– Provide (i) your name, (ii) your mailing address, (iii) a statement of your support for indefinite life extension, and (iv) a brief description of your plan to spread the book to children in your local area. Remember that all copies received pursuant to this initiative would need to be offered to children free of charge (as gifts or reading opportunities) and may not be resold.
– Provide the number of copies of Death is Wrong that you are requesting.
– Preferably, provide an indication that you would be willing to send photographs of the books that have been delivered to you as well as events where you will be distributing the books.
Hurricane season is nearly upon us, and every time a hurricane strikes, television and radio commentators and would-be economists are quick to proclaim the growth-boosting consequences of the vicissitudes of nature. Of course, if this were true, why wait for the next calamity? Let’s create one by bulldozing New York City and marvel at the growth-boosting activity engendered. Destroying homes, buildings, and capital equipment will undoubtedly help parts of the construction industry and possibly regional economies, but it is a mistake to conclude it will boost overall growth.
Every year, this popular misconception is trotted out although Frédéric Bastiat in 1848 clearly put it to rest with his parable of the broken window. Suppose we break a window. We will call up the window repairman, and pay him $100 for the repair. People watching will say this is a good thing. What would happen to the repairman if no windows were broken? Also, the $100 will allow the repairman to buy other goods and services creating income for others. This is “what is seen.”
If instead, the window had not been broken, the $100 may have purchased a new pair of shoes. The shoemaker would have made a sale and spent the money differently. This is “what is not seen.”
Society (in this case these three members) is better off if the window had not been broken, since we are left with an intact window and a pair of shoes, instead of just a window. Destruction does not lead to more goods and services or growth. This is what should be foreseen.
One of the first attempts to quantify the economic impact of a catastrophe was a 1969 book, The Economics of Natural Disasters. The authors, Howard Kunreuther and Douglas Dacy, largely did a case study on the Alaskan earthquake of 1964, the most powerful ever recorded in North America. They, unsurprisingly, concluded that Alaskans were better off after the quake, since money flooded in from private sources and generous grants and loans from the federal government. Again, this was “what is seen.”
While construction companies benefit from the rebuilding after a disaster, we must always ask, where does the money come from? If the funds come from FEMA or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the federal government had to tax, borrow, or print the money. Taxpayers are left with less money to spend elsewhere.
The economics of disasters remains a small field of study. There have been a limited number of empirical studies examining the link between growth and natural disasters. They can be divided into studies examining the short-term and long-term impact of disasters. The short-term studies, in general, found a negative relationship between disasters and growth while a lesser number of long-run studies have had mixed results.
The most cited long-run study is “Do Natural Disasters Promote Long-Run Growth?” by Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya who examined the frequency of disasters in 89 countries against their economic growth rates over a 30-year period. They tried to control for a variety of factors that might skew the findings, including country size, size of government, distance from the equator and openness to trade. They found a positive relationship between climate disasters (e.g., hurricanes and cyclones), and growth. The authors explain this finding by invoking what might be called Mother Nature’s contribution to what economist Joseph Schumpeter famously called capitalism’s “creative destruction.” By destroying old factories and roads, airports, and bridges, disasters allow new and more efficient infrastructure to be rebuilt, forcing the transition to a sleeker, more productive economy. Disasters perform the economic service of clearing out outdated infrastructure to make way for more efficient replacements.
There are three major problems with these empirical studies. The first is counterfactual. We cannot measure what growth would have been had the disaster never occurred. The second is association versus causation. We cannot say whether the disaster caused the growth or was simply associated with it.
The third problem is what economists call “ceteris paribus.” It is impossible to hold other factors constant and measure the exclusive impact of a disaster on growth. There are no laboratories to test macroeconomics concepts. This is the same limitation to Rogoff’s and Reinhart’s work on debt and growth, and many other bilateral relationships in economics. Using historical data from the early 1900s, researchers found that as the price of wheat increased, the consumption of wheat also increased. They triumphantly proclaimed that the demand curve was upward sloping. Of course, this relationship is not a demand curve, but the intersection points between supply and demand. The “holding everything else constant” assumption had been violated. In economics, empirical data can support a theoretical argument, but it cannot prove or disprove it.
So what do we do if the empirical studies have serious limitations? We go back to theory. We know a demand curve is downward sloping because of substitution and income effects. Wal-Mart does not run a clearance to sell less output! Theory also holds that natural disasters reduce growth (i.e., the more capital destroyed, the greater the negative impact on growth).
More capital means more growth. Robinson Crusoe will catch more fish if he sacrifices time fishing with his hands to build a net. Now, suppose a hurricane hits the island and destroys all of his nets. Robinson could go back to fishing with his bare hands and his output would have been permanently reduced. He could suffer an even greater decline in output by taking time to make new nets. The Skidmore-Toya explanation is to have him apply new methods and technologies to build even better nets, allowing him to catch more fish than before the hurricane. Of course, we may ask, if he had this knowledge, why didn’t Robinson build those better nets before the hurricane? This is where the Skidmore-Toya logic falls apart. Robinson did not build better nets before the hurricane because it was not optimal for him to do so.
