Saturday, September 22, 2012

The most dangerous woman in America - Ayn Rand

In a full-page essay in the September 22, 2012 National Post, Terence Corcoran wrote at length about the growing influence of Ayn Rand's ideas.  Corcoran consciously chose not to actually talk about her ideas, but rather the fact that she and her ideas are increasingly vilified publicly by so many people, who I believe are reacting based on the fear of their ideology being exposed for the sacrificial and deadly thing it is.

 Before turning to her opponents, first I will provide an extremely brief summary of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, using the five primary branches of philosophy.  In metaphysics, she held that objective reality exists and that all further ideas must be derived from observable facts of reality and rejected the notion of other realities such as an after-life.  In epistemology, the division of philosophy dealing with the theory of knowledge, Objectivism holds that man's faculty of reason is his sole means of gaining knowledge about reality and it rejects all supposed forms of mystical or supernatural insight such as revelation, the word of gods or group consciousness.  In ethics Rand stated that, as is the case for all living things, man's standard of value is his own life and so his actions are properly guided by what reason tells him is in his long-term rational self-interest.  In politics, the philosophy of how man should properly live in a society, Objectivism holds that the system that protects the right of individuals to pursue his personal goals, so long as he does not initiate force against others is the only moral system, and it is best known by the term capitalism.  In aesthetics, the philosophy or art, Rand identified its purpose as the capturing of the heroic idea of man as he ought to be or could be, thus naming art projecting whim, chaos, evil, distortion, evasion or debasement as unworthy effort.  Rand's philosophy is a fully integrated and closed system, meaning all parts are connected consistently and evading one part is to evade all parts.  It is a philosophy without contradictions.

There are two types of people who hate Ayn Rand's ideas.  The first are the people Rand called "mystics of muscle".  These are people who believe it is right to force you to live as they wish because they think it will create a utopia here on Earth.  They have come in various forms and some of their best known advocates are Alexander, Genghis Khan,  Immanuel Kant, Adolf Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Stalin and Castro.  They are unified in their belief that humanity can be forced to live better at the point of a sword or a gun and consider masses of dead to be merely the price to pay for achieving eventual social perfection.  They are all socialist at root and perfect socialism requires an absolute dictator to direct society.  These days, lesser versions of these infamous names attempt to control your life through the creeping socialism of regulation and taxation.  Thus, all our municipal, provincial and national governments accept the fundamental idea that using force against innocent people is perfectly moral - for their own good.  When have you heard politicians questioning whether it is moral to force you to surrender a large part of your income for them to redistribute to others who did not earn it?  When have you heard them challenge the idea that you should be forced to pay taxes on the property you supposedly own in order to pay for services you may never use or even are opposed to?  And if you refuse to pay them, when have you heard them say it is immoral to send armed officials to seize your property and possibly arrest you?  This type of Rand hater is pervasive in today's society.

Rand called the second type "mystics of the mind".  These are the people who claim divine knowledge, assert that true virtue and happiness cannot be achieved here on Earth, but rather will be found in an after-life, an undefinable and eternal state of existence known only to those who believe not in the facts of reality, but assertions they willingly state are non-rational and unprovable.  These people claim the right to control your life by virtue of their denial of the value of life.  They are the exponents of various religions that deny objective reality, claim that reason is incapable of identifying it, claim that man's guide to action should be mystical proclamations and claim that society must be ruled by self-proclaimed followers of a supreme being.

Through most of recorded history mankind has been dominated by these mystical ideas and so progress has been stagnant, life has been miserable and short and knowledge has been limited.  The ancient Greeks, and in particular Aristotle, first identified reality and reason as a better way of life, but their ideas lacked a full moral foundation and so their ideas were lost for centuries before being rediscovered in the enlightenment and brought into the reality of human life by the industrial revolution.

Corcoran's essay concludes with "If Ayn Rand were truly making a comeback, nobody would be safe.  And everybody seems to know it."  By this he means that both the Liberals/Democrats (mystics of muscle) and Conservatives/Republicans (mystics of the mind) are legitimate targets of a philosophy that holds reality as objective instead of subjective, holds man's mind in the highest regard, holds man's life as the highest value, holds man's freedom as essential to the exercise of his mind and holds the image of heroic man as high art.  They are afraid and they should be, because when their ideas are correctly identified as anti-man and anti-life, they power over your life is removed.  Ayn Rand believed it was not too late to save the world from the mystics and I truly hope she was right because reality, reason, life and freedom are worth fighting for.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Politicians and the broken window fallacy

I regularly communicate with Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, an organization that promotes objectivity and the scientific method in relation to climate science.  He sent me an economics question prompted by a politician's comment. 

Here is what Senator Mitchell from Alberta said: 

“I would argue that, once we get started (on programs to stop climate change), we will find that doing it right will actually stimulate the economy in a way that we cannot even imagine, just like winning the Second World War stimulated the economy in ways we could not imagine. It created one of the strongest Western industrialized economies, which has kept us sustained in the kind of lifestyle that people around the world envy. It did not wreck our economy to win the Second World War; it fundamentally sustained and created one of the strongest economies that you could imagine in the history of the world. That is exactly what will happen if we begin to do something about climate change.”

