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Category: Philosophy

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.

NOW FOR AYN RAND’S MAJOR THEORETICAL SHORTCOMING

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.

FOR THE RECORD

Copy of my FB post and comments received [here]

 

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Diana Hsieh, a leading Ayn Rand promoter, states that bribery is 100 per cent “moral”

I’m examining Ayn Rand’s ethics in some detail. [See this]

I came across this: [Source] – do listen to the short podcast!

ayn-rand-bribery

This is a clincher.

Apparently, the head honchos of the Ayn Rand movement today are: Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brooke and Diana Hsieh [Source]

I asked Yaron Brooke to clarify my discovery that Ayn Rand’s heros are active participants in corruption. He has not responded. It is nearly one day.

But it is now fair to conclude that not just Ayn Rand justified bribery on rather flimsy pretexts, but her followers are active supporters of corruption.

To them, BRIBERY IS MORAL!!

This means that regardless of what Ayn Rand intended when she wrote Atlas Shrugged, her followers have drawn that conclusion that everything the “heroes” did was good/ moral.

No wonder lesser mortals like Alex Tabarrok – who perhaps follows the followers – are promoting LARGE SCALE CORRUPTION IN INDIA. I’m disappointed at all this, from people who should have known better.

keywords

Objectivism, bribery is moral

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It is impossible to know what “libertarian” stands for. Some are communists, others anarchists. Others corrupt.

Fred Foldvary questioned my criticism of the “libertarians”. I had said: “‘Libertarians’ are the most confused bunch of people I’ve come across.”

Fred wrote: “An assertion and personal opinion without warrants.”

MY RESPONSE

Fred, I do have reasons. In brief:

1) The term is ill-defined. It seems amenable to self-definition, and all sorts of people call themselves libertarian. This makes it impossible to know what it is. There was a standard term, “liberal”, which had its own history and meaning. For some reason, American liberals lost the use of their own term to socialist/progressives, and have invented a new term which can mean anything and everything.

2) There are good bunch of “libertarians” who oppose the state from first principles. To them, all tax is theft, and anarchy is the only way out.

3) Then there are many “libertarians” who have no interest in democratic system and changing the laws or governance systems. They are content with breaking the laws (on the sly), aka the “hero” praised today on Marginal Revolution (http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/05/guru.html). It appears Ayn Rand was an active promoter of such corruption. I’m going to examine this further in the coming days.

4) We have “libertarians” who – as part of their proclivity towards anarchy – believe in open migration. In contrast, the classical liberal Gary Becker would charge migrants a fee that would compensate the country into which the migration is taking place, for rule of law and other (e.g. infrastructure) costs.

5) And we have “libertarians” who promote basic income – an entirely communist idea, which has no regard to who produced the money that is being forcibly transferred to everyone. It destroys all work incentives – but that’s a minor effect: the main issue is the violence that underpins the concept.

When I started this group I was in two minds about using the word “libertarian” in the title. I used it because there are some libertarians who are actually classical liberal.

The classical liberal promotes freedom at every stage, without forgetting the important role of government in ensuring the rule of law. And since the government requires direction, the classical liberal is always a keen participant in the democratic process – his focus is on changing laws to make them consistent with liberty; not to break the laws on the sly.

I would prefer that people assert clearly whether they are liberal (in the classical, i.e. negative liberty) sense and not call themselves “libertarian”, which seems to mean anything and everything, and has no foundations that go back hundreds of years.

Hopefully this demonstrates that this personal opinion is fully warranted. There’s a lot more I can say, but this sketches out key issues with the term.

ADDENDUM

Even the Mises Institute is flummoxed at what libertarianism means:

“I recently was invited to speak at the annual convention of the Texas Libertarian Party, and was struck by how libertarians cling to an outdated and counterproductive conception of the political landscape. In particular, many libertarians remain wedded to a misguided understanding of what the threat to liberty really is, where it comes from, and thus how we ought to fight against it.” [Source]

 

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