Archive for March 2010

Myths About Markets

March 31st, 2010 — 7:21pm

There are approximately twenty million myths about markets and market capitalism, one of the most common being this:

Markets don’t work well (or are inefficient) when there are negative or positive “externalities.”

Here’s how Tom Palmer, philosopher and economist, bunks that canard:

The mere existence of an externality is no argument for having the state take over some activity or displace private choices. Fashionable clothes and good grooming generate plenty of positive externalities, as others admire those who are well clothed or groomed, but that’s no reason to turn choice of or provision of clothing and grooming over to the state. Gardening, architecture, and many other activities generate positive externalities on others, but people undertake to beautify their gardens and their building just the same. In all those cases, the benefits to the producers alone — including the approbations of those on whom the positive externalities are showered — are sufficient to induce them to produce the goods. In other cases, such as the provision of television and radio broadcasts, the public good is “tied” to the provision of other goods, such as advertising for firms….

More commonly, however, it is the existence of NEGATIVE externalities that leads people to question the efficacy or justice of market mechanisms. Pollution is the most commonly cited example. If a producer can produce products profitably because he or she imposes the costs of production on others who have not consented to be a part of the production process, say, by throwing huge amounts of smoke into the air or chemicals into a river, he will probably do so. Those who breathe the air or drink the toxic water will bear the costs of producing the product, while the producer will get the benefits from the sale of the product. The problem in such cases, however, is not that markets have failed, but that they are absent. Markets rest on private property and cannot function when property rights are not defined or enforced. Cases of pollution are precisely cases not of market failure but of government failure to define and defend the property rights of others, such as those who breathe polluted air, or drink polluted water (source).

Under true laissez-faire capitalism, in other words, which is the only system that fully protects property and person — thereby forbidding the instigation of force in any form — you are not allowed to poison anyone.

In a socialistic, protectionist society, such as the one we now live in, no such rule of law exists because property is not regarded as private but communal.

The proof is ultimately in the water.

16 comments » | Capitalism, economics, environmentalism, Water

The Truckdriver

March 27th, 2010 — 6:29pm

The trucker who lives next door is seldom home.

He’s a long-haul trucker, he’s over-the-road. He earns good money and does not spend. Something of the ascetical about him. He’s forty. His hair is long. He wears jeans and combat boots. Sallow and haggard, his face is handsome nevertheless. His willowy wife does not ride with him but stays at home. They have no children. The wife is solitary, long-legged and tan. She has a ponytail of sandy-brown. She smokes Marlboro’s. They do not rent but own. The wife spends hours in her garden, or she reads in her backyard. Her eyes are pensive. She waves to us but rarely speaks.

The trucker who lives next door arrives at unexpected hours, on unexpected days. Emerging from his rig, he has the leanness of a desert prophet about him. I imagine him eating very little while he’s out on the road. He transports the goods from north-to-south. He hauls the freight from coast-to-coast. He kisses his wife in the driveway. They hold hands and enter their tidy cottage together. They shut the door behind.

Sometimes, on holidays, his rig will sit for three or four consecutive nights along our residential side street. It sits gleaming in the dark. The trucker loves his rig; it is his home away from home. Once, in the middle of the night, I heard a gentle noise outside and crept up to the window. The trucker who lives next door was polishing his semi with a white cloth in the moonlight. The semi is midnight-blue and chrome.

Here on the ragged edge of this desert town where the ancient railroad tracks lie rusting in the grass, the frontiers begin. This is the frontier the trucker crosses and re-crosses year around. Our town is like many western towns, with its looping river and cauliflower clouds, its one Masonic lodge and the hard clean skies above, and in the distance, fields of clay where woolly mammoth once knelt down in the soft earth to die, and a billion bison bones fossilize in the ground. Beyond the backyards, the interstate curves off into the lonesome horizon, and the distant cars make very little sound.

32 comments » | America

How Capitalism Enriches The Poor And The Working Class

March 20th, 2010 — 2:26am

When portable radios first appeared in American stores, the average American worker had to labor 13 hours to buy one; today he or she toils for about 1 hour.

In the 1920s it took 79 hours of work to buy a nice men’s suit; today it takes less than half that.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the average American family spent three-quarters of its income on food, clothing, and shelter; today it spends about one-third on those items, and spends and even greater proportion on taxes (source).

That principle is the exact principle whereby capitalism enriches any and every society that implements it.

The insidious myth that capitalism “exploits the workers” while a few capitalist pigs get rich at the workers’ expense is a canard that’s been bunked a billion times.

But there’s even more:

Electric light was first deployed along Pearl Street in downtown Manhattan in 1882, powered by America’s first commercial electric grid. Electric lighting initially cost much more than gas lighting (the dominant form of lighting at the time) and was available only to multi-millionaire JP Morgan and a handful of businesses in New York’s financial district. By 1932, however, the price of electricity had fallen to one-third its former level, and 70 percent of Americans had electricity. Within fifty years of Edison introducing the electric grid, gas light was all but forgotten, and electricity emerged as the power source for the masses. Electricity not only provided clean, odorless, and safe lighting compared to its predecessor; it also powered refrigerators, fans, heaters, irons, and ovens, and it quickly became the dominant source of motive power in factories (source).

Capitalism lowers the cost of every new technology. It does so by taking products — cars, cotton, electricity, phones, computers, it doesn’t matter — and through constant innovation and the ingenuity that free markets foster, mass producing these items, which lowers and lowers the costs. That is why in this country even those below the poverty level own televisions, phones, microwaves, toasters, and so on. That is why no one starves to death in the United States.

The locus of wealth is production and free exchange. The locus of production and free exchange is private property. And that is why private property is the most important ingredient to capitalism.

Consider that government cannot redistribute or spend a single penny without first either taxing, borrowing, or printing, all three of which deplete real wealth. In this way, government intervention, in any of its multifarious forms, is by definition self-defeating: It can only end in wealth destruction. It’s also why labor unions cannot, over the long run, increase real wages and living standards, and only advances in technology can.

“Historically, real wages (wages adjusted for the effects of inflation) rose at about 2 percent per year before the advent of unions, and at a similar rate afterward” (Morgan Reynolds, Power and Privilege: Labor Unions in America, 1984).

Says Dr. Dilorezo:

If labor unions were responsible for the historical rise in wages, then the solution to world poverty would be self-evident: unionize all the poorest nations on earth. [And yet] private-sector unions reached their peak in terms of membership in the 1950s, when they accounted for about a third of the workforce. Today, they represent barely 10 percent of the private-sector workforce. All during this time of declining union memberships, influence, and power, wages and living standards have risen substantially. All of the ‘declining industries’ in America from the 1970s on tended to be the highly unionized ones, whereas the growing industries, especially in the high-technology fields, are almost exclusively nonunion. At best, unions can improve the standards of living of some of their members, but only at the expense of other, nonunion workers, consumers, and others. When unions use their power to go on strike, or threaten to strike, and succeed in increasing their members’ wages above what they could earn on the free market, they inevitably cause some union members to lose their jobs.

