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Ayn Rand

State Lockdowns Were Never Justified

Human Flourishing advocate Alex Epstein interviews philosopher Onkar Ghate, Senior Fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, on why lockdowns are not a proper response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics they cover include:

  • We need objective, clearly defined laws specifying and limiting the power of government in regard to infectious diseases.
  • Why Sweden has more American infectious disease laws than America does.
  • How clearly defined laws lead to better preparedness by government, industry, and individuals.
  • Why more profit-making in the health care system is key to scaling capacity.
  • How governments have failed to do their proper job of identifying and isolating infectious individuals.
  • How far greater transparency from government would empower a free people to make rational decisions.
  • The right way to handle potential hospital capacity shortages.
  • How the idea of “free” health care promotes irresponsible behavior.
  • Why state-wide lockdowns were not the right policy with the evidence we had.
  • Why lockdowns were a panic-based, not reason-based policy that should be removed as quickly as possible.
  • How governments should make policy and communicate to citizens going forward.
  • Why now is the time to write to government officials—and what you should write.

 

Video: Why Britain Needs Americanism

“Jonathan Hoenig and I toured the UK a few weeks ago, lecturing in support of the new book on Ayn Rand’s political philosophy, “A New Textbook of Americanism.” Here is my lecture on individualism at Cambridge. Special thanks to Razi Ginzberg, head of the Ayn Rand Centre UK, for setting up this lecture tour; to Jonathan Hoenig for compiling this outstanding collection of essays; and, above all, to Ayn Rand for initiating a literary and philosophic renaissance. Enjoy” — Andrew Bernstein

 

Victor Davis Hanson on “The Case For Trump” Over Clinton

From the video description:

“How did blue-collar voters connect with a millionaire from Queens in the 2016 election? Martin and Illie Anderson Senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson addresses that question and more in his newly released book, The Case for Trump. He sits down with Peter Robinson to chat about his motivation to write a book making a rational case for those voters who chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Hanson and Robinson, the Murdoch Distinguished Policy Fellow, discuss how voters connected with Trump’s “personal authenticity” during the campaign and how the media has a “historical amnesia” of the bad behavior of past presidents when talking about President Trump. The president, Hanson argues, was always an outsider from elite society in Manhattan, which helped him to better to connect with voters who felt like outsiders. He analyzes President Trump’s platform agenda, which was composed 80% of traditionally conservative views with the remaining 20% being radical ideas that fit with many of the views of the midwestern states. He breaks down why, in the end, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich didn’t appeal to voters in the way that Trump managed to. Hanson turns to talk about his background and life growing up in California’s Central Valley and how different the area feels now compared to when he was younger….”

Hanson argues that the political “outsider” Trump is not merely the lessor of two evils, but putting aside his anti-intellectuality, pettyiness and crudeness, in some policy areas he is good. For a contrasting view see Onkar Ghate: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump. The era of the Trump Presidency is an interesting test for America’s constitutional republic and rule of law.

Related:

 

Elan Journo Debates on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Soho Forum hosted a debate about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and whether the Palestinian movement has a right to exist. Israeli author Elan Journo, the Ayn Rand Institute’s research director, debated U.S. Army Strategist Major Danny Sjursen at the Subculture Theater in New York City.

Comments Elan Journo at New Ideal:

The debate vividly brought out an important contrast between my opponent’s approach to the issue and mine. In my own remarks, I highlighted my book’s distinctive approach to the conflict: a secular, individualist moral framework. I take the principle of individual freedom as a standard for evaluating the adversaries. Central to my view is that we must evaluate the nature of the Palestinian movement. The evidence shows that this movement is hostile to freedom; its main factions strive to establish militant authoritarian and theocratic regimes. To resolve the conflict, then, we must start by taking seriously this movement’s ideological aims. My opponent, by contrast, challenged the premise that there’s any coherence to the “Palestinian movement,” denied the importance of its ideological outlook, and urged a return to solutions that have demonstrably made matters worse.

Link: Soho Forum Debate on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | C-SPAN.org

For further reading: What Justice Demands

Elan Journo Debates on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Soho Forum hosted a debate about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and whether the Palestinian movement has a right to exist. Israeli author Elan Journo, the Ayn Rand Institute’s research director, debated U.S. Army Strategist Major Danny Sjursen at the Subculture Theater in New York City.

