The Love Canal Environmental Disaster — Four Decades Later [The Good Life series]

love-canal-620x350[Originally published at]

First, some good news about the 1970s Love Canal environmental disaster in New York: long-term studies have shown no increase in rates of cancer or birth defects among the area’s residents. That’s welcome news, even though toxic chemicals were released into the environment, homeowners were frightened, dislocated, and suffered large losses of property value.

Now the bad news: Love Canal is a classic example of bad journalism combined with bad philosophy that four decades later continues to infect our popular thinking and public policy.

The story begins in the 1940s, when Hooker ElectroChemical Corporation acquired some land in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, which it intended to use as a dump for by-products from chemical manufacturing. Before the 1940s, the U.S. Army and the city government had used the site as a dump. Hooker tested the site and judged it safe, and inspectors from both local and state government approved the site’s use and issued appropriate permits. Hooker then used it until the early 50s, at which time it sealed the site with an impermeable clay covering and left it alone.

Fast forward two decades to the 1970s, when disaster struck. Some Love Canal residents noticed seepage into their homes and notified the authorities, who identified the seepage as toxic chemicals. The residents were naturally scared and outraged. Reporters converged upon Love Canal and the story went national and international. President Jimmy Carter declared Love Canal a disaster area and about 900 families were relocated.

Now for the importance of journalism and philosophy.

In the press, Hooker faced widespread condemnation. Ralph Nader denounced it as a “callous corporation” that dumped chemicals without caring about public safety. A 1979 Atlantic Monthly article asked whether we can expect privately-owned corporations to act responsibly and suggested that their profit motive makes them care more about money than health. Hooker soon faced over $2 billion in lawsuits. The Environmental Protection Agency quickly enacted many new rules about how corporations handle waste. In 1980 the U.S. Congress approved Senator Al Gore’s a $400 billion Superfund bill to address the nation’s toxic waste sites.

And in large part because of Love Canal, an environmental philosophy became entrenched in our public consciousness: Uncaring, profit-hungry corporations are poisoning our environment, causing birth defects and cancer, and only government can save the day.

That abstract narrative, however, in the case of Love Canal, is almost perfectly the opposite of the truth. Here’s some more important history.

Also in the early 1950s, the city of Niagara Falls’ Board of Education wanted some land in order to build a new school. It liked the Love Canal site and approached Hooker and asked to buy the land. But Hooker refused to sell. The corporation pointed out that the site contained toxic chemicals and so was inappropriate for a school. But the Board of Education, as a government agency, had the power of politics on its side — in this case the power of eminent domain. So it overrode Hooker’s refusal by threatening to have the local government condemn the property and force the land sale.

So Hooker sold the property to the city for one dollar. But in the sale contract — and loudly in other public forums — Hooker made explicit the property’s history as a dump site, expressed its strong opposition to the city government’s plans, and specified that under absolutely no circumstances should the site’s clay barrier be breached.

Even so, the city government then developed the property. It had sewer lines put in and sold some of the land to builders, who constructed homes upon it. And, as it had originally wanted, the government proceeded to build a school there.

So who are the bad guys in the Love Canal story?

All of the above is a matter of public record, and early in the disaster some critics argued that Love Canal was being mishandled and the wrong lessons were being learned.

But the power of the Bad-Corporations/Good-Government narrative is strong indeed. Even now, four decades later, it prevails. A USA Today journalist in 2013 (!) tells the key part of the story this way: “Love Canal’s notorious history began when Hooker Chemical used the abandoned canal from 1942 to 1953 to dump 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste. That canal was later capped, and homes and a school were built on top of it.” No mention of the school board and the government’s ability to force the sale.

But Love Canal would not have happened without (1) the political power of eminent domain and (2) the government officials’ being confident that they would not be held liable if anything went wrong.

The issue is serious because we live in a science-and-engineering-intensive society. There are many benefits to living in a high-tech society — but there are also many risks, including hazardous waste. How do we handle the dangerous chemicals that much of our lifestyle depends upon and keep our environment safe and beautiful? We must learn the right lessons from big mistakes.

So we should be asking, as a result of Love Canal:

* Did Love Canal lessen any government’s ability to acquire land through eminent domain?
* Were any of the politicians or other government officials prosecuted for criminal neglect?
* Were any forced to pay damages?
* Did any go to prison?

The answers are: no, no, no, and no.

In the Love Canal case, the private corporation behaved responsibly — precisely because of its profit motive. The officers of the corporation were likely normal human beings who do not want to poison others, but the profit motive gave them an additional incentive to act responsibly: they wanted a positive business reputation, and they wanted to avoid expensive lawsuits.

And in the Love Canal case, the public government behaved irresponsibly — precisely because its officers had little accountability, either monetary or legal.

Our bad journalism and our bad environmental philosophy have reinforced the irresponsibility. The subsequent history of the case has been to punish the party that behaved responsibly. Hooker and Occidental Petroleum, the company that acquired Hooker in 1968, have been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and have been pilloried in the press and suffered much public condemnation.

And the subsequent history has been to let the irresponsible party off the hook. The members of the Niagara Falls school board and their enablers in the city’s government have largely been able to avoid both public scrutiny for their role and having to pay the financial costs of the lawsuits and the cleanup.

The point is not that private corporations always behave well or that governments always behave badly. The point is that all power should be accountable.

Especially from the Love Canal case, we should learn that the power of governments to coerce land sales should be scrutinized. Tens of thousands of local governments around the country still have that largely unchecked power of eminent domain, and tens of thousands of politicians still want to build schools and enhance their tax revenues.

* * *

Stephen Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and of Nietzsche and the Nazis. He blogs at

Edukacja dla przedsiębiorczości — Polish translation

My essay “Educating for Entrepreneurship” has been translated into Polish as “Edukacja dla przedsiębiorczości” and published in the journal Przeglad Pedagogiczny 2015, Numer 1.repozytorium.ukw

Jak najlepiej możemy pomóc młodym ludziom w nabraniu postawy przedsiębiorczości -– przygotować ich czy to do zainicjowania własnego biznesu, czy to do bycia przedsiębiorczymi w ramach istniejących firm, czy też do przeżywania własnego życia w sposób twórczy? Jeżeli tradycyjny model edukacji -– w którym uczniowie siedzą w równych rzędach ławek, wykonując w tym samym czasie tę samą pracę i podążając w kierunku wskazanym przez jakąś autorytatywną postać -– nie przygotowuje uczniów do bycia przedsiębiorczymi, to czym powinniśmy zastąpić ten model? W niniejszym eseju analizuję, w jaki sposób nauczyciele mogą rozwijać w swojej pracy cechy wzmacniające skuteczną przedsiębiorczość i wykorzystywać je przy tworzeniu formalnych programów nauczania, wspomagając tym samym uczniów w rozwijaniu tychże cech.

How can we best help younger people become entrepreneurial — either to prepare them for creating their own businesses, or for being entrepreneurial within existing firms, or for living their lives entrepreneurially? If the traditional model of education –- students sitting in straight rows of desks, all doing the same work at the same time, and all following the directions of an authority figure -– does not prepare students for entrepreneurism, then what should we replace it with? In this essay I explore how educators can take the traits of successful entrepreneurship and use them to develop formal curricular activities that help students develop those traits.

Our Che Guevara Problem [The Good Life]

[Originally published at]

Chances are good that someone you know owns a Che t-shirt. Romanticized versions of Ernesto Guevara Lynch’s bearded face are popular on campuses and elsewhere — so popular that the American chain store Urban Outfitters planned to release a whole line of Che-inspired fashion items, and dozens of other websites offer a wide range of Che paraphernalia.

Guevara was a Marxist who was born in Argentina, earned a position in Cuba as Fidel Castro’s economic minister, and died in a skirmish with soldiers in Bolivia.

But here is the puzzle. In real life, Guevara was an equal-opportunity jailer, torturer, and killer. Whether it was advocates of free speech, homosexuals, those in favor of freedom of religion or who liked rock and roll music, business owners, or ideological enemies — and whether men, women, or children — he favored imprisoning, tormenting, and murdering them.

“To execute a man,” Che once said, “we don’t need proof of his guilt.” In the early days of the Cuban revolution, Che wrote home to his father about shooting a peasant guerrilla: “I’d like to confess, Papa, at that moment I discovered that I really like killing.” Much of the story is very ugly.

So how did a killer become a fashion icon?

Almost amusingly — and perhaps inspired by American fashion capitalism — a Cuban state company recently announced plans to release a line of “Ernesto” and “Hugo” perfumes in honor of Che Guevara and Venezuela’s now-deceased socialist dictator Hugo Chavez. That plan was shot down by higher-ups in the government and appropriate punishments are apparently forthcoming for those who suggested something so sacrilegious.

Less amusingly, in 2008 a heroic 12-foot bronze statue of Guevara was unveiled in his birth city of Rosario, Argentina.

Back in the USA, the culture war continues with anti-Che merchandise such as a shirt with a picture of Adolf Hitler and the caption “My Che shirt is in the laundry.” Or shirts with Che’s image and a subtle caption reading “My other shirt is a Hitler.” The point of course is that no one would think of using a Nazi thug to make a fashion statement. Or maybe not in these strange times of ours — as Hitler iconography is also making a comeback in some circles. To their credit, Urban Outfitters did decide to abandon their Che line in response to protests from the Cuban-American community and this an open letter published in The Huffington Post by Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation.

