C-SPAN aired a debate held on November 30, 2011 between David Callahan, co-founder of Demos and Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Center Executive Director. The debate was held in Seattle and moderated by former U.S. attorney John McKay, one of the eight US Attorneys fired by Bush Admin in 2006. The topic was the roll of government.
For anyone not familiar with either of them, John Amato wrote about Yaron Brook back in 2004 who came on The O'Reilly Factor and as John described, "was so over the top that he even scared the bejesus out of Bill O'Reilly!" David Callahan recently made an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor as well that I wrote about here -- Fox Guest Callahan Knocks Down Ingraham and Stein's Talking Points on Taxation and Income Disparity.
I don't expect to see either of them coming back on Fox again any time soon, for completely different reasons, obviously, but seeing Callahan's name on the C-SPAN schedule was what caught my eye to decide to watch this debate in the first place. He did as good of a job pushing back against Brook here as he did on Fox, when appearing with Laura Ingraham and Ben Stein. His response reminded me a whole lot of Elizabeth Warren and some of the remarks she's made out on the campaign trail in her run against Sen. Scott Brown.
I've heard a lot of these Any Rand worshipers talk about their philosophy where they still try to pretend like they care about their fellow human beings. There was no sugar coating with this guy Brook. He just came straight out and said his beliefs are I've got mine and everyone else can basically go to hell. What's scary is that his response to the questioner here actually got applause from the audience.
Update: Apparently I was wrong about Fox not wanting Brook back as a guest after his appearance on O'Reilly's show. No shock here with which show decided that he was someone worth bringing back on the air... the now canceled wingnut fest which was Glenn Beck's show.
Transcript below the fold and you can watch the entire debate at C-SPAN's web site here -- Debate on the Roll of Government.
Q: Yeah, a question for you Yaron. I just wonder, where is the morality and the merits based aspect of allowing unlimited accumulation of wealth, because you seem to basically espouse the idea, nobody should be limited as to how much wealth they can accumulate? And that in a country where you have people working three jobs and having no health insurance. And I just wonder where the morality is, especially in a country that prides itself on Christian values and I think Christianity at its base, supposedly does not actually espouse that you have such a wealth disparity.
BROOK: So let me just make it clear in case I've been misunderstood. I'm a Randian. I don't believe in the Christian morality. I think it's a corrupt morality. I think it's bad. I don't believe you are your brother's keeper. I don't believe you belong to anybody else. I believe in a morality of rational, long term, self interest. I think your moral responsibility is to your happiness, rationally pursued, over the long term.
I don't believe in sacrifice. I don't believe your job is to take care of other people. I believe your job, at least one of our jobs is to take care of ourselves and make our lives the most flourishing and successful life it could be.
And I don't believe... I want to ask an opposite question. What is the morality that says that I can't accumulate beyond a certain amount of wealth? What if I'm selling products that you guys love so much that you keep buying and you buy more and more and more, and I'm making a profit at it. Who are you to say enough's enough Bill Gates? From now on you have to give it away.
Why do we live in a country where making wealth, creating value for people, trading with people, value for value is somehow despicable morality? But giving it away after you've made it, that's good? And if you want to make Bill Gates a saint, you know what he would do? He would give it all away and move into a tent and if he could somehow cut himself and bleed a little bit while he did that, then we would declare him a saint.
I'm against that morality. I don't believe that morality is a good morality. I think that's an evil morality. I'm for a morality that says if Bill Gates is producing stuff and we're voluntarily, not being forced, voluntarily buying his stuff and he's making a profit off of that, he's wonderful.
CALLAHAN: I don't think that wealth is created by individuals acting alone and in some heroic fashion. And I think wealth is created by individuals working within a society where are the foundations for wealth creation, the roads, the schools, the infrastructure, the legal system and that society decides together how that wealth is used.
Individuals don't get to decide completely on their own. And actually, this is not a view that I created out of the blue. This is a view that Andrew Carnegie famously espoused in his essay Gospel of Wealth, published in the 19th century in which he argued for an estate tax on the grounds that because society created wealth collectively and opportunities for people like Carnegie, we needed to capture some of that wealth and recycle it, so that opportunities were created for others.
That's what redistributive tax policy is all about, creating opportunity for all. As to some of Yaron's other points, you know he said that, he's been saying that, look, government shouldn't have to solve the problem because people will step forward to solve them with charity.
Well, we know historically that wasn't the case. Thirty five percent of seniors lived in poverty in 1960. Charity didn't solve the problem. But Yaron goes further and says also that in his philosophy, nobody has an obligation to anybody else. So, I don't get it.
You're going to, in his world view, we get rid of government and we expect charity to solve it and then we also espouse the philosophy of radical self interest, which takes away anybody's sense of obligation for anybody else. That is a formula for a brutal, brutal society.