Trump is No Ayn Rand Hero: Washington Post Fails To Do Its Homework on Ayn Rand’s Philosophy Objectivism

The writers at The Washington Post would have us believe that Donald Trump’s cabinet picks resemble heroes from the pages of Ayn Rand’s novels (“The Daily 202: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his cabinet with fellow objectivists“).

Yet if one actually reads Ayn Rand’s fiction (Atlas Shrugged, We The Living, and The Fountainhead) and non-fiction (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Philosophy: Who Needs It, and The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism) one discovers that in the world of Ayn Rand: Trump would be a villain (perhaps a minor villain, but a villain none the less).

Most people are aware of Trump’s beliefs, but, what of Ayn Rand’s?

 

What did Ayn Rand believe?

Observe:

  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of free trade between free countries (unilaterally if necessary). Quoting Rand: “The essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade—i.e., the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges—the opening of the world’s trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another.” In her view, countries to not trade, but actual people do.
  • Ayn Rand was for liberal immigration, especially for productive individuals (she would have no limits on H-1B visas). As an immigrant, under Trump’s policies, she would probably have died in a Socialist Russia concentration camp rather than coming to the U.S.
  • Ayn Rand was a principled defender of free speech for both corporations and students, as a corporation speaking against statist policies, or a college student burning an American flag, are violating the rights of no one. Quoting Rand: “The communists and the Nazis are merely two variants of the same evil notion: collectivism. But both should be free to speak—evil ideas are dangerous only by default of men advocating better ideas.”
  • Ayn Rand was a fiery opponent of racism which she regarded as a species of collectivism, that — like fascism and communism — unjustly benefits the chosen group at the expense of individual rights.
  • Ayn Rand was an intransigent defender of a women’s right to abortion who would make feminists blush. Quoting Rand: “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”
  • Ayn Rand was a non-militant atheist, as she was philosophically for reason as opposed to religious faith (“blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason”) which she regarded as the “negation of reason.”
  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of the separation of church and state. One’s freedom to practice one’s religion ends when it violates the rights of others.
  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of voluntary trade or mutual gain and benefit in both material and spiritual values. Quoting from Atlas Shrugged: “The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.” She correctly observed that such a voluntary trade is a win-win situation.
  • Ayn Rand was for the sanctity of property rights and would have nothing but contempt for Trump’s securing property via eminent domain. Quoting Ayn Rand: “The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”
  • Ayn Rand was a radical for laissez-faire capitalism that she even published a non-fiction book of essays, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Quoting Rand: “Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.”

In all fairness, the Post piece does mention these views occasionally, but takes no time to properly explore them and “connect the dots.” Yet, at other times The Post makes patently false claims, such as, “Roark, the character Trump says he identifies with, rapes a woman in The Fountainhead,” when in fact, Ayn Rand described that scene as a “rape by engraved invitation”, i.e., consensual sex.

This is a grave disservice to Post readers.

 

Ayn Rand was a philosopher advocating the supremacy of reason

Ayn Rand was not just one of the great literati of the 20th century but is also recognized as one of its most important philosophers, who revolutionized Aristotle’s nature based, egoistic philosophy for life in the 20th century. (Those interested in a comprehensive academic treatment of Rand’s corpus should peruse A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy.)

So, what is an Objectivist?

In Ayn Rand’s words: “My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that…”

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

Ayn Rand did not view individual rights as self-evident; rather, the concept of individual rights flowed from the fact that one’s survival and flourishing (life) in a social context requires the equal freedom to act by one’s mind (reason). Or, in her words:

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.”

 

Ayn Rand was the 20th century’s greatest advocate of freedom

In Rand’s view, there are only two ways people can deal with each other: by force (physical coercion) or reason (peaceful persuasion). The job of government is to use the first to protect the second. Rand regarded individual rights not as permissions to be regulated at government whim, but as inalienable. Government’s role is to protect individual rights by banning the initiation (starting) of physical force (which is the only way rights can be violated).

