Category Archives: Objectivism

A Traditionalist Lesson For Laura Ingraham About Rap (Hint: It’s Not Music)

Art, Music, Objectivism, Pop-Culture, The West, The Zeitgeist

Is Laura Ingraham always a loud, boorish, boilerplate Republican?

I caught The Ingraham Angle last night, for the first time, and was appalled. First, Ms. Ingraham appeared a little loopy, as though she were, well, high.

The woman was loud, shouting over her guests in an unedifying manner, just because she could; just because she had the microphone. Not once did Ms. Ingraham puncture a Guest’s attempts to speak with meaningful argument, as the great Tucker Carlson does.

Tucker listens, he doesn’t talk over someone unless that someone is babbling. And Tucker, flaws and all (for he’s not pure Old Right, but he’s the best we have), is very sharp. He pierces a Guest’s case with good argument. (And his spontaneous laugh is adorable.)

Ms. Ingraham, on the other hand, is all wrong. Unconservative, unthinking, and yesterday, plain dopey, grinning inanely.

In particular, during the segment about rap lyrics, Ingraham declared, un-conservatively, that she loved all music. A serious conservative might have distinguished music (based on objective elements of composition) from rap.

And a methodical thinker—there are none on Fox News—would understand that while in older, contemporary American music, popular composers were smart enough to write gorgeous lyrics—lyrics are not music.

Put it this way, if the greatest composer ever, Johann Sebastian Bach, set his divine, godly cantatas to the naught lyrics of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, would I decry these sublime compositions as immoral? Of course not. The music would still be sublime.

Rap is BAD, and not only because of the filthy lyrics. Rap, simply put, is not music.

Conservative emphasis on lyrics is confused. First, separate music from lyrics. Then, make the conservative case that you cannot endorse rap qua music, because it isn’t music. Rap might be street theater, but music it isn’t. Then, as a side issue, add that rap theater and dance is set to filthy grunts and coitus-like movements.

That’s my own traditionalist case against rap. Ms. Ingraham, on the other hand, is a multiculturalist who loves all “music,” including some rap. And being a broadminded broad, she errs in considering rap to be music.

UPDATED (10/12): Everyone Has Property Rights, Whether They Know it or Not

America, Classical Liberalism, Critique, History, Individual Rights, libertarianism, Natural Law, Objectivism, Private Property

A NEW ESSAY, “Everyone Has Property Rights, Whether They Know it or Not,” is on Mises Wire.

The Indian tribesman’s claim to his ancient stomping grounds can’t be reduced to a title search at the deeds office. That’s the stuff of the positive law. And this was the point I took away from a conversation, circa 2000, with Mr. Property Rights himself, Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

Dr. Hoppe argued unassailably—does he argue any other way?—that if Amerindians had repeatedly traversed, for their livelihood, the same hunting, fishing and foraging grounds, they would have, in effect, homesteaded these, making them their own. Another apodictic profundity deduced from that conversation: The strict Lockean stipulation, whereby to make property one’s own, one must transform it to Western standards, is not convincing.

In an article marking Columbus Day—the day Conservatism Inc. beats up on what remains of America’s First People—Ryan McMaken debunked Ayn Rand’s specious claim that aboriginal Americans “did not have the concept of property or property rights.” This was Rand’s ruse for justifying Europeans’ disregard for the homesteading rights of the First Nations. “[T]he Indian tribes had no right to the land they lived on because” they were primitive and nomadic.

Hoppean Homesteading

Cultural supremacy is no argument for the dispossession of a Lesser Other. To libertarians, Lockean—or, rather Hoppean—homesteading is sacrosanct. He who believes he has a right to another man’s property ought to produce proof that he is its rightful owner. “As the old legal adage goes, ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law,’ as it is the best evidence of legitimate title. The burden of proof rests squarely with the person attempting to relieve another of present property titles.” (Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa, p. 276.)

However, even if we allow that “the tribes and individual Indians had no concept of property,” which McMaken nicely refutes—it doesn’t follow that dispossessing them of their land would have been justified. From the fact that a man or a community of men lacks the intellectual wherewithal or cultural and philosophical framework to conceive of these rights—it doesn’t follow that he has no such rights, or that he has forfeited them. Not if one adheres to the ancient doctrine of natural rights. If American Indians had no attachment to the land, they would not have died defending their territories.

Neither does the fact the First Nations formed communal living arrangements invalidate land ownership claims, as McMaken elucidates. Think of the Kibbutz. Kibbutzim in Israel instantiate the principles of voluntary socialism. As such, they are perfectly fine living arrangements, where leadership is empowered as custodian of the resource and from which members can freely secede. You can’t rob the commune of its assets just because members elect to live communally. …

… READ THE REST. Everyone Has Property Rights, Whether They Know it or Not” is on Mises Wire.

UPDATE (10/12)Facebook Thread.

Those who are unfamiliar with the methods of praxeology and deductive reasoning will twist into pretzels to find fault with this essay. Maybe read the ancients (not the neocons) on natural rights.critiquing neocons on natural rights is a straw man.

UPDATE II (5/11): You’re Fired, James Comey

America, Christianity, Democrats, Donald Trump, Left-Liberalism, Objectivism, Politics, Propaganda, Russia

James Comey is out. Donald Trump fired the FBI Director. (Read the ‘You’re Fired’ letter.) One wonders what took POTUS so long? Was he waiting for Congress and Comey to orchestrate another career-advancing hearing? Comey provided “four hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” on May 3. Boy, did he put on an act. This was Careerism 101 by Comey.

A Republican president fired someone. And OMG! The freaks are free associating. Russia. Putin. Shades of Nixon. Impeach. Tyranny. Is there any doubt Democrats control the received “narrative”?

It’s an alternate reality. Most of it is just not true. Russia, Putin; this that: you know it’s as manufactured as was the invasion of Iraq.  “The proof is not in the Putin“:

The same vague nomenclature deployed by CIA analysts to take Americans to war in Iraq is evident in the agency’s unsubstantiated claims against Russia. In trying to incriminate absent hard evidence, the CIA, as reported by the Washington Post, alludes to “a secret assessment,” nowhere apparent, identifying only “anonymous sources and individuals” in “closed-door briefing.”

During the Bush era, the mantra of Washington operatives like Karl Rove was, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” Not much has changed. Deep State creates reality as they go.

Ignored or rejected as rogue is a reality not of the making of America’s entrenched punditocracy, its self-anointed intelligentsia, slick Big Media, slimy politicians, Democrat and Republican, spooks and bureaucrats.

Back on earth, Hillary lost. Deplorables triumphed over Hillary’s “Antifa” by a smidgen. The degree of contempt for Americans among Democratic leadership and their candidate was revealed through the good works of WikiLeaks, which had exposed the Bush government before Hillary. Deep State doesn’t like to be exposed. Hence the convulsions.

UPDATE (5/10):

Putin channels Bart Simpson, “I didn’t do it.” Whatever IT is:

FBI is rotten:

UPDATE II (5/11):

Syrian Christians:

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.”