Coming soon: the United Socialist States of America? 1

This video of a Fox News interview with Professor Jack Chambless comes via Casey Research:

It’s no surprise what most students want. Everything, free.

It is a surprise that there is an economics professor in an American university who does not teach them to want and expect all that. (We’ll overlook the “God-given right” bit – we’re pretty sure Hayek never said it.)

They want the government to supply them with everything To redistribute wealth for their benefit. Which is to say, they want socialism.

Socialism has caused the economic collapse of European states, yet about half the voters in America, to judge by current polls, want to emulate them.

In connection with the video and this theme, David Galland writes at Casey Research:

The global trend toward a resurgence in public demand for socialism in response to a worsening crisis is a certainty.

How could it be otherwise when for decades now the schooling of children has been delegated to functionaries of the state? 

– Which is the main reason why there should be no state-provided, state-run education.

For evidence, look no further than the screen swipe here. It is a quote from an essay by a college student in the United States on role the government should play:

There in one sentence are a bundle of beliefs and values that Ayn Rand rightly loathed and despised. They pave the road to ruin.

The writer of those words was a member of a Valencia University economics class. The professor, Jack Chambless, asked the class to write an essay on what the American dream means to them, and what they want the federal government to do to help them achieve that dream. Out of 180 students participating, only about 10% wanted the government to leave them alone and not tax them too much, but a whopping 80% wanted the government to provide pretty much the whole dream thing wrapped in a tidy bow – including free college tuition and health care, jobs, even the down payment on their future homes, money for retirement and hard cash, taken in the form of taxes from rich people.

And that is Obama’s economic policy.

Atheists come to the Tea Party … 31

… and are snubbed by Godists. 

Walter Hudson writes an article about this, telling the religious members who object to atheists joining them, why they are wrong:

It began without controversy. At a routine board meeting of the North Star Tea Party Patriots (NSTPP), a coalition of activist groups in Minnesota which this author chairs, a vote was taken to admit a new member organization. The new group was the Minnesota Objectivist Association (MOA) which advocates the philosophy of Ayn Rand …  Though not a Tea Party organization in name, MOA was nonetheless supportive of the movement’s mission and principles. Signs reading “Who is John Galt?” in reference to Rand’s novel [Atlas Shrugged] had been a staple at Tea Party rallies since the movement began.

Within days, word got around to the broader NSTPP membership that MOA had been admitted. Pushback began. Some complained that MOA did not have “Tea Party” in their name. Others noted that MOA was not listed on Tea Party Patriots’ national directory. The concern over these relatively minor points seemed disproportionate. Provision had been made in the NSTPP constitution to include organizations which predated the Tea Party movement yet sought the same ends. A group without “Tea Party” in its name had been admitted before.

After some beating around the bush, the crux of the matter emerged. Ayn Rand was an atheist, and her philosophy of Objectivism did not acknowledge the existence of God. Thus was alleged an irreconcilable difference between the Tea Party and Ayn Rand.

As the controversy progressed, MOA ultimately withdrew from the coalition, citing the episode as a needless distraction to all parties concerned. Precluding debate left some important questions unresolved. What role does religion play within the Tea Party? Must one be a theist in order to be philosophically aligned with the movement?

These questions are important because their answers define what the movement is really about. Is it solely an effort to affect fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets? Or is it something more which goes unsaid? Is the movement on a mission from God? Or are its principles applicable to the religious and the non-religious alike? The answers to those questions could affect the integrity of the movement. …

Unfortunately, attacks upon religious expression by a relentless secular minority have placed many religious people on the defensive.

While we appreciate Walter Hudson’s intention, we interrupt him here to murmur  that complaints about crosses in public places and “the ten commandments” being displayed on the walls of government and judicial buildings, or grumbles about public prayer, are not “relentless” as the Inquisition and Witch Trials of the religious once were, or the jihad is now.

The result is an inherent suspicion of anyone without faith, the assumption that atheists are necessarily antagonistic toward religion, or worse – inherently anti-American.

Speaking for ourselves, we are antagonistic towards religion, though not aggressive towards religious people – unless in self-defense.

But inherently anti-American, atheism is not. Patriotism and atheism do not have any bearing on each other. There is nothing about atheism that makes it necessarily anti anything except religion.

As Hudson rightly says –

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ayn Rand is perhaps the best example of an atheist whose unrelenting Americanism has been established beyond question. Rand was an anti-communist long before it was cool. More than that, she escaped the Soviet Union and took great effort under blistering criticism to warn Americans about the horrors behind the Iron Curtain. Her first book, We the Living, was panned by critics who claimed she didn’t understand the noble Soviet experiment. Aversion to Objectivism among religious conservatives seems to ignore this history, along with Rand’s fundamental arguments.

