Monthly Archives: October 2013

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0-to-60 Waltz, Op. 74 – Musical Composition by G. Stolyarov II

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

This waltz began with a simple premise: each measure would have one more note than the measure before it. This is the result.

The waltz is inspired by the natural numbers, rational order, and the immensity of connections between mathematics and music.

This composition is played in Finale 2011 software using the Steinway Grand Piano instrument.

Thanks go to Wendy Stolyarov for the design of the cover and the video.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

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Mises Explains the Drug War – Article by Laurence M. Vance

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Laurence M. Vance
October 26, 2013
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Air travelers were outraged when the FAA announced that there would be flight delays because air-traffic controllers had to take furloughs as a result of sequester budget cuts. But there is another federal agency whose budget cuts Americans should be cheering — the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the Office of Management and Budget’s report to Congress on the effects of sequestration, the DEA will lose $166 million from its $2.02 billion budget. Other agencies that are part of the expansive federal drug war apparatus are getting their drug-fighting budgets cut as well.

These cuts, no matter how small they may actually end up being, are certainly a good thing since over 1.5 million Americans are arrested on drug charges every year, with almost half of those arrests just for marijuana possession.

Although 18 states have legalized medical marijuana, seven states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, it is still the case that in the majority of the 50 states, possession of even a small amount of marijuana can still result in jail time, probation terms, or fines. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with a high potential for abuse and with no acceptable medical use.

Since the federal government has not followed its own Constitution, which nowhere authorizes the federal government to ban drugs or other any substance, it is no surprise that it has not followed the judgment of Ludwig von Mises when it comes to the drug war.

The war on drugs is a failure. It has failed to prevent drug abuse. It has failed to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts. It has failed to keep drugs away from teenagers. It has failed to reduce the demand for drugs. It has failed to stop the violence associated with drug trafficking. It has failed to help drug addicts get treatment. It has failed to have an impact on the use or availability of most drugs in the United States.

None of this means that there is necessarily anything good about illicit drugs, but as Mises explains “It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices.” But, as Mises contends, the fact that something is a vice is no reason for suppression by way of commercial prohibitions, “nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of a government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.”

The other mischievous dangers of the drug war that have been let loose are legion. The war on drugs has clogged the judicial system, unnecessarily swelled prison populations, fostered violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, destroyed financial privacy, encouraged illegal searches and seizures, ruined countless lives, wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, hindered legitimate pain treatment, turned law-abiding people into criminals, and unreasonably inconvenienced retail shopping. The costs of drug prohibition far outweigh any possible benefits.

But that’s not all, for once the government assumes control over what one can and can’t put into his mouth, nose, or veins or regulates the circumstances under which one can lawfully introduce something into his body, there is no limit to its power and no stopping its reach. Again, as Mises makes clear “[o]pium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”

“As soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual’s mode of life,” Mises goes on, “we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail.”

Mises tells us exactly what the slippery slope of drug prohibition leads to. He asks why what is valid for morphine and cocaine should not be valid for nicotine and caffeine. Indeed: “Why should not the state generally prescribe which foods may be indulged in and which must be avoided because they are injurious?” But it gets worse, for “if one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away.”

“Why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only?” Mises asks. “Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?”

When it comes to bad habits, vices, and immoral behavior of others, in contrast to the state, which does everything by “compulsion and the application of force,” Mises considered tolerance and persuasion to be the rules.

“A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper,” Mises explains. “He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”

For Mises, there is one path to social reform, and “[h]e who wants to reform his countrymen must take recourse to persuasion. This alone is the democratic way of bringing about changes. If a man fails in his endeavors to convince other people of the soundness of his ideas,” Mises concludes, “he should blame his own disabilities. He should not ask for a law, that is, for compulsion and coercion by the police.”

In a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.

Laurence M. Vance is an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute and the author of Social Insecurity, The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom, and War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism. Send him mail. See Laurence M. Vance’s article archives.

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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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Economies are Not Destroyed in a Day – Article by Nicolás Cachanosky

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The New Renaissance Hat
Nicolás Cachanosky
October 26, 2013
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Earlier this month, Argentina’s leading conservative paper, La Nación published an unsigned editorial comparing the economies of Argentina and Venezuela. The editorial concluded that as economic freedom declines in Argentina, and as Argentina adopts more of what Chavez called “twenty-first century socialism,” it is becoming increasingly similar to Venezuela. Is this true? Will Argentina suffer the same fate as Venezuela where poverty is increasing and toilet paper can be a luxury?

The similarities of regulations and economic problems facing both countries are indeed striking in spite of obvious differences in the two countries. Yet, when people are confronted with the similarities, it is common to hear replies like “but Argentina is not Venezuela, we have more infrastructure and resources.”

Institutional changes, however, define the long-run destiny of a country, not its short-run prosperity.

Imagine that Cuba and North Korea became, overnight, the two most free-market, limited-government countries in the world. The two countries would have immediately gained civil liberties and economic freedom, but they would still have to accumulate wealth and to develop their economies. The institutional change affects the political situation immediately, but a new economy requires time to take shape. For example, as China opened parts of its economy to international markets, the country started to grow, and we are now seeing the effects of decades of relative economic liberalization. It is true that many areas in China continue to lack significant freedoms, but it would be a much different China today had it refused to change its institutions decades ago.

The same occurs if one of the wealthiest and developed countries in the world were to adopt Cuban or North Korean institutions overnight. The wealth and capital does not vanish in 24 hours. The country would shift from capital accumulation to capital consumption and it might take years or even decades to drain the coffers of previous accumulated wealth. In the meantime, the government has the resources to play the game of Bolivarian (i.e., Venezuelan) populist socialism and enjoy the wealth, highways, electrical infrastructure, and communication networks that were the result of the more free-market institutional realities of the past.

Eventually, though, highways start to deteriorate from the lack of maintenance (or trains crash in the station killing dozens of passengers), the energy sector starts to waver, energy imports become unavoidable, and the communication network becomes obsolete. In other words, economic populism is financed with resources accumulated by non-populist institutions.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World project, Argentina ranked 34th-best in the year 2000. By 2011, however, Argentina fell to 137, next to countries like Ecuador, Mali, China, Nepal, Gabon, and Mozambique. There is no doubt that Argentina enjoys a higher rate of development and wealth than those other countries. But, can we still be sure that this will be the situation 20 or 30 years from now? The Argentinean president is known for having said that she would like Argentina to be a country like Germany, but the path to becoming like Switzerland or Germany involves adopting Swiss and German-type institutions, which Argentina is not doing.

The adoption of Venezuelan institutions in Argentina, came along with high growth rates. These growth rates, however, are misleading:

First, economic growth, properly speaking, is not an increase in “production,” but an increase in “production capacity.” The growth in observed GDP after a big crisis is economic recovery, not economic growth properly understood.

Second, you can increase your production capacity by investing in the wrong economic activities. Heavy price regulation, as takes place in Argentina (now accompanied by high rates of inflation), misdirects resource allocation by affecting relative prices. We might be able to see and even touch the new investment, but such capital is the result of a monetary illusion. The economic concept of capital does not depend on the tangibility or size of the investment (i.e, on its physical properties), but on its economic value. When the time comes for relative prices to adjust to reflect real consumer preferences, and the market value of capital goods drops, capital is consumed or destroyed in economic terms even if the physical qualities of capital goods remains unchanged.

Third, production can increase not because investment increases, but because people are consuming invested capital, as is the case when there is an increase in the rate that machinery and infrastructure wear out.

I’m not saying that there is no genuine growth in Argentina, but it remains a fact that a nontrivial share of the Argentinean GDP growth can be explained by: (1) recovery, (2) misdirection of investment, and (3) capital consumption. If that weren’t the case, employment creation wouldn’t have stagnated and the country’s infrastructure should be shining rather than falling into pieces.

Most economists and policy analysts seem to have a superficial reading of economic variables. If an economy is healthy, then economic variables look good, GDP grows, and inflation is low. But the fact that we observe good economic indicators does not imply that the economy is healthy. There’s a reason why a doctor asks for tests from a patient that appears well. Feeling well doesn’t mean there might not be a disease that shows no obvious symptoms at the moment. The economist who refuses to have a closer look and see why GDP grows is like a doctor who refuses to have a closer look at his patient. The Argentinian patient has caught the Bolivarian disease, but the most painful symptoms have yet to surface.

NOTE: This is a translated and expanded version of an original piece published in Economía Para Todos (Economics for Everyone).

Nicolás Cachanosky is Assistant Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. See Nicolás Cachanosky’s article archives.

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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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The FDA: A Pain From the Neck to the Big Toe – Article by Mark Thornton

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The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
October 25, 2013
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I recently experienced severe pain in my feet, particularly in the big toes. In my imagination it felt like my feet had been run over by a truck and that several of my toes had been broken. But I knew that was not the case, and that the pain came on slowly at first, and then spread to other parts of my feet until I could barely walk.

My first approach was to take some ibuprofen to relieve the pain and swelling. When this did not resolve the matter, I thought perhaps a new pair of soft shoes might work. That idea also failed, and with a little internet research I realized I had a classic case of the gout. I was soon off to see my doctor to determine what the problem was and to get it solved with the powers of modern medicine.

The doctor confirmed that I had the gout. I was not pleased to find out, that in my case, the gout was probably brought on by another drug that I had been taking daily, against my better judgment. However, I was pleased to learn that I would no longer have to take it, that as part of my treatment I was being prescribed an ancient and natural drug, and that I would only have to take this drug “as needed.”

I was off to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy when a thought came to mind: if this drug was as natural and ancient as advised by my doctor, why did I need a prescription in the first place? Upon inspection the prescription was for Colcrys, the brand name of the drug colchicine. Furthermore, when I picked up my prescription the price was much higher than I anticipated given that it was a natural drug. When questioned, the pharmacy technician replied that the actual price was much higher and that my insurance paid for more than three-quarters of the bill. The cash price (without insurance) was $198.99 which is $6.63 per pill if taken daily, or nearly $20 per dose if used to treat flare-ups.

An extremely high price for an ancient natural drug? I knew I had a new case to solve and that the solution was probably the same old answer.

After conducting some research on Wikipedia, I learned the following: Colchicine can be used to treat gout, Behcet’s disease, pericarditis, and the Mediterranean fever. It has been in use as a medicine for over 3,000 years. After serving as ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin brought colchicum plants back to America in order to treat his own gout. Modern science has further refined the drug for better medicinal use.

Colcrys has been used to treat gout for a very long time, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved Colcrys specifically for the treatment of gout prior to 2009. Alternative drugs, such as Allopurinal, are also used to treat gout and related ailments. Until recently, you could treat your own gout using one of these medicines for pennies a day.

In the summer of 2009, the Food and Drug Administration approved Colcrys as a treatment for gout flare-ups and the Mediterranean fever. The FDA gave pharmaceutical company URL Pharma an exclusive marketing agreement for selling Colcrys in exchange for completing studies on Colcrys and paying the FDA a $45 million application fee.

This deal effectively created a patented drug with no generic alternative. Therefore it gave the company a monopoly for the duration of the agreement. URL Pharma immediately raised the price from less than a dime to nearly $5 dollars per pill. Comprehensive medical insurance does substantially reduce the price to consumers, but it does not reduce the cost. Insurance only spreads the cost-burden across policy holders.

At the same time, doctors are encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to employ more expensive and profitable treatments. As a result the overall cost burden increases. Evidence suggests that doctors are prescribing Colcrys in large volumes to treat gout flare-ups and as a long-term preventative measure.

