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  • Author: Colin Kahl
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In "Time to Attack Iran" (January/February 2012), Matthew Kroenig takes a page out of the decade-old playbook used by advocates of the Iraq war. He portrays the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran as both grave and imminent, arguing that the United States has little choice but to attack Iran now before it is too late. Then, after offering the caveat that "attacking Iran is hardly an attractive prospect," he goes on to portray military action as preferable to other available alternatives and concludes that the United States can manage all the associated risks. Preventive war, according to Kroenig, is "the least bad option."
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Iran
  • Author: Andrea Louise Campbell
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Compared with other developed countries, the United States has very low taxes, little income redistribution, and an extraordinarily complex tax code. If it wanted to, the government could raise taxes without crippling growth or productivity. Tax reform is ultimately a political choice, not an economic one -- a statement about what sort of society Americans want.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have labeled themselves “America's Comeback Team”—a political tagline that would be great were it grounded in a philosophical base that gave it objective, moral meaning. What, politically speaking, does America need to “come back” to? And what, culturally speaking, is necessary for the country to support that goal? America was founded on the principle of individual rights—the idea that each individual is an end in himself and has a moral prerogative to live his own life (the right to life); to act on his own judgment, un-coerced by others, including government (liberty); to keep and use the product of his effort (property); and to pursue the values and goals of his choosing (pursuit of happiness). Today, however, legal, regulatory, or bureaucratic obstacles involved in any effort to start or operate a business, to purchase health insurance, to plan for one's retirement, to educate one's children, to criticize Islam for advocating violence, or so much as to choose a lightbulb indicate how far we've strayed from that founding ideal. If America is to make a comeback—and if what we are to come back to is recognition and protection of individual rights—then Americans must embrace more than a political tagline; we must embrace a philosophy that undergirds individual rights and that gives rise to a government that does one and only one thing: protects rights. Although the philosophy of the Founding Fathers was sufficient ground on which to establish the Land of Liberty, it was not sufficient to maintain liberty. The founders advocated the principle of individual rights, but they did not fully understand the moral and philosophical foundations of that principle; they did not understand how rights are grounded in observable fact. Nor did the thinkers who followed them. This is why respect for rights has been eroding for more than a century. If America is to “come back” to the recognition and protection of rights, Americans must discover and embrace the philosophical scaffolding that undergirds that ideal, the scaffolding that grounds the principle of rights in perceptual fact and gives rise to the principle that the only proper purpose of government is to protect rights by banning force from social relationships. The philosophy that provides this scaffolding is Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. To see why, let us look at Rand's philosophy in contrast to the predominant philosophies of the day: religion, the basic philosophy of conservatism; and subjectivism, the basic philosophy of modern “liberalism.” We'll consider the essential views of each of these philosophies with respect to the nature of reality, man's means of knowledge, the nature of morality, the nature of rights, and the proper purpose of government. At each stage, we'll highlight ways in which their respective positions support or undermine the ideal of liberty. As a brief essay, this is, of course, not a comprehensive treatment of these philosophies; rather, it is an indication of the essentials of each, showing how Objectivism stands in contrast to religion and subjectivism and why it alone supports a culture of freedom. Objectivism stands in sharp contrast to religion and subjectivism from the outset because, whereas religion holds that there are two realities (nature and supernature), and whereas subjectivism holds that there is no reality (only personal opinion and social convention), Objectivism holds that there is one reality (this one before our eyes). Let's flesh out these differences and their significance with respect to liberty. . . .
  • Topic: Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Stop letting the enemies of capitalism claim the moral high ground. There is nothing noble about altruism, nothing inspiring about the initiation of force, nothing moral about Big Government, nothing compassionate about sacrificing the individual to the collective. Don't be afraid to dismiss those ideas as vicious, unjust attacks on the pursuit of happiness, and self-confidently assert that there is no value higher than the individual's pursuit of his own well-being.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Imagine how great it would be to have your own inside tour guide to the modern financial crisis, someone able to comment on the crisis not as an onlooker, but as the leader for two decades of one of America's strongest financial institutions.
  • Topic: Government, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Douglas Farah
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: This article will examine the changing roles of Central American gangs within the drug trafficking structures, particularly the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), operating in the region. This will include the emerging political role of the gangs (Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 as well as Barrio 18), the negotiations between the gangs and Mexican DTOs for joint operational capacity, the interactions between the two sides, and the significant repercussions all this will likely have across the region as the gangs become both better financed and more politically aware and active. This article is based on field research in San Salvador, where the author was able to spend time with some members of the MS-13. It is also informed by his examination of the truce between the gangs and the Salvadoran government, as well as the talks between the gangs and the Sinaloa cartel.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: America, Mexico
  • Author: Ilya Somin
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: As has often been the case in American history, federalism is once again a major focus of political debate. Numerous recent political conflicts focus at least in part on the constitutional balance of power between the states and the central government. The lawsuits challenging the recently passed Obama health care plan, the federal bailout of state governments during the current economic crisis, and the conflicts over social issues such as medical marijuana and assisted suicide are just a few of the more prominent examples.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Michael A. LaFerrara
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: More and more Americans are coming to recognize the superiority of private schools over government-run or “public” schools. Accordingly, many Americans are looking for ways to transform our government-laden education system into a thriving free market. As the laws of economics dictate, and as the better economists have demonstrated, under a free market the quality of education would soar, the range of options would expand, competition would abound, and prices would plummet. The question is: How do we get there from here? Andrew Bernstein offered one possibility in “The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools” (TOS, Winter 2010-11): Sell government schools to the highest bidders, who would take them over following a transitional period to “enable government-dependent families to adjust to the free market.” This approach has the virtues of simplicity and speed, but also the complication of requiring widespread recognition of the propriety of a fully private educational system—a recognition that may not exist in America for quite some time.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Dan Norton
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Eleven years ago, toward the end of my undergraduate years as a philosophy major at the University of Virginia, I was feeling dissatisfied with my knowledge of history. I had taken several history courses but wanted more. Because my immediate interest was ancient Greece, I decided to try a friend's recommendation, The Life of Greece by Will Durant. Finding the book at the library, I was surprised to see that it was but one volume in a massive series called The Story of Civilization—eleven substantial volumes spanning two feet of shelving.1 Although I wanted to learn more about history, I wasn't sure I wanted to learn that much. It turned out that I did. Reading those volumes—sometimes poring over large portions of them multiple times—would be one of the most enlightening and enjoyable experiences of my life. First published between 1935 and 1975, The Story of Civilization is a work of great and enduring value. Exceptional for its masterful prose as well as its size and scope, the Story is a powerful combination of style and substance. An author of rare literary talents, Durant (1885–1981) won a wide readership through his ability to make history intriguing, lively, and dramatic. His volumes, intended for the general reader and each designed to be readable apart from the others, have sold millions of copies. Some even became best sellers, and the tenth volume, Rousseau and Revolution, won a Pulitzer Prize. Individual volumes have been translated into more than twenty languages.2 Having earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1917 from Columbia University, Durant first won fame and phenomenal success with The Story of Philosophy (1926). This book sold two million copies in a few years and has sold three million copies to date; eighty-five years later, the book is still in print and has been translated into nineteen languages.3 Durant followed this book with another best seller, The Mansions of Philosophy (1929).4 His earnings from these and other books, as well as from articles and public lectures, helped free his time for writing The Story of Civilization, which would be his magnum opus. His wife, Ariel Durant (1898–1981), assisted him throughout his writing of the Story, her assistance increasing to the point that, beginning with the seventh volume, she received credit as coauthor.5 The Story of Civilization begins with Our Oriental Heritage, a volume on Egypt and Asiatic civilizations. The remaining ten volumes tell the story of Western civilization (with a substantial treatment of Islamic civilization in one of the volumes6). Durant's original intention was to tell the