The Objective Eye

"Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demand for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen."
- Ayn Rand, "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business" (1961)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

America's Core Conflict in Ethics

Now Playing: "Easy Blues" from Message From Nine To The Universe - just sublime...

As I've alluded here previously, we the people of the United States of America have been locked into a Presidential contest that, due to the politicians placed in front of us as "choices," guarantees that the next American President will be a hardcore statist. It is inescapable, barring some thoroughly improbable Douglas Adams-type upset in which an improbable number of American voters writes in an improbable candidate who, improbably, has a brain between his/her ears, at an improbability ratio of, roughly, 16,438,951,238 to 1 against.

As I've also suggested, the situation dictates (pun if you want one,) that principled, individualist Republicans dedicate themselves to "Alternate Plan B": focusing on non-Presidential electoral races, especially Congressional ones, for the long haul. Since we're doomed to having a committed enemy of individual liberty in the White House for the next four years, it is essential that Congress be bolstered this year, in 2010 and in 2012 with more people willing and able to counter his (or her) collectivist lunacy. The GOP's "leadership" sure as hell aren't going to step up to the plate on this.

Just this week the GOP gained a narrow recovery from disaster in the reversal by John Shadegg(R-AZ) of his Feb 8 announcement of retirement from Congress. Shadegg, recall, is one of the handful of Republican Congressmen that typically stands on principle against big government, out-of-control spending, "earmarks" corruption and generalized statism. Shadegg needs company; let's try to find similar people and work to get them elected, in positions from Congressman down to County Alderman.

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Anyway, fresh in mind are soundbites from last night's Clinton/Obama debate, from recent speeches by each, and from the McCain/NeoCon/RINO wing. All three candidates are spewing brazen demands for "national service" and "self-sacrifice" and "giving back" and "duty," etc. ad nauseam, and most tellingly (pay attention here,) for a veritable avalanche of statist proposals based directly on that foundation of self-sacrifice.

In the wake of the recapture of Congress by the Democrat-Socialist Party in the 2006 election, I resumed frequent listening to conservative talk radio programs - 'cause those guys are at their best when they're in the opposition - and none of them have had much of anything to say against the Three Stooges' self-renunciation sermons, rather only against those consequential policy proposals.

Well, consequences do indeed have ideas behind them.

The phenomenon immediately calls to mind something I read in Leonard Peikoff's seminal 1982 work "The Ominous Parallels", the smarter older brother of Jonah Golberg's new book "Liberal Fascism". Funny how the observations of sound philosophy are bourne out in practice, consistently. Actually there's nothing funny there at all - just logic at work.

Something that cannot be stated often enough nor strenuously enough - particularly to today's conservatives (the Demo-Socialist Left are mostly beyond the reach of reason in any case,) is that:

a) economic liberty is an inescapable pre-requisite of political liberty, and

b) economic liberty is inherently - inescapably - egoistic.

In other words, economic liberty's core motive power is the individual's drive for personal self-betterment, personal innovation, personal enterprise, personal achievement, and for personal profit. The benefits derived by others - Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" - are secondary, as are decisions by individuals to engage in charity. In a meta-ethical sense this is an extension of man's inherent nature and inherent requirement for survival: Man is either free to think and act (i.e., to produce,) or he dies.

This, in turn, is why capitalism, and ONLY capitalism, is the politico-economic system perfectly in tune with the requirements of human survival and flourishing, and why capitalism walks hand-in-hand with human liberty - the two live or die together. Political and economic liberty are, in a word, inseparable; you simply cannot have either without the other. The argument for economic liberty - i.e., capitalism - is therefore primarily ethical, not merely pragmatic.

It is a fact that people the world over derive their ethics from religion of one sect or another. Virtually every religion's ethical credo is some form of codified altruism: Self-sacrifice for others is considered the unquestionable, highest virtue; self-interest (such as the entire drive for personal advancement, achievement and profit,) is considered as an unquestionable evil, or at best as something low and base.

Since philosophy is inescapably hierarchical in its structure and ethics is an antecedent branch to politics within that hierarchy, one's ethics - or a nation's ethics - will always inform and/or determine its politics.

A nation ostensibly dedicated to political freedom must, by that fact, also be a nation dedicated to economic freedom; a nation dedicated to economic freedom must, by that fact, also be a nation dedicated, at root, to egoism, the recognition of self-interest and individual sovereignty as moral and practical primaries.

If that nation instead embraces the opposite ethical credo - as in Clinton/Obama/McCain's fetishistic preachments that self-interest is "narcissistic greed" and that altruistic sacrifice to others constitutes "virtue" - and simultaneously attempts to retain its economic and political liberty, the result is an inescapable conflict.

It is precisely that conflict, the implicitly egoistic system of the Founders' conception vs. the explicit altruism being pushed aggressively by today's politicians and intellectual establishment, that has brought the United States to its present chaotic state - and the nightmarish Hobson's Choice of three committed statists as our only Presidential options. Again, it is flatly impossible to square a commitment to self-sacrificial duty within ethics with a political agenda of eliminating the dizzying array of altruistic government programs, agencies, entitlements, allocations, regulations, restrictions, bans, taxes, fees, licenses, permits, directives and bureaucracies to administer and enforce them.

If this conflict is not resolved, and resolved in a specific way - namely, the restoration of egoism as the appropriate moral credo of a free society - then a slide into freedom's antithesis: collectivism, can only be a matter of time. As to the practical mechanism by which that slide occurs, I will refer you to Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises' Planned Chaos.



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