The New Clarion

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OK Tea Party: Put up — or Shut Up

By Jim May · March 21st, 2010 9:48 pm · 36 Comments ·

All right then.  Now that the socialized medicine bill has passed, we will now find out once and for all whether Billy Beck is right — that America is dead.

I do not yet agree with Billy.  America is not dead yet.

However, the knife is at last on its jugular.  Americans must now face the final alternative: to renounce liberty in favor of duty to others — or to summon up the moral courage to say No.

No to whom?  Seeing as I’m an Objectivist, the expected answer is no to altruism.  That is correct — but I am not operating at that level of abstraction here.  Objectivists have been making that point for over half a century now, and sadly, the mainstream epistemology is sufficiently crippled such that people still insist that liberty and duty can coexist.

I’m going to put the alternative to everyone, in terms of a plain concrete, one that lays it out in no uncertain, clear-cut terms, that will separate the moral adults from the altruist children.

It runs as follows:

There is someone in front of you asking for help, and you have plenty of money.  Do you have the moral right to say no?

His need is genuine.   Do you still have the moral right to say no?

It’s not his fault.  Do you still have the moral right to say no?

It’s a very pressing need.  Do you still have the moral right to say no?

It’s a child.   Do you still have the moral right to say no?

If you do not answer “Yes” all the way down the line — if you do not assert your individual moral sovereignty, if you do not assert your right to choose as being morally prior to anyone’s need —

— than SHUT UP and get out of the way.  You are not morally equipped to partake in this battle, let alone win it, and you are wasting your time.

Now PAY ATTENTION, please.

Notice that I am NOT asking what you believe you should choose.  I am NOT asking you whether you should give to the needy.

I am asking you whether the choice is morally yours, all the way down the line.  I am asking you whether you believe that you still have the moral right to exist after saying “No”.

Do not trifle me with waffling exceptions.  Whatever they are, they can and will be used against you.  Liberty is indivisible; if you cede your moral sovereignty anywhere, you cede it everywhere.

See what was done to this Tea Party protestor?  Expect more of it.  Lots more.  You’ve heard of human shields; the needy are the enemy’s shield, spear and dagger aimed right at your soul.  Don’t let them be used as weapons against you in this way.

No entitlement program has ever been repealed in the United States.  This is why.  If the Tea Party wishes to make political history, they must first make moral history.

Repealing this bill — and more: repealing the welfare state in toto —  requires nothing less than the willingness of each Tea Partier — hell, each American — to gaze past the outstretched hand of need, to look the blackmailers behind them all  in the eye and declare:

No.

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Two--Four // Mar 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

    [...] honor to ridding me of these commissars, and; I would not thank them for doing it, for it is only the right thing. The Republicans have not had a single morally probative principle under them in all of the [...]

  • 2 madmax // Mar 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I have a question regarding challenging altruism. It has been my experience, especially with Leftists, that if you advocate repeal of the welfare-state you are going to get hit with “but what about the people who can’t afford: health care, education, food, shelter, insurance, etc, etc, ad infinitum.” I have been hit with the charge “your system would let people die in the street. How horrible!”

    What is the best way to deal with this? Billy Beck in a recent post said something to the effect that if your child will die because of a lack of socialized medicine that he didn’t care if the kid died at his parents feet. This is harsh but I am beginning to think that it is necessary. I think we need to confront altruists with an undiluted egoism so if they say what of the poor under capitalism our answer should be that if they don’t work and can’t get alms from family or private charity then they very well may die in the street. In essence our answer should be “too damn bad”.

    Is that a good tact with dealing with altruists? Jim’s post suggests that we need to be more like Billy Beck in our temperament.

  • 3 Guaman // Mar 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I whole heartedly agree with this and Bill Beck. We are now getting at the substance of the issue.

    We need more food stampers at upscale grocery stores. We need more section 8 housing in rich neighborhoods. People need to see what is happening with the money taken from them.

    Altruism sucks. Good luck to us.

  • 4 Jeffrey Quick // Mar 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    The question is carefully put: “Do you have the moral right to say no?” Because if you don’t, then you have no right to protest government programs that meet those needs; the only argument become an argument on efficiency. Note that that isn’t an argument against altruism per se; helping somebody can be deeply gloriously selfish, but only if it’s a choice. Perhaps the comeback to the “dying children” argument should be, “Well, what will YOU do?” I’ve found that commies are a lot like gay anti-gay legislators; since they lack charity (or chastity), they attempt to use legislation to make up for their own moral failings. They can’t come off the dime unless a gun is in their face, so they figure they’ll treat everyone else the way they want to be treated.

