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The Differences Between Neanderthals and Their Early Human Contemporaries (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: History, Science, Tags: , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 27, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 13,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 27, 2014

**

Popular myth holds it that modern humans are descended from Neanderthals. This is demonstrably false. Neanderthals were a different hominid species from Homo sapiens, or modern man. The two species existed side by side as late as 24,000 B. C., but the Neanderthals lacked either the technical sophistication or the cultural and artistic dispositions of their human contemporaries. In essence, Homo neanderthalensis was a “dead end” species in the scheme of evolution; both the Neanderthals and modern humans had the same common ancestor, but are divergent branches of the evolutionary tree.

Neanderthals did not display any signs of a symbolic life. Though they buried their dead, they did so haphazardly. In contrast, throughout the past 50,000 years, modern men buried their dead with great care and ceremony, indicating their value for human life and their grief over its loss. In the realm of tool-making, Neanderthal technology was far more primitive and less efficient. Neanderthals wielded heavy stabbing spears that did not require any fine craftsmanship to manufacture and possessed a far smaller range than the versatile throwing spears of modern men, which often required great mastery and time to construct.

Whereas there is no evidence of systematic teaching in Neanderthal communities, and it was likely that every generation had rediscovered the same primitive technologies, modern humans, from their beginnings, passed on to their offspring the technical skills that would eventually dominate the planet. This communication of skills and techniques also contributed to the evolution of language and firmer social bonds, as those facilitated more effective creation and use of tools.

The significance of shell beads and ornamentation from 35,000 to 43,000 years ago in Turkey, the oldest decorations of this manner, is that they were not created with any explicitly utilitarian purpose. Not usable in hunting or gathering, they were an expression of individual creativity and identity unseen in any other animals, including the hominids that preceded modern man. Their existence signified an evolution of a hitherto nonexistent facet of consciousness. Homo sapiens created such works of art, whereas their ancestors and hominid contemporaries could not have.

Though they were genetically close, Neanderthals and modern humans were a wide gulf apart in terms of their mental faculties and creative abilities. This dramatic difference explains the natural selection that occurred in favor of modern humans, whose increased adaptability to hostile environments and ability to improve upon their surroundings proved a decisive advantage over the Neanderthals.

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Reasons for the Evolution of Language in Humans (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, Science, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 27, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 3,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 27, 2014

**

The emergence of human language was one of the most important developments in the rise of human civilization and culture. An understanding of evolution can explain why natural selection in favor of language took place and how the use of language presents numerous advantages to humans.

Modern man exhibits a unique “wiring” pattern in his brain, a specific pattern of neurological connections that supports intelligence and volition. It was perhaps caused by an extremely recent mutation lacking in all other hominid species. Our species also has the largest brain-to-body ratio of all other hominids.

Modern man was first to realize that peaceful cooperation rather than domination by force can be an efficient means of social organization. Whereas other hominids and primates must resolve any clash within their groups by means of bodily force, our species has evolved the use of language and refined it into a powerful tool of peaceful persuasion that often removes unnecessary coercion and antagonism, therefore increasing the general standard of living and degree of cooperation within a society.

Possible evolutionary reasons for the development of human language include the transmission of technical skills; complex methods such as that required for the creation of a throwing spear, need more than visual demonstration to be transmitted accurately; they require the individual communication between a mentor and a student of the given skill.

Moreover, language served the role of coordinating actions between various members of a society, rendering tasks such as hunting or trade more efficient. Human beings could now communicate with one another without needing to resort to physical gestures or inferences of the other person’s intentions. As a result, there emerged a far more complex pattern of interaction that has been steadily improving as new means of quicker, more efficient, more sensible communication arose.

Newer theories concerning the origins of language also see it as a mechanism for communicating information about people within a given society. According to the scientists holding such a view, it is of evolutionary advantage for an individual to be among the first to access a given piece of information so as to be able to act on it prior to any of his competitors within the society. Thus, a widespread affinity for gossip may have prompted humans to devise a systematic means of communicating it.

