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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is The Big Government Rational Or Irrational?

The big government’s actions are not necessarily irrational.

Irrational actions are those in which the entity in some way defeats its own purpose, doing what is calculated to frustrate its ends. But if the big government’s policies enable it to usurp several new powers and eviscerate the political opposition then it is not frustrating its own ends.

There is, in most cases, a carefully designed strategy behind what may seem like irrational and destructive policies of the big government. There is a method behind what may seem like madness.

A big government is a government that has metamorphosed into a powerful mafia organization. It is no longer concerned with protecting the rights and liberties of the people. The fate of the citizens is not the priority. The fate of the regime is the most important of all considerations for the big government.

The big governments planners intentionally develop policies that will create a major crisis in the lives of millions of citizens because their plan is to use the crisis as an excuse for increasing manifold the powers and the size of the government. The consistency in never letting a major crisis go waste cannot be termed irrational.

A big government that rocks the country with one crisis after another can be fully rational. It can be accused of villainy of the most venal kind, but not necessarily of irrationality.

On Categorical And Hypothetical Imperatives

Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy
Philippa Foot

In Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Immanuel Kant has said that moral judgements are categorical, not hypothetical, imperatives. Was Kant right?

In her essay “Morality as a system of Hypothetical imperatives” (Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy), Philippa Foot looks at Kant’s theory of categorical and hypothetical imperatives. She points out that moral judgements have no better claim to be categorical imperatives than do hypothetical imperatives such as the statements about matters of etiquette. It is possible for people to follow either morality or etiquette without asking why they should do so, but equally well they may not. They may ask for reasons and may reasonably refuse to follow either if reasons are not to be found.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay:
Kant, in fact, was a psychological hedonist in respect of all actions except those done for the sake of the moral law, and this faulty theory of human nature was one of the things preventing him from seeing that moral virtue might be compatible with the rejection of the categorical imperative.  
If we put this theory of human action aside, and allow as ends the things that seem to be ends, the picture changes. It will surely be allowed that quite apart from thoughts of duty a man may care about the suffering of others, having a sense of identification with them, and wanting to help if he can. Of course he must want not the reputation of charity, nor even a gratifying rôle helping others, but, quite simply, their good. If this is what he does care about, then he will be attached to the end proper to the virtue of charity and a comparison with someone acting from an ulterior motive (even a respectable ulterior motive) is out of place. Nor will the conformity of his action to the rule of charity be merely contingent. Honest action may happen to further a man's career; charitable actions do not happen to further the good of others. 
Can a man accepting only hypothetical imperatives possess other virtues besides that of charity? Could he be just or honest? This problem is more complex because there is no end related to such virtues as the good of others is related to charity. But what reason could there be for refusing to call a man a just man if he acted justly because he loved truth and liberty, and wanted every man to be treated with a certain respect? And why should the truly honest man not follow honesty for the sake of the good that honest dealing brings to men? Of course, the usual difficulties can be raised about the rare case in which no good is foreseen from an individual act of honesty. But it is not evident that a man's desires could not give him reason to act honestly even here. 
The essay is concluded with these lines:
This conclusion may, as I said, appear dangerous and subversive of morality. We are apt to panic at the thought that we ourselves, or other people, might stop caring about the things we do care about, and we feel that the categorical imperative gives us some control over the situation. But it is interesting that the people of Leningrad were not struck by the thought that only the contingent fact that other citizens shared their loyalty and devotion to the city stood between them and the Germans during the terrible years of the siege. Perhaps we should be less troubled than we are by fear of defection from the moral cause; perhaps we should even have less reason to fear it if people thought of themselves as volunteers banded together to fight for liberty and justice and against inhumanity and oppression. It is often felt, even if obscurely, that there is an element of deception in the official line about morality. And while some have been persuaded by talk about the authority of the moral law, others have turned away with a sense of distrust.
Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy is a collection of 14 essays that Philippa Foot wrote between 1957 and 1977 on different issues in philosophy. "Two themes run through many of the essays: opposition to emotivism and prescriptivism, and the thought that a sound moral philosophy should start from a theory of the virtues and vices."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Random Thoughts on Big Government

The government claims that it wants to reduce the suffering, but its policies seem to increase it.

Big government means big problems for the little people.

The size of the people is inversely proportional to the size of their government—bigger the government, smaller the people.

The moral principles of a socialist government are in no way different from that of a mafia organization.

If there is no crisis in the country the government must act to create one otherwise the little people will start wondering why they are being taxed to support a bloated government that has nothing to do.

The little people who believe that in order to ensure long-term gain, their government must inflict short-term pain don't realize that the short-term can last until hell freezes over.

Little people, when you hear the government say that it intends to inflict on YOU some short-term pain in order to ensure YOUR long-term gain run for your life. Run as you would run from a pack of hungry wolves.

Benefitting the common man is the excuse of a power hungry scoundrel.

A government manipulates the nation’s currency to steal people’s wealth and crush their independence. All this talk about the government wanting to create a good nation is drivel of the worst kind.

100-years of large-scale destruction and bloodshed in the name of socialism has taught us nothing. We still have idiots pitching atrocious socialist lies.

Nothing works in a socialist system except the concentration camps and the firing squads.

The socialist government has a reverse-Midas touch. Whatever it touches transforms into a pile of rubble.

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the Correlation Between Lack of Freedom and Nihilistic Violence

There exists a correlation between people’s sense of morality and reason, and the freedom that they enjoy in the country.

When the government usurps the power to dictate what is moral, what is good economics, what is good culture, what is social justice, and how the nation’s wealth must be redistributed, then most people develop the mindset that it is not their job to think about such issues. As they begin to depend too much on the government, they loose the capability of applying their minds for taking a rational stand on social, political, economic, and moral problems.

People with smothered minds are ineffective and dangerous because they are not guided by any sense of morality or reason. They are nihilists who think that all values are unfounded—they will blindly believe the propaganda from the government and the intellectuals. When the country faces economic and political problems, they won’t blame themselves or the out of control government. They actively seek scapegoats onto whom they can displace their aggression.

The private sector is an easy target for such nihilists. They hate the private sector because they are jealous of anyone who has achieved some kind of creative and financial success. Prosecuted by the government and hounded by the citizens, the private sector fails. But there are not enough government jobs and most people see a dramatic fall in the quality of their life.

The government is too arrogant to accept that its policies are responsible for the failure of the economy, and the people are too ignorant to recognize that they are responsible for the mess because they blindly supported the government’s encroachments into all spheres of life. As unemployment rises in the country, the confused people spill into the streets and there is unrest in the cities and towns.

The massive hordes of unthinking people that the ruling class had indoctrinated and groomed hoping that they will be the regime's strongest supporters for all times start turning against the government. The law and order machinery responds by launching a severe crackdown on the protestors. Normal life is thrown out of gear as thousands are arrested and locked up in jails.

The police action inevitably results in further disintegration of freedom, and this in turn generates even more immorality and irrationalism in the minds of the people. The situation continues to escalate and brainless-destructive-mobs start sprouting in different parts of the country. The mobs comprise of people who don't have any sense of morality, reason, or politics; the common bond that binds them consists of their blind hatred for every symbol of the regime.

There is a civil war between the statist government and the irrational mobs. They are nihilists on both sides; they don’t have any ideas for creating a better society; they fight with the sole purpose of causing maximum destruction to the other side. Even if the dictatorship gets overthrown, there is no chance for a saner system of governance to emerge. The cycle of cruel dictatorships and violent anarchy is likely to continue for years, perhaps decades.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lenin’s Golden Head Parked Alongside Bourgeoisie Vehicles


Just a giant golden Lenin head parked somewhere in the fields of Belarus alongside vehicles manufactured by the “bourgeoisie class.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics

Ayn Rand saw Aristotle as the greatest of all philosophers. In "Review of Randall’s Aristotle," she says that Aristotle is the philosophical Atlas who carries the Western civilization on his shoulders.

Yet she is critical of Aristotle’s ethics.

In Aristotle, John Herman Randall has claimed that “Aristotle’s ethics and politics are actually his supreme achievement.” Rand rejects Randall’s assertion. She is of the view that ethics and politics are not Aristotle’s greatest achievement “even in their original form—let alone in Professor Randall’s version, which transforms them into the ethics of pragmatism.”

In her lecture “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand has made another negative observation on Aristotelian ethics: “Aristotle did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise.”

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand has an essay by Jack Wheeler in which an attempt has been made to draw a comparison between Rand’s Objectivist ethics and Aristotelian ethics (Chapter: “Rand and Aristotle: A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics”).

Wheeler finds Rand’s view on Aristotle's ethics troubling. He says that “Rand’s criticism that Aristotle did not regard ethics as an 'exact science' is equally odd, for this has nothing to do with 'observing wise men,' but rather, as Aristotle notes: 'It is the mark of an educated mind to except that amount of exactness in each kind which the nature of the particular subject admits.' Or does Rand really wish to claim that one can have mathematic precision for ethics on a par with physics.”

According to Wheeler, there are several similarities between the Aristotelian and Objectivist positions on ethics:

“Both Rand and Aristotle propose… a metaethics that is nonrelativist and nonsubjectivist but, rather, objectivist—naturalistically objectivist and not religiously or supernaturally so. There are no appeals to God or a cosmic supernatural power in either theory to give ethics its binding legitimacy, but rather an appeal to the very objective nature of things. The good is what is good for: goal-directed, purposefully acting entities for Aristotle; living, organic entities for Rand.”

Wheeler goes on to say that “it should come as little surprise that Aristotle, whom Rand lauds for advocating an objectivist metaphysics paralleling her own, should advocate an objectivist metaethics (paralleling her own).”

