Milton Friedman passed away today, at the age of 94. What a great life! He was one of the small band of rebels in the mid 20th century that brought the principles of economics and freedom back into the mainstream.
One of my favorite quotes (also liked by Alex Tabarrok), possibly because it helps remind people who they are:
President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."... Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.
We decided to remodel the master bathroom, and, at long last, employed a general contractor, Building America after several quotes. They began work this past Monday, and it looks like it will take through early next week. It will include a new tile floor, a new (and more efficient) door layout, new sink and vanity, new medicine cabinets, new ceiling, etc. It will be great.
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.
The writings of Ayn Rand were very influential on a young me, and it would seem fitting to write a bit about that on Rand's 100th birthday. I was first introduced to her writing via the book "Anthem" during my senior year of high school, as an assignment in my AP literature class. The book was almost shocking: I could not put it down, and read it twice in this same day. Later, I read the rest of Rand's opus, and wrote a detailed paper and presentation as the final project in my class. The fiction provided a concrete introduction to Rand's philosophy. The philosophy matched a lot of the ideas that I had been gathering at the time: The world is a big amazing place that can be known by observing and thinking carefully. Ideas are important, and a good person tries to understand the long-term implications of his thoughts and actions. A good society (based upon human rights) is one that allows the individual to think, act, and grow.
So we have completed another Presidential election, and it happened without the interference of terrorism, fraud, or violence. The Republican Party gained more seats in the Legislature, and Bush will continue as President. Overall, I am impressed with this election. According the CNN statistics, there were over 117 million voters, which was a record number in absolute terms, and the highest in terms of percentage of the electorate (60%) since 1968. I believe that the participation was engendered due to the perception that the election was important, due to some actual issues at stake. With Bush winning by over 3 percentage points (in the popular vote), it was a much bigger victory than most people (myself included) expected. I cannot think of this as anything but a resounding “YES” by the American people to something. To George W. Bush? To the Global War On Terror? To "moral values"? To free markets? More than likely, people will try to spin the re-election to suit their own agenda.
I thought that it would be interesting to put up a list of my current favorite current-event blogs.
Sometime last year, after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, an American journalist was interviewing an Iraqi about the prospect of voting. The Iraqi (having been educated with only Hussein's political doctrines, and probably genuinely curious) asked the question: "So now we are going to vote? What if we vote for a theocracy?" The American journalist (having probably been educated by statists in the U.S.) did not have an answer. This was unfortunate, because it offers a clear example of the role of voting within the framework of a free society.
OpinionJournal had an interesting comparison of US and Canada, and noted the differences in US attitudes towards the frontier. The phrase "Cowboy Americans" has a different meaning over here, and probably one that foreign observers might not quite understand.
So can they call us cowboys? You bet. Because we are. Our response ought to be that of the Virginian when he was described as a son of a bitch: "When you call me that, smile!"
The text of Ronald Reagan's farewell address to the nation after his presidency can be found here. May the spirit that moved him move us too.
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
Steven Den Beste makes some serious remarks. His remarks about the hypocrisy of the U.N. opposition to the invasion of Iraq are particularly interesting. Given the "Oil For Food" scandal, why does the U.N. have any credibility at all?
As the Presidential election starts to heat up, let me summarize my current position. I wonder, as November approaches, if my analysis will change.
Take a look at this. Interesting and bold stuff.
I discovered Eric S. Raymond's blog today. ESR is a noted technology pundit and open-source advocate, and he apparently has many other interests, too. In this article, he notes the similiarities between the Nazi resistance at the end of World War Two with the current Iraq Baath party resistance. The reference to this article is particularly interesting, as it details the Nazi Werewolf guerilla movement.
It seems like some people (even Americans!) seem to want the United States to fail in the reconstruction of Iraq. This is evidenced by their focus on bombings and setbacks, and the odd expectation that a nation can be converted overnight from a war-torn / fascism-ravaged wasteland to a prosperous and free democracy. (Anyone who has been involved in any large-scale change effort should recognize that it takes time and effort.)
What would happen if the Iraq reconstruction worked? (By worked, I mean: Iraq developed into a peaceful, relatively free market/nation with a relatively democratic government.) It would certainly take credence away from anything that political segment has to say. That is particularly poor reason to oppose something, but I guess that people hate to lose.
In all fairness, their actual argument probably goes something like: It is impossible for the USA to help Iraq move into the 21st century, so any resources spent there will be wasted. Setbacks demonstrate our lack of effectiveness, and thus should be emphasized to influence the future direction of the nation.
I don’t believe that of course, because freedom DOES work. Our particular cultural institutions may not work over there, but that doesn’t matter: The fundamental principles (individual rights, limited government, i.e. freedom) can be translated.
An essay that deals with some of these issues can be found at here. (I am not a huge fan of National Review, but I think that the author hit on something important here.)
The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were
removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they
screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir…
We Americans are the only ones who didn't get creamed at some point
during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have
inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set
of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But
we have lost touch with those intellectuals.
I did my civic duty today by voting in California’s recall. It was a pleasure (on several levels) to vote to remove Davis. I voted for McClintock as the new governor, and against both propositions (on general principle).
Andrew Sincic recently extolled the virtues of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, as portrayed on the season 5 DVD. As a science-fiction fan, I’ve always enjoyed the show for its clever stories and interesting special effects. But Andrew alluded to something else in Star Trek that has always appealed to me, too: It portrays an open, dynamic society in which the amazing opportunities of the universe are explored. This is an important and encouraging vision in today’s world.
There are several current topics that I find interesting, and I will try to write about a couple of them.
On Thursday after work, I went on an evening run through my neighborhood. The police had blocked off the Wilshire exit off of the 405, due to anti-war protesters, and I was curious to see what was actually going on.