The reason? When wages rise, it makes labor more costly; therefore, to keep turning a profit, employers simply cannot employ as many workers.

23 comments » | America, Capitalism

Seven Simple Rules for Health Care Reform

March 18th, 2010 — 7:21am

The 2000-plus-page ObamaCare legislation would of course obliterate any remnants of free-market medicine that still exists in this country, and in so doing it would not lower the cost of medicine, nor would it improve medical quality, nor would it ultimately insure more people, as the democrats themselves admit. The reason American medicine is so expensive in the first place is because of the massive bureaucratic apparatus that has gripped the American medical industry — an apparatus that was initially put in place in the mid-1930’s, under FDR and his horrific tax discrimination laws (which created employer-sponsored healthcare), and then expanded drastically in the 1960’s under LBJ.

The obvious question, then, is this: if government intervention created the problem, how is more government intervention going to help?

Answer: it’s not.

In fact, it’s going to compound the problem astronomically.

The following, however, which comes to us via Richard E. Ralston, Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, would help solve the problem, and it would do so without the unconstitutional coercive measures ObamaCare explicitly endorses.

Seven Simple Rules for Health Care Reform

The first simple rule: Make all medical services, insurance and personal savings for such expenses exempt from all federal, state and local income and payroll taxes. Those who complain about the cost of medical care and insurance must be confronted with the fact that if we cannot afford medical care, we surely cannot afford to pay taxes on the money we set aside for it.

The second simple rule: Allow an individual or corporate tax deduction equal to double the value of the service for all charity care by medical care providers. At one time America had a vigorous network of private charity care, which was largely destroyed by the government barging in. We need to restore that environment of private charity, which was more efficient, effective and compassionate.

The third simple rule: Pass legislation now proposed in the U.S. Congress that would give every individual or business the ability to purchase insurance in a national market, from insurance companies in any state. That would allow for ownership of health insurance that is more affordable and can follow individuals from job to job and state to state. The increased competition between insurance companies would restrain the cost of insurance.

The fourth simple rule: Allow the purchase of basic health insurance with high deductibles and low premiums that covers major illness or injury and annual exams, in conjunction with tax-free accounts for out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductibles. That, more than anything, would make insurance premiums more affordable for Americans who fear the financial consequences of health misfortune.

The fifth simple rule: Broaden the availability of optional coverage provided by Medicare Advantage, but allow for additional tax-deductible premiums to be paid by those seniors who elect such options. More choices from more options should be available to retirees—but not paid for by taxpayers. This would allow for expanded and more efficient coverage, and reintroduce an element of competition to those who seek to provide health care to seniors.

The sixth simple rule: Allow Medicare patients to utilize their Health Savings Accounts to pay for services from their Medicare physicians. This could bring thousands of doctors back into the Medicare program overnight and eliminate the ridiculous and unjust prohibition on those who want to spend their own money on their medical care.

The seventh simple rule: Limit non-economic or punitive damages in all malpractice or other litigation against medical providers or drug and medical equipment firms to a maximum of $250,000 (indexed for inflation). This would wring the bonanza for a few law firms out of the current ocean of litigation—and the high cost of “defensive medicine” now practiced by providers as protection against such legal extortion. The effect would be a reduction in the cost of medical care and insurance for everyone.


For more on the atrocity exhibition of cradle-to-grave healthcare, please read Dr. Yuri N. Maltsev’s account of socialized medicine in Russia. Dr. Maltsev was for many years an economist for Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic reform team. He now teaches economics at Carthage College, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Read also medical doctor Paul Hsieh’s limpid explanation of how ObamaCare will prevent good doctors like him from upholding their Hippocratic Oath.

10 comments » | Healthcare

Political Theory: Theory of Government

March 17th, 2010 — 6:57am

Political theory is the theory of government. It is a sub-branch of ethics, and economics, in turn, is a sub-branch of politics.

Ethics — the science of human action — precedes politics because politics is the science of human action in societies, and societies are composed only of individuals. For this reason, the individual has hierarchical primacy.

Capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchy — these are all a species of the genus ethics, as is any specific political theory.

Governments, properly defined, are the body politic that have the power to make and implement the laws of the land, and humans are the only species who possess them. But what ultimately gives rise to these political bodies, and do we really need them at all? If so, why?

Some 40,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens sapiens first emerged, we existed exclusively in bands and small tribes.

A band is the smallest of societies, consisting of five to seventy-five people, all of whom are related either by birth or marriage.

Tribes, the next size up, consist of hundreds of people, not all of whom are related, although everyone is known by everyone else.

It is for this reason that conflicts in band and tribal life are resolved without the need of government. Indeed, it’s a well-established fact among anthropologists that governments do not exist in societies of this size.

As Jared Diamond appositely explains it in his otherwise overrated Guns, Germs, and Steel:

“Those ties of relationships binding all tribal members make police, laws, and other conflict-resolving institutions of larger societies unnecessary, since any two villagers getting into an argument will share kin, who apply pressure on them to keep it from becoming violent.”

Homo sapiens lived for approximately 40,000 years in just such non-governmental societies.

Around 5,500 BC, however, chiefdoms arose.

Chiefdoms are one size up from tribes but still smaller than nations.

These societies have populations that number in the thousands or even tens of thousands, whereas nations consist of fifty thousand people or more.

It is at the stage of chiefdoms that the necessity of government begins; for when populations increase to this size, the potential for conflict and disorder increases proportionally.

And here we get a glimpse of government’s primary function: to protect against conflict.

As long as the potential for conflict exists among humans, the need for protection and adjudication exists as well.

“With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them…. Part of the solution to that problem was for one person, the chief, to exercise a monopoly on the right to use force” (Ibid, p. 273).

The legal use of force is the defining characteristic of government.

It is also the fundamental difference between governmental action and private action.

In the words of Auberon Herbert, speaking over 100 years ago:

Nobody has the moral right to seek his own advantage by force. That is the one unalterable, inviolable condition of a true society. Whether we are many, or whether we are few, we must learn only to use the weapons of reason, discussion, and persuasion…. As long as men are willing to make use of force for their own ends, or to make use of fraud, which is only force in disguise, wearing a mask, and evading our consent, just as force with violence openly disregards it – so long we must use force to restrain force. That is the one and only one right employment of force … force in the defense of the plain simple rights of property, public or private, in a world, of all the rights of self-ownership – force used defensively against force used aggressively” (Auberon Herbert, The Principles of Voluntaryism, 1897).

Among individuals, the initiation of force is illegal, whether the force is directly used, as in rape, or indirectly used, as in extortion (a crucial distinction, incidentally, which Mr. Herbert notes in his fraud-is-force-in-disguise example above).

