Dennis Hardin

The Moral Cowardice of American Conservatism

Recommended Posts

Over the weekend, C-SPAN 2’s Book TV aired a recent talk by Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, discussing his new book, The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise. Brooks shares the viewpoint of Rep. Paul Ryan that capitalism is very much in need of a moral defense. (OL members are no doubt aware that Ryan paid lip service to Ayn Rand's moral defense of capitalism, then cut and ran with his ratfink tail between his legs as soon as some religious voices suggested he was lending his moral support to greed and selfishness. Ryan deserves the tarnished moniker of a modern day Judas for his abject cowardice as an alleged admirer of Ayn Rand. But enough about that disgusting little episode of American political history.)

I listened to the speech by Brooks, a well-known conservative spokesman, fully expecting to hear him echo Ryan's cowardly sentiments. But Brooks made no mention of Ayn Rand whatsoever. Predictably, he seemed to argue for a "moral defense" of capitalism on the basis of some vague notion of “fairness.” He cited the work of Charles Murray on how welfare does damage to those it is supposed to help. The best way to defend capitalism, he says, is by showing the pragmatic manner in which it helps the poor and raises the standard of living for everyone. (Yawn.) Since I have not read his book, I have no idea if he makes any mention of Rand, or any effort to discuss the issues of altruism versus self-interest. Based on this speech, I would guess that, if he does mention Rand at all in his book, Brook would likely do so disparagingly. And dismissively.

There was, however, one aspect of Brooks’ talk which I found fascinating, and that was his discussion of new research demonstrating the psychological power of moral evaluation and moral judgment. Brooks gave an amusing description of the family arguments that typically occur annually in American households over Thanksgiving dinner, and talked about his own experiences on these occasions. At the dinner table, he could offer various facts and explanations in defense of his pro-capitalist position and it wouldn’t matter, because his sister-in-law would offer a "hot moral defense" of her own leftist point-of-view. Even though her case consisted of platitudes as opposed to his "cold, materialistic” facts, it was no use. She would win every time because all the moral sentiment was on her side.

As confirmation of his experience, Brooks described some current research on the persuasive impact of moral viewpoints as compared to ‘cold, materialistic’ viewpoints. Specifically, he mentioned a book by John Hiadt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia: The Righteous Mind. According to Hiadt, the same part of the brain-- the prefrontal cortex-- processes both executive decisions and moral judgments. If we are confronted by an executive decision and a moral judgment at the same time, the moral judgment invariably predominates within our field of awareness. Haidt's research shows that when we are confronted with a moral situation, it essentially blows the circuitry in the prefrontal cortex. We cannot focus on anything else but the moral dilemma. “If someone comes at you with a deep moral argument,” Brooks said, “that's what will occupy your brain and your attention and you won’t be able to see anything else.”

Brooks offered another anecdote showing how moral issues impact us emotionally, referring to the average person's revulsion at the notion of cooking the family pet for food. The idea is somehow appalling on a moral level, even though most people could not give a genuine moral argument explaining why this is wrong. Brook explained that a similar mental – emotional process is involved in public policy decision-making. Brooks: "If you're confronted with a moral case, and all you've got is a materialistic rejoinder, guess who's going to win?"

This new research on the emotional power of moral arguments is apparently the primary reason Brooks wrote his book. Brooks contrasted the current conservative tendency to defend capitalism on purely practical grounds with the views of the Founding Fathers. According to Brooks, the Founders would be "scandalized” to learn of the manner in which capitalism is typically defended today.

It is interesting that conservatives like Brooks and Ryan are suddenly coming to the radical “new” discovery that capitalism needs a moral defense. Based on his talk, Brooks appears essentially oblivious to Ayn Rand and her philosophy. At least Ryan acknowledged that it was Rand who first underscored the vital importance of this issue. Considering how miserably slow they are on the uptake, I suppose we shouldn't be shocked at all that religious conservatives are totally lacking in the backbone needed to address the real issues involved.

“Capitalism could not survive in a culture dominated by mysticism and altruism, by the soul body dichotomy and the tribal premise. No social system can survive without a moral base. On the basis of the altruist morality, capitalism had to be – and was--damned from the start."

Ayn Rand, What is Capitalism?

When Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged over half a century ago, she was fully aware that today’s crucial cultural issue was that of morality and that the conventional moral perspective of altruism, unless confronted, would eventually destroy the capitalist system. It's profoundly interesting to note that, all these years later, new research supports Rand's conviction about the impact of moral evaluation in human decision-making. Who knows? Maybe, in another 50 years, we will have politicians and intellectuals with the backbone to deal with the real moral issues involved.

Then we can go about the task of salvaging whatever tattered relic remains of the United States of America. .If there is any.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting Dennis. Seems to have stirred a similar analysis:

Ayn-Rand-397.jpg?1336516857 Arthur Brooks and Ayn Rand on the Moral Case for Free Enterprise

Will Wilkinson on May 8, 2012, 6:41 PM

Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wants to help you, a stalwart supporter of the free enterprise system, to prevail in the coming Thanksgivings' dinner table debates. Here's how he thinks the debate will go if you're ill-prepared:

You’ll say something intelligent about how it was never markets that caused all the pain in this country over the past four years, but rather the growing government and corporate cronies who gamed the system. Maybe you’ll throw in some facts about how real free enterprise rewards entrepreneurs--the only true job creators—and how current leaders are actively hurting them with needless regulation and punitive, uncertain taxation. For color, you might throw in the fact that the U.S. corporate tax rate is now the highest in the OECD countries.

And then your liberal sister-in-law will stare at you. “You want to cut taxes for millionaires while working families lose their homes.” she’ll say. “I saw a little girl living in her car yesterday. That’s what free enterprise looks like.”

Guess what? You just lost the argument.

All the colorless, cold data in the world won't overcome a moral/emotional appeal, Brooks says. So...

If you want to win the argument, you have one choice, and only one: You have to make your own moral case for free enterprise, right from the beginning. No data, no appeals to stats from the Congressional Budget Office. You can bring that stuff in later. When you first open your mouth, it better be to say what’s written on your heart about the country you love and the system that makes us strong and free.

Brooks' claim that one must win the moral argument for free enterprise if one is going to win it at all recalls Ayn Rand, who wrote, "No social system (and no human institution or activity of any kind) can survive without a moral base." Here's one of Brooks' model moral arguments:

“I want to help the little girl, and the poor all around the world as well. Since 1970, the world’s worst poverty—living on $1 a day or less—has fallen by 80%! Why? Was it the United Nations, U.S. foreign aid, or the World Bank that achieved this? Of course not. It was globalization, trade, and entrepreneurship. Welfare can lift up the poor a few at a time. Free enterprise is the only system that will lift them up by the billions, which is why every Good Samaritan must support it, at home and all around the globe.”

Brooks appeals directly to the welfare of the poor, suggesting that the moral case for free enterprise just is the case that free enterprise does more to improve the welfare of the least well-off. This seems to fit the mold of a "social justice" argument. According to Jason Brennan, a philosopher at Georgetown, social justice is

... a moral standard by which some people judge political and economic institutions. Advocates of social justice believe the moral justification of our institutions depends on how well these institutions serve the interests of the poor and least advantaged. The basic institutions of society must sufficiently benefit all, including the least advantaged and most vulnerable members of society.

I've not seen Brooks use the language of social justice. There's good rhetorical reason for him to avoid it. First, conservative hero F.A. Hayek famously argued that the whole idea of social justice is hopelessly confused. Second, conservative hero Ayn Rand and her devotees aren't having it. Here's Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Don Watkins complaining specifically about Arthur Brooks' brand of moral argument:

The real battle for capitalism is the battle over the question: Is it moral to pursue our own happiness? If so, then why should we ever be forced to sacrifice for the needs of others? Is the moral call to sacrifice, which we’ve had drummed in our heads since childhood, right?

If you're dying of suspense, the answer is: "No." But it's interesting that Rand, despite the vehemence of her rhetoric, seems to go out of her way to communicate that under capitalism, as she conceives of it, Brooks' little homeless girl will do well. She writes:

The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.”
It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence
. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice. [Emphasis added.]

Capitalism achieves the common good, by the way. But it's real justification is that capitalism is just, which Rand understands to mean, more or less, it gives people what they deserve. It's telling, though, that the rhetorically fearless Rand in this instance gave into the rhetorical pressure to note that capitalism is justified on "altruist" common-good grounds. In Free-Market Fairness, John Tomasi points to some other similar Rand passages in his effort to show that even the most hard-headed of ethical egoists gives weight to "social justice" modes of justification. For example:

America’s skyscrapers were not built by public funds nor for a public purpose: they were built by the energy, initiative and wealth of private individuals for personal profit. And, instead of impoverishing the people, these skyscrapers, as they rose higher and higher, kept raising the people's standard of living –
including the inhabitants of the slums
, who lead a life of luxury compared to the life of an ancient Egyptian slave or of a modern Soviet Socialist worker.

Or:

Capitalism, by its nature, entails a constant process of motion, growth and progress. It creates the optimum social conditions for man to respond to the challenges of nature in such a way as best to further his life. It operates to the benefit of all those who choose to be active in the productive process,
whatever their level of ability
.

This shouldn't be so surprising, really. If you're an egoist, the only relevant consideration is whether the system is good for you. Of course, you might have been born poor and without talent. If capitalism is to be justified to the less advantaged, it must be good for the less advantaged. And Rand thinks it is. She doesn't put much weight on this, but she does put weight on it.

Despite their differences, Arthur Brooks and Ayn Rand aren't really so far apart. I think this is clearest in the fact that they both actively contrast capitalism, or the free enterprise system, with the welfare state. When Brooks writes that "Welfare can lift up the poor a few at a time. Free enterprise is the only system that will lift them up by the billions ..." it is implied that we must choose one or the other. And here we have him saying this:

If we fail to make this moral case right now, you and I both know that we probably don’t have more than about 10 years left before we truly are a European-style social welfare state. And then it’s kind of all over for free enterprise.

Of course, Rand had nothing nice to say about the welfare state. This is representative:

Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites. Since need, not achievement, is held as the criterion of rewards, the government necessarily keeps sacrificing the more productive groups to the less productive, gradually chaining the top level of the economy, then the next level, then the next. (How else are unachieved rewards to be provided?)

The problem with both Brooks' and Rand's claims is that they're totally spurious. Both seem to have accepted a version of Hayek's "road to serfdom" slippery slope argument. If this were true, then one would expect that it would be impossible for the world's most generous welfare states to have "free enterprise" systems with high levels of economic freedom. But just compare OECD social spending as a % or GDP with the Heritage Foundation's economic freedom ranking.

46324341Chart_SOCX_2010.JPG

By this measure (looking specifically at the public spending portion of the bars), Denmark has the fourth largest welfare state in the OECD, while America's public social spending is in the neighborhood of Israel's, near the bottom, and is a bit less than that of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the other major Anglophone ex-British colonies.

But look here!

Heritage-Economic-Freedom.jpg

In terms of "economic freedom", Canada, with its terrifying socialist health-care system has left America in the dust, as have Australia and New Zealand. But even more damning to Rand and Brooks is that fact that the U.S. is in a statistical dead heat with Denmark, which has one of the world's largest welfare states. Sweden's is even larger, and comes 21st in economic freedom -- well within the ranks of Heritage's "mostly free" economies, with the U.S.

The fact is, there is no clear trade-off between the size of a country's welfare state and its level of economic freedom. Denmark's free enterprise system is as free as ours, and Canada's, New Zealand's, and Australia's are freer while also having more generous welfare states. One may heartily endorse Brooks' moral argument for free enterprise while also endorsing the moral argument for the welfare state. Randians, on the other hand, have at their disposal other property-rights-based arguments against redistribution, even after the slippery-slope argument above has been refuted on empirical grounds. Still, the facts leave the force of those arguments greatly reduced.

Good luck with Thanksgiving dinner!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don Watkins, on the ARI (Yaron Brook) link shown above, says:

Brooks is right that this is the key issue we face if we want to limit government, and more than that, a lot of what Brooks has to say about capitalism’s morality is good—certainly far better than what most conservatives say.

That’s a lot more charitable than I would be. Brooks never once challenges the ethics of altruism, and endorses Hayek’s notion of the “social safety net.”

Brooks grants the leftist opposition their premise of altruism-collectivism, just as other conservatives typically do. The fact that he understands the need for a moral defense, yet falls back on the same old ethical tripe, makes his position more cowardly, not less.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don Watkins, on the ARI (Yaron Brook) link shown above, says:

Brooks is right that this is the key issue we face if we want to limit government, and more than that, a lot of what Brooks has to say about capitalism’s morality is good—certainly far better than what most conservatives say.

That’s a lot more charitable than I would be. Brooks never once challenges the ethics of altruism, and endorses Hayek’s notion of the “social safety net.”

Brooks grants the leftist opposition their premise of altruism-collectivism, just as other conservatives typically do. The fact that he understands the need for a moral defense, yet falls back on the same old ethical tripe, makes his position more cowardly, not less.

Exactly Dennis. The moment you concede that issue you have lost.

The subtle dynamic of not conceding that issue and stressing the moral right to produce and keep the fruits of your production without any consideration of helping another is predictably difficult.

You can take that position and not fall into the trap of "well don't you feel obligated to help others?" You may have to suffer the tsk tsk look and the shaking of the head, but it is worth taking the stance and holding to it.

Adam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don Watkins, on the ARI (Yaron Brook) link shown above, says:

That’s a lot more charitable than I would be. Brooks never once challenges the ethics of altruism, and endorses Hayek’s notion of the “social safety net.”

Brooks grants the leftist opposition their premise of altruism-collectivism, just as other conservatives typically do. The fact that he understands the need for a moral defense, yet falls back on the same old ethical tripe, makes his position more cowardly, not less.

Dennis,

A defense of markets on the basis of a Rawlsian concept of social justice (i.e. its consequences for the least well-off) isn't technically altruism. Rawlsian social justice is a consequentialist standard; a system is good if the system provides consistent improvement for the conditions of the worst off. Altruism is a Deontological standard and argues that an individual action is good if it is done with the "good of others" as the ultimate end.

Rawlsian social justice is also not exactly pro-sacrifice. Rawls said that the rich can get as rich as they like, as long as the process of doing so increases the "floor" result (i.e. improves the worst result).

I disagree with Rawls, but he wasn't a Comtean Altruist, and his standard of social justice (which, again, I disagree with) isn't Altruist. It doesn't mandate altruistic conduct in the least.

Interesting Dennis. Seems to have stirred a similar analysis:

Arthur Brooks and Ayn Rand on the Moral Case for Free Enterprise

Will Wilkinson on May 8, 2012, 6:41 PM

The fact is, there is no clear trade-off between the size of a country's welfare state and its level of economic freedom. Denmark's free enterprise system is as free as ours, and Canada's, New Zealand's, and Australia's are freer while also having more generous welfare states. One may heartily endorse Brooks' moral argument for free enterprise while also endorsing the moral argument for the welfare state. Randians, on the other hand, have at their disposal other property-rights-based arguments against redistribution, even after the slippery-slope argument above has been refuted on empirical grounds. Still, the facts leave the force of those arguments greatly reduced.

Good luck with Thanksgiving dinner!

Wilkinson touches on an important point here, but I think it needs to be stated that Welfare and other income redistribution schemes are only one of many possible threats to economic freedom. The "slippery-slope argument" that Hayek used applied not just to Welfare but also to things like price controls and all other kinds of economic management. Wilkinson is taking Hayek out of context and thinking that Hayek only hated welfare (this is untrue since he accepted the necessity of a modest safety net provided by a Universal Basic Income, similar to a Negative Income Tax).

Also, Wilkinson calls Hayek conservative. Hayek was a libertarian, NOT a conservative.

Going back to my earlier point, I notice a lot of leftists assume any critique of government management of the economy is automatically taken as an attack on welfare. I also notice that a lot of rightists seem to believe that the only threat to economic freedom is welfare (hence they complain more about welfare than, say, the FDA, or huge taxes and incentives and subsidies to defense contractors, etc).

Economic Freedom is a complex, multifaceted, multidimensional thing. Boiling it down into one index is extraordinarily difficult to do. As an Australian, I'm apparently in a more-free economy than the US. However, our labor unions have massive institutionalized perks, privileges and benefits, and Australia's current governing party is explicitly the political arm of the union movement. The prices we pay here are obscene, worse than even Beverly Hills (I'm dead serious).

Australia is more free in some respects, less free in other respects. Again, Economic Freedom is multidimensional. There are plenty more threats to it than welfare!!!

Oh, and Wilkinson's point about the welfare states of the Nordic countries misses an important point; these welfare systems have often been reformed away from the bureaucracy-driven model and towards a market-driven model (Sweden has voucher schools, for instance). Many state companies there have been privatized.

I listened to the speech by Brooks, a well-known conservative spokesman, fully expecting to hear him echo Ryan's cowardly sentiments. But Brooks made no mention of Ayn Rand whatsoever. Predictably, he seemed to argue for a "moral defense" of capitalism on the basis of some vague notion of “fairness.” He cited the work of Charles Murray on how welfare does damage to those it is supposed to help. The best way to defend capitalism, he says, is by showing the pragmatic manner in which it helps the poor and raises the standard of living for everyone. (Yawn.)

Dennis,

Why the yawn? I absolutely agree that an Objectivist defense of markets is necessary. But the fact that moving more towards markets and away from controls creates more wealth for everyone isn't something to be greeted with a yawn. It is enabling more people around the world to live their own lives on their own terms, to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment. Objectivists should welcome this with open arms! Poverty is not conducive to the life of man qua man.

Also, I should add another thing; it isn't necessarily a choice between pragmatic and moral arguments for markets. Even Rand conceded that the pragmatic argument was empirically true about the benefits of freedom. But here's another thing; we Objectivists defend markets on the basis that they are the only social system compatible with human nature (a nature which necessitates individual rights). Do not organisms thrive in environments that are suited to their nature?

It is quite viable to say that the utilitarian benefits of markets in fact prove the Objectivist contention that markets are suited to human nature; if markets were not suited to human nature, they wouldn't create positive results. The consequentialist case for markets is evidence for the natural rights argument.

It is interesting that conservatives like Brooks and Ryan are suddenly coming to the radical “new” discovery that capitalism needs a moral defense. Based on his talk, Brooks appears essentially oblivious to Ayn Rand and her philosophy. At least Ryan acknowledged that it was Rand who first underscored the vital importance of this issue. Considering how miserably slow they are on the uptake, I suppose we shouldn't be shocked at all that religious conservatives are totally lacking in the backbone needed to address the real issues involved.

They aren't "miserably slow on the uptake." They know who Ayn Rand is. They just reject her entire philosophy because they do not believe man exists with his own happiness as the proper moral end of their lives. They believe man exists to serve god. This is why the arguments against Ryan were so effective at making him backtrack. This is why Brooks uses a consequentialist defense of markets (Rawlianism, in his case). None of them accept the moral legitimacy of the individual non-coercive pursuit of happiness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew:

Economic Freedom is a complex, multifaceted, multidimensional thing. Boiling it down into one index is extraordinarily difficult to do. As an Australian, I'm apparently in a more-free economy than the US. However, our labor unions have massive institutionalized perks, privileges and benefits, and Australia's current governing party is explicitly the political arm of the union movement. The prices we pay here are obscene, worse than even Beverly Hills (I'm dead serious).

Precisely. I have had this argument with the "right" since post Goldwater in 1965. It is a true blind spot in the Republican elites argumentation. The worst aspect of the blind spot is that the folks that would come over to capitalism see right through the Republican blind spot.

Oh, and Wilkinson's point about the welfare states of the Nordic countries misses an important point; these welfare systems have often been reformed away from the bureaucracy-driven model and towards a market-driven model (Sweden has voucher schools, for instance). Many state companies there have been privatized.

Thanks. I was not aware of this.

Adam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dennis,

A defense of markets on the basis of a Rawlsian concept of social justice (i.e. its consequences for the least well-off) isn't technically altruism. Rawlsian social justice is a consequentialist standard; a system is good if the system provides consistent improvement for the conditions of the worst off. Altruism is a Deontological standard and argues that an individual action is good if it is done with the "good of others" as the ultimate end.

Rawlsian social justice is also not exactly pro-sacrifice. Rawls said that the rich can get as rich as they like, as long as the process of doing so increases the "floor" result (i.e. improves the worst result).

I disagree with Rawls, but he wasn't a Comtean Altruist, and his standard of social justice (which, again, I disagree with) isn't Altruist. It doesn't mandate altruistic conduct in the least.

I listened to the speech by Brooks, a well-known conservative spokesman, fully expecting to hear him echo Ryan's cowardly sentiments. But Brooks made no mention of Ayn Rand whatsoever. Predictably, he seemed to argue for a "moral defense" of capitalism on the basis of some vague notion of “fairness.” He cited the work of Charles Murray on how welfare does damage to those it is supposed to help. The best way to defend capitalism, he says, is by showing the pragmatic manner in which it helps the poor and raises the standard of living for everyone. (Yawn.)

Dennis,

Why the yawn? I absolutely agree that an Objectivist defense of markets is necessary. But the fact that moving more towards markets and away from controls creates more wealth for everyone isn't something to be greeted with a yawn. It is enabling more people around the world to live their own lives on their own terms, to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment. Objectivists should welcome this with open arms! Poverty is not conducive to the life of man qua man.

Also, I should add another thing; it isn't necessarily a choice between pragmatic and moral arguments for markets. Even Rand conceded that the pragmatic argument was empirically true about the benefits of freedom. But here's another thing; we Objectivists defend markets on the basis that they are the only social system compatible with human nature (a nature which necessitates individual rights). Do not organisms thrive in environments that are suited to their nature?

It is quite viable to say that the utilitarian benefits of markets in fact prove the Objectivist contention that markets are suited to human nature; if markets were not suited to human nature, they wouldn't create positive results. The consequentialist case for markets is evidence for the natural rights argument.

Andrew,

Thanks for your interesting comments. However, quite frankly, I must tell you that I find your points utterly irrelevant to the key issue here: until and unless advocates of the free market dispense with collectivist-utilitarian defenses and acknowledge every man’s right to live for his own sake, they are wasting their breath. That’s why I respond to this sort of hair-splitting with a yawn. Nobody cares, and no one is going to be convinced, because it completely sidesteps the fundamental issue that must be confronted and disposed of philosophically.

It is interesting that conservatives like Brooks and Ryan are suddenly coming to the radical “new” discovery that capitalism needs a moral defense. Based on his talk, Brooks appears essentially oblivious to Ayn Rand and her philosophy. At least Ryan acknowledged that it was Rand who first underscored the vital importance of this issue. Considering how miserably slow they are on the uptake, I suppose we shouldn't be shocked at all that religious conservatives are totally lacking in the backbone needed to address the real issues involved.

They aren't "miserably slow on the uptake." They know who Ayn Rand is. They just reject her entire philosophy because they do not believe man exists with his own happiness as the proper moral end of their lives. They believe man exists to serve god. This is why the arguments against Ryan were so effective at making him backtrack. This is why Brooks uses a consequentialist defense of markets (Rawlianism, in his case). None of them accept the moral legitimacy of the individual non-coercive pursuit of happiness.

They reject Rand's philosophy because they are wearing religious blinders, and that's why they are, as I said, "miserably slow on the uptake." Some of them may know who Rand is, but they make no genuine effort to come to grips with her philosophy, because they are too threatened by it. She defies everything they stand for. And because of their fear, they cannot see the obvious that is staring them in the face.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dennis,

A defense of markets on the basis of a Rawlsian concept of social justice (i.e. its consequences for the least well-off) isn't technically altruism. Rawlsian social justice is a consequentialist standard; a system is good if the system provides consistent improvement for the conditions of the worst off. Altruism is a Deontological standard and argues that an individual action is good if it is done with the "good of others" as the ultimate end.

Rawlsian social justice is also not exactly pro-sacrifice. Rawls said that the rich can get as rich as they like, as long as the process of doing so increases the "floor" result (i.e. improves the worst result).

I disagree with Rawls, but he wasn't a Comtean Altruist, and his standard of social justice (which, again, I disagree with) isn't Altruist. It doesn't mandate altruistic conduct in the least.

I listened to the speech by Brooks, a well-known conservative spokesman, fully expecting to hear him echo Ryan's cowardly sentiments. But Brooks made no mention of Ayn Rand whatsoever. Predictably, he seemed to argue for a "moral defense" of capitalism on the basis of some vague notion of “fairness.” He cited the work of Charles Murray on how welfare does damage to those it is supposed to help. The best way to defend capitalism, he says, is by showing the pragmatic manner in which it helps the poor and raises the standard of living for everyone. (Yawn.)

Dennis,

Why the yawn? I absolutely agree that an Objectivist defense of markets is necessary. But the fact that moving more towards markets and away from controls creates more wealth for everyone isn't something to be greeted with a yawn. It is enabling more people around the world to live their own lives on their own terms, to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment. Objectivists should welcome this with open arms! Poverty is not conducive to the life of man qua man.

Also, I should add another thing; it isn't necessarily a choice between pragmatic and moral arguments for markets. Even Rand conceded that the pragmatic argument was empirically true about the benefits of freedom. But here's another thing; we Objectivists defend markets on the basis that they are the only social system compatible with human nature (a nature which necessitates individual rights). Do not organisms thrive in environments that are suited to their nature?

It is quite viable to say that the utilitarian benefits of markets in fact prove the Objectivist contention that markets are suited to human nature; if markets were not suited to human nature, they wouldn't create positive results. The consequentialist case for markets is evidence for the natural rights argument.

Andrew,

Thanks for your interesting comments. However, quite frankly, I must tell you that I find your points utterly irrelevant to the key issue here: until and unless advocates of the free market dispense with collectivist-utilitarian defenses and acknowledge every man’s right to live for his own sake, they are wasting their breath. That’s why I respond to this sort of hair-splitting with a yawn. Nobody cares, and no one is going to be convinced, because it completely sidesteps the fundamental issue that must be confronted and disposed of philosophically.

I agree that a moral defense of acting in one's interests is indeed a necessity to defend markets. That said, I reject the idea that consequentialist, utilitarian defenses of markets are worthless. They clearly aren't; both Mises and Hayek came around to classical liberalism because of consequentialism. "Nobody cares" conveniently sidesteps the many economists and economic arguments which have been won by classical liberalism on a consequentialist basis. I agree that a moral defense of self-interested action is necessary for us to win, but 1) necessary =/= sufficient, 2) the necessity of a moral defense of self-interested action does not preclude the usefulness of other defenses of market economics, and 3) as stated before, consequentialist arguments and natural rights arguments are fundamentally compatible via the logic I previously explained.

Also, whilst there is often overlap between collectivism and utilitarianism, they shouldn't be package-dealt together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Argue for freedom--individual rights--live your morality. Grow into it. Be it. Say what it is. But do not tell the other fellow to chuck his and take yours; morality is not clothes you put on and take off. Freedom is a common business, not just your business. Morality needs work and nobody else can do it for you. Freedom can be yours simply because others did the work and you didn't--you just took it and used it for it was there--fair enough; I've done that too. It's still great to be an American even if America is dissolving. Above all do not forget the morality (ethics) within human rights; a right means right action. Yes! A wrong means wrong action. No!

--Brant

bad dog, bad dog!

the basic locus of Objectivism is morality and ethics which informs all voluntary human action either in thinking (epistemology) or doing (politics) and the doing that's not politics. Morality is personal. Ethics is morality goes social.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Argue for freedom--individual rights--live your morality. Grow into it. Be it. Say what it is. But do not tell the other fellow to chuck his and take yours; morality is not clothes you put on and take off. --Brant

bad dog, bad dog!

the basic locus of Objectivism is morality and ethics which informs all voluntary human action either in thinking (epistemology) or doing (politics) and the doing that's not politics. Morality is personal. Ethics is morality goes social.

Do the words 'objective code of morality' mean anything to you?

Abandon hope, all ye who buy this crap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Argue for freedom--individual rights--live your morality. Grow into it. Be it. Say what it is. But do not tell the other fellow to chuck his and take yours; morality is not clothes you put on and take off. --Brant

bad dog, bad dog!

the basic locus of Objectivism is morality and ethics which informs all voluntary human action either in thinking (epistemology) or doing (politics) and the doing that's not politics. Morality is personal. Ethics is morality goes social.

Do the words 'objective code of morality' mean anything to you?

Abandon hope, all ye who buy this crap.

Now you are trying to use morality to control people, albeit without force. The objective code you should refer to is legal codification. That's politics. That's ethics. True, it's still control but social, not cultist. Hitler had an "objective code of morality," you know, sans ethics. Sacrifice. Subjective made objective. Stalin did too. Same thing. You can objectify politics--individual rights' protection, but no one, including Ayn Rand, can do that with morality, even if her deficient liberal arts education hadn't been, for it's objective on top and subjective all the way down unless you recognize the tentativeness of it all, as in science, with the objective case made best for the basic principles thereof.

--Brant

I can't believe you'd use such harsh language with me, sensitive me

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--Brant

I can't believe you'd use such harsh language with me, sensitive me

Okay. I get it. This is a joke. Right? Ha Ha. Very funny.

Please don't expect me to take you seriously if it isn't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--Brant

I can't believe you'd use such harsh language with me, sensitive me

Okay. I get it. This is a joke. Right? Ha Ha. Very funny.

Please don't expect me to take you seriously if it isn't.

So, the default is you are taking me seriously?

I've never come across anyone with as much knowledge and brains as yourself who goes off the ratiocination tracks so easily in these types of Internet discussions. With others who do this it's youth, ignorance and even plain dumbassness. Not you. Please stop trying to bitch slap me.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--Brant

I can't believe you'd use such harsh language with me, sensitive me

Okay. I get it. This is a joke. Right? Ha Ha. Very funny.

Please don't expect me to take you seriously if it isn't.

So, the default is you are taking me seriously?

I've never come across anyone with as much knowledge and brains as yourself who goes off the ratiocination tracks so easily in these types of Internet discussions. With others who do this it's youth, ignorance and even plain dumbassness. Not you. Please stop trying to bitch slap me.

--Brant

Come on, guys. If you two can't argue without an overlay of good will, there's no hope--here or anywhere else.**

**Not an impersonation of Mr. Coates, by the way...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David,

Maybe I haven’t been keeping up on current events, but the last time I checked, it was okay for me to express my honest opinion here on OL. Michael’s rules don’t say anything about sugar-coating. All I did was point out that Brant’s comments on morality are not remotely consistent with Objectivism. Since this webforum is called “Objectivist Living,” I thought maybe that was relevant.

Do the words 'objective code of morality' mean anything to you?

Abandon hope, all ye who buy this crap.

Okay. I get it. This is a joke. Right? Ha Ha. Very funny.

Please don't expect me to take you seriously if it isn't.

Brant calls that “going off the ratiocination tracks.” I call it expressing my opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Expressing an opinion is not ratiocination.

--Brant

my views on morality are and are not consistent with Objectivism--depends on the particulars and the level addressed, but I agree with the very basic principles of the philosophy which cannot be enough for "an objective code of morality"--I can articulate such a code, but Dennis would find it far from his enough--you see, I want to think about the subject, not just obey it; the complexity of human beings and their cultures and histories and motivations and psychologies and contexts and educations far outstrips Ayn Rand's "ideal man" and his needs and ignores too much is for should be even if a lot of that should be should be

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reflections in this thread. I think that individual rights and the rightness of the rational selfishness they permit must be championed in public debate if a durable libertarianism is to expand among the citizens and in law. Defense of the utility of laissez-faire capitalism is also necessary, but it needs to be tied to individual rights as primary.

The issues of this thread will be also engaged at the upcoming Atlas Summit. See the descriptions for “The Problem with ‘Selfishness’” (Marsha Enright); “Milton Friedman and Liberty” (Robert Bradley); and “Values in Atlas Shrugged 2: Goodwill and Trust” (William Thomas).

Coming soon is a book relevant to this topic, The Tyranny of Need by Peter Schwartz.

Related to that book is a lecture "How to Dissuade an Altruist” (7/5/12).

Lecture Description

Every conclusion one reaches is conditioned by a certain context of knowledge, a context ordinarily consisting of a number of premises. In any intellectual discussion, therefore, we must consider our audience’s cognitive context. What then must we consider when trying to dissuade altruists? What are the premises conditioning a belief in the virtue of sacrifice and the evil of selfishness? More important, what is the hierarchical order in which we must address and refute those premises? And what kinds of concrete illustrations are required? Mr. Schwartz had to answer these questions in preparing to write his soon-to-be completed book on altruism, “The Tyranny of Need.” In this lecture, he explains how he chose the central points presented in his book and why he rejected various alternatives. He shows what Objectivists should take as the audience’s context if they want to make a convincing case against altruism and for egoism.

My own case of dissuasion is here.* To that note I would add that there are conceptions relevant to ethics that many people hold, but have not themselves identified explicitly nor yet heard from others. I’m thinking in particular of the idea that life is an end in itself and the extension to the rational animal that the life of each is an end in itself.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here is a window into an important aspect of the debate in academia today, from Needs and Moral Necessity (2007) by Soren Reader.

According to the practice conception, ethics is just one part of life, not the whole of it. Virtue ethical theories, in contrast, take ethics to be essentially concerned with the much broader question of how to live human life well. I objected to this view in Chapter 2, that it fails to capture the actual activities which we identify as ethical and that it reflects the kind of agent- and bystander bias which I have argued distorts most of our moral philosophy.

In taking ethics to be about moral agents—about us, as it were—virtue theory obscures the vital importance of patients in need, to which it is the purpose of ethics to respond. . . . (142)

Also of current interest: On Sacrifice (2012) by Moshe Halbertal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reflections in this thread. I think that individual rights and the rightness of the rational selfishness they permit must be championed in public debate if a durable libertarianism is to expand among the citizens and in law. Defense of the utility of laissez-faire capitalism is also necessary, but it needs to be tied to individual rights as primary.

