In the spring of 1976, at TCU, I proposed to write a paper for my Junior Honors Philosophy Seminar, and, as with Danuta yesterday, I was pooh-pooh'ed -- dismissed out of hand -- without so much as an opportunity to defend or explain my (quite rational and justified) thesis, I was dismissed disdainfully."No one takes THAT seriously,"
I was told by my professors.
And, calling in to Danuta Pfeiffer's talk show, yesterday, she just hung up, not bothering to mouth the words, but they were there, nonetheless:"No one takes THAT seriously."
But for nearly thirty years now, I've been watching "that" and it would seem that a lot of people take it seriously, and many of those people are making policy at the highest levels of our government.
They are the ones who cut the taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They are the ones who are cutting Head Start, the ones trying to privatize Social Security. They are the ones who emasculated and outsourced both the military in Iraq and FEMA on the Gulf Coast after Katrina.
And, surprise! They AREN'T "Right Wing Evangelicals." (Danuta Pfeiffer used to be Pat Robertson's co-host on "The 700 Club"; now she's a 'liberal' talk show host locally, but she's still constrained by the blinders of her reaction, seemingly) [2006 NOTE: Pfeiffer retired her show last spring - HW
Which explains, perhaps, why she completely missed the point, because the movement of which I speak springs entirely from a rationalistic atheism, and, while many adherents have made an easy truce between their politics and their Christianity, the latter has nothing to do with it.
Let's back up.
Here's what Danuta Pfeiffer was upset about (ranting , rather than reasoning being the objective, as she termed it "fascist"):http://mediamatters.org/items/200510140006
From the October 13 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:
BOORTZ: OK, I've got an insensitive thought, folks. There's a news story out there -- there's a news story out there that rich people got some sort of an email notification of the terrorist threat against the New York subway before poor people did. OK? They're making a big deal out of it. Let me see if I can find it on the Drudge Report here. Let's see. There's a guy strangling a goose. That's a pretty good -- that's a pretty impressive picture. It's something about bird flu. So he's got this goose and he's just wringing its neck. You can -- oh, who tipped off the big shots? OK, now here's the story. And it says, "The Homeland Security Department launched internal probes yesterday into whether its officials tipped off friends and relatives to a possible subway terror plot days before average New Yorkers were alerted." So the real gripe here is that it seems that some wealthy people got notified of the terror plot before the great unwashed, before the others. Now, the Daily News in New York has a headline: "Rich got terror tip." Rich got terror tip. OK, let's get logical about this, folks. Let's play logic with this. This is as it should be. OK? If we are faced with disaster in this country -- let me ask you this, OK? You just be logical. Get all of the emotion out of this. Get all of the emotion out of this. But if we are faced with a disaster in this country, which group do we want to save? The rich or the poor? Now, if you have time, save as many people as you can. But if you have to set some priorities, where do you go? The rich or the poor? OK? Who is a drag on society? The rich or the poor? Who provide the jobs out there? The rich or the poor? Who fuels -- you know, which group fuels our economy? Drives industry? The rich or the poor? Now if you -- all of a sudden, somebody walks up to you and says, "Hey, Boortz listener. You're gonna have a -- you have to make a choice. You're going to -- we're gonna move you to another country. And you're just gonna have to make your way in this other country. We have a choice of two countries for you. In this country, people achieve a lot and they are wealthy because of their hard work. In this country, people don't achieve squat. They sit around all the time waiting for somebody else to take care of them. They have children they can't afford. They're uneducated. They can barely read. And the high point of their day is Entertainment Tonight on TV. Which country do you want to live in? The country of the high achievers, or the country of sheep, the country of followers?" You know what you're gonna do. I don't see what the big problem is. I just don't. I mean, if you -- who do I want to save first? The rich. Save the poor first. Then, when everything's over, where are you gonna go for a job? OK, hey, if I get a tin cup, can I sit next to you and sell pencils too?
I'm serious about that, folks. You see, that's the kind of thing that's going to end up in news stories: "Neal Boortz said that in times of disaster we should save the rich people first." Well, hell, yes, we should save the rich people first. You know, they're the ones that are responsible for this prosperity. I mean, you go out there and you look at this vast sea of evacuees, OK? You want to get an economy going in some city? Well, who you gonna take back? The people who own businesses? Or the people that sit around waiting to get their minimum wage job, work 'til Friday, get a paycheck and then not show up again until the following Wednesday? Come on. Just put a little logical thought into this, folks."
