Both Obama and McCain share the same fundamental philosophical premises…that the individual is second to some “higher” cause or power. For McCain it is the “nation”, for Obama, the “collective.” Neither is a champion of individual rights. The difference is that Obama is an unabashed socialist. He is a clear target. McCain, on the other hand, is a murky target. That is because as the Republican, rightly or wrongly, he carries the banner of free market capitalism.
The danger is that a President McCain will discredit, demoralize, and split the pro-free market forces between those who feel obligated to support the GOP guy they voted for, despite bad policies, and those who oppose him on principle.
With Obama in the White House and a Democratic congress, the Left’s agenda will take explicit center stage. This will open the door to a full exposure of the true authoritarian nature of their designs on America. Rather than sneaking their freedom-eroding agenda into law piecemeal under stealth cover of a Republican administration, the Dems will have nowhere to hide. The disparate elements of what today passes for the “Right” will present a solid wall of opposition. The key question is, will an effective, principled pro-capitalist, pro-individual rights opposition arise within the GOP? Or will the Left be able to move its destructive programs through an intellectual vacuum?
The true authoritarian nature of Obama’s agenda is now fully exposed on center stage. The threat to America is clear and unmistakable, just seven months into the presidency of Barack Obama. At the same time, as I expected, the disparate elements of what today passes for the “Right” [now] present a solid wall of opposition. This wall, manifested in the “Tea Party” movement and the townhall meetings this August, is obviously building on a grass roots foundation. More fundamentally, the collapse of both major political parties in so short a time frame has opened up a gaping political and intellectual vacuum … a veritable black hole. People are looking for answers, and this has manifested itself in an extraordinary cultural phenomenon. Richard E. Ralston, Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, writes:
“Tea parties and town hall meetings are not the only signs of public discontent. There are more substantial cultural indicators. One of the most remarkable is the rapidly rising sales of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged.
“In 2008 more copies of that novel were sold than in any year in its 52-year history. And more copies were sold in the first half of 2009 than in all of 2008.
“Why are hundreds of thousands of people suddenly reading a serious, intellectual, eleven-hundred-page novel written half a century ago? Perhaps it is because events in Washington, D.C. are disconcertingly developing like the plot of Atlas Shrugged. Not least among these events is the push for government control over health care.” (Emphasis added.)
The surprising strength and powerful motivation of the “rebellion” has knocked the Dems back on their heels. Despite large majorities in both houses of congress, the president’s signature domestic policy initiative, health care reform, has been anything but the legislative cakewalk they expected. In fact, it is in serious trouble as infighting between their “moderate” and liberal wings breaks out over key provisions like the “public option” and Medicare.
This unity on the Right would not have been possible with a President McCain. We would be struggling with a compromise, watered down version of Obama statism.
But when you look below the surface of the Tea Party phenomenon, what you see are indeed the disparate elements of what today passes for the “Right”. People and organizations seem mostly motivated by a myriad of specific concrete issues. Many do refer to America’s founding principles, but without clearly or consistently delineating those principles. Many advocate for capitalism on utilitarian or practical grounds. There are religious rightists, libertarians, conservatives, "moderates", and even disgruntled Democrats. The movement is marked by a chaos of mixed premises, but all are united in opposition to the year-long burst of statism from two parties and two administrations.
Differences aside, there is a common thread woven through the movement, which reflects the growing unease of what is now a majority of the population – the sense that something is seriously wrong with the country’s direction, that the government is breaking free of all constitutional restraints, that “We the People” are losing our freedom and our American ideals.
And it’s true. Yet the eruption of this spontaneous rebellion is only the beginning. The hard work is just beginning. The Tea Party Movement … and it is now a movement … has the potential to dramatically alter the political fabric of the nation. But the wall of opposition as it currently stands is too granulated to succeed in the longer run. Without the proper philosophical/moral cement to solidify it, the wall will disintegrate under a sea of compromise and equivocation, like a sandcastle on the beach.
With this in mind, my wife Kathy, daughter Susan, and myself will be in Washington DC on 9/12/09 for the march on the capital. In my 60 years, I’ve never participated in any kind of political demonstration before. But thanks to Susan’s prodding – “It’s time to put your ‘money’ where your mouth is, dad”, she told me – I’m going.
But we won’t be going as protesters, so much as advocates. Our focus will not be on narrow concrete issues like taxes, Tarp, or Cap & Trade. All of the issues of the day are important, of course. But the real battle … the outcome of which will determine the resolution of the major issues … is much more fundamental. I truly believe that we now have our first openly counter-revolutionary president – that is, counter- American Revolution. Therefor, we must take the fight to the battleground of fundamental philosophical ideas.
So we will focus on raising awareness of the twin pillars of America’s Founding Ideals. In keeping with our belief that the Right must congeal around a coherent set of philosophical principles if it is to succeed in defeating statism, our purpose will be two-fold (three-fold, really). We will focus on two almost-forgotten and virtually-ignored yet vital ideals. Our presence will feature a banner which reads “Save our Republic, Uphold Individual Rights”. We will be passing out a couple of flyers, as well.
The first flyer begins with this preamble:
The trend toward the end of freedom and capitalism in America is being fueled by the abandonment of two indispensable principles: that America is a Republic, and is based upon unalienable individual rights. It is absolutely imperative that we rediscover these two concepts, without which America cannot survive.
That introductory statement will be followed by “What is a Republic?” featuring selected excerpts by philosopher Leonard Peikoff which starts out with “The American system is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic.”
The American system is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule; the classic example is ancient Athens. And the symbol of it is the fate of Socrates, who was put to death legally because the majority didn’t like what he was saying, although he had initiated no force and had violated no one’s rights.
Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. [Collectivism is the doctrine that holds that the standard of value is the group, to which the individual is subordinate and can be sacrificed on any group whim, as represented by the state.] In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . .
The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights. In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel [as with the election of mayors, congressmen or the president, who are bound by the constitutional limitations]. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government. It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights.
Then, the answer to “What are Individual Rights?” features selected excerpts and paraphrases from philosopher Ayn Rand’s important essay Man’s Rights.
The Declaration of Independence states that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man’s origin does not alter the fact that his means of survival is his reasoning mind. The mind is an attribute of the individual, and cannot function successfully under coercion. Individual rights are a necessary condition of man’s particular mode of survival, and are therefore unalienable based upon this fact of nature.
A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by any other person, group, or the government. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law; they are a legal sanction of the freedom to live and act upon one’s own moral principles.
Individual rights guarantee the freedom of each person to think and act on his own judgement.
Rights impose no obligation save one – to respect and refrain from violating the rights of others.
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 and thus no right to life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product…his property…is a slave.
The right to life means that a man has the right to support his life by his own work (on any economic level, as high as his ability will carry him); it does not mean that others must provide him with the necessities of life. There is no “right”, for example, to a job, an education, a home, or healthcare that must be provided by others. There is only the right to produce them oneself or to acquire them by voluntary trade and contract from those who do produce them.
These two issues are related, of course. Individual rights is the core founding principle of America, and the republican governmental construct is the practical implementation of the need to protect those rights.
The second flyer will be “What the Tea Party Movement Must Stand For” from the Tea Party web page of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. It urges the Right to defend the morality of the American ideals, declaring:
"To uphold the individual’s political right to pursue his own happiness, we must uphold the individual’s moral right to pursue his own happiness [because] the pursuit of happiness is selfish. That’s why you need the individual freedom of a capitalist system – to pursue your own interests, to act on your own judgement, to make your own life the best it can be."
The first two pillars were lost primarily for the missing third pillar … a moral justification. That pillar has been forged by Ayn Rand, whom I consider to be America’s Last Founding Father. She has provided - through a rigorous process of scientific observation of the facts of reality and of man’s nature, and validated by the systematic application of logic and reason - a powerful ethical system that completes and philosophically justifies the American Revolution.
In it’s briefest essence, Rand rejected both the ethics of altruism (self-sacrifice for the good of others), and the ethics of greed (the sacrifice of others for one’s own ends, or the conventional definition of “selfishness”). In it’s place emerges “a new concept of egoism”, an ethics proper for man and man’s nature as a reasoning being of volitional consciousness and free will - rational self-interest, the practical application of which … in both the spiritual and material realms … is the non-sacrificial mutually beneficial trader principle. It is an ethics that was implicit in the Declaration of Independence, and which was responsible for the explosion of wealth creation and living standards unleashed by the millions of free individuals pursuing their own happiness under a government of laws and not of men. It is a morality that, from this country’s founding, had been the primary ethics that most Americans lived by … and still live by … despite the corruption of altruism. It is an ethics that, once and for all, banishes the primitive practice of human sacrifice. It is an ethics that, alas, was never acknowledged by a people that lived and thrived by it.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers made the most purely egoistic political statement ever as the foundation for a nation; “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet nobody rose to declare that the pursuit of one’s own happiness … the pursuit of goals, values, prosperity, the good life for oneself and one’s family … is the highest and noblest of moral ideals. Nobody rose to expose the altruist creed for the vicious doctrine that it is … one that masquerades under the banners of compassion and good will, even as it kills them off and turns people into predators or slaves. Nobody, that is, until Ayn Rand rose to declare:
Rationality is man's basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are: reason, purpose, self-esteem. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life." Thus [my philosophy] Objectivism rejects any form of altruism—the claim that morality consists in living for others or for society.
Can you see President Obama reciting those words, as justification for his agenda? You can't? Now you know why our side needs a proper ethical base.
We are at a crossroads. The altruist-collectivist-socialist Left has won the 20th century, despite the demonstrable superiority of limited republican government and unalienable individual rights and the unprecedented capitalist prosperity it unleashed. We are in the late innings, and they are looking to close out the game. The twin political/philosophical pillars of America’s founding must be regained and united with the morality of rational self-interest – then adopted as the uniting bulwark of the Tea Party Movement.
We, all of us on the Right, must uphold the egoist-individualist-capitalist American ideal. We must declare that:
Capitalism is not a necessary evil that works. Capitalism works because it is right.
American ideals are not the remnants of an obsolete past, but the righteous moral path to recapture and complete the American Revolution.
It’s late in the game, and our time is running out. But the stunning collapse of the Obama “mandate” now underway - which I expected and, in fact, predicted in private conversation last November - has opened a yawning political and ideological vacuum in America. It’s a huge opportunity for the Tea Party Movement, which must now seize the ideological momentum or itself erode and collapse, paving the way for something really bad. We have reached the crossroads, I believe.
It’s time for our side - the pro-capitalist, pro-individual rights, pro-American side – to finally seize the moral high ground from the phonies on the Left, which is ours by logical right.