Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Ayn Rand’

A Modest Libertarian Proposal: For Secessionists, Separatists, Radical Anarchists, Anti-Government Absolutists, Conservative Neo-Republicans, Randian Objectivists, Tea-Baggers, “Me, First & Last” Social Darwinists, and Conspiracy Theorists

In Corruption, Democracy, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, literature, Personal Responsibility, Politics on November 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I did a LOT of driving this last week-end, a LOT. This gave me a great deal of time to think and process recent experiences. One conclusion that I did arrive at is that if a group of people gather together for a common cause (other than masturbation) and then spend their day in a mutual masturbation circle jerk, they will have accomplished nothing.

On Saturday, I went to a libertarian gathering which seemed to be more about libertarians telling themselves how successful they have been at furthering their cause even if they haven’t been able to actually get anyone elected to a significant office. There were no strategies or concrete ideas for getting anyone elected or for spreading the libertarian idea to a wider audience. While I met some good people, I found that the main value for me to have made the trip was in observing and listening to the others there. What I did not hear were any words which spoke of libertarianism as being about anything except “me”. One speaker even lived up to the cliché view of what current libertarians are when she spoke about reading Ayn Rand and realizing that caring about others or helping to make the world a better place has no value.

On Sunday, I drove to my old home town to help some friends do some work on a house. This house has been a special place for a long time. In 1972, a group of college friends found a place to live in off-campus. During the 70s, it was pretty much a commune for the local science fiction group. For probably 15 years it was home to a rotating group but the house was always there for us. For most of the last 20 years, it has been the permanent home to a few of the gang but the house has remained a constant in the lives of many. I moved away and moved on with my life but 17 years later I came back and the group still gathered at the house on regular annual times. I have never lived there or even spent a night there but, when the message went out that there would be a work day on the house, I was there. I gained nothing, at least in objectivist terms, by helping out but it was a small gesture of thanks for what the house and the people who have lived there have meant to me.

The stark contrast between how the two days were spent was startling. A second conclusion I arrived at is that I think that there is more to be gained by working together to build a better world around us than there is from seeing the world as a place where it is ok for the strong to prey on the weak. The week-end reinforced what libertarianism meant to me when I was first attracted to the movement.

Thirty years ago, I had the profound honor of hearing a man named Ed Clark speak at Texas A&M University, courtesy of the Memorial Student Center’s Political Forum committee. Rudder Theater was full that night. There were many there who were, like me at age 20, preparing to vote in our first Presidential election (and for me, my first government election as I briefly lived in the United Kingdom in 1978 – 79). This man was the candidate for a new political party, and was that Party’s first candidate to be on the ballot in all 50 states. The Libertarian movement and idea was getting some national attention because of how “radical” and fresh it was. They had a vision of a limited government which would combine the best facets of conservative fiscal policies with progressive social policies. In a radio interview, Clark described libertarianism as “low-tax liberalism”. Hearing him speak in person was a remarkable experience for me. Not only were his ideas progressive and forward-thinking, they were inclusive and logical.

To this day, I still call myself an Ed Clark libertarian. Unfortunately, the Party pushed Ed Clark and his liberal / moderate wing out during their 1984 convention. If you ask people today what a libertarian is, most of what you will hear are descriptions of a radical, conservative, neo-Republican lunatic fringe group. In 1980, it looked like the Libertarian Party might, one day, have a legitimate influence on American government. Coming up on 2010, it looks like we have crawled beyond the fringe to create our own unique brand of American political lunacy, on a par with the Anti-Masonic “Know Nothing” Party of the 1800s. With this in mind, I want to make a modest proposal to all of those who hate government, despise paying any taxes, want to “be off of the grid” and want to be left completely alone by every government.

We will GIVE you a 5,000 square-mile plot of land in Alaska. Not enough? How about 10,000 square miles? We will set aside that land and will legally declare it to be independent of the United States of America or of any other nation of the world. It will be free land on which you can settle and create your own society with a complete absence of government. You will not be subject to any law or be a part of America in any way… no taxes, no military service, and no government interference of any kind. We will also shoulder the costs to relocate anyone who wants to leave the United States to participate in this experiment. This will be a one-way, one-time ticket. We will take all of you to the border of your new homeland and let you enter it freely and of you own volition. Further, we will assume all of your debts, (up to, say, $25,000). If your debts are greater than that, so what? You will be moving to a place where you will be free from debt collectors. What will your credit score matter up there? We will arrange for the sale of your American property, both to free you from the burden and to help pay for the costs which The United States will incur on your behalf so that you will not be beholden to any other person or nation. In short, we will do everything necessary to help you sever all ties between you and the United States. We will give you what you are asking for in its entirety. You can be completely free from any and all government control or responsibility. By doing this for you, however, there would be a lot of changes that you would need to be aware of.

Remember, infrastructure is created by governments. There will no roads, electricity, water, sanitation, waste removal, hospitals, medical care, medicines, schools, postal service, police or fire departments, judiciary, defense, phones, internet or any other public “improvements” other than what you will be able to create for yourselves. In your new haven, there will be no government, no law, no order, and no society which you do not create for yourself.

We understand that you don’t like anything that is “tainted” by being provided to the general public, and / or bought or created through the use of “Federal Reserve Notes” (and yes, this week-end I heard someone talking about their new business and saying that they would not accept “Federal Reserve Notes”). So you will not be allowed to take any United States currency with you because you will not, of course, need it. You will not be allowed to incur any additional debt through credit so, in preparation for your move, you will be limited to dealing on a cash only basis. If you want to convert it all to gold or silver or gumdrops, you can, but remember, you will have to carry everything you will take in with you. I assume your economy would be based on the barter system. I will be curious, though, about what you will be able to barter with to get AT&T to provide you with communications capabilities, as one example.

Your American citizenship will be permanently revoked, as will those of any of your families, dependents, and friends who join you. As such, you can never again vote in any American election. You can never again enter the United States without proper documentation and / or visas. If you try, you will be subject to being arrested and deported back to your homeland, the same as any other illegal alien, you know, like Mexicans. You will never again receive any government payments, benefits, healthcare (federal or military) or assistance which would “force” you to possess any documentation, utilize our immoral currency or rely in any way on the government which you hate so much. This means that you will never receive any social security payments, Medicare, retirement funds, insurance payments, not even the annual payout made to citizens of Alaska because, of course, you will be citizens of your own non-nation. Oh, and about that land, you will each be able to possess as much of it as you can take and hold onto. You will have the absolute freedom to make your land your own BUT you will not, of course, be given any actual legal title to the land because to give you such title would require a legal and judicial system… and you wouldn’t want that either, would you, because they are also creations of government.

While I suppose that we could allow you to take in a suitcase of your own clothes (whatever you can carry), to fully honor your John Galt desires, we would not allow you to take any tools or other products created by our industrial mass production system. You see, we would want to respect your wishes to not allowing you to be burdened with anything so ignoble as having been purchased with “Federal Reserve Notes”. Maybe we could provide some of you with forges but how you would carry them into your new nation without tools or carts made by tools that you have made for yourself, I don’t know. Even if I had the answer to that, though, you wouldn’t want to know it because you want be pure, untainted and left entirely to your own devices. Each of you, after all, is John Galt.

Of course, you would be completely landlocked by the United States but that, again, would only be out of respect for your demands for complete independence and your wishes to have no “foreign entanglements”. We would thus ensure that you would be free of the temptation and taint of dealing with other nations or, even worse, with the United Nations. No, you will be completely and entirely free. You will be given your own country and cut off from any influence, hindrance, or assistance from anyone outside of your own borders. Imagine if “Escape from New York” was about turning Manhattan into a self-contained country instead of a prison… but without all of the inconvenient reminders of civilization and development like buildings and roads.

We will give you all of it. All you would have to do is give up everything else… oh, and allow those of us who do not believe as you do, those of us who do not share your vision of an anarchist “Heaven on Earth”, free to carry on our ridiculous desire to actually improve the society that we are part of. You will all agree to leave us alone in this immoral world which we believe can be improved. We leave you alone and you leave us alone… for ever (or until you all die off). Do we have a deal?

Now, for those of us who are left when the dust of the mass migration settles, let’s work together to figure out how to make the government we do have better. Let us create a fair and equitable tax system. Let us work on the problem of creating a society which benefits all of the people. Remember, political and philosophical extremes create unworkable absolutes. Some of us believe that the only way to make the system better is by working within it. We can have less government, lower taxes, and a beneficial society. All we have to do is be willing to work for it.

