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Friday, October 8, 2010 - 6:47pmSanction this postReply
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Bill Whittle has left Pajamas Media and founded his own company, Declaration Entertainment. This is his first video where he talks on his inimitable style about Limited Government and Free Enterprise.

I know, I know, it's called "What We Believe", but give it a try anyway.


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Saturday, October 9, 2010 - 8:05amSanction this postReply
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Watched this last night and loved it.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010 - 8:46amSanction this postReply
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Excellent video.

Ed


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Monday, October 11, 2010 - 6:16pmSanction this postReply
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Didn't like it.  The conservative idea that human nature is flawed because it is driven by self-interest is not only wrong, but destructive.  It assumes an altruistic morality, and claims mankind just isn't good enough to follow it.  It points at all of the stupid, short-sighted actions that people take and says that that is self-interest.  And then it creates a political theory of small government aimed opposing it.

One key difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals think that mankind can practice altruism consistently, and conservatives think they can't.  But both believe they should.

The conservative view of small government, which is consistent with their view of human nature, is simply that we shouldn't have a large government because it could be subverted by evil people.  But the Objectivist view is that government shouldn't violate our rights.  We're not interested in small government.  We're interested in strictly limited government.  We're not limiting it because we think someone could abuse it. We're limiting it because a government that initiates force is already bad.  Illegitimate power is not something that can be abused.  Its very use is wrong from the start, and abuse is just people's way of saying that it isn't being used the way they prefer.

The idea of putting checks and balances on government can sound appealing, but we don't need to take the conservative justification for it.  We don't do it because human nature is flawed, and self-interest will always win.  We don't accept that view of self-interest.  We do it because we should never have to rely on the trust or goodwill of others for the defense of our rights.  We want to limit the power of individuals and government so we aren't in a position where we have to count on someone else holding back.  The altruistic view would be fine with giving ultimate power to someone and then saying that if they were moral, they wouldn't use it.  But altruism loves resisting temptations, holding back when you don't have to, and sacrificing in general.  We don't want them to have that kind of power in the first place, and we don't care to put people in situations where they'll be empowered and tempted to hurt others.

[Edited for Typos]

(Edited by Joseph Rowlands on 10/12, 2:20pm)


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Monday, October 11, 2010 - 7:35pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Joe:

You have the ability to pull the discussion back to the core values and tenets of Objectivism the sole, legitimate purpose of government is to protect the rights of the individual.

Sam


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 3:35amSanction this postReply
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"The conservative idea that human nature is flawed because it is driven by self-interest is not only wrong, but destructive."
 
I missed where Whittle pounded on that common mantra.  I'll have to watch it again.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 2:09pmSanction this postReply
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On further review, it turns out Joe is right.

Bill Whittle talks about a 'natural, human bastardliness' (to control others) -- and that is a wrong view of man.

Ed


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 4:36pmSanction this postReply
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The beauty of an excellent forum...each person sees something different which strips part of the emotional camouflage away, leaving only facts and the truth.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 5:04pmSanction this postReply
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On further review, it turns out Joe is right.
 
Yep. I had to watch the video another two times today, and make quick notes, before I could understand what Joe's beef was. "Ooooh, I see it, okay. Joe is right."

I'm thinking its not a good thing that I let so much slide, even when its coming from someone I really like.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 11:48pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, that was an excellent post. I like Bill Whittles Video, but it is as flawed as his claim that human nature if flawed and I enjoyed how well you picked that apart.
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Bill Whittle, in the video, says, "We don't believe that human nature can change. We don't think that people are perfectable. ... We believe that people are motivated primarily by their own self-interests. Some people see this view that we have that human nature is fundamentally flawed and selfish and essentially unchangable as cynical and pessimistic. On the contrary it is this belief that generates the checks and balances against the natural human bastardliness that otherwise wants to tell other people what to do. These checks and balances prevent the accumulation of too much power in the hands of too few people..." He goes on to say that it is the big government people that believe that human beings are perfectable and that if government does enough it can perfect them. He claims that states sought perfection through equality of income, through providing education, or by killing everyone that is wrong. He says, "People aren't perfect and they aren't perfectable. We in the Tea Party value the constitution because it limits the power of the people that go into government because they crave power over others and we perfer business over government because if you don't like the way a business treats you, you can go to another business. You don't like the service the government provides you don't get to go to another government people."
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Perfectibility

It started as a philosophical question and it addressed the issue of man's relation to an ideal state where one was in harmony with nature, with reason, with human nature. This theorized state was determined by reason and measured by reason and could be attained by anyone. "Living according to reason and virtue, the Stoics held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe..."

Then it became a theological issue and like angeles dancing on the head of a pin it achieved the status of meaninglessness. Instead of nature as understood by reason and logic, it became harmony with God as determined by faith and scripture. It remains today an issue with various religions. Is only God perfect and man must always be imperfect no matter what he strives to do? Does God give Grace to those who desire and strive for perfection? More ways to construe guilt and ladle out humility or devise impossible goals.

After the dark ages 'perfectibility' came back to life with those who held that man was closest to perfect when he was closest to nature. But they didn't mean nature as in the properties of an entity, i.e., human nature or the nature of the universe. No, they meant go back to the wilderness or to being a hunter-gatherer. They meant that strange version of nature as meaning all that exists that has not been changed by or belonging to man. An anti-civilization, anti-reason point of view. This was a claim that reason and logic tells us to abandon reason and logic and science and technology and return to 'nature.'

Then came a variation on that view - a different interpretation altogether which said that the use of reason enabled man to better observe natures laws and that perfection was in that direction. This was just history coming around to where the Greeks began.

If perfectability is totally impossible, it is a denial of free will. Certainly if we have some degree of free will we can effect changes - including in moving towards ideals. At that point it becomes a matter of defining the ideals. On the other hand, if human nature were flawed, and unperfectable, then how could any political system help or matter? The Christians and the Conservatives both have held with a degree of free will, yet they both refute it as well. The Christians tell people to choose good over evil which presume the ability to do so. Yet the claim that all is Gods will, leaving no room for man's will. The conservatives claim that individuals must take personal responsibility and uphold the values of free enterprise, both positions imply a degree of free will. Yet their philosophy holds that man is flawed and the purpose of government is to restrict power. How is it possible to create a good goverment if there are no good people? How does one get rid of their flaws long enough to create this good govermment, and stay away from the flaws so as to preserve it? They don't answer that.
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If there were to be any merit to a discussion of perfectibility (and I'm not sure there ever would be), it will arise out of the what purpose perfectibility would serve for an individual, for his own self-interest and not for duty to society or God. Just as Objectivists know that the purpose of government is the protection of the individual's rights.


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 10:41pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks everyone.

Teresa, sorry I wasn't clear enough.  I've seen that defense of conservatism before, and I believe the idea that human nature is flawed is a fundamental idea.  It leads to many others, including the distrust in government and the "ruling elite".

My concern is that the alleged flaw in human nature is our inability to practice altruism consistently.  We're "just to selfish".  The opposite belief is worse, of course.  The left thinks we can and should practice it consistently, so they are in favor of unlimited government and they see any limitations on acting morally, such as the Constitution or rule of law, as getting in the way.  So it's easy to think that the conservatives are allies with enemies like that.  But the problem is that ideas have lots of consequences.

If you think that altruism is the right moral standard, but that you can't expect individuals to practice it, then you focus on institutions that manipulate or pressure people into acting how you want.  You are concerned with incentives and pressures.  Checks and balances.  The institution of marriage, or family, or church, or community.  Old fashioned societal pressure to conform is look on with nostalgia.  Some want to strengthen cultural norms by the use of stigmas.  You should be shamed into being altruistic.  You should be viewed as a misfit unless you conform.  The goal isn't to increase our freedom, but to spread around the power where it can be "used" but not "abused".

Freedom is not the goal.  At best it is viewed as a way of converting selfish impulses into something more in line with altruistic goals.  That's why freedom is only promoted in certain forms.  You can have economic freedom, because it will help the poor indirectly.  But who says you can have freedom of speech?  If you are allowed to say things that diminish the indirect forms of control, then you are undermining the ultimate goal of altruism.  Social freedoms generally don't convert your selfish whims into altruistic goals, and that's why they don't need to be secured.  Economic freedom is only allowed because it does the altruistic job.

It also explains why they are so helpless when confronting the left.  They both agree on the goals.  The left says if we want to accomplish some particular goal, we should just do it.  The right can't disagree with the goal, and so they end up having to argue that they really do want that goal, but they think it should be done indirectly.  The left accuses the right of not really wanting to accomplish the altruistic goal, and so they question their motives.  The right can't question the motives of the left, so they have to claim that they are well meaning but their approach has problems.  And that is how most of the political debate goes.

We're in a unique position of understanding that altruism is taken for granted by the left and the right, since we don't accept it ourselves.  So we can understand why they talk past each other, and why the right will always seem heartless and the left will always seem brainless.

Steve, your points about perfectibility are worthwhile to discuss, but in this particular context I don't think it matters.  The real issue here is the assumption that altruism is the right way to live.  It's not, and any attempt at perfect implementation would lead to tragedy.  In other words, the flaw isn't the view that people can't be perfect.  It's the idea that perfection means altruism.


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 11:01pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,
Steve, your points about perfectibility are worthwhile to discuss, but in this particular context I don't think it matters. The real issue here is the assumption that altruism is the right way to live. It's not, and any attempt at perfect implementation would lead to tragedy. In other words, the flaw isn't the view that people can't be perfect. It's the idea that perfection means altruism.
I agree. I just went off on an interesting tangent - attempting to deal with the use of "perfectibility" in his video. My post wasn't meant to be anything else. Your approach was dead on.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 2:36amSanction this postReply
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Well said, Joe... and if more persons were to grasp that altruism [otherism] is actually a slaver mindset, they would be less inclined to see it as perfection, nor the brute as its supposed opposite...

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Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 6:50amSanction this postReply
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Joe R: " I've seen that defense of conservatism before, and I believe the idea that human nature is flawed is a fundamental idea.  It leads to many others, including the distrust in government and the 'ruling elite'."

Not just among conservatives, but among "left-leaning Libertarians" like Neil Peart of Rush: I just did a whole
post about Peart's objections to Objectivism that came through on the Hold Your Fire album and confirmed in a 1997 Liberty article. All the themes Joe mentions are there in the lyrics:

"Second Nature":

It ought to be second nature/
I mean, the places where we live/
Let's talk about this sensibly/
We're not insensitive/
I know progress has no patience/
But something's got to give/
 
I'd like some changes/
But you don't have the time/
We can't go on thinking/
It's a victimless crime/
No one is blameless/
But we're all without shame/
It ought to be second nature/
At least, that's what I feel/
Now I lay me down in Dreamland/
I know perfect's not for real/
I thought we might get closer/
But I'm ready to make a deal/
 
"Lock and Key":

The balance can sometimes fail/
Strong emotions can tip the scale/
I don't want to face the killer instinct/
Face it in you or me/
So we keep it under lock and key/
 It goes on to say

It's not a matter of conscience/
A search for probable cause/
It's just a matter of instinct/
A matter of fatal flaws/
 

 And in the article, Peart is described as having only "two specific areas of disagreement" with Objectivism...but disagreements they are, including his support of socialized charity. The Peart of "Anthem" and "2112" is now the "left-wing libertarian": "Contrary to Rand's rejection of any form of government welfare, Peart supports a safety net for those in need. Although he would prefer that welfare be funded voluntarily, he is not convinced that private charity alone could support the truly needy."

 
And in the lyrics above, you can see why: original sin. I guess his mind is, after all, for rent "to any god or government."
 
 

(Edited by Joe Maurone on 10/14, 6:51am)


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