No Planning means no Military Parade

Military ParadeThere’s an interesting story in the news about plans, or lack thereof, for a military parade in Washington D.C. The parade was on but then it was off again. I wasn’t that interested in the story until I read the sequence of events that led to President Trump announcing the parade was cancelled, not that I think it is permanently cancelled, the president is a man of mercurial whim and anything can change. That being said, I think this incident gives us some insight into the nature of his administration. Lack of planning.

Trump wanted to have a military parade ever since he saw the Bastille Day celebration in France back in July of 2017 and has been credibly reported as saying he wanted something similar in Washington D.C. He’s been talking about this idea with various members of the Armed Services and others for over a year now. Apparently, his insistence finally started some action but this is what I want to discuss.

If you speak with the women and men charged with planning any sort of a parade, even a kindergarten march through the school, they will explain to you the necessity of making plans. Lots can go wrong in such events and a military parade through downtown Washington D.C. is something that I hope anyone, regardless of political affiliation realizes, is a complex affair. There is much organization and coordination between various groups required.

City officials were notified on August 8, 2018 to be aware planning for a parade was under way and they would be involved. The letter from Homeland Security listed one detail and that one being vague, it would happen on or around November 10, 2018. The announcement the parade was cancelled because of cost came on Aug 17, 2018. That’s eleven entire days. Which is hardly enough time to make a proper estimate, but it gets much worse.

The city didn’t receive any other information about the parade until Aug 14, 2018. Even then officials were not told how long the parade would last, how many people were involved, what route was planned, what military equipment was involved, or apparently much of anything. They were then asked to estimate the cost to the city!

It’s hard for me to put into words how idiotic is this request. How can anyone make an approximation without at least some information? The data given to them made it impossible to make an estimate. City officials then threw out a number, a mistake if you ask me, of $21.6 million. I’m guessing they looked at expenses for other such events with extra pay for police, fire, and emergency services, cleanup costs, etc. Still, they should have just told the White House they had no idea and needed more information before any sort of an estimate could be offered.

The Pentagon has apparently long resisted this parade and someone began throwing out numbers with one being $92 million. General Mattis, who would supposedly be in a position to know about the plans, in an overt admission said that no one had any idea how much the parade would cost and any estimates should be discounted. Mattis at least had the courage to admit no one planned a damn thing and it was impossible to guess the cost. Maybe he hoped no one would comment on the incredibly stupidity of the entire organizational failure. Wrong. General Mattis, you bear some responsibility for this nonsense.

The worst part about all of this is that it seems like standard operating procedure for this administration. If you support it, please take note of how lack of planning is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. From tariffs, to immigration, to travel bans, the entire administration simply fires on the whim of the president. Maybe you like that, maybe you support that, but don’t come complaining to me when things go horribly awry. Without plans, as even the most ardent support of the president knows in their heart, chances are things will spiral into disaster.

Tom Liberman

Polish Poker Players are from Poland and Play Poker

pokerI was watching one of my favorite poker streamers the other day when someone posted in chat a question about Polish Poker players. What did Tonkaaap think about them? He replied, without much thought, that he supposed they were poker players. This seems like a small thing but it struck my Objectivist ideology with an arrow shot to the heart.

The idea behind the question is that in the poker community there are those who think players from various countries have particular traits and certain tactics might be used to have better results against such people. Tonkaaaap dismissed this idea casually and with barely a moment’s thought. He was right to do so, naturally, but I wanted to spend some time discussing the nature of tendencies and why they mean nothing about an individual.

It’s absolutely true that groups of people have tendencies based on the cultural and social norms from where the originate. It’s quite possible that a certain percentage of poker players from Poland will behave in some general fashion during the course of the hand. This tendency is a natural product of spending time with a similar group of people.

I’m going to use chess as an example. I played chess as a youngster but the number of people I played against was limited by geography. We had no internet and the only way to play was staring at the person across a physical board. This meant I played the same people all the time and they, of course, did the same. This meant that we all fell into tendencies based upon the limited pool of opponents. If you were to play against someone from St. Louis you might find we play a similar game. However, you could not make such generalizations about all players from St. Louis and if you did would certainly be setting yourself up for defeat as you encountered stronger players from the region. That’s Tonkaaap’s point. He is playing for real money. He can’t afford to make assumptions about individual players simply based on their geographic location. He must play against each player as an individual, analyzing their tendencies, and making the best decision possible at that moment.

This is, in a nutshell, Objectivism. We certainly can and do judge people based on superficial things like place of birth, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, heritage, age, appearance, and any number of other things. But, when we do so we not only do them a disservice, we set ourselves up for failure. If you discount or even simply refuse to consider someone because of these things then you are hurting yourself.

Let’s imagine you are the coach of a baseball team. It’s quite clear that men are bigger and stronger than women on average. The best baseball players in the world are all men. If a woman tries out for the team and you refuse to give her a chance you might be missing out on a player who can help you succeed. This goes for all aspects of life. Groups of people have differences, but we can’t let these general tendencies guide our decision-making processes. We must judge individuals on their actual performance.

Another thing to consider is the nature of globalization. Getting back to my chess. I now play people from all over the world thanks to the internet. I am no longer constrained by geography. This has improved my game tremendously and also largely eliminated all the tendencies I learned playing a boy.

This exposure to new ideas and things means we are all losing our geographic based tendencies. It means anyone, from anywhere, can succeed or fail based solely on their merits. And that’s a good thing.

Tom Liberman

The Decision of an Objectivist is not Static but that does not make it Subjective

objectivist thinking
It is my opinion there is a large and important debate going on in the world between those who hold an Objectivist philosophy and those who favor the Subjectivist point of view. One idea, objectivism, is that each problem has a correct path to follow and that an objective person should attempt to find it. The other idea is that there is no real correct path, the decision that I choose is always correct simply because that is what I wanted at the moment. This morning, as I was deciding on breakfast at Whole Foods, I made an interesting realization about these concepts and much of the confusion they engender.

My story goes as follows: Whole Foods generally has two breakfast sandwiches that interest me; a breakfast burrito and a breakfast muffin. Both cost the same amount but one, the burrito, is significantly larger than the other. However, I enjoy the taste of the muffin more. The subjectivist will say there is no right answer. I might choose one today and another tomorrow. The objectivist will suggest that one choice is right for me and the other wrong. The reality is one day I might be hungry or have less money for a later lunch purchase and thus the burrito is the correct choice. Another day I might have more money or be less hungry and the muffin is a wiser decision.

What I think it is critical to understand is that just because I made two different choices on two different days doesn’t make either of my decisions subjective. I analyzed my desires at each moment and made the correct, objective, decision in both cases. The subjectivist will incorrectly argue these events prove their point. The circumstances of the moment changed the resulting choice. They will say there is no “right” answer. All answers are subject to the circumstances and opinions of the moment.

This is where I think most subjectivist go understandably wrong. The decisions, while different, are objectively correct both days. This is the heart of the objectivist position about how to conduct your life. We try to make decisions that are going to best improve our lives taking into account the affect of the decision both in the short and long-term.

