Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Sanction of the Victim

"The sanction of the victim" is one of the many philosophical ideas that are dramatized in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

We all meet conflict every day.  You have an idea that you think would benefit your department or company.  Someone else at the table disagrees and offers a different project. Typically, your opponents do not expect you to destroy yourself to meet their goals.  Sometimes they do.  We vote for taxes; and we elect others who do much more of the same in our name. 
How would you feel, if you went into a gas station or convenience store, there behind the counter was a friendly picture of Osama bin Laden?  Would you shop there again?  What if they had a bumper sticker supporting a ballot proposal for more school funding? 
If I were absolutely consistent about not sanctioning my destroyers, I would never have had a pizza from any of the many shops  in Cleveland displaying Pope John XXIII and Pres. John F. Kennedy. I read The Fountainhead at 16, and Atlas Shrugged twice through by 17, just as I was driving and dating.  Pizza was an important part of my life. 

Many years later, I found an obscure book, from 1960-64, Merchants Make History by Ernst Samhaber.  In the narratives about caravans and caravels, the author says that a good merchant does not argue religion with his client.  Still later, writing the "Internet Connections" column for The Numismatist, I discovered that some of the largest hoards of Muslim/Arabic coins are found in Latvia, Russia, Sweden, and England.  Many examples date from the European "Dark Ages."  

USSR silver ruble from Lenin's
"New Economic Policy"
At some level, civil society requires the depersonalized interactions of the marketplace. This leaves unanswered the question of where you (or I, or anyone) draw the line when you enter into exchange with someone who does not share your values.  Here in Ann Arbor, we have a record store in the old "head shop" tradition.  The walls proudly carry anti-capitalist bumperstickers and anti-imperialist demonstration signs.  I find it ironic.  But their CDs are priced right.

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