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The Great Fact: A Review of Deirdre McCloskey’s “Bourgeois Dignity” – Article by Bradley Doucet

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The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
September 20, 2014
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We live in astonishing times. We take it for granted, of course, which is good in a way because, well, we have to get on with the business of living and can’t spend every waking moment going, “Oh my God! This is amazing!” But it’s a good idea to stop and take stock from time to time in order to appreciate just how far we’ve come in the past 200 years or so—to show gratitude for just how much richer the average person is today thanks to the Industrial Revolution.
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“In 1800, the average human consumed and expected her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to go on consuming a mere $3 a day, give or take a dollar or two,” writes economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey in her excellent 2010 book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World. That’s in modern-day, US prices, corrected for cost of living. Apart from a comparatively few wealthier lords, bishops, and the odd rich merchant, people were dirt poor, barely subsisting, unable to afford luxuries like elementary education for their kids—who had a 50% chance at birth of not making it past the age of 30. That’s the way it was, the way it had always been, and as far as anyone could tell, the way it always would be.

More Than 16 Times Richer

But thankfully, things turned out a little differently. There are seven times as many of us on the planet today, but we’re many times richer on average, despite pockets of enduring dire poverty here and there. According to McCloskey, “Real income per head nowadays exceeds that around 1700 or 1800 in, say, Britain and in other countries that have experienced modern economic growth by such a large factor as sixteen, at least.” And this is a very conservative estimate of material improvement, not taking into account such novelties as jet travel, penicillin, and smartphones.

This radical, positive change brought about by the Industrial Revolution is the “Great Fact” about the modern world. “No competent economist, regardless of her politics, denies the Great Fact,” writes McCloskey. But it does require explanation, and here there are many theories. What caused it? Why did it happen where and when it happened—starting in northern Europe around 1800—instead of in some other place, at some other time? And although modern economic growth has at least begun to reach most of the world, including now China and India, if we had a better understanding of its causes, perhaps we could do a better job of encouraging it to spread to the relatively few remaining holdouts.

What changed, argues McCloskey, is the way people thought about markets and innovation and the people who were engaged in the business of making new things and buying and selling them. “More or less suddenly the Dutch and British and then the Americans and the French began talking about the middle class, high or low—the “bourgeoisie”—as though it were dignified and free. The result was modern economic growth.” In other words, the material, economic fact has a non-material, rhetorical cause, which is why economics can’t explain the modern world. Our ideas changed, and we started innovating like never before, and an explosion of innovation drove the rapid economic growth of the past 200 years.

What Didn’t Cause the Industrial Revolution

Bourgeois Dignity is the second book of a trilogy. The first book, The Bourgeois Virtues (2006), which I have not read but now plan to, argued for the positive ethical status of a bourgeois life. The third book, Bourgeois Equality, due out in 2015, will present the positive case for the claim that it is a change in ideas and rhetoric that made the modern world—and that ideas and rhetoric could unmake it, too. As for this second book in the series, it presents the negative case by examining the materialist explanations for the Great Fact offered up by economists and historians from both the left and the right, and finding them all to be lacking.

Imperialism, for instance, did not bring about the modern world. The average European did not become spectacularly wealthy by historical standards simply by taking Africa’s and America’s wealth. Imperialism did happen, and it did make a few people rich and hurt a lot of people, especially in places like the Belgian Congo. But it did not raise the standard of living of average Europeans, who would have been better off if their leaders had allowed trade to flourish instead of supporting the subjugation of people in foreign lands. Besides which, empires had existed in other times and places without bringing about an Industrial Revolution. A unique effect cannot be the result of a routine cause. And it cannot either simply be the case that wealth was moved from one place to another, because there is much more wealth per person today than ever before, despite there being many more of us around.

International trade did not do it either, according to McCloskey. Trade is a good thing, as imperialism is a bad thing, but its effects are relatively small. And extensive trade, too, existed long before the 1800s, in places other than Europe and the United States, without launching the rapid material betterment of all. And for similar reasons, it wasn’t the case that people began saving more, or finally accumulated enough, or got greedier all of a sudden, or discovered a Protestant work ethic, or finally built extensive transportation infrastructure, or formed unions, or suddenly started respecting private property, or any of dozens of other explanations presented by economists and historians over the years.

