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Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 23, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

***

This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s essay “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World“.

References

- Playlist: The Musical Compositions of G. Stolyarov II
– “Ayn Rand, Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism” (2012) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Carl Menger, Individualism, Marginal Utility, and the Revival of Economics” (2006) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Ludwig von Mises on Profit, Loss, the Entrepreneur, and Consumer Sovereignty” (2007) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” (2013) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
Runkeeper
Fitocracy
Fitbit
– “Minecraft” – Wikipedia
– “Oculus Rift” – Wikipedia -
– YouTube Videos of Minecraft Computers (here and here)

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Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 16, 2013
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Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.

Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists! But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states rights! Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Federal bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 14, 2013
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“Progress Unyielding” is the anthem celebrating space colonization and humans’ expansion throughout the universe, guided by the principles of individualism, liberty, rationality, and progress. It is originally found in Mr. Stolyarov’s 2004 novel, Eden against the Colossus. In 2013, Mr. Stolyarov was asked to create a composition to convey the music of this anthem, as he imagined it when writing the novel. This composition is not the full orchestration described in “Eden against the Colossus”, but rather the main melody, played on the harp, with accompaniment by the piano and by a string ensemble for the latter third. It communicates the principal direction of “Progress Unyielding” and allows the listener to see the words put to music.

Download a free MP3 file of the melody of Progress Unyielding here.

The meter of this piece would accommodate the following very slightly modified lyrics, which still communicate the same substance as the anthem in the novel.

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Progress Unyielding

Our souls before these sights dwarfed shan’t become.
Why bow to passive matter of antiquity?
What spreads from it is pandemonium;
Its barrenness is source for all iniquity.

‘Tis in our minds the idols hatch,
Of stone for man to shape and mold.
Such logic does our hands attach
To this domain of lifeless cold,
To every cavern, crater, creek.
Wrong was the man who’d preached the norm
That worlds are destined for the meek!
Our will and strength give matter form.
He who grovels tastes his obsequies;
We float into the void, oases craft.
We are not slaving tribal bees,
And no collective guides our raft.
We are not one, but many knights;
Each does himself his quest ordain,
We thrive on work, and work from rights.
Our well-earned profit’s our domain.

This ground bears meaning solely to our aims.
Its monuments stem from our ingenuity.
Glory to him who savage wildlands tames,
And weeds out every incongruity!

What shall replace the brittle dune?
What shall refine this cratered scar?
Our pavement shall embrace them soon,
And spread to every spawn of star
Yet seen, and into others we shall gaze,
And thus apply the universe’s stock.
This is not but one transient phase.
Forever shall we tame new rock!
Cosmos is Man’s, its means and goal.
Its exiled heirs now seek its wreath:
Supremacy, from atom, oil, and coal.
Our claim to treasures underneath
These jagged lands shall never wane.
Always grand mechanisms will be our guide.
No Luddites shall their betterment profane.
Inventors we exalt and vandals we deride!

Merit determines worth under our creed.
The self-made prodigy our government defends,
Does our endeavor by example lead,
And never harms one for another’s ends.

What is the trait we deem sublime?
The source which does all virtue render.
It, dauntless, conquers space and time,
And never can its plight surrender.
It is inside us, best within the great,
The ego, mind, one’s self, one’s soul,
Prerequisite to any proper state.
Maintain your own, and you’ve fulfilled your role.
No world beyond this life is real;
Its furthering’s our sole concern.
No godly favor is to steal,
No mystic afterlife to earn.
God’s not above us, but within;
The Self’s the Lord, Reason, His rite.
We have a universe to win.
Join us, great men, in splendid flight!

***

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

All art used in this video is either in the public domain or subject to a Creative Commons license and is used with attribution. See the image captions for more details regarding each artwork and its source.

This video, too, is licensed as a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike work and is available for non-commercial use to anyone under the condition that the same license be preserved.

