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Ayn Rand’s ideas have become the Marxism of the new right.

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the post-war world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her non-fiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness(1)) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention, in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate(2,3). One, for example, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife “who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing”.

Rand’s is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demi-god at the head of a chiliastic cult(4). Almost one-third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged(5), and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand’s evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading “Who is John Galt?” and “Rand was right”. Ayn Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has “distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose.” She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress(6).

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed second-hand by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for example, or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the world a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman Syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations(7)) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires’ doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and Social Security(8). She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill-health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis’s documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan(9). Among the essays he wrote for Ayn Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal(10). Here, starkly explained, you’ll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as “the ‘greed’ of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.”(11) As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a “superlatively moral system”(12).

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru’s philosophy to the letter, lobbying to cut taxes for the rich and repeal the laws constraining the banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US Greenspan has successfully airbrushed this history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that “capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral,”(13) he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion, and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

References:

  1. In the spirit of Rand, I suggest you don’t pay for it, but download it here: http://tfasinternational.org/ila/Ayn_Rand-The_Virtue_of_Selfishness.pdf
  2. The just desserts are detailed on page 605 of the 2007 Penguin edition.
  3. The gassing and subsequent explosion are explained on page 621.
  4. Gary Weiss, 2012. Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle
    for America’s Soul
    . St. Martin’s Press, New York.
  5. This was a Zogby poll, conducted at the end of 2010, cited by Gary Weiss.
  6. To give one of many examples, Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, says that “the reason I got involved in public service,
    by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be
    Ayn Rand.” This is a little ironic, in view of the fact that Rand abhorred the idea of public service. Quoted by Gary Weiss.
  7. http://www.monbiot.com/2006/07/07/willy-loman-syndrome/
  8. Gary Weiss, pp61-63.
  9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011lvb9
  10. Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan and Robert Hessen (Eds), 1967. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Signet, New York.
  11. Alan Greenspan, August 1963. The Assault on Integrity. First published in
    The Objectivist Newsletter, later in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
  12. As above.
  13. From an article by Soma Golden in the New York Times, July 1974, quoted by Gary Weiss.

90 Responses to “A Manifesto for Psychopaths”

  1. jim davis

    why am i reading this anti-rand vitriol on a permaculture blog?

    i hope i’m not alone in thinking that i’m a bit tired of seeing this site being used by political bloggers to emotionally put forth their very one-sided views.

    markets and/or communities aren’t things that should be forced upon us with vitriol or propaganda. they should be formed by discussing and doing things we love. this blog, as far as i knew, was about learning how to create sustainable eco-systems via permaculture. maybe i was wrong.

    how about letting markets and communities evolve from that love, vs espousing virtiolic hate of the current system?

    george monbiot, i think you would do well to consider one of the most important points bill mollison emphasized when developing permaculture: that it’s a system of positivity! does your article inspire? is it a positive message? is there anything in it whereby the reader learned more about permaculture?

    very sad.

    Reply
  2. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    That’s right Jim. We should just ignore the root philosophies that have created this vastly unsustainable (and collapsing) economic system – a system that is the very antithesis of ‘People Care’…

    For myself, I think it’s highly appropriate to spotlight the stupidity of believing that we can develop anything resembling a permanent culture when our whole lives are framed by invisible structures based on selfishness, conditional love and the philosophy that ‘greed is good’.

    this blog, as far as i knew, was about learning how to create sustainable eco-systems via permaculture. maybe i was wrong.

    Yes, you are wrong. It’s not just about ‘eco-systems’, but also people systems. Unless you get the latter right, it’s impossible to get the former right.

    Permaculture is about observation to develop systemic solutions, and you can’t get much more systemic than examining root causes.

    Reply
  3. Elia

    Interesting.

    I have to agree with both comments. On the one hand this article is amazingly one sided. On the other hand I think discussing the credo of corporatism (not capitalism, because we do not live in a capitalist society) is essential when debating the root philosophy of permaculture and how it will combat it.

    Though this article fails to illustrate the fact that a true free market is not inherently to blame. Since a true free market has never, ever existed. Did Bank of America go bankrupt? Did JP Morgan Chase go bankrupt? Did Sacs go Bankrupt?

    No.

    The most simple regulator of a free market was halted by the state. A bailout package was created in a truly “socialist government hand out” style way that all these proponents of Ayn Rand (if they actually read her work) would condemn. Yes Ayn Rand condemns the “moochers” of society, and as an artist I agree with her. In our current system I rarely if ever feel like I get the worth of my work returned to me because basically everyone thinks they are a designer so little to no value is put on it.

    Now while some of her philosophy has its merit, much doesn’t. She seems to focus on specific details and hammer them into the reader over and over again (like John Galt’s never ending speech at the end of Atlas Shrugged) thinking that pure repetition will somehow quiet any dissenters. Kind of like when you are arguing with someone and they just raise their voice and keep repeating themselves. She wasn’t really one for subtlety.

    As a philosophy I pick and choose what speaks to me and ignore the rest or throw it in the trash.
    For example I wish I could ask Ayn Rand how exactly rational self interest has the environment in mind? The very thing we need to sustain our lives on this earth. She seems to have built her titanic premises on the simple fact of not involving environmental factors in the growth of capitalism? What happens when all the rivers are polluted by the efficient industrialist cutting costs? What happens when all the forests are cut down by the efficient industrialist cutting costs? What happens when etc etc. Well I guess we see what happens since we are living it.
    I could go on and on but I want to share something I think many people who return to this blog will find strange.

    Ayn Rand lead me to Permaculture.

    Her portrayal of the heroic “Maker” of society is exactly what spoke to me and I think it is a powerful message in her books that has great value. Think about how many people in this world create nothing! They are employed for specific jobs but aren’t actually adding anything to the world. I.E. People who benefit off of playing a system, a market, the middle men. Traders on wall street and salesmen in particular. Real Estate brokers whose job is literally to walk around a house with someone and point at things and they make magnificent salaries. Car salesmen do the same thing. Many corporate managers and CEOs who really have no purpose but to make people who work under them nervous and take most of the money while they do it. Corporations are designed like a feudal system. Its a broken system and has been for centuries. What do all these people actually add to society? What do they create? They are the true moochers.

    Now rational self interest and the deifying of greed works great if we keep discovering new earths and don’t care about the destruction of the environment.

    But the actual “makers” of society should be deified because yes I agree with her “makers” are the ones that allow civilization to exist. Be it in its current form or one that uses Permaculture as its foundation. The poor and the outcasts are not the moochers. Wall Street and crony corporatism are the moochers.

    Reply
  4. jim davis

    “That’s right Jim. We should just ignore the root philosophies that have created this vastly unsustainable (and collapsing) economic system”

    We should ignore biased propaganda high on emotional rhetoric and low on actual facts. Mr. Monbiot’s piece was laden with misrepresentations and just plain factual errors.

    “I think it’s highly appropriate to spotlight the stupidity of believing that we can develop anything resembling a permanent culture when our whole lives are framed by invisible structures based on selfishness, conditional love and the philosophy that ‘greed is good’.”

    And I find it highly appropriate to spotlight the stupidity of thinking you can create or achieve anything except ignorance when using subjective and emotional political propaganda.

    “Yes, you are wrong. It’s not just about ‘eco-systems’, but also people systems. Unless you get the latter right, it’s impossible to get the former right.”

    I see, and you and Mr. Monbiot know what those “right” “people-systems” are, and are educating us about them?

    And because I don’t agree with either you or Mr. Monibot about “people-systems”, then I’m “wrong”, and I can’t “get premaculture right”?

    Did you seriously just say that?

    Reply
  5. Geoff

    Just want to put a vote of support in for your position Craig. Understanding the economic and sociopolitical systems that we must operate within to create new people systems is vitally important. Not repeating the same mistakes through knowledge and all that.

    I also like the fact that George’s article is rather one-sided (though I fail to detect a lot of vitriolic hate there) as I can see little value in reading the other side of the argument supporting such an abhorrent philosophy.

    Reply
  6. Bert

    I think this article is highly appropriate. one of the most important aspects of permaculture is observation (in my opinion) and clearly observing the world we’re currently in is vitally important before we try changing things.

    Objectivism has become a dangerous subtext in American politics and business practices over the last thirty years and is antithetical to permaculture principles. I encounter echoes of it from folks on the Right often, usually to justify abusive business practices. More folks need to be exposed to articles like this so they can better identify it when they encounter it, especially for those of us here in the US.

    How can you look at permaculture, a holistic design system focused very much on people, and somehow reach the conclusion that politics plays no part in it?

    Reply
  7. John

    Jim, I’m with you. Bill and Craig, wrong place for the conversation. Don’t argue just accept it, I’m right I know I’m right because I asked my wife and she’s never wrong. Just ask her mother.

    Reply
  8. Brent

    Is it odd that I am reading a Rand book (Fountainhead)while reading this article? Ayn Rand grew up in communist Russia where an authoritarian state forced everyone to “help eachother” in ways that ended up being detrimental to the people (millions of people dying of starvation). Her philosophy is simply that people should have the right to support eachother how they please and the best way to do that is through free markets, not overarching government programs. This does not equate to our (U.S.) current system of crony capitalism where the government and coporations combine to oppress the people for the benefit of a few, while handing out token goodies to the poor to keep them complacent.

    Reply
  9. joe anon

    Craig is right, randite philosophy is antithetical to permaculture. @jim the mirror has to be held up the only thing the future generations will care about is if they can breathe the air and drink the water. BUT THE RANDITES DON’t CARE.Call a spade a spade otherwise perish.

    Reply
  10. Matt Luthi

    I have read Atlas Shrugged and I think it’s a dangerous book.

    Jim, I disagree with you – this post does have a place here – we do need to keep an eye out on what is going on in the world (observe) because we may well have to plan for events that we may be able to predict based on our observations (design).

    Think of it – the realisation that we need a design system such as Permaculture comes from observing trends in environment, energy, politics and in finance.

    Permaculture is an inclusive system as opposed to exclusive. Everything is connected.

    If you want to stick to gardening – fine. Just ignore posts you are not interested in.

    Reply
  11. Bob Corker

    Dear George, Jim and Craig et al.
    Just as we identify the pattern language of permaculture and its application to environmental design, and Christopher Alexanders – Nature of Order as a pattern language in life enhancing patterns, I’d like to suggest there is a pattern in George Monbiot’s article and the comments following that warrants our attention as Permaculturists, if our desire is to advance permaculture. The pattern I have identified is that if we use ‘violent language’ we frequently get a ‘violent’ response, and that response tends to escalate the already heated discussion, with the result that ‘more heat is generated than light’.

    The Pattern Language that shows us a more productive way forward is the practice of Non-Violent Communication, as developed by Dr Marshall Rosenberg. (ironically, you would struggle to find any believe system that was further apart from what George has described of Ayn Rand’s philosophy)
    The process of NVC encourages us to focus on what we and others are observing separate from our interpretations and judgments, to connect our thoughts and feelings to underlying human needs/values (e.g. protection, support, love), and to be clear about what we would like towards meeting those needs. These skills give the ability to translate from a language of criticism, blame, and demand into a language of human needs — a language of life that consciously connects us to the universal qualities “alive in us” that sustain and enrich our well being, and focuses our attention on what actions we could take to manifest these qualities.
    If I look at the original article of George Monbiot’s, and the replies, and then I separate out the ‘violent ‘ language. Here is what I get.
    George Monbiot
    1 “It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the post-war world has produced.”
    2 “Rand’s is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed.”
    3 “Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed second-hand by people who have never read it.”

    Jim Davis
    1 “why am i reading this anti-rand vitriol on a permaculture blog?
    2 I’m a bit tired of seeing this site being used by political bloggers to emotionally put forth their very one-sided views.
    3. “how about letting markets and communities evolve from that love, vs espousing virtiolic hate of the current system?

    Craig McIntosh

    1 invisible structures based on selfishness, conditional love and the philosophy that ‘greed is good’.

    2 Yes, you are wrong.

    Note that these are all judgements, and they follow a pattern that is seen in many blogs where people seem to be “winding each other up” and getting more heated. My belief is that this form of dialogue doesn’t support us make the changes we need to make.
    My contribution to the debate about the appropriateness of the article by Monbiot is to request that we all consider the Pattern Language of Non Violent Communication as a more productive way of expressing our responses.

    Love Bob Corker

    Reply
  12. Pete S

    I agree with some points made in the OP, I also agree with some points everyone else has made so far.

    For me, the problem with this type of post on a PC blog, is the framing of the political view.

    There is no political “left” or “right” or “liberal” or any other political pigeon hole you can put people in, these are “political systemic” boxes, along with all the political “ism” boxes designed by the “political class” or “banksters/elites” to divide and conquer global populations.

    It doesn’t matter which “side” gets voted in, the same outcome, the same policies are enacted, just with different labels, corporations/banksters rule politics, there really is no true democracy in this world.

    Until we can learn to be above putting people in pigeon hole type political control mechanisms, we really will learn nothing about the “current system”.

    The OP is coming out of one political box, labels abound, we need to stop lumping everyone of a particular POV together, and find common ground, Permaculture and it’s ethics are that common ground.

    We should not be seen to be politicising Permaculture, weather or not that was the intention of highlighting the OP here is irrelevant IMO, by highlighting it, it allows people stuck in the current paradigm “mind boxes” to disregard permaculture based on their propagandised political bent.

    We need to learn a way to communicate above this level IMHO. Learn a way to work/educate outside the current paradigm. If we can do that we will attract more people to look at Permaculture with an open mind, the OP does not do this, it is the antipathies of the language framing we need to use.

    Reply
  13. Pete S

    Further to my above post, compare and contrast the “framing language” in this post at TAE

    http://theautomaticearth.org/Earth/uneconomic-growth-when-illth-trumps-wealth.html

    What we must recognise is that the current system is going to collapse, what is the point “Understanding the economic and sociopolitical systems that we must operate within to create new people systems” if the system we “must operate in”, “must recognise” is going to collapse?

    The question is not if our current economic and sociopolitical system” is going to collapse, but when.

    Reply
  14. Mihir

    I agree that the tone of these articles is very violent. It is very bad.

    I agree to what the author says but the tone of this article is the problem here. The author resorts to emotional arguments rather that calm reasoning.

    Reply
  15. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    @Jim Davis

    It’d be greatly appreciated if when you say “Mr. Monbiot’s piece was laden with misrepresentations and just plain factual errors” that you specify the ‘misrepresentations’ and ‘plain factual errors’ with supporting evidence. Just saying it’s wrong, doesn’t make it so, unless you can at least make some effort to show how so.

    @Elia

    I appreciate and agree with a lot of what you say – particularly that the self-interested mindset will do what it can to externalise costs. The environment and societal betterment are optional repositories for voluntary altruism, trailing behind Rand’s central incentive of one’s own happiness.

    I’ve seen the devastation of both ‘left’ and ‘right’ mindsets. It’s a sad reality that when someone is bitten by one they flee from one extreme to the other (Rand is a case in point), and thus ‘politics’ becomes a nonsensical swinging of the pendulum from one extreme to the other. But, combining the all important aspects of freedom with the also-important aspects of order and protections against abuses of that freedom is the order of the day, I believe. People cling to either one or the other so aggressively they cannot recognise specific merits, and failures, that can be found in each. We throw the baby out with the bathwater, and fail to create a third way.

    However, I want to respond to your mentioning that there’s never, ever been a truly free market. My response is that if you did achieve the supposed ‘nirvana’ of a completely ‘free market’, it would only last for five minutes….

    In double quick fashion the people within that market would show their true colours. Some would be quite content to live simply and happily, within their limits, but others would crave ‘more’ in their own subjective and self-interested quest for happiness and personal fulfillment. Their ambition will see them accruing and accruing, and so even from a completely level playing field, the insatiable thirst of a few will see their gaining a monopoly over the rest. (Incidentally, the words ‘ambition’ and ‘ambitious’ were derogatory, negative words until around the beginning of the last century – but they then somehow got transformed into a model character trait, a thing to encourage, as the goals of an increasingly atomised society changed…) Remember, we’re talking about a completely unregulated market here – the Randian ideal. In an unregulated market, the more ambitious can use their cunning to speed that free market’s transition straight back to feudalism. There’s nothing to stop it, so it’s a given.

    The only thing that can stop that negative transition is law, or regulations, governing behaviour within that ‘free market’. For example, permaculturists know that the larger the area of land you’re attempting to work, the more compromises you must make in your bid to work within the laws of nature. Thinking along these lines, imagine if everyone in this ‘free market’ we are visualising also happened to have the same area of land each to work. If there was a law in place that disallowed owning an area of land that was, say, 3x bigger than that you originally started with, then your ambition would be constrained to that limit, and therefore your land would not get subjected to such abuse. It also follows in this situation, that you could not end up as Lord of the Manor, with 5,000 serfs beneath you, working an area of land that’s 50 or 500 times what you started with, whilst you collect the lion’s share of the excess.

    Ambition is the grand enemy of all peace. — John Cowper Powys

    But without such a law, your unregulated ‘free market’, would very quickly deteriorate straight back into what we see today – where the ambition and abuses of the few would see the people pleading for government protection, and then once that was in place, the ‘few’ would quickly lobby said government until it no longer works objectively in the interests of the many, but instead becomes an enforcer for the few against the many – as we see with corporate feudalism today.

    Without regulations, we’re at the mercy of the most ambitious. And then those regulations begin to get tailored to the benefit of the few (resulting in ‘get big or get out’ policies, the banking bailouts you mentioned, and suchlike). But what I’d personally like to see is regulations that are created from the bottom up by a lucid, holistically minded populace who have learned something from our turbulent past. I’d like to see regulations that incentivise (yes, I recognise the necessity of targeted incentivisation – something that communism wholly failed with) a ‘get smaller or get out’ transition, after which could come a staged introduction of limits of the size of land parcels, etc.

    I have found some of the best reasons I ever had for remaining at the bottom simply by looking at the men at the top. – Frank More Colby (1865-1925)

    @Bob.

    Thanks for the reference recommendation. I’ll chase the material down as I have time.

    2 Yes, you are wrong.

    Note that these are all judgements…

    Actually, it wasn’t a judgement. When you look at the context it was written in, you’ll see it was just a simple statement of fact. Permaculture is not only about creating “sustainable eco-systems via permaculture”. It is also about people systems – economic systems, and political systems. If we get those wrong, we will never manage to create “sustainable eco-systems via permaculture”. Yes, I could attempt to make my words more flowery I suppose, but I really don’t like to beat about the bush with philosophies that are so perfectly designed to bring out the very worst in mankind.

    As Bill said:

    If you think you can be just a gardener, you’ve got your head in the sand and your arse up in the air waiting to have it kicked by the seed companies. – Bill Mollison

    Reply
  16. Øyvind Holmstad

    Pattern thinking is at the core of permaculture design. What is a pattern? It’s a time proven design solution to take care of human needs and interactions. Historically patterns were adapted and adopted by a stable culture, a part of a culture’s genetic memory. Many patterns were even made sacred through religion.

    The problem with market fundamentalism is that it is not rooted in any culture, and that it has no religion. It’s only rooted in the single atomized individual, and has made itself a religion. This new religion claims worship through consumerism, or what James Kalb calls satisfaction of desire, which he identifies as the highest virtue of modernist liberalism. Greed is part of desire.

    Reply
  17. jim davis

    @Craig

    I didn’t think it necessary nor apporpriate to go point by point, since the misrepresentations are obvious. However, for those who have not actually objectively read and understood any of Aynn Rand’s work (or understand finance, or the role of the Fed, or how the U.S. Government’s regulatory bodies actually work, etc. etc), I’ll accept your request and go over a couple of his points that form the theoretical basis of the article and how that was used to fuel the overly emotional and simplistic “greed is the devil” type argument:

    1) The first major misrepresentation was that: Aynn Rand “excoriated” those who help others. To quote Aynn Rand directly:

    “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.” 1964 interview in Playboy Magazine.

    If you disagree with her in helping others being a primary virtue or moral duty (according to her specific definitions of what those are), fine, but she clearly is not against it. What she’s trying to get across, is that an individual should not need to sacrifice themselves or their resources to help others as a MORAL IMPERATIVE, ie it should be a personal choice and one not forced upon others via governments, religion, or via any other 3rd party.

    2) The other primary misrepresentation which the author used to conclude his article and give as the “ultimate” example of the outcome and dangers of “Randian” philosophy (not really Randian, since so heavily misrepresented), was his assertion that previous Fed Chairman Allan Greenspan used these philosophies in his term to the detriment of humanity in his “refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down.”

    First off, the author is showing tremendous ignorance in his knowledge of monetary policy, finance, and how the U.S. government and its regulatory bodies actually work. Allan Greenspan, as head of the Fed board, is in charge of MONETARY POLICY: ie, the control of money supply by the setting of interest rates (they have other roles, especially after the “crisis”, but this is the primary one). In NO WAY is the Fed in charge of regulation of banks and the financial industry. This is done by a regulatory body called FINRA. Who dictates what is and what isn’t regulated is done by CONGRESS. Allan Greenspan was not involved in regulation or the lack thereof and the only link he has to it are his COMMENTS during his term in support of market regulation (which he was heavily criticized for both DURING and AFTER his term).

    If the author wanted to argue that Greenspan’s comments may have influenced the regulatory environment, fine, but he didn’t. Instead, it was more useful to his propaganda to pin Greenspan’s role as the primary regulator and to link those regulatory decisions to his time philosophizing with Rand. Even if he HAD argued his “comments” were influencing regulatory policy, it would have been EXTREMELY weak, as there were/are literally small armies of lobbyists financed by big business that have MUCH more sway than the musings of a Fed chairman.

    If the author, had a modicum of journalistic integrity and actually had some understanding of finance and regulation, he would have understood that Greenspan’s role in the financial crisis was not due to his COMMENTS or his links to RAND, but his expansionary monetary policy. Second only to what’s going on in this current environment, Greenspan’s aggressive lowering of interest rates was the PRIMARY instigator of aggressive loaning/borrowing and the massive expansion in inflationary pricing (particularly and catastrophically in housing)! The extremely ironic point to all of this, is that this type of monetary policy DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS the “Randian” philosophy of “market regulation”, ie using government intervention in the artificial setting of interest rates! More irony, in those same essays in Rand’s book, Greenspan advocated monetary policy based on a gold standard! The reality is, regulation of interest rates by big government via the Fed is one of the biggest market manipulations in history.

    Hopefully, I’ve been able to clearly define where the misrepresentations were and point out why that article was truly HORRIBLE! My original point that this blog is NOT the venue for this, is simply because there are VERY few people who really understand the issues, and even FEWER who can comment intelligently on them.

    As such, Craig, I’m sorry, but from your comments and the articles you choose to support, your understanding of markets, finance, politics, and the intricacies and complexities of how these systems interrelate and the actual concrete issues with them, is seriously lacking (as is the understanding of your “political” bloggers). If you’d like, I can also point out the errors in logic in your statements, but again, I’d rather not be put in the position to have to do that. Instead, I would expect, as an editor, you would be honest about the limitations of your understanding, and if you DO decide to approach these COMPLEX subject matters, would do so in a way that is MUCH more objective and that shows MUCH more critical thought. A little humility will go a long way here.

    As it is now, these types of uniformed and emotional “articles” (and their defense), only serve to alienate your readers. Those who have some understanding of our financial/politcial systems will immediately be put-off by the lack of understanding being demonstrated here. Especially when it’s being done in an “educative” framework.

    Which gets back to my original point… talk about what you KNOW, be honeset about and approach what you don’t objectively. In the context of permaculture, this would be permanent “agruculture”, if you want to discuss that in the context of its implementation in larger society, fine. If you want to expand that into contexts of “permanent culture”, fine, but realize the permaculture movement has ZERO experience or example of implementing this on a very large scale (societies). The principles, however, are excellent. So, if you’re interested in communicating these principles to a receptive audience, I would suggest doing so in a positive way that gives models of what TO DO, not the other way around. Because, as soon as you start comparing, contrasting, critiquing… you really better know what you’re talking about.

    Reply
  18. Cam Wilson

    May I suggest the writings of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory as a good way of bringing some of these opposing views into a synthesised whole. As Ken says, “No one is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time”. That is, there is some truth in every view that is put forward. Each view is true, but partial. Left has some truth. Right has some truth. Extreme of either is unhealthy. Balance folks is key. I believe Wilber is to all realms of human endeavour, what Permaculture is to ecosystem design. Health of Self, Culture and Nature, whilst recognising the ever evolving and unfolding nature of human consciousness is all realms. For anyone interested, “A brief history of everything” is a good place to begin to get an understanding of Wilber’s approach.

    On this note, I would suggest a rather healthy example of Rand-like thinking; that of Joel Salatin’s libertarian approach to agriculture which has inspired thousands of people. He knows that the wellbeing of his customers and the health of the environment is in fact in his own “selfish interest”. This enlightened self interest and growing sphere of care emerges with higher levels of developmental awareness.

    Reply
  19. JBob

    Bravo, jim davis! I’ve lost the will to continue pointing out how counter-productive all the political blathering is on this site. Monbiot posts are atrocious.

    I give Rand a lot of credit in getting me started down the libertarian path. There is a lot of criticism that could made about her, and I enjoy reading it when it’s reasoned, fair, insightful, and not second rate demagoguery… and not on a site ostensibly about permaculture.

    Reply
  20. Caelan MacIntyre

    Once upon a time there was a species that called itself human…

    Its capacity for systemic complexity, that allowed it to survive and flourish on the plains of Africa, was what ultimately killed it.

    Reply
  21. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    @Jim

    Thanks for attempting to support your comment with something.

    1. Yes, I’d agree that George’s using the word “excoriated” was inappropriate, at least according to anything I’ve seen from Rand (perhaps George has seen some writings I haven’t).

    But on the point here, of altruism, do keep in mind that the three principles behind permaculture are: 1) Earth Care, 2) People Care, and 3) Return of surplus back to the first two ethics.

    If you choose (emphasis on ‘choice’ here!) to call yourself a permaculturist, then you agree that you should return surplus back to improving the state of the world and the people within it. If you don’t include the third ethic as part of your way of life, then obviously you’re not a permaculturist, as the 3rd ethic is one of the three simple base ethics that make permaculture what it is. There are many areas where Ayn Rand’s philosophies conflict with permaculture thinking, but just based on this alone I strongly suspect Ayn Rand would not ‘choose’ to be a permaculturist, as she would, by doing so, be ‘obliging’ herself to give back to people and place, as that is part and parcel of being a permaculturist.

    2. What you write on point #2 is fascinating….

    I’ll break it down a bit:

    You quote George as saying about Greenspan: “refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down” and then proceed to say that Greenspan had no ability to regulate.

    Firstly, you didn’t include George’s mentioning of “lobbying”. George was also referring to Greenspan’s lobbying of government – his powerful, sage-like influence on government policies, as opposed to his direct control over banking regulation:

    Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru’s philosophy to the letter, lobbying to cut taxes for the rich and repeal the laws constraining the banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. — Monbiot

    On the latter part of George’s quote just above, your statement below is not correct:

    In NO WAY is the Fed in charge of regulation of banks and the financial industry…. Who dictates what is and what isn’t regulated is done by CONGRESS. Allan Greenspan was not involved in regulation or the lack thereof… — Jim Davis

    I think you’re forgetting about HOEPA (Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act 1994):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Ownership_and_Equity_Protection_Act_of_1994

    The law also gives the Federal Reserve Board broad powers to adjust regulations as it sees fit. Critics of Alan Greenspan argue that he failed to properly use these powers when the subprime mortgage problems became apparent in 2005. – Wikipedia

    From Newsweek:

    This mess is mostly a titanic failure of regulation. And the largest share of blame goes back to one man: Alan Greenspan. People mainly fault the former Fed chief, who once enjoyed a near-saintly reputation because of his reputed “feel” for market conditions, for ushering in an era of easy credit that accelerated the mortgage mania. But the much bigger problem was Greenspan’s Ayn Randian passion for regulatory minimalism. Under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act enacted by Congress in 1994, the Fed was given the authority to oversee mortgage loans. But Greenspan kept putting off writing any rules. As late as April 2005, when things were seriously beginning to go wrong, he was saying that subprime lending would work out for the common good —without government interference. “Lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants,” he declared at the time. So much for his feel. New regs didn’t get put into place until this past July—long after the crash had come, under Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke. The new Fed chief’s “Regulation Z” finally created some common-sense rules, such as forbidding loans without sufficient documentation to show if a person has the ability to repay.