Respect for Innovation and Making Money

Only innovation has the power to make people radically better off by radically increasing the output produced from given inputs, and only innovation was a truly novel cause, to the extent that it was taking place on an unprecedented scale two hundred years ago in northern Europe. And the reason that it began happening there and then like never before was a change in rhetoric—a newfound liberty, yes, but also a newfound dignity previously reserved for clergy and warriors. For the first time, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it became respectable, even honourable, to figure out new ways of doing things and to make money selling those innovations to other people, and so innovation and business were encouraged, and much of humanity was lifted out of dire poverty for the first time in history starting in the 19th century.

Ideas matter. Supported by bourgeois dignity, and despite the betrayal of a portion of the intellectual elite as of around 1848, we have continued to innovate and make money and lift more and more people out of poverty. There have been significant setbacks due to communism and fascism and two world wars, but almost everyone is much better off today than anyone dreamed was possible just a few short centuries ago. In order to continue spreading the wealth, and the opportunities for human flourishing that go with it, we need to defend the idea that business and innovation deserve to be free and respected, as Deirdre McCloskey herself has so admirably done in this fine volume.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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Drug Warriors Claim Colorado Going to Pot – Article by Mark Thornton

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The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
September 20, 2014
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As we moved into the second half of 2014, I was eager to learn if marijuana legalization in Colorado was succeeding. At first there was little being reported, but eventually reports started appearing in the news. Business Insider reported that “Legalizing Weed in Colorado Is A Huge Success,” although they did temper their report with a “Down Side” as well. Jacob Sullum reported that such things as underage consumption and traffic fatalities have fallen, although the declines were statistically insignificant and part of already declining trends in the statistics.

The important thing for me is that things did not get much worse according to these reports. When you open the door to a newly legal recreational drug via a very clunky regulatory circus, and where the government gives its seal of approval, there are bound to be growing pains and tragic cases. For example, one college student jumped to his death after ingesting six times the recommended number of pot-infused cookies.

The third report I came across was an editorial from the venerable Heritage Foundation. Given the previous reports, I was astonished to learn that in Colorado marijuana use was associated with an increase in highway fatalities, DUI arrests, underage consumption, drug-related student expulsions, college student use, and marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The editorial concludes: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data. And the data coming out of Colorado points to one and only one conclusion: the legalization of marijuana in the state is terrible public policy.”

However, I began to get suspicious when I found out that the “hard science and reliable data” were not collected, produced, or analyzed by the Heritage Foundation, but by some outfit named the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program. They produced the report entitled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” which strongly calls into question the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

There was no information about the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program (RMHIDRA) in the report other than it was produced by the “Investigative Support Center” in Denver, Colorado. It turns out the program is actually controlled by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, otherwise known as the Drug Czar.

Colorado has been in the process of legalizing marijuana since 2000. It initially started small with limited medical marijuana and as of January of 2014, it has legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana with local option for commercial production and retail distribution. So we should expect, ceteris paribus, that the full price to consumers has fallen and that consumption for medical and recreational use has increased.

One of the most distressing empirical results in the RMHIDRA report was that while overall traffic fatalities decreased 14.8 percent between 2007 and 2012 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists that tested positive for marijuana increased by 100 percent. This data is exploited over several pages of the report using a variety of tables and charts.

If Coloradoans were consuming more marijuana and relatively less alcohol, we would expect the number of traffic fatalities to decrease because marijuana has been found to be relatively much safer than alcohol in terms of driving and motor skills. But the data indicating a 100 percent increase in fatalities involving marijuana is puzzling, disturbing, and at odds with “hard science.” If this was indeed “reliable data” it would indicate that marijuana consumption in Colorado had greatly increased beyond anyone’s estimation.

It turns out RMHIDRA’s data was anything but “reliable” and would be best characterized as misleading. If you examine the footnote section of the report you will find that the data from 2012 “represents 100 percent reporting” due to the efforts of RMHIDA to scour several data sources. However, a footnote reveals that in the data from 2006 through 2012 a very slight majority of cases, 50.13 percent were not tested! If 100 percent were tested in 2012, then the percent tested for 2006–2011 is far less than 50 percent.

What this means is that if you increased blood testing to 100 percent in 2012 when you were testing less than 50 percent of cases in prior years that you should expect to find at least a 100 percent increase involving traffic fatalities with some detection of marijuana. This result not only brings into question the reports “reliable data,” it brings into serious question RMHIDRA’s respect for “hard science.”

Another basic problem with their data is the meaning of “testing positive for marijuana.” Marijuana’s active ingredient THC can remain detectable days and weeks after it has been consumed. In contrast, marijuana impairment only lasts for several hours and is somewhat offset by safer driving behaviors, such as driving at slower speeds and avoiding high traffic areas. Given that marijuana consumption has increased significantly since 2000 we should indeed expect many more positive blood tests, but without making the leap that marijuana consumption is causing more highway fatalities.

The RMHIDRA report also offers up some dreary data on youth marijuana use. In particular, they conclude that marijuana use by young Coloradans is higher than the national average and increasing. Most importantly, they point out that between the 2008–09 and 2012–/13 school years there was a 32 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in Colorado.

Other experts using different data sources believe that there has actually been a secular trend of decreasing marijuana use by the young people of Colorado throughout the entire legalization process. However, with respect to suspensions and expulsions, there has indeed been a 32 percent increase in the number of drug-related suspensions and expulsions.

However, weighted on a per pupil basis, there has been virtually no increase in the rate of drug-related suspensions and expulsions. The numerical increase in suspensions and expulsions is more than completely accounted for by the increased number of pupils and the relative increase of impoverished minority groups.

In addition, “drug related” suspensions and expulsions involves other drugs besides marijuana, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Marijuana-related suspensions and expulsions are overwhelmingly related to “possession” and “under the influence,” not things like violence, property destruction, and classroom disturbances.

The RMHIDRA report spans over 150 pages, but everything I had time to examine was either clearly wrong, misleading, or intentionally sensational.

Of course there are other sources of misinformation on the relative risks of cannabis. For example, there are academics who warn of the dangers of cannabis while they are receiving money from the pharmaceutical pain drug companies. This again suggests a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

This is particularly disturbing and relevant information given recent reports which indicate that relatively fewer overdose painkiller deaths are occurring in states with medical marijuana laws.

There are clearly some things wrong with Colorado’s approach to legalizing marijuana and there are clearly going to be some bad results at the individual and state level, but this report is not the right way of determining and correcting those problems. As the Heritage Foundation editorial concluded: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data.”

Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Dawn of the New Renaissance, Op. 21 (2003) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 20, 2014
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Mr. Stolyarov composed this work in 2003 in an effort to herald the beginning of a new era – the return to harmony, melody, meter, and heroic grandeur, the revival of an upright, luminous vision of human potential.

This work was remastered using the SynthFont2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 61, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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Abstract Orderism Fractal 62 – Art by G. Stolyarov II

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Abstract Orderism Fractal 60 - by G. Stolyarov II

Abstract Orderism Fractal 62 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

This colorful, intricate fractal resembles the ornaments on a peacock’s tail.

This digital artwork was created by Mr. Stolyarov in Apophysis, a free program that facilitates deliberate manipulation of randomly generated fractals into intelligible shapes.

This fractal is an extension of Mr. Stolyarov’s artistic style of Abstract Orderism, whose goal is the creation of abstract objects that are appealing by virtue of their geometric intricacy — a demonstration of the order that man can both discover in the universe and bring into existence through his own actions and applications of the laws of nature.

Fractal art is based on the idea of the spontaneous order – which is pivotal in economics, culture, and human civilization itself. Now, using computer technology, spontaneous orders can be harnessed in individual art works as well.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s art works.

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Abstract Orderism Fractal 61 – Art by G. Stolyarov II

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Abstract Orderism Fractal 60 - by G. Stolyarov II

Abstract Orderism Fractal 61 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

This fractal consists of spiral upon radiant spiral, spreading forth in glorious illumination.

This digital artwork was created by Mr. Stolyarov in Apophysis, a free program that facilitates deliberate manipulation of randomly generated fractals into intelligible shapes.

This fractal is an extension of Mr. Stolyarov’s artistic style of Abstract Orderism, whose goal is the creation of abstract objects that are appealing by virtue of their geometric intricacy — a demonstration of the order that man can both discover in the universe and bring into existence through his own actions and applications of the laws of nature.

