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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: July 13, 2020
Posted: July 13, 2020 at 5:34 pm
Many articles have been written about whats wrong with Ayn Rands philosophy. But, to my knowledge, none of them presents her ideas accurately. So I thought it would be helpful to write one that does.
Heres whats wrong with Rands ideas:
Rand held that existence exists, that reality is real, that there is a world out there, and that we are conscious of it. She held that everything in existence is something specific; everything has a nature; a thing is what it is. (A snake is a snake. A woman is a woman. A pillar of salt is a pillar of salt.) She held that a thing can act only in accordance with its nature. (A snake can slither; it cannot speak. A woman can speak; she cant become a pillar of salt.) And Rand held that there is only one reality: the one we perceive, the one we experience, the one in which we live.1
Where to start with all of the problems in just that one paragraph?
To begin with, the idea that existence exists excludes the idea that existence doesnt exist. It denies the subjectivist, pragmatist, postmodernist view that reality is an illusion, a mental construct, a social convention. Obviously, people who insist that reality is not real are not going to buy in to a philosophy that says it is real.
So thats one huge problem with Rands philosophy.
Now consider her view that only one reality exists. This excludes the notion that a second reality exists; it excludes the idea of a supernatural realm, the realm of God. Likewise, her view that everything has a specific nature, that a thing is what it is, excludes the possibility that some things are not what they are. For instance, it excludes the possibility that a dead person can be alive (life after death), the possibility that wine can be blood or that bread can be flesh (transubstantiation), and the possibility that the Earth came into existence hundreds of thousands of years after the first Homo sapiens roamed it. Similarly, the idea that things can act only in accordance with their nature excludes the possibility of miraclesso: no Immaculate Conception, no virgin birth (of Jesus), no living inside a whale for three days, no walking on water, no faith healing, and so on.
Needless to say, people who insist on the existence of God, life after death, creationism, and miracles will not buy in to a philosophy that leaves no room for such things.
The problems with Rands philosophy are mounting rapidlyand weve just begun.
Another major problem is Rands view that man acquires knowledge by means of reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses. According to Rand, insofar as a person observes reality via his senses; integrates his observations into concepts, generalizations, and principles; checks his thinking for contradictions; and checks his conclusions for consistency with his ever-expanding network of observation-based integrationshe can acquire knowledge. Indeed, according to Rand human beings have acquired massive amounts of knowledge, which is why science has advanced so far and man has accomplished so much.2
Well, that view will not go over well with skeptics, pragmatists, and postmodernists who argue that man cannot acquire knowledgeat least not knowledge of reality. Because mans sensory apparatuses process all incoming data before it reaches consciousness, these skeptics argue, man is conscious not of an external reality or a world out there, but rather of internal modifications or distortions.
No human being has ever experienced an objective world, or even a world at all, writes Sam Harris. The sights and sounds and pulsings that you experience are consequences of processed datadata that has been structured, edited, or amplified by the nervous system. Thus, The world that you see and hear is nothing more than a modification of your consciousness.3
This fashionable view is rooted in the ideas of Immanuel Kant, who wrote: What objects may be in themselves, and apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility [i.e., perception], remains completely unknown to us. Once we understand this, Kant says, we realise that not only are the drops of rain mere appearances, but that even their round shape, nay even the space in which they fall, are nothing in themselves, but merely modifications within consciousness. In principle, Kant says, the actual objectthe object as it really isremains unknown to us.4
Indeed, says Kant, it is an error even to regard external objects as things-in-themselves, which exist independently of us and of our sensibility, and which are therefore outside us. The truth, he says, is that external objects are mere appearances or species of [internal] representations, and the things we perceive are something only through these representations. Apart from them they are nothing.5
When philosophers or intellectuals claim that we cannot know reality because our sensory apparatuses distort the data before it reaches consciousness, they may sound profound or impressive (at least to each other). But, then, along comes Ayn Rand, who points out that such claims amount to the view that man is blind, because he has eyesdeaf, because he has earsdeluded, because he has a mindand the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.6
As you might imagine, such straightforward clarifications, which abound in Rands works, can make skeptics feel as ignorant as they claim to be. So thats another problem with Rands philosophy.
Further, Rand holds that reason is mans only means of gaining knowledge.7 This excludes the possibility that revelation, faith, feelings, or extrasensory perception (ESP) is a means of knowledge. On her view, to embrace ideas not supported by evidence is to err. Thus Rand sees all forms of mysticismall claims to a non-sensory, non-rational means of knowledgeas baseless, arbitrary, illegitimate.
That, of course, will not fly with religionists, subjectivists, psychics, or others who claim to acquire knowledge through non-sensory, non-rational means.
And then there are the myriad problems posed by Rands conception of free will.
Rand holds that people do indeed possess free willand that it resides in a fundamental choice: to think or not to think, to focus ones mind or not to do so, to go by facts or to go by feelings.8 The problems with this idea manifest on several levels.
For starters, if people have free will, then not only are their choices their responsibility, so too are the consequences of their choices. If a person characteristically chooses to think, and if his thinking guides him to build a business and make a lot of money, then the business and the money are his achievements. Likewise, if a person characteristically chooses not to think, and if his non-thinking renders him poor and miserable, then his poverty and misery are his fault.
Well, egalitarians, socialists, communists, and the like are not going to accept that for a minute. People who want to organize society in a way that ignores or denies personal responsibility will not accept a philosophy that upholds the very principle that gives rise to and necessitates personal responsibility.
Nor will Rands conception of free will jibe with Jews, Christians, or Muslims who take their religion seriously. If people truly choose to think or not to think, then the notion of an omnipotent, omniscient God goes out the window. Think about it: If people are free to think or not to think, then whatever powers an alleged God is said to possess, he cant know in advance which alternative people are going to choose. If God existed and knew in advance how people were going to choose, then their choices would be preordainedthus they wouldnt be genuine choices. Likewise, if people are free to think or not to think, then God cant make them choose to think. Nor can he make them choose not to think. You see the problem.
In short, Rands view of free will leaves no room for the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. This will not sit well with anyone who insists that such a God exists.
And thats still just the tip of Rands free-will iceberg. Her view of volition leads to a whole host of additional problems. Consider a few more.
If people choose to think or not to think, then they choose all of their actions that are governed by that fundamental choice as well. For instance, on Rands view, a person can choose to be honest or dishonest. He can refuse to pretend that facts are other than they areor he can choose to engage in such pretense.9 Importantly, Rands views on honesty and dishonesty are not merely about telling the truth versus lying. Rand holds that if a person knows something to be true but pretends that he doesnt know it, then even if he doesnt lie about iteven if he maintains the pretense only in his own mindhe is being dishonest. For instance, on Rands view, if a person knows that a friend has acted unjustly but pretends that he doesnt know it, hes being dishonest. And if a person knows that he owes someone an apology but doesnt extend it, hes being dishonest. In such cases, although the person has not lied, he nevertheless is pretending that facts are other than they are.
Well, people who choose occasionally to pretend that they dont know what they do knowand who want to continue in this fashionwill not embrace a philosophy that says they are able to stop deluding themselves and morally corrupt if they dont. (Of course, they might pretend to embrace it, but thats another matter.)
Likewise, on Rands view, a person can choose to think for himself, or he can turn to others and expect them to think for him. In other words, he can engage in independent thinking or in what Rand termed second-handedness.10 (An example of independent thinking would be someone reading a philosophers works and deciding for himself whether they make sense. An example of second-handedness would be someone turning to others to see what they say he should think about the philosophers ideas.) Rands insistence that people should face reality and think for themselves as a matter of unwavering principle is a problembecause many people are afraid to think for themselves. Many people prefer to avoid that effort, to shirk that responsibility, and to passively accept the ideas of their group, their leader, their tribe. Such people will not embrace a philosophy that upholds independent thinking as a fundamental virtue.
This brings us to the mother lode of problems with Ayn Rands philosophyand to the point of the whole thing.
Rands aforementioned principles calling for people to uphold reason, to be honest, and to think for themselves are part and parcel of the moral code she called rational egoism or rational self-interest. This moral code holds that the objective standard of moral value is mans lifeby which Rand means the requirements of human life given the kind of being that humans are. On her view, because humans are rational beingsbeings whose basic means of survival is the use of reasonthat which sustains and furthers the life of a rational being is good (or moral), and that which harms or destroys the life of a rational being is bad (or evil).11
Further, because Rand sees human beings as individualseach with his own body, his own mind, his own lifeshe holds that each individuals own life is properly his own ultimate value. She holds that each individual should choose and pursue his own life-serving values, and that he should never surrender a greater value for the sake of a lesser valuehe should never commit a sacrifice. As she puts it:
Manevery manis an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.12
Well, such a moral code clearly will not fly with people who want to maintain the traditional notion that people have a moral duty to sacrifice themselves or their values for the sake of others (i.e., altruism). Nor will it fly with people who feel that they have a moral right to sacrifice other people as they see fit (predation).
Not only does Rand regard both self-sacrifice and the sacrifice of others as immoral; she also regards the use of any form or degree of initiatory physical force against human beings as properly illegal. In her words, the essential characteristics of a civilized society are that men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit; and that no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.13
Needless to say, Rands staunch advocacy of voluntary exchange to mutual benefit and her moral opposition to the use of force as a means of obtaining values from people will not fly with people or governments that want to use force to obtain values from people. Criminals who want to steal peoples belongings, commit fraud, rape people, or violate rights in other ways will not embrace a moral code that forbids them to do so. Likewise, governments that want to force people to serve the common good or the community or the master race or some other master will not recognize or uphold a morality that forbids them to initiate physical force against people. And pull-peddling businessmen who want government to forcibly control, regulate, or cripple their competitors will not recognize or uphold a moral code that forbids such coercion either.
This problemRands moral opposition to the use of physical force against human beingslies at the very base of her political theory, where it serves as a bridge between her moral code and her political views. This is where Rands theory of rights comes into the picture. As she put it:
Rights are a moral conceptthe concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individuals actions to the principles guiding his relationship with othersthe concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social contextthe link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.14
Rand sees individual rights as the governing principle of a civilized society because she sees rights as deriving from mans nature and as requirements of his life in a social context. She elaborates:
A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a mans freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a mans right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated actionwhich means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)15
According to Rand, the only proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights by banning physical force from social relationshipsand by using force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.16
Clearly, no one who wants government to do more than that will embrace Rands philosophy. No one who wants government to forcibly redistribute wealth, or to forbid certain kinds of speech, or to forbid certain kinds of consensual adult sex, or to restrict freedom in any other way will embrace a philosophy that demands principled recognition and absolute protection of individual rights.
A final problem worth mentioning about Rand and her philosophy is that she wrote in plain, intelligible English and defined her terms clearly as a matter of course, so that anyone who wants to understand her ideas can do so with relative ease. Toward this end, in addition to presenting her ideas in various nonfiction works, she dramatized them in spellbinding fictionsuch as her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shruggedthus enabling people to see her ideas in practice. Well, this will not go over well with modern philosophers or academics who insist that philosophy must be written in academese, technical jargon, or impenetrable fog. Nor will it pass muster with anyone who feels that dramatizing or concretizing ideas in fiction somehow disqualifies them.
We could go on. Rands philosophy involves many additional problems. But the foregoing is a concise indication of the trouble it causes.
So, next time the subject of whats wrong with Ayn Rands ideas comes up, be sure to share this brief sketch of the kinds of problems involved. Its better for people to learn whats wrong with Rands actual ideas than to waste time contemplating takedowns of straw men.
Posted: at 5:34 pm
(Reuters) - The institute promoting the laissez-faire capitalism of writer Ayn Rand, who in the novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead introduced her philosophy of objectivism to millions of readers, was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of up to $1 million, according to data released Monday by the Trump administration.
