The Wisdom of James Madison

JAMES Madison, “the father of the Constitution,” deserves to be remembered, since no one had a greater hand in constructing and interpreting what was, at least once, the highest law of the land. His understanding is especially important today, given how far we have moved away from the very limited government the Constitution authorized. Instead, we have moved toward a government whose checks and balances have largely become a contest for power won by whichever branch oversteps its authority the furthest, with citizens the only clear and permanent losers.

All Americans could profit by heeding what James Madison had to say about the role the Constitution actually authorized for the federal government.

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. In a just and free government … the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate … The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.

Government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of Government is a misfortune. Hitherto charters have been written grants of privileges by Governments to the people. Here they are written grants of power by the people to their Governments.

The people of the United States enjoy the great merit of having established a system of Government on the basis of human rights … with the best security for public order and individual liberty.

Extinguish from the bosom of every member of the community any apprehensions that there are those among his countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly fought and honorably bled.

The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.

[The Constitution] may be one means to control the majority from those acts to which they might be otherwise inclined. I am dogmatically attached to the Constitution in every clause, syllable, and letter.

Laws are unconstitutional which infringe on the rights of the community … it is proper that every government should be disarmed of powers which trench upon those particular rights. The present charges of usurpations and abuses of power are not that they are measures of the Government violating the will of the constituents … but that they are measures of a majority of the constituents themselves, oppressing the minority through the forms of the government.

There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore, needs more elucidation than … that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong … nothing can be more false … it would be the interest of the majority in every community to despoil and enslave the minority of individuals.… In fact, it is only reestablishing, under another name and a more specious form, force as the measure of right.

The legitimate meanings of [the Constitution] must be derived from the text itself. The real measure of the powers meant to be granted to Congress by the Constitution is to be sought in the specifications … not … with a latitude that, under the name or means for carrying into execution a limited Government, would transform it into a Government without limits.

The meaning collected from the general scope, and from a collation of the several parts … ought not to be affected by a particular word or phrase not irreconcilable with all the rest, and not made more precise, because no danger of their being misunderstood was thought of.

With respect to the words, “general welfare,” I have always regarded them as qualified by the details of power connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution… not contemplated by the creators.

I cannot … lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money … the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers. If Congress can employ money indefinitely … the powers of Congress would subvert the very foundation, the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America.

As far as laws are necessary to mark with precision the duties of those who are to obey them, and to take from those who are to administer them a discretion which might be abused, their number is the price of liberty. As far as laws exceed this limit they are a nuisance; a nuisance of the most pestilent kind.

Critical Thinking: Its Absence is the REAL Virus of Our Time

Critical thinking is the process of carefully and systematically analyzing problems to find ways to solve them. It involves identifying several possible solutions and then logically evaluating each one, comparing them to one another on their merits, and then selecting the one that you conclude is the most promising.

An example of critical thinking applied to today:

“Last spring, the same medical experts in the government who told us NOT to wear masks, because they don’t help, now tell us we MUST wear masks, even in our private bathrooms, and never ask questions. What can explain such a change in a MEDICAL opinion?”

“Hospital professionals stopped wearing cloth masks decades ago, because they aren’t effective in any situation. If not, then why are we told that cloth masks are just as effective as the kind of masks worn by doctors, nurses and surgeons?”

“We’re told that masks are essential to stop the spread of COVID, a virus with a more than 99 percent survival rate. We’re told that it’s ‘selfish’ and a violation of others’ rights not to wear a mask. We are told by politicians (who are not doctors): If a person is wearing a mask on the sidewalk where we cross each other, that person will NOT catch a virus from me (assuming I have it), so long as I’m wearing a mask. But if I’m NOT wearing a mask, then that same mask-wearing person WILL catch a virus from me. How can both things be true, if masks prevent the spread?”

“Tests for COVID often report false positives. Nevertheless, all positive test results are labeled (by governments) as cases of COVID. You are considered a ‘case’ of COVID even if you have no symptoms — and perhaps never will have symptoms. In research, and in hospitals or medical centers, ‘cases’ refer to illnesses where people actually are symptomatic. Doesn’t it distort reality to equate POTENTIAL cases of COVID with ACTUAL cases? And aren’t there rational distinctions to be made between symptomatic people who experience mild or moderate symptoms (the great majority) and those who do develop very severe ones? Science makes these rational distinctions. Our politicans, and the people working for them, do not. Which side is more rational?”

Critical thinking refers to a willingness and an ability to ask questions — and to answer them. Critical thinkers will listen to individuals with expertise they lack. But if you’re a critical thinker you can understand, and accept, that doctors often contradict each other. The possibility of dishonesty is always there, especially in politics and government; even outside of politics and government, honest disagreement is probably the norm in medicine, especially with respect to viruses, because there’s still far more we don’t know than we know about viruses. That’s why the common cold and flu are still with us, despite treatments and cures for so many other illnesses.

I offer this post as an example of critical thinking — not just with COVID, but with absolutely anything. This is how critical thinking works. You sit down, you THINK and you REASON. During a crisis (whether an actual or a perceived one), we need rational, objective thinking even more than normal. During a crisis (actual or perceived), there are always people who will try to exploit and take advantage of you, because they know you’re afraid, and that’s the best time to exploit or control you. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is replace independent, rational and objective thinking with (1) slavish obedience to authority; or (2) unchallenged emotion, such as fear.

In absolutely every respect possible, American society (on the whole, with rare exception) is doing the POLAR OPPOSITE of what rational individuals, in rational societies, should do. It’s tragic to behold. Yet here we are.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason

Ludwig von Mises: The Class Struggle

Any philosophy of history must demonstrate the mechanism by means of which the supreme agency that directs the course of all human affairs induces individuals to walk in precisely the ways which are bound to lead mankind toward the goal set. In Marx’s system the doctrine of the class struggle is designed to answer this question.

The inherent weakness of this doctrine is that it deals with classes and not with individuals. What has to be shown is how the individuals are induced to act in such a way that mankind finally reaches the point the productive forces want it to attain. Marx answers that consciousness of the interests of their class determines the conduct of the individuals. It still remains to be explained why the individuals give the interests of their class preference over their own interests. We may for the moment refrain from asking how the individual learns what the genuine interests of his class are. But even Marx cannot help admitting that a conflict exists between the interests of an individual and those of the class to which he belongs.1 He distinguishes between those proletarians who are class conscious, i.e., place the concerns of their class before their individual concerns, and those who are not. He considers it one of the objectives of a socialist party to awake to class consciousness those proletarians who are not spontaneously class conscious.

Marx obfuscated the problem by confusing the notions of caste and class. Where status and caste differences prevail, all members of every caste but the most privileged have one interest in common, viz., to wipe out the legal disabilities of their own caste. All slaves, for instance, are united in having a stake in the abolition of slavery. But no such conflicts are present in a society in which all citizens are equal before the law. No logical objection can be advanced against distinguishing various classes among the members of such a society. Any classification is logically permissible, however arbitrarily the mark of distinction may be chosen. But it is nonsensical to classify the members of a capitalistic society according to their position in the framework of the social division of labor and then to identify these classes with the castes of a status society.

In a status society the individual inherits his caste membership from his parents, he remains through all his life in his caste, and his children are born as members of it. Only in exceptional cases can good luck raise a man into a higher caste. For the immense majority birth unalterably determines their station in life. The classes which Marx distinguishes in a capitalistic society are different. Their membership is fluctuating. Class affiliation is not hereditary. It is assigned to each individual by a daily repeated plebiscite, as it were, of all the people. The public in spending and buying determines who should own and run the plants, who should play the parts in the theater performances, who should work in the factories and mines. Rich men become poor, and poor men rich. The heirs as well as those who themselves have acquired wealth must try to hold their own by defending their assets against the competition of already established firms and of ambitious newcomers. In the unhampered market economy there are no privileges, no protection of vested interests, no barriers preventing anybody from striving after any prize. Access to any of the Marxian classes is free to everybody. The members of each class compete with one another; they are not united by a common class interest and not opposed to the members of other classes by being allied either in the defense of a common privilege which those wronged by it want to see abolished or in the attempt to abolish an institutional disability which those deriving advantage from it want to preserve.

The laissez-faire liberals asserted: If the old laws establishing status privileges and disabilities are repealed and no new practices of the same character — such as tariffs, subsidies, discriminatory taxation, indulgence granted for nongovernmental agencies like churches, unions, and so on to use coercion and intimidation — are introduced, there is equality of all citizens before the law. Nobody is hampered in his aspirations and ambitions by any legal obstacles. Everybody is free to compete for any social position or function for which his personal abilities qualify him.”Capitalism is essentially mass production to fill the needs of the masses. But Marx always labored under the deceptive conception that the workers are toiling for the sole benefit of an upper class of idle parasites.”

The communists denied that this is the way capitalistic society as organized under the liberal system of equality before the law, is operating. In their eyes private ownership of the means of production conveys to the owners — the bourgeois or capitalists in Marx’s terminology — a privilege virtually not different from those once accorded to the feudal lords. The “bourgeois revolution” has not abolished privilege and discrimination against the masses; it has, says the Marxian, merely supplanted the old ruling and exploiting class of noblemen by a new ruling and exploiting class, the bourgeoisie. The exploited class, the proletarians, did not profit from this reform. They have changed masters but they have remained oppressed and exploited. What is needed is a new and final revolution, which in abolishing private ownership of the means of production will establish the classless society.

This socialist or communist doctrine fails entirely to take into account the essential difference between the conditions of a status or caste society and those of a capitalistic society. Feudal property came into existence either by conquest or by donation on the part of a conqueror. It came to an end either by revocation of the donation or by conquest on the part of a more powerful conqueror. It was property by “the grace of God,” because it was ultimately derived from military victory which the humility or conceit of the princes ascribed to special intervention of the Lord. The owners of feudal property did not depend on the market, they did not serve the consumers; within the range of their property rights they were real lords. But it is quite different with the capitalists and entrepreneurs of a market economy. They acquire and enlarge their property through the services they have rendered to the consumers, and they can retain it only by serving daily again in the best possible way. This difference is not eradicated by metaphorically calling a successful manufacturer of spaghetti “the spaghetti king.”

Marx never embarked on the hopeless task of refuting the economists’ description of the working of the market economy. Instead he was eager to show that capitalism must in the future lead to very unsatisfactory conditions. He undertook to demonstrate that the operation of capitalism must inevitably result in the concentration of wealth in the possession of an ever diminishing number of capitalists on the one hand and in the progressive impoverishment of the immense majority on the other hand. In the execution of this task he started from the spurious iron law of wages according to which the average wage rate is that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely required to enable the laborer to barely survive and to rear progeny.2 This alleged law has long since been entirely discredited, and even the most bigoted Marxians have dropped it. But even if one were prepared for the sake of argument to call the law correct, it is obvious that it can by no means serve as the basis of a demonstration that the evolution of capitalism leads to progressive impoverishment of the wage earners. If wage rates under capitalism are always so low that for physiological reasons they cannot drop any further without wiping out the whole class of wage earners, it is impossible to maintain the thesis of the Communist Manifesto that the laborer “sinks deeper and deeper” with the progress of industry. Like all Marx’s other arguments this demonstration is contradictory and self-defeating. Marx boasted of having discovered the immanent laws of capitalist evolution. The most important of these laws he considered the law of progressive impoverishment of the wage-earning masses. It is the operation of this law that brings about the final collapse of capitalism and the emergence of socialism.3 When this law is seen to be spurious, the foundation is pulled from under both Marx’s system of economics and his theory of capitalist evolution.”The whole chain of this reasoning is exploded by the establishment of the fact that the progress of capitalism does not pauperize the wage earners increasingly but on the contrary improves their standard of living.”

Incidentally we have to establish the fact that in capitalistic countries the standard of living of the wage earners has improved in an unprecedented and undreamt-of way since the publication of the Communist Manifesto and the first volume of Das Kapital. Marx misrepresented the operation of the capitalist system in every respect.

The corollary of the alleged progressive impoverishment of the wage earners is the concentration of all riches in the hands of a class of capitalist exploiters whose membership is continually shrinking. In dealing with this issue Marx failed to take into account the fact that the evolution of big business units does not necessarily involve the concentration of wealth in a few hands. The big business enterprises are almost without exception corporations, precisely because they are too big for single individuals to own them entirely. The growth of business units has far outstripped the growth of individual fortunes. The assets of a corporation are not identical with the wealth of its shareholders. A considerable part of these assets, the equivalent of preferred stock and bonds issued and of loans raised, belong virtually, if not in the sense of the legal concept of ownership, to other people, viz., to owners of bonds and preferred stock and to creditors. Where these securities are held by savings banks and insurance companies and these loans were granted by such banks and companies, the virtual owners are the people who have claims against them. Also the common stock of a corporation is as a rule not concentrated in the hands of one man. The bigger the corporation, as a rule, the more widely its shares are distributed.

Capitalism is essentially mass production to fill the needs of the masses. But Marx always labored under the deceptive conception that the workers are toiling for the sole benefit of an upper class of idle parasites. He did not see that the workers themselves consume by far the greater part of all the consumers’ goods turned out. The millionaires consume an almost negligible part of what is called the national product. All branches of big business cater directly or indirectly to the needs of the common man. The luxury industries never develop beyond small-scale or medium-size units. The evolution of big business is in itself proof of the fact that the masses and not the nabobs are the main consumers. Those who deal with the phenomenon of big business under the rubric “concentration of economic power” fail to realize that economic power is vested in the buying public on whose patronage the prosperity of the factories depends. In his capacity as buyer, the wage earner is the customer who is “always right.” But Marx declares that the bourgeoisie “is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery.”

Marx deduced the excellence of socialism from the fact that the driving force of historical evolution, the material productive forces, is bound to bring about socialism. As he was engrossed in the Hegelian brand of optimism, there was to his mind no further need to demonstrate the merits of socialism. It was obvious to him that socialism, being a later stage of history than capitalism, was also a better stage.4 It was sheer blasphemy to doubt its merits.

What was still left to show was the mechanism by means of which nature brings about the transition from capitalism to socialism. Nature’s instrument is the class struggle. As the workers sink deeper and deeper with the progress of capitalism, as their misery, oppression, slavery, and degradation increase, they are driven to revolt, and their rebellion establishes socialism.”The workers were never enthusiastic about socialism.”

The whole chain of this reasoning is exploded by the establishment of the fact that the progress of capitalism does not pauperize the wage earners increasingly but on the contrary improves their standard of living. Why should the masses be inevitably driven to revolt when they get more and better food, housing and clothing, cars and refrigerators, radio and television sets, nylon and other synthetic products? Even if, for the sake of argument, we were to admit that the workers are driven to rebellion, why should their revolutionary upheaval aim just at the establishment of socialism? The only motive which could induce them to ask for socialism would be the conviction that they themselves would fare better under socialism than under capitalism. But Marxists, anxious to avoid dealing with the economic problems of a socialist commonwealth, did nothing to demonstrate the superiority of socialism over capitalism apart from the circular reasoning that runs: Socialism is bound to come as the next stage of historical evolution. Being a later stage of history than capitalism, it is necessarily higher and better than capitalism. Why is it bound to come? Because the laborers, doomed to progressive impoverishment under capitalism, will rebel and establish socialism. But what other motive could impel them to aim at the establishment of socialism than the conviction that socialism is better than capitalism? And this pre-eminence of socialism is deduced by Marx from the fact that the coming of socialism is inevitable. The circle is closed.

In the context of the Marxian doctrine the superiority of socialism is proved by the fact that the proletarians are aiming at socialism. What the philosophers, the Utopians, think does not count. What matters is the ideas of the proletarians, the class that history has entrusted with the task of shaping the future.

The truth is that the concept of socialism did not originate from the “proletarian mind.” No proletarian or son of a proletarian contributed any substantial idea to the socialist ideology. The intellectual fathers of socialism were members of the intelligentsia, scions of the “bourgeoisie.” Marx himself was the son of a well-to-do lawyer. He attended a German Gymnasium, the school all Marxians and other socialists denounce as the main offshoot of the bourgeois system of education, and his family supported him through all the years of his studies; he did not work his way through the university. He married the daughter of a member of the German nobility; his brother-in-law was Prussian minister of the interior and as such head of the Prussian police. In his household served a maid, Helene Demuth, who never married and who followed the Marx ménage in all its shifts of residence, the perfect model of the exploited slavey whose frustration and stunted sex life have been repeatedly depicted in the German “social” novel. Friedrich Engels was the son of a wealthy manufacturer and himself a manufacturer; he refused to marry his mistress Mary because she was uneducated and of “low” descent;5 he enjoyed the amusements of the British gentry such as riding to hounds.

The workers were never enthusiastic about socialism. They supported the union movement whose striving after higher wages Marx despised as useless.6 They asked for all those measures of government interference with business which Marx branded petty-bourgeois nonsense. They opposed technological improvement, in earlier days by destroying new machines, later by union pressure and compulsion in favor of feather-bedding. Syndicalism — appropriation of the enterprises by the workers employed in them — is a program that the workers developed spontaneously. But socialism was brought to the masses by intellectuals of bourgeois background. Dining and wining together in the luxurious London homes and country seats of late Victorian “society,” ladies and gentlemen in fashionable evening clothes concocted schemes for converting the British proletarians to the socialist creed.

Ludwig von Mises:

Ludwig von Mises was the acknowledged leader of the Austrian school of economic thought, a prodigious originator in economic theory, and a prolific author. Mises’s writings and lectures encompassed economic theory, history, epistemology, government, and political philosophy. His contributions to economic theory include important clarifications on the quantity theory of money, the theory of the trade cycle, the integration of monetary theory with economic theory in general, and a demonstration that socialism must fail because it cannot solve the problem of economic calculation. Mises was the first scholar to recognize that economics is part of a larger science in human action, a science that he called praxeology.

Ayn Rand’s Philosophic Achievement (Part I)

Shortly after Ayn Rand’s death in March 1982, Harry Binswanger undertook the task of highlighting the historical significance of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. He did so by singling out six landmarks in her thought — “breakthroughs representing the major turning points in philosophy” — which, taken together, offered “a new view of the relationship of consciousness to existence.”

Originally published in The Objectivist ForumJune through December 1982, Binswanger’s article was written for an audience having a basic knowledge of Objectivism. It presents an essentialized view of what is new and important in the philosophy. (For a systematic presentation of Rand’s philosophy, see Leonard Peikoff’s 1991 book, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.) Binswanger’s essay is a celebration of Rand’s philosophical discoveries, and we are delighted to republish it in its entirety in New Ideal, making it more readily available to a new generation of readers.


Ayn Rand’s Philosophic Achievement

By Harry Binswanger

Ayn Rand’s achievement in philosophy is so immense that to do it justice in an article would take an Ayn Rand.

From “existence exists” to a new definition of Romanticism in art; from the theory of universals to the nature of self-esteem; from the role of the mind in production to the esthetics of music; from the metaphysical status of sensory qualities to the need for objective law — like a philosophical Midas, any area she touched turned to knowledge. And all this from a novelist, a novelist who found that to define her concept of an ideal man she had to answer basic philosophical questions, and that each answer she reached confirmed, strengthened, and added to her previous answers, until she had formulated an invincible philosophic system.

That system, Objectivism, has many distinctions: its originality, its independence of philosophic tradition, its integration — but these aspects become irrelevant in light of what is most distinctive about Ayn Rand’s philosophy: it is true.

One of the greatest and rarest of philosophic achievements is to add a valid concept to the language. Ayn Rand left us a whole vocabulary. She formed new concepts — e.g., “psycho-epistemology,” “sense of life,” “concept-stealing.” She took traditional terms, gave them rational definitions, and transformed them into the solid girders of her intellectual structure — e.g., “reason,” “essence,” “selfishness,” “rights,” “art.” Then there were the floating abstractions, the package-deals, and the anti-concepts (three more of her terms) that she demolished — e.g., “duty,” “extremism,” “the public interest.”

Blasting away false alternatives, she drew her own distinctions in terms of essentials: “the primacy of existence vs. the primacy of consciousness,” “the intrinsic and the subjective vs. the objective,” “the metaphysical vs. the man-made,” “selfishness vs. sacrifice,” “errors of knowledge vs. breaches of morality,” “economic power vs. political power.”

In an age that scorns consistency and integration, Ayn Rand created a unified, hierarchically ordered system. Consider, for example, her definition of capitalism: “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.”1 Supporting that definition is a theory of individual rights: “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.”2 Supporting that, in turn, is a theory of morality, of the nature of principles and their role in human life, of man’s nature, of freedom, and of society. And supporting each of these elements there are further principles — e.g., supporting her concept of freedom is the distinction between initiated and retaliatory physical force, the connection between voluntary action and free will, the relationship of free will to the law of causality, the basis of causality in the law of identity, and the relationship of the axiom of identity to the axiom of existence. Such is the power, and the glory, of Ayn Rand’s thought.

Words are the tools of thought. Today, when philosophers are staring blankly at these tools, while the best among them are trying to use saws as hammers and the average ones are “proving” that saws do not exist, Ayn Rand created the intellectual equivalents of the electron microscope and the computerized laser drill.

In the explosion of philosophical knowledge Ayn Rand produced, I would single out six landmarks — six breakthroughs representing the major turning points in philosophy:

  1. The primacy of existence
  2. The theory of concepts
  3. The theory of free will
  4. Man’s Life as the standard of morality
  5. The moral basis of individual rights
  6. The psycho-epistemology of art.

Unlike most philosophers, Ayn Rand was explicit about the starting point of her philosophy: the fact that “existence exists.”

“Existence exists — and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.”3

Ayn Rand was not the first philosopher to identify or uphold the fact of existence (that honor goes to the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides). But she was the first to recognize the relationship of consciousness to existence — i.e., that existence is the primary axiom of all knowledge and that consciousness can neither exist nor be identified except in relation to existence. As important as her immortal phrase “existence exists” is the simple clause at the end of the sentence, “consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.” Together they form the basis of the principle Ayn Rand named “the primacy of existence,” and which she contrasted to the fundamental error in every major system of the last three hundred years: “the primacy of consciousness.”

Descartes’ famous phrase “I think, therefore I am” marked the reversal which ripped all subsequent philosophy away from reality and from the actual problems of man’s life. Descartes was proposing, in effect, that one could know that one exists possessing consciousness prior to and independent of knowing that existence exists. But, to continue the passage from Galt’s Speech: “If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms.” This contradiction cannot be eluded by maintaining that what one is conscious of might always be the states or contents of one’s own consciousness. For, as Ayn Rand’s next sentence demonstrates, this merely pushes the same contradiction back one level: one’s own consciousness — of what? “A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something.”

Consciousness must precede self-consciousness. Ultimately, then, either man is conscious of reality, or he is not conscious. “If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.” 

And there you have the genius of Ayn Rand: a new foundation for philosophy, wiping out three centuries of error, contained in four sentences delivered by her fictional hero at the climax of the greatest novel in literature.

*  *  *

The primacy of existence provides the basis for Ayn Rand’s discoveries concerning the specifically human level of consciousness, the conceptual level, the level of reason.

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism,” she wrote, “but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”4 To summarize Ayn Rand’s view of reason is to summarize Objectivism.

Reason involves three factors: the senses, logic, and concepts. The metaphysical basis of logic (and the rules of deduction) was identified by Aristotle. The validity of the senses was established by Aristotle, elaborated by Thomas Aquinas, and fully clarified by Ayn Rand. But in the absence of an objective theory of concepts, the relation of reason to reality remained problematic. Until the “problem of universals” could be solved, reason lay vulnerable to the tricks and sophistries that centuries of mind-hating philosophers used against it. To defend reason and to understand it properly, this was the problem that had to be solved.

The challenge was perhaps best formulated by Antisthenes, a philosopher of Ancient Greece. In objection to someone who was discussing the nature of man, Antisthenes was reported to have said: “I have seen many men, but never have I seen man.” Neither Plato, nor Aristotle, nor any philosopher in the twenty-four centuries since Antisthenes, was able to answer him. The Aristotelians, for instance, held that the concept of “man” refers to the “manness” in men. But Antisthenes’ objection can then be re-stated: “I have seen many attributes of men, but never have I seen manness.” Other philosophers, such as Locke, suggested that “manness” refers to the characteristics that we do perceive in men: their shape, their color, their height, etc. But, again, these characteristics are always particular, never universal.

“To exemplify the issue as it is usually presented: When we refer to three persons as ‘men,’ what do we designate by that term? The three persons are three individuals who differ in every particular respect and may not possess a single identical characteristic (not even their fingerprints). If you list all their particular characteristics, you will not find one representing ‘manness.’ Where is the ‘manness’ in men? What, in reality, corresponds to the concept ‘man’ in our mind?”5

Ayn Rand’s solution to this problem cannot be presented briefly (her full presentation is given in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). But the key idea behind her solution is that concepts are based on observed similarities and differences, and that “similarity, in this context, is the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree.”6

The basis of concepts does not lie in any intrinsic “universal”; “manness” is not an element existing in men. But the metaphysical basis of concepts does lie in a fact of reality, the fact that similar concretes differ only quantitatively — only in their measurements. “The process of concept-formation consists of mentally isolating two or more existents by means of their distinguishing characteristic, and retaining this characteristic while omitting their particular measurements — on the principle that these measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity.”7

Thus Antisthenes’ objection is entirely misplaced. It assumes, as did the defenders of reason, that concepts are simply high-class percepts. But, in fact, “The relationship of concepts to their constituent particulars is the same as the relationship of algebraic symbols to numbers. In the equation 2a = a + a, any number may be substituted for the symbol ‘a’ without affecting the truth of the equation. For instance: 2 x 5 = 5 + 5, or: 2 x 5,000,000 = 5,000,000 + 5,000,000. In the same manner, by the same psycho-epistemological method, a concept is used as an algebraic symbol that stands for any of the arithmetical sequence of units it subsumes. Let those who attempt to invalidate concepts by declaring that they cannot find ‘manness’ in men, try to invalidate algebra by declaring that they cannot find ‘a-ness’ in 5 or in 5,000,000.”8

The foregoing is the basis of Ayn Rand’s defense of reason in epistemology; equally important is her view concerning the role of reason in human existence. The starting point here is another of Miss Rand’s major discoveries, one that stands at the center of her view of man: reason is volitional.

“That which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.”9 There are two points here: 1) man’s choice to exercise his rational faculty is not necessitated by any prior cause, and 2) reason is the prime mover in man’s life: the other aspects of his existence — his ideas, values, actions, and emotions — depend upon the extent to which he is rational or irrational.

The latter point involves one of Ayn Rand’s most important identifications: “your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind.”10 The belief that emotions are irreducible primaries at war with one’s rational judgment is a major source of the mystics’ mind-body dichotomy (see, for example, Plato’s Republic.11) By showing that one’s emotions result from one’s premises, and that these premises are the automatized products of one’s use (or misuse) of reason, Ayn Rand knocked a major prop out from under the mind-body dichotomy. “An emotion that clashes with your reason, an emotion that you cannot explain or control, is only the carcass of that stale thinking which you forbade your mind to revise.”12

Building upon the work of Aristotle, Ayn Rand’s concept of reason as the fundamental of man’s nature underlies her defense of man as an integrated being of mind and body, whose reason and emotion can be in perfect accord. “There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions — provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows — or makes it a point to discover — the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. . . . His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind.”13

Ayn Rand went on to explain the basic psychological form in which man confronts the choice to think or not: the choice to focus his mind or not. “Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality — or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.”14

Consider the significance of this discovery: it gives man conscious control over that which controls his life. Although every normal adult knows how to focus his mind, no one, until Ayn Rand, had grasped explicitly that that was what he was doing, that it is his basic choice, and that its significance is life or death. As with the fact that existence exists, men were aware of mental focus implicitly, but: “That which is merely implicit is not in men’s conscious control; they can lose it . . . without knowing what it is that they are losing or when or why.”15

Ayn Rand saw man as a heroic being. Her theory of free will makes that view of man possible. The concept of “heroism” would be inapplicable to a being whose mind was run by forces beyond his control. A robot cannot be heroic. Only a being who can exercise rational control over his character and actions is capable of heroism. Only “a being of self-made soul” is capable of self-esteem.

The link between Ayn Rand’s view of reason and her ethics, politics, and esthetics is the fact that reason is man’s means of survival. The key to all the rest of Objectivism is one connection: in order to survive, man must choose to think.

“Man cannot survive, as animals do, by the guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as ‘hunger’), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous. He cannot provide for his simplest physical needs without a process of thought. . . . No percepts and no ‘instincts’ will tell him how to light a fire, how to weave cloth, how to forge tools, how to produce an electric light bulb or an electronic tube or a cyclotron or a box of matches. Yet his life depends on such knowledge — and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide it.”16

This leads directly to the basis of morality. Morality “is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions — the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life.”

Harry Binswanger, The Objectivist Forum and New Ideal

Hatred of Western Civilization: Why Terrorists Attacked America

Originally published on September 20th, 2001–To the students of Ashland University: university teachers have wide latitude in their choice and presentation of subjects. In America university courses have been presented about Black Hair, Oprah Winfrey, and the Social Life of Snails. I see no reason why I should not offer a statement in this class, followed by discussion, about the momentous events of yesterday.

On September 11, 2001 America was attacked. What happened in New York was not a criminal act. It was an act of war. It is wrong to call it criminal activity, or to treat it as a criminal matter. It is wrong to consider it as a matter in which the people responsible must be arrested, brought before a judge and tried. This is war. The attackers must be destroyed.

Why is it not a criminal act? First, the scale of the slaughter is far beyond criminal activity. The number of people killed may rise to 5 or 10 times the number killed at Pearl Harbor. Second, it had no “criminal” motive: i.e., robbery, or passion against an individual. But most important, the resources required to carry out the attack, especially training given the pilots, were on the scale of that available only to governments.

The moral, political, economic, and religious support necessary for these attacks have been provided over the past 25 years by specific governments in the Middle East. Those governments wish to destroy the Great Satan: America, freedom, achievement, trade, values, reason. This is a war against America, her core values, and the prosperity that has followed from our pursuit of those values. The enemy is first and foremost any government who supports the active opponents of those values. This is the material fact that we must face.

The particular people involved in the particular acts of war of Sep 11 are not the reason for retaliation. The purpose is not to “punish” those who have started this war. Punishment is not a concept that applies here. We did not punish the pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor-we destroyed the government of Japan, and imposed a constitutional government that has benefited everyone (most of all the Japanese) ever since.

We must not fall into agnosticism over this issue. The governments and leaders who have supported terrorism for years are well-known. The precision with which they are known is more than sufficient to place blame. We know who they are, and no further research is needed. Every such government must be removed from power, now, as a matter of our own personal, and immediate, physical safety. This should be the purpose, and the only purpose, of our response to this attack.

So the first question is, how do we seize the initiative in this war, to make us, and freedom, safe again? Note that the question is not how to bring “disenfranchised peoples” back into the world community, and neither is it to correct the alleged cultural deformities that are supposed to have lead terrorists to kill us. The issue is not how to resolve the Middle East problem, or to find a homeland for one group or another. We hold no such responsibilities to our enemies or their children.

I repeat. The first question is how to protect ourselves, and, coincidently, others who value freedom, from such attacks. Our self-protection must be our first, and only, motive. It is an end in itself.

I will be specific here. What is needed is an all-out immediate attack, nuclear if necessary, on targets chosen by the US. 24 hours notice should then be given to the governments of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Libya, that they are to resign their political positions now or face more of the same tomorrow. Arafat must be told that the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Jihad are to be turned over to us now, or he faces annihilation, in the form decided on by us.

If destruction follows it is their fault, not ours. They started it. They evidently wish it. If babies are killed it is because they hide behind them. We didn’t start this war-they did, by arming, training, protecting and sanctioning the attackers who killed innocent Americans.

Further, the US should not ask permission of anyone about this. In my opinion it is actually vital that such permissions not be asked. Our actions must be unilateral. EVERY government, friend and foe, must know that an attack on America will be followed by retaliation: inevitably, always, everywhere, regardless of what they think.

Our retaliation must take on the status of natural justice, as a law of nature, inescapable across time and space. Throw a stone into the air and it falls. A flash of lightning is followed by thunder. Touch a hot stove and you get burned. Touch an American, and fire falls out of the sky onto you and anyone who breathes the same air as you. It must become political suicide for any government to offer aid to an open enemy of the US. It is time for them to become afraid.

After we are safe from state-sponsored terrorism, and after the world understands that American soil cannot be violated without massive destruction of anyone even remotely connected with it, then the exact investigations can be made of who in particular manned this particular attack. But the agnosticism involved in the idea that we must study the wreckage for months to determine who is responsible is mind-crippling. It is also a massive evasion. International terrorism has been supported for years by a series of governments. It is long past the time that they be made to pay for their actions.

Now, given these material requirements for our survival, we must face the intellectual nature of this war. The fact is that the Islamic Jihad is only one part of a concerted attack on western values, principally our capacity for reason and our desire to live. Our enemies are not only foreign-they live amongst us. To understand this we must understand what our attackers actually want, and who they are.

The attackers hate the West because the West brings prosperity.

Make no mistake, it is not that they want the prosperity that has been supposedly denied to them. This argument is a Marxist construct, designed to support the view that the economic oppression of the Middle East caused the present crisis. This argument is itself an attack on the US. In fact the Arab states are swimming in oil revenues, produced by the western oil industry, and their leaders are among the richest people on earth. Let them work to establish a pro-achievement business climate, and start businesses to employ their people. Let them give their own wealth away, if they think that is the answer. But they do not value prosperity.

They have the same attitude towards freedom. There has never been a revolution in a Middle-Eastern country in favor of a constitutional republic that protects the rights of its citizens. If the people lack freedom it is because their government recognizes no individual rights. Let their governments establish these principles rather than military coups. And, I’ll add, if many people there do want freedom, what better can we do for them than to remove the source of their slavery? Their interests are identical with ours: the destruction of their governments, and the establishment of rights-protecting constitutional republics.

But the killers are not of this mind. What they rather want is for the West to lose its freedoms, and its values. They want Israel to be driven into the sea in order to allow warring tribes to return to what was, before Israel, a desert wasteland. They want the towers of New York to fall, to be replaced by muck and Dark Ages incantations. They destroyed 2000 year-old statues in Afghanistan in order to destroy the value that is art. Nihilism, the desire to destroy, is why the enemies of freedom fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up with dynamite.

At root, their desire for religious rapture in a paradise attained by mass destruction is a desire to lose the most important value of all, their own lives. Their hatred of the West is not based on jealousy but on hatred of the good because it is good. Their claim that Western culture is evil is based on their view that freedom, productiveness, achievement, reason and happiness are evil. What they want instead is the nothing, das Nichts, that is death. This is why they fly with gay abandon into the inferno-to attain a zero, for their victims and themselves.

Of course they recognize, on some level, that the material products of the West are good, since they use the products of freedom in order to destroy the products of freedom. But this shows only that they use these products-they do not value them, and they do not value those who produce them. They much prefer nothing.

They are not alone in this preference.

Their use of values to destroy values is a method that has been accepted by a series of anti-capitalists, anti-reason thugs across the globe. The Unabomber used transcontinental industries, computerized delivery services, and communication systems to build and deliver his bombs, and to publish his anti-industrial manifesto. An anti-industrial environmental protester used a mobile phone while sitting in a Redwood tree in California. An anti-capitalist protester in England co-ordinated his troops with digital text pagers. The Arab countries nationalized American and English oil industries after they had been produced, and use the money to destroy the values that made the revenues possible. And now hijackers steal transcontinental jets and turn them into missiles, in order to destroy the values and the people that produced the jet.

These people use the same method because they have the same goal: to reduce our present civilization to the level of pre-civilization, as an end in itself.

Observe how they agree. The present life expectancy in Afghanistan is 42-almost to the prehistoric ideal of the anti-technology “deep ecologists.” A motto of one environmentalist group, I remind you, is “Back to the Pleistocene.” Afghanistan has no technology-the ideal of the Unabomber. It has no businesses-the ideal of the anti-capitalists. It has rejected reason-the ideal of anti-reason professors. In these terms Afghanistan is not lacking in development-it is at the pinnacle of human aspirations.

Morally there is no difference between an environmentalist who bans DDT at the price of millions of malaria deaths, the Unabomber who selects his victims personally, the anarchist who smashes store windows and dreams of smashing structural steel, and a terrorist who rides a passenger plane into the World Trade Center. Each glories in destruction for its own sake, and each advocates death as the epitome of that destruction. It is no accident that they are all defined in terms of “anti-something.” Nothing is the aim, and the goal, of all of them. They are brothers-in-arms. Now you see the scope of the battle that America faces.

So what do we do about this? Intellectually what we must do is state an idea: that western civilization is moral because it is good. We have a right to exist, and a right to defend ourselves. The purpose and motive of western civilization is life, the exact opposite of the death-worship seen in nihilists of all stripes. Ours is the morality of life and theirs the morality of death.

Once this statement is made, and the basic rights of each person to engage in such work and to trade with others is made clear, then the way will be cleared to respond to the killers of Sep 11. The essence here is to protect those of us who value life, by granting their own wish to those who do not.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century American stands at a cross-roads. The choice we have was created, in part, by our past errors. If, when the Lockerbie airline bomber killed so many in the early 1980’s, America had presented an ultimatum to Libya backed by force, instead of begging for co-operation, it is doubtful that any government would have allowed itself to be associated with training the Sep 11 killers. The attack, and the present war, might have been avoided.

If, when a professor maintained that reason was a mere western prejudice, his students had dropped his classes and demanded his resignation, then the very idea that life, reason and freedom should negotiate with death, mysticism and slavery would be exposed and rejected.

If, when you are offered so-called “music” by anti-capitalist, anti-reason bums who chant of killing cops and blowing up buildings, you refuse to buy those albums, and you speak out against them, the so-called “artists” will receive neither stardom nor fortune. They will slither back under the rocks they crawled out of, and music companies will change their programming.

To straighten out the political and intellectual mess we face today we must re-affirm our commitment to reason and freedom, and their purpose, life, by protecting ourselves from killers, foreign and domestic, physical and intellectual. And we must do it because we are good.

John David Lewis

First published in Capitalism Magazine on September 20, 2001.

China’s Dark Turn Away From Capitalism and Freedom

“I’m more anti-China than you!”

That’s a new theme of this election.

Joe Biden says, “We will never again be at the mercy of China!” Donald Trump replies, “China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected!”

It’s strange to hear competition, because just a few administrations ago, presidents were eager to celebrate China. “A future of greater trade and growth and human dignity is possible!” said George W. Bush. Bill Clinton praised China’s “positive change” and “great progress.”

What changed? That’s the subject of my new video, “China’s Dark Turn.”

Presidents Clinton and Bush were excited about China because its dictators had finally opened up China’s economy. They got rid of price controls, broke up collective farms, allowed foreign investment, and privatized state-run business. China, suddenly, prospered.

“People were so happy to finally see China being set on this path,” says Melissa Chen, who reports on China for the Spectator. The reforms “lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty for the very first time.”

Then, three years ago, Xi Jinping got himself named president for life.

He cracked down on speech, even jokes. After someone noted his resemblance to Winnie the Pooh, all mentions of the character were deleted from China’s internet.

I had thought the internet couldn’t be censored. Bill Clinton said it would be like “trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.”

“The Chinese figured out how to nail Jell-O to the wall,” says Chen. “They built an almost perfectly walled-in internet.”

China does this by employing a million censors. They block Google, Facebook, Twitter and most Western news media. A few computer-savvy Chinese citizens use forbidden apps to get around the censorship, but most don’t get to see the same internet that we see.

People caught accessing banned sites are punished. Police may barge into your home, threaten your family or just restrict your choices.

“You can’t make doctor’s appointments,” explains Chen. “You can’t travel… they’ll block you from buying a train ticket or a plane ticket.”

Life is far worse for religious minorities such as the Muslim Uighurs. The government is waging cultural genocide against them.

About a million Uighurs are locked up in “reeducation” camps, “sometimes for years,” says Chen. “Their family never hears back from them.”

China won’t allow reporters near the camps, but drone footage shows rows of blindfolded people with their heads shaved and their hands tied behind their backs.

Radio Free Asia adds that China’s “reeducation” methods even include having Chinese men replace the Uighur men in families. They “come in and live with a family (and) sleep in the same bed as the wife,” says Chen.

In short, today’s China is, once again, a vicious communist dictatorship.

So, I’m amazed to watch American protesters and hear them say, “America is the world’s biggest problem.”

Even a recent New York Times editorial board member wrote that it was difficult to know whether the United States is “better, worse, or the same” as China.

That equivalence is “bonkers,” replies Chen. “There should be no doubt about the moral equivalence between the two countries.”

For one thing, we Americans are free to criticize our government.

“You can hold up a sign at a protest, saying, ‘Screw Donald Trump; the United States sucks!’” explains Chen. “You cannot do anything remotely similar in China.”

People in Hong Kong tried. Millions attended protests, often waving American flags. Chen says it shows they “have a hankering for American values. They crave this freedom that we take for granted.”

Now they, too, have been silenced by China’s government.

The American protesters who carry “democratic socialism” banners and wave Communist flags (Soviet Communists used to call people like them “useful idiots”) should know what people in Hong Kong know: Socialism leads to real government oppression.

“Why would Americans want this?” asks Chen. “Why would they be waving these Communist flags, wanting socialism?”

Presidents Clinton and Bush were excited about China because its dictators had finally opened up China’s economy. They got rid of price controls, broke up collective farms, allowed foreign investment, and privatized state-run business. China, suddenly, prospered.

“People were so happy to finally see China being set on this path,” says Melissa Chen, who reports on China for the Spectator. The reforms “lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty for the very first time.”

Then, three years ago, Xi Jinping got himself named president for life.

He cracked down on speech, even jokes. After someone noted his resemblance to Winnie the Pooh, all mentions of the character were deleted from China’s internet.

I had thought the internet couldn’t be censored. Bill Clinton said it would be like “trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.”

“The Chinese figured out how to nail Jell-O to the wall,” says Chen. “They built an almost perfectly walled-in internet.”

China does this by employing a million censors. They block Google, Facebook, Twitter and most Western news media. A few computer-savvy Chinese citizens use forbidden apps to get around the censorship, but most don’t get to see the same internet that we see.

People caught accessing banned sites are punished. Police may barge into your home, threaten your family or just restrict your choices.

“You can’t make doctor’s appointments,” explains Chen. “You can’t travel… they’ll block you from buying a train ticket or a plane ticket.”

Life is far worse for religious minorities such as the Muslim Uighurs. The government is waging cultural genocide against them.

About a million Uighurs are locked up in “reeducation” camps, “sometimes for years,” says Chen. “Their family never hears back from them.”

China won’t allow reporters near the camps, but drone footage shows rows of blindfolded people with their heads shaved and their hands tied behind their backs.

Radio Free Asia adds that China’s “reeducation” methods even include having Chinese men replace the Uighur men in families. They “come in and live with a family (and) sleep in the same bed as the wife,” says Chen.

In short, today’s China is, once again, a vicious communist dictatorship.

So, I’m amazed to watch American protesters and hear them say, “America is the world’s biggest problem.”

Even a recent New York Times editorial board member wrote that it was difficult to know whether the United States is “better, worse, or the same” as China.

That equivalence is “bonkers,” replies Chen. “There should be no doubt about the moral equivalence between the two countries.”

For one thing, we Americans are free to criticize our government.

“You can hold up a sign at a protest, saying, ‘Screw Donald Trump; the United States sucks!’” explains Chen. “You cannot do anything remotely similar in China.”

People in Hong Kong tried. Millions attended protests, often waving American flags. Chen says it shows they “have a hankering for American values. They crave this freedom that we take for granted.”

Now they, too, have been silenced by China’s government.

The American protesters who carry “democratic socialism” banners and wave Communist flags (Soviet Communists used to call people like them “useful idiots”) should know what people in Hong Kong know: Socialism leads to real government oppression.

“Why would Americans want this?” asks Chen. “Why would they be waving these Communist flags, wanting socialism?”

John Stossel, Capitalism Magazine

The Virtuous Circle of Profits and People

During the pandemic, anti-business activists are doubling their efforts to advocate against the alleged evils of capitalism: greedy corporations exploiting the situation to enrich their shareholders while millions are suffering from COVID-19 and over a million have died of it. The activists accuse corporations of “putting profits before people” and increasing inequality in the world.

Take the case of Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical giant, and frontrunner in developing a vaccine against COVID-19. Its success, and size, has drawn the ire of People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of activist organizations, spearheaded by the NGO Oxfam. The PVA has called on all vaccine developers to sign a pledge to give up their patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, to make these available and more affordable in poor countries. The PVA is urging Big Pharma to “put people before profits” to help reduce global inequality.

What the anti-business, global-equality activists of the PVA fail to recognize is the crucial role of business in society. They are also mistaken about the alleged conflict between “profits” and “people” and the alleged immorality of economic inequality. It is their demands of the pharmaceutical companies that are immoral: if complied with, they would destroy profits and harm people.

Business plays a crucial role in society as the producer and trader of the material values on which our lives depend. Without competing private businesses and if left to the government, the development, production, and market distribution of vaccines, diagnostics (see my post on the South-Korean biotech company Seegene’s COVID-19 test here), and treatments for COVID-19 would take much longer and have less chance of success. (It is not hard to find examples of centrally planned economies like the former Soviet Union and East Germany failing to produce material values that people in freer economies take for granted).

It’s mistaken to think that pursuing profits harms people. Profit-seeking by business does not harm but rather benefits people, beyond its owners.

The opportunity to make profits spurs companies to invest in developing products with high potential demand. If such demand materializes, the companies earn a profit—which they can invest in further product development. If the companies sustain profitability, the value of their shares increases, allowing them to perpetuate a virtuous circle of developing better products and earning higher profits.

Such a strong performance also allows companies’ owners to invest their increased wealth in other projects and companies. This expands the virtuous circle of better (higher-quality, lower-priced) products that not only yields profits for the owners but benefits consumers as well as workers through the creation of more job opportunities.

Sustained profitability and share price appreciation, such as achieved by Pfizer and the South-Korean Seegene, do create economic inequality. Companies that create products—such as life-saving diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments—that others value and are willing to pay for, will make their owners wealthier.  But economic inequality based on the production of material values does not make anyone worse off. On the contrary, the wealth of business owners benefits consumers in the form of better, less expensive products, workers in the form of more job opportunities, and suppliers in the form of more business.

Making profits on a sustained, long-term basis is only possible by creating valuable products that people are willing to pay more for than what it costs companies to produce them. To achieve such a feat, companies must invest in research and development to come up with better products at a lower cost than their competitors. Pfizer, for example, has invested at least $1.5 billion to develop its COVID-19 vaccine. It has refused to take any government funding for it, although it has agreed to sell $2 billion worth of the vaccine to the U.S. government as part of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.

Pfizer and other vaccine developers investing their own money deserve to profit from their vaccines. The vaccines and the patents protecting them are the property of these companies. Trying to cajole them to give up their patents for free to poor countries is immoral. Not only would giving up their patents constitute self-sacrifice of the companies’ owners; it would also harm the intended recipients of the sacrifice, the people getting the vaccine for free.

Who would have the financial resources, or an incentive, to develop vaccines, treatments, or diagnostics when the next pandemic comes along, or cures for existing diseases? Pharmaceutical companies should not be made to sacrifice their deserved profits. They should be thanked for what they do. Profits benefit people.If you found value from this article please share it on social media.

BY JAANA WOICESHYN | NOV 17, 2020 | Capitalism Magazine

Ayn Rand on Emotions

Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

But while the standard of value operating the physical pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body—the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism, is not. Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.

But since the work of man’s mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

–Ayn Rand, excerpted from “The Virtue of Selfishness”

Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotionswhich are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values.

–Ayn Rand, from “Philosophy, Who Needs It”

An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others.

–Ayn Rand, Playboy Interview, March 1964

An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality, beyond the fact that something makes you feel something. Without a ruthlessly honest commitment to introspection—to the conceptual identification of your inner states—you will not discover what you feel, what arouses the feeling, and whether your feeling is an appropriate response to the facts of reality, or a mistaken response, or a vicious illusion produced by years of self-deception . . . .

In the field of introspection, the two guiding questions are: “What do I feel?” and “Why do I feel it?”

–Ayn Rand, from “Philosophy, Who Needs It”

Emotions are not tools of cognition . . . one must differentiate between one’s thoughts and one’s emotions with full clarity and precision. One does not have to be omniscient in order to possess knowledge; one merely has to know that which one does know, and distinguish it from that which one feels. Nor does one need a full system of philosophical epistemology in order to distinguish one’s own considered judgment from one’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

–Ayn Rand, from “For the New Intellectual”

Why the Democrats Lost and Will Continue to Lose Elections

Why, Democrats have been asking, do so many poor white people vote for a Republican Party that doesn’t care about or do anything for them? The most common reply is: Democrats are snobby coastal elites who talk down to them. Classic example courtesy of former President Barack Obama, who said of voters in the Rust Belt: “They get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Democrats know their arrogance pisses off the working-class whites they need to win national elections. Yet they persist.

Every day sees some op-ed Ivy-educated columnist opining that voting for Donald Trump means you’re a Klansman and another Democratic National Committee-fed talking head pontificating about the masklessness at the president’s rallies with the bloated tone of a Roman tribune announcing stunning news that no one had ever heard before.

Now the Democrats are at it again, setting the stage for yet another surprise loss. Because, yes, they just lost again. When you expect a “blue wave”; when you’re running against a president who lost hundreds of thousands of citizens and tens of millions of jobs the year of the election ; when you expected to pick up tons of seats in the House and take back the Senate and none of that happens and you just barely win the presidency in a squeaker, you basically got your butt kicked.

Humility is in order. But it’s not on the menu.

“You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth … you ushered in a new day for America,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris told attendees at her victory party. And the 73 million Americans who voted for Trump? By inference, they must have voted for hopelessness and division, indecency, superstition and, yes, lies.

Biden had a similar message in his last pre-election closer. “This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the last four years behind us,” Biden said. “To choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction. I believe it’s time to unite the country, to come together as a nation.” Biden won. But 73 million people voted for those “dark, angry politics of the last four years.” Those voters thought Trump offered them more hope than Biden. They didn’t want to unify under the Democrats.

We all have to live together in one country until there’s a second Civil War. We don’t have to think the same or look the same. But in order to function as a society, we do have to understand one another. Liberals do not get Republicans or understand where they’re coming from. They don’t even care. Until that attitude changes, Democrats will keep losing elections they ought to have won and will find it impossible to achieve tolerance from half the populace, much less consensus.

I’m a leftist. But I called the 2016 election for Trump early that year, not because I’m smart but because I’m from Dayton, Ohio. I watched my hometown devolve from an industrial powerhouse into a Rust Belt hellscape that eventually became ground zero for hopelessness and urban decay in the national opioid epidemic. International competition was inevitable. But deindustrialization powered by job-killing free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization was federal policy dreamed up by Republicans and enacted into legislation by Democrats like former President Bill Clinton — and that’s how American politicians killed places like Dayton in the industrial Midwest and across the country.

My blood boiled when Democrats admitted that NAFTA would kill American jobs but, hey, new jobs in Mexico would open new markets for American goods. Such an idiotic argument. After the factories closed in America, who would sell stuff to Mexico? China. But my rage paled next to those of men and women who lost six-figure salaries and wound up working as Walmart greeters — all because Democrats like Clinton were funded by contributions from corporations that wanted to sell to American consumers without hiring American workers in order to fatten their profits.

Years passed. More factories shut down. The long-term unemployed went on disability. Those who could find jobs worked for tiny fractions of their previous pay. Tax revenues shrunk. Infrastructure crumbled. Cities entered their death spirals.

No one cared except the people who lived there.

Deindustrialization never became a political issue. Republicans and Democrats agreed that free trade was a good thing. The New York-based press ignored the rot and the misery in the country’s heartland. Only two politicians on the national scene acknowledged it: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. After the Democrats kneecapped Sanders, that left Trump as the only candidate who understood that the part of America that let working people send their kids to college had been pretty great but no longer was. He didn’t offer a credible reindustrialization policy. As president, he didn’t do much beyond provoke a trade war with China to address the issue. But he acknowledged the Rust Belt, and for the people who lived there so long, ignored and dismissed and derided, that was enough.

Democrats still don’t get it.

Ted Rall, UNZ