The Fountainhead: McMansion Hell

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3Peter Keating shows up for his first day of work at Francon & Heyer, the prestigious New York architectural firm. At first he's impressed by the well-dressed people and the lavish office (its walls decorated with "etchings of Greek temples", naturally - damn those evil Greeks).When he sits down at a drafting table, he fears the plans he's been given to work on are "someone's tremendous achievement which he could neither question nor equal". But he soon … [Read more...]

Getting Off the Carousel of Consumerism

As holidays go, I've always liked Thanksgiving better than Christmas. It's not because one is a secular holiday and one is religious - really, both are secular holidays that have been layered over with religious propaganda - but because, of the two, Thanksgiving has only things I enjoy. It's all about togetherness, gratitude, and great food. I'm up for those things any day. Christmas has those too, but it has one other aspect I dislike: the expectation to buy things.I hate shopping, I always … [Read more...]

We’re All In This Together: A Humanist Sermon

Certain recent events in my life have made me think about how human beings depend on each other. However privileged or fortunate you are, you're all but certain to eventually face a challenge you can't overcome alone and need other people's help to pull you through. And I don't just mean in a disaster or a crisis, but for everyday, ordinary things, the kind of situations that most of us can expect to encounter in the course of life.Having children is the perfect example, because it's such a … [Read more...]

Why We Have to Pay for Media

I think it's a good moral principle not to be a free-rider. I want to pay my fair share of upkeep for whatever I use. If you agree, then this John Oliver segment on the decline of print news is essential:This is something I've been concerned about for a long time. It's no accident that freedom of the press is written into the First Amendment, making it as foundational as freedom of speech or religion. But that vitally important right is empty if there's no one to exercise it. And in the … [Read more...]

Why We Shouldn’t Want Manufacturing Jobs Back

The words "Rust Belt" evoke a vanished age of American greatness.Cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, once mighty economic powerhouses, now have a reputation for dwindling and decline. Their factories have closed; their populations are aged and shrunken; their civic architecture has fallen into desolation and decay, spawning the genre of "ruin porn". And the resentment and despair of rootless former blue-collar workers is a central issue in the presidential race.This story resonates … [Read more...]

Are the Olympics Worth It?

I rarely watch sports, but I make an exception for the Olympics. I can't deny that it's thrilling to see the world's top athletes in one place, showing off the greatest feats of strength, speed and grace that human beings are capable of. And I still believe the international cooperation that makes the games possible is a triumph of diplomacy and a good sign for human civilization.But it's getting harder and harder to ignore the problems threatening to overshadow the competition. Every … [Read more...]

We Need All the Brainpower We Can Get

I don't believe, as some people fear, that economic growth has come to an end.This is equivalent to saying that we'll never be any richer, more prosperous or more technologically advanced than we are right now; that you and me, the people alive today, are living through the zenith of human civilization. I find this implausible. Innovation and change have been churning away for thousands of years, and it's unlikely that we just happen to be living in the one era when it's all about to come … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Wealth of Nations

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged and her other works, Ayn Rand valorized human ingenuity and drive. In her eyes, the individual ability for achievement is our supreme glory. But where do these desirable character traits come from? What makes one person a productive capitalist while another becomes a shiftless moocher?This is a question that Rand was staunchly incurious about. For all that she glorified brilliance, she never addressed what its origins or … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Almighty Dollar

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsWe're almost to the end of our epic journey through Atlas Shrugged. I've reviewed the whole book and all three movies, pointing out the logical holes and untenable assumptions as they were spotlighted in each scene. In this post and a few more to follow, I want to step back and look at Rand's philosophy as a whole. We'll see some broader themes that deserve more attention.One of the cornerstones of Objectivism is that laissez-faire capitalism is the only … [Read more...]

Useless Money: A Humanist Sermon

This is 432 Park Avenue:It's the newest addition to the New York City skyline, an ultra-luxury residential skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. With a top height of almost 1400 feet, it's the tallest residential building in the world and the second tallest building in all of NYC, ahead of the Empire State Building, behind only the new One World Trade Center.Despite its neck-craning height (it actually required approval from the FAA), 432 Park Avenue has only 104 apartments. The first … [Read more...]