The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism in Santa Ana, California, sought to preserve 35 jobs with the PPP funding, according to the data.
The institute advocates the Russian-American writers philosophy and applies its principles to many issues and events, including ones Rand herself never discussed, according to its website. It focuses on areas that have a long-term multiplying impact on the direction of our culture notably, education and policy debates, the website says.
The institute referred Reuters to a May 15 article, in which board member Harry Binswanger and senior fellow Onkar Ghate wrote that the organization would take any relief money offered from the CARES Act. We will take it unapologetically, because the principle here is: justice, they wrote, adding that the government has no wealth of its own. It can only redistribute the wealth of others.
In Rands novels and works of nonfiction which included The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal she expressed her belief in rational self-interest and the goal of pursuing happiness as a persons highest moral aim.
In a 1962 essay, Rand wrote of seventeenth century French businessmen: They knew that government help to business is just as disastrous as government persecution, and that the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.
Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
Social media and major news outlets are ablaze with reports that the Ayn Rand Institute applied for and received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, established by Congress under the CARES Act for pandemic relief. People are questioning how an educational nonprofit that advocates ending the welfare state can maintain its integrity while accepting a government bailout.
The question is understandable, which is why months ago, before ARI received any funds Institute scholars recorded an explanatory webinar and published an essay (To Take or Not to Take), stating clearly that ARI was applying for funds and explaining why an uncompromising advocate of laissez-faire capitalismabsolutely has a right to take such money as a matter of moral principle.
These explanations are based squarely on Rands philosophy of Objectivism, including statements she made directly on the issue during her lifetime (she died in 1982).
Together these materials provide a factual basis for journalists, commentators and other interested persons to understand the Institutes position.
The Institutes president and CEO, Tal Tsfany, has recorded a short video explaining why the pursuit of PPP funds was a matter of justice for ARIs donors.
SUPPORT ARI: If you value the ideas presented here, please become an ARI Member today.
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
I feel the need to let you know this cartoon was inspired by the first Betsy DeVos story this week:
Several Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia have joined in a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, accusing the Trump administration of trying to unlawfully divert pandemic relief funds from public schools to private schools.
I completed it before I realized there was a second Betsy DeVos story:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday assailed plans by some local districts to offer in-person instruction only a few days a week and said schools must be "fully operational" even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Now as I write this, I see there is a third Betsy DeVos story:
If schools arent going to reopen, were not suggesting pulling funding from education but instead allowing families ... (to) take that money and figure out where their kids can get educated if their schools are going to refuse to open, Betsy DeVos told Fox News in an interview.
But probably the best Betsy DeVos story this week wasn't actually about her (but might as well have been):
The institute promoting the laissez-faire capitalism of writer Ayn Rand, who in the novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead introduced her philosophy of objectivism to millions of readers, was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of up to $1 million, according to data released Monday by the Trump administration.
I apologize for not being able to keep up.
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.
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Wisconsin school board member asked to resign after posting that ‘George Floyd is drug free for 2 months’ – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: at 5:34 pm
The Shawano School Board is calling on a board member to resign after he postedwhat hesaid was "a joke" about the death of George Floyd.
Shawano School Board member Mart Grams wrote on Facebook on Saturday: "You know George Floyd is drug free for 2 months."
The Facebook post was deleted on Monday.
Floyd died in May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The video of his deathspawned protests around the world including many marches and protests in Milwaukee, Madison and elsewhere in Wisconsin.
RELATED: See the more than 45 communities in Wisconsin that have had protests against police brutality and racial inequality
Grams emailed Green Bay TV station WBAY a statement on Sunday, calling his Facebook post"A joke, period. Anyone can say it was insensitive, or poor taste, but, once the racist cards come out, the raw hatred, we have a very poorly trained generation who cannot deal with the slightest contradiction to what the (sic) are told."
Shawano School Board members called a special session Sunday evening to condemn Grams' use of "racially derogatory terminology and of his irresponsible statements mocking the death of Mr. Floyd."
The board called on Grams to immediately resign. As of Monday he has not done so, said School Board Vice President Michael Sleeper. Grams did not attend Sunday night's school board meeting
On Monday community members contacted authorities seeking information about how to formally recall Grams from his elected position, Sleeper said in a phone interview.
"Whether that would come to a recall I dont know," Sleeper said.
By Sunday night - before it was removed -Grams' post had drawn more than 800 comments, many of them calling on him to resign or for the school board to force him out.
One commenter wrote, "Contrary to what you tried to pass off as a reason when you spoke to Action Two News, this isn't just a joke nobody understood. It's racist trash."
The school district, in the city of 9,300located 40 miles northwest of Green Bay, issued a statement earlier Sunday to the Green Bay television station saying Grams was speaking as an individual and doesn't represent or reflect the values of other school board members or the school district.
Since Grams is an elected official, the school district said, "under Wisconsin law, the board does not have the authority to remove or to discipline a member of the board. An elected school board member may be removed through the electoral process, including through recall, but not by action of the school board."
But the measure passed by the school board Sunday evening, following complaints about his Facebook post, contends that Grams' conduct is harmful to the school district and its commitment to equal opportunity and treatment.
According to his LinkedIn profile and Facebook bio page, Grams taught civics in the Shawano-Gresham School District from 1987 to 2016 after teaching one year in the Winneconne School District.He was aU.S. Army intelligence specialist from 1976 to 1980. He earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a master's in history atViterbo University in La Crosse.
His Facebook bio also claims he earned a Ph.D. in economics at Patrick Henry University though when a reporter from the Shawano Leader couldn't find that institution and questioned Grams about it when he ran for school board in 2017, he admitted that he made it up.
Patrick Henry University is a fictional college in Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged." His LinkedIn profile says Gramsearned a doctorate of philosophy from Patrick Henry University.
Grams acknowledged toShawano Leader reporter Scott Williams that students had called him "Dr. Grams" for years, but he said he didn't think he misled them by saying he had a Ph.D. from a fictional university.
Everybody knows that theres no such place, Grams said.
When Williams asked how anyone would know he was talking about a fictional university, Gramssaid: I dont know how they would know, unless theyre well-read.
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
If you want to download the Small Business Administrations data on 4.9 million coronavirus relief recipients, get ready for a computer crash. Theres that much data.
This spring, the SBAs Paycheck Protection Program provided $520 billion in forgivable loans so small businesses could continue paying employees as the coronavirus became a cement block around the economys neck. Politicians of all stripes demanded more transparency, so details on larger loan recipients were released earlier this month.
Its still transparency even if its granted grudgingly.
The SBA released the names of PPP recipients that received between $150,000 to $10 million in funds, which accounted for about 75% of the companies that took benefits. Companies that received smaller amounts were not identified.
Nationally, it makes for interesting reading. Recipients of coronavirus relief funding include a foundation linked to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Ruths Chris steakhouse, the Church of Scientology and friends and family of Jared Kushner, Nancy Pelosi and Kanye West.
Closer to home, the big news isnt powerful connections but the sheer volume of federal money that poured into St. Joseph in a short period of time.
SBA data shows that $48 million to $118 million in federal funding supported 138 St. Joseph companies, from manufacturers, contractors and machine shops to nonprofits and professional services firms. These companies, firms and organizations employed at least 6,000 people, by conservative estimates.
Those were just the largest recipients. In total, 800 St. Joseph businesses may have received funding. Thats not counting those that indirectly capitalized on government stimulus efforts through enhanced unemployment benefits for furloughed employees, all because of the coronavirus.
This suggests an unprecedented level of federal support for the economy. Even the Ayn Rand Institute in California took a check, although its leadership had something deep and philosophical to say about it.
In the coming months, there will be a time to ask hard questions about oversight of the PPP, how this money was spent and whether some of these well-connected recipients took advantage of the system. After all, the PPP was a rush job involving a fire hose of money.
It will be equally important to look at what happens next. The vast sums of the PPP tended to obscure that reality that this program was short-lived, an eight-week bridge to get businesses to the other side of troubled waters.
Theyre there now, but what happens next? On a local level, the list of recipients points not to political influence or scandal but to survival in unprecedented times. The need to survive doesnt go away.
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
Thank heavens the public purse is so open for the well-connected, and the sky's the limit for Fox's Sky News numbers well they couldn't get much lower.
The invisible hand that feeds The Ayn Rand Institute, committed to preserving the memory of libertarianism's patron saint, has taken a US government loan of up to $1 million.
The institute, which promotes free markets, applied for a loan under the pay cheque protection program, which gives businesses money to keep workers on. The decision was justified, director Harry Binswanger argued, because "it would be morally wrong for pro-capitalists to humbly step aside and watch the new money go only to anti-capitalists".
The Rand people aren't the only opponents of big government crying out for the public purse during a time of crisis. Conservative group Americans for Tax Reform got up to $300,000. So did a group called Citizens Against Government Waste which, along with Americans for Tax Reform, opposed stimulus bills which underpinned the loans.
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
Were all socialists now, apparently. No, really it turns out even the most rugged of the free marketeers have been coaxed by the coronavirus to fall into the government safety net.
The national press has been filled with stories this week about how the well-connected, the billionaires, the white-shoe lobbying firms and the most anti-government think tanks all got relief money under Congress $2 trillion coronavirus rescue act.
The latter includes no-new-taxes activist Grover Norquist, who infamously wants to drown the government in the bathtub. Also the libertarian Ayn Rand Institute, and anti-debt crusader Citizens Against Government Waste. All these groups that pillory big government suddenly found common cause in lining up to get a piece of one of the biggest government spending programs of all time.
And Im actually OK with that. Its what it was for to provide a measure of relief to businesses in need, of any and all types. The Seattle Times got a Paycheck Protection Program loan, too and we definitely didnt head into 2020 thinking wed be the recipient of government aid.
But I wonder whether this awkward moment will spark any internal reflection about the lift-yourselves-by-your-bootstraps, no taxes ever mantra that dominates the conservative political world.
Take, say, Washington states own free-market think tanks. The Washington Policy Center, a Seattle-based conservative group, got between $350,000 to $1 million from the federal relief program (the loans, which can convert to forgivable grants, were reported in ranges in data released Monday).
Meanwhile, heres the philosophy the think tank uses to describe itself in its annual reports:
We dont receive government money. We dont ask for it and we wouldnt take it even if it were offered. WPC relies on the generous support of our donors people like you who understand that free-markets are superior to a government rigged economy, and liberty is the air that a free people must breathe.
Except for this one time, I guess. To keep on breathing those liberty vapors required being put on a government ventilator.
Or take the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed outfit out of Olympia. Its been rallying against government spending and taxes since the early 1990s. Recently its been on a jihad against unions. During the pandemic it has called for governors to halt all public-sector union dues payments, on the grounds the union organizations dont need the money and the workers do.
But unions specifically werent eligible for the paycheck protection program, so they were left to fend for themselves. Not so the Freedom Foundation, though it got between $350,000 to $1 million from the federal relief fund, records show.
We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived, the Freedom Foundation says on its website. We accept no government support.
Maybe just this one eensy-weensy time.
The laissez-faire capitalist Ayn Rand Institute, in California, went still further, rationalizing that going on the dole this one time would somehow strike a moral blow against big government.
It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism, it explained in a statement, titled To Take, or Not to Take.
Look, Im a capitalist too, but what a crock all that is. As I said up top: Its fine for any qualified business or association to get the relief money. Yes, even Kanye West, whose Yeezy clothing and footwear line got between $2 million and $5 million. Even the paid anti-government scolds. The programs point was to disperse the money as rapidly and widely as possible, to keep the economy somewhat functioning during this pandemic. It did that to more than 16,000 businesses in Washington state alone.
But To Take, or Not to Take that is not the question. The coronavirus has shown, if nothing else, that we all sometimes need a little boost. We have just been treated to a national case study in how we all depend on strong governmental social and health safety nets and not only when theres a pandemic.
This is not about taking at all, or shouldnt be. Its about giving back paying for basic good government and then, sometimes, when you need it, receiving help.
So can we at least dispense now with the breath of liberty canards? The drowning the government in the bathtub nonsense? The whole no-tax bluster?
Because now we know: Even groups that put freedom right in their name have apparently concluded theyre A-OK with some big-government, debt-financed, taxpayer-backed collectivism after all.
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Posted: at 5:34 pm
A group of organizations that condemn taxation and government spending werent so circumspect when the supposed gravy train pulled into their stations. They eagerly climbed aboard, taking several million dollars worth of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program that they wont have to repay if they retain their work forces.
The money was included in the initial CARES Act, the $2 trillion emergency relief package that Congress passed to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a May 1 statement by Citizens Against Government Waste, the CARES Act is stuffed with wasteful and unnecessary spending. Apparently, loans of up to $350,000 that the organization obtained do not fit either category.
Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, condemned a provision of the law that provides supplemental unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. He did not voice any objection, however, to the Cares Act provision under which the organization borrowed up to $300,000.
The Ayn Rand Institute, named for that conservative champion of rugged individualism, received a loan from the collective people of the United States of between $350,000 and $1 million, calling it partial restitution for government-inflicted losses.
It would be a terrible injustice for pro-capitalists to step aside and leave the funds to those indifferent or actively hostile to capitalism, said institute board member Harry Binswanger. Indeed, every federal dollar that the institute claims for itself is one that cant unjustly go to someone who actually needs it. Its a wonder that the institute didnt think of that sooner.
If such hypocrisy were a vaccine, COVID-19 would have been vanquished before Atlas decided to just shrug and take the cash.
Prominent and politically connected Austin firms among those getting bailout loans – Austin American-Statesman
Posted: at 5:34 pm
Oil industry magnate Bud Brigham, owner of Austin-based Atlas Sand, has long been a fan of the late libertarian-minded philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, who espoused a code that promoted, among other things, self-reliance.
Brigham a geophysicist who has sold two companies for billions of dollars bankrolled two movies based on Rands novel "Atlas Shrugged" and recently made a five-year gift to the University of Texas to pay for a Rand-inspired program examining the relationship between economic freedom and freedom of thought.
Brighams Austin company is also among the recipients of government largesse related to the coronavirus epidemic, according to an American-Statesman analysis of newly released data.
While restaurants lead the way as recipients of potentially forgivable loans from the federal governments coronavirus bailout fund, hundreds of medical and law offices and an assortment of mom and pop businesses were also awarded the bailout money as well as the politically connected.
Atlas Sand received a loan of between $2 million and $5 million, to help retain 213 employees, from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to government records provided to the Statesman after it and other news organizations filed public information requests.
Brigham, who has met in recent years with high-ranking state and federal officials to win permission to mine sand in areas home to a rare species of lizard, did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Among the questions Brigham declined to answer: Was the federal money needed to keep Atlas Sand afloat; how has Atlas Sand used the money; and did applying for the aid clash with his free-market principles or change his views on the uses of big government?
Atlas Sand was among scores of prominent Austin businesses that applied for and received the federal loan money.
Westlake Dermatology, for example, received a loan of at least $2 million to retain 220 employees.
Dr. Gregory Nikolaidis, CEO of Westlake Dermatology, told the Statesman that without the federal loan, the company would have had to lay off a third of its staff. The company was shut down for six weeks because its medical procedures were nonessential as the governors office tried to ensure medical supplies were readied for hospitals.
The loan "allowed us to reopen with staff we otherwise would not have been able to maintain," Nikolaidis said.
SXSW LLC, beleaguered from the cancellation of the annual South by Southwest festival that it operates, also received at least $2 million.
Other prominent companies that received at least $2 million include Tacodeli Holdings and publicly traded development company Stratus Properties.
The money from the federal loan program has been "absolutely crucial" for many area businesses, said Dana Harris, vice president for federal/state advocacy at the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
"Some businesses wont have stayed open without it," Harris said. "This is about keeping people on the payroll and employed, and having businesses pay the rent and keep the lights on. If people are out of jobs, thats a problem for the entire economy."
Auto dealerships also figure prominently as recipients of the pandemic money. Austin Infiniti, Covert Buick, Leif Johnson Ford and Nyle Maxwell of Austin were among those to receive loans worth at least $2 million apiece.
Darren Whitehurst, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, which represents about 1,400 dealers, has calculated that sales and service at dealerships have been off by at least 40% around the state.
Dealerships "are fairly people-intensive businesses," he told the Statesman earlier this year, and, "as the name implies, part of the reason behind the Paycheck Protection Program was to try and make sure people didnt end up in unemployment."
Nonprofits also benefited from the federal program. Disability Rights Texas, for example, was awarded a loan of at least $2 million, and Any Baby Can received one for at least $1 million.
Edie Surtees, a spokeswoman for Disability Rights Texas, said the money was important for making the groups payroll as the organization worries about the future of grants that underwrite its work.
Wheatsville Co-op received a loan worth at least $1 million. Wheatsville did not immediately return a request for comment.
Overall, about 25,000 Austin-based businesses and nonprofit entities received forgivable loans under the federal program designed to help keep the U.S. economy running amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The cumulative amount of loans to Austin recipients totals between $2 billion and $6.3 billion, based on a wide range of loan data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration on Monday.
Under the program, the loans dont have to be repaid if theyre used to keep employees on payrolls. The loans were backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, but administered and approved by banks and other financial institutions.
Some of the Texas companies that received the loans are led by prominent supporters of President Donald Trump.
McKinney-based Pogue Construction received at least $2 million in federal money. Members of the Pogue family donated at least $200,000 to Trumps campaign since August, and in February the president pardoned construction company owner Paul Pogue for tax crimes to which he had pleaded guilty.
Pogue Construction officials did not respond to a request for comment from the Statesman.
Muy Brands a San Antonio-based company that operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Wendys franchises was approved for a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million, according to The Associated Press. Its owner, James Bodenstedt, has donated $672,570 to Trump since 2016, records show. The AP reported that the company did not respond to a request for comment.
Irving-based M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns 27 Texas restaurants including the Mi Cocina chain, was approved for between $5 million and $10 million. Ray Washburne, one of the companys founders, was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee in 2016 and donated $100,000 to the political action committee last August, the AP reported. The AP reported that the company did not respond to a request for comment.
The AP also reported that broadcasting company Patrick Broadcasting, which is owned by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican and former talk radio host, received a loan of $179,000, according to Patricks senior adviser Sherry Sylvester. Patrick is the Texas chairman of Trumps presidential campaign.
The money was used to cover the payroll and expenses of 13 employees.
"The loan did not cover his salary, but he was able to save the jobs of all his employees, many of whom have been with him for decades," Sylvester told The Associated Press.
Other political players have benefited from the federal program.
Fort Worth-based car dealership company JRW Corp., owned by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin who ranks as one of the wealthiest members of Congress received at least $1 million in loans to retain 122 employees, according to the federal data.
Williams, who is running for reelection in the 25th Congressional District, which includes parts of Austin, as well as Dripping Springs and Wimberley, had declined an interview request from the Statesman, but his office has said the program has been crucial to retaining employees.
The political committee of Democrat Christine Mann, a candidate in the Democratic primary runoff for Texas 31st Congressional District, which encompasses most of Williamson and Bell counties, received a $28,000 loan through the federal program.
"As a grassroots campaign and like many other small businesses, we were hit financially during the pandemic," a spokesperson for Manns campaign told KXAN, which first reported on the loan. "As a front-line doctor testing patients during COVID-19, Dr. Mann did not fundraise the ways she had previously but wanted to ensure her staff continued to receive a livable wage."
Mann has said she paid the loan back.
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly refer to a rare species of lizard found in West Texas.
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