Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fundamental Questions - PART ONE


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My entry for today is on the subject of the things I believe and why I believe them. I'd like to post this as as statement of the context I'm working within. This is a philosophic post, but that doesn't mean it's not open to reason and debate -- I hope this can start some discussion. This is a summary of the Objectivist position with links to illustrative passages from Rand's fiction and non-fiction.





1) The basics -- these concepts have to be accepted as they are axiomatic (Definition of Axioms) and underlie any act of thought including having a conversation. 

  • I exist. (You exist. We exist.) I (you/we) possess consciousness
  • The universe which we perceive is real, and our senses are valid.
  • Contradictions do not exist in reality and are only possible in human thought
  • Logic, to be true, must be non-contradictory, and to reach a contradiction indicates an error in thinking.
**If you do not accept any of these things, there's no point in trying to have a conversation.** 


2) Fundamentals -- truths that are non-axiomatic    

  • Existence is primary, my consciousness perceives and does not create reality. We must respect the primacy of existence
  • Things exist whether I observe them or think of them -- my mind does not control reality.
  • Facts are facts. Wishing does not change reality. My emotions are responses to facts, not a means of knowledge. Tears don't change reality.
  • Everything that exists is an entity of a specific nature with specific attributes- every entity acts in accordance with its nature according to causality.
**If you disagree with these, we can discuss and I can prove you wrong, by asking you to demonstrate the ability of your mind, tears or wishes to change physical nature or by asking you to demonstrate an entity that does not act in accordance with its nature**


1) What is our nature?       Ayn Rand on Man
  • Human beings are conceptual entities, able to form abstract concepts by observing reality. We encode our observations in symbol and in spoken language and word. Our concepts, to be considered true, must correspond to reality.
  • We are physical beings that are born, change and that cease to exist upon death. If anyone has evidence of an afterlife, reincarnation, past lives, ghosts, etc, please provide it with the understanding that these concepts are as open to examination as any others.
  • We are individual (literally "Non-dividable"). If you saw one of us in half, you do not have two people, and you do not have one person anymore only a corpse.
  • We are not collective: All groups of individuals are merely figures of speech -- thirty human beings are simply thirty individual human beings: a million people who share skin color are not a monolithic 'race' they are only a million people with one shared characteristic out of many. They would not think with a collective brain or digest with a collective stomach. All beings are individuals and any characteristic such as color, ethnicity, national origin, sexuality, system of belief is secondary to that fact.
  • Individuals possess free will, which amounts to the ability to focus the mind and act on one's judgement or to unfocus, drift, and evade both reality and the necessity of action.
**If you disagree with the first, please demonstrate that we are not conceptual without using concepts. If you disagree with the second, please demonstrate some non-physical soul, explain what a soul consists of, or demonstrate the existence of anything else that is similarly non-matter or non-energy. If we are not individuals and are instead some sort of collective, please prove it by storing calories on your body when I eat cookies. If you have no freedom of will, there is no point to the discussion as you have already made your mind up and nothing I say will make a difference to you. I would say go away, but you have no freedom of action either.**

Any disagreements so far?

I’d like to now turn to morality, which is an urgent human need but often misunderstood. What is morality? Where does it come from? On what concepts does it depend?The roots of morality involve the nature of human life and the necessity of choices. We established above that man is a physical being that lives and dies, that man has the faculty of free will, and that man is a conceptual being, not a being with automatic knowledge but a creature that must observe and learn. We also established that he is an individual.

1) What is morality and why do we need it?

  • The fundamental alternative of all living beings is life or death.
  • All life requires a specific course of action i.e. the pursuit of values (nourishment, shelter, etc)
  • Man is a living being, but unlike a plant or animal he has free will.
  • Man, therefore, must choose to value and sustain his own life. He must discover and pursue the values that his life actually requires. He is free to choose his own destruction, or free to choose to pursue life to the fullest. For a rational being to do either consistently requires a code of values by which to gauge his actions and make further choices.
  • A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.


***To refute this, please explain what else necessitates morality except the conditional nature of life (Would an indestructible robot need to be moral?) If your moral code comes from religion, why must morality be accepted on faith? Is there no rational case to be made for your moral beliefs? If morality is all about one’s relations with others, does it have nothing to say about man’s life when alone? ***
  • To pursue life, is to pursue life as that which you are.
  • In order to properly identify a code of values, Man must understand his own nature.
  • Man is a thinking, conceptual being and his mind is his basic tool of survival.
  • Therefore, all that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good, that which destroys it is the evil.

2) Every man is the proper beneficiary of his own moral action.

Just as it is proper for a plant to seek the sun, or for an animal to pursue a meal, it is proper for man to pursue his own chosen values, to achieve them, to thrive and enjoy his life. The purpose of life is to live it. The reward of life is to enjoy it.
***Is animal subsistence is a proper standard? Can we devise a code of values for man that ignores his defining characteristic: his rationality? This is technically a morality of “enlightened selfishness”, but what is eating, breathing, laughing etc for if not the continuance and enjoyment of your OWN life?***



This concept of morality erases the distinction between “right and wrong” and “true or false”- if your purpose is to live life successfully, and reason demonstrates that a course of action is proper to meet this end, then the moral choice is to choose that which furthers your life and values: i.e., to choose life over death, gain over loss, production over consumption, heath over disease, success over failure, food over poison, joy over suffering. Far from being the kind of self-indulgent "selfishness" it's usually portrayed as, this is the most difficult and profoundly heroic of all tasks -- discovering your personal potential and striving for it, achieving your joy, creating your own vision of the highest possible.


As an example of this philosophy in action, imagine the following. A man starts out his life as a healthy, active being. He chooses irrational behavior: smoking, eating junk, drinking, heroin, inactivity and sloth. His arteries clog, his body deforms, he inches ever closer to physical failure and death. This is not selfish behavior, rather it is self-destructive and everyone recognizes it as such, yes? Now, imagine the same man choosing a more rational course of action: he accepts the facts of existence, the objectivity of his own nature, and the requirements of his proper physical function. He chooses to quit smoking, eat healthy foods, put the bottle down, kick his heroin habit, start working out. His body becomes stronger, he gains energy and vigor, he becomes the picture of health and vitality. He has accomplished by will effort and self-discipline the hardest, most demanding transformation of his life- a transformation requiring ruthless severity and long-range thought. And he has succeeded. Yet, by the standards of most moral codes, such a man is morally neutral -- he has merely acted in his self interest. No applause, please -- that is only for the man who sacrifices his self interest to others, yes? The achievement of health and life leaves the Christian and collectivist moralizers cold -- it has no moral significance whatsoever. Why?


Imagine a man who sets out to achieve a career- who chooses late hours over going to bed early, who puts ten times more effort and ingenuity into his work then is required to just ‘get by’, who wrings from his own mind every ounce of clarity, rationality and competence he can muster- and who achieves his dreams spectacularly. He watches the opening night of his first play, or the ribbon cutting at his first factory, or the first wheat of his harvest, and knows he has done something good, grand, heroic. Yet, most moral codes ignore this man too- he’s just acting in his self-interest. He will only be ‘moral’ in their eyes when his play brings joy to others, or when his factory lifts their burdens, or when his wheat fills their stomachs not his own. Why?


I’ll talk about the various moral codes and their implications in Part Two. But I’d like to leave you with one more example to chew on. 


Imagine a man who has health and an active mind. He is not the victim of any outside force such as a totalitarian government, etc. He chooses to evade effort, to never think about anything difficult, to ‘go along’ with others, to coast, to do what ‘feels right’. He laughs at schoolwork, envies kids who do better, becomes violent, indulges his taste for alcohol or drugs, makes irresponsible sexual choices, runs up debts, refuses to pay bills, loses his home, his friends, and ultimately cannot support his own life without outside assistance and charity. What do the traditional moral codes say about this man? Why, he is the needy and the suffering for whom the two men described above must sacrifice if they wish to be considered moral. That he has made himself needy is immaterial -- the onus of traditional codes is for others to support him -- not on him to become self supportive.


Then imagine that this man goes up into the mountains and lives in a cave. He has no material possessions left, no ambitions, no personal dreams or desires. He turns off his mind, meditates, and tries to ‘join with the universe’ -- i.e to erase himself from existence by an act of will. What is he then, by the traditional codes? Why, a 
saint.

If you destroy yourself a little -- you're a bum. If you destroy yourself a lot -- you're a saint.
Does this seem right?

I submit to you that the traditional moral codes are inversions of the code of life- they are moralities of death and must be abandoned for mankind to survive and move forward.



-Richard Gleaves

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Parable #2: "The Empty Throne"

Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Vespucci, the people rose as one to defeat their king. King Erba had been an unpopular and ineffective King. Like most Kings, he had ascended to the throne by riding the robes of his father. But the people found that genetics do not bestow wisdom.

After several unfortunate wars with neighboring kingdoms, destructive mismanagement of the treasury, and years of embarrassing behavior, King Erba was finally toppled from power. He returned to his villa in southern Vespucci to live in quiet (though opulent) retirement. The people thanked heaven that the King was gone and that he had not succeeded in destroying the kingdom. Fortunately for Vespucci the powers of the king, while great, were not without bounds.

But the throne was now empty.

After a year of struggles, in which many men and women sought to become the new king, the people rose and proclaimed Giacomo Benedetto king of all Vespucci. Benedetto was as unlike Erba as can be imagined. Sun-kissed and handsome, wise and benevolent, a great orator and a leader of men. Under his benevolent rule the wounds suffered under King Erba might be healed. But so great were these wounds that Benedetto himself despaired that he would ever be able to repair things.

The people decided that Benedetto could be trusted with wider powers. The crisis justified the change. Benedetto was given total control over the treasury, over the lives of all citizens. He was given control over their futures, over their children's care. Benedetto the benevolent could be trusted with all details of life -- from the diameter of a wagon wheel to the amount of salt in a stew -- power to command legions of knights, catapults, battering rams, hot oil and sharp steel. Power to override any objections, power to overturn the law, power over breath, heartbeat, sinew and thought.

And Vespucci prospered. Wise Benedetto fixed everything. A generation lived in peace and harmony. A statue was erected in his honor in the center of the capital -- it stood as a shining beacon -- a heroic golden hero dazzling in the sun.

Then Benedetto grew old, and went home.

And the throne was empty.

After a struggle, the young son of King Erba gained power. A resentful and angry young man, he had worked for years to avenge the overthrow of his father. He hated the people of Vespucci with all his heart, but hid his motives behind a fixed smile and an easy charm. He took the throne and all the powers which had been granted it. He took control over every facet of life, over every breath and over every mind.

And Vespucci was destroyed, for who could withstand the unchecked might of the king?

Years later, an old man walked through the crumbled remains of what had been the capital. He brushed past ragged beggars, the sick, the wounded, the ignorant and maimed populace. He walked to the statue of Benedetto that still remained on its pedestal in the central square. Moss grew on it now, and the gilt had peeled away.

"Power does not accumulate to the King," the old man thought, "it accumulates to the throne -- and when the King leaves, the throne is empty..."

And the old man hung his head in shame.


-by Richard Gleaves, copyright 2009

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Charity vs. Welfare

I was reading an article on politics and got tired of seeing another writer proclaiming the self-evident need for the government to engage in "charity"-- but does it? When a government makes payment to individuals, is that really "charity"? I have to say no. In, fact, it is the opposite.

When the government helps someone, it is not "charity"; it is "welfare" or "the dole". Charity is voluntary. Welfare is coercive redistribution. Voluntary action and coerced action are opposites -- you cannot use Welfare and Charity interchangeably, since they are actually mortal enemies.

Let me give you an example. If I see that my neighbor is hungry, I have two choices: I can help him or not. If I choose to help him, I engage in charity. What governs my choice? My estimate of his worth and the degree to which I feel his suffering is an injustice. If his house burnt down or someone robbed him, if he had some unfortunate illness, or if the factory that employed him was shut down for its carbon footprint -- if he was a victim of some circumstance not of his own making and was working to get out of it -- I am likely to choose to assist him gladly.

This assistance is not my grudging performance of duty, but my benevolence and love for my fellow men -- which I feel to the degree of their personal virtue and the closeness of our relationship. However, if I see that my neighbor drinks away his paycheck, destroys his property through indifference and negligence, can't hold down a job because he doesn't show up or is incompetent -- if I see that he slept through school, never cracked a book and is generally a no-good jerk -- my choice is likely to let justice take its course and not to stand between him and the consequences of his own actions.

