Thursday, September 30, 2010

End All Corporate Welfare

The NJ Star-Ledger has called on Washington to End Welfare for Big Oil. Fair enough. Unfortunately, this is not a blow against the corruptive, and economically destructive, practice of corporate and business welfare as such. The editors write:

Throwing tax breaks and subsidies at the oil and gas industry is like putting a billionaire on welfare.

Now, President Obama is sensibly calling to eliminate $4 billion in annual tax breaks for oil and gas companies in his 2011 budget, and use that money for other things — like giving tax breaks to small businesses that actually need them.

It’s high time we ended our overinvestment in oil, especially in light of our limping economy. And there’s the environment to consider: The epic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a striking reminder of the industry’s dark side. Earth-friendly forms of energy don’t get nearly as much government support. Worldwide, about 10 times as many subsidies go to fossil fuels as to renewable energy sources, according to a study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Leaving aside the usual demonizing of the oil industry that the S-L likes to engage in (it's not "earth Friendly", for example), they have a point about “welfare for big oil”. This editorial highlights the nature of our tax system. It is designed not just to collect revenues for the government, but to enable politicians to manipulate economic behavior, the economy in general, and to dish out economic favors to the special interests who embody the latest political fad. This is especially true of the personal and corporate income taxes. It's classic mixed economy action. The oil interests "are stomping their feet and rallying their lobbyists" to fight to stop Obama's plans. Right: like the "alternative" energy industry, a long time feeder at the welfare trough, is not doing the same. Ditto for the small business lobby.

The Editors have no problem with corporate welfare. They just have their own set of "needy" recipients that they want to receive the welfare. The charade is by-partisan. There's a much better solution to the oil welfare "problem".

I’ve left the following comments:

The oil industry is a heroic one, dating back to the productive industrial genius John D. Rockefeller. Thousands of products depend on petroleum for their production, and dozens of industries flourish as an offshoot. The oil industry’s “booming profits” pale in comparison to the prosperity it is instrumental in generating. The oil industry has spread wealth far and wide, penetrating to all economic sectors and income “classes”. It is an industry that has been instrumental in creating and sustaining America’s highly productive middle class. Their profits are productively earned and well deserved. Their “tax breaks”, like all tax breaks, simply enable them to keep more of the money they themselves earn.

Having said that, I do agree with the Editors here – end the tax breaks and other forms of “welfare” for the oil industry such as subsidies, grants, franchises, loan guarantees, or liability caps (which had a major hand in the oil spill). But, we shouldn’t stop there. It’s time to end corporate welfare across the board. The tax code is nothing more than an economically destructive device for manipulating economic behavior according to the whims of politicians and special interests.

Instead of replacing one form of this welfare with another, whether for so-called “earth-friendly forms of energy” or “small businesses that actually need them”, a radically new policy direction should be pursued – capitalism. End the corporate income tax and capital gains taxes, and slash government regulations. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this would be a boon to small business and energy innovators and give them a major competitive leg up. High taxes and regulations, though they hamper big business, are absolutely crippling to their smaller and/or potential competitors. Taxes and regulations tend to entrench big, established players who can afford them and are already capital-rich, and protect them from up-and-coming challengers who can’t. Small businessmen and innovators, on the other hand, desperately need more freedom to act on their judgements (less regulations) and more capital accumulation (lower taxes). Putting them on the dole is the absolute wrong answer.

Rather than continuing the same old corporate welfare game with the newest, latest political favorites at the expense of taxpayers and the un-politically connected, the government should get out of the way of corporate America. Leave all businesses, big and small, to flourish or struggle on their own economic merits in a market free of government favors. Likewise for innovators of new energy technologies. I and other Americans should not be constantly forced to subsidize this or that economic special interest.

One thing I didn't make clear is that tax breaks—credits, deductions, and the like—are not subsidies or corporate welfare. Such breaks allow producers to keep more of what they earn. Corporate welfare entails a direct transfer of money from taxpayers who earned the money to companies that didn't. Nonetheless, the tax code does use myriad provisions to favor some producers over others. It's not welfare, but it is unfair.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toward Real "School Reform"

Every American president dutifully takes a crack at what has become an expected modern-day ritual. The latest example of this is the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” handout of $4 billion of federal grants to a number of chosen states. The typical pattern is this: A new president roars into office, vowing to “do something” about the dismal state of American education. Every four – eight years, we get another president; and another man with another plan. Once in place, the president spends the rest of his time in office trumpeting the improvements his plan brought to the public schools. This “improvement” lasts until he leaves office, at which time the next president declares the state of American education to be dismal, vowing to “do something”, and starting the process all over again.

What do we taxpayers get for these “Groundhog Day” efforts? Though the amount of tax money spent on primary and secondary education has soared extravagantly, the answer is: not much. Robert J. Samuelson, an intelligent reporter, addresses this periodic charade, and takes a crack at an explanation for “School reform's meager results”:

[F]ew subjects inspire more intellectual dishonesty and political puffery than "school reform."

Since the 1960s, waves of "reform" haven't produced meaningful achievement gains.

Standard theories don't explain this meager progress.

After citing some of the standard theories, he zeros in on what he believes is the real culprit:

The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation. Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren't motivated, even capable teachers may fail.

Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don't like school, don't work hard and don't do well.

But Samuelson reverses cause and effect. School reform isn’t failing because of lack of motivation. The fault lies with the government-run schools themselves, dominated as they are by the progressive education establishment of John Dewey. It is not a dislike of school, but the schools themselves that is killing student motivation. The school environment is simply not conducive to the needs of the child. Rather, it is conducive to the convenience and interests of the adults and to the progressive drive to impose conformity to the group or “social adjustment”. Ignored is the metaphysical reality of the autonomy of the individual human mind, and the required freedom that that mind needs to develop. The natural and insatiable desire of the child to learn about the world around him is systematically squelched by the boredom of having to comply with the establishment formularies.

To explain this in more concrete terms, I’ll turn to a short interview with a homeschooling mother. Bobbi Burger Brunoehler had this to say to New Jersey Star-Ledger reporter Julia Scott:

Q: When students are not interested in learning, how do you motivate them?

A: If they were interested in the subject and now they are not, you go back and find when they were last doing well. You find what they didn’t understand, some word or symbol. When there’s a subject that I’ve got to get them interested in, I will get them to follow me into some sort of activity. If a student wasn’t interested in math, I’d say, “Here’s $10. We’re going to Toys R Us. What are you going to buy with that $10?” Get ready to spend four hours in Toys R Us while they look at the prices of everything because now math is important. There has to be a purpose. You can’t just talk about it. “Well when you’re older, how will you do your taxes?”

Q: What, if anything, do you think your kids are educationally deficient in?

A: Deficient? The only way to answer that is to tell you what I think is important. There are a bazillion facts they haven’t learned.

What is important is reading, writing, arithmetic and research because then you can find out anything you want.

You’ve [sic] never going to be able to learn everything and smash it into your head. You have to be able to think logically and know how to find out about things.

Notice that Ms. Brunoehler doesn’t sit back and lament “lack of motivation”. In answer to the first question, she looks to connect the subject to an interest of the child: in this case, math to a toy store. She searches for ways to make learning relevant to the child at his particular stage of development. In short, she respects the autonomy of the child.

The answer to the second question is more profound, because it goes to the very overriding purpose of education. Ms. Brunoehler makes a monumentally important point that is applicable not just to homeschooling but to education generally.

It is not the mere “learning” of facts and knowledge as such that is the essence of education, but the training of the child’s mind. The proper purpose of education should be to teach a child how to acquire knowledge, to understand it’s hierarchical nature, to organize it according to abstract attributes, to integrate each new fact into the wider context of his knowledge via abstractions, etc. Educational researcher and entrepreneur Maria Montessori, creator of the Montessori Method, understood this. What’s most important, she said, was not primarily to give the child knowledge content, but to give him the proper mental order for that content, and the means for acquiring it. Rather than attempt to mold the child into group conformity, as the progressives strive to do, “Montessori’s goal was to have the children ‘become as powerful in their concentration, as independent of spirit, as strong of will and as clear of thought as the world’s greatest geniuses’ ” (Beatrice Hessen, page 847). It’s the educational equivalent of the saying: “Give a man a fish, and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime”.

Montessori would provide multiple paths to learning, so the child can gravitate toward a path that interests him, thus feeding his motivation, without sacrificing the educational purpose at hand. Though her focus was on early childhood education, the principles that she found to work are applicable to education at all levels, I believe.

I do not know if Ms. Brunoehler is familiar with Montessori, but her methods – at least the ones discussed in the interview – are certainly consistent with Montessori’s and not the progressives. Which philosophy of education is likely to maintain and enhance student motivation, and which is likely to kill it? The answer is obvious.

With all of the rhetoric and posturing going on about education today, the philosophy of education is the all too often neglected elephant in the room. Yet, that is one of the main keys to understanding the sad state of the American schools. I’m not sure that she thinks of it in these terms, but it’s obvious that Ms. Brunoehler is focussed on the philosophical elements – and the right ones at that. I’d guess that she is a very successful homeschooling parent.

Establishment educators will undoubtedly protest that such individualized attention is not “practical” when schools must contend with hundreds of students in large schools. High schools in particular, which Samuelson cites as the area of greatest failure, have become campus-like behemoths holding thousands of students. With so many students, the individual needs of the individual students can not possibly be a primary concern, right?

Wrong! My answer to them: If you can’t do the job for the children – all of them - then get out of the way. The public school monopoly collects its revenues and its customers by force – i.e., through taxes and compulsory attendance laws. Samuelson doesn’t question the real “unmentionable” – the coercive institution of government-run schools, which freezes out all ideas except government-approved ideas. (I can’t let this pass without taking a swipe at the hypocrisy of the consumer "protectors". They cheer federal antitrust enforcement against successful private companies, such as the current attack on Apple and AT&T, as alleged "monopolists". Yet, the most destructive monopoly - the real kind that maintains its privileged position through government power - gets a pass. The consumers of education, the children, warrant no protection from the protectors against the public school monopoly.)

I am not a proponent of homeschooling per se, or of any particular structure child schooling should employ. Nor am I an education expert who can lay out a concrete curriculum. But one doesn’t have to be an educational expert to understand educational philosophy. Not being an expert myself, I want to free the educators from the entrenched, self-proclaimed “experts” who coercively rule over America’s schools. As a human being possessing the faculties of reason and free will, I am fully qualified to judge issues of philosophical fundamentals – and so is everyone else, if they so choose.

Therefor, I advocate the separation of education and state, or free market education, as the answer to America’s education problems. A free market will open the school doors to a badly needed philosophical revolution in education. One of the best, though little appreciated, attributes of a free market is the division of intellectual labor. In a free market, educators and education investors are free to implement their educational philosophies without the permission or approval of some elected board, government official, politician, or other central planning authority. They are not bound by government-imposed standards that treat all students like interchangeable cogs. They are free to choose the curriculum, textbooks, teacher credentialling, and so on. What they don’t have in a free market is the instrument of force. Parents are free to voluntarily choose from among the array of offerings provided by the educators, and to judge for themselves the success or failure as it relates to the person they are the best experts on – their child.

It’s impossible to say with certainty what the shape of education would look like in a free market. It seems likely, though, that the current assembly-line-like model would disappear in favor of a diverse array of smaller institutions (if you want to call them that) catering to the needs of children based upon their wide variations in needs. What is certain, though, is that free market education would unleash a gale of fresh ideas to blow away the stale, suffocating, mind-numbing fog of bureaucratic control and progressive education. Not all ideas would be good, but all ideas would get a chance, and allow the best philosophies to prove themselves and win.

After citing pie-in-the-sky fantasies of modern school reformers, Samuelson ends on a note of sad resignation: “With this sort of intellectual rigor, what school ‘reform’ promises is more disillusion.” But his pessimism is misplaced. It is not “school reform” as such that is the problem, but the nature of the alleged reform efforts. It is the basic premises of our school system that must no longer be off the table. The real alternative, the intellectual dynamism of the free market, must no longer be ignored. It’s time for a radical new direction. There is one thing I am sure of: The Robert Samuelson’s of the world will continue to be perplexed by the perpetual failure of “school reform” until they understand that the schools must be liberated from the grip of the central planning government monopolists.

[For more, see Heike Larson's "The Montessori Method" in The Objective Standard. For a comparrison of Montessori vs. Progressive education, see Beatrice Hessen's "The Montessori Method" in The Objectivist and Ayn Rand's "The Comprachico's". Also see the works of and about Maria Montessori.]

- Mike LaFerrara

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gary Moore vs. Ayn Rand: Or, the Battle for America's Soul

From time to time, I take a breather from the main purpose of this blog – the analysis of human affairs from an Objectivist perspective – in order to defend Objectivism against its critics. Every so often, an article comes along that is worth exploring for this purpose. This is necessary and constructive, because it allows for a better form of advocacy. Confronting criticism is an opportunity that in many respects is more effective than the simple promoting of ideas. Exploding an opposing argument is a great way to clarify and sharpen one’s own position, and to foster a better understanding of one’s ideas. This is especially true of Ayn Rand’s controversial and still relatively unknown philosophy, which is widely misunderstood, misrepresented, or subject to outright fabrications.

In this vein, I want to address a recent piece by Gary Moore published in Christianity Today magazine, entitled Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Great Recession.

This piece is chock full of unsubstantiated, false assertions and implications: Alan Greenspan and his Fed policies as representative of Objectivism (Rand’s philosophy), the alleged Nietzschean base of Ayn Rand’s ethics, charges of elitism, ascribing to her erroneous positions such as that “demons exist almost exclusively in government and religion” or that she is “anti-government”, etc., etc. Context-dropping, ad hominem, and straw man tactics are evident throughout this piece. To say that Moore plays fast and loose with Rand’s ideas would be an understatement. I and others have already answered these and other false charges, and I will not delve into all of them here.

That said, this article is particularly relevant on two main points that I want to address here; the title subject, and the underlying theme. As the title suggests, Moore blames philosopher Ayn Rand for the financial meltdown. This is preposterous on its face, but no matter. It is merely a prop to set the stage for the main event. It serves as a wedge into a crucially important fundamental philosophical issue that carries profound political/economic implications, and gets to the heart of Moore’s real purpose: an impassioned and even desperate attempt to defend the altruist ethics against a rational alternative.

Many religious conservatives and libertarians like Glenn Beck and John Stossel have promoted Ayn Rand for her prescient, long-ago predictions of the current economic troubles. But this interest is and always has been a limited embracement of her ideas. They typically cherry-pick the ideas that suit their purposes, while sidestepping the fundamental premises underlying her political-economic ideals.

Some, however, do pay attention to her fundamental ideas. Moore exhibits an apparent understanding that philosophy is the driving force of human events, and he has a warning for those Atlas Shrugged-waving Christian conservatives – “be wary”.

Though a self-described “Reaganomics supporter” and “lifelong conservative Republican”, he nonetheless brushes aside Rand’s pro-free market credentials to focus on her fundamental principles – which is the opposite approach of the conservative/libertarian targets of his warning who embrace her politics but ignore her underlying philosophy. He spends more than a bit of time chastising fellow Christian conservatives for their embrace of some of Rand’s ideas, because of her “anti-religious” views, despite the fact that there is a lot about Ayn Rand’s thought that they seem to agree with. One thing is certain: Christians who admire Ayn Rand do so at the price of a basic ethical contradiction. Moore rightly understands this. Ayn Rand offers up a powerful challenge to Christianity, the dominant force in America today. Consequently, Moore sends this message: Whatever value Ayn Rand’s pro-free market credentials offer to the conservative Right pales in comparison to this long-term threat.

Let’s begin with the headline itself, Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Great Recession. This sets the tone that permeates this article. It is utterly and demonstrably false. Ayn Rand championed laissez-faire capitalism. As has been exhaustively pointed out both here and elsewhere, our financial system was and is the opposite: a heavily regulated and controlled government creation, with a few remaining free market bits and pieces here and there. In the years and decades leading up to the Great Recession, the economy was increasingly burdened with a massive, interlocking network of governmental policies and institutions intended to manipulate the economy through the financial system. This network underpins the financial crisis. In fact, Ayn Rand long ago warned of just such a calamitous consequence of government intervention and controls. The current meltdown would not and could not have happened under laissez-faire capitalism, which means the separation of economy and state.

Moore, being a long-time financial analyst, should know better. He rightly condemns the quick-buck mentality that overtook some on Wall Street. But, by ignoring government’s primary role in igniting the blowup, Moore demolishes his own credibility. The financial crises was caused by the bursting of a gargantuan housing bubble fed by the inflationary fiat money policies of the Greenspan/Bernanke-led Federal Reserve Board. More broadly, the entire financial crisis is rooted in the altruistic government policies instituted to encourage and promote homeownership. “Wall Street’s” quick-buck artists were merely end-game speculators who were simply cashing in on a game started long ago in Washington. Yet Moore points to Ayn Rand, who supposedly is the darling of the financial interests who were allegedly guided by her ideas, as the culprit. Specifically, he blames her moral theories of rational selfishness; as if the chasing of the short-term profit at the price of the destruction of one’s firm and one’s job is rationally selfish.

Moore’s unsubstantiated polemic doesn’t warrant serious attention, and one must wonder why an expert in finance would engage in this kind of silliness. The “Great Recession” can be easily explained (and has been by Thomas Sowell, The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, and many others) by reference to basic economics as it relates to government economic interference. (To access some of my extensive commentary on the sub-prime mortgage crisis, click here). Any conservative Reaganite Republican should understand this. And, I strongly suspect that Gary Moore does understand. But, a serious expose` of the financial crises is not Moore’s concern here: He has much bigger fish to fry.

Although the financial crisis headlines Moore’s article, it is merely a hook. The crisis serves as a convenient wedge issue, from which he can open an attack on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ethics. Partway through the article we find this:

“Lutheran historian Martin Marty has observed, ‘Every line of the Bible is challenged, countered, and dismissed by the 1,168 pages of Atlas Shrugged.’ Charles Colson once noted Rand's ‘inversion of biblical norms,’ how she ‘exalts selfishness and condemns altruism.’ ”

This is true, and gets to the meat of the article. Dramatized through an un-put-downable action mystery, Atlas Shrugged – a deeply spiritual novel - outlines a revolutionary new philosophy, Objectivism, which Moore disrespectfully (or ignorantly) refers to as “Randism”. Through Atlas, Ayn Rand challenges virtually every central tenet of religion, Christianity in particular. Objectivism rejects the existence of a dual reality – the earthly and the otherworldly. Consequently, it rejects the soul-body, or mind-body, dichotomy, which holds that man’s spirit (or consciousness) belongs to a supernatural realm and his body to the material world, with the needs of the soul in direct conflict with the needs of the body. Objectivism sees man as an inseparable, harmonious union of soul and body – and dramatizes the spiritual source of material wealth production. These Objectivist tenets lead logically to a complete nullification of the idea of any kind of innate, instinctual, or revelatory knowledge, instead upholding the supremacy of reason as man’s only source of knowledge.

In many other areas, the Bible is “challenged, countered, and dismissed”. Christianity’s causeless, selfless, promiscuous “higher” form of love is rejected, in favor of a view that holds love between humans as a profoundly selfish exchange of both spiritual and physical values. The destructiveness of indiscriminate, undeserved forgiveness is exposed. The view of money, or the love of money, as the root of evil is rejected as anti-life; and the making of money upheld as the highest of human virtues. The pursuit of profit, passing moral judgement, and the ideal of making the achievement of one’s own values and happiness one’s central concern are upheld as the good. Charitable help extended toward others is shown to be proper only insofar as it is motivated by one’s own self-interest – i.e., consistent with one’s values - rather than as an act of “selflessness”.

So, Moore is right about Atlas Shrugged (although the main theme of the book is not an anti-religious one, but pro-reason; the role of the mind in man’s existence). But it is the field of ethics that Moore seems to be primarily concerned with. This hints at the one area of agreement between Moore and Rand: Moore would probably agree with Rand’s contention that ethics is the fundamental battleground upon which the future direction of America will ultimately be decided.

Moore opens the article with a quote from a biographer who quite obviously doesn’t understand Rand’s ethical system.

“Whereas traditional conservatism emphasized duties, responsibilities, and social interconnectedness, at the core of the right-wing ideology that Rand spearheaded was a rejection of moral obligations to others.”

Where did Ayn Rand ever promote the idea of “a rejection of moral obligations to others”? The real issue is not moral obligations, but the nature of those obligations. The issue is not “social interconnectedness”, but the nature of social relationships. Through Burns, Moore is able to sidestep these questions. Rand defends every man’s moral right to his own life and pursuit of happiness, which necessarily implies an inescapable moral corollary. Her ethics stands on a profound moral obligation that each of us owes to others and that is vital to proper human relationships: to respect, and refrain from violating, the rights of otherstheir right to their own life and pursuit of happiness. This means a moral obligation never to initiate the use of physical force against others. Live and let live. It’s the core social moral obligation, and the one that Gary Moore must reject. That is because altruism, the doctrine that Moore defends throughout the entire article, holds that the needs of others is the first moral claim on your life, and vice-versa. This principle is antipodal to the concept of rights, and thus to the moral obligation to respect the rights of others.

This explains why individual rights, a passionate concern of Rand’s that stands as a central feature of her philosophic system, doesn’t warrant a single passing mention. That’s a strong clue to Moore’s ethical moorings. Moore doesn’t dare attack individual rights openly. To do so would be a direct attack on America and its Founding Fathers. Instead, he ignores any explicit mention at all. But, make no mistake: An attack on egoism is an attack on individual rights and the Declaration of Independence. Moore is no champion of rights – no altruist is or can be. The concept of individual rights means precisely the right to be free from force and compulsion of others, including the government. Moore calls for “social justice” – i.e., welfare statism, a form of socialism. Social justice requires the violation of individual rights, which requires the violation of the core moral obligation to respect the rights of others, which clears the way for forcible wealth redistribution and government controls: i.e., the initiation of physical force by government against defenseless private citizens. Egoism, the code that holds that the individual owns his life, holds social justice as immoral. Altruism, the code that holds that the individual’s life is owned by others – i.e., “society”, which means the state – is vital to social justice government policies. It’s quite evident why the issue of rights is sidestepped. Rational selfishness and rights are corollaries.

Ayn Rand challenged the ethical dogmas of the past 2000 years that are now undermining and destroying America, capitalism, and the moral principle of unalienable individual rights that they rest upon. In so doing, she advanced a revolutionary new moral code. But, what is the nature of this code that “exalts selfishness and condemns altruism”? This is where Moore attempts to pull the wool over the readers’ eyes, by dropping all context. Let’s set the record straight.

Rand is famous for her embrace of selfishness as the moral ideal. But, Moore employs a gimmick to mislead the reader: He doesn’t acknowledge what Rand actually meant by the term “selfishness”. In point of fact, he ignores her definition of numerous key terms that pertain to the field of ethics, such as “altruism”, “sacrifice”, “individualism”, “values”, and “independence”. Understanding a philosopher’s definitions of terms is vital to proper context – a context that is conspicuously absent in Moore’s article. Ayn Rand took pains to clearly define her terms so as to avoid the kinds of misrepresentations evidenced here. Those definitions and many others that relate to her philosophy are readily available. By failing to identify her terms, Moore exhibits extraordinary intellectual sloppiness.

Ayn Rand rejected the ethics of human sacrifice completely and in its two main manifestations – self-sacrifice for the sake of others: and other-sacrifice to one’s own ends. Rand exposed altruism and Nietzschean “egoism” as two sacrificial sides of the same evil, predatory coin. (Nietzsche’s predatory ethics is a close approximation of the definition of “selfishness” generally accepted today – trampling over others to achieve one’s ends. It is utterly disingenuous that Rand critics such as Gary Moore regularly equate her ethics to Nietzsche’s. Moore’s “social justice” is precisely based upon a “will to power” by those who seek to practice charity with other people’s forcibly confiscated tax money; stands on the rejection of “a moral obligation” to respect the individual rights of others; and is consequently the rejection of individual rights, which is the very moral principle that Ayn Rand passionately defends throughout her fiction and non-fiction writings. If Moore’s “social justice” isn’t a precise manifestation of Nietzschean ethics, nothing is.)

Contrary to the false implication Moore attempts to inculcate here, Rand actually condemned what is conventionally understood as “selfishness”. Rand upheld rational selfishness; neither the sacrifice of oneself to others or the sacrifice of others to oneself. She likewise exposed the predatory nature of altruism, which enthrones the unearned as the only moral absolute. She uncovered the phony intellectual package deals that falsely equate selfishness with exploitation of others, and altruism with good will and human brotherhood. The result is a benevolent “new concept of egoism” that is consistent with, rather than antagonistic to, human and metaphysical nature.

She showed true selfishness to be a benevolent, life-promoting, rights-respecting, non-sacrificial virtue that leads to the kind of human brotherhood that altruists have always promised but always failed to deliver. A society of rational egoists views others as owners of their own lives and property, which in practice establishes associations where people appeal to another’s mind and self-interest under a rights-respecting social order. People are morally free to pursue, achieve, and hold the values that enrich their lives. They are free to seek values from others, but only by means of the trader principle: the exchange of value for value, in win-win non-sacrificial voluntary associations. The antipode to egoism is a society of altruists that views others as sacrificial objects, and which in practice unleashes the parasites and the power-lusters – the collectors and the dispensers of others' sacrifices: the seekers of the unearned in matter and in spirit.

