Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rand, von Mises, Leiter, Dworkin, Wilkinson

First, from today's NY Times, Jerry Dworkin (UC Davis) writes:

"For more than a decade, the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has fiercely objected whenever derivatives have come under scrutiny in Congress or on Wall Street. [ ] An examination of more than two decades of Mr. Greenspan’s recordon financial regulation and derivatives in particular reveals the degree to which he tethered the health of the nation’s economy to that faith. [ ] Time and again, Mr. Greenspan — a revered figure affectionately nicknamed the Oracle — proclaimed that risks could be handled by the markets themselves. [ ]

"Put this together with Keynes:
” . . . the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back." and we get Ayn Rand as an important cause of the catastrophe we are in."

As it turns out, Brian Leiter of the Leiter Reports quoted Dworkin, after which Will Wilkinson criticizes blaming it on Ayn Rand as the recipient of Keynes' "wisdom," claiming, "Surely the problem is that we didn’t Keynes it up enough! But Ayn Rand… Now there’s the intellectual force behind the status quo structure of American monetary and regulatory policy!"

Wilkinson was poo-pooing the ability of Ayn Rand to be behind anything, when, by calling her "the intellectual force behind" it all, is dismissive of Rand's intellectual ability to be of any force behind anyone or anything that matters. The problem was, he improperly attributed all of this to Leiter instead of to Dworkin.

So then, Leiter had to write: "Will Wilkinson, a former philosophy graduate student and libertarian zealot, has ripped into Jerry Dworkin's attributing Greenspan's disastrous economic policies to the influence of the pseudo-philosopher Ayn Rand as mere "hackery" (though Wilkinson attributes the offending view and the "hackery", oddly, to me, a "professional philosopher").

"Some philosophers may know Mr. Wilkinson from his all-too-frequent appearances on Blogging-Heads TV. I think BHTV is great, but they really need to have better interlocutors for the philosophers on the show. And I certainly think Jerry Dworkin's point in the original post was apt."

So then, Wilkinson went back to his posting and crossed off "Leiter" replacing it with "Dworkin," after which he created a new posting which he titled: "Blame It on Gerald Dworkin for Blaming It on Ayn Rand."

In the second posting Wilkinson writes: "Both Dworkin and Leiter are very interested in the fact that I left grad school in philosophy, but neither has anything intelligent to say in defense of Dworkin’s risible claim about the roots of the financial crisis — a causal claim that has nothing much to do with philosophy. Leiter adds with his typical threatening charm that I am incompetent to interview philosophers on Bloggingheads TV. It’s interesting that none of the philosophers I have interviewed have given any indication of my incompetence, and clearly that can’t be because philosophers are especially gracious as a class. If either Dworkin or Leiter would like to appear on Free Will and discuss Ayn Rand, the causes of the collapse of the financial system, or any other topic, I would be delighted to have them on. If I fail to keep up competently with either of these genuinely accomplished scholars, they will be able to expose my failings in real time. I really mean this. Here is the invitation… Prof. Leiter, Prof. Dworkin: I would very much like to have a civil discussion with each of you on a set of topics of your choosing. But I would especially like to explore your thoughts on the role of ideology as a cause of the financial crisis."

But as you will notice, Wilkinson had nothing "intelligent to say [about] Dworkin’s risible claim about the roots of the financial crisis." What Wilkinson had to say the first time around was not intelligent. Whether the reader cares for Rand or not, she has influenced more economists, philosophers, and world leaders than can be named. Alan Greenspan was one of them.

I cannot speak to whether or not Greenspan's "faith" in the free market had anything to do with the impending fall of Wall Street and the irresponsible actions of Freddie and Fannie. I heard credible reports that ACORN [see Obama, Character, and American Exceptionalism] had much to do with forcing Freddie and Fannie to act in the irresponsible manner they did, by using their well-known tactics of harrassment to get mortgages for low-income people who should not have been able to otherwise buy homes.

The fact is, as a Randian myself, as on Objectivist, I do not see the objectibility in Objectivism's principles to tell business to "put its money where its mouth is," meaning, that accounting practices and owning enough capital in one form or another to back up the business dealings that businesses make with each other and for the benefit of stockholders.

In fact, Rand wrote: [see continuation Blame It On Ayn Rand ]

Note: I will be the featured speaker at the Center For Inquiry (CFI) meeting, October 16, 2008, in Portage, Michigan. The topic is "Atheism as a 'Religion' Protected by Courts According to the Establishment Clause" CEC

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