The Ayn Rand Letter (November 1972 to April 1973)

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The Ayn Rand Letter (November 1972 to April 1973)

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LETTER

November 20, 1972

Vol. II, No.4

THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

I would like to start this Letter by saying "Good morning" - even though I know that it is premature. It may take a long time before we learn whether the event of November 7 was a beautiful morning or the last glow of a beautiful sunset. It is up to men's volition, i.e., up to everyone of us, to determine which it will be - depending on the course we take. But, in either case, it was beautiful. In my last Letter, I asked you to read or reread "Don't Let It Go" (in the November 22-December 6,1971 issues of this Letter). It was a discussion of the American people's sense of life and its fundamentally independent, individualistic nature. At the end of that discussion, I wrote: "Is there enough of the American sense of life left in people - under the constant pressure of the cultural-political efforts to obliterate it? It is impossible to tell." I did not expect that we would be told a year later - and in such an unmistakable, resounding, magnificently affirmative manner. The election was a triumph of the American sense of life, a demonstration of its survival. A year ago, I wrote: "There have never been any 'masses' in America: the poorest American is an individual and, subconsciously, an individualist. Marxism, which has conquered our universities, is a dismal failure as far as the people are concerned: Americans cannot be sold on any sort of class war •.. " And: "The doctrine of collectivism has never been submitted explicitly to the American voters; if it had been, it would have sustained a landslide defeat ••. " It has. The election was set up almost like an event in good fiction or like a scientific experiment, i.e., in a manner which eliminated all the irrelevant, lesser factors so that a single, fundamental issue would be unmistakably clear. The landslide was not a matter of personal popularity: Nixon is not a popular President. It was not a matter of personal "charisma": neither candidate has it. It was not a matter of the voters' approval of Nixon's policies: these are so contradictory that approval on some issues necessitates disapproval on others. It was not a matter of "centrist" sympathies or of support for the status quo: the people's growing confusion, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with the status quo were apparent in the primaries and for some years past. It was not a matter of current or specific (i.e., lesser) practical issues: with a Presidential landslide of such magnitude, the Congressional elections showedyirtually no change, no trend in favor of the Republicans or against the Democrats - since neither party's Congressional candidates offered anything more than the usual mixture of contradictory attitudes, out-of-context proposals, and firm stands on shaky questions'. It was a matter of a single, fundamental issue: the imperative necessity to defeat George McGovern, i.e., statism.

© Copyright 1972, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced In any form without written permission.

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For once, people had an opportunity to vote on an abstract principle and on a long-range issue - though they were guided not by full, conscious knowledge, but by their sense of life. In a way, McGovern deserves a grim kind of negative credit: he did make the issue clear - even though he spent ~he entire campaign struggling to evade, disguise and deny it. But a sense of life is impervious to sophistry - it responds only to essentials. What people grasped was not merely the explicit content of McGovern's program, but the emotional vibrations he projectedi not merely his gross defiance of individual rights, but the fact that he seemed unaware of there being anything there to defy - as demonstrated by his casual proposals to redistribute wealth, to limit income, to bribe the entire nation with thousand-dollar handouts, and to disarm unilaterally. People saw the obscene spectacle of altruism's essence: sacrifice and surrender. It was dramatized in the form of an economic and military program that represented one huge giveaway: of the nation's wealth - to those who had not earned iti of the nation - to North Vietnam, i.e., to Soviet Russia. (When, in the midst of such a spectacle, its chief protagonist began to whine about the people's callous indifference to "spying," "bugging," and the infringement of his civil rights, the nightmare became a farce.) One great value achieved by the election is the fact that it has demonstrated what no poll, survey, or theoretical deduction could have established with certainty: that the American people's sense of life has not been destroyed by almost a century of subterranean war against it - that it has not been affected by the intellectual-moral collapse engulfing the rest of the world - that the Americans' errors may permit mounts of wreckage to accumulate, seemingly burying their spirit, but when the chips are down, it will break through and proclaim to the world that this is still the country of freedom and self-esteem. No, this is not a guarantee of the future nor a safe substitute for philosophy. But the thrilling experience on the night of November 7 was the rare sight of human beings acting like human beings, on a large scale, the spontaneous, unplanned, uncontrolled and uncontrollable rebellion sweeping forty-'-nine states, gathering a major or a significantly enlarged number of voters from every group, class, race and type of people, uniting them all - for Nixon? who cares about Nixon in such a. context? - in a defiant "No!" flung at the face of the altruist-collectivist creed. Americans are still revolutionaries - in their original meaning of the word. It is significant that McGovern's popularity crashed immediately after the Democratic National Convention and never recovered. That Convention dramatized everything that is choking this country with helpless anger and indignation: the mawkish slogans and the cynical manipulationsi the sentimentality and the power-lusti the flaunting of brazenly self-righteous irrationalitYi the prefereritial quotas for minorities, disfranchising the majoritYi "the Poor, the Black, the Young and the Women" in their professional costumes - the whole "counter-culture," as they call it (though "anti-culture" would be more appropriate). It was against this that people were voting - not merely against an outrageous political program, but against the cultural outrage which is both its cause and its consequence (sirice culture and politics are always two mutually reinforcing manifestations of the same philosophy) . Another value achieved by the election is the fact that it has demonstrated how small - how miserably small - and impotent a minority had been posturing for decades as the standard-bearer of the culture, the voice of the people, the wave of the future. McGovern's following consisted predominantly of two groups: the college people and the welfare recipients - i.e., those who are presumed to be the epitome of the intellect, and those v.ho are the most helplessly ignorant. The latter can be absolved of blame, to a large extent: many of them are victims of a mixed economy, and they are not in a position to know what is a national economy, what keeps it going, and why the expropriation of a millionaire's profits would condemn them to starve. But what is the

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intellectual, scholarly and moral stature of the college professors? Since the majority of college students (but not of the working young) voted for McGovern and statism, the biggest question raised by the election is: What are they being taught in our universities? Does a college education consist in reducing a student's mind to-the level of the lowest illiterates? These are rhetorical questions on my part: you know my answers. But the election has demonstrated the urgency of this issue so eloquently that the questions are now hanging over the country like a banner strung from coast to coast. Anyone who now pretends not to see it, had better drop the pretense of being concerned with politics, with public life, with cultural development, and with the future of this country. The election has demonstrated that the breach between the people and the intellectuals is an abyss. This does not mean that the intellectuals have to accept the views of the majority - but it does mean that they should drop the fraud of posturing as the spokesmen, the servants, or the champions of the people. It is a costly fraud for the country - and the guiltiest men are not those who perpetrate it, but those who fall for it, particularly the politicians and the businessmen. The proper task of the intellectuals is left undone: the mood of the people is ignored, the state of the nation is unidentified, the country's real problems are evaded, and blanketed in silence - while the intellectuals are busy manufacturing artificial problems and blowing them up with an astonishing unanimity. Their synthetic, waxworks "revolutionaries" - the activists of the New Left - are an example, with all of the consequent violence, the campus riots, the sit-ins, the demonstrations, the demands, the looting, the arson, the bloodshed, all of it pUblicized as a national movement of the young, and all of it staged by a minuscule gang that does not have the wits to think a day ahead nor the numbers to elect a dogcatcher. "Madison Avenue" is one of the intellectuals' favorite pejorative terms to express their contempt for the advertising and public-relations techniques used by businessmen to sell unworthy products or policies. The joke is on the intellectuals: the alleged leftist trend of the past decade was a super-Madison-Avenue concoction - but George McGovern fell for it, and the campaign debacle was the product of people who had been taken in by their own P.R. men. It would be one small blessing achieved by the election if the young activists were now to stop yelling: "Power to the people!" - since the people has just clobbered them with it. But they won't; they are impervious to reality. So is their intellectual leadership. The election's moment of truth was the public disclosure of the fact that the leftist trend has neither quantity at the bottom nor quality at the top. The reaction of the liberal press to the election's results was a feeble, blind, stubbornly superficial rehash of the usual liberal dogma, but with a strong undercurrent of hatred, formerly hidden, now breaking out into the open. The liberal consensus claims that McGovern was defeated: a. because the country is too prosperous; b. because McGovern was too "idealistic"; c. because people want a rest or a slower tempo of "change" (not that people reject their kind of change, only that they want it in smaller doses);~ because people are cynically indifferent to public "corruption" and to the violation of individual rights (the Watergate affair, they claim, is such a violation; the McGovern program is not); e. because (this one is only peripheral, like a kind of paranoia-by-proxy) the basic, but secret, motive behind the landslide was racism. The extent of these liberals '-collectivists '-populists' hatred for the people is startling. The majority "implicitly opted for the reality of their own affluence ... the general feeling among most Americans [is] that 'we never had it so good' .•• " (The New

