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There have been quite a number of diaries lately addressing Mr. Ryan's love for Ayn Rand.  Many have addressed the philosopher's beliefs and the irony that she, ultimately, had to rely on social security in her declining years to avoid medical-related financial catastrophe.  Of course, there has also been an in depth discussion about the atheistic world view Ryan derived many of her views from and how this is antithetical to the many fundies that support Ryan.  There have finally been a few intrepid souls that have detailed for us the history of this philosophy and its origins and offshoots such as nazism.  Some of this I can follow, and frankly some I can not.  But I would propose a more direct approach to the analysis of Randian (Objectivist) philosophy...      

It is right or wrong in terms of the predictions and outcomes it can achieve overall?  This is typically NOT a question asked of philosophies.  Philosophies typically deal in "truth" but rely on the faithful for the perpetuation.  In real fact, truth has very little to do with it under the microscope of 21st century definitions.  "Truth" to us today is better defined by the story of Aristotle.  "The heavier object falls at a faster rate than the lighter one..." so there you have it.  And why is this so?  Because it makes sense given a world view of philosophical construct.  Aristotle believed certain things about the universal meaning, therefore this make sense.  Unfortunately for him, the statement predicts incorrect outcomes.  Aside from whether the experience is devoid of existence in the sense of "phenomenology theory" you know, the idea that you can only perceive facts, but not know them.  If I want to predict future observations (perceived or known) this simply fails the test.  All objects fall at the same rate.  Deviations from that rate come from air resistance and thus the model we use today, based in predictive-outcome observation, manages to cover just about all conceivable scenarios (like dropping a hammer and feather together on the moon).  So, my point is here, that there are philosophies and there are philosophies, but all philosophies are not equivalent in assessing outcomes.  This is the trouble with philosophy wonks like Ryan.  Left unchecked, philosophical world views can become nothing more than mental masturbation with little meaning in a predictive-leaning world.  Its kind of like always getting the crosswords right because you draw extra squares on the puzzle where needed. It doesnt teach you much, but it makes you feel smart if you let it.

So anti-collectivism (I interchange this with Objectivist) - is it right or is it wrong in terms of predictive outcomes for a society?  By right or wrong, I am not talking about its morality, its philosophical underpinnings, its logic or its religious implications.  I speak only of the potential to produce a society that thrives and exalts the individual to self actualization.  If pursuit of happiness for the largest number of community members is the goal, can Objectivist Philosophies achieve this in a predictable way?

First, I must say that I am taking the fundamentals of this philosophy to be enlightened self interest and the creation of the human "hero" as Rand describes in her Playboy Interviews, as the simplified version of the philosophy.  Paul Ryan repeats this as, "the denial of collectivism."  

Here specifically, Rand denies the existence of the collective anything, whereas, Ryan denies the existence of a collective good.  So there is a little difference here, though I am not sure Ryan is aware of this.

But for predictive outcomes, this is provably false - in either case. It isnt a believe it or dont believe it situation.  The information contained within a collective can be utilized to provide predictive outcomes that are generally more accurate than the component parts of the collective are able to make.  In other words, the collective has its own sort of intelligence.  This is basic information theory and has been demonstrated in more than a few laboratory settings.  Collective decision making makes better decisions than our "heros" of Atlas Shrugged, on average and always will.  There are of course some caveats as to how the information is collected, collated, and used. These caveats use the concepts of markets, but in a very different way from the markets that Rand/Ryan understand. Specifically, they require individuals to bet on outcomes, but then collapse those bets into predictions.  And, as the popularized work "Wisdom of Crowds" points out, the outcomes are typically better using this collective intelligence.  What is amazing is that this can be carried further.  The use of the internet has been studied to aid in the diagnosis of illness for instance.  The broad range of symptoms and disease associations available today on the internet has been shown to be at least as accurate as the individual physician in diagnosing certain ailments. Though this was a limited study, I will try and post the reference - it is buried on my desk somewhere... never the less, it is a promising new tool.  But I digress. My point is simply that one can not writeoff the collective intelligence as Ryan and Rand do by philosophically wishing it were not that way.  In a predictive sense, the concept of wise crowds holds more use for us as a society than their "mobs." You say, "well JEEZZ, working together as a market is more efficient than having everything be an individual unfettered competition, that's a no brainer."  Yes, but unfortunately a misunderstanding of social darwinism and market forces has blinded many in our community to this fact (perceived or known).

