Recommended Blog: One for One

Dear readers,

I’m proud to announce a rare addition to my blogroll. Tobe, formerly from the atheist/humanist blog A Load of Bright, has started a new blog called One for One, and in his inaugural post he explains why he choice that name, the reason for a “fresh start”, and his thoughts on Ayn Rand.

Keep your eyes on this one; knowing what a good writer he is, this is sure to be quite popular.

Here’s the link: http://tsoneforone.wordpress.com/

I’d encourage other Objectivists to add him to their blogroll and give him a plug.

Enjoy!

Objectivist Roundup 110217

The latest edition of the Objectivist Roundup is now live over at The Playful Spirit blog, go check it out! There are some really good articles on politics, philosophy, child-upbringing, finance, healthcare etc. Definitely worth a read.

http://theplayfulspiritrachel.blogspot.com/2011/02/objectivist-round-up.html

My Top 10 TV Shows of all Time II

It’s been over 3 years since I last considered this topic, so I thought an update was in order.

When judging a TV show, I can only try to do it as objectively as possibly from what I have seen, which means establishing some criteria coupled with my own tastes and preferences. For one, a show should primarily achieve what it intends, whether it be drama or comedy. Further to this, if it is trying to achieve something, for example a particular message or thought, does it? If so, how well? Most importantly, is that message positive and meaningful? Then HOW it achieves that must be considered, in other words, quality of writing and structure. Other factors, such as acting and use of music are also important. Then it should get bonus points for how long it keeps this quality up. Also worth considering is the context of the show in culture and time. I added this little specification to avoid judging older shows too unfairly, considering how TV styles and attitudes have changed, especially in the last 10 years.

10. Spaced

A short-lived but really clever and funny sitcom. That it was so short-lived is definitely in its favour. It never got stale. Every episode is a treat, full of little gems that can be spotted for the first time with each re-watch.

9. Battlestar Galactica

A very intense, very raw drama. Lots of fantastic action scenes, lots of excitement. Some absolutely superb stories, and a truly mindblowing set of actors. This is dirty on-the-edge sci-fi at its best. Having said that, it loses points for me for a few reasons: I am not convinced the writers knew where they were going from the start. Secondly, the “heroes” of the show are despicable. They are mostly foul obnoxious back-stabbing unprincipled parasites you could hope to meet. I can only think of one character who stays mostly true to himself for the whole show. You might say that humans on the edge lose all friendship and rules and honour. If that’s true, I say I’d rather the Cylons have killed me. Fighting for survival on its own isn’t enough, and this major philosophical point is totally lost on the writers, hence the lower score. (Not to mention the statism/socialism/collectivism/mysticism that is often applauded in the series).

8. Scrubs

A sitcom. Does it make you laugh? Very much so. This is one of those shows that, assuming it’s up your street, will definitely make you laugh out loud so many times. It is also very well written, and has just enough realism when necessary to still make you care about the characters. It has tears-in-your-eyes LOL moments, and shivers-down-the-spine WOW moments (My Screw Up, anyone?). Problems: after season 4 it got too big for its own good and fell away from the originality that made it special. Recurring guest stars became main stars; the regular cast ran out of stories; the interaction between them just didn’t work anymore; and most importantly, it simply stopped being funny. I think it’s because the story was about young doctors growing up and finding their place in the world, the hospital, and amongst each other. But this was achieved by season 4. The story was told. After that I think it just stopped working. Give me 8 seasons like 1 and 2 and this would be higher.

7. Prison Break

Addictive TV at its best. Again I have to say, very well thought out stories and stuff that really makes you think “oh crap! How is he going to get out of this mess??” There are so many twists and turns you’ll never know what to expect, and I can’t think of any dumb ones thrown in just for dramatic effect. It also has its touching moments too, especially the finale. There is an element of it being dragged out a tiny bit and every single event being slightly embellished, but that’s high-paced modern TV drama for you. The only downside of a great show like this is that re-watchability suffers. But I’d strongly recommend everyone give this a try.

6. 24

Most of what I said about Prison Break could apply to 24. I scored 24 slightly higher because I think it’s more re-watchable and there are more of those special moments. 24 is exciting, and grabs you straight away, keeps building up the tension, and intrigues you. It combines all the best sci-fi/drama/cops-and-robbers moments with brilliant characters. The problem with 24 is that it went on too long, and became formulaic. There are only so many times you can re-use a plot idea before it loses its impact. There is only so “big” you can make a terrorist attack before it becomes ridiculous. There are only so many times you can “save the day” in the last second before the tension is lost. And ultimately, they didn’t end the show how they should have.

5. Firefly

With only 14 episodes, it must take something special for a cancelled TV show to come in this highly. Firefly is that special. It is probably the most unique sci-fi show you will ever see, and that will ever be made. No aliens, no kids, no silly costumes. This is a story about a very diverse bunch of people, some friends – some not, making their way in an unfriendly galaxy. The dialogue is totally brilliant. The actors are superb. There are enough funny moments to make you think it was written as a comedy. The characters are so deep the show could run for years and we’d still want to know more. THIS is how a television show should be done. Unfortunately, because FOX are retards and the show never caught on right away, it was cancelled, never to return, save in film form (Serenity). Do yourself a favour, buy the boxset, watch the 14 episodes, and weep that that’s all there was.

