6-21-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Consistency Slandered as Hypocrisy

Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute notes:

Whenever I attack Social Security as an immoral institution that needs to be abolished, someone announces that my arguments are irrelevant because Ayn Rand was a hypocrite who took Social Security. (One version of this "argument" claims that Rand ended up a poverty-stricken welfare recipient, which is only wishful thinking on the part of her opponents.)

What most people don't realize -- and what surely is relevant to the debate -- is that Rand herself argued that opposing Social Security and cashing Social Security checks is not hypocritical.
Watkins points to a post by Onkar Ghate (also of ARI) that elaborates on this point. It reads in part, as excerpted by Watkins:
Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one "regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism" (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced.

Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced "participation" unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program's injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security.

This being said, your moral integrity does require that you view the funds only as (partial) restitution for all that has been taken from you by such welfare schemes and that you continue, sincerely, to oppose the welfare state.
This is also a point many conservatives would do well to take to heart.

Weekend Reading

"It's psychologically healthy to attach conditions to your self-worth" -- Michael Hurd, in "Don't Expect Your Self-Esteem for Free" at The Delaware Coast Press

"... I suggested to my client that she suggest to her friend that it pains her to see him so selflessly - yes, selflessly, i.e., with no concern for himself - squandering his life. " -- Michael Hurd, in "Remind Them Why You Care" at The Delaware Wave

In Further Detail

The Hurd piece on self-esteem mentions the issue as it relates to parenting, noting in part that, "[C]hildren are actually quite perceptive and can often see through the unwarranted, feel-good muck that adults (especially in today's society) sometimes inflict upon them." I am glad to hear this since current fashions seem to call for enormous amounts of unwarranted praise to be directed towards children. In reaction, and in the hope of helping my children know they can rely on me for useful feedback, I make it a point to praise actual accomplishments, but not join in the chorus of phony "affirmation".

The Art of Oddsmaking

Updating myself on the World Cup yesterday evening, I ran into a mesmerizing graphic that allows one to check on the current odds of any given team advancing to: the knock-out stage (winning its pool or placing second in its pool, figured separately), the round of 16, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, or the final.

Last, but Not Least

It is hard to believe that I have been a father for three years today! (I have had two children for just a bit over a year, too.)  I remember seeing each of my children for the very first time like it was yesterday, and marvel at how much they have grown in that short amount of time.

Happy birthdays, Pumpkin and Little Man!



Steve D said...

…your moral integrity does require that you view the funds only as (partial) restitution for all that has been taken from you by such welfare schemes…

I agree with that argument but there is another deeper point that should be made. That is; the correctness of a point of view does not depend on the moral integrity of one professing it. Even if Ayn Rand had been a hypocrite (which she wasn’t) and even if she hadn’t argued that opposing Social Security and cashing Social Security checks is not hypocritical (which she did) that is not an argument in and of itself that Social Security is moral.

It’s one argument to defend Ayn Rand of accusations of hypocrisy. It’s another thing to clearly demonstrate why Social Security (and all other social programs) is immoral and impractical.

Gus Van Horn said...

Your point about hypothetical hypocrisy not having a bearing on an argument's truth is spot-on and reminds me of something that happened when I was in college.

I'd written a paper addressing what reverence might mean from an atheistic viewpoint, and explicitly based some of my arguments on Ayn Rand's.

The theology instructor was livid with me, but saw an opportunity, reversing a very low grade on the paper with a note warning me to "give that crazy lady a wide berth in the future" and promising to mail me something that would disprove her philosophy later.

That turned out, basically to be an argument, buttressed by a smear job instigated by Barbara Branden, to the effect that Rand was a hypocrite. Knowing that I would be disappointed in her if that turned out to be true, but agreeing with Rand's arguments on their merits independent of her own behavior, I was unswayed.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, I think I've posted this before, but for reference here's an excellent rebuttal of the smear using the same sources the smear is based on. One choice paragraph of many:

So, there are numerous things wrong with these claims. First, it would not be hypocrisy if Rand did take benefits from programs that she was forced to fund. Second, Rand clearly didn't "grab" any such benefits but fought her own attorneys about doing so and they, not she, were the ones pushing it. Third, there is no indication she actually got any benefits because Pryor doesn't say. And, fourth, Pryor makes it clear that she acted as Rand's attorney on health issues even when Rand didn't agree with her. And fifth, there is no indication that Rand knew all of the decisions that Pryor made on her behalf. Perhaps she did, but perhaps she didn't.