If a company decides to replace an old machine with a new one, among the primary considerations are the initial price of the new machine, the applicable interest rate, and the reduced yearly costs of operation of the new machine. Using net present value analysis, the company determines the optimum time to make the switch (a real option). A hurricane forces a switch to occur earlier than would have been optimal under a price and profit motive. The hurricane therefore created a different path for growth. The creative destruction would have occurred, but on a different, more optimal, timeline.
The same conclusions can also be drawn from manmade disasters. Contrary to what many Keynesian economists would have you believe, WWII did not grow the US out of the great depression. Capitalism did!
Frank Hollenbeck teaches finance and economics at the International University of Geneva. He has previously held positions as a Senior Economist at the State Department, Chief Economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and as an Associate Director of a Swiss private bank. See Frank Hollenbeck’s article archives.
Most people want to die of in their sleep, in peace, of old age, without pain and surrounded by their family and loved ones after achieving success and after having done something worthwhile.But the facts suggest, that such a peaceful end is granted to very few people, while most people have to endure different disabilities and diseases associated with aging and terrible pain and decreased function, performance, and the lack of joy coming with it.The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project originated in 1990 in a collaboration between the World Health Organization, Harvard School of Public Health, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and the World Bank.
The focus of the Global Burden of Disease Study is to provide a detailed statistical analysis of the impact of diseases leading to death and disability across various regions around the world. The purpose of the study is to reveal gaps between current and ideal health circumstances and develop strategies to reduce this gap.
The 2010 Global Burden of Disease study reveals a significant shift in the nature of disease worldwide. There has been a significant increase in chronic disease worldwide. This is due to demographics of aging, and the subsequent increase of age-related disease.
Worldwide, the contribution of different risk factors to disease burden has changed substantially, with a shift away from risks for communicable diseases in children towards those for non-communicable diseases in adults.
As life expectancy has increased, the number of healthy years lost to disability has also increased in most countries, consistent with the expansion of morbidity hypothesis, which has implications for health planning and health-care expenditure.One of the key findings reveals that we are living longer, but under an increased burden of chronic disease that impairs our quality of life.These results are distressing: men can expect to spend an average of 9.2 years and women 11.5 years with some form of a chronic disability. In other words, during the last decade of lives, on average, our quality of life might become significantly impaired by the presence of a chronic disease.
The paradox, then – the fact that people want to be actively saved if they are near or at the moment of death, but also want to die peacefully – seems to be rooted in a pretty profound medical illiteracy.
Healthy people don’t die in their sleep, “peacefully” or otherwise. You don’t hear about too many 25-year-olds dying suddenly of heart attacks or strokes during their nightly slumber.
When people in their twenties die, it’s usually considered tragic. When babies are found dead in their cribs, it’s referred to by a name (“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”). But when elderly people die, in bed or otherwise, there tends to be a curious tone of, “Well, at least they went peacefully.”
The increase in life expectancy and the resulting growth of the elderly population are also thought to be driving up the number of elderly people with disabilities.
Typically in the case of dying in your sleep due to old age, an autopsy can determine exactly what went wrong, or what stopped working. For example, your heart could simply get tired and stop beating, because it’s been working hard for the past eighty or ninety years.
The phrase “natural causes” or dying “of old age” is a very strange one really. Ultimately what it means is that someone who dies of natural causes, dies of aging in a way that has not been given an additional name; so really it’s just a matter of terminology. The difference is between dying of “natural causes” and dying of some other specifically named thing that doesn’t really often affect young adults.
Searching for a cure for age-related ill health, a problem that kills more people than all other causes combined, is a moral imperative. The Advocate for Negligible Senescence publishes articles that discuss and educate the public about research to combat senescence. See the Advocate’s Facebook page.
President Obama held a press conference last week to express his outrage over reports that the Veterans Administration was routinely delaying treatment to veterans, with some veterans even dying while on alleged secret waiting lists. The president said that, “if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.” He vowed that, together with Congress, he would “make sure we’re doing right by our veterans across the board.”
The president is right to be upset over the mistreatment of US military veterans, especially those who return home with so many physical and mental injuries. Veterans should not be abused when they seek the treatment promised them when they enlisted. But his outrage over military abuse is selective. He ignores the most egregious abuse of the US armed forces: sending them off to fight, become maimed, and die in endless conflicts overseas that have no connection to US national security.
It is ironic that the same week the president condemned the alleged mistreatment of veterans by the VA, he announced that he was sending 80 armed troops to Chad to help look for a group of girls kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamist organization Boko Haram. Is there any mistreatment worse than sending the US military into a violent and unstable part of the world to conduct a search operation that is in no way connected to the defense of the United States?
