Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ayn Rand, Proto-Fascist

What a philosophy claims and what it delivers are often two different things. Marxism was supposed to create a heaven on earth but instead created a hell. I think Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, would also create a hell on earth.

Rand divided people into two groups: her perfect John Galtian heroes, and everyone else – whom she described as “sub-humans” living in “a hell.” She projected all “evil” onto her “looters” and “parasites” and reserved all goodness for her heroes. Such a division does not exist in real life.

In fact, this division into human/sub-human is one of the foundations of all wars. This all-good/all-bad split is also the basis of all propaganda, which is why Atlas Shrugged is in many ways a vast propaganda tract. (A good current example of propaganda was when the terminally addled George Bush claimed “the Evil Ones” attacked the United States “for our goodness.”)

Rand apparently truly believed when the world collapsed after her two dozen or so heroes withdrew into Galt’s Gulch, they would emerge to rule over the ruins. Would they rule benevolently and establish a permanent free market?

The answer: no.

The only true, eternal social division that exists is between the “elites” (I use that term neutrally) and the “masses.” I believe it is far more fundamental that “left” and “right.”

I’ve heard this split defined as “ranchers” and “cattle.” For thousands of years, way back to Jesus and Aesop, it’s been called “wolves” and “sheep.” Vilfredo Pareto referred to the elites as “wolves” and “foxes.”

The purpose of the elites is to maintain their economic and political power – to maintain what James Burnham in his book The Machiavellians called their “power and privilege.” This means using the power of the State to exploit the masses, which are mostly inert until pushed too far by the elites’ lust for blood, power and money. Then many times there is violent payback.

All politics is based on force and fraud. As such, the elites will always use those two weapons against the people to maintain their position – force is violence and fraud is lies and propaganda. All States are founded on, and run on, lies and violence.

Could Rand’s “perfect” elites be trusted to rule? No. They would use their political power to exploit everyone else to enrich themselves. Her perfect heroes are purely fictional – they don’t exist in real life.

This exploitation of the masses by the elites using the power of the States has been the history of the world. Even if Rand’s heroes established the free market their descendents would overturn it.

I am reminded of Lord Acton’s saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I prefer the saying, “Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts.”

As Dostoevsky put it in The House of the Dead, "Tyranny...finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentance, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."

Political science (perhaps political economy is a better term) should start with how things are, not how scholars and writers want things to be. By starting with how things are, political economy becomes a science, and being a science, cures or prescriptions can be formulated.

In physics and chemistry scientists start with how things are. Yet, in economics and political science, thinkers/tinkerers often start with how they want things to be, or how things will be if their prescriptions are followed. It’s why there exists that old saying, if you took every economist and the world and laid them end to end, they’d all point in different directions.

Rand did not start with how things are. She started with how she wanted things to be. Like all leftists (and she was in many ways a leftist, in addition to being a narcissist) she did not understand human nature, which is why she thought a vanishingly small minority could rule over humanity, permanently establish political and economic liberty, and not become corrupted by unlimited power.

This is why there is a very strong probability Objectivism would turn into a fascist State.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The State as Morality Play

I look at life in the aggregate, that is, when you include the whole human race, as a tragicomedy. I don’t look at it as morality play, which I define as seeing life as a contest between Good and Evil. In fact, life is a tragicomedy because so many people see it as a morality play!

Here is an example. The State has defined drugs as “evil.” So now we have the “War on Drugs,” (a morality play) with all the attendant tragicomedy (trying to control supply and demand through violence). This “war” is an attempt to get rid of Evil and replace it with Good. It’s an impossibility.

Another example: the United States on 9-11 was attacked for its Goodness by the Evil Ones, as the permanently addled George Bush apparently truly believes. The two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are morality plays, with the ensuing death and destruction.

The most pernicious aspect of the State, besides having a monopoly on “legal” violence, is that is tries to define everything as a contest between Good and Evil. That is in fact the essence of politics, and, for that matter, propaganda.

Unfortunately in politics, unlike as is in life, there are no shades of grey. Everything in politics is black or white, good or evil. Isn’t that what all war is about – morality plays about good versus evil?

Whenever people say, “He/she/they did that because they are evil,” I automatically know they support some kind of war – as long, of course, as they don’t have to fight in it.

Whenever people think there are political solutions to things (which don’t exist), they are instantly falling into the trap of supporting war – death and destruction. And it’s because they believe in Good and Evil – with them of course being Good, and the people who disagree with them being Evil.