(I rather like the edgy irony to the perfume and shirt-in-the-laundry ideas, though, as Che rarely bathed, according to his complaining companions.)

The problem is not so much Guevara himself — he’s been dead now for half a century. The problem is the Che legend and its symbolism, which has had a hold on the minds and hearts of a subculture of young people for two generations now. The facts about Che’s brutality are not unknown. But the power of legend and myth often outstrips the power of facts. And in our market-friendly culture of free speech, there will always be a market for those who want anti-market and anti-freedom stuff. The size of that market is a cultural indicator worth watching.

For some, Che is a symbol of socialist revolution. For others, he stands more vaguely for revolution of some sort. Or for merely being against the status quo. For yet others, Che means being a relatively-youthful martyr for a cause. For sophisticated commentators, Che merchandise is kitsch — the banal statement of pampered American college kids who want to join the scene and, as a bonus, to shock Mom and Dad and the other squares.

But for all variants, Che symbolism is a statement of how one counter-culture sees itself.

Patrick Symmes’s travel book Chasing Che is to my mind the best representative. Symmes is a thoughtful man of the eclectic left, and he was inspired to recreate part of Che’s journey through several South American countries. Che started his journey on a motorcycle, but much like the Cuban economy he was later in charge of, the motorcycle broke down and Che didn’t know much about how such things worked. Che and his travel partner, Alberto Granado, then bummed and mooched their way for the rest of the trip. Symmes, by contrast, was organized and knew how to maintain his BMW motorcycle — and he brought his well-trained journalistic eye to telling a good story of the peoples and landscapes he encountered in his journey along Che’s path from Argentina to Chile and Peru.

But you’d barely know from Symmes, and then only in the book’s later pages, that Guevara tortured and killed indiscriminately. We instead get a sensitive portrait of a young man on a quest of self-discovery and social reform. There is genuine sympathy for the powerless and appropriate outrage for the injustices done by powerful governments and their crony business partners, along with an understated sense that Che’s brutality was perhaps an excusable response. And we get a strong impression that the only alternative to Latin American semi-feudalism is some sort of egalitarian socialism.

All of that suggests that our Che problem is really a philosophical one. It’s not just that Guevara was an activist who was widely read in the deep thinkers — Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, and of course Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It’s that all of us since Che are battling over the abstract significance of his legacy. What’s true and what’s myth? What ideals and evils are at stake? And, as the fashion battle demonstrates — what’s cool and hip? That is to say, to use philosophers’ labels, that the Che battle is about epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.

Another way to put it is this: The problem is not Che Guevara: it is Che Guevara-ism.

If we are ever to get past the disasters of socialism in the twentieth century and to prevent their recurrence in the twenty-first, then greater awareness of the real Che is important to counter the whitewashing and myth-making. But more important to counter are the philosophical ideas that led so energetic a young man as Ernesto Guevara Lynch onto such a violent and destructive path.

* * *

Stephen Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and of Nietzsche and the Nazis. He blogs at

Brazil lecture tour, April 2016


On April 12 I will be speaking (in English) at the 29th Fórum da Liberdade in Porto Alegre. Here’s the list of speakers.

Before that, on April 10, I will be speaking at the Conferência Atlantos, and on April 11, I will be talking at the Pan American High School on the theme of being the entrepreneur of your life.

I’m also giving talks to Students for Liberty groups on April 9 in Florianopolis and April 16 in Curitiba.

Of relevance, here is the page with my writings translated into Portuguese.

Nietzsche and Rand: 96 Similarities and Differences

This is a work in progress. Corrections and additions welcome. The long comparison table below is also here in PDF format.


96 issues included as of April 2016.

Agreements: 19
Disagreements: 70
Semi-agree/ disagree:  7

Of the agreements:

Negative agreements:  8
Positive agreements: 11


Nietzsche’s works cited Rand’s works cited
A The Antichrist [1888] AF The Art of Fiction (2000)
BGE Beyond Good & Evil [1886] AF The Art of Nonfiction (2001)
BT The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music [1872] ARL The Ayn Rand Letter (1971-1976)
CW The Case of Wagner [1888] AS Atlas Shrugged (1957)
D Daybreak [1881] CUI Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966)
EH Ecce Homo [written 1888] FNI For the New Intellectual (1961)
GM Genealogy of Morals [1887] ITOE Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1979)
GS The Gay Science [1882] JAR Journals of Ayn Rand (1997)
HA Human All-Too-Human [1878] NL The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971)
SE Schopenhauer as Educator [1874] PWNI Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982)
SSW The Struggle Between Science and Wisdom RM The Romantic Manifesto (1969)
TFEMS Truth and Falsehood in an Extra-moral Sense TO The Objectivist (1966-1971)
TI Twilight of the Idols [1888] TON The Objectivist Newsletter (1962-1965)
WP The Will to Power [1889; unpublished in Nietzsche’s lifetime] VOS The Virtue of Selfishness (1964)
WS The Wanderer and His Shadow [1880] WTL We the Living (1936/1959)
Z Thus Spake Zarathustra [1883-85]
Issue Nietzsche’s position Rand’s position
Fundamental stuff of the universe “the innermost essence of being is will to power” (WP 693)

Materialism. Importance of Friedrich Lange’s The History of Materialism (1866): “Nietzsche’s first reaction was that it was undoubtedly the most significant philosophical work to have appeared in the last hundred years” (postscript to a letter of February 1866 to Hermann Mushacke, in Hayman 1980, 82)

No armchair physics. “’Cosmology’ has to be thrown out of philosophy.” (JAR 698, emphasis in original)
Entity or process Process (WP 552, 1067; BGE 54); “the lie of unity, the lie of thinghood, of substance, of permanence.”(TI “Reason” in Philosophy 2)

“there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed—the deed is everything.” This substance/action ontology leads people to maintain the belief that “the strong man is free to be weak and the bird of prey to be a lamb—for thus they gain the right to make the bird of prey accountable for being a bird of prey.” (GM 1:13)

Entities as objective; no armchair physics (GS, FNI, pb 125; ITOE, 18; JAR 698)
Monism, dualism, or pluralism Monism (WP 1067); “Descartes was the first to have dared, with admirable boldness, to understand the animal as machine; the whole of our physiology endeavors to prove this claim. And we are consistent enough not to except man, as Descartes still did” (A14) Naturalism: no armchair physics (JAR 698)
Identity No (WP 507-517) Yes (GS, FNI, 152, pb 125; 186, pb 150; 188; pb 152; 192, pb 154; ITOE, 78, 6)
Identity and change compatible No (WP 520) Yes (GS, FNI, 192, pb 154)
Causality No (WP 497, 545-552) . GS 112

Yet regular reductionist causal explanations

Not “mechanistic”: “Let us even beware of believing the universe is a machine: it is certainly not constructed for one purpose, and calling it a ‘machine’ does it far too much honor.” (GS 109)

Yes (GS, FNI, 188, pb 151; “The Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made,” PWNI, 30; pb 25)
Teleology No (WP 552, 1067, Postcard to Overbeck) Yes for organisms (VOS, 6, pb 16; ITOE, 42)
Direction to evolution Yes (GM II:24) No armchair physics or biology
Existence of God No (GS 108; 125) No (GS, FNI, 184; pb 148)
Consciousness as functional/useful Yes (WP 505) Yes (VOS, 9, pb 18; ITOE, 38)
Consciousness as causal No (WP 477-478, 524); not an independent agent controlling itself, the body but a passive reflector and “nothing but a certain behaviour of the instincts toward one another” (GS 333) ; as merely a felt effect of struggle among instincts for supremacy (WP 677)

“The ‘inner world’ is full of phantoms and will-o’-the-wisps: the will is one of them. The will no longer moves anything, hence does not explain anything either—it merely accompanies events; it can also be absent. The so-called motive: another error. Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness, something alongside the deed that is more likely to cover up the antecedents of the deeds than to represent them. And as for the ego! That has become a fable, a fiction, a play on words: it has altogether ceased to think, feel, or will.

“What follows from this? There are no mental causes at all.” (TI “The Four Great Errors” 3)

Yes (“The Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made,” PWNI, 30, pb 25)
Psychology reduced to biology Yes: GS 134 and 145 on diet, drink, and air quality, as explaining the spread of pessimistic, nihilist philosophies.

“Europe would never have become Christian in the first place if the culture of the ancient world in the south had not gradually been barbarized through an excessive admixture of Teutonic barbarian blood, thus losing its cultural superiority.” (GS 149)

Consciousness as identification No (BGE 211; WP 473, 479, 481, 507, 511, 513, 516, 521); the “ridiculous overestimation and misunderstanding of consciousness” (GS 11); GM II:16

Consciousness as a defense mechanism against reality, not a cognitive mechanism. Language and art as shields, as comforting illusions.

Yes (GS, FNI, 152; pb 124; ITOE, 37, 73, 106)
Sensations as awareness of reality No (WP 479)

Daybreak 117:“In prison.” “The habits of our senses have woven us into lies and deception of sensation: these again are the basis of all our judgments and ‘knowledge’—there is absolutely no escape, no backway or bypath in the the real world!”

