Liberals and socialists alike convey a great deal of ignorance about economics, psychology and philosophy, and by implication they fall into some substantial rationalisations. I will analyse the following video to highlight their follies....everyone of them. If I miss something...be sure to email me. I never leave them an inch.
The author argues that difficult economic times leads people to consider "more extreme" philosophers. Actually, problems tends to prompt people to look for solutions, so it in unsurprising that they would consider the two polar extremes - living for others (i.e. Because humanity can not given enough of itself) or living for oneself (i.e. Because who you were doing before was not really in your interests). It is noteworthy that it would actually be great if in future it was a question of Rand vs socialism. The reality is that it will in more probability be one form of collectivism vs another form of collectivism, say socialism vs fascism, because in times of emergency, people tend to use their brutal means rather than their minds. If they were not going to use their minds effectively in easy times, rest assured they will do worse when they are desperate.
The fact that Rand is getting more attention today is indeed positive news, and it does show that she is perceived as 'relevant'. It needs to be remembered however that she is not the end of the story. For those who don't dismiss her out of hand, she has some important things to say. I think her most important contribution is her theory of values. However people have moved on, and I am not going to blow her trumpet because there as aspects of her philosophy that I don't agree with. But in a sense I am a student of Rand, but moved on from her books.
The problem is always that people are shooting at 'straw men' when it comes to Rand, and I am sure it will be the case for me. Consider a quote from Stephen Colbert to highlight how little he understood about Rand. Such people are compelled to run off on some tangent to disprove her. It is a mark of dishonest.
Stephen Colbert: "The enlightened, modern person usually measures the progress of civilization by discerning how well its members look after their comrades".The problem is the mixed economy and socialism do not actually treat people very well. This is a myth; it merely purports to. There are several reasons why it fails to:
1. It undermines people's capacity to care for others by destroying people's capacity to create an economic surplus, i.e. Less wealth, less to distribute.
2. It undermines people's motivation to give, i.e. What possible reason to you have for giving or doing anything if values are not rational or personal. Socialism renounces personal values, and a mixed economy just splits a person's mind and body, leaving them confused, and morally sceptic. Little surprise you can find few philosophers around who actually believe in themselves; never mind others who believe in them. They just go through the rationalisation of thinking to collect an income. It is the rare academic philosopher who contributes anything meaningful; its mostly regurgitation.
3. Mixed economies and socialism regard values as subjective, so coercion is practical. By implication it disregards others interests, so it can only "help others" by disregarding others. I say "help others" because you can never really help people by extending them 'unconditional values'. In such cases, they sustain life, not because of you, but because your help was incidental, i.e. They must have been worthy of it in the first place. You just pre-empted it with your altruistic self-righteousness. Wealthy, efficacious, selfish people are generous gives, but watch how quickly they withdrawal when you criticise them. They do not believe in sacrifice, and most would believe that their 'self-interest' does serve others, but it was never their primary aim, as utilitarians would have us accept.
The implication is - by all means measure the extent to which society gives and observe which society has the greatest culture. It is the United States, and you would see that more blatantly if welfare was removed from all nations. The EU, Russia, Middle East and Japan have one of the worst records for altruism, and yet these countries are among the most collectivist. Ask yourself why. The success of Japan was not because of its collectivism but because of its 'Western-style' conceptual organisation or structure. The value of its downfall was its 'theory of values'.
Well I got to the 4th line of Stephen's paper to find a gross error....but lets move on and make it three strikes. He argues:
"Altruism can fairly be described as an invention of human beings"
I will argue that altruism is merely a concept or 'facade' that humans engage in for unstated reasons, whether they are deferred practical/economic reasons (i.e. The hope of reciprocality) or deeper psychological reasons (i.e. The avoidance of guilt or a sense of moral righteousness....sadly by an unhealthy standard which can only diminish their self-esteem). It is self-interest by an objective standard, or it is any other action which is a repudiation of self-interest, i.e. An undermining of your capacity to live. That is the way to look at it....strike two! Incidentally, I disagree with Rand on this issue....but she is dead, so there is no counterargument from her.
And here is strike three! I didn't even get beyond Colbert's 1st paragraph:
"Christian axiom to "love thy neighbor as thyself" or the socialist dictum requiring "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," altruism is widely considered the progressive, humane stance".