It is clear I made two different decisions on subsequent days. It appears the decision itself is completely subjective but it is actually quite objective both days. This is a difficult and fine nuance. A subjectivist believes that it doesn’t matter what I choose on either day, it is the right choice because I made the decision. An objectivist believes there is a correct decision on both days. The difference is illustrated when we imagine a third party weighing our decision.

I’m not particularly hungry, I prefer the taste of the muffin sandwich, I have an early lunch date planned with Emily Ratajkowski, and I decide to have the muffin over the burrito. From a third-party point of view that is clearly the correct decision. This demonstrates the clear delineation between an objective decision and a subjective decision. If I chose the burrito under the circumstances outlined it would have been objectively the wrong decision.

In this case, the wrong decision doesn’t lead to dire results. I’m simply enjoying my breakfast less and, being full, decide to cancel my date with Ratajkowski. On second thought, maybe the results are catastrophic!

In our lives we are faced with thousands of decisions each day. It is by making objectively correct choices that we improve our lives and the circumstances of those around us. That’s the goal. The sum of all these decisions often determines the course of our lives. The more objectively correct decisions we make, the better off we will be in the long run.

This is why I think it’s important to sweep aside the ideas of subjectivism. What is good for me is good for those around me. When, as individuals, we start to make a greater percentage of objectively good decisions, we improve the world around us. The more people who engage in such behavior the better the world becomes. A society filled with people making good decisions rises while one filled with people making bad decisions fails.

It is a numbers game. If 5% of the people in one group are making good, objective decisions, and 10% of the people in a second, relatively equally sized group, are doing the same. The second group will largely be better off. The idea is to give people the foundation of objective, critical thinking, so that all our lives are improved.

Tom Liberman

Pay Frank Giaccio for Mowing the Lawn

Frank GiaccioThere’s a feel-good story making the rounds about a fellow named Frank Giaccio who wanted to mow the White House lawn. There is a lot of good in the story but there is one small thing that bothers my Libertarian sensibilities.

Giaccio mows local lawns in the Washington D.C. area and contacted the White House about his desire to perform the service for them. Someone read the letter and invited the young, he’s eleven-years-old, man out to do the job. He was loaned a mower by the National Parks Service and went to work.

I applaud Giaccio for his entrepreneurial spirit and his eye toward publicity. I congratulate the White House and the Parks Service for setting up the event. The young man got a personal visit with the president. All this is great. However, what he didn’t get was paid.

I understand the publicity about the event was worth more to Giacco than any small remuneration, but I’m telling you if I had been president, I would have insisted on paying his normal fee. That’s the message I think is missing in all of this. I’m reminded of the events of Atlas Shrugged when Dagny Taggart and Jon Galt go sightseeing in The Valley. They rent a car from a friend. It’s a small but important moment in the long novel. They don’t borrow the car, they rent it. When services are rendered, payment should be given. If you do something for someone, even a friend, they should pay you for your efforts.

This is the heart of capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is some major transgression by the White House, the Parks Service, or even young Giaccio. I’m not triggered. I just think it would have been a good lesson to insist on paying the lad. He did the job, pay him.

Tom Liberman

Investment Advice from the Comments Section

investment adviceI’m not exactly sure what it is that makes people think they are financial wizards but there is an inordinate amount of bad investment advice in the comments of every financially orientated story that make its way into the news. Generally, one person starts off with solid advice about Index Funds, finding good companies, buying a reasonable amount compared to your savings, trusting a good advisor, and what not. Then come the replies.

The stories themselves are usually, but not always, filled with good advice. Beware any story that is sponsored. Other than that, it’s usually solid investment strategies. Make sure you keep enough cash on hand to survive for six months if you lose your initial investment. Avoid the small caps and absolutely stay far away from microcaps. Talk to a financial professional and heed her or his advice. Keep your portfolio varied with a mix of different investments so as to avoid disaster if one sector is badly hit. Mix investments with growth and hold stock and be aware of your retirement date.

Anyway, all good advice. The problem with all this good advice is there is no get rich quick plan. Naturally, most of the advice from the comments section involves making a lot of money quickly.

There is a strong, mythical almost, and unfounded belief that precious metals are a good investment. They are not. A small foray into such is not a disaster but they pay no dividend and offer little growth potential, only sharp swings which is pretty much a guessing game.

Another tip I see frequently is to get out of the market now! This strategy is apparently employed by many people and it is disastrous. The idea is you sell all your stocks for cash when you suspect the market is going down and then rebuy after it starts to go back up again. The problem with this strategy is the same as with precious metals but even worse. You don’t know when the market is going up or down. No one does. It’s purely a guess. Maybe you’ll get lucky once or twice but on average you’ll lose because the market generally goes up. In addition, you pay fees to sell and then repay when you repurchase. If you just held the whole time it’s likely your investments would have grown and you won’t have paid any fees.

I also see lots of advice on how to make millions buying microcap stocks. These are often called penny stocks. The idea is you can buy a million shares of some company and if it goes up by fifty cents you make a lot of money. The problem with these companies is they are often highly manipulated by shady dealers. Basically, a single investor buys the stock very low, plants a bunch of false information, pumps some of their own money back into it as it rises, and then sells when it reaches a particular height. The issue here is the average investor is often locked out of early transactions, they occur before others are even given the opportunity to buy. Thus, the vast majority of investors buy high and sell low while the manipulator does the opposite.

Then there is the derision for those who give sound financial advice. Anyone, like me, daring enough to tell people to avoid precious metals, commodities in general, a high-turnover strategy, in and out, and microcaps is immediately assaulted as being stupid and wrong. Therefore, there becomes an impression that the majority of people are advocating a particular strategy and it must be the best one. It is not.

Like a lot of things in life, there is no simple answer. Anyone who insists that you can get rich, solve a complex problem, or improve your physique with this one easy step is almost certainly lying in order to get you to behave in a way that benefits the liar. Be aware.

That being said, it’s your money to spend how you want and everyone who invests foolishly puts money into the market. This money slowly and steadily enriches me and other wise investors.

Now you know.

Tom Liberman

Breezewood PA Clashes with the Objectivist Idea of Self-Interest

breezewood-paSelf-Interest. That’s the mantra of this Objectivist. When I act in my own self-interest I help those around me. Now I read about the interstate near a place called Breezewood, Pennsylvania and it brings the philosophy into question.

Let me explain. Breezewood is a community that exists largely because there is a connecting road missing. Highway I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike almost intersect at Breezewood … but they don’t. The reason they don’t is because travelers who want to get from one interstate to the other can’t do so without exiting one, driving through town amidst an almost constant traffic jam, and arriving at the other.

Without this little traffic jam the city would probably not exist. People would simply transit from one highway to the other without stopping. Some would stop for gas or a bite to eat certainly, but most would go merrily on their way. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Government regulation prevented tax dollars from building the interchange because one road was a toll road and the other was not. That regulation was removed eventually but the loop through Breezewood was already built by then. The Congressman from that district prevented any construction for years.

It’s clear millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of driving could easily be eliminated and yet it doesn’t get done because the people who live there don’t want it done. It’s in their interest not to have the interchange.