There is considerable difference among philosophers regarding the meaning of Aristotelian eudaimonia. But Wheeler posits that the Aristotelian eudaimonia corresponds to Rand’s happiness. He points out that Rand has described happiness as “that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values,” and “a state of non-contradictory joy.”

Both Rand and Aristotle have expressed the view that rationality is man’s distinctive capacity and “basic means of survival.” And it is through the active and continuous exercise of reason that man achieves happiness and moral virtue.

Wheeler ends his essay with this observation: “Ayn Rand stands higher and sees farther than any other thinker of our day. She does so because she stands, not just metaphysically and epistemologically (as she would admit), but ethically (as she would not admit), on the shoulders of Aristotle.”

Edited by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen, The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand has nine essays on Ayn Rand's philosophy by ten academicians.

Related:

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand

Can Socrates Flourish Without Philosophizing?

Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch

Ludwig von Mises on The Religion of Socialism

A socialist advocates socialism because he is fully convinced that the supreme dictator of the socialist commonwealth will be reasonable from his--the individual socialist's--point of view, that he will aim at those ends of which he--the individual socialist--fully approves, and that he will try to attain these ends by choosing means which he--the individual socialist--would [p. 693] also choose. Every socialist calls only that system a genuinely socialist system in which these conditions are completely fulfilled; all other brands claiming the name of socialism are counterfeit systems entirely different from true socialism. Every socialist is a disguised dictator. Woe to all dissenters! They have forfeited their right to live and must be "liquidated."

The market economy makes peaceful cooperation among people possible in spite of the fact that they disagree with regard to their value judgments. In the plans of the socialists there is no room left for dissenting views. Their principle is Gleichschaltung, perfect uniformity enforced by the police.

People frequently call socialism a religion. It is indeed the religion of self-deification. The State and Government of which the planners speak, the People of the nationalists, the Society of the Marxians and the Humanity of Comte's positivism are name for the God of the new religions. But all these idols are merely aliases for the individual reformer's own will. In ascribing to his idol all those attributes which the theologians ascribe to God. the inflated Ego glorifies itself. It is infinitely good, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal. It is the only perfect being in this imperfect world.

Economics is not called to examine blind faith and bigotry. The faithful are proof against every criticism. In their eyes criticism is scandalous, a blasphemous revolt of wicked men against the imperishable splendor of their idol. Economics deals merely with the socialist plans, not with the psychological factors that impel people to espouse the religion of statolatry.

~ Ludwig von Mises in Human Action (Chapter: "The Imaginary Construction Of A Socialist Society")

Monday, November 21, 2016

Is India Moving Towards Implementation of 5-point ArthaKranti Proposal?

Anil Bokil, the leader of a Pune based economic think-tank called ArthaKranti, claims to have advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

According to media reports, in 2013 Bokil and few other members of the ArthaKranti had a two-hour long meeting with Modi, who was then serving as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The ArthaKranti team gave a detailed presentation to Modi on how the country’s financial system could be cleaned up, and made more transparent and corruption-free.

Bokil also met Modi in 2014, 2015, and even this year when Modi is reported to have met Bokil with the financial services secretary Hasmukh Adhia.

The demonetizing of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes is one of the key proposals of ArthaKranti. The organization also wants the government to abolish income tax and 56 other taxes and replace it with a Banking Transaction Tax (BTT) of 2% on earnings.

ArthaKranti’s five-point agenda includes the following:

1. Withdrawal of all taxes and duties of central, state, and local body government except customs or import duties.

2. Every transaction will be routed through the bank and will attract deduction in appropriate percentage as “Transaction Tax” of around 2%. 

3. Withdrawal of high denomination currency notes. 

4. Cash transactions will not attract any transaction tax. 

5. Government should make legal provisions to restrict cash transactions up to a limit of Rs. 2000. 

Anil Bokil
The ArthaKranti website lists the following direct benefits of their economic proposal:

1. Savings in amount of taxes paid

2. No tax returns & No tax compliance cost

3. Adequate tax revenue for each level of Government (Center, State and Local)

4. Transparency in the Economy

5. Significant drop in commodity prices (Approx 15% to 20% )

6. Loans from banks at lower rates (Approx 4% to 5% annual rate of interest)

7. Substantial Reduction in construction cost (Approx by 15% to 20%)

8. Terrorist and anti-national activities can be controlled

Anil Bokil is trained as a mechanical engineer. He started working on his economics ideas in 1999, but ArthaKranti was registered in 2004.

Valid Question


Sunday, November 20, 2016

By Banning Cash The Government Wants To End Privacy

The intellectuals and the politicians hate cash because they assume that any transaction where cash is involved is illegal. You already have a system which restricts you from using cash for high-value transactions unless you can produce identification papers.

