Thursday, April 16, 2009

Going Galt on Easter? or Trying to Have One's Cake and Eat it Too...

There is a reason that the Tea Parties will not amount to much. There is a reason why the Libertarian Party will continue to receive only minimal support. There is a reason and it's been staring us in the face for over fifty years. The reason is that we are facing a philosophical crisis, and only a coherent philosophical response will negate our opponents.

Why is the notion of laissez-faire capitalism viewed as a fringe crackpot obsession? It's because the so-called defenders of capitalism are logically incoherent. Greenspan preached free markets while going at them with a pair of pliers and a scalpel. Then, when the patient's dying on the table, he declares that the patient was to blame for being butchered. John McCain, like "W" before him, preached free markets out of one side of his mouth, while running around trying to curry favor with every right-wing Christian messianic institution who could offer to grease his shiny white noggin with. Freedom and theocracy don't mix. Period.

The people who are going to the Tea Parties and bearing signs accusing Obama of being a Muslim are also missing the point entirely. It doesn't matter what religion Obama holds in the confines of his own head. Hell, he could even be an atheist for all we know. The problem with what he is doing is that it is predicated on the assumption that political and economic power should be conjoined. The truth is that combining the two is the fast track to fascism. Perhaps he isn't even fully aware of that. Maybe he is. But it is certainly not an idea started or even driven by Obama. On the contrary, it is an idea that has been espoused by many people both Democrat and Republican and for a very long time. Ultimately, Obama couldn't be able to do what he has been doing unless the people of the country put him there to do it. Bush couldn't have started what Obama is finishing if the people of this country hadn't put him there to do it. So why? Why don't people turn to the Libertarian Party, the only one supposedly advocating freedom? The fundamental reason, as Ayn Rand pointed out a long time ago, was and is that it is philosophically incoherent.

The Libertarian Party stands against government, but what does it stand for? Is a vote for the libertarians a vote for anarchy? Or is it a vote for Objectivism? Is it a vote for an economic policy? But economics is just one province of politics. What can the Libertarian Party be expected to advocate? How can those who advocate armed revolution for the sake of abolishing government entirely stand side by side with those who want to secure the framework of a capitalist society and thus preserve the structure of what civilization has accomplished? The Libertarian Party needs to establish a philosophically coherent alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. There can be no allowance for god in government, just as there can be no allowance for politics in economics. The Republicans fail on the first count. The Democrats fail on the second. But the reason why the Democrats have such power right now is because theirs is the essentially more consistent philosophical stance, whereas the opposition is fractured and inconsistent. Neither is fully coherent, but in this age of "have-it-your-way" ideology, consistency is enough to make a philosophy seem coherent. But a fully coherent, internally consistent political platform would blow away even Obama's cocky smile.

The Democrats fully accept the altruistic doctrine that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. They fully accept that the state, i.e. the body politic, has the full right to dictate the lives of its individual constituents, because they fully accept that people do not have individual rights. They view rights as a social privilege to be removed or altered at whim. So, they offer a fully consistent front when attacked on those issues.

The Republicans have presented only the most convoluted and tired excuses for capitalism. The reason is because they, too, want to cling to the old moral premises of altruism. However the Democratic ideology is more consistent with altruistic premises then capitalism. Capitalism is fundamentally opposite to altruism in every conceivable way. Therefore, to try and justify capitalism on altruistic grounds is destined only to make advocates of capitalism look foolish, irrational, and illogical.

The Libertarians present a good economic argument for capitalism based largely on the work of Mises and some libertarians even credit Rand. However, the Libertarian Party still does not have a lucid image of what government should be. They only have an image, albeit an accurate one, of what it should not be. And while their arguments against intrusive government are convincing, arguments for total anarchy are fundamentally flawed. As long as there is a significant anarchistic/nihilistic influence in the Libertarian Party it cannot present a coherent alternative to either of the others.

It is time for the champions of liberty to recognize that Objectivism is the only philosophical system which both secures human rights, provides a rationale for freedom and capitalism, and delineates the proper constraints of government influence in a coherent, fully consistent model. Stop apologizing for Rand, we need to embrace her ideas. We need to embrace her arguments. We need to embrace her morality, the only morality which declares that "your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it." You cannot have capitalism and Pat Robertson. You cannot have McVeigh and freedom. You cannot have anarchy and prosperity. Until we have accepted and embraced a unifying, cohesive, and fully functional philosophical moral standard behind which to campaign we will not be able to stand up to a unified front of gentle, smiling socialists. We will continue to be internally divided and discredited by our own hypocrisy.

However Objectivism is not a philosophy that can be taken piecemeal. The whole point is that for political actions to be morally validated that they must be integrated into the whole of our objective knowledge of the universe. Of what it means to live, and to die. Of what truly is the nature of human beings. How do they come to know things? And what does such knowledge mean for their survival. A contradiction cannot be allowed, it is sufficient to invalidate any moral claim, or political initiative. Under Objectivist thought, unless a law can be demonstrated to be coherently integrated with human knowledge and the morality that knowledge entails, then that law should not be adopted. Conversely, if a law can be shown to be inconsistent with our knowledge of the human condition, or immoral in light of what we know, then that law should be removed. Taxation, global policing, government involvement in private lives...these are all things which are inconsistent with what we already know about the nature of human freedom and which systems optimize human happiness. This is why the enemies of freedom wish to pervert the meaning of the words freedom, human rights, and liberty. They want to coopt freedom to mean freedom to claim the property of others to establish equality. They want to distort human rights to mean an unqualififed claim to a doctor's or a teacher's labor. They want to claim that liberty means mob rule.

These stances are rife with contradictions, but until and unless we call their bluff and declare that the emperor has no clothes, until we do this, they will maintain the appearance of holding the high ground. Especially to the college professors responsible for training our teachers who are responsible for educating our children. Along this chain it ultimately starts in the colleges. And unilateral cries for freedom for freedom's sake will be powerless to stand against a consistent logical set of views. The highly educated demand that there be at least a seemingly logically consistent philosophy behind their political agendas, and they devote a great deal of time and effort in picking holes in rival theories. Unfortunately the libertarian movement is so varied that it is relatively easy to demonstrate the lack of cohesive thought. And as long as we try to attack them for acting on principles explicitly which we continue to hold implicitly, we are bound to make them look like they are on the firmer ideological ground. If we want to be free, we must be prepared to demonstrate how and why freedom is superior. We cannot state that it just is.

The notion of going Galt, as an intentional withdrawal of sanction from the current social system, in our present age is premature and a practical impossibility. There are several reasons for this. One is that the government claims the legal right to tax almost everything, property, interest, etc. This means that to go off the grid, so to speak would be impossible. One could withdraw all their assets, buy gold and go live somewhere. But unless they continued to pay taxes on the capital gains of those assetts, taxes on the very land they live, and sales taxes for what they purchase the government would eventually come to collect. And as long as they have to pay those taxes to keep the guns off their porch, then they're supporting the current government. This is the fundamental immorality of any involuntary tax system. Namely, that it forces us to support those we oppose. Of course, cooperation under coercion cannot be said to mean sanction. We can be confident that we are morally pure in this, because the government has left us no alternative. Pay or die. Sacrifice your whole life, or pay a percentage. A choice made at the end of a gun is not a free choice. But regardless of guilt, the end result is the same...the government is still supported by our labor.

The other alternative would be to simply stop doing anything, dismantle and dispose of all one's assets and go on the social dole. However this would have a psychological consequence on those who would attempt this. Not to mention, I think it wouldn't take the governement long to notice if people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were all applying for welfare. No, that won't work either. There's a reason why in Atlas Shrugged, there had to be a place for people to go to where government couldn't find them. It's because without such a place, they couldn't effectively withdraw. We can't withdraw if we have no place to go. As long as we are forced to be active participants in the system, the only tangible net effect of our withdrawing from social life, is to remove what little resistance we offered to begin with.

No, the only alternative is to increase our activity. To target it. To forge our resistance into a blade of reason--honed with our arguments and tempered by our convictions. We must take the leadership roles in the industries in which we work. Or we must support the most capable and efficient in those roles. We must become skilled debaters. We must actively seek out discussions where our views are freely under attack and we must defeat our opponents using polished rational arguments that leave them no where to stand but to resort to petty insults. We must drive the statists out of the public discourse, not by force, but with the inherent superiority of our policies. But just as impurities in the metal will cause a sword to break, so will inconsistencies and contradictions in the philosophical basis of our resitance cause us to falter when our mettle is tested.

Yes, we must organize. Yes, we must demonstrate our unified resolve. But until our resolve is in fact unified, all we demonstrate by organizing is how much lack of unity there really is. The unifying philosophical element is Objectivism. It is the only philosophy to organize the current social crisis into a coherent and comprehensible framework of ideas while still advocating the very things we claim to be pursuing. What we need to stand up to the politics of Obama and the politics of McCain is not a party against government in general, but a party for an Objectivist government, organized under objective priniciples, and motivated by the Objectivist ethics.

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