Friday, March 27, 2009

Ayn Rand Is Not My Girlfriend!

Now that I've got your attention, let me tell you why (and why I even bring up this subject in the first place). It's not just that she was born long before my grandparents started dating, nor that she's been deceased for over two decades. But it's that even if we were contemporaries, I, with my present views and convictions, could not possibly be a husband, soulmate or lover of a person with her views and convictions – at least as they are represented by sources like Wikipedia or the Ayn Rand Institute and its magazine, The Objective Standard. (Check out their magazine's article on why usury is supposedly “good” – http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2007-fall/morality-of-moneylending.asp.)

According to Wikipedia, Rand's political views emphasized individualism, laissez-faire capitalism, and the the constitutional protection of the right to life, liberty and property. She was also a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism. These convictions are neatly summed up in a quote from John Galt, the fictional hero in Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.” I have not yet read Atlas Shrugged, but it appears from the summaries I've read that her novel was an elevation of the rich early 20th-century industrialists to hero status, and an attack on all those who would place limits on the power and reach of such industrialists. At her funeral (attended by Alan Greenspan among others), a six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. This seems only fitting, as her convictions seemed to condone the massive aggregation of capital into the hands of a select few, by any means including influencing governments to legalize any strategies used by this select few in their pursuit of capital.

Ayn Rand's writings are a living embodiment of selfishness. Anyone who has been reading my blog for any time knows that I believe that selfishness – among the rich and powerful first, and among the rest of us to whom they taught it – is at the root of the problems we now face in our modern global society. The practice of that selfishness has brought our society to the brink of collapse. I believe that this selfishness lies, in some Freudian/subconscious way, at the root of the present opposition voiced by many on the political and religious Right to real and effective solutions to global climate change, habitat destruction, Peak Oil and economic collapse. Or then again, maybe those who oppose real solutions know full well why they oppose them, yet they suppress the full realization or stating of their reasons, so that they never have to face them. I'll deal with the Religious Right in an upcoming post on my other blog, From SoC to Points North. But for now, I'd like to make a few observations about the right wing in general.

The right wing is full of people who preach that government should be as small as possible, that any government regulation of business is unjust and “socialist,” and that the way to economic prosperity for nations is an utterly “free” market. Some of these people may have read my recent post titled, “Knee-Capping the Peasants,” and may have found that this post resonated with them. They may think that they have found a true brother-in-arms in me, a true ideological soul-mate who thinks that all government is evil. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A society of unrestrained freedom, where government either has no power or exists solely to protect property rights, can work only as long as its citizens are sinlessly perfect. Sinlessly perfect people don't violate each other's rights intentionally, nor do they live for greed. They may make mistakes through inexperience, yet once they are educated in the proper way to relate to their neighbors, they need no coercion to walk in that proper way.

The problem is that ours is a world full of sinners. It's not that what we do makes us sinners; it's that what we do proves that we are sinners. “Everyone is crooked deep down,” as a songwriter once wrote. That means that every one of us is capable of being deliberately hurtful to others. Many of the laws of human societies are not an expression of our virtue, but an admission of our disease – they are enacted and enforced out of self-interest, in order to protect us from each other when we are at our worst moments, so that we can live, breathe and sleep in some semblance of peace.

Merely educating people in responsible behavior is thus not enough to keep us from hurting each other, especially as technology has placed tools of increasing power and danger in the hands of larger and larger numbers of people. Here are a few examples: I went to a concert once where kids were shining laser pointers into the eyes of the musicians onstage. This was even though the laser pointers had clearly marked warnings about retinal damage and the danger of laser light. Another example: most states require drivers to stop at crosswalks to allow pedestrians to cross. This is especially true if one is making a right turn through a crosswalk and a pedestrian has the “Walk” signal. Yet recently I have seen murderously impatient idiots with Oregon license plates (who thus must have passed an Oregon driving test) blowing through clearly-marked crosswalks with “Yield to Pedestrians” signs while pedestrians were trying to cross. Also, I don't know of any state where motorists are allowed to cross the double yellow lines on a two-lane road, yet I saw a lady today who veered across the double yellow lines to cut in front of a garbage truck. (If she was that late for work, I think she should have left her house sooner!)

I am therefore not opposed to government, which according to the Good Book is “the servant of God” for the public good (Romans 13). But I am opposed to the hijacking of government to serve the rich. That was the main point of “Knee-Capping the Peasants,” the fact that the few who are rich and powerful have created a system known as the “official” global economy which has turned the many poor into the prey of the rich. Now that the poor are realizing this and now that the system is breaking, the rich masters of the system are actively trying to hinder anyone who tries to create alternative systems. One of their tools is the use of corrupt governments to criminalize or marginalize these alternative systems.

I am totally in favor of legislation that mandates safe durable goods or children's toys or food. I am against legislation that pretends to mandate these things, yet whose actual effect is to drive small businesses and small farms out of business. But this was the aim, goal and desired effect of much of the legislation proposed by right-wing Republican congressmen and signed into law by George W. Bush over the last eight years. This was also true of some key pieces of legislation enacted during the Clinton administration. Indeed, one could view the Bush presidency as a huge amplification of policies favorable to big business that were first enacted during the Democratic Clinton years.

These policies had the effect of concentrating ever more political and economic power in the hands of an ever-smaller group of private individuals while destroying any alternatives raised up by small, relatively powerless individuals. Time would fail me if I listed all the examples, from the early restrictions on Internet radio stations to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to the National Animal Identification System to the Patriot Act, and so on. It was partly to escape and reverse such policies that many people latched onto Barack Obama's promise of “Change!” and voted for him.

Now it is clear that the Democrats are just as much servants of corporatists as the Republicans, and are just as beholden to the rich interests who actually run our country. When Democrats are caught supporting legislation that increases the power of the rich while removing self-sufficiency from the poor, this provides a huge opening for people on the Right to say, “See there? This proves that all big government is bad, and that all government restrictions should be done away with!” The spokesmen for the Right say these things, not in honesty, but in order to support their agenda of removing all government restrictions from the rich so that they may have full freedom to amass more riches without regard for the effect of their actions on others.

This hypocrisy of the Right highlights a present danger to the Obama administration. For while there's very little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, they fight hard against each other during elections. I think it's because they both “like ice cream cones.” The two parties are like two children who both love the ice cream cone” of political office, yet who are locked in a fight to the death because there's only one ice cream cone and they won't share. The Presidency of the United States is a three-scooper, with mint 'n' chip, rocky road and pecan fudge – and topped by a cherry! Now the Right in this country is very upset, not only because they lost the election, but even more because the tongue of a black man is licking a cone that they had wanted kept for lighter-skinned mouths.

This explains the fierceness of the rhetoric of the Right against Obama. Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress supported the deregulation of the banking and real estate sectors which contributed to our present collapse. Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress voted to pass the series of bailouts that began in 2008. A Republican president insisted that the nation had to enact these bailouts in order to “save the economy.” Yet there are right-wing pundits and news outlets who seek to point all public outrage over these things and over the economic collapse to Obama. (See this for instance: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/bonuses-bailouts-and-blame/ and http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/03/05/populist_rage/)

The corporate masters who control the Republican party use this rhetoric and blaming by the Republicans to continue to legitimize their agenda of removing all government restrictions to their actions, while they characterize the Democrats as the party of “big government.” But both sides pursue the same basic policies. Unfortunately, their actions have the effect of encouraging the ideology of selfishness promoted by Ayn Rand – at a time when we need to embrace community-based, collective, cooperative solutions to the problems we now face, solutions which in many cases will require government involvement in order to be most effective. When Democrats or Republicans push corporatist policies that benefit the rich while causing pain to ordinary people, they convince ordinary people that all government is bad, weakening the case for government intervention to deal with our present mess.

(P.S. If you want to see another example of right-wing selfishness and wackiness, see page 8 of the mid-March 2009 Fullerton Observer. You can get it here: http://www.fullertonobserver.com/)

2 comments:

SoapBoxTech said...

I don't consider myself right or left (I guess that makes me centrist...*sigh*) but I think of those who do, both sides have some good points and both have some bad. The real trouble as far as I am concerned, and it seems you'd agree, is that both sides have been co-opted and turned into a demoralizing farce...political checks and balances made mere charade. The mock argument between the showcase Right and Left is nothing short of a display to keep the public believing it is still a democracy.

Its not much different here in Canada.

Kiashu said...

Atlas Shrugged 2: One Hour Later

:D

Libertarians seem to be composed entirely of middle-classed white guys without kids. Nobody likes paying taxes, it's only the truly wacky who develop a whole political philosophy around it.