After the emergence of language, and especially of written communication, technological progress could take off, thereby supplanting biological evolution as the dominant influence on the development of the human species. Because of language and technology, the human species in our time changes profoundly every year, despite experiencing minuscule biological evolution.

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How Dictators Use Religion as a Means of Oppression in Julia Alvarez’s “In the Time of the Butterflies” (2002) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2002 and published  on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it earned over 2,300 page views.  I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

*

In Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, the sisters Minerva and Patria observe two portraits of Jesus and the Dominican dictator Trujillo, side by side, and compare them (53). Patria knows of the various atrocities committed by Trujillo against her friends, acquaintances, and countrymen, and she is aware of the constant terror and destruction that the government wreaks upon her people, but refuses to apply this knowledge to her own existence.

Psychologically, Patria is erecting a mental barrier against the suffering through a credulous faith in the “virtues” of a passive God and a devastating dictator. She refuses to acknowledge the evil around her as real and thereby feigns an illusion of security for herself. These, after all, were the icons she had been groomed since childhood to submit to and not question.

Minerva flies in the face of the dominant and repressive paradigm, which urges one to sacrifice one’s self-interest to Trujillo and then some to God. The culture in the Dominican Republic is replete with institutional mental barriers, even as superficial as the artistic enhancements of Trujillo’s portrait, which serve to reinforce Patria’s mindset of willful separation from the truth.

Deliberations concerning the nature of a deity lead one to the insight that almost all of today’s major religions had been invented during antiquity, when (with few exceptions) the world was governed by fragmented tribal monarchies, and a God was fashioned in the image of the only ruler a people possessed as a model, a dictator.

The resemblances between dictatorship and non-modernized versions of the major religions are astounding in this novel and in real life, as one learns of the repressive theocracies in the Middle East. Both teach, overtly in many cases, the cult of submission, of subordination to the rule of a capricious autocrat; be he located in a palace or in heaven. The source of the dictates is considered more significant than their actual validity and benefit, and thus Patria, despite learning of the horrors of Trujillo and becoming disillusioned with Jesus and the Catholic faith is unable to fully relinquish both as she had fallen prey to the subservient paradigm in a manner that Minerva had not.

The author, however, conveys a certain philosophical recognition that Patria obtained despite her block, which is illustrated by the last sentence, “And the two faces had merged!”, which implies the congruence of all forms of submission and self-abnegation, no matter how divergent or incompatible they may seem on the surface.

 

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The Devastating Effects of Collectivism and Affirmative Action in India (2003) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Education, Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published  on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

*

In a milieu of collectivistic perceptions, the most thoughtful and aspiring individuals are always sacrificed to the demon of stereotype. India is plagued today by a system of reservations and affirmative action which, from the university to the workplace to the parliament, establishes quotas and preferential treatment for so-called “backward castes” and “other backward castes” (OBCs) for no reason but that of their caste status and their ancestors‘ oppression by the millennia-old caste hierarchy.

Caste-consciousness in the past had precluded aspiring lower-caste individuals from holding occupations beyond the menial and repulsive, such as street-sweeping, manual toilet-cleaning, and funerary work. Education had been withheld from them by force, and it was thought better, in the words of the god Krishna, “to do one’s own duty poorly than to do another’s duty well.”

This notion of deterministic duty, the opposite of self-determined volition, is the key to any collectivist system which seeks to ingrain an individual’s “place in society” into him. Today, the official direction of collectivist prejudice has been inverted, but its essence, rooted in caste-consciousness, remains the same. In the words of author Shashi Tharoor, in today’s India, “you cannot go forward unless you are a Backward.” The Federal Government reserves 50 percent of parliamentary seats and university positions for lower castes, while numerous state governments have raised the bar to 80 percent.

In 1992, when the affirmative-action system rose to that degree, tens of top university students born into “upper castes” but never personally conducting any crime of institutionalized discrimination committed suicide by self-immolation in outrage that their prospects for future prosperity had been robbed from them by collectivist quotas. Intellect, character, and determination are discarded in any system of institutionalized collectivism. Either one is barred from advancement as a member of a traditionally inferior group, or as a member of a traditionally superior group, in favor of the traditional “victim” group.

The only proper means of resolving India’s caste conflict, as well as the turmoil present within any culture of “reverse discrimination” is to abolish all institutional considerations of circumstantial collective identity, including race, caste, and socioeconomic background. If an individual’s education, career opportunities, and relationships with his colleagues are to be determined by personal qualities, such as industry and character, those shall become the emphasis of the individual’s attention, the jewels which he shall have to offer instead of the oppressor or victim status that would have elevated him in a collectivist society.

 

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The Superiority of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” Over Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” in Its Discussion of Marriage (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, Fiction, Tags: , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published  on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 3,700 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

*

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice discusses the issue of marriage with a far greater depth and diversity of viewpoints than does Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin primarily focuses on Edna Pontellier’s wholesale rejection of the paradigm of marriage and her stepwise abandonment of her husband, children, social contacts, and household obligations. This transformation on Edna’s part ultimately brings about her death by drowning, after she has “liberated” herself from all the forces that had hitherto “restrained” her from swimming out too far. Thus, Chopin, though focusing on and sympathizing with a complete abandonment of marriage, also shows it to result in a highly undesirable end, leaving the reader with no compelling reasons to embrace this, the dominant view of women’s issues in the book.

Jane Austen, on the other hand, offers a far more instructive and relevant text in terms of shaping readers’ views of marriage, as she presents a multiplicity of alternative paradigms on the subject, as well as a compelling case for why one of these, exemplified by the eventual union of Elizabeth and Darcy, is a superior choice to the others. Austen portrays the marriage primarily oriented around domestic security and social reputation in the form of the union of Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas, who are both entirely unconcerned about romance and rather focused on presenting a respectable image, especially to social “superiors” like Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

An even more materialistic view of marriage is presented in the form of Lady Catherine’s intentions to have Darcy marry her daughter, for the purpose of unifying their two prosperous estates. Elizabeth, however, upon encountering this view, rejects it as too devoid of considerations of individual happiness.

Austen portrays a dramatically different attitude in the marriage of Lydia and Wickham, who elope out of sheer passion, with Wickham deep in debt and not even contemplating any attempts to improve his material lot in the future. The couple might not even have made provisions for a formal union absent the intervention of Darcy and the Bennet family. Elizabeth finds this paradigm to be humiliating and irresponsible, and thus rejects a purely emotional approach to marriage as well.

In the end, Elizabeth finds a synthesis of material and personal interests in her growing attachment to Mr. Darcy, who is able to offer her his virtues of refinement, benevolence, and intelligence, along with an immensely prosperous estate and high social rank. In contrast to Chopin’s simplistic and ultimately futile altogether rejection of marriage, Austen offers a compelling analysis of all the variations of this institution, and advocates her own view on it as capable of being successful and personally fulfilling by means of the happy ending of the novel. Thus, Pride and Prejudice offers constructive guidance to readers on which approaches to marriage work and which do not, rather than being merely a text that criticizes the institution without offering a positive alternative.

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The History of Big Guns in World War I (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published  on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 5,400 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

*

Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of the increase in the sheer force that could be unleashed on the battlefield due to technological improvements of the early 20th century can be seen in the development of the large-scale artillery pieces up to and during the time of World War I.

The “big guns” of the time period were immensely heavy, needed to be transported in multiple parts (each part often occupying the equivalent of several train wagons), and time-consuming to assemble on the site of firing. Nevertheless, their range, far exceeding the extent of a human being’s sight and reaching many kilometers past the enemy’s front line, as well as the sheer impact wrought by their massive shells, was thought to compensate for their size and awkwardness.

The most famous of the big guns of World War I were employed by the German Army and manufactured by the Krupp family firm, the largest German weapons producer, owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world. The Krupp firm produced numerous models of howitzers, or long-range, large-caliber artillery capable of firing both at high and low trajectories.

The famous howitzer, Big Bertha, was designed 1904 for the Krupp firm by the inventor Louis Gauthmann. The Big Bertha was a movable siege mortar capable of firing projectiles weighing 820 kilograms for as far as 15 kilometers, at as high a trajectory as 80 degrees (thus explaining the mortar designation). Four Big Berthas were produced in all, and used in the German offensive of 1914. Their most distinguished use, however, was in August of 1916, during the German assault on the twelve-ringed fortifications at Liege, Belgium. Over the course three days (from the 12th to the 15th of August) two Big Berthas were installed within firing range of the fortress and inflicted such massive devastation as to bring about either the destruction or surrender of all the Belgian defensive positions in the area.

While the Big Bertha was renowned for its sheer mass and firepower, other German big guns of the time period also focused on achieving firing distances that far exceeded that of Big Bertha. These weapons were called “railway guns,” as they were designed to be mounted on and supported by railroad tracks for greater stability and more efficient assembly, since their parts were delivered to the battlefield by train and could be put together on the precise spot of arrival.

A common railway gun design was known as the “Long Max,” which the Germans used to shell French positions some 25-30 kilometers behind the front lines. However, the Germans were able to modify the Long Max design to create a far longer-ranged weapon, the famous Paris Gun (or the Kaiser Wilhelm Gun), which could fire on the city of Paris itself from the German front lines. Though its shell was substantially smaller than that fired by the Big Bertha, weighing only 92 kilograms, it could be hurled 130 kilometers from the gun, and reached heights as far as 40 kilometers above ground level, thus making the shells fired by the gun the first man-made objects to reach the stratosphere and there encounter minimal air resistance, enabling them to travel at supersonic speeds.

ParisGunThe Paris Gun was first installed on March 21, 1918, and required some 80 crewmen to assemble and operate. It fired some 320-367 shells during its lifetime, killing 250 people, injuring 620, and causing considerable property damage in Paris. Though its shells were fairly small and could not be aimed precisely at targets smaller than city size, the gun’s primary purpose was psychological, to convince the French government and citizens that they were not safe from the German army even in their capital. The gun proved powerless to stop the Allied advance of 1918, however, and the Germans destroyed it during their retreat, to prevent its design and parts from falling into Allied hands. The Paris Gun was the largest weapon ever built up to its time and would only be exceeded in caliber by German railway guns of World War II.

Sources:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWmachineguns.htm

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi694.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWbertha.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bertha

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortar_%28weapon%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Gun

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howitzer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krupp

http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/bigbertha.htm

http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/K/Krupp.asp

http://www.fluxeuropa.com/war/evolution.htm

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blgrenade.htm

http://va.essortment.com/handgrenadeh_rgor.htm

http://www.firstworldwar.com/airwar/summary.htm

http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/aces.htm

http://www.northstar.k12.ak.us/schools/ryn/projects/inventors/gatling/gatling.html

http://www.vickersmachinegun.org.uk/

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWbrowning.htm

http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/mgun_mg.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank

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Thomas Jefferson versus John Marshall on the Nature of the American Union (2006) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2006 and published in two parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 1,900 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

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Thomas Jefferson’s Views on the American Union as a Compact Among the States

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Early American political thought about the Union’s nature was divided into two radically different perspectives. One of these was expressed by Thomas Jefferson’s 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, which viewed the Union as a loose compact of the states, whose legislatures could overrule and judge the constitutionality of the federal government’s actions. The South Carolina Declaration of Causes (1860) and the Mississippi Resolutions (1861) developed this position-using Jefferson’s premises to justify Southern states’ secession from the Union.

