Michael Shermer Stares Down the Grim Reaper in Latest Book

As a long-time atheist, I’ve made my peace with my eventual death. More or less. I mean, I want to delay death as long as feasible, given a reasonable quality of life, but it isn’t something that preoccupies my thoughts. Still, I found myself suppressing a strange sense of dread, at times, while reading Michael Shermer’s new book, Heavens on Earth (Henry Holt, 2018). Death sucks—there’s no getting around that. Continue reading “Michael Shermer Stares Down the Grim Reaper in Latest Book”

Haidt on Identity Politics: The Problem Is Collectivism

A sort of identity politics is a major force tearing at the seams of America’s liberal democratic order (broadly understood), argues Jonathan Haidt in his recent and important essay (originally a talk), “The Age of Outrage.” My aim here is to amplify and comment on his piece. Continue reading “Haidt on Identity Politics: The Problem Is Collectivism”

Property Rights and Democracy: Reply to Wilkinson

Property rights—at least “absolutist,” “hard-core,” “hard-nosed” property rights that are “rigid and all-encompassing”—are the enemy of democracy. That is essentially the theme of Will Wilkinson’s essay and follow-up on the matter.

I answer that Wilkinson, who apparently favors the “standard redistributive policies of successful modern states,” does not recognize property rights at all, but merely property permissions that can be granted or retracted by democratic majorities at will. Continue reading “Property Rights and Democracy: Reply to Wilkinson”

On the Outside Looking In at Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy

In the early 1990s I attended an Objectivist event in southern California. I’m pretty sure this event was organized by George Reisman, an economist who also advocates Ayn Rand’s philosophy, before the Ayn Rand Institute split with Reisman and his wife Edith. During a social period at this event I was talking with a fellow, not too much older than I was, who asked me, “So, are you an Objectivist?”

I answered, I thought sensibly enough, “I don’t know.” Disdain wrinkling his face, he retorted, “How could you not know?”—and that marked the end of our conversation. Continue reading “On the Outside Looking In at Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy”

Calling Vile Racists Right-Wing or Extreme Only Gives Them Cover

In Charlottesville at a rally of white nationalists, a man with neo-Nazi sympathies drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. The need to condemn racist ideologies and the violence they inspire remains urgent.

The language we use to combat racism matters. Calling white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and their ilk “far right” or “extreme,” rather than white supremacists or the like, only obscures their vile nature and helps them falsely claim ties to mainstream America. Continue reading “Calling Vile Racists Right-Wing or Extreme Only Gives Them Cover”

Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change

As Florida faces Hurricane Irma and Houston continues its recovery efforts from the intense flooding there, a lot of people are turning more of their attention to the matter of climate change, and with good reason.

Summarized briefly, my position on human-caused climate change has evolved over the years roughly from “it isn’t happening” to “it’s happening but it isn’t that big of a deal” to “it’s happening and it’s probably a big deal.” These notes represent my quick attempt to help bridge the communication gap between scientists and activists who think that climate change represents an existential threat to people on the planet and free-market advocates typically less inclined to take the problem seriously. Continue reading “Sketching a Free-Market Response to Climate Change”

On the Right to Petition Public Officials on Social Media

Public officials have the same rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association that the rest of us have. The do not lose their rights simply because they win elected office. Public officials are not above the law, but they are not beneath the law, either. They have a right to maintain their private lives, including their personal social media feeds (per the relevant terms of service), and interact with people (or not) as they see fit, just like the rest of us.

At the same time, insofar as public officials act as agents of government, they assume certain legal responsibilities that the rest of us do not have. If public officials open official forums of public commentary, they may not discriminate on the basis of ideology or point of view (among other things), and they must treat everyone equally under the law. Continue reading “On the Right to Petition Public Officials on Social Media”

Why Public Officials Have a Right to Block People on Social Media

August 21 Update: I made some important mistakes in the article below, and I have since drafted a new article dealing with the same issues. Please see the new article for my developed views. I am leaving up the text below, despite its problems, as an archive. Please do not quote from it as though it reflected my developed view. My basic mistake was to assume that, because social media companies block people, therefore government may not use social media for official forums of public commentary. But government may do so, I now conclude, so long as they also provide a means to comment outside of social media. I apologize for the confusion caused by the release of the draft below. However, I wouldn’t have made the advances in my thinking that I did without publishing the initial draft, so I have a hard time regretting it. —Ari Armstrong Continue reading “Why Public Officials Have a Right to Block People on Social Media”

Why Taxing Bicycles in Colorado Is a Dumb Idea

Stunningly, some Colorado Democrats have finally found a tax they don’t like. After Republican State Senator Ray Scott suggested he might propose a bicycle tax similar to one Oregon just imposed, Democratic Senator Andy Kerr slammed the idea as an “anti-business, anti-freedom policy,” Colorado Politics reports. If only Colorado Democrats were always so skeptical of taking people’s money.

And yet the case for taxing bicycles seems compelling, at least on the surface. Continue reading “Why Taxing Bicycles in Colorado Is a Dumb Idea”