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Category: Philosophy

Mises against anarcho-capitalism

For my record, that Mises was vigorously against Rothbardian anarchism.

  • “A government abdicates if it tolerates any non-governmental agency’s use of violence. If the government forsakes its monopoly of coercion and compulsion, anarchic conditions result.”
    -Ludwig von Mises, Planned Chaos
  • “Liberalism is not anarchism, nor has it anything whatsoever to do with anarchism. The liberal understands quite clearly that without resort to compulsion, the existence of society would be endangered and that behind the rules of conduct whose observance is necessary to assure peaceful human cooperation must stand the threat of force if the whole edifice of society is not to be continually at the mercy of any one of its members. One must be in a position to compel the person who will not respect the lives, health, personal freedom, or private property of others to acquiesce in the rules of life in society. This is the function that the liberal doctrine assigns to the state: the protection of property, liberty, and peace.”
    -Ludwig von Mises (Liberalism)

I’m informed that “Mises wrote against anarchy throughout his life. He thought Rothbard was wrong.”

Just a reminder of two of my notes on this subject:

Rothbard’s foundational error about classical liberalism and his mistaken belief in anarchy

The absurd dreams of libertarian anarchists


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Take it easy. There is no need to pray for an animal before killing it for food. Be the carefree animal that you are.

There was this little debate the other day regarding whether humans should pray before they kill an animal for food.

Well, those who pray before killing an animal are simply ill-educated and deeply confused about the nature of their existence.

it is high time mankind got its basic understandings of its place in the universe right. When we understand who we are, we will be immediately rid of unnecessary emotions and confusions.

We need to know three things:

1) First, man is an animal – just like all other animals. All animals are the result of DNA molecules’ propensity to reproduce. In this reproductive process, a characteristic that advances survival becomes successful; a characteristic that hinders survival goes extinct. We are on this planet purely due to the mechanical laws of DNA and evolution. Mankind’s evolutionary pathway includes development of a powerful brain that helped us survive against far more powerful animals. But that’s all we are: an animal with a smart brain.

2) Second, note that no animal (carnivore) thinks twice about killing another. Its job is to survive. If it needs to eat another creature, it will do so without batting an eyelid. No tiger prays to the heavens before eating a deer. No tiger goes vegetarian. No crocodile prays before attacking a wildebeest. Neither the tiger nor the crocodile falls into any existential crisis. That is because these animals have evolved sophisticated brains but their brains stopped short of developing self-awareness. We don’t see tigers building or worshipping in temples.

3) Third, our self-awareness is also a purely animal function. It is the byproduct of evolution, nothing supernatural. Our brain evolved for smartness, not self-awareness. But smartness of the kind we developed also gave us self-awareness. Now, self-awareness is a two-edged sword: self-awareness can sometimes be harmful to survival. Humans are the only species the members of which (teenagers being overly represented) are known to commit suicide. In a sense, religion is also suicidal and if we don’t overcome this dysfunctional characteristic, our entire species’ DNA can go extinct.

We are SELF-AWARE ANIMALS. Let’s not imagine great things about ourselves, e.g. that we have a soul or that some supernatural power created us. We are not “special”. “God” does not bother whether we win a football match or do well in an exam.

This self-awareness has been the driving force for much philosophy and religion – but also for science. It has led us to a lot of “unnecessary” questions, e.g. who are we? what are we doing here? what is this place? why did it come into existence? what happens if we are bad? should we pray before cutting a chicken’s neck?

I think we should try to answer all these questions, but it is best we stick to what is known: that we are an animal with a brain that accidentally became self-aware during the process of evolution.

We are not “souls”. We are DNA fighting for its survival. We will die but DNA will live on for ever.

And since we do NOT have any “soul”, there is absolutely no requirement to pray before we eat an animal. Go ahead. Go ahead and kill the chicken and eat it. Kill it with the minimal pain you can inflict, but stop making a song and dance about this “incident”. This is no “incident”, merely a part of the relentless journey of DNA on this planet. DNA keeps changing shape, but never dies. The chicken will become you. Chicken DNA may temporarily die, but human DNA will live.


