Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Monticello Statement

First, let's be clear what Objectivism is NOT. We are not conservatives. We are Radicals for Capitalism.

It has come to my attention that Conservative Leaders from across America intend to unveil "The Mount Vernon Statement" on the eve of the Conservative CPAC conference. That statement is intended to be a declaration of principle for Conservatives going forward, and is an outreach request to Tea Party Members to support Conservatives in the 2010 Congressional Elections.

Quoting Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, "There is something here for everyone". And indeed there is. This one page document is to be a grab bag of political expediency: populism mixed with religion mixed with national security issues mixed with corporatism mixed with a few rare bits of principled fiscal sanity.

But nowhere in this document will you find a path to reclaiming the true principles which created this nation. You will find lip service, of course, but Conservatism has been the ideology of the right for
decades. It has never defeated the left. Statism has increased. We slide leftward. Why would anyone think that NOW this movement has the answers?

American principles are actually anathema to a large swath of Conservative leaders, who try to base Individual Rights
on ideas diametrically opposed to them.

Let me be clear. Conservatism as an Ideology is
incompatible with our founding principles. For all of their talk about the founders and their ideals, Conservatives do not possess a coherent foundation from which to defend freedom. It is not their fault. They mean well. But have you noticed they are always astonished when their fine words and jingoism bring nothing but an increase in state power? Have they EVER truly rolled back government?

Have you ever wondered why? Let me tell you.

"The priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot."
-- Thomas Jefferson

Out of respect to Mister Thomas Jefferson, I would like to call this
"The Monticello Statement". I beg every lover of liberty to give me a moment of their time and to think through these issues deeply.

The Founding Fathers were radicals. Individualists. They were descendants of men who fled from the two greatest sources of tyranny in the Old World: both the secular tyranny of an unfettered king,
and the sacred tyranny of religions in possession of state power. The Constitution they built ensured that no one could destroy the freedoms of the individual, which they identified as the Rights of Man.

These rights were not inventions of religion, but discoveries of reason.

No religious order, creed or system ever gave rise to the idea of individual rights. They were identified by Secular Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were all in
profound disagreement with the idea of individual freedom. Religious tyranny was the norm for man before the 18th Century. A thousand year "Dark Age" had been the prior result of religious rule by the Catholic Church. The United States is in no way founded on some previously unknown religious teachings. Quite the opposite.

The American Founding involved the discovery of
new principles. The Founders wereinnovators. And their achievement is not properly understood today.

There were two views of the origin of rights even at the founding. Some men such as Jefferson or Paine held that rights were
preconditions of human existence, that they were required for man by virtue of his nature as a rational living being. They saw rights as preconditions of living -- as self-evident facts to be identified and then respected.

Other, more religious, Founders accepted rights as
a gift from the Divine. They saw rights as something "extra" granted by heaven, and so retroactively read "rights" into the teachings of their faith as if the discovery were not something radical and new, but as if it were part of a long tradition. Those were the first "Conservatives".

Together, these two strands of thought were joined in Jefferson's artful phraseology: "The Laws of Nature
and of Nature's God", and in his use of the non-denominational "Creator" (unusual in a time when the usual language would read "Endowed by our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God" etc.)

These two strands of thought have always been with us. But these strands are inherently in conflict, even though they came together temporarily to create our nation. Rights can either be justified in reason OR they must be taken on faith.

I hold that to base one's argument for rights
only on faith is a concession that reason is on the side of freedom's enemies. Conservatives seem to agree and are rushing to embrace the opposite of reason, a righteously blinkered anti-intellectualism.

Conservatism breaks the balance between faith and reason established at our founding and embraces the religious foundation of rights as the only argument. Conservatism does not speak of nature, of reason, of facts. It doesn't deal in philosophical proof, only in cultural intimidation and assertions. Conservatism has become anti-intellectual, contemptuous of thinking people, proud of how little it questions, quick to lionize the least informed as somehow "more real" than intellectuals. Conservatism, in its rejection of reason, has become a blind inert thing content to name call and demonize. It has become expert at criticizing liberals, and completely impotent at offering its own solutions. It has allowed the Progressive and Statist left to overrun the country by increments, by
accepting and practicing the very same fundamental ideas as the left. In it's fervor to denounce the tyranny of unfettered state power in support of leftist ideology, it has turned a blind eye to the potential tyranny created by placing that same power in service to old-time religion.

