Blasphemy and the Polity of Our Prayers

The last time I was in Pakistan, back in January of 2012, my cousin Sa’ad threw me a big, lavish party the evening before my departure. I have a very large extended family, much of it based in Lahore, and just about everyone from Lahore, it seemed, was there–aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins once removed, first cousins twice removed, spouses of cousins, and all other manner of kith and kin. My cousin Sa’ad and his brother Salman are major players in the Pakistani political establishment, part of the government at the time, but allied with Nawaz Sharif, then out of power as Prime Minister.* Many of my other cousins are political activists of one sort or another, not always friendly to governments in power. It makes for interesting dinner conversation, and it certainly did that particular night. Continue reading

Fourth Time’s the Charm

Newport News School Was Warned 3 Times That 6-Year-Old Had a Gun, Lawyer Says,” The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2023.

Around 1 p.m. — about an hour before the shooting — another teacher reported that a student had come to the teacher crying, saying that the 6-year-old had shown him the gun at recess and threatened to shoot the student if the student told anyone, Ms. Toscano said.

“What did administrators do?” Ms. Toscano said at a news conference on Wednesday, where she announced plans to file the lawsuit. “Did administrators call the police? No. Did administrators lock down the school? No. Did administrators evacuate the building? No. Did they confront the student? No.”

Would anyone but an upper-level administrator summarily have been fired weeks ago? Yes.

Baby, We Can’t Drive Your Car


December 18, 2022

Copart, Inc.
2704 Geryville Pike
Pennsburg, PA 18073

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for your recent communication regarding the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas’s decision, finding against Dawid Malek as well as against the “further Defendants listed in the attached Exhibit A.” Needless to say, Exhibit A was neither attached nor received in any communication I’ve ever received from you, but I appreciate the empty gesture. Continue reading

Out of My Dreams, and Into My Car

An argument can be correct in nearly every particular claim it makes, be enormously perceptive as far as it goes, but err nearly to the point of failure either by omission or through one-sidedness. That’s my verdict on this recent condemnation of car culture in The New York Times. I mean that as a recommendation of the essay. Indeed, I hereby demand that you read the linked article before you read my post. Personally, I have every intention of getting and reading the authors’ book at first opportunity, and have every intention of agreeing with it. I agree with just about everything they say in the Times essay, including the general spirit of their arguments, and just about all of their policy recommendations. Continue reading

Kelley’s Kant

In his excellent book The Evidence of the Senses (ES), David Kelley included some remarks on Immanuel Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy by way of contrast with the realist theory of perception which Kelley had developed within the metaphysical and epistemological framework of Ayn Rand. I examine Kelley’s representation of Kant in ES in the link below. Prof. Randall R. Dipert (1951–2019) criticized Dr. Kelley’s representations of Kant in ES in a Review Essay in Reason Papers (1987). I shall be examining Dipert’s criticisms as well as the later criticisms of Kelley’s Kant by Prof. Fred Seddon.

Reply to Touchstone

The issue of THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES recently issued (– December 2022) includes a paper by Dr. Kathleen Touchstone titled “Error, Free Will, and Freedom.” It engages importantly with earlier writings of mine, and because the next issue of JARS will be its final issue, and it is already at the printer, I’m making a reply to Touchstone’s paper simply in online posts.

Atlas Mugged

Bipartisan politics at its best:

Bipartisanship, noun: when the “party of free markets” makes a point of initiating legislative intervention into the economy, and the “party of labor” makes sure that the intervention favors management.

The grotesque (and grotesquely ironic) Ayn Rand-inspired puns will continue as long as the strikebreakers continue their aggressions. No justice, no aesthetic peace.

“Started from the Bottom”

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

The Democrats, setting the standards for the next election:

Asked about concerns some Americans have about Mr. Biden’s age, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden had the “most successful legislative record of any president since Lyndon Johnson,” citing achievements on infrastructure and gun policy.

Most successful since LBJ. Does that include or exclude the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

Atlas Tugged

Eight years ago, every sophisticated critic had the same sophisticated criticism to make of (the admittedly terrible) Atlas Shrugged movie: how absurdly anachronistic it was to think that a modern economy could depend on something as coarsely physical as railroads. OMG. SMH. According to the wisdom du jour, then as now, the future is digital–a condition that renders the world of crudely physical things dispensable.

Here we are, eight years later:

Union Pacific, a major rail carrier, also expressed relief at the deal. “We look forward to the unions ratifying these agreements and working with employees as we focus on restoring supply chain fluidity,” the company said in a statement.

Mr. Walsh wrote on Twitter that the agreement “balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy.”

“Our rail system is integral to our supply chain,” he said in a follow-up tweet, “and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country.”

An Exponential Corporate Tax Based on Market Share

Apologies that my posts are much shorter than Irfan’s. But sometimes I have only the nugget of an idea that still seems worth developing enough to warrant sharing at a preliminary stage. I’ve done a lot of reflecting in recent years on the growing problems of oligopoly and monopoly in American commerce — having taught about this in an interdisciplinary course on Market Failures and Public Goods. It is not a ‘sexy’ issue that draws a lot of attention like culture wars material. And that’s a shame, because it is a far bigger part of “structural injustice” than many of the things discussed in the culture wars (imho). And, because most people finish high school without even 10 minutes on what public goods are and what kinds of problems prevent markets from working optimally, less than maybe 2% of Americans understand why big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook etc. now have so much power and are driving up economic inequality by buying up every competitor or driving them out of business via unfair advantages. The root cause is what’s known as a network externality in which the goods being sold are not merely non-rival, but even anti-rival: because they become a “standard,” the more people use them, the more valuable they become. They are also get a critical edge in visibility, and no competitors can get over the threshold to compete well enough with them. The result is a so-called “long tail” distribution in which one company in a sector may get 50% of the profits, the next-strongest getting 10%, the third strongest getting 3%, and so on down through thousands each getting much less than 1%.

Continue reading