Thursday, October 30, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fiar

After months of Obama telling us that he never heard those speeches of Reverend Wright's and had no idea that he was saying those things, here's what he said in an interview in 1995.

And then although he has tried to hide his Marxist influences from Alinsky to Ayers to many others listen to this admission of seeking out the Marxists professors.

And all the denial of From Each According to His Ability, To Each According to His Need, Marx's dictum, here, also in 1995, he attacks the Constitution of the United States stating that its purpose of controlling government to not infringe the rights of individuals is wrong from the get-go. It should have been essentially a Marxist document designed to redistribute the wealth, i.e., to enforce economic justice, a code word for the Marxist principle. Another code word with the same meaning is social justice.

He is in favor of ground troops and has stated his desire for an internal security force with a budget as big as the US Military. (I can no longer find his statements about this that at one time appeared on his website.) These people are to be the means of forcing "economic justice" on the country. The ACORN organizations of which there are over 100 that he uses for voter registration and to create a giant shell game to pass the blame as the various ones run into trouble for fraud, are now Obama's troops. They will be morphed and expanded into his internal security force.

(Added later the same day: Further the truth of his intent is being revealed in a few short months of campaigning. At first the rich were people earning over $300,000 per year. Then it became $250,000, $200,000 and is now $150,000 as stated within the last week by Joe Biden. A graph of these figures is a straight line, not a curve approaching an asymptote. At this rate anyone who makes anything will be considered rich and all property and assets will be confiscated. If this isn't Soviet style politics, what is?)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Voters' Holiday

Obama is encouraging his followers to make history and take the day off to vote. I was appalled at his audacity asking people to not be productive on election day. My comment: "Since he is The One, why don't we vote on Christmas Day?" My friend responded. I asked if I could publish his comments as a guest poster today. With his "Yes," I introduce Rob Diego. Thanks, Rob.

Consider what this means. In order that he be able to ask Florida citizens to take the day off and work for him, he must think that he is more important than the GDP of the country. By encouraging citizens to be unproductive on that day and by minimizing the value of production as compared to working for Obama, he establishes the precedent that later we should all work for his government as our most profound and most productive activity. Ask yourself what this will do to the economy. This is collectivist "holiday making" where the citizens plan for a big day during which the supreme leader visits their city and holds a huge rally that ties up the citizenry in worshipping his wonderfulness and glorifying his collective goals.

This idea is not about worshiping the freedom of our country; with Obama we worship social goals and we consider that whatever we do to advance those goals is the real contribution that we make. In effect, he is saying, sacrifice your time and money to the collective. Has this generation really been thinking this way all along? I don't think so and it represents a serious misunderstanding in Obama of what our nation is all about and how we are willing to live. From what I'm hearing on Fox, major segments of the population have soured on Obama including Jews, Hispanics and Independents - earlier today, I heard that Hispanics in particular are going to vote in very small numbers. It may finally be sinking in that Obama is not a moderate politician but a radical with radical collectivist goals. Supposedly, internal campaign polls of both parties are seeing this major shift against Obama.

For Obama to ask citizens to work for his campaign on election day in Florida indicates that he will try to get every illegal vote he can because he knows that without fraud he will lose in Florida. 4 campaign stops in PA today also indicate something is happening there too. The pollsters are drifting toward being accurate as the veracity of the pollsters will be necessary for future business as we get closer to election day. I think there is a lot more anti-Obama going on and he knows it. Initially those polls factored in a significant majority of Democrats and new Democratic registrants because of supposedly significant millions of new Democratic voters that Obama was inspiring. ACORN has evacuated many of the offices where it engaged in fraud in order to hide its activities and they have proven inept at producting those million new registrations. ACORN may have defrauded Obama on this and now he's scrambling trying to appeal to whites exclusively. With all the fraud, there are probably only about 230K new registrants and they are now being identified as unlikely to vote. Among voters that are "certain" to vote, McCain has a lead.

Rob Diego

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Alan Greenspan - Robert Stadler

In Atlas Shrugged, a Dr. Robert Stadler taught physics at Patrick Henry University. He was the pre-eminent theoretical physicist of the day. The State Science Institute was formed with the blessing of Dr. Stadler. His esteemed name gave it an importance that it never earned in reality.

As society worsened morally and the government increased its control over all commercial and intellectual life, the government decided it needed a potent weapon to control the increasingly unruly population. Dr. Stadler thought politics a dirty business and so did not question nor protest the Institute's activities. While observing the new weapon in a test, Dr. Stadler saw the horror of what had been created in his name. Alas, he was trapped. He became an apologist for the Institute's illogical and inhumane activities. Ultimately he was killed by a drunken bureaucrat at the controls of the machine.

In current day America, a Mr. Alan Greenspan was an esteemed intellectual businessman. His name glowed on Wall Street. In 1987 he was appointed head of the Federal Reserve Bank and managed to lower inflation at a time when it threatened to run away, throwing society into chaos. His name, his intellect, his measured manner and his results gave the Federal Reserve Bank a new importance which it had not earned prior.

As the society worsened morally and the government increased its control over all commercial and intellectual life, the government decreed the lending of money to unworthy borrowers. Being quiet and measured, Mr. Greenspan did not enter the fray of politics. Although he commented on the exuberance of the market, he took no action to counter the growing bubble. His non-action provided certainty that all was well.

This year the bubble burst. The assets and prosperity collapsed. Before the House Oversight Committee he admitted that he had erred in his predictions and even worse, erred in his philosophy.

His philosophy had always been that it was morally right for men to freely trade their values. Finding an error in his philosophy without specifying his meaning, he completely capitulated. He was unable to use his last platform to stand for the morality of capitalism nor offer moral support to the millions tested by the current crisis. Rather, like the Titanic, he slipped to the depths of history with his last sound being a soft "bloop."

The goblins of October began dancing on freedom's grave.

So much for the power of living a contradiction.

Thanks to my friend, Terry, for noticing the likeness between these two characters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Putting America on Its Knees

Open dictatorship is upon us.

One thing has happened and one thing is going to happen that are nothing more than openly goon, as in thug, tactics by our government.

The first was last week when the Federal Reserve met with nine big banks to let them know that it had to take their bailout money. One balked because it did not need to borrow money. By the end of the meeting, they had signed the paper that placed the government at the center of their business.

The second is the announcement in the Wall Street Journal that if Congress does not act, Obama will unilaterally have the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) tax and control all carbon emissions down to your lawn mower.

If you listened to the talk by Mr. Griffen on the Federal Reserve in my previous post, you see that its purpose is to have everyone borrowing money. This keeps you needy, on the treadmill and ultimately under the thumb of the Federal Reserve. And it creates a river of money flowing into the hands of the cartel that is the Federal Reserve System.

The EPA matter making carbon emissions a crime means that you are a criminal because you exist. It is a direct attack on industrialization, the advanced human way of survival, and worse, a direct attack on people personally. You and I emit carbon dioxide! If carbon emissions are evil, then you and I are evil by definition. It is an "original sin." This sweeping conclusion, made by Al Gore and his global warming crusade, hold that man is the cause of earth's climate changes. ALL WITHOUT PROOF!!!

In general few are aware how dictatorship operates. First it declares open war on its citizens rendering them powerless however it can do so. Because everything is urgent and has to be done immediately, all kinds of sweeping rules, regulations and restrictions are instituted. This demoralizes the population. As the productivity of the nation plummets and people care less and less about anything other than their immediate circumstances, the government the crisis of war to mobilize the people to get behind it and to plunder the economy of other nations.

Everything is a crisis and the crisis mentality has to be maintained at all times for the dictatorship to extend itself. It is the necessity and the urgency of the situation plus acting in the name of the public good that justifies the government in its ever increasing violations of individual people and their rights. Individual rights are meaningless. Those that fight it and speak out get silenced one way or the other. Thugs aren't nice. This is the natural progression of events and we are seeing this already in spades.

