Pro-Regulation is Anti-Freedom.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A column by Star Parker, a conservative columnist who often praises free markets, caused me to do a search for the term "regulation" on the recently-revamped website of the Ayn Rand Institute. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that ARI has posted the entirety of Rand's 1960's essay on regulations, "Have Gun, Will Nudge", in which she shows exactly what is wrong with regulation (as opposed to legitimate law). In reference to the Parker column (with which I have many, many issues), I found the following passage particularly relevant:

Consider the implications. If the public is not competent to judge television programs and its own entertainment -- how can it be competent to judge political issues? Or economic problems? Or nuclear policies? Or international affairs? And since -- on the above premise -- the answer is that it can't, shouldn't its guardians protect it from those books and newspapers which, in the guardians' judgment, are not consonant with the public interest and would only confuse the poor incompetent that's unable to judge?
In her column, Parker lauds Texas for imposing new regulations on abortion clinics. Even if we take her at her word that she sees this as an improvement to patient safety (vice a sneaky way to make abortions harder to obtain), one could just as well substitute "physicians" for "television programs", "welfare" for "entertainment", and "medical procedures" for "books and newspapers" in the above passage. Even if Parker, who opposes abortion, can't see these "regulations" for what they are -- a threat to the freedom to have an abortion in particular and to make medical choices in general -- that's the threat they do, in fact, pose.

One cannot advocate economic freedom and improper government "guidelines" at the same time. Parker ends her column by asking, "What, after all, can 'freedom' mean when it does not start with recognizing the sanctity of life?" That's a good question, although I disagree with Parker's premise that embryos constitute human lives. But one also cannot discuss freedom without knowing that it entails an individual's right to act according to his or her best judgement, even when it is wrong, so long as doing so does not violate the rights of others.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

Thanks for the link to the great Ayn Rand essay. I hadn’t read that in years. It was my personal development for today.

She has a way of distilling the essence of an issue like no one else, not even the present top spokesmen for Objectivism. It’s very useful and illuminating to go back and read or reread some of her essays every once in a while both to learn something and as an object lesson on writing good essays.

“Consider the implications…” I love that statement. In my mind I couldn’t help but add to her list; “Or even vote”. If people are not competent enough to judge which television programs to watch then how in the world can they be trusted to vote for the right person to tell them the correct things to watch? What if the government regulators mandate trash? That’s what I was thinking. This is the type of interactive conversation a good writer facilitates between himself and his readers.

“pincer-movement or the squeeze-play” Great metaphor which directly exposes the strategy of the officials and the Catch 22 it puts everyone else in.

“It is true, as Mr. Minow assures us, that he does not propose to establish censorship; what he proposes is much worse.”

How could you introduce the issue better than that? Her writing style and method is a direct consequence of her thoughts; as I’ve said many times, good writing depends on good thinking. BTW: she even correctly uses the semi-colon!

Gus Van Horn said...

Regarding the value of reading that again, you hit the nail on the head.

As you know, I am working on how best to use my writing time as my kids get older and I gradually start getting/finding more of it. Some sort of re-reading program seems to be a good thing to add to it. Rand is so good that one does, more often than not, learn new things by doing so.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

"Have Gun, Will Nudge." What a beautiful encapsulation of the soft fascism pervading America.

One wonders if Cass Sunstein was aware of this essay when he titled his book "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness."

Whether or no, Sunstein is definitely channeling Minow and his ilk. But instead of a vast wasteland in entertainment, Sunstein's apparent goal is to reduce the medical sector to that same state.

With the superiority complex that Sunstein etal. display, and the force of gov't behind them, it doesn't take very long for "Nudge" to become "Shove." Or "Shoot." I guess from a high enough level, the impact of a gov't agent's bullet is kinda like a nudge, yes? /sarc

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Your question about whether Sunstein was aware of the title of Rand's essay is amusing, and has caused me to remember a blog posting of mine about him of which you could ask the same question of me. (No: Incredibly, I didn't think of that essay then!