I love the videos from Econ Stories. They are entertaining and informative. They correctly depict both view points. I just wish they would have a Hayek Vs. Friedman or Friedman Vs. Keyenes video.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
Another reason we have a terrible education system: Parents are idiots.
Do parents want to ask about pass rates, curriculum content, test scores? Nope. Apparently there is far more fun into searching out the private lives of teachers.
Apparently, in Pennsylvania, some parents found out that one of the 10th grade teachers at the local school writes erotic fiction in her private time under a pen name. Finding this information out seems to involve going to at least 3 different web sites. Now the report doesn’t ask the obvious question of how did the parent find this out (I’m going to guess either the parent or someone they know reads this kind of fiction…and what does that say about them? Nothing, really. There is no shame in reading erotic fiction, just as there is no shame in writing it. There is however shame about requiring Puritanical standards.)
This parent who has WAY to much time on their hands to dig into the private lives of teachers says “Now my son knows so how is he thinking when he’s sitting in her class knowing what she does on the side.” First off, the way the story is written it appears that he knows because this idiot parent told him…so whose fault is that? Second, he’s in 10th grade and a boy. Hmmm. Is knowing what his teacher writes going to make him think about sex? To answer this I am going to defer to a line from possibly the greatest screenwriter/director alive (who has also been persecuted relentlessly by modern day Puritans) Joss Whedon:
“I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.”
I really don’t think this knowledge is going to change the fact that the kid is a teenage boy. (God help us what he’ll be thinking when he finds out his parents had sex once.)
Now, if this teacher had been brining her work into class that would be a clear argument against her, but the hack reporter for this article could only find two former students who said they were “Shocked” to find out. Shocked, as in this teacher, who has been teaching for 25 years, gave absolutely no hint that she wrote adult fiction in her PRIVATE life.
What is this parent’s expectation that teachers go home and live like nuns in a cloister?
But here is my favorite part, this busy body Puritan of a parent states, “I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author.” This a teacher, who never brought this into her classroom, and from all other appearances is competent, as I’m sure this reporter who deals in smear campaigns would have turned up other complaints if they existed, but despite being competent, she can’t live her off campus life as she would wish?
Which brings up the question can parents dictate what teachers can and can’t write under a pen name on their personal time, where does the line stop? Can parents say that a teacher can’t have an outside job at all? After all they might be doing some kind of job that the parents don’t like? Can parents say a teacher can’t read certain things; after all it might corrupt their thinking and thus their teaching? Can parents dictate the sexual practices of a teacher? Can parents dictate the religion or politics of a teacher? Can they dictate whether a teacher can write about politics and religion? After all what if the teacher is a pagan conservative?
Oh wait, no, they can’t, because that’s all done in the teacher’s private life. And as long as it stays out of the classroom parents have no right to dictate what a teacher does in their private life (so long as they are not criminals, but last time I checked novels come under a basic First Amendment protection).
Of course, in the end, I can guarantee that this teacher will be forced out of her job. And after that happens I hope she sues. (I hope she sues even if she doesn’t get fired). This parent suggested publically that this teacher wasn’t good at her job. That’s slander. The reporter and the editor who allowed this report contributed to spreading this implication. That’s libel. I hope they are sued for slander and libel and forced to sell everything they have and still be in debt to this teacher.
But this is indicative of a much larger problem. Do parents care about the actual curriculum? Do they care about how their kid is doing? DO they care about the actual quality of teachers? Or how funds are being allocated in the school? Do they care about what is best for the student? Apparently not, apparently the only parents that care enough to get involved are the ones who want to have the morals of the community as in the Scarlet Letter. (For a pagan like me I seem to remember what they like to do to my kind, involved wood and stakes, and fire. Not what I’m looking on returning to.)
Hmmm. Maybe parents should care more about what goes on in the classroom, than what teachers are doing outside of it.
What’s your favorite post on The Conservative New Ager? Which topics should I deal with more?
So obviously the budget needs to be the primary concern and the priority needs to be give no ground, offer no quarter, take no prisoners, show no mercy.
But after that let’s deal with some health care issues again.
First, and I said this before but the legal barriers that prevent insurance companies from crossing state lines need to be revoked. No single act could reduce health care costs as much as this. (And while we’re at it remove the barriers for all other kinds of insurance as well). I know, I know, this was the first law I suggested in this series, but it simply cannot be repeated enough.
The next thing the government should do is extend the patents of drugs. Right now the patent for a drug is 20 years. First off if this seems a little short to you, it should. The patent for most technology is much longer, but for some reason we think drug companies shouldn’t profit off of the millions, sometimes billions of dollars they put into researching a drug. (And you wonder why they charge so much for drug…probably because they need to make up their money in the short period of time they have a patent for not only the research on that drug but on the research for other drugs that didn’t pan out).