Yes: “they [the senses] do not lie at all. What we make of their testimony, that alone introduces lies; for example the lie of unity, the lie of thinghood, of substance, of permanence. ‘Reason’ is the cause of our falsification of the testimony of the senses. Insofar as the senses show becoming, passing away, and change, they do not lie. … . The ‘apparent’ world is the only one: the ‘true’ world is merely added by a lie.” (TI “Reason” in Philosophy 2)

Yes (ITOE, 5; “Kant Versus Sullivan,” PWNI, 108, pb 90)
Sensations as value laden Yes (WP 505) No (GS, FNI, 194, pb 156)
Concepts as awareness of reality No (WP 507, 513). Language as inadequate to reality (TI Skirmishes 26) Yes (ITOE, 71)
Logic as reality-based No (WP 477, 512) ; GS 111 Yes (GS, FNI, 153, pb 125; “Philosophical Detection,” PWNI, 17, pb 15)
Sensations, concepts and theories as impositions upon reality Always (WP 515-516) Sensations never; false conceptions only (ITOE, 65; GS, FNI, 154, pb 126)
Truth As functional only (WP 487); as a useful error (WP 493) ; “These Nay-sayers and outsiders of today who are unconditional on one point—their insistence on intellectual cleanliness, these hard, severe, abstinent heroic spirits who constitute the honor of our age; all these pale atheists, anti-Christians, immoralists, nihilists, ephectics, hectics of the spirit  . . . they certainly believe they are as completely liberated from the ascetic ideal as possible, these “free, very free spirits” . . . They are far from being free spirits: for they still have faith in the truth” (GM III.24).

“The demand for an adequate mode of expression is senseless: it lies in the essence of a language, as a means of expression, to express a mere relationship—the concept ‘truth’ is nonsensical.” (WP 625)

“Thus the strength of knowledge does not depend on its degree of truth but on its age, on the degree to which it has been incorporated, on its character as a condition of life.” (GS 110)

“The conditions of life might include error.” (GS 121)

“What are man’s truths ultimately? Merely his irrefutable errors.” (GS 265)

“Truths are illusions whose illusoriness is overlooked.” (TFEMS, q. Hayman 164)

Both as identification and as functional (ITOE, 63, 65; GS, FNI, 154, pb 126; “Philosophical Detection,” PWNI, 16, pb 14)
Self-knowledge No: “The so-called ‘ego’.

We are none of us that which we appear to be in accordance with the states for which alone we have consciousness and words, and consequently praise and blame; those cruder outbursts of which alone we are aware make us misunderstand ourselves, we draw a conclusion on the basis of data in which the exceptions outweigh the rule, we misread ourselves in this apparently most intelligible of handwriting on the nature of our self.” (D 115)

“The unknown world of the ‘subject’.” (D 116)

“every action is unknowable” (GS 335)

“However far a man may go in self-knowledge, nothing however can be more incomplete than his image of the totality of drives which constitute his being.” (D 119)

“Our thinking is only a picture of the primal intellect, a thinking that arises from the ideas of the single will … . I believe in the incomprehensibility of the will.” (q in Hayman 136-7)

How does the above fit with BGE 6 which claims deep knowledge of self based on knowledge of surface philosophy?

Yes: Introspective skills. Conscious and subconscious. Psychological role of art in cognition. Friendship and love: “visibility”.
Reason as efficacious Weakly at best: “[B]y far the greatest part of our spirit’s activity remains unconscious and unfelt” (GS 333; cf. GS 354). “Actions are never what they appear to us to be! We have expended so much labor on learning that external things are not as they appear to us to be — very well! the case is the same with the inner world! Moral actions are in reality ‘something other than that’—more we cannot say: and all actions are essentially unknown.” (D 116); “[I]n this new world they no longer possessed their former guides, their regulating, unconscious and infallible drives: they were reduced to thinking, inferring, reckoning, co-ordinating cause and effect, these unfortunate creatures; they were reduced to their ‘consciousness,’ their weakest and most fallible organ!” (GM II:16)

“What we make of [the senses’] testimony, that alone introduces lies; for example the lie of unity, the lie of thinghood, of substance, of permanence. ‘Reason’ is the cause of our falsification of the testimony of the senses. Insofar as the senses show becoming, passing away, and change, they do not lie. … . The ‘apparent’ world is the only one: the ‘true’ world is merely added by a lie.” (TI “Reason” in Philosophy 2)

Yes (“The Left: Old and New,” NL, 84)
Reason as primary cognitive tool No (GS 354; GM II:16) Yes (GS, FNI, 156, pb 128; VOS, 13, pb 20)
Instinct as cognitively efficacious Yes (GM II:16); “‘instinct’ is of all the kinds of intelligence that have been discovered so far—the most intelligent.” (BGE 218) “Instinct is the best” and “Our deeds must happen unconsciously” (Sixth “Self-Observation” aphorism of 1868; q in Hayman 103) No (GS, FNI, 148, pb 121; VOS, 11 , pb 19; 23, pb 27)
Philosophy reduced to psychology Yes (BGE I:3,23);

“Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir”. “In the philosopher, conversely, there is nothing whatever that is impersonal; and above all, his morality bears decided and decisive witness to who he is— that is, in what order of rank the innermost drives of his nature stand in relation to each other.” (BGE 6)

“our moral judgments and evaluations too are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us” (D 119)

“the physiological phenomenon behind the moral predispositions and prejudices” (D 542)

“most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.” (BGE 3)

Philosophy as systematic Yes: “We [philosophers] have no right to isolated acts of any kind: we may not make isolated errors or hit upon isolated truths. Rather do our ideas, our values, our yeas and nays, our ifs and buts, grow out of us with the necessity with which a tree bears fruit—related and each with an affinity to each, and evidence of one will, one health, one soil, one sun.” (GM, Preface: 2)

No: “Beware of systematizers! – There is a play-acting of systematizers: … they will to impersonate complete and uniformly strong natures.” (D 318)

“I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to system is a lack of integrity” (TI Maxims and Arrows 26)

Issue of organic growth versus top-down intellectualized imposition?

Yes (“The Chicken’s Homecoming,” NL, 107)
Philosophy and Science relationship Continuity and strong overlap of content;

Anti-a-priori speculation.

“Today we possess science precisely to the extent to which we have decided to accept the testimony of the senses—to the extent to which we sharpen them further, arm them, and have learned to think them through.” (TI Reason 3)

Development: pro-science in 70s (HAH), then Kantian/Schopenhaurian skepticism about the noumenal (e.g., BGE 21); then denies noumenal/phenomenal distinction in TI (“How the ‘True World’ Finally Became a Fable”)

“the ideal scholar in whom the scientific instinct, after thousands of total and semi-failures, for once blossoms and blooms to the end, is certainly one of the most precious instruments there are; but he belongs in the hand of one more powerful” (BGE 207; the one more powerful being a philosopher-creator)

GM 3: 25: “No! Don’t come to me with science when I ask for the natural antagonist of the ascetic ideal …” and: “all science … has at present the object of dissuading man from his former respect for himself …”

Continuity but sharper division of labor. E.g., on evolution.

Anti-a-priori speculation

Inductive evidence’s role.

Intrinsicism False (GM III:12; BGE 207) False (“What is Capitalism?’, CUI, 21)
Objectivism False (GM III:12); Objectivity versus self-identity: “The objective man is indeed a mirror: he is accustomed to submit before whatever wants to be known.” He is “only a delicate, carefully dusted, fine, mobile pot for forms that still has to wait for some content and substance in order to ‘shape’ itself accordingly—for the most part, a man without substance and content, a ‘selfless’ man.” (BGE 207) True (“Introducing Objectivism,” TON, Aug 1962, 35)
Subjectivism True: “Genuine philosophers, however, are commanders and legislators: they say, ‘thus it shall be! … . Their ‘knowing is creating, their creating is a legislation, their will to truth is—will to power.” (BGE 211). But not in the dualistic sense (WP 481). “One thing is needful—To ‘give style’ to one’s character—a great and rare art! … . In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste!” (GS 290) False (GS, FNI, 187, pb 150)
Perspectivalism/ Relativism True (GM III:12; WP 540) ; “Egoism is the law of perspective applied to feelings: what is closest appears large and weighty, and as one moves farther away size and weight decrease.” (GS 162) False
Faith No: “Faith is always most desired, most pressingly needed, where there is a lack of will … that is to say, the less a person knows how to command, the more urgent his desire for that which commands, and commands sternly,—a God, prince, caste, physician, father confessor, dogma, or party conscience.” (GS 347)

“Prayer has been invented for those people who really never have thoughts of their own and who do not know any elevation of the soul or at least do not notice when it occurs” (GS 128)

Skepticism As non-commitalism: “skepticism is the most spiritual expression of a complex physiological condition that in ordinary language is called nervous exhaustion and sickliness [Kränklichkeit]” (BGE 208) No
Evolutionary epistemology Origin of knowledge.—Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggles for themselves and their progeny. Such erroneous articles of faith …” (GS 110) Circularity issue
Language Language cannot be transparent: “for between two absolutely disparate spheres such as subject and object there can be no connections which are causal, precise or expressive, but nothing more than an aesthetic interaction, I mean, the transmission of hints, a stumbling translation into a wholly foreign language, for which we invariably need a freely poeticizing and freely inventive intermediate faculty an intermediate area.” (TFEMS) Cognitive and functional
Science as useful falsehoods Science furthers ability, not knowledge.” (HAH 256)

“It is precisely the best science that will best know how to keep us in this simplified, utterly artificial, well-invented, well-falsified world, how unwillingly willing science loves error because, being alive,—it loves life!” (BGE 24)

