Eye to Eye: An Ayn Rand Institute Podcast
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We have all read about the rollout of Obamacare. It's been quite a roller coaster. While some are âonlyâ facing skyrocketing premiums, others have also lost both their plans and doctors. How could this happen? And why? Are the problems that we are witnessing only the expected but temporary "growing pains" of a ânobleâ program? Or are they the logical outcome of Obamacare due to the very nature of the law? In this episode of the Ayn Rand Institute podcast Eye to Eye, Amanda Maxham (research associate at the Ayn Rand Institute)Â interviews Steve Simpson (director of legal studies at the Ayn Rand Institute) and Rituparna Basu (analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute), to obtain an essentialized analysis of the politics, economics and morality of Obamacare. Here are some highlights: Simpson explains why mass cancellations are the inevitable result of Obamacareâs insurance mandates. When the government forces insurance companies to cover more proceduresâregardless of what an individual wants, needs or can affordâthe old plans that offer more desirable coverage will simply have to go. From this perspective, millions of people losing their plans is ânot a bug, but a featureâ of Obamacare. Basu observes that government policies are to blame for the broken health care system. She also questions the underlying moral premise of Obamacare, namely that it is your duty to provide health care for your needy neighbor. The problems surrounding Obamacare are not the accidental outcome of a questionable technical implementation, but rather the necessary outcome of a questionable moral premise. Â John DongesÂ viaÂ Compfight
In this podcast episode, I interview Neal Carter, president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Carter is the head of this small (just seven members) biotechnology company based in Canada, which specializes in the creation of novel tree fruit varieties. Their first variety? They are gearing up to introduce a new apple into the American market. Itâs called the Arctic Apple, and itâs meant to solve an ages-old annoyance. This apple has been engineered to prevent it from browning when sliced. In the interview, Carter gives an explanation of what an Arctic Apple is and how they were able to create the first genetically engineered apple. The Arctic Apple was created using the technology of genetic engineering and has faced an uphill climb for regulatory approval. Speaking from his experience, Carter paints a picture of what he describes as that âlong journey.â Even after years of testing to ensure the apples were safe, he describes how the crushing uncertainty surrounding the legal status of biotech foods breeds business risk, âadds costs and keeps many new products out of the market.â Carter attributes part of the growing regulatory burden to the fear and opposition created by anti-GMO activists (GMO stands for genetically modified organism). In the interview, we discuss the anti-GMO movement, specifically, their opposition to Golden Rice. Anti-GMO activists have destroyed test fields of Golden Rice, and environmental groups such as Greenpeace have worked hard to block the beta-carotene enhanced rice from reaching the poor in third-world countries who might want to eat it. Image credit: Okanagan Specialty Fruits
From the Wall Street Journal: Iran and the Lebanese political and militant group Hezbollah are debating whether to retaliate on behalf of Syria in the event of a strike on their close ally. The two, which along with Syria help form what they call an "axis of resistance" against the West, are discussing whether to attack Western interests, and if so, whether to do so openly or covertly and through proxies. This kind of collaboration between Iran and Hezbollah is typical, but little understood. Probably the most deadly attack on Americans, prior to 9/11, happened in Beirut in 1983, with Iran and its Lebanese proxy working hand-in-glove. A simple if rough way to describe the relationship is that Tehran frequently outsources terrorist missions to Hezbollah. But that barely begins to capture the reality, and especially, the scope of their violent attacks. Yes, both are closely allied with Assad's regime in Syria and both are avowed enemies of Israel, but contrary to received wisdom, the reach of the Hezbollah-Iran axis extends far beyond the Middle East. Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, Africa and North America---Hezbollah has been active in all of them. Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God, published this month, documents the extensive worldwide activities of this Islamist group and its relationship with Tehran. I recently interviewed the author, Dr. Matthew Levitt, for the podcast. The conversation opens with a kind of "Hezbollah 101" overview, before we look at the history of its attacks on Americans (both the notorious and little reported ones). During the Iraq war, around 2007, there was heated debate over whetherÂ the Iran-Hezbollah axis was supplying anti-American insurgents. That question is settled, according to Levitt: They were actively arming, training and sometimes fighting alongside the insurgents killing American soldiers. An ongoing issue is whether Hezbollah's two parts -- the political and social-services wing in Lebanon, and a terrorist infrastructure --Â are separate and distinct, as some (including a few apologists) argue. Levitt blasts that myth. What of Hezbollah's role in the Syrian civil war? We cover that and much else besides. The podcast is below and also on iTunes. Find out more about Dr. Levitt's new book on Amazon.com or at the website of theÂ Washington Institute for Near East Studies, where he is a senior fellow and director of that organization's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
Today is âGenetically Modified Mondayâ (#GMOMonday), the day of the week I am setting aside to think about and talk about some exciting and intriguing new genetically modified plants and animals. This week, I am excited to share with you the latest episode of the Institute podcast. In this podcast episode, I interview Dr. Henry Miller, former head of the Food and Drug Administrationâs Office of Biotechnology and the current Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. His research focuses on public policy toward science and technology, and heâs written extensively on the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods. There is no arguing that the human race has come a long way in agriculture. The foods that we now enjoy are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding, cross-breeding and hybridization, which has made them safer, tastier, healthier and easier to grow. Scientists now have a new tool in their quest to improve the foods we eat: genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is a precise way to create plants and animals with one tiny but important change. Improved varieties of food can be created by adding, subtracting, turning up or turning down single genes that encode for particular traits such as vitamin production or growth rate. In the podcast, Miller gives a clear picture of what it means for a plant or animal to be âgenetically modified.â He also explains why he sees all of these methods of improving food as a âseamless continuum.â Genetically modified foods face great opposition from activists who claim that these foods are dangerous because they are âunnaturalâ and that they therefore pose a risk to human health.Â Miller dives deep into the controversy and explains why these arguments are âexactly backwards.â Miller also discusses the upstream battle for government approval that genetically engineered farm salmon have been swimming for the past twelve years. He also touches on McDonaldâs decision to drop genetically modified ingredients from their menu and explains what he calls the golden rice catastrophe. Click below to listen to the interview! You can chime into the discussion by tweeting, using the hashtag #GMOMonday (âGMOâ stands for âgenetically modified organismâ). Did you miss last weekâs post about corn? Get caught up here. Image credit: Eric May via Compfight
In this podcast episode, I interview Magdalena Segieda, a director of the documentary film FrackNation. The film follows journalist Phelim McAleer on his quest to âfind the truthâ about fracking. The technology of fracking (the short-hand term for hydraulic fracturing) is a technique for extracting natural gas (methane) from shale rock formations (Iâve written about it here). Although the technique is not new (the first frackwell was drilled in 1947 in Kansas), recent advances have vastly improved the method, putting fracking on the cutting edge of natural resource extraction. But fracking is also a controversial environmental subject, and it was these controversies that Magdalena Segieda and co-directors Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney hoped to address in FrackNation. In the interview, Segieda explains how the documentary got its start and dives into some of the issues surrounding fracking. As she explains, FrackNation is, at least in part, a response to another documentary film on fracking: Gasland. In Gaslandâs most memorable scene, narrator and guide Josh Fox visits a Colorado man who claims that his well water supply was polluted with methane from a natural gas well drilled nearby. Standing over the kitchen sink, the two take turns lighting methane on fire as it flows along with the water from the tap. It is dramatic, sensational documentary filmmaking. But according to FrackNation, Josh Fox only told part of the story. In FrackNation, journalist Phelim McAleer confronts Josh Fox with some facts he has uncovered