Paul Ryan was for Ayn Rand before he was against her


Stephen Colbert zeroes in on how Paul Ryan conveniently abandoned his enthusiastic promotion of Ayn Rand once her atheistic and political views became better known and uncomfortable for modern Republican orthodoxy and his own political ambitions.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive

Colbert followed up that clip with an interesting interview with a biographer of Rand who gave what I thought was a quick introduction to the basic ideas of objectivism, thus saving me the trouble of figuring out what it is by wading through Atlas Shrugged. She also revealed something that I was not aware of, that Rand was a harsh critic of Ronald Reagan and said she would not vote for him. It looks like Republicans pick and choose from Rand just like they do from the Bible.

(These clips appeared on August 29, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself says

    My objection to objectivism is that Rand starts off with a really weird definition of altruism:

    What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

    Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

    Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”

    Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,”
    Philosophy: Who Needs It. New York: Signet Books, 1982, p. 61

    Rand and her sycophants are the only ones who claim altruism requires denial of self. If she’s basing her philosophy on rejection of a strawman, then it’s reasonable to expect her philosophy to be sophistry.

  2. Randomfactor says

    Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

    Until you, yourself need Social Security and Medicare.

  3. Ydemoc says

    Hi, Tis Himself:

    Your comment inspired me to do a little bit of research into this concept known as “altruism.” Here’s what I found:

    From Wikipedia: “Altruism (also called the ethic of altruism, moralistic altruism, and ethical altruism) is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary, at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte’s version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others. One who holds to either of these ethics is known as an ‘altruist.'”

    The word “altruism” (French, altruisme, from autrui: “other people”, derived from Latin alter: “other”) was coined by Auguste Comte, the French founder of positivism, in order to describe the ethical doctrine he supported. He believed that individuals had a moral obligation to renounce self-interest and live for others.”

    Based upon this, I find nothing at all inconsistent with what Rand writes about “altruism.” Do you? What is your conception of the term?

    You wrote: “Rand and her sycophants”

    Why would you use the disparaging term “sycophants” to characterize those who embrace a philosophy which champions reality, reason, independence, honesty, pride, integrity, freedom, productiveness? Do you know that much about her work and those that subscribe to her philosophy, such that you have a basis in fact for calling them that, for using a term that runs counter to everything the philosophy itself stands for?

    You continued: “are the only ones who claim altruism requires denial of self.”

    Not true. Comte was the man who coined the term (the moral code existed long before he came along, however), which basically translates to “otherism.” Rand was simply trying to explain to those who would listen, how destructive it is to embrace such a moral code. And she did quite a job of it, too.

    You wrote: “If she’s basing her philosophy on rejection of a strawman,”

    She does not base “her philosophy on the rejection of a strawman.” She lays out her philosophy in great detail, covering all five branches: metaphysics, epistemology (including a theory of concepts), ethics, politics, and aesthetics. You clearly have not read much of her, beyond what you’ve posted.

    You continued: “then it’s reasonable to expect her philosophy to be sophistry.”

    Why evaluate her based upon expectations spawned by your own uninformed opinion of her work, or from what you’ve heard others say? Why not read and grasp what she wrote, and then offer a critical, informed examination?

    That wouldn’t be “[un]reasonable to expect,” would it?

    Ydemoc

  4. Ydemoc says

    slc1 wrote: “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

    Randomfactor wrote: “Until you, yourself need Social Security and Medicare.”

    A lovely example of the uninformed informing the uninformed. What do you suggest she do with her Social Security? Give the proceeds back to those that forced it from her in the first place, like you giving money back to a robber who is now reimbursing you for the money he took at gunpoint every year prior — for 40+ years? What good would that do, except reward that robbery and others like it?

    Ydemoc

  5. says

    hi sir, i was a student of yours at one time and you were an amazing professor.

    i visited your blog today quite randomly and was quite saddened to see you are an atheist.

    i’d like to know how you can adhere to the law of conservation of energy yet claim that all the energy in the universe spontaneously generated itself and came from nowhere (ie not God)

    you might remember me from 1998 maybe not neil becker. i am happy to see you are still alive, you taught me a lot. i hope you will believe in Jesus. if you do remember me, maybe this message will mean something to you and maybe you will accept eternal life, maybe if only on your deathbed. that is my hope for you.

    so now we have learned something from each other

  6. says

    Ydemoc has already opposed the comment of ‘Tis Himself. I will add one fact and link a very important document…

    Comte fully intended to make “altruism” into a POLITICAL system. That’s right, full compulsion to sacrifice oneself until one only lived for others, by law.

    http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/altruismrandcomte.pdf

    from the pdf…..

