Statism is turning America into Detroit – Ayn Rand’s Starnesville come to life – Telegraph Blogs
Look at this description of Detroit from today’s Observer:
What isn’t dumped is stolen. Factories and homes have largely been stripped of anything of value, so thieves now target cars’ catalytic converters. Illiteracy runs at around 47%; half the adults in some areas are unemployed. In many neighbourhoods, the only sign of activity is a slow trudge to the liquor store.
Now have a look at the uncannily prophetic description of Starnesville, a Mid-Western town in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged. Starnesville had been home to the great Twentieth Century Motor Company, but declined as a result of socialism:
A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars. It looked as if blind hands had seized whatever fitted the need of the moment, with no concept of remaining in existence the next morning. The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town. A shell of concrete, which had been a schoolhouse, stood on the outskirts; it looked like a skull, with the empty sockets of glassless windows, with a few strands of hair still clinging to it, in the shape of broken wires.
Beyond the town, on a distant hill, stood the factory of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Its walls, roof lines and smokestacks looked trim, impregnable like a fortress. It would have seemed intact but for a silver water tank: the water tank was tipped sidewise.
They saw no trace of a road to the factory in the tangled miles of trees and hillsides. They drove to the door of the first house in sight that showed a feeble signal of rising smoke. The door was open. An old woman came shuffling out at the sound of the motor. She was bent and swollen, barefooted, dressed in a garment of flour sacking. She looked at the car without astonishment, without curiosity; it was the blank stare of a being who had lost the capacity to feel anything but exhaustion.
“Can you tell me the way to the factory?” asked Rearden.
The woman did not answer at once; she looked as if she would be unable to speak English. “What factory?” she asked.
Rearden pointed. “That one.”
Now here’s the really extraordinary thing. When Ayn Rand published those words in 1957, Detroit was, on most measures, the city with the highest per capita GDP in the United States. […]
Harry Binswanger has a great piece at Forbes
Do you share the widespread assumption that morality has to be based on religion? If so, are you willing to check that assumption?
Both those on the Left and those on the Right, both the foes and friends of capitalism, take it to be axiomatic that only an external authority–God or “Society”–can ground morality.
I’m going to show you that’s wrong. I’m going to show the objective, absolute, secular reason why capitalism is the only moral social system. And the evidence that I’m right about this, the evidence that morality is absolute but secular, is contained, under the surface, in the positions of those on the Right, even when religious, and those on the Left, even when multiculturalist/relativist. In actual practice–pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding–both sides appeal to and use secular morality to justify their political positions.
Read the rest:Capitalism Without God: Freedom Is A Secular But Absolute Value –
From Strassel: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top – WSJ.com (Kimberly Strassel):
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an “independent” agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that’s not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. “He put a target on our backs, and he’s now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?” asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
The president derided “tea baggers.” Vice President Joe Biden compared them to “terrorists.” In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. “Nobody knows who’s paying for these ads,” he warned. “We don’t know where this money is coming from,” he intoned.
In case the IRS missed his point, he raised the threat of illegality: “All around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates . . . And they don’t have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation.”
Short of directly asking federal agencies to investigate these groups, this is as close as it gets. Especially as top congressional Democrats were putting in their own versions of phone calls, sending letters to the IRS that accused it of having “failed to address” the “problem” of groups that were “improperly engaged” in campaigns. Because guess who controls that “independent” agency’s budget?
The IRS is easy to demonize, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It got its heading from a president, and his party, who did in fact send it orders—openly, for the world to see.
There is an almost unanimous consensus that, when it comes to Syria, the United States has a “duty” to do something. The arguments for intervention range from spreading democracy to stopping the slaughter of civilians. Unfortunately, few have provided cogent arguments for why American soldiers should be killed and maimed in a conflict that is inherently sectarian and that will likely produce an Islamist, anti-Western regime as the final outcome. Furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the United States will lose more than it gains, no matter who wins. If Assad manages to hold onto power, Iran will continue to have the land-bridge needed to supply Hezbollah and other Islamist terrorist organizations along the Mediterranean. However, if Assad’s regime falls, then the Western world could be facing an Islamic theocracy with a bountiful supply of chemical weapons. This new regime will be positioned almost directly next to the Islamic theocracy that nearly has a nuclear weapon!