about naturally occurring methane in the water supply (donât worry, youâll be able to see all of the juicy details in the film). In the podcast, Segieda explains what Josh Fox left out and why it was important to combat the image of the flaming faucet. Segieda and her co-directors didnât want the image of the flaming faucet to stand in the publicâs mind as a representation of fracking, especially when the technology is critically necessary to bring energy to people in the United States and other countries of the world, such as Poland, where Segieda grew up. In the podcast, Segieda shares some of her experiences growing up in a nation where energy was âexpensive and intermittentâ and tells how those experiences caused her to see energy issues the way she does. Click below to listen to the interview! Image credit: Rick Harris via Compfight
SIXTY-THREE years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights. That childâs story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine. So wrote Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, in a 2011 New York Times op-ed. That vignette may seem a strange way to motivate an article---the story of refugees from what's now 65 years ago?---but for Palestinians and their allies, it remains a live issue. For them, any meaningful discussion of the Arab-Israel conflict must address the fate of refugees. Unless Palestinian refugees are granted their alleged "right of return," they insist, there can be no peace. In the intricate, sometimes convoluted history of the Arab-Israel conflict, the "right of return"/refugee issue is just one thread. But it is a particularly revealing one. Explore it, and you can learn a great deal about the nature of the broader conflict and some of the reasons it has come to seem irresolvable. A terrific resource on the subject is Efraim Karsh's most recent book, Palestine Betrayed. In the latest episode of the podcast, I interviewed Prof. Karsh about his book. We cover a lot of historical ground, and listeners keen to understand the Arab-Israel conflict will learn a lot about the backstory of the refugee crisis, what gave rise to it, and how the refugees' plight has figured in the continuing conflict. We move from that backstory to more recent developments such as the notorious Oslo "peace process," rolled out in 1993 and memorialized in an iconic photo-op on the White House lawn. That incongruous tableau featured Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with arch terrorist Yasser Arafat, with President Clinton looking on with delight. One point I found particularly arresting in the interview has to do with that famous handshake and the ennobling of Arafat as some sort of statesman. Many at the time wanted to believe that Arafat, a pioneer of international terrorism, had abandoned the violent goal of subverting Israel and become a peace-maker. To Western audiences---notably at that ceremony on the White House lawn---Arafat portrayed himself a lover of peace. But Prof. Karsh has documented that Arafat was playing a double game. One example: He had pre-recorded a speech, broadcast that same day on Jordanian radio for Palestinian listeners, in which he explains the peace accord as a new, incrementalist tactic serving the same long-held goal that terrorism had served: not to achieve peaceful co-existence, but to conquer and supplant Israel. A sample of some other illuminating points that come out in the interview: The timeline of key developments from the British Mandate in Palestine to the UN partition plan of 1947, and the ensuing war The improved standard of living and economic development of Palestine following the arrival of Jewish settlers, especially benefiting Arab inhabitants of the area How the invasion by nearby Arab regimes of the nascent Israeli state in the 1947-8 war had little to do with aiding Palestinians---and a lot to do with the regimes' self-aggrandizing lust for conquest. Why the "right of return"/refugee problem persists, how it is magnified by Arab regimes, and how the "right of return" is understood by some as a means of dissolving the state of Israel. You can find Prof. Karsh's book, Palestine Betrayed, on Amazon.com, and a bibliography of his other writings here. image: public domain