-4York Times, November 8, 1972.) Nixon's "genius lay in appealing to the worst in us, to selfishness and meanness .•• " (The Times, November 6.) A majority of the voters "care more about keeping taxes down and keeping the blacks out than they do about the poor who have been left behind." (The Times, November 5.) Nixon "represents some of the uglier instincts of the American character .••• He stood for deceit, evasiveness, corruption, and criminality; and still the people chose him ••• " (New York Post, November 10.) "The people, as always, voted their fears, their pitiful hopes and their meanest prejudices ••.. People feel more comfortable with Nixon, a Michigan professor wrote to The Times the other day. 'They feel more at home in the presence of self-serving power, corruption, lying, callousness and hokum.'" (The Post, November 8.) The darkest shadow hanging over America's future is the intellectual vacuum filled, by default, with voices of that kind. It is hard to tell what Nixon's policies will be, and - within the usual range of a mixed-economy Executive - it is almost irrelevant. Political power can destroy a culture; it cannot heal, save or rebuild it. We may hope that Nixon might gain time for the nation, by granting some relief (Le., removing a few chains) to the private sector of the economy and by arresting the growth of the public sector. But, in view of his record, we cannot be certain. There is, however, one promise of his 1968 campaign perhaps, the most important one - which he has kept: the appointment to the Supreme Court of men who respect the Constitution. It is still too early to tell the exact nature of these men's views and the direction they will choose to take. But if they live up to their enormous responsibility, we may forgive Mr. Nixon a great many of his defaults: the Supreme Court is the last remnant of a philosophical influence in this country. No, the election has not solved all problems. It has merely brought them out into the open, but it is still a question whether men will choose to see them. The election has averted America's immediate collapse, and it has demonstrated the fundamental healthiness of the American people. But the problem of this country's future is cultural-ideological. The people's rebellion against statism was an expression of their sense of life. A nation's sense of life is activated by crucial emergencies or obvious threats of disaster; it cannot discern subtler forms of danger. It cannot protect the people against accepting the same collectivist program gradually, step by unobtrusive step, as they accepted the growth of the Welfare State. Without conscious knowledge and intellectual guidance, their desperate swing to the right will prove futile and will lead to nothing but some blind alley, such as George C. Wallace's party. The people have certainly rejected the left (i.e., statism); but they have no idea of what the right (i.e., capitalism) is or how to get there. To paraphrase a passage from Atlas Shrugged: "They had defeated McGovern today; they had cheered American achievement. But tomor~ow they would vote for some smoother Senator, and clamor for new handouts, while the country collapsed about their heads. They would do it, because they would be told to forget, as a sin, that which had made them cheer American achievement." This sort of telling has already begun; in fact, it is being howled all around us. What are the American people being accused of? Of being prosperous, of being successful, of being self-supporting, of being selfish. The thing most loudly revealed by the election, yet not mentioned by anyone, is the nature of America's fundamental enemy: altruism. During the campaign, the press reported many interviews with average voters, whose answers foretold the landslide and clearly stated its reasons. "Bob Owen, a twentyeight-year-old salesman from Pleasanton, California, gave the New York Times the answer most of us would give McGovern: 'I spent long, hard hours going to school and getting