In this way, voluntary individual charity reinforces virtue among citizens.

Even charity must be paid for, and the payment is personal virtue.

You earn charity by deserving it.

Welfare does not consider the character of the recipient. Rather than providing payments to those that only suffer unjustly, welfare provides payment without the requirement of virtue and often to those who do not rate assistance at all. Often, welfare even denies payment to those who show too much productive ability and not enough "need". The less you deserve welfare, the more likely you are to get it. In true Kantian fashion, it dutifully gives values away without payment of any kind. Welfare is the epitome of sacrifice -- and the opposite of justice.

We have implemented a system by which my neighbor demands charity as his right, as his due. He demands not only cash in an emergency but payments year round and lifelong -- from universal pre-K to "free" health care to food stamps to corporate bailouts. Corporate bailouts are a logical consequence of the welfare state; The powers we gave to the government to assist "the poor"  are the same powers that are used for welfare to corporations with political pull. The tax laws instituted to help the American indigents also enable wealth to be taken for the unearned benefit of foreign indigents and friendly dictators alike. We've violated property rights, and so our system has become a game of who can grab the most before he is voted out and replaced with the opposing gang. You can't have corporate welfare without individual welfare. You cannot violate property rights for the poor without also violating them for the strong. Once a principle is violated, anything goes. This is the reason why, in America, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer: they are each subsidized, giving an unfair advantage to the powerful and an incentive towards dependancy to the weak.

But the issue isn't only practical, it's primarily moral.

Government "charity" goes over the heads of the individuals who earn and produce -- it invalidates their judgement about who is deserving and who is not. It FORCES some men to involuntarily sustain the lives of others. It forces me to support and sustain people I don't know and will never know. It is indifferent to my values and contemptuous of my consent. It takes my cash and gives it to some recipient I can never judge. I will never know if I am involuntarily supporting a potential friend or whether my money is being funneled to someone who is standing on street corners preaching the destruction of everything I love.

Welfare is diametrically opposed to the principle of justice, which is why that is the very word the left adopts and distorts; "social justice" is a thing altogether different than true justice. It  is an attempt to get for men by force what they could not get voluntarily. It enables my crooked and lazy neighbor to get from me at the point of a gun the wealth and services I would never give him otherwise. It enables him to go on being crooked and lazy without end, without consequences, without facing moral judgement from the people who are supporting him.

The vaunted "safety net" is not protection from physical harm, it's a protection from moral consequences. It allows a man to have his needs met without accepting responsibility for his own life. It's worse then outright theft; a burglar at least acknowledges that I own my property and that he is engaged in thieving -- he sneaks around, hopes I won't catch him, and grants that the police have the right to capture him, punish him, and return my property to me. But the welfare recipient claims his loot by right -- he's not stealing bread, assisted housing or health care from me directly and so does not acknowledge it as theft. He receives it safely laundered through the magic of having it extorted from me by a third party, the taxman.

He is absolved of considering me at all -- whether that money could buy me an extra meal or my children's education or pay for my funeral -- he doesn't have to care where the money came from or to consider my needs -- only to proclaim his own needs and demand assistance by right. He doesn't have to look me in the eye and ask for help. He doesn't ask my consent at all. He doesn't have to think of where the money came from; whether I worked overtime to earn it, whether it was my inheritance or whether I saved it penny by penny through a lifetime of scrupulously competent labor. The welfare recipient doesn't have to consider me in the slightest -- I am safely offstage, out of sight, out of mind. I am not present to judge him, to question him, to estimate his worth. He takes my money without having to deserve it. He takes my money without even the necessity of having to say "thank you".

That is the whole motivation and result of your government programs: to remove ever more freedom, gratitude, justice, consideration, friendship, judgement, morality, virtue, and reason from this world: to enable lazy men to evade the fact that things in this life are ultimately paid for by work, by virtue, by ambition and thought. To take with guns what justice will not render.

I suggest you rethink the nature of charity and ask yourself whether the government is actually helping people or whether it is corrupting the concept of "charity" and hurrying the destruction of everything good, benevolent and just in this world.


-Richard Gleaves

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My first reading of "Atlas Shrugged"

My friend Michael Robbins gave me a paperback copy of "Atlas Shrugged" at the end of freshman year at SMU -- 22 years ago. I had been reading Sagan and such since I was 12 or so and always arguing against the religious nonsense in North Texas. He thought I'd like it.

I hated the first page.

I disliked the first 50 pages.

I was tolerant of the next 100 pages.

Somewhere around the running of the Galt line I started reading paragraphs out loud to family. By the end of the first week the remnant motor was found, the oil fields were on fire and I was angry at the world and confused about adults and what they were up to -- terrified at what seemed to be the hopelessness of the situation. Shortly after I was sad as a grey pall fell over the characters -- as doom seemed to crowd in and the motors were turning off. In the second week I was dreading turning the next page -- the book seemed a litany of disaster, of collapse -- people were dying, tunnels were collapsing, incompetence ran the world. Dagny and Hank seemed to be doomed last flickers of a dying light. I hated the book again.

Then in week three the light of a sunrise struck the wings of a mysterious fleeing plane, I was thrust into a completely different universe. I started part Three of the book with the feeling of -- as Rand describes Francisco's laugh -- the first sight of spring among glaciers. I was meeting giants. I was meeting heroes. I was in a world that was real, that was possible, that was mine. And I began to UNDERSTAND.

Not just the many inscrutable mysteries that had hounded the plot and the characters to that point. I started to understand why I had been the person I was for as long as I had been. I started to understand years of questioning, arguing -- I started to realize that the thousands of questions I had been asking my entire life were not random scattershot things but my systematic response to an irrational world. I started glimpsing answers to questions I had given up on. Like Quentin Daniels at the blackboard when Galt sweeps the equations away and writes a few symbols -- it was not the answer I was seeking but a whole new realm of potential inquiry i'd never glimpsed.

By the time Dagny stood on a obscure runway watching the cross of that plane disappear back into the darkness of sunset, I felt that she and I were on a journey together that would set the course of a lifetime's thought.

I despaired, became angry, became appalled as the world of the novel became dark again. But i saw the darkness as a necessary prelude to a new beginning.

And then I got to THE SPEECH.

The speech was too long -- too hard -- too much. The author started giving me answers to things I hadn't even questioned yet. Answers to things I didn't even know were problems -- too many answers -- too much information. But what I could grasp of the speech changed me as a man and as a citizen.

By the time I staggered to page 1100, I was worn out. I felt as though I had been taken like Dante to heaven and to Hell -- to Purgatory and Paradise- and then dumped back into life at the end. Like some prophet given a vision out in the desert -- left only with the message and a burning desire to tell people what I knew.

I don't think everybody would have this reaction. My mom didn't. My sister didn't. Most people don't. I think the difference is this: if in ancient times you gave a Mac with photoshop to a merchant in Brittany or Germanica he would be delighted with such a tool to do banners, signs, the occasional illustrated Bible, etc. But if it happened to find someone who was already burning with dissatisfaction, who wanted to change art, who was stymied by having only tempura and oil and stretched canvas with which to express himself... To that man you give the unmatchable gift of a flexible and unparalleled technology with which to become the artist he already longed to be. Objectivism, for me, was the mental technology I had been waiting for to answer the questions I had already spent a lifetime fighting to answer.

For that gift, and for the person I was able to become thanks to it, I will always be thankful to Ayn Rand and her innovative achievements.



-Richard Gleaves
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness


Think of something in your life you would like to improve. What springs to mind? Your physical condition? Your financial situation? Your career? What have you always wanted to achieve? Have you wanted to write a novel? A symphony? Ever dreamt of climbing a mountain or swimming the English channel?

Think of an action you would like to take that would lead you to one of these goals. To get into shape you need to hit the gym. To improve your finances you need to make a plan. To write a novel you will need to learn technical issues such as plot construction or style. To write a symphony you need to learn how to read music. To climb or swim you will need to acquire muscles and stamina.

As a mental exercise, choose a goal and picture some process of getting there.

Now, picture a moral action. Picture yourself 'being a good person'. What, to you, does that entail? Are you helping a beggar in the street? Are you volunteering? Recycling? Taking care of a relative?

I would be willing to place a bet that if you pictured a 'moral action' it was NOT the same action that you had visualized in example #1. I would also bet that when you picture yourself 'being a good person' you pictured yourself interacting with others, while in example #1 you saw yourself alone.

Is it possible to be moral in and of yourself? What is the moral status of an entirely 'selfish' action like self-improvement? This is the question that we must answer first. If achieving our goals is self-serving, if time spent on becoming better is time stolen from the service we owe to others, we will feel perpetually guilty about pursuing our dreams.

We hear it all the time: "I want to exercise but I can't take the time from my work" "I wanted to be a singer but I had a family to support" "My dad wanted me to inherit his business, so I put my own dreams on the back burner". Many people put others before themselves and feel pride in doing so, even when the result is dashed dreams and resentment all around. This may manifest itself in large life-altering ways, such as the man who sacrifices his medical career to help raise a disabled brother. Or it may manifest itself in small things, such as a wife who cannot study for her G.E.D. because she has to get dinner on the table.

The moral codes we learn as children and attempt to live by as adults are antithetical to achievement.

There will always be someone who needs your ingenuity, your hard work, your time and resources more than you do. Even if you are without parents, husband, wife, children or friends, you will still have neighbors who need assistance, strangers in foreign lands who need your help, multitudes around the globe for whom you can sacrifice every desire or dream, to whom you can give away every resource you may ever possess, and for whom you can slave away every moment of your mercifully brief days.

Would it be moral to do so?

Even on the smallest scale, is it truly moral to deny yourself your human potential, to squander the possibility of your own greatness, to renounce your dreams and happiness? Is it moral to squander talent, to put blinders on vision? These are questions we're going to have to answer.

Some might say that the moral justification of self-improvement is so that one may be of better service to others. Let's consider this. Why does a man spend hours in the gym building impressive shoulder muscles? Is it on the off-chance that he will be able to render a service to others, like lifting a truck from on top of an old lady? Does personal pride, health, sexual attractiveness, etc have nothing to do with it? Why does a person spend years studying music, mastering orchestration, texture, timbre, harmony and counterpoint? Does he justify all that effort by hoping that some depressed audience member might hear his symphony, have his mood lifted and therefore avoid suicide? Does a desire to bring into concrete life some inner vision of his own never enter into it?

We're not used to questioning the moral status of these actions. It is not a part of the culture to do so. Why is moral status important? Because morality- our sense of right and wrong and the rules that drive it- is the subconscious agent that provides our emotional fuel.

A man who seriously doubts his moral right to take rational action for his own benefit will always be hindered in his ability to achieve. His confidence will always be low, his drive will always be less, he will question, doubt, and provide himself with excuses to quit. He will be less enthusiastic, have less pride in his outcome, and this will undercut his every choice.

The first step to embracing a different moral code is to realize that morality is not some boring duty to be accepted unenthusiastically, but that it's is a vital tool for achieving and prospering in this life -- if it's the right morality. Accept a morality of ethical self-interest, and you will find your confidence returning and your dreams, at last, to be realizable.

Stop being the enemy of your own life. Live without fear, and learn that you have a moral right to the pursuit of happiness.

Richard Gleaves


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Saturday, February 20, 2010

What the hell is an Objectivist?

I've thought for some time that I should write a little explanatory note about Objectivism, why I largely agree with it, and why I recommend it to others and write essays to demonstrate it's applicability to our current situations.

Objectivism is the formal name for the system of ideas developed and advocated by the Russian-American author Ayn Rand who lived from 1905 to 1982. The ideas were originally presented in fiction, first in 1942's The Fountainhead and then in the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. Rand spent the remainder of her life giving lectures, publishing articles, and proselytizing her world view in such diverse places as Playboy Magazine, the Donohue Show, and the Ford Hall Forum. Since her death, a great body of explanatory and further work has been done, with the most concentrated efforts being on systematizing the philosophy and applying it to current events and various issues.

here's the Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_rand
http://www.aynrand.org/

Now, I understand that some folks might stop here and say "A Novelist?" doesn't that smack of L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics and stuff like that there? And I have to honestly say yes it does. Believe me, I would absolutely love it if the ideas I hold were handed to my ancient forefathers by an angel or scratched in stone by some ancient greek with too much time on his hands. I'd prefer it if I learned the philosophy at my mother's knee or heard it in some sanctioned organization like at a church or in school. But, look. I'm not a dumb guy. I'm actually quite bright. And when I see truth I recognize it no matter where it may be found.

What are the truths I found in Objectivism?

That the world is knowable.
That ethics and morality are provable in reason.
That man has a right to exist as an individual.
That freedom and liberty are requirements of man's life and must be protected
That heroism and joy are to be celebrated in art
That it's good to love your life

Now, it's near-impossible to get into the validation and details of the position in a short note, but I can give you the essence of her universe: Ayn Rand applies reason to joy and finds they are not mutually incompatible.

Growing up, I found myself in profound disagreement to just about everything I heard. I constantly asked why- I didn't understand how people took religion seriously, I was always pointing out the contradictions in what people did vs. what they professed to believe. My loves were music and science. I sang all day and read Carl Sagan all night.

In college, a friend noticed my argumentative questioning of everything and loaned me Atlas Shrugged.

Here was a kindred mind. Atlas is a story set in an America being slowly strangled by an encroaching government and a revolution by the great minds of the nation- specifically, a moral revolution. Now, every fiction writer presents their personal philosophies in their works, even if by implication, but here was a fiction writer who was also an original theorist- telling a story of the world and its essential moral dilemmas- in which the dominant philosophies worked themselves out to their logical ends, showing them for what they are. Here was someone who saw all the same implications and contradictions I always had, and proceeded to challenge and answer them.

I found more insight in The Fountainhead, the story of a creative artist (an architect) who struggles to maintain personal and artistic integrity over a lifetime of work. It was for me as a composer and artist a profoundly personal novel.

Over the years I've read all of Rand's nonfiction and found, on issue after issue, a clear consistent point of view. I've never found in twenty years a major issue on which i disagreed. Now, on many minor issues, I have. For example, I disagree with her views on gender roles of men and women (it is a fairly minor issue- she's right on the basics- the equality of the sexes, etc but there is a strain of male chauvinism that's offputting in a woman)

So here I am- a member of a distinctly minority viewpoint in this world. I've come by my ideas honestly and independently. I apply my philosophy to life and am always looking for contradictions in my thinking- I've not found many, though there have been some.

I don't feel like a member of any cult- i don't pay money to any central organization. I don't attend any official meetings unless there's a lecture I'm interested in. There's no dues, no 'church'. I'm essentially just a lifelong student who has found in a particular author an immensely valuable resource for clear and original thinking on profound issues. I think of Rand as an innovator- not the final word by any means, but even if she did not discover the WHOLE Truth she has made a huge stride towards discovering it. Someday someone will come around with a deeper and wider theory then Rand's. If I read such a writer and he convinces me, I will be a student of his.

I've sketched the broad outlines above, but let me now explain the most crucial element of the philosophy, which is its moral code. Rand's essential insight is that there's no real distinction between moral questions and questions of fact. If your purpose is to create an object such as an automobile, you are bound by the laws of physics and the potentials of metals and plastics and fuels etc. You can't make it go fast by giving it square wheels or filling its tank with diet coke. Every rational goal requires a rational process to achieve it- a process of identifying the facts of reality, breaking the goal down into discrete steps, and then proceeding to follow those steps to reach an end. Your mind at each step performs a rational process: true or false.

In morality, your purpose is the living of life as the type of being you are, and your goals and actions are subject to the same rational evaluation as any other purpose: right or wrong? Rand sweeps aside the supposed distinction between right/wrong and true/false and presents morality as a code by which to live as a rational being. Can you live by theft? True or false? Is honesty a value? True or false? Is freedom a value? True or false? Is force justifiable? True or false, etc. She derives an internally consistent philosophy built up from observation of the nature of man and the world. She presents morality as a TOOL, not a burden. A source, not of commandments and condemnations, but of premises and principles for living a happy productive life.

The moral code she derives is one of individual independence, essentially the moral code implied by Jefferson's political right to the "pursuit of happiness"- every man as an end in himself and all cooperation between men as mutual trade to mutual benefit.

I'd be glad to discuss the philosophy in greater detail than this short sketch, and I probably will elaborate more eventually, but I thought I should put this much out there as a short introduction. If this intrigues you, I obviously recommend the source- I'd start with Atlas Shrugged or the Fountainhead. At the very least I hope I've explained my own interest in these ideas and what I find so intriguing.

Cheers



-Richard Gleaves
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Parable #1: "The Dinner Roll" or "Dinner at the White House"



Note: This parable of mine in praise of property rights has, ironically, been reprinted without attribution all over the web. It's now been read by millions and pops up regularly as e-mail spam etc. Here it is in its original form.



DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE by Richard Gleaves
Once upon a time, I was invited to the White House for a private dinner with the President. I am a respected businessman, with a factory that produces memory chips for computers and portable electronics. There was some talk that my industry was being scrutinized by the administration, but I paid it no mind. I live in a free country. There's nothing that the government can do to me if I've broken no laws. My wealth was earned honestly, and an invitation to dinner with an American President is an honor.

I checked my coat, was greeted by the Chief of Staff, and joined the President in a yellow dining room. We sat across from each other at a table draped in white linen. The Great Seal was embossed on the china. Uniformed staff served our dinner.

The meal was served, and I was startled when my waiter suddenly reached out, plucked a dinner roll off my plate, and began nibbling it as he walked back to the kitchen.

"Sorry about that," said the President. "Andrew is very hungry."

"I don't appreciate..." I began, but as I looked into the calm brown eyes across from me, I felt immediately guilty and petty. It was just a dinner roll. "Of course," I concluded, and reached for my glass. Before I could, however, another waiter reached forward, took the glass away and swallowed the wine in a single gulp.

"And his brother Eric is very thirsty." said the President.

I didn't say anything. The President is testing my compassion, I thought. I will play along. I don't want to seem unkind.

My plate was whisked away before I had tasted a bite.

"Eric's children are also quite hungry."

With a lurch, I crashed to the floor. My chair had been pulled out from under me. I stood, brushing myself off angrily, and watched as it was carried from the room.

"And their grandmother can't stand for long."

I excused myself, smiling outwardly, but inside feeling like a fool. Obviously I had been invited to the White House to be sport for some game. I reached for my coat, to find that it had been taken. I turned back to the President.

"Their grandfather doesn't like the cold."

I wanted to shout- that was my coat! But again, I looked at the placid smiling face of my host and decided I was being a poor sport. I spread my hands helplessly and chuckled. Then I felt my hip pocket and realized my wallet was gone. I excused myself and walked to a phone on an elegant side table. I learned shortly that my credit cards had been maxed out, my bank accounts emptied, my retirement and equity portfolios had vanished, and my wife had been thrown out of our home. Apparently, the waiters and their families were moving in. The President hadn't moved or spoken as I learned all this, but finally I lowered the phone into its cradle and turned to face him.

"Andrew's whole family has made bad financial decisions. They haven't planned for retirement, and they need a house. They recently defaulted on a subprime mortgage. I told them they could have your home. They need it more than you do."

My hands were shaking. I felt faint. I stumbled back to the table and knelt on the floor. The President cheerfully cut his meat, ate his steak and drank his wine. I lowered my eyes and stared at the small grey circles on the tablecloth that were water drops.

"By the way," He added, "I have just signed an Executive Order nationalizing your factories. I'm firing you as head of your business. I'll be operating the firm now for the benefit of all mankind. There's a whole bunch of Erics and Andrews out there and they can't come to you for jobs groveling like beggars."

I looked up. The President dropped his spoon into the empty ramekin which had been his creme brulee. He drained the last drops of his wine. As the table was cleared, he lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He stared at me. I clung to the edge of the table as if were a ledge and I were a man hanging over an abyss. I thought of the years behind me, of the life I had lived. The life I had earned with a lifetime of work, risk and struggle. Why was I punished? How had I allowed it to be taken? What game had I played and lost? I looked across the table and noticed with some surprise that there was no game board between us.

What had I done wrong?

As if answering the unspoken thought, the President suddenly cocked his head, locked his empty eyes to mine, and bared a million teeth, chuckling wryly as he folded his hands.

"You should have stopped me at the dinner roll," he said.


Copyright May 31st, 2009 by Richard Gleaves



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Why shouldn't we have Universal Healthcare?

My fundamental objection to universal health care philosophically is this: it denies the fact that life is not automatic but is a continuous course of self-directed action. It denies that life is a value that must be earned by effort- you cannot get away with living without providing through effort the preconditions for your own survival. No one has a right not to die, only a right to pursue life. I can CLAIM a right to be cured of some disease I catch, but if I catch it on a deserted island, who will be able to provide me with the cure I claimed by right? I can claim I have a right to be cured of cancer, but what if other men have not discovered that cure for me? Is there such a thing as the right to charity? The rights to goods? The right to services? What right do I have to any value I do not invent, create devise, or trade for myself? If it is wrong to take shoes I desire by shoplifting them under my coat, why is it right to have a third party (the government) take them on my behalf?

The issue involves the nature of rights; Are rights negative claims to freedom of action or positive claims to the property of others?

What is a 'right'?

Ayn Rand:
A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)


The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

The fundamental right is the right to life- which means freedom from force and the ability to take all necessary actions to protect and enhance your own life as long as you don't violate with the rights of another. Productive work is necessary to live by the nature of reality- since man does not get his sustenance and physical needs met as manna from heaven, he must create the physical values necessary to sustain himself by work. He must produce at least what he consumes. If a man is insufficiently productive to provide his own needs, he must live off of the productive work of others- if he does so with their consent, fine. That's sharing, cooperation, love, benevolence, charity. When he does so without their consent that's parasitism, theft, fraud, compulsion, violence and is evil: a violation of the precondition of rights- that you cannot exercise them legitimately by violating the rights of others.

Property rights are the recognition of the right to life. If man needs food and material goods to survive, and he provides them by his own effort, those goods are to be considered his rightful property.

Advocates of UHC claim, in essence, that because people "need" health care it must be provided by force if it cannot be obtained on the open market.

But why is "need" a superior claim to "property"?

If someone has failed to produce more then he consumes, he will be "in need". He can bring that need to the attention of someone who has been sufficiently productive, and ASK for that need to be met. The other person, because his productivity has produced his own values (food, clothing, shelter, money) can CHOOSE to offer his surplus to meet the needs of the other person (note: to offer more than his surplus would be to put himself "in need"). This is how all beneficial, kind and non-sacrificial human cooperation takes place. Such cooperation protects and acknowledges the rights of everyone involved.

Now, if a person is "in need" (it doesn't matter if it's through no fault of his own or through laziness, etc) and instead of asking, he FORCES the other person to meet that need, it is an immoral act, no matter what form that force takes: be it fraud, direct theft or indirect theft.

Note also that when someone initiates force in order to have his need met, he also can easily take more than that person's surplus goods because the owners estimate of his own needs is not taken into consideration and so create a second person "in need". If that person resorts to force against a third person, you can see how this can potentially create an endless chain of all men using force against all men. This is life not by production, trade and voluntarism, but by mass looting.

If I get cancer and cannot provide for my own needs, I can request charity from others legitimately. If they love me (if I've shown them my personal virtue and value), they will help- not out of pity, out of justice to their own values. If they hate me (if I've been a jerk or whatever), they won't. If these are my only options, I have an incentive to be virtuous and kind towards others throughout my life, so as to earn the affection on which I will have to depend in an emergency. Perhaps I have not developed any friendships or relationships with others because I've been a jerk or dickwad to everyone- or everyone sees that i'm "in need" not because of forces outside my control, but because I didn't plan, didn't produce, smoked 3 packs a day when I knew the risks and essentially created my own emergency. Nobody I know is willing to help me. What are my options? Do I swipe my buddy's wallet? Do I have some third party drain my mom's bank account? Do I pull a gun? Do I FORCE my brother, sister, friend or acquaintance to help me? If I do, will they be more or less likely to love me and want to help?

I think if you put it into personal terms it's easy to see that the answer is no. I have no right to initiate force and violate my friends' rights. I can try to change their mind through persuasion or virtuous action, or I can appeal to strangers.

Some people will establish charities out of respect for human life in general. Who? Most likely those with the greatest productive surpluses: the "rich". Historically, the great producers (the Carnegie's, the Mellon's, the Gates') have been great philanthropists. They were virtuous, however, for creating the wealth (which was hard) not for giving it away (which only requires a checkbook).

So, turned away by the people who know me, I go to an organized charity established by someone with great productive surplus who can thereby afford to risk his money on my future virtue. So not only is it in my interest to be virtuous and to cultivate friendships, but it is in my interest to demonstrate civic virtues: to make sure that I respect productive work, that I push for no law chaining men down to mediocrity, that I work for a social system that allows as many men as possible to rise as high as possible. If I am not productive myself, I will have a chance in life by allowing those that are productive to amass as large surpluses as they can. It is their surplus I will be dependent upon in an emergency. If I live by envy and hatred, i will not want anyone to rise higher than I do, and I will work to see them cut down to size. But I will pay for my own hatred when I need to ask help of such men and they are no longer there.

These men must also rise by their own effort- a free system does not allow anyone to violate the rights of others. No 'Robber Barons' are possible without laws that enable them. Note: to the degree Carnegie, Mellon and Gates use government force to amass their fortunes, they are mixed if not actually evil. I am operating on the assumption that equivalent men (on whatever scale) would arise in a free market economy.

So a system of voluntary charity gives me what incentives? It encourages me to be virtuous, kind, deserving, to develop friendships, demonstrate responsibility, encourage productive ability and to establish a system of laws that allow for and encourage the greatest amount of productive achievement in the society at large. It is in my self-interest to pursue these values. It is on these that I will depend if I get into trouble.

Would anyone like to project what the opposite system would encourage? I don't have the stomach for it. All I can say is read the paper, and look around you at what has become of your culture and your fellow men. We are about to enslave every man to every other man in a system devised to make "need", not rights, the driving principle governing 1/7th of the entire economy. Before you act to advocate such change, take the time to at least consider the ideas above and give them your attention with your fullest and most honest clarity of mind.

-Richard Gleaves


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Of Hammers and Healthcare: Understanding the Nature of "Rights"

Once Upon a Time, America reached a fork in the road....
Franklin D. Roosevelt 
“The Economic Bill of Rights”
Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.

Fifty-five years later, what was a radical rethinking of our founding principles is considered common wisdom and uncontroversial dogma. More and more people believe that the "right" to these material objects is, in fact, the implementation of the Jeffersonian ideal.

"How can we have a right to live," they say, "without having the right to the food and medicine we require to live?"

"How can you have a moral right to life," they ask, "without being given the practicalvalues required to live it?"

Hence the "Economic Bill of Rights"

But this view of rights is not only impractical it is also, as I will demonstrate, entirely immoral. This supposed view of rights, so commonly held, is the mechanism by which our actual rights are being destroyed.

Thomas Jefferson
"Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights" --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:441
"A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."--Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. ME 1:209, Papers 1:134
"Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty" --Thomas Jefferson: Legal Argument, 1770. FE 1:376
"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals." ---Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393
"Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

I'm not a Republican or a Democrat. I'm an Objectivist. To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, I hold these truths to be rationally demonstrable: that men live, that they survive by the use of their minds, that they must work and produce to sustain their lives, that it is good for them to live self-sufficiently as morally autonomous individuals, and that the political expression of this hierarchy is the concept of 'rights' which are sanctions of action in a social context.

Man survives by use of his mind, and so he must be free to act on his own judgment. What is true of one man is true of all- so we must respect the rights of others. Political philosophy recognizes that we each have a delimited sphere of non-conflicting freedoms.

What must be banned from society is the initiation of physical force by one man against another. All rights therefore delimit the sphere of action in which each man has the right to function without force or threat of force.
The right to life is the right to BE- to live free from destruction: to not be robbed, beaten, tortured, coerced, defrauded.
The right to liberty is the right to ACT- not to be detained, held, imprisoned.
The right to property is the right to EARN- to possess the results of your actions without confiscation by force.
The right to PURSUE happiness is just that- the right to pursue those values that, by your rational judgment, will give you pleasure, happiness, joy.
Let's examine a different philosophy of rights- the modern idea that a right is a claim to an object or action that must be provided to the claimant.

Immediately, it begs the question- to be provided BY WHOM?

Instead of a delimited sphere of non-conflicting freedoms, this view of rights establishes a set of overlapping claims- things that each man may demand of other men.

In my view, this is a fundamental error in politics. It was introduced as a philosophical principle relatively recently in America- with FDR. It's philosophical roots go back further.

This view of rights actually invalidates and destroys the legitimate rights I list above.

What does it mean to have a "right" to an object (or service)?

Let's pick an object at random and imagine what it means to claim a right to the thing.

"I've got a Right to a HAMMER!"
Don't I? After all, I require shelter and I can't build a house without a hammer, so let's assert that each man, by virtue of his need, should be given a hammer with which to build.

Given -- by whom? Men aren't born with hammers. They don't exist in nature unless you count a rock which you could bang something with. But we're not talking about rocks, we're talking about a manufactured item called a hammer.

How do you implement the '"right" to this object? If I have a right to a hammer, who will provide me with one? The only answer is "those who possess hammers". (We might call them the "hammer-rich"). How did those people get the hammers? Since hammers are a manufactured item at some point no hammers existed anywhere. Someone had to invent the hammer, show others how to make them, trade the hammers, etc. Those who have hammers today amassed them either by making them, purchasing them, inheriting them, or stealing them.

If they made the hammers, they exerted the effort to smelt the metal, carve the wood, and assemble the hammer. By my view of rights, they own their own effort and the product of that effort.

If they bought the hammers, someone else may have exerted the effort of creation but the current owners still had to produce values- they had to grow wheat which they traded for the hammers or provide services which they exchanged for the hammers.

If they inherited the hammers, then the current owners did not exert the effort by which the hammers were originally bought, but someone did- and that person expressed their own right to dispose of their property as they chose. This same situation applies to any circumstance in which the hammer is given as a gift or as charity- the owner is exercising his property rights by choosing to give away the item.

If they stole the hammers, they violated the rights of others by force.

So by what right do you claim a hammer for yourself? You are not requiring yourself to exert any effort by which you earn the hammer. You're not manufacturing it or earning it by trade. No one is choosing to give you a hammer as inheritance. You are not receiving it voluntarily as a gift or as charity. You are claiming it by right!

You are claiming the right to the unearned property of others. You do not fall into the category of maker, earner or inheritor of the item. You merely demand it. And, if you establish this hypothetical right as a political principle, you expect the government to provide it to you.