    “… the exquisitely planned and directed social order that [Comte] pined for had no chance of coming into being without massive compulsion. By addressing his personal appeals to the Tsar of Russia rather than, say, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Comte (1966) implicitly conceded this point.

    A long way from indulging in fantasy, Rand was merely taking Comte’s conception of altruism seriously. Comte, who sought to establish a new religion of “the Great Being, Humanity,” defined altruism as “living for others” (vivre pour autrui)”

    Comte: “The individual must subordinate himself to an Existence outside himself in order to find in it the source of his stability. And this condition cannot be effectually realized except under the impulse of propensities prompting him to live for others. The being, whether man or animal, who loves nothing outside himself, and really lives for himself alone, is by that very fact condemned to spend his life in a miserable alternation of ignoble torpor and uncontrolled excitement. Evidently the principal feature of Progress in all living things is that the general consensus which we have seen to be the essential attribute of vitality should become more perfect. It follows that happiness and worth, as well in individuals as in societies, depend on adequate ascendancy of the sympathetic instincts. Thus the expression, Live for Others, is the simplest summary of the whole moral code of Positivism. (Comte 1973a, 565–56)

    I suggest that the ultimate effort to bring into political reality the “ascendancy of the sympathetic instincts for altruism” was: Hitler, Bolshevism/Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.

  7. bad Jim says

    So Ayn Rand’s critique of altruism isn’t so much vicious as irrelevant. Good to know. Since her prose was leaden, her characterization two-dimensional, and her ignorance of psychology and economics magisterially comprehensive, I’ll endorse Dorothy Parker’s famous review of Atlas Shrugged: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

  8. Mano Singham says

    Hi Neil,

    Nice to hear from you! Yes, you were in the Physics 121 class back in Fall 1998.

    The question you raise about energy conservation and the universe has been well understood for decades and does not cause any problem for the laws of physics. In a nutshell, the answer is basically that the positive energy associated with the mass of particles and their kinetic energy is cancelled by the negative energy of the gravitational potential. So the net energy of the universe is zero, so there is no violation of energy conservation in creating a universe.

    Yes, I am still alive! Although I was a Christian once, that is long past. I was a happy atheist when I taught that course and remain a happy atheist now.

    Hope you are doing well.

  9. frankb says

    John Donohue.

    Deep within each human is the desire to be like Leprechauns both physically and emotionally. I suggest that the ultimate effort to bring into political reality the “ascendancy of the sympathetic instincts for leprechaunism” was: Hitler, Bolshevism/Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.

    See what I did there.

  10. raven says

    “A long way from indulging in fantasy, Rand was merely taking Comte’s conception of altruism seriously.”

    So who is Comte? And why should any one care?

    I had to look him up on Google. The guy died in 1857 and is an obscure figure of no importance or influence in the 20th century much less the 21st.

    As ‘Tis said a strawperson.

  11. Ydemoc says

    Hi Dalillama,

    Thanks for your reply.

    You wrote: “everyone else uses this definition of altruism,”

    This seems quite sloppy on your part. Who is this “everyone else” you speak of? The world? The U.S.A? Your town? The people you hang with? Do you mean every single person but Rand and those that subscribe to her philosophy? Please be precise when telling us who “everyone else” is, and then tell us “everyone else[s]” definition should be considered more essential than the facts of reality that gave rise to the concept.

    In any event, I looked up the definition that you say “everyone else uses.” I saw nothing in the Wikipedia article which fundamentally conflicts with mine nor Rand’s evaluation of the conception, theory and practice of altruism. In fact, the Wiki article states up front that: “The term altruism may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it usually contrasted to egoism, which is defined as acting to the benefit of one self.” This is in direct conflict with Rand. And so is this: “Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.”

    So can you please point out to me where the supposed “strawman[ning]” on Rand’s part occurs (that is, if you’re supporting this position)?

    You wrote: “because no one here gives a shit about Comte.”

    Hmmm. The Wikipedia article you linked to certainly seems to “give[s] a shit” In fact, the man’s name is mentioned in the fifth paragraph in! It reads: “The term was originally coined in the 19th century by the founding sociologist and philosopher of science, Auguste Comte,…”

    Be that as it may, I find your entire comment analogous to stating that “everyone uses a different definition of Communism because no one gives a shit about Marx and Engels.”

    I look forward to your response.

    Ydemoc

  12. says

    Here is the dead end those posting against Rand’s use of “altruism” have reached.

