The Talented Tenth Betrayed the Black Community

The Collectivist Left has propagated a narrative that blames the problems in the black community on racism in America.  While race is an illegitimate standard by which to assess such political questions in a country which has proven equal protection before the law, let’s talk in terms of racial distinctions for the purpose of relating the Collectivist Left’s narrative to WEB DuBois’ 1903 essay “The Talented Tenth.”   In looking for a cause to contemporary concrete problems of racial self-segregation, economic lagging, educational gaps, et al, it is correct to look for the ideas that are the root cause of these consequences.  That cause was the shift of black intellectual thought from the American individualism of Booker T Washington to the Germanic collectivism of WEB DuBois as exemplified by DuBois’ “The Talented Tenth” essay.

A hundred plus years ago, there was a leadership transition amongst American black intellectuals from Booker T Washington to WEB DuBois, who had fundamental differences at the root of their intellectual contributions.

Born a slave, Washington was educated at Hampton Normal School, which had the purpose of educating freedmen after the Civil War, and he went on to create the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Washington emphasized the improvement of individuals through practical education for the purpose of skills development to support an independent and productive life.

In contrast, DuBois was born in the North to a family that had immigrated from the Caribbean and had been free before the Civil War; he was educated at Harvard, studied in Germany, and founded the NAACP.  DuBois emphasized collective political action by the black community led by an educated elite to achieve broad political rights.

Thus, in the context of the then Jim Crow South, their disagreement was concretely over whether it was more important to educate the masses and secure economic freedoms [Washington] or educate an elite who would negotiate with the power structure to secure political rights.  Today, DuBois’ emphasis has been achieved by the black elites who continue to hold on to their personal position and power while lamenting that Washington’s emphasis was not achieved and DuBois’ achievements are insufficient while developing of a dependent fatherless underclass.  By examining DuBois’ “The Talented Tenth” essay, we can identify ideas that are at the root of these negative consequences in order to identify necessary ideological corrections.

In his 1903 essay, DuBois’ fundamental thesis, in contrast to Washington, was that the primary emphasis must be placed on the development and education of an elite, the exceptional 10%, who would lead the black community “away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.” Further, DuBois derided education focused on technical skill and making money.  After the foundation of an educated black elite had been achieved, then the black community would develop skills and talents necessary for bread winning. DuBois identified that historically “the sole obstacles that nullified and retarded their efforts were slavery and race prejudice;” given the current prevalence after more than 100 years of this same claim, one may question the effectiveness of today’s black political elites at achieving meaningful change.

For DuBois, the development of these few black elites would be done by colleges and universities where these superior individuals “are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living, as to have no aims higher than their bellies, and no God greater than Gold.” As they had been, DuBois expected that the educated elite would be “the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements;” yet at that time, he found that the black community was deficient in such social leadership. For DuBois, it was particularly important that the ignorant masses be taught by “teachers of their own race and blood” as a demonstration for those masses of “an attainable ideal” through the representation of a black teacher.  Further, that the work of such teachers not be focused “simply for bread winning, but also for human culture,” which I add would be informed by an alien German collectivist philosophy of Kant, Hegel, Marx, et al as a basis for DuBois’ new culture. DuBois acknowledged the importance of industrial education for the masses, but prioritized developing institutions and spending money so that a limited number of college educated black elites could be trained in order “to inspire the masses, to raise the Talented Tenth to leadership.”

Overall, DuBois is a skilled reporter of facts, but his analysis of those facts is corrupted by flawed collectivist premises.  The point now is not to reargue the correct policy to be followed after 1903, but to look at the consequences of those ideas applied to reality over decades and to assess the need to change old thinking.  Now in Current Year, Jim Crow and legal segregation has been abolished for a few generations. For that, much credit is owed to the NAACP’s legal work in overturning racial discrimination through the courts and later legislatures.  Yet today, despite the creation and empowerment of the Talented Tenth, many of the concrete points cited by DuBois in his essay still are a problem today, such as fatherlessness, a lack of qualified teachers, and the negative social influence of degrading cultural forces.

Today, there isn’t actually a uniform black community as was mostly true in the segregated South familiar to Washington and DuBois. Instead of a shared history of slavery, segregation, legal abuse, and alienation, the black “community” today contains a diversity of those who integrated, those who immigrated from other countries in order to live the American dream, urban descendants of the Great Migration to the North, and an underclass of government dependents.  Frankly, the black “community” is full of individuals who live the American promise with the exception of that intergenerational underclass of government dependents, who also exist in all other races as well.

Political rhetoric today focuses on the intergenerational underclass who are essentially shepherded by DuBois’ Talented Tenth as the basis for their privileged careers and political power.  In exchange for political patronage [government jobs, contract set asides, welfare spending and subsidies], the Talented Tenth delivers the black vote to the Democratic Party machine at a rate higher than any other constituency.  In exchange, the Talented Tenth agree to policies that harm the black community such as:

  • restrictive labor and business laws that sacrifice jobs,
  • professional certification and licensing requirements that expensively block opportunities,
  • gun disarmament that prevents self-defense from criminals,
  • financial inducements to block the formation of intact families,
  • political attacks on private trade schools that offer vocational training in high paying job sectors, and
  • financial regulations that obstruct access to credit.

Of the above, the most pernicious are the urban public schools that utterly fail in the education of urban youth while operating for the benefit of the employees utilizing such misbegotten educational theories that it amounts to crippling the children. This was the big failed promise of DuBois in the Talented Tenth…the investment in educating the elite did not translate into black students developing life skills under the guidance of inspiring black teachers.  Instead, the Talented Tenth through their political influence in the Democratic Party made efforts to block all efforts to improve the education of urban black students by:

  • testing teacher qualifications,
  • firing ineffective teachers,
  • incentivizing teachers through merit pay and performance bonuses,
  • allowing for competition of private education management through charter schools,
  • reassignment of students with disruptive discipline issues,
  • abandoning Progressive educational methods that fail to educate, and
  • a commitment to funding and promoting vocational course options.

Beyond just the underclass and urban communities, DuBois’ prioritization has had a broader negative outcome over cultural norms related to what it means to be black in America.  Earnings gaps are still being reported by race; such gaps are attributable to the ideas in DuBois’ Talent Tenth essay as it has influenced education and career choices.  Consistent with DuBois’ direction, American blacks tend to gain higher education degrees in less lucrative fields, seek employment in the lower paid public instead of the private sector, and opt less often for employment in business leadership and entrepreneurship.  Of course, each individual makes their own choices about their education and career, yet broader trends are consistent with DuBois’ themes of anti-capitalism and community development in his Talented Tenth essay.

The gap between the promises of DuBois’ Talented Tenth and actual outcomes impacting individual lives has fostered more recriminations and complaints of betrayal than an actual conversation about whether the correct ideas are being used to achieve the correct goals.  Several generations after segregation and Jim Crow ended now is the time to seriously have that conversation.  Politically the #Blexit rhetoric and energy of new black conservatives promise a broader discussion than has been had, but that is not fundamental enough and has not seriously engaged black intellectuals who broadly speaking are happy to personally benefit in the status quo from their Talented Tenth pedestals.

While DuBois was correct to say fundamental educational and moral reform was necessary, he was utterly mistaken in his anti-capitalism and degradation of productive work in all but a few fields.  Related to education reform today, public control of education and financing is the primary obstacle to better education outcomes for students.  Without K-12 privatization, the best option for parents, especially fathers, is to invest more time and money in actively developing their own children as the public schools will not do so.  DuBois and many of today’s new black conservatives would agree that moral reform would be led by Christian churches; however, I suggest a more radical and individual approach to moral reform through Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ethics, a rational selfishness rooted in purpose, the practice of virtues, and a fundamental understanding of the role of choice in each of our lives.

In general, contrary to DuBois, we need to focus on American solutions and not black solutions; further, these changes need to be rooted in ideas from American individualism and not DuBois’ Germanic collectivism.  Such change does not require everyone to agree, as each individual is at liberty to choose paths that primarily advance their own life and that of their loved ones while possibly having a secondary positive influence in their acquaintances.  Fundamentally, this is accomplished by individuals independently identifying the values that they seek in their own life, including in their productive work, without subordinating themselves to someone else’s expectations or direction.  Each of us needs to recognize that our lives are fundamentally the consequences of our choices, and not the influence of external forces such as racism, while we each take responsibility for our own choices.

Within the context of politics, each of us must also think independently instead of following a racially assigned script or be obedient to the choices of a political party. Personally, I recommend everyone consider that the protection of each of our individual rights is the only legitimate basis for government action and that government restraints on each of our ability to act on our own moral judgment should be repealed so that we are free to pursue our opportunities without violating the rights of anyone else.

Within the context of this post, I don’t intend to be prescriptive of what the reader must think on these issues but emphasize instead that they must think and do so fundamentally.  The lives of too many of our fellow Americans are circling the drain of DuBois’ impotent ideas. Many of the same problems that he identified not only still exist but are worse in many ways.  It is time for each of us to learn from past mistakes and make new choices wisely.

 

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How to Fix Federal Student Loan Debt without the Democrats’ Debt Forgiveness Promises

On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates fall over themselves to promise broad federal student loan forgiveness for votes; but when it comes to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which governs the federal student loan program and is before Congress right now, the Democrats offer no such large scale forgiveness because words are wind and keeping such promises will endanger the financing of the Pell Grant entitlement and burden the federal taxpayers with that debt as US Treasury borrowed the money that financed those federal student loans.

Student loan indebtedness is a real problem for many young people across the country, because of prior Democratic efforts in the Bush and Obama Administrations to nationalize the federal student loan program and expand it by raising federal student loan limits, especially for graduate school.  Journalist Tim Pool has opined that this is an issue that can’t be ignored as the young’s debt to the federal government makes them more open to sacrifice everyone else to Socialism in order to get from under their own personal unmanageable federal student loan debt.

Pool’s point is why I left the education finance industry in 2008 after 20+ years of experience solving problems, especially related to delinquency and loan default, that risked financially ruining the system.  The straw that broke my back was when my company gave up its almost successful effort to privatize the system and instead sold its federal student loan portfolio to the government before the 2008 US financial crisis.  At the time, I said that I may return when the system fails and people become open to actual solutions, which is the spirit in which my below suggestion is made.  Systemic failure has taken longer than I expected because I did not account for the Federal Reserve conjuring money to finance unsustainable federal borrowing.

Let us begin by correctly defining the situation. The vast majority of student loan debtors both owe the federal government money now and on an ongoing basis to pay off student loans that are owned by the federal government and at the same time, these debtors are making on-going payments for a future benefit through the Social Security Retirement Benefit program.  Let me restate that: at the same time as young Americans are not able to make ongoing payments for past education benefits, the government forces them first to pay for future retirement benefits before paying for past education benefits. How does that make any sense? It doesn’t make sense and it is the Welfare State cross that is breaking the back of America’s young workers.

How do we fix this legislatively created contradiction in which the same individual both owes money to the government immediately that they can’t pay and is owned money from the government in the future based upon payments that they continue to make? The simple solution is to redirect a student loan debtor’s past, current, and future contributions from the Social Security old-age retirement benefit program to repay their student loan debt.

While this will benefit the student loan debtor by accelerating the repayment of their student loans, what will it cost them?  Social Security retirement benefits require earning quarterly work credits in order to qualify for retirement benefits, so that employee old-age FICA contributions redirected to federal student loan repayment will not earn work credits towards Social Security retirements benefit, thus they will have to retire later in order to receive full Social Security retirement benefits [thus a targeted raising of the retirement age for those who didn’t work as long and borrowed from the federal government to attend a post-secondary school].  Further, the employer’s portion of the old-age FICA contribution will be added to the Social Security Trust Fund without the worker accruing any quarterly work credits towards retirement benefits.

Does this plan weaken the Social Security retirement program with its already existing unfunded liability? No.  Matching employer contributions still go to fund Social Security retirement benefits for other retirees while not incurring any additional future liability for retirement benefits until that debtor’s federal student loan has been repaid.  If previously paid employee contributions to the Social Security Retirement Benefit are redirected to federally owned student loan repayment, then such is offset by a reduction in the future benefit liabilities for the entire retirement program.  Overall, the reduction in the present value of future liabilities to the Social Security retirement program plus the retention of employer contributions will result in a reduction in the unfunded liability for the Social Security retirement program while employees who borrowed from the federal government will be able to repay their federal student loans earlier but will retire later so that future federal outlays overall for retirement are either reduced or neutral in particular instances.

In sum, student loan debtors have their federal student loans paid off sooner, the unfunded liability of the Social Security retirement program is reduced, and college-educated debtors can volunteer to retire later in life in order to alleviate their near-term cash flow deficiencies related to youthful student loan repayment.

Does this cover everyone with student loan debt? No, as public employees often do not pay FICA taxes nor do the self-employed.  Yet, this plan does cover most employed young people burdened with student loan debt.  There are already forgiveness programs for public employees so this issue is partially covered but may require an additional plan.  Related to the self-employed, Congress could change statutes to allow them to redirect retirement funds to federal student loan debt without a penalty.  Further, it is important to remember that the majority of federal student loan borrowers repay their debt, but this plan does give them options to be able to repay this debt earlier so that it is not a mortgage on their entire work life.

There is another category of student loan borrower that this suggested program does not cover and they may need to make different choices in their life.  I did not suggest that a man should be able to redirect his Social Security contributions to repay his wife’s federal student loans.  Given the number of men who are rewarded with divorce papers after repaying his wife’s student loans, I would not suggest the transfer of future retirement benefits from husbands to wives as such would be sexist in favor of the wife.  Instead, when a woman is burdened with federal student loan debt, she will likely need to continue to work with her retirement funds repaying her student loan while her husband may stay home temporarily with their young kids, which would be a great benefit to the children as #MenAreGood.

How does this look to the typical student loan borrower? They will continue to make some monthly payments to their student loan, possibly one set by income-contingent repayment; however, they will repay their student loan debt closer to the 10-year repayment term of prior generations instead of 25 to 30 years for the most indebted student.  Further, the federal government will have a tool to reduce the liability of defaulted student loans by offsetting their student loan debt with previous and on-going employee contributions to the Social Security Retirement Trust Fund.  Overall, it allows the student loan debtor and the federal government to offset liabilities immediately now in a way that benefits the potential of the individual federal student loan debtor.

Without any rational sense, federal student loan borrowers both owe for past student loan benefits that they cannot immediately repay while paying for future Social Security retirement benefits that they will not see for decades.  Frankly, the individual owes themselves and can’t repay themselves as the government programs are contradictory and self-defeating while grinding up the individual in that contradiction.  Instead of chewing up the lives of these federal student loan borrowers in these contradictions, we should alter the terms of these programs so that we can protect our children from these contradictions.  After all, do we love our children and want grandkids more than we are beholden to these contradictory federal government programs?

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Reply to Ed Powell re: ARI and the Political Spectrum

On my last post “Lessons from the Aristotle Adventure Applied to Objectivism,” Ed Powell invested the time to make a substantial comment which merits a substantial but quickish response.  In tone Powell’s comment related to ARI and the left-right political spectrum disagrees with my key points, but examining the concretes he provides evidence to support them. Let’s take a look at that.

First, Powell disagrees with my statement that ARI’s purpose “…is to spread the work and ideas of Ayn Rand, Objectivism…” which he identified as shilling, fleecing money from fans of Ayn Rand to give jobs to the staff of ARI.  In context of my post, I relate that statement of purpose with the hedgehog concept, which was part of Jim Collin’s finding in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.  Following the link provided in my original post, for those unfamiliar with the hedgehog concept, we find that it describes “A simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of three circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic or resource engine.” The hedgehog concept becomes the standard by which an organization assesses its activities and programs, especially new ones and issues of diversification, to determine whether there is actually an alignment to the organization’s mission.  Given this, the concrete criticisms of ARI by Powell are not a correction of the purpose that I stated, but particulars to consider whether or not ARI is focused on the purpose that I stated.

In general, criticisms are very important and should be taken seriously. Eliyahu Goldratt, creator of the Theory of Constraints, discussed how planning engages objections through a process called trimming.  I don’t have inside information on ARI’s finances so it is up to them to consider while I could only do so generally.  Powell’s criticisms of ARI fall into three categories: fundraising, editing of unpublished works, and whether ARI’s work is primarily to benefit its staff.

