Viewpoint

Scott Sandersfeld

(Brent Schwert)

Not to be outdone by the progressives with their “Progressive Week” (as if every week on campus wasn’t “Progressive Week”), last week LU College Republicans brought celebrity and political thinker Ben Stein to campus to give a talk.
While I sympathize with the LU Republicans’ stated goal of bringing a greater diversity of ideas to Lawrence intellectual events, I wish there was evidence of them actually doing that.
This event, which is by far their greatest, most publicized and well-attended event of the year, could have passed for a leftist convocation if you took out the Bush-isn’t-a-demon-from-hell claim and some anti-immigration remarks.
His thoughts on the next presidential election? De facto, he stated that anti-individualist Barack Obama ought to win. And the war? Though he twice mentioned Iran as a serious if not catastrophic threat to America and Israel, all he could do was say the whole thing was a terrible mess and joke about how it isn’t his problem because he is getting too old (haha . ?).
He advocated quite rightly for an increase in troop salaries, but how does he think this ought to be done? Does he advocate for cutting socialist programs (if we used the money spent on welfare and, say the Department of Transportation each year, we could add a tiny additional $458 billion annually to soldier salaries)? Nope, he says we should increase taxes for the rich and productive of society. Well, I guess the idea of small government isn’t in these days.
The overarching theme of the talk, detectable in nearly every utterance he made, is altruism, i.e. the idea that man ought to sacrifice himself for others. You think you are great? Work in a soup kitchen. You think you know it all? Give your ability and effort to those without either.
In a way, the talk was good because it was a clear example to us college students that political ideas are not formed in a vacuum but in reference to one’s fundamental ideas and values. If you regard man as a sacrificial animal existing primarily for the sake of others, you will advocate for sacrifice in government.
High taxes, the welfare state and self-sacrificial wars will not only seem practical but also moral. If, however, you regard man as an end in himself, as existing primarily to achieve his own values and happiness on earth, then you ought to advocate for rational egoism and its legalization, laissez-faire capitalism.
Philosopher Ayn Rand thoroughly defended these ideals in her books and writings, which is really the only place you can get such things on campus aside from the occasional Objectivism Club speaker and unwieldy Lawrentian editorial by yours truly.
For those of you skeptical, this talk was evidence that the conservatives in this country ultimately want the same thing as the “progressives,” just slower. If you reject the senseless altruism that unites both major political camps, if you are a rationally selfish individual with high regard for your own happiness and values, then you have one, old fashioned option to defend and verify your views: read.
Heaven knows you can’t count on the conservatives and their speakers to help you out with that, if you ever could.

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