October 3, 2015

The TSA and the transgendered traveller

Filed under: Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Scott Shackford on the special hell the TSA reserves for transgendered air travellers:

When Shadi Petosky began tweeting about her terrible treatment at the hands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at Orlando International Airport on Sept. 21, she detailed an experience of being ordered around, patted down, dehumanized, and threatened. She was describing a situation familiar to anybody who gets caught up in the agency’s airport security theater.

Petosky is also transgender, and that played heavily into her experience. But being transgender and tripping up alerts at airports and getting taken aside or treated poorly is also not a new problem with TSA screening, though it was the first time Petosky, a writer and producer, had an encounter this bad. While she was tweeting her experience, other transgender people on Twitter responded about having similar problems.

What’s new is that Petosky’s encounter ended up getting significant news coverage, from The New York Times, to the Los Angeles Times, to Vox.com, along with television networks. The coverage highlighted a problem that has persisted for a while: TSA agents are not well-trained to deal with transgender travelers, leaving these flyers uncertain of what to expect when going through airports. Furthermore, the screening technology used for scanning bodies passing through the airport has no real mechanism for recognizing the biology of transgender travelers, prompting confusion to trigger completely unfounded security fears.

Many travelers may not even realize it, but as they’re forced in to spread eagle for body scanners in security lines at the airport, a TSA agent is pressing a button telling the machine whether the person inside is a male or female. They don’t ask—they just look and decide. In Petosky’s case, the TSA employee saw a woman and pressed the appropriate button. And then the employee declared there was an “anomaly,” which Petosky bluntly explains to Reason, is her penis.

October 2, 2015

Marcus Porcius Cato – the man who almost stopped Julius Caesar

Filed under: Europe, History, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In The Freeman, Lawrence W. Reed talks about one of the last few Republicans in the Rome of Julius Caesar’s ascendance:

In the estimations of many historians, two men hold the honor as the most notable defenders of the Roman Republic. Marcus Tullius Cicero was one. Marcus Porcius Cato, or “Cato the Younger,” was the other.

Since there was a “younger,” there must have been an “elder,” too. Cato the Elder was the great grandfather of the younger. Both men, separated by more than a century, were influential in public office. Think of the elder as the social conservative, concerned in his day with preserving the customs and traditions of Rome. The younger was one of history’s early libertarians, interested more in personal and political liberties because he believed that if they were lost, nothing else mattered. It is this second one to whom I refer in the balance of this essay as simply “Cato.”

By the time of Cato’s birth in 95 BC, the Roman Republic was long in the tooth. Founded four centuries earlier, it had risen from obscurity to political and economic dominance in the Mediterranean. Rome was easily the world’s wealthiest and most powerful society. It wasn’t a libertarian paradise — slavery was a part of its makeup, as it was even more brutal everywhere else — but Rome had taken liberty to a zenith the world had never seen before and wouldn’t see again for a long time after it finally fell. The constitution of the republic embodied term limits; separation of powers; checks and balances; due process; habeas corpus; the rule of law; individual rights; and elected, representative legislative bodies, including the famous Senate. All of this was hanging by a thread in the first century BC.

Cato was just five years of age when Rome went to war with its former allies in the Italian peninsula — the so-called “Social War.” Though the conflict lasted just two years, its deleterious effects were huge. The decades to follow would be marked by the rise of factions and conflict and local armies loyal to their commanders instead of the larger society. A “welfare-warfare” state was putting down deep roots as Cato grew up. The limited government, personal responsibility and extensive civil society so critical to the republic’s previous success were in an agonizing, century-long process of collapse. Even many of those who recognized the decay around them nonetheless drank the Kool-Aid, succumbing to the temptations of power or subsidies or both.

Before the age of 30, Cato had become a supremely disciplined individual, a devotee of Stoicism in every respect. He commanded a legion in Macedon and won immense loyalty and respect from the soldiers for the example he set, living and laboring no differently from day to day than he required of his men. He first won election to public office (to the post of quaestor, supervising financial and budgetary matters for the state) in 65 BC and quickly earned a reputation as scrupulously meticulous and uncompromisingly honest. He went out of his way to hold previous quaestors accountable for their dishonesty and misappropriation of funds, which he himself uncovered.

