Rand Rules!


I have for years tried to follow the concept the we are all responsible for ourselves, that what we create with our minds is ours to do with as we see fit. I believe that we as a people are entitled to real property rights, as a basic human right.

It seems Canadians have lost sight of some fundamental points in allowing our governments to dictate the exact opposite.

It is a time for us to revisit Rand and her thoughts!

I found this article on the net and found it most thought provoking and have decided that I should share it with you.

Ayn Rand is in the news. Over the past year there have been more and more references to her views in the media, and a large number of these have been positive or at least respectful. Sales of her books, though always strong, have increased in pace as well. No doubt, this attention is due to a heightening sense by many that the fundamental changes promised by the Obama administration are turning the United States into a European-style social democracy in which active state intervention in the economy will be more the rule than the exception.  Whether this will indeed be the case and whether such a development would be anything more than the inevitable result of over a century’s worth of state intervention (brought about as much by Republicans as Democrats) are matters for debate.  But what is clear is that the thought of Ayn Rand is becoming more prominent.

At one level, the increased attention given to Rand’s views seems to be due to how aptly her account of the destruction of capitalism in Atlas Shrugged captures what has been happening in reality.  Here we find the description of how government and certain businesses work together to create a political/legal order that favors certain groups at the expense of others, destroys economic growth and enterprise, and makes an ever-increasing number of citizens dependent on government for their livelihoods.  In a word, we have a story about how government working with business and labor creates a fascist economic, political, and legal order.

Yet, this alone cannot explain the increased attention given to Rand, for both F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises describe such a development, and while there is increased attention to their works too, it has not been as intense as that given to Rand’s. It would seem that the reason Rand’s views have been thrust into the public square is due to more than economic matters. No doubt, it is because of the moral or ethical dimension of her understanding of the role of government and the nature of capitalism.  This understanding is as follows:

  1. The purpose of government is the protection and implementation of the basic individual rights of life, liberty, and property.  These ethical principles define, sanction, and provide the foundation for liberty as the paramount value for the political/legal order. The sole legitimate purpose of the state is the protection of liberty, and if the state pursues any other ends, then it debases its legitimacy.
  2. Capitalism is neither immoral nor amoral.  Rather, it is, as Rand states, “a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.”

Individual rights are the linchpin of Rand’s political philosophy, and it is in terms of this concept that she understands capitalism.   It provides the ethical ideal by which to measure political orders and economies.  The United States has from its inception fallen short of this ideal, but it has more closely approximated it than any other political/legal order.  Thus, many Americans have a sense that their country is now explicitly rejecting this ethical ideal for another.  So, this is certainly part of the explanation for the resurgence of Rand.

This does not seem to be sufficient, however.  The classical liberal tradition is full of references to individual rights and their importance for politics and the economics.  One has only to think of the works of Frédéric Bastiat, particularly The Law, to find a view of government’s function and a commitment to laissez faire capitalism that is equivalent to Rand’s.   Moreover, Bastiat’s wit and writing style certainly make him as accessible as Rand.  So, again, why Rand?

The next part of the answer seems to be this:  It is for Rand both right and a right for individuals to live for their own sakes.  The moral standard to be followed is for each individual to live as full and as complete a human life as possible. Each individual human being is an end in him- or herself and has no higher moral purpose.  One is certainly not merely a means to the ends of others. This is what Rand meant by speaking of the virtue of “selfishness.” Her purpose in using a term that is normally thought of as a vice to describe her fundamental virtue was to indicate just how profound a paradigm shift is needed in order to defend liberty.  The right to liberty will not long exist in a culture that sees the pursuit of happiness (and by “happiness” she meant something more like human flourishing than merely pleasure) as either unworthy or simply amoral.  Fundamentally, when it comes to culture and the institutions that constitute a social system, homo moralis is what mattered for Rand, not homo economicus.