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Ayn Rand was very clear: The murderous Arabs must be condemned and despised. I believe this reflected her views on Islam.

I’ve transcribed two comments from the following video. I have no doubt this represented her view about Islam.

It is a pity she did not clarify her understandings of this poisonous and murderous religion in detail. Even the most cursory analysis of Islam would show, however, that it is bitterly opposed to the most elementary liberty: a religion which has done well for mankind only when its leaders did NOT follow its scriptures.

“If you mean whose side one should be on, Israel or the Arabs, I would certainly say Israel because it’s the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages who have not changed for years and who are racist and who resent Israel because it’s bringing industry and intelligence and modern technology into their stagnation.”

Further, when challenged, she added:

No, I don’t resort to terrorism. I don’t go around murdering my opponents, innocent women and children. That is what I have against the Arabs. That takes the conflict out of the sphere of civilised conflict and makes it murderous. And anyone –  private citizens – who resorts to force is a monster, and that’s what makes me condemn and despise them.

Separately, she said:

The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are.

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Ayn Rand’s thought has a fundamental shortcoming; and a response to Alex Tabarrok’s question

This is going to be (hopefully) the last of my series of four posts on Ayn Rand. [The other three: [Diana Hsieh, a leading Ayn Rand promoter, states that bribery is 100 per cent “moral”I’m downgrading Ayn Rand; her active promotion of bribery is a major blot on her philosophyDid Ayn Rand support bribery? The heros in her novels sure went about bribing everyone in sight.]

In this post I’ll identify a fundamental failure of Ayn Rand’s thought. And respond to Alex Tabarrok’s question here.

First, Alex’s question:

The question that needs to be addressed is how can one live honestly in a corrupt society? I think it’s important first to address this question conceptually without getting into specific people. It’s a difficult question and I don’t think the answer is obvious. If you want to build a factory but can’t get a permit if you don’t pay a bribe what do you do? If your competitors are in bed with the government what do you do?

Implicit in this question (and his blog post) is Alex’s answer. Which the same as the answer that Diana Hsieh, a major leader in Ayn Rand thought, gave here.

In other words, Alex is straining the leash for me to say: “Yes, you are right; Ambani had no choice but to bribe every politician in sight. I’m sorry I objected to your promotion of Ambani. I now agree that it is a good thing”. Alex clearly believes that corruption is moral. Ayn Rand’s corrupt heros are his role models.

Now, let me start with my 2012 analysis of Ayn Rand’s work: Ayn Rand would have sharply rebuked Kaushik Basu for his dehumanising corruption proposal.

I cited the following passage from Rand:

Man’s survival … does not mean a momentary or a merely physical survival. It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a mindless brute, waiting for another brute to crush his skull. It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a crawling aggregate of muscles who is willing to accept any terms, obey any thug and surrender any values, for the sake of what is known as “survival at any price,” which may or may not last a week or a year. “Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice. [Virtue of Selfishness, p.24]

I wrote in 2012: This section applies to bribe GIVERS – their momentary survival, their surrender to thugs, their surrender of values, their search of “survival at any price” is BEYOND deplorable. It is petty, it is worm-like. It is not human.

And Rand writes: “man must pursue values in order to remain alive”.

So now, what does the businessman who has received a demand for a bribe in order to get a permit for a factory do? How does he pursue values in order to remain alive?

Perhaps the best answer we can get in this case is from the actions of JRD Tata.

JRD Tata’s airline, Air India, was stolen from him by Nehru. Nehru stood for everything that Tata opposed. Yet the only “corruption” Tata did was to contribute funds for Nehru’s Congress party.

But Tata also contributed significant (an equivalent amount) of funds for India’s only liberal party at that time: Swatantra party.

The Tatas never bribed anyone (nor begged anyone – till Ratan Tata, the crony capitalist came on the scene).

Instead, JRD – a real hero for liberty – engaged in political action by supporting liberty.