Once again the federal government has taken something that was both cheap and beneficial and turned it into a monopoly that hurts the general public and drives up the cost of medical care to the benefit of Big Pharma.

Note: Just because it is natural and produced in a pharmaceutical environment, does not mean that Colcrys is harmless. It can be considered toxic in large amounts, has a long list of possible side effects, and is not recommended for people with certain conditions.

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.

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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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Three Specters of Immortality: A Talk from the Radical Life-Extension Conference in Washington D.C. – Article by Franco Cortese

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The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
October 20, 2013
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Author’s Note: The following is a transcript of a talk given at the recent Radical Life Extension Conference held in the U.S. Capitol on September 22,2013. Talks were also given by Antonei B. Csoka, Gabriel Rothblatt, Tom Mooney, Mark Waser, Gray Scott, Josh Mitteldorf, Maitreya One, Jennifer ‘Dotora’ Huse and Apneet Jolly. A special thanks to David Pizer for making this article available for distribution at the upcoming Society for Venturism 2013 Cryonics Conference in Laughlin, Nevada, on October 25-27th.

Introduction

I would like to address what I consider to be three common criticisms against the desirability and ethicality of life-extension I come across all too often – three specters of immortality, if you will. These will be (1) overpopulation (the criticism that widely available life-extension therapies will cause unmanageable overpopulation), (2) naturality (the criticism that life extension is wrong because it is unnatural), and (3) selfishness (the criticism that life-extension researchers, activists, and supporters are motivated by a desire to increase their own, personal lifespans rather than by a desire to decrease involuntary suffering in the world at large).

But first I would like to comment on why this would be important. I would consider two of the three critiques – namely the naturality critique and the selfishness critique – to be largely unfounded and vacuous; I don’t think they will be real worries when comprehensive life-extension therapies arrive. I think that the overpopulation critique does have some weight to it; we do in fact need to plan for and manage the effects of a growing population. However, the overpopulation critique is wrong in assuming that such affects will be unmanageable.

So if at least 2 of these 3 critiques are largely unfounded, then what’s the worry? Won’t they simply disappear when life extension is achieved, if they are really so baseless? Well, yes, but the possibility of their turning out to be right at the end of the day is not what makes them worrying.

What makes them worrying is the fact that they deter widespread support of life extension from the general public, because they stop many people from seeing the advantage and desirability of life extension today. A somewhat common, though thankfully not predominant, attitude I find from some longevity supporters is that work is being done, progress is being made, and that the best course of action for those who want to be around to benefit from the advances in medicine already on the developmental horizon is simply to live as healthily as we can today while waiting for tomorrow’s promise. I don’t think this attitude necessarily deters progress in the life-extension field, but I certainly don’t think it helps it very much either. I think such people are under the pretense that it will take as long as it needs to, and that there is nothing the average person can really do to speed things up and hasten progress in the field. Quite to the contrary, I think every man and woman in this room can play as central a role in hastening progress in the field of life extension as researchers and scientists can.

This is largely due to the fact that just what is considered worthy of scientific study is to a very large extent out of the hands of the average scientist. The large majority of working-day scientists don’t have as much creative license and choice over what they research as we would like to think they do. Scientists have to make their studies conform to the kinds of research that are getting funded. In order to get funding, more often than not they have to do research on what the scientific community considers important or interesting, rather than on what they personally might find the most important or interesting. And what the scientific community considers important and worthy of research is, by and large, determined by what the wider public considers important.

Thus if we want to increase the funding available to academic projects pertaining to life extension, we should be increasing public support for it first and foremost. We should be catalyzing popular interest in and knowledge of life extension. Strangely enough, the objective of increased funding can be more successfully and efficiently achieved, per unit of time or effort, by increasing public support and demand via activism, advocacy, and lobbying, rather than by, say, direct funding, period.

Thus, even if most of these three criticisms, these specters of immortality, are to some extent baseless, refuting them is still important insofar as it increases public support for life extension, thereby hastening progress in the field. We need massive amounts of people to wake up and very explicitly communicate their desire for increased funding in biomedical gerontology, a.k.a. life extension. I think that this is what will catalyze progress in the field – very clear widespread demand for increased funding and attention for life extension.

This is something I think each and every man and woman here today can do – that is, become a life-extension activist and advocate. It is not only one of the easiest ways in which you can contribute to the movement – it may very well be the most important and effective ways that you can contribute to the movement as well. Send an email to the International Longevity Alliance (info@longevityalliance.org), an organization dedicated to social advocacy of life extension, which is compiling a list of life-extension advocates and networking them together. Arrange and organize your own local life-extension rally or demonstration, like the one held last year in Brussels. This could be as easy as holding up signs supporting scientific research into aging in the most traffic-dense location in your local area, recording it, and posting it on YouTube.

And so, without further ado, I’d like to move on to the three specters of immortality.

1. The Unmanageable-Overpopulation Critique

Firstly, I’d like to turn a critique of the possible undesirable societal and demographic repercussions of life extension. The most prominent among these kinds of critiques is that of overpopulation – namely that the widespread availability of life-extension therapies will cause unmanageable overpopulation and a rapid depletion of our scarce resources.

I think this critique, out of those three critiques addressed here, is really the only one that is a real worry. That is because potential negative societal repercussions of life extension are a real possibility, and must be appropriately addressed if they are to be avoided or mitigated. And don’t get me wrong – they are manageable problems that can be handled if we make sure to plan for them sufficiently, and allocate enough attention to them before their effects are upon us.