If you are travelling with significant amount of cash you can be pulled up by the law enforcement and your money can be confiscated. You may have to go through a cumbersome and costly legal process to get your hard-earned money back.

According to the government, cash is a barbarous relic which allows terrorists and criminals to carry out malicious transactions in secrecy. But what is the guarantee that the such groups will not find some other way of financing their operations?

The idea that banning cash will end the activities of terrorists and criminals is as foolish as the idea that a government funded education and healthcare will improve the quality of peoples lives.

When people switch to digital payment systems, every transaction, big or small, is recorded and can be tracked.  The government agencies will have the ability to keep track of peoples most private financial dealings. This can mean an end to the privacy of not just the political opponents of the regime but also of the ordinary citizens.

In 1984 George Orwell has described a dystopian world where a totalitarian government tracks people’s movements and habits through a system of giant TV screens.

By coercing the businesses and the individuals to make payments through digital financial systems which can be “supervised” by the bureaucrats, the government is getting closer to creating an Orwellian dystopia where the citizens are being constantly watched.

In her article “The Soul of an Individualist,” Ayn Rand nails it: “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”

It is unfortunate that now we are now on verge of moving away from a society of privacy.

Liberty can’t exist in a world where there is no privacy. A cashless society, where our entire existence is public, will be a savage society ruled by a totalitarian regime. When the politicians have more information on our spending habits, they will be able to impose more control and levy more taxes.

The switch from gold based currency to paper currency gave the government huge control over our money. The move towards cashless society is designed to complete the process and give the government absolute control over our money and thereby on all aspects of our lives.

A cashless society is an easy-to-monitor-and-tax society. It is a recipe for disaster.

Related: 

The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

“Committing Suicide is Also Radical.” ~ Arun Shourie on Currency Demonetization 

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World Of Currency Demonetization

The Bizarre Consequences of Messing With The Financial System

The Nightmare of Going to The Bank 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All Democracies Are Marching Like The Fascists

As We Go Marching
John T. Flynn

In As We Go Marching, John T. Flynn defines fascism as “a system of social organization in which the political state is a dictatorship supported by a political elite and in which the economic society is an autarchial capitalism, enclosed and planned, in which the government assumes responsibility for creating adequate purchasing power through the instrumentality of national debt and in which militarism is adopted as a great economic project for creating work as well as a great romantic project in the service of the imperialist state.”

Flynn goes on to break down the definition of fascism into 8-elements which he says are present in every fascist regime. But it is clear these 8-elements are part of the political culture of every democracy in the world. Therefore we must accept that every democracy in the world is a fascist regime.

Here’s Flynn’s list of the 8-elements of fascism:
1. A government whose powers are unrestrained.

2. A leader who is a dictator, absolute in power but responsible to the party which is a preferred elite.

3. An economic system in which production and distribution are carried on by private owners but in accordance with plans made by the state directly or under its immediate supervision. 
4. These plans involve control of all the instruments of production and distribution through great government bureaus which have the power to make regulations or directives with the force of law.  
5. They involve also the comprehensive integration of government and private finances, under which investment is directed and regimented by the government, so that while ownership is private and production is carried on by private owners there is a type of socialization of investment, of the financial aspects of production. By this means the state, which by law and by regulation can exercise a powerful control over industry, can enormously expand and complete that control by assuming the role of banker and partner. 
6. They involve also the device of creating streams of purchasing power by federal government borrowing and spending as a permanent institution. 
7. As a necessary consequence of all this, militarism becomes an inevitable part of the system since it provides the easiest means of draining great numbers annually from the labor market and of creating a tremendous industry for the production of arms for defense, which industry is supported wholly by government borrowing and spending.  
8. Imperialism becomes an essential element of such a system where that is possible—particularly in the strong states, since the whole fascist system, despite its promises of abundance, necessitates great financial and personal sacrifices, which people cannot be induced to make in the interest of the ordinary objectives of civil life and which they will submit to only when they are presented with some national crusade or adventure on the heroic model touching deeply the springs of chauvinistic pride, interest, and feeling.  
You may call your country a democracy but the truth is that it’s a venal fascist regime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Did Churchill Admire Mussolini?

Winston Churchill; Benito Mussolini
Winston Churchill is regarded as the conservative leader who rallied the British people during the Second World War, led the fight against nazism and fascism, and won.

But was he always against the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini?

In As We Go Marching, John T. Flynn provides an interesting perspective on the way Churchill viewed Mussolini’s strong-arm political methods. The few quotes from Churchill’s letters and articles that Flynn has cited create the impression that Churchill was an admirer of Mussolini.

In  January 1927, Churchill wrote to Mussolini: “If I had been an Italian I am sure I would have been entirely with you from the beginning to the end of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.”

“If I were an Italian I would don the Fascist black shirt,” Churchill asserted in his correspondence to Mussolini. In 1928, Churchill wrote an article in Collier’s magazine extolling Mussolini above Washington and Cromwell.