To demonstrate how abysmal the dialogue is when it comes to the appropriate response to the civil war in Syria, the New York Times printed this garbage in its pages. Proponent of self-determination, Dov Ronen, argues that, instead of promoting and fighting for democracy, the United States should encourage states to be formed on the basis of whatever tribe or ethnic group can stamp-out and crush those who are incompatible; racially, ethnically, etc. As he puts it:
States, in most cases, are artificially bordered entities created around ethnic groups and nations mainly through wars and treaties. President Wilson understood that self-determination should not refer to states but to “people” who are attached to their hundreds or thousands of years of traditions and hence do not want to live in their states under the rule of those whom they consider to be ethnic or national “others.”
The end of the Cold War was an important historical turning point. But it was such not because it proved the universal applicability of American democracy and its political and economic institutions. The end of the Cold War was a major turning point because it began removing, everywhere in the world, the restraints and self-restraints that the Cold War’s 40-year ideological confrontation imposed on human beings who wished then to rebel against their own ideological camp.
It is this removal of restraints and self-restraints that planted the seeds of rebellion around the world. It brought about the breakup of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, and sparked a revolution whose participants in many states around the world are fighting for self-determination — and for their own version of democracy.
The revolution is a thunderous storm that is changing the world and leading to a new global order.
The ideological campaign to spread democracy around the world should be stopped. Instead, there should be a commitment to the promotion of a new global order based on the exercise of the right of ethnic groups and nations to self-determination in politically autonomous entities, and to the true version of democracy: people’s rule.
There’s no question that democracy, in its most pure form, leads to collectivist barbarism but, what Ronen posits is the most vile, primitive form of collectivism. He is arguing for the right to dictatorship; essentially, morality and justice are subjective, only existing in the minds of those who hold power. The “revolution” to fight for “their own version of democracy” is tantamount to what happened at the end of the Weimar Republic–after all, Hitler was elected to high office. And what followed was a state that was determined to eradicate anything deemed “impure” to the racial health of Nazi Germany.
Ronen is the byproduct of a society that has forgotten and abandoned the notion of individualism. The notion that the individual is the keystone to civil society and that any legitimate government must be shaped to ensure the individual is free of coercion, free to think, free to act. As long as the individual is considered an insignificant appendage of the group, the tribe, or the collective, then the Western world can expect to look more like Syria in due time.
Anti-capitalists complain Ayn Rand collected social security.
What they fail to mention is that Ayn Rand was physically forced to pay Social Security taxes throughout her long working career. She just wanted to get some of the money back (around $11,000) that was forcibly taken from her paycheck by the government. This is entirely consistent with her philosophy.
What her dishonest critics should be complaining about is the billions of dollars Limousine Democrats — who oppose tax cuts — are holding on to in the form of tax cuts. They are the real hypocrites.
Chip Joyce eloquently makes the argument for homosexuals being legally allowed to marry:
Marriage has been defined as heterosexual only because of religion. Period.
It is obvious to honest people who don’t live in complete seclusion, that gay couples exist with the exact same relationship as married people have, and they need and deserve the same legal recognition and protection.
The definition of marriage has been wrong because of religious bigotry. The concept of marriage applies to gay couples too, and the definition needs to be corrected to accurately refer to the concept.
It’s like this: a bad definition of swans said they are white, and then there was a black one. The concept “swan” is the same, regardless, and the definition is demonstrably flawed. In the same way, there is no reason for “man and wife” to be in the definition of “marriage” any more than the color white be in the definition of “swan.” “Man and wife” and “white” are non-essential and should be omitted. Marriage is a type of relationship between two consenting adults.
The opponents of global capitalism overlook the key points in the debate. The capitalistic nations of Europe, North America and Asia are by far the wealthiest societies of history—with per capita incomes in the range of at least $20,000-$30,000 annually. But capitalism is not merely the system of prosperity; fundamentally, it is the system of individual rights and freedom.
Capitalistic nations protect their citizens’ freedom of speech, of the press and of intellectual expression. Similarly, their citizens possess economic freedom, including the right to own property, to start their own businesses and to seek profit. By stark contrast, the pre-capitalist systems of history, and the non-capitalist systems of the present, are politically oppressive and economically destitute; their citizens have no rights and, consequently, little or no wealth.
What deeper principles make possible the freedom and wealth enjoyed under capitalism—and lacking in its political antipodes? How has capitalism already greatly enhanced the lives of millions of human beings in formerly impoverished Third World countries? What can the men of the free world do to further promote the spread of capitalism into the repressed nations of the globe?
Andrew Bernstein holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Graduate School of the City University of New York, and teaches at Marist College & at SUNY Purchase. Dr. Bernstein is the author of The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic, and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (2005); Objectivism in One Lesson: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (2008); Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights (2010); and Capitalist Solutions: A Philosophy of American Moral Dilemmas (2011). He has written the Cliffs Notes for three Ayn Rand titles: Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.