Comments Elan Journo at New Ideal:

The debate vividly brought out an important contrast between my opponent’s approach to the issue and mine. In my own remarks, I highlighted my book’s distinctive approach to the conflict: a secular, individualist moral framework. I take the principle of individual freedom as a standard for evaluating the adversaries. Central to my view is that we must evaluate the nature of the Palestinian movement. The evidence shows that this movement is hostile to freedom; its main factions strive to establish militant authoritarian and theocratic regimes. To resolve the conflict, then, we must start by taking seriously this movement’s ideological aims. My opponent, by contrast, challenged the premise that there’s any coherence to the “Palestinian movement,” denied the importance of its ideological outlook, and urged a return to solutions that have demonstrably made matters worse.

Link: Soho Forum Debate on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict | C-SPAN.org

For further reading: What Justice Demands

Free Livestream: Business, Free-Speech, Immigration and the Welfare State in Europe

Ayn Rand Student Conference Europe (AynRandCon) is officially underway in Prague, the Czech Republic! This is ARI’s first ever conference in Europe and the theme is “Individualism in an Age of Tribalism.”

Some particular new talks and panels of note:

  • An Individualist Doing Business in Collectivist Europe – Mr. Christensen, co-founder of Denmark’s Saxo Bank and founder of the private equity firm Seier Capital, has had a long, successful career as an innovator in banking and finance. In this talk, he discusses some of the challenges he’s faced as a staunch individualist (indeed, an Objectivist!) doing business in collectivist Europe.
  • Panel + Q&A: Immigration and Islam
    The issue of Muslim immigration is one of the major sources of political and cultural tension in Europe today. This panel will explore the controversies over immigration and Islam and the future of Europe.
  • Panel + Q&A: Capitalism, Individualism and the Welfare State – This panel will discuss the ways in which tribalism leads to the “mixed economy” welfare state—and how that political-economic system reinforces the anti-individual mindset. The result is a vicious circle of increasingly collectivist policies and an increasingly collectivist electorate that both supports and is victimized by the system.

Even if you are not at AynRandCon, you have the opportunity to join attendees and speakers and watch all or some of the program live on the Ayn Rand Institute’s YouTube channel, beginning this Saturday, February 16 at 8:40 AM CET. (Note that Prague is on Central European Standard Time or six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.)

Link: Ayn Rand Institute’s YouTube channel

Life is Not Suffering: An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan Peterson

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan Peterson Regarding Suffering, Ethics, and Happiness

Dear Dr. Peterson,

Thank you for your defense of individualism in general and of free-speech in particular, and for your defiance of academic nihilism in general and Neo Marxist Postmodernism in particular. Your bestselling 12 Rules for Life; An Antidote to Chaos, your prominence on the Intellectual Dark Web, and your packed out auditoriums around the world, are encouraging signs that Enlightenment values survive the onslaughts from without and within. However, in the name of that Enlightenment project, I ask you to consider whether you break your rule number ten, about being precise in your speech, when you say: “Life is suffering.”

You say: “Life is suffering. That’s clear. There is no more basic, irrefutable truth,” and that this conviction is the “cornerstone” of your belief. If you had said instead: “everyone experiences suffering”, or: “life involves suffering,” who could disagree? But I respectfully dispute your assertion that: “life IS suffering”.  If that were literally true, the obvious solution would be to end it. And if it were clear that: “the baseline of life, is something like unbearable suffering,” what sort of sadist would you have to be to purposely bring a new child into a life sentence of that? Your rules, as I understand them, are predicated on the belief that people are capable of dealing with the challenges of life so that suffering can be marginalized rather than being “the norm”. So why do you insist that: “life IS suffering?” What have I missed? [1]⁠

I have read The Gulag Archipelago and many other horror stories of history, and my second book is about life in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, so I know of what you speak. But since the Enlightenment we have considered dark ages, plagues, genocides, famines and the like to be aberrations of life as it could and should be. I am a quadriplegic, and members of my family have suffered worse afflictions, so I’m no stranger to suffering – not many people are. But we consider illnesses that make suffering the norm for the afflicted and their loved ones for a period of time to be aberrations, which are to be relieved and in most cases cured. When your daughter suffered so terribly for so long, you didn’t say: “that’s life!” You tried to cure her, on the assumption that her suffering was not life as it was meant to be and could be. And you know better than your opponents how the refusal to accept the inevitability of physical suffering has steadily reduced its prevalence decade by decade for the last two or three centuries. There can be suffering in life – but life is not suffering! [2]

If I understand the genesis of your life-is-suffering premise correctly, it evolved because, when your thinking progressed past the Christianity and socialism of your youth, you were confronted with relativists and subjectivists left and right, and you knew that they were leading us down the lane to chaos and destruction. So, like Rene Descartes, you searched for a foundation that you could not doubt. And you found it in: “The reality of suffering. It brooks no arguments. Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape from its reality. Suffering is real, and the artful infliction of suffering on another, for its own sake, is wrong. That became the cornerstone of [your] belief.” Then you deduced that: “to place the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering at the pinnacle of your hierarchy of value is to work to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth”. In other words, the relief of suffering became your ethical axiom and your standard of value, by reference to which you rank your hierarchy of values, from increased suffering (the bad) to decreased suffering (the good). As Rene Descartes said, I think therefore I am, you in effect said: people suffer therefore they value. [2]

The problem is that, as Rene Descartes’ followers soon discovered, Cartesian doubt is not a valid foundation for a philosophy. Likewise, I submit, it does not yield a valid standard of value for an ethic (although I suspect its utility is derived from its link to the right standard – I’ll get to that). For one thing, a literal-minded believer might draw the conclusion I intimated above. For another it is only applicable to the negatives of life, it doesn’t motivate the positives. And it gets tangled up on the emotional level because emotions are derived from values, so if you derive your values from emotion, you go in circles.

Your search for an objective standard, against which effects can be ranked as good to bad and human causes as virtues to vices, is the vital step that multiculturalists amongst others have long since abandoned, leaving them unwilling to defend any Western value no matter how beneficial, against contrary values of other cultures no matter how detrimental, because moral relativism leaves each culture with its own inviolate “narrative” that may not be judged except on its own terms. Religions provide standards of value, which they get from revelations delivered via prophets and written down in holy texts, e.g. the Ten Commandments – but their validity in the end has to be taken on faith. The New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, absorb parts of the Judeo-Christian ethic, then kick out the foundation on which they stand, trusting that the ethical precepts will remain naturally as self evidently valid. I agree with you that their hijacked morality will not stand generation to generation without its foundation, but may be used selectively by corrupt power wielders (as the communists did).

Ayn Rand took a decidedly different approach. She started by identifying why living entities need values at all, then why humans need fundamental moral values, and her answers identified what the standard of values must be. She observed that living entities have values because they face a constant alternative: life or death. To a rosebush, its chlorophyll and sunshine are values; to a bird its wings and worms are values, because these promote the entity’s life. We humans can’t live by a rosebush’s values because our nature doesn’t include the capacity of photosynthesis, neither can we live by a bird’s values because our nature doesn’t include wings and instincts – we must live according to the values that our nature demands. But human nature doesn’t compel us to engage our human means of promoting our lives, we have to discover and implement our pro-life values by choice. We are the only species that can act against the requirements of its nature. But we cannot escape the consequences of our choices – hence our need for a pro-life code of moral values to live by.

If we choose to live, we have to identify our human nature and live accordingly. Some requirements of our life function automatically, such as heartbeats, immune systems, reflexes etcetera. But our distinctively human means of survival is reason, and reason is volitional. That is why we need to discover and hold our values consciously, and choose to act to gain and/or keep them voluntarily. A human being is a rational animal; therefore it ought to act rationally, if it wants to live. But it is not always self-evident whether an action is pro-life or anti-life in the long run. The range of choices we are confronted with are unlimited, and the repercussions of any action stretch into an expanding tree of effects that lead to causes that lead to future effects ad infinitum, which makes it impossible to calculate the effects of actions pragmatically (Utilitarianism notwithstanding). We need moral values in the form of principles that apply across-the-board to keep our options within the bounds of the pro-life. E.g. you may choose carpentry or accounting because both are ways of being productive, which is a virtue, but choosing to be a wastrel by default is not within the bounds of pro-life virtue.

We learn our values from our parents and/or the culture we grow up in, but sooner or later, in one way or another, we ask why this is good and that is bad. If I understand you correctly, your ultimate answer is: because this reduces suffering and that increases it. Ayn Rand’s ultimate answer is: because this is for your life as a human being and that is against it. According to her Objectivist Ethics, the proper standard of value, as dictated by the nature of reality including human nature, is: “man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.” It follows that since reason is our species’ most fundamental means of survival, it must be our primary value, and that since its operation is volitional, rationality must be our primary virtue. When that primary is coupled with other identifications of reality and human nature, the virtues of: independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness and pride can be identified, and the initiation of force as an especially pernicious vice.[3]

Where Objectivist virtues coincide with Judeo-Christian virtues, it gives a non-sacrificial reason for following them, where it differs, it sets out its reasons. So adherents of the Objectivist Ethics aren’t expected to sacrifice their lives out of duty to commandments accepted on faith, or sacrifice their best interests as a duty to other people or society. They are expected to judge their best interest in an all-aspects-of-a-whole-of-life context, as the nature of our existence demands. E.g. they are expected to appreciate that delayed gratification is not a sacrifice and that respecting the rights of others is not being unselfish, rather these are principled applications of rational pro-life self-interest.

As I intimated above: I suspect the utility of your life-is-suffering standard of value lies in its link to the pro-life standard of value. On the level of sensations, suffering is a pain, which is your body’s way of telling you what to avoid for the sake of your life. So if you are anti-pain you are pro-life – unless your body is malfunctioning, or you know something it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to override your motivation to avoid pain, such as the pain of an injection or amputation. On the emotional level too, the role of suffering is to warn you that you are acting against your life – provided your emotions are programmed correctly. But there’s the rub! Your emotions are derived from your values; achieving them gives you a positive emotion, losing them a negative emotion; so if you derive your values from an emotion you are going in circles.

If a virtue is based on a pro-life action, let’s say on being productive, and you act immorally, let’s say by being lazy or destructive, you will suffer a negative emotion, let’s say shame or anxiety. That’s if your emotions are functioning as nature intended (as they do automatically for animals and infants) i.e. to encourage pro-life action. But if they are malfunctioning, let’s say with a work phobia, the malfunction can be identified and overridden, or reprogrammed with the help of psychotherapy. Whereas, if your moral value is based on an anti-suffering standard, you don’t question whether the emotion you suffer is malfunctioning because it is your standard. Let’s say you suffer from a work phobia, the obvious “solution” is to stop working. You might notice that the “solution” has bad effects on your life, but if you, therefore reverse your “solution”, you have moved on from an anti-suffering standard to a pro-life standard of value.

Life can involve suffering, but acting virtuously, according to a pro-life morality, minimizes it, because the pro-life is the anti-suffering. Life can also involve happiness, and because the pro-life is the pro-happiness, acting virtuously maximizes it. But by happiness I don’t mean hedonism. As Ayn Rand put it: “Happiness is not to be achieved at the command of emotional whims. Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to indulge. Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy – a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind’s fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer. Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.” ⁠[4]

The pursuit of happiness, as enshrined as an inalienable right in the American Declaration of Independence, is a distinctively Enlightenment perspective. But it is rooted in the Ancient Greek concept of Eudaemonia, which makes it a distinctively Western perspective. Life as suffering is a distinctively Eastern perspective. “Four Noble Truths on Suffering” constitute the cornerstone of Buddhism. But in the two and a half millennia of its reign, what did that religion do to improved the lot of human beings on this earth? The aim of Buddhism is not to improve your here-and-now, but for you to accept your suffering, which you deserve because of sins you committed in previous lives, and from which there is no escape, not even in death. In Western philosophy this “metaphysical pessimism” rears its head when philosophers turn away from this knowable reality, towards an otherworldly and/or unknowable realm. For example: Saint Augustine (who ushered in the Dark Ages), Arthur Schopenhauer and the existentialists (who ushered in the nihilism of postmodernism and…)

