This week’s podcast round up includes great shows from Yaron Brook, Steve Simpson and Amy Peikoff covering a host of topics including Trump and the DIM Hypothesis, Ayn Rand, the climate change inquisition, hope and more.
It was Yaron’s turn on Leonard Peikoff’s podcast this week and he answered the following great questions:
- What were your objective criteria that led you move to the United States and settle in California? This was an interesting answer as it applied the contextual nature of value judgments based on your hierarchy of values. For example, while Singapore has more economic freedom than the United States, he wouldn’t move there because he doesn’t want to live in a small city-state.
- Since Objectivists vote on a candidate’s basic political principles but not necessarily on the candidate’s whole philosophy, do you think Senator Ted Cruz is closer to the former and worthy of my vote? The answer to this question gave a good, if necessarily brief, look at Cruz as a candidate with reasons why Yaron isn’t enthusiastic about Cruz.
- Where does Donald Trump fit in on Leonard Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis? (If you haven’t read this book, you certainly should.) An interesting point in the answer to this question is Yaron’s statement that what is scary about Trump is not the man himself, but that people love him.
- Given today’s philosophical culture, is it advisable to get behind the science of genetic alteration? If we can’t get freedom right, should I be worried about what the intellectual community is doing to my food and medicine? We need to be pro-science. Yaron views science, as Eric Daniels pointed out in an OCON 2015 talk, as vitally important because it teaches us to think.
Each week Yaron does a one hour radio program on AM560 in Chicago, also now broadcast in Miami. This week’s show took a look at someone he described as one of “the most loved and hated women in the last 100 years” – Ayn Rand.
The show provides a nice biographical sketch of Ayn Rand’s life, from her fleeing her childhood home in Russia after living through the communist revolution, to her arriving in America with nothing but the dream of becoming a writer, her struggles in pursuit of that dream, her eventual success and what came after that. Interwoven with the events of her life is a discussion of the ideas that formed the foundation of her work: reality, reason, individualism and capitalism. It is these ideas, Yaron says, we must embrace if we are to save America.
If you don’t know much about Ayn Rand’s life, this show will give you a perspective on her life and ideas that can counter the smears that appear so frequently today. (Yaron discusses why such smears are becoming more common today than ever before.) It might even inspire you to learn more, and there is a lot more to learn. Even if you are familiar with the story of Ayn Rand’s life, it is definitely worth listening to the show. Having it all laid out in an easily digestible form shows the story of her life as the heroic struggle it was.
As Yaron is still travelling in South America this week’s fantastic episode was hosted by ARI’s Steve Simpson. The topic for this week was the investigation/persecution of Exxon Mobile over the claim that they “knew” about the dangers of climate change and did not disclose that information. This builds upon earlier calls by Senator Whitehouse and others for fossil fuel companies to be prosecuted under the RICO statutes (usually used to prosecute organized crime). Fraud can be viewed as theft by deception, i.e. tricking people into a transaction they wouldn’t otherwise have entered into. The position of those wanting to prosecute Exxon apparently take the view that people would not have continued to buy gasoline if they had known what Exxon knew. This is laughable even if Exxon actually knew anything other than what everyone else knew and many of the predictions made by climate alarmists at the time in question have failed to come true.
Without freedom of speech, you do not have the modern world. – Steve Simpson
Far from being a case of fraud, the proposed prosecutions, Simpson explains, are attempts by the government to intimidate people into doing what they want and to silence debate. It is an assault on free speech. This has been a growing trend and not just in the area of climate change. If a company says, or doesn’t say, something that the government wants them to, the government tries to find a way to prosecute them. (e.g. New York asking SEC to investigate Smith and Wesson over failing to “disclose” that their guns might be used improperly.)
Steve had a number of great guests call in today:
- Sam Kazman from the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has been subpoena’d by the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands for just about everything they have done regarding energy and climate change for a decade and includes donor records.
- Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress, who gave amazing testimony before a Senate committee, well worth watching. The major point that Alex made was to put the climate debate into proper context in order to have clarity on the issue. You have to look at positives and negatives and the scale of both. Is the risk of the mild warming we have seen worth the tremendous benefits we get from fossil fuels? He had a great analogy to vaccine use or the use by early man of fire.
- Walter Olson of the Cato Institute who discussed more about why this is a free speech issue. While the current specific case is focused on Exxon and CEI, it would not be limited to them. With this case the government is attempting to stretch the definition of fraud to cover anything said, or not said, by people who disagree with them in public debate. Once you blur the line between actual fraud, tricking people into a transaction, and speech, debate, then you put the government in charge of what can be said on all topics.
Steve Simpson ends on a positive note by pointing out that, as Alex and Sam have shown, you can fight effectively for free speech and this case should convince you that it needs to be fought for. You can fight for it. Take a moral stand on free speech, write your congressman to oppose this sort of government action, write letters to the editor or blog posts. Most of all, give support, material and spiritual, to those who are on the front lines of this fight.
This week, Amy discusses Prince, hope and more. As always, you can find complete show notes with links to most of the items she mentions during the show on her website.
Amy opens the show with a segment about Prince, who passed away this week at the age of 57. She responded to a comment left on her blog expressing a dislike for all the attention that Prince’s death is getting when soldiers die each day virtually unnoticed. Amy disputed this, pointing out that she has often commented on the death of our soldiers and argued against the government policies that put them in harms way to little good purpose. She also points out that one thing soldiers properly risk their lives for is to protect our right to pursue happiness and that pursuit includes admiration for great artists like Prince. Someone who is benevolent and self-confident, who spent decades in the spotlight without all the “drama” that seems to follow most rock stars. I think Bosch Fawstin, whole called in to the show, summed it up nicely, “He was an individual, he did his thing and he was successful.”
A big part of the show was taken up with the idea of hope. Amy’s grandmother used to tell her, “Hope is just a little better than despair.” (This reminded me of the Taoist saying, “Hope is the same as despair. Whether you are going up the ladder or down, your footing is unsure.”) Amy traced her thinking about hope from Absurdism, which rejects hope because there is no intrinsic meaning or value in the universe; to the use of hope in Atlas Shrugged, where it is used by the heroes to indicate the fact that achieving values is possible; to at last looking at the Oxford English Dictionary which defines hope as desire combined with expectation. It is the idea of expectation, that the desire is achievable and you (or someone else) can take action towards that achievement, which is key to a proper use of hope. Absent that expectation you are left with hope as essentially empty, much in the way that it was used in Obama’s campaign slogan.
She ends the program with a brief applications of this conception of hope by Alex Epstein and Dr. Michael Hurd and exits with a live version of Sinead O’Connor’s hit, Nothing Compares to You, which was written by Prince.