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History & Culture

Theodore Dalrymple: David Cameron’s Kantain Memoir

Theodore Dalrymple has written an eloquent, insightful review on the memoir of David Cameron:

David Cameron’s supreme achievement is banality

For a man to have been at the peak of political power for six years and to have written a 700-page memoir without a single arresting thought or amusing anecdote, without giving any insight into the important people he has met, and without displaying any interest in, let alone knowledge of, history, philosophy or higher culture, is an achievement of a kind.

Public relations as the queen of the sciences

In a sense, Mr. Cameron is a Kantian: he believes that we can never get beyond appearance to things in themselves. Behind presentation there is no substance: just more presentation, so that public relations is the queen of the sciences and opinion polls must be consulted as Roman soothsayers consulted chicken entrails.

A “bread and circuses” populist against Brexit populism

Mr. Cameron castigates supporters of Brexit as populist, but he is himself a firm believer in the circus-division of a bread-and-circuses regime, for example counting Britain’s high tally of medals in the London Olympics as a great national success and cause for pride, rather than as evidence of a shameful and frivolous concentration on a trivial diversion during a period of national decline. 

Conserving the principle of statism

Mr. Cameron poses not only as a man of the people, but also as a conservative, admitting in his memoir, however, that he means by this the pursuit of progressive ends (that is to say, the fashionable nostra of the day) by conservative means: once again, the form without the content. And insofar as he can be said to have any philosophy at all, it is profoundly marked by statism

“Valuting ambition” + “utter mediocrity” = Cameron

In the end, I felt slightly sorry for David Cameron. There is no plumbing his shallows. As politicians go, he was obviously at the decent end of the spectrum, he was no monster; but when vaulting ambition (as his must surely have been) is allied to utter mediocrity, the result is… 700 pages that are a torture to read.

Cameron’s memoir may not be worth reading, but the entirety of Mr. Darymple’s “arresting and amusing” essay, David Cameron’s Big Lie, surely is.

Exposing The Lies and Distortions Behind the NYT’s 1619 Project

Arthur Milikh exposes the lies and distortions behind the New York Time’s so-called “1619 Project” that seeks to reinterpret the history of America, over at City Journal.

Writes Milikh:

To make America’s Founding contemptible, one must hide, ignore, and distort the Founders’ writings and thoughts. Irresponsibly omitted from this narrative is the fact that not a single major Founder endorsed slavery.


Ample evidence shows that the Founders wished for an end to slavery, contrary to the Times’s assertion that “neither Jefferson nor most of the founders intended to abolish slavery.” John Adams argued, “every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States.” He hoped that the inequalities of the Old World would eventually disappear. In 1778, Jefferson introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature banning the importation of slavery, which he hoped would lead to the institution’s “final eradication.”


It is true that, in order to ratify the Constitution, the Founders decided to allow the abhorrent practice of slavery to continue for a limited time. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and possibly other states, would never have ratified the Constitution otherwise. This decision was made, however, on what the Founders considered prudential grounds—better to have union than endless wars among the states.


Another often-ignored fact is that America was home to approximately 60,000 free blacks around the time of the Founding; this number tripled in just 20 years. Black Americans voted in several states, which appears to make America the first nation in recorded history where both races voted side by side. Those free and freed persons represented the beginning of our long and strenuous path toward justice.

Black Americans have been treated in a grossly unjust fashion throughout our history. But the Declaration and the Constitution themselves, according to the Founders’ intentions, contain the principles through which justice would come, as Fredrick Douglass and, later, Martin Luther King, Jr. believed. These countervailing facts and statements, should produce a more balanced view of America’s Founding. Why, then, are they so thoroughly and carefully avoided by today’s narrative-creators, who intend to persuade through distortion?

Rather than indulge in recrimination, we should follow Lincoln in seeking “to bind up the nation’s wounds” and “to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves.” Manipulating the next generation to disdain the American Founding will not accomplish this.

The 1619 Project, by selectively failing to highlight critical facts, is not a project to educate and enlighten, but to destroy and demean, and bury the actual principle that animated America’s greatness: individual rights.

The entire essay, America’s Founding Was Not Defined By Slavery and White Supremacy as NY Times’ 1619 Project Claims, is worth a read.

Milton Friedman: 5 Myths About the History of Capitalism

Five myths cloud our perception of both the past and the present:

(1) The “robber baron” myth, which holds that in late nineteenth-century America there were powerful men who became rich at the expense of the poor. The reality is that they became wealthy by being productive, and that there is no other period in history which saw such a rapid and widespread improvement in the well-being of the average individual;

(2) The myth that the Great Depression was caused by a failure of business, when it was, in fact, produced by a failure of government and specifically by the Federal Reserve System;

(3) The myth that government in the economy has expanded in response to public demand, when, actually, the public has had to be sold “hard” for politicians to enact every major social program;

(4) The “free lunch” myth, which forces the individual to pay more, no matter how the government raises money – by taxing individuals, by taxing businesses, or by printing more money; and

(5) The myth that government, like Robin Hood, transfers wealth from the rich to the poor, when the reality is that the government usually transfers wealth and income from both the very rich and the very poor to those in the middle.

George Friedman: “Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe”

Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe.

A major new book by New York Times bestselling author and geopolitical forecaster George Friedman (The Next 100 Years) with a bold thesis about coming events in Europe, this provocative work examines ‘flashpoints’—unique geopolitical hotspots where tensions have erupted throughout history—and why conflict is due to emerge again.

“There is a temptation, when you are around George Friedman, to treat him like a Magic 8-Ball.” —The New York Times Magazine

With uncanny accuracy, George Friedman has forecasted coming trends in global politics, technology, population, and culture. Now, in Flashpoints, he focuses on the continent that was the cultural and power nexus of the world for five-hundred years: Europe. Analyzing the historical fault lines that have existed for centuries within the borderlands of Europe and Russia–which have been the hotbed of numerous catastrophic wars–Friedman walks readers through the flashpoints that are smoldering once again. The modern-day European Union was crafted in large part to minimize these built-in geopolitical tensions, but as Friedman shows with a mix of fascinating history and provocative cultural analysis, that design is failing. Flashpoints is George Friedman’s most timely book, delivering an unflinching forecast for the coming years.

About the author:

George Friedman is the Chairman and founder of Stratfor, the world’s leading private intelligence company. He is frequently called upon as a media expert in intelligence and international geopolitics, and is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Next Decade and The Next 100 Years. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Margaret Thatcher: Freedom is Indivisible

Margaret Thatcher’s speech launching “Free Enterprise Week” (1975 July 1).

Recently you have changed your name from Aims of Industry to Aims for Freedom and Enterprise. I welcome that change—it is timely and it is vital.

Free Enterprise is an essential part of Britain’s future. Free Enterprise provides the jobs—nearly three quarters of all employment—and my goodness we need those jobs. Free Enterprise provides the exports—nearly 95%; of all we sell abroad—and my goodness we need those exports. Free Enterprise creates the wealth—nearly three thousand million pounds were paid in taxation last year—and my goodness this Government needs money. Free Enterprise provides the inventiveness—there would be no North Sea Oil without Free Enterprise who found it and developed it. (What a curious fact it is that it was Tony Benn who turned on the first drop of free enterprise oil. His appointment is the only known example of pouring trouble on oily waters.)

Yes—jobs, exports, wealth and inventiveness. These four—they are the basis of our prosperity. They depend on Free Enterprise.

All you need now is a Government that believes in it. A Government that would encourage a flourishing, profitable free enterprise which produces the goods. Jobs, exports, wealth and inventiveness. Certainly important enough matters to be celebrated on a special day.

Free Enterprise Day is dedicated to the destruction of one of the most dangerous of modern myths. There is an increasing belief that freedom is divisible. That you can have political freedom and economic slavery. That you can preserve intellectual freedom and destroy commercial independence. That you can fight for freedom of speech and yet overthrow freedom of enterprise.

No myth is more dangerous. Freedom is indivisible. Once the State controls the means of production, distribution and exchange, all of us become dependent upon it. The whole nation becomes dependent upon the decisions of the bureaucracy and the politicians. And it is obviously so. If the State is the only source of capital, then only those ideas, those people, and those aims which are approved by the State can get the money for development.

If the State is the only source of patronage, then only those causes, those ideals and those charities which commend themselves to the State can raise the money that they need.

If the State is the only employer, where is the real freedom to choose of the employer?

If the State is the only provider of housing, where can the tenant look for alternative accommodation?

If the State is the only shareholder, where can the director the manager or shop-floor worker look for independent support?

But, they say, you are putting forward an extreme choice. You are talking about total state takeover. That could not happen here. Couldn’t it?.

Is not the real fact that this Government is taking the country faster towards the centralised state than any previous Government?

Month by month, almost day by day, the freedom of free enterprise is curtailed and the power of the State enhanced.

That is why we have a two-fold purpose today.

First, to say “STOP” to the extension of State control, and second, to start the extension of freedom.

But, say the opponents of free enterprise you have to restrict economic freedom to gain political freedom.

You have to control private enterprise in order to give more power to the people. What nonsense.

Not one single measure produced by any Socialist Government has extended power to the people.

They have given much more power to bureaucrats, much more power to extremists, much more power to Socialist Ministers.

But it is power to the people which only free enterprise can provide.

Power is primarily the power of choice.

Choice in small things, and in big things—the food you buy, the house you rent or the home you own; the clothes you wear or the holidays you choose. Where you invest—the risks you take.

All these individual choices are a fundamental part of freedom, and free enterprise makes them possible.

The ideal of freedom has been part of our history since history began.

That of enterprise has been with us as long.

Free enterprise has been the engine which created the wealth which freed hundreds of millions of people from the day-long struggle; every day a battle merely to keep body and soul together.

It has enabled the arts to flourish. And to become, not just the preserve of the rich, but to be enjoyed by men and women from every walk of life.

It has created the wealth to finance science and technology; to continue the struggle to overcome the scourges of poverty and disease (not least in the third world).

Beyond these benefits, priceless in themselves, free enterprise has enabled the creative and aquisitive urges of man to be given expression in a way which benefits all members of society. [end p4]

Any man may test his skill, his capacity and his will to work, his tenacity and his vision against the demands of the market place and the customer.

The captains of industry and the stall-holders in the market place are both parts of the free enterprise system. They both exist to serve their customers, you and me, and those like us overseas.

They each know that success or failure depends upon how well they serve us.

So free enterprise benefits the customer in satisfying his demands.

It benefits the entrepreneur, in giving him an outlet for his skills and drive.

It benefits the worker, not only as a consumer, but by creating profitable firms and well paid jobs.

It benefits Britain by creating that surplus of wealth which improves not only material standards but the cultural and artistic standards of life too.

It benefits the poor, the old, and the handicapped by creating that wealth which alone can pay for their care.

Who then, opposes free enterprise—who wishes it ill and works for its destruction.

Those who hate free enterprise and those who have no patience with ideas of individual freedom.

Those who would end freedom of choice for the customer—and freedom of choice of employer, for the employee too.

Once the customer is dependent on the State for all his needs;

Once the worker can turn only to the State for work;

Once there is no possibility of the promotion of the Arts except by patronage of the State;

Then, not only Enterprise, but freedom itself is destroyed.

The trouble is the first steps down that road are tempting.

It is so easy to believe that freedom means giving greater power to politicians and officials of the State.

It is so easy to believe that by punishing the creators of wealth, the pains of poverty can be eased.

Britain has been tempted too far down that path.

So let free enterprise fight back now, not for itself but for all those who value freedom itself.

That is why today is a day of such significance.

Free Enterprise Day—July 1st 1975 marks the beginning of the fight back for freedom.

It is a battle we dare not lose.

Video: Thomas Sowell on Economic Inquality, Reparations

Is discrimination the reason behind economic inequality in the United States? Thomas Sowell dismisses that question with a newly revised edition of his book Discrimination and Disparities.

He sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss the long history of disparities among humans around the world and throughout time. He argues that discrimination has significantly less of a role to play in inequality than contemporary politicians give it credit for, and that something as incontrovertible as birth order of children has a more significant and statistically higher impact on success than discrimination. He discusses why parental attention is the most important aspect of a child’s intellectual development.

Sowell goes on to break down different minority groups around the world who went on to have more economic and political success than their majority counterparts, such as the Indians in East Africa, Jewish people in Eastern Europe, Cubans in the United States, and the Chinese in Malaysia. He argues that there is an underlying assumption that if discrimination was absent equality would prevail, which historically has been proven wrong.

Sowell goes on to discuss changes in crime rates and poverty since the expansion of US welfare programs in the 1960s and how this has had a huge impact on the success of African Americans. He talks about his own experience growing up in New York, how housing projects used to be considered a positive place to live, and his experience as the first member of his family to enter the seventh grade. Robinson asks Sowell his thoughts on the case for reparations currently being made in Congress, and Sowell presents an argument about why a plan for reparations is not only illogical but also impossible to implement, with so many US citizens’ ancestors arriving long after the Civil War. He also explains that slavery was common throughout the known world for thousands of years and that abolition movements didn’t begin anywhere in the world until the late 18th century. He reminds us that the United States was not the only country guilty of participating in slavery and yet is the only country debating reparations.

Video: What is Money?

In Money We Trust? explains how, 2,500 years ago, the invention of money provided a shared measure of value that facilitated trade and cooperation between strangers. Sound, trustworthy money has throughout history fueled great human achievement—from the emergence of philosophy to the high-tech revolution. The program also explores the destructive consequences that ensue when inflation or other forms of instability cause money not to be trusted. In the most extreme instances, such as in Weimar Germany or present-day Venezuela, the economy—and social order—collapses.

Official website: In Money We Trust.

Life is Not Suffering: An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan Peterson

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan Peterson Regarding Suffering, Ethics, and Happiness

Dear Dr. Peterson,

Thank you for your defense of individualism in general and of free-speech in particular, and for your defiance of academic nihilism in general and Neo Marxist Postmodernism in particular. Your bestselling 12 Rules for Life; An Antidote to Chaos, your prominence on the Intellectual Dark Web, and your packed out auditoriums around the world, are encouraging signs that Enlightenment values survive the onslaughts from without and within. However, in the name of that Enlightenment project, I ask you to consider whether you break your rule number ten, about being precise in your speech, when you say: “Life is suffering.”