Community organizing is the art of creating crisis and has been Obama's purpose all his adult life. It is the focus of his every action. It has nothing to do with the people who he says are in the crisis and need his help. It is about the power he is able to amass to do what he wants - namely, the overthrow of capitalism, i.e., political freedom, and placing every moving thing under his direct control. (I predict that if Obama is elected, we will see many blacks voting for him for the wrong reasons turn against him. It's one thing to be romantically attracted to the Motherland as the place of one's roots. It's quite another to have to live in the dead end economies that millions of Africans live in. Why do you think they leave their families and communities to come to America if it weren't for a better, freer life?)

And this has nothing to do with the Party in power. One may hasten the process but both parties now are into this up to their armpits - the Republicans, assuring us that we will soon return to freedom all the while instituting programs that will cause future crises, and the Democrats openly embracing dictatorship.

At Moment of Truth, Where Was Dagny Taggart?

Written By: Joseph L. Bast
Published In: Heartland Perspectives 10/15/2008
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

The front page of today's Wall Street Journal carries a story titled "At Moment of Truth, U.S. Forced Big Bankers to Blink." In the quarter-century I've been reading the Journal, I've never read a news story that was more disturbing.

The article describes the Monday, October 13 meeting between government regulators and top executives from nine of the nation's largest banks. "On one side of the table sat Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, flanked by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Benanke and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.

"On the other side sat the nation's top bank executives, who had flown in from around the country, lined up in alphabetical order by bank, with Bank of America Corp. at one end of the table and Wells Fargo & Co. at another."

The government officials most responsible for causing the financial crisis ordered the bankers to appear at this meeting, with no explanation of the purpose of the meeting. ("Come on down, we'll tell everyone at the same time," Paulson reportedly told Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack.) Isn't that an astounding thing for a country that thinks of itself as a democratic capitalist society? What if Mr. Mack had said "no thanks"? Would he have been arrested? But as you'll see in a moment, there was little chance of that happening.

"As the meeting neared a close, each banker was handed a term sheet detailing how the government would take stakes valued at a combined $125 billion in their banks, and impose new restrictions on executive pay and dividend policies." The bankers were told "they weren't allowed to negotiate. Mr. Paulson requested that each of them sign. It was for their own good, and the good of the country, he said, according to a person in the room."

My mind reels. A command appearance before government regulators was followed by a command (not a "request") surrender of autonomy by the nine biggest banks in the U.S. A forced "sale" of preferred shares to the government was ordered in return for billions of newly minted dollars from the Fed with instructions that it immediately be loaned out to "thaw" the frozen credit markets.

Surely this wasn't happening in America. The very notion of bureaucrats telling business leaders what they must do "for their own good, and the good of the country" makes me want to throw up. Preposterous. By what authority? How would they know? What conceit!

How did America's leading bankers react? Did they laugh in the regulators' faces, tear up the "term sheets," and storm out of the room? Did they hold press conferences condemning this high-handed and obviously unconstitutional attempt to intimidate and steal private assets? Not exactly.

"Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack, whose company was among the most vulnerable in the group to the swirling financial crisis, quickly signed." Thank you, Mr. Mack, for being first in line to sell out your customers, your business, your country, and maybe a 250-year history of economic and political freedom.

There was apparently a brief moment during the meeting when freedom's hope raised its hand in protest. "During the discussion, the most animated response came from Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich, say people present. Why was this necessary? He asked. Why did the government need to buy stakes in these banks?"

Thank you, Mr. Kovacevich, for at least asking the right questions. But by the end of the meeting, he too had signed the "term sheet." Too little, too late.

Missing from this meeting was someone willing to play the role of Dagny Taggart, Ayn Rand's heroine in Atlas Shrugged, who saw government incompetence, corruption, and moral bankruptcy all around her and vowed not to join other businesses in capitulating to it. Like Mr. Kovacevich, she would have challenged the need for another government bailout. More than that, she would have challenged the bureaucrats' right to call such a meeting, to make such demands, and most especially to claim the moral high ground by claiming to speak on behalf of the "good of the country."
"My 'term sheet' is the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution," Dagny Taggart might have said by way of a conclusion. "If you really want to solve this financial crisis, and not just expand your budgets and power, you have to do just one thing: Get the hell out of my way."

It's a sad day for global capitalism that none of the bankers at Monday's meeting had the nerve to say what Dagny Taggart might have said. If there is a glimmer of hope, it is that capitalism has never relied for its survival on the courage or convictions of the few--not political leaders, and especially not a few bankers, however big their financial empires might be.

The left is trumpeting the current government-made financial crisis as "the end of capitalism." Neocons fire back that the crisis was the result of government failure, not market failure. Notice the failure to engage, though. Both sides can be right.

A long train of government policy mistakes led to the financial crisis, but the capitulation by business leaders to the demands and claims of government officials has turned what could have been a contained and short-term economic problem into a genuine threat to the very survival of capitalism, and with it, of democracy.

Obama's Carbon Ultimatum
The coming offer you won't be able to refuse.

Wall Street Journal editorial, October 20, 2008

Liberals pretend that only President Bush is preventing the U.S. from adopting some global warming "solution." But occasionally their mask slips. As Barack Obama's energy adviser has now made clear, the would-be President intends to blackmail -- or rather, greenmail -- Congress into falling in line with his climate agenda.


Jason Grumet is currently executive director of an outfit called the National Commission on Energy Policy and one of Mr. Obama's key policy aides. In an interview last week with Bloomberg, Mr. Grumet said that come January the Environmental Protection Agency "would initiate those rulemakings" that classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws. That move would impose new regulation and taxes across the entire economy, something that is usually the purview of Congress. Mr. Grumet warned that "in the absence of Congressional action" 18 months after Mr. Obama's inauguration, the EPA would move ahead with its own unilateral carbon crackdown anyway.

Well, well. For years, Democrats -- including Senator Obama -- have been howling about the "politicization" of the EPA, which has nominally been part of the Bush Administration. The complaint has been that the White House blocked EPA bureaucrats from making the so-called "endangerment finding" on carbon. Now it turns out that a President Obama would himself wield such a finding as a political bludgeon. He plans to issue an ultimatum to Congress: Either impose new taxes and limits on carbon that he finds amenable, or the EPA carbon police will be let loose to ravage the countryside.

The EPA hasn't made a secret of how it would like to centrally plan the U.S. economy under the 1970 Clean Air Act. In a blueprint released in July, the agency didn't exactly say it'd collectivize the farms -- but pretty close, down to the "grass clippings." The EPA would monitor and regulate the carbon emissions of "lawn and garden equipment" as well as everything with an engine, like cars, planes and boats. Eco-bureaucrats envision thousands of other emissions limits on all types of energy. Coal-fired power and other fossil fuels would be ruled out of existence, while all other prices would rise as the huge economic costs of the new regime were passed down the energy chain to consumers.

These costs would far exceed the burden of a straight carbon tax or cap-and-trade system enacted by Congress, because the Clean Air Act was never written to apply to carbon and other greenhouse gases. It's like trying to do brain surgery with a butter knife. Mr. Obama wants to move ahead anyway because he knows that the costs of any carbon program will be high. He knows, too, that Congress -- even with strongly Democratic majorities -- might still balk at supporting tax increases on their constituents, even if it is done in the name of global warming.

Climate-change politics don't break cleanly along partisan lines. The burden of a carbon clampdown will fall disproportionately on some states over others, especially the 25 interior states that get more than 50% of their electricity from coal. Rustbelt manufacturing states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania will get hit hard too. Once President Bush leaves office, the coastal Democrats pushing hardest for a climate change program might find their colleagues splitting off, especially after they vote for a huge tax increase on incomes.

Thus Messrs. Obama and Grumet want to invoke a political deus ex machina driven by a faulty interpretation of the Clean Air Act to force Congress's hand. Mr. Obama and Democrats can then tell Americans that Congress must act to tax and regulate carbon to save the country from even worse bureaucratic consequences. It's Mr. Obama's version of Jack Benny's old "your money or your life" routine, but without the punch line.

The strategy is most notable for what it says about the climate-change lobby and its new standard bearer. Supposedly global warming is the transcendent challenge of the age, but Mr. Obama evidently doesn't believe he'll be able to convince his own party to do something about it without a bureaucratic ultimatum. Mr. Grumet justified it this way: "The U.S. has to move quickly domestically . . . We cannot have a meaningful impact in the international discussion until we develop a meaningful domestic consensus."

