Oct 272011

Libertarian AnarcyIn 1986, Peter Schwartz, of The Intellectual Activist and Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Ayn Rand Institute, wrote an analysis of Libertarianism called Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty.  In it he takes apart the philosophy of Libertarianism and lays it bare. What is left is a failed movement of the left, not unlike the Occupy Wall Street protests in its chaotic makeup and distorted messages.

Just as the Occupy Wall Street movement has attracted people from all political persuasion, but primary from the left, so too the “big tent” of Libertarian movement has attracted a diverse group of people, often from competing philosophical camps.

The term Libertarian was first coined in 1857 by anarcho-communist, Joseph Déjacque.  Its intellectual leaders in more modern times were people like the libertarian-socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, Noam Chomsky, and the anarchist, Murray Rothbard.  Rothbard actually thought of himself as an anarcho-capitalist which is of course an oxymoronic term.

The writings of Ayn Rand, Frédéric Bastiat, and Ludwig von Mises have also influenced the modern development of the Libertarian movement but it has been the method of libertarians to pick and choose what they like in the writings of these people and reject anything that may suggest any moral instruction.

Ayn Rand was not a libertarian.  She was an advocate for capitalism.  Libertarians are anti-state while Rand was pro-freedom.  Rand saw authority, properly defined and constrained, to be a necessary and proper element in any free society while libertarians consider any authority to be a necessary evil, but evil just the same.

To quote Rand:

“…I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism.  Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either.  Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement where it belongs.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Harry Binswanger, the Objectivist philosopher and associate of Ayn Rand had this to say of Libertarians:

“In the philosophical battle for a free society, the one crucial connection to be upheld is that between capitalism and reason.  The religious conservatives are seeking to tie capitalism to mysticism; the “libertarians” are tying capitalism to the whim-worshiping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy.  To cooperate with either group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one’s own future.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Libertarians have accepted many tenets of Rand’s political philosophy but have rejected her metaphysics, epistemology, but most of all her ethics.  Anyone who would suggest a system of morality to a libertarian is thought of as being authoritarian and of imposing a subjective set of standards of behaviour on them.  They would ask ‘who are you to decide what is the right or wrong way for a person to act?’  Or, ‘How can you say for certain what is moral?’  The Libertarian would laud Rand for her advocacy of capitalism, her politics, but they accept it only as a concrete; a system of economics and politics devoid of the fundament from which it arose.

This strikes to the heart of the fault with libertarianism.  A libertarian is unable to properly defend capitalism, or even liberty for that matter, except in concrete and pragmatic terms.  Their arguments defending capitalism are economic, such as having ‘sound money based on gold would prevent run-away inflation’ or pragmatic, ‘more people benefit from capitalism than from communism.’

Freedom and capitalism to a libertarian exist outside of any other philosophic context or framework.  Yet it is this framework which precedes and supports the concepts of freedom and capitalism.  If you refuse to understand the necessary philosophic pre-conditions for capitalism then you cannot properly defend it.  Capitalism becomes just another system like any other ‘ism.’  It will be thought of as just as valid as any other political or economic system and will fall – as it is doing – due to ignorance of its moral, epistemological and metaphysical roots.

Rand spent much of her life defending the philosophic foundation of capitalism.  It is an integral part of a complete philosophy which extols man as a heroic being not some hippie living in a commune where ‘anything goes’ as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.  Liberty, to Rand, was a necessary condition if man was, not only to survive, but to rise to a limitless potential.

Liberty is something to be defended vigorously but it must be done properly.  Liberty without a philosophic context will fall to anyone with a pragmatic excuse for abolishing it.  Capitalism stands on a solid ethical foundation and to reject the foundation is to reject capitalism.   Libertarians reject the foundation and therefore reject capitalism and are therefore enemies of liberty not advocates for it.

The tragic result of modern libertarian political parties today is that they attract true advocates of capitalism.  These individuals are reaching out, often in desperation, to any political movement they think will promote freedom and capitalism.  Unfortunately, these kinds of libertarians, the pro-freedom and not simply anti-state libertarians are not actually libertarians at all and their passion for freedom is being swallowed up by a collective of irrational leftists.

Consider the inhabitants of the big tent which is libertarianism:

  • The anarchists promoting a stateless society.
  • The geo-libertarians who believe that land is an asset held in common and anyone claiming any land to be private must pay a rent to the commons for the benefit of restricting entry to others.
  • The left-libertarians or the libertarian-socialists who oppose capitalism and wage labour.
  • And the right-libertarians who claim to support capitalism but only as an economic system not as an integrated political ideal in a greater philosophy.
  • There is also a small faction of angst ridden nihilists, who claim that morality doesn’t exist.  The youth of today might call them ‘emos’.

Such a large group of competing ideologies are held together by one underlying common agreement, hatred of authority.

Such a collective is no place for an advocate of freedom or capitalism.  Those that stay don’t stay for long.  They soon find that while they may share a common belief that we are over-governed that is where the commonality ends.

To these people I would suggest channeling your energy into promoting freedom, not tearing down government for the sake of it.

(Originally aired on Just Right #223, October 27, 2011.)

Oct 132011
Che Guevara

Che GuevaraSome people have likened the recent Wall Street protests to the anti-war protests of the 1960’s. At that time there were a number of iconic symbols, pictures, and phrases that have come to represent that unique time and series of events; the peace symbol which stood for nuclear disarmament, the picture of the flower a Kent state student stuck in the barrel of a reservist’s rifle, the death chant of Timothy Leary, “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”

Some of the iconic and symbolic imagery of the Occupy Wall Street protests would be the much circulated pictures of one protester defecating on the US flag, and another actually defecating on a police car. Another would be the pictures of piles of garbage which the protesters left behind, perhaps in the hope that their mothers would drop by and clean it up. A symbolic phrase would be the false “We are the 99%” which is reminiscent of Jerry Falwell’s so-called “moral majority.” (Falwell was wrong on both accounts.)

Also iconic of the Wall Street protestors is the ubiquitous wearing of Che Guevara T-shirts. Apparently the movement’s ideology has an affinity with that of Cuba’s official executioner. The image is one of the most replicated photos in history; Guevara’s distant gaze, his youthful visage surrounded by flowing locks of black hair stuffed under a beret.

I have to wonder if the people wearing this image actually know who Che Guevara was and what ideology he espoused and killed for. I suspect some do and yet when I see an adult black man in New York City being interviewed wearing such a T-shirt I wonder if they knew that Guevara was a racist.

Last week was the anniversary of the death of Ernesto Che Guevara at the hands of Bolivian soldiers. It is fitting that we remember the man and his message in his own words.

“The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese.”

“The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations.”

“The episode upset us a little because the poor man, apart from being homosexual and a first-rate bore, had been very nice to us.”

“The first person we hit on was the mayor, someone called Cohen; we had heard a lot about him, that he was Jewish as far as money was concerned but a good sort.”

“Mexicans are a band of illiterate Indians.”

“We’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing.”

These quotes illustrate Guevara’s blood lust:

“Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!”

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. … These are the procedures of the bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the teaching of the Wall!”

On Oct. 8 1967, Che left the world with this cowardice plea, “Don’t shoot! I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”

Che Guevara was put in charge of executing counter-revolutionaries. People like a man and his twin 15 year old boys who refused to relinquish their farmland to Fidel Castro’s gang of thugs. Or a young woman, six months pregnant, or the countless thousands, perhaps as many as 2,100 people who were murdered at the wall below Che Guevara’s office. The firing squad sometimes ran day and night with Che gleefully administering the coup-de-grace to his victims, ending their lives with a single shot to the head with his pistol.

Not content with the revolution in Cuba the Argentinian Che travelled to The Congo and Bolivia to incite Stalinist revolutions in those countries. He met his just end in Bolivia, executed by a Bolivian soldier. His body was unceremoniously disposed of.

When next you see some college student or even an adult wearing the face of Che Guevara you might wonder if they would wear it knowing the true nature of the man: racist, homophobe, anti-Semite, communist, murderer. Would they wear the face of Hitler, of Osama bin Ladin, or of any other evil creature?

It may be out of ignorance that people display the image of Guevara. I would hate to think that they know full-well what they are doing.

Originally aired on Just Right #221, October 13, 2011.

Oct 132011
Crappin on the Flag

Crappin on the FlagIt’s been over three weeks now since the start of the Occupy Wall Street protest.  We can now see a little more clearly the facts surrounding who started the protest and why.  The first few days of the protest reminded me of the scene from the movie Network where crazed TV anchorman Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, rants at the television audience about the economy and suggests that people yell out their windows that they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

A pointless gesture to be sure.  The Wall Street protests, however, have become anything but pointless.  The protests were started by American Unions to create a new class struggle in the US, the rich vs. the rest of us; the rich being incorrectly defined as 1%, the rest of us as 99%.  It is worth noting that only about 15% of Americans fall below the arbitrary federal poverty threshold and less than 10% of Americans are unemployed.  Not promising figures to be sure but still a far cry from the 99% claimed by the Occupy Wall Street organizers.