This is why those associated with the Alt-Right, like Steve Bannon, and those on the equally bigoted Regressive-Left. They despise and defame Ayn Rand because their vision of a government regulated world requires the threat and initiation of physical force by the state. Both the Alt-Right and the Regressive-Left regard rights as alienable privileges to be violated and dispensed with as their ideology sees fit. To the Alt-Right and Regressive Left, Ayn Rand is a mortal enemy.

 

Objectivists would regard Trump’s ideology as perverting his “good” policy positions

This is not to say that Rand, would oppose all of Trump’s policy positions, but it is enough to show that Trump’s cabinet is not Objectivist.

Writes resident philosopher at the Ayn Rand Institute Onkar Ghate on Trump’s victory in his essay, “One Small Step for Dictatorship“:

“A Trump administration, if viewed out of the full context, may even enact some measures others and I would regard as positive, including improvements to the tax code and replacement of Obamacare with something less harmful. But it will be in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. And even at this concrete level of policy, the Republican control of the presidency, the House and the Senate should give anyone pause who is concerned about, say, the campaign’s demonization of immigrants and of trade or the attempt to impose a Christian variant of Sharia law.”

 

Being an Atlas Shrugged fan does not make one an Objectivist

Reading Atlas Shrugged does not make one an Objectivist any more than reading the Koran makes one a radical for Islam. How the Washington Post conflates Donald Trump’s anti-freedom policies with Ayn Rand’s philosophy boggles the mind. In their list of Trump cabinet picks, there is one true Ayn Rand hero — former BB&T CEO John Allison — whom Trump rejected.

If one wishes to know what an actual Objectivist thinks of Trump’s electoral victory study Dr. Ghate’s essay; and if one wants to grasp Ayn Rand’s ideas in their totality there is no better book then Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand should be required reading for anyone who wishes to intelligently comment on Ayn Rand’s philosophy. One does not have to agree with the arguments in Dr. Peikoff’s book, but at least one will not be attacking a straw man. Only then can an honest, intelligent discussion of Ayn Rand’s benevolent, life-enhancing, human “philosophy for living on earth” begin.

 

What Freedom Sounds Like: Pence on “Hamilton Gate”

Pence attended the hit Broadway show Hamilton on Friday. He received a mixed reception from the audience that included some booing, and during the curtain call the cast had a message for him saying, “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” Donald Trump was upset and tweeted that the cast should apologize, but Pence told Wallace he loved the show and “wasn’t offended by what was said.” He acknowledged the booing mixed in with the cheering when he arrived, but said his reaction at the time was to tell his daughter, “That’s what freedom sounds like.”

We may not be Pence fans, and don’t agree with many of his views, but Pence acted Presidential.

Hopefully the President elect can learn from this.

Simpson: Both Left and Right Don’t Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

Steve Simpson, a constitutional lawyer, and director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute has a brilliant op-ed in TheHill on why Free speech is a right, not a political weapon.

He makes the case for why free speech “protects the right to take the actions necessary to make one’s speech heard, whether that means spending money on political ads or publishing books or newspapers free of the crushing costs of frivolous libel lawsuits.”

1. Trump Does Not View Free Speech as a Right

Trump […] doesn’t view it as a right that protects speakers regardless of their views. […] Whether Trump is opposing free speech outright or trying to bully speakers, he is no friend of free speech.

2. Trump’s Urge to Censor is No Different From Hillary Clinton

[…] Trump’s urge to censor this form of speech [flag-burning] really different from Hillary Clinton’s desire to ban the political speech at issue in Citizens United? The case, which upheld the rights of corporations to speak during elections, involved a law that prevented a nonprofit from distributing a film that criticized Clinton the last time she ran for president. During her campaign, she promised repeatedly to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the case, calling the film it protected “a right-wing attack on me and my campaign.”

3. Campaign Finance Laws Silence Freedom of Speech

During the floor debates for McCain-Feingold, the law at issue in Citizens United, many politicians, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz., included, championed the law because it would prevent groups from funding negative political ads against them. After Citizens United was decided, Congress considered the Disclose Act, which would have forced many organizations to disclose their donors. In praising the law, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that its “deterrent effect” on corporate political speech “should not be underestimated.”

