New Hampshire State Rep. Amanda Bouldin (Hillsborough District 12), a so-called Democrat from Manchester’s Fifth Ward, erroneously used the word Über for the controversial ride-sourcing company in an article defending its presence in the Queen City. I call Bouldin a “so-called Democrat” as she is a member of the anarcho-libertarian Free State Project and serves as the “Civic Action Director” for the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, an ultra-reactionary spin-off from the Free State Project.
Bouldin reportedly votes in total accord with the Republicans in the House of Representatives, as do most Free Staters sitting in the General Court. It reportedly is the practice of Free State politicians to declare themselves member of whichever has an advantage in their electoral district. Bouldin’s district leans well towards Democrats, so she ran as a Democrat.
In a conversation I had with one of my representatives, Tammy Simmons (Hillsborough 17), after Rand Paul’s rally in Milford, New Hampshire, I had expressed dismay with my party (I am a Democrat and Tammy defeated me last November). “It’s not about party,” Tammy said, her meaning being that politics is about what one believes in. Tammy is unapologetically libertarian-minded but always has been a member of the GOP. She also has been called a “Friend of the Free State Project”.
Many Free Staters are influenced by the novelist Ayn Rand’s anti-statist Objectivist philosophy that considers altruism evil and “rational self-interest”, the selfish pursuit of what fulfills an individual, as the proper aim of life. In Rand’s world, the word “selfish” is not a pejorative. She was for a believer in the philosophy of “rational egoism” (also known as “rational selfishness”), where an act performed by an individual only is rational if it serves their self-interest.
Supporters of laissez-faire capitalism, Objectivists abhor government regulation and other government intrusions into life, including Medicare and Social Security (both of which programs Rand denounced but participated in). Social welfare programs are considered a form of theft, committed by the government on behalf of “looters”, “moochers” and “parasites”. (Since working people in Atlas Shrugged were tarred with these insults, it’s a safe bet that Objectivists think of such government-mandates as the minimum wage, occupational safety and health regulations, and the proscription of child labor as theft.) Thus it is normal for a Free Stater who typically denounces the “nanny state” in all its permutations to support Uber by railing against the regulation of ride-source companies.
Objectivist groups like the Atlas Society, formerly known as the Institute for Objectivist Studies, are active in New Hampshire. The Atlas Society “promotes open Objectivism: the philosophy of reason, individualism, achievement, and freedom originated by Ayn Rand”. Manchester Public TV (MPTV) talk show host Matt Connarton’s online radio station, IPM Nation, says it is “Powered by the Atlas Society” (powered likely translates as “Funded”). Connarton’s radio station, as well as his two programs on MPTV, frequently have served as platforms for Free Staters and libertarians, including Amanda Bouldin herself.
Bouldin was wrong to use the Über (the German word for “Over”) for Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s ride-sourcing company, or was she? Could it be a telling Freudian slip? It just might reveal the mindset of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
As I pointed out in my own article rebutting Amanda Bouldin, “Uber CEO Travis Kalanick once used the cover of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged … as his avatar on Twitter. Ayn Rand studied German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and Kalanick’s behavior is evocative of two of the protagonists of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt and Hank Rearden, literary prototypes of the Nietzschean Übermensch (frequently translated into English as “Superman”).
“The Randian Übermensch’s personal philosophy of ‘It’s my way or the highway!’ could be the corporate motto of Uber in its dealings with regulators. This may be the reason that Kalanick chose the name Uber for his ride-sourcing company, which seeks to ‘disrupt’ the taxi industry as thoroughly as John Galt disrupted the world in Atlas Shrugged.”
The German word Über is most known to Americans in the German word Übermensch from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. Influenced by the German nihilist, the great dramatist George Bernard Shaw entitled one of his most famous and enduring plays, Man and Superman. The “Superman” translation for Übermensch fell out of favor due to the popularity of the still-revelant comic book character of that name who made his debut in 1938, just before the war that would make the orginal German term infamous.
In a nutshell (one that could bind Prince Hamlet and still let him count himself king of infinite space), the Nietzschean Übermensch is the antithesis of the Christian with his/her idea of a soul that will exist in Heaven after death. The existence of the Übermensch signifies the Death of God, God being the epitome of a non-Earth-bound existence.
The Death of God and its resulting nihilism gives the earth-bound Übermensch the freedom of action to cerate a new set of values. The “Übermensch” represents an evolution of humankind as he overcomes the “Last Man” who exists in a state of harmonious and apathetic egalitarianism where the human “Will to Power” has been throttled and nihilism reins.
Uber is Over
It would have been unthinkable up until now for a company to use “Uber” for its name due to the Nietzchean Superman being so identified with Hitler, as the credo of post-WWI National Socialism incorporated Nietzsche’s Übermensch, a notion for a new kind of life that also was popular with anarchists. But World War II ended 70 years ago, and emotional triggers fade.
Ayn Rand studied Nietzsche, but whether he had any lasting influence on her philosophy is in doubt. Other than their atheism and loathing of altruism, they agree on practically nothing, though the Randian Superman is certainly influenced by Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Maybe, just maybe, Kalanick used “Uber” because he thought it was a neat word. But I believe the name does signify his “Will to Power” to overmaster a market.
If any further evidence is needed on Ayn Rand’s influence on Travis Kalanick, think of how he, like John Galt, goes “on strike”, pulling Uber out of San Antonio, Texas rather than to give in to regulations he does not like.
The German word Über means “Over”, but Uber is never over. After abandoning San Antonio to protest perceived over-regulation, Uber went to the Texas Legislature to lobby for a state law overriding the local regulation of ride-sourcing companies. Despite the vote of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Alderman refusing to extend its temporary operating agreement, Uber is still operating in the Queen City, albeit illegally.
We can talk of philosophical principles, but the principle at stake is rational self-interest, i.e., money. As Uber and Travis Kalanick came under more and more media scrutiny, much of it unflattering, he changed his Twitter avatar from Atlas Shrugged to Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. Although the Founding Father Hamilton’s federalist philosophies run contrary to the libertarianism that seems to be Kalanick’s lodestar, his portrait adorns the Ten Dollar Bill.
In the world of the Randian Superman, God may be dead, but the god-like powers of money sure as hell ain’t.