Barbara Branden, first biographer of Ayn Rand, died Wednesday at age 84. Astonishingly a laudatory obituary written by James Peron was published on the Puffington Host .
One of the great figures in modern libertarianism has died today: Barbara Branden. Barbara, 84, was born in Winnipeg, Canada. It was there that she met her husband, Nathaniel Branden. And, while the couple divorced, Barbara was close to Nathaniel her entire life.
Barbara and Nathaniel became friends because of their mutual admiration for Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. While a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nathaniel wrote a fan letter to Rand, who worked as a scriptwriter in the area. Rand called him and invited him to visit her home. On the second visit he brought Barbara with him. They married in 1954.
During the writing of Atlas Shrugged, Barbara was one of the small circle of friends allowed to read the manuscript while it was in process. In 1958 she and Nathaniel organized the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to present systematic presentations of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Barbara gave a series of lectures on Principles of Efficient Thinking.
She and Nathaniel divorced but remained friends for the rest of their lives. In 1984 she published a biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which was later made into a film with Helen Mirren and Eric Stoltz. Barbara was not entirely pleased with the film.
Barbara remained active in Objectivist and libertarian circles for her entire life. She offered a nuanced, always sympathetic perspective on Ayn Rand. While sometimes critical, she never lost her admiration for Ayn. Even though the Brandens had an acrimonious split with Rand, after a relationship between Ayn and Nathaniel ended, Barbara always told me that, knowing everything she knew then, she would do it all over again.
Law Professor Jonathan H. Adler, who posts at Volokh, is just not as intelligent as Barack Obama. Consequently, he cannot understand how the president simply waving his hand at a press conference, and announcing that he does not intend to enforce his own federal law can practically serve as a solution which will preserve insurance policies cancelled as a result of the Obamacare law. You have to be as intelligent as Barack Obama to understand the operation of the dialectic in the interaction between these things.
Yesterday, the President announced a purported fix to the problem that, under the PPACA [aka Obamacare], insurance companies are not allowed to renew policies that fail to comply with PPACA requirements, even if consumers like their existing plans. ...
According to the President’s announcement, insurance companies will be allowed to renew policies that were in force as of October 1, 2013 for one additional year, even if they fail to meet relevant PPACA requirements. What is the legal basis for this change? The Administration has not cited any. ... According to various press reports, the Administration argues it may do this as a matter of enforcement discretion (much as it did with immigration). In other words, the Administration is not changing the law. It’s just announcing it will not enforce federal law (while simultaneously threatening to veto legislation that would authorize the step the President has decided to take).
Does this make the renewal of non-compliant policies legal? No. The legal requirement remains on the books so the relevant health insurance plans remain illegal under federal law. The President’s decision does not change relevant state laws either. So insurers will still need to obtain approval from state insurance commissioners. This typically requires submitting rates and plan specifications for approval. This can take some time, and is disruptive because most insurance companies have already set their offerings for the next year. It’s no wonder that some insurance commissioners have already indicated they have no plans to approve non-compliant plans.
Yet even if state commissioners approve the plans, they will still be illegal under federal law. ... Given this fact, why would any insurance company agree to renew such a plan? It’s nice that regulators may forbear enforcing the relevant regulatory requirements, but this is not the only source of potential legal jeopardy. So, for instance, what happens when there’s a legal dispute under one of these policies? Say, for instance, an insurance company denies payment for something that is not covered under the policy but that would have been covered under the PPACA and the insured sues? Would an insurance company really want to have to defend this decision in court? After all, this would place the insurance company in the position of seeking judicial enforcement of an illegal insurance policy. If there’s an answer to this, I haven’t seen it . ... It’s almost as if the Administration has not thought this through.
Theodore Dalrymple reflects, in Taki’s magazine, on the modern state’s law enforcement priorities and their deeper meaning.
A couple of American filmmakers came to Paris to interview me—it always surprises me that anybody would take so much trouble to interview anybody, let alone me—and decided that the little park opposite my flat, with a pretty little bandstand, would be a good place to do so. They set up the camera, but a few seconds later, before they could ask me a single question, a municipal policeman arrived. They were not allowed to film here without a permit from the mairie of the arrondissement, he said. I explained that these were Americans, come all the way from Texas expressly to interview me. He, a very pleasant and polite man of African origin, phoned his chief to see whether an exception could be made. As I suspected, it could not.
I told the film crew that we should make no fuss; the man was only doing his job, silly as that job might be. As it happens there were several drunks in another part of the park making aggressive-sounding noises and breaking bottles, but them he did not approach, perhaps wisely, as they were several and he was only one. He thought he would have more luck with someone wearing a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers as I was. We found a café willing to accommodate us.