Fractal art is based on the idea of the spontaneous order – which is pivotal in economics, culture, and human civilization itself. Now, using computer technology, spontaneous orders can be harnessed in individual art works as well.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s art works.

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Ludd vs. Schumpeter: Fear of Robot Labor is Fear of the Free Market – Article by Wendy McElroy

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The New Renaissance Hat
Wendy McElroy
September 18, 2014
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Report Suggests Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Vulnerable to Computerization,” screams a headline. The cry of “robots are coming to take our jobs!” is ringing across North America. But the concern reveals nothing so much as a fear—and misunderstanding—of the free market.

In the short term, robotics will cause some job dislocation; in the long term, labor patterns will simply shift. The use of robotics to increase productivity while decreasing costs works basically the same way as past technological advances, like the production line, have worked. Those advances improved the quality of life of billions of people and created new forms of employment that were unimaginable at the time.

Given that reality, the cry that should be heard is, “Beware of monopolies controlling technology through restrictive patents or other government-granted privilege.”

The robots are coming!

Actually, they are here already. Technological advance is an inherent aspect of a free market in which innovators seeks to produce more value at a lower cost. Entrepreneurs want a market edge. Computerization, industrial control systems, and robotics have become an integral part of that quest. Many manual jobs, such as factory-line assembly, have been phased out and replaced by others, such jobs related to technology, the Internet, and games. For a number of reasons, however, robots are poised to become villains of unemployment. Two reasons come to mind:

1. Robots are now highly developed and less expensive. Such traits make them an increasingly popular option. The Banque de Luxembourg News offered a snapshot:

The currently-estimated average unit cost of around $50,000 should certainly decrease further with the arrival of “low-cost” robots on the market. This is particularly the case for “Baxter,” the humanoid robot with evolving artificial intelligence from the US company Rethink Robotics, or “Universal 5” from the Danish company Universal Robots, priced at just $22,000 and $34,000 respectively.

Better, faster, and cheaper are the bases of increased productivity.

2. Robots will be interacting more directly with the general public. The fast-food industry is a good example. People may be accustomed to ATMs, but a robotic kiosk that asks, “Do you want fries with that?” will occasion widespread public comment, albeit temporarily.

Comment from displaced fast-food restaurant workers may not be so transient. NBC News recently described a strike by workers in an estimated 150 cities. The workers’ main demand was a $15 minimum wage, but they also called for better working conditions. The protesters, ironically, are speeding up their own unemployment by making themselves expensive and difficult to manage.

Labor costs

Compared to humans, robots are cheaper to employ—partly for natural reasons and partly because of government intervention.

Among the natural costs are training, safety needs, overtime, and personnel problems such as hiring, firing and on-the-job theft. Now, according to Singularity Hub, robots can also be more productive in certain roles. They  “can make a burger in 10 seconds (360/hr). Fast yes, but also superior quality. Because the restaurant is free to spend its savings on better ingredients, it can make gourmet burgers at fast food prices.”

Government-imposed costs include minimum-wage laws and mandated benefits, as well as discrimination, liability, and other employment lawsuits. The employment advisory Workforce explained, “Defending a case through discovery and a ruling on a motion for summary judgment can cost an employer between $75,000 and $125,000. If an employer loses summary judgment—which, much more often than not, is the case—the employer can expect to spend a total of $175,000 to $250,000 to take a case to a jury verdict at trial.”

At some point, human labor will make sense only to restaurants that wish to preserve the “personal touch” or to fill a niche.

The underlying message of robotechnophobia

The tech site Motherboard aptly commented, “The coming age of robot workers chiefly reflects a tension that’s been around since the first common lands were enclosed by landowners who declared them private property: that between labour and the owners of capital. The future of labour in the robot age has everything to do with capitalism.”

Ironically, Motherboard points to one critic of capitalism who defended technological advances in production: none other than Karl Marx. He called machines “fixed capital.” The defense occurs in a segment called “The Fragment on Machines”  in the unfinished but published manuscript Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy).

Marx believed the “variable capital” (workers) dislocated by machines would be freed from the exploitation of their “surplus labor,” the difference between their wages and the selling price of a product, which the capitalist pockets as profit. Machines would benefit “emancipated labour” because capitalists would “employ people upon something not directly and immediately productive, e.g. in the erection of machinery.” The relationship change would revolutionize society and hasten the end of capitalism itself.

