A Is A; Act Is Not Ayn!
SOLO-NZ Op-Ed: A Is A; Act Is Not
August 30, 2010
Veteran communist Matt McCarten huffs and puffs mightily in his latest Herald on Sunday column about the imminent demise of those capitalist running dogs, the Act Party (“Death Throes of the Soulless Party of Self-Interest”), and there's no doubt he does a highly entertaining job of it. Part of the entertainment, though, lies in McComrade McCarten's own confusion.
"There's a sickly stench of death emanating from the Act Party. All of us can smell it," he begins. So far, so accurate. But then we get:
"Act was founded on the odious principle that human greed is the driving force of human progress and is to be celebrated as some sort of religion. The cultists worship at the altar of their prophet, Ayn Rand, and delude themselves if everyone only focuses on getting what they want, then somehow this is good for everyone."
Now, I've known many Actors over the years, including the leads, and I can't think of one, alas, who "worships at the altar of Ayn Rand." (I can think of one, a major funder, who possessed a copy of Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness, but didn't want anyone to know, so hid it.) To the extent that the Actors have a guru, it's the economist F. A. Hayek—whose premises, as it happens, are identical to Matt's; the difference between McCarten and Hayek is one of implementation only. Both assume that the individual is the property of society and that he exists to serve the common good. Matt believes the all-powerful state is the best way to effect this assumption; Hayek believes a free market does it better—that in pursuing one's self-interest one benefits others, however inadvertently, and so can be exempted from the moral condemnation that one might otherwise merit. (Hayek also believed that the free market could not be wholly trusted, and there should be a state-run social insurance scheme to which all citizens should be forced to contribute. Sir Roger Douglas still promotes this idea, and McComrade McCarten would be hard-pressed to think of a reason consistent with his principles for disagreeing with it.)
So when Matt fulminates so frenziedly against Actors, he is really ranting at a mirror.
Sir Roger Douglas was never on a mission to retrieve freedom; rather, to retrieve the Welfare State by making it more efficient. McCarten no doubt prefers the carte blanche version of it where everyone (make that: the unproductive and recklessly reproductive) has a blank cheque on everyone else (make that: the productive), but he can hardly claim a major philosophical difference between himself and Douglas when the latter tries to salvage a more sustainable version from the economic carnage wrought by the carte blanche one. And McCarten should have been whooping with delight during Sir Roger's heyday when tax revenues as a proportion of GDP increased from 30% to 36%. Big Brother was ballooning! What more could a comrade wish for?! Why is McCarten not rooting for Roger's return? Too busy with his North Korea cheerleader duties?
"To survive," Matt observes, "the remnants [of Act] have morphed into a duller version of NZ First. Instead of the sophisticated liberals their party was founded to represent, modern Act has degenerated to smacking kids, bashing Maori, picking on welfare recipients and screwing the working poor to keep themselves relevant. How pathetic."
It's true that Act the parliamentary party is now a disparate bunch of single-issue waifs and strays. It's true equally that they're authoritarian, statist waifs and strays, with whom McCarten has a great deal in common. If by sophisticated liberalism McCarten means libertarianism, and if by that he means Randian individualism, then the idea that Act is or ever was a Randian party with which he is intractably at odds is laughable.
Rand was anti-greed, calling it a demand for the unearned, an assumption that one has a right to the earnings of others. As one of the country's leading proponents of the entitlement mentality, McCarten is pro-greed. Hide and Douglas practised greed in ripping off the taxpayer in the two highly-publicised instances we're aware of. McCarten cannot condemn them with moral impunity. They're all in this racket together.
Individualism means a person's right to exist for his own sake by the judgment of his own mind, respecting every other person's right to do the same. The world is perishing for the want of it. The greatest triumph of the anti-individualists, the collectivists, to which category the McCartens and the Actors equally belong, is that their education system has so deformed the minds entrusted to it that such a simple concept—a person's right to exist for his own sake by the judgment of his own mind, respecting every other person's right to do the same—is too abstract for them to grasp. "I'm like, so totally not cool with that" is about as much as one could dread to expect from the selfless grotesqueries emerging from government schools. Yes, selfLESS, just the way McCarten would like them—not a self in sight, just a smegmatic slimetrail of vacuous conformity.
If Matt truly wants to strike a blow against Act, he should become an individualist. Then he would learn that the self is the soul. And yes, he would benefit others too. But that wouldn't be his justification.