Another fallacy surrounding the protests is that they are grassroots driven and lack any coherent leadership or organization.  Brian Lilly of Sun News Network reported recently that members of the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union are partially responsible for creating the Occupy Wall Street movement and advertised the fact about two months prior to the first event.  Adbusters, an anti-consumerism group, were also instrumental in promoting OWS.  The impetus for Occupy Wall Street is no doubt in direct response to the widely successful and much more popular Tea Party rallies.

The fact that organized labour had a hand in the protests should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the list of demands coming from the protesters.  Free university tuition, tax the rich, end capitalism, have the government take over the banks, and a guaranteed annual income for all are but some of the demands, all of them coinciding with the demands of organized labour for the past several decades.

These dystopian demands of the protesters are only a superficial reason for the occupation.  The real goal, I believe, is to create a class struggle in the United States, a struggle that President Obama can get behind and champion.  He has already coopted one of the so-called one percent to be a spokesman for the new bourgeoisie, Warren Buffet.  Buffet’s false claims that he pays less tax than his secretary and his call for greater taxes on the wealthy have flamed the hatred of the new proletariat and have given fuel to their envy.

Remember that Buffet, the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $50 billion only paid himself a salary of $100,000.  His tax bill was $48.1 million taxed at a rate of 19% because it was from dividends and capital gains.  His salary was taxed at the same rate as his employees so his claim that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his employees was a deliberate deception of the facts.   It is this now false belief that the rich pay less in taxes than the rest of us that has given the Occupiers ammunition to fight for greater taxation.  Obama has been quick to take advantage of this falsehood.

The protests have become an excellent case study in politics, the labour movement, left wing ideologies, and by comparison right wing ideology.  The internet has gathered videos, photos and speeches from both the Occupy Wall Street protests and the Tea Party rallies and many pundits have put the two movements side by side to come up with some fascinating dichotomies of beliefs and actions.

The Occupiers have been accurately depicted as young people who despise the rich and the system which allowed them to create more wealth than they have.  They leave behind garbage at their rally sites, they have been seen to be naked, having sex and taking drugs while protesting.  They have broken several laws including trespass laws which has resulted in hundreds of arrests.  They have been seen defecating on the American flag, burning the American flag and destroying the American flag.

The Tea Party on the other hand has been documented to be primarily middle aged folk who love their country, display their flags proudly and respectfully at their rallies, have correctly targeted government as the cause of their frustration, are well behaved, and peaceful and leave their rally sites spotless.

What is common to both sides, the Tea Partiers and the Occupiers, is anger at an America that is a shadow of its former self.  The United States is failing and the blame runs deep; from the creations of Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Freddy Mac, the Federal Reserve System, to crony capitalism, to the edict by all Presidents since Jimmy Carter that bank’s must lend to sub-prime mortgagees.  This is the macroscopic view of blame.

A microscopic view of the blame for what ails America can best be summed up in two letters by two very different college women who wrote letters about their predicaments and posted them online.

One letter reads:

 I’m a college senior with $40K of debt.  There are no jobs in my feild (sic).  My toughest decision now is whether to sell drugs or my body.  I am the 99%.


The other letter reads:

 “I am a college senior, about to graduate completely debt free.  I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage.  I chose a moderately priced, in-0state public university.

I started saving money for school at age 17.  I got decent grades in high school and received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition.  I currently have a 3.8 GPA.

I live comfortably in a cheap apt., knowing I can’t have everything I want.  I don’t eat out every day, or even once a month.  I have no credit card, new car, iPad or smart phone – and I’m perfectly OK with that.  If I did have debt, I would NOT blame Wall St. or the government for my own bad decisions.

I live below my means to continue saving for the future.  I expect nothing to be handed to my, and will continue to work my ass off for everything I have.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.  I am NOT the 99%, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision.

The difference in the attitudes is striking and acts as a perfect demarcation between what is right with America and what is wrong.  It comes down to individual choices.  The first lady continues to borrow money she knows she can’t repay to remain in college studying for a career she knows she cannot attain.  Whether or not there no jobs in her field as she claims is highly doubtful and belies a deep seated self-doubt.  Her resignation to either sell drugs or her body reveals a self-loathing and destructive nature.

The second lady studies hard, works hard, is confident of her future, and most importantly blames nobody but herself for either her successes or failures.  This used to be the mind-set and attitude of the people of the once great United States.

If every American adopted the attitude of the second college senior there would have been no sub-prime mortgage failure as people who could not afford mortgages would not have taken on such a liability.   People must realize that their problems will not be solved by government, by Wall St., by the banks, by Corporate America or by anyone but themselves.  This is how it should be.

When we deviate from this view and expect others to provide for our education, our health, our welfare, we can only expect a collapse not only of the economy but of something more important….our self-esteem.

(Originally aired on Just Right #221, October 13, 2011.)