Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Darwin, Rand, Moochers, and Disability

Is Rand's objectivist philosophy a direct descendant of Darwin Origin of the Species? I don't know. It would take a professional researcher to trace any linkage, I suppose.

Rand is back in the news because Romney's choice for vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, is an on-and-off (now, off, apparently) Rand objectivist. As late as 2005, though, he was praising the virtues of rationalism.
Aside from her using a popular misrepresentation of the "root of all evil" reference (personally, I like the King James version of the Biblical verse: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.), the salient point of quotation from Rand's Hunger and Freedom is the word "moochers."

One should assume "moochers" means the needy, whether that be the poor, the ill, or any other group shunted aside by the capitalist quest.

Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me a rational person, but one interested in the common rather than individual good, can understand that capitalism and the free market and representative democracy are mankind's best solution in our quest to produce and govern a humanistic society.

Conversely, a humane and democratic society will protect its most vulnerable from the predations of the most powerful within that capitalist-driven society.

This is of particular interest to me as a person with a disability. As we might suspect, Rand's objectivism finds no rationale for supporting disability access. In writing about an access case, Thomas Bowden at The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, notes ...
The ADA's backers count on decent people to support the statute as a sympathetic expression of benevolence. But genuine benevolence toward the disabled is possible only through voluntary good will; it cannot be achieved by coercion, which results in punishing the able ... In a rational society, everyone's life and happiness depend upon finding and rewarding the very best people--the best athletes, the best teachers, the best surgeons. 
Nothing is said here to define "benevolence" or "voluntary good will," or what will happen to the moochers who cannot find such in their world.

More relevant to the question of disability accommodation is the element of Rand's objectivism is her perception that "misfortune is not a claim to slave labor," meaning that taxes to support social programs enslaves the person taxed. I suppose there is some measure of rational thought behind the precept that a tax (a cooperative contribution) for public education or bridges and roads can be differentiated from a tax (enslavement) for a social program, but both are compulsory, and few Rand supporters are heard complaining about the accessibility of, for example, the interstate highway system.

Of course, Ayn Rand is not running for office. However, her individualist philosophy is woven through modern libertarian-conservative philosophy and infects current Republicanism, which is far different than Lincoln's perception that the American ideal is "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."

For those who would like to read more about how Rand's philosophy is being distorted here is an analysis of Rand and modern Rand-inspired conservatism in the New York Times today.

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