Where does that leave this objectivist? The people of Breezeway are doing exactly what my philosophy says they should do. Act in their own self-interest. In doing so they are inconveniencing many, many more people. They are wasting time and money. They are causing unnecessary pollution. What they are doing clearly helps those immediately around them but hurts the vast majority of people who travel that part of the country.

I’m all for the people of Breezewood doing what they think is in their best interest but where are the politicians from Pennsylvania and the United States? It’s in their interest to build that interchange and save a lot of people a lot of hassle. Yes, jobs will be lost in Breezewood. People will suffer. That’s the nature of the world.

The problem here isn’t objective self-interest, it’s the lack thereof. Far more people suffer because the people of Breezewood are acting in their interest. The solution. The people of Pennsylvania and the surrounding states need to elect officials who will solve the problem. They are the one’s not acting in their own self-interest.

It’s not always easy to be self-interested. The people of Breezewood live together, vote together, have a common issue. Those who need the interchange do not. It is more difficult for them to act in unison. I admit it.

We live in an age where people can share information and causes at the click of a button. With the right leader and a strong voice that interchange would be built. I still believe in self-interested objectivism but it’s not always easy.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

I know I shouldn’t but …

say-what-you-meanOne of my Facebook friends just shared a post from one of her friends that started off with the following sentence: I know I should not … but I can’t help myself.

What a coward.

I am using the word coward intentionally and I mean it. I am not being sarcastic. I am not trying to tell a joke. I am not saying something I know I shouldn’t but doing it anyway. Why? Because I am exhibiting a character trait called personal responsibility. I am standing behind my words and saying what I want without pretending that I’m not saying it. I’m not a coward.

I’m ranting a little bit today because this business of “I was being sarcastic”, “I was just kidding”, “I was telling a joke”, “I know I shouldn’t but …”, “No offense but …”, are all cowardly and dishonest. Using such words demonstrates a complete lack of character.

If you know you shouldn’t be saying something, I’ve got a recommendation. Hopefully you can figure it out.

If you say something nasty and vile about someone that turns out to be false I’ve got some advice for you. Apologize. Don’t claim you were joking.

I’m not saying that a joke never goes awry because sometimes it does. I’m just suggesting people take responsibility for their words. Don’t preface it with “I don’t mean to be insulting but …”, “No offense intended but …”.

Those are the words of cowards. People who don’t have the courage of their conviction. If you don’t like my opinion then let me know and tell me why with good arguments. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize. That being said, this post represents what I meant to say. It is not a joke. It is not something I know I shouldn’t say.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Treadmill for a Legless Person a Bad Thing? Price is Right

danielle perezThere’s an interesting little news story making the rounds about an episode of the game show The Price is Right where a double-leg amputee won a treadmill as part of her prize package. Apparently some people were upset by this although, judging by the comments, the majority of people don’t have a problem with it.

The game show issued a perfectly satisfactory explanation and I’m not sure I need to elaborate much upon it but I did want to discuss the idea that some people found the episode uncomfortable and consider their point of view, or at least the rationale behind it.

The prize, of course, was determined long before the contestant was chosen. There is no way the show can match every prize to every contestant. I would imagine many of the contestants simply sell their prizes in order to pay for the taxes on the earnings so it’s rather pointless to worry about what the prize is to begin with.

The contestant, Danielle R. Perez, seemed enthusiastic about the prize and made no mention of the fact that a treadmill wasn’t the most appropriate prize for a double-amputee and the host also made no mention of the seeming incongruity. But the real question is why were people upset?

Do people get upset when a man wins a product generally designed for a woman or vice versa? What was it about this particular episode that got people thinking?

It’s my opinion that people generally want to be good, they want to be helpful. It makes us feel better about ourselves when we do something nice. The idea here is that people came to an erroneous conclusion, Perez was in need of help or sympathy. She wasn’t. She’s just fine the way she is and happy with the prizes.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to be nice to people and to help those suffering from real harm. That attitude is one of the good parts about being a human being. But it becomes a bad thing when we try to help people who don’t need it for the sole purpose of making ourselves feel better.  It’s quite clear that Perez didn’t need anyone to help her. People are trying to do so largely because it makes them feel better about themselves.

This is a difficult thing to fully grasp. We want to be good people and do good things and thus we seek out ways to affirm our goodness. In this era of instant communication people use Twitter and other social media platforms to show the world how wonderful they truly are. They stick up for the downtrodden by spending a few seconds writing a Tweet and Liking a post but they aren’t really a good person for doing it.

It’s not easy to examine our motivations deeply but I think the world would be a better place if we did. The next time you want to help somebody, take a moment to examine if that person actually need any help. Examine your motivation.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Is a Boy with Long Hair a Bad Thing?

English Boy 1871I just read an interesting article written by a mother whose son prefers long hair and is often mistaken for a girl. My own opinion is that young boys and girls haven’t begun hormonal changes and are largely the same from a physical standpoint anyway, so who cares? I expected the comments to be along the same lines and I was sorely surprised.

It appears that a healthy percentage of people think it’s wrong for a boy to look like a girl when young. That long hair on a boy is a bad thing. I wonder what they would make of the fact that until modern times it was pretty common to put boys in dresses until they were older. I suppose nowadays we’d be criticizing mothers who did such a thing as turning their children gay. At least that’s what seemed to be a fairly widespread point of view among those commenting. That and the poor boy would be traumatized for life.

I think the problem largely rests with a sexualized society in which people apparently judge a young child by the length of their hair. It’s ridiculous because they are merely children. As I mentioned earlier, hormones have yet to kick in. Except for a boy’s penis and a girl’s vagina there’s hardly an outwardly observable difference between the two. You’d pretty much have to do a blood test to see the difference. They are interested in things that interest children. Sexual roles aren’t part of the equation and when we try to force them on these children I don’t think we’re doing them a service.

Be a man? Girl’s are supposed to be pretty? How about be a child! Enjoy it. Play with your friends. I can’t believe that forcing a young male child to look like an adult man is good for his long-term mental health. It’s society that is somehow embarrassed by a boy who looks like  girl or a girl who looks like a boy. The reality is they pretty much look the same until hormones begin to turn them into adults.

I’m reminded of the recent incidents where a man smacked a two year old boy for wearing a pink headband that belonged to his mother and then verbally abused the woman and the airport brawl where a drunken traveler attacked a man for wearing a pink shirt.

The problem is not with the child, it’s with the person who has an issue with long hair or a ribbon. How many boys with older sisters didn’t play dress-up or wear their mother’s heels and clomp around the house? It’s not a matter of gay or straight, boy or girl, man or woman. It’s a matter of pre-pubescent child.

We are far too interested in other people’s business in this country and the politicians we elect reflect that misguided ideology. Back when men were men, as we like to say, no one gave two rats asses about a boy wearing a dress and having long hair. No one! It doesn’t make us more manly to care about it now, it reveals our own insecurities as a society. Our own paranoia and fear.

