Russell W. Shurts

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About Russell W. Shurts

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  • Birthday 08/12/1954

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  • Location Centennial, Colorado
  • Interests Philosophy - Objectivism and Generally - Epistemology<br />History - America's Founding & Western Civilization<br />Literature - Science Fiction - Starting on Victor Hugo & Others<br />Writing - Personal Essays of Understanding - lots of LTE's<br />Tennis - Avid 4.5 Player<br />Sports of All Kinds - Competition<br />Education - Ways to Improve It<br />Ballroom Dancing - Just Started Learning<br />Loves of My Life - Becky, Amy and Colorado
  1. The Epistemological War

    The explosion of the Muslim world over Danish cartoons caricaturing their religion is perfect for demonstrating the essential issue in the ‘War on Terror,’ which I believe would be far more appropriately called ‘The Epistemological War.’ To see why I label it so, read on. Muslims who threaten and resort to violence over such depictions have an unshakeable belief in the righteousness of both their religion and it’s prescriptions for living one’s life. It is belief not subject to any kind of thought process, understanding or consideration of the possibility of the believer being wrong. I call it ‘Believing without Thinking.’ With such a state of mind, any kind of affront to that belief is considered to be every bit as wounding as the actual infliction of physical pain. Opposing these people are the people of western civilization who for over a hundred years have progressively devolved to a state I call ‘Thinking without Believing.’ For decade after decade the universities of the west have consistently put forth the idea that ‘nothing is certain,’ that no idea can be considered ‘right,’ and no action can be considered ‘proper.’ The people of Europe and America have been so indoctrinated by this pervasive skepticism as to be incapable of asserting even so bold a statement as, ‘ the sun comes up in the east.’ According to modern western philosophy there are no absolutes, and it is pointless to even attempt to find one. Westerners can and do ‘think’ about a great many things, but heaven help them if they ever actually believe anything. If you think I am overstating the case, consider if you have ever uttered or thought the following, ‘who am I to know,’ or, ‘who knows,’ or ‘that may be true for you but it is not true for me.’ In addition consider just how squeamish you feel whenever you assert yourself or even think about asserting yourself about any kind of intellectual question. Though western civilization is powerful almost beyond comprehension, and its’ Muslim adversaries are barely beyond the Stone Age, it is the primitive Muslim culture that has the upper hand in this war. This is so because a culture that asserts itself will not be defeated until it is physically and morally defeated while a culture that can accept ANY idea or action as valid will eventually be convinced that its own demise is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, this is exactly what we are seeing from many intellectual commentators in the west. They see nothing wrong with Muslim demands to stop doing the things free westerners have done for centuries; things like publishing political cartoons, things like women becoming doctors, lawyers and military officers to name just a very few of the professions they can aspire to, things like men shaving their beards, things like enjoying the beauty of a beautiful woman, things like enjoying one’s life for the sheer pleasure of it; well you get the picture. The reason intellectuals see nothing wrong with these demands is because they can come up with ‘logical’ reasons why each of these activities SHOULD be stopped. Because their skepticism has convinced them so thoroughly that NOTHING is provable, certain or absolute they can come up with ‘logical’ reasons for ANYTHING. This is why the proper name for this war is “The Epistemological War.” Webster’s definition of epistemology is “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” In the end, the Muslim culture is not contesting our civilization but our epistemology. They KNOW all the answers to the questions of life and are both willing to die and willing to kill for that belief. They are attempting to force their epistemology on a society that has essentially given up on the very idea of a search for a theory of knowledge. ‘Believing without Thinking’ will always trump ‘Thinking without Believing.’ But all is not lost. There is a critical weapon available to anyone willing to understand it that will utterly destroy the Muslim epistemology. That weapon is Objective Epistemology, or to continue in the same parlance as before, ‘Thinking for the express purpose of Believing,’ or put another way, ‘Believing supported by a proper method of Thinking.’ I can hear the objections now, however. Anyone who proclaims any certainty of knowledge is immediately confronted with hundreds of arguments from the skeptics. They focus exclusively on what we don’t know about reality or how human beings have been wrong in the past and will likely be wrong in the future or how easily fooled human beings can be. What such objections always evade is the absolute fact that human beings have achieved certainty time and time and time again, that we accept certainty as not only possible but likely on a continuous basis, and finally that we rely on certainty as an absolute and continuing fact of life. Even the most skeptical modern philosopher accepts all of what I just said in every single minute of his miserable life. Think I am out of my mind… well; consider the following in your own life. Let’s start with your first awakening each morning. You are warm and dry because you went to bed the night before relying on the fact that the house (or apartment, or dormitory…) you live in will keep out the weather, and that your central heating system will keep the temperature comfortable. The home you live in was built using a process of reason to insure it will keep standing and protect its inhabitants from the elements. The materials it is built out of were taken from nature and re-worked using a process of reason so they would perform as the builder expects them to. All of this works with certainty to keep you dry. Your central heating system was designed by the builder, using a process of reason, to circulate warm air throughout the home keeping it at a desired temperature. The machine that blows hot air throughout your house was invented using a process of reason. It burns fuel in a controlled fashion to generate heated air that is subsequently moved through the house by fans. Indeed, a process of reason was used to develop the concept of temperature and the means for measuring it. These various machines work, absolutely, to keep your home at a desired temperature. You rely on the house and the central heating system to keep you and your possessions warm and dry in every moment of your life. After waking up you drag yourself to the shower so you can clean your body and start your day fully awake and refreshed. The shower you step into was created by a process of reason to bring water from a source outside your home via a series of pipes to your bathroom. And some of that water is diverted temporarily into a large tank that uses another controlled burn to heat it before it is sent on its way to come pouring out on your face and shoulders. You absolutely rely on this device every single day (hopefully) to keep you clean and sweet-smelling. After your shower you go to your closet and pull out a variety of different clothes designed to both enhance your appearance and keep you warm and protected throughout the day. All of the shirts, shoes, pants, socks, dresses, coats and underwear have been developed using a process of reason so they will fit properly and comfortably, last a long time and be cleanable. The material each article of clothing is made from came from nature, and each material is processed and reworked using a process of reason so it will exhibit the qualities required by the person designing the clothes. You can know with certainty these clothes will serve their purpose day after day. After putting on your clothes you proceed to the kitchen where you find the food and drink you prepare for your breakfast. In your kitchen you find cabinets and shelves holding cereal, bread, jam, fruit and coffee along with the bowls, cups, glasses and plates to contain them. You also find a refrigerator holding milk for your cereal, or cold pizza from the night before. You use your coffee maker to make your coffee, and your toaster to toast your bread, and you put your meal on the dining table where you sit down and consume it using metal utensils. Let’s look at ALL of the things developed using a process of reason that allows you to eat your morning meal: • Cabinets and shelves designed to hold foodstuffs and various utensils used by you to hold, cook, prepare and consume those foodstuffs. • All of these various utensils are designed in such a way as to be useful, long-lasting and pleasing to the eye • The refrigerator that removes the heat from a contained area for the purpose of keeping perishable food items fresh longer. • The materials the refrigerator is made from so it can isolate the contained cold area from everything around it for a very long, long time, but also provide easy access to its contents and the ability to keep some of them in a frozen state. • The coffee maker that mixes water and coffee beans and then heats the combination in such a way that it creates the liquid refreshment known as coffee. • Cereal that is developed from raw materials, processed, packaged and shipped in a pleasing container that keeps it fresh, dry and edible for a long time. • Bread that is baked using raw materials, wrapped and delivered fresh. • Jam that is taken from nature, processed and placed in glass or plastic containers to be shipped to the market (another process of reason developed this business), where you purchase it and bring it home. • Fruit that is picked from trees or vines in such a way so as to protect it, and then packaged and delivered to your table. • Coffee that is picked from plants, processed, packaged and transported to your market, where you select it and take it home to be processed in your coffee maker. • And finally milk which is taken from the cow, refrigerated immediately, placed in glass or plastic or paper containers, shipped to refrigerated bins at the market to be purchased by you and placed in your refrigerator. All of these things happen every day, if not every hour or every minute, with absolute certainty, and you rely on each and every one of them, again with absolute certainty every single day of your life. Are you tired yet? We haven’t even gotten out the door, and I have conclusively demonstrated at least 35 separate instances where you absolutely and positively rely on the certainty created by a process of reason in order to live your life the way you want to live it. And frankly I have been kind in this litany; there are probably a hundred or maybe even a thousand times these separate instances where you are relying on the certainty of a process of reason in order to sustain your life and make it better. Just to drive home the point a little better let’s make a relatively short list of the devices and materials you will be using the rest of the day to sustain and enhance your life. Each of these things required a process of reason to be developed; a process of reason that you rely on every day with absolute certainty. • Doors to the outside world • Garage Door Openers • Automobiles including all of the following: o Tires o Steering Wheel o Leather Seats o Windows o Sun Roofs o Radios o CD Players o Engines o Brakes o Heaters o Air Conditioners • Roads • Curbs and Gutters • Sidewalks • Office Buildings or Factories • Desks • Chairs • Production Machines • Computers • Copiers • Telephones • Electrical Power Systems • Fax Machines • Lunchrooms • Restaurants • Merchants of every conceivable type and kind • Stoplights • TV’s • DVR’s • Ovens • Microwave Ovens • Krispy Kreme Donuts The whole point of this exercise is to impress upon each and every one of you just how MUCH certainty there is in your life, and it is ALL certainty provided by a process of reason, i.e. a proper method of thinking about the natural world for the express purpose of accomplishing something that will be beneficial to human beings. The very idea, foisted on us by so-called intellectuals, that we human beings are incapable of being certain about anything is beyond laughable. Take several moments from your own day today to see just what you absolutely, positively are relying on, and how it came into being. I think you will see that your life is a constant, minute-by-minute experience of on-going certainty about the man-made world you live in. I have spent the last three pages describing in minute detail many of the things people are certain of in their daily lives, but modern skeptics are incorrigible. I can hear them complaining that virtually every one of the things I’ve mentioned fails to work properly from time to time, and therefore they ‘can’t’ be relied upon. Au contraire; the fact that some of the things we absolutely, positively rely on each day sometimes fail only adds more substance to my arguments. It is because we come to expect all of these things to work properly that it is both annoying and relatively big news in our lives whenever one of them fails to work. For example, the keyboard I am writing on is working perfectly right now. I have used computer keyboards for over 20 years, and can count on one hand the number of times I have ever had a problem with one. Let’s assume that means I have experienced five problems with keyboards over the last 20 years, and let’s also assume that I use a keyboard approximately 50 weeks out of every year, and that I use one ten times every day. That would work out to 70,000 usages of a keyboard with 5 failures in that time, a failure rate of .007%; but of course, there is no such thing as certainty. But these facts aren’t most damning to the modern skeptic’s case. What happens when a problem occurs speaks volumes about what people really believe in. If this keyboard suddenly stopped working, would I throw my hands in the air and moan about my inability to know anything? Would I wail about the hopelessness of life, and the inevitable rotten end that will come to us all? Would I get down on my knees and pray to Allah to fix it? Perhaps I would do a little ‘techno dance’ to implore the gods to let my keyboard work again? Or maybe I would start using a process of reason to try to determine what the problem is; so I could fix it. Even when the products of our processes of reason fail us, we know enough and have enough belief in the reliability of reason to apply a process of it to the failure. We KNOW that only by employing such a process will we be able to achieve the success of our goal, and we KNOW this because we know there really isn’t a Santa Claus out there taking care of everything for us, and we know that reality NEVER plays tricks on us. Our minds might play tricks on us from time to time, but reality never does. But then again we also know that our only hope of sorting out the tricks our minds might play on us is to once again employ a proper method of thinking, i.e. a process of reason. But our persistent modern skeptic might come back on me and say, “But you don’t understand all of the things you have been talking about. You don’t know how a car works or how a house is built or how thermometers tell temperature. How can you claim certainty, when you don’t know how anything works, or how to re-create any of these things should any of them ever vanish?” And to a certain extent, he would be right. But only to the extent that I truly don’t know how many of the things I use REALLY work, and I wouldn’t be able to develop them myself. But once again, all this does is prove my point all the more. It does this in two ways. First, though I don’t know how many of these things work, there is something I do five days a week that I do know very, very well. My career is the one place where I am the expert. Many, many people rely on me to know what I am doing in the job functions I perform, just as I am certain that many, many people rely on each of you to perform the job functions you have learned through years of experience. They and I can be certain of the work I perform using a process of reason. Perhaps you might think you are not an expert at what you do, but if you think about it, regardless of what you do to earn your sustenance, it must be of sufficient value for another person to pay you for it. Second, though I don’t know how many of the things I use work I do employ a process of reason in purchasing and using all of them. I sometimes make mistakes, but if I employ a proper method of reasoning in making my choices I typically end up with exactly what good or service I am trying to acquire to enhance my life. I may not know how these things work, but I can trade my own expertise to others (through a medium called money) to acquire the things they are expert at providing. And I can use a process of reason to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the goods and services I am trading for, and the quality and moral character of the people I am trading with. Once again, a process of reason leading to certainty reigns supreme and positively explodes the idea our ‘intellectual’ leaders put forth that we are all just helpless automatons in an unknowable, malevolent world. Finally, your garden variety modern intellectual would likely claim that all I have been discussing are goods and services, and that of course reason works for making things or for serving drinks, but it doesn’t work in the intellectual realm, i.e. ethics, politics, esthetics and epistemology. To answer this, let me first pose a rhetorical question; would you prefer to live under the Constitution of the United States or the Sharia of the Muslim religion. The first was created using a process of reason applied to reality and human nature. The second was created by a 7th century egomaniacal religious dictator using a process of faith. Even with all of its faults there has been no finer political system for human beings to live under in the history of the world than the American system. And there could be no more daunting a task in the realm of politics than creating a just and lasting rule of law over an entire continent; yet that is precisely what our Founding Fathers created for us. For all Americans reading this that means that for all of your life you have relied on the certainty provided by this political system every time you make a purchase, work at your job, go on a vacation, create something new or any of a million endeavors you engage in throughout your long life. Do you still give ANY credence to the supposed intellectuals who tell you that you can’t be certain of anything, most emphatically including the objective value of the American culture and your life in it? This is why I call this ‘The Epistemological War.’ In the end, the only reason the situation has gotten so bad is because Americans no longer have certainty about the value of their political system, their culture and their lives. The only way this could ever have happened is because they have swallowed whole the nonsense spewed out by their supposed intellectual betters that there is no such thing as objectivity. And the only way it is ever going to get better is by the good people of this country regaining the idea of certainty and proudly asserting that fact using a proper epistemology, i.e. a process of reason. Belief supported by a proper process of reason will ALWAYS trump Believing without Thinking and Thinking without Believing.
  2. The Danger of Democracy

    The basis for any essay I write is my general reading and life experience. I am not attempting a scholarly paper with all of my points researched and footnoted. As such what you are getting is my opinion based on that general reading and life experience and as a free man, you are free to consider my arguments and reject them if they do not persuade you. As to this particular essay, I have read a number of biographies of the Founding Fathers in the last few years, and I would say that the term 'revile' would fit most of their opinions of the concept democracy very well. Most of the Founding Fathers regarded democracy as a mob rule that would eventually degenerate into anarchy eventually turning into some form of tyranny or subjugation by a foreign power. They had several instances in history to back them up. In particular the Athenians, the Romans and the Carthaginians in ancient times all had thriving democracies at one time that eventually degenerated to either tyranny or subjugation. These ideas are not my own but mostly come from C. Bradley Thompson's "John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty," John Lewis' tape set "Aristotle and the Constitution of the Athenians" and Cicero's "On Government." The best example of this is Julius Caesar's expropriation of the Roman government after almost 500 years of democratic/republican rule. Another classic example of democracy run riot is The French Revolution, with it's Reign of Terror eventually degenerating into the military dictatorship of Napoleon. It was precisely this kind of anarchy that many of America's Founding Fathers most feared. But to be fair some of the Founding Fathers were more pre-disposed to Democracy than others. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, was more fearful of the potential for a single dictator than he was of democracy. He initially thought the French Revolution was a grand turn of events, and only later, after the mass executions started, changed his opinion of it. Benjamin Franklin also was initially more in favor of a pure democratic form of government than the eventual tripartite republic that was created. But John Adams, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton all were absolutely dead-set against Democracy, and Adams and Washington predicted the eventual outcome of the French Revolution when it first happened. Essentially the theme of my essay was that the concept of democracy, with all of its connotations of majority rule. has overridden what was originally the FIRST principle of the founding of this country, liberty. Everything I have read about John Adams' role in creating most of the state constitutions prior to the revolution, to the eventual creation of the American Constitution itself by men who had been trained in the principles Adams had repeatedly fought for and embedded in these state constitutions, to the creation of the government itself by Washington and Hamilton tells me that the first principle these men were working on was to devise a lasting government that would continue to guarantee the freedom of the citizens it governed. This was why they went to such great pains to separate power, because they knew that concentrated power, be it in the hands of a King, or in the hands of the electorate or in the hands of an aristocracy would eventually lead to the diminution and eventual eradication of the liberty they had fought so hard to win. There are a number of things that have happened philosophically in the years since the country's founding that have contributed to just such a diminution in our freedom. It is my contention that one of the principle philosophical weapons used has been to slowly replace the concept freedom as our government's first principle with the concept democracy. As to how this happened, I speculated in the essay that popularly elected politicians who are hungry for power were more than happy to promote democracy as a first principle, but I haven't done the research necessary to say this with certainty. Whatever the reason, I do believe the modern habit of making freedom and democracy synonymous is one of the main, if not biggest, reasons why our freedom continues to be whittled away. I say this because I see all the time that the only justification for the myriad actions taken by our government to expropriate property and violate people's freedoms is that the majority voted for it. Our dumbed down population believes, rightly so, that democracy means everybody has a say in how things are run. Because they have been taught that democracy means freedom and freedom means democracy, they believe that having this say, i.e. the right to vote, is the very essence of freedom. As such they continue to vote away their (and my) real freedom. Contrary to the idea that any number of governmental forms would guarantee freedom I believe the intitial governmental form the founders gave us is probably the only one that would guarantee liberty; but only if Objectivist philosophy was at its foundation, and only if there were proper provisions in it to guarantee property rights. In the end, however, it is only philosophy, and in this case, only the Objectivist philosophy that can ever truly safeguard freedom, because only philosophy provides the reasons why men should be free. For those interested in where many of the ideas in this essay came from; below is a listing of the books I have read that relate to this subject. "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow "John Adams" by David McCullough "Benjamin Franklin" by Ronald W. Clark "Washington" by James Thomas Flexner "Founding Father" by Richard Brookhiser "Benjamin Franklin" by Edmund S. Morgan "A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States" by Joseph Story "Thomas Jefferson" by Willard Sterne Randall "Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis "John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty" by C. Bradley Thompson "On Government" by Cicero "Aristotle and the Constitution of the Athenians" tape set by John Lewis Also James Rothering's email series on Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention provided much of my understanding of the ideas and sentiments of some of the lesser lights among the Founding Fathers. Rothering's email series on The Federalist Papers also was quite illuminating.
  3. Two Groups

    To the Editor: Please consider two groups of people I will refer to as Group A and Group B. Through industrious hard work the people in Group A did the following with a natural substance found in the ground. First they developed ever more ingenious methods for extracting the substance. Then they took the substance and created a myriad of products. The products the people in Group A offered could only stand on their own merits. No single person was ever forced to buy these products, and if they hadn’t, all of the efforts and resources expended by the people of Group A would have come to naught. Yet billions of people around the world have found these products so valuable that the demand for them has continued to grow for decades on end. Through industrious hard work the people in Group B did the following. First they decided that people weren’t doing enough for their fellow citizens. They looked at the situation and developed a program where each person would be required to contribute a portion of his or her assets in order to provide transportation, medical care, education and a myriad of other goods and services to other people. Then they spent many hours and lots of resources attempting to convince enough people to go ahead with their plan. In the end they were successful when, on the day of decision, more than half the people who chose to make their opinion known decided to authorize this plan and make it the law of the land. As a result of the efforts of the people in Group B every person living under this new law will be required to give a portion of his assets to this plan, whether he wants to or not. These two scenarios eloquently describe the difference between the two basic political systems men have ever devised; Individualism and Collectivism. The basic difference between these two systems is specifically represented by their use of force. The difference relates not to the people of Group A or the people of Group B but to how all the rest of us are treated by what each Group has to offer. Concerning Group A’s products, each INDIVIDUAL can make up his own mind whether he wants them or not. If he doesn’t want them, then nobody is going to force him to give the people of Group A anything. Concerning Group B’s program, the COLLECTIVE, i.e. more than 50% of the population making a choice, has decided for all the rest of us that we WILL contribute to their program. Any person who decides he doesn’t want to contribute will be incarcerated and have his assets confiscated anyway. For me, I want freedom. I want to live in a world where I choose what I will do with my life and my property. If you think you agree with me and are yourself an advocate of freedom, i.e. Individualism, then I invite you to consider your opinion in light of the knowledge that the people in Group A are actually the people who own and work for oil companies, and the people in Group B are actually the people who engineered the recent yes vote on Colorado’s Referendum C. If you really do consider yourself an advocate of freedom, but are all for a Windfall Profits Tax on the oil companies or voted for Referendum C or both, then you shouldn’t be surprised or upset when the collective decides to turn its attention to you.
  4. The Con Men of the Mind

    THE CON MEN OF THE MIND By Russell W. Shurts This country began with a revolutionary new idea; that all men should be treated equal in the eyes of the law. Under this new American political system a person had to physically harm another before the law, i.e. the government, would intrude into his life. In addition, before the law could take punitive action against him his offending action had to be proved to the satisfaction of a judge and twelve honest men. Beginning in 1887, this ceased to be the law of the land, at least as it pertained to one very special type of person, the businessman. In that year, the people of the United States created the Interstate Commerce Commission, the first regulatory agency in the country’s history. With its establishment all men and women engaged in the railroad business were stripped of the right to run their businesses as they saw fit. In the future the people of the United States acting through the Interstate Commerce Commission would have the final say on how their businesses would be run. With the implementation of this first regulatory agency it was only a short time before businessmen in other fields would also lose their right to be equal before the law. In the years since 1887, Americans through their government have created a cornucopia of agencies that ensure businessmen in virtually all fields have lost the right to make decisions about their own property, i.e. their businesses. Following is only a partial list of those agencies • Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice • Consumer Product Safety Commission – CPSC • Department of Agriculture – DOA • Department of Labor - DOL • Department of Transportation – DOT • Federal Aviation Administration – FAA • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – FDIC • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – FERC • Federal Highway Administration • Federal Housing Administration • Federal Reserve • Federal Trade Commission - FTC • National Labor Relations Board – NLRB • National Transportation Safety Board – NTSB • Nuclear Regulatory Commission – NRC • Railroad Retirement Board – RRB • Small Business Administration – SBA • Social Security Administration – SSA The primary reason given for the establishment and continued existence of these agencies is that the general public (meaning anyone who isn’t a businessman) must be protected in advance from these ‘predatory’ men and women who would swindle them at the drop of a hat. Businesspeople apparently are viler than any other member of society because they are penalized BEFORE they harm anyone. But are they really more vile? It has been my experience that criminals can be found in every walk of life as can men of virtue. I have known scoundrels with millions and scoundrels that are penniless, and I have known scoundrels in each economic class in between. Furthermore I have also found that a man’s profession is no more an indicator of character than economic class. If one’s economic status or profession is not an indicator of moral character then what is it about businessmen that have caused society to treat them all as incipient con men? The only thing that makes any sense is the one thing that makes businessmen different from the rest of us; the fact that they are responsible for the goods and services that keep all of us alive, well and thriving. Apparently because their goods and services are so vitally important to the rest of us, these men and women must have all their activities scrutinized and regulated in advance so as to make sure the rest of us are never harmed by their actions or their inactions. But what if I told you there was something far more important to human beings than the goods and services businesspeople provide. If I could convince you of this fact, wouldn’t it follow that the people responsible for developing and maintaining something so valuable should be subjected to the same kind of regulatory treatment businesspeople have endured for over 100 years? The ‘something more valuable’ I am talking about is the human mind. Because it is the ultimate source of ALL the goods and services in the world the human mind is the most important, most valuable thing there is. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to explain how any good or service has come into existence without a human mind being responsible for it. Goods and services don’t just magically appear (there really is NO Santa Claus). In every single instance if something of value to human beings exists; it first had to be invented, then developed, then mass produced and finally transported. None of these activities has EVER happened without a human mind creating and managing it. But more important even than the development of goods and services is the value the mind has to each individual. Think about it for a moment; regardless of whether one is a successful entrepreneur or works on an assembly line it is each person’s mind that provides each person’s means of survival. Furthermore, consider, dear reader, how your life has been affected by how well you have used your mind. If you consider your life honestly I think you will see that the best, most joyous times of your life have come when you have done your best thinking. Conversely I think you would find that your most difficult problems have typically come about because of a failure to think well. It the mind is so important, then, shouldn’t the people who develop and feed minds, i.e. the intellectuals, be subjected to scrutiny and regulation at least as onerous as the scrutiny and regulation businesspeople are subjected to. By intellectuals I mean the men and women who make their living by providing the ideas the rest of us use to help us live our lives. Professors, writers, journalists, dramatists, teachers, novelists, actors, artists, pastors, talk show hosts and musicians are just some of the people I would classify as intellectuals. What is to prevent any, or all of these people from misleading and lying to you? Indeed, their right to say or write anything they want is protected by the first amendment. With such protection they have gotten away with far worse than murder. For example, how many thousands of people are dying in the world right now of malaria simply because intellectuals decided thirty years ago, without one shred of evidence, that the pesticide DDT was dangerous to human life? The erroneous IDEA that DDT is harmful to human life has been far more harmful to human life than DDT ever could have been. Or take another example from the political realm. It was intellectuals who developed the political systems known as Communism and Fascism, and it was intellectuals who convinced people in several countries to run their governments in accordance with these political systems. Only a few MILLION people lost their lives because of these two ideas. Indeed, even today a significant number of intellectuals still fervently believe in the validity of these political systems and continue to work diligently to convince the people of this country to turn its government over to one of them. Or consider an idea that has been even more destructive of human life; the moral code of altruism. At the root of all evil political systems and most of the misery humans allow into their lives is this moral code preaching the goodness of self-sacrifice; the IDEA that a person’s life is somehow ‘better’ if he gives up all the things he values. What a farce, and yet this is what the vast majority of the professors, writers, journalists, dramatists, teachers, novelists, actors, artists, pastors, talk show hosts, musicians and other assorted intellectuals have been feeding the human race for thousands of years. Well, it is high time this behavior ceased. If Martha Stewart can be sent up the river for 6 months for selling her property, then, by God, Noam Chomsky should be put in shackles for the rest of his life for foisting his nihilist philosophy on thousands of innocent students. The combined ‘sins’ of every millionaire businessman since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution haven’t done one-millionth the amount of damage intellectuals such as Chomsky and his ilk have done to the lives of countless millions of innocent human beings. It is imperative, therefore, for the good of all human beings, that intellectuals be subjected to the most stringent regulatory requirements a good bureaucratic government can devise. After all, if businessmen are all incipient con men of goods and services, then surely every professor, journalist, TV reporter, novelist, playwright, minister, teacher and artist you see can be considered a prepubescent “Con Man of the Mind.” For starters I would strongly urge passage of the PPMA, the Protection from Professorial Misconduct Act. Just like businessmen who routinely must go to the government to beg for a license to operate, budding professors would have to go before the Professorial Conduct Board to beg for a license to dispense the ideas they hold dear. I suspect the first ‘professor’ brought up before this new regulatory agency would be Colorado’s Own Ward Churchill. Another agency I would strongly advocate creating would be the MCC, the Media Content Commission. Anyone planning on writing or presenting a news story would have to have its content vetted by this commission before it could be given to the general public. I would imagine Dan Rather would be first in the docket trying to explain a career of pawning off leftist ideology as ‘objective’ reporting. In rapid succession I could envision the AAA, the Anti-Altruist Act, the PMA, the Pastor and Minister Administration, the NPSB, the Novelist and Playwright Safety Board, and most importantly, the EITA, the Eradication of Incompetent Teachers Act. If you consider the idea of regulating the Con Men of the Mind absurd, then consider just how absurd each of the federal agencies I listed at the beginning of this essay really is. And if you can correctly recognize just how dangerous the idea of regulating a person’s mind is, then hopefully you can see how equally dangerous the idea and practice of regulating what a person buys and sells is; for it truly is a short step to go from regulating what a person produces and trades to regulating what a person thinks.
  5. Reason as the Foundation of Civilization

