By Olivia Pierson
[First published on Incite Politics]
“It’s a man’s world and it always will be,” wrote Camille Paglia for ‘Time’ magazine back in 2013. She ends her article with these words:
The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role — but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!
To hear a female academic elevate the virtues of men and capitalism is as rare as finding a unicorn, yet Paglia consistently and correctly acknowledges that the vast, life-enhancing infrastructure of the modern world is indeed a ‘male epic’. Only a seasoned battle-axe worth her salt would make such an acknowledgement in today’s rabidly anti-male culture. Paglia clearly points out that the countless roles women now have in the workforce have only been made possible by men. Men have fought and died for our civilisation, men do the hair-raising tasks of building skyscrapers out of steel and glass, and it is men who risk their lives laying the gas pipes and sewer pipes, and hanging the electrical wires that power our days and nights.
One of the outstanding qualities I’ve notice about brilliant battle-axes is that they have an outstanding grasp on human history. Paglia is well educated in the humanities and the classics. It is always history that she draws on to enlighten the modern mind, since how well can we really understand human nature in today’s context without knowing how it created the days of yore?
Being a staunch cultural critic and author with a strong philosophical bent, Paglia has often been compared with that other formidable battle-axe Ayn Rand, or at least told she sounds a lot like the late Russian–American philosopher. It is a comparison Paglia obviously quite likes:
“Ayn Rand was the kind of bold female thinker who should immediately have been a centrepiece of women’s studies programs, if the latter were genuinely about women rather than about a clichéd, bleeding-heart, victim-obsessed, liberal ideology that dislikes all concrete female achievement. Like me, Rand believed in personal responsibility and self-transformation as the keys to modern woman’s advance.”
It was Rand, who, more than any other American thinker, lay out the moral basis for capitalism; pretty ironic when one considers that she defected from Bolshevik Russia, but then perhaps that is how she could see the stark difference between a system that supports the individual or a system that annihilates it.
It goes without saying that the system of capitalism existed in America before Rand was even born, but it was she who gifted it with a fierce moral defence, which she thought had never been done properly and was too important to be left undone.
In one of her seminal works (she had so many), Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal, a book which Rand said was a non-fictional footnote to her colossal novel Atlas Shrugged, she wrote:
The action required to sustain human life is primarily intellectual: everything man needs has to be discovered by his mind and produced by his effort. Production is the application of reason to the problem of survival.
According to Rand, no country has ever practised laissez-faire capitalism, i.e. capitalism without regulations, but the closest any nation did get to it was America in the latter half of the 19th century (after slavery was abolished).
“Capitalism was the only system in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only system that stood for man’s right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself.” [Ayn Rand – Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal]
For Rand, a free market was the product of a free mind. One of the few legitimate roles of government in her philosophy was to objectively enforce contractual agreements in civil law courts, since in order to avert personal financial injury, a free market depends upon the integrity of voluntary agreements being upheld. In her book on ethics, The Virtue of Selfishness, she wrote:
The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.” It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.
Justice is so central to the system of capitalism that there now exists in Western countries a whole slew of people who proudly self-style themselves as Social Justice Warriors, as if they are on the side of human virtue by claiming the ground of the “common good”. A hundred years ago I wager that, had they been alive, they would’ve been warriors for the Temperance Movement. Those wrong-headed old battle-axes took aim at social justice causes and were so successful that the Volstead Act was made law in every American state. The result was total prohibition of the production, sale and consumption of alcohol, which brought forth a destructive mafia underworld and black market – the very opposite of capitalism.
Battle-axes like Rand and Paglia are of a different type altogether. Human reason is what they dedicated themselves to in the name of personal responsibility and the power of the individual mind. That kind of woman not only knows how to live well in freedom by the standards of her own personal rigour, she also knows how to extend that courtesy to others and give credit where credit is due. Paglia does this beautifully by acknowledging that it is men who have built a wonderfully complex civilisation in which the normal standard of operation at play is that women themselves prosper – even without them.
If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book "Western Values Defended: A Primer"
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