According to some studies, such as one performed by S. Jay Olshanksy, a member of the board of directors for the American Federation of Aging Research (and the foremost advocate and promulgator of the Longevity Dividend), if the mortality rate dropped to zero tomorrow – that is, if everyone in the world received life-extension therapies comprehensive enough to extend their lives indefinitely – we would experience a rise in population less than the growth in population we experienced following the Post-World-War-II baby-boom. Global society has experienced dramatic increases in population growth before – and when that happened we extended and added to our infrastructure accordingly in order to accommodate them. When significant increases in life extension begin to happen, I expect that we will do the same. But we must make sure to plan ahead. Overpopulation will be an insoluble problem only if we ignore it until its perceptible effects are upon us.

Luckily, there are a number of existing solution-paradigms to other, somewhat related problems and concerns that can be leveraged to help mitigate the scarcitizing effects of overpopulation on resources and living-space.

Contemporary concerns over the depletion of non-renewable resources, such as but not limited to climate change, can be leveraged to help lessen the detrimental effect overpopulation might have on non-renewable resources.

Another contemporary solution paradigm we can leverage to help mitigate the detrimental effects of overpopulation on living space is seasteading. This is the notion of creating permanent dwellings and structures at sea, essentially floating cities, outside of the territory of governments – more often than not to get around legal complications relating to whatever the prospective seasteaders wish to do. This movement is already bringing about designs and feasibility studies relating to the safe construction of very large floating cities.

The most common solution-paradigms proposed to combat the problems of resources and living space are space colonization and regulating how many children people can have. I think that long before we turn to these options, we will begin to better maximize the existing living space we have. 75% of the earth’s surface area is water. I think that we will colonize the oceans long before space colonization becomes a more economically optimal option. Further, we currently don’t use the living space we have very well. We live on the surface of a sphere, after all. There is nothing in principle preventing us from building taller and building deeper. We can take from existing proposals and feasibility studies pertaining to megastructures – that is, very large man-made structures – to build much bigger than we currently do.

Another existing field that can help lessen the potential resource-depleting effects of a growing global population is agricultural labs, indoor farming systems, and vertical farms. Such systems are in use today for large-scale food production. This would allow us to take all the space we currently have devoted to agriculture (roughly 40% of earth’s total land-area according to some estimates – see here and here) and move it underground or indoors.

Thus overpopulation is a real worry, but we have the potential solutions to its problematic effects today. We can leverage several existing solution-paradigms proposed to combat several contemporary problems and concerns in order to manage the scarcitizing effects of overpopulation on resources and living space.

2. The Naturality Critique

I’d like to turn to the Naturality criticism now – the criticism that life-extension is unnatural, dehumanizing and an affront to our human dignity.  – This could not be farther from the truth. The stanch revulsion we have of death is right; appropriate; a perfectly natural response.

Besides which, “naturality,” insofar as it pertains to humans, is an illegitimate notion to begin with. For us human beings, naturality is unnatural. It is we who have cast off animality in the name of mind, we who have ripped dead matter asunder to infuse it with the works of our mind – we who have crafted clothes, codes, cities, symbols, and culture. Since the very inception of human civilization, we have very thoroughly ceased to be natural, and to such an extent that unnaturality has become our first nature.

Firstly, one thing that I think undercuts the critique of naturality rather well is the known existence of biologically immortal organisms. There are in fact known organisms where the statistical probability of mortality does not increase with age. Meaning that if one kept these organisms healthily fed and in a good environment for them, then they simply shouldn’t die. Not only are there proofs of concept for biological immortality – but it can be found in nature unmodified by man.

Hydras, small freshwater organisms, do not undergo cellular senescence and are able to maintain their telomere lengths throughout continued cell division. The jellyfish Turritopsis Nutricula can, through a process called cellular transdifferentiation, revert back to the polyp stage (an earlier stage in its developmental cycle) a potentially indefinite number of times. Planarian Flatworms also appear to be biologically immortal, and can maintain their telomere lengths through a large population of highly proliferative adult stem cells. And if you can believe it, an organism as commonplace as the lobster also appears to be biologically immortal. Older lobsters are more fertile than young lobsters, and they don’t appear to weaken or slow down with age.

There is then such a thing as biological immortality. In biology it’s defined as a stable or decreasing rate or mortality from cellular senescence as a function of chronological age. Meaning that barring such accidents as being eaten by prey, such organisms should continue to live indefinitely.

I also think that this is great proof of concept for people who automatically associate the magnitude of the endeavor with its complexity or difficulty, and assume that achieving biological immortality is technically infeasible simply due to the sheer profundity of the objective. But in regards to naturality, I think the existence of such biologically immortal organisms goes to show that there is nothing necessarily unnatural about biological immortality – because it has already been achieved by blind evolution in various naturally-occurring biological organisms.

Secondly, I think that the long history of seminal thinkers who have contemplated the notion of human biological immortality, the historical antecedents of the contemporary life-extension movement, help to combat the naturality criticism as well. Believe it or not, people have been speculating about the scientific abolition of involuntary death for hundreds of years at least.

As early as 1795, nearly 220 years ago, Marquis de Condorcet wrote

Would it be absurd now to suppose that the improvement of the human race should be regarded as capable of unlimited progress? That a time will come when death would result only from extraordinary accidents or the more and more gradual wearing out of vitality, and that, finally, the duration of the average interval between birth and wearing out has itself no specific limit whatsoever? No doubt man will not become immortal, but cannot the span constantly increase between the moment he begins to live and the time when naturally, without illness or accident, he finds life a burden?”

Here we see one of the fathers of the enlightenment tradition speculating on whether it is really that absurd to contemplate the notion of a continually-increasing human lifespan.

In 1773, 240 years ago, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jacques Duborg, first praising the sagacity and humanity demonstrated by his attempt to bring animals back from the dead, and then describing what can only be a harkening of cryonics and suspended animation, where he wishes that there were a way for him to be revived a century hence, and witness the progress in science that had been made since the time of his death.

“Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to life those who appear to be killed by lightning, demonstrate equally your sagacity and your humanity. It appears that the doctrine of life and death in general is yet but little understood…

I wish it were possible… to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But… in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection…

Thus the notion of human biological immortality through science and medicine is not as new as most of us are probably quick to presume. Men of stature and intellect, respected and admired historical figures, have been contemplating the prospect for hundreds of years at least.

Thirdly, I think that religion itself exemplifies our desire for indefinite lifespans. This may seem counter-intuitive considering that many criticisms of life extension come from underlying religious arguments and worldviews – for instance that we shouldn’t be playing god, or messing with the way god created us. But the fact is that most religions have a conception of the afterlife – i.e., of eternal life following the physical death of the body. The fact that belief in an afterlife is a feature shared by almost all historical religions, that belief in an afterlife was conceived in a whole host of cultures independent of one another, shows that indefinite lifespans is one of humanity’s most deep-rooted and common longings and desires – indeed, one so deep-rooted that it transcends cultural distance and deep historical time.

3. The Selfishness Critique

Now I’d like to turn to the third specter of immortality – the criticism of selfishness. Whereas the first specter of immortality was a critique of the ethicality of life extension, this second specter is more a moralistic critique of the worthiness of actually spending one’s time trying to further progress in the field today.

The view that life-extension researchers, activists and supporters are arrogant for thinking that we somehow deserve to live longer than those that came before us – as though we were trying to increase public support for and interest in life extension merely for the sake of continuing our own lives. This, too, is, I think, a rather baseless criticism. Every life-extension researcher, activist, scholar and supporter I know does it not solely for the sake of their own lives but for the sake of the 100,000 people that die every day due to age-correlated causes. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, 100,000 people will die from aging today, lost forever to causes that are in principle preventable and ultimately unnecessary. There are roughly 86,000 seconds in a day. That works out to a little more than one death per second. That’s about equal to the entire population of Washington, DC, dying every week, 3 million preventable deaths per month, and 36.5 million deaths per year. A group larger than the entire population of Canada will die from aging this year – and the fact that it sickens so few of us is incredibly sickening to me. This is an untenable situation for a civilization as capable as ours – we who have reshaped the world over, we who have gone to the moon, we who have manipulated atoms despite out fat monkey fingers. Humanity is an incredibly powerful and unprecedented phenomenon, and to say that we simply cannot do anything about death is to laugh in the face of history to some extent. Recall that very learned and esteemed men once said that heavier-than-air flying machines – and a great many other things we take for granted today – are impossible.

We cringe and cry when we hear of acts of genocide or horrible accidents killing thousands. But this occurs every day, on the toll of 100,000 deaths per day, right under our noses.

Doing something about this daily cataclysm is what drives my own work, and the work of most every life-extension supporter I know. The life-extension movement is about decreasing the amount of involuntary suffering in the world, and only lastly about our own, personal longevity, if at all. The eradication of involuntary death via science and medicine is nothing less than the humanitarian imperative of our times!

And again, this is something that I think each and every one of you can take part in. Become a life-extension supporter, advocate and activist. It may be not only the easiest way that you can contribute to hastening progress in the field of life extension, but the most effective way as well. Thank you.

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Franco Cortese is a futurist, author, editor, Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, Ambassador at The Seasteading Institute, Affiliate Researcher at ELPIs Foundation for Indefinite Lifespans, Fellow at Brighter Brains Institute, Advisor at the Lifeboat Foundation (Futurists Board Member and Life Extension Scientific Advisory Board Member), Director of the Canadian Longevity Alliance, Activist at the International Longevity Alliance, Canadian Ambassador at Longevity Intelligence Communications, an Administrator at MILE (Movement for Indefinite Life Extension), Columnist at LongeCity, Columnist at H+ Magazine, Executive Director of the Center for Transhumanity, Contributor to the Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology, India Future Society, Serious Wonder, Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. Franco edited Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity, a compendium of 150+ essays from over 40 contributing authors.

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Transhumanism as the Logical Extrapolation of Humanism – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Mr. Stolyarov explains why transhumanism is humanism taken to its full logical extent by recognizing the possibilities unleashed by technology for improving human potential.

References
– “Transhumanism as the Logical Extrapolation of Humanism” – Post by G. Stolyarov II
– “Human Nature is Tautological” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “Human Nature is Tautological” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Humanism” – Wikipedia

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Free Your Talent and the Rest Will Follow – Article by Orly Lobel

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Categories: Business, Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Orly Lobel
October 17, 2013
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Imagine two great cities. Both are blessed with world-class universities, high-tech companies, and a concentration of highly educated professionals. Which will grow faster? Which will become the envy and aspiration for industrial hubs all around the world?

Such was the reality for two emerging regions in the 1970s: California’s Silicon Valley and the high-tech hub of Massachusetts Route 128. Each region benefited from established cities (San Francisco and Boston), strong nearby universities (University of California-Berkeley/Stanford and Harvard/MIT), and large pools of talented people.

We’ve all heard about Silicon Valley, but not so much Route 128. Despite their similarities, and despite the Bostonian hub having three times more jobs than Silicon Valley in the 1970s, Silicon Valley eventually overtook Route 128 in number of start-ups, number of jobs, salaries per capita, and invention rates.

The distinguishing factor for Silicon Valley was an economic environment of openness and mobility. For more than a century, dating back to 1872, California has banned post-employment restrictions. The California Business and Professions Code voids every contract that restrains someone from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business. This means that unlike most other states, California’s policy favors open competition and the right to move from job to job without constraint. California courts have repeatedly explained that this ban is about freeing up talent, allowing skilled people to move among ventures for the overall gain of California’s economy.

The data confirm this intuition: Silicon Valley is legendary for the success of employees leaving stable jobs to work out of their garages, starting new ventures that make them millionaires overnight. Stories are abundant of entire teams leaving a large corporation to start a competitive firm. Despite these risks, California employers don’t run away. On the contrary, they seek out the Valley as a prime location to do business. Despite not having the ability to require non-compete clauses from their employees, California companies compete lucratively on a global scale. These businesses think of the talent wars as a repeat game and find other ways to retain the talent they need most.