Churchill was not the only one to see Washington and Cromwell in Mussolini. Several liberal and conservative politicians, intellectuals, journalists, and businessmen in England and USA used to look at the fascist dictator with admiration.

But this does not mean that they approved the suppression of liberty and democracy by Mussolini. It only shows that decent people have the capacity to tolerate and even defend bad political ideas in the name of some cherished public good.

Even after the Second World War had commenced, Churchill continued to propagate the idea of Mussolini being a great man. In December 1940, in a speech to the House, Churchill said, “I do not deny that he is a very great man. But he became a criminal when he attacked England.”

Like most conservatives, Churchill was a pragmatist. He did not wage war against Hitler and Mussolini because he was ideologically opposed to totalitarian political ideas. His only concern was to defend Englands’s geopolitical interests.

It did not matter to Churchill that Hitler and Mussolini were enemies of liberty; in his eyes their only crime was that they had attacked England.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Moving Toward a Totalitarian State

“Whenever a country’s criminal laws are more lenient than its civil laws, it means that the country is accepting the basic principle of statism and is moving toward a totalitarian state. (Such a trend means that crimes against individuals are regarded as negligible, while the collectivist concept of ‘Crimes against the State’ becomes paramount and supersedes all rights.) In Soviet Russia… criminals were treated ‘with tolerance and circumspection. On the other hand, those accused of violating the state’s political and economic commands were sentenced to death or exiled to Siberia without any semblance of trial.”

~ Ayn Rand in The Objectivist Newsletter (August 1963)

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Sad Status of Modern Democracy

 Government is of the government, by the government, for the government. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why Did Ayn Rand Reject Conservatism?

Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical
Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Ayn Rand has rejected the ideas of both the conservatives and the leftists.

In Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (chapter: “The Predatory State”), Chris Matthew Sciabarra notes that “Rand’s fundamental antipathy toward racism was a contributing factor to her rejection of political conservatism. She observed that many conservatives claimed to be defenders of freedom and capitalism even though they advocated racism at the same time.”

Rand’s antipathy towards conservatism extended equally to its representatives in the political parties and the media. She regarded “William Buckley’s National Review as the worst and most dangerous magazine in America.” She accused the conservatives of destroying the fabric of capitalism by aligning it with faith, tradition, and depravity.

According to Sciabarra, Rand distanced herself from the conservatives because she was of the view that it was dangerous to have political allies who shared some of her free-market and anti-communist opinions, but based these on irrational philosophical premises.

She regarded Ronald Reagan as a moral monster. She viewed Reagan’s ties to the militant mystics of the moral majority and his opposition to abortion as an unconstitutional union of religion and politics.

She denounced the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for the same reason for which she rejected Reagan. Solzhenitsyn had achieved a heroic expose of the Soviet Gulag, but he stood for the integration of religion and politics. “[Rand] argued that Solzhenitsyn had rejected Marxism, not for its statist and anticapitalist character, but for its “western” atheistic focus.”

Even though Ayn Rand recognized the importance of the parent-child relationship, she maintained that the conservative obsession with the “Family” was at root, a vestige of tribalism. She argued that ‘the family was a cultural institution that frequently undercut the individual’s independence and autonomy, breaking “a man’s or woman’s spirit by means of unchosen obligations and unearned guilt.’” In a family, the relationships can often mirror those of a master and a slave.

Ayn Rand; William Buckley
As early as 1962, Ayn Rand noted that the two major political parties in the USA were dedicated to preserving the status quo. “Whereas the Democratic liberals sought to ‘leap’ into the abyss of statism, the Republican conservatives preferred to crawl ‘into the same abyss.’ Elections were contests in which the voters casted their ballots not for a particular candidate or program, but merely against the politicians or proposed policy changes that they feared most.”

But why do the conservatives and the liberals tend to embrace different sides of the same mind-body dichotomy. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the book:

“The conservatives tended to advocate freedom of action in the material realm of production and business, but favored government control of the spiritual realm through state censorship and the imposition of religious values. The liberals tended to advocate freedom of action in the spiritual realm of ideas, the arts, and academia, but favor government control of the material realm in their adherence to economic regulation and welfare statism. Ayn Rand explains: ‘This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important: each grants freedom, only to the activities it despises.’”

Sciabarra suggests that the roots of Rand’s antipathy towards the doctrines of political dualism may lie in her childhood. As a child of the Russian culture, Ayn Rand had a firsthand experience of political dualism in the confrontation between the religious idealists and the Bolshevik materialists. Like the modern conservatives, the idealists in Russia used to oppose Bolshevism with their own vision for creating a theocratic utopia.

Media Beats Trump

The biggest loser in the US 2016 elections is the mainstream media. Never again will anyone take seriously the claim that the reporters at the mainstream media organizations are objective journalists.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Is Plato’s the Republic a Work of Politics or Ethics?