    The initiation of force is the ultimate evil. It inflicts one person’s irrationality on another, and in so doing completely stops that person from living his life. Sports are (or should be) life-affirming activities, where human beings engage in rational tests of skill, endurance and competence in a completely safe setting. For someone like me, then, who both understands these facts and loves sports, the following incidents are even more repulsive. In the last year we who love sports have been subjected to Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi severely injuring the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore with a sucker punch, Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima being attacked by a spectator as he was leading the Olympic marathon in Athens, Texas Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco hitting a woman in the stands with a chair and the Ron Artest-inspired ‘Rumble in Detroit.’ All of these events hit the sports pages for everyone to know about, but even more disgusting are the following incidents that have personally afflicted me: being caught in a rumble between rival high schools at the end of a state championship basketball game, being personally screamed at from the stands while playing college basketball, listening to a drunken spectator obscenely berate the home team’s coach and players, and finally as the coup de grace, being bull-rushed and challenged to a fight in the parking lot by the opposing coach of my 6-year old daughter’s basketball team. I’m sure almost everyone reading this can cite similar incidents in their own lives, be they sports-related or not. Simply describing vile behavior, however, does nothing. I despise such incidents with every fiber of my being, but they won’t cease by simply wishing them away. My purpose here, therefore, is to give my understanding of what will be necessary in order to make such incidents rare if not utterly non-existent. Given the above, any columnist today, depending on his or her political viewpoint, will either decry the general moral breakdown of society, or denounce sports for being too competitive, or condemn society as a whole for being way too violent, or present all of the above as evidence that people do not love one another enough, or excoriate the victims in the above scenarios for not being man enough to confront such cretins physically, or lambaste the authorities for not providing adequate security, or on and on and on into the night … well, you get the picture. And then at the end of such platitudes, today’s columnist will typically end his piece by figuratively throwing his hands up in the air and declare the problem insoluble, usually by invoking his personal version of ‘Original Sin.’ To which this particular essayist responds with a resounding “Bunk!” The problem with almost everybody today is they think the world began the moment they were born; that everyone prior to, pick a date in the last 100 years, was an abject moron incapable of thinking about such things as human behavior and how to organize a collection of humans living in the same place so they aren’t continually clubbing each other over the head. If one studies the history of the human race, one quickly realizes human behavior hasn’t changed – we are today pretty much as we were thousands of years ago. Disagreements and misunderstandings are part and parcel of being human; as is the presence of downright evil in a small but significant percentage of the population. The question, as it has been since the beginning, is how best to deal with all of these disagreements, misunderstandings and downright evil whenever it is present. The preferred way for virtually everybody for thousands of years (as it still is today for many people) was to resort to violence. See if the following scenario sounds familiar: I am wronged by another person, so in a fit of anger I find this person and proceed to beat him senseless. But once I have beaten him senseless, if he survives, won’t he be angry and try to come back and beat me senseless? Or if he doesn’t survive won’t his sons or friends be angry with me and proceed to find me so they can beat me senseless in turn, thus touching off a continuous chain of beatings and bloodlust, not unlike what has been happening in many parts of our world since human history began. What I have been describing is savagery and it was (and still is in many parts of the world) the state of human existence for almost 100,000 years. For some people, especially the downright evil ones, this state of affairs is just ducky, for they truly are savages, but for the rest of us, a significant majority, it is a miserable waste of life and human experience. There has to be a better way. There is and the first steps towards developing that better way were taken in ancient Greece approximately 2,500 years ago. Instead of relying on emotions and superstitions the best of these ancient Greeks, known as philosophers, began to apply the human mind to their problems, including this on-going problem of how to live with each other. And when I talk about applying the human mind, I mean quite specifically the application of reason – the human faculty of identifying and integrating the material provided by our five senses. What the ancient Greek philosophers, and specifically the greatest of them, Aristotle, did was to create the branch of philosophy we now know as epistemology. Epistemology is the science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge. Epistemology may be a big word, but it truly has a simple meaning. All it really means is, ‘discovering how human beings know what they know.’ Whether you know it or not, you employ epistemology in virtually every waking moment of your life. As a human being you have no choice in the matter, because, as a human being, your sole method of dealing with reality and thus dealing with your continued existence in that reality is through the use of the reasoning ability of your mind. In order to deal with that reality successfully it is critically important for you to be able to rely on that reasoning ability, or in other words, to know what you know. Until the ancient Greeks came along, however, human beings had no understanding of their reasoning ability, and therefore no guide for how to properly use it. Because of this, any fanciful notion that came into somebody’s mind was likely to be considered just as valid as a rationally derived, logical thought. And if there is no means for determining just what is true and valid, which was entirely the case prior to the beginnings of philosophy then there is no means for determining who is right or who is wrong with regard to any conflicts that arise between men. Decent men, who have no means for determining the correctness of a position will, by necessity, have to resort to violence in order to achieve their goals. There are no other alternatives. But if such decent men are given the means for determining what is right and wrong, even if such means are but a glimmer, then they can employ persuasion as opposed to violence in order to come to a resolution of their conflicts. This is precisely what we began to see in history around 500 to 400 B.C., where men began to form political associations such as democracies and republics, and began to develop what would eventually become the rule of law. These were the first baby steps taken by those non-evil human beings who wanted something better than the slavery and butchery they had lived with for countless thousands of years. Before proceeding, however, I must caution against the tendency to ascribe modern concepts of freedom and rationality to people who were just beginning to rise out of savagery. Just as every child must learn to crawl before walking and walk before running, the human race, through thousands of years, had to develop the ability to reason first before applying that reason to more complex subjects and problems. Indeed it is my contention that human beings are still very early in this process, and that this progress has been and continues to be only on the order of two steps forward and 1.999 steps backward. For approximately 800 years, from 500 B.C. to 300 A.D., first the Greeks and then the Romans made the first progress towards civilization. Do not make the assumption that the people of that time enjoyed lives anything similar to how modern-day Americans live, but also DO NOT diminish their accomplishment. Imagine, if you can, how difficult life would be for children and teenagers of today if they were suddenly removed from civilization and forced to fend for themselves on a desert island. Chances are excellent that such young people would NOT survive, yet they would be considerably better equipped to deal with reality than adult human beings were just prior to the rise of ancient Greece. What the Greeks did and the Romans that followed was to lay the foundation for the civilization we enjoy today. And the men MOST responsible for laying that foundation were the philosophers; the first men in all of human history to apply reason to the solving of humanity’s problems. Now, a paragraph back I said the progress of mankind has been 2 steps forward and 1.999 steps backward; well the Greeks represent the 2 steps forward but what came next represents the 1.999 steps backward. The rise of faith in the former Roman Empire as signified by the coming to power of the Christian religion effectively put an end to using the power of reason in human affairs. When Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire all human thought in the civilized world had to first agree with Christian theology before it could be disseminated or pursued. If one wished for an answer to a problem, especially a problem on how to deal with another human being, one only had to consult the bible, or more particularly, the priest or church father who interpreted the bible. The end result of this state of affairs was predictable; over a thousand years of stagnation which history has appropriately named, “The Dark Ages.” This state of affairs would continue today were it not for the re-introduction to the world of the philosophical works of the ancient Greeks and more specifically the re-discovery of the genius of one man, Aristotle, by the genius of another man, Thomas Aquinas. We have the Muslim Arabs of the Dark Ages to thank for this boon to humanity, for it was the greatest intellectuals of their culture who kept alive the study of Aristotle and the other Greek philosophers during this evil time in human history. Only when Thomas Aquinas embraced Aristotle in