Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand and the Nature of Net Neutrality (Among Other Things)

markcuban

Most politically-minded people, from all corners of the spectrum, are familiar with Ayn Rand, particularly her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, where society’s “producers” drop out and create a new society distinct from the machinations and manipulations of the “looters”. In fact, the Occupy Wall Street group, in some weird parody of Rand’s ideas, tried to do something similar, if almost exactly inverse, to what Rand’s Galt’s Gulch group managed to achieve. They failed in New York, however, because they forgot the most basic rule: you can’t be a looter and achieve success on your own. Looters and moochers must, by definition, take from others. Hence, Occupy Wall Street, a dirty collection of the most useless layabouts seeking an easy way to be subsidized in their effort, was an abject failure.

Mark Cuban, inarguably an entreprenurial producer of high caliber, surely knows this. And so it’s a little surprising he’s a little surprised that the effort to regulate the internet and socialize online interaction looks so remarkably like what he’s read in Rand’s novels. Because, as Robert Tracinski of The Federalist points out, Net Neutrality is just the latest in a long line of regulatory regimes that Rand predicted with almost scary accuracy lo these many years ago.

President Obama and Ayn Rand

President Obama is adored by many on the left for, among other things, his supposedly high-brow and rigorous reading tastes. The Daily Beast ran a story saying “Obama has thrilled the intellectual classes with his frequent book talk from the days of his campaign onward.”

Like everyone else, President Obama obviously thinks some authors are beneath his standard. This week, in a Rolling Stone interview, President Obama gave his thoughts on Ayn Rand. When asked whether he’d read Rand, he responded “Sure.”

Replying to a follow-up question, Obama said this.

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a “you’re on your own” society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Why Socialism falls flat on it’s face

Socialism is a scare word. Conservatives, and even libertarians, use it as a buzz word to scare the pants off of folks. However, many people look at it and wonder what’s so wrong? After all, socialist ideas provide food, housing and health care to the poor as well as keep people from being exploited by ruthless corporations. So what’s the big deal?

Honestly, I’ll admit it’s a fair question. To really delve into the problems of socialism would take more than a single post. Truth be told, I could spend the rest of my life just writing about that but on the surface socialism sounds pretty fine. However, the truth also is that socialism never quite works.

To understand why, we have to look at why people do things. The truth of the matter is that some people are just lazy. I know, I’m one of them. I would much rather sit around all day and do nothing than to have to work. All things being equal, a lot of us are the same way. However, we’re also greedy. We want things. Flat screen televisions, DVD players, cars, homes, we want stuff. So, we work hard to accumulate the things we want. Maybe we want stuff for ourselves like the stuff I just listed, or perhaps we want stuff for others. Maybe we want our child to have a better education than we had, or we want our spouse to have whatever they want. Who cares what we want or why, we just do. That is our motivation for working.

Comedy or Tragedy?

I confess. Ever since the passage of healthcare-hell on March 21, I’ve been torn between the two conflicting extremes of despondency on the one hand, and hilarity on the other.

Thus, it’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything for this site, or even had an inkling to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). And while I had some real-life situations interfering with writing – a death in the family, a particularly vicious and fatigue-inducing virus – for the most part I just couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t being said already and ad infinitum on every talk show and by every conservative pundit in the known world, and for the first time in a long time I found myself asking, “What’s the use?”

For a week I didn’t read anything online, including Mark Steyn’s columns, which for anyone who knows me well suggested symptoms of deep depression. I barely even glanced at the Wall Street Journal, again a sure sign of an impending retreat to recluse-land.

Being a Randian (Ayn Rand, that is) intellectual and philosopher of the first order, I figured now was as good a time as any to say to heck with freedom-fighting and do the John Galt thing:  Stay off the radar and watch the economy collapse. That is, after all, what Rand’s superman did through most of his fictional life before Mulligan established Galt’s Gulch. He worked as a track walker for Taggart Transcontinental at some hideous minimum wage, all the while developing his super-motor in a dilapidated tenement in New York City.

Happy birthday, Ayn Rand

In case you weren’t aware, on February 2, 1905, Alisa Rosenbaum, later known as Ayn Rand, was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

I’m a fan of her work. Not that I necessarily agree with everything she said or wrote, but she laid a stable moral foundation for what I believe is the best economic system the world has ever known in her books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She would later expand on her views in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness, which are both underrated books.

Ayn Rand is seeing a resurgence in this era of bailouts and increasing government intervention. “Going Galt” seems to be a catch phrase among, at least, early tea partiers. Two new books, Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, came out last year that cover her life from a new perspective. If you’re into Rand at all, I suggest you read them.

Should Libertarians Donate To Haiti Relief?

I know this seems like somewhat of a stupid question, especially given the magnitude and images of the human tragedy in Haiti, but it’s one that we should be asking nonetheless.  Many of us would say “well of course we should be donating to the Haiti relief efforts; why wouldn’t we?”  However, there are parts of libertarian philosophy and some libertarian thought leaders who would argue that not only do we have no obligation to donate to the relief efforts in Haiti, but that in fact we should not donate.  Ayn Rand was anti-charity (remember the discussion of borrowing a friend’s car after Dagny Taggart first arrived in Galt’s Gulch), but the most eloquent defense of not donating to the Haiti relief came from one of my listeners via Facebook:

“We don’t owe Haiti anything. There is no moral obligation to aid a nation that squanders all it receives on meeting the “needs” of its people rather than developing the free market enterprises to become self-sustained.”

I will not argue about the obvious and numerous problems in Haiti; as GA-8 candidate Valerie Meyers pointed out to me (also on Facebook), the United States has sent $46 billion in foreign aid to Haiti in the last 35 years.  Obviously, Haiti has had bad leadership (which the people have, at the very least, not opposed) and there is no such thing as a free market, as made evident by the recent story about cruise ships still docking in Haiti after the earthquake (providing jobs for Haitians via a small tourism industry, which should be strong considering its geography):

Big Business and big government cronyism is bad for taxpayers and consumers: Let the free market work

capitalism

There’s a common misconception that people in favor of free markets love corporations. That isn’t the case.

There’s nothing wrong with a business being highly successful and expanding operations. The question becomes what happens when their operations end up getting involved in government and when government tries to influence business.

This is an issue a lot of groups have struggled against. Both the original Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests were against the government-big business bailout of 2008/2009. The solutions were much different. The Tea Party wanted the government and businesses to be separated and not mix with each other. Occupy (outside of it’s not-top hits) wanted businesses taxed to eternity and capitalism destroyed.

The problem with Occupy’s solution is it expands the role government has in people’s lives. The idea of using higher taxes against businesses and “the rich” doesn’t work (just look at France). Burger King is also an example because of their plan to leave the U.S. if they merge with Tim Hortons. Paying taxes isn’t patriotic, despite what President Barack Obama thinks.

Jason Lewis Goes Galt; Quits Halfway Through Show on Air

Jason Lewis

Over the past week, talk show host Jason Lewis has been letting on that something big was going to happen on his show. July 31, 2014 he dubbed “Judgement Day.”

Being an avid listener of his, I thought it probably had something to do with his political activism site Galt.io* and probably something to do with his cause called “Starve the Beast.” Was he going to announce that he was going to move his show from the high tax progressive state of Minnesota to a more tax friendly/liberty friendly state?

As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off but he took his “starve the beast” thing a step further. You could say he had “gone Galt” on the air halfway through his radio show.

The following was his epic final monologue:

All over the continent of Europe there are castles. Castles that children are taught to admire. But these monuments are not shrines to liberty but are a stark reminder of an oppressive past that we are quickly forgetting. These elaborate fortresses were built to honor the riches of royalty. Such wealth was not derived from the cooperation of capitalism but from the conquest of collectivism. It was stolen through taxes and fees collected from the serfs. It was not earned.

Cato’s New Leader Dispels Rumors

John_Allison

There’s been a bit of a mini-controversy over comments that John Allison, the Cato Institute’s incoming CEO, made at a Q&A session at the Ayn Rand Institute. Allison is an Objectivist, which is not—as some people assume—exactly libertarian. Jeremy Lott reported that these differences emerged at this Q&A session, and some troubling statements were made—namely, that those who disrespected Ayn Rand would find other employment, and about disagreements over foreign policy.

The former is troubling; the latter not at all, because Cato is an environment where people are encouraged to have dissident viewpoints. (Full disclaimer: I was an intern there last year and got to see it all from the inside.)

Now, David Weigel at Slate has come across an email from Mr. Allison, reassuring Cato employees that all is well:

From: John Allison

Subject: Update/Rumors

Date: August 30, 2012

All Cato Employees,

I have now had the pleasure of meeting with almost all the Cato team. I’m impressed with the quality of Cato’s employees and their commitment to Cato’s mission.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.