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

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Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 57 (2008) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Music, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 11, 2014
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This composition by Mr. Stolyarov depicts the most important challenge facing humankind during all of its existence – the imperative of freeing individual humans from the ghastly and unconscionable fate of eventually ceasing to exist. Indefinite physical life in this world is not only possible with sufficient advances in scientific knowledge and medical technology – it is also supremely desirable, and we who are alive now should work to attain it as early as we can.

As outlined by Dr. Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, there are only seven primary types of damage involved in human biological senescence – which leads to death:

1. Extracellular junk
2. Extracellular crosslinks
3. Dysfunctional cells
4. Intracellular aggregates
5. Mitochondrial mutations
6. Nuclear mutations
7. Cell loss/atrophy

This led Mr. Stolyarov to compose a work where there are seven variations on the same theme – with the theme representing the consistent, unyielding human effort to defeat death and achieve indefinite longevity.

Every time that a variation on the theme is played, this represents one of the causes of death finally being overcome by human ingenuity. Accordingly, the melody becomes more jubilant and determined as the composition progresses, because there are fewer perils awaiting man and the amount of the task remaining is reduced.

Once the seven variations are complete (which corresponds with the attainment of indefinite life), the coda of the work is meant to evoke the last line of John Donne’s sonnet, “Death, Be Not Proud”: “And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

John Donne was not himself a physical life-extensionist (he was alive too early), but the last line of his poem is an excellent motto for life-extensionists to adopt as we spread awareness of the need and urgency of defeating this greatest of all perils.

This composition was remastered using the Finale 2011 and Finale 2014 software. It is written for organ, two pianos, harpsichord, timpani, a brass section, and a strings section.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

Read more about the quest for indefinite life in Mr. Stolyarov’s book Death is Wrong.

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Waltz #5, Op. 48 (2007, 2014) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 11, 2014
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This brief and cheerful waltz from 2007 was the first work created by Mr. Stolyarov in Anvil Studio, a musical composition program that permits greater versatility than simply recording a piece played on a piano. The present version has been expanded and remastered using the Finale 2011 and Finale 2014 software. It is composed for two piano parts and one violin.

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 33, available for download here and here.

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Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 9, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

I find a lot of support for technological progress, self-determination, and the triumph of the individual over the impositions of the collective in the works of Ayn Rand (as an example, see this 2012 essay of mine for a brief analysis of Randian individualism). The Austrian economists Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises were also great exponents of individualism, and their innovations in value-theory emphasized the importance of subjective preference in the determination of prices, the work of entrepreneurs, and the effects of policy. They grounded their economic work in a deep understanding of philosophy and offered a countervailing view of the world during a time when postmodernism was gaining popularity. They explained that universal laws of economics, derived from the basic fact of human action itself, are at the root of explaining whether societies facilitate flourishing and progress, or misery and stagnation.

Were these great thinkers alive today, it would have been fascinating to observe their insights regarding the power of technology to enable the personal creation of art which was not technically feasible for an individual in prior eras to create. They would surely recognize the amazing influence of the latest generation of technological entrepreneurs on our lives and well-being – not just in the emergence of computers, the Internet, and mobile devices – but also in less-emphasized applications, such as digital art, electronic music, increasingly sophisticated and graphically immersive computer games, and tools for the “quantified self” – an increasing array of metrics for vital bodily attributes and activities. The convergence of these tools is ushering in an era of augmented reality, which rational and determined creators can harness to achieve their goals more effectively and more enjoyably.

I have seen this vast technological improvement affect my ability, for example, to compose music. In a few hours I can create a composition and hear it played back flawlessly by an electronic orchestra, whereas even a decade ago I would have needed to spend weeks internalizing melodies and variations. In order to play my compositions, I would have had to spend months practicing, even then being quite vulnerable to human error. One of my current ongoing projects is to remaster as many of my older compositions (all preserved, thankfully) as I can using the tools now available to me – enabling their flawless playback via synthetic instruments. Today, they can sound exactly as I intended them to sound when I composed them years ago. Many works have already been remastered in this way (available within this video playlist), which has enabled me to hear and to share with the world pieces which have not been in my “finger memory” for over a decade.

Numerous life-improving applications of augmented reality are emerging now and can be expected to expand during the proximate future. Many of these technologies can have strong, immediate, practical benefits in enhancing human survival and functionality within the physical world. Already, mobile applications such as Runkeeper, scoring systems like that of Fitocracy, or devices like the Fitbit allow individuals to track physical activity in a granular but convenient manner and set measurable targets for improvement. Significant additional innovation in these areas would be welcome. For instance, it would be excellent to have access to live readings of one’s vital statistics, both as a way of catching diseases early and measuring progress toward health goals. This vision is familiar to those who have encountered such functionality in virtual worlds. Players track and improve these statistics for their characters in computer games, where it proves both interesting and addictive – so why not bring this feature to our own bodies and other aspects of our lives?

Computer games – one type of virtual world – expand the esthetic and experiential possibilities of millions of people. While not fully immersive, they are far more so than their predecessors of 20 years ago. They can extend the range of human experience by enabling people to engage in actions inaccessible during the course of their daily lives – such as making major strategic decisions in business, politics, or world-building, exploring outer space, or designing and interacting with a skyscraper without the hazards of being a construction worker. (Minecraft comes to mind here as an especially versatile virtual world, which can be shaped in unique ways by the creativity of the individual. I can readily imagine a future virtual-reality game which is a more immersive successor of Minecraft, and where people could create virtual abodes, meeting places, and even technological experiments. Minecraft already has mods that allow the creation of railroads, industrial facilities, and other interesting contraptions.)

One common and highly gratifying feature of computer games that has long fascinated me is the ability to make steady, immediately rewarding progress. Any rational, principled economic or societal arrangement that promotes human flourishing should do the same. Emerging efforts at the “gamification” of reality are precisely a project of imparting these rational, principled characteristics – hopefully remedying many of the wasteful, internally contradictory, corrupt, and fallacy-ridden practices that have pervaded the pre-electronic world.

Tremendous technological, cultural, and moral progress could be achieved if this addictive quality of games were translated into the communication of sophisticated technical concepts or philosophical ideas, such as those underpinning transhumanism and indefinite life extension. If there were a way to reliably impart the appeal of games to knowledge acquisition, it would be possible to trigger a new Age of Enlightenment and a phenomenon never seen before in history: that of the masses becoming intellectuals, or at least a marked rise in intellectualism among the more technologically inclined. This aspiration relates to my article from early 2013, “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” – a discussion of an open-source standard for recognizing and displaying individual achievement, which could parlay the abundance of educational resources available online into justified reward and opportunities for those who pursue them.

While some critics have expressed concern about a future where immersion in virtual worlds might distract many from the pressing problems of the physical world, I do not see this as a major threat to any but a tiny minority of people. No matter how empowering, interesting, addictive, and broadening a virtual experience might be (and, indeed, it could someday be higher-resolution and more immersive than our experience of the physical world), it is ultimately dependent on a physical infrastructure. Whoever controls the physical infrastructure, controls all of the virtual worlds on which it depends. This has been the lesson, in another context, of the recent revelations regarding sweeping surveillance of individuals by the National Security Agency in the United States and its counterparts in other Western countries. This inextricable physical grounding is a key explanation for the unfortunate fact that the Internet has not yet succeeded as a tool for widespread individual liberation. Unfortunately, its technical “backbone” is controlled by national governments and the politically connected and dependent corporations whom they can easily co-opt, resulting in an infrastructure that can be easily deployed against its users.