Normally a democracy reaches consensus through political debate and persuasion, but apparently for Mr. Obama that option is merely a nuisance. It's another example of "change" you'll be given no choice but to believe in.

Understanding the Federal Reserve System

Creature from Jekyll Island, a book written by G. Edward Griffen is very good for understanding how and why the Federal Reserve Bank acts the way it does.

On the webapge where the above video appears, you can find a speech by Mr. Griffen which is 71 minutes long. It goes into the subject more deeply and I thought a better, fuller explanation of The Fed.

In addition to that general explanation, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that explains why Mr. Bernanke is trying to prevent another Great Depression but has misidentified what is going on this time.

Bernanke Is Fighting the Last War
'Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich.'

New York

On Aug. 9, 2007, central banks around the world first intervened to stanch what has become a massive credit crunch.

Since then, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have taken a series of increasingly drastic emergency actions to get lending flowing again. The central bank has lent out hundreds of billions of dollars, accepted collateral that in the past it would never have touched, and opened direct lending to institutions that have never had that privilege. The Treasury has deployed billions more. And yet, "Nothing," Anna Schwartz says, "seems to have quieted the fears of either the investors in the securities markets or the lenders and would-be borrowers in the credit market."

Randy JonesThe credit markets remain frozen, the stock market continues to get hammered, and deep recession now seems a certainty -- if not a reality already.

Most people now living have never seen a credit crunch like the one we are currently enduring. Ms. Schwartz, 92 years old, is one of the exceptions. She's not only old enough to remember the period from 1929 to 1933, she may know more about monetary history and banking than anyone alive. She co-authored, with Milton Friedman, "A Monetary History of the United States" (1963). It's the definitive account of how misguided monetary policy turned the stock-market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression.

Since 1941, Ms. Schwartz has reported for work at the National Bureau of Economic Research in New York, where we met Thursday morning for an interview. She is currently using a wheelchair after a recent fall and laments her "many infirmities," but those are all physical; her mind is as sharp as ever. She speaks with passion and just a hint of resignation about the current financial situation. And looking at how the authorities have handled it so far, she doesn't like what she sees.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has called the 888-page "Monetary History" "the leading and most persuasive explanation of the worst economic disaster in American history." Ms. Schwartz thinks that our central bankers and our Treasury Department are getting it wrong again.

To understand why, one first has to understand the nature of the current "credit market disturbance," as Ms. Schwartz delicately calls it. We now hear almost every day that banks will not lend to each other, or will do so only at punitive interest rates. Credit spreads -- the difference between what it costs the government to borrow and what private-sector borrowers must pay -- are at historic highs.

This is not due to a lack of money available to lend, Ms. Schwartz says, but to a lack of faith in the ability of borrowers to repay their debts. "The Fed," she argues, "has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible."

So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven't budged because banks don't know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is "the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue."

In the 1930s, as Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Friedman argued in "A Monetary History," the country and the Federal Reserve were faced with a liquidity crisis in the banking sector. As banks failed, depositors became alarmed that they'd lose their money if their bank, too, failed. So bank runs began, and these became self-reinforcing: "If the borrowers hadn't withdrawn cash, they [the banks] would have been in good shape. But the Fed just sat by and did nothing, so bank after bank failed. And that only motivated depositors to withdraw funds from banks that were not in distress," deepening the crisis and causing still more failures.

But "that's not what's going on in the market now," Ms. Schwartz says. Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers -- "all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value."

"Why are they 'toxic'?" Ms. Schwartz asks. "They're toxic because you cannot sell them, you don't know what they're worth, your balance sheet is not credible and the whole market freezes up. We don't know whom to lend to because we don't know who is sound. So if you could get rid of them, that would be an improvement." The only way to "get rid of them" is to sell them, which is why Ms. Schwartz thought that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's original proposal to buy these assets from the banks was "a step in the right direction."

The problem with that idea was, and is, how to price "toxic" assets that nobody wants. And lurking beneath that problem is another, stickier problem: If they are priced at current market levels, selling them would be a recipe for instant insolvency at many institutions. The fears that are locking up the credit markets would be realized, and a number of banks would probably fail.

Ms. Schwartz won't say so, but this is the dirty little secret that led Secretary Paulson to shift from buying bank assets to recapitalizing them directly, as the Treasury did this week. But in doing so, he's shifted from trying to save the banking system to trying to save banks. These are not, Ms. Schwartz argues, the same thing. In fact, by keeping otherwise insolvent banks afloat, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have actually prolonged the crisis. "They should not be recapitalizing firms that should be shut down."

Rather, "firms that made wrong decisions should fail," she says bluntly. "You shouldn't rescue them. And once that's established as a principle, I think the market recognizes that it makes sense. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich." The trouble is, "that's not the way the world has been going in recent years."

Instead, we've been hearing for most of the past year about "systemic risk" -- the notion that allowing one firm to fail will cause a cascade that will take down otherwise healthy companies in its wake.

Ms. Schwartz doesn't buy it. "It's very easy when you're a market participant," she notes with a smile, "to claim that you shouldn't shut down a firm that's in really bad straits because everybody else who has lent to it will be injured. Well, if they lent to a firm that they knew was pretty rocky, that's their responsibility. And if they have to be denied repayment of their loans, well, they wished it on themselves. The [government] doesn't have to save them, just as it didn't save the stockholders and the employees of Bear Stearns. Why should they be worried about the creditors? Creditors are no more worthy of being rescued than ordinary people, who are really innocent of what's been going on."

It takes real guts to let a large, powerful institution go down. But the alternative -- the current credit freeze -- is worse, Ms. Schwartz argues.

"I think if you have some principles and know what you're doing, the market responds. They see that you have some structure to your actions, that it isn't just ad hoc -- you'll do this today but you'll do something different tomorrow. And the market respects people in supervisory positions who seem to be on top of what's going on. So I think if you're tough about firms that have invested unwisely, the market won't blame you. They'll say, 'Well, yeah, it's your fault. You did this. Nobody else told you to do it. Why should we be saving you at this point if you're stuck with assets you can't sell and liabilities you can't pay off?'" But when the authorities finally got around to letting Lehman Brothers fail, it had saved so many others already that the markets didn't know how to react. Instead of looking principled, the authorities looked erratic and inconstant.

How did we get into this mess in the first place? As in the 1920s, the current "disturbance" started with a "mania." But manias always have a cause. "If you investigate individually the manias that the market has so dubbed over the years, in every case, it was expansive monetary policy that generated the boom in an asset.

"The particular asset varied from one boom to another. But the basic underlying propagator was too-easy monetary policy and too-low interest rates that induced ordinary people to say, well, it's so cheap to acquire whatever is the object of desire in an asset boom, and go ahead and acquire that object. And then of course if monetary policy tightens, the boom collapses."

The house-price boom began with the very low interest rates in the early years of this decade under former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

"Now, Alan Greenspan has issued an epilogue to his memoir, 'Time of Turbulence,' and it's about what's going on in the credit market," Ms. Schwartz says. "And he says, 'Well, it's true that monetary policy was expansive. But there was nothing that a central bank could do in those circumstances. The market would have been very much displeased, if the Fed had tightened and crushed the boom. They would have felt that it wasn't just the boom in the assets that was being terminated.'" In other words, Mr. Greenspan "absolves himself. There was no way you could really terminate the boom because you'd be doing collateral damage to areas of the economy that you don't really want to damage."

Ms Schwartz adds, gently, "I don't think that that's an adequate kind of response to those who argue that absent accommodative monetary policy, you would not have had this asset-price boom." Policies based on such thinking only lead to a more damaging bust when the mania ends, as they all do. "In general, it's easier for a central bank to be accommodative, to be loose, to be promoting conditions that make everybody feel that things are going well."

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, of all people, should understand this, Ms. Schwartz says. In 2002, Mr. Bernanke, then a Federal Reserve Board governor, said in a speech in honor of Mr. Friedman's 90th birthday, "I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again."

