Friday, July 24, 2009

Encouraging Conversations....

One of my goals by posting on this blog was to help me form my Objectivist ideas so that I could discuss them with other people and reason them to become rational. My previous attempts at this found mixed results. I found that my ideas were jumbled and my techniques were often too aggressive. In the past few months my ideas have settled into more organized areas of my brain and my approach techniques have become more open and passive.

Because of this, I recently had a great conversation with a co-worker who started off by mentioning Obama's speech on Universal Health Care (UHC) and what I thought about it. Passively I said, "Well, I try to not pay attention to stuff like that." They asked why and I began to tell them that I thought it was a really bad idea.

As our conversation continued, it became clear to me that they started out on the side of being for UHC but they realized that they really hadn't thought through all of the pros and cons. I did a good job of presenting the Objectivist case while they automatically assumed the role opposite of me in order to probe deeper into my own reasoning. I used personal examples and improvised analogies to aid my side and drive the point home. At the end of two and a half hours of pleasant conversation I had successfully flipped my co-worker against UHC and planted the seeds of future Objectivist ideas. It was a crushing victory that left both of us in a good mood.

One of my favorite things that they said after more than an hour of conversation: "Well, if UHC is so bad, why is Obama pushing it?" This wasn't asked to question UHC (which I had already won over), but to question Obama himself. It was fantastic. Whoo-hoo!

But it didn't stop with UHC... I used that as a launching ramp to explain how other government organizations are bad and used the FDA as my segway (I easy one, but I'm new at this). After a bit longer I had shown them how the FDA is an entity that was formed "to protect the public" but actually does exactly the opposite by getting in the way and preventing many treatments from reaching people that would willingly pay for and use them despite the risks (I have a great story about a family member for that one).

In the end, I had shown this person that the government needs to get out of the way of the free market and that is what it was meant to do when founded. I also showed that most of our troubles now are caused by the government growing and controlling more and more. It was an encouraging conversation that has given me much needed positivity to continue on in my path of spreading Objectivism.

When we left to go home afterwards we parted as much closer friends and I know that they spent last night with new ideas swirling in their head. It works, everyone keep up the good job.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Great Article...

Here is another good OpEd posted on CSM. This type of thinking needs to permeate to all other facets of American life. Good work Mr. Fleenor.

Highlight excerpt:

Everyone should have the opportunity to go to college, but fairness demands that students themselves – not taxpayers collectively – pay their way. Because a college degree boosts future earnings so dramatically, the best way for students without wealth to pay for college is to draw on their future earnings with loans.

Often private institutions will serve this purpose, but to ensure loan availability for any willing student, government may have to provide loan guarantees. But those loans should be made at market interest rates. Properly implemented, such a plan would eliminate the transfer of wealth from those who do not go to college to those who do.

Read it all here.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Great Article...

With my busy schedule I get most of my news from skimming headlines online from the most unbiased news I can find...the Christian Science Monitor. I was very skeptical at first when it was recommended to me (due to the name), but it has proven itself time and time again. I feel that they do a good job of balancing polarized topics (as far as what and how many articles to publish) and I particularly enjoy looking over their OpEd articles that they post online. It is a refreshing change of pace from Fox News (conservative) and everything else (liberal).

Yesterday I found this one and thought that it did a good job of reporting on a topic that is well known to most of us. The highlight of the article was the reactions from the faculty to the author's published article:
As we hammered away at the issue, one of his colleagues with whom he shared an office grew visibly agitated. Then, while I was in mid-sentence, she exploded.

"You think you're so [expletive] cute with your little column," she told me. "I read your piece and all you want is attention. You're just like Bill O'Reilly. You just want to get up on your [expletive] soapbox and have people look at you."

From the disgust with which she attacked me, you would have thought I had advocated Nazism. She quickly grew so emotional that she had to leave the room. But before she departed, she stood over me and screamed.

The above passage made me think of a conversation I recently had with a friend where they attempted to argue with the National Park Service on an issue. My friend said that they were employing reason to look for an explanation for a new regulation that was instated. The NPS representative became defensive, emotional, and began to walk out of the town hall style meeting. The other attendees of the meeting calmed her down and brought her back but that was essentially the end of the discussion. An interesting defense mechanism when ridiculous is cornered by reason but the scary part is that IT WORKED. The issue was dropped. Grrr.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party....

I am happy to say that I was very hopeful coming into the Independence Day Tea Party in Chicago. I attended the Tax Day Tea Party and was pleasantly surprised at both the turnout and the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm, especially at the speakers who touched on Rand's ideas. I thought that there could really be something going here if these proper ideas took root and carried over into the IDTP. The location was better (historic Navy Pier), the date was better (Independence Day), and hopefully the crowd would have had some time to gain the proper philosophical groundwork necessary for any real social change; I have re-read Atlas Shrugged since the Tax Day Tea Party.

My first impression of the Chicago Navy Pier party was not a good one. Even though the pier was overcrowded with people, it was simply families taking their kids to the Children's Museum or on the Ferris wheel on a Saturday afternoon. I found a small gathering of about 200 people holding sparse signs and huddled around a podium on the front lawn of the pier. I was given a flyer that had a rough schedule of the speakers and who they represented and immediately started scanning the crowd for what the signs said and what various regalia was adorned.

I must admit that I cannot give a full report of the Tea Party because I did not attend the whole thing. If it was good (had good numbers, the speakers were touching on the right subjects, and the crowd seemed receptive and enthusiastic) I was going to stay until the bitter end, but I saw little to none of what I was hoping for and my selfish nature told me that my Independence Day would be better spent with friends.

The crowd seemed to consist of mostly hardcore conservative republicans (those holding signs with Obama and sickle and hammer) and Independent Party members. The heart of what they were protesting was government spending and the inevidible increase in taxes. The flyer that I took did contain the protest "Principles" which was encouraging that a set was at least written down, here they are:
There should be no taxpayer bailouts of corporations, and government should never grant private organizations license to commit criminal or fraudulent acts. We must also seek greater transparency or the Federal Reserve System through investigation, evaluation, and audit of its relationships with banking, corporate, and other financial institutions.

We believe that the Constitution was instituted to restrain the arbitrary exercise of government power and to safeguard liberty. A government that routinely disregards the Constitution for the sake of political expediency cannot long remain a defender of the rights of its citizens.

We believe that there should be no increase in the national debt. The burden of debt placed on the next generation is unjust; it has greatly diminished the power of our dollar and threatens to undo decades of economic progress.

We must protect the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We must repeal or radically change the Patriot Act, the Military Commisions Act, and the FISA legislations. We must reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals and secret prisons.
By reading the above "Principles" I was struck with the visual that this group wanted to weed a garden patch by pulling just the parts of the weeds that are showing. They seemed uninterested and unknowing of the required digging to find the roots and pull them as well. Even if this group accomplished its "Principles", the weeds would still come back.

For as much as I was displeased with this Tea Party, it is nice to see that there is a basis of people that have potential to be receptive to Rand's ideas. A feeling that "This is wrong" can be the starting point to see that "wow, this is ALL wrong". Not to mention that most protesters are taking the day off to enjoy and celebrate their independence...or what we have left...for now. Happy Independence Day, all. I hope your respective Tea Parties have shown you better than Chicago's.


Friday, July 3, 2009

The Power of Your Dollar

When I speak with people about free markets and smaller government I am often confronted with the question of "Well, if the government doesn't regulate businesses, who will?". At this point I usually try to explain to them that everyone that contributes their effort to earn money has a say in how things are regulated with the use of that earned money. This brings about puzzled looks and confusion which leads to my confusion (of their ignorance).

Apparently it is not well known that your dollar is the ultimate vote for how you feel about any particular product or service. One of my co-workers (who is often my daily practice for pointing out contradictions) spouts hatred towards corporations and tells me about documentaries that show how corporations exhibit all the characteristics of a sociopath (and are therefore bad). One day after that conversation I saw her pass by on the way to her desk with a Starbucks cup of coffee. I stopped her and joked about the irony but she came back with the defense that "I usually go to smaller Mom and Pop coffee places, but they are just so out of my way when I'm in a hurry". I tried to point out to her that in that way she is supporting corporations by choosing to spend money at them and that she is even telling them that they are offering a superior product, convenience, over their competitors. This argument didn't seem to hold any ground with my co-worker (as most logical arguments don't) and she even seemed to think that her purchase of a cup of coffee wasn't really helping Starbucks.

I am finding that the mentality that "my dollar doesn't make a difference" is one of the fundamental issues with American philosophy and it can only of come from those who don't know what a dollar is worth and what it takes to earn one. There is an incredible power that is behind the money that we spend and where we choose to spend it. My friend's false issues with corporations aside, let's look at a very real and impending example: The Carbon Tax.

Now, there is a lot to write about with the Carbon Tax but I'm going to keep my post to a simpler example...why people feel that we NEED government to tax something for our own good and the good of our children, the country, etc...

Let's envision a fictional world where human-made carbon emissions were causing global warming. Let's say that all of the IPCC's doomsday predictions were correct and the planet was going to be a scorched earth in 500 years on our present course. Should the government regulate and tax carbon emissions even when impending doom is just around the corner and anyone that uses too much carbon is on a societal suicide mission??

The answer is, NO. The government has no say in how we live our daily lives and can therefore not interfere with us as long as we are not directly violating the rights of others. But how would we prevent the Armageddon caused by the poisonous carbon??

The answer is, with your daily decisions on where you spend your money. If carbon was deadly and there was no question in the opposite, then people would have a daily choice to make. They could choose to lessen their "carbon footprint" by turning out the lights or not. They could choose to call their power company and opt for more expensive "green" energy sources against the cheaper poison-coal. They could ride their bike to work instead of their car. They could become scientists that could discover carbon-reducers or new ways to generate cheap energy. The list goes on...

The bottom line is that if society knows that something is bad, they will consiously make the decision against that thing everyday. People would voluntarily put up with the increase in cost, time, and energy because they knew that it would maximize their quality of life. In this example, coal plants would close from lack of customers and profit, gasoline powered cars would become an item of the past, and technology would be able to produce energy cheap and poison-free. All of these things would come about WITHOUT GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. This would require no special taxes, incentives or deductions to steer the economy from an undebatable science.

Today, this issue will require all of this regulation and interference with government force because it is not a proven science. There is a majority of the population that is still skeptical about the facts and doesn't want to put up with the inconvenience and lowering of their standard of living for the someone who is just crying doomsday.

Starbucks tries very hard to take your dollar instead of having you give it to a competitor. They provide high-quality coffee at convenient locations so that both you and them can benefit from transactions. If corporations really were evil and people didn't gain from their existence, money (their lifeblood) would stop flowing to them and the evil would cease to exist. But, this is not the case and Starbucks still lives to provide you with a good thing (chosen by you and your dollar, everyday).