You say: “Life is suffering. That’s clear. There is no more basic, irrefutable truth,” and that this conviction is the “cornerstone” of your belief. If you had said instead: “everyone experiences suffering”, or: “life involves suffering,” who could disagree? But I respectfully dispute your assertion that: “life IS suffering”.  If that were literally true, the obvious solution would be to end it. And if it were clear that: “the baseline of life, is something like unbearable suffering,” what sort of sadist would you have to be to purposely bring a new child into a life sentence of that? Your rules, as I understand them, are predicated on the belief that people are capable of dealing with the challenges of life so that suffering can be marginalized rather than being “the norm”. So why do you insist that: “life IS suffering?” What have I missed? [1]⁠

I have read The Gulag Archipelago and many other horror stories of history, and my second book is about life in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, so I know of what you speak. But since the Enlightenment we have considered dark ages, plagues, genocides, famines and the like to be aberrations of life as it could and should be. I am a quadriplegic, and members of my family have suffered worse afflictions, so I’m no stranger to suffering – not many people are. But we consider illnesses that make suffering the norm for the afflicted and their loved ones for a period of time to be aberrations, which are to be relieved and in most cases cured. When your daughter suffered so terribly for so long, you didn’t say: “that’s life!” You tried to cure her, on the assumption that her suffering was not life as it was meant to be and could be. And you know better than your opponents how the refusal to accept the inevitability of physical suffering has steadily reduced its prevalence decade by decade for the last two or three centuries. There can be suffering in life – but life is not suffering! [2]

If I understand the genesis of your life-is-suffering premise correctly, it evolved because, when your thinking progressed past the Christianity and socialism of your youth, you were confronted with relativists and subjectivists left and right, and you knew that they were leading us down the lane to chaos and destruction. So, like Rene Descartes, you searched for a foundation that you could not doubt. And you found it in: “The reality of suffering. It brooks no arguments. Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape from its reality. Suffering is real, and the artful infliction of suffering on another, for its own sake, is wrong. That became the cornerstone of [your] belief.” Then you deduced that: “to place the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering at the pinnacle of your hierarchy of value is to work to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth”. In other words, the relief of suffering became your ethical axiom and your standard of value, by reference to which you rank your hierarchy of values, from increased suffering (the bad) to decreased suffering (the good). As Rene Descartes said, I think therefore I am, you in effect said: people suffer therefore they value. [2]

The problem is that, as Rene Descartes’ followers soon discovered, Cartesian doubt is not a valid foundation for a philosophy. Likewise, I submit, it does not yield a valid standard of value for an ethic (although I suspect its utility is derived from its link to the right standard – I’ll get to that). For one thing, a literal-minded believer might draw the conclusion I intimated above. For another it is only applicable to the negatives of life, it doesn’t motivate the positives. And it gets tangled up on the emotional level because emotions are derived from values, so if you derive your values from emotion, you go in circles.

Your search for an objective standard, against which effects can be ranked as good to bad and human causes as virtues to vices, is the vital step that multiculturalists amongst others have long since abandoned, leaving them unwilling to defend any Western value no matter how beneficial, against contrary values of other cultures no matter how detrimental, because moral relativism leaves each culture with its own inviolate “narrative” that may not be judged except on its own terms. Religions provide standards of value, which they get from revelations delivered via prophets and written down in holy texts, e.g. the Ten Commandments – but their validity in the end has to be taken on faith. The New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, absorb parts of the Judeo-Christian ethic, then kick out the foundation on which they stand, trusting that the ethical precepts will remain naturally as self evidently valid. I agree with you that their hijacked morality will not stand generation to generation without its foundation, but may be used selectively by corrupt power wielders (as the communists did).

Ayn Rand took a decidedly different approach. She started by identifying why living entities need values at all, then why humans need fundamental moral values, and her answers identified what the standard of values must be. She observed that living entities have values because they face a constant alternative: life or death. To a rosebush, its chlorophyll and sunshine are values; to a bird its wings and worms are values, because these promote the entity’s life. We humans can’t live by a rosebush’s values because our nature doesn’t include the capacity of photosynthesis, neither can we live by a bird’s values because our nature doesn’t include wings and instincts – we must live according to the values that our nature demands. But human nature doesn’t compel us to engage our human means of promoting our lives, we have to discover and implement our pro-life values by choice. We are the only species that can act against the requirements of its nature. But we cannot escape the consequences of our choices – hence our need for a pro-life code of moral values to live by.