In fact, the competitive talent policy is also supported by a market spirit of openness and collaboration. Even when restrictions are legally possible—for example, in trade secret disputes—Silicon Valley firms frequently choose to look the other way. Sociologist Annalee Saxenian, who studied the industrial cultures of both Silicon Valley and Route 128 in Massachusetts, found that while Boston’s Route 128 developed a culture of secrecy, hierarchy, and a conservative attitude that feared exchanges and viewed every new company as a threat, Silicon Valley developed an opposing ethos of fluidity and networked collaborations. These exchanges of the Valley gave it an edge over the autarkic environment that developed on the East Coast. In Massachusetts, firms are more likely to be vertically integrated—or to have internalized most production functions—and employee movement among firms occurs less frequently.

New research considering these different attitudes and policy approaches toward the talent wars supports California’s modus operandi.

A recent study by the Federal Reserve and the National Bureau of Economic Research examined job mobility in the nation’s top 20 metropolitan areas and found that high-tech communities throughout California—not only Silicon Valley—have greater job mobility than equivalent communities in other states. Network mapping of connections between inventors also reveals that Silicon Valley has rapidly developed denser inventor networks than other high-tech hubs have.

Researching over two million inventors and almost three million patents over three decades, a 2007 Harvard Business School study by Lee Fleming and Keon Frenken observes a dramatic aggregation of the Silicon Valley regional networks at the beginning of the 1990s. Comparing Boston to Northern California, the study finds that Silicon Valley mushroomed into a giant inventor network and a dense superstructure of connectivity, as small isolated networks came together. By the new century, almost half of all inventors in the area were part of the super-network. By contrast, the transition in Boston occurred much later and much less dramatically.

Michigan provides a natural experiment for understanding the consequences of constraining talent mobility. Until the mid-1980s, Michigan, like California, had banned non-competes. In 1985, as part of an overarching antitrust reform, Michigan began allowing non-competes, like most other states. Several new studies led by MIT Sloan professor Matt Marx look at the effects of this change on the Michigan talent pool. The studies find that not only did mobility drop, but that also once non-competes became prevalent, the region experienced a continuous brain drain: Its star inventors became more likely to move elsewhere, mainly to California. In other words, California gained twice: once from its intra-regional mobility supported by a strong policy that favors such flows, and once from its comparative advantage over regions that suppress mobility.

A virtuous cycle can be put into motion geographically where talent mobility supports professional networks, which in turn enhance regional innovation. Firms can learn to love these environments of high risk and even higher gain. Rather than thinking of every employee who leaves the company as a threat and an enemy, smart companies are beginning to think of their former employees as assets, just as universities wish for the success of their alumni. Companies like Microsoft and Capital One have established networks of alumni. They showcase their former employees’ achievements and practicing rehiring of their best talent, hoping that at least some of those who leave will soon realize that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

Most importantly, motivation and performance are triggered by commitment and positive incentives to stay, rather than threats and legal restrictions against leaving. In behavioral research I’ve conducted with my co-author On Amir, we find that restrictions over mobility can suppress performance and cause people to feel less committed to the task. Cognitive controls over skill, knowledge, and ideas are worse than controls over other forms of intellectual property because they prevent people from using their creative capacities, they don’t just prevent firms from using inventions that are already out there. So instead of requiring non-competes or threatening litigation over intellectual property, California companies use rewards systems, creating the kind of corporate cultures where employees want to work and do well. Again, a double victory.

Unsurprisingly, when Forbes recently looked at the most inventive cities in the country for 2013 using OECD data, the two top cities were in California: bio-tech haven San Diego, and the legendary home of Silicon Valley, San Francisco. Boston, still vibrant and highly innovative despite its most restrictive attitudes, came in third. Competition is the lifeblood of any economy, and fierce competition over people is the essence of the knowledge economy.

Orly Lobel is the Don Weckstein Professor of Law at the University of San Diego and founding faculty member of the Center for Intellectual Property and Markets. Her latest book is Talent Wants to be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding (Yale University Press, September 2013).

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

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Evolution Has No Moral Value; Life Extension Does – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mr. Stolyarov responds to two statements by Michael Garfield and makes the case that evolution should not be pursued as a moral goal in itself; rather, the survival and increased longevity of every individual should be pursued, since our rationality, technology, and moral compass allow us to transcend the cruelty of primeval natural selection.

Mr. Stolyarov also refutes the allegation that older people somehow necessarily become resigned to or accepting of their own death. He presents counterexamples of individuals who lived past the age of 80 and who wished to continue living indefinitely.

See Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on scientific progress and life extension: “The rapid progress true science now makes occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born too soon. It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter. We may, perhaps, deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce: all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured (not excepting even that of old age,) and our lives lengthened at pleasure, even beyond the antediluvian standard. Oh that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity.”

References
– “Life as the Origin and Basis of Morality” – Video Series by G. Stolyarov II – Part 1 and Part 2
– “Eliminating Death – Part 1 – Death as Waste” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “World’s Oldest Man Wants To Live Forever” – WayOdd
– “Robert Ettinger” – Wikipedia

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Debt-Ceiling Crises: Imagined and Real – Article by D. W. MacKenzie

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

The New Renaissance Hat
D. W. MacKenzie
October 14, 2013
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The federal government shutdown and impending debt ceiling “deadline” have led to near panic over possible default on the national debt. This imagined “default crisis” is a canard used for demagogic fearmongering. That said, the long-term federal financial issues are all too serious.