4. Babylon 5

In some ways, I wish B5 was more like Firefly. B5 is a very unique show – and was a big divergence from sci-fi at a time when Star Trek had the monopoly. All the things that Star Trek TNG did bad, this did well. Characters that are actually believable, stories that go somewhere, issues that really matter, consequences that aren’t forgotten in 40 minutes. The use of special effects and music is also far superior than any other sci-fi show too (Battlestar Galactica had the right idea). The way the story arc builds, with little hints dropped in every now and then, is just fantastic. The battle scenes are exciting. The Shadows are just, well, awesome. The attention to detail in how the races look and talk and interact, and how the universe “works” with space-stations and jump-gates – all builds a very believable and realistic view of the future. And yet, despite the gritty realism of it, this Tolkien-esque dramatic background of ancient races, spirituality, epic issues and fights beyond our imagination – was definitely a first for popular sci-fi.

The problem with B5 is that it does have some rather corny, cheesy, and cringing episodes, especially in its first season. I think it takes a while to get going, and I can’t promise it will grab anyone, even half-way through season 1. However, this is like much 90s TV. The episodes are generally more self-contained and you don’t have to invest too much to begin with. From season 2 though, it’s non-stop fun and the arc intensifies to the point each episode is more like a chapter in a book.

3. House

Talk about superb writing. I have never seen a TV show where every single episode was jam-packed of so much good dialogue, humour, and drama. I still notice new jokes re-watching it. Obviously, this show is clever and fascinating. It’s a “who-done-it” every week with the culprit being some rare condition. How we get to find out is much more important that what it is. Every scene with House’s sarcasm is a joy. And the sad moments are certainly not contrived to make us think “oh this is a serious show too” – the humour and despair in the show work off each other so well because the source is the same. I can’t work out if House is uplifting or depressing; it’s probably both, with the lean towards the former, eventually. The episodes are admittedly, and almost deliberately, formulaic – because it’s hard to tell them another way. What’s important is what happens around it.

The only downside of House is that from a philosophical perspective, the character is praise-worthy and despicable at the same time, due to the misguided notions in pop culture and writing of selfishness and value. If a drug addict is selfish, then what is a fitness-focused personal trainer? Selfless?? This is a finger I can’t point just at the House writers, but at the “intellectuals” in philosophy who are nihilistic and Kantian.

Everyone must watch “House.”

2. Star Trek

I was cheating here somewhat at first because I was going to lump them all together and pick out the parts I like. But to be fair, I’ll stick with the original series and those films. You have to remember, it’s the 1960s – and NOTHING like this has been before. There is no template, nothing to compare, no words or phrases like “tractor beam” to nick off other shows. This is what started it all off. The best part of the original Star Trek, which was lost on so many future audiences, is that it’s NOT a geek show. It’s not about tachyon particles and warp-core breaches or whatever other nonsense the TNG writers thought their fans wanted to be impressed by. It’s not.

Gene Roddenberry wanted a “wagon train to the stars”; a story about HUMANS and the human condition, but set in space. Amidst a real world that was on the brink of nuclear war, with so much racial and social unrest, he imagined a world where people working together overcame those differences and reached out into space, building a great federation and making friends of aliens. The villains in ST are BAD and must be destroyed. The good guys are GOOD and try to do the right thing. The three main characters, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy – interact wonderfully. The show also gets the comedy right when it tries to as well. Kirk is perhaps the greatest fictional Captain and leader of all time. He is what a true hero should be. This believable and engaging universe sparked imaginations across the world, and directly influenced pop culture, fashion, technology, and inspired dozens of other sci-fi shows. The first US aircraft carrier and the prototype NASA shuttle were christened Enterprise in honour of the fictional starship.

Star Trek lost its way in my opinion even as early as The Next Generation. Picard and Data aside, show me another character in that stale miserable lot who were different from season 7 to season 1 and I’ll eat my hat. DS9 was a better show, but it wasn’t Star Trek. Voyager is the best one of the lot for being true to Star Trek, and Janeway the best captain since Kirk.

Don’t let the geeks and the Klingon speakers and the conventions put you off – Star Trek the original series was a revolution and changed the world. Even almost 50 years on, those episodes and films are timeless. There are negative points, but more cultural and time-specific ones that I won’t mention.

1. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

When I started, I said let’s consider what a show tries to be and how well it does at that. BtVS INTENDS to be dramatic, comedic, theatrical, outrageous, and metaphorical. It succeeds. Despite some of its more outrageous notions (and demons) it takes itself seriously and it asks you to do the same. If you do, you will love it, and if you don’t you’ve missed the point. Created by the same genius as Firefly, this has the same brilliant dialogue and character interaction. It is superbly funny. The characters are real and deep, and they change and grow up. The ability of the show’s mood to reflect the characters’ mood is staggering. It can feel so light-hearted and fun a show to watch, and also dark and dangerous and depressing. It accomplished feats never seen before (26 odd minutes with NO dialogue) or those rarely seen and even more rarely done well (the Sleepless dream sequences; or the Once More With Feeling musical).

