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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Ayn Rand
Posted: April 18, 2020 at 7:04 pm
Young readers may find this hard to believe, but the United States was not always an ill-fated land battered by disaster, piling up its dead and crying out for humanitarian aid from more developed countries. The old-timers among us remember a different America an America where airlines fly millions of people from city to city every day, an America where people could walk in the street with their faces exposed, an America where every citizen has the right to shake the hand of the shopkeeper who just sold him a box of cornflakes, or a rifle. Yesterdays world.
And suddenly, theres the coronavirus. Theres no knowing where this contaminated rolling snowball will stop perhaps it will even bring about the removal of President Trump from office in November? After all, it would take only a few thousand angry people in Pennsylvania and Florida to tilt the electoral scales from red to blue and to deliver the presidency to whoever is running against him (as long as that person is not a socialist Jew).
In any event, every such crisis has a deeper dimension than its potential influence on a presidential election. There is something thrilling, almost hypnotic, about the glorious helplessness America displays every time a devastating hurricane or a wind-borne virus transforms the country from an economic and technological superpower into a humanitarian disaster area. People dying in the streets was something we had in the Old Country and surely not what we expected when we boarded the Mayflower almost exactly 400 years ago.
Sooner or later, our lips will utter the precise word: capitalism. After all, in the eyes of the progressive left, thats the preexisting condition from which America has been suffering since the 17th century. Its what prevents establishment of a public health system and makes the country so very vulnerable now. In the eyes of free-market advocates, however, capitalism is what turned mass death, hunger and disease from self-evident and almost certain phenomena in the pre-capitalist world, into something rarely seen in the modern landscape.
I always found people of the second type more interesting (right is always more interesting than left, everywhere and at any time). In fact, they interested me so much that ages ago I decided to visit America and get as close as possible to an extraordinarily fascinating cult that sprang up around an equally extraordinary and fascinating woman. It was a particularly marvelous journey that was still possible in another era in early January 2020, before the first coronavirus victim in China wondered why hed had a hard time breathing. I bought a plane ticket, because they were being sold, and disembarked in California, because it was permitted. Heady days.
Dollars and dystopia
Ten measures of dollar fetishism God gave to the world nine were taken by writer and philosopher Ayn Rand, on whose behalf Id boarded the plane. In Atlas Shrugged, her best-known, dystopian novel, the United States sinks into the depths of collectivist tyranny, and all that remains of the dying empire of capitalism is an isolated valley settled by a few hundred free enterprisers individualists, the last true Americans. And what hangs like the sun in the skies? A sculpture of the dollar sign, fashioned of pure gold, one meter high. The same dollar sign this time made of flowers, and almost two meters high was placed on Ayn Rands grave in 1982 by the most loyal and tearful of her admirers, as it was being sealed.
William F. Buckley, Jr., the godfather of modern American conservatism, often accused Rand of wanting to substitute the sign of the dollar for the cross. He thereby erred in underestimating her intentions; the truth is that she would also have replaced the American flag with the dollar sign. Her fetishism for the letter S with a vertical stroke through it was not based on some aesthetic caprice, but on a rational argument that goes well beyond obsession: The dollar was the apex of creativity of the human spirit.
Ayn Rand, ne Alisa Rosenbaum, was born in 1905 to a bourgeois Jewish family in St. Petersburg a reality that placed her on the wrong side of the Bolshevik revolution. In an alternative and not untenable scenario, she might have fled to Palestine and lived out her life in Tel Aviv as Miss Rosenbaum, the persnickety neighbor on the ground floor. But Alisa wanted America, America first, and crossed the ocean, where she eventually found work as a scriptwriter in Hollywood.
Rand would go on to divide her life between Manhattan and Hollywood, thrilled to the depths of her soul by the skyscrapers of the one and the factory of dreams of the other. Her most important novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, would sell 30 million copies between them. The rate of sales would accelerate with every economic crisis, with every public debate about the limits of the governments power, with every election of a person named Barack Obama to the White House.
The outbreak of the coronavirus also will have its effect: 2020 is sure to be a boon for the beneficiaries of Rands intellectual estate.
The philosophical theory she propounded, which she called Objectivism, arises from every one of the too-many pages of her literary works and from numberless other theoretical texts she published, which are far more interesting.
When it comes to philosophy, political thought (radical capitalism, in this case) is built upon basic philosophical tiers: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Yes, lofty words, but in contrast to some contemporaneous philosophers, who did all they could to ensure that we would have no idea what they were talking about with Rand everything is understood. She wrote clearly. In fact, the principal tenets of Objectivism can be summed up quite briefly:
The first tier: metaphysics. Reality is objective. Facts exist. Beliefs or desires will not change them. In other words, it makes no difference how ardently you believe in God that will not make him exist.
The second tier: epistemology. Reason is mans sole means of perceiving reality and his place within it. In short: Stop feeling things and use your brain, stupid.
The third tier, ethics, is the crowning glory of Objectivism: egoism. Man is his own purpose. Do not sacrifice your life for the sake of others and do not ask others to sacrifice their lives for you.
What are the political implications of this architectural edifice? And then there is the fourth tier: capitalism. The only system in which everyone lives for himself. Randian morality does not differentiate between human rights and property rights. Plundering a persons property (by levying taxes, for example) namely, dispossessing someone of the fruits of his labor, which promote his physical survival and his egoistic happiness is equivalent to jailing him without a trial.
Capitalism, Rand decreed, need not be restrained, as liberals argue, nor need it be prettified and painted in colors that will conceal its true nature, as conservatives habitually do. We should take pride in and feel blessed by pure capitalism the sort that is fueled by uncompromising rational egoism. But capitalism runs contrary to the principle of equality! readers of Haaretz and The New York Times will grumble. Indeed, Rand will reply to them, in her Russian accent, and that is exactly what makes it just.
When in virtually every Hollywood movie the bad guy is always the one who thinks only of himself and the good guy sacrifices himself for the benefit of others; when the leftist propaganda machine persuaded generations of Americans that the mega-industrialists of the 19th century the greatest humanitarians of mankind were nothing but robber barons; and when an American president dares to preach, Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, and is wildly applauded even by self-styled capitalists after all this, Rands conclusion was that America is committing suicide by way of a cup of moral hemlock served up by left-wing intellectuals in their perverted thrust to establish an anti-rational nightmarish society.
From her point of view, this is a society whose raison dtre is adhering to the primitive tribal principle of serving the common good. Its a society thats suitable for a beehive but contrary to human nature: an egalitarian society.
Objectivism became a cult the instant it was born, thanks largely to Rands enigmatic character, her psychological control over an inner circle of followers, and most of all, the obsessed devotion of young Nathaniel Branden, her intellectual right-hand (and secret lover), the cult builder, who made it clear to everyone that Objectivism is a package deal: If you are a radical capitalist but believe in God, go away and dont come back; if you are an avowed atheist but believe in the states right to levy taxes, find yourself a different rabbi.