OK. I pointed out that Danuta's rage was entirely
justified, but this had NOTHING to do with Right Wing Christianity. It was from another, underground strain of extremism that has fueled the worst excesses of this Administration. Here, compare Boortz' boorishness with this sound bite:
"Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways-- by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.
"The creator's concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite's concern is the conquest of men.
"The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.
"The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.
"The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.
"Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution--or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
"Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a disease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer--in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creators has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man's body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceive.
"Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.
"Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self...."
Have you figured it out yet?
The quote above comes from Howard Roark's penultimate courtroom speech in Ayn Rand's THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a book that, in a sense, is the basis of the Libertarian Party, which is the party and philosophy that Neil Boortz espouses.
[Read the whole Roark speech at: http://www.davehong.com/monologues/roark.html
It Ayn's Kampf, and Oliver Stone's parody of that speech, "Greed is Good" ultimately derived from that speech.
OK, trivia buffs, INDIRECTLY. According to Imdb: "Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" speech was inspired by a similar speech given by Ivan Boesky at the University of California's commencement ceremony in 1986. (Boesky was a Wall Street arbitrageur who paid a $100 million penalty to the SEC to settle insider trading charges later that same year.) In his speech, Boesky said 'Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.' " http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094291/trivia
But that only reinforces the point. Ayn Rand, who "nobody took seriously" according to my philosophy profs, and Danuta, is driving the agenda. (Ayn was a devout athiest, please note). Her philosophy of "egoism" has provided a rationalization for a generation of greed and more. It is not surprising that it has been embraced by the wealthy and the wealthy wannabes, like Neal Boortz.
Of COURSE we should save the rich. They are all Howard Roark "creators" and "SOOOOper-geniuses" (to quote Wil-E-Coyote, in his only speaking role).
When I was a kid, growing up in and around the University of Wyoming, I saw an awful lot of college students' and professors' homes. And EVERY ONE had ATLAS SHRUGGED on their bookshelf (or in their closet, on their toilet, by their bed, etc.) in the way that the next generation universally had STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, DUNE and/or LORD OF THE RINGS in their libraries.
It was a generational rite of passage, a book that marked the thinking of an entire sector of American intellectual society, which was why, in 1976, I realized that my philosophy professors were entirely full of crap, and that while Ayn Rand might not be a "serious" philosopher, her ideas were widespread and an AWFUL lot more influential than, say, Dr. Solomon at the University of Texas, who is only known in philosophical circles.
No one in government seems to be coining national legislative agendas based on Dr. Roger Poole's TOWARDS DEEP SUBJECTIVITY. No: whether Danuta Pfeiffer and my philosophy profs ever "get it" or not, Ayn's Kampf is the Kampf (struggle) of the secular -- and by secular, I mean money and banking -- portion of the Republican Right. The guys in power, in case you hadn't noticed.
Alan Greenspan is a disciple of Ayn Rand. As is Nathaniel Brandon, whose Institute was indirectly instrumental in the formation, in Westminster, Colorado on December 11, 1971 of the modern Libertarian Party. (Brandon later broke with Rand.)
You can't find a Libertarian site that doesn't have laudatory references to Ayn, and many sell her book on the site, like:http://www.bmstahoe.com/Libertarian/
"Read Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged"
(link to Amazon.com and there's a link to Ayn Rand at libertarian.org http://www.libertarian.org/theory.html#rand
which has become http://www.theihs.org/libertyguide/
at the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University:
"Ayn Rand is the author of the classic American novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and the originator of a comprehensive philosophical system called "Objectivism" that emphasizes the primacy of human reason, the moral importance of individualism and the necessity of political freedom."
And, I might add, the reason that you need to save the rich first in a terrorist attack or a hurricane.
And why those on welfare or Social Security and those who collect taxes are "parasites."
You thought the Boortz sound bite was bad? Hey, it's a straight Ayn Rand sort of statement, and at least HE didn't term the non-rich "parasites." Rand does, and unapologetically so.
But let me make the connection between Boortz' "libertarianism" and Ayn Rand's "Objectivism" a little more explicit:http://home.ca.inter.net/~grantsky/aynrand.html
A REQUIEM FOR AYN RAND? by GRANT SCHUYLER
For most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s . . . I worshipped and idolized the Russian-American novelist-philosopher Ayn (rhymes with "mine") Rand.
In an Objectivist world with Objectivist nations, Rand believed, there would be no social welfare, no tariffs, no economic subsidies for anyone: each of these would be a violation of natural rights, the state's imposition of force -- state and taxation power -- on some for the benefit of others.
It was the postured ideality of Rand's Objectivist political system that caused the most important rupture in her movement. This was not the split in 1968 with her follower and "intellectual heir" Branden. It was the belief of some of her students and followers that her logical and ethical philosophy was inconsistent with its politics.
These followers believed that the logic of her philosophy, the egoistic logic of her ethics, required as its political expression not a limited constitutional democratic republic but laissez-faire anarchism. They formed the most lively part of the movement that succeeded strict Randism. They began to form the capitalist (big-L) Libertarian movement in 1971.
Rand had wanted her followers to remain what she called "students of Objectivism". She believed that before the state could be reduced to its proper role of defending what she called "man's [natural] rights", much educational work remained: the public would have to be persuaded of the logic and goodness of egoism and capitalism. The public would also have to be persuaded of the crucial importance of reason.
But the Libertarians believed that the time for political action was now. They formed the Libertarian Party of the United States to run political candidates immediately. They did not care whether any of the supporters of the Libertarian Party believed in man's rights, although they would have been happy if they did. Instead, the Party was to be a home for those who wanted to vote for less government and for immediate increased freedom from government.
Rand and her closest associates condemned the new movement in stinging words. They accused the new Libertarians of being irrational; of being without clear, logical principles; of being premature; and of being without intellectual foundations for their political action. The Libertarians, small-government minimalists and anarchists alike, ignored the rebuke.
Well, they didn't get very far. A few hundred thousand votes in each presidential election since then, and one electoral vote (!) in total. Whether the Libertarian movement has been worth the effort, I do not know.
And, Schuyler adds in his parallel essay, CAPITALIST LIBERTARIANISM http://home.ca.inter.net/~grantsky/capitalistlibertarianism.html
Students of Objectivism disagreed with none of Rand's opinions, even the most trivial . . . or claimed to. Capitalist Libertarians, on the other hand, disagreed with Rand's opinion that the present was no time to organize politically. The early 1970s, in Rand's opinion, were the time in which to calmly spread the word about Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. After some decades of educational work, perhaps, the time would arrive to begin political action. One would then organize political parties, for example, so as to bring to fruition all of Rand's political and social ideas.
But the Libertarians would have none of this patient waiting. They believed this was too passive. The times cried out for political action and rapid change. Society was in danger of falling into a catastrophic socialist-totalitarian abyss. They must immediately form political coalitions with anyone who believed in laissez-faire or greater political liberty, no matter what that person or party had as its basic premises, and no matter how that person or party labeled itself. This group of Randists therefore held a founding convention in 1972 and created the U.S. Libertarian party. They began to run candidates for president and vice-president of the United States. (At their high point in the 1972 presidential election, their candidate won one electoral vote.) Later the Libertarians tried to run candidates in congressional, state, and local elections, with a few successful outcomes."
But Schuyler is entirely wrong about the effect of Rand's breakaway acolytes. They drive the Republican agenda, from flat taxes to tax cuts, to the elimination of the "death" tax, to the elimination of social programs, government regulation of corporations and international trade, and the responsibility of government for disasters and wars.
In the Iraq war, the MESS HALLS were outsourced! In Katrina, so much of FEMA had been subcontracted that FEMA was fundamentally impotent. And the suspension of Davis-Bacon (prevailing wage), the $62 billion being handed out willy-nilly by FEMA to private contractors to rebuild et al are also outgrowths of this fundamental philosophy, promoted most notably by the Cato Institute (the Libertarian think tank) and other D.C. think tanks and policy mills.
"Greed is good," could as easily have come from Howard Roark's mouth (and Ayn Rand's pen) as from "Gordon Gekko" a/k/a Ivan Boesky, or the Cato Institute, or (gasp) Ronald Reagan.
The Objectivist/Libertarian philosophy has fueled the right wing of the Republican party at LEAST as far back as Barry Goldwater (who Ayn took to task for basing his libertarianism in "faith" and not in "reason, but then forgave, since Barry was crusading on her behalf.)
It is a seductive philosophy, save for one small, monstrous chink.
[NOTE: I will talk here about Ayn Rand's best book, THE FOUNTAINHEAD, rather than her so-called "masterpiece," ATLAS SHRUGGED, which could easily have been shortened by 800 didactic pages, and which I seem to be alone among my acquaintances in having actually READ all the way through. THE FOUNTAINHEAD is the superior, and, mercifully, shorter book.]
The story behind Roark's penultimate speech (the pure explication of Rand's position) is that Roark has blown up a housing project for the poor -- a project whose plans Roark had drawn up but had been altered without his permission:
"It is said that I have destroyed the home of the destitute. It is forgotten that but for me the destitute could not have had this particular home. Those who were concerned with the poor had to come to me, who have never been concerned, in order to help the poor. It is believed that the poverty of the future tenants gave them a right to my work. That their need constituted a claim on my life. That it was my duty to contribute anything demanded of me. This is the second-hander's credo now swallowing the world.
"I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
"I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others...."
That's all well and good ... except that Roark presumes that only HIS "genius" built the project. None of the drivers, laborers, welders, bricklayers or thousands of other workers who had built the project MATTER!
That, my friends, is monstrous.
That ONLY the scribbler of the plans counts? (Anyone who knows squat about construction projects of such size knows that no plan ever devised is perfect, and modifications would have to be made, no matter HOW hard the builders tried to follow the original plans!)
What about the genius of the engineer? The hod-carrier? The bulldozer operator? What about the genius of the brickworker, the steel mill operator? The truck drivers? The carpenters, the plumbers, the painters and plasterers?
No: this is a monstrous dehumanization. If Howard Roark's plans matter, then he only has the right to burn THEM. He has NO right to destroy the work of so many others -- others whose work and existence his entire existence as a "creator" depends on. Without builders, an architect is just a scribbler -- one who had better be able to make his own paper and his own charcoal for drafting, by the by.
And the expression of that monstrousness is perfectly seen in Neal Boortz' statement that only the rich matter. The rest, Ayn Rand would argue, are all parasites. And so Boortz affirms.
The insinuation of this monstrous philosophy of self-serving and selfish greed has been the most profound and least-reported aspect of the entire attack of the Right Wing in our present national emergency. Evangelical Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with it.
It is an atheistic Calvinism (and, significantly, George W. Bush has been reported as a crypto-Calvinist in his personal religious practices): where virtue is equated with wealth, and poverty is equated with sinfulness or lack of virtue. (For the Christians, I would only point out that the Book of Job provides a stunning refutation of this hogwash).
But in the atheistic formulation (initially) of Libertarianism, this economic Calvinism lies -- stated or un- -- at the heart of the philosophy that drives policy. We recall the "welfare queens" of Reagan, the current screeching against "illegal aliens," or even the infamous moment wherein Bill O'Reilly screamed at Al Franken "It's MY money! It's MY MONEY!!"
All of which presume that we are all Howard Roarks operating in a vacuum, creating wealth without government/socially supported roads, infrastructure, regulation, et al, ad infinitum.
(Let me tell you a little secret: left entirely to his own devices on a desert island, a man ends up screaming soliloquies at a volleyball stuffed with straw.)
Man is a SOCIAL animal, and Ayn Rand and her adherents insanely reject this fundamental truth. As a result, while a few have enriched themselves, our society is falling apart, and our infrastructure is rotting.
And the core of that rotten apple that's spoiling the whole bunch is the Objectivist/Libertarian philosophy so eloquently stated by Neal Boortz.
In other words: ("In order for me to assert my 'individuality' I have to deny yours. (Heck: you're probably a parasite anyway.)"
And from his webpage, let me leave you with one of his favorite quotes:http://boortz.com/more/quotes.html
Neal's Favorite QuotesOriginally Posted 10/22/2005 04:30:00 PM
"America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way." [Ayn Rand]