The only moments when I channel Ayn Rand are those when I’m engaged in
fiction. A couple of nights ago, I was playing my new favourite game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
In the game, you play the role of Carl “C.J.” Johnson, who brings about
the second coming of the once-feared Grove Street gang.
One important facet of the game is earning the respect of your fellow
gang members, and one of the most fun ways to earn that respect is to
ruthlessly kill members of rival gangs. I have a mean streak that I try
to keep under control in real life, but in the game world of San Andreas (a really large world comprised of three cities and the rural areas in between), I can indulge it all I want.
My housemate Rob watched in amazement as I “softened up” a half-dozen
members of a rival gang by running over them with a stolen car and then
delivered coups de grace using my submachinegun with a rhythm
that would’ve made Conlon Nancarrow proud.
Another feature of the game is that if you kill someone, you can take
their money. As I helped myself to the cash from their scattered
corpses, Rob said something along the lines of “Wow, that’s cold.”
“Hey, it’ll trickle down,” I reassured him with a smile.
If that was cold, the Ayn Rand Institute published a letter to the editor titled U.S. Should Not Help Tsunami Victims
was sub-zero. It’s been excised from the site, but lives on in syndication and Google’s cache. Written by David “Civil engineer is a contradiction in terms” Holcberg (“You may remember me from such heart-warming letters to the editor as Death of Civilians Should Not Hinder War Effort“), here it is in its entirety:
As the death toll mounts in the areas hit by Sunday’s
tsunami in southern Asia, private organizations and individuals are
scrambling to send out money and goods to help the victims. Such help
may be entirely proper, especially considering that most of those
affected by this tragedy are suffering through no fault of their own.
The United States government, however, should not
give any money to help the tsunami victims. Why? Because the money is
not the government’s to give.
Every cent the government spends comes from taxation.
Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted
from an American taxpayer first. Year after year, for decades, the
government has forced American taxpayers to provide foreign aid to
every type of natural or man-made disaster on the face of the earth:
from the Marshall Plan to reconstruct a war-ravaged Europe to the $15
billion recently promised to fight AIDS in Africa to the countless
amounts spent to help the victims of earthquakes, fires and
floods–from South America to Asia. Even the enemies of the United
States were given money extorted from American taxpayers: from the
billions given away by Clinton to help the starving North Koreans to
the billions given away by Bush to help the blood-thirsty Palestinians
under Arafat’s murderous regime.
The question no one asks about our politicians’
“generosity” towards the world’s needy is: By what right? By what right
do they take our hard-earned money and give it away?
The reason politicians can get away with doling out
money that they have no right to and that does not belong to them is
that they have the morality of altruism on their side. According to
altruism–the morality that most Americans accept and that politicians
exploit for all it’s worth–those who have more have the moral
obligation to help those who have less. This is why Americans–the
wealthiest people on earth–are expected to sacrifice (voluntarily or
by force) the wealth they have earned to provide for the needs of those
who did not earn it. It is Americans’ acceptance of altruism that
renders them morally impotent to protest against the confiscation and
distribution of their wealth. It is past time to question–and to
reject–such a vicious morality that demands that we sacrifice our
values instead of holding on to them.
Next time a politician gives away money taken from you
to show what a good, compassionate altruist he is, ask yourself: By
He should’ve finished it off with “Hey, it’ll trickle down.”
The Ayn Rand Institute must’ve caught some serious heat from outraged parties, as they published a press release which contains the ever-so-useful line, “We would like to clarify our position” (which should always set your B.S. detector abuzz). Here’s how it begins:
On December 30, 2004, the Ayn Rand Institute released as a letter to
the editor and as an op-ed a piece that condemned the U.S. government’s
use of taxpayers’ money to help victims of the recent tsunami (“U.S.
Should Not Help Tsunami Victims”). That piece was inappropriate and did
not accurately convey the Institute’s position. We would like to
clarify our position.
Obviously, the tsunami, with the thousands of innocent victims left
in its wake, is a horrible disaster. The first concern of survivors and
of those trying to help them is to provide basic necessities and then
to begin rebuilding. The American public’s predictably generous
response to assist these efforts is motivated by goodwill toward their
fellow man. In the face of the enormous and undeserved suffering,
American individuals and corporations have donated millions of dollars
in aid; they have done so by and large not out of some sense of
altruistic duty but in the name of the potential value that another
human being represents. This benevolence, which we share, is not the
same thing as altruism.
The emphasis in the paragraph above is mine. Had the line “potential value that another human being represents” been used by almost any other organization, I wouldn’t intrepret it as “consumer”. And by “consumer”, I mean “industrial age aphid who eats consumer goods and craps out cash“.
The release is standard PR “clarification fare” — get the non-apology
out of the way, and then direct the conversation elsewhere. Once the
piece gets that distasteful business about callousness in the face of
mass death out of the way, it spends its remaining half espousing the
Randroid party line and defending the right to not give a crap.
Hey, it’ll trickle down.