Wednesday, October 27, 2010

America

Some of my favorite essays by Ayn Rand appear in the late 1960s and early 1970s; they represent a part of the Objectivist canon that goes underrecognized and underappreciated, because to fully recognize and appreciate them requires a certain (a) deep structural familiarity with Objectivism down to its unit-economizing psycho-epistemology and characteristically clear communication method, and (b) fundamentally American sense of life, one that the left-liberals squandered away with lousy philosophy. Some of my favorite Rand essays include "Apollo 11" (1969), "The Comprachicos" (1970-71), and "Don't Let It Go" (1972). This last, in particular, is unapologetic in its pro-Americanness. It represents a greater appreciation of America - not as it is, but as it might be and ought to be - than any of the flag-waving right-wingers (who would undermine America at every step, starting with silly and stupid amendments to the constitution to ban flag burning, as if a symbol were more important than the substantive freedom the symbol is supposed to symbolize; but it doesn't stop there: how about their reason-undermining religious tenets, eh?).

The Fountainhead is the Great American Novel. Rand's Letters are generously peppered with reverence and love for the country she emigrated to so that she could be more than nominally free to self-actualize as a novelist-philosopher. It's almost something the left-liberals simply don't get about this country, something they either forgot or never grasped, due to a Pragmatism-inspired education which inculcates Rawls-style mental processes rather than Rand-style mental processes. That alone stunts and stultifies genius and encourages wimpy conformity. What Americans qua Americans long for and hope for is a vision of man's greatness and examples of the ability to achieve it. They've already got that in its highest-paid actors, athletes, and businesspeople. Where they have yet to achieve that is in the area of the intellect, but once structural greatness is instilled at the level of the American intellect, we'll see "we've only just begun."

The left-liberals have nothing new to offer to enhance America's structural greatness; it's just more of the same old government, and bureaucrats, and public employee unions, and taxes, and crossed fingers ("maybe!") that it all doesn't fall apart on them. It's a cult not just of compromise and conformity, but of stagnation. Let's be more like the Euros and . . . stagnate. What kind of inspiring vision is that? It makes you almost want to hop right on over to the Palin camp, it's so stultifying and boring. Obama tells an audience of the converted the other today that "I am my brother's keeper." We've heard that for 2,000 years, and where has it gotten us? We are told that ethics and morality is supposed to be about restraining your own interests in the service of society. Kant, philosophy's Naked Emperor, said that ethics isn't and shouldn't be about achieving your own happiness, but about subordinating yourself to the Moral Law. The modern intellectuals just lap this nonsense right up, but it's not what America is about.

Already an observer of academia is seeing how happiness-based neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics is sweeping aside the fraudulent deontology-utilitarianism alternative, as neither of those manifestly inferior approaches tell us how to self-actualize or why that is the fundamental ethical priority. America's best home-grown intellects advance eudaemonism in ethics because, well, it's the only sound ethical system going. It's no mistake that Aristotle, the Philosopher, advocated a version of eudaemonism. At least Kant got it right that human moral life requires the free exercise of one's mind, but - aside from building that tenet upon an empty formalistic base - it's such an obviously true aspect of ethics that he doesn't get much more credit for identifying that ethical truism than other moderns like Locke, Jefferson, Spencer, Rand, Rothbard and many others deserve as well. Hell, Ayn Rand at age 21 could recognize that fundamental moral truism, in choosing America over Soviet Russia. That's the drawing power that America has to a truly functioning mind. Just let a country's minds be free, and there's pretty much no limit to the greatness that can unfold.

If you truly recognize, understand and appreciate what makes America great despite all its flaws and checkered history, you'll recognize that our best days are ahead of us, that we'll lead the rest of the world instead of follow, that Rand is on the way in and Rawls with his "let's forcibly sacrifice the most productive" ethos is on the way out, that Aristotelianism easily trumps Pragmatism as robustness trumps weakness as Roark trumps Keating, that this Friedmanite-liberaltarian pragmatist-maybe business is an aberration based on non-integration. We're going to see that Jefferson and Rand and Kubrick and Jordan and Stern and Buffett and Google can be the norm rather than the exception.

If we think of human history as analagous to human life-stages, we can identify the point in time that humanity reached its late adolescence, when it declared, via the United States Declaration of Independence, its independence from all forms of authority and tyranny over the mind of man. The rest of the world has had little choice but to follow in America's footsteps on this, or to perish. Humanity's next step is into full adulthood, and America can and will lead once again.

America - Fuck Yeah!

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