Prescient Ayn Rand

Today is my 500th post.  When I started Anthidote in 2006 I did quick reviews of things I liked.  That evolved into more long-form essay style posts on subject matter that interested me.  That evolved into pulling in travel photos from adventures around the world when I blended my personal blog with this one.  For the 500th post, I thought I’d make the subject matter a little bit heavier again since we’re in such an important year in the history of the USA.

I’ve been a fan of Ayn Rand since 1993 when I read Atlas Shrugged.  That book change my life and clearly it has also has an affect on millions of others as well.   In mid-July President Obama gave his now famous speech wherein he basically openly exposed his belief that the collective is more important than the individual (when if he would simply acknowledge that successful individuals freely trading with one other automatically makes for a strong collective).  It’s as if he and his like-minded crowd keep pushing on a door that is marked “pull”.

What continually amazes me is how Ayn Rand foretold so much of what is happening in the world because she had witnessed (lived it) already it first hand growing up in the old Soviet Russia, which she has described as a truly terrifying place the likes of which modern Americans have no real understanding.  How could someone born say after 1990 have any real concept of what tyranny feels like or looks like?  It’s the stuff of history books as far as they know.

There is a scene in Atlas Shrugged that is so similar to Obama’s ridiculous speech last week that I thought I’d lay the comments side by side.


“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t…. look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” (Enthusiastic Applause from the audience.)

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t  build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Now look at this scene from Atlas Shrugged – a scene where a government “official” is stating that the smart industrialist Hank Rearden somehow doesn’t deserve credit for inventing the metal he invented.

From Atlas Shrugged:

“He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”


“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”

She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”

Looking at Obama’s comments, he loves to talk about roads and bridges.  Is that what Obama believes is the reason people are successful?  Because the country invested in roads and bridges? A lot of countries have roads and bridges – so what?  What Obama fails to grasp is that it’s is smart, competent people that make the world a better place not only for themselves but for virtually everybody.   It’s not because their country invested in roads – hell North Korea has roads, Venezuela has roads.

The absolutely amazing thing about Atlas Shrugged is that no matter what decade you’re in, it reads like it comes straight from today’s headlines – and today more than ever unfortunately.  The good news?  At the end of the book when the government has completely screwed everything up they finally realize that the only way to set things straight again is to get out of the way and let competent individuals forge the new path (again).  It’s a mentality shift that some have made and some other haven’t.   In December 2011 I wrote a piece here on how we should be grateful for entrepreneurs instead of casting them as somehow the bad guys sticking it to everyone else.

Sticking with the “mentality shift” theme, there are two movies worth checking out before the election that shed light on the realities of the day – the first (2016 Obama’s America) dives into why Obama thinks the way he does and how he sees his mission as President to “fundamentally change the United States of America” by essentially realigning the USA in the world.  The second (Runaway Slave) deals with the black experience in America after almost 50 years of Democratic party allegiance.

2016 Obama’s America


Runaway Slave

I know a dentist that keeps copy of Atlas Shrugged on his front desk where the patients check in.  The deal he offers his patients is that they can take the book for free on the condition that they pass it on to someone else after they’ve read it.


The Social Contract

There is this myth out there that Conservatives are only for “the rich” and Liberal Democrats are always fighting for the “working class”.   Even though Liberals claim to be for the poor, or as they say the “less priviledged” and the “less fortunate”, it seems to me that Liberal Democrats don’t give a damn about the poor.  If they did, they wouldn’t continue to push policies that keep people down.

The policies that Liberals have put in place – and continue to push for do nothing but keep the poor poor.  When it comes to economics, Liberal policies and ideas do absolutely nothing to help the poor because all these policies do is maintain the poor.  Liberals are extraordinarily hypocritical – If anyone is for the “rich”  and priviledge it’s Liberals – just as long as they’re one of them.  Barack Obama is a perfect example – he’ll deride fat cats all day long then go meet them for dinner to collect cash.

But something Liberals tend to bring up over and over is this concept of the “Social Contract”.  Liberals want to engage in a system where people that have earned something are somehow obliged under some nebulous “social contract” to give up a portion of their wealth to others that don’t have wealth.

Look at Elizabeth Warren talking about this.  She’s just outraged that people that have produced something of value for their fellow men have not given a hunk of their wealth to the people.

She claims that “you built a factory out there?  good for you!

But then she says she “wants to be clear” talking to the presumed factory owner:

“You moved your good to market on the roads that the “rest of us” built.”

“You hired workers the “rest of us” paid to educate.”

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the “rest of us” paid for.”