It is popular among theists to assert that belief in God is an essential prerequisite to a morality which recognizes natural law and the rights of the individual. The Soviet Union is cited among other tyrannical regimes as an example of atheistic thought manifest in government. However, if atheism leads inexorably to progressivism and communism, why did the atheist Rand spend her entire life decrying collectivism and advocating individual rights more aggressively than most of her American contemporaries? The answer is worth pursuing, and can be found in her work. …

And he concludes:

The line which divides friend from foe within the Tea Party ought not be belief in God, but recognition of individual rights. In a world where government acted only to secure those rights, religious freedom would be assured for the theist and atheist alike.

Agreeing with an atheist like Rand about individual rights, and working in tandem to affect their protection, in no way compromises religious conviction. Atheism is not contagious. Why then vet political relationships with a religous test? What end does that serve? We don’t expect religious cohesion with our mechanics, co-workers, grocers, or in other incidential relationships. Why expect it in our political coalitions?

The Tea Party’s wise focus on economic and legal concerns ought to exclude religious affiliation as it excludes social issues.  The goal of affecting public policy consistent with the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets is explicitly secular. … In the face of statist opponents who are strengthened by division in the movement, Tea Partiers ought to unite on principles of civil government and leave religious distinction to religious forums.

We like to think most Tea Party members would agree with that.

Either/or 11

Professor Stephen Prothero is a professor of religion at Boston University.  As one might expect of a professor of religion, he makes unwarrantable assumptions.

He does so in a column he’s written for USA Today titled You can’t reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus.

Who’s trying to?

The Tea Party, he assumes.

The Tea Party protests against the Obama government’s economic policies of redistribution, deficit spending on ever-increasing entitlements, the robbing of “the rich” and the enforced dependency of “the poor”, resulting in high unemployment and a load of debt on future generations.

Ayn Rand would be sympathetic to such protest. Some Tea Partiers carry signs quoting her.  So  – Professor Prothero reasons – the Tea Party is inspired by her philosophy.

“But hold on a mo!”, he says to himself, figuratively scratching his head. “Everyone in the Tea Party is conservative – and aren’t all conservatives religious? Aren’t most of them evangelical Christians?  Sure they are. So they’re in deep confusion. Ayn Rand was an atheist. I must straighten them out. Make them see that they hold contradictory views. Explain to them that they cannot be both for Jesus and for Ayn Rand.”

For what Jesus? We surmise that everyone who thinks about Jesus, whether or not he’s a Christian, has his own Jesus in his head. Stephen Prothero’s Jesus is a lefty.  He quotes the biblical Jesus as saying: “Blessed are the poor”. Lefties have reason to bless the poor every day of their lives, and hope they never go away (ie become rich), for in the name of that imaginary caste lefties pursue their egalitarian cause, believing the pursuit to be so ennobling that they can be as nasty as they choose to real people without losing a drop of their moral pride.

Professor Prothero will remember that the biblical Jesus is reported as saying not only “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20), but “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:6), which lefties plainly are not.

But let’s go to the professor’s own words (you can read them all here if you care to):

In Rand’s Manichaean world, it is not God vs. Satan, but individualism vs. collectivism.

Right. And we too see the great political divide as being between individualism and collectivism.

He goes on:

While Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor,” she sings Hosannas to the rich. The heroes of Atlas Shrugged (which, alas, is only slightly shorter than the Bible) are captains of industry such as John Galt. The villains are the “looters” and “moochers” — people who by hook (guilt) or by crook (government coercion) steal from the hard-won earnings of others.

The professor’s sympathies are all with the moochers. He praises Jesus for being “a first-class, grade-A ‘moocher’.”

He proceeds, scornfully and sarcastically:

Turning the tables on traditional Christian morality, Rand argues that altruism is immoral and selfishness is good.

Our argument is that selfishness is essential to our survival, though it doesn’t preclude generosity or even altruism (which is very rarely practiced). See our post Against God and Socialism, April 29, 2011.

Moreover, there isn’t a problem in the world that laissez-faire capitalism can’t solve if left alone to perform its miracles.

Of course there are problems that cannot be solved, but individuals left free to innovate profitably can and do solve a lot of them. Collectives cannot and do not.

The solutions that capitalism facilitates are not claimed to be miracles. Miracles happen only in the minds of the religious and the gullible.

Ayn Rand was as much against religion as we are. “Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life,” Prothero quotes her as saying, without comment. To him her words are shocking, and he expects them to shock his readers. We, however, agree with her. Our pages provide ample evidence that religion has always done and continues to do immense harm.

He himself, Prothero half confesses, was a bit of a fan of Ayn Rand when he was in his adolescnce. But, he implies, her appeal can only be to the adolescent mind:

I first read Atlas Shrugged and her other popular novel, The Fountainhead, while festival-hopping in Spain after graduating from college, so I can attest to the appeal of this philosophy to late adolescents of a certain gender.

“A certain gender”? What gender would that be? And why only that one? He doesn’t say.