Never mind that the idea of “surplus labor” is intellectually bankrupt, technology ended up strengthening capitalism. But Marx was right about one thing: Many workers have been emancipated from soul-deadening, repetitive labor. Many who feared technology did so because they viewed society as static. The free market is the opposite. It is a dynamic, quick-response ecosystem of value. Internet pioneer Vint Cerf argues, “Historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys and there is no reason to think otherwise in this case.”

Forbes pointed out that U.S. unemployment rates have changed little over the past 120 years (1890 to 2014) despite massive advances in workplace technology:

There have been three major spikes in unemployment, all caused by financiers, not by engineers: the railroad and bank failures of the Panic of 1893, the bank failures of the Great Depression, and finally the Great Recession of our era, also stemming from bank failures. And each time, once the bankers and policymakers got their houses in order, businesses, engineers, and entrepreneurs restored growth and employment.

The drive to make society static is powerful obstacle to that restored employment. How does society become static? A key word in the answer is “monopoly.” But we should not equivocate on two forms of monopoly.

A monopoly established by aggressive innovation and excellence will dominate only as long as it produces better or less expensive goods than others can. Monopolies created by crony capitalism are entrenched expressions of privilege that serve elite interests. Crony capitalism is the economic arrangement by which business success depends upon having a close relationship with government, including legal privileges.

Restrictive patents are a basic building block of crony capitalism because they grant a business the “right” to exclude competition. Many libertarians deny the legitimacy of any patents. The nineteenth century classical liberal Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk rejected patents on classically Austrian grounds. He called them “legally compulsive relationships of patronage which are based on a vendor’s exclusive right of sale”: in short, a government-granted privilege that violated every man’s right to compete freely. Modern critics of patents include the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard and intellectual property attorney Stephan Kinsella.

Pharmaceuticals and technology are particularly patent-hungry. The extent of the hunger can be gauged by how much money companies spend to protect their intellectual property rights. In 2011, Apple and Google reportedly spent more on patent lawsuits and purchases than on research and development. A New York Times article addressed the costs imposed on tech companies by “patent trolls”—people who do not produce or supply services based on patents they own but use them only to collect licensing fees and legal settlements. “Litigation costs in the United States related to patent assertion entities [trolls],” the article claimed, “totaled nearly $30 billion in 2011, more than four times the costs in 2005.” These costs and associated ones, like patent infringement insurance, harm a society’s productivity by creating stasis and  preventing competition.

Dean Baker, co-director of the progressive Center for Economic Policy Research, described the difference between robots produced on the marketplace and robots produced by monopoly. Private producers “won’t directly get rich” because “robots will presumably be relatively cheap to make. After all, we can have robots make them. If the owners of robots get really rich it will be because the government has given them patent monopolies so that they can collect lots of money from anyone who wants to buy or build a robot.”  The monopoly “tax” will be passed on to impoverish both consumers and employees.

Conclusion

Ultimately, we should return again to the wisdom of Joseph Schumpeter, who reminds us that technological progress, while it can change the patterns of production, tends to free up resources for new uses, making life better over the long term. In other words, the displacement of workers by robots is just creative destruction in action. Just as the car starter replaced the buggy whip, the robot might replace the burger-flipper. Perhaps the burger-flipper will migrate to a new profession, such as caring for an elderly person or cleaning homes for busy professionals. But there are always new ways to create value.

An increased use of robots will cause labor dislocation, which will be painful for many workers in the near term. But if market forces are allowed to function, the dislocation will be temporary. And if history is a guide, the replacement jobs will require skills that better express what it means to be human: communication, problem-solving, creation, and caregiving.

Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of ifeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (independent.org).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Minuet #3 (Systematic Minuet), Op. 34 (2004) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 18, 2014
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This minuet for piano, composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2004, conveys intricacy through directed melodies within a rigorously logical structure.

This work was remastered using the SynthFont2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Cube of Cubes, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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The Dawn of the Surveillance State – Article by Gary McGath

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The New Renaissance Hat
Gary McGath
September 18, 2014
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We think of mass surveillance as a product of modern technology—applying computing power to scoop up communications and metadata in bulk. But large-scale spying on Americans got its real start in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. The government wanted to build up an apparatus to crush all criticism.

