Marsha Enright

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  1. Addressing a joint session of Congress on health care, President Barack Obama reiterated his often-expressed aversion to the profit motive: “y avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private [health insurance] companies by profits and excessive costs and executive salaries, [the public insurance option] could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better . . .” Is this true? Is profit wasteful, as Obama implies? Does it lead to higher prices and lower value to consumers? Can the government, unburdened by profit, do the same job as a private company, only cheaper and better? To answer, let’s consider one business, one product, and one profit-seeking man who lived at a time when the market operated largely free of government subsidies, bailouts, regulations, taxation, and other “progressive” intrusions. Henry Ford, at age 13, saw a steam-driven land vehicle, a “road locomotive,” which filled his imagination with the vision of a horseless carriage and fueled a passion to create one. As a young man, he worked day jobs, while trying to build a car in his free time. Realizing a viable car could not run on steam, he sought to develop a new kind of engine. On Christmas Eve 1893, the 30-year-old inventor clamped his first gasoline engine to his wife Clara’s kitchen sink. With the home’s electricity providing ignition, the motor roared into action, sending the sink vibrating and exhaust flames flying while Clara prepared the holiday dinner. In pursuit of his dream, Ford and Clara moved eight times in their first nine years of marriage. He quit a secure job at the Edison Illuminating Company, banking everything on his vision. He co-founded the Detroit Automobile Company—a venture that failed. Jobless, Ford moved his wife and child into his father’s home. But he kept working on his car. “It is always too soon to quit,” he said. Ten years passed from the roar of the little engine on Clara’s sink to the launch of the Ford Motor Company. It took five more years to produce his big success, the Model T, and additional years to master its mass production. Why did Ford persist through years of hardship and uncertainty? How much would his love for the work have sustained him without the hope of eventual profit? Imagine if he had lived in a system where politicians could, at the stroke of a pen, seize his profits or decide how much he could keep. Would he have risked so much or worked so ferociously to bring a world-changing invention to market? Would an Amtrak employee devote a decade of free time inventing a new train, only to rise a notch on a civil-servant’s pay scale? Dream big, work hard, create something earth shaking, but be paid small is the antithesis of the American dream. The pursuit of profit not only motivated Ford, but also his bold investors who had the foresight to realize the horse was doomed. In 1903, a school teacher invested $100—half her life savings—in the Ford Motor Company. Sixteen years later, she sold her stock for a total gain of $355,000. Why would she and others place their money on a highly experimental venture, were it not for the hope of tremendous gain should the enterprise succeed? What kind of person would deny her the reward for recognizing Ford’s vision and risking her own money? The pursuit of profit also impacted every aspect of Ford’s business operations. Ford didn’t need a politician’s scolding to lower prices—only the desire to make huge profits by reaching mass markets. Because early cars were expensive, people viewed them as mere playthings of the rich. But Ford sought to “build a motor car for the multitude.” This led him to develop his moving assembly line, significantly reducing manufacturing costs and, consequently, prices. The original $825 price of the Model T finally bottomed at $260. That price-lowering strategy brought him the millions of customers that made him rich. Similarly, Ford’s pursuit of profit didn’t result in bare-subsistence wages for employees, but in phenomenal pay increases. He shocked the world by introducing the $5 workday, more than doubling the era’s prevailing wage. Why? To attract the best workers, whose talents increased product quality and company efficiency. High pay also decreased employee turnover and training costs, again increasing Ford’s profits. Ford typifies the successful capitalist, whose profit-driven innovations lower prices, while raising wages and living standards for all. Even today’s Ford Motor Company, a much-fettered child of our mixed economy, demonstrates the superiority of private- over government-run companies. Ford refused TARP bailout money, choosing to operate without government strings. The result? Ford’s profits are up 43 percent, while bailed-out GM and Chrysler lag behind. In Henry Ford—a thin man who was the fattest of fat cats—we see an embodied refutation of President Obama’s worldview. Ford developed a new form of transportation vastly cheaper, faster, more convenient, and superior to the