It seems the more we care about things that just don’t matter the less we care about important things. That can’t be good.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

 

Heddon Street Kitchen No Shows – Rude and Rude

Heddeon Street Kitchen and Gordon RamsayThere’s an interesting story in the news this evening about celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay and the opening night for his new London restaurant.

On opening night his restaurant endured 100 no shows out of a total of 140 bookings. The inference that Ramsey makes is that a rival restaurateur was behind all the false reservations.

When I perused down to the comments, as I always do, I anticipated a lot of people expressing their joy and this comeuppance for Ramsay. The reason I suspected as much is because Ramsay comes across as arrogant and cruel on his various television shows. He yells at young chefs and calls them names when they fail to prepare a dish to his standards. He is harsh and abrasive to say the least.

According to those who know him, this is somewhat of a facade to generate ratings and interest in his various restaurants. I don’t have any doubt that Ramsay is somewhat of a perfectionist who doesn’t tolerate stupidity. He also seems very loyal to those who are good at their jobs and it is well-documented that he has helped other chefs in their careers. So when I got to the comments I was prepared for the worst.

I was quite surprised that the comments were largely along the same line as my thoughts on the subject. Whoever pulled this “prank” is a selfish prick. In addition to hurting the owner of the Restaurant they also financially hurt every employee. Ever person who worked very hard to get that place open on that night and was hoping to be rewarded for their hard work. That’s what a Libertarian like myself believes is one of the most important societal events. People who plan, work hard, and accomplish something must be rewarded.

It’s entirely possible the new restaurant will fail. Perhaps Ramsay was counting on his reputation to carry Heddon Street Kitchen to success and he cut corners. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the restaurant will be a great success. That the employees of that restaurant will go on to create their own dining establishments. That they will learn from Ramsay what it takes and eventually create dozens of great restaurants; and thus we all benefit. That’s Objectivism.

This action, by whomever took it, was not a prank. It was a violation of everything a Libertarian holds dear. It was also theft and not just from Ramsay and his employees. There were surely many people who wanted to go that night but couldn’t because it was booked. They were robbed of a meal. They were robbed of spending their money willingly and happily.

If you want to beat Ramsay then open a better restaurant next door. That’s the Libertarian way. This? Rude and wrong. For shame!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

Do you want to be a Millionaire?

MillionaireThat’s the question that I saw posted on Facebook and the vehemence of my reaction surprised me. Fuck no.

I want to earn millions of dollars. I write my books and I want people to love them. I love writing them. I want people to read my books and understand the philosophical ideology behind them. That we make our destiny in this world of ours. That those who work hard and treat others with honor earn their millions. Don’t give me a million dollars because I picked a randoms series of numbers.

I want people to buy my books by the millions. I want movie studios to understand the power of the words I write and offer me millions, tens of millions of dollars because turning my books into movies will entertain countless fans and earn money for other people. I don’t want you to spend your $2.99 on my books to make me a millionaire. I want you to spend that money because you love reading my books. I want you to spend that money because the ideas of decency, fair-play, hard-work, personal responsibility, and independent action resonate with you.

I do not pursue millions of dollars. I pursue doing things I love. I pursue writing books I love. I pursue a fulfilling life. I pursue spending my time with interesting people who enrich my life.

This is what Ayn Rand was writing about and she was right. Howard Rourke did not pursue wealth. He pursued the glory of his craft. John Galt did not pursue millions nor did Dagny Taggert and Francisco d’Anconia. Those who think the point Rand made was that money is the motivator don’t understand her and they won’t understand this post.

No!

No, I do not want to “be” a millionaire. I reject the notion out of hand. I want to earn millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions. I want you to read my books. I want you to love reading my books as much as I love writing them.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Dallas Buyers Club – Objectivist Perspective Movie Review

Dallas-Buyers-ClubI recently watched Dallas Buyers Club and it occurred to me that I might start giving movie reviews from a Objectivist point of view. By this I mean not so much judging the acting, the story, and the cinematography as much as looking at what sort of message the movie delivers from the philosophical perspective of an Objectivist .

So, onto the review. Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 1980’s and given thirty days to live. Woodroof then acquires a drug called AZT which is in clinical trials to combat the disease. He immediately grows worse and ends up in Mexico seeking alternative treatment where the doctor thinks AZT is a poor choice of medicine and offers other options which seem to help.

Woodroof realizes these alternative therapies are illegal in the United States where they haven’t seen clinical trials, begins to bring them into the United States in bulk, and sells them to other AIDS patients using the front of a “Buyers Club”. It is illegal to sell drugs directly so patients pay a monthly fee and get all the drugs they require. This goes over very well and soon Woodroof is making money but also helping those in need. Eventually the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conspire to put him out of business. By now he is providing the drugs more to help the patients than to make money.

So, what did I think?

One of the core philosophies of the Objectivist ideology is that we must do our best regardless of circumstances and that by doing so we elevate those around us. Dallas Buyers Club certainly passes the muster in this regard. Woodroof doesn’t accept his diagnosis and fights for life although he certainly breaks a few laws to do so. He eventually comes into contact with an overbearing government agency and works to circumvent it.

It must be pointed out that the FDA has stringent policies in place to prevent fly-by-night drugs from entering the mainstream marketplace. There is a testing procedure and it is good that such is in place. However, as a result of Woodroof’s activities new laws were enacted for the terminally ill where they can take such untested drugs at their own risk. The idea being that they have nothing to lose. Therefore its seems to me that Woodroof’s struggle was in the very spirit of the Objectivist Ideal. Not to say he didn’t do a few shady things along the way.

Another major theme of the movie is Woodroof’s friendship with Rayon who is a transgender man with AIDS and eventually Woodroof’s business partner. In the movie Woodroof is rather homophobic although there is some debate about his feelings in real life. That doesn’t really matter to my review. In this movie there is a man who dislikes another man not because of his actions but because of his sexuality. Over the course of the movie this changes because of their growing understanding that they are pursuing the same course. Again we see a positive Objectivist message. You should dislike someone because they don’t do their job properly. You should dislike someone based on their deeds, not on their appearance or sexual persuasion. This is wholly a Objectivist philosophy.

Another character in the movie, Dr. Eve Saks, initially refuses to help Woodroof because of her own loyalty to the medical community and her supervisor. This in itself is good. Loyalty is an excellent trait and when the movie begins Saks has no reason to trust Woodroof over her colleagues. As the movie progresses it becomes clear that large doses of AZT are more harmful than helpful and she begins to change her attitude as well.  The change in attitude of Saks is another classical idea in Objectivism. The willingness to discard preconceived notions and go where the facts lead.

In the end Woodroof dies but he has helped thousands of people and also become a better man. This is a very important idea. Woodroof begins bringing in the drugs to make money, a fine pursuit, but in doing so ends up helping many other people. This is very typical of Objectivist ideas. That by making money we end up helping those around us. By being a success we end up elevating those around us.

So from a Objectivist point of view: 5 stars!

What did you think of the movie?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Broken Social Contract – Who is to Blame?

Social ContractThe other day there was a thought-provoking opinion piece in the New York Times written by Thomas B. Edsall suggesting the social contract in the United States is broken. This is not a new idea in itself but he even-handedly looked at two possible causal effects for the phenomenon.