Human Nature
Reduction of morality to psychology Yes (BGE 6; GM I:10?) ; one’s moral code is a “decisive witness to who he is”, to the “innermost drives of his nature” (BGE 6). “Moral judgments,” he says are, “symptoms and sign languages which betray the process of physiological prosperity or failure” (WP 258). “[O]ur moral judgments and evaluations…are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us” (D 119); “it is always necessary to draw forth…the physiological phenomenon behind the moral predispositions and prejudices” (D 542); “There is only aristocracy of birth, only aristocracy of blood” (WP 942) No (VOS, 16, pb 23; “The Psychology of ‘Psychologizing,’” TO, March 1971, 2)
Reduction of psychology to biology Yes (TI 33; WP 529) ; “One cannot erase from the soul of a human being what his ancestors liked most to do and did most constantly” (BGE 260); “Descartes was the first to have dared, with admirable boldness, to understand the animal as machine; the whole of our physiology endeavors to prove this claim. And we are consistent enough not to except man, as Descartes still did” (A14) ; “Wherever a deep discontent with existence becomes prevalent, it is the after-effects of some great dietary mistake make by a whole people over a long period of time that are coming to light” (GS 134) No (GS, FNI, 148, pb 121)
Individual as a unity No. The human is the combat of “a vast confusion of contradictory valuations and consequently of contradictory drives” (WP 259) Should strive for the dominance of one: “here the co-ordination of the inner systems and their operation n the service of one end is best achieved” (WP 778); “The assumption of one single subject is perhaps unnecessary” (WP 490); consciousness is not “the unity of the organism” (GS 11) Yes
Individual as real No: “For the individual, the ‘single man,’ as people and philosophers have hitherto understood him, is an error; he does not constitute a separate entity, an atom, a ‘link in the chain,’ something merely inherited from the past—he constitutes the entire single line ‘man’ up to and including himself” (TI 9.33) Yes (“The soul of an individualist,” FNI, 91; pb 78; “What is Capitalism,” CUI, 15)
Will as primary Yes (WP 1067) No
Free will No (BGE 21; GM II:10: no “guilt,” only sickness; Postcard to Overbeck); “the concept of a causa sui is something fundamentally absurd” (BGE 15), and that it is “the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far…a sort of rape and perversion of logic” (BGE 21); the desire for “freedom of the will” in the superlative metaphysical sense … the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and … to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness” (BGE 21); “at the bottom of us, really ‘deep down,’ there is, of course, something unteachable, some granite of spiritual fatum, of predetermined decision and answer to predetermined questions. Whenever a cardinal problem is at stake, there speaks an unchangeable ‘this is I.’ (BGE 231); we are before “a brazen wall of fate; we are in prison, we can only dream ourselves free, not make ourselves free” (HAH 2:33); One of “The Four Great Errors” is free will (TI “The Four Great Errors” 7). “the single human being is a piece of fatum from the front and from the rear, one law more, one necessity more for all that is yet to come and to be. To say to him, ‘Change yourself!’ is to demand that everything be changed, even retroactively.” (TI ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ 6); “the voluntary is absolutely lacking … everything has been directed along certain lines from the beginning” (WP 458); “one will become only that which one is (in spite of all: that means education, instruction, milieu, chance, and accident)” (WP 334); “A man as he ought to be: that sounds to us as insipid as ‘a tree as he ought to be’” (WP 332). “There is only aristocracy of birth, only aristocracy of blood” (WP 942); “perhaps there exists neither will nor purposes, and we have only imagined them. Those iron hands of necessity which shake the dice-box of chance play their game for an infinite length of time; so there have to be throws which exactly resemble purposiveness and rationality of every degree. Perhaps our acts of will and our purposes are nothing but just such throws—and we are only too limited and too vain to comprehend our extreme limitedness: which consists in the fact that we ourselves shake the dice-box with iron hands, that we ourselves in our most intentional actions do no more than play the game of necessity.” (D 130) Opening line of EH: “The good fortune of my existence ‘lies in its fatality.” (EH ‘Why I am so Wise’, 1) “It was a lucky fact of nature that I, Nietzsche, was a healthy organism, that is, the type of creature that instinctively does the right things to facilitate its flourishing.” (EH ‘Why I am so Wise’, 2); “Amor fati: Let that be my love henceforth!” (GS 276)

Yes: “We … want to become those we are—human beings who are new, unique, incomparable, who give themselves laws, who create themselves.” (GS 335)

Stoic fatalism? One controls only one’s response to one’s fate?

Yes (“The Objectivist Ethics’” VOS, 13, pb 21)
Reason and passion/emotion priority Passion/emotion has priority (BGE 36, 68, 158, 191) Thinking is only “the form in which we come to feel” (GS 333). “Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings—always darker, emptier, and simpler.” (GS 179) Reason primary (“The Left: Old and New,” NL, 84; “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” pamphlet, 6)
Reason and passion/emotion relationship Conflict (EH: “The Birth of Tragedy” 1): “‘Rationality’ against instinct”)

Hayman on GS 55: The noble individual does not proceed according to reason: when he is magnanimous or self-sacrificing, it is his instincts he is following, and when he is brave it is not for the sake of winning honours. His overflowing magnanimity empowers him to be generous.” (237)

Should be harmony (“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” pamphlet, 6)
Tabula rasa or nativism Strong nativism (BGE 231, 264) ;

Self-creation: “The one thing needful. – There is one thing one has to have: either a cheerful disposition by nature of a disposition made cheerful by art and knowledge.” (HAH 486)

Cognitive and moral tabula rasa (VOS, 23, pb 28; “The Comprachios,” NL, 190)
Science as ennobling No: “all science … has at present the object of dissuading man from his former respect for himself …” (GM III:25)

Yes: GS 293

Morality in the service of life Yes (BGE; GM) Yes (VOS, 16, pb 23)
Psychological egoism Yes (BGE); “Is it virtuous when a cell transforms itself into a function of a stronger cell? It has no alternative. Is it evil when a stronger cell assimilates the weaker? It also has no alternative; it follows necessity …” (GS 118)

No: “For what does one have to atone most? For one’s modesty; for having failed to listen to one’s most personal requirements; for having mistaken oneself; for having underestimated oneself; for having lost a good war for one’s instincts: this lack of reverence for oneself revenges itself through every kind of deprivation: health, friendship, well-being, pride, cheerfulness, freedom, firmness, courage. One never afterward forgives oneself for this lack of genuine egoism: one takes it for an objection, for a doubt about a real ego.” (WP 918)

No (“Introduction,” VOS, xiii, pb ix)
Psychological altruism Yes: “‘Not to seek one’s own advantage’—that is merely the moral fig leaf for quite a different, namely, a physiological state of affairs: ‘I no longer know how to find my own advantage.’ Disintegration of the instincts! Man is finished when he becomes altruistic. Instead of saying naïvely, “I am no longer worth anything,’ the moral lie in the mouth of the decadent says, ‘Nothing is worth anything, life is not worth anything.’ Such a judgment always remains very dangerous, it is contagious: throughout the morbid soil of society it soon proliferates into a tropical vegetation of concepts—now as a religion (Christianity), now as a philosophy (Schopenhaurism).” (TI Skirmishes 35)

Yes: GS 119 speaks of those who desire only to be a function of others.

The above two as representative of N’s descriptive and normative uses of the same concepts: third-person description of the phenomenon and first-person evaluation of the phenomenon from the perspective of his moral-psycho-biological type.

Nietzsche has two theses: 1. Egoism as universal and natural. All have will to power. But not all are equal. So altruism as the egoism of the weak. 2. Egoism as not universal: physiological sickness causing a will to nothingness and then moral nihilism. Altruism as the will to nothingness of the weak. Which is it—1 or 2?

Conflict of interest the fundamental social fact Yes: “Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is essen­tially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation—but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparag­ing purpose has been stamped?” “[P]eople now rave everywhere, even under the guise of science, about coming conditions of society in which ‘the exploiting character’ is to be absent:—that sounds to my ear as if they promised to invent a mode of life which should refrain from all organic func­tions.” (BGE 259); Will to power “can manifest itself only against resistances; therefore it seeks that which resists it” (WP 656) ; “The well-being of the majority and the well-being of the few are opposite viewpoints of value,” (GM , end of First Essay note). “There is no egoism that remains by itself and does not encroach … . ‘One furthers one’s I always at the expense of others’” ; alternative translation: 369: “‘One furthers one’s ego always at the expense of others’ (WP 369) ; (cf. BGE 265) No: Reason and production increase value; Reason and emotion harmonizable.
Inequalities of power as key social fact Yes: Life is “defined as an enduring form of processes of the establishment of force, in which the different contenders grow unequally” (WP 642) No
Values as intrinsic No (GM I:10) No (VOS; “What is Capitalism,” CUI, 22)
Values as objective No Yes (VOS; “What is Capitalism,” CUI, 22)
Values as subjective Yes (BGE 260?); “Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its nature—nature is always value-less, but has been given value at some time” (GS 301); one’s moral code is a “decisive witness to who he is”, to the “innermost drives of his nature” (BGE 6). “Moral judgments,” he says are, “symptoms and sign languages which betray the process of physiological prosperity or failure” (WP 258). “[O]ur moral judgments and evaluations…are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us” (D 119); “it is always necessary to draw forth…the physiological phenomenon behind the moral predispositions and prejudices” (D 542) ; “justice … is by all means a matter of taste, nothing more” (GS 184) No (“What is Capitalism,” CUI, 22)
Values as universal No. Slave morality is “the prudence of the lowest order” (GM I:13). “The ideas of the herd should rule in the herd—but not reach out beyond it” (WP 287)

“That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no grounds for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: ‘these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb—would he not be good?” there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that the birds of prey might view it a little ironically and say: ‘we don’t dislike them at all, these good little lambs; we even love them: nothing is more tasty than a tender lamb.’” (GM 1:13)

“Not one of these clumsy, conscience-stricken herd animals (who set out to treat egoism as a matter of general welfare) wants to know … that what is right for someone absolutely cannot be right for someone else; that the requirement that there be a single morality for everyone is harmful precisely to the higher men; in short, that there is an order of rank between people, and between moralities as well. (BGE 228)

Value/virtue relationship Priority of virtue. Values created by characters of a type. Priority of value.
Virtue “And verily I do not even teach that virtue is its own reward…. You are too pure to be sullied with the words revenge, punishment, reward, retribution. You love your virtue, as a mother does her child, and whoever heard of a mother wanting to be paid for her love? Your virtue is your self, not something alien.” (Z “On the Virtuous”)

N’s is an activist Stoicism. A cheerful Byronic fatalism.

Virtues as means to value ends.
Individuals responsible for their characters No (BGE 264). “Weakness of the will: that is a simile that can mislead. For there is no will, and consequently neither a strong nor a weak will. The multiplicity and disgretation of the impulses, the lack of system among them results in a ‘weak will’; their coordination under the dominance of a single one results in a ‘strong will’” (WP 46). Yes
Individuals responsible for their actions No and yes. See Free will. Yes (“Causality versus Duty,” PWNI, 118, pb 98)
Individuals as ends in themselves Yes (BGE 287);

No (WP 287); every living being “is only a means to something; it is the expression of forms of the growth of power” (WP 706) ; 13: “A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength—life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results” (BGE 13); every “living creature values many things higher than life itself; yet out of this evaluation itself speaks—the will to power” (Z 2:12) ; “Not ‘mankind’ but overman is the goal!” (WP 1001) ; Morality is a social product: it arises “when a greater individual or a collective-individual, for example the society, the state, subjugates all other single ones … and orders them into a unit.” (HH 1.99)

Individual life as the standard No (BGE 188); “Beginning with Socrates, the individual all a once began to take himself too seriously” (SSW 132) ;

“My philosophy aims at ordering of rank not at an individualistic morality” (WTP 287).

“For the question is this: how can your life, the individual life, retain the highest value, the deepest significance? … Only by your living for the good of the rarest and most valuable specimens and not for the good of the majority.” (SE)

The free spirit: “Such a spirit who has become free stands amid the cosmos with a joyous and trusting fatalism, in the faith that only the particular is loathsome, and that all is redeemed and affirmed in the whole—he does not negate any more. Such a faith, however, is the highest of all possible faiths: I have baptized it with the name of Dionysus.” (TI Skirmishes 49)

HH 2.89: community more valuable than individual, and to create that which is enduring is the goal; morality is for that purpose: to limit and channel the individual. This, e.g., was the great accomplishment of the Roman Empire (A 58)

Yes (“The Soul of an Individualist,” FNI, 96, pb 82; “Racism,” VOS, 176, pb 129); (VOS, 7, pb 17)
Human life as the standard No: “Those who care most today ask: ‘How are human beings to be preserved?’ But Zarathustra is the only one and the first one to ask: ‘How shall human being be overcome?’ The overman is in my heart, that is my first and my only concern—and not human beings … . Oh my brothers, what I am able to love in human beings is that they are a going over and a going under.” (Z IV “On the Higher Man”) Yes
Sacrificing self to others Yes, if a weakling (TI 33).

Zarathustra says: “The overman is the sense of the earth … . I love those who sacrifice themselves for the earth, that the earth may some day become the overman’s.” (Z I.P.3)

No (GS, FNI, 172; pb 139)
Sacrificing others to self Yes, if strong (WP 369, 982) ; “To ordinary human beings, finally—the vast majority who exist for service and the general advantage, and who may exist only for that” (BGE 61) ; “egoism belongs to the nature of a noble soul—I mean that unshakable faith that to a being such as ‘we are’ other beings must be subordinate by nature and have to sacrifice themselves.” (BGE 265) No (“Introduction,” VOS, xii, pb ix)
The improvement of the species as the end Yes (BGE 126; Z Prologue: 4) ; “mankind in the mass sacrificed to the prosperity of a single stronger species of man — that would be an advance.” (GM II:12)

“Behold, I teach you the overman. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth!” (Z, Prologue, § 3).

“I write for a species of man that does not yet exist: for the ‘masters of the earth’” (WP 958)

Sacrificing some for the sake of the species Yes (BGE 62; WP 246; GM II:12) ; “All-too-many live, and all-too-long they hang on their branches. Would that a storm came to shake all this worm-eaten rot from the tree!” (Z, First Part); a healthy aristocracy “accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings, who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments” (BGE 258); “a conqueror- and master-race which, organized for war and with the force to organize unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace perhaps tremendously superior in numbers but still formless and wandering.” (GM II:17) ; N seeks “a noble mode of thought … that believes in slavery and in many degrees of subjection as the presupposition of every higher culture” (WP 464); N wonders “to what extent a sacrifice of freedom, even enslavement itself, gives the basis for the bringing-forth of a higher type.” (WP 859) No
Power as the end As means and end (WP 1067); “What is good?—All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.” (A 1?) “A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results” (BGE 13); “All that happens out of aims is reducible to the aim of increasing power.” (WP 663)

“the feeling of power: this wants to express itself, either to us ourselves, or to other men, or to ideas or imaginary beings. The most common modes of expression are: to bestow, to mock, to destroy—all three out of a common basic drive” (D 356)

As means only.

“An animal’s capacity for development ends at physical maturity and thereafter its growth consists of the action necessary to maintain itself at a fixed level; after reaching maturity, it does not, to any significant extent, continue to grow in efficacy … . But man’s capacity for development does not end at physical maturity … . His ability to think, to learn, to discover new and better ways of dealing with reality, to expand the range of his efficacy, to grow intellectually, is an open door to a road that has no end.” (ITOE 81?)

Happiness as the end No Yes (VOS, 25, pb 29; GS, FNI, 150, pb 123)
Egoism as good Depends: “The natural value of egoism. Self-interest is worth as much as the person who has it: in can be worth a great deal, and it can be unworthy and contemptible. Every individual may be scrutinized to see whether he represents the ascending or the descending line of life. Having made that decision, one has a canon for the worth of his self-interest. If he represents the ascending line, then his worth is indeed extraordinary—and for the sake of life as a whole, which takes a step farther through him, the care for his preservation and for the creation of the best conditions for him may even be extreme. The single one, the ‘individual,’ as hitherto understood by the people and the philosophers alike, is an error after all: he is nothing by himself, no atom, no ‘link in the chain,’ nothing merely inherited from former times; he is the whole single line of humanity up to himself. If he represents the descending development, decay, chronic degeneration, and sickness (sicknesses are, in general, the consequences of decay, not its causes), then he has small worth, and the minimum of decency requires that he take away as little as possible from those who have turned out well. He is merely their parasite.” (TI Skimishes 33)

“[T]he subject—the striving individual bent on furthering his egoistic purposes—can be thought of only as the enemy of art, never its source.” (BT 5)

Egoism among noble equals: “It is one piece of its egoism more, this refinement and self-limitation with its equals … —it honors itself in them and in the rights it cedes to them.” (BGE 265)

“At the risk of annoying innocent ears I will propose this: egoism belongs to the essence of the noble soul. I mean that firm belief that other beings will, by nature, have to be subordinate to a being ‘like us’ and will have to sacrifice themselves. The noble soul accepts this fact of its egoism without any question-mark, and also without feeling any harshness, compulsion, or caprice in it, but rather as something that may well be grounded in the primordial law of things. If the noble soul were to try to name this phenomenon, it would call it justice itself” (BGE 265)

Yes (“The Soul of an Individualist,” FNI, 94, pb 81)
Altruism as bad Yes (TI Skirmishes 35); depends (TI Skirmishes 33)

“Morality trains the individual to be a function of the herd and to ascribe value to himself only as a function.”(GS 116)

“No altruism!” (GS 119)

Yes (GS, FNI, 178, pb 144; VOS, 33, pb 34; “Introduction,” VOS, xii, pb ix)
Altruism as the egoism of the weak Yes (GM I:8, III:14) Ultimately, No. But used as a weapon by the weak (AS 142)
Rationality as a virtue No (EH: “Birth of Tragedy” 1) Primary virtue (GS, FNI, 157, pb 128)
Selflessness Last men as disgusting: “What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?” thus asks the last man, and he blinks.

The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as in eradicable as the flea-beetle; the last man lives longest.

“’We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink ….” (Z P:5)

“Pseudo-egoism.—Whatever they may think and say about their ‘egoism’, the great majority nonetheless do nothing for their ego their whole life long: what they do is done for the phantom of their ego which has formed itself in the heads of those around them and has been communicated to them;-as a consequence they all of them dwell in a fog of impersonal, semi-personal opinions, and arbitrary, as it were poetical evaluations, the one for ever in the head of someone else, and the head of this someone else again in the heads of others: a strange world of phantasms” (D 105)

Second-handers as disgusting
Self-esteem He who “flees from himself, hates himself, does harm to himself—he is certainly not a good man” (D 516)
What makes an individual good One thing is needful.—To ‘give style’ to one’s character—a great and rare art! … . In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste!” (GS 290) [The aesthetic choice out of Kierkegaard’s trichotomy.]