On fundraising, Powell has two areas of concern: the alienation of long-time supporters in favor of large donors and the influence that large donors appear to have over issues ARI highlights for contemporary analysis.  From the outside, it appears that at some point in the past ARI engaged professional consultants to help them improve their fundraising; they have previously acknowledged doing so related to training for media appearances. As I see it, ARI has a robust fundraising strategy targeting large, small and mid-tier donors; in my experience, it is those mid-tier donors who have the most long-term fundraising potential. Contrary to Powell’s grifting assertion, perhaps ARI could invest more into donor relationship management to provide more incentives and engagement w/ the non-large donors but I would be concerned about ROI and a distraction from core focus if they were to invest in that direction.  Related to the influence of large donors on issues, Powell cited three specifics: defending Israel, expanding the H1-B visa program, and failure to criticize Carl Barney’s past related to Scientology & as the owner of for-profit post-secondary schools.  These concretes can be addressed with the simple question of “Would the intellectual content of ARI be any different on these issues if there were no big donors?” In my opinion, the answer to that question is no; however, big donors supporting a new project or initiative can impact the scale, scope, and broadcast of a particular initiative.

On editing previously unpublished work for publication, Powell is concerned that such editing has made the previously unpublished work more clear and consistent without sufficient disclosure of alterations.  As even Rand’s work published during her lifetime went through an editor at the publisher, such an objection amounts to “the footnotes are not good enough.” Despite disclosing the editor on the cover and including a statement from the editor about their method, perhaps the footnotes should have been more extensive to detail the original text and the reasoning for any alterations. Yet, that is an optional value and the works were published with reasonable editing & disclosure.

On Powell’s assertion of the ARI grift, there is a simple question: “Would the staff members of ARI make more money in a different line of work?” The answer is yes, so no grift. Part of Powell’s concern seems more related to ARI’s international work as opposed to being focused only in the US. In the context of Burgess Laughlin’s lessons to be learned from the first few generations after Aristotle, the development of an international footprint was essential to not only propagating but saving Aristotle’s work; further, foreign scholars played an essential part in “reading, copying, teaching, translating, writing, and valuing” Aristotle’s work.

In summary, Powell used the same standard to assess ARI and level criticism as I stated was ARI’s purpose. Identification of suspected deviations from my statement of ARI’s purpose was the crux of his concretes. ARI is not immune from criticism & should actively engage in self-criticism through a formal lessons learned review of initiatives and programs.  While it is not always correct or informed, freely offered criticism should not be ignored, but instead chewed, trimmed, and impact plans going forward.

Changing the subject from ARI to the left-right political spectrum, Powell asserts that my “characterization of left and right is ahistoric.” Yet, that is the definition that I learned 30+ years ago…is 30+ years ago no longer part of history? Again, while disagreeing with my core point, Powell provides concrete evidence to support that point, which is that on that spectrum “Left is for change, while right is for status quo and tradition.” To be more expansive than I was yesterday from left to right, the political spectrum is “Radical – Liberal – Moderate – Conservative – Reactionary.” As I took that to be well-known and canonical, I did not spell it out but it will be helpful to see in the context of Powell’s concretes.

According to Powell, “The left doesn’t want just change, it wants revolutionary change.” On the left-right political spectrum, that is called radical.  While Powell associates the entire left of the spectrum with the radicals, they are not the whole of the left [see all the liberal members of the Intellectual Dark Web].  Meanwhile, people including myself have been having trouble figuring out what to call this Intersectialist/SJW/Progressive/Postmodern/Marxist grouping as they keep changing their own name.  In the 1930s and 1960s, they would be described as radicals [per the  left-right political spectrum].  While I had been calling them Leftists as it was a term that was generally understood, it is actually about as clear as Libertarian vs. libertarian…which doesn’t really translate via audio.  As I consider this more, the term radical collectivists is probably a more accurate name when considered as distinct from radical capitalists.

While Powell acknowledges that “The right wants to maintain either the status quo or some traditional understanding of the status quo ante,” he adds that the right “are for *gradual* thoughtful change based on understanding the ramifications of the change on societal institutions.” Concretely, Powell’s observations can be found in politicking and legislative compromise. The right’s expressions depends on whether they are in political power, when out of power they campaign for reform that amounts to the restoration of traditional principles [balance the budget, reform wasteful spending], but when in power it is stay the course and at most trim some of the innovations previously made by the other side. Meanwhile, when the need for change is overwhelmingly expressed popularly, then the legislators on the right will seek some small changes as an appeasement to preserve the tradition from significant change.  In addition, Powell observes that specific individuals on the right may focus on different aspects of the status quo as most important for preservation; that is very true, but when these individuals aggregate into a political coalition, the unifying theme of their alliance is preserving the status quo across a broad range of issues.

Despite asinine assertions of RHINO, both of the main US parties are coalitions that contain elements of the left, right, and center based upon the question of change. Since the 80s, there has been a diminishing of this diversity within each party.  As Tim Pool has reported, this has been particularly true for the Democrats recently; meanwhile, President Trump has been trying to pull more from the left into the Republican Party as a continuation of Lee Atwater’s Big Tent strategy.  As I said in the prior post, while Objectivists are radicals for capitalism on the left in the long term, it is beneficial that in near term contemporary politics that there are Objectivists on the left, right, and center politically so that we can create and advocate integrated transformation plans that both change the system to better protect individual rights while preventing the system from shattering at the same time.  Based upon his own statement, Powell and I agree on the near- and long-term objectives in my last sentence.

