“gigolos of science”: Letter’s to Ayn Rand

The publication of Atlas Shrugged was an important moment in the history of right-libertarianism. Unlike other authors, Ayn Rand attempted to create a moral case of capitalism and individualism. Though there was some strong tensions between libertarians and Rand’s Objectivists over Rand’s rejection of the non-aggression principle as an axiom, her promotion of the conquest of “primitives” (e.g. Native Americans), and her support for intervention in the Middle East, the book was widely received in the wider libertarian community (I will cover this in future posts). Both Murray Rothbard (1957) and Luwig Von Mises (1958) sent her letters praising it. I have reproduced the original Mises letter below and the ending of the Rothbard letter. In reference to the Mises letter, I’m waiting on someone to start a blog called “The Gigolos of Science”. That would be awesome.

 

 

mises letter

Murray

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Rothbard and David Duke

One of the points that I have been trying to demonstrate in this blog is that modern libertarianism drifted further to the right by the 1980s. In the 1970s and before, there was substantially more cooperation between the New Left and libertarians because of the Vietnam war. This move to the right was the beginning of libertarians integrating themselves into movement conservatism and the Republican Party. By the 1990s, many libertarians were arguing for a firmer alliance between themselves and right-wing populists. Case and point is Rothbard’s 1992 essay “Right-Wing Populism” in which he openly praises David Duke:

It is fascinating that there was nothing in Duke’s current program or campaign that could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleo-libertarians; lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what’s wrong with any of that?

He recommends that libertarians create a “right-wing populist program” to make themselves relevant again to American politics. Such a program would include:

l. Slash Taxes. All taxes, sales, business, property, etc., but especially the most oppressive politically and personally: the income tax. We must work toward repeal of the income tax and abolition of the IRS.

2. Slash Welfare. Get rid of underclass rule by abolishing the welfare system, or, short of abolition, severely cutting and restricting it.

3. Abolish Racial or Group Privileges. Abolish affirmative action, set aside racial quotas, etc., and point out that the root of such quotas is the entire “civil rights” structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American.

4. Take Back the Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not “white collar criminals” or “inside traders” but violent street criminals – robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.

5. Take Back the Streets: Get Rid of the Bums. Again: unleash the cops to clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares? Hopefully, they will disappear, that is, move from the ranks of the petted and cosseted bum class to the ranks of the productive members of society.

6. Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters. Money and banking are recondite issues. But the realities can be made vivid: the Fed is an organized cartel of banksters, who are creating inflation, ripping off the public, destroying the savings of the average American. The hundreds of billions of taxpayer handouts to S&L banksters will be chicken-feed compared to the coming collapse of the commercial banks.

7. America First. A key point, and not meant to be seventh in priority. The American economy is not only in recession; it is stagnating. The average family is worse off now than it was two decades ago. Come home America. Stop supporting bums abroad. Stop all foreign aid, which is aid to banksters and their bonds and their export industries. Stop gloabaloney, and let’s solve our problems at home.

8. Defend Family Values. Which means, get the State out of the family, and replace State control with parental control. In the long run, this means ending public schools, and replacing them with private schools. But we must realize that voucher and even tax credit schemes are not, despite Milton Friedman, transitional demands on the path to privatized education; instead, they will make matters worse by fastening government control more totally upon the private schools. Within the sound alternative is decentralization, and back to local, community neighborhood control of the schools.

Needless to say, by this time the New Left and Libertarian alliance was dead. As I described elsewhere, Rothbard’s strategic Leninism moved the party to a more conservative position over time.

Father Revolutionary Re-posted

I just remembered that since the Red Egg Review is now offline, so is my article “Father Revolutionary” that was published last year. Because of this, I will be re-posting it here.

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Last May, former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt became the first head of state ever to be convicted of genocide by his own country. Under the guise of a civil war, the court found, he and his forces had targeted the indigenous Mayans of the Guatemalan highlands for slaughter, including the now-infamous massacre of the village of Dos Erres. During this period, Montt, an Pentecostal pastor with ties to American superstars Pat Robertson and Luis Palau, was enthusiastically praised by Ronald Reagan as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment.” This background is vital to understanding what is now happening among the same indigenous Mayans: a land reform movement, begun after this catastrophic period, that evolved into mass conversions to the Eastern Orthodox Faith.

For years, former Roman Catholic priest Andres Girón de Leon has fought for land reform, thereby gaining the trust of the indigenous Mayan population. According to Laura Saldivar Tanaka and Hannah Wittman of the Land Action Research Center, “Guatemala’s rural populations suffer from one of the most unequal land distributions in Latin America.  Less than 1% of landowners hold 75% of the best agricultural land, 90% of rural inhabitants live in poverty, and over 500,000 campesino families live below subsistence level.” Fr. Girón would help raise donations and help acquire low interest loans to alleviate the plight of the Mayan people and to help purchase back their land. This earned him the title, often repeated in western news publications in the 1980s, of “Father Revolutionary”.

Andres Girón de Leon was not only trusted to protect indigenous land rights, but was also seen as a spiritual leader. After coming into conflict with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, he was excommunicated in the mid-1990s. In 2010[?], after a period in a non-canonical Orthodox group, he and hundreds of thousands of indigenous Mayans converted to canonical Orthodox Christianity. This now makes Guatemala the most Eastern Orthodox country, per-capita, in the western hemisphere. According to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, there are 338 newly Orthodox churches, now under the omophor of Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico, and approximately 500,000 faithful attending them.

 

Father John Chakos “retired” at age 70 as lead priest at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in order to teach at an Orthodox seminary that trains Mayans. He and his wife spend six months out of each year in Guatemala. Over the years he has worked closely with Fr. Girón to help establish Orthodoxy in Guatemala. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Chakos and his wife served in the U.S. Peace Corps and lived in the slums of Rio de Janeiro for almost three years in the 1960s. The following is a conversation with Father Chakos about the situation in Guatemala:

 

What makes orthodox missionary work in the country different than evangelical missionary work in the region? Especially in the light of colonialism.

 

The first missionaries to Guatemala, like the Dominican friar Fray Bartolome [de las Casas], came with the Conquistadores, who committed many atrocities in order to subjugate the native population. In a system known as the encomienda, the Spanish crown granted a person a specified number of natives for whom they were to take responsibility, protecting them and instructing them in the Catholic faith. In return they could exact tribute from the natives in the form of labor, gold or other products. The natives were forced to do hard labor and subjected to extreme punishment and death if they resisted. This model of missions has rarely been practiced in Orthodoxy. Instead, we try to witness to the faith in a positive way without the use of force, always respecting the freedom of the individual. Because of this approach and not having a history of colonial domination, we are able to offer the faith to the natives without all the negative baggage of the past to weigh us down.

 

What were the central issues behind Fr. Andrés Girón’s conversion to the Orthodox Faith?

 

The main impetus that impelled Fr. Andres to embrace the Orthodox faith was the desire to join a church that would show the love of Jesus to his countrymen in a compelling and beautiful way. His own experience as a social reformer and senator, while still serving his church as a Catholic priest, often brought him into conflict with the hierarchy, the final result of which was his expulsion. While on this journey to find a spiritual home for himself and his many devoted followers from the Mayan villages, he found Orthodox Christianity.

 

 In short, what was his role in land reform in the country?

 

Both as a Catholic priest and senator, Fr. Andres lobbied for land reform in a country where most of the arable land was controlled by a few families. He led the campesino movement to secure land and low interest loans so that the Mayan people could own and work their own land. Through donations and loans he was able to build 44 villages for his people in Guatemala. The transformation can be seen in these villages, whereas before the people worked as share croppers, now they were able to work for themselves on their own land.

 

 

What resistance have the Mayan people faced in pushing for land reform? Does it get dismissed as “leftist”?

 

The movement for land reform which Fr. Andres joined and later led grew out of a brutal civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996. During this time a ruthless military, under orders from the dictatorship, tried to violently stamp out this resistance movement that was often labeled as leftist. Such was not the case, however. The Mayans, who were neither communists nor capitalists, were caught in the middle of the international struggle between the Iron Curtain countries and the West.

 

How does the wider church view this push for land reform?

 

 

I would say that the wider church has always stood for justice, especially in the case of the downtrodden. The Mayans, like so many of their predecessors in the Orthodox Church, desire the same freedoms and opportunities that the rest of us have. The church’s mission is to minister to the whole person, both body and soul. Jesus Himself spoke to this need by encouraging us to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, cloth the naked, etc. We can never separate the material needs from the spiritual ones. Land reform peacefully pursued in the name of Christ is only another dimension of the Gospel imperative to share what we have with those who have not. We cannot partake of the cup of Christ while ignoring the needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

 

 

What can the Church as a whole learn from the people of Guatemala?

 

We as a church have much to learn from the Mayans of Guatemala. Theirs is a pure and vibrant faith that is flourishing in a simple and communal way of life. While we may not be able return to such a simplistic lifestyle, we can simplify our lives so as not to be overwhelmed by the many maddening distractions that assail us every day.

 

Segregation in the after-life

johnsWell it’s now 2015 and I need to get back into the blogging grind. I promise more will be coming soon. Until then, I want to share an excerpt from a book that I have been reading. Parting The Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch is an excellent read and it seemed fitting to share a little bit of it since yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Vernon Johns , one of King’s “forerunners “, helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement in the United States and was a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist church. In the following text, Branch discusses some of Johns first few days as a clergymen there:

“One of his first acts in Montgomery was to replace the tiny bulletin board atop the steps at the church entrance with a much larger one on the sidewalk facing Dexter Avenue. In 1949, all Montgomery read there that Vernon Johns would preach the following Sunday on the topic ‘Segregation After Death.’ No doubt many whites cherished a private hope that races would be separated in the afterlife, but the public notice invited suspicion. Local leaders found it mildly unnerving that a Negro minister planned to address so volatile and worldly a topic as segregation in the first place, and the police chief guarded against the possibility of an incendiary trick by inviting the minister to explain himself down at the station.”

“John told the chief and his men that the sermon would be open to everyone but that he would be happy to give a preview on the spot, in case they were too intimidated to attend a Negro church. Soon Johns was reciting his text from memory, beginning with Luke 16:19, which is Christ’s parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man Dives. Having ignored Lazarus all his sumptuous life, Dives was shocked to look up from hell to see him in heaven. He implored father Abraham to send Lazarus down to hell with some cool water to ease his torment, but Abraham replied that a ‘great gulf’ was fixed between them. The great gulf, preached Johns, was segregation. It separated people and blinded them to their common humanity- so much so that Dives even in the midst of his agony, did not think to speak directly to Lazarus or to recognize his virtues, but instead wanted Abraham to ‘send’ Lazarus with water, still thinking of him as a servant.”

Branch goes on to tell the reader that though the police chief was moved and started crying, he never went to Johns sermon. However, they did become friends and would trade books for each other to read.