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“Thinking for Myself” :Clarence Thomas on The Influence of Ayn Rand

Writes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, on his ideological shift from left-wing radicalism:

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 that that of my left-wing friends. “Do your own thing” was their motto, but now I saw that the individualism implicit in that phrase was superficial and strictly limited. They thought, for instance, that it was going too far for a black man to do his thing by breaking with radical politics, which was what I now longed to do.

I never went along with the militant separatism of the Black Muslims, but I admired their determination to “do for self, brother,” as well as their discipline and dignity. That was Daddy’s way. He knew that to be truly free and participate fully in American life, poor blacks had to have the tools to do for themselves. This was the direction in which my political thinking was moving as my time at Holy Cross drew to an end.

The question was how much courage I could muster up to express my individuality. What I wanted was for everyone — the government, the racists, the activists, the students, even Daddy — to leave me alone so that I could finally start thinking for myself.

Hat Tip: Althouse

All Your Data Belongs to DOJ: Amy Peikoff Analysis of FTC Facebook Settlement

Writes Amy Peikoff :

What follows is an excerpted and annotated version of the FTC’s “Stipulated Order” representing its “Settlement” with Facebook. It’s dated July 24. I’m giving you the lowlights, as I see them, plus my “translations.”

Some nuggets from Amy’s offhand analysis:

“Defendant agrees that the Department of Justice shall have the same rights as the Commission to engage in compliance monitoring as provided by Part XV of the Decision and Order set forth in Attachment A, as well as the same right as the Associate Director for Enforcement for the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Commission provided under
Part VIII.B to approve the person(s) selected to conduct the Assessments described in Part VIII of the Decision and Order set forth in Attachment A, subject to any applicable law or regulation.”
(page 4)

Translation: Anything the FTC can get or do as a result of this “settlement,” so can the DOJ. This becomes particularly relevant when you see some of the last paragraphs of the order, the ones which inspired the title of this blog post.

“If a User deletes an individual piece of Covered Information but does not delete his or her account, nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to require deletion or de-identification of metadata (e.g., logs of User activity) that may remain associated with the User’s account after the User has deleted such information.” (page 6)

Translation: All your metadata are belong to the DOJ, unless you delete your entire account in time. (And will that really work anyway, or is it already too late?) Deleting individual pieces of data is inadequate to protect your privacy.

Amy also writes that she is applying for non-profit status for an organization to fight this power-grab by the FTC and DOJ:

“Would you like to help me do whatever is possible, using my unique theory of the proper legal protection of privacy, to fight this power-grab by the FTC and DOJ? If so, your donations are most welcome here. Make sure to add “FTC” in the optional comment field, and it will be earmarked appropriately. I’m in the process of applying for non-profit, 501 c(3) status, and so I’ll do everything possible to ensure your donation is tax-deductible, and will keep you posted about the status of the application.”

Link: FTC-Facebook “Settlement”: All your data are belong to DOJ

Journo Unpacks Hazony’s Argument for Nationalism

…and finds it wanting.

Writes Elan Journo on Hazony’s book, The Virtue of Nationalism:

Hazony presents a conception of nationalism with soft edges, one that is supposedly compatible with some measure of liberty. And therein lies part of the book’s danger. It is calm, erudite, and theory-heavy. The book attempts to provide a serious, intellectual case for embracing nationalism.

[…]

Hazony repudiates the Enlightenment view of individuals as sovereign and capable of using reason to attain truths about the world.

[…]

What really happens in societies where reason and individual rights are dropped out of the picture, where each tribe/nation is left to do its own thing? At least two things are clear: First, such societies are highly tribal. People define themselves primarily, if not exclusively, by their tribal or racial identity, while viewing outsiders as less-than-human, because they were born to the “wrong” tribe/race. Second, and crucially, the door is left wide open for disagreements and enmities to be resolved through brutality, not persuasion, because outsiders are seen as innately inferior, wrong, unreachable. For example, consider the tribal wars that have decimated Africa. A notorious example is Rwanda’s tribal war in 1994, which claimed upwards of 800,000 lives. Or look at the repeated eruption of tribal/nationalist wars in the Balkans. There, during the early 1990s, we witnessed the return of “ethnic cleansing” and concentration camps. These are manifestations of tribal/national groups jockeying for collective self-determination.