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where I am,' he said. 'My income is just above the mean now, and I don't want to be pulled back to the mean. I don't want them to redistribute my wealth.'" (Al Capp, Saturday Review, October 21.) " ••• Norman Dreznin, a lamp-store owner [in Brooklyn] and long-time Democrat .•• [said:] 'You know what I think? I think McGovern's just another one of those phony liberals - the 15-year-olds, the Left, those people at the Democratic convention. I'll say this about liberals. Whatever we do, and we do plenty, those liberals always slap us in the face.'" (The Times, November 3.) "John E. Hazuda Sr., a 42-year-old boilermaker [in pennsylvania], has always voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate. This Election Day he is going to vote for President Nixon •••• he is proud of the material comforts he has been able to provide for his family with his labor and determined that those comforts will not be taken from him •••• Mr. Hazuda works very hard. He gets up at 5:30 every weekday morning to drive 60 miles to a construction project in Ohio ••• But he drives to work in a white-and-green 1972 Oldsmobile •••• Having worked hard and provided well for his family, which includes four children and 'my first grandchild on the way,' Mr. Hazuda sees no reason why the government should help out 'people who are too lazy to go out and make a living.' ••• 'I just don't see anything wrong with this country,' he asserted. 'It is still the land of the free. There are no limits to what. you could do or how much money you could make. What could be fairer?' ••• President Nixon, he feels sure, will not take away what he got with his back. About Mr. McGovern he is not so sure." (The Times, November 6.) This is what the intellectuals deplore, denounce and damn as evil, as "selfish ••• mean ..• ugly ••• corrupt": men's pride in their achievement, men's self-reliance, men's refusal to lie down as sacrificial animals. It is not the "idle rich" that the altruists are denouncing now, it is not the "tycoons of big business" or the "wolves of Wall Street" - it is plain, average laborers who manage to earn a decent living "with their backs." It is no longer a matter of reproaching men for their yachts and Rolls Royces - the altruists are now reproaching them for driving to work in an Oldsmobile. It is no longer an issue of "taking a little from the rich, they'll never miss it" - it is an issue of forcing a man, after a lifetime of effort, back into the hopeless poverty of the gutter. (Do you hear me, President Nixon?) And this is called "idealism" - this is called a doctrine of compassion, of concern, of love for men. At present, the workers still have the courage of self-assertion, and the selfesteem to uphold their own rights - a courage and self-esteem lost by businessmen long ago. The workers retain their moral confidence because their achievement is modest, and we are still close to the time when they were regarded as the "little people," whose rights were not to be questioned. Furthermore, the workers perceive their achievements directly,- in the sense that they are aware of every hour of effort that paid for every piece of furniture in their homes - and the monstrous injustice of expropriation is inescapably clear to them. It is an awareness which businessmen - who work much harder, whose achievement is much greater, who make the workers' achievements possible - have allowed to be battered out of them. But the workers are not the "little people" any longer: the altruists have found someone littler. So the workers are next in line for the sacrificial altar, and the battering has started. And if, by some miracle, today's welfare recipients were lifted one step above the slums, they would be next in line - in the name of "compassion" for the immeasurably less fortunate populace of the globe. That, too, has started. Such is the nature of altruism.

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"Let all live for all. Let all sacrific.e and none profit. Let all suffer and nd'fie enjoy. Let progress stop. Let all stagnate. There's equality in stagnation," said Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead. Those who did not (or did not care to) understand me theoretically, can see the essence of altruism concretized in this election. Let those who managed to evade the unspeakable injustices perpetrated against men of genius, now try to evade and justify the injustice of expropriating an average worker's car. The danger to the future of this country is the fact that the people do not know the nature of their own motives and feelings: they do not know that the motive of their landslide vote was moral and idealistic - not merely "practical," as they are now being told on all sides - and that it represented man's highest morality and noblest idealism. This is what the American people now need to be taught. This is the task of the New Intellectuals, wherever they exist. If America is to be saved, it has to be set free of the doctrine of altruism. If you are afraid to fight altruism, give up: no lesser battle will do. The country of George Washington cannot survive on the creed of George McGovern. Do not let anyone whine that things are .hopeless. The election has demonstrated that it is not too late, that the people are ready to hear the voice of reason - and that so much is still possible.

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR Ni~ht of January 16th, Ayn Rand's courtroom drama, is scheduled for off-Broadway

production in 197~with the opening set tentatively for January or February. The producers are Phillip J. Smith and Kay Nolte Smith. This will be the first New York production of Miss Rand's definitive version of the play (published by New American Library in 1968). The opening date and theater are to be announced later.

The following starting dates have been scheduled for the tape lectures of Leonard Peikoff's course, Founders of Western Philosophy: Thales to Hume. Hartford, Conn., November 28 (a new starting date; contact Brian Bambrough, 203-549-5840, eves.); Syracuse, N.Y., December 1 (Stephen Goldman, 315-476-0420, 5-7 P.M.). We have been asked to announce that on Monday, December 4, Dr. George Reisman will give a lecture at Columbia University. Time: 7:30 P.M. Place: Ferris Booth Hall (Schiff Room), Broadway and 114th Street. Subject: "Capitalism: The Cure for Racism." Open to the public. For further information, contact Barbara Filler at (212) 280-3281 (days) or (212) 662-1027 (eves.). B.W.

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y.1001S. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER

Vol. II, No.5

December 4, 1972

In this issue of my Letter, I take great pleasure in introducing to you a guest correspondent: Dr. Leonard Peikoff. Dr. Peikoff is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and Contributing Editor of this publication. The following is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, The Ominous Parallels, to be published by Weybright & Talley, Inc. The book is a study of the relationship between Nazism and contemporary America. It asks (and answers) the question: What is required to turn a country into a totalitarian dictatorship, how did the Nazis accomplish it, and is it happening here? Contrary to most of the other writers on this subject, Dr. Peikoff holds that the roots of German Nazism lie not in existential crises, but in ideas - in a centuries-long philosophic development that nurtured the Nazi mentality and disarmed the rest of the country. He holds that, with certain exceptions, the fundamental philosophic principles that led to the rise of Nazism in Germany are operating in contemporary America; that, as a result, America is moving, by default, toward the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship (specifically of a Nazi type); and that America now stands at an ominous crossroads. The earlier chapters of the book discuss the essentials of the Nazi politics (totalitarian collectivism, of a racist/nationalist variety) and of the Nazi epistemology (irrationalism and mysticism, in the form of a mixture of religious dogmatism, pragmatist relativism, and social subjectivism) • The present excerpt is from a chapter dealing with the Nazi ethics: altruism, in the form of the doctrine that the highest ethical value is the welfare of the group (the race or nation), and the highest virtue is the selfless performance of one's duty to the group, i.e., a life of self-sacrificial service to others. Dr. Peikoff traces the philosophic sources of altruism, showing the unbroken line of development that led to the crucial modern turning point: Kant, and on to Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler. The present excerpt concludes that chapter's presentation of the Nazi ethics. It deals with the amoralist consequences of the altruist morality. In view of the fact that altruism is now a direct and immediate threat to this country, and that we have just escaped from a close call (though by a wide margin), I think that the following analysis will be of special interest --and relevance - to the readers of this Letter. (We have omitted the

© Copyright 1972, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

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footnote references for quoted material; these will appear in the book.) I shall not comment on Dr. Peikoff's brilliant philosophic ability and perceptiveness. Since, in accordance with Objectivist principles, I prefer not to assert, but to prove, I shall merely offer his work in evidence. If, as a consequence of the leftists' misrepresentations, you find it hard to believe that Hitler - and every other Nazi leader - was a fervent and explicit advocate of/altruism, I shall give you one quotation from Mein Kampf, which appears among the many thoroughly documented facts in the earlier part of Dr. Peikoff's chapter on the Nazi ethics: "This self-sacrificing will to give one's personal labor and if necessary one's own life for others is most strongly developed in the Aryan. The Aryan is not greatest in his mental qualities as such, but in the extent of his willingness to put all his abilities in the service of the community •••• The basic attitude from which such [fulfillment of duty] arises, we call to distinguish it from egoism and selfishness - idealism. By this we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men." Judge for yourself - from the following presentation - the moral consequences of this kind of "idealism."

ALTRUISM, PRAGMATISM AND BRUTALITY By Leonard Peikoff

The ethical spokesmen of the Nazis do not merely issue generalized exhortations to dutiful, Aryan-benefiting self-sacrifice; they accept and flaunt, , as official elements o{th;rrIdeoiogy~ev~ry-~si"gnIfi~ant moral consequence of the altruist ethics. The Nazis accept - in a racialized version - Hegel's distinctive contribution to the ethics of altruism: the doctrine that the g~QUP is not only the nrgnpr benE!!;i~r;.!9,ry of man's ____ actJ,gns, but also the cr~a!:QL~-moraIlty":~ ·_·' the definitive ethical lawgiver. The source of ethical principles, according to Nazism, and the final judge in all questions of moral truth, is: the feelings ..., the non-rational, "will"-generated feelings - of the Aryan race (or the Volk). "Right," declared Alfred Rosenberg to the Academy of German Law, "is that which Aryan people find right; wrong is that which they reject." Nazi philosophy, he states, "declares that the racially determined national soul is the measure of all of our thoughts, of our aspirations and actions, the final standard wherewith to judge all values." *-_~ ~--"-,,