The cables of civilization 4

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Brooklyn Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge, completed in 1883, spans the East River in New York. It was the brainchild of John A. Roebling

Here is an article by Michelle Malkin, titled Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge?:

How many times have you heard President Obama and his minions pat themselves on the back for their noble “investments” in “roads and bridges”? Without government infrastructure spending, we’re incessantly reminded, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our daily business.

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” Vice President Joe Biden infamously asserted. “Private enterprise,” he sneered, lags behind.

As always, the Beltway narcissists have it backward. Without private enterprise and free-market visionaries, public infrastructure wouldn’t exist.

Take the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which turned 132 years old this week. It’s not a government official whose vision built that. It’s a fierce capitalist who revolted against unimaginative command-and-control bureaucrats in his home country.

Before he went on to pioneer aqueducts and suspension bridges across America, culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge, John Roebling was a government engineer in the German province of Westphalia. A cog in the Prussian building machine, he chafed under autocratic rule. No decisions could be made, no actions taken, he complained in his diary, “without first having an army of government councilors, ministers, and other functionaries deliberate about it for ten years, make numerous expensive journeys by post, and write so many long reports about it, that for the amount expended for all this, reckoning compound interest for ten years, the work could have been completed”.

Fed up with innovation-stifling conformity, subordination and red tape, the ambitious 25-year-old Roebling set sail for the U.S. in 1831 aboard the American-built ship August Edward. During the 78-day journey, he wrote of his hopes and dreams “to found a new home in the western continent beyond the ocean, a new fatherland free from tyranny”.  Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he celebrated his adopted land’s free-market economy.

“The numerous hindrances, restrictions and obstacles, which are set up by timid governments and countless hosts of functionaries against every endeavor in Germany, are not to be found here,” he reflected in a letter to friends and family.

“The foreigner must be astounded at what the public spirit of these republicans has accomplished up to now and what it still accomplishes every day. All undertakings take place through the association of private persons. In these the principal aim is naturally the making of money.” The pursuit of self-interest was in of itself a source of public good, he concluded, “principally (as) a result of unrestricted intercourse in a concerted action of an enlightened, self-governing people.”

Roebling failed at silkworm-farming, fabric-dying, rape seed oil farming and canary-raising before embarking on his engineering career. He patented an improved boiler for steamships, a safety gauge for a steam-boiler flue and a steam-powered motorcycle. He traveled wherever he could utilize his skills – constructing dams on the Beaver River, consulting on hydraulics on the Croton River Aqueduct, knocking on doors for work across Pennsylvania.

With unbridled determination to build a lucrative family business, he patented and pioneered America’s first commercially successful wire rope company. Frugal and financially savvy, Roebling operated on saved capital and refused to borrow. Several of his new clients paid him in stock, and he soon had a thriving investment portfolio. Coal mining companies in the anthracite region snapped up his sturdy cables.

Did he have “help” along the way? Plenty – from other capitalists, that is.

Roebling purchased his wire from industrial pioneer Robert Townsend, who had founded the first iron wire mill west of the Allegheny Mountains in 1816. Townsend, who had learned the wire-making trade from Baltimore wire weaver Hugh Balderson, manufactured rivets, nails, fasteners and telegraph wire, in addition to supplying Roebling with wire for his early experiments and projects.

Samuel Wickersham’s Pittsburgh Wire Works also supplied wire as Roebling gained more project work. And Sligo Iron Works made charcoal “blooms” for Roebling’s wire: large blocks cast from molten iron and later steel, which were then “hot rolled” at high temperatures between two rotating cylinders into wire rods.

Later, Roebling’s sons Charles and Ferdinand built a 200-acre state-of-the-art manufacturing campus, steel plant and village outside Trenton, N.J. Employing 8,000 workers, Kinkora Works produced everything from chicken wire and telegraph wire to tramway and elevator cables.

The suspension cables on the Golden Gate and George Washington bridges were manufactured by the Roeblings. So were the control cables in the Spirit of St. Louis, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the tramway and construction cables used to build the Panama Canal. Even the wires used to stabilize the wings of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft used Roebling trusses.

Here’s the lesson White House progressives and Common Core historians won’t teach: Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge is a towering legacy of the countless pursuits of individual American innovators who benefited the public by benefiting themselves and their families. The wealth-shaming social engineers in Washington will never understand. Private profit is a public good.

