Fivescore and eleven years ago HL Mencken held forth on his interpretation of the thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche. Mencken’s parents were German. Germans had flowed into both Texas and the USA during the build-up to the Opium Wars, and published newspapers. Henry Lewis was uniquely positioned to understand, and that he did.
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is an eight-dollar book not discussed much in objectivist circles. In it unfolds an examination of Christian beatitudes oddly reminiscent of Galt’s Speech–that part of Atlas Shrugged mystical conservatives scrupulously avoid reading and never attempt to refute. Yet the German’s perorations, as interpreted in American, shed light on the previous and upcoming elections.
Before individual rights were defined, as mankind wearily shrugged off God’s Own Papist monarchies, semi-log paper made a logistics curve appear as a straight line in which monarchies shrivel toward zero and “democracies” gain market share. The planet was approaching the point of inflection in the sigmoid substitution curve.
Government was just being defined and would in 1914 acquire stable meaning as a bounded monopoly on legitimate force. But rights, hence legitimacy, were undefined other than by Jefferson’s tentative and partial enumeration and “freak legislation” had the year previous transformed the Pure Food Law into machinery for destroying the U.S. economy.
Ayn Rand wrote fan mail to HL Mencken, obviously read his writings on Nietzsche, and just as obviously noticed the absence of individual rights. What passed for rights to the German were 1. things the individual is able to do despite opposition by his fellow men, and 2. things he is enabled to do by the grace and permission of his fellow men. Meh.
While Germans were swinging from the gallows in Nuremberg, Ayn Rand reformulated life, eudaimonia, as the touchstone standard of moral value whereby rights could be legitimized in terms of choices that make happiness possible. Another writer, mathematician Larry Niven, in Protector developed a race of Nietzschean alien supermen that were brave, competent, smart, but lacking in the happiness Jefferson associated with rights and even Nietzsche associated with philosophy.
Rand’s Non-Aggression Pledge handily trashed Aldous Huxley’s “peace through inanition” policy and lay the ethical framework for a society unbowed by braying mystics, unsubmissive to the sacrificial demands of grim totalitarians, and unyielding in its commitment to progress toward happy freedom in the minimization–perhaps eventual elimination of the initiation of force–one war criminal at a time, if need be. In Rand’s Hollywood days, filming King of Kings while Calvin Coolidge restrained dangerous fanatical zeal, pledges were still a popular thing.
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