    Let’s stipulate for a moment, for argument’s sake, that this Comte guy (who coined the word) and his meaning of “Altruism as living for others in complete self sacrifice, enforced by law” is “lame and old” and therefore unimportant. Well then, what is altruism? “be kind to others and help others out, voluntarily those you deem worthy, but not sacrificing yourself?” If THAT is the definition, then all your attacks on Ayn Rand are void and smashed, because that was her position on “caring and helping.” So, if you’ll excuse the rudeness: Shut Up!.

    If on the other hand, you think it means “we are all in a collective and have a big government taking care of the collective and the government removes money from successful people by force and distributes it to others on demand,” then you are Comte. And… you deserve the contempt of Ayn Rand.

    So which is it? Do you think “altruism” is a gentle moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

  13. says

    Every time some antiRand posts that Parker quote (these people can’t come up with anything new or better) they deserve this:

    Any time you are ready to toss it, please instead send it to me COD if it is a first edition. Rand’s first editions are spectacularly valuable, due to proud demand.

    If it is a SIGNED first edition, I will travel immediately to wherever you are to pick it up.

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=ayn+rand&bi=h&fe=on&sortby=1&tn=atlas+shrugged

    And her trenchant exposure of the toxicity of “altruism” as a marker for political collectivism is not irrelevant; it is crucial.

  14. says

    Good morning all,

    I’ve always thought that Rabbi Hillel said it nicely:

    If I am not for myself, who will be?

    If I am only for myself, what am I?

    If not now, when?

    To that, add Hillel’s understanding of the Golden Rule, which he stated, the legend goes, when asked to teach the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot:

    That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

    Do all that you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  15. frankb says

    No, I am not Comte. I reject the comparison. That is stupid. A community that does not look after the interests of all its members suffers from internal conflict and it is not all it can be. Everybody’s welfare affects my welfare. The powerful who trample the powerless do not recognize their best interests. Rand and her sycophants have nothing to teach me.

  16. raven says

    Here is the dead end those posting against Rand’s use of “altruism” have reached.

    Let’s stipulate for a moment, for argument’s sake, that this Comte guy (who coined the word)

    JD, speaking of dead ends, you are resorting to sophistry and murdering strawpeople. Not to mention being a bit insulting.

    Comte isn’t an irrelevant strawperson because he is old and dead. It’s because no one took him seriously and these days, no one has even heard of him much less knows what he wrote.

    While Comte may have made up the word, altruism, the idea itself is far older. The New Testament bible uses the idea often, with Jesus and his followers being advocates and practioners of “altruism”. You can go back a lot further and find it in ancient Greek writings.

  17. Corvus illustris says

    So which is it? Do you think “altruism” is a gentle moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

    I would be satisfied with calling this piece of rhetoric a false dichotomy if it weren’t such an egregious example of bait-and-switch. In the clause preceding “or”, altruism is used in the contemporary sense of consideration for others, a behavior unrelated to being a “citizen.” In the next clause, altruism is used in its technical, Comtean (and thus linguistically obsolete) sense involving governmental coercion. This dishonesty sinks to the level exhibited by RC colleges that have “psychology” courses dealing with the religious concept of the soul–because, you see, psyche really means “soul.”

  18. Corvus illustris says

    There are few professors who would delete an expression of high regard from a former student. Most of us only live in hope.

  19. Corvus illustris says

    What do you suggest she do with her Social Security? Give the proceeds back to those that forced it from her in the first place, like you giving money back to a robber who is now reimbursing you for the money he took at gunpoint every year prior — for 40+ years? What good would that do, except reward that robbery and others like it?

    Please identify the robber and the gun. She voluntarily became a member of a polity that by more-or-less democratic process imposed a tax on its members that supported an annuity scheme mitigating the effects of poverty and illness in old age. If she had had the courage of her alleged convictions she could freely (as far as the US is concerned) have re-emigrated and taken her objectivist chances elsewhere. Since she did not do this, she encourages one to think that she did not intend her philosophical notions to serve as a guide for action–and if not by her, then not by others. Philosophia biou kubernetes doesn’t seem to apply to objectivism.

  20. Reginald Selkirk says

    Energy Is Not Conserved

    by Sean Carroll

    But many people have just this reaction. It’s clear that cosmologists have not done a very good job of spreading the word about something that’s been well-understood since at least the 1920′s: energy is not conserved in general relativity. (With caveats to be explained below.)
    .
    The point is pretty simple: back when you thought energy was conserved, there was a reason why you thought that, namely time-translation invariance. A fancy way of saying “the background on which particles and forces evolve, as well as the dynamical rules governing their motions, are fixed, not changing with time.” But in general relativity that’s simply no longer true. Einstein tells us that space and time are dynamical, and in particular that they can evolve with time. When the space through which particles move is changing, the total energy of those particles is not conserved

  21. Reginald Selkirk says

    Here’s how some guy named “Mano Singham” put it:
    Big Bang for beginners-13: Does the Big Bang theory violate the law of conservation of energy?