 

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Lessons from The Aristotle Adventure Applied to Objectivism

This post is a reply to Mr Cropper’s YouTube video “Objectivist Pnyx Is Hereby Assembled” in which he in part called me out to substantiate one of my earlier comments. On his vid “Mr. Cropper, Objectivist Driver” I had reasserted he needed to read the last section in Burgess Laughlin’s The Aristotle Adventure for a better understanding of how philosophical ideas are effectively transmitted over time. In effect, he requested that I provide specifics to substantiate my point.

As context for this exchange, in my opinion, Mr Cropper had been making erroneous derogatory comments about how unnamed Ayn Rand Institute [ARI] intellectuals did their job promoting Ayn Rand’s ideas. I heard his statements as parroting talking points from those who would destroy Objectivism by redefining it as an open philosophic system and not limited to Ayn Rand’s philosophic work.  He hypothesized that ARI intellectuals had been corrupted by their interactions in the Ivory Tower and were now saying things in an effort to please their Leftist colleagues.   Finally, he asserted that if ARI intellectuals couldn’t get their act together that he would take over leadership of Objectivism. Meanwhile, I did reply with vulgar humorous male banter equivalent to “I’m gonna kick your ass” to warn him that he was stepping into dangerous territory.

In his later vid, which included his request for my reply, Mr Cropper did provide a correct high-level summary about the travels of Aristotle’s ideas over thousands of years. However, my point is more particularly about the first few generations after Aristotle’s death and before Aristotle’s ideas had become more widely accepted.  Laughlin covered the details of this historical period [322-43 BC] in the second part of his book; below as an extra point, I provide an outline of that section excerpted from the book’s table of contents.  Despite effectively leveraging technology to scale, Objectivism is still in a roughly equivalent post-Theophrastus period beginning 285 BC.  For the purpose of answering Mr Cropper’s question, I will focus on Laughlin’s final chapter, “Lessons From the Past” and relate it to the work of ARI.

First let us be clear about ARI’s purpose which is to spread the work and ideas of Ayn Rand, Objectivism.  Its purpose is not to pass legislation nor win elections.  Nor is it to win the individual battles of the culture war. ARI staying true to its “Hedgehog Concept” can be a catalyst to advocates of reason achieving personal happiness, winning the culture war, and limiting government to its correct scope.  Meanwhile, others outside of ARI empowered by Rand’s ideas will be engaged in the deciding cultural and political conflicts.  Why does ARI talk about political and cultural issues? Those are hooks to engage an expanding audience for the ideas of Rand by demonstrating how to think about contemporarily relevant issues in the context of Rand’s philosophic work. Overtime, many people associated with ARI have engaged in non-ARI activities to apply their knowledge of Rand’s ideas to contemporary problems; for example, Alex Epstein and Don Watkins now with the Center for Industrial Progress.

A major lesson learned expressed by Laughlin was the need to publish standardized versions of the philosophic work as a failure to do so with Aristotle was a liability. ARI has worked to facilitate continuous publication of Rand’s philosophic work, including issuing previously unpublished work, making her work available through ever-changing technology and distribution outlets, and translating her work into multiple languages. Further, they maintain an Archive to retain and make available artifacts relevant to her philosophic work for study.

Some critics of Ayn Rand say that she failed to organize her work into an integrated philosophic system, but neither did Aristotle so such integration work fell upon others to complete as a necessary means “for later readers to grasp as a fully integrated whole.” While the most important of that work was completed by Leonard Peikoff in OPAR , ARI funds scholars who advance such work to organize and present Rand’s ideas.  ARI’s effort in this area, especially using scholars who were personally familiar with Rand and had the opportunity to discuss these ideas with her, is a major advance applying lessons learned from failures related to Aristotle’s intellectual heirs.

Unlike Aristotle’s successors, the existence of ARI not only advances the careers of scholars working on Rand’s ideas but protects them from threats. There is a commonly repeated story about how John Ridpath was opposed for tenure on the claim that he did not publish enough; his career was saved by support from F.A. Hayek. ARI has supported avenues to ensure that Objectivist scholars have access to being published. Further, their network of academics helps to create opportunities for them to spread Rand’s ideas through associations and public events.  Frankly, it is amazing how Objectivists scholars have gone from being targeted for career elimination by Marxist profs to now being sought out for their advocacy of Rand’s ideas. In contrast, Theophrastus [Aristotle’s successor] had to flee Athens where his school was attacked as “a nest of traitors.”

Laughlin identified six activities performed by those who preserved and advanced Aristotle’s ideas: reading, copying, teaching, translating, writing, and valuing.  Two of ARI’s most successful programs are the annual essay contests and books for teachers, which expands the number of students reading Rand’s ideas every year. Like the ancient copyists of Aristotle’s work, ARI manages the efforts of volunteer transcriptionists to recording in text live material such as interviews, speeches, lectures, and Q&A that were previously only available via audio or video.  In interviews, speeches, lectures, and courses around the world and on-line [including YouTube], ARI intellectuals teach Ayn Rand’s ideas to the public and respond directly to those with questions about her work.  Additionally, through the Objectivist Academic Center, ARI trains intellectuals to apply Ayn Rand’s ideas to their scholarship and advocacy. Yaron Brook has been very vocal about the success ARI has had getting Ayn Rand’s ideas translated into new languages.  While there have been a number of written works and in other media recently about Ayn Rand’s life and ideas, it is those that have been associated with ARI via funding, affiliation, archive material sourcing, or partnership that have provided the most robust, detailed, and accurate representation of Rand’s ideas [for example: see the participation of ARI in C-SPAN’s American Writers feature on Ayn Rand].  Throughout its educational efforts, including Ayn Rand Campus, ARI emphasizes the fundamentally personal and individualized value of Ayn Rand’s ideas as a toolkit for a person to independently build a happy life for their self.