As an adult, however, Rand’s work reads to me like a vulgar rationalization for greed lying on top of a perverse myth of the right relationship between individual and community.

Now we don’t recognize the sin of greed, but we do recognize the sin of envy. Socialism – or “redistributionism” – is the politics of envy.

The obvious tendency of Prothero’s argument is that Jesus is right and Rand is wrong. Towards the end of his column he claims, however, not to be trying to win readers from Rand to Jesus, he’s only trying to point out that the two contradict each other. “You cannot worship both the God of Jesus and the mammon of Rand,” he says. Choose one or the other,  “or say no to both. It’s a free country. Just don’t tell me you are both a card-carrying Objectivist and a Bible-believing Christian. Even Rand knew that just wasn’t possible.”

That’s his message to Tea Partiers who display Rand quotations, and to Republicans, who also, he assumes, are guilty of trying to reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus.

Any Republicans in particular? He names Paul Ryan:

Among Rand’s adoring acolytes on Capitol Hill is Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who at a Library of Congress Symposium held in 2005 on the centenary of the Rand’s birth called her “the reason I got involved in public service.”

We are delighted, and not at all surprised, to hear that Paul Ryan learnt from Ayn Rand. If we had nothing else to be grateful to Ayn Rand for, her getting Paul Ryan “involved in public service” would put us hugely in her debt. His capitalist convictions and economic know-how is already doing good for the Republican Party, and would do good for America (and therefore to the world) if he were to become president. We see him as the desperately needed leader under whom the United States of America would again embody the great idea of individual freedom on which it was founded.

 

(Hat tip to our reader George for bringing Stephen Prothero’s column to our attention.)

 

Ayn Rand: recruiting sergeant 5

Of extraordinary interest, we think, is an essay by Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion, titled Ayn Rand: engineer of souls. (We cannot link to it, but it’s easy to find.)

We are admirers of Ayn Rand, but not uncritically. We believe, as she does, that capitalism is the only creator and sustainer of prosperity. We despise religion as she does. Like her we value reason. Her enormous novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead have probably won more believers in capitalism and devotees of personal liberty than any other book in any language, even surpassing Hayek’s essential text The Road to Serfdom; and for that she deserves lasting honor.

But her vision of humanity has a comic-book hyperbole about it which keeps her out of the rank of great writers. Her heroes are too big, too superior to us and everyone we’ll ever meet, to be likable. They inspire awe but not affection. We can be sure they’d look down on us if they knew us. We cannot emulate them, we can only wonder at them. They are like gods. They are intensely romantic, and romanticism is the enemy of reason.

Anthony Daniels lists her virtues and vices:

Rand’s virtues were as follows: she was highly intelligent; she was brave and uncompromising in defense of her ideas; she had a kind of iron integrity; and, though a fierce defender of capitalism, she was by no means avid for money herself. The propagation of truth as she saw it was far more important to her than her own material ease. Her vices, of course, were the mirror-image of her virtues, but, in my opinion, the mirror was a magnifying one. Her intelligence was narrow rather than broad. Though in theory a defender of freedom of thought and action, she was dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant, not only in opinion but in behavior, and it led her to personal cruelty. In the name of her ideas, she was prepared to be deeply unpleasant. She hardened her ideas into ideology. Her integrity led to a lack of self-criticism; she frequently wrote twenty thousand words where one would do. …

A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational …

He goes on to paragraphs of stronger condemnation. He finds “horrible” cruelty in her. He perceives that though she was fanatically anti-collectivist, and though she had fled from Soviet Russia to the freedom of America, Stalin’s Russia remained within her.

Her unequivocal admiration bordering on worship of industrialization and the size of human construction as a mark of progress is profoundly Stalinist. Where Stalinist iconography would plant a giant chimney belching black smoke, Randian iconography would plant a skyscraper. (At the end of The Fountainhead, Roark receives a commission to build the tallest skyscraper in New York, its height being the guarantor of its moral grandeur. According to this scale of values, the Burj Dubai would be man’s crowning achievement so far.) Industrialists are to Rand what Stakhanovites were to Stalin: Both saw nature as an enemy, something to be beaten into submission. One doesn’t have to be an adherent of the Gaia hypothesis to know where this hatred of nature led.

Finally, Rand’s treasured theory of literature, what she called Romantic Realism, is virtually indistinguishable from Socialist Realism …

Rand’s heroes are not American but Soviet. The fact that they supposedly embody capitalist values makes no difference. Rand fulfilled Stalin’s criterion for the ideal writer: she tried to be an engineer of souls.

The analysis is not unjust.

But the recruiting sergeant to the Army of Light does not have to be the best exponent of the cause for which it fights.

While acknowledging and regretting all her faults, we keep, for her success as a dedicated recruiting sergeant, an abstract monument to Ayn Rand in our personal Hall of the Defenders of Individual Freedom.

Jillian Becker   June 19, 2010

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