If we choose to live, we have to identify our human nature and live accordingly. Some requirements of our life function automatically, such as heartbeats, immune systems, reflexes etcetera. But our distinctively human means of survival is reason, and reason is volitional. That is why we need to discover and hold our values consciously, and choose to act to gain and/or keep them voluntarily. A human being is a rational animal; therefore it ought to act rationally, if it wants to live. But it is not always self-evident whether an action is pro-life or anti-life in the long run. The range of choices we are confronted with are unlimited, and the repercussions of any action stretch into an expanding tree of effects that lead to causes that lead to future effects ad infinitum, which makes it impossible to calculate the effects of actions pragmatically (Utilitarianism notwithstanding). We need moral values in the form of principles that apply across-the-board to keep our options within the bounds of the pro-life. E.g. you may choose carpentry or accounting because both are ways of being productive, which is a virtue, but choosing to be a wastrel by default is not within the bounds of pro-life virtue.

We learn our values from our parents and/or the culture we grow up in, but sooner or later, in one way or another, we ask why this is good and that is bad. If I understand you correctly, your ultimate answer is: because this reduces suffering and that increases it. Ayn Rand’s ultimate answer is: because this is for your life as a human being and that is against it. According to her Objectivist Ethics, the proper standard of value, as dictated by the nature of reality including human nature, is: “man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.” It follows that since reason is our species’ most fundamental means of survival, it must be our primary value, and that since its operation is volitional, rationality must be our primary virtue. When that primary is coupled with other identifications of reality and human nature, the virtues of: independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride can be identified, and the initiation of force as an especially pernicious vice.[3]

Where Objectivist virtues coincide with Judeo-Christian virtues, it gives a non-sacrificial reason for following them, where it differs, it sets out its reasons. So adherents of the Objectivist Ethics aren’t expected to sacrifice their lives out of duty to commandments accepted on faith, or sacrifice their best interests as a duty to other people or society. They are expected to judge their best interest in an all-aspects-of-a-whole-of-life context, as the nature of our existence demands. E.g. they are expected to appreciate that delayed gratification is not a sacrifice and that respecting the rights of others is not being unselfish, rather these are principled applications of rational pro-life self-interest.

As I intimated above: I suspect the utility of your life-is-suffering standard of value lies in its link to the pro-life standard of value. On the level of sensations, suffering is a pain, which is your body’s way of telling you what to avoid for the sake of your life. So if you are anti-pain you are pro-life – unless your body is malfunctioning, or you know something it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to override your motivation to avoid pain, such as the pain of an injection or amputation. On the emotional level too, the role of suffering is to warn you that you are acting against your life – provided your emotions are programmed correctly. But there’s the rub! Your emotions are derived from your values; achieving them gives you a positive emotion, losing them a negative emotion; so if you derive your values from an emotion you are going in circles.

If a virtue is based on a pro-life action, let’s say on being productive, and you act immorally, let’s say by being lazy or destructive, you will suffer a negative emotion, let’s say shame or anxiety. That’s if your emotions are functioning as nature intended (as they do automatically for animals and infants) i.e. to encourage pro-life action. But if they are malfunctioning, let’s say with a work phobia, the malfunction can be identified and overridden, or reprogrammed with the help of psychotherapy. Whereas, if your moral value is based on an anti-suffering standard, you don’t question whether the emotion you suffer is malfunctioning because it is your standard. Let’s say you suffer from a work phobia, the obvious “solution” is to stop working. You might notice that the “solution” has bad effects on your life, but if you, therefore reverse your “solution”, you have moved on from an anti-suffering standard to a pro-life standard of value.

Life can involve suffering, but acting virtuously, according to a pro-life morality, minimizes it, because the pro-life is the anti-suffering. Life can also involve happiness, and because the pro-life is the pro-happiness, acting virtuously maximizes it. But by happiness I don’t mean hedonism. As Ayn Rand put it: “Happiness is not to be achieved at the command of emotional whims. Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to indulge. Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy – a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind’s fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer. Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.” ⁠[4]

The pursuit of happiness, as enshrined as an inalienable right in the American Declaration of Independence, is a distinctively Enlightenment perspective. But it is rooted in the Ancient Greek concept of Eudaemonia, which makes it a distinctively Western perspective. Life as suffering is a distinctively Eastern perspective. “Four Noble Truths on Suffering” constitute the cornerstone of Buddhism. But in the two and a half millennia of its reign, what did that religion do to improved the lot of human beings on this earth? The aim of Buddhism is not to improve your here-and-now, but for you to accept your suffering, which you deserve because of sins you committed in previous lives, and from which there is no escape, not even in death. In Western philosophy this “metaphysical pessimism” rears its head when philosophers turn away from this knowable reality, towards an otherworldly and/or unknowable realm. For example: Saint Augustine (who ushered in the Dark Ages), Arthur Schopenhauer and the existentialists (who ushered in the nihilism of postmodernism and…)

