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Intellectual bankruptcy
from Braincrave Second Life staff
Mar 14, 2011
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Why aren't liberals abandoning Obama when he does the same things for which they screamed at Bush (e.g., indefinite detention at Guantanamo, approving torture)? Because they have nowhere else to go. Generally, the world is intellectually bankrupt, thinking that violence is always the answer to solve the world's problems. Intellectual dishonesty is everywhere. Although there are some intellectual leaders who promote a morality other than the initiation of force, theft, murder, dishonesty, tyranny, and comparable destruction, by and large, the political and economic leaders have descended into the morass of simply who to sacrifice next.

Though this speech is from 1961, it could have just as easily been made today and you wouldn't know the difference. The villains stay the same - only the names of the thugs change. How disturbing that so many don't learn from history. The left blames the right, the right blames the left, and the libertarians blame them both. Anyone outside of the two-party system (or one-party system, depending on your perspective) is considered a lunatic or fringe. What are the fundamental differences between being a liberal and a conservative? What are the ideals, if any, that these two parties represent? Or, as Ayn Rand suggests, do neither have any ideals save brute force? What are the noticeable differences between Bush's and Obama's policies on corporate privilege, endless warfare, bailouts, executive power, and bureaucratic expansion?

FTA: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am speaking on the assumption that I am addressing an audience that consists predominantly of liberals; that is, of my antagonists. Therefore, I must begin by explaining why I chose to do it. The briefest explanation is to tell you that, in the 1930s, I envied the liberals for the fact that their leaders entered political campaigns, armed not with worn-out bromides, but with intellectual arguments. I disagreed with everything they said, but I would have fought to the death for the method by which they said it - for an intellectual approach to political problems. Today, I have no cause to envy the liberals any longer.

For many decades, the liberals had been the representatives of the intellect in America, if not in the content of their ideas, then at least in form, method, and professed epistemology. They claimed that their views were based on reason, logic, science and, even though they were glorifying collectivism, they projected a manner of confident, distinguished intellectuality, while most of the so-called conservatives, allegedly devoted to the defense of individualism and capitalism, went about apologetically projecting such cracker-barrel sort of folksiness that Li'l Abner would have found it embarrassing; the monument to which may still be seen in the corridors of the New York Stock Exchange, in a costly display of statistical charts and models proudly entitled: The People's Capitalism.

Today, the two camps are moving closer and merging. Just as the Republican and Democratic parties are becoming indistinguishable, so are their respective intellectual spokesmen... What social or political group today is the home of those who are, and still wish to be, the men of the intellect? None. The intellectuals, in the strict, literal sense of the word, as distinguished from the mystics and the neo-mystics, are now homeless refugees, left behind by a silent collapse they have not had the courage to identify. They are the displaced persons of our culture who are afraid to discover that they have been displaced by their own Frankenstein monster - by the primordial proponents of brute force...

The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are two of the emptiest sounds in today's political vocabulary: they have become rubber words that can be stretched to fit any meaning anyone cares to give them - words that can be used safely by any speaker who wants to be misunderstood in the greatest number of ways by the greatest number of people. Yet, at the same time, everyone seems to understand these two words in some foggy, sub-verbal manner, as if they were the code signals of a dark, secret guilt, hiding an issue no one cares to face. When an entire culture is guilty of evasion on so enormous a scale, the first thing to do, if one does not choose to be an evader, is to identify the issue that people are afraid to see. What is it that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have now come to hide?"

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age by Ayn Rand (50-minute podcast)


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