Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

16 April 2008

Krugman Criticizes Teaching of Ayn Rand

Paul Krugman referred to an article about BB&T Bank giving grants to colleges if they would offer the study of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged in college classes in his New York Times column Conscience of a Liberal. I made this comment:

Ayn Rand's work and Atlas Shrugged in particular offer students a very different approach to thinking about ethical and political ideas from those they are otherwise exposed to in most universities. I have found the usual collection of favored ethical and political ideas at universities to be simple-minded, weak-kneed, uninspiring, shackling group-think, and laden with childish envy of those who have more material goods. Ayn Rand offers a viewpoint that recognizes the complexity and uniqueness of the individual, enables the individual to claim the right to live his life and pursue his happiness, allows him the self-worth that in turn allows one to perceive and value the worth of others, and encourages everyone to make the most of their rational faculty to pursue productive and creative work and thought. This is a very good philosophy for living life.

The negative comments above have frequently indicated a clear misconception of her ideas, where enough information was given to make such a judgment. Read her works and think hard about what she has to say and some will be able to understand her philosophy. It tends to appeal much more to reality-oriented people than to academics whose theories are so readily disassociated from the real world. This is why it is more popular with businessmen and engineers as a group than with the academics. They cannot afford the luxury of ignoring reality. Ask yourself if the Marxism and socialism generally so popular among academics has proven successful in the real world. Ask yourselves if self-loathing, racial group-think, the rejection of almost all ethical values, class warfare, and the denigration of the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution are representative of a healthy world view. When Capitalism and limited government are rejected, what are they replaced with? They are replaced with government wielded force. Individuality is given little accommodation and our individual goals and values are given up to the lowest common denominator goals and values of the democratic majority, so long as that will last.

Materials physicist and small business owner,

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D.


Anonymous said...

If you are Charles Anderson Ph.D, I am amazed at your naiveté. Socialism has proven quite successful in the world, thank you, as the Netherlands (unemployment <4%) and Denmark and their like continue to leave the US behind in terms of life expectancy, quality of education, quality of life, etc. The Nordic countries have been quietly integrating capitalism with socialism to find a "golden mean."

Logical fallacies:
You write "Ask yourselves if self-loathing, racial group-think, the rejection of almost all ethical values, class warfare, and the denigration of the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution are representative of a healthy world view" but there is nothing inherent in socialism or liberalism like what you describe. Your poor grasp of reasoning put that there. The question is poorly put. I'll ask you a similar question, "When did you start supporting Neo-nazi pop writers like Ayn Rand?"

All-or-nothing fallacy:
you write: "When Capitalism and limited government are rejected, what are they replaced with? " Capitalism or limited government are not states to be accepted or rejected. Somalia right now, has VERY limited government. It is not working out. One can reject a capitalistic approach to one aspect of the economy and use it in others. Like every other industrialized country in the world has done.

You have taken a political argument and painted it in black and white. It is probably because "Low light" situations mask color. You post is not a rational response to the Professors comment PhD not withstanding.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

First, quality of life is actually mostly a function of being free to choose your own values and being able to manage your own life. Individuals are complex and highly differentiated and it is only in a free private sector that this is recognized. The overly big government sector imposes values by force and then micro-manages everyone's lives with excessive laws imposing restrictions on everyone which are brutally backed by the use of force. Many people will not submit their lives willingly to the proposition that we will put you up in style providing you do as you are told and you serve the government. Many people are not so materialistic that this appeals to them. Your "golden mean" may satisfy you, but by what right do you impose it by force upon others?

Life expectancy as a measure of well-being is of limited usefulness. But let us make the comparisons anyway. Life expectancy from birth in Sweden is 80.9 years, in Norway is 80.2, in Netherlands is 79.8, and in Denmark is 78.3. The U.S. life expectancy is 78.3 years and if we exclude Black Americans, the life expectancy is 78.9 years. We are by no means left in the dust in life expectancy. Indeed, I would bet that if you corrected for a higher number of traffic deaths in the U.S. due to people driving much more, we would beat all or most of them in life expectancy. But, note that life expectancy is not primarily a function of government programs for health. It is largely due to what people choose to eat and how physically active they choose to be.

Education: Yes, we Americans do have a pretty poor education system, thanks to the fact that it is run by government. Since that system is fully socialistic, there is nothing to compare with the somewhat more generally socialistic countries you have pointed at. This is again irrelevant. But, fortunately, many Americans continue to educate themselves in some things when they have completed their schooling. So, when you look at our innovations in business and technology, you will see that the more socialistic countries actually lag us in these areas of self-educational endeavor.

Quality of life depends entirely on who is defining what quality in life is. For those who want a rich variety of goods and services and the broadest opportunity to choose who to associate with and for what purposes, a healthy and vibrant private sector based on a free market cannot be beat. Highly subsidized rides on a public train may seem like a bargain, since many taxes are well-hidden and people rarely can tell you how much they really pay in taxes for the government services they think they are getting for little. But, this is an illusion.

You have cherry-picked some of the less troubled socialist states. There are many that are worse failures. What is more, each of these nations and others are tending to find that their generous welfare states are not sustainable and have had to cut back on them. What is more, when they were at their apex of socialism, many found that their most accomplished people left them to live in other countries.

Because socialism must ignore the complexity and the highly differentiated nature of individuals, it cannot provide an adequate ethical basis for every individual to live his life. The choice of values must be left to the individual. An ethical code can only be formulated based upon a value or values which imply goals to be accomplished in living one's life. I will be interested in your reason for believing it is ethical for some collective group to impose uniform values and rules for living upon every individual.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

When I spoke of Capitalism and limited government, I did so in a context generally very familiar to Americans. Namely that implied by our Declaration of Independence when it defined legitimate government as that government whose purpose is to protect the right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Americans then implemented such a government when the People mandated one of very limited scope and powers with the Constitution. This concept of limited government bears no resemblance to Somalia.

Rejecting Capitalism is the rejection of freedom of association and the freedom to cooperate with others as one chooses. This is a very fundamental denial of very basic rights of the individual. These rights are implied in my right to Life, which means that I have the right to act to preserve and manage my life. In a societal context, that means I have the right to pursue my life goals with the voluntary cooperation of others. Every individual has this equal right to seek out others who wish to cooperate with them so that each can control and manage his own life. This same set of associational and cooperative freedoms are implied by our liberty to act and our right to pursue our personal happiness. Socialism necessarily violates these rights. It is only in a highly optimized and unimpeded private sector that we have these freedoms in an unabridged form. You apparently believe your rights should be abridged in some sort of golden mean, but many an American has risked or given his life to have his freedoms much less abridged.