But the government is not a manufacturer of hammers, or of anything. The government may absorb productive businesses by nationalization, but they cannot run them -- compulsion and innovation are incompatible. The government is that organization which is established to have the legal monopoly over the use of force in a geographical area. If you live in a free society, that government would be delimited to the defense, not the violation, of rights. But we are not talking about the system ofnon-conflicting rights I describe. We are talking about the implementation of your political idea: that the government must provide a different kind of "right" -- not the freedom of each man from each, but rather that the government must enforce those claims that each man may make on other men.

The implementation of your "right to a hammer" means that the government will take a hammer from some other person who possesses it and give it to you. So you are not the maker, earner or inheritor of the item- but instead fall into the last category -- you will have a hammer by theft.

You are not getting your own hands dirty. You are not taking the item you want directly by pulling a gun, by threatening some man's life or liberty, by denying him his right to pursue his own happiness and to enjoy his own property. You are demanding that the gun be pulled on your behalf by a third party.

The implementation of a "right to a hammer", in practice, requires that the government act as your agent to violate the life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness of some other man of its choosing- to steal his property and convey it into your possession. Each right that you claim in this manner, requires such a violation.
"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation" will necessitate violating the rights of the owners of those industries, shops, farms and mines to enter contracts and hire only by voluntary choice.
"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation" will necessitate violating the liberty and property of those who do not choose to pay more than has been voluntarily contracted.
"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living" will necessitate violating the liberty and property of the distributors and consumers who do not wish to pay more for products then they are worth.
"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad" requires the creation of anti-trust law, which is subsequently used by government to extort and control industry, to distort and violate the free market, and to deny the rights of property, freedom of trade and contract. It destroys justice, which is objective, and enshrines "fairness" imposed by the subjective whim of a government bureaucrat. (Monopolies, by the way, are only possible when the government intervenes. A government takeover of the entire health care industry would make the largest 'monopolistic' corporate merger look like nothing in comparison)
"The right of every family to a decent home" required violating the liberties of lenders, distorting markets, and eventually brought the financial industry to collapse.
"The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health" violates the property rights of the taxpayers who must pay against their will, the doctors who cannot set their own prices and contracts, and gives the power of life and death to an omnipotent state.
"The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment" requires the violation of the rights of the young, the well, the cautious, and the employed.
"The right to a good education" produces state-run indoctrination that is neither good nor educational.
Every "Economic Right" you demand sets the government in motion to violate the rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Every cash transfer into your pocket is taken from someone else or is funded by printing money which is not backed by any physical commodity but is asserted to have value by the government. Yet, even then, each printing is funded by someone's productivity somewhere- either in current generations or else is passed on as trillions of dollars in obligations foisted on someone's children or grandchildren.

By declaring "Economic Rights", you establish a system, not of mutual independence where all values are received by mutual trade, but a system by which men are forced into gangs- each gang pressuring the government for his own share of the loot they demand by right which must be grabbed by force of arms off of some other citizen disarmed by law.

Note that the only man who is safe in this system is the man who produces nothing. In your system, the more a man works, the more he produces, the more he is a target. The greater the effort, the greater the ingenuity, the greater the wealth, the more a man is expected to provide to others without compensation. He is punished to the degree of his ability. The higher he rises, the greater his punishment.

The men who are safe are not the men of ability, but the men of need. The less you produce, the less you work, the more indigent and self destructive and debased you become, the more needs you have. If need is the standard, then the man with less than nothing is the King of Society.

This is true in principle and it is being demonstrated in practice the world over. It was the cause of the fall of the Soviet Union, and is the black rotten core of every collectivist system that preaches "From Each according to their Ability, to Each according to their Need"

Now, I don't think that those of you who advocate Universal Health Care want any of this or know that this is the only means by which your ends can be accomplished. I don't think you’re consciously advocating a collectivist slave society or anything of the sort. You are, on the whole, kind people acting out of benevolence and according to a generally accepted (though mistaken) premise. But whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you'll admit it or not, a slave society is what you're advocating in principle and what you will enshrine in practice. It is merely a matter of degree and time.

As soon as any man can claim an object as a right, the government will begin to expand into a tyranny. Once the principle is violated and the government turns from the defender into the violator of rights, the path is set and- twisty though the road may be- it leads to total slavery of every man to every other with the government holding the whip. That destination is inevitable unless the principle of rights is restored.

Bad rights drive out good rights.

In less than sixty years, the entire political underpinning of the American System has been subverted and reversed. At this rate in sixty more years (probably less) we will be a dictatorship.

We are on the road to hell, my friends. Let us turn back to that fork in the road and reconsider the path we've been taking.

-Richard Gleaves

Note: What I have to point out to my Republican friends (I am not a Republican but an Objectivist) is that the moral teachings of the Christian religion are in direct conflict with the view I have presented above. The degree of your religiosity is what disarms and unmans you. You cannot preach for capitalism while teaching that each man is his brother's keeper. It is one or the other. While you are free to act on your religious convictions privately to motivate your personal charity, once you inject your moral view of the necessity of self sacrifice into the political realm, that morality will undercut your every defense of rights. Obama practices the secular version of what you preach in your religion. He merely makes compulsory what you hold to be merely obligatory. I invite all Republicans who are Christians for the sake of the next world to become Objectivists when speaking of this world. A philosophy of reason and rights is what is needed now, and a rational defense of individualism. One's personal convictions about the soul and it's judgement after death are just that- personal. They are not justifiable in reason and faith is not open to public debate. As we see from theocratic nations abroad, nations that cannot justify their principles in reason are condemned to impose them by force. In order to work and deal with each other as rational beings, we need an objective framework upon which we can all agree. Objectivism is a secular moral system teaching the virtue of rational self-interest. If you would like to be well armed in the political arena, this is the pro-life morality you must espouse in the political realm. I invite you to look into it.


To my Democrat friends, I am in complete sympathy with those of you who are Democrats because you believe in equality for all. The Republican views on such matters as gay marriage etc have been abhorrent- but they are views that come from their religion, not from reason or an understanding of rights. The "center way" we are searching for will involve the recognition of individual rights for ALL people. It also requires the recognition that no one has the right to use the government as a piggy bank- not the poor, and certainly not the rich. Crony capitalism is an evil and is practiced by both parties, though as practiced by religious republicans (who preach one thing and do another) it has the added reek of hypocrisy. The solution is freedom and reason. Let's work together to achieve them. Thank you for your time and attention, all. RG

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