Category Archives: Politics

Campus socialists: Afraid of a little competition?

New Individualist editor Robert Bidinotto has one of the best responses I’ve seen to the brouhaha about BB&T’s donations to college campuses.

He wrote to The New York Times:

I have never heard any howling about common university course requirements that have students read environmentalist or socialist “literature” — material often prepared or pushed by various “nonprofit” advocacy groups.

Would any of the protesters here complain about the classroom use of materials created by, say, the Sierra Club, NRDC, or St. Al Gore?

What’s the matter, folks? Afraid of a little competition in the marketplace of ideas?

I think this observation gets at the heart of what’s so ridiculous about certain professors’ protestations. The “academic autonomy” thing is mostly manure, because no one is being forced to do anything against their will.

See Robert’s full post for more.

“Atlas Shrugged Is the Book on That Subject”

For still more about the controversy (among liberal professors, at least) over BB&T’s grants to teach courses on capitalism, see the new article “MU divided on BB&T grant conditions” in the Charleston Gazette.

You gotta love this quote:

In 2007, WVU’s College of Business and Economics accepted a $1.7 million grant from BB&T, with an expectation Rand’s work would be included in the course.

“I don’t think there is business course or an ethics course that didn’t include ["Atlas Shrugged"], that is the book on that subject,” said Russell Sobel, professor of economics and chairman of entrepreneurial studies at [West Virginia University].

Sounds about right to me. Many successful entrepreneurs cite Atlas Shrugged as a significant influence on their work and, in some cases, their choice to become a businessman or -woman.

In that regard, Atlas Shrugged has become to the business world what The Fountainhead has long been to the world of architecture — certainly not the last word in the field, but often enough the first, when it comes to inspiring students and setting them on a path toward success.

With that in mind, it certainly makes sense to me that a business program would require students to read the novel, as an intrinsic part of the curriculum.

Universities ‘Worry’ about Teaching Atlas Shrugged

Some interesting back-story here about BB&T’s support for pro-capitalism courses at universities around the country.

This article is from Marshall University, where apparently some faculty members are uncomfortable with the idea that someone besides themselves might be deciding what students are required to read.

…Cause, you know, faculty members are so objective and disinterested in promoting an ideological agenda. Riiiight.

Some Faculty members have expressed concerns over the BB&T grant that required the teaching of Ayn Rand’s text “Atlas Shrugged.”

The grant money will be used to create the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism at the Lewis College of Business.

Components of the curriculum are to include a course to focus on Rand’s text as well as Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and a lecture series advocating economic and political freedom, according to a university issued press release.

The University Curriculum Committee is traditionally responsible for approving new course additions, but not for determining the content of the courses, said Calvin Kent, vice president of Business and Economic Research.

This new course is experimental and can exist for two semesters before applying to the curriculum addition process.

“The concern is you have industry proscribing the course. Now if you had industry giving money for a building, if you had industry giving money for a scholarship, that’s a little different than for a specific curriculum,” said Larry Stickler, Faculty Senate Chairman, at an executive committee meeting Monday.
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John McCain and the Supreme Court

Erika Holzer sends a link to a compelling WSJ article titled “McCain and the Supreme Court.”

Its key points are:

…the gulf between Democratic and Republican approaches to constitutional law and the role of the federal courts is greater than at any time since the New Deal. With a Democratic Senate, Democratic presidents would be able to confirm adherents of the theory of the “Living Constitution” — in essence empowering judges to update the Constitution to advance their own conception of a better world. This would threaten the jurisprudential gains of the past three decades, and provide new impetus to judicial activism of a kind not seen since the 1960s.

And:

On Jan. 20, 2009, six of the nine Supreme Court justices will be over 70. Most of them could be replaced by the next president, particularly if he or she is re-elected.

And:

By all accounts, Mr. McCain is more electable than Mr. Romney. He runs ahead or even with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the national polls, and actually leads the Democratic candidates in key swing states like Wisconsin. Mr. Romney trails well behind both Democratic candidates by double digits. The fundamental dynamic of this race points in Mr. McCain’s way as well. He appeals to independents, while Mr. Romney’s support is largely confined to Republicans.

The authors conclude that McCain is the only remaining candidate who is both electable and would not choose blatantly liberal Supreme Court justices.

Which is unsettling, to say the least.

Is the Alliance between Christianity and Capitalism Falling Apart?

In an incisive column at TownHall.com, George Will points out that the alliance between religious conservatives and economic conservatives seems ready to crumble.

Like Job after losing his camels and acquiring boils, the conservative movement is in distress. Mike Huckabee shreds the compact that has held the movement’s two tendencies in sometimes uneasy equipoise. Social conservatives, many of whom share Huckabee’s desire to “take back this nation for Christ,” have collaborated with limited-government, market-oriented, capitalism-defending conservatives who want to take back the nation for James Madison. Under the doctrine that conservatives call “fusion,” each faction has respected the other’s agenda. Huckabee aggressively repudiates the Madisonians.

He and John Edwards, flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa, encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria. Edwards and Huckabee lament a shrinking middle class. Well.

