Category Archives: Hollywood

Ayn Rand, David Cross, And Hypocrisy

BAB's A List, Communism, Hollywood, Left-Liberalism, libertarianism, Objectivism, Socialism

AYN RAND, DAVID CROSS, AND HYPOCRISY
By Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ph.D.

Ilana Mercer recently made me aware of some off-the-wall [YouTube, sorry, couldn’t resist MJ] comments by stand-up comedian David Cross on Ayn Rand. I’ll just have to chalk up his, uh, misunderstanding to the fact that he’s a comedian, and not somebody who has actually studied Rand’s corpus. On his new Netflix special, he makes the following statement:

Let’s be honest, that’s what makes America weak, is empathy. When we care about those less fortunate than ourselves, that[‘s] what brings us down. . . . Ask Ayn Rand—I believe you can still find her haunting the public housing she died in while on Social Security and Medicare.

Now, it’s not my intention to simply defend Ayn Rand; she did a good job of that when she was alive, and her writings have stood the test of time, whatever one thinks about her position on this or that particular issue. But Cross is just all crossed up. About so many things.

First, let’s clear up one grand myth: Ayn Rand never lived in public housing. I recently queried Rand biographer, Anne Heller, who wrote the 2009 book, Ayn Rand and the World She Made. Heller could provide us with every address Rand ever lived at, and not a single one of them corresponds to a public housing project. But even if Rand lived in the Marlboro Housing Projects in Brooklyn, who cares? More on this, in a moment.

Now, it is true that Rand did collect Social Security and Medicare. Ayn Rand Institute-affiliated writer, Onkar Ghate, addresses the so-called hypocrisy of this fact about Ayn Rand’s life in his essay, “The Myth About Ayn Rand and Social Security.” Ghate reminds us that Rand opposed,

Every “redistribution” scheme of the welfare state. Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one “regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism” (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced. Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced “participation” unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program’s injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security.

Rand felt the same way about any number of government programs, including government scholarships, and such. In reality, Rand got a free education at the University of Petrograd in the Soviet Union, a newly-minted communist state; next to that, collecting Social Security is “a mere bag of shells,” as Ralph Kramden would put it. But, you see, that’s the whole issue, isn’t it? Rand was born in the Soviet Union, and even that state wasn’t “pure communism,” as Marx envisioned it; for Marx, communism could only arise out of an advanced stage of capitalism, which, in his quasi-utopian imagination, would solve the problem of scarcity. The point is that there is not a single country on earth or in any historical period that has ever fit the description of a pure “-ism”; to this extent, Rand was completely correct to characterize her moral vision of “capitalism” as an “unknown ideal.”

But there is a second point that is lost on critics who accuse Rand of hypocrisy; there is not a single person on earth who isn’t born into a specific historical context, a particular place and time. At any period in history, we live in a world that provides us with a continuum of sorts, enabling us to navigate among the “mixed” elements of the world’s “mixed” economies, that is, those economies that have various mixtures of markets and state regimentation. But as that world becomes more interconnected, the destructiveness of the most powerful politico-economic institutions and processes extend in ripple effects across the globe. And as F. A. Hayek never tired of saying, the more political power comes to dominate the world economies, the more political power becomes the only power worth having… one of the reasons “why the worst get on top.” What Hayek meant, of course, is that in such a system, those who are most adept at using political power (the power of coercion) for their own benefit tend to rise to the top, leaving the vast majority of us struggling to make a buck. The “road to serfdom” is a long one, but serfdom is among us; it comes in the form of confiscatory taxation and expropriation to sustain an interventionist welfare state at home and a warfare state abroad.

I have always believed that context is king. And given the context in which we live, everyone of us has to do things we don’t like to do. Even anarchists, those who by definition believe that the state itself lacks moral legitimacy, can’t avoid walking down taxpayer-funded, government-subsidized sidewalks or travel on taxpayer-funded government-subsidized roads and interstate highways, or taxpayer-funded government-subsidized railroads, or controlled airways.

Then there’s the issue of money. You know, whether of the paper, coin, or plastic variety. There are many on both the libertarian “right” and the new “left” who have argued that the historical genesis of the Federal Reserve System was a way of consolidating the power of banks, allowing banks (and their capital-intensive clients) to benefit from the inflationary expansion of the money supply. This has also had the added effect of paying for the growth of the bureaucratic welfare state to control the poor and the warfare state to expand state and class expropriation of resources across the globe. And it has led to an endless cycle of boom and bust. And yet, there isn’t a person in the United States of whatever political persuasion who cannot avoid using money printed or coined by the Fed. Even among those on the left, so-called “limousine liberals” (a pejorative phrase used to describe people of the “left-liberal” persuasion who are hypocrites by definition) or those who advocate “democratic socialism” of the Sanders type, or those who advocate outright communism, own private property and buy their goods and services with money from other private property owners. It seems that there is not a single person on earth of any political persuasion who isn’t a hypocrite, according to the “logic” of David Cross.

Ever the dialectician, I believe that given the context, the only way of attempting even partial restitution from a government that regulates everything from the boardroom to the bedroom is to milk the inner contradictions of the system.

But some individuals can’t get restitution, because they were victims of another form of government coercion: the military draft. Ayn Rand believed that the draft was involuntary servitude, the ultimate violation of individual rights, based on the premise that the government owned your life and could do with it anything it pleased, including molding its draftees into killing machines, and sending them off to fight in undeclared illegitimate wars like those in Korea and Vietnam (both of which Rand opposed). What possible restitution is available to those who were murdered in those wars, or even to those who survived them, but who were irreparably damaged, physically and/or psychologically, by their horrific experiences on the killing fields?

The draft is no longer with us, and David Cross should be thanking that good ol’ hypocrite Ayn Rand for the influence she had on the ending of that institution. Such people as Hank Holzer, Joan Kennedy Taylor, and Martin Anderson were among those who mounted the kind of intellectual and legal challenge to conscription that ultimately persuaded then President Richard M. Nixon to end the military draft.

And yet, Rand’s taxes were certainly used to pay for the machinery of conscription and for the machinery of war; does this make her a hypocrite too, or should she have just refused to pay taxes and gone to prison? Yeah, that would have been productive. Perhaps she could have authored more works of fiction or nonfiction anthologies, chock-full of essays on epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, politics, economics, and culture from Rikers Island. Yeah, then Cross would have been correct: Rand surely would have been living in the worst public housing imaginable.

Thanks for giving me a chuckle, Mr. Cross.

Postscript I: I was just made aware of a very detailed essay on the subject of “Ayn Rand, Social Security and the Truth,” at the Facebook page of The Moorfield Storey Institute.

Postscript #2: Thanks to Ilana Mercer, who alerted me to Cross’s “comedy,” and for reprinting this post on her own “Barely a Blog.” We’re obviously compadres; a “Notablog” and a “Barely a Blog” are close enough to be cousins. [Soulmates, for sure.—ILANA)

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Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra was born in Brooklyn, New York, 1960. He is the author of the Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy that began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, continued with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and culminates with Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. He is the founding coeditor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He is also the author of two monographs: Ayn Rand: Her Life and Thought and Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation. Sciabarra earned all three college degrees from New York University. He graduated in June 1981, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, with a B.A. in History (with honors), Politics, and Economics. His major undergraduate fields were American History, Economics (Austrian Economics/Political Economy), and Politics (Political Theory).
He earned his M.A. in Politics (with a concentration in political theory) in 1983. In June 1988, he earned his Ph.D. with distinction in political philosophy, theory, and methodology. He passed his qualifying examinations and oral defense in both his major and minor areas (American Politics; Comparative Politics) with distinction in Spring 1984. His dissertation, defended with distinction in Spring 1988, directed by Bertell Ollman, was entitled, “Toward a Radical Critique of Utopianism: Dialectics and Dualism in the works of Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Karl Marx.”

UPDATED: Pompous Richard Dreyfuss Disses … Ted Cruz On Kelly File

Constitution, Donald Trump, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Republicans

Fox News entertainer Megyn Kelly slobbered and fawned over actor Richard Dreyfuss for being so “courageous” and intellectually curious as to attend a Ted Cruz rally. Talk about awarding Brownie Points for nothing. Ridiculous.

The pompous little man whose ancestors were all socialists then got to tell the show girl and her viewers this:

KELLY: What were your impressions of Cruz?

RICHARD DREYFUSS: Well, I went to hear whether or not there would be a difference between what I was hearing through the TV camera and live. And what was disappointing is that there was no difference. They sounded equally kind of silly.

Cruz is a lot of things but he seldom sounds silly.

Incidentally, the transcript indicates that the son had done the Cruz belittling. Not so. I heard the broadcast; it was pompous daddy DREYFUSS.

Five minutes and 45 second into the self-important ponderous interaction, you can see I’m right. It was Senior who offered that Cruz sounded silly. Show girl showed her intellectual incuriosity and declined to probe further.

UPDATE (2/27):

Meryl Creep’s True Colors

Celebrity, Film, Hollywood, Race

Meryl Creep offered a whimsical, wacky defense of her prerogative to belong to a group in which her own kind is “over-represented,” a defense the actress would never afford to other, less privileged lily white Americans:

Actress Meryl Streep is indisputably a Hollywood icon, but her recent remarks regarding the lack of racial diversity on the Berlin International Film Festival jury are unlikely to win her many new admirers. The three-time Oscar-winning actress defended the all-white panel on Thursday, allegedly telling reporters: “We are all Africans.”

The seven-member jury, on which Streep is serving, determines the winners of the prestigious Golden Bear and is one of the most celebrated of Europe’s film festivals. In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, where the Academy Awards failed to nominate a single actor of color for the second year in a row, Streep was questioned by an Egyptian reporter about the racial make-up of her panel.

“This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said, according to the Associated Press. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.” The festival jury does include three women in addition to Streep: French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska.

Let the Hollywood house divided devour itself. Or, “Encourage Affirmative OSCARS, So Hollywood Can Go Belly-Up.”

Encourage Affirmative OSCARS, So Hollywood Can Go Belly-Up

Affirmative Action, Economy, Hollywood, Race

Spike Lee, CNN has reported, is calling for quotas or racial set-asides in Hollywood, which is currently being convulsed by the idea that the Oscars are way too white. First, I like the idea of Hollywood’s self-righteousness being turned against its own, being hoisted by their own petard. Excellent. Let the pious pea brains of Hollywood devour each other and become mired in recrimination. I also welcome set asides and quotas for black actors—more of Gabourey Sidibe as the love interest.

Look, if black actors per se were in great demand among the movie-going public, moviemakers would be rushing to recruit them for more roles. It’s called market forces. Cultural arousal patterns are more likely involved. Perhaps strapping electrodes to a white man’s genitals, and shocking him each time Pamela Anderson appears on the screen will turn him on to black actresses for good. Somehow I doubt it. Hormones are politically incorrect. You can take away college placements and Oscars from white guys, but changing cultural and sexual preferences is a lot harder.

In any event, bring it on. If Affirmative OSCARS and racial set asides in film drive the industry into bankruptcy—that can be quite a cultural cleansing. There is so little talent in that cesspool as it is.