the 13th century could human beings once again apply reason to the affairs of mankind. Aquinas was a man of God who believed the ability to reason was God’s gift to Man, and that Man by employing this gift to the best of his ability succeeded in glorifying God. Because this view became the reigning view of the then all-powerful Catholic Church it spawned a massive leap forward in civilization known as the Renaissance. It was during the Renaissance when men of science like Galileo and Newton began to understand and explain much of the natural world through science. Even then, there were still restrictions on just how far human reason could be pursued, as can be seen by the Catholic Church threatening Galileo with burning at the stake if he did not renounce his belief in a sun-centered universe. Progress was being made, however, and it was the Renaissance that paved the way for the Enlightenment and its greatest philosopher, John Locke, to apply reason to the problems of human society. It is here where we begin to see, for the first time since the ancient Greeks and Romans, how reason could be used to understand human nature and therefore how to properly create a society and a government in concert with that nature. Locke’s philosophy was the philosophical leap forward responsible for the founding of America, and consequently the freedom that is still enjoyed by Americans today. Following is an analysis by The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy of the essential ideas in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Governments; see if you can see anything familiar in it: “The state of nature knows no government; but in it, as in political society, men are subject to the moral law, which is the law of God. Men are born free and equal in rights. Whatever a man "mixes his labour with" is his to use. Or, at least, this was so in the primitive condition of human life in which there was enough for all and "the whole earth was America." Locke sees that, when men have multiplied and land has become scarce, rules are needed beyond those which the moral law or law of nature supplies. But the origin of government is traced not to this economic necessity, but to another cause. The moral law is always valid, but it is not always kept. In the state of nature all men equally have the right to punish transgressors: civil society originates when, for the better administration of the law, men agree to delegate this function to certain officers. Thus government is instituted by a "social contract"; its powers are limited, and they involve reciprocal obligations; moreover, they can be modified or rescinded by the authority which conferred them.” In Locke’s philosophy of government you find the theory of natural rights; i.e. the assertion that men are born free, and the further implication that free men, in order to live together, establish government for the purpose of maintaining that freedom through the administration of law. And that furthermore, such a government’s powers are limited, and can be revoked by the men who created it in the first place. It is a short step from this philosophy to “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” In establishing the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Founders approached the zenith of applying the human faculty of reason to the problem of how people can live together without constantly clubbing each other over the head, i.e. politics. But please remember that I said ‘approached,’ and also remember what I said about progress being 2 steps forward and 1.999 steps back. Today’s modern reader might assume that because we in America still live under the government our Founding Fathers formed over 200 years ago, we are still just as free and just as civilized as our colonial ancestors were. Nothing could be further from the truth and the culprit is once again philosophy; specifically the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Perhaps you have heard some of the following sayings, indeed; perhaps you have said them yourself. Each of them is a modern manifestation of the philosophical sea change for which Kant is responsible. Each quote is followed by the name of the philosopher who originated the idea it represents: “I can’t prove it, but I feel that it’s true.” Kant “It’s logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality.” Kant “It may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” William James “I couldn’t help it. Nobody can help anything he does.” Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel “Act first, think afterward.” John Dewey After reading these you might be saying to yourself, “Sure I’ve said those things at different times, but I don’t have to believe those things all of the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it’s not true today.” That idea came from Hegel. Or in response you might have said to yourself, “But can’t one compromise and borrow ideas from different philosophies, according to the expediency of the moment.” You got that idea from William James. The essence of all these quotes reflects the essence of Kant’s philosophy, i.e. the obliteration of objective reality and objective truth to be replaced by reality and truth that are only ‘created’ in each person’s mind. It is Kant’s contention that our minds cannot KNOW true reality, and, as such, no claim made about reality can ever objectively be proven true. All of the other philosophers mentioned above developed their own versions of Kant’s philosophy, but it was Kant who developed the fundamental philosophy upon which all modern philosophy has been ‘built.’ At the same time the Founding Fathers were establishing the United States of America, Kant was developing what would eventually become the dominant philosophy of the modern world. Kant in his seminal work, “The Critique of Pure Reason,” explicitly stated his objective, “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.” Alarmed that the Enlightenment embrace of ‘reason’ was slowly eroding religion as a force in men’s lives, Kant made it his life’s work to develop a philosophy where reason would be removed from it’s pinnacle to be replaced once again by faith, i.e. the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Kant’s philosophy, in essence, divorces man’s mind from his ability to know reality. To put it more explicitly, in order to follow Kant’s philosophy one must make the following choice: either be logical and certain of something that has nothing to do with the reality in which we live, or make assertions about reality that can never be certain. Kant was wildly successful, but instead of re-instituting the faith of religion his philosophy ended up plunging the modern world into a morass of skepticism. Kant and his philosophical heirs, Hegel, Dewey, Karl Marx and many others succeeded in propagating this philosophy throughout Europe and subsequently across the ocean to America, where its effects can be seen in such diverse areas as progressive education, New Deal socialism, and environmentalism, all activities which rely implicitly on an epistemology of skepticism, i.e. the inability to know anything. As the Founding Fathers were installing reason and rights as the guiding lights for an entire nation, the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, was embedding a philosophy in the world that made reason impossible and therefore all the benefits to be derived from reason irrelevant. If men cannot use reason to solve their differences, then they are left with one alternative, the use of force. Remember how we started down this path at the beginning of this essay: Until the ancient Greeks came along, however, human beings had no understanding of their reasoning ability, and therefore no guide for how to properly use it. Because of this, any fanciful notion that came into somebody’s mind was likely to be considered just as valid as a rationally derived, logical thought. And if there is no means for determining just what is true and valid, which was entirely the case prior to the beginnings of philosophy then there is no means for determining who is right or who is wrong with regard to any conflicts that arise between men. Decent men, who have no means for determining the correctness of a position will, by necessity, have to resort to violence in order to achieve their goals. There are no other alternatives. If you want to know why the world we grew up in has become more and more crass, violent and vile, all you need to understand is that your leaders have abandoned reason. They have abandoned reason, because their teachers, and their teachers’ teachers; the philosophers, have convinced them that reason can say nothing relevant about reality or human affairs. But in abandoning reason they are slowly consigning themselves and all of us to the law of the jungle, i.e. to the kind of savagery we supposedly raised ourselves out of over 2,500 years ago. If you have ever rebelled in disgust at the sight of people sticking posts through their tongues or embalming their bodies in tattoos, you now understand that these actions are just one small indication of a civilization slowly reverting back to the savagery from which it started. At the beginning of this essay I promised to relate my understanding of what would be needed “in order to make such incidents [vile behavior] rare if not utterly non-existent.” Hopefully, my answer to this problem is now readily apparent: In order for that happy day to ever be realized, the best of us, the leaders who run this world, need to return to a philosophy based on reason. Now, a return to the philosophies of Aristotle or of Aquinas, Newton and Locke would be better than what we have today, but each of those philosophers, as great as they were, had errors in their philosophies; errors that evil men such as Kant and Augustine were able to use to defeat them. There is a philosophy of reason, however, that has no errors in it. I am speaking of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. To Ayn Rand, reality is objective and unchangeable. Even if every human being were wiped from existence, the reality we exist in would still exist. And to Ayn Rand, the human mind, through its use of the conceptual power of reason, is eminently capable of understanding that reality with certainty. Ayn Rand is the first philosopher in history to proclaim reason as her only absolute, and I am asking each of you reading this to use your own faculty of reason to understand the necessity of that fact if we are ever going to have the kind of world we ALL want to live in.
  6. The Danger of Democracy

