[The following letter was sent in response to a writer who expressed confusion as to why the Democrats, who “are the ones who stand up for the little guy” would, in a recent Supreme Court decision, vote away the little guy’s rights to keep their own homes whenever a private company can allegedly demonstrate that seizing their land for its own use would better serve “the public interest.”]
The essence of the political left is not that they “stand up for the little guy.” Modern liberalism is built on the philosophic foundation of altruism, the moral principle that the individual should sacrifice his values to others, and collectivism, the social and political principle that the group, not the individual, is the standard of value. In other words, the left believes in a moral and political imperative to sacrifice of the rights of the individual to the interests of any group, whether ethnic, national, sexual, or, in this case, economic.
The antidote to the political left is not the modern political right per se—as most modern conservatives are also exponents of altruism and collectivism—but rather, the doctrines of rational egoism and individualism, as espoused by novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, and their political corollary, the original American doctrine of individual rights, including property rights.
In “Hong Kong: New management,” the Post’s editorialist claims that “Beijing makes no secret whatsoever of the fact that it intends to run a tight ship from now on. And, in the final analysis, that’s as much its right as it would be of any government.”
A “tight ship”? When applied to a government that has slaughtered millions of innocent human beings, and denied the rights to liberty and property of millions more, what is this sickeningly vague phrase intended to be a euphemism for?
According to the principles identified by the Declaration of Independence, it is individual citizens, not governments, who are endowed with rights, and that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” For the same reason that a slave “owner” has no right to compel another human being, a criminal government, such as that of Communist China, has no “right” to violate the rights of its citizens. As noted long ago by novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, there can be no such thing as “a right to enslave.”
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.
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.”]
In judging the objectivity of any specific claim made by spokesmen for the animal rights movement (such as that animal research will not lead to a cure for AIDS), one must always keep in mind the fundamental premise which the movement is fighting to have legally institutionalized, which is that animals possess the same rights (and value) as humans. Accordingly, animal rightists believe that no more value should be placed on the life of a man dying from AIDS than on the life of a laboratory rat being experimented on to find a cure for AIDS; according to them, both entities are morally interchangeable. The national director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, expressed this idea when she said, “I don’t believe human beings have the ‘right to life.’ That’s a supremacist perversion. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Not surprisingly, she has also said that “Even if animal tests produced a cure [for AIDS], ‘we’d be against it.'” As such statements suggest, the animal rights movement represents the egalitarianism of the Left taken to its horrible, yet logical, conclusion.
In contrast to such vicious ideas, the original American concept of rights derives from human nature and the social requirements of human survival: because man is the rational animal, and because each man’s life is an end in itself, each man has the right to think and to act on his conclusions, and therefore the right be left free from the initiation of physical force by other men. That the animal rightists would advocate the passage of government laws (backed by force) against medical researchers struggling to save human lives shows their true attitudes towards reason, rights, and mankind. In fact, animal rightists are not moved by a compassion for laboratory rats; they are moved by an unlimited hatred of humanity, of which their so-called “rights” crusade is a transparent and sickening cover-up.