal Court? Where are the peace keeping missions? Where is the outcry for economic sanctions. Where are the boycotts?

Black Leaders Silent Over Mugabe’s Destruction of Zimbabwe by Walter Williams
Where are the Black Congressional Caucus, NAACP and other civil rights organizations? There’s a deafening silence, the same silence when Africa’s black tyrants elsewhere on the continent commit brutalities making those committed by former colonial masters pale in comparison.

How Mugabe is Destroying The Zimbabwean Economy by Ralph R. Reiland
With three-fourths of Zimbabwe’s labor force already jobless prior to Mugabe’s decree, the government’s prescription for bringing down inflation only worsened the nation’s poverty crisis.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe: Another Left-Wing Icon Turns Murderous by Paul Craig Roberts
You can bet your bottom dollar that the British will not seize Mugabe and attempt to put him on trial the way they did Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Like Castro, Mugabe is protected by his icon status among left-leaning American and European intelligentsia.

“Earth Hour” Sends a Deceptive Message

Irvine, CA–Last Saturday evening, cities around the world turned off their lights for one hour to “raise awareness about global warming.” In observation of “Earth Hour,” iconic landmarks such as the Sears Tower and the Sydney Opera House went dark, while participating individuals turned off residential lights. According to its organizers, the purpose of the annual event is to encourage people to think about how they can reduce their energy consumption. While they acknowledge that one hour with the lights off would have little effect on carbon emissions, the organizers say that what matters is the symbolic meaning of the event. “In fact,” says Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute, “the symbolic message that Earth Hour sends is deceptive and destructive.


“Despite the constant claim that ‘the debate is over’ on climate change, it is nowhere near a proven fact that human carbon emissions are causing a ‘planetary emergency.’ But it is a fact that carbon-based energy is a life-and-death necessity in today’s world. “Earth Hour sends the false message that we must cut off our carbon emissions and that doing so would be easy and even fun! People went star-gazing and held torch-lit beach parties; restaurants offered special candle-lit dinners during the hour. This bears no relation whatsoever to the kinds of sacrifices that would be forced upon us if global warming activists succeed in imposing real carbon-reduction policies.


“We, in the West, take our abundant energy for granted. It is hard for us to imagine what life would actually be like under the sort of draconian restrictions on energy use that global warming activists are demanding. Earth Hour clouds the issue even more by making the renunciation of energy seem like a big party. People spend a fun hour in the dark, safe in the knowledge that the comforts and life-saving benefits of industrial civilization are just a light switch away. “What we really need to raise awareness about is just how indispensable carbon-based energy is to human life. Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about “Earth Month,” without any form of fossil fuel energy? Let those who claim that we need to stop emitting carbon dioxide try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or factories, grocery stores or hospitals; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible.


“If there is any symbolic significance to Earth Hour, it is the opposite of its intended meaning. The lights of our modern cities are a symbol of human progress, of what mankind has achieved in rising from the cave to the skyscraper. But during Earth Hour we see the disturbing spectacle of people celebrating those lights going out–of people rejoicing at the sight of skyscrapers going dark. If anything, what Earth Hour represents is the renunciation of civilization.”

New Website: AtlasShrugged.com

The Ayn Rand Institute has created atlasshrugged.com, a major new Web site dedicated to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s great novel about the mysterious disappearance of the world’s greatest innovators and industrialists. Atlasshrugged.com has been created to be the Web’s most comprehensive and insightful companion site to the novel. For new readers, it offers an introduction to the book and its themes; and for those already familiar with Atlas Shrugged, the site offers an unprecedented wealth of analysis and commentary to help them understand the book better, along with background information about Ayn Rand and her life. Now in print for more than fifty years, Atlas Shrugged today sells well over 125,000 copies each year, even more than it sold at the peak of its initial publication run when it was a best-seller. More and more people are reporting the book’s profound influence on their lives. Visit atlasshrugged.com to see why!

Abolish Campaign Finance Laws

Irvine, CA–In “War on Free Political Speech,” an opinion piece published today on forbes.com, Dr. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, argued that campaign finance restrictions “subject political speech to the corrupting influence of government control” and called for the abolishment of all campaign finance laws.


According to Dr. Brook, “Campaign finance reform has done nothing to get corruption out of politics, but it has been effective at keeping corrupt politicians in politics.”


“It’s not money that corrupts,” elaborated Dr. Brook, “it’s the lure of arbitrary political power. A true crusader against political corruption would not strip American citizens of their right to free speech; he would seek to put an end to the government’s power to grant special favors to any group.”


Do large contributions buy political favors? They can, said Dr. Brook, but only because politicians “have power to grant special favors to special interests in the first place. Take away that power and politicians will have nothing to sell.”


In reply to those who claim that in the absence of campaign controls, wealthy private citizens or corporations would have the power to censor the speech of others, Dr. Brook reminded us that “Only the government has the power to stifle free speech and replace persuasion with coercion.” And he added that “Private citizens or corporations can refuse to support, finance or promote ideas or candidates they disagree with–which is their inalienable right–but they cannot forcibly suppress them.”


