Monday, September 19, 2011
Taking a look at Instapundit this morning, I found Glenn Reynolds asking whether the U.S. entitlement system is "morally bankrupt". My first reaction was, "That's nice. An ARI article got an Instalanche."
Not to downplay Instalanches, but it turns out that the link leads elsewhere than to Yaron Brook and Don Watkins's recent Forbes piece: It takes the reader from a somewhat sympathetic blogger to a mainstream media site, Yahoo Finance, instead. There, Henry Blodget presents the gist of the argument reasonably well, and notes that he asked Brook about his views:
But if the money for Social Security is being stolen from citizens who don't believe in it, why isn't the money to pay for the military also being stolen from pacifists who don't believe in war?As someone who is pretty familiar with Rand's ideas, I know that Brook's answer isn't the whole picture here -- but it's impossible to present such a complex argument in an answer to a question, and off the top of one's head in a conversation. I'm impressed because the answer was still thought-provoking, as evidenced by the last paragraph.
Because, says Brook, the collection and spending of the latter money is in everyone's interests and is therefore justified.
Hmmm. Social Security certainly has its problems, as does the United States as a whole. But it seems inconsistent to suggest that some money collected and spent by the government is "stolen," while other money isn't.
Ayn Rand's ideas have gone, over the course of the last couple of decades, from being actively ignored in major news media to sometimes getting a respectful (if sometimes puzzled) hearing; and from being smeared a la Whittaker Chambers to being asked about thoughtfully. I'm always grateful when her ideas are noticed by sympathetic commentators, but their success will ultimately hinge on being heard by a broader audience than conservatives and libertarians. That's what I like about the Yahoo Finance piece.
Any mention of Rand brings with it the possibility that someone receptive to her ideas will become curious and start reading her. (A snide remark about "selfishness as ... virtue" in a college newspaper did this for me.) But when Rand's ideas are actually given fair treatment, the chances of this happening increase exponentially, both in terms of the number of people who might become curious and in terms of how likely someone might be to decide that that curiosity is worth satisfying.
Contrast this to how the intellectually dead Left "communicates," and it is clear that the battle to change minds is winnable. (As a bonus, you'll also laugh for several reasons.)