The contrast between the authorities’ alacrity on one hand in preventing innocent filming for a matter of a few minutes (the policeman said authorization was necessary because it might cause a disturbance, and, being kind, I refrained from laughing), and on the other their slow response to a nasty incident that might have ended in murder, was emblematic of the modern state’s capacity to get everything exactly the wrong way around, to ascribe importance to trivia and to ignore the important. There are, of course, many more employment opportunities in trivia, since there is much more that is trivial in the world than is important.
France is not unique in this respect, or even the worst example I know. In London I once parked outside a hotel where I proposed to stay. Parking was forbidden outside, but I stopped only to take my baggage inside. I received a parking ticket within sixty seconds, a miracle of efficiency (I genuinely admired it in a way), though it was perfectly obvious from my car’s open doors that I did not propose to stay long and was only taking my luggage into the hotel. But on another occasion when my wife telephoned the police to inform them that youths were committing arson in our front garden before her very eyes, they had no time to attend to it. A more senior officer, however, did find the time a quarter of an hour later to complain to my wife that she had wasted police time by complaining in the first place.
It often seems, then, as if modern state authorities live in a looking-glass world: What normal people regard as important is for them of no importance, while what they regard as of supreme importance normal people regard as of no importance. For them the respectable are suspect and the suspect respectable. A tweed jacket is a sign of menace, while a broken bottle is a sign of harmless intent.
One must not exaggerate the degree to which official idiocy impinges on our lives. The exaggeration of misery is one of the royal roads to political disaster. Still, I have seen the future, and it is idiocy.
Alyssa Bereznak, in Salon, describes a childhood blighted by a selfish and unfeeling father, and tells us that it was reading Ayn Rand that made him that way.
The Bereznaks generally must be careless and inaccurate readers because, after all, Ayn Rand’s protagonists do noble and generous acts and without the slightest hesitation throw away their companies and careers for their principles or to protect their loved ones. Ayn Rand just thought that acting in the interest of loved ones was really a selfish act, as the loved one is looked upon as an extension of the self. Bereznak père was clearly defective as a Randian as well as as a father.
Jeanne Safer (Mrs. Richard Brookhiser) discusses her own marriage of political opposites.
This November fifth, like every Election Day for the last three decades, I’ll show up faithfully at my polling place rain or shine, even if there’s another Hurricane Sandy in New York City. Once again, I’ll be pulling the levers for some people I actually agree with, for some I’m not crazy about, and for others I’ve barely heard of. As long as they’re Democrats, they can count on my support.
It’s a matter of moral obligation, not just civic duty: I’ve got to cancel out my husband’s vote.
For thirty-three years I’ve been happily married to a man with whom I violently disagree on every conceivable political issue, including abortion, gun control, and assisted suicide. I thought the recent government shutdown was absurd, infantile, and destructive; he was a fan. And not only is he a conservative Republican, he’s a professional conservative Republican, a Senior Editor of National Review, the leading journal of conservative opinion in the country.
So why don’t we both just agree to stay home on Election Day? Because, even though I trust him with my life, I don’t trust him, and would never ask him, not to vote his conscience. It took our first decade together for me to accept that not even my considerable powers of persuasion as a psychotherapist—not to mention the self-evident correctness of my positions—would never make him change his mind, but, alas, it is so; he never even tried to change mine.
Other than my father, I never even knew any Republicans growing up, and certainly never had one for a boyfriend. But in my late twenties I joined a Renaissance singing group, and there he was—tall, clever, with intense blue eyes and a lyrical baritone. I couldn’t resist. I’d known and been treated abominably by too many men who shared all my opinions to let his convictions get in the way, and I’ve never regretted it. Our wedding was a bipartisan affair. My mentor, one of the early victims of the McCarthyite purges, gave me away, and my husband’s publisher, one of McCarthy’s most avid enforcers, gave a reading. Somehow everyone behaved, setting a trend that we have emulated with only a few brief exceptions ever since.
Donald E. Miller Jr.’s future remains as murky as his past.
The Fostoria man attracted national and international attention this week after a Hancock County judge ruled that Miller is still legally dead, although Miller appeared and testified in court.
In 1994, Probate Judge Allan Davis ruled that Miller was legally dead, about eight years after Miller disappeared from his Arcadia home.
That decision can’t be undone, Davis said this week. Under Ohio law, a death ruling can only be changed within three years, Davis said.
Miller’s Social Security number and driver’s license have been canceled, Miller said.
Miller, 61, is stuck for now in legal limbo with few ways out.
