Thursday, February 25, 2010

Objectivism & Politics, Part 43

Individual Rights 2: Rand’s theory examined. Rand introduces her theory of individual rights as follows:

The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.


Rand gets off to rather poor start in her argument. She claims that the source of rights is “the law of identity.” “A is A—and Man is Man.” She might as well have just said The source of rights is the way things are, for that’s what all this pretentious talk about rights stemming from the law of identity amounts to in the end. Rand here commits the error of begging the question. What we need is compelling evidence that man’s rights do in fact stem from the way things are, not merely the assertion that this is so!

Next we are confronted with an even more mystifying assertion: “Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.” Now what could Rand possibly mean by this? She comes perilously close to suggesting that rights are requisites of man’s survival, but she evades this palpably absurd conclusion by specifying merely that rights are necessary for a “proper” survival. Now what is this “proper” survival, and how is it distinguished from an improper survival? She intentionally says nothing about this, leaving plenty of wiggle room so that she can easily use the ambiguity to equivocate to any conclusion she pleases.

In the next sentence, Rand merely repeats what she said before, except now she has placed it in a conditional: if man is to live on earth, then, she claims, it is right for him to use his mind, act on his free judgment, work for his values, and keep the product of his work. Yet again, this is not an argument, it’s a merely a vague assertion. Even worse, Rand is once again implying the absurd conclusion that rights are necessary to life.

She offers a second conditional which again implies an absurdity: “if life is man’s purpose,” she argues, “he has a right to live as rational being.” The argument, among other things, seems (perhaps unwittingly) to suggest that a purpose bestows a right. It is not clear at all how this can be so. The fact that I have a purpose in no way grants me a right. Not in the least; I only have those rights which have arisen in the society I live in, regardless of what I might wish or purpose. Most individuals, taken on their own resources alone, have no control over the legal structures that exist where they are born. If you are born in North Korea, you have no rights, regardless of what purposes you might have.

Although Rand’s rhetoric is confusing, what she seems to be attempting to argue is something along the following lines: (1) that in order to live, men must be “rational”; (2) that rights are necessary in order to be rational; (3) that, therefore, rights are necessary in order to live.

If by rationality we mean deliberate, conscious thinking guided by “logic,” premise (1) is almost certainly false. Human beings, as cognitive science has shown, are governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious, which can hardly be described as “rational.” Premise (2) is deeply problematic. The rationale behind it is the idea that, unless an individual is free, he cannot follow the dictates of his mind. But this assumes that the political alternatives facing mankind are either a complete and total subjugation of the individual on the one side or a complete freedom on the other side. In the real world, it doesn’t work like that. Even a slave has some room for initiative and rationality, and a citizen in a welfare state has a great deal more. So Rand’s argument breaks down completely, which is just as well, because the conclusion is, as I have already noted, absurd. Sorry, but rights are not necessary for life. If men could not survive without rights, the human race would have disappeared long ago.

We next find Rand repeating her oft-stated maxim that “nature forbids [man] the irrational.” What does Rand mean by the “irrational.” Can any Objectivist describe what she means without begging the question? For it clearly won’t do to say: “the irrational is anything contrary reason,” because that just leaves us with the difficulty of describing what “reason” is. To the extent that any empirical meaning can be drawn from this statement at all, it appears to be, at the very best, an exaggeration. If by “irrational” we include “non-logical conduct,” the statement is clearly false, as human beings have been practicing non-logical conduct for centuries without Dame Nature once stepping in to forbid it. Indeed, it would be impossible to bring every aspect of human existence under the exclusive domain of logical conduct, since logic breaks down whenever faced with any great complexity or uncertainty. In a pinch, intuition or trial and error or following an established usage may prove more useful than “reason.”

Rand concludes by asserting, again without offering a shred of evidence or proof, that any group that denies man’s rights “is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.” Once more, we are confronted with a frustrating vagueness in which Rand seems to equivocate between saying something that is clearly contrary to the facts or that is banal. Does she really want us to believe that a denial of “man’s rights” leads to death? Throughout most of human history, most human beings have had virtually no rights at all. Many have been little better than slaves or peasants. Yet somehow the human race has managed to survive, in the very teeth of Rand’s anathema. So what does Rand mean by claiming that a denial of rights is anti-life? She means only this: that she doesn’t like it! Sorry, but that’s not a good argument. Even if you could (per impossible) change society through argumentation, you would never get anywhere with arguments as bad as these!

101 comments:

Anonymous said...

"What we need is compelling evidence that man’s rights do in fact stem from the way things are, not merely the assertion that this is so!"

In one paragraph I think you have summed up the weakness of Objectivism. Too many bold assertions and not enough research.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

You know what the standard objectivist response to this will be don’t you

“You are miss-quoting/miss-understanding Any Rand” and/or “I see no confusion/contradiction in her argument”

Abolaji said...

In one paragraph I think you have summed up the weakness of Objectivism. Too many bold assertions and not enough research.

Yes, Greg has done a yeoman's job of repeatedly pointing this out and IMHO, must be ranked as one of the foremost intellectual critics of Objectivism.

You know what the standard objectivist response to this will be don’t you

Arguing with Objectivists is like living in Groundhog Day.

How's socialism working out for ya in Britain these days?

Anonymous said...

"How's socialism working out for ya in Britain these days?"

The masses ain't interested. They never were, so capitalism will carry on as long as they choose to support it.

How's that (snigger) 'socialist' Obama working out for you in the US? Still trying to get his capitalist, I mean socialist of course, reforms through Congress?

"IMHO, must be ranked as one of the foremost intellectual critics of Objectivism."

Yes he surely must be, like a Valliant with a brain.


Steven Johnston

Abolaji said...

How's that (snigger) 'socialist' Obama working out for you in the US? Still trying to get his capitalist, I mean socialist of course, reforms through Congress?

Oh, he's not a socialist - just wants to level the playing field with the hope that it will help the poor man have a better life. I wish he was a socialist - he would never have made it into government :D.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, he's not a socialist - just wants to level the playing field with the hope that it will help the poor man have a better life. I wish he was a socialist - he would never have made it into government :D."

Good to see my time spent here posting has not been in vain. Good to see somebody understands that, I mean, what on earth is 'socialised' medicine? Do they mean like the NHS welfare, created by European conservatives!

If Obama thinks he can level the playing field, then he will surely fail in that, but in a way it is levelling out anyway, I mean what did the workers get in the time of Charles Dickens? Here, in the UK and in the US? Probably about 1/4 of what they get now. I doubt any President or Prime Minister could have stopped that from happening. I'd put any increase in the standard of living in the working class down to work of labo(u)r unions.

But hey, don't be too hard on Obama, democratic presidents usually spend a lot less government money than Republican ones! Those Republican presidents spend likes there's no tomorrow. It's the same in the UK, the Conservative party gets in and say, we'll cut government spending & balance the books, but they end up spending as much, if not more, than those that came before them. So, in the end, Republican or Democrat, Labour or Conservative does it matter? Not really, they may be in office but are they in power? Nope, capitalism carries on, regardless of who is in office.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

But admit it Abolaji, whilst you accept that Obama is not a socialist, you probably think Hugo Chavez is ;)

Steven Johnston

Abolaji said...

Steve,

Let's just say that I take into account my audience when framing my responses on the meanings of certain terms :D.

I agree with you that there is significant hypocrisy about deficit spending on the part of conservatives. In fact, given that the US has sustained this much debt, it seems that if any serious attempt to reduce the debt does work, it will probably be reversed by someone who never saw the point in the reversal. We'll see how things turn out over the next few years - I really don't think the US will ever be able to repay its debt and I really don't know where things will head if the dollar stops being the world's currency.

Have you read Thomas Sowell's "Marxism" and if so, what did you think of it?

Anonymous said...

"Let's just say that I take into account my audience when framing my responses on the meanings of certain terms :D."

Good, that makes two of us, because I'm pretty sure I've never, ever said that 'socialised' medicine, nationalisation, welfare or any other reforms equated to socialism.

I've never read the book you mentioned, I take it I should? Is this a book that is going to make me change my views?

Steven Johnston

Abolaji said...

I've never read the book you mentioned, I take it I should? Is this a book that is going to make me change my views?

Honestly, I have no clue. The author, a famous conservative Black economist who is now considered by many to be a Republican hack, says he was once a Marxist. He spends about 9 chapters explicating Marxism and 1 chapter discussing what he thinks are its serious limitations. I'm more interested in your evaluation of the 9 chapters than your evaluation of the 1, since it is usually interesting to see if a position is being explicated in terms a support would agree with. I already knew everything in the last chapter because it's a standard discussion of the limitations of Marxian economics and philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Abolaji,

Difficult for me to say as I've not read it, nor do I know how he defines marxism. If it's the welfare state, USSR, Cuba, nationalisation etc. then there is little point in me reading it. As these are to marxism what Uri Geller is to science. But we have former 'marxists' turned conservatives in this country to, I don't know what they are like over th epond but in the UK these men and women anre mostly fruit bats. As for his conservative, republican beliefs I already "the limitations of their economics and philosophy". I'm pretty sure there are plenty of books written about that, have you ever read any?
By the way, presumably you did read Das Kapital then? As you do state that you -

"I already knew everything in the last chapter because it's a standard discussion of the limitations of Marxian economics and philosophy"

But I'll bet the honest answer is, no, you haven't read it, but you'd read a book by somebody who claimed they read it. Correct?

Steven Johnston

Abolaji said...

But I'll bet the honest answer is, no, you haven't read it, but you'd read a book by somebody who claimed they read it. Correct?

Yes. I have Sowell's book and have read it, and also have Marx's works (*Capital* and *The Communist Manifesto*), which I admittedly couldn't finish those because I didn't understand them - hence I found a guide whose works I have a definite opinion on. I find most philosophers translated from German into English impenetrable (Schopenhauer is the only exception thus far). I think Sowell's books is well written and full of citations from Marx and Engels and says little about 20th century implementations of socialism (and in the final chapter). I just wanted to see how a Marxist viewed it, the same way that I am intrigued by how an Objectivist views "Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature" or "Ayn Rand and the World She Made". Usually, the points of dissension are revealing.

Anonymous said...

"and says little about 20th century implementations of socialism (and in the final chapter)."

There haven't been any implications of socialism or am I missing something? Or are we getting back to the Hugo Chavez is a socialist nonsense.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Does the book pick up on racist comments that Marx made in the 19th century and think because of this Marxism is racist? Because I can assure you that is not the case. Or does it equate Marxism with Hitler's National Socialist party?
I accept that Marx used some language, that though acceptable back then, would be totally beyond the pale today. But so did O Henry in his short fiction.