As Judge Andrew Napolitano said last week, “Feeling sorry for somebody is not a sufficient basis for sending American men and women into harm’s way.”
We are naturally upset over reports that Nigerian girls have been kidnapped by this armed Islamist organization. Unfortunately, cruel and unjust acts are committed worldwide on a regular basis. What the media is not reporting about this terrible situation, however, is that it was US interventionism itself that strengthened Boko Haram, and inadvertently may have even helped the kidnappers commit their crime.
Back in early 2012, just months after the US-led attack on Libya overthrew Gaddafi and plunged the country into chaos, the UN issued a report warning about the proliferation of weapons from that bombed out country. UN investigators found – eight months before the attack that killed the US ambassador in Benghazi – that, “Some of the weapons … could be sold to terrorist groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram or other criminal organizations.”
The US, NATO, and the UN are guilty of creating the unrest currently engulfing much of northern Africa, as they all pushed lies to promote an attack on Libya that destabilized the region. Now the president is launching an intervention in Chad and Nigeria to solve the problems created by his own intervention in Libya. This pattern is the same in places like Ukraine, where the US-backed coup in February has led to chaos and unrest that leads to even more intervention, including NATO’s saber-rattling on the Russian border. Has anyone in the Administration or Congress ever considered that interventionism itself might be the real problem?
As Americans celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, we should remember that though the VA’s alleged abuse and neglect of US veterans is scandalous, the worse abuse comes from a president and a compliant Congress that send the US military to cause harm and be harmed overseas in undeclared, unnecessary, and illegal interventions. The best way to honor the US military is to honor the Constitution, and to keep in mind the wise advice of our Founding Fathers to avoid all foreign interventionism.
Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.
At some point in the next ten to twenty years the public at large, consisting of people who pay little attention to the ins and outs of progress in medicine, will start to wake up to realize that much longer healthy lives have become a possibility for the near future. The preliminaries to this grand awakening have been underway for a while, gradually, and will continue that way for a while longer. A few people every day in ordinary walks of life notice that, hey, a lot of scientists are talking about greatly extending human life spans these days, and, oh look, large sums of money are floating around to back this aim. There will be a slow dawning of realization, one floating light bulb at a time, as the concept of radical life extension is shifted in another brain from the “science fiction” bucket to the “science fact” bucket.
Some folk will then go back to what they were doing. Others will catch the fever and become advocates. A tiny few will donate funds in support of research or pressure politicians to do the same. Since we live in an age of pervasive communication, we see this process as it occurs. Many people are all to happy to share their realizations on a regular basis, and in this brave new world everyone can be a publisher in their own right.
Here is an example that I stumbled over today; a fellow with a day-to-day focus in a completely unrelated industry took notice and thought enough of what is going on in aging research to talk about it. He is still skeptical, but not to the point of dismissing the current state and prospects for longevity science out of hand: he can see that this is actionable, important knowledge.
I think these guys – and the whole movement to conquer aging – is fascinating. I am highly skeptical of the claims, however. Optimism is all well and good, and I have no off-hand holes to poke in their (very) well-articulated arguments. But at the same time, biology is fiendishly complex, the expectations beyond fantastical.
Still though, I have to wonder: What if guys like de Grey and Kurzweil are half right, or even just partially right? What if, 30 years from now, it becomes physically impossible to tell a 30-year-old from a 70-year-old by physical appearance alone? It sounds nutty. But it’s a lot less nuttier, and a lot closer to the realm of possibility, than living to 1,000 – which, again, some very smart people have taken into their heads as an achievable thing.
People who don’t take care of themselves are insane. Ok, not actually “insane.” But seriously, given the potential rewards AND the risks, not taking care of your body and mind – not treating both with the utmost respect and care – seems absolutely nuts. At the poker table I see these young kids whose bodies are already turning to mush, and a part of me just wants to grab them by the shirt collar and say “Dudes! What the hell is WRONG with you!!!”
If it is possible – just realistically possible, mind you – that I could still be kicking ass and taking names at 125 years old, then I want to be working as hard as I can to preserve and maintain my equipment here and now. No matter what miracles medical science will achieve in future, working from the strongest, healthiest base possible will always improve the potential results, perhaps by an order of magnitude. Individuals who go into old age with fit, healthy bodies and sound minds, and longstanding habits to maintain both, may find potential for extended performance at truly high quality of life that was never before imaginable.
As the foundations of rejuvenation biotechnology are assembled and institutions like the SENS Research Foundation continue to win allies in the research community and beyond, the number of people experiencing this sort of epiphany will grow. The more the better and the sooner the better, as widespread support for the cause of defeating aging through medical science is necessary for more rapid progress: large scale funding always arrives late to the game, attracted by popular sentiment. The faster we get to that point, the greater our chances of living to benefit from the first working rejuvenation treatments.
Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.
The debate over raising the legal minimum wage (LMW) to $10 an hour has people on both sides saying things they should know better than to say. For example, a friend recently posted the following meme (which isn’t the worst I’ve seen) on Facebook:
One year ago this week, San Jose decided to raise its minimum wage to $10/hour.
Any jobs disappear?
The number of minimum wage jobs has grown.
Any businesses collapse?
The number of businesses has grown.
Yes, several, but I’ll get to those in a bit.
Memes like these are just as silly and misleading as the simplistic arguments they’re probably attacking. In fact, the economic analysis of significantly raising the minimum wage says that, other things equal, it will reduce employment below the level where it would otherwise have been. It doesn’t say that that employment will fall absolutely or businesses will collapse.
A little thinking can go a long way
Have a look at this chart published in the Wall Street Journal. At first, it seems to support the simplistic slogans. But it’s important to compare similar periods, such as March–November 2012 (before the increase was passed) versus March–November 2013, (just after it went into effect). The LMW increase wasn’t a surprise, so in the months before it was passed, businesses would have been preparing for it, shaking things up. Comparing those two periods, which makes the strongest case for the meme’s assertions, the total percentage increase in employment (the area under the red line) looks pretty close, going just by my eyeballs and a calculator. In fact, the post-hike increase might actually be smaller, but you’d need more data to be sure. So if you compare similar periods, the rate of employment growth seems not to have been affected very much by the hike. So is the meme right?
According to that same chart and other sources, hiring in the rest of California and the country, where for the most part there was no dramatic increase in the LMW, was also on the rise at pretty much the same time. Why? Apparently, the growth rate of the U.S. economy jumped in 2012, especially in California. So the demand for inputs, including labor, probably also increased. I’m certainly not saying this correlation is conclusive, but you could infer that while hiring in San Jose was rising, it wasn’t rising as fast as it might have otherwise, given the generally improving economy.
That’s a more ambiguous result, and of course harder to flit into a meme.
You are stupid and evil and a liar!
Those strongly in favor of raising the LMW cast opponents as Republican apologists for big business. Take this post from DailyKos, which apparently is the source of the above meme. The author writes, “Empirically, there’s no clear negative effect that can be discerned. The concerns of Teahadists like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio is [sic] rather unfounded in academic literature and in international assessments of natural experiments.”
Now, the overwhelming conclusion of years of economic research on the effects of a minimum wage on employment is that it tends to increase, not lower, unemployment. As this article from Forbes summarizes, “In a comprehensive, 182-page summary of the research on this subject from the last two decades, economists David Neumark (UC-Irvine) and William Wascher (Federal Reserve Board) determined that 85 percent of the best research points to a loss of jobs following a minimum wage increase.”
So, saying there is “no clear negative effect” is an outrageously ignorant claim. And there’s not one mention of the economic evidence that significantly raising the LMW will hurt the very people you wish to help: the relatively poor. But why address solid scientific research when there’s sloppy sloganeering by politicos to shoot down?
Attacking easy targets is understandable if you want to vilify your opponents or win an easy one for the cause. In that case, you take the dumbest statement by your rival as the basis of your attack. Such is the way of politics. In intellectual discourse, however, you may win the battle but you’ll lose the war. That is, if your goal is to learn from fruitful intellectual discussion, you must engage your opponent’s best arguments, not her weakest ones.
Let me use a counterexample. The sloganeering approach to attacking those who oppose raising the LMW is the equivalent of someone saying: “Well, this past winter was one of the coldest on record in the Midwest. So much then for global warming!” That may be “evidence” in a mud-slinging contest, but it’s not science.
What’s the theory?
While weather is complex and unpredictable, economic systems are even more so. Does that mean there are no principles of economics? Of course not. In fact, it’s because of such complexity that we need whatever help economic theory can offer to organize our thinking. And it doesn’t get any more basic than this: The demand curve for goods slopes downward.
That is, other things equal, the costlier something is, the less of it you’ll want to buy.
Note that the caveat—other things equal—is as important as the inverse relation between price and quantity demanded. That’s why my earlier back-of-the-envelope analysis had to be conditional on more data. Unfortunately, those data are often very hard to get. Does that mean we abandon the theory? Well, that would be like letting go of the rope you’re hanging on to for dear life because you’re afraid it might break.
So what exactly is the theory behind the idea that raising the LMW will increase hiring low-wage workers and boost business? If raising wages will actually increase employment and output, then why not also mandate a rise in interest rates, rents, electricity rates, oil prices, or the price of any of the other myriad factors of production that businesses ordinarily have to pay for? I would hope that this idea would give even the meme promoters pause.
As far as I know, the only situation in which forcing people to pay a higher wage rate will increase employment is when there is a dominant employer and there are barriers to competition. Economists term this “monopsony,” a situation that might occur in a so-called “factory town.” There, the dominant employer (of labor, capital, land, or whatever) can lower what she pays for inputs below the revenue that an additional unit of input earns the company. I would love to hear that argument and challenge it, because it’s the strongest one that standard economics can offer in favor of coercing businesses to raise wages. But so far I’ve not come across it, let alone any discussion of the economic literature on monopsony in the labor market, most of which questions its relevance. Some almost random examples are here and here.
Margins of analysis
Finally, economics teaches us that we can adjust to a particular change in different ways. In a thoughtful article on the effect of the LMW increase in San Jose that all sides of the debate should read, we get the following anecdote:
For his San Jose stores to make the same profit as before the wage increase, the same combo meal would be $6.75. “That would chase off a large percentage of my customers,” Mr. DeMayo said. He hasn’t laid off San Jose workers but has reduced their hours, along with some maintenance such as the drive-through lane’s daily hosing, and may close two unprofitable stores.
Employers can adjust to higher costs in one area by cutting back on spending in others. That might mean less unemployment than otherwise, but it doesn’t mean that raising the LMW has no negative employment effect at all. It means that the effects are harder to see. There’s that darn “other things being equal” again!
Slogans and memes are no substitute for science, or even clear thinking.
Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.
Think of all the people’s lots in life that you don’t have. You will regret not having more chances to stand here as you are now. It is said that if everybody put their worries into a pile and then took an equal share from the pile, then most people would be content to take back their own share of them. I was reading an article that said,
“To be sick and dying in Vegas has its own existential horror. Not only do you realize that you are going to die and that you don’t matter to the world, but you also realize that much of the world is awful and yet you still would do anything to live.”
Struggling to survive on this planet can be miserable, and yet we continue to stick with it. Why? Because we know that with life there is a chance to engage in more experience. It seems that a person can live, in part, on the desire for continued experience. That chance drives us to keep reaching for achievement and progress.
What does one want to experience in life? What does that honest-to-life list look like? If you had to draw up a complete list, could you do it, or describe the nature of it? The active wanting of experience, it seems, is a major cure to indifference toward death. It seems that it might be a life-or-death question.
We have become really good at being indifferent to the most widespread forms of death, in order to spare ourselves from stressing out on futilely trying to do something about it. Now that we have the tools and techniques, and the times have changed, we have to change that way of thinking from indifference back toward letting that horror affect us. Horror benefits us in that it is our cue to be driven to action to make sure that the horror can’t happen again. If a poltergeist starts ravaging your house, that’s your signal to get out of there, in the same way that the horror that general death, aging, and other diseases are your signal to get death, aging, and other diseases away from you and out of your cells.
Carl Sagan’s daughter once related his words that “there was nothing he would like more in the world than to see his mother and father again.” I was thinking about what an insult added to injury he must have felt in his final days, to have the paralyzing misery of impending death heaped on top of crushing pain. Let that kind of pain course through your mind, face it, bring it to a steaming rage, and let the energy power you to help execute any of the various assaults on aging and disease that are underway in laboratories in various places around the world.
In another article, I was reading about a guy whose daughter went missing in 1971, and was never found. He lived to be 102 and died in the fall of 2013. He had stated that one of the hardest burdens for him was never knowing what happened to his daughter. What misery, for all those years… Think of that… Then five days after he died, his daughter’s car was found upside down in a river; she was the apparent victim of a decades-old car crash.
I can’t fathom that life could inflict such a bitter spite upon somebody. That story stirs up the kind of despair and anguish that each death seems to deserve. It’s the kind of anguish you need to figure out how to allow in, in order to have the right kinds of drive to help pull the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension forward with us.
So once we get there, back to that place where we stand amidst realization of the horror of death, how do we face it? One good basic and natural way to do so, it seems, is to purposefully enjoy the good parts of life, and strategize and take action in helping to fix the worst of the broken things. It’s fun and fulfilling. Life isn’t bad, it’s an adventure. A tough challenge is like a choppy sea, like two armies clashing, or mountain climbers fighting the elements. The implementation of the solution of each challenge is like a Renaissance of scale, some miniature, some very large, like Caesar vs. Vercingetorix, or Charlemagne vs. the Vikings. It’s like the writings of Caesar, the writing-resurgence work of the Carolingians, Vercingetorix and the fate of an entire Celtic confederation, or the first times the Vikings set sail out beyond Greenland.
A few days ago I was thinking about a typical farm hand of Medieval times, walking outside to smell the heavy wet grass and earth of a cold wet spring day. How did they remember the great Lombard migrations, or Scandinavian raiders docking at Pisa? Who was Charlemagne to people before negationists took hold? What did they think might become of the future? Many of them must have felt lost at that kind of thought.
Focus on your heartbeat, feel it pulsing. Theirs pulsed like that. They thought of their hearts stopping and of how it couldn’t possibly be lost to the dust of history anytime soon. You think that, too. Their hearts are lost to the dust of history. Yours is next.
What does every year, and every moment mean to the history of everything? I read recently that if you throw a pebble, it could be offsetting the center of gravity of the universe. Every moment means everything, every moment is everything. Every moment is a world in itself, a great painting, a great work of art, a great burning torch, a water well built in inhospitable lands. Think of how many heartbeats have come to a stop, how many paintings have been burned… So many tangled groves in forests have had the wind blowing through them for all of these years, without one person, without one spoken word, in a place near a stream, where there was once a mighty, crackling stone fireplace that warmed multiple generations of families across the 6th through 8th centuries. It was a place that hosted countless memories which later tormented the souls of dying, now long-dead grandfathers.
They don’t deserve to be dead. They deserve what they earned: the world that is paying exponentially exciting, satiating, and fullfillingly valuable dividends today. This is an incredibly motivating and driving factor in what pushes me to pursue indefinite life extension. People take on a variety of diverse augmentations over time, becoming unique collections of intriguing insight – dynamic power tools for slicing and dicing the elements. We can’t afford for these wealths of rare and powerful abilities and resources to be pillaged and killed off. Sometimes it seems as if life-extensionists like me have to explain to people why it’s bad to let people be killed before we can get down to business in a worldwide effort to reach the goals that can get this done.
We are like the union for the people that make a profession out of being human. We are creating better and better pay, and we demand longer hours. I want every feasible remedy that can restore and maintain life to be a permanent fixture in this reality, for it to be harvested like air. There is no reason a heart has to give out. There is no reason we cannot prevent tangles from forming in the brain. Our organs and cells don’t have to degrade. We have tools, techniques, and brains. We will make it through these obstacles.
How long will it be before our times are old, before 2015 cars look like old classics, and thoughts of our times are most often associated with the smell of the pages of books that have been moved from their years of service on shelves, to boxes of outdated material in back rooms? Many experiences and voyages that could have happened, and could have been chronicled in those boxes, can never exist.
That’s the problem, it seems: There are experiences that could have existed, but that now never can. Thoughtful experience – there is no reason to forgo it or allow it to be lost – hence the basic, inherent reasoning for supporting indefinite life extension, it seems.
Every moment is the gold, the thing to be mined, the thing to be in awe of, to seek, pursue, and strategize toward, to work for, to feel victorious for possessing. Let’s mine more time: support the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension. Don’t be distracted by fool’s gold while the most valuable gold, time, slips through your fingers.
One of these days, we will put funeral homes across the world out of business, and it will be a great victory. We will celebrate, and the festivities will be grand. But we must get a move on now, because our chances are turning into sand.
Pure Liberal Fire by Kyrel Zantonavitch is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
There is perhaps not a single thinker in the world more fearless than Kyrel Zantonavitch. Pure Liberal Fire is the direct, provocative distillation of his thoughts on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, economics, culture, religion, and the history of philosophy – including Objectivism and Classical Liberalism. Zantonavitch seeks to evoke a pure, true liberalism, and he shows no mercy for ideologies and attitudes that constitute its antithesis. He certainly leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about where he stands on the issues addressed – and each article within the book employs an abundance of superlative expressions – be they positive or negative. When Zantonavitch praises, he really praises – and the same goes for when he condemns.
I give this book a rating of five stars because it invariably makes people think – no matter who they are or what their starting persuasions and assumptions might be. There are many areas in which I strongly agree with Zantonavitch – and quite a few where I strongly disagree as well. He articulates many valid points about the fundamentals of philosophy, the importance of liberty in political theory, atheism, the damage perpetrated by various political movements and policies, and the unfortunate tendencies among historical and current Objectivists toward dogmatism and conformism instead of independent thought and the honest pursuit of truth. Some of our areas of disagreement include war, areas of foreign policy, and, perhaps more generally, the desired mechanisms for achieving societal change.
Zantonavitch’s approach and style would entail achieving a fiery, dramatic, immediate deposition of everything (every person, every policy, every idea) he considers evil, dangerous, or damaging. My view of reform is more surgical, focused on getting the sequence of steps right so as to minimize the damage inflicted during the transition while ridding the world of the disease of bad policies (and, in a more long-term fashion, through persuasion and free-market education, also ridding it of bad thinking of the sort that motivates bad policies).
Zantonavitch combines his no-holds-barred treatment of his subject matters with a unique dialectical technique. There are several places in a book where he characterizes a particular set of ideas (or people) in a strongly negative way – but then later (or earlier) also portrays them as either highly praiseworthy, or at the very least understandable and characterized by redeeming attributes. Two examples that come to mind are (1) his discussions of Objectivism as a brainwashing cult in some places and as the most advanced, best-developed philosophy to date in others, and (2) his characterizations in some places of religious believers as not particularly bad as long as they do not take their belief too seriously – and in other places of anyone who believes in a god or teaches his/her children such beliefs as being guilty of evil and/or abuse. The reader can glimpse in this a deliberate juxtaposition of these opposing characterizations in a dialectical fashion – in an attempt to examine both the positive and the negative aspects of the ideas and behaviors Zantonavitch is writing about. (With regard to Objectivism, there is definitely merit in pointing out both the great strengths and the failures, as I have myself done, for instance.) This also creates a second layer of meaning in Zantonavitch’s work, as his uses of positive and negative superlatives with regard to the same subject are seldom immediately close to one another. While the rest of his writing endeavors to be extremely direct (indeed, provocative) with regard to its meaning, he seems to expect his readers to make their own connections in this respect without him deliberately pointing them out. As a result, with regard to Objectivism especially, Zantonavitch’s readers have the opportunity to acquire a more balanced, nuanced view after having been exposed to both his glorious praise and his scathing condemnation of the philosophy.