However, a legally dead person could appeal the judge’s decision, said John Martin, professor of law at Ohio Northern University, Ada.
Legal aid services or an enterprising attorney would likely handle the case for free, Martin said.
“Just for the fun of it, somebody should take” the case, Martin said.
Ohio’s missing-person law is necessary to settle some estates and marriages, Martin said. But revising the law to allow a person to have a clean start after a certain period would resolve cases such as Miller’s, he said.
“Why they put ‘three years’ in there is a mystery to me,” Martin said.
Miller’s attorney, Francis Marley of Fostoria, told ABCNews.com that an appeal to a higher court will “probably not” occur.
“We may go another avenue as far as federal something, but we haven’t decided yet,” Marley said. “He’s obviously disappointed. Who wouldn’t be?”
The Immigration debate has a tendency to turn red-blooded conservatives into censorious old ladies, who are shocked, shocked and indignant and offended that Hispanic immigrant laborers would have the temerity to violate THE LAW.
Sophisticated people realize that there are laws and there are laws. During first year of law school, the distinction is universally explained between Malum in se, actions, like murder and theft, which are genuinely wrong and violative of Natural Law, and Malum prohibitum, things, like overtime parking, which are illegal only because of some arbitrary regulatory enactment.
Entering the United States in order to improve one’s condition through honest work is obviously merely Malum prohibitum, the violation of a regulation, not something evil in and of itself.
As I remarked in a previous posting, a lot of freedom-loving Americans (and even conservatives) are notorious for their lack of respect for mere regulation. They had to repeal Prohibition because so many Americans ignored the law. The 55 mph speed limit is nearly universally flouted by American motorists. Americans commonly violate current drug laws in much the same way they used to violate liquor laws. What percentage of graduates of elite universities have never smoked pot? The number must be very very small.
It is just plain silly, and not especially manly or becoming, to go around striking sanctimonious poses and ranting about “enforcing the law.” The philosopher Robert Paul Wolff wrote a small monograph in 1970, titled In Defense of Anarchism, in which he demonstrated that, really, everyone has some point of independent moral judgement at which he will cease to obey the edicts of the State. TYPICAL EXAMPLE: The Gestapo Standartenführer demands that you reveal the hiding place of some Jews.
Sometimes “the law is an ass,” sometimes the law is immoral, sometimes the law is simply obtrusive and inconvenient, and we ignore it.
When our sclerotic, unprincipled, and embodying-no-useful-purposes contemporary immigration regulations provide no opportunity for desperate people to enter the country, and some, determined to support themselves and their families and to better their condition, ignore those regulations and enter anyway, my sympathies are with them. America was founded by, and for, the enterprising, the daring, and the rebellious. The country came into being as the result of a general inclination toward resistance to arbitrary regulation and authority.
I’ve read indignant editorial after indignant editorial complaining about illegal immigrants “jumping ahead in the line” and “not playing by the rules.” Frankly, I think those arguments represent nothing more than opportunistic poses. Why do we even need a line? People come here to work because we need their services and we hire them. The market is a self-correcting mechanism. If we do not need more low-skilled Hispanic laborers, jobs will not exist, and they won’t come here. We do not need a quota system and a line to keep someone from mowing my lawn. I do not care if Jose Jimenez violated some pointless federal regulations, which as far as I am concerned do not need to exist. If he stands up, sits down, turns around, says “Simon says,” and goes through all the rigmarole required, none of that benefits me or anybody else at all. What benefits me and the country generally is the availability of affordable labor. I don’t need some federal form filled in. I need yard work and some roof shingling done.
Real morality is on the side of the illegal immigrants. Spouting law-and-order-ism and demanding that everyone follow pointless and arbitrary rules is the function of busybodies and old ladies and Statists.
In 1905, we had gold money, like this $20 Double Eagle.
I’m right about Immigration, and unfortunately much of the rest of the Right, El Rushbo, Michelle Malkin, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles Krauthammer, John Hinderaker, and so on ad inifinitum are wrong, and I’m prepared to prove it.
Lights on in your heads, so-called conservatives, and pay attention. I’m going to deliver a series of arguments, and I’m going to demolish the nativist arguments one by one.
Let’s start off by properly identifying what kind of policy on immigration is the authentic American traditional policy and what is the nature and etiology of our current immigration laws.
One common rubric in my own thinking on American politics and public policy consists of asking myself: How did we used to do things?
I am firmly persuaded that, in all sorts of areas, Americans used to do things right, but along came Progressivism, small-l liberalism, socialism, crankery, and Modernism, and today we go around living under dysfunctional institutions, operated commonly on the basis of illusions and bad ideas, and we live buried under a colossal pile of taxes and regulations which our ancestors would never have put up with.
