OP-EDs from TOC


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I am starting two threads to put the OP-EDS that come out of The Ayn Rand Institute and The Objectivist Center. As I add things, I will link to them so this first post will serve as an index. Inclusion in this thread does not mean that Michael and I endorse or disagree with the views stated in the articles. This is simply a place to see the media releases put out by The Objectivist Center.


5/17/06 - Policing Phone Calls and Perverting Principles

6/26/06 - Starbucks Big Fat Cup of Trouble

7/3/06 - Birthday Blips: Are Americans Really Free & Equal?

7/21/06 - A Cool Capitalist

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Policing Phone Calls and Perverting Principles

by Edward Hudgins

The revelation that the Bush administration has secured records of millions of phone calls from three telecom companies should shock every American who is concerned about freedom. Apparently it has not. A poll the day after the disclosure found that two- thirds of Americans have no apparent problem with this practice. Perhaps those opinions will change as more details are revealed. But in any case, for the sake our freedom, Americans would do well to do what most politicians refuse to do: to think in terms of principles.

The proper purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty and property of citizens. Preventing terrorist attacks certainly falls under this principle. Administration defenders argue that its open-ended approach to tracking phone calls is simply part of that effort.

Of course, actually listening in on rather than just tracking every call placed -- if it were possible -- might reveal not only terrorist plots but plans for domestic murders and other crimes as well. Yet we also recognize that governments can be as dangerous to our rights as criminals and terrorists. That's why in the Constitution America's Founders created three separate branches of government -- executive, legislative and judicial -- and a system of checks and balances so that none of these could easily limit our liberty.

If the executive branch suspects someone is planning a crime, it must go to a court for permission to wiretap a phone. If current wiretap laws don't cover new technologies, the executive might go to Congress to amend the law. But the Bush administration is ignoring this fundamental principle of checks and balances by strong-arming private companies to turn over phone records without any oversight by the courts or Congress.

The administration already has shown its disregard for this principle by refusing to secure quick permission from a special court set up for such cases to wire tap suspected subversives calling from overseas to the United States. Nor has it gone to Congress to amend current laws to deal with what few cases might arise where there isn't enough time to seek court approval before the fact.

It's one thing for law enforcement officials to seek cooperation from private parties to stop specific crimes; even without a warrant local merchants might work with the police to apprehend mafia thugs who are shaking down neighborhood businesses.

But the cooperation the administration seeks for phone monitoring goes far beyond this. In effect, the administration is deputizing private parties to police their customers.

In recent years there have been government attempts to deputize bank tellers, requiring them to ask customers what large deposits and withdrawals are for -- as if drug pushers are really going to answer, "I'm scoring a trunk full of coke tonight." Responses were to be reported to authorities, including your angry retort that it's none of the teller's #@!&% business.

This principle would make snitches out of those with whom we do business. In a society already rife with suspicion, policies based on this principle create a big red sign reading "Trust No One!"

Some individuals -- especially conservatives -- argue that if Americans have nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind the government monitoring who they call, how much they deposit in the bank or anything else. But conservatives who make such arguments might ask, "What will I think when President Hillary Clinton rules in accordance with this principle, perhaps applying it to other enterprises and issues?"

Perhaps local governments increasing will attempt to collect taxes on internet business transactions; the city of San Antonio currently is suing 16 online travel agencies for not paying some $10 million in various hotel levies. Perhaps the federal government will get involved in this policing or try again to impose its own taxes on a cyberspace currently free from its revenue collectors. Or perhaps there will be calls from the kinds of international regulators of whom the Clintons are so fond to crack down on tax-evading transactions with websites based in other countries.

Perhaps President Hillary will strong-arm AOL and Yahoo to turn over records about your visits to ebay and Amazon or will declare that banks must allow Janet Reno's second attorney generalship to do a full cavity search of your accounts. Hey, they're just looking for patterns of criminal behavior, that is, you greedy scofflaws trying to avoid paying your fair share to government.

What do you think now?

Principles are necessary guides to individual choice and government policies, to take us beyond the range of the moment and to show us the consequences of a course of action. The Bush administration, by ignoring the principles that check government power, might think it's tracking down terrorists today but in fact it is undermining freedom now and in the future.


The Objectivist Center

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  • 1 month later...

Birthday Blips

by Edward Hudgins

[This commnentary appeared in the Washington Times on July 3, 2006.]

On July 4 we celebrate the creation of the United States of America. Our birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, reads, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal." It states that we're each endowed with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." It concludes that "to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed."

Most Americans give lip service to these sentiments. But how many of us understand what these words really mean? Equality? Rights? Americans in spirit must hold these principles in their hearts and minds, and use them as guides in society. So it's appropriate to take a few minutes to reflect on what our Founders meant when they created the opportunity for this annual occasion of families, friends, picnics and fireworks.

Let's start with the concept of equality. The Founders understood that equality does not mean that we're identical in any of our many particulars. In fact, "equality" seems a paradoxical term to use, since a guiding principle of those Founders was individualism. See for a moment what they saw. Look around you. Everyone you know is different from everybody else. We all look different. We're male and female, blond, brunette and redhead, tall and short. We have different capacities, temperaments, likes, dislikes, goals and aspirations. So where is this equality?

A hint is found in the fact that the most important things that distinguish us from one another are not accidents of birth. As philosopher Ayn Rand put it, "As man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul."

Therein we find our real equality. We each have a free will and rational capacity to direct and take charge of our own lives. We are all creators. We can and must produce the means for our physical survival -- we grow food; build houses; drill oil wells; manufacture trains, planes and automobiles; write novels, poems, screenplays and business plans; discover cures for diseases and the secrets of the universe. But our most important creations are our moral characters and intellectual habits. These allow us to do all those other things. As writer William Ernest Henley put it in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."

Sure, some might do better in certain areas and pursuits than others. But all of us are equally human, equally dependent on our choice to think and to reason in order to live and flourish.

That brings us to the concept of rights. We all potentially benefit in society with others. As we all pursue our self-interest to the best of our abilities, we enrich, entertain, educate, enlighten and inspire one another as well. But this will only be the case if we respect the equal rights of others -- that is, if we deal with each other based on mutual consent.

The Founders really meant it when they said "the pursuit of happiness." You do not, for example, have the "right" to a house that might make you happy. That would entail violating the equal rights of others, forcing someone else to turn over their house to you, to build one for you or to pay for one for you. But you are at liberty to earn the money to buy a house by producing goods and services and trading them with others.

That brings us to government. The Founders were quite clear that governments are supposed to protect those equal liberties. And if you look around, you see governments have strayed far from this purpose because too many Americans have forgotten the true meanings of "equality" and "rights."

So as you enjoy yourself on Independence Day, look around at your friends and neighbors. Remember that you find your equality with them in the fact that you and they are human beings, unique individuals with your own wills, purposes and wonderful possibilities. And remember that you and they should have liberty to live your lives as you see fit. And remember that if you want to continue to enjoy those liberties, you had better understand the need to rein in the government and return it to the limited purpose of those foresighted Founders.


Edward Hudgins is executive director of the Atlas Society and its Objectivist Center, which celebrates human achievement.

The Atlas Society & The Objectivist Center

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  • 3 weeks later...

(Note from Kat: This is an OP-ED by Ed Hudgins which was posted on OL but was lost in disaster of July 2006. Unfortunately, we have been unable to reconstruct the responses to Ed's article.)

A Cool Capitalist

by Edward Hudgins

[Published on July 21, 2006 in the "Washington Times." http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/...81456-9126r.htm ]

July 21, 2006 -- It's a typical 3-H Washington, D.C. summer: hazy, hot and humid. And with small variations, the rest of the country sweats through this same season.

But I sit typing in cool comfort, looking out a window into the park at the statue of an admiral who might want to yield his pedestal for a likeness of Willis Haviland Carrier. Who was Carrier and why does he deserve our esteem? He's the American who invented and commercialized the modern air conditioner.

Carrier was born in 1876 and grew on the cold shores of Lake Erie in Upstate New York. He earned a masters in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1901 and went to work for the Buffalo Forge Co., where he worked on heating systems for companies to dry lumber and coffee.

One of his firm's customers, Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, faced a problem. Climate variations in their facility meant the printing equipment would expand or contract subtly, making it difficult to keep the machines properly aligned for the multistage printing process. Carrier solved the company's problem by producing the first system to control temperature, humidity and ventilation; U.S. Patent No. 8008897 for the "Apparatus for Treating Air" was granted in 1906.

Carrier started his own company in 1915. Entrepreneurs soon understood cool could attract customers. By 1924, he was producing air conditioning systems not only for industrial concerns but for department stores and theaters. Carrier's creations meant that in the hard times and long, hot summers of the Depression and World War II Americans could chill out watching a Clark Gable movie.

In 1928, Carrier produced the first AC unit for private residences but, as with the television, that other great invention of the era, the economic situation in the country delayed its widespread introduction into our homes until the 1950s. Now AC is everywhere, even in our cars.

Some of the principles for cooling air had been known for many years. In Florida in the 1830s John Gorie noted that compressed air heats up and reducing compression cools air and he employed this principle in experiments to chill rooms in the summer. He reasoned -- mistakenly -- that because tropical diseases like malaria do not occur in winter, that cold air is the cure.

But Carrier's achievement was that of a capitalist at his best. He made scientific-engineering discoveries and applied them to create equipment to manage temperature and humidity in a controlled, uniform manner. He and his company then went further, doing what only private entrepreneurs can do: They commercialized their products, making them widely available first for manufacturers, then for retail establishments and finally for our homes, cutting prices and increasing quality. Carrier's initial $35,000 investment resulted in a company with sales of $12.5 billion in 2005.

Of course, air conditioning not only keeps us comfortable, as important as that is; it literally can keep us alive. A recent Centers for Disease Control publication found about 4,780 heat-related deaths in the U.S. between 1979 and 2002, about 200 per year. In light of omnipresent AC in America, we suspect most of those tragedies occurred outdoors. By contrast, during the heat wave in Europe in 2003 some 15,000 French, most of them elderly and in non-air-conditioned dwellings, died; throughout Europe as many of 35,000 might have succumbed to the heat. With fewer regulations to drive up their costs, many of those lives could have been saved with a $150 AC window unit.

But don't air conditioners mean more energy consumption? Absolutely. It's great that the human mind and entrepreneurs in the free market can figure out how to dig for coal, drill for oil and discover the quantum secrets of the atom, all to produce power so we can all live in comfort.

In distant centuries, when we actually run out of oil -- a different problem from government prohibitions on drilling in politically correct locations -- entrepreneurs will figure out commercially viable ways to employ the energy from wind, ocean waves and even solar power, not only on Earth but from giant orbiting solar collectors. That will give us cheap, clean power.

So as you sit, I hope, in a nice, cool, air conditioned room reading this, give a silent thanks to the capitalist who made your comfort possible: Willis Haviland Carrier.


Edward Hudgins is executive director of the Atlas Society and its Objectivist Center, which celebrates human achievement.

This editorial comment has been produced and distributed by The Objectivist Center. If you are distributing electronically, the following text must be included after the selection:

Copyright, The Objectivist Center. For more information, please visit www.ObjectivistCenter.org

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