Then she goes on to say..

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God bless…keep a big hunk of it, but part of the underlying “social contract” is you take a hunk of that an pay forward for the next kid that comes along.”

Are you kidding me?  First of all who is Elizabeth Warren to decide on behalf of anyone what “hunk” of their business they can keep?

Second of all, just what “social contract” is in place anyway?  A contract implies two or more parties coming together and AGREEING to terms of which all parties CHOOSE to participate.  Forcing one party to hand over some “hunk” of their efforts, brains, ingenuity, or otherwise when they have not agreed to do so is confiscation and there is no “social contract”.

Third of all she keeps saying “that the rest of us paid for“.  Really?  Has she seen who is paying Federal taxes in the USA?

Liberals love to tell you all about the rich and how much money they make, that it’s “disproportionate” and not “fairly distributed“. The somehow always forget to include the part of how much in Federal income tax is paid by the people that produce the wealth.

According to the IRS a few years ago the Top 50% of income earners pay 96.54% of all income taxes.  Last reviewed in 2010 it went up to 97.41%.  Here is the data (click the matrix for full view):

So if we are going to discuss income earned then we also need to discussed taxes paid.

With that in mind, let’s come back to this concept of a “social contract”.  Liberals always want to come at this this from only one direction.

  • What about the social contract where people who can’t afford health insurance rearrange their priorities to not purchase cool toys before taking care of the basics?  Sure it’s expensive but these are choices in life.  Part of the social contract is not obliging your fellow citizen to cover your butt because you chose not to.
    • What about people getting off this idea that someone else is going to pay for their mortgage and gasoline:
  • What about the idea of all American citizens paying something in taxes even if only a little.  When 50% of the country’s population pay absolutely nothing in Federal income taxes, they , as Ms. Elizabeth Warren likes to say so much are living in a society that the “rest of us paid for“.

The “Social Contract” is a two way street. If people of means would agree to “hand over” a hunk of their earned wealth, would it be too much to ask that those on the receiving end not abuse it and do everything possible to stand on their own two feet as best as possible?

The person that started his or her factory and did well did so because he or she delivered something of value to their fellow man who chose to purchase it in the free market – and yes Ms. Warren, the roads those product were delivered on were paid for in a much larger part by the same people that had the ideas, built the factories, and even employed others.

In short, the productive people of this world not only provide value to their fellow citizens, not only provide jobs to their local communities (and sometimes long distance communities), not only indirectly create whole new economies in the towns where they place their factories and offices, but they also paid almost all of the costs of putting the roads there, educating the workforce, and paying the taxes that provide local police and fire protection.

I have watch Elizabeth Warren’s announcement video and in all sincerity it’s pretty good, and she’s welcome to do what she thinks is right fighting for “working families” and fighting big lobby interests, but to attack productive people saying their goods were delivered on roads paid for “by the rest of us” is just factually incorrect.  The people setting up factories and other business are just as much a part of the working class as anyone – maybe even more so as there is no 9 to 5 in the world of the entrepreneur.

For Elizabeth Warren to come at this any other way is only to stir up false rage in some attempt keep class warfare alive.  Good luck up there in Massachusetts.

A Rebuttal to “How Rich is Too Rich” by Sam Harris

Sam Harris wrote a piece on August 17 on his blog entitled “How Rich is Too Rich?“.  It was a genuinely thoughtful piece with some great points but he lost my hope when he used the line “how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep“.  Allowed?  By whom?

And what about the other side of the “How Rich is Too Rich” coin such as “How Much Stealing is the Right Amount?” or maybe “How Much Waste is There in Government” or even “How Lazy Can You Be?

When it comes to private individuals generating wealth (even one dime) by performing a legal service or selling a legal product, the profit generated after belongs not to society but to the individuals and stakeholders that took the initiative to make it happen.

If we want to start throwing around the “allowed” word the very first place we should put that word is with the federal government.  We should not be asking how much Steve Jobs should be allowed too keep, but rather how much should the government be allowed to have from the taxpayers generating the wealth.

The US Government holds its position at the consent of the governed, and people are mad because government is using billions of dollars in taxpayer money to go way beyond the core purposes of government.  By and large Americans don’t have a problem with the concept of paying taxes, they have a problem with paying taxes when the tax revenue gets squandered.

Taxpayers who have trouble making ends meet are not thinking about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or anyone else like that, they’re thinking about their mortgage, their gas bill, groceries, medical bills, and other items that they could purchase if they only were “allowed” to keep more of their income.

They get mad because of the sheer waste all around them, such as this $600,000 gurgling toad sculpture.  How many tax paying households had to chip in to pay for this?  Don’t you think whatever monies were taxed and redistributed to purchase this commissioned work could have been put to better use by the people that earned that money?  There is an almost limitless supply of examples of government waste we could discuss – here’s 50.  It’s government that is “allowed” to keep too much money not individuals.

Sam posits a question and gives his answer.

“How many Republicans who have vowed not to raise taxes on billionaires would want to live in a country with a trillionaire and 30 percent unemployment? If the answer is “none”—and it really must be—then everyone is in favor of “wealth redistribution.” They just haven’t been forced to admit it.”

What about framing the argument this way?

How many Democrats who have vowed to raise taxes on anyone making over $250,000 would want to live in a country where employment goes to 30% because business owners limited to $250,000 in income have no incentive to grow past that – because anything over that amount would simply be confiscated?

Which do you think is a more likely scenario?  Clearly the second because nobody is close to an individual wealth of a triilion bucks, but we have all kinds of Democrats wanting to raise taxes on people who generate over $250,000 in income.

In Mr. Harris’ blog post, he brings up the news about Warren Buffett’s op-ed wherein he mentions he’s taxed at a lower rate than his secretary (and that many Conservatives pretend not to find this embarrassing).

This is comparing apples and oranges.  One is capital gains taxation and the other is ordinary income taxation. Mr. Buffett could always choose to pay himself ordinary income.  Why doesn’t he?  Mr. Buffett instead of pledging his billions to the Gates Foundation could choose to disperse with his wealth in some other way that’s not maybe as tax efficient.

Moreover, as this article points out, even if you flat out took all the money the super wealthy had you wouldn’t even put a dent in the problem. The root issue is not how much private people earn, it is the amount government spends.  This tired argument of taxing the hell out of rich people simply because they have it does not solve the problem.  Government must shrink.

And anyway, does anyone need a trillion dollars?  Of course not, but that’s not the point.  The point is does a need on my part create an automatic obligation on everyone elses?  If the answer is “yes”, then those people answering that way are in favor of stealing, they just haven’t been forced to admit it.

The problem we’re facing in the USA (and indeed the world) is that for many people the answer is “to hell with property rights, I want my stuff”.  They call this “social justice”.  But what is “just” about taking from your neighbor simply because you deem him to be more than satiated?

We’re all looking down the barrel of ugly arguments and scenarios these days not because of productive, job-giving, wealth creating entrepreneurs, but because of government fools who get in the way of free markets efficiently delivering solutions to people.  The very people government claims to help and champion are the very people that get wiped out by government.

Are free markets perfectly efficient?  No but they are far more efficient and “fair” than centrally planned economies where a few people pick winners and losers and there are only but a few winners. Remember fairness is a two lane highway.

In the USA we do have “crisis of inequality” and on a global level it’s even worse, but government interference, corruption, and waste only exacerbates the problem.  Americans (and likely most people in rich countries) do not want to live in a society with huge “inequalities” in wealth but the difference between Conservatives and Liberals is how we achieve that.  One could also easily point out that we have a crises of inequality in effort put forth by many people.

Offering 99 weeks unemployment checks or incremental welfare subsidies for every baby you have while on welfare only keeps people down when they might otherwise get up on their own.

The brutal truth is some politicians would have it no other way.  Until we elect people that limit government to what it is supposed to do instead of all of these superflous programs it won’t change too much.

If there is one place we should be pointing the “how rich is rich” question it is not at private individuals, it is at government.

Photo by Stuck in Customs

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness in Under 600 Words


Today is the 4th of July. This year it seems to me more people than ever are actually remembering what the 4th of July really is and why we wanted independence from a kingdom.  Since the election of Barack Obama it seems that we’re being sucked into a path back towards a kingdom, a place where a centralized power simply dictates what’s is and what shall be but for now has to do so with only the appearance of following the rules.

When Rick Santelli flew off the cuff in February 2009 about making a Chicago Tea Party he had no idea what he had tapped in to when he spoke those words.  Why did that resonate so much with Americans?  It was because he was genuinely pissed off and so were tens of millions of Americans that were watching their country start down a completely un-American path.  It was (and is) because America promises only three things to those who live here and those that want to come here – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

That’s it.  That’s all you are promised here and thankfully so.  You have a right to your LIFE.  You have a right to your LIBERTY.  And you have a right to pursue whatever it is that makes you HAPPY as long as it doesn’t interfere with the first two.  Inside liberty I would also put property rights.  Your property is your property.  Period.  There can be no uncertainty here.

The United States signed a Declaration of Independence because it wanted to be free from tyranny of the British Empire.  In fact the exact phrase in this Declaration is:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Think what it took to draft that document in the 1700’s.  Think about the sheer vision that group of people had to have to form such a foundation for a country.  Those men could have easily just taken control of the new USA and made it into their own family business like so many other countries.  Instead, they provided for a way to put the seat of power in the hands of the people being governed.  They provided that a government has any powers whatsoever only by the consent of the governed.

We (Americans) are not entitled to anything else outside of Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and property rights.  There are plenty of countries in the world that offer government sponsored health care, education, and social “benefits”.  That’s nice but that’s not the USA, nor should it be.

You are not entitled to health care (because if you were you would have to force somebody to provide it – and that would go against their liberty).  You are not entitled to a home.  You are not entitled to an education.  You are not entitled to anything outside of your Life, your Liberty, and your pursuit of your own Happiness.

There is no reason for us to emulate France, China, Venezuela, or revert back to the way they do things in the UK.  The overwhelming social “benefits” of those countries are doing nothing short of strangling the people in those countries.

On this 4th of July 2011, let us really remember what today represents.  The very foundation of this country was a total and complete rejection of tyranny and of government control over the lives of private individuals.  We are to be free people, not subjects of the state.



Obama and The Waiting Game

We are all just waiting.  Waiting for the clock to run out.  Waiting for people to have a reason to grow their business.  Waiting for employers to have a reason to hire.  Waiting for the time when we can have a President that is not hell bent on destroying the country.  We (mankind) have at least a hundred years of recent history of failed socialistic experiments all over the world that always end up in ruins yet there is a constituency out there that insists that we just haven’t given it enough time.

Two years into Obama’s presidency the President has only two ways to explain the situation the country is in:

1. He inherited a mess from Bush

2. He didn’t realize that the mess he inherited from Bush was as big as it was.

Let’s take the first one.  Obama certainly walked into office at a tough time.  The country was in a real mess for sure.  But there are two key points to make here.  First, regardless of how we were in that situation, why would you double down (and actually quadruple down) on the problem.  Obama didn’t reverse course from where he picked up the ball – on the contrary his policies directly made a real mess into a real big mess.  If you wanted to get America going in a healthy direction, you wouldn’t do ANY of the things President Obama has put in motion.

As for the second one, the reason the USA was in the fiscal mess it was in can be directly tied to the real estate market and directly to the specific people that created the conditions such that we would end up in the situation were in.  Specifically Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and then Senator Obama with the implicit help of a Democratically controlled Congress.  It’s just too easy to say everything is Bush’s fault when in this specific issue in fact the Bush administration explicitly went to Congress to ask them to reign in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae lending openness.

Watch this video

As far as the people who voted heavily for Obama in 2008, African Americans, Low Income People, and Young Professionals/College Students) their life under Obama not only has not improved, it has become even harder (how could it not with a President who insists are crushing the private sector and discouraging employment).  Check out this article.

According to the website  from June 6, 2011, here are 20 ways the US Economy has gotten worse since Obama became President (with supporting links to the details).

#1 In January 2009, the official U.S. unemployment rate was 7.6 percent.  Today it is 9.1 percent.

#2 When Barack Obama took office, the number of “long-term unemployed” in the United States was approximately 2.6 million.  Today, that number is up to 6.2 million.

#3 When Barack Obama first became president, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States was $1.83.  Today it is $3.79.  This also affects the price of almost everything else that we buy.

#4 In April 2009, the average U.S. household spent approximately $201 on gasoline.  In April 2011, the average U.S. household spent approximately $369 on gasoline.

#5 According to an article in the Daily Mail, the cost of a Memorial Day cookout was 29 percent higher this year than it was last year.

#6 When Barack Obama was sworn in, there were nearly 32 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 44 million on food stamps.

#7 According to the U.S. Census, the number of children living in poverty has gone up by about 2 million in just the past 2 years.

#8 When Barack Obama took office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars.  Today it is 14.3 trillion dollars.

#9 The federal government has borrowed 29,660 more dollars per household since Barack Obama signed the economic stimulus law two years ago.

#10 During Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined.

#11 The combined debt of the major GSEs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae) has increased from 3.2 trillion in 2008 to 6.4 trillion in 2011.  Thanks to George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, U.S. taxpayers are standing behind that debt.

#12 Under Obama, the U.S. trade deficit continues to grow.  The trade deficit was about 33 percent larger in 2010 than it was in 2009, and the 2011 trade deficit is expected to be even bigger.