    Recently our President and his top advisors have been touting the benefits of democracy to the world. The recent elections in Iraq, and other activities promoting democracy throughout the world, are seen by most Americans as a good thing, something moral and just that is likely to provide more freedom and security for people everywhere. I profoundly disagree with this assessment. If it is not stopped, the idea of democracy will eventually lead to misery and ruin for us all. To see why I would state such heresy let’s examine both the word ‘democracy’ and the idea it is supposed to connote in depth. Since I have been alive I have heard the American form of government referred to as a democracy, and I have also heard all the countries routinely thought of as ‘free’ referred to as democracies. Indeed, the words democracy and freedom have almost become synonymous. And yet when I investigate the actual word, ‘democracy,’ I find that its essential meaning doesn’t have anything to do with freedom. Here is the definition I found for democracy at Merriam-Webster Online: Government by the people; especially : rule of the majority; a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections And here is the definition I found for freedom: The quality or state of being free: as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; independence The word democracy refers to a method of government in which everybody has a say in who has the legal authority to use force in a geographical area, and/or how that legal force is to be used. Freedom simply states a particular condition a human being can find himself in. As an aside, if you think government is something other than “the entity that has the legal authority to use force in a geographical area,” try to think of a government that doesn’t fit this definition. You won’t find one. There is nothing in either definition that presupposes the other, nothing in democracy that requires or even necessarily promotes freedom for individual human beings, and nothing in the word freedom that requires a certain type of government to ensure it being the state a human being will find himself in. And yet, there is a general consensus in society, or at least American society that democracy means freedom and freedom means democracy. Why, when even today’s definitions do not make the two words synonymous, has this equating of the one with the other come about? Perhaps it started with the founding of this country, so let’s take our examination there next. A review of history shows the Founding Fathers didn’t have any kind words to say about democracy. Specifically, I found the following quotes from delegates to the original Constitutional Convention of 1787: “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.” Elbridge Gerry “He observed that the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the U.S. laboured; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.” Edmund Randolph “Notwithstanding the oppressions & injustice experienced among us from democracy.” George Mason “This was the only defense against the inconveniencies of democracy.” James Madison “The members most tenacious of republicanism, he observed, were as loud as any in declaiming against the vices of democracy.” Alexander Hamilton And it is not just these quotes taken out of context that show our Founding Fathers’ distaste for democracy. Read the political views of virtually any of these men and you will find a complete revulsion for democracy. And if you do take the time to read the political views of the most important Founders you will find; instead of a commitment to democracy a commitment to liberty, an entirely different idea. The Founders’ bedrock principle, upon which our government was built, was providing for and protecting the freedom of its citizens. They did NOT think the form of government known as democracy would achieve this end. That is why they went to such extraordinary lengths to set-up a tripartite government where power would be shared by three separate branches. They had seen throughout history, that democracies, either governments run directly by the citizens or governments run entirely by an elected legislature, inevitably dissolved into anarchy to be followed shortly either by a tyrant or subjugation to a foreign power. Indeed, several of the Founding Fathers, among them John Adams and George Washington, predicted both the ‘Reign of Terror’ and the dictatorship that followed when the French Revolution burst onto the world stage in the early 1790’s. They KNEW that a pure democracy, such as the one the French had established, inevitably devolved into anarchy and tyranny. And if you think it was just the leaders who were wary of democracy please consider that it was the citizens themselves who refused to ratify the new constitution until their leaders guaranteed a bill of rights would be attached to it as its first amendments. Having just defeated a tyrannical government in a bloody war the new American citizens knew all too well how easily a government can infringe on the rights of its citizens. So why over 200 years later is this government being referred to as a ‘democracy?’ Though the answer ultimately lies in the culture’s acceptance of a Kantian philosophy, which obliterates the specific, objective meanings of all words, the specific answer lies in the fact the people that run governments, by their very nature, seek to control the lives of the people around them. The Founders understood this fact about men who would presume to lead other men. They understood human nature far better than today’s politicians do. As such they understood how absolutely necessary it would be, in the years to come, to keep the power of government shared, and to keep ALL of the future members of that government subordinate to the country’s founding principles as spelled out in its founding document; the Constitution. But a determined human can find a way around anything, and talented leaders even more so. One way around all of the restrictions on power laid out in the Constitution is to change the meaning of the form of government we live under. As noted above and in previous writings, The Human Faculty of Reason as the Foundation of Civilization, a Kantian philosophy that does away with the objective meaning of words has made this process far easier than it otherwise would have been. Here’s how it has worked in America. Because a popular leader has the support of the majority of the people it is easier for that leader to do whatever he wants if he can convince the people he leads that democracy, i.e. the governmental method where the majority decides how the government is to be selected and run, is the bedrock founding principle of the government. If that is INDEED the founding principle, then anything the popular leader of such a government wants to do, he CAN do. It is not too hard to see, then, why power-hungry leaders would endeavor to obfuscate the true original bedrock founding principle of this government with something much more malleable, i.e. the concept of democracy. And so, over a period of 200 years, our leaders have slowly changed the founding principle of this government from ‘freedom’ to ‘majority-rule.’ But because there remains a residual love of freedom in the citizens of this country the leaders found it necessary to turn the concept ‘democracy’ into what Ayn Rand referred to as a package deal. A package deal consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or “package,” elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value. In this case the concept ‘individual freedom’ has been packaged together with the concept ‘government by majority rule’ in order to get the package deal ‘democracy.’ For power-hungry leaders of all stripes this package deal works terrifically, because if someone wants to question their commitment to the freedom of the citizens they lead, all they have to do to defend themselves is invoke the fact they were elected in a democracy, even if all the while they are imprisoning and torturing thousands of their citizens for the ‘crime’ of disagreeing with them, a la Iran. Since ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are now synonymous, they often can get away with it. America, fortunately, hasn’t quite gotten to that state yet, but every little diminution in our individual rights, be they the ever-expanding powers of eminent domain as recently confirmed by the Supreme Court, or the countless usurpations of rights by the Congress with everything from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to the establishment of Social Security to the Endangered Species Act to the recent Sarbanes-Oxley Act, ad infinitum, to one President ordering the return of a small Cuban boy to the Communist-enslaved country from which his mother died in freeing him, to his successor making the scientific investigation of stem cells in a Petri dish into a federal crime; every single instance of your life where the government has stepped in to tell you what you can and cannot do with your life, your freedom, your property and your pursuit of happiness is a step towards that hideous day when a man’s right to freely run his own life will be entirely wiped from the face of the earth. As one of the insidious tools used to further us to that fate, I revile the word ‘democracy’ with the same intensity as the founders of this country; even more so since it has been abhorrently packaged with the most important word in the English language: Freedom.
  7. Who's your favorite Founding Father and why?

