HOMESCHOOLING A HOPE FOR AMERICA is a collection of articles taken from The Voluntaryist, a newsletter with a libertarian outlook which has been published since 1982. The anthology has been assembled by Carl Watner (from many of his past articles, as well as those of others), and contains an original Foreword by John Taylor Gatto.
This anthology argues against government education in a unique way. One who advocates voluntaryism opposes government schools, not because he opposes schooling but, because he opposes coercion, which is to be found in government taxation, compulsory attendance laws, and in the monopolization of public services. Most of us would agree that there should not be any state religion; that religion should not be supported by taxation; and that people should not be compelled to attend religious services. Why shouldn't the principles of voluntaryism in religion apply to education?
All government depends on the cooperation and/or tacit consent of the majority of its citizens. When the state could no longer use government churches to legitimize its rule of the divine right of kings, some other institution had to be found that would induce consent among the masses. Government schools became the chosen instrument to produce good citizens for the state. Indoctrinate the young: then they will support the state for the rest of their lives.
America is at a cross roads of cultural and economic disintegration, yet voluntaryists believe that there is hope. It is to be found in home schooling. Rather than cursing the darkness, parents can light one small candle of wisdom and learning and pass it along to the next generation."Ages of experience testify that the only way society can be improved is by the individualist method; ... that is, the method of each one doing his best to improve one." This is the quiet or patient way of changing society because it concentrates upon bettering the character of men and women as individuals. As the individual units change, the improvement in society will take care of itself. In other words, if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.
Ordering Information - Softcover, 247 pages. $20 postpage paid. Send silver, gold, cash, check or money order (payable to The Voluntaryist) to P.O. Box 275, Gramling, SC 29348
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
For almost two decades, Hollywood has tried unsuccessfully to turn Ayn Rand’s 1100 page classic Atlas Shrugged into a feature film with actresses ranging from Angelina Jolie to Charlize Theron to Faye Dunaway. John Aglialoro, the entrepreneur who 17 years ago paid $1 million to option the book rights, is tired of the futility and is taking matters into his own hands. He’s announced that he is financing a June 11 production start in Los Angeles for the first of what he said will be four films made from the book. Aglialoro, who had a hand in writing the script by Brian O’Tool, is taking on this ambitious plan with an unproven director, and is weeks away from production without stars to play Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt and the other roles. For full story, click here.
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. ... What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
There are two principal demands that governments make: your taxes and vote. (Of course, there are many other 'demands', such as military service, send your children to school, have a drivers license, etc., but many of these are ancillary to the primary means of government survival, which is the collection of taxes.)
Now, of these two principal demands, taxation carries criminal sanctions: pay your money or we imprison your body and/or confiscate your property. However, as yet in most nations of the world, failure to vote in government elections carries no penalty.
Governments, like all other hierarchical institutions, depend upon the cooperation and, at least, the tacit consent over those whom they exercise power. In other words, government soldiers and police can force people to do things they don't want to do, but in the long run - in the face of adamant opposition - such coercion is either too expensive or too futile to accomplish its goals of subjugating entire populations. It is far simpler to motivate people to do what you want them to do, rather than forcing them to do it by pointing guns at them all the time. As Boris Yeltsin supposedly said,"You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can't sit on it long."
Educating generations of parents and children in government schools and teaching them to be patriotic and support their government in political elections is one of the fundamental ways governments garner public support. Citizens are taught that it is both their right and duty to vote. But all this is done with an ulterior motive in mind. As Theodore Lowi, in his book INCOMPLETE CONQUEST: GOVERNING AMERICA pointed out:
Participation is an instrument of [government] conquest because it encourages people to give their consent to being governed. ... Deeply embedded in people's sense of fair play is the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome. Those who participate in politics are similarly committed, even if they are consistently on the losing side. Why do politicians plead with everyone to get out and vote? Because voting is the simplest and easiest form of participation [of supporting the state] by masses of people. Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins.
Not voting in government elections is one way of refusing to participate; of refusing to consent to government rule over your life. Non-voting may be seen as an act of personal secession, of exposing the myth behind"government by consent." There are many reasons, both moral and practical, for choosing"not to vote," and they have been discussed in my anthology, DISSENTING ELECTORATE. To briefly summarize:
Truth does not depend upon a majority vote. Two plus two equals four regardless of how many people vote that it equals five.
Individuals have rights which do not depend on the outcome of elections. Majorities of voters cannot vote away the rights of a single individual or groups of individuals.
Voting is implicitly a coercive act because it lends support to a compulsory government.
Voting reinforces the legitimacy of the state because the participation of the voters makes it appear that they approve of their government.
There are ways of opposing the state, other than by voting"against" the incumbents. [And remember, even if the opposition politicians are the lesser of two evils, they are still evil.] Such non-political methods as civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, home schooling, bettering one's self, and improving one's own understanding of voluntaryism all go far in robbing the government of its much sought after legitimacy.
As Thoreau pointed our,"All voting is a sort of gaming, like chequers or backgammon, ... . Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it." So whatever you do, don't play the government's game, Don't vote. Do something for the right.
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
SO GOLDMAN Sachs, the world's greatest and smuggest investment bank, has been sued for fraud by the American Securities and Exchange Commission. Legally, the case hangs on a technicality. Morally, however, the case may turn into a final referendum on the greed-is-good ethos that conquered America in the '80s - and in the years since has aped other horrifying American trends in spreading across the Western world like a venereal disease. When the globe was engulfed in the flood of defaults and derivative losses that emerged from the collapse of the US housing bubble two years ago, few understood that the crash had its roots in the lunatic greed-centred objectivist religion, fostered in the '50s and '60s by ponderous emigre novelist Ayn Rand.
And, then, the bashing continues unabated. Of all the valid criticisms you can level at Rand and Objectivism...Goldman Sachs?
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
The Lancet's editor was also pressured to postpone publication until a date"after critical fundraising meetings" for several women's advocacy groups. "Activists perceive a lower maternal mortality figure as actually diluting their message," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Advocacy can sometimes get in the way of science."
"The U.N. has a track record of inflating disease figures to keep the aid money flowing, so I'd probably place more faith in the figures which show a lower disease burden," said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think tank."This is yet more confirmation that whoever paints the most apocalyptic picture gets the most cash, even if they have to manipulate and spin the data."
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
This week, in a move that reveals the judicial system to be a sad farce, Mitchell recanted his guilty plea on the grounds that he did not believe a trial would be fair. (I wonder how many trials he has testified at? Those proceeding were sufficiently fair for Mitchell to be a participant. When he is a defendant, however, the system suddenly is unjust.) Bnd.com reports:
Illinois Trooper Matt Mitchell was under oath on Monday when he testified in civil court that he lied to a judge when...pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated reckless driving and reckless homicide. So, why isn't he charged with perjury? Perjury is the charge of making false statements under oath. And Mitchell was not under oath before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Jan Fiss on Friday when he pleaded guilty in criminal court in connection with the deaths of Jessica and Kelli Uhl in 2007.
The hearing on Monday was part of a $24 million case filed against the state of Illinois by the dead girls' parents. Although the state has sovereign immunity, it can be be held liable if Mitchell is found to have been negligent. As part of Mitchell's guilty plea, the Illinois attorney general's office signed a stipulation that he was"acting in the course of his employment as an Illinois state trooper" when the accident occurred, which makes him virtually immune from financial consequences from the suit. (As far as I know, the only way he would pay personally is if the parents successfully sued him in federal court and received punitive damages; in those circumstances, I believe he would be responsible for the punitive part...but I could be wrong.)
The guilty plea impacted him financially in quite another manner, however. Mitchell could not face"administrative action" -- meaning he could not be fired nor have his pay terminated -- while there was an open criminal case against him. Lt. Scott Compton of the State Police explained"it took so long" to suspend Mitchell's pay and to file a complaint that moves toward his dismissal"because the agency had to wait until the criminal proceeding was adjudicated." Now they may have to wait a little bit longer. They may even have to reinstate his $67,000 annual salary and keep paying out as they did over the two preceding years while Mitchell's attorney delayed and delayed and delayed. The timing of the cases are interesting. The civil one has already opened while a hearing on the criminal one -- presumably to consider the new 'wrinkle' -- has been pushed forward to open on May 3rd.
This is cynical maneuvering by Mitchell, pure and simple. Like most cops I know. either personally or through research, he will lie and prostitute the judicial system whenever it is to his advantage. During his guilty plea in criminal court, Mitchell claimed he would"forever regret" the deaths. On Monday, in a civil proceeding, Mitchell refused even to admit he had caused the collision, claiming he had used"reasonable care" and resurrecting the widely -discredited"white car" that had cut him off. This is a game he is willing to play with the corpses of teenagers in the presence of grieving parents. The father's testimony at the civil hearing was particularly wrenching, On his way to work, he detoured around the crash site that was his daughters' death scene but did not find out about them until he arrived at work. The man described his response,"I screamed and I screamed and I yelled at God."
The only aspect of this unfolding story that is not literally sickening is the response of the State Police. They are obviously hanging Mitchell out to dry. SLToday reports, "Former Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent testified this morning [Tuesday] in a wrongful-death case against the state that Trooper Matt Mitchell's actions were irresponsible and reflected poor judgment....'It's indefensible,' Trent testified before a hearing officer for the Illinois Court of Claims. Trent was director when the crash occurred in late 2007." Why would law enforcement be willing to jeopardize its own immunity? There are at least four explanations, none of which are mutually exclusive:
1) The cops and judicial system may be enraged at Mitchell. He is playing by the same"fast-and-loose" rules with them that they play with average people; he is turning their weapons against them.
2) So much public outrage surrounds this case that it is rubbing off on the entire police and judicial system of Illinois. They may want to distance themselves at a double-trot.
3) Perhaps their attitude is"What the hey! Ultimately, it is just tax-payer's money."
4) There is a good chance Mitchell will be found 'not guilty.' Last Friday, he became the first copy in Illinois to be found guilty of a felony while on duty. Tradition in the law and corruption in the Illinois justice system are on his side.
I swear...I cannot tell if Mitchell's maneuvering reflects his arrogant, thuggish personality or whether he has extremely good legal advice.
Of one thing I am certain, however. The legal and so-called justice system is an engine of injustice and misery to the innocent.
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
WWI was America's first extensive international conflict, but legal precedent existed for the treatment of resident foreigners.
In 1798, the threat of war with France loomed: immigrants from France and Ireland -- a nation aligned with the anti-British French -- were viewed with political suspicion. Accordingly, Congress passed four laws collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Naturalization Act required aliens to be residents for 14 years before becoming eligible for citizenship. The Alien Act authorized the deportation of"dangerous" aliens. The Alien Enemies Act allowed the arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien who was the subject of an enemy power. The Sedition Act provided fines and jail penalties for anyone who"shall write, print, utter or publish... scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress...or the President...with intent to defame...or to bring them...into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them...hatred."
The Acts had been pushed forward by the federalists -- those who favored a strong federal government and a loose interpretation of the Constitution: the federalists dominated Congress. One of their motives was to silence opposition from their political rivals, republicans, whom immigrants tended to support. The prominent republicans Thomas Jefferson and James Madison believed that the powers claimed by President John Adams under the Acts resembled those of a monarch. They denounced the Sedition Act in particular as"unconstitutional," as a violation of the First Amendment. Both the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures passed Resolves that rejected the Acts and set forth the doctrine of nullification.
Although no one was prosecuted under the first three measures, a series of influential republicans -- including prominent editors and printers -- were quickly charged under the Sedition Act, forcing some newspapers to close. One of the men prosecuted was Benjamin Franklin's grandson and the editor of the Philadelphia Aurora. The charge: libeling President Adams. His arrest sparked a public outcry against the Acts, which helped give the Presidency to Jefferson in 1800. Once in office, he pardoned those convicted under the Sedition Act and Congress repaid the fines collected...with interest.
Thus, from America's earliest years, the issues of alien residents and free speech have been linked during crisis. Although the early republicans were not necessarily more sanguine about resident aliens than federalists, they were intensely suspicious of expanding the federal government's authority. They believed that the power to suppress constitutional freedoms would be used inevitably to quash political opposition.
The Alien Enemy Within
On April 16, 1917, all males older than 14 who were still"natives, citizens, denizens or subjects" of the German Empire became alien enemies. In 1918, an act of Congress included women aged 14 and older. In time, however, the term"alien enemy" came to apply to virtually any foreign resident the government deemed undesirable. It became an effective weapon the government wielded against individuals and organizations which were pacifist, critical of the war, or otherwise objectionable politically.
Alien enemies were a high priority on the wartime agenda. On the same day that Congress declared war, President Wilson issued twelve regulations for their treatment. Alien enemies were prohibited from owning such goods as firearms, aircraft or wireless apparatus. They could not publish an"attack" upon any branch of the U.S. government. They could not reside in an area designated as"prohibited" by the President. They could be removed to a location designated by the President. Alien enemies could not depart the U.S. without permission and they were required to register with the government to receive a registration card.
On November 16, 1917, eight more regulations were added to the original twelve. They restricted how closely and under what circumstances enemy aliens could approach facilities such as docks, railroads and warehouses -- thus, de facto restricting their employment. Aliens were banned from air travel and from the District of Columbia. The restriction embodied in Section 20 became the most controversial because it provided the foundation for the later internment of aliens. Regulation 20 reads, in part:
"...the Attorney General is hereby authorized to make and declare, from time to time, such regulations concerning the movements of alien enemies as he may deem necessary in the premises and for the public safety, and to provide in such regulations for monthly, weekly or other periodical report by alien enemies to federal, state or local authorities; and all alien enemies shall report at the times and places and to the authorities specified in such regulations." (Full text of the twenty regulations )
One motivation behind the regulations was clearly to establish control over radical groups who disagreed with government policies, including policies on the war.
WWI ushered a vast program of conformity and centralization into American society. For example, within commerce, the Railway Administration Act gave de facto control of the railroads -- the major source of transportation -- to the federal government. The War Labor Board, the War Industries Board, and a slate of other government agencies centralized commerce in the name of supporting the war effort. Fuel rationing, the draft, price controls...these and many other measures thrust the federal government deeply into the economic lives of the average American.
The federal government also intruded upon civil liberties, especially the right to dissent. The radical labor movement became a focus of government for several reasons. It was successful: in the first decades of the 20th century, labor unrest had spread like wildfire across broad sections of America and sparked effective strikes. It was anti-war: its prominent communist and socialist leaders believed the war was being fought for capitalism and they felt comradeship, not hostility, toward foreign workers. Socialism, in general, had become a political threat: in every Presidential election between 1900 to 1912, the labor leader Eugene Debs had run on the American Socialist Party ticket, receiving close to a million votes in 1912.
The radical labor movement was also an easy target because of its immigrant-heavy membership. Politically-minded immigrants had a history of bringing radical ideas with them. For example, in the last decades of the 1800s, the International Working People's Association (IWPA) issued no less than five papers out of Chicago alone, three of which were in German.
Moreover, by WWI, there was a bitter history of clashes between radical labor movements and the authorities. The Haymarket incident in Chicago is a notorious example. In the spring of 1886, 65,000 workers in the city either went on strike or were locked out by their employers. On May 3rd, the police fired upon a crowd of laborers, killing several. The next day, a protest meeting ended in a violent clash that left seven policemen and an unknown number of workers (estimated at about 20) dead. Eight radicals -- both immigrant and American-born -- were prosecuted. Or, more accurately, their ideology was put on trial. The prosecuting attorney admonished the jury,"Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men [the defendants] have been selected...because they are leaders...[C]onvict these men...save our institutions, our society." Although they were demonstrably innocent, four of the defendants were executed, with one escaping his fate through suicide.
By WWI, it was difficult to cleanly separate the issues of radical labor, socialism, anti-war and alien enemies from each other. The United States government viewed all as menaces.
A primary target became the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or"Wobblies," which grew so quickly that became a household name throughout much of America in the early 20th century. Today, few people have heard of the IWW. Its importance in U.S. social history has been almost forgotten. The Wobblies' mercurial rise to prominence was matched in drama only by its disastrous collapse from government repression. Its history is a cautionary tale.
The Industrial Workers of the World
In the summer of 1905, labor radicals assembled in Chicago to found a new group -- the IWW. It operated in competition with the more conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL), then the most powerful labor group in the U.S. As well as embodying socialism, the IWW embraced less restrictive membership policies than the AFL. It actively organized and recruited among migrant workers, blacks, and immigrants from whom it received enthusiastic support. Leaders like William"Big Bill" Haywood thought all workers should organize into a single industrial union to avoid the possibility of individual trade unions being pitted against each other. The IWW employed a grassroots approach: the executive was purposefully weak; membership was open to everyone; local strikes were encouraged. Thus, under American-born leaders, the IWW became the most prominent voice of immigrant workers who were often snubbed by other labor organizations.
Conflict with authority was inevitable, even before WWI. Part of the reason was the IWW's willingness to use bare-knuckle tactics, such as sabotage and violent confrontation with strike-breakers. But the irresolvable conflict was ideological. To the IWW, the government was a tool of capitalist exploitation. To the authorities, the IWW was a revolutionary organization that sought to overthrow the existing government. Thus, when 165 IWW leaders were arrested in 1917, charges ranged from treason to the use of intimidation in labor disputes. In June 1917, Congress had passed the Espionage Act, which prescribed heavy fines and prison sentences for vaguely defined antiwar activities. The Act was quickly used against the IWW. In September, IWW meeting halls across the nation were raided by government agents. Over a hundred and sixty IWW officers, members and sympathizers were arrested.
One hundred and one defendants went on trial in April 1918, including IWW head Big Bill Haywood. After five months, the trial ended in a"guilty" verdict for all, with Haywood and fourteen others each receiving sentences of twenty years in prison. Collectively, the defendants were fined a total of $2,500,000. The IWW was virtually destroyed.
The shattering of the IWW caused little public protest as most people associated it with unAmericanism -- a charge fueled by minorities and foreigners in its membership. Even the language of the IWW was deemed unpatriotic because its impassioned rhetoric too closely mirrored that of socialists in other lands. An incident known as the Bisbee Deportation illustrates the depth of the public hatred toward the IWW and foreigners.
In mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, the IWW recruited members among Mexican and European workers who were routinely labored at lower paying-jobs than native-born Americans. In June of 1917, the IWW presented a list of demands to Bisbee's mining companies, including an end to discrimination against minority and foreign workers. When the companies turned down every demand, a strike was called.
Then a rumor erupted: the IWW had been infiltrated by pro-Germans. At 2:00 a.m., hundreds of armed vigilantes rounded up nearly 1,200 men whom they forced into twenty-four cattle cars of a train, shipped them to New Mexico and abandoned them in a remote area. The deportees were without shelter for weeks until U.S. troops escorted them to facilities where many were held for months. The authorities in Bisbee guarded all roads into town to prevent the men, or any other undesirables, from entering. Other local workers were put on trial and deported if found guilty of disloyalty to the mining companies. A federal commission investigated the deportations but found no federal laws had been violated. The matter was referred to the State of Arizona, which took no action against the mining companies.
A report in the Los Angeles Times (July 15, 1917) captured the general public's response,"[O]n our own soil is an enemy...preaching revolution and invoking anarchy...the I.W.W.’s. From Butte to Bisbee, from Seattle to Leadville, that international organization, filled with foreigners, officered by convicts, and attempting vaguely to guise its sabotage behind the specious title of “Industrial Workers of the World,” is in open warfare against our government."
The Bisbee deportation was co-ordinated by private vigilantes from whom the government often received enthusiastic support. In her biography, Queen Silver, who attended IWW meetings in Los Angeles as a child, recounted,"When the [IWW] person got up to make a collection speech that was a signal to all the American Legion people in the audience to arrest the one or two people who were beside them, as they had been deputized to do. Mother was one of the people arrested. They were all turned loose later on. It was harassment." Grace Verne Silver -- the arrested mother -- was not taken to the police station. A private business interest, the Merchants and Manufacturers Association maintained files on radicals for the police and Grace was detained there.
The American public had shown a willingness to tolerate and even to participate in the rounding up, harassment and forced"deportation" of native-born Americans. The forced deportation of foreign-born radicals from US territory would soon follow.
The End of World War I
As America entered the last year of World War I, 1918,"patriotic" fervor seemed to swell. In May, the Sedition Act imposed “a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both...” upon anyone disposed to"utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States." In October 1918, Congress passed the Alien Act, by which"any alien who, at any time after entering the United States, is found to have been at the time of entry, or to have become thereafter a member of any anarchist organization" could be deported.
Libertarians of the day, including Albert Jay Nock, H.L. Mencken, Randolph Bourne, and Oswald Garrison Villard spoke out in protest against such measures. But most voices still remained silent.
The various Acts of 1917 and 1918 were used to destroy what was left of the left-wing in America. Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to Congress, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for hindering the war effort. (While Berger was free on appeal, his constituency returned him to Congress.) The socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for an anti-war speech.
On November 11th, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an Armistice: the war was over.
But political panic -- partly stemming from the Bolshevik Revolution -- gripped America. In 1919, strikes broke out, crippling some segments of industry; sometimes they fierce violence broke out on both sides. Race riots shook cities across America, including Chicago where 5 days of rioting left 38 people dead, several injured and about a thousand homeless: the race riots were called the"Red Summer" of 1919. One event was pivotal: on May 1, 1919, several bombs were delivered through the mail to prominent figures, including Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer: this was the beginning of the"Red Scare." The surviving Palmer blamed Communists whom he believed were overwhelmingly immigrants. In his essay"The Case Against the 'Reds'," Palmer explained,"My information showed that communism in this country was an organization of thousands of aliens who were direct allies of Trotzky [sic]. Aliens of the same misshapen caste of mind and indecencies of character, and it showed that they were making the same glittering promises of lawlessness, of criminal autocracy to Americans, that they had made to the Russian peasants." With the power to deport, Palmer and his assistant John Edgar Hoover launched a crusade against the radical left.
Beginning in the fall of 1919, between five and ten thousand suspected alien residents were arrested without warrants in what became known as the Palmer Raids. No evidence of a proposed revolution was uncovered; many of those arrested were found to be American citizens affiliated with a union or the"wrong" political party. The vast majority of arrestees were eventually released but hundreds of"enemy aliens" -- including the anarchist Emma Goldman, a naturalized citizen who was"denaturalized" -- were eventually deported to the Soviet Union.
The Supreme Court did not even defend the constitutional rights of the American citizens arrested under the Acts. Supreme Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., justified the repression in a famous decision in which he stated that when the exercise of free speech constituted a “clear and present danger” to America --"danger" as defined by the government -- then government could suspend the First Amendment.
The Palmer Raids continued into 1920. As anti-war scientists and protesters, union members and socialist leaders continued to be brutally arrested without warrants and held without trial, however, public approval shifted away. Opposition began to organize. For example, in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union formed to protest the violation of constitutional rights such as arrest without warrant, unreasonable search and seizure, the denial of due process, and police brutality. Its first director, Roger Baldwin, was a pacifist and a member of the IWW.
Palmer himself suffered a series of embarrassments that hurried the demise of his political influence. For example, he predicted of a communist uprising on May 1st, 1920 and caused such panic that the New York State legislature refused to seat 5 Socialists who had been elected. When the uprising did not occur, sharp resentment and skepticism replaced panic.
By 1921, the Red Scare was effectively over. It stands as a reminder of how national security interests can be used by government to suppress dissenting political ideas even beyond the period of warfare. This is especially true when those expressing the ideas can be vilified as"foreign." Indeed, any segregated group that threatened the political status quo came under suspicion.
For example, blacks. Race became tangled with labor interests and political intolerance: when black laborers migrated Northward en masse to the industrial cities, race riots were sparked. The lynching of blacks increased dramatically and black Americans became victims of the Red Scare, as well. For example, the Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey -- one of the most powerful black voices in America -- was targeted by the FBI for deportation and an organization he founded, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, was infiltrated and discredited by federal agents.
The journalist H.L. Mencken, who himself fell under government suspicion for his German descent and love of German culture, commented on the folly of trading fundamental liberties for security. He wrote of Holmes'" clear and present danger" opinion,"[O]ne finds a clear statement of the doctrine that, in war time, the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment cease to have any substance, and may be set aside by any jury that has been sufficiently inflamed by a district attorney itching for higher office....I find it hard to reconcile such notions with any plausible concept of liberalism." For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.
America has become a society of elites. Specifically, those in the political class who enjoy an endless economic bounty that comes from the sweat and blood of taxpayers. At the pinnacle are politicians with rich salaries, plush expense accounts (not counting bribes), platinum pensions and health insurance, etc. Then there are the millions of civil servants who are paid considerably more than their private-sector counterparts, who have greater job security due to unions, and who enjoy a pension plan that others can only dream about. The devouring appetite of these elites is fed by the ever-increasing taxes, fees and other money-grabs from the private, productive sector of society. As the level of theft increases, more productive people are being driven in poverty, homelessness and a despair that could easily turn into rage.
Last night I was reading about the conditions in 18th century, pre-Revolutionary France. (Specifically, I was reading about the Physiocrats who were precursors to libertarianism.) The parallels to the U.S. did not escape my notice.
Under Louis XV (and Louis XIV for that matter) France was plagued by fairly constant and ruinously expensive warfare along with economic instability. There was a huge schism between the haves and the have-nots. The haves basically consisted of the nobility and the clergy, both of whom were exempt from taxes; they lived off the sweat and blood of average people (mostly peasants) in the private sector. The foundation of the private sector was agriculture, even though very few citizens owned land. The nobility and clergy (some 600,000 in a population of roughly 25 million) held most property. For example, the church owed about 1/5th of the total land; in some provinces, it owed up to 2/3rds. Moreover, the Church had feudal privileges that continued from the Middle Ages and bound something like one million people to the land as serfs.
Even though France was a comparatively wealthy nation, the peasants existed at near-starvation level because they were so burdened with taxation in myriad forms. A direct tax ate as much as 50% of the earnings of the non-exempt. The collection process was particularly brutal because tax collector were 'entrepreneurs' who paid the king a flat amount for the privilege of collecting taxes; anything over that amount became profit.
There were a slew of other taxes as well, some of them quite creative. For example, there was a salt monopoly tax by which everyone over the age of 7 (as I remember) was required to purchase several lbs of highly-inferior government salt each and every year. The law also proscribed how the salt could be used and imposed heavy fines for misuse, such as in preservation of meat. Many other commodities had their own separate taxes. Fees were levied at every stage of manufacture, upon transportation, at time of sale to retailers and, then, to customers. It has been estimated that these taxes literally doubled the cost of goods. The list scrolls on and on, including many customs duties that were not merely imposed on goods passing into and out of France but often on goods traveling between different provinces within the nation.
And, of course, there was the constant bribery, unofficial theft by authorities, etc. for which France was notorious and which ran rampant through all levels of government. Unfortunately, it is impossible to even estimate how much corruption cost the average person. Even without this factor, however, it has been estimated that the nobility (including the king) and the church probably took about 75% of the wealth produced by peasants -- many of whom lived on the margin to begin with. Over taxed, often homeless, unemployed, hungry and with no hope of justice from the 'system', the vast majority of French citizens were nevertheless not blind. They saw the starvation of their own children and the riches lavished on the velvet-clad children of the elite -- riches that had been stolen from them and from the mouths of their own families. When the desperation of peasants erupted abruptly into unbridled rage, the French Revolution had arrived. And, at least in the beginning, it was a grassroots revolution around which the disenfranchised rallied for justice. They soon demanded revenge.
These are the some of the thoughts I had upon listening to the two CNN stories this morning. I'm sure it is at least part of the reason the French Revolution came to mind immediately upon reading my friend's email. By contrast, the American Revolution was not rooted in a long-standing class structure that split people into widely disparate, permanent and unjust economic sectors.
For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.
Excerpt: One reason why most countries don't find the time to embrace her thinking is that Ayn Rand is a textbook sociopath. Literally a sociopath: Ayn Rand, in her notebooks, worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of"ideal man" that Rand promoted in her more famous books... Too many critics of Ayn Rand-- until I was one of them -- would rather dismiss her books and ideas as laughable, childish, hackneyed. But it can't be dismissed because Rand is the name that keeps bubbling up from the Teabagger crowd and the elite conservative circuit in Washington as The Big Inspiration. The only way to protect ourselves from this thinking is the way you protect yourself from serial killers: smoke the Rand followers out, make them answer for following the crazed ideology of a serial-killer-groupie, and run them the hell out of town and out of our hemisphere.
For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.
One way in which communities tried to forge an economic network was through issuing private currency; Josiah Warren's experiment with Labor Notes and a Time Store is a prime example. I was reminded of it today while reading an article in MSN's Money entitled "Struggling towns printing their own cash." It opened,
Last year, two Detroit tavern owners were sitting at the bar, sampling their beverages and bemoaning the local economy -- no one in the city had cash, and when they did, they spent it in the suburbs. Then the pair hit on a solution: Print their own money. It is, after all, perfectly legal for anyone to issue currency, as long as it doesn't look too much like a U.S. dollar. Thus was born the Detroit cheer, a local scrip accepted by a handful of city businesses, including a pizzeria, an electrician and a doggy day care center....
The western Massachusetts berkshare is accepted by an estimated 400 businesses and has circulated to the tune of $2.5 million -- not bad for a region with 20,000 residents. The hours currency, issued in Ithaca, N.Y., is so entrenched that the local transit system is planning to accept it. Still, University of Southern Maine sociologist Ed Collum says his study of 82 local currencies revealed a disheartening 20% survival rate. Collum favors an increasingly popular twist on local currencies: the time bank, which has residents swapping labor hours rather than cash. This newer solution lets the unemployed participate without spending money.
I've always been fond of Warren's Labor Notes even though I believe the economic principles they reflect are fundamentally flawed. It is similar to the positive predisposition I have toward Mennonite communities or other peaceful ways of organizing that buck the trend and express a different worldview. Warren is a particularly interesting figure in the history of utopian movements because he was intimately involved with several communities. He was both a radical individualist and a communitarian to his core; he spent most of his life trying to integrate those two ideals.
Warren confronted the problem of how to achieve the social advantages of community without sacrificing individual rights and choice. His quest for a just society had started in February 1826 when he became one of the original settlers of the famous Owenite community of New Harmony. Other experimental communities had followed through which Warren had observed how social theories operated when they were put to the test of functioning in the real world.
When Warren began publication of The Peaceful Revolutionist (1833) -- the first Individualist-Anarchist periodical to appear in America -- it called for a voluntary society that was based on individual autonomy and that operated in accord with the labor theory of value. The latter sounds odds to the ears of modern libertarians but the labor theory of value was commonly accepted economic theory among the 19th century crowd. The specific expression was called"Cost the Limit of Price"; this was a version of the labor theory of value, which Warren believed was a necessary prerequisite to ensure an equitable reward for labor to the laborer.
For better or worse, Warren adopted the economic doctrine of cooperation that was expressed through the formula of “labor for labor.” But Warren realized that just having each man claim his own labor and its products would not lead to an advanced society. There had to be a medium of exchange: that is, society needed some form of currency that would enable it to rise above the level of brute barter or the need of each person to provide for his own needs. Warren believed that part of the answer lay making labor the basis of a circulating currency that he called “labor notes.”
In using cost as the limit of price, Warren was specifically objecting to the use of value as a standard of measurement. If subjective value were the limit of price, he believed that a good would rise to whatever level the seller was able to charge. Price would be determined by the desperation of the buyer. For example, a loaf of bread might cost ten thousand dollars to a starving man, or a bottle of medicine might cost twenty thousand to a mother who needed it for her child. To Warren, this seemed unjust. Thus, instead of subjective measure setting the price, Warren wanted cost to be the objective measure and the limit. For a loaf of bread, a baker should charge only what it had cost him to make, including such costs as the labor expended, the “rent” of his oven and other tools, taxes, etc. Cumulatively, these factors constituted the entire cost of the bread, which was its price. To Warren, this made price into an objective, scientific matter.
And, as always, Warren sought to test his theory in a real community.
On May 18, 1827, in Cincinnati, Warren opened what he called a Time Store. The libertarian historian James J. Martin has dubbed it “the first scientific experiment in cooperative economy in modern history.” Warren’s store worked on the basis of exchanging staple commodities, such as flour, priced at his own cost for the labor notes of customers. Upon opening his Time Store, with three hundred dollars worth of staple goods within, Warren posted a bill for public view, stating what each good had cost him and adding a 7 percent fee for overhead expenses such as shipping. This posted bill constituted the cost of the goods. In exchange, Warren received a labor note from the pur-chaser, which represented an equitable amount of the purchaser’s time. One of the advantages of the system was that people were far less inclined to bargain at length over prices because they were paying for the shopkeeper’s time. Warren explained the process: “A clock was in plain sight to measure the time of the tender in delivering the goods which was considered one-half of the labor, and purchasing, etc. the other half.”
The exchange was more sophisticated than a mere hour for hour basis, however. Warren exchanged what he called “equivalent labor.” He wrote, “I have placed emphasis on the idea of equivalent labor, because it appears that we must discriminate between different kinds of labor, some being more disagreeable, more repugnant, requiring a more COSTLY draft upon our ease or health than others. The idea of cost extends to and em-braces this difference.” Interestingly, this led Warren to the conclusion that the most disagreeable work, such as cleaning sewers, should be among the highest paid in society. Of course, factors such as “repugnance” were subjective matters—embodying the same subjectivity that Warren objected to in value as the measure of price. This meant that each individual must set the price for his own labor because each person is best able to estimate his own costs.
Warren uses the example of coat making. Two coat makers with different levels of skill and working habits would probably set entirely different prices for a new coat. A fast working coat maker who produced a mediocre product might charge twenty hours of labor for a new garment. A slower coat maker who produced an exceptional garment might charge forty hours.
Warren also seems to have considered the problem of opportunity costs regarding interest: namely, if someone loans out money to another, he is thereby foregoing other investment opportunities for that same capital. “If you sacrifice twenty dollars (to which you are equitably entitled) in lending me a hundred, then . . . twenty dollars, or twenty per cent together with pay for your labor would be your proper compensation.”
Despite such problems, Warren believed that labor notes—and Cost the Limit of Price in general—would guarantee both equitable reward for the laborer and a harmonious society. “Costs being the limit of price, everyone becomes interested to reduce cost,—to lighten each other’s burdens! Then, every man’s hand acts with instead of against every man, and HUMAN INTERESTS ARE HARMONIZED!”
Warren closed the Time Store after three years, convinced (along with many others) that “labor for labor” and Cost the Limit of Price had proven to be a viable economic arrangement.
For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.
In his book "The Religion of Nature Delineated," the English philosopher William Wollaston (1659-1724) wrote, “I lay down this as a fundamental maxim, That whoever acts as if things were so, or not so, doth by his acts declare, that they are so, or not so; as plainly as he could by words, and with more reality.” He argued that actions have “significancy”, by which he meant that the actions themselves could be true or false. For example, theft is a denial of the truth of who owns the item stolen. Conversely, returning property to someone who has lost it is an acknowledgment of the truth of ownership. In short, Wollaston argues that actions make truth claims and can even"imply propositions." For the latter, he uses the example of one group of soldiers who fire upon another; the act of shooting, he claims, is the statement"the other group is the enemy."
He then argues that moral evil is the denial through action of truth and moral good is the affirmation of it through action.
I remember how impressed I was by this formulation of the relationship between values, action and facts. Undoubtedly the groundwork for being impressed was an earlier embrace of Ayn Rand's arguments connecting values to facts. For weeks I went around trying to translate moral actions into the truth or lie they were expressing. Quite apart from whether Wollaston is correct in his formulation, the exercise entertained me then and now...and led to some interesting conclusions. Give it a whirl.
From the New York Daily News: Sucking on cigarettes and slurping sugary sodas could get a whole lot more expensive under Gov. Paterson's new budget proposal.But even the"sin tax" hikes on top of a $1 billion boost in taxes and fees won't raise enough revenue to stave off sweeping cuts in school and health care spending in the $134 billion 2010-2011 budget. Paterson reported stated,"We cannot keep spending money that we do not have." Apparently the STOP SPENDING! alternative has not occurred to him.
From the South Florida Business Journal: Florida employers already have a lot to worry about in 2010 — a sluggish economic recovery first and foremost. Now, add to that an unemployment compensation tax rate hike that, in its worst case, could increase their minimum payment by more than 1,000 percent, from $8.40 per employee to $100.30 per employee. The rate change, which went into effect Jan. 1 unbeknownst to many employers, will cost them an additional $1.2 billion in 2010...
Get out of states like New York, Florida, California.... 2010 is when I expect the worst of the economic hardships to hit; I hope I am wrong; I hope the worst is behind us in 2009. But, realistically, I don't think so. And with the continuing collapse, governments on all levels will act like a wounded savage beast whose goal is to survive. Expect the grab for your hard-earned money -- the same money with which you feed and shelter your children -- to accelerate sharply. One of the best protections you have is to move your assets farther away from the grasping hands of bloated, corrupt government.
Unfortunately, you cannot protect yourself or your family from the feds as long as you stay within American borders. And the most disturbing grabs for your wealth are likely to come from the federal government. Consider just one.... Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of the Treasury is officially formulating ways to force a portion of every 401k/IRA account into"fixed payment annuities" -- that is to say, into long-term Treasury bonds. In other words, your retirement dollars would be converted into government IOUs. This is the same government debt that Obama cannot peddle overseas anymore because places like China know the greenback is unsustainable in the long run...perhaps in the short run as well. Nor can Obama get domestic investors to buy it up...at least, not at a rate sufficient to finance his grand schemes of social engineering. And, so, the feds hopes to force it down the throats of those Americans who still have wealth in the form of retirement assets. In essence, the money-grab would make every retiree dependent upon redeeming government IOUs; every retiree would be shoved into a de facto social security situation.
Bloomberg continues, The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams... As the website Seeking Alpha comments,
The money-grab at your retirement will begin modestly -- e.g. with just a small portion of your retirement converted -- and then, like government itself, it will expand. The money-grab will be executed for"your own good" because government has"your best interests" at heart. While the humanitarian commandeering of your wealth is still in the discussion stage, protect yourself as best you can.
For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.
President Obama said Tuesday night it would cost $30 billion this fiscal year — or about $1 million per soldier — to send 30,000 additional troops there. That’s a low estimate, budget experts say, but let’s run with it for the moment. An extra $30 billion in Afghanistan means that in 2010 alone, US military spending in Afghanistan will equal nearly half of total spending on the war since 2001, according to Travis Sharp, military policy analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. The troop increase will cost $2.5 billion per month, $82 million per day, $3.4 million per hour, $57,000 per minute, and $951 per second. It’s a direct tax on Americans: about $195 for each taxpayer next year. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Full article below the jump. Note: the organization Veterans for Common Sense expands on the continuing cost of disability payments and healthcare for veterans wounded, injured, or ill due to their military deployment to the Afghan War. VCS states, "as of June 2009, VA treated 480,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran patients...Exacerbating the situation is the fact that about 40 percent of our forces have deployed twice or more to war, further increasing the risk of depression, PTSD, and suicide. Yet both VA and the military lack the urgently needed mental healthcare providers to provide exams and treatment for our service members and veterans." Click on [Read the rest...] to continue reading CSM article.
“The total cost of [the escalation in] Afghanistan will be at least twice the cost and perhaps three times the cost of the estimate, says Linda Bilmes, a budget and public-finance expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. When she counts replacement of worn-out military equipment, disability payments to soldiers, Veterans Administration medical care, and the interest charges to finance the war, the tab doubles. When she adds indirect costs to the economy — say, the lost wages of a parent who quits his job to care for a son wounded in combat — it triples.
“We know that those are a decades-long costs,” says professor Bilmes. “The next question is: How do we budget for it? And how do we pay for it?”
A war tax, war bonds, and budget cuts have all been proposed, although it looks as though the administration will just keep on borrowing. In whatever form it comes, the real costs for the individual taxpayer could peak anywhere from $400 to $600 annually for the next couple of years and then begin to tail off — assuming all goes well in Afghanistan.
For more commentary, visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
A November 10th headline from the UK Telegraph: State to 'spy' on every phone call, email and web search. Excerpt:
All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer’s personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited.
Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority.
For more commentary, please visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
TASER Restrictions: Aim for what now? [Quoting from the Arizona Republic.]
The maker of Taser stun guns is advising officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest with the 50,000-volt weapon, saying that it could pose an extremely low risk of an"adverse cardiac event."
The advisory, issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin, is the first time that Taser International has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the discharge of its stun gun. But Taser officials said Tuesday that the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy over the subject if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.
So what use is the TASER if you can't fire it at the largest target possible - center mass? We guess we'll be going back to shooting and killing non-compliant subjects and mentally disturbed individuals shortly.
First of all...WONDERFUL. Even a cop I semi-respect predicts that taser restrictions will mean"going back to shooting and killing non-compliant subjects and mentally disturbed individuals shortly." Note: he doesn't say"violent" or"threatening" subjects but uses the word"non-compliant." As in the non-protestor who was forced to his knees by police for a trophy photo during the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh? If the student (who was returning home from a pizza parlor) has been less compliant in kneeling before the ring of policemen, would he have been tasered and/or shot? What an honororable profession it is to be a policeman!
Second and last of all...I wish people would stop calling tasers"non-lethal." There are dozens of cases in which tasers have clearly caused death. What they are is"less lethal" than guns...at least, guns in the hands of cops. In the hands of people who use guns responsibly, the weapons prevent violence and do not cause it.
For more commentary, please visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
First, I believe a rape occurred. Second, the victim -- now in her forties -- has asked repeatedly and without duress from Polanski to have the matter dropped. She has settled a civil case with him. She has publicly forgiven him. And, for me, that settles it. The victim should control whether a prosecution occurs. Period. Third, it is a scathing damnation of our legal/court system for the victim to claim that the system traumatized her far more than the rape itself. The authorities should not be allowed to continue 'raping' her.
Fourth, I do not believe Polanski received a fair trial. I think there was clear and extensive misconduct by the judge (and others) in the original proceeding. Fifth, I recommend the HBO documentary"Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" without which I do not believe prosecution would be occurring. Sixth, the state is clearly pursuing prosecution not for the victim but on its own behalf because Polanski fled its jurisdiction and lived well thereafter. In short, Polanski has flouted authority and 'authority' is pissed.
Seventh, this is an example of the U.S. imposing legal jurisdiction around the world. A bad precedent is being set. Eighth, I do not believe that Switzerland has not received a quid pro quo for nabbing Polanski.
Ninth, it is fascinating to watch political reactions. E.g. the founder of ultra-progressive Feminist Majority thinks Polanski should not be arrested. According to the L.A. Times"My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation."It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things." Amazing.
Tenth, you know how sick you were of hearing about Michael Jackson... Well, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
For more commentary, please visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
The email reads, My husband is in debtor’s prison, and he is not alone. The court has him in custody until he pays a $15,000 cash bond. We have no money or property. Unless we get help, he could be there for the remainder of his life.
While imprisonment for debt was eliminated in this country in the 19th century, it has re-emerged under a new name: contempt of court. A defendant is deemed “in contempt” if they do not pay a court ordered debt, regardless of their ability to pay. The punishment: they are stripped of their liberty and sit in jail, at the taxpayer’s expense, until and unless money is found to purchase their release.
If my husband had raped a woman he would be entitled to a trial by an impartial jury. He does not enjoy that right as a debtor. If my husband had sold drugs to children he would be entitled to legal representation. He does not enjoy that right as a debtor. If my husband had molested a child, he would be subject to no more than a maximum sentence allowed by the law. As a debtor he can be held for the rest of his life. If my husband had robbed a bank he would be entitled to one phone call upon arrest. He did not get this opportunity and we had no communication until the 7th day of his incarceration.
The United States Constitution guarantees the right to bankruptcy. We went through this process but were effectually denied our right to the remedy of bankruptcy when his debt was deemed “non-dischargable.” Additionally, I believe his 1st, 5th, 6th, and 14th amendment rights are being violated. His freedom has been stripped. This is not the United States of America of which I was taught to be a proud citizen as a child.
I write not only on my husband’s behalf, but also for the thousands of other Americans who sit in jail for the simple “crime” of not being able to pay their debts. How sad for this country when these words, written over 250 years ago, are known to ring true in modern America :
"Since poverty is punished among us as a crime, it ought at least to be reated with the same lenity as other crimes: the offender ought not to languish at the will of him whom he has offended, but to be allowed some appeal to the justice of his country. There can be no reason why any debtor should be imprisoned, but that he may be compelled to payment; and a term should therefore be fixed, in which the creditor should exhibit his accusation of concealed property. If such property can be discovered, let it be given to the creditor; if the charge is not offered, or cannot be proved, let the prisoner be dismissed." Samuel Johnson: Idler #22 (September 16, 1758).
For more commentary, please visit www.mcelroy.com.
Ayn Rand has become fashionable again. The current crisis has inspired a second look at Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged. And there is renewed interest in Rand herself. But any study of Rand is sure to create controversy. And Jennifer Burns’ new study of Rand’s politics is sure to do the same.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Burns’ work will be the title: Goddess of the Market—Ayn Rand and the American Right. The title seems to be a play on another article, by Burns, entitled: Godless Capitalism—Ayn Rand the Conservatives. I would suggest the title is badly chosen, unless it was intended to chase away admirers of Rand.
At the same time I would say that Rand fans ought not let the title scare them away from this book. If books should not be judged by their covers, they also should not be judged by their titles.
This is not to say that the many admirers of Rand are going to applaud everything Burns has to say. They won’t. Still they need to recognize the significance of this work and as important, they ought to read it.
Burns certainly does not appear to be an Objectivist or libertarian herself. If she is, then she did a good job of hiding it. There were times I thought she had misunderstood something or had failed to appreciate the full context of an incident. But most of those are minor flaws.
And, I’m reluctant to expand on those problems because the final book is not due out until October. This means there is plenty of time for changes to be made; discussing those flaws here may prove embarrassing as the flaw may not appear in the final version. One small example is when Burns refers to F.A. Hayek as a conservative, a label that Hayek strenuously resisted.
For the most part, Burns has assembled a book that will interest anyone who was influenced by Ayn Rand. Some of the most hard-core Randians will be upset at sections, which could blind them to the importance of the work. When a major academic publisher, like Oxford University Press, sets out to explore to the impact of Ayn Rand on American politics, that alone is a significant event. If some of the positions of Burns will offend the true believers the mere existence of this book will send many on the far Left into frothing-at-the-mouth fits, especially since they are unlikely to find Burns negative enough to satisfy their rabid hatred of all things Rand.
Anyone who actually cares about the impact of Ayn Rand on the political scene will, however, love this book, even if they have quibbles with the author in various areas. What each reader gets out of the book will depend on their interests. But I can state some of the areas that I found most interesting.
Early in the book Burns discusses the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche on Rand. Clearly the first edition of Rand’s semi-biographical novel, We the Living, had strong Nietzschean elements to it, elements that Rand purged when the book was reissued two decades later. Burns explores the extent of Nietzsche’s influence and she documents it. One of the virtues of Burns book is that she had access to the full collection of the Ayn Rand Archives.
Under the influence of Rand’s heir, Leonard Peikoff, the archives were off-limits to many scholars for years. Peikoff has a history of wanting to protect Rand’s reputation, even if that means giving facts short-shift. That Burns had full access to Rand’s papers is a good sign for future Rand-related scholarship—though Burns does warn that scholars who were involved in “Objectivist controversies” may still find themselves barred from seeing the papers.
Because of her access, Burns was able to document the influence of Nietzsche on Rand. One of the great modern myths, regarding Rand, is that she emerged from Russia with a fully formed philosophical system, at least in all the essentials. Burns is able to document that Rand was in the process of forming her ideas over a period of decades. And while I found her discussion of Nietzsche’s influence on Rand fascinating, I thought she should have given equal emphasis to the whys and hows of Rand shifting away from Nietzsche.
That there were similarities between Rand and Nietzsche remained, but significant differences evolved as well. Those were aptly illustrated in the friendship/conflict between Gail Wynand and Howard Roark, in Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Wynand is the personification of Nietzschean philosophy and Roark the symbol of mature Objectivism. In particular, Rand made clear her break with the more noxious elements of Nietzschean thinking. Wynand, who thought he could control the masses, learned he was himself at their mercy. As Rand later explained:"A leash is a rope with a noose at both ends." Roark triumphed, not Wynand. Rand emerged; Nietzsche retreated.
Burns places the evolution in Rand’s views to her dealings with a wide-range of Americans as part of her campaigning for Wendell Willkie. But it is clear that this shift was well in place by the time the campaign took place. It may be that her experiences with “middle America” cemented those changes, but I doubt that the campaigning was the prime reason for them.
Burn’s also clarifies the obsession that conservative William F. Buckley had with Rand. And that was mainly over the matter of religion. Buckley, being religious, decided he had to make war on the non-believer, Ayn Rand. Buckley laid the foundations for the Religious Right in America, the most noxious element that conservatism has faced in a very long time. He may have helped revive the Right, with his magazine National Review, but he also turned the Right into what it has became today. One could argue that the last President Bush was Buckleystein’s monster; a president so awful that even Buckley was unhappy with his own creation.
Buckley decided that a fusion of politics and religion was necessary and saw Rand, quite correctly, as a major obstacle to his goal. Yet, today, it is precisely that fusion of church and state that has alienated so many Americans from the Right, especially after the last eight years. When Rand died, Buckley quite viciously wrote: “Ayn Rand is dead. So incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn.” Today William F. Buckley is dead. The religiously motivated conservatism he created is in tatters. And Ayn Rand’s novels are enjoying a revival. Mr. Buckley spoke too soon. That cool breeze you feel is Buckley spinning.
Another area of interest was the detailed discussion of Ayn Rand’s relationship with Isabel Paterson. Paterson had been something of a mentor to Rand, but the two had a bitter parting of the ways. It is often assumed that Rand was probably responsible. But the facts don’t support that thesis, not in this reviewer’s opinion. While there were certain philosophical differences that couldn’t be glossed over, the relationship only broke after Rand’s success.
After reading Burns, I concluded that the break was primarily the fault of Paterson. Paterson, who had considered herself to be Ayn’s teacher, saw the duo in a competition with their works. She also was convinced that Ayn’s optimistic take on the success of The Fountainhead, before it was even published, was naïve at best. But when Rand’s book, and Paterson’s work, The God of the Machine, were published, it was Rand who raced ahead in sales. Rand had said she would only consider the book a success when it sold 100,000 copies. Paterson thought that wildly optimistic. The Fountainhead is still selling that many copies each year, 60+ years after its publication.
Paterson became increasingly unpleasant as Rand succeeded. My personal impression, from the descriptions offered by Burns, is that Paterson was not happy that the student had surpassed the teacher. At one point she went so far as to tell Ayn that she didn’t like Jewish intellectuals—knowing full-well that Ayn was Jewish. I think the periodica portrayal of this incident, as an “Objectivist excommunication” is wrong. At worst, if it were an excommunication it was, to paraphrase Rand, “excommunication by engraved invitation.”
I should also briefly mention that I also found the section dealing with the reception of Atlas Shrugged fascinating to read. Many of us have long heard of the vicious and unfair reviews that Rand had to endure. Burns lays many of them out for inspection. Most have heard of the vile review that William F. Buckley solicited from Whittaker Chambers, a review that Chambers was reluctant to produce, but did so upon Buckley’s repeated urging. But few have read in detail how pervasive similar reviews were. Rand’s thesis was grossly distorted in review after review. One consequence, in my opinion, was that Ayn became far less tolerant of what she perceived as hostile questions. When one is the victim of intentional distortions it is often tempting to assume that all distortions of one’s views are maliciously motivated, even when that is not the case.
One other area that I found of significant interest is Burns discussion of the various problems surrounding Rand documents made public by the Ayn Rand Institute, Leonard Piekoff’s organization. There has been a great deal of controversy over indications that ARI doctored documents. Some of this doctoring was admitted by ARI, which asserted that they merely made clarifications consistent with what Rand had intended to say. Burns, who has seen the originals, says this is not the case.
She does say that the letters of Rand, that have been released, “have not been altered; they are merely incomplete.” But the same is not true for other works of Rand, including her Journals. Burns writes, “On nearly every page of the published journals an unacknowledged change has been made from Rand’s original writing. In the book’s foreword the editor, David Harriman, defends his practice of eliminating Rand’s words and inserting his own as necessary for greater clarity. In many case, however, his editing serves to significantly alter Rand’s meaning.” She says that sentences are “rewritten to sound stronger and more definite” and that the editing “obscures important shifts and changes in Rand’s thought.” She finds “more alarming” the case that “sentences and proper names present in Rand’s original …have vanished entirely, without any ellipses or brackets to indicate a change.”
The result of this unacknowledged editing is that “they add up to a different Rand. In her original notebooks she is more tentative, historically bounded, and contradictory. The edited diaries have transformed her private space, the hidden realm in which she did her thinking, reaching, and groping, replacing it with a slick manufactured world in which all of her ideas are definite, well formulated, and clear.” She concludes that Rand’s Journals, as released by ARI, “are thus best understood as an interpretation of Rand rather than her own writing. Scholars must use these materials with extreme caution.”
The bad news is that “similar problems plague Ayn Rand Answers (2005), The Art of Fiction (2000), The Art of Non-Fiction (2001), and Objectively Speaking (2009).” Burns says all these works were “derived from archival material but have been significantly rewritten.” Rand scholars have long suspected such manipulation of documents; Burns confirms it with evidence she herself saw.
The great problem with such editorially imposed distortions is that they make the volumes they produce far less valuable. And I would hope, that now that ARI has actually allowed access to the documents by scholars not guaranteed to toe the ARI line, that they will also release the unedited versions of these documents. It may be fine for them to add footnotes explaining why they believe a passage shouldn’t be read as written, but they should not change the passage and expect reader’s to take those changes on faith.
What each reader gets out of Goddess of the Market depends on their individual interests. Certainly one will come away with a broader understanding of Rand. At no point was I tempted to fling the book across the room, even if a few times I did sigh with annoyance. However, when the final edited version is produced later this year, I do intend to re-read the book and make notes. There are many gems in Burns’ badly titled volume. The value of those gems will vary from reader to reader. But any serious Rand scholar or fan will find his or her own gems in the book.
Jennifer Burns has produced a fascinating work. It is the first serious study of Rand’s ideas that had full access to Rand’s own papers. As such it is valuable. I would recommend all those interested in Ayn Rand, and Objectivism, to place their order for the book today.
Laissez Faire Books is offering Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right at a substantial discount. The list price is $27.95 but the LFB price is $18.00. The book will be released in mid-October. Orders placed now will be processed and put on back-order for immediate shipping upon release of the book.
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When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he'll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver's arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein."I was looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, 'I could draw from that,'" Dowell said.
It's all part of training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months to draw blood from those suspected of drunken or drugged driving. The federal program's aim is to determine if blood draws by cops can be an effective tool against drunk drivers and aid in their prosecution.
If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage police nationwide to undergo similar training.
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Note: the actual guide/manual on the"Together We Prepare Patch" focuses on natural disasters nevertheless news reports indicateThe new patch will focus on being prepared for all sorts of emergencies, from fires and earthquakes to a flu pandemic or a dirty bomb. The alliance is with DHS (rather than, for example, the Salvation Army) makes such suspicions and, perhaps, the reality itself inevitable. The DHS was created after 9/11 to take charge of airport and border security, natural disaster response, anti-terrorism efforts and a host of surveillance and security programs. What are people supposed to think? The official answer, of course, is that we should trust the motives of government officials who wish to have even more children in uniform co-operating with and being taught to respect 'authority.' After all, those officials are running short of respect from other quarters. Something about practicing torture, an unConstitutional war (Iraq) and bloody occupation of a nation for its own 'good' (Afghanistan), the quashing of civil liberties like Habeas Corpus, no-warrant wiretaps on citizens, offshore prison camps where prisoners who've never seen a lawyer are 'debriefed' to the point of commiting suicide, taxpayer money dumped into the pockets of bankers and others in the 'old-boy' insider network... No wonder politicians are looking into the eyes of children for validation.
It is now time to become paranoid about Obama's plans for America's children because paranoia -- the belief"he is out to get me/us!" -- is the most reasonable interpretation of how government agencies are interfacing with kids. Consider a few examples:
A few months ago, The New York Times reported, The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters. The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout. “Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.” The article features a photo of boys who look to be about 14 and are dressed in swat team gear, holding faux assault weapons.
Last month USA Today ran a story entitled "Students' take-home assignment: Census kits" that stated, Anyone tempted to ignore the 2010 Census will have a tough time doing it — especially if they have kids in school. The government has launched Census in Schools, an all-out campaign targeting superintendents, principals, teachers, students and, indirectly, parents, as schools open across the nation this month and next. The message: The Census is coming and here’s why everyone should care. The goal is to send posters, teaching guides, maps and lesson plans to every school in the nation, Puerto Rico and U.S. island territories to encourage everyone to participate in the national count. The materials will land in more than 118,000 schools and reach 56 million students.
Obama is determined to use your children to force your compliance with his policies. Totalitarian government have long known that the best way to penetrate the privacy and sanctity of family/home is to have an embedded agent who eagerly acts as an enforcement arm of the state...even against family members.
Do not be lulled by the innocuous nature of Obama's recent address to school children. No one know what he would have said in the absence of the amazing and heartening cries of protest that came from parents and some educators. We do know how much he backpedalled on the prerelease etc. For example, the original 'homework' assignment was for every public school child in America to write an essay/letter on how he or she could help the President achieve his goals. In response to the uproar, the topic changed; every school child was asked to examine his or her short-term and long-term educational goals. It is only reasonable to wonder how much the speech itself was sanitized.
For more commentary, please visit wendymcelroy.com.