As for the implications of socalism in the 20th century, perhaps I was a little hast in saying there have been none. I think it did frighten conservatives into 'buying' of the working class with the dreaded, welfare states we see in Europe today. But abolaji, what do you say to conservatives, in Europe and in the US, who vote and spend as much money and more on the welfare state and yet denounce them as socialism. Surely you accept that the welfare is a conservative baby, why do conservatives try to disown it? That is what I find so confusing, why create something, then see it fail and cry it's the fault of socialism. We never asked for it! The writings of the socialist party back in that period are quite clear on this.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

A side point Abolaji, I mean I don't know if you vote Republican, but if you do, where do you draw the line in who you think the Republican party should give foreign aid to? Regimes which muder nuns? Children? Labor union leaders? Because the republican party loves giving money to brutal Latin American dictators, as long as they claim to be anti-communist, the nun murdering and torturing is ignored. Is that a limitation of republican ideology? Or is it seen as a virtue to give aid to men like Pinochet? Before you ask, no, Allende was not a marxist and I'd never give any support to a man like Allende.
But, for the republicans to take tax dollars for hard-working American men and women of integrity and dignity and then give it to brutal dictators, well maybe you can help us out here and explain why they did that. No wonder the US was scared, that Latin America would turn 'marxist'. Supporting regimes like that is a sure fire way of that actually happening ;).

At least Rand's lot got that right, never give help to a dictator.


Steven Johnston

Abolaji said...

Steve,

The book (check it out on Amazon) was written in 1985 and at that time, whatever you think of Sowell's political ideology, he didn't have a column where he voiced it on a weekly basis and Reagan was in the White House and Chavez was not the president of Venezuela.

As for politics, I have no real political affiliation - I do not vote. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I started studying politics in part because of and interest in libertarianism and Ayn Rand, so my politics were on the right of the political spectrum. However, over time, as I've incorporated more and more of the findings of evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics into my conception of human nature, I've become a kind of Darwinian conservative who studies politics more because I need to understand what is going on around me. I think only a person who has no first hand experience about actually running an institution will have great confidence that it can be run the way *he* thinks it should be run (doesn't mean he is wrong - just that such confidence is historically unwarranted). I'm fairly confident that socialism as a realistic ideology is going nowhere because of how Marx thought of human nature.

Foreign policy, in broad terms, is used for the most part to advance strategic goals. I would be lying if I said I knew enough about the details of US foreign policy to answer any of your questions in detail. But from the little I've studied, I think foreign policy is important in US politics largely because of material resources it has in other countries and the justification of the military complex/lobby, and the internal tension in the US over foreign policy choices is because it has citizens who are natives of virtually every country in which it influences foreign policy, talk less of people who do business with friends in those countries, creating a tension between native allegiances and US allegiances. In the 21st century, the far reach of the press and social norms mean that you can't speak honestly about anything without suffering some blowback so why speak at all? But supporting dictatorships is no different than lobbying the political group that supports your interests. Why would one expect any country to do otherwise? This is of course simplifying a complex issue, but this is a blog comment, not a lengthy dissertation.

Anon69 said...

Would it suffice to say that Rand's argument is comprehensible if one were to substitute the word "optimal" for "proper" and "rational", and the word "suboptimal" for "irrational"? For that seems to be the clear implication of what amounts to a "death avoidance" doctrine at the extreme, and a "flourishing" doctrine at the opposite end. Rand is saying that man is better off the more rational he is and the more rights he has to act on his own judgment and keep the product of his work. A life optimal for man is achieved this way. An optimum is transformed into a principled absolute by application of Objectivist epistemology which excludes suboptimalities as conceptual non-fundamentals. As far as matching the given abstractions with concrete examples/evidence, this is left as an exercise to the reader.

gregnyquist said...

Anon69: Would it suffice to say that Rand's argument is comprehensible if one were to substitute the word "optimal" for "proper" and "rational", and the word "suboptimal" for "irrational"?

What we need is something specific enough to test empirical, and that means something that's not vague. "Optimal" is still kind of vague. It doesn't seem much better than the word "good."

Rand is saying that man is better off the more rational he is and the more rights he has to act on his own judgment and keep the product of his work. A life optimal for man is achieved this way.

"Better off" in what way? Human beings have very different ideas of what "better off" means. Rand claims to have found an "objective" better off, which all "rational" people would agree on, but she's remains vague as to what this "better off" thing consists of (beyond vague agreement with her own personal preferences). And there's a good reason why she is vague: she could not in fact defend specific ideal on rational grounds. If a "better off" goal is achievable without rights, it's difficult to understand how it can be dismissed as irrational or "sub-optimal."

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys!

Here are some responses I got from the United Kingdom Objectivist Association! Now there is a mouthful, they are a privately funded philosophical organisation. I take it that means they turned down the government grant they were offered.

Steven Johnston

It depends what you mean by "the way things are."

AR is speaking in a metaphysical sense, not in a contemporary or social sense.
There are 2 common theories of rights with which AR disagrees.
The first is the religious view of rights which contends that rights are special entitlements granted to us by God [which we, or some religious body, divine from the study of scripture.]
The second is the social view of rights which contends that rights are social entitlements endowed by "society," [ie rights derive from public consensus, democratic vote, or political tribunals of some sort.]

AR, on the other hand, says rights derive NOT from a group of collective wishes, but from man's nature, and the nature of reality.
So what is man's nature and what is the nature of reality? I hear you ask.
AR agrees with Aristotle that the essential characteristic of man is his power of reason and that reality is a non-contradictory whole which operates according to fixed, immutable, laws.
So, if we are to live on Earth, we have to use reason to discover reality's laws and then live in accordance with those laws.

Anonymous said...

Steven Johnston

More from them: -

She is not saying that at all.
When she says "if man is to live on Earth" she indicates a unique difference between man's life and the life of other living creatures.
The choice to live, or not, is something that we all, as individuals, have to choose for ourselves. Animals and plants do not and cannot make that choice because, unlike man, they do not possess a volitional consciousness.
Plants live like plants, tigers live like tigers, sheep live like sheep - automatically. A tiger has no power to live like a sheep but imagine, for the sake of argument, if it did, imagine what would happen if a tiger tried to live by eating only grass - it would surely, rapidly perish because it is simply not that type of creature.
Similarly, man can, if he chooses, attempt to live like an animal but he cannot hope to escape the consequences. Fakirs in India sometimes try living like plants. Day after day, they will sit, legs crossed, with an arm stretched upwards, a hand above their heads. But neither will they escape the consequences - the agony, physical deformity and dependence on others who are productive.

Rights are principles which protect men from those other men who wish to live like animals. Rights say "hands off!. I am an independent sovereign individual. My life is mine to live as a man, neither sacrificing myself to others nor others to myself. I require the permission of no one to live my life as a trader, exchanging the best I produce with the best produced by others, to mutual benefit and by voluntary consent


No this is totally wrong. He does not get it at all.
The assumption here is that rights are are social entitlements. They are not. No one in the UK or USA today has any substantive rights.

(1) that in order to live, men must be “rational”; (2) that rights are necessary in order to be rational; (3) that, therefore, rights are necessary in order to live.


No, no, no. This is all totally wrong.

1] Men are rational animals.
2] To live as men, therefore, we should live according to the guidance of reason.
3] In society, the recognition of rights is the recognition of the above facts.

If by rationality we mean deliberate, conscious thinking guided by “logic,” premise (1) is almost certainly false. Human beings, as cognitive science has shown, are governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious, which can hardly be described as “rational.”

This is all Freudian-Platonic nonsense. If it were true then "cognitive science" too would be " governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious."

Anonymous said...

Steven Johnston

More from them: -

She is not saying that at all.
When she says "if man is to live on Earth" she indicates a unique difference between man's life and the life of other living creatures.
The choice to live, or not, is something that we all, as individuals, have to choose for ourselves. Animals and plants do not and cannot make that choice because, unlike man, they do not possess a volitional consciousness.
Plants live like plants, tigers live like tigers, sheep live like sheep - automatically. A tiger has no power to live like a sheep but imagine, for the sake of argument, if it did, imagine what would happen if a tiger tried to live by eating only grass - it would surely, rapidly perish because it is simply not that type of creature.
Similarly, man can, if he chooses, attempt to live like an animal but he cannot hope to escape the consequences. Fakirs in India sometimes try living like plants. Day after day, they will sit, legs crossed, with an arm stretched upwards, a hand above their heads. But neither will they escape the consequences - the agony, physical deformity and dependence on others who are productive.

Rights are principles which protect men from those other men who wish to live like animals. Rights say "hands off!. I am an independent sovereign individual. My life is mine to live as a man, neither sacrificing myself to others nor others to myself. I require the permission of no one to live my life as a trader, exchanging the best I produce with the best produced by others, to mutual benefit and by voluntary consent


No this is totally wrong. He does not get it at all.
The assumption here is that rights are are social entitlements. They are not. No one in the UK or USA today has any substantive rights.

(1) that in order to live, men must be “rational”; (2) that rights are necessary in order to be rational; (3) that, therefore, rights are necessary in order to live.


No, no, no. This is all totally wrong.

1] Men are rational animals.
2] To live as men, therefore, we should live according to the guidance of reason.
3] In society, the recognition of rights is the recognition of the above facts.

If by rationality we mean deliberate, conscious thinking guided by “logic,” premise (1) is almost certainly false. Human beings, as cognitive science has shown, are governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious, which can hardly be described as “rational.”

This is all Freudian-Platonic nonsense. If it were true then "cognitive science" too would be " governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious."

Anonymous said...

Steven Johnston

Even more! Hope this helps. As he does not say as much as he thinks he does. Again lots of dogmatic assertions, but little in the way of hard facts. The spelling and the grammar are pretty hopeless to. His and yes, mine at times to.



Even a slave has some room for initiative and rationality, and a citizen in a welfare state has a great deal more.

But neither have any real rights.

So Rand’s argument breaks down completely, which is just as well, because the conclusion is, as I have already noted, absurd. Sorry, but rights are not necessary for life. If that were so, the human race would have disappeared long ago.

Rights are necessary to live as free men. But the human race lives under political oppresion - in some places worse others, but no where is man truly politically free.


We next find Rand repeating her oft-stated maxim that “nature forbids [man] the irrational.” What does Rand mean by the “irrational.” Can any Objectivist describe what she means without begging the question? For it clearly won’t do to say: “the irrational is anything contrary reason,” because that just leaves us with the difficulty of describing what “reason” is. To the extent that any empirical meaning can be drawn from this statement at all, it appears to be, at the very best, an exaggeration. If by “irrational” we include “non-logical conduct,” the statement is clearly false, as human beings have been practicing non-logical conduct for centuries without Dame Nature once stepping in to forbid it.

She does makes us suffer for it. And the death toll has been horrendous.

Indeed, it would be impossible to bring every aspect of human existence under the exclusive domain of logical conduct, since logic breaks down whenever faced with any great complexity or uncertainty. In a pinch, intuition or trial and error or following an established usage may prove more useful than “reason.”

Let him try living according to " intuition or trial and error or following an established usage" in a country unacquainted with reason.


Rand concludes by asserting, again without offering a shred of evidence or proof, that any group that denies man’s rights “is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.”

She has written extensively on this matter both in fiction and non- fiction.

Once more, we are confronted with a frustrating vagueness in which Rand seems to equivocate between saying something that is clearly contrary to the facts or that is banal. Does she really want us to believe that a denial of “man’s rights” leads to death?

It usually leads to suffering, and yes, often to death, alas.

Throughout most of human history, most human beings have had virtually no rights at all.

Sadly true.

Many have been little better than slaves or peasants. Yet somehow the human race has managed to survive, in the very teeth of Rand’s anathema. So what does Rand mean by claiming that a denial of rights is anti-life? She means only this: that she doesn’t like it! Sorry, but that’s not a good argument. Even if you could (per impossible) change society through argumentation, you would never get anywhere with arguments as bad as these!

He seems oblivious to the benefits to man's life provided by the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

"I'm fairly confident that socialism as a realistic ideology is going nowhere because of how Marx thought of human nature."


So should I forget about Marxism and become, like you, a Darwinian libertarian? What ever that is.

Do you think the little guy will buy libertarianism in the US? In 1916 Eugene V. Debbs got 1 million votes in the presidential election in the US, I think at the last election the Libertarian party got ½ million votes, better luck next time eh?

As for the UK, well the libertarian party here has 500 members and a bank balance of £3000.

At the last election the party got 140 votes.

You not going to make like the scientologists are you and tell me that ‘your’ movement is growing year by year?

Steven Johnston

gregnyquist said...


There are 2 common theories of rights with which AR disagrees. The first is the religious view of rights which contends that rights are special entitlements granted to us by God...
The second is the social view of rights which contends that rights are social entitlements endowed by "society,"...


Both these theories are as inept as Rand's. They are merely rationalizations of political preferences regarding the division of the social advantage. What Objectivists fail to understand is that these theories play only a very small role in what rights people actually have within society. These are far more determined by political processes, by the conflicts within the ruling elite and which factions are able to gain the most influence within the body politic. Once a certain types of rights are enforced by the legal system (and they don't exist until they are enforced), then they are rationalized by those that favor them, either as coming from "society" or "God." No power elite has ever thought of rationalizing their rights as Rand rationalizes them, and it's difficult to ever think they would. In terms of public relations, claiming that rights come from either soceity and God is better than saying they come from the law of identity. Ordinary people at least have some opinions of what God or society is. They have no idea what the law of identity is, and have no interest in being enlightened on that score.

gregnyquist said...

Similarly, man can, if he chooses, attempt to live like an animal but he cannot hope to escape the consequences.

How does one distinguish between living like an animal and living like a man? Can we be more specific? And I don't mean specific in citing examples (which are always guided by confirmation bias and therefore are useless), but more specific in the general rule itself.

Ethical and political rationalizations are always like this: they take advantage of the scandalous ambiguity of certain terms so their assertions can never be tested empirically. It allows them to accept whatever concretizations make their case look good while ignoring the great mass of concretizations that make their case look bad. It's confirmation bias run wild. It demonstrates an immense inability to criticize one's own beliefs.

Rights are principles which protect men from those other men who wish to live like animals. Rights say "hands off!

Rights may say "hands off," but whose going to listen to the chatter of an abstraction? Unless you have the power to actually make people keep their hands off, it's just idle chatter and the wishful thinking of weak people who resent the fact that people with more power can enforce their will on them.

gregnyquist said...

The assumption here is that rights are are social entitlements.

Anyone who thinks that completely misses the point. Rights are not a social entitlement, or law of identity entitlement, or a deity entitlement. As I mentioned above, those are all just rationalizations. Real rights (as opposed to the imaginary rights of philosophers and other wishful thinkers) are the prevailing rights that develop through political processes that, while the consequences of human action, are not results of human design. Objectivists seem incapable of understanding social and political process. Human beings don't sit around the table and discuss the philosophical merits of various theories of right and then choose one. It doesn't work like that. Instead, you have a elites vying with one another for various schemes as to how to regulate the division of social advantage. The actual scheme that prevails will always be some compromise that's arrived at, partially through conscious efforts, but also partially through mere chance. In the jostle of human ambition of and human delusion, the result will never be some perfect theory of rights as imagined by Rand or anyone else.

If you want to understand about how a given system of rights actually comes to prevail in the world (and that's the most important question of all), you can't think exclusively in normative terms. You might have the best normative arguments in the world, it still doesn't matter.

gregnyquist said...

This is all Freudian-Platonic nonsense. If it were true then "cognitive science" too would be " governed to a considerable extent by the cognitive unconscious."

This is a typical anti-empirical, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts Objectivist rationalization. First of all, it's not Freudian; cognitive scientists, while accepting the role that the unconscious plays, entirely reject Freud's view of the unconsious. Nor is it Platonic. Plato, in fact, is where this whole myth of "deliberate conscious reason" first got legs.

Objectivists habitually confuse how people make decisions with how they arrive at knowledge, as if they are the same thing. What cognitive scientists are discovering is that the unconscious plays a much larger role in decision making than anyone before imagined (even counting Mr. Freud). It's absurd to suggest that this discovery is somehow invalidated because the decisions of the cognitive scientists are also largely determined by their unconsiousness. The knowledge of this is not a decision, it's something arrived at by both conscious and unconscious processes, as is all data about facts of the world. It's well recognized that consciousness plays a role in gathering and testing knowledge, even if its role in decision making turns out to be minimal or non-existent. So there's no contradiction between knowing the extent to which we are governed by the unconsious and actually being governed by the unconscious. Indeed, the knowledge of this fact may prove a means of increasing the role of consciousness in decisions and partially liberating ourselves from this "bondage" to the unconscious. But if, out of some misplaced pride and ratinoalistic speculation, you simply dismiss these facts out of hand, you will merely continue to be unwittingly governed by your unconscious while all along operating under the delusion that your consciousness is in control. Hardly the right way of attaining the ethical goals preached by Objectivism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Greg for debunking his answers, which I'm sure were just copy and paste jobs from the ARI. Interestingly he, John of the UKOA, does not rate Isaac Newton as a man of great intellect as he spent the latter part of his life trying to find the location of the garden of Eden. Now I don't know if this is true in Sir Isaacs case, but lets get a sense of perspective here, yes, from today that probably was a waste of his intellect, but at that time of history it probably made sense. But on the plus side lets not let this silliness over shadow his epoch making work on optics and the laws of motion! It's typical objectivist behaviour to find fault, as, to them, Isaac Newton believed in god, so ergo he cannot be a rational man, so they downplay his genuis and over-play the magical, so you end up with an a very unbalanced picture of pehaps the most celebrated genuises in history.
Though hold the front page but not your breath, an objectivist is writing a book on physics, or so he tells me. This of course is proof that scientists can be objectivists to.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

So should I forget about Marxism and become, like you, a Darwinian libertarian? What ever that is.

I think my actual quote was a "Darwinian conservative". But in any case, I don't proselytize a broad ideology for the most part. I think anyone who looks at the data from the sciences of human nature, especially behavioral genetics and the finding of twin studies, can examine for themselves the implications of these sciences on their political views and adjust as necessary. I don't think many economic libertarians have a realistic view of how differential ability, envy and the desire for social status drive the behaviors of human beings. They sometimes take it for granted that there is a *true* definition of fairness or a *proper* conception of justice, while the truth is that even if they were right, many people may prefer to be rich, or at least comfortable, under an unfair conception of justice than to be poor under a fair conception of justice.

But in any case, everything I've described points towards a personal philosophy - I last seriously perused libertarian literature over 8 yrs ago and I learned the stupidity of debating data on biological differences. So the points of your criticism of organized libertarianism are well understood, but directed at a target other than myself. In fact, the prospects for "true socialism" are just as dim, though just about only the "true socialists" deny Lenin, Mao, Castro and Chavez (amongst others) their days in the sun. I study politics so I can treat it like the weather, as a wise man named Greg Nyquist once wrote. My personal refrain along those lines has always been that I'm an analyst, not a political decision maker. If I become a decision maker (unlikely in this or any lifetime), then we can debate my political decisions then.

Xtra Laj said...

It's typical objectivist behaviour to find fault, as, to them, Isaac Newton believed in god, so ergo he cannot be a rational man, so they downplay his genuis and over-play the magical, so you end up with an a very unbalanced picture of pehaps the most celebrated genuises in history.

It's all part of the terrible psychology of human nature Rand bestowed on her followers. Rather than realize and accept that man is prey to various forms of ideology and superstition and from that angle accept that intelligence and superstition can easily be found in the same person (in fact, some have argued that being more intelligent makes you more likely to accept certain kinds of ridiculous - more generously, rationalistic - ideas), Objectivists prefer to see Good in some humans possessing Reason (no different from human beings they agree with) and Evil and Confusion in everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand was similair to Queen Victoria, both women were 'not amused' and rarely amusing.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

"I think my actual quote was a "Darwinian conservative""

You mean there is a difference? :)

Have your read this book?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull

I only ask because it is to Darwinian conservatism what Atlas Shrugged is to Objectivism.

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

No, never read it.

gregnyquist said...

John of the UKOA, does not rate Isaac Newton as a man of great intellect as he spent the latter part of his life trying to find the location of the garden of Eden. Now I don't know if this is true in Sir Isaacs case, but lets get a sense of perspective here, yes, from today that probably was a waste of his intellect, but at that time of history it probably made sense.

I don't know either if Newton tried to locate the garden of Eden, but he did write a book on Revelations. Was it a waste of time? Not any more than any other hobby, like stamp collecting or reading Proust.

Anonymous said...

"Steve,

No, never read it."

But have you heard the Neil Diamond album?


Well he flies higher than the other gulls and the masses get angry at him and reject him and make him an outcast. But Jonathan does not give up! He goes back and teaches them how to fly like him and to reject the limitations of society, not to conform and that the stronger can achieve much more if they leave the weaker behind. Jonathan realises that his capacity to learn make him a one-in-a-million bird, he achieves total freedom and does not let society hold him back. He's the John Galt of seagulls, whilst the elders are a bunch of Ellsworth's

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

Conservatism I guess like Socialism means many things to many people. Here is the beginning of Greg's take on the issue:

http://homepage.mac.com/machiavel/Text/conservatism.html

The main weakness of what he wrote is that he doesn't cite any modern examples of non-ideological conservatives - they seem to be an underground breed with little political power.


You wrote:

He goes back and teaches them how to fly like him and to reject the limitations of society...

This is generally not the mindset of a conservative, who sees social limitations as part and parcel of being human, and would argue that you have to understand society and accept deviating from social convention as a sort of risk which will be subjected to empirical analysis with some deference towards the status quo and an acceptance of the limitations of reason.

A conservative would quite likely accept that some human beings can fly and others can't, but it's unlikely he would frame that a freedom from social limitation - he would likely infer that those who could fly are more talented in that respect, but are still very human and limited in other respects. Flying doesn't make one able to make cars, solve math etc. Even a great man stands upon the shoulders of other men, some great, some not so great. The facts that would go into a Darwinian analysis have more to do with how behavioral genetics and empirical psychology have helped us understand better the kinds of change it is realistic to expect of human beings.

Anonymous said...

But in reality what happens? Republicans or Democrats, Conservatives or Labour, they both collect the same amounts in taxes from the same sources and both spend it on roughly the same areas. The Conservatvies fought the 1st Gulf war and the Labour party the 2nd, what does it all boil down to? In reality there is no difference.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

What you are saying is true, but that is demanded in part by the nature of parliamentarian/congressional politics where politicians interested in keeping power cater both to special interests and to the electorate, the latter to the degree that they need to do so to stay in office. A professor at Georgetown had some pretty good empirical research into how political views in America tracked public opinion over time. The structure of the system makes taking certain actions necessary to achieve one's goals. Compare and contrast Barack Obama the campaigner to Barack Obama the President if you doubt this.

However, this does not mean that there are not real distinctions between how a conservative might view an issue and a liberal might. Whether they will (or even should) bubble up to the surface in a system built on voted legislation which is often quite different from what any particular individual purely envisioned is another story.

However, there are some issues on which you could tell what a principled Darwinian conservative would not support. A principled Darwinian conservative would have issues with unchecked immigration or mandatory college education, because he would claim that immigration affects the culture of a country by bringing in foreigners whose behaviors might not be compatible with the culture of the citizens, or that it is unclear why one should bring in more immigrants which will depress wages of current citizens etc. and/or that most people do not have the ability to get much benefit out of a quality college education if IQ testing theory is trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

"However, there are some issues on which you could tell what a principled Darwinian conservative would not support. A principled Darwinian conservative would have issues with unchecked immigration or mandatory college education..."

But that would not matter as the working class the politically decisive class, if they don't like what he/she is doing them is goodbye from them as they will be voted out of office.
Morever the capitalist system itself would would also render what they believed redundant, take unchecked immigration, oh it's boom time, we need as much labor as possible to meet the demand and we are running out of home grown labor, so...what do you do? You have to get more workers from abroad, so bang goes the principled stand there.

If they ain't got the principled darwinian conservative one way, they've got him/her the other.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

"and/or that most people do not have the ability to get much benefit out of a quality college education if IQ testing theory is trustworthy."

You do sound as if you'd enjoy Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which is about seagulls and not people.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

You do sound as if you'd enjoy Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which is about seagulls and not people.

I guess you mean something like "I find your statement so reprehensible that I am sure that you will like something I find reprehensible". What percentage of the general population do you think should go to college? What percentage of the population do you think will do well in college? Thank you.

It's really odd that when I make this statement about IQ, I get treated like I'm Attila the Hun. But if I made the statement about sprinting or basketball (I don't think most people can become College scholarship level basketballers even with lots of training), fewer people argue as vehemently because the talent disparities are far more visible and IQ is such a sensitive topic.

Xtra Laj said...

But that would not matter as the working class the politically decisive class, if they don't like what he/she is doing them is goodbye from them as they will be voted out of office.

I think the working class is a "vague term" often abused for personal gain. But of course, any politician who pushes policies that the majority of voters do not see as being in their key interests will get voted out of office. The key question is the actual policy and whether it can gain ground with people.


Morever the capitalist system itself would would also render what they believed redundant, take unchecked immigration, oh it's boom time, we need as much labor as possible to meet the demand and we are running out of home grown labor, so...what do you do? You have to get more workers from abroad, so bang goes the principled stand there.


Well, if this is the whole story, why was Bush unable to pass immigration reform which would have given people who came into the US illegally with citizenship a few years ago? There is no doubt that there are immigration enthusiasts, but there also exists a large number of voters (in America at least) who would like to restrict immigration for reasons they think are in the interests of current citizens and can be sold as such, so this position is as viable as being anti-abortion in the US.

If they ain't got the principled darwinian conservative one way, they've got him/her the other.

Principled people are not good politicians in democratic systems, where one has to seek compromise and be practical. So your answer would apply just as easily to a principled socialist, a principled liberal etc. The real question is whether the basis for what a principled evolutionary conservative claims has an empirical basis or not.

I don't think you'll find a serious evolutionary conservative claiming his philosophy as anything other than a personal one. What evolutionary conservatives do argue is that the biological basis of society should not be ignored in the name of ideology. That some human beings are smarter, taller, stronger, less scrupulous etc. in part because of biological factors is taken seriously in behavioral genetics. How you feel about it is your own prerogative, but it poses a problem for anyone who thinks that such differences can be eradicated by any political system.

Anon69 said...

Greg Nyquist said: "If a "better off" goal is achievable without rights, it's difficult to understand how it can be dismissed as irrational or "sub-optimal.""

Greg,
Might the problem here lie in the realm of epistemology? What Rand might be saying is this: conceptually, man is a producer. Contra that, some men act as parasites (initiating force to survive etc.). I'll even accept, in a nod to your historical point (and Rand's btw), that all men throughout history have behaved as parasites to some extent. Here is where Rand's brilliant epistemology comes into play. Rand is able to take N instances of men acting partly as producer and partly as parasites, and produce a concept of man as pure producer. This is because parasitism depends on production, but production does not depend on parasitism (to quote John Galt: "we do not need you"). Parasitism must be explained by reference to production, but not vice-versa. This is not Rand's whim, it is a fact. It is the fact that explains why, given N instances of imperfect men one can create one concept of man wherein man is a producer. The concept of rights is derivative, but you won't get there unless you first agree with Rand's concept of man. If you mistakenly conceptualize differently -- say, by averaging the productive/parasitic ratio of the N instances, you'll get something wrong like "man is 75% productive and 25% parasitical". It's an epistemic error. On the question of right, all Rand is saying is that "this is what man does" -- but because that is what man does per the concept man, not because Rand liked it. The political question of rights is simply this: does the law correctly recognize this concept of man? If it does then it will grant him his rights to be what he is, i.e. to keep the product of his mind. And if it does not, then it is not correctly recognizing the concept "man".

This works even if one focuses exclusively on parasites as the paradigmic example of man. On whom do those parasites depend? They depend on the men who are producers. Once you take them into account, Objectivist epistemology works its magic and you still wind up with a concept of man as pure producer.

Anonymous said...

"The political question of rights is simply this: does the law correctly recognize this concept of man? If it does then it will grant him his rights to be what he is, i.e. to keep the product of his mind. And if it does not, then it is not correctly recognizing the concept "man"."

Well Karl Marx said the law does not allow the majority to keep the product of their mind. The surplus wealth they produce is appropriated by the parasitical capilalist class. But I doubt that is the answer you were looking for anon69

Steven Johnston

Anon69 said...

Steven,

One cannot "appropriate" without initiating force. Since the workers choose to produce what they produce in exchange for whatever wage they can freely bargain, "parasitic capitalist class" is an oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

"One cannot "appropriate" without initiating force. Since the workers choose to produce what they produce in exchange for whatever wage they can freely bargain, "parasitic capitalist class" is an oxymoron."

Yes, but they are rather limited in their choices, either work or starve. Well, they could go on welfare for a time, but even there, they will eventually be forced back into work. As for not-initiating force, contracts are backed up with a guarantee of state violence against the working class. As for free bargaining there are many countries with anti-labor union laws which restrict the ways in which workers can 'freely' bargain. As throughout history man working men and women have lost their lives in this 'freely bargain' process.

Steven Johnston

Anon69 said...

"Yes, but they are rather limited in their choices, either work or starve. Well, they could go on welfare for a time, but even there, they will eventually be forced back into work."

No one is "forced" to work: no one is forced to live. IF one chooses to live, then he must produce. That is not a political initiation of force; it is simply reality. It is reality that Marx was truly railing against. Reality does not force one to do anything. "Force" is simply inapplicable in this context.

"As for not-initiating force, contracts are backed up with a guarantee of state violence against the working class."

Contracts are freely consented to.

"As for free bargaining there are many countries with anti-labor union laws which restrict the ways in which workers can 'freely' bargain. "

And of course such laws are inconsistent with Objectivism, which would allow unions to bargain freely.

"As throughout history man working men and women have lost their lives in this 'freely bargain' process."

I don't know what you're referring to here. If you mean that people have been shot dead, etc. for bargaining, then that is clearly an initiation of force that Objectivism is opposed to.

Anonymous said...

"No one is "forced" to work: no one is forced to live. IF one chooses to live, then he must produce. That is not a political initiation of force; it is simply reality. It is reality that Marx was truly railing against. Reality does not force one to do anything. "Force" is simply inapplicable in this context"

Entirely true, as Marx, no any other philospher ever denied this, they worked this out years before Rand & Co. ever did.

What Marx was railing against was something quite different, a system of people who produce yet do not own the means of production and a group who don't produce anything yet live of the labor power of others.
Marx did not give the world socialism, it gave to to him, this is the reality that his detractors are truly railing against.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

"Contracts are freely consented to."

No they are not, I've never freely consented to on, I've been forced into signing them by the threat of poverty.


"And of course such laws are inconsistent with Objectivism, which would allow unions to bargain freely."

Does anybody seriously believe that this would ever happen under any party that comes to power? That they would repeal all the anti-union laws in their country and step out of the ring and let capital and labor resolve their own disputes?


Steven Johnston

gregnyquist said...

Anon69: " I'll even accept, in a nod to your historical point (and Rand's btw), that all men throughout history have behaved as parasites to some extent. Here is where Rand's brilliant epistemology comes into play."

I wouldn't say that all (or even most) men have behaved as parasites to some extent. The millions who were slaves, for example, in the ancient world, were hardly parasites. The difficulty is much greater than that. You have, in the first place, individuals who "expropriate" wealth from others: slave holders, tax agents of various governments, strongmen/monopolists, etc. Yet these "expropriaters" are often not just pure parasites, living off their slaves. They are often men of initiative (how do you think they became slave holders?), who are also producers.

Now the fact that you can, in pure thought, abstract away the parasitism and create an ideal type of the producer who only produces is an interesting as an exercise of thought, but not all that useful as describing the reality which confronts us.

"If you mistakenly conceptualize differently -- say, by averaging the productive/parasitic ratio of the N instances, you'll get something wrong like "man is 75% productive and 25% parasitical". It's an epistemic error. "

I don't see how this solves the problem, since in reality, there is not merely the concept "man," but multitudes of individual men, each of them with their own ratios of production and parasitism, which, even more to the point, may be constantly changing. All men are born parasites. Over time (hopefully) they become less so. If they live to a very old age, they are likely to become more "parasitical" during their final years. Those that are stronger, more unscrupulous, smarter will often have a bit of parasitism to go along with their productivity. The entrepreneur needs capital, and many entrepreneurs are none too squeamish about how they get their hands on the necessary funds.