I trust you get the point, Alex.


It is now clear that Ayn Rand’s political theory was incomplete at a fundamental level, making it barely usable. She clearly was FAR BEHIND classical liberals like Locke, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Macaulay, even Mill.

These and many other liberals were distinguished by one key quality: they believed that the only way to fight a bad system was to actively engage in political action to change the laws.

These people never advocated breaking the law just because one disagrees with it.

By all means have civil disobedience – which Gandhi mastered. But do that openly, publicly, with a goal of changing the law. Never on the sly.

These people never advocated bribing corrupt bureaucrats.

Now, there may well be some extremely exceptional cases, when – for instance – the only way to have a hope of political reform is to bribe some rotten person on the way. But there can’t be any bribery for PERSONAL gain. In Rand’s novels, the heros indulge in briber for personal gain.

So, what Rand should have done was to advocate for POLITICAL ACTION – through the democratic process – to change the laws.

Instead, she advocated bribery.

Sorry, she’s fallen way to the bottom – or nearly to the bottom – of the pile of promoters of liberty.

And to suggest that just because she promoted bribery, that scoundrels like Ambani are now to be elevated to the level of heros, is simply intolerable, unacceptable.

Sorry, Alex, I disagree comprehensively with your support for large scale corruption in India.

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I’m downgrading Ayn Rand; her active promotion of bribery is a major blot on her philosophy

It has been well over 30 years, nearly 35 years now since I read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead, at around the age of 16. Among hundreds of other books and novels at that time.

Call me unprepared to analyse authors critically at that stage, but for whatever reason, I did not take away the impression that Ayn Rand was promoting corruption.

However, it turns out that I was wrong.

I was surprised by Alex Tabarrok’s review on Marginal Revolution of a movie, “Guru”. Apparently this movie, based in part on Ayn Rand’s work, is “the most important free market movie ever made?” [link here]

Then I learnt that this movie was also loosely based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani – the implication being that Ambani was a “hero” who promoted liberty in India.

This was just too much to stomach.

So I wrote a comment on Marginal Revolution and also on FB.

Before I criticise Ayn Rand’s work, I spent some time to examine the evidence.

It is true: Ayn Rand’s heros DO engage pretty actively in bribery and corruption.

I was told by a FB friend that “Her characters – in their unique, specific circumstances – considered it morally acceptable to indulge in bribery in order to get the job done on time.” – so there was some potential for obfuscation here, on the ground that this was literature.

But I was not sure. I KNOW this is how many “libertarians” think. I’ve heard this from the horse’s mouth – from an Indian libertarian who won the Bastiat prize. I have also seen this – breaking the law AND justifying it – from another “famous” Indian “liberal” who runs a major institute.

So I explored a bit further and hit jackpot. One of Ayn Rand’s major proponents today, Diana Hsieh, is absolutely unambiguous about this. I’ve downloaded her podcast and kept a spare copy on my server, just in case she decides this is too damning and removes it. [My copy here]

This confirms that Rand followers don’t just think of Rand’s characters as interesting but flawed people, but as ROLE MODELS.

No wonder economists like Alex Tabarrok are busy promoting severely corrupt CRONY CAPITALISTS like Dhirubhai Ambani.

Ayn Rand has set in place the active promotion of corruption.

I’m downgrading Ayn Rand as a liberal thinker since she was intending to bring self-seeking corruption into society, not promoting liberty WITH ACCOUNTABILITY.

She is still an important thinker, but she failed very significantly.

What was her key failure? I’ll discuss that in the next blog post – and also respond a question that Alex had raised.

A few years ago someone had said a similar thing about Ayn Rand and I had conducted some analysis to disprove the idea that Ayn Rand supported bribery. See my post: Ayn Rand would have sharply rebuked Kaushik Basu for his dehumanising corruption proposal.

Turns out I was wrong – or at least that Ayn Rand’s “heroes” were not meant to be role models.

I’ll come to this separately.


Copy of my FB post and comments received [here]


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