Later he served in the Roman Senate, where he never missed a session and criticized other senators who did. Through his superb oratory in public and deft maneuverings in private, he worked tirelessly to restore fealty to the ideals of the fading Republic.

September 30, 2015

Russia’s “bounty” on TOR

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Strategy Page on the less-than-perfect result of Russia’s attempt to get hackers to crack The Onion Router for a medium-sized monetary prize:

Back in mid-2014 Russia offered a prize of $111,000 for whoever could deliver, by August 20th 2014, software that would allow Russian security services to identify people on the Internet using Tor (The Onion Router), a system that enables users to access the Internet anonymously. On August 22nd Russia announced that an unnamed Russian contractor, with a top security clearance, had received the $111,000 prize. No other details were provided at the time. A year later is was revealed that the winner of the Tor prize is now spending even more on lawyers to try and get out of the contract to crack Tor’s security. It seems the winners found that their theoretical solution was too difficult to implement effectively. In part this was because the worldwide community of programmers and software engineers that developed Tor is constantly upgrading it. Cracking Tor security is firing at a moving target and one that constantly changes shape and is quite resistant to damage. Tor is not perfect but it has proved very resistant to attack. A lot of people are trying to crack Tor, which is also used by criminals and Islamic terrorists was well as people trying to avoid government surveillance. This is a matter of life and death in many countries, including Russia.

Similar to anonymizer software, Tor was even more untraceable. Unlike anonymizer software, Tor relies on thousands of people running the Tor software, and acting as nodes for email (and attachments) to be sent through so many Tor nodes that it was believed virtually impossible to track down the identity of the sender. Tor was developed as part of an American government program to create software that people living in dictatorships could use to avoid arrest for saying things on the Internet that their government did not like. Tor also enabled Internet users in dictatorships to communicate safely with the outside world. Tor first appeared in 2002 and has since then defied most attempts to defeat it. The Tor developers were also quick to modify their software when a vulnerability was detected.

But by 2014 it was believed that NSA had cracked TOR and others may have done so as well but were keeping quiet about it so that the Tor support community did not fix whatever aspect of the software that made it vulnerable. At the same time there were alternatives to Tor, as well as supplemental software that were apparently uncracked by anyone.

September 28, 2015

QotD: Universal criminality

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’ve written on many occasions about what I call universal criminality, the crowning achievement of the modern police state, under which there are so many vague, overbroad and counterintuitive laws that every single person is in violation of at least a few of them at all times. Nearly any encounter with the police can be turned into “assault on a police officer” or “resisting arrest”, almost any business can be twisted into “racketeering”, virtually any financial transaction can be redefined as “money laundering” and even normal friendships or business interactions can be tortured into “conspiracy”. But while charges like these can be used to harass, bankrupt and imprison the target, possibly for many years, they often lack the firepower necessary to totally destroy his life forever; after his release from prison he might still be able to find work, have a normal social life and rebuild his shattered fortunes into some semblance of a comfortable existence. Worst of all (from the prosecutorial viewpoint), the public might even side with the victim, turning him into a martyr both during and after his state-sanctioned torture and caging. But there is one weapon in the state’s arsenal which, used properly, will utterly destroy a person’s life. At the end of the process he will have no money, no friends and no home; he will be completely unemployable and condemned to everlasting surveillance, shunned by society and unable even to avail himself of even paid companionship without triggering still more awful consequences. If the prosecutor is really lucky, his victim may even be murdered by the police or other thugs or take his own life. And all it takes to detonate this thermonuclear weapon of modern law is the sending of a single email.

Maggie McNeill, “Instant Criminal”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-09-19.

September 26, 2015

Straight Up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario

Filed under: Cancon, History, Law, Liberty, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 24 Nov 2014

A documentary exploring the peculiar system of alcohol retail and distribution in Ontario.

The beverage alcohol system in Ontario is unique in the world. A government monopoly and a few private companies enjoy preferential access to the province’s consumers. Meanwhile, about 300 Ontario breweries, wineries, and distillers face a number of bureaucratic and structural barriers that effectively shut them out of the market in Ontario. This film tries to explain the origins of the beverage alcohol system in Ontario, and what it means for producers and consumers in the province today.

H/T to Eric Beiers for the link.

