Monday, 31 October 2016

The Smearing of The Alt-Right by The Leftists

The term “alt-right” is everywhere. It stands for “alternative right,” but what is the “right” whose alternative the “alt-right” movement is supposed to represent?

The leftist intellectuals claim that “alt-right” denotes the people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy.

But if the issue is “racism” and “white supremacy,” then why not call these people “racist” and “white supremacist”? Why do we need to invent the new term of “alt-right”?

It isn't clear at all what the term “alt-right” means, but the leftists have been able to create the impression that it denotes people who are "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic." The leftists are not interested in fighting racism. Their sole agenda is to denounce and demonize the people who do not accept the leftist worldview.

The leftists are the masters in using new terms for vilifying their ideological opponents. In the erstwhile Soviet Union, Lenin and Stalin used the term “bourgeoisie” to vilify tens of millions of people. Being labelled as the bourgeoise in the Soviet Union was equivalent to a death sentence. The Soviet regime could label anyone as the bourgeoise. No one was safe.

The term "alt-right" is as confusing as the concept of “bourgeoise.” It can be imposed on anyone who is opposed to the leftist agenda.

In her article, “Extremism: The Art of Smearing” (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) Ayn Rand has explained how the intellectuals smear their ideological opponents by using nasty-sounding meaningless terms. Here’s an excerpt:
“Observe the technique involved . . . . It consists of creating an artificial, unnecessary, and (rationally) unusable term, designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concepts—a term which sounds like a concept, but stands for a “package-deal” of disparate, incongruous, contradictory elements taken out of any logical conceptual order or context, a “package-deal” whose (approximately) defining characteristic is always a non-essential. This last is the essence of the trick.”
In this article Ayn Rand has discussed the controversial term “McCarthyism”:
“In the late 1940’s, another newly coined term was shot into our cultural arteries: “McCarthyism.” Again, it was a derogatory term, suggesting some insidious evil, and without any clear definition. Its alleged meaning was: “Unjust accusations, persecutions, and character assassinations of innocent victims.” Its real meaning was: ‘Anti-communism.’”
Today the leftist intellectuals are using of the term "alt-right" for the same reason for which they used "McCarthyism" and "bourgeoisie" in the past. These terms are propaganda tools for smearing those who oppose the leftist agenda.

If you call Global Warming a hoax, you are alt-right. 
If you believe in free-markets, you are alt-right.
If you reject the idea of free or subsidized healthcare, you are alt-right. 
If you demand better law and order, and a more rational foreign policy, you are alt-right. 
If you wish to have smaller government and lower taxes, you are alt-right. 

And so on… 

The vast majority of the people whom the leftists are trying to herd into the alt-right category are not racist or white-supremacist. They are the traditional conservatives who are now determined to take strong political action for stopping the left from imposing their socialist agenda and destroying whatever is still left of economy and culture.

Friday, 28 October 2016

When Fyodor Dostoevsky Faced The Firing Squad!

December 22, 1849, Saint Petersburg: Fyodor Dostoevsky was tied, blindfolded, and led out with several other prisoners to the Semyonov Square in Saint Petersburg, where their last rites were read. The firing squad raised their guns and took aim.

But at the last moment a messenger arrived with a message from the Tsar Nicolas I—the prisoners had been granted a reprieve. It is believed that the Tsar never intended to have these prisoners shot. His regime used the methods of mock executions and last second reprieves to teach the political dissidents a lesson, and foster in them the feelings of fear, terror, and gratitude.

In his novel The Idiot (1869), Dostoevsky has shed light on the thoughts that may have been uppermost in his mind when he stood before the firing squad:
But better if I tell you of another man I met last year...this man was led out along with others on to a scaffold and had his sentence of death by shooting read out to him, for political offenses...he was dying at 27, healthy and strong...he says that nothing was more terrible at that moment than the nagging thought: “What if I didn’t have to die!...I would turn every minute into an age, nothing would be wasted, every minute would be accounted for.
Tsarist Russia had sentenced Dostoevsky to be executed by a firing squad because of his involvement in a circle that was intellectually critical of the Tsar’s rule.

In 1846, after the publication of his first book Poor Folk, Dostoevsky joined a circle of friends who had literary and political interests. The circle met regularly to read banned literature, and discuss social reforms in Russia and opposition to the policies of Tsar Nicolas I. Dostoevsky used to advocate freedom from censorship and the abolition of serfdom.

On April 23, 1849, the activities of the circle came to an end when 35 of its members (including Dostoevsky) were arrested, and locked up in St. Peter and Paul Fortress Prison which in those days used to house the most dangerous convicts.

After four months of investigation the commission headed by the Tsar reached the verdict that the members of the circle were guilty of treasonous acts like distributing letters with “abusive remarks about the Orthodox Church and Government” and conspiring to publish “anti-Government propaganda.” For this crime they were sentenced to death by a firing squad. The execution was to be carried out at the Semyonov Square in St Petersburg on December 22, 1849.

The reprieve from the Tsar did not bring immediate freedom to Dostoevsky and his friends. They were sent to work in the prison-camp in Siberia where they spent four years doing hard labor. In The House of the Dead (1861), Dostoevsky has described his prison experience.

In 1854 he was finally released on the condition that he would serve in the Siberia Regiment for a few years, which he did. He served as a soldier on the Mongolian border.

The experience with the firing squad and the years of incarceration did not stop Dostoevsky from writing. He went on writing and was eventually able to gain immense literary credibility. Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment in 1866 to immediate success. His The Brothers Karamazov, published in 1880, is regarded as a masterpiece of Western literature.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Human Action by Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action is one of the most interesting books on economics. In it Mises has presented his entire economic theory, along with conducting a rational investigation of human decision-making.

I had purchased Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action in 2009. The book is divided into 7-parts. In Part 5, “Social Cooperation Without a Market,” Mises has analyzed the problem of socialism.

Here’s an excerpt from Part 5:

No socialist author ever gave a thought to the possibility that the abstract entity which he wants to vest with unlimited power--whether it is called humanity, society, nation, state, or government--could act in a way of which he himself disapproves. A socialist advocates socialism because he is fully convinced that the supreme dictator of the socialist commonwealth will be reasonable from his--the individual socialist's--point of view, that he will aim at those ends of which he--the individual socialist--fully approves, and that he will try to attain these ends by choosing means which he--the individual socialist—would also choose. Every socialist calls only that system a genuinely socialist system in which these conditions are completely fulfilled; all other brands claiming the name of socialism are counterfeit systems entirely different from true socialism. Every socialist is a disguised dictator. Woe to all dissenters! They have forfeited their right to live and must be “liquidated."

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Montesquieu on the Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire

Considerations on The Causes of The Grandeur and Decline of The Roman Empire


“Conquests are easily made, because we achieve them with our whole force; they are retained with difficulty, because we defend them with only a part of our forces,” says Montesquieu in context Hannibal's failure in defending his territory against Rome.

Montesquieu points out that whenever Hannibal could keep his army together, he defeated the Romans. But when he was obliged to put his garrisons into the cities to defend allies, to besiege strongholds, or to prevent their being besieged, he found himself too weak, because in such situations much of his army used to melt away.

Hannibal was a great general, but his Carthagian army was not disciplined and his soldiers were mostly mercenaries—they had little incentive to fight unless they saw a scope for enriching themselves from the spoils of war.

Rapine was common among the Romans too. Montesquieu says that Rome being a city in which neither trade nor arts flourished, rapine was the only way by which the citizens could enrich themselves.

But there was a degree of discipline in the Roman method of plunder. The Roman generals did not allow their forces to embezzle anything. The plunder was done in a systematic way, and everything that was looted was accounted for. When the war was over the Romans would distribute the loot and every fighting man would get his share.

The Considerations is primarily a book of history, but it contains lot of insights on political theory because Montesquieu has peppered the narrative with his political philosophy.

He employs a brilliant aphoristic style in presenting his ideas. In the first chapter, he says, “At the infancy of societies, the leading men in the republic form the constitution; afterwards, the constitution forms the leading men in the republic.”

The conflict between the intellectual Cicero and the warrior Mark Antony is interestingly narrated by Montesquieu. Cicero helped Octavius in defeating Antony. Montesquieu points out that Cicero liked to boast that his robe had crushed the arms of Antony.

Octavius shrewdly played on Cicero’s vanity. “Octavius, in his conduct to Cicero, acted like a man who knew the world; he flattered, he praised, he consulted him, and employed every engaging artifice, which vanity never distrusts.” Eventually Octavius turned out to be a formidable enemy of Cicero’s liberal political ideas.

Comparing Cicero with Cato, Montesquieu says, “Cicero always thought of himself first, Cato always forgot about himself. The latter wanted to save the republic for its own sake, the former in order to boast of it.”

Montesquieu blames Mark Antony for his lack of understanding of human nature. Antony used to think that by raising people in life and lavishing them with wealth he could win their everlasting loyalty. But in the end he was betrayed by his closest generals and kings. Even Cleopatra, the woman for whom Antony had made many sacrifices, betrayed him. Montesquieu cynically remarks, “Load a man with benefits, the first idea you inspire him with, is to find ways to preserve them; they are new interests which you give him to defend.”

Octavius reigned as Augustus and he diminished the Roman institutions. He marginalized the Senate and became a dictator of Rome. His conduct paved the way for a slow and steady decline of the Roman Empire.

On Caligula, Montesquieu says, “Caligula was a true sophist in cruelty, for as he equally descended from Antony and Augustus, he declared he would punish the consuls if they celebrated the day appointed to commemorate the victory at Actium, and that they should likewise feel his severity if they neglected to honor that event; and Drusilla, to whom he accorded divine honors, being dead, it was a crime to bewail her because she was a goddess, and as great an offence to forbear that sorrow because she was a sister.”

