November 4, 2012

Review Corner

Man, am I ever behind in writing Review Corners. I finished the selection for the Jc-Jk Book Club. but want to give my interlocutor seem time to catch up. The selection foisted upon me was short and he delivered a copy (what service!) Much to say later, but it was actually enjoyable.

I have a few finished books to review, but think it is time to address Yaron Brooks's Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government.

I'll start, and we can attempt virtual book club in the comments. But I will start at the end:

Stop letting the enemies of capitalism claim the moral high ground. There is nothing noble about altruism, nothing inspiring about the initiation of force, nothing moral about Big Government, nothing compassionate about sacrificing the individual to the collective. Don't be afraid to dismiss those ideas as vicious, unjust attacks on the pursuit of happiness, and self-confidently assert that there is no value higher than the individual's pursuit of his own well-being.

That remains the most difficult of Rand's ideas to accept. I do not disagree with a word of it. But I am drawn to the economic arguments and the pragmatic political possibilities. Brook in person (really, watch the video if you were not there) and in this book is affable and forthright. And I confess that I am finally seeing the wisdom of attacking the problem at a deeper level even if it is difficult.

Brook's clarity and humor bring principles to life.

It's crucial, here, that the use of force be physical. There is no such thing as forcing someone via emotional or intellectual means. If your loser brother-in-law guilts you into paying his bills, he didn't make you pay his bills. If Amazon runs a really great commercial for the Kindle Fire, Jeff Bezos didn't make you buy one -- he persuaded you. If peer pressure leads you to jump off a bridge, you still had the power to heed your mother's advice.
The worst victims of this injustice are the ambitious poor. By sapping immense amounts of capital from productive individuals, the entitlement state cuts down on the number of businesses that get launched, the number of jobs that get created, the amount of economic progress that takes place, the amount of economic opportunity that is available. Although the wealthy can get by in an entitlement state, at least for a while, those wishing to climb out of poverty often cannot.

I attempted to make an argument, a week before seeing Dr. Brook, against the altruism that celebrates Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's giving money away more than the massive good done by their earning it. I failed and perhaps could not do much better after the book to separate benevolence -- which is good -- from altruism. Modern people use the terms interchangeably, not thinking of Comte but of kind neighbors. Being against kind neighbors is a tough sell.

At the same time, ceding the moral ground cannot continue.

Individual liberty means that if you develop a scientific theory that holds that the earth revolves around the sun, no pope can silence you. If you want to follow your dream of becoming an electrician, no bureaucrat can demand that you first get a government license. If you and your doctor judge that an experimental new drug is the best shot you have at saving your life, you don't have to consult some FDA official. If you want to revolutionize transportation, you don't have to explain yourself to Rex Tugwell.

I am coming around...

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at November 4, 2012 10:34 AM
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