  • 5 Moral Sovereignty « ricketyclick // Mar 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    [...] points to this test, aimed at would-be tea-partiers: There is someone in front of you asking for help, and you have plenty of money. Do you have the [...]

  • 6 Katrina // Mar 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Fantastic post. I wonder how many tea partiers would pass your test.

  • 7 Jim May // Mar 22, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Perhaps the comeback to the “dying children” argument should be, “Well, what will YOU do?”

    That’s more or less the one I use. If you are so concerned with the needy then get going — don’t waste your time talking to me. Chop Chop!

    madmax: there’s your answer.

  • 8 Jim May // Mar 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Fantastic post. I wonder how many tea partiers would pass your test.

    I couldn’t say… though time and again, libertarians have lacked the guts to pass it.

  • 9 Fareed // Mar 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I usually say that those who can’t afford it can rely on the free market or charitable donations. If they still are not convinced then I simply state that Man is mortal and you cannot expect to save everybody.

  • 10 Jim May // Mar 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Fareeed: while I agree in principle with your comment, the trouble with it is that it’s such an emotional issue, you’ll lose your audience even before you can get to the end of that… hence my short and snappy answer, calculated to get in before they can start winding up their mouths to vomit their next bit of pablum.

  • 11 Fareed // Mar 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    then perhaps the audience are too irrational to begin with

  • 12 Jim May // Mar 22, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Perhaps. That’s Billy’s angle.

    I do not yet believe so. I think there are ways of awakening people, yet untried — even as the Enlightenment lies murdered at our feet, its shards remain in the minds of those around us.

    But that’s the sort of thing which I won’t know until I’ve spent my energy trying.

    I can tell you one thing; you’ll know I’ve given up when I announce, with little fanfare, that I am moving back to Canada. That would signify that I no longer see any point to being *here*.

    I am here in America because the battle is here. If there is no battle any longer, there’s no reason for me to stay here.

    Comes that day, I will spend my remaining time in the place where I entered this world, because that’s where I learned that it was a beautiful place to be — and the rest of the human race will be welcome to the cannibal pot they chose to make of it all.

    But not yet.

    Not yet.

  • 13 madmax // Mar 23, 2010 at 1:32 am

    But not yet.

    Not yet.

    One of the most touching scenes in movie history. Good choice.

  • 14 The quiz « The Quick and the Dead // Mar 23, 2010 at 7:01 am

    [...] For all Tea-Partiers and alleged freedom fighters: There is someone in front of you asking for help, and you have plenty of money.  Do you have the [...]

  • 15 David // Mar 23, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Jim,
    You say that you are posing the alternative to “everyone.” I don’t understand why you are framing this the way you do. Maybe I’m missing something, please point it out to me so I can learn. But what is the purpose of this piece? Who is the target audience–is it REALLY “everyone?”

    What we have on our hands, today is a large number of people who are prepared, in this instance, to make the right choice: the rejection of Socialism. Why throw it in their face that they lack moral fortitude?

    Most of these people are NOT intellectual leaders. They base their choices on 2 things: an assessment of reality–what is the situation at hand?–AND–a moral “sense.”

    But their moral sense is mixed, it vacillates between altruism and egoism. They need intellectual leaders for guidance in order to be consistent.

    You propose a choice, and present as a context, the facts of reality, an EMERGENCY: a needy stranger approaching you for help.

    My philosophical answer, when someone presents me with this scenario is: this is NOT a normal part of reality–life can be controlled and be made good. Emergency is an EXCEPTION.

    Then, your prescription for morality is remaining “stone faced,”–the action demanded of us is “saying NO.”

    Again, this is not the thing to bring into focus. What is needed is to focus not on something to say “no” to, but on something to say “YES” to–something for morality to be FOR–the life of a rational individual. ONLY in this context, when it is clear what you are protecting, can you persuade people to say “no.”

    Just to re-iterate, the common “tea partier” only has a moral sense, but no consistency. It is up to the intellectual leaders to give the guidance–by establishing principles in the proper context–that allows consistency.

    Are you addressing the intellecual leaders? Then yes, this intellectual leader needs to have the right moral fortitude. But if you are addressing Objectivist, then, why frame it this way? On the other hand, if you are addressing christian conservative leaders, then by definition, those are out of your reach, so again my question is: why frame it this way? What is the purpose of this piece?

  • 16 Mike // Mar 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

    As recently as 2004, when I was first learning what Objectivism really was, I labeled myself a “libertarian” but still believed it was morally right to rob people to pay for a safety net for other people. I have, I am ashamed to admit, school essays asserting as much sitting on my hard drive.

    (A progression of such writing might make for an interesting blog, though I might die of embarrassment before making it through the first full week).

    My point is: Objectivism is not an easy lesson to teach, but it CAN be taught, so please keep at it. The learner has to come to many points of honest self-realization in which their closest-held beliefs fail the test of rational review. That’s a harrowing process, but one that strengthens the mind that survives it.

  • 17 David // Mar 23, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I DON’T think that in order to have a revolution it’s necessary for a majority of tea-partiers to become Objectivists. What is necessary is better leadership.

  • 18 Fareed // Mar 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    define “better leadership”

  • 19 madmax // Mar 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    David,

    I disagree. Egoists have to start being more forceful in their presentation and defense of egoism. Billy Beck is right . IMO we need to utterly reject altruism in the strongest terms no matter what the reaction. I think we should openly aim to shock the hell out of altruists. So when they say what if the poor die in the streets I am going to say if they can’t get alms from their family or private charity then they will die in the street. But I will not be bled dry for their sake.

    As Billy Beck would say, this is war. We need to approach it that way.

  • 20 Jim May // Mar 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    David: yes, the target audience is everyone.

    You are correct that the average tea-partier has a mixed moral sense. That is the point I am making; this is the weakness that the enemy will use to destroy them.

    Why throw it in their face that they lack moral fortitude?

    Because it’s pretty damned hot in that kitchen, bub. If you are going to get into a fight, you want to be prepared for it — and I have given them the minimum condition necessary to handle it.

    Wakeup calls are no good if not harsh.

    The situation I have described is not an emergency: it is a moral assault that will be directed against them (and us) routinely. It is the Left’s ace. All I have done is set out the minimum condition, in clear terms, that must be met for that ace to be trumped — and not until that happens will any repeal ever be able to gain ground.

    Without this minimum, their rejection of socialism will come to naught, for they will simply be talked into some more palatable version thereof. (like “repeal and replace“.)

    That’s it.

    My philosophical answer, when someone presents me with this scenario is: this is NOT a normal part of reality–life can be controlled and be made good. Emergency is an EXCEPTION.

    Sure. You go right ahead and try that explanation in the face of belligerent need, with Bill Maher’s cameras rolling. I say you get four words in before you’re shouted down.

    As for “leadership”, those who pass my test do not need leaders. What they need is ideas — and for those folks, there is plenty of material available, both here and elsewhere.

  • 21 Fareed // Mar 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I agree with madmax altruism must be rejected flat out and those guys need to be shocked. If they are not prepared to reject the altruistic overtones then they should shut-up

  • 22 Fareed // Mar 24, 2010 at 1:57 am

    I’m not sure this is the place for them but perhaps some quotes might help get us more fired up:

    “the pursuit of rational self-interest is moral and individual liberties exist because of it. ”

    “Man is no sacrificial animal with unchosen obligations toward others.”

    “Altruism only “feels good” to men infected with the nefarious sense of morality that holds that life is not one’s own; that it belongs to the anonymous mass of humanity that is in need.”

  • 23 Mrs.M // Mar 24, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Madmax said: “What is the best way to deal with this? Billy Beck in a recent post said something to the effect that if your child will die because of a lack of socialized medicine that he didn’t care if the kid died at his parents feet. This is harsh but I am beginning to think that it is necessary. I think we need to confront altruists with an undiluted egoism so if they say what of the poor under capitalism our answer should be that if they don’t work and can’t get alms from family or private charity then they very well may die in the street. In essence our answer should be “too damn bad”.

    “Is that a good tact with dealing with altruists? Jim’s post suggests that we need to be more like Billy Beck in our temperament.”

    Madmax, I read Jim’s post as an angry rant expressing the outraged emotions of a man who’s fed up with the growing assault on his power to control his life choices.

    It’s the kind of thing that, to me, should be expressed in private, and possibly in a bathroom. I understand his anger, but it’s not going to win over the minds and good will of most decent people that we need to get through to.

    I did NOT read Beck’s post as a *recommended way* to convince anybody of anything. It was pure venting as far as I could see.

    Normal, decent human beings, however, are not going to be moved to listen to you or trust you or embrace your philosophy if you state callously that you don’t care if children die in the street, that if people can’t afford to help themselves and if no one wants to help them, TOO BAD, etc. Objectivism does not hold callousness as a value, and neither does most of the human race. But what else can a non-Objectivist conclude if you put the issues to them callously?

    Note this – Beck said “I don’t care about that little bastard. As long as he’s in play in this — and you started it — I hope he curls up in a little ball and drops dead at his mother’s feet.

    “Do you understand? I don’t care: you sonsofbitches are pricing me right out of the market for “care” every single day, now.

    “This will be your vaunted “legacy” — the presumptive and pretentious ego-stroke of your kind in this age: you will go down in history with the spilled blood of the original American generosity on your hands, and its destruction forever attached to your name.”

    To paraphrase how I read the meaning of those three paragraphs and what I read between the lines, but in a calm, controlled tone: “When you deprive me of my right to choose whether and when and to whom I will give my energy, time, and money, when you take over from me that inalienable right to myself, I can’t care *anymore* even about some poor kid who desperately needs help, because all my emotional energy, all my effort, all my time, and ALL MY GOOD WILL have been drained out of me in the neverending fight just to keep my sovereignity and liberty. ["pricing me right out of the market for 'care']

    “Genuine good will and generosity, which has always been strong in the American culture, is a result of the guarantee of liberty, of respect for one’s property rights, respect for one’s sovereign ownership in self. You can’t destroy those guarantees and expect the independent spirit to maintain its natural generosity (or even the MEANS to be generous) – but those guarantees are crumbling fast, and it’s all the fault of those morally preening fools who believe that they have just done the needy a big favor.”

    Now, THAT is true, but it is not cold, it is not actually callous, it is not anti-compassionate. It’s a scream against the people who destroy real fellow-feeling with their bureacratic controls.

    Please don’t try to win friends for Objectivism by presenting it as a callous philosophy that doesn’t give a spit about anybody else. It’s not. That’s what it’s enemies want everyone to believe about it.

    TO answer Jim May: Yes, I do believe I have the moral right to refuse to help someone. I know my life, my resources, my values and circumstances. I have the right to make my own judgment about how my resources best serve my life. No one has the right to choose for me, and I’ll love them better and feel far more generous towards them if they don’t try.

    But if I personally come across some child in need of help, and I can help without sacrificing my own loves and happiness, I’m going to help.

    As Andy Bernstein once said “Other people are my second highest value”.

  • 24 Personal Sovereignty | b.y.o Lawnchairs // Mar 24, 2010 at 5:31 am

    [...] blog, written by Jim May.  It was a terrific read and I encourage you to read the entire article here.  Here’s a quote from the article that encapsulates most of the issues that society faces [...]

  • 25 David // Mar 24, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Jim,
    Your focus is to prepare “THEM” for facing the Bill Maher-type intimidation. At the same time, you are convinced that they cannot stand up to it. Thus, your whole argument is WEIGHED DOWN by the insufficiency of the consciousness of others. Your words are self-consciously futile.

    Your attitude is summed up by: “it’s not my problem–there are plenty of materials out there.” This is wrong.

    When I talk about leadership, I mean: the common man needs not just books and articles–he is not equipped to condense and integrate the content of those books. What he needs is the example of an individual who has integrated the ideas and believes in them–a person who is LIVING them and who has no doubt (this is different than shouting “no”) and who is NOT weighed down by the consciousness of others. You can’t fool the common man.

    The type of leadership I have in mind is exemplified by Dr. John David Lewis. When he speaks, I see before me a man not weighed down by the consciousness of others.

    The only value of the “test” that you describe, in my opinion, is as a tool for introspection, for intellectuals like us, to ferret out contradictions in our subconscious.

    It is much harder to lead a “mixed” person to focus on the tremendous value of Capitalism and Selfishness–to help him concretize these values for himself in a personal way–much harder than to “shock” him through some scenario where others make DEMANDS on him. Focus on reality is harder than focus on things people say.

  • 26 Mrs. M // Mar 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    David @25 – Two thumbs and two big toes up on that! Bravo!

  • 27 bogie wheel // Mar 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Tea Partier here –

    I answered “yes” to all four questions.

    My reasoning was:

    I interpreted “moral right to say no” as “the right to choose to say no.”

    Without free choice, there is no morality. You are not “good” if you cannot CHOOSE to be good.

    Giving because you are forced to doesn’t make you a good person. It just makes you a robbery victim.

  • 28 Jim May // Mar 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    TO answer Jim May: Yes, I do believe I have the moral right to refuse to help someone. I know my life, my resources, my values and circumstances. I have the right to make my own judgment about how my resources best serve my life. No one has the right to choose for me, and I’ll love them better and feel far more generous towards them if they don’t try.

    But if I personally come across some child in need of help, and I can help without sacrificing my own loves and happiness, I’m going to help.

    As I wrote:

    Now PAY ATTENTION, please.

    Notice that I am NOT asking what you believe you should choose. I am NOT asking you whether you should give to the needy.

    Apparently you missed it before, even with the NOW PAY ATTENTION in all caps.

    I guess I’ll need a bigger font next time.

    Please don’t try to win friends for Objectivism by presenting it as a callous philosophy that doesn’t give a spit about anybody else.

    I don’t know who or what you are talking about. As I made plain here and elsewhere, it isn’t about others at all, needy or not.

    See #27 “bogie wheel” above. That commenter gets it, without one bit of whining about my “attitude”.

    Speaking of which:

    Your attitude is summed up by: “it’s not my problem–there are plenty of materials out there.” This is wrong.

    You are faulting this article for failing to do what it was never meant to do.

    Both you and Mrs,M above seem to be far more interested in divining my emotional state than in actually reading what I wrote, as both of you are obsessing about my “attitude” and “rant” while missing what I wrote in plain English.

    For the last time: this post is intended as a wake-up call, a jab to a point in everyone’s moral structure that altruism leaves wide open, that if not closed, will eventually have a spear driven deep into it by the enemy when the opportunity comes. Nothing more.

    It was never meant to “lead” (which isnot to disparage John Lewis’ most excellent efforts); as for “winning friends”, I’ll happily leave that strategy to Dale Carnegie for all the good it will do him with that spear sticking out of his guts.

  • 29 David // Mar 25, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Jim,
    I am offering my ideas not just to criticize your piece but also for your own benefit. But you have not shown that you are trying to grasp my message. Instead you have taken numerous things people have said here completely out of context for the purpose of arguing. This is no longer productive for me, so I won’t respond.

    By the way, it appears to me that “#27 bogie wheel” is giving the standard conservative christian defense of freedom.

  • 30 Attractive Nuisance - Principles // Mar 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm

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  • 31 Jim May // Mar 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    David,

    I am offering my ideas for the benefit of anyone who can comprehend them. But you have not shown that you are trying to grasp my message. Instead you projected a purpose to my writing which was not mine, and focussed on my emotions rather than my ideas — which you didn’t even notice on the level of the literal, written words, even after being called on it.

    And finally, you indulged in projection so literal, you wrote much of this comment for me!

    It all makes sense though, in light of your claim that comment #27 “appears” Christian despite containing no reference to Christ or to any religious ideas whatsoever. If you project non-existent concepts into something as short and plainly written as that, there’s no way you could comprehend this post… let alone Ayn Rand’s ideas.

  • 32 David // Mar 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I give up. Talk about separating the adults from the adolescents . . .

  • 33 Shooting the Sleeping Dog — The New Clarion // Apr 6, 2010 at 9:54 pm

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  • 34 Anthony R. // May 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

    David,

    By giving up in this specific case it is you joining the ranks of the adolescents.

    Everyone else,

    From Ayn Rand at a Ford Hall Q&A segment, “…if you wish to help them we will not stop you”.

  • 35 Steve // May 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    The only comment I have on this test is some people you try to give it to may not recognize the dist9inction between “do you have the moral right to…” and “would you…”. You might want to explain the distinction *before* you give the test!

  • 36 Too Prescient for My Taste II: The Open Mouths of Altruism — The New Clarion // May 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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