A future in which a majority would choose to flee entirely into a virtual existence instead of attempting to fix the many problems with our current physical existence would certainly be a dystopia. Virtual reality could be great – for learning, entertainment, communication (especially as a substitute for dangerous and hassle-ridden physical travel), and experimentation. Some aspects of virtuality – such as the reception of live statistics about the external world – could also be maintained continually, as long as they do not substitute for the signals we get through our senses but instead merely add more to those signals. However, the ideal use of virtual reality should always involve frequent returns to the physical world in order to take care of the needs of the human body and the external physical environment on which it relies. To surrender that physicality would be to surrender control to whichever entity remains involved in it – and there is no guarantee that this remaining entity (whether a human organization or an artificial intelligence) would be benevolent or respectful of the rights of the people who decide to spend virtually all of their existences in a virtual realm (pun intended).

Fortunately, the pressures and constraints of physicality, so long as they affect human well-being, are not easily wished away. We live in an objective, material reality, and it is only by systematically following objective, external laws of nature that we can reliably improve our well-being. Many of us who play computer games, spend time on online social networks, or even put on virtual-reality headsets in the coming years, will not forget these elementary facts. We will still seek food, shelter, bodily comfort, physical health, longevity, and the freedom to act according to our preferences. The more prudent and foresighted among us will use virtual tools to aid us in these goals, or to draw additional refreshment and inspiration within a broad framework of lives where these goals remain dominant.

In a certain sense, virtual worlds can illustrate some imaginative possibilities that cannot be experienced within the non-electronic tangible world – as in the possibility of constructing “castles in the air” in a game such as Minecraft, where the force of gravity often does not apply (or applies in a modified fashion). There is a limit to this, though, in the sense that any virtual world must run on physical hardware (unless there is a virtual machine inside a virtual world – but this would only place one or more layers of virtuality until one reaches the physical hardware and its limitations). A virtual world can reveal essential insights which are obscured by the complexity of everyday life, but one would still remain limited by the raw computing power of the hardware that instantiates the virtual world. In a sense, the underlying physical hardware will always remain more powerful than anything possible within the virtual world, because part of the physical hardware’s resources are expended on creating the virtual world and maintaining it; only some fraction remains for experimentation. People have, for instance, even built functioning computers inside Minecraft (see examples here and here). However, these computers are nowhere close to as powerful or flexible as the computers on which they were designed. Still, they are interesting in other ways and may employ designs that would not work in the external physical world for various reasons.

Most importantly, the fruits of electronic technologies and virtual worlds can be harnessed to reduce the physical dangers to our lives. From telecommuting (which can reduce in frequency the risks involved with physical business travel) to autonomous vehicles (which can render any such travel devoid of the accidents caused by human error), the fruits of augmented reality can be deployed to fix the previously intractable perils of more “traditional” infrastructure and modes of interaction. Millions of lives can be saved in the coming decades because a few generations of bright minds have devoted themselves to tinkering with virtuality and its applications.

The great task in the coming years for libertarians, individualists, technoprogressives, transhumanists, and others who seek a brighter future will be to find increasingly creative and sophisticated applications for the emerging array of tools and possibilities that electronic technologies and virtual worlds make available. This new world of augmented reality is still very much a Mengerian and a Misesian one: human action is still at the core of all meaningful undertakings and accomplishments. Human will and human choice still need to be exerted – perhaps now more so than ever before – while being guided by human reason and intellect toward furthering longer, happier lives characterized by abundance, justice, peace, and progress.

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Just Cause, or Just ‘Cause? – Article by Bradley Doucet

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
November 9, 2014
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The fact that there are some bad people doing some bad things halfway around the world does not mean that “we” have to do something about it. There can be no such thing as an open-ended obligation to help everyone who’s being oppressed, pillaged, raped, enslaved, or murdered by their unprincipled fellows, because such an obligation would be effectively infinite. It would eat up all of our resources. And by and large, we don’t help every person or group of people fight off every aggressor or group of aggressors. Which is a good thing, because our “help” often makes things worse.