    Greenspan has tried to defend himself repeatedly, though as bank after bank has failed he’s retreated to the shadows. But in a 2007 interview with CBS he admitted: “While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late.” This, from a man who once told me, in an interview, that he most enjoyed scanning economic reports for hours in his bathtub. Now, with Tuesday’s $85 billion bailout of AIG adding to the hundreds of billions the government has already put up to rescue Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this apostle of free-market absolutism has realized his worst nightmare. He has given us the largest government intervention into the markets since FDR. Heckuva job, Greenie. — Newsweek

    If Greenspan had nothing to do with regulating, why would he concede his failure for the same? See:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/business/economy/24panel.html

    A snippet:

    But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

    “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. — NYTimes

    Wall Street Economists ask the question: “Who’s to blame for the financial crisis?” Second from the top of the list of ‘Key government officials to blame’ is:

    Alan Greenspan who championed Savings and Loans deregulations allowing these banks to speculate with consumer deposit. Alan Greenspan refused to regulate the mortgage industry, despite several warnings and allowed the formation of housing bubble during his tenure as Federal Reserve Chairman. Alan Greenspan was later hired by John Paulson who made billions betting on subprime mortgages that he refused to regulate. — EconomicPredictions.org

    But, pushing on… I agree that the federal reserve is a destructive institution, and really has no right to exist – it certainly does not foster localised economies, but favours the rich and powerful. No question there. I am also disgusted with the two-faced approach of the banking institutions – “leave us free from regulations”, and when we screw up “please save us!”.

    But the fact remains, the banker’s ‘self-interested working in the marketplace’ results in mayhem. A comical, but honest, look at this can be found here:

    http://permaculturenews.org/2008/09/21/south-bank-show-demystifies-financial-crisis/ (particularly watch from 2:53 onwards).

    Yes, the banking system got bailed out. But, did they know that if they screwed up they would get bailed out? I think not, and at the very least they knew there was the distinct possibility they wouldn’t. Regardless of risk to themselves or their clients, their ‘self interest’ lead them to loan money to people who couldn’t possibly afford to service their debts.

    3. I’m adding a point #3 here… Nobody has mentioned another part of George’s post — the fact that Ayn Rand, who aggressively decried any social security for society and medicare, availed herself of the same when she discovered she had cancer from smoking. I would have thought, to maintain her integrity, she would choose not to apply for financial support, even if she were eligible. Yes, she had paid for it with her taxes, but still – why not make a stand by not applying for it?

    Jim, Ayn Rand’s philosophies are wholly juxtaposed against permaculture. Her view, and the view of her ardent followers, urges hatred against environmentalism, for example:

    To save mankind from environmentalism, what’s needed is not the appeasing, compromising approach of those who urge a “balance” between the needs of man and the “needs” of the environment. To save mankind requires the wholesale rejection of environmentalism as hatred of science, technology, progress, and human life. To save mankind requires the return to a philosophy of reason and individualism, a philosophy that makes life on earth possible. — AynRand.org

    Human beings survive by reshaping nature to fulfill their needs. Every single step taken to advance beyond the cave–every rock fashioned into a tool, every square foot of barren earth made into productive cropland, every drop of crude petroleum transformed into fuel for cars and planes–constitutes an improvement in human life, achieved by altering our natural environment. The environmentalists’ demand that nature be protected against human “encroachments” means, therefore, that man must be sacrificed in order to preserve nature. If “wilderness has a right to exist for its own sake”–then man does not.

    Litter-free streets or pollution-free air–or any provable benefit to man–is not what environmentalists seek. Their aim is to eliminate the benefits of the man-made in order to preserve–unchanged–nature’s animals, plants and dirt.

    Earth Day is an appropriate occasion for challenging the environmentalists’ philosophy. It can be the occasion for recognizing the Earth as a value–not in and of itself, but only insofar as it is continually reshaped by man to serve his ends. — AynRand.org

    When I read material from Ayn Rand and her adherents, what I see is a determination to conquer and subdue nature. This is wholly in opposition from the kind of mentality held by those few cultures who have maintained a sustainable existence with large population bases over centuries on the same piece of land. What I see in these writings is the kind of thinking that gives life to industrialised monocultures, GMOs and geo-engineering.

    I don’t see it inappropriate at all to show how her base philosophies contrast starkly with permaculture, so readers can also draw the line between her philosophies on environmentalism right through to how her thoughts get played out in the socioeconomic sphere.

    @Cam

    Cam, while Joel Salatin might call himself a ‘libertarian’, I very much doubt he’d say his thinking is “Rand-like”. Compare the quotes above about environmentalism, and the many more you can read from Rand and staunch Randites, and you’ll find their views are diametrically opposed to Salatin’s statements. Rand was fully an athiest:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTmac2fs5HQ

    Joel Salatin is a Christian:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eja5HNAKg7Y

    As a Christian, Joel’s ‘self interest’ goes beyond Ayn Rand’s understanding of the same. Watch the video, and you’ll hear Joel talk about his role as ‘steward of Creation’. This could not be more different from Rand’s view, which is similar to the “Christian right” Joel speaks about, and which he takes issue with, in the video above (at 2:18), who concentrate on “dominion” rather than “nurturing” of the environment.

    Just for the record – I agree with everything Joel says in the ‘libertarian’ section of the just-linked video above. But the ‘libertarians’ I fail to gel with are those who go to extremes (like the pendulum I described above). If I say anything that tries to mix a little reality into their obsessive, cult-like belief system, they jump on me for stepping out of their sacred circle. Again, as said above, they throw the baby out with the bathwater. I fail to gel with are those who blindly believe that the invisible hand of the market, without any human ‘design’ applied to it, will magically solve the world’s woes. Some of these people call for removing all regulations, of every kind – but they fail to explain to me how this will free us from the corporate monopoly we presently find ourselves in, or, indeed, how it won’t make that corporate stranglehold complete and final…. These people call for privatisation of virtually everything (and in some case absolutely everything), including nature and its sentient beings — they want to leave the protection of nature and those sentient beings to individual property owners who may or many not appreciate their ‘value’, if they don’t have any perceived… er… value! These things are completely diametrically opposed to the way of thinking held by sustainable traditional cultures — indeed, the indigenous folk the world over would (and do) find these philosophies abhorrent. These ‘libertarians’ call for a system of courts to settle disputes, but fail to recognise that in doing so they’re just creating another form of government – a privatised one. These people fail to appreciate the plight of the poor guy who cannot make use of the court system to hear his case, because he’s a subsistence farmer (a permaculturist perhaps) who cannot pay for representation. And when I try to show some need for protections of the weak and vulnerable (weather that be in the form of people or wildlife), against the greed of the self-interested, they call for a policy of leaving them to luck and hope. When I’ve repeatedly painted practical scenarios where libertarian thought creates immoral paradoxes, the libertarian commenters nimbly dodge around those points and ignore them. When I repeatedly request these commenters to send me articles for publishing on this site(!), where they clearly outline their suggestions for changing the present system, along with their predictions for how those changes would play out in the real world, so we can get a clear presentation to examine and discuss, they refuse to do so, but instead just complain negatively whenever anything I write or post even slightly stands on the toes of their precious but untried philosophies.

    Reply
  22. pete

    Libertarian thought covers a diverse spectrum. But this article does not appreciate that. It is simply a divisive mean spirited hit peice. It appeals to demogogs on the left who believe in government intervention. but its liberal fascist demogogery is out of touch with and will alienate the mainstream on the ground permies such as salatin.

    Our current political economic system in the US is anythong but a free market and is actually more of a corporatist/fascist system. It should be critisised and critiqued but such would be MORE appropriate from a libertarian pount of view than this garbage.

    Reply
  23. jim davis

    @Craig

    1) Ok, you concede one of the author’s misrepresntations. But, your follow up argument tries to justify this misrepresentation by saying other aspects of Rand’s philsophy conflict with permaculture. So, not really much of a concession.

    Whether Rand’s philosophy conflicts with permaculture was not why I took the time to comment. I was pointing out that if you or your bloggers don’t have the ability to objectively critique things without obvious political bias, then you shouldn’t be doing it, because it taints what is otherwise a great blog. In this particular case, the author is categorically superimposing his negative and subjective views on Rand’s philosophy which really serves no purpose but to further his political stance (and apparently yours as well).

    2) Craig, you missed the point. Greenspan was/is the product of a REGULATORY environment whose primary purpose is to CONTROL markets (interest rates). BY DEFINITION this is NOT RANDIAN. Your’s and the author’s assertion that Greenspan misused “evil Randian” philsophy by refusing to REGULATE MARKETS while he was actively CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING THEM is ILLOGICAL and FACTUALLY INCORRECT. This was the MAIN reason Greenspan referred to his time with Rand as “youthful indiscretions”, because BY DEFINITION as Fed chairman, he was acting in COUNTER to them.

    3) No Craig, it’s your subjectively biased interpretations of Aynn Rand’s philsophies which are wholly against permacutlure. In objective readings of Rand, as other posters have pointed out, you will find common values with permaculture… just as you will, for instance, with Libertarianism. The reason no one has mentioned Aynn Rand’s comments on environmentalism, is because this discussion was primarily about the author’s piece and whether negative political bias’ are even appropriate in this venue… and because, well, really not many people on this blog seem to be as hellbent on preaching an anti-rand world view as you and the author seem to be.

    The reason for this, in my opinion, is that the permaulture community in general is a senesible one. One that generally feels these extreme political bias’ are counter-productive. It’s very apparent even to a casual reader that both you and the author lean heavily towards an “occupier”, “anti-rand”, top-down regulatory approach of how things “should” be, without questioning whether other permaculturists may have other views. You even went so far as to say that permaculturists who do not know what the “right people systems” are, are not practicing permaculture… the inference being, you apparently know what those right systems are, and those who do not agree with you do not practice permaculture. Ha!

    Apparently the irony that this mindset EXACTLY mimics the source of many of the problems of our current culture (namely, dogma) has not seemed to enter into your awareness.

    I’ll say this to you Craig. If you showed up on my permaculture farm or in my community (many organics/permaculture) and proceeded to tell us how big our farms could be and/or whatever other regulations you and Mr. Mondbiot could dream up, we would ask, who are you to decide what’s best for our community? Who are you to come here and tell us who we should and shouldn’t condemn?

    Reply
  24. Øyvind Holmstad

    “My work is more about changing our worldview as the necessary underpinning of a new architecture and a new society, and not only about ways of making immediate changes in our professions. It is a huge topic. Think about George Orwell, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Bertholt Brecht. The anti-utopian future that these writers foresaw has actually come true. They foresaw the future world as market-dominated and corporationdominated in a very damaging fashion, and described the immense struggle that would be needed to regain the Earth. This is not a new topic. Architecture is just one arena of expression where this struggle goes on. We all have to grapple with it somehow. This is a slow process, but it is, in a sense, the only great struggle there is. It is the one we must pursue.” – Christopher Alexander: http://permaliv.blogspot.com/2012/03/battle-for-ordinary-human-existence-in.html

    Thank you Craig for pursuing this struggle!

    Reply
  25. Caelan MacIntyre

    “Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control…In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”
    ~ Noam Chomsky, ‘Manufacturing Consent’

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3BmFf58UPg

    Reply
  26. Øyvind Holmstad

    @Jim
    “I’ll say this to you Craig. If you showed up on my permaculture farm or in my community (many organics/permaculture) and proceeded to tell us how big our farms could be and/or whatever other regulations you and Mr. Mondbiot could dream up, we would ask, who are you to decide what’s best for our community? Who are you to come here and tell us who we should and shouldn’t condemn?”

    How big farms should be is a matter of pattern observation. A significant pattern found in nature and traditional societies is that every sustainable system has a fractal structure. This is very clear in form languages, where this structure obey a scaling hierarcy between 2-5: http://meandering-through-mathematics.blogspot.com/2012/02/applications-of-golden-mean-to.html

    Although this essay is about form languages, which in all architecture of all times, up to our days, obey the universal scaling law, I’ve read several places that Salingaros claims this to be relevant for all sustainable system. Hence the size of the farm is not important, but the number of farms, community gardens etc. of every scale.

    Again, you clearly show that you don’t know what pattern languages are about, it’s about self-organization: http://permaculturenews.org/2012/02/07/peer-to-peer-themes-and-urban-priorities-for-the-self-organizing-society/

    Pattern languages are NOT dreamed up, they are DERIVED out of living history and practices, in short EVIDENCE BASED DESIGN: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20111114/frontiers-of-design-science-2

    I’m confident that Craig understands this very well! But you might say that Christopher Alexander is just another ideologist. He’s not! He’s an observer of Nature!

    - The Radical Technology of Christopher Alexander: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20110906/the-radical-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    - The Sustainable Technology of Christopher Alexander: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20110919/the-sustainable-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    - The Pattern Technology of Christopher Alexander: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20111007/the-pattern-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    - The Living Technology of Christopher Alexander: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20111017/the-living-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    - The “Wholeness-Generating” Technology of Christopher Alexander: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20111024/the-%e2%80%9cwholeness-generating%e2%80%9d-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    Reply
  27. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    @Jim

    In this particular case, the author is categorically superimposing his negative and subjective views on Rand’s philosophy which really serves no purpose but to further his political stance

    But it does serve a purpose – it provides a platform for discussion and for people to share their agreement or opposing views, as you’re doing. Developing functioning ‘People Systems’ which work for both people and place is a critical need, and and such, critically examining root philosophies (which all result in a practical outcome when applied – either positive or negative) is the first stage in determining which philosophies are expedient and helpful for developing appropriate invisible structures, and which are not.

    Craig, you missed the point. Greenspan was/is the product of a REGULATORY environment whose primary purpose is to CONTROL markets (interest rates). BY DEFINITION this is NOT RANDIAN. Your’s and the author’s assertion that Greenspan misused “evil Randian” philsophy by refusing to REGULATE MARKETS while he was actively CONTROLLING AND MANIPULATING THEM is ILLOGICAL and FACTUALLY INCORRECT. This was the MAIN reason Greenspan referred to his time with Rand as “youthful indiscretions”, because BY DEFINITION as Fed chairman, he was acting in COUNTER to them.

    No, I didn’t miss your point. In your previous comment you had said that Greenspan had absolutely no control over regulations for mortgage lenders, etc.

    In NO WAY is the Fed in charge of regulation of banks and the financial industry…. Allan Greenspan was not involved in regulation or the lack thereof.

    And, despite your ending your comment with “…you really better know what you’re talking about” you actually didn’t know what you were talking about… since Alan Greenspan DID have the ability to regulate, but (in true Randian style) chose not to do so.

    Yes, I understand that Greenspan was shifting interest rates around, etc., but if he had properly ensured that banks weren’t loaning money to people who couldn’t afford it (i.e. if he had used the regulatory powers you said he didn’t have, but which he in fact did have..), then the sub-prime crisis needn’t have happened. If interest rates are high or low, it’s not so important if, in the first place, you never took a mortgage you couldn’t afford. The fact that millions of people were able to overload themselves in debt, and these dubious debts could get packaged up and sold, and resold, etc., is directly due to Greenspan not wanting to use his regulatory powers to protect people from the ‘self interested’ bankers and their friendly, convincing, confidence-inspiring mortgage brokers/salesmen. His not wanting to use his regulatory powers was due to his Randian belief of not interfering with the self-interested, marketplace mechanism.

    It would be nice if you would concede that you said something as fact — even with capital letters, and following with “you really better know what you’re talking about” — that was just plain false….

    The reason for this, in my opinion, is that the permaulture community in general is a senesible one. One that generally feels these extreme political bias’ are counter-productive.

    I don’t think it’s ‘extreme political bias’ to state that the concept of privatising everything, including nature, water, education, etc. is not a good thing. I don’t think it’s ‘extreme political bias’ to say that invisible structures that work successfully for people and place will require design, and that leaving our children and our resources instead to the whims of a market free-for-all by billions of self-interested people will not end well.

    It’s very apparent even to a casual reader that both you and the author lean heavily towards an “occupier”, “anti-rand”, top-down regulatory approach of how things “should” be, without questioning whether other permaculturists may have other views.

    I can only speak for myself here. “occupier”? Certainly not. “Anti Rand”? – I’m sure she was a nice lady, but I do completely disagree with her on many counts. “Top down regulatory approach”? No, not at all. As regular readers know, I’m all for bottom up participatory democracy, where any regulations applied are created by the people for the people, and that these are kept to a minimum. “…of how things ‘should’ be, without questioning whether other permaculturists may have other views.”? The whole purpose of this site is so that ‘other permaculturists’ can express their views, and so that important topics and be aired and lessons learned. I have repeatedly requested that libertarians who’ve commented on this site before would (instead of arriving and dropping aggressive comments where the conversation goes around and around in circles) submit their own article, sharing: 1) their practical proposals for how to deal with our present crises, and 2) give us their predictions for how things would play out on the ground as those proposals are implemented. That way we (the readers) can see if you libertarians have thought through the implications of your proposals properly, and we can all discuss any potential benefits and/or weaknesses for the practical application of your philosophies. I extend this same invitation to you, Jim. The podium is yours, whenever you wish to make use of it. If you have ‘other views’, you’re welcome to express them – but please be a little more comprehensive, and show us that you’ve thought everything through. Just telling us ‘remove all regulations’ and ‘privatise everything’ is one thing – but doing that AND give us your predictions on very practical outcomes for some of the various aspects of society would serve your cause much better, and earn a little more respect from myself.

    You even went so far as to say that permaculturists who do not know what the “right people systems” are, are not practicing permaculture… the inference being, you apparently know what those right systems are, and those who do not agree with you do not practice permaculture. Ha!

    No, I didn’t say that at all. In fact, in your earlier comment, when you said “Did you seriously just say that?” I was going to reply, “No, I didn’t”, but I didn’t have the energy to waste.

    What I wrote was:

    Yes, you are wrong. It’s not just about ‘eco-systems’, but also people systems. Unless you get the latter right, it’s impossible to get the former right.

    What I was saying was the permaculture is not only about gardening, and ‘eco systems’, but also about people systems, and that if we don’t get the people systems right, we’ll never sort out our environmental (ecosystem) woes.

    But you pulled that apart, and reconstructed it with the worst possible meaning:

    I see, and you and Mr. Monbiot know what those “right” “people-systems” are, and are educating us about them? And because I don’t agree with either you or Mr. Monibot about “people-systems”, then I’m “wrong”, and I can’t “get premaculture right”? Did you seriously just say that?

    Again, no, I didn’t say that. Again, this site is for airing views. You arrived here and in your first comment you said that this post should not be on this site. I’m saying it’s a good platform for discussion, and I’m also inviting you to make your own presentation.

    Just because the post offends you, you don’t want to see it here. But others do appreciate it. So, what to do? Shall I only run posts which absolutely everyone agrees with? If so, I’ll be able to run no posts at all. I don’t agree with all the posts I publish on this site, for example. You’re trying to censor an open forum, because you disagree with the author. Again, contribute your own article that clearly outlines how your own particular ideas for how to build a successful permanent culture and we, and other readers, can consider your ideas and discuss them. I refuse to listen to “I don’t like that post – it shouldn’t be here”. I will listen to “I disagree with that post, so I’ll submit my own views for publishing”.

    Apparently the irony that this mindset EXACTLY mimics the source of many of the problems of our current culture (namely, dogma) has not seemed to enter into your awareness.

    “This mindset” that you’ve created by dismantling my sentences and reassembling them according to your own preconceived view of me is not my mindset at all.

    In regards to ‘dogma’, which is a ‘settled opinion’, this is exactly how I feel about ardent libertarians. If I question any of the principles behind the libertarian religion, I’m suddenly a communist dictator or a tyrannical government ruler. Your last paragraph is a case in point:

    I’ll say this to you Craig. If you showed up on my permaculture farm or in my community (many organics/permaculture) and proceeded to tell us how big our farms could be and/or whatever other regulations you and Mr. Mondbiot could dream up, we would ask, who are you to decide what’s best for our community? Who are you to come here and tell us who we should and shouldn’t condemn?

    But I wouldn’t show up on your farm or in your community and start dictating anything. Again, I have always encouraged community based decision-making, and regulations applied by the people for the people after they’ve been holistically worked through and determined beneficial to the needs of the community, and to protect the community members from the excessive self-interest of other individuals of that community.

    Again, it’s like a pendulum swinging. If a few of my toes step outside of your dogmatic sacred, magic circle, then I’m suddenly an anathema – my lips are moving but your ears are blocked and you can no longer hear what I’m saying.

    I think I give up here.

    Reply
  28. John

    Why doesn’t Permacultre.org.au take the lead here. Some of us are here strickly for the technical how tos of permacultre and have no interest in arguing polotics. In fact I look for this news letter to get away from the thoughts, debates and arguments of polictics. It’s place where I can focus on communing with nature and the enviorment. Whether one agrees or disagrees with artical isn’t the point.

    The point, is whether or not the artical is the content one is looking for. Most would agree that an organization needs to be careful with the content of there news letters in a world where so much is take out of context enorder to suit an individual agenda. If not the organization risk being branded and out cast, the opposite of their intended goal.

    And this artical is emotion filled and it is completely one sided, it did not make reference to anything that may be right in the book. I mean really when was the last time you saw someone who was wrong completely 100% of the time?

    I would like to recomend the organisation find a way to seperate prehaps by header, areas of organic tech and how tos from the topics of polictical strife and fight. *OR, could the editor please suggest another Permaculture site who isn’t soo preoccupied with Ruling the world.*

    Prehaps you could find away to

    Reply
  29. Tommy Tolson

    Ayn Rand was what William Catton called “pre-ecological,” and her acolytes continue to be so. Ecology, it seems to me, is seen as evil by the Rand fans, and so they’re blocked from learning it, past a certain basic level. That’s my experience, anyway, it seems to me.

    Permaculture is ecological, a paradigm (a la Thomas Kuhn) shift away from the pre-ecological.

    We might as well be from different planets.

    The ruling elites (Randian to the core) are happy. Divide and conquer still works good as ever.

    And the conquered seem to like it that way.

    It’s why you don’t need to put a top on a bucket of crabs. If one gets up the side pretty high, another pulls it down.

    The path to liberation, as Paulo Freire understood, is hard.

    Permaculture is like an oasis on that path.

    Most of the time.

    Smiles.
    Tommy

    Reply
  30. jim davis

    @Craig

    “The author is categorically superimposing his negative and subjective views on Rand’s philosophy which really serves no purpose but to further his political stance.”

    “But it does serve a purpose – it provides a platform for discussion….”

    Sponsoring articles that intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent culture, philosohpy, finance, politics, etc. on the official Permaculure blog of Australia, is not something that provides a platform for constructive discussion. It polarizes, is uninformative, and more importantly, it is journalistically unethical and an impediment to truth and honesty.

    It is the journalistic responsibility of the Editor and of the Journalist, if their intent is to genuinely inform, in making sure that language and thinking be as non-biased, factual, and objective as possible.

    Since you are formally representing permaculture with this blog, what you decide to communicate will be a very important facet of how people view it. I’m not advocating censorship. I’m advocating Journalistic Integrity. The type of integrity that prevents an Editor from printing material he knows, or may suspect to be false, or misrepresentative… and the type of integrity, that when presented with concerns/examples of misrepresentation or factual errors, would inspire edits/retractions/etc. The idea being, that correct and honest information be the priority.

    You have been dismissive of the arguments/principles above, justifying bias as a means of igniting discussion. You dimissed my examples of misrepresentations because I made a factual error. A factual error that did not invalidate the principles above nor the large scope of misrepresentations made by the author. I am not a writer, and I do not call myself an Editor or Journalist, yet you held me rigorously to those standards. What I am though Craig, is a reader on your blog, posting comments/criticisms, and most importantly, I’m a member of the public, trying to hold you as Editors and Journalists, accountable.

    Here are some links to Journalistic Codes of Ethics for you to look over:

    (Please pay special attention to Article IV)

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080319093855/http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?ID=888

    (Please pay special attention to sections on Accuracy and Integrity)

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080622123407/http://www.apme.com/ethics/

    http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

    (Please pay special attention to the principles 1-5 at the bottom, they are very important, 7 and esepecially 8)

    http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/status-of-journalists-and-journalism-ethics-ifj-principles

    I’m going to finish by listing 5 of the factual errors and misrepresentations I found in just the first 2 paragraphs as a starting point for your own rigorous fact checking Craig. This time, I’m going to be as accurate as possible, since I’d like to hopefully demonstrate that it is possible to show objectivity when dealing with complex topics.

    Before I beign, please note, that in philosophy, philosophers are known to define words differently than normal use. When reading their work, it’s important to understand their particular definitions in order to understand their meaning. Also, please note, that I am not arguing in favor of her arguments, I am merely pointing out the misrepresentations, how they relate to Journalistic Integrity, and the importance of beginning discussions with truthful, and factual information.

    A small example of misrepresentations and factual errors in Mr. Monbiot’s article:

    1) “Selfishness is good” – Rand’s definition of selfishness was simply: “concern with one’s own interests”. She did not use the term “good” in reference to it, in fact she said the opposite: “This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests.” She considered this definition of Selfishness a Virtue, where her primary meaning for Virtue was considered to be Reason or Rationality. In the context of Selfishness, what she called Rational Selfishness, she defined as: “the values required for man’s survival”. She criticized what she considered the incorrect use of selfishness in popular culture: “In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.” The author misrepresents Rand’s philosophy here, by implying she was using the popular definition of Selfishness and incorrectly asserts she used the word “good” in association with it.

    2) “Altruism is evil” – I’m assuming the author is using the general interpretation of what altruism is, “Concern for the welfare of others”. However, Aynn Rand had a specific definition for Altruism, “The basic principle of Altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.” She was not against people helping others as evidenced by her comments on charity, “There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them.” What she was against, was her belief that the moral imperative of Altruism, and taking it to its logical conclusion, was one of self-destruction. She gave an example of being approached by a continual stream of beggars and being asked for money, according to her definition, the Altruist would give until he was bankrupt. The author misrepresents Rand by assuming she is referring to general altruism vs her specific definition of it.

    3) “Empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive” – Rand’s view on compassion: “I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty. If one feels compassion for the victims of a concentration camp, one cannot feel it for the torturers. If one does feel compassion for the torturers, it is an act of moral treason toward the victims.” I could find no comments of Rand’s on empathy. The author misrepresents Rand very significantly here, as there is no Rand specific definition to misinterpret and her view is the opposite the author suggests.

    4) “The poor deserve to die” – I could find no reference to this anywhere. It seems such a gross misrepresentation that I urge the author to provide a reference.

    5) “The rich deserve unmediated power” – This is also a very abusive misrepresntation, I couldn’t find any references for this either and very much doubt it exists. If it did, Rand would not be capable of making statements like this, “A nation’s productive—and moral, and intellectual—top is the middle class. It is a broad reservoir of energy, it is a country’s motor and lifeblood, which feeds the rest. The common denominator of its members, on their various levels of ability, is: independence. The upper classes are merely a nation’s past; the middle class is its future.”

    - Source of all Aynn Rand quotes, and a valuable resource for fact checking: http://aynrandlexicon.com

    Hopefully, I’ve been able to communicate things in a way that inspires objective critical thought. I truly love permaculture, and want to see it receive the greater acceptance that it deserves. My intentions with this post were in that vein.

    Best, Jim Davis

    Reply
  31. JBob

    Craig, one of your perennial comments against libertarianism takes this form: “…we can see if you libertarians have thought through the implications of your proposals properly… please be a little more comprehensive, and show us that you’ve thought everything through.”

    So if and only if we come up with a ‘Comprehensive Plan to Operate the World’ can we have a valid criticism of any political system.

    Is this what you would tell an abolitionist speaking out against slavery in 1850? “Sorry sir, but you clearly have no workable plan for how we’re going to get all this cotton picked and ginned. This has never before been done without slaves in American history. I mean, what, is some imaginary 5 ton horseless carriage machine supposed to just pick 16 rows of cotton at a time for us?! That’s useless magical thinking!”

    Shouldn’t the ethical question of slavery vs freedom be settled before the *impossible-to-predict* constellation of practical consequences be debated in detail? Libertarianism charges that governments enslave us. Other people disagree. This is the important issue that we must keep our focus on.

    BUT, we don’t really need to settle those issues right here on this site if it distracts from some other ad hoc goal the readers here might share, such as sharing knowledge of ecological design systems for permanent human settlement. Anarchist or socialist, muslim or buddhist, white or black, American or Armenian are distinctions that don’t matter for making use of 98% of the content of “permaculture.” If you really want to hammer away at the 2% and your interpretation of some very vague “principles” about sharing surpluses and whatnot, then nobody can stop you.

    You have libertarians coming to this site because they want info about healing land, increasing resiliency, living a simpler life, and finding smarter agriculture methods. Does post after post after post bellowing about how stupid they are really help anything?

    Reply
  32. Brian Gallimore

    Just wanted to say I appreciate all of Jim Davis’s comments here, as well as others. I was turned on to this article from a local permaculture email list. I don’t have much experience with the PRI site, but publishing and supporting hate-filled articles like this one is a real turn off for me.

    Reply
  33. Øyvind Holmstad

    @JBob, I can understand your hate to governments, as our western governments are founded upon the ideology of modernist liberalism. I’ve James Kalb’s book in my bookshelf waiting to be read, The Tyranny of Liberalism: http://www.isi.org/books/bookdetail.aspx?id=382d08f6-153e-4eb3-ae56-c8c192d8050a

    But I cannot see that privatization on the larger scales can do any good, and I cannot see how libertarianism can secure privatization only on the smaller scales, as long as it, just like modernist liberalism, rejects the pattern technology of Christopher Alexander. Note that there exists not one pattern for private ownership on the larger scales in the Pattern Language. This way classical liberalism seems to be a much better choice: http://www.preservenet.com/classicalliberalism/index.html

    Reply
  34. Kim

    We found the Ayn Rand post was very informative, and useful for understanding the context of what we’re up against in society. Permaculture requires a new mindset, and it’s critical to know where others’ philosophies stem from, so that we can develop effective ways of communicating a new idea.

    Permaculture is a pretty radical idea to most people – farmers especially. I don’t mind learning about others’ political perspectives, I think it helps to understand where they are coming from. We all want to share this system with others, after all!

    Reply
  35. Richard

    After being a serial ranter on another permaculture related site, raibidly defending my opinions and views because they did not fit with other’s opinions, I really question whether we are using our energy wisely when it comes to these kind of in-house debates.

    Personally I think they detract from the real issues. I also often wonder whether we could be using internet sites like this to communicate and collaborate better amongst ourselves. We need more than just endless debates and opinions over articles and issues that appear on the home page. We need to organise, initiate and facilitate change.

    Permaculture has the answers but we need to communicate that fact and we need to find ways to work with everybody inclusively, be they the soulless randian elite or basket weaving vegetarians.

    But how can we facilitate that kind of collaborative change when the permaculture community is often at each other’s throats over petty ideological issues?

    Frankly I would like to see less of the political, ideological and economic dissection and debate and much more of the How To . Its not like PRI doesn’t have plenty to offer, celebrate and inspire when it comes to demonstrating how to create a more sustainable world.

    I also have to say that as someone who has worked for nearly 20 years engaging communities around environmental and sustainability issues, your average punter is extremely open to embracing change these days but only when they are given the tools to do so and are supported in a positive way.

    Weigh them down with too much information to soon i.e the critique of the political and economic status quo and you can quickly scare them off. I have seen too many Joe Public types tentatively have a poke at permaculture and sustainable living only to see them turn away and retreat to the world they are comfortable with because the alternative is “ all too depressing”.

    Therefore, I think we need to be extremely mindful that, because of the issues we face, unless presented in the appropriate way, permaculture can and sometimes does effectively disempower people rather than empower them. Its all in the way the message is presented.

    Rob Hopkins sums this phenomenon up best in the Transition Towns Handbook when he says that for too long the environmental movement has got the psychology of change wrong. We need to paint pictures of what we want the world to be rather than simply highlighting how bad it will be if we do not change.

    In my opinion this type of vitriolic in-house debate does nothing to empower and inspire. It is simply fiddling while Rome burns.

    Reply
  36. pete

    If we saw on this site political articles critical of our current (harmful) system coming from a diversity of intelligent perspectives I’d believe Craigs pleas. But we don’t and we are instead repeatedly witness to the likes of this piece. It appears Craig has a political bias he can’t shed and he’d determined to grind that ax to the detriment of permaculture.

    “The ruling elites (Randian to the core) are happy.”

    Probably the most ridiculous statement so far.

    Kim,

    This article won’t tell you anything useful about on the ground libertarian philosophy. This is not an informative look at a political philosophy, its a hit piece. It serves no educational value. Its only use is to get a window into the demogogery of the likes of Monbiot. Articles like this only serve to slander the opposition and to inoculate sympathetic parties from being able to hear the other side. This kind of divisiveness violates the principle of people care. We cannot care for others if we do not truly understand them from their perspective (as opposed from hit pieces). This is not to saw we shouldn’t take a critical look at various political philosophies; but such can only be had from a more even handed, academic approach.

    Øyvind,

    No offense, but as great as the Pattern Language book is, it isn’t the end all be all you seem to treat it as. The English common law system has been going successfully for much longer than any application of Alexander’s work. Nor do I expect him to see patterns that he does not wish to see.

    Reply
  37. Øyvind Holmstad

    @Richard, did you know that the Transition Towns Handbook is built upon the structure of A Pattern Language? Originally Hopkins wanted to call it A Pattern Language for Transition Towns, but people didn’t really gripped the idea of the language, so he decided to change the title.

    @Pete, some Alexandrine patterns are just as old as civilization itself. You are wrong, we need to replace the rule of law with the rule of patterns. The current system with the rule of law is short sighted and dysfunctional. Actually I’ve made the working title for an (hopefully) upcoming article The Rule of Patterns.

    As a basic patterns were protected by religion, tradition and culture. Unfortunately the current civilization is so fragmented that I’m afraid some patterns need to be protected by laws. But we must get it right, the pattern first, the law secondary.

    Reply
  38. Øyvind Holmstad

    And Pete, if there were a pattern Alexander didn’t wanted to see in the Pattern Language, you can be sure it was an anti-pattern: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20110919/the-sustainable-technology-of-christopher-alexander

    “The problem is that we are adapting to the wrong things — to images, or to short-term greed, or to the clutter of mechanics. These maladaptations are known as “antipatterns” — a term coined not by Alexander, but by software engineers. An antipattern is something that does things wrong, yet is attractive for some reason (profitable or easy in the short term, but dysfunctional, wasteful of resources, unsustainable, unhealthy in the long term). It also keeps re-appearing. Sounds like our economy and wasteful lifestyle?” – Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros

    In fact a large part of current laws are made entirely for the protection of anti-patterns. If our societies were rooted in patterns/pattern languages we would have seen this. To hunt down and kill anti-patterns is just as important as to protect real patterns.

    Reply
  39. Pete S

    @Richard:

    Endless debates are a mechanism derived from political activism schools to control movements, to control the direction and momentum of the “political revolution” and prevent action not desired by the controllers/facilitators/funders of political schools of thought. The fact that these types of posts are increasingly appearing on the main Permaculture window to the world is very worrying IMO.

    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpXbA6yZY-8 about OPTOR! which has infiltrated the OCCUPY movement worldwide, and uses these same techniques to steer the movement.

    Is the Permaculture movement being infiltrated by political activists who have a different agenda?

    @Pete: agreed, I especially like your reference to common law.

    I ask that in future you include an initial after your first name, when I first started contributing to this blog I only used my first name, I doubt you would want to be associated with those early posts of mine :)

    Reply
  40. Pete S

    @Øyvind “The current system with the rule of law is short sighted and dysfunctional.”

    This is by design, you seem to have a lack of understanding concerning English Common Law, which has been usurped by Statute Law, by design of TPTB.

    Statute law is made by governments, who only have power to do so with the consent of the people, what happens when we Lawfully remove that consent? research Article 61 of the
    Magna Carta: LAWFUL REBELLION

    Reply
  41. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    @Jim

    Much of what George wrote is, I believe, not so much about quoting Rand or her opinions (you don’t see quotation marks around those statements you take issue with), but more about making suitably descriptive observations about the outflow/consequences of those opinions/philosophies. For example, while Rand might not have written ‘selfishness is good’ (but she did use the term ‘the virtue of selfishness’, the title of the “manifesto” George introduces with his post — which is essentially the same thing), and ‘the poor deserve to die’, etc., these are still an honest assessment of her thoughts based on the reality of how her philosophies play out in the real world. I.E. Rand might not have considered her philosophies as saying ‘the poor deserve to die’, but many (including myself) can see that that is the outcome for many if all in the world subscribed to her philosophies.

    I think the title ‘a Manifesto for psychopaths’ is wholly suitable for the concepts Rand has brought to us, as the outflow of her philosophies are wholly dangerous.

    For example, the self-interest meets privatise-everything-and-rid-the-world-of-regulations model gives life to all kinds of insanities and cruelties.

    For example, as they privatise, Universities are increasingly teaching only what corporations want students to learn. See:

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_6458.cfm

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/76804/

    Please tell me how Rand philosophies protect us from Monsanto’s ‘self interest’ when they’re actively funding, or witholding funding, from increasingly privatised education facilities.

    Indeed, the ‘self-interest and privatise-everything-and-rid-the-world-of-regulations’ model is what brought GMO ‘products’ into our lives in the first place. Removing even more regulations and privatising even more is not only not going to rid us of Monsanto and their ilk, but will only hand the world to them on a silver platter.

    Privatising everything gives us prisons with a vested interest in society having more criminals. It gives us hospitals that incentivise sickness. It gives us schools that incentivise career students who can’t actually do anything. Unless there are regulations in place to ensure balance and ethical behaviour, then self-interest will naturally lead to short-term thinking for the individual, at the expense of the needs of community and society at large.

    On privatised prisons incentiving the need for more criminals (customers), this was well played out in reality with the ‘kids for cash’ scheme:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/22/judge_convicted_in_pennsylvania_kids_for

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Ciavarella

    This judge and his industry collaborators put children away in a for-profit detention centre when they’d done little to nothing wrong. The prison simply needed ‘paying customers’ at their detention centre, and the judge was happy to take payment to provide these.

    For libertarians, all problems should be solved in a court. Yet, this situation was fed by a court and its corrupt judge!

    Thankfully, the judge, Mark Ciavarella eventually got a 28 year sentence for his involvement – but this does not bring back the stolen time for these children, nor give them back any sense of respect for the ’system’ they’re living within, and it certainly doesn’t bring back the life of the boy who committed suicide:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugCrczkMo8c

    You want to create a court system to solve everything, but in doing so all you’d be doing is creating a new form of government – one where a privatised, profit-motivated court governs. Where would be the defense for the penniless? Indeed, where in your privatised utopia would whole sections of society fit? The physically and mentally disabled, etc. etc.? These would also be left to chance. If they have no value to the monetary system, they’d simply perish.

    And as we see constantly, in a privatised system, resources (like water, for example) always flow uphill towards money, and flow directly away from people without it. Some things clearly belong in ‘the commons’, yet I don’t hear libertarians saying anything but the opposite on this.

    If you truly believe that the secret to socio-nirvana is self-interest combined with ‘privatise-everything-and-rid-the-world-of-regulations’, then I’d encourage you to remove all locks from your doors…. The locks on your doors are just like a regulation. They filter who can and who cannot do an action (walk in your door). They protect you and your family from the ‘self interest’ of others, who might rob and/or kill you. Ideally we’d live in a world where nobody was dishonest or aggressive or, er… selfish, but that is not the world we know. If we did live in such a perfect world, we could be rid of locks, firewalls, prisons, and most of the laws we know today.

    The libertarian way of thinking results in the kind of nonsense we see in the U.S. – where big corporations, without knowledge of their employees, purchase life insurance policies on those employees so they can profit from their death. The husband dies, the wife gets nothing, but the employer rakes it in – and often even though the employee was not even in their employ at time of their death. This is free market capitalism at its finest. The employer is actually incentivised to sabotage their employee’s car, for example, so the CEO gets to fulfil his duty, of increasing shareholder profits on the latest quarterly statement. (‘Dead Peasant Insurance’: see here, here, and here).

    Rand has no understanding of biology and soil science. This is clear from the outflow of articles she and her minions have produced. If their view on environmentalism were to saturate the world even more than it does, how can that be a good thing?

    I mean, please, read this crap:

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=12743&news_iv_ctrl=1084

    The more I read of Rand and her minions, the more disgusted I get and the more I fear for our future.

    From looking at comments above, I see that a lot of people also appreciate the need to look at root philosophies. We ignore them at our peril.

    If Libertarianism is a wonderful thing, then please show me how situations I’ve described above can be eliminated whilst still retaining your ‘privatise everything and rid the world of regulations’ model. If you can’t do that, you have no right to complain about anti-Rand posts on this site.

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing for me is that you Randians are shooting yourselves in the foot. You want little or no government, but you do not wish to involve yourselves in localised government – i.e. participatory democracy, which has hope of wresting power back. As such, by not getting involved, you’re ensuring that nothing is done about our present centralised governmental situation. You’re ensuring that the present love affair with big business and government just continues to prosper at the expense of the rest of us. And, you’re helping to ensure that when things do change, out of dire necessity, it’ll be by bloody revolution, rather than the potentially peaceful transition we could have if the transition was done by design – and not based on out-of-touch philosophical magic.

    Reply
  42. Brian Gallimore

    @Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor says
    ” I’d encourage you to remove all locks from your doors…. The locks on your doors are just like a regulation. They filter who can and who cannot do an action (walk in your door).”
    This demonstrates your lack of understanding of the subject. The locks on your door are you own personal choice and of course you are free to choose to use them or not; but you must accept the consequences of using them or not. Libertarians generally don’t dream of some utopia, they do wish to maintain the right to make their own choices.

    Also, not sure why you think “Randians” don’t participate in local government. I do myself, and I have friends that do also.

    Seems like you are comfortable criticizing things you know little about.

    Reply
  43. John

    After seeing this and few other articals aimed at arguing polictical ideas a have I unsubscribed to your publishings. I believe the article is better suited for http://www.project-syndicate.org/ than permaculture. Or any other number of websites.

    I’ll be back from time to time looking for technical how tos and new developments in the physical permaculture world. But thanks to the politial hippy whiners I’ll not be on your mailing list any more.

    And just for the record what really attrated me to what you were doing was the independence permaculture could help me to achieve.

    Reply
  44. Pete S

    Craig, the point some of us are trying to make is that “anti-anything” political posts are not really useful, putting people we need to communicate with in boxes is not useful. Political systems of all persuasions are tools of control developed by those in positions of power, I mean “old money” power, not political power de jour.

    You seem to think anyone who disagrees with you is a “libertarian” and set up a strawman argument …please show me how situations I’ve described above can be eliminated whilst still retaining whatever starwman…

    Please show me your recommendations for a decent society, not by knocking down strawmen, but by providing your own ideas.

    Personally I thought Permaculture was it, reading between the lines of your posts it seems more like the school of Marx, please say it isn’t so.

    Reply
  45. JBob

    Craig,

    So government judges commit atrocities using their government-derived power, and libertarians are the threat. The federal government subsidizes students loans and creates a legion of indebted career students with useless degrees, and the libertarians are the threat. The government creates a prison-industrial complex and passes volumes of laws to keep the business booming with incarcerated poor minorities, and libertarianism is the threat. Hmmm… actually I believe I’m familiar with all these travesties because they have each been exposed, analyzed, and condemned on dozens of libertarian websites by dozens of different libertarians that I’ve been reading for the last 10 years.

    “The locks on your doors are just like a regulation…They filter who can and who cannot do an action (walk in your door).” What?? This is a senseless equivocation of the word “regulation” to mean both “enforcement of property rights” and “government coercion that violates property rights.” This is probably a type of mistake that should really give one pause before continuing to condemn one’s philosophical opponents as vile psychopathic idiots.

    Then we get to the “poor people carcasses filling the streets” and even “profit via insuring you employees before you murder them” classic critiques of libertarianism. Right.

    I wonder if others find your more animated posts like the above as valuable as I do for seeing your true level of understanding of political freedom.

    Reply
  46. Caelan MacIntyre

    “Sponsoring articles that intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent culture, philosohpy, finance, politics, etc. on the official Permaculure blog of Australia, is not something that provides a platform for constructive discussion. It polarizes, is uninformative, and more importantly, it is journalistically unethical and an impediment to truth and honesty.”
    ~ Jim Davis (JD)

    As a director of the U.S. government’s ministry of propaganda during World War II, Archibald MacLeish knew that dissent seldom walks onstage to the sound of warm and welcoming applause. As a poet and later the librarian of Congress, he also knew that liberty has ambitious enemies, and that the survival of the American democracy depends less on the size of its armies than on the capacity of its individual citizens to rely, if only momentarily, on the strength of their own thought. We can’t know what we’re about, or whether we’re telling ourselves too many lies, unless we can see or hear one another think out loud. Tyranny never has much trouble drumming up the smiles of prompt agreement, but a democracy stands in need of as many questions as its citizens can ask of their own stupidity and fear. Unpopular during even the happiest of stock market booms, in time of war dissent attracts the attention of the police. The parade marshals regard any wandering away from the line of march as unpatriotic and disloyal; unlicensed forms of speech come to be confused with treason and registered as crimes.”
    ~ ‘Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy’, by Lewis Lapham

    “It is the journalistic responsibility of the Editor and of the Journalist, if their intent is to genuinely inform, in making sure that language and thinking be as non-biased, factual, and objective as possible… I’m not advocating censorship. I’m advocating Journalistic Integrity…”
    ~ JD

    Unsure that all of this applies here, as this seems less of a magazine, newspaper or science journal per se, and/or all who write articles here aren’t necessarily journalists or professional writers and/or with a professional certification or post secondary education in those or related fields.
    Also, with regard to Permaculture, my thinking is sometimes very subjective, as in, “Wow, I’m so happy that I know about permaculture!”. So I’m cool with articles with some subjective flair.

    Besides, it would seem that Permaculture, given that it is about, in part, Care of People, would in part involve subjectivity, fun, art, and stuff like that too.

    “I am not a writer, and I do not call myself an Editor or Journalist, yet you held me rigorously to those standards. Here are some links to Journalistic Codes of Ethics for you to look over…”
    ~ JD

    Well there seems to be some kind of irony or contradiction here.

    “Rand’s definition of selfishness was simply: ‘concern with one’s own interests’.”
    ~ JD

    A concern with one’s own self-interests would seem to lead, ultimately, to a concern for Earth and People.

    At any rate, if Monbiot’s getting Rand wrong, I imagine others are doing the same. So maybe his article is even more informative than even he realized, thanks in part to you.

    So, perhaps in ways expected and unexpected, this article and its comments could be taken as a little ecosystem, and we permaculturists/permaculturists-to-be are observing, learning and designing.

    I have a comment or two that might be pertinent over here if you’d like to see:
    http://permaculturenews.org/2011/06/09/an-answer-to-the-meaning-of-life/

    Reply
  47. Chris McLeod

    Observation is an important tool and we should make an attempt to understand where we are going wrong as a society. If we don’t make the effort to do some honest self-examination we are doomed to repeat the same errors in the future.

    Now, you libertarians who are yelling support for Ayn Rand, might also want to also realise whose bed you are also getting into.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satanic_bible

    Check out the quote in this article regarding the concepts contained in the Satanic Bible on wikipedia: “LaVey later affirmed the connection with Rand’s ideas by stating that LaVeyan Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy, with ceremony and ritual added”. Note that the reference was also properly cited.

    Kind of puts all of the libertarian arguments in a new light? If it was widely known it possibly might be something of a PR nightmare for them? Especially for those that espouse strong religious views as well?

    There is a really serious conflict of interest between the Permaculture ethics and concepts espoused by the libertarians. This conflict of interest is impossible to reconcile. It is a bit of a time waster as there is little possibility that the various individuals will alter their take on the world. I don’t spend time contemplating their small world and I’d recommend everyone else to not do so either.

    In marketing there is a concept that states that what you contemplate, you imitate. What these libertarian people commenting here are trying to do is market a concept at you. Far easier just to ignore them and don’t give them any energy.

    Chris

    Reply
  48. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    Thanks Chris. Why am I not surprised that Ayn Rand’s thoughts are the basis of Anton LaVay’s own Satanic philosophies?

    @Brian

    ”I’d encourage you to remove all locks from your doors…. The locks on your doors are just like a regulation. They filter who can and who cannot do an action (walk in your door).”

    This demonstrates your lack of understanding of the subject. The locks on your door are you own personal choice and of course you are free to choose to use them or not…

    It looks like I didn’t make my point very clear. I’ll rephrase by asking you a simple yes/no question:

    Do you have locks on your door?

    The answer to that question will enable us to determine how much confidence you have in the self-interest of the people around you.

    Here’s an example of a ‘lock on the door’:

    http://permaculturenews.org/2012/03/13/peru-bans-gmos/

    Would you have Peru repeal their GMO ban? This is a regulation imposing the will of many people to restrict the freedom of certain corporate individuals. And, I’m all for it! To me this is where lucid people can recognise danger and protect themselves from it. Yes, you can choose to put a lock on your door, or not. But what if I choose that I want a law that bans GMOs in my country? If all were libertarians, I can’t see that law ever happen, as it’s a restriction on your desire not to have any laws at all. And yet, your desire restricts against my desire to see a ban in place….

    Also, not sure why you think “Randians” don’t participate in local government. I do myself, and I have friends that do also.

    Great to hear! I’d love to hear more about that. I’m curious what are the purposes for your efforts/involvement in local government? I’m curious as libertarians advocate little or no government, so I’m not sure what your involvement would be.

    @ John

    And just for the record what really attrated me to what you were doing was the independence permaculture could help me to achieve.

    While increasing self-reliance and resilience is to be commended, there’s really no such thing as ‘independence’. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not, and without a well designed ‘people system’ that helps incubate positive change, and helps build symbiotic interdependence between people and communities, the technical ‘how tos’ will ultimately serve you little purpose.

    @Pete S

    Is the irony lost here?:

    You seem to think anyone who disagrees with you is a “libertarian” and set up a strawman argument…

    …reading between the lines of your posts it seems more like the school of Marx, please say it isn’t so.

    No, I don’t call anyone who disagrees with me a libertarian. I reserve that label for people who subscribe to Ayn Rand’s philosophies and for people who cling to the combine-self-interest-with-a-fully-privatised-and-unregulated-market concept. What else should I call these people, so as to set them apart from people subscribing to other philosophies?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

    Re Marx, no, it isn’t so, and, again, if anything I say conflicts with your views, I’m suddenly a communist (hence my question about irony, given the beginning of the quote above).

    Please show me your recommendations for a decent society, not by knocking down strawmen, but by providing your own ideas.

    Here are some thoughts I have shared in various ways before:

    Imagine instead, a lucid, educated populace organising themselves into groups that are like the cells of a body, or a plant. Imagine, say, the ten houses in your street forming a committee to discuss the needs and development of your street. From the people living in those ten houses you would all elect the person who you believe would best represent you all – someone you all respect for their ethics, practical wisdom and egalitarian attitude.

    If other groups of houses in your local community did likewise, then your suburb (if urban) or locality (if rural) would then have localized representatives all representing the needs and wants of these sub-communities.

    Now, taking this further: What if, say, ten of these representatives (each representing ten households) were to get together and elect from amongst themselves the best person to represent THEM, then you’d have one representative for a group of one hundred, all answering to the representatives of the groups of ten.

    You can see where I’m going…. You then get ten of the representatives of one hundred together, and they elect a representative from amongst themselves, so you then have one representative for 1,000 households…. And so on, and so on.

    The end result is a bottom up democracy where everyone is represented by people deserving of respect. If any of these representatives dishonours him/herself or fails to convey and work for the wishes of the people, then they’re simply replaced. Such a situation cultivates social advancement of the best kind – people striving to earn a reputation for being just. And, just as importantly, it creates a stable system. Representatives of cells might get swapped out from time to time, due to retirement, or perhaps someone losing credibility, but as a whole, the system remains largely intact forever – rather than the present situation where we have a complete change of government, and a potential complete change of direction, every four years, which discourages long term planning. (In this sense, monarchies are better than present centralised governments, as at least, if you’re lucky enough to get a ‘good’ King/Queen, they’re thinking over their lifetime.)

    And, such representatives would be seen as servants of those they’re representing, not ‘leaders’ or ‘rulers’ of them.
    Then, when policy decisions are made at the highest levels, they happen because from the ground up they’re reflecting the wishes of the people, or most of them. Such a scenario, combined with the right kind of education – practical and holistic – could transform society in very positive ways.

    See some of Marcin’s posts, for example:

    http://permaculturenews.org/author/Marcin%20Gerwin

    I’m all for working against centralisation (it’s a pet hate of mine, from lots of prior personal experience), as are libertarians, but I also recognise that if we just remove all regulations and just let the ‘invisible hand of the market’ (which has no brain, or morals) to have totally free reign, and in a fully privatised world where everyone is working in their own self-interest, then we will end up having nothing but centralisation, and we will see the world’s resources burnt into oblivion faster and faster. Feudalism (centralisation) always fills a vacuum without order. Our corporate feudalists are an example of how the more we remove restrictions (a la the WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc.) the more their self-interests pushes them to consolidate and control every aspect of our lives. See videos at bottom of this post:

    http://permaculturenews.org/2008/08/09/orchestrating-famine-a-must-read-backgrounder-on-the-food-crisis/

    For some commentary from me looking at differences between the communist world that was and the capitalist world that is, this might interest some:

    http://permaculturenews.org/2010/03/11/letters-from-slovakia-kings-conquerors-capitalism-and-resilience-lost/

    Reply
  49. pete g

    @Øyvind Holmstad I look forward to reading ‘The Rule of Patterns’. However I am well aware of the biases people bring to the table and the fickle nature of science. So I don’t put such blind faith in the works of any man. Just because Alexander’s pattern language contains observations of very old and tested things does not mean its application will necessarily work or be free of bias. Observations are only as good as the observer and every observer has biases.

    @Pete S Agreed about names. And you are dead on about common law being usurped by statuary law, and moreover I would add, regulatory bureaucracy.

    @Craig Monsanto couldn’t exist in a libertarian world. It is a corporation which has used the progressive/fascist/corporatist state power to protect itself from justice and used regulation to legitimize its activities and persecute its opponents. You put faith in government regulation, but the history of government regulation is deeply intertwined with corporate power. You attack the one and defend the other but they are part and parcel of the same thing. If you look at the history behind many if not most of the regulations present in the US they were instituted at the behest of corporations in order to further their goals. You continually and repeatedly confuse our corporatist/fascist system with free markets and libertarianism. Those are opposites. You are attacking straw men. Libertarian thought has not held sway in the US federal government for a good 150 years or more.

    When you imbue government with the power to control the intimate details of peoples lives (via regulation) you make government a soft target for corporations and others to grab those hands of power. This is the short-sidedness of all Utopians who wish to fix things via force of government. That same force you wish to use for ‘good’ can easily be used against you.

    Stop and think. Corporations are actually government created entities. There is nothing private about them.

    “You want little or no government, but you do not wish to involve yourselves in localised government – i.e. participatory democracy, which has hope of wresting power back. ”

    This is not true. The movement which has galvanized around Ron Paul is doing this very thing. And they are no friends of big business and corporations.

    @Chris McLeod You are making the same bait and switch that Monbiot and Craig are making. Ayn Rand is not synonymous with libertarian thought. Nor are all opponents of regulation libertarian. Monbiot is setting up strawmen to knock down.

    Reply
  50. Øyvind Holmstad

    @Craig, what you suggest is an ideal in-group, where the bright side of the handicap principle can flourish. But imagine how much better these in-groups should function if they were arranged in Alexandrine house clusters, according to pattern 37, House Cluster, which you can find in its whole in the left marrow here: http://www.patternlanguage.com/apl/aplsample/aplsample.htm

    I completely agree with your idea of a new in-group democracy. But it will face a problem as more than half the US population live in suburbia, with completely disconnected houses. Your model should function much better if these houses were arranged in house clusters, where people naturally got joining together. Then to know who to vote for to represent your group of houses would become the most natural thing in the world.

    See also: http://pocket-neighborhoods.net/

    Reply
  51. Brian Gallimore

    @Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
    “It looks like I didn’t make my point very clear. I’ll rephrase by asking you a simple yes/no question:

    Do you have locks on your door?

    The answer to that question will enable us to determine how much confidence you have in the self-interest of the people around you.”

    What makes you think I have 100% confidence in people around me (everyone with access to my front door)? I have observed the nature of humans enough to understand some people will do things like steal from me or worse if they have the opportunity. I do have a house and I do want to have a certain level of protection. For the most part, I believe protecting that house is my responsibility. Locks work OK and are pretty cheap. Do the laws of nature somehow stop working at your door? As someone who wears the “permaculture spoken here” badge, should you ignore what you’ve observed in nature?

    Now, that does not mean I don’t have confidence in the people around me. It means I think locking my doors will serve to keep the few lazy dishonest ones out. It comes down to how you view people…. I try to view them as individuals when I can. They are humans, and some of them do rotten things sometimes.

    “I’m curious what are the purposes for your efforts/involvement in local government? I’m curious as libertarians advocate little or no government, so I’m not sure what your involvement would be.”

    Maybe you think all libertarians-minded people desire anarchy. I don’t think this is close to reality. I’ll just speak for myself and say I want all functions of government to be handled at the most local point of control practical. (you know, like nature does it)

    Reply
  52. Pete S

    Criag, “No, I don’t call anyone who disagrees with me a libertarian. I reserve that label for people who subscribe to Ayn Rand’s philosophies and for people who cling to the combine-self-interest-with-a-fully-privatised-and-unregulated-market concept. What else should I call these people, so as to set them apart from people subscribing to other philosophies?”

    Try ‘followers of Ayn Rands philosophies’ or even ‘Randians’ it’d save a ton of confusion based on your interpretation of Libertarians. (as evidenced by this very thread)

    “Re Marx, no, it isn’t so” Thanks that’s all I was asking

    “and, again, if anything I say conflicts with your views, I’m suddenly a communist” I didn’t say that, that would be another one of your strawman arguments ;)

    “Here are some thoughts I have shared in various ways before”

    Bravo! Now imagine how much more productive this thread would have been if you had based the OP on those thoughts instead of the political rantings of Monbiot.

    Some of your ideas are good, it reminds me of Natural Law

    see http://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/ for further info.

    Getting people to be responsible for their own actions when they have been brainwashed into thinking they need a government to hand out their rights is a big ask though.

    Have you ever read anything on “Freeman on the Land” or “Montana Freemen” type philosophies, or heard of the concept?

    Reply
  53. pete g

    @craig
    Your example of bottom up democracy; has something like this ever been implemented? Whats the closest example?

    Reply
  54. Øyvind Holmstad

    And Pete G, meanwhile I’ll recommend two articles on pattern languages:

    - The Structure of Pattern Languages: http://math.utsa.edu/ftp/salingar.old/StructurePattern.html

    - Connecting the Fractal City: http://www.fractal.org/Samenhang-Industrieel-Ontwerpen/Connecting-the-Fractal-City.htm

    To me it’s obvious that pattern languages need to be the foundation of our societies, the basic for everything else, including the law system. This is exactly how software works, and I don’t think there is much difference between software design and human-system design.

    Also, in software design they hunt all the time for anti-patterns, to eradicate these before these eradicate the software or make it dysfunctional. Again, the parallel to human societies is obvious.

    Reply
  55. Thomas Fischbacher

    Let me state a very simple observation about government, and specifically the libertarian perspective:

    Unless people are very vigilant, government is just a synonym for the most powerful criminal gang around.

    What would happen if government just disappeared overnight? Well, criminals would have an easy game, but it won’t be long until these criminals realize that (a) they are in direct competition with one another, and (b) there is strength in numbers. So, the strongest (largest / best organized) criminal gang would of course extort money from businesses – but at the same time make sure they do not get bothered by less powerful criminals so that businesses have an environment in which they can operate.

    Some of you may have seen an article by Theodore Kaczynski (aka “the Unabomber”) titled “When Non-Violence is Suicide” where he tries to reason out the importance to be armed at the personal level. See: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/When_Non-Violence_is_Suicide

    Quite visibly, both his scenario and recommendations are both implausible and self-contradictory. Even if he were right: you just won’t stand a chance as an individual against an armed gang. But, lo and behold, armed gangs would most of the time be busy not fighting individuals, but other armed gangs. What you might well get is a “bellum se ipsum alet” scenario (“The war will feed itself”) that probably won’t be much better for the people, but structurally, you would see the largest violent groups fighting for supremacy (and keeping smaller violent groups in check). (Now, Kaczynski’s mentioning of the Nazis is outright bizarre here. There hardly ever was a more well-organized group that took violations of their “inner laws” more seriously than the Nazis. Got caught raping a woman, as a soldier of the Third Reich? Or even “just” contracted a venereal disease from a prostitute? Sure ticket to the front line.)

    Let me re-iterate this:

    Unless people are very vigilant, government is just a synonym for the most powerful criminal gang around.

    So… what happens if you remove a criminal government? Then the next most powerful criminal gang standing in line will match the definition above, hence be your new government.

    If you want to know how this looks like, look here:
    http://askural.com/2010/11/yekaterinburg-mafia/

    This is a very useful book about these phenomena:
    http://www.amazon.com/Violent-Entrepreneurs-Making-Russian-Capitalism/dp/0801487781

    Democracy is all about offering an alternative to this mechanism. The problem is that, unless people have a deep understanding of these processes, they will at best get a perverted form of democracy. If people base their decisions who to vote for on such absurd things as whether or not the candidate has a beard, you cannot really expect them to have the degree of maturity a democracy needs to keep the bastards at bay. It is quite possible to subvert the idea of a democracy – and the best way to do so is to keep people un-educated about the deeper reasons why it is important. Incidentally, as pretty much all democratic governments of industrialized nations (and pretty much all others as well) do.

    Concerning libertarianism, there actually are some interesting and potentially useful ideas in it. Well… that’s why it’s still around – otherwise it would have been forgotten long ago. Every one of us only has a very partial picture anyway (and that’s one of the reasons why I am very suspicious about any claims of any philosophy to “explain all the world”), and also Alyssa Rosenbaum (“Ayn Rand”) has had some interesting ideas. I don’t hesitate though to make the same claim (“has or had some useful ideas”) about any other person, may it even be an Anton LaVey, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or, if you want so, Jeffrey Dahmer. Now, judging from what I have seen so far from Ayn Rand, I very strongly get the impression that it is rare to find someone as misguided as she was about some deeply fundamental issues – Craig quoted some bits above. What I find quite fascinating is that her writings strike a chord with a certain personality type. So, it is quite possible that Ayn Rand just was such an extreme case of a certain psychological anomaly which afflicts many more people that we can use her writings as a window onto an important problem.

    With Ayn Rand, I strongly get the idea that her “philosophy” was all about a deeply rooted inner – and highly irrational – fear: Her conscious mind’s fear of not being in control. Of course, someone afflicted with such a fear must, due to the very nature of it, be blind to this condition.

    The conscious mind, irrationally fearing to not be in control, blocks out any thought about being driven by an irrational element before it gets a chance to surface in the conscious train of thought. It’s quite natural that such a condition would choose a name such as “rationality” or “reason” or “objectivism” to describe itself. It is interesting to note two aspects:

    (a) This interpretation actually explains much of Ayn Rand’s writings – in particular about the need to conquer nature and employ technology – especially fire – to do so.

    (b) It might just be that this is a deeper aspect of the human condition – maybe a genetic mental disease that entered the human population about 40000 years ago or so – which is the ultimate root of many of our environmental problems. Peak Oil, climate change from anthropogenic emissions, the destruction of our topsoil, our forests, our water resources, that may all be just symptoms of a genetically transmitted mental disease.

    Reply
  56. Pete S

    wb Thomas :)

    Some interesting observations. However, I feel that political/mental boxes are a control mechanism used by the “power elites” to subjugate the masses. Look how language is used to say one thing but mean another.

    Current “western” democracy seems little more than a mental security blanket, whichever political box we think we are voting for results in the same globalist agenda being forwarded, you can;t get a 0.001 feel gauge between the main political parties when it comes to policy. I think this has more to do with the restrictions placed on countries by onerous debt, including the debt raised on the means of exchange, if a government has to increase the money supply it has to loan the money into existence. On the face of it central banks are made to look sovereign entities, it takes a great deal of research to discover where the usery/interest goes.

    In the case of the Bank of England it is easy to assume, as most folks do, that it is a sovereign bank, this is not the case, at least half the usery on the means of exchange created goes to a private company called “BOE nominees account” the directors and beneficiaries are protected under the official secrets act. This is the same for every central bank in the global banking cartel.

    My point regarding objecting to posts like the OP on a Permaculture blog stems from the PDM, page 508 in Alternatives to Political systems Bill states…

    “Systems of Government are currently based on self interest, economic pragmatism, belief, impractical theory, and power centred minorities (religious, military, capitalist, communist, familial, or criminal). Almost all such groups set up competitive and “adversary-oriented” systems.
    We need to set about, in an orderly, sensible and cooperative way, a system of replacing power-centred politics and political hierarchies with a far more flexible, practical, and information-centred system responsive to research and feedback, and with long tern goals of stability. And we need to do this in an ethical and non-threatening way, so that the transition to a cooperative (versus conflicting) global society is creative (not destructive).
    The world needs a new non-polarised, and non-contentious politic; one not made possible by those in situations that promote left-right, black-white, capitalist-communist, believer-infidel, thinking. Such systems are, like it or not, promoting antagonism and destroying cooperation and interdependence. Confrontational thinking, operating through political or power systems, has destroyed cultural, intellectual, and material resources that could have been used, in a life centred ethic, for earth repair.
    It is possible to agree with most people, of any race or creed, on the basis of life-centred ethics and common-sense procedures, across all cultural groups; it matter not that one group eats beef, and another regards cows as holy, providing they agree to cooperate in areas which are of concern to them both, and to respect the origins of their differences as a chance of history and evolution, not assessing due to personal perversity.
    It is always possible to use differences creatively, and design to use them, not to eliminate one or other group as infidels. Belief is of itself not so much a difference as a refusal to admit the existence of differences; this easily transposes into the antagonistic attitude of “who is not with me is against me”, itself a coercive and illogical attitude and one likely, in the extreme to classify all others as enemies, when they are merely living according to their own history and needs.”

    I don’t have the time to write out the whole section, readers would be wise to revisit the PDM and re-read this section, noting the bits on “the right not to be in debt” and “political affiliations”.

    One must also be aware that powerful forces are at work behind the scenes in politics. The head off the German Green Party attended Bilderberg in 2009, the now overt mechanisms of the UN (using green politics) to form a world government etc. This is not the way forward IMO, a world government under the guise of environmentalism is about as anti-Permaculture as you can get IMO.

    Reply
  57. pete g

    So that comment led me to Mollison’s book which contains this choice quote:

    “Some of the most charming and climatically appropriate houses on earth are built without bank loans, architects, metals, concrete, or contractors. However, in every case they are built in areas where trade unions, building surveyors, health officials, and local or state governments do not impede the home builder or the community providing shelter for themselves….The real cause of a lack of shelter (as with food) in any country is not that of finance, but of restrictive practices by a regulatory bureaucracy.”

    And how do those various organizations impede people who would build their own homes? Government regulation. In most parts of the US it is illegal to build something that is truely sustainable and the various regulations raise the cost and difficulty of building such that it can only be done by third parties funded by debt. And that fuels the beast.

    So Craig can oppose those who he construes as believing in the ‘combine-self-interest-with-a-fully-privatised-and-unregulated-market concept’; it doesn’t help the movement. Regulations are impeding the movement. But the problem isn’t just this or that regulation; but the regulatory power itself; the idea that it is just for government to micromanage peoples behavior when they are not violating the rights of others.

    Reply
  58. Thomas Fischbacher

    @Pete S:

    may I ask you to be a bit more specific about what you mean here?

    the now overt mechanisms of the UN (using green politics) to form a world government etc. This is not the way forward IMO, a world government under the guise of environmentalism is about as anti-Permaculture as you can get IMO.

    Reply
  59. Thomas Fischbacher

    There’s one specific question I’d like to ask the libertarians reading this thread.

    There are some sorts of scarce resources which, by their very nature, are easy to use, but anyone choosing to use them makes them inaccessible for others.

    Let us take, as a specific example, the use of the electromagnetic spectrum to broadcast messages. This is quite strictly regulated business, you are not permitted to utilize many important frequency bands for your operations without a license, and such licenses are typically auctioned.

    In a sense, what gets auctioned here is the right to “pollute” certain frequency bands.

    I take it libertarians cannot be too happy with the idea to have the state auction the right to access such resources and enforcing these rights afterwards. So, what alternative do you suggest?

    Reply
  60. Chris McLeod

    Pete g,

    You are cherry picking arguments to suit your own purposes. Whilst that may be the case in the US, in Australia I built my own house – yes, myself, by hand – not contracting it out to others – using every bit of sustainable knowledge I could bring to bear on the project. I suspect that this sort of project is able to be duplicated in the US and from my understanding, your building processes are even less regulated than here.

    Truly, you need to: stop whining about what cannot be; spend more time as an activist in your local community; produce more of your own food; understand how shelters (housing) are built; spend some time understanding alternative energy. In short, stop whining on the Internet and start being the change that you want to be in your local community. It is too easy to rant and rave on at website like this, it might make you feel good, but it produces no discernible outcomes.

    Good luck.

    Chris

    Reply
  61. Caelan MacIntyre

    “This is not the way forward IMO, a world government under the guise of environmentalism is about as anti-Permaculture as you can get IMO.”
    ~Pete S

    Ok, well what do you think Bill Mollison et al. might suggest in this case, such as insofar as working with these people?

    But I have a plan, guys, and I want a mailing list setup and everyone on it ASAP. Does anyone know how to set one up or might anyone want to do so?

    Reply
  62. Richard

    I can’t believe this thread is still going. Personally I think these web based debates are are inane. Instead of bringing us together in a collaborative way they simply help divide and conquer the sustainability movement.

    I am curious though as to whether anyone is familiar with the writings of Murray Bookchin, who coined the term Social Ecology in the late 60′s. I haven’t read him for a good 20 years, so quite rusty on it all but I found his work an inspiration when I was studying a degree of the same name.

    Two books in particular stood out for me; “Post Scarcity Anarchism” and “The Ecology of Freedom”. From memory they offered models of community enagement and collaborative empowerment that addressed many issues that are being debated here.

    I have to say I’m not looking for a tirade of abuse, so if you are familiar with Bookchin and you disagree with his work, please don’t waste your time writing a doctoral paper on whats wrong with his theories. I for one am not going to read it. I humbly suggest you spend your time and energy more productively. Maybe engage in your garden or community instead. ;0)

    My intent is simply to offer a lead that may help some people grapple with the contesting issues of self empowerment when confronted with the validity of some kind of collective regulation.

    All I can say is nothing is black OR white, but everything is black AND white. The issue here, like everything is finding the balance.

    Reply
  63. JBob

    Thomas, I am rather surprised to see that you denounce libertarianism even though you grasp the fundamental nature of government: “Unless people are very vigilant, government is just a synonym for the most powerful criminal gang around.”

    As Murray Rothbard famously put it, “The State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large.”

    Your belief that the next most powerful gang will step in to fill the power vacuum of any deposed government is missing a big piece of the puzzle though. How do states differ from other criminal gangs or mafias? The state has propaganda that has convinced most people the coercive power granted to it is legitimate. Without this popular belief and consent no gang could ever rise to staggering levels of power that states have.

    The aim of libertarianism is to debunk the propaganda. After that is done and the majority of people understand and respect property rights, then dealing with criminal gangs will be a fairly simple matter (especially since gang revenues exist almost solely because of government prohibitions on drugs/prostitution/gambling/etc.)

    Democracy has not worked and will not work because the game is lost as soon as you grant that “some people should be able to initiate coercion against other people.”

    Reply
  64. Pete S

    Thomas, read UN Agenda 21, assess it as a black box equation.

    what goes in to the black box sounds all good at first glance, I mean who doesn’t want a sustainable world?

    look at the 7 point plan for rio as an input to the black box…
    ======================

    reform the UN’s environmental agencies and programmes

    morph the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) into something more representative and influential

    deploy innovative technologies such as synthetic biology and geo-engineering, with rules and safeguards

    reflect sustainability concerns in economic and trade institutions

    introduce qualified majority voting when making international decisions on environment and sustainability

    strengthen the voices of citizens as opposed to bureaucrats in global decision-making

    support developing countries more to ensure fairness.
    =================

    But what comes out of the black box?

    Global government under control of the UN, which is run by globalist powers, and global corporations. It is an institution designed by global elites to further their hegemony.

    If you think the UN is in it for the good of humanity you have not been paying attention to history. If you think the UN is anything like Permaculture, you are deluded.

    Reply
  65. Thomas Fischbacher

    JBob,

    thanks for that link.

    Let me raise the obvious next question: if access to the EM spectrum gets privatized, who will enforce these property rights? I take it you want “law” enforcement to be privatized as well, right?

    Actually, when I read this article, I was reminded by a curious issue I often see in libertarian texts: an outright magical belief in technology without any regard for basic physics, in particular when the latter says otherwise.

    Let us take this bit – somewhat into the article:

    The tragedy of the commons does not go away just because radio spectrum is “inherently nonphysical.” Spectrum scarcity is caused by interference. This is the one fact that everyone agrees on. But Open Spectrum advocates claim that technology can overcome interference and therefore eliminate spectrum scarcity.

    Also here:

    The advocates’ answer is that rational pricing and allocation will take place not in spectrum property but in technological property—the costs of the wireless devices themselves, which will have to get smarter and smarter to see past what older device users will perceive as massive interference.

    Or, earlier on:

    For any resource, the physical supply is only one factor in determining the economic supply. If you can create gasoline engines that get the same power from half as much gas, the economic supply of petroleum has effectively doubled.

    Changes in technology affect the balance of supply and demand, and with less interference in the market, the increase in supply tends to outpace increases in demand. There is nothing in the nature of radio waves that makes them an exception.

    Ah, yes, “gasoline engines that get the same power from half as much gas”. Interestingly, one finds the same sort of techno-magical thinking in Ayn Rand’s novels. In “Atlas Shrugged”, John Galt comes up with a way to produce power from “thin air”. Well, I’d say that such “perpetuum mobile” magical thinking is quite permissible in a novel (personally, I don’t read that sort of novels, though), but one certainly should not then be mistaken that such a story has more to say – or recommend – to how society should work than a Superman DC comic book.

    It is interesting to see what sort of “reasoning” the article you linked resorts to towards the end:

    What is entirely different from the first nationalization of spectrum is the role of the technical specialists. Early radio experts—the “amateurs”—were wary of a government takeover that they knew would threaten their use of the medium. But now the most vocal supporters of a government regulated commons are engineers and other technologists, who see private ownership as the biggest threat to freedom and democracy, while believing that a well-defined, benign role for government can promote common welfare in a high-tech future. (This benign role, however, has yet to be well defined.)

    To find historical precedent for the engineers’ advocacy, we need to look not to the radio debates of the 1920s, but to a different ideological battle taking place in the same decade: the debate over the viability of socialism. To listen to brilliant, earnest engineers—people who no doubt believe in their idea of freedom and the common good—advocate what is essentially radio communism is to have a window into history.

    That’s about as clever as claiming that Hitler was a Vegetarian (a highly doubtful claim anyway), and then drawing the conclusion that Vegetarians must not be trusted.

    But, such questionable logic aside, my main problem with the article you cited is the magical belief in “technology will find a solution” – even in situations where fundamental physics would like to scream out “oh boy, how dumb is that”?

    Reply
  66. Caelan MacIntyre

    “Consequently, resources that have traditionally been managed communally by local organizations have been enclosed or privatized. Ostensibly, this serves to ‘protect’ such resources, but it ignores the pre-existing management, often appropriating resources and alienating indigenous (and frequently poor) populations. In effect, private or state use may result in worse outcomes than the previous management of commons.
    ~ Wikipedia

    “The Eden that Europeans described when they reached North America was not a wilderness, but a well-managed resource, a complex combination of nature and culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural wealth free for the taking. The result of this land grab in North America is that only 2% of the land is now wild, its major rivers are polluted, its lakes have caught fire, and its forests are dying from the top down. The tragedy of this commons was that it never really was a commons after colonization, but was surrendered to plunder, privatization, and exploitation in the name of Manifest Destiny and progress.”
    ~ Intelligentagent.com

    Reply
  67. JBob

    Thomas, you have completely misunderstood the first two quotes you mention. The author is criticizing those arguments of the “Open Spectrum” advocates, not making them himself. The author makes no case that the spectrum will become non-scarce via technological innovation.

    The third quoted block of text is making the argument that the fact of spectrum scarcity is no justification for government control of it. As with any other scarce resource, the price system instead will do a better job of making the resource LESS scarce (not non-scarce) via innovation. Can you really doubt that freedom to pursue new technology tends to increase supply of goods?

    The libertarian answer to spectrum ownership does not at all depend on “technology will find a solution” “magical” thinking. It only depends on a praxeological conception of property ownership based on homesteading, prior use, and the ‘relevant technological unit.’

    Reply
  68. Øyvind Holmstad

    “The tragedy of the commons does not go away just because radio spectrum is “inherently nonphysical.””

    Thank you for that quota Thomas! I really don’t know what the libertarians hate most, the state or commoners like me (I’m a new commoner so I’m not very informed on this subject yet). This is a paradox, as I as a commoner has no problems with private property on the smallest scales. But the larger scales belong to the commons. Still, the commons is dependent upon private property on the smallest scales, like private tabernas in common taberna malls: http://permaculturenews.org/2011/03/04/the-ancient-taberna-in-a-future-world/

    Here are two animated videos on the commons:

    - Tragedy of the Commons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwaNZgY9PCQ&feature=player_embedded

    - The Commons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otmrkhEFSZM&feature=player_embedded

    To me it’s obvious that libertarianism, like modernist liberalism and socialism, is anti-commons. This way I think libertarianism has more in common with socialism and modernism, than with the commons.

    Reply
  69. Thomas Fischbacher

    JBob,

    Hm, I’m not sure whether I really interpreted the first two points wrongly.

    But concerning:

    As with any other scarce resource, the price system instead will do a better job of making the resource LESS scarce (not non-scarce) via innovation. Can you really doubt that freedom to pursue new technology tends to increase supply of goods?

    Well, I call that religious dogma. You believe in it, I don’t. The reason why I don’t believe in it is that there are a number of resources for which there are quite fundamental limits to how well you can utilize them, for reasons set by basic physics.

    But let’s come back to the fundamental question: let’s suppose access to the EM spectrum gets fully privatized. Who enforces the right holder’s rights?

    Reply
  70. Pete S

    More about the global governance agenda for Thomas.

    go here: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/ look at the list of Plenary Speakers and Panelists, note the members of the elite, and the circular financed NGOs (funded by gov, UN etc.) who lobby for the agenda. Then look at the Policy Brief: Transforming governance and institutions for a planet under pressure here:

    http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/pdf/policy_instframe.pdf

    Its about global governance whichever way you cut it, whatever the “good” aims might state, it’s still about global governance under the auspices of the UN and EU with zero democratic input.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Will we learn nothing from history?

    Reply
  71. Pete S

    Even more for Thomas on Global Governance.

    Proposed UN Environmental Constitution For The World Would Establish An Incredibly Repressive System Of Global Governance

    http://tinyurl.com/88692zv
    Excerpt

    “Work on this proposed world environmental constitution has been going on since 1995, and the fourth edition was issued to UN member states on September 22nd, 2010. This document is intended to become a permanent binding treaty and it would establish an incredibly repressive system of global governance. This “covenant”, as it is being called, claims authority over the entire global environment and everything that affects it. Considering the fact that everything that we do affects the environment in some way, that would mean that this document would become the highest form of law for all human activity. This proposed UN environmental constitution for the world is incredibly detailed.”

    As I said: One must also be aware that powerful forces are at work behind the scenes in politics. The head off the German Green Party attended Bilderberg in 2009, the now overt mechanisms of the UN (using green politics) to form a world government etc. This is not the way forward IMO, a world government under the guise of environmentalism is about as anti-Permaculture as you can get IMO.

    Reply
  72. JBob

    Thomas, there is no dogma needed to believe that private enterprise is better at producing goods and services than the government. Look around at any of the hundreds of things around your house and ask if they were more or less available 50, 100, 200 years ago. And ask if they are more or less available in freer vs more socialistic countries.

    And again, no libertarian I’ve read denies that some resources are finite. The argument is that the price system/free market is better at producing and efficiently using such resources than government dictate/rationing/subsidization.

    Regarding the courts under anarchy, here is as good a place to begin as any: See chapter 12 of https://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp#p215

    Reply
  73. Thomas Fischbacher

    JBob,

    thanks for this link. Actually, this shows quite well what’s wrong with the libertarian perspective. There are a large number of assumptions in these writings that actually are quite incompatible with how things play themselves out in reality.

    Let us take this passage:

    Every consumer, every buyer of police protection, would wish above all for protection that is efficient and quiet, with no conflicts or disturbances. Every police agency would be fully aware of this vital fact. To assume that police would continually clash and battle with each other is absurd, for it ignores the devastating effect that this chaotic “anarchy” would have on the business of all the police companies. To put it bluntly, such wars and conflicts would be bad – very bad – for business. Therefore, on the free market, the police agencies would all see to it that there would be no clashes between them, and that all conflicts of opinion would be ironed out in private courts, decided by private judges or arbitrators.

    The evidence actually shows quite clearly that gang wars are a very real phenomenon. And so is, of course, extortion. You may well dream of “the invisible hand of the market” turning Ciudad Juarez into a libertarian paradise. I, however, actually have much more faith in the Tooth Fairy to achieve that particular goal.

    But, oh, I forgot, if all these libertarian phantasies do not work, then you of course have the perfect excuse: that’s all because the market somehow was not a sufficiently free one. On that, libertarianism is perfectly in alignment with how many other absurd belief systems are structured: If it does not work, then that’s just because you (or: “we all”) have not been faithful enough. Great. Thank you. (The funny twist here is that no one needs the government as much as the libertarians, for without it, they would have no one to blame if things get screwed up. Libertarianism is kept alive exclusively by the ability to blame problems on the government.)

    I also find this part quite interesting:

    But suppose Brown insists on another appeals judge, and yet another? Couldn’t he escape judgment by appealing ad infinitum? Obviously, in any society legal proceedings cannot continue indefinitely; there must be some cutoff point. In the present statist society, where government monopolizes the judicial function, the Supreme Court is arbitrarily designated as the cutoff point. In the libertarian society, there would also have to be an agreed-upon cutoff point, and since there are only two parties to any crime or dispute – the plaintiff and the defendant – it seems most sensible for the legal code to declare that a decision arrived at by any two courts shall be binding. This will cover the situation when both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s courts come to the same decision, as well as the situation when an appeals court decides on a disagreement between the two original courts.

    The first thing that would happen under such a structure would be that gangs set up their own courts which always rule in their favour – or, more directly, gangs become the courts. What court you have access to is mostly determined by what street you set up business in. Gangs are territorial. You just won’t have the ability, as a businessman, to choose your court. You say that this then would be a clear disadvantage for setting up business in such a place? Sure. Well, try to relocate then. Your public police (“gang”) might have an opinion about that. Before you say “but they are clearly using coercion here” – yes, they are. So, what do you plan to do about it? Load your own gun? Very smart strategy. Get organized to drive out the gang? Will be seen as a covert attempt to start a competing gang – so you have to work underground. Once you are found out about, bigger gang wins, sorry.

    In case of a clash between “court” decisions, who says an arbitrator could actually be found? Wouldn’t the free market dictate that there should be open competition between the scheme proposed above, and other schemes where, in case of a conflict, a third court’s decision is not necessarily binding? And if it actually is “binding”, who enforces that decision anyway?

    There actually is a nice example from Germany for what will happen if courts can be chosen quite freely. And most people are not very happy about it.

    I think this sentence from the document you reference above says it all:

    Every reader of detective fiction knows that private insurance detectives are far more efficient than the police in recovering stolen property.

    Whoever wrote that lengthy treatise quite visibly seems to have major problems discerning between reality and fiction.

    Reply
  74. Øyvind Holmstad

    “One of the worst sets of enclosures is the international land grab that is now underway in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Investors, national governments and speculators are buying up millions of acres of farmlands. Saudi Arabia is spending $1 billion for huge tracts in Africa for rice cultivation. India and China are assembling investment pools to buy up farmlands. Much of this land is customary land managed as commons. Hundreds of millions of rural poor use have used these lands for generations for subsistence. But because they don’t have formal property rights — the government or corporations do – they are powerless.”: http://permaculturenews.org/2012/03/10/surveying-commons-activism-on-the-international-stage/#more-7210

    JBob, the commons has worked well for thousands of years, now the tragedy of private property on the largest scales destroys it all.

    Reply
  75. Caelan MacIntyre

    “Bands have a loose organization. Their power structure is often egalitarian and has informal leadership; the older members of the band generally are looked to for guidance and advice, and decisions are often made on a consensus basis, but there are no written laws and none of the specialised coercive roles (e.g., police) typically seen in more complex societies… Formal social institutions are few or non-existent. Religion is generally based on family tradition, individual experience, or counsel from a shaman. All known band societies hunt and gather to obtain their subsistence.

    In his 1972 study, The Notion of the Tribe, Morton Fried defined bands as small, mobile, and fluid social formations with weak leadership that do not generate surpluses, pay taxes or support a standing army.

    …Many tribes are sub-divided into bands. Historically, some tribes were formed from bands that came together from time to time for religious ceremonies, hunting, or warfare…

    Band societies historically were found throughout the world, in a variety of climates, but generally in sparsely populated areas. With the spread of the modern nation-state around the globe, there are few true band societies left.”
    ~ Wikipedia

    In part with all these convoluted and confusing discussions, debates and arguments hereon and elsewhere, I’ve begun wondering if we, as a species, were meant to be in much larger units than bands or tribes and at such population numbers as we are, and if Permaculture and/or somethings like it don’t somehow significantly catch on– and very soon– if Mother Nature doesn’t step in and make some decisions/settle some arguments for us and maybe kick us back to the stone age, kicking and screaming.

    If nuclear issues, for example, can’t wake the likes of the educated, articulate and/or “controversial” Monbiots-of-the-world up, then maybe this recent discovery won’t either…
    And maybe we will initiate yet another mass extinction– which has apparently already begun– that, ironically, takes us down with it:

    Arctic Methane Emergency Group
    http://ameg.me/

    In that case, it won’t matter whether you call yourself a Libertarian, Communist, Free-Market Anarchist, or even Permaculturist.

    “Over 98% of documented species are now extinct…”
    ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_extinction

    ‘Do you feel lucky?’

    Reply
  76. Thomas Fischbacher

    I’ve just come across this – back in 2004, after the devastating Tsunami that hit Indonesia, the Ayn Rand Institute released a press statement titled “U.S. Government Should Not Help Tsunami Victims”.

    I find it quite insightful to read this article, which contains an update that expands the view of the Ayn Rand Institute in this case.

    http://capitalismmagazine.com/2005/01/u-s-government-should-not-help-tsunami-victims-updated/

    The ugly hand of altruism–the moral view that need entitles a person to the values of others, whose corresponding duty is to sacrifice their values for that person’s sake–did show itself in the petulant demands of U.N. and other officials that “stingy” countries must give more. On their view, the U.S. has no right to the wealth it has produced, because it has produced it; the helpless victims of the tsunami have a right to that wealth, because they desperately need it. This perverse view is not an expression of goodwill toward man. In generously providing aid, the U.S. government should repudiate all such altruistic demands and refuse to associate with the organizations that make them.

    In my view, this condenses the essence of a very seriously distorted world view (perhaps pathologically so) quite well.

    Reply

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