    The total energy of the universe consists of the energy due to the motion of all the particles (called kinetic energy), the energy that is stored because of the gravitational forces between the particles (called potential energy), and the energy associated with the mass of all the particles (usually referred to as rest energy).

    The key feature to bear in mind is that the gravitational potential energy is a negative quantity. You can see this by realizing that in order to separate two objects, one has to overcome the attractive gravitational force and this requires one to supply positive energy from outside.
    …This negative gravitational potential energy exactly cancels out the positive energy of the universe.

  22. says

    @ Corvus illustris

    Your response is evasion; there is no false dichotomy in my post. On the other hand I will spray paint a huge orange circle around it by rephrasing, to see if that entices you to answer. which is it: Do you think “altruism” (in the watered-down laughable remainder of the actual meaning) taken as “consideration for others” is a gentle moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

  23. Ydemoc says

    Hi Corvis illustris,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. At the moment, I don’t have the time to address everything you wrote. But stay tuned! I plan on getting to it later in the afternoon.

    Ydemoc

  24. says

    @frankb

    which is it: Do you think “altruism” taken as “A community that [looks] after the interests of all its members” is a gentle moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens of a community or a political position to be enforced by government?

    And stop using “sycophants” it makes you look desperate and controlling.

  25. says

    @raven

    Ok, ignoring all the Comte issues you just stated (for the moment), let me ask you again, based on your Judeo-Christian (and older: Sumerian/Abrahamic) construction: is that ethic an important moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

  26. Jared A says

    Except that people DO give a shit about Marx and Engels, even if they don’t care much about Comte. Maybe there is a reason for that?

    The point is that if you are going to engage other people in a discussion about moral philosophy, you should take the time to understand what it is that people think about moral philosophy these days and where that schooling comes from. You may just learn that in terms of modern moral philosophy Comte really is relatively unimportant. In the process you might also learn why he is unimportant, and what people have learned in the meantime.

    Or you could stay in the Rand’s framework and get all riled up because no one ever seems to address what you are really talking about!

  27. leni says

    What do you suggest she do with her Social Security?

    So now it’s “her” Social Security and not money taken from others at gunpoint?

    She got back what she paid into it? Congratulations, you’ve figured out what insurance is.

    And no mention of the fact that not having old or disabled people dying in the streets is rational self interest. I imagine you’ll take issue with that, but I am not aware of a case where the presence of large numbers of homeless, sick, or dying people in the streets increased public health or property values. Feel free to disabuse me of that terribly altruistic notion!

    So she can call it whatever she likes, but those benefits were available to her just the same as they are to everyone else. The fact that she collected her benefits isn’t what makes her a hypocrite. However the fact that she seemed to think she was entitled to it whereas others were not is. Couple that with the completely short-sighted notion of self-interest and yeah, not exactly the most impressive philosophy.

  28. Chiroptera says

    It looks like Republicans pick and choose from Rand just like they do from the Bible.

    It wouldn’t surprise me. They also show as little understanding of the US Constitution.

    Me, all I’ve ever read concerning Ayn Rand was Anthem. All I can say is that if that book is typical of her writing, then I’m glad that I didn’t waste my time with something like Atlas Shrugged.

  29. Stacy says

    A few thoughts:

    Objectivists oppose “collectivism.” Doesn’t that sort of dismiss the whole scientific enterprise?

    It amazes me how Objectivists imagine themselves as superior human beings, yet you never see them represented among people of truly great accomplishment. I think the best* they’ve done is Alan Greenspan.

    Every time some antiRand posts that Parker quote (these people can’t come up with anything new or better)

    It endures because it’s funny. But if you insist on something newer, there’s this:

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

    And, though hardly new, the great Flannery O’Connor also had words for Rand’s fiction:

    “I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

    * For certain values of “best”

  30. says

    yes I see some of you are self-jolting by pressing the Rand diatribe macro button with a few creaky observations from people no one cares about.

    That’s all I have to say about that juvenile lame behavior at the moment; I am waiting to see if and when three people will respond to my open question in this thread.

  31. Ydemoc says

    Hi leni,

    Thanks for your response to my comment.

    I wrote: “What do you suggest she do with her Social Security?”

    You replied: “So now it’s ‘her’ Social Security and not money taken from others at gunpoint?”

    I’m not sure what you’re taking issue with here, but yes, it was her money — taken from her by force. Others also have had their money taken from them by force. If you don’t consider having to pay into Social Security a form of money being taken from you by force, what do you consider it?

    You replied: “She got back what she paid into it?”