Beyond those points articulated by Laughlin, I would point out that ARI has for decades been building up a community around the world based on shared values founded in Ayn Rand’s ideas.  Does that mean we agree about everything? Nope, but such a community has resulted in professional partnerships, networking, friendships, and marriages. In a world full of bad ideas, it is refreshing to be able to enjoy some sanctuary with others knowledgeable about Ayn Rand’s ideas in a campus club, community meetup, ARI event, or the ARI’s annual Objectivist Conference OCON.

BUT…now Mr Cropper says that he will drive the Objectivist bus instead of ARI. Given all the important work that ARI has been doing to promote Ayn Rand’s philosophic ideas, aka Objectivism, why does he think that it is necessary? Based upon comments that he has made repeatedly across many videos decrying those he calls “Obleftivists,” I have identified four main issues of dispute by Mr Cropper and they are all narrow concrete points within politics:

  1. Immigration: Cropper disagrees with ARI intellectuals focusing on a proper immigration policy for the US, which to Cropper sounds too much like the Democrats, instead of getting on board with the Republicans for a narrow reform of immigration laws that emphasizes a different method restricting immigration.
  2. China: Cropper thinks that ARI, particularly Yaron Brook, has been acting as apologists for China [sounding like Democrats] while Cropper seems to be more interested in a Cold War style containment policy towards China.
  3. President Trump: While Cropper disagrees often with Trump, he thinks that ARI intellectuals have been too critical of Trump by repeating spurious Democratic talking points and making doctrinaire statements without regard to additional relevant context [for example, Trump’s tariff policy].
  4. The Left: Cropper believes that Objectivists should join forces with President Trump to defeat the [collectivist] Left which is the urgent enemy.

In summary, Mr Cropper’s argument for his being given the steering wheel for the Objectivist bus is that Objectivists should spend more time, money, and effort promoting the ideas of Donald Trump in short term politics instead of Ayn Rand’s ideas in long term philosophy.  While I could go into detailed commentary about the specific concretes, my thoughts on the general idea were previously practically covered in my posts about Ari Armstrong’s suggesting that lovers of liberty join the Republican Party and my analysis of the factions within The Republican Hydra.

More important than those specific issues, let me talk about the framework to use in order to analyze those differences within politics.  There is a lot of confusion about the political spectrum of left and right, that the meaning of those terms have changed over time, and that alternative political spectrums are needed; not true.  Left is for change, while right is for status quo and tradition. Objectivists are radicals for capitalism, the unknown ideal, thus they are for change and are on the left of the political spectrum.  Left doesn’t specify what type of change, but political reform of some kind instead of the status quo. Meanwhile, right is currently articulated through pragmatic stewardship [George H. W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Trump] or in a reactionary form that seeks to restore past traditions [political Christians, conservatives].  In context, left vs right is about either changing or preserving tradition relative to now.

How does this apply to Objectivists? In contemporary politics, different Objectivists will advocate policy views on the left, right, or middle.  In the long term, they all agree on the political destination of change, but have differences about how to act today to bridge the gap.  As ARI is advocating the radical capitalist ideas of Ayn Rand through its efforts to promote Objectivism, their speakers will emphasize the long term left political objectives of expanding the protection of individual rights.  Meanwhile, many Objectivists like Mr Cropper in contemporary politics think in the short-term by advocating right-wing views to defend the status quo from those on the left advocating expanding collectivist policies and are OK with making temporary alliance with the collectivists on the right.

Where do I stand on this spectrum? First, ARI is correct to advocate long-term the political principles of Ayn Rand as that is part of their hedge-hog purpose; additionally, they do make the disclaimer that transition policies will be required to achieve those conditions in the long term. Second, in the US, the right is worse than a broken clock and will be correct less than twice a day.  Meanwhile, the left seeks contradictory changes and forms a coalition that will settle the specific policies after an electoral victory [see the inability of California Democrats to agree on solutions for the state’s actual problems].  Neither is worth joining beyond temporary support on narrow issues focused on advancing the protection of individual rights. Personally, in contemporary politics, I am moderately left as I focus on multi-phased transition policies to get away from the ‘As-is’ model of the status quo towards the ‘To-be’ model of radical capitalism [for example, see my post How MoSCoW Can Fix America’s Spending Problem].

In summary, ARI is driving the Objectivist bus, has done so effectively, and they should continue to drive the bus.  Mr Cropper’s narrow disputes are differences caused by long term thinking by ARI and short-term thinking by those who ally themselves today with the right politically.  In contemporary politics, ARI isn’t a player as such is outside of their mission. Individual Objectivists are at liberty to advocate short-term political policies but should give attention to whether those policies move the needle towards protecting individual rights in the long term instead of simply selecting from a menu of policies offered by the political right.  Very often the popular voices on the left and right are both wrong on the same issue, which gives Objectivists an opportunity to articulate a change policy that advances individual rights.

Extra Point: Relevant Outline Excerpt from The Aristotle Adventure’s Table of Contents

Part 2. Underground Stream (322-43 BC)

  1. Aristotle’s School (to 322 BC)
  • Colonies and wars
  • The school in the Lyceum
  • The legacy of Alexander the Great
  • “Aristotle has made these dispositions…”
  1. Aristotle’s Two Best Students (322-285 BC)
  • Eudemus
  • Theophrastus
  • Theophrastus’ school in the Lyceum
  • Turmoil around the school
  • Fear and Flight
  • Theophrastus’ work in logic
  • Theophrastus’ will
  1. Inside the School (285-100 BC)
  • After Aristotle and Theophrastus
  • Straton
  • Lyco and the others
  • The fundamental cause of decline
  1. Outside the School (285-100 BC)
  • Difference between Alexandria and Athens
  • Alexandria
  • Athens
  1. Recovery (100-43 BC)
  • Into the light again
  • Rome’s entrance
  • Cicero’s studies
  • Tyrannio
  • Andronicus
  • For Aristotle’s work, mixed messages

 

 

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Thoughts of Employment Testing and Liability

Recently, Yaron Brook published interesting commentary about the Aunt Becky college admissions scandal.  He shared an anecdote about a conversation with company executives about why they don’t test job candidates in order to qualify them for employment.

