Wednesday, December 29, 2021

ARI on Vaccines and the Pandemic

Susan Hanson has published an article in The American Thinker attacking ARI's views on the Covid-19 pandemic. While she makes a few good points in her little screed, on the whole I'm not convinced she's being altogether fair. She seems to be upset, for example, that Onkar Ghate, ARI’s Chief Philosophy Officer, believes that government has a role in fighting pandemics. Of course, what that role is can be very difficult for any Objectivist or Libertarian to explain, given their basic political orientation. And while Ghate's attempt to outline an Objectivist policy toward infectious disease is by no means beyond criticism, I didn't really find anything within it that is all that objectionable. Perhaps he could be criticized for being far too pragmatic in his willingness to compromise with the present system; but on the flip side, what choice does he have? It's not as if he can snap his fingers and make all the government controls that Randians find objectionable to just go away. On the big issues relating to freedom, he seems to be on the side of freedom, opposing both the lockdowns and the vaccine mandates. 

Ayn Rand, of course, was not an anarchist: it is not necessarily inconsistent for her to have supported government actions combating a deadly contagion. In 1962, Rand penned the following:

If someone has a contagious disease . . . against which there is no inoculation, then the government has the right to quarantine him.,, [But] before the government can properly act, there must be an objective demonstration of an actual physical] danger. To quarantine people who are ill is not a violation of their rights; it merely prevents them from doing physical damage to others.

So Rand would have supported quarantines (essentially "lockdown") against diseased people. Presumably, she would not have supported lockdowns of the healthy; nor would she have countenanced vaccine mandates (although I assume she would likely have been pro-Covid19 vaccine). This all seems fairly straightforward and not inconsistent with Rand's basic political principles. Where things get a  bit more complicated is when we consider the position of Objectivists towards vaccine mandates implemented by "private" businesses. ARI is apparently insisting that employees working at this year's Objectivist Conference be vaccinated. Ms. Hanson seems to think this is "immoral" and contrary to Rand's philosophy. But in this she is mistaken. Under Randian laissez-faire, businesses have the right to make all sorts of demands of their employees. If their employees don't like, they can always quit. 

But there is a deeper principle here that demonstrates a possible flaw in the Objectivist outlook on this issue. America's ruling elite contains a substantial plutocratic element. The sociologist Vilfredo Pareto denominated that the plutocracies that arise under representative systems of government as "demagogic plutocracies." Because of the psychological types that tended to dominate this form of plutocracy, once a government became significantly infiltrated by such a faction, it was only a matter of time that the society would be completely and thoroughly looted. If you examine what has happened in this country over the last three decades, that is precisely what is happening. The country is almost thirty trillion in debt and there's no end in sight. A handful of big Wall Street "investment" firms has used the Federal Reserve's easy money policies to turn the stock market into a giant casino rigged in their favor. They have turned the pandemic into a scheme to make themselves even richer. While small business owners and the working class become increasingly impoverished, the ranks of billionaires swells.

Now it would be easy for orthodox Objectivists to claim that they are opposed to corporations that make use of government to get rich at the expense of hard working Americans -- but their opposition to such businesses tends to be restricted to theory rather than practice. Again and again, Objectivists support the right of corporations to do as they please. Big Tech can sensor anyone they disfavor because, after all, YouTube and Twitter and Instagram are private property, and one can do with one's property as one sees fit. But is it really true that the property of corporations is "private." After all, the corporations themselves are "public," with their ownership spread among many people (at least in theory). So whose property is it really? The stakeholders or the managers of the corporations? The fact is, corporations are hybrid institutions that don't really fit into the free market model. They often involve a very dangerous separation of ownership and management. And they have become very powerful within our society. 

Because Objectivists regard corporation as private institutions (i.e., non-governmental), they don't object when corporations behave like despotic governments. If corporations, on their own initiative, decided to enact vaccine mandates, no one over at ARI could possibly object. But how is that any different, in practical terms, to government despotism. Whether I'm oppressed by a bureaucrat or a corporation, it's all the same in the end. Imagine, to provide an example of this in practice, an individual who lives in an area where all the grocery stores and banks within fifty miles are owned by corporations, all of which have implemented vaccine mandates for all their customers and employees. Practically speaking, such corporate-imposed mandates would be nearly as onerous as government imposed ones. In either case, the individual would not be entirely free to use his own reason to determine whether the vaccine makes sense for him.

Corporations are beginning to take on the functions of government and ARIians seem incapable of noticing this. Neither Rand nor any of her followers seem to have ever taken heed of Berle and Means or Joseph Schumpeter or James Burnham, all of whom made predictions about corporations and the managerial state which, even if initially seemed unwarranted, have nevertheless over the years become , increasingly prescience. Whether you are mistreated by a government bureaucrat or a monopolistic corporation, it's all the same in the end.

This brings up another issue -- namely, ARI's firm pro-vaccine stance. Nothing wrong with it, of course, except it could be argued that it doesn't come from a particularly good place. Of course I understand that Objectivists will claim they support vaccines because of "the science." The only trouble is that I'm not sure they're be entirely honest with themselves when they make such a claim. Orthodox Objectivism has a kind of troubled relationship with "the science." If "the science" supports global warming, for example, then they're no longer for it. And let's not forget Dave Hariman. Yes, I know he's no longer affiliated with ARI -- but for a time he was very much involved with that institution spreading his smart ass objections to quantum physics and relativity.  The fact is, Objectivism isn't really necessarily down with "the science." If "the science" seems to challenge their literalist, dice and billiard balls physics or their blank slate view of human nature or their insistence on laissez-faire, then they want nothing to do with it. So ascribing their pro-Covid19 vaccine stance to "the science" just doesn't pass the basic smell test. 


Anonymous said...

Many prominent Objectivists have said that they don't believe IQ test measure intelligence, even though 99 percent of the experts in the field believe they do. IQ tests have been the most gunned after aspect of psychological theory in the last 100 years and the have withstood e3very challenge.

I've been told by objectists that males are not innately more agressive than females although this is always and everywhere observed in humans and animals.


Carlos Smiff said...

The author of this article should take proofreading seriously. Once I reach two or three typos, I'm out!

Anonymous said...

It can be strongly argued that the "pro-vaccine" position is not pro-science. Listen to any Robert Kennedy talk on the subject and he will clearly outline how the current institutions, both public and private, are so corrupt that none of their pro-vaccine safety claims can be trusted. Plus in every study that compares full vaccinated children to partially vaccinated children to fully unvaccinated children, the results are always the same. The more unvaccinated the healthier the child.

The science strongly suggests that the environmental toxins used in vaccines as adjuvants, especially the metals, are toxic and result in neurological damage. This is has been shown with animal studies over and over. So it very well might be that vaccines represent a paradigm flaw and that they are no longer necessary as it was first world construction and infrastructure technology which minimized infection disease below nuissance level. And that is just with regular vaccines. The Covid death shots are another ball of wax. There are many highly intelligent science types that are showing these current "vaccines" are the most dangerous drugs ever released to the public, and that their death toll is enormous.

I used to be an orthodox Randian, now I can't stomach them. They are not pro-science or pro-liberty. They are de-facto neo-liberal corporatist appeasers. They are the worst of the libertarian variants and are worthy of the ridicule they always generate.

I loathe them.

John Kimm

Albionic American said...

Objectivists lately have also been engaging in weird denialism about man's tribal nature. An Objectivist from Greece who appears a lot on the Ayn Rand Centre UK's YouTube channel even asserts that tribalism destroys reason and the human mind. So how do they explain tribally oriented immigrants from India? They are flourishing in the United States as entrepreneurs and capitalists, from buying and running hotels and other business; or else they are earning high salaries as Men of the Mind in STEM fields. But they are definitely NOT living as atomized individualists according to the Randian model.

Albionic American said...

As for Objectivists' IQ denialism, what do they think is different about John Galt when Rand talks about his "incalculable intellectual power"? IQ testing tries to "calculate" what differentiates men like Galt from men like Eddie Willers. And America's armed forces have used IQ testing for generations to match up inductees with the kinds of jobs they can handle; you just can't ignore this vast body of experience which shows that IQ matters in the real world. When my father was drafted, for example, the U.S. Army decided from his IQ test results to order him to train as a cryptographer.

Anonymous said...

"Once I reach two or three typos, I'm out!"

And nothing of value was lost.

Anonymous said...

Even if you consider things to be intelligence such as playing sports or making people like you, it's still the case that if you take two equally gifted people, the higher IQ person will still be more successful on average.

The guy from Greece (Nikos S.) said something to the effect that we couldn't consider tribalism good even if it had an evolutionary advantage because these genes resulted in the Rwanda genocide. I'm no geneticist but maybe the same genes that resulted in Rwanda also tell people that they should love their own children more than other children, which is obviously socially beneficial.

The way Objectivists attack "tribalism" and "nationalism," you'd almost think O'ism is a version of leftism.


Albionic American said...

Given the negative, indeed hostile, way Rand portrays mothers, family life and children in her novels, I don't see how you can characterize Rand's philosophy as the promotion of human flourishing. Marrying and starting a family is human flourishing in the most literal sense, not being a sterile career woman who is pursuing a career in corporate America, like Dagny Taggart; or being an unmarriageable incel like most of the men in Galt's Gulch, regardless of how "productive" they are.

By contrast, at least a few of the villains in Atlas Shrugged are able to attract women, like regular guys. Jim Taggart has WAY more experience with women than John Galt; yet Rand wants us to view Galt, with only one given notch to his credit, as the novel's philosophical authority about how sex works. This might impress an unworldly teenage boy, but any adult man with common life experience would have to laugh at it.

It's like Rand is showing, but not consciously, that the men she wants us to see as the bad guy are attractive to women precisely because their tribal or collectivist orientation integrates them into their society; while the heroes' atomization and alienation from that society turns off the majority of the women who could have become their mates.

Given Rand's fundamentally screwed-up view of tribalism, it's no wonder why she and a lot of her followers are childless.

Anonymous said...

I always saw some of the strange relationship depictions as a result of Dagny being supposedly a stand-in for Rand herself. Nearly all the prominent men on the "good" side are infatuated with her. Even when it's clear near the end that she's devoting herself to Galt (and thereby dumping Hank Rearden), both Rearden and d'Anconia state their intent to continue to pursue Dagny, regardless.

Rand had a perfect opportunity to give Rearden a happier ending, considering she had Cheryl Brooks speak admiringly of Rearden before she got herself married to James Taggart. One could have easily seen Brooks hook up with Rearden once she became disillusioned with James, but no. She tosses herself into the river. This could have been because she deserved to die for her moral failings, in Rand's eyes, but I often wonder if the idea of having Rearden settle for any other person as a partner was just unthinkable to Rand, that Dagny (and by extension, Rand) was to be so desirable that no man who knew her would even consider another woman as good enough.

Anonymous said...

How about Eddie Willers & Gwen Ives, Rearden's secretary?

They were both good "ordinary" people.