Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category
Would you believe there have actually been serious proposals to dismantle the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC? Possibly other memorials as well.
Why? Because the person(s) being memorialized owned slaves.
I am inclined to believe that this idea must have started as a joke but, these days, nothing is too loony for the ultra left so the idea is taken seriously. (Indeed, it may have been serious from the beginning but even yours cynically truly has trouble believing that.)
So, Mr. Jefferson was the arch supporter of slavery was he? Let us turn to the man himself for our first clue:
But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
– Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, (discussing slavery and the Missouri question), Monticello, 22 April 1820.
Sorry folks but this sounds more to me like a person who was caught up in something he knew to be morally wrong but did not know how an easy way out of. I have read or heard of similar sentiments on the part of other political leaders of the period.
This is not to excuse slavery. It was wrong and I highly suspect that, well before it ended, most everybody in the nation knew that it was wrong and should long since have been ended. They just did not want to suffer the pain that would come with any form of emancipation (remember the economic implications).
It is also interesting to note that, long before emancipation, slavery had ceased to be economically advantageous in most businesses – this is the primary reason it ended in the industrial north long before in the agricultural south. But, even in the south, it had lost much of its economic advantage.
From our modern perspective, we tend to assume that slave labor was free labor. This was simply not the truth. To begin with, a healthy slave was worth a relatively large amount of money. Then the slaves had to be housed, fed, clothed and provided with sufficient medical care to protect the underlying investment in their persons. There was nothing “free” about any of this.
Back to Mr. Jefferson and the supposed need to destroy his fame and his memorials because of the slave issue:
Was it not Thomas Jefferson who documented the notion that ALL men (humans) are created equal? Had he meant otherwise, he surely could have written: “all WHITE men” or “all FREE men”, or “all ANGLO-SAXON men” or any of dozens of other qualifiers that would have made clear that he did not literally mean “ALL men”. Yet, that seems to be exactly what he did mean. And, although his words were not effectively true at the moment he wrote them, the document he wrote surely gave a primary impetus to the movement that eventually made his words effectively as well as morally true. How could we not honor such a thinker (even if the thoughts in question were not totally original)?
Then there is the issue of Mr. Jefferson’s supposed intimate relations with a slave named Sally Hemings. In the first place, I have no doubt whatever that such a relationship did exist. The real question is whether this was just another example (and there must have been many) where a slaveholder used his power to force himself on his female slaves – or might it have been something less horrible? Might it perhaps have been a caring relationship between two consenting adults? Let us delve further…
First, I find nothing in the historical record to indicate Mr. Jefferson was a “womanizer”. He was married once and, by all accounts, was devoted to his wife Martha Wayles. Martha died relatively young and Mr. Jefferson never married again.
Allow me a bit of a digression here to explain that, in early America, having one’s spouse die young was quite common. Also common was the fact that the surviving spouse often married a sibling of the dead spouse. What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Jefferson / Hemings affair? Simply everything. It was hardly a secret that Sally Hemings was Martha Wayles half sister, her father being John Wayles (also Martha’s father) and Betty Hemings, a mulatto (half white) slave who had a relationship with Mr. Wayles somewhat similar to that between Jefferson and Hemings. Ergo, Sally Hemings was three quarters white, the half sister of Mr. Jefferson’s late wife, and, by contemporary accounts, looked very much like her half sister Martha.
This made a union between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson fairly normal for the times – excepting the sad fact that, a single drop of Negro blood made Sally a Negro in the eyes of existing law, no matter who and what she may have looked like.
There is little evidence that Mr. Jefferson did much to hide the liaison – he simply could not consider marrying her because it was forbidden by law as well as by local custom.
Interestingly, to some extent this worked in their favor. Mr. Jefferson was one of several diplomats who spent long periods abroad, working to gain support for the rebellious colonies and later representing the new nation to foreign governments. Normally, a diplomat could not bring his wife along on these extended absences from home. However, Sally, nominally a servant, could (and did) accompany Mr. Jefferson on many of his travels. Ergo, they got to spend more time together that would have been the case if they were married.
There is one more issue we must deal with: Namely, why did Mr. Jefferson not free Sally and the children she bore him (and, indeed, all of his slaves) when he died? The answer is both sad and simple. When Mr. Jefferson died, he owned NOTHING whatever. He was long since bankrupt, having failed to manage his plantation while spending on credit to purchase the books and scientific gadgets that were the first love of his life. His creditors generously allowed him to live out his life at Monticello, as if he were still master of the place, because of their gratitude for his service to the emerging United States.
