Skip to comments.Tea Party Should Shrug Off Atlas
Posted on 03/09/2010 4:51:09 AM PST by Walter Scott Hudson
Tea Partiers should be wary of the ideology underlying a novel popular within the movement. Signs reading Who is John Galt? became a common sight at rallies last year. They reference Atlas Shrugged, a novel by Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, which is considered an affirmation of individual rights and the free market. However, according to a central advocate of Rands worldview, there is a deeper message within the novel which the Tea Party must embrace if it hopes to affect libertarian change.
On February 23rd, in a lecture hall at the University of Minnesota, Rand advocate Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard and author of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, delivered a presentation entitled Capitalism: The Only Moral Social System. Biddle argued capitalism is the only system which recognizes the requirements for human life. Those requirements, according to the Objectivist philosophy Biddle advocates, are productivity and rational thought.
To illustrate this, Biddle offered the hypothetical situation of a man deserted on a remote island. In order to survive, the castaway would need food, shelter, and clothing. In order to obtain those provisions, the castaway would need to act productively, to take action based on his own judgment to meet his needs. The only thing which could prevent the castaway from acting on his own judgment would be externally applied force, which Biddle represented with a hypothetical brute likewise stranded on the island. If the brute tied the castaway to a tree, or demanded all or part of the castaways production in tribute, the castaway would not be free to act on his own judgment.
To this point, the arguments of Objectivism fit neatly with those prevalent in the Tea Party movement. Both hold the protection of individual rights to be the legitimate role of government. However, Biddle claimed this similarity is not enough. Asked during a question and answer session how the Tea Party might effectively advocate for capitalism, Biddle prescribed a shift in morality. The altruism promoted in the Judeo-Christian ethic is antithetical to the egoism inherent to capitalism, Biddle said.
It is crucial to note, by altruism, Biddle does not mean mere charity. By altruism, Biddle means living for the other in a sacrificial manner. Sacrifice for the collective good is the rallying call of the tyrant, Biddle said, citing examples in the rhetoric of Hitler among others. He claimed, as long as Tea Partiers keep going to church on Sunday, their morality will remain in conflict with their political objectives. This sentiment, acknowledged by Biddle as controversial, is indicative of a larger hostility in Objectivism toward religion.
Expounding upon this, a commenter responding to a New Patriot Journal report of the lecture wrote:
Objectivism holds that knowledge is contextual. It is limited to that which can be derived directly or indirectly from the evidence of perceptions. Beyond that, it allows only for the possible and the probable for which there are degrees if some but insufficient evidence. It does not allow notions for which there is no evidence or those that contradict themselves or contradict existing evidence to be regarded as knowledge.
Therein lies the limitation of Objectivism, which it shares with science. Reality is not limited to that which can be physically perceived. To declare otherwise is analogous to a society of blind men precluding the existence of light. The condescending disdain for mysticism, which Objectivism seems to foster in its adherents, seems to preclude the existence of anything which is not already known. This seems as foolhardy as when the religious sometimes deny the obvious in preference of a previously interpreted revelation (i.e. there were no dinosaurs).
It is not true that anything supernatural, such as God, cannot exist because there is no contextual evidence. To the contrary, it would be irrational to assume a Cause of Nature would be itself natural. Revealed knowledge may be outside the scope of Objectivism. But there is no natural law which requires reality to conform to an Objectivist paradigm. To the contrary, nature suggests causal relationships. For every effect, there is a cause. This suggests a Cause of Nature, which would be necessarily supernatural. The Creator could not be part of Creation, and therefore not bound by the laws which govern Creation.
A second point worth considering is derived from John Lockes property acquisition theory, which Biddle evoked as consistent with Objectivism. Locke argued property is created by the infusion of an individuals thought and effort into raw materials. For instance, if a potter takes some clay and forms it into a pot, he owns that pot. This raises a question which Objectivism ignores. If a pot belongs to a potter, to whom does the clay belong? Who created the potter? Objectivism ignores these questions because they require speculation beyond the boundaries of the philosophy. That is to be expected. Math likewise avoids questions beyond the scope of numbers. Yet, again, there is no reason to conclude all which is knowable must be perceived through a single limited discipline. Were a mathematician to claim there is no such thing as beauty because he cannot define it with an equation, he would be rightly regarded as ill.
Objectivism seems to perceive the Judeo-Christian ethic based on its own presumptions rather than the testimony of believers. Why do those among the Tea Party movement who profess religion see no conflict between their religious call to altruism and their civil promotion of liberty and capitalism? The answer is because the matter of whether a man should sacrifice for others is wholly separate from whether he ought to be forced. Indeed, the ultimate value of freedom is the capacity to give meaningfully, to serve whom one chooses.
Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Paine. Patrick Henry...
Whatever helps you sleep better at night.
How about neo-libertarian change? ;-)
"Forced altruism" is just another way of saying theft. And on this issue, I agree strongly with Rand.
If I could find a group of (L)ibertarians that didn’t want to legalize dope, that wanted to protect our nation, that were NOT protectionists, that were pro-life personally and in policy, that stood for getting the government OUT of the marriage business altogether....Well that would be just about the best group of political thinkers I’d ever met. I THINK those people can be found if the GOP would adopt some of the Libertarian policies and if the Libertarian party would tell the potheads and liberals to GTFO. A melding of the two parties could be a force for good. But just a straight Libertarian movement based on what that party has become today? I’d rather not.
But I think drug legalization makes the order clear -- If you legalize first, society is likely to see an enormous burden of people using social services. That expands the budget (not what we want). On the other hand, if you remove the taxpayer funded social services first, then legalize the drugs, there will be no reason for the budget to expand as a consequence.
When possible, move in parallel, when one part needs to go first, make it the "shrink the government" part rather than the "expand my liberties" part.
Will this be the new purity litmus test for tea partiers? If you like some of the ideas of an atheist, you're out?
Really, this is grasping at straws. I realize a lot of Freepers who purport to be Christians don't like Rand, but we're not emulating her life here, we're taking note of the very sensible parts of her philosophy. Capitalism foremost of them all.
Interesting. I can see your point. When gov't takes and spends such a large amount of my personal earnings, and even to the point of spending future earnings this is definitely restricting everyone's liberty.
Obama has taken advantage of our free and open economy and is trying to systematically destroy it! He has to be stopped!
You're perception is incorrect. I am, in fact, responding to an assertion which could underlie such an attempt, not making the attempt. Biddle initiated the claim the Tea Party movement needs to shift its morality from the common Judeo-Christian ethic to an Objectivist ethic. I am quite content to include Objectivists in the fold. It is Biddle's prescription was excludes, not my response.
I appreciate your response, but it’s not a revelation that Objectivism has some differences from the Judeo-Christian religion. Those have been explored in the past, and it certainly does not hurt to continue to do so.
My point is that the interjection of this discussion into the context of the Tea Party is not helpful to the core reasons for the existence and goals of the Tea Party.
If you and I see the immediate need to work together to rescue an accident victim, it’s a very bad time to first start arguing the merits of why my opinion of the college football overtime rules is superior to your assertion that those in the NFL are better. That may be an interesting and relevant discussion, but it threatens the more important goal.
Let’s save the accident victim first.
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