"This was [his] claim to be worthy of running the Fed," she says. He was "familiar with history. He knew what had been done." But perhaps this is actually Mr. Bernanke's biggest problem. Today's crisis isn't a replay of the problem in the 1930s, but our central bankers have responded by using the tools they should have used then. They are fighting the last war. The result, she argues, has been failure. "I don't see that they've achieved what they should have been trying to achieve. So my verdict on this present Fed leadership is that they have not really done their job."

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Intellectual Source of Accusations of Racism

One of the interesting and frustrating things going on in this election season is that no matter what the McCain/Palin side of the election contest says, it is labeled racist. The most ridiculous charge I've heard is that when Palin wears white, she reminds blacks of the KKK.

This tactic is so crudely obvious, that I think some people must be sitting around looking at everything through race-tinged eye wear. What is going on?

There is a philosophical root to this way of thinking. The following article, although long, goes into the philosophy behind it. If you are curious how ideas get started and then are forwarded in our culture, you will appreciate Professor Hicks observations and arguments. Further if you need intellectual ammunition in the ongoing cultural battle, Professor Hicks will hand it to you. I acknowledge and thank Professor Stephen Hicks for his work.

Although the public retorts and defenses are sounding racist, they aren't actually a function of race at all. It is a function of philosophy - particularly that branch of philosophy which deals with how man gains knowledge and can know anything - epistemology. That is why you hear whites, particularly academics, saying these things as much or more than you hear blacks saying them. The reason for this is that it is not dependent on the color of one's skin but rather on the philosophical premises that a person embraces.

The same thing is going on regarding men and women, handicapped people and non-handicapped people, gays and straights, etc. Whatever category you fall in, so the theory goes, is the cause of what you believe, value and say and you have no choice in the matter. They claim that there is no such thing as free speech - that we are all nothing more than parrots beholden to the category of person that we were born into.

This view violates some very fundamental facts of human nature - namely that you possess choice. Secondly it violates facts of what knowledge is, how we gain knowledge and the purpose of knowledge - which, by the way, is a function of being a human being. It turns everything into the social/political and casts man's relations into eternal warfare.

I do not see why there is any reason to stop with classes. Families have particular views of the world too. And then inside families, there are individuals. To postulate that one is fatalistically determined, i.e., have no choice in the matter, by one's social category is ridiculous. It is anti-human at root and denies those who adopt it their humanity - that which has them be human as distinct from the lower animals.

How many people do I know that questioned the existence of God from an early age? Many. Something about that idea didn't make sense to them as a teenager so they rejected it or qualified it with their own interpretation.

The thing of which I have been aware regarding this tactic used in the matter of race is how racist it is, not for those that don't use this method of "thinking" but for those making these statements. It is a major intellectual growth and development cul-de-sac.

It is so outrageous that a black person who uses reason and logic is deemed not black. Thus Clarence Thomas is "white." Condoleeza Rice is dismissed. Even education, as opposed to indoctrination, is considered "white." What is being dismissed is not the color of the skin per se, but the mind and rationality.

Free Speech and Postmodernism

(This article is adapted from the second of a two-lecture address given by Stephen Hicks at TOC's 2002 Summer Seminar. TOC=The Objectivist Society. I obtained if from The Objectivist Society website here.)

In the last lecture, we looked at those arguments that won the debate for free speech. Historically, those arguments were nested in different philosophical contexts, and they were often tailored to audiences hostile in varying degrees to free speech. So let me summarize, in contemporary language, the elements of those arguments that are still with us:

1)Reason is essential for knowing reality.
2) Reason is a function of the individual.
3) What the reasoning individual needs to pursue his knowledge of reality is, above all, freedom—the freedom to think, to criticize, and to debate.
4) The individual's freedom to pursue knowledge is of fundamental value to the other members of his society.

A corollary of this argument is that when we set up specialized social institutions to seek and advance our knowledge of the truth—scientific societies, research institutes, colleges and universities—we should take special pains to protect, nurture, and encourage the freedom of creative minds. It is therefore surprising that the greatest current threats to free speech come from within our colleges and universities. Traditionally, a major career goal for most academics has been to get tenure, so that one can say whatever he wants without being fired. That is exactly the point of tenure: to protect freedom of thought and expression. Yet today we see that many individuals who have worked for many years to get tenure and the academic freedom that goes with it are the strongest advocates of limiting the speech of others.

Sample Speech Codes

Let me offer some examples of the way that academics are seeking to limit speech through so-called speech codes. A proposed speech code at the University of Michigan forbade:

Any behavior, verbal or physical, that stigmatizes or victimizes an individual on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, handicap or Vietnam-era veteran status. . .

At another major university, the University of Wisconsin, a hotly debated speech code warned that disciplinary actions would be taken against a student

For racist or discriminatory comments, epithets or other expressive behavior directed at an individual or on separate occasions at different individuals, or for physical conduct, if such comments, epithets, other expressive behavior or physical conduct intentionally: demean the race, sex, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry or age of the individual or individuals; and create an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment for education, university related work, or other university authorized activity.

These two are representative of the speech codes that are being put in place in many universities and colleges around the land. The major theoreticians behind these speech codes are such prominent scholars as Mari J. Matsuda, who tends to write on behalf of Americans from Asian backgrounds; Richard Delgado, who tends to write on behalf of Hispanics and racial minorities; Catharine A. MacKinnon, who writes on behalf of women as an oppressed group; and Stanley Fish, who is in a slightly delicate position, being a white male - but who solves that problem by being sensitive to anybody with victim status.

Why Not Rely on the First Amendment?

In response to speech codes, a common reaction by Americans is to say: "Why hasn't the First Amendment taken care of all of this? Why not point out that we live in the United States and the First Amendment protects free speech, even the speech of those who say offensive things?" Of course, we should say that. But the First Amendment is a political rule that applies to political society. It is not a social rule that applies between private individuals and it is not a philosophical principle that answers philosophical attacks on free speech.

As regards the distinction between the political and private spheres, for example, note that the First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law, with respect to religion, free speech, and assembly. This means that the First Amendment applies to governmental actions and only to governmental actions. We can stretch this notion to public universities, like Michigan and Wisconsin, on the grounds that they are state-run schools and therefore are part of the government. In that way, we can say that First Amendment protection should be in place at all public universities, and I think that is a good argument to make.

But that is not the end of the matter, for several reasons. To begin with, the First Amendment does not apply to private colleges. If a private college wishes to institute some sort of a speech code, there should be nothing illegal about that as far as the First Amendment is concerned. Secondly, First Amendment protection runs up against another cherished institution within the academy: academic freedom. It is possible that a professor would want to institute a speech code in his class and that, traditionally, would be protected under his academic freedom to conduct his classes as he wishes. Thirdly, there is another argument that has widespread appeal. Education is a form of communication and association, fairly intimate in some respects, and it requires civility if it is going to work. So open displays of hatred, antagonism, or threats in the classroom or anywhere in the university undermine the social atmosphere that makes education possible. This argument implies that colleges and universities are special kinds of social institution: communities where there may be a need for speech codes.

The First Amendment does not provide guidance about the rules governing speech in any of these cases. The debates over those cases are therefore primarily philosophical. And that is why we are here today.

Context: Why the Left?

I want to point out, first, that all of the speech codes around the country are proposed by members of the far Left, even though the same far Left for many years complained about the heavy-handedness of university administrations and championed freedom from university restrictions. So there is an irony in the shift of tactics in the Left's campaign for authoritarian, politically correct speech-restrictions.

The question accordingly is: Why, in recent years, have academic Leftists switched their critique and their tactics so dramatically? I have spoken about aspects of this topic before - for example, in my two lectures on postmodernism - and I have written a book on the topic. In my judgment, a key part of explaining why the Left now advocates speech codes is that in recent decades the Left has suffered a series of major disappointments. In the West, the Left has failed to generate significant far-Left socialist parties, and many socialist parties have become moderate. Major experiments in socialism in nations such as the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba have been failures. Even the academic world has shifted sharply towards liberalism and free markets. When an intellectual movement suffers major disappointments, you can expect it to resort to more desperate tactics.

Affirmative Action as a Working Example

Let's use affirmative action as an illustration of this process, for two reasons: First, the Left has clearly faced disappointment with its affirmative-action goals. In the 1980s, the Left started to realize that it was losing the battle on affirmative action. Secondly, we are all familiar with the case of affirmative action, so it can serve as clear illustration of the philosophical principles the Left bases its goals upon; and this will enable us to see how those same principles are re-applied to the advocacy of speech codes.

The argument for racial affirmative action usually begins by observing that blacks as a group suffered severe oppression at the hands of whites as a group. Since that was unjust, obviously, and since it is a principle of justice that whenever one party harms another, the harmed party is owed compensation by the harming party, we can make the argument that whites as a group owe compensation to blacks as a group.

Those opposed to affirmative action will respond by arguing that the proposed "compensation" is unjust to the current generation. Affirmative action would make an individual of the current generation, a white who never owned slaves, compensate a black who never was a slave.

And so what we have here, on both sides of the arguments, are two pairs of competing principles.

One pair is highlighted by the following question: Should we treat individuals as members of a group or should we treat them as individuals? Do we talk about blacks as a group versus whites as a group? Or do we look at the individuals who are involved? Advocates of affirmative action argue that individual blacks and whites should be treated as members of the racial groups to which they belong, while opponents of affirmative action argue that we should treat individuals, whether black or white, as individuals regardless of the color of their skin. In short, we have the conflict between collectivism and individualism.

The other pair of competing principles emerges as follows. Advocates of affirmative action argue that partly as a result of slavery whites are now in the dominant group and blacks are in the subordinate group, and that the strong have an obligation to sacrifice for the weak. In the case of affirmative action, the argument runs, we should redistribute jobs and college acceptances from members of the stronger white group to members of the weaker black group. Opponents of affirmative action reject that altruistic standard. They argue that jobs and college acceptances should be decided on the basis of individual achievement and merit. In short, we have a conflict between altruism and the egoistic principle that one should get what one has earned.

In the next typical stage of the debate over affirmative action, two further pairs of clashing principles emerge. Advocates of affirmative action will say: "Perhaps it is true that slavery is over, and maybe Jim Crow is over, but their effects are not. There is a legacy that blacks as a group have inherited from those practices. So, contemporary blacks are victims of past discrimination. They have been put down and held back, and they have never had a chance to catch up. Therefore, in order to equalize racially the distribution of wealth and jobs in society, we need affirmative action to redistribute opportunities from the groups that have disproportionately more to groups that have disproportionately less."

The opponents of affirmative action respond by saying something like the following: "Of course the effects of past events are passed down from generation to generation, but these are not strictly causal effects; they are influences. Individuals are influenced by their social backgrounds, but each individual has the power to decide for himself what influences he is going to accept. And in this country, especially, individuals are exposed to hundreds of different role models, from parents, to teachers, to peers, to sports heroes and movies stars, and so on. Accordingly, what people whose families were socially deprived need is not a handout but freedom and the opportunity to improve themselves. And again this country especially provides both of those plentifully." So, from this side of the argument, the point is that individuals are not simply products of their environments; they have the freedom to make of their lives what they will. Instead of affirmative action, the answer is to encourage individuals to think for themselves, to be ambitious, and to seek out opportunity, and to protect their freedom to do so.

Let's abstract from this second argument another two pairs of competing principles. Advocates of affirmative action rely upon a principle of social determinism that says, "This generation's status is a result of what occurred in the previous generation; its members are constructed by that previous generation's circumstances." The other side of the argument emphasizes individual volition: individuals have the power to choose which social influences they will accept. The second pair of competing principles follows: Do individuals most need to be made equal in assets and opportunities, or do they most need liberty to make of their lives what they will?

In summary, what we have is a debate involving four pairs of principles. Those four sub-debates constitute the overall debate over affirmative action.

Now, affirmative action has, for quite a while, been on the defensive, and many affirmative action programs are on their way out. There is very little voluntary acceptance of affirmative action programs.

But if we are Leftists committed to the notion that racism and sexism are problems that must be attacked vigorously, and if we see the tool of affirmative action being taken away from us, we will realize that we must turn to new strategies. One such new strategy, I will argue, is the university speech code. So next I want to show how the issue of speech codes embodies each of these four principles on the Left side of the column—the collectivism, the altruism, the principle of social construction, and the egalitarian concept of equality.


I sometimes have a fantasy that I will play one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan. He comes by when I am shooting some hoops, and I challenge him to a game. He accepts, and we get into the game. We even have a referee to make sure that there is no undue fouling and so forth.

But then an element of realism enters my fantasy. How would this game actually turn out? Well, we play according to the rules of basketball and Michael wins 100 to 3—one time before he got too close to me, I got a shot off and it happened to go in.

Now let's ask an ethics question: Would that be a fair game? There are two completely different answers one could give, the leftist and egalitarian answer versus the answer that you are probably thinking of. The first answer says that the game would be completely unfair because Stephen Hicks has no chance at all of winning against Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is the best basketball player in the universe, and I am an occasional weekend player with an 8-inch vertical clearance when I jump. To make the game "fair," this answer says, we would need to equalize the radical difference in abilities that are entering into competition here. That is the egalitarian answer to the question.

The other answer says it would be a perfectly fair game. Both Michael and I chose to play. I know who he is. Michael has worked hard to develop the skills that he has acquired. I have worked less hard to acquire the lesser number of skills that I have. Also, we both know the rules of the game, and there is a referee who is impartially enforcing those rules. When the game was played, Michael shot the ball into the basket the number of times needed to earn his 100 points. He deserves the points. And I deserve my three points as well. So, Michael won the game fair and square, and I should seek out other people to play with. That is the liberal individualist answer to the question.

But if we are committed to the egalitarian notion of "fair," then we are led to the notion that in any competition we must equalize all of the participants so that they have at least a chance of success. And this is where the principle of altruism comes in. Altruism says that in order to equalize opportunities we must take from the strong and give to the weak, that is, we must engage in redistribution. What we can do, in the basketball case, is equalize by not allowing Michael to use his right hand; or if it is a matter of jumping, by making him wear weights on his ankles so that his jumping and my jumping are equalized. That is the principle of sports handicapping, which is widely used, and it entails not letting someone employ an asset so that the little guy has a chance. The other possible strategy is to give me a 90-point head start. That is, we would not take anything away from Michael that he has earned, but rather we would give me something that I have not earned. Or of course we could employ both remedies simultaneously. So, there are three approaches. (1) We can try to equalize by preventing the stronger from using an asset or a skill that he has. (2) We can give the weaker an advantage that he has not earned. Or (3) we can do both.

There is a general pattern here. The egalitarian starts with the premise that it is not fair unless the parties who are competing are equal. Then, it points out that some parties are stronger in some respect than others. Lastly, it seeks to redistribute in some way in order to make the parties equal or it seeks to prevent the stronger from using their greater assets.

Postmodern leftists apply all of this to speech and say something like the following: "Fair" means that all voices are heard equally. But some people have more speech than others, and some have more effective speech than others. So what we need to do, in order to equalize speech, is to limit the speech of the stronger parties in order to equalize or give more speech opportunities to the weaker parties. Or we need to do both. The parallel with affirmative action is clear.

Inequalities along Racial and Sexual Lines

The next question is: Who are the stronger and the weaker parties that we are talking about? Well, not surprisingly, the Left again emphasizes racial and sexual classes as the groups in need of help. The Left spends much time focusing on data regarding statistical disparities across racial/sexual lines. What is the racial and sexual composition of various professions? various prestigious colleges? various prestigious programs? Then they will argue that racism and sexism are the causes of those disparities and that what we need to do is attack those disparities by redistribution.

In some cases, the disparities that leftists find are genuine, and racism and sexism do factor into those disparities. But instead of engaging in redistribution, we should solve those problems by teaching individuals to be rational, in two ways. First, we should teach them to develop their skills and talents and be ambitious, so they can make their own way in the world. Secondly, we should teach them the obvious point that racism and sexism are stupid; that in judging oneself and others it is character, intelligence, personality, and abilities that matter; and that the color of one's skin is almost always insignificant.

To this, the postmodernists respond that the advice is pointless in the real world. And here is where the postmodernist arguments, though they have been used in the case of affirmative action, are new with respect to speech. What they do is introduce a new epistemology—a social constructionist epistemology—into the censorship debates.

The Social Construction of Minds

Traditionally, speech has been seen as an individual cognitive act. The postmodern view, by contrast, is that speech is formed socially in the individual. And since what we think is a function of what we learn linguistically, our thinking processes are constructed socially, depending on the linguistic habits of the groups to which we belong. From this epistemological perspective, the notion that individuals can teach themselves or go their own way is a myth. Also, the notion that we can take someone who has been constructed as a racist and simply teach him to unlearn his bad habits, or teach a whole group to unlearn its bad habits, by appealing to their reason—that also is a myth.

Take Stanley Fish's argument, from his book There's No Such Thing as Free Speech . . . and it's a good thing too. The point here is not primarily political but epistemological.

Freedom of speech is a conceptual impossibility because the condition of speech's being free in the first place is unrealizable. That condition corresponds to the hope, represented by the often-invoked "marketplace of ideas," that we can fashion a forum in which ideas can be considered independently of political and ideological constraint. My point . . . is that constraint of an ideological kind is generative of speech and that therefore the very intelligibility of speech (as assertion rather than noise) is radically dependent on what free-speech ideologues would push away. Absent some already-in-place and (for the time being) unquestioned ideological vision, the act of speaking would make no sense, because it would not be resonating against any background understanding of the possible courses of physical or verbal actions and their possible consequences. Nor is that background accessible to the speaker it constrains; it is not an object of his or her critical self-consciousness; rather, it constituted the field in which consciousness occurs, and therefore the productions of consciousness, and specifically speech, will always be political (that is, angled) in ways the speaker cannot know (pp. 115-16).

We are constructed socially, the postmodernists argue, and we are, even as adults, not aware of the social construction that underlies the speech we are engaging in. We might feel as though we are speaking freely and making our own choices, but the unseen hand of social construction is making us what we are. What you think and what you do and even how you think are governed by your background beliefs. (It is true that we are governed by our background beliefs but those premises are subject to correction if one is committed to growth and development, i.e., the uprooting of the premises that cause failure and unhappiness. SCB)

Fish states the point abstractly. Catharine MacKinnon applies this point to the special case of women and men, in making her case for censoring pornography. Her argument is not the standard, conservative argument that pornography desensitizes men and gets them riled up to the point where they go out and do brutal things to women. MacKinnon believes that pornography does that, but her argument is deeper. She argues that pornography is a major part of the social discourse that is constructing all of us. It makes men what they are in the first place and it makes women what they are in the first place. So, we are culturally constructed by porn as a form of language to adopt certain sex rules and so forth.

As a result of this, there is no distinction between speech and action, a distinction that liberals have traditionally prized. According to postmodernists, speech is itself something that is powerful because it constructs who we are and underlies all of the actions that we engage in. And as a form of action, it can and does cause harm to other people. Liberals, say postmodernists, should accept that any form of harmful action must be constrained. Therefore, they must accept censorship.

Another consequence of this view is that group conflict is inevitable, for different groups are constructed differently according to their different linguistic and social backgrounds. Blacks and whites, men and women, are constructed differently and those different linguistic-social-ideological universes will clash with each other. Thus, the speech of the members of each group is seen as a vehicle through which the groups' competing interests clash. And there will be no way of resolving the clash, because from this perspective you cannot say, "Let's settle this reasonably." What reason is, is itself constructed by the prior conditions that made you what you are. What seems reasonable to you is not going to be what is reasonable to the other group. Consequently, the whole thing is going to descend into a shouting match.

Speakers and Censors

Let's summarize this argument and put all of its elements together.

1) Speech is a form of social power. [Social Constructivism]
2) Fairness means an equal ability to speak. [Egalitarianism]
3) The ability to speak is unequal across racial and sexual groups. [Collectivism]
4) The races and sexes are in conflict with each other. [Racism and Sexism]
5) The stronger racial and sexual groups, that is, whites and males, will use speech-power to their advantage, at the expense of races and women. [Zero-Sum Conflict]

What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don't let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don't let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don't let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality—which is the same goal as affirmative action.

A striking consequence of this analysis is that the toleration of "anything goes" in speech becomes censorship. The postmodern argument implies that if anything goes, then that gives permission to the dominant groups to keep on saying the things that keep the subordinate groups in their place. Liberalism thus means helping to silence the subordinate groups and letting only the dominant groups have effective speech. Postmodern speech codes, therefore, are not censorship but a form of liberation - they liberate the subordinated groups from the punishing and silencing effects of the powerful groups' speech, and they provide an atmosphere in which the previously subordinated groups can express themselves. Speech codes equalize the playing field.

As Stanley Fish says:

Individualism, fairness, merit — these three words are continually in the mouths of our up-to-date, newly respectable bigots who have learned that they need not put on a white hood or bar access to the ballot box in order to secure their ends (p. 68).

In other words, free speech is what the Ku Klux Klan favors.

Whether in opposing affirmative action or speech codes, the liberal notions of leaving individuals free and telling them that we are going to treat them according to the same rules and judge them on their merit mean reinforcing the status quo, which means keeping the whites and males on top and the rest below. So in order to equalize the power imbalance, explicit and forthright double standards are absolutely and unapologetically called for by the postmodern Left.

This point is not new to this generation of postmodernists. Herbert Marcuse first articulated it in a broader form when he said: "Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left" (Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Toleration, p.109).

The Heart of the Debate

We have seen, then, what Ayn Rand often insisted upon— that politics is not a primary. The debates over free speech and censorship are a political battle, but I cannot over-emphasize the importance in those debates of epistemology, human nature, and values.

Three issues are the core of the contemporary debates over free speech and censorship, and they are traditional philosophical problems.

First, there is an epistemological issue: Is reason cognitive? Skeptics who deny the cognitive efficacy of reason open the door to various forms of skepticism and subjectivism and now, in the contemporary generation, to social subjectivism. If reason is socially constructed, then it is not a tool of knowing reality. To defend free speech, that postmodern epistemological claim must be challenged and refuted.

Second is a core issue in human nature. Do we have volition or are we products of our social environments? Is speech something we can freely generate, or is it a form of social conditioning that makes us who we are?

And third is an issue from ethics: Do we bring to our analysis of speech a commitment to individualism and self-responsibility? Or do we come into this particular debate committed to egalitarianism and altruism?

Postmodernism, as a fairly consistent philosophical outlook, presupposes a social subjectivist epistemology, a social-determinist view of human nature, and an altruistic, egalitarian ethic. Speech codes are a logical application of those beliefs.

The Justification of Freedom of Speech

In light of the foregoing, what must be defended by liberals of the contemporary generation are objectivity in epistemology, volition in human nature, and egoism in ethics. But we are not going to solve all of those problems today. My purpose here is to point out that those are the issues and also to indicate how I think that our defense of free speech should proceed. I think there are three broad points that must be made.

The first is an ethical point: individual autonomy. We live in reality, and it is absolutely important to our survival that we come to understand that reality. But coming to know how the world works and acting on the basis of that knowledge are individual responsibilities. Exercising that responsibility requires social freedoms and one of the social freedoms that we need is speech. We have the capacity to think or not. But that capacity can be hampered severely by a social atmosphere of fear. That is an indispensable part of the argument. Censorship is a tool of government: the government has the power of force to achieve its end, and depending on how that force is used it can generate an atmosphere of fear that interferes with an individual's ability to perform the basic cognitive functions he needs to act responsibly in the world.

Secondly, there is a social point. It is not simply ethical and not quite political. We get all sorts of values from each other. David Kelley has lectured extensively on this point, and I am using his categorization scheme: in social relationships we exchange knowledge values, friendship and love values, and economic trade values. Often, the pursuit of the knowledge values is conducted in specialized institutions, and discovery of truth requires certain protections within those institutions. If we are going to learn from each other, if we are going to be able to teach each other, then we need to be able to engage in certain kinds of social processes: debate, criticism, lecturing, asking stupid questions, and so on. All of that presupposes a key social principle: that we are going to tolerate those kinds of things in our social interactions. Part of the price that we will pay for that is that our opinions and our feelings are going to be bruised on a regular basis, but—live with it.

