Monday, April 12, 2010

Farmer Misrepresents Rand

New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist and former Editor John Farmer has taken a few potshots at Ayn Rand, via a favorite whipping boy of the Left, Alan Greenspan. In his article, entitled Alan Greenspan: The oracle who didn't see it coming, Mr. Farmer wrote:

"Greenspan is famously a disciple of Ayn Rand, a libertarian (some dispute that) and would-be philosopher who scorned government and preached the gospel of free market capitalism unfettered by regulation. Greenspan bought it all. He still believes it, if his testimony last week is any measure.

"In fairness to the Fed, it should be noted that under his successor, Ben Bernanke, it did much in 2009 to stem the slide toward a worse recession, perhaps another even another Depression, and appears more agreeable to tougher oversight of the markets. No more Ayn Rand, in other words."

Though it's quite frustrating and even infuriating to see your ideas (or any ideas) misrepresented, especially by means of the drive-by method of Mr. Farmer, it's also an opportunity. Debunking detractors is an effective means of speading the right ideas. Here is My commentary:

Posted by zemack
April 12, 2010, 8:56PM

Others have addressed the Ayn Rand misrepresentations already, so there may be some redundancy here as I clear up the many fallacies presented by John Farmer.

“Greenspan is famously a disciple of Ayn Rand”

Was, not is, is the more accurate word, although Greenspan is undoubtedly still an admirer. No “disciple” would take the job of monetary dictator. Tying Greenspan to Rand is classic guilt by association. Straw man tactics tell you nothing about Ayn Rand’s ideas, or of their relevance to the financial meltdown. They merely provide a means of evasion.

“a libertarian (some dispute that)”

Some don’t dispute that, the facts do. Libertarianism can’t even be meaningfully defined, as it encompasses everything from anarchists to socialists to any form of doing whatever one pleases. Objectivism, Rand’s philosophy, is clear and incisive, and is as far from a sanction of anything goes as one can imagine. Characterizing Rand as a libertarian is a gross falsehood. At least Mr. Farmer acknowledges the existence of another viewpoint.

“and would-be philosopher”

This is a common type of refrain among Rand’s critics. But here are some quick questions. What is the nature of existence and its relationship to human consciousness (metaphysics)? What is the nature and method of human knowledge (epistemology)? What are the proper abstract value principles to guide the individual’s life, and set the standard by which people deal with one another (ethics)? Ayn Rand’s deep and rich philosophy, Objectivism, provides answers validated by evidence and logic. One can disagree, but if Rand is not a philosopher, then the world’s first philosopher does not exist, and neither does the field. I guess, rather than address Rand’s philosophical ideas, it’s easier just to deny that they exist.

“who scorned government”

Just read her essay, The Nature of Government (which I doubt Mr. Farmer did), and you will see that Rand saw government as the only institution capable of protecting individual rights, making it a necessary good for society. What statists hate is that she asked, and answered, the question “Do men need such an institution—and why?”. Like the Founding Fathers, she scorned rights-violating government, not government as such.

“and preached the gospel of free market capitalism unfettered by regulation”

Finally, the truth, as long as you understand the type of “regulation” she opposed. Ex. - laws against and vigorous prosecution of fraud, enforcement of contracts, etc. are consistent with the proper function of government and are good. Controls imposed on all businessmen because of the wrong-doing of the few (ex. – Sabanes-Oxley after Enron) are based upon the unjust, un-American principle, presumption of guilt, and are bad.

“No more Ayn Rand, in other words.”

If by his reference to Ayn Rand, Mr. Farmer means laissez-faire capitalism, where does anyone see it today – particularly in the financial industry, the most heavily regulated of all economic sectors. Other corespondents address this point. The housing meltdown and financial crisis is a failure of the regulatory state and the mixed economy. No objective observer can deny this. Ayn Rand disappeared from American finance nearly a century ago, when she was not yet 10 years old.

Nothing about Ayn Rand’s ideas and her philosophy of Objectivism can be learned by listening to Alan Greenspan or reading the kinds of unsubstantiated assertions Mr. Farmer throws around. Anyone interested in Ayn Rand should cleave to one of Objectivism’s cardinal virtues – independence (i.e., think for yourself). Study what she has to say, consider the evidence, and draw your own conclusions.