This is a show that excels at virtually every quality you would want in a TV show, and on a very modest budget too. It’s a show about young people growing up, and how the monsters they face are metaphors for personal and social problems that we all do. Pain, friendship, unpopularity, social awkwardness, the first crush, the first love, the first loss, heartbreak, depression, death, grief, fear – these aren’t words I am just rattling off – this is what the show is about fundamentally. That the tools used to drive the story, fantastic demons and epic life-or-death end-of-the-world battles, are also brilliantly done is just a bonus.

It is so addictive, especially when it gets going – and ALSO so re-watchable that it gets bonus marks for that alone. As with all 90s TV, especially those set in “sunny” teen American high schools, there are some cheesy moments. I also think the title itself puts people off. But this isn’t a story about vampire-teen-angst though (like some of the shit swirling around today). This is a story about YOU. This is the story of YOUR life, if you were in Sunnydale and had the weight of the world on your shoulders. And yet, who of you hasn’t felt that way at some time in your lives? Can you pick yourself up when there is seemingly nothing to fight for, and battle on one more time against your own demons and the other horrors in life? Our heroes can. That is why they are heroes. But they are just normal people who are friends, and in that respect that are what each of us can and should be. BtVS is a show that glorifies good and positive values, and slays the bad. Evil is something to be defeated, in every tiny way, every day. 

And if you are positive and fight for the good against the demons in your mind and the real world – you can succeed. Now, give me a TV show that exemplifies this spirit, with amazing funny and likeable characters, with wonderful music and a barrage of laughs, with heart-sinking moments and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dialogue, and a plethora of other “female-lead-hero” inspired TV shows that followed, – and I’ll show you the best TV show of all time. Oh hang on, just did…

Stealing is ok if the thief needs your money

Apparently Comrade Cameron is promising a crack down on benefit thieves.

If you read what the PM says, you’ll notice a very obvious contradiction that he, and indeed all supports of the welfare state, hold: the idea the benefit thieves are stealing your money, but people who don’t cheat the system, aren’t.

Hmmm, so…if a man holds you at gunpoint and takes your wallet because of the claim: “my children need new shoes” – how does the truth or falsity of this claim affect the fact that you have indeed been robbed?

Note that I am attacking the contradiction itself: that the only reason (in the PM’s mind) that one group is stealing and one isn’t, is because one doesn’t deserve the property of others, and the other supposedly does. The actual means of acquiring that property is the same; after all, once your tax is taken from you it is used for countless causes; supporting other peoples’ lives is just one of them.

So what does this mean?  That stealing is only stealing if there’s no “genuine” need for the goods. If the need is genuine, then taking someone else’s property is ok. Of course, this reverses the cause and effect of morality, leading to “ends justify the means” thinking, and using the consequences of an action as its justification, rather than any preceding principles. And since “genuine” is an indefinable concept, it’s simply open to opinion or whim, or more precisely, whatever the current government feels will win it the most votes in the short term.

The banning of veils – yet more fascism

With the French government passing a law banning the covering of one’s face in public, and other countries looking to follow suit, a surprisingly large number of people seem to actually be in favour of these regulations.  People, I might add, who themselves aren’t going to be directly affected by it.  I say directly, because laws like this are the symptom of an ever-increasing slide towards something that personally affects everyone: fascism.

There is debate over the merits of the law, with proponents offering arguments ranging from national security, secular values, and the treatment of women.  The opposition cite individual freedom.  Both sides have missed the point.  The issue boils down to a simple question: what is the proper role and purpose of government?

As a being that relies on reason to survive, human beings require one thing in order to exercise their minds: freedom.  Specifically, freedom from force.  The principle that defines that no one may initiate force against another is a Right.  Force prevents chosen action.  Only individuals can make choices and act.  Therefore, Rights only apply to individuals.  The government exists to protect these Rights by using retaliatory force against those who initiate it.

People who choose to dress a certain way haven’t initiated force against anyone.  To treat them like criminals is preposterous.

Proponents seem to be appealing to three major things:

The treatment of women

Legislator Berengere Poletti, of Sarkozy’s party, said face-covering veils “are a prison for women, they are the sign of their submission to their husbands, brothers or fathers.”

Whilst all religions are based on superstitious irrational beliefs, and all religions have treated women like second-class citizens, covering your face is not necessarily the sign of oppression.  The cure for religious oppression is to refuse to recognise supernatural belief systems as valid.  Unfortunately, our society is also riddled with subjective multiculturalism which tells people they cannot judge anything, since there is no right or wrong answer and everyone’s culture is equal.  Religion has been gaining ground for years now by being afforded recognition and privileges it never deserved.

If a government does its job properly, any person of any sex, age, or religion, is guaranteed the protection of their individual rights.  This includes the freedom to practice their religion.

National security

The major casus belli against our civil liberties; this little chestnut is responsible for many violations of individual rights.  The theory goes that in order to ensure security, some liberties must be sacrificed.  This argument is always false, because it reverses the purpose and nature of government into a living contradiction.  If a government exists to protect its citizens from threats at home and abroad, it cannot then become the aggressor it seeks to destroy!  The government is the agent of the people, not the other way around.  It is your agent to protect your rights.  There is never a justification for government violating an individual’s rights on the appeal to any “greater good”.  “Good” is meaningless without reference to values, and as we saw above, values apply only to individuals.  When a man says he must violate your rights for the greater good, he is simply saying that some individuals have greater rights than you, which is a perversion of the concept of Rights.  It is another way of saying that you have become a slave, a sacrificial animal, to the whims or needs of others.  It can mean nothing else.

Values

Some say the anti-veil law promotes “French” values or “secular” values.  The use of “value” here is a stolen concept.  A value is what which one acts to gain and/or keep.  It relates only to those things within the province of individual action.  There is no such thing as “group values” anymore than there is group consciousness.  A group, a crowd, a nation, is just a collection of individuals.  Nobody’s rights, by definition, trump those of another, since the principle defining all of them is the same: freedom.  Freedom for one, freedom for a million; it’s all the same.

The reason the French government, and other governments, and indeed some individuals, support laws like this is because they believe in something else.  They believe that rather than just be the agent of the people, the government is the ruler, the leader, the Big Brother, the conscience, of the people, and has a duty to further whatever agenda is in the “greater good”, or whichever agenda represents the whims of whichever group is large enough at that time to sway votes.  They believe in a government that has executive power to intervene in any aspect of life: business or personal, in order to “correct” it.

Of course, no appeal to individual rights or human freedom will get you to this course of thinking or this system of government.  There is only way of thinking that will, and that is to see human beings as interchangeable cogs in a big organic system; pieces of a puzzle; to be used or disposed of as the collective demands.  Unfortunately, this is precisely the system that most people tacitly agree with and have been ceding power on for decades.  It is happening everywhere, and it affects everyone.  And only 70 years ago this is precisely the evil the world went to war to stamp out.

But fascism, and its brother socialism, never went away.  They slowly returned and grow stronger every year.  The idea of the state dictating what its citizens can wear sounds like the stuff of Orwellian nightmares, or 1930s Nazi Germany…yet it is happening today before our eyes, amidst cheers of support.

The Credit Crunch and Socialism

I came across an article on a blog recently that exemplifies how far removed from reality the socialists’ ideology is. This person declares that “Capitalism is Bankrupt”.

The blog-owner begins: “Their system creates recession, hunger and climate chaos, but they want you to pay.”

Evidence for this please?

Let’s compare the freer countries in this world to the less-free. Let’s compare America of the 19th century to Soviet Russia of the 20th. Let’s compare quality of living for even the poorest member of society in pre-industrial society to the poorest person now. Let’s compare the freedom, happiness, healthcare, and wealth, of countries with fewer government restrictions to those with more. Further examples are irrelevant; anyone with even a passing knowledge of world history can tell you the difference; between what happens when men are free to create and trade and invent, and when they are stifled, regulated, and restricted.

The facts of history in every region where it has been systematically practised show that socialism fails.

“Until A few weeks ago, supporters of free market capitalism were confident enough to proclaim that their system was the only way that the world could be organised. Now their certainties have vanished.”

So a few weeks of economic crisis are enough to make the supporters of capitalism uncertain and unsure of their ideology? Who are these supporters and where? Are they are the mixed-economy type (a contradiction in terms), or are they the capitalists who believe morality is still self-sacrifice and dutiful service to those who have earned nothing?

True capitalists are not so easily daunted; if fact, we cannot be daunted, because we know that capitalism is the only MORAL political system, and nothing can violate this principle, ever.

In fact, this attack is capitalism is very foolish for one very important reason: capitalism has NEVER fully been given a chance! Whereas every variety of socialism has tried and failed, capitalism has never been fully practised. 19th century America came the closest anyone has to it, and witness what happened: the freest, happiest, wealthiest, most powerful nation in human history.

“The economic crisis that started in banking and finance has spread quickly to the wider economy. Now it threatens to engulf whole countries, bringing untold misery to millions.”

But did the economic crisis merely start in banking in finance? Let’s quickly look at inflation. In Ayn Rand’s words:

“The expansion of a country’s currency (which, incidentally, cannot be perpetrated by private citizens, only by the government) consists in palming off, as values, a stream of paper backed by nothing but promises (or hot air) and getting actual values, the citizens’ goods or services, in return—until the country’s wealth is drained. A similar activity, in private performance, is the passing of checks on a non-existent bank account. But, in private performance, this is regarded as a crime—and most people understand why such an activity cannot last for long.

Today, people are beginning to understand that the government’s account is overdrawn, that a piece of paper is not the equivalent of a gold coin, or an automobile, or a loaf of bread—and that if you attempt to falsify monetary values, you do not achieve abundance, you merely debase the currency and go bankrupt.” – Moral Inflation.

The source of wealth is production. And money represents produced goods non-yet-consumed. The government is never a source of production and therefore never a source of wealth. The source of production is private individuals (and companies) who transform the world into objects of value and trade these values with people for other values. A free trader trades value for value – he cannot trade value for fresh air, because his counterpart will not accept fresh air as payment, nor will the trader except it from his counterpart. The only agent in the world that can trade fresh air for value, that can convolute “money” out of thin air to trade, is the government. This is the cause of inflation. Whilst actual produced goods are linked to the free market (what people are freely capable of producing and what anyone is freely capable to buy), money by contrast is printed in bulk by the government. This devalues it.

In a free market, the price of any product is the lowest a seller can make a profit on it and simultaneously the highest a buyer is prepared. There is no way to contradict this law of supply and demand except by force, and the only institution with the power to exert this force is: government.

