Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Friday, 13 August 2010

A poem by Omar Khayyam - Never before has scepticism sounded so beautiful.

The bird of life is singing on the bough
His two eternal notes of "I and Thou"—
O! hearken well, for soon the song sings through,
And, would we hear it, we must hear it now.

The bird of life is singing in the sun,
Short is his song, nor only just begun,—
A call, a trill, a rapture, then—so soon!—
A silence, and the song is done—is done.

Yea! What is man that deems himself divine?
Man is a flagon, and his soul the wine;
Man is a reed, his soul the sound therein;
Man is a lantern, and his soul the shine.

Would you be happy! hearken, then, the way:
Heed not To-morrow, heed not Yesterday;
The magic words of life are Here and Now—
O fools, that after some to-morrow stray!

Were I a Sultan, say what greater bliss
Were mine to summon to my side than this,—
Dear gleaming face, far brighter than the moon!
O Love! and this immortalizing kiss.

To all of us the thought of heaven is dear—
Why not be sure of it and make it here?
No doubt there is a heaven yonder too,
But 'tis so far away—and you are near.

Men talk of heaven,—there is no heaven but here;
Men talk of hell,—there is no hell but here;
Men of hereafters talk, and future lives,—
O love, there is no other life—but here.

Look not above, there is no answer there;
Pray not, for no one listens to your prayer;
Near is as near to God as any Far,
And Here is just the same deceit as There.

But here are wine and beautiful young girls,
Be wise and hide your sorrows in their curls,
Dive as you will in life's mysterious sea,
You shall not bring us any better pearls.

Allah, perchance, the secret word might spell;
If Allah be, He keeps His secret well;
What He hath hidden, who shall hope to find?
Shall God His secret to a maggot tell?

So since with all my passion and my skill,
The world's mysterious meaning mocks me still,
Shall I not piously believe that I
Am kept in darkness by the heavenly will?

The Koran! well, come put me to the test—
Lovely old book in hideous error drest—
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
The unbeliever knows his Koran best.

And do you think that unto such as you,
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,
God gave the Secret, and denied it me?—
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too.

Old Khayyám, say you, is a debauchee;
If only you were half so good as he!
He sins no sins but gentle drunkenness,
Great-hearted mirth, and kind adultery.

But yours the cold heart, and the murderous tongue,
The wintry soul that hates to hear a song,
The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye,
And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.

So I be written in the Book of Love,
I have no care about that book above;
Erase my name, or write it, as you please—
So I be written in the Book of Love.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Christopher Hitchens - A tribute unworthy...

Where do you start? Where do you start, in attempting to write (!) a tribute to a literary and intellectual giant? Do you borrow a quote from Shakespeare or Wilde? Do you attempt to make a comparison between the man you are honouring and other masters in similar fields? Or do you, as the old ridiculous expression goes, write "from the heart"?

Well, I shan't do either. I am just not worthy to write a tribute to Christopher Hitchens, nor do I possess the eloquence and linguistic talent it would require to do such a tribute justice. But I will still attempt to write one, just because I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I didn't.

You see, my dear reader, Christopher Hitchens is one of those rare human beings that comes around only once in any generation, if you're lucky. Someone who refuses to accepts the norms. Someone who doesn't stand up for his cause because it is the right thing to do, but because he inhabits and lives by all those principles that make the cause right in the first place. A man who doesn't stand up against oppression or the rule of majority because it is the brave thing to do, but because he wouldn't deem himself worthy of the air he breathes if he didn't.

Hitchens has at times spoken of his regret of not having fought in a just war, like his father or George Orwell, an inspiration of his, once had. This is the only time in my life I will ever be able to write this sentence: How wrong you are, Mr. Hitchens! You have fought against that most unholy of wars, The Holy Wars. You have been a general in the fight against religious dictatorship, fascism, oppression, despotism, subjugation and tyranny. You have been a commander for those of us who wanted to fight, but lacked the weapons and ammunitions to take the beast of religion on. And you have been the inspiration for our courage. Don't ever doubt it or degrade it.

I always thought that if I ever had the ability to write a book, my first one would be titled: "Why Hitchens matters". I used to think of what I would say to Christopher if I would ever have the chance to see him in real life. My first initial thought was perhaps the best one, and the one I would opt for: "It's a privilege to be alive in the same era as you, Sir."

Last night, I saw Anderson Coopers interview with the cancer-sick Hitchens. And I broke down and wept. For the first time in many years. I didn't even know how much the man had meant to me, and how much he had given me, whether it'd be verbal ammunition, rhetorical strategy or, probably most importantly, unquenchable, uncompromising, unequivocal sense of duty to stand up for what I believe in. And how do you write a tribute to a person who has given you such a gift?

Christopher Hitchens, you have been my Orwell, my Spinoza, my Jefferson. And I am as grateful to you for your achievements as you are to them. And I hope with all my heart science will defeat the ruthless alien inhabiting your body. The world is a better place with you in it.

Yours truly,
Darius Aryan

Monday, 28 June 2010

A debate about Libertarianism

The great Prof. Massimo Pigliucci (whose new book "Nonsense on stilts" I recommend you buy!) had the following status on Facebook today:

From my friend Rob Boston: "Atlas Shrugged is a poorly written, pendantic piece of neo-fascist propaganda that doesn't deserve a spot on any high school's summer reading list - unless the purpose is to help teens learn the difference between turgid junk and real literature."

This sparked a debate between me, and several others, mostly people who oppose Rand's ideas. The following conversation took place (keep reading, it does get heated towards the end):


I just bought "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" published in 1966, by Ayn Rand. Have not read it yet, but I'll look out for the turgid junk...


Argumetum ad amicus?


You do have to wonder how a hack novelist with delusions of grandeur can still manage to have followers so long after her death.


See: Scientology.


What a solid and valid argument! I mean i know that you're a philosophy teacher, but I've never seen such an amazing use of logic and reason before! You legitimately and flawlessly provided counter arguments to the book's philosophy, without any fallacies whatsoever. I'm so glad that someone like you is suggesting what should or shouldn't be read.

Darius Amir Aryan (Me)
Well, Mr Boston, brilliant as he may be in his own field, fails to provide any actual arguments against the philosophy of the book, although I am sure he would do if challenged. But why Prof. Pigliucci puts this comment on as his status is beyond me, frankly. How about this: "Charles Darwin's book 'On the origin of species' is a nonsensical, pathetic raid against spirituality and should be burned!". So, what? What does a meaningless and empty opinion matter?


In her essay for College English, Mimi R. Gladstein called the book "philosophically feminist" and praised the character of Dagny Taggart: "She is the head of a railroad. She has sexual relationships with three men and retains their love and respect. She is not demeaned or punished for her emancipation, sexual or professional. She is a rarity in American fiction — a heroine who not only survives, but prevails.


Because it's funny. Lighten up.


We are just using the words of book critiques to debunk objectivism right? Here's another...

Ronald E. Merrill praised Atlas Shrugged for its manifold literary construction and compelling character portrayal: "A complete, radically new philosophy is expounded, and with astonishing clarity. The practical implications of philosophical ideas are ... See moreillustrated on every level, from metaphysics to epistemology to ethics to politics to economics to esthetics. The novel's plot is a miracle of organization. And with all this, the book is a thrilling page-turner."


That was my point, to spark a challenge. I want to hear his justification for his accusation.


once again, nothing like posting anything about objectivism or libertarianism to spike the number of hits on my web pages.

no, I'm not going to provide a detailed analysis, I've done that in many other places (check my blog). as for Taggart's and Gladstein's comments, sometimes laughter is the best response.

Darius Amir Aryan:

Prof. Pigliucci, I have read most, if not all, your blogs on the subject, and I have to say (with all due respect) that I personally find them somewhat... short of substance. You spend a lot of time speaking about Ayn Rand herself, or her views on Libertarianism, as if any of it counts as relevant criticism of Objectivism. What if Rand herself ... See moreturned in to a cult leader, or began an affair with one of her much younger disciples? What does that say of the philosophy? I couldn't care if she bathed in whipped cream and invited stray cats over, her philosophy is still extremely poignant.

I think there is something to be said in favour of "Atlas Shrugged" when people like Peter Schiff, Stefan Molyneux and John Allison consider the book if not the most, then certainly one of the most influential literary work they have come across.


The most influential literary work is the Bible, which suggests that maybe being popular and influential is not a criteria for establishing whether a work has merit.

Darius Amir Aryan:

A blind man can find a $10 note, does that suggest that sight is not a criteria for discovery? False premise, I'm afraid. The people I mentioned deal with economics and are extremely successful in their fields because they apply their acquired knowledge from Rand's book in to their daily practices. Still says a lot.


Darius, you might want to re-read my blog entries on libertarianism, they are substantive, with only occasional comments on Rand's (despicable) character. Of course, it's a blog, not a scholarly journal. And I think that Michael's comment about the Bible is exactly right.


People who get too carried away with a book need to take a deep breath. I enjoyed Atlas. I agree with the underlying principles. Terry Goodkind exaggerates in a similar way in "Faith of the Fallen". Exaggeration is little more than a way to create an evil. Writers like to have something evil to point at. Villains are great foils. They keep us ... See morereading. If the reader doesn't keep reading, the book doesn't keep getting read.

Finding truth in a book is a personal thing. It is up to each individual to make the truth relevant. Does the "truth" allow you to make better decisions? Then wonderful. Does it make you make bad decisions? Then rethink the truth.

Barry F:


Darius Amir Aryan

So, "On the origin of species" is nonsense, because you were influenced by it? I mean, come on! It's a ridiculous argument.
I'll re-read your blog entries again, and come back to you, if you wish. But I want to know how it is that a book that actually promotes individual liberty above everything else can possibly be so misconstrued to be "neo-facsist" propaganda? That's just pathetic and dishonest...

Barry F:

Whats pathetic and dishonest is that Rands book was bout liberty when it was really about Rugged Individualism of the Pathological sort.

Darius Amir Aryan:

Rugged individualism....That's a new one. All the arguments I've ever heard against Individualism have been empty semantics, without any substance. Thanks for proving that once again


Darius, be careful accusing peep of intellectual dishonesty, they can honestly disagree with you. And the parallel with Darwin is a non sequitur.

Barry F:

"Individuality is not to be confused with the various ideas and concepts of Individualism; much less with “rugged individualism... See more” which is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality. So-called Individualism is the social and economic laissez faire: the exploitation of the masses by the classes by means of legal trickery, spiritual debasement and systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit, which process is known as “education.” That corrupt and perverse “individualism” is the strait-jacket of individuality. It has converted life into a degrading race for externals, for possession, for social prestige and supremacy. Its highest wisdom is “the devil take the hindmost.”

"This “rugged individualism” has inevitably resulted in the greatest modern slavery, the crassest class distinctions, driving millions to the breadline. “Rugged individualism” has meant all the “individualism” for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking “supermen.” America is perhaps the best representative of this kind of individualism, in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues; while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as “unAmerican” and evil in the name of that same individualism." - Emma Goldman

Nuff Said.

Darius Amir Aryan:

@ Prof Pigliucci
So is the Bible-argument!!! Exactly my point! As for accusations, I call it as I see it. No matter your objections against Objectivism, it can't by any honest, intelligent measures be considered fascism, when it is exactly the opposite of it. So yes, it is pathetic and dishonest.

@ Barry F,
... See more
Why didn't you just use an excerpt from "Das Kapital" or "The Communist Manifesto"? Now at least I know where you are coming from. So, which category does Prof. Pigliucci belong to, the slaves or the self-seeking supermen? And why is that America has the highest portion of immigrants seeking citizenship in the world? I mean, what Goldman is proposing is that America is the worst place on earth, and the opposite of America would be Cuba. So why is that Cubans risk their lives fleeing to America, but you never heat about Americans doing the reverse?

Nuff said. ;)


The accusation of fascism comes from the fact that fascism also has emphasized individualism. The analogy is only partial, but you are making too much of a casual comment. Not that I think I can ever convince you, I have now come to the conclusion that objectivism is a faith, and as thus entirely immune to any rational argument. Rather ironic, given the whole point of objectivism (but, again, presciently reflected in Rand's own life).


I will provide a detailed analysis, albeit one I wrote some years ago under a pseudonym. My main argument is that the book is poor literature and propaganda. There is much better material out there for high schoolers:


Tyranny by the corporation is still tyranny, and every bit as controlling as governmental tyranny. An age of robber barons didn't work in the past and it won't work in the future. Shifting power from governmental powers onto commercial ones doesn't further the cause of liberty as nothing has fundamentally changed. It's just a cheap magic trick ... See morewhere you've given the impression that you've transferred the ball from one hand to the other and then made it vanish when in actually, the ball never moved.