.

Thanks for your very thoughtful contribution and references, Stephen. Much appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've never come across anyone with as much knowledge and brains as yourself who goes off the ratiocination tracks so easily in these types of Internet discussions. With others who do this it's youth, ignorance and even plain dumbassness. Not you. Please stop trying to bitch slap me.

You got off easy, Brant. The tetchiness of Dr Hardin is capable of much much more. Here for example, when touting the benefits of the Five Minute Phobia cure, I become a vile thing:

This is hooey of the highest order. A so-called 'psychological reversal' is a claim made after failure of TFT tapping.

If you can't tap your troubles away, you see, it is your own fault.

Once again, the silly fool has no idea what he is talking about.

Once again, he is the cyber equivalent of Ellsworth Toohey doing all he can to discourage people from pursuing individual growth and achievement, giving them excuses not to take actions that could potentially improve their lives. It would be one thing for him to admit that he lacks the personal courage to pursue a technique that has helped so many people improve their lives. But he wants to raise a quasi-scientific smokescreen to prevent others from doing it. He is enshrining his own ignorance as a self-righteous bulwark in the path of those who might wish to try Callahan's approach. If this is not pure, unvarnished evil, I would like to know what on this earth would qualify as evil.

See, Brant? You are just wrong about Objectivism, according to the Doctor. Me, I am pure, unvarnished Evul. EVULLLLLLLL.

I would encourage readers to not let this ignorant curmudgeon stand in the way of your own personal growth.

Of course, Dr Hardin did not leave much room for invective against the former number two in the world of Five Minute Phobia Cures (Monica Pignotti). Since I was pure unvarnished evul, what was she?

Well, as can be seen from the end of that thread, when Dr Hardin's loopy, crabby, tetchy adherence to Callahan was challenged by Dr Pignotti (who was indeed Callahan's deputy and supporter for many years) on facts and science and her work to dismantle the bullshit undergirding the Callahan Techniques, he disappeared from view and comment. He appears to have fainted dead away, unable to be revived.

Perhaps Dr Pignotti was just far far far too Evul to be responded to. So count your blessings, Brant, you are not evul, just stupid and non-Objective. Dr Hardin will no doubt still buy you a drink at the OL November Election Party, with a smile, while he fixes me with the cold stare of Reason and Justice and Science.

Edited by william.scherk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I need to study tapping more before I can comment intelligently on it, but I believe I ran across some neuroscience studies that now back up some of it. (I would have to look around a bit to remember where, but I'm sure with a little research, they can be found.)

It makes sense to me that something is valid with tapping since the first task of the brain with the outside world is to process sensory information and make mental patterns out of it. In fact, formal hypnosis (as opposed to Ericksonian-type covert hypnosis) is predicated on numbing the aware part of the mind (basically, working memory) with a constant sensory stimulation before addressing the subconscious.

I, personally, think 5-minute phobia cures are cool. People who have been cured think so, too.

As to Callahan himself, my impression from seeing him on some videos on YouTube and reading a few things about him is that he is a mixed package--one part that gets actual results and another part that is bluster and fudges on pure scientific discipline.

But that kind of person is very common among innovators (and has been throughout history), so I don't think it is valid to dismiss his results because of his vanity. To me, the correct thing to do is to take a look at his results and dig into the whys of them more deeply.

Results are results and they are real, irrespective of claims (both for and against). When people start yelling, it is hard for outsiders and newcomers to separate the claim (especially a biased claim) from the result. But that's exactly what critical thinking demands.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Callahan wrote a very good book, "Contact," and a piece of junk, "Five Minute Phobia Cure." A whole book and only one garbled explanation of the technique itself. I couldn't make sense of the instructions. Do this, do that and that????

--Brant

no opinion on the "cure" itself

I haven't been able to verify "Contact" written by Callahan. I cannot get at the book I have in storage, whatever the actual title. I cannot find anything by him on Amazon with any title that corresponds in the least to what I have in my mind.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Callahan wrote a very good book, "Contact," and a piece of junk, "Five Minute Phobia Cure."

Too bad he used the same title as Carl Sagan's book "Contact," which got turned into that fabulous J Neil Schulman movie with Jodie Foster. I asked Monica Pignotti about Callahan's book "Contact." She never heard of him writing such a book -- but, as may ask the man on the fainting couch when he comes to, "what would she know?"

Here is the Spooky Tale of an OL Superstar put in Diana Hsieh-style video Radio Show format:

Edited by william.scherk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

William,

That one was a dud.

Stinker.

You're trying too hard on the target people, trying too hard to position yourself as oh-so-superior, and totally missing the message.

This is a problem with many people I see who come from the liberal mindset.

(The problems of the conservative mindset are just as bad, but a different kettle of fish.)

I'm not saying this to dissuade you from making these videos. I see you seeking a style and starting to find a glimmer of a unique voice. So please take this criticism as honest feedback from a friendly voice.

You are better than just a troll who makes weird troll videos to feed his vanity.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...