In his 1917 Flag Day speech, President Wilson claimed that Germany had “filled our unsuspecting communities with vicious spies and conspirators and sought to corrupt the opinion of our people in their own behalf.” He warned, “Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution.” The next day, Congress gave teeth to his warning with the Espionage Act, which criminalized opposition to the war. In 1918, the Sedition Act made prohibitions on dissent even broader.

The apparatus for searching out people with supposedly disloyal tendencies was already in place. The Council of National Defense, created in 1916, had begun urging the states to create their own Councils of Defense. Some of them paid close attention to everything people were saying and promoted persecution of anything sounding disloyal or foreign. In Iowa, elderly women were jailed for speaking German over the telephone, and a pastor was imprisoned for giving part of a funeral service in Swedish.

In Oklahoma, Governor Robert L. Williams formed an extralegal state Council of Defense, which in turn created an Oklahoma Loyalty Bureau, employing secret service agents to find sedition in communities. The Tulsa County Council of Defense formed a secret organization to look for dissidents.

The Bureau of Investigation (later called the FBI) got into the act, creating the American Protective League (APL)—a private, quasi-official espionage organization. The APL boasted that it was “organized with approval and operating under the direction of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation.” Because it was nominally private, the government didn’t have to take responsibility for its actions. Its 1,200 branches put local public schools under surveillance, checked on people who didn’t buy war bonds, and investigated Lutheran clergymen who didn’t express public support for the war. APL members detained over 40,000 people, opened mail, and raided factories, union halls, and private homes.

The federal government did its own share of outrageous searches and seizures. A 1918 pamphlet, “War-time Prosecutions and Mob Violence,” by the National Civil Liberties Bureau, cites numerous raids, with vast amounts of printed materials confiscated, from September 1917 onward. The International Workers of the World (IWW) and the International Bible Students’ Association—a branch of what’s now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses—were targeted repeatedly.

The Feds also took control of all radio stations when the United States joined the war. Amateur radio was shut down, along with many commercial stations. In 1918 the federal government nationalized telephone and telegraph service, an act that Postmaster General Burleson declared necessary “to prevent communication by spies and other public enemies.”

Most of the surveillance apparatus was dismantled after the war was over, and communications returned to private hands. However, the Sedition Act, which made it all possible, still remains on the books, though in a more limited form. In 1971, it was used to indict Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the government had been systematically misleading the public about the Vietnam War. In 2013, it was the basis for bringing charges against Edward Snowden.

And even if most of the organizations created during this wave of hysteria are now defunct, as historian Lon Strauss has written, we can “see the foundation that influenced subsequent decisions…. There’s a direct connection with the type of surveillance state that produced the NSA; that foundation was created in the First World War.”

Mass surveillance might be grabbing headlines, but unfortunately, it’s nothing new.

Gary McGath is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Thomas Paine Review.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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The Strengths and Weaknesses of “Atlas Shrugged: Part III” – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 16, 2014
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Mr. Stolyarov reviews the final installment in the “Atlas Shrugged” film trilogy.

Although Mr. Stolyarov favorably reviewed the first two installments, in his view the third film fails to do full justice to the culmination of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, where one would expect to witness the coalescence into an integrated worldview of all of the philosophical and plot pieces that Rand meticulously introduced during the first two parts. Atlas Shrugged: Part III is not without its merits, and it is inspiring in certain respects – especially in its conveyance of Rand’s passionate defense of the creator-individualist. However, the film is also not a great one, and the creators could have made Rand’s source material shine consistently instead of glowing dimly while occasionally emitting a bright flicker.

References

- “The Accomplishments of ‘Atlas Shrugged: Part I’” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
- “Rejecting the Purveyors of Pull: The Lessons of ‘Atlas Shrugged: Part II‘” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
- “The Strengths and Weaknesses of ‘Atlas Shrugged: Part III’” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Minuet #2 (Exquisite Minuet), Op. 26 (2003) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 14, 2014
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This 2003 composition combines baroque elements with G. Stolyarov II’s distinct, straightforward, and directed melodic style. It manages to remain ornate and unambiguous at the same time.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 60, available for download here and here.

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