Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum): ENTj, INTp, INTj, or ESTp
“The (implicit) standards of Romanticism are so demanding that in spite of the abundance of Romantic writers at the time of its dominance, this school has produced very few pure, consistent Romanticists of the top rank. Among novelists, the greatest are Victor Hugo and Dostoevsky…
The distinguishing characteristic of this top rank (apart from their purely literary genius) is their full commitment to the premise of volition in both of its fundamental areas: in regard to consciousness and to existence, in regard to man’s character and to his actions in the physical world. Maintaining a perfect integration of these two aspects, unmatched in the brilliant ingenuity of their plot structures, these writers are enormously concerned with man’s soul (i.e., his consciousness). They are moralists in the most profound sense of the word; their concern is not merely with values, but specifically with moral values and with the power of moral values in shaping human character. Their characters are “larger than life,” i.e., they are abstract projections in terms of essentials (not always successful projections, as we shall discuss later). In their stories, one will never find action for action’s sake, unrelated to moral values. The events of their plots are shaped, determined and motivated by the characters' values (or treason to values), by their struggle in pursuit of spiritual goals and by profound value-conflicts.”—Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto
‘Greenspan, “the maestro,” and his dream-team staff, couldn’t figure out how to run the economy. It was the Fed’s expansion of the money supply (1% interest rates!) that created the bubbles.’
“Alan Greenspan vs. Ayn Rand and Freedom” (BY HARRY BINSWANGER, 7 NOV 2008): The connection of Alan Greenspan to Ayn Rand, decades ago, is being used to blacken her name and her ideas.
This from the Leftist “Mother Jones” publication is one of the milder expressions:
“In a historic moment, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan acknowledged he had been wrong for years to assume that government regulation was bad for markets. Whoops—there goes decades of Ayn Rand down the drain.”
Rightist publications are joining in the smear: Forbes magazine’s online blog states:
“Greenspan, protege of Ayn Rand and the driving mind behind the notion that risk can be contained by having ever growing numbers of market players taking pieces of that risk, has now admitted that ‘Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief.’ […] “The whole concept of self-regulation through self-interest is now dead”
In response, I posted this comment on the Forbes site:
‘The lesson people have drawn from Greenspan’s failure is exactly backwards. Greenspan, “the maestro,” and his dream-team staff, couldn’t figure out how to run the economy. It was the Fed’s expansion of the money supply (1% interest rates!) that created the bubbles. So interventionism has failed, as it always does. Can anyone seriously say, “an even smarter version of Greenspan will get it right next time”?
The article says self-regulation is now dead. Okay, what’s the alternative? Regulation by the state—i.e., by new Greenspans? Forbes, above all publications, should be clear that the alternative to self-regulation is state dictation, the command economy.
Deregulation? There were 51,000 NEW regulations added over the last 12 years. Banking, housing, and insurance are the most regulated areas of the economy. They are strangled by regulations. This is the failure of the regulatory state.
As to Greenspan, this is the penalty of betraying Ayn Rand’s philosophy. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen’s famous riposte: Dr. Greenspan, I knew Ayn Rand, and you’re no Objectivist.’
Let’s review the record in regard to Greenspan’s progressive split from Ayn Rand.
I can’t say I knew Alan Greenspan, though, being an associate of Ayn Rand, I met him a few times in the 1960s. But by 1970—almost 40 years ago—I and a couple of other Objectivists in that circle already realized that Greenspan was compromising on her philosophy. Little did we know how far his anti-Rand journey would take him. As the years rolled on,
he was hailed as the man who “saved” Social Security–by extending its confiscatory power,
when Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address called for socialized medicine, he rose to his feet, standing next to Hillary Clinton in giving a standing ovation to that proposal,
he became head of the mammothly anti-capitalist Federal Reserve, directing the government’s manipulation of money and credit,
he provided a laudatory dust-jacket blurb for a book attacking Ayn Rand (by a woman he had “irrevocably” condemned in print in 1968). Yet he repeatedly refused to contribute to or lend his name to the Ayn Rand Institute,
he wrote, in 1995, that government central banking is a necessity: “Only a central bank, with unlimited power to create money can guarantee that such a process [“a cascading sequence of defaults”] will be thwarted before it becomes destructive.” (Note that we just witnessed this “cascading sequence of defaults” despite–or, actually, caused by–our central bank.)
he wrote in his autobiography about coming to reject Objectivism: “as contradictions inherent in my new notions began to emerge . . . the fervor receded”,
and now he has blamed free markets (as if we had them!) for his failures at the Fed. In conceding that his “ideology” was wrong, he was understood to be saying Ayn Rand was wrong—even though he had long ago forgotten or evaded every essential of what Ayn Rand stood for.
How much did he forget? Consider this interview with him from a year ago :
Fox Interviewer: “Now you were a great admirer, in fact an acolyte, of Ayn Rand, the great philosopher, who believed in the absolute most limited role that the government could play in people’s lives. She probably wouldn’t have been a fan of the Federal Reserve Board, would she?
Greenspan: “Well, uh, I don’t know, because we never discussed that in particular.”
He doesn’t know that Ayn Rand opposed the Fed?! Every Objectivist knows it. The Fox Interviewer knew it. Anyone who can form a syllogism, and who knows Ayn Rand’s major premises knew it. But Alan Greenspan doesn’t, because, he claims, they never discussed that in particular. Okay, let’s imagine that’s true; they never discussed that in particular. But did they not discuss in all those years, the principle of individual rights? the proper functions of government? the fact that “Atlas Shrugged” advocates a gold standard? her famous dictum about the absolute separation of State and Economics? Did he not read the very book he’s published in—“Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” [CUI]?
From “Common Fallacies About Capitalism,” in that book:
“All government intervention in the economy is based on the belief that economic laws need not operate, that principles of cause and effect can be suspended, that everything in existence is ‘flexible’ and ‘malleable,’ except a bureaucrat’s whim, which is omnipotent; reality, logic, and economics must not be allowed to get in the way. This was the implicit premise that led to the establishment in 1913 of the Federal Reserve System . . .”
Perhaps Greenspan would claim, absurdly, he never read that particular article. But look at his own article in CUI, “Gold and Economic Freedom”:
“But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing a business decline—argued economic interventionists—why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely—it was claimed—there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913.”
So his statement that “he never discussed that in particular” with Ayn Rand is either evidence of how much his evasions have automatized or is an outright lie.
For a breath of fresh air, look at this analysis of the financial crisis:
“The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the housing market—triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve tried to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by mid-2008 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed.”
Pretty good summary, isn’t it? Only it was written not about today but about 1929—by Alan Greenspan. I simply changed the dates, made it the housing market instead of the stock market, and inserted Greenspan’s name. For the original, See his “Gold and Economic Freedom,” in CUI, p. 101.
Back to the Fox interview of a year ago :
“But I think she [Ayn Rand] recognized that there are lots of institutions which we would be better without, but nonetheless probably require them if indeed society as a whole decides to do that. Remember, we live in a democratic society and that compromise is the very essence of a democratic society. Because if we’re all individuals with different ideas and we want to live together we have to do that.”
This—about the world’s most famous opponent of compromise? The woman who wrote:
“In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube.”
[It is not a compromise to accede to the majority vote in a constitutionally limited republic. But Greenspan was not doing that, not merely acknowledging the political impossibility of abolishing the Fed, he was endorsing the Fed, running it (badly), and arguing for its necessity, as in his 1995 paper.]
The essence of Greenspan’s testimony is: “a wrong ideology was to blame, not me.” What ideology? Well, in the popular mind it is Ayn Rand’s.
So the meaning, which certainly has been seized on by the commentators, is: Greenspan belatedly realized how foolish he has been to believe in Ayn Rand’s philosophy. The ideology of freedom, as taught by Ayn Rand to Greenspan, is what caused the current financial catastrophe.
What makes this especially revolting, is that the real destroyer of the economy is Greenspan, through his inflation-generating last years at the Fed.
So a man who betrays Ayn Rand, and who wrecks the economy of the U.S. in carrying out that betrayal, then succeeds in shifting the blame onto Ayn Rand and capitalism.
Not everyone is fooled by Greenspan. Note this interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” today with two former Federal Reserve Governors: Wayne Angell and Robert Heller.
CNBC reporter: “Congress lately has been playing the blame game, gentlemen. They had the hearings in the House Oversight Committee. Former Chairman Greenspan testified there. It got a little testy between him and Chairman Henry Waxman. Let’s remember what they were saying to each other last week. Listen to this:”
[Video: of hearings:]
Waxman: “Your view of the world, your ideology was not right. It was not working.”
Greenspan: “Precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I’ve been going for 40 years or more, with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
CNBC reporter: “A pretty contrite Alan Greenspan there. Wayne Angell, do you blame him for the crisis we are in right now?”
Angell: “Yes, but not for what he says he now has repentance on. His ideology was correct. Markets do work—as long as the Federal Reserve doesn’t do any harm. But his Fed, policywise, did a great deal of harm, creating an unsustainable housing bubble, and the crash of that bubble was soon to follow. And that was what was wrong, not letting markets work.”
CNBC: “In other words, keeping rates as low as he did for as long as he did?”
Angell: “That’s it.”
CNBC: “Robert Heller, do you think so? Did he keep money too cheap for too long?”
Heller: “That’s right. And after that, the Fed then took rates very high, kept them high again. And that really pricked the bubble.”
Let’s return for one final look at Greenspan’s statement: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief.”
What this means is: “I am shocked that lending institutions actually fell for the trap I set for them when I inflated the money supply.” And, of course, the whole purpose of his inflating the money supply was to get them to behave just the way they did—to increase loans. So he is in shocked disbelief that faking the supply of credit actually had financial consequences.
Once again he is saying, “I didn’t fail; it was you people out there who failed; you believed in the reality of the faked credit I created—where was your self-interest in doing that?”
It turns out that if you wrap bankers from head to toe in regulations, then spin them rapidly around for awhile, they then stagger around and walk into walls. Who’d have thought it? It is on this basis that Alan Greenspan finds a flaw in his ideology.
If Greenspan had set out deliberately to destroy freedom, he couldn’t have done a more thorough job of destruction.
from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; p 387-92:
The wedding veil of rose-point lace caught on the splintered floor of her tenement bedroom. Cherryl Brooks lifted it cautiously, stepping to look at herself in a crooked mirror that hung on the wall. She had been photographed here all day, as she had been many times in the past two months. She still smiled with incredulous gratitude when newspaper people wanted to take her picture, but she wished they would not do it so often.
An aging sob sister, who had a drippy love column in print and the bitter wisdom of a policewoman in person, had taken Cherryl under her protection weeks ago, when the girl had first been thrown into press interviews as into a meat grinder. Today, the sob sister had chased the reporters out, had snapped, “All right, all right, beat it!” at the neighbors, had slammed Cherryl’s door in their faces and had helped her to dress. She was to drive Cherryl to the wedding; she had discovered that there was no one else to do it.
The wedding veil, the white satin gown, the delicate slippers and the strand of pearls at her throat, had cost five hundred times the price of the entire contents of Cherryl’s room. A bed took most of the room’s space, and the rest was taken by a chest of drawers, one chair, and her few dresses hanging behind a faded curtain. The huge hoop skirt of the wedding gown brushed against the walls when she moved, her slender figure swaying above the skirt in the dramatic contrast of a tight, severe, long-sleeved bodice; the gown had been made by the best designer in the city.
“You see, when I got the job in the dime store, I could have moved to a better room,” she said to the sob sister, in apology, “but I don’t think it matters much where you sleep at night, so I saved my money, because I’ll need it for something important in the future—” She stopped and smiled, shaking her head dazedly. “I thought I’d need it,” she said.
“You look fine,” said the sob sister. “You can’t see much in that alleged mirror, but you’re okay.”
“The way all this happened, I . . . I haven’t had time to catch up with myself. But you see, Jim is wonderful. He doesn’t mind it, that I’m only a salesgirl from a dime store, living in a place like this. He doesn’t hold it against me.”
“Uh-huh,” said the sob sister; her face looked grim.
Cherryl remembered the wonder of the first time Jim Taggart had come here. He had come one evening, without warning, a month after their first meeting, when she had given up hope of ever seeing him again. She had been miserably embarrassed, she had felt as if she were trying to hold a sunrise within the space of a mud puddle—but Jim had smiled, sitting on her only chair, looking at her flushed face and at her room. Then he had told her to put on her coat, and he had taken her to dinner at the most expensive restaurant in the city. He had smiled at her uncertainty, at her awkwardness, at her terror of picking the wrong fork, and at the look of enchantment in her eyes. She had not known what he thought. But he had known that she was stunned, not by the place, but by his bringing her there, that she barely touched the costly food, that she took the dinner, not as booty from a rich sucker—as all the girls he knew would have taken it—but as some shining award she had never expected to deserve.
He had come back to her two weeks later, and then their dates had grown progressively more frequent. He would drive up to the dime store at the closing hour, and she would see her fellow salesgirls gaping at her, at his limousine, at the uniformed chauffeur who opened the door for her. He would take her to the best night clubs, and when he introduced her to his friends, he would say, “Miss Brooks works in the dime store in Madison Square.” She would see the strange expressions on their faces and Jim watching them with a hint of mockery in his eyes. He wanted to spare her the need of pretense of embarrassment, she thought with gratitude. He had the strength to be honest and not to care whether others approved of him or not, she thought with admiration. But she felt an odd, burning pain, new to her, the night she heard some woman, who worked for a highbrow political magazine, say to her companion at the next table, “How generous of Jim!”
Had he wished, she would have given him the only kind of payment she could offer in return. She was grateful that he did not seek it. But she felt as if their relationship was an immense debt and she had nothing to pay it with, except her silent worship. He did not need her worship, she thought.
There were evenings when he came to take her out, but remained in her room, instead, and talked to her, while she listened in silence. It always happened unexpectedly, with a kind of peculiar abruptness, as if he had not intended doing it, but something burst within him and he had to speak. Then he sat slumped on her bed, unaware of his surroundings and of her presence, yet his eyes jerked to her face once in a while, as if he had to be certain that a living being heard him.
“. . . it wasn’t for myself, it wasn’t for myself at all—why won’t they believe me, those people? I had to grant the unions’ demands to cut down the trains—and the moratorium on bonds was the only way I could do it, so that’s why Wesley gave it to me, for the workers, not for myself. All the newspapers said that I was a great example for all businessmen to follow—a businessman with a sense of social responsibility. That’s what they said. It’s true, isn’t it? . . . Isn’t it? . . . What was wrong about that moratorium? What if we did skip a few technicalities? It was for a good purpose. Everyone agrees that anything you do is good, so long as it's not for yourself. . . . But she won't give me credit for a good purpose. She doesn't think anybody's any good except herself. My sister is a ruthless, conceited bitch, who won't take anyone's ideas but her own. . . . Why do they keep looking at me that way—she and Rearden and all those people? Why are they so sure they're right? . . . If I acknowledge their superiority in the material realm, why don't they acknowledge mine in the spiritual? They have the brain, but I have the heart. They have the capacity to produce wealth, but I have the capacity to love. Isn't mine the greater capacity? Hasn't it been recognized as the greatest through all the centuries of human history? Why won't they recognize it? . . . Why are they so sure they're great? . . . And if they're great and I'm not—isn’t that exactly why they should bow to me, because I'm not? Wouldn't that be an act of true humanity? It takes no kindness to respect a man who deserves respect—it's only a payment which he's earned. To give an unearned respect is the supreme gesture of charity. . . . But they're incapable of charity. They're not human. They feel no concern for anyone's need . . . or weakness. No concern . . . and no pity . . . "
She could understand little of it, but she understood that he was unhappy and that somebody had hurt him. He saw the pain of tenderness in her face, the pain of indignation against his enemies, and he saw the glance intended for heroes—given to him by a person able to experience the emotion behind that glance.
She did not know why she felt certain that she was the only one to whom he could confess his torture. She took it as a special honor, as one more gift.
The only way to be worthy of him, she thought, was never to ask him for anything. He offered her money once, and she refused it, with such a bright, painful flare of anger in her eyes that he did not attempt it again. The anger was at herself: she wondered whether she had done something to make him think she was that kind of person. But she did not want to be ungrateful for his concern, or to embarrass him by her ugly poverty; she wanted to show him her eagerness to rise and justify his favor; so she told him that he could help her, if he wished, by helping her to find a better job. He did not answer. In the weeks that followed, she waited, but he never mentioned the subject. She blamed herself: she thought that she had offended him, that he had taken it as an attempt to use him.
When he gave her an emerald bracelet, she was too shocked to understand. Trying desperately not to hurt him, she pleaded that she could not accept it. "Why not?" he asked. "It isn't as if you were a bad woman paying the usual price for it. Are you afraid that I'll start making demands? Don't you trust me?" He laughed aloud at her stammering embarrassment. He smiled, with an odd kind of enjoyment, all through the evening when they went to a night club and she wore the bracelet with her shabby black dress.
He made her wear that bracelet again, on the night when he took her to a party, a great reception given by Mrs. Cornelias Pope. If he considered her good enough to bring into the home of his friends, she thought—the illustrious friends whose names she had seen on the inaccessible mountain peaks that were the society columns of the newspapers—she could not embarrass him by wearing her old dress. She spent her year's savings on an evening gown of bright green chiffon with a low neckline, a belt of yellow roses and a rhinestone buckle. When she entered the stern residence, with the cold, brilliant lights and a terrace suspended over the roofs of skyscrapers, she knew that her dress was wrong for the occasion, though she could not tell why. But she kept her posture proudly straight and she smiled with the courageous trust of a kitten when it sees a hand extended to play: people gathered to have a good time would not hurt anyone, she thought.
At the end of an hour, her attempt to smile had become a helpless, bewildered plea. Then the smile went, as she watched the people around her. She saw that the trim, confident girls had a nasty insolence of manner when they spoke to Jim, as if they did not respect him and never had. One of them in particular, a Betty Pope, the daughter of the hostess, kept making remarks to him which Cherryl could not understand, because she could not believe that she understood them correctly.
No one had paid any attention to her, at first, except for a few astonished glances at her gown. After a while, she saw them looking at her. She heard an elderly woman ask Jim, in the anxious tone of referring to some distinguished family she had missed knowing, "Did you say Miss Brooks of Madison Square?" She saw an odd smile on Jim's face, when he answered, making his voice sound peculiarly clear, “Yes—the cosmetics counter of Raleigh's Five and Ten." Then she saw some people becoming too polite to her, and others moving away in a pointed manner, and most of them being senselessly awkward in simple bewilderment, and Jim watching silently with that odd smile.
She tried to get out of the way, out of their notice. As she slipped by, along the edge of the room, she heard some man say, with a shrug, "Well, Jim Taggart is one of the most powerful men in Washington at the moment." He did not say it respectfully.
Out on the terrace, where it was darker, she heard two men talking and wondered why she felt certain that they were talking about her. One of them said, "Taggart can afford to do it, if he pleases" and the other said something about the horse of some Roman emperor named Caligula.
She looked at the lone straight shaft of the Taggart Building rising in the distance—and then she thought that she understood: these people hated Jim because they envied him. Whatever they were, she thought, whatever their names and their money, none of them had an achievement comparable to his, none of them had defied the whole country to build a railroad everybody thought impossible. For the first time, she saw that she did have something to offer Jim: these people were as mean and small as the people from whom she had escaped in Buffalo; he was as lonely as she had always been, and the sincerity of her feeling was the only recognition he had found.
Then she walked back into the ballroom, cutting straight through the crowd, and the only thing left of the tears she had tried to hold back in the darkness of the terrace, was the fiercely luminous sparkle of her eyes. If he wished to stand by her openly, even though she was only a shopgirl, if he wished to flaunt it, if he had brought her here to face the indignation of his friends—then it was the gesture of a courageous man defying their opinion, and she was willing to match his courage by serving as the scarecrow of the occasion.
But she was glad when it was over, when she sat beside him in his car, driving home through the darkness. She felt a bleak kind of relief, Her battling defiance ebbed into a strange, desolate feeling; she tried not to give way to it. Jim said little; he sat looking sullenly out the car window; she wondered whether she had disappointed him in some manner.
On the stoop of her rooming house, she said to him forlornly, "I'm sorry if I let you down . . ."
He did not answer for a moment, and then he asked, "What would you say if I asked you to marry me?"
She looked at him, she looked around them—there was a filthy mattress hanging on somebody's window sill, a pawnshop across the street, a garbage pail at the stoop beside them—one did not ask such a question in such a place, she did not know what it meant, and she answered, "I guess I . . . I haven't any sense of humor."
"This is a proposal, my dear."
Then this was the way they reached their first kiss—with tears running down her face, tears unshed at the party, tears of shock, of happiness, of thinking that this should be happiness, and of a low, desolate voice telling her that this was not the way she would have wanted it to happen.
She had not thought about the newspapers, until the day when Jim told her to come to his apartment and she found it crowded with people who had notebooks, cameras and flash bulbs. When she saw her picture in the papers for the first time—a picture of them together, Jim's arm around her—she giggled with delight and wondered proudly whether every person in the city had seen it. After a while, the delight vanished.
They kept photographing her at the dime-store counter, in the subway, on the stoop of the tenement house, in her miserable room. She would have taken money from Jim now and run to hide in some obscure hotel for the weeks of their engagement—but he did not offer it. He seemed to want her to remain where she was. They printed pictures of Jim at his desk, in the concourse of the Taggart Terminal, by the steps of his private railway car, at a formal banquet in Washington. The huge spreads of full newspaper pages, the articles in magazines, the radio voices, the newsreels, all were a single, long, sustained scream—about the "Cinderella Girl" and the "Democratic Businessman."
She told herself not to be suspicious, when she felt uneasy; she told herself not to be ungrateful, when she felt hurt. She felt it only in a few rare moments, when she awakened in the middle of the night and lay in the silence of her room, unable to sleep. She knew that it would take her years to recover, to believe, to understand. She was reeling through her days like a person with a sunstroke, seeing nothing but the figure of Jim Taggart as she had seen him first on the night of his great triumph.
"Listen, kid," the sob sister said to her, when she stood in her room for the last time, the lace of the wedding veil streaming like crystal foam from her hair to the blotched planks of the floor. "You think that if one gets hurt in life, it's through one's own sins—and that's true, in the long run. But there are people who'll try to hurt you through the good they see in you—knowing that it's the good, needing it and punishing you for it. Don't let it break you when you discover that."*
"I don't think I'm afraid," she said, looking intently straight before her, the radiance of her smile melting the earnestness of her glance. "I have no right to be afraid of anything. I'm too happy. You see, I always thought that there wasn't any sense in people saying that all you can do in life is suffer. I wasn't going to knuckle down to that and give up. I thought that things could happen which were beautiful and very great. I didn't expect it to happen to me—not so much and so soon. But I'll try to live up to it.”
p 1007-1011 (PART 3, CHAPTER 7):
…a man came rushing toward Mr. Thompson, and she stopped, as did everyone else—and the look on the man’s face swept the crowd into an abruptly total silence. He was the station’s chief engineer, and it was odd to see a look of primitive terror struggling against his remnant of civilized control.
“Mr. Thompson,” he said, “we . . . we might have to delay the broadcast.”
“What?” cried Mr. Thompson.
The hand of the dial stood at 7:58.
“We’re trying to fix it, Mr. Thompson, we’re trying to find out what it is . . . but we might not be on time and—”
“What are you talking about? What happened?”
“We’re trying to locate the—”
“I don’t know! But . . . We . . . we can’t get on the air, Mr. Thompson.”
There was a moment of silence, then Mr. Thompson asked, his voice unnaturally low, “Are you crazy?”
“I must be. I wish I were. I can’t make it out. The station is dead.”
“Mechanical trouble?” yelled Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. “Mechanical trouble, God damn you, at a time like this? If that’s how you run this station—”
The chief engineer shook his head slowly, in the manner of an adult who is reluctant to frighten a child. “It’s not this station, Mr. Thompson,” he said softly. “It’s every station in the country, as far as we’ve been able to check. And there is no mechanical trouble. Neither here nor elsewhere. The equipment is in order, in perfect order, and they all report the same, but . . . but all radio stations went off the air at seven-fifty-one, and . . . and nobody can discover why.”
“But—” cried Mr. Thompson, stopped, glanced about him and screamed, “Not tonight! You can’t let it happen tonight! You’ve got to get me on the air!”
“Mr. Thompson,” the man said slowly, “we’ve called the electronic laboratory of the State Science Institute. They . . . they’ve never seen anything like it. They said it might be a natural phenomenon, some sort of cosmic disturbance of an unprecedented kind, only—”
“Only they don’t think it is. We don’t, either. They said it looks like radio waves, but of a frequency never produced before, never observed anywhere, never discovered by anybody.”
No one answered him. In a moment, he went on, his voice oddly solemn: “It looks like a wall of radio waves jamming the air, and we can’t get through it, we can’t touch it, we can’t break it. . . . What’s more, we can’t locate its source, not by any of our usual methods. . . . Those waves seem to come from a transmitter that . . . that makes any known to us look like a child’s toy!”
“But that’s not possible!” The cry came from behind Mr. Thompson and they all whirled in its direction, startled by its note of peculiar terror; it came from Dr. Stadler. “There’s no such thing! There’s nobody on earth to make it!”
The chief engineer spread his hands out. “That’s it, Dr. Stadler,” he said wearily. “It can’t be possible. It shouldn’t be possible. But there it is.”
“Well, do something about it!” cried Mr. Thompson to the crowd at large.
No one answered or moved.
“I won’t permit this!” cried Mr. Thompson. “I won’t permit it! Tonight of all nights! I’ve got to make that speech! Do something! Solve it, whatever it is! I order you to solve it!”
The chief engineer was looking at him blankly.
“I’ll fire the lot of you for this! I’ll fire every electronic engineer in the country! I’ll put the whole profession on trial for sabotage, desertion and treason! Do you hear me? Now do something, God damn you! Do something!”
The chief engineer was looking at him impassively, as if words were not conveying anything any longer.
“Isn’t there anybody around to obey an order?” cried Mr. Thompson. “Isn’t there a brain left in this country?”
The hand of the clock reached the dot of 8:00.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a voice that came from the radio receiver—a man’s clear, calm, implacable voice, the kind of voice that had not been heard on the airwaves for years—“Mr. Thompson will not speak to you tonight. His time is up. I have taken it over. You were to hear a report on the world crisis. That is what you are going to hear.”
Three gasps of recognition greeted the voice, but nobody had the power to notice them among the sounds of the crowd, which were beyond the stage of cries. One was a gasp of triumph, another—of terror, the third—of bewilderment. Three persons had recognized the speaker: Dagny, Dr. Stadler, Eddie Willers. Nobody glanced at Eddie Willers; but Dagny and Dr. Stadler glanced at each other. She saw that his face was distorted by as evil a terror as one could ever bear to see; he saw that she knew and that the way she looked at him was as if the speaker had slapped his face.
“For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing—you who dread knowledge—I am the man who will now tell you.”
The chief engineer was the only one able to move; he ran to a television set and struggled frantically with its dials. But the screen remained empty; the speaker had not chosen to be seen. Only his voice filled the airways of the country—of the world, thought the chief engineer—sounding as if he were speaking here, in this room, not to a group, but to one man; it was not the tone of addressing a meeting, but the tone of addressing a mind.
“You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words had no meaning. You have cried that man’s sins are destroying the world and you have cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.
“You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, you have wished it, and I—I am the man who has granted you your wish…
“You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to serve God’s purpose or your neighbor’s welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door—but not to serve your life or pleasure. Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil, and any moral code must be designed not for you, but against you, not to further your life, but to drain it.
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors…”
“They proclaim that every man born is entitled to exist without labor and, the laws of reality to the contrary notwithstanding, is entitled to receive his ‘minimum sustenance’—his food, his clothes, his shelter—with no effort on his part, as his due and his birthright. To receive it—from whom? Blank-out. Every man, they announce, owns an equal share of the technological benefits created in the world. Created—by whom? Blank-out. Frantic cowards who posture as defenders of industrialists now define the purpose of economics as ‘an adjustment between the unlimited desires of men and the goods supplied in limited quantity.’ Supplied—by whom? Blank-out. Intellectual hoodlums who pose as professors, shrug away the thinkers of the past by declaring that their social theories were based on the impractical assumption that man was a rational being—but since men are not rational, they declare, there ought to be established a system that will make it possible for them to exist while being irrational, which means: while defying reality. Who will make it possible? Blank-out. Any stray mediocrity rushes into print with plans to control the production of mankind—and whoever agrees or disagrees with his statistics, no one questions his right to enforce his plans by means of a gun. Enforce—on whom? Blank-out. Random females with causeless incomes flitter on trips around the globe and return to deliver the message that the backward peoples of the world demand a higher standard of living. Demand—of whom? Blank-out.
“And to forestall any inquiry into the cause of the difference between a jungle village and New York City, they resort to the ultimate obscenity of explaining man’s industrial progress—skyscrapers, cable bridges, power motors, railroad trains—by declaring that man is an animal who possesses an ‘instinct of tool-making.’
“Did you wonder what is wrong with the world? You are now seeing the climax of the creed of the uncaused and unearned. All your gangs of mystics, of spirit or muscle, are fighting one another for power to rule you, snarling that love is the solution for all the problems of your spirit and that a whip is the solution for all the problems of your body—you who have agreed to have no mind. Granting man less dignity than they grant to cattle, ignoring what an animal trainer could tell them—that no animal can be trained by fear, that a tortured elephant will trample its torturer, but will not work for him or carry his burdens—they expect man to continue to produce electronic tubes, supersonic airplanes, atom-smashing engines and interstellar telescopes, with his ration of meat for reward and a lash on his back for incentive.
“Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages—and power, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only lust.
“From the rites of the jungle witch-doctors, which distorted reality into grotesque absurdities, stunted the minds of their victims and kept them in terror of the supernatural for stagnant stretches of centuries—to the supernatural doctrines of the Middle Ages, which kept men huddling on the mud floors of their hovels, in terror that the devil might steal the soup they had worked eighteen hours to earn—to the seedy little smiling professor who assures you that your brain has no capacity to think, that you have no means of perception and must blindly obey the omnipotent will of that supernatural force: Society—all of it is the same performance for the same and only purpose: to reduce you to the kind of pulp that has surrendered the validity of its consciousness.
“But it cannot be done to you without your consent. If you permit it to be done, you deserve it.
“When you listen to a mystic’s harangue on the impotence of the human mind and begin to doubt your consciousness, not his, when you permit your precariously semi-rational state to be shaken by any assertion and decide it is safer to trust his superior certainty and knowledge, the joke is on both of you: your sanction is the only source of certainty he has. The supernatural power that a mystic dreads, the unknowable spirit he worships, the consciousness he considers omnipotent is—yours.
“A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at its first encounter with the minds of others. Somewhere in the distant reaches of his childhood, when his own understanding of reality clashed with the assertions of others, with their arbitrary orders and contradictory demands, he gave in to so craven a fear of independence that he renounced his rational faculty. At the crossroads of the choice between ‘I know’ and ‘They say,’ he chose the authority of others, he chose to submit rather than to understand, to believe rather than to think. Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others. His surrender took the form of the feeling that he must hide his lack of understanding, that others possess some mysterious knowledge of which he alone is deprived, that reality is whatever they want it to be, through some means forever denied to him.
“From then on, afraid to think, he is left at the mercy of unidentified feelings. His feelings become his only guide, his only remnant of personal identity, he clings to them with ferocious possessiveness—and whatever thinking he does is devoted to the struggle of hiding from himself that the nature of his feelings is terror.
“When a mystic declares that he feels the existence of a power superior to reason, he feels it all right, but that power is not an omniscient super-spirit of the universe, it is the consciousness of any passer-by to whom he has surrendered his own. A mystic is driven by the urge to impress, to cheat, to flatter, to deceive, to force that omnipotent consciousness of others. ‘They’ are his only key to reality, he feels that he cannot exist save by harnessing their mysterious power and extorting their unaccountable consent. ‘They’ are his only means of perception and, like a blind man who depends on the sight of a dog, he feels he must leash them in order to live. To control the consciousness of others becomes his only passion; power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind…
"Just as the mystic is a parasite in matter, who expropriates the wealth created by others—just as he is a parasite in spirit, who plunders the ideas created by others—so he falls below the level of a lunatic who creates his own distortion of reality, to the level of a parasite of lunacy who seeks a distortion created by others.
“There is only one state that fulfils the mystic's longing for infinity, non-causality, non-identity: death. No matter what unintelligible causes he ascribes to his incommunicable feelings, whoever rejects reality rejects existence—and the feelings that move him from then on are hatred for all the values of man's life, and lust for all the evils that destroy it. A mystic relishes the spectacle of suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality. But no other reality exists...
"We, who are the living buffers between you and the nature of your creed, are no longer there to save you from the effects of your chosen beliefs. We are no longer willing to pay with our lives the debts you incurred in yours or the moral deficit piled up by all the generations behind you. You had been living on borrowed time—and I am the man who has called in the loan.”
Pages 66-69 (Ch. 4):
She started walking slowly, her hands in the pockets of her coat, the shadow of her slanting hat brim across her face. The buildings around her rose to such heights that her glance could not find the sky. She thought: It has taken so much to build this city, it should have so much to offer.
Above the door of a shop, the black hole of a radio loudspeaker was hurling sounds at the streets. They were the sounds of a symphony concert being given somewhere in the city. They were a long screech without shape, as of cloth and flesh being torn at random. They scattered with no melody, no harmony, no rhythm to hold them. If music was emotion and emotion came from thought, then this was the scream of chaos, of the irrational, of the helpless, of man’s self-abdication.
She walked on. She stopped at the window of a bookstore. The window displayed a pyramid of slabs in brownish-purple jackets, inscribed: The Vulture Is Molting. “The novel of our century,” said a placard. “The penetrating study of a businessman’s greed. A fearless revelation of man’s depravity.”
She walked past a movie theater. Its lights wiped out half a block, leaving only a huge photograph and some letters suspended in blazing mid-air. The photograph was of a smiling young woman; looking at her face, one felt the weariness of having seen it for years, even while seeing it for the first time. The letters said: “. . . in a momentous drama giving the answer to the great problem: Should a woman tell?”
She walked past the door of a night club. A couple came staggering out to a taxicab. The girl had blurred eyes, a perspiring face, an ermine cape and a beautiful evening gown that had slipped off one shoulder like a slovenly housewife’s bathrobe, revealing too much of her breast, not in a manner of daring, but in the manner of a drudge’s indifference. Her escort steered her, gripping her naked arm; his face did not have the expression of a man anticipating a romantic adventure, but the sly look of a boy out to write obscenities on fences.
What had she hoped to find?—she thought, walking on. These were the things men lived by, the forms of their spirit, of their culture, of their enjoyment. She had seen nothing else anywhere, not for many years.
At the corner of the street where she lived, she bought a newspaper and went home.
Her apartment was two rooms on the top floor of a skyscraper. The sheets of glass in the corner window of her living room made it look like the prow of a ship in motion, and the lights of the city were like phosphorescent sparks on the black waves of steel and stone. When she turned on a lamp, long triangles of shadow cut the bare walls, in a geometrical pattern of light rays broken by a few angular pieces of furniture.
She stood in the middle of the room, alone between sky and city. There was only one thing that could give her the feeling she wanted to experience tonight; it was the only form of enjoyment she had found. She turned to a phonograph and put on a record of the music of Richard Halley.
It was his Fourth Concerto, the last work he had written. The crash of its opening chords swept the sights of the streets away from her mind. The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion. It was a “No” flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: There is no necessity for pain—why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity?—we who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom? . . . The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion—and of a desperate quest.
She sat still, her eyes closed, listening.
No one knew what had happened to Richard Halley, or why. The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams—a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried—the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.
“The music of Richard Halley has a quality of the heroic. Our age has outgrown that stuff,” said one critic. “The music of Richard Halley is out of key with our times. It has a tone of ecstasy. Who cares for ecstasy nowadays?” said another.
His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter—except that Richard Halley did not die soon enough. He lived to see the night which, by the accepted laws of history, he was not supposed to see. He was forty-three years old and it was the opening night of Phaėthon, an opera he had written at the age of twenty-four. He had changed the ancient Greek myth to his own purpose and meaning: Phaėthon, the young son of Helios, who stole his father’s chariot and, in ambitious audacity, attempted to drive the sun across the sky, did not perish, as he perished in the myth; in Halley’s opera, Phaėthon succeeded. The opera had been performed then, nineteen years ago, and had closed after one performance, to the sound of booing and catcalls. That night, Richard Halley had walked the streets of the city till dawn, trying to find an answer to a question, which he did not find.
On the night when the opera was presented again, nineteen years later, the last sounds of the music crashed into the sounds of the greatest ovation the opera house had ever heard. The ancient walls could not contain it, the sounds of cheering burst through to the lobbies, to the stairs, to the streets, to the boy who had walked those streets nineteen years ago.
Dagny was in the audience on the night of the ovation. She was one of the few who had known the music of Richard Halley much earlier; but she had never seen him. She saw him being pushed out on the stage, saw him facing the enormous spread of waving arms and cheering heads. He stood without moving, a tall, emaciated man with graying hair. He did not bow, did not smile; he just stood there, looking at the crowd. His face had the quiet, earnest look of a man staring at a question.
“The music of Richard Halley,” wrote a critic next morning, “belongs to mankind. It is the product and the expression of the greatness of the people.” “There is an inspiring lesson,” said a minister, “in the life of Richard Halley. He has had a terrible struggle, but what does that matter? It is proper, it is noble that he should have endured suffering, injustice, abuse at the hands of his brothers—in order to enrich their lives and teach them to appreciate the beauty of great music.”
On the day after the opening, Richard Halley retired.
He gave no explanation. He merely told his publishers that his career was over. He sold them the rights to his works for a modest sum, even though he knew that his royalties would now bring him a fortune. He went away, leaving no address. It was eight years ago; no one had seen him since.
Dagny listened to the Fourth Concerto, her head thrown back, her eyes closed. She lay half-stretched across the corner of a couch, her body relaxed and still; but tension stressed the shape of her mouth on her motionless face, a sensual shape drawn in lines of longing.
After a while, she opened her eyes. She noticed the newspaper she had thrown down on the couch. She reached for it absently, to turn the [page 69:] vapid headlines out of sight. The paper fell open. She saw the photograph of a face she knew, and the heading of a story. She slammed the pages shut and flung them aside.
It was the face of Francisco d’Anconia. The heading said that he had arrived in New York. What of it?—she thought. She would not have to see him. She had not seen him for years.
She sat looking down at the newspaper on the floor. Don’t read it, she thought; don’t look at it. But the face, she thought, had not changed. How could a face remain the same when everything else was gone? She wished they had not caught a picture of him when he smiled. That kind of smile did not belong in the pages of a newspaper. It was the smile of a man who is able to see, to know and to create the glory of existence. It was the mocking, challenging smile of a brilliant intelligence. Don’t read it, she thought; not now—not to that music—oh, not to that music!
She reached for the paper and opened it.
Philosophy: Who Needs It / Ayn Rand; p 210-30 [“Censorship: Local and Express” (1973)]:
I have been saying, for many years, that statism is winning by default—by the intellectual default of capitalism’s alleged defenders; that freedom and capitalism have never had a firm, philosophical base; that today’s conservatives share all the fundamental premises of today’s liberals and thus have paved, and are still paving, the road to statism. I have also said repeatedly that the battle for freedom is primarily philosophical and cannot be won by any lesser means—because philosophy rules human existence, including politics.
…Since inconsistent premises lead to inconsistent actions, it is not impossible that the present Supreme Court may make some liberating decisions. For instance, the Court made a great contribution to justice and to the protection of individual rights when it legalized abortion. I am not in agreement with all of the reasoning given in that decision, but I am in enthusiastic agreement with the result—i.e., with the recognition of a woman’s right to her own body. But the Court’s decision in regard to obscenity takes an opposite stand: it denies a man’s (or a woman’s) right to the exercise of his own mind—by establishing the legal and intellectual base of censorship.
Before proceeding to discuss that decision, I want to state, for the record, my own view of what is called “hard-core” pornography. I regard it as unspeakably disgusting. I have not read any of the books or seen any of the current movies belonging to that category, and I do not intend ever to read or see them. The descriptions provided in legal cases, as well as the “modern” touches in “soft-core” productions, are sufficient grounds on which to form an opinion. The reason of my opinion is the opposite of the usual one: I do not regard sex as evil—I regard it as good, as one of the most important aspects of human life, too important to be made the subject of public anatomical display. But the issue here is not one’s view of sex. The issue is freedom of speech and of the press—i.e., the right to hold any view and to express it.
It is not very inspiring to fight for the freedom of the purveyors of pornography or their customers. But in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right’s least attractive practitioners. In this case, the disgusting nature of the offenders makes it a good test of one’s loyalty to a principle.
…The Miller case involves a man who was convicted in California of mailing unsolicited, sexually explicit material, which advertised pornographic books. It is in the Miller decision that Chief Justice Burger promulgated the new criteria for judging whether a given work is obscene or not. They are as follows:
“The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest . . . (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
These criteria are based on previous Supreme Court decisions, particularly on Roth v. United States, 1957. Nine years later, in the case of Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 1966, the Supreme Court introduced a new criterion: “A book cannot be proscribed unless it is found to be utterly without redeeming social value.” This was bad enough, but the present decision emphatically rejects that particular notion and substitutes a horrendous criterion of its own: “whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Morally, this criterion, as well as the rest of Chief Justice Burger’s decision, taken as a whole, is a proclamation of collectivism—not so much political as specifically moral [page 213:] collectivism. The intellectual standard which is here set up to rule an individual’s mind—to prescribe what an individual may write, publish, read or see—is the judgment of an average person applying community standards. Why? No reason is given—which means that the will of the collective is here taken for granted as the source, justification and criterion of value judgments.
What is a community? No definition is given—it may, therefore, be a state, a city, a neighborhood, or just the block you live on. What are community standards? No definition is given. In fact, the standards of a community, when and if they can be observed as such, as distinguished from the standards of its individual citizens, are a product of chance, lethargy, hypocrisy, second-handedness, indifference, fear, the manipulations of local busybodies or small-time power-lusters—and, occasionally, the traditional acceptance of some decent values inherited from some great mind of the past. But the great mind is now to be outlawed by the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Who is the average person? No definition is given. There is some indication that the term, in this context, means a person who is neither particularly susceptible or sensitive nor totally insensitive in regard to sex. But to find a sexually average person is a more preposterously impossible undertaking than to find the average representative of any other human characteristic—and, besides, this is not what the Court decision says. It says simply “average”—which, in an issue of judgment, means intellectually average: average in intelligence, in ability, in ideas, in feelings, in tastes, which means: a conformist or a nonentity. Any proposition concerned with establishing a human “average” necessarily eliminates the top and the bottom, i.e., the best and the worst. Thus the standards of a genius and the standards of a moron are automatically eliminated, suppressed or prohibited—and both are ordered to subordinate their own views to those of the average. Why is the average person to be granted so awesome a privilege? By reason of the fact that he possesses no special distinction. Nothing can justify such a notion, except the theory of collectivism, which is itself unjustifiable.
The Court’s decision asserts repeatedly—just asserts—that this ruling applies only to hard-core pornography or obscenity, i.e., to certain ideas dealing with sex, not to any other kinds of ideas. Other kinds of ideas—it keeps asserting—are protected by the First Amendment, but ideas dealing with sex are not. Apart from the impossibility of drawing a line between these two categories (which we shall discuss later), this distinction is contradicted and invalidated right in the text of this same decision: the trial judges and juries are empowered to determine whether a work that contains sexual elements “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
This means—and can mean nothing else—that the government is empowered to judge literary, artistic, political, and scientific values, and to permit or suppress certain works accordingly.
The alleged limits on that power, the conditions of when, where and by whom it may be exercised, are of no significance—once the principle that the government holds such a power has been established. The rest is only a matter of details—and of time. The present Supreme Court may seek to suppress only sexual materials; on the same basis (the will of the community), a future Court may suppress "undesirable" scientific discussions; still another Court may suppress political discussions (and a year later all discussions in all fields would be suppressed). The law functions by a process of deriving logical consequences from established precedents.
The "average person's community standards" criterion, was set up in the Roth case. But the Roth criterion, of "utterly without redeeming social value" was too vague to be immediately dangerous—anything may be claimed to have some sort of "social value." So, logically, on the basis of that precedent, the present Court took the next step toward censorship. It gave to the government the power of entry into four specific intellectual fields, with the power to judge whether the values of works in these fields are serious or not.
"Serious" is an unserious standard. Who is to determine what is serious, to whom, and by what criterion? Since no definition is given, one must assume that the criterion to apply is the only one promulgated in those guidelines: what the average person would find serious. Do you care to contemplate the spectacle of the average person as the ultimate authority—the censor—in the field of literature? In the field of art? In the field of politics? In the field of science? An authority whose edict is to be imposed by force and is to determine what will be permitted or suppressed in all these fields? I submit that no pornographic movie can be as morally obscene as a prospect of this kind.
No first-rate talent in any of those fields will ever be willing to work by the intellectual standards and under the orders of any authority, even if it were an authority composed of the best brains in the world (who would not accept the job), let alone an authority consisting of "average persons." And the greater the talent, the less the willingness.
As to those who would would be willing, observe the moral irony of the fact that they do exist today in large numbers and are generally despised: they are the hacks, the box-office chasers, who try to please what they think are the tastes—and the standards—of the public, for the sake of making money. Apparently, intellectual prostitution is evil, if done for a "selfish" motive—but noble, if accepted in selfless service to the "moral purity" of the community.
In another of the five "obscenity" cases (U.S. v. 12 200-Ft. Reels of Super 8mm. Film), but in a totally different context, Chief Justice Burger himself describes the danger created by the logical implications of a precedent: "The seductive plausibility of single steps in a chain of evolutionary development of a legal rule is often not perceived until a third, fourth or fifth 'logical' extension occurs. Each step, when taken, appeared a reasonable step in relation to that which preceded it, although the aggregate or end result is one that would never have been seriously considered in the first instance. This kind of gestative propensity calls for the 'line drawing' familiar in the judicial, as in the legislative process: 'thus far but not beyond.' "
I would argue that since a legal rule is a principle, the development of its logical consequences cannot be cut off, except by repealing the principle. But assuming that such a cutoff were possible, no line of any sort is drawn in the Miller decision: the community standards of average persons are explicitly declared to be a sovereign power over sexual matters and over the works that deal with sexual matters.
In the same Miller decision, Chief Justice Burger admits that no such line can be drawn. "Nothing in the First Amendment requires that a jury must consider hypothetical and unascertainable 'national standards' when attempting to determine whether certain materials are obscene as a matter of fact." He quotes Chief Justice Warren saying in an earlier case: "I believe that there is no provable 'national standard.' . . . At all events, this Court has not been able to enunciate one, and it would be unreasonable to expect local courts to divine one."
By what means are local courts to divine a local one? Actually, the only provable standard of what constitutes obscenity would be an objective standard, philosophically proved and valid for all men. Such a standard cannot be defined or enforced in terms of law: it would require the formulation of an entire philosophic system; but even this would not grant anyone the right to enforce that standard on others. When the Court, however, speaks of a "provable national standard," it does not mean an objective standard; it substitutes the collective for the objective, and seeks to enunciate a standard held by all the average persons of the nation. Since even a guess at such a concept is patently impossible, the Court concludes that what is impossible (and improper) nationally, is permissible locally—and, in effect, passes the buck to state legislatures, granting them the power to enforce arbitrary (unprovable) local standards.
Chief Justice Burger's arguments, in the Miller decision, are not very persuasive. "It is neither realistic nor constitutionally sound to read the First Amendment as requiring that the people of Maine or Mississippi accept public depiction of conduct found tolerable in Las Vegas, or New York City." I read the First Amendment as not requiring any person anywhere to accept any depiction he does not wish to read or see, but forbidding him to abridge the rights and freedom of those who do wish to read or see it.
In another argument against a national standard of what constitutes obscenity, the decision declares: "People in different States vary in their tastes and attitudes, and this diversity is not to be strangled by the absolutism of imposed uniformity." What about the absolutism of imposed uniformity within a state? What about the non-conformists in that state? What about communication between citizens of different states? What about the freedom of a national marketplace of ideas? No answers are given.
…Four of the Justices who handed down the Miller decision are regarded as conservatives; the fifth, Justice White, is regarded as middle-of-the-road. On the other hand, Justice Douglas is the most liberal or the most leftward-leaning member of the Court. Yet his dissent in the Miller case is an impassioned cry of protest and indignation. He rejects the notion that the First Amendment allows an implied exception in the case of obscenity. "I do not think it does and my views on the issue have been stated over and over again." He declares: “Obscenity—which even we cannot define with precision—is a hodge-podge. To send men to jail for violating standards they cannot understand, construe, and apply is a monstrous thing to do in a Nation dedicated to fair trials and due process."
What about the antitrust laws, which are responsible for precisely this kind of monstrous thing? Justice Douglas does not mention them—but antitrust, as we shall see later, is a chicken that comes home to roost on both sides of this issue.
On the subject of censorship, however, Justice Douglas is eloquently consistent: "The idea that the First Amendment permits punishment for ideas that are 'offensive' to the particular judge or jury sitting in judgment is astounding. No greater leveler of speech or literature has ever been designed. To give the power to the censor, as we do today, is to make a sharp and radical break with the traditions of a free society. The First Amendment was not fashioned as a vehicle for dispensing tranquilizers to the people. Its prime function was to keep debate open to 'offensive' as well as to 'staid' people. The tendency throughout history has been to subdue the individual and to exalt the power of government. The use of the standard 'offensive' gives authority to government that cuts the very vitals out of the First Amendment. As is intimated by the Court's opinion, the materials before us may be garbage. But so is much of what is said in political campaigns, in the daily press, on TV or over the radio. By reason of the First Amendment—and solely because of it—speakers and publishers have not been threatened or subdued because their thoughts and ideas may be 'offensive' to some.”
…Observe that such issues as the individual against the State are never mentioned in the Supreme Court's majority decision. It is Justice Douglas, the arch-liberal, who defends individual rights. It is the conservatives who speak as if the individual did not exist, as if the unit of social concern were the collective—the "community."
A profound commitment to moral collectivism does not occur in a vacuum, as a causeless primary: it requires an epistemological foundation. The Supreme Court's majority decision in the case of Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton reveals that foundation.
This case involves two movie theaters in Atlanta, Georgia, which exhibited allegedly obscene films, admitting only adults. The local trial court ruled that this was constitutionally permissible, but the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the decision—on the grounds that hard-core pornography is not protected by the First Amendment. Thus the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether it is constitutional to abridge the freedom of consenting adults. The Court's majority decision said: "Yes."
Epistemologically, this decision is a proclamation of non-objectivity: it supports and defends explicitly the most evil of social phenomena: non-objective law.
The decision, written by Chief Justice Burger, declares: "we hold that there are legitimate state interests at stake in stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity . . . These include the interest of the public in the quality of life and the total community environment, the tone of commerce in the great city centers, and, possibly, the public safety itself.” Try to find a single issue or action that would be exempt from this kind of "legitimate" state interest.
Quoting a book by Professor Bickel, the decision declares: "A man may be entitled to read an obscene book in his room . . . But if he demands a right to obtain the books and pictures he wants in the market . . . then to grant him his right is to affect the world about the rest of us, and to impinge on other privacies . . . what is commonly read and seen and heard and done intrudes upon us all, want it or not." Which human activity would be exempt from a declaration of this kind? And what advocate of a totalitarian dictatorship would not endorse that declaration?
Mr. Burger concedes that "there is no scientific data which conclusively demonstrates that exposure to obscene materials adversely affects men and women or their society." But he rejects this as an argument against the suppression of such materials. And there follows an avalanche of statements and of quotations from earlier Court decisions—all claiming (in terms broader than the issue of pornography) that scientific knowledge and conclusive proof are not required as a basis for legislation, that the State has the right to enact laws on the grounds of what does or might exist.
"Scientific data" (in the proper, literal sense of these words) means knowledge of reality, reached by a process of reason; and "conclusive demonstration" means that the content of a given proposition is proved to be a fact of reality. It is reason and reality that are here being removed as a limitation on the power of the State. It is the right to legislate on the basis of any assumption, any hypothesis, any guess, any feeling, any whim—on any grounds or none—that is here being conferred on the government.
"We do not demand of legislatures 'scientifically certain criteria of legislation,'" the decision affirms. "Although there is no conclusive proof of a connection between antisocial behavior and obscene material, the legislature of Georgia could quite reasonably determine that such a connection does or might exist. In deciding Roth, this Court implicitly accepted that a legislature could legitimately act on such a conclusion to protect 'the social interest in order and morality.' "
If the notion that something might be a threat to the "social interest" is sufficient to justify suppression, then the Nazi or the Soviet dictatorship is justified in exterminating anyone who, in its belief, might be a threat to the "social interest" of the Nazi or the Soviet “community."
Whatever theory of government such a notion represents, it is not the theory of America's Founding Fathers. Strangely enough, Chief Justice Burger seems to be aware of it, because he proceeds to call on a pre-American precedent. "From the beginning of civilized societies, legislators and judges have acted on various unprovable assumptions. Such assumptions underlie much lawful state regulation of commercial and business affairs.”
This is preeminently true—and look at the results. Look at the history of all the governments in the world prior to the birth of the United States. Ours was the first government based on and strictly limited by a written document—the Constitution—which specifically forbids it to violate individual rights or to act on whim. The history of the atrocities perpetrated by all the other kinds of governments—unrestricted governments acting on unprovable assumptions—demonstrates the value and validity of the original political theory on which this country was built. Yet here is the Supreme Court citing all those bloody millennia of tyranny, as a precedent for us to follow.
If this seems inexplicable, the very next sentence of Mr. Burger's decision gives a clue to the reasons—and a violently clear demonstration of the role of precedent in the development of law. That next sentence seems to unleash a whirling storm of feathers, as chickens come flying home from every direction to roost on everyone's coop, perch or fence—in retribution for every evasion, compromise, injustice, and violation of rights perpetrated in past decades.
That next sentence is: "The same [a basis of unprovable assumptions] is true of the federal securities, antitrust laws and a host of other federal regulations.”
…“On the basis of these assumptions," Mr. Burger goes on, "both Congress and state legislatures have, for example, drastically restricted associational rights by adopting antitrust laws, and have strictly regulated public expression by issuers of and dealers in securities, profit sharing 'coupons,' and 'trading stamps,' commanding what they must and may not publish and announce. . . . Understandably those who entertain an absolutist view of the First Amendment find it uncomfortable to explain why rights of association, speech, and press should be severely restrained in the marketplace of goods and money, but not in the marketplace of pornography."
On the collectivist premise, there is, of course, no answer. The only answer, in today’s situation, is to check that premise and reject it—and start repealing all those catastrophically destructive violations of individual rights and of the Constitution. But this is not what the Court majority has decided. Forgetting his own warning about the “gestative propensity” of the judicial and legislative processes, Chief Justice Burger accepts the precedent as an irrevocable absolute and pushes the country many steps further toward the abyss of statism.
…In his dissenting opinion, Justice Brennan, joined by Justice Stewart and Marshall, offers some good arguments to support the conclusion that censorship in regard to consenting adults is unconstitutional. But he wavers, hesitates to go that far, and tries to compromise, to strike “a better balance between the guarantee of free expression and the States’ legitimate interests.”
He concedes the notion that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment, but expresses an anxious concern over the Court’s failure to draw a clear line between protected and unprotected speech. He cites the chaotic, contradictory record of the Court’s decisions in “obscenity” cases, but sidesteps the issue by saying, in a footnote: “Whether or not a class of ‘obscene’ and thus entirely unprotected speech does exist, I am forced to conclude that the class is incapable of definition with sufficient clarity to withstand attack on vagueness grounds. Accordingly, it is on principles of the void-for-vagueness doctrine that this opinion exclusively relies.”
Justice Brennan speaks eloquently about the danger of vague laws, and quotes Chief Justice Warren, who said that “the constitutional requirement of definiteness is violated by a criminal statute that fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute.” But Justice Brennan does not mention the antitrust laws, which do just that. He states: “The resulting level of uncertainty is utterly intolerable, not alone because it makes ‘bookselling . . . a hazardous profession,’ . . . but as well because it invites arbitrary and erratic enforcement of the law.” He deplores the fact that “obscenity” judgments are now made on “a case-by-case, sight-by-sight” basis. He observes that the Court has been struggling “to fend off legislative attempts ‘to pass to the courts—and ultimately to the Supreme Court—the awesome task of making case by case at once the criminal and the constitutional law.’ ” But he does not mention the living hell of antitrust, the grim monument to law made case by case.
However, a greater respect for principles and a greater understanding of their consequences are revealed in Justice Brennan’s dissenting opinion than in the majority decision. He declares that on the basis of that majority decision: “it is hard to see how state-ordered regimentation of our minds can ever be forestalled. For if a State may, in an effort to maintain or create a particular moral tone, prescribe what its citizens cannot read or cannot see, then it would seem to follow that in pursuit of that same objective a State could decree that its citizens must read certain books or must view certain films.”
The best statement, however, is made again by Justice Douglas, who ends his forceful dissent with the words: “But our society—unlike most in the world—presupposes that freedom and liberty are in a frame of reference that make the individual, not government, the keeper of his tastes, beliefs, and ideas. That is the philosophy of the First Amendment; and it is the article of faith that sets us apart from most nations in the world.”
I concur—except that it is not an “article of faith,” but a provable, rational conviction.
In the life of a nation, the law plays the same role as a decision-making process of thought does in the life of an individual. An individual makes decisions by applying his basic premises to a specific choice—premises which he can change, but seldom does. The basic premises of a nation’s laws are set by its dominant political philosophy and implemented by the courts, whose task is to determine the application of broad principles to specific cases; in this task, the equivalent of basic premises is precedent, which can be challenged, but seldom is.
How far a loosely worded piece of legislation can go in the role of precedent, is horrifyingly demonstrated by the Supreme Court’s majority decision in another one of the five “obscenity” cases, U.S. v. Orito. This case involves a man charged with knowingly transporting obscene material by common carrier in interstate commerce.
The clause giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce is one of the major errors in the Constitution. That clause, more than any other, was the crack in the Constitution’s foundation, the entering wedge of statism, which permitted the gradual establishment of the welfare state. But I would venture to say that the framers of the Constitution could not have conceived of what that clause has now become. If, in writing it, one of their goals was to facilitate the flow of trade and prevent the establishment of trade barriers among the states, that clause has reached the opposite destination. You may now expect fifty different frontiers inside this country, with customs officials searching your luggage and pockets for books or magazines permitted in one state but prohibited in another.
Chief Justice Burger’s decision declares, quoting an earlier Court decision: “The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction and over which the courts are given no control.” Such an interpretation means that legislative judgment is given an absolute power, beyond the restraint of any principle, beyond the reach of any checks or balances. This is an outrageous instance of context-dropping: the Constitution, taken as a whole, is a fundamental restriction on the power of the government, whether in the legislative or in any other branch.
“It is sufficient to reiterate,” Mr. Burger declares, “the well-settled principle that Congress may impose relevant conditions and requirements on those who use the channels of interstate commerce in order that those channels will not become the means of promoting or spreading evil, whether of a physical, moral or economic nature.” As if this were not clear enough, a footnote is added: “Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin.” Immorality, evil and harm—by what standard?
The only rights which the five majority decisions leave you are the right to read and see what you wish in your own room, but not outside it—and the right to think whatever you please in the privacy of your own mind. But this is a right which even a totalitarian dictatorship is unable to suppress. (You are free to think in Soviet Russia, but not to act on your thinking.) Again, Justice Douglas’s dissent is the only voice raised in desperate protest: “Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”
The division between the conservative and the liberal viewpoints in the opinions of the Supreme Court, is sharper and clearer than in less solemn writings or in purely political debates. By the nature of its task, the Supreme Court has to and does become the voice of philosophy.
The necessity to deal with principles makes the members of the Supreme Court seem archetypical of the ideas—almost, of the soul—of the two political camps they represent. They were not chosen as archetypes: in the undefined, indeterminate, contradictory chaos of political views loosely labeled “conservative” and “liberal,” it would be impossible to choose an essential characteristic or a typical representative. Yet, as one reads the Supreme Court’s opinions, the essential premises stand out with an oddly bright, revealing clarity—and one grasps that under all the lesser differences and inconsistencies of their followers, these are the basic premises of one political camp or of the other. It is almost as if one were seeing not these antagonists’ philosophy, but their sense of life.
The subject of the five “obscenity” cases was not obscenity as such—which is a marginal and inconsequential matter—but a much deeper issue: the sexual aspect of man’s life. Sex is not a separate nor a purely physical attribute of man’s character: it involves a complex integration of all his fundamental values. So it is not astonishing that cases dealing with sex (even in its ugliest manifestations) would involve the influence of all the branches of philosophy. We have seen the influence of ethics, epistemology, politics, esthetics (this last as the immediate victim of the debate). What about the fifth branch of philosophy, the basic one, the fundamental of the science of fundamentals: metaphysics? Its influence is revealed in—and explains—the inner contradictions of each camp. The metaphysical issue is their view of man’s nature.
Both camps hold the same premise—the mind-body dichotomy—but choose opposite sides of this lethal fallacy.
The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man’s spirit, i.e., man’s consciousness; they advocate the State’s right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect. The liberals want freedom to act in the spiritual realm; they oppose censorship, they oppose government control of ideas, of the arts, of the press, of education (note their concern with “academic freedom”). But they advocate government control of material production, of business, of employment, of wages, of profits, of all physical property—they advocate it all the way down to total expropriation.
The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.
Yet it is the conservatives who are predominantly religionists, who proclaim the superiority of the soul over the body, who represent what I call the “mystics of spirit.” And it is the liberals who are predominantly materialists, who regard man as an aggregate of meat, and who represent what I call the “mystics of muscle.”
This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important; each grants freedom only to the activities it despises. Observe that the conservatives insult and demean the rich or those who succeed in material production, regarding them as morally inferior—and that the liberals treat ideas as a cynical con game. “Control,” to both camps, means the power to rule by physical force. Neither camp holds freedom as a value. The conservatives want to rule man’s consciousness; the liberals, his body.
On that premise, neither camp has permitted itself to observe that force is a killer in both realms. The conservatives, frozen in their mystic dogmas, are paralyzed, terrified and impotent in the realm of ideas. The liberals, waiting for the unearned, are paralyzed, terrified and, frequently, incompetent in or hostile to the realm of material production (observe the ecology crusade).
Why do both camps cling to blind faith in the power of physical force? I quote from Atlas Shrugged: “Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine [the mind-body dichotomy] was designed to destroy? It was man’s mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart.” Both camps, conservatives and liberals alike, are united in their hatred of man’s mind—i.e., of reason. The conservatives reject reason in favor of faith; the liberals, in favor of emotions. The conservatives are either lethargically indifferent to intellectual issues, or actively anti-intellectual. The liberals are smarter in this respect: they use intellectual weapons to destroy and negate the intellect (they call it “to redefine”). When men reject reason, they have no means left for dealing with one another—except brute, physical force.
I quote from Atlas Shrugged: “. . . the men you call materialists and spiritualists are only two halves of the same dissected human, forever seeking completion, but seeking it by swinging from the destruction of the flesh to the destruction of the soul and vice versa . . . seeking any refuge against reality, any form of escape from the mind.” Since the two camps are only two sides of the same coin—the same counterfeit coin—they are now moving closer and closer together. Observe the fundamental similarity of their philosophical views: in metaphysics—the mind-body dichotomy; in epistemology—irrationalism; in ethics—altruism; in politics—statism.
The conservatives used to claim that they were loyal to tradition—while the liberals boasted of being “progressive.” But observe that it is Chief Justice Burger, a conservative, who propounds a militant collectivism, and formulates general principles that stretch the power of the State way beyond the issue of pornography—and it is Justice Douglas, a liberal, who invokes “the traditions of a free society” and pleads for “our constitutional heritage.”
If someone had said in 1890 that antitrust laws for the businessmen would, sooner or later, lead to censorship for the intellectuals, no one would have believed it. You can see it today. When Chief Justice Burger declares to the liberals that they cannot explain why rights “should be severely restrained in the marketplace of goods and money, but not in the marketplace of pornography,” I am tempted to feel that it serves them right—except that all of us are the victims.
If this censorship ruling is not revoked, the next step will be more explicit: it will replace the words “marketplace of pornography” with the words “marketplace of ideas.” This will serve as a precedent for the liberals, enabling them to determine which ideas they wish to suppress—in the name of the “social interest”—when their turn comes. No one can win a contest of this kind—except the State.
I do not know how the conservative members of the Supreme Court can bear to look at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, where his words are engraved in marble: “I have sworn . . . eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Permit me to add without presumptuousness: “So have I.”