Thursday, April 28, 2011

Extended smear campaign against Rand

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I pride myself on being the best critique there is. If I am going to maintain this mantel then I have to demonstrate as much by critiquing the critiquers, who critised the critiquers who criticised Rand, who seemingly everyone loves to hate. Well, someone must be buying her books!
So how does one critique people effectively? Well, what I do is read completely through their commentary and pick out all the arguments that are baseless or inherently contradictory. Here is the YouTube video I will be critiquing:

1. "During hard time people consider more extreme philosophies"
This is a smear job. Extremism is an arbitrary notion. In what sense is principled philosophy any less legitimate than a philosophy based on a compromise between two extremes. If the 'extremes' are wrong, then so is any derivative of them. There is nothing wrong with absolutes per se; it ultimately depends on whether they are consonant with your nature as a human being. For example, we don't drink poison because it is 'extreme', we drink it in moderation (i.e. alcohol) because its benefits are considered to outweigh the effects. The notion of extremism is really an appeal to moral relativism. i.e. An evasion of principles.
2. "Rand wrote about an out-of-control government siphoning the profits of the rich in her book Atlas Shrugged".
Anyone who has honesty read Atlas Shrugged can tell you this is an under-representation of the book. Its not as simple as that, and really is an extension of the commentators intellectual bias, even if the state is not inherently false. He implies that people are desperate by reading this if this was solely a book for comic value, or discredit it by asserting that Americans are so desperate that will accept any argument. This is all intended to discourage you from reading Rand's books.
3. Some critic of Rand went to university and studied philosophy, who now repudiates Rand and her philosophy of self-interest.
It means nothing that he read Rand. I read Rand and meet plenty of supporters and disparagers who wrongly accept or repudiate her. Not everyone gets it. Most people get some of it. Some people like myself, end up developing our own variant on her themes. Such is the nature of philosophical inquiry. Aristotle called it the Fallacy of Appeal to Authority.
4. The author of this video has written a paper critical of Rand at
This paper is not particularly insightful. quote:
"Of course, when dealing with philosophy, to attack a theory it is not enough to merely show that a certain action may cause large numbers of deaths".
He first accuses Rand of failing to account for the millions who would die if welfare was abolished as she would like. This is not valid because she never dealt with how such matters would be dealt with, though it's logical to assume that she would not advocate pulling the metaphysical rug from under the feat of people. I would however argue that she did not make a virtue of empathy, though it is implicit in her books. I do think there is a flaw here, which both people did not grasp.
He also states that most Americans would prefer a system which skirts the excesses by helping the poor. This is not the standard of value - 'most Americans think', because most Americans might listen to people like this critic who don't understand economics. The 'excesses', which he speaks of, which Rand wrote of 50 years ago, are here again. Protracted recession because of 'quantitative easing'. Then he 'appeals to authority' again by citing Steve Pearlstein.
The idea that: 'We can moderate the ups and downs' is nonsense. The governments use their arbitrary laws to create excesses. If you remove their capacity to create excesses, then there is no need for stimulus because there is no excess debt.
He then suggests this safety net is worth it because 'you give up a tidy bit of GDP growth'. He cites this falsely as a Conservative argument....when it hardly sits as everyone's arguments, so its a case of shooting down straw men. Rand was not a Conservative. The argument is flawed because the cost of government intervention is VERY HIGH. Not just a 'little GDP', it's huge. Consider China, which does not have the West's minimum wages, which has a structural distortion created by leaving communist (yes the same coercive powers these gentlemen want to embrace - just a different variant - so not to scare you, but same in principle, and same principle as Hitler). If poorly regulated China with scant regard for rights can grow at 10% per annum; how fast could the US grow if it did not have the same restrictions. I think 16% because that is the average growth rate of most business; and if government functioned as a business we might expect such a rate. Personally, I differ from Rand, so I would argue that the West ought to be a meritocracy, not a democracy. By not having a centralised economy ought to result in additional growth. Central decision making might affect 20% of what you do, so we might be looking at up to 20% faster growth.
Worried about the environment? Using up oil reserves faster would actually prompt more innovation, so there would be a technology boom to reduce energy consumption. At present government softens growth, so oil prices are relatively flat...until they artificially stimulate the economy. He argues in support of welfare that:
"There is nothing communist about preferring mixed capitalism to pure capitalism".
The problem is that people clearly give preference to altruism as a virtue when they support the needs of others. Why? Because they don't invite people to make discretionary donations to support others; they use their coercive powers to force people to give. If people are not interested or cynical about the benefits, then proponents of welfare will soon be praising the virtues of atruism, which does lead to 100% collectivism. Why? Well, the reason is evident enough today. Collectivists don't understand, and supported by the state, they lobby government for ever-more concessions because they argue need is caused by capitalism, when its in fact causes by collectivism. So the arguments change accordingly:
1. Small govt - people would prefer some security so we should have some welfare
2. Medium govt - capitalism is hurting people so we need to praise the virtues of altruism to guilt people into welfare, or we need to raise taxes. At this point, capitalism is, far from being the source of wealth, it is identified as the cause of suffering.
3. Big govt - We need complete socialism or fascism because capitalism does not work. In truth, we never had pure capitalism, and anything we had was guttered by altruism.

In conclusion, you are not 'self-absorbed' to support capitalism (at least not necessarily), it is just that it's the only system compatible with human nature. The problem is not markets, it's the values of the people who participate in the market. Clearly the efficiency and outcomes in the market can only be as good as the values of the people who participate in it, whether as consumers, regulators or producers. Personally, I have yet to meet anyone who is not 'self-absorbed', and I would hope that everyone is honest enough to admit it. If collectivists were honest, rather than argue the capitalists are greedy materialists, it would be helpful that most of them only want money. Some want jobs; but far from being a question of equity, that strikes one as a question of dependence, and people are two proud to concede that. It's difficult to have contempt for the people you depend on. This never stopped the collectivist. No one ever got rich stealing from the poor. The wealthy are creators - the dependents rely on extortion. But the critiques do not want to consider the morality of the issue. They want to focus on the 'practicality' or 'perceptions' of fairness. The reality is that collectivist is not practical, and it's the reason why Western economies stumble along at 2-4% - they are constrained by excessive statutory regulation, democratic PC, under-funded justice, centralised bureaucracy and of course minimum wages and intervention on monetary policy.

The final smear is that pure capitalism has never existed, so it never should. A very anti-intellectual thing to say. Clearly they would never have got us to the moon. The final statement that the justification for "placing yourself first for economic efficiency" is not a accurate representation of Rand. Certainly she acknowledged and lauded the economic efficiency of capitalism, but it was not the justification. It's compatibility with human nature as the primary issue.
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?