Yet today, some of us seriously consider destroying the memorials that properly acknowledge Mr. Jefferson’s contributions to humanity simply because he was, to some extent, what his times trained and expected him to be? This strikes me as more of that ignorant nonsense that seems about to take over our once proud Republic. One can picture ISIS thugs bulldozing monuments in the Middle East. Is that what we now aspire to?
Are we, as a people, incapable of understanding the difference between actions and ideas? Some of Mr. Jefferson’s actions, such as participating in the, at the time, generally accepted practice of slave ownership were limited to a single place and time. The ideas he helped instill in a new nation have transcended place and time and helped to build the freest, most prosperous nation in history. And, yes, this include Blacks as well as people of all ethnicity who have prospered under our system. Never forget that we are the only nation on earth who feel the need to build a fence around our borders to keep people OUT. If the nation our founders created is so bad, why are so many millions (including Blacks) willing to risk their very lives to come here and share our prosperity?
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson
Once again, despite my best efforts, I cannot remain silent. Today’s diatribe was triggered by recent crap concerning white supremacy, the Confederate Flag, and associated nonsense.
Before I begin, the following disclaimer/clarification: American slavery was a fact and it was wrong. What happened to most Black Americans in the years immediately following emancipation was equally wrong. Nothing said here is an attempt to justify or defend either.
Now, on to the diatribe…
A few days ago, several innocent Black Americans were slaughtered by an irrational person for no obvious reason other than the color of their skin. The perpetrator, who is white, associated himself with various forms of racism and intolerance including use of the image of an historical flag.
Let us digress a bit and discuss this flag. First, while it is one of the more recognizable emblems of the failed Confederacy of the middle 1800’s, it was not the official flag of that entity. Indeed, very few Americans, including those most proud of their southern ancestry, can accurately describe or recognize the actual “Confederate Flag”. The banner in question, the one that excites so much emotion, is actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. To southerners, this flag has long been the symbol of the valor and dedication of the thousands who suffered and perished while attempting to defend a principle they held dear.
Many of you will naturally assume that principle was the employment of slave labor. Is this true? Consider a few facts, largely ignored in today’s irrational arguments: At the time of the Civil War, less than 10% of the people in the Confederacy owned or employed slaves. Obviously, this means that over 90% did not. Let us assume that the makeup of the Confederate armies reflected this approximate 10%-90% makeup. The obvious next question is: if 90% of those willing to fight and die for the Confederate cause did not own slaves, what were they so willing to fight and die for? One might assume that the ignorant rednecks were totally willing to fight and die for a privileged minority whom many of them probably resented for obvious reasons. However, this strikes me as not only silly but totally illogical.
Indeed, the history of America is one of common people willing to fight and die to be free of the rule of an aristocracy or other form of “ruling class”. In a word, the common American wanted, above all else, to be left alone to make his/her own decisions and to live their lives as they chose. This was the principle than animated the Revolution and, I contend, it was this same principle that animated the Confederate cause in the Civil War. In a word, many people were willing to fight and die rather than be subject to an over-powerful central government, led by a “ruling class” (whether hereditary or wealth based). I further contend that this sentiment was far more prevalent in rural areas (like the South). Ergo, I contend that most of that 90% were willing to fight against big government in a cause popularly called “States Rights”.
There is no doubt that the issue of slavery was the catalyst that turned an internal quarrel into outright civil war. Aside from the fact that the slaves were human was the additional fact that they were a form of capital wealth. And, taken altogether, they represented a majority of the capital wealth of most Confederate States. So, what was seen by many as a moral issue – the freeing of enslaved human beings, was seen by the southerners as an economic issue – the collapse of the primary source of capital in their economy.
As a further digression, I often reflect on the fact that, if one understands the slavery issue from the economic angle, the real national tragedy is that the federal government could have bought the slaves then freed them for far less actual money cost than the cost of fighting the Civil War – and without the human and property losses war always involves. Of course, this would have had little long-term effect on what I contend was the real issue, leaving that wound to, no doubt, fester and erupt at another time.
So, I end these digressions and sum up to the present situation: Grandpa lost the great war but we have this flag to show that he fought and died bravely and we cling to whatever pride that leaves us with. Except, we are not even supposed to be allowed this going forward. Seems quite silly when summed up this does it not?
This brings us to the real issue. Does banning official display of any historical relic, does attempting to rewrite the narrative of a critical time in our history, actually improve the situation of millions of Black Americans? All rational people know the answer to that without further elaboration on my part. Indeed, given the hundreds of new laws and regulations and the trillions spent on programs intended to re-mediate the effects of slavery, how can there possibly still be a racial problem in America?
