Hsieh LTE in Chicago Tribune on Rights

 Posted by on 12 September 2008 at 12:04 am  Activism, Politics
Sep 122008

The September 7, 2008 edition of the Chicago Tribune published an OpEd which praised Ayn Rand and criticized both McCain and Obama for failing to defend the concept of freedom. The OpEd included a favorable mention of selfishness (!) as well.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

“When did the idea of freedom become a political orphan?”

…What has set this country apart since its inception is not the notion of obligations but the notion of rights.

“All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself,” wrote the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. “The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals.”

…What do Republicans believe in? McCain told us Thursday: “We believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law . . . We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods and communities.”

Would it be too much to mention that what sustains the American vision of those things is freedom?

…While [liberals] value many personal liberties, they have no great attachment to forms of freedom that involve buying, selling, trading and accumulating. Those, after all, can involve selfishness, and Democrats, like Republicans, don’t want to protect selfishness.

I don’t know much else about the writer (Steve Chapman) except for what’s on the newspaper website.

I did respond with the following supportive LTE, which the newspaper printed in the September 11, 2008 edition:

Columnist Steve Chapman correctly criticizes both Republicans and Democrats for abandoning the principle of individual rights as the foundation of a proper political system (“When did the idea of freedom become a political orphan?” Commentary, Sept. 7).

Both major political parties instead offer only warmed-over variations of collectivism as their solution to today’s problems.

The founding fathers correctly understood that rights are freedoms of action (such as the right to free speech), not entitlement claims on goods or services that must be produced by another (such as housing or health care). This principle made America a beacon of hope for millions around the world because it gave people the freedom they needed to pursue their own happiness as their highest moral goal.

If we wish America to remain great, we must reject calls to embrace all forms of collectivism, religious mysticism or socialism, and instead reaffirm our commitment to individual rights.

Paul Hsieh
Sedalia, Colo.

One of my goals in my LTE was to tie Objectivists principles (individual rights, ethical egoism, and the morality of pursuing one’s own happiness) to values held implicitly by many Americans as part of their current healthy sense of life. As Yaron Brook has said repeatedly, Objectivism provides the explicit philosophical grounding for the American sense of life — in that sense, it is “the American philosophy”. This LTE was my small attempt to articulate this for the general public.

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