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Thursday, February 03, 2005
  Mises on Rand
I thought the following letter would be of interest to some of my readers; I vaguely knew Ludwig Von Mises respected Ayn Rand for defending capitalism, but I wasn't aware of any written record. With the centennial of Ayn Rand's birth going on, I happened across this letter, written to Ayn Rand by Mises shortly after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. You can find a copy of the original letter in PDF format here, but I also took the liberty of transcribing it here on the blog:
January 23, 1958

Mrs. Ayn Rand
36 East 36 Street
New York, N.Y.

Dear Mrs. Rand,

I am not a professional critic and I feel no call to judge the merits of a novel. So I do not want to detain you with the information that I enjoyed very much reading Atlas Shrugged and that I am full of admiration for your masterful construction of the plot.

But "Atlas Shrugged" is not merely a novel. It is also -- or may I say: first of all -- a cogent analysis of the evils that plague our society, a substantiated rejection of the ideology of our self-styled "intellectuals" and a pitiless unmasking of the insincerity of the policies adopted by governments and political parties. It is a devasting exposure of the "moral cannibals," the "gigolos of science" and of the "academic prattle" of the makers of the "anti-industrial revolution." You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.

If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, is still is the truth that had to be said in this age of the Welfare State.

I warmly congratulate you and I am looking forward with great expectations to your future work.


Ludwig Mises
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
  Iraqi Elections
This op-ed from the Ayn Rand Institute was written prior to the elections in Iraq, but it explains why the optimism they've engendered is unwarranted.
Bush's Betrayal of America: The Iraqi Elections
Friday, January 28, 2005
By: Elan Journo

The Iraqi election will bring neither freedom to Iraq nor security to America.

President Bush claims that holding elections on January 30 will bring Iraq a step closer to freedom, an outcome allegedly vital to America's security. But the Iraqi election will bring neither freedom to Iraq nor security to America.

Consider the beliefs of the Iraqis who will be voting for "freedom" in the upcoming election. Like so many peoples in the Middle East, Iraqis regard themselves as defined by their membership in some larger group, not by their own ideas and goals. Most Iraqis owe their loyalties--and derive their honor from belonging--to their familial clan, tribe or religious sect, to which the individual is subservient. This deep-seated tribalism is reflected in the parties running in the elections: there is a spectrum ranging from advocates of secular collectivist ideologies (communists and Ba'athists) to those defined by bloodlines (such as Kurds and Turkmens) to members of various religious sects.

What will be the result of an election featuring such voters and candidates? Iraqis will merely bring to power some assortment of collectivists and Islamists. Whatever constitution those leaders eventually frame will reflect their desire to arrogate power to their particular group and to settle old scores, such as the longstanding enmity between the Shi'ite majority and Sunnis. It may well permit barbaric treatment of individuals, commonly accepted throughout the Islamic world, such as "honor-killings" of women believed to have had sex before marriage, or the banning of "un-Islamic" speech. And in the long term, the new nation may become an active sponsor of Islamic terrorism.

Perhaps the most alarming outcome for U.S. security would be a popularly elected theocracy aligned with or highly sympathetic to Iran's totalitarian regime. Iran is reported to have smuggled nearly one million people into Iraq to vote and has donated millions of dollars to sway the election in favor of a Shi’ite-led government. Already, Iranian intelligence officials are said to roam the hallways of Iraqi party offices, on whose walls hang pictures of Iran's supreme leader.

That a theocracy may rise to power in Iraq appears to be totally compatible with the President's conception of "freedom." As he told Fox News in October, if Iraq votes in a fundamentalist government, he would "be disappointed. But democracy is democracy. . . If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."

This certainly is democracy--in its literal sense of unlimited majority rule. But it is not freedom.

Political freedom does not mean the expression of a collective will, nor the granting of power to one pressure group to exploit others. It means the protection of an individual from the initiation of physical force by others. Freedom rests on the idea of individualism: the principle that every man is an independent, sovereign being, that he is not an interchangeable fragment of the tribe; that his life, liberty, and possessions are his by right, not by the permission of any group. Democracy (i.e., majority rule) rests on the primacy of the group; if your gang is strong enough, you can get away with whatever you want, sacrificing the life and wealth of whoever stands in your way. This is why America's Founders rejected democracy and created a republican form of government, limited by the inalienable rights of the smallest "minority": the individual. Our system does have elections, of course, but they are only legitimate within a constitutional framework that prohibits the majority from voting away the rights of anyone.

Can freedom be achieved in Iraq? In the near future, no--which is one of many reasons why it is suicidal for Bush to treat Iraqi freedom as the centerpiece of American self-defense. American security does not require that the terrorism-sponsoring nations of the Middle East be free, only that they be non-threatening--a goal that can be achieved by making it clear to the leaders of these nations that any continued sponsorship of terrorism will mean their immediate destruction.

In the long run, if Iraqis or other peoples of the Middle East are to become free--a task that is their responsibility, not America's--they must first recognize that their current ideas and practices are incompatible with freedom. They must recognize that they need to adopt a philosophy of individualism. A good first step toward teaching this lesson would be not granting them the pretense of elections.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
  I know I'm early, but...
I wanted to write this now, when I'm certain I'll have the time. Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. Rather than write a post regaling her achievements and listing links, I'll direct you to Cox and Forkum's page, which does an admirable job of that. Instead, I'll share a small vignette from the Fountainhead, which captures my feelings towards Ayn Rand, and what her achievements mean to me personally:
After a long time he glanced about him--and then he saw that he was not alone. Some steps away from him a man sat on a boulder, looking down at the valley. The man seemed absorbed in the sight and had not heard his approach. The man was tall and gaunt and had orange hair.

He walked straight to the man, who turned his eyes to him; the eyes were grey and calm; the boy knew suddenly that they felt the same thing, and he could speak as he would not speak to a stranger anywhere else.

"That isn't real, is it?" the boy asked, pointing down.

"Why, yes, it is, now," the man answered.

"It's not a movie set, or a trick of some kind?"

"No. It's a summer resort. It's just been completed. It will be opened in a few weeks."

"Who built it?"

"I did."

"What's your name?"

"Howard Roark."

"Thank you," said the boy. He knew that the steady eyes looking at him understood everything these two words had to cover. Howard Roark inclinced his head, in acknowledgment.

Wheeling his bicycle by his side, the boy took the narrow path down the slope of the hill to the valley and the houses below. Roark looked after him. He had never seen that boy before, and he would never see him again. He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime.

-Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, pgs. 505-506
  Cox and Forkum - Ayn Rand Centenary
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