TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

France’s Real Problem—TOS’s Week in Review for May 12

Noteworthy news and views from the week ending May 12, 2012

France’s Real Problem

Yesterday I wrote about the so-called “austerity” measures of France and other European nations, measures that have failed to significantly reduce government spending or curb government intervention in the economy. But much more can be said about the French government’s destructive economic interference. For example, Gregory Viscusi and Mark Deen write for Businessweek:

[France] has 2.4 times as many companies with 49 employees as with 50. What difference does one employee make? Plenty, according to the French labor code. Once a company has at least 50 employees inside France, management must create three worker councils, introduce profit sharing, and submit restructuring plans to the councils if the company decides to fire workers for economic reasons.

France’s economic problems result not from nonexistent “austerity,” but from the government violating the rights of citizens, including their rights to act and do business in accordance with their own judgment.

Viscusi and Deen conclude with the understatement of the week: “With 2.9 million people out of work—the worst joblessness in 12 years—France may need to overhaul its rigid labor laws.”

France Embraces Evil

The Independent notes that François Hollande, France’s new Socialist president, “styles himself as a ‘social democrat’ and not as any kind of revolutionary.” Nevertheless,

The 57-year-old Socialist has openly admitted that he “does not like the rich” and declared that “my real enemy is the world of finance”. This means taxing the wealthy by up to 75 per cent, curtailing the activities of Paris as a centre for financial dealing, and ploughing millions into creating more civil service jobs.

Nothing revolutionary about that—unless one recalls the socialist revolutions throughout history that were motivated by that very same hatred of the rich and that committed mass slaughter to achieve their goals.

To review socialism’s horrifying history, listen to these talks by Alan Charles Kors and C. Bradley Thompson:

A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?

Despite the fact that a majority of North Carolina voters banned gay marriage this past week, the nation may have reached a tipping point in favor of gay marriage. Consider some of the signs.

Week in ReviewIn the past three years, support for gay marriage has grown from 40 to 50 percent of the population, reports Gallup. Whereas most Colorado voters opposed gay marriage in 2006, this year many expressed outrage when the state’s Republican legislators killed a civil union bill. Consequently, Colorado’s governor has called a special legislative session to reconsider the measure.

And, of course, this week, President Obama made history as the first U.S. president ever to endorse gay marriage, saying, “I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

Given who said this, why he says anything, and when he said it, thinking Americans are seeing Obama’s endorsement for exactly what it is: political expediency. As Radley Balko writes,

It’s a position he has allegedly held all along, but didn’t have the political spine to state publicly prior to this afternoon. Even then, he only made his statement after carefully strategizing with his aides to make sure it wouldn’t damage him politically.

Even so, the increased support for legalizing gay marriage is a positive development. As the editorial writers of the Denver Post argue in a spirited editorial, removing legal barriers to gay marriage is akin to removing similar barriers to interracial marriage just a few decades ago.

Unfortunately, many Republicans, now led by Mitt Romney, continue their Bible-thumping bigotry against homosexuals and seek to forbid them the right to marry.

Joss Whedon’s Avengers

Joss Whedon’s fabulous science-fiction television show Firefly was canceled after only fourteen episodes, and the follow-up feature film Serenity, while a critical success, didn’t earn much.

Now, however, Whedon is king of the box office. His superhero Avengers film broke opening-weekend records, earning more than $200 million in the domestic market.

While constrained by a preestablished premise and general storyline, Whedon crafted a moving (and often humorous) screenplay. In one particularly poignant scene, the villain demands than a crowd kneel before him. One elderly man refuses to kneel, saying he saw what happened last time a ruler demanded such submission.

Of Comic Book Heroes, Fracking, and Keynesian Economics

The release of the Avengers film generated a couple of interesting political discussions.

First, Mark Ruffalo, who played Bruce Banner (a.k.a. the Hulk) in the movie, wrongly suggested that hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in energy production poisons people’s wells. Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress responded with an open letter to Ruffalo that begins, “As an energy researcher I am disappointed that you are using the media attention over your new Avengers movie to attack ‘fracking.’” Epstein invites Ruffalo to an educational seminar so he could “be an avenger for fracking.”

Second, someone has calculated that the destruction of New York shown in the Avengers film would cost some $160 billion in real life. For Keynesian “economists,” this kind of destruction is just what we need to get the economy back on track. Sarcasm? Hyperbole? Hardly. Last year Paul Krugman suggested that an alien invasion would “stimulate” economic growth by necessitating spending on a military buildup.

