Why I Write

March 18th, 2010

By Brianna Aubin

Last summer, I entered a period of intellectual transition.

No, it wasn’t over health care and it wasn’t over politics.  Ironically enough, this period began completely by accident and had absolutely nothing to do with anything going on in the world today.  In essence, what happened was that I was talking to someone who is an extremely good friend of mine, but who lives in California and who I don’t get much opportunity to speak to directly.

The subject was the dearth of women in engineering (he is an electrical engineer).  In the course of discussing the subject, he put forward an idea that I’d never heard before about affirmative action, basically that it was done on purpose because the people who propagated it were afraid that if it didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be able to compete on equal terms with whites, Asians, Jews, or other groups to whom the status of “victimhood” does not apply.

Well, the cell reception that day was kinda fuzzy and I didn’t really get to talk to him for all that long, so I couldn’t get the full details out of him.  But I knew he was an Objectivist, so I was willing to bet that if I went to the bookstore and picked up some Randian non-fiction, I could get the full details out of her.  I had deliberately avoided reading her nonfiction in the past because I was afraid it’d just be another 3-hour Galt-type radio speech, but I wanted badly enough to understand what my friend was saying that I was willing to try it anyway.

That was last July.  Since then I have read something between 40 and 50 non-fiction works.  About nine or ten were Objectivist.  Many were written from a conservative or libertarian standpoint.  A few were written by liberals, and a few were of no political affiliation at all (Plato’s Republic and the Federalist Papers are simply Plato’s Republic and the Federalist Papers).  I have also poured through hundreds of newspaper articles on foreign health care systems, brain drain, the fiscal crisis in Europe, climate change, American finances (and our own coming fiscal crisis), radical Islam, and other issues of import (not to mention the articles that were perused through the daily browse of Google’s news page).  You’ve seen some of the results in these articles, though believe me when I say that what I have actually quoted is but a fraction of what I have read and seen.

The point of my telling you all this is not to brag or show off about how smart and well-read I am.  Rather, it is to explain to you that I did not come to the conclusions I now hold easily, or lightly, or cheaply.  I did not get hypnotized into them via subliminal messages on the Glenn Beck show, or bamboozled into not knowing what was best for me while listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio.  Nor was I taken for a spin by Ayn Rand; I had known who she was for years, she had written some of my all-time favorite fiction (and I’ve read a lot of fiction), but it was not until I had read her non-fiction works along with the non-fiction works of a great deal of other people that I finally became fully convinced of the veracity of her fundamental arguments.

And while I suppose it is theoretically possible that I have been brainwashed into stupidity by the radical right, there are two facts I would like to offer in refutation of that hypothesis.  One is that I would have thought there were easier ways to turn into an ideological zombie than regularly staying up until 3 am reading about the Objectivist theory of concept formation, the history of the Great Depression, and the mechanisms by which the Federal Reserve controls the money supply.  The other is that if pouring days and weeks and months into independent research on the nature of your beliefs and convictions is not sufficient work to acquire honestly held, seriously researched convictions, then I am quite frankly out of ideas on how to form them.

So to those of you who believe that you have a right to live, that you have a right to your life, liberty and property, that you should not be forced to give up the fruits of your labor to individuals not of your choice, and that government has no right to perform actions that fundamentally undermine any of those rights, such as passing Obama’s sweeping health care legislation:  do not give up hope.  You are not crazy.  You are not stupid.  You have not been brainwashed by any sort of evil, corporate agenda dreamed up by the poor-hating fat cats of Wall Street and Big Pharma.

Your government really is trying to take this nation over a line that I truly believe is the threshold between what the United States of America was founded on, and what is currently dragging Europe into a process of massive debt, social unrest, and eventual bankruptcy.  Call it Socialism, call it Communism, call it Fascism, call it Corporatism, call it Marxism, it doesn’t matter.  At their root they are all different varieties of Collectivism, the idea that it is the group and not the individual that is the fundamental unit of society, and they are all equally destructive.  Because when you start catering to groups, you stop caring about the people who make that group up.  And if you adopt an ideology that says one person in one hundred can be run into the ground so long as you’re doing it for the sake of the other ninety-nine, it becomes inevitable that the end result will be one guy with a tank staring at one hundred battered bodies in the mud, scratching his head and trying to figure out how such a supposedly noble ideal could possibly have gone so wrong.

So long as you hold to your conscience and to the fundamental values enshrined in our Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, it is you who is in the right.  So long as they think they can trample on the ideas in these documents, it is they who are in the wrong.  For these ideas are the fundamental principles of liberty, which all else must be built on if it is to stand as strongly and as well as our own nation has for the last 234 years.

For your sake, your children’s sake, and your future, don’t ever let anyone say anything else.

P.S.  If anyone wants to contact me for a reading list or for a copy of my research files, I would be happy to supply this information to anyone who asks.

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12 Responses to “Why I Write”

  1. larry |

    Thank you for a really good article. I’m happy to have someone of your caliber on the side that I also support. I hope that you will continue to stand up for America.
    I love this nation because it lifted me out of poverty and let me enjoy the feelings that came with the knowledge that I provided a good life for my family. This country is without a doubt the best on earth.

  2. Brianna |

    I too have watched members of my family and several of my closest friends lift themselves from near-poverty to affluence. I have also watched people who had every advantage in life fall down anyway because they refused to make the necessary effort to stay in the social and economic bracket they were fortunate enough to be born in. It is absolutely true that you can lead a fool to wisdom but you cannot make him think. People will never be born equal in talent or wealth, but in a free society most people’s lives are more or less what those people choose to make of them, and it is always true that whether or not someone is successful in the long term ultimately depends on their own drive and initiative and not inherited talents or wealth.

  3. Tom |

    Brianna, I have a great deal of respect for the efforts you’ve made. The payoff is obvious in the logic and quality of reasoning in your arguments.

    I would offer one caution. As you know, two people equally well-informed can draw very different conclusions from the same information and take very different positions. As we’ve discussed before, I too was very taken with Ayn Rand and Objectivism in my youth. Over time, however, I began to understand that things weren’t quite as simple as she would have it. There are always those who need the kind of help that only government can (or will) provide; there is prejudice and bigotry among human beings that only government can counteract; and there are legitimate areas of our social and economic life that government must regulate for the benefit of all. This is not “socialism,” in the sense that it represents a fundamental departure from the principles on which America was founded.

    Even though I may fundamentally disagree, I always enjoy a well-reasoned argument made by a well-informed advocate. What I have little time for are robotic repetitions of extremist talking points and goofy conspiracy theories. While I’m a Democrat (with both a large and a small “D”), I confess to sometimes being a bit dismayed that every vote counts the same, regardless of the quality of thought (if any) that goes into casting it.

  4. Brianna |

    Tom – I think the woman was probably a genius by any objective standard, but I will certainly never deny that she also had her faults. One of the books I read was the bio of her written by Jennifer Burns (Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, chosen because she had access to the Ayn Rand archives, whereas Heller did not), so believe me when I say I worked hard to get the whole story.

    But one thing I have never seen from anyone is a piece of writing that a) demonstrates understanding of the fundamental points of her philosophy, and b) convincingly debunks them. Her erstwhile associate Nathanial Branden once said that Rand’s attackers rarely deign “publicly to name the essential ideas of Atlas Shrugged and then attempt to refute them. No one has been willing to declare: ‘Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force – and I consider such ideas wrong, evil and socially dangerous.'” Source – Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, by Brian Doherty.

    So until and unless someone is willing to do that, I am going to keep on reading Objectivist stuff.

  5. Lisa |

    Brianna, a great article and I am in your court. Since I retired from the military and became an older parent, I’ve become ever more cognizant of the cultural changes in this country and their deleterious impact on our kids. Entitlements and awards seem to take precedence over personal responsibility but not in our house. Everyone expects things to be handed to them on a silver platter making their lives easy. This attitude will be the downfall of our economy and of our nation. The health care bill if it is passed, will be a lethal dagger in the heart of us all.

    Keep writing and spread the word.

  6. Tom |

    Brianna, I don’t question that Rand was brilliant and insightful, and I have no real argument with Objectivism, as far as it goes. Where it stops being useful, in my mind, is where it bumps up against real reality, as opposed to some kind of idealized reality that’s never existed. It’s fine to say that people acting in their own self-interest in an environment of unfettered capitalism without the interference of government or other external restraining forces is the ideal existence for all. I like that. And in truth, talented, ambitious individuals can succeed in every significant sense in America.

    The reality, however, is that the closest we’ve ever come to an operationalized form of Objectivism was probably the age of the robber barons, when a few became fabulously wealthy and the lives of the many approached being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” To me, that kind of society is not acceptable. We need a degree of government regulation and intrusion. We have to pay taxes. We have to protect and respect the rights of the weakest among us, and that will not happen without government. The legitimate debate about government, I think, centers on how much, when, why, and how.

    Lisa, I agree. Our society has, indeed, evolved into a society of “victims” seeking entitlements. I think the pendulum is ready to swing back in the right direction, and we may see that beginning to happen in November and in the 2012 elections. However, I don’t think the health care reform staggering through Congress is a lethal dagger. I don’t like it, but there are some things in it that are good. The parts that are most objectionable can be adjusted or removed in the future, and in the end we’ll all survive in any case.

  7. Brian Bagent |

    “The reality, however, is that the closest we’ve ever come to an operationalized form of Objectivism was probably the age of the robber barons, when a few became fabulously wealthy and the lives of the many approached being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” To me, that kind of society is not acceptable.”

    Unfortunately, you’re misinformed on the plight of the workers during the days of the industrial revolution. As a matter of fact, Brianna debunked this myth not too very long ago here on this blog. They were much better off under Carnegie and Rockefeller than they were out on the farms and ranches where they came from. We look back through the perspective we’ve developed in the last 40 or 50 years and think “How horrid,” and don’t ponder what things were like before the industrial revolution. Prior to the late 19th century, 95% of the population was involved in agriculture one way or another.

    People want to look at things like child labor. Does anyone believe that children born to the agrarian life didn’t start working at a very early age, and worked every day from sunrise to sunset, under dangerous and harsh conditions? You can’t miss a day of milking the cows or goats, and they have to be fed and watered all of the time. In the absence of heavy machinery, you can expect to be plowing, weeding, picking, or throwing away EVERY day during crop season. Crops that could be preserved were. And then hope that you’ve laid enough by to last the winter. It was a never-ending struggle just to survive.

  8. Tom |

    I’ll agree that reference to the robber-baron era in this context is inexact and that the Hobbes quote may have been a bit over the top. The point is that in order to evaluate the practicality of a concept, to judge whether it’s realistic or utopian, one of the best analytical approaches is to compare it to a similar condition that may have existed in the past. In my judgment, the only time the conditions of operationalized Objectivism existed was during that era, regardless of the weaknesses of the analogy.

    The age of the robber barons isn’t anything to aspire to. While a very few were very rich, the large majority had difficult lives. Those who worked in industry, on railroads, in mines, etc. labored under very difficult conditions with few protections. There was unacceptable child labor (it isn’t reasonable to minimize that particular evil), working hours were long and hard, pay was very low, health care was inadequate, safety was an issue only to the extent that it increased profits, workers were often highly indebted to their employers, and retirement was beyond the reach of all but the most fortunate.

    I don’t think it’s valid to compare that life to the lives of farm workers. Working on farms, generally a family operation, was hard and unpredictable for millenia. Then came modern mechanization and with it the rapid growth of big agri-business, and a way of life that many people still yearn for disappeared for the most part.

    As I’ve said before, Objectivism appeals to my sense of individuality, my need for personal freedom, and my belief that rewards should be based on the value and success of one’s efforts. As a philosophy, it’s fine, but it truly is utopian.

  9. Brian Bagent |

    I wasn’t minimizing child labor of the industrial revolution, merely pointing out that the only thing that had changed was the venue of the labor. The farm was every bit as dirty and dangerous as the coal mines and the factories. It simply became easier to recognize because of the concentration of bodies in any particular geographic region.

    Before the industrial revolution, “a very few were very rich, the large majority had difficult lives.”

  10. Brianna |

    Don’t forget that it was the wealth brought to society by the industrial revolution that allowed us to get rid of child labor once and for all. Our school calender is based on the fact that kids were once needed for agriculture, after all. If we were still an agrarian economy, there’d still be plenty of child labor going on and we would all think that it was perfectly normal.

  11. Tom |

    Not to get into an extended discussion of child labor, but I’d like to point out that back then children working on a family farm and children working in a factory or other industrial enterprise were two entirely different things. I know many people who grew up on family farms, and they worked hard and didn’t have many luxuries. But they were among family and friends, they learned the land, they learned values, and they became strong, healthy, responsible adults as a result in most cases. I don’t think the same could be said of children who labored in factories and sweat shops.

  12. Opinion Forum » Blog Archive » Reward! |

    […] I have about as much fear of this bet being called in as I do of a liberal actually taking up my offer to send them a copy of my research and reading lists.  Y’know, […]

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