On this episode of Eye to Eye, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Tren, a leading proponent for the use of DDT in the fight against the deadly disease malaria. Spread by the bite of a mosquito, malaria currently claims the lives of over half a million people a year---most of them children living in Africa. Tren, who hails from South Africa, experienced first-hand a devastating malaria epidemic in the 1990s and saw how the re-introduction of DDT quickly brought the disease under control. At the same time, he saw anti-DDT advocates at the U.N. Stockholm Convention pushing hard for a world-wide DDT ban. This led him to become a founder of the organization Africa Fighting Malaria, where he is a director to this day. One point he made that I found particularly interesting was that although people are coming at the disease from many angles (some search for an ever-elusive vaccine, others work on drugs to assuage symptoms, and still others concentrate their efforts on controlling the mosquitoes that carry the disease), in the end, it is the amount of wealth that a nation has that is its best protection against diseases like malaria. Free economies, in his view, are key for nations to rise out of poverty. In his view, there is a certain danger with foreign aid in that it stops countries from using their own resources to create sustainable programs. Although Tren calls Americans "generous" in their willingness to help, he also makes the point that if the people and governments in affected countries choose not to combat the problem themselves, eradication may be hopeless. I would add that the only proper outlet for this generosity is private charity, and not taxpayer funded foreign aid. Some of the other topics Mr. Tren discusses in the podcast include: The problem of disappearing honey bees The use of pesticides in agriculture How DDT works Rachel Carson and the book Silent Spring The role of DDT in the eradication of malaria in the United States What led to the ban on DDT in the United States, and the consequences for the rest of the world The safety of DDT The problem of insecticide resistance The unfounded view of DDT as a dangerous chemical Richard Tren is co-author of the book The Excellent Powder: DDTâs Political and Scientific History and contributor to the book Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. In the book, biologist Rachel Carson describes a âsilentâ world without birdsong brought on as a result of the use of pesticides. Since it first hit book stands, Silent Spring stirred controversy. Some have praised the book for laying the foundation of the modern environmentalist movement and others have battled it for misrepresenting science, especially the life-saving insecticide DDT. This Earth Day, we will no doubt hear echoes of this debate and the ideology Rachel Carson laid out in her book. In this episode of Eye to Eye, I sat down with Dr. Keith Lockitch, a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, to discuss Silent Spring. In the interview, Dr. Lockitch addresses the claims made in Silent Spring about DDT and other pesticides. He also explains in what ways the book represents environmentalists' view of manâs relationship with nature. One of the most interesting points he brings up in the podcast is why a technological advance like DDT, despite the instrumental role it played in disease control, was nevertheless banned in the United States. Explaining how DDT works and citing examples from World War II, Dr. Lockitch gives the history of DDT that Rachel Carson shamefully left out of her book.
On this episode of Eye to Eye, I had the opportunity to interview Sally Pipes, a leading proponent for greater freedom in health care. In discussing health care policy issues in this country, people often make comparisons to the health care systems of other nationsâthe Canadian system is often brought up. I discussed with Ms. Pipes her firsthand experience of socialized medicine in Canada. One point she made that I found particularly interesting was her discussion of the factors that lead people to have a skewed view of a health care system. When you have routine medical needs (which is the category most people fall in), a health care system fraught with government intrusionÂ may lookÂ as if it is workingÂ decently. The shortcomings of such a system often only become apparent when you experience out of the ordinary illnesses that require experimentation, innovation and state-of-the-art care. This is important to keep in mind when you hear Canadians saying, as they often do, that their government-run health care system works great. Another subject we discussed is the frequently cited fact that Canadians spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than Americans (11.4% vs. 17.6%). In my view these kinds of collective statistics are dubious and misleading (given the impact of regulatory controls on costs, and the disparate quality of service from one country to another---to name just two problems). Some of the other topics Ms. Pipes discusses in the podcast include: Why private health care is outlawed in Canada The part of the American health care system that most closely resembles Canadaâs Where doctors and patients are going, to escape government intrusion in their medical decisions Why health care in Canada is getting worse Ms. Pipes is president of the Pacific Research Institute. She writes a column for Forbes.com and is most recently the author of The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle and Replace Obamacare.