Jefferson portrayed the Union as voluntarily entered into by the states; the states were “not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government” (KR, 153). The Union was created by the ratification of the Constitution, which served as a “compact” by which the states “delegated… certain definite powers” to the general government (KR, 154). The government’s exercise of powers not expressly granted to it by the Constitution was thus illegitimate. For Jefferson, the Constitution both defined and limited the Union’s nature and essence.

To keep the national government one of limited and expressly delegated powers, Jefferson warned that it should not be “the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself” (KR, 154), since that would allow the government to define the scope of its powers and dissociate these powers from their original source – the states. The states – as parties to the Constitutional compact – have no common judge among them; hence, “each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infractions as of the mode and measure of redress” (KR, 154). Jefferson acknowledged state legislatures’ right to judge federal actions’ constitutionality.

The South Carolina and the Mississippi legislatures agreed with Jefferson that the Union was a compact among the “free and independent states,” whose sovereignty was asserted in the 1776 Declaration of Independence (SCDC, 310). In 1787, deputies sent by the states affirmed the “Articles of Union”-the Constitution-which defined the Union and required the states’ consent to take effect (SCDC, 311). The South Carolina Declaration emphasized that – while only nine out of thirteen states needed to ratify the Constitution for it to be adopted-those that refused to ratify it would have remained “separate, sovereign states… exercise[ing] the functions of… independent nation[s]” (SCDC, 311). Via the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution assured that all powers not expressly delegated to the national government were left to the states or the people, while the federal government remained “limited to the express words of the grant” (SCDC, 311).

In the Southern legislatures’ view, the Constitution established the “law of compact” (SCDC, 311), which required mutual reciprocity of obligations on behalf of all parties to the Union. If any party – such as the Northern states – refused to fulfill its Constitutional obligations and infringed on the rights of the other parties, the Union was dissolved and “the ends for which this government was instituted have been defeated” (SCDC, 312). The Mississippi Resolution asserted that whenever the compact is thus destroyed, “parties to the compact have the right to resume, each state for itself, such delegated powers” (MR, 314) as they had formerly granted the national government. According to the Mississippi Resolution, the Northern states’ explicit unwillingness to enforce the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause justified the Southern states’ secession from the Union (MR, 315). Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions and the declarations of the South Carolina and Mississippi legislatures viewed the Union as a compact of sovereign states that retained broad powers and could exercise them to counter federal abuses.

John Marshall’s View of the American Union as a Direct Association of the People

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John Marshall’s McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) decision stated a view which directly contradicted Thomas Jefferson – a view of the Union as a direct association of the people – not of the states. Marshall denied states the ability to overrule federal actions. Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861) reinforced this view and argued that the Union was perpetual and could not be dissolved by individual states.

Marshall’s vision of the Union differed sharply from Thomas Jefferson’s. According to Marshall and contrary to Jefferson, the Union was not a compact between the states, but an association created directly by the people. Although the Constitutional Convention’s delegates were elected by state legislatures, the Constitution itself was “submitted to the people” (MMD, 149) for ratification. The Constitutional Convention’s delegates ordained that special conventions in the states – not the state legislatures – ratify the Constitution. Marshall emphasized that “from these conventions, the constitution derives its whole authority” (MMD, 149); thus, “[the] government proceeds directly from the people” (MMD, 149). The states were only instrumental to the Union insofar as their legislatures “called a convention, and thus submit[ed] that instrument to the people” (MMD, 149).

Marshall believed that the national government was granted enumerated powers by the people and was hence free to exercise those powers “directly on them, and for their benefit” (MMD, 149), without states’ interference. Marshall’s view, unlike Jefferson’s, does not permit the states to overrule an act of Congress or to declare it unconstitutional. Marshall interpreted the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause to mean that “the government of the Union, though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action” (MMD, 150); it could use any means necessary to fulfill powers expressly delegated to it, and the states could not legitimately overrule its actions.

