Saturday, January 22, 2005

Call me a dirty liar, if you will.

Well, I needed a break from leaching away KipEsquire's life-force. (Good s**t, though.) So, I was wandering around the BoS checking on comments I'd left elsewhere when it became clear to me that I was obliged to post an entry from The Ayn Rand Lexicon, edited by Harry Binswanger (PB, 1988 and all that). Page 100, auspiciously enough [my summary is at the end]:
"Conservatives" vs. "Liberals." Both [conservatives and liberals] 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"). [Ed. note: it appears that, in Miss Rand's day their were still distinctions between Liberals and socialists.] 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. [I spoke too soon.]

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.

Apparently the image of the computer loomed large and had, perhaps, some mystical connotations in 1973, when she wrote this.

I summarized this in a comment to Lance Burri here:
Ayn Rand said that Liberals and Conservatives each want to control one aspect of life and want to allow freedom in the one they don't care about. Liberals want to control material things (what people do with money and stuff) while Conservatives want to control spiritual things (what people do with God (or gods), themselves and each other.

She, of course, advocated freedom in both realms and no support for foolishness in either.