I’m going to first examine the idea of the Social Contract and what it means in the U.S. and then I’ll talk about Edsall’s article, the factors involved, and my ideas for real solutions.

The idea behind the Social Contract is fairly straightforward and the Wiki article, as usual, does an excellent job of explaining it in great detail. Basically, people give authority to the government in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights. We The People allow our various government agencies, Federal, State, and Local to pass laws limiting our freedom but gain protection of our rights in exchange. Strange but, I think, true. As a very small example, the humble stop sign. It limits my ability to freely travel from hither to yon. Yet, this restriction actually allows me to travel freely with greater ease.

When everyone in a society recognizes the governmental limitations of the stop sign we are all better off. When people begin to ignore the stop sign then society begins to break down. If one person runs a stop sign then another person does the same. When everyone ignores stop signs the government loses the ability to enforce penalties for the violation and we apparently have more freedom in that we don’t have to stop at stop signs, but in reality we have less freedom because driving is significantly more difficult. The Social Contract.

In the context of Edsall’s blog it references the perceived financial and ethical decay in the United States and the long-term implications to our country. The blog quite nicely summarizes two possible causes of the decay. One blames unrestrained greed while the other blames single parent households and the inability of people to hold down a job. I’ve over-simplified to a large degree but the idea is that as the Middle Class shrinks the ability to transition from disadvantaged to wealthy vanishes as well. This is bad for our country.

I spoke about this subject in a blog blaming stupid and unhealthy people. I don’t want to reiterate my points here.

On one side we blame unrestrained corporate greed. Corporations no longer care about contributing to the general community and that making money is the only goal. There is truth to this argument as stock prices, rather than a quality product at a reasonable price, is the main factor in business decisions. On the other side we blame fewer fathers, single mothers, and lack of education. Fathers are seen as a driving force in social cohesion. A single man with no children has no real need to coach the little league team, to improve the school, to fight for a stop sign at a dangerous intersection. That a single mother has a difficult time raising the child and doing any of those things. Stupid and unhealthy people cannot hold down a job and become a drain on society.

I think all those ideas have merit. I don’t think they are opposing ideologies. I think corporations, driven by unsustainable modern business practices, are less involved in making sure society is equitable, that there is reasonable chance to improve one’s station in life. I also think that single parent families face significant difficulties that dual parent households do not. That as jobs require greater mental ability, stupid people are left behind. All these contribute to the decline of the social contract.

However, I think the underlying problem is none of these things. All of these things are products of the lack of objectivism in the people of this country. When we examine a thing for its true nature without bias and presupposition, we can make good decisions. It’s a bad decision to run a company to the detriment of the society that makes business possible. It’s a bad decision to have a child when you are not prepared to support that child. It’s a bad decision to not study in school.

We look to a bowl of ice cream for happiness. Immediate, tasty, and gratifying. Make money, have sex, eat until we have heart disease, knee problems, diabetes. We do not examine a situation and make decisions with a long-term goal in mind. Immediate gratification is winning over delayed and long-lasting gratification. We do the things that make us immediately happy and find, much to our surprise, that our lives are miserable. We do not think through the consequences of our actions. This is the problem and it is solved by teaching people to think.

The uneducated, unprepared, and greedy are not the problem, they are symptoms of the problem. The fact that a larger and larger percentage of our society is made up of these people is what is driving the decay. Until we teach people to think clearly, to make decisions that are in their long-term benefit, we will continue in our current spiral.

When a business leader makes a decision that will result in long-term benefit for that company it generally means long-term benefit to the employees, to the region, and to the nation. When a person makes decisions that will result in their long-term benefit it generally means those around that person will also flourish. When I succeed those who associate with me often succeed as well.

It is when we make decisions based on immediate gratification that we, and those around us, suffer.

As Marcus Aurelius said quite a bit more succinctly, That which is not good for the bee-hive, cannot be good for the bees.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 and it’s awesome)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Nature of Fraud – Aura-Etheric Body-Chi

Healing FraudOne of my friends recently Facebook Shared an advertisement for an anti-cancer product called Aura-Etheric Body-Chi. I was immediately outraged by the claim in the advertisement that it was ten-thousand times stronger than chemotherapy. I’m certain that being ten-thousand times stronger than chemotherapy doesn’t have any real meaning because there is no single chemotherapy treatment. There are many types for different sorts of cancer. Nevertheless, the advertisement is clearly trying to claim that the product is a much better cure for cancer than is chemotherapy.

My sister is alive today because of chemotherapy. That’s not the point here but perhaps it explains my passion on the subject of false medical promises made to sick and desperate people.

Before I posted a reply on Facebook to my friend’s Share I looked up Aura-Etheric Body-Chi on the internet. As far as I can tell it doesn’t exist outside of Facebook. They have no website, the first two pages of results are all different language Facebook posts for the product. So I broadened my search to Etheric Healing. This does seem to be an industry. There are any number of practitioners of the art selling their methods and offering certification in the art of Etheric Healing. I tried to find it on Wiki but didn’t have much luck. Here is a list of Esoteric Healing (curing people through faith or human will) methods which doesn’t include Etheric Healing.

There is something called the Etheric Body listed and doesn’t seem to mention Etheric Healing either.

I finally stumbled on Bio-Etheric Healing but that seems more about healing through understanding of past lives, Chakras, and things of this nature. Not some fruit that has ten-thousand times the power of Chemotherapy.

I concluded the product is phony. I made a post suggesting that this product was fraudulent and designed to steal money from sick, desperate people. That it might convince some people to turn away from chemotherapy and real cures in the hopes that this product would help them. That those people would then likely die from cancer.

I was immediately set upon by a defender of herbal remedies in general. This person stated that medical science often looks to nature to find cures and that I was fear mongering. That people have a right to put into their own bodies what they want. This is called a Straw Person argument. I actually agree that medical science looks to nature to find cures. I’m not opposed to eating healthy foods to treat illness. I completely agree that people have a right to put into their bodies what they want. Those were not my points.

I responded in an effort to clarify my objections to the ad. I said that I was infuriated by a product that seemed solely designed to bilk money from very sick, desperate, and vulnerable people. That my opponent was supporting this effort. I was told to calm down.

So now I’m writing a blog post, I guess I’m not calm yet.

To the point of this blog. Fraud. Yes, cancer stricken people, afraid of death, desperate for a cure, could choose not to purchase this product knowing it is likely fraudulent. They share some of the blame for being deceived. However, if we allow companies like this to exist we might as well not have a law against fraud at all. If people get fooled then they are fooled. Shame on them. If someone lies to you, practices to deceive you, tricks you, then it’s your fault, not theirs. There is merit to the idea of Caveat Emptor. I agree that people should be wary, they should suffer the consequences for bad decisions, but I cannot idly watch a scam designed to part the victims of a horrible disease from their money. I choose to speak out. To attack the deceiver even while admonishing those fooled to be more careful.

