Objectivist Goose-Stepping

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No one except perhaps cave-dwellers can fully ignore the atrocious elements of fascism in America (not to mention communism). Clips on YouTube and other websites document rights-violations committed by government's employees on a daily basis. Fortunately, in concert with the growing grass-roots of liberty-lovers who comprise the "Ron Paul rEVOLution," some are directly challenging and educating us about ongoing statist aggressions.

Governmental power grabs in the name of "security" have become commonplace. Bad ideas about the nature of government give rise to such actions. Bad ideas essentially foster a society that tolerates tyranny. Rationalizing bad ideas and bad behavior is the oldest game in the book of governmental power. The trick is to convince people that certain things aren't bad for them, but are rather for their own good'especially when it comes to the safety of their community or "homeland." Whether or not people are fully convinced by the relentless propaganda in these matters, real or ideological goose-stepping typically follows. Wikipedia has an interesting quotation by George Orwell about goose-stepping:

[Goose-Stepping] is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is 'Yes, I am ugly, and you daren't laugh at me', like the bully who makes faces at his victim . . . . Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army.

Goose-stepping is of course best done with the right frame of mind. First, one must empty it of logical thought. Then, one must march, literally or ideologically, to whatever fuels one's emotions. Needless to say, a terrorist attack on American soil can serve as a potent marching fuel. What better way to demonstrate that "Islamofascists" are hell bent on destruction of our lives and property than a band of them killing approximately 3,000 Americans on 9/11/2001 ?

With this in mind, the intellectuals at the Ayn Rand Institute ( ARI ) desire to take us to the land of rationality, freedom, peace, prosperity, and respect for individual rights. However, in order to do this, they apparently believe it's necessary to compromise some principles. Namely, we must use the tools of the State to conquer our enemies, those radical mystics who hate us, the fellows at ARI allege, solely because of our freedoms (stemming from our enlightened Western worldview). "We" must wage war on "them" in an unrelenting fashion, disregarding any collateral damage (e.g., civilian casualties), because "we" are moral and "they" are evil. This is no laughing matter, after all.

The "we" here is used (wittingly or not) to conflate all Americans with the actions of the U.S. government, its military, and its more clandestine and even more unaccountable coercive organizations such as the CIA , NSA, DHS, ICE, FBI, etc. The ARI fellows believe that the U.S. government shouldn't appease other countries by apologizing for its assertions of power in the Middle East ; it shouldn't make concessions; it shouldn't be diplomatic; it shouldn't lose face; and, it shouldn't cut and run. They also believe that even though "we" shouldn't be in Iraq , "we" should fight to "win," nevertheless. Additionally, the U.S. government shouldn't be "selfless" by trying to institute freedom or democracy or stability in the Middle East (in contrast to what warmonger-for-freedom Dinesh D'Souza advocated at Freedom Fest 2007 in Las Vegas ). Nope, the fellows at ARI see such policies as self-sacrificial. Rather, "we" must destroy the enemies of reason, egoism, and individualism who threaten us until they're all wiped off the planet, or until they so tremble in fear at the mere mention of " America " that they wouldn't even think about being aggressive. (Curiously, war-mongering intellectuals seldom practice exactly what they preach. Given what they've helped sow and reap lately, it's little surprise that being air-dropped into Baghdad to do patrol for a year isn't on their things-to-do-for-liberty list.)

These are the ideas I heard during ARI 's public lecture at the Hilton in Costa Mesa , CA on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Instead of rational arguments, I heard arguments for preemptive strikes and collective punishment of entire countries of people. ARI member Elan Journo began his speech, titled "The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists," by setting the historical context of terrorism. Where did he start? In 1979 with the taking of the hostages in Tehran , Iran . He then proceeded to catalog the various terrorist attacks since then on military personnel and civilians. The idea of foreign policy blowback was conspicuously absent from his talk. While the fellows at ARI declare U.S. military actions overseas to be misguided, apparently they also believe that no one abroad ought to complain about them, let alone violently resist them, because they're mostly done to "help" others, i.e., for supposed altruistic purposes.

Similarly, not a disparaging word was uttered by Journo about the Israeli government's rights-violating actions over the years (apparently people in Palestine are always to blame). Further, he offered no discussion of or critical reflection on the past operations of the CIA in Iran , let alone elsewhere, and no acknowledgment of his audience members' (and Middle Easterners') capacity to recall such things. It seems that in ARI 's world, neither the government of Israel nor the government of the United States plays an indictable role in the increase in terrorism and Middle Eastern conflicts (other than the two governments' militarily weak, or "selfless," policies of course). Another sizable tidbit Journo left out was the fact that terrorism mainly began in Sri Lanka , courtesy of the Tamil Tigers, which a statist-oriented source reiterates.

Just as troubling was how much Journo appealed to emotions throughout his speech, seemingly encouraging audience members to quench their thirst with a toxic brand of jingoistic Kool-Aid. According to views expressed by Journo and Yaron Brook ( ARI 's director) in the Q&A, every American supposedly has an Islamofascist's gun to their head, and the practical response is to use the U.S. government's tax-and-Federal Reserve Bank-funded military to destroy those who threaten " America ." This of course translates into anyone who currently threatens the U.S. government's foreign escapades and related corporate interests. In response to my question, both Brook and Journo asserted that the end (our safety) justifies a rights-violating means ( U.S. governmental actions). In other words, the ARI fellows apparently believe that the practical and the moral need not be aligned when our lives and safety are at stake'which openly flouts Ayn Rand's cogent expositions about the moral being the practical and vice versa. This must be done in order to achieve security for Americans. Even though the ARI fellows, if pressed, would contend that their ideal form of government must be voluntarily funded ( Rand 's version of laissez-faire capitalism), such a government supposedly isn't practical for their policies at this juncture.

Dying To Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism is one of the many things the ARI scholars should have put on their homework list (as well as this and this) before they attempted to give any sort of history lesson on terrorism. As mentioned, because they believe that terrorists are motivated by no political grievances, but rather by their sheer lust to impose Sharia or death upon all of us, how could the fellows at ARI ever analyze the facts and be objective? By trying to meld an ethics of rational self-interest (egoism) and psychology of self-esteem (self-confidence and self-respect) with the premises of collectivism and statism, they've clearly rendered their particular Taggart Transcontinental locomotive unfit for traveling on a logical track Rearden metal.

Yet Rearden metal has substantive problems too. The political branch of Objectivism, as Ayn Rand devised it, entertains a sizable contradiction. It holds that a monopolistic organization of people called government is necessary to protect everyone within its coercively and arbitrarily imposed boundaries. Therefore, in Objectivism, government is viewed as an institution that is, or at least can or should be, efficacious'despite all evidence and logic to the contrary.

While Objectivism's ethical branch extols a moral code based on rational self-interest, individualism, and happiness according to objective values and virtues, its political branch harbors the ideas of collectivism and statism. Thus, we witness attempts by ARI 's fellows and their supporters to justify actions of people in government by appealing to absurd abstractions such as national "self-interest." Instead of noticing their essential conflict in these matters, they continue to sanction and promote the coercive behavior of those working for the State'and thereby drop the context of self-interest, individualism, and happiness, in addition to reason and objective reality.

Instead of strictly denouncing taxation and the welfare/warfare State, and by extension its ridiculous military structure, based on Objectivism's principles of reason and individualism'and individualism's historical and societal roots in America'the fellows at ARI utilize the currently hegemonic, neoconned political climate and the psychological aftermath of 9/11 in a way that rivals the mainstream media (some of the corporate heads of which are conveniently on the boards of various defense contractors). Truthiness has replaced logic to understand war and the elements of statism and collectivism that give rise to it. We're now in mortal danger, they implore, and government's responsibility is to protect us (regardless of its horrific track record on that account). According to what can be gleaned from ARI fellows' various assertions and retorts in these matters, anybody who believes otherwise is living in the land of Oz (reflecting a choice debate tactic of Bill O'Reilly).

From their admonitions, similar to politicians who continue to exploit 9/11, you'd think that terrorists had been attacking us on a frequent basis here in America . But even if that were the case, it still wouldn't justify the United States ' military and all those alphabet soup coercive agencies taking action'for, in the process of making us "safe," they would assuredly kill and maim many more thousands of innocent people, further damage the American economy, and violate what's left of our liberties. Some good ol' Randian premise-checking definitely clarifies this issue.

History and the current state of political affairs demonstrate that we should know better than to fall for the rhetoric of "freedom and security," essentially empty promises of a future in which our families and friends are protected from evildoers by employees of government (and their tax-fed contractors). After all, governmental "officials" are fellow flesh-and-blood human beings. But that's only a small part of the problem. Instead of relying on profits and reputation as proper feedback about their supposed protection services, employees of government "legally" use coercive power to tax and regulate people, for the so-called common good. They can't save us from the dangers that they themselves have created.

Instead of understanding the nature of terrorism, as well as the nature of liberty, the State's employees and those who support them engage in endless programs and policies to systematically control people and destroy their freedoms whenever such actions serve their interests (i.e., whenever people in general tolerate such actions). For instance, the Israeli government (with help) builds a bigger, stronger police State and a system of checkpoints and walls to supposedly obstruct potential terrorists. The U.S. government is in the rights-violating process of building a wall too, ostensibly to keep all us freedom-loving people in and all those law-breaking people out'in concert with a police State to keep track of all potential wrongdoers, i.e., each and every person who seeks to move freely.

It's crucial that Americans and everyone else who cares about freedom recognize the profound distinction between a voluntarily funded militia that's organized ad hoc to retaliate effectively and efficiently against a cabal (or even army) of wrongdoers versus a military that's devised and managed by government to occupy for years and even decades hundreds of places around the globe. While a voluntarily funded militia might be what's needed to deal with any future terrorist groups who aggress against peaceful Americans, this requires a rights-respecting political foundation'one that's reflective of a peaceful America .

The fact of the matter is this: The U.S. government (from national to local) is by far the biggest violator of Americans' rights, and therefore by far the biggest threat to our lives, security, and freedoms. To my knowledge, the only politician who has the honesty and common sense to acknowledge this is, of course, Congressman Ron Paul. He promotes the Austrian school's principles of free market economics, while other politicians promote the statist views of every aspiring central planner since the dawn of civilization. In spite of his contradictory domestic views about "illegal immigration" and "border security" (and "rights" of dependent fetuses), he does realize that the only way to deal with terrorism and protect individual liberty is to enact a foreign policy of non-intervention, which includes abolishing all governmental or military "aid" to other countries. Only then will the inhabitants of countries in the Middle East lack reasons to hate the U.S. government, and by extension Americans who champion its employees' coercive methods of operation and funding. Perhaps then they'll start hating only their own governments, for which they'll have no one else to blame.

Most people in the Middle East and elsewhere really like America ; it's a dynamic and capital-rich marketplace of goods, services, and ideas. It represents, in theory at least, a great land of opportunities for anyone wanting to flourish and willing to be productive'"a shining city on a hill." They just detest the depraved institution that casts a shadow on our city and the rest of the world. The U.S. government's empire might be one of the worst kinds, because its citizens tend to view themselves as free and, hence, its coercive actions as benevolent. Of course, the actual individuals who are orchestrating and participating in this madness know full well what they're doing, and how large their bank accounts are getting on account of it. Far from being the selfless do-gooders that ARI folks contend, they are selfish in the most irrational way'sacrificing others' lives and well-being for their own sakes.

In this age of pervasive authoritarian and collectivistic memes, fears and other strong emotions continue to hinder people's better judgment. Callous disregard for innocent people in terrible political systems is all too common, as is ignorance of individual rights, self-ownership, and personal sovereignty. Though Ron Paul advocates a form of federal government that's supposed to stay out of people's consensual affairs (no matter where they're living), he must realize that so-called representative government itself is the problem: As long as people support an institution that funds its operations coercively, i.e., via taxation and fiat currency, and monopolizes the service of justice (thus institutionalizing injustice), our rights will continue to be violated. As a Congressman, Paul understands the immutable nature of bureaucracy and legislative corruption; 'Dr. No' knows how the game works. Thus, he's noted the importance of civil disobedience, or non-violent resistance, for inducing meaningful change in our culture. Clearly, it's high time to start firmly saying "No" to anything that's not based on the principles of individualism, property rights, agency, and voluntary trade. Each of us needs to hold strongly to our own liberty, and thus our society, as fear-mongers of all creeds constantly try to take perverse advantage of real or potential acts of terrorism. Beware the intellectual and psychological guises of those who posture as your protectors or philosophical gurus. Pay attention to the way they step.

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Wes Bertrand's picture
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