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If you’re like me, you cheered the announcement by SpaceX head Elon Musk that his company plans to send two people on a slingshot swing around the Moon in 2018. But if you want a future filled with such exciting achievements, take a minute to ask what a society must have as prerequisites. Private rockets from innovators Musk, of course, is the entrepreneur who co-founded Paypal with Peter Thiel. He went on to found Tesla Motors, which produces cutting-edge cars and, soon, batteries that could power your house. With SpaceX, Musk’s company has built rockets that now carry cargoes to the International Space Station on contact with NASA. And the Falcon Heavy rocket, which Musk hopes to test soon, will be capable of interplanetary voyages. It’s with this system he wants to send a ship with two private, paying passengers on a swing around the Moon, with lunar gravity hurling it back to Earth for a safe touchdown. Musk is just one of a new breed of private entrepreneur doing what many thought only governments could do....
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I am feeling my age.  Make that “Age.” I feel as though since the Republican National Convention, in July, I have done nothing but think, talk, write, post, and everything but pray (and that may be coming) about politics. So far, I have not taken to the streets—bad company. Although for much of my life, since I read Atlas Shrugged at age 17, 45 years ago, I have been active in politics in an intellectual sense, always concerned, the past few months feel like a climax. I supported Donald Trump; others did not. But I observe around me people viewing our day as apocalyptic (or is it just that I still check the front page of the New York Times)? This evening’s blow-out about the exclusion of three reporters from a White House briefing is typical. I’m with President Obama: “It isn’t the end of the world until the world ends.” What we are witnessing is but one new episode in one long, all-encompassing drama. The drama is the Age of Politics. Through the Ages Reading about the Age of Faith, Age of Enlightenment, Age of Science—all eras in the history of the...
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For partisans on both sides of the nomination (and hard-fought confirmation) of Betsy DeVos, 59, of Michigan, as secretary of education, I have glad tidings. If you long for remission of America’s most invasive monopoly—tax-supported (“public”) education—Secretary DeVos is your advocate of public-school choice, charter schools, and, above all, vouchers for parents to spend at schools of their choosing. She has been called “a fierce proponent of vouchers” that enable students to attend private schools with public funding. Vouchers for private education would begin to rectify one of the single greatest injustices imposed on American families: paying all their working lives for “free” tax-supported education for other families and then paying all over again for education of their own children at a school of their choosing. If you are alarmed by her confirmation, there is good news, too. Any significant change she brings to U.S. tax-supported education will come only through voluntary acceptance of her ideas on the local level—the pivotal level of control...
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On Monday, February 20, I will celebrate Washington’s Birthday. That is still the official federal holiday—“President’s Day” and “Washington’s and Lincoln’s Day” are among informal variants - it is a state right to decide whose birthday is being celebrated: Virginia, Illinois, Iowa and New York are the only states that exclusively celebrate Washington’s birthday. The modern impulse to “inclusiveness,” in this case, has led us astray. Lack of focus creates an unwelcome blur when meaning should be clear. George Washington’s life, and his service to America, exemplify just a few ideals, but to perfection—and they are ideals that define America - I would name: patriotism, the citizen statesman, refusal of personal political power, unapologetic national self-interest, the rule of law, and absolute adherence to the U.S. Constitution. Washington' powerful and enduring ideals have become part of the American spirit and political heritage--so much so, as Ayn Rand dramatizes with bitter irony in a scene from Atlas Shrugged (Part II, Ch.6) -- that those who betray them...
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Originally posted on FEE.org I first encountered Ayn Rand through her nonfiction. This was when I was a junior in high school, and I'm pretty sure it was my first big encounter with big ideas. It changed me. Like millions of others who read her, I developed a consciousness that what I thought – the ideas I held in my mind – mattered for what kind of life I would live. And it mattered for everyone else too; the kind of world we live in is an extension of what we believe about what life can mean.  People today argue over her legacy and influence – taking apart the finer points of her ethics, metaphysics, epistemology. This is all fine but it can be a distraction from her larger message about the moral integrity and creative capacity of the individual human mind. In so many ways, it was this vision that gave the postwar freedom movement what it needed most: a driving moral passion to win. This, more than any technical achievements in economic theory or didactic rightness over public-policy solutions, is what gave the movement the will to overcome the odds.  Often I hear people offer a caveat about Rand....

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