I urge all my rational thinking friends to speak out when they see things of this nature. Be a voice of reason. Do not let Facebook scams slide by silently. Your silence encourages the spread of irrationality, of evil. I think the makers of this product are evil. I won’t pull punches. They are despicable in their aims and their methods.

I’m not asking you to go on a crusade, to write a blog post, I’m asking you to make one comment. Be a beacon of reason. Tell people when you see something that is wrong and understand that you might be attacked in return. The right path isn’t the easiest path.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (300+ pages of fantasy fun)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Pay it Forward is Nonsense

Pay it ForwardI’ve noticed that the concept Pay if Forward seems to be in the news lately. It’s a concept that goes against everything Randian and she spoke directly to this idea in her novel Atlas Shrugged when John Galt needs a car to ferry Dagny Taggart around Galt’s Gulch. He goes to his friend Midas Mulligan and pays him a dime for the day’s rental.

This scene demonstrates what I consider to be one of the most important concepts of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

The concept of Pay if Forward is that after you do something nice for a person you don’t expect them to pay you back but to perform a similar act for another person when the opportunity presents itself. I’m certainly not suggesting that we stop doing kind things, I’m just suggesting that there is value to effort and when we reward people for such work we also encourage other people to do the same. When we give the undeserving rewards we encourage people to do nothing.

It’s an odd contradiction and I long struggled to understand that scene in Atlas Shrugged. I enjoy doing nice things for friends, it’s makes me feel good to buy a lunch or give a present to one of my nieces. It’s still not easy to put into words the idea that we should pay for the services we desire because by rewarding the people who provide a good service at a reasonable price I make the world a better place. When I simply give away my skills in the hopes that someone else will do the same I set in motion a chain of events that leads to decay.

It’s a difficult concept because it seems heartless, it’s not. As an example, I think taxes that support a school system are a good thing. I think education has a value to society that is almost impossible to value. I don’t have any children. I strongly appreciate that educating children leads to a better world for me in any number of ways that seem self-evident and therefore I won’t discuss them in-depth now. It’s in society’s interest not to have poor people, it’s in my interest to not have criminals roaming the streets. Paying taxes for schools isn’t to just to benefit children, it’s to make my life better.

One of the things I do supposedly for free is the writing of this blog. I do it to bring my philosophic interpretations of Rand to others, to the masses. This in turn hopefully makes them Randian in their behavior which benefits me.

I sell my books for $2.99. These books are written largely to illustrate my ideas about how we can make this world a Utopia. However, I do not write them solely to make the world a better place. I want your $2.99. I want a lot of people’s $2.99. I want to sell millions of books and make millions of dollars. I want my books to be made into movies and the studios to pay me more millions. I also want you to read about Jon Gray, Silenia, the First Rider, Shinamar the Unbeliever, and General Yumanar, the heroes of my novels who showcase my philosophies.

We cannot make this world a better place by Paying it Forward. This idealism actually leads to our nation and the world becoming a worse place. Let’s examine the ultimate goal of the Pay it Forward philosophy. Imagine a world where everyone helps everyone else without payment. It sounds good but it isn’t. That is a world in which lazy people rule because they don’t have to do anything. They are given everything by others doing good deeds. Of course, eventually this leads to a society where everyone has nothing because no one does anything. Naturally this philosophic endgame is never going to happen because the Pay it Forward concept is, at its heart, bankrupt. It’s going to be impossible to convince people to Pay it Forward to the point where they have nothing left. But, the philosophic goal is to reach that so-called dream world.

We should pay for things so that we encourage people to provide those things we want. We should patronize restaurants that make food we like at what we consider to be  a reasonable price. This allows that restaurant to succeed and we get good food. That’s a win.

If we look at poor people in Westernized countries as opposed to third-world countries we see a difference. Poor people in the United States, in Australia, in western Europe, are not nearly as poor as the destitute in India, Pakistan, Africa. Poor is a relative term and countries that live closer to Randian Objectivism, where the best are rewarded for their efforts, are far better off than their counterparts. This is the benefit of a system that doesn’t Pay it Forward. It encourage those who provide service to continue to do so. It rewards success instead of failure. That’s good for everyone, in the long run even the failures.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (yes it’s $2.99, yes it’s awesome)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt(Yes it will be $2.99 and awesome)

Of Rats, Mermaids, and Gods

DelusionsA couple of stories in the news about rats and mermaids reminded me of the fact that our world is largely a landscape of self-created illusion. An imaginary realm where reality is a dream and our fantasies reality. Another couple of incidents that happened to me recently furthered my thoughts in this direction. One involved my older step-sister and another some friends of mine.

We live in this amazing world of sensation and our minds are capable of such imagining that it is often difficult to separate those things that we want to be true, that we ideologically believe, from those things that are not actually true at all. One only has to listen to a friend tell the story of an incident that happened to the both of you years before to see this is true. Their version is generally wildly different from yours. Why does this happen? Why do we cling to phantoms when reality stares us in the face?

I’d like to relate my own recent incidents as an example of why we live in this fantasy realm instead of reality. My step-sister is passionate about the topic of Israel and not long after becoming my friend on Facebook I grew tired of her posts on the subjects and removed her from my friends list. Years went by. Recently at my younger half-sister’s wedding I had the chance to speak with my older step-sister (I have five sisters). My older step-sister rather jokingly told me she wouldn’t invite me to any more Tea Party events. At first I had no idea what she was talking about but then it occurred to me the last event she knew before I removed her from my friend’s list was apparently an invitation to a Tea Party rally.

This is instructive. The invitation had nothing to do with why I removed her from my friend’s list but it was, from her perspective, the inciting incident. She sent me the invitation and I promptly removed her from my list. It’s actually quite logical although false. This is something that happens to all of us frequently. Our view of anyone else’s world ends the moment we are no longer communicating with them. We say our goodbyes and they are happy. An hour later we meet again and they are unhappy. What did I do? Are you mad at me? It, of course, has nothing to do with us but involved some other incidents that occurred in the meantime.

Someone gets overly upset at us for some minor transgression. It’s almost certain that they are mad about something else going on in their lives and took it out on us. Yet we feel as if we caused the wrath. That it is our fault somehow. We our the center of our world. Everything that happens, happens to us. This is false of course but we feel it, we think it. When lightning strikes my house it must because of me. I’ve done something, something to anger … who? Who could bring down lightning? Who could cause my hard-drive to crash? God, that’s who. It’s perfectly logical … and false.

The other incident that happened involved, of all things, boy scouts and astronauts! I was enjoying a wonderful meal thanks to my good friend who invited many of us to his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. The son of another friends is a boy scout and we happened to be talking about space. Yet another friend mentioned that all astronauts were boy scouts. My friend’s son, I’m ashamed to say before me, immediately jumped in with the comment, “Except the girls”.

The man who made the original statement quickly said that he meant only the early, lunar astronauts. I smiled and said that another group of astronauts were not boy scouts. Cosmonauts. The man quickly asserted that the Russians actually had a very strong boy scout program. I was somewhat skeptical but he seemed absolutely sure. The mother of my friend then grabbed her cell phone and told me with certainty that Yuri Gagarin was a member of the Russian version of the boy scouts. At this point I capitulated, after all, this was from the internet!

That night I looked it all up. I don’t want to get into details but the Russians outlawed scouting in 1922 and Yuri Gagarin from the ages of thirteen to fifteen was living in a mud hut the Nazi soldiers living in his house let his family build out back, not scouting in the non-existent Russian scout program. Many of the lunar astronauts were boy scouts, but hardly all.

Why did my friends say what they did? This is another major clue as to why we live in this world of delusion. We make a statement that we want to be true, an ideology that fits with our view of the world. Someone postulates reasonable arguments as to the veracity of this world view and we defend our position. If we admit that one thing isn’t correct perhaps our entire view will fall apart. This is extremely common, extremely normal, and I do not hesitate to tell you that I’m guilty of it as well. The more pointed the question the more strident our defense. The war of the talking heads has begun. Rationality has lost.

My goal here isn’t to humiliate my friends. I’ve been guilty of the similar delusions many times. My goal is to urge people to look past their self-centered, ideological view of the world. Look at things with a critical eye and take nothing for absolute truth, whether it be mermaids, rats on Mars, or god.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (300+ pages of swashbuckling fun for $2.99)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Bad TV wins – why?

Don't trust the B in Apt 23I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television but there are a few shows on Hulu that I watch with regularity and something recently happened that, once again, caused me to question the rationality of television executives. Over the years we’ve all seen great shows get cancelled while shows not as good continue on. Sometimes it’s purely a ratings decision but I’m going to examine the situation a little more closely today.

Why is a good show cancelled and what is it that we call good?

The incident that brought about this examination was the cancellation of the show Don’t Trust the B* in Apt 23 while a somewhat similar sitcom called New Girl continues on. Apt 23 was regularly hilarious, generally funny, and occasionally stupid as cutting edge comedies often are. New Girl is almost always stupid punctuated by moments of funny. Apt 23 is well written and well acted. New Girl is poorly written with nonsensical situations highlighted by overacting and tired jokes. Yet, Apt 23 is gone and New Girl is highly touted by the network. Why?

The network spokespeople will suggest it is all about ratings but I’m not so sure that’s the case. See Firefly or American Gothic and even now Community for examples of a network mishandling a show with time slot changes, episodes shown out-of-order, lack of promotional activity, and other seemingly destructive policies.

As I try to be a rational thinker I want to examine some possibilities on the cancellation that don’t have to do with ratings. Perhaps a rational television executive crunched the numbers, the show production cost, distribution, long-term salaries, and weighed that against revenue, media sales of episodes already finished, and other factors. Is it possible that Apt 23 will make more money in DVD sales than it would have made if it continued in production for four more seasons? I don’t know the answer but it’s possible I suppose. Did the executive try to pick up Krysten Ritter in a bar and was shot down in humiliating fashion? It’s possible. Does the executive’s son hate James Van der beek? I don’t know, maybe?

Next we have to examine the idea of good. Is good a completely relative term? Just because I think Apt 23 hilarious and New Girl painfully bad; is this objectively true? Certainly there are those who think New Girl is hilarious and those who probably didn’t like Apt 23. I like to think there is an objective good. One joke is funny and another is not. Any comedian will tell you that certain jokes get laughs and others don’t.

What are the factors that make a television show good or entertaining? Funny jokes, a plot that is logically accurate to itself even if far-fetched and fantastic, see Big Trouble in Little China. Actors who effectively convince you that they are the character they are portraying. Sometimes called good acting. Good camera work. A thematic structure to each episode and the show in general. Dialog that is crisp. Characters that are consistent. I think all these things objectively define good even if people don’t always come to that conclusion. I think we can define Apt 23 as good and New Girl as bad.

That being my opinion I’m deeply saddened by the cancellation of Apt 23. I think about all the episodes of Firefly that were never made. I’m the loser because of this, I’m less entertained. I would argue that our society is the loser when bad wins out over good. Maybe it’s not a big a deal when it comes to entertainment but maybe it is. Maybe every time bad wins out over good we are all diminished.

Of course, there’s the possibility that New Girl is a great show and I’m just deluding myself.

Wouldn’t it be great if better always won out over worse? What would your world be like if everything that was better succeeded? That’s the ultimate goal of the Randian objectivist. I’m sure it’s not possible but I won’t stop striving. I hope you don’t either. And I hope a young network employee reads this and goes on to become an important executive.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Cerebral Palsy Wrestler … Wins?

Cerebral Palsy WrestlerThere is an interesting story, at least from an objectivist point of view, making the news rounds. It is a “feel good” story where a young athlete came up against an opponent in a wrestling match who is afflicted with the awful disease of Cerebral Palsy. It is truly a terrible disease that leaves people with full mental capacity and almost no physical abilities. The victim in this case, Jared Stevens, has the physical ability of about a six-month old while he is thirteen years old. A brave young man and he deserves every bit of praise he gets.

What I want to examine here is the notion of good and how it relates to objectivism and this incident. What happened is that Jared’s opponent in the wrestling ring allowed Jared to win. Really, essentially, pulled Jared on top of him and let himself be pinned. Everyone applauded and praised both Jared and his benefactor, Justin Kievit, happily. Certainly judging by the comments and reaction to the story almost everyone agrees it was a generous and wonderful thing to do.

While I praise Justin and his ability to give someone else a moment to shine I’m just not sure it’s as wonderful a thing as everyone seems to think. I do see the value, in a practice or informal match, of allowing an inferior opponent to make a game of it by not focusing as much and even slowing down a bit. It might give them confidence, it might make them happy for a moment, and certainly a junior-high wrestling match outcome is not a big deal one way or the other.

That all being said I’m just not sure what this accomplishes. Is every wrestler Jared comes up against supposed to let him win? Should he be declared the state champion at the end of the season? If there is a district match is Jared allowed in at the expense of another wrestler? I think these are all legitimate questions.

Jared knows he didn’t actually earn his victory. Did he replace another wrestler in that weight class? Did Justin’s team lose the meet because of this match loss?

One of the hallmarks ideas of objectivism is to look at reality. The reality is that Jared cannot compete in a wrestling match with any hope of success. If we pretend to make that happen are we really helping Jared? Are we teaching Justin that his actions were “good” and thus setting him up for failure in the future?

I’m of the opinion that we should generally try to do our best. Again, a father-son game in which the father eases up a little to let the son win is not unreasonable. But to simply lie down and lose? What does the son gain? He knows he didn’t earn victory. What lesson is the father imparting, don’t try, let the inferior athlete win?

I’m certain that I’m coming across as heartless here and that’s not my intent. I just don’t see how this is objectively “good” for either Jared or Justin. What would have been best, in my opinion, is to have Justin pin Jared and congratulate him on his courage for trying.

Winning is of far less importance than trying our best. Jared’s attempt is the victory here, the winning is simply a sham.

Tell me how awful I am in the comments below! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water (at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords soon)

Subjective v. Objective

Subjectivity versus ObjectivityThere is an endless and possibly age-old debate about the concepts of Objectivity versus Subjectivity and while I’ve had that conversation many times over the years I haven’t discussed it in my blog until … today! So, strap on the critical thinking hats and get ready for a rumble because this one brings out the raw emotions.

The reason this topic comes to mind today is a conversation I had a work this morning. We have a new fish tank and it is absurdly loud. The sound the tank makes spurred the debate. It sounds like a bathtub being filled with water but a co-worker said it sounded to her like the ocean. The ensuing debate became heated. That sort of things happens to me a lot, which, if you read this blog regularly, you won’t find surprising.

At question here is if my co-worker actually thinks it sounds like an ocean is she correct? That is the heart of subjectivity versus objectivity.

A subjectivist argues that reality is perception. If she thinks it sounds like the ocean then it does, in fact, sound like the ocean. An objectivist argues that we need to listen to the sound of the ocean and see if the sound waves create a similar pattern. The answer, from my perspective, is clearly they do not. It sounds nothing like the ocean and the fact that my co-worker thinks it does doesn’t change that objective fact.

“It’s my opinion,” is the argument often used by subjectivists. What the subjectivist fails to take into account is that no one is saying they aren’t entitled to their opinion, just that their opinion is, objectively, wrong.

Now, the debate usually continues with arguments similar to this

****************

dvdChair

The objectivist says, “So, f you think this chair looks like a DVD does that mean the chair looks like a DVD?”

The subjectivist replies, “To me, yes!”

The objectivist says, “That’s nonsense. Please come back when you decided to debate like an adult.”

The subjectivist says, “I am arguing like an adult. If I think the chair looks like a DVD then that’s what I think. You can’t say I’m wrong.”

The objectivist says, “I can say you’re wrong. It looks nothing like a chair. If I think it’s ok to kill you, (at this point the objectivist is getting a little heated) then is it ok to kill you?”

The subjectivist replies, “It’s ok for you, but I don’t think it’s ok, so it’s not ok for me.”

The objectivist replies, “It’s both ok and not ok at the same time!? What – what – what?”

The subjectivist nods his head sagely and says, “Yes, it’s both.”

The objectivist leaves the room before his head explodes and the subjectivist looks baffled. Argument over.

*******************

That’s the way it usually goes and everyone ends up angry.

You may have guessed that I’m a die-hard objectivist but I do think there is some wiggle room. There are certain levels of subjectivity when it comes to liking things, say food or movies. Some people hate fish. Many people hate Vanilla Sky. But, I do think even with food and movies we can objectively define some level of good. Chef’s learn what ingredients people like and these combined properly are good even if some people don’t like the particular flavors. Likewise, there is good writing, good cinematography, good acting and these things combined make good movies even if particular people don’t like the movie.

I think it’s largely dangerous to slip into subjectivity. There is truth, there is good, there is right. Likewise there are lies, bad, and wrong. When we try to suggest that truth is subjective we risk losing perspective on what will make us better people, what will make society better.

It’s important to be as objective as possible when it comes to our lives. The decision we make are important for ourselves and for others. We must objectively analyze and make the best possible decisions at all times. That being said, there is a certain level of subjectivity in our lives and we can’t end up in paralysis by analysis. Then nothing is accomplished.

Wrapping up, I think it’s ok to suggest that a particular sound reminds us of something even if it reminds other people of different things. That being said if we truly analyze the sound and determine the sound waves are dissimilar from what one person claims then we must come to a conclusion of objective truth. In this case, while entitled to her opinion, my co-worker was objectively wrong. I was objectively right.

Isn’t that what matters! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

How to make More Intelligent People

IntelligenceI’ve been discussing intelligence all week long and now it’s time for my conclusions. Brace yourself because, as usual, I’m not out to make friends.

It is clear some people are more intelligent than other people and that intelligence plays an important role in the advancement of both individuals and societies. The Bell Curve speculates that government policies that allow poor people, who do less-well on IQ tests, to have more children has a negative effect on the average intelligence of the United States  and thus is detrimental to the health of the nation.

I have serious problems with almost all of the principles of both measuring intelligence by IQ tests and trying to determine, through government policy, the best way to breed for intelligence. IQ tests, it seems to me, are most certainly culturally biased. Immigrant groups will always do poorly but as they become amalgamated with the culture, or as the culture changes with immigration, they will drift towards median scores.

Blacks traditionally do poorly on IQ tests and I can tell you exactly why. Black culture largely associates education and success with being “white”. It has nothing to do with intelligence potentials. I went to a highly mixed race school. Far and away the most brutalized students were the “smart” black kids who took upper level courses with the white kids. They were assaulted for trying to be “white”. Many prominent blacks have pointed this out over the years and things will not change for blacks until they overcome this cultural belief.

A culture that values education will produce kids that score high on IQ tests. Bottom line. Perhaps there is something to be said for inheritable intelligence but this limits the potential ceiling of achievement. By this I mean that I can play offensive left tackle as an eight year old for my block football team but I cannot play that position for the St. Louis Rams because I am limited in my ceiling by my physical stature. Everyone, with the exception of the mentally handicapped, is capable of thinking at a reasonable level and scoring reasonably well on IQ tests. So, in all practical terms intelligence has nothing to do with wealth, race, creed, or anything else. If parents and community value education and intelligence then the results will follow.

I absolutely agree that intelligence, or high IQ, is a predictor of success. Success is good. We want people who achieve. The more people who achieve the better for society. I don’t really much care about whether high IQ scores are exact predictors of intelligence or not. They are close enough I suppose but it doesn’t matter. If you are intelligent you will likely do better in life. If we threw IQ tests away we’d still have intelligent people, just not a snobby way to quantify them.

So, that’s the bottom line. We want intelligent people. We want to encourage all people of all cultures to value education so they will get good jobs, produce, achieve, elevate society. How do we do it? Reward achievers! That’s Ayn Rand, that’s Objectivism, that’s Critical Thinking. That is everything I talk about in this blog.

There’s nothing wrong with making sure our schools have the best equipment, that our teachers have all the aids necessary to be great, to encourage parents to be a part of their child’s schooling process, and to find the best ways that people learn and implement those methods. I’m all for those things.

The thing we can’t do, and this is where I’m in partial agreement with The Bell Curve, is reward stupidity. There should be a safety net. There are disabled people, mentally retarded people, people who fall on hard times, and we do not want to become a nation where those sorts of people are discarded and brutalized. But, we can’t continue to reward failure.

When it comes to wanting to stop rewarding failure so-called Conservatives seem to focus on the poor, and I agree that changes must be made with welfare, but the reality is that far and away most rewards to stupidity go to business. Our failed politicians, Democrat and Republican, still rake in massive amounts of bribes, er campaign contributions, in the hopes that they will pass laws to give one business an unfair advantage or bail-out yet another round of failed enterprises. Stop the madness!

Government get out of the tax-break business and social engineering. It leads to failure. Let good business succeed on its merits, let educated people succeed because of their intelligence.

And parents, most of all, take a hard-core, hard-line, day-to-day interest in your child’s education. Smart is good. Dumb is bad. And I’ll stand by that until the day I die.

Tell me what you think in the comments and share if you feel like it!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist