Must Everything Be Made of Corn? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Must Everything Be Made of Corn? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
July 27, 2017
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This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education on November 28, 2016.

I’ve finished Thanksgiving leftovers and I’m digging into a store-bought blueberry pie, because few people have time to make such a pie from scratch. Crust should be made from flour and lard (which comes from pig), in my view, but when you buy from the store, the crust is almost always made from “shortening” which is a vegetable product.

Meaning: corn.

Then there is the pie filling. Usually at home, you would use sugar from cane to sweeten the berries. But when you buy from the store, the berries are sweetened from a syrup made also from  corn.

So here you have two ingredients in the making of this pie that are radically dissimilar: sugar cane and a pig. Hard to think of anything in common between the two. They have both been displaced as ingredients by one thing: corn.

Once you realize this – that the crust and the berries are living within the same core food group of corn – your mind stops playing tricks on you. There is a sense in which the whole thing, despite all looks and extraneous flavors, is a corn pie.

Suddenly, you can taste exactly that.

Now, it is time for the after dinner drink, perhaps a Margarita sweetened with lime juice. You look at the ingredients of that juice bottle.

Corn again! You are going to drink corn.

So you go for a chocolate but then take a look at the wrapper: corn!

So you decide to go for a drive in your gasoline-powered car. What’s in the tank? Thanks to the mandated additive of ethanol, there is corn here too.

By the time you get to the movie theater and consider popcorn, you remember that you had corn in your crust, corn in your berries, corn in your cocktail, and corn in your gas tank. Who needs corn popped in corn oil covered with butter-flavored corn?

So, instead of popcorn, and since most candy consists of different shapes of corn, you decide to settle for just a soda.

What’s in it? High-fructose corn syrup!

It’s too much! You feel like you’re trapped in a Twilight Zone episode: like your night is going to end in one of those cornfield chase scenes you see in horror movies.

Why does the whole of American life sometimes seem to be taken over by corn?

To be sure, corn is a miracle food. But is it really so miraculous that everything we use should be made out of it?

The Politics of Corn

Only if the market brings about this result. But it’s not the market speaking. It’s a deeply distorted market. The power of the corn lobby is legendary. And mixed with that is the power of the sugar lobby, which keeps out imported sugar that would sell for half as much as we pay at the store, thereby incentivizing producers to seek out a substitute in corn, which turns out to make us fatter, thereby panicking do-gooders who try to ban products and limit consumption, so that our bad health will stop driving up health-insurance rates.

Remarkably, all of this has happened only since the 1970s, before which there was no such thing as high-fructose corn syrup, to say nothing of corn-based gasoline. It’s one intervention piled on top of another one.

Foreign peoples find all of this mystifying. Indeed it is, until you look more deeply and see just how important the corn states are in winning elections. It turns out that the main and most valuable products generated by all this strange corn-based activity are political careers.

It’s for this reason that we have corn coming out of our ears.

Christmas Corn

Don’t despair: we’ve got Christmas to look forward to, with corn-candied apples, corn-sweetened eggnog, ham from corn-fed pigs glazed with corn, perhaps a roast from a corn-fed cow, and that old favorite, mulled cider on the stove filling the house with the traditional and evocative smell of corn.

After you have decorated your tree with strings of popcorn and candy canes made with corn syrup, don’t forget to forget to leave Santa cookies, baked with corn oil and corn sugar, because, as everyone knows, nothing says the holidays – or any day! – like corn.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Trump Should Veto Congress’s Foolish New Sanctions Bill – Article by Ron Paul

Trump Should Veto Congress’s Foolish New Sanctions Bill – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
July 27, 2017
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This week’s expected House vote to add more sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a prime example of how little thought goes into US foreign policy. Sanctions have become kind of an automatic action the US government takes when it simply doesn’t know what else to do.

No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions. Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.

Why is Congress so eager for more sanctions on Russia? The neocons and the media have designated Russia as the official enemy, and the military-industrial complex and other special interests want to continue getting rich terrifying Americans into believing the propaganda.

Why, just weeks after the White House affirmed that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the nuclear treaty, does Congress pass additional sanctions anyway? Washington blames Iran for “destabilizing” Syria and Iraq by helping them fight ISIS and al-Qaeda. Does this make any sense at all?

When is the last time Iran committed a terrorist act on our soil? It hasn’t. Yet we learned from the declassified 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report that Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in the 2001 attacks against Washington and New York. Who has funded al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria for years? Saudi Arabia. Yet no one is talking about sanctions against that country. This is because sanctions are not about our security. They are about politics and special interests.

Why is Congress poised to add yet more sanctions on North Korea? Do they want the North Korean people to suffer more than they are already suffering? North Korea’s GDP is half that of Vermont – the US state with the lowest GDP! Does anyone believe they are about to invade us? There is much talk about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but little talk about 30,000 US troops and weapons on North Korea’s border. For Washington, it’s never a threat if we do it to the other guy.

Here’s an alternative to doing the same thing over and over: Let’s take US troops out of North Korea after 70 years. The new South Korean president has proposed military talks with North Korea to try and reduce tensions. We should get out of the way and let them solve their own problems. If Iran and Russia want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda at the invitation of their ally, Syria, why stand in the way? We can’t run the world. We are out of money.

President Trump was elected to pursue a new kind of foreign policy. If he means what he said on the campaign trail, he will veto this foolish sanctions bill and begin dismantling neocon control of his Administration.

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

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

Charlie Gard’s Parents Are Forced to Stop Fighting for Their Dying Baby – Article by Marianne March

Charlie Gard’s Parents Are Forced to Stop Fighting for Their Dying Baby – Article by Marianne March

The New Renaissance Hat
Marianne March
July 27, 2017
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I cannot imagine the pain Charlie Gard’s parents are feeling now, as they savor their last moments with their precious child. Charlie is 11 months old and he’s dying.

Chris and Connie have been fighting for months to get treatment for Charlie, ever since he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. But they have been forced to give up that fight.

I can’t imagine their pain, but I can imagine their fury because I share it.

From the Hospital to the Courts

Charlie is not mine. I’ve never met him or anyone who knows him. Yet I am furious with the British government for refusing to allow his parents to take their dying son to the United States for treatment: a therapy trial, his last and only hope.

No further recourse was available in the UK, but an American doctor was ready to try to help him at Columbia University Medical Center. Charlie’s parents raised £1.4 million through crowdfunding; they had the money to take him to the US by air ambulance.

But doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London didn’t like that idea. They said it wouldn’t help, that the American therapy was experimental. They said the baby’s life support should just stop.

On April 11th, a British High Court judge ruled with the doctors, empowering them to turn off Charlie’s life-support machines. His mother screamed “no” when she heard the verdict.

There was a petition with more than 110,000 names on it. People wrote letters to the Prime Minister, calling on her to release Charlie from Great Ormond Street’s care. The pope said he was praying for Charlie’s parents, “hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.”

And now Charlie is out of time.

Even US President Trump tweeted that “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”

Charlie’s parents challenged the decision in the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights.

All to no avail. The Courts would not allow them to try to save their baby’s life.

Who Can Call This Justice?

And now Charlie is out of time. According to the BBC, “US neurologist Dr. Michio Hirano had said he was no longer willing to offer the baby experimental therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan last week.”

It’s possible that Charlie’s doctors were right, that experimental treatment wouldn’t have helped (although his parents don’t think so, nor do American and Italian doctors). But what harm could it have done when he’s dying anyway? And if his parents had the means to give him one last chance, why shouldn’t they exercise their right to do so? They belong to Charlie just as he belongs to them, and no one but Chris and Connie should get the final say on his medical care.

I never really knew what people meant by the phrase “death panels” before. It was just a term bandied about by talking heads and political personalities. It’s chilling how well it applies in this instance: a group of bureaucrats that sits around deciding who is worthy of medical care.

I don’t know how the power slipped away from the individual, whether taken by force or given away with applause, but this is outrageous. And it’s wrong.

Read with a Box of Tissues

I will leave you with the words of Connie Yates, Charlie’s mom:

Due to the deterioration in his muscles, there is now no way back for Charlie. Time that has been wasted. It is time that has sadly gone against him.

We want people to realise that we have been speaking to parents whose children were just like Charlie before starting treatment and now some of them are walking around like normal children. We wanted Charlie to have that chance too.

All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world renowned hospital to another world renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world leader in mitochondrial disease. We feel that we should have been trusted as parents to do so but we will always know in our hearts that we did the very best for Charlie and I hope that he is proud of us for fighting his corner.

Charlie had a real chance of getting better. It’s now unfortunately too late for him but it’s not too late for others with this horrible disease and other diseases. We will continue to help and support families of ill children and try and make Charlie live on in the lives of others. We owe it to him to not let his life be in vain.

Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute WARRIOR and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly. One little boy has brought the world together and whatever people’s opinions are, no one can deny the impact our beautiful son has had on the world and his legacy will never ever die.

We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie, who unfortunately won’t make his 1st birthday in just under 2 weeks’ time, and we would ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.

Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you.”

Marianne March is a recent graduate of Georgia State University, where she majored in Public Policy, with a minor in Economics. Follow her on twitter @mari_tweets.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Is Reality Winner “One of Us”? – Article by William Sims Bainbridge

Is Reality Winner “One of Us”? – Article by William Sims Bainbridge

The New Renaissance Hat
William Sims Bainbridge
July 26, 2017
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This article originally appeared on the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and is republished here with Dr. Bainbridge’s permission. 

Amidst the raging chaos in modern advanced nations, aggravated or rendered more visible by emerging technologies, an occasional individual person stands out, now notably Reality Winner.  Her Wikipedia page begins: “Reality Leigh Winner (born December 1991) is an American intelligence specialist employed by Pluribus International Corporation. Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017, on suspicion of leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections to the news website The Intercept. The report suggested that Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier.”  Despite considerable journalistic attention, we cannot be sure we know exactly what Reality did, what its legal implications really are, and how her fate may be decided.  Yet today is not too early to consider the possible meaning of her remarkable story.

As soon as I learned about her arrest, I explored her Facebook page, and saw much that resonated with the humanistic values of future-oriented scholars and techno-visionaries, but soon that page vanished from public view.  Intense exploration of a host of online commentaries and information sources raised a profound general question illuminated by her specific case: Can futurists gently guide existing social institutions toward progress, within the context of conventional norms, or have we reached a grim point in history at which we must risk building a replacement for the civilization that is collapsing around us?

Reality Winner’s Facebook page was not awash in political radicalism, but presented a thoughtful person who was intensely dedicated to perfection of herself.  The five public Facebook groups to which she belonged were all real-world organizations promoting personal improvement in physical fitness.  CrossFitters of Augusta and CF 10-10 Members Group were local chapters of CrossFit, a network of organizations promoting a physical exercise philosophy advocating high-intensity training.  Another group was more specialized, GB Handstand Challenge, in which GB stands for Gymnastic Bodies.  The fourth of her public groups was vegetarian:  Vegan Recipes for Everyone.   During the brief time it was still visible, I checked Reality Winner’s Facebook page for “vegan” and saw that she used “#veganlifters” as a hashtag for an Instagram message she had posted at 6:10 AM on May 22, 2017: “Those days when you remind yourself the sacrifices you made to be here, now, every day.”  It struck me that her values seemed very similar to those of Transhumanism, seeking to attain human perfection, but through investment of personal effort and commitment to achieving difficult goals, rather than passively adopting some new technology.  Indeed, these four groups were technological, but advocating techniques that required well-disciplined human action, rather than taking some hypothetical nanotechnology vitamin pill.

The fifth group was a martial arts movement, Krav Maga Maryland, dedicated to “a military self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security forces (Shin Bet and Mossad).”  Wikipedia summarized the public information currently available about Reality Winner’s military career: “Winner served in the United States Air Force from 2010 to 2016, achieving the rank of senior airman with the 94th Intelligence Squadron.  She worked as a cryptologic linguist, and is fluent in Farsi, Dari and Pashto.  Winner was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.”  Farsi is the Persian language of Iran; Dari is a dialect of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan, and Pashto is the language of a major Afghan ethnicity.  Of course, we are not able to administer college advanced placement tests to Reality Winner, given her current incarceration, but she seems to invest the same energy and dedication into intellectual development, with respect to other cultures, as she does in physical fitness.

What about her humanity?  Many news websites copied the picture Reality Winner had posted on her Facebook on May 29, showing her overlooking Mayan ruins.  The day before, she had sent via Instagram another picture from the same archaeological site, with this comment: “Carved head at Lamanai, Belize, 100bc. This has been such a spiritual journey for me.”  We may all find spiritual significance in ancient ruins, but news reports mentioned that her father had died just a few months earlier, and she posted this touching paragraph on her Facebook page:  “There is nothing that can fix the hole in my heart that you left behind. I still don’t know who I am without you here or how to keep moving forward without the one person who believed unconditionally in everything I want to do in life. Old habits die hard, I still find myself making time to call you in the evenings or jotting down notes or stories to tell you next time we speak. Somehow, though, I feel like you are a little closer, here, among the pyramids you used to endlessly tell us about, and always hoped to see. It’s like I have a little piece of you here with me. I miss you, Dad. You would have loved to be here, though I’m sure you would have been bitching about the hot weather every minute.”

There is ample room to debate what punishment, if any, Reality Winner deserves for releasing classified US government information.  Many other people are currently leaking secret government information, and we may note that prominent people like former CIA director David Petraeus do not seem to suffer much when they commit similar acts.  There is some concern that Reality Winner will be given a harsh prison sentence, not because she deserves it, but to deter others from releasing damaging information, and to express the anger of the US President.  Her family seeks help in defending her through a Facebook group, named Friends of Reality Winner, and an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/2d9rnm64 that has not yet reached its modest goal to hire a good lawyer.

A number of political action groups briefly used her case in their campaign against the US President, and the document she made public is directly relevant to concerns about the election outcome.  However, it may be a mistake to blame one gang of politicians for our problems, investing false hopes in a competing gang who are not any better but employ different rhetoric and tactics.  Politicizing Reality Winner’s situation may only increase the harm she may suffer.  Following her family’s request to send her good wishes and contribute to her defense would seem to be the most immediately beneficial course, yet not satisfying our long-term ethical obligation.

Can current laws be changed to provide better protection for “whistleblowers” and others who provide information to journalists, scientists, and the general public that is needed for careful decision making?  Perhaps the secrecy laws should be changed so that they are strict only during the period of a formally declared war, which has not been the case for the US since 1945.  Whether from incompetence or corruption, both major US political parties fed false information to the public in escalation of the Vietnam War and the Second Iraq War.  It is hard to know the extent to which current public debates are poisoned by the desperation felt within the dying old-fashioned news media, as the information technology revolution erodes their influence and profits.  Yet there seems good reason to believe that the general public really should not trust the government that currently holds Reality Winner captive.  We are all journalists now, in the era of Facebook, Instagram, and the IEET website, so Freedom of the Press should be defined much more broadly, now that printing presses are obsolete.

This brings us to the most difficult pair of questions: How can we design a better civilization?  How could we bring that dream to reality?  Perhaps the answers cannot be based upon a hope that somehow progress in science and technology will automatically achieve such goals.  We may need to work exceedingly hard, as Reality Winner did in her self-improvement campaigns, transcending our human limitations through directed personal effort as much as through collective technical innovation.  We will need to reinvent modem culture, which requires honestly experimenting with many alternatives, not merely marching in lockstep to a single drummer.

Information technologies are having uncertain impacts on human societies, and the case of Reality Winner raises a host of related ethical issues, while calling into question our ability to extrapolate from the past, and asking for new policies.  Oh, those are the four principal questions raised by IEET!

Yes, Reality Winner is One of Us.

William Sims Bainbridge, Ph.D. is an IEET Senior fellow, and a prolific and influential sociologist of religion, science and popular culture. Dr. Bainbridge serves as co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the NSF.

AI and the Future of Free Markets: A Nuanced View – Preview of FreedomFest 2017 Panel Comments by G. Stolyarov II

AI and the Future of Free Markets: A Nuanced View – Preview of FreedomFest 2017 Panel Comments by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

July 18, 2017


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, offers a preview of his forthcoming remarks at the July 21, 2017, FreedomFest panel in Las Vegas, entitled “Artificial Intelligence & Robots: Economy of the Future or End of Free Markets?”

Find more information regarding the FreedomFest panel here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our concise application form.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Question-and-Answer Session – July 15, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Question-and-Answer Session – July 15, 2017

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II
B.J. Murphy
Bobby Ridge
Scott Jurgens
Martin van der Kroon

July 15, 2017


In this interactive question-and-answer session, scheduled for 11 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Saturday, July 15, 2017, U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers answered members’ and the public’s questions about the ongoing activities and objectives of the United States Transhumanist Party and also discussed other issues of interest that relate to emerging technologies and how to ensure the best possible future for sentient entities.

The following Officers were present for this Q&A session:

– Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman
– B.J. Murphy, Director of Social Media
– Martin van der Kroon, Director of Recruitment
– Bobby Ridge, Secretary-Treasurer
– Scott Jurgens, Director of Applied Innovation

Because of an unexpected technical difficulty, the video stream was split into two portions.

Watch Part 1 here.

Watch Part 2 here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our membership application form at https://goo.gl/forms/IpUjooEZjnfOFUMi2.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website at http://transhumanist-party.org/.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USTranshumanistParty/.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USTranshumanist.

When Academia Turns into Fight Club – Article by Steven Horwitz

When Academia Turns into Fight Club – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance Hat
Steven Horwitz
July 14, 2017
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What do academics do for excitement over the summer, you ask? This summer many of us have been engaged in a furious debate over the new book Democracy in Chains by Duke historian Nancy MacLean.

Libertarian and conservative scholars from a variety of disciplines have raised a number of criticisms about MacLean’s sources and her accuracy about historical facts that call into question the “evidence” she has to show that economist James Buchanan and public choice theory, if not libertarianism more generally, are all tools of racist oligarchs like the Koch Brothers.

Rather than rehash all of the particular criticisms, I want to focus on the controversy that has developed over the criticisms themselves. It’s important to understand that the libertarian critics of MacLean have carefully compared passages in her book with her cited sources and showed how she has misread and quoted selectively from them, often leading her to attribute to people the exact opposite of the argument they actually held. These criticisms have been posted publicly on blogs and websites. These are not just vague accusations. They are detailed examples of poor scholarship.

But the fascinating part has been her response. And her lack thereof.

Everyone Is under Attack

MacLean has offered no substantive response to the detailed criticisms. She had one exchange with Russ Roberts over her treatment of Tyler Cowen, but even there she did not respond to the substance of Russ’s concerns. Other than that, nothing.

What she did do, however, was put up a long Facebook post that reads like a combination conspiracy theory tract and call to action for progressive activists. The short version is that she claimed she was under “attack” from a conspiracy of “Koch operatives” who were paid hacks out to destroy her book and her reputation and silence her. She claimed, then retracted when she found out it couldn’t be done, that the Kochs had bought Google results to put the critics at the top of searches. She encouraged her supporters to game the Amazon reviews by posting positive reviews and down-voting the “fake” Koch reviews.

She has continued this narrative of being “under attack” in various interviews, and most recently in a story in Inside Higher Ed, where fellow progressives echo this language.

This notion of being “attacked” is particularly fascinating to me. Let’s be clear what she means: people who know a lot about Buchanan, public choice theory, and libertarianism have taken issue with her scholarship and have patiently and carefully documented the places where she has made errors of fact or interpretation, or mangled and misused source materials and quotes. That is all that they have done.

None of this was coordinated nor was it part of a conspiracy from the Koch brothers. It was scholars doing what scholars do when they are confronted with bad scholarly work, especially when it touches on issues we know well.

None of these critics, and I am among them, have called for physical violence against her. None have contacted her employer. None have called her publisher or Amazon to have the book taken down. Contrary to her claim, the only silence in this whole episode is her own refusal to respond to legitimate scholarly criticism. We don’t want to silence her – we eagerly await her response.

So where is this language of “attack” coming from? Here is where I think the political right bears some responsibility for the current situation. And to the degree libertarians have cast their lot with “the right,” we are seen as guilty by association. Call it blowback if you will.

In the last year or two, progressive intellectuals and academics have been threatened with violence and had their employers contacted, not to mention threats made from politicians, on the basis of public statements they’ve made. Yes, some of those statements were deplorable, but that is no excuse for threatening people’s physical safety or their jobs. These are real attacks, not intellectual criticisms.

We should also not forget the anti-intellectual “Professor Watch List” put up by TurningPoint USA, which gave left-leaning faculty more reason to imagine coordinated and conspiratorial attacks.

And yes, all of this was not done by conservative or libertarian intellectuals, but they were done by activists associated with “the right,” and that is all that progressives need to find the intellectuals guilty by association.

It probably also matters, though less so, that many conservative and libertarian students have referred to themselves as “under attack” in college classrooms. In my 30 years of teaching experience, what they call “under attack” is far more often than not simply having their views strongly challenged and being expected to defend them. In other words, exactly what MacLean is experiencing.

This is not being “attacked.” It is what college classrooms and scholarly conversation are all about.

Unfortunately, the real attacks on left-wing faculty (and yes, there have been ones on right-wing ones too) have provided MacLean’s defenders with a convenient word to use to blur the difference between legitimate, but forceful, scholarly criticism, and threats of violence or silencing.

Always Take the High Road

Conservative critics of higher education should take this to heart. When you whip people into a frenzy over the crazy things that a small number of faculty say on Twitter, or because of legitimate concerns about the treatment of a small number of conservative speakers, the whipped up folks are going to do things you wish they wouldn’t. And that’s going to lead to blowback.

As a libertarian academic who frequently speaks at public events on other campuses, I do have low-level concerns about my safety. And if I were a progressive academic, I’d have similar fears given the way some of them have been treated, especially by politicians. Calling the intellectual criticisms of her book a coordinated conspiracy heads MacLean into Alex Jones territory, but given the current climate, it shouldn’t surprise us that she and her supporters feel “under attack.”

But notice the result: a book that smears libertarian and conservative ideas on the basis of shoddy scholarship gets attention because the author claims she’s under attack when she is called out in careful detail by other scholars. The real attacks on left-leaning faculty enable her to claim victimhood by association while using guilt by association to blame the conservative and libertarian intellectuals who are criticizing her work.

Once we head down the road, whether caused by the left, right, or libertarians, of turning intellectual disagreements into threats of violence, or threats to employment, or anything of that sort, the social losses are huge. Indeed, once both threats to people’s safety and employment and sharp intellectual disagreement become “attacks,” we will lose our ability to recognize the moral and intellectual difference between the two, and our disgust at the threats will weaken. And to the degree that the left largely dominates the intellectual world, conservatives and libertarians will be the biggest losers when academia turns into Fight Club.

So what to do? First, call off the dogs. Conservatives and libertarians need to consistently take the high road, as many of the intellectuals have tried to do in response to MacLean’s book. The hard part is getting right-wing media, both traditional and social media, to do the same. Those of us who care about intellectual standards have to publicly call out our own when they whip up anti-intellectual and anti-higher education frenzies.

