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Good debate last night. All the candidates would be better than what we have right now. Personally, I like Gary Johnson alot, although he's a long shot. He certainly did add some much needed comic relief! <iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/sPYOvOcBgOg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
A progressive writer for Slate by the name of Matt Yglesias (formerly associated with the Center for American Progress, and apparently a big deal in that community) posted a statement to his Twitter account yesterday that I found interesting. Though I don’t follow Yglesias on Twitter and had not heard of him before, the post came to my attention when it was retweeted by a buffoonish progressive blogger I do follow for the sole purpose of publicly shaming him in what can be best analogized as a regular pheasant hunt on the grounds of my digital estate. Yglesias’s tweet, most likely written in response to the National Spelling Bee coverage, was as follows: “English’s inordinately difficult spelling makes for entertaining contests, but it’s horrible for social mobility. Reform is needed.” Presumably, Yglesias’s argument goes something like this: poor people don’t have the same opportunities to learn spelling as the other classes; therefore, English spelling rules function as barriers to social blending and must be overhauled. Putting aside the obvious practical concerns surrounding such an action (philosopher kings don't concern themselves with such matters), Yglesias’s view of English as a top-down control mechanism – a tinker’s tool for producing desirable social outcomes – runs counter to what Hayekians might point to as the emergent nature of language. We don't know if Yglesias would recommend the creation of such a body, but there is no Central Authority that controls spelling or vocabulary for all of society. Language is, and has been for centuries, shaped by each one of us, through usage, every day. Literally anyone can invent a word or adopt a new spelling at any time, and if enough people use it, it becomes a part of our shared means of communication - a part of our culture and social norms. It’s indicative of the core temperamental differences between libertarians and progressives that my take on spelling is the polar opposite of Yglesias’s. Whereas Yglesias sees spelling as a tool of oppression beating down the poor, I view it as a great equalizing opportunity *for anyone willing to put in the effort.* Spelling is nothing more than a system of rules and exceptions learned through experience, memorization, and practice. Unlike in the past, when books were true rarities affordable only by the elite, the entirety of the English language is now directly accessible to anyone with a library, book store, or computer. With a simple grammar book and a bit of practice, there is nothing preventing the poorest of the poor from learning to express themselves every bit as eloquently as the richest of the rich. Compare the written word to mansions, luxury cars, finely tailored clothing, and other social status symbols long beyond the grasp of all but the super wealthy. Or compare it to exclusionary factors not so easily changed, such as accent, mannerisms, or physical appearance. If language is a barrier for the lower classes, what a cheap and accessible barrier it is, and once you've climbed over that initial hurdle, nobody can rightly tell the prince from the pauper on the other side.
When the Paul Ryan flap hit the press, Amy Peikoff interviewed Yaron Brook about Paul Ryan's having been "influenced" by Ayn Rand. ( "Don't Let It Go Unheard" blog radio with Yaron Brook hear here.) At about 8:50 min:sec in to about 10:45 min:sec out, Yaron Brook implied that Objectivism is not a natural rights philosophy. This was new to my understanding. I thought that in the essay, "Man's Rights" Ayn Rand said: "Whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man's origin does not alter the fact that he is an entity of a specific kind - a rational being - that he cannot function successfully under coercion, and that rights are a necessary condition of his particular mode of survival." ("Man's Rights," The Virtue of Selfishness, hb, page 126.) But, this is not absolute. We may well indeed learn language socially, but alone on an island, Robinson Crusoe still needed language. And, he needed morality. But he did not need rights. Rights only exist in a social context. Robinson Crusoe could act immorally, but he could not violate his own rights. Thus, rights are not intrinsic to human nature but only exist within the context of social life. ... or is there something I am missing? (... within the context of Objectivist canon.)
Do you think it is possible to build a real version of Atlantis somewhere in the world today? Maybe not a completely self-sufficient community, but at least a town with a small, limited government and a legal separation of economy and state and church and state.