The fact that so-called parasites depend on "producers" is little to the point, because in reality, the producers require protection (and hence often depend on the so-called "parasites"), and politically it's extremely difficult to set up a protection scheme without the protection scheme turning into a racket. If producers are going to produce, they need to delegate the task of defense to other people—usually to people who feel drawn to soldiering and using force. But how do you stop these soldiers (particularly their leaders in government) from using the force at their disposal to indulge in parasitism? All of Rand's "brilliant" epistemological insights are of no use at solving this problem, because they conveniently abstract away all these problems.

Anon69 said...

Steven Johnston said: "What Marx was railing against was something quite different, a system of people who produce yet do not own the means of production and a group who don't produce anything yet live of the labor power of others.
Marx did not give the world socialism, it gave to to him, this is the reality that his detractors are truly railing against."


Rand correctly identified man's mind as the fundamental "means of production". So you are saying that Marx was railing against a system of people who produce but do not have minds, and a group who don't produce yet live off the minds of the mindless -- an obvious contradiction if ever there was. The truth is that Marx's "workers" received an incalculable benefit from the capitalists, without which they would not have had jobs at all. The choice is not between exploitation wages and fair wages, it is between fair wages and no wages. But for capitalism giving these workers the means of production, they would have had nothing so good as what they got. But arguing against Marx is in some respects a futile exercise -- the only practical implementation of Marxism relies on the initiation of force, and force is not an argument. The proof of Marxism's irrationality is that, in practice, it can never be implemented by persuasion. Now, there is a point I will accede to that is virtually Nyquistian in character: it is really hard to persuade Marx's workers that they are getting the better (or at least equal) part of the deal, because they lack the mental horsepower to appreciate what the capitalists have done for them. They don't accede to the view that man's mind is the means of production because their own minds aren't as capable. To them, labor really does mean muscle power and nothing more. In Rand's novels, some of the track workers seemed to appreciate and respect Dagny's superior intellect as compared to their own. It isn't immediately clear how that sort of humility would come about in reality when dealing with people who refuse to see or cannot grasp the fact that man's mind is the ultimate means of production.

Anon69 said...

Steven Johnston said: "No they are not, I've never freely consented to on, I've been forced into signing them by the threat of poverty."

You *did* freely consent, because the choice of work or poverty was yours. You could have freely chosen poverty, but you didn't. So indeed, contracts (even made under the threat of poverty) are freely consented to. In fact, the "threat of poverty" merely describes man's basic choice in reality: to live or not, to produce or not. Reality is not a "threat", it is *reality*.

Anon69 said...

Greg Nyquist said: "If producers are going to produce, they need to delegate the task of defense to other people—usually to people who feel drawn to soldiering and using force. But how do you stop these soldiers (particularly their leaders in government) from using the force at their disposal to indulge in parasitism?"

It's an important question. Fundamentally, political leaders need to act on the advice of the intellectuals who must recommend laissez-faire measures. Why they would do so is a question that Objectivism answers by reference to, e.g., the sense of life and the philosophy that predominates in a culture (c.f. the "cultural change project"). The problem is political leverage. In Atlas Shrugged, the intellectuals demonstrated leverage by withdrawing their intellectual power so that society would collapse. How else might leverage be exercised? The intellectuals have the power of ideas on their side and may invent new answers to that question over time.

Anonymous said...

"In Atlas Shrugged, the intellectuals demonstrated leverage by withdrawing their intellectual power so that society would collapse. How else might leverage be exercised? The intellectuals have the power of ideas on their side and may invent new answers to that question over time."

But Atlas Shrugged is a novel and not a very good one at that. But good look to those objectivist intellectuals who wish to withdraw their intellectual power from society, I give 'em six weeks before they come crawling back to us. In the real world, how are the intellectuals going to use thier leverage, if they have any, over the rest of us?

I only ask this, assuming, for a moment at least, that the premise

"Fundamentally, political leaders need to act on the advice of the intellectuals"

is a valid one.

Steven Johnston




Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Well Greg,

I put your responses to John at the UKOA, he did reply, but none of his replies are really worth repeating, just he usual nonsense about reason, freedom, how the intellectual defenders of freedom destroyed it, how we don't understand the role of ideas in history, if only the intellectuals gave people the correct ideas, freedom would follow as it did in the past act.
Oh and there is no 'purpose' to stamp collecting but writing a book on the book of revelations does have a purpose.
The usual from an objectivist, he even ended with it's all Kant's fault and objectivism is growing. Though no figures are given to this growth but watch out as the amount of objectivist philosophers is growing. Though I have asked him what research he has done into the role of ideas in history as that is a biggie, I mean you'd expect someone to do a large amount of research into this before you can pronounce with any confidence the significance of the role of ideas in history. I await his reading/research list. Given that is group are linked to the ARI and given I can't find any other objectivist group in the UK and given that they were formed in 1989 and have, I hesitate to say, only 100 members, where is this growth going to come from? I asked him before how much success he has had 'converting' people to objectivism or how many new people join his society every week but you never get an answer to these questions.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Laj

"It's really odd that when I make this statement about IQ, I get treated like I'm Attila the Hun"

Well, they really should not get upset at you, nor you get upset at the upset you cause them, do you also tell them though that your opinions are only a

"everything I've described points towards a personal philosophy"

If you told them this then they could only get upset at your college grades or the fact that you are a man of principle. Now, I can only match you on the later as I left school at 15 and never went to college. But I wont give you the self-educated man story as they are even more boring than the self-made man ones. Nor will I give you the old "what I learnt on the streets they can't teach you at school" line.
As for the number I want in college, sorry I can't answer that, I'm not into reforming capitalism. That might be a debate you could have with a liberal but not me.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Though I did get an answer about the 'ideal' time to live in before, which in the UK was round about the 1850's. Now, I did point out to him that during this period, pubs/bars opened up before the pits/factories did in England so they could serve men a shot of spirits or tea as this was the only way they could face the working day. Now, whilst I am only concentrating on one, albeit large aspect of their lives, you have to wonder, would you like to live like that? I mean these were the days when 'men were men' and they have to have a shot of liquor to face the working day, sounds grim. Yes, men and women do that today, but that is 'hidden' this was the norm back then. I don't want to live like that and I'm sure no objectivist does either, 12 hrs a day in some unsafe factory for a wage that buys a 1/4 of what we get today, even if we are 'heavily taxed'.

Though he did tell me that under objectivism nobody would be able to employ anyone else or teach anyone anything. I give up! What sort of a society would that be?

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Greg,

Oh and he says you talk intellectual physco-babble about the unconscious mind. Lucky I didn't mention you are a libertarian.

Though I did ask, again

"When were we free and when and why did the defenders of freedom destroy it?"

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

In response to my statement:

"It's really odd that when I make this statement about IQ, I get treated like I'm Attila the Hun"

You wrote:

Well, they really should not get upset at you, nor you get upset at the upset you cause them, do you also tell them though that your opinions are only a

"everything I've described points towards a personal philosophy"


IQ testing is not a personal philosophy - it is a probably the most widely and repeatedly validated part of empirical psychology. I think it is fairly clear that my personal philosophy is what I derive from the discoveries of behavioral genetics et al., not that facts discovered by such scientific activities.

If you told them this then they could only get upset at your college grades or the fact that you are a man of principle. Now, I can only match you on the later as I left school at 15 and never went to college. But I wont give you the self-educated man story as they are even more boring than the self-made man ones. Nor will I give you the old "what I learnt on the streets they can't teach you at school" line.

If you gave it to me, my response would be amusement.

As for the number I want in college, sorry I can't answer that, I'm not into reforming capitalism. That might be a debate you could have with a liberal but not me.

As long as you have squared whatever reforms you desire with the genetic causes of social inequality, that is fine. You might have little respect for college, but you still have to make clear what the socialist alternative is: mathematics and science are virtually impossible to study without something like college. If that is a capitalist institution, I guess we have only begun to see the foundations of your socialist beliefs in your personal experiences.

Anonymous said...

"If you gave it to me, my response would be amusement."

Which, as I have stated is the correct response. Life stories are like holiday photos, they mean everything to you and **** all to the rest of us.

Nowhere have I said I don't respect education, just that I did not go to college and cannot answer the questions you raised about them

"I guess we have only begun to see the foundations of your socialist beliefs in your personal experiences."

You ain't seen nothing yet


Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

"...but you still have to make clear what the socialist alternative is: mathematics and science are virtually impossible to study without something like college"

I think I'll leave that to the men and women who end up creating the socialist society. I mean you would not have asked George Washington to tell you in great detail how everybody would live after the American revolution would you? Or would you have wanted to dot the i's and cross the t's before you signed up?

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Nowhere have I said I don't respect education, just that I did not go to college and cannot answer the questions you raised about them

Yet in response to my comments, you wrote

As for the number I want in college, sorry I can't answer that, I'm not into reforming capitalism.

When my comment for the most part was directed at something that is independent of the social system.

But don't you think your inexperience with college (and based on your answers thus far, an inadequate appreciation of some of the issues involved in education) might give you some pause about whether socialism could provide a viable system for educating talented individuals? OR does your socialist philosophy teach you that talented individuals do not exist and are simply a result of the bourgeoisie's oppression of the proletariat? Or that talented individuals will be better identified and assigned to the right industries in socialism as they are in capitalism?

Anonymous said...

Laj

Colleges and universities have never conformed to the image they used to project of themselves as places where study and research go on in tranquil isolation from business and money-making. Universities originated as centres of obscurantism in the Middle Ages where priests and seminarists discussed how many angels could dance on a pin-head. In fact until 1870 only those who declared that they accepted the 39 Articles of the Church of England were admitted to Oxford and Cambridge, which in the 19th century became centres for training members of the ruling class to run the Empire.

The Non-Conformist capitalists of the Midlands and the North responded by using some of their profits to set up their own universities - the redbricks - to train their children and some from humbler backgrounds to be the engineers and chemists needed to run and develop modern industry. A hundred years later it was decided to rename the polytechnic colleges - the polys - universities, thereby further strengthening the vocational training aspect of universities.

That in fact is what all universities have tended to become over the years: places turning out workers with a higher quality of labour-power to work in government and industry. True, they do carry out research but the content of this research is no longer decided purely on scientific grounds. This, too, has become increasingly commercial and business-oriented.

Not only has government funding in the UK become skewed towards such activities, but universities have to compete with each other and with universities abroad for contracts to do research for industry and business. Thus, it is now common-place to hear some university head stating that, faced with international competition, universities need more money from students so as to be able to train and retain high-quality graduates to carry out the research contracts they hope to win.


But this is what you would expect to happen in capitalist society where "commercial values", "enterprise culture" and "business ethics" reflect the economic need to make profits above everything else since this is what drives the capitalist economy. In fact, it is utopian to imagine that universities could escape contamination by the marketplace. It is just ironic, but illustrative of the futility of reformism, that the latest move to subordinate universities to the market should have been thought up and implemented by the government of a party which once set out to try to gradually reduce capitalist influence on society.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Laj,

Some of my best friends are college graduates...

"Or that talented individuals will be better identified and assigned to the right industries in socialism as they are in capitalism?"

Your not supposed to take Anthem seriously! No-one will be assigned to anything against their will. I can't tell you what will happen, if somebody shows the skills, intelligence and aptitude to be say a marine-boiligist. Will anyone force that person to be one? No, as that would be absurd and un-workable. I can imagine that what would happen would be that friends, family, peers, teachers etc might suggest that this is the career that individual pursue. Like they do know I suppose. If that individual does not want to be one and would make a damn good one then that will be soceities loss.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Yikes, my spelling, should have read marine-biologist

Anonymous said...

Right, I think I've worked out the objectivist position from the fresh answers I've got from the UKOA

So here goes, the ordinary people, the masses are latent objectivists, they used to vote for laissez-faire politicians as he cites a period of history when politicians of that persuasion were elected, not that the period in question was one when the masses were allowed to vote, but no matter, we'll gloss over that one. The intellectuals, the defenders of freedom, dropped the ball and started selling the masses the wrong ideas, which they swallowed, the rot set in and here we are. Once the intellectuals start promoting objectivism, this will awaken the latent enthusiasm the masses have for a laissez-faire-faire society and, as we say In England, bobs your uncle! Basically it's all Kants fault

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

I have read your responses. Hopefully, you have a model for this society etc. that you can show us so we can at least understand what we are getting into before we embrace it.

Laj

Anonymous said...

Laj,

I can't...that will be up to those that create it. If they ever do. All I can tell you is that Marx observed that the ready made state cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority. So under socialism there will be no state, which is what I've said before. But thanks for asking and I hope I've convinced you it's not going to be like the nightmare of say, Anthem or North Korea.

Now to move from the sublime to the ridiculous I did ask the UKOA what research they had to done into the importance of the role that ideas play in our society. Their answer was one word, enough.
Also, at the current rate of growth we will see an objectivist world in 200 years...now I make no similair claim for socialism as capitalism will continue as long at the majority support it. I'm no ivory tower theorist who moans about the masses being 'brainwashed' into supporting capitalism, at the expense of socialism, that is nonsense, it's what they want.
Of course our objectivists say something different, the masses have been corrupted by Kant into rejecting the virtues of objectivism. At least, that is what I think they are saying. To me that is insulting, to say that the man and woman in the street when he votes for the democrats or the republicans has somehow been tricked into this or sleepwakes like a zombie into the polling booth.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

I can't...that will be up to those that create it. If they ever do. All I can tell you is that Marx observed that the ready made state cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority. So under socialism there will be no state, which is what I've said before. But thanks for asking and I hope I've convinced you it's not going to be like the nightmare of say, Anthem or North Korea.


But you don't see any problem with having so much faith in works unseen? As in that you don't think that the reality of society might be more complex than Marx made out and that his analysis might be omitting key variables that make it weak?

Anonymous said...

Apologies Laj!

But would this have been you to George Washington?

"But you don't see any problem with having so much faith in works unseen? As in that you don't think that the reality of society might be more complex than you and the other 'founding fathers' made out and that your analysis might be omitting key variables that make it weak?

now I asked the UKOA this question

"When were we free and when and why did the defenders of freedom destroy it?"

Here is the answer

"We were freer in the 1860-70's than today.

The defenders of freedom could not answer Kant and Comte - indeed, they idolised the followers of continental philosophy.

Who were the 19th century's greatest capitalist philosophers, for example? John Stuart Mill, who recanted the wages-fund doctrine [which is essential to capitalist economic theory] and ended his life as a self-proclaimed socialist, and Herbert Spencer, whose ethics are a unrelenting plea for altruism.

I read J.H.Levy's 'Utopia' recently - bonkers collectivism from the leader of the libertarian movement.

It's not ordinary people who are to blame - the guilt lies with the intellectuals."



Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

Yes, I would say the same to George Washington, if I saw things that he said or wrote that merited similar criticism. So what do you think that the Founding Fathers or George Washington said or wrote that merits the analogy?

Marx was a better critic of some aspects of capitalism than a builder of anything to replace it.

Anon69 said...

Time for me to bring a wrecking ball to this nonsense:

"Marx was a better critic of some aspects of capitalism(=freedom to act volitionally=human nature) than a builder of anything to replace it."

Gosh, I wonder why?

And there you have the truth in a nutshell. Man is fallen. He is a sinner, because he is free. He needs to be forced to act more to poor Steven Johnston's and Marx's liking. And while I'm at it, "the rich!".

Have fun railing against reality.

Anonymous said...

"So what do you think that the Founding Fathers or George Washington said or wrote that merits the analogy?"

Laj, as Washington was asked onmany occassions to explain how this or that would work after the American revolution by a group of colonists loyal to King George, called "the Sons of loyality". They pressed him for similar details as you are pressing me, his anwer was allways "first, lets lick the British, then we will sort it out" I am para-phrasing of course, but if you are not happy with my answer, how could you be happy with his and if you are not happy with his then ergo he should not have led the colonists against King George and parliament until he had it all worked out.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

You wrote:

I am para-phrasing of course, but if you are not happy with my answer, [b]how could you be happy with his[/b] and if you are not happy with his then ergo he should not have led the colonists against King George and parliament until he had it all worked out.

As far as I know, he was not promising that social classes would disappear and that Jews would have capitalist excesses reigned in after his victory had been won. What he was saying was something simple - if we don't win the war on our hands, discussing the details will be moot. Moreover, Washington was not as much the details guy as say Madison.

But socialism is built fundamentally on the promise that such things as class distinctions will be gone after it is instituted and that the capitalist/entrepreneur is not essential to the value creation process. In every country that has attempted socialism, the socialists cry foul that it didn't meet this or that Marxian standard (in the same way that Randians cry foul about America because it isn't truly capitalist as they use the word). So the details do matter. Washington wasn't promising amazing things - Socialists like you are.

Anonymous said...

Well I tried to ask the UKOA what research/reading they had done into the role of ideas in shaping history as they allege its on'y objectivists that truly understand it.

First answer I got what just "enough".

So I asked for the titles of any books they had read, the anser I got was again one word "plenty".

Hmmmmmmm, if that is their idea of a joke it's not funny.
I'm left to assume that they haven't done any research into the role of ideas in history, nor have they done any reading.
But that is it for me, I've tired to drag it out of them and got nowhere. Perhaps we are just supposed to take their word for it.

"What he was saying was something simple - if we don't win the war on our hands, discussing the details will be moot."

Socialism is the same...I can't tell you what it will be like until we get rid of capitalism. Ask the men and women who create it, if it ever happens, how it will be run but not me. I can't tell you.

"In every country that has attempted socialism,"

No country has ever attempted socialism, even Lenin said what they were building in Russia was not socialism. None of these so called regimes have ever abolished the state or commoditiy production for a start. Moreover you must be very niave if you believe them, remember these regimes were famout for distorting the truth and lying. Oh, of course, except when they said they were socialists, I forgot, they told the truth then :)

"the socialists cry foul that it didn't meet this or that Marxian standard"

God damn them and their high standards, they are the kind of people, who if they bought a loaf of bread and the shop keeper gave them 1/2 a loaf they'd stamp their feet and whine about it.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, the last thing you need to do with mentally and physically health human beings is force them to work. It’s only capitalism that the threat of poverty works to get men and women into work. Few people are happy in work and most are alienated for what they produce. It is sad when many men and women don’t take any joy from what they produce. But I suppose anon that is all the fault of Kant.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

I somebody claimed to be one of natures aristocrats , a ‘John Galt’ yet could not afford the £50+ is takes to send our a regular mail shot to his societies members more than once or twice a year…well, would if be accurate to describe yourself as one of the prime movers and to yet be in that position? I mean, I know it’s not all about the money to be one of Rand’s prime movers but…I did ask John of the UKOA what he has done or did to justify the tag ‘prime mover’ and answer comes there none.

I’ve give them their due, these objectivists do think highly of themselves. They do have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. But, at the end of the day he has to live with himself thinking that. He thinks he meets the Rand’s ideal of the ‘ideal man’ yet what he has done to justify this is a mystery, like his knowledge of the role of ideas in history, it is something us mere mortals are not allowed judge him on.

I’m not one to go around telling people they are too big for their boots and like 99.9% of the population want people to be the best they can be, but if you go around calling yourself one of the ‘prime movers’ you are going to end up looking a silly ass if all you’ve done nothing to justify the tag.

Yet how many people has this ‘beacon’ of objectivism managed to ‘convert’ to objectivism? Ah, well there he did give me answer, none.

But you have to admire their self-esteem or is it self-delusion? I wonder how Rand defined 'humility'?

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Take religion, I’m not a religious man but I can see ways and situations where religion can be a benefit to a man or woman. But I doubt an objectivist can.

Take a prisoner of war, who is a religious person. He might be able to survive that experience better than a person with no belief system, because he has a support system in his brain.

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

No country has ever attempted socialism, even Lenin said what they were building in Russia was not socialism.

No country has ever practiced "true" capitalism either. Sound familiar?

None of these so called regimes have ever abolished the state or commoditiy production for a start.

May because the consquences of their trying to get the common man involved in the ownership of the production of goods and services were so dire that they never even got that far? Since you claim that they never tried to initiate socialism and were just dancing to their own drum, could you detail what happened in Leninist Russia and how things would have been different in your view if handled by a true socialist? After all, Objectivists do point out some things that true capitalists would do and those show how ridiculously childish their view of human nature is.

Moreover you must be very niave if you believe them, remember these regimes were famout for distorting the truth and lying. Oh, of course, except when they said they were socialists, I forgot, they told the truth then :)


Distorting the truth comes with the political territory. The question is whether we have other facts to buttress their claims. And in the case of Lenin and Mao, we do.

Anonymous said...

