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Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and Private Capital’s Assault on Public Institutions

the-disintegration-of-the-persistence-of-memory

Several days ago, The New York Times published a fascinating essay about the cult-like worship of Ayn Randamong Silicon Valley tech bros such as Peter Thiel and Travis Kalanick, and of Donald Trump administration insiders such as Rex Tillerson, Mike  Pompeo, and Trump himself. In a much-read and discussed December 2016 LinkedIn post, hedge fund impresario Ray Dalio concisely (and presciently) characterized what we might expect the “traumatic” impact on politics to be when such a radically anti-statist worldview assumes pretty much every power the state possesses.

If you haven’t read Ayn Rand lately, I suggest that you do as her books pretty well capture the mindset. This new administration hates weak, unproductive, socialist people and policies, and it admires strong, can-do, profit makers. It wants to, and probably will, shift the environment from one that makes profit makers villains with limited power to one that makes them heroes with significant power. [For a fuller extract of Dalio’s perspective on the Trump administration, see the bottom of this article.]

Public and Private Capital

But actually the Ayn Rand meme here (thinking about “meme” in this case as a richly encoded phrase that serves as a viral delivery mechanism for capturing some essential quality of an otherwise messy and unwieldy social or political reality) surfaces a more specifically interesting perspective on the Trump phenomenon. Which is that Trump and his followers on the paleo wing of the Republican Party are not simply capitalists. In homage to Ayn Rand zealot Travis Kalanick, let’s call them uber capitalists, and what that means, concretely, is that they represent the emotional and intellectual biases – on pretty much everything – of privately owned capital. Which is an entirely different kettle of fish from publicly owned capital, with distinctions that are insufficiently appreciated, but that go a long way to helping us understand the Bizarro World we now inhabit. []

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Worship the Creation, Not the Creator

Revealed Religion, Moral Philosophy, Anthropogenesis, and the End of the World

What is The Creation Project?

The Creation Project represents an immodest challenge to revealed religion theologies, Thomist natural law and moral philosophies (new and old), derived concepts of individuality and reason embedded in these theologies and philosophies, intellectual foundations of conservative politics in the United States (and pretty much everything else)

Existential Risk Requires Existential Thinking

Here’s the concern. When it comes to anthropogenic climate change, breaching inequality, toxically “illiberal” nationalism, and generational abandonment – we have unhinged ourselves and crossed a globally bro-bauched point of no return that half-measures (and quarter-measures,etc.) cannot address. And here’s the problem. It is tempting – given the scale of the problem and of the potential harm, and the general uncertainty of the causation – to minimize or dismiss these concerns. To wish them away, or to imagine the harm will come to others and not to oneself. But the direction is clear, and the wager is entirely on the order of Pascal’s. For the most part, the scale of our thinking does not even approximately match the scale of our risk.

The Big Think

The Creation Project explores and confronts canonical ideas regarding Thomist natural law and Catholic human dignity theology; Western conceptions of individuality, selfhood, agency, rationality, causation, and morality; and the pretty stunning inadequacies of religious belief founded on revelation. My general assumption is that to one degree or another we accept most of these ideas as “self-evident” (including natural law ideas about “self-evidence” itself), but that they actually are not at all self-evident, and dismantling these ideas is akin to dismantling an atomic bomb, and no less urgent and important.

In this project, the most pivotal argument will be that peeling back our past tells us that revealed religion – specifically Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – is the big obstacle obscuring our ability to grasp basic realities of our existence and blocking our capacity to address challenges to our existence. The foundations of revealed religions tend to be textually arbitrary and fragmented and evanescent, and so in times of strife wholly inadequate as a basis for holding together societies under stress and at risk.

But even more damning, these religions promote and require their own form of idolatry, absolute submission to and worship of an inscrutable, capricious, human-seeming Creator – in whose image we are told we have been created – who uncannily reminds us of the sour-tempered, inebriate father from our childhoods, sullenly abusive and quick to unsheath his belt or unspool the flat of his hand.

The alternative is simple enough. First, we do not need to worship an arbitrary, entirely preposterous concept of a Creator (who is actually created in our own inadequate human image). We need not base our thoughts and deeds on the flat, toneless, scriptural archaicisms we imagine to be representations of his will. Second, we can and must instead turn our attention to revealed truths that are far more “self-evident” and miraculous, the truths enfolded within the body of the earth, which is the Creation itself.


Introduction

Part One – Steve Bannon’s Dark Enlightenment

Part Two – Catholic Foundations of Conservative American Thought

Part Three – Natural Law and Western Civilization

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