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.

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

A couple weeks ago I started an interesting discussion with Mr. Bhaskar Patel, a General Manager that lives in Houston, Texas.  He’s member of a LinkedIn Group about Objectivism and the ideas of Ayn Rand.

Our discussion is condensed in the following post and I am sure some of our commentaries will be of your interest.

  • How will you apply Rand’s Objectivist Philosophy in China, Africa, parts of the middle-east or South-east Asia

Objectivism is a complete philosophy and as such, it studies fundamental problems that concern humanity.  Objectivism is not a philosophy for Western Humans (if anything like that truly existed).  No matter if culture is different; the following principles of Objectivism still apply a) of reality exists independent of consciousness; b) individuals are in direct contact with this reality through sensory perception; c) Human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic; d) that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness.

  • How is ‘Capitalism’ misunderstood in many parts of the world; & what are you able to do about it

Capitalism is misunderstood since it is interpreted by a socialist discourse.  George Reisman wrote a great Treatise on Capitalism in which he explained what capitalism really is.  I recommend you to check it.

Currently, the discourse about what Capitalism is, goes as this: it is a system of wealth creation by control of the means of production by powerful men (it seems we forgot to acknowledge that those men wheren’t rich before).  It is known as an economic system (not as a social system) that doesn’t has moral principles on which to hold it.  The Socialist discourse explains that Capitalism answers solely to the survival of the fittest and that the fittest has always been the powerful and wealthy.

What we can do to teach people is to show them that A) Capitalism is the only social system that is moral since it considers individuals happiness as its moral standard.  B) Capitalism is the only system that depends of win-win commerce for everyone in order to be sustainable and expand.  C)  Capitalism is a social system that needs a government that will ensure that individual’s rights are protected.  D) It is a system that depends on education of the principles of economy to its members and in keeping them safe and healthy; therefore, while it won’t grant free education and health it will spontaneously provide it by private institutions and benevolence.  E) Capitalism is a social system that will enforce peace and disincentive the use of force.

  • What happens if/when ‘people’s philosophy that is consistent with their own pursuit of happiness and liberty’ can’t or don’t co-exist

If you mean what happens when you have a Buddhist neighbor whose neighbors are Jewish and Catholics; the answer is that nothing will happen if they respect each other.  If these people freely decided to live and work in an area were culture is different they do so because in their own scale of values they were earning a lot more of something.  Now, if they were forced to live together then we have to ask ourselves who’s the one who forced them to coexist? why?  At some point, the only power capable of forcing people to live together is a government that doesn’t respect it’s citizens rights of freedom.  This is the example of what is going on right now in Middle East, Kashmir, parts of Africa.

  • When will we learn that ‘freedom’ includes & can exist only when it includes freedom for all but not freedom to hurt,snatch, steal, lie, defraud, etc nor freedom to en-slave, or to enforce practices or principles in the name of a religion

Freedom is a negative right that enables people to do anything they want except violate other’s rights and their freedom.  That being said, we’ll learn this economic principle only when the government we established respects this right and doesn’t violate it.

  • What should be done in the US about the Social Security Benefits, VA, Medicare, Medicaid, the Unemployment-benefit, K-12 Public School Systems etc

Ideally it should have never been a government industry.  Since it is, and it is a huge government structure that employs thousands of people you cannot eliminate it in just one day.  What should be done is the following: A) Educate all Americans on why it is wrong to have a government that “freely” gives Social Security Benefits, VA, Medicare, Medicaid, the Unemployment-benefit, K-12 Public School Systems, etc.  Once they learn it and understand the philosophical reasons why it is wrong then you could start a process of elimination of those structures and a privatization of the system.  Spontaneously, as you teach people that having these services provided by a private industry they will start hiring them from private institutions and competition will grow, prices will fall and more options will be available in the market.  This same process has happened in every other industry and there’s no reason why we would think that it won’t happen in health and education.  Curiously, many countries in Latin America have more private schools and universities than State owned schools.  The same happens about private health services and medical insurance.

  • Should Canada or UK abolish the single-payer health care program.

Of course they should.  This should be done by a process that will surely take the life of at least one generation; but it should be done.

  • What about the status of undocumented migrants in the US

Well, this is a long story.  Undocumented migrants in the US have been the enablers of the progress of the US for generations.  It is a country built by innovative immigrants that decided to go independent and become rich.  There are many examples of immigrants that became wealthy and their descendants now appear in the most important magazines and newspapers of the US.

However, there were a couple of those Americans who started to fear they were going to lose the power they had.  They decided that America wasn’t anymore a country built for the smartest, most capable and more creative humans.  As such, the US government started considering undocumented migrants as a lower class of humans and what we see today is its outcome.

First, the US government needs to ratify that immigrants are humans and have the same rights as the rest of Americans.  Second, you have to enable a legalization system for those immigrants that have shown for many years to be productive, stable, hardworking people.  They should be able to be legal as soon as possible! You need people like this to be a richer and wealthy country!

Those men and women who are undocumented and haven’t shown to be productive men should be warned that either they make a change in their status quo or they will be asked to go back to their countries.  You want the best men you can get to be in your country; you don’t need those men who are going to feed from your welfare nor your neighbors’.

  • What about the ‘refugee’ programs in several nations in the Western Europe or the North America

Refugee programs were an international instrument created to help those civilians that were menaced by a government that discriminated against them because of their culture, ethnicity, social status, etc.  These people needed to be protected not because they were foreigners, but because they were humans that had no opportunity to defend themselves.  If you are a member of a country founded on the principle that that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness you are going to protect and defend any individual that asks for your help; in as much as you can help them.  It is true that those refugees need all your help; they only have a bag and some clothes; it is in your right to help them by giving them the tools to work and create wealth.  They are surely going to be a workforce that may be needed in your country’s industries.  It would be wrong to keep them isolated and living out of your welfare without any incentive to work and make a living.  I’m sure there are plenty smart minds in those refugee camps that could be a benefit to your country.

  • Is there any role for UN, IMF, the World bank etc in Ms. Rand’s world or that of her followers

Ayn Rand believed that the UN enabled communism to spread in the world.  I agree with her and consider it one of the most disastrous organizations ever created.  The UN is now corrupt and is a place were dictators and so called democrats sit to discuss how to split the world to who is more powerful and has petro-dollars.  I believe in bilateral relations for diplomacy and international commerce; you need bilateral reciprocity in order for a win-win game to happen.  Being part of any multilateral organization only allows for countries to lose their sovereignty.  It should be curious that is the European Union the biggest multilateral organization since they are the ultimate expression of how socialism has taken control of everything.

  • ‘Contradictions’ are all around us; I know well that Ms. Rand’s world enables the best and brightest of us to succeed beyond any limits and to celebrate our successes with our friends, families, communities and nations. However, she didn’t deal with the issues of the business of religion or affirmative actions or quotas for minorities in almost every developed or developing nation on this planet.

Ayn Rand didn’t deal with religion or affirmative action because she considered them to be evil and wrongdoings that existed only to destroy humanity.  Affirmative action exists only because some leaders think that there are different classes of humanity –some are better and some are lower-.  Religions have always existed because they were created as social instruments to control people’s minds by offering them an escape to their earthly sufferings and ills.

I’d love discussing these and more questions with you and I hope that this comments will be of some help.

Best regards,