On Sunday, 15 April 2012, I broadcast a new episode of my live Philosophy in Action Webcast, where I answer questions on the application of rational principles to the challenges of living a virtuous, happy, and free life in a live, hour-long webcast. The webcast is broadcast live every Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. In the webcast, I broadcast on video, Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers is on audio, and the audience is in a text chat.

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The Podcast: Episode: 15 April 2012

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Duration: 1:09:00
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The Segments: Episode: 15 April 2012

The following segments are marked as chapters in the M4A version of the podcast. Thanks to Tammy Perkins for helping compile the show notes!

Introduction (0:00)

I’ve been busy working on transferring NoodleFood over to WordPress on Philosophy in Action. It’s still a work in progress!

Question 1: The Morality of Breaking the Law (3:44)

When is it moral to break the law? Laws should be written to protect individual rights. Unfortunately, many laws today violate rights. When should I abide by a rights-violating law, and when is it proper to break it?

My Answer, In Brief: A person does not have any moral obligation to submit to violations of his rights. However, the proper course – whether complying with the law, breaking the law overtly, or breaking the law covertly – depends on the particulars of the situation. Mostly, get legal advice first!


Question 2: The Morality of Vigilantism (20:48)

Where is the line between justice and vigilantism? When is it moral to take the law into your own hands – meaning pursuing, detaining, and/or punishing criminals as a private citizen? Suppose that you know – without a shadow of a doubt – that some person committed a serious crime against you or a loved one. If the justice system cannot punish the person due to some technicality, is it wrong for you to do so? If you’re caught, should a judge or jury punish you, as if you’d committed a crime against an innocent person?

My Answer, In Brief: The vigilante is not an agent of justice, but a threat to innocents and to the foundations of civilized society.


Question 3: Stealing Valor (36:37)

Should “stealing valor” be a crime? Rencently, a man was arrested by the FBI in Houston and charged with “stolen valor.” This is the charge made against someone who falsely poses as a decorated soldier. Is it proper to make this a crime? Why or why not?

My Answer, In Brief: Undoubtedly, “stealing valor” is reprehensible, but not everything reprehensible should be a crime. The legal response to “stealing valor” ought to be the same as for other kinds of credentials fraud, whether protect speech, civil fraud, or criminal fraud.


Question 4: Selling Sub-Optimal Products (48:50)

What should a businessman do if he decides that his product or service is not really good? More specifically, what should a businessman do if he’s rises up in the business world on promoting a particular product or service, only to learn decades into the ventures that there are better alternatives? As a fictional example, let’s take a mattress manufacturer CEO. He has spent decades of his life trying to make the most comfortable mattresses possible, but then read scientific studies that concludes that there is no healthier sleeping surface than the solid floor, and in using his honest judgment he agrees. Being so high up and so long involved in the mattress world, what are the moral range of options for him?

My Answer, In Brief: Morality in business does not requires producing optimal products, but only good products for honest trade. In this case, the businessman has a range of options, including some moral pitfalls to avoid.


Rapid Fire Questions (58:52)

In this segment, I answered a variety of questions off-the-cuff. The questions were:

  • Why are vigilante movies so popular?

  • How is a citizen’s arrest different from vigilantism?

  • Is there a lower threshold for when it’s okay to break a regulation?

  • Given the lack of Antonin Scalia’s “New Professionalism” in police action, is the exclusionary rule is an important safeguard?

  • If a government actor has ruined your life unjustly is vengeance a moral option?

  • Is moral perfection a habit and if so is it one of yours?

  • Must a political candidate be chosen by conflating him/her with the party they happen to be running under, or is it reasonable to select a candidate but not agree with the party they run under?

  • Where does Ayn Rand talk about a “central purpose” – and what does she mean by it?
Conclusion (1:08:02)

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This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

This week on Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government:
This week on Mother of Exiles:
This week on the blog of Modern Paleo:


Lonely Monkey Ape at Zoo

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with other NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. As always, please refrain from posting inappropriate comments such as personal attacks, pornographic material, copyrighted material, and commercial solicitations.

NoodleFood’s Open Threads feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!


Clearly, we paleo women need to stop lifting heavy weights and start this 1940′s workout routine! (Really, it’s hysterical!)

On the plus side — definitely no pun intended — these women look so much healthier than today’s stick-figure models!

For more on women and weight, I’d recommend reading Why Women Need Fat by Melissa McEwen and I’m OK, You’re Fat by Crystal Meadows.

Apr 132012

The University of Pennsylvania published an interesting ranking of relative cultural/political impact of various US and international think tanks, based on their publications, media appearances, reputation amongst policymakers, etc. The list is independent of their political leanings (e.g. liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc.) or primary specialty (economics, foreign policy, etc.).