The only difference is that under a representative democracy, the interests of individuals ideally are actually represented whereas under corporate control, it's only the shareholders whose interests are represented. Real liberty comes from a system where strong checks and balances exist within and between government and commercial powers to optimize our means of catching and stamping out corruption.

Barry F:

I did not use an excerpt from Marx/Engels because they tended to be more interested in talking about the problems of capitalism per say and advocated for a less than libertarian version of socialism to bring the planet to communism (which never happened, as we all know). I instead used a quote from Anarchist Emma Goldman who not only saw the ... See moreproblems with capitalism, but also with dominance hierarchies and, therefore, the religiously advocated notions of self over community. As a libertarian socialist, she makes more sense to me than Marx did in this instance.

Massimo seems to be a social democrat which I see as an ideology not willing to see capitalism for all its problems.. not enough to agree to dismantle it, at leas.. and yet wants some of the egalitarianism anarchism or left-wing Marxism can bring to society.. but falsely believes with the Liberals that the State can somehow accomplish this.. which is silly, of course. So I guess he is part of each :)

Why immigrants? Because it is easier to live in the nation which exploits almost all others than to be in the nations which get exploited. I don't see many running from Scandinavia or France here, most coming are from nations which are victims of US foreign policy or neoliberal globalization.. especially from Latin America.

Cuba is not the opposite of America. Its state socialist more than state capitalist, and even though it's people are overall better treated by their economy, it's not a democracy. The opposite of America does not exist in Nation-State form.

Darius Amir Aryan:

Well, luckily for us, you don't get to decide whether or not it is a faith. Objectivism is as much of a faith as any other philosophical branch. I mean, who spoke more about individual freedom, Ayn Rand or Aristotle and his proto-liberalism?
As for fascism emphasizing individualism, nothing could be more empirically incorrect. Immune to rational ... See moreargument? Please present one and put your theory to the test! So far it's been empty semantics and ad hominems. If you wish, I can start. As long as I don't hurt anyone else, or intrude in their privacy or liberty, am I not free to do whatever I wish?

Barry F:

You are right on Michael. The problem with Right-Wing Libertarians is that in their haste to rid America of the State, they suggest a de-facto state (privatized power) whether in the form of the Corporation or even in more decentralized, non-monopoly business'. What they fail to understand is that once those with the resources at their fingertips... See more (put there by either luck of geography for via force) begin to amass wealth, they will need to protect that wealth from those without and from those they exploit. THAT will require some sort of POLICE, either a State or Private Entity with the same sort of power.

And you are right, at least with Liberal or Social democracy, the rest of us sometimes have some say (but very little today as we head toward fascism because of the marriage between Washington and MultiNationals), with Private "States", it would be worse than even fascism.

Darius Amir Aryan:

WOW! You are even more radical than I thought... Not many people from France and Scandinavia moving to America??? Check the facts mate! I can assure you it's about twelve times more than the opposite from Sweden, that haven of Social Democracy.

As for exploitation of nations... So, Cuba is being exploited by America? Is that it? And Venezuela? And Zimbabwe?
... See more
How about Ghana, that transformed itself from a developing nation in to a rising economy because they adopted capitalism? Or Taiwan, that went from being as poor as Nigeria to being as rich as Spain in 30 years thanks to Capitalism? How about Sweden, that thanks to those *exact* principles Libertarians argue for, went from being one of the poorest countries in Europe at the end of last century to being the second richest by 1950's? People like you, who just look at current situation of Sweden without knowing anything of its past just assume it is because of Social Democracy, not knowing that all the wealth we still live on in Sweden came from the laissez faire system we had from 1900-1950's.

As for globalisation: Aren't you using internet as we speak? Do you watch TV? Do you eat Chinese food? Do you listen to Beethoven? Do you enjoy Shakespeare? All of these are globalisation. So stop being a hypocrite.

As for Socialism:

Nuff Said. ;)

Ps. I wonder what Prof. Pigliucci thinks, now that you have *decided* that he is partly a slave, partly a self-seeking superman. Because it obviously is up to you to decide.

