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ARI Changes its Tune

Shocking! Outrageous!

The Ayn Rand Institute pulled the original article by David Holcberg denouncing US government assistance for tsunami victims. You can still read the original here, and my related comments here.

The Institute posted an apologetic clarification today, which I think is outrageous. Once upon a time, you could count on ARI to be a beacon of extremism radical, principled consistency. Not any longer, I fear.

This good paragraph:

In a fully free, fully capitalist society — a society toward which ARI works — the government would not have the power to tax citizens and redistribute their wealth for the purpose of charity, domestic or foreign. The government would be restricted to one fundamental function: to protect the citizens' individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. To accomplish this, the government would need only a police force and a military to protect citizens from aggressors, and a legal system to adjudicate disputes among citizens who allege that their rights have been infringed. Charity would be left to private individuals and organizations, as it was successfully left in 19th century America (in even a semi-capitalist system, there is no shortage of wealth or of benevolence, as the public's response to the tsunami illustrates).

Is followed by this ugly weaseling:

But of all the ways in which our government today fails to uphold individual rights, providing (through compulsory taxation) short-term, emergency relief to foreign victims of a natural disaster is among the most innocuous. It was therefore inappropriate to single out for condemnation the government's offer of assistance.

No, it isn't. Public emergency relief to foreign victims is pure, unmitigated theft. That wealth simply leaves the country. It is much worse than domestic public disaster relief, which I oppose, but where at least Americans are the beneficiaries.

Theft is not among the most innocuous violations of individual rights. More innocuous violations are things like building codes, government-granted utility monopolies, nutrition and warning labeling, spectrum licensing (as opposed to sale), etc.

Nevertheless, thousands of the government's actions are more damaging to our rights. Far worse, for instance, would have been to pour the aid money into government programs and agencies whose very purpose is to violate individual rights, such as into the antitrust division of the Justice Department, which persecutes successful businesses for out-competing other companies on a free market. If one wants to fight the government's growing encroachment on individual rights, such are the areas on which to focus, not emergency relief.

Okay, I've got egg on my face. In my prior article about tsunami aid, I accused conservatives of arguing "we're not as bad as you think!" — but here, it's the Ayn Rand Institute doing it! "Outright theft isn't so bad, compared with other things the government does!" Huh!? As theft benefiting foreigners, it's worse than any of the domestic social programs, which I know ARI to consistently oppose. It looks like they've gone soft.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on them. Unlike conservatives, they're not conceding the moral dimension — they still oppose public disaster aid — but they appear to be defending it while they oppose it. I thought ARI was made of sterner stuff than this. I'm shocked. This is outrageous.

I'm compelled to use this quote: "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." (Ayn Rand, of course, who must be spinning in her grave.)

Tiny Island