    The greatest Founding Father was George Washington. He truly was "The Indispensable Man," the Atlas upon whom the entire enterprise rested. He was so important because of his integrity. Every decent man in the colonies, regardless of his geographical or political orientation revered and trusted him. More often than not the colonists did what they had to do to achieve independence for no other reason than because he was leading them. But I have read a number of lengthy biographies on the major Founding Fathers; George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, and I have come to the conclusion that they were all crucial to the enterprise. The freedom we enjoy today could easily have been lost had any one of them not been in place. Indeed I have compartmentalized each of them as to the significant role each played. George Washington - He was the leader, the man who made the big decisions time and time again; the man who continually risked his reputation (which was most dear to him) on what many considered folly. John Adams - He along with Jefferson provided the intellectual foundation for the revolution, but even more than Jefferson he provided the intellectual foundation for the constitution which keeps us semi-free today. C. Bradley Thompson's "John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty" superbly showed how it was Adams' writings on constitutional government in the two decades leading up to the revolution which provided the intellectual ammunition for the men who created our government. In addition to all of this, he was also the most influential speaker in the Continental Congress that made the fateful decision to declare independence. Thomas Jefferson - I consider him the intellectual father of the Bill of Rights as well as obviously the writer of the Declaration of Independence. Of all the major players in this drama, he was the most avid for individual rights. On top of all that he was their most eloquent writer (the reason he was chosen to write the Declaration) and after Washington, the most able President. Ben Franklin - I consider Franklin the revolution's salesman. Without his tireless efforts in Europe and particularly in France, the revolution would have been lost due to lack of support. At the time the colonies possessed precious little manufacturing and hard money. They had to import virtually everything they fought the war with, and it was Franklin's fame and charm that impressed the Europeans enough to provide the support. Alexander Hamilton - I consider Hamilton the new government's financier and administrator. Had he not been brilliant enough to develop the proper methods for paying off the war debt and financing the new government the whole enterprise might have been lost due to lack of credit. In addition it was Hamilton who was truly the man that created the Executive Department of our government. Washington, as President, was the head of the government, but he delegated most of the practical details on how it was to be run to Hamilton, and Hamilton performed brilliantly in the task. Of all the Founding Fathers, Hamilton might be the most interesting based on his background (a virtual orphan growing up on an island in the Carribean) and his future orientation (of all of the Founding Fathers he best understood the future economic potential of the country he was creating). There you have it. In short form: Washington - the Leader Adams and Jefferson - the Intellectuals Franklin - the Salesman Hamilton - the Banker and Administrator Without any one of them the world would be a vastly different place today.
  8. Best bio of Ben Franklin?

