Blog Archives

GOVERNING PANDEMIC BY OBJECTIVISM

What would philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982) have said about our governments’ COVID-19 policies?

Invisible laws create guilt.

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you can create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt.

Sacrifice is wrong.

‘An individualist is a man who says” ‘I will not run anyone’s life – nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone – nor sacrifice anyone to myself.’

It is time to count the cost of restriction.

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. 

What should we be doing differently?

BALANCING PANDEMIC CONTROL

The table attached compares central and devolved responses. 

Some individuals would be better off under the devolved strategy but others could regard it as creating unacceptable risk. Devolvers must obey the centralists’ laws without access to exemption by conscientious objection. By contrast, devolvers do not make any demands of centralists. Separate arrangements for centralists cannot be made by devolvers, nor can they compensate centralisers.

The centralists enforce a model of human behaviour that devolvers could find inconvenient and pessimistic. The centralists do not have evidence that their strategy does more public good. It can create more economic and educative harm. The centralist case is predicated on the disease being transmitted to more people by devolution because spreaders would be controlled by regulations. In the same way that government welfare reduces some peoples’ donations to needy people, social control of spreaders by friends, neighbours and strangers could be more effective than official regimes of isolation and social distancing. The centralist strategy discourages individuals from social responsibility and allows excessive arbitrary control over behaviour against peoples’ economic interests.

To portray humans as either social animals or as individualists reveals both have limitations. Responses should draw on both strategies. Centralism rolls up a snowball of regulations, when behaviours might be better dealt with by voluntary action. The onus is on vulnerable and infected people to limit their sociality and take care of themselves, before demanding others be constrained.

Accepting voluntarism by others requires trust, but so does observance of regulations. Many people prefer intervention by authorities to imposing their concerns on others who threaten. Trust of others has been lost at great cost, perhaps because the exercise of civility has been delegated to authorities to resolve, as has happened with road rage. When I went to work or a party with flu symptoms, some good person would remind me to go home. Could a pandemic be controlled like this?

Question: What if it would take only one miscreant to infect my loved ones?

Answer: Irresponsible behaviour is unlikely to be prevented by any regulations. They might reduce awareness of clear and present dangers.

My writing on Covid-19, trust, performance, government and economic growth is at: https://martinknox.com 

ON USA ELECTION EVE IS SELFISHNESS WORSE THAN LEVELLING?

ON USA ELECTION EVE IS SELFISHNESS WORSE THAN LEVELLING?

Not according to philosophers Ayn Rand and Jordan Peterson. They regard self-responsibility for family, kith and kin as paramount. It does not deny the need to care for others but opposes collective responsibility, socialist levelling and altruism. Attitudes are entrenched, for example in Britain’s class system, illustrated in the photo from a Montepython skit.

It has taken a long time and many social experiments to forge minds of modern men and women. Aristotle regarded our ultimate end as happiness, by virtuous living, which existed in a mean state between excess and deficiency. Prodigality was excessive, stinginess deficient, but liberality was virtuous. Selfishness would have been excessive. 

John Stuart Mill acknowledged that individual freedom, of which selfishness is an aspect, has to be limited in the interests of the community. Nietzsche saw individual achievement as daring to oppose and endure hardships, such as social inhibitions, by the exercise of an iron will. It was the apotheosis of selfishness and when demonstrated by Hitler and Stalin, wilful selfishness lost popularity. 

Simone de Beauvoir regarded freedom as requiring respect for others’ freedom, as if selfishness had a responsibility to others. The notion of ‘selfishness’ encapsulates a priori individualism and opposes collectivism without implying a dearth of social responsibility.

Individualism has levelling as a secondary concern, with the social problem being the have nots, rather than the haves, who are derided as selfish. Selfishness, in these terms, is therefore better than levelling, because self-care does not make claims on others’ responsibility and care. 

This issue could be resolved by individuals taking responsibility for and helping disadvantaged persons, rather than by labelling others’ behaviour as selfish or needing to be levelled.  

What is your view?

https://martinknox.com

%d bloggers like this: