Deny the mind, deny lifeThis is a reply to Mark Kantrowitz's column ["Altruism, capitalism not exclusive," Oct. 25].
I argued in my letter ["Morality precedes the law; you are not owned by the state," Oct. 18] that individual rights subordinate the state to the ethics of egoism. I then referred the reader to Ayn Rand's essays for arguments that man needs egoism. This is "passing the buck," but it is a complex topic difficult to discuss in a brief letter. However, I did give some detailed concrete examples showing (if life on this earth is the standard) the absurdity of the contrary view.
I might add to that letter's discussion of rights that a criminal (i.e. a person who violates the rights of someone else) by his own voluntary action gives up, to a degree proportionate to his crime, his own rights. In a capitalist system, the government may use force in (and only in) retaliation against those who initiate the use of force. And thus criminals can be penalized. (Force is the essence of any government, and defense is the only use of it in a capitalist one).
Statism is the opposite of capitalism. Instead of protecting your life and earnings from those who would take them by force, the state owns (or controls) you and what you produce.
I claim that altruism (self-sacrifice, selfless disinterested service to others) in ethics leads to statism in politics.
Look at history. Every statist leader, from Joseph Stalin to Adolf Hitler, from socialist to fascist, found the ideas of self-sacrifice, service before self, duty, etc., common in the populace and urged them further. Once the idea "your life is not your own" is rooted in their minds, the state can draw the corollary "your life is ours."
Look at theory. If selfless service to others is the good and acting out of rational self-interest the evil, what system of government would promote the former and hinder the latter? One that protects what you earn, or one that takes it away from you for you and your neighbor's alleged benefit?
I hope you see that altruism is the ethical basis of statism, and thus is inconsistent with capitalism. One cannot consistently advocate altruism for individuals and capitalism for society.
Concerning social system, Kantrowitz says that he personally "would strongly dislike any system in which the few make decisions for the many." However, he has no objection to the other way around: a system in which the many (i.e. society) make decisions for (i.e. compel) the few (e.g. individuals). He says repeatedly: "A society can use (its) power (of numerically superiority) to establish rights and responsibilities for its members," enforced by society "through the State." If this is not making you a pawn of the collective and a vassal of the state, then he must be using a secret code language in which to express himself.
The power he speaks of is plain muscle power. Society is a collection of individuals and has much more muscle power than a lone individual. But it has no rights of its own, or rights to grant, whatsoever. Justice is not a question of numerical vote or of physical strength.
I believe Kantrowitz is unable to understand this because of his materialism. Materialists see the universe (including man) as only masses in motion, nothing more. To them might (or numerical superiority) is right, rights stem from might.
The materialistic, anti-mind view of existence is behind Kantrowitz's challenge ["Our human rights have been created by society," Oct. 8] to David Honig to reveal in men "physical trait called `human rights' " (italics mine) as if a concept could be cut out of a man's chest and displayed to the sight and touch.
It is this materialism which causes him to ask in his Oct. 25 column: "But who defines these principles" of "right and wrong?" That is a loaded question because nobody mandates principles. The nature and discovery of concepts (principles, abstractions) is beyond a materialist's comprehension.
I would like to repeat and emphasize that the notion of society as primary to the individual turns out in practice to mean aristocratic cliques, unhappy parasites who collect your life's effort and then claim to help you in a spirit of noblesse oblige.