Debate: “Affirmative action is necessary to redress past racial injustices.”

Below are my opening and closing statements for a debate that was hosted by the NYC Political Forum, a Meetup group in New York City. The debate itself was Oxford-Style and featured two teams, each with two members. I was partnered with my friend Roberto Guzman. As is customary for our team debates, I opened with a statement that established the philosophic context for our position, and Rob provided economic and historical support for our view. We argued against the proposition and won the debate. (Reading time 8 minutes.)

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The Communist Manifesto: Philosophic and Economic Ideas/Historic Consequences

Karl Marx claimed that economics determines history and that one’s economic class determines one’s ideas. Ironically, he proved himself wrong, in a deadly way. The twelve-thousand-word propaganda tract written by Marx in 1848 and known as The Communist Manifesto was a concise summary of many ideas which Marx himself created. These ideas proceeded to shape the history of the twentieth century, including its political and economic history, as well as the ideas of most twentieth-century intellectuals. This history included approximately one hundred million innocent citizens slaughtered by Marxist governments, millions more enslaved by Marxist governments, international conflicts on an unprecedented scale, and an intellectual tradition that, at present, is thoroughly entrenched in the humanities and is in the process of destroying the ideas and ideals of the West. There have probably never been fewer words that have caused more misery and destruction than those written by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto.

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German Philosophy vs. Freedom

In his letter to the New York Post, councilman Sheldon S. Leffler chastises the Post’s editorialist for reviving the allegedly “long-discredited” interpretation of Nietzsche as being an influence on Nazi ideology. I wonder how the councilman would interpret the following, which are Nietzsche’s own words:

 “There is only nobility of birth, only nobility of blood”; “Mankind in the mass sacrificed to the prosperity of a single stronger species of man — that would be an advance.”; “The beginnings of everything great on earth [are] soaked in blood thoroughly and for a long time.”; “Let a tyrant lay his yoke upon you and say ‘Obey, gnash and obey,’ and all good and evil will be drowned in obedience to him”; “Where are the barbarians of the twentieth century?” (All quotes are taken from “Nietzsche and Individualism,” an essay discrediting the common misinterpretation of Nietzsche as being an individualist, in The Objectivist Forum, April 1986.)

As demonstrated by philosopher Leonard Peikoff in “The Ominous Parallels,” the existential horrors of Communism and Nazism were not accidents visited upon mankind from heaven; rather, they resulted from the political and economic implementation of the ideas of German philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche.

Yet there is a further irony in Leffler’s defending German philosophy while simultaneously claiming to be a spokesman for the “American Way.”

Leffler says that mayor Guilliani, in supporting the rights and freedom of businessmen to locate their stores where they wish and consumers to shop where they wish, is acting as a Nietzschian “ubermenschen” (superman) by refusing to give “the public a voice [i.e., Leffer’s voice] on the siting of megastores in their own communities.” In fact, Guilliani’s defense of megastores represents an implementation of the Lockian and Jeffersonian (i.e., the American) principle of holding the rights and freedom of the individuals comprising “the public” above any potential tyrants attempting to act as “its” spokesman. Conversely, the principle held by Leffler, that a government official has the right to use the coercive powers of the state in order to implement a mystical voice of the public, is the political implementation of the collectivism espoused by German philosophy, which has been applied most consistently in totalitarian states.

Bureaucracy vs. Economic Rights (published in NY Post)

In the debate over whether Mayor Guilliani should allow megastores into New York City “as [a matter] of right,” city councilman Sheldon Leffler’s attack on the Mayor—”If you are a zealot, a former prosecutor, an ubermensch, you may not feel you have to listen to what ordinary citizens of this city have to say. But allowing some meaningful community input is the American way.”—speaks volumes on the mentality of statist bureaucrats such as himself.

In a free country, “ordinary citizens” express their economic preferences democratically, by means of an economic vote, every time they choose to shop in one store (such as a megastore) rather than another store (such as a small retailer), thereby determining which store will survive. As identified by the great economist Ludwig von Mises, for a government official such as Leffler to intervene in such a process is akin to his forcibly overruling the results of a democratic election whose outcome he disagrees with.

It is the function of a Communist or Nazi dictator to divine the will of the citizens as a whole, and then to issue orders, backed by the threat of government-initiated coercion, to implement that “will.” On the other hand, it is the function of a limited Republican government—the kind of government envisioned by the founding fathers—to protect the rights of all individuals to be free from the initiation of coercion, either from the government or from private criminals, so that they may think and act freely. In the particular case in question, that is, the case of protecting the rights of those individuals of outstanding business ability who have risen to the top of the economic realm by means of lowering the prices and/or improving the quality of the goods they sell, the result of re-instituting such protection would be the kind of economic progress and prosperity that was once the norm in the United States and New York City.

[Note: In reprinting the above letter, The New York Post omitted the final paragraph and printed a lengthy letter from Leffler in which the councilman defended his use of the word “ubermensch” while praising the philosophy of Nietzsche. In order to present the content omitted from my original letter, and in response to Leffler’s praise of Nietzsche, I wrote a follow-up letter, “German Philosophy vs. Freedom.”]

Immigration Rights 1 (published in NY Post)

In his article, “The Ethnic Remaking of America,” Scott McConnell claims that America is a “fairly [?] successful and prosperous nation” because of the “ethnic commonality” of its “predominately European” citizenship, and that therefore, we should limit the immigration of non-European ethnic groups. In essence, he claims that America is prosperous because it consists of more white people than brown people, and we should keep it that way. The word for the principle underlying these ideas, which Mr. McConnell judiciously avoids, is: racism.

 Contrary to Mr. McConnell’s views, America is something quite different than the “fairly successful” land of “ethnic commonality.” The fact is that America is the most prosperous nation in history, because it is the only nation to politically implement the moral principle which is the opposite of that which celebrates “ethnic commonality”: individualism.

As demonstrated in the writings of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, it is the protection of individual rights, including property rights, institutionalized by America’s political system of Capitalism, which has allowed individuals from various cultures to prosper in the American “melting pot.” Conversely, it is the violation of property rights, in the form of the taxes which support welfare expenditures, which underlies the current debate over immigration. In logic and in justice, to stop certain individual immigrants, as well as certain individual “native-born” Americans, from draining the economy, it is abolition of welfare that is needed, not the establishment of racist, collectivist, anti-American anti-immigration laws.

To restate the same view positively: by eliminating welfare and opening up our borders, we would attract the best, most ambitious people of all nationalities to the freest country in the world for the right reason: to pursue their own success, while in the process helping to enrich us all.