Apr 222010

On FormSpring, someone asked me whether I agreed with the following quote:

Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights.

Unfortunately, FormSpring managed to delete the question and my reply. Or so I thought for a while: it was actually just delayed in posting. In any case, here’s a slightly edited version of my FormSpring answer:

Oh my god, no no no. That’s horrid libertarian drivel. (I wrote that, then I googled the quote. I was right: it’s from Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty.)

Parents are obliged to care for any child brought willingly into existence (i.e. not aborted) and then brought home (i.e. not adopted). By doing so, the parents create a creature with a right to life, yet utterly dependent on themselves, and they exclude others from caring for it. To do that, then withhold the food, clothing, or education that the child needs to survive in order to become a self-supporting adult — that would be a monstrous violation of that child’s rights.

Parents are obliged to care for their children for the basic reason that the owner of sailboat cannot simply leave a passenger swimming in the middle of the ocean. Contrary to concrete-bound libertarian nonsense, to do that would be an initiation of force and a violation of rights. That’s because the captain has assumed responsibility for safely transporting the swimmer, knowing that the swimmer’s life depends on his doing so. The swimmer has a right to be returned to land, where he can fend for himself. To leave him in the ocean would be murder.

The child is like the swimmer, except without the benefit of consenting to the journey. His parents created him as a dependent being, and they are obliged to nurture him in some very basic ways (e.g. food, clothing, shelter, basic education) until he can fend for himself. Or they must find someone else willing and able to assume that responsibility.

If people want to know why I recoil from the term “libertarian,” the fact that views like Rothbard’s on parental obligations are standard fare should be a clue. Sure, he might talk about rights and free markets, but clearly, his whole understanding of those topics is warped by concrete-bound rationalism about initiating force. If implemented, the practical result of his ideas would be a monstrously barbaric society. I don’t support that, and I won’t tolerate it. I oppose it!

The people who advocate views like Rothbard’s — or tolerate them from their political allies — are not my political allies, except perhaps on some very narrow, concrete issues. And I don’t wish to make common cause with them, nor be included among their number. The mere thought of Rothbard’s views in practice turns my stomach, and I hope that other lovers of liberty have the same reaction.

Apr 012010

A few weeks ago, I got the following anonymous question on FormSpring:

When you decided to jump ship, for the sake of your career, from a reality-oriented to a Leonard Peikoff-oriented flavor of Objectivism, did you use the wet finger in the air method, or the toss a candy wrapper method?

I had loads of fun writing my reply:

Actually, Paul and I used the time-honored method of paper-sissor-rock. However, we rigged the game. Seriously, who wouldn’t take that offer for a 10-million-dollar-a-year position at Oxford if only I’d switch sides? Leonard offered it to me in a secret meeting in the Alps. He’s very tight with that department, as you must know. It was very hush-hush!

Of course, everything that I wrote about the issues and people was complete bullshit. In fact: David Kelley is a paragon of objectivity, deeply wronged. Ed Hudgins is pure genuis. Nathaniel Branden is nothing but honest. Barbara Branden is fairness and sweetness personified. Chris Sciabarra is honorable to the core. In addition, Objectivism has no fixed nature; it’s whatever the community says. Advocates of anarchism, welfare programs, environmental regulations, drug laws, and even pedophilia are stellar allies in the struggle for liberty. And Marxist professors… bless their hearts. They mean well, and that’s good enough for me.

So sure, I made up everything. But I had to cover my tracks! It’s really too bad that you’ve exposed me. I’d better unpack my bags for England. I’ll have to sell the Lexus too, as I’m sure the Leonard will want his “signing bonus” money back. Damn.

You’re totally right to ignore everything that I wrote on these topics. I didn’t mean any of it. Seriously, why bother even considering arguments, when you know my true reasons?!? Facts, schmacts! You’ve seen into my greedy little soul!

Need I say it? Oh sure… NOT.

Whoever you are, you’re so pathetic that you’re actually funny. Thanks for the laugh

(Thanks to Jimmy Wales for suggesting that I post it on April Fool’s Day.)

OCON 2010

 Posted by on 31 March 2010 at 9:00 am  Announcements, FormSpring, OCON
Mar 312010

Remember… today is the last day to register for OCON 2010 in Las Vegas with discount pricing. I’m enthused about all the general sessions, as well as about more of the optional courses than I can possibly attend. In fact, I’m pretty seriously worried that I’m going to burn myself out with this so-called vacation! (I plan to be very careful about eating and sleeping well.)

Here’s my own course:

Luck in the Pursuit of Life: The Rational Egoist’s Approach to Luck:

When most people speak of a businessman’s wealth as “good fortune” or wish a student “good luck” before an exam, they are not speaking in mere idioms. People commonly regard their lives as driven by luck. That’s wrong, yet luck undoubtedly affects us. So what is the practical significance of luck?

To answer that question, this course surveys common false views of luck, focusing on their effects on a person’s ideas and actions. It then develops a proper view, drawing on the insights of Aristotle and Ayn Rand. While Rand’s remarks in her essays are brief, a rich view of the role of luck in life can be unearthed from her novels.

By focusing on the ethics of luck, this course offers fresh insight into the practice of the Objectivist virtues and reveals common errors about luck that hinder us in our pursuits.

I’m going to have all kinds of fun with that!

Update: On FormSpring, I just answered the following question:

OCON prices go up later today. I am thinking of registering but the cost seems so high. I have heard it’s not necessary to register for all General Sessions. Do you recommend this? Any other don’t-miss parts I should consider?

I said (with a few additions):

You can register for the general sessions a la carte. This year, all the general sessions look excellent. (That’s not always true.)

As for optional courses, I recommend choosing two or maybe three courses per session, and choosing courses largely based on the quality of the speaker. Some speakers are consistently awesome, particularly live — such as John Lewis, Robert Mayhew, and Eric Daniels. I’d listen to them speak about varieties of mud, because they’d make that interesting.

I like quite a number of other speakers too, such as Greg Salmieri, Dina Federman, and Brad Thompson. However, sometimes I have to get those courses on audio because my schedule just won’t allow me to take their course live.

(Note: The names I’ve mentioned are people who happen to be speaking this year. Craig Biddle isn’t, for example, but I always love his courses. Oh, and some other good speakers tend to speak on topics of little interest to me.)

I do avoid a few speakers, based on past experiences. (If you want to know who those people are, you can e-mail me. My experiences are somewhat old… and hopefully outdated.)

Of course, much depends on scheduling. I have to miss John Lewis entirely this year because I’m speaking opposite him.

Honestly though, this OCON looks to be one of the best ever in terms of its line-up of speakers. And it’s likely to be Leonard Peikoff’s last speaking event.

I wouldn’t miss it!

(Yes, I will be posting my various FormSpring Q&As to NoodleFood soon. I’ve got some gems!)

Ask Me Anything

 Posted by on 3 March 2010 at 3:00 pm  FormSpring, Fun, Personal
Mar 032010

I’ve been having too much fun on Twitter with this little widget, so I thought I should post it here too:

Beware: It’s fun! So even if you ask me a serious question, you might get a very silly reply in return.

Also, I wonder… will this be the next Twitter?

Update: The list of questions that I’ve answered can be found here.

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