July 4, 2003

TRINITY (part 2)

If you think chasing filthy lucre makes you venal and reptilian, just wait till you meet the kind of person who would rather legislate themselves into money than work for it.

Now if the subject of money was the endless plain upon which vast herds of nonsensical ideas flourished and thrived, then government is the watering hole around which all species of dim-witted theories naturally gravitate. It�s like a trip through Lion Country Safari: we�ve got our faces pressed to the glass in amazement as the Idiotarian ideas thunder by. Look, a Hildebeest! It�s attacking it�s mate! So let�s just keep the windows rolled all the way up, and move on. This one will be a lot easier.

The second item in the American Trinity is far easier to understand and agree upon, so let�s just all have a moment of silence for all of those men and women who gave their lives, and continue to give their lives, for Freedom.

This, surely, is the single most astonishing American invention: a government whose rights are limited by the people. And as with the first pillar of our Trinity, the idea of limited government causes thin tendrils of smoke to rise from the ears of those on the Far Left. Really give then a healthy dose of this concept and they start to shake and vibrate like Fembots before their heads explode in a shower of sparks.

Now it's not fair to be too hard on these people. After all, we as modern humans go back for several hundred thousand years, and we have always had chieftains and barons and kings to tell us what to do.

A few days ago, I was spending a few moments reading an online poll taken on why the rest of the world hates America. Many people had posted comments, and while all of the answers were entertaining, this one was priceless:

What behaviour can you expect of a country who sought independence because it didn't want to pay taxes?
Gonzalo Arriaga, Finland

Citizens, behold the soul of a slave! Gonzalo loves paying taxes, thinks it is sublime ecstasy to walk down that golden hall, pathetic handful of shriveled potatoes and a scrawny chicken in hand, and lay them � eyes averted! � at the feet of the master. The more we smile the less he will beat us.

If you want a quick rule of thumb about what kind of person you are dealing with, ask one of these folks lined up at the government feed trough a simple question: whose money is this?

Money is a work token, remember. We get money in exchange for our work, our creativity, our inventiveness, our sweat.

Whose money is this? Whose sweat is this? Whose missed family time is this? Whose inventiveness is this? Whose genius is this? Whose work is this?

You want to know whose money it is? It's your money, that's whose money this is. Your money. Not the King's money. The King never worked a goddam day in his life. Not the State�s money. Your money. Your sweat. Your hopes. Your ingenuity.


When we talk about Freedom, that central, mystical pillar of the Trinity, we are not talking about government. We are talking about Freedom, and they are not the same. Democracy is a tool. A republic is a tool. The US Constitution is the greatest tool to unlock human creativity in the history of the world, and I no longer give a flying damn if some people recognize that fact or not.

To date, the Founders have accomplished the unthinkable: they have made freedom idiot-proof.

Democracy, The US Republic, and the Constitution of the United States of America are stainless-steel, lifetime-guaranteed tools to limit government and preserve freedom. Because government is nothing more and nothing less than other people telling you what to do.

Can we all hold hands and say that together?

Government is other people�telling you�what to do.
Government is other people�telling you�what to do.
Government is other people�telling you�what to do

And let's be clear on one point: many people, perhaps most people in this world, fear freedom. They will never admit it, but it is true. When the lights go out and they look at the ceiling before they go to sleep, the idea of being responsible for themselves, for feeding and clothing and defending and ordering their lives, scares the hell out of most people out there.

Poor, servile Gonzalo, Ward of the State, is not the aberration; he is the norm. We ignore that fact at our own peril, fellow citizens. Everybody wants a little freedom, little bite-sized pieces of freedom, like a cheap toy handed out in the state-sponsored Happy Meal. But real freedom, untrammeled, unrefined, raw self-determination: that requires more than a vague desire. That requires some guts.

Now while some limited government is a necessary evil, and can, on rare occasions, do some good, let us never forget that deeply moving scene at the end of Braveheart, when Mel Gibson looks down at his disemboweled intestines, then out to the Baleful Crowd of Oppressed Peasants, and with his dying breath utters his last word on earth: Bureaucracy!!

If Capitalism is a litmus for optimism, then the idea of State is one for independence. And it really comes down to whether or not you conceive of yourself as a child who needs to be taken care of, or as an adult who can make his own way. Freedom isn't free. If you want the State to feed and clothe you, to provide you a job and health care and housing, don't think that comes without a price. It comes with a hefty price, unbearable in my mind, and I'm not talking about what gets taken out of my wallet, either.

It makes us dependent, and dependence makes us stupid. It makes us stupid and willing Gonzalos, the same money fodder that has fed those in control for millennia. Happy Dependence day, everyone!

There's a scene in Bowling For Columbine where Michael Moore interviews a typically decent and friendly Canadian as he emerges from a health clinic. The poor fellow had, as I recall, some serious injury, and Mssr. Moore wanted to know what it had cost him for treatment.

The man couldn't reply. They hadn't charged him. This took Michael Moore's carefully rehearsed breath away! No charge? You mean, you got that medical attention for free?

That's right, eh.

Cut to beatific look on directors face, as if he had just been handed a clean plate at a Shoney's Breakfast Bar.

Folks, Canadians are great people. They are not a stupid people. So can we not, please, not ever again, call this Free Health Care? It is Pre-paid Health Care. That Canadian fellow paid for that treatment every week, for the past twenty years. It was taken out of every paycheck he made. He paid for that medical care, and much, much more. He paid for it whether he needed it or not. And he not only paid for the doctor, he paid for the bureaucrats and administrators in the National Health Service or whatever it's called. It was not free. It was paid for. Whether he needed it or not. When he has fully recovered, years from now, he will still be paying for it. Every week, from every check. That car or vacation he couldn't afford, got eaten up by health care he paid for but did not need.

So the question is, who better decides what kind of health care you and your family need: you, or Hillary Clinton? I understand that not all poor people can afford health insurance. Again, being a decent sort of fellow beneath my strikingly handsome exterior, I don't mind paying a little extra for Medicare for people who need help. I can even live with my insurance rates being higher to cover the cost of caring for the uninsured at the Emergency Room.

But! What I most assuredly DO NOT need is for someone taking my money to give me a health care system I do not need or want. As my all-time idol P.J. O'Rourke once said, if you think health care is expensive now, just wait till you see what it costs when it's free.

This is a great example of the seduction of the state, because "Free Health Care" sounds like a great deal. It's Caring! It's Healthy! And it's Free!

It's not free. And not only do I object to being told what I need and don't need, I also object to the idea that some dim-witted Student Council dork thinks he knows what's better for me than I do.

P.J. Again: if you think that Public is an altar to worship at, put the word "public" in front of these words and tell me how you feel: Restroom. Swimming pool. Transportation. Here's another: Take the words Decision, Officer, Appointment, and then add the word "political" to the front end and watch them drop in value.

So, look around. Look at how people feel about government, and ask yourself, does this or that person think of themselves as an adult or as a helpless child? Freedom is not for children. Freedom means responsibility. It means making tough decisions yourself. Freedom is not government. Almost all government is the enemy of freedom; the bigger the government, the more powerful the enemy.

The things government does well, the things government should be for, are few and simple. If you want to know what these things are, you will never do better than this:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Simple. Direct. Perfect. The most wondrous sentence ever written.

So as far as I am concerned, I say: Government, you can do this, this, this and that �- that�s it, that's all, shut up and go away. Build us some Interstate Highways and some aircraft carriers and stop hanging around looking eager.

Compare this to the recently unveiled European Union constitution, weighing in at a modest 225 pages (down from the 97,000 pages of accumulated laws and regulations known as the acquis communautaire. �Acquis Communautaire�, by the way, is French for "we're f---ed." ) The main �author� of this abomination, which reads like a refrigerator repair manual written by a guy who really digs refrigerators, was Val�ry Giscard d'Estaing of France, who in the spirit of restoring Franco-American relations, compared himself to Thomas Jefferson. This is completely unfair to Mr. Giscard d'Estaing; Jefferson would have had to have written for decades, if not centuries, to produce a document this lifeless, meaningless and dense. Oh, and that's if he had, uh, actually been the author of the Constitution, rather than the Declaration of Independence.

As I say, I�m not an unreasonable fellow. Some government, some restrictions and regulations are good. The FAA actually does a very effective job at giving us the most safe and extensive transportation system in the world. In cases like that, even though the government doesn�t actually produce anything, it does add value in terms of safety and user confidence.

And that's how we should look at every regulation and law. Does it add value, or is it just one of those plastic pancake alien amoebas on Deneva that lands on Spock's back, or yours, its tendrils working their way into your nervous system until you are finally driven mad with pain and commit suicide?

My friend, the irrepressible Kim Du Toit, once asked me what I thought would happen if every government agency had to cut 25% of their regulations �- they get to decide which ones, of course. I think that would be A Good Idea Generally �- certainly worth trying on a test basis. How many of these regulations are there to protect you from yourself?

Children need to be protected from themselves. Adults don't need to child-proof the pool. They already know how to swim.

And after all this, after all these creeping intrusions and regulations, we're still the most free people, with the least intrusive government, on the planet. Go figure.

Freedom. We've still got more of it than they do. Reason number two why we rock.

And behind door number three, the easiest of all to get a grip on, that perennial favorite, good old Yankee Ingenuity.

We work hard. Lots of nations work hard. But we work hard ahead of the curve. Hey man, we define the curve. That curve belongs to us.

We are the fast adaptors. If European technology is cutting-edge, ours is bleeding-edge. Whatever it is, it was almost certainly invented here, and even if it wasn't, it still will live or die on how it does in America.

America has horrible, appalling public schools -- they used to be the envy of the world. But our universities are the envy of the world. The sheer amount of money and mental freedom we have �- starting to see how this Trinity works? �- means that the science done at US universities is the best science on the planet, and it is produced in mammoth quantities. Those pictures taken of Triton, that distant moon of Neptune on the outer edge of the solar system? They were not snapped by the European Space Agency. Or the vaunted Japanese. Or even the Russians. No sir. Those pictures of Jupiter, and Saturn, and the surface of Mars and Venus and Mercury, were brought to you by some long-haired, badly-dressed geniuses at Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Some of these guys barely have their driver's licenses. They�re the smartest people on the planet, and I stop the car and get out to Kow-Tow every time I go past them on the 210 Freeway. Geniuses. American college kids.

(Capitalism + Freedom) x Ingenuity = Voyager.


Not only are we great scientists, we are great tinkerers. How many ideas �- airplanes, light bulbs, personal computers, a thousand others �- had been floating around for decades, or centuries, or millennia, until American ingenuity, that practical, hard-headed garage engineering, got a hold of them and made them actually happen?

I live in two worlds. On one side, the hard side, is aviation. I cannot think offhand of a field (other than Cousin Aeropace) that is as technology and engineering intensive. And with a smattering of exceptions, all of the innovation in experimental aircraft is homegrown. Almost all of the new avionics, the new materials and the breakthrough designs: homegrown.

But the other world I inhabit is that of entertainment, a soft field. And even there, I am surrounded by twenty-first century, cutting-edge, American technological mastery. Every time I fire up my Avid Media Composer, I can count the sixty-odd patents listed on the start-up screen. Those of you unfamiliar with non-linear, computer-based editing may find this hard to believe, but I assure you that we can now do in an hour or two what would have remained impossibly complex twenty years ago with a month of work on tape and film. Avid, Pro Tools, Photoshop �- all American inventions. Invented by tinkerers. Kids, mostly.

You know, those idiot Americans you hear so much about.

One last story about this American Trinity before we go back out to that bunker in the desert and then home.

Waaaaaaayy back at the top of this journey, I told you about looking for investors, and finding some. So let me tell you about a man who I would love to name, but won�t.

He is a scientist. A real scientist: a geologist.

While he was a University professor, he and his (business!) partner found a more efficient and more accurate procedure to get some data they, and other geologists, needed frequently. So they formed a company. They went private. They hired Grad students, paid them a fortune relative to any other jobs they could possibly get, and gave them a piece of the company. Brilliant.

So now, this new procedure harnessed all of the work, ingenuity and ambition of a bunch of very bright young men and women whose intellectual passion and economic rewards were pulling in the same direction. Stampede!

They began to become ten, then twenty times more efficient. Accuracy and quality remained superb, because accuracy was in fact their product. And since this was what they had all wanted to do with their lives in the first place, they worked nights, weekends, whatever it took to make this company a success.

And it was a success, a spectacular success, and remains so to this day. The former grad students are set for life, and my friend's father, the scientist, is now a millionaire many times over. I admired and respected him from the very first, back when they were drinking powdered milk to save money. He is a brilliant, hysterically funny, generous and good man. He now owns three houses, and a mountain. He worked for, he earned, every handful of dirt on that mountain. He has made scientific data more accessible, more accurate and more inexpensive than it would have been without him.

And I will say this about him, and about the many other millionaires I have known: he was the first in, and the last out of his office every day, for decades. The boss never leaves work. The Money Fairy did not accidentally stagger into him after a night of heavy drinking. He worked hard, and smart, and deserves every dime.

And he has bailed me out �- twice �- and kept my dreams alive. Twice. Without this man, without his genius, his ambition, his hard work and his generosity, you would not be reading this, for I would not be here today. I have taken his investments and failed him. Twice. And he still talks to me.

I guess because when it's all said and done, it's only money. There's more, in the air, where that came from.

Okay, back to the beginning of this Road Trip: The Desert. The Test Site. The Blast Doors. The Bunker.

Trinity. American Power.

But see, you're undoubtedly thinking about Los Alamos, New Mexico. About Atomic bombs. About July 16th, 1945. About Trinity.

But we�re nowhere near Los Alamos. We�re in California. See, that's what you get for sleeping in the car.

There are people out there who maintain that we are a strong nation only because of our military might.

That�s exactly wrong.

Our military might does not make us strong. We have military might because we are strong. It is a by-product of our strength, not the source of it.

Any idiot can build bombs. Our Trinity sits not on some desert sand seared into glass at an abandoned, sad pillar of stones. It�s in our heads and our hearts, it's in our genes, this beautiful, gorgeous marriage of money, freedom and ingenuity.

We're not here to look at some dark sigil, some monument to destruction. We're builders, we're dreamers. We�re in the Mojave desert, under cloudless skies split by man-made thunder, a place where people strap themselves into bullets and dare sonic booms to get out of their way.

We're going to space, dammit! And best of all, we're going on our own dime.

The test stand looks exactly like the Viking lander would if you'd built it at Home Depot. Get a little closer though, and the finesse, the genius, is in the details. Anodized gold, remote-controlled, cryogenic valves. Stacks and stacks of huge horizontal gas tanks, like the big babies they fill balloons from, all plumbed together to push enough liquid oxygen to get to where it needs to go.

The bunker at the distant corner of Mojave airport used to store ammunition back in the day. Now it stores TV monitors, a home-made control console, lots of chairs, boxes, pipes, pumps, and an old, battered Jet Ski. Oh, and it stores Rocket Scientists too. About a dozen or so.

I'm not in there with them, though. I see enough of the world on television monitors. I'm crouching down on the top of the bunker, perhaps thirty yards away. If this thing explodes, I won't be able to duck in time, but I can make myself as small a target as possible and still see this with my own eyes.

Foam �ears� are handed out. I pretend to screw mine in. I'm already half-deaf from years working in a Miami night club. I want to hear this thing. But that's because I am an idiot.

Fifteen seconds!

The Home Depot Viking� farts. White cryogenic gas spurts from valves on top, sending a white frozen plume across the desert. It�s a disappointing sound. Okay, so you have to purge the LOX system, but--.

Five seconds!

Another noise, throatier this time. Wisps of super-cooled gas emerge from the back of the combustion chamber, which looks like nothing more than a plain silver coffee can �- no cool bell-shape, no piping, no sign of any---.


Holy God!!

A thirty-foot tongue of white hot flame lights up the midday desert floor �- did you get that? This is the sound that God makes after polishing off a case of Old Milwaukee and a jumbo sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

It lasts exactly 1.3 seconds. And no, now that I think about it, it's not �a tongue of white-hot flame.� It looks nothing like white-hot flame. White-hot flame would be friendly, compared to this. This is a supersonic plasma spike, that's what it is, the shock diamonds backed up into the chamber like�well, like shock diamonds. A photograph was taken in broad desert daylight and stopped down to catch the brightness of the exhaust plume!

When you actually see something like this this close, you have one thought, and one thought only, and that is: DO IT AGAIN!!

And they do. Several more times. I watch a few from inside. (And I screw in my ears from now on.) The same procedure, again and again. Test. Inspect. Discuss. Restart.

Every now and then, some distant shriek of tearing canvas causes us all to run outside like little kids following the ice cream truck, as a different company is trying a different rocket engine, about a quarter of a mile away. It�s not even close to full power out there, and it�s kicking up a huge brown dust plume.

Down on the Home Depot rocket, that little coffee can goes from room temperature to 420 degrees Celsius in a fraction of a second. We peek inside, trying to divine the signs from the burn patterns -� the data will take days to decode. They are kind enough to let me inspect it. I nod like I know what I'm looking at.

These are great people, too, the nicest bunch of men and women you�d ever want to meet. Once they manned the halls of Lockheed and North American and Northrop and Grumman. Now they�re out there, working for peanuts, building rocket motors for themselves, just a little garage-based, mom-and-pop aerospace company called XCOR. They built the EZ-Rocket, flown by Dick Rutan, the man who piloted the Voyager around the world, nonstop, unrefuelled. Dick stepped out of the phone-booth sized afterplane after 9 days; his first words on the ground were "see what free men can do?"

If I hear another soul talk about the death of American ingenuity, I will bring them out here to meet those normal, smiling, somewhat scruffy, every-day rocket scientists at XCOR. I will introduce them to test pilot Dick Rutan, and his brother Burt. Burt Rutan is one of those people whose work you cannot look at without the word genius escaping your lips in a hushed whisper, unconsciously. His company, Scaled Composites, a few doors down, has a working, flying spacecraft.

No, that's not fair. They�ve got a working, flying space launch system. And they are going, by God! They are flying into Space. The whole lot of them: XCOR, Scaled, a few others.

This is the Trinity I wanted to show you. It�s not just aerospace �- it's all through the very fiber of this magnificent, brilliant country of ours.

These people are using their own money, their own freedom and their own ingenuity to do what governments won't give them the means to do: follow that ultimate dream into and through that deep, delirious, burning blue and out into by-God outer space! Well, if you want to be an astronaut, here in America you can build your own spaceship and you can go.

These people, these private citizens, are the best people there are. Smart, dedicated, disciplined dreamers who have the guts and the savvy to do what all of Europe, or all of China, or Japan, have yet to do: fly in space. XCOR needs about $10 million to build a working space plane: that's about the promotional budget for Legally Blonde 2. No one knows what Burt has spent at Scaled. We only know it wasn't tax money and no one has ever been killed working for him over the past quarter century of tearing out the foundations of what we thought we could do.

I have one thing to say to these people:


So how stands this magnificent experiment, this monument to ambition, hope, freedom and ingenuity on her 227th birthday? How's the old girl holding up after all these years?

Militarily, she is unrivaled. The men and women who serve and defend her today are not only the most capable, disciplined, and effective soldiers in her storied and glorious history; they are the most motivated, decent, flexible, daring and victory-prone troops deployed by any nation at any time. The all-volunteer, citizen soldiers arrayed in the defense of this experiment in self-government have placed the United States in a position that I cannot find a precedent for in history, for they now comprise a force so powerful and effective that the very idea of a direct armed attack upon us has become actually unthinkable. To that extent, we can stand on this Fourth of July and think of a promise we have kept to those young men trapped in the sinking hulls at Pearl Harbor, to those airmen flying through fire and blood to hit their targets at Midway or Frankfurt, to the Marines in the jungles of Tarawa and Guadalcanal, the kids who never came home from beaches at Normandy, and all the others who have fought and died to preserve and strengthen this union, and through whose sacrifice we stand here free and alive and happy today.

The stain of racism, the dagger that nearly pierced our heart, continues to fade, its practitioners in a full-scale rout from a battle that may not yet be over but which has certainly been won. We can look out upon the most ethnically diverse nation on the planet and see not the looming disaster that darkens the horizons of much of Europe, with vast, furious, and growing populations of unassimilated radicals, but rather the serious beginnings of a society where people are indeed judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The office floor on which I work is a kaleidoscope of racial, national and sexual identities. They are not only my colleagues, they are my friends. The fact that much remains to be done should not blind us to the really remarkable battles won in the hearts of each of us since Dr. King looked out from the shadow of Lincoln and shared a dream that becomes more real every day. Good for us. That, too, is something to stand proud of; something worth celebrating with fireworks.

Our economy, even when hung over, continues to show a broad and unshakable strength, the envy of the earth. American productivity leads the world, as we do in scientific breakthroughs and world-changing inventions. The fact is, fierce competition does indeed keep us honest. Science and freedom eats superstition and tribalism for breakfast every morning. We don't have time for that nonsense.

Our water and air are far cleaner than they were a generation ago, and what comes out the back of a modern automobile is practically cleaner than what goes in. The black streaks behind departing jetliners, rivers that catch fire, belching brown smokestacks and the little blue-grey puffs of poison floating up in their millions from sputtering tailpipes are a fading memory. We can do even better, and we will.

Of course, our times are defined by a new enemy: a brutal, ruthless, utterly inhuman scourge that targets little girls' birthday parties and office workers and commuters on a bus home from work.

I stand in mute amazement at some of the angry voices I have heard from Europe, who claim as a virtue having put up with terrorism for decades, and who emerge through some sick moral wormhole into a position where fighting back is looked upon with scorn and derision. Get used to it, they say.

Well, here's an Independence Day thought for you cowards and defeatists out there in your millions: to hell with that. Since that horrible morning, I have had the consolation of knowing that thousands of those murdering bastards have had, as their last thought on earth, the realization that maybe 9/11 wasn't such a good idea after all.

And I have also watched in total admiration as a genuine leader stood up to pressure the likes of which I have never seen, and committed this nation to the removal of two of the most odious regimes on earth. With them have gone all sorts of future mischief, and likely, certainly hopefully, we will continue to trample this snake until our enemies realize that resorting to Terror will bring them nothing but the swift and total end to their regimes and ambitions, not to mention their personal death and ruin. The jury is certainly still out, and will remain so for many years to come. But I, for one, feel like a man who has watched history's great projector rewound, with Churchill at Munich standing in for Chamberlain, with Fascism crushed in the cradle, and a horrible, brutal lesson learned �- by a few, at least -- at long last.

So Happy 227th Birthday, America. Thank you for all you have done for me and my family. You have asked so little of me, and given me so much, that words seem absolutely inadequate. Thank you.

And where ends this Trinity of capitalism, freedom and ingenuity?

Far be it from me to be one of those mindless ideologues who wish to see the United States triumphant for the next century, or 500 years, or a thousand. No, I�m not that kind of person.

I want to see her triumphant forever. I want that shining city on the granite cliffs to keep that beacon of freedom and hope and optimism alive for as long as we are human, to continue her painful, never-ending, beautiful growth towards a more perfect Union, to be the ideal that we all struggle and fight for each in our own way and according to our own inner lights. I want that lamp to light the way down through history, the scourge of tyrants and torturers in ages yet to come. I want her to remain the polar star of those whose hope, optimism, genius and hard work have lifted, and continue to raise, all of us from the darkness of our animal selves.

And someday, somewhere, I hope and believe those Stars and Stripes will snap and flutter in unimaginably distant skies. I hope and believe that proud parents will sit on bleachers and watch their kids playing little league baseball on brave new worlds we can barely dream of. Right now, at this moment in time, it looks like a great, big, magnificent, empty universe. One day, a day closer to us than July 4th, 1776, I think those wagons will roll again, out to new frontiers, carrying painful lessons learned and yet filled with the identical hope and optimism and confidence that alone define us as a people and a nation.

Some species, somewhere, is going to do it. It might as well be us.

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Posted by Proteus at July 4, 2003 9:01 AM

Welcome to the Eject! Eject! Eject! commenter community. Please read and understand the following:

1. This is not a public square. This is a dinner party on personal property. Good conversation is not only tolerated but celebrated here. But the host understands the difference between dissent and disrespect, even if you do not. Louts will be ignored until the bouncers can show them the door.

2. This is a voluntary online community. Your posting of any material, whether in comments or otherwise, grants to William A. Whittle, Aurora Aerospace, Inc. and their affiliates, a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, sublicense, reproduce or incorporate into other material all or any portion of the material posted, for commercial or other use.

3. If a comment does find its way into a main page essay, print, or other media, every effort will be made to credit the individual making the comment. So chose your screen name accordingly, SLNTFRT33@yahoo.com!

Now let's see some distributed intelligence and basic human decency! Don't make me come down there every five minutes!


Well, I finally did it! I broke Movable Type!

Got a CODE 6330 error: PATRIOTIC ESSAY TOO LONG, so I had to break it into two pieces. Anyway, here it is, at long last.

I tried many times to push through it, but much of that started to look like a parody of myself -- an autopilot essay.

It's different. As usual, I don't know if it's any good, but at least its certainly LONG enough to explain why it took me so long to get a handle on it.

Anyway, Happy 4th to everyone. Even the trolls. And this one, I predict, will be an extra-juicy troll magnet.

Now I must sleep for 22 hours.


probably too long because you had a repeat section in the middle - saw it before the tweak.

Another good one, Bill. I even like the Cheetah's reference!

I made a comment, but it was on part 1, and those are now gone, so I will say again:

Great work! Like taking my own thoughts and expressing them better than I could.

"It might as well be us."

I'm already signed up.

Thanks, Bill.

Gonna get the book out in time for Christmas?

Well done! So worth the wait, your analysis of "free" health care was spot on.

And then there was MORE!!

Again, absolutely wonderful Mr. Whittle, thank you for this wonderful essay on a wonderful day.



When I got to the bit about California rather than Los Alamos, for a minute I thought you were going to talk about those chumps over at Lawrence Livermore. And then I'd have to stop reading out of laboratory solidarity.

Seriously- great as usual. Blew a hole right through economic density and into what should be obvious but so rarely is.

You expressed a lot of what was in this 57 year old Heart--Well Done--


Thanks Bill, you rock! It's worth the wait, and I haven't even read the first word yet, I just know it. Happy 4th to all.

Wow! Worth every minute of the wait, and every bad joke that was passed in the waiting. A graduate level education in adult thinking, and just the slap in the face I needed to see just how good I've got it here.

I've always enjoyed... to the point of taking them for granted... every right, privilege and opportunity available here, and I was proud to serve my time in their defense. But until now, the "thing" that I was appreciating was just an amorphous abstraction, like a beautiful scenic view seen through a fogged-over window. I always liked the colors and the shifting patterns of light, but really didn't know what I was looking at. I just knew I liked it.

Now you've gone and cranked up the defroster, and THERE IT IS!

So THAT'S what I've lived by all this time!

Wow! Again!

Happy Independence Day indeed!

Anybody know the President's e-mail address? I think he could use a copy.


I think we have a Pulitzer winner........if we can get it printed somewhere. The only other writer cranking out stuff this insightful is Victor Hansen.

BTW, Bill, when were you at Techapi? (yes, the spelling is wrong)

Dear God. Was it worth the wait? Is air important?

WHAT a birthday present for America, and to us! Thank you, Bill.

I watched Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo live, and I have been to the Mercury block house. My dreams of being an astronaut died with 20-400 vision (not just 20-50 or so).... I watched 2001 and said "of course we will have a scheduled flights to a space station. Why not?" The X- Prize had given me hope that I will get to orbit some day.

I got to *touch* Voyager when she was still in Mojave, and I was at Edwards for both the takeoff and landing. The Rutans are the heirs of the Wright brothers, and both have proven they have the Right Stuff over and over and over again. Has anyone else seen the pictures of the rocket-powered E-Z?

Burt Rutan may have two of his designs heading to orbit, not just one.

Dammit, Bill!

Best... EVER!

I'm speechless, truly and utterly speechless. I take a knee to no man, I never will, but if I ever had to, you'd be at the top of the very short list of people that I could do so for and not hate myself for having done so.

But, I never will.

It would be un-American and it would be completely contrary to all that we are and all that we stand for.

But I am honored beyond words to be counted among your friends and, by virtue of yours and my belief in all that's good and true, your equal.


Wow... Excellent Essay.. I figured that when I read Trinity: Part Two, this was an essay on three different pages.. Ah well, that isn't the point.

Either way, this seems fitting for a birthday present for the USA and me too!

I haven't read much of part 2 yet, but I loved the explanation of capitalism as wealth created out of thin air. Yes!

I just have to put in a nit here. "Beaurocrat" is not a word, though it is a common mispelling of the word "bureaucrat". Look it up.

Marvelous. Just marvelous.

Beats an essay about Carrie-Ann Moss any day.

Mr. Whittle has again stunned me with his depth of understanding of the American soul, and with his sheer eloquence.

ARRGH! Here I'd posted and now it's gone. Well, here we go again.

As I said last night on Misha's site:

America is optimism enacted at a national level. The sheer, unadulterated, 100% pure knowledge that anything that we can conceive we can achieve. And in this achievement, we are there to help and assist others to try to better their lives. We will temper our achievement so as not to harm our friends and neighbors, not just because the government says we must, but also out of a sense of fairness.

America is, at base level, fair to all. There have been, are now, and will be injustices. The human condition, as well as the sheer cussedness of humanity allow certain individuals to act in a manner not beneficial to all, but their friends, neighbors, or government will reign them in. Those three murderous scum who chained a man to their truck and dragged him to death in turn were jailed and convicted. The CEOs who tried to line their pockets at the expense of investors and employees are doing jail time, or are to be tried soon. When extremists of any stripe are identified, they are tried for their crimes. Miscarriages of justice will occur. But when they are identified, the innocent are freed. Not many other nations can claim the same. Our citizens know that in America their basic freedom is preserved and defended.

I personally believe that our willingness to serve our country and our fellow citizens is a great strength of America. Unlike Germany, there is no draft to fill our military. Our service members are not dragged, regardless of their wishes, into the military. They willingly follow the Profession of Arms. They take the time to learn what it is they do, practice often, and execute like no other force in the world. If anyone out there thinks they are better, I invite them to try and play against the likes of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Blackhorse Cav) stationed at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. These guys are the finest heavy forces in the world. No one else even comes close. Hell, our Army and Marine brigades come up against them and are handed their hats (and asses) almost each and every time. When you beat the Blackhorse, you've done on hell of a job. But the only people in the world who can do it have US flags sewn on their combat uniforms.

(There was once a Russian general who came to observe the training of the Cav and the rotational unit (3rd Inf Div, as I recall). He said that in 30 years of service, it was the first time he'd ever seen the Soviet model attack formations executed correctly by all echelons).

Our willingness to serve, and even more, to try new things is part of the root of our greatness. We help ourselves and others, and always strive to do more and better. It is kind of a caricature, where the American always wants a bigger and better something. I look at that with pride, because it is true.

Try to imagine another country that would have, as private enterprise, companies like XCOR and Scaled Composites striving to get private vehicles into space. And not as a single use platform, but one which goes up, works, and returns to earth over and over. And while this is happening, there is no government effort to shut it down, but folks on the sidelines in NASA cheering them on.

I, personally, am not blessed with the vision of a Burt Rutan, nor with even 10% of his genius. But where one man can lead, many can willingly follow. As a member of the "vertically enhanced" (in PC lingo; otherwise a tall drink of water, for us Westerners) I shall likely never be able to go to space. But dream I shall until I no longer see lightning and hear thunder. Maybe they need a good, solid, dependable ground side guy. I'll just dream a little differently.

Wonderful damn essay, Bill. Loved every phrase. What can I say? You da man!

Sapper Mike

I hate you, Bill. Why can't you start to suck so we can be equal?

Just kidding, bud! Great stuff!

I broke down and started crying at the last passage...because you've captured the sheer joy that it is to be American. Thank you.


I wrote you two e-mails about part 1. I thought you had made a mistake on something and then realized I would simply do it backwards from you...blah blah.

That aside, this is yet another great work of yours. Thank you.

Bill, you've done the impossible and raised the standard even higher. Your book is going to make you a rich man. Simply the best!

If you find yourself in need of bodyguards in the near future, I'm onboard. Thank you so much for putting out there what so many need to hear and so few of us can say.

Just another great work to add to the others. Thank you so very much.

Hat off to Bill Whittle - again! And let him remind himself 50 times a day that for every admirer who writes a comment to this blog site, there could be as many as 50 to 100 readers who can only marvel over being treated to another magnificent essay, and would be willing to buy them when they're published in book form.

Extraordinary writing. All the lessons with minimal invective. These are the lessons we should hope to instill to future generations. No ego involved, just perfect observations of the American hearbeat.

Wonderful. Thank you. I'll be proud to buy your book when it is published. What talent, what heart, what smarts!!!

I was asked yesterday how I was going to spend my 4th of July. Didn't have anything planned, except a nice meal with the my better half and a trip to the lake for a nice fireworks display.

Then, after my usual daily check to see if you had posted Trinity yet, lo and behold, there it was -- A great post for a great day.

Fireworks? We don't need no stinkin' fireworks. Not when we have you, Bill, writing essays that light up the sky with sparkling prose and wild blue yonder enthusiasm for THE greatest nation on earth.

Thanks, Bill, for a wonderful 4th of July!


"Hammer of Idiotarians" made me LOL!!!

Wonderful work.

Are you channeling Robert Heinlein, by any chance?

Imperial Falconer

Thanks for the kind words Bill, and everyone else- As I've said before, it amazes me that anyone is doing this stuff, but that *I'm* part of the team still blows me away. But then, if someone is going to do it, it might as well be us...

Doug Jones
Rocket Plumber

Thank you.

"And he has bailed me out – twice – and kept my dreams alive. Twice. Without this man, without his genius, his ambition, his hard work and his generosity, you would not be reading this, for I would not be here today. I have taken his investments and failed him. Twice. And he still talks to me.

I guess because when it’s all said and done, it’s only money. There’s more, in the air, where that came from."
Ahh...Nobody has ever captured better the essence
of how Americans view each other.

I sat in stunned silence for a good 5 minutes after reading this essay. Stunned that something could move me as much as Trinity has. You brought back childhood memories from when I lived in the Mojave Desert, (and I knew it was the Mojave as soon as you said,

"...let's hop in the car..")

It brought back a time when I was 5, looking out my bedroom window at dusk and seeing a vertical cloud of smoke on the horizon, rising up to the heavens...screaming in excitement for my parents to come here and explain what it was. A huge bond created between me and my dad as we would scour the night sky looking for objects, UFO's to a child, feeling like I was in the greatest place on earth at the greatest time. Those experiences are what began my fascination with science.

The portion on Capitalism is precisely what I needed to hear right now. Not because I'm one of those, (as are my neighbors), who think everyone needs to be equal in results but...well, this line stood out the most to me and I will treasure it always:

"Its easy to succeed in a country that lets you fail this often and this easily."

I won't bore you with all the gory details but this statement will be my motivation when I feel like I'm starting to lose the drive.

And yes, like another reader above, I was brought to tears with this essay by the time I was done. Tears of pride, tears of optimism, hope, courage and gratitude.

I was going to save this essay to read for another day but I'm so glad that I read it today. When I watch those fireworks tonight, the words from this essay will be ringing in my ears along with the awesome, thunderous booms from the lights and explosions celebrating our freedoms.

And now, the hippies from upstairs are knocking on my door. They've asked me to join them. I wasn't going to but I've changed my mind after reading this. I'm hoping that what I've read here and how I feel today will rub off on them. If not, I will still embrace that even they, as ignorant as they can be, are part of what makes up America and I will celebrate that idea.

Mr. Whittle--I love your essays, I always feel a little more educated, a little more insightful and a little more powerful by the time I get to the last word. But this one, by far, is the greatest thing, in my opinion, that you've ever written. With every, last, infinitesimal meaning of the phrase, I Thank You.


I think I am falling in love with your mind Bill.

You have an amazing ability to crystalize and put into words everything I believe.

The first part about the poor spoke to me. I am presently unemployed (by others) and poor (financially) but starting my own business. A friend asked me why I was doing that - my only response was that as an American If I don't get a job elsewhere I am just going to have to make one. I may be cash poor but I am opportunity wealthy.

No matter what happens I know that there are options and my success or failure is up to ME!

I said earlier that I would buy two copies of your book when it's out. I changed my mind. I need at least four. And I'm hoping it's out in time for Christmas too! And that it has lots of pictures of America.

Thank you, Bill.


I'm not sure I can say anything new......you have a real gift. Your celebrity at FreeRepublic continues to grow. I am certainly anxious for the book!

All the best for a great Independence Day!!


Thanks for the Independence Day gift. Just finished watching Yankee Doodle Dandy and followed that up by reading your essay. A good way to finish the day.

There is an excellent short story by Kurt Vonnegut that illustrates the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of results. It's in the monkey house or something like that.

Well done, Bill. Granted, I understood all of this before I started reading, but I do not have the talent that you do for explaining with such clarity or such panache.
Simply excellent. I feel that you can put into words what I can only abstractly form in my mind. What talent! Sheesh.
OUTSTANDING![tips hat]

More of the usual. Which is to say, it's freaking astounding.

Can't WAIT for the book!


If the Wachowskis could make "The Matrix Revolutions" as worthy as followup- of if Lucas could make Episode 3 "the best ever"- as this essay was to your earlier writings, I would lock myself in the theater, and only leave howling after all my fingers and feet had been broken to prise me away from the chair and projector.

EVERY theme from your previous essays was incorporated into this one! I still don't know how you did it!! The HONOR of American servicemen and their unique desire to fight and die wherever the people cry out for aid. The FREEDOM that permeates America in a style that is unique, and always will define this nation. The horsewhipping of the Goddamn ridiculous claim that America is an EMPIRE. A quick shot at the silly pretension of with CELEBRITY status- while some may talk about how a good piece of machinery is worth far more to the global economy as a whole than Weekend at Bernie's 3, I thought that particular example was exceedingly useful. How happy you are that the WAR shows we've learned history's lessons. The COURAGE to try and then fail, and the CONFIDENCE needed to sustain this uniquely American attitude of building spaceships in a garage, this attitude that is almosy invariably found only in certain Americans and stuns the rest of us- even you. :) A quick HISTORY lesson, the kind that shows exactly what would have happened under the "triumph" of Communism. The VICTORY America has clearly shown, in every perceivable measurement of human happiness and prosperity.

And of course, it's MAGIC when I think about how appropriately and amusingly you worked in references to Michael Moore. And more, oh so much more, like the beautifully evocative writing that takes me right back to my childhoop trip across the American deserts, the thumbs-up to Spirit Americans, and the polite applause yet firm myth-shattering needed for many Canadians. Who knows- perhaps your much-appreciated ministrations may set my countrymen on the right path again?