#13 Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

#14 Just since August, 2 million more Americans have left the labor force.

#15 In 2010, more than a million U.S. families lost their homes to foreclosure for the first time ever, and that number is expected to go even higher in 2011.

#16 The U.S. real estate crisis just continues to get worse.  During the first three months of this year, less new homes were sold in the U.S. than in any three month period ever recorded.

#17 The U.S. dollar has fallen by 17 percent compared to other major national currencies since 2009.

#18 Faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasuries is rapidly declining.  The mainstream news is not reporting on it much, but right now the Chinese are rapidly dumping U.S. government debt.  That is not a good sign.

#19 When Barack Obama first took office, an ounce of gold was going for about $850.  Today an ounce of gold costs about $1500.

#20 Americans seem to be more pessimistic about the economy than ever.  According to a brand new poll, 61 percent of Americans believe that they will not return to their “pre-recession” lifestyles until at least 2014.

But don’t you worry because the number of limousines is up 73% in the Obama administration.  You would think that those in the Obama administration would want to move around in a Prius or a Volt – after all, they want you to.

And the above 20 ways didn’t even get into Obama’s Foreign Policy brilliance.

What about Healthcare?  Obama doesn’t even talk about is signature piece of Legislation – Health Care Reform (Deform).  You would think that if this was your absolute signature piece of leadership you’d be all over it.  Why doesn’t he do this?  Maybe because everyone knows it stinks and is unconstitutional to boot.  If it were so good why would 26 states be suing over this legislation and why would there be (so far) 1400 waivers from having to participate in such a system?




The net result is there is a lot of money in the USA in the private sector and it’s not coming out for productive use until and unless Barack Obama is voted out of office in 2012.  The choice before the country is extraordinarily clear – keep this ridiculous and destructive charade of PeeWee’s Big Adventure going or vote this menace out of office – yes menace.

Certainly whomever the Republican nominee will be needs to be sharp because if Obama thinks he inheirited a mess in 2008, it’s going to be nothing compared the mess the Republican nominee is going to walk into in 2013.

At this point I am 100% sure for at least 48,000,000 voting Americans it simply does not matter who the Republican nominee is as long as he or she can be put in the “other” check box – and that 48MM is by now more likely closer to 60MM.

Obama did this to himself (and to the country) and “ironically speaking” thank God Obama won in 2008 otherwise America may have never woken up.

>> I’ll leave you with article from today.  1.9 Million Fewer Americans Have Jobs Today Than When Obama Signed Stimulus.

“Other” is the only choice forward if we are interested in any sort of future for our kids.  I think it’s that serious.

Half the Country

This week reported that Obama’s approval rating is 48%.  Oddly enough Business Insider reported that 47% of American don’t pay any Federal income tax and think the tax system is just fine.  Who are we kidding in this country?  We have about half the country funding the Federal government and the other half of the country hanging on.  That wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it were not for the fact that those not paying any Federal Taxes have equally as much voting power as those that do pay taxes.

Imagine for a moment company of 300 owners where only 150 of them invested in the company but the other 150 have just as much voting power when it comes to electing the Officers of the company.  You can bet the 150 that are actual investors (paying the bill) would be a bit outraged that the other 150 have as much voting power, with no risk and all the benefit.

Now just take this example from 300 people to 300 million people and instead of calling it a company we call it the USA.  I think you can see why those paying Federal Income tax get mad that when they go to vote for a President their vote counts exactly as much as the person that doesn’t pay Federal Income Tax.

A solution to this could very well be to either make voting harder by having all voters pass a basic civics test, and even better would be to give everyone a vote, but for every say $20,000 in Federal Income Tax one pays he gets an additional vote.

Some solution needs to be found otherwise every year we’re going to run in to this problem and we’re going to keep seeing socialists like Barack Obama magically find themselves in the White House pushing ever more utopian fantasies while sapping the life-blood out of the country.  

The world is more global than ever and if we keep going down the path we’re going we’re going to look like Venezuela where today many of the capable, intelligent, and job producing Venezuelans have simply left the country and are waiting for Chavez to be gone before even considering going back.   There is no good reason for the USA to go down that path when it can be avoided.

Think about the stats in those links again.  Is it really surprising that 48% of Americans approve of Obama and 47% of American do not pay Federal Income Taxes.  Do you really think this is not the exact same group?  When half the country supports the other half and the supported half has the votes to keep it that way, we’re in trouble.

Gallup Poll 48% Approve of Obama

Business Insider 47% do not pay Federal Income Tax