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Reblogged:The Word He Wants Is Appeasement

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"Grumpy Economist" John Cochrane concludes a post about the World Economic Forum with the following reflection and call for suggestions:

By inviting Greta Thunberg to speak at Davos, world leaders betrayed her; they betrayed countless others, like this girl; and most of all, they betrayed themselves. (Image by Markus Spiske, via Unsplash, license.)
On reflection, hypocrisy is not a good word either. What do you call the behavior, of mouthing platitudes that you know to be meaningless or false, from good old self interest? [sic] You know a Warren or Sanders presidency is a good possibility, and they will use the regulatory and judicial machinery ruthlessly. So let's get those public statements and virtue signals out fast -- support for "stakeholder" capitalism, climate crisis, "ESG" metrics or whatever it takes. You know that social climbing at Davos, your nonprofit boards, (your hope to become dean someday, in academia) or just avoiding the twitter mob demand conformity. So you mouth the harder and harder to pronounce words, or even convince yourself of the worthiness of it all. There must be a good word in Russian, the art of getting along under a communist regime. We say "virtue-signaling" but that does not cover the self-interest of going along with the crowd. I welcome suggestions for a good word.
As is usual in our Atlas Shrugged-imitating time, the author of that classic, Ayn Rand, named this very phenomenon long ago:
[Intellectual appeasement] is an attempt to apologize for his intellectual concerns and to escape from the loneliness of a thinker by professing that his thinking is dedicated to some social-altruistic goal. It is an attempt that amounts to the wordless equivalent of the plea: "I'm not an outsider! I'm your friend! Please forgive me for using my mind -- I'm using it only in order to serve you!" ... An intellectual appeaser surrenders morality, the realm of values, in order to be permitted to use his mind. [bold added] ("Altruism as Appeasement," in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, Jan. 1966, p. 2)
Appeasement is exactly what these "leaders" and captains of commerce are hoping will allow them to continue inventing and making things that make life possible -- even as they are damned for precisely the sin of doing so.

Throughout her work, Rand argues for the importance of fighting back -- in word and deed -- against such platitudes as those mouthed by Greta Thunberg. This is because moral ideals -- right or wrong -- guide the actions of men. Especially regarding all but the very best and the very worst: They are more likely to act on the wrong ideals when those are unopposed, and less likely to act on the right ideals when those are unsupported. (Even more important than this, Rand argued -- after first asking what morality is and why men need it -- that there is a way to judge whether an ethical proposition is right (as in correct) or not.)

Having seconded Ayn Rand's suggestion, I pass along something else she once said, in a 1964 speech, regarding whether Atlas Shrugged is "a prophetic novel -- or a historical one:"
[A]lthough the political aspects of Atlas Shrugged are not its central theme nor its main purpose, my attitude toward these aspects -- during the years of writing the novel -- was contained in a brief rule I had set for myself: "The purpose of this book is to prevent itself from becoming prophetic."
The default choice, appeasement, will ensure that the novel becomes prophetic. And that is why I "sic'ed" Cochrane's phrase "good old self-interest." Having the world go to hell in a handbasket, in part because one hasn't the guts to tell an ignorant child or the people egging her on No! is hardly in one's self-interest, although it may feel like it in the nonce.

-- CAV

P.S. Whatever credit such leaders think they are getting is short-lived at best.

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