Ancient Philosophy
Julia Annas
Oxford

Plato’s the Republic is often assumed to be a work of political theory because it describes his vision of an ideal state.

But in Ancient Philosophy, Julia Annas points out that Plato’s thrust in the Republic is on ethics. The description of an ideal state takes up only a small part of the Republic, and it is far too brief and sketchy to serve as a ‘blueprint’ for political action. It does not give the work its framework.

Plato developed a basic model of an ideal state only because he wanted to depict it as a parallel to the moral person’s soul. Here’s an excerpt from Ancient Philosophy:
The main argument of the [Republic] is posed at the beginning of the second book and answered at the end of the ninth, and it consists of Plato’s attempt to answer the question, ‘Why should I be moral?’ Morality, it seems, benefits others rather than myself; would it not be better for me to live a kind of life in which I pursue my own ends in a way which ignores or exploits others? Plato thinks that a life in which morality is supreme can be rationally defended as the best life for an individual, even in the worst possible circumstances of the actual world. To make out his case, he introduces the ideal state as a parallel for the structure of the moral person’s soul; as he says at the end of the argument, the ideal state shows us the abstract structure which the moral person takes as an ideal to internalize in his aspiration to live a good life. But the ideal state is not the idea which structures the Republic, and the questions Plato asks about the actual world cannot be answered by reference to an ideal state without breaking the back of the work’s argument.
In his model of a just society, Plato has proposed a complete division of labour between wealth on the one hand and political power on the other. The ruling class of the “Guardians” is educated and trained primarily for the common good. The Guardians are inculcated with the spirit of sacrificing their own interests for the larger good of the society.

Plato believed that the Guardians would devote their lives to the public good and running the state. “Those engaged in what we call economic activity would be excluded from political rule, on the grounds that their way of life narrows them to consider only their own self-interest and makes them unfit to take part in the public arena where what is at stake is the common good.”

According to Plato, people can be virtuous and happy only in an ideal state, ruled in the interests of all. He believed that wealth, status, and other things commonly valued are irrelevant to happiness. He has given a brief description of an ideal state because he wanted to describe the general environment in which virtue and happiness can thrive.

The Republic has moved from being an ethical work to being a political one because many political movements have used the work to develop their own ideas of the state. Julia Annas holds several modern interpreters of Plato responsible for propagating that the theory of an ideal state is central to the Republic. She seems to suggest that Plato’s ideas have been incorrectly deployed to defend modern political theories, some of which are democratic and some are totalitarian.

The Victorians in the mid-nineteenth century used to be worried about creating a more just society and they saw Plato’s Guardians as meritocratic officials.

On the other hand, many thinkers of the twentieth century have seen the Guardians as a totalitarian, sometimes fascist idea. Plato’s insistence on common public education and culture has been claimed to be propaganda and brainwashing. The model of the Republic has been associated with the Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and several communist regimes, including the Soviet Union. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand
Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
University of Illinois Press 

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen was published in 1984, and is regarded as the “first scholarly study” of Ayn Rand’s ideas.

The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 is Metaphysics and Epistemology; Part 2 is Ethics; Part 3 is Politics. The three parts of the book indicate that the authors have tried to cover all aspect of Rand’s philosophy, except for her aesthetic philosophy.

The dedication page has a quote from Ayn Rand’s Anthem:

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. 
This god, this one word: I. 

Here’s an excerpt from the preface:

Ayn Rand is among the most controversial figures of our age. The sense of vehemence emanating from the pens and mouth of her critics is matched only by the devotion she commands from her admirers. She has been heralded as bringing forth a new vision for mankind also for advocating the destruction of the very roots of western civilization.

The Progressive Way — Total Liberty For The State

The fascists believe that the state must have total freedom. The only kind of liberty that they are serious about is the liberty of the ruling elite.

Here's a quote from Benito Mussolini:

"Fascism is for liberty. It is for the only kind of liberty that is serious—the liberty of the State.”

(Source: The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff; Chapter: "The Totalitarian Universe")

Progressivism is a milder form of fascism, so it is not surprising that the progressives have contempt for the constitution.

They think that the laws are meant to regulate the activities of the common citizens, and that the ruling elite must be allowed to get away with any crime.

Related:

Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism

The choice is between capitalism and chaos

"The choice is between capitalism and chaos. A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings. To stress this point is the task of economics as it is the task of biology and chemistry to teach that potassium cyanide is not a nutriment but a deadly poison."

~ Ludwig von Mises in Human Action (Chapter: "Harmony and Conflict of Interests")

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism

Liberal Fascism
Jonah Goldberg

Progressivism and fascism are essentially the same because they are forms of statism. In Liberal Fascism Jonah Goldberg notes that “liberalism — the refurbished edifice of American Progressivism — is in fact a descendant and manifestation of fascism.” He says that fascism has been there in America for nearly a century.