“Who likes it when a nation shoots at its own people? We weren’t against being part of Ukraine, but after the latest events, we’ve changed our minds.” ~ Natalia Vasilieva, Retiree in Donetsk, Quoted by the Wall Street Journal
On May 11, 2014, residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted in favor of independence from Ukraine. Irrespective of questions regarding the legality of this referendum (which can similarly be raised regarding the legality of Ukraine’s current completely unelected interim government) and the possibly biased sample of voters who turned out as compared to the general population of the regions, two facts are undeniable: (1) the turnout was massive, as any glimpse at the many images and videos of the referendum would show, and (2) the voters were overwhelmingly peaceful civilians, merely seeking to express their points of view. A third fact must also confront any reasonable observer of these events in the West: while the voters behaved peacefully, the interim government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk sent troops who fired on crowds of civilians.
NBC News – no propaganda outlet of the Putin regime – reported that soldiers from the Ukrainian “national guard” fired on crowds of peaceful voters in Krasnoarmeisk, Ukraine, and at least two people were observed killed. Irrespective of whether or not a referendum has legitimacy, the act of voting is the act of marking a piece of paper with one’s choice. Casting a ballot, in a valid election or not, is purely an act of free speech. How could casting a vote even remotely be equated to aggression? How could it justify the taking of a human life in any sane, rational person’s mind? How is it that Western politicians fail to denounce the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s brazen use of force in reaction to a peaceful, civil action? Has the concept of free speech lost all sanctity for Western leaders as well?
Moreover, how is the attack on crowds of civilians by the Ukrainian “national guard” morally different from the Viktor Yanukovych regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters during its last days? The crowds in Krasnoarmeisk consisted entirely of unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots. Irrespective of whether or not some of the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk region are agents of Vladimir Putin’s regime – as has been alleged – can gatherings of thousands of civilians be said to consist entirely or even largely of Russian special agents or their peons? Or is it likelier that Natalia Vasilieva is right and these crowds are made up of ordinary civilians who originally were not averse to remaining aligned with Ukraine – until the Ukrainian government sent troops, including recruited “civil activists” from known fascist and neo-Nazi groups such as Right Sector (some of whose high-ranking members are also officials in this interim government, as I have written earlier), to kill them and raze their homes? Indeed, as reported by the New York Times, it was a unit staffed by Right Sector “activists”, the Dnepr Brigade (or Dnieper Brigade or Dnieper Battalion), that opened fire on voters in Krasnoarmeisk.
It was also Right Sector “activists” who trapped tens of initially peaceful pro-Russian protesters in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, 2014, and threw grenades and Molotov cocktails inside to set it on fire, burning 40 protesters alive – not the same protesters who initially attacked a Ukrainian unity march that day. The Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s shameful subsequent report on the event blamed the victims, alleging that one of the building’s occupants had dropped a Molotov cocktail onto the roof, thereby setting off the blaze. Even if this happened, how does it remotely excuse the murderous intentions and behaviors of the Right Sector thugs who were caught on video, throwing fiery projectiles at the building? If an armed assailant repeatedly fires at and injures his intended victim, but fails to kill him because the victim dies of a slip and fall in the meantime, does this excuse the assailant from the charge of murder?
Turchynov and Yatseniuk are resorting to forming military units consisting of Right Sector thugs, because sane, reasonable people refuse to fight for them. This is also why the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime undid Viktor Yanukovych’s sole good action and reinstituted military conscription for young men aged 18 to 25. As I wrote earlier, any government that treats its people as disposable cannon fodder against their will is an evil government that is not worth fighting for. Conscription is murder by lottery, and civilized people can only hope that Ukraine’s young men will engage in mass civil disobedience and dodge this draft in the hopes of preserving their lives and moral innocence. Those Ukrainians who do join the military would do well to follow the example of earlier armored columns that were sent to the Eastern regions and were stopped in their tracks by outraged civilians telling them to lay down their arms and go home. Many of these initial waves of soldiers – the ones sent before the Right Sector units were deployed – saw the folly of fighting their own people and relented.