The “‘great man’ is great owing to the free play and scope of his desires and to the yet greater power that knows how to press these magnificent monsters into service” (WP 933) An actor (not a re-actor).

“… one could conceive of such a pleasure and power of self-determination, such a freedom of the will that the spirit would take leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, being practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities and dancing even near abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence” (GS 347).

Zarathustra says: “The overman is the sense of the earth … . I love those who sacrifice themselves for the earth, that the earth may some day become the overman’s.” (Z I.P.3)

“The essential point is: the greatest perhaps also have great virtues, but in that case also their opposites. I believe that it is precisely through the presence of opposites, and their feelings, that the great human being, the bow with the great tension, arises.” (WP 967) [Hegelian]

What makes one heroic?—Going out to meet at the same time one’s highest suffering and one’s highest hope.” (GS 268)

Greek ideal.—What did the Greeks admire in Odysseus? Above all, his capacity for lying, and for cunning and terrible retribution; his being equal to contingencies; when the need be, appearing nobler than the noblest; the ability to be whatever he chose; heroic perseverance; having all means at his command; possession of intellect—his intellect is the admiration of the gods, they smile when they think of it–: all this is the Greek ideal!” (Daybreak, 306)

“Man is a being of self-made soul.” Committed to the three core values: Reason, Purpose, Self esteem. (VOS)
What makes an individual bad One who is a “multitude and digression of impulses … [that] lack … systematic order among them” (WP 46). Such a man is “inner ruin … and anarchism” (WP 778) A re-actor. Evasion
Morality as relative to psychological type Yes (BGE 221) ; “the physiological phenomenon behind the moral predispositions and prejudices” (D 542) No (GS, FNI, 156, pb 128; VOS, 16, pb 23)
The greatest danger to man? The weak: “The sick represent the greatest danger for the healthy; it is not the strongest but the weakest who spell disaster for the strong.” Why? “What is to be feared, what has a more calamitous effect than any other calamity, is that man should inspire not profound fear but profound nausea; also not great fear but great pity.” (GM III:14) The strong via sanction of the victim? E.g., Francisco claim that his greatest battle is against Dagny.

The weapon of altruism (AS 142)

Virtues: Authenticity versus second-handers “Are you genuine? Or merely an actor? A representative? Or that which is represented? In the end, perhaps you are merely a copy of an actor.” (TI Maxims and Arrows 38) The Fountainhead
Morality not as commands but as tools of living creatively Yes: “We should be able also to stand above morality—and not only to stand with the anxious stiffness of a man who is afraid of slipping and falling any moment, but also to float above it and play.” (GS 107) Yes
Contemporary moral philosophy as essentially Judeo-Christian GM I “The greatest treason of the philosophers was that they never stepped out of the Middle Ages: they never challenged the Witch Doctor’s code of morality.” (FNI 37)
Ressentiment and envy GM I “The Age of Envy,” TO, July-August 1971, pp. 1057-
Wealth and virtue Wealth creates virtue: “Wealth as the Origin of a Nobility of Birth. – Wealth necessarily engenders an aristocracy of race, for it permits one to select the fairest women, pay the best teachers, grants to a man cleanliness, time for physical exercises, an above all freedom from deadening labour. To this extent it creates all the conditions for the production over a few generations of a noble and fair demeanour, even noble and fair behaviour, in men: greater freedom of feeling, the absence of the wretched and petty, of abasement before breadgivers, of penny-pinching.” (HAH 479) Virtue creates wealth
Work and leisure Leisure highest: “Leisure and idleness: … More and more, work gets all good conscience on its side; the desire for joy already calls itself a ‘need to recuperate’ and is starting to be ashamed of itself. ‘One owes it to one’s health’—that is what one says when caught on an excursion in the countryside. Soon we may well reach the point where one can’t give in to the desire for a vita contemplativa (that is, taking a walk with ideas and friends) without self-contempt and a bad conscience. Well, formerly it was the other way around: work was afflicted with a bad conscience. A person of good family concealed the fact that he worked if need compelled him to work.” (GS 329) Work highest
Human life as significant No. “Man is a minor, transitional animal species, which — fortunately — has had its day. Anyway, life on earth is but a moment, an incident, an exception without consequence, something which is irrelevant to the general character of the earth; the earth itself, like every star, is a hiatus between nothingness and nothingness, an event without plan, reason, will, or self-awareness, the worst kind of necessity: blind necessity. . . . Something in us rebels against this view; the serpent ‘vanity’ says to us, ‘All this must be wrong because it is outrageous. . . . Could not all this be appearance? And, to speak with Kant, [could not] man despite all this [be something transcendent?]” (WP 303, R. Kevin Hill translation) Yes, as most significant.
Social and Political
Individual rights No. “For the preservation of society, for making possible higher and highest types—the inequality of rights is the condition.” (A 57)

“Their [i.e., the healthy’s] right to exist, the privilege of the full-toned bell over the false and cracked, is a thousand times greater: they alone are our warranty for the future, they alone are liable for the future of man.” (GM III:14)

“The invalid is a parasite on society. In a certain state it is indecent to go on living.” (TI Skirmishes 36)

Yes (“Man’s Rights,” VOS, 124, pb 93; 122, pb 92)
On capitalism Dehumanizing for most (D 206). Extreme inequality of wealth harmful to society. Financial markets and transportation should not be in private hands (WS 285)

Work and trade (GS 31)

Moral, productive (“What is Capitalism,” CUI, 20)

Productiveness (“TOE” 25)

On liberalism Nietzsche says he is “not by any means ‘liberal’” (GS 377); “Liberalism: in plain language, reduction to the herd animal.” (TI Skirmishes 38)

“My ideas do not revolve around the degree of freedom that is granted to the one or to the other or to all, but around the degree of power that the one or the other should exercise over others or over all, and to what extent a sacrifice of freedom, even enslavement, provides the basis for the emergence of a higher type.” (WP 859)

On equality False and destructive (WP 246) Before the law (“The Age of Envy,” NL, 164)
On democracy Bad (BGE 202): “Democracy has ever been the form of decline in organizing power.” (TI Skirmishes 39). See (HAH 1.472).

“[T]he democratic movement is the heir of the Christian movement.”; it will become a tool of “a master race, the future ‘masters of the earth’ … philosophical men of power and artist-tyrants’ who will “employ democratic Europe as their most pliant and supple instrument for getting hold of the destinies of the earth” (Note for BGE, quoted in Hunt 39)

Secondary to rights (“Collectivized Rights,” VOS, 140, pb 104)
On socialism Bad. Z 1:11 ; TI Skirmishes 34; also 37: “Socialists are décadents Bad (“The Monument Builders,” VOS, 120, pb 91; 115, pb 87)
On the state: how it came to be and how it is justified “Whatever it says it lies.” [though for N lying is not necessarily a bad thing]; “State I call it … where the slow suicide of all is called life”; “Where the state ends” we can then see “the bridges of the overman.” (Z, “On the New Idol”)

“I used the word ‘state’: it is obvious who is meant by this—some pack of blond beasts of prey, a conqueror and master race which, organized for war and with the ability to organize, unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace perhaps tremendously superior in numbers but still formless and nomad. That is after all how the ‘state’ began on earth: I think that sentimentalism which would have it begin with a ‘contract’ has been disposed of.” (GM II:17)

Good if sticks within its proper limits
On the role of government Limited (D 179) or none at all: “the state … whatever it says it lies …. Everything about it is false” and “Only where the state ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous” (Z I:11) Limited (“The Nature of Government,” VOS, 147, pb 109; 149, pb 110; GS, FNI, 231, pb 183)
On the welfare state Bad Bad (“A Preview,” ARL, I, 22, 2)
On aristocracy Good (BGE 258); (In TI 56-57 is largely critical of the Manu caste order)

“I am beginning to touch on what is serious for me, the ‘European problem’ as I understand it, the cultivation of a new caste that will rule Europe.” (BGE 251)

“Every enhancement of the type ‘man’ has so far been the work of an aristocratic society—and it will be so again and again—a society that believes in the long order of rank and differences in value between man and man, and that needs slavery in some sense or other.” (BGE 257)

On slavery Sometimes good (BGE 188); “Slavery is, as it seems, both in the cruder and in the more subtle sense, the indispensable means of spiritual discipline and cultivation, too.” (BGE 190); A healthy aristocracy “accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings, who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings, to slaves, to instruments” (BGE 258); N seeks “a noble mode of thought … that believes in slavery and in many degrees of subjection as the presupposition of every higher culture” (WP 464); N wonders “to what extent a sacrifice of freedom, even enslavement itself, gives the basis for the bringing-forth of a higher type.” (WP 859) Evil
Healthy state “Strong ages, noble cultures, see in pity, in ‘love of one’s neighbor’, in a lack of self and self-reliance, something contemptible.” (TI Skirmishes 37)

“For institutions to exist there must exist the kind of will, instinct, imperative which is anti-liberal to the point of malice” (TI Skirmishes 39)

Limited, while efficient in the performance of those limited functions.
War as good Yes: “Preparatory human beings.—I welcome all signs that a more virile, warlike age is about to begin, which will restore honor to courage above all. For this age shall prepare the way for one yet higher, and it shall gather the strength that this higher age will require one day—the age that will carry heroism into the search for knowledge and that will wage wars for the sake of ideas and their consequences.” (GS 283)

“War essential. It is vain rhapsodizing and sentimentality to continue to expect much (even more, to expect a very great deal) from mankind, once it has learned not to wage war. For the time being, we know of no other means to imbue exhausted peoples, as strongly and surely as every great war does, with that raw energy of the battleground, that deep impersonal hatred, that murderous coldbloodedness with a good conscience, that communal, organized ardor in destroying the enemy, that proud indifference to great losses, to one’s own existence and to that of one’s friends. That muted, earthquakelike convulsion of the soul.” (HA 477)

“One must learn from war: … (2) one must learn to sacrifice many and to take one’s cause seriously enough not to spare men” (WP 982)

“Culture absolutely cannot do without passions, vices, and acts of malice.”