If federal officials simply continue on with their current financial plans, the U.S. government could run into trouble in early November. Without a debt ceiling increase, the Treasury would be unable to meet some of its financial obligations. Treasury bills would take a hit in international markets. With T-bills losing value in markets, interest rates—especially short-term interest rates—would start to rise. Rising interest rates would impair recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

The assertion that a debt crisis would impair an already weak economic recovery is correct. However, any claim that the federal government is up against a hard deadline to meet its legal financial obligations is utterly untrue. The federal government holds vast amounts of property, all of which is available to be sold off. How much is needed to cover federal interest payments?

Interest rates are, for the moment, very low. Accordingly, interest payments on the debt are a small percentage of the total federal budget, despite the large size of the national debt.

With annual interest payments at a couple of hundred billion dollars, there is no impending debt-ceiling default crisis.

How exactly could the federal government pay interest on the national debt? To start with, the Federal Reserve now holds large numbers of mortgage-backed securities. There is some uncertainty over the market value of these securities, but their face value is immense, well over one trillion dollars. Sales of some of the better quality mortgage-backed securities could fund interest payments in the short term.

U.S. gold reserves are also substantial. The U.S. holds thousands of tons of gold at Fort Knox and at the New York Federal Reserve.

Sales of a small part of U.S. gold reserves could be used to make immediate interest payments.

The U.S. government also holds large amounts of idle real estate. The federal government spends $8 billion on vacant buildings annually. That’s for an estimated total of 55,000 to 77,000 buildings. The fact that our federal officials aren’t sure how many buildings they manage is itself disturbing, and a sign of incompetence. However, it seems that there are at least over 50,000 such buildings. How many hours would it take for federal employees who “manage” these buildings to post some of them on eBay? Surely sales of these properties would raise enough money to cover federal interest for about a month or two of the next year, even if each of these buildings sold for only a half a million dollars on average.

Efficient, competent public officials could simply announce auctions and begin to sell some of these buildings. Of course, red tape could delay property auctions. However, the Fed could make immediate interest payments by using its discretionary powers to sell mortgage-backed securities and gold reserves. President Obama could, in the meantime, expedite sales of vacant federal buildings—not to mention federal lands—by cutting red tape. (See map of federally managed land.)

The President has already acted in arbitrary—and some would say illegal—ways: by granting special exemptions from the Affordable Care Act to favored corporations, by using drones to kill U.S. citizens, and by targeting unfriendly political groups for audits. If Obama really wants save his beloved federal government from default, why shouldn’t he just use the extraordinary powers that he has already claimed to order the immediate sale of vacant buildings? The point here is not to encourage further illegality on the part of this President (he needs no assistance in such matters). The point here is that Obama does not have his back against a wall; there is no “gun to his head.” Obama has already claimed more than enough discretionary powers to prevent a debt-ceiling default in November. If default does happen it is entirely his choice, given that he has legal options and has already assumed various unconstitutional powers.

Obama has occasionally mentioned that some programs might be trimmed or cut. As Obama put it in 2010, “We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group.” He added, “We simply cannot afford it.”

The federal government holds over 700 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Obama could raise billions of dollars for interest payments without selling the whole reserve. Some people might see sales of the SPR as irresponsible. However, the oil in this reserve is a small fraction of monthly oil consumption, U.S. oil production is rising, and owners of foreign oil have overwhelming financial interests in continued oil sales to the United States.

The federal government also holds a Strategic Helium Reserve. It was created for “national security,” for blimps used by the military leading up to and during World War II. This program is archaic and the government already sells some helium. It could sell all of it and shut this program down.

Default on the debt is always possible. Obama and his people at the Treasury Department could have refused to pay interest on the national debt last month even though they had this money at hand. They could choose to default next month even though they can get the money—either through legal means or according to Obama’s demonstrated willingness to act illegally. The sale of federal assets and closing of federal programs would do more than just meet short-term interest payments on the national debt. Movement of securities, gold, buildings, oil, and helium would put these resources in the hands of people who would not merely put these resources to better use, but to actual use. The leeway that exists in federal finances points to longer-term financial and economic problems. Why would Obama engage in fearmongering on the national debt when obvious solutions to this problem exist? For that matter, why would federal officials hold so many idle resources for so long?

The reason why the federal government runs deficits nearly every year, despite collecting trillions in annual taxes, is because it wastes vast amounts of money on dysfunctional programs and special-interest payoffs. An efficient government would not need to tax and borrow nearly as much as does the federal government. The gross inefficiency of government has put federal finances in long-term jeopardy.

The real debt ceiling is determined by the ability of all working Americans to pay more taxes. How much more can we pay? Continued structural deficits and rising entitlement spending will result in default on the national debt, but not for a number of years. The existing path of long-term federal spending does surpass the capacity of taxpayers to fund the federal government, as it is currently designed. Future default on the national debt will have severe consequences. However, Obama’s willingness to engage in demagoguery on the immediate debt-ceiling issue is one of many signs that politicians are unwilling to take necessary steps to fix long-term fiscal finances.

The legal debt-ceiling crisis of 2013 is manufactured and phony. Even if Congress refuses to raise the legal debt ceiling this year, there are many ways of avoiding immediate default. The real problem we face is wasteful and irresponsible spending that will make default unavoidable eventually. Long-run default is, of course, avoidable. What we need are real cuts in federal spending, actual sales of federal assets and properties, and rationality in federal finances. Cutting spending and selling assets are easier said than done. Achieving smaller government will require a dramatic shift in public opinion. Americans need to realize that politicians who try to scare us are the ones that we really should fear.

D. W. MacKenzie is an assistant professor of economics at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. 

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

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Illiberal Belief #22: Persuasion is Force – Article by Bradley Doucet

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The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
October 13, 2013
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I must admit, I love a good television commercial. The creativity that goes into the best TV ad is as impressive and enjoyable to me as a quality drama, comedy, or documentary. “You feel sad for the Moo Cow Milker? That is because you are crazy. Tacky items can easily be replaced with better IKEA.” But damn those clever Swedes! They have, through the alchemy of advertising, forced me into outfitting my entire apartment with their stylish yet affordable household items.I kid, of course; but there is a certain line of thought out there that cannot abide advertising, and that credits it with all manner of evil. Advertising, they say, makes us fat by brainwashing us into wanting fast food and sugary cereal. It makes men want to buy beer, fancy cars, or anything else associated with hot women. (A current TV commercial makes fun of the “scantily-clad women washing car” cliché by having a group of sumo wrestlers wash a new Subaru.) Advertising makes women dissatisfied with their appearance and hence creates a need for fashion and beauty products that would not otherwise exist. Yes, because as we all know, humans do not naturally enjoy fatty, sugary foods, men would not drink beer or drive fancy cars in the absence of advertising, and women need corporations to teach them to care about their looks. Puh-lease.

Think of the Children

Advertising is about the transmission of information, and it is also about convincing people to buy something. In other words, it is a form of persuasion, but this use of persuasion is implicitly equated with the use of force by its detractors. Sometimes, as in the case of the French website RAP (“Résistance à l’Agression Publicitaire” or “Resistance to Advertising Aggression”), the equating of persuasion and force is explicit. The site features an illustration of a police officer brandishing a billy club accompanied by the slogan, “Ne vous laissez pas matraquer par la pub,” which translates, “Don’t let yourself be bludgeoned by advertising.”

Usually, though, the message is less overt, as it is on Commercial Alert’s website, whose slogan is “Protecting communities from commercialism.” The site complains about the psychology profession “helping corporations influence children for the purpose of selling products to them.” Here, the word “influence” seems none too menacing, but its effect is quickly bolstered by the words “crisis,” “epidemic,” “complicity,” and “onslaught.” Force may not be explicitly mentioned, but these words bring to mind infectious disease, crime, and violent conquest. Without coming right out and saying it, the implication is clear―although one could argue, ironically enough, that this effect was meant to be subliminal.

Now, are children more vulnerable than adults to the persuasive nature of advertising? Of course they are, especially when very young. But it is part of the job of parents (and later, teachers) to equip children with the tools necessary to judge competing claims and see through manipulative techniques. I’ll be the first to admit that there is room for improvement in this area―and a free market in education would go a long way toward providing that improvement―but as far as advertising goes, most kids are savvy to the more outlandish claims well before they even reach adolescence. As people grow up, they learn through experience that beer doesn’t bring babes (though a little may beneficially lower one’s own inhibitions) and that makeup will only get you so far. At any rate, treating all adults like children is hardly a fair way to deal with the fact that some minority of people will remain gullible their entire lives.

Of Words and Bullets

Many of those who really hate advertising share a worldview that involves rich, powerful corporations controlling everything. In fact, there is a sense in which this view has some merit, for it is true that large corporations often gain unfair advantage over their competitors, suppliers, and customers. When this happens, though, it happens through the gaining of political influence, which means the use of actual, legally sanctioned force to hogtie the competition, restrict consumers’ choices, or extract taxpayers’ hard-earned income. In a truly free market, the government would not have the authority to dole out special privileges, as it does in our mixed economies. Without any goodies to fight over, corporations would have no legal means of squashing competitors and could only succeed by being as efficient as possible and persuading customers to buy their products (and if their products do not satisfy, they will not get many repeat customers). To target this persuasion as a serious problem when actual, legal force is being used surely reveals an inverted sense of priorities, or at least a serious misunderstanding about the sources of society’s woes.

Another example of the implicit equating of persuasion with force is the thinking behind legislated limits on the amounts individuals can spend expressing their political views during an election―in essence, limits on political advertising. Here, as in commercial advertising, the purpose is clear: if persuasion is force, then the government is perfectly justified in countering that initiation of force with retaliatory force. If words are bullets, then words can be met with bullets. But it is clear what happens to free speech in such a scenario. Instead of competing voices clamouring for your attention, one monolithic government propaganda machine decides what can and cannot be said. In the political realm, this works against new or historically small parties trying to break through since they have a disproportionately hard time attracting many small contributions in order to pay for ads to get their message out. This leads to a situation in which a couple of largely indistinguishable parties become more and more firmly entrenched.

In fact, the notion that persuasion is force brings to mind nothing so much as George Orwell’s novel, 1984, in which the government has destroyed the precision of words by continually reinforcing its contradictory slogans: war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is power, and love is hate. It is shocking to observe the smug self-righteousness of those who hold forth on the enormous manipulative power of advertising and who are so sure that they, of all people, have not been brainwashed. But in fact, it is they who have been, if not brainwashed, then at least misled about the relative power of advertising versus the average Joe’s ability to think and judge for himself. They have bought, hook, line, and sinker, the most superficial critique of capitalism, when our mixed form of capitalism has plenty of real abuses crying out for correction.

The Power of Persuasion

The point is not that persuasion is powerless. I am engaged in trying to persuade you of something right now, and if I didn’t think I had a chance of succeeding, I wouldn’t waste my time. The point, rather, is that persuasion must be met with persuasion, words and rhetorical techniques must be answered with more words and more rhetoric. If free competition is allowed in the marketplace of ideas, no one’s victory is assured, and we needn’t fret too much over the use of psychological tricks, because the trickster’s competitors can use them too, or overtly challenge them instead. (See Gennady Stolyarov II’s article “The Victory of Truth Is Never Assured!” for a related call to action.)

If we are still worried, though, it is undeniable that better education―freer education―would produce a less pliant population, especially important for the issue of political persuasion. The other thing that would help is fighting for full freedom of competition, in both commerce (no special government privileges) and politics (no limits on political speech). In other words, we need to eliminate the government’s use of force in the realms of education, commerce, and political campaigning. Agitating for the government to solve our problems for us with the use of more force will only make matters worse, and further infantilize us in the process.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor. 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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