Abraham Lincoln challenged claims that the Union was founded via the Constitution. Lincoln traced the Union’s origin back to the Articles of Association in 1774; the Constitution’s purpose was not to create the Union, but merely to “form a more perfect” one (FIA, 121). The Union is not conditional; it “is perpetual,” since “no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination” (FIA, 121). The Constitution provides no terms under which the Union might be destroyed; therefore, it will continue to “endure forever” if the Constitution is followed (FIA, 121). Lincoln developed this argument to claim that “no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union” (FIA, 122); any attempt at secession amounts to insurrection. Secession would only set a highly negative precedent for any minority that did not acquiesce to the majority’s decisions. Lincoln saw it necessary for the Union to maintain itself by all constitutional means-though he initially hoped to avoid bloodshed in reconciling the states.

John Marshall and Abraham Lincoln saw the Union as a perpetual association of the people – incapable of being overruled or dissolved by individual states’ actions. This view, incompatible with the ideas of those who saw the Union as a compact among the states, fueled disputes that would eventually culminate in the Civil War.

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Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Egmont”: A Celebration of Liberty and Limited Government (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 2,100 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

*

***

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Egmont music in 1810 to accompany Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play of the same name, a play about the struggle between liberty and tyranny, and a work that contains in itself expressions both of tragedy and profound triumph.

Count Egmont was a real historical figure, a Flemish nobleman who had loyally served the Spanish king Philip II in his earlier wars and who had received in return the administration of the city of Brussels and other parts of the Spanish Netherlands. Egmont, though a loyal Catholic, believed in religious toleration and, at the Council of Trent, openly expressed his disapproval of Philip’s persecution of Dutch Protestants.

In return, in 1568, Philip sent troops to the Netherlands under the cruel and tyrannical Duke of Alva, who ordered Egmont’s arrest and execution without a trial or clear evidence of any manner of treason. Egmont’s heroic final words in defense of the ideals of liberty and religious toleration, as well as the efforts of Egmont’s friend, William of Orange, in rallying the Dutch to resist the Duke of Alva, triggered a massive revolt against Spanish rule that eventually led to the independence of the Netherlands.

Goethe wrote a play in honor of Egmont between 1775 and 1787, in which he transferred much of his own philosophy and personality to the character of Egmont, in whom were especially prominent a devotion to individual freedom, a joy of life, and a hatred for arbitrary power. Goethe even made his Egmont twenty years younger than the historical one in order to bring the character even closer to the state of the young playwright.

Beethoven volunteered to write incidental music for the first public performance of Egmont in 1810, in collaboration with Goethe, with whom Beethoven shared the high ideals of individualism, toleration, and a government of liberty. Though the play features a tragic death and brutal oppression by Spanish troops, themes of the inevitable and coming triumph of freedom and justice permeate it.

Egmont’s death does not dull the power of the principles that he advocates and does not prevent the Duke of Alva’s defeat. Thus, when making instructions to Beethoven for the music to be written, Goethe emphasized that he wished Egmont to be a “Symphony of Victory,” and Beethoven delivered precisely that.

The Egmont Overture, itself a microcosm of the events of the play, features a constant conflict between two themes, a gloomy and overbearing minor that dominates in the beginning, symbolic of Spanish tyranny, and a powerful, radiant major, demonstrating the power of Egmont’s resistance to Spanish rule. Near the end of the overture, several harsh violin notes indicate Egmont’s beheading, but not the death of the principles for which he stands. The beheading is followed by the most triumphant fanfare of the entire work, and perhaps the most gloriously uplifting creation of Beethoven’s musical career. The rest of the incidental music was designed to be performed along with the actual recitation of Goethe’s play.

Egmont has a special significance due to its ability to capture in melody the ideas of individualism, toleration, freedom of conscience, and limited government. Beethoven’s music demonstrates in a most directly accessible form the dynamic, heroic, triumphant possibilities of a world built upon such principles, and a spirit of grandeur, dignity, and magnificence that today’s world urgently needs to restore in its art and general sense of life.

