Archive for March, 2009

On campus: “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil”

30 March 2009

The Monopoly Myth
The Case of Standard Oil


8:15pm, April 2nd, 2009 – Jimenez Room – Stamp Student Union
Directions and campus map here, and free parking is available in Lot 1: http://transportation.umd.edu/visitor/directionstocampus.html

Who: Alex Epstein, analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

What: “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil” In this talk Epstein argues against antitrust law by illustrating the case of Standard Oil’s legal and moral rise to market dominance. A Q&A will follow.

Description: Most of us were taught in school that laissez-faire capitalism was tried in the 1800s—and failed. Without government regulations and antitrust law, we learned, businessmen used “anti-competitive” tactics to become giant, unchallengeable monopolies. The most famous monopoly was John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, which supposedly used its “market power” to squelch innovative competitors and jack up consumer prices at will.

But did this really happen? Did laissez-faire really fail? No, argues Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Center. In “The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil,” Epstein will tell the real story of Rockefeller’s rise to market dominance—and explain how his success was the result not of shady practices, but of his company’s incredible ability to bring the cheapest, best oil to millions of Americans.

Epstein will argue that the case of Standard Oil raises many questions about Americans’ commonly held beliefs on monopolies, competition and government. Is antitrust law really necessary to protect us against monopolies and promote competition? Was the government right to punish Microsoft for “monopolization,” and is it justified in investigating Google and Yahoo for “anti-competitive” behavior? Epstein will address these questions and more in his 45-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer period.

Admission: FREE. Open to students and the public

Bio: Alex Epstein has a BA in philosophy from Duke University and is an analyst focusing on business issues at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

Please RSVP to the facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=67440589902

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UMD, Home of the Diamondback. FML.

11 March 2009

Today, our venerable Diamondback decided that the news of the day most worthy of prominence on the front page is the wonderfully hilarious, but hardly newsworthy FMyLife.com. Misunderstand me not: Few things get me through a rough day like the Schadenfreude derived from learning about some poor soul who was “groped by a grandma” while carrying her groceries to her car. However, this, even on a university campus, is not front-page-worthy, especially when the brilliant editors opted to hide this sad article in the bottom corner of the page:

Although a recent nationwide survey of university faculty found that more would rather encourage social change in their classes than teach students the classics, university professors rejected the dichotomy, saying the two are not mutually exclusive.

The study, done by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that among about 22,000 faculty members nationwide, 57.8 percent said they thought it was important to encourage undergraduate students to become agents of social change, while only 34.7 percent felt it was very important to teach classic works such as Homer’s epic poems or Shakespeare’s plays.

FML indeed.

The Diamondback, Enemy of Civilization

9 March 2009

by Nathan P. Origer, executive editor

From the 27 February 2009 Diamondback, idiotic, knee-jerk liberalism as its finest.

We’re a bastion of Christianity, holding the line after centuries of battle against the raging masses of Islam. White, black and brown immigrants are sneaking across our borders in a determined attempt to erase the last waning vestiges of the European culture that our civilization was founded on. If we don’t line our borders with marines and military robots, we’ll never stop the hordes from sneaking in and sullying our country. And while we’re at it, we should probably stop all of that legal immigration too. We’ve got to stop buying into this “cult of multiculturalism;” it’s a sham.

It isn’t hard to recognize spouts of racist bile as hateful blather when they’re this blatant. The ideas above are held and promoted by former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). When he came to speak at American University earlier this week, students from throughout the region came to protest Tancredo’s bigoted ideas, and we’re happy they did.

[…]

In many ways, Tancredo is useful as a rallying point – it’s clear he stands for what’s wrong.

[…]

We believe there are strong arguments for both broadening access to higher education and maintaining access to licensing. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s difficult but imperative to define the boundaries of citizenship. It’s easy to argue we aren’t a bastion of Christianity, but it’s harder to define what makes us true Americans or true Marylanders.

Responding to such a daft editorial is a bit like trying to reply to Billy Madison’s “rambling, incoherent response”. You know that it’s horribly wrong, but offering anything more than, “Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it” proves to be stupendously difficult. Deigning to such a low level of intellect hurts.

The wise editors of our venerable campus daily are well within their right to disagree with the solutions proffered by Mr. Tancredo; they’re even permitted to think that Tancredo is a “bigot.” They are not, however, as members of the Fourth Estate, to be making such ludicrously false allegations as they do in this piece.

To deny that the United States is a “bastion of Christianity” is to ignore the entire history of this nation. Every single president, devout or not, has been at least nominally Christian. Seventy-six percent of all Americans still identify as Christians, and the entire history of Western Civilization, beginning in the Fourth Century, is inseparable from Christianity. The Enlightenment, for all of its rejection of Christianity, nonetheless happened only because of Christianity; it could not have arisen in an equally “backward” culture. Particularly amusing is that the editors attempt to distance our nation from Christianity in a state that was established as a safe-haven colony for Catholic Christians.

Most disturbing about this silly rant is that the editors never bother to show how Mr. Tancredo is wrong. They disingenuously conflate a sincere, wholly sensible concern for the distinctly Anglo, Christian heritage of our nation, without bothering even to consider the results when this culture is submerged into a heretofore praised, but never materialized “melting pot”, with “racism” and “bigotry.” To rally against illegal immigration is to preserve a necessary definition of citizenship, imperative for the defense of what remains of our republic. There is nothing racist about suggesting that non-citizens should be prevented from entering our nation; there’s nothing racist about saying that we should limit even legal immigration, at least for a time, if even legal immigration threatens the cultural foundation upon which contemporary society so very precariously sits.

Most offensive to me, an out-of-state student who works as a teaching assistant to avoid the pains of paying tuition, the editors defend permitting immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of immigration status, defending this asinine position with the equally imbecilic contention that “there are strong arguments for … broadening access to higher education.” If we wish for a university education to retain any real value — that is, something more meaningful than the opportunity for a bigger paycheck —, then we need to be restricting access and cutting down admissions, not compelling the taxpayers of Maryland to subsidize the education of student who don’t legally belong here as it is.

Update One: Jim Antle has a solid piece on the immigration debate, and the disturbing tactics of the pro-amnesty/immigration crowd in the most recent issue of The American Conservative. (Subscription required.) A lovely excerpt:

Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza also desires a “middle ground” between the First Amendment and censoring commentators like CNN’s Lou Dobbs with whom she disagrees about immigration policy. “Everyone knows there is a line sometimes that can be crossed when it comes to free speech,” she told the New York Times last year. “And when free speech transforms into hate speech, we’ve got to draw that line.”

Apparently, suggesting that illegal immigrants should be deported to their home nations is now the equivalent of falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Update Two: The basic point about immigration policy is this: Although we should be welcoming, we must be wary. The presence of foreign elements in our communities threatens the very nature of our communities as we need to perceive them: that is, as people who share roots in place and culture. It’s analgous to planting invasive species in an ecosystem where they do not belong. You might have the most beautiful flower to add to your garden, but not being part of the environment naturally, it disrupts the natural cycles of the place, perhaps poisoning an unwitting animal that happens to nibble, growing sufficiently large to prevent other plants from receiving enough sunlight, or requiring more nutrients than the soil can provide for it and the native plants. If and when outside elements can be integrated smoothly, organically, and over an appropriately long period of time into the community, all the better for the sustainability thereof. But “facilitating democratic participation,” which coerces integration in much the same way that busing did during the slow, agonizing end of segregation — which is to say in a manner wholly destructive of community in the name of a sense of equality that is risible —, is both unsustainable and a political anathema.

America is a nations of immigrants” is little more than a deceitful canard when we start to talk about Hispanic immigrants, illegal or legal — or any non-Europeans. Why? No, dear offended, politically correct reader, not because Europeans are better, but because American culture(s) developed out of European cultures, whereas Hispanic culture, although in part rooted in Spanish culture, has followed an significantly different trajectory. Eastern Europeans were still from the Continent, and, strange as they may have been, still came from similar cultures, particularly in the age of the great empires. Comparing a Ruthenian from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to a Salvadorian just ignores all too much.

Gov. O’Malley, Constitutionally illiterate

9 March 2009

by Nathan P. Origer, executive editor

From today’s Washington Post:

For many months, because of federal inaction, the states acted alone to combat the rising tide of foreclosures across our nation. The plan recently announced by President Obama is a welcome effort that will help keep families in their homes. As critical details are worked out, it would be useful for federal leaders to look to the experience of states in crafting solutions.

Put the original Articles of the Constitution under your microscope: You’ll find no mention of a Federal right, let alone responsibility, to take action to “keep families in their homes.” Read, then, the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

[My emphases. – NPO]

Federal leaders should not “look to the experience of states in crafting solutions;” if truly they are leaders, they will leave the task of crafting solutions to the states, where lie both right and responsibility, per the Constitution, and ability, rooted in the states’ — and municipalities’ — governments’ proximity to the specific problems homeowners in their jurisdictions face. A governor possessed of more sense than this halfwit, who believes that spending fifty-seven million dollars on land preservation (itself not a bad idea; at the roots of “conservation” and “conservative” both is the same word, “conserve”) while his state’s budget is in such disarray that he has pushed successfully for state-employee furloughs, would abjure Federal intervention because of the obvious ineptitude of Washington, as well as the Constitutional issues at hand. If only!

Hip-GOP

4 March 2009

by Luis Mazariegos

Can RNC Chairman Michael Steele turn the Republican Party’s image around with a hip-hop makeover?

Recently, Steele promised an “off the hook” marketing blitz that would apply core conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” (whatever that may mean).

He cemented his path by calling the stimulus plan “bling bling” for Democrats the other day. I kid you not.

Though on the surface this may all seem a tad ridiculous, there might be something worthwhile here.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is trying to distance itself from the George W. Bush era – and with good reason. Bush’s spending choices and war in Iraq have made him unpopular among certain blocs of conservatives, such as those who value fiscal responsibility over everything else. 

Not only that, but the Republican’s loss last election showed that unless they can appeal to younger voters and minorities, the future won’t hold better results.

And though culturally the Republican Party and hip-hop may seem miles apart, the similarities in ideology are striking.

Yes, rappers are against gun legislation and distrusting of big government’s ability to help people, hallmarks of conservatism. But most importantly, rappers are, above all, capitalists. There just aren’t very many socialist rappers. “Share the wealth” will never become a hip-hop catchphrase like “get that dough” is. It seems that hip-hop is, in reality, permeated by conservative or maybe more precisely liberterian ideals.

So yes, Michael Steele has not handled it quite gracefully. His comments mostly drew ridicule and sharp criticism. Comedian Stephen Colbert mockingly challenged Steele to a rap battle. Democratic strategist Brad Woodhouse said that  “with gaffes and an attitude like this [Steele will] just lead the [GOP] into another drubbing at the polls

In truth, calling the stimulus package “bling bling” is an oversimplification if not a bit sophomoric. But it does, to an extent, get the right idea across to a certain few people.

And it’s this kind of language, if done correctly and by the right person, that could end up attracting just the right demographics to win an election.

“A big corporation”

2 March 2009

Finally, we near the publication and distribution of the first issue of the semester, The Terrapin Times VI.III.

Amongst other wonders, the forthcoming edition includes my “Dred Not: Redeeming Roger B. Taney,” the first installment in our new regular feature, The Maryland Room; a review of Janet Holl Madigan’s Truth, Politics, and Universal Human Rights; opinion pieces on the stimulus; and a piece on the current financial crisis, the Federal stimulus package, the Maryland state budget, and the University. From that piece, an absolutely terrifying thought from State Delegate Susan Aumann, R-42:

Aumann describes the University as “a big corporation” that will need to improve efficiency to keep costs down and that it “takes a situation like this for us to concentrate on the best practices.”

What incredibly — and, I’m sure, unwitting — honesty from a politician! The University is not a place of higher learning, where, when necessary, we make sacrifices to ensure that students exit College Park possessed of a well-rounded liberal education. It’s “a big corporation,” training the mindless for mind-numbing “careers.” I’m sorry, Cardinal Newman.