On this episode of Eye to Eye, I had the opportunity to interview John C. Goodman, an economist and a leading proponent for greater freedom in health care. We discussed a variety of issues surrounding health insurance. One point he made that I found particularly illuminating was his attitude towards the possibility, on a free market, of being charged higher premiums when you have higher expected medical costs. Most people would consider this a flaw of the free market (charging higher risk individuals higher premiums is severely restricted under Obamacare), but according to Dr. Goodman, we should view this as a good thing. Listen to the podcast to hear his reason why. Another subject we discussed is why health insurance is so controlled when other types of insurance, such as life insurance, are left relatively free. Dr. Goodman mentioned the role of pressure groups such as the American Medical Association in suppressing market forces. I suspect an additional factor was at play, which the AMA surely cashed in on: peopleâs underlying moral views. A common view is that itâs immoral to pursue profit in the field of medicine and that health care is not a good to be earned but a right. These kinds of views are incompatible with a free market and have surelyÂ contributed toÂ the growth of government in medicine. Some of the other topics Dr. Goodman discusses in the podcast include: His view of the most problematic government interventions in health insurance How Obamacare will impact the health insurance market If weâve ever had a free market in health insurance Why health insuranceÂ looks nothing like other types of insurance (e.g., auto, homeowners, life), which work relatively well How our health care system compares to those of other countries Dr. Goodman is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis and a research fellow at the Independent Institute. He is most recently the author of Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. He provides daily commentary on his blog.
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down the decision on the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. With a 7-to-2 majority vote, the court struck down state bans on abortion, prompting a national debate that continues forty years later. That decision -- as well the subject of abortion itself -- remains divisive. Activists on both sides debate whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, how the Supreme Court shapes the law on issues of constitutionality, and the role of morality and religious views in the political sphere. On this episode of Eye to Eye, ARI's new podcast, hosts Jordan McGillis and Amanda Maxham sit down with Dr. Onkar Ghate, ARI's senior fellow, and Tom Bowden, legal analyst, to discuss the political, legal and moral questions surrounding abortion. Some of the topics covered include: Ayn Randâs view on abortion and the Roe v. Wade ruling The legal basis for the Roe v. Wade decision The state-level attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade Abortion and individual rights The labels "pro-life" and "pro-choice" âPersonhoodâ amendments Ayn Randâs view on the nature of sex Health care, abortion, and contraception Abortion and the Tea Party movement The separation of church and state The morality of abortion Objective legal interpretation The future of the Roe v. Wade decision Listen to or download this episode (Duration: 44:16 â 20.3MB)
This week I interviewed my colleagues Elan Journo and Keith Lockitch about the violent upheavals sweeping the Muslim world in response to the obscure film âThe Innocence of Muslims.â Among the issues we discussed were the significance of free speech and the proper approach to defending it. The violence put on display in such cities as Jakarta, London, and most tragically Benghazi, where US Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed, has drawn a meek, conciliatory response from American political leadership, weakening an already tenuous commitment to the right to free speech. Over the past several decades we have witnessed a marked pattern of violent Muslim reprisals for alleged religious offenses followed by appeasing gestures from Western leadership. A notable example of Western appeasement was the response to the 2006 riots surrounding the printing of cartoons depicting Mohammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. As Onkar Ghate wrote at the time, the sanctity of free speech was truly in the balance, and many in the West kowtowed. What is required to defend freedom of speech, Elan and Keith explain, is a moral declaration by the West of an unwavering commitment to freedom in thought and expression. Sadly, we have seen anything but that response. Additional topics touched on include the trend of self-censorship in Western media and the role Islam has played in this crisis and others similar to it. Contrary to the assertions of some commentators and politicians, Elan and Keith argue that Islamic totalitarianism -- a religious ideology -- Â is indeed an inextricable aspect of the pattern of conflict we have experienced. The podcast can be heard here in its entirety:
We hear all the time about evil "speculators" driving up the price of oil and other forms of energy. But there is little explanation of whatÂ "speculation" actually is. Yet understanding speculation is not only crucial to understanding these accusations and whether they hold water, but to understand the whole world of energy today. Therefore, the goal of this month's Power Hour is to demystify speculation and debunk some popular myths about the practice. To give us clarity on speculation, I brought in an expert on financial markets and speculation, Dr. Eric Dennis. Dr. Dennis was actually trained as a theoretical physicist at CalTech, Princeton, and Santa Barbara---but now works as a high-level executive at a major financial institution, using his mathematical skills to build complex models of financial markets. I have been fortunate enough to know Dr. Dennis for several years now, and he is my go-to person whenever I have a question about speculation or financial markets, since he knows them inside out and can break down the issues in plain English. Listen to the episode and learn: What exactly is speculation? Is it a problem that speculation is growing in oil markets---or a good thing? Does speculation really drive up prices? Do speculators have undue influence over prices? What is hedging, and how do speculators make it possible? And much more! (By the way, if you want an easy way to fit Power Hour into your schedule, download it to your MP3 player and listen to it during your commute.) Listen to or Download this month's show. Subscribe to Power Hour on iTunes. Subscribe to Power Hour for other podcast programs.