200px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_John_Augustus_Roebling

John Augustus Roebling

 

(Hat-tip to our Facebook commenter Nadir H. Khan)

Civil liberties versus national security 5

The Washington Post reports:

Senators left Capitol Hill early Saturday morning without taking action to extend or replace a controversial surveillance program set to expire at month’s end, paralyzed by a debate over the proper balance between civil liberties and national security.

Our tentative answer to the dilemma: As there’s an administration in power that believes government should control our lives, we would vote for civil liberties over national security; if there were an administration that knows it’s first duty is to protect our freedom, we would trust it not to overstep the mark, so we would vote for national security.

And yet …

Trouble is,  even if we were so lucky as to get a reasonably trustworthy administration, it could all too easily be replaced by another statist gang such as we have at present.

Readers are invited to give their own views on this difficult conundrum.

Posted under Commentary, government, Law, Leftism, liberty, Terrorism, Totalitarianism, tyranny, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Saturday, May 23, 2015

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Liberty 6

Rick Roderick expounds John Stuart Mill:

Further to stress the supreme importance of liberty and reason, here is our summary of excellent points made in an article by Jeffrey Tayler, a contributing editor at the Atlantic.

Astonishingly, the article was published by the far-left periodical Salon. It is quite long, but it is good, and may be read in its entirety here.

Last week’s assault on the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest that Pamela Geller hosted in Texas proves the jihad against freedom of expression has opened a front in the United States. She and those with her came close to being murdered, yet some in the media blamed her for the gunmen’s attack.

Acceptance of the fraudulent term “Islamophobia” contributes to the generalized befuddlement on the left about the faith in question and whether negative talk about it constitutes some sort of racism. It patently does not. Unlike skin color, faith is not inherited and is susceptible to change. As with any other ideology, it should be subject to unfettered discussion, which may include satire, ridicule and even derision. The First Amendment protects our right to practice the religion of our choosing or no religion at all, and our right to speak freely, even offensively, about it. From a rationalist’s perspective, any ideology that mandates belief without evidence is a priori dangerous and liable to abuse.

The “Prophet” Muhammad transformed the Despot on High into an even more menacing, wrathful ogre, whose gory punishments meted out to hapless souls after death fill many a Koranic verse. Muhammad was a triumphant warlord leading military campaigns that spread Islam throughout Arabia. He preceded his invasions by demands that populations either convert or face the sword. Verses sanctifying violence against “infidels” abound in the Koran, and warn that Hellfire awaits those worshipping anything besides Allah. The real meaning of the word “Islam” is surrender — to Allah. Surrendering denotes groveling and humiliation.

We should proudly espouse, as alternatives to blind obedience to ancient texts, reason, progress, and the wonderful panoply of other Enlightenment ideals underpinning our Constitution and the liberties characterizing Western countries. We cannot wimp out and blame the victims for drawing cartoons, writing novels, or making movies. The media need to begin showing Muhammad cartoons. We must stop traducing reason by branding people “Islamophobes”, and start celebrating our secularism, remembering that only it offers true freedom for the religious and non-religious alike. And we should reaffirm our humanistic values, in our conviction that we have only one life, and need to make the most of it. There is nothing else.

This is not a battle we have chosen; the battle has chosen us. It’s time to fight back, and hard.

Our only quibble would be with this in the original article: “…some in the media on the right and the center-right have essentially blamed [Pamela Geller] for the gunmen’s attacks … ”

While it is true that Greta van Susteren of Fox News did that, and Bill O’Reilly did it too (only to be forcefully and brilliantly contradicted by Megyn Kelly), most of the “blame Geller” opinion is to be found in the left-slanted Islam-supporting media, notably the New York Times. Which is why it is astonishing that Jeffrey Tayler’s article – defending Geller, free speech, and the secular values of the Enlightenment – appeared in Salon.

Hayek the Great and the invisible hand 5

Today is the 116th anniversary of the birth of F. A. Hayek. (Friedrich August von Hayek.) 

He is one of the greatest defenders of liberty in the history of the enlightened West.

His work as an economist is enormously important.

Milton Friedman said of him:

No person had more of an influence on the intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain than Friedrich Hayek. His books were translated and published by the underground and black market editions, read widely, and undoubtedly influenced the climate of opinion that ultimately brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

An article at Townhall by David Boaz lists some of the plaudits and honors he received:

Who was Hayek? He was an economist born and educated in Vienna. After the Nazi conquest of Austria, he became a British citizen and taught there [in Britain] and at the University of Chicago for most of his career.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974.

President Ronald Reagan called him one of the two or three people who had most influenced him

President George H. W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom.