So why do we choose to respond when we do choose to respond? Or rather, why do our leaders choose to respond when they do? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Or do they do it simply because, for whatever combination of factors, they can? A particularly unflattering enemy, perhaps, who can easily be demonized, for reasons both justified and not, and one who cannot really fight back, at least not in any way that would impose serious, widespread repercussions on the voting populace. An enemy, furthermore, who is far enough away that all the collateral damage, all of the innocents killed by our noble bombs dropped from our heroic jets, can be easily ignored, and who anyway look different and talk different and worship the wrong deity.

There is injustice, to be sure, and the gut reaction to want to fight injustice is a good and noble one, but we successfully repress it, or rather our leaders do, when it comes to places like North Korea and Russia, which would be very costly adventures indeed. We cautiously avoid getting into a war with such villains, whom we engaged with zeal just a couple of generations ago. Mutually Assured Destruction surely has something to do with it, but I think we can claim a certain moral progress as well, though perhaps it has not quite kept pace with our material progress.

No more great wars, then, even if they could be justified, because the cost is just too great. But little wars are fine, once in a while, when they can be justified, even if they always seem to do more harm than good. Keeps the troops in fighting form, you know, and keeps the voting public from focusing on domestic problems.

Keeps us from having to come up with more creative ways of responding to aggressors, also. Like, for the billions spent on all those guns and bombs, all those fighting forces and roaring jets and aircraft carriers, above and beyond what is needed to legitimately dissuade or fend off foreign aggressors, we could maybe do something to impede the recruiting efforts of terrorist organizations instead of helping them sign up new members. Instead of feeding their grievances by bombing weddings, maybe we could, I don’t know, drop crates filled with delicious food, or DVDs of television programs showing the richness and complexity of Western life in order to counter their caricatures of our depravity. Maybe we could support the translation of classic liberal tracts into all the languages of the world, as some organizations already do, and smuggle them across the various walls and checkpoints that keep our fellow human beings from escaping their prison countries, in order to counter the propaganda that keeps those walls from crumbling and those checkpoints from being overrun.

These are just the most obvious ideas off the top of my head, but I’m sure we can crack this nut and come up with a thousand innovative ways of responding to homicidal whack jobs that would be better than sending in the flying aces with their deadly payloads. It’s tempting, and even justified, to want to fight fire with fire. But the properly understood cost, in terms of money and lives and opportunities lost and enemies strengthened, even for the “small” wars we fight nowadays, is higher than the meagre benefits we imagine they will bring us. A proper accounting would show the folly of just about every war, and show that just about every war is really fought just because.

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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How Wilson and the Fed Extended the Great War – Article by Brendan Brown

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Brendan Brown
November 9, 2014
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As the world reflects on the incomprehensible horror of the Great War which erupted 100 years ago there is a question which goes unasked in the media coverage. How was there no peace deal between the belligerents in 1915 or at latest 1916 once it became clear to all — especially after the Battle of the Somme — that the conflict had developed into a stalemate and holocaust of youth?

While there had been some early hopes for peace in 1916, they quickly evaporated as it became clear that the British government would not agree to a compromise deal. The political success of those who opposed compromise was based to a considerable degree on the argument that soon the US would enter the conflict on the Entente’s (Britain and France) side.

Although the US had allowed the Entente (but not the Central Powers) to access Wall Street without restriction during the first two years of the war, the historical evidence shows that President Wilson had been inclined to threaten Britain with the ending of its access to vital US market financing for its war effort if it failed to negotiate seriously for peace. But Wilson was dissuaded from urging peace on the negotiators by his political adviser Colonel House.

A less well-known story is the role of the then-newly created Fed (which opened its doors in 1914) and its allies within the Wilson administration in facilitating Entente finance. Two prominent Fed members — Paul Warburg and Adolph Miller — had fought a rear-guard campaign seeking to restrict their new institution from discounting trade bills or buying acceptances (largely financing munitions) issued by the belligerents (in practice, the Entente Powers). But, they had been thwarted by the persistence of the New York Fed chief Benjamin Strong (closely allied to J.P. Morgan and others who were gaining tremendously from arranging loans to France and Britain) and the Treasury Secretary McAdoo, the son-in-law of President Wilson. (McAdoo, whose railroad company had been bailed out personally by J.P. Morgan, was also a voting member of the Federal Reserve Board).

