The U.S. Should Withdraw from the Geneva Convention

IRVINE, CA–The investigation of a marine for the suspected “crime” of killing an unarmed Iraqi terrorist is a moral and judicial travesty, said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.


“The accused marine was completely right to kill a terrorist who he suspected was setting up a booby-trap by faking death–a common terrorist technique used in Iraq. For the marine to do otherwise would have been to risk his life and the lives of his fellow marines to preserve a committed murderer. Yet this is exactly what the U.S. government says he should have done, in the name of the ‘rules of war’ of the Geneva Convention.”


“Throughout the War on Terrorism,” explained Dr. Brook, “America has sacrificed its military objectives and the safety of its soldiers in the name of adhering to the Geneva Convention accords, which are based on so-called Just War Theory. Monsters like Osama bin-Laden and his deputies are still alive because we hesitated to bomb them out of their hideouts, for fear of hitting so-called innocents. Hundreds of American soldiers have died unnecessarily due to crippling rules of engagement requiring them to place the lives of Iraqi civilians above their own.”


“Now,” said Dr. Brook, “we are telling our soldiers that if they kill a terrorist who happens to be wounded or unarmed, they could be court-martialed!”


“America must assert its right to defend its citizens–including its soldiers–by any means necessary,” said Dr. Brook. “And as a first order of business, we must withdraw from the suicide pact that is the Geneva Convention.”

Spamming for Freedom

For anyone looking to defend property rights and make money at the same time, here’s an interesting business model I discovered: 



The Tabloids, an Oakland-based rock band… recently launched stopnapster.com, urging people to sabotage Napster by mislabeling songs posted to the site. Music entrepreneurs and Internet saboteurs have already started circulating fake versions of popular songs on Napster. 

Stopnapster.com also calls for releasing songs into Napster that have anti-piracy speeches inserted randomly into the music. For instance, you may be listening to Eminem when suddenly Charlton Heston begins reading a public interest message opposing song theft…  “We’re looking at the big picture here. Intellectual property is intellectual freedom,” says Michael Robinson, the band’s leader, a freelance writer and a marketing consultant. “The U.S. Constitution and the Internet are on a collision course. We don’t want our rights ripped off,” he adds. The Tabloids seek government regulation of technologies like Napster’s.  (From Digital Music Weekly,

You could probably get this funded as an Internet business model. Get permission from bands to use their songs, and thirty seconds in start mixing in voiceovers of interviews with the band, etc. Then create all kinds of bogus music servers and spam the hell out of Napster, Gnutella, etc. with the fake mp3s. (Actually, I hear the Nettwerk label just did this with the new Barenaked Ladies single.) 

The band gets advertising and fights theft, you make a little money selling the ads, and the Net gets clogged with so much music spam that it gets difficult and costly to find intact pirated tracks. If Napster raises technical barriers, you have a financial incentive to overcome them. And the pirates can’t very well call on the law to protect them, can they? 

Personally, I find something deliciously satisfying in the image of some young thug, smugly expecting to marinate his brain in the latest Eminem tirade he’s swiped off the net, getting an earful of Charlton Heston.

How to Achieve Real Campaign Finance Reform

By Edwin A. Locke

The U. S. House of Representative is again debating campaign finance reform legislation. The proximate cause of this debate being brought to the floor now is the Enron scandal, including the fact that the company gave large amounts of money to politicians from both major parties. The deeper cause is the increasing disgust the American people have come to feel about the unprincipled manner in which our legislative process is conducted. The process, in essence, is that swarms of lobbyists descend like locusts on Washington, demanding special favors in return for campaign contributions. It is claimed that the ultimate culprit in this mess is money (“wealthy special-interest groups”). This claim is false. “Moneyed interests” are only a symptom of a deeper cause. The corruption is caused not by material wealth but by spiritual poverty. It is caused by a bankrupt philosophical premise: the concept of the “public interest.”

Let us see how this premise operates in practice. Imagine that you are an honest, idealistic congressman just elected to office. On your first day, you are accosted by four lobbyists. The first demands a tariff increase on certain imports to “protect” his group’s industry–which, he claims, serves the public. The second lobbyist asserts that it will benefit the public if his group gets a subsidy to help its members survive in a “brutally competitive” market. The third insists that it will help the public if members of his group are given license to be the exclusive providers of a certain service. The fourth says the public will be better off if unions are made illegal in his industry. The next day, a new group of lobbyists asks you for favors. These requests often conflict with those demanded by the first group, but are just as fervently presented as being in the “public interest.”

How then do you decide what to do? If an auto-industry spokesman argues for import tariffs on cars to protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of workers, and an auto-dealer association argues for no tariffs in order to give hundreds of thousands of buyers lower prices, which group, in this case, is the “public”? Both and neither. You realize that “the public” is not an actual entity but only a collection of individuals. So which individuals, in any given case, should get what they want and at whose expense? There is no way to tell–anyone can claim to be the public on any issue. In dismay you recognize that “the public interest” has no objective meaning. It is empty rhetoric.

Politics abhors a vacuum, and when there are no coherent moral principles to guide action, the void is filled by pressure-group warfare. The winner of any given battle is decided by such arbitrary factors as which group is bigger, richer, better connected (e.g., to the White House), or more attuned to the latest media hype or political tide. In practice, the principle of the “public interest” leads to a political war of all against all in which some individuals are sacrificed for the benefit of others. This mess is known as the “mixed” economy. (There are, of course, some principled lobbyists who seek, not special privileges, but simply the right to be left alone–but their pleas fall on unprincipled ears.)

All this leads to widespread cynicism and demands for “campaign finance reform”–but it cannot work. To think that you can eliminate the cause–philosophical bankruptcy–by limiting its effects–the buying and selling of favors–is to think that you can eradicate mental illness by limiting the number of beds in mental hospitals. Real campaign finance reform requires philosophical reform. We must discard the notion of the “public interest” and replace it with the proper principle: individual rights, which means the freedom of each individual to pursue his own interests as long as he does not coerce or defraud others. This means: replace the mixed economy with real capitalism–no tariffs, no subsidies, no protection from competition, no favors.

How would such a system work in practice? Consider the recent hoopla over steel imports. It is reported that Bush is being pressured by some 50 different groups to either pass or not pass legislation that would put tariffs on steel imports or to ban some imports altogether. Which side will win? No one knows; probably the side that makes the most noise or has the most votes. But all this begging of favors could be eliminated on the spot if Bush simply articulated one simple principle: what buyers and sellers of steel do is none of the government’s business and I will take no part in interfering with the free market. End of lobbying; end of favor-seeking. No lobbyists would bother to show up at the White House or in Congress because no one would have anything to sell.

Only when politicians have no power to offer other men’s property–and their own souls–for sale in the name of the “public interest” will we have true “campaign finance” reform.

Edwin A. Locke, Dean’s Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Motivation at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.