    Whether she did or not, I think is really beside the point. It’s not that she got her money back, but that force was used to obtain it. Just because a robber one day returns your money to you (or even more than he took), does not make the act of taking it, just; nor does the fact that it was done by a law enacted through a democratic process.

    I would venture to say that there are many laws that you and I would agree on that were and are unjust, even though they were put into place through the democratic process.

    In any event, how do you know that “she got back what she paid into it”? Do you have any data you’d like to share?

    You wrote: “Congratulations, you’ve figured out what insurance is.”

    I know what insurance is. And last I checked, most insurance was voluntary, a choice open to the consumer. The same cannot be said of Social Security nor Obamacare.

    You wrote: “And no mention of the fact that not having old or disabled people dying in the streets is rational self interest.”

    Disabled people are still in the streets today; homeless people are still on the streets today; people still die on the streets today — all this happens, even with Social Security and all the other statist safety nets imposed by the government.

    With the amount of government spending, and so many “altruists” apparently out there willing to help, how do you explain this? Or do you wish there were actually more people on government assistance? Perhaps you think that there should be free food for everyone, too? Should we force people to supply food for everyone, free of charge? Why or why not?

    You wrote: “I imagine you’ll take issue with that, but I am not aware of a case where the presence of large numbers of homeless, sick, or dying people in the streets increased public health or property values. “

    According to USA Today 1 in 6 Americans is receiving some kind of government assistance. In a truly free society, nothing is stopping people from voluntarily helping others. If you or I want to do so, we can. However, someone else’s misfortune is not a blank check on the labor of others.

    You wrote: “Feel free to disabuse me of that terribly altruistic notion!”

    It’s not the act of lending a helping hand to those who are less fortunate that I have a problem with. It’s someone else coming along and saying that I *must* do it, by law or by duty.

    You wrote: “So she can call it whatever she likes, but those benefits were available to her just the same as they are to everyone else.”

    Ah, so you think she benefitted by not having “large numbers of homeless, sick, or dying people,” on the streets in her neighborhood (or anyone else’s neighborhood), and you attribute this benefit, partially, to the money she was forced to pay into a system that provided the kind of safety-net that, allegedly, prevents such things. Do I have that about right?

    According the UK’s Guardian, (dated 11 January 2012) “A study from Indiana University, released on Wednesday, says the number of Americans living below the poverty line surged by 27% since the beginning of what it calls the “Great Recession” in 2006, driving 10 million more people into poverty. By 2010, the number of people living in poverty rose to 46.2 million and continued to grow over the past year.”

    As Rand wrote, “If concern for human poverty and suffering were one’s primary motive, one would seek to discover their cause. One would not fail to ask: Why did some nations develop, while others did not? Why have some nations achieved material abundance, while others have remained stagnant in subhuman misery? History and, specifically, the unprecedented prosperity-explosion of the nineteenth century, would give an immediate answer: capitalism is the only system that enables men to produce abundance—and the key to capitalism is individual freedom.” (“Requiem for Man,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p.308)

    You wrote: “The fact that she collected her benefits isn’t what makes her a hypocrite.”

    I’m happy to see you’ve come to this conclusion. But given your particular viewpoint on the matter, according to you, why wouldn’t you consider her a hypocrite?

    You wrote: “However the fact that she seemed to think she was entitled to it whereas others were not is.”

    You clearly haven’t read much of her, have you? Forgive me if it’s not appropriate to post such a large chunk of her writing, but given your apparent unfamiliarity with exactly where she stood on this particular issue, I thought it wise to do so. If anyone has a problem with me doing this, just let me know and I shall refrain from posting such large excerpts in the future:

    “Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it . . . .

    The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money — and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.” (The Question of Scholarships, The Objectivist, June, 1966, 11, http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon government_grants_and_scholarships.html)

    You wrote: “Couple that with the completely short-sighted notion of self-interest and yeah, not exactly the most impressive philosophy.”

    Short-sighted self-interest? Could you explain how came to such a notion based upon what she’s written regarding man’s ability and need to plan long-term?

    Anyway, I guess I got a little carried away here. But I will be curious to see everyone’s responses to my comment, to see the kind of “altruistic” tone that struck against someone who might be viewed — around these parts — as “less fortunate” (intellectually, anyway) due to his holding to an Objectivist viewpoint.

    It should be interesting.

    Ydemoc

  32. bad Jim says

    No one cares about Dorothy Parker? How about her review of The House on Pooh Corner: “Tonstant Weader fwowed up.”

    In general, altruism is considered in terms of the teachings of Jesus and Hillel, or Kant or Adam Smith. Reducing altruism to Comte is a distinctly Humpty Dumpty maneuver.