The sad but simple answer to that question is that racism still operates simply because so many people want it to. A few of these people, of all skin tones, are actually committed racists and probably always will be. But their numbers are so small they can be mostly ignored, albeit punished severely when their irrational ideas take physical form as they did recently in Charleston.
The bigger problem are those many who derive power and profit from the continuation of racial strife. Again, they exist on all sides of the color line. These include professional racists (Sharpton, Jackson, etc.), institutional racist organizations (the NAACP, the Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus, etc.), and worst of all, politicians in general.
And, these last are by far the worst. They have repeatedly proven themselves willing to cast millions into a state of ignorance, poverty, economic slavery and government dependence simply to create a reliable voting group to help themselves continue in power.
And this is the real problem. Not some banner that most people ignore anyway. And, as long as we-the-sheeple allow this to continue, it can only get worse. Baltimore is only a preview of what we have coming. And, while we all abhor the violence and the irrational behavior inherent in rioting and looting, who can help but sympathize to some extent with the victims/perpetrators? Their frustration must be overpowering at times.
And in the end, so little has really changed:
→ A large group of people are systematically exploited for the benefit of others. Does it really matter whether they are picking cotton or forced into hopeless dependence on politicians?
→ The members of this exploited group are held in bondage partly by denying them the education necessary for self improvement. Does it really matter whether there are laws against teaching slaves to read and write or that schools are intentionally structured for political indoctrination rather than useful education? Or that politicians intentionally promote a dysfunctional culture that, among other things, discourages education, self-improvement and the formation of nurturing family units?
Many Black Americans are realizing their rightful share of the “American Dream” and they are doing so primarily by adhering to the mainstream culture that made America what it is. A culture that honors and rewards education, hard work, honesty, responsibility, civil involvement and the like. Meanwhile, a growing segment of our society which, for reasons beyond my comprehension, loathes America, is trying, with alarming success, to destroy that very culture that made us what we are and still could be.
As I end this screed, I ask you to remember this: It matters little what we have been because the past can never be changed. It does not even matter that much what we are SO LONG AS WE ARE CONTINUALLY GETTING BETTER. And, America always has been continually getting better – for all its citizens and will continue to do so if we will only let it.
Yet, there are many who would destroy us – mostly out of envy. The question is whether we will let them. Lately, I am very troubled by the answer.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson
PS: Perhaps I can write another rant on the ISIS-like mentality of destroying the Jefferson Memorial but that can wait until the pressure builds up again.
Those conservatives who are inclined to dismiss Rand Paul as naive or insane regarding foreign policy, really ought to read and honestly ponder the 1963 essay, “War, Peace, and the State” by Murray N. Rothbard. I found it profound and most thought-provoking. As an example, one passage that really threw a monkey wrench in my patriotic thinking gears was:
“It has always been a source of wonder, incidentally, to this writer how the same conservatives who denounce as lunatic any proposal for eliminating a monopoly of violence over a given territory and thus leaving private individuals without an overlord, should be equally insistent upon leaving States without an overlord to settle disputes between them. The former is always denounced as “crackpot anarchism”; the latter is hailed as preserving independence and “national sovereignty” from “world government.” -Murray N. Rothbard
If you read it, let me know how it struck you… ◄Dave►
Recently, I have been spending far more time reading thought-provoking books, than paying much attention to real-time politics. A couple of very good reads have been “The Libertarian Mind” by David Boaz, and “The Conservatarian Manifesto” by Charles C.W. Cooke. Then, I read “The Great Divide – Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever, Agree” by William D. Gairdner. While I highly recommend all three, they left me even more pessimistic regarding the possibility that America could ever return to the constitutional republic of Liberty-loving citizens that it once was. We certainly can never vote our way to freedom.
Thus, I decided it was time for my annual re-reading of my all-time favorite book, “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne, which I have read at least once a year since 1979 to keep me grounded. Just as I gratefully finished doing so, a new book I had pre-ordered from Amazon popped into my Kindle, which I have only just started reading. “By The People – Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” by Charles Murray again suggests that the grand experiment in Liberty of our Founding Fathers is effectively dead. Yet, it promises to offer a way we might rebuild it in a new incarnation, by civil disobedience rather than with ineffective traditional political processes.
