Any day Michael Gerson is lambasted by people smarter than him is a good day.

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 @ 12:36 am | Clueless Conservatives, Drugs

Most 7/11 clerks would qualify, but this drizzling beatdown from Daniel Larison is to be savored:

At last week’s debate, one of the Fox panelists posed a question to Ron Paul about heroin and prostitution as “exercises of liberty.” Paul demurred a little, objecting that the panelist was putting words in his mouth, but then went on to object to the insulting paternalism that holds that drug prohibition is necessary to protect people from themselves. Paul was assuming that most people would be personally responsible and wouldn’t rely on government prohibition to steer them on the right path in these areas. Gerson could accuse him of having too much confidence in people, but that wouldn’t go over nearly as well as attacking him for having contempt for the poor and destitute. Most irritating of all, Gerson presents himself as a defender of the weak and downtrodden, when these are the Americans disproportionately harmed by the drug war that Gerson is quite happily defending.

Although I do have to recommend this column by Gerson, where he slaps around people even dumber than him: Ayn Rand fanboys.

Rand’s novels are vehicles for a system of thought known as Objectivism. Rand developed this philosophy at the length of Tolstoy, with the intellectual pretensions of Hegel, but it can be summarized on a napkin. Reason is everything. Religion is a fraud. Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible. “The Objectivist ethics, in essence,” said Rand, “hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”

If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.

Yes, Ron Paul qualifies, but on the drug war issue Paul is right about Gerson, whereas on the issue of whether Rand is meant to be taken seriously by anybody over 19, Gerson is right.

-hw

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