Economist Stephen Rose, defining the middle class as households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, says a smaller percentage of Americans are in that category than in 1979 — because the percentage of Americans earning more than $100,000 has doubled from 12 to 24, while the percentage earning less than $30,000 is unchanged. “So,” Rose says, “the entire ‘decline’ of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder.” Even as housing values declined in 2007, the net worth of households increased.

Read the whole article.

Provides further evidence for Ayn Rand’s claim that altruism provides a lousy philosophical basis for capitalism.

Thanks to novelist (and Rand protege) Erika Holzer for the tip.

TIA Editor Robert Tracinski Endorses Rudy Giuliani

The 2008 elections are coming into full swing, and prominent Objectivists are beginning to weigh in with their perspectives.

The Intellectual Activist Editor Robert Tracinski has formally endorsed Rudy Giuliani. I could not find the text of this endorsement on his web site to link to, so I’m pasting below the message I was forwarded.

TIA Daily — January 3, 2008

Vote for Rudy
Support the Defense of Freedom over Religious Politics
by Robert Tracinski

With the opening of the primary season — tonight’s Iowa caucus isn’t a real primary, but it is the first test of candidates’ support among grass-roots activists, and thus it will have an impact on the primaries to come — now is the time to give TIA’s official endorsement for the Republican primary.

I say that this is my official endorsement, because it has been clear where I’ve been leaning, unofficially, for most of the past year: I support Rudy Giuliani as by far the best candidate for the Republican nomination. He is the only candidate who will promote the influence of what I call the “secular right”: support for free markets, a strong national defense, and strict separation of church and state.

Giuliani is famous for his stand on the War on Terrorism and for his firm and dignified performance as mayor of New York City following the September 11 attacks. But perhaps the best example of his virtues on this issue is more recent: his response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. While Mike Huckabee embarrassed himself by offering empty pabulum about appreciating the peaceful transition of power in America — indicating that Huckaabee was unprepared to say anything important about what is going on in the rest of the world — Giuliani replied: “Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv, or Rawalpiindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Last August, I wrote an extensive analysis (which I have just put up on our website) of Giuliani’s foreign policy, and it is not as assertive as we might hope. But we can still count on Giuliani to keep his eye on the threat of radical Islam and to regard it as his top priority as president.

Giuliani does not have an established record as a staunch pro-free-marketer. In fact, he first made a national name for himself as a US attorney prosecuting mobsters — and prosecuting Wall Street financiers as if they were mobsters. (I mean this literally: Giuliani pioneered the use of vague laws against “racketeering,” originally designed to fight organized crime, as a tool for persecuting businessmen.) And yet Giuliani has campaigned as a free-marketer, not only in vague rhetoric but in some intellectual depth. A few months ago, the Washington Post carried an important article about a series of seminars organized for the candidate by Giuliani’s long-time friend and advisor Bill Simon. Dubbed “Simon University” by Rudy’s campaign staff, they amount to a course in the principles of free-market economics.

Most crucially, Giuliani has been excellent on a topic that is likely to be central to the 2008 campaign: socialized medicine. All of the Democratic candidates are proposing, and will campaign on, some form of nationalized health care — while Giuliani has come out in favor of a free-market >proposal based on tax credits that will make it easier for individuals to purchase private health insurance.

At the same time, Giuliani offers a break from the intrusion of religion into politics. It is not merely that Giuliani supports a woman’s right to an abortion, and that he has refused to alter his convictions on this issue to fit the needs of his campaign. More broadly, Guiliani has asserted that his religious views are private and a matter to be left between him and the priests.

In short, if you support a secular-right outlook, then Giuliani is clearly the top candidate.

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Quotes from Clarence Thomas’s Biography

From Atlasphere member Greg Feirman:

I’ve been reading Clarence Thomas’s autobiograpy and he seems to be a big Rand fan.

I read Sowell’s Atlasphere review of the book.

But Thomas also explicitly references Rand in his book:

“It was around this time that I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand preached a philosophy of radical individualism that she called Objectivism. While I didn’t fully accept its tenets, her vision of the world made more sense to me than that of my left wing friends.”

- pg. 62, when Thomas was approximately the summer before his senior year of college at Holy Cross

“… I also reread The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, whose scathing criticisms of the dangers of centralized government impressed me even more after working in Washington.”

- pg. 187, late 1985 (37 years old), when Thomas was heading up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Unbelievable story. Great book.

UPDATE: More from Greg:

Also, if you haven’t seen the 60 Minutes episode with Thomas, I recommend watching it.

Clarence Thomas has such a great presence. You can feel it in his writing too. One book about him it titled Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul Of Clarence Thomas.

But the impression given from reading his book and seeing him is the complete opposite: a man of such pure integrity and clear conscience that you can almost feel that his words are perfect expressions of his inner principles and conviction.

In the interview, one of the quotes that really stood out for me was:

“It is always worth it to stand on principle no matter what the ultimate goal is. Wrong is wrong, even if it’s over a penny.”

It reminds me of the great scene in The Fountainhead:

“Everybody would say you’re a fool….. Everybody would say I’m getting everything….”

“You’ll get everything society can give a man. You’ll keep all the money. You’ll take any fame or honor anyone might want to grant. You’ll accept such gratitude as the tenants might feel. And I – I’ll take what nobody can give a man, except himself. I will have built Cortlandt.”

Clarence Thomas is a modern day Roark in public life.

He is truly a great American.

I would have to agree.

Bush Signs Automobile Fatality Act

Ayn Rand Institute Press Release

Bush Signs Automobile Fatality Act
December 21, 2007

Irvine, CA–The energy bill that President Bush just signed into law is a significant victory for environmentalists, who have long pushed for such measures as expanded ethanol production. But the centerpiece of the bill–for which environmentalists have been agitating for years–is a major increase in automobile fuel economy standards, the first such increase since 1975.

The law forces auto manufacturers to increase the average mileage of cars, SUVs, and light trucks to 35 mpg by 2020. Currently, the standard is 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and light trucks.

It might seem obviously beneficial to decree that cars must use less fuel. But according to Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, “The new mileage standards will make cars more expensive and more dangerous and will cause many more traffic fatalities.

“Compelling automakers to achieve higher mileage forces them to compromise automobile safety. To achieve fuel economy, they are forced to make vehicles lighter and smaller. But lighter, smaller vehicles are much more dangerous in an accident. Because the car absorbs less of the crash impact, the passengers absorb it instead.

“The original Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, imposed in 1975, have already led to a substantial increase in traffic fatalities–an additional two thousand traffic deaths per year, according to a 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences. With the new standard, manufacturers will be forced to downsize even further all cars, as well as SUVs and light trucks. But these vehicles will still be sharing the road with buses, delivery trucks, and massive commercial trailer trucks. One shudders at the thought of how much greater a risk Americans will face. Nevertheless, environmentalists have continued to fight for higher fuel economy requirements, consistently and cavalierly dismissing the risks and the tragic consequences.

“Despite the drumbeat of constant assertions to the contrary, it is far from a settled scientific fact that we face catastrophic dangers from climate change. Yet, under the guise of protecting us from the alleged dangers of global warming, environmentalists force upon us the very real, provable dangers of increased auto injuries and deaths. Clearly, what they value is something other than human well-being.”

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif) gives all his interns a copy of Atlas Shrugged

Reason Magazine has an excellent new article about Rep. John Campbell, who — as we noted when he replaced Rand fan Christopher Cox who was picked to head the SEC — is himself an admirer of Ayn Rand’s writings.

Author David Weigel notes that Campbell may be in a position to help lead the Republican Congress in a few years.

The article is titled “This is John Campbell Speaking” and begins:

If Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) said his book shelf was a time capsule, a memorial to the modern GOP, youâ??d believe him. Here is Ste­phen Slivinskiâ??s Buck Wild, a jeremiad against the Bush-era big-spending Republicans. Here is Bruce Bawerâ??s While Europe Slept, the terrifying tale of how â??radical Islam is destroying the West from within.â? Here is one of Watergate felon Chuck Colsonâ??s bestsellers on how Christ can save your life.

Less predictable are the tomes bookending the collection: not one but two hardbound cop­ies of Ayn Randâ??s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, a favorite among many supporters of free markets and limited government. â??Those arenâ??t my only two copies,â? Campbell says, laughing. â??Atlas Shrugged is the book I give to our interns after they spend a summer here, working for free. I consider it to be the authoritative work on the power of the individual.â?

It is late September in Washington, D.C. Another Rand disciple is in the news: Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, is on the talk shows promoting his autobiography. Like Greenspan, Campbell is upset that the Repub­lican Party has been growing the government, hiking spending with funds that donâ??t exist. But Greenspan is out of public life. The 52-year-old Campbell, an Orange County, California, car salesman who arrived in D.C. just two years ago, is one of his partyâ??s fastest-rising stars.

â??Heâ??s an absolutely fantastic member of the Republican conference,â? says a senior GOP aide. â??I think heâ??s become the heir apparent to lead the Republican Study Committee,â? the anti-tax, anti-spending caucus founded in 1973 by then-insurgent proto-Reaganite Republicans. Campbell currently heads the RSCâ??s Budget and Spending Taskforce.

Here’s a great anecdote from later in the article:

During the floor debate over the defense appropriations bill, Campbell honed in on a $2 million earmark for Sherwin-Williams, a paint company that is developing a â??paint shieldâ? for military vehicles. In the process, he locked horns with the fearsome chair­man of the Defense Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). To everyoneâ??s surprise, Campbell cleaned the 33-year congressmanâ??s clock.

After Murtha rambled about how the military probably wanted the paint shield earmark even though it wasnâ??t on its â??priority list,â? Campbell pounced. â??Mr. Chairman,â? he said, â??you said youâ??re â??sureâ?? the military [wants it]. So youâ??re not aware if, in fact, the military has asked for this kind of technology?â?

Campbell kept his eyes trained on the Democrat. Murtha didnâ??t have anything to say.

â??I guess the answer to that is no,â? Campbell said.

Of course, the House isnâ??t a debat­ing club. The earmark survived any­way.

See the full article for much more about Campbell and his excellent work.