Margaret Thatcher banged his great book The Constitution of Liberty on the table at Conservative Party headquarters and declared “This is what we believe.” …

He is the hero of The Commanding Heights, the book and PBS series on the battle of economic ideas in the 20th century.

His most popular book, The Road to Serfdom, has never gone out of print and saw its sales explode during the financial crisis and Wall Street bailouts.

John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker that “on the biggest issue of all, the vitality of capitalism, he was vindicated to such an extent that it is hardly an exaggeration to refer to the 20th century as the Hayek century”. 

If only! No Western country, even under leaders that held him in the highest esteem, put his theory into practice. Every one of them is a welfare state to some degree. In all of them government is an agency that redistributes wealth. Hayek believed the business of the state is to protect liberty with the rule of law, not to plan the economy, or intervene in the working of the free market. He taught that only the free market can provide the signals that make for the most efficient use of resources. Central planning is socialism – and socialism, Hayek explained, tends towards totalitarianism.

Here is Hayek, champion of free market capitalism, talking about Maynard Keynes, advocate of government intervention in markets and the economist whom Western states have preferred to follow:

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote:

“Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

Hayek (we quote from here) “called the free market system a ‘marvel’ because just one indicator, the market price of a commodity, spontaneously carries so much information that it guides buyers and sellers to make decisions that help both obtain what they want. The market price of a product, a component of the invisible hand, reflects thousands, even millions, of decisions made around the world by people who don’t know each other or what the others are doing”.

Hayek’s most popular and least technical books The Road to Serfdom and The Constitution of Liberty ought to be prescribed reading in every high school and every university in the world.

We doubt they will be. The socialists have won. The decline of the West may be irreversible.

The Islam-coddling Left blames the victim of Islamic terrorism 3

First Pamela Geller was attacked by terrorists for holding a free speech event. Then she was attacked by the media for the same reason.

Ezra Levant of TheRebel.media looks at the media’s twisted treatment of Geller after the foiled shooting in Garland, Texas.

The left-slanted media want sharia enforced in America rather than US constitutional law.

And not only the left-slanted media. Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingraham, and Greta van Susteren of Fox News have also blamed Pamela Geller for exercising her free speech rights. Dhimmis all.

However, also on Fox News, the excellent Megyn Kelly argued with Bill O’Reilly and decisively showed him to be wrong – though he still didn’t seem to understand that he was.

Kelly told O’Reilly … the point [Pamela Geller and her organization] were making about free speech was a solid one. The First Amendment, she said, isn’t meant to protect popular speech; it’s meant to protect “the most outrageous, offensive, incendiary speech”. 

O’Reilly countered, “It’s always cause and effect… This is what happens when you light the fuse, you get violence.” Kelly was surprised to hear that, telling O’Reilly he sounds like he’s “attacking the event itself”.

When O’Reilly said he would “do it another way,” Kelly got really fired up and said this:

“You know what else the jihadis don’t like? They hate Jews. Should we get rid of all Jews? That’s the path we’re gonna go down if we don’t stop catering to the jihadis.”

Watch the video here.

Laughing at Muhammad 1

In the video below, Geert Wilders addresses a gathering at an exhibition of Muhammad cartoons in Garland, Texas. A rousing speech.

“Moderation in the face of evil is evil itself,” he rightly declares. And he points out that one of the many things wrong with Islam is its lack of humor. He quotes the Ayatollah Khomeini who said that there is no joking, no fun, in Islam.

He says he is happy that nobody died while the exhibition was open for viewing. But soon after he had spoken, two people did die. Fortunately they were not among the brave people who organized or attended the exhibition, but two Muslims who tried to attack and kill them. They wounded a guard before they were shot dead themselves.

We quote from the report in the Washington Post*:

Two gunmen shot an unarmed security officer outside a cartoon exhibit and contest depicting the prophet Muhammad near Dallas and were then shot and killed by police late Sunday, authorities said. The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

Here is Geert Wilders:

 

*The report has been revised since we took our piece from it. But the hilarious bit we highlight is still there.

Posted under Humor, Islam, jihad, liberty, Muslims, Netherlands, United States by Jillian Becker on Monday, May 4, 2015

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Criminal offense 2

In the video below, Pat Condell, our fellow atheist, speaks eloquently about the many ways in which Islam is offensive.

The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband, says he will ban and punish “Islamophobia” if he becomes Prime Minister, which he very well might if his socialist party wins the forthcoming general election. He is saying this in order to woo Muslim voters. Most Muslim votes go to the Labour Party, but some Muslims say that voting at all is wrong because only Allah must govern mankind. Also, Ed Miliband is Jewish. Are the Muslims who go to the polls likely to cast their votes for a Jewish leader?

If he gets into 10 Downing Street and has his Party make it a crime to criticize Islam, what will happen to Pat Condell? We are pretty certain he won’t stop making his videos, speaking freely, and expressing loud and clear the highly moral loathing and fully justified contempt he has for the criminal religion of Muhammad.

 

Speaking of free speech 5

We learn from Scott Johnson at PowerLine:

On April 15 the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale inaugurated its annual Disinvitation Dinner. … Keynote speaker was George Will … took up the subject of the parlous state of free speech. … This is a timely speech on an important subject as liberal fascism continues its march through the institutions.

Scott Johnson selects this extract:

Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively and dangerously threatened than it is now. The Alien and Sedition Acts arose from a temporary, transitory fever and were in any case sunsetted and disappeared. The fevers after and during the First World War and in the early culture war era also were eruptions of distemper rooted in local conditions and local issues bound to disappear, which they did.

Today’s attack is different. It’s an attack on the theory of freedom of speech. It is an attack on the desirability of free speech and indeed if listened to carefully and plumbed fully, what we have today is an attack on the very possibility of free speech. The belief is that the First Amendment is a mistake. . . .

Yesterday the Democratic Party, the oldest political party in the world, the party that guided this country through two world wars and is more responsible than any other for the shape of the modern American state — the Democratic Party’s leading and prohibitively favored frontrunner candidate for the presidential nomination announced four goals for her public life going forward, one of which is to amend the Bill of Rights to make it less protective. It’s an astonishing event. She said that she wants to change the First Amendment in order to further empower the political class to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political speech about the political class — and so far as I can tell there’s not a ripple of commentary about this on the stagnant waters of the American journalistic community.

There is also a video of George Will delivering his entire speech. We cannot import it but we hope our readers will treat themselves to it. It is all meat. We assure you the hour passes very quickly.

The principles of politics 4

This quotation from the Dear Leader has just caught our eye:

“Consistency is the hobgoblin of narrow minds.”

Obama expressed this opinion yesterday – April 11, 2015.

Now under our recent post An informed choice (April 10, 2015), a commenter who names himself/herself “Non-ideologue” recommends that each separate political issue should be considered on its own merits.

But consistency is absolutely vital. A politics that is not consistent is simply unprincipled.

If one values freedom, one will judge policies in the light of whether they preserve or abridge freedom. One will judge the agendas of political parties according to those criteria too.

Political parties are formed round, or arise out of, shared interests and aims. Their values are embodied in their principles, and their principles guide their policies.

If one puts security above liberty, or thinks justice is the same thing as economic equality, then one is a socialist, whether one sticks the word on one’s forehead or not. The only way there can be that sort of equality (entirely different from equality under the law) is for a central agency with a monopoly of force – ie. a government – to impose it. Government alone can force those who have property to give it up, can forcibly divide it, and forcibly bestow it as it chooses. That is one big powerful government. It  can bestow benefits on you – and it can withhold them. It has power over every aspect of your life. Its thousands of government-obedient bureaucrats will decide what is good for you, regardless of what you want for yourself. It is also called statism, and collectivism. It is plainly tyranny. If you are a voter, it is necessary to recognize that the party in the US which stands for these values and so will enact such policies as are consistent with them, is the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party, disappointing as it is, at least in theory stands now for the great idea on which the United States of America was founded. At present there are Republicans who would like to make the Party live up to its principles. Those principles are individual freedom, small government, low taxes, a free market economy – all CONSISTENT with each other. If those are your principles, you will prefer the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. You will try to keep the Republicans true to their values and principles. And you will be right to call yourself a conservative. (The fact that there are conservatives who hold the same principles and are also religious, makes no difference to your adherence to them if you are not religious. No compelling logic sticks religion on to them.)

Obama often makes statements that contradict each other or are contradicted by his actions. He says you can keep your doctor under Obamacare, when you cannot. He says his administration will be the most transparent in history, when in fact it is the least transparent in history. He says that Iran must not be allowed to have nukes, and then he makes it easy for Iran to have nukes. There are many more examples we could give, but those will do to prove the case. He may see this as “inconsistency” and think only hobgoblin-haunted minds can object to it.  But in fact it is lying and deception. His entire presidency is a lie and a deception. He is ostensibly the leader of the US; leader of a government whose first duty is to protect Americans from tyranny at home and enemies abroad. In fact his agenda has been and continues ever more blatantly to be against the interests of this country.

Obama is not unprincipled, it’s just that his principles are opposed to those which have inspired and sustained the United States of America. He is not inconsistent; he is misleading. Throughout his presidency, no matter what he has said, he has consistently advanced the subversive agenda of the far Left, and the savage interests of Islam.

Libertarianism the wave of the future? 9

The Left likes to believe – as Obama and Harry Reid often iterate – that it is “on the side of history”.

Is history then stuck with those stale and failed ideas of a Marxian stamp propagated by the likes of Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, or the bone-headed strategies of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Priven?

Or tending back to the Dark Ages with a resurgence of Islam?

Surely not. A civilization that has put a man on the moon; has invented the computer, the internet, the driverless car; that watches the expansion of the universe; that can replace a faulty human heart with a new one; that has used liberty to become rich, knowledgable, and ever more inventive, is not going to go back to communism or the law of the seventh century desert?

Quo vadis then?

The maliciously lefty and deeply nasty New York Times notices a rise in libertarian opinion in America.

Libertarianism has been touted as the wave of America’s political future for many years, generally with more enthusiasm than evidence. But there are some tangible signs that Americans’ attitudes are in fact moving in that direction.

The NYT goes on to substantiate its claim with figures and a chart.

It defines a libertarian, fairly enough, as “someone who believes that the government is best when it governs least”.

There have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

The Tea Party movement also has some lineage in libertarian thinking. Although polls suggest that many people who participate in the Tea Party movement have quite socially conservative views, the movement spends little time emphasizing those positions, as compared with economic issues.

The perception that the Tea Party – whose chief issue is the need for fiscal responsibility – has “some lineage in libertarian thinking” is remarkable for that newspaper. It seldom removes its red blindfold long enough to replace it for a short time with blinders. For it to see something that is actually there but not obvious is a lucky moment of illumination worth a cheer or two. The author of the article is Nate Silver. Perhaps he found some cunning way to let that uncongenial revelation slip past editorial oversight.

Or perhaps he and his editors think that libertarian thinking is bad anyway. If we didn’t know that to be the case already, there’s a hint of it in what comes later.

The libertarian opinions, revealed by a CNN poll and quoted in the article, are these:

Some 63 percent of respondents said government was doing too much — up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 — while 50 percent said government should not favor any particular set of values, up from 44 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008.

The author, apparently not happy to accept what the poll reveals, comments:

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization on the one hand …”

So a tolerance with which he has sympathy …

 … to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand …

So a skepticism he condemns  …

 … that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

How confusing for Nate Silver! Libertarians like some of the things he likes. But they also dislike things that he holds dear.

Well, actually, that is the case with us too.

We welcome the spread of libertarian sentiment.

We too see no reason why marijuana should be illegal.

As for same-sex marriage, we think it is an hilarious farce, but would on no account oppose it. A 12-year old boy once defined marriage for us as “a legal union between two or more things”.  Why not  more than two? Why not things or beasts as well as humans?  If – as the argument goes – they love each other? (Well, we said it’s a farce.)

Where we are strongly with libertarians is on the issue of economic freedom. As our contributing commenter Don L often recommends: accept that the Austrian School is right and allow no government interference whatsoever in economic activity – and abolish the Fed. We also advocate keeping taxes (flat-rated) very low. So low that they cannot sustain a government that does much more than it absolutely has to do – protect the liberty of the people, from outside enemies, and domestic criminals. And enforce the law of contract.

But we too have some quarrels with libertarians.

There are those among them who outrageously condone the corruption of children, even the use of them for pornography “as long as they are willing and are paid for their services”!*

Quite a large number of libertarians are historical revisionists, and some who ridiculously and with evil intent deny that the Holocaust ever happened.**

And most libertarians want America to take no notice of what’s going on in the world beyond its borders, except for trade and vacations. As if ignorance is a protection from a world full of expansionist tyrannies and ideologies.

No. None of that.

But a libertarianism that holds individual freedom as the highest value, and knows that it is only possible under the rule of law; and at the same time is committed to preserving the best of everything America has achieved in the past, is a libertarianism that we can – and do – embrace.

 

NOTES:

* We cannot link to articles that discuss this. Access to them is “forbidden”.

**Although the article we link to here does endorse what we say that some libertarians deny  the Holocaust, it goes too far in criticizing Reason and its sponsors.

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