Secondly, Rand/Ryan are wrong about the application of collectivism to government.  Collectivism in a governmental sense is away of better extracting value.  Interestingly, no one doubts this when it comes to Sams Clubs, but when it comes to pooling our resources to make education, roads, military spending, police forces, fire departments, health insurance, charitable giving, etc. more efficient and cheaper for everyone, well then that is evil collectivism.  I suppose that in some cynical way I could say that Ryan/Rand have simply made Eric Hofers "devil" out of the government because to achieve a following you must have a devil. Maybe so.  But people banding together to protect their livelihoods and enhance their well being is certainly a right and freedom as well.  And from the shared resources of our communities, we can lower the burden on everyone.  I will say that historically, there is no evidence that such shared resources reduces the creativity, productivity, or attained self actualization of a society.  History of course is a funny thing and hard to interpret, but I will further go so far to say that societies that have not collected taxes and shared resources have failed to thrive historically.  So again, on wealth generation and human development, it seems to me at least that objectivism fails in its predictive value as well.  

So shared resources coupled with healthy and cooperative markets, seem to yield a model that have predictable outcomes.  Oddly, Objectivism doesnt have such predictability.  I say oddly, because it is said to be based on observation and rationalization.  But it actual fact, I suspect it is just so much moral soothing for those that do not wish to understand the connected nature of mankind.

Another odd thing about this is that a wide swath of the American population is actually on board with this.  Americans by in large are Abrahamic - Christian cultists that are very much realists by nature.  Take your average tea partier (please), no really.  If you sit down and talk to them, Ryan = good, Obama = bad.  Things Ryan believes in (without using references like liberal and conservative) = bad, things Obama believes in = good.  Why?  Christianity, Islam, Judaism, they are all collectivist in nature.  Sure the seeds of selective fascism are there as well, but generally speaking the "help your brother because it is right" verbage has been memorized by us all.  This is what Rand was trying to demonize in her stance against religions.  It was a fundamental denial of one of the few things religions get right. So as I say, very odd that so many Americans can be bought and sold at the hands of message branders.  The Ryan/Rand philosophy, promoted by the Bushes and Reagan, and touted by fundies and TPers the nation over, is something they truly do not believe.  And they dont believe it because it really doesnt result in outcomes that are predictably desired.

So here is my ending.  If polls are right, there is a good chance that the presidency, and both house and senate can belong to this philosophy come november.  If fact, it seems a very good chance.  Now communities and societies should tend toward greater organization and adoption of better predictive models for their lives according to social darwinism. History would tell us that this doesnt actually happen and that America is following in some large footsteps the other way - Ancient Greece, Rome, etc.  Has religion failed us?  Have we failed to educate ourselves? I wish I knew why. Any ideas out there in Kos-Land?                      


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Comment Preferences

  •  We're stupid & evil (0+ / 0-)

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:15:42 PM PDT

  •  I may be able to take a shot at about how we got (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, Tam in CA, Chi

    to this point, but I'm too weary to try for a cogent response this evening.  Basically, I think that Rand's philosophy is not that important in its own right. Actually it's not important at all. It's a silly mish-mash of sophomoric interpretation of Nietzche, Burke and Adam Smith.  Her importance is derived from the resonance her writings have in present day America where she has more impact than she did while she was alive - and I'm old enough to remember her interviews in the '50s.  I'm guessing that one thing you are asking is how can that be?  My answer is that, in the words of one of her recent biographers Rand “is the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right.” (Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right 14-15), so the answer reduces to how did the right get in control of our political process.  Primarily I believe that happened because the right wing plutocrats represented today by folken such as the Koch bros, were able to play to the fear of loss ofwealth, status, power, etc. in enough middle and working class whites and the American sense of independence to build a strong right-wing movement culminating in the Tea Party.  They did this in part I propose by promising that the Right's approach would enable all white people to maintain the power relationships they enjoyed historically.  To this was added a patina of assurance that all who joined them would be part of the new aristocracy. This is where I think Rand has her biggest pull - she is all about those who are better than others and that this is somehow a natural order of things.  I've not articulated this well, but when it is, it has incredible power - it certainly worked for the slave-holding class prior to the civil war and it's working now.  Interestingly enough there is room in this for African-Americans as long as they have assimilated themselves into the conservative culture so the Tea Party members aren't really lying when they say that the TP is not about racism.  However, the result is to keep the disenfrachised out of power, which is the entire point.  It just so happens that the largest groups of disenfrachised poor and blue color are not black or hispanics.  This is sort of interesting to me because it goes back to the Nixon Southern Strategy.  Lee Atwater was one of the second generation who used this strategy when Reagan was president.  In a surprisingly candid interview he summed it up as follows:Atwater talked about the GOP's Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:
    Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.
    Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
    Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

    Thus this is an unconscious part of the Republican approach and allows conservatives to get to the same end point without even realizing that the effects are indeed racist even if theconscious intent isn't.  Now if that is not a beautiful political ploy, I don't know what one would be.  There's a lot more to this then I can write about, but I hope that this at least provides a snack to start some thinking about where liberal/progressives missed the boat.

    Any Jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one. - Sam Rayburn

    by Old Gray Dog on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 04:26:11 PM PDT

    •  I think this is articulated quite well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and I buy it.  Amazing Atwater quote.  But what does surprise me is that the strength of this movement remains strong in the face of so much destruction.  Southern States fair poorly in wealth generation, lifetime happiness, lifespan, and dozens of other measures.  Indeed the very principles of enlightened self interest would suggest some lessening impact of policy positions that have devastated so much in the south.  In some ways it is noticing a hole in the boat and taking out your gun to make a few more rather than bailing. Most social development models would suggest some reduction of support from these principles.  But maybe that is what you are getting at.  Given power structures may not reflect this.

      Your point at Ayn Rand is particularly well taken.  I suppose I use her as the lightning rod because of Ryan.  However, the treatment of causalities and impacts within her novels are so shallow that it does suggest she didnt understand them (as opposed to ignored them).  

      Thank you for the response.

  •  I Don't Think There's Been Any Solid Rational (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tam in CA, G2geek

    foundation for conservatism since the 50's when it was what we'd call liberal today. Not in philosophy, not in economics, not in defense, or international relations, or religion and culture.

    As for collectivism: Just glance at a human--you're looking at an animal with some 10 million years' history on the same basic body plan, every minute of which it's lived in troupes as a social animal. It's awash in drives for altruism toward other individuals and deference of the individual to community. It's obviously a collectivist species, and all traditional cultures are full of mechanisms to support and nuture community.

    The notion that it's basically individualistic except for nuclear families would be beyond idiotic if it weren't a formal purposeful lie.

    There has been nothing important I've seen about any aspect of conservatism that doesn't reduce to being purely a set of excuses for policies that ultimately hand over society to a tiny super rich authoritarian elite. None of it actually works as claimed by the propaganda.

    That's why one of the very earliest moves of the rightwing revolution, 45 years ago or more, was to recruit and mobilize evangelicalism. That's a branch of Christianity wedded to magical partnering with the supernatural. As an authority-revering, reality-denying institution, it delivered the essential obedient populist base that is raised to reject what it sees before its own eyes. And it like conservatism cherry-picks what it accepts and denies from its own sources, so reality-denying that it denies that it denies what of its sources it denies.

    A thought about the evangelicals occurred to me today. I grew up in the region of Megachurch #1, or certainly one of the very very first, the 1950's Cathedral of Tomorrow led by the pastor who later officiated at Elvis' funeral. I believe he became the first televangelist or the first on a major network's station.

    In those days broadcast evangelists were engaged in constant faith-healings. Some time this week as I was reflecting on the deep and broad magicality of evangelicalism, it suddenly occurred to me that the faith healings had mostly disappeared.

    My hypothesis is that when rightwing powers began allying with evangelicals, they may well have urged them to put that practice behind them in order to be able to grow out into the mainstream middle class population. Faith healings would leave too much evidence of failure in the eyes of a public that was being gradually drawn in. Communing with the Lord, by contrast, feeling guided and such, can be claimed and nobody can trip over evidence that it's not true.

    How we got here? It's been well documented, it's been a project of both major parties for almost 40 years and the rightwinger forces for another 5 or maybe 10. Methodically tacking against the winds of progress with a deregulation here, a dog whistle there, a rollback of citizens rights, an expansion of private power rights, year after year after year. And all of it obscured by the greatest propaganda machine in human history.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 05:18:07 PM PDT

    •  very interesting: (0+ / 0-)

      It's well documented that the economic right-wing sought the alliance with the religious right-wing in order to gain a voting base.  

      But what you said about trading off faith-healing (which was falsifiable) for generic religious claims (which are subjective and therefore not falsifiable), is very interesting.  It provides a plausible mechanism by which right-wing religious beliefs could overcome one of their more visible flaws and gain wider acceptance.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:52:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Objectivism is evolutionary nonsense (0+ / 0-)

    It is exploded by the existence of human language: the supreme example of "you didn't build that".

  •  Wrong on philosophy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    It is right or wrong in terms of the predictions and outcomes it can achieve overall?  This is typically NOT a question asked of philosophies.
    The ultimate test of any philosophy is how well it comports with reality.  Any school of philosophy, which avoids this is not one worth considering.

    Rand admitted that objectivism wasn't an academic or portable philosophy.  She was aware that it didn't face the rigors of academic scrutiny.

    This is what is wrong with too many Americans.  They think that a philosophy or theory is a free market for consumers.  The 'you can believe what you want to believe, and it should be universally respected' attitude makes us intellectually weaker as a nation.

    Real philosophy invites scrutiny and skepticism.

    •  and yet many "smart" people follow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth

      It amazes me how many seemingly smart people have objectivist philosophies. Many are lawyers and they practice the defense of their philosophy with the a lawyers zeal.  Spend any time at the and you'll see what I mean.

      It's unfortunate that their entire philosophy rests on a single flawed premise.  

      --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

      by chipoliwog on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 12:06:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  good diary (0+ / 0-)

    which is why I suggest fixing a typo-?

    an in depth discussion about the atheistic world view Ryan derived many of her views
    in the intro- should read as "Rand derived..." yes?

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