Tibor R. Machan teaches philosophy at Auburn University in Alabama.
JANUARY 01, 1989 by JOHN S. P. ROBSON
To the Editors:
In your September 1988 issue, you carried a piece entitled “What Should We Do About Luck?” Without wishing to plunge into the intricate philosophical issues raised by the question of whether having “character” is a matter of luck, I do wish to make one important observation. If being competent, self-assured, and therefore successful is a matter of luck, this is all the more reason not to penalize success. If we are, basically, subject to determinism, then it is surely essential to structure penalties and rewards in such a way as to manipulate people into having successful, rewarding lives. The more scope there is for character to be self-grounded, the more we might expect people to strive and succeed without tangible rewards, although we might still want to say that character is admirable and should be rewarded. But if character and aptitude are determined mechanically by the outside world, let us by all means create an outside world in which as many people as possible are determined into having character and aptitude. Either way, reward success, not failure.
—John S. P. Robson
To the Editors:
As a Jew and a libertarian, I read with interest Milton Friedman’s essay, “Capitalism and the Jews” (The Freeman, October 1988). Dr. Friedman admitted to having no answer for the question of why intellectuals, and Jews in particular, tend to dislike capitalism. I think I have one.
Judaism stresses education, and college degrees are common among Jews. But before we conclude that Jews’ anti-capitalist beliefs were instilled by their professors, we must analyze this argument. It assumes that the professors in question, in their turn, were radicalized by their professors, and so on. So where did the original radical professors come from? While there is ample truth in the assertion that professors tend to radicalize students, we must reject it as another chicken-vs.-egg argument.
I find it far more accurate to say that intellectuals tend to feel guilty about not being poor or not feeling as though they belong to the working class, as it were. And if one did feel such guilt, would one support a system that allows citizens to work for their own benefit (capitalism), or would one support a system that demands that citizens do penance by working for the benefit of others (socialism)? Leftist and egalitarian beliefs, not surprisingly, have always figured prominently in the lives of those who have the most guilt to relieve, and this puts intellectuals in the same category with film stars, poets, and writers even though the intellectuals may not be wealthy. One’s surname need not be Rockefeller or Fonda to regret not being poor; all one need do is not be poor. Educated people, in many cases, have the same sort of vulnerability, since their education relieves them of the necessity of performing manual labor. Since most Jews fall into this category, they can be expected to favor guilt-relieving (egalitarian) politics to any other kind.
For those who are working to win over bright minds to our side, I therefore recommend, along with the usual reliance on facts and logic, an equal emphasis on promoting pride and self-respect—or anything else that might successfully combat guilt.
(Readers are invited to share their opinions on ideas appearing in The Freeman.)