Dr. Brook said also, “A wealthy individual, for example, can spend lavishly on ads, even buy an entire newspaper or broadcast station, to convince Americans of his viewpoint; he cannot force us to listen or agree.”


“At the same time,” Dr. Brook pointed out, “a candidate lacking money is free to seek financial support from citizens who agree with him, whether it be a few wealthy individuals or millions of like-minded Americans who are willing to put their money where his mouth is.”


Although the advocates of campaign finance “reform” have not managed a complete government takeover of election financing yet, they have already managed to deprive many Americans of their freedom. According to Dr. Brook, “It’s time to reject this pernicious view and restore the First Amendment.”

Capitalism and the Environment: The Virtues of “Exploitation”

What: A talk analyzing the destructive nature of environmentalism–and explaining the constructive role of science, technology, and capitalism in promoting human life and progress. A Q&A will follow.


Who: Richard M. Salsman, public speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute


Where: Rice University, Herzstein Hall, Room 212, Houston, TX


When: Tuesday, March 25, 2008, at 7:30 pm


Admission is FREE.


Description: Man achieves his survival by using his mind to alter his environment to suit his needs and improve the conditions of his existence. It is this process–expressed in science, technology, and capitalism–that has allowed man to rise from the hunger, drudgery, and misery of primitive existence to the comfort of modern civilization. But it is precisely this process that is under attack by the reactionary “greens”–who want to return man to the pre-industrial era even to the Stone Age.


In this talk, Mr. Salsman does not merely discredit the scientific claims of environmentalism; he demolishes its moral and philosophical base. He demonstrates that: (1) the doctrine that nature has “intrinsic value,” i.e., some sort of mystical value entirely apart from its relation to man, is nothing but the desire to destroy human values, (2) the improvement of the environment–for man–can only be provided by laissez-faire capitalism, and (3) that it is the environmentalist movement itself that is today’s greatest danger to human health and happiness.


Bio: Richard M. Salsman, CFA, is founder, president and chief market strategist of InterMarket Forecasting, Inc., an investment research and forecasting firm based in Chapel Hill, NC. Mr. Salsman is a noted authority on banking and capitalism. He is the author of two books, Gold and Liberty (1995) and Breaking the Banks: Central Banking Problems and Free Banking Solutions (1990). Mr. Salsman’s articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Barron’s, Forbes, and The National Post (Canada). Mr. Salsman lectures widely at investment gatherings and at universities such as Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley.

Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard

The Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard has been posted to the journal’s website. This issue includes the following articles.


 


Immigration and Individual Rights” by Craig Biddle zeros in on the basic principle of America and demonstrates that this principle mandates a policy of open immigration, debunks several common arguments for prohibiting or limiting immigration, shows why all such arguments are necessarily invalid, and indicates what Americans must do if we are to reestablish and maintain the kind of moral, rights-respecting immigration policy that was advocated by the Founders.


 


Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution” by Keith Lockitch surveys Darwin’s education, work experience, expeditions, and inquiries; examines his observation-based, hands-on approach to gathering data from which to draw conclusions; and highlights the objectivity and truth of his consequent theory of evolution.


 


Isaac Newton: Discoverer of Universal Laws” by David Harriman examines key aspects of Newton’s discoveries, shows how he embraced and employed the scientific context established by giants who came before him (such as Galileo and Kepler), and indicates how he rose to even greater heights of explanation through a breathtaking unity of observation, experimentation, conceptual expansion, concept formation, generalization, induction.


 


Caspar David Friedrich and Visual Romanticism” by Tore Boeckmann examines four paintings by Friedrich (plus one by Theodor Kittelsen), analyzes them by means of a new concept Mr. Boeckmann calls design-theme, and integrates them under the concept of “visual romanticism,” thus going a distance toward objectively defining that school. (The article is accompanied by five color images of the paintings discussed.)


 


The Exalted Heroism of Alistair MacLean’s Novels” by Andrew Bernstein surveys MacLean’s major works (including The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare); indicates their value to readers who love men of intelligence, ability, and courage; and incites a keyboard stampede to Amazon.com for the used copies of MacLean’s books, which are tragically out of print.


 


The Objective Standard is a quarterly journal of culture and politics based on the idea that for every human concern—from personal matters to foreign policy, from the sciences to the arts, from education to legislation—there are demonstrably objective standards by reference to which we can assess what is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong. The purpose of the journal is to analyze and evaluate ideas, trends, events, and policies accordingly.

Now Online: Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution

The theory of evolution is often disparaged by its opponents as being “just a theory”—i.e., a speculative hypothesis with little basis in hard, scientific facts. But this claim carries with it the implied accusation that Charles Darwin was “just a theorist”—i.e., that he was merely an armchair scientist and that his life’s work was nothing more than an exercise in arbitrary speculation. A look at Darwin’s pioneering discoveries, however, reveals the grave injustice of this accusation. Darwin was not “just a theorist” and evolution is not “just a theory.” In this talk, Dr. Lockitch explores Darwin’s life and work, focusing on the steps by which he came to discover and prove the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Listen to Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution.

Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution

Who: Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow focusing on science and environmentalism at the Ayn Rand Institute


What: A talk and Q & A exploring Darwin’s life and work, and describing the steps by which he came to discover and prove the theory of evolution by natural selection


Where: NYU’s Kimmel Center (Room 802), 60 Washington Square South, NY, NY 10012


When: Thursday, March 6, 2008, at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30)


Description: The theory of evolution is often disparaged by its opponents as being “just a theory”–i.e., a speculative hypothesis with little basis in hard, scientific facts. But this claim carries with it the implied accusation that Charles Darwin was “just a theorist”–i.e., that he was merely an armchair scientist and that his life’s work was nothing more than an exercise in arbitrary speculation. A look at Darwin’s pioneering discoveries, however, reveals the grave injustice of this accusation. Darwin was not “just a theorist” and evolution is not “just a theory.” In this talk, Dr. Lockitch explores Darwin’s life and work, focusing on the steps by which he came to discover and prove the theory of evolution by natural selection.


Biography: Dr. Keith Lockitch is a resident fellow focusing on science and environmentalism at ARI. He teaches writing courses for the Objectivist Academic Center’s undergraduate program and a history of physics course for the graduate program. His writings have appeared in publications such as the Orange County Register, San Francisco Chronicle, Australia’s Herald Sun, Canberra Times, and USA Today magazine. Dr. Lockitch has been a frequent guest on radio shows such as The Thom Hartmann Program on Air America Radio. Prior to joining ARI in 2003, Dr. Lockitch was a postdoctoral researcher in physics at the University of Illinois and at Pennsylvania State University.

The EU’s $2.5 Billion Theft from Microsoft

Irvine, CA–The European Union has just fined Microsoft another $1.35 billion under antitrust law, bringing the company’s total EU fines to $2.5 billion.


“This fine should be regarded by all for what it is: an act of government theft,” said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. “It is not proper for a government to impose a financial penalty unless a company is violating someone else’s property rights. But Microsoft has violated no one’s rights. It has sold a valuable product to willing customers and made voluntary agreements with willing developers.


“The European Union, on the other hand, has flagrantly violated the rights of Microsoft. It has forced the company to spend untold man-years tied up in court, submitting to invasive EU probes, and providing as much new documentation as EU antitrust chief Neelie Kroes feels like demanding. And it is seizing $2.5 billion of the company’s earnings.


“That a productive company doing its best to succeed in the fiercely competitive software and online markets can be fined for adding a media player feature to its Windows software, or setting the price for access to its secret software codes, is a travesty. But it must be recognized as a travesty that flows from the nature of antitrust laws.


“Antitrust laws regard successful competitors on a free market as dangerous ‘monopolists,’ and authorize governments to punish these companies however they see fit. For over 100 years, some of the world’s most productive companies, from Standard Oil to General Electric to IBM, have been persecuted under antitrust for expanding markets and lowering prices.


“It is time to put an end to this injustice. The EU can start by paying back to Microsoft’s shareholders every penny it has taken from them.”

Religious Constitution Invites Blasphemy Death Sentence

Irvine, CA–“Death sentences for blasphemy, such as the one handed down to Sayad Kambakhsh in Afghanistan recently, are to be expected under any constitution that enshrines Islam as the state religion and the Koran as the supreme law of the land,” said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute.


A council of mullahs acting under court authority has decreed capital punishment for Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old journalism student charged with possessing anti-Islamic books, starting un-Islamic debates in class, and downloading and distributing Internet articles saying that Muhammad ignored women’s rights. The sentence, which has been endorsed by Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament, is on appeal. Afghanistan’s president has hinted at clemency, but only after appeals are finished.


“In 2006, mobs of clerics were clamoring for the death of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan whose ‘crime’ was converting to Christianity,” Bowden said. “And now, Sayad Kambakhsh faces death unless a growing international outcry embarrasses Afghanistan’s government into lifting the sentence.


“Criminal punishment of blasphemy is certainly unjust and outrageous, but ad hoc protests offer no long-term solution. If Islam’s stranglehold on Afghanistan’s government is to end, that nation must adopt an American-style constitution protecting individual rights, including freedom of speech and religion. The strict separation of church and state erects an institutional barrier to religious persecution, as American history shows.


“But a nation that exalts mystical dogma and tribal allegiances cannot be expected to think in such terms. ‘The guy should be hanged,’ said an 18-year-old student at the American University in Kabul, calling for Kambakhsh’s swift execution. Said a Muslim cleric: ‘He should be punished so that others can learn from him.’ For such people, freedom is an intolerable obstacle to the overriding goal of enforcing Islam.


“When the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan, its stated policy was to promote ‘democracy.’ That policy has now achieved its exact aim. The Afghan government reflects the democratic will of the people. The people want to kill blasphemers, and their constitution allows them to do so lawfully.

“Bush’s policy was based on his delusional belief that Afghans are as freedom-loving as Americans. But what they truly value is religion. Sayad Kambakhsh is living–perhaps dying–proof that religion injected into government is hostile to freedom.