Socialists claim that socialism will, and must, be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.
Claim that socialism will be a sharp break with capitalism with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism (although socialism will be a dynamic, changing society once it is established).
Claim that there can be no state in a socialist society.
Claim that there can be no classes in a socialist society.
promotes only socialism, and as an immediate goal.
Claim that only the vast majority, acting consciously in its own interests, for itself, by itself, can create socialism.
opposes any vanguardist approach, minority-led movements, and leadership, as inherently undemocratic (among other negative things).
promotes a peaceful democratic revolution, achieved through force of numbers and understanding.
Neither promotes, nor opposes, reforms to capitalism.
Claim that there is one working class, worldwide.
Lays out the fundamentals of what a socialist society must be, but does not presume to tell the future socialist society how to go about its business.
promotes an historical materialist approach—real understanding.
Claim that religion is a social, not personal, matter and that religion is incompatible with socialist understanding.
seeks election to facilitate the elimination of capitalism by the vast majority of socialists, not to govern capitalism.
Claim that Leninism is a distortion of Marxian analysis.
opposes all war and claims that socialism will inherently end war, including the "war" between classes.
noted, in 1918, that the Bolshevik Revolution was not socialist. Had earlier, long noted that Russia was not ready for a socialist revolution.
was the first to recognize that the former USSR, China, Cuba and other so-called "socialist countries" were not socialist, but instead, state capitalist.
claims a very accurate, consistent analysis since 1904 when the first Companion Party was founded.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

From the socialist standard - July 1920

Lenin on p. 30 of his book says: "the Soviet regime is a million times more democratic than the most democratic regime in a bourgeois republic".

What is the Soviet Regime?

The word "Soviet" is used by many supporters of the Bolsheviks as though it denoted some newly discovered magical power. When one is told that it merely means "Council" the magic vanishes.

At the base of this system are the Urban and Rural Councils, directly elected by the sections qualified to vote. The delegates are elected in the proportion of one delegate to every 1,000 members in the towns (up to a maximum of 1,000 councillors), and one delegate to every 100 in the country.

Above this comes the Volost Congress. A Volost is a group of villages, and the Congress is composed of delegates from the Councils of these village groups.

Next above in the order is the District Congress composed of representatives from the Village Councils.

Still higher is the County Congress consisting of representatives from the Urban Councils and the Volost Congresses.

Overriding all these bodies is the Regional Congress made up of delegates from the Urban Councils and Congresses of the County Districts.

At the apex of the system is the All Russia Congress of Councils which is the supreme authority of the Russian Republic. This is formed of delegates from the Urban Councils and the Congresses of County Councils.

We have, then, six grades of authority in the Russian system. But note how they are elected.

The "labouring masses" vote once - namely, at the local councils, urban and village. This is their one and only vote. All the other grades are elected by the delegates of the Congress immediately below it.

This the Volost Congress is elected by the Village Group Councils; the District Congress by the general Village Councils; the County Congress by the Urban Councils and Volost Congresses; the Regional Congress by the Urban Councils and Congresses of County Districts; and the All Russia Congress by Urban Councils and Congresses of County Councils.

We see, then, that "the supreme authority of the Russian Council Republic" is removed five stages beyond the vote, reach, or control of the workers.

Another interesting point is the ratio between the urban and country representatives. Thus for the All Russia Congress of Councils the Urban Councils send one representative for every 25,000, while the County Council Congresses send one delegate for every 125,000, or to put it another way, the Urban Councils have five times the representation of the County Councils. The same ratio applies to Regional and County Congresses. These figures have a peculiar significance.

The Bolsheviks, naturally, find their chief support in the urban centres. By this basis of representation they are able to ensure the practical certainty of a majority in "the supreme authority of the Russian Republic". "And that’s how it’s done", as the stage conjurer says.

This method may be suitable to Russian conditions, but to claim for such a system that it is "a million times more democratic than the most democratic regime in a bourgeois republic" - where the workers have a direct, and overwhelming, vote for the very centre of power - is the wildest nonsense.

But what of the Recall? we may be asked. Let us see what the clause says.




Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Cont.

But what of the Recall? we may be asked. Let us see what the clause says.

"The electors have at any time the right to recall the delegates whom they have sent to the Council and to proceed to new elections."

Two interpretations may be given to this clause. First - if as the words state - the recall is limited to the Councils, all the Congresses are free from this control. Secondly, if the clause is intended to apply to all the grades, then the workers can only use it for Local Councils as they are not voters in any other grade.

Marx, of course, is freely quoted by both writers. On p. 140 Kautsky, while stating that the Bolsheviks are Marxists, asks how they find a Marxist foundation for their proceedings.

"They remembered opportunely the expression ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, which Marx used in a letter written in 1875."

Kautsky states that this is the only place in the whole of Marx’s writings where this phrase occurs, though Engels used it in his preface to the 3rd edition of Marx’s Civil War in France.

Lenin’s reply to this is to call the passage a "celebrated" one, and to call Kautsky several names. He then makes the following statement:

"Kautsky cannot but know that both Marx and Engels, both in their letters and public writings, spoke repeatedly about the dictatorship of the proletariat, both before and after the Commune" (p. 12. Italics in original).

Here was a grand opportunity for Lenin to get in a powerful blow by giving some of these "letters and public writings", but, to the chagrin, no doubt, of his followers, he does not give a single case outside those mentioned above. There are endeavours to twist some of Marx’s statements on the Commune of Paris (1871) into a support of this claim, but they are all dismals failures. Only in the Communist Manifesto is found a phrase - "the proletariat organised as a ruling class" - that bears any resemblance.

But a more important point remains. Every student of Marx knows how he laid bare the laws of social evolution and claimed that, in broad outline, all nations must follow these laws in their development.

Kautsky uses this fact with great effect, and it forms the strongest argument in the whole of his pamphlet. On page 98 he gives the well-known phrase from the preface to the 1st Volume of Capital.

"One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement - it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth pangs."

How does Lenin deal with this famous phrase of Marx’s? By entirely ignoring it. There is not a single reference to it in the whole of his reply. More than this, the quotation given above from page 140 of Kautsky’s pamphlet is printed by Lenin on page 11-12 of his reply. Immediately preceding the sentence quoted Kautsky says:

"The Bolshevists are Marxists, and have inspired the proletarian sections coming under their influence with great enthusiasm for Marxism. Their dictatorship, however, is in contradiction to the Marxist teaching that no people can overcome the obstacles offered by the successive phases of their development by a jump or by legal enactment."

This ignoring of one part of a paragraph while quoting the other part is full proof Lenin deliberately avoided this important question.

Kautsky’s analysis of the conditions prevailing in Russia, with the danger to the Russian Republic from American and even more from German capital, is well done, but is entirely ignored by Lenin.

Anonymous said...

Cont.

This controversy, along with the events that have taken place since it occurred, adds considerable evidence to the correctness of the deduction we drew from the situation in 1918.

In the midst of the special conditions and chaos caused by the war, when the old exploiting regime had broken down and the new exploiting class were too weak to take hold of power, a small but resolute minority seized the political machinery and took control of affairs. The mass of the workers in Russia are not Socialists, neither do they understand the principles of Socialism nor desire to see Socialism established.

The new ruling minority promised peace and - to their highest credit- established it. That this peace has been broken and they have been compelled to take up war again is due entirely to the Imperialist aims of the capitalist class of Europe. Despite this great burden and the appalling chaos in which they found Russia, they have, according to the accounts of various witnesses who have visited Russia since the Bolsheviks came to power, done wonders in the way of reconstruction and reorganisation. Their success in these matters has caused large numbers of Russians who are opponents of Socialism to give their support to the Bolsheviks as the only party in the country who can get things done.

But rule by a minority - even a Marxist minority- is not Socialism. Not until the instruments and methods of production have reached the stage of large machinery and mass organisation is it possible for social production to develop. When the workers, organised and trained in this social production, reach an understanding of their slave position, and decide to supplement social production by social ownership, through the seizure of political power, then, and not till then, will Socialism be established.

The Bolsheviks based their hopes on a rising of the proletariat of Western Europe to make their position secure. But the Western proletariat did not rise, nor do they show any signs of doing so up to the present. This failure of their basic hope leaves the Bolsheviks in conditions that make inevitable the entry into, and development of capitalism in, Russia.

The Bolsheviks may try to save as much of their system as possible, but the events will prove the correctness of Marx’s view on the failure of attempts to jump the stages in social evolution. Their failure, however, will not be all disaster.

They will have shown the workers of the world that the capitalist class is a useless and parasitic class in modern society. They will have shown that men holding Socialist views and of the working class could take charge of huge affairs and manage them with great success, in the midst of the wildest chaos, and while hampered by enemies within and without. Already the lesson is beginning to be learnt, and though only affecting a few relatively at present, it is spreading with steady persistence.

When the workers awaken to an understanding of the position in which they exist, and begin to fight the class war consciously in numbers that seriously count, the rule of the Russian Bolsheviks will be a splendid lesson, not on the value of "Soviet" or "Dictatorship", but on the ability of the working class to manage its own affairs. It will have done its share in "shortening and lessening the birth pangs" of Socialism.


Now, is that enough or do you want a similar piece 'denouncing' Mao?

Steve

Xtra Laj said...

Socialists claim that socialism will, and must, be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.
Claim that socialism will be a sharp break with capitalism with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism (although socialism will be a dynamic, changing society once it is established).
Claim that there can be no state in a socialist society.
Claim that there can be no classes in a socialist society.
promotes only socialism, and as an immediate goal.
Claim that only the vast majority, acting consciously in its own interests, for itself, by itself, can create socialism.
opposes any vanguardist approach, minority-led movements, and leadership, as inherently undemocratic (among other negative things).
promotes a peaceful democratic revolution, achieved through force of numbers and understanding.
Neither promotes, nor opposes, reforms to capitalism.
Claim that there is one working class, worldwide.
Lays out the fundamentals of what a socialist society must be, but does not presume to tell the future socialist society how to go about its business.
promotes an historical materialist approach—real understanding.
Claim that religion is a social, not personal, matter and that religion is incompatible with socialist understanding.
seeks election to facilitate the elimination of capitalism by the vast majority of socialists, not to govern capitalism.
Claim that Leninism is a distortion of Marxian analysis.
opposes all war and claims that socialism will inherently end war, including the "war" between classes.
noted, in 1918, that the Bolshevik Revolution was not socialist. Had earlier, long noted that Russia was not ready for a socialist revolution.
was the first to recognize that the former USSR, China, Cuba and other so-called "socialist countries" were not socialist, but instead, state capitalist.
claims a very accurate, consistent analysis since 1904 when the first Companion Party was founded.


Steve,

How do you rationalize believing *any* of this? Have you studied any classical economics?

Anonymous said...

Well I finally got back from the UKOA their reading list on the role of ideas in history. It’s…Capitalism the unknown Ideal. Now, I have skimmed through this trash at my local library and for all it’s virtues I doubt it seriously answers that question. To think, I had to drag that answer out of them. Do they seriously think that reading that one book counts as ‘research’?

Steve

Anonymous said...

"How do you rationalize believing *any* of this? Have you studied any classical economics?"

I've read the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith & works by Marx and Ricardo

Steven Johnston

Xtra Laj said...

I've read the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith & works by Marx and Ricardo

That's a good start. Does any of them give you the impression that you can change an economic system with regard to time or the existing economic structure?

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

By the way, have you read any Hayek/Von Mises on the role of prices in the economy?

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, next your going to drop the 'economic calculation' bomb on me aren't you?

"Does any of them give you the impression that you can change an economic system with regard to time or the existing economic structure?"

Well the answer is surely yes, you can change the economic system, or else we'd still be living in a slave or feudal economic system.

Steve

Xtra Laj said...

Yes, yes, yes, next your going to drop the 'economic calculation' bomb on me aren't you?

No, not at all. If you've read them, you've surely come to your own conclusions about them. I can't remember a single time when I was convinced by something someone else posted online in response to me, though such posts did make me aware sometimes of facts/positions I didn't know or didn't take seriously. I do remember times when I changed positions, but those were mostly a result of reading whole books that seemed to explain more than those that I had previously read.

In fact, such arguments about the importance of the structure of the economy are, in my opinion, implicit in comments about comparative advantage and the specialization of labor of Ricardo/Smith. The only question is how one conceives of the human nature/psychology that gives rise to them. So if you didn't accept them then, I don't believe that I possess any magic that will make you accept them now. It's more that I want to get to the depths of your ideological commitment.

Well the answer is surely yes, you can change the economic system, or else we'd still be living in a slave or feudal economic system.

But these had structural and temporal shifts, some induced by the state, some induced by changes in technology etc. Maybe there is something I'm missing here, and maybe you can clarify, but don't statements like these sound suspiciously like magic?

Socialists claim that socialism will, and must, be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.
Claim that socialism will be a sharp break with capitalism with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism (although socialism will be a dynamic, changing society once it is established).

gregnyquist said...

"Yes, yes, yes, next your going to drop the 'economic calculation' bomb on me aren't you?"

Do you actually understand the economic calculation argument? Not many people understand the basis of it (von Mises did a poor job of presenting it), but it all stems from the problems associated with efficiently using local knowledge without a price system involving people who have a stake in their economic calculations (i.e., they can lose their property if they make bad economic decisions). This notion of local knowledge was first made explicit by Hayek in his essay "The Use of Knowledge in Soceity."

Anonymous said...

Yep, I've read the Road to Serfdom by Hayek.

In this book, Russia and Germany prove to Hayek that socialism does not lead to freedom. The most important guaranty of freedom, he maintains, is a system of private property. Planning and freedom cannot go together. Without a labor market and an industrial reserve army, for example, discipline can be maintained only by corporal punishment, for which reason socialism implies slave-labor. The “collective freedom” of which the planners speak is, in Hayek’s opinion, “but the unlimited freedom of the planner to do with society what he pleases.”
If planning there must be, it should be planning for, not against, competition. And this, Hayek holds, should not be too difficult for “the tendency toward monopoly and planning is not the result of any objective facts but the product of opinion.” The movement towards totalitarianism stems mainly from the two great vested interests: organized capital and organized labor. These interests are detrimental to social well-being.
Although Hayek’s heart bleeds for both the poor capitalists and the poor workers, he puts the blame for their predicament on their own doorsteps. “The success of liberalism,” he says, “became the cause of its decline.” It was “impatience with the slow advance of liberal policy, which instigated Marxism and it was Marxism that led to fascism.” Having been offered the finger of freedom, the lower classes were stupid enough to grasp for the whole hand, only to be punished with the new serfdom of state-capitalism which, for Hayek, stands for “socialism.”
Hayek blames Marxism for the totalitarian trend but his knowledge of this dangerous doctrine is apparently less than scanty. He understands Marx’s concept of the accumulation of capital, for instance, only in the restricted technological sense of the “concentration of industry.” This concentration, however, is for Marx just one aspect of the accumulation process. Moreover, Hayek assumes that Marxism fosters industrial concentration in the interest of the emerging totalitarian state. He, himself, thinks it preferable that the means of production should be in “many hands.” But for the Marxist, the problem is not one of transferring control over the means of production from many into fewer and eventually into one hand, but doing away with control over the means of production by “hands” as such, whether single or plural.
Hayek thinks it better to have the means of production in many hands, but he does not say in how many. At what point should the concentration process of industry be brought to an end? In reality, of course, it cannot be brought to an end unless capital accumulation is stopped, that is, unless capitalism itself is abolished; and Hayek is out to save it. But he cannot admit that in and of itself capitalism leads to state-capitalistic systems. It is for this reason that he describes the growing fascism within the capitalist structure as an abundance of liberalism. But since the “success of liberalism” involved the progressive destruction of capitalistic liberties, it may as well be described a Contrary to what Hayek wants his readers to believe, the “success of liberalism” has fostered, not disturbed competition.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Cont.

Hayek’s competitive society has always been monopolistic, viz., the capitalist monopoly over the means of production and the monopolistic position of the state. And if the competitive society has had its monopolies, the monopolistic society has not ceased being competitive. There is no need to restore competition; it has never left us. All that has happened is that capitalism and capital accumulation have spread. Because of the process of accumulation, Hayek’s competition has become monopolistic competition, and monopolistic competition has led to competition between totalitarian states. In the totalitarian state all layers are engaged in it to the point of death. Thus capital has finally triumphed over all of humanity. The “ideal” capitalism is always the present one, and whether Hayek likes it or not, the principle of capitalist competition is fully realized only in total war.
To be sure, Hayek’s attack upon those who refer to totalitarian serfdom as a “new freedom” is fully justified. But when he speaks on behalf of the “old freedom” of liberal capitalism, he only matches “mere words” with “mere words.” He should know, and probably does know, that his proposals in both national and international fields, for arresting the capitalist tendency toward totalitarianism cannot be realized, and, even if they could be realized, would bring forth only once more what they intended to destroy. This hopeless situation reduces the economist, Hayek, to a mere propagandist for free enterprise. Hence the popularity of his book, which is no more than a testimony of the bankruptcy of its author and of the interests he represents.

Steve

Anonymous said...

"Maybe there is something I'm missing here"

The working class! The class that produces all the wealth in our society, they exist now due to capitalism and they have the power to transform society from capitalism to socialism.

Steve

Xtra Laj said...

Steve,

Have you ever run a business or worked with someone who runs a business? If so, do you consider such people to be capitalists and to be exploiting the working class?

Moreover, what do you think of the process of creative destruction, or the rise and death of corporations and even whole industries? What does Marxism say about that?

Michael Prescott said...

Interesting dialogue. A few observations:

1. I believe "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is meant to be a metaphor for spiritual growth, not capitalistic success. The seagull who flies higher than all the others is a representation of the soul of the devoted seeker, who must leave earthly things behind in order to attain enlightenment.

2. Newton did devote a lot of time to esoteric writings. He was concerned that his scientific theories would lead to a more materialistic culture, and wished to counter this trend by developing a new spiritual approach. His writings are said to have been quite sophisticated; he was attempting to interpret the Bible metaphorically and symbolically, to tease out allegedly hidden meanings in the text, and thereby to bring Christianity into line with the esoteric traditions of the Hermetica and other occult literature. John Maynard Keynes bought Newton's papers at an auction and was reportedly fascinated by them.

3. Ayn Rand was a stamp collector, so evidently she thought stamp collecting had a "purpose."

4. Rand's argument for rights seems to depend largely on a pun: "it is right for man to do thus-and-so." The fact that it is right to do something does not necessarily mean that you have a political right to do it. (Or to put it another way, the fact that it is wrong to do something does not necessarily mean you *don't* have a right to do it. An Objectivist would say it is wrong to criticize Ayn Rand, but would presumably not say you have no right to criticize her.) There is no logical connection between "doing what is right" and "political rights," so the whole argument is just verbal cleverness.

Michael Prescott said...

Oh, and IQ tests.

They are useful at measuring certain types of intelligence: verbal skills, logical reasoning, spatial relations - the kinds of things that can be quantified in a standardized test.

But there are many other types of intelligence.

There is the ability to walk into a room where two parties in a dispute are at loggerheads, and to find common ground and restart the negotiations. (Emotional intelligence.)

There is the ability to observe a complicated dance step just once and then repeat it perfectly. (Bodily intelligence.)

There is the ability to select the very best quality fabric from among a dozen swatches. (Tactile intelligence.)

Etc.

When I was growing up, I knew a kid who scored below average on an IQ test. His parents were devastated. But he turned out to have a knack for cooking. He became a chef and today runs a successful restaurant. His kind of intelligence could not be measured by a written test.

Incidentally, fans of social Darwinism or "evolutionary psychology" might benefit from reading David Stove's "Darwinian Fairy-Tales," which submits this dubious theory to a rigorous (and humorous) analysis.

Xtra Laj said...

Michael Prescott,

Most people who denigrate IQ tend to have non-technical/mathematical backgrounds and can't appreciate how important a good/high IQ is for good technological achievement. Being a cook is great, but with all due respect, it is the scientists and technocrats who build the modern era with the aid of rapacious businessmen/politicians. Cooks don't win Nobel Prizes.

Xtra Laj said...

Let me put it another way. No one would accuse Shaquille O'Neal of having a high IQ (and for all I know, he might even have an above average one). But no one would confuse Shaquille O'Neal with a Nobel prize winner, a chemical engineer or a Fortune 500 CEO either. It's only when one lives in a society where low IQ people predominate or deals with them on a daily basis that one begins to appreciate the nature of the problem. It's not that they can't find good specialized roles within a society where special talents unrelated to IQ are important. The problems is that they can't do certain things that people with regular or high IQs can.

What I've noticed with critics like Stove is that they are uninterested in the empirical data that supports these things. If they actually looked at it and dissected it and understood why some people take it seriously, I would show them more respect. But usually, all you see is anecdotes, not an analysis of the issue in a way that shows they have grappled with what those they disagree with find valuable.

Zak said...

.
anon69 said:

No one is "forced" to work: no one is forced to live. IF one chooses to live, then he must produce. That is not a political initiation of force; it is simply reality. It is reality that Marx was truly railing against. Reality does not force one to do anything. "Force" is simply inapplicable in this context.


You completely ignore the reality that private property prevents the dispossessed from access to the prerequisites of life - food, water, housing. Even if one "chooses" to live, the reality remains that one is dispossessed, and the fields and ploughs remain fenced off behind big signs saying "PRIVATE PROPERTY - KEEP OUT". Did you forget that? It is into this state of dispossession the working class are born and which "forces" them into wage labour. What other choice is there?

And the set of legal relations of private property (which already exist in the world when the working class arrive in it, remember) are protected and enforced by the force (what else?) of the bourgeois state. Somewhat unsurprisingly, as that seems to be its purpose. To refuse to accept these pre-existing terms is considered to be an act of sedition. Hardly anything anyone can call "freely negotiated"!

anon69: "Contracts are freely consented to."

hmmm. If that's your idea of "free" you can keep it. Please. ;)

Anonymous said...

Zak wrote

"You completely ignore the reality..."

A phrase which must surely pre-fix every discussion with objectivists.

As for the rest of your post, well said!

Steve