University of Toronto Objectivist Society: Shrugging Off Atlas Shrugged?

March 26, 2012 by  

Early this morning I received from a FaceBook friend an invitation to an “Atlas Shrugged”-themed dinner hosted by the University of Toronto Objectivist Society. The dinner is tonight, and going would involve about three hours of driving. However, I would not be going were the dinner held next door.

The full title of the dinner is: “Atlas Shrugged and Ontario Politics Dinner With MPP Randy Hillier”. Randy Hillier is a member of the Ontario Legislature. He sits as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The invitation claims he is an “Ayn Rand fan”.

Years ago, Randy Hillier joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. He actively sought and obtained that party’s endorsement for his candidacy. The endorsement arguably allowed him to win a seat in the Ontario Legislature.

What is the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario? It is one of the three socialist parties holding seats in Ontario’s Legislature. In fact, it is the mother of Ontario socialism. Under various party leaders and Premiers, it brought Ontario – and still supports:

  • the banning of private health insurance;
  • the introduction of a government health care monopoly (“OHIP”);
  • the Ontario provincial personal income tax;
  • the Ontario Retail Sales Tax (now collected as part of the Harmonized Sales Tax or “HST”);
  • rent controls;
  • the Human Rights Code;
  • taxpayer funding for Catholic high schools;
  • the de facto nationalization of private power generation and distribution facilities (later named “Ontario Hydro”, then “OPG” and “Hydro 1”);
  • electricity price controls;
  • a ban on Sunday shopping (repealed, begrudgingly, by Ontario’s New Democratic Party), and on shopping on Christian holidays (still in place);
  • etc.

Those who don’t see a problem with this might argue that “Well, Randy’s not really like that, he’s trying to change the Progressive Conservative Party from within”. There are at least two answers to that flimsy claim, one factual, the other philosophical.

First, the factual. If Randy Hillier once truly did value property rights or liberty, he clearly does not at present. If he truly sought out to change the Progressive Conservatives from within, the actual result has been that working with the Progressive Conservatives has changed him from within. A few months back, for example, he appeared on Ezra Levant’s “The Source” political talk show on the SunTV News channel. Levant’s a conservative and, clearly, he wanted to give Randy Hillier the benefit of the doubt with respect to the Progressive Conservatives’ position on Ontario’s Human Rights Code. However, even Levant’s loyalty to fellow conservatives, and his years of knowing Hillier, couldn’t hold him back from a condemnation of Hillier and the Progressive Conservatives. See the interview for yourself, here. Hillier’s performance was disgusting.

Second, the philosophical. Given that this dinner is specific to Ayn Rand’s philosophy (Objectivism), and to her novel (“Atlas Shrugged”), let me do what I rarely do, and quote directly from the entries for “Evil” and for “Compromise”, in the Ayn Rand Lexicon:

“The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.” – from “The Anatomy of Compromise” in Ayn Rand’s “Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal”.

“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube . . .

“When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil..” – Galt’s speech

Given that “Atlas Shrugged” is the theme of the dinner, let us not forget the central message of Atlas Shrugged: that the victim should not sanction his own victimization; that he should shrug, not compromise with or work with his oppressors. It is evil, hence impractical. For Objectivists qua Objectivists to host an “Atlas Shrugged” dinner but have a Progressive Conservative be the guest of honour is to sanction evil and compromise. It is a gross disservice to the Objectivist movement, and to Objectivists, to imply that Progressive Conservatives – or those who, like Hillier, seek the endorsement of Progressive Conservatives, then tow the party line – somehow stand for reality, for reason, for rational selfishness, for capitalism. They do not, but the Progressive Conservatives, and all who want to feel no guilt over sanctioning their own victimization, are only too happy to have Objectivist clubs give the Progressive Conservatives a false veneer of Objectivist credentials.

I’m shrugging off this dinner invitation. So will other Objectivists.


2 Responses to “University of Toronto Objectivist Society: Shrugging Off Atlas Shrugged?”

  1. Derick on March 26th, 2012 6:59 pm

    UTOS president here

    Hi Paul. Thanks for your input. I have always appreciated your unabashed will to form and express evaluations, and continue to appreciate it.

    I agree that Randy Hillier is not spreading Objectivist politics effectively. I disagree that to have a dinner with him is to “sanction” the intellectual compromise that has characterized his career, or to imply that the PCs represent Objectivism. He’s not an Objectivist and doesn’t intend to spread it per se, and as such he is not addressing us as an Objectivist or in the role of a teacher. I intend to spend much of tonight debating the philosophical and practical/career differences you and I have with him.

    If I were contextualizing this as an Objectivist politican teaching us about Objectivism, that would be sanction and undercutting Objectivism. But I don’t think an Objectivist organization having engagement with admittedly non-Objectivist entities with the intention of promoting it is sanctioning their non-Objectivist aspects. I most likely, however, should have made it clearer in the event description that this was about discourse with those *outside* of Objectivism.

    I hope this doesn’t prevent you from engaging in our activities that you do agree with, and I hope we have the opportunity to help promote the Freedom Party, which is the party we support, and that it takes many seats away from the PCs in the next election. Thanks!

  2. Paul McKeever on March 26th, 2012 8:07 pm

    Derick: I think UTOS has made an error with this one. However, I’ll not be writing-off UTOS as a result of this one event. If, for example, UTOS again hosts a talk by an A.R.I. representative, and my schedule permits it, I would be happy to attend. I can only recommend that UTOS be mindful, as it proceeds and grows, that an organization is defined not merely by whom it welcomes, but – perhaps more – by whom it refuses to welcome.

    I thank you for your stated support of Freedom Party.


    Paul McKeever

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