Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the July AD 2011
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Review:  Buchannan, Paul, Savage, Woods
Morality according to Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged?


Our Lady of the Rosary Pelican

Buchanan, Patrick J., Day of Reckoning, New York, Saint Martins, 2007, 294 pp.

 Paul, Ron, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom, New York, Grand Central, 2011, 352 pp.

 Savage, Michael, Trickle Up Poverty, New York, Harper Collins, 2010, xvi+365 pp.

 Woods, Jr., Thomas E., Rollback, Washington D.C., Regnery, 2011, 232 pp.

    It is becoming more and more obvious that the survival of the American Republic and the freedoms which her citizens enjoy demands the scaling back of the Leviathan state.  This is a significant issue for Catholics as any alternative to the Republic is most likely an impoverished totalitarian state, global in scope, and quite possibly Islamic in religion.

    All of the books mentioned above deal with the issue, although not from precisely the same perspective.  All are worth reading.  There are a few differences of opinion.

    Starting alphabetically, Patrick Buchanan deals primarily with the military issues of foreign policy.  He decries the Empire which the U.S. have become, while internally giving up its common culture.  Chapter 4, Imperial Outreach details our incredible number of foreign alliances, and questions whether or not we need 700+ foreign military bases.   America has troops everywhere except on its own borders, incurring both great expense and the wrath of occupied peoples.

    Over the years, Buchanan has come now to oppose free trade.  His arguments are cogent, but he fails to address the damage done by tariffs (like causing the Civil War and exacerbating the Great Depression), and to suggest what might make America a more competitive trading partner (like reducing taxes and regulation).  He alludes to Chinese manipulation of its currency, but fails to note that such manipulation would be impossible if payments were made and demanded in gold or silver.  Indeed, he has little or nothing to say about the Federal Reserve, the mortgage bubble, or government's creation or the boom and bust business cycle.

    Buchanan's treatment of the American Empire has to be read in conjunction with his Introduction, How Nations Perish, a castigation of the way Americans have allowed their culture to be undermined.

    Michael Savage would agree with all or most of what Buchanan has to say about the culture.  “Borders, language, and culture” are the three factors above all that Dr. Savage says define a nation.  His plan for reform is the Tea Party’s “Contract From America,” together with a number of more specific recommendations, all of which are found on pages 301-309.  He is more in favor of foreign military intervention than the other three, and seems not to recognize the destruction done to the economy by the Federal Reserve and the issue of fiat money—the warfare state and central banking usually go together.

    Buchanan's “list” is really his eighth chapter, “Day of Reckoning,” which differs from Savage’s primarily in the former’s insistence that America drastically reduce its overseas military presence and foreign aid.  He too omits mention of our monetary woes.

    Ron Paul’s “list” is either the entire fifty chapters which discuss “50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” or “The ten principles of a free society” found in the appendix.  While in no way being irresponsible, Dr. Paul’s contention can be summarized that for America to flourish once again, government control in virtually aspect of human life must be vastly scaled back, or eliminated altogether when it is not government’s constitutional business.

    Paul is clearly pro-life, although he sometimes takes heat from Catholics on this issue for his position that the federal government has little of no justification for interfering in the States’ handling of the issue.  He points out that he federal arrogance of Roe v. Wade overturned the laws of fifty States with no constitutional justification.  He is adamant that any law-making body must respect the rights of the baby just as it respects the rights of the mother, and that government has no right to tax the unwilling to pay for abortions.  He makes a strong case that many of the moral arguments of our time would be eased if government ceased giving one interest group the power to coerce the others.

    Tom Woods is always in close agreement with Dr. Paul, and His book, Rollback, is written in a slightly more prescriptive style than Paul’s.  None of our four authors disputes the need for a strong national defense.  Only Savage suggests that it should be used to defend other nations’ borders, and all agree that our borders must be defended.  If I find any fault in Woods’ analysis, it is in his blanket statement that the military has no need of “overkill” and doesn’t need to be able to “annihilate the same city more than once” (p.96)  While there is something compelling in this, it must not be forgotten that the military must defend the nation even if attacks are unexpected, and even if they originate in unexpected locations.  Sometimes a bit of “overkill” is required for the generals to “get there the firstest with the mostest.”

    Woods’ chapter seven is particularly important, admitting that a complete rollback is politically impossible at the moment (p.171), but listing a number of ideas that are gaining public acceptance, and which would go a long way towards reversing the current crisis.  Tom Woods seems to hit all the bases.


OLR Pelican
Q&A:  Atlas Shrugged?

    Question:  I was going to go see Atlas Shrugged, but I am not sure that I will.  I read the book 10-15 years ago, and know what it is. At that time, I understood that Ayn Rand had a problem—that being that she had no guiding lights (the Church).  She tried to reason all moral problems, and that doesn't work without guidance.  Unfortunately, some folks never figure that out, so we end up with abortions and pervert “pride.”  I think it will be worth your efforts to address this problem in a future bulletin. I'd suppose there will be many folks go see the movie, and be misled. The story is fine, and understandable, talking economics, but falls far short in morality. —G.D., Loxahatchee

    Answer:  I did not read Atlas Shrugged, and missed the movie.  But I had a role in Ayn Rand's courtroom drama, The Night of January 16th, when it ran for three evenings at Bryant High School in New York, and I read two of her non-fiction works, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, so I understand the questioner's concern.

    It is the belief of Catholics that, even without divine revelation, it is possible for men to know that there is a God and to know some of His attributes (natural theology), and to develop a general understanding of how He wants us to behave (natural law).  We can know God by His impact on the world around us, and we can know His natural law by recognizing our duties toward Him and toward our fellow creatures.  The last seven of the ten Commandments can be intuited from the behaviors necessary to make human society work.  Simply stated, society will prosper only if people are not beating, killing, stealing from, lying to, and cheating on one another.

    While she is quite correct in her economic ideas—most of which square well with traditional Catholic social teaching—Rand's ethical ideas ignore both divine revelation and natural law, in favor of selfishness, which she extolls as a virtue.  Her selfishness is not the enlightened self-interest which many on the left identify with greed and selfishness—it is a consideration of self almost in solipsism, the concept that only the one thinking really exists and everything else is only his imagination.  She has her fictional character John Galt from Atlas Shrugged articulate her philosophy:

    You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. ... For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors–between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.

    Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, 2 February  1905 – 6 March 1982), grew up in the throes of the Russian Revolution.  She and her family were non-observant Jews, who supported the losing faction of Alexander Kerensky, and suffered at the hands of the Bolsheviks.  She was able to emigrate to America, but was never able to bring her family to her new home.  In the U.S. she worked in a Marxist filled Hollywood, and seems to have made the mistake of identifying government with society.  Although a staunch advocate of free enterprise, she failed to consider that all of society is necessary for that enterprise to succeed and prosper.  Her morality and philosophy, which she called “Objectivism,” was centered on hard working yet pride filled elite people who made the economy function.  She wrote:

    The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics  is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.  To live for his own self means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose.[1]

    It may not be immediately obvious but John Galt’s and Ayn Rand’s speeches given above are propaganda—the sort of lying that contains mostly truth, but which excludes an important alternative.  Rand‑Galt simply “blows off” the moral dimension, making it seem as though loving one’s neighbor for the love of God is an unprofitable waste of effort, not even to be considered by rational men and women.  In reality there is nothing more in our enlightened self-interest than doing whatever is necessary to insure our eternal salvation.  To answer our Lord’s question:  it profits a man nothing “if he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul.”[2]

    It is difficult to envision a decent life without the love and mutual support of family and friends.  These are the building blocks of any society.  And a great deal of what is good in America—from the skyscrapers, suspension bridges, and symphony orchestras to the abundant availability of affordable food, clothing, and housing—depends on the labor, talent, and cooperation of a lot of people who are not the intellectual elite;  who are not the John Galts and Dagny Taggarts of this world.  It is hard to imagine a business in a free economy that is unconcerned with reputation and customer good will.  The society of such people is not the repressive government of the Bolsheviks of Rand's native Russia, nor of the Roosevelts in her adopted America.  The entrepreneurs are, of course, necessary, for few enterprises are auto-directing or self-financing—and the entrepreneurs are worthy of praise and financial reward—but enlightened self-interest suggests that all of the participants in enterprise deserve respect and a share in what is produced.  As Catholics we know that they are “good and faithful servants,” hardworking children of God—but even without the gift of the Faith they should be endeared to us by enlightened self-interest.

    There is no contradiction between self-interest, a free economy, private property and Catholic social teaching.  The saintly Pope Leo XIII wrote:

    5. It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own. If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man's little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels.  Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.[3]

    It is sometimes argued that the free economy is remiss in not guaranteeing a worker a “family wage.”  What ought, in fact, to be considered is that the free economy allows the employer to pay such a wage, and allows workers to seek out such employers, while many controlled economies do not.  Not too many years ago in these United States you could find employers who paid the man with a wife and children more than the single woman who did the same job.  Today, thanks to government and union control of the economy, such a thing is illegal:

    The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work....  All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans....[4]

    And, speaking of unions, Leo XIII clearly envisioned the union as a voluntary Catholic organization—one that provided a moral climate for joint efforts of owners and workers to solve problems,, promoted divine worship and, and provided Catholic education to its members.  The members were to be free to break away from any union that did not have these characteristics and form a new union of their own.[5]  Modern American labor law gives unions the force of government to compel membership and dues payment, to exclude non-union workers from job opportunities, and to exclude the possibility of forming a second labor organization after the first wins a certification election.  Government “looking the other way” allowed sit down strikes and acts of violence that established the unions in power and allowed them to win the ruinous pension and benefit plans which have nearly crushed American industry.  None of this would have happened under a free economy.

    While Ayn Rand's morals may have developed through erroneous reasoning, her economics are not thereby tainted.



[1]  Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (New York City: Signet, 1964), p. 27.  Italics in the original.

[3]  Pope Leo XIII, Rerum novarum (emphasis supplied).

[5]  Rerum novarum, # 43-end, especially 57, 48


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