Monday, October 31, 2016

Who is John Galt, and Why is he a Collectivist?

Okay, to set this up, first there was this article [link] by Robert Zubrin in The Federalist. It's the typical neocon "propositional nation" drivel, which ignores the "posterity" in

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As Eli says below, not to any rag-tag and bobtail that can heave itself over the border and sign up for bennies and register to vote for Hillary, but the posterity of the Founders and their countrymen — their descendants. Yes, when we were very thinly populated, the Founders, or many of them, wanted more people to come here from Britain, people who were still considered countrymen, and some even thought Scandinavians and Frenchmen and Germans, who would be assimilated easily, would make desirable immigrants. If the British were brothers, those others were first cousins.

And Zubrin gives the usual blather about how Trump isn't a "real" conservative, "conservative" evidently being redefined when nobody was looking as a form of internationalism/globalism that has Barry Goldwater and all his conservative forbears spinning in their graves. It calls for virtually open borders (giving lip service to border control tongue-in-cheek, which is quite a physical feat if you think about it) and sneers at any notion that the basic founding stock of America has any right to exist any more, let alone be a majority. Always remember that John Galt's strike was a collectivist action.

And speaking of Atlas Shrugged, we have the usual Randian/Objectivist accusation of "collectivism." Listen, everybody is a collectivist to one extent or another, except maybe a wild-eyed anarchist living alone on a bleak mountaintop. All human beings are evolved to engage in actions both individualist and collectivist, so  anybody at all can, from the principles they enunciate, be accused of collectivism. Libertarians accuse  one another of it all the time.

And Zubrin seems to think that "all men were created equal" implies that all men are fungible, and it doesn't matter whether we get our immigrants from Guernsey or Guinea, or New Guinea for that matter, which is idiotic on the face of it. What the Founders meant by that, of course, was that there should be a rule of law which gives equal protection to all, and — we've forgotten the significance of this — noble birth must not endow anyone with special privileges. That's really all they meant. They didn't mean that men could use the ladies' room, or that the Navy Seals should recruit girls. And they certainly didn't want affirmative action.

Anyhow, do read Zubrin's article [link] first, and below is Eli Harman's reply to it. As he says, he plays to elaborate more, but I want to get this into print right now.

This is my first response to this piece, where I address some of Zubrin's points. I am going to try and elaborate on this more and eventually rework it into something I send to him.
"But is nativism truly an American conservative ideology? Our nation was founded on the proposition that all men are created equal, with inalienable rights granted by no less authority than God. How can a movement that explicitly denies that creed be considered conservative?"
It is true that something is not conservative if it has not enjoyed much currency in recent centuries, but it can be reactionary if it enjoyed overwhelming support prior to that, and for a lot longer. In the grand sweep of history, propositions like "all men are created equal" and "inalienable rights" were not regarded as self evident. In fact they would have been regarded, if they had been regarded at all, as false, because they are. And how those experiments have turned out has shown this to be the case. Nevertheless, nativist sentiments have been part and parcel of American history right down to the present day, although they have been largely subsumed - the last few decades - by cosmopolitan, multicultural, values that have proven even more disasterous than the (initially quite benign but progressively metastacizing) errors of the Revolution. 
"All Hitler had done, said Hayek, was to grasp that racism is required for socialism"
Racism IS required for socialism. But this does not imply that socialism is required for racism. In fact, racism could be required for many things. It is now abundantly clear that racism is required, also, for individualism. You can't maintain an individualist, market order, in the face of mass immigration by collectivists, by theocrats, by tribalists, and by socialists of various stripes, who refuse to assimilate. Racism is also required for Democracy. Democracy works fine for homogenous societies where interests are aligned. It works fine, for example, for corporations where shareholder interests are nearly perfectly aligned towards maximization of profits, with no realistic way for shareholders to profit at one another's expense. But as soon as heterogenous groups are incorporated, with divergent and often conflicting interests, it just becomes another avenue for predation and parasitism by self-serving coalitions. And the farther the results of democracy, and voting, diverge from the likely results of war, the more incentive there is for those likely to prevail in war to engage in open war instead, to obtain victory by those means rather than defeat by democratic ones.
"Trump is also radical trade protectionist who would destroy the global economic foundation of American prosperity since World War II in order to impose a system enriching insiders who can arrange for government action to block foreign competition."
This is exactly backwards. Yes, Trump has proposed protectionism. But the fact is, ordinary Americans have largely not shared in many of the gains from trade brought about from globalization. Wealth has flowed to the third world, and poverty has declined there. At the same time, the owners of western capital have earned record returns, and western corporations have posted record profits (insiders who can arrange for liberalization of trade to push down labor costs) while the working and middle classes have seen stagnation or even backslid, many being downsized from comfortable, rewarding jobs forced to seek lower paid, lower status, jobs in the service economy. The fact is that people will not support an order that is not working for them. And this order, is not working for a lot of people. IF the gains from trade are real, if they are truly positive sum (and I have no doubt many are) then there should be no trouble negotiating trade deals that cut everyone in on the benefits, instead of leaving large classes out entirely, who have the power, if they so choose, to fuck up everyone's shit, and no reason, given the existing incentives, not to. That was a profoundly short sighted plan. 
"Trump openly embraces Nietzschean ethics" 
Some people like that about him.
"in direct opposition to the Judeo-Christian morality conservatives treasure."
Rather, Trump is an exemplar of the ancient values of Chivalry and Nobless oblige. Trump demonstrates a passion and a concern for the "little people" which he seems to recognize as more pragmatic and rationally self-interested in the long run than a callous disregard that will provoke them eventually to far for damaging and destructive revolts. Do you want another French revolution? Do you want another Russian revolution? Because that's where we're headed, unless somone like Trump can change our course.
"So for Trump, the illegal immigration question can hardly be about the sacred rule of law."
We don't have the rule of law at present. The question is, if we desire it, how do we go about restablishing it? One absolute necessity is to defeat it's staunchest enemies, the lying, parasitic, perpetually aggrieved, special pleading left, and the corrupt establishment. Trump plausibily represents a powerful champion against both.
"Trump is a completely consistent collectivist."
Collectivism and individualism are not intrinsically opposed. They are not polar opposites. They are not absolutes. They are strategies, engaged in by individuals, for individual reasons. And the collection of strategies particular individuals or groups of individuals adopt can be more or less individualistic, or collectivistic, with tradeoffs all the way across. 
Like most westerners, I prefer a high degree of individualism. But individualism can only be maintained and defended by adopting some collectivist strategies. One of these is borders. 
Borders are analogous to property lines. Both are arbitrary social constructs which exist only by convention. Both nevertheless exist because Darwin rewards people who practice their use. (And punishes those who do not.)
Property lines exist when individuals claim territory and succeed in defending it.
Borders exist when groups claim territory and succeed in defending it.
If property lines are the boundaries between property holdings, borders can be thought of as the boundaries between property regimes.
In practice, you have the property and property rights that the people around you are willing to concede that you have. One man cannot stand alone against the world.
But a few in confederation can hold the looting hoards at bay indefinitely.
Property and property rights are obtained in exchange. You recognize and uphold mine and I'll do the same for yours.
But to this basic condition, others can be added to protect the long term viability of the confederation which gives it force.
And first among these must be "don't let the looters in."
One condition people may demand for recognizing and upholding your private property is help in upholding shared borders.
You don't have to assent to that condition, but if not, you might find your position very lonely.
Individual vs. collective is a tradeoff. Sometimes, what's good for the individual is not good for the collective, and they may profitably suppress the individual.
But it is in the interest of the individual to be part of a good collective. So as long as the benefits of being in a collective outweigh the costs (including opportunity costs) then the individual will remain in the collective.
The same is true in the other direction. So long as the benefits of retaining an individual in collective exceed the costs of doing the same, then the collective will do so.
I think the facts of the matter urge competition and free exit, to make this tradeoff calculable for individuals and to allow them to impose accountability on collectives.
But the right of free exit (on the part of the individual) is corollary to the right of forcible exclusion (on the part of the collective.)
They are two sides of the same coin.
"Not to put too fine a point on the matter, racism—or tribalism, if you will—is not a conservative ideology; it is collectivist ideology."
In truth, all *three* of the principal western political orientations are profoundly and fundamentally individualistic.
Leftism is individualism for those with instantaneous time horizons. Food and shelter and medicine and college and debt forgiveness and status and orgasms for ME, right now, regardless of the costs to others or to society or to my future self.
Libertarianism is individualism for those with intermediate time horizons, who recognize some of the incentives and conditions necessary for engaging in production and exchange: so all of that *through* and *because* of property rights and markets over so many years as may be necessary to organize their production, without regard to the costs to tradition, culture, extended family, (ethnicity) commons or future generations.
Rightism is individualism for people with very long time horizons, who recognize the full spectrum of conditions and incentives necessary to engage in production and exchange not just NOW, but for generations to come. So all of that for ME AND MINE, securely, now and for the future, by drawing on the hard won, evolutionary-gleaned wisdom of the past, and maintaining the various commons (things like public decency, good order, and common defense) that give us our competitive advantages over others who do not share our values or have our best interests at heart.
And that last part, keeping the "others" at arms length, is absolutely essential for a great many reasons. 
The Preamble to the Constition says "to ourselves and our Posterity" not "to whoever happens to wander by." And we might rightly inquire what value the latter sort really have "to ourselves and our posterity" over as long a time frame as we wish.
Quibcags: The first illustration is swiped from Vulture of Critique here, and the second I cobbled together from an Earth Day poster I found here:


  1. Collectivism is like the Boogeyman for Libertarians. How can you even have a government without collective action? Without a government how does Private Property get allocated and protected. Without a government to set laws and enforce them, where are the parameters by which transactions can even legally occur? Without laws, you have only the law of the jungle. There is no concept of property at all, merely territories guarded by force and things taken by force. Anarchists are quaint little butterflies who imagine a world without rules to be a limitless plethora of possibilities, until they run into someone who robs them and then suddenly having police and laws become an essential component of their survival. Savages only understand force, and the law of the jungle is the only law these primitives can understand. This is why they were killed off and forced out of Western Civilization.
    These proposition people have yet to coherently explain this absurd proposition they are advocating. Are they claiming inferior peoples who have no understanding of rules and boundaries can be citizens of a stable society? Because this has never been the case before, and I doubt anyone would seriously entertain the possibility of taming savages by adopting their reckless disregard for laws.
    Globalism is a delusion, and a ridiculous one at that. Its the lowest common denominator of the Whole World. A World ruled mostly by dictators and governed through force with corruption and violence. In Truth, the first casualties of disorder will be the anarchists. Their predilection for anarchy has been formed and nurtured entirely in the safe habitats of stable Western Societies. In a true anarchist environ where force only rules, they would die a quick and painful death through their weakness and lack of will.

  2. I've been saying for years "Ayn Rand" was a leftist - a Jewish Bolshevist and too stupid to know it.