Actually to love thy neighbour as oneself would offer no moral guidance at all...in fact it would lead you in moral confusion...lest for the rest of the bible which makes altruism a moral ideal....not consistently so though. The 2nd part is utilitarianism, which creates a mind-body dichotomy, since your ability diverges from your need. It gives one no moral or practical validation for your efforts. You might expect the 'appreciation' of others, but instead you get their resignation because you denied them the opportunity for validation. You have no interest in their disdain, so where does this lead. Like Rand said, its 'like exchanging unwanted Xmas presents', an ideal people would quickly tire of if they had to do it every day. The reason is that it is divorced from your values, and from a practical sense it encourages abuse since your support is morally 'unconditional'. This results in the burden growing, and so does your resignation to an ideal that you really can't accept, but neither can you come to repudiate it because you would have revise your whole value system. And this is what middle-roaders do. They see some value in Rand but them turn back when they see the conflict or the work they have to do to achieve integrity. You just have to ask yourself...if Rand's philosophy is so wrong....why is society not being overrun by Randian murderers. If selfishness was immoral, would you not expect a good many murderers to be objectivists (i.e. Rand hard core supporters). There must be 250,000 hardcore supporters of her around the world, plus another 10million odd sympathisers, and maybe another 50,000 like myself who are variants on her scheme. I searched Google and could find no murderers who were believers in her. I was even surprised by that. I'd have expected some 'wannabes' like the guy I knew when I was young. He was the owner of a construction company with 50 workers who was blacklisted by the unions for not accepting their extortion demands. He shot himself in the head after a time flirting with Randian philosophy. He never got it though. Very charismatic guy, but he just lacked a depth of intellectual thought or even interest. He was a 'man of action', like many business people and socialists. This is why Rand conflicted with business. They were not pro-mind...but rather pro-action. Goal-orientated repressors who place money before ideas, and often before their kids. Its not a question of altruism; its a question of respect for ideas. Parenting is an intellectual activity, but just look at who many parents turn off when they get to the 'hard part', i.e. When kids get to about 10 years old and start talking back. The parent starts turning off. Parents would rather be right than problem-solve, which means in the old days more discipline, but today you get arrested for that, so parents just disengage. They pour scorn on society, the education system, the child, and they just say 'its not worth it'. They simply define their jobs in simpler terms, and the result is a lot of kids on auto-pilot in a society of moral ambivalence because all the other kids are on auto-pilot as well.
Going back to the video, Stephen Colbert thinks most Americans would prefer to have a system of 'mixed economy' (i.e. a combination of society in which there are markets and government) in order to, as he states it 'curb the excesses' and 'help the poor'. This is actually a distortion of the facts for several reasons:
1. The excesses are caused by government distortion, whether its government-sponsored Fed intervention in the economy to keep the economy growing at unsustainable levels; the liberalisation of China (freedom from oppression) which caused a structural shift in wage levels across political boundaries, and thus some level of job losses for Americans. No system can stop a structural shift, but only capitalism can reverse or ameliorate it quicker. The problem is that we don't have 'pure capitalism', and it would be a generation of 'coherent philosophy' before people would probably function in what we might consider to be a 'capitalist way', or an objectivist way. Values are never transformed overnight, but it is amazing how quickly it occurs when society is structured with integrity, as opposed to the ambivalent values and conflicts that permeate 'modern society'. Whether it is religious vs markets, pornography vs selfless love. People are really being fed a succession of 'false alternatives' in the field of values. In this vein, Rand is not a serious contender...sadly. Most people are looking not towards (a philosophy of) capitalism to solve problems, they are looking towards government to solve problems, when they in fact caused them. i.e. The solution is being blamed as the problem. Not convinced? Read more of my blogs about education, the justice system and democracy.
They interview an economist who suggests (as a false dichotomy between Conservatives and Democrats) that we can regulate the supply and demand, and he argues 'give up a little bit of GDP growth'. The problem with these people is that they just don't see how much growth we are giving up. I would suggest that if we lived in a pure capitalist society, we would see economic growth of 10% per annum (much like China) than the 3% per annum we are accustomed to in the West. Government is not just the 30-50% of GDP it spends, it is the obstacles to effective justice, it is the bottlenecks it takes creating laws (highly centralised), it is the distortions to the economy, it is the welfare waste which rewards people for being ineffectual, it is the moral reinforcement of values which repudiate objectivity. Basically government is driving us to some variant of the 'Dark Ages' theme. How is that so? Well, basically human prosperity depends on an increasingly smaller number of people, a more specialised and less thinking groups of people. These people are compartmentalised thinkers, repressors acting for the good of government...contrary to the rhetoric of the government and its deluded supporters. Hitler once said "You are nothing, you nation of anything". When you accept that self-renunciation is moral, its not a stretch to end up serving government; helping it to preserve its lies. Just look at the hunt for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.