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...]

Have We Hit the Limits of Growth?

Ever since the Great Recession and the grindingly slow recovery that's followed, it's become an especially urgent question whether we can expect the future to be more prosperous than the past. Singularitarians and other techno-utopians predict that technology will make economic growth an ever-upward exponential curve, bringing undreamed-of material abundance and making each generation's life vastly better than the one that preceded it. On the other hand, skeptics argue that minimal or zero … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Exeunt Omnes

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter XAfter three years and 160(!) posts, we've finally come to the very last scene of Atlas Shrugged. In our previous installment, Ayn Rand lowered the curtain on Eddie Willers, inexplicably abandoned by his closest friends to die in the desert. In this closing scene, she takes us to Galt's Gulch to show what the capitalists are doing instead.It's a quick scene, with just a few lines devoted to each of the protagonists. But in those few lines, like a … [Read more...]


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