The philosophers who ushered in the knowledge and will to make this world a better place for humans to live in, were those who turned their face to this reality, to identify how we can know it, and how we can turn that knowledge into power, and turn that power into pro-human-life values. For example: Aristotle, and Saint Thomas Aquinas (who ushered in the Renaissance); and Francis Bacon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, and the “metaphysical optimists” of the Enlightenment. Whatever pro-human-life premises were bequeathed by the Judeo-Christian heritage, it was the revival of the Greek pro-reason influence that gave birth to the Enlightenment. And it was the Enlightenment’s elevation of reason and rights that gave birth to modern science, industry, political liberty, capitalism – and the products and services that stopped humans dying like flies, allowing the world’s population to rise from 1 to 7 billion, increasing life expectancy from 30 to 70 years, and reducing the prevalence of suffering so far that the prospect of a person living to a hundred and dying peacefully in bed, never having experienced acute or chronic pain, is no longer inconceivable.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy could be placed on the “metaphysical optimism” side of the divide, but she preferred to call it “the benevolent universe premise”, and she would probably call your view “the malevolent universe premise,” (which is akin to your “Hobbesian by temperament” identification). By “benevolent” Rand didn’t mean that the universe is designed to help or be kind to us, but that it does not play dice with us, so we can learn its laws, and by obeying them, we can command it to improve our lives. Which, if I understand them correctly, is what your twelve rules are designed to do. Your first rule is that we must stand up straight, with our shoulders back, accept responsibility and apply effort. This is, I submit, like most of your rules, a pro-life action. The ultimate purpose of such an action is the maintenance of your life (and the lives of your loved ones, and secondarily everyone else’s). But that ultimate benefit may be experienced along the way as relief of suffering – or as happiness. So pursuit of happiness is not only a political right but is morally right. When it comes to the best therapeutic strategy for people in a psychologically disturbed state, I bow to your expertise. But when it comes to a whole-of-life moral strategy, the maximization of the happiness reward has to be the other side of the minimizing of suffering coin. And, I submit, the more glorious side.

So…

 

Yours sincerely, John Dawson

On the beach in Melbourne

 

[1] Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos; Penguin, Random House Canada, 2018, p.161

[2] Peterson, 12 Rules, pp.197,198

[3] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness; A New Concept of Egoism, New York, The New American Library, 1964, pp.vii-34.
Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Dutton, Penguin Group, New York, 1991, pp.206–324

[4] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Random House, New York, 1957 p.1022

New Book Analyzes The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict From a Secular Moral Framework

Ayn Rand Institute fellow and foreign policy expert Elan Journo has just written a book that examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the goal of answering: what does justice demand in this conflict? In What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

….Elan Journo explains the essential nature of the conflict, and what has fueled it for so long. What justice demands, he shows, is that we evaluate both adversaries—and America’s approach to the conflict—according to a universal moral ideal: individual liberty.

From that secular moral framework, the book analyzes the conflict, examines major Palestinian grievances and Israel’s character as a nation, and explains what’s at stake for everyone who values human life, freedom, and progress.

What Justice Demands shows us why America should be strongly supportive of freedom and freedom-seekers—but, in this conflict and across the Middle East, it hasn’t been, much to our detriment.

BOOK:  What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

Atlas Project: This Is John Galt Speaking

The Atlas Project is an online, chapter-by-chapter discussion of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, exploring the novel’s intricate plot and abstract themes through online discussion and live interactive video with philosophers Dr. Greg Salmieri and Dr. Ben Bayer.

This week’s discussion is on Part III, Chapter 7: “This Is John Galt Speaking” which contains “Galt’s Speech” where Rand first presented the fundamentals of her philosophy: Objectivism. For a list of study questions visit this link: https://campus.aynrand.org/

 

 

 

Simpson: “Big Gap” Between Objectivism and Conservatism

From Is Ayn Rand Affecting Trump’s America? An Interview with Steve Simpson | Merion West.

[Alex:] To what degree do you think Ayn Rand’s philosophy is influencing the modern Republican Party?

Steve: I would say very little honestly. It’s really hard to say that she’s influencing the Republican party. She’s definitely influenced the right, generally speaking, in a huge way, but that does not mean necessarily that conservatives are interpreting her ideas correctly.

I would put it this way: the right is just as afraid of Rand’s ideas as the left is; the right disagrees with her important ideas just as much as the left does. But what Atlas Shrugged has done is give people who are in favor of business, in favor of the free market, in favor of capitalism an ideal to aspire to. Atlas Shrugged is the only novel I’ve ever heard of that portrays businessmen as heroes. I think if you’re on the right and you think there is something good about capitalism, Rand gave the most ringing endorsement to that view that anybody could have given. So it makes really good sense that people on the right, who are sympathetic to capitalism, would like her novel, but that’s a very different thing from them saying they agree with her.

I think she’s influenced the right in general, but the caveat is that it does not mean those on the right necessarily agree with her. When you get to things like “Trump is the Ayn Rand presidency,” that’s nonsense. She’s influenced the right, but there’s still a big gap between Objectivism and what many conservatives believe.