Obama Administration Harasses Romney Donor

Thank goodness we don’t live in China, where government officials have detained family members of activist Chen Guangcheng. Here in America, the Obama administration and its allies merely conduct “opposition research” against those who contribute to Obama’s political opponents (specifically Mitt Romney), then lead public smear campaigns against them. The Wall Street Journal carries the latest developments on this front.

Maurice Sendak: “Live Your Life”

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, died May 8. Far more notable than his death, however, is how he lived. Consider comments he made during an NPR interview last year (as transcribed by Poker Grump):

I’m not unhappy about becoming old. I’m not unhappy about what must be. . . . [T]here’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging: that I am in love with the world. And I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio, and I see my trees, my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old. They’re beautiful, and I can see how beautiful they are. . . . Oh, God, there are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die! But I’m ready. . . . I wish you all good things. Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.

The Call to End Occupational Licensing

This past week, the Institute for Justice released a new study, “License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing.” It “documents the license requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations—such as barber, massage therapist and preschool teacher—across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

This is an important report that deserves the media spotlight, because, as Michael LaFerrara discusses in a recent TOS blog post, such licensing violates individual rights, increases the costs of doing business, restricts entry into targeted industries, and gives politicians more control over producers.

Another Producer Leaves U.S. Due to Tax Code that Punishes Success

“Eduardo Saverin, the billionaire co- founder of Facebook . . . renounced his U.S. citizenship” to reduce his tax liability, Bloomberg reports. He is just the latest successful American entrepreneur to flee the oppressive and grossly unjust U.S. tax code, which penalizes producers for producing.

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Image of Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy by Wikimedia Commons. Image of Joss Whedon by Gage Skidmore at Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law, The Arts

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • mtnrunner2

    The “austerity measure” protests are just so predictable. That’s what happens when the government pays for everything.

    As for France, they can kiss prosperity goodbye if the new president has his way.

    I’m so glad you pointed out the Sendak interviews. Not only is Terri Gross a consistently fantastic interviewer, but I loved the exact comments you quoted here. 

    He also said something about loving this world, yet crying about loss of friends and loved ones. I thought that was poignant and perfectly put, because it acknowledges the loss of value, which is temporary, but affirms the overall goodness of life. Great stuff.

  • Beth

    François Hollande, France’s new Socialist president, has indeed admitted that he “does not like the rich” and declared that “my real enemy is the world of finance”. London newspapers are reporting he also owns THREE homes on the French Rivera. Thus like a typical socialist he is also a HYPOCRITE!!

  • Krastio Atanassov

    Alan Charles Kors mentions religion as example of “indipendent thinking”.  Jeez!

  • Anonymous

    “Even so, the increased support for legalizing gay marriage is a positive development.”

    Only if you actually like the idea of an official, state sanctioned and subsidized culture.  Yes, we all know that the state sanctions and subsidizes heterosexual marriage, but how is it a positive development when the state assumes authority over homosexual marriage as well?

    Wouldn’t the proper Objectivist position be that the state ought to keep hands off all voluntary relationships and contracts _including_ marriage? Don’t you realize that the state sanction of marriage comes at the expense of liberty — with actual initiation of force involved (for example against any two cohabitors who attempt to pool their incomes for tax purposes)?

    It hardly seems  consistent with Objectivist thought to abandon our principles merely because marriage is “traditionally” a state-controlled contract.  That it defies tradition has never stopped an Objectivist from advocating the non-coercive solution before, has it?

    In a free society, the proper response to someone wishing for long-term joint living arrangements among consenting adults is, “Who’s stopping you?”

  • Mike Kevitt

    It’s true that the only proper state sanction of any human relationships is to just leave them alone, except for crime (initiatory force), which the state stops by responsive (retaliatory) force.  So, if you want to get married, get married.  It’s best to have a written contract to cover it, and a legal environment (contract law) to cover the contract.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s queers or not.  Who’s stopping you?  Nobody.  BUT!, the state’s recognition of and bestowing of benefits, by “law”, upon a particular relationship or contract, in this case, “marriage”, can’t be condoned in a free society (or if we’re gonna have one).  This particular tradition must be, not merely defied, but ended, by trashing the “law(s)” involved and positing contract law, instead.