4. Politicians Attacking the Speech of Opponents is Not New

Remember the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox News as “not really a news station”? Or the FCC’s investigations of news broadcasters to determine if their coverage was “biased”? It is certainly scary for Trump to attack the media as he’s done, but it is equally scary when any president or administration does so. […] Remember Harry Reid’s sustained assault on the Koch brothers, whom he called “un-American” for having the temerity to oppose his agenda? Or the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, which was prompted by politicians who urged the agency to investigate the groups?

5. Both Left and Right Don’t Understand or Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

They treat free speech not as a principle but as a weapon to be used against their political enemies. When your enemies are in power, complain about the threats to speech you like; when you are in power, use government to intimidate and silence your critics.

Don’t for your bookshelf, his book, Defending Free Speech (ARI Press,2016).

John Allison Meets with Trump

Photo: Ken Bennet/ Wake Forest University

From journalnow.com:

1. Allison is an Objectivist who supports pro-capitalist policies

Allison said Trump also sought his advice as an outside-the-box thinker that includes being a devotee of author Ayn Rand and her economic philosophy of objectivism, which extols rational individualism, creativity, independent thinking and a limited role for government as a protector of peace.

2. Allison calls Goldman Sach’s “crony capitalists”

[…] Allison was critical of Goldman Sachs’ role in the financial crisis, calling the investment company “crony capitalists,” in his 2013 book “The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure.” Mnuchin’s “history on Wall Street is not something that I am all that thrilled about,” Allison said.

3. Trump invitation comes from Pence who supports Allison’s theories on the financial crisis and also opposes TARP and eminent domain

[…] The Trump invitation came from Pence, who previously asked Allison to speak at congressional hearings about his theories on how the financial crisis occurred and his recommendations for avoiding another severe economic blow. Pence also supported Allison’s stances on TARP and eminent domain. “He thought my book was one of the best explanation of the crisis,” Allison said. “As such, he was kind enough to inform the president-elect of my qualifications to serve in his administration.”

4. Financial Choice Act is a first step that will provide an “off-ramp” to get off Dodd-Frank

Allison said he supports proposed legislation in the U.S. House, known as the Financial Choice Act, that he says would restore accountability and responsibility to the financial-services industry. The act would provide an “off-ramp from the post-Dodd-Frank supervisory regime and Basel III capital and liquidity standards for organizations that choose to maintain high levels of capital,” he said. Those financial-services companies who can’t meet those capital criteria would remain subject to Dodd-Frank regulations.

The act would require banks to remain subject to publicly disclosed regulatory stress tests but exempt those that achieve the assigned capital levels from regulatory limitations on purchases. The act also would require that “consumers be vigorously protected from fraud and deception, as well as the loss of economic liberty” and “taxpayer bailouts of financial institutions must end and no company can remain too big to fail,” he said.

5. Allison as FED Chairman?

[…] He expressed his concerns that the Federal Reserve, particularly under Chair Janet Yellen, has limited economic growth through what he considers to be burdensome regulations that may make sense to regulators but not on Main Street in terms of creating demand for loans in particular from entrepreneurs and small businesses.

When asked about his interest in serving as Fed chairman, Allison said that while he would be interested because of the opportunity to change lending policies, “I don’t know if I could get through Congress.” “It may seem old-fashioned or quaint, but I still believe in making loans by sitting across the table from the applicant and getting to know them as much as learning about their reasons for borrowing,” he said. “I believe if regulators would step back with some of the regulations, consumers tend to figure out the good and bad players in the marketplace.”

Jacoby: Harvesting The Organs of China’s Prisoner’s of Conscience

Writes Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe:

The documentary, “Human Harvest,” won the coveted Peabody Award for its exposé of an unspeakable crime against humanity. In 1999, Chinese hospitals began performing more than 10,000 organ transplants annually, generating a vast and lucrative traffic in “transplant tourists,” who flocked to China on the assurance that they could obtain lifesaving organs without having to languish on a waiting list. China had no voluntary organ-donation system to speak of, yet suddenly it was providing tens of thousands of freshly harvested organs to patients with ready cash or high-placed connections. How was that possible?