Lastly, there is a series of political points. As we saw above, beliefs and thoughts are each individual's responsibility, just as making a living and putting together a happy life are the individual's responsibility. The purpose of government is to protect individuals' rights to pursue these activities. Thoughts and speech do not, no matter how false and offensive they are, violate anyone's rights. Therefore, there is no basis for government intervention.

There is also a point to be made about democracy, which is a part of our social system. Democracy means decentralizing decision-making about who is going to wield political power for the next period of time. But we expect voters to exercise that decision-making power in an informed manner. And the only way they can do so is if there is lots of discussion and lots of vigorous debate. So, free speech is an essential part of maintaining democracy.

Finally, free speech is a check on the abuses of government power. History teaches us to worry about the abuse of government power, and one indispensable way of checking such abuse is to allow people to criticize the government and to prohibit the government from preventing such criticism.

Three Special Cases

I want next to address two challenges that the postmodern Left is likely to make to my arguments, and then return specifically to the special case of the university.

Consider first a free-speech point dear to liberal hearts: that there is a distinction between speech and action. I can say something that will harm your feelings. That I am free to do. But if I harm your body - say I hit you with a stick - that I am not free to do. The government can go after me in the latter case but not in the former.

Postmodernists try to break down the distinction between speech and action as follows. Speech, after all, propagates through the air, physically, and then impinges upon the person's ear, which is a physical organ. So there is then no metaphysical basis for making a distinction between an action and speech; speech is an action. The only relevant distinction, therefore, is between actions that harm another person and actions that do not harm another. If you want to say, as liberals do want to say, that harming the other person by shooting a bullet into him is bad, then it is only a difference of degree between that and harming the person by bad speech. It is not only sticks and stones that can break our bones.

Against that I argue as follows. The first point is true—speech is physical. But there is a significant qualitative difference that we must insist upon. There is a big difference between the breaking of sound waves across your body and the breaking of a baseball bat across your body. Both are physical, but the result of breaking the baseball bat involves consequences over which you have no control. The pain is not a matter of your volition. By contrast, in the case of the sound waves washing over your body, how you interpret those and evaluate them is entirely under your control. Whether you let them hurt your feelings depends on how you evaluate the intellectual content of that physical event.

Racial and Sexual Hate Speech

This ties into a second point. The postmodernist will say, "Anyone who thinks honestly about the history of racism and sexism knows that many words are designed to wound. And if you are not a member of a minority group, you cannot imagine the suffering that the mere use of those words inflicts on people. In short, hate speech victimizes people and so we should have special protections against hateful forms of speech—not all speech; only hate speech."

Against that I would say, first, that we have a right to hate people. It is a free country, and some people are in fact deserving of hate. Hatred is a perfectly rational and just response to extreme assaults on one's core values. The premise that we should never hate other individuals is wrong: Judgment is called for, and hateful expressions are appropriate in some cases.

But, more directly to the point of the argument here, I argue that racist hate speech does not victimize. It hurts only if one accepts the terms of the speech, and acceptance of those terms is not what we should be teaching. We should not be teaching our students the following lesson: "He called you a racist name. That victimizes you." That lesson says, first, that you should judge your skin color to be significant to your identity and, secondly, that other people's opinions about your skin color should be significant to you. Only if you accept both of those premises are you going to feel victimized by someone's saying something about your skin color.

What we should be teaching instead is that skin color is not significant to one's identity, and that other people's stupid opinions about the significance of skin color are a reflection of their stupidity, not a reflection on you. If someone calls me a goddamned white person, my reaction should be that the person who says that is an idiot for thinking that my whiteness has anything to do with whether I am goddamned or not. So, I think that the arguments for hate speech, as an exception to free speech, are simply wrong.

The University as a Special Case

Now let me return to the special case of the university. In many ways, the postmodern arguments are tailored to the university, given the priority of our educational goals there and what education presupposes. For it is true that education cannot be conducted unless minimal rules of civility are observed in the classroom. But let me make a couple of distinctions before I raise the issue of civility.

I hold with what I said initially: I agree with the distinction between private colleges and public universities. I think that private colleges should be free to institute whatever kinds of codes they wish. As for the public university, while I agree wholeheartedly with the First Amendment, I think it means universities as a whole should not be allowed to institute speech codes. That means that in the tension between the First Amendment and academic freedom, I come down on the side of academic freedom. If individual professors wish to institute speech codes in their classes, they should be allowed to do so. I think that they would be wrong to do so, for two reasons, but they should have the right to do so.

Why do I think they would be wrong? Because they would be doing themselves a disservice. Many students would vote with their feet and drop the class and spread the word about the professor's dictatorialism. No self-respecting student will stay in a class where he is going to be browbeaten into a party line. So I think that there would be a built-in market punishment for a bad classroom policy.

Beyond that, any sort of speech code undermines the process of education. Civility is important, but civility should be something the professor teaches. He should show his students how to deal with controversial issues, setting the example himself. He should go through the ground rules, making it clear that while the class is dealing with sensitive subjects the class as a whole will make progress on them only if its members do not resort to ad hominem, insults, threats, and so forth. If a professor happens to have an individual trouble-maker in the class—and the kinds of racism and sexism that people worry about are mostly matters of isolated individuals—then as a professor he has the option of dropping that student from his course on the grounds of interference with the process of education, not as a matter of ideological party line.

That point about the requirements of true education has been demonstrated time and time again. There are the famous cases historically: what happened in Athens after the execution of Socrates, what happened to Renaissance Italy after the silencing of Galileo, and hundreds of other cases. The pursuit of knowledge requires free speech. On that point, I agree with C. Vann Woodward:

[T]he purpose of the university is not to make its members feel secure, content, or good about themselves, but to provide a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, the unorthodox, even the shocking - all of which can be profoundly offensive to many, inside as well as outside its walls. . . . I do not think the university is or should attempt to be a political or a philanthropic, or a paternalistic or a therapeutic institution. It is not a club or a fellowship to promote harmony and civility, important as those values are. It is a place where the unthinkable can be thought, the unmentionable can be discussed, and the unchallengeable can be challenged. That means, in the words of Justice Holmes, 'not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.' (C. Vann Woodward, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University, The New York Review, 1991).

That sets the university's priority of values exactly right. And, to generalize that to the objectivist point about the functioning of reason, I think that Thomas Jefferson also got it exactly right upon the founding of the University of Virginia: "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here, we are not afraid to follow truth where it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it."

Stephen Hicks is an associate professor and chairman of the philosophy department at Rockford College in Illinois. He is also director of the Honors Program in Liberal Arts, a great-books program that teaches the intellectual history of Western civilization.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Face of the Monster

Obama (and his campaign) has raised plenty of eyebrows with all the disconnects, denials, flip flops, lies, intimidation and showboating.

These actions are not just a politician pandering. This behavior is willful. A campaign is organized to do this.

(Why the campaign is organized to do this is exactly the issue. All of the activities where Obama was most effective in the years leading up to his running for President are the ones that he will not discuss in public. That's because they are all around Rezko, teaching ACORN to focus on the right things and say the right things to disempower the government and banks, providing the legal defense for ACORN cases to force banks to lower their lending standards and being Chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Trust who took up terrorist Ayers philosophy of education the purpose of which is to undermine standards and the existing order of capitalist America. With the Annenberg project producing no objective measurable results, Rezko in jail and his housing projects in shambles and boarded up, and the huge home mortgage scandal which ACORN and Obama fomented and drove into existence, these things are not good things for him to talk about. So he dances and dissembles with his foot nailed to the floor. This shows his real character.)

The net effect has a singular purpose: An attack on rationality - your rational mind. It's purpose is to render trying to make sense of Obama hopeless so that you will give up trying. Watch this interchange between Sean Hannity and Robert Gibbs, Obama's Communication Director.