Read the rest: Is Ayn Rand Affecting Trump’s America? An Interview with Steve Simpson | Merion West.

Simpson: Speech is Not Violence; An Argument Is Not a Gun

Free speech guru Steve Simpson at the Ayn Rand Institute has an excellent piece on Why our campuses are boiling over in left-wing rage instead of discourse | The Hill:

To fight these ideas and the culture they’ve spawned on campus will require more than complaining about college “snowflakes” or political correctness. We need to defend the ideas on which free speech depends, most notably reason and individual rights.

The purpose of the right to free speech is to protect our right to think for ourselves and to communicate with others, which are two of the pillars of a modern, free society. True, people can and often do say absurd and horrible things. But it’s false to equate even hateful speech with use of force.

Force is qualitatively different from speech. No matter how harsh speech is, you are always free to ignore it and walk away. Not so with force. If you doubt this, ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Flemming Rose, or the many other individuals currently on jihadist hit lists whether they would prefer to live under the threat of death or the threat of hateful speech.

That’s not to say that speech can never be used in the commission of a crime. It is entirely proper to criminalize actual threats, incitement to violence, and the like. But that’s because what is being threatened is the use of force. If those who use offensive or hateful speech cross the line into actual threats or incitement, then it is proper to prosecute them. But short of that, they must be free to speak.

Ayn Rand once said that “a gun is not an argument.” The reverse is also true: an argument is not a gun. If we forget the difference, we will end up with guns settling our disputes, rather than arguments.

Simpson’s article is excellent and the entire piece is worth a read as well as the collection of essays he has put together in his book Defending Free Speech.

Yaron Brook’s “Four Separations”

Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute lists four things he would amend if he “had the opportunity to rewrite the Constitution.”

From Glenn Has Incredible Interview About Economic Freedom With Yaron Brook – Glenn Beck:

Well, I have four separations that I would put into the Constitution: Separation of state from ideas. I don’t think government should be in the business of ideas. Religion is one set of ideas. I think it should be separate. But I think generally the government is there to protect our rights. Period. Full stop. That’s it.

If you want to be a communist under a free society, that’s okay. Get your friends together, go start a commune, be pathetic and miserable in that commune, to each according to his — from each according to his ability, each according to his means. As long as you’re not opposing it on people, you can do your own thing in a free society. That’s the beauty of freedom.

Separation of state from economics. The government has no economic policy. There shouldn’t be a Treasury Department, in the sense that there is today. Economic advisers. Central planning doesn’t work. It doesn’t work big. It doesn’t work small. It just doesn’t work, and it’s immoral. It’s wrong for the government to impose their values on us as individuals. So it’s morally offensive, and it’s economically stupid.

Separation of state from education. State has no role in education. And the reason our educational system is breaking down is, as corrupt and awful as it is, particularly in the inner cities, particularly for poor people — everybody is always concerned. When they say privatize education, what will happen with the poor kids? Well, it can’t be worse than it is today with these poor kids, right? Think about the educational quality they’re getting from a public educational system. So I’d like to privatize the whole system and get the government out of it. One of my disagreements with Thomas Jefferson is over the University of Virginia and the idea that the state should be involved in education.

And fourth is separation of state from science. Let’s get the state out of science so that we can have scientists unincentivized by government grants and politics and all of that, decide about global warming, about stem cells. Left and right, when government intervenes in science, it corrupts the science.

Read the whole interview at Glenn Beck.

Save The Arts: End the National Endowment for the Arts

Dear Artist:

I urge you to consider this argument for the dissolution of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The United States was founded on the principle of individual rights: life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone has a right to pursue the arts or enjoy them, provided he does so with his own time and money. To force an individual to pay for someone else’s art is a violation of the individual’s right.

I have acted, and I have written and produced plays; nothing would be more shameful to me than to force others to pay for my work whether they valued it or not.

We will never know the great and revolutionary creations in art, science, and all other fields that were aborted by the government’s looting of the creators of wealth in the name of the looters’ idea of creativeness. We will never know what private joys every hard-working individual was forced to forego to finance someone else’s notion of good art.