In the introductory chapter, “Everything You Know about Fascism Is Wrong,” Goldberg refutes the concept that fascism is “right-wing.” He points out that the ideas of the progressives are much closer to those espoused by the fascists.

Goldberg begins his observations on what he calls liberal fascism from the 1930s, but his main target is the fascistic politics of contemporary politicians like Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and others.  He draws a convincing picture of the connection between the Italian Fascists and the modern progressive politicians. He sees fascism as a disease that affects only the Democratic Party.

On Hillary Clinton, he has a chapter with a rather provocative title: “Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism.” This chapter shows how Clinton evolved into a politician who is intent on imposing fascism or bringing the country terrifyingly close to it.

Goldberg points out that in her days as a student, Hillary Clinton was inspired by several communist intellectuals, including Saul Alinsky. She regarded Alinsky as her hero. She wrote a 92-page senior thesis on him: "There Is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model."

“Hillary's attraction to radical groups and figures such as the Black Panthers, Alinsky, and — according to some biographers — Yasir Arafat is perfectly consistent with liberalism's historic weakness for men of action.”

On Hillary Clinton’s present day politics, Goldberg says:
Hillary is no fuhrer, and her notion of the "common good" doesn’t involve racial purity or concentration camps. But she indisputably draws her vision from the same eternal instinct to impose order on society, to create an all-encompassing community, to get past endless squabbles and ensconce each individual in the security blanket of the state. Hers is a political religion, an updated Social Gospel —light on the Gospel, heavy on the Social — spoken in soothing tones and conjuring a reassuring vision of cooperation and community. But it remains a singular vision, and there's no room in it for those still suffering from the "stupidity of habit-bound minds," to borrow Dewey's phrase. The village may have replaced the fasces with a hug, but an unwanted embrace from which you cannot escape is just a nicer form of tyranny.
Like the fascists the progressives like Clinton are obsessed with race. The progressive idea of multiculturalism has placed racial and religious identity above all else and beyond the reach of rational argument.

The aim of the fascists and the progressives is to reconstruct society by increasing government intervention into the economy and culture. They tend to justify government control of the economy, and they propagate nationalism and militarism. They seek to develop a war spirit in the country to inspire people to sacrifice their personal interests for the achievement of certain common goals.

Goldberg traces the origin of fascism and modern progressivism to the ideas of Rousseau. “A brief review of the intellectual origins of fascist thought reveals its roots in the Romantic nationalism of the eighteenth century, and in the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who properly deserves to be called the father of modern fascism.”

While the focus is on fascism, the book also examines the German Nazi movement—it traces the historical background of Nazism and detects its links with progressivism. In the chapter, “Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left,” Goldberg says that “the Nazis rose to power exploiting anticapitalist rhetoric they indisputably believed.” There was nothing right-wing about Hitler’s politics.

The book’s title comes from a speech that H. G. Wells gave in July 1932 at Oxford. In the speech Wells told the students that the Progressives must become "liberal fascists" and "enlightened Nazis.” Goldberg points out that fascism in America predates the rise of Mussolini’s fascist regime.

The American Liberals of the 1930s era were great admirers of Mussolini’s fascism. In 1934 Rexford Tugwell, a leading member of Roosevelt's Brain Trust, said, "I find Italy doing many of the things which seem to me necessary.... Mussolini certainly has the same people opposed to him as FDR has. But he has the press controlled so that they cannot scream lies at him daily.”

Woodrow Wilson’s wartime regime was progressive and fascistic. “War socialism under Wilson was an entirely progressive project, and long after the war it remained the liberal ideal.... If we are to believe that "classic" fascism is first and foremost the elevation of martial values and the militarization of government and society under the banner of nationalism, it is very difficult to understand why the Progressive Era was not also the Fascist Era.”

The New Deal had a strong affinity with fascism. It institutionalized the idea of collective action by the government to tackle economic emergency. Goldberg draws attention to the close parallel between the National Recovery Administration and Mussolini's corporatism. In fact, both Hitler and Mussolini praised Roosevelt’s New Deal. Mussolini used to refer Roosevelt as a “dictator.”

The progressives reject the classical liberal idea that human flourishing requires individual liberty under rule of law and free-markets. Like the fascists, the progressives believe that enlightened politicians, bureaucrats, intellectuals, and technocrats must use the government to improve material and moral well-being of the people.

Written in a breezy and readable style, Liberal Fascism is a blistering attack on the progressivism. It is an interesting examination of political history.

Friday, November 4, 2016

On Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg


Today I started reading Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg defines fascism as "a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people."

On the page 392, Goldberg gives a clue for why he wrote the book: "Ever since I joined the public conversation as a conservative writer, I've been called a fascist and a Nazi by smug, liberal know-nothings, sublimely confident of the truth of their ill-informed prejudices. Responding to this slander is, as a point of personal privilege alone, a worthwhile endeavor."