story of the West up to the present, but, despite working on the Story for more than four decades, he was unable to do so: “[A]s the story came closer to our own times and interests it presented an ever greater number of personalities and events still vitally influential today; and these demanded no mere lifeless chronicle, but a humanizing visualization which in turn demanded space” (vol. 7, p. vii). The increasing space he gave to each period of European history resulted in his having to end the Story with the downfall of Napoleon in 1815; moreover, he had to omit the history of the Americas entirely. He was ninety when the Story's last volume was published and had carried it as far as he could. In each volume Durant takes a comprehensive approach, covering, for each nation and in each period of its history, all the major aspects of civilization: politics, economics, philosophy, religion, literature, art, and science.7 He called his approach the “integral” or “synthetic” method, and regarded it as an original contribution to historiography.8 Elaborating on the origin of his method, he writes: I had expounded the idea in 1917 in a paper . . . “On the Writing of History.” . . . Its thesis: whereas economic life, politics, religion, morals and manners, science, philosophy, literature, and art had all moved contemporaneously, and in mutual influence, in each epoch of each civilization, historians had recorded each aspect in almost complete separation from the rest. . . . So I cried, “Hold, enough!” to what I later termed “shredded history,” and called for an “integral history” in which all the phases of human activity would be presented in one complex narrative, in one developing, moving, picture. I did not, of course, propose a cloture on lineal and vertical history (tracing the course of one element in civilization), nor on brochure history (reporting original research on some limited subject or event), but I thought that these had been overdone, and that the education of mankind required a new type of historian—not quite like Gibbon, or Macaulay, or Ranke, who had given nearly all their attention to politics, religion, and war, but rather like Voltaire, who, in his Siècle de Louis XIV and his Essai sur les moeurs, had occasionally left the court, the church, and the camp to consider and record morals, literature, philosophy, and art.9 Durant's integral history does not only occasionally consider these latter areas (which he calls “cultural history” or “the history of the mind,”)10 it emphasizes them. “While recognizing the importance of government and statesmanship, we have given the political history of each period and state as the oft-told background, rather than the substance or essence of the tale; our chief interest was in the history of the mind” (vol. 10, p. vii). (Nevertheless, the Story contains ample and excellent material on politics.) The Story is by far the most massive and thorough treatment of Western civilization by a single author (or team of two) that I have been able to find. Large teams of historians have collaborated to produce similarly large, or even larger, works. But such works, writes a respected historian, “while they gain substantially in authoritative character, are seriously lacking in correlation and are not written from a . . . harmonious point of view.”11 Harmony is indeed one of the cardinal virtues of Durant's work; readers find therein a beautifully integrated tale of man's past, a veritable symphony of history. For this reason and others—notably, Durant's grand, philosophical overviews and scintillating style—I believe that many, and perhaps most, readers will find no better place to turn for a large treatment of Western civilization than The Story of Civilization. . . .
  • Topic: Government, History
  • Political Geography: America, Europe
  • Author: C.A. Wolski
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Although Ayn Rand published her epic novel Atlas Shrugged fifty-four years ago, and although it has consistently sold hundreds of thousands of copies annually, Rand's magnum opus has spent decades mired in Hollywood “development hell.” Numerous producers, stars, screenwriters, and film production companies have endeavored but failed to execute a film version (see: “Atlas Shrugged's Long Journey to the Silver Screen,” p. 35). All the while, fans of the novel have anxiously waited for the day when they could watch the story come to life on the silver screen. That day is finally here. Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the first in a planned trilogy, should, for the most part, please the novel's patient fans. Fortuitously following a blueprint similar to one outlined by Rand in the 1970s (see “Adapting Atlas: Ayn Rand's own Approach,” p. 38), the film covers the first third of the story. Like the novel, the movie focuses on Dagny Taggart as she endeavors to save her struggling railroad from both intrusive government regulations and the mysterious John Galt, who is hastening the nation's collapse by causing the great entrepreneurs and thinkers of the country to disappear. She is aided in her efforts by Henry “Hank” Rearden, a steel magnate who is also being squeezed by government regulations and is anxious to put an end to John Galt's activities. Those familiar with the novel know generally what to expect: the disappearance of more and more industrialists and other great producers, the banning of Rearden Metal, the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule,” the initial run of the John Galt Line, and finally Wyatt's Torch and the collapse of Colorado.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Colorado