Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Recommendation With Comments

I just finished reading "The God of the Machine" by Isabel Paterson. The newest printing has an in depth introduction by Stephen Cox who, according to the back cover, "[I]s professor of literature and director of humanities at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of 'The Woman and the Dynamo', a biography of Isabel Paterson published by Transaction." Although this book was published in 1943, it is even more relevant today. According to Cox's intro:
"On it publication in 1943,The God of the Machine appeared hopelessly old-fashioned. Today, it appears prophetic. It exposes the moral and practical failures of collectivism, failures that are now almost universally acknowledged but are still far from universally understood; and it identifies problems that continue to threaten the destruction of free societies." (Pg. IX of intro)
Miss Paterson refers to the dynamics of free trade among men as 'energy' and the 'free flow' of this energy as being determined by the amount of government interference in the economy (machine).The greater the government involvement, the greater the poverty and misery. The lesser the involvement, the greater the energy and thus prosperity.

Within this context, she goes back to ancient Greece and presents a historical perspective on why Greece and Rome had to fail, on why the middle and dark ages were stagnant, and why the Enlightenment succeeded. Through out the book Paterson refers to the futility of 'democracy' many times:
"Democracy is pure process,consisting of a series of pragmatical expedients, arrived at by majority vote, the verdict of numbers."
And:
"Democracy inevitably lapses into tyranny; but while in flux it may temporarily leave a wide margin of conduct and thought unregulated." (Pg 16)
This is true and one of the reasons people often confuse democracy with freedom; the deterioration can happen slow enough that people don't perceive it.

Even if a society erects a democracy with certain minority rights written into law, whenever these minority rights are invoked against majority wishes, the cry will always be: "Since when does a minority get to dictate to a majority?". We hear this complaint often today from liberals and conservatives as they try to force their idea of the good on society over the objections of various minorities.

Eventually, in a democracy, the majority will vote away the rights of all minorities. That's what majority rule means if not in theory, always in practice. The rights of minorities will be abrogated partly de jure and partly de facto. The later method has been at work in America for some time. The particular technique used to make it happen was identified by a onetime protege and admirer of Ms. Paterson-Ayn Rand. In her novel The Fountainhead, Ms. Rand's villain Ellsworth Toohey explains his technique to one of his victims saying in part: "Don't set out to raze all shrines--you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity--and the shrines are razed."

This technique is being used by modern Tooheys to destroy individual rights and other American ideals. They don't attack individual rights, they simply ignore them. They enshrined need to be superior to rights just by focusing all policy on need and ignoring rights. When was the last time you heard your representative use the concept individual rights? The tool used to raze rights and enshrine need was switching rights from the individual realm to the collective. They had to destroy in the minds of the masses the idea that individual rights provides individual justice by getting them to accept in its place the notion that servicing social needs provides social justice. They don't attack individual justice. It's just that when the idea of justice is discussed, it's only meaning is the social variety.

Getting back to Ms. Paterson, she was quite perceptive regarding the nature what she called 'humanitarianism' and the nature of political do-gooders:
"An amiable child wishing for a million dollars will usually 'intend' to give away half of this illusory wealth. The twist in the motive is shown by the fact that it would be just as easy to wish such a windfall directly to those others without imagining oneself as the intermediary of their good fortune." (Pgs 153-154)
Today's Tooheys not only want to be the intermediary, they want to be the direct cause of everyone's fate. She continues:
"Carried into adult years, this naive self-glorification turns to positive hatred of any suggestion of persons helping themselves by their own individual efforts, by the non-political means which imply no power over others, no compulsory apparatus. The hatred has a deep motive back of it; for it is true that nothing but the political means will yield unearned public adulation." (153-154)
This snarling hatred is very evident with today's leftists and they control the Democratic party, the media and most of academe.

Among other things, Ms. Paterson talks about the fallacy of public property, why real money is indispensable--that is, backed by gold and silver--and about the mind destroying nature of public education.

The only things I would object to are 1. Mr. Cox's intro could have been a little shorter, and 2. Ms Paterson never identified altruism as a culprit of any kind. I think this may have been a result of her wanting to remain a deist. That's also one reason her and Ms. Rand parted ways. I have a few other misgivings but not of a major nature so I highly recommend the book which can be purchased here.

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