Did banks and building societies force anyone to accept their loans? Did free citizens force banks to trade with them? No, and no. Now consider that the government has persistently put pressure on banks to offer people loans that they cannot afford, and consistently bailed out banks and private citizens that continue to be reckless with their money – at the expense of the taxpayer. Where does this money come from? How is this money linked to the market, to supply and demand? It isn’t. When two people lose out on a trade, the only people that lose out are them. Now, when other people are forced to pay to cover their loss, a transaction they have had NO involvement with, the repercussions are felt by everyone, and the additional money required to cover this loss is not generated by wealth or production, is it taken by sabotaging wealth and limiting production. To illustrate this, imagine if, all other things being equal, you had to pay £1000 a month from your wages to cover another person’s foolishness or bad luck in business. But, how are you going to live? How will you make up this loss? You cannot pull money out of thin air. So you cut down on your spending (which means sellers now lose business and end up in the same boat as you), or maybe you demand to be paid more by your employer, who himself cannot make money out of thin air. So he rejects your demand, or makes other people unemployed, or pays you more money at a loss to himself. And of course if he does this for everyone, he makes even more loss. Bear in mind that he himself is already losing out because fewer people are buying his products because they are cutting their spending because their cost of living has gone up.

Because capitalism is the free voluntary trade of people with value for value, NO ONE ELSE benefits from this trade. Similarly, NO ONE ELSE is punished either. However, anyone can freely choose to ‘get in on the act’ and do business with other successful people, but no one is forced to, and no one is forced to pay the price for failure. Conversely, the only system where people can be forced to pay for others is under socialism.

“Belarus, Hungary, Iceland, Pakistan and Ukraine all stand on the brink of bankruptcy. Beyond them are even bigger countries – including Poland, Russia, Argentina and Turkey – whose economies are in danger of collapse.”

And why are they in danger of collapse? Is it due to producers over-charging? Is it due to buyers defrauding sellers? Or is it due to paper money spending for non-existent resources? And if so, whose fault is this?

“As their currencies slide and exports falter, all of these countries have been forced to borrow heavily just to ensure that they can pay their bills.

Some have so little in their foreign exchange reserves that they will only last a matter of weeks without an injection of cash. They have been forced to beg the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency loans.

But the IMF – an organisation dominated by the rich countries of the West – will only extend its help at a price.”

Well, yes. What does the socialist suggest? That rich countries sustain other countries and business for no benefit and even loss? Actually, yes. That is the irrational anti-human ideology of the socialist: sacrifice.

“During past crises, it has demanded swingeing cuts in government budgets, privatisation of industries and the liberalisation of markets. Struggling nations are now preparing themselves for the worst.

In Pakistan, where already millions cannot afford food or the fuel to cook it with, the government has announced the ending of fuel subsidies and the removal of a cap on gas and electricity prices. This is to be accompanied by big cuts in government spending.

In Hungary, the government has suggested a massive assault on its state pension and the slashing of pay as part of the bailout of the economy.”

Well, if the government’s solution to economic crisis in these countries was to remove its controls and liberate the market, then what was the problem in the first place that made the situation so bad and forced the government to address its interventionist policies??

Why did the government decide to take action (by reducing its involvement) unless there was already a problem? And since the solution was a move towards a freer market, the free market couldn’t have been the problem in the first place!

“If the past is anything to go by, the IMF will endorse these measures but demand much more for its money.”

Perhaps the IMF should stop bailing other countries out then?

“The economic shockwave that is spreading across the world is not confining itself to poorer economies. Already the Bank of England estimates the cost of the financial crash at $2.8 trillion – a sum so big that it defies comprehention.

And despite the billions spent on bank bailouts, scores of British firms announced major redundancies this week.”

Obviously! Pouring water into a bucket with holes only tops it up for a short time. Money represents produced goods. Tipping trillions of dollars into a hole does not produce goods, create wealth, or solve the problem. It actually exacerbates the problem by spending already limited government money (read: money expropriated from taxpayers) on a cause it should have no involvement with, to solve a problem it created. It also punishes the innocent traders for the bad lending and bad borrowing of other people. Remember this the next time a socialist says that capitalists “want you to pay!”

“We are told that these shutdowns are inevitable and that it is pointless to resist. There is simply a lack of a demand for the goods that are produced, it is said.

But while goods pile up unsold and workers are laid off, millions of people go without the things they need because they can’t afford to buy them.”

The socialist wonders why. Alan Greenspan explains:

The law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy’s books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion.

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold.”“Gold and Economic Freedom”, Capitalism – The Unknown Ideal.

The socialist continues:

And the skills and machinery in each closing factory could offer solutions to some of the greatest problems facing humanity. For example, engineers who once made cars could be employed to make generators for alternative sources of energy.”

And who would employ them? And who would use their product?

There is only ONE problem facing man: the problem of survival. The only solution is for man to create the values he needs in order to live. Just as a man cannot think for another, he cannot live for another. Each person must transform the world into something to sustain his life, and where possible and necessary, trade his values for those others have. The fact that a tiny minority are unable to do so does not create a mortgage on the lives of others. Without a free mind and body, man cannot create and produce. Without the use of his produce, he cannot realise his Right to Life. A Right to Life without a Right to Property is a contradiction in terms; one flows from the other.

I make the above point to clarify the false implication in the socialists’ last paragraph: that there are problems for “humanity” which are NOT problems for individuals. There are ONLY individuals. Humanity is a collection of individuals, and the problem for each of us is the same: survival. And the ONLY ethical solution is: think, act, produce, consume, trade. This is the ONLY recourse left to free rational beings. The ONLY alternative is expropriation. When one man does this to another, he is a criminal and we arrest him. When a large group of men do this by force (or by vote, which amounts to the same thing), in order to “serve” those who can’t/won’t produce, we call it a welfare state. When one man takes money from another in order to fill the hole created by his failure or misfortunate, we lock him up and demand he repay what he has stolen. When a bureaucrat does this, we call it a “government bailout”.

And if a man needs to cut down a tree to survive, he must. If a man needs to build a car, or drill for oil, or kill animals for food, he must. If a man needs to compete in another market by inventing new fuel and energy sources, in order to survive, he must. And his fellow traders, the people who will want his product in exchange for their own, will decide if he is to be successful. What a man cannot morally (and therefore politically) do is FORCE his values or product on others. Nor can he force their value or product on himself. The only institution that can legally do this is: government. So is government the protector of our Rights, or the violator?

The socialist sees the need for alternative energy sources like the needs of those who have less: as a mortgage on those who CAN already produce energy and those who DO already have. But this is to be expected: socialism is the sacrifice of the CANs and DOs for the CAN’Ts and DON’Ts; of the HAVEs for the HAVE NOTs. Capitalism on the other hand means no sacrifice of anybody for anybody.

In fact, the glaringly obvious and appalling mistake all socialists make, like this one quoted here, is to forget that the only reason the Western countries became so rich and affluent whilst the rest of the world sits in a mire of poverty, superstitious, ignorance, and crime, is because WE allowed man to freely create wealth in the first place. Once again, witness the explosion of wealth and prosperity in 19th century America to the fully-state-controlled socialist’s (and worker’s) paradise of Soviet Russia, where millions were systematically starved to death by the government because there was nothing to feed them with.

“We have the resources to build a better world. So far, the stranglehold of capitalism has been a barrier. Now it is up to us all to ensure that its hold is broken.”

The socialist wants the “stranglehold” of capitalism, that is: a political system where every human being is recognised as a sovereign individual with his own life as an end in itself, where he is free to trade or not to trade whatever he wants for whatever he can, at no harm to anyone – the socialist wants that replaced, with another stranglehold – a government that can legally violate your Rights by physical force to whatever end a mass of people or politicians deems “necessary” for whatever “greater good” they settle upon; where the sources and means of production are stifled, restricted, and regulated, and where the creative and productive and intelligent and efficient are a resource to be tapped for the uncreative, unproductive, unintelligent, and lazy.

The altruist sees each man as a means to another end: other people; society. The rational person sees each man as an end in himself; as a being in his own right. The altruist therefore wants a political system geared to sacrifice and cannibalism: socialism and communism. The rational man chooses life, he chooses capitalism.

What is Objectivism?

It’s October 2008, and that is significant for two reasons.  Firstly, it marks exactly 12 months since this time last year, and secondly, it marks almost one year on from when I first started to study Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

 

Objectivism has many critics.  Why?  I will offer my personal opinions on that later.

 

Firstly, why Objectivism?  How did I come across it and why did I bother to learn more?

 

Many years ago, I used to be a moderator on IIDB, and encountered my first Christian Presuppositionalist.  I am not ashamed to say I was out of my depth arguing with him (Theophilus, I believe his handle was).  The only poster who I saw debate and destroy (in my opinion) his arguments was an Objectivist (I can’t remember their handle but I distinctly remember the words “existence exists” – something only an Objectivist would say).

 

Up until 2007 I wouldn’t come across any memorable mention of Objectivism or even the name Ayn Rand.  Last year I would spend hours on YouTube watching lectures by my favourite atheist intellectuals Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins; Hitchens is not a fan of Rand at all and mentioned Objectivism from time to time.  But again, I thought nothing of it.

 

Something was bothering me though.  My interests have never been confined to just atheism and science, which for me involved criticising religion and espousing the wonders of evolution.  I’ve always been very opinionated politically, but as I paid more attention to politics, I realised how incredibly ignorant I was.  Where did I stand politically, left, centre, or right?  And why?  What was the difference between communism and capitalism?  Was I right to think of myself as a socialist?  During this spell of questioning myself, I wondered which political party I should align myself with.  The idea of partial state-ownership of land seemed reasonable, and making the world a more unified and collective state meant I favoured joining the EU.  However I also strongly agreed with Christopher Hitchens and supported the war in the Iraq (something many internet atheists do not).  I favoured the war in Iraq because I thought it was a noble ideal because 1. it was intended to remove the threat of terrorism and 2. more importantly, freed the Iraqi people and promised to bring democracy.  Needless to say, I was also a strong proponent of democracy.  (Also needless to say, the two reasons given for the war in Iraq I have cited here are fundamentally flawed, because 1. the war was NEVER intended to remove the threat of terrorism despite the claims of our leaders and 2. spreading unlimited majority rule is neither noble nor moral, but I digress…)

 

And then in September 2007 a good friend of mine (you know who you are) sent me a link to another WordPress blog, to an article entitled Richard Dawkins is NOT an Atheist, which happened to be written by an Objectivist, Ergo.  My very first words were “I disagree.”  (My comment is number 35 on this post).  You will notice Yours Truly having, to put it in scientific terms, his arse handed to him.  Fortunately, I pride myself on intellectual honesty, and I like to think I always have (otherwise I would never have deconverted in the first place) – which means if I am shown to be wrong by objective rational standards, I will admit it and change my opinion.

 

In the coming weeks, I exchanged e-mails with the blog-owner, Ergo, initially just concerning moral dilemmas.  I remember asking his opinion on the Prisoner Dilemma, and his response was to my mind, unprecedented!  Rather than get bogged down by which is the best percentage game to play to ensure the best for all concerned, he simply explained the following: “where force is present, morality is impossible”.  Which basically means that the Prisoner Dilemma is in fact a false dilemma, and an absurd situation in which to formulate a moral code.

 

Sometime prior to this (last year), I had gotten myself into a debate with several theists also regarding moral dilemmas.  I was rude and impolite from the start of this debate and not wishing to promote a fundamentalist blog is the only reason I haven’t linked to that discussion either.  I was responded to with equal and abrupt rudeness by a fundamentalist, but most importantly I was unable to justify my position philosophically, which was also quite embarrassing.  The problem is that atheism itself is not a philosophy, and none of the New Atheists (like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris etc) had an objective basis for their positions.  Modern philosophy, like science, is rooted on the empiricists’ notion that certainty is impossible and degrees of probability are all we can hope for.  I knew this wasn’t good enough.  Just as I knew politically I was weak, I saw a philosophical weakness in myself.  Just as we all do, I needed objectivity.  Of course, many atheists claim to have it and virtually everybody recognises the NEED for it, but no one and nothing I had read provided it.  The best I could hope for was Ebonmuse’s Universal Utilitarianism, which for a time, provided an “objective morality” for me.

 

Then I started to ask Ergo about Objectivism itself – what it meant, what was different about it, and its consequences.  I am very appreciative of the time and patience he took to exchange long e-mails with me.

 

The discussions got onto politics.  Politics is the social extension of one’s morality.  That is to say: only when one understands what is right or wrong, can one begin to ask what should be allowed in society, when force should be used, and the proper role of government.  (This post is about my learning Objectivism; I will not be explaining the philosophy here).  Objectivism necessitates laissez-faire capitalism, which for me led to the immediate question: without taxes, who pays for all the things that taxes do?  And who cares for the disabled.  After fruitful discussions, Ergo even posted the following:  http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/11/12/who-cares-for-the-disabled/.

 

Rather than spoon-feed Objectivism to me, Ergo helped me understand the principles and suggest I apply my reasoning process to take me further.  I ordered several of Rand’s books immediately, the first of which I read was The Virtue of Selfishness (TVOS, incidentally I would always recommend this book to any beginner with Objectivism).  Next I read “Philosophy – Who Needs It?”  I now own nine of her books and I still haven’t finished reading them all!  The point I wish to make is this: I was committed to having a rational and objective philosophy, and I took the honest steps necessary to arrive at it.  I looked to the scientists, to the empiricists, to the physicalists, to New Atheists, and even to the fundamentalists, and none of them had it.  Ayn Rand did.

Many people cling to emotionalism and their preconceived beliefs.  This is true for atheists as much as theists.  The idea that the redistribution of wealth is evil and animal Rights are non-existence is RADICAL in today’s culture.  I know from experience that a person who is very emotional when it comes to animals WILL NOT listen to reason.  A person whose family member is living off state hand-outs doesn’t want to hear why the welfare state is a gross moral crime.  But as I have said, an intellectually honest person accepts reason.  Objectivism starts with necessary axioms of existence and (then) consciousness, and proceeds from there.  I was totally won over by Rand’s rational logical approach from start to end, and once one accepts the next chain in the link through the flow of the argument, one must accept a conclusion.  To put this in literal terms with an example: I COULD NOT accept that animals have Rights once I understood the correct nature of Rights, which are an extension of  MORALITY, with morality being a guide to man’s actions, based on his IDENTITY and relationship to REALITY.  And Reality is Existence, Existence is Identity, A = A. 

Another example: if one accepts that man’s property is his own, then NO circumstances EVER violate this principle.  That means that the welfare state is wrong; taxation is wrong; the redistribution of wealth is wrong.  No amount of “what if?” scenarios change this.  Because I understood this, it was not very difficult for me to “get” where Ayn Rand was coming from.

 

Have you ever read a book and found yourself smiling and nodding and saying to yourself, even out loud: “yes!”; “of course!”; “that makes so much sense!”?  Such was my reaction to TVOS.  And I maintain that John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged is the finest passage of text I have ever and will ever read.  For a long time as I was studying Objectivism and challenging it, I found myself unable to disagree or disprove any of its conclusions, because they logically follow from its foundation, which is reality itself.  And who can argue with reality?

 

I refrained from calling myself an Objectivist for many months because I wanted to be totally sure that I could reasonably understand and defend the philosophy to myself before I spoke from that position.