What is the correct policy on the currency? We ought to have the kind of currency we had back in 1905, real money minted in gold and silver or paper certificates immediately exchangeable for real money, ideally with images of Indians, Liberty, and Big Game animals on all our coins.
So, tell me, nativists, how did we used to handle immigration in the good old days when America was America and the country was free and ruled by common sense?
The answer is that, before 1900, immigration (with the exception of non-European racial groups believed in the period to be unassimilable) was unregulated. If you weren’t Chinese or Japanese and you wanted to come to the USA to get ahead, the door was wide open. In 1903, the kind of terrorism afflicting Europe and America at the time produced the Anarchist Exclusion Act. That act prohibited immigration to the United States by Anarchists, epileptics, beggars, and pimps.
We didn’t even have standard Naturalization forms and procedures until the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1906, which for the first time required some knowledge of English for Naturalization and which formalized and federalized the Naturalization process.
So, federal administration of immigration really began in 1906. And the really meaningful restrictions on Immigration were passed, out of panic inspired by the rise of Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution, in 1921 (the Emergency Quota Act) and in 1924 (the Johnson Act). It was these laws which set annual limits on the numbers of people who could enter, which limits were originally small percentages of the numbers of persons from particular countries already resident in the United States.
Here’s a major news flash, fellow conservatives. The 1920s laws placed no quotas on immigration from the Western Hemisphere. All the Mexicans and Salvadorans who wanted to come here could do so, until the Hart-Callar Act of 1965, which repealed the old racial exclusions and the 1920s quota system. Limiting immigration racially and on the basis of current representation in the US population was, in the Civil Rights era, deemed politically incorrect and “an embarrassment.” The new law opened the door to immigration from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
So, what is the real status of our respective positions?
I favor going back to the old, traditional American virtually-unregulated pre-1906 regime. I’d favor going back farther, but I think we have a need to exclude Muslims resembling the need in the early 1900s to exclude Anarchists. I support the real historical, traditional American open door immigration policy.
The rest of you folks are jumping up and down, supporting federally-managed population engineering, federal interference with the free movement of labor, and federal violation of the basic right to offer and accept employment, and government coercive resistance to organic and voluntary economic processes, all on behalf of some kind of half-baked notions of preserving an imaginary and impossible-to-preserve point of population and cultural stasis. You are enthusiastically supporting Progressive Era Statism and, even worse, the policies of a really bad 1960s democrat-passed immigration law, while I want to go right back to 1905. Obviously, I’m the real conservative, and the rest of you fellows, even poor old Rush, have gotten yourselves muddled and confused about what the real conservative position actually is.
This is long enough for now. I’ll discuss some of the anti-immigration arguments, like the “law-and-order” argument, in later postings.
Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History, retired last month after 44 years at Yale. He delivered a memorable Farewell Address, previously only available as a very, very long video, which now may be read at one’s own convenience thanks to the New Criterion.
My subject is liberal education, and today more than ever the term requires definition, especially as to the questions: What is a liberal education and what it is for? From Cicero’s artes liberales, to the attempts at common curricula in more recent times, to the chaotic cafeteria that passes for a curriculum in most American universities today, the concept has suffered from vagueness, confusion, and contradiction. From the beginning, the champions of a liberal education have thought of it as seeking at least four kinds of goals. One was as an end in itself, or at least as a way of achieving that contemplative life that Aristotle thought was the greatest happiness. Knowledge and the acts of acquiring and considering it were the ends of this education and good in themselves. A second was as a means of shaping the character, the style, the taste of a person—to make him good and better able to fit in well with and take his place in the society of others like him. A third was to prepare him for a useful career in the world, one appropriate to his status as a free man. For Cicero and Quintilian, this meant a career as an orator that would allow a man to protect the private interests of himself and his friends in the law courts and to advance the public interest in the assemblies, senate, and magistracies. The fourth was to contribute to the individual citizen’s freedom in ancient society. Servants were ignorant and parochial, so free men must be learned and cosmopolitan; servants were ruled by others, so free men must take part in their own government; servants specialized to become competent at some specific and limited task, so free men must know something of everything and understand general principles without yielding to the narrowness of expertise. The Romans’ recommended course of study was literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric.
It was once common to think of the medieval university as very different, as a place that focused on learning for its own sake. But the medieval universities, whatever their commitment to learning for its own sake, were institutions that trained their students for professional careers. Graduates in the liberal arts were awarded a certificate that was a license to teach others what they had learned and to make a living that way. For some, the study of liberal arts was preliminary to professional study in medicine, theology, or law and was part of the road to important positions in church and state.