There’s a major difference between having people on a show that allows for airing both sides of an issue than a person WORKING WITH a terrorist, a terrorist who has never repented and has repeated his wish that he could have done more bombing and destruction. Hannity in NO WAY WORKS WITH the people he doesn’t agree with. He gives them no quarter. Obama, on the other hand, says YES and embraces them by placing his time, his life force, and his reputation in their hands.

Notice how Gibbs does everything to foil Hannity and all the while acts like Hannity is irrational, concerned about something that is of no importance.

I can't think of anyone with a shred of intelligence that would do what Obama did unless he wanted to. Are we supposed to think he was stupid? Given how ambitious Obama is and how calculating he shows himself to be, I don't think so.

What we have here is a leader of Obama's Campaign lying about something that happened and then dismissing it, as created by the lie, as unimportant.

Hannah Arendt reported on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1960. She coined the phrase "The Banality of Evil." Below are a couple paragraphs of a review of Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

"This horror is not the inherent evil of Hitler or Himmler or the sadistic camp guards. The holocaust presented these already morally bankrupt men with the opportunity to commit the evil which their consciences allowed. Of greater horror are the individuals, such as Eichmann, who were not evil per se, but who were willing to put conscience aside in order to advance within an evil system.

"As Arendt moves through the holocaust in the different countries in Western Europe and the Balkans, it becomes evident that the difference in degrees of the destruction of Jewry was not defined by the presence of potentially evil wrongdoers, but by the existence of individuals who would not put their conscience aside in order to further short-term goals. The contrast between the destruction of German Jews and the survival of the Jews of Bulgaria and Denmark can be directly traced to a commitment by the Bulgarians and Danes to save their fellow countrymen. The German Jews did not survive as the Danish and Bulgarian Jews did because Germany lacked such men of conscience."

Here's another statement about the phenomenon.

"What is shocking about Nuremberg is the ordinariness of the defendants: men who may be good fathers, kind to animals, even unassuming--yet who committed unspeakable crimes. Years later, reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt wrote of "the banality of evil." Like Eichmann, most Nuremberg defendants never aspired to be villains. Rather, they over-identified with an ideological cause and suffered from a lack of imagination or empathy: they couldn't fully appreciate the human consequences of their career-motivated decisions."

We are seeing this phenomenon right before us. Gibbs smiling and acting like there is no difference between what Obama did and Hannity did. Then Alan Combs taking up the cudgel and playing the whole thing as guilt by association which it is not. Obama's purpose, character and judgment are at issue here.

The Nazi "foot soldiers" threw children into the gas chamber and behaved as if this was ordinary. That is what Gibbs and Combs are doing.

What's the difference between a terrorist and a murderer? Or shall we say, what is the difference between a Communication Director, a newscastor and a terrorist?

Morally? No difference now.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

America has Passed into Dictatorship

With the passing of the bailout bill and the raising of Paulson to Economic Dictator (I just heard he plans to step down) we have passed from Freedom to Dictatorship in a matter of two weeks. Clearly we are in the process of a now bloodless coup. (Read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for a playout of a Government takeover of the economy.)

As the details unfold, people are going to balk and be even more angry. Why? Because they have minds and they possess values - which they must - in order to survive. Whatever slack they have cut for all the shenanigans of the government regulators will now be reeled back in as they get increasingly careful about their financial and social decisions. Their values and logic will dictate it and none of us, above all a financial or political dictator, will have any say in the matter.

The coup is now going to exact its blood and treasure. And it is going to take increasing doses of naked force in order to accomplish this. When the government gets between you and and the identifications and conclusions of your mind, it can never win unless you say so. It must somehow get you to decimate your mind or it will be forced to use force.

If the Great - and possibly upcoming - Dictator Barack Hussein Obama gains the reins, this will come about sooner rather than later. (Have you noticed how much Obama is enjoying this collapse? I've seen several clips where he just jokes and smiles and then offers his bromides as to whom we are victims of now. If you read the source documents that I have posted in other blogposts, you will grasp how this is all falling into place according to his purpose. This represents the culmination of the strategy to use people's morals - like being good to the poor ala Jesus Christ - against them and then pushing the system until it overloads and breaks down.)

He is well educated in the ways of bullying and fraud and pervasive lying. He knows how to institute or shape government programs to register his voters and bully free institutions. He has used this as a primary thrust of his efforts every single time he can get away with it. He's slick now! He takes baby steps and then giant steps when appropriate.

He has already left the supposed benefactors of his tactics in worse positions than when he started - every single time. If any of those poor who he uses to justify his actions think they are going to get a free ride, the facts do not bear this out and they will be sorely disappointed. They, of course, cannot see this as they have donned the role of victim and will do everything to maintain it, including jambing stakes into both eyes.

He is a lie from top to bottom, front to back. Given his history of being attracted to Marxist, Black Liberationist, Terrorist, Communist sympathizers and tactics from his teenage years through the present, there is no way that he can be something other than who he is. He has constituted himself as The One. All his dissembling to the contrary, that front shall not be.

Barack Obama is primarily culpable in this entire mess. He has worked for it for years. His close associates have worked for it. He has pushed the Motor Voter laws which are open to fraud. Additionally, I can go right now to his website and register to vote with any name I want. All I have to do is make up a new email address, a new name, a new address and I am registered. If I live in a state that does not permit checking IDs to validate my identity, I am in like Flynn. I can spend the day going from precinct to precinct voting for Obama. States are reporting fraudulent voter registrations by the tens of thousands.

What is Obama's training for being The Dictator?

(From here unto the end of this italicized section, I have rewritten from Stanley Kurtz's article in the New York Post.)

In Chicago in 1992, Madeline Talbott, head of ACORN, an activist with extensive ties to Obama filed a precedent-setting complaint against Chicago area's Avondale Federal Bank for Savings. Within a month after the complaint, Chicago ACORN had organized its first 'bank fair' at Malcolm X College and found 16 local financial institutions willing to participate.

Two months after that, aided by ACORN organizer Sandra Maxwell, Talbott announced plans to conduct demonstrations in the lobbies of area banks that refused to attend an ACORN-sponsored national bank 'summit' in New York. She insisted that banks show a commitment to minority lending by lowering their standards on down payments and underwriting - e.g., by overlooking bad credit histories...

A September 1993 story in the Chicago Sun-Times presents her as the leader of an initiative in which five area financial institutions were 'participating' (i.e., if anyone would call being bullied participating. SCB) in a $55 million national pilot program with affordable-housing group ACORN to make mortgages for low- and moderate-income people with troubled credit histories.

The thing that was different about this program was the participation of Fannie Mae - which had agreed to buy up the loans. The pilot program 'worked,' and Fannie Mae's message that risky loans to minorities were 'OK' was sent. The rest is financial-meltdown history.

'The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN's Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.'

Obama consistently attacks individual rights and political freedom. Consistently!!! In fact he is such a collectivist that he doesn't possess the distinction Political Freedom. He talks as if everything is his and he has power to cause everything. He trashes free enterprise, i.e, the peace-producing trader principle, as if it were a dirty rag someone threw out along the highway. Think of everything you do of your own free will. If he is Dictator, that means nothing. You are the dirty rag. Your and my life will become increasingly circumscribed by orders from the Government or The One directly.

One idea he and Michelle especially like are Service Corps of various types. College kids will get grants to go to college but they have to give up a year of their life to Government Service. He has Service Corps for every bracket and age group. If the children singing hymns to Obama and the Obama Youth Fraternity is any indication, we will be learning Obama songs ourselves. Maybe it will be a little more Germanic where two words are put together as one: Obamasongs. (As I quipped in the first clip, at least Hitler had the decency to have the songs mention the country. Not so with the big O.)

There will be no Nice Obama. It isn't possible for a megalomaniac of this size to care about you. Who do you think you are? You must be taught obedience, the hallmark of all dictatorships. And obedience means one things - the sacrifice of your mind. We definitely are passing into a very evil period of American history.

My hope is that Americans are still too feisty and too uncontrollable for this giant noose. If there is anyplace on earth where altruist/socialist philosophies are finally going to meet their death, it will be here. Only in America.

Evil has no ultimate power and must fail. Although it can exact much suffering, one must not yield one's spirit to it. It can never be taken seriously in an ultimate sense.

Rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride have power.

Thursday, October 2, 2008