“Religious war has signified the greatest progress of the masses hitherto; for it proves that the mass has begun to treat concepts with respect.” (GS 144)

Also: (TI Skirmishes 38 on “war is a training in freedom”)

“Our liberal representatives, as is well known, lack the time for reflecting on the nature of man: else they would know that they work in vain when they work for a ‘gradual decrease of the military burden.’ Rather, only when this kind of need has become greatest will the kind of god be nearest who alone can help. The tree of war-glory can only be destroyed all at once, by a stroke of lightning: but lightning, as indeed you know, comes from a cloud—and from up high.” (WS 284)

No (“The Wreckage of the Consensus,” CUI, 224)
Civilization as ascending or declining Declining (BGE 202; GM I:11,12); but Z must come (GM II:24)

“One hardly dares speak anymore of the will to power: it was different in Athens.’ (Notes 1880-81, x, 414

Currently declining; future could go either way
Freedom “And war is a training in freedom. Or what is freedom? That one has the will to self-responsibility. That one preserves the distance which divides us. That one has become more indifferent to hardship, toil, privation, even to life. That one is ready to sacrifice men to one’s cause, oneself not excepted. Freedom means that the manly instincts that delight in war and victory have gained mastery over the other instincts—for example, the instinct for ‘happiness’. The man who has become free—and how much more the mind that has become free—spurns the contemptible sort of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.” (TI Skirmishes 38; connect to Hegel on the fraud of English freedom) The social fundamental.
Power “the most beautiful still appears only in the dark, and sinks, scarcely born, into eternal night—I mean the spectacle of that strength which employs genius not for works but for itself as a work; that is, for its own constraint, for the purification of its imagination, for the imposition of order and choice upon the influx of tasks and impressions. The great human being is still, in precisely the greatest thing that demands reverence, invisible like a too distant star: his victory over strength remains without eyes to see it and consequently without song and singer.” (D 548)

“He cannot control himself, and from that a poor woman infers that it will be easy to control him and casts her net for him. Soon she will be his slave.” (GS 227)

Sex and marriage State-run (BGE 251); see D 42 Romantic passion and individual choice
Cosmopolitanism and internationalism Yes: “the strongest possible European mixed race.” “One should not be afraid to proclaim oneself simply a good European and actively work for the amalgamation of nations.” The means by which this is to be accomplished? “Trade and industry, the post and the book-trade, the possession in common of all higher culture, rapid changing of home and scene, the nomadic life now lived by all who do not own land” and their consequence, “a weakening and finally abolition of nations.” (Human I: 475) Cosmopolitanism yes. Functional nationalism as safety net.
Racism No No (VOS)
Women “Women are considered profound. Why? Because one never fathoms their depths. Women aren’t even shallow.” (TI Maxims and Arrows 27) Ethical and political equality.

Equal existential and psychological competence.

Some sexual-psychological differences between men and women.

Art and Sense of Life
Exalted sense of human potential Yes: “one emerges again and again into the light, one experiences again and again one’s golden hour of victory—and then one stands forth as one was born, unbreakable, tensed, ready for new, even harder, remoter things, like a bow that distress serves to draw tauter.” (GM I:12) Yes (VOS, 14, pb 22; “Introduction to The Fountainhead,” TO, March 1968, 4)
Engaged in a cosmic battle Yes Yes
Struggle as good Yes (BGE 262) Yes (“Art and Sense of Life,” RM 48)
Suffering as essential to creativity and development Yes. “The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness—was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? (BGE 225; also BGE 270)

“Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit …. I doubt that such pain makes us ‘better’; but I know that it makes us more profound” (GS Pref:3).

To his kind of men: “I wish [them] suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished” (WP 910)

Though out of this will/can come joy, gaiety, and being a free spirit.

Philosophically: No. Literarily: Yes.
Benevolent universe No: Notebook of 1888: “For a philosopher to say, ‘the good and the beautiful are one,’ is infamy; if he goes on to add, ‘also the true,’ one ought to thrash him. Truth is ugly.” “Conscious of the truth he has once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence. …. He is nauseated.” (BT 7) Yes
Love your life no matter what Yes: Amor fati. A tragic sense of life, not pessimistic.

GS 48; BGE 56

Yes: create your fate
Art as metaphysical Yes Yes
Tragedy as highest Yes: “For what purpose humanity is there should not even concern us: why you are there, that you should ask yourself: and if you have no ready answer, then set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them! I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible…” (unpublished note from 1873) No (RM )
Romanticism as highest No: Contra Alexandrian man (BT) Yes (RM ). Contra Naturalism: (“What is Romanticism,” RM, 81, pb 99; 83, pb 101; 102, pb 115; 104, pb 117; “The Esthetic Vacuum of our Age,” RM, 114, pb 124; 116, pb 125; “The goal of my writing,” RM, 163, pb 164; “The Basic Principles of Literature,” RM, 60; pb 83; 61, pb 83)
Creating as egoistic/ individualistic No (BT 5); Yes (RM )
Art and truth “Art is more valuable than truth” (WP 853); “What one should learn from artists.—How can we make things beautiful, attractive, and desirable for us when they are not? And I rather think that in themselves they never are.” (GS 299) Art as concretization of abstractions.
Creativity “We … want to become those we are—human beings who are new, unique, incomparable, who give themselves laws, who create themselves.” (GS 335).

“To become what one is, one must not have the faintest notion what one is.” (EH ‘Why I am so Clever’ 9; echoes of Kant on genius in CJ and Hegel on the Absolute’s coming to self-awareness)

“Every artist knows how far from any feeling of letting himself go his ‘most natural state’ is—the free ordering, placing, disposing, giving form in the moment of ‘inspiration’—and how strictly and subtly he obeys thousandfold laws precisely then, laws that precisely on account of their hardness and determination defy all formulation through concepts.” (BGE 188)

Learned. Integration of conscious and subconscious processes.
Art as palliative or inspirational fuel Palliative: “As an aesthetic phenomenon existence is still bearable for us” (GS 107; Cf BT 5 and 24) Inspirational fuel
Selectivity as a value-judgment “An artist chooses his subjects; that is his way of praising.” (GS 245) Yes
Romanticism “that barbaric though enchanting outpouring from an undisciplined and chaotic soul of hot and highly colored things, which is what we understood by art when we were young.” (HAH 173; q in Hayman 209) Yes
Suffering “The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness—was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?” (BGE 225) As result of accidents of mistakes; not fundamental
Beauty “The noblest kind of beauty is not that which suddenly transports us, which makes a violent and intoxicating assault upon us (such beauty can easily excite disgust), but that which slowly infiltrates us, which we bear away with us almost without noticing and encounter again in dreams, but which finally, after having for long lain modestly in our heart, takes total possession of us, filling our eyes with tears and our heart with longing.” (HAH, 149)
Cultural Analysis
Cultural disaster looming Yes: The West moves to “catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade.” (WP, Preface; 2) Yes: “we are a mixed economy, i.e., a mixture of capitalism and statism, of freedom and controls. A mixed economy is a country in the process of disintegration, a civil war of pressure groups looting and devouring each other.” (“Check Your Premises” “The Obliteration of Capitalism,” TON 4:10, October 1965, p. 47)
Sense of isolation from surrounding culture Yes: “homeless in a distinctive and honorable sense” (GS 377) Yes and no
The future as winnable Yes, for some: “the first of a new nobility … [and] a happiness … humanity has not known so far.” (GS 337) Yes
On Others
On Christianity “A rebellion of everything that crawls on the ground against that which has height.” (A 43)

“The Christian idea of God”: “is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God the world has ever seen … . God having degenerated into a contradiction of life instead of its transfiguration and eternal yes! God as declared aversion to life, to nature, to the will to life! God as every slander against the ‘here and now’” (A 18).

Ditto (“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” pamphlet, 10)
On Plato “Plato is coward before reality.” (TI What I Owe to the Ancients 2) Ditto (ITOE, 2)
On Kant “A catastrophic spider” (A 11); “that most deformed concept-cripple of all time” (TI, “What the Germans Lack” 7); Kant’s “abhorrent scholasticism” (TI Skirmishes 49) Kant’s philosophy is a “monstrous spider hanging in midair” (FNI 34) “Causality Versus Duty,” PWNI, 117, pb 97; “Brief Summary,” TO, Sept,. 1971, 4)
On the Jews “a people firmly attached to life…” (D 72)
Method and Style
Rhetorical clarity Esotericism: “It is not by any means necessarily an objection to a book when anyone finds it impossible to understand: perhaps that was part of the author’s intention—he did not want to be understood by just ‘anybody.’ All the nobler spirits and tastes select their audience when they wish to communicate; and choosing that, one at the same time erects barriers against ‘the others.’ All the more subtle laws of any style have their origin at this point: they at the same time keep away, create a distance, forbid ‘entrance,’ understanding, as said above — while they open the ears of those whose ears are related to ours.” (GS 381)

Being profound and seeming profound.—Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water” (GS 173)

“Our highest insights must—and should—sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them” (BGE 30).

Accessible and straightforward to all intelligent
Systematicity “Beware of systematizers!—There is a play-acting of systematizers: … they will to impersonate complete and uniformly strong natures.” (D 318)

Contrast GM Preface:2

Style “I fancy that with this Zarathustra I have brought the German language to its full realization. After Luther and Goethe a third step had to be taken—tell me, my old friend, whether there has ever been such a combination of strength, resilience and euphony. Read Goethe after a page of my book … my line is tougher, more virile, without ever lapsing into coarseness, like Luther’s. My style is dance, playing with symmetries of every kind, jumping over them and mocking them. This enters the very vowels.” (Feb 22, 1884 letter to Rohde; q Hayman 272) Romantic, cinematic
Philosophy and Fiction Zarathustra Atlas
Absorbing and transcending literary traditions Biblical language “Odysseus, Jesus, and Dagny” themes
Symbolisms Apollo and Dionysus End of AS: Galt’s tracing the dollar sign and Wyatt’s Torch in the distance
Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum.” (GS 276) “reversing a costly historical error”: “I am, therefore I’ll think.” (AS)
Architecture GS 291 on Genoa’s architecture Opening paragraphs of F.
Reception by contemporary philosophers “For a time, Nietzsche, then professor of classical philology at the University of Basle, had no students in his field. His lectures were sabotaged by German philosophy professors who advised their students not to show up for Nietzsche’s courses.” (M. Cowen 1962, “Introduction” to Nietzsche’s Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, 4)
Early and late periods Schopenhauer and Kant. Early more idealist metaphysical; later more positivist.

“Thinking out the principle problems … always brings me back … to the same conclusions :they are already there, as veiled and obscure as possible in my Geburt der Tragödie, and everything I have since learned has become and ingrown part of them.” (Letter to Franz Overbeck, 2 July 1885; q Hayman 286)

Aristotle, Nietzsche, and the Romantics
Titles of works N’s subtitles in EH: Some have suggested megalomania or madness. Ironic honesty. Countering Socrates’s modesty about not being wise. Countering Jesus’s admonition to humility. Countering false modesty of most autobiographies: most such pretend not be telling us how wise and clever they are. Plus good marketing: arresting. Plus truth: N was clever and dynamite. Selfishness. Heinz Pagels remark: “No great science was done in the spirit of humility.”
Issue Nietzsche’s position Rand’s position


For my journal-article length treatment of the similarities and differences in their ethics, see my “Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand”: Text version and Audio version.

For my book-length treatment of the similarities and differences in Nietzsche’s philosophy and the National Socialists’ politics, see my Nietzsche and the Nazis: Text version and Audio version and Documentary version.

Where are all those free-market economists who caused the financial crisis? [The Good Life series]

[Originally published at]

A common meme about the financial crisis blames it on capitalism run amok and holds the rise of free-market fundamentalism among economists responsible for unleashing the greed. Academic economists, the argument runs, are largely free-marketers, and they convinced politicians to deregulate important swathes of the American economy, and the unbridled capitalists then engaged in a feeding frenzy that led to the collapse. Let’s call that meme “The Narrative.”

Tiny elements of The Narrative are true: there are some free-market economists, there have been some deregulations, and some capitalists have behaved badly.

But let’s look more closely now at only one element of the story — the part that claims that a large proportion of professional economists are free-market economists. Paul Krugman, for example — Nobel-Prize-winner, best-selling author, Ivy League professor, and champion of The Narrative — believes that it’s true and in The New York Times recently blamed the economics profession for allowing “the dominance of an idealized vision of capitalism, in which individuals are always rational and markets always function perfectly.”

How do we find out what beliefs dominate economists’ thinking? Well, we could ask them, as economics professors Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern did in 2007:

“We surveyed American Economic Association members and asked their views on 18 specific forms of government activism. We find that about 8 percent of AEA members can be considered supporters of free-market principles, and that less than 3 percent may be called strong supporters. The data are broken down by voting behavior (Democratic or Republican). Even the average Republican AEA member is ‘middle-of-the-road,’ not free-market.”

Note that the study was published in 2007 and so reflects the views of economists before the crisis became apparent.

So, if I am reading the results correctly, less than one American economist in ten is a free-marketer. Ninety-two percent, by contrast, are middle-of-the-roaders, advocates of significant government management of the economy, or outright socialists. That makes it a puzzle for The Narrative: How could a tiny percentage of free-market economists have exerted so much power?

A bigger puzzle arises when we consider Europe. The financial crisis was and is a European phenomenon as well, including severe problems in Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and other nations. But does anyone believe that Greek and Spanish economists are ideologically more free market than American ones? I don’t think so. Yet to believe The Narrative we’d have to believe that the even tinier number of European free-market economists were able to exert huge influence.

There’s a long and important story here, but — contrary to The Narrative — for over a century, free-market thinking has been a minority position among economists. Here are a few prominent data points:

Go back to the late 1800s, before American universities began granting Ph.D. degrees in economics. Most aspiring economists went off to German universities for their advanced studies. German economics was heavily dominated by socialist and other anti-market thinking, and the young Americans absorbed it. Upon their return, some were inspired to start the American Economics Association in 1885. The three founders of the AEA — Richard Ely, Edwin Seligman, and Simon Patten — were all German-educated, opposed to free-market capitalism, and saw the purpose of the AEA as ideological — to undermine laissez-faire capitalism in theory and practice. Ely was later to become, at Johns Hopkins University, the influential teacher of a future Progressive president, Woodrow Wilson. For more, I recommend economic historian Lawrence White’s indispensable The Clash of Economic Ideas (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Jump ahead a generation to World War One and its state-managed war economy. Most economists signed on enthusiastically, as they were to do a generation later in World War Two.

Between the wars were the Great Depression and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, with its government-managed cartels and monopolies. Most economists cheered the giant steps towards a state-run economy.

Columbia University economist Rex Tugwell is representative here. The top man in FDR’s “Brain Trust,” Tugwell was a great admirer of Mussolini’s fascist and Stalin’s communist regimes. On a trip to Rome in 1934, Tugwell wrote in his diary that that Mussolini’s regime was “doing many of the things which seem to me necessary” and was “the cleanest, neatnest [sic], most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.” A few years earlier, in 1927, Tugwell had also visited the Soviet Union. He was so positively impressed with what he saw there that he wrote a number of scholarly articles defending various communist methods and recommending their adoption in the United States. Again, see White’s book for details.

The post-World-War-Two economics landscape was shaped by Cambridge University economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes argued, persuasively to most economists, that governments should actively control interest rates, the money supply, wage rates, state debt spending, and more, so as to manage the economy’s ebbs and flows.

Keynes’s ideas so completely dominated the economics profession for decades that President Richard Nixon’s declaration in 1971, as he took the United States off the gold standard — “We’re all Keynesians now” — captured an important truth.

And now, another generation later, economists’ views are as reported by professors Klein and Stern.

So where are all the free market economists who have supposedly been dictating policy? Of course there have been some prominent free-marketer economists — Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are well known. But mostly they are foils and whipping boys in a profession that largely disagrees with their views.

The fact is that most economists are interventionists who advocate a mixture of free markets and government control. A few economists at either end of the spectrum are principled advocates of free markets or total government control. But when 90 percent of economists are generally favorable to government intervention while only 10 percent are generally opposed, then the tendency of their policy recommendations will run heavily toward further state control of the economy. And that has been the trajectory for a long time now.

What all of this most crucially means is that when we analyze complicated messes like the financial crisis that began in 2007, our starting position should be to recognize that our economy has free-market elements with many heavy doses of government regulation. And it should at the outset be an open question whether we blame the crisis on the free-market elements, the government regulations, or a dysfunctional mixture of the two.

I have my suspicions, but the first hypothesis to be rejected should be The Narrative.

If anything, the opposite is more likely to be true — that the fault lies with the many economists who have advocated tinkering and tweaking and outright control over critical sectors of the economy.

* * *

Stephen Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and of Nietzsche and the Nazis. He blogs at


CEE to host two panels at Rockford University: Free Markets, Socialism, and Immigration

The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship and Vienna’s Austrian Economic Center will host two panels on The Role of the State: The American Dream? Socialism? and Immigration: Controlled or Free? on Friday, April 1, 2:00-4:00 P.M in Severson Auditorium in Scarborough Hall on the Rockford University campus. The event is free of charge and open to the public.

FMRS Flyer [8.5x11]

Panelists will include:

Barbara Kolm, President of the Hayek Institute in Vienna, Austria

Karl-Peter Schwarz, Journalist for a leading German-speaking newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Federico N. Fernández, Senior Fellow in the Austrian Economics Center (Austria) and President of Fundación Bases (Argentina)

Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland

Matthew Flamm, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University

Jules Gleicher, Professor of Political Science and Chairman of the Political Science Department at Rockford University

Robert Evans, Associate Professor of Economics, Business, and Accounting/Political Science at Rockford University

Stephen Hicks, Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University and Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship

For more information contact Jennifer Harrolle at