The UPenn listing of the Top 50 US think tanks for 2011 can be found on pages 36-37 of this file: “2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings

Their Top 50 list includes several whose works I’ve cited in the past, including:

6) Cato Institute
10) American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
42) Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
43) Manhattan Institute
48) Mercatus Center

(Note: I don’t necessarily endorse these organizations, but I’ve found some of their publications informative and useful in my own research/advocacy.)

To compare their sizes and/or budgets, one can look up their financial information on GuideStar.com (a website that collates information about nonprofits and charitable organizations). GuideStar lists their “annual expenses” as follows:

6) Cato: $21.8 million
10) AEI : $25.6 million
42) CEI: $4.3 million
43) Manhattan Institute: $11.8 million
48) Mercatus Center: $7.7 million

Some friends may be interested in how a couple of other organizations which also perform advocacy (but which aren’t classic “think tanks”) compare in size:

Institute For Justice (IJ): $9.3 million
Ayn Rand Institute (ARI): $8.7 million

For further context, the top 5 US think tanks listed by UPenn (and their GuideStar annual expenses) were:

1) Brookings Institution ($90.4 million)
2) Council on Foreign Relations ($50.7 million)
3) Carnegie Endowment for International Peace ($24.3 million)
4) Center for Strategic and International Studies ($30.1 million)
5) RAND Corporation ($262.8 million)

Anyhow, I thought this might be of interest for people wondering how folks in the mainstream culture perceived the relative effectiveness of various think tanks, including their relative “bang-for-buck” ratios. As usual, the reliability of these rankings depends on the validity of their methodology (which is discussed in detail in their report).


The Objectivist Roundup is a weekly blog carnival for Objectivists. Contributors must be Objectivists, but posts on any topic are welcome.

Rule of Reason hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go take a look!

You can submit your blog article to the next edition of The Objectivist Roundup using this submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found here. If you’re an Objectivist blogger, you can get weekly reminders to submit to the carnival by subscribing to OBloggers @ OList.com.

Also, here are the ten most recent additions to the question queue for the Philosophy in Action Webcast. Please vote for the questions that you’re most interested in hearing me answer!

Join us for the live webcast at www.PhilosophyInAaction.com on Sundays at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. In the meantime, check out the show’s extensive archives by topic, peruse the upcoming question queue, and submit your own questions.


In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed public breastfeeding. The question was:

Is breastfeeding children in public wrong? My wife and I want to have kids, and one question we have concerns public breastfeeding. Is it immodest or improper to breastfeed in public? Should stores permit or forbid it on their premises? Should public breastfeeding be restricted or banned by law as indecent?

My answer, in brief:

People ought to support public breastfeeding, even if they prefer not to look at it. It’s not a sexual act, and mothers should be able to feed their babies when they’re out and about.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends via social media, forums, and e-mail! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

Join the next Philosophy in Action Webcast on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET at PhilosophyInAction.com/live.

In the meantime, Connect with Us via social media, e-mail, RSS feeds, and more. Check out the Webcast Archives, where you can listen to the full webcast or just selected questions from any past episode, and our my YouTube channel. And go to the Question Queue to submit and vote on questions for upcoming webcast episodes.

The Story of Collectivism

Apr 122012

Jim M posted the following awesome little story on Facebook:

This is a story about four Collectivists named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. The consensus was that there was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anyone could have.

Apparently, the author is unknown.

Video: Should You Try to Cultivate Good Luck?

Apr 112012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed cultivating good luck. The question was:

Can and should a person try to cultivate his own “good luck”? For example, a construction worker might leave his business card with neighbors in case they or anyone they might know happens to need his services in the future. Similarly, an investor might look to buy stock in companies with promising patents pending or forthcoming products. Is pursuing these kinds of uncertain opportunities a means of cultivating good luck?
My answer, in brief:
Good luck is not a force in the universe that a person can cultivate. Rather, to the extent that a person extends his knowledge and control over his life, he minimizes the effects of luck in life. That’s the right approach.
Here’s the video of my full answer:
If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends via social media, forums, and e-mail! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

If you’re interested in further discussion of this topic, you can buy my four-lecture 2010 OCON course — Luck in the Pursuit of Life — from the Ayn Rand Bookstore for the low low price of $22.38!

Join the next Philosophy in Action Webcast on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET at PhilosophyInAction.com/live.

In the meantime, Connect with Us via social media, e-mail, RSS feeds, and more. Check out the Webcast Archives, where you can listen to the full webcast or just selected questions from any past episode, and our my YouTube channel. And go to the Question Queue to submit and vote on questions for upcoming webcast episodes.

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