[…]

To unpack Hazony’s argument is to see that his conception of nationalism is fundamentally opposed to the ideal of freedom.”

In today’s age of a return to nationalism, Journo’s insightful analysis is a must-read.

Link: The Vice of Nationalism

 

Salmieri: Differences Between Ayn Rand and Aristotle

Writes philosopher Greg Salmieri on the differences between Ayn Rand and Aristotle at Check Your Premises blog:

Rand is always focused on the individual human being, who has distinctive ideas and personal values that set him apart from others in his community and that may put him in conflict with them. She presents her moral philosophy in explicit contrast with moral codes that call for the individual to sacrifice his ideas and values to the demands of others. And, likewise, her political philosophy is formulated in explicit opposition to political philosophies that justify the sacrifice of individuals by the state. In this respect Rand has more in common with 19th Century individualists like Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche than she does with Aristotle. This individualism is also characteristic of the Romantic movement in literature, which Rand saw herself as a part of. All of these individualistic thinkers extol emotions (and/or will) as the seat of individuality, whereas Rand identifies a person first and foremost with his reason. In this she agrees with Aristotle, but her view of reason includes elements that were absent or under-emphasized in Aristotle.

Whereas Aristotle’s discussions of reason’s role in life are impersonal in character, Rand held that an individual’s reasoning is the source of the personal values (e.g. his love of his job or romantic partner) that make his life meaningful to him. This is because, in her view, reason is an attribute of the individual and it does not function automatically. Each individual must initiate and sustain reasoning by choice, and must learn how to discover knowledge and to choose values that are based on facts and integrate into a self-sustaining life. To function in this manner by choice is to be objectivein Rand’s sense of this term. I elaborated on this point in Chapter 6 of A Companion to Ayn Rand:

Only insofar as an individual chooses values in this way does he have a self‐interest at all. Values chosen subjectively, without regard for the requirements of human survival, will not form into a self‐sustaining whole; so rather than a coherent self‐interest that he can act to advance, the individual will have a motley assortment of conflicting desires. But neither can self-interest be intrinsic: there is an inexhaustible variety of possible combinations of values and activities that could cohere into a self‐sustaining human life, and there is nothing other than an individual’s choosing and pursuing one of these possibilities for himself that can make this particular life constitute his self‐interest and ultimate goal.

The entire post is worth a read as well as the book he co-edited A Companion to Ayn Rand.

Crawford: “Natural Resources” Are Anything But

Writes Jason Crawford on One man’s junk in his insightful Roots of Progress blog:

“Natural resources” are anything but.

I have said this before in the sense that everything we get from nature comes in an inconvenient form: metals must be extracted from their ores; grain must be milled or threshed and the wheat separated from its chaff; crude oil must be refined into its constituent weights.

But the more philosophical point is that all resources are the product of the human mind. A “natural” resource is only a resource at all in the context of a particular technology. It is only a resource to someone who can look at it and understand its use and value. And it is only a resource to someone who has the technology and the capital to extract it from its environment and put it to that use.

You can see this in the stories of the early development of industries.

Before the oil industry, there were known places where oily sludge or tar would seep out of the ground; people might skim some of it off a pond to light a torch, but no one was drilling it and no one considered it “black gold”.

The Marquette Iron Range near Lake Superior, which disrupted compass readings and attracted lightning, was known to local Chippewa tribes only as the home of a thunder god, until miners arrived to prospect and extract the ore.

The Chinchas Islands off the coast of Peru, covered in seagull droppings, were for a time the most valuable real estate in the world, owing to the value of guano as fertilizer—but before that discovery I can only imagine that sailors literally steered clear of them, owing to the overpowering stench.

But you can see the principle perhaps most starkly in the stories of valuable resources that were once considered waste products of industrial processes. 

Crawford then goes on to list and elaborate on resources that were once waste products: natural gas, portland cement and cast iron.

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