This is almost like a culmination for me. The end of a particularly long book I was privileged to read for free, as it was written. Think of waiting for Order of the Phoenix EVERY FEW WEEKS: I always wanted to come back and find what you have put to type. If you put up a sign saying stop: pay me $50, or you cannot read my thoughts, crap Bill, I would have given you $60. AMERICAN money, is what's more.

I can only shudder to think that this isn't the climax. It's like a virgin not knowing what feeling's coming next (So no pressure, naturally. ;) ). What a beautiful present to America for its birthday, Bill Whittle!

Great job Bill.
As much as I like our freedoms however I wish we could tie down some of the libs and left wingers and make them read your stuff. It would probably be a wasted effort on most of them but every mind we can bring over from the dark side is worthwhile.

As always, you have a gift for making me know what is great about your nation(I'm a Canadian, geographically at least). Yours are truly the best essays I've ever read, nobody else that I have seen has ever had the same gift for making some abstract principles come alive. I will most definately buy your book the day it comes out(well, if I have a credit card by then...but I'll buy it as soon as I can). Thank you for another great piece.

you know, i'm currently unemployed, got very little money, but to hell with any bill that gets between me and your book!

Bill...wow. I take a break from reading blogs for a while, and I come back, to this. Thank you. Simply excellent. The words I have aren't enough.

As I sat in my Lay-Z-Boy (the O-O-O-O-O-nly way to surf!) reading the long-anticipated "Trinity", I had the pleasure of hearing the last few pops and bangs of driveway fireworks shows. Even now, at 1:15AM on July 5th, the /barely/ detectable aroma of burnt gunpowder is wafting through my screen door. God bless America, awwww yeah.

As much as I hate to be the burster of bubbles, I think I have detected a flaw in "Trinity". Now don't flame me, people. The essay was as magnificient as I knew it would be. The error is more rhetorical than substantive.

Bill: you say that wealth is created "from thin air". Okay, we all know what you meant. But it's just a little too close to "Magical Thinking" for comfort. See, if Bill Gates' wealth is created "from thin air", there's very little reason why the Libmonkeys can't come in and redistribute it to their constituency, the Idiotariat. Bill Gates, to name just one (cliched) example, has WORKED for his wealth. Just like your unnamed two-time benefactor, he came early and stayed late in order to get ahead. In short, he LABORED like a pack mule to get where he is today.

This is where the Libmonkeys usually get it wrong. They want you to believe that "Labor Creates All Wealth". The snarkier ones have bumper stickers that drop the "S" for a dollar sign in "Creates". Like Noam Chomsky with his bucket of black sand, they take this small grain of truth and blow it up into the biggest mountain of lies ever heaped upon the macroeconomic world. (Call it Mount Bullshit, if you like.) Bill Gates is spectacularly wealthy because he has traded his labor (Microsoft applications) for the labor of countless millions of people from innumerable occupations. The value of the software was greater to them than the dollars, pounds, yen, or euros they earned at their own jobs.

This takes us to Olson's First Economic Law (so coined by Yours Truly): Wealth is created when labor is freely exchanged between two or more parties.

LABOR, in and of itself, does NOT create wealth. If you doubt this, go into your basement or garage someday. Spend a few hours pounding nails into a 2-by-4. Work up a good sweat. Then ask yourself how much wealth your labor has created. Unless someone wants to buy a piece of lumber punctuated by hundreds of nails, your wealth creation is precisely nil.

Thus, we come to Olson's Second Economic Law: Money is the catalyst that converts labor into wealth, and back again.

You have a job, you get a paycheck, you go and buy (among other things) a new Windows application. This has increased your standard of living, hence you are wealthier. On the other side of the ledger, Bill Gates takes the money you and others gave him, pays his employees who actually wrote the software (creating wealth), pays the people who run the Microsoft buildings (more wealth), pays dividends to shareholders (even more wealth), sticks a buck or two in his own pocket (yet even more wealth), and pays the people in R&D to think up new applications, or improve the old ones (yet still even MORE wealth). All because you wanted the latest edition of Flight Simulator.

So everyone involved is wealthier, but it certainly didn't come "out of thin air".

Waiting for WhittleCon1 (sure hope I haven't fargled my chances of getting an autographed copy of The Book),



As one of the "Citizen Soldiers" I have to commend you on your excellent essay. (Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar)

And, as someone who sits on the lower half of the bell curve when it comes to wealth (or lack thereof) I cannot agree more with the "Poor get richer".

Opportunities abound in the great expanse of the United States, and those who do not grasp that, who, for some unfathomable reason CANNOT grasp that... well, they are the ones whom would be better off described as "destitute" regardless of their income.

Never before in the history of humanity has one person had so much control over their lives, their future. With the advent of Capitalist technologies, your average salary worker can now elevate themselves instantly into a level of control before known previously only to the upper crusts of society. (Online investing, banking, etc.) And, in doing so, they perpetuate, and broaden your bell curve ever more to the right.

Up and coming companies now have an even more broad base with which to draw investors, and so called "risky" stocks are now seeing a cornucopia of wealth to be utilized, so long as they can find an "average" american citizen willing to give up a couple moderately expensive dinners a month.

With this, the cycle repeats itself. Great dreams. Spectacular successes. Dashing failures. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually, the people who grasp the American dream, and dare greatness will be conditioned for success. Some sooner than others, some through sheer willpower, or luck. Regardless.

Fortune favors the bold. We chose to do this because it IS HARD! All great quotes, all great people. All representative of America. For Americans, by Americans.

I have heard many times that America is an idea. Seeing your essay, and reading the comments, I have to strike that one down for a grammatical error.

America is most certainly not an idea. Not anymore. And it really hasn't been for roughly 227 years.

America is a movement. A defined shift in the way society looks on itself, and looks to its future. The movement may slow, sometimes falter, but only temporarily. It keeps moving. Further an further to the right side of your bellcurve. Soon we will have to get bigger paper to draw it on.


A fine, honorable and righteous birthday present for the USA,
as an American all I can say is thank you.

PS where is the book, I want a few copies

The Vonnegut story Set referred to is, I believe, 'Harrison Bergeron'. It's one of those rare science fiction stories that are still as brilliant, as cutting, as relevant, & as honestly & righteously mean after 40-odd years as the day they were written. I'll go further: 'Harrison Bergeron' may just possibly be a better piece of prose than 'Trinity'. (But 'Trinity' makes the same point as 'Harrison Bergeron', & about 50 others besides.)

In other news: Bravo, Mr. Whittle!

What a colossal load of crap! Either you really are the bi-polar Whittle of Edison School fame, or you're Rush Limbaugh. You're funny, is it intentional? You love having government out of your life. Me too. Bush Inc., has eroded our civil rights to a frightening level. He lies and lies and we say nothing.

I am personally very afraid for the future of the United States. When it's treasonous to say the WMD never existed and Bush knew it, we've lost more than a civil right. We've lost our individual freedom of expression. Check out Homeland Security's sites, they are using terror against an already compliant population.

We're carving up the Middle East, Liberia, Ghana to protect Bush family(and Pat Robertson, among others) gold and diamond mines. If you admire that you're a fool.

Let's hold hands and chant:

In the USA, WE are the government.
In the USA, WE are the government.

(Unless the election gets stolen by a dimwitted bully, then we are no longer the government. We exist to admire his

oh nevermind.

never blogged before. holy shit.

WOW dalton, i dont think i have ever read such librial BS for a while now.

oh and great job bill, ya got to love those trolls dont ya?

Mr. Dalton...

In an effort to show my right minded generosity, I will go ahead and feed the trolls.

Exactly what kind of a dullard are you?
Your losing your rights... Name one thing in the bill of rights that has been amended since President Bush (yes, he IS the president. Show some respect)came into office. THOSE are your rights. (A cute response to this would be to have you defend Clintons action, or inaction on the DMCA, and then talk to me about rights getting trampled...)

Your WMD thoughts have already been shot down multiple times. On so many levels, high and low, that it hardly even registers on my "Wrongo Meter".

Fact: Information has been published (in the news) that details out the furthered efforts of the late Mr. Hussein's atomic/nuclear bomb effort. Add on top of that the inability to accurately state (or refusal to state) the location of enough chemical and biological weapons to completely destroy the entire population of New York City, AND added to that the Iraqi government refusing to let scientists be interviewed alone by the U.N. The math works out, if you take the time to look at the numbers.

But wait... There's more.

I particularly love the part about protecting the Bush family interests. As the readers of this log obviously know, the US has been getting yearly dowries from every country it liberated since the inception of the military. Oh, wait. No, we haven't. Damn. Let me rephrase that. We've been getting dowries from every country that we've occupied, or made into a colony...
Damn, that doesn't work either. Wow. So what does the U.S. get? Stability, and the knowledge of performing a greater good. (read that as generosity)

Iraq will now join the ranks of OPEC. (Yes, the oil producing conglomerate of mostly arab states that sets prices and quantities of oil production each year.) And where exactly are the U.S. interests furthered? hmm... Oil prices will stay the same, all collective countries will just produce less. Wherein lies the profit for this o great font of knowledge?

You can fear for the future of your America all you want. Your America. A new generation is cropping up. A generation sick of those who damage our schools ability to teach, who blame shift for every new problem that crops up, and who, through scare tactics, and woe sowing, have managed to put a stranglehold on the holy trinity that you just read about. And, unfortunately for you, and those of your kind, we are realizing that our voice, and our vote will be the final proof of our convictions.


All hail the Great Dictator, el Presidente Bush, the first president in the history of the United States with full dictatorial powers! A man completely unaccountable to Congress, unsupported by the nation's upper leadership, a "bully" so "dimwitted" that he had to TAKE the office by force and THEN was so crafty that he was allowed to keep it once he got there. A man who then, once he was firmly ensconced in his ill-gotten position, commanded his mindless minions to do his will for the sole purpose of protecting his gold and diamond mines.

Is that what you're actually saying, Dalton?

I keep telling myself that CAN'T be what you're saying. It's just too appallingly stupid... not just breathtakingly brainless that anyone would make such claims in all seriousness, but that you actually think a NATION (the same one that impeached another president just for ordering a hotel room to be broken into) would be that stupid.

You embarrass yourself, and insult your neighbors with baseless drivel like that.

"Treasonous" to suggest that WMD don't exist? No, just ignorant. And boring. And if you actually believe that you've lost even one civil right or the "individual freedom of expression" (ignoring the fact that you're exercising that very freedom with this mindless rant of yours), then write me from whatever prison the Gestapo takes you to, and I promise I'll bail you out.

Just kidding... I won't bail you out.


Oops... guess I should have said, "... a nation that was WILLING to impeach another president..."

My bad.


Bill Whittle's first comment included an invitation to trolls, so I thought I'd try. Trinity mentions the three things which make America great, and I see all of them in spades when I look at your fine country. But you are missing something - the essential glue that ensures that capitalism, freedom and ingenuity have lasted for 227 years: Eternal Vigilance.

A lot of people round here seem to think that the second amendment is enough. It isn't. If it gets to the point where you need to start shooting cops, you don't live in the land of the free anymore - you're in Afghanistan. There needs to be a will to defend all three parts of the Trinity politically now as well as by force in extremis. And (Bill Whittle and a few others excepted) I don't see much vigilance in today's America.

Capitalism requires eternal vigilance because the same entrepreneurial spirit can be applied to redistributing (stealing, in plain English) wealth as can be applied to creating it. And since stealing requires less back-breaking work than wealth creation, that's where America's finest will go if they can get away with it. I see an America which imports its scientists and engineers while its own people grow up wanting to be lawyers and investment bankers. Someone dropped the ball. Here's a question to think about if you think that the coast is clear: will Kenny Lay of Enron actually suffer for his crimes, or will he spend a couple of years in Club Fed and get out to find a few tens of millions of stolen dollars intact to fund a plush retirement at the expense of Enron's employees, shareholders, creditors, customers and suppliers.

Freedom requires eternal vigilance because people are always finding good reasons to give it up. Once upon a time there was a sixth amendment (look it up). There was also a fourth amendment (I assume you know that one). Now those are empty words - if John Ashcroft certifies you as a terrorist, kiss your rights goodbye. Perhaps that is a reasonable trade-off of freedom for security, but when Congresscritters pass the bill without reading it, I suspect lack of vigilance. And if you do think it's a reasonable tradeoff, ask yourself if you would trust President Hilary Clinton with the same powers George Bush has assumed.

As for ingenuity, Bill, I won't believe that Americans really want to hang onto it until bound copies of "MAGIC" outsell anything you find in the astrology section.

GHS: don't forget that we impeached a president for getting a blowjob from an intern. ;) (I know, it was lying about it that made the difference, and he was impeached but not convicted or somesuch...but still.)

As for Trinity: Hell yeah. Right on. Not really much to say, except that it was brilliant.


Another great essay as usually. You keep getting better with age.

Thank you for this well written Birthday present for America and us, her citizens.

Excellent essay(s), Bill.

To me, what makes America special is not that the American Dream works (and it does), but rather the fact that you guys are the only ones who dare dream it. It's not the fact that your accomplishments are living proof of the vast potential of the human race, but that you believe in that potential and unapologetically strive to realize it. It's not the fact that you are the freest country on earth, but the fact that you hold the value of freedom in higher regard than anyone else. You believe in freedom.

To me, these things are an inspiration, and I would be inspired even if they didn't result in the richest, freest, most technologically advanced nation in the history of mankind.

And whenever I hear someone wail on about how mankind is doomed, how we are not fit to govern nature, how flawed and hopeless and evil we are... I look up at the skies, and I remember that there are human footprints on the moon. And the stars and stripes embedded in the ground next to those footprints.

Happy 227th birthday, America.

Excellent Bill!

A look toward the future. My son is a seven year old with a passion for 2 things, baseball and anything that vaguely resembles an airplane. I was reading your essay early this morning and he walked in sat on my lap and looked at the screen. I was reading the section on XCOR and he read through part of it himself.

He looked up at me with complete seriousness and said, "Dad, can I build my own spaceship like those guys are doing?"

Now you can take that question for the charming innocence of a child, but I looked at him and said "Absolutely." He yawned, said "OK, I'll do it when I'm older" and walked off to watch Roadrunner and Sponge Bob. There is no question in his mind if he wants to build himself a spaceship someday he'll have the chance to try.

And on this Independence Day, I look forward to what America, by the grace of God, will give my son the chance to dream, aspire and achieve.

Dalton is a pathetic imbecile. We actually try to threaten Taylor, in the hope that he may stop the reckless slaughter in Ghana, and the left naturally says that America is trying to "protect its diamond resources." Laughable. I can assure you that if Bush left well enough alone, there would be millions more dead Africans while this empty-headed Engelist would be shrieking about white racism against Africa.

The Republican Party kicked the Greens and Democrats upwards and downwards in the last federal election, troll-boy, and until you understand that FAR more people take national security and national pride seriously, and thusly enjoy intelligent essays by Bill Whittle, than sit around in their communes muttering angrily, you willl continue to lose in a sad, sad style.

Actually Johnathan your post doesn't count as trolling. Trolling is saying something like "BUSH LIED TO GET THE OIL" or something equally mindless. (See Moore, Michael for good examples of mindlessness) Your post is actually thoughtful, constructive criticism. Vigilance is always the minimum price for keeping liberty. If you fail to be vigilant you either lose your liberty or end up paying blood for it. I agree with you that President Hillary would brutally abuse the powers that President Bush now has. If you really want to give yourself a good scare imagine A.G. Ashcroft's new powers in the hands of Janet Reno.

Dalton, we are not the government. We are THE PEOPLE. My power over you is ZERO.

Treasonous? There is a difference between someone calling you a traitor -- which you might agree falls within the limits of freedom of speech -- and actual charges being filed. I personally have never called my oppponents treasonous, although I have often wondered what facts, historical precedent and logic they use to come up with their positions.

Here, again, another example of the panic reaction we get when the left has their ideas challenged publicly. CRITICISM is not CENSORSHIP, Dalton. And I can tell you this: every one of the people who are laying into you now would be outside your house, armed, ready to defend you with their lives against any government that tried to haul you away for critizing the President.

Take a breath, man. And if you find this first blooging experience so distasteful, may I recommend INDYMEDIA.com or DEMOCRATICUNDERGROUND.com. There you will find many people discussing how GWB had Paul Wellstone's plane shot down, among other things. I'm sure you will feel much more at home over there.

Oh, and sorry to turn this into my own personal message board, but GHS, can you call me on my cell please?

Hey, WAIT A MINUTE! This IS my own personal message board! SON OF A ---!

As a freshman blogger and reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog, I decided to go snooping around the blogosphere a bit. A quick look at recent Instapundit links led me here.

I very much enjoyed the essay, and agree with it in essence. Like one previous reaction said, though, I take some issue with the "thin air" notion of wealth creation-- at least in terms of how it's phrased.

Everything comes from somewhere, and nothing comes from thin air. Of course, this doesn't mean there's a fixed amount of wealth to be made; as I read your explanation, I ended up agreeing with just about everything you were saying. But disturbing cases requiring what another poster called "vigilance" do arise and need to be faced.

Dependence on foreign oil is one such case. We are indeed an inventive, creative people, but I think there has been, in our country, a push AGAINST the invention/discovery/development of cheap alternative/renewable fuel sources, whether that be innovations in wind energy, wave motion, sunlight, or whatever else is out there. I for one don't want to be beholden to Saudi Arabia (or Iraq) for ANYthing.

Another problem is the corporate habit of farming out labor to foreign countries who provide cheap labor at terrible human cost. I agree with your implication that corporations aren't as evil as all that, but their rush to the bottom line can involve sinister forms of corner-cutting; again, vigilance is called for. Ask Kathie Lee.

But that's just a minor quibble, and detracts nothing from your central argument. If it comes down to a choice between living in the American Darwinist paradigm, or in some socialist utopian fantasy gone wrong (as they all do), I'll choose Darwinism, the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. For me, it's philosophically healthy: a moral choice, freely made, has far more value than a morality enforced by the State.

And maybe that's the final quibble with the *extreme* conservative position: too much influence from the Religious Right leading to the irony of a Republican Party that, instead of advocating small government and localized responsibility, seems intent on legislating morality in a host of areas that should be none of its business. Better a Victor Davis Hanson (or Jonah Goldberg) Republicanism than a John Derbyshire (or Rick Santorum) Republicanism.

But in the end... thumbs up. A very moving hymn to freedom and America.

Kevin Kim
Seoul, Korea

Hey, me again--

Just to clarify: diagreement, even enthusiastic disagreement is not, to me, TROLL behavior. Dalton had a point to make and that's fine. Sticking your head in the door and saying YOU ALL ARE A BUNCH OF MURDERING RACIST NAZIS -- that's a troll.

Also, unless there is a direct personal attack on anyone in particular -- myself excepted -- perhaps we could attack the argument and not the person.

I say this only because we are starting to get a reputation for a really intelligent comments section, and I'd like to preserve this myth for as long as possible. That said, if you want to see the froth fly from my lips, try insulting Lincoln or Reagan or the Constitution OVERNIGHT. I tend to check my mail first thing in the morning before my brain kicks in. The results can be spectacular, as regular readers will attest to.

Oo, now the comments are getting interesting.

To Adam: good point. So that's TWO presidents that have faced impeachment, to some extent or another, for crimes as heinous and unforgiveable as breaking and entering, and lying about getting a BJ from someone other than the First Lady. Makes you wonder how George W. continues to get away with all these bullying crimes against humanity, and the sweeping away of all our civil rights, and the mass murder of all our sons and daughters in uniform. Clearly we are all impotent to resist the tyrannical will of our leaders. ;^D

To Jonathan: that's an interesting point as well... about the Eternal Vigilance. And I think you're absolutely right that that is an important aspect of sustaining the triune cornerstones of what Bill calls "Trinity." I'm just not sure that I'd put it on the same level as the other three (I don't see it as one of the "foundations" of the United States), and I'm also not convinced it's as threatened as you imply.

There's plenty of wrongdoing going on all the time, as there always has been. And with the interconnectedness of the world these days, the scale and the ramifications of "modern wrongdoing" can have more far-reaching and damaging effects than those of the past. But they're also tougher to get away with, in my opinion, specifically BECAUSE of that interconnectedness. And as long as they continue to be pursued and prosecuted as vigorously as they have been, then I don't see us falling too far behind the power curve anytime soon. But I agree that we shouldn't start relaxing our vigilance now.

And if Kenny Lay does get away with a slap on the wrist, a laughable fine, and a few months in Club Fed, well, that'll suck. It'll be an outrage and an injustice, and it won't be the first (or the last) time it's happened.

Like Bill said, it ain't perfect and it ain't always fair (I paraphrase here), it's just dynamic, invigorating, and full of hope. And you gotta' love that.

And to Steve J: I like your son already.

I'm on a paid vacation right now, on a mountaintop in North Carolina, and loving every second of it. And I live on the left side of that bell curve.

I'm... WE'RE... doing something right.


What a great Birthday Present!

I read this after coming back from watching the fireworks display over the Washington Monument....
And they are very similar in effect.
Streaks and sparks illuminating the darkness...
Spectacular bursts of insight that make those viewing go OOH and AAH....
Funny thing....most of the people around where I was were immigrants of form groups some would like to think of as "oppressed" or "disadvantaged"
At first I thought how great it would be if they could read Bill's essay....
And then I realized, they dont have to. They are living it.
Thanks for writing for all of us

Sorry about that, Bill. :( I was a little, ah, tense.

Thanks, Bill. It was worth the wait.
I'm not a big Ayn Rand fan, I read her stuff and my eyes glazed over. She had one important truth that made her stifling prose worth the effort when she wrote that America coined the phrase 'make money'. We don't inherit money, most of us. We don't steal money, most of us. We don't beg money, most of us. We make it. We create it.
As for Dalton. Please give me five names of people who have been arrested and charged for saying that President Bush lied. You say that dissent is being outlawed yet you have a national forum to say it, this one. If you were famous, like, say Mike Farrell, the actor, you would be on a national television or radio show saying that dissent is not allowed. You would then be, not in jail but on another national television or radio show the very next week, saying the same thing. The very fact that you are free to say that your dissent is being crushed proves the lie.


Great essay. You're absolutely right about the ingredients, and you're even characteristically optimistic. Still, We The People have got a lot of work to do to overcome what resulted when Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin really did look out across America and cry "BUREACRACY!"

From demonizing innovative capitalists as "robber barons" to threatening to pack the last Supreme Court to take limited government seriously, these two leading centralizers and their many fellow travelers have made a mockery of the bedrock of our freedom: the 9th and 10th Amendments.

The Common Law that we inherited from England permits The People what it doesn't prohibit. That's why We The People could use our sovereignty to declare independence from a tyrant and to later establish this republic with a limited federal government. The Constitution we ordained explicitly prohibits this limited government what it doesn't permit -- all other powers reserved to the States or to We The People. You rightly recognize that's the basis of our success and the bulwark for its future forever. We The People are sovereign, a man's home is his castle, and no one can tell him what to do behind its walls. In society we establish governments to limit each other's ability to interfere with our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and we limit those governments so they will not turn into tyrannies that interfere with our unalienable rights. We allow them a few positive functions, things that require coercive powers to defend our rights and promote our welfare. Where we can do it ourselves, individually or in association, the government has no right to coercion.

The alphabet soup of FDA, FCC, EPA, EEOC, OSHA, etc., etc., etc., and all their state and local analogues constitute a continuing monument to the demonizing of private enterprise and the packing of courts with careerists willing to ignore the plain meaning of the brilliant text devised by Madison and others who understood the need to limit government and fragment its most dangerous branch -- the legislature. Both Roosevelts looked at the Constitution and asked "Where does it explicitly prohibit my activism?" Seeing no explicit prohibition, they created new powers where none existed before. Selling their birthrights for a promised mess of pottage, the majority went along. The liberties contracted for by all who established the Constitution were transgressed, the majority imposing its will despite the explicit written protections our Constitution afforded the rights of the minority opposed. And the courts, seeing no evil and hearing no evil as limits fell by the wayside, spoke evil. Rights were denied and disparaged because they were not enumerated.

The Libertarian Party is trying to recapture some of our lost liberties -- the ones not denied or disparaged by the enumeration of others. A constitutional focus would help it immeasurably, highlighting the false oaths sworn by those who pledge to uphold the Constitution and then blithely expand their tyrannical powers far beyond the explicit limits set by that document.

Yes, America is a great country and we Americans have much to be proud of. But We The People have much work to do before we can restore, enjoy, and bequeath the full liberties established by our founders and stolen by the centralizers.

So, enjoy the liberties you currently have, Bill, but think long and hard about joining all those who protect any liberties claimed by any minority. If you don't help fight for every unenumerated liberty, who will stand up for you when the Department of Homeland Security lobbies Congress to give NASA the right to enter your private property and regulate your space flights?

Mark White

Holy Crap!

When's your book coming out; I got my credit card ready.

You really summed up America, saying a lot of things I've been trying to say myself. It's all about the Human Spirit; countless regimes have tried to crush it, but America has the brains to use it as the fuel for our nation. God help us all if the lessons we learned here are ever forgotten.

bill brings the idiots out of the woodwork

Hey Bill,

I read your column for the first time today, and I have tears running down my face right now. I agree with the defroster analogy from the young military person in the comments above. Every time I hear someone crow about what is wrong with this country, people like Mike Farrell, Sean Penn, Al Sharpton, Hillary Clinton, and morally and ideologically bankrupt organizations like the UN, the EU, etc. I would love to smack them upside the head with this post, a couple of times, then insist that they read it. This is the damn greatest country on earth, and I am proud and honored to be a part of it. I am only 23 years old right now, and pretty darn close to being evicted from my apartment because I was out of work for two months. I have past due bills, and yet I consider myself lucky and wealthy. I too have had friends bail me out and keep me going, in body and spirit. And I just landed not one, but two jobs, and had to turn down another, and I know that things are on the upswing. Even in the worst of times, the optimism you spoke of, along with the wonderful people in my life, sustained me. I have a million ideas in my head (books and songs to write, ideas that may or not ever work, but that are worth a try just the same, etc.) and even more stuff I want to do, but even if I only get to a few of each, I will still have contributed my share to this great nation and to the Trinity, which I too, hope lives forever and ever, AMEN!

Damn, I wish I were rich. If I were, I could buy hundreds of copies of your book and distribute them amongst many people who would appreciate it... not just those who would agree with you, but the conscientious folks who disagree with you but are willing to listen to good argument.

Do me a favor and stay ON my side... :)

On my way to America!

Thanks for the inspiration.

I'm about to head out of town, and I don't have time to read the essay before I leave. Argh!

I am printing it out to read on the plane, though, so I expect that I'll get lots of stares from other passengers as I cheer and cry to the essay.

To Kevin, and I hope you are still reading: Check out this website - changingworldtech.com - to see about our possible dependence on Middle East Oil. I am unbelievably impressed by this company, and if they can grow, they can almost singlehandedly rid us of our oil dependency and our waste problems. Heck, I'm applying for a job there. I definitely like what they are trying to do.

I do agree that American companies abuse foreign employees. I also believe, however, that those goverments are to blame in allowing such abuse. If you want to try and stop those companies, there is a good book on the subject. "How to Buy American," is a book on consumer patriotism, and it shows how you can put pressure on companies and politicians, etc . . . by using your wallet. It can give you ggod ideas on how to stop companies, at least locally, if writing to your representatives doesn't work.


K. Kim: I have a quibble with your assertion that there is a national lack of interest in developing alternative technologies to end dependence on foreign oil. At the DOE-funded laboratory up here, the area is cluttered with the remains of DOEZENS of federally-funded failed projects into alternative energy. Oil companies didn't lobby to cut their funding, they just flopped. They were all either much more expensive, far less efficient, or actually dirtier than fossil fuels. (Most people don't realize, for example, that the process to make solar cells generates quite a bit of unbelieveably toxic waste.) I can only assume it's likely the same at other national laboratories, with similar results.

Entrepreneurs aren't slacking off on the job either.

Wonderful! What a great column. I'd like to know your opinion on the correctness on inherited wealth, though, as it seems to play against the general meritocracy you've described America being. Can it be reconciled in this scheme? If you, or someone else, has a view to this, let's hear it.

I'll definitely buy the book, too!

I agree with this Trinity, but have to add what is also true and why our country is the greatest:
Ecomomics of free enterprise based on the Rule of Law and private property rights. Without these we'd be another Cuba, Argentina, Sweden, or Canada. Yes, Canada. But look at Chile, the rule of law and property rights was installed there a few years ago and now they have a thriving economy, outperforming all other South American countries. You give people these freedoms and these tools and you cannot but be successful
God Bless the USA and happy 227th!

I just finished reading your essay, beer in hand, under the warm July sun, on a laptop enabled with Wi-Fi. There is a lake in front of me, and two beautiful swans gliding across the water. The lake is clean, the beer is a tasty microbrew, and I am using a technology that I was not aware existed a few years ago. What a country!

Thanks for a wonderful 4th of July present. And no, I don't mean your mention of XCOR: it's your thoughts about what makes America and Americans who and what we are. I was reading "To Conquer the Air:The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight" by James Tobin just the other day, and your essay is a nice sidebar to the book. So many people have forgotten that 100 years ago the idea of manned powered heavier-than-air flight was about as laughable as, well, homebuilts in space.
The Wright Brothers and others both in American and abroad refused to give up despite bugs, lack of money, ridicule from friends as well as the press, disdain from established scientists and incomprehension from just about everyone else.
What XCOR and Scaled Composites and Armadillo Aerospace and others are doing is HARD. But it is possible. And once we have shown it's possible others will do it and that will be wonderful.
For years after Dec 1903 people didn't believe the Wrights had flown; not until other inventors were trying and succeeding did the public have a proper appreciation of what the Wrights had done. I think we will see the same cycle with "homebuilt" spacecraft. Success will breed more success, which will foster acceptance, an industry will be created and in turn that will help create new wealth.
I look forward to "paying forward," as Robert Heinlein said, to America when XCOR goes public and the Mojave Spaceport is running smoothly. That won't be overnight but (with a little help from our friends) it will be soon. I also look foward to Steve J's son starting his own rocket company. I'll be glad to help.

Folks, Aleta Jackson is the person who invited me up to spend a day with the crew at XCOR. If what these people are doing fills you with pride and excitement, she'd be one of the people to thank.

Once again Bill. Thank you for choosing me as your mother.

I'm over here in Israel, where we have a thriving community of Americans and where the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) just celebrated Independence Day (and Canada Day too). One of the things people say to me here that I chuckle over the most is, "Lady, this isn't America" -- precisely because it expresses what many of us here know very well: we American expats are known for shifting the curve. We're known for our work ethic, for introducing some necessary legislation and getting it passed (i.e., prohibiting smoking on public transportation), good manners, decent driving, entrepreneurial skills, and so on. Unemployment is rife here right now, so what have we done? We've started groups where we list jobs, exchange information, and above all help each other and ourselves. (Anyone can join, not just Americans or even English-speakers.) We're creating our own niches and jobs. It's tough going, but we'll survive. Slowly but surely, our Yankee attitudes are filtering into the society here. (We still need a representational system of government here, and some of us are working on that.)

Contrast this with what I heard a young woman from another culture say on television a while ago: that her life is so bad that she feels becoming a suicide bomber is a valid response. (She looked well-dressed and well-fed, by the way.) Most Americans would never have a thought like that in their most horrible nightmares. When things get tough, we WORK. Like my Eastern European-born grandfather did, before the Depression and after it; he arrived in the USA with nothing, became prosperous and lost it all in 1929, worked like a horse afterwards, and achieved prosperity once again. Like so many others did and are doing now. Like I'm doing. And I have the attitudes I learned in the USA, my birthplace, to thank for that.

God bless the USA.

Heh.. There I was, sitting there, watching some CDs burn, thinking "Gee these are taking forever. Wish I had something to read in the meantime." And TADA! It doesn't get much better than that. :>

To Bill Whittle and all you other readers,

There is a breathtaking immediacy to all of this. Its almost like being in a conversation with neighbors over the back fence, except for the discipline and rigor that seemingly alone among us Mr. Whittle keeps imposing on his thoughts. The few grammatical slips that get past his eagle eye are quickly rooted out by the terriers of journalism among us, so Bill can avoid the crushing expense of a REAL editor for the moment... So we owe them thanks!

Thanks, all terriers of journalism!

Im starting my own little list, but this time Im going to send it privately to Bill, and let him decide where to file it.

In some ways, I feel a growing debt to the people that come into these discussions with a chip on their shoulder instead of fawning adulation. They help keep us (and Bill) honest. Its easy preaching to the choir. Persuading the opposition to sincerely re-consider their fundamental assumptions is hard. Just for instance, Maxi in the recent series of comments did a good job of pointing out several areas of weakness, or un-conscious assumptions some of us are making, and even thoughtless use of what might be described as slogans or bits of dogma.

Was it Menachem Begin (that fabled proponent of serenity and brotherhood) that said One cant make peace with ones friends; One makes peace with ones enemies... or some such ringing aphorism?

This forum is a sort of cradle. We have the privilege of witnessing and shouting encouragement to Bill as he wrassles with his thoughts, marshalling them into a form suitable for his own 95 Theses to nail on some important door or other.

We also have the privilege of commenting, and arguing, and joking, and wrassling with each other. Damn few countries in this ugly world that trust their subjects with that right. Thank God, thank the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and who have given so much to defend them, and thank the people who built and the people who USE the internet.

The djinn is out of the bottle, folks. Its going to be damn tricky lassooing that critter and hog-tyin it into submission. Some people maintain it was Capitalism triumphed over the Soviet Golem, but it was samizdat, the peoples data promulgated by the clandestine use of printing presses, duplication machines, and tape players, that spread the truth of what went on in the outside world, while Pravda and Izvestia and Soviet State broadcasting kept telling their Lies. I cant see how any regime, however ruthless and brutal, could eliminate something as diffuse and inherently de-centralized as the world-wide-net.

And I dont mean to put things into any sort of burdensome context, but....


I say this because, you really dont know who is watching, reading, and being influenced by what is said here.

If YOU are utterly discouraged by logging onto a site like democraticunderground.com or SFindymedia, is that the response you want when one of their usual readers accidentally stumbles onto a section like this one???

I got a wake up call the other day when a young woman sent a private e-mail to me, asking for my thoughts on some issue shes been grappling with, because she had seen some of my posts here. I hope to God my response to her was helpful, and didnt just discourage her.

Most of my career, the work Ive done has been entertainment or advertising. Only a few times have I been commissioned to do work on which peoples lives might be in the balance, depending on my accuracy and integrity.

There was a book published about 16 years back, MIG Pilot I think was the title. Written by the, well, MIG pilot who defected and flew his advanced fighter jet from a base in Russia to Tokyo International Airport, where he and it were collected. The MIG, more or less re-assembled, was eventually returned to the Soviet Union. The pilot stayed in America. His book, his autobiography tells about what he saw as he grew up in Russia, and how he gradually came to grasp that the gulf between the claims of the government and the actual reality he could see, were not aberrations, but the brutal inescapable BASIS of the Soviet system. The capper--- the thing that finally TURNED him--- was the resignation of Richard NIXON. His reasoning told him that if an outraged nation could force its own leader from office, there must be an utterly different ofder of freedom in America than his government had been telling about.

Dammit, Bill Whittle.

Im the sort of guy that cries at weddings, and funerals, and Lord of the Rings movie trailers. I even get misty-eyed for some toilet paper commercials. The good ones.

But after reading the first two parts of Trinity, I had to get re-hydrated.

Im hoping that in some bullet-riddled government office in the Sudan, or in some much-abused University lab where Robert Mugabes police are not posted, or maybe on the personal computer of the child of some middle-level drug cartel beaurocrat (I like that spelliing!), or in a study carrel in a library in Tashkent, someone will stumble across Bill Whittles essays and eventually read the exchanges that go on here, and maybe come and challenge us.

On that day, I pray we have answers that will reach out to that person and make them want to keep talking.

David March

Thank you. I am speechless.

Thank you so much.

I can't wait for your book.

I save all of your essays to my computer, so I can go back to them.

Shira's comment brought an interesting point to my head.

Timothy McVeigh is arguably the US's worst native terrorist. Yet he didn't sit in the truck and push the button. As much as he hated the US Government, he wasn't willing to kill himself to make a change. This is not a comment in support of him. But an observation - Our *worst* citizens don't even ".. feel that becoming a suicide bomber is a valid response."

Excellent essay, by the way Bill.




OK so in general I think your trinity is right.

But I was a bit annoyed by some of the triumphalism and claims of uniqueness.

It seems to me that a lot of what you are claiming as the virtues of America also apply to the other offshoots of the English tradition including England itself. No country from that tradition has conscripts during normal conditions. We all have the legal point of view that anything not expressly forbidden is prohibited. And we all have capitalistic differences in income etc. At various points in our histories we have been redistributive (remind me what the top rate of tax was in the US before Reagan) and then cut back.

Americans seem to consider the constitution to be a sort of wonderful holy document that alone protects their freedom. That is clearly untrue. It is the attitude that caused it to be written and that causes people to continually question their rulers that protects their freedom. To put it bluntly a document provides an incentive for people to obey the letter of the law rather than its spirit. It is easy to imagine a set of lawyers who could conspire and produce a vile dictatorship that would still meet the letter of the constitution. After all until last week certain sorts of consensual acts between adults were not only illegal in certain parts of the US but the highest court of the land had upheld the laws banning those acts.

I voted for Bush as governor and president, but I can't say that I had especially high expectations of him. Wow. I have to say I am stunned by the scope of his vision. I have some experience of the Middle East/Arab culture and people, through my work in the oil industry for the past 20+ years. I have had a few discussions (frustrating ones, believe me) about what is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq etc. with people from that part of the world. Working in business with them is not a pleasure. I guess that is why I am stunned by the scope of Bush's vision.

Your Trinity essay brought to mind the application of American optimism and ingenuity to what the world thinks can't be done. Free Iraq? Can't be done without igniting the Arab/Muslim street, killing 100000 non-combatants, etc. Get rid of the Taliban? Can't be done....same reason. Build a new Iraq? can't be done..blah,blah,blah.

Bush's answer to "can't", is "Don't tell me can't, tell me how it can be done--and go do it." American optimism and ingenuity applied across the world because we have the capital to expend to give others freedom. And by aiding freedom in Iraq, we eliminate a despot and threat, and improve our own lives by providing ourselves with a new pool of optimistic, creative, free capitalists to help move the world's bell curve to the right.

Thanks for the essay.

Jeff Calabrese posted at 11:53 am July 5;

"I'd like to know your opinion on the correctness of inherited wealth, though, as it seems to play against the general meritocracy you've described America being. Can it be reconciled in this scheme? If you, or someone else, has a view of this, let's hear it."