To all Ukrainians who respect peace and civilization, I say: withdraw from all military operations, refuse to obey your criminal government, and pursue peaceful commerce and amicable daily interactions with your fellow humans – no matter what their language, ethnicity, or spoken political beliefs! No “territorial integrity” is worth the sacrifice of moral integrity, and certainly not the life of a single actual living human being. If a “united Ukraine” can only be preserved through conflagrations and rivers of blood, then it is not worth preserving! What is a set of boundaries drawn on a map ordained by the United Nations (which in many cases does not correspond to de facto political control in any event), compared to a conscious, reasoning being with a rich and irreplaceable internal universe? Borders have been drawn and redrawn time and again throughout history, but a life, once lost, can never be regained.
In the West, all too many leaders and pundits – even some libertarians! – would cast Vladimir Putin’s regime as the antagonist and the culprit for the entirety of the violence that is transpiring in Ukraine. While I have few kind words for Putin, and there is much to condemn about Putin’s own violations of the rights of Russian citizens, it does not appear that the blame placed on him for this crisis corresponds to his actual offenses. As Ron Paul points out, “The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.” And yet Western leaders continue to threaten Russia with escalating economic sanctions over the outcome of the referendum, even though Putin expressly urged delaying it! Even from a sheer pragmatic standpoint, this is an exceedingly unwise tactic; Putin might come to recognize that even his attempts at defusing the situation or disentangling Russia from it would not affect the West’s response, and he would see no reason not to escalate the crisis, if de-escalation does not alleviate any of the punishments that Western governments have in store for him.
Without the resounding endorsements and material support – economic bailouts and shipments of physical resources, paid for by Western taxpayers’ dollars – from the governments of the United States and the countries of the European Union, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime would not be able to sustain its crackdowns on its own people. Why do the United States and the European Union support this criminally negligent, civilian-killing government? While I was sympathetic to the deserved overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, I am deeply ashamed of the US government for aiding the thugs who unfortunately replaced him. Turchynov and Yatseniuk are doing to the population of Eastern Ukraine exactly what Yanukovych did to the Euromaidan protesters who disagreed with his decision to abandon a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. This time, however, the Western governments have taken the side of the oppressors, just because they are perceived to be on “our” side rather than “their” side – “they” being the Russians in the eyes of all those who have not realized that the Cold War is long over and that Cold War thinking must be resolutely abandoned if we are to avoid a hot war that could engulf all of humankind and spoil our chances at achieving radical abundance and unparalleled health and prosperity through technological progress during the next several decades.
To ensure that the progress of human civilization continues without catastrophic setbacks, the crisis in Ukraine must remain localized. Only continued intervention by Western powers would allow it to spread beyond Ukraine’s current borders. It is true that, without American and EU support, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime will probably fall – but this will largely be achieved by Ukrainians themselves. Putin might sweep in later and occupy Eastern Ukraine – either annexing it as he did with Crimea (even though he has denied any intent to do so), or treating it much like the autonomous regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria, which broke away from Georgia and Moldova and are currently occupied by Russian troops. If the aftermath of the Crimean annexation is an indicator, this might actually result in fewer civilian deaths than a continuation of the status quo. Also, it need not affect life in the West, or continued efforts by civilians in the West to innovate technologically and raise human standards of living, by one iota. Why does anyone need to lose sleep over the existence of quasi-independent republics named Donetsk, Luhansk, or even Novorossiya? Are they any more threatening to Americans – of whom five-sixths cannot point Ukraine out on a map anyway – than South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria are today? What is threatening to Americans is their own government’s foreign policy, intervening in Ukraine apparently just to oppose any potential expansion of Putin’s power and Russia’s sphere of influence, without any compelling argument for American “national security” to be made under any remotely credible interpretation of that nebulous concept.
A month ago, I wrote that the worst scenario in Ukraine would be an escalation of military conflict, which was unfortunately beginning to occur at the time as the “anti-terrorist” operation was being launched by the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government. At present we clearly see the bloody results of this ongoing operation, as more civilians perish by the day. Of course, unleashing the Ukrainian military and ultra-nationalists within the Donetsk and Luhansk region could not be confined to dislodging armed separatists, and it has turned into a war against the civilians of Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Turchynov and Yatseniuk did not want this, but they are now desperate, just like Yanukovych was in February 2014, and they see no other way to remain in power. They know that, if they lose, their fates will be at least as unpleasant as that of Yanukovych, and so they are willing to sacrifice the entire country to protect their hold on power. The Western governments need to cut off the lifeline they have given to this criminal regime. While the result would not be optimal from the standpoint of any cosmic justice, any local “solution” to this crisis would certainly be no worse than any “solution” that could be achieved through Western intervention. Furthermore, the effect of complete non-intervention at confining the Ukrainian crisis to a local one would be incalculably beneficial in avoiding the risk of a broader war. Let us look upward to technology and human ingenuity as the path to solving humankind’s problems, and avoid getting bogged down in the sordid muck of Ukraine’s crisis. A bright future requires and demands peace today.