Here is Brook’s video clip:

I think that his observations missed an important issue related to liability for equal employment practices.

Qualification testing for employment had previously been common, but it was destroyed by federal employment law in that a test created a burden upon the employer to demonstrate that it was racially neutral. Thus a requirement of a college degree became a racially neutral standard for protecting hiring practices from lawsuits. Subsequent court rulings have weakened that federal bias against employment tests, but HR departments that are more about legal compliance are not adapting to new opportunities.

Where are we today? Companies want third-party certification to qualify candidates for employment. This has been growing in IT and with the PMP. More is needed but employers still need to be hands-off about the development of these certifications to avoid potential liability.

In my experience, these third-party certifications are flawed in that there are still people without the ability that accumulate credentials and people with ability who are too busy working to accumulate credentials.

Federal laws and regulations related to equal employment policy need to be modernized [segregration ended more than 50 years ago] in order to allow HR compliance departments to become the leads in identifying the talent that is needed by today’s companies.

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How MoSCoW Can Fix America’s Spending Problem

In the past several years, I have been working on managing a multitude of requirements within a government project so that the objective was achieved on time and on budget. The lessons learned about setting and enforcing priorities are principles that scale to address our federal spending problem at the highest level and back down through all departments, agencies, programs, and projects.

I think that we have general agreement in our Congress and country that (1) the federal government as a whole spends too much money, and (2) that every item of federal spending has a constituency that says there is not enough spending on that particular issue. The math in that contradiction does not work as more plus more equal a worse spending problem.

Almost every idea for more government spending in isolation can achieve a majority of popular support, so that it is essential to take a more global view of spending in light of the actual constraints of revenue and availability of borrowing from private investors. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and congressional budget committees are supposed to be responsible for taking such a perspective, but that have been corruptly misguided by the political driver of using the budget as a vehicle to manage the distribution of political patronage in our modern Spoils System.

If the correction of the overspending problem is to be achieved as a goal, there are two directing concepts that are required a hierarchical codification for prioritization and a standard to guide it other than the ephemeral advantage of the political class and its key constituencies (a.k.a. factions in the dialect of Madison). This principled solution is in stark contradiction to the political lies offered as solutions such as a balanced budget amendment, line item veto, term limits, and extracting every penny from the “rich” as regardless of the political kabuki in the end our Congress must make hard choices about spending as in what not to spend.

In establishing the standard to guide the prioritization, we must level setting and agree upon a particular true observable fact from reality. Every item of federal spending is rooted in the issue that “we” must do something about a problem; however, the federal government is not and never has been the only mechanism for “we” to act. Independent of government, we are guaranteed freedom of association, which “we” have use to solve problems without government through private charities and businesses; anyone who advocates for a solution to a problem can privately use this right, regardless of a sanction of the majority, to freely cooperate with a like minded “we.” Further, in the genius of our federal system, most solutions that actually requiring a government action, to protect individual rights and subordinated retaliatory force to objective law, are implemented by our state and local governments. Thus, a federal government solution is not required for every “we” must.

Embedded in this recommendation is a particular goal that I have for our federal government and I hope that you share…I want our federal government to be a great organization that achieves extraordinary results, which I mean in the sense identified by Jim Collins in his popular book _Good to Great_. Key to the development of a great organization is the development of a Hedgehog Concept, which Collins defines as the intersection between the answers to three questions that I paraphrase for this purpose as:

  1. What can the government organization be the best in the world at?
  2. What fuels the health, vitality, and durability of the government organization?
  3. What is the government organization deeply passionate about?

My answers to those questions are, and upon thoughtful consideration I am confident that you will agree:

  1. Within the constraints of our Constitution, it is best in the actual world (as opposed to a Utopian fantasy) at protecting the individual rights of American citizens.
  2. Capitalism, a political system that protects individual rights, is the fuel of America.
  3. As found in the Declaration of Independence, the federal government is passionate about the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a purpose for our standard of prioritization of federal spending, federal government is an organization that must focus upon, within the context of our Constitution, protecting the individual rights of American citizens so that they are each free to independently exercise their virtue to enhance their life and achieve their own happiness. In applying this standard to issues of prioritization, all of Collins’ Hedgehog questions still apply, especially related to whether the federal government is the best in the world to act and spend in solving the underlying problem consistent with its purpose.

As for the hierarchical codification of prioritization, I have found Agile’s MoSCoW prioritization to be effective at prioritizing a large number of government requirements within a constrained environment, such as limited time and money. In general, there are four tiers with easily understood labels: Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have; which for our immediate purpose relates to whether a budget item will be in the budget or be completely defunded. Prioritization is done from the perspective of the customer, which we have expressed for this purpose in our standard for guiding prioritization, essentially the purpose. Further, the particular definition of each level is affected by the nature of the project, which for our purpose is budgeting federal spending in a period of transition from overspending to appropriate spending.