old mode. He continually lowered prices so that everyone, rich and poor, would have access to his product. He created thousands of jobs. He raised employee wages. He did all this good without government grants, bailouts, stimuli, subsidies, or coercion, but simply as a result of the honest pursuit of personal gain. This achievement was possible only because a private individual had the freedom to pursue his own self-interest, in cooperation with others who supported his vision and shared in the rewards, unencumbered by government. By eliminating profit, Obama implies that everything else about an enterprise would remain the same, only the product would be cheaper and better. Actually, by removing profit, nothing at all would remain the same. Contrary to Obama’s notions, profit is not an overhead cost, but a vital gain sought over and above costs in order to reward a company’s risk-takers. According to economist Ludwig von Mises, “Profit is the pay-off of successful action.” And “The elimination of profit . . . would create poverty for all.” Eliminate the hope of profit, and you extinguish that spark which ignites the human engine and powers it to explore uncharted roads: the creative mind. Profit is the proud product of the creative mind, and the creative mind is an attribute of the individual. Obama’s attack on profit is an attack on human creativity and innovation, which is an attack on the individual. Obama’s antipathy for the self-interested individual is explicit. “In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action,” he said in an interview in the Chicago Reader. “But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.” It was Henry Ford’s individual actions and individual dreams that brought motorized, personal transportation within reach of everyone in the world. America is rooted in the “pursuit of happiness”—which means the right of each of us to create, to produce, to rise, to succeed, and to profit from the fruits of our labor. Contrast this worldview with that of a president who disparages the individual and seeks to limit or expropriate his profits on behalf of a faceless “collective.” Obama’s war on profit is a war against the individualist heart and soul of America. Profits are a badge of honor earned by someone who offers others something they value enough to buy. The first buyer of the first car of the Ford Motor Company was a doctor. He was tired of hitching up his horse and buggy for nighttime emergencies. Ford’s product enhanced his life, as it later enhanced the lives of millions. Profit is the medal Ford received from his customers for a job well done. If our nation is to cultivate productive geniuses like Henry Ford, it must proclaim that the quest for profit is moral and noble. POSTSCRIPT: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” This means that the federal government, with its vast powers to fund highway projects, “liveability” initiatives, and other aid programs, as well as to tax gasoline, now intends, in LaHood’s stunningly brazen words, “to coerce people out of their cars,” in favor of walking or cycling. A century ago, Henry Ford, through capitalism and the profit motive, brought motorized transportation to the world. Now, an alarmingly anti-capitalist government is reversing that historic achievement and pulling us back to the pre-industrial age. Gen LaGreca is author of “Noble Vision,” an award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in health care today. Marsha Familaro Enright is president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States. Incidents from the book “Young Henry Ford,” by Sidney Olson appear in this article. Copyright © 2010 by Marsha Familaro Enright and Gen LaGreca. Permission to reprint is granted with attribution to the authors and inclusion of their byline. Permanent Link: Originally published at:
  2. Michael, I enjoyed National Treasure too - I think it's a bit of a take off on DaVinci Code as well. Did anyone see V for Vendetta? (You guys have probably talked about this movie already). I thoroughly enjoyed it for its highly stylized, Romantic plot, characterization and theme. It has more subtly than at first glance, too. I disagree with those who argue it promotes anarchy. I don't think they followed the plot. One of my all time favorite sweet/funny movies is Bossa Nova (2000), by the Brazilian director Bruno Barreto, It's a romantic comedy, plotted somewhat like a French farce, with more depth and a slightly less frantic pace. Amy Irving is a widowed American teaching English in a gorgeous, romantic Rio (the filming is fantastic). Through a set of circumstances, she and a wistful, recently divorced Brazilian lawyer meet and fall in love. Meanwhile, parallel love stories abound, including the lawyer's brother, Amy's friend, a soccer star. In the end, all plot lines come together in an hilarious resolution...all to the backdrop of fabulous Tom Jobim Bossa Nova music. Ahh! Marsha
