Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beware - Don't "Damage the Broader Economy"

Given the torrent of frightening news related to the abrogation of freedom in America, it is hard for me to be even taken aback anymore. Then I read this article in the Washington Post.

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president's Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

But not to worry:

The Treasury secretary could act only after consulting with the president and getting a recommendation from two-thirds of the Federal Reserve Board, according to the plan.
So the Treasury secretary would merely have to deem a firm a potential threat to the "broader economy" in order to seize the firm. And who decides this vague and arbitrary standard? He would have to "consult" with the President and get approval from the Federal Reserve Board, an unelected board whose chairman is nominated by....the President.

Once again, we see the devastation wrought by the rejection of reason and principled thinking in favor of pragmatism. Note the line stating that at present the government only has the powers to seize banks. Is it shocking that if the government was given the power to seize banks that it would only be a matter of time before it sought to seize any financial institution?

This is the pattern of virtually all abridgements of our rights. At first, the government only seeks a limited intrusion to be applied to a small sub-set of individuals or firms and only under special circumstances. Individuals and businessmen especially, unable or unwilling to think in principle, do not see the broader implication of the new policy, and since it appears to not directly affect them right-now-this-minute, they either do not object or are willing to compromise. Of course, granting the government any power sets a precedent, i.e., establishes a justification to be used in the future. Therefore, when the government seeks a broader application of this power, the pragmatist is helpless to resist.

To resist such government policies would require the ability to think in principle. It would require the ability to understand the fundamental justification of a policy and the power to abstract the broader implications. It would require at least a cursory understanding of the nature of individual rights and the proper role of government. It might even require a knowledge of history to be used as a guide by which one can isolate similar events in the past and observe the consequences. In short, it would require the ability to reason.

And where would anyone obtain such an education today? The universities teach that reason is invalid, that objective knowledge is impossible, and that there are no black and whites. Therefore, economics today consists of the study of empirical relationships of quantitative data divorced from any general understanding or principles. History, they teach, is always biased by the historian and can only be seen through the prism of race, gender, and ethnicity. The history of the nation which brought about the greatest prosperity and happiness in world history is reduced to the study of the native American "genocide", slavery, and misogyny. Business schools use the "case study" method to reinforce the idea that the world is a stream of random concretes with no connection to one another. Psychologists tell us we are a product of our genes or environment. Moralists argue that ethics consists of self-sacrifice to God or in modern times, the "environment", and that man by his nature is a cancer to the planet. In short, the modern student is taught that principles are useless, everything is relative except that man (well, Western man) is evil and is destroying the planet, and his duty is to sacrifice.

Given the state of modern philosophy and its ripple effects throughout university curriculum's, is it any wonder that this country is in decline?

Jefferson was supposed to be the source of the quote: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" which is absolutely true. Vigilance means paying close and continuous attention and implies an ability to understand the broader implications of any action by the state. If man is stripped of his essential faculty, the reasoning mind, and told that it is useless to seek knowledge and abstract principles - if man is told that life is meaningless - if man is told that he has no control over his life and is a product of his genes or environment - if man is told that he is evil by nature and that his sole purpose is sacrifice and/or to minimize his "carbon footprint" - how can he be "vigilant" in this sense?

It is not the Obama's and Geithner's of the world that are responsible for our loss of freedom. The cause is a lack of "vigilance" brought about by the systematic attack on the efficacy of the human mind and therefore on individual rights. Nothing short of a philosophical revolution will allow and inspire vigilance once again.

8 comments:

Realist Theorist said...

"First they came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
... ... ...
... ... ...
Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me."

- Martin Niemoller

Ardsgaine said...

First they came for the communists

I think the communists are safe this time.

Mike N said...

I don't remember his name but recently a famous historian pointed out that one of the tragic consequences of modern schools not teaching American history is that a child cannot love a country he knows nothing about. So true!
Graduates may defend America from foreign invaders on the ground that it is their-the graduates-country. But they won't be able to defend it from the moral attacks from within.

Harold said...

"And where would anyone obtain such an education today? The universities teach that reason is invalid, that objective knowledge is impossible, and that there are no black and whites. Therefore, economics today consists of the study of empirical relationships of quantitative data divorced from any general understanding or principles. History, they teach, is always biased by the historian and can only be seen through the prism of race, gender, and ethnicity. The history of the nation which brought about the greatest prosperity and happiness in world history is reduced to the study of the native American "genocide", slavery, and misogyny. Business schools use the "case study" method to reinforce the idea that the world is a stream of random concretes with no connection to one another. Psychologists tell us we are a product of our genes or environment. Moralists argue that ethics consists of self-sacrifice to God or in modern times, the "environment", and that man by his nature is a cancer to the planet. In short, the modern student is taught that principles are useless, everything is relative except that man (well, Western man) is evil and is destroying the planet, and his duty is to sacrifice."

Killer.

It's kind of comforting though, cause at least I can understand why this is happening, if not concrete details. I've been learning about objectivism for the last several months, and before that time I didn't even think about philosophy--sort of like the section in the library one never visits.

Mike N said...

Harold:
If you don't mind my asking, what was the 'hook' so to speak that got you interested in examining further objectivist philosophy?

Harold said...

"Harold:
If you don't mind my asking, what was the 'hook' so to speak that got you interested in examining further objectivist philosophy?"


No problem. Well, I actually discovered this through Branden. I was in a bad place emotionally and was interested in self-esteem development and the like and found him. I know he had a falling out with Ayn Rand later, but that was really my first introduction. Around the same time, I had come to terms with my atheism. It was a long time coming, so it wasn't really painful or anything. I was also becoming disenchanted with conservative views (esp. talk radio). I then listened to an audio recording of Atlas Shrugged and really enjoyed it, though I really didn't get much of it then. I think it was the idea that intelligent, productive, people didn't have to apologize for their ability that really kept my interest. That and of course, that this is a philosophy based on reason, and so it explained things without appeals to mysticism or anything like that.

I've believed pretty crazy things before and don't want to make the same mistake again, so I'm taking my time here and learning about objectivism slowly, steadily, and crafting arguments for freedom along the way. I guess I'm just glad I discovered this sooner (under 25) rather than later.

Hope that answers your question.

Harold said...

..and one more thing. The idea that I have the right to exist for my own sake is also very compelling.

Mike N said...

Harold:

Thanks a lot. It is appreciated. For me it was the clarity with which Ms. Rand spoke in a late 60's interview on TV that made me go to the nearest book store looking for anything else she may have written. I found "For the new intellectual" and the rest is history.