Saturday, March 10, 2012

Punishing Success

“Whatever your holistic plan (socialism or fascism) is, there are some people who will never fit in. This includes those who do not share your vision of a better world and never will. They will have to be neutralized somehow." – Lester Hunt (parenthesis mine) (1)

The above statement exposes an ominous state of affairs as we move closer to a more domineering government. Mr. Hunt, in criticizing totalitarianism, is also criticizing the progressive movement that is somewhat hindered from achieving its goals by the U. S. Constitution. Like typical totalitarians, they would prefer not to be hampered by limited powers.

Yet, as totalitarianism advances, and as the constitution is chipped away, the left’s methods for dealing with dissent move slowly from propaganda and historical revisionism toward more drastic methods such as imprisonment and summary execution. It does not matter the society, once a government attains full power, it must do what it thinks it must do. The Germans during the Nazi period were considered to be among the most intelligent and educated of societies, yet they descended into barbarism and a lust for murder.(2) There is every reason to expect that our leaders will descend to these depths. Given their ideological fervor and the belief that they are right, one should expect that they will deal with dissent in much the same way as the Nazis and Soviets did. Especially when you consider some of the worrisome things they have done such as asking citizens to report their neighbors to the White House.

We have not arrived at summary executions yet. However, the left’s strategy for neutralizing opposition deserves scrutiny. The President’s minions are doing everything possible to help him stay in power. A recent article called “The Self-Made Man is a Right Wing Myth” by Tim McGowan of the Philadelphia Progressive Examiner is an example of how progressives use ridicule to manipulate dissent.

“Let a Democrat say we need to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of the population and his call will be met with howls of protest from the Right saying that is punishing success. They portray taxes as Socialist wealth redistribution, an onerous and unfair burden, and confiscation. They then defer to a story of the self-made man a la John Galt in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as the model of how they succeeded and no one gave them anything and the poor deserve to be poor because they are lazy losers. We are the winners by dint of our superior ability.”(3)

This caricature of what the “Right Wing” would say to a call for more taxes is itself a myth. There is little evidence that today’s wealthiest 1% are working “a la John Galt”, the brilliant fictional character who stood firm against collectivism by going on strike. Unfortunately, most of today’s self-made men are not intransigent defenders of their own rights. In fact, most of them agree with the idea that men should sacrifice for the sake of the “common good”. Regarding their superior ability, they might point to a good education, gained through a private college, most often paid for by working part-time jobs and surviving lots of sleepless nights. They became successful by unrelenting hard work, clear thinking and dedication to a purpose but they are also cowed by statements like those made by McGowan. In fact, they tend to blame themselves for the failures of others. We didn’t train them to do their jobs properly or we failed to inspire the spirit of accomplishment in them, they think.

Yet, the point of making a caricature out of successful people is to denigrate anyone who would complain about the President’s massive debt. Additionally, the left wants to “head off” any of the stronger arguments about the value of the individual in society. They accomplish this by defining their enemies as something they are not so that they can easily dispose of their arguments. They’d prefer to preemptively ridicule any statements that men might make against the advance of statism. The government realizes that those who truly understand individualism, capitalism and property rights must be neutralized; and the easiest way to do that is to ridicule them before they raise their heads to complain.

Mr. McGowan continues:

“Many a millionaire will laugh and explain to you that the self-made man is pure fantasy and is largely based in someone's ego, arrogance, insecurity and ignorance, as well as just plain old fashioned fiction cooked up by frauds like Grover Norquist to give justification to an essentially selfish, greedy, and destructive economics that benefits virtually no one but 1% of America's population.”

This paragraph provides us with a clue to the essence of the argument against capitalism and self-interest. Contrary to Mr. McGowan’s denials, his statements are indeed intended to punish success by means of several anti-concepts such as “arrogant, insecure and ignorant” that he uses to describe successful people. The purpose here is to turn positive traits into negatives. The positive traits that actually describe most successful people are “work hard, dedicated, desirous of a better life and studiously intelligent”. But these traits, the correct ones, don’t serve the purpose of the looters. So self-made men must be diminished and punished while their true motives are ignored.

