Tag Archives: Ayn Rand

Against Libertarianism

Libertarian philosophy, which achieved it’s clearest development in the work of Robert Nozick, rests on the state of nature fantasy, conceived of by Rousseau, which conceives of man as a self sufficient automaton who rationally gives up a portion of his independence to benefit from the law and order of a just society. Thus, for liberals of all stripes, but especially libertarians, the relation between man and society is contractual, man serves society only insofar as it is beneficial to his own self interest. The conception of a cause greater than individual self interest is discarded, if not explicitly then implicitly. Libertarians may pay lip service to nationalism, community, religion or other forms of tradition, but this can only be considered lip service – their philosophy relegates these to a place of subservience to the self, and their existence is thus contingent on their being perceived to benefit a collective of this self interest. To make these tings contingent on individual interest is to remove all their significance, and to condemn them to an inevitable downfall among a mass of other superstitions which, in the liberal mindset, were only hindrances on the individuals growth.

Libertarianism differs from other forms of liberalism in that it is completely amoral. Other forms of liberalism leave a place for some kind of universal morality, generally based on universal compassion or the remnants of a Christian morality, libertarianism by contrast sees it’s amoral principles as steadfast due to their objective fairness within the conception of man the libertarian holds. This a priori, objective nature is what draws a lot of young intellectual types to the movement, they, like socialists, want an easy solution, a few basic principles which are applicable to all forms of social organisation, at all times, for all people. Taking these principles as sacrosanct, any societal problems which develop under them are seen as faults of he individual, protecting the objective rightness of the principles involved. But there will be losers under libertarianism, and these losers will be those who cannot make themselves valuable in the open market.

This is another problem of libertarianism, it is almost wholly an economic philosophy. It’s founders and chief propagators, Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard and others, were economists who sought to build a wholly a priori economic science which was not so reliant on the whims of politicians and changing circumstances as Keynesianism was. Keynesianism necessitated politicians deciding when the time was right to stimulate the economy with tax payer money, and when the time was right to restrict growth to prevent eventual downfall. With an understandable and natural distrust for this kind of cynical authority, they sought to take this power over people’s lives out of the politicians hands and into the individuals, through their collective choices to supply and demand the market and thus dictate a fair equilibrium, and also to objective, fair, a priori principles, which could do the job politicians tried to do better than the politicians. Libertarianism is the philosophy of the modern automaton. The wholly individual, self seeking economic unit, the “ego and his own”, free to forge his destiny through the amoral pursuit of his desires.

But man is more than an economic unit. Who has ever seen the Individual that the libertarians speak of? Man is an aspect of, a reflection of, a creation of and an integral part of his community. Man is his family. Man is his religion. Man is his nation. Man is his ethnicity. Man is his people’s history. Man is NOT simply a pleasure seeking animal, man, as Aristotle says, is a social animal. And more importantly, man is a being who thirsts for something greater. In his day to day life, he chases one pleasure after another, life, as Schopenhauer says, swings like a pendulum between pain and ennui. And yet, there is an intuition within us all that there is something greater than the material, that there is a good or goods to be pursued, whose pursuit goes beyond any narrow economic interests, and whose pursuit we feel is the justification for this endless game of survival.

Finally, libertarianism, more than any other credible political philosophy, is anathema to nationalism. For the libertarian, every individual is equal and should be given an equal chance, there is no concern over mass immigration for within libertarianism this is fundamentally fair. Let as many immigrants come as they please, the best will be hired, the worst will not, that is what’s fair. This is also to suppose that outside of the government’s interference we can have a totally color blind world, where individuals escape the shackles of the ignorance of racism and other prejudices. Libertarianism is also steadfastly opposed to all forms of protectionism, and, in it’s usual a priori way sees Free Trade as objectively fair and right, regardless of national interest. What this unabashed free trade would mean is a fully global market and the removal of borders in any meaningful sense.

This is hardly surprising when one looks at the founders of libertarianism. Von Hayek, Friedman, Rothbard, Nozick and Ayn Rand were all racial jews. Kevin MacDonald in his book The Culture of Critique gives two characteristics of Jewish intellectual movements. They are generally internationalist in nature, and propose a world free of nationalism and national interests, and they rest on unproven, often unprovable a priori assumptions. This fits Marxism, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, and of course libertarianism. It is easy to see why it has attracted many prominent jews among it’s ranks, for it promises a world free of nations, free of irrationality, free of collective interest in any groups, and favours a society which would inevitably be run by a small economic elite, free from taxation or responsibilities to their host nation. Let no man call himself a libertarian who opposed internationalism, liberalism, atheism, modernism and the materialism and selfishness which accompany it.

The Peculiar Cult of Ayn Rand

Go to the Modern Library’s list of the 100 greatest novels of all time and you’ll see a strange result. The experts choice isn’t too controversial. Ulysses is a triumph, a tribute to the capacities of the human mind, Brave New World is a perfect example of dystopian fiction, Lolita is fabulously written. The Reader’s List makes for strange reading in itself. No one with a good knowledge of literature would seriously nominate Lord of the Rings as one of the 5 best books ever written, but the really strange thing is the first 2. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Really? The 2 greatest novels ever written are those long winded, frankly boring books expounding selfishness which were unpopular in their day and are widely regarded by experts as pretty average pieces of literature? Not only this, but 4 of the first 8 are books by Rand. Judging by the list, Ayn Rand a better author than Joyce or her fellow countrymen Nabokov, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. it is, of course laughable. As is the whole cult which has grown around Ayn Rand.

Of course, this cult didn’t develop as a grass roots movement. Atlas Shrugged didn’t slowly capture the hearts and minds of the public thanks to the enduring genius contained in it, it was hoisted into the spotlight by big money interests. As Bloomberg has reported, “John Allison, former chairman of bank holding company BB&T Corp., admires author Ayn Rand so much that he devised a strategy to spread her laissez-faire principles on U.S. campuses. Allison, working through the BB&T Charitable Foundation, gives schools grants of as much as $2 million if they agree to create a course on capitalism and make Rand’s masterwork, “Atlas Shrugged,” required reading.” That’s right, the big money interests which most benefit from adopting an Ayn Rand approach to politics and economics are the people paying to have children brainwashed with her message.

What is her message? In a word, selfisheness. She called her philosophy objectivism.  She claimed to be the greatest philosopher since Aristotle, the only one she said she owed any debt of influence to. She advocated total egotism within an atheist worldview. There is no God, there are no moral values, the best thing you can do is get ahead as much as you can before you die and disappear forever. Of course, there’s nothing new in this message, Max Stirner advocated a philosophy of egotism in his book “The Ego and It’s Own” published in the 19th century. Most of her ideas about morality were just second hand Nietzsche, although she didn’t express them as eloquently as he did, and she took them a lot more seriously. She applied her conclusions to the world of politics to advocate a total laissez faire society. Capitalist anarchism. Society shouldn’t come together to provide things like healthcare because, frankly, it’s nobody else’s problem if a cancer patient can’t afford their health costs. If everything is left to the free market, people will be free from ethical and societal obligations, free to realise their full potential.

One man to adopt this philosophy was Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006 (An appointment of Ronald Reagan). He adopted an Objectivist approach to economics, and convinced Bill Clinton to further deregulate the financial sector, eventually leading to the worst financial crash since the great depression. Greenspan, when asked to explain how this failure, admitted that it was evidence there was a flaw in the view he had approached his job with for 19 years. The flaw was adopting the views of a second rate philosopher and writer. Many prominent Republicans too, have adopted with open arms the views of Rand. Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a particularly big fan. This despite the fact that Rand openly stated her views were incompatible with religion of any kind, especially the altruism of Christianity.

In fact, one feels a certain embarrassment calling Rand a philosopher. None of her views are taken seriously in the philosophical community, she didn’t advance any new philosophical views, and the ones she subscribed to were either wrong, or she gave terrible reasons for identifying with them. For example, she thought she had refuted idealism and all world views other than materialism with her claim that “to be conscious is to be conscious of something”, thus proving there exists an “other” to consciousness. Thus proving the existence of an objective reality which takes primacy over consciousness. This is the school boy’s refutation of idealism, it’s not even worth refuting here, it’s flaws should be obvious to anyone familiar with idealism or philosophy in general. Yet, so convinced was she of her correctness that she ridiculed other philosophers, calling the great Immanuel Kant “the first hippy.” Rand is an intellectual lightweight compared to Kant, hardly fit to be spoken of in the same sentence. Yet she truly believed she was the best, perhaps excepting Aristotle.

It’s ironic Rand chose Aristotle as an example of another great philosopher, in the past few decades advances in science, particularly quantum physics, have shown that he was wrong about almost everything he wrote on. Maybe he and Rand have more in common than she realised.