People can only infringe upon the rights of other people by means of (direct or indirect) force.

In this sense, government is an institution whose function is to protect the individual against the initiation of force.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson: “The legitimate functions of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others” (Notes on the State of Virginia).

Around the same time that Thomas Jefferson was writing those words, another articulate fellow by the name of Wilhelm von Humboldt independently came to an almost identical conclusion:

Any State interference in private affairs, where there is no reference to violence done to individual rights, should be absolutely condemned…. To provide for the security of its citizens, the state must prohibit or restrict such actions, relating directly to the agents only, as imply in their consequences the infringement of others’ rights, or encroach on their freedom of property without their consent or against their will…. Beyond this every limitation of personal freedom lies outside the limits of state action (Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, 1791).

What professor Jared Diamond incorrectly refers to as government’s “right to use force” (governments do not, strictly speaking, possess rights but only permissions) is a sentiment that has been stated more succinctly many times by Enlightenment thinkers, such as the best theoreticians among our Constitutional framers; but it was perhaps expressed most eloquently by the fiery political philosopher Isabel Paterson:

Government is solely an instrument or mechanism of appropriation, prohibition, compulsion, and extinction; in the nature of things it can be nothing else, and can operate to no other end…. Seen in this light, government is so horrific – and its actual operations in the past have been so horrible at times – that there is some excuse for a failure to realize its necessity (Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine, 1943).

If, however, government only becomes necessary when societies reach the size of chiefdoms or beyond, what precipitated this sudden population leap, when for 40,000 years — by far the majority of our short history — human growth had remained relatively static?

Why, in other words, do we not still exist in bands and tribes, without the need of government?

The answer, it turns out, is food.

“We have seen that large or dense populations arise only under conditions of food production.… All states nourish their citizens by means of food production” (Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel).

When survival is made easier, populations increase. When populations increase, societies become more complex. When food production increases, mankind increases, societies become increasingly complex, and governments become necessary to maintain order. So it is with increased food production that the science of economics is born.

At root, economics is indeed the science of production and exchange.

Money, in the form of currency, is nothing more, or less, than a symbol of production — an invaluable one, to be sure, since money simplifies so drastically the process of exchange.

It also creates the possibility to store and save over long time periods and makes usury possible, which in turn creates more wealth. This is a crux because it illustrates the deep connection between politics and economics.

Thus, increased food production equals increased population equals increased production equals more people equals more societal complexity, and so on, reciprocally.

This is the process whereby societies develop the need for government.

This is why the fact of government is inescapable.

Whatever a society’s original size, smaller ones only make that initial leap to larger by producing more food.

(If they don’t make it, they are absorbed either by the actual use of force or by its mere threat, by the societies that do produce more food. For this reason, bands and tribes have become all but obsolete today, with a few Amazonian and New Guinean exceptions, most of which are also being swiftly amalgamated.)

Thereafter, in order for that society to flourish, it must now continue to produce food, but it must also efficiently manage its size increase, with all that ensuing complexity. Countless societies have foundered at this stage, as they still do today (see, for example, present day Yugoslavia, or Turkey, or Russia).

Advancements in irrigation, the domestication of animals, the introduction of fertilizers and pesticides, these things begin to make societies complex, because they increase food production. But with this added complexity come new challenges:

To thrive, these societies must sort out and solve a host of additional problems, ranging from mass uprisings, to increasing economic developments, to internecine warfare, to the threat of governmental takeovers, to crime and punishment, to many, many other things as well.

In the final analysis, then, we can say that governments are unique to humans because humans are the only conceptual species. We produce our food, we build our homes, we create our medicine, we extract our energy, and we deal with one another not as animals, by brute force, but as men, by agreement.

Trade is the natural drive of the conceptual mind.

So that at this point, our world without government would collapse into chaos — until, that is, the strongest faction seized control, forcefully, you can be sure, and then laid down its own version of order (see present day Somalia).

Who would stop them?

Other warring factions?

In the end, however necessary government may be, never forget this:

“In its best state, government is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one” (Thomas Paine, Common Sense).

Government, in short, is inherently dangerous because it holds exclusive power over the people.

The task, then, is not necessarily to do away with government altogether but rather to limit government in the extreme: to build a government which protects its citizens without, at the same time, creating oppression of any kind, including taxation to the point of plunder under that mythical guise of a “right” to redistribute your money – which is the symbol of your work.

15 comments » | economics, Moral philosophy, Philosophy, Political philosophy

Rack and Pinion Steering

March 16th, 2010 — 8:06am

A reader writes:

Dear Ray: What exactly is rack and pinion steering?


— Claude Bawls

Dear Claude Bawls: The steering rack, as it’s known in the parlance of the trade, is a long iron bar, flat on one side, with thin serrations, known as “teeth,” which run the entire length of the steering rack. These teeth look like very precise vertical notches.

The pinion — or, more accurately, the pinion shaft — is another long metal rod, also grooved, but without a flat side. The grooves along the pinion shaft are horizontal, not vertical, as in the case of the steering rack. The pinion shaft comes into the rack at an angle of about ninety degrees and is held in place by a collar, so that the two, rack and pinion, come together in a kind of magical union.

The pinion shaft is connected at the hip to the steering column. Thus, when you crank your steering wheel to the right, for example, the pinion shaft turns the opposite direction (clockwise).

“In simple language, the rotary motion of the pinion is changed to transverse motion by the rack. The rack moves to the right, making the wheels go left. Thus, the car turns left” (rocket scientist Harry Dong).

Hope that answers your question, Claude Bawls. Thank you for visiting.

8 comments » | Inventions

Are The Fish Really Being Mercury Poisoned?

March 14th, 2010 — 7:59pm

If you smell something fishy in this latest wave of methyl mercury talk, the reason is that there is something fishy in it — very fishy — and it stinks to high heaven. Don’t be lured in.

The relevant facts are these:

In this country, there hasn’t been a single scientifically documented case of fish-related mercury poisoning.

The only semi-recent medically documented cases come from Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, and that was right after a massive industrial spill of mercury into their fishing waters. Current mercury levels, in fish and in people, do not approach those mid-century Japanese levels. Not remotely.

“The levels of methyl mercury in California fish are much lower than those that occurred in Japan. We are not aware of any cases of overt poisoning in California, nor would we expect them” (Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 2003, California Office).

“The only clinical reports of mercury poisoning from fish consumption are those from Japan in the 1950s and 1960s. Although a National Academy of Sciences committee reported that 60,000 children in the United States were at risk as a result of prenatal exposure, they failed to provide any justification or explanation for that conclusion” (Doctor Thomas Clarkson, Doctor Gary Myers, and Doctor Laszlo Magos, quoted in the New England Journal of Medicine).

“The general population does not face a significant health risk from methyl mercury” (The World Health Organization).

“There is some junk science at work here. They can say whatever they want [about mercury]; we’ve reviewed the basis for their findings and there isn’t a lot of substance to it” (Dr. Charles Lockwood, chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, discussing the federal government’s mercury-in-fish warnings, 2002).

“The mercury content level of most seafood is low and is not a level to cause harm to the health of individuals, even if they [sic] are pregnant” (Health advisory issued by the Japanese Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, 2003).

The truth about this whole non-issue is that our government’s so-called mercury-in-fish recommendations are based exclusively on a single study. This was a study in which participants were eating whale meat, not fish meat. Whale meat, as you may or may not know, is not like fish: it’s notoriously contaminated, for one thing, and I’m not just talking about with mercury. Thus, isolating mercury as the culprit has proved virtually impossible. Which is exactly why it was never proven.

A recently wrapped-up 12-year study in the Seychelles Islands concluded that there are “no negative health effects from exposure to mercury through heavy fish consumption.” The Seychelle people eat on average 12 fish meals per week, which is a lot more than the majority of Americans. Mercury levels measure significantly higher among the island natives than they do among Americans. And yet after 12 years — the length of the study — these folks showed no negative health effects; on the contrary, there were measurable health benefits from eating so much fish. Quote:

“In the Seychelles, where the women in our study ate large quantities of fish each week while they were pregnant, the children are healthy. These are the same fish that end up on the dinner table in the United States and around the world” (pediatric neurologist Doctor Gary Myers, quoted in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet).

“From all the reports we had seen about mercury and its impact on development, we thought we would be able to show how bad it was for children. But we didn’t find it at all. Children whose mothers had the highest levels of mercury, did significantly better than children whose moms had low mercury levels” (Professor Dr. Philip Davidson, speaking in 2006 to The Medical Post about his landmark study of heavy fish-eaters in the Seychelles Islands).

In February of 2007, The Lancet also published research showing “a clear health benefit to children whose mothers ate large amounts of fish.”

“Existing evidence suggests that methyl mercury exposure from fish consumption during pregnancy, of the level seen in most parts of the world, does not have measurable cognitive or behavioural [sic] effects in later childhood. For now, there is no reason for pregnant women to reduce fish consumption below current levels, which are probably safe” (Doctor Constantine Lyketsos, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, quoted in the The Lancet, 2003).

In October of 2006, research conducted at Harvard University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated in no uncertain terms the following:

“Health benefits from eating fish [in this country] greatly outweigh the risks, including those from trace amounts of mercury.”

“Mercury is in the ocean. So in theory there is risk associated with fish consumption. But the types of risk are not the frank poisoning events one might picture associated with mercury. We are talking about subtle effects not detectable at the level of the individual. That is because the amount of mercury people are exposed to in the U.S. is not very great” (Doctor Joshua Cohen, Harvard School of Public Health, 2005. Please see also the Time Magazine article).

“People overreact to these things, so you have to be careful. You don’t want large numbers giving up the benefits of fish while you damage the whole fishing sector for no good reason” (Doctor Sandrine Blanchemanche, of the French National Institute for Agronomic Studies, quoted in the Los Angeles Times).

Perhaps most significantly of all: there’s simply no good evidence to suggest the mercury levels in our fish have risen at all. Just the opposite, in fact: recent research from Princeton University, Duke University, and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum have compared ocean fish preserved between 25 and 120 years ago with present-day samplings of these same fish. The unequivocal conclusion:

“Mercury levels in fish either remained the same or declined.”

“Eating lots of ocean fish isn’t much of a hazard compared to missing out on the benefits from not eating fish. A slew of scientific reports have shown that eating fish helps protect against cardiovascular disease and enhances brain development before and after birth. Overstating the almost negligible risk of mercury could adversely affect millions of people who face the risk of heart disease” (Doctor Thomas Clarkson, University of Rochester, Environmental Medicine).

The main thing for you to remember about this current wave of environmental zealotry and all this food quackery is that it’s no new kettle of fish — not at all.

In their own words: “We simply want capitalism to come to an end” (Jonathen Kabat, one of the founders of the so-called Union of Concerned Scientists, a Marxist eco-group).


“There are many organizations out there that value credibility, but I want Greenpeace first and foremost to be a credible threat” (Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).


“The political and economic system that destroys the Earth is the same system that exploits workers” — i.e. capitalism (Sierra Club’s book, Call to Action, Handbook for Ecology, Peace and Justice).


“Nothing less than a change in the political and social system, including revision of the Constitution, is necessary to save the country from destroying the natural environment. Capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy” (Barry Commoner, the Green Party’s first Presidential candidate).


“We reject the idea of private property” (Peter Berle, past-president of the National Audubon Society).


“Free enterprise really means rich people get richer. They have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process. Capitalism is destroying the earth” (Helen Caldicott of the Union of Concerned Scientists).

Please note that this ocean-sized campaign entirely ignores present-day life expectancies, which have never been higher, as well as present-day infant mortality rates, which have never been lower. Note also that it ignores about a million other things besides — things which only the industrial society can bring: clean drinking water, for instance; clean, inexpensive, and abundant food at the drop of a hat; plentiful clothing; heat and air-conditioning; homes and shelter; state-of-the-art bicycles, skateboards, snowboards and skis, motorcycles, cars; inexpensive alcohol, coffee, music, movies, books, art; new medicine, and so much more.

Furthermore, from the comfort of all this, environmentalism, a parasite of capitalism, denounces it all while simultaneously reaping its rewards and ignoring the one thing that brought it all about: freedom and free trade.

But when I tell you that these environmental claims are all, without exception, absurdly exaggerated, you need not listen to me; listen, rather, to an esteemed Nobel laureate you’ve perhaps heard of:

“Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen.”

Albert Gore, ladies and gentleman, quoted in Grist Magazine.

Comment » | environmentalism, Health

Vasily Grossman

March 12th, 2010 — 6:00pm

The following is from Chapter 30 of my book Leave Us Alone — A Capitalist Credo:

The Russian writer Vasily Grossman was born in 1905 in what is now the Ukrainian town of Berdichev. At that time, Berdichev was still part of the Russian Empire. Vasily Grossman attended high school in Kiev and then the University of Moscow. He graduated from University in 1929 with a degree in chemical engineering. He worked as an engineer for five years, after which time he devoted himself entirely to writing.

He published his first news article in 1928, his first fictional story in 1934.

During the middle and latter 1930’s Vasily Grossman was exceptionally prolific, and even more so after the start of World War II. At that point he became a correspondent for Red Star (Krasnaya Zvezda). He spent the entire war on the treacherous front, covering, in minute detail, the blood-soaked siege of Stalingrad. In popularity his war reportage was second to none (well, maybe one: the famous Ehrenburg), and Grossman is loosely portrayed by actor Joseph Fiennes in the inaccurate movie Enemy at the Gates.

In his youth and well into his thirties, Vasily Grossman was devoted to the communist philosophy. But during and immediately after the war, he became increasingly disillusioned with that socialist system, so that, starting in 1943, he began explicitly challenging the whole Soviet ideal — both for its repression of freedom and for its anti-Semitism.

His war fiction at this time also began to generate criticism from high Soviet officials. In a matter of months, thus, his writings were suppressed. Over the course of his latter years, Vasily Grossman became an outright opponent of socialism. His writings are, at times, not consistently, among the most eloquent expression of freedom of any person in any era.

Stomach cancer killed him in 1964.

What follows is a short passage from his last novel Forever Flowing. It is one side of a brief dialogue spoken, in part, by the novel’s protagonist Ivan Grigoryevich, who after thirty years of imprisonment has just been released from the Russian Gulag. I quote it as a tribute to freedom, to be sure, but also as a tribute to the man who came to understand the philosophical roots of freedom — and that in a country where freedom was not allowed; in a country where philosophies and freedom were replaced by blind obedience and dogma. It’s important that people like Vasily Grossman are not forgotten.

I’d like you to please think of the following passage the next time you hear, for example, an environmentalist talk about more centralized government and more government ownership of land for the sake of “our endangered environment.”

Please think of it next time you see someone wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt (or necklace) in glorification of Che Guevara’s communistic ideals, or romanticizing communist Cuba and Castro for their healthcare system, or Chairman Mao with the blood of billions on his hands:

I used to think freedom was freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of conscience. But freedom is the whole life of everyone. Here is what it amounts to: you have to have the right to sow what you wish to, to make shoes or coats, to bake into bread the flour ground from the grain you have sown, and to sell it or not sell it as you wish; for the lathe operator, the steelworker, and the artist it’s a matter of being able to live as you wish and work as you wish and not as they order you to. And in our country there is no freedom – not for those who write books nor for those who sow grain nor for those who make shoes.

Forever Flowing

Vasily Grossman (1905–1964)

1 comment » | Capitalism, communism, socialism

Rose Wilder Lane And The Discovery Of Freedom

March 12th, 2010 — 7:20am

In 1943, a lady by the name of Rose Wilder Lane published a book called The Discovery of Freedom. It’s an absolutely original work of non-fiction, a salvo to human energy and the creative mind unshackled, and it influenced classic liberals and libertarians beyond number — and yet it has largely gone unacknowledged.

From a semi-recent review:

“Rose Wilder Lane sought to highlight the difference it made in America that the individual was permitted freedom from government authority. The Americans broke from the idea that dominated all over human history that they must depend on some overarching authority in government to grant them well being, and thus when good happens, we owe ever more to the powers that be.”

Quoting a Canadian writer named Jeff Walker, who evidently did not care for Ayn Rand:

Dozens of motifs and expressions to be found later in Ayn Rand are sprinkled all throughout The Discovery of Freedom. Some of Rand’s favorite words and phrases, like “sunlit,” “standard of value,” “life on this earth,” “savages,” “stagnation,” “non-contradiction,” “static universe,” and countless others dot Discovery’s landscape. The same goes for themes that Rand borrowed from Wilder, completely unacknowledged, such as: the counterproductivity of government planning; the case for limited government; the factual nature of morality; that contradictions cannot exist in reality; that words have an exact meaning; that human rights cannot exist without property rights.

Rose Wilder Lane was also unveiled in the 1990s as the true author of the Little House on the Prairie series, normally attributed to her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder. But it is for her credo Give Me Liberty and especially The Discovery of Freedom that Rose Wilder Lane must not be forgotten. She was a fearless and exceptional woman who took on politicians, journalists, economists (like the great Ludwig von Mises, with whom she profoundly disagreed on the subject of Democracy), heads of state, and more.

Rose Lane Wilder, RIP:

1886 – 1968

9 comments » | Rose Wilder Lane

McDonald’s And The Clam Shell

March 11th, 2010 — 8:40am

Speaking of clams without shells, it was in the late 1980’s that McDonald’s was bullied by burgeoning environmental groups (who were concerned about “how many trees it takes to make paper” ) into switching from paper packaging to Styrofoam containers. These containers are what McDonald’s soon came to call (apparently without irony) “clam shells.”

Clam shells were not McDonald’s first choice. But Styrofoam is an exceptionally good insulator and so McDonald’s acquiesced to this environmental strong-arming.

Shortly thereafter, near the end of the 1980’s, environmentalists came along again and attacked McDonald’s use of polystyrene (the technical name for Styrofoam), because in order to make polystyrene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are required, which chlorofluorocarbons purportedly poke holes in the ozone. So out of the goodness of their hearts, the suppliers of McDonald’s clam shell stopped using CFC’s in their manufacturing process.

This wasn’t good enough, however. The clam shell came under fire again, this time for other things:

It doesn’t “biodegrade” in landfills, environmental groups said — though, in fact, next to nothing, no matter how “organic,” biodegrades in landfills, because biodegrading requires oxygen, which compressed trash does not have.

Another reason they gave: plastic and polystyrene “take up a great deal of space.” (Untrue.)

Yet throughout this whole fiasco, McDonald’s was completely compliant.

They even embarked upon the suggested polystyrene recycling program.

Pressed, however, by the Environmental Defense Fund, McDonald’s, in the autumn of 1990, abandoned the clam shell altogether and supplanted it with a so-called quilt-wrap, which is paper coated in a thin layer of plastic.

So it was back to paper after all, back where it began.

McDonald’s received public acclaim for this change (this was before it had become quite so vogue to anathematize corporations) and the story even made the cover of The New York Times (November 2, 1990).

It soon transpired, as you would perhaps suspect, that, according to environmentalists, the quilt-wrap was “too difficult to recycle,” whereas polystyrene was not. Also, polystyrene accounted for only four percent of all McDonald’s solid waste in the past, which was much less than with the quilt-wrap.

So McDonald’s was yet again asked to switch.

And so it goes….

You may read all about this ongoing saga in Doctor William Rathje’s excellent book Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage, — a must see for anyone wanting to understand the true nature of rubbish, as opposed to the trash-heaps of environmental propaganda that surrounds the subject. And you may listen to an excerpt of Dr. Rathje’s book here.

13 comments » | economics, environmentalism


March 8th, 2010 — 8:17am

Ray Harvey: Bartender

The following interview, which was brief but I think penetrating, was conducted January 27, in Aspen, Colorado, and appeared in the February issue of Cunning Stunts. The questions were put forth by the interviewer, Ms. Eileen Appleton, who has graciously allowed me to reprint it here:

If he’s anything — and there does seem to be some question about that — he’s difficult to pin down. We finally caught up with him outside a Starbucks (not that one, the one down the street), near 31 Flavors, whereupon he invited us in for what he calls a spot. Ray Harvey, make no mistake, is fiercely corporate.

It was 3:00 pm on a wintery afternoon in late January, the sky overcast but luminous. He prefers to sit inside these days, basking, he says, in that artificial air. When asked why, he demurs, a lackluster backhand, and then more or less says that he’s not one of the people who eats and drinks uncompromisingly al fresco. We believe him.

Muscular, mid-to-late thirty, Harvey has repose; he never touches his face. We sit near the slablike window that commands a view of the outlying plains. The telephone poles fall away into an intricate horizon. Distant semis flash….

Q: First things first: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?

Harvey: Bon Scott.

Q: Why?

Harvey: Because he’ll win the fight.

Q: How was your trip in? We heard rough.

Harvey: Actually, I found it tame.

Q: Tell us about your latest book —

Harvey: To be candid, I make it a rule never to gloss my own writing — unless I’m in the bedroom. I might, however, direct you to the first review of it to appear on Amazon.

Q: Many readers have noted a sort of subterranean preoccupation with the ribald in your writ—

Harvey: The what?

Q: The ribald.

Harvey:: Sex in movies, sex in books, sex in blogs — I find it all really too tedious to talk about. Let us, for once, beg off.

Q: Okay, okay. If, as you’ve said, “there is no order in the universe apart from what man himself puts there,” how, then, do you explain the symmetry of the universe?

Harvey:: Order is an epistemological word; it applies only to the conceptual mind. The universe is neither orderly nor disorderly. Man imposes order, like legends on a map. The universe simply is. It could be no other way.

Q: No?

Harvey: Yes. Matter does not possess a will. Matter, therefore, must act as it does.

Q: Your name–

Harvey: Yes?

Q: In many people’s mind, it’s inextricably associated with freedom.

Harvey: I don’t know that that’s true, but I have no real objection to it.

Q: But what is freedom? Isn’t it just a word?

Harvey: No. Freedom is the absence of force. I am opposed to force, in every manifestation. I believe only in the voluntary, the consensual, the chosen.

Q: What’s force?

Harvey: Force is a fist up your motherfucking ass.

Q: Do you really loathe environmentalism as much as you say, or is it partially put on?

Harvey: The truth is, I loathe environmentalism more than I could ever say.

Q: Why so?

Harvey: Because environmentalism is a lie. It’s bandwagon thinking. It’s non-thinking. Environmentalism is at its root a bastard philosophy, very seductive to some, but predicated upon entirely fraudulent premises. Environmentalism is repackaged Marxism. Surely everyone knows by now that Marx has been discredited.

Q: By whom?

Harvey: History has discredited him.

Q: In what way?

Harvey: Every communist regime has failed; no socialist regime has ever flourished. The only societies that have truly flourished are those that have been free, or relatively free.

Q: Others have commented upon your conspicuous concern with the lyrical, even as you rail politically.

Harvey: What of it?

Q: It has struck many of us as incongruous and almost quaint. Is there anything you care to say about that?

Harvey: Yes. Poetry is language at its best. It is concentrated speech. Poetry is style. Poetry is writer’s writing. Poetry is advertising — in good faith.

Q: Who is your favorite poet?

Harvey: Karl Shapiro.

Q: What is your favorite novel?

Harvey: The Possessed.

Q: Who is your favorite character in literature?

Harvey: Stavrogin.

Q: How do you feel about form in poetry?

Harvey: Form is technique, and prosody is skill. Scansion is symmetry. To say that form is an artificial construct is like saying that chess is artificial because it has rules.

Q: But where are the rules for poetry? Are they in the sticks and stones? The sea? The sky?

Harvey: The rules “live in the masterpieces,” as Shapiro said. Rules are rooted in the nature of the human mind, which seeks order.

Q: How does one learn to write?

Harvey:: Imitate.

Q: Where do you write? In what sort of space?

Harvey: Standing near the window, where the light is strong. You could say I write in a cold sweat, or a whitehot fever.

Q: And yet?

Harvey: And yet? Yes. And yet. And yet I love the nighttime, when the moon rages and the lovers lie abed with all their griefs in their arms.

Q: Rewriting?

Harvey: Writing is rewriting.

Q: Haiku?

Harvey: You can make it tough.

Q: What is beauty? Is it anything?

Harvey: It is everything. Beauty is symmetry. Beauty is the bah-bah in black sheep. It is the esthetically pleasing, it is the lovely. Beauty is not, finally, ineffable, but it is elusive.

Q: Some have said you’re obsessed with the body human. Would you say that characterization is true?

Harvey: The body human is my deepest obsession. Why? All that’s born, dies, and as the flesh without spirit is dead, so is the spirit without flesh dead. The spirit is a wind that passeth away and cometh not again. Therefore, whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. And remember: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds. Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Q: Is human talent innate?

Harvey: No. It is willed.

Q: Come, now.

Harvey: Really. You decide, you act. Or not.

Q: What is your opinion of vigilante justice?

Harvey: Relatively low.

Q: Speaking of which, are you yourself highbrow, as you’re sometimes accused?

Harvey: Only by default, if at all.

Q: You would agree, though, man’s understanding of the eternal, is iffy at best–

Harvey: No, I wouldn’t. There’s no real mystery about the eternal, even though it’s made out to be so very mysterious. Time, like order, is epistemological. It happens inside the human brain. As such it only pertains to man. Time is specifically man’s way of measuring movement. Take man and man’s brain out of the equation and there is no such thing as time: there’s only movement. Movement of what? Things. Planets, particles, dust, matter — all these things do not truck with time. The universe is out of time in the literal sense. It is non-temporal. It is timeless.

Read the rest of interview here.

34 comments » | More and More unto the Perfect Day

I, Pencil — By Leonard Read

March 7th, 2010 — 8:52am

In December of 1958, an American thinker named Leonard Read wrote a remarkable essay entitled “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read.”

In this essay, Mr. Read walks us step-by-step through the entire process of how a single pencil is produced; I recapitulate it here because it is the only argument you’ll ever need in support of the absolute economic superiority of laissez-faire capitalism.

In the beginning of the essay, we are shown the many materials needed to make a single pencil, among them: wood, rubber, paint, lacquer, graphite, metal, zinc, and many other things.

We are then shown how these materials are really only the beginning of the process; for a whole industry is in turn required to produce each of those materials.

There is, for example, the lumber industry needed to produce the wood; the mining industry to mine and mill and smelt the zinc and lead and metal; the rubber industry, of course, and the paint and graphite, and so on.

Then, within each of these industries, there are numerous sub-divisions, such as chemical industries, which make up the groundwork for paint and lacquer, and the engineering companies to supply all the tools, and even the lighthouse workers to guide the ships safely into port.

Of course there is also the singular fact that our solitary pencil could neither be manufactured nor produced without all the various other forms of transportation required to get the products from place to place, and of course this transportation requires its own set of industries (not just oil), and on and on, all of which industries, in turn, are no less involved than the manufacturing of the wood or graphite or rubber.

So that when everything is said and done, the making of one pencil requires thousands of people, most of whom have specialized knowledge and specialized jobs, in hundreds of different industries.

Furthermore, these people come from all over the world. No centralized government imaginable, even with an army of super-genius planners, could organize the countless factors that go into the making of that one small pencil.

And yet in this country, as in all developed countries, pencils are so cheap and abundant that nobody thinks twice about them. How is this so?

The answer is deceptively simple: private property and free markets.

The free market, and its corollary, the profit motive, are what bring these thousands of people from these hundreds of different industries the wide-world over, into peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation with one another.

The free market instantly and smoothly organizes this entire process of complexity, and the free market does so without any bureaucratic coercion or political force.

Indeed, this singular fact is what the word “free” refers to in the term “free markets.” That is the beauty of capitalism at work: the free and voluntary exchange of goods and services, which presupposes the inalienable right to your own life and your own property.

This process, outlined eloquently in Leonard Read’s pencil example, is precisely what our peace-loving greens wish to subvert.

It is also what our peace-loving greens, like all proponents of mercantilism, think that they themselves can achieve – and do so by means of a massive centralized planning bureau.

They cannot.

It is a literal impossibility, as history has demonstrated time and again.

It is also an exercise in governmental compulsion.

It is, finally, anti-freedom and anti-private property, which is exactly what environmentalism as a political philosophy is and always will be.

The green party can indeed try to organize all this industry, as they have tried many times before, but the result will be the same result as always: chaos and poverty. The free market will then be called upon to bail them out, and the free market will bail them out, just as it always has, and then the free market and all its big bad corporations will be maligned, just as the free market and corporations always are.

And so it goes.

But the next time an environmentalist tells you to “bicycle more and save the planet” think of I, Pencil, by Leonard Read.

Because I promise you that all the filthy, hardcore industry that goes into the manufacturing of one simple pencil is multiplied a thousandfold just to make and transport a single bicycle to you there in Boulder, Colorado, or wherever.

4 comments » | Uncategorized

A Clam Without A Shell

March 6th, 2010 — 1:41am

A reader writes:

Dear RayHarvey: I have heard that a clam without a shell grows into a huge phallic-looking creature that would horrify and intimidate people who are not usually horrified or intimidated. Can you verify? If true, is this reaction indicative of an underlying psycho-sexual issue and is it in any way related to aversion to Tom Jones?



Dear ShyButIntrigued: I’m afraid it’s true. The clam you reference is called a Geoduck clam — pronounced “gooey-duck,” not “gee-oh-duck.” The Geoduck clam is a species of Panope generosa, a large saltwater clam native to the northern Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States. These clams sometimes live in excess of 100 years, residing limp and large deep, deep within the moist sand of ocean beaches.

They are very difficult to catch, but when you find yourself with one in hand, they as often as not become rigid, and ejaculate a viscous discharge that smells not unpleasantly of the ocean salt.

These remarkable creatures feed on smaller sea creatures, and, despite their peculiar appearance and their elusive quality, they are dug up and shipped to China, whereupon they are cooked and eaten with relish, like so many hotdogs.

The name “Geoduck” — pronounced, I repeat, “gooey-duck” — ostensibly has its origins in a Native American pidgin, called Chinook, and comes from the Chinook word for “to penetrate deeply.” Coincidentally enough, this word has penetrated the English language (albeit rather flaccidly) and has indeed, like the bivalve itself, found a curious kinship with the bearded clam.

As for Tom Jones, the answer is an emphatic No; it is not indicative of any underlying psycho-sexual issues — please don’t worry about that — and the only way I can explain the curious cross-connection you make is by something like this:

Yeah, baby, yeah!

5 comments » | Philosophy, Reader Mail

Are Organic Foods Worth The Price?

March 5th, 2010 — 9:27am

In February of 2007, the Los Angeles Times ran an article that said, among other things, the following:

Since 1989, when organic-food activists raised a [bunked] nationwide scare over the pesticide alar in apples, many scientists have seethed quietly at what they perceive as a campaign of scare tactics, innuendo and shoddy science perpetrated by organic food producers and their allies.

Indeed, organic food activists are increasingly open about their fraudulent agenda. Organic Valley Marketing Director Theresa Marquez, for instance, laid out, in no uncertain terms, her strategy of falsifying data to dupe the masses into thinking organics are worth their premium price:

“We think it’s important that people pay more for food,” she said. “The question is: ‘Will consumers pay more for that?’ and ‘How can we convince them to do that?’”

And yet: “Organic food has no higher nutritional value compared to conventional food,” says Nutrition and Diet Professor Tom Sanders, of Kings College London.

Which is hardly news, however.

In fact, Professor Sanders is merely echoing what science has been saying for years.

The only people who really disagree are environmental groups and animal rights activists, with all their agendas and quackery — in response to which quackery, food science professor Joseph Rosen, of Rutgers University, says this: “Most [of their studies] are not designed, conducted or published according to accepted scientific standards, and many were done by groups that openly promote organic foods.”

Where, then, is all the proof that organic food is better and better for you?

“The short answer, food safety and nutrition scientists say, is that such proof does not exist” (Los Angeles Times, February, 2007).

Indeed, the very word “organic” has been commandeered by phonies, so that the term, which was once legitimate, has now become a conceptual void. Quoting, at length, the erudite R.I. Throckmorton, Dean of Kansas State College:

This cult has sought to appropriate a good word “organic,” and has twisted its meaning to cover a whole crazy doctrine. The facts are that organic matter in its true sense is an important component of the soil — but soil fertility and the kind of crops you grow on a soil are not determined by humus alone.

Soil fertility is determined by the amount of active organic matter, the amount of available mineral nutrients, the activities of soil organisms, chemical activities in the soil solution and the physical condition of the soil. Ever since we have had soil scientists, they have recognized the values of organic matter. The loss of soil humus through cultivation has long been a matter of concern. So the faddists have nothing new to offer on that score.

Organic matter is often called “the life of the soil” because it supplies most of the food needs of the soil organisms which aid in changing nonavailable plant food materials into forms-that are available to the plants, and contains small quantities of practically all plant nutrients….

The antichemical-fertilizer doctrine makes a great point of the fact that plant food in organic matter is in a “natural” form, while in chemical form fertilizer it is “unnatural” and thus supposedly is harmful, if not downright poisonous. The logic of this escapes me. Science completely disproved the conclusion. The facts are that any plant foods, whether from organic matter, or from a bag of commercial fertilizer, necessarily came from Nature in the first place. Why is one more “natural” than another?

A Plant takes in a given nutrient in the same chemical form whether it came from organic matter, or from a bag of commercial fertilizer. The facts are that practically all plant-food elements carried by organic matter are not used in their organic form; they are changed by microorganisms to the simple chemical forms which the plants can use — the same form in which these elements become available to plants when applied as chemical fertilizers. For example, it is foolish to say that nitrogen in commercial fertilizer is “poisonous” while nitrogen from organic matter is beneficial. The basic nitrogen is the same in either case (“The Organic Farming Myths,” R.I. Throckmorton).

Muck soil, as it’s called, holds as much as 50 percent organic matter — “organic” in the real sense of the word — and yet, according to organic pseudoscience, “You could do little to improve such soils.”

But in fact all that these soils need is fertilizer, as Doctor J.F. Davis, of Michigan State University, discovered:

The yield of wheat on unfertilized muck soils was 5.7 bushels an acre, while the yield on plots receiving the chemical phosphorus and potash was 29.2 bushels per acre. The yield of potatoes was increased from 97 bushels an acre with no treatment, to 697 with commercial fertilizer carrying phosphorus and potash. Cabbage yields were boosted by the same means from 1/2 ton to 27 tons.

And if you believe, as many people do, that “inorganic” food contains more cancer-causing pesticides, think again:

It’s a well-known fact that so-called organic farmers routinely spray pesticides on crops — albeit naturally occurring pesticides — one of which, pyrethrum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified as a “likely human carcinogen.”

This, along with a number of other findings, calls into question the very philosophy behind “organic farming.” Beware the scare-mongering, I beg. Read this exceptionally well-written article, from an exceptionally well-informed lady.

For a long time now, environmentalists have alleged that organic food is healthier. In addition to this, environmentalists have told us over and over that organic farming is better for the environment because our laid-back green farmers use no “synthetic” pesticides.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that these same laid-back organic farmers are permitted to use (”permitted” in the sense that they can spray with it and still qualify as “organic”) a number of so-called natural chemicals to kill pests, which natural chemicals are neither as expedient nor as purely benign as you might think. For instance, it was discovered almost a decade ago, in the year 1999, that rotenone, a natural insecticide squeezed from roots of tropical plants, causes symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in rats. That discovery came in addition to the previously mentioned pyrethrum data. It is true that in tests, these pesticides are administered in extraordinarily high doses, but so too is the dosage for synthetic pesticides. The fact is, neither are what you could legitimately call dangerous.

From the New York Post:

The EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee based its 1999 decision on the same high-dose rat tests long used by eco-activists to condemn synthetic pesticides. Because no one knows just how pyrethrum causes tumors, the committee also recommended assuming that even the tiniest dose can be deadly. (The same logic is used to brand hundreds of other chemicals as carcinogens.) Charles Benbrook, a long-time organic activist, notes that pyrethrum is applied to crops at low rates and that pyrethrum degrades relatively rapidly, minimizing consumer exposure. He’s right, but all this is true of today’s non-persistent synthetic pesticides as well. Pyrethrum and modern synthetic pesticides break down so rapidly that consumers are rarely exposed to any at all. Two-thirds of all fruits and vegetables tested as they leave the farm in the U.S. have no detectable pesticide residues — despite our being able to detect chemicals at parts per trillion levels.

Pyrethrum is extracted from a type of chrysanthemum grown mainly in Africa. It is literally a nerve poison that these plants evolved to fight off munching insects. The dried, ground-up flowers were used in the early 19th century to control body lice.In fact, many of the widely used synthetic pesticides are based on natural plant-defense chemicals. Synthetic versions of pyrethrum (known as pyrethroids) make it possible to protect a crop with one or two sprays instead of spraying natural pyrethrum five to seven times at higher volumes. Organic activists hold to the twisted logic that if a toxic chemical can be squeezed from a plant or mined from the earth, it’s OK — but a safer chemical synthesized in a lab is unacceptable. It is possible to farm without pesticides, as demonstrated by a farm family recently highlighted in Organic Gardening magazine. They use a Shop-Vac and a portable generator in a wheelbarrow to daily suck insects off crops. And even that won’t fight fungal or bacterial diseases, or insects that eat crops from the inside out. Organic coffee growers in Guatemala spray coffee trees with fermented urine as a primitive fungicide. Bruce Ames, noted cancer expert and recent winner of the National Medal of Science, notes that more than half of the natural food chemicals he tests come up carcinogenic — the same proportion as synthetic chemicals. These natural chemicals are collectively present in large amounts in the very fruits and vegetables that are our biggest defense against cancer (June, 2001).

The main thing for you to remember is this:

It’s not that which goes into a human that defiles her, but only that which comes out — for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Our lives consist of more than the vegetables and meat.

The food snobbery of the vegetarian, the vegan, or the organic-only nut is every bit as beastly as the food snobbery of the gourmand — and ultimately every bit as dangerous.

It’s all a form of gourmandizing.

“And gourmandizing,” as Karl Shapiro once sagely said, “is a sure sign of stupidity.”

14 comments » | Capitalism, environmentalism, Health

Small Penis, Big Belly

March 3rd, 2010 — 9:04am

A reader writes:

Dear Ray Harvey: I’m one of these guys with a big belly and an extremely small penis. I’m heterosexual, and I drive a truck for a living. I do not get a lot of exercise. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pained by the size of my penis. I’m seriously considering surgical augmentation (in my late thirties). Do you have particular thoughts on this issue? Should I, or shouldn’t I?

— Dick Weed

P.S. Pumps don’t work.

Dear Dick Weed: Indeed, I do have very particular thoughts on this issue, despite the fact that, as fate would have it, my problem is the opposite of yours. My thoughts are these:

Don’t do it.

Quoting from the gospels:

“A man’s life consisteth of more than the size of his dick” (The Gospel According to Ray, Chapter 1, Verse 1).

Didn’t you hear about the plastic surgeon who hung himself?

Listen, Mr. Weed, when it comes to satisfying a woman, you know the commandments:

Don’t stampede the clitoris.

Don’t neglect the labia.

I give you a new commandment now: The journey is the way.

Truckdriver, that’s an old German dictum, and what it means is something I’d like for you to take with you from here on out, every time you enter your bedroom, your wife, or your rig:

Sex is not a race, and intercourse isn’t the only kind of sex. There are plenty of things you can do with your lug nuts, your digits, your tungsten wires, and I’m not just blowing your horn when I say that.

At a bar where I once worked, a customer told me that his penis was only three inches — but he swore up and down that most women didn’t like it that thick.

Mainly, Mr. Weed, what I’m suggesting to you is this: learn to enjoy the journey, because the journey is the way; your penis is only a small part of it (so to say).

Slow her down, friend, and I promise that your extremely small penis will be all the penis she needs. It’s not as if you’re trying to make Amarillo by morning (or are you?) Enjoy the process, soup-to-nuts, because as you know, the end will come soon enough, and all ends are bitter.

Now keep on trucking, big daddy.

10 comments » | Esthetics

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