At regular meetings with her acolytes in her apartment on E. 36th Street in Manhattan, when the slightest hint of disagreement over her teachings was expressed by anyone present, even in a discussion about art, that person was sent into permanent exile.
The result: a cult that extols radical individualism, consisting of people whose philosophical, political, cultural, aesthetic, cinematic, literary and musical tastes are absolutely identical. To ensure the cults long-term survival, Rand ordained one of her brilliant pupils, Leonard Peikoff, as her legal and intellectual heir that is, a human mouthpiece through whom she would continue to articulate her doctrine, even from beyond the grave.
To be an Objectivist means to believe with complete faith (that is to say, to think solely based on reason) in one and only one proposition: John Galts oath a reference to the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged. In the novel, every free enterpriser who wants to be admitted to the last capitalist paradise on Earth is obligated to pledge: I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
If Atlas Shrugged is the Bible (although its not; the Bible is shorter), then John Galts oath is the Ten Commandments. It is engraved in the heart of every Objectivist, tattooed on the arm of many of them, printed on T-shirts, coffee mugs, caps, posters on anything that can be sold for a few bucks, for the egoistical benefit of buyer and seller.
Within a few years of Rands death, the movement she founded faced a crisis that revolved around a question usually reserved for discourse surrounding religious cults: Is Objectivism a complete, hermetically sealed doctrine as Peikoff and the vast majority of her followers maintained or is it an elastic philosophy that can still be developed, as a no-less loyal Randist, David Kelley, thought? For a few thousands of die-hard Objectivists, this was not merely a theoretical matter; old friends turned their back on each other, families were torn apart.
In 1985, Peikoff, the leader of the orthodox majority faction of the movement remaining after Rands death, established the Ayn Rand Institute, a research body that would disseminate standard Objectivism, the type that is permissible and desirable to contemplate by day and by night, but in which not even a comma can be changed. The institutes declared goal is to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in todays culture.
In leftist eyes, this constitutes a paradox. After all, every social democrat knows that the 1980s marked the awakening of neoliberalism, the swinish capitalism with which economist Milton Friedman cultivated leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Well, youre making Rand laugh: Friedmans insistence on viewing economics as a science detached from philosophy made him, in her eyes, a miserable eclectic and an enemy of Objectivism. Redemption would not come from pretend capitalists.
Meeting the faithful
I decided to pay a visit to the Ayn Rand Institute in Southern California for two reasons: to meet Rand herself through her private archive there, and to meet the faithful of her cult of followers who, like her, are known among their enemies as mysterious, rigid, dogmatic, humorless, socially challenged individuals who are unable to express human affection people who admire humankind but hate human beings. Its not surprising that many of them, so its said, have chosen, like Rand herself, not to have children.
The headquarters of the Ayn Rand cult is located in the city of Irvine, one of the least touristy places within the greater Los Angeles area. Its morning, the streets are utterly empty, the few paved sidewalks look as sterile as a computer simulation of some future real estate project. In another two months, the emptiness would be due to the areas closure, following the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
I walk to the address Ive been given, on the way memorizing John Galts oath from my iPhone, in case officers of the order ask me to recite it. I stand below their premises. Not a bewitched fortress or a dark monastery, but a plain 10-story office building; there are a hundred like it in Ramat Hahayal or the Raanana industrial zone, in Israel.
At the entrance is a small man-made pond with ducks paddling about on it. Just before I enter the lobby, one of them fixes round, warning eyes on me, and I cant help thinking that this duck was once a person who arranged to visit here, did not properly follow the orders ritual rules and paid for it by being cursed for all eternity. What will happen if they ask me whether Im an Objectivist? Is it the custom to say good morning there, or does that greeting attest to moral failure, an irrational act that exercises the vocal cords for the sake of taking an interest in the happiness of a person who is not me? Is it okay to look them in the eyes?
I press the doorbell on the sixth floor. As I will infer afterward, as I wait for long seconds at the entrance, members of the order, proficient in the stranger at the door drill, doff their robes, remove the stuffed heads of leftists that normally hang on the walls, and try to create the appearance of an innocent office within the space there. Steps are heard approaching from inside. The door opens, and facing me is the gatekeeper of the order a man on the brink of retirement age, no longer wearing the robe, wearing a broad smile and overt silence. I introduce myself hesitantly. Come in, he whispers, weve been waiting for you.
The Ayn Rand Institute the control center of the world Objectivist cult looks like a medium-sized accountants office. In the anteroom, behind a rope barrier similar to those found in banks, is the original wooden desk on which Rand wrote her books and articles. The desk was built by her husband, the actor and painter Frank OConnor. Its a very heavy desk, recalling a medieval surgical table. Only God knows how many social democrats have been tortured on it by electric shock since it was brought here.
The gatekeeper entrusts me to Jennifer, the archives director. She shows me around the office and introduces me to the dramatis personae, each of whom is nicer and friendlier than the last. Then she takes me to the kitchenette. There are three boxes of cookies on the counter. I look for a name sticker on them, stating which of the people in the office is the exclusive legal and moral owner of said property, bought with his money, with the egoistic intent of benefiting his own material and spiritual condition.
The cookies belong to everyone, feel free to have some, Jennifer says. To everyone? I give her a suspicious look. What do you mean, to everyone?
Theres coffee here, too, she adds, pointing to a shared machine, with shared capsules in a drawer with shared cups, which can be washed in the shared sink. Theres also a shared refrigerator and a shared microwave machine for the office staff. These people have decided to play mind games with me.
For quite a few days, I arrive at the office in the morning and leave when its dark. My many hours at the institute are spent alone, at the table in the archive library, as Jennifer, displaying endless devotion, plies me with dozens of numbered cartons that contain innumerable fan letters to Rand, letters she wrote castigating rivals from right and left, invitations to lectures, telegrams she sent, notes she scribbled, original handwritten drafts of her literary works.
Theres also a sensational find: a receipt bearing her name, from February 1940, for a $25 donation to the people of Finland to help them repel the Red Armys invasion. In the language of scoop hunters on Twitter: Boom! And in the language of biographers: To take revenge on the communists for what they did to her and her family in 1917, she was ready, in a moment of weakness, to do something for others. Poor woman, she lost it for a moment.
During the many long days I spend there, not once do I catch the members of the order stepping out of the humane and people-loving guise theyd donned in my honor. Not when I go down to have lunch with them, nor when some of them engage me in friendly chitchat. One is the director of the Ayn Rand Institute yes, we can stop calling it an order now a particularly friendly Israeli fellow and a marvelous conversationalist named Tal Tsfany. One fine day in 2018, after making his fortune in high-tech, Tsfany decided to stop advancing his own interests in order to try to get other people to advance their own.
The Israeli connection to the Objectivist movement is not a coincidental one. First, the CEO of the institute from 2000 to 2017 was also a former Israeli, Yaron Brook, who is apparently the most successful spokesperson for Randism in this century, together with the aged Peikoff.
Second, and more important, in regard to the connection with Israel this time regarding its conflict with the Arabs the Objectivist movement espouses a position to the right of the most hawkish members of the Zionist camp. Certainly, the Objectionists say, Israel is far from being an Objectivist paragon: It has a centralist, union-driven economy; its nationalism is suffused with primitive religious collectivism. But when Israel is seen in light of the backward, oppressive, anti-rational dictatorships that surround and want to eradicate it it is nothing but a beacon of light of individual freedom in a dark cave. In Rands words, When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Let the IDF win but in a rational way, of course.
Still, it wasnt my Israeliness that prompted the folks at the institute to be so cordial. Theyre nice to anyone who shows an interest in them, to anyone who displays sincere curiosity. The Objectivist movement takes seriously the Randian imperative, according to which all the ills of the West (kowtowing to the weak, apologizing for the achievements of capitalism, hatred of the good for being good) are the result of a philosophical flaw, hence it follows that the correction must be made on a philosophical basis. Capitalism, in their view, is too important to be left to ignorant boors like Donald Trump or Israels Nir Barkat, who preach a free market without understanding either what a market is or what free means.
Accordingly, what the Objectivists need desperately are more intellectuals who will adopt their precepts lock, stock and barrel. And because no sensible intellectual will stick the tip of his nose into a cult, they are vigorously dissociating themselves from that appellation and the truth is that they are indeed far less insular and purist than they were two or three decades ago.
Just before I take my leave of the institutes staff, Jennifer gives me a box of surplus books and invites me to choose one as a gift. Im not even surprised. See you later, I tell them, knowing that they really are nice people, almost normative, that its great to talk to them about subjects that dont occupy any other institute, and that they are really and truly concerned about the future of the human race, which is shackled by an altruistic ethos that threatens to thrust it back into the dark ages.
Faithful to the Randian spirit, I spend the day that remains before my flight home egoistically and rationally wasting a few dollars at the Universal Studios park. I clear my mind by going on the Harry Potter roller coaster. I have a regular habit on roller coasters: During the scariest part, when the G-force forces my lungs into my gut, I start thinking about epistemology.
Nathaniel Branden Rands pupil, lover and colleague, whom she eventually cast off claimed that anyone who truly understands her is bound to agree with her. He was wrong. But whats great about Rand is that everyone is wrong about her. Her ardent admirers see her as the greatest philosopher since Aristotle (shes not); conservatives accuse her of demanding to banish belief in God from the world (she didnt; she only claimed, and rightly, that if everyone were to behave rationally, that belief would uproot itself); leftists maintain that she is a lightweight philosopher (shes not; her Objectivism is fully grounded and consistent, apart from a few minor internal contradictions, which are also debatable). Ayn Rand should be evaluated, and sometimes strongly criticized, for the philosopher she is not for the philosopher she is not.
The tendency of Rands haters is to see her philosophy as a package deal. In this, ironically, they are no different from followers of her cult. But when objectivism is divided into its four tiers, it becomes more useful. It makes no different whether youre Bernie Sanders or Stanley Fischer, Shelly Yacimovich or Nehemia Shtrasler, the CEO of the NGO Latet (To Give) or the chairman of Lakahat (To Take): If you understand Ayn Rand, you will become a better capitalist, social democrat or communist. Her Objectivism is an ideology-sharpener that should belong in every pencil case. Indeed, every pencil you put into it will come out better honed than when it went in. Even today. Especially today.
Itay Meirson is a doctoral student at The Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv University, where hes studying the intellectual history of the American right.
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Posted: at 7:04 pm
Former Trump senior economic adviser Steve Moore on how the U.S. can balance safety during coronavirus and reopen the U.S. economy.
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Ayn Rand once said, "Government help to business is just as disastrous as government persecution. ... The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off."
Congress has just approved an economicallybloated $2.2 trillion spending relief bill, an amount more substantial than the GDP of all but a handful of countries. It is only the third massive relief bill, and we've been told several trillion dollars more would have to get spent. Then there are the trillions of dollars more of Federal Reserve Board liquidity injections. We are starting to talk about real money here.
STOCK MARKET'S CORONAVIRUS BOTTOM PROBABLY IN: GOLDMAN SACHS
The politicians believe that sending $1,200 checks to people will "stimulate" the economy. Among the many mistaken provisions of this new law is a welfare benefit to workers that pays them more money if they quit and become unemployed than if they stay on the job.
Here we go again. A decade ago, during the height of the folly of the bank bailouts and trillions of dollars of spending for "shovel-ready projects" (that didn't create jobs but plunged our nation into greater indebtedness), I noted in a Wall Street Journal article that with each successive bailout and multibillion-dollar economic stimulus scheme from Washington, the politicians were reenacting the very acts of economic stupidity that Ayn Rand parodied in her 1,000-page-plus 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged." In many surveys, "Atlas" rates as the second most influential book of all time behind the Bible.
For those of you who have not read it (first, shame on you!), the moral of the story is that politicians invariably respond to crises -- that, in most cases, they created -- by spewing out new, mindless government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to spawn even more programs. At which point, the downward spiral repeats itself until there is a thorough societal collapse.
Isn't this precisely what is happening now?
FORD CORONAVIRUS LOSSES EXPECTED TO REACH $600M IN FIRST QUARTER
In the book, the well-meaning politicians pass bills such as the "Anti-Greed Act" to prevent companies and wealthy people from making too much money. Another of my favorites was the "Equalization of Opportunity Act," which required successful people who invented things and started new businesses to share their wealth.
Victoria Scott bicycles along a section of the Grand Concourse that has been temporarily closed to vehicular traffic as the city tests out a pilot program providing more social distancing space during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, March 27, 2020
Now, in real life, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders propose legislation like this all the time. They rant daily against "greedy" millionaires and billionaires (though Sanders dropped "millionaires" the moment he became one) and wonder whether the wealth producers of our economy deserve to exist at all. And these two senators were competitive in the Democratic presidential nomination.
We are living through the Ayn Rand dystopia right now. We have given police-state powers to the government to shut down "nonessential businesses" and tell people whether they can play golf or go for a hike. Some of these measures may make sense based on public health, but at what point are we degrading the rights of individuals to choose risks for themselves?
At one point in "Atlas Shrugged," the incompetent rent-seeking politicians finally have to admit that they have brought the economy to its knees with all the do-goodism. Out of desperation, they ask the heroic business owners in society what they must do. "First, abolish the income tax," they are told.
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Sound like a wild-eyed idea today? Guess what? For the $2 trillion-plus that Congress has just spent to protect the economy, we could have completely eliminated the personal income tax on every worker and business this year.
Isn't it abundantly evident which would have been the smarter choice to revitalize our economy?
I can just hear Warren shriek: "This would benefit 'the rich!'" But, of course, the people who are suffering most from the lockdown on the economy and other power grabs by the government today are the lowest-income workers.
