Ayn Rand, Non-Atomistic Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Ayn Rand, Non-Atomistic Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 8, 2012

James Joseph argues in “Ayn Rand’s Paradox” that Rand’s “defense of individual freedom provides a self-defeating apologia for the American welfare state.” Mr. Joseph’s essay takes the communitarian view that, without the bulwark of “natural community” (including “shared duties” or “natural duties and obligations” or “claims from direct community”), the individual becomes increasingly reliant on government for every benefit in life.

Yet Mr. Joseph’s analysis portrays Ayn Rand as espousing a view that no serious thinker has ever held – the canard of atomistic individualism, which is often used by communitarians against those who do not think that communities can exist as superior entities apart from and greater than the individuals who constitute them. Mr. Joseph believes that “In fact, American statism’s apologia is the individual freedom so touted by Ayn Rand, complete with her denial of the claims of the community on the individual. One need look no further than the ‘Life of Julia’ campaign  to see that American statism is built around the idea of highly independent, atomized individuals that cannot be bothered with claims from direct community.”

True individualism is far from atomistic, and Rand saw this clearly. She wrote, for instance, that “Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life—but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. He has to plan his life long-range, make his own choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreements they entered).” (“A Nation’s Unity,” The Ayn Rand Letter, II, 2, 3)

But Rand also correctly saw the individual as being primary and precedent to any “community” or “society” – although the conditions of a society can certainly constrain or empower an individual. In response to the questions “Is man a social animal?” and “Can he develop only in society?” Rand stated: “Man does live in society, not on a desert island. But that does not mean society ‘develops’ him. The expression ‘develops in society’ implies that man is a social animal. I believe no such thing. The issue here is: What is primary in a man’s development, society or his mind? Of course, his mind has primacy. Society cannot make or unmake him. An immoral society can mangle him and make it enormously difficult for him to develop properly psychologically. A rational society can help a man’s development a great deal. In a mixed society, the best minds and those who are strongest morally might withstand the pressure from society, whereas the average person will find it beyond his individual capacity and give up. Society cannot form a person. It cannot force him to accept ideas; but it can discourage him. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make man a social animal.” (Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A, edited by Robert Mayhew)

Rand properly recognized that individuals are not better off in insulated vacuums, apart from all other people. She acknowledged that man stands to gain greatly from interactions in society – but he can also come to great harm thereby. The question for Rand, and for all individualists, is not whether one should stand apart from society, but rather which relationships within society are most conducive to the flourishing of the individual, and which are to his detriment. Rand’s answer is that the conducive relationships are those of mutual benefit, where values are exchanged among all parties involved, and all parties seek to be better off and grant their consent to the arrangement. While Mr. Joseph thinks that, in this approach, “Ethics is collapsed into economics,” the truth is more complex and subtle. Economics describes the outcome of people’s existing value judgments (in the form of market prices, interest rates, and other phenomena) and does not directly comment on what individuals ought to value. It explains ubiquitous laws of human action that hold no matter what people happen to prefer.  Ethics, on the other hand, is directly concerned with what an individual should want to have and do – what a good life consists of and how it might be attained. Economics can inform you of the influences that result in the price of food, but it cannot tell you whether you ought to pursue food in the first place.

Rand’s Objectivist ethics arrives at the ultimate value of the individual’s life by recognizing that the very existence and meaningfulness of the idea of “value” depends on a living being that is capable of pursuing values. She writes, “The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.” (“The Objectivist Ethics” – quotation from John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged)

Unlike an individual human, a collective of any sort cannot, qua collective, breathe, eat, move, or perform any unitary action. To say that a collective can “act” is a misleading figure of speech. Such an “action” can be no more than an aggregation of the extremely disparate and individually motivated actions of a group’s members or participants. The relationships among a group’s members can be quite sophisticated, it is true, but they do not supersede – in terms of either their existence or their moral worth – the essential, indivisible, and indissoluble individualities of the participants.

That brings us to the substance of the disagreement. Mr. Joseph seems to infer that Rand’s individualism is incompatible with relationships within the family – such as the care for parents and children – or within a neighborhood – such as local mutual-aid societies or groups of volunteers. I do not see any reason why such incompatibility need be the case. The exchange of values can readily occur in these circumstances, even in the absence of formal legal contracts or direct exchanges of money. Values are far broader than money and can consist of intangible goods and services – such as friendship, intellectual improvement, esthetic enjoyment, and even love (see my essay “A Rational View of Love” for a detailed discussion). The key principle governing such relationships, to the extent that they are beneficial, is that they should be based on mutual consent as much as possible. Even in cases where full informed consent cannot be given – as with children, pets, or senile elders – consent should be sought to the extent that a living creature is capable of exercising it non-destructively, and a presumption must always exist that a dependent creature would act in a life-preserving and life-enhancing manner if it had greater knowledge and ability to do so.

A respect for the principle of consent in relationships of dependency would imply, for instance, that children should not be forced to accept styles of clothing which they detest or espouse opinions which they do not personally hold through their own conviction; that pets should not be humiliated or restrained from non-destructive inclinations; and that elders should not be infantilized and should be empowered to manage their own affairs to every extent their physical faculties (in combination with technology) permit.

What Rand detested, and what many individualists likewise abhor, is the idea of top-down or compulsory “community” – of the sort that tries to deliberately (inevitably, through the wishes of some central planner or committee thereof) herd people into artificially constructed relationships for the purpose of building “togetherness” (or some comparably disingenuous justification). Compulsory national “service” – be it military or civilian – is the prime example of such exploitation of individuals in order to fulfill the power ambitious of the elites creating the “communities” of cannon fodder or work drones.

Additionally, a misguided perception of the purpose of societal interactions can lead to good people being subverted and shackled by their moral lessers. A misperceived sense of the value of “community” for its own sake (apart from any values for the individuals involved) could lead to the persistence of abuse within families; the continual funding of corrupt, dysfunctional, and even perverse churches or other civic organizations due to ingrained guilt or a sense of disembodied obligation among the contributors; the tolerance of incompetent “old boys’ networks” running local governments, because they are part of the “social fabric” and a deference to tradition prevents their being supplanted by a meritocracy. This kind of perverse communitarianism is a prime example of what Rand called “the sanction of the victim” – as it cannot thrive without the endorsement and participation of the good people who create resources upon which the abusers and parasites prey.  In even worse times and places, the willingness to accept communities over and above individuals has led to thoughtless conformity about the desirability of harming individuals perceived as being “other” or “outside” of the community – persons of different skin colors, national origins, religions, peaceful lifestyles, or peaceful political persuasions.  The vicious tribalist impulse is still strong in all too many humans, and it should not be stoked.

A misguided communitarianism has already resulted in the mangling of the first two decades of most Americans’ lives in the form of compulsory “public” schooling – where academic learning takes second stage to “socializing” the students with one another, which typically means that the best of them will be mercilessly bullied by the worst, while the rest lose themselves in pointless fads and clique rivalries. The travesty of compulsory public schooling serves as a prominent demonstration that – while Mr. Joseph seeks to posit an opposition between the Leviathan and communitarianism – the two go hand-in-hand more often than not. The Leviathan often employs communitarian rhetoric while representing itself as the entity that gets to define and structure the “community” in question.

Are we dependent on other people for much of what is good in life? Certainly! But this, far from requiring a communitarian viewpoint, is actually the implication of a consistent individualism. No one person can know everything or learn to do everything. In order for each of us to maximize our well-being, we need to specialize in some activities while relegating the rest to our fellow humans – with whom we then exchange the fruits of our respective labor. In a market economy based on the principle of individualism, each of us literally depends on the efforts of millions of others to produce the goods and services we daily enjoy.  Truly sustainable economies and societies – ones that operate without degenerating into violence or mass poverty – require that we treat others with the respect needed to facilitate these ongoing transactions. With a small circle of these individuals, we are able to form even closer ties, where formal transactions are not required to maintain ongoing value-trades. In a household, for instance, it is simply more efficient to keep a rough mental picture of other participants’ contributions, rather than itemizing everything in minute detail. Furthermore, the ability to closely trust others in one’s family (provided that it is a good one, without abuse, deception, or exploitation) eliminates the need for most of the typical safeguards of commerce among strangers. Similarly, a custom of volunteer work in one’s neighborhood might result in the capture of certain “positive externalities” – such as the benefits of cleaner streets, happier (and therefore more productive and peaceful) residents, and lower rates of vandalism and other crimes.

Perhaps Ayn Rand’s individualism, properly understood, would allow for precisely the ideal sense of the “natural community” that Mr. Joseph extols – one in which individuals engage in a variety of interactions (many of them non-monetary) to mutual benefit and thereby develop strong ties. Unfortunately, in practice, the explicit idealization of the “community” has not been an effective way of achieving such an outcome. It has, indeed, resulted in the very opposite: an insidious and manipulative elite, or a conformist and prejudiced majority (often incited by that same elite), limiting the freedoms and sometimes ruining the lives of those who wish to use their rational faculties to find a better way.

Is Mitt Romney Truly a “Lesser Evil”? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Is Mitt Romney Truly a “Lesser Evil”? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 6, 2012

Here, I respond to Dr. Charles Steele’s arguments that Mitt Romney is “clearly the lesser [evil]” when compared to Barack Obama. I hope to address each particular point made by Dr. Steele, but will first preface my remark by noting that even a true incrementally lesser evil is still evil and does not warrant one’s support. One key consideration in casting one’s vote is one’s share of moral responsibility in what would transpire if one’s candidate of choice (even half-hearted choice) gets elected. It may therefore be justified to vote for an imperfect candidate who could do some incremental good, but not for a candidate who would commit incremental evil – in the sense of reducing liberty compared to the situation that existed prior to his election. There is no doubt in my mind that Mitt Romney would commit numerous incremental evils – and there is no justification for supporting him in any way, even if his transgressions could be predicted with certainty to be less severe than Obama’s.

Dr. Steele writes: “1) If the GOP wins both houses of Congress and repeals Obamacare, Romney would sign. Obama never would.

I am not so sure that Romney would sign any such repeal – and I suspect that he would probably convince Congress to quietly smother the entire repeal effort behind the scenes. After all, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is modeled directly after the 2006 Massachusetts healthcare reform (“Romneycare”) – both ultimately devised by one, Jonathan Gruber – an economist who has used his training for ill and a prime example for the rest of us economists of what could happen if one is not careful about the direction of one’s influence. Romney has shown in the past to be utterly unprincipled, willing to take (and subsequently abandon) any position that would score him political points, depending on the attitudinal currents of the moment. And neither he nor Paul Ryan have any compunctions about uttering overt lies to score political points. How many of those lies might be in the form of promises regarding what they would do if elected?

Dr. Steele writes: “The next President will likely pick 2 or more new judges for SCOTUS. Obama is certain to pick anti Second Amendment judges who will reverse Heller and do other mischief. GOP nominees will tend to be noticeably better (although not perfect).”

Supreme Court justices rather frequently tend to depart from expectations after their appointment (witness Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts, among many other recent examples). Thus, the political party of the appointing President is no clear indicator of how a justice might subsequently vote. Furthermore, in some recent cases the “conservative” bloc of the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gross infringements of civil liberties – upholding, for instance, the right of police to strip-search anyone taken to a jail, irrespective of whether they pose any material risk or whether they are even accused of a crime (see Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, which was decided by the “conservative” bloc plus Anthony Kennedy in April 2012). Do I want the Supreme Court to restrict people’s ability to own guns, or their ability to wear clothes? Neither! This is why I will not give my moral sanction to a candidate who would appoint justices who might make such heinous decisions.

Dr. Steele writes: “Obama and the democrats are overtly anti-entrepreneur & anti-business (despite their convention rhetoric). Romney is not.”

I think they both are anti-entrepreneur in practice. Romney is, in essence, a mercantilist and supporter of the anti-free-market “crony capitalism” – the sort that clamors for bailouts for the most politically connected “iconic” firms, which then use the political protection to defraud consumers (as the large banks have done since 2008, and before) and gain an artificial advantage over smaller, more innovative, less political competitors. Romney has largely favored the bailouts of 2008 and can be expected to continue the policy of insulating a chosen oligarchy of corporations (the ones with Republican connections and extensive lobbying operations) from the rigors of market competition.

Dr. Steele writes: “Paul Ryan is one of the very few politicians to talk realistically about our impending sovereign debt crisis and the need to genuinely cut…again, not perfect, but far better than Obama/Biden’s endless expansion of the welfare state.”

Yet, as his convention speech illustrates, Paul Ryan has no qualms about butchering the facts to win appeal in the eyes of certain Republican constituents. Even when the stories he tells may have didactic purposes with which I agree, I do not endorse the distortion of facts to achieve those purposes. It may be that Paul Ryan’s rhetoric is simply a device to appeal to the libertarian and libertarian-leaning elements that are still open to the Republican Party – an attempt to repair the vast reputational damage done by the RNC’s attempts to shut out Ron Paul supporters during the nominating season.  But if Paul Ryan can lie about the facts, he can surely also lie about his motives – and his rhetoric may, too, change rapidly if and when he secures office and does not need to care about libertarian support anymore.

My “Obomney 2012” video gives numerous examples to demonstrate that the choice between Romney and Obama is not much of a choice at all. Speaking in terms of the policies they support, a vote for Romney is a vote for Obama – and vice versa.

In another comment, Dr. Steele writes, “I look at the election as a chance to minimize damage. IMO Obama and the democrats are currently a much greater threat than the GOP.” And yet a single person cannot ultimately tilt the outcome of an election – especially given the Electoral College – but a single person can send a message by refusing to play along with the two-party system. If enough of us begin to think this way, then the libertarian voters will become a force to reckon with, a credible threat to the two main parties that unsatisfactory candidates will be disfavored no matter what. As an added bonus, if enough people in general begin to vote based purely on their conscience, then the whole “lesser of two evils” trap would disappear, the two major parties would need to rapidly evolve or would disintegrate, and government could become truly representative.

Obama will most likely win in 2012 anyway, because nobody truly likes Mitt Romney (except perhaps Romney himself – but then there is the question of which version of him he prefers). If one’s right to vote is to mean something this time around, that meaning can be found in the expression of one’s true highest preference (based purely on policy considerations) – and also in the steadfast refusal to accept the vicious two-party dynamic that has brought us the current massive fiscal, monetary, and civil-liberties abuses. I do ultimately agree with Dr. Steele that “real progress in expanding liberty will come from economic, technological and social processes, NOT from electoral processes. If elections and political processes do anything in this regard, it will be simply to respond to and formalize advances made by civil society.” But if this is the case, then there is no point supporting anything other than the very best available option in any election. That course of action could even be seen as a social statement, rather than a purely electoral one, and could signal the increased prevalence of certain attitudes to others in the general population.

The Rational Argumentator’s Tenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Tenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 6, 2012

As I write this, it is amazing to contemplate that The Rational Argumentator has been in existence for over ten years. Since August 31, 2002, much in the world has changed – and much about TRA has changed as well. Some of the most monumental changes in the history of this publication occurred just during the past year.

Total tenth-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,302,774 page views – as compared to 1,398,438 page views during TRA’s ninth year. While this was a decrease of about 6.84%, this was still TRA’s second-highest year in terms of visitation. TRA’s cumulative lifetime visitation stands at 5,669,168 page views, meaning that the 5-million-visit mark was exceeded during the tenth year.

20 additional issues and 200 features were published during the tenth year, through February 29, 2012. As of March 1, 2012, TRA entered into its new era, with a shift from an issue format to a WordPress-based, free-flowing architecture. In that redesign (which is only prospective and does not affect content published before March 1, 2012), I was able to achieve three of the five goals on my “wish list” expressed in the Ninth Anniversary Manifesto. Since then, an additional 106 features were published of TRA – for a total of 306 regular features or the equivalent of 30.6 old issues published during the tenth year.

In early August 2012, another major development for TRA was the shift of web hosts for the domain. Lunarpages no longer hosts The Rational Argumentator’s site, as I opted to switch to MDDHosting due to superior customer service and more reasonable hosting parameters.  During a transition period of several days, my priority was to maintain the accessibility of the site and to continue providing thought-provoking content. I am pleased to say that the transfer of both the hosted files and the domain name occurred without significant disruptions for users.

In addition to an abundance of new YouTube videos on my channel, the past year saw the development of a vast compendium of Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE), which is regularly updated with links to articles and videos intended to enlighten readers as to the feasibility and desirability of indefinite human life extension – as well as ongoing developments and discoveries that aid in attaining that goal.

As the Internet changes, TRA will continue to change with it in order to most effectively complement the vast array of other resources available to individuals who wish to explore the ideas of reason, liberty, and technological progress. At the same time, TRA will always remain a haven for high intellectualism of the sort that is sorely lacking in contemporary culture and discourse. Furthermore, I shall always strive to maintain my promise to retain all content previously published, as a historical repository of knowledge, ideas, and intellectual tools. The Rational Argumentator has achieved a venerable sort of longevity, at least as far as online publications go. My intent is that – like all the good things in life – TRA will continue indefinitely and will only further improve with time.

How Long Will the Dollar Remain the World’s Reserve Currency? – Article by Ron Paul

How Long Will the Dollar Remain the World’s Reserve Currency? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 3, 2012

We frequently hear the financial press refer to the U.S. dollar as the “world’s reserve currency,” implying that our dollar will always retain its value in an ever shifting world economy.  But this is a dangerous and mistaken assumption.

Since August 15, 1971, when President Nixon closed the gold window and refused to pay out any of our remaining 280 million ounces of gold, the U.S. dollar has operated as a pure fiat currency.  This means the dollar became an article of faith in the continued stability and might of the U.S. government

In essence, we declared our insolvency in 1971.   Everyone recognized some other monetary system had to be devised in order to bring stability to the markets.

Amazingly, a new system was devised which allowed the U.S. to operate the printing presses for the world reserve currency with no restraints placed on it– not even a pretense of gold convertibility! Realizing the world was embarking on something new and mind-boggling, elite money managers, with especially strong support from U.S. authorities, struck an agreement with OPEC in the 1970s to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions. This gave the dollar a special place among world currencies and in essence backed the dollar with oil.

In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. This arrangement helped ignite radical Islamic movements among those who resented our influence in the region. The arrangement also gave the dollar artificial strength, with tremendous financial benefits for the United States. It allowed us to export our monetary inflation by buying oil and other goods at a great discount as the dollar flourished.

In 2003, however, Iran began pricing its oil exports in Euro for Asian and European buyers.  The Iranian government also opened an oil bourse in 2008 on the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf for the express purpose of trading oil in Euro and other currencies. In 2009 Iran completely ceased any oil transactions in U.S. dollars.  These actions by the second largest OPEC oil producer pose a direct threat to the continued status of our dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a threat which partially explains our ongoing hostility toward Tehran.

While the erosion of our petrodollar agreement with OPEC certainly threatens the dollar’s status in the Middle East, an even larger threat resides in the Far East.  Our greatest benefactors for the last twenty years– Asian central banks– have lost their appetite for holding U.S. dollars.  China, Japan, and Asia in general have been happy to hold U.S. debt instruments in recent decades, but they will not prop up our spending habits forever.  Foreign central banks understand that American leaders do not have the discipline to maintain a stable currency.

If we act now to replace the fiat system with a stable dollar backed by precious metals or commodities, the dollar can regain its status as the safest store of value among all government currencies.  If not, the rest of the world will abandon the dollar as the global reserve currency.

Both Congress and American consumers will then find borrowing a dramatically more expensive proposition. Remember, our entire consumption economy is based on the willingness of foreigners to hold U.S. debt.  We face a reordering of the entire world economy if the federal government cannot print, borrow, and spend money at a rate that satisfies its endless appetite for deficit spending.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, was a three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.

Rand Paul’s Endorsement of Romney versus Ayn Rand’s and Murray Rothbard’s Historical Grudging Endorsements – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Rand Paul’s Endorsement of Romney versus Ayn Rand’s and Murray Rothbard’s Historical Grudging Endorsements – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 2, 2012

A September 1 post on the Facebook page of The Capitalism Institute reads: “I fully understand the hatred of Romney by libertarians who believe he’s a liberal in sheep’s clothing. That’s perfectly understandable. What I don’t understand is the notion that Rand Paul has somehow become an enemy of the liberty movement in the eyes of many because he endorsed Romney. Murray Rothbard once endorsed George Bush, Sr. Ayn Rand once endorsed Nixon.”

Yet I see Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney as qualitatively different from the endorsements by either Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard in previous election cycles. I think Ayn Rand unfortunately fell into the “lesser of two evils” trap when endorsing Nixon.

In particular, the following statement of Ayn Rand’s (quoted from this article by ARI Watch) is interesting: “If there were some campaign organization called ‘Anti-Nixonites for Nixon,’ it would name my position. The worst thing said about Nixon is that he cannot be trusted, which is true: he cannot be trusted to save this country. But one thing is certain: McGovern can destroy it.

Rothbard’s endorsement of Bush, Sr., was also grudging. Rothbard wrote this: “Yes, gulp, I’m down to the grim, realistic choice: Which of two sets of bozos is going to rule us in 1993-1997? No one has been more critical of George Bush than I, but yes, dammit, I am working my way back to the President.

If Rand Paul had explicitly stated that he was an “Anti-Romneyite for Romney” or stated that no one has been more critical of Romney than he – then I would have had more respect for his approach to this matter. At present, though, his comments after his endorsement of Romney have not at all highlighted Romney’s weaknesses or areas where Romney and Rand Paul disagreed. If Rand Paul had merely endorsed Romney to support “the lesser evil” in his mind, then I would still not share his opinion, but his mistake would be understandable. His actual endorsement of Romney, however, was not so grudging or reserved. Furthermore, he may have seen some (as of yet unrealized) personal political advantage from it, whereas neither Ayn Rand nor Rothbard had any personal political ambitions.

Additionally, since 1972 and even 1992, the two major political parties have come far closer together, to the point where Obama and Romney are virtually indistinguishable in their policy stances, even though they try to augment minutiae through volatile (and often outright deceptive) campaign rhetoric. Therefore, the contrasts that Ayn Rand drew between Nixon and McGovern – and those that Rothbard drew between Bush, Sr., and Clinton – cannot be drawn between Romney and Obama.  Voting for either party can no longer help “save” the country from the other (if it ever could, which I also doubt), because the same perils would befall us either way.

Republican National Travesty – and What to Do Next – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Republican National Travesty – and What to Do Next – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The Republican National Convention was a farce, in spite of courageous actions by Ron Paul’s supporters, including the Nevada delegation which Mr. Stolyarov helped elect as a State Delegate.

The change of rules by the Republican National Committee turns the Republican Party into a rigid oligarchy, with no chance for grassroots activists and ideas rising to prominence.

Mr. Stolyarov expresses his thoughts about where friends of liberty should focus next. Breaking the two-party system and supporting Gary Johnson for President, while also working outside the political system to improve individual freedom through technology.


Gary Johnson 2012
– “RINOs Boehner & Sununu Booed As They Change The Rules In A Major Power Grab” – Video – August 28, 2012
– “Evidence Shows RNC Rigged Vote on Rule Change at Republican Convention 2012?” – Texas GOP Vote
– “Call Off the Global Drug War” – Jimmy Carter – June 16, 2012
– “A Cruel and Unusual Record” – Jimmy Carter – June 24, 2012

Factors for (141^141 + 142^142) and (148^148 + 149^149) Discovered by Mr. Stolyarov and ECM Distributed Computing Project

Factors for (141^141 + 142^142) and (148^148 + 149^149) Discovered by Mr. Stolyarov and ECM Distributed Computing Project

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 28, 2012

Since the discovery in April 2012 of a factor for (118^67 + 67^118), I have continued to donate extensive computing resources to the ECM distributed computing project (organized via Yoyo@home). Today I am pleased to announce that two more large factors of even larger numbers have been discovered as a result of this endeavor. I am credited with the discoveries here. The following is now known:

● The number (141^141 + 142^142) (see long form here) has a 33-digit factor: 168,853,190,844,095,597,109,245,277,698,729.

● The number (148^148 + 149^149) (see long form here) has a 28-digit factor: 9,055,497,748,306,357,299,810,062,467.

To date, my computer has examined 2729 project workunits (each involving an attempt to factor a large number). I have thus far accumulated 528,533.42 BOINC credits for the ECM project.

The magnitudes involved are astounding, considering that the factors discovered are several hundred orders of magnitude less than the original numbers. As an example, (148^148 + 149^149) is equal to approximately 6.39 * 10^323. And yet our advancing technology is enabling us already to explore these immense quantities and derive meaningful conclusions regarding them.

Droughts, Famines, and Markets – Article by Steven Horwitz

Droughts, Famines, and Markets – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance Hat
Steven Horwitz
August 28, 2012

As I write, many high school students all over the United States, my daughter included, are reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, with its portrayal of the 1930s Dust Bowl, in preparation for literature courses in the fall.  Steinbeck’s fictional account vividly captures the suffering endured by many Americans due to the severe drought, poor farming techniques, and ensuing dust storms in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states.

With the U.S. Midwest stricken by drought this summer, it’s worth considering why the crop failures there have not led to food shortages and other serious problems.

It’s also worth considering why famines, which occurred with regularity for most of human history, have all but disappeared in the last 100 years or so.

The answer is: the market and globalization.  This combination, for reasons I explore below, enables humanity to be far less at the mercy of the weather and provides us with ways to ensure that food gets to where it needs to go.

Markets help us avoid famines in two ways.  First, the innovation made possible by the search for profit and the relative freedom of markets in the western world have increased agricultural productivity by an order of magnitude.  We feed a planet of almost 7 billion reasonably well–although not as well as we might like–and we do it with a decreasing number of people and acres of land.  The United States can feed its own population and still export grain to the rest of the world–even as farmers are forced to divert corn to boondoggles like ethanol.  We are at less risk for famines simply because we can produce more food with fewer resources, and even if one large crop fails, we have more large crops elsewhere to make up the loss.


The second way markets help is that price and profit signals inform producers where foodstuffs are in short supply and simultaneously provide incentives to get the food there.  Prices are an incentive wrapped in knowledge, enabling them to serve as traffic signals to ensure that no one goes without. True, food may be more expensive during a drought, but that is far better than no food at all, as was often the case in human history.

We see these processes at work right now.  The drought in the middle of America destroyed a good deal of the corn crop in Indiana and Iowa.  Meanwhile, farmers in places like Washington state and Virginia have largely escaped unscathed.  The short supply in the Midwest drives up prices and signals to producers elsewhere that profit opportunities exist in those places; the incentive associated with that signal leads farmers to get their crops to where the demand is.  Yes, the higher prices mean that folks will be a little worse off, but corn is in fact more scarce, so those higher prices are not the result of farmers exploiting the drought, but rather a reflection of genuinely shorter supply.

The price signals might also cause corn producers to divert some corn from other uses to food for humans. Such substitution is only possible because market prices provide the needed knowledge and incentives. In a world without markets, producers could not get information so easily and effectively; nor would they have the incentive to respond appropriately. More famines would result.


Finally, globalization has nearly eradicated famines.  All the market processes I have identified are even more effective when the area of trade expands.  When commodity markets are global, countries facing droughts and bad harvests have a whole world from which they can attract new supplies.  The United States is not limited to tapping farmers in Washington and Virginia. It can attract corn from around the world.  In fact, Canadian farmers have had a much better year and are already seeing higher prices for their exports to the United States.  Canadians will pay a bit more for their grains as a result, but prices in the United States will be significantly lower than they would be without the Canadian imports.

As Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu point out in their wonderful new book, The Locavore’s Dilemma, the belief that making food production and distribution more local and less global will increase “food security” has it exactly backward.  The most important thing we can do to ensure a secure food supply in the face of droughts and other threats to the harvest is to allow markets to work freely and extend that freedom globally.

We cannot control the weather, so the threat of drought is always present. But we can unleash the market and further globalize food production to avoid the human disaster of famines when harvests go bad.  The conquering of famine is one of the great human accomplishments of the last century.  That no one is starving because of the drought this summer is evidence of that victory.  Let’s not let the forces of locavorism reverse those gains.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective, now in paperback.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Military “Cuts”: Don’t Believe the Hype – Article by Ron Paul

Military “Cuts”: Don’t Believe the Hype – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 23, 2012

Grover Norquist, the influential conservative activist, recently made some very frank and sobering remarks about the U.S. military budget.  Unlike many conservatives, Mr. Norquist understands that American national security interests are not served by the interventionist foreign policy mindset that has dominated both political parties in recent decades.  He also understands that there is nothing “conservative” about incurring trillions of dollars in debt to engage in hopeless nation building exercises overseas.

Speaking at the Center for the National interest last week, Norquist stated that “We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments.”

He continued: “Bush decided to be the mayor of Baghdad rather than the president of the United States. He decided to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan rather than reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That had tremendous consequences… Richard Nixon said that America’s national defense needs are set in Moscow, meaning that we wouldn’t have to spend so much if they weren’t shooting at us.  The guys who followed didn’t notice that the Soviet Union disappeared.”

When a prominent DC conservative like Grover Norquist makes such bold statements, it shows that public support for a truly conservative foreign policy is growing.  The American people simply cannot stomach more wars and more debt, especially with our domestic economy in tatters.

The American people should reject the hype about so called defense “cuts” from both side of the political spectrum.  When the Obama administration calls for an 18% increase in 2013 military spending, those who propose a 20% increase portray this as a reduction!

Even the supposedly draconian cuts called for in the “sequestration” budget bill would keep military spending at 2006 levels when adjusted for inflation, which is about as high in terms of GDP as during World War II.  It’s also more than the top 13 foreign countries spend on defense combined.  Furthermore, sequestration only cuts military spending for one year after taking effect.  In future years Congress is free to reinstate higher military spending levels– so under sequestration the most drastic case would mean spending $5.2 trillion instead of $5.7 trillion over the next decade.

Is there any amount of money that would satisfy the Pentagon hawks? Even if we were to slash our military budget in half, America easily would remain the world’s dominant military power.  Our problems don’t result from a lack of spending. They result from a lack of vision and a profound misunderstanding of the single biggest threat to every American man, woman, and child: the federal debt.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, is a Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.

Why the Deflationists Are Wrong – Article by Gary North

Why the Deflationists Are Wrong – Article by Gary North

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary North
August 23, 2012

An inflationist is someone who believes that price inflation is the result of two things: (1) monetary inflation and (2) central-bank policy.

A deflationist is someone who believes that deflation is inevitable, despite (1) monetary inflation and (2) central -bank policy.

No inflationist says that price inflation is inevitable. Every deflationist says that price deflation is inevitable.

Deflationists have been wrong ever since 1933.

Milton Friedman is most famous for his book A Monetary History of the United States (1963), which relies on facts collected by Anna Schwartz, who died recently.

It is for one argument: the Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression because it refused to inflate.

This argument, as quoted by mainstream economists, is factually wrong.

I often cite a study, where you can see that the monetary base grew under the Federal Reserve, 1931 to 1932. This graph is from a speech given by the vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. You can access it here.

Figure 1
I posted this first in early 2010.

We can see that there was monetary deflation of the money supply, beginning in 1930. This continued in 1931 and 1932, despite a deliberate policy of inflation by the Fed, beginning in the second half of 1931 and continuing through 1932.

Depositors kept pulling currency out of banks and hoarding it. They did not redeposit it in other banks. This imploded the fractional-reserve-banking process for the banking system as a whole. M1 declined: monetary deflation.

The Fed could not control M1. It could only control the monetary base.

The argument of Friedman and Schwartz was picked up by mainstream economists. It is his most famous and widely accepted position. Bernanke praised him for it on Friedman’s 90th birthday in 2002.

Why was the argument wrong, as applied to 1931–33? I must tell the story one more time. Four letters tell it: FDIC. Well, nine: FDIC + FSLIC. They did not exist.

Franklin Roosevelt froze all bank deposits in early March 1933, immediately after his inauguration. This calmed the public when the banks reopened a few days later. He verbally promised people that the banks were now safe.

The US government created federal bank-depositor insurance in 1933. The Wikipedia article describes the Banking Act of 1933, which was signed into law in June:

  • Established the FDIC as a temporary government corporation
  • Gave the FDIC authority to provide deposit insurance to banks
  • Gave the FDIC the authority to regulate and supervise state non-member banks
  • Funded the FDIC with initial loans of $289 million through the U.S. Treasury

That stopped the bank runs. The money supply reversed. It went ballistic. So did the monetary base.

The key event was therefore the Banking Act of 1933. After that, the money supply never fell again. After that, prices never fell again by more than 1 percent. That was in 1955.

All it took for prices to reverse and rise was this: an expansion of the monetary base coupled with bank lending.

Yet deflationists ever since 1933 have predicted falling prices. They die predicting this. Then their successors die predicting this.

They never learn.

They do not understand monetary theory. They do not understand monetary history. They therefore do not learn. They do not correct their bad predictions, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.

They still find people who believe them, people who also do not understand monetary theory or monetary history.

I have personally been arguing against them for four decades.

Price deflation has nothing to do with the fall in the price of stocks.

There can be monetary deflation as a result of excess reserves held at the Fed by commercial banks. But this is Fed policy. The Fed pays banks interest on the deposits. Even if it didn’t, there would still be excess reserves. But by imposing a fee on excess reserves, the Fed could eliminate excess reserves overnight. Then the money multiplier would go positive, price inflation would reappear, and the Fed would get blamed. So, it maintains a policy of restricting the M1 multiplier.

Every inflationist says that monetary inflation will produce hyperinflation unless reversed by the central bank. There will be a return to low prices after what Ludwig von Mises called the crack-up boom. The classic example is Germany in 1934. That was a matter of policy. The central bank substituted a new currency and stopped inflating.

John Exter — an old friend of mine — argued in the 1970s and 1980s that monetary deflation has to come, despite Fed policy. There will be a collapse of prices through deleveraging.

He was wrong. Why? Because it is not possible for depositors to take sufficient money in paper-currency notes out of banks and keep these notes out, thereby reversing the fractional-reserve process, thereby deflating the money supply. That was what happened in the United States from 1930 to 1933. If hoarders spend the notes, businesses will redeposit them in their banks. Only if they deal exclusively with other hoarders can they keep money out of banks. But the vast majority of all money transactions are based on digital money, not paper currency.

Today, large depositors can pull digital money out of bank A, but only by transferring it to bank B. Digits must be in a bank account at all times. There can be no decrease in the money supply for as long as money is digital. Hence, there can be no decrease in prices unless it is Fed policy to decrease prices. This was not true, 1930 to 1933.

Deflationists never respond to this argument by invoking either monetary theory or monetary history. You can and should ignore them until one of them does answer this, and all the others publicly say, “Yes. That’s it! We have waited since 1933 for this argument! I was blind, but now I see! I’m on board! I will sink or swim with this.”

Let me know when this happens. Until then, ignore the deflationists. All of them. (There are not many still standing.)

The fact that a new deflationist shows up is irrelevant. Anyone can predict inevitable price deflation. They keep doing this. Look for the refutation of the inflationists’ position. Look for a theory.

If you do not understand the case I have just made, you will not understand any refutation. In this case, just pay no attention to either side. If you cannot follow economic theory, the debate will confuse you. It’s not worth your time.

For background, see my book Mises on Money.

See also Murray Rothbard’s book What Has Government done to Our Money?

Gary North is the author of Mises on Money and Honest Money: The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible. Visit his website: GaryNorth.com. Send him mail. See Gary North’s article archives.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.