On the latest episode of Power Hour--the monthly Internet Radio Show where I interview today's top energy experts to discuss today's top energy issues--I talked to energy consultant Tom Tanton, an expert on the technology and the politics of "alternative energy." We hear all the time about the exciting promise of "alternative energy"--and the variations of it: "green energy," "clean energy," "renewable energy." "Alternative energy," roughly speaking, refer to sources of energy that are not successful on the market now but that proponents claim will be superior to market sources of energy, if only the government gets involved. For instance, Al Gore, in arguing for the abolition of all CO2-emitting electricity, and much of CO2-emitting transportation by 2018, said that he knows ofÂ "renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per-gallon gasoline." On past shows we've looked at some of these so-called alternative energies on a technical level, understanding why it's so hard for, say, solar panels to be affordable and reliable as a major source of energy. On this show we take a different angle. We are going to look at some of the history of how government-led alternative energy works in practice. How does it actually work when the government promotes wind turbines or electric cars? To talk about this issue, I brought on Tom Tanton, a man who knows as much about the reality of alternative energy as anyone--because he worked for three decades at the California Energy Commission, which has spearheaded numerous alternative energy programs over the decades, including programs for just about every "new" technology we hear about today. I think you'll learn a lot from this episode. (By the way, if you want an easy way to fit Power Hour into your schedule, download it to your MP3 player and listen to it during your commute.) Download this month's show: Subscribe to Power Hour on iTunes: Subscribe to Power Hour for other podcast programs: http://feeds.feedburner.com/PowerHourWithAlexEpstein Image: Wikimedia Commons
On the latest episode of Power Hour---the monthly Internet Radio Show where I interview today's top energy experts to discuss today's top energy issues--I talk to leading climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen. Today's discussion of energy policy is dominated by the claim that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are warming up the planet, with catastrophic results on the climate. We're told that this is a matter of consensus among all the top scientists, and that the time for debate is over--it's time for action. Power Hour is a show based on the idea that to draw the right conclusions for action, you first need to be informed. AndÂ in my opinion the time for debate is certainly not over because the vast, vast majority of us don't even know what the debate is about, let alone what has been proven and what hasn't, let alone what the action implications are. That's why I decided to do this episode on climate science and climate change. One reason I brought on Dr. Lindzen in particular is that even though he is an extremely prestigious scientist, he doesn't count on that prestige when he explains issues---in fact, he is very critical of the phenomenon of people taking the pronouncements of climate scientists on faith. The purpose of this episode is not to definitively establish how much CO2 is impacting the climate. Rather, it's to get a more objective idea of where the field of climate science actually is in answering that question. Is it really known that man-made CO2 is leading to catastrophic consequences, as many prominent figures claim? Is it really known that man-made CO2 is having only benign consequences, as other prominent figures claim? Listen to the show to hear Dr. Lindzen's intriguing views on these and many other issues. For more on this episode of Power Hour, and to be notified of future episodes, sign up for my free monthly newsletter ("Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Energy") here. (By the way, if you want an easy way to fit Power Hour into your schedule, download it to your MP3 player and listen to it during your commute.) Download an MP3 of this episode. Subscribe to Power Hour on iTunes: http://itun.es/iFK42H Subscribe to Power Hour for other podcast programs: http://feeds.feedburner.com/PowerHourWithAlexEpstein Image: Wikimedia Commons