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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Is Paul Foot sick?

John Webb, Chairman of the the United Kingdom Objectivist Association, understand the truth about paleo-socialist Paul Foot.

“Is capitalism sick?” asks Paul Foot, Cash for Chaos, Guardian, Wednesday June 12, 2002. “Yes,” he contends, “disgustingly so. Its sickness is terminal, and it urgently needs replacing.”

As evidence for this singular claim Foot relates a litany of “misdemeanours” which have recently rocked the business community and suggests that far from being an exception to the daily practise of honest commerce they serve to illustrate what he calls “the central feature of capitalism,” namely, “the division of the human race into those who profit from human endeavour and those who don’t.”

Unfortunately for Paul Foot, all the examples he cites in support of this breathless conclusion have little or nothing to do with the free exchange of goods and services within a capitalist economy, as they are, without exception, directly attributable to governmental interference within a mixed economy.

The Enron Scandal, for example, did not occur within the context of unregulated trade or unbridled competition but within a highly charged political atmosphere so beset by graft and bogus environmentalist concerns that the caprices of an 18th century mandarin would seem enlightened by comparison.

The telecoms industry, which Foot also cites, is another unfortunate example to use as it seems to have escaped his notice that the telecom industry has the distinction of being one of the most highly regulated and licensed industries on the planet and where, in the UK, the telecom regulator OFTEL is a byword for bureaucratic incompetence.

As for the tax evasion “scandal” of Tyco – again it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Foot that such a “crime” could never have happened in a capitalist society – in a capitalist society property rights are inalienable and all coercive taxes would be prohibited by law.

Perhaps some people may be tempted to overlook Foot’s rather lame grasp of even the most elementary principles of politics and economics; after all, he must be so busy campaigning to clear the name convicted murderers like James Hanratty [whose guilt has recently been confirmed by new DNA evidence] that he probably has very little time to obtain an adequate grasp of current events.

And in any case, leaving the obvious factual errors aside doesn’t he make a valid point that the riches of the wealthy few are obtained at the price of the poverty of the many?

Well he would be making a worthwhile point if the Labour Theory of Value on which his argument rests had not been thoroughly refuted by the Austrian School of economics through Carl Menger’s theory of marginal utility more than a century ago.

No, the real problem with Paul Foot lies much deeper.

Paul Foot is not merely guilty of a failure of knowledge.

He is guilty of a failure of morality.

And the name of that failure is altruism.

Unfortunately, many people today mistakenly assume that altruism means having a regard for the well-being of others.

It doesn’t.

On the contrary, altruism, in practice, means having a necessary hostility to others as a consequence of adopting something other than oneself as the very standard of evaluation.

Though the precise standard of altruist morality varies depending on the prevailing ideology, the People, the Race, the Proletariat, the Gender, the God, the Prophet, the Environment, the Social Organism etc., the premise which always remains constant in the altruist’s world-view is the notion that there is some overriding standard, something other, something above and beyond and greater than the individual to which everyone should gratefully and enthusiastically sacrifice themselves.

According to altruism ANY desire, ANY benefit, ANY positive evaluation in this life or even the next, if Kant is to be believed, is immoral.

If you feed your child, or help an elderly stranger or the hapless victim of an unfortunate accident and feel even the slightest glimmer of vicarious pleasure yourself, then that pleasure counts as a benefit to yourself and whatever else you may have intended you have not committed a moral act.

By such a standard of morality any act whether beneficial to oneself or the whole of humanity is of no moral worth if it is motivated by the slightest concern for personal benefit.

That people might prosper by freely pursuing their own interests, to mutual benefit and by voluntary consent, without needing to inflict harm on others is an anathema to the likes of Foot.


Because Foot is a collectivist and for collectivists, all human endeavour, all profit, all property, all knowledge, all values, all human life, is collective.

Anyone pursuing their own interests for their own sake is necessarily at war with the “common good” – a “good” so rare and lofty that only “politically aware” people like the fabulous Foot can identify it.

In this view, company directors don’t earn their bonuses – they “steal” them.

One man’s “gain” is another man’s “loss.”

The rich grow “richer” and the poor, who have a higher standard of living than a medieval King, grow “poorer.”

Property isn’t created – it’s “ill-gotten.”

Wealth isn’t something to be earned – it’s something to be “shared.”

Individual prosperity above the level of “equality” isn’t desirable – it’s “excessive.”

The rich are “guilty” in virtue of their wealth.

And the living are guilty in virtue of dead murderers like James Hanratty.

So how does Foot get away it?

He relies on the reluctance of others – the very others that he would so earnestly make his victims – to abstain from making a moral judgement.

So now it is time to make a judgement.

For decades Paul Foot has sanctimoniously postured as a supporter of the underdog, a valiant champion of the outcast, defender of the weak, and a protector of the innocent.

In reality, however, his is one of their greatest enemies for all he has ever been is an altruist, his entire journalistic career amounting to nothing more than a demand for the glorification of force based on the cultivation of the vice of envy – an vice defined by Ayn Rand as “a hatred of the good for being the good.”

Is Paul Foot sick?


He doesn’t have that excuse.

John Webb

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