With a few exceptions the Roman emperors who followed Augustus were men of low calibre, and they led to a steady degradation in the affairs of Rome. There came a time when the Empire could not defend itself against the barbarians. Montesquieu informs that Attila was charging the Romans a tribute of two hundred thousand pounds of gold.

History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon sprawls across 3000 pages, whereas Montesquieu’s Considerations is of just 250 pages. Gibbon packs a lot of historical detail in his work, but Montesquieu, the philosopher of the Enlightenment, provides a better political analysis. In my view, Montesquieu’s book can be seen as a good condensation of Gibbon’s work.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch

Today I received from Amazon a copy of Henry B. Veatch’s Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics. The book’s preface is by Douglas B. Rasmussen.

Rasmussen says that Veatch’s arguments in Rational Man “sought to establish three claims: (1) that ethical knowledge is possible; (2) that ethical knowledge is grounded in human nature; and (3) that the purpose of ethics is to show the individual human being how to “self-perfect,” which was Veatch’s way of writing about eudaemonia in Aristotelian moral theory.”

In his foreword to the book, Veatch says that he is giving an account of the ethics of rational man, an ethics that owes its inspiration and articulation largely to the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle.

Here’s a quote from Rational Man:

“In Aristotle’s eyes, ethics does not begin with thinking of others; it begins with oneself. The reason is that every human being faces the task of learning how to live, how to be a human being, just as he has to learn how to walk or to talk. No one can be truly human, can live and act as a rational man, without first going through the difficult and often painful business of acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues, and then, having acquired them, actually exercising them in the concrete, but tricky, business of living.”

Henry Veatch's Rational Man is extensively referenced in The Perfectionist Turn by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

David Kelley’s View of the Measurement Omission Theory

A Theory of Abstraction
Dr. David Kelley

In my article on David Kelley’s The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand I write that Kelley does not seem to be completely convinced about Ayn Rand’s theory of measurement omission for concept formation. I drew such an inference because in this book Kelley seems to suggest that it is possible that in future we may acquire evidence against the theory.

“As an inductive hypothesis about the functioning of a natural object—the human mind— the theory of measurement-omission is open to the possibility of revision in the same way that Newton’s theory of gravity was. And the same is true for the other principles of Objectivism.” (The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, Chapter: “Objectivism”)

Also, I have come across a few commentaries where the suggestion has been made that Kelley has doubts about the measurement omission theory.

But A Theory of Abstraction, the monograph that Kelley wrote in 1984, makes it clear that he has not rejected Ayn Rand's measurement omission theory. In fact, he clarifies on the page-6 that his purpose behind writing the monograph is to defend the theory of concepts that Rand has presented in her 1979 book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

A Theory of Abstraction has solid arguments for supporting the measurement omission theory. Here’s an excerpt where he is talking about the second stage of concept formation:
“The differentiating aspect or moment is to distinguish the specific measurements of each object, in relation to the others, from the fact of commensurability. Since the determinacy of each object is seen as a matter of its quantitative relations to others, we abstract from determinacy by omitting or disregarding the specific measurements, and attending to each object merely qua unit. The integrating element of the process is the awareness of the dimension of similarity, the dimension along which the units are quantitatively related, as an attribute they share in different measure or degree. We are aware of the attribute as an axis on which each of the objects at hand, and an indefinite range of objects not present, can be given a place.” 
This is similar what Ayn Rand has said in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. She has defined a concept as “a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.”

Further, Kelley says:
“The principle is only implicit in the way subjects attend to the units before them, and to the structure of relations they exhibit. It is implicit in the realization that the specific measurements can be disregarded, and that consequently any number of other objects, bearing any quantitative relation (within a certain range) to the units at hand, might be included in the group. In this way, the principle explains both the universality and the abstractness of the concept which results from the process. It should be noted, however, that after the concept is formed as a new mental unit, the principle does function as something like a rule, in two respects: the possession of the concept involves a kind of mental set or readiness to omit the measurements of new instances as they are encountered; and to omit the measurements of new dimensions of similarity among instances, as they are noticed.” 
In the final paragraph of the monograph, Kelley suggests that in future we may find a neurological explanation of the capacity for omitting measurements. Here’s the excerpt:
“If a concept is a distinct mental unit (and not merely a kind of collective mental name for an unintegrated set of particulars); if it is a way of regarding its instances as identical (not merely as similar), and thus of disregarding their specific measurements; then no matter how we decompose the process of concept-formation there must be a stage at which the awareness of determinate objects, qualities, and relations gives rise to an abstract awareness of them. For all the reasons given in the text, I think measurement-omission is that stage, and I do not see any way to decompose it further. Someday, perhaps, we will have a neurological explanation of the capacity for omitting measurements, and perhaps also an evolutionary explanation for our coming to have it. But I see no way to decompose it further into cognitive stages.”