Ayn Rand exposed altruism in all of its forms to be contrary to human nature – i.e., to reality – and thus inimical to human life and well being. Likewise, she showed egoism to be the pro-life source of human well-being, because it is fully consistent with human nature. Altruists cling to the failed morality laid down by Jesus two thousand years ago (and reinforced and brought to its full, consistent, brutal fruition by Immanuel Kant), concocting the doctrine of Original Sin to switch the blame for its devastation to man's nature so as to avoid a reexamination of their code. Ayn Rand ripped the veneer off of that cynical game, when she rescued ethics from religion's monopolistic hold and installed it into its proper place in philosophy: She approached ethics as a science. She observed the requirements of man’s survival and flourishing and thus gave man what he deserves – a moral guide to promote his life, rather than prepare him for death. She called hers “a philosophy for living on earth”. She asserted every person’s right to a moral existence. She defined a rational code of morality, derived from the observable facts of reality, which teaches that it is right to achieve values and to flourish - and defined the virtues that achievement requires. In so doing, she established for capitalism and for America the moral-philosophical foundation that it didn’t have at its birth.

I have a warning of my own for conservatives and libertarians: Be wary of Gary Moore, if they are sincere believers in free markets.

Moore’s is a plea for statism: more government control, more wealth redistribution, and more erosion of freedom - all of which requires the saving of the altruist ethics. He correctly recognizes his enemy – Ayn Rand – whom he indicts, tries, and convicts in the kangaroo court of ad hominem, straw man, and context-dropping. Yet Rand merely defends every person’s right to the pursuit of his own happiness by his own judgement and effort in honest, voluntary associations with others, while Moore demands that that person focus his efforts on promoting the happiness of others, who somehow are not “centered on the self”. Rand defends one’s moral right to the earned values that make his life meaningful, while Moore imposes a moral duty to sacrifice those values to anyone who has not earned them – and means to enforce that duty by governmental force. Moore trivializes private, voluntary charity, and demands coerced "charity" through the predatory welfare state, to force everyone to conform to his moral standards. Who, then, is the elitist? Who, then, is the utopian? Who, just like every altruist/statist, sees himself as “superior to any category of human who had ever lived”?

To Gary Moore I can assure: Conservatives and libertarians are a long way from Ayn Rand. Conservatives are mired in tradition, mindlessly adhering to old ideas, not because they are demonstrably right but simply because they are old. Libertarians profess a broad but vague agenda of “liberty” and “limited government”, but which lacks the kind of meaningful depth that only a coherent philosophy can provide. Though he acknowledges that “Rand formally rejected libertarianism”, Moore nonetheless engages in a grossly irresponsible equivocation of the two based simply on an observation that “libertarians nonetheless admire her”. This kind of straw man tactic is indicative of a lack of intellectual courage on the part of Moore, who refuses to challenge the Objectivist ethics openly. Moore’s readers should take careful note: Objectivism stands apart from both conservatism and libertarianism. Objectivism alone talks about individual rights, where they originate, and their moral justification. Neither conservatives nor libertarians have the courage to really embrace Objectivism, or explicitely uphold individual rights. Moore is desperate to keep it that way.

As I said early on, Gary Moore apparently understands that ethics is the overriding cultural issue of our time. Ayn Rand concurs. More than half a century ago, she wrote:

“You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis.

“Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that’s through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality-you who have never known any-but to discover it.” (pages 1009, 1011)

Through his desperate attempts to extinguish Ayn Rand, Gary Moore does hit the philosophical nail on the head. The battle for freedom, capitalism, the Enlightenment, America, and Western Civilization is a battle between two diametrically opposed moral codes – the entrenched altruist code of the past two thousand years (and longer), and the code of rational egoism implicit in America’s founding documents and undergirding the principle of individual rights, and made explicit by Ayn Rand. The battle for America’s soul and future is a battle between capitalism and socialism; between individualism and collectivism; between egoism and altruism. It is essentially, as Gary Moore understands, a battle between Christianity and Ayn Rand, who discovered and defined capitalism’s moral code – a code proper to man and his rational nature.

If America is to be saved, long term - rather than go the way of ancient Rome, taking the rest of the world with her – she will need a proper moral/philosophical foundation. Ayn Rand has now provided it. For this, Ayn Rand deserves the title of America’s Last Founding Father. Her work is the completion of the American Revolution, and a monumental advance in the moral evolution of mankind. She’s that important a thinker. If America’s rightful philosophic foundation is ever to take hold, however, the reactionary defenders of the primitive code of human sacrifice will have to be swept into the dustbin of history.