 

When I did finally call myself an Objectivist I was embracing a philosophy.  We all need a philosophy.  We all have one, whether we realise it or not.  The question is: is my philosophy logical, rational, self-consistent, complete, and founded upon reality?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, the philosophy is useless.  Objectivism explains epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.  As an Objectivist, I can justify my knowledge base and I can account for my metaphysics.  I have an objective rational morality.  I have a precise and consistent ethical political ideology.  I know what is right or wrong, and I know how to decide this for myself.  I know where I stand politically, and why.  These are the things everybody needs and most people crave, myself included.  Objectivism fulfils them.

 

So the obvious question I asked others including myself is: why aren’t more people Objectivists and why do many people object to it?  I won’t attempt to answer the first question but I will attempt the second: why do many people object to it?

 

Obviously the religious would object to Objectivism because Objectivism is a rational reality-based philosophy that rejects anything supernatural.  But many of the people I used to identify with, atheists, and those who follow Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett etc (The Big Four, like I used to) that I shall refer to as the New Atheists, are not Objectivists and disagree with Rand.  Disagree is a weak word.  I have encountered positive bile and venom towards Objectivism from the same people who accuse theists of it.  The same people who would applaud me for criticising religion and theism would spit hatred when I criticised THEIR cherished political beliefs, such as the welfare state.

 

This is why I do not identify myself as just an atheist or think of myself in the same group as other blog-writing secular atheists or Humanists.  For me, there are far too many of these New Atheists out there who’ve read the works of the Big Four, understand a bit of evolution, and fancy themselves intellectuals.  Unfortunately, they are totally philosophically ignorant.  Some of them are even explicit subjectivists, a position I hope I don’t need to explain the ridiculous stupidity of.

 

The problem with these atheists is that they think calling themselves an atheist makes them rational; as if they have left the irrationality of religion behind and are now free rational beings.  Some of them then become so sure of their new-found “rationality” that they become obstinate to change and develop an emotional commitment to their new beliefs: do you think there is a difference in rationality between a fundamentalist Christian and a mixed-economist?  There isn’t.  Are Muslim terrorists more irrational than socialists?  Not necessarily.  All these positions are fundamentally irrational and immoral.

 

And that is the fact that many people do not want to admit.  And that is why they don’t like Objectivism.  The problem is that most people hold their beliefs in a vacuum with no reference to reality.  They have no philosophical basis on which to draw conclusions so they hold a mass of opinions and notions together without noticing that most of them contradict the others: they want all the benefits of capitalism as long as everything is subject to state control.  They want to give animals the Right to not suffer but take away their Right to NOT be eaten for food.  They want the government to moderate food, drink, speech, decency, until it conflicts with their notions of acceptable food, drink, speech, and decency.  They want people to freely help other people, but then hold a gun to your head and demand your money for the welfare state when you “freely” choose not to.  They want to make as much money as possible for themselves, but take money away from those who have “too much”.

 

We live in a culture that refrains from moral judgment, where anything goes, where multiculturalism is encouraged, where the wealthy are the object of envy, where firm definite statements are laughed upon, and ‘objective reality’ is said tongue-in-cheek.  Objectivism is the antithesis of all these positions, and that is why some people will not accept it.

 

We live in a culture which tells us that morality is a “grey” issue.  With Objectivism, there is no grey issue.  Because morality is based on objective fact, there is always a right and wrong thing to do, although that doesn’t mean it’s always EASY to tell which is which.  But if you want to believe morality is grey, and someone tells you that there are definite objective moral truths, you will most likely be hostile.  It’s the same with Objectivism.

 

Now, there is only one other philosophy that tries to offer a complete self-consistent objective worldview: religion.  Religion fails (spectacularly).  But unfortunately, when the New Atheists see something that claims to be a complete self-consistent objective worldview, in a world that says that such a thing is impossible, what do they think?  Cult.  Objectivism has been called a cult before.  Anyone who understands Objectivism can appreciate how divorced from the truth this accusation is.  A cult is precisely what Ayn Rand would NEVER approve of, despite how some misguided fanatical “followers” of her have acted.  Just as all religions claim that only their religion is the right way to live your life, I would also claim that Objectivism is the only right philosophy by which to live.  That is the sort of claim that would make many Atheists dubious, and even aggressive, to Objectivism.  But is that fair?

 

So the truth is, I can see why some people might see Objectivism the way they do.  I do understand why some people don’t like it.  And I definitely understand why some people don’t understand it.  But this is not the failing of Objectivism.  In my opinion it is the failing of others to be honest with themselves and rational; in short, it is the failing of those who put emotion over reason.

 

In a society where emotionalism and “doing whatever you feel like” is the norm, this is hardly surprising.  In a society where objectivity is avoided, Objectivism is like a silver stake to a vampire.  In a society where altruism is the moral ideal, rational egoism is the epitome of evil.

 

*

 

It was early this year that I decided I could honestly call myself an Objectivist.  And although my articles have dried up of late, I am still very passionate about philosophy and politics.  I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year that has probably been the biggest intellectual progression for me since I deconverted.  And I also wanted to express a few thoughts I’ve been having for a while about other atheists, Ayn Rand, and why I think her work evokes some of the reactions it does.

 

If you’re curious about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, by all means read the blogs of Objectivists (see my blogroll for suggestions), but the best thing I can recommend is to buy and read her books yourself.  Although I can’t predict your reaction I can guarantee that if you are honest and rational, what she has to say might just change the way you see the whole world.

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