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30


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 30, June 15, 1997

Philosophical Systems Part Three: Means and Ends

By John Cornell
102122.3062@compuserve.com

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         A major issue manifested throughout the history of America, though not often explicitly defined, has been whether freedom is an end in itself or a means to an end. Federalists at the beginning of this nation, and statists since, seem to view liberty as a means to some end. Modern pragmatic conservatives usually view it as a means to an end -- the end being prosperity or security. (Or in the case of Lincoln, freedom was no issue -- only the "preservation" of what he defined as the "union.") The problem with this approach is, following the warnings of Benjamin Franklin, making security our highest value eventually sacrifices the freedom that gets us there.
         This is what gets modern conservatives -- who do preach a laissez-faire approach to economics -- in the defensive position vis-a-vis liberals. Liberals take a moral (though perversely irrational) approach in their demand for "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Conservatives, instead of arguing the moral basis of capitalism that Rand defended, argue that capitalism does provide the greatest happiness of the greatest number. But as soon as "victims" of the system are identified, the conservative defense begins to crumble, and they begin compromising with the statist demands of liberals. This is also why Rand makes no great accolades to Adam Smith nor to most Founding Fathers -- many of their arguments for freedom were based on pragmatism -- making freedom merely the means to some end of "social good" or "political security."
         Pragmatism basically asks itself, "What rights will I sacrifice in order to keep others?" ("Let's give up half our wealth and half our guns to keep the other half.") Or "Whose rights will we sacrifice so that others may have theirs?" (See the drafts of most twentieth century wars the US has jumped into.) This puts many modern conservatives right into the hands of the statist leftists moving us into collectivism. The collectivism of the religious right (in the spiritual sense, not necessarily the economic) also distracts the "realist" conservative politicians and ultimately leads to the scenario we have nowadays of two forces of collectivism, left-winged and right-winged, moving us to some mix of communism and fascism.
         Understanding the process of systems of philosophy and how they work can help us understand our own belief systems. You can ask yourself if you know why you believe what you believe. Ask yourself what your values are that you are trying to manifest through the actions you advocate and institutions you support. Think through the cause-and-effect relations of how you got to your conclusions, or determine whether you use logic or some kind of emotional feeling that may not be definable. During an argument for any particular political or philosophical position, when Rand knew her opponent was using faulty logic or working from fallacious assumptions, she would admonish her foe to "Check [his] premises."
         Can you be labeled -- or do you define yourself -- as a liberal, a conservative or a libertarian? What are the assumptions you make about existence that lead you to your beliefs? Dialectical materialism, Christianity, Judaism or some other religion -- or a form of pragmatism? Or a rational, Objectivist system of beliefs and values? Or are you even able to have your thought processes analyzed on such a basis, with the possibility that you borrow different values, beliefs and institutions from two or more of the major columns on the table, arranging them in some way that "seems right?"
         The liberals and conservatives, as varied as they are, dominate the political landscape, struggling for power over all of us. Will one win, or something else -- something newer and fresher? Rand had a theory that, when opposing sides argue an issue, the one with the "moral" argument will usually win and the "practical" one will lose. Liberals use "moral" arguments, though they are based on irrational metaphysics having no application in reality. Conservatives generally make pragmatic arguments, so no matter how right or rational their desired outcome, they will be undermined by liberals taking a "moral high-ground" (from somewhere in the clouds of Olympus). As a result, liberalism can be said to do the wrong things for (some of) the right reasons. And conservatism can be said to do (some of) the right things for the wrong reasons.
         But libertarianism, because of its rational, integrated, Objectivist basis does the right things for the right reasons. Freedom is desirable not only for moral purposes but for truly practical ones, as the means and ends are rationally meshed and synchronized.
         Freedom is the means -- and the end.
         The following table summarizes the philosophical systems of liberalism, Objectivism and conservatism (though it should be kept in mind that many people will not fit neatly into any of the three columns -- some conservatives are atheists and many liberals are religious, some libertarians are not religious or otherwise not Objectivists, etc.):