Confiscating individuals’ hard-earned money to finance the welfare state is bad enough when the money goes for material goods such as food and shelter; but to use the money to subsidize intellectual products is especially destructive of freedom, because it destroys our means of preserving freedom: it destroys the freedom of ideas. Government funding of the arts is as deadly as government funding of religion or the press.

Not by rational persuasion but rather through the physical threat behind the tax collector, the NEA has enforced a nationwide orthodoxy of thought in the arts; and it has suppressed ideas that are not favored by that arm of the government.

A theater company, for example, that is not “endowed” by the NEA is at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. The “endowed” companies can charge less for tickets, have more elaborate facilities—while bidding up the prices every company must pay—and offer more to its actors. Taxpayers, who are already paying for the “endowed” companies, are less able to pay again for the unendowed. Is this the way to safeguard freedom in the arts?

I have written a play that shows the evil of government funding of art, science, and medicine. Will my work be considered fairly by the NEA, or by theater companies that receive NEA funding; or by producers, who nowadays—to siphon subsidies their way—try to have their projects presented by subsidized theaters before beginning a commercial run?

That individuals today are forced to pay for art they abhor is a moral outrage. It is spiritual rape.

NEA Chairman Jane Alexander recently told Congress, “We are jumpstart money, the only national measure of recognizing excellence. We exist to leverage the other public and private monies, and we do our job well­—on average, leveraging $11 for every dollar we award.” (Testimony on April 5, 1995 before the House Appropriations Committee, quoted in Backstage.) Thus, an agency of government force presents itself as the only means available to private funding sources for selecting the best art nationwide. And the NEA’s goal is to “leverage”—that is, to direct, to direct lots of—private money in the direction the NEA chooses. Is this the role of government in a free society?

The introduction of force always has insidious and far-reaching destructive effects too numerous to catalog. The money spent by government on art may seem like a relatively small amount to some, but this “leveraged money” has gone far toward making artistic funding a matter for political edict rather than freedom.

Most people recognize how destructive it would be for the government to “endow” the Catholic Church or some fringe religious group—or The New York Times or some political newsletter. It is just as destructive for government to endow Lincoln Center or some Off-off Broadway troupe.

Advocates for the NEA claim that its opponents are fanatics for censorship. But the NEA, funded through government force, is itself by nature a censor. Any work of art that does not meet the NEA’s criteria—whatever the criteria, stated or implicit—is to an extent censored. Moreover, advocates for the NEA are the most useful—though often unwitting—intellectual allies that any would-be book-burner could have prayed for. The NEA established the premise that government can decide what art is good and will be forcibly supported. It is merely the logical extension of that premise to claim that government can decide what art is bad and will be forcibly shunned. Government propaganda and censorship go hand in hand.

Because it is the only arts ‘advocate’ with the power of force behind it, government thus becomes the only means of recognizing art as good or bad, and the NEA Chairman gets her wish. Advocacy by force is a contradiction in terms. Force preempts advocacy. Government is an arts enforcer.

Art and force do not mix, just as force does not mix with any kind of thought. Art is addressed to the mind; a mind must be free to think, to evaluate, to respond emotionally—or not. An artist can show, persuade, evoke; he cannot force. You cannot hold a gun to someone and command him to enjoy your idea of beauty.

Some ‘artists’ argue that once people are exposed to their work, even if by force, then these people will realize how good the work is. This argument is the rationalization of a rapist: “My victim does not yet realize how desirable I am, and so I will have to take the matter into my own hands, for my victim’s own ultimate good and enjoyment.”

That individuals today are forced to pay for art they abhor is a moral outrage. It is spiritual rape.

It is no wonder that so many of the new works awarded NEA money are expressions of nihilism. Mind-hating motives are consistent with mind-killing means. Government did not cause nihilism in art, but government has helped spread nihilism from the pseudo-intellectual fringes of a few cities to the mainstream of every American community. And government has made it more difficult for real innovators in art to reach an audience. The best artistic minds—the minds that understand and respect the creative potential of every mind when not forced—must struggle even harder, if they stay in their bureaucratized profession at all, or go into the profession in the first place.

Please help save the arts by restoring artistic freedom. Fight for the artist’s freedom by defending freedom as a universal principle, which holds for every individual mind. Speak out for the termination of the NEA and every other means of government force in the arts, including state and local arts agencies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and government licensing of television and radio stations.

Sincerely,
Ron Pisaturo

P.S. To anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of individual rights, freedom, and art, I recommend the work of arguably the greatest artist in history: novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.