Then this morning I stumbled across:
Interviewed by Jonah Goldberg, another favorite of mine, it is an excellent presentation with a 20 min. audience Q&A session afterward. I know asking anyone to spend an hour watching a video is a lot; but I would suggest that one might get more out of it than any TV program, even on FOX News. Be prepared, however, to be inclined to buy and read his book. Of course, then we might have a useful subject for discussion hereabouts, that doesn’t require that we choose the lessor or two evil politicians. ◄Dave►
In my 72 years on this earth, I have never before seen such a demonstration of total incompetence and utter stupidity as what has transpired in Baltimore these last few days.
Evidently, the latest outbreak of brainlessness in Baltimore was triggered by the arrest of a young black man for the obviously egregious crime of making eye contact with police officers then attempting to ride away on his bike. These brave officers responded by shackling the young man, tossing him into a police van without seat belt or harness to keep him in place then, apparently, taking him on what is called a “rough ride”. Said ride must have earned its name because the young man emerged with a broken spine and sufficient spinal cord damage that he died of his injuries.
The geniuses that administer Baltimore reacted by suspending several police officers – with pay – then offering nothing by way of explanation, excuse or what have you. Exactly what did they think the reaction of the black community would be? Especially in light of several other well publicized incidents between police and young black men.
Even though there had already been some troublesome demonstrations in Baltimore with threats of more to come, the funeral of the victim, an obvious time for unleashing resentment, is held with there having been almost no preparation by city authorities for handling what was surely about to happen.
Then, at the end of the funeral, when the trouble is starting for real, local city transportation (subway and buses) are made unavailable to thousands of young blacks trying to get home from school, leaving them little else to do than join the demonstrations.
Next, the head genius (the mayor) tells her police force, in effect, to let them loot and riot, presumably to depressurize the situation. Of course, this has the opposite effect and the riots get even worse. Yet, the head genius waits until nearly dark, when the rioting is bound to go ballistic, to ask the governor to deploy the national guard.
It is now the next day and portions of Baltimore are still burning. Who’d a thunk it?
One might easily assume that Baltimore is run by a bunch of redneck whites who intentionally let all this happen – right? Not exactly. The mayor, chief of police and several other high administrators of the city are all black. We do not yet know the racial makeup of the police officers who started all this with an apparent illegal arrest and mistreatment of the victim but racism does not seem to suffice as an explanation for all that has happened.
How then is it to be explained?
With no other evidence to go on, I will offer my explanation: The same deadly mix of incompetence and corruption that is ruining government at every level in our once proud republic.
BTW, doesn’t a governor outrank a mayor? Why then did the governor of MD not take it upon himself to deploy the national guard early enough to have gotten the situation under control well before dark?
Why did the mayor not immediately invoke a curfew in an attempt to clear the streets instead of appearing to give the rioters freedom to riot and loot?
In a word, why do we have so many “leaders” who are quick to point fingers and place blame rather than step up to the responsibility they pledged to take when assuming power?
Again, I presume to answer my own question: We tolerate irresponsibility in our leaders because we-the sheeple are ourselves generally irresponsible.
My friends, we are letting, even helping, all this to happen over and over. It is not ISIS/ISIL, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians or whoever else we like to blame for our woes. To again quote the great philosopher Pogo the Possum, “we have met the enemy and he is US”.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson
I notice that there has been no discussion here of the recent Putin conquests and provocations.
May I have the satisfaction of knowing this is because, like me, the rest of you suspect this is nothing more or less than a sideshow meant to deflect international attention away from more significant activities – such as the treasonous activities of supposed “democratic” governments all over the world as well as the cowardice they display in regard to the Muslim threat?
For sure, innocent people are being slaughtered in this “sideshow” but, when did the lives of innocent people ever matter to those who truly wield power in this world? Truth is that we are simply utility objects to them. Sometimes our best use comes from helping increase their wealth or power through our work. Sometimes it comes from shedding our blood in whatever way seems to suit their current purposes.
On a side note, it makes me incredibly sad to realize that I once worked for what I am convinced with the best corporation in the world (IBM). During my tenure there, I saw it degenerate into just another corporation. I was born in what was undoubtedly the best nation in history. During my tenure here, I have seen America degenerate into just another country.
Consenting to become “ordinary” when you have been outstanding is such an insult to any enterprise.
Troy L Robinson
Saint J9 and I went to see this movie yesterday and really were impressed with the great job done by Clint Eastwood and the actors, especially Bradley Cooper.
For those who don’t know (or care), Chris Kyle lived, and was murdered, 40-50 miles from where we currently live, just as the trial of his killer is just starting up in the same area. Ergo, the interest in the movie is extraordinary in this area.
