“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, February 21, 2011

Anarchy, Libertarianism, Ontology

Ceding all one's power to corporations, which are totally opaque in comparison to governments and schools these days, seems like a big no-no.

So this post on Ayn Rand over at Being Sufficiently is interesting, because it discusses the fact that she used social security and medicare, despite her beliefs.
An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).
Libertarianism makes a significant ontological mistake when it declares that only individuals exist (Thatcher: “society does not exist”). It then passes from the notion that every entity is unique to the idea that depending on others is wrong. That doesn't follow at all. Libertarianism then says that aggregate entities such as governments must be evil, but that other aggregates such as corporations are good. That also doesn't follow.

(This is far from saying that I don't accept anarchist arguments about the state. I'm putting myself through Bakunin and Proudhon boot camp right now so go easy on me. Reading Bakunin in particular is like looking in the mirror.)

It's really okay that Ayn Rand got social security. I'd rather be a hypocrite than a cynic myself. But the vulnerability of being a hypocrite is probably something that Rand would have wanted to delete from her persona. Shame.

All entities are hypocrites, because they never let on about their occult depths—not even to themselves. Let's start from there.


Unknown said...

Of course one should never forget the two main libertarians of the latter half of the twentieth-century: the libertarian capitalist, Murray Rothbard:


and, Noam Chomsky, the libertarian leftist:


There was even a time when both men met in a middle ground during the Viet Nam war and worked toward the same goals... strange that...

Murray and Noam both hated Ayn Rand for her despotic ideology, and neither saw her as much of a libertarian at all. :)

Cyranos DeMet said...

Allow me to describe to you two events that illustrate the failure point of Capitalism. When Ayn Rand realized this conundrum it destroyed her, she self destructed in drink and bitterness and despair. A shame, really, she came closer to getting it right than any other, she almost had it, and the final point to be resolved is not at all impossible it simply requires thinking a bit outside the box to effect a single point correction.

Ultimately a society lives or dies on the degree of ethics in the morality practiced within that society. I give you that from that perspective these two events are identical: the year is 1795 and a man goes to Savannah to buy himself a slave to work his farm; and, the year is 2005 when his direct descendent goes to his stock broker to buy 1/10,000th of a ten thousand man corporation. What both men have purchased is the surplus productivity of another human, the ultimately unethical ownership of another man's accomplishments, and both men have imbibed exactly the same poison. The mechanism of the poison they imbibed is the covert evil of slavery, the evil that has laid low every slave holding society known to history. Note Well From History: it is not the slave who becomes weaker, degenerate and debauched, it is the masters who suffer those reductions generation after generation until the society collapses.

Should anyone be interested the balance of the thought may be found at:


Joe Clement said...


A dyed-in-the-wool Randian would point out that those situations are clearly different. A slave has not, usually, entered into a contract. A person working for a company usually has, though the effects may be largely the same, including rights to the fruits of the workers' labor. Rand and her ilk would not let a critic get far with (what for them is) loaded language about "surplus value" either. Rand was not - you might say could not be - a proponent of any labor theory of value: value and prices were set by markets, which are the aggregate of contractual agreements between buyers and sellers. People under contract produce all kinds of stuff: none of it BELONGS to them. Not even the workers belong to themselves when they are on the clock, unless you think the freedom to up and quit your job and starve or worse is supposed to hold water.

Cyranos DeMet said...

Joe, you miss my point, as would the majority of the Objectivists. It is not the slave I'm speaking of. The slave is a man defrauded, his life of no value, his existence reduced to a commodity somewhere between cattle and horsepower. When considering a society as a integral unit any slaves (be it bondage by force of arms or the golden handcuffs of modern capitalism) are of no consequence in and of themselves, they're slaves, they don't decide anything of consequence. A fact of life. Not an ethical state of affairs, but a fact.

What I am speaking of is the hidden evil of slavery, the covert evil that destroys societies, a long term multi-generational pathology impacting on the master side of the equation, the masters who do decide things of consequence. This evil is intimated, implied, in the classic saying "poor little rich kid."

But what happens when the poor little rich kid grows up, inherits command of something larger than he is? What happens when the poor little rich kid is called on to make judgments impacting many lives, many fortunes, judgment calls beyond his experience? What of the poor little rich kids children? What measure of man will they be, compared to the grandfather whose competence initiated the evil into his life and the life of his descendents? The fortunes of the wealthy include their slaves, be those slaves literal or the slave-by-proxy of common stock, and those fortunes are inherited even as were the crowns of kingdoms. What kind of track record did the royals have at maintaining true greatness to sit the throne of a land? One king in three? One in five?

The grandfather was likely a personally powerful man, able to acquire on his own merits matched against any and all others competing, able to endure the covert evil of slavery without degrading his personality, his ethics and his judgment. He was formed, evolved, as a great man before the evil entered his life. The grandfather is the man Ayn Rand wrote of, the Reardens and the Wyatts. But when the building of the land is a century deep in history it is not the great men who built it who are running it, it is their children and grandchildren. I think that is what Ayn Rand realized, that the laws of inheritance would subject Capitalism to the same fate that plagued the kings.

The full mechanism of the pathology is far beyond the scope of a comment block, but if you'd like to pursue understanding why our society is failing and following Rome into the dust (no, we don't have lead pipes carrying our drinking water, we have volatile plastic compounds in our water bottles to do that job) consider the hydraulic nature of the example the grandchildren portray to those not born to such wealth and power: that wealth is not a matter of personal competence (anyone can see the grandchild isn't that much of a much, just born lucky), but rather that wealth is to own a larger share of your fellow man's abilities than the next guy. When that attitude becomes the majority the results will be obvious... competence is no longer measured by productivity but rather by parasitic prowess. Pretty much what we are looking at here in the good old USA, no?

Just one of several major mechanisms of destruction associated with the covert evil of slavery.

Tag, your turn.

Cyranos DeMet