Milton Friedman has argued that the creation of the Federal Reserve made no difference to the US monetary and economic outcomes during the period of neutrality (up until March 1917) or during the US participation in the war (to November 1918). The difference, Friedman contended, came afterward when the Fed allowed rapid monetary growth to continue for a further year. Under the pre-Fed regime, Friedman argues, the US would also have experienced huge inflows of gold during the period of neutrality and under existing procedures (for official US gold purchases), and these would have fueled rapid growth of high-powered money and hence inflation. In the period of war participation, the Treasury would have printed money with or without the Fed (as indeed had occurred during the Civil War).

There are two big caveats to consider about Friedman’s “the Fed made no difference” case. The first is that the administration and Wall Street’s ability to facilitate the flow of finance to the Entente would have been constricted in the absence of backdoor support (via trade acceptances and bills) by the new “creature of Jekyll Island” (the Fed). The second is that both camps within the Fed (Benjamin Strong on the one hand, and Paul Warburg and Adolph Miller on the other) were united in welcoming the accumulation of gold on their new institutions’ balance sheet. They saw this as strengthening the metallic base of the currency (both were concerned that the Fed’s creation should not be the start of a journey toward fiat money) and also as a key factor in their aims to make New York the number-one financial center in the world, displacing London in that role.

Without those hang-ups it is plausible that the US would have trodden the same path as Switzerland in dealing with the flood of gold from the belligerents and its inflationary potential. That path was the suspension of official gold purchases and effective temporary floating of the gold price. The latter might have slumped to say $10–14 per ounce from the then official level of $21 and correspondingly the dollar (like the Swiss franc) would have surged, while Sterling and the French franc come under intense downward pressure. In effect the Entente Powers would not have been able to finance their war expenditures by dumping gold in the US and having this monetized by the Fed and Treasury — a process which effectively levied an inflation tax on US citizens.

This suspension of gold purchases would have meant a better prospect of there being a gold-standard world being recreated in the ensuing peace. The exhaustion of British gold holdings during the war ruled out the resurrection of Sterling as gold money. Its so-called return to gold in 1925 was in fact a fixed exchange rate link to the US dollar. The US would have been spared much of the cumulative wartime inflation. The Fed would not have been so flush with gold that it could have tolerated the big monetary binge through 1919 before ultimately being forced by a decline in its free gold position to suddenly tighten policy sharply and induce the Great Recession of 1920–21. That episode led on to the Fed focusing during the 1920s on modern monetary management (counter-cyclical policy changes and price stabilization). The consequences of that focus, ultimately fatal to the gold order, were the Great Boom and the Great Depression.

Brendan Brown is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and is author of Euro Crash: How Asset Price Inflation Destroys the Wealth of Nations and The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve: Manifesto for a Second Monetarist Revolution. See Brendan Brown’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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Grand Procession, Op. 14 (2001-2002) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 9, 2014
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“Grand Procession” was composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2001 and 2002. It was Mr. Stolyarov’s first attempt at a multi-instrumental composition. Since MIDI sequencers were not available to him then, Mr. Stolyarov had to play each track by hand and attempt to align it with the played-back recording of all the other tracks. The present version is remastered using the SynthFont 2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

This composition is written for piano, flute, organ, harpsichord, and a string section. As the name suggests, it is meant to evoke images of a triumphal procession – of a civilian rather than military nature (since most of the instruments involved would not be available to a military band or orchestra).

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 “The Coronation of Napoleon” by Jacques-Louis David, painted in 1805 and available as a public-domain image here.

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Lullaby, Op. 47 (2005) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 8, 2014
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This is a peaceful, gentle, innocent lullaby for piano, composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2005.

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 “Alabama Kitten” by Wendy D. Stolyarov, painted in 2009 and available for free download here.

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

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