@ Michael, no one is saying an abolishment of State, as Seidman so dishonestly puts it. Every libertarian I know of wants a state to protect the individual rights and such. Nor are we advocating to transfer power from the government to the corporations, obviously that would be pointless, as you very correctly point out. But how about giving the ... See morepower back to the individual? Let us decide over our own lives?
If a person wishes to use drugs, for example, who has the *right* to say that he/she is not allowed to do so? Or if someone wants to sell their body? etc.
As for economics, I want the power in my hand, not the government. Like Milton Friedman put it, there are only two kinds of money, my money and your money. And I sure as hell am much better and more careful when I am dealing with my money than when I deal with your money. I mean, isn't the current recession the best evidence of that??? How much more governmental catastrophes do you need before you say "maybe the government isn't as good as taking care of my money as I would be myself!".


as I said, no argument will make a dent...


Because Locke & Jefferson's statements were incomplete. You say giving power "back" to the individual but back from when? For the whole of human history, individuals did not have unalienable rights, but were at the mercy of those other individuals who amassed greater power, enough to control the masses. It was only after new governments built on ... See moreenlightenment principles changed the fundamental nature of government into our present form of democracy that the individual was empowered to take ownership of their own lives in the first place.

And while you say you say you have no desire to rid the individual of the state's protection, that seems to clearly be the inevitable consequence of a libertarian system. Protecting the individual means ensuring the most people in the society have access to quality education, quality health care, food, employment, roads, bridges, etc. So then it seems to me that what we're talking about is knocking down civilization only to just rebuild a nearly identical one only with slightly different people making the big decisions. Cause ultimately, you're still going to need people to make these decisions about education and health care and road and bridges and who ensures people have access to clean water, etc. These are important issues and they can't just be waved away. This requires teamwork not individuals out for themselves. You need a clear, carefully laid out infrastructure to address these concerns and to ensure it's done right. Now you can call that whatever you want but its government by any other name.

Barry F:

Darius, I am beginning to think Massimo is correct... sounds like I am talking to a fundamentalist here. If folks move from France or Sweden, I am sure it's not because they feel exploited by social democracy! Not that social democracy is anything it used to be thanks to neoliberal global *USA* capitalism. Methinks you're just making things up... See more :)

Of course Cuba has been exploited and often abused by America... as has Venesuela. See the film End of Poverty? And I am not just talking about colonialism or imperialism, but US forced Global Capitalism via the World Bank and the IMF.

And no, the wealth Sweden had (and is loosing) came from post 1945, not pre-1950. Fundamentalist facts again, Darius?

And in the nations adding capitalism of late, I don't consider "wealth" when the few have it and the masses don't. You seem to miss the fact that in places like China and India capitalism is helping the few and not the many as the gap between rich and poor grows.

And I am talking about neoliberal capitalist globalization, you are not.

That video is from the right wing think tank AEI.. not an objective source whatsoever. Also, what they had in the USSR was NEVER communism. I thought I said that already?

I am not deciding anything, Darius.. just stating objective facts no matter HOW Massimo "feels."

As for your comments to Michael.. you confuse civil liberties with capitalist Libertarianism. And I don't know about Michael, but I DO want to get rid of the State.. public or private.. but we can't do that while we still have capitalism.

Any anarchist would agree with you on folks making their own choices about drugs, but today the state and industry and capitalism makes the rules.

I am also for the abolishment of money as a means to accumulate wealth.

Right again Michael.. my only comment would be that we need to find a way to dismantle hierarchal government and put into place a truly democratic, horizontal governance. Plus we need to find a way to share the world's resources (natural and human-made) in a fair, and egalitarian way.. for each individual in every community.. not based on accumulated capital.

Darius Amir Aryan:

@Michael, thank you for an intelligent response, been lacking so far in this debate, I feel. I think we need to distinguish *rights* from, say, *necessities*. There are, as I can see it, two kinds of rights: Positive rights and Negative rights. A Negative right is for example your right to life, as no one has the right to take it away from you, ... See morewhich requires a positive action. Therefore, these rights you mentioned, I believe, may, as you very correctly pointed out, not have been *acknowledged* by rulers of the past, but they certainly have been there! It is true, that thanks to the enlightenment and liberal ideas, predominantly from the founding fathers of USA, that these became more self evident, but I call such rights Objective Rights, because any intrusion in them need a positive action that need to be justified from an objective point of view, which is impossible.
Now, as for health care, roads and such. Why stop there? Why shouldn't the government be in charge of *everything*? This is, remember, the same governments that can't even count votes correctly. And name me one thing that the public sector does more efficiently than the private sector? Why? Because the private sector is run by people who have self interest at stake. This gives more incentive to do a better job. Example:
We have two persons. Jack and John. They both have 50 pairs of shoes to sell. Jack will receive $500 no matter how many shoes he sells. John, on the other hand, will not receive any wages, but for every pair of shoes he sells, he will get $50. Who do you think will sell more shoes? That's the difference between public sector and private sector. When there is an incentive, a profit to motivate, people are far more efficient. That's why we today can afford computers and flat screen TV's and mobile phones. Because the companies dealing in these compete, and the only way they can survive is to offer the best possible product to the lowest possible price. Unless, they make deals with the government and receive subsidies, which is the exact opposite of Capitalism.
I have never said anything against people co-operating, it is absolutely essential, but I would trust a person much more if they had something at stake rather than them just doing it "out of their own good will" or as a favour to me. Germany and England are two countries with centuries of wars and disputes between them. They still don't like each other very much, but the thought of a war between them is almost inconceivable. Why? Because they trade with each other. And as the old saying goes: where armies cross frontiers, goods won't. Where goods cross frontiers, armies won't. I hope I have at least managed to answer your issues, please forgive me if you feel I haven't and challenge me on it. I would've hated it if you felt as if I am dodging any question you have brought up.

Barry F:

Well Michael, seems Darius only likes "intelligent" posts when he thinks he can dismantle them and prove his point :) Too bad, his own arguments miss every point I made already. Sad.

Darius Amir Aryan:


The irony of *you* calling *me* a fundamentalist is one that, I'm sure, escapes no one but yourself, so I won't even dignify that with an answer.

1. I never said people from Sweden move to USA to stop being exploited from Social Democracy (although, entrepreneurs who feel that paying up to 80% taxes is just too much might have a point or ... See moretwo to make on that), what I said was that there are approximately 12 times more people from Sweden moving to America than Americans moving to Sweden. Try to follow my point, will you?

2. Look, let's completely throw capitalism out of the window for a second, shall we? Just for the sake of the argument. Here is what I believe: I believe that a human being is free. No one has the right to force anyone to do anything against their wishes, as long as that person has not committed a crime or such. Even if every other human being on the planet says that I must turn right, I still have the right to turn left. So, the rule of majority doesn't really apply. Do you agree with this premise of liberty? That human beings are free individuals? They can work, accumulate, travel, live and eat as they wish, without any other entity using force on them to do anything they do not wish to do?

3. Sweden's wealth. As oppose to you, I have at least provided some data to back up my notion. It is actually a generally accepted one, especially in Sweden, where I am from. You are the first person I have come across to claim anything else, so please do provide data. Sweden's GDP per capita went from $2500 in 1900 to $9400 between 1900-1950.... Here are some more sources:

I think an apology is in order for the accusation of me using "fundamentalist facts".

4. I'm sorry, did you say that in India and China, only the few are accumulating wealth??? Are you sure? I mean, China is somewhat a bad example, because of their Communist regime, but there is a lot to be said about what happened after Chairman Mao died and his successor, Deng Xiapong started to reform the agriculture in what is now regarded as the largest privatisation in history. It led to a country that had in the late 50's suffered the greatest mass starvation in recorded history to have a surplus of food, coming from crop yields. Between 1978 and 1984 crop yields rose by an incredible 7.7 per cent annually. That's privatisation for you! Poverty in Taiwan is almost eliminated! Ghana is moving towards the same phenomenon. Mauritius, after opened up their markets and adopted Capitalism, was the first African country that saw a peaceful, democratic transition of power. Estonia, where Prime Minister Mart Laar practically took Friedmans book "Free to chose" and said "Let's do this!", saw the greatest growth of any European country, a growth that helped everyone, the rich as well as the poor. Please do not compare these countries to our standard of living, because they haven't had Capitalism as long. What would be a fair way to calculate is to compare that same country to how it was
*before* they adopted capitalism, and *after*.

5. Neoliberal capitalist globalization? I am talking about people being free. You are not.

6. My video... That's an Ad Hominem. Your argument is nonsensical, because it makes the assumption that everything in my source is wrong because it comes from a source you personally disagree with. If you think the data is incorrect, prove it. Otherwise, accept it.