Second, implore our left-wing friends of integrity to do the same. The most important thing that can happen to end this arms race is for scholars of integrity on the left to call out people like MacLean, both for their shoddy scholarship and their hyperbolic use of the language of conspiracy and attack. A strongly critical review of her book by a historian or economist of the center or left would go a long way to addressing the specific concerns it raises and could set a necessary example for others.

In the meantime, those of us critical of MacLean will continue to document her errors and press publicly for a response. And we’ll do so with the most proper of scholarly etiquette. I implore those sympathetic to our cause to be on their best behavior on social media as well. She and her supporters need no more ammunition.

Steven Horwitz is the Schnatter Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise in the Department of Economics at Ball State University, where he also is a Fellow at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. He is the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The Attack on Hobby Lobby Is Incoherent and Unjust – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The Attack on Hobby Lobby Is Incoherent and Unjust – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
July 13, 2017
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The mainstream press has accused Hobby Lobby, a great and beloved American company, of hypocrisy, unchristian behavior, smuggling, stealing, and even funding terrorism. As punishment, and concluding an investigation that has been going on for six years, the US government has extracted from the company a fine of $3 million, and the company is sending to the government property it bought fair and square.

What horrible things did the company do? It purchased from sketchy sources in the Middle East thousands of ancient artifacts, including extremely rare cuneiform tablets. The purpose of such purchases – the Green family that owns Hobby Lobby spent its own money – is to complete an exciting project in the nation’s capital, the building of a new museum called the Museum of the Bible that will be open to the public in November.

For its efforts to save ancient historical artifacts and put them on display for educational purposes, the company has been declared guilty of trafficking war loot. And the property it bought? It is presumably going to be owned now by the US government – and maybe put in a warehouse and forgotten, like the disgraceful scene from the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The War Caused This

And yet, it was the chaos of the Iraq War itself that brought these artifacts to the black markets to begin with. Previously, one supposes, they were claimed by Saddam Hussein as the national property of the government that the U.S. overthrew. They were pillaged by traders in the midst of the confusion that the US had not properly prepared for. This was nearly 15 years ago, and, presumably, the artifacts have changed hands many times.

Given how valuable these items are, and how little care the US government showed them, there is a sense in which the black market deserves praise. There was no longer a regime in place to claim ownership. The treasures were not destroyed or forgotten. Rather, they were preserved in the care of new owners and traders who understood their value – far more so than the marauding occupiers who allowed a birthplace of civilization to be pillaged without a thought.

Hobby Lobby – scrupulously and motivated by genuine piety – was only seeking to recover them and put them on display to increase public awareness of their value and what they represent. It is not the company’s fault that these treasures were floating around and changing hands all over the Middle East. Hobby Lobby didn’t cause the war. It didn’t steal a single thing from anyone. What the company was doing was systematically buying them from criminals, gangs, and shadowy forces with an eye toward keeping them safe and showing them to the public.

Hobby Lobby deserves praise, not condemnation, for these actions.

The most preposterous claim is that what the company did was unchristian. This is a jab at the company culture, of course, which is openly evangelical and has otherwise embroiled the company in public controversy. The Supreme Court decided in favor of its claim that it should not be forced to provide medical services to its employees. It was the first time in US history that the courts said that a for-profit company enjoys certain rights to religious liberty – and the partisans of Obamacare have never forgiven the company for that reason.

It’s like the whole of the social-democratic opinion cartel got on board with a plan: get Hobby Lobby!

False Records

What about the claim that there was fraud involved in the shipping of items themselves? According to reports, the company acquiesced to falsified shipping records in order to disguise the contents of the packages.

This strikes me not as fraud – who is actually being defrauded here? – but rather very smart and strategic behavior. What was the company to do? Put a big stamp on the packages that says PRICELESS ARTIFACTS FROM ANTIQUITY INSIDE? The efforts to disguise the contents were consistent with the care that the company was taking with the property that it justly acquired on the market.

In fact, by not insuring the contents as much as the shippers might have been willing to cover, the company was bearing the full liability that would have been associated with theft. Therefore it had every incentive to obscure the nature of the contents. No one got hurt by their doing so.

Making the Market

But there is yet another claim making the rounds. In the words of professional Hobby Lobby haters Joel Baden and Candida Moss:

If collectors like the Green family were unwilling to purchase unprovenanced antiquities — items that do not have a clear and clean history of discovery and purchase — the black market would dry up. As long as there are buyers, there will be sellers. It is because collectors like Hobby Lobby are willing to pay a premium and look the other way that looting continues. They dramatically expanded the market for biblical antiquities in the late 2000s.

This is just crazy talk. Are we really supposed to believe that if the Greens had not put a value on ancient Mesopotamian artifacts that these items would thereby fall in value for everyone else? This is preposterous actually. And think about this: if the treasures actually fall to zero price, there would be no incentive to care for them and display them for the public. It is precisely because The Green family and so many others value them that they have been preserved.

These writers are living in a fantasy world. Actually, the black market has done more for the cause of historical preservation than either Saddam Hussein or the occupying military forces ever did.

Ownership Records

There is the final matter of ownership records. These are obviously controversial for property that is, after all, thousands of years old. What to do? Hobby Lobby had the right solution: they should be owned by the highest bidder and displayed for the edification of the public. As a private enterprise, it could have experimented with using the right technology – blockchain – to create immutable records, along with the complete history. That way, there would never again be a controversy.

Much the same is already being done in the art world to prevent forgeries, track ownership, and verify the authenticity of works of art. This process needs to commence with ancient artifacts too, for the sake of posterity and the future.

What Hobby Lobby was doing could have finally saved this sacred history on behalf of the whole of humanity. Sadly, it will not be so, simply because some bureaucrats and petty pundits are working through their resentments of the company, fining them and dragging its reputation through the mud. Hobby Lobby wasn’t stealing; it is being stolen from.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The Radicalism of Reading – Article by Eileen L. Wittig

The Radicalism of Reading – Article by Eileen L. Wittig

The New Renaissance Hat
Eileen L. Wittig
July 13, 2017
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It’s Peak Reading Season: too hot to go outside, too lethargic to do much inside, no holidays coming up for a while. Polls and anecdotes are probably telling you that reading is on the decline – people just don’t read like they used to! – but it turns out that depends on what demographic you’re looking at, and it’s a bit embarrassing for the old people shaking their heads over “kids these days.”

If you’re looking at people over the age of 65, your thought is right. Only 67 percent have read a book in the past year, regardless of format. But if you look at people age 18-29, a.k.a. the ones who supposedly do nothing but scroll through the internet all day, that number jumps up to 80 percent. Awkward.

Granted, that’s only talking about people who have read an actual book, and I’d argue that reading educational articles counts. If we include that, the reading statistic would jump even higher.

And that would’ve been horrible a century ago. And in the century before that. And all the way back to ancient Greece.

The modern obsession with reading is just that: a modern obsession, created by technology, new genres of literature, and advances in class, gender, and socioeconomic equality. It took about 2,500 years, but we made it.

Technological Advance, Copyrighted

You’d think the ancient Greeks would’ve been all about writing things down, but there was resistance from Socrates. He was a huge supporter of the previous technology: oral tradition, when knowledge was passed down through the generations by talking.

Thankfully Plato ignored him and recorded, for the millennia, that Socrates said writing would be terrible for society, causing “forgetfulness,” giving “not truth, but only the semblance of truth,” making everyone “appear to be omniscient, but knowing nothing,” creating nothing but “tiresome company.” Thus did literature have its first great irony.

For hundreds of years, we wrote things down. Most books were either religious or historical, regardless of country, culture, or religion of origin, and as the times changed, this general rule became alternately stricter and looser. Strict class structure, long work days, and the lack of publishing technology resulted in relatively low literacy rates.

The next big step forward was Gutenberg’s printing press. No more hand-writing everything! Suddenly books could be mass-produced, and with that ability came books in many different genres: poetry, technical knowledge, morality stories, and even sheet music. It took a while for people to realize they could start printing books in their own native languages and not only in the then-universal literary language of Latin, but it got there eventually.

Unfortunately, as happens now, with this new technology came new laws, particularly the Ordinance for the Regulation of Printing, issued in England in 1643. The Ordinance proclaimed that

Nor other Book, Pamphlet, paper, nor part of any such Book, Pamphlet, or paper shall from henceforth be printed, bound, stitched or put to sale by any person or persons whatsoever, unless the same be first approved of and licensed under the hands of such person or persons as both, or either of the said Houses shall appoint for the licensing of the same, and entred in the Register Book of the Company of Stationers, according to ancient custom, and the Printer thereof to put his name thereto.

In other words, you couldn’t print anything unless you had express permission from a government-appointed person. You couldn’t submit your book to the registry without government permission, either.

Needless to say, this didn’t help publishing progress. However, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 created the Declaration of Rights, which included the right to free speech, England’s society opened up, and the Ordinance was allowed to lapse in 1694. Free speech combined with less regulation resulted in many more printing presses and publication houses in both England and the American colonies, and publication of books, newspapers, and pamphlets started going up. With more things available, more people could start reading, and the literacy rate in the West went up.

And then a brand new literary genre was invented, and the literary world changed forever (not even hyperbolically).

But the Women!

Up to this point, “the literacy rate went up” has referred more to men than to women. Some women could read, of course, but it was a male-dominated sphere until the end of the 19th century. Women didn’t work outside the home as much, and they were still considered to be inferior to men, so they often did not have comparable educations. The rise of female literacy came when the novel was spreading across the world, but the genre was not welcomed like it is today.

There’s disagreement over what the first novel was – most people say it’s Don Quixote, published all the way back in 1605, but others say it’s Pamela, published in 1740 – no matter which author was responsible for it, there was a lot of antagonism, even from the medical world. Novels were considered to be evil, destroying not only the morality but also the physical health of their “susceptible” female readers. Even in 1899, people were still warning against the “evils of reading” for women.

The problem was that they couldn’t actually agree on the details. One doctor wrote that novels would detrimentally accelerate a girl’s physical maturity, while another wrote that reading, and education in general, would cause of the opposite problem by preventing women from being able to have children. Reading novels could even make a woman uppity and encourage her to disrupt the status quo – the horror! Some went even further, warning that reading novels would cause insanity and even death.

Other people were more subtle in their predictions, believing novels would merely blur the line between fact and fiction. Authors themselves were torn: Gustave Flaubert ironically wrote a novel about this idea in Madame Bovary, while Jane Austen sensibly wrote against it in Northanger Abbey.

As more and more novels were written, and as women themselves entered the writing world, the hostility and sexism eventually died away. Today, we’ve progressed far beyond the old sexism: women now read more books than men, and the best-selling book series in history is a set of novels written by a woman: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Lowering the Threshold

Even with the lapsing copyright laws and the increased demand for books thanks to women’s literacy, publication was expensive, so books were expensive too. Reading was generally reserved for the higher classes who were, first off, educated, but could actually afford the money and time to read. Even Benjamin Franklin’s library required a subscription only a few tradesmen could afford. But that trend started changing when Charles Dickens and New York entered the sphere, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment.

New York’s publishing houses – including Harper Bros. – were big enough to afford both large-scale publications, which made the books cheaper to publish and buy, and the vast expanse of the American West opened by the creation of the Erie Canal in 1825. The invention of the paperback book lowered the cost of books even further, giving people the “dime novel.” Publishers also took advantage of the lax international copyright laws and published whatever they wanted, including the works of one of the world’s first celebrity authors, Charles Dickens.

Over in England, Dickens was doing a strange thing and successfully writing about the poor. Taking from his own experiences growing up, Dickens used his talents and popularity to promote equality among the classes, greater education, and sympathy for people historically ignored. But he was also creating a new medium of publication: the magazine serialization, which ultimately became the standard form of novel-printing for the era all over the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all published serial works. Printing in magazines allowed a greater audience to enjoy literature that would otherwise be reserved only for the people who could afford the time and money to read them in book format.

Speaking of Stowe, the literacy gap in America between whites and all minorities was huge for the first 200 years of our history. Just after the Civil War, in 1870, 79.9 percent of blacks and minorities were illiterate. That rate dropped steadily until 1910, at which point the illiteracy rate among minorities was 30.5 percent. The literacy rate continued growing, albeit slower than before, until the race gap was finally closed in 1980.

21st-Century Reading

All the technological, social, and economic advances made during the explosive 18th and 19th centuries carried through into the modern era, spreading literacy and dispelling weird rumors until the world literacy rate went from 12% in 1800 to 85% in 2014. With the internet, e-readers, and all our smart devices, people are reading more now than ever; and the availability and variety of content is unlike anything even imagined just a century ago.

So when a relative or stranger tells you to put your phone down, ask them when they last read a book, and then quote something smart from the article you’re reading on your phone.

Eileen Wittig is an Associate Editor and author of the Lazy Millennial column at FEE. You can follow the Lazy Millennial Twitter here.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

The New Renaissance Hat
Gennady Stolyarov II and Bobby Ridge
July 8, 2017
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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, interviews Bobby Ridge, a researcher into transhumanist philosophy and the scientific method and the new Secretary-Treasurer of the United States and Nevada Transhumanist Parties.

Watch this conversation regarding the subjects of Mr. Ridge’s research, the scientific method, and transhumanism more generally.

Bobby Ridge has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Science from California State University of Sacramento (CSUS) and is striving to achieve his MD in Neurology. He only recently became a Transhumanist. He conducts research for CSUS’s Psychology Department and his own personal research on the epistemology and Scientiometrics of the Scientific Method. He also co-owns Togo’s in Citrus Heights, CA. Mr. Ridge considers transhumanism to describe the future of humanity taking its next steps in evolution, which are both puissant and daunting. With the exponential increase in information technology, Mr. Ridge considers it important for us to become a science-based species to prevent a dystopian-type future from occurring.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party at http://transhumanist-party.org/.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out this form.