September 25, 2015

QotD: The danger of vague laws

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Prosecutors, and regulators more generally, like vague standards that are impossible to enforce consistently. It gives them a great deal of discretion in whom they target and how. It is a threat that can be wielded to force pleas to lesser crimes or other “voluntary” actions that obviate the need for a messy trial they might lose.

Megan McArdle, “California Accidentally Legalizes Campus Sex”, Bloomberg View, 2014-09-23.

September 22, 2015

QotD: Women’s clothing in patriarchal cultures

Filed under: Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I think it’s a mistake to worry too much about what is “normal”. “Normal” men in patriarchal societies tend to want their wives to dress in a way they perceive as modest; this derives from a desire to protect their “property” from those who might trespass or steal it. The more patriarchal the society, the more “modestly” it expects women to dress; in societies where women’s status is higher, women tend to dress more provocatively, and in those where it is lower, they tend to dress more concealingly. There are few if any exceptions, yet neofeminists teach a looking-glass version of reality in which dressing sexily is “objectification” and a manifestation of “patriarchy”, despite abundant real-world evidence that the exact opposite is true. Now, this is not to say that one individual man, or indeed large minorities of men, might not prefer women who “belong” to them dressed in a revealing fashion; however, the majority (“normal”) view has always been the opposite.

Maggie McNeill, “Wardrobe Choices”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-10-08.

September 14, 2015

Cash is still king … and we’d be insane to abolish it

Filed under: Business, Economics, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Telegraph last month, Matthew Lynn made the case against eliminating cash:

Trying to get a plumber in France? In the rather unlikely event that you can actually find one who isn’t still on his grandes vacances, gone above his permitted 35 hours a week, or indeed long since relocated himself to South Kensington, then you’ll also have to make sure that you can pay by cheque or bank transfer.

From today, France is banning the use of cash for transactions worth more than €1,000, or slightly more than £700. On one level, that is about combating crime and terrorism. But on another, it is also part of a growing movement among academics and now governments to gradually ban the use of cash completely. It is inefficient, oils the underground economy, and makes it harder for central banks to manage the economy, or so runs the argument.

Much like gold, it is a “barbarous relic”, as some publications loftily dismiss it. The trouble is, cash is also incredibly efficient. And it is a crucial part of a free society. There is no convincing case for abolition.

When it comes to creeping state control, it is no surprise to find the French out in front. In the wake of this year’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, the government has clamped down on the use of cash. The maximum permitted transaction has been reduced from €3,000 to €1,000, and any cash withdrawal of more than €10,000 will be automatically flagged up to the police (tourists have a higher limit, but even that is being reduced to €10,000 – just in case you are planning on ordering some very expensive wine on your next trip to Paris).


In reality, cash is far too valuable to be given up lightly. In truth, the benefits of abolition are largely oversold. While terrorists and criminals may well use cash to buy weapons, or deal in drugs, it is very hard to believe that they would not find some other way of financing their operations if it was abolished. Are there really any cases of potential jihadists being foiled because they couldn’t find two utility bills (less than three months old, of course) in a false name to open an account? The web is full of false payment systems and anonymous names.

Nor is clamping down on the black economy such a big deal. Admittedly these things are hard to measure, but according to research by the London School of Economics, the black economy only accounts for 10pc of British GDP, which is the fourth lowest in the EU. Many of the people working in it are below the tax threshold anyway, and certainly below the VAT threshold. So the tax collected even if you clamped down completely is unlikely to amount to more than 1pc of GDP. As for negative interest rates, do we really want those? Or have we concluded that central bankers are doing more harm than good with their attempts to manipulate the economy?

September 11, 2015

How about creating a truly open web?

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Brewster Kahle on the need to blow up change the current web and recreate it with true open characteristics built-in from the start:

Over the last 25 years, millions of people have poured creativity and knowledge into the World Wide Web. New features have been added and dramatic flaws have emerged based on the original simple design. I would like to suggest we could now build a new Web on top of the existing Web that secures what we want most out of an expressive communication tool without giving up its inclusiveness. I believe we can do something quite counter-intuitive: We can lock the Web open.

One of my heroes, Larry Lessig, famously said “Code is Law.” The way we code the web will determine the way we live online. So we need to bake our values into our code. Freedom of expression needs to be baked into our code. Privacy should be baked into our code. Universal access to all knowledge. But right now, those values are not embedded in the Web.

It turns out that the World Wide Web is quite fragile. But it is huge. At the Internet Archive we collect one billion pages a week. We now know that Web pages only last about 100 days on average before they change or disappear. They blink on and off in their servers.

And the Web is massively accessible – unless you live in China. The Chinese government has blocked the Internet Archive, the New York Times, and other sites from its citizens. And other countries block their citizens’ access as well every once in a while. So the Web is not reliably accessible.

And the Web isn’t private. People, corporations, countries can spy on what you are reading. And they do. We now know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that Wikileaks readers were selected for targeting by the National Security Agency and the UK’s equivalent just because those organizations could identify those Web browsers that visited the site and identify the people likely to be using those browsers. In the library world, we know how important it is to protect reader privacy. Rounding people up for the things that they’ve read has a long and dreadful history. So we need a Web that is better than it is now in order to protect reader privacy.

QotD: Ayn Rand

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Let it be said at the outset that I have never been an Objectivist nor am I now a Libertarian, albeit, obviously, I share many of their aims. There is much in Ayn Rand’s philosophy I admire, and much I despise. She has the odd ability to write pages and pages of very insightful wisdom argued with almost Thomistic rigor and logic, and then to stagger like a screaming drunk into page after page of vituperation and nonsense based on an apparently inability to distinguish radically unalike concepts, such as selfishness versus self-interest, or altruism versus communism.

John C. Wright, “Ayn Rand as Author”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-09-24.

September 10, 2015

Making it easy for governments to monitor texts, emails, and other messages

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle explains that while it’s quite understandable why governments want to maintain their technological ability to read private, personal communications … but that’s not sufficient justification to just give in and allow them the full access they claim that they “need”:

Imagine, if you will, a law that said all doors had to be left unlocked so that the police could get in whenever they needed to. Or at the very least, a law mandating that the government have a master key.

That’s essentially what some in the government want for your technology. As companies like Apple and Google have embraced stronger encryption, they’re making it harder for the government to do the kind of easy instant collection that companies were forced into as the government chased terrorists after 9/11.

And how could you oppose that government access? After all, the government keeps us safe from criminals. Do you really want to make it easier for criminals to evade the law?

The analogy with your home doors suggests the flaw in this thinking: The U.S. government is not the only entity capable of using a master key. Criminals can use them too. If you create an easy way to bypass security, criminals — or other governments — are going to start looking for ways to reproduce the keys.


Law enforcement is going to pursue strategies that maximize the ability to catch criminals or terrorists. These are noble goals. But we have to take care that in the pursuit of these goals, the population they’re trying to protect is not forgotten. Every time we open more doors for our own government, we’re inviting other unwelcome guests to join them inside.

I don’t really blame law enforcement for pushing as hard as possible; rare is the organization in history that has said, “You know, the world would be a better place if I had less power to do my job.” But that makes it more imperative that the rest of us keep an eye on what they’re doing, and force the law to account for tradeoffs, rather than the single-minded pursuit of one goal.

September 9, 2015

“For some reason she rarely has the scarlet ‘(D)’ printed next to her name underneath the photos of her looking like an indignant troll doll”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh has more on the controversy over Kim Davis and her beliefs:

The U.S. District Court, petitioned by the unhappy couple, duly ordered Davis to cut out the nonsense at once. She continued to refuse, creating another much-photographed scene at her office, and was summoned back to court Sept. 3 to explain. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that tireless friend to the friendless, actually intervened on Davis’s behalf; it disagrees formally with her view on the law, but it asked that she be fined for contempt of court, rather than imprisoned.

Judge David Bunning was having none of it, and put her in the clink. He says he expects to revisit his decision after Davis has cooled her heels for about a week, after which time the gays and lesbians of Rowan County will have had a fair crack at obtaining permission to marry. Five of Davis’s six underlings told Judge Bunning they are willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the meantime. The sixth is her son, but the judge indulgently overlooked his impudence and calculated that five pairs of writing hands would be plenty to handle the work.

The tangential presence of the ACLU in the legal battle reminds us that there are some features of the United States that remain admirable — that the country has not yet totally degenerated into a shouting match of contending personal narcissisms. Another one is that there have been at least as many demonstrators on behalf of same-sex marriage rights as friends of Kim Davis at the offices of the Rowan County clerk. It is, with all due respect, a place hitherto best known in American history for a 19th-century blood feud between moonshiners.

When part of your job offends your religious beliefs, you have two choices…

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

… and those choices are either get a different job or accept that your religious objection does not free you from having to perform all of the normal duties of the job. Some people, however, have the fixed notion that their religious beliefs must be respected and deferred to by everyone:

I’ve said it before but religious people really seem to believe that their religion ought to grant them special, legal privileges which are not provided to the rest of us. For some reason, certain people are so entitled that they believe their spiritual beliefs can be used to justify their own idiotic behavior, and if you dare to criticize them for their idiotic, unfair, or immature decisions that is evidence that you are simply an anti-religious bigot. What’s especially bizarre is that no other ideology is treated in the same way. If I were an investment banker and started refusing to do my job on the grounds that I was a socialist or if I were a cop and started refusing to make drug arrests on the grounds that I was a libertarian, no one would ever even attempt to argue that this was justifiable behavior. However, if I refuse to do my job because I’ve decided certain aspects of that job are against my religion, suddenly millions of people will view me as a martyr and I can expect pro bono legal counsel as members of my religious sect rush dutifully to my aid.

This situation is getting frankly ridiculous. The most famous recent example, obviously, is Kim Davis — a woman who was elected to a position that required her to issue marriage licenses and began refusing to do her job after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. If she didn’t want to do her job, there was one relatively simple option which was available to her since the very beginning and is still available to her should she choose to exercise that option — she could just quit. That would, in fact, be the adult thing to do if she feels that her religious beliefs do not allow her to meet her current job requirements, but instead she has decided to turn herself into some sort of ridiculous martyr to the religious right … and of course her $80,000 a year government salary, courtesy of the tax payers of Rowan County, Kentucky, probably had something to do with this decision. She deeply and truly loves her God, you see, but doesn’t love him quite enough to forego that sweet-ass government pension plan on his behalf.

Everyone knows the Kim Davis story, but what many people do not know is that at this very instant there is a virtually identical story involving a Muslim employee’s dispute with a Midwestern regional airline called ExpressJet. The woman’s name is Charee Stanley. Three years ago she became a stewardess for ExpressJet and then two years ago, presumably after sustaining some sort of catastrophic brain injury, she decided to convert to Islam. After her conversion, she found that her new faith frowned upon the serving of alcoholic beverages, so she began refusing to serve alcohol to passengers. More recently, she was suspended from her position pending a review because other flight attendants complained that they were being required to do her work in addition to their own. I personally don’t feel this is a particularly unreasonable complaint, and if it had been up to me, Ms. Stanley wouldn’t have simply been suspended, she would have been fired immediately for failure to meet her job requirements.

And just to prove you don’t need to actually be religious to hold this kind of belief, there’s also mention of Canada’s own Christian atheist, Reverend Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church.

September 5, 2015

QotD: The existential problem facing Reddit

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Network effects are wonderful for a technology firm when it’s growing. Early movers can gain an advantage that is very hard to displace, because once everyone else is using Microsoft Word or a Playstation, there’s a cost to switching away. On the other hand, investors (and antitrust lawyers) often assume that network effects are more durable than they actually are. In fact, they can be quite fickle. Once your network starts shrinking, the collapse can be sudden, because every node that gets subtracted from your network makes it less valuable to the people who remain. Networks that start growing often start shrinking — and a modest decline can quickly prompt a stampede for the exits. Anyone remember MySpace?

And so the problem that Reddit has is this: Having attracted a bunch of people on the promise that they could say anything they wanted, the company risks alienating those people, shrinking the network and shrinking itself right out of existence. Reddit would probably be a better place if the fat-shaming hobbyists and racist trolls were surgically excised. But they won’t be; they’ll be forced out bluntly, along with others, and that will drive away many of the users Reddit would like to keep.

Deciding what is offensive is inherently a political act, because one man’s deep truth is often another person’s deep offense. To take one obvious example, do you treat conservative Christians who say terrible things about gay rights activists the same as gay rights activists who say terrible things about conservative Christians? Men’s rights activists the same as feminists?

We are all more attuned to the offenses against our own beliefs than we are to what may seem terribly offensive to others. And with the culture war raging hot, it is going to be very hard to make choices that don’t look as if you’re taking sides. Even if you try to be scrupulously fair, chances are that you will miss something, causing one side to understandably point out: “See, they crack down on us, but not on those equally offensive other people!”

Reddit is trying to avoid this by splitting the baby in half: designating much of the worst content as questionable, and then segregating it, but not banning it. It’s far from clear, however, that this compromise will work. I don’t think a lot of people are going to mourn when the racist subreddits are segregated. But those are among the most notorious cases precisely because most people can agree that racist epithets are not okay. The border cases are likely to be more numerous, and the decisions will convince some users that Reddit is not for them.

Megan McArdle, “Policing Reddit Could Kill Reddit”, Bloomberg View, 2015-07-17.

September 3, 2015

Neil Peart recants his early Ayn Rand infatuation

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Reason‘s Brian Doherty found four prominent Ayn Rand fans who’ve eventually thrown off the yoke of Objectivism (or Objectivism-fellow-traveller-ism) and now don’t want to be in any way associated with their former guru, including Neil Peart:

Peart, drummer and lyricist for rock band Rush, would clearly rather not be asked about his early-career loud enthusiasm for Rand and her ideas. The well-reviewed 2010 documentary on the band, Beyond the Lighted Stage, mentions her barely at all. (I recall not at all but am using less certain language as I don’t have a full transcript to consult.) Rand’s importance is ignored by the film, though she was central to one of the core conundrums of Rush history: why did rock intellectuals and tastemakers hate on this excellent band so much and for so long?

After years of Peart’s lyrics dissing metaphorical arboreal labor unions, declaring his mind is not for rent to any God or government (Rand’s top two villains), and hat-tipping explicitly in the liner notes to the concept LP 2112 to the “genius of Ayn Rand,” he felt the albatross of 18-minute prog suites and silly ’70s stage garbs was enough for one poor percussionist to bear, and decided to drop the burden of Rand.

Peart most recently tried to distance himself from Randian libertarianism in a Rolling Stone profile of the band, as discussed here by Matt Welch, who quoted the core of Peart’s apostasy:

    Rush’s earlier musical take on Rand, 1975’s unimaginatively titled “Anthem,” is more problematic [than 2112], railing against the kind of generosity that Peart now routinely practices: “Begging hands and bleeding hearts will/Only cry out for more.” And “The Trees,” an allegorical power ballad about maples dooming a forest by agitating for “equal rights” with lofty oaks, was strident enough to convince a young Rand Paul that he had finally found a right-wing rock band.

    Peart outgrew his Ayn Rand phase years ago, and now describes himself as a “bleeding-heart libertarian,” citing his trips to Africa as transformative. He claims to stand by the message of “The Trees,” but other than that, his bleeding-heart side seems dominant. Peart just became a U.S. citizen, and he is unlikely to vote for Rand Paul, or any Republican. Peart says that it’s “very obvious” that Paul “hates women and brown people” — and Rush sent a cease-and-desist order to get Paul to stop quoting “The Trees” in his speeches.

    “For a person of my sensibility, you’re only left with the Democratic party,” says Peart, who also calls George W. Bush “an instrument of evil.” “If you’re a compassionate person at all. The whole health-care thing — denying mercy to suffering people? What? This is Christian?”

“Outgrew” is the closest thing to an explanation, and there is no explanation at all for his reasoning that libertarianoid Rand Paul (whose name is no relation to Ms. Rand’s) is anti-woman and anti-brown people, or what about his “sensibility” matches the Democrats.

Peart clearly vibed with a general anti-authoritarianism he saw in Rand, and with her objection to enforced equality. But a more nuanced attempt to distance himself from Randian libertarianism in an interview Peart did for a feature in the libertarian magazine Liberty in 1997 (by the Institute for Justice’s Scott Bullock) made it clear that Peart’s attraction to Rand was more about her underlying sense of individualism and the nobility of the artist and his intentions than it was about all the complicated policy implications that Rand, and her libertarian fans, drew from her philosophy.

Bullock skillfully teases out the fact that Rand’s morality implied a belief in free markets as well as a general individualist sense of “freedom” seemed to have never quite been embedded in Peart’s DNA. And indeed Fountainhead‘s individualist message is largely that the creative artist can and ought to follow his own whims and spirit no matter what markets do (while never suggesting anyone should be forced to support a great artist, or prevented by force from supporting mediocre ones).

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