7. Oh I see, it is an "objective fact" that Massimo Pigliucci, one of the great minds of our time, is a slave and self/seeking superman... WOW!

8. I don't confuse things, Barry (I hope you forgive me referring to you by your first name!), I am advocating LIBERTY. And as I see it, which goes back to point 2, the inevitable economical system which would automatically be the outcome of human liberty is Capitalism. It is just a word we use to explain a free system in economics (btw, I am by no means an economist, I am an actor).

Your last post, where you advocated "sharing the world's resources (natural and human-made) in a fair, and egalitarian way.. for each individual in every community.. not based on accumulated capital." might sound good, but is a proven, empirical failure. The best example of this is the Kibbutz's at the early stages in contemporary Israel. The people, especially the young, revolted against this system, and wanted what we call capitalism. Through choice. But here is the kicker:
In my system, you are free to share everything you wish to share and I will fight with my life for you to have this right. In your system, am I allowed to keep my accumulated wealth, and expand it without you using force on me to take it away?

Thank you for a good debate so far.


hey, this isn't a blog, you know? it's a casual conversation, which I suggest to limit to a few lines per time. if someone would like to write a book, i'm sure there are better outlets...

Darius Amir Aryan:

I'm sorry, Prof Pigliucci, you are right. I just got carried away, as I am sure the others did as well. Always the problem with a interesting subject! If anyone wishes to continue this debate, please add me and we'll continue on my page.

Barry F:

Right Massimo.. he should write a book! I can refute each of his claims, but they've all been refuted by others already so why bother wasting my time on FB with this fundie (and he think I am a fundie.. ha ha).

Perhaps he just needs to read THIS "books" and learn something outside of his Austrian/Chicago School Bibles. ... See more

And what has been shown to be an empirical failure was State Socialism, not anarchism.


no need to apologize, Darius, but I am amused that this is always what happens any time I have a post about libertarianism. someone ought to do a sociological study on you guys... ;-)

Darius Amir Aryan:

I would pity that person! ;) @Barry, you have no idea what a fool you make of yourself with such comments.

Everyone: Do I have your permission to post this conversation on my blog? And those who wish are more than welcome to continue it there!

Please write to me, and not here on Prof. Pigliuccis wall if that's NOT ok! all the best!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Money - The symbol of all good

Below is an excerpt from "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Read this monologue and you'll never again tolerate the ignorance of fools and the evil of looters who dare utter the sentence "Money is the root of all evil".


"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor--your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions--and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made--before it can be looted or mooched--made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.'

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality--the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth--the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money--and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another--their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich--will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world? You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while you're damning its life-blood--money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves--slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers--as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-- as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or dollars. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."

Monday, 14 June 2010

The danger of celebrities

Below, I have attached a video of rapper/actor Mos Def, from when he was on "Real time with Bill Maher". Mos Def is renowned to be one of the most "politically aware" rappers, who often speaks about injustices and social issues in his lyrics.
As I was growing up, this attribute in Mos Def was one I that made me admire him, as with many other artists commenting on the political climate through their songs, films or other forms of popular media. People such as Immortal Technique, Tupac Shakur, Michael Moore and so forth, seemed to be "telling the truth" in a very brave and honourable fashion, and their opinions had more weight to it, because it came from... well, them!

However, lately, I have come to the realization of the harm such idolatry can actually cause. Sure, Immortal Technique is a brilliant lyricist and George Clooney is a very good actor. But when speaking about politics, these are usually not the sources of information anyone should be turning to. In many ways, this phenomena resembles the sick turning to religious figures rather than doctors. As I was a primary believer of this celebrity-based religion, where famous peoples opinions, in fields they have no expertise in, had more validity because of their persona, I think it is suitable for me to make amends and maybe try and prevent someone else from falling in to the same trap.

The danger starts with our fascination for people in the spotlight. Brad Pitt is no longer just an actor doing a good job in a part, because he visits New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the brilliantly talented Sean Penn does likewise in Haiti. These are all honourable endeavours, but such actions create a form of hero-worship that goes beyond mere respect or admiration for their professional work. They become "The Good Guys", because they help people who are suffering. Now, I am not saying that these guys should stop being good Samaritans, but I am flashing a warning-light against the receptiveness of their fans to allow their reverence to go too far.