PHILOSOPHY     LIBERALISM     OBJECTIVISM    CONSERVATISM
=============  =============  =============  =============
METAPHYSICS    DIALECTICAL    OBJECTIVE      JUDEO-CHRIST-
-------------  MATERIALISM    REALITY        IAN RELIGION
               No God         No God         Yes God
               No Mind        Yes Mind       Yes Mind
               "Just atoms"   "Existence     "God created
                              exists"        it all"

EPISTEMOLOGY   FEELINGS       REASON         "SPIRITUAL
-------------                                REVELATION"
               Universe       Universe       Universe
               irrational/    rational/      rational-
               malevolent     potentially    irrational/
                              benevolent     malevolent-
                                             benevolent

ETHICS         ALTRUISM       INDIVIDUALISM  BIBLICAL/
-------------                                TALMUDIC
               Self-          Self-interest  Sacrifice
               sacrifice      Sacrifice      others to God
               Sacrifice man  neither        Sacrifice
               to nature      self nor       others to self
                              others

POLITICS       COMMUNISM/
-------------  CLASS WARFARE  CAPITALISM     DEMOCRACY/
                                             REPUBLIC/
                                             FASCISM/
                                             MONARCHY
               (Left Wing)    *(Libertar-    (Right Wing)
                              ianism)

ECONOMICS      SOCIALISM      LAISSEZ-FAIRE/ MERCANTILISM
-------------                 FREE MARKET    FEUDALISM
                              (only absolute Corporate
               (mixed economy freedom        welfare
               OK as interim  acceptable     (mixed
               measure)                      economy OK)






AESTHETICS     MODERN ART     ROMANTICISM    RELIGIOUS ART/
-------------                                NATURALISM
               Distorted      Glorification  God as imagined/
               reality        of the heroic/ or
               Ugliness       self-made man  Life/nature
               glorified                     "as it is"


Validation     Intentions/    Cause-effect   Piety/Pragmatism
-------------  Pity           Logic          "It's God's Will"
               "Greatest      Integrity/     "End justifies
               happiness of   Consistency    the means"
               greatest
               number"
               or
               Level of
               compassion
               displayed

Mottos         "All you need  "Man's happi-  "God is on
-------------  is love"       ness comes     our side"
               ("All you love from himself"  "All you need
               is need")                     is God"
                                             ("All you need
                                             is money")

Use of force   Yes -          No -           Yes -
-------------  Initiation     Initiation     Initiation
               No -           Yes -          Yes -
               Retaliation    Retaliation    Retaliation


View of Rights No - Indiv-    Yes - Indiv-   Yes - Indiv-
-------------- idual          idual          idual
               Yes - Group    No - Group     Yes - Group
               No - Fetus     No - Fetus     Yes - Fetus
               Yes - Animals  No - Animals   No - Animals

* It should be noted that Rand, though the inspiration of much of the libertarian movement, was no fan of the Libertarian Party. She castigated them as "Hippies of the Right" in that they impressed her as having many negative qualities of both the left and right. Perhaps she viewed the party and the movement as a "collective" that would have no practical consequences, and divorced from pure Objectivist theory, which would result in, according to her philosophy, either moral failure to produce a proper concrete or pragmatism without a proper abstract, moral basis. Considering some recent directions of the Party (the pragmatism and philosophy-avoidance of candidates running for high offices in 1996), this could be manifesting itself in reality.
         Additionally, Rand described herself as an advocate of, or rather, a "radical for capitalism." Emphasizing an output of her system of philosophy oriented toward a "conservative" value of the free market, she stressed the principle of the non-initiation of force as the justification for "classical liberal" laissez-faire economics. But, inherent in her argument she made for the right of the individual to be constructive and productive with his own mind, body and property, is the argument that the individual also has the right to be "self-destructive" with his being and his possessions, as long as he does so without interfering with the rights of others. Thus the libertarian defense of "personal vices" and the justification for ending all "wars" on "vices" and other personally dangerous or "immoral" behavior. Perhaps Rand was abhorred by the libertarians when the latter applied her logical principles to the defense of destructive, or otherwise distasteful, behavior, and she thus shunned and criticized them.


John Cornell is a finance professional whose personal goal is to spread rational, Objectivist and libertarian ideas by writing and publishing libertarian science fiction and literary novels, stories and articles and occasional pieces of political satire and humor.


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