Charles C. Johnson has penned an excellent piece on Ayn Rand’s enduring influence, “Novelist Ayn Rand’s Romantic Idealism Explains Her Enduring Success – Investors.com“, which is best summarized by this sentence:
“Ayn Rand is one of the best-selling novelists of modern America. Her success owes much to her vision of human excellence.”
Definitely worth a read.
by Brian Phillips
We regularly hear about the corrupting influence of money on the political process. Politicians of both parties eagerly endorse, and pass, campaign finance “reform” to limit donations, and then are equally eager to find ways to skirt the law to finance their next election. But this doesn’t stop statists of every variety for calling for more “reforms.”
As an example, The Houston Chronicle, in response to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, editorialized:
With this action, the court has effectively undermined the influence of individuals and parties on electoral outcomes, while vastly increasing the clout of business behemoths and their lobbyist representatives to influence and intimidate legislators to support their agendas. If the lawmaker doesn’t play ball, he or she can be threatened with an unregulated financial blitz come election time.
This is a classic case of dropping context. The Chronicle conveniently ignores numerous facts as it puts forth another call for more government regulation.
Contrary to the paper’s implication, “business behemoths” are nothing more than a collection of individuals. Individuals do not lose their rights when they join together to pursue a common goal. They retain their right to act according to their own judgment without interference from others, so long as they respect the mutual rights of others. This includes donating to political candidates.
The paper fears that this will lead to undue corporate influence over elections, that businesses and their lobbyists will exert pressure on politicians to support legislation and policies favorable to those businesses. This is likely true, but it too drops context.
The paper refuses to question the premise that underlies lobbying. It fails to question a political process that allows–and even encourages–pressure group politics. Instead, the paper argues that some groups–businesses–should not have an “unfair” advantage.
Lobbyists are not a creation of the free market, but of a mixed economy–an economy with a mixture of freedoms and controls. When government has the power to regulate economic activity, individuals will seek to influence that power. When government has the power to arbitrarily dictate the actions of individuals, individuals will seek legislation that is favorable to them.
The logical result is pressure group politics, in which individuals band together to exert influence on legislators. Whether the group is a union, a business, or a special interest, it will claim that the “common good” or “public interest” requires legislation that provides it with special benefits at the expense of those who are not a member of that group. This is true whether the legislation prescribes or proscribes, whether the legislation confers tax benefits, or creates entitlement programs, or attempts to stimulate some industry.
When faced with the alternative of legislation that is beneficial or harmful to their interests, most individuals would prefer legislation that is beneficial. It is morally proper to pursue one’s interests, so long as one respects the mutual rights of others to do the same.
Pressure group politics makes this virtually impossible. One never knows when some government edict will dictate or prohibit certain actions. One never knows when his plans and interests will be sacrificed to the “general welfare”. The motto of pressure group politics is: Eat or be eaten; sacrifice oneself, or sacrifice others.
The Chronicle does not question the need for sacrifice. It only wants to quibble over the victims. Despite what the Chronicle believes, the real issue is not who should influence politicians, but the purpose of government.
Government’s only legitimate purpose is the protection of individual rights–the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. When government is restricted to this purpose, the motivation to influence politicians does not exist. When government can no longer dispense political favors, lobbyists will disappear.
Dr. Binswanger makes the case for open immigration in Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants Is Not Enough, They Deserve An Apology – Forbes:
Freedom of travel is a right. It is a right possessed by every human being, not just by Americans. […]
Why is this? It is because land does not belong to the government, or majority, but that:
Land belongs to individual, private owners, and only they have the right to invite or bar others from coming on their land. The government has no more right to lock people out than to lock them in. The same principle damning the Berlin Wall damns walls erected to keep people out.
[…] what are we to think of those “illegals” who have disobeyed these laws? Everyone seems to think that entering the country without the government’s permission is a serious offense, that the illegals should at the least be “sent to the back of the line,” that their law-breaking forever stains them with dishonor. But the law is wrong. […]
The illegals came here because they value America. They broke an unjust law in order to live a free, better, richer life. In the vast majority of cases, obeying anti-immigration laws would mean never getting to live here. It’s a life sentence.
Breaking bad laws to build a better life not is dishonorable; it is admirable, provided breaking the law involves no use of force. Coming here in defiance of unjust laws is a peaceful act; it is just the avoidance of the force our government would initiate against them. It is certainly wrong to wield private force; it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hand. But these are not involved in illegal immigration.
Read the rest.