But here’s the really fun thing. Apparently, that 20 years starts from when the drug company first applies to the FDA for drug trials, not when the drugs is actually approved. FDA drugs trials, universally acknowledged as insane, take on average 8-10 years, but sometimes more because they want to make sure that the drug is absolutely safe for everyone with every possible physiological chemistry. What would be smarter is passing tort reform laws that say for the first 15 years a drug is on the market requiring every doctor and pharmacist to tell you, “Look this was only tested for 5 years, the chance of your having an adverse reaction are: A.)highly unlikely and B.) we didn’t know it would happen, so you can’t sue us if you happen to be the one in a million case that doesn’t react well to the drug that helps 99.9999% percent of the people who take it.” But tort reform would make too much sense. So what also needs to be changed is the patent law. While I would love to see the patent extended, I know that’s a fight that we would just lose because people are stupid. So in the meantime while I wait for humanity as a whole to grow a frontal cortex, we need to make the 20 year patent start from when the FDA approves the drug not from when trials begin.
If a company has 20 years, instead of 10 years or less, to make back all of its investments on a drug that has a limited market then you will actually see prices drop. Not immediately mind you, but over the course of the next decade you will see companies lowering their prices because they can now afford it.
Now, some socialists out there will complain they can afford it anyway because the pharmaceutical industry has a profit margin of around 20%. Yeah they do. 20% profit, seems more than fair for coming up with drugs to save my life. How much profit is reasonable for the person who saves your life? But at more basic level it needs to be that high. Why? Because all those chemists and doctors who make the money on that hideously expensive research, if they don’t get massive salaries and make lots of money that comes with that kind of profit margin, well guess, what, the food industry is always looking for new ways to develop new food coloring and coming up with a better alternative to NutraSweet (you know one that doesn’t leave that god-awful aftertaste that makes us all hate Diet Coke). If you don’t pay for it, these people will go to other industries where the rewards are better (kind of like when you bog teaching down with huge amounts of red tape, unnecessary requirements and low salaries is a shock that most teachers are morons).
Extend how long drug companies can have their patents; it’s the only rational thing to do.
(All of this of course ignores that the majority of drugs are either going to people with perfectly preventable conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular problems that would be solved by exercise and right eating or to old people who are trying to deny the fact that they’re going to die someday).
Liberals, Atheists and Christian alike, I throw down the gauntlet (partly because I’ve had writer’s block and haven’t posted anything recently).
I will read any book that would seem to disagree with my premises and post what I thought about it (whether I found it to be right or wrong in logical and mostly polite terms. I can’t vow I will be polite to an idiot hack like Zinn.) if you agree to read a conservative/New Age book and post where you think it is wrong in equally logical terms.
Of course I can only take on one book at a time.
However, I am willing to accept, read and consider challenges to my beliefs. Are you?
Post your reading suggestion to me in the comment box along with your email address so I can email you your book to read.
Now you would think with Atlas Shrugged coming out as a movie that liberals might try not to associate themselves with the villains of the movie (more than they usually do at least), but let’s be honest here, many have gone broke betting on the intelligence and foresight of liberals.
“A few short weeks ago I came to the House floor after having purchased an iPad and said that I happened to believe, Mr. Speaker, that at some point in time this new device, which is now probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs. Now Borders is closing stores because, why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes & Noble? Buy an iPad and download your newspaper, download your book, download your magazine,” Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL, Chicago) said on the House floor Friday (4/15) afternoon.
The iPad is responsible for that. Notice it’s just Apple’s iPad that is to blame (the Barnes and Noble, Nook, Amazon, Kindle, and Sony, e-reader, lobbyists must have made their extortion payments,…er…I mean campaign donations on time). But let’s ignore how the funding for DNC looks like it was set up by the Corliones. (It gets worse when you figure that Union funding is a key component in both operations).
So innovation is to blame. Innovation of new products is a bad thing; the country that gave us the assembly line, the first mass produced car, the personal computer, the internet, the microwave, and a dozen other things. But apparently innovation is a bad thing when it destroys jobs.
I would have hated to have this guy around when the automobile first came out. I mean just think of all the buggy-whip manufacturing plants that must have gone out of business that this idiotic bleeding heart would have defended and demanded that something be done to destroy this new invention.
I shudder to think what would have happened if this twit had been around when the light bulb was invented (oh wait, Ayn Rand wrote that scene in Anthem, with almost point for point objections in the mouth of her villains—her heroes may have problems, but that women understood the mind of evil all too well).
Not to mention that a lot of his complaints are the same ones made about that new-fangled invention, the printing press, a few hundred years ago.
Now, I hate these e-readers. Why? Because I’m a snob and believe my books should be tangible and smelly (the only thing better than new book smell is old book smell), but I don’t hate innovation. These things will only make my nearing 1000 (70 books to go!) book collection all the more impressive.
Still for all the jobs that it eliminates (really if your job can be replaced by a machine, were you really contributing in the first place?) it creates new jobs in Apple marketing, in publishing companies that no longer have such high overhead, in creating new writers who can get their words out in this fascinating new forum. It’s a brave new world (and I mean that without the cynicism Huxley associated with it).
Now to mention manufacturing jobs. But the question is why is it cheaper to build these things in China and pay the extra costs for shipping? Oh, that’s right Jackson and his cronies have made this country’s laws so inhospitable to manufacturing and business you’d have to be an idiot to open a business here. Does Jackson sound likes he wants to get rid of unethical protection of union bullying? Of ridiculous federal red tape? Of preposterous tax codes? No, I didn’t think so. If we’re losing jobs to China for manufacturing, it’s probably because Jackson and his buddies (and his father, let’s not forget his father) drove those businesses away.
(Also why is a liberal complaining about a device that will drastically reduce deforestation and transportation of books and papers? Isn’t that environmentally friendly?)
But at a more deep seated level this is the liberal hatred of the human mind. The human mind that can create new things (things that most people who vote for Democrats could never come up with). The hatred of a company that in the last decade redefined what technology can do. Are there some draw backs? Yes. Is society having to adjust to a new paradigm? Yes. But it will adjust, and you will find all those fun little gadgets that start with ‘i’ (and the competitor’s knockoffs) have made our lives better when we don’t let the technology rule us.
At the point where you’re 14 Trillion in debt and the S&P says you’re worthless, well, a balanced budget amendment kind of becomes a no-brainer. We need to get out of debt. First thing you do when you need to get out of debt is make sure that your current spending does not exceed your income.
Yes I know not going further into debt is actually the way out of debt.
I’m willing to entertain arguments about tax policy…after and only AFTER we fix the spending problem. You get a little in debt if you have income issues; you get 14 Trillion dollars in debt when you have a spending problem. Arguing that we just need to raise taxes right now is arguing that a junkie going through withdrawal just doesn’t have enough money to buy more heroin while completely ignoring the actual problem.
It should be short and simple:
Congress may pass no budget that exceeds 90% of the previous year’s collected revenue when the U.S. Government owes no debt. Congress may pass no budget that exceeds 80% of the previous year’s collected revenue when the federal government does have outstanding debts, excluding 10% that must go to paying off the principal balance of any debt held by the federal government. Congress may exceed these limits for two years after having made a declaration of war or if that declaration is renewed at the end of the two year period.
Why only 90%? Because only an idiot spends everything they have, you always leave a little something extra for emergencies. Why 80%? Because we need to get rid of this debt. Not just stabilize it. Eliminate it. Kill it. This debt needs to be destroyed. Otherwise it is an albatross around our necks that will never let us be.
You pass that and we can talk about raising taxes. (How about on that half of America that doesn’t pay taxes—let’s see if they still want their entitlement programs when they have to pay for them?)
Now will this get passed right now? I’d say you have a good chance of getting it passed in the House, but really no chance in the Senate. Which is fine, I want every Democratic Senator on record that they don’t support getting our debt under control, that they have no real concern for this country.
Or the states could always get together and pass this on their own.
Obama: “You think we’re stupid?”
“Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.”
Saw this little gem from a few people on Facebook. Liberals are so fun when they don’t deal in reality. Let’s deal with the list: Teachers. They weren’t to blame. It wasn’t, like, their job to make sure the American public would have enough intelligence, knowledge, and reasoning skills to make sure none of this ever happens…oh wait it was. But they were more worried about their cushy tenure and salary schedule to ever be bothered with little things like, oh, teaching. Public Employees didn’t wipe out my 401k? Really? How about they spent and spent and spent on worth public employee salaries and compensation and retirement plans so that after I was taxed to death I had no money to put in my 401k. I took out my money early, because I saw what was coming, and I got every single dime I put in (not counting that money the IRS stole in penalties, but that would be the fault of those public employees at the IRS and in Congress). Public employees/Unions supported the government pushing the mortgage companies and FANNIE MAE/FREDDIE MAC to make it possible for all people to own homes – or in other words giving loans to those who do not qualify for the loans and that in turn was the start to the destruction of the economy and the stock market crash. Also since my taxes are so high because I must pay for the public employees high salaries and compensation I had no extra money to put in my 401K to begin with. And how much TARP money went to state project s which paid state public employees…last time I checked, a lot. And last time I looked it was stupid interference and regulation carried out by public employees that drove the market up up up into the realm of insanity and stupid interference and regulation that caused it to crash. Was private business to blame too? Yes, yes they were. They didn’t have to participate in loans the government was forcing on them, oh wait they did—okay let me rephrase that, they didn’t have to go as insane as they did (although when the government outlawed reasonable business practices, businessmen thinking they’ll get theirs while they can is not an unforeseeable side effect). But business stupidity is certainly to blame. But it was aided by corporate welfare, bad regulation, bad oversight and bad interference. So yes, public employees were to blame with their Union support. Planned Parenthood. Again taking taxpayer dollars…and doing some really questionable things with it. NPR and PBS takes taxpayer money and produces content no one in their right mind would pay for it if it wasn’t “free” in the immediate gratification sense. To hell with taking a onetime theft of TARP, they’ve been ripping us off for years! And I seriously doubt that the executive over at PBS and NPR are clipping coupons and pinching pennies so does it really matter if they’re taking an extra bonus off your dime or just ripping you off with their base salaries. (Oh, and again a lot of those bonuses that went to Wall Street was because it was stated in their contract that they would get the end of year “bonus” based on their work level. It was required by their contract. It wasn’t like a bonus in other fields. I know liberals have problems with the idea that contract law sacrosanct, but it is, if the company is still in business it had to give their employees that money as part of their compensation.) And again NPR and PBS supported the government forcing the mortgage world to give away loans to unqualified people and that caused the market crash and ecomomic problems. Now the only thing I can’t lay directly at the feet of those groups is the BP spill…that would the be environmentalists who are to blame. The environmentalists who shouted for years that we couldn’t drill near the shore line because that would be too dangerous. Yeah, cause if we drilled near the shore line the pipe would be 50 feet below sea level and it would have takeen all of 2 hours to get down there and seal it off. Somehow I fail to see how EPA regulation that pushed the drilling platforms so far out into the gulf helped the environment…oh wait those regulations were enforced by public employees. And are you forgetting that Public Employee Unions , PBS , NPR and Planned Parenthood all supported the Democratic Party, the ability for people unable to pay loans to have houses they could not afford and the obvious impending crash that ensued along with all the environmental rules? I guess that list of people who aren’t to blame, really are to blame. May I suggest everyone on that list take a very long walk off …., well you get the idea. Admittedly, there are other people responsible for these problems as well. There is no denying that. The last two decades of Presidents and Congresses come to mind. The Fed. The bureaucracy (oh wait, those are those damn public employees). The Unions. And most of all the voting public for asking to be given everything they ever wanted, without having to work for it, and not ever having to pay for it and then electing people who promised them these mythical gifts without cost or effort. The voting public who has allowed these idiots be put in power; the voting public who allowed the expansion of the a bureaucracy of public employees; the voting public who tolerated inferior teachers; the voting public who allowed their children to soak up crap like Sesame Street; the voting public who allow the environmentalist to doom the gulf because it made them feel good; the voting public who keeps getting fatter and fatter and expects someone else to pay their medical bills; the voting public who stood willfully ignorant as Congress set up a disastrous economy, who spent themselves into debt and expected the government to pick up the tab for their bad investment in bad banks; the voting public who didn’t not demand the immediate recall (and prosecution) of anyone who voted for TARP. The voting public. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Many of you have read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Most of you have heard of it. And after half a century I don’t feel like giving away plot points is going to spoil it for anyone.
So what we probably already know is that it is the story of the world falling apart. The books protagonists Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon and Eddie Willers fight against the destruction of the world, trying to prevent it by keeping their businesses open, running and productive to serve as a beacon for the world to rally around, to show the way that people should act. They are opposed by two groups. One consists of the book’s villains—greedy, idiotic, lazy socialist politicians and so-called businessmen who just want to be given everything in life without working for it. The other group who opposes Dagny’s attempt to save the world and not give into its inevitable destruction is, ironically, the other group of heroes in the book, led primarily by the mysterious character of John Galt. Galt is a man who has seen what the unproductive and incapable are doing to the world in slowly destroying it by beating down and ruining every person who can and does produce greatness, so he decides to let the worthless have what they want. He convinces every person of character and industry he can find to leave, to go on strike, to not offer themselves up as a sacrifice for those who hate them. This destroys the world much more quickly than if Galt hadn’t been around, but it also leaves those of quality and character alive and well at the end, ready to return and help rebuild the world now that the illogic of villains has been shown.
The book has many strengths and as many (if not more) weaknesses. Let’s take the strengths first.
The book through its many scenes, discussions and speeches (yes speeches, there’s a 60 page speech in there. It’s a good speech but if you can’t get through all of it, don’t worry most people can’t in the first reading of the book.) the book lays out the moral superiority of the capitalist-democratic-republic. It is only through this single form of government/economics that the virtues and strengths of the human life can be experienced and used to their full potential. Any attempt at socialism, saying the rich have a responsibility to help the poor, saying that the successful should pay to bolster the worthless, saying government knows better than the free market isn’t just pragmatically stupid (after all how do they seem to be working for Obama in helping the economy), Atlas Shrugged proves that socialism is morally evil.
But more than the defense of capitalism, Rand has an exceedingly clear grasp of evil. It didn’t seem like it when she wrote it. Her villains, grasping, worthless, disgusting creatures who can only steal and harass those who actually can make something of their lives are in many ways little more than caricatures. When I first read it I was convinced that the villains of Atlas Shrugged were so farfetched they were there to demonstrate the illogical extreme of socialism/liberalism/evil. How wrong I was. There are many sections in that book where the villains get off on a rant about how they’re entitled to money, and fame and successes and comfort (without having to work for it) and those who actually make all those things are required to give them up for nothing. It was almost too farfetched to believe that anyone could believe in such preposterous clap trap…and then you turn on the evening news. And there you hear Barrack Obama and Barney Frank and Eric Holder and George Soros and Bernie Sanders and Paul Krugman and Chris Dodd and Chris Matthews and Jimmy Carter and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and everyone at the SEUI and the NEA and MSNBC and NBC and the New York Times (oh this list could go on) saying things that came out of the mouth of Atlas Shrugged villains, WORD FOR WORD, without even the slightest trace of irony. It’s frightening, that Rand’s overblown examples of evils are if anything underplayed and about as far from overblown caricature as you can get.
And this is where Rand’s greatest strength comes into play, her prescience. You read Atlas Shrugged and see an America going into economic collapse. Kind of like right now. You read about the government putting in one socialist-fascist regulation after another to “help” the economy but really it only destroys not just the economy but the character and lives of everyone it touches as well. Kind of like now. It’s not point for point in the progression of Bush and Obama presidencies…but it is far, far, FAR too close to not make you think you’re in a Twilight Zone episode.
I can only pray that Rand was wrong about the only way out of this death spiral is to let the whole thing collapse. (Actually I don’t need to pray, I’m fairly certain things will never need to get that dire).
However despite the wonderful articulation of principles of freedom, liberty, free will, capitalism and the free economy (yes all those things are tied together), there are, I will admit some serious flaws with the book.
The most prominent is that while her work offers a wonderful starting place for philosophy, it is far from complete. Rand once stated that there are only two ways to deal with people: reason or force. Reason is superior and force is what brutes who cannot master reason use. Capitalism is based on reason, on creation, on doing, on treating people as equals that can be dealt with on a reasonable level—all other forms of government and economy are based to one degree or another on force, on taking from those who used reason to create and giving it to those who didn’t (either the ruling class or the poor, either way the middle that actually does work is getting screwed). However, Rand fails to see that there is a third way to deal with each and that is friendship and love (although I’ll grant this has little to do with how government and economics are set up). But still her philosophy only encompasses the beginnings of truth and refutes the most egregious lies; it doesn’t deal with the full range of human experience. As such, while the philosophy is a great place to start, it is inadequate as a place to end philosophical reflection and discovery.
Further, while Ayn Rand has villains and their psychology down to a T, her heroes are a bit lacking. Dagny, Galt, Reardon, Francisco, Roark, Prometheus, pick a Rand hero from any book she wrote and you will find someone who lives by thought out and reasonable principles, is courageous, is just, is temperate, and is utterly emotionless. While Rand heroes show many of the virtues we would all like to have, they are all brain and no heart. They feel nothing beyond a philosophical recognition for others. These are the kind of people who after having sex (on train tracks, that can’t be comfortable) launch into long-winded philosophical speeches of the nature of life (somewhat lacking in what I think most of us consider ideal pillow talk…then again anytime Rand starts dealing with sex things get a little odd and disturbingly S&M in their overtones—it’s not in her official biography but I am convinced the woman experienced some extreme trauma living through the Russian Revolution, which in turn led to her becoming very cold and making her characters come off cold. It would also help to explain her hatred of the idea of God, as her atheism is the dispassionate argument of reason, it comes off more as someone who deeply believed and then thought God wasn’t there for her when she needed him and thus in turn will try to prove to everyone he doesn’t exist as a form of revenge). But in the end the heroes of Atlas Shrugged can be no more than caricatures created to show off specific virtues as they are not full and complete human beings with normal emotional responses and attachments. (I am really, really hoping the director of the movie saw how Jackson turned the equally one dimensional characters of Tolkien into fully formed characters in the movies of The Lord of the Rings, and that we get the same evolution in this forthcoming movie).
And the real problem with Atlas Shrugged is its solution. The solution of the people who create, who do, who reason is to just give the foolish, stupid and evil what they want. To retreat from the world, to not convince people of who is right and who is wrong, but to merely run away. Yes it does show whose plan works and whose plan doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right. Yes, capitalism and a democratic-republic and liberty are right. But they’re not just right for the people who believe in them—they’re right for everyone. A right is now something that someone has because they choose to have it; they have it as a virtue of being human. Rand’s heroes retreat and give up on defending the rights of everyone else in the world (even though most of those whom they leave are not bright enough to want those rights). They’re cowards. They ran away and choose not to fight the good fight, the ethical fight and in the process let the world be destroyed. They may argue that this helped speed the process up and allowed them to come back before a new Dark Ages set in, but this is a foolish argument. Unless Rand is arguing that all the stupid people died (which, yeah, that would work, not very ethical, but it would work) the people who have not died from the world collapsing are still going to be the same idiots as before and Galt and his bunch are still going to have to convince them that capitalism is right and socialism is wrong. So all the heroes of Atlas Shrugged have done by running away is make their lives a little easier for a while at the expense of not only everyone in the world but at the expense of future generations who will have to rebuild what Galt let be torn down. Not very heroic!
Yeah if you’re smarter, braver, more virtuous, it is a burden to bear, and some days you might want to shrug it all off. That’s called being human. But not giving into the willingness to give up, fighting the good fight not because you’re going to win but because it’s the right thing to do, that’s what makes a hero. It is the most damning flaw of the book, the main characters who exhibit many virtuous qualities, don’t live up to them.
In the end however, for all of its flaws Atlas Shrugged will always hold a place in my heart. I read it for the first time when I was in the 8th grade and have since reread it several times (I think it’s best to read it when you’re young, as Atlas Shrugged is to philosophy what Doctor Seuss is to reading—it’s a good start that points the right way, but it doesn’t include the depth that real life has in it). It may not understand humanity perfectly and it certainly has a better understanding of its flaws than its strengths, but it does provide a needed ground work to understanding and defending liberty.
I’ll be honest, the bullshit pulled by Obama and the Democrats in Congress this last week with the budget has put me more in a let’s cut every federal department’s budget by half and we won’t put you all (and by all I mean the Republicans who gave in as well) on trial for treason as you all seem hell-bent on destroying this country. However I did have one last compromise to go over. And I know this one is not going to be popular right now, but if you put emotion and irrational fear aside you’ll agree it makes sense.
Nuclear power is the safest and least expensive form of producing power at the moment (at least until high altitude turbines become feasible. Yes there are problems. When GE is selling defective reactors to be placed atop fault lines and tsunami zones that can easily lead to problems. Easy to solve problem. Like don’t build on major fault lines, don’t build next to bodies of waters that can experience tsunami or flood, don’t buy reactors so that half the development team quits in protest because they think it won’t be able to handle the stress of any major disaster. Oh and don’t hire anyone who worked the former Soviet Union. Oh, and have lots and lots of extra coolant on hand just in case of the worst. The coolant thing and where to put them can easily, and logically, be put into law. Where do we store the waste….well we have these fascinating places in America like Death Valley, the Salt Flats, most of Nevada, the wastelands of Anwar, the IRS building in DC, the headquarters for any teachers union, and Vermont. All places where we could stick nuclear waste in thick lined steel rooms without any possible harm to intelligent life (we could even skip the lined rooms for the waste we ship to the teachers unions as a cost cutting measure—I guarantee positive effects to America’s education system). Hell we just put it all on the Southern border of the US—fear alone might help reduce our illegal immigration problem. But while there still need to be stringent controls on safety there is a lot of other BS red-tape that needs to go. Any regulation that doesn’t deal directly with keeping radiation from leaking, transporting waste, ensuring that nuclear reactors can handle any theoretical disaster the area may present, and security for protecting fissionable materials needs to go (trust me 90% of the red tape involved in building a nuclear power plant comes from non relevant issues based on an irrational and false belief that nuclear power plants are the most dangerous things in existence…although they might soon become so if we don’t start shutting down the old ones and replacing them with new ones). Just take a look at this picture. This is all the nuclear power plants in this nation to date. Notice all those power plants in population dense East Coast…and nobody there seems to be dying by the thousands from radiation poisoning.
Now I do have some issues with the ones so close to the Mississippi River and right on the fault lines in California, but otherwise they seem to be spaced in some pretty safe areas (I’m not an expert but as it looks like several plants were in the path of Hurricane Katrina it might be safe to say that hurricanes and tornadoes are not much of a threat to nuclear power plants. We need more of these plants. They produce electricity for pennies on the dollar of coal, gas, and hydroelectric power (and yes that’s after you figure in the costs of building and maintaining the plants). We just need to remove the useless red tape to make it economically feasible for private industry to build these plants. And for getting rid of all this red tape I say we give liberals another 10 cents on the gallon tax on gas (yes that’s on top of the previous tax hike I suggested). Since there is now cheap energy available, electric cars will become far more appealing which will spur real development into making better electric cars that can actually travel long distances. This will in turn lower the need for gas as a main source to power transportation, which as discussed in a previous blog will lower the price of gas to the pretax position but also deprive those pesky oil tyrannies of the money which keeps them in power (ask yourself how annoying Chavez or how evil Gaddafi would be if they had no money?)
Now like most fantasy writers Goodkind can’t just write a one off book. The inherent problem for most fantasy writers is that after you’ve created a new universe with new rules and a new history you feel compelled to delve into every aspect of this new universe. (As a fantasy novelist myself I have to admit that I am just as guilty of this). The Sword of Truth is no different, it currently stands at 11 books, with one more book in the same universe, and a 12th book in the series proper coming out this year. Now, I will admit that the series has its ups and downs (I had to skim book 7 it got so damn tedious) but as a whole the series is by far one of the most well written pieces of literature I have ever read.
Now in this series I’m going to discuss all 11 books of the series (at least tangentially) but I am only going to give you a major description of the plot and characters of the first book because there is no point in spoiling everything for you.
(Oh, by the way if you’re unfortunate enough to have watched the TV show Legend of the Seeker which was supposedly based on these books, don’t worry, the books have nothing to do with that excuse of a show).
The story surrounds Richard Cypher, a man who had never sought adventure or greatness, who while investigating the death of his father finds himself quickly running for his life from the warlord Darken Rahl. But more unexpected for Richard, a man who never knew about magic while growing up, is that he has the potential to be a wizard, and is declared the Seeker of Truth, the only person who can stop Rahl’s attempt to conquer the entire world (and the stakes are raised even further with each new volume in the series). I could go into more detail, but the fact is that like all great literature, plot is a secondary detail to theme and characterization. And unlike Tolkien’s works, the Sword of Truth, in addition to a rich secondary cast, gives us two characters, Richard and Kahlan, who are not only paragons of what heroes should be, but very human in their flaws and their ability to grow and learn over the course of the book (unlike the cast of most fantasy novels who are static from moment one—damn you Tolkien for making that a trope of the genre!)
