New Book Out Today! Equal is Unfair, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Equal is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, book coverIt seems like virtually everyone on the political left is talking about income inequality, or inequality of wealth. From Paul Krugman, to Rachel Maddow, to Elizabeth Warren, to Bernie Sanders, to President Obama. They all condemn high levels of income or wealth inequality as unfair and economically destructive.

But what if they’re wrong? What if high income inequality is a good thing for prosperity? What if it’s necessary for the greatest improvement in the lives of the poor? What if the campaign against inequality is actually immoral?

There’s an important new book on income inequality that was just released today. It’s called, Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality. Here are some videos from the authors on the issue of income inequality. The first chapter of the book is also linked below.

The videos:

Bernie Sanders and the Inequality Gimmick:

Who Cares About Inequality?

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Why Fairness Does Not Mean Justice: Some Further Argument

Equal is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, book coverOver three years ago, I wrote an essay discussing the proper meaning of the concepts of “fairness” and “justice,” as I understand them: On Fairness and Justice: Their Meanings, Scopes, and How They Are Not the Same.

My major points in this essay were 1) that the concept of “fairness” presupposes that one is talking about a zero-sum game: a situation devised by a purposeful intelligence to measure people’s attributes, where one person winning requires that another person loses; 2) that life in society and in general does not meet this criterion for “fairness” to apply: people “win” by creating valuable things, and do not need to deprive others of these things to have them; and 3) that societal justice requires the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property, and that it consists in each individual generally being rewarded in proportion to his mental effort and virtuous actions.

In this previous essay, I explained my view of “fairness” and illustrated it with examples, but I did not argue extensively for my conception of that term–why my conception of fairness is correct. I have been prompted to provide further argument by the upcoming release of a book called “Equal is Unfair,” and one of the co-authors’ (Yaron Brook’s) reply to me regarding “fairness”:

I have great respect for Dr. Brook, and am looking forward to his latest book, but I think he’s wrong here: fairness does not mean justice. And the purpose of this post is to argue my case. I encourage those who have not read my previous essay to read it before proceeding on in this one, since it will help set the context for my arguments: On Fairness and Justice.

One of the first things that should spring to mind when someone mentions the word, “fairness,” is the realm of sports and competitions: Is it fair when women are put in competition with men? Is it fair when one team learns the other team’s plays through spying? Is a race where one athlete has artificial legs fair? Is a weightlifting competition fair when steroids are secretly taken, or openly allowed? Is it fair when the Patriots let air out of the football?

Does justice have the same intimate connection with such competitive sports? Is that one of the first things you think of when you think of justice? Probably not. This is our first clue that fairness and justice are different concepts: they seem to be associated with different realms of life.

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Objectivism for Dummies?

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff

A more in-depth, book-length overview of Objectivism.

I find it a bit strange that one of the top Google auto-completes I see for “Objectivism” is “Objectivism for dummies,” considering that there is no “For Dummies” book on this topic. But what it indicates is that there is significant interest in a basic, understandable introduction to Objectivism, the philosophy of the novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand.

If this is what you want, I’d like to recommend my Introduction to Objectivism page. Not only does it have a clear and straightforward presentation of the philosophy of Objectivism, but it also has a large number of links to resources for learning more.

Introduction to Objectivism

I’d also like to recommend reading Ayn Rand’s novels, such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainheadif you haven’t recently–to get a fuller feel for the type of person that Objectivism praises, and the type of life that it holds out as an ideal. As I like to caution, however, Rand’s novels are romantic novels, and they feature extraordinary and dramatic situations. The principles her ideal heroes live by are the ones she advocates, but one must be careful about being too literal, (or, in Ayn Rand’s terminology, “concrete-bound” or “anti-conceptual”) in applying those principles to real life.

Happy learning! 🙂

Sword of Apollo

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The Meaning of “Necessary” Versus “Contingent” Truth

Billiard balls ready to be brokenThere is a long history in philosophy of distinguishing between truths that are “necessary” and truths that are “contingent.”

A necessary truth is a true statement whose negation must imply a contradiction in reality, such that the negation would be impossible.

So, if “One plus one equals two,” is a necessary truth, then the statement “One plus one does not equal two” will imply a contradiction. Given the meanings of “one” and “two,” we can immediately see that the addition of two “ones” (units) always does yield “two,” yet the statement “One plus one does not equal two,” contradicts this. It’s incomprehensible that one plus one should ever add to anything but two. So “One plus one equals two,” is commonly held to be a necessary truth, with its negation being impossible.

A contingent truth is a true statement whose negation does not imply a contradiction in reality, such that the negation could have been the case.

So, if “John married Jessica last Sunday,” is a contingent truth, then the statement “John did not marry Jessica last Sunday,” could have been true, without implying a contradiction in reality. Since John could have chosen not to marry Jessica, or to have married her on a different day, we can see that this is indeed a contingent truth.

The Objectivist View on the Necessary/Contingent Distinction

Objectivism-The Philosophy of Ayn RandCausality (the Law of Cause and Effect) is the Law of Identity applied to action. This means that an entity’s actions follow from its nature. That is, the nature of the entity (its attributes, properties, etc.) causes the action it will take in any given situation. In any given context, there is only one action open to it: the one in accordance with its nature. Any other action would contradict its nature.