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

On Being and Essence by Thomas Aquinas

“For human nature itself exists in the intellect abstracted from all individuating conditions, whence it is uniformly related to all individuals [of this nature] outside the soul, being equally a similitude of all, and thus leading to the cognition of all, insofar as they are humans. And since it has this sort of relation to all individuals [of this nature], the intellect forms the notion of species and attributes to it and this is why the Commentator remarks in his commentary on Book 1 of On the Soul that it is the intellect that produces universality in things.” ~ Thomas Aquinas in On Being and Essence 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Patanjali’s Epistemology and Metaphysics

Patanjali was a theist, but his Yoga system is founded on the Sankhya system, which is overwhelmingly atheistic. He is credited with two important works—the Yoga-Sutras and the Mahabhashya. Some accounts suggest that Patanjali may have lived in the 4th century BCE, but there are other accounts that place him between the 4th and 6th century BCE.

The Philosophy of the Yoga-Sutras

Patanjali developed the Yoga system of divine order of the universe, by incorporating mysticism into the Sankhya system. In his Yoga-Sutras he proposes that the universe consists of two entities: Prakriti (nature), and Purusa (spirit). He believed in body-soul dichotomy, and preached that the soul is not be identified with the body, the senses, the mind, the ego or the intelligence principle. In order to gain an insight into the soul, man must peer through the veil of materiality.

The objective of the yoga system is to enable people to free the spirit or the Purusa, from the bondage of the matter or Prakriti by following the progressive system of self-realization based on the knowledge of Yoga. The bondage that binds spirit with matter does not lie outside the individual; it lies inside us. Patanjali preaches that the seekers of salvation must cultivate a spirit of detachment; as long as they remain affectionate towards the seen or revealed objects, they will remain distracted and their quest for freedom will remain unfulfilled.

The Yoga-Sutras is Raja Yoga system of attaining perfection. As “Raja” means royal, it is generally believed that Patanjali’s aim was to develop a system fit for the kings. But the term “Raja” can also be a metaphor for anyone, even a commoner, who desires to gain a deeper understanding of the world he lives in, and is courageous and adventurous. Therefore Raja Yoga can also symbolise  a royal road to salvation which is available to all.

Patanjali preaches that bliss can be attained by following the method of Ashtanga or eight steps. The eight steps are:

1. Yama or restraint
2. Niyama or asceticism
3. Asana or posture
4. Pranayama or breath control
5. Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses
6. Dharana or concentration
7. Dhyana or meditation
8. Samadhi or the act of achieving oneness with the divine

The Yoga Sutras recognize the existence of extra-sensory perception and super-conscious experiences. Various methods that can be employed for developing extraordinary and extra-sensory powers are described in the text.

The Philosophy of Mahabhashya

Patanjali’s Mahabhashya is an important work of Sanskrit grammar. Its focus is on the philosophy of language—it seeks to unravel the mysticism that undermines the phenomena of conversation. The text gives a rather spiritualistic look to the way the language is written and spoken.

Patanjali believed that there is mysticism in the phenomenon of speech. He believed that the utterance of a sound is a vivid materialization of consciousness, and that the study of grammar is of direct consequence to a man who seeks spiritual inspiration.

The Mahabhasya portends the birth of a kind of sadhana or worship, in which union with Brahman or salvation can be obtained through knowledge of the sabda, or words. Patanjali takes note of two kinds of words – nitya or eternal, and karya or created. By nitya, he refers to things that are associated with the supreme Brahman or the Absolute. He has endeavoured to draw our attention to the eternal character of the sabda or words.

Patanjali believed that the sabda or the words are not a lifeless mechanism invented by man—their meaning goes much deeper. He viewed words as the manifestation of divinity which makes its presence felt through the act of utterance. Like divinity, the sabda are eternal; they transcend all limitations of time and space.

One who earns the capacity of using words properly is allowed to enjoy divine bliss in the next life. Therefore a comprehensive knowledge of grammar is the key to the attainment of salvation. The divine light signs upon the man who understands the secret relationship between the denoted object and the denoting word.

Patanjali exhorts his followers to discard the delusion that words are mere sounds. He asserts that words are imbued with subtle and intellectual form. The internal source from which words evolve is always calm, serene, eternal, and imperishable. Great deal of sadhana or mental exertion is required have a glimpse of speech in its purest form. Patanjali believed that it is dharma (religious duty) to apply words in accordance to the rules of grammar.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Utilitarianism and Libertarianism

John Stuart Mill
Many libertarians try to use the theory of Utilitarianism to defend the idea of free-markets and property rights. They believe that free-markets and property rights are good because they promote prosperity in the society.

Utilitarianism has been described by John Stuart Mill as the Happiness Theory. In Utilitarianism Mill says that the theory is an outcome of the principle that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."

But what if the government promotes the happiness of one section of society at the cost of others?

To take care of this problem Mill has proposed the Harm Principle. “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

But when there is no system to measure happiness how can the theory of Utilitarianism be applied? Mill has not provided any clear answer to this question.

The libertarians are wrong in thinking that the theory of Utilitarianism can support free-markets and property rights. If equal value is granted to the happiness of everyone then a criminal’s happiness is as important as the happiness of a productive individual.

When happiness of all is the moral ideal, then the government will try to spread happiness by ensuring that everyone has equal income. Therefore the logical outcome of utilitarian ideas is an egalitarian society with income equality. But such a society will be a slave society.

It is no surprise that John Stuart Mill, who began his career as an advocate of liberty, was proposing socialist political theories in his final years. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Intellectual Guerrilla Warfare of George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw is now mostly remembered as the writer of plays like PygmalionArms and the ManThe Devil's DiscipleCaesar and CleopatraMajor BarbaraHeartbreak House, and Saint Joan. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

But Shaw was a lifelong socialist, and a founding member of the Fabian Society—he was a supporter of the Soviet Union, and a devotee of the Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin—he was an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini—a proponent of eugenics, he advocated the extermination of certain races.

In 1931 Shaw went to the Soviet Union on an invitation from Josef Stalin. They had a lengthy meeting, and later Shaw described Stalin as “a Georgian gentlemen with no malice in him.” On the purges and mass slaughter that Stalin had unleashed in the Soviet Union, Shaw remarked, “I have seen all the terrors and I was terribly pleased by them.”

Shaw saw nothing wrong in Stalin’s massacres. In 1934 he said, ”The top of the ladder is a very trying place for old revolutionists who have had no administrative experience, who have had no financial experience, who have been trained as penniless hunted fugitives with Karl Marx on the brain and not as statesmen.” He felt that Stalin had no alternative except to push these old revolutionists off the ladder with a rope around their necks.

A devotee of eugenics, Shaw proposed the doctrine of “life unworthy of life,” which holds that the unproductive people must be exterminated. In his 1910 lecture before the Eugenics Education Society, Shaw said: “We should find ourselves committed to killing a great many people whom we now leave living... A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people's time to look after them.”

In 1931, Shaw advocated the extermination of unproductive human beings with these words:

“You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence?”

“If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight, and since you won't, if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself.”

In 1933 Shaw made an "appeal to the chemists to discover a humane gas that will kill instantly and painlessly. Deadly by all means, but humane not cruel…”

Shaw believed that dictatorship was the only political option. He saw Hitler as a “very remarkable man, a very able man.” In a lecture before the Fabian Society in London, Shaw emphasized the weaknesses of a parliamentary system and praised the dictators. He said, “While parliaments get nowhere, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin do things.”

When Stalin and Hitler entered into a pact in 1939 (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), Shaw celebrated the development as a coming together of Europe’s two great political forces. At the height of the Second World War, Shaw was advocating a unilateral disarmament by Britain. When he was asked what Britons should do if the Nazis crossed the channel into Britain, he replied, "Welcome them as tourists."

Shaw joined hands with leading intellectuals—H. G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, and a few others—to found the Fabian Society in 1884. Named after the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus who used the tactics of attrition and delay, or guerrilla warfare tactics, to defeat the enemies of Roman Empire, the Fabians want to propagate “socialism” by conducting “intellectual guerrilla warfare” against the countries with free-market system.

In 1889, Fabian Essays in Socialism edited by George Bernard Shaw, was published by the Fabian Society. This work made a moral case for socialism, and revealed that the Fabians intended to start a new political party to move Britain in the direction of socialism. In 1900, the Fabian Society joined hands with several trade unions and helped found the British Labor Party.

In the last 120 years the Fabians have won the political and intellectual debate in many countries. They have made major intellectual contributions for inspiring the rise of socialist regimes in the British colonies which got independence during the 1940s. They have coerced the Western countries to adopt the Welfare State model.

In The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928), this is what Shaw has to say about life in a socialist regime:

“Under Socialism, you would not be allowed to be poor. You would be forcibly fed, clothed, lodged, taught, and employed whether you liked it or not. If it were discovered that you had not character and industry enough to be worth all this trouble, you might possibly be executed in a kindly manner; but whilst you were permitted to live, you would have to live well.”


How H. G. Wells Distorted The Idea of Liberalism!

Jean-Paul Sartre: The Intellectual Henchman of Tyrants 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Can Socrates Flourish Without Philosophizing?

The Perfectionist Turn
Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
Edinburgh University Press 

“Could Socrates not obtain well-being or human flourishing by taking up some other activity with pleasurable and satisfying dimensions, even if they are not philosophical activities?” ask Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen in The Perfectionist Turn’s eponymous 5th chapter.

The context for the question is the scenario that the authors want the readers to consider: Socrates is in jail. Condemned to death by an Athenian court, he has been given hemlock. But he does not die. Instead, a messenger rushes in to inform that Socrates is pardoned. The messenger has an antidote which he administers to Socrates. But there is a catch— Socrates is “no longer allowed to practice philosophy in any way or form.”

In another scenario the Athenian court not only pardons Socrates, it also regrets its decision to keep him from philosophizing. “Athens wants Socrates, given his great gifts in this area, to actively pursue philosophy as often as and wherever possible. The only problem is that because of either something in the antidote or the ordeal that Socrates had to endure, Socrates no longer has any interest in doing philosophy. He would rather take up gardening.”

The search for the answers to the critical questions regarding the fate of Socrates inevitably leads to the idea of individualistic perfectionism. There is a relationship between an individual’s well-being or flourishing and his or her capacities or nature. "It is the life-form of a being, not its mere existence, that provides the basis for understanding its good; and for living beings such as ourselves, that can choose and reason, it is the basis for any obligation we might have."

In The Perfectionist Turn the aim of authors is to provide a defense of individualistic perfectionism, and conduct an appraisal of the ethical and political theories proposed by several non-individualistic thinkers. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, the authors show that how “individualistic perfectionism” can be employed as “both an alternative ethical theory and as a basis for criticism of other political and ethical approaches.” In the second part, the focus is on defending the foundations that have been employed in the first part and deriving some indication of their meaning in practice.

The authors posit that being a good human being involves the actualization of one’s basic human potential, and that what is good for an individual is somehow linked to being a good human being. The idea of ethics that they propose is fundamentally eudaemonistic.

They point out that “what lies at the heart of ethics is the issue of what is worthy of being valued, which for us is ultimately an individual human being’s own self-perfection; and this requires that ethics be primarily concerned with persons determining for themselves in what their individual human good concretely consists.”

Den Uyl and Rasmussen employ novel terminology in the book. For instance, they have proposed two categories for analyzing ethical theory—the template of respect, and the template of responsibility. Also, to describe the idea that ethical and political theories must be firmly integrated with the overall philosophical system, they have used the word “tethering.”

The ideas of the “template of respect,” and “template of responsibility” are introduced at the very outset in the book: “where the source of all norms—even those concerning our life among others—derives from the existential fact that we must make something of our lives, we shall designate as the template of responsibility.”

The eudaemonistic ethical ideas of the Den Uyl and Rasmussen come in the category of the template of responsibility. But the ethical ideas of non-individualist philosophers that have been critiqued in the book fall in the category of template of respect, which relates to the concern that the necessity of living among persons is the principal reason for developing norms of conduct.

In the two chapters—“Tethering I” and “Tethering II”—there is a look at the ideas of the non-individualist thinkers like John Rawls, Martha Nassbaum, Amartya Sen, and few others. Den Uyl and Rasmussen point out that over the last few decades it has become a norm for political philosophers to untether political philosophy in particular from the rest of the philosophy. “Following John Rawls, the current practice often involves a rejection of what is called “comprehensive philosophy,” in favor of a self-contained domain of political theorizing.”

The analysis of the ideas of the non-individualist philosophers reveals several lacunae in their ethical and political doctrines, but this facilitates a better understanding of the individualistic perfectionism or eudaemonistic ethics that Den Uyl and Rasmussen are proposing. The authors point out that their ideas are connected to Aristotle who has noted that “for an action to be ethical, it must be chosen, chosen for the right reason, and chosen out of a fixed disposition.” Aristotle has viewed human flourishing as being a fundamentally self directed activity.

In the chapter, “The entrepreneur as moral hero,” the authors have drawn a connection between the market entrepreneur and the ethical actor. “The market entrepreneur confronts a world of diverse activities and investment possibilities which carry with them a social value in terms of relative prices which must be evaluated. Similarly, the ethical actor is confronted with myriad of choices whose “prices” are the cost to be paid in maintaining his or her “value universe,” when investing in any possible alternative.”

In making his choices the ethical actor can rely on the ethical principles, but the principles must be successfully integrated through the process of application of practical wisdom by the agent.

On the issue of socialism in economics and ethics, the authors make this interesting comment:

Socialism is no more successful in ethics than in economics, and for similar reasons: it sacrifices the future to the present by discouraging innovation and inverts the source of positive marginal change by moving it from the individual to society. Ethical wealth, like economic wealth, will be a function of the degree to which individuals take upon themselves to produce good lives.

Overall, The Perfectionist Turn is an absorbing scholarly study of ethical theory. It makes a convincing case for individualistic perfectionism, while giving a broad overview of the ethical and political ideas that have been proposed by several important philosophers. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Journalistic Hall-of-Shame: Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer for Hiding Stalin’s Crimes

Walter Duranty; Starved peasants in Kharkiv, 1933
Walter Duranty moved to the Soviet Union in 1921 and till 1934 he was The New York Times correspondent in Moscow. An ardent communist, he used to gush like a schoolgirl over the most prolific murderer in recent history—Josef Stalin.

He became one of the leading journalists of his day after Stalin gave him an exclusive interview in 1929. In his articles for The New York Times, Duranty claimed that Stalin was the “greatest living statesman.” The entire focus of his journalism was on concealing Stalin’s crimes and painting a rosy picture of life in the Soviet Union.

The work that Duranty did in the Soviet Union was endorsed by Stalin himself. Stalin told Duranty "You have done a good job in your reporting of the USSR.”

Duranty misled an entire generation by killing all reports of the Stalin-engineered famine in Ukraine in which millions died. In his articles he claimed that the Ukrainians were “healthier and more cheerful” and that the markets were overflowing with food—at a time when a massive campaign of purges and genocide was being orchestrated in the Soviet Union.

In the early 1930s, it was well known that Stalin was intent to destroy millions of kulaks (relatively rich farmers) in Ukraine because he felt that they were opposed to the Soviet collectivization of agriculture. On the communist plan, Duranty had this to say: “Must all of them and their families be physically abolished? Of course not – they must be ‘liquidated’ or melted in the hot fire of exile and labor into the proletarian mass.” (The New York Times, 1931)

In many articles Duranty expressed the view that the Soviet citizens who were being sent to Stalin’s brutal gulags (concentration camps) were given the choice between rejoining Soviet society or becoming underprivileged outsiders. But he had no qualms about accepting that death is the final fate of those who do not accept the Soviet system.

Duranty tried to defend Stalin’s infamous Five Year Plans with these words: “Stalin is giving the Russian people—the Russian masses, not Westernized landlords, industrialists bankers and intellectuals, but Russia’s 150,000,000 peasants and workers— what they really want namely, joint effort, communal effort.” (The New York Times,1931)

"Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin's program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding." (The New York Times, 1932)

Duranty attacked the journalists who were insisting that there was a famine in Ukraine and claimed that “there is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation.” He claimed that “the food shortage as a whole is less grave than was believed – or, if not, at least distribution has greatly improved, which comes to the same thing for practical purposes.” (The New York Times, 1933)

He did his best to deny that there was a famine in Ukraine. “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda. The food shortage, however, which has affected the whole population in the last year and particularly in the grain-producing provinces—the Ukraine, North Caucasus [i.e. Kuban Region], and the Lower Volga—has, however, caused heavy loss of life.”  (The New York Times, 1933)

Despite his dishonest reporting, despite the fact that he was nothing more than Stalin’s useful idiot, Duranty was enshrined with the Pulitzer Prize for his “dispassionate, interpretive reporting of the news from Russia.” It took The New York Times many decades to admit that Duranty’s work “was some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.”

Friday, 7 October 2016

Mao Zedong and Pol Pot

Mao Zedong and Pol Pot
When Marxist Pol Pot was a student in France during the late 1940s and early 1950s, he came under the influence of the French egalitarians who believed that a government must use its power to create a classless society.

But the French egalitarians are not the only ones to be blamed for showing Pol Pot the path for becoming the brutal tyrant of Cambodia. He could not have risen to power in Cambodia without the political and military assistance from China’s dictator Mao Zedong.

In the early 1950s there were the first signs of a turf war between Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. Mao wanted the control of entire Southeast Asia. In the 1952 meeting with Mao’s deputy, Chou En-lai, Stalin agreed to let China play the “principal role” in Southeast Asia. The pact with Stalin gave Mao a freehand in organizing communist insurgency operations in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea.

Mao’s chance to exercise major political influence in Cambodia came when the Cambodian government led by Prince Sihanouk was deposed on 18 March 1970 in a coup that was then believed to be backed by the CIA. For years, Mao had been trying to overthrow the Sihanouk regime, but now he decided to back Sihanouk provided he joined the fight against America.

A day after the coup, Sihanouk arrived in China and he pledged to fight America. He was allowed to stay in China as a royal guest under the protection of Mao’s regime. It so happened that Pol Pot, Mao’s creature in Cambodia, was also in China at this time. Pol Pot was persuaded by Mao to give formal support to Sihanouk.

In the bloody civil war that soon broke out in Cambodia, Pol Pot's political outfit the Khmer Rouge emerged victorious in 1975 and it formed the government. The rise of the Khmer Rouge only worsened the Cambodian nightmare.

Inspired by the egalitarian idea of building a classless society, Pol Pot declared 1975 as the year zero. He unleashed his Khmer Rouge on the cities, towns, and industrial areas. All the industries, hospitals and schools, and every speck of modernity was destroyed. People with education were treated as a threat to the regime and were often executed. One-quarter of Cambodia’s population was slaughtered in just four-years.

Mao was happy with the mayhem in Cambodia, and he regarded Pol Pot as his soulmate. They were certainly two of a kind—they would spare no thought to the mammoth human and material losses that their destructive quest for power was leading to.

But the bonhomie between the two dictators did not last. Within few months of his government being formed, Pol Pot began to tire of Mao’s constant meddling in his affairs. Thereafter the Khmer Rogue regime stopped acknowledging China’s authority.

In their bestselling work Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have described the ups-and-downs in the relationship of Mao and Pol Pot. Here’s an excerpt:
Immediately after Pol Pot took power, Mao congratulated him face to face on his slave-labor-camp state: ‘You have scored a splendid victory. Just a single blow and no more classes.’ What Mao meant was that everyone had become a slave. And Mao sent Prince Sihanouk, who had been living in luxurious exile in China, back to Cambodia, where the prince was put under house arrest and his name was exploited by Pol Pot. But though Mao was Pol Pot’s sponsor and mentor, he got no gratitude. A colleague of Pol Pot’s called Keo Meas, who had referred to Mao in eulogistic terms, was tortured to death. Written on the dead man’s dossier were the words: ‘This contemptible Mao who got the horrible death he deserved was worthless. You shouldn't think, you antique bastard, that the Kampuchean Party has been influenced by Mao.’” 
In the end, Mao Zedong achieved nothing from his Cambodian adventure. Even the creature that he created, Pol Pot, refused to stay loyal to him. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Mises Versus Marx—On Dialectical Materialism

The Marxist metaphysical doctrine of Dialectical Materialism is an idealist tripe. At the root of this theory there lies Hegelian spiritualism which can never be compromised with Marxist materialism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were misleading their followers when they claimed that they had transformed and improved Hegelian dialectics and transplanted it to Marxism.

In Ludwig von Mises’s Theory and History an entire chapter (Chapter 7) is devoted to the analysis of Dialectical Materialism. Mises feels that it was nonsensical to uproot dialectics from its idealistic ground and transport it to a system that was labeled materialistic and empirical.

So why did Marx and Engels propose the illogical theory of Dialectical Materialism?

According to Mises, in the 1840s Hegel’s ideas enjoyed a huge prestige in Germany, and Marx and Engels “were afraid to deviate too radically from the only philosophical system with which they and their contemporary countrymen were familiar.”

Here’s the excerpt from Theory and History:

“They [Marx and Engels] were not audacious enough to discard Hegelianism entirely as was done a few years later even in Prussia. They preferred to appear as continuators and reformers of Hegel, not as iconoclastic dissenters. They boasted of having transformed and improved Hegelian dialectics, of having turned it upside down, or rather, of having put it on its feet. They did not realize that it was nonsensical to uproot dialectics from its idealistic ground and transplant it to a system that was labeled materialistic and empirical. Hegel was consistent in assuming that the logical process is faithfully reflected in the processes going on in what is commonly called reality. He did not contradict himself in applying the logical a priori to the interpretation of the universe. But it is different with a doctrine that indulges in a naive realism, materialism, and empiricism. Such a doctrine ought to have no use for a scheme of interpretation that is derived not from experience but from a priori reasoning. Engels declared that dialectics is the science of the general laws of motion, of the external world as well as of human thinking; two series of laws which are substantially identical but in their manifestation different insofar as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature, and hitherto also to a great extent in human history, they assert themselves in an unconscious way as external necessity in the midst of an infinite series of apparently contingent events. He himself, says Engels, had never had any doubts about this. His intensive preoccupation with mathematics and the natural sciences, to which he confesses to have devoted the greater part of eight years, was, he declares, obviously prompted only by the desire to test the validity of the laws of dialectics in detail in specific instances.”

The bizarre thing about Dialectical Materialism is that this doctrine does not provide a definition of its basic concept—it does not tell us what are the material productive forces? How do the material productive forces come into being?

Mises says that we may “summarize the Marxian doctrine in this way: In the beginning there are the "material productive forces," i.e., the technological equipment of human productive efforts, the tools and machines. No question concerning their origin is permitted; they are, that is all; we must assume that they are dropped from heaven.”

Being aware of the fact that the doctrine of Dialectical Materialism had no legs to stand on, Marx and Engels never tried to defend it through logic. If someone tried to unmask the absurdities and contradictions in Dialectical Materialism, Marx and Engels would attack him furiously and depict him as a scoundrel and a monster who wanted to deny that all men should have enough to eat.

After 1917, the control of Marxism passed into the hands of Lenin and Stalin who used their brutal state power to kill anyone who tried to refute the Marxist theories.

Mises says that Dialectical Materialism has survived primarily because “the "idealist" critics of Marxism were too dull to expose any of the fallacies of dialectical materialism. They did not even notice that the Marxians resorted to their class-interest interpretation only in dealing with phenomena which were generally condemned as bad, never in dealing with phenomena of which all people approve. If one ascribes warring to the machinations of munitions capital and alcoholism to machinations of the liquor trade, it would be consistent to ascribe cleanliness to the designs of the soap manufacturers and the flowering of literature and education to the maneuvering of the publishing and printing industries. But neither the Marxians nor their critics ever thought of it.”