Goldberg presents evidence for close links between progressivism and fascism. "Progressivism was a sister movement of fascism, and today's liberalism is the daughter of Progressivism."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nietzsche’s “God is Dead” Proclamation and The Irrational Man

Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics
Henry B. Veatch

“God is Dead” is Nietzsche’s widely quoted proclamation.

According to Henry B. Veatch, Friedrich Nietzsche’s proclamation is not an allusion to the death of the religious God. Nietzsche is making a much broader point— he is asserting that in the universe there is no room for an objectively grounded moral order to exist.

In other words, Nietzsche holds that there is no basis or justification for moral principles in reality—God is dead stands for the idea that morality is dead.

Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch is dedicated to explaining the Aristotelian moral theory. But in this article I am focussing only on the last two chapters, Chapter 7 and 8, in which Veatch has brought out the contrast between the Aristotelian ethics of the rational man, and the utilitarian and existentialist ethics of the irrational man.These two chapters highlight how the utilitarians and the existentialists use Nietzsche’s ethical skepticism for developing their philosophy.

Veatch rejects the ethical idea that is present in Nietzsche’s “God is dead” proclamation. He says that as per Aristotelian theory God isn't dead because human nature involves a moral order, which human beings must recognize to act upon. He presents the grist of Nietzsche’s ethical position by quoting a few lines from Nietzsche’s Will To Power:
And “if the belief in God and in an essentially moral ordering of things is no longer tenable,” why not accept the consequence, viz., “the belief in the absolute immorality of nature and the utter purposelessness and meaninglessness of our psychologically necessary human impulses and affections”?
Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarian principle that moral values must mainly focus on promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number has won a number of adherents in modern day society because it allows people to avoid the trouble of worrying about whether nature is amoral, or whether our psychologically determined feelings and impulses have any meaning.

But the utilitarians find it difficult to show why anyone must have the obligation to think about others. This excerpt highlights the key problem with utilitarian altruism:
If one begins by basing one’s ethics on straightforward hedonistic principles, asserting that pleasure is the only thing of any value in life and recommending that the moral agent simply do as he pleases, it is patently difficult to make the transition from such a starting point to the further assertion that this same moral agent ought to concern himself not merely with his own pleasure, but equally with the pleasure of others.   
When Veatch contrasts utilitarian altruism with Aristotelian ethics he proves that the latter does not begin with thinking of others, it begins with oneself. He explains the selfish fundamentals of Aristotelian ethics with these words:
The reason is that every human being faces the task of learning how to live, how to be a human being, just as he has to learn how to walk or to talk. No one can be truly human, can live and act as a rational man, without first going through the difficult and often painful business of acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues, and then, having acquired them, actually exerting them in the concrete, but tricky, business of living. 
The existentialists take a leaf out of Nietzsche’s God is dead proclamation when they posit that as existence is ugly, meaningless, and absurd, it is not possible for us to morally judge any action. This is how Veatch contrasts the Aristotelian ethics of the rational man with the existentialist ethics of the irrational man:
Aristotle: to be human (i.e., to become subjective) is to act and to choose, but always in the light of knowledge and understanding. 
The existentialists: to become subjective (i.e., to be truly human) is to act and to choose, but in the absence of knowledge and understanding. 
Veatch further explains:
Since existentialists assume that God is dead, the authentic exercise of will must be in the very face of this fact, in the consciousness that there is no God, no objective order of values, no ground or basis of ethics in the older sense at all. Indeed, to make choices and decisions as if there were a God and as if one’s choices could therefore be intelligent and rational—this could only be evidence of bad faith, because there is no God and accordingly there can be no such thing as a rational man or an examined life. 
Related:

Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch

Can Socrates Flourish Without Philosophizing?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Life is a Tale; Life is Hard Choices

Hard Choices
Hillary Clinton

In Hard Choices Hillary Clinton reminds the readers that she has made a number of hard choices in her illustrious career as a public servant. Here's an excerpt:

"When I chose to leave a career as a young lawyer in Washington to move to Arkansas to marry Bill and start a family, my friends asked, “Are you out of your mind?” I heard similar questions when I took on health care reform as First Lady, ran for office myself, and accepted President Barack Obama’s offer to represent our country as Secretary of State."

Mrs. Clinton forcefully asserts that the choices that she has made were not always the easy or the self-beneficial ones. Most of her choices entailed self-sacrifice as she gave up lucrative career for public service. The narrative is full of cloying stories about family, relationships, and friendship to prove that she is very likeable, and just like ordinary folks.

Overall, Hard Choices is quite boring and dreary, and there is nothing authentic about it. It makes me think of this quote from William Shakespeare’s immortal play Macbeth:

[Life] is a tale,
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Standing in Queues was a Daily Ritual for Soviet Citizens


People line up to buy wine in Anadyr, Chukotka (former Soviet Union). 1985