Andrew Bernstein’s London Speaking Tour

While Objectivist speakers are not a rare sight in London, this week will see one of the most ambitious endeavours to bring Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and the various ways in which it can be applied to our lives, to audiences throughout the capital. Dr. Andrew Bernstein, one of the leading experts on Miss Rand’s philosophy, will embark on a week-long speaking tour, giving talks at seven events over the course of seven nights.

Dr. Bernstein is the author of several books, most notably The Capitalist Manifesto, in which he presents not merely the practical arguments for liberty with which we’re all familiar, but the moral foundations on which it rests, and which so many attempts to promote free market ideas lack. His full biography is available on his website.

The first of Dr. Bernstein’s talks, Sunday at the Admiralty (tonight 19th Feb) in Central London, will present The Trader Principle, the idea that a proper human exchange involves trading value for value, as opposed to one side coercing or defrauding the other, or the notion that life is a zero-sum game.

On Monday, in a special Libertarian Home event, Dr. Bernstein will give a talk titled Religion Versus Morality, in which he will argue that not only does religion not lay the foundations for a valid code of ethics, it is in fact its antithesis. You can purchase Live Stream access to this event, if you are not able to travel to London.

The Moral Basis of Capitalism, a talk based on The Capitalist Manifesto, will be delivered twice: Tuesday, at the London Philosophy Club, and Friday, at the LSE Hayek Society. As the title suggests, the talk argues that Capitalism is the only just system, and as is rarely the case, it begins by clearly defining the relevant concepts. Those who are able to attend Dr. Bernstein’s first two talks have a great opportunity to delve deeper into the philosophy on which this case rests.

Wednesday’s talk is titled The Truth About Climate Change, and will suggest something often missing from how many people think, and certainly talk, about this issue: looking at the historical evidence as an essential part of the process of forming an opinion, and judging the issue based on its impact on humans, rather than “the planet”.

The Adam Smith Institute will host Dr. Bernstein on Thursday for Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism, a fascinating look at how great minds produced incredibly beneficial results that advanced their own lives as well as mankind, and did so in the face of bigotry and discrimination the extent of which is almost inconceivable to those of us living in the West today.

Dr. Bernstein’s final event, on Saturday, will be a Q&A on the philosophy of Objectivism. This will be a four-hour-long in-depth discussion, intended for those who seek to understand the ideas presented by Ayn Rand to a degree which some may find hard to achieve even after reading her books. Some knowledge of Objectivism is highly recommended for those who plan to attend.

Copies of many of Ayn Rand’s books will be sold at most of these events at heavily discounted prices. Pamphlets featuring some of her most popular and philosophically ground-breaking essays will be available for free.

Trump vs The World

In a video message recently posted on Facebook, US President-elect Donald Trump vowed to introduce a rule by which at least 2 old regulations are eliminated for every new regulation introduced. While this may seem like a sound policy, further examination of his pre- and post-election vows show that for every good policy, Mr. Trump has at least two bad ones, some of which are very bad, especially for those of us living outside the US.

In that same Facebook address, Trump alluded to one of the central issues of his campaign, his opposition to free trade, when he vowed to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a planned free-trade deal with 12 nations. Leaving aside the merits of this particular deal, Trump’s position on trade forms part of his strategy to force companies to move manufacturing jobs to America, whether or not doing so is economically feasible for them.

Days later Trump announced that he had reached a deal with air conditioner manufacturer Carrier Corporation to keep nearly 1,000 jobs, which the company had planned to move to Mexico, in their current plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, which was set for closure. The nature of “negotiations” between a company, which creates value, and a government, which holds a monopoly on power, is clear.

Should Trump follow through on his promises of forcing more companies to move manufacturing to America, with its high taxes and minimum wage laws, and of restricting immigration and sending millions of immigrants (in mostly low-paying jobs) back to their countries of origin, the economic ripple effect will be unimaginably grave; with manufacturing costs rising drastically, so, inevitably, will prices.

While Trump’s policies on trade may cause damage that would take many years to repair, the potential damage of his foreign policy, in particular with regards to Russia, could be irreversible. The applause with which news of his victory was received in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, undoubtedly only increased the legitimate concerns of America’s allies in Eastern Europe, who find themselves facing the threat of Russian military advancement, which is more real now than it has been at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Beyond the obvious risk posed by the improvement of relations between the U.S. and Russia, Trump has also repeatedly expressed what can best be described as a lukewarm position on NATO. The military alliance, the existence of which has served as a deterrent for Russian military aggression since it was formed, may very well be the only thing stopping Putin from attacking its Eastern European members. Ukraine and Georgia, who are not members of NATO, can attest to that.

If the author of The Art of the Deal needs a powerful ally in his planned trade wars with China, he surely realizes that he must offer something of high value in return. What that something might be is anybody’s guess, but it’ll be Putin’s choice, and unlike the popular Trump slogan, it will put Russia first.

The Uber verdict

An employment tribunal ruled that transportation service provider Uber must pay drivers who work with the service as employees, rather than self-employed, as is currently the case. The company is likely to appeal the decision.

With around 30,000 drivers and 2 million users in London alone, Uber has completely transformed the private hire vehicle business, making taxis a viable transportation option for many people for whom it previously was not one.

And while private hire license laws mean that becoming a driver in the UK is not as easy as it is in some other countries, and not as easy as both drivers and the company would have liked, this ground-breaking app has provided a source of full or part-time income for so many. As is always the case when people engage in honest transactions, both drivers and passengers have benefitted greatly from Uber.

Enter unions and government. The idea of people dealing with each other, in the words of Ayn Rand, “by mutual consent to mutual advantage”, is unacceptable to central planners, who wish to control every aspect of every individual’s life. But in this scenario, where passengers benefit from cheap rides, drivers benefit from a source of income, and Uber benefits from both, becoming a multi-billion dollar business in the process, we’d be hard pressed to find a victim, on whose behalf government needs to step in. And yet, such “victims” have managed to find us.

The two Uber drivers listed as claimants in the tribunal had signed a contract with the company of their own volition. They were paid 75% of what they earned according to that contract. Such a deal insures that drivers get paid for their actual work, and that Uber doesn’t lose money employing them. The only reason for them to demand government intervention forcing Uber to pay them a minimum (or, as it’s now called, “living”) wage is if they don’t believe they can actually create a value equal to or greater than the one they’re demanding. The issue of how they expect Uber to pay them while operating at a loss (as the very fact of their claim would suggest is the scenario they foresee) has yet to be addressed.
Self-assessed incompetent Uber drivers won’t be the only ones thrilled with this verdict. Drivers of over-priced black cabs have been complaining about Uber since the service was first introduced in London. The realisation that if passengers can get the same exact service for a third of the price they’re likely to choose to do so, served as an immediate call to action for these drivers.

But the action taken by black cab drivers wasn’t to lower their prices or improve their service; instead, they have been lobbying government to intervene in a way that would severely limit Uber, thus raising the company’s prices. The fact that this would put drivers out of work and would force passengers into longer and less safe journeys does not concern protesting black cab drivers, who want to bully customers into using their service by removing the competition.

This verdict could negatively impact other service providers who are self-employed. Where the less competent among them would try to claim they should be considered employees, this decision by the tribunal would serve as precedent. Much like in the case of private hire vehicles, the effect would be less work for the competent self-employed, fewer options for the companies who use their services, and lower quality / higher priced goods and services for the end customer. When that day comes, possibly much sooner than we anticipate, remember who to thank.

Image © David Holt

Identity Politics New And Old

As Jordan Lee pointed out a few weeks ago, one of the many unfortunate side effects of Donald Trump’s successful bid for the Republican nomination has been the rise of identity politics on the right, so called alt-right movement. From neo-Nazis to people who merely want to express “pride” in their race (a sentiment the socially acceptable expression of which is currently granted only to racial and ethnic minorities), these people, who share every fundamental moral view with feminists and Black Lives Matter thugs, have come out of the closet recently, in many cases to show their opposition, ironically, to their aforementioned ideological brethren. This is the “right wing” version of “identity politics”.

But what exactly is identity politics? Specifically, what “identity” are they so proud of? This is where it gets really scary.

Feminists believe that for their “achievement” of having been born with a vagina, they should be rewarded with special privileges at the expense of those who lost out in the genitalia roulette. The Black Lives Matter movement, many of whose activists are anything but peaceful, is as explicitly racist as any white supremacist group, and demands that government grant special privileges for people who look like those who were oppressed in the past, at the expense of people who look like those who were oppressors in the past.

These two vile movements can be easily discredited, and their arguments (when they’re kind enough to present arguments) thoroughly dismantled, using logic. They use specifically those characteristics with which they were born, and which they can never change, as a blank check justifying any action they choose to take. But if you’re not a fan of logic, you can always oppose them by doing exactly the same thing, and only changing a few words (resulting in ideologies and tag lines such as Meninism and White Lives Matter…).

This is what the alt-right is: an ideological mirror image of the left, differing from them only in their gender and racial “identity”.
When Milo Yianopolous, the alt-right’s unofficial and incongruous leader, participated in a White House press briefing, he asked what the administration intends to do to “encourage” Twitter and Facebook to apply First Amendment principles to their business model. It took Barack Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest to explain to Milo that the government has no business intervening in the policies of specific businesses, basically educating him on what free speech and the free market are.

In essence, the alt-right is only right wing under the left’s definition of what right wing is, namely: racist. Beyond their racism, they are socialist / mercantilist / protectionist, against free-speech (despite their opposition to hate speech laws, presumably because these laws don’t currently favour them) and pro-Russia. They consider causing offence an end in itself, a feat achievable nowadays with statements as benign as “there are only two genders”.

The worst aspect of this hopefully short-lived movement is the fact that it has managed to position itself as the apparent alternative to feminists and anti-white racists. When they go away, social justice warriors will feel emboldened by their “victory”, and even more justified in their anti-reality and anti-life views.