Conservatives preach that limited government is necessary not because men are noble enough to be trusted with self-government, but because men are too sinful to be trusted with dictatorial power. They preach liberty while inserting the state into the most intimate and personal arenas of American life: the bedroom, the deathbed, and the doctor's office. They preach morals while wallowing in drug, sex and corruption scandals. The odor of hypocrisy permeates the Conservative Movement.

What is it to be "Conservative"? It is to retain the status quo. It is to concede implicitly that Progressivism is the future, that Socialism makes sense, that Communism is a moral ideal, yet to act as foot-dragger in the name of "Tradition" or "The Past", or because one has the "wisdom" to see that man is too evil to be trusted with that much power.

At the root of conservatism is a contradiction: a religious morality of
self-sacrifice is offered as a justification for Jefferson's "Right to the Pursuit of Happiness"!

ethical revolution of the founders has been abandoned.

Please understand this point.

Liberals preach the sacrifice of the strong to the weak in the same manner as do the religious prophets, and Conservatives agree
in principle, differing only in degree. They cannot stand up for the "selfishness" of capitalism without abandoning their ethics of self-sacrifice. They allow liberals to preach that the good is service to others, and merely bicker over to what degree the morally obligatory is to be forced versus volunteered. But they do not object to the moral view of man as an object of sacrifice to the needs of others. They can't. They have to straddle multiple contradictions -- preach the morality of Jesus while hypocritically cutting help to the old, infirm, and weak; Preach capitalism while extolling the lilies of the field; Push for tax reductions while rich men struggle to reach heaven like camels through the eyes of a needle.

They must agree with liberals on the moral questions, while asking for policies that are immoral by their own standards. Which side is more consistent and convincing?

To accept the morality of self-sacrifice to others is a complete capitulation to the communal view of society and is what ultimately has destroyed our individualist system. THAT is the ultimate cause of the slide leftward. Conservatives embrace religious ethics, which do not respect (or allow) rational self-interest or Individualism. You cannot preach self-sacrifice and capitalism. The attempt to do so has destroyed our system through default. No one defends man's
moral right to pursue his own rational self-interest, and you cannot defend a political right if you hold it simultaneously as morally evil.

This fundamental contradiction must be addressed if we wish to save the Republic.

Look at the Mount Vernon Statement's language:
"[Constitutional conservatism] recognizes man’s self-interest
but also his capacity for virtue." (emphasis mine)

Can you see the contradiction here? The implication is that
self-interest and virtue are mutually incompatible and opposed. On that foundation, none of man's selfish, personal rights (to his own liberty, life, property, thoughts etc) can be defended politically.

Conservatives claim that their "Mount Vernon Statement" is a "Line in the Sand" to Progressivism. And that is
all that Conservatism has ever offered - lines in sand, to be swept away by the first liberal on fire with an inspiring vision of communal glory.

Enough writing in sand!

Conservatism has done nothing but discredit capitalism and to aid and abet Progressivism for the last half century. What is needed today is a rebirth of that other, neglected, thread of the Founder's thought: Reason and the Rights of Man. We need to reclaim our
rational understanding of Americanism and restore the intellectual foundation for freedom, particularly the ethical foundation ofenlightened self-interest.

Let us raise secular reason to its rightful place again. Let us agree that in the public square we shall use arguments, not assertions. Let us return religion to its rightful place as a
personal matter that pertains to one's own spirit and its relationship with the universe, which is subjective and not to be enforced by laws and regulations. Let each man tend his own soul, just as we expect him to tend his own business.

Let us fight for man's right to the pursuit of happiness in THIS life, NOW, and leave the next life to the theologians.

It has come time to abandon the ideology of "Conservatism" and embrace something even more radical: Individual Liberty in all its forms. There should be no more divisions such as "Social Conservatives" or "Economic Conservatives" etc, but rather one unified movement. It is time, finally, to break the false dichotomy of "materialism" vs "spiritualism" that split our country apart and to embrace Reason and Individual Rights.

It is time for the rise of the Capitalist Intellectual.

Please give this issue some thought. Here is a statement of principles that I hope we can unite around.

I invite every Tea Party member to investigate these alternate ideas by visiting the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

Time is running out. Reason demands that we change, even if it requires we let go our preconceptions. Conservatism has failed to secure our liberties, not because it has never been tried, but because it is a false ideology.

It is time to forge a new path.

Richard Gleaves

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  1. Agreed! And I add my voice and support to the statements above as another Radical for Liberty.
    C. Jeffery Small

  2. I like that list of virtues. I saw one which included traditional values and strong national defense.