    I have read two biographies of Franklin; "Benjamin Franklin, A Biography" by Ronald W. Clark and "Benjamin Franklin" by Edmund S. Morgan. Of these two books I found Clark's significantly better. Like any American I had heard the story of Franklin's flying his kite in an electrical storm in order to capture lightning in a bottle, but I really had never understood it's significance. Clark begins his biography with a discussion of Franklin's experiments in electricity. Here I learned that Franklin was truly the first scientist to understand and explain just what electricity was. And equally as important as the fame he justly accrued for this discovery was the fact that this fame became crucial in America's struggle for independence. There are many Franklin biographies, and I'm sure one of them is likely superior to Clark's, but I don't think you could go too wrong in reading this one, at least for starters.
  9. Penn & Teller: Bulls#*t!

    I own the DVD set, and the quality of the shows does vary, but at their best Penn & Teller are a hilarious cathartic release. I highly recommend it.
  10. The West Wing

    This is what I am finding so enjoyable about this forum. I can't rate The West Wing because I've never seen it. I always figured that any show starring Martin Sheen as the President of the United States was guaranteed to be unwatchable, and yet maybe I've missed something. I still may hate the show, but you've given me enough food for thought, Stephen, that I might give it a try in re-runs. A comparable situation; I thought I would hate "Shall We Dance?" because it starred Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, but then I tried it when we got interested in ballroom dancing through an old non-Objectivist friend. I loved the movie, and my wife and I have been taking Ballroom Dancing lessons for a month now and thoroughly enjoying it. There are lots of great things in life, if you only give yourself a chance to find them.
  11. Dead Poets Society

    Until the ending I loved Dead Poets Society for all the reasons ADS mentioned. Unfortunately, for me, the ending undid all the good the movie had represented for me up until that point. I will also say that it has been quite a few years since I saw it. Perhaps my general opinion would soften if I saw it again. I do remember enjoying it so very much until that ending.
  12. Inspirational Moments in Sports

    As a native Denverite my fondest sports memories are of the Broncos and their successes. The one that I will remember most, however, happened 6 years before John Elway came on the scene when the Broncos beat the hated Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship Game to go to the Super Bowl for the first time. This was heady stuff for the former laughingstock of the old AFL, the team that once wore vertically-striped socks and whose General Manager used to go into the stands to retrieve kicked footballs from the very few paying customers. That is a personal story, however, but one that I find more universally inspirational is Arthur Ashe winning Wimbledon in 1975. To set the stage, understand that 1975 was when Jimmy Connors was at the peak of his powers. He was young and brash and had been winning matches and tournaments with ease all season. Arthur Ashe, by contrast, was 31 and very much on the downside of his career. Connors hadn't lost a set prior to the final, while Ashe had barely escaped three previous matches. Connors was the prohibitive favorite, but in what remains my favorite tennis match of all time, Ashe completely outfoxed him. One of the reasons I enjoy tennis so much is because it is so cerebral. A smart thinking player can almost always beat a more physical player even one as formidable as a young Jimmy Connors, and this is precisely what happened on this day. Instead of trying to match Connors' power, Ashe turned Connors' power against him by continually playing soft, angled unconventional shots. In so doing he rolled through the first two sets, 6-1, 6-1, before finally subduing Connors in the 4th set. It was an unbelievable upset, and a tremendous and fitting accomplishment by a heroic man. To this day, Arthur Ashe remains one of my heroes.
  13. Steroids

    Anyone who follows baseball knows that the sport is in the throes of a major scandal caused by a number of current and former stars acknowledging they had used steroids in order to improve their performance. These admissions have cast a cloud of suspicion over the entire sport. I would be interested in member reactions to the following questions regarding the use of steroids by professional baseball players: Should players use steroids to enhance their performance? Should players be legally allowed to use steroids? What should the owners of professional baseball teams do about players using steroids? What would your answer be to the previous three questions, if you knew there were NO adverse health effects to using steroids?
  14. TV: Numb3rs

    I thought the college scenes were likely shot at CalTech. I would agree with Stephen's assessment of the show, and it is fun to see higher mathematics used as the basis for a prime time drama. It seems to me the crime shows have been getting more intelligent since CSI came on the scene, a show that I love. One of the more intriguing aspects of the show will be seeing how their writers continue to link the plots to mathematics. It seems like they will have to stretch a great deal to do so, but the shows I've seen so far are as credible as anything else I've found in TV drama.
  15. Favorite Music?

    As to these specific artists let me recommend the following songs: George Benson: Breezin' On Broadway Give Me the Night Love Ballad Dave Koz: Careless Whisper The Bright Side Can't Let You Go Let It Free Brian Culbertson: So Good On My Mind Secrets You'll Never Find The Rippingtons: Club Paradiso Carribean Breeze South Beach Mambo Rhythm of Your Life David Benoit: Cast Your Fate to the Wind Drive Time Linus and Lucy M.W.A. (Musicians with Attitude)