Thursday, January 1, 2009

The "Anti-Capitalist "Capitalists"

A “contradiction” is “something illogical,” “something that has aspects that are illogical or inconsistent with each other.” (Encarta Dictionary.)

Drawing on the Law of Identity, Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged that “[a] contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.”

“[That] Law of Identity (A is A) is a rational man’s paramount consideration in the process of determining his interests. He knows that the contradictory is impossible, that a contradiction cannot be achieved in reality and that the attempt to achieve it can lead only to disaster and destruction. Therefore, he does not permit himself to hold contradictory values, to pursue contradictory goals, or to imagine that the pursuit of a contradiction can ever be in his interest.” (Ayn Rand, “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests,” The Virtue of Selfishness.)

Sadly, last week we saw two more examples of dangerous contradictions proudly held and announced by one of America’s leading bankers and by the President of the United States.

John Allison, Chairman of BB&T Corp which owns the largest bank in West Virginia, has been a strong voice for the free market and a significant supporter of Rand’s economic ideas. As the Charleston Daily Mail reported, “[w]ithin the past two years, BB&T has made contributions from its charitable foundation to West Virginia University ($1.75 million), Marshall University ($1 million), Wheeling Jesuit University ($700,000) and the University of Charleston ($350,000). Most of the money involves an agreement by the schools to at least review the free market principles set forth in Rand’s book, ‘Atlas Shrugged’.” (My emphasis.)

Yet, according to a BB&T spokesman, although “the company doesn’t like the federal government’s $700 billion financial rescue plan and didn’t want to participate [it] took $3.1 billion because the U.S. Treasury urged it to and some competitors are participating.”

Apparently, the otherwise free-market Mr. Ellison was against the money when he took the money—folding in the face of government pressure and banking competition.

The noise you hear is Ayn Rand spinning in her grave—because the heroes of her Atlas Shrugged would never have capitulated to either threat.

Which brings us to President George W. Bush, now too well know for his own contradictions: e.g., compassionate conservatism, entitlements and fiscal responsibility.

Recently, Mr. Bush told CNN, in defense of his end-run around Congress by bequeathing some $17 billion of taxpayer money to the Big Three automakers, that “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”

The other sound you hear is Milton Friedman spinning in his grave.

Rand was correct: “the contradictory is impossible, that a contradiction cannot be achieved in reality and that the attempt to achieve it can lead only to disaster and destruction.”

Capitalism has more than enough enemies: politicians, academics, media, writers, socialists, collectivists, statists—and their enablers, co-conspirators, and the many others who aid and abet them.

But it is appalling when the road to disaster and destruction is paved not by socialista and communists, but by anti-capitalist “capitalists” like John Ellison and George W. Bush.