Thursday, November 2, 2006

Warning: Long Term Exposure To Objectivism May Rot The Mind

As everyone who's ever read Atlas Shrugged will tell you, men qua men reason out individualism rationality for life as man qua man; hence, man's actual life, and, objective reason.


Leonard Peikoff, the man who won the game of Musical Chairs that was Ayn Rand's life, has long since passed his "best before" date. In warning against the competing theology of Fundamentalist Christianity (Boo! Are you scared? No? Did you know that it's IRRATIONAL? No? Now I see you're scared! Man qua man, get thee behind me, mysticism!) he's as lame as any war protestor wishing it were still the 1960s and warning that, any day now, there'll be a draft. The faithful eat it up.

The very name "Objectivism" is meant to prejudice evaluation and appeal to eggheads, just like the terms "Progressive" or "Liberal" are meant to appeal to the soft-headed. Like those philosophies, it's empty, and can lead to any conclusion you like:

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.

If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.
Emphasis mine, ludicrous anachronism his. Note that this comes from a Pope of a religion that waves its hands most dismissively about the danger of the more secular competition, "libertarians". You see, the Objectivist line against the philosophical competition is that if you like freedom but don't base your philosophy in Objectivism, you become a "hippie of the right", and you end up advocating all kinds of stupid ideas: lacking a consistent, reason-based philosophical defence against the claims of collectivism, you will end up arguing against liberty.

Therefore, be objective and vote Democrat. Reason and man qua man are our sword and shield, our credo. Pull that lever, lest Peikoff be forced by reason and rationality to wave his hands at you again, hippie.

HT Billy.


Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand ceratainly picked a bad heir.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand uses alot of big words.

Jay Jardine said...

If you really want to see an Objectivist lose their shit, ask them to google up Roy Child's "Open Letter to Ayn Rand"

Anonymous said...

If you want to see an anarchist lose their shirt, ask them why Roy Childs recanted.

Anonymous said...

Ugh..Republicans may have some religious views, but their entire governement isn't based on it. I'm more worried about their social programs. Democrats may not be religious, but they're even more inclined towards socialism. Either way, the Republicans are the lesser of two evils. And theocracy? I don't think so. The only religion to be worried about at the moment is the one that worships the guy with a bomb in his turban.

Jay Jardine said...

He recanted, but he didn't refute...

Anonymous said...

Tell us why he recanted Jay.

Anonymous said...

I used to think that Objectivism's beef with Libertarianism amounted to a distinction without a difference. However, the thing I was missing is that, first and foremost, objectivism is a philosophy, not a political movement, and not a political party. It is a philosophy that says nothing is supernatural, that reason is the ONLY way to obtain knowledge, and that "good" means "good for the life and happiness of a man living on this earth in this life" (as opposed to "good for his after-life" or "good for his neighbour").

The non-aggression principle was the logical result of that philosophy.

The founders of libertarianism (e.g., Rothbard, who was part of Rand's inner circle for a short while), figured they could cobble together a political movement if they just could get everyone to agree to ONE of the logical implications of Rand's philosophy: the idea that nobody should initiate coercive physical force.

When you shear that principle from the thing it is DESIGNED to protect - rationality - the non-aggression "axiom" (that's what the libertarians tend to call it, wrongly) it becomes inherently ambiguous. It ceases to be a thing that can be interpreted in a single way, which is why you see Libertarians bashing each other over things like whether pre-emptive strikes are acceptable, or whether the only good government is no government at all.

The fathers of libertarianism were little different than the fathers of any religion. Figuring that most people lacked either the will or the ability to understand issues about the nature of reality; about how knowledge is obtained; about how good and evil can be objectively defined; they basically took out a stone tablet and did what every religion does: turn a principle into a commandment.

Libertarianism, in other words, is the bureaucratization of philosophy. It's a Freedom for Dummies handbook, full of what, absent why. "But WHY shouldn't I initiate force?". Answer: "Shut up. Cause I said so, that's why. It's obvious, that's why."

Libertarianism has no single answer for (a) what liberty is, (b) what coercion is, or (c) of what initiation consists. But that is NOT the primary reason it is rejected by Objectivists. It is rejected because it is UTTERLY UNCONCERNED with the only thing that changes the world: beliefs about the nature of the universe (e.g., whether or not their's a Santa God, and a guy with a pointy red tail), about how we know anything (e.g., divine revelation vs having to think), and about what is the standard of good and evil (another person's life, or ones own). So long as libertarians go around advocating "liberty" in the name of "God-given rights", we're all's from those fantastical beliefs that people conclude rights to be nonsense upon stilts.

Anonymous said...

I should probably add that Objectivists aren't all lining up to agree with this statement by Peikoff. Nor do they all agree that he should make agreement with his position a litmus test of whether they understand objectivism. All of the objectivist discussion boards are discussing these issues at this point.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and, for those who like video: (Reality, Reason and Freedom Party) (Rand vs. Libertarianism)

Anonymous said...

Since the original poster made attempts at misleading and smearing objectivism, i thought i would post why Peikoff actually is saying what he is saying. Also many Obectivists are debating this issue. No one is "following the company line". Since the original poster did not make any effort to understand the position i will provide it here for all. Think for yourself that would be what Miss Rand would ask.

Why I Will Not Vote for Any Republican
Posted by John Lewis at 2:56 PM

In the upcoming election, I will not vote for any Republican. My reasons are based on those offered by philosopher Leonard Peikoff, and I agree with him completely. A straight Democratic vote in this election is the only rational choice I can make. I would not, however, vote Republican today even if the issue of government religion was not relevant.

In every area of domestic and foreign policy, the conservatives controlling the Republican Party have expropriated the central tenets of the left, while claiming to be an alternative. This has created a false alternative to the political left, posing as its opposite but supporting the same basic goals. This has sowed massive confusion in people's minds, and limited the American people to a choice of poisons. This confusion is undermining people's capacity to even conceive of a true alternative to the welfare state and military defeat.

The matter becomes all the more urgent , and the consequences more dangerous, when motivated by a civic religion and its claims to supernatural sanction.

The left is of no cultural importance here. They are clearly socialistic at heart, and want America to retreat before the whims of foreigners. It is easy to establish an opposition to them—whenever an alternative has been clear, their failure has been inescapable. But the Republicans, by forming a phony choice, have made it much more difficult to discern a true alternative.

Consider fiscal policy. The conservatives have become outright supporters of the welfare state. Compassionate conservatives have set out to surpass the leftists in spending. Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill, and he ranks with FDR and LBJ as a great financier of the welfare state. To call this triumvirate "free-market," or "pro-business," is an intellectual and political crime. Yet this is what the Bush conservatives claim.

Under Bush, the Department of Education has nearly doubled in size. Attempts to eliminate Social Security have mutated into plans to save it. Private savings accounts will be owned by individuals but controlled by the government. Private medicine will be by cartels, under government controls and grants. Welfare will be distributed by private groups, including churches and other religious organizations, who will seek the approval of government bureaucrats. All of this is in fundamental agreement with the welfare state, even if the form differs from what a leftist might prefer—and its claims to religious sanction give it a power that the left does not have.

Bush, of course, did well to lower the Capital Gains Tax—but does this temporary measure, easily repealed, offset the permanent harm done by an institutionalized Sarbanes-Oxley? Must we save capitalism by jailing CEOs?

Conservative support for the welfare state was once a compromise with the left. This is no longer so. Conservatives are energetically growing the welfare state, and will continue to do so even if the left withers away. On one level, principles of altruism motivate them to demonstrate their goodness through tax and spend. But there is another reason for this commitment: the very fact that the welfare state exists. This, to a true conservative, is sufficient evidence for its legitimacy.

Conservatives conserve. They see a nation's institutions, traditions and moral ideals as the anchor for its society—the glue that holds it all together—and they want to preserve them. For most of history, from the Greeks through Rome, the Middle Ages and into the 18 th century, the glue was seen as the laws and customs of our ancestors, whether the simple virtues of pious farm life, the norms of the Senatorial aristocracy, the dogmas of the church, the prerogatives of the ancien regime, the traditional religious standards, or other established credos. Conservatives do not stand for any content; they stand for preserving that which anchors and stabilizes society—a claim to mystical insights into moral ideals that rise above the petty concerns of life on earth.

In classical Athens, conservators of the traditional standards protected the city against "new gods" by executing Socrates. In Sparta, the divine ideals of the ancient founder Lycurgus were preserved by force. In Rome, Cato advocated the virtues of agrarian life as blessed by the gods; in the Middle Ages popes and monks defended the ideals of the early church; in early modern Europe the kingship and nobility stood against liberal reformers; in our own day, advocates of an old-time civic religion stand against a secular alternative.

In every case, it was the reformer—anyone who wanted to use his mind to find a better way of doing things—who was the enemy of the conservative. The point is not that the reformer was right; in many cases he was not. The point is that the conservatives opposed him because he was a reformer, because he used his mind to question the moral basis of life on earth. He became a danger to the established order.

For a brief moment, however—for a few decades in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—people understood that what defined American life was individualism, the free market and limited government. Conservatives to some degree supported these ideals against progressives and Marxists. People began to think that defending these ideals was the essence of conservatism, and they forgot the more basic nature of conservatism: to conserve traditions qua traditions, to be taken on faith.

Consequently, when the welfare state supplanted limited government and freedom, and showed its resilience in the face of opposition, conservatives became the defenders of the new status quo. That is where we are today. Conservatives of the Bush tribe are now energetic advocates for the welfare state, connecting it to what they call traditional American virtues, meaning altruistic sacrifice, and defending it as the basis for American life.

This is true in domestic policy, but also in military defense. A few decades ago, conservatives wanted to use our military only for our own defense, and with quick and overwhelming force. They set a policy tone that Ronald Reagan claimed as his own. But Reagan retreated from Lebanon, and George Bush, Sr. never did anything without an international consensus. So it is with Bush Jr., who attacked Iraq only after months of building a coalition, and who sees democracy for them—even if based on Islamic Law—as constituting our success. If this sounds more like Woodrow Wilson than Douglas MacArthur, it should.

The conservative platform today is fundamentally indistinguishable from the New Left. Yet conservatives are not as forthright about their socialism. They claim to be pro-business, pro-freedom, and pro-military offense, all the while they act the opposite. They claim the mantle of Barry Goldwater while pushing the policies of FDR and LBJ. They hide the nature of their plans, seeing the route to success as appearing to be A while being non-A.

This has fostered enormous confusion. Say "military offense" and many people will think of Iraq—meaning quagmire and non-victory. Say "free market" and they think of cartels, Enron, and Sarbanes-Oxley as a necessary restraint on "greed." Say "freedom in medicine" and they think of the government-controlled hospitals that offer "choice" with a government handout. Say "private education" and they think of charter schools with public scholarships. Say "fiscal conservatism" and they think of rising deficits, from tax cuts combined with increased spending. Say "morality" and they think of anti-abortion, marriage laws and prayer in schools.

Conservatives have created a fantasy world of appearance, designed to expropriate the programs of the left while wearing the clothing of American freedom. In the end, the idea of a true alternative to the welfare state and military defeat is hacked up and re-stitched into a chimera. The fact that the left has become a cesspool of nihilism does not change the nature of the conservative reaction, or make this package-deal any real alternative.

In my view, if our choice is between two forms of welfare redistribution and military timidity, we would be best off with a president who openly espouses these ideas, and makes no claims to support the opposite. This would not lead to better policies, but it would result in clarity, a point of focus for an opposition, and a better chance for a true alternative to take hold.

Suppose that Al Gore had been elected in the fall of 2000. The 9/11 attacks would have occurred, but there would have been no confusion about what caused them: democratic weakness, not Republican "offense." Gore would have been forced to look strong, in the face of Republican opposition. Welfare-state spending could be blamed on Democratic welfare-statism, not the Republican "free market." Persecution of businessmen could be blamed on Elliot Spitzer, not the "pro-business" philosophy of Alberto Gonzales.

All of this becomes all the more potent when integrated with the core issues of the conservative civic religion: anti-abortion, regulation of biotechnology, control of marriage, and controls on immigration, issues in which some Republicans and Democrats actually differ. Bush saw fit to veto one bill in six years—stem cell research—and to interrupt his vacation to prevent a merciful death for the brain-dead Terry Schiavo. Beyond that, he has never met a government program he did not like.

In the end, a repudiation of these policies cannot occur by rewarding the Bush conservatives with an election victory. This has not worked for the past six years, and it will not work now. To "crush the left" in this election will not hurt the leftists any further—for their collapse is philosophical, not political, and thus far deeper than any election. But a conservative victory now will confirm the present leadership of the Republican Party, and strengthen their hold on it.

Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona is one of the few rational voices here. In his opposition to earmarking—a distinctly conservative form of spending your money—he said "Maybe it'll take two years in the wilderness of being in the political minority. I hope that's not what it takes." But it will—for this will be a necessary step to discrediting the new conservatives and making clear the need for a true alternative to the welfare state and foreign appeasement, and its anchor in civic religion.

Sky Captain said...

Those who can do Objectivism are; those who can only try to teach it, are Peikoff.

Anonymous said...

Where did Jay go with his answer as to why Roy Childs recanted on his "open letter to Ayn Rand".

For the record, as an objectivist, I don't hold the position of Peikoff on the U.S. mid-term elections. I am more worried about radical Islamists than I am with American Evangelicals.

Jay Jardine said...

Didn't he run for Congress once?

A better question for Ayn would be where can one currently find a copy of Anarchist Illusions online?

"404 Not Found"

Cast out the Apostate!

For the record, the reason I drop the Childs link from time to time is that I know it's not going to change the mind of Shi'ite Objectivists, but maybe an inlooker will follow on where Objectivist politics left off.

Anonymous said...


That "faithful" sneer is pure BS. But perhaps you know nothing of me, or my history.

On the other hand, I've known Beck, whom you link, for a dozen years. He knows. Ask him if you doubt me.

Just because I generally loath the Shiite Os on many issues and for their general -- I dunno -- demeanor doesn't mean I don't see something I agree with now and then.

Here's more data, having more to do with the gridlock think than the religious right thing, but here it is.

command economy said...

I do tend to write and speed post at my most unfair while hopped up on coffee and sugar on my early Thursday mornings at the control tower. That net was thrown too impressionistically and carelessly.

However, my utter bemusement with the shortsightedness of Peikoff's fatwa, its misread of the culture, and my annoyance with its association with the sensible Ayn Rand, persist.

Consider this dismissal of the significance of Democrat nihilism, from the author of The Ominous Parallels, no less:

"Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems."

In contrast, he offers no examples of phenomena of the coming Christian theocracy, a fringey notion in 2006 to say the least.

LBM, AFAICS, "man qua man" also boils down to "It's obvious, that's why". For after all, a psychopath lives as man qua man, the individual he is. That this notion must be repulsive to the yet altruism-free conscience of the Objectivists I know tells me that there are other ways to come to important good conclusions about ethics and hence, politics -- at least one of them is informing that reaction of horror.

"It is rejected because it is UTTERLY UNCONCERNED with the only thing that changes the world: beliefs about the nature of the universe (e.g., whether or not their's a Santa God, and a guy with a pointy red tail), about how we know anything (e.g., divine revelation vs having to think), and about what is the standard of good and evil (another person's life, or ones own)."

For me the latter is essential; for the second, as long as the divine revelation is interpreted in consonance with the latter, then I appreciate the power of stories and metaphor to pass wisdom along as much as any other reader of the Fountainhead. For the first, well, after reading your reply I was astounded to see that the latest South Park (1012) built to that very theme.

So I don't accept these premises, and yet we see an Objectivist primate who does, advocating votes for nihilistic, cynical, glib statists at a time of war. Disconnect.

I'm no philosopher so I'm afraid that, at least in writing, I have to keep it to that.


I sympathize with many of your critiques of Republican budgeting but voting Democrat is a non sequitur if the idea is to improve the situation.

The expected results of a return to rational government, a conversion for the Republicans to responsible government, will not happen for several reasons. First, in the media, Republicans will continue to carry the blame as the ones who got us into this mess.

Secondly, it would have the long term effect of bringing more war to the United States as it shows yet that if you kill some Americans they will flee, leaving you then free to kill collaborators and take power. As a side effect, this serves as an example to the people of other benighted nations of what happens when you resist the insurgency and trustingly side with the United States.

Thirdly, the Republicans will not become more rational, or embrace the very principles of capitalism on whose repudiation we surely agree many political careers are built. Would the repudiation of the Republican platform discourage the Republicans from splitting the difference in 2008 with, say, Barak Obama?

"...he ranks with FDR and LBJ as a great financier of the welfare state. To call this triumvirate "free-market," or "pro-business," is an intellectual and political crime. Yet this is what the Bush
conservatives claim."

On the other hand history says Democrats will bring war and the weakening of the United States. Priorities.

"Gore would have been forced to look strong, in the face of Republican opposition."

I do not want Al Gore to be the most powerful man in the world. I especially do not want to see Al Gore forced to look strong as the most powerful man in the world.

"Welfare-state spending could be blamed on Democratic welfare-statism, not the Republican "free market." Persecution of businessmen could be blamed on Elliot Spitzer, not the "pro-business" philosophy of Alberto Gonzales."

How would voting Democrat improve this situation in any regard? This is Leninism.

"its claims to religious sanction give it a power that the left does not have."

I don't know where you live, but the moral and value claims of socialists are much more acceptable in mixed company around here than are explicit arguments from religious authority. Isn't that generally true in the wider culture too?

Wartime is a bad time to punish the stupid party by giving the wicked and stupid party a chance over what boil down to sectarian reasons.This crop of Democrats is too far out.

"Conservatives do not stand for any content; they stand for preserving that which anchors and stabilizes society—a claim to mystical insights into moral ideals that rise above the petty concerns of life on earth."

For example?