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Arguments Against Eminent Domain and Its Use for the Benefit of Private Parties (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 8,300 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

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The power of eminent domain has had a lengthy history, first originating in the Middle Ages and becoming enshrined in British common law. It is included in the U.S. Constitution as a means of government appropriating private property if this appropriation serves a “public use.” However, under the 5th Amendment, the government is obligated to provide “just compensation” for any property thus taken, which is usually interpreted to mean that the government must pay the market value of the property to the owner from whom it is taken.

Recently, however, governments at all levels have begun to stretch these powers to encompass one private party’s land being taken for the benefit of another, especially if the other is a larger business that has the potential of bringing in greater tax revenues. This is a measure of questionable constitutionality, and even far more questionable morality. It is desirable to abolish such seizures of private land for the purposes of redistribution to other private entities, and to at least limit eminent domain powers to seizures that will only be directed toward benefiting government projects and infrastructure. That is, the power of eminent domain might still be invoked to build a public road or school, but not a shopping mall or apartment building. The arguments in favor of this restriction are overwhelming, even though it does not go as far as complete eminent domain opponents such as myself would like.

First, for somebody who values property rights, private property is an absolute, not to be contingent on “the public interest.” If the individual sees the benefits of keeping his property as outweighing those of selling it, he can either refuse to sell it or ask for more compensation. Anybody but the owner should be allowed to take the property only with the owner’s consent.

Often, current governments do not even give market value to “compensate” for seizures, but, even if they did, there are subjective values that owners associate with their property which are hard to quantify and which only the owners themselves can enumerate accurately. As the story of certain homeowners in the 2005 Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London shows, some of them have built their dream homes out of places that were run-down when they first purchased them. And, after they had invested their lifetime’s work into those houses, the houses were condemned by the government. Surely, a coercive demand that they accept “market value” is not sufficient to compensate such a deeply personal investment.

Furthermore, “the public interest” is a collectivist notion, which ignores the fact that only individuals exist and that invoking “the public interest” in fact implies that the government should coercively back some private interests over others.

The policy of eminent domain has, recently, been used with blatantly power-hungry justifications. Business X brings in less tax money than Business Y might, so X must be demolished to give way to Y. Y is also a larger business that might create more jobs, so this justifies putting out of work those individuals who are currently employed by X. The flaw with this reasoning is that it views individuals as fungible, or substitutable for one another. It should not matter how many other individuals benefit from a government policy if it ruins the livelihood and property of even one innocent person. Individual rights are absolute.

Advocates of eminent-domain redistribution of property to private parties will attempt to state that the government can actually bring about “efficiency” through the use of eminent domain power to achieve “urban renewal.” However, economic theory from Adam Smith on has shown that the free market achieves any goal more efficiently than the government. A business that thrives because of government favors through eminent domain is not thriving because it functions better than others in market competition. As a matter of fact, that business might well not be favored by supply and demand, and has therefore not been able to acquire the land it seeks under a mode of free, voluntary market exchange. Therefore, its owners are seeking to gain what they have not earned by expropriating it from those who have earned it.

The kind of eminent domain supported by the Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London is pure legalized theft. It is time to recognize it as such.

 

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An Analysis of Ethical Issues in the Film “The Rain Man” (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 17,200 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014

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The central ethical dilemma of the 1988 film The Rain Man concerns the proper treatment to be afforded to Raymond, an autistic man who is capable of performing immense feats of mathematical calculation but is psychologically attached to predetermined habits and routines, thus being unable to adapt to changing situations around him. Should Raymond be given a chance to live in an open setting, where he can freely interact with the world around him, or should he be confined to an institution?

Raymond’s brother, Charlie, discovers Raymond’s existence only after the death of their father, who had willed the vast majority of his inheritance to Raymond. Charlie is at first immensely spiteful at his father’s decision and removes Raymond from the mental institution, attempting to blackmail the doctor in charge to transfer $1.5 million to Charlie. Charlie is easily frustrated by Raymond’s habits and oddities, as well as his need to always receive precisely the treatment to which he had become accustomed.

However, Charlie later discovers Raymond’s intelligent side during a trip to Las Vegas, where Raymond employs his astoundingly swift processing skills to win $86,000 while gambling. The two brothers subsequently forge an emotional bond, and Charlie is reluctant to return Raymond to the institution. He demonstrates the wish to take care of his brother and points out that Raymond has learned numerous new skills and information during the trip. However, the doctors in charge of Raymond show Charlie that Raymond’s autonomy is greatly impaired; they ask Raymond a series of mutually exclusive questions, to which Raymond merely answers, “Yes.”

Suzanne, Charlie’s girlfriend, thinks that Charlie’s initial treatment of Raymond is too harsh and intolerant. She would like to see Raymond afforded a more flexible and less dominating treatment by Charlie, and is upset that Charlie is using Raymond in order to blackmail the doctor into giving Charlie money. Eventually, however, she becomes pleased by Charlie’s increasing proximity to and genuine care for his brother.

Charlie’s initial “kidnapping” of Raymond was based on Charlie’s perception that Raymond was an easily manipulated disabled person who would comply with Charlie’s scheme to extort money from the doctor. Nevertheless, Raymond proves to have a personality of his own, which at first greatly irritates Charlie, but which Charlie eventually comes to love and refuses to relinquish. The doctor remains firm in his stance not to give the money of Charlie’s father in exchange for Raymond, and Charlie rejects a $250,000 offer in exchange for which he was to have severed all involvement with Raymond. After the doctors demonstrate Raymond’s incapacity to make significant decisions, Charlie reluctantly agrees to allow him to return to the mental institution.

Despite the fact that Charlie and Raymond must separate at the end, Charlie promises to visit frequently, and his influence on Raymond has not been in vain. Raymond and Charlie now share jokes, and Raymond’s range of comfort with respect to the products, services, and activities of daily life has been greatly amplified. Raymond, moreover, had assisted in rendering Charlie’s financial state more secure than it had been in the beginning of the film by winning $86,000 in Las Vegas. Charlie also learns to be more patient and tolerant in his relations with other human beings. He learns to discover the merits and values offered by others rather than merely lashing out at them in frustration.

The decision to return Raymond to the mental institution demonstrated first and foremost the principle of nonmaleficence. The doctors wished to ascertain that Raymond would not pose a danger to his own life by certain irrational and perhaps involuntary reactions, such as banging his head against a window as a result of hearing a smoke alarm. However, this action denied some of Charlie’s attempts at beneficence toward Raymond, as Charlie attempted to provide Raymond shelter, entertainment, and opportunity beyond what Raymond was used to or what was offered at the hospital. Though some of Charlie’s influence remained with Raymond, the doctors’ decision prevented additional improvements to Raymond’s state due to the concern that attempts at these would undermine Raymond’s already delicate condition. The principle of autonomy was also denied, as Raymond was deemed incapable of making his own choices; the doctors demonstrated that he would give contradictory answers to the questions asked of him, and thus argued that their paternalistic supervision over his decision-making would benefit him most.

An alternative decision with respect to Raymond’s fate would have been to allow Raymond to remain with Charlie, but under the supervision of various doctors and psychological counselors. In this way, the doctors could have continued to exercise precautionary measures against Raymond’s self-destructive activities, while Charlie could have continued to broaden Raymond’s comfort zone and eventually render him fit for rudimentary social interaction. This would both benefit Raymond and protect him from harm, fulfilling the principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Moreover, Raymond would, with an expanded worldview, gain greater autonomy in making his own decisions. A freer environment (where constraints are flexible rather than rigid) would enable Raymond to have the greatest possible degree of personal autonomy that he is capable of carrying out. Moreover, the principle of justice requires that Raymond be given the same right to the pursuit of happiness as is afforded to non-autistic persons. This means that absolute paternalism over Raymond should be off-limits to his guardians, who need not regulate every detail of Raymond’s life in order to ensure his security. This decision would be more consistent with the ethics of principlism than the one actually carried out in the film.

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