The above is a slightly edited version of an open letter written by the author in May, 1995, and was first published on the author’s blog. Ron Pisaturo is a writer and philosopher. He has written a screenplay, The Merchant of Mars and is author of Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty. Visit his blog at ronpisaturo.com.

Simpson: Both Left and Right Don’t Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

Steve Simpson, a constitutional lawyer, and director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute has a brilliant op-ed in TheHill on why Free speech is a right, not a political weapon.

He makes the case for why free speech “protects the right to take the actions necessary to make one’s speech heard, whether that means spending money on political ads or publishing books or newspapers free of the crushing costs of frivolous libel lawsuits.”

1. Trump Does Not View Free Speech as a Right

Trump […] doesn’t view it as a right that protects speakers regardless of their views. […] Whether Trump is opposing free speech outright or trying to bully speakers, he is no friend of free speech.

2. Trump’s Urge to Censor is No Different From Hillary Clinton

[…] Trump’s urge to censor this form of speech [flag-burning] really different from Hillary Clinton’s desire to ban the political speech at issue in Citizens United? The case, which upheld the rights of corporations to speak during elections, involved a law that prevented a nonprofit from distributing a film that criticized Clinton the last time she ran for president. During her campaign, she promised repeatedly to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the case, calling the film it protected “a right-wing attack on me and my campaign.”

3. Campaign Finance Laws Silence Freedom of Speech

During the floor debates for McCain-Feingold, the law at issue in Citizens United, many politicians, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz., included, championed the law because it would prevent groups from funding negative political ads against them. After Citizens United was decided, Congress considered the Disclose Act, which would have forced many organizations to disclose their donors. In praising the law, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that its “deterrent effect” on corporate political speech “should not be underestimated.”

4. Politicians Attacking the Speech of Opponents is Not New

Remember the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox News as “not really a news station”? Or the FCC’s investigations of news broadcasters to determine if their coverage was “biased”? It is certainly scary for Trump to attack the media as he’s done, but it is equally scary when any president or administration does so. […] Remember Harry Reid’s sustained assault on the Koch brothers, whom he called “un-American” for having the temerity to oppose his agenda? Or the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, which was prompted by politicians who urged the agency to investigate the groups?

5. Both Left and Right Don’t Understand or Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

They treat free speech not as a principle but as a weapon to be used against their political enemies. When your enemies are in power, complain about the threats to speech you like; when you are in power, use government to intimidate and silence your critics.

Don’t for your bookshelf, his book, Defending Free Speech (ARI Press,2016).

The Dangers of Trump ‘Protectionism’

Writes Tyler Cowen on Trump’s Disastrous Pledge to Keep Jobs in the U.S.:

“…a policy limiting the ability of American companies to move funds outside of the U.S. would create a dangerous new set of government powers. Imagine giving an administration the potential to rule whether a given transfer of funds would endanger job creation or job maintenance in the United States. That’s not exactly an objective standard, and so every capital transfer decision would be subject to the arbitrary diktats of politicians and bureaucrats. It’s not hard to imagine a Trump administration using such regulations to reward supportive businesses and to punish opponents. Even in the absence of explicit favoritism, companies wouldn’t know the rules of the game in advance, and they would be reluctant to speak out in ways that anger the powers that be.”

“In other words, the Trump program for protectionism could go far beyond interference in international trade. It also could bring the kind of crony capitalist nightmare scenarios described by Ayn Rand in her novel ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ a book many Republican legislators would be well advised to now read or reread.” [Bloomberg View]

Ghate: What the success of the Trump campaign reveals about the United States

What does the Trump’s campaign success signifies about the American electorate — and America’s future? This is the question post by Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow Onkar Ghate in his essay “One Small Step for Dictatorship.

Writes Ghate:

…as destructive to freedom as I think a Trump administration is likely to be, this is also not my point.

My argument is that Trump publicly projected the mentality, methods and campaign of a would-be dictator—however much it may have been an act and however difficult it may be to enact specific decrees—and that he won the presidency because of this.

The issue is not Trump the person or what he might do to the country while in office. (Though these are important concerns.) The issue is what the success of his campaign reveals about the country.

 

Update: For a contrasting view of what the Trump election means for the country see “C. Bradley Thompson: Trump Won Because of the “Forgotten Men and Women.”