Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Howard Roark and the GOP

From GOP leaders must free themselves from the Tea Party’s grip by E.J. Dionne, regarding this summer's budget battles:

“The Tea Party’s followers have endangered the nation’s credit rating and the GOP by pushing both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor away from their own best instincts.”

Now, why would a liberal want the Republicans to abandon the Tea Party? Could it be because “The Tea Party’s followers [are] pushing both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor away from their own best instincts?” Those “instincts” have usually worked to the Democrats’ advantage, so it’s no wonder the GOP gets such friendly advice from the likes of Dionne. See my Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It, which references another Dionne piece.

Be that as it may, it is this paragraph that got me writing:

“The Tea Party lives in an intellectual bubble where the answers to every problem lie in books by F.A. Hayek, Glenn Beck or Ayn Rand. Rand’s anti-government writings, regarded by her followers as modern-day scripture — Rand, an atheist, would have bridled at that comparison — are particularly instructive.

“When the hero of Rand’s breakthrough novel, 'The Fountainhead,' doesn’t get what he wants, he blows up a building. Rand’s followers see that as gallant. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that blowing up our government doesn’t seem to be a big deal to some of the new radical individualists in our House of Representatives.”

And, why would a liberal be against “radical individualists”? Perhaps because such folks don’t easily succumb to the predatory welfare state.

Here is a commentary I left, interspersed with additional remarks, which are italicized:

Posted on 7/21/2011 10:05:53 AM EDT

Three things stand out in this column.

Ayn Rand was (and is) anti-statist, not anti-government. Her well-reasoned case FOR a government powerful enough to protect the rights of its citizens counterbalanced through being constitutionally forbidden to turn predatory is regularly sidestepped by supporters of statism, the doctrine that holds that the lives, freedom, and property of the people are at the disposal of the government. The question is not whether or not we need a government, but whether the government’s power is limited and if so, by what principles? If Rand is anti-government, then the likes of EJ Dionne are anti-freedom.

Brushing Rand off as “anti-government” enables statists to make an end run around the necessity of defending their big government agenda against her actual philosophical validation of the limited, rights-protecting state. By lumping her in with anarchistic libertarians, Dionne exhibits the kind of intellectual cowardice typical of statist ideologues. They uphold, in essence, a false dichotomy: The choice we face is either authoritarianism or anarchy. By sidestepping Rand, they sidestep the Founding Fathers.

It is fitting that Dionne would trivialize The Fountainhead’s hero Howard Roark as a man who “blows up a building [because he] doesn’t get what he wants”. Statists disdain individual rights, especially property rights. Roark took that illegal but principled action along with the risk of a decade in jail because his property – the design of the housing complex – was stolen from him and he was left with no other legal recourse. The analogy to the Tea Party Republicans “blowing up our government” is very loose, as the GOP offers little in the way of concrete suggestions for dismantling the rights-violating welfare state that is really at the heart of our fiscal crisis. But this much is true: In a vague sort of way, the Tea Party Republicans are nobly going to bat for those of us who oppose our freedom and property being systematically drained away, leaving us no other recourse but to “blow up our government” (figuratively speaking, of course).

Of course, it is highly unlikely that the Republicans by and large have anywhere near the philosophical intransigence implied by their so far uncompromising stand against tax increases. But the Left must sense what I sense; the stirrings of a real intellectual strength emerging from the Right.

Finally, Dionne’s slap at free market economic theory (our “intellectual bubble”) is disingenuous, to put it mildly. The Left/statists have always clung to their radical collectivist ideology, the driving intellectual force behind their agenda; building a socialist America one brick at a time. American welfare statists fear a principled pro-individual rights counterweight to THEIR OWN intellectual bubble. “[T]he answers to every problem [we face today do in fact] lie in books” by free market intellectuals and philosophers who predicted long ago where our government’s interventionist policies would lead. Left/statists want us out of our “intellectual bubble” because they have no defense against the theoretical arguments that can teach us how we got here and point us toward the way out - free market capitalism, individual rights, and limited rights-protecting government. Unfortunately, the Tea Party doesn’t have anything close to that kind of philosophical clarity.

On the face of it, Dionne appears to be taking an anti-intellectual position by denying any application of broad abstractions or principles to concrete cultural and political issues. But in fact, Dionne and the left always measure issues against the related ideological yardsticks of altruism in ethics, collectivism in metaphysics, and statism in politics. The incessant admonition to abandon ideology for pragmatic practicality is a ruse to intellectually disarm the Right, an admonition that too many free market conservatives are all to quick to embrace.

In regard to Dionne's "radical individualists" remark, this angle is not new. See my E.J. Dionne Answers the Call With Assault on "Extreme Individualism". Radical. Extreme. Do you see a pattern? The strategy is to abort any possible emergence of a principled free market opposition with smear charges of extremism and radical. The GOP should take some advice from Ayn Rand, which could be found in the essay "Extremism," or the art of smearing, which is as relevant today as ever before. She wrote:

The welfare-statists need a new cover. What we are witnessing now is a desperate, last-ditch attempt to put over two “anti-concepts”: the “extremists” and the “moderates.”

The best proof of an intellectual movement’s collapse is the day when it has nothing to offer as an ultimate ideal but a plea for “moderation.” Such is the final proof of collectivism’s bankruptcy. The vision, the courage, the dedication, the moral fire are now on the barely awakening side of the crusaders for capitalism.

The Left dare not say explicitly what motivates it, because what motivates it is the same ideology that brought us all of the 20th century tyranny and bloodshed. They have rarely had to, because the compromising Republicans have been granting the Democrats steady political gains bit by compromising bit. The rise of the Tea Party threatens to upset the game, and embolden Republicans to call the Left's "moderation" bluff. So, expect a lot of charges of "extremist" and "radical" to be hurled at the GOP in 2012. Will the Republicans find the ideological spine to turn the tables?

Finally, here is a response from another corespondent, who is obviously ignorant on both Rand and political philosophy:

Posted by grantmh

Fascists used the same language as Rand (and Zemack) to describe why their idea of a government designed to rule according to what a minority believes is optimal, is something other than fascism.

And my reply:

Posted on 7/21/2011 10:26:57 AM EDT

If Rand’s philosophy is fascist, then so were the Founding Fathers. In fact, the country should not be run by any minority. The minority – i.e., the individual - should be free to run his own life, so long as he/she respects and refrains from violating the rights of others to do the same. A proper government protects the individual’s rights, rather than run his life, and employs no policies that economically favor one group over another. It is capitalism – the separation of economics and state, and which is based upon the recognition of individual rights – that Rand upheld. This is the opposite of fascist doctrine, which means socialism through the back door.

It is primarily today’s Left that is in tune with fascism – in fact, rooted in it. Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism” makes the case unequivocally.

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