  3. Hi Fran! Good to 'see' you again. Are you coming to Orange County this summer? If so, we must have some fun together again. I haven't seen Pleasantville in a long time, but remember enjoying it for its clever dramatization of its theme. I think it was one of the first things I saw Spiderman in (geez, I forget his name now!). Best, Marsha
  4. Dragonfly, We have no reason to think that subatomic particles have awareness or experience meaning; by direct experience, we have plenty of reason to think that our minds *do*. On top of our own, personal, individual direct experience, we have plenty of evidence that other humans have minds, because they can do so many things which no inanimate thing can do - in fact, which no other living being can do. (This latter is why we came up with the concept of volition, to explain that ability.) This means that our minds are a property of matter not existing in inanimate matter like air or asphalt and, in fact, substantially different from the consciousnesses of other living things, too. This property requires an explanation: what aspects of our physical bodies give rise to this property of awareness and meaning? You can see how important this question is for the development of artificial intelligence. Without the ability to create an artificial being that can experience meaning, we haven't created intelligence. Marsha
  5. Dragonfly, I have to agree with LW - in thinking about the way 'intention' is used, especially in contradistinction to 'purpose' or 'aim' or 'goal', I think it is used to mean consciousness and choice in what is being aimed at. LW - I agree that it has a strong implication of choice, but I think we could talk about an animal's intention, too, so I wouldn't say that volition was necessarily a part of the meaning. Okay, I'm just waiting now for people to jump all over this, but I do think I see my dog choose between an orange and a hot dog offered to him, for example. He's just not fully volitional in his abilities. Marsha
  6. Jody, Great point. I think science is the *systematic* observation of nature: yes, humans have observed nature and accommodated their actions in response to what they found since time immemorial (at least the ones paying attention!). However, we didn't have science until people like Aristotle discovered the principles by which to systematically observe and interact with nature to be able to discover consistent, accurate conclusions. And the Renaissance work on the principles of experimentation then really stoked the fire of discovery. Marsha
  7. Ellen, Well, I'm glad you broke down! Wouldn't you say that the program is the set of ideas symbolized by the written code which, which is embodied in the series of actions taken in electrical and mechanical work of the computer to follow the program? In that way, the program is immaterial but, of course, its physical embodiment is not. I sure as heck don't know what "information" is - it is a word that is used in so many ways, such as the ideas in books, a computer program or DNA code (in the latter, its not even referring to a set of ideas!) The word captures something important, but I can't seem to describe it in terms of anything else. I've long wondered if, consequently, its an axiomatic concept - or something close. Marsha
  8. Dragonfly, While I agree with you that 1. living things are goal-directed and conscious living things have purpose and 2. man-made objects like thermostats have functions designed by humans to achieve human purposes, I don't think non-conscious things can have intentions. I think the word 'Intention' specifically means being aware of goals. Machines don't have awareness, so I don't think they have intentions, but their actions do fulfill goals set by their human designers. It is interesting to think about the difference in meaning between 'purpose' and 'intention' - they're used synonmously sometimes, but I think 'purpose' puts more emphasis on the aim of the action and 'intention' on the awareness of the aim. All this is even more confusing because people often use the words 'goal' and 'purpose' interchangeably - while the mechanists deny that *any* non-conscious living thing has goals! Aristotle speaks of goals as 'the end for which' an action is taken. The mechanists' problem is that they can't conceive of how a non-conscious living thing can act towards an end. I say - we might not know how, but it's obvious that they do; it's one of the fundamental things that distinguishes living action from non-living. So deal with it! We'll figure it out eventually, especially if the scientists don't think in the mechanist box about it. Marsha