The philosophers who ushered in the knowledge and will to make this world a better place for humans to live in, were those who turned their face to this reality, to identify how we can know it, and how we can turn that knowledge into power, and turn that power into pro-human-life values. For example: Aristotle, and Saint Thomas Aquinas (who ushered in the Renaissance); and Francis Bacon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, and the “metaphysical optimists” of the Enlightenment. Whatever pro-human-life premises were bequeathed by the Judeo-Christian heritage, it was the revival of the Greek pro-reason influence that gave birth to the Enlightenment. And it was the Enlightenment’s elevation of reason and rights that gave birth to modern science, industry, political liberty, capitalism – and the products and services that stopped humans dying like flies, allowing the world’s population to rise from 1 to 7 billion, increasing life expectancy from 30 to 70 years, and reducing the prevalence of suffering so far that the prospect of a person living to a hundred and dying peacefully in bed, never having experienced acute or chronic pain, is no longer inconceivable.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy could be placed on the “metaphysical optimism” side of the divide, but she preferred to call it “the benevolent universe premise”, and she would probably call your view “the malevolent universe premise,” (which is akin to your “Hobbesian by temperament” identification). By “benevolent” Rand didn’t mean that the universe is designed to help or be kind to us, but that it does not play dice with us, so we can learn its laws, and by obeying them, we can command it to improve our lives. Which, if I understand them correctly, is what your twelve rules are designed to do. Your first rule is that we must stand up straight, with our shoulders back, accept responsibility and apply effort. This is, I submit, like most of your rules, a pro-life action. The ultimate purpose of such an action is the maintenance of your life (and the lives of your loved ones, and secondarily everyone else’s). But that ultimate benefit may be experienced along the way as relief of suffering – or as happiness. So pursuit of happiness is not only a political right but is morally right. When it comes to the best therapeutic strategy for people in a psychologically disturbed state, I bow to your expertise. But when it comes to a whole-of-life moral strategy, the maximization of the happiness reward has to be the other side of the minimizing of suffering coin. And, I submit, the more glorious side.



Yours sincerely, John Dawson

On the beach in Melbourne


[1] Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos; Penguin, Random House Canada, 2018, p.161

[2] Peterson, 12 Rules, pp.197,198

[3] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness; A New Concept of Egoism, New York, The New American Library, 1964, pp.vii-34.
Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Dutton, Penguin Group, New York, 1991, pp.206–324

[4] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Random House, New York, 1957 p.1022

Salsman: Socialism Works Wonderfully

Writes Richard Salsman on why Socialism Worked in Venezuela | AIER:

“…socialists don’t expect their system to work in the sense of creating liberty, prosperity, and peace. First and foremost, they expect it to work to seize the means of production, human capital included. Then they expect it to entail, in their own words, a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” They expect it’ll destroy liberty and prosperity.  In this sense, history demonstrates unequivocally that socialism works wonderfully.”

Definitely worth a read.

Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: ‘Infotainment’ Posing As Knowledge

Anthropologist C.R.Hallpike, reviews Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and finds it wanting:

The biological title Sapiens is intended to give the impression of a work of hard-nosed science in the Darwinian tradition. Human history is presented as ‘the next stage in the continuum of physics to chemistry to biology’, and our ultimate destiny, and not so very ultimate either, is to be replaced by intelligent machines. It is a summary of human cultural and social evolution from stone age foraging bands through the agricultural revolution, writing and the rise of the state and large-scale societies, through the gradual process of global unification through empires, money, and the world religions, to the scientific revolution that began the modern world and its consequences.


Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as ‘infotainment’, a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.

You can read the whole thing here.

Terence Corcoran: How Net Neutrality “Worked” in the 20th Century

Terence Corcoran, gives a little history lesson on how “Net Neutrality” worked in the 20th century over at the Financial Post:

Our freeways and highways are working models of road neutrality. At any time, anywhere, drivers are free to stream onto highways, free of any of the blocking, throttling and paid prioritization that private road tolls might bring. The result of road neutrality is constant congestion, with drivers dependent on politicians to determine whether new roads are built as a public utility, with no regard to price and cost.

Postal neutrality dominated for centuries, until key parts of the business were liberated from neutrality by allowing competitors to travel the same routes to deliver parcels. Today, UPS and FedEx compete with government postal services on quality and price. Recently, UPS announced another break with postal-neutrality principles, saying it would impose a surcharge on U.S. packages shipped the week before Christmas. The objective, says UPS, is to end congestion by prompting shippers and consumers to postpone deliveries that are non-essential holiday items until after the Christmas rush.

Promoters of net neutrality might learn from the history of public utilities and the experience in de-neutralized sectors such as postal services. Under deregulation, telcos in competition with one another would have more incentive to innovate and supply the infrastructure for the promised technological miracles than they would under the centuries-old utility model. [We tried ‘neutrality’ before the net came along. It’s always terrible.]

Why Are People In The 21st Century Still Attracted to Marxism?

The lecture “Why Marxism?”, is an examination of why so many people are still attracted to Marxism despite the history of totalitarianism and genocide. Professor C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He has also been a visiting fellow at Princeton and Harvard universities and at the University of London.

James D. Hill’s Moving Declaration of Independence From Ta-Nehisi Coates Racist Anti-American Ideology

Professor Jason D. Hill, a Jamaican-born professor of philosophy at DePaul University, writes in An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates: writes that Coate’s ideology and his book, Between the World and Me, “function as deputized stand-ins for the black male and the black experience in America, respectively. And I believe that as stand-ins, both fail. Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence—an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.”

Continues Hill later in his letter:

I am saddened by your conviction that white people wield such a great deal of metaphysical power over the exercise of your own agency. In making an enemy of the Dream that is a constitutive feature of American identity, you have irrevocably alienated yourself from the redemptive hope, the inclusive unity, and the faith and charity that are necessary for America to move ever closer to achieving moral excellence. Sadder still, you have condemned the unyielding confidence in self that the Dream inspires.

Hill continues to make many important points, such as why…

1. The American Dream is proof of the metaphysical impotence of racism:

In the 32 years I have lived in this great country, I have never once actively fought racism. I have simply used my own example as evidence of its utter stupidity and moved forward with absolute metaphysical confidence, knowing that the ability of other people to name or label me has no power over my self-esteem, my mind, my judgment, and—above all—my capacity to liberate myself through my own efforts.

On this matter, you have done your son—to whom you address your book—an injustice. You write: “The fact of history is that black people have not—probably no people ever have—liberated themselves strictly by their own efforts. In every great change in the lives of African Americans we see the hands of events that were beyond our individual control, events that were not unalloyed goods.”

I do not believe you intended to mislead your son, but in imparting this credo, you have potentially paralyzed him, unless he reappraises your philosophy and rejects it. In your misreading of America, you’ve communicated precisely why many blacks in this country have been alienated from their own agency and emancipatory capabilities. The most beleaguered people on the planet, the Jews, who have faced persecution since their birth as a people, are a living refutation of your claim. 

2. There is nothing beautiful, noble or special about skin color per se:

You touch on your flirtation with some special black racial essentialism in your book, and it is both affecting and sympathetic: “My working theory then held all black people as kings in exile, a nation of original men severed from our original names and our majestic Nubian culture. Surely this was the message I took from gazing out in the [Howard] Yard. Had any people, anywhere, ever been as sprawling and beautiful as us?” Unfortunately, there is nothing special about the black body. There is nothing special about any racially distinct physical body per se. Black skin does not convey nobility. Neither does white skin, or yellow skin. Your body is not special until it conjoins itself to a mind and adapts nature to its needs and desires and rational aspirations, its self-actualization and manifested agency. Any human body that fails to achieve a self-cultivated moral character and inscrutable human will is merely an ecological social ballast: ignoble, exploitable, a heap of unintelligible flesh on this earth.

3. Abnegation of personal responsibility promotes the pathology of black on black crime:

This abnegation of personal responsibility assumes its logical end in your failure to grant black people responsibility for their own lives in the phenomenon of black-on-black crime. You tell your son: “Black-on-black crime is jargon, violence to language . . . . To yell black-on-black crime is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.” Why? You give no reasons. In truth, black-on-black crime is a pathology that has to be reckoned with.

4. So-called reparations are based on the racist notion of collective guilt:

No self-respecting black person ought to take a single penny from the state for the infliction of any ancestral damage. The very premise supposes that blacks are wards of the state. If individual rights are currently being violated by states that illegally discriminate against blacks, that is a matter to be redressed in the courts. People who are possessed of self-esteem, who are dignified individuals capable of supporting themselves, do not seek any form of reparations. It is beneath them. Reason indicated that you cannot codify either collective guilt or collective entitlement. And reparations are predicated on the attribution of collective guilt, which in turn is based on the worst form of racism: biological collectivism. […] By what impertinence would you hold any white person guilty for the crime of simply being born white? You would, perhaps, imply that an accident of birth confers on them a white privilege for which they are to spend the rest of their lives atoning.

5. On why individualism is the solution to the collectivism of racism:

I myself have cultivated a love of humanity. It is a love for the human species that involves, above all, and paradoxically, a ruthless practice of individualism. This is America, where chromosomal predestination must be challenged by individual achievement.[…]

Here’s another idea: How about blacks just ask that white people not regard them as anything special and not obstruct their efforts to enhance their lives?


But I suspect my request for our being ignored and left alone to create our own destiny will not satisfy you. This is because you are trading on black suffering to create a perpetual caste of racial innocents. And the currency of your economic system is white guilt.

An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates is must reading.

Journo: Stop Normalizing the Palestinian Movement

Let’s stop normalizing the Palestinian movement | TheHill

….By negating the need for objective moral judgment and acting on it, our policymakers have landed us in a dead-end situation that sells out our ideal of individual freedom and harms our regional ally, Israel. We need to begin undoing that pattern. For a start: Stop normalizing the Palestinian movement. Stop brushing aside and playing down its crimes and vicious aims. Stop pretending that one faction, Fatah, is somehow well-intentioned — a fact refuted by its murderous, tyrannical history, not to mention its openness to allying with Hamas. Let’s recognize that the Palestinian movement is deeply hostile to individual freedom, and treat it accordingly.

Stubblefield: Separation of Education and State

Robert Stubblefield has penned this excellent letter to the Aiken Standard on why “School vouchers have benefit outside of religion“:

Star Parker’s recent column noted that school voucher programs could allow religious parents to shield their children from bad ideas currently taught in government schools. Evolution, abortion and gay marriage are bad ideas to many religionists. Note that secularists might use vouchers to avoid their children being taught such ideas as profit is bad, sacrifice is good, words are equivalent to sticks and stones, and that racism to get diversity is OK.

(Alternatively, tax credits for education would also allow such avoidance of government indoctrination without funds first flowing through the hands of sticky-fingered, bureaucracy-expanding government bureaucrats, who could set requirements – that a school qualifies for a program only if government-approved ideas are taught – more easily than a legislature could.)

The fundamental fact is that the government’s virtual monopoly on education means every student is taught content and methods approved by the government. And the dismal results of our educational system are so well-known that late-night TV shows have frequent man-in-the-street interviews illustrating people’s ignorance of geography, history, our form of government, current events … much worse than the missing and confused content of students’ minds is the fact that they lack the correct methods of thinking. Many act as if public opinion establishes fact and feelings yield knowledge. They are not taught to think in principles because the ruling educational philosophy is pragmatism, which holds that there are no principles.

For a superlative analysis of what government schools have done to abuse education and what a free system can do better, see the book “Teaching Johnny to Think” by Leonard Peikoff and Marlene Trollope.

But the main point I want to make is about the relation of this issue to the principle of the separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers recognized the potential tyranny of giving the government control of religious ideas. At the time there were no governments monopolizing the ideas educators promulgated. If there had been, they might have seen the church/state separation rule as a narrower instance of a broader principle: there should be an ideology/state separation. The state should have no role in promoting or decrying any particular set of ideas. Its sole job is to protect the individual rights of its citizens from the initiation of force at home and abroad. — Robert Stubblefield

Salsman: No Required Tradeoff Between Inflation Rate and Jobless Rate

It’s No Mystery Why the Fed Sees Low Inflation as a Mystery – The Daily Capitalist

The Wall Street Journal reports that Fed head “Yellen Defends Fed Rate-Rise Plan Despite ‘Mystery’ of Low Inflation.” For Yellen, it’s a “mystery” that the U.S. today enjoys, simultaneously, a low rate of inflation (1.9%) and unemployment (4.4%). It’s a fact, yet “theoretically” impossible, per Yellen, so she’ll keep raising the Fed’s policy interest rate, hoping to prevent further declines in the jobless rate. Get it?

Here’s why Yellen’s silly mystery is no mystery at all, at least to those who know something about the good and bad of economic theory and know some economic history too. For decades, Keynesian economists and their dominant textbooks have pushed the erroneous claim, to millions of students (including many now working at the Fed), that there’s an inevitable, unavoidable “trade-off” between a nation’s inflation rate and jobless rate. This bogus “cost-push” theory of inflation asserts that a low jobless rate somehow boosts labor’s “bargaining power” versus Scrooge-like employers, who eventually buckle under and concede to pay higher wage rates but, intent on preserving profit margins, also raise prices (thus inflation). The alleged tradeoff is captured by the so-called “Phillips Curve.” It’s in Yellen’s head.

In fact, inflation is a purely monetary phenomenon; technically, it’s a decline in the purchasing power of money caused by the interplay between the supply of and demand for money. Its effect is a general rise in prices. The main determiners of money supply are its monopoly issuers: today’s central banks (including the Fed).  Contrary to what the Phillips Curve myth implies, inflation is not caused by real factors – i.e., by a greater proportion of folks working to produce things or by faster rates of growth in economic output. In fact, stability in the value (or purchasing power) of money, much like stability in the rule of law and policy, fosters better growth and employment. Such stability is also beneficial for profits and equities.

Read the rest.