Many protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement have roundly denounced any and all forms of capitalism as the source of all our present ills. That’s one of the reasons they chose Wall Street as the place to make their angst known.
But while they march and chant and propose lists of endless demands I can’t help but wonder, are those who are so outraged clear on who their enemy really is?
Its the wedding of a select few corporations to the government combined with a lack of accountability that is the problem. The father of capitalism, Adam Smith, was opposed to the notion of joint-stock companies which enjoy limited liability, enforced by the state (ie. the East India Company) for many of the reasons the Occupy Wall Street protesters are now upset. He didn’t believe corporations should be considered legal entities in themselves (from which we get the modern view that corporations are persons). And he was opposed to the separation of ownership and management which he rightly predicted would end up harming both the owners and managers.
So who was for this joint-stock system which has blossomed into what we have today?
Many of the Occupy Wall Street movement are openly sympathetic to socialistic notions. What those protesters likely fail to understand is that the same movement which supported socialistic economic policies also supported joint-stock companies because they believed that by allowing the common man to own stock he would have a better chance to become wealthy but in order to encourage the common man to take such a risk his liability needed to be limited. And Smith, among others, accurately predicted the problems that limited liability would produce. Its really not fair to place all the blame on CEOs for accepting golden parachutes when the real problem is that such a disconnected ownership structure provides the perfect environment in which to draft such contracts.
So if the protestors want to be consistent they need to read their history to understand that 1. capitalism is not their enemy nor the cause of the corruption they are rightly upset over and that 2. the fault does not lie solely with corporations in general (not all companies that are listed on the NASDAQ or the Dow Jones Industrial Index are evil) or even corrupt corporations but with the toxic mix of a select few corporations which enjoy government favor and protection.
What essentially needs to happen is for the Tea Party to mix their hatred of the government with the Occupy Wall Street’s hatred of corrupt businesses. I’m pretty sure the two would be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Here’s a funny video from 1949 on “What is a corporation?”
I was recently asked on Quora for my thoughts as a social conservative. Being a libertarian my answer was more or less that as long as I am afforded the freedom to disagree and openly criticize actions I consider to be immoral then I don’t mind affording others the ability to live in immoral (and irresponsible) ways.
The issue is how, in the quest for normalization/affirmation, “gay rights” will result in oppressive laws/regimes like the Human/Homosexual Rights Commission of Canada.
Redefining marriage will certainly affect how everyone thinks about marriage and statistical data shows that in countries where marriage has been redefined to mean nothing more than two people posessing strong feelings for one another, the number of people who get married and stay married are dismal at best.
Of course the redefinition of marriage is not the only cause behind the decline of the institution of marriage, it was already sick as evidenced by the prominance of sexual promiscuity and high divorce rates. But redefining marriage in an attempt to divorce it from its biological moorings is like adding a new sickness on already diseased animal.
As for the oppression that forced normalization/acceptance of homosexuality brings, I submit the following list as examples of what is becoming known as “homo-fascism”, a term I find quite apt and not the least bit ironic.
Please note as well that these are actual cases that have already happened, this is not a “slippery slope” hypothetical scenario. The politically corerect ship of homosexual persecution has already sailed.
I’ll add more as time permits, but this should prove ample evidence that homosexual fascism is not a myth as the most popular entry in the Urban Dictionary maintains but a real problem that needs to be addressed by the homosexual community if they want non-homosexuals to tolerate their views. And please note that I am using tolerance in the way it is supposed to be used here meaning someone who disagrees with homosexuals but who doesn’t want to infringe on their right to destroy their bodies as they see fit through their unnatural sexual preferences.
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint. -Penn Jillette
Since the liberals who were commenting on the story appeared to completely miss the point that the commentator was getting at, I decided to help them out:
Oppression should be opposed regardless of who the oppressors are or who they happen to want to oppress. This goes for rich oppressing the poor through the purchasing of government favors with their dollars just as much as it does the poor oppressing the rich through the purchasing of government favors with their votes.
Its not so much that the poor shouldn’t be allowed to vote, its that the poor shouldn’t be allowed to vote for the legalized plundering of others.
Liberals love to invoke class warfare and since they assume that terms like “rich” and “poor” are prescriptive of a static group of people and not descriptive of a temporal economic state, the notion that “the poor” could ever oppress “the rich” is simply unheard of. Simply put, they are operating from Karl Marx’s playbook where “the poor” are likely to rise up and overthrow their capitalistic masters any day now.
It may be apocryphal, but it still fits:
A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on they will vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury. -Alexander Tyler, University of Edinburgh history professor in 1887
So in a sense the liberal characterization of the conservative commentator is right. Letting poor people vote is, indeed, un-American if what they are voting for is to legally plunder the rich, or anyone else (like common taxpayers like myself) for that matter.
Can any sort of morality be sustained in the absence of a divine moral lawgiver from which an objective moral standard can be derived and to whom we are all accountable? Atheist philosopher Joel Marks argues in his piece that it cannot (part 2), that the best atheists are left with is the subjective dislike of certain attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors.
Here’s the conclusion for those of you who are pressed for time:
I conclude that morality is largely superfluous in daily life, so its removal – once the initial shock had subsided – would at worst make no difference in the world. (I happen to believe – or just hope? – that its removal would make the world a better place, that is, more to our individual and collective liking. That would constitute an argument for amorality that has more going for it than simply conceptual housekeeping. But the thesis – call it ‘The Joy of Amorality’ – is an empirical one, so I would rely on more than just philosophy to defend it.)
A helpful analogy, at least for the atheist, is sin. Even though words like ‘sinful’ and ‘evil’ come naturally to the tongue as a description of, say, child-molesting, they do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God and hence the whole religious superstructure that would include such categories as sin and evil. Just so, I now maintain, nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality. Yet, as with the non-existence of God, we human beings can still discover plenty of completely-naturally-explainable internal resources for motivating certain preferences. Thus, enough of us are sufficiently averse to the molesting of children, and would likely continue to be so if fully informed, to put it on the books as prohibited and punishable by our society.
As a side note; It amazes me that questions of moral grounding among mixed theistic/atheistic company generally trend towards the attack and defense of theistic morality. It is very rare to see any atheistic ground for morality along the lines of what Sam Harris attempted to do in his book “Moral Landscape”. Its very easy to throw mud at someone, but its a lot harder to bake that mud into bricks, form those bricks into a home, and attempt to live in it.
Thanks for sending that over! I must admit I haven’t read much of Sartre, so the lecture you sent helped remedy that.
I have a hard time differentiating existentialism from hedonism, something Sartre seems to acknowledge at least by accident when he talks about how existentialism got an early reputation for exalting man’s baser actions.
I suppose if we are to consider existence to come before essence then it logically follows that whatever I experience (ie. my present state of existence) should be considered of greater value than what I know (ie. knowledge of a transcendent essence). And if we are to begin with the subjective then it stands to reason that we can never attain knowledge of the divine. This struggle of where to begin epistemologically was also wrestled with by Plato and Aristotle (succinctly captured in this piece of art which depicts Plato’s notion of idealism which is the polar opposite of what Sartre is arguing for) and was also eloquently expressed by Francis Schaeffer (notably in his “Modern Man & Epistemology” lecture).
The third objection, stated by saying, “You take with one hand what you give with the other,” means, at bottom, “your values are not serious, since you choose them yourselves.” To that I can only say that I am very sorry that it should be so; but if I have excluded God the Father, there must be somebody to invent values.
One of the most instrumental Christian philosophers who paved the way for this kind of thinking, at least in the Church, was Friedrich Schleiermacher who argued that the primary way we know God is through our emotions and not through revelation/reason.
Its interesting how Sartre calls for men to be stewards of the emerging essence of mankind at the same time he claims that there is no ideal essence we are obliged to grow towards. I would agree with his notion that we should act as if all of mankind is defined by our actions, but that only makes sense if there is an objective and external observer whose favor or disapproval mattered. Sartre borrows much from the Christianity he misrepresents (ie. that Christian teaching is determined by the subjective whims of priests) and loathes. In fact, his a priori assumption that moral ideals would remain unchanged if we were to find that God doesn’t exist stands in direct opposition to his admission that Dostoevsky’s notion that “without God all things are permissible”. And he further contradicts himself when he talks about an ideal form of morality whose particulars are subject to change!
I understand why he claims that existentialism is a form of humanism, mostly because it puts man in the center of the universe. But like all other humanistic variants, it suffers from the same frailties that all men do. Namely our lack of omniscience and immortality, both of which it seems Sartre struggles with mightily to no avail.
Thanks again for the paper. Here are some movies on existentialism in case you’re interested to see what Hollywood does with this philosophy. There are a lot of big name actors in these movies which leads me to believe that existentialism is held in high esteem by much of Hollywood.
eXistenZ – The director required the cast to read Sartre and other existential philosophers in preparation for the movie
It was pointed out 11 years ago how time and again scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings when they were not replicated. Findings linking specific genes to complex human behaviors all were announced with great fanfare; all were greetedwithout skepticismin the popular press; all are now in disrepute. Nevertheless, considerable grant money has been available in this country for research seeking to show a genetic basis for homosexuality. Researchers now openly admit that after searching for more than 20 years, they are still unable to find the gay gene.