Indeed, we would have helped populate one of the nearby I35 overpasses to honor the funeral procession as it made its way from Arlington to Austin — except were prevented by a mandatory appointment that took us elsewhere, much to our regret. They say that every one of the overpasses was lined with people and they show some actual footage of the procession at the end of the film. I don’t know how many overpasses there are but the trip is over 150 miles. Once the procession approached the city of Austin, the sides of the highway were also lined by a continuous wall of people and this continued all the way to the Texas State Cemetery where Kyle in interred along with many other Texas heroes.
Makes one proud to be a Texan and an American to be reminded that we still produce such people.
Pat Condell finds no reason to show respect for the ‘faith’ of others, and explains why rather succinctly:
Then, Stephen Fry explains even more succinctly why if the faithful are correct about the existence and nature of their god, it is a monster that in and of itself deserves no respect:
While I completely agree with both of these fellows, I am particularly taken with the elegance with which Fry made his case. The nonverbal reaction of the interviewer to some of his statements was priceless! Too bad the Freedom Torch website appears to be defunct. I would have loved to post these there and observe the reaction of the Piously Correct (PC) crowd that once haunted that forum. A clever poll asking which one made the better case for rational thought, could have been most interesting. ◄Dave►
Like most Americans, I get a daily dose of updates from the front lines in Ferguson, MO. Being me, I can’t help but offer a few comments of my own…
To begin with, let me clearly say that I have no idea what actually transpired between the dead youth and the police officer – and, I suspect we will never know for sure because most of the “witnesses” seem to have viewed the incident through lens distorted by their own personal prejudices, these slanting in all directions.
Next, I highly suspect that officer Wilson will see his reputation, if not his freedom, sacrificed in the name of Political Correctness and “community relations”, just as happened several years ago in the Rodney King case. I cite the King case based on my personal opinion that the opinion of the public (and the original jury that refused to convict the police) was very different based on whether they viewed the entire video tape of the incident or the carefully edited version shown by the major media. The point being that “evidence” can be manipulated to cause differing responses from those considering said evidence.
My next point concerns the notion that an “unarmed youth” was shot multiple times by an armed police officer. I contend that a 300+ pound 18 year-old human body, used in anger, can be a quite formidable weapon, particularly when launched against an older human of about ½ the body mass of the perpetrator.
Then there is the major paradox in the case: This involves the claim, probably often true, that many police are very prone to be especially suspicious of the criminal tenancies of young black males. Now, one can reasonably respond that crime statistics support this apparent attitude on the part of the police. One can also reasonably counter that, if police apprehend young black males in excess, that in itself will tend to generate those very statistics. But that is not the paradox. Instead it is this – in far too many cases like Ferguson, too many members of the black community “protest” their alleged over-criminalization by committing repeated criminal acts – looting, rioting, attacking police and innocent civilians – usually in public and often on camera. Can they not realize that such open and obvious behavior is seen by many fair-minded people as justifying the attitudes and actions of the police?
A second paradox is the climate of fear, caused by black outrage, encouraged by “professional racists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, discourage the open and honest exchange of thoughts and feelings necessary to sort through and, hopefully, resolve this continuing national tragedy. This is (to me at least) especially distressing at a time when a number of the most powerful political offices, most distinguished scholastic positions, and most lucrative entertainment positions are held by members of the black community.
As I have opined multiple times in this space, the genetic differences between the ethnic groups in this nation are superficial to the degree of being meaningless, consisting almost entirely of environmental adaptations that will one day disappear. The meaningful differences are all cultural. While it may well be slowly changing (for the worse), the most successful cultural model in this nation is derived from that of Western Europe. That culture embodies such notions as education, ambition, perseverance, supportive/protective family units, honesty, integrity. Historically, members of all ethnic groups who embrace this culture succeed, to the extent that they usually achieve whatever they desire in their lives. Sadly, far too many members of the black community, especially in our inner cities, embrace an artificial, dysfunctional culture that knowingly rejects those cultural attributes that reliably lead to success. Sadder still, this phenomenon is encouraged by various political groups who profit from a downtrodden, dependent black community. Saddest of all, the worst offenders in this viscous process are themselves members of the black community. The power to change this lies totally in the hands of the blacks themselves – if they would only realize it.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson
Things sure have been slow around here. I know that I have not been holding up my end of things, mostly because there really is not much new to say RE our national condition. I just sit back and watch too many of the things I predicted come to pass with the honest hope that it stops short of my worst prediction (a full-fledged dictatorship).
It is still too early to guess whether the Obamanation will peacefully leave office at the end of his elected term. I suppose that much depends on the prospects for his successor. If the Obamanation’s masters can confidently predict that Hillary will be the next president, then they will no doubt let that happen, knowing that their power will continue undiminished. Should the GOP get its head out of — uh, wherever it usually keeps its head, then who knows what our true masters might then decide. However, such seems very unlikely. Just look at the speed with which assumed GOP front-runner, Krispy-Creame Chistie was reduced to almost-ran status.
Meanwhile, we are off this coming weekend for the next Reason Foundation cruise. Perhaps I will find sufficient inspiration there to write something new. I have been reading and thinking a lot about the effect of fundamentalist religion on our nation and on many of the bizarre happenings therein but have not seen fit to write about it because previous articles on this subject were not well received. While I don’t mind causing minor upset if it makes my readers think, I am not looking to get on any more enemies lists.
Dave, where are you? Have you abandoned this blog for greener pastures? (Or at least, for blogs with more activity?)
I admit to being a fan of Duck Dynasty although I would be hard pressed to give a rational reason why. I guess it is the fact that I grew up in similar country (swamps) and enjoyed hunting (especially ducks although I was never especially successful at it – one needed $$ to hunt where there were lots of ducks and $$ I did not have).
So, GQ (of all magazines) interviews the Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, a retired fundamentalist preacher as well as a duck call inventor. And they, along with the A&E cable network pretend to be surprised that he answered most of the questions exactly as one would expect from a fundamentalist preacher. Imagine that.
I don’t happen to agree with Phil about anything concerning religion or tolerance of my fellow man – but – that is not the point of their TV program. Sure, they work a prayer into every episode, usually at the dining table, but I somehow manage to ignore that just like I ignore the myriad times I am subjected to public prayer in my everyday life (part of the price of living in the rural South).
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In political discussions, I generally identify myself as a small (el) libertarian, since it is too time consuming to explain what I mean, when I say I am an objectivist. There are, however, profound differences between some of the various schools of libertarianism, and the specific philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she named objectivism. This will serve as a succinct introduction to the subject, to which I can link in future discussions here and elsewhere.
The Ayn Rand Institute has some superb interactive online courses. They just added a short 15 minute introductory course on objectivism, narrated by Ayn Rand herself. It is very well done, and I highly recommend it. However, although it is free of charge, one must enroll in their online university to watch it. While safe and painless, few would probably bother to do so. Thus, the following is the transcript of Ayn Rand’s voice-over, without the visuals:
At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did, as follows:
1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism
If you want this translated into simple language, it would read:
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After some fruitful discussion on my “Natural Rights Explained” essay, posted here and elsewhere, my blogging partner, Troy, posted his “Natural Rights Refuted” post, neatly dismissing the whole concept. This is my rebuttal to that.
We may be twisting ourselves into semantic knots here, Troy. Suggesting there is no “such thing,” comports with the understanding we had already developed, which suggested that natural rights are ideas, akin to opportunities, rather than things. Yet, as Chris pointed out, ideas are ‘things’ too.
I had been working on the notion that it was sovereignty itself, which was the primary, and the concept of natural rights were mere corollaries of that proposition. Then, the Enlightenment era treatise by Quesnay, suggested that it was the right to pursue one’s own pleasure, which was fundamental and gave rise to the notion of sovereignty, and the other so-called natural rights.
In any case, I entirely agree with your assessment of the intention of Jefferson, et al. That was precisely the point I was making in my original “Sovereign Rights” essay back in ’07, when I interpreted and restated his most famous line about self-evident truths, in the Declaration of Independence, thusly:
“We freeborn Americans are sovereign individuals, each on par with King George III himself, with the inalienable right to live our lives as freemen, pursuing our own happiness, subservient to no one.”
Do natural rights exist? As ideas, they most certainly do. The meaning, validity, and/or effect of those ideas can certainly be fairly challenged; but their existence cannot, and more importantly, probably should not. I think we need to back up and look at the big picture, to assess the whole point of this discussion.
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I have a confession to make – one inspired by friend Dave’s recent articles regarding natural rights. The fact is, I do not believe there is any such thing as a natural right.
Yes, I truly support Mr. Jefferson’s sentiments, expressed in the Declaration Of Independence, that “all men are created equal”. However, I interpret that statement differently than most of my fellow citizens. I believe that what Mr. Jefferson meant, taken in the context of the document in which he said it, is that there is no “divine right of kings”. That there are no special humans, designated and recognized by some deity as having a special, deity-granted right to rule (or tyrannize) other people. One obvious reason this must be true is that there is no evidence of any deity with the authority or the power to grant such a right (actually, this would more correctly be defined as a privilege).
I also support Mr. Jefferson’s contention that all humans have an equal “right” to their lives, to the extent that they can defend their lives; to their liberty, to the extent that they can effectively demand and maintain their liberty; and, to whatever property they can morally and ethically accumulate, defend and maintain.
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A typical comment directed at me elsewhere, inspired some cogitation resulting in the following explanation of ‘natural rights':
“What is the point of the constitutional phrase right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you can murder babies in the womb? We only have a right to life if we are already born? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
That phrase is found in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, and it was part of the sentence declaring the equality and natural rights of all ‘men,’ not babies, or children, and certainly not fetuses. In our Founder’s time, it probably did not even include women, and for an embarrassingly significant percentage of them, it excluded the entire negro race. Allow me to offer another way to look at this business of natural rights, which may help you make some sense of them.
When Enlightenment thinkers developed the philosophical concept of natural rights, it was in the context of individual sovereignty. The extant paradigm for Western civilization at that time, was that one was necessarily born into servitude, to the sovereign potentate claiming dominion over the territory in which one was born. There were different classes in society, enjoying differing levels of privileges; but all were born subjects of their king, whether serf or gentry. Supported by the clergy, the king had the divine right to rule over his subjects. He could order a subject’s head detached on a whim, and a serf was not permitted to relocate or change occupations without permission.
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As I have opined in other articles, I take a dim view of altruism – the notion that one should do for others with no thought toward one’s own needs, and with no thought of a reward for one’s altruistic actions. In a word, none of us is truly our brother’s keeper.
However, this does not mean that it is wise for one person to live their life without any regard for their fellows, for often, concern for others is actually very much in our own self interest. In a word, each of us is truly our brother’s brother and we would do well to remember that.
To this end, I submit two quotes from the recent past that should help illustrate this point…
First, a quote that, to some degree, helps us understand how the Nazis were able to dominate an otherwise enlightened culture…
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
And this from Ayn Rand, reminding us of the supremacy of the individual (versus any form of collective)…
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
Why am I bringing this up? Because history seems to be repeating itself (again).
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While I realize there is no end of opinion being offered regarding the Martin – Zimmerman fiasco, I cannot help but offer my own two dollars worth…
Despite there having been no real evidence of a racial angle to this tragedy, still there seems to be an outcry to make this a racial issue. My question is why?
I expect as much from the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton because they (and others like them) are professional racists. That is to say, their prosperity, fame and influence are all based on the continuation of racial divisiveness.
But, how does one explain the media’s obvious wish to stir up unnecessary racial discord over this? Or that of the “Hollywood airheads”? Worse yet, why is the president of our nation doing the same thing? Do they not understand that the “low information” segment of our society reacts to such misinformation emotionally rather than rationally, and that, to most of them, perception is reality, regardless of the pertinent facts (or lack of same).
I confess to have no idea what was going through the minds of George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin during that unfortunate encounter. However, my impression, from what evidence we have been offered, is that this was the tragic result of a chance collision between two people, both lacking in good judgment.
Goodness knows that there is enough legitimate racial misconduct among all races without attempting to find a racial problem where none seemed to exist.
Precisely what do the race-baiters wish to come of this? Other than the professional racists named above, why would any sane person want to foment unrest that will intimately harm us all?
There is another angle to this that puzzles me. Assume that the professional racists, the media, the Hollywood airheads and even the president are all totally sincere in their concern that a young black male may have been intentionally stalked and killed by a part Hispanic, part black man with a Jewish name? If the killing of young black males is so high on their collective horror list, where is the like concern for the thousands of young black males that are routinely slaughtered by other black males in our inner cities? Are the lives of those young black males of no account? Is the killing of a young black male only wrong when perpetuated by a killer who is less than totally black?
As I have opined before in this blog, I originally hoped that the election of the first self-identified “black” president would be, if not the end of racism in America, at least the beginning of the end. Instead, we have elected the most racist administration in the history of the Republic.
Perhaps those currently in power see this as some manner of “getting even”? I simply cannot imagine any other explanation for intentionally causing division and discord in the nation they were chosen to lead. But this I do know – whatever their motivation, what they are doing can only turn out very badly for all of us, no matter our individual blend of ancestral ethnicity.
The future of our Republic is in sufficient doubt without this.
Taking this latest fiasco together with all else that has happened in recent years, one would be justified in concluding that those privileged to lead this nation are determined to destroy it. I simply cannot come up with any other rational explanation.
It is our choice whether we allow them to succeed.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson
This being the holiday when we (should) celebrate our national independence, it seems a reasonable time to reflect on the notion of Patriotism and of the Patriot. To some extent, this article is in response to the blog post at: http://www.thoughtsaloud.com/2013/06/11/does-the-truth-realy-make-us-free/ and to the many comments it prompted (and for which I thank all of you).
To start things off, I offer definitions of the two words, taken from Dictionary.com:
devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.
1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
While I do not argue with these definitions, I nevertheless find them lacking. For instance, “patriotism” is defined as being about one’s country and national loyalty. Fine, but exactly what does this mean? Is the “country” the physical land? Is it the citizenry? Is it the nation – and, by extension, the government? Common sense suggests to me that it is a combination of these. Again, fine, so far as it goes.
Next, when we consider the definition of “patriot”, we get another “spin” on things. Again is repeated the devotion to country, but, added is the notion that a “patriot” also defends the rights of the individual citizen against governmental interference. And, herein lies the rub.
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The United States of America has reached that sad (and terminal) condition where we are in a constant state of War.
As a people, we have been conditioned to accept War as a necessary thing. After all, was our very freedom as a nation not born in War?
The error in all this is that War, as a term of language, has become so general as to mean almost anything, good, bad or indifferent. We-the-sheeple seem to accept that all Wars are in our interest without stopping to examine each so-called “War” on its own merits (or lack of same). As a result, a condition (War) that we generally accept as always in our interest is increasingly used against us. Yet another example where ignorance is the true enemy – an enemy against which we are not waging any form of “War”. Let us examine a few of the attributes of this thing we call “War”.
Basically, War is a method by which something is intended to be “defeated’. Simple enough on the surface but, are we always sure we know exactly what is intended to be defeated and why? I submit that the answer is a definite “NO”.
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(It seems I have something to say after all…)
According to the Christian bible, if one knows the truth, that truth will make one free. Will it really? Better still, do most of us even want to know the truth?
In this diatribe, I refer to the various documents provided to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning followed by the more recent disclosures of government spying on its citizens by Edward Snowden.
It is true that, in both cases, the “leakers”, aka “whistle blowers” violated numerous security laws and rules by making their disclosures. This prompts me to ask whether laws and rules that have the effect of covering up (or hiding) wrongdoing on the part of government can, indeed, ever be accepted as valid laws and rules?
I see this as akin to the principle regarding a soldier’s obligation to follow orders – excepting in those cases where such orders would result in illegal or improper actions (for instance, an order to kill innocent civilians).
Such notions are, in fact, almost impossible to “cleanly” implement because they depend on the interpretation of the situation by the individuals involved as well as the fact that the “rules” of the game are often totally inconsistent.
Referring back to my previous example – most of us can agree that an order for an infantry squad to invade a peaceful village and kill innocent non-combatants is morally wrong. Then, what do we say about the order to drop bombs or fire missiles into areas that contain equally innocent non-combatants whose only “crime” was to be too near some area thought to have legitimate military value? It seems to me the only way out of this morass is to judge the actions of those who violate the rules by the evident morality of their intentions. That is, were the violations in question obviously intended for personal gain or were they done at obvious personal risk to the violator and driven by moral considerations?
Back to the original notion – that of “leakers” who violate security laws and rules to disclose information that they honestly and morally believe should be known by the citizenry at large…
My own opinion, for whatever it is worth, is that what we know to be morally correct always trumps laws and rules established by government. If that is not true, then government automatically becomes all powerful because its ability to manipulate and deceive will be unlimited.
Given this opinion, three thoughts emerge: First, that both Manning and Snowden deserve the same consideration and protection extended to whistle blowers whose revelations did not involve “national security”. Second, that what we allow to be called “national security” is more often a smoke screen intentionally devised to hide the crimes of those who govern us. Third, that any and all members of government who demand that the likes of Manning and Snowden be severely punished, even executed, are themselves highly suspect and most probably have wrongdoing to hide.
The plain truth is that our government, especially the current regime, is corrupt to the point where all our rights and liberties are at severe risk. If we sit by and allow those who would expose this corruption to be silenced and punished, then we are nothing more than accessories to that corruption.
Think about it.
Troy L Robinson