The evidence, assembled by human-rights researchers and investigative journalists, added up to something unimaginable: China was killing enormous numbers of imprisoned men and women by strapping them down to operating tables, still conscious, and forcibly extracting their organs — and then delivering those organs to the hospital transplant centers that have become a major source of revenue. Chinese officials claim that organs come from violent criminals on death row. But “Human Harvest” makes it clear that most of those killed are peaceful citizens persecuted for their beliefs: Tibetans, Uighurs, Christians — and, above all, practitioners of Falun Gong, a Buddhist-style spiritual movement of peaceful meditation and ethical commitment.

Read the rest of In China, prisoners of conscience are literally being butchered.

See the movie trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EykFRYWl9Q

 

 

Bayer: Developing a Critical Mind for Judging The Validity of News

In the The Sniff Test – Medium philosopher Ben Bayer lists 5 important questions one should ask in judging stories we hear online:

(1) What is the source of this story and what do I know about it?
(2) How likely is the story to be true in the first place?
(3) If this were true, what else would be true?
(4) Does the story represent its own facts honestly?
(5) Why do I want to believe it is true? Why would someone else want me to believe it’s true?

Cross: Political Executions in Communist Cuba

Writes James Scott Linville on Plimpton and Hemingway in Cuba in The Paris Review:

Castro’s death has renewed an open, vibrant, and sometimes heated debate about his regime and its treatment of Cuban citizens. Twenty years ago, in the aftermath of the Cold War, much less was known in the U.S.—these were not things the American media dwelled upon. An incident while working at The Paris Review with George Plimpton in the early nineties opened my eyes, especially to Che Guevara’s supervision of the detention of political prisoners at La Cabana prison in Havana.

[…]

A sad look overtook his face, and he began to explain: “Years ago, after we’d done the interview, Papa invited me down again to visit him in Cuba.” (In the fifties, George had interviewed Hemingway for the magazine on the Art of Fiction, and now he always referred to him as Papa, as Hemingway encouraged his young friends to do.) “It was right after the revolution,” George continued. After he arrived in Havana, he settled in at a hotel room above a bar. One afternoon, at the end of the day, Hemingway told him, “There’s something you should see,” and to come by the house.

When he arrived at Hemingway’s house he saw they were preparing for some sort of expedition. Before they ventured forth, the elder writer made shakers of drinks, daiquiris or whatever, and packed them up. This group, including a few others, got in the car and drove for some time to the outside of town. Arriving at their destination, they got out, set up chairs, brought out the drinks, and arranged themselves as if they were going to watch the sunset. Soon enough, a truck came, and that, explained George to me, was what they’d been waiting for. It came, as Hemingway explained to them, the same time each day. The truck stopped and some men with guns got out of it. In back were a couple of dozen others who were tied up. Prisoners. The men with guns hustled the others out of the back of the truck and lined them up. And then they shot them. They put the bodies back in the truck and drove off.

Castro’s Legacy: Torture and Execution of Political Opponents

Writes Lee Habeeb on Fidel Castro’s Brutal Dictatorship: Armando Valladares & Cuban Dissidents Tortured | National Review:

A young artist and poet who also happened to be a Christian, Valladares understood the meaning of the request. What he did not know, and could not know, was how far his own government would go to bend him to its will. Soon after his refusal to comply, Valladares was arrested by political police at his parents’ home. Faced with trumped up charges of terrorism — a favorite tactic of the Castro regime for silencing dissent — he was given a 30-year sentence.

Valladares would spend time in different prison camps for the next 22 years. The first, La Cabaña, forged some of the very worst memories. “Each night, the firing squad executed scores of men in its trenches,” he told the Becket Fund, which last year honored him with its Canterbury Prize, given annually to a person who embodies an unfailing commitment to religious freedom. “We could hear each phase of the executions, and during this time, these young men — patriots — would die shouting ‘Long live Christ, the King. Down with Communism!’ And then you would hear the gunshots. Every night there were shootings. Every night. Every night. Every night.”

[…]

“I spent eight years locked in a blackout cell, without sunlight or even artificial light. I never left. I was stuck in a cell, ten feet long, four feet wide, with a hole in the corner to take care of my bodily needs. No running water. Naked. Eight years,” Valladares recalled. “All of the torture, all of the violations of human rights, had one goal: break the prisoner’s resistance and make them accept political rehabilitation. That was their only objective.”

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