Rebirth of Reason


Quo vadis, Businessmen?
by Manfred F. Schieder

"Businessmen are the symbol of a free society — the symbol of America. If and when they perish, civilization will perish." (from "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business", by Ayn Rand)
      Envied, despised and defamed everywhere, found guilty for all and each of the problems that trouble the world, maligned by the general population as "rich men" and "robber barons" and used as scapegoats whenever governments or any political, ideological or intellectual group needs to get rid of the expected disastrous results of its countless feats of irrationality, and feeling a strong sensation of guilt from subconsciously knowing that they are not living in line nor conforming to what the existing "moral" system demands, businessmen constitute that new racial minority which serves as the useful victim for that "modern" witch hunt that intellectuals and politicians incite to lead the population's wrath away from themselves.
     When I speak of businessmen I don't refer, of course, of those bureaucratic officials of state or mixed economy ventures that are mere users of government privileges, subsidies and protectionism that shelter their inefficiency and incapacity, at the general population's expense, from any risk that private businessmen have to face at any decision taken. The general population has conveniently been psychologically dumbfounded to keep from criticizing the colossal robbery to which governments subject it with the constant losses heaped on it by what are termed to be "socially minded" government "enterprises".
     Unfortunately, there are still far too few businessmen ready to pull themselves up on their own shoestrings and far less of those who did to be ready to speak for their rights as true benefactors of mankind. Far too many prefer to come in swarming to request "government help", i.e. money exploited from the general population by means of obligatory taxes to rescue their enterprises as soon as the road gets bumpy. GM is such a nowadays well-known case, with its German Opel-child hooked to its wailing skirt. The question is: why should a company be "rescued" if it is unable to produce the cars customer's want or if it insists to continue manufacturing cars that nobody wants to buy now, for people are afraid to spend their hard-earned money in times of trouble and prefer to save it to get over who knows what comes next? Some people will say: to help the technicians, workers, employees, salesmen, etc. employed. But this is no solution.
     Ludwig Erhard, the German "miracle-maker" after the 2nd WW, showed the right way to do things when Borgward, the car-manufacturer, went down the chute during his time. All socialists cried for help then but the fat, cigar-smoking Erhard, who looked a bit like the cartoonish Capitalist pig, waved all help aside, stating that it would be unjust to "rescue" a company that was unable to stand on its own. In addition, he added that its workers and employees, all capable people, would soon find new jobs in other well-run car manufacturers and a myriad of other enterprises producing products that found customers on the market. History proved him right. Apparently, the now existing governments haven't learned the lesson… nor did the "businessmen" involved with today's requests for bailouts.
     Throughout the ages businessmen not only allowed governments to interfere with their businesses, nay, they even promoted these interferences, first by searching for special favors and promises from kings and feudal lords and, then, as in the United States, etc., through lobbyists, political incumbents, politically related business associations, etc. etc. In due course, the concessions and favors later became direct dictates from the government, for this is the natural course of events if nothing opposes its mechanism. Under such conditions governments can easily trigger a huge machinery that obliges banks and financial institutions to provide credits to homebuyers whose incomes turn them from the very beginning into unworthy high credit receivers, particularly when the government knows that all left-wing "help-the-poor-out" howlers stand at its side. At a very short term, the overstrained borrowers reach the point as from where they can no longer repay the loans. Once the to be expected crash sets in (an earlier rehearsal of similar crashes happened in 1929), the consequences that nobody wanted to foresee nor were willing to avoid was, unjustly I must say but, on the other hand, totally unavoidably, burdened on the productive part of the worldwide population, generating an enormous amount of worthwhile but now jobless people that will, also in just as short a term, spark off upheavals and destructions beyond belief.
     The current economic and, thus, political events are already spreading their ugly outcome. The "rescue" operations requested by banks and finance institutions from the recently elected president of the United States, have soon revealed the further political purposes lying behind: an inexorable government control leading the world back on the road to socialism first and communism later, as Marx foresaw and I mentioned in my recent article "Society as an End and Society as a Means". Already very late on the road the financial businessmen seem to start to sense what's lying behind the scenes and are now both eager to repay the government's help as well as to learn George Washington's dictum that "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master".
     The main media, of course, has always favored collectivism, and, thus, promotes all government regulations, either unaware or, more possible, uncaring that the fundamental individual rights, as outlined n the U.S. Constitution, will be erased in full for them too. Few intellectuals were ready to signal this, among them Ayn Rand and her Objectivists, Ludwig von Mises, George Reisman (his article "The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis" is extremely revealing in this matter), Friedrich A. Hayek' and Murray N. Rothbard's followers and, as the all informative Internet discloses, even some intellectuals on the side of the Democrats. Knowing the truth behind the facts of history unfortunately seems to be reserved to few.
     When I refer to businessmen I mean, of course, free businessmen, free as far as they can function within the swamp of rules, taxes of all kinds and types heaped on them, impositions that drown society itself up to its final disintegration on a worldwide basis. Again, I refer to FREE businessmen, free up to where this is possible under the now existing conditions, that species made up, as Ludwig von Mises said in his colossal opus "Human Action", by "those who are especially eager to profit from adjusting production to the expected changes in conditions, those who have more initiative, more venturesomeness, and a quicker eye than the crowd, the pushing and promoting pioneers of economic improvement." (Part 3, Chapter XIV, Subchapter 7)
     These are the men that engender the future. Observe that the "Great Leap Forward", the moment when human progress took off, relates directly with the Industrial Revolution during the 18th century. What made the place where it happened and the time when it happened so extraordinary? Discoveries or inventions of some particularly sensational importance? By no means. Up until then men had made a large quantity of discoveries and tremendous inventions had accumulated through the centuries. Those who want to hide the decisive factor that "fired" the process point out Watt's engine as the start of the race. But the principle that made this engine possible was already known to the Ancient Greeks, and yet nothing happened there that would have started the push forward. As a matter of fact, the origin of many scientific achievements can be traced to Ancient Greece. Yet they were viewed, even up to and past the Renaissance, as merely clever toys, imaginative physical and chemical arrangements.
     Until the second half of the 18th century, the mystical concept ruled supreme that every human effort is useless, senseless even, for human existence is only the preparation for the "true" life that will be reached, for all of eternity, in another, unknown "reality". Theologians declared and still declare this as an indisputable and undeniable dogma of their "teachings". Philosophers - starting with the pre-Socratic up to the modern ones - functioned and function as mere servants of mysticism and secularized this "version" of existence (for example, Plato and his bi-dimensional world of forms and images, Kant and his noumenal and phenomenal objects, etc.). This obligation to believe that human existence could not be improved, necessarily included a deep feeling that whatever that could be done would end up as being a waste of time.
     However, the time came when the brain of some men consciously or subconsciously mutinied against this belief. Men with practical goals took up the task to turn scientific achievements into practical applications. Men like James Brindley, Josiah Wedgwood, John Wilkinson, Matthew Houlton and dozens more took advantage of the greater freedom existing in England to become "money makers" by changing the life of the poor, an existence thwarted in pigsties of horrendous poverty and hopelessness. "It is comic to think that cotton underwear and soap could work a transformation in the lives of the poor," wrote the brilliant Jacob Bronowski in his book "The Ascent of Man" (Chapter 8). "Yet these simple things - coal in an iron range, glass in the windows, a choice of food - were a wonderful rise in the standard of life and health. By our standards, the industrial towns were slums, but to the people who had come from a cottage, a house in a terrace was a liberation from hunger, from dirt, and from disease; it offered a new wealth of choice."
     The men that bet their money to the confidence that both poor and wealthy would buy the new products they were presenting on the market, were the businessmen. Businessmen, social benefactors of colossal dimensions, created mass markets so that every product could reach any social level, even the lowest conceivable. Their machinery increased the productivity of human labor and, thus, raised the economic reward of their work. "By organizing human effort into productive enterprises," wrote the extraordinary philosopher Ayn Rand, "(the businessman) created employment for men of countless professions. He is the great liberator who, in the short span of a century and a half, has released men from bondage to their physical needs, has released them from the terrible drudgery of an eighteen-hour workday of manual labor for their barest subsistence, has released them from famines, from pestilences, from the stagnant hopelessness and terror in which most of mankind had lived in all the pre-capitalist centuries—and in which most of it still lives, in non-capitalist countries." (from "For the New Intellectual")
     Marx and Frederic Engels themselves confirmed their monstrous purpose of wanting to send men back to the prehistorical ages of ignorance, plagues and the intellectual and physical bondage of communism when they recognized, in the "Communist Manifesto", that "The bourgeoisie (the term used at their time for capitalists), by their rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most backward nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the underdeveloped nations' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. (Capitalism) has created enormous cities… and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life… The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarcely one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together… In the same proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e. capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed (my enhancement)."
     But the intellectuals refused to recognize this transformation. Philosophers as well as thinkers in general, evaded the responsibility of explaining to the general population how could such a "miracle" become real, which was the origin for such amazing human achievements, how could it be that the Industrial Revolution and its economic system, Capitalism (A social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned, as Ayn Rand defined in her article "What is Capitalism?"), could produce such an amazing outcome.
     The main part of the intellectuals remained stuck in the swamp of their mental backwardness. Seeking the shelter of the powerful and fearing the ire of the monarchs and the theocrats, they didn't dare to analyze the phenomenon. Still tied to the dogmatic concepts of the Dark Ages, they were unable to discover what had made the heroic capitalist feat possible.
     It was the 20th century that would unveil this new and overwhelming intellectual accomplishment. Ayn Rand deduced, starting from the facts of reality, the foundations that support the businessmen and their work, foundations of which businessmen were themselves mainly unaware. They were busy building the future. She united these keystones into an unbreakable intellectual union known nowadays by the name of Philosophy of Objectivism.
     Nothing but stagnation and resignation is possible as long as people live within the premises of altruism, the demand to exist for the next of kin as justification of their own existence, and nothing will ever change for the better within such a system, as history proved many times over. Altruism is the notion that each has to sacrifice himself for the others, the "morality" of cannibals devouring the emaciated skeletons of each other.
     Altruism is, thus, totally irreconcilable with Capitalism because Capitalism represents the continuous effort of each one to improve his own life by satisfying its needs and desires. The practice of resignation, the worship of suffering and self-sacrifice, survival from charity and crumbs is the typical existence of tribal, collectivist "societies", places where the population is subject to the whims of princes and tribal chiefs. "Here is the profound gulf between businessmen and altruism:," said Ayn Rand in her article "The Sanction of the Victims", "businessmen do not sacrifice themselves to others—if they did, they would be out of business in a few months or days—they profit, they grow rich, they are rewarded, as they should be. This is what the altruists, the collectivists and other sundry "humanitarians" hate the businessmen for, for true businessmen pursue a personal goal and succeed at it. Do not fool yourself by thinking that altruists are motivated by compassion for the suffering. They are motivated by hatred for the successful."
     Businessmen suffer under a deep sensation of guilt since they are engulfed by the dichotomy formed by the age old "moral" premises they have been taught to respect and what reality tells them to do, and this guilt is enhanced by the fact that businessmen cannot side with the arbitrary, the whimsical, the irrational, since they depend fully on the faculty that belongs exclusively to the human brain: reason. In accordance, they represent the human being as what it is: a rational being.
     Free businessmen and their blood brothers, the New Intellectuals that, starting from Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism, lay the foundation and defend the existence of Capitalism as the only possible rational human society, carry the direct responsibility to rescue mankind, a mankind that seems to be unwilling to renew itself philosophically and morally, from its own self-immolation.
     Nothing in-between will come up with the proper solution. The "middle-of-the-road" solution is an unstable, radioactive element whose time has run up. The final face-up will be decided between Objectivism and the currently existing types of communism and its simile, the theocracies of all kind, a decision that must be taken between a rational society of rational human beings and a slave camp of serfs destroyed by the lashes of beastly rulers. The face-up will be decided between a rational morality, based on man's right to exist for himself, and altruism, which means to exist for those who rule, like it or not, a tribe of beings whose only resemblance with humans is their bodily appearance.
     But "the world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours," wrote Ayn Rand in her opus major "Atlas Shrugged", "but to win it requires your total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence of that which is man: for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the Morality of Life and that yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth."
     As from this basis it will be very easy for businessmen to decide the "quo vadis" of their road!
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