Anyone who inherits a fortune -- be it a wife, a son, an institution or a charity -- would certainly be counted as Lucky (or, Fortunate, y'might say). While that unearned windfall might seem "unfair" to us that aren't so lucky, we, as a society, have no Right to go around depriving the Lucky of their good luck because I have no Right to deprive the one who created the fortune in the first place of their Choice.

If James Wellington Smithers III decides, and so notes in his last will and testament, to split his fortune between his children and The North End Girls' Club, he has that Right...it's his money. To deny the beneficiaries of that gift, that inheritence, would be to deny J.W.S. III of his Freedom to do as we wishes with his property...and the fact that he CAN distribute it as he sees fit is the supreme consequence of it being his property.

And if it doesn't go where he chooses it to go, where would go? And who would make the choice? The Government?? If, upon our demise, our property became the property of "The Government", then we're saying that the fruits of our labor were never really ours at all.

So, I think that crying over someone else's inherited wealth misses the point. Sure, to the inheritor it's a gift. But the point is that, in America, you own your money; and can distribute it -- or hoard it -- as you, the Owner, please.

OOOPS!!! Forgot to sign the above.

Lifespan and infant mortality are scientific data sets that pay no attention to ideology. They have been rising all across the globe, and rising spectacularly

Uh - Bill - I think you meant that infant mortality has been *plummeting*. You might want to substitute something like GDP-per-capita there.

society had a magical way of raising the bottom up, of speeding up, buffing up, and tidying up Michael Moore, thereby giving him the means to beat Michael Jordan in our (sadly) mythical game of half-court, well wed all be the winners and life would be just dandy. But, alas, this wonderful, brilliant idea is marred only by the annoying fact that it is demonstrably impossible.

Also, this is not impossible. Worth thinking about the implications - human nature has always been the bulwark against extremism, and if that changes...

Other than that, great essay.

Ah, Bill,

Congratulations, Dumbledore, this could be your finest magic. Hagrid will be proud, and, it may inspire Harry to set his sights higher than Auror. He could even aspire to be a capitalist, rather than some other kind of Wizard (may already have taken that step, investing his Triwizard winnings in the Weasley Bros. Joke Shop).

Trinity expresses my own version of reality, though I could never put it so eloquently, nor, succinctly. It expresses the feelings I've had standing on I-10 looking across the Rio Grande into the Barrios surrounding the factories in Juarez, stepping off the road and back 2,000 years in Algeria, Syria and Saudi. It recalls a moment on the 'Autopista' between El Palito and Valencia, Venezuela, when I looked over the guardrail, without thinking, and, found myself studying people washing their dishes, clothes and bathing in a stream far below, overlooked by multi-million dollar Chalets on the mountainside above, in a society where only two classes of people exist: the ultra-rich, and, the ultra-poor.

It also expresses the ultimate high one gets when you look down from a window seat and see the first glimpse of the coastline of America, while returning from some adventure in a country where none of this exists.

But, I agree, without "eternal vigilance," all of this could vanish in one unguarded moment. It's the Cornerstone placed upon the foundation created by your Trinity.


In reply to LabRat:

>>I have a quibble with your assertion that there is a national lack of interest in developing alternative technologies to end dependence on foreign oil.

This wasn't really my assertion, but I apologize for not making that clear. I think there is an interest, but there is a powerful counter-interest.

>>At the DOE-funded laboratory up here, the area is cluttered with the remains of DOEZENS of federally-funded failed projects into alternative energy. Oil companies didn't lobby to cut their funding, they just flopped. They were all either much more expensive, far less efficient, or actually dirtier than fossil fuels. (Most people don't realize, for example, that the process to make solar cells generates quite a bit of unbelieveably toxic waste.) I can only assume it's likely the same at other national laboratories, with similar results.

I agree: this is the down-side of research. You have to sift through a lot of crap to get the chunks of corn and peanuts. But I think even more needs to be done in this area: there needs to be confidence that all the crapping WILL produce corn and peanuts (or in my part of the world, kimchi and chicken claws).

It's becoming obvious that a paradigm shift is in order, away from fossil fuels and the combustion engine. I don't have enough brain cells to talk technically about this, but I stand by the a priori notion that Americans can set a goal and realize it. As Morpheus says: "It's not a matter of hope. Just a matter of time." So bring on those experiments, even if they produce mostly crap.

Kevin Kim

Ghost of a flea - what you said. Only I'm afraid to say it out loud for some reason. Must be all those acronyms.

I've read all of these essays and have directed people I love to do the same.

Bill, I'll take two copies of your book and a turn at the wash ramp polishing and detailing your well-earned aircraft.

I laughed out loud at your reference to Michael Moore, the Left's ego-addled attack pig.

When I first heard the title Bowling for Columbine, I immediately thought of the famous midday television-movie show "Dialing for Dollars."

"Dailing" was one of the first TV programs to use a prize-cliffhanger ploy to hold its audience through commercial breaks. Most of the movies featured on the show were well-worn B movies that were cheap for the television station to acquire, cut into chunks, and sandwiched between in-studio segments of a simple telephone lottery.

For example: A scratchy print of Jane Wymans forgettable 1944 mystery Crime by Night, would be interrupted by the local host usually a fairly good-looking voice-over talent and the audience would be told the current count and the amount. This was an identification code and cash prize total that changed several times during the two-hour program.

Frequent viewers were encouraged to send postcards to to the television station toqualify for the contest. During the show, the host drew one of the postcards from the Dialing for Dollars drum and called the viewer at home. If the viewer knew the current count and amount he or she won. Prizes were usually in the $150. - $200.

Having seen Roger and Me, Pets or Meat, and Canadian Bacon, I was fully prepared to be cliff-hung, spun in the drum, and cashed out by Bowling for Columbine. I was not disappointed.

Moore's target audience loves to:
Cringe at surveillance camera footage of murder mated to 911 calls
Laugh at sadly alienated paranoids with weapons
Swell at face-to-face confrontations with disinterested corporate figureheads
Wince at archival footage of senseless brutality and casual executions
Smirk at a South Park interpretation of American History and racism
Nod thoughtfully when confronted with simplistic answers
Jerk the knee

But if we take the time to fully connect the "donut shop chat" logic of this shameless exploitation film into its unintended Moebius loop, Moore shoots himself in the foot.

Point by point, Moores most graphic arguments refute the films concluding judgment.

1 - The US sponsored regime changes in foreign countries were able to massacre their opposition only after they disarmed them.

2 - The US media's use of fear and human suffering to generate viewership / revenue / market dominance is no different than Moore's use of fear and human suffering to subvert his audience for the same purpose.

3 Interviewing mentally confused aberrants such as the Oscoda arcade duo, Terry Nichols suicidal brother, the gun store shopper with his wary eye on everybody, and a doddering old man who used to be an actor (no, not Reagan), tells us nothing we dont already know: Mentally ill people shouldnt be allowed to have weapons. Or cars. Or kids. Or a soapbox. Picture Michael Jackson with a fully automatic weapon driving a HumVee with his son dangling out the window while singing about love through a bullhorn.

4 Going through a laundry-list of invalid debate-ending fallacies appeal to ridicule, ad hominem tu quoque, straw man, confusing cause and effect, hasty generalization, biased sample, misleading vividness, slippery slope, etc. Moore cuts and pastes his facts and assumptions to prove his point: Somebody is wrong.

As usual, he makes a corporate lobby scene instead of buttonholing the direct perpetrators of violence. Mr. Moore would provide us a much more convincing argument about the root causes of violence if he attempted to foist his sniper-styled interviews on imprisoned murderers and gang members. Now THAT would be exciting!

As for the shlub factor: Moore's studied slobbery is far more ostentatious and self-serving than Rush Limbaughs over-articulation and grandiose self-approbation.

Partly because Limbaugh admits he is a media clown.

Happy 4th, all.

Dude. You rock.

.."there is nothing we can say,
no words
to make the sun roll East, or raise the dead...."

Oh yes there are.......:O)

Thank you for that. Yet again.
And thanks also for the recognition that some of us, without U.S. passports, trapped in gloomy socialist gulags, are also in sprit at least, Americans.

Man, that is so fine. That is such great brain jazz that I'm making you a button and dropping it on my site so I never again forget to check in early and check in often.

Stunningly good. One quibble.

An essay that so eloquently states America's strengths whilst tying it to a metaphorical car journey should not include as background music (or even as suggested background music) anything by Canada's worst band - The Barenaked Ladies.

Who besides being pretty left-wing, are an absolute definition of bland assembly line frat boy rock.

If you do wish to include a Canadian band on your metaphorical car ride let me suggest (and BTW I'm Canadian):

The Pursuit of Happiness
Sum 41
Big Sugar

Otherwise an excellent piece.

Thanks, Bill, for another great essay.

I see much the same argument for capitalism in Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" and Freidman's "Capitalism and Freedom". Primarily - true freedom cannot exist independently of economic freedom.

It is exasperating that this argument continues to need to be made. As you point out, socialism/communism has been tried with disasterous results.

Again, thanks for the continuing battle against the forces of unreason.


Thank you. I needed that.

Thank you for the long-awaited essay! I just hope "Trinity" will be included in your book. I promised my 17-year-old [left-leaning] daughter that she will have one of the first copies (or at least a copy from the first printing!).
I can only add to what "JoeWarrant" said this morning.
Last night, I took my wife and daughter to "see the fireworks on the Mall" in DC for the first time. To actually see the display exploding all around the Washington Monument...look, I've been to about 42 Independence Day celebrations, all around the world (I'm retired military) but those others were simply NOTHING like the "rocket's red glare" I saw last night, even if the actual pyrotechics were arguably better on other occasions.
What I'm trying to get at is that your essays inspire the same feeling that I felt last night, walking down the mall, jostling in the crowd (it felt like a huge party of next-door neighbors!) and you do it with such seeming ease! But I am anxiously waiting for the chance to help you cash in on your "$101.30" worth of expenses, so that you may enrich us both.
I must agree with those who have taken issue with your statement to the effect that "Capitialism creates wealth out of thin air." That wealth creation occurs as INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, and usually hapens between someone's ears; obviously, there is NO air in YOUR head!!
Just one more point, that I'm so glad you made into the focus of this essay. Please let me know where I can sign up to invest in XCOR, and the other companies you mentioned. I might not be able to order take-out pizza or chinese food as often as I currently do if I "capitialize" in their efforts, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will CHERISH my memory for the inherited wealth I'm going to leave them in my will by investing in these companies NOW!!
I hate to get greedy, but didn't you mention that you had several other ideas for some additional essays while you were attemting to finish this one? Or will we have to wait for the book?
Happy Independence Day!!!

To Cas,
I used to live in DC (on Capitol Hill near Eastern Market) and always looked forward to the fireworks on the Mall. I would make a picnic lunch and go down there early in the day and just soak it all up. Wonderful experience.
XCOR is not yet publically traded but for full info please call us.

Wow, Bill that was amazing. Worth all of the anguished waiting.

On creating wealth out of thin air, yes you can. When I buy a donut, I do so because I feel the donut in my belly is worth more to me than the 75 cents in my pocket. The 7-11, on the other hand, thinks that 75 cents is better than the donut. We trade, and we both walk away richer. Wealth has appeared out of nowhere!

Bill, visit http://www.xcor.com/ron.html

Ron worked for me for a couple of years at SMO, and I considered him a good friend. He would have loved what you write.

I laughed, I wept, I got up and hugged my poor, confused(often) dog.
As much as I abhor unrestrained adulation........ You are a titan!

Damn, this place makes me feel good! Partially because it's nice to know that a lot of apparently intelligent people feel the same way I do about things, but also because those that disagree only do so on minor points and express their disagreement with class...well, for the most part. Unlike those of you who admit to checking this site "only" once a day, I've been doing so more often and it was worth the extra click once the product finally arrived.

To me, Bill's gift is not in stating the obvious, which he does, but expressing it so eloquently. So many times when reading his work I've said "Yeah, I know what you mean". Kind of like Spock's site...things that are there in your mind waiting to be expressed.

Bill, if you ever make it to WA, take the exit in Chehalis that goes to PeEll and Raymond, follow it to the Curtis Hill Rd...when you get to the other side of the hill, make a left and if EJ(Buzz)Gothard is home, you'll enjoy talking with him. Kindred spirit!

I can also hook you up with a guy who used to fly a C-130 with skis instead of landing gear. Now that I think about it, it's kind of strange to have that many aviators in a place where people grow up changing irrigation pipes and hauling hay, then again, maybe that was the motivation. I wish I hadn't gotten bored when taking my lessons...

Anyway, refrain from elevating Michael Moore to your level in future essays and we'll be fine.



Absolutely awesome. Thank you so much. I will spend the next few days referring people here.

The Meatriarchy on July 5, 2003 08:27 PM:

What, no Rush?


I came across this via a link entirely without context, and now my back hurts because I read it at a sitting. I need either a better computer chair or a printout (but then I wouldn't have had the guts to reply).

I started writing remarks while I was reading, but let me give a bit of introduction first. I'm seventeen--fresh out of high school, without a diploma or even a dignified GPA to show for it. In five months I'm taking an equivalency test (similar to, but not, the GED). Judging from past experience, remarks from people who know me, and confidence in my own main, I intend to pass with flying colors. I mention this only because your brief mention of the public school system hit home.

My ponytail isn't gray yet, but I'm definitely on the liberal end of the spectrum. It's pretty hard to avoid here in the shadow of UC Berkeley, and I make no apology for it. Under normal circumstances I am far from patriotic, but this article made me think about a lot of things. My opinions haven't changed, for the most part, but you've reminded me of some good. Thanks, or congratulations, whichever you prefer.

I welcome informed argument. I'm rereading this before I post to make sure it's clear that I have no bone to pick with any person. Just ideas. (I hate flames, and I hate trolls--can't we just put them together? Roast troll!)

"Where did the $999,898.69 come from? It came from thin air!"

Actually, it came from the winning bidder for the script. If the movie fails, he's out a million dollars. Probably no big loss--that kind of person can usually afford a mistake here and there. If it succeeds, you (and he) get even more money. This money does not just appear either: it comes from moviegoers, via theaters, and even more from video sales. Those consumers, in turn, got the money (usually) from their employers. The employers got it from other consumers, and around and around. Eventually it goes back to someone (often a government, often our own) who has something truly valuable, which did not come from another person: a natural resource, frequently gold in the old days, more recently oil, or whatever else is important at a given time. It is not easy to replenish these things.

Not to say that moving money around isn't good for the economy; quite the contrary. But that did not seem to be your point.

"That car, like that screenplay, has greater value than the raw materials that comprise it. Through human ingenuity, value is added."

On the other hand, I agree with this. Value is infinite, but value and wealth are not the same thing. See the following response.

"Its just amazing what people can do when you just get the hell out of their way."

Lack of money can put some substantial barriers in their way. What if you didn't have the hundred dollars used in the last example? What if you can't even get that minimum wage job? Supposedly they're asking for a diploma now (I've seen ads for typing/filing jobs that require a BA) and it's not easy to graduate when you've got a lot of siblings and only one parent. Or you're not physically or mentally capable of most kinds of work. Or no one will hire you because you're black, or gay, or female. (Less and less common, true, but it hardly matters when you're on the losing side.) It's hard to imagine having the time, the spirit, and the hope to write your screenplay, much less the money to get a movie made.

"If you want that game to come out a tie--equal!--then you are going to have to hobble Michael Jordon."

Please allow me to draw parallels back to reality for a moment, just so I can keep up. In financial terms, you're saying that aiding the failed takes away the hard-earned gains of the successful. Didn't you just say that there's infinite wealth for those willing to invent it? And that spending it only helps us all out in the long run? I'm just checking--I completely agree that we should be leveling the playing field, not the players.

"But, for the Berkeley crowd . . ."

I resent that. (Well, no, not really.)

"If you said the former, then we are in complete agreement, and congratulations on your high moral character."

Thanks. Likewise.

"Poor people in America have electrically powered homes. They have the same clean running water the rest of the city residents have. Almost all have telephones and television."

What about the homeless? No, I'm not just talking about washed-up hippies. I'm talking about unrecognized and disabled Vietnam vets; I'm talking about the people who had nowhere to go when they shut down the asylums. Oh yeah, don't forget the kids for whom the street was safer than the "homes" they grew up in. I'm sure I'm missing some people, but ask the next panhandler you meet why he's doing it.

"(You statisticians leave means and medians and that stuff out of it. Just play along.)"

You're no fun. But I suppose data acquisition and interpretation is a whole other topic.

"On the other hand, if you dont give a damn about people richer than you, and everyone does the best they can, then there is no limit to how far right a wealth-creating engine can move the curve."

I'll give you that one. That and the few paragraphs preceding it constitute the best argument for capitalism I've ever heard--or rather, against communism. Maybe some of that good old Yankee ingenuity will find a better system, hmm?

"Since that horrible morning I have had the consolation of knowing that thousands of those murdering scumbags have had, as their last thought on earth, the realization that maybe 9/11 wasnt such a good idea after all."

I did a double-take at this. Can you define for me the thousands--I'm holding you to that figure--who were so directly responsible for the WTC attack that they might only upon their deathbeds regret that it occurred? Or if you simply mean supporters, do you believe death will shake their faith? This topic I wish to argue least of all (there is nothing defensible about mass murder) but I would like it if you clarified that number.

Replies to comments:

"President Bush (yes, he IS the president. Show some respect)"

Actually, that's what I like about this country. I can say the president is an idiot if I want to. I'm not saying it, because I don't think it's true (never having met the guy), but I could.

"Add on top of that the inability to accurately state (or refusal to state) the location of enough chemical and biological weapons to completely destroy the entire population of New York City, AND added to that the Iraqi government refusing to let scientists be interviewed alone by the U.N. The math works out, if you take the time to look at the numbers."

They say there isn't, therefore there is? I agree, secrecy is HIGHLY suspicious, but it's hardly conclusive.

"Uh - Bill - I think you meant that infant mortality has been *plummeting*."

I wondered about that one too . . .

". . . Canada's worst band - The Barenaked Ladies."

To each his own.

I gave my e-mail address because I'll probably forget to check back for replies and it would be nice to hear another viewpoint on the things I mentioned. Go easy on me.


Oh, yeah. And before pouncing (or just pointing out an error), consider whether it might be because I'm posting this at four in the morning and I've been up most of a day. If not, go for it.


Relsqui - the gold and the oil are as worthless as the movie script without people willing to pay for things made out of the gold and the oil. And where does the money that they buy those things with come from? Sure, it's comparatively easier to sell a lump of gold than it is to write a million-dollar script, but how do you plan to GET the lump of gold? You have to prospect, build a mine, dig (or hire diggers), smelt, market.

You or I could very well be sitting on a goldmine, but it is of no value to us if A) we don't know how to get it out from the ground and to the precious metal market and B) there's no one willing to pay for it.

Wealth is always created, and created through trade. If you're a baker, your profession could feed you, right? Nope. You have to get grain from somewhere. So do you become a farmer as well as a baker? Or do you buy grain from a farmer (for whom the excess grain was intrinsically worthless until you paid for it), to use your skills (which without the grain from the farmer, were also intrinsically worthless) to produce bread to sell to people whose professions don't produce anything edible?

One of your customers owns a deli. He uses the bread you baked to make sandwiches which he sells. Already the fruits of the farmer's labor have been increased in value many times over. His sandwich shop becomes popular, and the businesses around it get more customers. All those business-owners can now afford Ivy League schools for their children. The schools get richer. The children graduate and get high-paying jobs. They create more wealth than they would have both by their labor and by consuming the fruits of the labor of others.

It really seems impossible - all this HAS to come from something! It does. But not from oil wells or gold mines or the oppressed masses. It comes from every single business venture on earth. A business, by definition, exists to add value to something. And if we can all agree that you as a baker gave the farmer's grain more value by baking it into bread, and that this added value came from nothing other than the abstract concept of your work, and that all other businesses do likewise, how can anyone claim with a straight face that this does not add up to all the money in the economy? In other words, this time not mine, the wealth of nations?


I knew someone would mention Rush!! Valid yes - I just don't own any of their music and never was a Rush fanatic.

Liked Neil Peart's recent book "Ghost Rider" though but more because he and I share a common passion - motorcycle touring.

I am now waiting for someone to mention Canada's most overrated band - The Tragically Hip (heehee).


I'd also like to take you up on the wealth generating question.

If you really think about it, how can you *really* create wealth out of nothing? You can maybe toss some seeds in the ground and farm. You've got potatoes - that's wealth. Or you can cut down some wood and trade it to the people who're growing potatos. Now you both gain.

It'd be even better if one of you was smart enough to figure out how to grow crops more efficiently, by rotating them and fertilizing them properly. Now you get more crops in the same amount of time for less work . That breakthrough - that wealth - came right out of your head. It was totally science & engineering. IMO, science & engineering are the real generators of wealth - they are the factors that boost productivity and make it possible to get more wealth out of less labor or capital.

Now, the ultimate source of energy in those transactions is the sun. Often downstream versions of this ultimate source are considered "exhaustible" natural resources. But it's worth noting that many natural resources don't disappear in a puff of smoke when we use them. They just become harder and more energetically expensive to reclaim. For example, if it was really worth the energy to do so, we could spend the energy to dramatically reduce the entropy of all that discarded aluminum in garbage dumps. Then we'd once again have a lump of aluminum to do what we pleased with. Some conversions are less reversible, e.g. combustion reactions, but generally speaking most reactions can be reversed given enough energy and the right catalyst - which means, if it's worth the cost to do so. Sometimes it's not, and in that case alternatives are found.

Consider oil, for example. If it becomes harder to drill oil fields, the price of oil will start rising, and alternate energy sources will be brought online as they become cost-effective when compared with oil. It won't be an overnight depletion, because utilization doesn't grow in such large stair-step increments. Capitalism warns us through rising oil prices that it's now cost-effective to develop alternate energy and bring it to market.

And you know what? I'm really not worried about whether we'll successfully develop an alternate energy replacement for oil, because nuclear power + fuel cells will work just fine if it really comes to that. Remember, nuclear power has worked in Europe and Japan for decades without incident. Right now it's cost free for lefties to oppose nuclear power utterly, but if and when it ever became a choice between returning to a pre-industrial economy and using nuclear power...well, I think attitudes would change pretty fast. After all, even Berkeley has roads, does it not?

Now, this is not to say that the putative depletion of oil is likely to transpire in just this way, but this is just an "if all else fails" kind of argument.

Anyway - just to wrap up kind of a digressive comment: The sun is the ultimate source of energy, and thus wealth. Technology lets us convert the downstream products of solar energy into wealth with less expenditure of labor & capital. Boost technology, and you boost wealth production.

Some post mentioned alphabet soup, and as a retired aviator I've used many acronyms as memory aids. When I hear CFI from now on, I will remember not only Civilian Flight Instructor, but your essay.

Capt. Ed

I especially love folks who bring up the homeless and have clearly never actually TALKED to a homeless person in their lives. It might amaze you to know that there are government and state agencies who actually try to find homes and jobs for these people. It might actually amaze you to find out that there are people who are homeless by choice. They prefer life on their own, to putting up with people telling them how to live. It's not true of every homeless person, of course.
It is something the Left will not admit, that there are people who chose to live that way, for whatever reason.

You know, I used to pack pears for a living. I got piece rate, $0.50 a box. I took advantage of government training, went back to school and wound up doing computer support at $51k a year. And, while I've been out of work for a year now, and probably will wind up making less at a new job, I am still optimistic that I can do it again.
I am grateful to have that safety net of unemployment, but I would much rather work and take care of myself. You give up too much self-respect by taking money you didn't work for.

Great stuff as usual, Bill!

Fantastic Bill! Wonderful essay. And if possible, even better on the second read through. Have a good rest, YOU'VE EARNED IT!

Hi all, I haven't read all the comments yet, (but I will,)..... but I wanted to say I did read "Trinity" at work and I did not lose my job, for all who were concerned, it was a slow news day.... YAST (Yet another saddam tape) and The Nathan's Hot Dog eating Contest....

First of all I do not always agree with Bill, and I happen to LIKE NPR (I guess I have to go sit in the back when he says "hop in the car" so I can't touch the radio dial! meanie) and about health care, well... that is the prinicple behind any insurance.... you pay car insurance and you may never (knock on wood) need to file a claim, therefore you are paying for something all along that you may never need.

But those things aside, I absolutely adore Bill's writing, and I am always eager to read what he has to say.... and I am not saying he is style above substance, he has *both* the sizzle and the steak. What a guy.

One other thing I want to add: Please try to curb your enthusiasm for taking on Michael Moore, it cheapens what you are trying to say by reducing yourself to his level.... and for the record, I have happily purchased a few of MM's books, but I have never re-read anything MM has written, and I have re-read every essay Bill had put together.... MM is entertaining, but Bill's writing is much more than merely entertaining, it is stimulating and emotionally rewarding, and thoughtful and all the things MM tries to be when he writes. Ultimately MM just gives up trying and resorts to just being funny or witty. Which is fine. But that lowers the bar, I think.

And Bill raises the bar and I am grateful he works all those long hours staring at a CRT and then tries (and succeeds) at putting his thoughts into words. A writer isn't someone who thinks about writing, a writer is someone who writes.

Absolutley excellent! You're a gifted writer with a rare gift for pointing out, to the clowns of institutionalized envy, things that should be obvious. Your rant should be mass marketed in the colleges of America -- particularly in their economics and sociology departments. Thanks for using your eloquent literary skills in dispelling the nonsense that we've been subjected to daily from grade school on.

The Tragically Hip - love 'em. I have this nagging feeling that they're tinfoil-hat wearing lefty moonbats under that bluesy rock greatness, but I've learned to steer clear of the political opinions of the entertainment industry - I don't want to run out of things to entertain me.

Relsqui wrote: "...and it's not easy to graduate when you've got a lot of siblings and only one parent[...]It's hard to imagine having the time, the spirit, and the hope to write your screenplay, much less the money to get a movie made...."

JK Rowling was a single parent, raising her daughter in Scotland, taking advantage of the safety net (not hammock) and writing, writing, writing her story long-hand, in cafes while she was inbetween jobs (though not homeless.) She is now richer than the Queen of England (who, as far as I know, made her money the real old fashioned way)..... JK Rowling created wealth from thin air, and she earned it by using her creative energy. (I much prefer her example than "Weekend at Bernies 2," but then again she isn't an American.)

Regarding the generation of wealth:

I had someone write me personally explaining he was still confused. Like Relsqui, he couldn't get over the idea that it was a dog going in circles, chasing it's own tail.

Well, looking down on it, it does look circular. But looking at it from the side, it's a screw, a helix -- it's a damn parking garage ramp. The cars are not really going around and around -- they're going around and UP.

Here's what I wrote to the guy who e-mailed me:

Let's say you and I are cavemen. We're hunter-gatherers.

I'm mostly a gatherer, and so I make a pretty good basket. My spear, however, is crooked, flimsy and won't fly straight. You on the other hand make a mean spear, but your basket looks like a bird's nest and won't hold a thing.

Now if I give you one of my excellent baskets in exchange for your spear, we are BOTH richer. Think of it this way. After the trade, we both go home, stack spears and baskets, and realize that both the guy with the new basket and the guy with the new spear have a better inventory than they did before they met. They are both wealthier.

What is something worth? Simple. It is worth what someone is willing to pay for it --give up for it, in other words. If your mountain tribe has nothing but furs, and my seaside tribe has nothing but seashells, what do you think happens to the two guys who come back to their villiages after making a trade? The single seashell in the mountain village is rare and valuable; ditto the soft fur on the beach. Both those peopole are richer, despite the fact that nothing new was made, only traded.

The screenplay generates a million dollars from thin air because ultimately, at the end of the chain, someone is willing to work -- dig a ditch, sow some corn -- and take a bit of that work compensation -- $8.00 -- and trade it for two hours in the movie theatre. The farmer is taking a little of the work he put into planting, and cashes it in for a movie. The screenwriter, on the other hand, takes some of his screenplay work effort, and buys some corn on the cob. Every trade is a raise in value and therefor, it really does create wealth from thin air.


Those people, in turn, came into their money by sweating and thinking their way into producing new stuff.

Hope that helps.

By the way, Relsqui, I might frame your comments and put them on my wall. You are a textbook example of what reasoned discourse is supposed to be about. You come in armed with intelligence, decency, passion, and AN ARGUMENT. It is an absolute pleasure to have you here, and I hope you return frequently.

Thank you, Bill.

Great stuff, Bill.

I live in Berkeley, and I am always greatly amused when the lefties claim that big government is necessary to control big business. My counter-argument goes something like this:

Bill Gates cannot get a single penny of my money if he doesn't give me something I want. If I don't like the stuff he makes, he isn't getting my money. There's always Mac, LINUX, etc.

If I give my money to Bill Gates, I can be sure of two things: 1)I'm getting something I want (or think I want) and 2)I'm getting something at all. Not so with the government. The government can take my money and use it in any way they feel like (and very often, waste it). And it doesn't matter if a majority of voters has to approve it. In the private sector, it doesn't matter what the majority thinks. I have to approve it for Bill Gates to get my money.

Excellently written. Thanks Bill, you managed to express what's in my heart better than I ever could.

Thanks for Trinity, Bill. America kicks ass in its sleep!


I have to agree with you in that you can, indeed call the president an idiot if you wish, and that the constitution defends such actions.

However, the statement was not in an effort to curb backlash at a public figure. It's actually very simple. If you have a high fever, and I refer you to someone, would I refer you to "Bantam" or would I refer you to "Doctor Bantam"? There really is no difference with either term. Both are, indeed referring to the same person. However, the latter shows at least some kind of acknowledgement of that persons position. If you fail to acknowledge the position, how can you debate it?

Second analogy...On the WMD thing...

Let's say for the sake of argument that you received a loan for a car. An agreement of sorts, to pay back the loan, etc... And you haven't paid it.

You talk to the bank, who is willing to work with you on the problem (They want the loan paid) and you continue to claim that you paid the loan off already.

Now, the bank has documents bearing your signature, and it also has payment records for the loan. They don't match up to your claims at all. When they attempt to clarify this over the phone with you, you block their incoming calls.

Then, the repo man comes. You beg, and promise to unblock the phone and talk to the bank. So a dialog is started. After about three months of phone calls, you reach a monthly payment plan that is the same as the old one, but this time, the bank includes a clause... Failure to Pay, and you will not only lose the car, but the loan interest will be paid through a seizure of your assets.

You get your check deposited at the bank, so the bank also has, in their posession, sufficent evidence to show that you can AFFORD the loan, you just won't pay it.

You bow and scrape to their demands. But you still don't pay. You just can't seem to find the money that you had set off to the side. Eventually, the bank grows weary of this, and the next time they send out the repo man, they also send along a lawyer with a judgement issued against you, a policeman, and an assessor.

But, upon entering your house, they can't find the money the bank shows you made. You don't have it sitting on the credenza with your car keys. Where, oh where did it go?

That's the story on Iraq. But (as I'm fond of saying...) there's more... It involves a little bit of quantum physics...(the dead/alive superstate cat)

There is no way of knowing if you have the money stashed in your house, or if you blew it all somewhere else UNTIL your house is entered. And once they enter the house, they know, but the knowledge may or may not do them any good depending on whether you liked to treat friends, or stuff your mattresses.

Ski, who loves analogies.

thanks. i usually skim these, but i read this from start to finish. i've always believed, but you are proof. again, thanks.


I was thrilled, encouraged and challenged by your American Trinity essay. It was most excellent.

I would like to suggest the inclusion of the Divine Trinity as being key to what made and sustains America. While I agree that Guts and Guns are not fundamental to the American Trinity (too much like "might makes right"), the inclusion of the Divine Trinity (God) is quite appropriate. Among other things, He provides the influence for Freedom to remain "the ability to do what we should (in the sense of personal responsibility)" and not to wander off into being a "license to what we want."

In rejecting God as being a fundamental ingredient of your Trinity, you noted that "the Arabs have God." That was an "Ouch!" The god that the Arab terrorists are claiming to sanction their violence is not the God I'm recommending, neither is the god the KKK claims to sanction racism. Not everyone who claims to have the "blessing" of God upon their words and actions does. As a result of the claims of some real wackos, God has got a bum rap. As a result of some judgmental Baptist fundamentalists, God has really got a bum rap. But, let's not "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Again, thanks so much for your excellent essay. I've also enjoyed many of the thoughtful posted comments.

Downey, CA





Thanks Bill.


I'd like to disagree with you - and your own comments tend to disprove your assertion.

You suggest the inclusion of the Divine Trinity as one of America's strengths - and then reject several different interpretations of that particular Diety.

Part of America's strength is in NOT advocating any particular interpretation of faith. I am a Pagan. I have friends who are Jewish, Catholic, Athiest, Puzzled, and Muslim - We take everyone with the sole request that you let everyone deal with God on their own terms. And THAT is a strength indeed. In a way, it falls under Optimism. We're optimistic that we CAN all live together despite our differing faiths. It's also kinda Capitalistic, with souls as the currency - Let the best product win!


For those confused about the generation of wealth (and I realize I'm coming late to the table!) let me ask a single question:

Do you believe there is more Wealth in the world today, or 100,000 years ago (or even 1,000 years ago)? If Wealth is a zero-sum game and cannot be created, we should be at the exact same level - it will only have been shifted around.

I think it's pretty clear that Bill has it right.


To the chorus, I add "Excellent essay, Bill."
It is your best to date.

The thoughts on vigilance by other posters are also well wrought. From within and without there are those who wish us harm, on many levels.

However, I think capitalism's genie (preparing to remove Bill's money worries upon release of the book) will always find a way to win.

Link below from a popular bay area classified site no less..

"Get paid to do/provide my algebra homework"

Thanks again, Bill.

Okay, I lied, I did remember to come back and read. Here's a briefer set of replies than my last:

I have indeed talked to homeless people. I also know people (not currently homeless) who like the idea of being so, for the reasons mentioned. However, those people are not relevant to my note. I'm talking about people for whom staying fed and healthy are daily trials.

The hunter-gatherer analogy works for me. I could point out that in the modernized version, we're using resources faster than they are replenished, but that's a whole other basket of fish. (Pun intended. Let fly your rotten veggies.)

Apparently I communicated, among other things, that I'm not just a voice for a static position. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, and thanks for responding in kind.

Milodar: Curiosity compels me ask, where in Berkeley are you? (I won't use the information other than to ruminate on the smallness of the world, nor will I blame you for not answering.)

I'm dropping the argument about the proper form of address, just because I don't feel strongly about it one way or the other. I'll use whatever doesn't bother the people I'm talking to.

Ski: I see your point about WMD (and I like the Schroedinger's cat analogy), but it's serious enough that I'll remain wary until I've looked at more solid data. To paraphrase a friend of mine: On the important issues (e.g. god, sex, war, and other questions of life and death), if you have a simple and clear-cut opinion, you're not thinking about it hard enough.

Mm, brain food.

You're such a great influence in my life Bill. Thank you for all of your inspired words. I'll take your ideals to my own grave.

Awesome stuff.


I do indeed reject several interpretations of God, as noted. However, to the extent that our money has "In God We Trust" on it, there is an endorsement, not the establishment of a religion, by our early government. Further, the inclusion of God, or the limited endorsement He gets from our money, as a rather broad concept is very positive in the fabric of our nation. Although, as the Founding Fathers realized, official government support of, say, the Episcopalians, would not be helpful, i.e. would be divisive.

My concept of God includes many Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Puzzled, Pagans, and even some Baptists. This list is not intended to be closed.

I do not include in my definition of God the murderous, vengeful, hate-filled actions of terrorists.

I agree that an American strength is to "let everyone deal with God on their own terms." An effective relationship with God cannot be formed any other way. I do not see the God of the Bible trying to force Himself upon anyone, nor recommending it.

I would certainly want all of us to live together, work together, and enjoy each other's company regardless of theological specifics. While I recommend God for everyone and see Him as a strong unifying force, I'll have to admit "the devil's in the details."


Thanks again everyone, for the mind expanding comments. Im fairly reeling here.

I would appreciate it if someone could address the issue of money, and the related issue of intrinsic worth. We tend to think of the coins, and dollar bills, and such, as having intrinsic worth. But it seems to be the same sort of shorthand that makes me begin to think I really am MOVING a file into a folder when I drag the icon of a document and release the mouse button when I reach the icon of the folder... etc. In our rampantly technological culture we take much comfort in simplifying metaphors that allow us to operate without having to THINK about the underlying reality. But there are pitfalls. It can be dangerous to forget that the symbol is NOT the THING it refers to.

When someone raises the issue of homeless people, I recall reading a discussion in 1978 during the Carter presidency, mainly between Jerry Brown (yes, current mayor of Oakland & former Governor of California) and a psychologist by name of Thomas Sasz.* The essential point of their conversation was that most inmates of mental hospitals were simply being incarcerated against their will for being different from the rest of us. At the time, this was a point that appealed to a lot of folks. About that same time, it was learned that the mental institutions of many states, particularly those of Virginia, had routinely been sterilizing inmates who were deemed insane, defective, or imbeciles.
The problem was that our mental institutions had for much of the 20th century quietly served as test facilities for a horrifying pseudoscience called eugenics. For perspective you might check an article in Boston Magazine by Welling Savo (URL--http://www.bostonmagazine.com/special1/eugenics_1202.shtml)
Heres a quote: "It is better for all the world, if . . . society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind," wrote Bostonian and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a 1927 decision upholding the sterilization of a Virginia woman against her will. "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

A 1967 documentary film by Frederick Wiseman had ignited a national controversy that came to a crisis during my last year of college in 1972. The film Titticut Follies was by accounts, a reasonably accurate rendering of conditions in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. The filmmakers originally had been given permission to make the documentary by Massachusetts officials, but the finished film was so shocking the state went to court to prevent its distribution. The film showed the horrendous conditions typical of mental institutions--- human shit smeared on the walls, patients docilated by drugs that make them drooling zombies, or otherwise acting out violently, staff and doctors exhausted and pushed beyond their limits by impossible budgets and demands. Who wants to have their hospital shown in that light?

When the film was finally released from the courts, it became a rallying point for opponents of the mental hospitals. It is important for people now to realize that the legislation that closed most mental hospitals and released their patients into the general population was drafted and passed by the U.S. Congress at a time when both the executive and legislative branch were controlled by the Democratic Party. The legislation was meant to be compassionate, an end of repression for a group of victimized people. In fact, it may be less horrible to be out on the streets than to be in a hospital under the conditions that prevailed forty years ago... I dont know. But it is interesting that so many young people today are convinced that homelessness is the result of Ronald Reagan, and every other Republican bogeyman that has ever held public office.

(Check also this URL: http://cappsfamily.hypermart.net/The%20Foetid%20Halls.htm)

Why am I bringing this up here? Oh, yeah... because the challenge of the homeless problem was mentioned in articulate and thoughtful post a ways back up the page (by Relsqui on July 6, 2003 04:11 AM)

And the point of all that is that it is one of many situations we have inherited that have a history stretching back many generations. Well-intentioned if mis-guided efforts and solutions have been advanced as long as anyone can remember. I have to admit, I sometimes indulge in calling the Democrats a bunch of hypocrites for passing the legislation that closed the hospitals without insuring some safety net but many other factors have arisen SINCE then, economic dislocations, steady rise in the population of Viet Nam vets with overwhelming problems, rises in the cost of living, the thresholds that people must meet to qualify for housing, the further deterioration of old housing and the razing of dilapidated housing by municipal governments without the creation of NEW housing. Throughout all that, zoning and building codes make it almost impossible to build a home that anyone can purchase unless theyre already solidly entrenched in the middle class! At one level, those codes help protect the public from shoddy and dangerous building shortcuts, but they also make it extremely difficult to introduce innovation that could be less expensive.

Just part of the tragedy of this century has been the energy we waste in partisan pissing contests.

Cant we all just get alo (BANG!)

Sorry. I deserve to be shot for that quote...

David March
animator & fiddler

* Article entitled Nobody should decide who goes to the mental hospital: Dr. Thomas Szasz talking with Governor Jerry Brown and Dr. Lou Simpson. The Co-Evolution Quarterly Summer, 1978, 56-69.

Why can't we just try the bastards who ran those hospitals, get some decent people in there, repaint, disinfect, and do it with some dignity?

I don't mind paying for stuff like this, if it is essential -- and I think it is -- and it is done well. We probably pay a much higher bill in crime than we would to reopen and restaff those facilities. Any why couldn't the more 'advanced' patients be responsible for doing some of the daily maintenance and very basic care, under close supervision?

How many problems could we be solving, right now, by just having a few soft-hearted, hard-headed people around, instead of the soft-headed, hard-hearted morons who screwed them up in the first place?

We can fix these things! And it doesn't have to cost a fortune either.

I want to make this change.

All I have is a well-read mind, carefully structured words, and the initiative to get off my ass and do something. Mopping if necessary.

Am I in violation of some law by wanting to simply fix the problem?

Let's do it. I'll risk being unorthodox if that's what it takes.

Screw the people who own and profit from the situation. I know that cleaning a bedpan beats producing corporate video, at least bedpan shit goes down the drain rather than onto a tradeshow screen.

I am not proud of what I do right now.


I think a lot of the administrators responsible for the real abuses are long dead, and the old hospitals have been turned into community centers and artists' colonies and shelters--- put to other uses.

Homelessness is definitely a multi-faceted problem (boy, forgive me for trafficking in the "Bleedin' Obvious" NOW!) --- it's a lot more than just providing minimal shelter, more than meals, more than jobs....

In some ways homelessness seems to be a function of a fundamental SHREDDING of the values that our culture has professed for centuries, even if we haven't always LIVED 'em.

I'm looking for a place to live right now, because "my marital status is changing." Every time I check with a potential landlord, I'm expected to fill in an application that could double as a picnic table cloth. They want to know my employment history, my residence history, my credit history, my blood type, identifying moles, books I've read, TV shows I watch, and whether I've ever had a favorable thought for Charlton Heston.

Seriously, It's nuts. But looking at it from the Landlord's position, they're always getting stuck with perverts, druggies, deadbeats and violent thugs that can't be evicted because of all the laws protecting tenants' rights. So they in their turn have become more and more selective.

In the depression of the thirties, it seemed commonplace that out-of-work strangers were at least answered at the doors of farmhouses, when they trudged up asking for a meal and a place to sleep overnight in exchange for a days work. Maybe that was NEVER true, just another Hollywood myth. But it shure as shit aint true NOW, buster. Try approaching a middle-class home and asking for that kind of transaction, and you will find yourself spread-eagled on the pavement, with the eagle pecking your eyes out and reading you your Miranda rights.

There IS there IS there definitely absolutely undeniably *IS* a connection between the loss of civility--- the inabilty to resolve fear, conflict, distrust between people --- and the loss of respect for manners, custom, behavioral norms, and adult authority.

A Big part of it RESULTS from our addiction to lawyers and Lawsuits instead of face-to-face negotiations. Bill Buckley said The United States has six per cent of the worlds population, but twenty per cent of the worlds Lawyers. If that doesnt explain Everything, then Nothing does.

There, Bill. Ive just set up another essay for you to spend six weeks agonizing over!

David March
animator & fiddler

Just a couple of quick comments:

Godlesscapitalist: What you suggest about nuclear power, and the left?s opposition to it, is true as far as it goes, but is limited in its applicability. Something like two-thirds of US petroleum consumption is dedicated to transportation: gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. For various reasons, the use of nuclear power is not practical in any widespread deployment for transportation. The US military uses nuclear power for its ships, but even they abandoned the idea of nuclear power for strategic bombers due to concern over crash safety (they had a program for a nuclear powered bomber called the X-6 back in the ?50s but never actually built any, even an experimental one). Nevermind allowing civilian airliners, or even ships, deploy nuclear reactors for propulsion. So a spike in oil prices cannot be fully mitigated by increased deployment of nuclear power; most of our electric production comes from coal, which we are able to mine plenty of domestically. Nuclear is still a great solution to greenhouse gases, but that?s not the point here. We do, however, have some ability to conserve fuel. If we decided as a nation to conserve on petroleum consumption, and made that goal national policy, much could be done to encourage the use of hybrid vehicles such as the Honda Insight (and discourage the use of heavy SUVs and the like).

JK Saggese

Relsqui: Excellent set of comments and welcome to our forum. I have just a few points for you.

>> "Poor people in America have electrically powered homes. They have the same clean running water the rest of the city residents have. Almost all have telephones and television."
What about the homeless? No, I'm not just talking about washed-up hippies. I'm talking about unrecognized and disabled Vietnam vets; I'm talking about the people who had nowhere to go when they shut down the asylums. Oh yeah, don't forget the kids for whom the street was safer than the "homes" they grew up in. I'm sure I'm missing some people, but ask the next panhandler you meet why he's doing it.

The only problem with using the homeless here as a counterpoint is that it is anecdotal and a bit too selective. Bill?s main point is merely that ?the poor? are better off now than either (a) ?the poor? were fifty years ago in this country, or (b) ?the poor? are in other countries today. There are a number of measures by which this is true, including numerical real income, and a number of quality-of-life measurements including clean water, adequate sanitation, daily caloric intake, number of cars/televisions/refrigerators etc owned per capita, etc. An excellent and detailed analysis of these types of wealth measurements is available in Bjorn Lomborg?s book, The Skeptical Environmentalist.
And with respect to your comments on WMD, I would only point out that the President?s responsibility is the judge the danger and make decisions by the best available information, not to make legalistic arguments about conclusive proof. You acknowledge that the secrecy is suspicious, but not conclusive. The only real disagreement we have on this is whether we would have the President err on one side of caution (e.g., react to a perceived danger without conclusive proof), or on the other (e.g., to prefer to wait for conclusive proof, even if that conclusive proof comes only in the form of an actual terrorist WMD attack). I recognize that reasonable people may disagree with me on this, but I?d much prefer the former to the latter.

JK Saggese.

Also, Dear Bill Whittle and fellow poster Martin,

There have been great strides forward in the treatment of Mental Illness (we are assured.) Lobotomies and intraorbital leucotomies are not much used any more, nor is Electro-convulsive SHOCK therapy although Ive known a handful of people that said it miraculously saved their lives... The pharmacological choices for treatment of mental disorders seem to be a lot less drastic than theyve been in past times. But there are still a LOT of mental problems that are DAMNED INTRACTABLE.

Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality syndrome, Autism, Severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, BiPolar (Manic/Depressive) syndrome, are just a handfull of problems Ive read about presenting frequent cases that just dont respond.

But I think the problem is MUCH more general. There may in fact be people on the streets that are very poor in their abilities to take care of themselves hour by hour. Cant deal with a landlord, cant deal with a boss telling em what to do, cant deal with spouse, cant deal with responsibility, schedule, routine, much LESS the VOICES...

But our culture HAS NO PLACE for people living in what has been termed in other places and times genteel poverty. I assume that means having little cash, yet still living in a decent if tiny abode, with sufficient food to keep body and soul together, and the respect of ones friends and neighbors for the contributions one might still be able to make to a community apart from money.

We generally in every community have City Councils and Planning Commissions and Neighborhood Guardians of the CC&Rs (Covenants, Codes & Restrictions.) We jealously restrict the development of low income housing, of housing that is even DETECTABLY DIFFERENT from everything else being built nearby. Residents and Real Estate Agents universally regard idiosyncratic, DIFFERENT homes as a provable blight on the neighborhood, which will cause everyone elses potential market resale value to PLUMMET.

And, God help us all, ITs TRUE.

Because MOST people buying houses BELIEVE THAT.

There was recently in EL Doradao County for several years a ludicrous case of a neighborhood council suing a homeowner to CHANGE the COLOR OF THEIR FENCE from a shade of Yellow that had earlier been approved but is now considered unsightly.

It is my opinion that as much as any other factor, that sort of insane resistance to residential choice is responsible for a great deal of the problem of homelessness.

David March

For some reason many of my apostrophes and quotation marks in my last two entries were replaced by question marks when I posted. My apologies for not previewing the posts and proofreading more thoroughly.



The only people I've heard being threatened with permanent sterilization lately are child molesters.

Oh, and one Republican Congressional rep in Ohio who ten years ago had sex with an underage girl.

David March

p.s., I'll shut up and read for a while now.

A wonderful essay perfect for America's birthday. I think you have caught the essence of what makes America both great and unique. My only quibble is with your criticism of government. You are right that private industry generates wealth and government uses it. But another one of the glories of this country is the way that we have used the government (and WE are the government) to help create a more just (notice I do not say equal) society. Capitalism is the key to our prosperity but corporations cannot be expected nor should they be expected to act for the general welfare. They exist to serve their shareholders. Government is necessary to regulate the excesses of business. The difference between someone like Ralph Nader and someone like, say me, is that Nader thinks private business is evil and I think business, when functioning at its best is morally neutral. The divide in this country is where to draw the regulatory line. The socialists among us would draw it at the point where business is hurt. The rest of us would draw it at its most reasonable point where the tradeoff between diminished freedom and the real public good is smallest. Perhaps you even agree with this. Otherwise the essay is beautiful and moving. The idiotarians will never understand why they are wrong. Your image of Michael Jordan being hobbled reminds me of the story Harrison Bergeron by idiotarian Kurt Vonnegut Jr. At one time Vonnegut was the ultimate anti-idiotarian who wrote about freedom and its loss in many great books and stories. Keep up the good work.

Not fully OT, but not exactly a bullseye either:

The following comments are excerpted from Eclipse, by Alan Moorehead. This is the second book of his eyewitness account of WWII from the point of view of a British/Australian war correspondent. Volume one is called The March to Tunis, in the USA, and African Trilogy, in the UK. Highly recommended to any WWII buff who hasn't read them yet.

Moorehead arrived in Paris among the first liberating troops, and started asking questions of old friends from the years when he lived there. The resulting chapter on the German occupation is called The Four Years in Paris. Copyright 1945, Estate of Alan Moorehead:

The city had not starved. The people were by no means in rags. Except for the first winter there had been heating of a sort and at least enough gas on which to cook one meal a day, enough electricity to keep a household going. They had not been severely bombed. The Metro ran. Most people had a bicycle. The rationing system had been a farce, but then there was a black market for every income. The cinema was working. So were the theatres and the night-clubs (though mostly for Germans). The shops were selling things that had not been seen in most of England for years, things like cosmetics, silks, champagne. Paris was a working and workable proposition, a capital full of business and industry, a place of restaurants and football matches, of hospitals and schools and churches. The Germans had not killed it. Under German rule life was possible, even profitable if you collaborated a little.

Why had they hated the Germans?
. . . . .
The food situation, though difficult, was not enough to explain the horror and aversion of the people in even discussing the occupation.

. . . The behaviour of the German troops? Hardly that. . . . Incidents, of course, but on the whole very correct.

It would have been different had they destroyed Paris. But Paris was still the loveliest inhabitable place on earth. One had forgotten how beautiful it was. . . . The only damage done was by the Allied bombers. The Germans had kept the city beautiful. And when they left, they were loathed.

. . . . . .

[The French] hated the idea of Germans as conquerors in the Paris streets, but this I believe they could have borne. It was the final thing they could have accepted and yet it might not have been too much. Many Parisians placed their standards elsewhere than on the scale of material prowess. The right to laugh. The right to criticize--that was very valuable. The right to laugh. The right to criticize. As I hunted about in this city and talked to old friends trying to get to the bottom of this mystery of the hatred of the Germans that phrase suddenly began to recur. . . . Very well, one said. They had lost that. Did they genuinely mind? Then they began to talk about the Gestapo.

By the end of August 1944 the total number of people who had been seized by the Gestapo in Paris was greater than the total number of air-raid deaths in London. Plus this: a large percentage of those taken by the Gestapo were tortured. They were arrested because the Germans were frightened of what the French people were saying. The Germans were never very much afraid of facts during this war. . . . . Whenever there was a German disaster Goebbels was first out with the news. . . . They were afraid of ideas. The Gestapo was sent into Europe to crush ideas. . . . .

They set spies in every cafe. . . . There were men listening in every railway station, in every food queue, in every cinema. . . . A reckless word in the Metro and an arrest followed the next day. In the end no one spoke freely on the telephone. No one wrote a frank letter. No one discussed politics in a restaurant. . . .

You could not believe your radio. You could not believe your newspaper. You could not believe the ordinary gossip at the fishmonger's. People found themselves going crazy. What in the name of God could you believe in? The whole fabric of normal society which in the end is based on trust began to give way.

. . . . .
These arrests were continuous. After the arrest, no information. If the victims came back, again silence. They did not speak of what had happened. They had been told that worse would follow if they spoke. . . . . .

A man summed it all up to me in one revealing trenchant phrase: "I'll tell you what liberation is. It's hearing a knock on my door at six o'clock in the morning and knowing it's the milkman."


Some thoughts of my own:

The Parisians still had Capitalism, more or less. They still could exercize their Ingenuity, mainly in figuring out ways to insult, annoy, spy on, and kill Germans without getting caught. But their Freedom was totally gone. Result: hatred and misery.

It is obvious that the current generation of French people are too young to remember all this. If they weren't, then how could they possibly support politicians who were against the overthrow of the Taliban or Saddam?

The mullahs in Iran are in a bind. If they don't clamp down, they will lose the war of ideas. If they do, they will be as hated by their own people as the Germans were in France.

Any leftie who can seriously believe that Bush=Hitler has never read this chapter. Or any of the other literature on the death camps, etc.

Thanks Murgatroyd.


Once again, another fine, fine, fine essay.

I read this earlier and it got me to thinking about my particular place in life and how I got here.

I am 37 years old. I am a principal software engineer for a smallish software company. I manage noone, yet I make over $95K a year. I have never been laid off. (Aside: my superstitious wife tells me to never say this out loud)

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My family is blue collar through and through. My father was an electronics technician, my mother a hairdresser who didn't graduate from high school. My uncles and aunts worked as truck drivers and supermarket managers and administrative assistants. My grandparents and great-grandparents were sheet metal workers, bank tellers, assembly line and/or factory workers, and even bootleggers during Prohibition.

I went to a Catholic elementary school in a working class parish. I went to public high school and a state college. I had a tuition-paid scholarship through Massachusetts due to high PSAT scores, but all other fees and book expenses came out of my own pocket. I worked in grocery stores and small department stores when I was old enough to enter the workforce. In my sophomore year in college, I got a job at a small (11 person) software company as their shipping department. When they couldn't give me full-time hours for the summer, I got an additional job working 3rd shift at a plastics factory packing molded plastic cups, saucers, trays, lids, etc. into plastic bags for shipment. The air temperature was 100+ degrees on the factory floor because of the ovens used to melt and soften the plastic. I worked both jobs, one for the career opportunity, one for the money, averaging 13 hours a day. (Aside: I quit the plastics job after I fell asleep at the wheel of my car while driving from the plastics factory to the office building where the software company was. I didn't crash. I woke up when the car tilted when it was halfway up a sidewalk.)

I have changed jobs 5 times. I've worked at companies with 3 employees (the 11 person company had to downsize and I became their lead engineer upon graduation) and I've worked at companies with 200+ employees. I was official employee #1 at one software company which was a mom-and-pop family business. (Aside: one of their customers was NASA. Go figure.) There were times when money flowed like water; there were times that I was notified that payroll only two weeks of money left. I've worked on products that made their way into millions of PCs as a BIOS engineer. I've worked on customized software applications for the military.

What is my point? In what other country, under what other system would I be allowed to work as hard as I do and reap the rewards of my labor? I didn't attend the right schools. I was the first person from my family to graduate from college. My surname does not include a "von" or a "van der" or any other kind of special nomenclature that other countries look for. My ancestors were the chattel that the elites of the world used to prop up their power and mine for their wealth. And they would continue to do so if I were born in any other country.

I seriously doubt you read down this far but, for the record: Katherine Delaney Yaughn will be my first child in November.

I have printed out and intend to save for her a copy of your essay.

I only hope that by the time she can read it, I will have done a good enough job that She will understand and embrace it.


Thanks. You rock. My sleep was delayed for almost 2 hours as I read and re-read that kick-ass essay.

What Ken said, that's my life too. Only my mom had to divorce my dad (who wasn't doing his duty for his family), and we all grew up real fast.

I'm blessed for living in a country that allows me to go as far as I can through my own toil.

Great essay.

Un-friggin' believable.

Note to self: Do not check Bill's site for new essays right after arriving to work on a Monday morning.

Now, I must get back to work...

Thank you Bill. Truly. Thank you.


Bill, I agree with you on all three points -- and on the fourth: government is other people telling us what to do. That fourth is why I call myself a liberal: I don't want a government telling me how to spend my money, but even less do I want them telling me what to do with my body. I'm attached to my body. My money is important, but it's not literally a part of me. I think this means we agree on most of the important points, and just not on the labels -- so here's an idea: let's just stop applying labels to human beings. Despise some if you must for the ideas they espouse, but not just for a single word someone else uses to describe them. Labels are for pickle jars. In my optimism and my adherence to the idea of individual freedom to make choices -- and then to live with their results -- I insist on believing that no human being is simple enough to be described by one word.

"...To hell with those people! Its our birthday, dammit. This one is for us. Americans. This includes all you Americans living in foreign lands with foreign passports, speaking foreign languages and holding foreign citizenships. You know who you are. If youre an optimist, if untrammeled freedom makes you giddy, if you think you know of a better way to do something and just want a chance to try, if you can tell right from wrong and still care about the difference, if youre soft hearted and tough minded, if you think we could all get along just great if wed all just leave each other alone, if you dont like to fight but know sometimes you just have to, and most especially, if the idea of leaving the huddled masses and joining the pursuit of happiness has a mystical appeal for you, then you are already an American in your heart. Welcome home. Get here any way you can. We need people like you."

Bill, in an essay that had me alternately nodding in agreement, smiling, and blinking an occasional tear away, that passage made me catch my breath. My family is very new to America--one to two generations, depending on which side. When they arrived, they worked hard to create new, comfortable, exciting lives in a land that allowed them to be more than they ever could be in either Czechoslovakia or Britain. They went on to fight for America in WW II and Viet Nam, to name only two engagements. I live better today than my parents, and I certainly have more than my grandparents, which fulfills their dreams for me. My dream is that my own daughter will expand upon the resources I have to offer, and live an even richer life than I (and I'm not just talking materialistically).

My point is that the paragraph quoted above describes my immigrant forebears to a 'T'. It reminds us that America is inhabited by people who fled oppression--whether religious, economical, or intellectual--seeking to make a better life under their own star, and who mostly succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

To detractors of the American Way, I merely say: criticize all you like. Hate us all you wish. Gnash your teeth, look down your nose, and call us "provincials". Go ahead. Because while breath and energy is wasted in disdaining us, we'll be moving ahead, innovating on the energy and lessons our ancestors bequeathed to us. The American Way of life works, as Bill eloquently points out in Trinity.

Thanks again, Bill. You nailed it on the head. Again.


I've read Trinity 4 times today from the office. I've read every single comment made on it and I must tell you, any compliment I can give you will fall unbelievably short.
But, if I may just say that as I read, and re-read Trinity the words fluttered of the page like butterflies.


Great Horny Toads!

"channeling Robert Heinlein" indeed.
Excellent essay, Bill.

I would humbly suggest that the Trinity be expanded to a Quartet by the addition of "Rule of Law."

None of the trinity (capitalism, freedom, or ingenuity) is worth a damn if there is no rule of law to punish wrongdoers and to insure that all citizens are treated as equals.

I grew up in a community that received a large number of Vietnamese refugees during the 1970's. One of the things that amazed us about these families was the fact that they insisted on receiving all their money in cash, which they kept hidden in their homes.

A friend told me an interesting story about a Vietnamese family who wanted to buy a shrimp boat and start a shrimping business. The bank had ownership of several boats that were repossessed from their original owners. The family and the bank negotiated a price, and the elderly patriarch of the clan took out a crumpled paper bag, dumped thousands of dollars in cash on the bank manager's desk, counted out the appropriate sum of money, gave it to the bank manager, and put the rest of the money back into his paper bag.

After the bank manager was revived by the paramedics (okay, I made that up) he eagerly offered to open a bank account for the family. They refused, explaining that no one in their family trusted banks because they were owned by the government. The bank manager tried to explain our private banking system, but to no avail. The Vietnamese had seen corrupt government officials embezzle the entire reserves of banks and then close them down, or Vietcong rebels hold up a bank, steal its cash, murder the staff, and burn the building to the ground.

Truth is, no one will work for anything if there is a better-than-even chance of it being stolen -- particularly if there is no chance for recourse or justice. A guarantee of justice -- which is established by creating a legal system that treats all citizens as equally as possible and allows the people to petition the government and tell their story to a free press when they feel they have been wronged -- is the only foundation on which capitalism can be built.

A quick examination of the poorest and most oppressed peoples on Earth will quickly reveal that they live in nations where only a small ruling elite control both the police and judicial systems, and use these institutions to punish political enemies instead of true criminals. They are governments that honor money (i.e. bribes) far more than they honor the letter of the written law. And these governments also usurp the rights of property and ownership, and for no good reason will confiscate land, money, or other resources from citizens in the name of the "state." Think Robert Mugabe.

The most brilliant aspect of our Constitution is that it establishes the rights of justice, liberty, and ownership of property as fundamental rights that are the exclusive domain of man and cannot be taken away by the government. That was truly an earth-shattering concept in 1789, and is still unheard-of in many places today. It's all about establishing the rule of law and enforcing it. I know that this concept has not always been followed perfectly, but it is a marvel that we Americans have always taken the spirit of it seriously and have been willing to spill our blood to prevent it from being lost.

Bravo on your beautifully thought-out essay, Bill.

I am not often speechless. This is almost one of those times.

The book? Remember the book?

I am drooling in anticipation.

You are a man among men. Thanks.

Outstanding. Count me among those who will happily plop some coin down for your book in a more than symbolic gesture promoting the beauty of capitalism.
Thumbs up!
(There was a Weekend at Bernie's 2? That's what I like about this world. You learn stuff.)

Wow, I am simply amazed. I'm going to start making my friends read your essays- I might have to give copies of your book.

I've noticed some things relating to the sort of economic ignorance that pervades everything Leftist. There's an old proverb that goes "there are only 2 kinds of people in the world- farmers, and people who steal from farmers". This was once true. The greatest thieves were known as aristocrats, and I suspect the whole psyche of Europe still views the world in a feudal aristo/serf mode, *especially* the Left. Leftists are tortured by envy of aristocrats and driven by a burning soul-deep desire to *be* aristocrats. All of the writings of Marx I've been exposed to make a strange amount of sense when you substitute "serf" for "worker", and I find it no coincidence that the only places Communism has ever been able to take hold without being imposed by overwhelming force from outside has been in peasant, agrarian societies (serfs can actually find something in Marxist economic quackery, while those who live in more advanced societies and possess some knowledge of economics find Marx laughable). How else to explain the almost comical wrongness of Leftists on matters economic, except in a pathological insistence of seeing the world in those archaic terms?

The Arab world is not the only place on earth with political movements trying to turn the clock back a thousand years. Greens and Leftists and their friends want you to be peasants and to be your Lords. It's a worldview they've never surrendered.

Something like two-thirds of US petroleum consumption is dedicated to transportation: gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. For various reasons, the use of nuclear power is not practical in any widespread deployment for transportation.


I didn't mean that we'd use nuclear power directly in automobiles, though I do expect that we could eventually shrink nuclear power plants to fit in cars.

I was thinking more of using nuclear energy to generate electricity, which could in turn be used to charge fuel cells. There'll be some inefficiency in the conversion, but it surmounts the (current) technological hurdle of having portable nuclear power plants. As far as I know, fuel cells meet all the requisite constraints - high energy storage capacity, manageable weight, and decent power output.

Now, that'd probably work for automobiles, but I'm not sure whether enough *power* (i.e. watts) would be delivered from batteries to fly jets, if we also take into account weight considerations. So jets might be out of the question for a while - though I'm pretty confident that some intrepid engineer could come up with a synthetic fuel with an appropriate energy/weight ratio that could be produced by nuclear-originated electricity.

Of course, this assumes that we'd be forced to go with an indirectly nuclear solution, i.e., that there wouldn't be a shift in people's attitudes towards nuclear-powered civilian airliners.

We could always build a big honking nuclear plant out in the middle of nowhere that does nothing but crank out hydrogen gas. Then fuel our transporation devices with the gas.

Put it out far enough in the boonies, and maybe the crowd of protestors will thin out a bit. And, since it doesn't have to power anyone's house, it doesn't have to be anywhere near a populated area (although I guess it has to be near a source of water...)

Nice job! Every once in a while I want to hand your URL over to some liberal or anti-American Brit on this other forum I'm on, but I dispair that they'd just become another troll because they just don't Get It, and refuse to grasp the truth even if you clasp their hands on it by force.

Quick correction: The South American country is Colombia, with an O.

Also, those of us not "Blessed" with Windows machines get * instead of your single character 1/2 or 1/4 symbols. They aren't standard ASCII or iso-whatever characters.

(And you still have graphics included with unescaped spaces in the URLs, which appear as broken picture icons. Yes, Explorer fixes them, but it's still an error.)

I've learned my lesson. Never again will I only click this site once every other day after an essay comes out, (as compared to the 20-30 times a day I click while waiting for an essay.)

So much has been said here that I want to jump into but then I see someone else has already replied with an answer quite similar to mine.

Argh--I do so much better in a face to face setting...I really am far more eloquent in life than on paper. I wish I could gather you all up into a room to share these thoughts and opinions.

From now on, I promise to check back ridiculously often.

btw: hairofthedawg--we're neighbors. Well, sort of. I'm about 1 1/2 hours north of you.

As I have tried to burn into the cerebrum of my teenager, NOTHING in this life is free. If it is, it's because someone else paid for it. Freedom being paramount.

I cannot wait for the book to come out. Ever thought about going on a lecture circuit? I'd be the first in line for a ticket.

Just when I thought "How can he possibly write anything better than "Honor" ... "Freedom"..."History", you come out with "Trinity". Here I sit speechless staring at the CRT in amazement.

SPOT ON, Bill.

Great stuff, as usual! Loved it...

Footnote on Gonzalo Arriaga, Finland:
see here:

"... In 2000 and 2001, Transparency International ranked Finland first on their list of least corrupt countries in the world. In 2001, Finland was given the index of 9.9 on TI's least corrupt country scale, which ranges from 0 to 10. It indicated that virtually no corruption is found in the country.

In its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2002, Transparency International ranked 102 countries worldwide... Finland came top again, with 9.7 points out of a clean score of 10. Next... [was] Denmark ... Iceland was fourth ... Sweden ... tied for fifth position. Thus four Nordic countries were placed in the top ten. The fifth of the Nordics, Norway, was ranked twelfth..."

Who needs corruption when you've got monster taxes?
Then again, what's the difference?
Again, great job.

As always - thank you, Mr. Whittle.

I'll start with adding to Mark White's point WAY up there in the comments. Total govt. spending (Fed./State/local) is now running at 40%+ of our GDP. Govt. pencil pushers have become an unGodly huge percentage of our workforce.

I don't want FDR's New Deal, I want the old one (that Bill praises so well here) back.

I want to never again get a form letter from a bureucrat like I did near the end of the life of the last company I started who's punchline was: "You haven't filed this silly paperwork. According to our records, you owe sales tax of $0.00. An investigator is being assigned."

We owed ZERO dollars, and weren't required to file sales tax forms with the state except annually. Of the county and city, only one of them tracked the frequency that the state required you to file. The other was inconsistent, hence the insane punch line above.

The paper work has gotten VERY, VERY onerous. Starting a small business now is laden with insane amounts of pointless permits, forms, etc. ad nauseum.

I want the Old Deal, and a flat tax of some sort, maybe get a bit Biblical and make it a 10% tithe on all revenue for businesses and individuals, no deductions, no loopholes.

And where in gods name did the Constitution grant the Feds the power to regulate Education?

And if it took an Amendment to ban alcohol, a manufactured product, how the hell can the Feds. ban pot and opium poppies, both PLANTS? Oh right, in the name of the ever expanding tentacles of "regulating commerce?"

Eternal Vigilance indeed, for much of the Republic Bill and I both love has passed into memory.

Pray we can get it back.

I agree with Serenity. With all these fabulous comments pouring in so fast, if you're not just staring at your EJECTEJECTEJECT.COM screen all day long, waiting to pounce on each new posting, by the time you DO get around to responding, fifteen other people have already done so, they've made the very point you wanted to make, and they've probably said it better. Dang it!

Class act to one and all. Thanks.

To Ken, JKS, and godlesscapitalist, I would like to throw in another viable power source that I've recently become familiar with... waste-to-energy. Power plants that generate electricity, with nearly 100% conversion and purity of emissions, from the high-tech incineration of ANY non-toxic waste. Instead of shipping residential waste to endlessly growing landfill mountains, you slap it straight onto the power plant's conveyor belt, and make electricity. Throw in these little "circle of life" closed loops... like a desalinization plant drawing all of its extensive power demands from its own dedicated waste-to-energy power plant... or a hospital-and-plant, airport-and-plant, casino-and-plant... and you've got a neverending fuel and energy resource that doesn't demand anything else from the planet, and cleans up a steadily self-fouling environment.

I don't know. I just like it better than the inherently dangerous nature of nuclear power, for all the good that the latter has done.

This, of course, does nothing for powering our planes, trains and automobiles, but it can take a lot of strain off the existing grid.


This was just the only point made by anyone that hadn't already been answered AS I WOULD HAVE ANSWERED IT by someone else before me. And for all I know, in the time it took me to write this, somebody else probably made this very point before me.

Good work all. And again, FANTASTIC work, Bill.


P.S. - oh, and Bill... check your private e-mail. You're going to have to call me here on the mountain. I don't have your number here with me.

Sorry all. Carry on.


I grew up in California and remember several family car trips to Texas to visit relatives. And I've always loved the desert southwest and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. And to this day the words "road trip" bring to mind images of distant horizons, mesas and tumbleweeds.

Now that I live in Florida, I'm still amazed at how much rain can fall...

Good points. I think the likelihood of an engineering solution to the question of making a portable fission plant is much higher than the likelihood of a politically acceptable solution; I can't imagine the Feds allowing just anyone with a pile of cash to buy their very own nuclear plant, for obvious reasons. To the engineering question, though, I'd say it's not a good bet to suggest that something _can't ever_ be done, and it probably could be if the end product would be politically usable.

Now the fuel cell concept is pretty exciting, and of course you're right that nuclear plants could easily be used as the indirect power source for creating all that hydrogen. This is the ultimate way to eliminate a great part of our dependence on foreign oil. The only limitation is that, as I understand it, the oil refining process simply takes crude oil and splits it into its constituent components, of which two are gasoline and diesel, though beyond those I'd have to look it up. So even if we did away entirely with our need for gasoline by driving nothing but fuel cell vehicles, we'd still need to refine _some_ oil to produce diesel, which then leaves us stuck with a bunch of gasoline anyway just as a necessary byproduct. It would probably just be much less oil required than now.

I'm also not quite sure where jet fuel comes from in this process, or what the ratios are (ie, the refinement of one barrel of oil produces x% gasoline, y% diesel, etc) or what the limiting component would be--our need for jet fuel or our need for diesel? If anyone here happens to know this stuff or could provide a reference, that would be interesting and appreciated.

Just for kicks, you might check out an article in last October's Scientific American about some of the neat possibilities that coupling fuel cells with a fully electronic (rather than mechanical) platform for a car. The link is:

Thanks all,
JK Saggese

GHS, there are many ways to be friendlier in generating power. I used to work for Capstone Turbine, Inc. They build a micro-turbine generator set that delivers up to 60kW per unit. Some of their applications use the waste gas from well heads to generate power to the well head. Other applications burn the methane gas found at landfills to generate power. So there are tons of ways to generate power, and they are almost unlimited in scope. Some are more plentiful, but people are ingenious (sp?) and will figure out a way to get the energy needed.

Sapper Mike

Yes indeedy, Sapper Mike. I too have heard of this power source, though not of Capstone Turbine itself. I believe that the Orange County landfill here in Orlando uses something similar right now, siphoning off the methane gas from their two existing trash mountains. I brought up the waste-to-energy thing solely as an example of alternatives, but mostly because I happen to have a brother who sells the danged things and is trying to convince me to do the same. His plants range from 2.5MWs up to 25MWs, and then up to larger outputs in chained 25MW increments. And the thing I liked about it (which prompted me to bring it up here) is that it simultaneously offers up a more environment-friendly solution to our ever-expanding waste disposal problems, as well as a method of whittling down our existing landfill eyesores.

By the same token, this is not really what "Trinity" was all about, so I'll abstain from further pontification on the subject in this forum.

I do agree with you though that a nation of ingenious and motivated people WILL figure out a way to generate the energy needed.

And generate a well-earned capitalistic fortune in the process (there, my segue back into the "Trinity" theme).

Oh, and Bill... thanks for the generous plugs. The Old Man read them as well, and is also most appreciative.

Goodnight from Bear Mountain.


Well, actually Great Hairy Silverback, you could say there is a direct connection between Bill Whittles celebration of the Yankee can-do exuberance and your brothers nudging you to sell those Waste-to-MegaWatts converters. Its not EVERYTHING that Trinity was about, but its taking initiative, looking at a problem and turning it into an opportunity.

I tried to write some lame comment earlier wondering if anyones done scientific analysis of the energy content of soiled didees, but it just sounded all negative. Youve provided something here that shows SOMEONE is doing something. NOT just drearily, with the mantle of civic responsibility weighing heavily on his shoulders, but with a sense that HE and his family will get some spectacular benefit from his work promoting a solution to a problem thats all around us.

FANTASTIC! Yahoo! I wish him all success!

One thing the comments section here shows, as you pointed out Mr. Silverback, is that a lot of folks have the raw brain power to CONCEIVE of solutions. And it takes nothing away from their genius to say thats just the first step. But it is also fair to say, it aint a solution until someone is actually testing the idea, and using the idea, and discovering its strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out how to show other folks that THEY will reduce their costs, or solve their problem, by using THIS product or process or idea.

The History of Science fairly HOLLERS that technological progress is only occasionally a steady coherent advance from crudeness to sophistication. I have a book Ancient Inventions that recounts a whole passle of innovations, industries, and crafts that have shown up in different places around the world. In some cases, sure, the idea for an invention may have been stolen, or sold, or honorably traded, so as to end up in several widely separated locales. But many times, it appears that humans simply have such busy little hands and minds that they actually invent or perfect something in several places independently.

As long as humans have been on the planet, some individual geniuses have popped up who were able to absorb the ideas and technologies of their own culture and synthesize some brilliant system--- mathematical, mechanical, musical, artistic, whatever. But until very recently, that sort of genius, rather than share the invention with the world, often kept it a jealously guarded secret.

Of course.

The year, although you dont realize it, is nine hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Youve seen a water wheel driving a millstone. After mulling over that idea for a spell, You build a clock out of wooden gears and bits of bronze. It took you five years to work out all the hinges and pivot points and the length of the wound-up sinew to use, and what shapes to paint on the dial, and how big to make the wind-up key. But if you tell everyone, the bully over the hill is going to come and beat you to a pudding and take it for himself.

Maybe you can get word to the Prince, and he will come and look, and give you a few coils of silver. But its tricky business. Who do you trust with the message? Or if you carry it yourself, how do you get it past all the guards without paying exorbitant bribes to keep THEM from confiscating it, and having sex with your daughter while theyre at it?

You could draw up plans, but the prince doesnt know how to read, and besides, no one has invented inches yet. You might be able to train someone else to build this thing, but nobody you know has more skill in their fingers than is necessary to excavate their nostrils.

It goes on and on.

So over and over again throughout humanitys sojourn here, the meticulously accumulated knowledge of individual genius has been lost when that genius died. Its only as cultures have gradually recognized the importance of property rights, and the consistent application of laws, that inventors, creators, the people who work out the details of a process that actually make it more than conjecture--- have been able to reap the benefit of their own efforts.

Hmmmm. Think of the word royalties. The granting of patents royal. The crown recognizes that it will enrich the kingdom to protect the trickle of payment that rewards the person or business that creates the better beer, or garter, or jackware, or pewter buttons, swords, muskets, or looms.

I think we reached a threshold and went critical about the time of the industrial revolution. But that happened before the Declaration of Independence, and before the drafting of the Constitution. Im not arguing Bill Whittles hypothesis, just trying to grasp it here.... It does seem, as other folks have pointed out, that we enjoy the benefit of several important legacies from the United Kingdom. But even though the Industrial Revolution was in full swing there long before our rebellion, it seemed like the benefits were mostly ending up in the pockets of the aristocracy.

So it is the ideas Bill has kept dragging us back to: The entrusting of the common, regular citizen with the rights and obligations and responsibilities of freedom, and the expectation, and stated promise that the purpose of our government is to secure that freedom.

Okay, so PLEASE Great Hairy SilverBack...

Tell us more about your brothers Machine that converts poop to volts. Or is it Didees to Diodes?

David March

WOW! excellent Bill, I must make mention of the following comments, Thanks :

Americans seem to consider the constitution to be a sort of wonderful holy document that alone protects their freedom. That is clearly untrue. It is the attitude that caused it to be written and that causes people to continually question their rulers that protects their freedom. To put it bluntly a document provides an incentive for people to obey the letter of the law rather than its spirit. It is easy to imagine a set of lawyers who could conspire and produce a vile dictatorship that would still meet the letter of the constitution. After all until last week certain sorts of consensual acts between adults were not only illegal in certain parts of the US but the highest court of the land had upheld the laws banning those acts.
Posted by: Francis Turner on July 5, 2003 03:14 PM

On the WMD thing...
Let's say for the sake of argument that you received a loan for a car. An agreement of sorts, to pay back the loan, etc... And you haven't paid it.
You talk to the bank, who is willing to work with you on the problem (They want the loan paid) and you continue to claim that you paid the loan off already.
Posted by Ski

If you really think about it, how can you *really* create wealth out of nothing? You can maybe toss some seeds in the ground and farm. You've got potatoes - that's wealth. Or you can cut down some wood and trade it to the people who're growing potatos. Now you both gain.
It'd be even better if one of you was smart enough to figure out how to grow crops more efficiently, by rotating them and fertilizing them properly. Now you get more crops in the same amount of time for less work . That breakthrough - that wealth - came right out of your head.
Posted by godlesscapitalist

BTW Anyone interested in alternate fuel sources

or google: hydrogen fuel

July 2003 WASHINGTON, DC/BRUSSELS Largely ignored by the mainstream media, President Bush and Europe's leaders Romano Prodi and Konstandino Simitis signed a historic accord at last month's U.S.-European Summit in Washington, pledging closer collaboration in the development of the Hydrogen Economy.

June 2003 WASHINGTON, DC - With the blessings of a major environmental policy think tank, two global industrial giants, General Motors Corp. and Dow Chemical Company, are getting together to launch the world's largest fuel cell installation yet.

April 2003 REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - A smiling Valgerdur Sverrisdottir, Iceland's minister of industry and commerce, did the honors here last month during the opening of the world's first hydrogen fueling station built at an existing commercial retail site on Iceland's official First Day of Summer April 24.
Ms. Sverrisdottir, assisted by Jon Bjoern Skulason, Icelandic New Energy's general manager, held the nozzle of the fueling line at a local Shell station outside Iceland's capital that pumped the first tankful of compressed gaseous hydrogen gas into a DaimlerChrysler "Sprinter" fuel cell van, brought to Iceland's capital from its normal operating base in Hamburg, Germany where it has covered some 25,000 km (15,600 miles) during the last two years in day-to-day test operations delivering parcels for a major German delivery service.

February 2003 DETROIT, MI - Overshadowed perhaps by the 1000 hp Cadillac Sixteen monster and the gigabucks Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Maybachs and Ferrari Enzos, a couple of new hydrogen powered prototypes - design exercises really - by Ford Motor Co. and Toyota caught the attention of hydrogen partisans at the North American International Auto Show here last month.


Throw in these little "circle of life" closed loops... like a desalinization plant drawing all of its extensive power demands from its own dedicated waste-to-energy power plant... or a hospital-and-plant, airport-and-plant, casino-and-plant... and you've got a neverending fuel and energy resource that doesn't demand anything else from the planet, and cleans up a steadily self-fouling environment.

Well, just to make sure we're on the same page... it couldn't really be "neverending" without an outside source of energy (e.g. the waste from people going to the airport), because that would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Also, while waste-to-energy might have some promise, the big problems are:

a) pollution
b) non-uniform fuel source

With these two problems together, I don't necessarily think this avoid the problem of a "self-fouling" environment. The non-uniformity of the fuel source would probably mean limiting the energy reclamation procedure to simple combustion rather than something more sophisticated (though some degree of sorting prior to combustion might be practical). That would likely mean more pollution.

That said, I do think there is a role for waste-to-energy. And I agree with you on the (more important) general question, which is that our energy problems are fundamentally technical questions which can be solved.


I think the likelihood of an engineering solution to the question of making a portable fission plant is much higher than the likelihood of a politically acceptable solution; I can't imagine the Feds allowing just anyone with a pile of cash to buy their very own nuclear plant, for obvious reasons.

Agreed that portable fission might not be practical for all forms of private transportation, but for (say) military vehicles or jets it might be sanctioned. I was thinking that it might be possible to put in some sort of failsafe on portable fission plants that would limit the potential destruction to that of a car explosion (e.g. a reaction that leaves very little residual radiative contamination), but I tend to think that you're right...i.e., that this would never be approved.

Still, we both agree on the major point, which is that secure nuclear power as the ultimate source of energy for fuel cells is totally practical. And fuel cells will cover the rest, meaning most private vehicles.

Also, I've been thinking that the political climate is starting to change, what with the recent IEEE cover story on nuclear energy and (IIRC) the Bush administration's recent positive statement on nuclear energy, but that might be just wishful thinking.


Ah yes, and on the question of diesel - thought you might be interested in this, a non-oil-based synthetic diesel:

Syntroleum is one of the world's corporate leaders in developing processes to convert natural gas to synthetic liquid fuels. Researchers believe that a synthetic fuel could be economically produced from natural gas that is found in hard-to-reach regions, such as Alaska's North Slope, or that is currently being burned off in various locations around the world.

"The synthetic fuel can be produced from coal, biomass, municipal solid waste and natural gas. And the fuel can be distributed in existing pipelines," Suppes said. "This is a great greenhouse gas solution."

As for jet fuel, I did a bit of googling and came up with this

IMO, if electricity is a given, with some time we could probably figure out how to make a synthetic jet fuel. We might get the precursors through suitably genetically engineered biomass, e.g. like this project for getting hydrogen from bacteria. In any case, I guess I - like you - are not very worried too about oil scarcity as a scarcity/engineering question. It's the politics that are worrisome, e.g., when will we decide to wean ourselves from Middle East oil?

Blargh - should teach me to hit preview first... Oh well, guess it's not that important. Also, please substitute "am not very worried" for "are not very worried too" ;)

Unfortunately, godless, making diesel oil out of natural gas is rather like making hot dogs out of filet mignon. There just isn't enough natural gas produced to replace more than a small fraction of our present oil consumption, & the proven reserves will support that level of production for a much shorter time. That's why natural gas prices have been setting record highs in recent years, so that gas now costs much more per unit of energy than oil. Nor is it really a solution to greenhouse gas emissions; to make diesel oil out of gas, you have to polymerize the gas -- which means adding carbon, which is then burnt. TANSTAAFL. I'm reminded of those brilliant bozos (I hope you know what I mean) of the 1970s, separate groups of whom were simultaneously promoting (a) methods to convert surplus petroleum into food for humans, thus preventing world starvation, & (b) methods to convert surplus grain into fuel, thus alleviating the world energy shortage.

(As a technical aside, it's more efficient to turn oil into food by using it to make fertilizer & run tractors than by making the oil itself edible; & at least until recently, methanol produced from grain required more energy consumption to grow the grain than the energy yield of the methanol. Even without those details, the juxtaposition of those two schemes was a masterpiece of low farce. There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.)

For the moment, the solution to any shortage of oil in the market is . . . to produce more oil. This is technically quite feasible. If you don't want to put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, nuclear power is Hobson's choice. (All the arguments against nuclear power, by the way, depend on the fact -- idiotic but true -- that for political reasons, there has been essentially no improvement in nuclear technology, as used for electrical generation, since the 1970s. That's when a decent computer filled a big air-conditioned room, & your dad's car was a lethal rustbucket with a big-block V8 that got 12 miles per gallon.) No other non-fossil fuel now available has the capacity to supply more than a tiny percentage of our energy needs. But it isn't going to happen until we let Capitalism, Freedom & Ingenuity go to work in the nuclear-power business as they have done in electronics, automobiles, & every other successful industry.

I laughed, cried, and shouted hooray. I pumped my fists with tears welling. Any president, past, present or future could only hope to speak so powerfully to his countrymen. Please consider public office. I will move where I need to get the campaign rolling.

Precisely so; my main point is driven not so much by any real worry of worldwide oil scarcity, so much as a preference not to buy oil from the middle east more than necessary. And fuel cell vehicles are a great solution, but not quite ready for prime time yet: too heavy, too short a functional lifespan, taking up too much room in the vehicle, etc. There's probably no reason they couldn't eventually also be deployed in heavy trucks, alleviating our need for diesel substantially.

For the time being, we do have hybrid vehicles which get 40-50 miles per gallon, which would be a good start. And if the whole (somewhat silly) guargantuan-SUV-fad ever fades, that also by itself would be real progress. What I was suggesting when I said "making fuel conservation national policy," I had in mind something like tax credits for hybrid vehicles (instead of just for pure-electric vehicles, which have been essentially abandoned as a concept), or possibly changes to the Federal CAFE laws. Currently CAFE is a two-tiered system which allows trucks (and SUVs, and "tall sedans," and anything else a manufacturer can even vaguely claim isn't a traditional car) to get lower fuel economy than cars. Now I've never been a big fan of CAFE but subjecting average light truck fuel econmies to the same standard as for cars would provide manufactureres some incentive towards more efficiency in both trucks AND cars. This would be at least intellectually consistent with the idea of making fuel conservation "national policy."

I've heard a bit about this synthetic diesel. The idea of making it from natural gas would be an improvement over using the natural stuff, though as Jay points out, natural gas is none too terribly cheap these days either. However, natural gas is at least "mined" here in the United States, so this would reduce political dependence on the Middle East. The idea of extracting it from coal, which is incredibly abundant in the US and extremely cheap, also sounds promising. But this was tried (although that was to make synthetic gasoline, not diesel, if I recall) back in the '70s with poor results. Add that to Jay's list of 1970s boondoggle power projects. It's possible that with the past thirty years of technology improvements, the results might be better now, but I don't know enough about it to really guess.

Thanks for providing the links, I will check them out about Syntroleum and the DOE report on synthetic jet fuel.

JK Saggese

Also, I guess it goes without saying that the real drive to adopt either hybrid or fuel cell vehicles will have to be economic. Just because I don't personally want to buy middle eastern oil doesn't do anything to encourage my neighbor to buy a hybrid Honda Civic.

I use the Civic as my example because it's the only hybrid vehicle available (as far as I know) that's also available as a soley gasoline-powered vehicle. The hybrid model goes for about $2,500-6,500 more than the various gas-only models, though it does get obviously better fuel economy. The highway rating is 51 for the hybrid and 38 for the gas-only. Assuming $1.50/gal for gas, and comparing the hybrid to the most expensive gas-only Civic with a price difference of $2,500, the upgrade to hybrid pays for itself in fuel savings after 248,000 miles (!), which is a lot of miles to say the least. Basically, from a strictly economic standpoint, it doesn't pay as a consumer to buy one at this point. The same basic type of logic applies to the Toyota Prius hybrid; I'm not picking on the Civic.

Presumably, if more of these were actually sold, Honda's cost to produce them would drop, as would the price. Giving a temporary tax credit might balance the economic position a bit, which is something we might do if we wanted to make fuel conservation "national policy." Or we might roll the cars and light trucks together for CAFE purposes, which itself gives manufacturers an incentive to make and sell more hybrids more cost effectively. At which point, I'd hope that the American manufacturers might finally get on board with the hybrid concepts and make one themselves. It's a shame that only the Japanese are doing this right now.
JK Saggese.

Bill, if you're not a fan of Rush, you oughtta be. There's literally dozens of their songs which praise freedom, capitalism, and hard work. Leftists have folk singers (damn near all of them), and we have Rush.

Hey Bill

As much as I hate cheering(and have never done so) your essay is so good I cannot help doing so.

Great Job!!!

And I have seen mention of a book? What is it? When will it be out? I will buy 3 copies:D

"...but nobody you know has more skill in their fingers than is necessary to excavate their nostrils."

I damn near choked to death on my drink after reading that David. You kill me!

However, I was under the impression that at least some states offer tax credits to those who purchase a hybrid car.


Am I wrong here?

On the off chance that I'm not the only one who failed to recognize the acronym, TANSTAAFL means "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."

I LOVE IT. Second law of thermodynamics expressed in the vernacular by Robert Heinlein in one of his stories (at least he is given the credit in several places.)

Not surprisiingly, the internet now has a number of online ACRONYM dictionaries!

What a world!


More specifically, it appears in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" where a Lunar colony rebels against the Earth by dropping rocks down the gravity well.

Good observation on the state of OR tax credit. My state, OH, does not have such a credit, but obviously some do. Oregon's credit in particular seems to be $750 per vehicle, though I'm not clear what the limitations are (claimed every year of ownership, only in year of purchase, etc).

I guess it's not surprising that OR of all states does have one, and I noted that they specifically have one in order to "keep Oregon free from nuclear waste." Which claim seems slightly gratuitous, but it means that they wouldn't be into the nuclear-powered hydrogen plant for fuel cells that we've been discussing. I have just never "got" the environmentalists' objections to nuclear power. Don't get me started on that.

More to the point, I did some checking at the IRS website, and it seems that the Feds introduced a new tax deduction this year for hybrid vehicles after all. It's not as generous as what they offer to encourage use of electric vehicles, however. Electrics (or fuel cell vehicles) get you a $4,000 credit, while hybrids get you a $2,000 deduction. Big difference. But it's a positive step, I think, that they introduced anything at all. Refer to IRS Publication 535 for details.

Assuming that you are taxed marginally at 25%, that $2,000 deduction gets you a $500 reduction in tax liability. Assuming further that you live in Oregon, and can get an additional $750 credit, there is still a price gap of $1,250 between the standard Civic and the hybrid. And it still takes 124,000 miles to make this up in reduced fuel costs, though this distance at least puts it within the reasonable lifetime of the car. I think if you make it economically break-even, most people would opt for the hybrid technology when buying a new car if it were available for the model they preferred, which increases fuel economy 34% (in our one particular example) at a stroke.

This isn't free, of course. If the Federal government pays to subsidize hybrid vehice technology by providing tax breaks for those who buy such cars, in the end that allows less money for the Feds to spend on other cool things like fighter jets and tanks and highways and so forth (or, preferably, less money to spend on esoteric porkbarrel projects--don't get me started on that either). But as long as everyone understands the tradeoff, an educated policy decision can be made.

Thanks all,
JK Saggese.

I don't believe this.

I had just finished about 45 minutes of writing a comment post here, and in the middle of previewing it, this piece of @#!&*#! mountaintop internet connection dumped everything. And in the time it took me to reconnect, two more comments appeared on the board.

Oh well, let's just call that "incentive" to keep it shorter this time.

Again... thank-you, Mr. March, for your analysis, encouragement, and humorous storytelling. Again, I agree with Serenity on her appraisal of your writing. However, I am still loathe to expound much further on subjects not directly related to "Trinity's" central theme, at least not on Bill's bandwidth tab. I will make one more exception though (again) for purposes of responding to godlesscapitalist's recent thoughtful comments.

Perhaps "neverending" was not the correct term to use with regard to a waste-to-energy plant's "fuel" source... "ever-increasing" might have been more appropriate, since the outflow of waste products, on a national AND global scale, will only be increasing as time goes on. And it will be doing so while landfills all over the country and around the world are being closed down by governments of all levels everywhere. I think my biggest misphrasing though, came from calling my little so-called "circle of life" packets "closed loops," since they are not, in fact, "closed." Just localized in use. My bad.

In the example you cited (with the airport and its own waste-to-energy plant), the plant would not derive its fuel solely from the airport, but rather almost entirely from elsewhere... from surrounding cities and established landfills. The airport would simply be the plant's sole customer. As such, the benefits to the airport would be (a) cheaper, self-generated power, off the grid, and (b) another source of income from the trash haulers, who would pay to drop their loads off there (as opposed to the landfills). At the same time, all around them, waste (of all non-toxic types) would be re-routed away from the constantly growing landfill mountains, and the existing mountains could be whittled down (no pun intended). Good for the environment as a whole.

As for the suggested problems (pollution, and non-uniform fuel sources), well... in an effort to keep this short, and to keep out of proprietary technology areas, I'll say this much...

This particular technology, which is admittedly just one of several similar types, is called "fluidized bed" technology, and involves a sort of "sand" that is superheated and suspended (by both heat and moving air), such that, in the process of incineration, the particulate matter is continually having its charred outer layers scoured away, and its inner core burned and reburned to a point of near total consumption. Only a very fine ash (and not much of that, as I understand it) remains, which can then be recycled and sold to concrete companies. And depending on the extent of any given plant's smokestack filtration, can produce 98% to 99% clean emissions, far higher than EPA standards.

It ain't perfect, but to my mind at least, it's a far cry better than the continuous addition of landfill mountain eyesores (in those areas that even still ALLOW them), with their gaseous build-ups from decay, and their constant leaching of toxic run-off into the surrounding water tables.

And best of all, the danged things'll burn just about anything but rocks, metals, and toxic materials, which will need to be combed from the conveyor belts ahead of time (they're CAPABLE of burning the toxic crap, just not legally)... everything from residential waste to construction site debris and agricultural garbage... wood shavings and sawdust from lumber mills, old x-ray film from hospitals, you name it... and my personal favorite, OLD TIRES. In fact, this is the ONLY truly viable solution I've seen so far to the near-crisis-level problem of what to do with old tires. And these plants can handle all these different forms of waste with the same level of environmental cleanliness.

My brother's been overseas on several occasions, speaking before gatherings of European and Middle Eastern ministers of various environmental agencies, where landfills and tire heaps have been mandatorily closed recently, and where there are some legitimate concerns about what to do with all the ever-increasing garbage. And they've reportedly been most impressed with the potential for this line of thought. In fact, at a meeting in Ireland, the conference was held within sight of the smoke plume from a major tire heap fire that had already been burning unchecked for months.

Dang it! I'm doing it again... rambling, and writing too much, with fingers that type too fast.

Suffice it to say, I'm not defending anything here (nothing was challenged), nor selling anything. This all started out with the contention that, in looking for energy solutions, we might want to look beyond just more and bigger upgrades to existing solutions (like nuclear power, with all its inherent {though not insurmountable} dangers, and problems with the disposal of radioactive waste). We might want to look more towards solutions that cover more than one problem area at a time... and waste-to-energy just seemed like a good (though certainly not the ONLY) example of such a thing. That's all.

I'll shut up now, and hope this stupid connection doesn't get severed again before I can post it.

Good stuff, folks. Keep it up.


Dear Great Silver Hairybackside,

Your rambling is better reading than many folks thrice-edited constipations; please grovel not. If we were to take seriously your deep respect for Bill Whittles proprietary interest in this bandwidth, we should all set up our own damn blogsites and sit there in splendid isolation listening to the crickets.

This way, Bill gets to speak when it pleases him in the voice of GOD with his DAMN GREAT MEGAPHONE, blasting us for our irreverence, our shabby documentation, or our dissing of each other (Boy, remind me to NEVER EVER post that article I found about Lincoln allowing the ... Woops, I almost slipped there!) And we get the joy of stimulating exchanges and Bills Essays, of which I am just one of many fawning admirers.

I have striven nigh onto thirty-five years to advance my career starting out from the pit of local obscurity. Now, having achieved what may arguably be called NEAR-INTERNATIONAL obscurity, I would be loathe to throw that all away just to have MY OWN BLOG that people would flock to just as enthusiastically as they have sent blank checks to me in support of my efforts over the decades. I cant afford that kind of notoriety or the taxes.

Can YOU???

If you can, are you in a position to hire an animator?

Rats. I meant to actually respond to some of your points.

Ill go back and re-read your post, and do some meticulous research, and come back later.

David March


One of the things werve been talking about is BURNING various substances that would otherwise go into landfills as unusable waste.

We actually are pretty late in trying to mine any more gold from this particular vein. Scientists have been investigating this for several centuries now and there are some basic points that need to be restated.

As one of the posts pointed out a little further back up the page, its sorta like the proposals on one hand to convert petroleum to food to prevent starvation, while fermenting corn harvests to alcohol fuel to prevent fuel shortages. It is almost like trying to make a perpetual motion machine.

The problem with the energy to be gleaned from burning the sort of wastes that typically are thrown into landfills is that it is based on the chemical energy of molecular bonds. As it turns out, there is a finite limit--- a VERY finite limit--- to the amount of energy available from combustion of ANY substance, and it is a tiny tiny fraction of the energy that makes up that mass. We call coal and oil and wood fuels because they are substances which have a lot of chemical bonds that are unstable enough that adding just a little bit of heat excites the atoms sufficiently to overcome those bonds and RELEASE the binding energy. As it happens, the energy of those bonds happens to fall mostly in the range of infra-red and visible light, which is useful to us because we SEE in that range, and our bodies readily absorb the infrared energy and are warmed. if those chemical bonds released quanta significantly higher or lower wavelength, they might just be usesless, or dangerous to us.

I believe GHSilverback and several others mentioned that we then have to contend with waste products from incomplete combustion. To examine *that* a little further in the same context of bonding energy--- What that means is that to break down many of the modern polymers to harmless constituents actually requires a NET ENERGY INVESTMENT to overcome the most stable molecular bonds of those polymers (a working definition of a polymer is a chemical built of strings and chains of sub-units that have been joined by chemical bonds among them to create a high-molecular weight substance. Latex rubber is a natural polymer, as is chicle of chewing gum fame. Bees Wax, Parrafin, Nylon, Dacron. DuPont started creating polymers in the 1930s on a vast scale, and there are tens of thousands of them in hundreds of distinct categories.)

Another words, if you want to burn cleanly, you end up using more energy to break down the poisonous by-products than you GET from burning the WASTES!!!!!!!!!

There are two sources of energy that can overwhelm these limitations: Solar energy, of which our earths surface and atmosphere receive a microscopic fraction of the suns total magnificent outpouring, and FUSION.

The manufacturing technology of solar cells creates hideous toxic waste; Windmills make hawks and eagles into bloody badminton shuttlecocks, and only work part time. Besides the god damned legislatures are now proposing to TAX people for the value of the windmills theyve erected on their property. What pathetic MORONS we have for lawmakers!

Almost forty years into research and we are still awaiting the crossover in fusion technology that releases more energy than is used to contain the reaction in a magnetic bottle. BUT starting twenty years ago, Isaac Asimov toured the country as a spokesman for NASA, giving lectures about how we could get beyond the limitations of earth-bound technologies. He spoke of orbiting mirror arrays in space, reflecting sunlight to collection farms on the earths surface which would convert all that additional sunlight to electricity.

Its still a viable idea, except our national space program is ... er... Dead in the Water, if youll forgive the mixed metaphor.


Bill Whittle, what are the long term business plans of XCOR? ARe they for instance, thinking of using their vehicle to position some solar collecting mirrors? Are there any groups thinking of setting up collection farms down here below? Any one wish to set up a small corporation with ME????

David March
animator and fiddler and potential investor

I am going to send this link everywhere. This is what we should hear from our "leaders" in Washington.

Environmental groups are largely opposed to nuclear power for two reasons:

1)The hideous, Chernobyl-like consequences when it fails. Which would be an argument for further research to make it safer, except...

2)The environmental movement is primarily made up of people who are Very Concerned but not also Very Educated. Thus, the movement has become heavily politically charged, and incorporates a large number of Rousseauian types who instinctively despise both corporations and technology. In any case, those in it mostly for political reasons heavily outnumber those whose job it is to study such things scientifically. Making things even worse, in university programs that offer majors in things like environmental science or management, often the curriculum is only a watered-down version of a real biology or geology education. (When I was an undergrad, "environmental science" was commonly recognized as the wuss version of the "ecological and evolutionary biology" major. It did not include such inconveniently difficult courses as extra math and organic chemistry.) For the reaction of an actual ecologist to environmentalism, see Garrett Hardin.

Someone mentioned Rush...all copyright to them, but even without music these words ring true.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear-
I will choose Free Will.



I tend to think of Chernobyl more as a failure of Communism than a failure of nuclear power. Any system so decrepit and maintenance-deficient, will, like my old car, fail in a wide variety of unpredictable ways. The entire Soviet civilization eventually fell apart due to the corrosive effects of Communism; it really doesn't surprise me that the tragedy of Chernobyl occurred (which makes it no easier for those involved; I'm not trying to trivialize it). The operating environment for Chernobyl (to say nothing of the design itself) made it unusually susceptible to catastrophic failure.

And I do recognize that even in a well-regulated American facility, accidents can happen; and that the end product of this process is, after all, radioactive waste that no one seems to have exactly a perfect solution for. It just seems that the Very Concerned (nice phrase, that) send a whole monkeybarrelful of mixed messages; if greenhouse gases and pollutants from coal and oil plants are so bad, you'd think they would support nuclear power, or wind power (some do, but what about the birds?) or hydro power (some do, but what about the fish?). I think you're right and I should probably read what a serious environmental scientist has to say instead of listening to all the chatter from the Very Concerned.

Jay Random:
I thought your comment on the limitations of nuclear technology was intriguing. I'm passably familiar with the big pieces of a nuclear plant, and I'd be interested to hear your take on any particular improved technologies which have been ignored at those plants due to political concerns. I've personally been under the impression that the real problem was over-regulation (also as a result of the political climate, if you'll pardon the pun).

Thanks all,
JK Saggese.

From David March, 10:42 pm yesterday in this comments thread:
So over and over again throughout humanity's sojourn here, the meticulously accumulated knowledge of individual genius has been lost when that genius died. It's only as cultures have gradually recognized the importance of property rights, and the consistent application of laws, that inventors, creators, the people who work out the details of a process that actually make it more than conjecture--- have been able to reap the benefit of their own efforts.

Hmmmm. Think of the word "royalties"; The granting of patents royal. The crown recognizes that it will enrich the kingdom to protect the trickle of payment that rewards the person or business that creates the better beer, or garter, or jackware, or pewter buttons, swords, muskets, or looms.

I think we reached a threshold and went critical about the time of the industrial revolution. But that happened before the Declaration of Independence, and before the drafting of the Constitution. I'm not arguing Bill Whittle's hypothesis, just trying to grasp it here.... It does seem, as other folks have pointed out, that we enjoy the benefit of several important legacies from the United Kingdom. But even though the Industrial Revolution was in full swing there long before our rebellion, it seemed like the benefits were mostly ending up in the pockets of the aristocracy.


With that as a starting point, let me add the story of one more of our founding fathers. His story doesn't make it into most history books, because he had nothing to do with war, or government, or diplomacy.

His name was Slater. He was a skilled mechanic in England in the late 1700's, and he was therefore banned from emigrating. The English knew that their textile industry was a valuable money-maker, and nobody was allowed to leave if they understood the machinery that made that industry possible.

So Slater crammed all of the essential knowledge into his head, where no customs inspector or other bureaucrat could see it. Then he disguised himself as an ignorant laborer and took a boat to New England.

At that point, his disguise was almost too good. It took him a couple of tries to get the financial backing he needed. But this is an easy country to fail in, and then to try again in. Once he had the access to capital, he was able to build a complete textile mill from memorized designs and blueprints. And Slater Mills was the start of the entire New England textile industry, one of the most important industries in New England and in the United States until well into the 20th century.

No longer, of course. Today the old mills are historical sites. The industry went South, and now much of it has gone out of the country in search of lower wages. The grandsons of the last New England mill workers are now doctors, and professors, and entrepreneurs who are developing businesses based on inventions that came out of places like MIT. And now, in places like Pakistan and Honduras, a new generation of mill workers is starting their climb up the multi-generation ladder of success. The fruits of Slater's work can be spread anywhere that those in charge respect Capitalism, and support Freedom, and allow those with Ingenuity to reap the rewards of their work.

Why do I happen to know this story? My dad came over from Europe in the early 1920's. He was an unusual immigrant, with a Ph.D. in chemistry from one of the top schools in Switzerland. His plan was to get rich over here in the land of opportunity, and then take that bundle of money back to Switzerland and settle down. Somehow or other, he never made it back. He immigrated with an MIT professorship waiting for him, but university professors were very poorly paid in those days. So he took the advice of a friend that he made soon after he arrived, and he started to work in the textile industry. His first job was with a company that was backed by over a century of tradition, Slater Mills.

All rise.

[BW enters]

You may be seated.

First, no more worrying about my bandwidth. Yammer and yawl away, you big-brained jackanapes!

Second, I remember reading a few years back about a two-stage, next-generation nuclear planet where there was never enough fissile material in one place to cause a meltdown in the event of catastrophic coolant loss. The water was heated incrementally in separate (but equal!) piles. Totally safe. There is still the waste problem, but that's engineerable.

If you haven't been there already, you might want to head to the Krell Mind Machine (USS CLUELESS www.denbeste.nu). Steven has broken down all the contenders; only oil coal and nuclear seem to be able to scale up to our current, let alone future needs. But every little bit helps. I'm in favor of a clear plastic dome over Berkeley to harness the huge quantities of hot CO2 and methane that the place emits. This WILL NOT WORK if you poke airholes in the dome.

GHS, I keep hoping you will someday talk about your other relative of note.

The anguish Language is so weird.
Spoonfuls or Spoonsful?
Jackanapes? Or Jacksonapes?

I really break down trying to figure out what to do with "forego."
If you decided to skip lunch yesterday, do you say "I forewent lunch" or "foregoed it?"

These are the things I ponder late at night.


and as for Hank Aaron being the all-leader in RBIs; shouldn't it be RsBI?

Just the comments, alone, on this site are well worth checking out and reading - Bill's essays somehow manage to bring out the very best in most of his readers. Of course, I guess top quality tends to draw like...

To David March and GHS, re your discussion about recycling trash/garbage, take a look at the following URL - I've checked, and it's still up.


This deals with a new process called thermal depolymerization, and the pilot plant (prototype) has been up and running for some time. An industrial scale plant is currently under construction at Carthage, MO, to handle the waste products produced by a Tyson turkey processing plant there. When it's up and running, this plant will take the 200+ tons of turkey waste produced daily by Tyson and convert it into, among other things, @600 barrels of oil that has the same specs as #2 heating oil.

The gases produced in this process will fuel the plant, and the process, which uses only modest heat and pressures (read the article), will even break down biohazardous materials into safe products. The only thing it can't handle is radioactive wastes.

I think this may be the wave of the future.

Thanks Jim Cline, I'll go take a look.

Jeez. I never ever EVER thought I could get worked up about ANYTHING connected to TWO HUNDRED PLUS TONS OF TURKEY WASTE!!!!!

David March

Just back from skimming through the website on THERMAL Depolymerization Jim Cline mentioned in his post above. Great stuff. Don't be put off by the terms if you're not up on chemistry--- the article is very readable, and the concepts make a lot of sense.

Lord-A-mighty. Turkey guts to fuel oil and fertilizer! And Toner powder for copiers!

Land sakes!

So again, it is shown that mister March is WRONG WRONG WRONG. Big fat Wrong. But I'm glad in this case. My facts just were a decade or so behind the times.

Save your bacon grease, folks.

David March

To David March... enough with the intelligent, erudite, well-researched and hilarious postings. I can only handle being shown up a couple dozen times a day, and this is getting exhausting. (;^D)

What I will say though, is that, if nothing else, my initial contention about considering alternative energy sources has at least sparked the conversation I was hoping for. The waste-to-energy idea, far from being the most efficient, is obviously just one of many possible solutions. And admittedly, the creation of electricity in the process is mostly an afterthought... the very efficient and clean incineration of waste is its primary function, electricity just a happy spin-off. I like the sounds of the other ideas just as much, and glad to hear they're being considered.

To Bill... today (Thursday the 10th) is the last day I'll be up here on the mountain, and therefore the last day you can reach me at that number. I won't be back in Orlando until late Tuesday night, the 15th.

As far as my "other relative of note," would you be referring to the one that you already so eloquently alluded to in your previous posting? If so, I doubt I could do him half the justice you did.

P.S.- again, for David March... when do you use "toward" instead of "towardS?"

Rugs and dishes to one and all.


I've been monitoring these comments for 3 days now and I've worked up enough COURAGE to comment. Reading all the comments, I've come to the conclusion that I'm farther into the fat section of the intelligance Bell Curve than I previously thought.

Bill, As always, great job. There may be those that snipe (or give a good natured ribbing) at you for length, but what you provide with your essays is solid Perspective and Clarity.

We currently live in a society where the 12 second sound bite gets blasted to 80% of the populace, but there is no substance. Alfredo Stroessner is right, this is what our leaders in Washington should be saying. Instead we see them plucking the black grains of sand from the white beach because it's the black grains of sand that get the best sound bite - and therefore the best media coverage. PERSPECTIVE and CLARITY are good things to have access to.

I dont' (please read as can't) read as much as I used to. I'm deep into raising 2 young boys and building (I'm pounding every damn nail myself) a vacation cabin up in the north woods. Still, I WILL buy your book when it's out.

Take your time to get the book right, and be quick about it! Some of us out here are addicted and need access to a fix when we don't have access to the Internet.


hmm... talking about vigilance, you may want to check out the following links:



I am like Randy. I've been reading these posts for days and am amazed.

I had never read Bill before, but linked from somewhere to Trinity, and was just floored by the clarity of thought and quality of writing. I couldn't say half as much in twice the verbage.

I agree with GHS that all the talk of alternative energy sources is somewhat off the subject, but, I read sometime, somewhere in the last couple of months that ADM has come up with a process that is 85% efficient at turning waste products into oil.

You are an inspiration mr Whittle. Once again, this jadded soul is uplifted and blown away!

Sometimes it?s good to return to the source for inspiration, or material you can quote to impress to pieces your acquaintances you haven?t yet told about Mr. Whittle?s essays, or to find loopholes.

I?ve been wanting to say something about this quote since I first saw it:

? ?What behaviour can you expect of a country who sought independence because it didn't wanted to pay taxes??
Gonzalo Arriaga, Finland?

Okay. First, ?Gonzalo Arriaga? is a Spanish name, not Finnish. Finnish folk have names like Aimo Kujaanpaa, or Jorma Kekonnen, or Jaako Hamaleinin, or Annika Khouri, or Antti Erkinpoika Saari.
The guy is an imposter. What is he doing in Finland, I ask you? Avoiding SPANISH TAX COLLECTORS, that?s what!

*NEXT* he?s a dufus.

It wasn?t that they didn?t want to pay taxes! It was that they didn?t want to pay taxes levied by a government within which they had absolutely no VOICE!

Who is this Gonzalo? We need to invite him friendly-like to come and join in these discussions. We?ll do the old visiting - aliens - looking - for - something - in - his - netherland - regions - probe Trick to soften him up. Then the bucket of soapy frogs.

He?ll be begging for the long-version Capitalism indoctrination training.

Mind you, I have nothing against Spaniards... but this guy could give the whole Iberian peninsula a bad name.

Well, around these parts...

David March

Briefly, but meant constructively and with no offence:

1. No matter how hard you argue the point about wealth, at the end of the day there's only a finite amount of resources to go round. Think in terms of resources instead of wealth and the picture is a lot bleaker, and our responsibilities to fellow human beings start to outweigh the profit motive. Resorting to anecdotes about "let's imagine i'm a gatherer, right, and you're a hunter" proves nothing, it just underlines the prejudices of the storyteller. (Example: Freud imagined tribal sons killing the primal father to illustrate his psychoanalysis: he wrote the myth to suit his point, as a self-serving example). It would be just as right (or wrong) to imagine a primal society based on sharing, family duty, or some form of authoritarianism, as one based on trade...For a more factual account you'd have to look at the ethnographic record, and when you do that, you find that primitive societies don't always start with trade, and indeed trade isn't always good for them.

2. "Government is other people telling you what to do." Except in a democracy, government is society at large choosing some people to administer that society, because otherwise it would be chaos. And if government doesn't reflect society's will, you vote it out. And if the government STILL isn't good enough (taking too many of your dollars, doing things you don't like), you reform your system of government, make it more representative. You don't complain about the idea of government in general, unless you're an anarchist.


"In God We Trust" hasn't been on our currency since the beginning. From the US Treasury Fact Sheet:


IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

The use of IN GOD WE TRUST has not been uninterrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938.

IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate.


First, regarding Men Wilkins' comments: the fact that the earth is finite is in fact _irrelevant_ economically. If it were relevant, we would expect to see the costs of every resource going up, but in fact they have been going down pretty much continuously throughout history. Julian Simon's "The Ultimate Resource" makes the case for this very clear.

The only thing important about resources is remaining free to go after them - and isn't freedom a primary theme of Bill's essay?

Also, the U.S. isn't a democracy - it's a constitutional republic. The most important thing in a good government isn't that people can vote, it's that their individual rights be respected. Tyranny by the majority is still tyranny.

Second, this is my first comment here, so let me say that I enjoy reading your essays very much, Bill. I wish more people in the U.S. had as much common sense.

Having said that, I do have one nit to pick regarding "Trinity". I think advocating "Equality of opportunity" is a mistake. Why should opportunity be any more equal than wealth?

Isn't it right and proper, for example, for the children of wealthy parents to have opportunities not available to children of not so wealthy parents? I'm thinking of opportunities like access to better schools, access to influential friends of their parents who could help them get a better start in their careers, etc. Such opportunities are consequences of the parents' hard work. Aren't those every bit as earned as wealth?

Rather than equality of opportunity, there should be _freedom_ of opportunity. Advocating equality of opportunity leaves the door open for more government meddling in people's lives. A statist type could simply point out, for example, that the children of the poor _don't_ have equal opportunities with the children of the rich, and demand that it be "fixed" by confiscating more wealth from the rich, or by making it illegal for a child to take advantage of opportunities earned by his wealthy parents.

Mark Peters

To Men Wilkins,

Yes, you are absolutely right. Resources are limited. There is only so much to go around. For instance, I have just about used up my quota of punctuation marks for the week. I have more on order, but until they get here, Im forced to get along with what Ive got. Right? Thats why my previous post has question marks where it should have had apostrophes.

Im sure you get the point, but no one has ever accused me of being too subtle, and why change now?

The use of the word resource in and of itself is ONLY a concept--- A WAY OF PERCEIVING the world. If your concept is that the only way for people to recond and transfer information is to grind up charcoal with drippings from dinner to make ink, and smear some ink on a block of hand-set type where each character has been painstakingly carved from a lump of metal and all the letters there are in the territory are sitting in a tray next to the press, well, yeah, youre going to have to make some hard decisions between printing up a single copy of ODE to the Fearless LEADER, or the Schedule of Whos Emptying Fearless LEADERs chamber pot.

The PROBLEM is NOT limited resources, per say. It is the limits on possible ways of using those resources--- on the POTENTIAL of the human vision, imagination, and spirit --- imposed by repressive brutal systems.

Of course there are limits. But a lot of them are limits we impose on ourselves, rather than intrinsic limits of resources. Think of how slavery in ancient days kept the leaders from seeing what they could have done using the technology of steam power. It was famously shown by one genius that heating water to steam in a closed vessel with jets allowing it to escape, if properly arranged on pivot points, creates a machine with self-powered rotation. THINK of the Potential!

Well, so what? says the patrician, relaxing under the cooling drafts of the ostrich-feathered fan being waved by the comely young slave-girl from Carthage. Why go to all that bother when I can have my slaves carry or lift or craft or decorate any thing at my command? Whats the percentage in building some dumb machine? I would have to use my slaves to build it. Ill wager I would have to purchase more slaves to operate it, and keep it fueled, and carry away the ash! Nonsense! Wheres my hummingbird pat?

Seems our ability to even grasp the riches lying before our eyeballs, is powerfully pre=figured by political indoctrination.

David March
animator & fiddler
Peel me a grape!

Sorry folks

I could not find my glasses this morning, but the lust of writing was upon me, and I was in too much of a hurry to be bothered with "splee chkcer"

"recond" shoulda been "record"


Warning: Eye-glazing economics discussion to follow. You have been warned. :)

In response to Men Wilkins' post, I guess one thing that should be pointed out is that resources (natural resources) and wealth are not the same thing. This is an old concept, argued in great detail and far more effectively than I could muster, by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations way back in 1776. In Book 1, Chapter 5 ("Of the Real and Nominal Price of Commodities, or of Their Price in Labor, and Their Price in Money") Smith points out that such things as were considered money at the time, eg gold and silver, have no intrinsic value and are simple commodities; like the authoring of WB3 in Bill's essay, it's the work performed that has actual value. It's worth quoting an excerpt here:

>> The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to dispose of it or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people. What is bought with money or with goods is purchased by labour,* as much as what we acquire by the toil of our own body. That money or those goods indeed save us this toil. They contain the value of a certain quantity of labour which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the value of an equal quantity. Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command.

Labor creates wealth. Simple as that. Smith, in other parts of his book, discusses the then-popular concept that the best way to ensure national affluence and wealth was to jealously hoard all the gold and silver possible within the borders of your country. Essentially this creates a willingness to export goods, in exchange for importing the gold that was used to pay for it, while preventing the opposite from occurring. It should be obvious (now) that this is not good national policy, to say nothing of the consequences of all nations simultaneously adopting such a policy. True national wealth doesn?t come from having a lot of gold or silver or even oil laying around, but from labor. The Arab states are essentially trading one commodity (oil) which they have a lot of for another (cash) which they don?t. They aren?t producing anything. If they sold twice as much oil they wouldn?t make twice as much money, since it would all sell at half the unit price. There?s not much real wealth being created in the whole process, just the conversion of one asset to another. There is some real wealth created by the labor involved in building oil rigs, of course, since the oil doesn?t do anyone much good hundreds of feet underground. The real creation of wealth occurs in the industrialized nations, where the oil is used as a supplement to labor: to power construction equipment, or just to drive me to work so I can expend some labor myself.

Now the point of saying that natural resources are finite is strictly true, but not in itself a useful fact. Natural resources are, after all, finite in total, but the fact is we aren?t buying/selling/consuming anything like the entirety of them. We have a finite, but really enormous, amount of coal in the ground here in North America. And we?re discovering more even faster than we can use it (the same holds true for oil). But when it?s all used up, which some day it will be, it?s worth pointing out that these commodities are just tools for commerce (such as gold is) and production (such as oil is).

The price of gold fluctuates up because demand for it increases, but fluctuates back down because there?s more gold down there somewhere and we keep finding it. And when we stop finding it, gold will become really valuable (ie, expensive) and other metals will be preferred. When we run out of oil it?ll become fantastically expensive, and we?ll become serious about hydrogen as a source of energy since that then would be cheaper than oil. None of the finite natural resources are really intrinsically valuable, and as long as we?re a little prepared for their eventual depletion, running out of them won?t matter much.

The commodities which do have intrinsic value, like corn and pigs and so forth, are replenishable. We won?t run out of corn. Our ability to grow arbitrarily large amounts of the stuff isn?t infinite, but we?re nowhere near the point where we?re growing only enough to get by and have no ability to grow more. So the fact that some resources are finite isn?t really a compelling counterargument to Bill?s theory that the ability to produce wealth is, essentially, infinite.

Sorry for the long post.

JK Saggese

And incidentally, The Wealth of Nations is still a fantastic source for economic enlightenment, though it is a bit textually dense and has a few chapters which seem archaic. There is a free version of the book available online at


Really some non-mathematical study of economics is invaluable, and would simplify many of the arguments we have to deal with even now, such as those opposing globalisation and the WTO, etc.

JK Saggese.

Thank you JKS!

Off to the bookstore.


Right minded generosity? Is that like compassionate conservatism? Military intelligence?

Im not even a liberal, and yet I find myself having to defend them.
For a post that starts out speaking of the diversity and wonderfulness of our union(all true), it turned to smack liberals at every turn as if if they were un-American. It must have been all those right wingers that got the vote for women, did away with segregation, made it to where kids didnt have to work all day for no pay, created unions to protect workers from all these people who make money out of nothing and than expect people to just be glad they have a job.
One of the most Un-American posts I've read on the anniversary of the greatest republic in history.

John, I am a liberal and a woman and I liked it. It was not Un-American, it was an opinion piece. You don't have to defend me.

I wish I could share the optimism! The freedoms America's Founding Fathers fought for seem to be being cancelled one after another; the War on Drugs is followed by the ['endless'] War against Terrorism, which then - of course! - requires that Americans exchange what remains of their hard-won rights for an intangible 'security'.

Seems like a different America than that envisioned by the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Remember them? They used to be taught in school and to be part of public discourse until they became, by turns, too 'radical' and then too 'outmoded.'

Meanwhile, among other things, the US Government is still officially committed by State Department Doc. 7277 to disarming its citizens, disarming the nation, and surrendering sovereignty to an UN international 'policing' force [see http://www.survivalistskills.com/STAT7277.HTM and http://www.survivalistskills.com/nwa.htm].

The patriotism and cheers increase even as the last remains of the grand old Republic are shredded forever. We peer nervously across the oceans, and send troops to pre-emptively patrol far-distant stations, and never once suspect that the enemy is HERE, not there, and that freedom is under assault from within, and not from without.

And has been for a long time.

If you want to get REALLY worried, look at the recent news items posted on the 'DECEIVING AMERICA' page at http://www.survivalistskills.com/kgb.htm. The Department of Homeland Security is now literally paying for advice and assistance from the KGB's top officers. And the target of their attention? Not terrorists, but American citizens!

Apparently not all Americans are as patriottic as those responding here. This quote comes from tonguetied.us:

"Some parents in Oregon are trying to prevent officials from flying the American flag at a school district-funded learning center because they say the flag doesnt represent freedom anymore, reports the Associated Press.

A 13-year-old student who attempted to get officials at the Willow Wind Community Learning Center in Ashland, Ore. to fly the flag was told it wasnt going to happen because some students might be offended. The center is funded by the local school district and supports home-schooled students in the area.

One of those who would be offended is Tracy Bungay, who said, I want to raise my children to be citizens of the world, and the flag does not represent ideals I want to instill It represents dominance, greed, corporate power and not freedom."

Willow Wind officials may not have a choice, though. State law requires that the flag be flown at all schools."

I think the US is a great counry, but boy there'some rotten apples in your basket! How are you Americans handling this political correctnes run amok? How is this affecting your society? Can anything be done? Of course this is only one example, but there's many more at tonguetied.

In some ways those parents are right btw - if you can't wave your own flag in your own country, you might not be as free as you thought. But that's probably not what they intended!

original url:


Mr. Whitley...

I know someone who ardently believes in the great Zionist Conspiracy, the vast multi-generational Jewish plot to acquire world domination, and WORST OF ALL, a single one-world government. He has presented official documentation to me, "proving" his claims, and he has given me a copy of the official anti-Zionist "bible." And it's the biggest bunch of biased and bigoted tripe I've ever read.

But what can you expect? When you START with the foregone conclusion that the world is a battlefield between God and the Devil, and that the Jews (or at least their most zealous extremists) are the foot soldiers of Satan, then, not too surprisingly, you wind up NOT researching reality, but rather hunting for every little bit of evidence you kind find to back your initial anti-Semitic preconceptions. Forget the bigger picture... search instead for "proof" of your initial biases, then cling to your copy of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as holy writ.

Similarly, when you START with the conclusion that the government is one big evil life-sapping freedom-draining subterranean cabal, you tend to do your "research" at sites that have words like "survivalist" in their web address. And from where I sit anyway, that lends no credibility to your argument whatsoever. That would be like holding up the KKK Manifesto (or whatever they call it) as "proof" of African-American inferiority. Choose as your reference a source somewhat less radical, and then we'll talk.

Admittedly, that works the same way in reverse. If a website with "eject! eject! eject!" in its address is your ONLY source of political enlightenment (despite its penchant for presenting evidence and cogent reasoning in its essays), you would be equally one-sided in your evaluation of the "Truth." You'd be happier, prouder, and you'd hopefully be aware that all you'd just read was someone's OPINION, but you would have read only one side of the argument.

So get out. Take a breath of fresh air. Read something a little less inciteful. Read from MORE THAN ONE SOURCE, and more than one perspective. And if you just gotta' read from one of the extremes, balance it with a little reading from the OPPOSITE extreme... see what THOSE loonies say about YOUR loonies.

As for me, I'm going to keep on enjoying every one of my untouched freedoms, including my right to read, write, and speak any damned thing I want, own a gun, and travel between any two points in my country without "papers."

I'll leave all the fretting over the demise of our Constitution to good folks like you.

Hope you enjoyed the fireworks at least.


john: If I wanted to join the group that stood for the most historical gains of values I treasure today, I'd be a member of the Bull Moose party. But I'm concerned with NOW.

Besides, you're mistaken if you think the majority of us are purebred right-wingers. I'm pro-gay-rights, anti-blue-laws, a card-carrying Sierra Club member, and an atheist/agnostic. I just happen to also be anti-socialized-medicine (I'll be DAMNED if I let the same organization that couldn't handle the postal system be primarily responsible for my health care), hawkish on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and dovish on the Liberia, Balkan, and Somalia situations, capitalist, anti-gun-control, and anti-affirmative-action. So like it or not, we can't be lumped into the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

I by no means want to pigeonhole anyone into a group. I am speaking out of frustration more than anything else, because I do not feel there is a party that represents my views or concerns, and between the Dems and the Repubs, I generally vote Dem by default. (Although I did write in for McCain in 00') It is annoying to see the right and the left beat up on each other all the time, when at the core, we all share the same basic values. There was a South Park episode that captured perfectly why America needs both. I know what you're thinkin'..South Park? yeah, well, out of the mouths of children...Anyhoo..at least we can all agree on despising the French!!!
In my perfect world it will be John McCain and Wesley Clark in 04'!!!!!!

Speaking about dimishing resources, as several folks have in these posts...
I thought the last part of Bill's essay illustrated the solution to that "problem." There are more than enough (for the foreseeable future) raw materials literally lying around the solar system, on the moon and Mars, but especially in the asteroid belt, waiting for us to come and "exploit" them. (as all godless capitalists are wont to do) But they are WORTHLESS unless we go get them and use them. I am with Bill all the way on this issue, "ME!! PICK ME!!" I'll go in a heartbeat! So what if it's dangerous, or never been tried before! Isn't that what being an entrepreneur is all about? Taking (calculated) risks for expected profit??


Waited and waited for Trinity. Got busy and didn't get to check your site for a couple of weeks.

Got here this morning and what a present I found ;)

Still trying to plough through all the posts, and getting a bit weary of the renewable resources vs oil harangue I've arrived at, so will continue with them another day.

I didn't want to leave until I had said once again how wonderful your essays are, how cogent your thought processes, and praise your ability to articulate in this case what most of us 'feel' but can't quite get a handle on firmly enough to try.

Let me know when the book is available ;)

Thanks once again.

john: Your comments advocating unity now are inconsistent with your first comment. (Pointing out "right-minded generosity" as an oxymoron, so forth.)

Both the right and the left may have the same abstract ideals in very broad principle, but in practice both frequently betray their ideals regarding freedom in pursuit of other issues: the right would limit our freedom to do as we please in private (anti-sodomy laws, internet regulation), and the left would limit our freedom to do so in public ("hate speech" laws, limitations on when and where you may fly a flag, and so on). If you read Bill's essays with a less partisan eye, you'll see he has no love for either form.

Dear Mr. Whittle,

I am not often prone to envy. Having read this most recent of your essays, I must admit that I am indeed quite jealous of your writing. And the writing is so good, that I count myself proud to be jealous of somebody worth such envy.

Best Regards,


Interesting read, but I would like for you to address the issue of limited resources and the value of contentment. I think your arguments presume that there is a linear value to material accumulation. No doubt, people are better off when they have clean water to drink, comfortable shelter from the elements, education, vaccinations for their children, freedom to choose work they want to do, etc. Life is better in the West than in the developing world precisely because we have benefited from the way the very wealthy have moved money around. That is a reason for appreciation.

But I also think that people are better off when they are able to be content with what they have instead of always hungering for more. I think that once basic needs for sustenance, comfort and safety are met, there is a seriously decreasing return on the fruits of effort. You work harder, produce more, own more, and are less satisfied.

To me the one flaw in the system that you tout is its lack of an idea of successful completion. One of the most important things in my life has been learning not to always be charging towards the future and to be able to enjoy the things in life that don't produce wealth for anyone, but produce a lot of happiness for me and everyone I come in contact with. I know the American stock market is built on projections of increase, not value, and that more satisfied people will therefore wreck the wealth system. (Without insatiable desire, demand for products and services will fall instead of increasing.) But I am going to gamble that American ingenuity can find a way to wed fulfillment with physical well-being, if we clarify that that is the goal.

Is that your goal?

Dear Indi,

In some ways i agree with the question you raise and to the system of capitalism, to the extent that it were limited to materialist goals.

I am an animator and a fiddler, and even though it is wrong to reduce people to cyphers by defining of them ONLY by their primary income-producing activities... there are many ways in which the attitudes and passions that steer a body toward a career do after all define much of the rest of that persons relation to the culture.

So, I have always preferred to make music in some little group or volunteer symphony orchestra, rather than buy tickets and sit in an audience for world-famous performers (although Ive certainly done some of that) and Ive made it my mission in life to play my fiddle in unexpected places--- bus stations, airline terminals, furniture stores, McDonalds, and various waiting rooms for doctors offices and oncology therapy clinics. Its important to ME to remind people that they dont have to be dependent upon the so-called ENTERTAINMENT industry for their leisure activities. I get a charge out of discovering from someone that my spontaneous public performance has inspired them to go back and start playing their own instrument again.

Capitalism does not have to mean everyone gets richer by buying huge houses with bigger and bigger garages and closets to store all the Game-Boys and Televisions, and Skis, and Jet-Skis and cel phones, and George Foreman Hamburger cookers, and personal rocket packs. Can we have too many new symphonies? Is it possible to have a dangerously high investment level in education? Is it a waste for a large number of people to have advanced academic degrees in subjects apart from their area of income-producing employment? Can a person be fluent in too many languages? Can we have a population that has too much understanding of the interactions between industrial processes and natural hydrological cycles? Can we have too many people trained in CPR, or management of diabetes, or early childhood psychology?
China with its approximately one BILLION citizens is approaching a sort of crisis point. Its ability to feed and sustain its people has for a couple of generations been mostly without disaster, famine, or plague. Its people are increasingly aware of life outside the borders of China, and beginning to yearn for the sorts of freedom, of choices, and of the consumer goods that people in the Western Industrialized nations have been enjoying for over a century. Some people have discussed with great alarm the horrifying pollution that SURELY will come if those people are encouraged and allowed to proceed with the manufacture and distribution of hundreds of millions of air conditioners, radios, televsions, computers, cars, passenger jets, fast food restaurants, DVD players, et cetera.


Why is it assumed for populations and cultures starting their industrial revolution now, that they will be laboring under the same ignorance, the same technical limitations, the same attitudes that governed the industrial expansions in Europe and America over the last two centuries? Why is it assumed that all the problems will simply be repeated as before? Why is it assumed that the capitalist leaders of industry in the west WANTED all the pollution and dislocation and social upheaval that have followed industrialization in Europe and America?

There have been a lot of people that came of age in the 60s and 70s, the height of the counter-cultural revolution and chose to start some business that offered a product that was consistent with their attitudes. So there are increasing numbers of companies that try to maintain a respectful dynamic between the managers and the workers, and set up more generous contracts with suppliers with a long term goal of encouraging their third-party suppliers to maintain satisfactory working conditions for THEIR people. Create wholesome products (as far as they can determine) using manufacturing and distribution methods that are likewise wholesome insofar as they can makeem so. And still make a profit. And more and more people participating in the stock market means that companies are increasingly forced to respond to public concerns for ethical issues.

There is definitely an evolutionary process at work, and despite all the problems it seems there are reasons for hope.

I'm sure there are flaws and gaps in my reasoning and assertions. I invite critiques and argument.

David March

The relationship between capitalism and personal fulfillment isn't about money or material. It's about having a setting in which it's possible to gain fulfillment by satisfying the natural desire of all reasonably intelligent humans to excel.

Well, this isn't quite the "argument" that Mr. March asked for, just my $0.02 worth.

When I was in college studying (as little as possible) for my Bachelor of Science degree, my minor was Environmental Studies. (Wait, it gets better) One of the classes was "Resource Management". Once a week we would take a field trip to various places around town. A wildlife preserve. A recycling center. The sewage treatment plant. Oh what fun that last one was!


Anyway, one place we went was a power plant: The Sherco Power Station in Becker, MN. Its three coal-fired boilers produce 2,250 megawatts of electricity. That's roughly equal to Hoover Dam. The three trainloads of coal that get burned up each day come in from the low-sulfur coal beds in Colorado and Wyoming. The plant's scrubber system removes up to 90% of the particulates from the exhaust. On a warm clear day with all three boilers going, you can just barely see a thin wisp of grey smoke coming from one of the stacks. It's one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the country, if not the world.

It's done that way because of the federal and state pollution laws. But we also do it because that's the way we WANT to do it. The air and water quality in Central Minnesota is excellent, and we wish to keep it that way.

During the tour, our guide mentioned that he had taken a group of Chinese officials around the plant the previous week. They were mightily impressed by the plant's scale and capacity, but they couldn't have cared less about the pollution controls. This was in 1992.

When the environmental movement started in the late 60s and early 70s, its main goal was to make the planet a better place to live. Let's clean up the water so we can drink it and swim in it. Let's put some pollution controls on our cars and planes so we can breathe the air. Our air and water are noticably cleaner than they were 30 years ago, due in large part to "The Treehuggers." The days of Lake Erie catching on fire are long gone and don't appear to be on their way back in anytime soon.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the eco-movement lost its way. Today the philosophy seems to be "The Envirnonment Over Man" rather than "Man With the Environment." It should be noted that a great chunk of environmental "progress" has come from loss of industry to third world labor, to say nothing of the non-existant pollution laws. (cough**UNIONCARBIDE**cough)

All in all, we've learned a great deal about living in and with the environment, but the Chinese apparently don't care. They've got coal beds similar to our own and they are using them to advance their society and standard of living. But they either can't or don't want to invest the resources necessary to build a clean coal plant.

More proof that a wealthy society is a clean society. (OOOOOOOOOOOOOh, the treehuggers HATE it when you say that!)

Dear VRWCman,

So your point is that the TOTALITARIAN form of government is not subject to the self-correcting mechanisms that are PROVING themselves to be effective in our system.

That is bizarre, but consistent. The problem seems to be over and over throughout history that totalitarian government--- in which the state is supreme and the individual inconsequential--- seems to be inevitably hijacked by rulers who have utterly no regard for the general consequences of any excesses, or misbehavior by the state.

Well, NATURALLY! Once theyve hijacked the government, they are able to artificially insulate themselves from those consequences.

Chinese Government officials dont need to be concerned about cancer rates from pollution among the general population, because they can set up pristine enclaves for themselves in which the water and air and food are pure. They can set up hideously inefficient industrial centers that poison landscapes FAR FAR AWAY from the vistas the leaders see from their windows.

Its another example like the fan-cooled patrician in my rant earlier.
So what if my slaves are suffering from lung cancer, or low birth-weight babies, or open running abscesses, or prolapsed colons? Theyre SLAVES!!!!! Their suffering is of no more consequence than the suffering of the oysters upon which I dine tonight!

He drains another goblet of ambrosia...

Indeed, it is fundamental to the way the universe works that they suffer these afflictions. The miasmas and poisonous vapors that they absorb would otherwise be mine to deal with, you see? if they did not serve their proper ordeals in my behalf, I would then have to deal with those discomforts. That, my friend, is the entire beautiful logic of the slave system.

Again, the Chinese leadership is seeing the situation through a filter of ancient political dogma, in which the masses only exist to ensure the luxury of the tiny oligarchy at the top of the cultures pyramid structure.

Looks like George W. gonna have to go over to CHINA and kick some butt.

Make STRAIGHT the way for Democratic Industrial Enterprenuers.

Er.... Ooops. I mean REPUBLICAN.... etc.

David March

Dear VRWCman,

Its a few hours after posting my smartyboot reply to your
item about the Chinese Official disinterest in pollution controls, etc. Now the Thorazine is kicking in and Ibe been thinking about your comment on the radicalization of the environmental movement.

Environmental writer David Quammen in one of a collection of essays tells of a canoe trip he made that included among its members the founder of the EARTHFIRST! movement. Quammen said that as they paddled along, they had conversations some of the time. At one point the guy mentioned that it was a central part of his strategy to try to make statements and to establish policy positions that were so extremely far to the LEFT that they necessarily would bring the CENTER of the spectrum for environmental discussions also much farther to the left.

It is entirely possible that a lot of the assertions being made by people of all persuasions are guided by that same logic.

What a world.

David March

I read that article. (I love Quammen.)

Like most environmentalists whose central motivation and approach is political, he misses the point completely. By making it so partisan and political, when something gets accomplished, it's sometimes a politically pleasing event with NEGATIVE environmental consequences. As they say, Yellowstone's forests would still be standing if it weren't for Smokey the Bear, greatest threat to national woodlands since the invention of the RV.

A favorite hobbyhorse of enviros and lefties up here is picketing Los Alamos National Lab. Shutting it down is actually an official plank of New Mexico's Green party. Meanwhile with a few well-guarded exceptions (which we're working on), the background radiation levels here are lower than the national average- and we're one of the frontrunners in research on environmental remediation, turning ruined land back into fertile ecosystems. We discovered how to clean toxic waste from water and soil, developed a noninvasive and relatively simple procedure for profiling genetic diversity in native birds, learned how to turn explosive-testing ranges back into forest, on and on. Shutting down LANL would be a blow TO conservation, not for. But because "no nukes" is a standard lefty goal, the environmentalist lobby group pick up that standard in order to win political support.

Dave March (and others):

I think the real issue here, the fundamental issue, is that of feedback control. I'm pretty sure JKS and the other engineering types know what I'm talking about, but here's the basic idea: You need to use your current state to constantly reeavaluate where you're going .

This is the basic principle behind control of any kind. When you steer a plane or launch a missile, an onboard computer keeps calculating the difference between where you are and where you're going, and adjusts accordingly. It then repeats the process the next second, and the next second, constantly adjusting. Democracy, Science, and Capitalism all incorporate feedback control on a larger scale... because they can admit the possibility of error, and use their current state information to correct their trajectory accordingly.

Capitalism has the shortest time scale for self-correction...probably on the order of seconds if we're talking financial markets, or days if we're talking about most industries.

Science has an intermediate time scale for self-correction...with online release of information, it's maybe a few months before a correction is printed to an erroneous paper or a follow-up study is done.

Democracy has the longest time scale, measured in years, but it's chosen that way for a reason. An election every day would be a bad idea, because you'd introduce extraneous oscillation - the sampling interval in feedback control is important.

Anyway, the point is that all three of these foundations of the West are cultural examples of the feedback control principle that's so central to engineering. Totalitarianism, Socialism, and Religion all fail because they cannot admit the prospect of error and thus cannot correct tragic trajectories.

This sounds like something out of Isabel Patterson's book "The God of the Machine". Politics as ebgineering isn't entirely a one to one correspondence (people lie and decieve all the time, materials don't), but this approach has its uses. One can see more of what a successful political system needs to maintain itself.

To Indi...

I liked the thought-line in your comment. And I liked the way it pointed out not only the common misunderstanding that others have about life in America, but one of the misunderstandings that I think Americans have for others.

When I was stationed in Germany, I can remember a fairly typical comment made by several different locals I spoke with... namely that, to them, life in America had always been what they'd seen on American television shows. And at the time, the biggest show making the rounds (back before "Baywatch") was "Dallas." So, to them, all of American life consisted of bored, overdressed rich people plotting and scheming against each other, carrying guns and occasionally shooting those that they disagreed with, and just generally having nothing better to do with their overly abundant free time than phenagling their way into more and more money and power and land and STUFF. And I had to admit, I could see why they'd think that.

I can assure you though, as a member of the (now unemployed) unarmed lower-middle-class, there is NO similarity between that lifestyle and the life of anyone I've ever known in my life. I'm sure there are many people like that around here, but they are not the norm.

And no, I'm not saying that this is what YOU believe.

But when you said, "... I also think that people are better off when they are able to be content with what they have instead of always hungering for more. I think that once basic needs for sustenance, comfort and safety are met, there is a seriously decreasing return on the fruits of effort. You work harder, produce more, own more, and are less satisfied,"... then I felt like I was reading the thoughts of someone on the outside looking in, who could only imagine how THEY would feel were they suddenly transported into that situation. And I don't think it translates that easily.

To me, this lifestyle is not one of an ever-tightening, upward-spiraling vicious circle, in which you just keep buying and wanting and craving more and more and more until you finally just sorta' "twang" from a critical mass of greed. I think it's more of a thing where each new plateau you rise to just keeps improving the view. And who wants to go back down again once they've found something they like? Especially when, from THERE, they can now see another way to an even BETTER view! This is a personal thing, obviously... some people WILL use each new acquisition as a mere stepping stone to bigger-better-more-powerful, and will never be satisfied... but that's not lifestyle doing that. That's the individual. The lifestyle simply grants you the opportunities to go further-higher-broader. And for most of the people I know, the objective is usually just to reach the perfect plateau for them... where the money is sufficient to quit worrying about money anymore, and where the toys and job security allow you to forget about those too, and instead... just... "be." Relaxing at the end of the chase can be the best reward of all.

So it's that last part, where you said we become "less satisfied," that I think you made one presumption too many.

You went on to say, "... one of the most important things in my life has been learning not to always be charging towards the future and to be able to enjoy the things in life that don't produce wealth for anyone, but produce a lot of happiness for me and everyone I come in contact with." And that's an important point. It's also an available option in the American system, and one which is chosen more often than not, I believe. David March gave a good example of it from his own life, and I have several of my own.

I could be dead wrong about this (especially if you're writing from Beverly Hills yourself). But to me it's like offering an unlimited supply of Legos to a roomful of kids. Sure, a couple of them will insist on taking the lion's share, maybe even stealing (unnecessarily) from some others, and a couple might even band together and build themselves a little fort from which to pester and annoy the other kids. But the majority, I think, would draw sufficient pleasure from just slapping together a couple of little box-shaped "houses" and a little Lego-car to drive back and forth between them. That's cool enough. That's all the riches they need. They know they can have more if they'll just take the steps to get them, but after that point, it's no longer that important to them.

But the point is, everyone has access to the supply, to whatever degree they pursue it. At least that's the principle.

By the same token, from the other side of the moat, I think Americans tend to believe that, like themselves, EVERYONE, everywhere, really dreams of having all our "boundless choices" and opportunities themselves... and they DON'T, necessarily.

I enjoyed reading in that "MiG Pilot" book (about the defecting Soviet pilot) how utterly overwhelmed and unprepared he was for even the most mundane range of choices that we tend to take for granted here... like all the brand names available on a single grocery shelf, the types and locations of houses, the sizes and performance stats of all the cars he could choose from. It wasn't like he couldn't LEARN to enjoy all his options... it was just that, because he'd never HAD them before, he'd never MISSED them before.

I think that when you grow up in a place where the opportunities and choices and directions are so many and so wide open, it's easier to take them for granted, and thereby by motivated by other things. In a place like this, a person is usually driven more by competitiveness than covetousness. We're usually just building our way to our own happy little plateaus (like most people in the world). We've just grown accustomed to having an accumulation of toys coming along with us.

I think.



When and where is WhittleCon? I work at a conference center, may be able to help get a deal on rooms and space.

I have been passing on Bill's words and writings to those around me for the past week now, still have one person that I need to gather and print all the essays for. I also have to work up the courage to confront him, he's a 70 something that comes in carrying Chomsky with him every time, and despite having actully fought a war against them believes we live in a Facist Totalitarian regime. I'm honestly afraid the truth presented this eloquently and obviously might kill him so get ready to start a legal fund for me.

To elaborate on the contented vs acquiring life, we ARE gatherers and hunters. That is a natural state of being. It can be satisfying, in itself, to acquire.

But I don't think most people live that way. Sure there are people who focus on the next hot thing, but most people view acquisition as something that will make their contented life easier, simpler, or just more beautiful. And don't rule out FUN as a reason for acquiring something.

We're so far away from basic needs, that we tend to view these things as superfluous. They ARE the same thing as basic needs, but on a higher level.

Everyone in my circle (that I choose to associated with) are happy, contented people. At times they may acquire new stuff, but work and prosperity is viewed as a means to an end, not an end to itself.

I know there are people who view wealth as a goal, simply to BE weathly. But that isn't wealth--that's just having money. Wealth is a state of mind more than a bank balance. It's trust and a perpective that when you go to the tap there will be water--and Americans (despite their grumblings now and again) do trust that the tap will supply water, as needed. We aren't a nation of hoarders. That is an amazing thing. Despite all the fear-mongering that the oil reserves will run out, there isn't enough food, there isn't enough water, human beings have always managed to find a way--when we have the need to do something we will. We grow more corn, rice, beans, etc., than a farmer 100 years ago could have produced in a lifetime. Our yields increase in less space, with less resources. Some tangible resources may be finite, but technology, innovation, and creativity are infinite--and we can rely on those to solve the tangible resource problems.

This post is at least tangentially related to the themes of Bill Whittles essays... I believe this relates to the difference in our system between political appeals to voters based on principle (which may require sacrifice), versus appeals based on the expectation of quid pro quo--- i.e., entitlements for votes.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the L.A. Times, 15 July, which was re-published by Oregon Public Broadcasting at this URL:
The article is titled Democratic No-Shows Draw NAACPs Wrath, and was written by John-Thor Dahlburg and Mark Z. Barabak, Times Staff Writers. It opens:

After months of simmering tensions, a rift between black leaders and the Democratic Party erupted publicly Monday when three of the nine candidates for the party's presidential nomination skipped a forum sponsored by the NAACP.

The head of the civil rights group lambasted the no-shows -- Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Reps. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio -- declaring each of them a "persona non grata" in the African American community.

"Your political capital is the equivalent of Confederate dollars," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said.

Lieberman, Gephardt and Kucinich bore the brunt of the hostility vented by Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president, and scurried about offering proofs of their long-standing commitment to civil rights and citing various inevitable conflicts that arise in campaigning.

The article gets to the heart of the issue here:

But the flap over Monday's forum also underscored a growing frustration among many of the Democratic candidates. They and their strategists have become increasingly weary of the number of interest groups -- each representing a core Democratic constituency -- that are scheduling forums and expecting all of the candidates to appear.

Recent forums have been hosted by abortion-rights activists, environmentalists, labor unions and Latino leaders, among other groups. Several of the candidates are set to appear today before a [sic] organization in Washington.

The writers fail to address the deeper significance of the situation, though, which is that this highlights the dangers for any political party offering itself for sale to various interest groups for their votes; They think they OWN you.

Didnt they see the movie The Producers?

First time I've made it through the comments (I've read all of Bill's posts). Great discussion & commentary. My only addition is on the economics front - nobody seems to have talked about where the money comes from to provide a medium of exchange.

Yes, the profit on the movie script came from the revenue of the company, which came from movie goers, etc. But, the money supply is a factor in the picture. A component of the US economy is that the government supplies the medium of exchange (dollars), controls the amount of that medium (interest rates, bank reserve values, buy/sell US treasuries), and participates in a monetary exchange system to allow others to use that currency. And since the US has currency by fiat (backed by the faith of government, not by gold), the value of Capitalism is also that the world trust the US government enought to trust its guarantee of currency (and often to use US $ as a de facto reserve instead of gold).

As a result of this structure and the Fed policies, we also control inflation, which allows people to focus on creating their goods instead of worrying about the price of inputs / cost of basic necessities.

Bill - keep up the great work. Everyone else - keep up the great thinking.

I've enjoyed these commentaries almost as much as Bill's essay.

Kudos to Mrs. duToit for making what I believe to be the most concise comment on all that has been written. (I'm not saying that Bill is prolix.)

I enjoy the comments almost as much as the essays, almost. As always a great job.
I would like to say something to the trolls who complain that America is going to hell in a handbasket, and to make you an offer(the trolls that is).
My wife and I are both Canadians who now live in Greece. We left Canada mainly because we were both bankers who were laid off and with the economic climate in Canada were unable to get permanent jobs that were other than contrat positions. Unfortunately this is the way banks, and other companies are now hiring, you can work for years for a company and never have any job security. We moved to America for 8 months and can honestly say that although we were unable to stay that this was one of the most enjoyable times of our lives. My wife is also Greek so we are now here. Now, a small comparison intended to show the difference that OPTIMISM can make in your daily life.
-Dealing with the various government departments.
We ran aroung for 2 weeks just trying to find out where the department that could register our wedding(we were married in Canada), no one knew where we should go and finally when we figured it out, and after having spoken with the nastiest and mentally deficient people I have ever seen in any government, we were sent to a department where my wife's parents marriage was listed in ledgers, yes ledgers, not on computer. Here in Greece everything that you do that involves paperwork includes your parents information. That is not an experience I would like to ever go through again. Until recently, by law, my wife could not take my name and to change it now would involve a lawyer and another decent into hell. On our identification we are required to show our religion, although we both have none.
- Taxes and what we get for it.
This is for the people who would like to see your country acquire a Medical system such as we have in Canada. Be very carefull that you may get more than you bargain for.
In Canada, there does not exist private hospitals and clinics. Regardless of how much money you have, you can only to hospital or doctor that will be paid for by the state, needless to say the waste and corruption is endless. Don't even get me started on the waiting lists for surgery or anything else for that matter.
In Greece we have state medicare and subsidised drugs. We both pay a large amount of taxes for this ah RIGTH. We would not be caught dead in a state supported hospital, we pay our own way to use clinics and hospitals that are privately owned and are as good as enything that exists in America, actually alot of them are affiliated with hospitals in America. To have surgery in a state hospital, is to put your life in the hands of doctors and nurses who would prefer to be doing something else, also note, our taxes payes for this but everyone still needs to pay the doctors their (little white envelope) this is to ensure that all parties involved in the surgery will do their best. Strike that, their jobs.
- More taxes. Cars cost about 2 or 3 times the price for the same car that you may buy in America, you pay a transfer tax when you buy and a transfer tax when you sell, both parties do. Nice eh. Gas costs 3 times what you pay, I will not bother to describe the driving conditions because unless you live it, I doubt anyone would believe me. We pay 18% V.A.T. on everything on top of all the other taxes and tax on taxes are all over.
- Employment
Most employers treat their employees as serfs, they regularly break or bend the laws to suit themselves and the pay here is approx. half of what someone can earn for the same job in America or Canada. PLEASE NOTE- the only employers who treat their employees with any form of respect are the same American companies that you protest are destroying the world for maximum profit, go figure. My point to all of this is, yes, Martha, there is a point, my wife and I both get through this by knowing, KNOWING, that if we bust our asses every day, fight for what we get and believe, that we will be providing a better life for our kids.
My offer, should you decide to accept is:
Eny troll that feels they are cannot make a better life for themselves and theirs in a land like America can trade us my Canadian and my wife's European (Greek) and Canadian citizenship for a green card, you come here and we go there. We are not saying that we trade for your citizenship, we will earn our own.
Sorry for the long post guys. Keep doing what you all do on a daily basis and America will always be safe, even for the trolls.


To Nick...

clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, etc.

Excellent. Much appreciated. 'Nuff said.

Listening to an American troll complaining about how horrible it is here... about how they're losing all their civil rights, how they're being taxed to death, how the US government is one big conspiracy factory... is like listening to some spoiled rotten rich kid whining about how he's being treated like a serf because his parents won't let him ride his polo pony on the driveway, or complaining about how simply beastly life has become when he's asked to carry his own champagne glass back in from the pool. I guess when you're born into it, and never get to see it from the outside, you just have no idea how good you've got it.

I can remember driving from West to East Germany, and then from West to East Berlin, back when they were still an east-west thing. And it was like watching a movie in which the film stock has been switched from Technicolor to black-and-white in the middle of a scene. I can remember parking my car on the main drag in East Berlin... right behind the Brandenburg Gate... then taking a picture of the whole length of the street... hundreds and hundreds of identical, standard, Soviet-issue, clattertrap little 50s-vintage rust-buckets (I can never remember what they're called) nosed into the curb, with one lipstick-red '87 Toyota Tercel sparkling right in the middle of them. Until that moment, I'd thought I had it pretty rough, since a bottom-of-the-line cheapy Toyota was all I could afford on my staff sergeant's pay. What a great shot. And at that time, so close to the demolition of The Wall, the East German government was nowhere near the police state it had once been.

So to hear the Berkley-troids calling America a fascist police state led by bullies or their ever-popular "Nazis"... well, it's just too stupid to even be effectively insulting. Unfortunately, after a while, their juvenile protestations go from being the annoying squawk of a parrot that won't shut up, to the infuriating whine of a mosquito that you no longer want to just walk away from... if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo, I always enjoy hearing from someone who's been on both sides of the moat, and can speak with some credibility and perspective on just how unbelievably good we've got it here.

Thanks again, Nick.

Anyone else out there?


Thanks, Nick. Good luck to you and your family!

I agree with GHS. In 1992, I was in the Army in Germany and took my Sergeants on an official training expedition to the former East Germany province of Weimar (from our base in West Germany). We were going to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

As we crossed the border on a chartered bus, my team started giving me crap about how nice the houses in East Germany looked, how well the people seemed to have done under the former regime, how full of crap I must have been to tell them that the East Germans had it tough. Then, after about 10 miles across the border, everything changed. Dirt, soot, broken roads, fallow fields, abandoned vehicles, people with broken spirits shuffling along, broken gates hanging off of their rusty hinges in front of government buildings...you could have heard a pin drop amongst the group of soldiers...

That was the best experience for us. To realize how valuable freedom really is...



Thanks once again for the brain food. Your writing reminds me of a more optimistic version of P.J. O'Rourke.

Regarding the whole Right vs. Left discussion: We need a new paradigm (committee meeting drinking game, everyone must now do a "buzzword" shot) rather than the single axis Left/Right currently in use to describe political orientation.

Steven Den Beste had a good post (surprise, surprise) about this very thing. The URL is:


(Ill wait till you get back)

Now that you're smarter, back to my drivel.

I've decided to start thinking in a Rubik's Cube metaphor when it comes to politics. Maybe Rubik's Revenge on steroids, because there are just too many facets and positions for the wimpy original cube. Every time you shift the issue being addressed, you give that cube a twist. The guy standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me on the Second Amendment can end up on the opposite side of the Cube once the debate shifts to the DMCA. Or national security, Social Security, airport security, etc.

This had me in a bit of a quandary. I don't want to lend my financial support to the opposition, but strict adherence to that path led to a shack in the woods next to the Unabomber. Unless a bedrock principle is involved, I've since decided that I'm going to expend my energy on the positions I am "for", rather than get my undies in a bunch about everything I'm "against". Philosophically, I'd be fairly accurately described as a libertarian. (I'd probably be a Libertarian, but I couldn't find any tin foil when I was making my hat. All the real tin foil was gone, leaving only aluminum foil, and the mind control rays were able to penetrate my brain. It's the vast Reynolds Wrap conspiracy. Damn you, Glenn!!) I favor a pro-Capitalism fiscal policy and a liberal social policy. I like my Constitution dead. But enough about me.

I think that the current political landscape is going to undergo a significant remodeling in the near future. As long as people like Nancy Pelosi are driving the ideology for the Democrats, they are going to be in the buggy-whip business, selling a Socialist agenda to a shrinking market. I remember reading that Communism was just Socialism in a hurry. And that Socialism was just the Democratic Party in a hurry. The promise of bread and circuses in exchange for votes will end up being a death-spiral (ask the french). Apparently, the Confederate dollar doesnt have the vote-purchasing power it once did

The Republicans have problems too. The party platform is still very much a social conservative agenda. A substantial percentage of the party members are Republicans by default. For people like me, the Republicans represent an uneasy compromise. They are a lesser evil than the Democrats. Its the choice between a wedgie and castration.

I know that other political parties exist. Most are single-issue parties. None make any significant difference in the overall political debate in this country. Perots candidacy helped elect Clinton; Naders almost helped elect Bush. I doubt that either candidates core constituency preferred that outcome. If you look in a dictionary of colloquialisms under pissing in the wind, youll see a listing of every political party in America that isnt the Democrats or Republicans.

(Just read what Ive written so far. Ive got enough tangents going to start my own system of geometry. Sorry about the rambling diatribe.)

My hope for the future is that the Democrats will ratchet up their rhetoric and go full throttle with the post-national Socialist agenda. That they will continue to shrilly denounce the liberation of Iraq. That they will go beyond mere bread and circuses and promise croissants and Cirque du Soliel. That they will embrace every moon bat cause, straddle every fence. That they will not only pander to Special Interests, they will create a new hierarchy for Extra Special Interests. And that they will crash and burn so spectacularly, that there wont even be a wisp of smoke from the wreckage.

Bill wrote that it aint the ingredients, its the recipe. When a loss is by a thin margin, there is a tendency to try to tweak the recipe. Add a little protective tariff; maybe throw in some sauted targeted tax cuts. When a loss is of epic proportions (along the lines of the Iraqi army a couple months back), there is a greater chance that the recipe will be changed altogether. Instead of Socialism Souffl, lets make Liberty Lasagna.

Either the Democratic Party will reinvent itself with a more relevant message, or there will be a schism in the Republican Party between the paleo- and neo-conservatives. My hope is that we can see a significant shift in the debate away from Capitalism vs. Socialism and the petty pandering to the class warriors. Put a stake through the heart of that issue.

Im not looking for the nanny state of the Democratic Party utopia. I also dont care for the Gladys Kravitz-ian (nosy neighbor on Bewitched) nature of the Republican. Put a party out there where I can be in favor of free markets, a strong military, limited government, individual liberties AND responsibilities. I dont care if you call it the Democratic Party, the Bull Moose Party, the Whigs, or the Toupees. Do this and I promise, tomorrow I wont skip my meds.

My view on the prevailing concept of a "political spectrum" is that the spectrum is really a single point - and the point is false.

It's a single point because every position on the alleged spectrum takes the same (wrong) view on fundamentals, and hence the whole thing collapses down to one basic view. Whether left or right or in between, the idea that individual lives are a means to an end is taken for granted, and is the moral foundation of their politics.

For the left, our lives are a means to the ends of "society" or "the public good". For the right, our lives are a means to the ends of God or "tradition" - and in practice both of these often mean "society" or "the public good".

This view is incompatible with the founding principle of the U.S. - individual rights. People exist by permission, not by right if their lives are a means to an end. Consequently, the left and the right both violate our rights in countless ways. Both are based on a denial of the principle of individual rights, and that's the false "point" I mentioned.

Instead of a spectrum for classifying political views, we just need two buckets. All the political systems that are based on lives as a means to an end (and hence a rejection of rights) go in one bucket; all the political systems based on lives as ends in themselves (and hence an acceptance of rights) go in the other bucket.

That first bucket is full: communism, socialism, fascism, religious theocracy, monarchy, military dictatorship, mixed economy. The other bucket has only one thing in it: capitalism ... and not the pseudo capitalism we have today, but laissez faire.

Mark Peters

Mr Peters,
Your suggestion of a new basis for evaluating the political spectrum is interesting, but seems more useful as a philosophical theory than a basis for sound policy. I agree with you in broad principle, but pure laissez faire is not sound economic policy and would be damaging to the nation. If your reference to laissez faire was a figure of speech and not to be interpreted literally, then all the following (like much that I write!) is silly longwinded bunk and can be safely disregarded. BUT...

Individual rights were supreme to the Founding Fathers, but there has never been a suggestion that a civilized nation could allow individual rights unchecked indulgence. Our love and protection of individual rights are part of what makes us a great nation, but allowing the nation to self-destruct based on solely that principle does nothing to serve the original goal of promoting individual rights.

That was the whole point of our Constitution; the Bill of Rights, which we rightly revere, was something of an afterthought. America previously had operated under the Articles of Confederation, under which the nation was on the verge of splitting into thirteen independent, unrelated, soverign nation-states. The point being, that wishing to become a great nation by the intellectually consistent application of political precepts of liberty doesn't work if the nation itself doesn't survive and flourish as an entity.

So how is this relevant? Laissez faire is the only system of economics which is intellectually consistent with individual liberty. But the very nature of government in certain ways restricts individual liberty anyway, and certainly "the right to swing your arm stops at your neighbor's nose" is an old example of that. Liberty doesn't by itself allow a nation to become great if we're all running around whacking each other about the head, just to exercise our liberty to do so. And laissez faire has predatory elements in it which amount to the very wealthiest among us economically whacking all of us about the head whenever they please, unchecked by any restraint. Pure laissez faire doesn't really work.

Adam Smith--which by now everyone probably realizes is my guiding authority on matters of economics, even above Alan Greenspan :)--already had pointed out that pure, unchecked laissez faire is a bad thing, as early as 1776. There should be no question that he thought free trade and commerce were Good Things:

>> The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security is so powerful a principle that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often incumbers its operations[.] But monopolies, the ugly consequence of unchecked laissez faire, are uniformly bad, and it is proper to check their abuse. Smith mentions the adverse consequences of granting or allowing any sort of monopolies dozens of times in the book. Two quick examples:

>> If the tax had been considerable, it would have oppressed the small, and forced almost the whole retail trade into the hands of the great dealers. The competition of the former being taken away, the latter would have enjoyed a monopoly of the trade, and like all other monopolists would soon have combined to raise their profits much beyond what was necessary for the payment of the tax. The final payment, instead of falling upon the shopkeeper, would have fallen upon the consumer, with a considerable overcharge to the profit of the shopkeeper. For these reasons the project of a tax upon shops was laid aside, and in the room of it was substituted the subsidy, 1759.

And again:
>> By a perpetual monopoly, all the other subjects of the state are taxed very absurdly in two different ways: first, by the high price of goods, which, in the case of a free trade, they could buy much cheaper; and, secondly, by their total exclusion from a branch of business which it might be both convenient and profitable for many of them to carry on. It is for the most worthless of all purposes, too, that they are taxed in this manner. It is merely to enable the company to support the negligence, profusion, and malversation of their own servants, whose disorderly conduct seldom allows the dividend of the company to exceed the ordinary rate of profit in trades which are altogether free, and very frequently makes it fall even a good deal short of that rate.

So the point of all this is that individual liberty is obviously economically important, and that the ability of everyone to make his own decisions based on his own interest serves the common good; but that unchecked capitalism becomes self-defeating when it is allowed to develop into a monopoly (which is a bad thing and should be prevented). And it's important to note that this is consistent with the apparent intent of the Federalists, who were pragmatic enough to temper their love of liberty with sufficient checks to ensure the US would flourish.

Sorry that I can't seem to make any point, no matter how minor, in fewer than a thousand words, or without quoting great chunks of Adam Smith. I suppose I'm just trying to pass the time till Bill's next essay. :)

JK Saggese.

Dear JKSagesse

No NOYour comments are worth taking the time to read carefully. And the quotes from Adam Smith are also very illuminating, and pithy. While brevity may be the soul of wit, it is not always the conveyance of truth. The truth is not always reducible to a cypher, and even when it might be, THAT cypher is a distillation and compression of complexity--- a REPRESENTATION of a much more complex set of ideas, compressed to a form that becomes an ICON, like Einstein's equation.

Thanks for taking the time to compose your comments.


Just a few replies before I hit the bunk for the night.

Mark: Your two-bucket political system is a pretty good summation of the situation. Over the last few years, I've come to view the political "spectrum" as a circle, divided into two thirds. The top third (in green) is "libertarianism". Note the use of a lower-case "L". The bottom two thirds (in red) is "authoritarianism". And right down the middle of the circle is a dotted line. So now you have what looks like an inverted "Peace" symbol. (Which, I can assure you all, is ENTIRELY coincidental.)

On this chart, left or right are merely leftover labels for what we all remember as the sides of the "spectrum". Well, as Reagan said in "The Speech" in 1964, there is no left or right but merely up or down. There's freedom or tyranny. There's what we know in America and most of the Western world, and there's what the Nazis, the Marxists, and the Mad Mullahs want you to do. Seriously, does it matter if Hitler was a right- or left-wing dictator? HE! WAS! A DICTATOR! Moving from one side of my dashed line to the other makes little difference if you're living in the red area.

Rick: I'll bet that "Liberty Lasagna" goes down really good with a frosty mug of quantum foam. I'll have to remember to try a slab and a mug at WhittleCon1.


David March,
Thank you for your kind remarks. In a lighter and more humorous spirit, your comment did remind me of one of my favorite visual gags from The Simpsons: a printed banner reading


I can't help but laugh at that for some reason, even if my writing hardly complies with it.

Take care all,

JK Sagesse,

Adam Smith was wrong about monopolies. His labor theory of value is also wrong, but that's a separate issue.

The only time having a large or exclusive market share is damaging is when that market share is gained through force. And by force I mean real, physical force, as in guns and beating people up.

If you look through history, you will find that without exception, the harmful monopolies were created by such force - government force. These companies were granted legal exclusivity to their markets, and competing against them was illegal. The same sort of thing was accomplished through government subsidies.

By contrast, a company that gains such a market share through voluntary means is _beneficial_ to everybody, not harmful. They are beneficial because voluntary exchange, i.e., trade is beneficial. Trade doesn't magically become harmful when done on a large scale.

If some outside party to a trade doesn't like it, he doesn't have any right to interfere, even if the end result is that he is out of business. This is especially true when the government is that outside party.

For the government to interfere by breaking a company up, fining it, etc. is _forcibly_ to substitute a judge's or bureaucrat's judgment for the judgment of all the people who voluntarily traded with the company. And that is a _massive_ violation of individual rights.

In a laissez-faire system, the initiation of such physical force or threat thereof would be banned. This is really what the concept of "limited government" means - a government limited to the function of securing individual rights, that is, of banning the initiation of physical force and enforcing that ban with appropriate laws.

Such a government is not a restriction of individual liberty. Only governments that violate people's right restrict liberty. Liberty is not the same as license.

Mark Peters

P.S. - You mentioned Alan Greenspan - at one time he understood all of this very well. I'm glad that he's the head of the fed rather than somebody else, but today he is no friend of freedom.

JK Sagesse,

Adam Smith was wrong about monopolies. His labor theory of value is also wrong, but that's a separate issue.

The only time having a large or exclusive market share is damaging is when that market share is gained through force. And by force I mean real, physical force, as in guns and beating people up.

If you look through history, you will find that without exception, the harmful monopolies were created by such force - government force. These companies were granted legal exclusivity to their markets, and competing against them was illegal. The same sort of thing was accomplished through government subsidies.

By contrast, a company that gains such a market share through voluntary means is _beneficial_ to everybody, not harmful. They are beneficial because voluntary exchange, i.e., trade is beneficial. Trade doesn't magically become harmful when done on a large scale.

If some outside party to a trade doesn't like it, he doesn't have any right to interfere, even if the end result is that he is out of business. This is especially true when the government is that outside party.

For the government to interfere by breaking a company up, fining it, etc. is _forcibly_ to substitute a judge's or bureaucrat's judgment for the judgment of all the people who voluntarily traded with the company. And that is a _massive_ violation of individual rights.

In a laissez-faire system, the initiation of such physical force or threat thereof would be banned. This is really what the concept of "limited government" means - a government limited to the function of securing individual rights, that is, of banning the initiation of physical force and enforcing that ban with appropriate laws.

Such a government is not a restriction of individual liberty. Only governments that violate people's right restrict liberty. Liberty is not the same as license.

Mark Peters

P.S. - You mentioned Alan Greenspan - at one time he understood all of this very well. I'm glad that he's the head of the fed rather than somebody else, but today he is no friend of freedom.

Oops, it took so long for the system to accept my posting that I canceled and hit "Post" again, but the cancel seems not to have worked.

Please excuse the double posting.

Mark Peters

I thought I should tell you this.

This weekend I learned that a friend of ours committed a cardinal sin. OK, he thinks Bush 2 is a case of dynastic succession. OK that he thinks that Bush will suspend elections to keep power. These are minor points, amusing at best.

The problem is, he thinks NASA faked the moon landings. This is touching the third rail of our religion, both for my wife and myself.

I've been arguing with him, but a quote has burned at the back of my brain. Something about footprints, used cars and a golf ball.

I've been searching my library for it. PJ O'Rourke was the first guess. Then the epifany: It must be Jerry Pournelle. Gee, can't find it from him either.

Finally I remembered where the eloquence came from. CONFIDENCE. And the follow-on paragraphs were even more inspiring.

Thank you.

Michael Schueller

Mr Peters,
Thank you for your remarks disagreeing with my criticism of strict laissez faire economics. If you and I cannot agree on some of the elemental principles of classical economics, we may not be able to agree on much of anything in the end. But I'll expound a little bit on why I still cannot agree with you.

I hope that I understand your main argument to be that while a monopoly may be disadvantageous to consumers, it is a still greater evil to regulate or dismantle it by an act of government. If this is not the case, and you somehow want to suggest that a monopoly isn't bad for consumers, then we have a much deeper disagreement which I doubt we'll overcome here. That assertion would contradict every economics study I've read and you won't convince me of its veracity simply by citing Ayn Rand or Alan Greenspan circa 1971.

Now if I've understood you correctly, we don't have a disagreement on economics at all, just a difference of political philosophy. You seem to advocate some kind of pure meritocracy, wherin as long as one gains one's power or economic influence legally, there should be no limitations to how one excercises that power, no matter how ruthless. In this system, anything that coddles the weak would weaken society as a whole.

I've browsed Ayn Rand's works (I assume from your posts that you are an adherent of her philosophy, or something like it) and discussed them with friends who admire her, and I have frankly found them wanting. Quite apart from the self-impressed tone I find her philosophy to take, I believe that what she advocates is essentially a return to a Hobbsian state of nature, so long as that uninhibited state of affairs is confined to the intellectual fields, where she and her adherents believe they would excel. It all strikes me as entirely too self-serving and self-impressed to be taken seriously. And my admiration of Alan Greenspan dates to after his radical period when he and Ms Rand hung around, dreaming (it seems to me) of dominating the world with their superior intellectual powers, and pulling up the ladder after them.

The point is that any society where the weak or average are utterly at the mercy of the strongest, whether that be measured by brute strength, mental acuity, or economic clout, is not a society I could fully admire. I am a fiscal conservative and a staunch supporter of free trade; but I recognize that if a company outcompetes everyone else in the field, then every consumer is at the mercy of their whim to continue as a benevolent economic despot. It's not common that a company is that successful, and if they are they need mainly to be watched: we as a society don't break up or regulate companies which become monopolies unless they actually abuse the power they've acquired. I think that's a reasonable position which I support.

I hope I've at least been on point here with respect to our disagreement. And (since it can be hard to successfully convey the intended tone in these sort of posts), I want to point out that I meant no offense in any of my remarks, even though it seems we may disagree pretty signficantly on this.

JK Saggese.

Mr. Saggese,

Nope, it isn't my view that monopolies harm consumers. My view is that companies that have gained large market shares through voluntary means are beneficial for _everybody_.

We won't be able to agree on principles of classical economics, because I think classical economics contains too many errors to be of value. My heroes in economics are Von Vises, Menger, Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt not Adam Smith or other classical economists.

The view that weak or average people are somehow threatened by the existence of strong people is a fallacy about capitalism that the above thinkers exposed. The main reason it is a fallacy is that when a company, dominant or not, begins displeasing its customers, it has no power to stop competitors who come on the scene in response.

There isn't even _one_ example in history of a dominant company harming its customers in the way you suggest is possible - unless the company gained its dominance via the government. The only thing anti-trust activity has accomplished is the destruction of mass quantities of wealth and of the lives and careers of our best businessmen.

If you look at who complains about alleged abuses, you will see that it is not the customers of the accused company, but its _competitors_.

Mark Peters

In Part 1, you write, "There is not a big, limited pot of wealth that is filled with the Magic Sweat of Authentic Third World Laborers, that America uses its military to steal from when we run out of wealth here at home." But there happens to be a big, limited pot of wealth filled with Iraqi oil that America uses its military to steal from when we run out of oil here at home.

Dear George Thomas Kysor,

And just when exactly did we run out of oil?

I just want to give you a friendly warning that you will very likely receive a few replies to your posting that will end up making you want to slink away in embarrassment for the breathtaking ignorance and silliness of your remark.

One can only assume that you were born long after the Arab oil embargo by OPEC in 1973, in which case your extreme youth and inexperience might be some excuse. (OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries formed in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. They were joined later by Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, UAR, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Gabon.)

In October of 1973, OPEC declared an embargo on the shipment of oil to those countries that had supported Israel in its conflict with Egypt in the so-called Yom Kippur war. At that time, America was consuming approximately 33 per cent of the worlds annual energy budget. In less than a year the price of gasoline at the pump rose in some parts of the United States by a factor of four or five. Oil deliveries to the U.S. dropped from over ONE MILLION BARRELS of oil PER DAY, to less than 20,000. Gas stations instituted odd/even day policies, meaning you could only fill your tank on a day that matched the odd/even last number of your car license plate. Nevertheless, there were lines of vehicles stretching for blocks for every gas station around the country.

This was the basis of what we now call the Global Energy Crisis and made us keenly aware of our dependence. The US. government introduced some pathetically lame conservation measures, such as lowering the national speed limit to 55 mph, which happens to be the speed at which Detroits pre-embargo engines were designed to operate most efficiently.

**** If our country were inclined to use military might to simply take control of Arab nations oil reserves, that was the time to have done it. Even with the Soviet Union still kicking, if oil were so critically essential we would have taken measures then. ****

Since that time, although we still consume more than our share of the worlds energy (and PRODUCE far out of proportion, too) we have become FAR less dependent on Arab oil reserves. The idea that we would piss away our military strength on Iraqi oil is NUTS.

In fact, Arab countries with oil to sell have enjoyed an estimated three TRILLION dollars in PROFITS from oil revenues between 1974 and 1994. By so dramatically enriching the various governments, this has unfortunately had the effect of entrenching and solidifying the power base of some very authoritarian regimes, that might otherwise have been forced to respond to internal social pressures for modernization and liberalization.

Look at the things that have been done with the fabulous wealth these countries raked in--- Libya (Qaddafi) tried to build a manmade river; Saudi Arabia and Kuwait set up far-reaching socialist welfare systems which are twitchily sensitive to market fluctuations; Saudi Arabia spent 10 Billion dollars on a THIRD international airport for the city of Jiddah, and the reports of the mass graves and gilded palaces tell us what Saddam was doing with his money. In fact, in many cases, the governments have behaved as irresponsibly and thoughtlessly as lottery winners here in the States, ending up in worse shape a few decades later than they were before the oil revenue windfalls started pouring in!

Next time you have the urge to toss out a challenging statement, try doing a little research about the matter at hand. You might actually enjoy learning a few things.

David March
animator & fiddler

Interestingly enough, such a volitile topic as "what makes America what she is" (i.e. Trinity) should have fished in every troll in the blogosphere, yet it didn't. If you review all 260+ posts to his essay you find very few people trying to debunk Bill's thesis. This is a testiment to the strong arguements put forth in Trinity.

Then poor George Thomas Kysor tries the drive-by above (July 20th, 08:02 PM). Unfortunately for him, a drive by isn't effective when your shooting a pellet gun.

David March: you are entirely correct in your debunking of George Thomas Kysor's nonsense.

But isn't there an even more fundamental rebuttal? The oil fields in the middle east were discovered and developed by western corporations, and then brazenly _stolen_ from them (euphemistally, "nationalized") by the thugs who ran (and still run) the governments over there.

The bottom line is that the _rightful_ owners of that oil are not the Arab nations they exist in, but the western corporations they were stolen from. In other words, Kyson's view is the literal reverse of the truth.

Mark Peters

Mr Peters,
Ah, the Austrian School. Of course. Now I've never really studied any of their serious works, though I am a little bit familiar with some of the ones you mention. I basically understand their philosophy to be pretty much Libertarianism, set to economics. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and as a fiscal conservative, I have a great deal in common with an economic Libertarian: we both despise Keynes, we both claim that free trade benefits even its unilateral practitioners, etc.

But I have some problems with strict Libertarianism, and I have some problems with the Austrian School of economists by extension. Libertarianism has as its one great asset its total absence of self-contradiction, achieved mainly by taking an extreme but narrow position (just say "no" to government) and then insisting on its universal applicability. I find that position to be (forgive me) too simplistic to be satisfying, and as a consequence do not adhere to it.

I really don't mean to impugn the whole Austrian School of economics, which has contributed significantly to modern economic theory, especially in its innovative explanation of the business cycle. Though even there, their assertion that using fiscal and monetary policy to moderate a recession is a bad thing seems a bit extreme, and dictated by the absolute need to remain consistently on topic ("government BAD"). But I think that many other schools of post-classical economists have made contributions as well, and I can't say I wholly agree with any of them either. It seems to me that a choice of favorite modern economic system has become almost a political preference: liberals automatically love Keynes, and Libertarians automatically love the Austrians, because it results in one adhering to an economic system which won't produce predictions or solutions at odds with one's own political beliefs. Maybe that's the only reason I like Adam Smith.

Now as far as your last post is concerned, I must say that your provocative thesis has captured my attention. I want to ask a few follow-up questions to make sure I understand you correctly.

1. MP: "The main reason it is a fallacy is that when a company, dominant or not, begins displeasing its customers, it has no power to stop competitors who come on the scene in response."

Is this universally true? What about in an industry with high barriers to entry? What about a corporation which is willing to engage in a predatory price war if a new entrant comes along? If the incumbent has a sufficient cash hoard available, he could certainly outlast a new entrant; or is there something there I'm overlooking?. Or does your assertion of this powerlessness hinge on the presence of anti-trust regulators to stop such a thing?

2. MP: "There isn't even _one_ example in history of a dominant company harming its customers in the way you suggest is possible"

This claim certainly gets one's attention. It is so bold, so brash, that certainly somewhere you must have a study you can point to which backs this up. If so I would genuinely like to read it and would be grateful if you would point it out to me.

Further, are you arguing that it is impossible for a monopoly to hurt consumers the way I suggest, or merely that it's never been done?

And the last point about this claim is that this suggests that every anti-trust suit ever brought by our government must have been frivolous, even the successful ones. Microsoft lost its anti-trust case, though its penalties seem pretty minor; AT&T settled its anti-trust case and agreed to break itself up; Standard Oil was broken up into 34 companies, to name just a few obvious examples. Were all these decisions, proved in open court, wrong? I assume your answer is yes, but why? Were consumers hurt by these verdicts or was it simply an "unjust" or "unfair" result to penalize these successful companies?

3. MP: "- unless the company gained its dominance via the government."
At least we agree that state-granted, legally-enforced monopolies are bad things.

4. MP: "The only thing anti-trust activity has accomplished is the destruction of mass quantities of wealth and of the lives and careers of our best businessmen."

>> American courts do not much like breaking up successful companies. But when they do, the results are not always dire. Think of Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Chevron: those companies, with a long and valuable history, are among the fragments of Standard Oil, broken up in 1911. In the subsequent decade, the value of Standard Oil's divided assets rose fivefold. John D. Rockefeller, lucky man, thus made more money in retirement than during his working life. The Economist, "Bill Rockefeller?," 4/27/2000)

>> The [1982 AT&T] breakup created an array of choices that consumers still find confusing. But it's widely agreed that it lowered long-distance prices and stimulated innovation. The companies created out of the Bell System, including those since swallowed up, are worth about $810 billion today, vs. $59 billion before the breakup. That 1,300% gain compares to a market-cap rise of just 140% for IBM over the same period. Business Week, "Commentary: The Lessons of the AT&T Breakup," 11/22/1999)

Please substantiate your previous comment in light of the above excerpts. And do you agree that post-breakup long distance prices are generally cheaper? If so, isn't that an instance of antitrust enforcement providing a benefit to consumers?

5. MP: "If you look at who complains about alleged abuses, you will see that it is not the customers of the accused company, but its _competitors_."

True enough, if all you're basing that on is reading the news. But I (as a consumer) bitch about my buggy, time-to-upgrade-again-where's-my-checkbook Microsoft software daily. I just don't do it in the news. I am going to assume that judges in antitrust proceedings discount competitors' claims somewhat to account for this effect.

I appreciate your willingness to participate in such a spirited debate, and I hope to learn something from your reply. To readers who don't share my love of economics, again, sorry for the long post.

JK Saggese.

Mr. Saggese,

The following necessarily leaves alot of questions unanswered, because I can't write a book in response to you (but this comes close anyway). Instead, I'm just "peeling off one layer of the onion", so to speak. I'll have something to say about some of the concretes you mentioned, but I'm going to focus on principles.

Let me start by stating that I'm not a Libertarian. The view that the government is evil or a necessary evil is wrong. Consequently, I don't agree with economists or others who think that. A government that secures individual rights is _good_ - only a government that doesn't is bad. I agree with the founders view that the purpose of government is securing individual rights.

Next, I'd like to state what I consider to be "harm": violating somebody's rights, which means initiating physical force (or threatening it) against a person or his property. This can be called "political" harm.

Other types of harm are _moral_ issues, not political ones, and hence the government has no legitimate role in responding to them (or acting to prevent them). In fact, to do so is to cause political harm, to violate individual rights, because it cannot be done except by threatening or initiating physical force. That directly contradicts the purpose of government.

Regarding my claim that there are no examples of companies engaging in voluntary exchange causing harm to consumers, I'm basing this on several things: the above meaning of "harm", the history of several companies alleged to have done this, and the principle that voluntary exchange _cannot_ cause such harm.

A company causing harm in the political sense is not engaging in voluntary exchange - it is using physical force, e.g., as with fraud. As such, it doesn't count as an example. Such companies can be handled with normal criminal law - anti-trust isn't necessary.

The history of the famous anti-trust cases I have looked into shows me that the harm was perpetrated by the _government_ against the accused company, and the accused company was guilty of nothing but excellence. The case of Alcoa is the single best example of this, but I've read similar things about Standard Oil and a handful of others.

Voluntary exchange between two parties may cause _disappointment_ to some third party, it may frustrate their desires, it may even cause that third party to go out of business (in the case of large numbers of such exchanges in a free market summing in favor of one company and against another). None of these, however, are legitimate political issues since they don't cause harm in the political sense.

Your (and often my) bitching about Microsoft products is in response to that category of non-political harm (perceived harm, anyway). We don't like it, but the government has no business doing something about it.

Now, about some of the concretes you mentioned. The "barriers to entry" problem is to be expected. Some markets simply require huge amounts of capital to get into, and somebody _without_ such capital has no right to cry foul because he can't get in. Those who do have the capital, have it because they already have a long track record of success in other markets, and hence people are willing to invest in them. Those who don't are in that situation because they don't have that track record. Customers who want what is produced in these markets can _wish_ there were more choices, but none of them can legitimately claim that because there aren't, somebody is doing something bad.

Predatory price wars - this is one of the specifc fallacies exposed by the economists I mentioned. The main thing to keep in mind here is that a successful business manager would have to be almost literally _crazy_ to try this - and his boss ought to fire him if he tries (and the board of directors should fire _him_ if he doesn't).

The premise of this fallacy is that a company has large sums of money due to good profitability, and then decides on purpose to stop making a profit and take losses in order to drive out competitors, and thus be free to charge prices free of market pressures. Even setting aside the "crazy" claim above, this cannot succeed.

Even if it drives out competitors without going bankrupt first, the instant it tried to recoup the losses by charging outrageous prices, two things would happen. First, most of its customers will become extremely disgruntled, because they will see that they are being gouged. Second, competitors who can undercut that price and still make a profit will enter the market, attracting the mad customers, and forcing the gouger to lower its prices or go out of business. That process would continue until prices settle at the lowest levels that sustain the market. The end result of that is necessarily that the crazy company will not have recouped its losses, and its reputation will have been ruinously damaged.

Note that charging _lower_ prices but still making a profit can drive out competitors who can't make a profit at that price, but that is perfectly legitimate.

Lastly, my main objection to allegations that anti-trust remedies like breaking up a company are beneficial on net balance is that they commit a major economic fallacy. These allegations pay attention to what can be seen (the wealth produced in the aftermath), but not to what _cannot_ be seen: the wealth that did not come into existence because the original company was broken up.

It is _understandable_ that people would do this, since nobody can measure what doesn't exist, but it is a mistake, and that mistake invalidates the allegations of benefit.

I apologize if I haven't addressed something you think needed to be. If I have, I'm sure you'll let me know. ;-)

Mark Peters

(The ether is filled with the sounds of rustling pages and whispering circuits as the readers-of- Whittle try to cram their noggins with esoteric economic theories, so's they can follow these arcane and sophisticated slag-fests between those of the gigantic frontal lobes...)

Just in case this discussion between Mr. Saggese and myself is inappropriate for this forum, I'd be happy to take it offline.

What do you folks think - leave it here, or go offline?

Mark Peters

Thanks for another great essay and thanks for continuing the commentary.

Although I thought Trinity was wonderful, I couldnt shake the sense that there was something missing. Its taken awhile for me to articulate exactly what that something was. A few posters commented on the fact that you didnt mention God or religion in your essay. I think those folks were on to something important

Have you seen the movie Wall Street? Do you remember the scene where Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas character) delivers what has been referred to as the greed is good speech? I think its a wonderful piece of writing. Gekko says the following:

I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them. The point is ladies and gentleman that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms. Greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only sell Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

Any thoughts on that passage?

I see nothing in Trinity that would temper any of Mr. Gekkos sentiment. In fact, I think that Mr. Gekko would be wholly supportive of everything you wrote in that essay. I think that our nation needs to set its sights a bit higher. I think we need to define ourselves in moral terms as well as economic. Trinity is a three legged stool when we may be in need of a four-legged chair.

Greed is not good. It can certainly motivate, however that doesnt make it good. After all, the threat of poverty can also motivate, however Id have a hard time with anyone who argued that poverty was good.

Ive read your other essays and judging from your work as a whole, I think whats missing in Trinity can be found throughout your other writings.

Whats missing is faith. Not faith in a strictly religious sense. Faith as in trust. Faith as in love. Faith defined as the ability to believe in something bigger than yourself. Faith as the recognition that there are things that you may not understand but can still appreciate.

A soldier is willing to lay down his life for his country because he has faith in it. The soldier has faith in what his country stands for and the great things that it will accomplish. He has faith that he and his country are in the right.

Without faith, the freedom you describe sounds an awful lot like loneliness. We need a purpose. Direction. Meaning. We need to believe in what we are doing, what we stand for, and where we are going. Gordon Gekko didnt have faith in anything beyond himself. This led to his moral collapse. I would suggest that your wonderful essay runs the risk of suffering the same fate. That would be a terrible waste.

Mr Peters,
I think we are close to the point where we can spare everyone else further boredom on this subject. I'll make this my last lengthy post on this topic (though unfortunately this particular one has become unseemly long), and I'll confine any further lengthy replies to email. Besides, I think that most of the readers here are simply too polite to tell us to go away, even if they'd like to. :)

I read your last essay with some interest and it answers most of my questions, though I must confess I found that it answered some of them not quite satisfactorily. I'll get to specifics in a moment, after some more general prefatory comments.

Again, I think free trade, low taxes, and minimal regulatory burden are Good Things. My biggest fear in this series of posts is that I come off sounding like some kind of tie-dyed communist or something. I'm not making a case for increased government intervention in the economy; I actually think that from where we are now much government intervention could be profitably eliminated. I'm simply disputing as too simplistic your assertion that there are no circumstances whatever where the government has any constructive role.

If you don't consider yourself a Libertarian I certainly won't try to persuade you otherwise, but your policy recommendations seem distinctively libertarian (small L) at any event. I think we are splitting hairs when we argue whether you think government is "good" or "bad," based on your particular definitions of those words.

While I agree with you that the founders insisted that any government secure individual and property rights for its citizens, I don?t really believe that they meant for its purpose to be so thoroughly limited. Read the preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

>> We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is a wonderful sentence that does include "secure the blessings of liberty" and "establish justice" as two of the Top Six Reasons for Founding a Constitutional Republic, but also includes some other stuff as well. Among those other things are to "promote the general welfare." The precept of liberty is a critical element, but liberty will sometimes be restricted if it is contrary to domestic tranquility, injurious to the general welfare of the nation, etc.

We're reaching a level of diminishing returns on discussions of this point. We agree on most elements of liberty and free trade, but I think that in certain, fairly rare cases these should be limited in order to subordinate them to the general welfare of the nation. We just disagree over this point, as you seem to be insisting that this should never ever ever NEVER EVER happen, and I just think that's too absolute and too extreme to be true. I would take no great pride in being a free but savage nation. I'm not clear whether you would find that an acceptable outcome so long as liberty is preserved; or whether you simply don't think that the sort of liberty you insist on could lead us to that point. Those are two separate choices, and I think it matters which of them you believe.

Labor laws are one good example of this. Back in the bad old days, kids younger than 18 could work all manner of dangerous jobs at great toll upon themselves and their future (with respect to their schooling). Assuming that they were not physically compelled to perform these jobs, and they and their employers arrived at their employment agreements voluntarily, would you suggest that the laws preventing this be overturned? Or, would you suggest that workplace safety laws (applying to adults, so we establish that we're talking about those of majority age) be overturned so that the employer and employee negotiate individually upon workplace safety as part of the "voluntary exchange" of labor for pay?

Now for a few particulars:
1a. MP (7/20/2003): "There isn't even _one_ example in history of a dominant company harming its customers in the way you suggest is possible"

1b. MP (7/22/2003): "Next, I'd like to state what I consider to be 'harm': violating somebody's rights, which means initiating physical force (or threatening it) against a person or his property. This can be called 'political' harm.

Other types of harm are _moral_ issues, not political ones, and hence the government has no legitimate role in responding to them (or acting to prevent them)."

I think at least we've gotten to the bottom of this one. I'll address the last sentence first since it's the easiest. The government responds to one form of non-physical ("political") threats already (in a non-economic context) by way of slander and libel laws. Once you insist on such a broad and general statement ("government has no legitimate role in responding to non-physical threats), it has all kinds of consequences. Be prepared to defend the idea of striking libel and slander laws from the books.

But I have a more general problem with this pair of excerpts from your previous posts. I think it's just a little bit sneaky to make so broad and universal a claim, and to later justify it by explaining that the original statement is (of course) true, provided you use the following very particular definitions of harm. I'll agree that there's not much occurrence of companies violating the physical integrity of its customers or their property. It's bad business to do so. But price gouging occurs sometimes, as does collusion among competitors, and there is no question that financial harm can be done to a consumer, even if the amounts are minor or duration is short (and even if the consumer voluntarily paid his money despite the outrageous price).

In rare circumstances, applied sparingly, the government can actually contribute to the general welfare of the nation by interfering in some really offensive transactions. Loan sharking at 1000% interest; collusion and price fixing; disaster area price gouging; abuse of monopoly power; etc. I just don't find the argument convincing that says we should never interfere in a voluntary transaction under any circumstances, no matter how egregious. That just can't be right.

2. MP: "Such companies can be handled with normal criminal law - anti-trust isn't necessary."

I'm not clear where you would draw the line between "normal" criminal law and anti-trust. The Sherman Act is itself criminal law, just like the laws that ban fraud.

>> Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony[.]

3. MP: "Predatory price wars - this is one of the specific fallacies exposed by the economists I mentioned. The main thing to keep in mind here is that a successful business manager would have to be almost literally _crazy_ to try this - and his boss ought to fire him if he tries (and the board of directors should fire _him_ if he doesn't)."

I realize that yours is one interpretation, and there is much to support this idea, but this is not actually the end of the discussion on this. While what you say with respect to actual predation of this sort is generally (though probably not always) true, asymmetric information plays a role in this subject and it cuts both ways. Forgive the long excerpt, but this (from The Economist) is too on-topic to pass up:

>> The consensus of the early 1980s said that preying on would-be competitors [via predatory pricing] would be too expensive...Game theorists showed otherwise. An incumbent firm may convince entrants that it will cut prices sharply if they dare to compete. It is the credible threat of predation, not the actual making of losses, that deters competition--and issuing threats is cheap. Game theorists had made predatory pricing seem feasible again. ...

The debate takes another twist with a new book by John Lott, a fellow in law and economics at the University of Chicago...As Mr Lott says, a chief strand of the game-theory account of predatory pricing relies on the idea that incumbent firms have an advantage over would-be entrants--they know more, especially about their own costs, than newcomers do. This advantage helps them to issue a credible threat to cut prices. The role that "asymmetric information" plays in the analysis has gone largely unchallenged. This was a mistake, says Mr Lott.

For entrants, too, have privileged access to crucial information--information about their own intentions. And they are in a position to profit from this knowledge. Suppose a monopoly is enjoying high profits, deterring competition by the mere threat of predation. The stockmarket values the firm accordingly. A would-be entrant knows that once it announces its arrival, the value of the monopoly will fall (whether or not the firm actually carries out the threat to price at a loss). The entrant can short-sell the monopoly's shares before beginning to compete, thus boosting its expected returns. ...

The potential entrant's information changes things. In cases where the game-theory models say that one would be very unlikely to appear, this new factor pushes the other way, making competition more likely than before. The current presumption that threats can be credible because of asymmetric information therefore needs to be re-examined.

Mr Lott next investigates empirically a different aspect of the current consensus. For the threat of predation to be credible, the monopoly's managers must be rewarded in ways tied to output, not short-term profits (because profits would suffer if the threat were carried out). The managers must also be entrenched (for instance, protected from threat of hostile takeover); otherwise, owners could renege on their promise to disregard short-term losses. Mr Lott examines companies that have been sued for predatory pricing, comparing those that were sued successfully with the others, and also with benchmarks for similar firms that were not sued at all. Managers of accused companies were on the whole no better entrenched than the rest; and their incomes were about as much tied to short-term profits. This is consistent with the old view of predation?that the threat to price at a loss is not credible, and predation is no good as a strategy.

Mr Lott makes some other good points. For instance, he argues that government enterprises are far more likely to engage in wasteful, anti-competitive pricing than private ones (and he finds empirical evidence to support this). Yet there is a nagging omission. Mr Lott refers now and then to the antitrust action against Microsoft, making it clear that he regards it as wrong-headed. That is, of course, consistent with his free-market, Chicago-school outlook--but nowhere does he discuss Microsoft or other high-tech companies head-on.

This is a troubling gap. On Mr Lott's own analysis, Microsoft looks exceptionally well-placed to make credible threats. Could any manager be more firmly entrenched at the head of his company than Bill Gates? And Microsoft's bosses take their rewards principally in the form of increases in the value of their shares--which puts long-term profits at a premium over short-term profits. The Economist, "Preying on Theory," 7/8/1999)

So maybe it's possible to do, maybe it isn't; I just don't think current theory has answered this one. To suggest that we have a definitive answer here seems optimistic to me.

4. MP: "Lastly, my main objection to allegations that anti-trust remedies like breaking up a company are beneficial on net balance is that they commit a major economic fallacy. These allegations pay attention to what can be seen (the wealth produced in the aftermath), but not to what _cannot_ be seen: the wealth that did not come into existence because the original company was broken up.

It is _understandable_ that people would do this, since nobody can measure what doesn't exist, but it is a mistake, and that mistake invalidates the allegations of benefit."

This is a hard objection to accept. I previously cited two examples of wealth being created in the aftermath of a breakup; your reply that there are unmeasurable offsetting reductions in wealth is possibly true, but how much are those benefits? How do you know which is the more significant (the measurable wealth-creating instances cited or the unmeasurable wealth-destroying effects)? Really, as convinced as you are of the veracity of your theory even without the availability of numbers to support it, it sounds like this is your "gut feel." This gets back to my suggestion that part of economic theorizing today is based on political preferences. At a minimum we should acknowledge that the verdict is undecided on this one. Personally I would argue that in such cases where evidence is ambiguous, but what we've been doing seems to have produced the world's best economy, the burden of proof is on those who would argue that what we've been doing all along is wrong.

So where does that leave us? Oddly enough, for all the discussion, it leaves us in agreement on most substantive issues; our disagreement only surfaces at fairly rare and extreme edges of capitalism. I'd argue for some occasional consideration to the general welfare where you argue that such consideration is actually detrimental.

I've greatly enjoyed the discussion, and I hope you have as well. And I promise to play well with others from now on and confine any future absurdly long posts on this subject to emails. Thanks, Bill, for providing the forum for these discussions.

JK Saggese.

To Robert Robertson;

Interesting post. And well expressed too.

But I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion, since I think that "Trinity" intended solely to address the three essential pillars that make America WORK, not everything that makes it GOOD... especially as compared to other nations that have two or fewer pillars to stand on. And, in my opinion, "morality" (with all the wide and varied definitions of what is and isn't "moral") is NOT a part of what makes America WORK (nor is it even all that "good," from where I stand).

I like how you put it when you said, "... I think we need to define ourselves in moral terms as well as economic. Trinity is a three legged stool when we may be in need of a four-legged chair."

Good analogy. But I think you'll agree that three legs will still make a stool WORK. And if employed correctly (as "Trinity" proposes has been done by the American system), will make it every bit as strong and stable as a chair with more legs, and a hell of a lot more flexible and easy to assemble.

You also said, "... Whats missing is faith. Not faith in a strictly religious sense. Faith as in trust. Faith as in love. Faith defined as the ability to believe in something bigger than yourself. Faith as the recognition that there are things that you may not understand but can still appreciate."

Personally, I don't think that's missing at all. I just think it's inherent in the "Freedom" aspect of "Trinity"... as in "you're free to enjoy and express all the faith you want, in whatever non-destructive form you want," and "I'M free to ignore everything that you think I should have faith in, if I so choose." And vice versa.

And finally, in another well-written paragraph, you concluded, "... Without faith, the freedom you describe sounds an awful lot like loneliness. We need a purpose. Direction. Meaning. We need to believe in what we are doing, what we stand for, and where we are going. Gordon Gekko didnt have faith in anything beyond himself. This led to his moral collapse. I would suggest that your wonderful essay runs the risk of suffering the same fate. That would be a terrible waste."

Sorry, but we differ again here. There's nothing "lonely" about having the freedom to be any way you want to be... unless you make it that way. And the only purpose, direction or meaning we need is entirely individual. Because I can guarantee you, MY idea of purpose, direction and meaning is almost certainly different from yours (and just about everyone else's as well, probably), and I'd hate to have to toe the line with an official NATIONAL ethic -- or purpose or direction or meaning -- that didn't jive with my own.

And Gordon Gekko didn't succumb to a "moral collapse." He got caught doing something illegal, and rightly paid for it.

I think "Trinity" hit all three nails dead on the head. That which makes this system WORK (when other stools of two or less legs tend to fall over) is fully covered and supported by the triune aspects of "capitalism" (not amoral greed), "freedom" (not widespread, officially sanctioned morality), and "ingenuity" (a by-product of unbracketed individuality). And while "faith," by any definitiion, can maximize your American experience, it is not, in my opinion, essential to the function or the success of America as an entity.

And that's what "Trinity" is all about.


GHS: Thank you for your response.

Im not sure that its necessary to make a distinction between something that works and something that is good. Im willing to assume that a system or process that is reaching a desired end state is good in some, perhaps limited, respect. I believe that the American system was designed to generate wealth for its citizens. It performs wonderfully in this regard; therefore by my own standard I have no qualms about calling it good.

My point is that American success is not simply the outcome of capitalism, freedom and ingenuity. Our success also stems from faith in our system of governance and our identity as a nation. It stems from faith in our ability to resolve differences within the framework of our legal system. When we lose faith in these processes, we lose our sense of nationhood and ultimately we lose our purpose. If this happens America will stop working.

Nations are built upon consensus. This consensus can take many forms. A friend once characterized the American Congress as the Hobbesian war of all against all raised to the level of a gentlemans agreement. Although Congressional leaders can disagree on many things, they cannot disagree on the supremacy of law to resolve their disputes.

Like it or not, for our nation to have any meaning, citizens will have to toe the line with some type of national ethic. Its unavoidable so long as you live in a nation worthy of the term.

Consider the issue of slavery in our nations history. Granted, slavery was one of many issues that led to our Civil War, however I think its fair to say that the Southern states generally lost faith in the American system. Im not prepared to argue that the Civil War was caused by the absence of capitalism, freedom, or ingenuity in the southern states. I think it was the result of the Southern states losing faith in our nation.

Trinity was an effort to explain why the Americas system works as well as it does. Capitalism, freedom, and ingenuity play an important role in our success. What was missing was a recognition of the importance of faith in the American system and the principles that bind us together as a people and as a nation.

Mr. Robertson... excellent! Clear, cogent, and refreshingly free of typos. It also did my heart good to see "lose" spelled with one "o" for once. Hee hee! Thanks.

However, as sound and as fundamentally palatable as your points were in general, I'm still not sure I buy it in the context of "Trinity's" message.

For one thing, I'm not convinced that faith (even in the form of simple "trust") is all that relevant of an issue in an open, freely expressive, self-correcting, people-directed society such as this. If you don't like where its policies are taking it (and you), you can vote to unseat the administration, badger your congressperson, or simply protest in the streets with a misspelled placard over your head. And aside from obeying its formal laws (a prerequisite in ANY organized body), you, as an individual, don't have to accept, believe in, or support a damned thing this country espouses in order to continue living here, or for the nation itself to continue to succeed.

In the example of the Civil War, at the time we weren't truly even the "United States" of America. We were a gaggle of loosely bound little "sovereign nations," each with their own systems of taxes, tariffs, and border controls. So "The South" felt no compunction to acquiesce to the demands of a central governing power whose edicts were not reflecting its own core tenets.

Yes, their secession threatened the doom of the Union (much as would the withdrawal of France from the EU today, for instance, since their relationships are much the same). And yes, their secession was based on a loss of "faith" in that Union. But that's also not the "union" that we enjoy today.

Now that we are truly "one nation" of united STATES, secession is no longer a possibility. So the likelihood of THAT KIND of national dissolution is gone. The only real (as in "viable") options available to the disgruntled masses then are (a) influencing national policy, legally, through the legislative process, or (b) moving somewhere else. And neither of these -- in principle, at least -- is a threat to the United States of America as a singular entity. They are, in fact, the whole point of the United States of America.

With one unsettling exception (which is probably where you and I are in closest agreement).

Bill talked about it in his essay "VICTORY," when he addressed the internal rot and erosion of our own faith in ourselves, a tide which he believed had been significantly stemmed by our victories in Iraq.

That kind of defeatist, retreatist, isolationist, self-interested, shortsighted, "lack of faith" IS dangerous, in my opinion. We do agree in this. Especially if it gains enough momentum (as it did between the World Wars, and following Vietnam) to affect national policy. It has the potential to dampen our natural optimism, and thereby our "CONFIDENCE" (another of Bill's amazing essays on the subject). But I personally believe, with those two aforementioned instances as examples, that we are past the point of that state of mind ever having any lasting effect.

Because of our ability to steer this ship of state by concensus... because of the fact that we are a people accustomed to a higher standard of living, of enjoying our comfort and security and individual relevance... I do not believe that we will ever suffer a lower standard for long. Even if the doomsaying self-pampering extreme leftists, or the soulless money-grubbing extreme rightists manage to acquire sufficient political weight to shift our national course uncomfortably far to the left or right, it won't be long before the MIDDLE of both the economic and philosophical Bell curves demand a return to more evenhanded prosperity... I believe.

In this, I admit I could be wrong. And I wouldn't have to be VERY wrong for the results to be disastrous. But, historically speaking, I don't believe I am.

The point is though, that as long as we DO have those three key ingredients of "Trinity," AS WELL AS "the recipe" (as Bill put it), I don't believe that any fluctuations in our "faith" will have any lasting detrimental effect on our success as a nation. In fact, the fluctuations only seem to result in greater and greater recoveries, in my opinion.

In other words, I think faith created this system, faith thrives in this system, and faith can make living in this system pleasurable and dynamic (and like you, I'm not referring to religious faith here). But faith is NOT critical to the sustenance of this system... at least not on a par with capitalism, freedom and ingenuity, anyway.

Bill said, "it ain't the ingredients, it's the recipe." Well, C, F & I are, I believe, the main ingredients in this masterpiece. Anything else is just flavoring.

Maybe "faith" and "trust in the system" ARE The Recipe.

I'd buy that.


Mr. Whittle--incredible, as usual. You say the things I feel in the way I only wish I could. Thank, and a USAF salute to a true American.

I'm only about 3/4 of the way through the comments. Regarding alternative energies, there is a process call thermal depolymerization (http://www.discover.com/may_03/featoil.html) which will turn anything containing carbon into oil. For instance:

100 lbs of plastic bottles yields 70 lbs oil, 16 lbs gas, 6 lbs carbon solids, and 8 lbs water.
100 lbs of tires (all kinds) yields 44 lbs oil, 10 lbs gas, 42 lbs carbon and metal solids, and 4 lbs water.

A pilot plant in Philadelphia is set to turn 200 tons of turkey offal into 10 tons of gas, 21,000 gallons of water clean enough to dump into the municipal sewage system, 11 tons of minerals and 600 barrels of oil with the same specs as #2 heating oil--every day.

Anything with carbon may be processed. Should a 175-lb man fall into the system, he will turn out as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.

All this is done with 85% efficiency. For every 100 BTU in feedstock, it only takes 15 BTU to run the system. The inventor claims in three to five years, the cost to produce a barrel of oil will be $10, the same as a medium-size oil exploration and production company.

This technology could reduce or eliminate our dependency on foreign oil, take some of the immediate pressure off the search for alternative energies, and clean up the landfills.

Thanks again, Mr. Whittle.


Color me embarassed. See what happens when you post before reading all the comments?

Jim Cline, way back on July 9th, told all you folks about thermal depolymerization.

Change my post into a hearty "Second!" rather than a "Hey, you guys! Check this out!"

Got Turkey Guts?


Many thanks from London for your essays. They make me increasingly irritated about that imbecile George III. I'm English but have gotten very pro-American of late.
I look forward to the book coming out over here.

Mr. Silverbackagain, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post.

We seem to agree that faith plays an important role in explaining Americas success. Where we differ is in terms of degree.

Im not sure that I agree with your statement that America was little more than a collection of sovereign states prior to the Civil War. I understand and appreciate your point, however I think you should also consider the evolution of American governance from the time of the Articles of Confederation to the adoption of the Constitution. I believe the system of governance espoused under the AofC is much closer to the collection of sovereign states you describe than the system that was in place during the mid-nineteenth century.

The adoption of the Constitution demonstrated the faith our leaders had in their conception of government. Without this faith, we would still be living in the loose aggregation of sovereign states found under the AofC. The founding fathers made a clear and conscious decision to follow a different path. I dont believe that the path they abandoned would have led us to the prosperity we now enjoy.

What role does patriotism play within the context of Trinity?

As I wrote earlier, faith and trust go hand in hand. It is difficult to love something that you dont have faith in. When you love something or someone, you open yourself up to it. The greater your love, the greater your trust. Hence, the more of yourself that you are willing to give. A soldier that lays down his life for his country is perhaps the purest example of patriotism I can think of.

Patriotism is an expression of faith. In political terms, it may be the noblest example.

Websters defines patriotism as the love and loyal or zealous support of ones country. This love or support is impossible without faith. In your posting you mention the internal rot and erosion of faith in ourselves. You go on to say that that we are past the point of that state of mind having any lasting affect. I am much less sanguine. I am very concerned about the erosion of our faith in our political institutions, capitalism, and freedom (I think if we lose C and F, ingenuity will follow as a matter of course).

You wrote I'm not convinced that faith (even in the form of simple "trust") is all that relevant of an issue in an open, freely expressive, self-correcting, people-directed society such as this. If you don't like where its policies are taking it (and you), you can vote to unseat the administration, badger your congressperson, or simply protest in the streets with a misspelled placard over your head."

I disagree. In fact, I think your example indicates exactly why faith is relevant. When citizens lose faith in their government they will not vote to unseat an administration, they will not badger their congressional leaders, and they will not spend time creating silly placards.

Because of our ability to steer this ship of state by consensus... because of the fact that we are a people accustomed to a higher standard of living, of enjoying our comfort and security and individual relevance... I do not believe that we will ever suffer a lower standard for long. Even if the doomsaying self-pampering extreme leftists, or the soulless money-grubbing extreme rightists manage to acquire sufficient political weight to shift our national course uncomfortably far to the left or right, it won't be long before the MIDDLE of both the economic and philosophical Bell curves demand a return to more evenhanded prosperity... I believe.

I agree, but if there is no consensus, if the great middle has lost faith in its institutions of governance, this will not happen. Prosperity has afforded us the dubious luxury of marginalizing our political institutions. Once marginalized, Im not convinced that they will snap back to form as easily as you suggest. Besides, is it wrong to hope that the extreme leftists or rightists dont come to power in the first place? My hope is that faith in (and understanding of) or political system can nip this one in the bud.

Lastly, you write that aside from obeying its formal laws (a prerequisite in ANY organized body), you, as an individual, don't have to accept, believe in, or support a damned thing this country espouses in order to continue living here, or for the nation itself to continue to succeed.

Aside from obeying its formal laws? Thats a pretty big aside, isnt it? I dont have a problem obeying laws, so long as I have faith that these laws are just. If a law is not just (clunkers are bound to come through once an awhile) I need faith in the mechanism put in place to address the problem. Sure, I can move somewhere else if I have a problem with following our laws, but thats not the point. I want faith that our government would not drive me to the point where thats my only remaining alternative.

I agree that first and foremost, we need faith in ourselves.

To go back again to the analogy I made earlier about love, it is difficult to love another if you are unable to love yourself. America is fundamentally a nation of individuals that love themselves dearly. My point throughout is that this is not enough. We also are a community of individuals that must be capable of pulling together for the common good. For this to happen we need faith in the system that unites us.

I think thats considerably more than flavoring.

Howdy again, Mr. Robertson.

I hear what you're saying. I even kinda' LIKE what you're saying. And I'm pretty sure now that I UNDERSTAND what you're saying, having expressed it as eloquently as you have.

And still, taken in the context of "Trinity's" message, I find I must disagree... not with your individual points, but with your conclusion.

Perhaps you summarized our differences best when you wrote, "We seem to agree that faith plays an important role in explaining Americas success. Where we differ is in terms of degree." And I suspect that the 'degrees' that we have each chosen to accept are based more on personality than definition.

I gather (perhaps incorrectly) from your many references to "love" and "faith" (in all their many and varied not-necessarily-religious forms) that you are a person of some spiritual awareness and focus, and that this therefore has a highly relevant and natural influence on your world view. And that's a good thing. Would that everyone were so attuned.

But I am not.

In my world, spiritual and emotional satisfaction are side-effects, bonuses, "flavorings" that come about as a RESULT of their situations and environments. Not the other way around. I can see how they might influence one's PERCEPTION of a given situation or environment, but not necessarily the actual existence or success of them (and the extent to which either point of view is valid is a subject for discussion in another forum).

I consider myself a worldly person, not by education but by experience. Between my nomadic childhood and twelve years in the military, I've been to just under a hundred different countries around the world. I've "lived" (with durations of 4 months to 4 years) in four of them, visited (as a tourist) about a dozen more, and been "deployed" to the rest on a touring military assignment. And though that hardly means I was able to "get deep" with them all, I was able to come away from it with a few confident conclusions under my belt.

For one thing, patriotism exists everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Even the crappiest little Third World disaster areas. Even if it's only the same stubborn kind of insistence that you hear in dysfunctional families ("I know he's an angry, drunken, wife-beating asshole, but I love him anyway... 'cause he's my father"), or among the diehard fans of the losingest team in the high school football circuit. Even if it's just a blind, redneck kind of "traditional patriotism" ("Luv it er leave it, yew commie bastard!"). So patriotism, whether lovingly inspired or blindly inculcated from birth, is irrelevant to the strength of a nation, in my opinion. It might breed zealous soldiers for your armies, but does nothing for the solvency of your country.

For another thing, I disagree with your disagreement about the likelihood of disgruntled citizens taking to the ballot boxes and streets to correct a veering ship of state. For that too is something people do EVERYWHERE. The only difference is that in those states where such options aren't legally available, they tend to take to the streets and capitol buildings brandishing guns and bombs. They don't have to here.

Instead, once we've heard enough negative rhetoric from the left (for instance) about how this country is in decline and we've got nothing else to look forward to but regression, depression, and recession, we take to the ballot boxes and vote into office the likes of Ronald Reagan with his siren song of optimism, confidence and potential. Even those without an emotional or spiritual investment in their nation's laws or politics can appreciate the possibility of things getting better, and will participate.

Anyhoo, this is running far longer than I'd intended. The point is, from where I stand, "faith" and "trust" in the governance of our nation are great things to have, perhaps even "essential" to one's enjoyment of the American experience. They may even ensure the security and integrity of the Big Three of capitalism, freedom, and ingenuity. But they are not, in my opinion... or in the context of "Trinity's" assertions... on the same level as them. C, F & I are the structural pillars. I could allow that F & T are more like "the roof that caps them all off, binds them together, and perhaps even protects them," but that's still not the same as being a pillar.

There was more I'd planned on saying, but if I keep this up, I'll have to start my own blog. And nobody wants that.

It's been a pleasure though.

Keep on believing.


A sign of a good essay, to me, is one that bears rereading well. A great essay slips back into your brain without rereading, weeks or months later. By that standard, "Trinity" is a great essay.

The reason that "Trinity" slipped back into my mind, however, was that my subconcious mind pointed out to me that the title may be even more apt than its author intended. The Holy Trinity is not just a group of any three, it is the three that are one. In an analogous way, the Trinity of Capitalism, Faith, and Ingenuity are not just three unrelated but complementary elements. They are three aspects of ordered liberty, as expressed in three major areas of life - economic, political, and intellectual.

Capitalism is the expression of ordered liberty in economic affairs. It is often thought of as "free markets", but that freedom exists within a framework of laws that defend private property, uphold contracts, and forbid force and fraud, to name a few. Within that framework, capitalism promotes voluntary exchange and freedom of association, and has enabled our society to produce all the wealth and wonders that we have.

Freedom, in your essay's context, refers to political freedom, and we see the principles of ordered liberty as applied to political affairs. We have limited government, based on a framework of fixed rules, within which we are free to speak, associate, and petition for redress of grievances (to crib shamelessly from the 1st Amendment).

Finally, ingenuity arises from ordered liberty applied to the realms of the mind. We are free to dream, and to make our dreams real, so long as we follow the scientific method, and the principles of empiricism and falsifiability that make it work. Your essay "Magic" makes the key distinction between the complete but worthless freedom of magical thinking, and the miracles produced by the ordered liberty of science.

Ordered liberty, then, is to me the unifying and underlying theme behind the Trinity of Capitalism, Freedom, and Ingenuity. Each alone is potent, but the Trinity was born together and belongs together. It is what is properly meant by the "Rule of Law", and when the Rule of Law displaces the "Rule of Man" in all fields of human endeavor, we can see how each part of it reinforces and magnifies the others. When we cannot be told what we need or should have, but cannot ignore or trample the property of others; when we are free to speak our minds and choose our leaders, but within the structure of elections and laws; when we are free to go against the received wisdom of the past, but only with proof; then the Three-in-One is complete.

I've tried to keep this short, simple, and on point, because I'm not a tenth the essayist Bill is, and I don't expect I can keep people's attention as long. Thanks, Bill, for helping me to see a synthesis between Hayek, Sagan, and a number of libertarian philosophers.

OH MY GOD ! LOVE U BILL ! TRULY ! keep up the good work ^^

I'm Jeff, age 17, a resistance fighter against all the Reds in my age group. I have just one question for you - Do you have a daughter? LOL.

There are so many people in this country who would love to see the white and blue removed from our flag. Screw them. I want the commies to try to refute your essay, point by point. Bill, you're better than Rush. Maybe. Not sure yet. Still, I will make sure I get your book. Just please don't get asassinated, okay? Please?

Mr. Saggese,

First, an aside: If what I wrote implied that you are or might be a "tye-died communist" or an advocate of increased government intervention, I apologize - I didn't intend that and I don't believe it.

Second, regarding the examples of alleged harm you think are possible without certain kinds of government intervention, all of them have been thoroughly refuted (by the economists I mentioned, and others). Read Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" to see most of those refutations. Child labor, "price gouging" and "collusion" are all covered by this book, as I recall.

Now, about the founders. Though they were great _implementors_ of the best political philosophy ever devised to that point, they weren't philosophers themselves. There were flaws in that philosophy, and hence in their thinking. For that reason I don't agree with all of their ideas.

The fundamental flaw in that philosophy was that the concept of individual rights was not fully worked out or understood. Specifically, there was no clear understanding of what violates individual rights. Without that understanding, the founders unknowingly built _violations_ of rights into the government, or at least the justification for such (which have been used ever since to take away our liberty piece by larger piece).

What the founders didn't clearly grasp is that liberty consists of the absence of physical coercion, the absence of initiated physical force, threatened or actual. Without such force, no individual has the power to prevent another from pursuing his own happiness. This is because only physical force can negate or destroy the source of such a pursuit: a man's reasoning mind.

So long as a man can think, act on that thinking, and keep the results, his pursuit of happiness is limited only by his ambition and ability. The extent to which a man is physically prevented from doing one or more of these is the exact extent to which his pursuit of happiness is stopped.

It is on this principle that force is anti-mind that the case for laissez-faire rests, i.e., the case for the total abolition of the initiation of physical force from all human interaction.

There is nothing "sneaky" about basing a view of laissez faire on a broad principle such as this - on a principle that makes clear what was muddy in the original concept of individual rights. Force _is_ anti-mind, and the mind, i.e., reason, is the source of all human values - it's our basic means of survival.

Insisting on such a broad, yet very precise concept of "political harm" is _required_ to properly understand the issue, and to implement a political system that is consistent with the requirements of human life.

Laws against "price gouging", "collusion", "price fixing", "abuse of monopoly power" lack these virtues. All of them are (deliberately) unclear and imprecise, principally because key concepts in them are undefined and/or vague. This leads (and the history of their application shows it) to judges assigning their own often contradictory meanings to those terms, and thus to massive rights violations being perpetrated against innocent people.

Such laws toss individual rights out the window as irrelevant.

They are not.

Mark Peters

P.S. - Slander and libel are examples of _indirect_ initiation of physical force. By means of false statements, these acts harm a man's reputation, which can lead others to refuse to deal with him, causing loss of income, among other things.

P.P.S - This is also my last posting here on this subject, in favor of email instead, should that be mutually desirable.

BTW, whoever invented "cut-n-paste" was a genius...how ELSE are we supposed to read/absorb/research all the topics listed in the comments section? Let alone Bill's essay itself?

I swear college was NEVER this interesting and educational!

I just want to let you know I sit here in tears because this is so true...

Things are very tough for me right now. I am a partner in a small software company which makes some seriously neat stuff to handle document and procedeure management.

It looks as if we may soon be out of business due to economic conditions. I have been feeling rather depressed and swimming in a nice big fat pool of self pitty.

If you just heard a loud pop, that was me recovering from the severe case of cranial-rectal inversion I was suffering from.

Thanks for backing up the optimisitic little voice in my head. It needed it.

To hell with self doubt, self pitty, and fearing failure. We, as a people, never got anywhere by sitting on our asses whining about our failures and mistakes.

Thanks bro, I needed this.

Time to go dust myself off and start thinking about coding The Next Big Thing.


Good on ya', gogman. Sic 'em. Take no prisoners.

I just quit the best paying, best "benefited," full-stock-option-plus-401K job I've ever had, all because I just couldn't stand "office work" anymore. Now I'm taking about a 25% cut in pay, along with the complete loss of all benefits, just so that I can go back to a job and a lifestyle I ENJOY, which will also allow more time and less stress for me to pursue my writing.

Only in America, man. Only in America.

Good luck.


Great writing, Mr. Whittle.

You and Ayn Rand (and I) seem to be more or less on the same page, and the more people who join us on that page, the better off we all will be.

Thank-you for so eloquently sharing your thoughts with all of us.

Charles T.

First, by-now-routine compliments to Bill-- and to all who posted such well-reasoned, logical comments. Reading exchanges like these is a great antidote to the 'Bush=Hitler', 'USA sucks' crowd. One comes away convinced that freedom and ingenuity and good sense must surely prevail over the socialistic soft-headedness and envy espoused by the *leaders* of the Democratic party.

Unfortunately, I think you're all underestimating the strength of your ideological opponents on the lib/Dem side, and the appeal of their message. Even though you see much of their claims as lies, I think they're going to pull the U.S. government a *lot* farther toward socialism and authoritarianism before good sense prevails.

Some of you are probably wondering how that could happen, since the principles Bill summarized seem so much more powerful, so self-evident. You'd think it would be enough for the folks on the other side to simply *read* Trinity and they'd see the light.

And maybe with one or two out of 1000 that'll happen. But if you think Hillary, Dean, Edwards, Kucinich and their friends will read Bill's excellent expositions and say "It's so clear now that we've been wrong about so much of this," I think you're in for a shock.

In fact, they'd more likely say just what one of the trollers wrote here in July: "This is the biggest load of crap I've ever read."

How could this possibly *be*, you ask. After all, don't *all* Americans see the truth of the points Bill made about what makes this country (and almost surely any other that embraces these principles) great?

No, they don't. To Hillary, Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand et al, human behavior can be summarized more or less as follows:
1. "The rich" are far more likely to act in their own self-interest than those with less wealth;
2. *Most* wealthy people--with the exception of Hollywood types, of course--either got their money through business (and hard work) or can ultimately trace the source of their wealth back to an ancestor who did;
3. It follows (!?) that most *business-people* are selfish, and willing to cheat and steal to get richer;
4. Similarly, politicians backed by successful business-people are willing to screw most of the population in order to steer government money to their supporters;
5. By contrast, people who earn millions writing a book on the greatness of liberal policies, or making movies bashing America and corporations, are above reproach because they *care* about the poor.
6. Thus: millionaire *businessmen* are bad, but liberal millionaires --though rarely mentioned as such--are good.

Many commenters have predicted that conservative or quasi-libertarian values will continue to advance in the U.S. If that's true, most people would expect that the government will reflect this gradual shift. I don't think it's gonna work that way, partly because of the huge distortion posed by the desire of pols to get re-elected, and partly because there are so *many* lib/Dem voters eager to vote against Bush and the GOP next election. They're mad as hell over what they truly believe is the theft of the last election, and ready to do whatever it takes to win the next one. (See Wisconsin DLC illegal contributions.)

Apologies for the long post. Keep up the good work.

Steve -- I tend to agree with you, unfortunate as it is. But isn't that exactly the point? If there's something about the American system, it is its versatility. They can change the tax rates, or even institute universal health care. Those may be bad things. But it doesn't change much of anything.

The constitution succeeds in isolating the public from government decisions: we have rules about how we make the rules. You can legislate 'free' health care. You can't legislate an end to innovation. You can't ban incentives for new products. You can't disband Congress or end elections. It is the spirit of the people that can break through. And behind the political rhetoric, most people will still work to get themselves ahead.

If we survived colonialism, if we survived the Alien and Sedition Acts, if we fought to survive an end to legalized slavery, then what chance does anyone else have? It is historical ttruth of course that civilizations in their prime tend toward the very actions that cause their end, but only if they can change their fundamental nature due to political decisions. That just isn't likely here.


Your problem is that your time scale is too short.

You haven't met my three sons and daughter.

One of my sons who has mastered physics, chemistry, calculus, and English in high school is going to the University of Chicago this year with the intention of becoming an English major. His values politically are libertarian yet he can sling pomo with the best of them. He can pass. He is the future of English lit majors. There are many more like him out there.

My other three children are each outstanding in their own way and are similarly libertarian in their outlook.

So as important as Nov 2004 is, the real future of the pomo crowd is 2020 and beyond. From where I sit it doesn't look so good. They are at or have just passed their peak; they are in decline. Possibly imperceptable except to a few but more obvious with each passing year.

So I have a lot of hope for the future. Like Patton I pity the poor bastards who oppose what America stands for.

And thanks again Bill W. - an inspiration to us all.

I believe I would be classed by the majority of the posters here as a liberal (I am not American so that is practically a truism!). I appreciate the points of Michael Moore and do not froth at the mouth when he is mentioned. So can I quote a great conservative to support my dislike of the Dubya outlook?

"Every gun that is made, every ship launched, every rocket fired signifies,
in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who
are cold and are not clothed.

The world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the
hopes of its children."

From Eisenhower, a Republican I can easily admire both as a fighting man and as a president. Like many military men he saw use of force as a last resort. Anyone here really think he would have acted as thoughtlessly as GW? I like the quote as it chimes with many sentiments expressed by Bill, whose essays are very educational to me and much appreciated. I like much of what he says and stands for.

Quoting from:

"In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evilthey are too often caught up in complicated webs of political power, economic interests, cultural clashes, and nationalist dreams. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation-state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy."

Seriously, for me the course of the US govt parallels that of Islamists who forsake the greater Jihad (approximately finding the inner meaning of truth justice and God) for the lesser Jihad (converting infidels). No true muslim would attack people on a religious basis - they are gentle and generous types IMHO.

Just my 2p,

Very eloquent and well reasoned. I read it twice. I agree with most of it.

BUT, the fundamental assumptions are dangerous if you carry them as far as you have.

This kind of schematic view of the world--a belief in a giant clash of cultures (a la Samuel Huntington and Robert Kaplan) and the cultural and moral inferiority of Islam (a la Bernard Lewis and Ralph Peters etc.) has lured the Bush administration into a big trap.

Insteading of finishing the job in Afghanistan, we have blundered into Iraq under several mistaken assumptions:

1. That we would be met with dancing and flowers

2. That it would be easy and cheap ("sel-financing") to rebuild

3. That invading Iraq would deter Palestinian terrorism and make Israel feel more secure.

This kind of clumsy response to the 9/11 attacks played into the fondest wishes of the attackers, I'm afraid.

There is no "God button" for getting out of Iraq, I fear, without a serious loss of national innocence.

Anyway, Thanks again.


"Were going to space, dammit! And best of all, were going on our own dime."

I want to know that, sir, because I love and agree with the thoughts that you have expressed. However, these days, every time I try to know that "we're going to space ... and ... best of all, ... on our own dime" the name "Yang Liwei" pops into my head and refuses to crawl out.

Interesting. This a well written statement of opinion indeed. And while I didn't have a chance to read it in its entirely (coming from academia, conciseness and "to-the-pointedness" is always desired), I have to say there are a few small errors, but only one that detracted from the spirit of your opinion piece... To me at least.

You posit that wealth can be created and that the notion that wealth can only be redistributed is false, however I think in you example of the movie script you have erroneously equated wealth and value. If, as you said, wealth was created with the movie script, there would be a net increase in the amount of wealth in existence (dollars, yen, etc.) and therefore there would be more wealth in circulation. However, this is not the case. When you or I make a million dollars from the creation of a book, script, whatever, there is no net gain of wealth in existence, only a change in how it is distributed. If you write a book, the wealth you gain comes from the pocket of another, hence redistribution. The only real form of wealth creation in the hands of a lay person, counterfeiting, is illegal. ;)

Value, on the other hand, the amount something is perceived to be worth, CAN be created. In your example of the movie script, the value of the idea and script earn its creator money. Those items then increase in perceived value. For example, think of the legal pad. It is still only a $2.00 legal pad (its concrete value never really changes), but the script that was written on it has increased the perceived worth of the pad (value).

Of course, you may have spun the term "wealth" differently than is standard usage in you piece, but that's the error I perceive.

Other than that, the only other thing I take objection to is that you seem to imply that the market is a cure all even today. However, in the current state of late capitalism, I would have to disagree. Theoretically, if there were a large amount of competition (lots of small business and not mega-corps), market forces would be able to correct and compensate according to the needs of the populace, but as companies become fewer and production capacity (in all forms) becomes more centralized in a few corporations, that ability of the market becomes curtailed. I'm an idealist (I love both Marxist Communism and Smith's Market Capitalism), but have learned that pure market solutions, as well as pure government solutions, are not the right course. The happy medium is the proper 50/50 mixture of the two.

Best of luck to you with that book of yours.

Reformed Ultra-Liberal, now Centrist (and no further right than that)

Great Stuff, Bill....
That home-built space ship went up just a couple of days ago, for the second time in two weeks.
~Hats off to American Inginuity~!!
On another note: With all DUE respect, Iain you're a friggin' IDIOT with your "No true muslim would attack people on a religious basis - they are gentle and generous types IMHO"...well that and most your other stuff too.
Rather than espousing your "Humble Opinon" as is the common vice among "liberals"
(*Liberals*--READ:"non-cogent masses")
learn some hard FACTS. Your opinion is worthless in the face of reality.
Here's your reading list from the koran as well cure for ignorance on this topic.
(Boy, is YOUR face gonna BE red!!!)

Koran 2:193, 3:85, 4:56, 4:89, 5:33-34, 5:49-51, 5:59:311, Sura 5:60, 8:12,13,8:39, 8:65, 9:5, 9:14, 9:29, 9:73, 47:4, 78:33

They want YOU dead too, Iaian. You, me, Bill, your mother and father, friends, children; ALL DEAD or converted to their religion of hatred and death. Which way will you go? Oh that's right. You're a "liberal". You'd rather switch than fight...

I am sincerely impressed by the nonpartisan parts of Mr. Whittle's writing. He is on my short list of 'damfino' authors.
I just wish he would come up with a way to deride Berkeley students without insulting me in the process. I am, for lack of a better term, one of those 'liberals'. I find myself consistently in opposition with the majority of what Republicans propose, and in favor of the majority of what Democrats propose. Many of what I regard as America's greatest accomplishments are the product of MY kind of liberals and their forebears. A good example of such would be the GI Bill (which is ALSO a shining manifestation of American make-your-own-way optimism).
I would like to try to come up with a new name to split me from the Berkeley professors. I think the problem is that the people Mr. Whittle is upset with are socialists who have no home in the US because we have no socialist party. Because of this, they have latched onto the Democrats and have been nothing but an embarassment ever since. The LIBERALS are a distinct (and larger) community.
Perhaps the best way to make the difference clear would be to call the 'we need to MODERATE (but keep) capitalism so we don't get unbreathable air and abominable working conditions' liberals as progressives, and the 'destroy capitalism' types as socialists.
At least then there'd be a word for the Berkeley boys that didn't insult the bulk of Democrats (including me) who do NOT need to be strapped down to read a Whittle essay.
In point of fact, some of us would have to be strapped down to keep us away...

beutiful. just beutiful. you write here so many things I've wanted to say for a very long time but just never found the words for.
and jeremy? the market in which you say production capacity becoming more centralized? well, look at any large company in any field, and there will be competition. and all the 'mega-corps' that are coming anywhere close to dominating the field? they're all based in places like tokyo. (except possibly wal-mart. I'm from vermont, so I don't know all that much about wal-mart)
so bill, great piece. hope you sleep well.