I consider name calling of the self-made man to be undignified, mean and hypocritical. But the key issue here is the tactic of ignoring the positive traits of successful people which sometimes results in a feeling of invisibility and worthlessness within the self-made man. It is the same tactic once used against slaves who were supposed to consider themselves useless to the "master" unless they strove to please him in every way.

The true value of those individuals among us who bring us our computers, our communications systems, our iPhones, our electricity and our Ford automobiles, not to mention thousands of other products and services, should be appreciated not ignored. Not only is it illogical for Mr. McGowan to play these "mind games" with today’s self-made men, but he barely strives for accuracy. He assumes that everyone knows what these words mean and that everyone agrees they are justified. I think it is time to challenge the left about its punishment of success.

For instance, why is it evil for a person to seek his own self-interest (to be an egoist) but good for a person to be poor? If the egoist is trading value for value in pursuit of his self-interest, why is that evil? The same goes for such concepts as “selfish” and “greedy”. What do these terms mean in actual practice? Is the act of being honest in one’s dealings, making good products and services and trading those products for reasonable compensation greedy?

To answer these questions, we must understand that in order for the left to continue looting American society, it must eliminate the possibility of self-made men. It wants them to continue to be productive, but it does not want them to think they are vital in any way. Further, in order for the Obama administration to establish the framework for slavery, it must destroy the idea of inalienable rights. The best way to do this is to denigrate those who would benefit most from the protection of individual rights, those people willing to work the hardest for success. If such people can be “educated” to consider themselves as unimportant then what the government takes from them is also of little value.

Notice that progressives love to praise themselves as being dedicated to helping people. They give themselves awards for helping the downtrodden, the poor, the ignorant and the sick, all the while ignoring the fact that they do these things with the money created by the self-made man. They take credit for supposedly helping millions of people when they have not spent a single dollar of their own money. They glorify themselves, write books about their lives, erect statues of themselves and name buildings after themselves while ignoring the real accomplishments and success of the very people who make their massive government programs possible. For progressives, the real achievement is that they took somebody else's money.

Yet, the short-term “pragmatic” goal of progressives like Tim McGowan is to neutralize the opposition from Tea Party types who want to defend their rights, property and incomes from government expropriation. The Tea Party represents a factor that the left had not expected and, because of this, they have been set back, slowed in their progress toward the entitlement state. The Tea Party must be marginalized. This explains the use of such terms as "John Galt" and "self-made men" in Mr. McGowan's article. These are terms straight out of Ayn Rand's writings and the left is running scared to stop her influence.

Of course, progressives don’t call what they are doing “looting” or “slavery”. They prefer to say that we live in a grand collective where all men, as long as they work hard for others, can create a fair society. They rhapsodize about a “social contract” where some are asked to do more because, according to them, society has given them so much. We receive a “social safety net”, great schools, health and human services and so much more from society. They praise the state for providing us with streets and highways in order for businessmen to transport their products. For progressives, this means that each humble contribution from the individual is a gift from each to all. If such a sacrifice is not willingly given, then the unwilling must be “neutralized”. Those who disagree with giving their “fair share” and playing by “fair rules” must be shamed for harming society.

Progressives ignore the fact that government does not ask, it commands; and any government that commands does not have to worry about whether citizens approve. For instance, many government workers, because they don’t have to compete for their jobs, are arrogant, rude and sometimes “ignorant”. Money taken from the private sector will most often be squandered and wasted, and few people will be held accountable for these losses. Those wonderful roads are often full of potholes, the schools teach children the party line and other agencies of government do more to squash trade than increase it. Massive government debt has meant fewer jobs, higher prices, less disposable income, less saving and more poverty. Who pays for the losses? Why the greedy self-made man, of course.

But Mr. McGowan springs another more vicious trick on the self-made man. It goes like this: He is not really self-made. According to this view, the so-called self-made man is created by society. Each of us is a product of our environment. If a person achieves riches, those riches are provided by those who purchase from him. We are a collective where all value comes, not from the individual, but from the group that reared and nurtured us.

According to this view, society has first call on anything the individual makes. There are no rights except those that society decides to create. And if society requires that the individual give up something for the sake of the whole, it is completely right to make the demand. Everything the individual receives is a gift from society and everything he makes originated in society. The group is everything, the individual is nothing.

This view, of course, is collectivism, the idea that the collective is more important than the individual. Its political expression is democracy and its final destination is dictatorship. Collectivism is advocated by people who view society as god. Their ancestors philosophically are Plato, Descartes, Hume, Kant and Dewey to name a few. The goal of these philosophers was to ensure that individuals stay firmly below society in importance. The result is that the individual never discovers that he has rights. If he accepts the notion that everything should be shared equally, regardless of individual effort, then he cannot question the government’s effort to re-distribute income.

Collectivism creates a gross ignorance of several important facts. First it ignores the individual’s role in his own survival. In order to survive, an individual must think and act correctly. How he thinks is his choice. In order to think, he must develop knowledge that is usable and he must make a choice to use that knowledge. This leads to the recognition that the most important thing about the individual is that he survives by means of reason. Thinking, using reason, is a singular act chosen by each individual, not by society for the individual. Because collectivism ignores these facts, it creates a gross prejudice against the individual and builds a society around exploitation, control and violation of rights. The many gross violations of individual rights create a society of incompetence and poverty.

From an economic perspective, collectivism destroys the results of the human mind by outlawing capital accumulation, savings. Since collectivism expropriates savings, individuals do not have the ability to create abundance. The result is that people stay at the level of mere subsistence. This is why collectivist societies always fail: they must exploit individuals and this very exploitation destroys progress. Once collectivists see their ideas failing, instead of desisting, they blame individuals who are “cheating” and not giving their fair share. These individuals are the most talented in society because they produce more than those who have already been beaten down. The result is more anti-individualism to fight the anti-individualism that created the decline in the first place. This explains the Obama administration’s policies perfectly.

We can continue with this line of thinking until we descend further into absurdity. We see that absurdity around us every day, especially in the writings of men like Mr. McGowan. What most people miss is that collectivism creates the very poverty that progressives blame on self-made men. In our society, higher taxes on the rich, costly and unnecessary regulations, executive decrees, deficit spending and inflation, as well as the health care bill, are collectivist ideas that have negative impact on the lives of people. They make it more difficult for people to survive and then they blame people for deliberately sabotaging their efforts. This leads to oppressive behavior on the part of government.

In order to understand the basis of Mr. McGowan’s arguments, we must understand the way collectivism and democracy work. Progressives have long been advocates of collectivism and democracy for the simple reason that politically, these ideas enable them to gin up votes and outrage for collective action. That collective action must always require sacrifice for the sake of the collective. Once that action is decided upon, the next logical step is bloody death, slavery, ostracism or expropriation of wealth. Collectivism and democracy are not about love of mankind; they are about gangsterism and theft.

In contrast, a republican society would not allow people to vote away the rights and property of other citizens. In a republic, people could vote for politicians but they could not vote for the elimination of individual rights. Such a system protects the individual because it recognizes that the only way to have a peaceful, cooperative society is to ban force in human relationships. Individuals, free to secure their survival without the threat of expropriation, enslavement or democratic vote, have only cooperation and reason as their means to success. People keep their possessions out of right not out of dispensation from an authority; and this makes possible capital accumulation, investment, improving products and infrastructure not to mention reason and mutual trade to mutual benefit. Property becomes the hallmark of success.

To illustrate the importance of the principle of individual rights, ask yourself what would happen if men could not keep their earnings? This would mean that they could not accumulate capital for investment in grand schemes such as a power grid that covered large areas of the country. The result would be people living without electricity. You would also not have large automotive companies which would mean people could not travel for work or pleasure. They would not have telephones, computers, television sets, even food. Without capital accumulation, even if these items were invented, each would require so much human energy to produce that prices would be too high for the average person. Only those with political power and lots of other peoples’ money could afford them.

Democracy represents the most corrupt use of force possible in society. Throughout history, democracy has devolved into gangsterism and protection rackets. For progressives, it is the means to an end which is totalitarian control. Once people begin voting away the rights of individuals, democracy becomes tyrannical government. All one gang has to do is claim to be the defender of the downtrodden and it can get away with anything including murder of its opponents. All they have to do is create an emergency, rig a vote and then take over. And today, the re-distributive “democracy” of Barack Obama is stealing money on an unprecedented scale. If you wonder what the outcome of this re-distribution will be, read the previous paragraph again.

In contrast, our original republican system of government prohibited the government from violating individual rights. The founders of our nation foresaw all of the corrupt ways of doing government, especially the flaws of monarchy and Greek-style democracy. They found a way to eliminate the corruption of these systems through such devices as limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances and the Bill of Rights. They declared that man was free to pursue happiness (which means he could accumulate capital) and their system put up roadblocks against money expropriation.

Since the advent of progressivism (the Wilson years), gangsters have been working to undermine the Constitution and individual rights. Their work is almost complete.

We've virtually lost sight of the genius of republican government and of how many problems it solved for civilization. We are moving headlong into democracy, gangsterism and tyranny for lack of that knowledge. President Obama is the organizer and leader of that gangster movement.

Contrary to Mr. McGowan’s words, collectivist government is not the source of the great benefits of society. Those benefits come from those among us who have the ability to think clearly and act. They come from men of genius who bring us the new, the unheard of, the unanticipated and the brilliant. They also come from efficient businesses that make life-enhancing products, distribute them and collect the revenues. Only liberty can create this success; not government interference in the affairs of men, not collective thinking, not sacrifice. Success cannot happen without human energy, dedication, long hours of work and the desire to make it happen, all of which come from an individual decision, not from society. This fuzzy idea that the greatest men of capitalist achievement owe their success to society is poppy cock. Where was such individual achievement before the capitalist era that liberated human intelligence?

To prove my point, I challenge government to take the laziest welfare drunk from the dregs of society and turn him into a millionaire without giving him a handout. Come on, if successful people owe their success to society, then who is going to be the first liberal to start creating millionaires? This argument that millionaires are not self-made is nothing more than an excuse for robbery. We are turning into a nation of cannibals.

But Mr. McGowan did not write what he did in a vacuum. This kind of charge against self-made people is very common. It happens thousands of times a day in our country. Punishment of success is deemed proper by many people. In fact, some people take such criticisms of self-made men as morally unanswerable. Why?

Why are people like Mr. McGowan allowed to get away with their hatred of success? Why do people give his criticisms such credence? Why do so many men accept ridicule for the mere act of trying to live? I think the reason is that throughout the centuries men have been brainwashed to blame themselves whenever something goes wrong. It seems to be a natural tendency to accept blame for things over which men have no control.

Add to this the influence of many philosophic systems that start with the premise that man is imperfect. This view is derived from ancient myths in which men did not heed the demands of the gods. In response, the gods punished men for their apparent arrogance and demanded that men pay retribution in the form of sacrifice. Early men were taught that they had done something dis-respectful to the gods and deserved the fire, earthquake and other storms that were dispensed. Since then men have accepted the idea that they deserve to be punished even for their success. The result was centuries of societies barely capable of supporting themselves because of stultifying ritual, tradition and much sacrificing.

Once religion won out over reason in ancient Greece, there was no historical standard bearer for reason. Religion began a steady growth and men began to look inward to solve their problems, to pray, to humble themselves, to blindly accept blame for presumed vanity, arrogance and selfishness. Those rational men that were still left became silent, and in order to stay alive they submitted to the cruelties and insults of religious leaders and kings. Monarchy became the tyranny of the period and anyone who challenged the king and/or god was certain to die, be tortured on the rack or ridiculed in front of the entire community. Men knew they had better keep their heads down lest they lose them for the sake of heaven’s wrath. The result was the Dark Ages when seeking knowledge was a sin and disease and hunger were common.

I think it is accurate to say that these influences have been given an inferiority complex of sorts. They creates a tendency among men to blame themselves whenever other people are said to be suffering. They are taught that greed is evil merely because they want to acquire assets. They are taught that they have excessive pride merely because they want to do well. They are taught that their success takes away from the success of others and they do not question the veracity of these teachings.

Psychologists will tell us that the best way to cure neurosis is for the individual to connect with his past, to go back to those situations where his thinking went wrong, relive the negative experiences and correct the flawed thinking. Yet, most psychologists don’t know how to help people bring out their rational and more assertive possibilities. They countenance men to "be yourself", spontaneous and whimsical. They tell men adjust to social forces and try to get along, unaware that they are not curing anyone; they are not addressing the dominant philosophical teachings that cause men to be troubled.

What these people have missed throughout the centuries is that man, by his nature, is an autonomous being with the capacity to understand, to reason and to decide for himself. Man can be successful in nature and in society; but it is important that society not punish his success. It must protect the rights of men to succeed and enjoy life.

This idea of protecting individual rights became possible for the first time during the Enlightenment when men realized that life could be an adventure, that the individual could determine his own course and that independence from authority was the key to successful cognition. At this point in history, men began to “self-create”, to educate themselves and to develop the personal character traits that enabled them to explore, to invent and to produce. These new character traits brought about the rise of men who understood how important freedom was to living successfully.

Contrary to what Mr. McGowan might say, these men made a difference. The Founders were men of action and of independent thought. By setting the intellectual foundations of America in freedom and man’s free will, they made possible the success of other men such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and many more who invented huge enterprises run by new principles of efficiency that benefited men tremendously. The whole character of the society was poised to liberate even more men, to increase their independence, their mobility, their intelligence and their vision of the future. At first, government did not regulate this; it merely protected men against criminals and politicians.

It is often said that in the American system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is said to be a flaw in the system that makes it exploitive and unfair. The opposite is true. Consider that in America a man could invest his capital to create huge industries that benefited millions of people. Let’s say a given individual creates a grid for the production and transportation of electricity over broad areas. This grid made possible immeasurable improvements in the lives of his customers. What did he get for his investment? His customers gave him mere pennies in return for comfort, more productive living and the lighting and heating of their homes. Who became rich in this scheme? The real benefit went to the customers.

Contrary to Mr. McGowan’s cynicism, individuals do matter and they do make a difference. Any success they create is theirs to appreciate and enjoy. And the more they create the more credit they earn, the more honored they are and the more appreciated they should be. Men seeking to “actualize” their own potential, once they have done the thinking, the hard work, the long hours and the building of great enterprises, are important and vital to the futures of all men. They make it possible for other men to actualize their potential. Not only should they be appreciated, but they should appreciate themselves, obtain a great sense of pride in their accomplishments, and they should learn to defend and protect what is theirs. They should know that they deserve their success.

Statements such as those of Mr. McGowan are based upon hatred of man and a desire to enslave those whose production is necessary for the advance of the slave state. As for myself, I see man’s purpose to be the ultimate enjoyment of life and I admire men who seek to “make” themselves. I want to be like them rather than envious of them.

To counter Mr. McGowan, I suggest that egoism is not evil. Arrogance is often the proper response to people like Mr. McGowan who mindlessly criticize what they don’t understand. Insecurity and ignorance characterize the critics of self-made men; they are not characteristics of self-made men. Selfishness is not evil but the normal character trait for any human being whose purpose is to survive. Greed is a meaningless concept based upon a negative view of success and accomplishment. And destructive economics is actually the province of progressiveds who would denigrate men’s characters and steal their wealth.

But the real problem is more than just an inferiority complex imposed upon the vast majority of men. The real problem that creates men like Mr. McGowan is the philosophy of altruism. He would not be able to get away with his cruelty without the dominance of a philosophy that demands sacrifice. Only altruism combines a pretended love of mankind with the expression of hate for the successful. Only altruism can demand that successful men pay ransom to those who are not responsible for their success. Only altruism justifies murderous hatred and makes the mere desire to live into a crime.

The fact that men like McGowan (and their readers) accept altruism is why they get away with ridiculing and insulting independent Americans. Altruism gives them a mandate to pretend to be morally superior. Someone should expose their illogical assumption. Where would they be if someone pulled the altruism rug out from under them and exposed altruism for the barbaric and murderous idea that it is? More than likely, they’d be on the streets begging for a handout.

Without altruism and its acceptance the self-made man would be free to create a magnificent future based in freedom and pride.


(2) See The Ominious Parallels by Dr. Leonard Peikoff