But the true genius of each book is that each book is centered around a Wizard’s Rule–An idea that can be seen through actions of the book and applies not only to the book, but to our own lives in the real world. It is these Wizard’s Rules which make the Sword of Truth much more than an enjoyable piece of fluff that most fantasy is, or even good character drama which some of the better works of the genre are (although Wizard’s First Rule is enjoyable, and has spectacular character drama). And here is what I want to talk about for all the books, how what are called the Wizard’s Rules in the books are some of the most explicit insightful observations and guidelines for life I have ever run across in literature. Which brings us to The Wizard’s First Rule:
“Wizard’s First Rule: people are stupid.” Richard and Kahlan frowned even more. “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
—Chapter 36, p.560
So what does that mean and why is this important?
It means that everyone is an idiot. I mean everyone. Even the best of us, even you, even me, have our moments of stupidity. We act on beliefs we want to believe in rather than facts we have worked out and proven to be true. Sometime this stupidity is forgivable—after all not every decision on Earth can be preceded by forethought, study and reflection…however, unless your name is Jack Bauer you probably aren’t being required to make 200 immediate life or death choices every day based on limited information (and if your name is Jack Bauer then you are infallible so it really doesn’t matter). Thus, most of the time our acts of stupidity are not forgivable because we had the opportunity to think, to reflect on our past acts of stupidity and not repeat them, to consider facts, information and reason…and in those moments we choose not to think. People are stupid.
The easiest way to fall victim to this rule is to think you’re above it.
“Given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything.”
Nowhere is this better seen than in politics. People like to think they’re qualified to participate in politics. People vote in every election. Because stupidly they believe it’s their civic duty. Actually it’s their civic duty to educate themselves on the issues, the candidates, the consequences of their choices. If you don’t do that it’s actually your civic duty to NOT vote in any given election. Let’s be honest here, if we were very, very lucky maybe 40% of those who vote have even the first clue about what they’re voting for beyond meaningless platitudes and voting party line. People like to feel good about themselves for voting, even though what they’re actually doing is ruining the republic by not doing the right thing and educating themselves.
Need more proof that people will believe anything? There’s no proof that man has caused any measurable change in global temperatures, yet people are freaking out about global cooling, I mean global warming, I mean climate change (the fact that they can’t even agree if it’s getting hotter or warmer, or my favorite is that global warming is causing it to get colder, should tell you there isn’t any hard proof and weather is just chaotic and unpredictable, always has been, always will be and that man is so insignificant that he will have little to no impact). And to hell if no computer model that shows global warming has ever been able to predict things like the past or match up with reality on any level. Little facts like that don’t matter. We have a computer model that shows global warming; it doesn’t matter if it’s based on logic that makes an acid trip seem rational. Or, how about the stupidity of birthers. To hell that Barrack’s mother is an American citizen which means he’s a natural born citizen. This is a major issue for some morons. It has nothing to do with anything. Whether he was born here or not makes no difference on how good or bad or really horrendously terrible he is as a President. People are stupid.
“Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, “
Some very stupid people heard the words “Hope” and “Change” and somehow thought that what they hoped for and what they wanted changed was what Obama hoped for and wanted changed. As he made very few actual policy statements (and even fewer ones that weren’t contradicted by other statements) there was no logical reason to believe this. But people believe what they wanted to believe because they’re morons. Because of this Obama who has never been anything but a liberal was able to say he was a moderate and people stupidly believed him, and then were even more shocked when he turned out to be a liberal.
“or because they’re afraid it might be true.”
If we don’t bailout all the banks that got us into this mess the economy will collapse! To hell with real economic theory and practice that says a few banks will collapse, we’ll have a bad short recession and the system will then stabilize and grow. No let’s act out of fear of what might happen, to hell with facts, and cause a near-never ending jobless recession that borders on stagflation and true economic depression.
Liberals believe that the rich do nothing for their money. Republicans believe that Obama wasn’t born in this country. Liberals believe that people have a duty to help the poor who do nothing for themselves. So called conservatives believe they make compromises with liberals and somehow not compromise their values. Liberals believe everyone who practices Islam is practicing a religion of peace. The religious right…oh lord no blog is long enough to catalog how many stupid, and often contradictory, things they believe. People are stupid and don’t bother to check or reason through what they believe to see if it’s true.
“people are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
The fact that people can’t tell the difference between truth and lies has always been a given. The Big Lie theory of politics has been around for nearly a century. But if people aren’t stupid how do you explain support for Obama in this respect.
Liberals screw up here because they believe what they want to believe. They believe what makes them happy. Here let me take trillions of dollars from people who earned money and give it the poor because it makes me feel better. To hell if there are economic repercussion. It makes me feel better. Let’s keep spending like drunken sailors and not cut entitlement programs that led us to bankruptcy, because that would feel bad. To hell if we’re going to destroy ourselves in the process. Don’t worry about fact, believe what makes you feel good. Why? Because people are stupid.