In "Atlas Shrugged," everyone gets poor, and if we stay on our current turn toward statism and don't stand up for our rights, we will be poorer and a lot less free.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive the American Economy."
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Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose. from Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson
It appears obvious that the thousands of people demonstrating in an increasing number of state capitals and other places across the country against their governors stay-at-home mandates never got, or rather, never read Kristoffersons memo.
From Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia to California, conservative coalitions are out in force pressuring local and state governments to rescind mandates to shelter in place and allow businesses to reopen immediately. The coalition includes groups of conservative veterans and a network of right-wing and corporate financiers bent on reducing taxes and regulations on industry.
Protestors garnered support and encouragement by the White Houses Anti-Science-In-Chief himself, Donald J. Trump in a series of Tweets:
LIBERATE MICHIGAN! Trump tweeted. LIBERATE MINNESOTA, he continued. LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!
During his daily press Coronavirus briefing, Trump defended his tweets by asserting they were in response to the tough state guidelines. He continued that the protesters demonstrating against the governors, seem to be very responsible people to me.
At this point in the pandemic and its impact on the United States of America, with the extreme lack of a coordinated effort from the White House, the shortages of testing devices, tracking procedures, and medical equipment including personal protective gear, increasing numbers of people infected as deaths mount each moment of every day, how could anyone claim the demonstrators responsible?
Researchers have charted cultures as falling along a continuum with several variables, including Individualism versus Collectivism: the degree of support for and emphasis on individual goals versus common or collective goals. Most of these same researchers place the U.S. and many other Western nations on the Individual side of the continuum
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being,
with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive
achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. Ayn Rand, Appendix to Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand, who has become the intellectual center for the economic/political/social philosophy of Libertarianism, constructs a bifurcated world of one-dimensional characters in her novels.
On one side, she presents the noble, rational, intelligent, creative, inventive, self-reliant heroes of industry, of music and the arts, of science, of commerce and banking who wage a noble battle for dignity, integrity, personal and economic freedom for the profits of their labors within an unregulated free market Capitalist system.
On the other side, she portrays the looters represented by the followers, the led, the irrational, the unintelligent, the misguided, the misinformed, the corrupt government bureaucrats who regulate and manipulate the economy to justify nationalizing the means of economic production, who confiscate personal property, who deliver welfare to the unentitled, the lazy, who thereby destroy personal incentive and motivation resulting in dependency.
Welfare Ayn Rand terms unearned rewards, while arguing for a system of laisse-faire Capitalism separating economics and state. In other words, Ayn Rand paints a world in which the evil and misguided takers wage war against the noble and moral makers.
Ayn Rand bristles against some long-held notions of collectivism, of shared sacrifice and shared rewards. Rather, she argues that individuals are not and should not be their brothers and sisters keepers; that one must only do unto oneself; that one must walk only in ones own shoes and not attempt to know the other by metaphorically walking in their shoes; that personal happiness is paramount; the greatest good for you rather than the greatest number of people; it takes the individual to raise a child, not a village.
Ayn Rands Objectivism accords with the axiom, live and let live. Ayn Rand advocates for a rational selfishness. She titled one of her non-fiction books, The Virtue of Selfishness.
As Rand, the current crop of conservative anti-stay-at-home protesters believe in the notion of ruthless individualism and selfishness while society be damned. The days of wild West rugged individualism, however, are over. Either we as a nation change our style of living to consider more so the common good, or else we will certainly and very quickly increase our chances of dying individually and as a nation.
The theory of a Social Contract developed as far back as ancient Greece. Though iterated, reiterated, and reformed by numerous philosophers and public figures, the foundations of this social contract stand on the premise that people live together in community with the agreement that establishes moral, ethical, and overarching political rules of behavior between individuals, groups, and their government in the formation of a civil society.
A violation by any of the signatories individuals, groups, governments jeopardizes the very stability of that progress toward a fully civil society.
We witness politically conservative figures either refusing to sign this contract, or for those who may have previously etched their names, reneging on the terms and stipulations. For them, they abide by the motto: That government is best that governs least.
If these conservative protesters and the White House dont care about or trust politicians, if they dont care about their own health and that of their loved ones and neighbors, they should at least care about and trust the frontline workers police officers, firefighters, members of the National Guard, medical professionals, caretakers, essential services workers who are risking their lives to save ours, and yes, to save the lives of the protesters in this war against an invisible enemy.
SO STAY AT HOME until it is truly safe to venture out.
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Posted: at 7:04 pm
This is a famous philosophical question, one that received prominent attention the last few years thanks to the late, lovely sitcom The Good Place. If you were to pose such a query to the protesters in some parts of America who are demanding an end to "stay at home" orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic, I suspect their answer would be: "not much."
This is a mistake, but an understandable one. Liberty, after all, is hardwired into the American psyche, and the limiting obligations of quarantine are in conflict with that instinct.
To recap: Demonstrators have hit the streets this week in Ohio, Kentucky, and North Carolina. On Wednesday, a protest in Michigan was dubbed "Operation Gridlock." Despite the firearms and Confederate battle flags, the protesters' demands might seem familiar, even sympathetic to most Americans. They want freedom freedom to go shopping, freedom to open up their businesses, freedom to go sit in a restaurant and have dinner with friends, freedom merely to do what they were doing unencumbered two months ago. Don't we all?
"Quarantine is when you restrict movement of sick people," one of the Michigan organizers told Fox News. "Tyranny is when you restrict the movement of healthy people."
But what if the free movement of healthy people creates more sick people? The protesters may soon find out many defied "social distancing" requirements, clumping together in close groups without masks and raising the possibility that this week's protests will be the source of next week's outbreak.
"We know this rally endangered people," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said afterward.
The anti-quarantine stance is driven by a powerful American impulse. Our country's story has been told to us primarily in terms of freedom: who has it, who doesn't, how we got it, how some of us had to fight for it for far too long, how some of us are still fighting for it, and even how we define it. Individual liberty isn't just one of our chief national values it can sometimes seem like the only principle we collectively share across the political spectrum. It's difficult to think of a song about America that doesn't include the word "freedom."
"Stay at home" orders are rooted in another, somewhat less-lauded virtue: community. We are staying home those of us who can not just because we don't want to risk contracting the virus, but also because we don't want to risk spreading the virus to others. We're looking out for the collective good. We don't necessarily have training for this. Our national stories and culture don't often highlight the merits of taking care of each other, though E pluribus unum is a notable exception. We fancy ourselves rugged individualists, and some of us even make heroes of fictional characters like John Galt, the Ayn Rand protagonist who went on strike against the very notion of collective obligations.
And yet the collective good exists. Without it, we might not have volunteer fire departments, public hospitals, or even book clubs. We are healthier, safer, and happier when we work together to create things we couldn't on our own. For all our love of rugged individualism, very few of us move to the country to live off-grid. We need freedom, but we also need each other. It isn't always easy to find the right balance, but in some circumstances like during a global pandemic we have to accept limits on our own lives so that others might benefit.
That's not to say all the restrictions being imposed by governors and mayors across the country are always smart or effective. But the public at large seems to recognize that some limits now might be good for the long-term health of the country. We owe each other and ourselves the chance to live. You can't enjoy your liberty if you're dead.
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Posted: at 7:04 pm
Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not had a good few months. None of us have, but at least while we're social distancing and wearing masks to the grocery store and whipping our coffee and Zooming and repeatedly failing at baking bread we are not being accused of insider trading. This is because, unlike Kelly Loeffler, we did not sell off millions of dollars in stocks prior to the stock market crashing but directly after attending a confidential meeting about the impending impact of the coronavirus on the United States. Unless we are Richard Burr. Which most of us are not.
Some people (everyone!) think that is a bad thing that she did. Loeffler has maintained her innocence with the same explanation everyone who gets accused of insider trading has she didn't even know what was going on with her stocks because she's not in charge of them. Twas all a coincidence!
And she's been trying that line, to little to no avail, for a few weeks now. Alas, no one cares. Because the idea of a very rich lady who is literally only in office because she is a very rich lady and has no prior experience other than being a very rich lady getting even richer off of this pandemic when so many are struggling financially is a tad enraging.
But now, now she's got a new line one which very well may be more effective: Criticizing her is socialism!
How is that socialism? Is not doing crimes socialist? Do the workers own the means of criticizing Kelly Loeffler for insider trading? Is criticism of her actions meant to assist her process of self-change? Or does Loeffler just think that any criticism of anything anyone does to get lots of money, no matter how unethical or illegal, is inherently socialist?
Now, admittedly, there are very few socialists who are pro-insider trading. I don't know any at all! But also, there are very few people of any political persuasion who will openly say they think insider trading is great. In 2011, the STOCK Act, which prohibited insider trading by members of Congress and other government employees (yes, it was previously legal), passed with bipartisan support.
Sure, many of the Republicans supporting it only did so because they thought of it as ammo against Nancy Pelosi, who had just been one of the subjects of a "60 Minutes" investigation on Congressional insider trading but still! In the whole entire Senate, only two Republicans, Richard Burr (who is currently also in trouble for dumping all of HIS stocks ahead of the pandemic) and Tom Coburn, and one Democrat, Jeff Bingaman, opposed the law. In all of the House, only two Republicans opposed it. Is Kelly Loeffler saying that all of those Republicans who voted for the STOCK act hate capitalism and love socialism? Even Rand Paul, who is literally named after Ayn Rand?!?
And what about the Republicans who, even today, think that what Loeffler did was bad?
What it does seem like is that Loeffler is counting on there being a significant number of Americans who, when told something good is "socialism," will immediately decide that the good thing is in fact a bad thing. That number, however, has been dwindling for a while and will probably continue to to dwindle as we continue to slough off the Cold War paranoia. Ironically, it is people just like Kelly Loeffler, who don't understand why profiting off of other people's misery is bad and who describe criticism of doing that as being "attacked for our success," who make socialism look more and more appealing every day.
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Posted: at 7:04 pm
Being stuck in a pandemic is bad, but whats much worse is being stuck in a pandemic in a country whose ruling party got their ideas about economics and the role of government from Ayn Rand, C. Montgomery Burns, and the rotted brain of a long-dead Scotsman. Its time to ditch the whole concept of small, deliberately limited government once and for all, before anyone else gets hurt.
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As Americans in general and New Englanders specifically, we are in love with the idea of the small, part-time government that generally stays out of societys affairs. After all, The best government is that which governs least, according to rugged individualist Henry David Thoreau, who coincidentally needed his mom to bring him food in the woods all the time.
But the ideal described by our dead Scot, Adam Smith, in which government provides only for defense, the protection of private property, and a few necessities like roads, hasnt been realistic since industrialization threw into sharp relief the desperate inequalities between rich and poor. Any attempt to force modern government to be smaller and less responsible for social welfare and regulation of the economy inevitably leads to disaster. See, for instance, the Great Depression and the 2008 fiscal crisis, just to name a few.
Were in the middle of another disaster right now, and while there is so, so much blame to go around for our countrys criminally incompetent response to COVID-19, a very large share can be placed at the feet of everyone who thought defunding vital government programs, cutting taxes for the rich, letting corporate titans decide their own paid sick leave policies, and blocking universal health care was a good plan.
As it turns out, being suspicious of anything the government does and trying to rely entirely on individuals to make their own choices is not a recipe for success in times like these.
To give you an idea of how this is going, Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R-South Dakota) scoffed that government efforts to mandate sensible social distancing precautions were all for just a bunch of sheeple, declared that South Dakota is not New York City, and left it up to the people of her state to do whatever they wanted. South Dakota is now an emerging hotspot, with 300 cases appearing at a single meat-packing plant alone.
Small government doesnt work for this or any other crisis. It doesnt even really work for normal times. How did our roads and schools get to be the way they are? Why are the rich getting so much richer while the middle class and the poor languish? Why is health care an impossible dream for so many people? Why are the streets of our richest cities full of the homeless?
Limited government has utterly failed to cope with any of those problems. Theres a toxic idea out there that deregulation and tax cuts will lead to economic growth, which through magic will benefit absolutely everyone. But thats never been remotely true. If it were, salaries wouldnt have been stagnating since the Reagan years, and the gap between rich and poor would have been closing instead of widening. Small government simply cant fix modern problems.
Heres the thing. Government isnt just some nebulous thing that exists only to tax us and make us wait in line at the DMV. Government can and should be the expression of the will of society as a whole, as carried out by the representatives of the people. Government is the only way the entire town, the entire state, and the entire country can work together as a single unit to attack problems the private sector cant solve, like wars, natural disasters, economic crashes, and pandemics.
This matters, because I firmly believe weve entered a time of ongoing global crisis. The threat of climate change was already becoming nauseatingly real before COVID-19 struck. The old American-led system of alliances is decaying, leaving power vacuums in dangerous places. The institutions of the West are struggling, and democracy itself is in retreat.
We cant address any of these crises if our government can barely tie its own shoes. We need competent governments that can do big things. We need to buy into the idea that were all in this together. Connecticuts government could start selling Quarantine Bonds, just like the war bonds of old, to raise money and give everyone a stake in the future.
Small government is the belief that we dont need one another to survive and prosper. The 21st century is teaching us once again that without one another, without the whole of society working together, were all screwed.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.
Facebook’s Libra Association tries again at this digi-cash game, with more modest ambitions after global flop – The Register
Posted: at 7:04 pm
The Facebook-founded Libra Association has revised its planned digital currency after regulatory concerns and public backlash made the project's initial vision untenable.
Libra was introduced last June as a global digital currency, that would be linked to the value of real-world currencies and used by Facebook and others. It was to be based on a permissioned blockchain only authorized parties could record transactions with permissionless governance no single party could change the rules of the network.
Initially, the idea took the form of a chaperoned version of Bitcoin. Rather than relying on permissionless consensus to exchange value, Libra's transactional bookkeeping was to be overseen by Facebook and an association of data-harvesting friends.
But its stated ambition [PDF] was to move toward the Bitcoin model, "where anyone that follows the rules of the protocol and contributes the right types of resources (e.g., computing power in the case of a proof-of-work system) can do so."
That's now been abandoned, replaced by more modest goals outlined in an explanatory paper [PDF].
Derisively referred to as Facebank or Facebucks, Libra alarmed regulators, advocacy groups, and competitors. The idea of allowing Facebook to set up a minimally accountable global financial data chokepoint after its many privacy and misinformation controversies raised more than a few eyebrows.
The criticism that followed last summer's launch announcement led to many of the initial Libra Association members to back away from the project.
So Libra now intends to play by the rules of global finance. On Thursday, the Libra Association asked the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA) for permission to obtain a payment system license. The currency's future form thus looks more like PayPal than an Ayn Rand-inspired run around regulation.
According to David Marcus, co-creator and a board member of Libra and head of Facebook digital wallet subsidiary Calibra, this means implementing measures to combat money laundering, to avoid financing terrorism, and to enforce national financial sanctions.
Libra will now offer "stablecoins" digital currency pegged to, and exchangeable for, specific national currencies in addition to the multicurrency Libra Coin.
And instead of moving toward a permissionless model, Libra aspires to move toward "a market-driven open and competitive network," said Marcus via Twitter.
He also noted that the Libra Association is now member-funded, with less than 10 per cent of funding coming from Facebook. Distancing Libra from Facebook may make it more palatable to those put off by the ubiquitous social network.
The Libra Association anticipates that Designated Dealers (of Libra currency), Virtual Asset Service Providers (businesses selling digital stuff), and Unhosted Wallet Users (people with Libra Blockchain addresses) will be the major users of the currency.
Not everything is changing however: Libra will continue to rely on blockchain technology. The Register asked the Libra Association why a blockchain, as opposed to a traditional database, is necessary.
A spokesperson for the organization offered a not-particularly enlightening reply: "Blockchain technology leverages decades of experience with distributed and open systems. We are using blockchain technology to bring these innovations in security and operability to a new payment system."
The organization's white paper provides a bit more insight into the ostensible benefits of a blockchain.
"One outcome of the above design decisions is that the Libra Blockchain will provide public verifiability, meaning that anyone (validators, Libra Networks, Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs), law enforcement, or any third party) can audit the accuracy of all operations," the paper says.
"Another outcome of the above design decisions is that the Libra Blockchain will support a privacy approach that will take into account the variety of participants on the network."
Yet the paper provides no detail about how everything will be both auditable and private, or how the Libra Association defines privacy, which in general means being unobserved.
"We will collectively continue to work as hard as we can to enable people and businesses to send and receive money globally as easily as it is to send a text message and at a much lower cost," said Marcus via Twitter.
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Gangster in the White House: Noam Chomsky on COVID-19, WHO, China, Gaza and Global Capitalism – Democracy Now!
Posted: at 7:03 pm
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. Im Amy Goodman. The death rate from the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate, with worldwide confirmed deaths topping 145,000. In the United States, deaths surged to another record high Thursday, nearly doubling to surpass the previous record set just a day before, at 4,591, U.S. residents died over a single 24-hour period.
Well, today we continue my conversation with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author of more than a hundred books. Hes a laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than half a century. Professor Chomsky joined us last week from his home in Tucson, Arizona, where he is sheltering in place his wife Valeria. We spoke just after President Donald Trump foreshadowed this weeks announcement that he would cut off U.S. support for the World Health Organization. This is Trump addressing reporters last week.
REPORTER 1: Is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic of this magnitude?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, maybe not. I mean, Im not saying Im going to do it, but were going to look at it.
REPORTER 2: You did say that youre going to do it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We give a tremendous no, I didnt. I said were going to look at it. Were going to investigate it. Were going to look at it.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what hes threatening to do right now? First they reject the WHO tests, that would have been critical, and now saying theyre going to defund the World Health Organization.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, this is typical behavior of autocrats and dictators. When you make colossal errors which are killing thousands of people, find somebody else to blame. And in the United States, its unfortunately the case, for well over a century, century and a half, that its always easy to blame the yellow peril. The yellow Theyre coming after us. Weve seen this all through my life, in fact way before. So, blame the World Health Organization, blame China, claim that the World Health Organization has insidious relations with China, is practically working for them. And that sells to a population thats been deeply indoctrinated for a long time, way back to the Chinese Exclusion Acts in the 19th century, to say, Yeah, those yellow barbarians are coming over to destroy us. Thats almost instinctive.
And its backed up by the echo chamber, so, you know, say, Rush Limbaugh. Science is one of the four corners of deceit, along with the media, academia I forget one of the others, but theyre the four corners of deceit. They live on deceit. You keep driving that into peoples heads. They say, Why should we believe anything? Why should we believe the news? Its just fake news. Theyre all trying to destroy our savior, our president, the greatest president ever.
Im old enough to remember as a child listening to Hitlers speeches over the radio, Nuremberg rallies. I couldnt understand the words, but the tone and the reaction of the crowd, the adoring crowd, was very clear and very frightening. We know what it led to. Its hard to it comes to mind at once when you listen to Trumps ravings and the crowd. I dont suggest that hes anything like Hitler. Hitler had an ideology, horrible ideology, not only massacring all the Jews and 30 million Slavs and the Roma, and conquering much of the world, but also an internal ideology: The state, under control of the Nazi Party, should control every aspect of life, should even control the business community. Thats not the world were in. In fact, its almost the opposite, business controlling the government. And as far as Trump is concerned, the only detectable ideology is pure narcissism. Me, thats the ideology. As long as I am smart enough to keep serving the real masters, pour money into the pockets of the very wealthy and the corporate sector, and theyll let you get away with your antics.
Its pretty striking to see what happened at the Davos conference this January. Thats the meeting of the people who are called the masters of the universe CEOs of the major corporations, you know, big media stars and so on. They get together in Davos once a year, congratulate each other on how wonderful they are, put on a pose of dedicated humanists who couldnt do you know, just totally devoted to the welfare of the people of the world. Youre safe leaving your fate in our hands because were such good guys.
Trump came along and gave the keynote address. They dont like Trump. His vulgarity is incompatible with the image that theyre trying to project of cultivated humanism. But they wildly applauded him, lustily applauded every word, because they know that he does recognize which pockets you have to fill with dollars and how to do it. And as long as he does that, as long as he serves his major constituency, theyll let him get away with the antics in fact, like it, because he mobilizes a crowd that will back policies like his legislative achievements. Main one is a tax scam that pours money into the hands of the corporate coffers and harms everyone else. The deregulation is great for business. They love it. They can destroy the environment and harm people as much as they want. Very harmful to the population.
You cut back on pollution constraints, on auto emission regulations, what happens? People die of pollution, of mercury poisoning. The waters are poisoned. And the world, it goes, is facing disaster. Youre accelerating the disaster. As I said, even in the February 10th budget, while cutting back on protection against diseases in the midst of a raging pandemic, increases funding for fossil fuel production, which is going to destroy us all. Of course, a lot more money for the Pentagon and for his famous wall. But thats the world were living in here, not everywhere. As I said, the Asian countries have been acting sensibly. New Zealand actually seems to have killed it also. Taiwan is doing very well. In Europe, Germany has maybe the lowest death rate in the world, Norway, as well. There are ways to react.
And there are ways to try to destroy everything what President Trump is leading, with the support of the Murdoch echo chamber, Fox News and others. And amazingly, this conjuring act is working. So, with one hand, you raise your hand to heaven: Im the chosen one. Im your savior. Im going to rebuild America, make it great again for you, because Im the servant. Im the loyal servant of the working class, and so on. Meanwhile, with the other hand, youre stabbing them all in the back. And to carry this off is an act of political genius. You have to recognize that serious talent is involved, whether intuitive or conscious planning. Its devastating. Weve seen it before. We see it now in dictators, autocrats, sociopaths who happen to get into leadership positions. And its now happening in the richest, most important country in world history.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have this situation in the United States where the economy has been brought to a standstill because of the absolute catastrophe of this pandemic, that people have to isolate although isolation is a luxury. For so many essential workers, they have to come out into this pandemic and face enormous threat to their own lives. If you can talk about whether you see this pandemic perhaps threatening global capitalism overall or shoring it up, and how the trillions of dollars that are being put into these stimulus packages are going to simply intensify inequality or actually going to help people at the bottom?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Thats a choice, not an inevitability. I mean, the corporate sector is working hard to plan for a future of the kind that youre describing. The question is whether popular organizations will be able to impose enough pressure to make sure that this doesnt happen.
And there are ways. Take the corporate what you just described. The corporations right now are hiding their copies of Ayn Rand and rushing to the nanny state and asking for benefits from the public to overcome the results of their criminal behavior. What have they been doing for the last years? Profits have been going sky high. Theyve been indulging in an orgy of stock buybacks, which are devices to increase the wealth for the rich shareholders and for management while undermining the productive capacity of the enterprise at a huge scale, setting their offices somewhere in a little room in Ireland so they dont have to pay taxes, using tax havens. This is not small change. This is tens of trillions of dollars, robbing the taxpayer. Does that have to be the case?
Take the current giveaway to corporations. It should be accompanied by conditionalities term were familiar with from the IMF. They should be required to ensure that there will be no more use of tax havens, there will be no more stock buybacks, period. If they dont do that, with a firm guarantee, no money from the public.
Is that utopian? Not at all. That was the law, and the law was enforced, up until Ronald Reagan, who turned on the spigot to rob as much as you like, with Milton Friedman and other luminaries in the background telling him, Thats liberty. Liberty means rob the public massively by things like tax havens and stock buybacks. So theres nothing utopian about these conditions. It says, Lets go back to a period of pretty much regimented capitalism, which developed since Roosevelt, was carried through til the 70s, when it began to erode, and, with Reagan, just ended.
There should be further conditionalities, should be working people should be placed part of management should be representatives of workers. Is that impossible? No, its done in other countries, Germany, for example. There should be a requirement that they guarantee a living wage not just minimum wage, a living wage. Thats a conditionality that can be imposed.
Now, we can move further and recognize notice that all of this is pre-Trump. Trump is taking a failing, lethal system and turning it into a monstrosity, but the roots were before him. Just think back to the reason why the pandemic occurred in the first place. Drug companies are following capitalist logic. They dont want to do anything. The neoliberal hammer says the government cant do anything the way it did in the past. Youre caught in a vise. Then comes along Trump and makes it incomparably worse. But the roots of the crisis are pre-Trump.
The same with the healthcare system. Like we know that everyone knows they should know the basic facts. Its an international scandal: twice the costs of comparable countries, some of the worst outcomes. The costs were recently estimated by a study in The Lancet, one of the worlds leading medical journals. They estimated that the costs, the annual annual costs to Americans are close to half a trillion dollars and 68,000 lives lost. Thats not so small.
AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. When we come back, hell discuss conditions in Gaza during the pandemic, and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, and the progressive response. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: The Puerto Rican rapper Residente, performing the Quarantine Edition of his new song Ren. This version includes his mom and about 30 other musicians who joined him from their homes.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. Im Amy Goodman, as we return to Part 2 of our conversation with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist, political dissident and author. I asked him about Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, where at least 13 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. The World Health Organization reports there are just 87 ventilators for Gazas 2 million residents. Nearly 300 cases and two deaths have been confirmed in the West Bank. This is Professor Chomsky.
AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk for a moment, globally, about whats happening on an issue that has been close to your heart for decades, and that is the Occupied Territories, Gaza and the West Bank, what it means for a place like Gaza, called by the U.N. and people around the world a kind of open-air prison of almost 2 million people, what the pandemic could mean there?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Its almost impossible to think about. Gaza is 2 million people who are in the living in a prison, open-air prison, under constant attack. Israel, which is the occupying power, recognized by everyone in the world except Israel Israel is imposing has been imposing very harsh sanctions ever since the Palestinians made the mistake of carrying out the first free election in the Arab world and electing the wrong people. The United States and Israel came down on them like a ton of bricks.
Israels policy, as was explained by Dov Weissglas, the person in charge of the withdrawal of Israeli troops, the withdrawal of the settlers and imposition of the new regime he explained frankly, We are putting the people of Gaza on a diet, just enough to keep them alive, meaning wouldnt look good if they all die, but not anything more than that. So, not a piece of chocolate or a toy for a child. Thats out. Just enough to stay alive. And if you have a serious health problem, maybe you can apply to go to the hospital in East Jerusalem. Maybe after a couple of weeks, youll be allowed to go. Maybe a child is allowed to go, but his mother is not allowed to come.
If the pandemic there are now a couple of cases in Gaza. If that extends, its a total disaster. International institutions have pointed out that by 2020 thats now Gaza will probably become barely livable. About 95% of the water is totally polluted. The place is a disaster. And Trump has made sure that it will get worse. He withdrew funding from the support systems for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank UNRWA, killed the funding; Palestinian hospitals, killed the funding. And he had a reason. They werent praising him enough. They werent respectful of the god, so, therefore, well strangle them, even when theyre barely surviving under a harsh and brutal regime.
Incidentally, this extends to Palestinians in Israel, as well. Human rights activists in Israel pointed out recently theres articles about it in Haaretz that Israel finally began to set up a few drive-by testing areas only in Jewish areas, not in the areas with Palestinian population. And to make sure that the intended results would follow, they announced it only in Hebrew, not in Arabic, so Palestinians wouldnt even know. Well, thats within Israel. In the Occupied Territories, far worse.
And the Trump hammer came in saying, Were not even going to give you a penny, because youre not respectful enough of me. I dont know how to describe this kind of thing. I cant find words for it.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, what do you think is required in an international response to stop the rise of authoritarianism in response to this pandemic? For example, in the Philippines, where the authoritarian leader, Trump ally, Duterte, talks about killing people; the massive crackdown, without support of the people of India, 1.3 billion people, with Narendra Modi. President Trump was in India as the pandemic was taking off, never saying a word about it, packing a stadium of 100,000 people. You have Orbn in Hungary, who is now ruling by decree. What would it take to turn that around to be a progressive response?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, whats happening, to the extent that you can find some coherent policy in the madness in the White House, one thing does emerge with considerable clarity namely, an effort to construct an international of the most reactionary states and oppressive states, led by the gangster in the White House. Now, this is taking shape.
I can run through it, but since you mentioned India, Modi, who is a Hindu nationalist extremist, is systematically moving to destroy Indian secular democracy and to crush the Muslim population. Whats happening in Kashmir is horrifying. It was bad enough before, now getting much worse. Same with the Muslim population, a huge population in India. The current lockdown is almost you can almost describe it as genocidal. Modi gave, I think, a four-hour warning saying total lockdown. Thats over a billion people. Some of them have nowhere to go. People in the informal economy, which is a huge number of people, are just cast out. Go walk back to your village, which may be a thousand miles away. Die on the roadside. This is a huge catastrophe in the making, right on top of the strong efforts to impose the ultra-right Hindutva doctrines that are at the core of Modis thinking and background.
Whats happening in quite apart from this, India in fact, South Asia generally is going to become unlivable pretty soon, if current climate policies persist. Last summer, the temperature in Rajasthan went up to 50 degrees centigrade. And its increasing. Theres hundreds of millions of people in India that dont have access to water. Its going to get much worse, could lead to a nuclear war between the two powers that basically rely on the same water resources, which are declining under global warming: Pakistan and India. I mean, the horror story thats developing is, again, indescribable. You cant find words for it. And some people are cheering about it, like Donald Trump and his friend Bolsonaro in Brazil, a couple of other sociopaths.
But how do you counter a reactionary international? By developing a Progressive International. And there are steps to that. They dont get much publicity, but this I think its this coming December, there will be a formal announcement of what has been in process for some time. Yanis Varoufakis, the founder and leading figure in DiEM25, the progressive movement in Europe, very important Varoufakis and Bernie Sanders came out with a declaration calling for a Progressive International to combat and, we hope, overcome the reactionary international based in the White House.
Now, if you look at the level of states, this looks like an extremely unequal competition. But states are not the only things that exist. If you look at the level of people, its not impossible. Its possible to construct a Progressive International based on people, ranging from the organized political groups that have been proliferating, that have gotten a huge shot in the arm from the Sanders campaign, ranging from them to self-help mutual aid, self-help organizations that are rising in communities all over the world, in the most impoverished areas of Brazil, for example, and even this astonishing fact that I mentioned, that the murderous crime gangs are taking responsibility for bringing some form of decent protection against the pandemic in the favelas, the miserable slums, in Rio. All of this is happening on the popular level. If it expands and develops, if people dont just give up in despair but work to change the world, as theyve done in the past under much worse conditions, if they do that, theres a chance for a Progressive International.
And notice, bear in mind, that there are also striking cases of internationalism, progressive internationalism, at the state level. So, take a look at the European Union. The rich countries in Europe, like Germany, have recently given us a lesson in just what the union means. Right? Germany is managing pretty well. They probably have the lowest death rate in the world, in organized society. Right next door, northern Italy is suffering miserably. Is Germany giving them any aid? No. In fact, Germany even blocked the effort to develop euro bonds, general bonds in Europe which could be used to alleviate the suffering in the countries under the worst conditions. But fortunately for Italy, it can look across the Atlantic for aid from the superpower on the Western Hemisphere, Cuba. Cuba is, once again, as before, exhibiting extraordinary internationalism, sending doctors to Italy. Germany wont do it, but Cuba can. China is providing material aid. So, these are steps towards progressive internationalism at the state level.
AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky, laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than half a century. Noam Chomsky joined us last week from his home in Tucson, Arizona, where hes sheltering in place with his wife Valeria. Go to our website at Democracy Now! to see Part 1 of our conversation.
When we come back, a new policy at New Yorks public hospitals requires medical workers who call in sick to produce a doctors note. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Lean on Me by Bill Withers. The legendary singer-songwriter Bill Withers died last month at the age of 81 from heart complications. We were showing, during that music break, nurses dancing around the world to give strength to each other, themselves and their patients.
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Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:01 am
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on all aspects of human life, and the U.S. economy is no exception. The virus outbreak and governmental reactions to it have sent the stock market crashing and dealt a major economic blow.
In a special installment of our webinar series Philosophy for Living on Earth, the Ayn Rand Institutes chief philosophy officer, Onkar Ghate, sat down with finance and economics specialists Yaron Brook and Rob Tarr to talk about the effects of the virus and government intervention on the markets and the economy. The discussion covered many aspects of the ongoing financial crisis and approached the topic from a perspective informed by the philosophy of Objectivism.
Some of the questions covered in the discussion include:
Stay tuned for future installments of our webinar series, where we willcontinue to analyze the effects of the pandemic from the principled perspectiveof Ayn Rands philosophy. And please consider donating to ARI if you value ourunique and rational evaluation of this crisis.
Watch the full discussion between Ghate, Brook and Tarr, below.
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Yaron Brook Talks Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED, FOUNTAINHEAD & Covid-19 On Tom Needham’s SOUNDS OF FILM – Broadway World
Posted: at 6:01 am
Author Yaron Brook is Tom Needham's special guest this Thursday at 6 pm on WUSB's SOUNDS OF FILM. He will be discussing what one can learn from Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED and FOUNTAINHEAD during the virus Crisis.
Yaron Brook is the host of the Yaron Brook Show, renowned best-selling author, and world class speaker. Brook's podcast can be heard on the Yaron Brook Show at BlogTalk Radio, Spreaker, Spotify and YouTube.
Brook was the Executive Director of The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) for 17 years (2000-2017). He remains Chairman of the Board of ARI and its primary spokesperson.
Brook, an internationally sought speaker, travels extensively promoting Ayn Rand and her philosophy, objectivism.
THE SOUNDS OF FILM is the nation's longest running film and music themed radio show. For the past 30 years, the program has delivered a popular mix of interviews and music to listeners all over Long Island, parts of Connecticut and streaming live worldwide on the internet. Past people interviewed for the show include Rob Reiner, Alec Baldwin, Dionne Warwick, Chuck D, Alexander Payne, Michael Moore, William H. Macy, Billy Joel and Howard Shore.
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