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.

03 March 2016

Comments from Comments Following an Article Attacking Ayn Rand's Ideas

A very scurrilous article called This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand Seriously by Denise Cummings has elicited many comments.  The article itself sets up many a straw man interpretation of Ayn Rand's ideas and makes some incredibly obvious false statements about her ideas.  I have commented rather extensively in the comments following it.  Here is one of my comments in reply to other comments opposing Ayn Rand's ideas:
Blaming businessmen for their business practices is one of the frauds most commonly used to justify governments that micromanage our lives and prevent us from individually choosing our own values and pursuing them in a rich and robust private sector. The bogeyman businessman is all too often the false justification for forcing us to give up our individually optimal choices for the sake of one-size-fits-all laws and regulations which are not enforced on the friends of big government, but are often enforced on those who just want to get on with their lives.
Average Joe is always free to start his own business, except that governments make it hard for him to do so and will require him to spend huge blocks of time on paperwork and tax him at every turn. Big government institutes many of its regulations more for the purpose of preventing the formation of small businesses and for preventing them from competing with bigger businesses who find it much easier to comply with the 80,000 pages of new regulations each year. Of course, even some big businesses are not favored by Big Government, such as the fossil fuel businesses.
It is only when a business is allied with big government that it can get away with mistreating employees and customers. A really free market always offers alternatives, as people take advantage of their freedom of association and either start competing businesses or turn to existing competitors or make suitable substitutions. Of course government should prevent the actual use of force or fraud throughout our society. But, what we find is that government itself is the abuser and uses much too much force and defrauds the citizens on a routine basis.
To which one Paul Ruggiero, who often shows up whenever Ayn Rand is the subject, replied:
"Bogeyman businessman" - how about tobacco companies? Was it rational to sell products to people that the company knew were addictive and highly likely to kill them over time? Where was the "self regulation" or rational or moral nature of this?
Businesses can mistreat employees or their customers very easily without the help of government. You are making a lot of assumptions about free market capitalism in your argument without stating them. Many of your assumptions though are not true. State some, and I'm happy to knock them down.
Rand's ideas about companies are unfortunately not true. She assumes that without govt interference all businesses would be rational. This is crap.
To which this patient soul replied:
The left likes to picture the businessman as frequently a predator and government as a protection against these powerful and many predators. Yes, bad people can be found in the business world, but they are actually much less likely to be bad than the politicians and bureaucrats of the government which wields much more power than do businessmen.
Tobacco is addictive and I have never used it for that reason and for health and hygiene reasons. Everyone else also has had this choice, whereas when government runs up the cost of energy or denies me paying a high school summer intern less than the minimum wage, I have no choice. I am forced to comply. It is worse to be robbed of a choice and forced to comply than to be offered a product I should not choose to buy.
Let us also note that government, your tainted angel, long subsidized tobacco farming. It also delighted and still does in the taxes it collects on this dangerous product.
Rand absolutely does not assume that all businesses will be rational or that those that are usually fairly rational will always be so. She also does not assume that all purchases of goods and services will be rational. The trades of the free market and private sector generally are akin to freedom of speech. We do not assume that everything everyone says will be rational or true. We know it will not be. But, there will be a rich diversity of ideas and knowledge in that flow of speech in a free society. People are free to evaluate what others have to say and incorporate or reject viewpoints and ideas according to their own choice. The same is true of the many products and services offered in the private sector.
To the degree that the customer chooses badly, he will be hurt. But he is also free to choose wisely and to benefit greatly from good choices. It is stultifying to be so terrified of making bad choices that one refuses to allow oneself the opportunity to make good choices. I have confidence that most people make more good choices than bad ones and that they benefit greatly from the diversity of choices offered by the free market, just as we benefit greatly from the rich and diverse flow of ideas and information we are offered due to freedom of speech. Just as we tend to stop listening to people who always rattle off nonsensical viewpoints, so do most people refuse to buy goods and services from companies that do not meet their needs. Bad products and poor service tend to bring an end to the company that offers them.
Now, I understand that you think that most people are bad and will fleece everyone else at every opportunity. You also have no confidence in the people to be mostly rational consumers. I do not think so. Then you turn around and seem to believe that the same bad sellers and consumers are capable of choosing good representative politicians and good government policies to protect these basically incompetent people. Your inconsistency could not be more apparent.

To which a good man (Threnody) added:

Savin' this one.
Echoes of Bastiat
"When it is time to vote, apparently the voter is not to be asked for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose wisely are taken for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! are the people always to be kept on leashes? Have they not won their rights by great effort and sacrifice? Have they not given ample proof of their intelligence and wisdom? Are they not adults? Are they not capable of judging for themselves? Do they not know what is best for themselves? Is there a class or a man who would be so bold as to set himself above the people, and judge and act for them? No, no, the people are and should be free. They desire to manage their own affairs, and they shall do so.
But when the legislator is finally elected — ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate, to direct, to propel, and to organize. Mankind has only to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. We now observe this fatal idea: The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any, they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation."
The comments following articles misrepresenting and misunderstanding Ayn Rand's ideas are often very interesting.  There really are huge numbers of people who either cannot understand her or who are endlessly eager to misrepresent her ideas.  Many people become so deeply rutted in their line of "thought" that they literally are unable to see any other viewpoint, especially when that viewpoint fundamentally differs with all of their own reference points.  The most blatant inconsistencies in their own viewpoint go totally unrecognized and unaddressed.  Even when you bring such a person to admit they have a problem through hours of discussions, by the next day almost everyone of them will have found some way to forget that they admitted a severe inconsistency the prior day.

Few people can change their worldview after they have held it for many years.  It is often claimed that Ayn Rand's ideas appeal only to the young and therefor to the immature.  It is not entirely true that only the young are greatly influenced by her ideas and it is certainly not the case that her ideas only attract interest from the immature.  But, there is a reason why so many individuals who do become interested in Ayn Rand's ideas do so when they are young.  It is because such a large fraction of those older are mired in deep ruts in the mud of ideas they have held a long time and which have so distorted their view of the world that they cannot see or will not see the truth anymore.

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