  33. Ydemoc says

    Hi Corvus illustris,

    Sorry about my delay in responding, but leni’s post caught my eye upon logging in, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of responding to him/her first.

    Anyway, you wrote: “Please identify the robber and the gun.”

    In the case of Social Security, (or any similar act of coercion) the “robber” would be any lawmakers who enact laws that *force* citizens, under penalty of fine and/or prison and/or fee or tax (as in Obamacare), to hand over their money to the government; and it would include anyone in government today who is currently not pushing for a scaling back and ultimate elimination of such programs (over an admittedly long period of time).

    The “gun” would legal monopoly on the use of physical force that the government has, and their use of it enforcing such laws.

    You wrote: “She voluntarily became a member of a polity that by more-or-less democratic process imposed a tax on its members that supported an annuity scheme mitigating the effects of poverty and illness in old age.”

    Yes she did. But keep in mind, she entered this country in 1926. I believe the Social Security act was enacted in 1935. I will give you this: Federal income taxes *were* enacted in 1913.

    You wrote: If she had had the courage of her alleged convictions she could freely (as far as the US is concerned) have re-emigrated and taken her objectivist chances elsewhere.”

    How altruistic of you! “How dare this woman come to my country and try to change from within something she found to be immoral based upon the principle of individual rights put forth in the constitution of my country! If she doesn’t like this slow slide into collectivism, well then, she should just leave, dammit!” (I kid, slightly, to make a point.)

    Perhaps I’m using a sloppy analogy here, but: Should those who fought in the French Resistance, should they have exercised “the courage of their convictions” by fleeing to another country? Should the those who fought in the American Revolution, should they have fled elsewhere?

    Perhaps a better example: Should those opposed to Communism within the former Soviet Union or East Germany, should they have exercised “the courage of their convictions” and refused to walk on city streets, send their children to government schools, live in government owned housing, work in government owned factories?

    It seems you would have to say, yes, these folks should have refused all these things and much more if they had “the courage of their convictions.”

    You wrote: “Since she did not do this, she encourages one to think that she did not intend her philosophical notions to serve as a guide for action–and if not by her, then not by others.”

    Given what I’ve written above: How so?

    You wrote: “Philosophia biou kubernetes doesn’t seem to apply to objectivism.”

    Thanks for including a phrase I was unfamiliar with. As a result of *your* choosing to take this action, including it — uncoerced as far as I can tell — *you* evidently found the phrase valuable. Happily, I am the secondary beneficiary of your chosen action, since I ended up learning something new.

    Thanks.

    Funny how that works.

  34. says

    while awaiting the possible responses to my challenge from three others making similar claims above, would you care to answer?

    is “altruism” per the teachings of Jesus and Hillel, or Kant or Adam Smith an important moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

  35. Ydemoc says

    John Donohue wrote: “is “altruism” per the teachings of Jesus and Hillel, or Kant or Adam Smith an important moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?”

    How about answering John’s question, gang?

    Ydemoc

  36. bad Jim says

    What about driving on the right? Is this strictly private, voluntary behavior or enforced by government? Or contrariwise, driving on the left. One might concoct innumerable variants.

    We govern ourselves by common agreement, and the reasons for our preferences are not of themselves important, because the only thing that matters for our governance is our agreement. Only a child, or one willfully ignorant, would imagine that everyone must agree with a common decision for the same reason. Sure, democracy is an ongoing catastrophe, a disgracefully chaotic mess, but so far it’s proven more stable than its alternatives, and a lot more entertaining.

  37. bad Jim says

    Under the circumstances I think it necessary to point out that it can be life-threatening to drive on the wrong side of the road. In much of the world there is traffic traveling in both directions.

  38. says

    Democracy indeed means mere “agreement”, but not even necessarily by majority, and it requires not very much inspection of the process for the term to change to something significantly less ‘warm’. “Agreement” is whatever can get passed into law or imposed by rule/regulation. No principles, no rights of individuals, no political philosophy, just the dictatorship of the demos. An ongoing catastrophe for people who prefer freedom and individual rights.

    I don’t find it entertaining.

    Meanwhile to make another attempt to steer back to the question: regarding “altruism” itself (no driving laws) per Jesus, etc., are the issues of altruism such as helping others financially, is altruism an important moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?

  39. bad Jim says

    I’m sorry. I thought that this might be an opportunity to discuss moral issues in an honest, unbuttoned fashion, but it’s painfully clear that it’s traditional troll whining “Why haven’t you answered MY question,” which should have been obvious at the start. Seriously, August Comte?

    Ayn Rand is an assortment of mockable certainties. It says something about the general level of understanding of political economy that there remain damp, dark corners of our polity where her fulminations are not dismissed out of hand. Still, she’s not the only one who though Rachmaninoff was the greatest composer of the age.

  40. says

    okay.

    I was not whining about answering. I was polite and I realize you and the others might not answer. You obviously have decided not to.

    It is not just “My” question; it is the key question that marks a policy as political collectivism or not.

    All the other trash, smears and name-calling in your post is rejected without comment.

  41. Ydemoc says

    Hi bad Jim,

    You wrote: “Ayn Rand is an assortment of mockable certainties.”

    Can you cite a few of them for us so that we can examine them?

    You wrote, to John Donohue: “I thought that this might be an opportunity to discuss moral issues in an honest, unbuttoned fashion,”

    I see nothing preventing such a discussion.

    You continued: “…but it’s painfully clear that it’s traditional troll whining “Why haven’t you answered MY question…”

    John Donohue responded: “I was not whining about answering. I was polite and I realize you and the others might not answer. You obviously have decided not to. It is not just “My” question; it is the key question that marks a policy as political collectivism or not.”

    It really is a very simple question that neither you nor anyone else has bothered to answer. Why not be the first you your block to give it a go, and then we can then all move on from there?

    Ydemoc

  42. curtisplumb says

    I wasn’t aware that anyone besides myself and Ayn Rand considered Rachmaninoff to be the greatest composer of all. Who else, that you can name, has expressed this? Please keep the list short.

  43. curtisplumb says

    Dorothy Parker never reviewed “Atlas Shrugged.” This quote has been regularly attributed to her regarding Benito Mussolini’s novel, “The Cardinal’s Mistress.” However, it hasn’t been verified in all these years but it has now become a fact without a foundation.

  44. Leni says

    Ydemoc:

    [Ydemoc] wrote: “What do you suggest she do with her Social Security?”

    [Leni] replied: “So now it’s ‘her’ Social Security and not money taken from others at gunpoint?”

    [Ydemoc] replied: “I’m not sure what you’re taking issue with here…

    The last paragraph of this post explains this best and I don’t need to repeat it.

    [Leni] said: “She got back what she paid into it?”

    [Ydemoc] replied:

    “Whether she did or not, I think is really beside the point. It’s not that she got her money back, but that force was used to obtain it. Just because a robber one day returns your money to you (or even more than he took), does not make the act of taking it, just; nor does the fact that it was done by a law enacted through a democratic process.”

    Robbers who built the roads and public transportation she used, the infrastructure that led to her being able to sell her books, paid the wages of the people who admitted her into the country in the first place, and who educated the populace enough to be able to read them and have jobs through by which they could afford to buy said books. None of that happened without the “robbery” that you, and she, complain endlessly about.

    She didn’t just benefit from SSI, she benefited from every tax dollar spent by every American ever. Just as we all have. She has no special claim to it.

    So yeah, she got back more than she paid and would have even if she were born here.

    Disabled people are still in the streets today; homeless people are still on the streets today; people still die on the streets today — all this happens, even with Social Security and all the other statist safety nets imposed by the government.

    Yet less of that happens here than in Somalia. Sometimes even less so in places where the “robbers” take even more.

    Thus you and I have clean drinking water and can drive to work in our electric cars without having to wade through the bodies of rape victims and dead children to get there. And we can write pompous books about how we ate our own bootstraps and no one never did nothing for us and still, almost as if by magic, have a populace educated enough to read them and afford to buy them on a mass market scale, which in turn allows us to get rich and pretend as if we did it all on our own.

    Voila!

    It seems to me that, even though you directly benefit, you just don’t want to pay for it. There’s a word for that and it isn’t “frugal”.

    With the amount of government spending, and so many “altruists” apparently out there willing to help, how do you explain this? Or do you wish there were actually more people on government assistance? Perhaps you think that there should be free food for everyone, too? Should we force people to supply food for everyone, free of charge? Why or why not?

    Again, you pretend social services for others (and which you may also receive) have no benefits for you. I would rather live in an educated, stable society because those things directly benefit me. So if I have to pay for people to eat then so be it, I benefit either way.

    According to USA Today 1 in 6 Americans is receiving some kind of government assistance. In a truly free society, nothing is stopping people from voluntarily helping others. If you or I want to do so, we can. However, someone else’s misfortune is not a blank check on the labor of others.

    What you are saying is that in a truly free society you should receive benefits for which you have not paid. In a truly free society Ayn Rand would have moved here, received the benefits of an educated populace and a good infrastructure (that apparently appeared out of thin air) and not paid a fucking dime for it.

    It’s not the act of lending a helping hand to those who are less fortunate that I have a problem with. It’s someone else coming along and saying that I *must* do it, by law or by duty.

    No, you must do it if you want to live here and enjoy the fruits of those monies. Feel free to buy an island with your hard-won railroad money or go to Somalia if you don’t.

    According the UK’s Guardian, (dated 11 January 2012) “A study from Indiana University, released on Wednesday, says the number of Americans living below the poverty line surged by 27% since the beginning of what it calls the “Great Recession” in 2006, driving 10 million more people into poverty. By 2010, the number of people living in poverty rose to 46.2 million and continued to grow over the past year.”

    Did you happen to notice what cause the recession? Was it Social Security? Taxes? The evils of altruism?

    As Rand wrote, “If concern for human poverty and suffering were one’s primary motive, one would seek to discover their cause. One would not fail to ask: Why did some nations develop, while others did not? Why have some nations achieved material abundance, while others have remained stagnant in subhuman misery? History and, specifically, the unprecedented prosperity-explosion of the nineteenth century, would give an immediate answer: capitalism is the only system that enables men to produce abundance—and the key to capitalism is individual freedom.”

    Lol nevermind nearly all of Europe. Nope, the only two things that exist in the world are pure communism or pure capitalism. Nothing else could possibly work. Or ever has.

    [Leni] wrote: “The fact that she collected her benefits isn’t what makes her a hypocrite.”

    [Ydemoc] wrote: I’m happy to see you’ve come to this conclusion. But given your particular viewpoint on the matter, according to you, why wouldn’t you consider her a hypocrite?

    I answered that question in the very next line. Which you quoted:

    [Leni] wrote: “However the fact that she seemed to think she was entitled to it whereas others were not is.”

    You clearly haven’t read much of her, have you? Forgive me if it’s not appropriate to post such a large chunk of her writing, but given your apparent unfamiliarity with exactly where she stood on this particular issue, I thought it wise to do so. If anyone has a problem with me doing this, just let me know and I shall refrain from posting such large excerpts in the future:

    “Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others

    It’s right there in the quote. I bolded it for you. See, when it’s her SSI check she earned it, but when it’s someone else’s SSI check it’s unearned. Nevermind that we all pay into it.

    Thanks, Ydemoc, that quote was most helpful for me because now I don’t have to torture myself with her ridiculous novels and in order to distill the essence of her bullshit.

    I can just quote you quoting her 🙂

  45. says

    “So who is Comte? And why should any one care?
    I had to look him up on Google. The guy died in 1857 and is an obscure figure of no importance or influence in the 20th century much less the 21st.”

    The “guy” in question was just the founder of two sciences:
    – sociology
    – naturalistic ethics
    and the inventor of altruism, conceived not as an abstract philosophical concept, but as a scientific hypothesis, largely substanciated by the most recent advances in neurological, cognitive and ethological science.

    In fact Comte’s views are completely at variance with those Ayn Rand boldly attributes to him without, arguably, the least knowledge of his doctrines. This may be verified by even a cursory look into Comte’s major work, the (most controversial) “System of Positive Polity” (1851-1854–see http://archive.org/stream/cu31924092570591).

    In this book, intended as a treatise in sociology (the first science he set out to found), Comte allowed himself to stray into biological territory (vol. 1, chapter 3). There he introduced his own theory of the brain (http://archive.org/stream/cu31924092570591#page/n603). This theory assumes that the brain is made of three kinds of “functions” :
    – affective
    – intellectual
    – active
    (See http://www.archive.org/stream/catechismofposit00comt#page/n441 for Comte’s chart of brain functions)

    Affective “instincts” are regarded as playing the major role in the dynamics of the brain: they govern the intellectual as well as the active functions. They are divided into (1) personal/egoistic, and (2) social/altruistic instincts/feelings.

    Following this, Comte set out to re-organize the whole of his thinking around the lines of the dual superiority of affectivity over intelligence and altruism over egoism (which does not mean the eradication of the latter, nor “self-sacrifice”–since, according to his theory, altruism is just a part of the self!). And in the second volume of his treatise, he added to the top of his his celebrated hierarchy of the sciences, above sociology, the 7th science of “morals” or scientific ethics. (See, if you can read French, my paper at http://membres.multimania.fr/clotilde/articles/psychoac.xml)

    As for Comte’s political doctrine, his main tenet has always been the necessity of a complete separation of the temporal and the spiritual. Far from asserting that his philosophical and moral views should be enforced by state coercion, he just taught the contrary! And, far from being a collectivist, he thought of his doctrines as a counter-force against communism (see archive.org/stream/cu31924092570591#page/n183/)

    See also http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/comte/

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *