Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama's Pre-Emptive Strike

No man, and no movement, can succeed without moral certainty-without a full, rational conviction of the moral rightness of one’s cause. –Ayn Rand, Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, page 218

Objectivists know this.

Barack Obama seems to know this.

In a recent speech, he uttered these widely publicized words;

“The point is, though, that — and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class — it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.

“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic. You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”

He is leaving no doubt about the seriousness of this theme. Continuing along these lines in a subsequent speech, he said;

"The change we need won’t come from government alone," Obama said to a crowd of an estimated 80,000. "It will come from each of us doing our part in our own lives, in our own communities. It will come from each of us looking after ourselves and our families but also looking after each other. You know I – it’s been awhile now – we’ve made a virtue out of selfishness, there’s no virtue in that. We made a virtue of irresponsibility and we need to usher in a new spirit of service and sacrifice and responsibly."

Leaving aside the distortions (equating selfishness with irresponsibility), the inversions (equating charity with his taking of other peoples’ tax money to “help” the middle class, while deriding as “selfish” the victims’ resistence), and the intellectual package-dealing (selfishness as an unqualified evil, regardless of the method one employs in achieving one’s “selfish” goals), there is something significant in this new line of attack. The Obama machine must have come to the realization that new forces hostile to his agenda are gathering in the culture.

Make no mistake, Barack Obama…a deeply philosophical thinker…was referring to Ayn Rand’s book, The Virtue of Selfishness, in which she lays out in non-fiction form the essence of the ethical system dramatized in her classic novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. These are not isolated comments, or coincidences. They come directly on the heals of the Left’s anti-Objectivist barrage triggered by the Greenspan testimony. As I previously argued, at least some on the Left understand the basic conflict. Barack Obama knows who his real enemy is. And it’s not McCain-Palin, the GOP, or the modern conservatives, who hold the same basic altruist-collectivist premises as the American Left. It is not a battle between the secular altruists of the Left, and the religious altruists of the Right. It is a moral battle, however. The battle between socialism and capitalism…i.e., the battle for America…is a battle between the view of man the individual as a sacrificial piece of a societal whole, and man as a sovereign entity whose own life is an end in itself.

It is a moral battle between altruism in all of its forms, and rational egoism.

Such is the true meaning of Obama’s, and his collectivist machine’s, frontal assault on America’s, and capitalism’s, only moral defender…Ayn Rand. On the eve of what looks to be the historic election of a black man as president, Barack Obama has launched a pre-emptive strike against America’s premier philosopher. Why?

Obama is in essence declaring victory against McCain, and is turning his attention to the process of laying the philosophical groundwork for the coming assault on America’s Founding Enlightenment ideals. Obama’s vision for “fundamentally changing the United States of America” is rooted in the anti-morality of altruism. Throughout history, the altruist creed of service and sacrifice has served as the justification for every form of tyranny, from the Roman welfare state, to the theocracies of the Dark Ages, to Middle Age Feudalism, to Imperial Japan, to the collectivist slaughterhouses of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, and right up to the newly emerging socialist states such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. So it is no accident that Obama’s socialist agenda is based on altruism (“We are all our brothers’, and our sisters’, keepers.”).

But there is a fly in the ointment, this time. This time, there is a small, but committed opposition armed with “a full, rational conviction of the moral rightness of [it’s] cause.” That is Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. While difficult to gauge, its influence has been penetrating the culture for more than half a century. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged continue to be best sellers decades after their release. Atlas Shrugged shows up on Book-of-the-Month Club and Library of Congress surveys as America’s second most influential book (after the Bible). A measure of Objectivism’s intellectual power is that its critics must rely on misrepresentation, distortion, lies, and ridicule, rather than objective analysis and dialogue. An indication of the relevance of its influence in the culture is the level of vocal opposition. Today, that opposition has reached its pinnacle…in the words of a major presidential candidate on the eve of an historic election.

To understand the significance of the events surrounding the sudden, seemingly inexplicable assault by the Left against Rand and Objectivism, I would point to the radically differing perspectives with which Rand and Obama view America’s Founding. Both see a fundamental flaw, having negative consequences continuing to this day. That is where the similarities end.

In a 2001 Chicago Public Radio interview, Barack Obama discussed what he saw as a fundamental flaw that the Founding Fathers “allowed” into the U.S. Constitution and that continues to this day…the failure to establish the means for bringing about “redistributive change”…or “economic” and “political” justice. “Economic” and “political” justice means the “right” of certain groups of people, characterized by nothing more than a declared need of material benefits that they have not earned, to use the coercive power of the state to seize those benefits from those who have produced them. It means a predatory state with the power to loot and enslave some, for the unearned benefit of others. What stands in the way of Obama’s predatory state? It is the “flaw’, or “blind spot” that he sees in America’s Founding. Although he doesn’t explicitly say it, what he is referring to is the fundamental principle that makes America America…the equal, unalienable individual rights to life, liberty, property (addressed in the fifth amendment) and the pursuit of happiness.

What he does say…and this makes clear exactly what he means…is that the fundamental flaw is represented by the Constitution’s “charter of negative liberties”, which “says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” It should be becoming clear by now. What he is attacking here is the second great philosophic achievement of the Founders…that of the proper role of government to protect those unalienable rights. “To protect these rights, governments are instituted among men”.

Barack Obama sees the principle of individual rights and of a government designed to protect them as flawed. That flaw must be corrected, by turning the protector of the individual into his predator, in order to “do on your behalf”. But, Ed Morrissey says, "The Constitution was intended as a limiting document, to curtail the power of the federal government vis-à-vis the states and the individual. Barack Obama wants to reverse that entirely.
The government does not exist to determine the acceptable level of wealth of its individual citizens. For government to assume that role, it would have to end private property rights and assume all property belonged to the State. That is classic Marxism.”
That is Obama’s vision.

Ayn Rand, too, saw a “fundamental flaw” inherent in America’s founding. Obama sees a “fundamental flaw” in the principle of the individual’s “negative” right to be free from the predatory physical force of an altruistic state. Ayn Rand presents the Left with a formidable counter-force. As Rand sees it:

“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophic opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. The conflict between capitalism and altruism has been undercutting America from her start…

"The American political system was based on a different moral principle: on the principle of man’s inalienable right to his own life-which means: on the principle that man has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself, and that men must deal with one another as traders, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit.

"But this moral principle was merely implied in the American political system: it was not stated explicitly, it was not identified, it was not formulated into a full, philosophic code of ethics. This was the unfulfilled task which remained as a deadly flaw in our culture and which is destroying America today.” (CUI, emphasis hers)

It was not America’s founding ideals that were flawed. It was that those ideals were accompanied by the altruist ethics, which America and its Founders inherited from a primitive past. It was not until the 20th century that that missing “full, philosophic code of ethics” was discovered and explicitly formulated, with the publication of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged"America’s Second Declaration of Independence". The missing moral ingredient of America’s Founding, now slowly taking root, is the only hope for halting Obama’s utopia of redistribution…and ultimately America’s decent into totalitarian socialism…and he knows it.

Regardless of who wins on November fourth, the nature of the battle will not change. Evading the moral essence of the battles to come will not do. Either one selfishly stands up for one’s right to one’s own life, or one submits to progressive enslavement. It is not enough to want to fight. The battle must be fought with the proper weapon…the weapon of moral certainty.

Barack Obama and his charged-up socialist brigade believe that they have morality on their side. To the extent that his adversaries accept the altruist premise, they are declaring unilateral moral disarmament. This is their most potent weapon. To advance the Marxist agenda of Barack Obama, the enemy must be kept morally disarmed. The attack on McCain-Palin within the context of the “virtue of selfishness” gambit is intended to do just that. They are just window dressing for the real target. They already accept service and sacrifice “for a cause greater than one’s own self-interest”…altruism…as the essence of morality. They are already disarmed.

Objectivists know the real nature of the war, and are ready with a full, philosophical stock of armaments. This is the reason for the rabid, almost hysterical attacks on Objectivism.

The choice comes down to…altruism or rational self-interest. The outcome of the battle for America depends on the outcome of that choice.

It’s time for every American who values his freedom to selfishly, and virtuously, declare his right to his own life…before that time runs out.


Donna said...

Thank you for all of this information on both candidates. For the first time in my voting life I am going to the poll today and still don't feel sure of my vote. I want to vote for President, I want to feel good about it, I don't think that will happen this year. Your posts gave me information to ponder this morning as I head out. I have felt bad in the past when my candidate of choice lost an election but I have never before felt like I didn't have a candidate of choice.

Mike Zemack said...


I will walk into the voting booth this year, and abstain from making a choice for president. An abstention is as much a choice as choosing a candidate, if it is based upon rational, thoughtful analysis.

I understand the sentiment in your wanting "to feel good about it". Whatever your choice, it is obvious it will be based on solid reflection...and that's something one should always feel good about.

This is the 12th presidential election (10th as a voter) in which I felt informed enough to make a choice. These elections are as much about voting against, as voting for, someone.

This will be my first abstention. This year, there is no "lessor of two evils", in my view. Both of these candidates are consequences of the resurgence of big government that began with the election of "W".

So I will cast ballots for all of the other offices and issues, and leave myself free to support or oppose the specific policies of whomever gets elected president this year.