06 December 2008

Keep Your Friends Close, And Your Self-Proclaimed Allies As Distant As Possible

After publishing the introduction to my series on the Prager essay, I thought of a pair of current events that illustrate what I meant when I wrote, "An enemy who is an avowed antagonist is usually less dangerous than an enemy who claims to be an ally."

In virtually all media outlets, we have the obscene spectacle of the recent financial crisis being blamed on... you guessed it: the “unrestrained excesses” of the free(!) market.  Why?  Because George W. Bush and the Republicans are in charge, and Republicans are allegedly "pro-business" and "pro-free market."  The facts of reality - that the Republicans have long abandoned any pretense of their limited government principles, and have engaged in an orgy of spending and re-regulation (which they farcically called deregulation) - do not come into play. 

I am convinced that we would be in much better shape today if Republicans had been entirely out of power for the last couple of decades.  I do not mean that we would not have financial troubles - the Democrats would certainly have imposed their own destructive policies - but there would have been much less of a pretext to blame the inevitable problems on individual liberty and too little government intervention.  The long association of conservatives with the free market, as unfounded as that association is, renders the conservatives the dread enemies of capitalism, much worse than progressives or so-called "liberals" who are overt, unapologetic antagonists to liberty.

A still more specific (and virulent) example of this principle is in Alan Greenspan's recent mea culpa, in which he threw capitalism under the bus in a stunningly dishonest betrayal of freedom.  Greenspan’s youthful association with Ayn Rand (long before his involvement with the Federal Reserve) has been used as a stick to beat the notions of a limited government, the virtue of self-interest, and an unrestrained free market.  Never mind that the Federal Reserve is itself a grotesque contradiction to liberty and capitalism; with Greenspan the “capitalist” at the helm, it must follow from the perverse logic of association that his every whim and utterance was an application of reason.  We would have been better off with Paul Krugman running the Fed.

I highly recommend reading Harry Binswanger’s excellent article, “Alan Greenspan vs. Ayn Rand and Freedom,” which thoroughly debunks the absurd notion that Alan Greenspan was an advocate of liberty, and especially that he was in any sense a mouthpiece of Ayn Rand’s ideas.  I wish I could remember where I saw it so I could give proper attribution, but someone perceptively wrote that Ayn Rand would have had but four words to say to Alan Greenspan: “I told you so.”


1.  Harry Binswanger, “Alan Greenspan vs. Ayn Rand and Freedom,” http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=5353, 7 Nov 2008.


I found the “I told you so” reference I mentioned.  It was in a letter to the editor of The Toronto Star, from a certain Paul McKeever.  The link to the page is here, and the full text of Mr. McKeever’s letter, along with another excellent one by Mark Wickens on that same page, is reprinted below.

Alan Greenspan's primary role, as head of the federal reserve, was to regulate the rate at which the supply of American dollars grew. With Greenspan at the helm, the government intervened in the economy. That government intervention facilitated and encouraged easy credit, bad loans and bankruptcies.

Such government intervention, together with the added intervention of bailing out banks with taxpayer earnings, is all contrary to the laissez-faire capitalism that Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, impressed upon Greenspan in his youth.

Condemning Greenspan and government intervention for the hardship now being felt by many is fair game. Condemning Ayn Rand and anti-interventionist admonitions is not. Were she alive today, her words would be "I told you so."

Paul McKeever, Leader, Freedom Party of Ontario, Oshawa

Whether he admits it or not, Mr. Greenspan abandoned Ayn Rand's philosophy in 1987 when he accepted the job of U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman – i.e., of chief governmental dictator of interest rates. Such a position would not exist in a government that abided by Rand's principles. The financial crisis we are witnessing today is not a refutation of her ideas, but a sadly eloquent confirmation of them.

Mark Wickens, Toronto

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