To be useful as a consistent and shared prioritization, each level of prioritization must be explicitly defined in writing. Related to prioritizing federal spending so that overall spending is reduced through elimination or possibly deferral of particular spending items:

  • MUST HAVE: Only spending by the federal government on this line item can meet the standard and must be funded at some level in order to subordinate retaliatory force to objective law (for example: military spending).
  • SHOULD HAVE: While others could be better than the federal government at achieving the purpose through spending, legacy government policy and laws have destroyed or handicapped other actors so that a transition plan, including substantially reforming existing laws, is requirement (for example: Social Security, which has a substantial unfunded future liability that will result in an automatic cut to future benefits).
  • COULD HAVE: Only spending by the federal government on this line item can meet the standard but funding is optional/contingent in competition with higher concurrent spending priorities (for example: security improvements at US Embassies).
  • WON’T HAVE: These items could be achieved outside of federal spending without substantial legislative revision such as only program elimination and possibly block granting funding to states for a fixed transition time period (for example: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can be immediately eliminated with Patreon, Kickstarter, and their like privately free to solve the legacy financing problem).

In the first year of use, this federal budgeting prioritization plan could eliminate WON’T HAVE spending and save on COULD HAVE spending by either deferral, reduction, or elimination. In later years, transition plans for SHOULD HAVE spending will reduce federal liabilities and spending over a period defined by law. Future wish list spending proposal would be subjected to the same prioritization to control spending growth. Additionally, the prioritization concept should be used within the departments and agencies to prioritize their spending, which will help controlling for mission creep and rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse.

At this point, you may ask, “How do you know that this plan would work?” While I could cite my professional experience, that success does not address the scaling question, so instead I will point to Albert Gallatin. He was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, who used the same prioritization to not only balance the budget, but also cut taxes and pay off half the federal debt by eliminating excessive Federalist spending from the prior Administration. Gallatin’s prioritized fiscal discipline enabled Jefferson to seize the opportunity of the Louisiana Purchase.

Contrary to claims that there are no viable solutions, this prioritization concept has already been demonstrated to work in controlling overspending on both the small and large scale, in both the private sector and government. The real question is “Do you really care about reducing federal spending or are you counting on dying before the consequences of our profligacy?” If the later, my daughter literally hates you personally for your irresponsibility in leaving your debts for her to pay. If the former, the above is a real, effective, and simple solution, so go forth and use it.

 

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NFL Anthem Protesters vs. Constitutional Rights

Colin Kaepernick has failed. More than a year ago, he started the anthem protests in the NFL by creating a spectacle through either sitting or taking a knee during the national anthem before the game. It is said that he did so to draw attention to a critical issue, but instead he has distracted from conversations that were already active long before his protest.

What issue is the cause? Based upon the conversations that we are having now, it is either:

  1. The unchallenged assertion that independent contractors have a right to engage in political activism at their workplace on issues unrelated to their workplace; and
  2. Debating whether it is un-American to intentionally disrespect symbols of America, like the anthem and the flag, as part of expressing your contempt for the current state of America either in general or on a particular issue.

On the first, try it yourself at your job, in front of your customers, and then it should not be too hard to learn the answer. On the later, this is a long settled issue allowing for individual freedom. However, neither were what Kaepernick wanted us to discuss, so epic fail.

Let us go back to his original statement to understand Kaepernick’s issue; he said:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

While he generally cites oppression against racial minorities, the expressed motivating detail is that police officers who shoot citizens are not being convicted of crimes.

Before the kneeling Kaepernick of pig-cop socks fashion, the issue of our fellow citizens being shot by our police officers was a subject of substantial public attention and debate as it is a vital issue of justice. However, he actually took the air out of that debate as it was distracted into a false free speech debate that had nothing to do with the government suppression of speech until President Trump put the bully back into the bully pulpit.

Returning again to Kaepernick’s orginial issue, cops are not being convicted for shooting citizens. Why not? In exercising their actual constitutional rights to a fair trial, due process of law, and trial by jury, the accused police officers have not been found guilty. Note that these same constitutional rights protected NFL stars like Ezekiel Elliot, Ray Lewis, and OJ Simpson when they were accused of crimes. Further, this deprecation of constitutional rights in favor of ideologically preferred outcomes was evident in the recently overturned Obama Administration policy that used Title IX to deny men accused of rape on campus of their due process rights.

Given his explicit use of SJW trigger words and his love of Cuban communist fashion, I have to consider his comments within the context of the regressive left political movement. Thus, Kaepernick’s objective is to create for cops the type of arbitrary system lacking due process that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell applies to review of player conduct. He advocates that reviews of police shootings come to an ideologically predetermined outcome by throwing out our constitutional protections for the accused, which have benefited all Americans regardless of skin color.

While Kaepernick appears to have gone full SJW, I do not think that is true of all the NFL kneelers, whose motivation are probably as diverse and disintegrated as a survey of any group of leftist protesters. Thus, despite being highly educated and playing a cerebral sport, by doing protest kabuki instead of using their words, these NFL players are failing to add to the discussion of the issue of cops shooting citizens.

I hope that we can dismiss this cult-of-personality distraction and get back to talking about real policy.

  • How should cops be armed?
  • Do we have enough non-lethal options to subdue resisting or threatening suspects?
  • Is there sufficient federal involvement related to review and prosecution of such shooting?
  • Is greater independence of prosecutors, such as being from the state Attorney General’s office, required in such shootings?
  • How can technology better collect evidence of police conduct?
  • How do laws related to drugs and domestic disputes increase risks of such shootings?
  • Do failures in psychological treatments increase risks of such shootings?
  • Does the post release treatment of felons, including related to reduced employment opportunities, increase risks of such shooting?
  • And much much more…
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