“May Your Chains Sit Lightly Upon You…”

“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say ‘what should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth?

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

Samuel Adams
Speech before the State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, August 1, 1776.

Is American Decline Inevitable?

The New Reagan Revolution

“Congressman Mike Pence told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), ‘You know, I am told that officials in [the Obama] administration will actually admit in private that they see their job as “managing American decline.” So let me say from my heart, the job of the American president is not to manage American decline. The job of the American president is to reverse it.’

“Charles Krauthammer, in his Wriston Lecture at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, October 5, 2009, said, ‘The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory . . . is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.’

“If America fails, a new Dark Age awaits. So the failure of our ‘City on a Hill’ is not an option. No matter how this dangerous world threatens, no matter how cravenly our leaders respond to those threats, we who truly love America and cherish freedom do not have to accept decline. We choose faith, hope, and love of liberty. We choose optimism. We choose to ignite a revolution to restore America—a New Reagan Revolution.

“As Krauthammer said, ‘Decline—or continued ascendancy—is in our hands.'”

—Michael Reagan, The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan’s Principle Can Restore America’s Greatness Today.

President Obama and Congressional Republicans Have Made Free Speech a Felony

The Republicans passed HR 437 as an anti-Occupy measure. President Obama signed it to insulate himself from protesters during the 2012 campaign. The Republicans and Democrats have conspired together to criminalize the First Amendment. The ghosts of the founding fathers demand to know why our so-called “leaders” have voided and vacated the rights they bled and died for.

France is Scroomed and So Are We

The Armstrong and Getty Show, April 23, 2012, Hour 3 (Podcast), Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty:

Jack: In France, everybody is running on the “what can I give you more of” platform, including Sarkozy. So, unlike all the other countries that got the message, “Hey, we’re broke, they’re rioting in the streets, we’ve got to tighten our belts, the good times are over,” France is completely ignoring that in their presidential election and all the candidates are running on the platform of, “Oh, you want to lower the retirement age from 65 to 62, I want to lower it to 58!” “Oh yeah? Well I want to make it 52! And I want to have a million more teachers on the government payroll.” They’re all running on the bigger government, the “give-people-more-stuff” platform. This guy, François Hollande (of the French Socialist Party), who beat out Sarkozy yesterday, wants to tax the rich, anyone who makes €1 million or more, 75 percent.

Joe: That seems fair.

Jack: The guy to the left of him, who got beat out, wanted to tax the rich—who he defined as anyone making more than €500,000—at a rate of 100 percent.

Joe: Now, that’s confiscatory.

Jack: And he just barely got edged out. And he was advocating a tax of 100 percent of everything over €500,000.

Joe: How much effort does he think people are going to put into making money and to create jobs and to grow companies, if the government is going to confiscate 100 percent of their earnings? Screw you. To hell with you, France. If the Germans invade again, we’re just going to watch TV. We’re just going to say, “I don’t hear anything, I don’t see anything,” achtung!

Jack: It’s an interesting idea. Because if I make $500,000, and every dollar over that I make, the government gets all that, there are only a couple of options. You’d figure out a way to cheat and hide it somehow, or you’d hire somebody to pretend they’re you and take part of your business. You’d have to do something like that.

Joe: Well, you’d find a way to deny the government that revenue. And the vast majority of people would just not put in the effort anymore.

You know, the free market has lifted more people out of poverty than anything conceived of by man, bar none. But everyone wants to do away with it in the name of “fairness.” You want fairness? Let the market work.

Jack: “A Country in Denial” was the article in The Economist. By ignoring their economic problems, France’s politicians are making it impossible to solve those problems. Everybody still thinks the party is not over. You can still just give people stuff, promise them anything, let them retire early, it’s amazing! It’s really quite amazing.

But you know, we’re more or less there in the United States. We’re in not quite as dire a situation as France, because our economy is so good. But we are headed in that direction, and we are still acting like nothing was wrong.

Joe: Okay, here’s the calculation that politicians are making. If you don’t deal with politicians as often as we do, you can’t conceive of how cynical they are. The calculation they make is, “Will the ess hit the fan, will the disaster happen during my term?” And if the answer is no by as little as a day, then they will continue doing politics as usual, the pandering, the income redistribution, the overspending—unless it’s going to happen on their watch. And literally, if it’s one day after their power is no longer an issue to them, then they don’t care, they don’t care.

They are beating the hell out of our children and we’re letting them.

Jack: The vast majority of politicians are cowards who just want to hang onto their job while they’ve got it.

Joe: And a majority of Americans don’t pay income tax anyway, so it doesn’t really seem like an issue to them.

It’s the human beast. It’s an ugly, ugly beast. The human beast is capable of unspeakable selfishness and evil. Once in a while, you know, once every couple hundred years, some great thinkers come together to design a government that somehow staves off the ugliness of humanity long enough to build a great culture. But sooner or later, We the People figure out a way to screw the pooch and ruin it. And we’re about there—scroomed.*

[*Note: Scroomed is an Armstrong & Getty term. Derivation: Screwed + doomed = scroomed.]