And here is where conservatives really screw up.
Because they can’t tell the difference we try to reason with them by throwing every possible fact we can think of at the people we are trying to convince. This turns them off because of how boring we sound. Or in the case of say, Glenn Beck, you begin to sound desperate and a little crazy.
Republicans are stupid because the party has failed to stand for anything; you know the very purpose of a political party and just become more or less a fundraising arm for a hodgepodge of politicians who cannot agree on anything. That would be a clear formula for failure…but people are stupid and don’t see it (even if other idiot are able to exploit it). And the people who vote Republican are too stupid to demand their party stand for something (the Tea Party may actually be the first light of intelligence, but they need to prove to me they have staying power and will hold Republican accountable for standing for something).
Conservatives unwilling to admit that people are stupid and very easy to be swayed make deals with groups to get votes. We court the religious right because they are open to some of our arguments, but don’t care that this provides the Democrats with ammunition against us in winning the center. The center doesn’t care that true conservatives are courting the wacky religious fringe not because we agree with their inability to admit that evolution is a fact, but because we agree with them on economic and foreign policy issues. This in turn costs us two votes for every religious wackjob we get. Conservatives fail to realize that stupid people on one side can’t tell that we don’t necessarily agree with the stupid people on the other side. This is rather stupid of us.
Or we nominate twits like McCain because we believe that the America public is so stupid they won’t realize he’s a waste of space and volume and will just think he’s a moderate. This is also stupid of us.
If we realized people are stupid, we might not try to keep courting their votes and actually begin to just act on principle (like standing firm and letting the government shut down). This would mean we wouldn’t look like idiots. Will we win every time if we did this? No. After all, people are stupid. But stupid or not they can more often or not recognize conviction and quality of character because with the exception of Obama and his staff no one is stupid 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
It’s important to understanding why liberals do so well with the public despite the fact they have next to no facts and truth on their side. Think about it. A good portion of the country voted for Obama and then suddenly was very unhappy that he was liberal…and then they voted for the Republicans to solve the problems that the liberals created and are suddenly unhappy when the Republicans are doing just that and doing thing like trying to break the power of the unions which got us into this mess. People are stupid. They believe that somehow there are solutions that allow them to eat and still have their cake. They hear the words “hope” and “change” and fill in what they hope for and what they want changed…not asking what the person speaking those words hopes for or plans to change.
People are stupid. We need to recognize this about others and ourselves. If we don’t, we risk always being stupid.
Does this seem right?
Obama signs executive orders that push through net neutrality (a system of laws of questionable constitutionality, and certainly no practical sense).
Congress in response is preparing to pass legislation banning said regulation.
Obama threatens to veto said banning.
So in other words a President can pass any executive order and only a veto proof supermajority of two-thirds of both houses of Congress can overturn him.
Ignore for the moment that this is Obama, or whether you support net neutrality. I want you to think about this in the purely theoretical sense. A president can make laws that it is almost impossible for the legislature to overturn and we all acknowledge the courts are too slow to deal with executive orders as fast as President can write them. Is it just me or does a check or a balance seem to a bit out of whack?
Granted, executive orders are necessary to complete the day to day work of the executive office. But they’re supposed to be issued to help fulfill the laws put in place by Congress….not replace Congress.
Now granted there is nothing in the Constitution on this…but it would seem that if the President and Congress disagree on a law it doesn’t become law…works when it’s a law passed by Congress that the President doesn’t like, should work the opposite way too. I think the best thing to do here would be to amend the Constitution to allow for review of all executive orders by the Senate. However, until then this is dangerous ground that Obama is treading on.
If a President can just issue executive orders without worry that a majority of Congress can overturn his executive order then one man has the power of the executive and the legislative branch in his hands. And given there is a long standing history of the executive branch ignoring the judicial branch (see the presidencies of Jackson and Lincoln) one man would the have all the power of the government at his hands. Isn’t there a word for that, starts with a T, ends in yrant?
I’m not saying Obama is making a grab for dictatorship, but what he is doing is setting incredibly bad precedent. Ask yourself, no matter whether you trust Obama or not, are you willing to say that every President from now until the time you die wouldn’t be the kind of person to abuse power like that?
Before we begin this thought experiment, a disclaimer. If you burn anyone’s holy book intentionally you’re an asshole (burning a trash heap and they just happen to be in there, that’s not intentional). That is a given. No need to really discuss it because the assholishness of the act is self-evident. It shouldn’t be a crime, but if you do it just to be obnoxious, there is something wrong with you.
Now for our thought experiment.
If I burned a copy of the Tao Te Ching, how many Taoist do you think would riot?
If I shredded the a copy of the Bhagavad Gita how many Hindus do you think would threaten to kill me?
If I drew insulting cartoons of Darwin, would the FBI show up at my door telling me I need to disappear or risk being killed by atheists?
If I submerged a copy of the Bible in feces, how many Christians would actually kill innocent people because they were so outraged by my act?
If I destroy a copy of the Torah how many Jews would scream ‘death to America’?
Just a thought experiment.