I, for one, will not abandon my fellow Man. My desire for a limited government does not mean that I reject the idea and value of government altogether. I believe in government and I believe that it can be improved, that it can be designed to function effectively. Remember, we get the government that we deserve. In a free society government is the creation and responsibility of a free people. If our government does not work properly, it is our fault for not caring enough to figure out how to make it better. It is also our responsibility to make government work for the people it serves, not be served by the people who work under its system. I am willing to stay here and do what I am capable of doing to make it better for EVERYONE… even those who don’t believe as I do. How many of you out there will help me? Can we work together to create a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarianism and, from there, a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarian anarchy which can be “sold” to those outside of our movements? I think that we can and I, for one, am ready to start trying.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor” 

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

Live Blogging: Radicals for Capitalism: Introduction: Reviving an American Radical Tradition

In History, Libertarian on December 15, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Having recently finished the Tannehills’ The Market for Liberty, I am currently reading Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.  The book deals with the many facets of the libertarian movement this century, as well as some details about classical liberal and proto-libertarian activists in centuries prior.  As I read the book chapter by chapter, I’ll write a little bit about it here for your pleasure.

Prior to reading this book, I had read one review of it: a poorly-reseached review from The New York Times by David Leonhardt.  The review had motivated me to write this reply.  David Boaz, too, couldn’t resist making mincemeat of Mr. Leonhardt’s review.

Mr. Doherty explains the title of his book on page fifteen.  It is true, as Mr. Doherty points out, that libertarians are radicals for liberty and for choice.  However the phrase “radical for capitalism” comes from Ayn Rand.  Mr. Doherty contends that this phrase “characterizes the movement’s prickliness, its willingness to take on terms from their enemies and turn them to their own advantage” (p. 15).  Although the term “capitalist” was used by Karl Marx to be a term of derision, many libertarians like the notion of “re-claiming” the term.  The GLBT community has since done the same thing with the term “queer.”

The introduction is where Mr. Doherty introduces us, broadly, to this whole “libertarian” thing.  Many have heard the term, perhaps linked to the Cato Institute or to the Libertarian Party, to blogs or to syndicated radio shows (p. 2-3).  Nevertheless, not everyone knows exactly what the term means.  Mr. Doherty sums up the libertarian belief as follows: “Government, if it has any purpose at all (and many libertarians doubt it does), should be restricted to the protection of its citizens’ persons and property against direct violence and theft” (p. 3).

Libertarians tend to have a fond view of America’s founding, but as Mr. Doherty explains, it is not a backward or reactionary ideology.  “By extending individual liberty into radical areas of sex, drugs, and science (no restrictions on stem cell research, cloning, or nanotech), libertarianism is the most future looking of American ideologies.  It sells the promise of a world mankind hasn’t yet fully known, one with personal liberty limited only by preventing damage to other people or their property” (p. 3-4).

One can arrive at libertarian views by a variety of avenues, including natural law theory and utilitarianism, sometimes both (p. 4-5).  But despite libertarianism’s radical individualism, it is not an atomistic philosophy.  Mr. Boaz’s father’s “good reputation didn’t extend much beyond the small town where [they] lived, and he would have had trouble borrowing money in a hurry even a few towns over.  [Conversely, Mr. Boaz has] instant access to cash and credit virtually anywhere…because the free market has developed credit institutions that extend around the world.  …  The network of trust and credit relies on all the institutions of a free society: individual rights and responsibility, secure property rights, freedom of contract, free markets, and the rule of law.  A complex order rests on a simple but secure foundation” (p. 7).  Despite the radical individualism advocated by libertarianism, it would yield a highly interconnected society.

The introduction states that the book will deal with five intellectuals in particular, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Milton Friedman.  He goes on to, in a section I love, note simularities and differences between these five (p. 8-9).  The book then briefly discusses these figures over the next few pages to provide the reader with some basic information.

Despite the libertarian’s association with the term “capitalism,” it would be a mistake to assume that libertarianism is simply apologia for privilege.  Whereas Big Business often petitions Big Government to enact protectionist measures, such as Roger Milliken agitating for tariffs, it would receive no such advantages from libertarians.  Those who advocate libertarianism do so therefore because of a personal conviction for liberty, not simpply out of pecuniary interest (p. 16).

Because libertarians are an eclectic bunch, arriving at their views from many different avenues, there tends to be a great deal of infighting within this movement.  To exemplify this, Mr. Doherty quotes one Fred Smith: “When two libertarians find themselves agreeing on something, each knows the other has sold out” (p. 19).

Although the in-fighting is quite annoying to those of us living through it, I suspect that the in-fighting depicted in this retrospective will make this an very interesting story indeed.  I look forward to it.

Ayn Rand’s influence on the business world

In Economics on September 18, 2007 at 10:55 am

The New York Times had an excellent piece up there on the 15th.

One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (“Winning,” by John F. Welch Jr., at a breezy 384 pages, is No. 1,431.)

The book is “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.

For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”

But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.

Even though she’s not exactly one of my favorite libertarian authors, it’s still good to see that our ideas affect the world we live in.