I went to the full discussion on the Senate site. He is evidently an economic illiterate. He relies on the "broken window fallacy" that was easily proven false long ago and is discussed in Henry Hazlitt's 1946 book "Economics in One Lesson". That story is one of the baker whose front window is broken by a vandal. The glassmaker then has a job to do and must be paid for his work - according to Senator Mitchell this is a job creating strategy! But of course the baker must pay for this work out of money he would have used elsewhere, and so instead of having a window and wealth to spend, he has only a window. On balance, wealth has been destroyed because a product that added no value must be created to replace the one that had value. 

Of course, anyone with a brain does not have to think more than a second to realize that if destruction created wealth then we should destroy the world right away to improve everything. So blatant and nihilistic a philosophical and logical error is unforgivable for someone in a supposedly learned position but is unfortunately prevalent in our elected officials as they are mostly economically illiterate. Absent the destruction of thousands of lives and fantastic amounts of wealth, Canada would have had the wealth available to produce far more than we actually did. One of the effects of the war was to destroy some of our competitors, whose countries were all bombed to bits, so naturally we had an advantage in production for some time afterwards. Of course, it is sometimes necessary to wage a war in self-defence, but such a need destroys existing wealth and prevents the accumulation of more wealth.

Destroying wealth in a vain and futile attempt to stop climate change can only do harm and in no way can stimulate anyone's economy except the select few who enjoy government favors and who personally benefit from the destruction of others. The ideology of Senator Mitchell is one held by primitive societies prior to the industrial revolution, when wealth was largely static and was often accumulated by waging war against other peoples and stealing their physical assets. The enlightenment and consequent industrial revolution changed all that, however it is still held by many collectivists and primitive thinkers who ignore the lessons of the enlightenment and whose ideas have not risen above the level of tribalism. 

That such a man holds a position of prominence and political power over our lives and is paid by the producers of wealth to speak such ignorant vitriol is a testament to how low is our societal level of scientific, economic and philosophical knowledge.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We don't need unions, we need freedoms

In her August 31 column Janice Kennedy resurrects a litany of marxist fallacies and demonstrates her economic and philosophic illiteracy. Her ad-hominem attacks, animal references and other illogical language simply illustrates her inability to make a rational argument backed by sound moral principles.

I have nothing against unions so long as they do not use force against innocent people. In a free society all relationships are voluntary (on both sides) and that certainly includes all employer/employee, union/member buyer/seller relationships. If a job is a money loser for the company it is perfectly moral for the employer to terminate employees or else the owners of the business and all remaining employees will suffer until the final closure of the business. It is not the responsibility of an employer to protect a job if the position or the employee is not efficient enough to compete and it is certainly immoral of government to force employers to retain money-losing positions and act in a self-destructive manner.
The only moral role of government is to protect the freedom of individual citizens to act according to their choices, so long as they do not initiate force against others. That's it. Any other action of government necessarily violates the rights of some citizens for the possible benefit of others. In a free country the role of government is the protection, not control, of innocent citizens' lives from those at home and abroad who would violate them.

Over decades, governments have enacted legislation specifically forcing some citizens (employers are a common target) to act against their judgment to enrich others. Stripped of all legal defense, these victims of lobbying naturally seek all possible ways to remain in business and be competitive - as any rational person would, they seek less expensive production facilities, less punishing tax jurisdictions, legal systems that protect them instead of harming them and a workforce that is flexible instead of rigid.

It is the souls of the producers, employers, creators, builders and entrepreneurs that are attacked by union-biased laws. If Kennedy truly cared about rights, it is the rights of these most essential people in society that she would be speaking of protecting, instead of encouraging those attempting to shackle and milk them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Invasion of the locavestors

Terence Corcoran wrote a good editorial in the September issue of the Financial Post Magazine.  He referred to recent public discussion of corporate transactions such as Rona, Cogeco and Maple Group.  I wrote this letter to him.
Your September 2012 editorial was on target. When government interferes with a corporate sale, the rights of everyone are violated. In a free market, transactions only take place with the mutually beneficial agreement of both the buyer and seller. Unless the price is high enough for you as a seller to judge you are getting full value, you do not sell. Unless it is low enough for you as a buyer to judge you are getting a bargain you do not buy. When governments protect individual rights neither buyers nor sellers are unhappy with their transactions. By forbidding the sale/purchase of certain shares the state is forcing some people to own them and forcing others not to own them. The rights of both sellers and buyers are violated by such initiation of force.
If you sell your shares, you will then have cash available to invest in other businesses, whether new or existing. No one can tell how many businesses have been prevented from existing or growing because of the use of force against shareholders. The right of all citizens to participate in a free market and benefit from its existence is violated.

Who is to decide which individual shareholder rights will be violated by blocking a sale? What objective principle decides which companies are strategic and overrides the opinions of others. Who decides what is of national interest when a nation is made up of individuals each having their own goals? The people best suited and the only people morally correct to decide these questions are the ones who have put their decision-making ability on the line and risked their own capital by investing in the company, the people who own or wish to own the shares. Who can say you will not make more money elsewhere and bring better "strategic value" to Canada by selling instead of holding, although the question itself shows the absence of a proper morality based on individual rights. 

 Even if someone else is proven correct with time, it is your life, your money and your right to choose how you use it. Those who would stop you are anti-rights, anti-freedom and anti-life.