Jack: France, which is further down the road of being scroomed then we are, the guy who currently leads to become the next president of France, is running on, “I’m going to move the retirement age from 65 to 62, and taxing people who make over €1 million at a rate of 75 percent.

Joe: Wow, that’s a kick in the baguette.

Juan Williams on the Intolerance of the Left

“You know what? When I see the terrible out-of-wedlock birth rate in this country, I think, ‘My God, something’s wrong! The family is breaking down!’ When I see kids dropping out of school, especially the Latino and Black kids, 50 percent, I think it’s an outrage! I think something is wrong in the culture when you’re putting down education and you’re building up gangster rappers and those kinds of people. So if that means I am conservative, well okay. But to my mind, what you have going on here is you’ve got the family and the culture going in the wrong direction. I think a lot of people should be standing up and saying it for what it is. And I’ll tell you one other thing, Bill—and this is something that comes out of my friendship with you. I’ve come to understand that when I say anything that doesn’t hold to the orthodoxy of the far left, they are far more vicious and personal, more ad hominem in their attacks against me, then anything on the right. Historically, I always thought it’s the far right that’s closed-minded. No, Bill, I’ve discovered the far left is extremely harsh—harsh!—and punishing when you don’t say everything they want you to say and stick to their orthodoxy.”

JUAN WILLIAMS on The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel, hosted by Bill O’Reilly, Monday, March 2, 2009

Robert A. Heinlein Quotations

Action

“Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong — but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.”
Double Star (1956)

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Age

“Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin.”
Methuselah’s Children (1958)

Altruism

“If tempted by something that feels ‘altruistic,’ examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Change

“People don’t really want change, any change at all — and xenophobia is very deep-rooted. But we progress, as we must — if we are to go out to the stars.”
Double Star (1956)

Death

“‘Die trying’ is the proudest human thing.”
Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)

“Heaven help me, I could not see the far end! The smoke had billowed up and my eyes would barely open and would not focus. So I pushed on, while trying to remember the formula by which one made a deathbed confession and then slid into Heaven on a technicality.
“Maybe there wasn’t any such formula.”
Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)

Democracy

“Democracy’s greatest fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents—a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect? So take a look at Douglas and ponder that, in his ignorance, stupidity, and self-seeking, he much resembles his fellow Americans, including you and me . . . and that in fact he is a notch or two above the average. Then take a look at the man who will replace him if his government topples.”
“There’s precious little choice.”
“There’s always a choice! This one is a choice between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’—which is a difference much more poignant than that between ‘good’ and ‘better.'”
[Dialogue between Jubal Harshaw and Ben Caxton, [The Original Uncut] Stranger in a Strange Land (1991)

“Does history record any case in which the majority was right?”
The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (1978).

“If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for, but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Duty

“Do not confuse ‘duty’ with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
“But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants ‘just a few minutes of your time, please — this won’t take long.’
“Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!
“So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary.
“Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
“(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is ‘expected’ of you.)”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Excellence versus Mediocrity

“Some people insist that ‘mediocre’ is better than ‘best.’ They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none.”
Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)

Excess

“Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Experts

“Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Freedom

“Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”
If This Goes On (1940)

“Free will is a golden thread running through the frozen matrix of fixed events.”
The Rolling Stones (1952)

“I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. ”
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

Government

“I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand’s; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I’m sick of the way the government sticks its nose into everything, now.”
(Interview, date unknown)

Human Beings (Humanity)

“If men were the automatons that behaviorists claim they are, the behaviorist psychologists could not have invented the amazing nonsense called ‘behaviorist psychology.'”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Laws

“Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft.”
Red Planet (1949)

“My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.”
The Door Into Summer (1957)

“Nobody ever wins a lawsuit but the lawyers.”
The Door Into Summer (1957)

Learning

“Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn’t often, on their own, the hard way.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Life

“Life is short, but the years are long.”
Methuselah’s Children (1958)

Love

“Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

Meaning

“No philosophy that he had ever heard or read gave any reasonable purpose for man’s existence, nor any rational clue to his proper conduct. Basking in the sunshine might be as good a thing to do with one’s life as any other — but it was not for him and he knew it, even if he could not define how he knew it.”
Methuselah’s Children (1958)

“A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Patriotism

“Patriotism is not sentimental nonsense. Nor something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man’s evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.”
Speech to the U.S. Naval Academy (1973)

Reason, Logic, and Thought

“When a fact came along, he junked theories that failed to match.”
Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)

“Logic is a feeble reed, friend. ‘Logic’ proved that airplanes can’t fly and that H-bombs won’t work and that stones don’t fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn’t happen yesterday won’t happen tomorrow.”
Glory Road (1963)

“Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.”
Assignment in Eternity (1953)

“One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.”
Life-Line (1939)

“The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.”
Revolt in 2100 (1953)

Science

“If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Strong Drink

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors — and miss.”
The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (1978).

Trust

“I don’t trust a man who talks about ethics when he is picking my pocket. But if he is acting in his own self-interest and says so, I have usually been able to work out some way to do business with him.”
Time Enough for Love (1973)

Parasitic Government

Charles Krauthammer, from Special Report with Bret Baier, Monday, April 16, 2012, about the House hearings on the GSA spending scandal:

“What Representative Cummings said was quite interesting because he said it’s a basic tenet of government that it’s not your money. It’s the taxpayers’ money. But he’s missing the point. It’s a basic tenet of human nature that if you’re spending other people’s money you’ll be less careful than you would than with your own. And that’s the central argument against big government.

“Apart from the content of the programs or the objective of the programs, it’s a fact that the government exists—parasitically—on the money of the taxpayers, and everything it spends is something that’s been sucked out of the private economy. And intrinsically, that money being spent by a bureaucrat rather than by the person who originally had the money, is going to be spent with more negligence, and more waste, and more disregard for the ultimate good than if it were in the hand of the private citizen.

“That’s why Obama will suffer. The Obama administration isn’t responsible for [the GSA Las Vegas spending scandal]. This undoubtedly happened in Bush years and other years. It’s intrinsic. However, Obama and the Democrats are the party of government who believe in expanding it, have expanded it, and want it to continue to expand. The Republicans are the party of smaller government. And as a result, when government does crazy things that are offensive to the people who support it, it will hurt the party of government. It will hurt Obama.”

Hayek versus Keynes, 1978

Friedrich Hayek (interviewed by Thomas W. Hazlett) talks about the failed legacy of Keynesianism, November 12, 1978.

POTUS and the Ministry of Truth

The Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”

The President of the United States, April 12, 2012: “We could call it the ‘Reagan Rule’ instead of the ‘Buffett Rule.”

Clearly, POTUS, like the Ministry of Truth, believes that if you pour syrup on it, then it must be a pancake.

Full story at ABC News Political Punch.

The Puzzle of Existence and a Puddle of Doubt

A very smart man once wrote a very stupid thing in a book.

The smart man’s name was Douglas Adams, and the book was his posthumously published The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (New York: Ballantine, 2002; pages 131-132). Adams died of a heart attack in Santa Barbara in May 2001; he was only 49. I’m a longtime fan of Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. But in this instance, Adams’ analogy—known as The Puddle Analogy—is far less profound than he supposed.

Adams’ Puddle Analogy has been cited many times by various writers as a satirical demonstration of the “fallacy” of the “fine-tuned universe” argument. The Wikipedia article “Fine-Tuned Universe” quotes the Puddle Analogy and notes that the fine-tuned universe argument has been called “puddle thinking” by some critics. And Richard Dawkins quotes The Puddle Analogy in A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (page 169), adding that he had heard the Adams analogy numerous times and “thought it was more brilliant every time.”

Here is the stupid thing Douglas Adams wrote:

Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

Here’s why The Puddle Analogy is stupid:

Adams begins: “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking…” He doesn’t seem to realize that, in order for a puddle to wake up and think its first thought, a vast number of interconnected and incredibly unlikely coincidences have to occur.

The Big Bang had to happen, and the Big Bang had to explode with just the right amount of force to allow matter to disperse evenly and smoothly and allow galaxies to form. Had the Big Bang not been precisely fine-tuned, our universe might consist of nothing but tenuous hydrogen gas—or a single supermassive black hole. The laws of nature had to be laid down at the instant of the Big Bang, and had to be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in the trillions before the universe itself could exist, much less a contemplative puddle.

The electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force all had to be perfectly balanced in order for stars to form and begin cooking up the elements needed to make planets—silicon, nickel, iron, oxygen, magnesium, and so forth. Adams’ pensive puddle could not find itself sitting in “an interesting hole” unless the hole was situated on a planet orbiting a star that was part of a galaxy that was created by the incredibly fine-tuned forces and conditions of the Big Bang.

And in order for that puddle to wake up one morning and think at all, it would need to be a lot more complex than a mere puddle of water. A thinking puddle would be a very complex puddle. Even if that puddle were comprised of exotic alien nerve cells suspended in a matrix of liquid ammonia, it would certainly need something like lipid molecules and protein structures and nucleic acids in order to become sufficiently evolved as to wake up and contemplate its own existence.

Such components require the existence of carbon. And if you know anything about where carbon comes from, you know that carbon doesn’t grow on trees. It is formed in an amazingly fine-tuned process involving the precise placement of a nuclear resonance level in a beryllium atom. Any enlightened plashet would have to conclude that a superintellect had monkeyed with physics, chemistry, and the biological composition of pools and puddles.

The rest of Douglas Adams’ scenario, in which “the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and … the puddle gets smaller and smaller” is meaningless in view of the fact that dozens and dozens of events, forces, and conditions have to interact in a fine-tuned way in order for the sun to exist, the air to exist, the sky to exist, and the hole in the ground to exist, so that a puddle can wake up one morning and wonder about its place in the cosmic order.

No analogy is perfect, of course, but The Puddle Analogy is downright misleading. It misrepresents the essence of the fine-tuning argument. An analogy should simplify, but not over-simplify.

And that’s why The Puddle Analogy that Richard Dawkins thinks is so brilliant is actually kinda dumb.