  9. Bob, Hey, nice to "see" you! And thanks for finding the passage in ITOE that's likely the start of this belief about the relationship between philosophy and science. I'm much more familiar with Rand's writings than anyone else's in the movement, so I had thought she had said this somewhere. I will take a look at what you've written on the issue. I see her mistake as not realizing that the findings of science can and do influence philosophy; she may be right that it can't be arcane, technical knowledge, but something an intelligent person can grasp. In other words, a set of facts and conclusions can come *from* the work of technical science and influence philosophy. I guess I would have to figure out what principles are involved to decide whether that is necessarily right. Hmm, I wonder whether David Kelley's book The Evidence of the Sense is a counter-example, since it required his grasp of a huge amount of arcane, technical scientific research to come to his conclusions? By the way, in her essay "Our Cultural Value Deprivation" she refers to the findings of sensory deprivation, and in "The Objecivist Ethics" I believe she refers to the findings on children who are born without the ability to experience pain to illustrate her conclusion that survival is dependent on pain and pleasure. I'm sure we can think of more examples once we get going. Marsha
  10. Michael, Funny, after I made the comment on the skin tone, I looked back at the picture again and actually was shocked at how white she unfortunately, I think you're right! (Sorry Bryan!) Actually, the first time I looked at the painting, I thought she was supposed to have those sheer white stockings on that are sometimes in style, but then I noticed her face was very pale also. Perhaps he has something he's trying to capture with that look, but I don't get it. I do give him a lot of credit, in all these pictures, for trying to capture some complex and sacred feelings. John says thanks! Marsha
  11. Charles, Great example of how science can affect ethics. I, personally, am fascinated with the problem of free will and biochemistry and their relationship. LOL! That's a wonderful observation. Marsha
  12. Jenna, I'm really sorry if anything I said appeared to be criticizing you and your study of neuroscience. I didn't mean to at all! I'm just interested in exploring the philosophy of science as it applies to consciousness and neuroscience. I applaud your study of brain functions and their relationship to consciousness and mind - it's one of my main areas of study and interest, too. I'm fascinated by what neuroscience has discovered about the relationship between brain and mind - and how that affects our conception of human nature (that was another agreement with Charles!) I look forward to your work in the future and what you help discover. Best, Marsha
  13. Dominique is blonde - maybe that's confusing the issue. I realized one thing that bothers me about that picture is the skin tone - it's white almost ghostlike white. I wonder why he chose to make her look that way? She's not described as having really white skin especially. Marsha
  14. Whenever I look at a painting, I try to see it first 'on its own,' i.e. by putting aside anything I know about it outside of what I can see in the painting, and letting myself react to it as such. And, on this first pass, I try to see whether I find it visually pleasing or what, in a perceptual sense, like I would with decorative art. Also, I try to see how it makes me feel emotionally - is it exciting, calming, erotic, scary, full of dread, sad or inspiring. Then I go back to thinking about the painting in the context of what the painter called it and what I know about any extra-visual associations in it For example, in the Renaissance, having a dog in the painting had a special meaning, or, I know that's Napoleon getting crowned, with all the historical connections surrounding that event in Jaques-Louis David's painting, see So I've tried to do this with Larsen's paintings, although I'm worried I may be a bit unfair to him, because I'm not seeing them in person, which can make a huge difference. I know that Michael Newberry's paintings are so much brighter and exciting in person than you can see on line ( Here's what I find when I look at these pictures of Larsen's three paintings: I like his clarity of style and I often like his choice of colors, although there's an odd flatness to the paintings in some respects that reminds me more of poster art than Renaissance painting. I look at Absolution of the Titan and enjoy the beautiful male body; I think the draping emphasizes the erectness of his posture while evoking the Greek gods. I imagine the utter blank darkness behind him is supposed to evoke the depth of space as the god turns away from Earth, but I find it a bit sparse for my taste, making the whole painting look more like a study than a full composition. Strangely, however, in this viewing, this painting seems to have the most realistic depth to it, I think because of the fine rendering of the body. Dragonfly is right that the figure does not look like the description of Galt, but I find that I don't really care - this is Larsen's painting - I don't think it's supposed to be a poster for the book, just inspired by it. The train painting makes me worried when I first glance at it, because I think the train is bearing down on the figure, but then I realize that she is awfully relaxed for that (she would hear it!). The figure is okay - I can see Larsen is trying to convey an action-ready relaxation through her position. Overall, I like the colors and sunny setting, but I'm not particularly fond of it, I don't think the quality of the painting is up to his others. My favorite is the steel mill painting. At first glance, I'm captivated by the interesting, dynamic composition that makes my eye roam all over the canvas, soaking in everything there is to see. There are a lot of interesting things to look at in this painting - the pouring bucket, the bridge, what's on the wall in the background- and I really enjoy the relaxed, beautiful figure watching it all. I also like the colors. I do wonder why the artist chose to have the figure looking away from the viewer - I get the sense that he is supposed to be deeply absorbed in the sight of the millwork, but I'm frustrated that I can't see more of his face! Again, although this painting has a fair amount of depth, there's something lacking in that arena. Perhaps Larsen needs to develop his technique more in that regard, in terms of rendering of colors, shadows and relationships between near and far objects. Hmm, I just went to look at an on-line pic of Michelangelo's Holy Family painting here: to show in contrast to Larsen's, but now I'm wondering if Larsen's problem is as bad as it seems because I've seen this Michelangleo painting in person, and it has remarkable depth - which I don't think shows up in this on-line view! Sorry to Bryan Larsen if I'm wrong! Marsha To let the spirit break Free from rules and make Its own way To whatever Beauty it chooses to seek or take. By its freedom, making seem Art's toiling endeavor Child's play Or lover's dream. "Romanticism's Birth" by John Enright
  15. I should have previewed my previous post before putting it up!: "I have spent hours going through neuropsycho, psych, physiology - all kinds of book, looking for the authors' definition of consciousness. When they attempt any, it tends to be circular (which is a logical result of a concept being axiomatic). Also, I've noticed that no one gives a definition of 'information,' by the way, that's not circular. " I meant to add: I believe these authors end up using circular definitions because the concept is axiomatic and not defineable by other concepts. Best, Marsha
  16. Jenna, Regarding the 'definition' of consciousness, are you familiar with the argument that consciousness cannot be defined by other concepts but must be defined ostensively, i.e by reference to one's direct experience of it? The concept 'blue' is like this. We can only define it by pointing to an example. Rand argues this extensively in her chapter on axiomatic concepts in ITOE. Axiomatic concepts are a special class of ostensive concepts. They are not only defined ostensively, they underlie all other concepts - you cannot use any other concept without implicitly using them. Rand puts forth three as fundamental to all thinking: existence, identity and consciousness. I have spent hours going through neuropsycho, psych, physiology - all kinds of book, looking for the authors' definition of consciousness. When they attempt any, it tends to be circular (which is a logical result of a concept being axiomatic). Also, I've noticed that no one gives a definition of 'information,' by the way, that's not circular. However, I wasn't addressing the issue of the *definition* of consciousness - because I have come to agree with Rand that it is an ostensive, axiomatic concept. I was addressing the issue of *what kind of thing* it is - i.e. its metaphysical status. Sorry if I started by topic in media res! The metaphysical status of consciousness is fundamental to solving the conceptual problem of the relation between mind and body, and even, I would argue, the problem of free will. Why? Because many claim that consciousness cannot be causally effective if it is immaterial. There are reems of books revolving around this problem, and positions like epiphenomenalism, compatiblism as a result. That's why I bring up this subject, with my suggestion for a solution. Best, Marsha
  17. Jenna, Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the topics I've brought up. It seems that us science people (at least the 3 of us who've posted here and others I know) certainly think that science informs philosophy! I wish someone who knew Peikoff's arguments better than me (maybe Phil Coates?) would come on here and give the counterarguments. I'm not always very good at remembering arguments I think are bunk! But I'll try to summarize their position: since philosophy is supposed to be about the most basic aspects of human existence, and philosophy underpins all other thinking, it must be derived from material available to any human being, not the specialized information and ideas of derived from scientific research. I tried! Marsha
  18. Jody, Cool, you know what I'm talking about and even saw it in person! Yeah, I've had that picture up for a looonng time, so I thought I'd replace it - for now. If you want a copy, let me know! Best, Marsha
  19. Okay, so now I want to bring up my original idea for a topic: I've heard various objectivists claim that understanding only proceeds from philosophy to science, not vice versa (I believe Peikoff is included in this group). In other words, everything we figure out about philosophy is from information we all have, not from specialized information, and cannot (should not?) be informed by any new facts/ideas/theories developed by science. I think this is bunk, but I wondered what others think about this. Here's my first counter-example: would Rand have been able to argue for capitalism in politics before the industrial revolution? Second counter-example: can psychological studies inform/change our theories of concept formation? (Ken Livingston thinks it's at least important to test Rand's!) What do you all think? Marsha
  20. Before I delve into the topic which I *thought* this thread would be about - I had a comment to follow on Michael's musing on consciousness. What kind of "thing" is consciousness? I think it is a special kind of relationship - a relationship between a body of a certain kind (i.e. with a special kind of brain, functioning properly) and reality. This metaphysical status solves a few philosophical problems: 1. The'non-materiality' of consciousness - distance is non-material too, but just as dependent on physical existence as consciousness - as a relationship, being non-physical but dependent for existence on the physical is no problem! 2. The problem of 'where' consciousness is - 'it' is not in a place, it is between a body of a certain kind, functioning properly, and any possible aspect of reality, including itself! That takes care of introspection. 3. The problem of the origin of free will - as a function of a certain kind of living body (i.e. one that has the ability to be conscious - geez, I'm beginning to sound like Aristotle's type of phraseology here), the ability to initiate conscious action is a further expression of a fundamental of living action. "Life is a process of self-initiated and self-sustained action" - in fact, that ability is fundamental to distinguishing living from non-living action. Just a little light thinking before bed! Marsha
  21. Yes, yes, Arthur Koestler's books! He is my god of science writing - I wish I could write science as literately and literarily as he. Plus, many of his other books are very interesting, like The Sleepwalkers (about the great astronomers) and The Chrysthanemum and the Lotus - what can we learn from eastern cultures. His autobiographies, if you can find them, are fascinating because he was just about everywhere and knew everyone in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. (Biographies: Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing). He was an ardent communist who fought with the Nazi's in Berlin, who became one of the most outspoken of anti-communists after touring the USSR. He lived an amazingly interesting life and was a true Renaissance man. And, for my money, he did the most to move biology and psychology away from mechano-reductionism. Another little-known, but great book of biology is Ludwig Van Bertalanffy's Problems of Life, which offers an intergrated systems-theory of living action. And don't forget Aristotle's De Anima, a fantastic work of biology/psychology. Aquinas' commentary is excellent, too. I also like Walter B. Cannon's The Wisdom of the Body (the theory of homestasis) and Stephen Walker's Animal Thinking (an anazing review of all the research on animal cognition up to the point of its publication, with interestin analysis). In neuropsychology, don't miss the great Alexander Luria, who basically invented the field: The Mind of a Mnemonist and the Man With a Shattered Brain. Best, Marsha
  22. Jody, Hmm, you made me think of an interesting point: is it truly an error? I guess this is an epistemological point, but in what respect is it an error? The sizes of the heavenly bodies look different in the sky and near the earth, but maybe the one near the earth gives a more actually realistic proportion of the other body to earth, perspective-wise. On the other hand, in the middle of the sky, the heavenly bodies are without context or reference to the size of anything else. I don't know the answer! Cheers, Marsha
  23. Jody, Thanks for the beautiful pictures. I'm putting one as my desktop background, replacing F-14's breaking the sound barrier through high humidity (you see the air patterns). Best, Marsha Enright
  24. Michael, Kevin, Sorry, I'm trying to find my electronic copy of my article that's identical to the one in JARS, to post it. By the way, I highly recommend looking at the chapter "Writing the Draft: the primacy of the subconscious" in Rand's book on non-fiction writing, if you want to get a glimpse at her subtle thinking about the relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind and emotions. That's the chapter where she talks about 'the squirms.' Marsha
  25. How true! I think she often did takes on how honest and sincere a person was, in the way she treated them. Marsha