Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Marxist Attack on Rand Paul

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser has an article that links Rand Paul to  a view similar to that of others who allegedly consider the poor parasites.

This linkage comes about in the form of this argument: A allegedly had something mean to say about the poor. B said something nice about A (though not commenting about any observation about the poor by A). C says B is great. D has been influenced by C. Therefore D hates the poor.

I'm told, by people who know a lot more about these things than I do, that this argumentative style is very typical of Marxists.

The specifics of the Millhiser linkage goes like this.  British social theorist Herbert Spencer once wrote,   “[i]nconvenience, suffering, and death are the penalties attached by nature to ignorance, as well as to incompetence...nature secures the growth of a race who shall both understand the conditions of existence, and be able to act up to them. . . . Nature demands that every being shall be self-sufficing. All that are not so, nature is perpetually withdrawing by death.”

Ergo, according to Millhiser, Spencer considers the poor parasites.

Murray Rothbard praised Spencer's work (although never once saying the poor were parasites).  Ron Paul has said that he has been influenced by the work of Rothbard, And Rand has been influenced by his father, Ron. Therefore, Rand considers the poor parasites, according to Millhiser.

This stretching of argument, which is perhaps more intellectually painful than the very real pain of physical stretch marks suffered by a woman in labor, is not the only problem with Millhiser's argument. His basic first step is wrong. It is as though he has a male on the labor table, attempting to deliver a baby.

The philosopher David Gordon, who studied under Noble laureate Friedrich Hayek and was personal friends with Robert Nozick (How's that for linkage?), notes that Spencer did not consider the poor parasites. Writes Gordon:
Spencer, far from opposing aid to the poor, supported private charity. 
As for the linkage between Rothbard and Spencer, Gordon notes:
 Although Rothbard did admire Spencer and sometimes quotes him, he was not at all a follower of Spencer’s evolutionary thought...As for “Social Darwinism,” Rothbard assailed it in a lengthy memo to the Volker Fund. In an article written in 2012, I discussed these topics in detail.

Indeed, Rothbard makes clear in another Volker memo that he finds no favor with Spencer's evolutionary ethics that Millhiser attempts to attach to Rothbard, then Ron Paul and then Rand Paul.

In a memo commenting on a paper written by Leonard Carmichael, Rothbard wrote (emphasis in original):
Carmichael begins, in happy omen, by resurrecting Herbert Spencer; and showing that Spencer must be modified to eliminate his bias for evolutionary ethics... (Rothbard vs. The Philosophers by Roberta A. Modugno (p 117)
Thus, as Gordon observes:
Every step in Millhiser’s argument is wrong....Milhiser would be well advised to read Rothbard before attacking him again.



  1. Spencer was no "social Darwinist"... How could he have been when he was writing on his ideas of social evolution 17 years before Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859? Spencer's great treatise "Social Statics" was published nine years before Origin. Spencer was influenced by Lamarck.

    Spencer wrote in his autobiography:

    "In the earliest of them [published works informed by Spencer's thinking on social evolution] —“Letters on the Proper Sphere of Government”—published in 1842, and republished as a pamphlet in 1843, the only point of community with the general doctrine of evolution is a belief in the modifiability of human nature through adaptation to conditions (which I held as a corollary from the theory of Lamarck) and a consequent belief in human progression. In the second and more important one, “Social Statics,” published in 1850, the same general ideas are to be seen, worked out more elaborately in their ethical and political consequences."

    And Spencer was an altruist. He believed that (voluntary) altruism is intrinsic to human nature. He wrote, "As there has been an advance by degrees from unconscious parental altruism to conscious parental altruism of the highest kind, so has there been an advance by degrees from the altruism of the family to social altruism." (Principles of Ethics)

    But Spencer also believed that egoism takes precedence over altruism. He wrote, "... ethics has to recognize the truth, recognized in unethical thought, that egoism comes before altruism. The acts required for continued self-preservation, including the enjoyment of benefits achieved by such acts, are the first requisites to universal welfare. Unless each duly cares for himself, his care for all others is ended by death; and if each thus dies, there remain no others to be cared for." (Principles of Ethics)

    More from Spencer on egoism and altruism...

  2. Doesn't really matter to Millhiser. He put it out there and plenty of so call intellectual progressives will eat it up without a second thought. That's all Millhiser wants.

    1. This is my thinking as well, most liberals and conservatives are only concerned about their own echo chambers.