The essence of this morality play is that when people define themselves as Good (which means self-righteousness) they don’t see any problem with abusing, humiliating, imprisoning and murdering those they define as Evil. It is, after all, to get rid of Evil and replace it with Good.

Spinoza once said they most people define evil as what they don’t like. He was right. And because of that, people who unwittingly see life as a morality play have turned it into a tragicomedy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Arrogance of Empire

After thinking about this for several years, I have concluded brutally humiliating people is the worst problem in the world. It is, however, the reverse side of the coin. On the other side is hubris—arrogance, moral blindness, wanton violence.

Hubris always leads to humiliating people. And I do mean always. Then it's followed by revenge. This observation is not new with me; it's why the ancient Greeks said the Hubris is fated to be followed by Nemesis—vengeance. It's also the story of Cain and Abel, the Iliad, the Odyssey, Moby-Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, Stephen King's Carrie, John D. McDonald's The Green Ripper, and Alfred Bester's The Stars my Destination. It's one of the oldest stories in the world: revenge on your oppressors.

The United States, which is now an empire, is following the path of every empire in history: attempting to impose its world-view on other countries, under the guise of "civilizing" them. As both Aesop and Jesus noticed, all tyrants call themselves benefactors.

Attempting to impose your views on people, by force, is brutally humiliating them, even though it's done unwittingly and for "good" purposes. It's ignoring the wisdom of that old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

"Shame rather than guilt appears to arise when a person finds himself condemned to an identity he wishes to repudiate but cannot," wrote the psychiatrist R.D. Laing.

Traditionally, hubris, or excessive pride, has been considered the worst problem in the world—and it is, because hubris comes first, humiliating people comes second. But I cannot separate one from the other. As I said, they are the obverse and reverse sides of the same coin.

When people in other countries are condemned to a humiliated identity they wish to repudiate—say, as uncivilized backward wogs who have to be slaughtered and dragged by their corpses into the 21st Century— they are going to regain their pride and dignity by killing us. That is, they are going to humiliate us the way we humiliated them—by violence, destruction and murder.

Humiliation is bad enough when one person does it to another. Add political power and advanced technology, and you end up with the saying, "Power is the horse than evil rides."

I do not understand why this tragic flaw exists in human nature, as exemplified by the saying, "I'm going to beat some sense into you." How can the U.S. "beat" sense into other countries by slaughtering innocent people? It's the same with the misnamed "War on Drugs": we can "beat" sense into people by imprisoning them for years? Or "beat" sense into children by abusing them? Just astonishing.

I do know this flaw has something to do with power: "Power is the horse that evil rides." Lord Acton wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I think a better saying is, "Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts."

Since power corrupts and intoxicates, the bigger and more powerful the State gets, the worse it is for everyone. Hubris plus the State, and you're looking at the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling over everybody.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Patriots, Sheeple, Traitors

Roughly but still accurately speaking, I divide people into three groups: patriots, sheeple, traitors.

When a country has been around long enough, the traitors take over the government. That has what has happened to America. They comprise politicians, corporations, banks, and churches that support the government and its policies. They use the power of the State for their own benefit at the expense of everyone else.

The sheeple are the mass of people who don’t particularly know what’s going on. Sometimes they think they do, but don’t, not really. They often tend to think the people in the government know what they’re doing.

The patriots are always the opposition party: they oppose those in power and their exploitative policies.

What I’ve outlined is a variation of elite theory: the only politics worth examining is the relationships between the Elites (the term is neutral) and the Masses. The people who study these relationships are usually known as Machiavellians, since Machiavelli founded the discipline with the publication of “The Prince.”

However, what he noticed is not original with him. You can find his observations in Aesop and most especially in the Bible, specifically the Gospels.

In those days there were the Traitors: the Romans and the rich, politically-connected Jewish elites who were their go-betweens in Palestine; the Sheeple, who were the mass of men; and then the Patriots (who are always the opposition party) who was exemplified by Jesus.

There is a lot you can learn about human nature from the Bible.

While proper government is a good and necessary thing, the State, if anything exemplifies the Seven Deadly Sins: excessive pride, greed, murder, theft, etc. Anyone who supports those things, though the power of the State, belongs to the Traitors, be they politicians, corporate executives, or religious leaders.

Those who are opposed to the policies of the State, when they are used to support murder, theft, greed, lying, etc., are the Patriots.