Rand’s point was not, however, merely a matter of sociology of knowledge.  She argued not only that moral knowledge is in fact possible but that such knowledge is found by an understanding of what human beings are—that is, by an appeal to human nature.  She thus sought to make a deep and profound philosophical claim about the nature of ethics and to link her advocacy of the ideal of liberty to this claim. Individual rights are natural rights. Indeed, Rand can be understood in most general terms as basing her advocacy of natural rights in natural law, if by the latter one understands “law” as meaning the measure and human nature as providing the measure that is the law.  So, what one finds in Rand is (despite her atheism) an echo of an older ethical tradition whose basic note is that human nature grounds the moral order.  This echo rings true, in many ways, to Americans who find themselves lost in the seemingly contradictory norms of political correctness and ethical relativism and who increasingly fear a culture (and politics) of nihilism.

Yet the relevance of Rand does not end here, because it is not merely the existence of a moral order that human beings desire, but something even larger—namely, the existence of an order that is open to human reason, achievement, and flourishing. Rand held that reality is intelligible and that there is nothing in principle which prevents human beings from knowing it.  Moreover, not only can we know reality, we can also use our knowledge to control nature so as to fulfill our needs and achieve our goals.  This world is not a “vale of tears,” but a place in which humans can triumph over poverty, disease, and ignorance. It is a place where human happiness is possible.  There may be no other writer who so fully conveys the sense of triumph that is possible for human life.  For Rand, Prometheus is unbound.  It is in this regard that Rand has a drawing power that may be the most profound of all.

I think, then, that Rand is in the news for these reasons: her ability to note with dramatic force the immorality and hypocrisy of our current political age; her commitment to individual rights; her holding liberty and capitalism inviolate; her rejection of “moral cannibalism” in any form; her advocacy of moral individualism; her recognition of a moral order grounded in human nature; and her realization that reality is not only intelligible but open to possibilities for human achievement far more wondrous than ever realized.  Overall, Rand’s philosophy supports ideas that were once thought to pertain to the very essence of being an American.  This essence is illustrated well by a poem, which I learned over forty-five years ago.  It is known simply as “My Creed.”

I do not choose to be a common man.

It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.

I seek opportunity—not security.

I do not wish to be a kept citizen,

Humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk,

To dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.

I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed

existence,

The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence

Or my dignity for a handout.

I will never cower before any master

nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud,

And unafraid, to think and act for myself,

Enjoy the benefits of my creations

And to face the world boldly and say, this I have done.

All this is what it means to be an American.

Rand can be viewed as seeking to provide the philosophical foundations for the ideas expressed in this poem.

Despite the power of Rand’s views, they can leave the critical reader in a quandary.  I believe the reason for this was expressed well by Professor John Hospers.  He once described Rand’s philosophical style as being like the broad brush strokes of a painter but without the tiny strokes that make the painting complete.  In other words, Rand’s thought lacks the attention to details, counter-examples, and context that are the hallmarks of the philosopher’s task.  As a result, she leaves many lacunae in her views and room for various interpretations of her basic positions.  Given the increased interest in Rand’s views, as well as her uncompromising defense of liberty, it might be worthwhile, then, to state some questions about Rand’s philosophy that critical readers might wish to ponder.  I will list six sets of questions. It is my hope that these can be used as the basis for discussion.

  1. What is Rand’s justification for individual rights? Does it succeed? What is the function of the concept of rights?  Is it rooted in human flourishing?  If so, how?  Is it a human virtue? Is it a deontological (duty) concept, or is it a different type of ethical norm?  Does Rand have a single justification for rights?  If Rand does not have an adequate argument, does she suggest paths that might be developed?  Or, is there no hope in this regard, and if so, is there any way to justify individual rights?
  2. Is Rand’s account of capitalism accurate?  Is it true to the work-a-day reality that people confront?  In terms similar to those used by Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, do most people have customers in order to create, or do they create in order to have customers?  Does it matter? Does capitalism require a moral backdrop to work, to be understood, to be defended?  Are individual rights the only moral concept required?  What are the differences between Rand’s vision of capitalism and that of Smith’s, Mises’s, or Hayek’s? Does homo moralis really trump homo economicus?
  3. Does Rand succeed in showing that there is moral knowledge?  Does she succeed in showing that human nature is its foundation?  Does she provide a way to derive what is valuable from what is and thus avoid the so-called naturalistic fallacy?  Is she committed to some version of naturalistic teleology (for example, that life is the ultimate end) and is this defensible?  Or, is Rand also committed to the idea that all morality rests on a pre-moral choice to live, and if so, has she really shown that our knowledge of what is can provide guidance as to what we ought to do?
  4. The subtitle of The Virtue of Selfishness is “A New Concept of Egoism.”  Does Rand provide a new concept?  Is it egoism?  In Atlas Shrugged, the standard of moral value is “Man’s Life,” and in The Virtue of Selfishness, it is “man’s survival qua man.”  Are these the same?  Are all the goods and virtues that are involved in living “qua man” merely instrumental values, or are some valuable in themselves?  How are such goods and virtues to be understood? What is the place, if any, for the friendship and charity in Rand’s ethics?  Is it really true that what is objectively good and right for one individual cannot as a matter of principle ever conflict with what is objectively good and right for another individual?  Does Rand fully appreciate the role of individuality when it comes to making moral determinations, and why is there no discussion of the intellectual virtue of practical wisdom? What is the role, if any, of the contingent and the particular in determining what one ought to do? Is there no place for moral pluralism? Is Rand’s ethical individualism really a form of atomism, or does she have a place for sociality in her account of the moral life?  How do Rand’s ethical views compare to those of Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Smith, Kant, and Nietzsche?
  5. Is the idea of human nature defensible?  In general, can one be realistic about the nature of anything, or does one have to be more pragmatic when it comes to how the world is conceptually divided? Is Rand’s account of human nature defensible?  Does her account of human volition stand up?  Does Rand always maintain a clear distinction between the “concept of X” and “X,” or does she sometimes fall into a rationalism that conflates the tools of human reason with reality?
  6. Is Rand’s view of religion accurate?  Is there no place for the transcendent in human life, and is faith in God simply a form of irrationalism?  Has natural theology truly been dismissed from the realm of rational discussion? What is the proper object of religious worship? Is there no place for tragedy in a realistic account of the world?  Is philosophy as close to reality as Rand seems to think?

As said, I offer these questions as the basis for discussion.  I make no pretense that they are exhaustive, but they are the sorts of questions regarding Rand that I have thought about for years.  This should be enough to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Before I close these remarks, I want to note what my colleague, Douglas J. Den Uyl, has observed regarding Rand’s view of the connection between philosophy and reality.

As philosophers have known since antiquity, what moves the world may not map exactly onto the rarified and subtle nuances of thought suitable to philosophical truth.   This asymmetry is, for the most part, denied by Rand.  But the truth is that it manifests itself either by issuing in a state of persistent pessimism about the world around one, or in a small but deep sense of “tragedy” that the path from philosophic principle to practical action is a long, twisted, and obstacle ridden one with no smoother alternative.  I, for one, find the “tragic” path more conducive to the enjoyment of living, but its danger is a pessimism (or equally problematic, an enthusiasm) that comes from trying to obliterate the distance between philosophy and life.

I think that Rand lost sight at times (both in her work and life) of the distance between thought and reality.  I think this causes her no end of troubles on certain occasions (for example, when she attempted to provide an account of an “objective” theory of the moral good in “What is Capitalism?” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal), but I do not think that it is an overwhelming problem. The answer is to be found in observing the appropriate mean:  we are not cut off from reality; happiness is possible.  But the road we travel is not easy and nothing is guaranteed.  We must always keep in mind the distance between thought and reality if we are to triumph.

Not only do I think these observations are important for individuals in facing the challenges of their lives, but also for all who seek to defend liberty.  We live in a most trying time, and we are called upon to discover what is true and defend it with all of our abilities.  The truth behind liberty will ultimately prevail, but this may not happen in our lifetimes. Even if we were to succeed in our defense of liberty, nothing would be guaranteed.  Our work would need to continue.  Such is the human condition.  So, if there is any single reason for why Rand’s views should be worthy of the attention they are currently receiving, it is this: philosophical principles matter, and persons and cultures that ignore them do so at their peril.  This is the basis for the continued appeal of Atlas Shrugged, for there she pointed out more vividly than anyone else in our time what happens when the right principles are subverted and the wrong ones take their place.

Postscript:

I have over these years worked not only with such philosophers as Hospers and Den Uyl, but also Tibor Machan, Eric Mack, Fred Miller, Aeon Skoble, and many others, and so I think I can say fairly that there has been much philosophical progress in developing, expanding, and improving upon the insights of Rand.   Moreover, there has been the creation of the Ayn Rand Society, which has been meeting at the American Philosophical Association for more than twenty years, as well as the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (edited by Chris Sciabarra), which is devoted to a careful and no holds barred analysis of her thought.  Rand’s thought thus is part of the current intellectual scene, and so it is altogether proper to assess her views at this time. I say this not because I see Rand as the ending point for discussion but as a starting point.  Finally, it is possible to advance liberty and defend individual rights in a manner different from Rand’s, as the works of Robert Nozick, Loren Lomasky, Jan Narveson, and David Schmidtz attest, and thus there is nothing in this proposed discussion that should be taken to deny the importance of their works.

Two final matters:  “My Creed” was written by Dean Alfange, and I would like to thank Will Wilkinson and Cato for this opportunity as well as Douglas Den Uyl, Aeon Skoble, and Roger Bissell for their helpful suggestions.

The Monkeys are Running the Zoo!


Forest Gump is well known for the saying “Stupid id as Stupid does!

Certain members of Bruce County Council and Administration certainly fill this bill!

Let ‘s think for a minute from the perspective Economic Development in the County of Bruce….

Council is telling all small to medium investors, that if you have an innovative idea to develop and invest in, you should go somewhere else to develop it. They do not want you to come to Bruce County, because if you do invest and develop you idea in this county, they will provide funding for your competition to compete with you.

Now I am not saying that the Members of Council will will do this intentionally, but a decision can only be made with good information. Council relies on the information that is provided by Administration. The Administration (Simple serpents) are paid with tax dollars, in most cases overpaid, to have meetings and decide when their next meeting is being held. They are so busy having meetings that they have not time to get their jobs done. When they truly succeed at this they have proven that it take two people to do their job and are allowed to hire consultants to lighten their work load. After a time of this the Politicians are told that it would be cheaper to hire more staff and then the original Simple serpents are promoted to supervisors, who have meeting with their assistants to decide when their next meetings are and the process continues.

So lets walk through the process…

The Politicians come up with new ideas that may actually help their communities, the first thing they do is go to their CAO who calls a meeting with the department heads to discuss the new idea. The Department heads call  meeting with their departments to dicuss the plan, and they decide that they should have a joint meeting with the all the departments to review the idea. The departments meet and decide they should have a Consultant review the plan and report back with a feasibility study. So the department heads have a meeting to discuss and review the recomendation of the Departmental meeting and decide to take the idea of a Consultant to the Committee as a Whole who vote to approve the idea of the consultant and recommend it to Council. The CAO then puts it on the agenda for the next Council meeting who vote on it and approve the idea of a Consultant.

The CAO then sends tha approval to the Department heads who have a meeting and decided to have a general meeting of staff to review Councils decision and look for input. They then have a department head meeting to review the input of the general staff meeting and decide to appoint a committee to find a consultant and qualify him. The committee has a meeting to review and qualify the Consultant and make a recomendation to implement a plan to review and qualify a consultant, prepare a report to the department heads who in turn have a meeting to discuss the committee’s plan of attack. They then send memos to the staff announcing the plan and have a departmental meeting to approve the plan which gives rise to have a Department head meeting to approve the plan on the recomendation of input from the departments subject to an RFP.

The Committee then prepares an RFP and calls a meeting of the department heads to approve the RFP document, who in turn has a staff meeting for input as to content and form. After several meetings to decide on the the exact content and form they send it to the department heads to have a meeting with the committee to review the final draft  which then gets published.

After Publishing the RFP they receive several proposals. The Committee reviews the proposals and calls a meeting of the Departmental heads with a list of recommended proposals (usually done by drawing the names out of a hat) the department heads get a new hat and draw the winning bid and send the recommendation to the committee as a whole who after being informed of the extensive review conducted by staff, who then approve it for recommendation to Council who vote on it approve it and the CAO sends the approval to the department heads who have a meeting to discuss when to have a meeting to speak with and instruct the Consultant.

The Consultant is instructed as to  what is wanted, he prepares his report which is reviewed by the Department heads, who review it with their departments who have meeting to make input and recommendations to the department heads who make in conjuction with the consultant a recommendation and presentation to council who votes to accept the report which recommends a RFP to be prepared to proceed with the project. 

In the mean time the CAO and the CFO decide this is taking too much time and choose their first cousins uncle’s nephew’s first born male related by marriage or divorce what ever the case may be, (because he is  an unemployed drunk)  to be hired as project manager.

The Project manager then has a meeting with the department heads to discuss the go forward plan, which includes a general meeting with staff for input and so it goes.

Now the CFO and CAO decide that although hit would be a great idea to give the contract to a local, they should give it to a large Publicly traded company, because then they don’t have to worry about it any more and the locals are to small and under funded any way. So they then call a meeting of the department heads and tell them that they have reviewed the file and recommend that they speak to their departments for comments and do to process an RFP to that end because they are running out of time and could lose their funding. They all have their meeting and recommend that they hire a Consultant to review their decision and the cycle continues.

After all is said and done they recommend to Council to approve their choice or face litigation. They then vote on it approve it and are instructed not to talk about it as they could be sued. The staff then tell anyone who asks that they must file applications under the freedom of information act to get any answers but their request would be refused on the County level and they will have to go to the Province to apply and the moment they do that Staff and departments heads are informed that its is under litigation and can’t be discussed.

Who is lying to who???

Bruce County council awarded the Broadband grant of $1,000,000 to Bell Aliant, to deploy Cellular internet, which they were doing anyway over the local internet companies that deployed internet over the last 10 years when Bell laughed at the county because the The market was to small.

The Facts

Bruce County Council By Law 4524

The Rural Connections Broadband Program was initiated by the Province of Ontario to provide funding for the development of infrastructure to provide connectivity to:

  “residents, businesses, and public institutions in rural areas that currently do not have access to broadband Internet services” (Provincial mandate)

 The County of Bruce applied for and achieved approval for funding to service four areas of the  County that met this qualification, according to their submission to the Province.

 The areas were outlined in general as Sauble Beach Area, Walkerton Area, Colpoy’s Bay area and Red Bay Area.

 On January 26, 2009,  members of Council along with Administration were advised that in fact that the areas listed were already serviced with a minimum of five service providers and they were urged  that going forward, it would be wise to work with existing Service Providers to develop a plan to reutilize existing infrastructure to better service these proposed areas as apposed to wasting tax dollars and reinventing the wheel.

As apposed to a common sense approach, the IT Staff placed adds in the paper advertising that thegovernment was going to fund Broadband and surprise there got responses from the most densely populated areas of the County wanting free internet and used this an indication of a lacking in service. They failed to ask if they had access service available .  

My first question is that I ask you consider is :       Who is misleading to who?

 Is the Province fooling to the People and misusing tax dollars or is the County fooling to the Province in order to get the funding for a project they may not entirely need?

 On January 28, 2009, each member of Council and Administration were advised that in respect to the areas recommended for serviceunder the program, showing the capacity of the local service providers.  

The only response  received was to be advised by Administration that a response to the Request for Expression of Interest should be submitted, failing which there would be no input at all.  

Reluctantly  a submission was madeby some proponents, so as to keep a place at the table so to speak.   

On August 8, 2009 an RFP from the County was sent out directing proponents to direct questions solely to Graham Barrie, IT department head. 

 On August 10, 2009 each member of Council and Administration andconcerns regarding the local companies once again were submitted. 

On September 4, 2009  Mr. Barrie was written a request for a list of County Assets pursuant to Schedule 3  of the RFP.  

 Mr. Barrie on September 16, 2009, advised the material was forthcoming.

 At this point I would like to advise that the proponents did receive the requested material on Saturday, one week before the RFP submissions were due  eight months after the Request for interest was published by the county.

Mr. Barrie was unavailable for questions with respect to the RFP albeit all  were instructed in the RFP to direct all inquiries to Mr. Barrie.

 On September 23, 2009 each member of Council advising of  concerns regarding the in availability of Mr. Barrie’s and his absence and  requested an extensions for filing as a result of the unavailability Bruce County’sAdministrations key contact, Mr. Barrie. This request was not granted .

 Mr. Harris of Administration was contacted to further the request for an extension of time with respect to the RFP and was denied an extension to which each member of Council was written and advised accordingly.

 In frustration the proponents contacted the Ministers office in Toronto and advised of the problems associated with obtaining an extension and low and behold the next day an extension was granted.

 Subsequent to filing  submissions Administration  was written to request if there were to be interviews by the committee as allowed by the RFP  Schedule on October 9, 2009.  

A response on October 9, 2009 advised, that there was no need for interviews.  

Now this project was for the distribution of up to one million dollars of Provincial Public money to provide service to areas without service. The RFP required significant detail which in turn required substantial engineering and costing. the largest submission consisted of approximately 650 pages of technical material, but yet no one had any questions.

 It is interesting to note that Mr. Harris, approached the Human Resources Committee on October 15, 2009 and requested the retention of an outside consultant to review the RFP submissions as:

  “the Information Manager, is on sick leave, and in discussions with the CAO, it was necessary to hire a consultant to review the RFP’s received at a cost of $5,500.”

His request was approved.  

It should be noted that no qualifications for the consultant were submitted nor any history of the Consultant.

Our research showed that the Consultant possesses no wireless background and no engineering skills related to the wireless industry.

When Mr. Harris was questioned by a tax payer about his reasons for the retention of an outside consultant he responded with

these RFP’s  were carefully reviewed and an internal decision was made to award the contract to Bell Aliant”

 Does this sound like a fair and open process yet??

 The issue of the consultant being associated as a reseller of TELUS Products. A stake holder in Bell Alaint,  has never been addressed and may or may not be of importance to most, however, it certainly provides for the perception of conflict. (wonder who he is related to)

 It seems to me Mr. Harris in his submission of October 15, 2009,  indicated that his IT department was short staffed and needed help to review the RFP’s submitted, however in his correspondence he states that the department carefully reviewed, the RFPs and made a decision internally.(Bell Aliant)

 This gives rise to few questions:

 Was he short staffed and as a result hired a consultant or did he have the staff and the consultant just a waste of money? Was the  decision made before or after the consultant was hired? I was under the impression that Council made decisions or amI misinformed?

 If the decision was made after careful review then I challenge the review as 650 pages without any questions certainly leaves doubt as to the competence and integrity of the reviewer.

 Regardless of the answers, I find it interesting that the IT Department refuses to share any information relating to the RFP,   the process or any documents associated with same without an application under the Freedom of Information Act. When queried about the process I was advised that an application would have to be made, which would be refused on the County level and I was free to go to the Province and apply.

 What is being hidden? Why is this process shrouded in secrecy?

 The incompetence of those handling the RFP, is clearly indicated by the fact that the RFP was sent out to everyone in the industry, while it was made clear that no one could make submissions if they had not file a letter of interest. When challenged the RFP was quickly with drawn and reissued to those parties that submitted a letter of interest.

Further to the point with respect to submissions, I find it interesting that Administration had to contact proponents by phone requesting their address to return the RFP deposit cheques, when in the 650 page submission there are 125 pages showing their address.

How well was the submission reviewed if at all?

The County was asked to delay implementing By Law 4524 by a committee consisting of a Council member Members, members of the Public and individuals involved in the industry review the RFP’s submitted and the procedure followed.

Inconsistencies, if any,  and the performance of individuals involved could be reviewed.

 On December 3, 2009, the CAO warned Council before it voted on a motion for delay put forward by Mayor Gilbert, that the County could be sued if they delayed.

Council was advised not to coment as litigation was pending.

It looks like a reasonable request to me.

But if it looks like a duck and smells like crap it usually is.

Email Council and tell them what you think! Their email addresses are at the Bruce County Web Page.

Bruce