In today's celebrity-obsessed climate, when Sean Penn stands on a podium and talks about Hugo Chavez, or Michael Moore makes another pathetic "documentary", people tend to swallow everything without questioning it (just ask me, about eight years ago, I wrote a seven page essay in homage to Michael Moore!). The actors suddenly become preachers and the fans become "saved". But what happens when we add a little bit of Scepticism in to the mix? Well, as the video of Mos Def, when confronted with a real expert in politics (the magnificent Christopher Hitchens) shows, they often fall too short. It is one thing to have an opinion and express it in different forums, but as receivers of these opinions, it is our responsibility and duty to ourselves to treat everything with a dash of scepticism. As you can see in the clip, Mos Def is almost turn to shreds by his own ignorance, from someone who actually is an expert in the field of politics.
Michael Moore constantly refuses offers to debate certain people, in full knowledge that he doesn't stand a chance if he was to be confronted by experts who hold opinions different than his own.
Sean Penn, who is one of my all-time favourite actors, speaks in support of people like Hugo Chavez, and we tend to give his opinions more weight because hey, it's Sean Penn.

My advice is that we don't let ourselves be educated in matters of politics from actors or singers, but instead we'll turn to people who actually work with these issues for a living. No matter if you are left or right, there are much better tutors out there than Leonardo di Caprio or Rose O'Donnell.

The Mos Def-clip:

Also, see how an "average guy" completely debunks Immortal Technique:

So, my dear readers, the advice is: Be Sceptics! Especially against me!

Monday, 8 February 2010

A tribute to Johan Norberg

Michael Shermer, the brilliant scientist and the godfather of Modern day Scepticism, makes the case that people are generally hard-wired through evolution to resent those who have more than us. Throughout 99 per cent of our civilizations history, those who have had the power have taken that power from the people through force. Think the Pharaohs, the Kings, the Emperors and such. In the late 19th century, Karl Marx gave a voice for those he felt were oppressed through this method, and suggested his own alternative in "The Communist Manifesto". It became the foundation of Communism and Socialism, and the oasis to which people who still resent Capitalism turn to, sometimes too impulsively.

Thanks to these people, Capitalism has still got the bad name today it had 200 years ago. Enter Johan Norberg, a Swedish Libertarian writer and historian, who, at the age of 28, wrote "In defense* of Global Capitalism", the book which single-handedly not only debunks, but annihilates all arguments against contemporary Capitalism.

Writing incredibly intellectually, honestly and full of wit, Norberg (a man I am proud to call my friend, albeit only on Facebook), presents the case for Capitalism step-by-step, using authoritative sources for his data, empirical facts and water-tight arguments.

The book could´ve easily been too complex for the average layman, too fact-ridden, too stale and boring. But Norberg combines his data with his phenomenal linguistic skills and humour, and writes, to use an old cliché, from the heart.

One of the best reviews of the book truly encapsulates the brilliance of it:
"The particular charm of this passionate essay is that Capitalism would not interest Norberg if it were not such a mighty engine of human liberty." (Rosemary Righter, The Times of London)

Johan Norberg matters because he is truly what modern-day Capitalism is in need of in today's hostile atmosphere towards the ideology of a Free Market Society. Here´s a young, charismatic man with exceptional talent, who eloquently and humbly challenges the myths of the brutality and cold-heartedness of Capitalism, by proving that it is actually the system that provides best outcome for the poor, the weak and the underprivileged. It goes against everything that anti-capitalists claim the system to be. Full of compassion and an unshakeable humanitarian drive for altruism, Norberg is a voice of reason amongst a panic-stricken mass.

Johan Norberg is the living proof that Capitalism is anything but an ideology of the powerful for the powerful, that keeps the weak "in check", that exploits the masses for the sake of the few.

So, next time you find yourself confronted by a Socialist or a Communist, just lend them a copy of your "In defense of Global Capitalism". Ask them to read it with an open mind. Or show them the brilliant documentary "Globalization is good", which you can find online at:

And if you haven´t got the book already... What are you waiting for???

*The word "defence" is spelled with a "C" in Brittish-English, but since the book was first released in America, the spelling is according to American English, which spells it with an "S".