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The Basics of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy: Introducing my “Introduction to Objectivism” Page

The happiness of a man whose enlightened mind illuminates the world. Silhouette of Howard Roark with light rays emanating from his head.Hot off the digital press is my “Introduction to Objectivism” page. It conveys the basics of Ayn Rand‘s philosophy in an overview summary. It also explains some of the benefits of learning about her philosophy–called Objectivism–a little about the nature of moral and philosophical principles, and a little about how this rational philosophy fits in with modern science.

Exploring Objectivism is an intellectual adventure that really gives you a greater appreciation for your life, the world around you, and the power of abstract ideas to bring good or evil, success or failure.

So jump on in! 😀

Click here: Introduction to Objectivism

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Book Review — RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance

RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self Reliance, by Don Watkins book coverMost American conservatives, today–however “radical” or “extremist” the political Left calls them–do not openly challenge “big government” in the form of Social Security and Medicare. While some seek a complete repeal of the recent ObamaCare legislation, at most, they want to “reform” these other two programs by a scheme of partial privatization.

Yet, in his recent book, RooseveltCare, Don Watkins demonstrates that the United States grew, prospered, and did quite well at providing for old age for 158 years, before FDR and his fellow “Progressives” pushed Americans into accepting the Social Security program. Watkins also shows that, ultimately, a complete repeal of Social Security is the only moral course of action; any lesser measure, as the ultimate goal, is morally wrong. Social Security is basically an inter-generational Ponzi scheme that is morally bankrupt and does nothing but harm.

RooseveltCare is divided into 2 parts: “The Story of Social Security” and “Social Security: A Verdict.”

The first part is a thorough survey of the history of the United States as it relates to Social Security. The account of the culture of American self-reliance prior to Social Security is inspiring and enjoyable. It includes the plethora of options ordinary people had in dealing with old age and life’s unexpected challenges, both in preparation and response. The account of the rise of Social Security and the welfare state makes clear that these government programs were not something that most Americans considered an obvious necessity, even during the government-created Great Depression. Social Security was pushed by “Progressive” intellectuals, on Americans who had no intellectual defense, (and some operative elements of the un-American morality of self-sacrifice, making them susceptible.)

The second part of RooseveltCare is an exploration of the moral status of Social Security. It takes the arguments of Social Security’s proponents seriously and persuasively shows why they are wrong, (such as that Social Security is an “earned benefit.”) It discusses how and why Social Security is destructive to Americans’ economic and moral well-being. It discusses why “reforms” of the Social Security system are not a morally acceptable endpoint: ultimately, only a complete phase out of the system over a finite number of years will do.

I highly recommend RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance, by Don Watkins. It contains fascinating history, and will help give most people a stronger appreciation for the benefits of liberty and the culture of self-reliance. Workers in 19th-Century America were not downtrodden and were not starving in the streets. Starting out poor was not considered an indignity, to be “corrected” by handouts, but an honorable condition to be improved by diligent work on one’s own behalf. (A huge number of Americans in fact did improve their lot quite significantly this way.) It was, rather, accepting unearned charity and handouts that were often considered beneath one’s stature as a self-reliant adult.

The “Progressive” movement changed these attitudes and made unnecessary dependency morally acceptable in most American’s eyes. This opened the way for government redistribution, and has led to a host of destructive effects, including the destruction of wealth and the elimination of opportunities for investment in new technologies.

If we Americans want a bright future of prosperity, technology, opportunity and self-esteem for ourselves and our children, we need the majority of the population to understand the moral and economic need to completely phase out government entitlement programs. As a first step, we need as many thoughtful people as possible to read Don Watkins’ book:

RooseveltCare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance

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QuickPoint 7: Good Teamwork Is Self-Interested

Kobe Bryant of the Lakers passing the ball.

There’s no “I” in “team.”

So goes the common saying that encapsulates the common idea that good teamwork is selfless. But, punchy as the saying is, (and as correct as its literal meaning is) the idea that good teamwork is selfless is entirely wrong.

When a sport is team-based, it is, by its nature and rules, a cooperative activity. A proper motivation for any individual to become a player of that sport is to enjoy playing as a member of a team and to contribute to the success of the team. To enjoy the team sport, each individual should enjoy putting his skills at the service of the team’s success. The player’s personal interests should be aligned with those of the team.

It is not a selfless sacrifice for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James to refrain from showboating and hogging the basketball, when doing so would be detrimental to their team’s chances of winning. Their personal interests are best served by playing good basketball and winning games.

Ask a football player, who lost the SuperBowl for his team by showboating with the ball, whether what he did was good for him. The answer should be clear enough without having to ask.

Let us rid ourselves of the confusion that sees so many social values, such as teamwork, friendship and love as inherently selfless; while also equating “self-interest,” “egoism” and “selfishness” with shortsightedness, foolishness, childishness, materialism, and the harm of others. Let us clearly recognize that one’s own self-interest–one’s happiness–is not bought at the expense of the interests of other people.

I highly recommend the non-fiction works of Ayn Rand, such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It, along with her novels, such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

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QuickPoint 6: Psychological Egoism is False — Not Everyone is Selfish

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QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual