Kelley Video Commentaries on Atlas Movie Scenes!

David Kelley, founder and CEO of The Atlas Society offers video commentaries on scenes from Atlas Shrugged Part 1. Here’s the link for his commentaries and we invite you all to check them,

Dagny Confronts James

In this scene early in the film, Dagny Taggart confronts her brother James about the need to upgrade a rail line. The scene illustrates the difference between objectivity and second-hand thinking.

Rearden and His Dependents

Hank Rearden indulges his ungrateful brother with a contribution and gets a political warning from a friend. These scenes illustrate the meaning of money.

Rearden Metal is Not for Sale

Hank Rearden rejects a government offer to buy the rights to his new metal, a conflict dramatizing the difference between individualism and collectivism.

And while you’re thinking about the Atlas movie, read David Kelley’s thinking on “The Capitalist Ideal: The Moral Vision of Atlas Shrugged.”

And while you’re thinking about Taggart Transcontinental, read Frank Bryan’s review of the book Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869.

And while you’re thinking about a transportation revolution, consider David Mayer’s piece on “Completing the American Revolution.”

On Tolerance, Freedom and Equality

I have always believed that we are not forced to tolerate others and their ideas.  To Tolerate; is to understand others actions and beliefs without letting them (and their ideas) interfere in the code of morality we stand by.

That being said, I truly believe in freedom, equality and the respect of other’s rights.  But that doesn’t mean I am forced to tolerate them and their ideas.  To tolerate, when not affected by political opinion, is to accept that others may think and live different than I.  It is to understand and recognize they & their ideas exist.

If you are interested in learning a somehow related point of view, I recommend you to take a couple minutes and listen to the podcast of Wendy Brown at Philosophy Bites.  Wendy Brown is a teacher of Philosophy at UC Berkeley and has some interesting ideas that are worth listening.

Was it “Give me privacy, or give me death!”?

If you are aware of the philosophy behind the famous The Twilight Zone anthology series created by Rod Serling in the 1960s and then revived in the 1980s you can see what a terrible world we could actually live in.  If you don’t remember this show, I will tell you a little bit about it in order for you to grasp my analogy with the title of this post.

The Twilight Zone is a story in which men live in a sort of gray area in which almost everything (real or fantastic) can occur.  It a mixture of fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and horror that often concluded with a macabre or unexpected twist.  This idea caught my attention when I read the New York Times last weekend.  The title of the article read: “When American and European Ideas of Privacy Collide” and it explored the worth of the ideas of Liberty and Privacy, and of how both terms had a different worth in the codes of values of Americans and Europeans.  As the article read, European courts believed and interpreted customs by acknowledging that the right of an individual to privacy was above the right of any individual to freedom of speech.  As such, the framework in Europe is that of “privacy as a human-dignity right,” while in the U.S. it is only enforced as a  “consumer-protection right.”

It seems that the reason why privacy has such an important stand in European legislation goes back to Nazi Germany.  Fred H. Cate, a law professor at Indiana University explains that “The privacy protections we see reflected in modern European law are a response to the Gestapo and the Stasi” and in the way they kept under surveillance their citizens during the hardest times of the national-socialist government.

While there are historical precedents for this change of perspective, its justification is philosophical.  European Constitutional law regards in the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”  This means that an individual in Europe can be free only if he doesn’t violate whatever is to considered private by someone.

It is in that article of the European Convention of Human Rights that the philosophical dilemma exists.  Who’s to determine what privacy, and a violation of it, actually is will depend on the case by case evaluation of evidence regarding a demand.  As such, in Europe men are free only if they do not violate what a privileged group will consider to be private or not.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution on the other hand, regards freedom of speech as one of the most important rights of men.  As such, It considers it is considered by American framework that an individual’s right to free speech is necessary for him to claim that his rights to privacy have been violated.  The article reads,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

To consider of privacy as a right above an individuals’ right to speech will take us into a horrendous time travel fantasy of sorts in which men will not be free at all to speak their minds.  It will only allow for a -Twilight Zone- world in which the interests of a small group of privileged men, corporations and corrupts will be protected and enforced by government.  Government will then be able of practicing censorship to those individuals that they consider to have violated someone’s privacy.  It will open the doors to a fantasy world in which a men would have never been able of screaming like Patrick Henry did in March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia,

Give me Liberty, or give me Death!

Briefly, On the morality of Capitalism

The argument of why Capitalism is a system of justice stands on the principles of individual freedom, individual rights, freedom from any type of coercion and equality of opportunity.

For a system to be moral it needs to allow its members to not be treated immorally.  As such, capitalism allows for individuals to be able of doing whatever they please to do in order to be happy.  In a capitalist society, its members are able of pursuing whatever they wish in as much it doesn’t violates other individual’s right to be free.

In order for individuals to be free they need to have some certainty or security of what those rights to be free actually are.  Therefore, individuals need to know what their rights to be free depend upon.  Those freedoms are established by common agreements and traditions first, mores and oral commitments and in more complex and civilized societies by a Constitution and legislations.  This agreements on what an individual could do, need always to be consistent with their freedom to act, without anyone telling them what to do.

As such, in a capitalist society all the individuals will have equal rights to act upon and equal rights to demand for justice when their rights are violated.

In a capitalist society there will be rewards for the work a man does.  He will receive a salary in return for the services and work he did.  That salary is the worth of a person’s work in order to produce something.  Some individuals will earn more and others less.  Their work is not valued by the overall good he gives to society, but by the product of it.

But how can it be a moral system if the people that works harder (labor force) earns a lot less than the rich?

It may be true that a man that sells ice cream in very hot summer days provides an overall “societal” benefit that is higher to his boss’s.  However, the boss of this person who earns only 7 dollars per hour may be earning a lot more, maybe 25 dollars per hour.  This is just.  Why? Because the boss had to work in a different field in order to achieve a higher salary.  The product of his work is worth more to the owner of the ice cream company and he also had to comply with a different job profile when hired.  He had to study in College and this boss is able of making the business grow and make more money for the owner of the company.  Such as Manning’s example and all the money he makes for those companies that profit from the baseball, basketball, and other businesses.

Part 2. Q and A on Ayn Rand’s ideas with Mr. Bhaskar Patel

In a previous post, we discussed some questions with Mr. Bhaskar Patel regarding Objectivism.  In this post, we’ll continue exploring other important questions raised by Mr. Patel and you are invited to raise your own objections and refuttals.

Objectivism is a philosophy developed by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand.  This philosophy holds that reality exists independent of conciousness and that man’s moral purpose is to pursuit happiness.  In order to do so, man needs government not to interfere on his decisions and only to protect his individual rights and private property.  Objectivism holds that individuals are not sacrificial animals, and as such they should never live for others or ask others to live for them.

Now, we’ll go to review Mr. Patel commentaries and questions:

  • Capitalism ensures survival & growth of the fittest. There is a winner and a loser. The winner may become greedy to the exclusion of the rest.

It is not Capitalism that ensures the survival of the fittest; it is Nature that ensures that the fittest are to survive.  Capitalism is a moral social system that allows for humans to be happy, and free to cooperate and satisfy their needs.  As a matter of fact, Capitalism is the only social system that could enable men to freely decide to help and protect those humans that in nature would have surely died (the physically and mentally ill, elderly, orphans, etc).

In today’s world, it is government who supposedly helps and aids those men and women who lack the ability to protect themselves and ensure their survival.  Unfortunately, this welfare services granted by government have allowed for parasites to also abuse of the system and doesn’t create an incentive for men to live by themselves.

  • Have you ever seen the purest form of ‘capitalism’, as you describe it herein above, exist or succeed on a broad scale? why not?

As Ayn Rand wrote and Ludwig von Mises acknowledged in the book “Theory and History“,  Laissez-Faire Capitalism has never existed.   The closer humanity has been to Laissez-Faire Capitalism was during the a short time of the last two decades of the XVIII century.  This happened after the Constitution of the United States of America was signed and allowed for a social system as such to exist.  However, decades passed and it never came to be a functioning social system in the United States.

Government intervention and the introduction of mercantilist privilegies couldn’t be avoided (they were the rule in the rest of the world) and the United States felt trap of it.  Today’s economy is a mixed economy system in which the principles of capitalism (freedom and protection of individual rights, a small but efective government, and others) are non-existent.

  • Ms. rand may have considered certain elements or aspects of religion as evil but it is also a source of tremendous inspiration and healing in this world. How can you ignore it if you’re serious about curing the ills that harm our world.

Ayn Rand considered religion to be “a blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason.”  As such, she said it was the greatest enemy of reason and humanity.  Religion is a dogmatic belief by faith in any explanation of reality.  As such, religion is NOT Ethics and it is wrong to consider its teachings as the origin of morality, good and ethical behavior.  The ills and harm done by other men in the world can only be “cured” if men respect each other and aren’t forced to sacrifice for the benefit of others.  Men are not “good” or “evil”, it is on their own to choose what to do.  Human’s need no religion to act ethically, they only need to understand reality and act accordingly.  More than inspiring and healing the world, religion has been used to create many harm and kill millions of men in the name of mysticism.

  • Did Ms. Rand lead/live her adult life as she prescribed it? If not, why not?

Ayn Rand said that her philosophical system was a recognition of reality and of human’s nature.  As such, any men could try living rationally, coherently and happily.  For her, a men that lived under those principles should be considered a hero, a hero that could actually exist outside fiction and romantic books.  Many of her critics questioned her, she was a human and as such she wasn’t perfect.

Ayn Rand was known for her consistency and for being a radical defensor of her ideas.  She never allowed herself to be surrounded by parasites and asked always for men to be the best they can be.  I consider her to have lived consistently to her ideas.  There are two biographical works that could be a good idea reading; you could start by checking this article wrote by The Economist under the title “The life and views of Ayn Rand. Capytalism’s martyred hero“.

  • If you exclude the US & Canada, do you know of any significant bilateral relations for diplomacy and international commerce that is a win-win situation

Of  course, during the XIX and XX centuries many bilateral agreements were signed by countries in the areas of commerce, defense and government cooperation.  Still, most of diplomacy is dealt bilaterally (without UE, NATO, UN, etc. interference).

It is a fundamental in international relations to have reciprocity and equal benefits for any agreement, treaty and compromise.  In multilateral relations this cannot by applied and allows for different benefits and obligations from the participant countries.  It was only after the Great Depression that many countries turned to multilateralism.

  • Without Government tax-rebates, subsidies, incentives, protection etc, do you believe private sector will invest in technologies, or utilities, or infrastructure projects or medicine? I am not taking about a small-business here?

Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard, proposed that a new system of private contributions could emerge after taxes, subsidies, and government welfare is eliminated.  I recommend you to check this video of the lecture “Morality of Capitalism” in the segment were he answers a question regarding tax payments and common will (link to lecture).  Although I disagree with some of his points regarding private cooperation, he does make a good point explaining that it does is possible for our society to live happily without the current taxation system and cooperate.

  • What is the source of ‘capitalism’? Who provides it? How did they accumulate it?

This is my favorite question.   Capitalism is a social system based on and derived from ethics. As such, it based on and derived from a metaphysics.  This metaphysics is that reason is man’s basic tool for survival and rationality is his highest virtue.  Capitalism has a moral imperative in which all of its members have their life as the standard of value.  It is philosophy that provides for it and individuals who take it into practice.  For Capitalism to exist, men need to eliminate all mysticism and altruism.  Men need to have reason as man’s only mean of perceiving reality and has his only guide to action.