The Confessions of an Orthodox Objectivist

Chanakya's picture
Submitted by Chanakya on Mon, 2017-04-17 03:03

I have a confession to make. For two years I was an Orthodox Objectivist.

On any usual day, I used to make nice and reverent comments in the social media about some Objectivist God or demigod (I will reveal later in the article who the Gods and the demigods are). I was a member of the “Orthodox brigade” on FB—we used to “like” each other’s nice and reverent posts and leave complimentary comments. Such activities made us feel that we are part of a large network of Objectivists and that we were taking concrete steps to make the movement grow.

But not every activity of the Orthodox community is saccharine coated. Along with liking each other’s posts and saying nice things about our Gods and demigods, we also needed to orchestrate vigorous campaigns to expose and denounce the heretics (where there are Gods and demigods, there will also be heretics). By the way, these campaigns were lots of fun because they allowed us to disgorge the accumulated bile in our minds, forget our personal problems, and feel relaxed.

I used to happily participate in the social media campaigns for exposing and excommunicating the anarchists, libertarians, moral agnostics, religious conservatives, and the supporters of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other intellectuals who have been morally condemned by the Gods of Objectivism. I also contributed by passing nasty comments on the journals, and the online forums where they have freewheeling discussions on Objectivist issues.

Being fully convinced that the Orthodox Objectivists are the true followers of Ayn Rand, I started a FB group to support their cause. In this group it was normal for at least five or six people to be identified as heretics every month—these heretics would be hauled before an inquisition committee composed of the Orthodox members (including me), they would be accused of various crimes of heresy, and if they did not come up with an explanation (in most cases they couldn’t) they would be severely castigated and trolled before being unfriended and excommunicated.

Eating the Forbidden Fruit and Loss of Orthodoxy

Alas! I lost my orthodoxy when I ate the forbidden “apple” from the tree of heretical knowledge—which means that I read a few books, essays, journals and websites which are not endorsed by the Objectivist Gods and demigods. The quantum of my sin was further magnified by the fact that I praised some of these sacrilegious books, journals and articles in my blog and social media timeline. But I also criticized some of them. Yet, this did not matter. For, now neither heaven nor hell could save me from the wrath of the Orthodox community.

One day the inevitable happened: The heavy boot of the Objectivist inquisition fell on my forehead. My inquisition was a rather messy affair. It went on for about 15-days and it had all my best friends in FB turning against me and questioning my character, my intellect, my knowledge and my moral values. Having observed the Orthodox community for two years, I knew very well that it was futile to try to defend myself—the inquisition, once it starts, will only end after it has utterly mowed down the victim under a gigantic roadroller of insults and accusations.

Now I am no longer Orthodox; I am just an ordinary Objectivist. I have been denounced, castigated and trolled. I have been unfriended by most members of the Orthodox clique. I have been booted out of the cult of passive minds. Yet I have not given up on Ayn Rand. I continue to be an admirer of her literature and philosophy—only now the veil of orthodoxy is gone and I can approach her ideas with an unprejudiced, open and irreverent mindset.

Please allow me to shed light on the theological structure and the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism.

The Theological Structure of Orthodox Objectivism

Having emerged from the cocoon of Orthodoxy, I now realize that no one has “sinned” more against the legacy of Ayn Rand than the Orthodox Objectivists, who are the dogmatic sticklers of her philosophical system. I use the word “sinned” deliberately because for the Orthodox Objectivists, Rand is equivalent to God and her writings have the status of a Holy Scripture.

A believer in Rand’s system is required to say “yes” to each and every letter, word and punctuation mark in her corpus; you have to believe that every decision that she ever made in her entire life was holy and perfect. If you harbor a single doubt over a single line that she has spoken or written, or if you think that she has made a single incorrect decision in her lifetime, then you face the risk of being denounced as a heretic and excommunicated. To be fair, the Orthodox Objectivists do believe Rand made some “errors of knowledge”, just no “errors of morality”; her biggest “error of knowledge” was trusting Nathaniel Branden for eighteen years, apparently. Hard to believe that such a wise God could have been so deceived for so long.

But the orthodoxy of the Orthodox Objectivists does not remain confined to Rand—in the Objectivist paradise there are other Gods and demigods who must be appeased. Dr. Leonard Peikoff is the number two God and the intellectuals endorsed by him are the myriad demigods. Like Rand, the number two God is infallible. As Dr. Peikoff is infallible, the demigods that he has endorsed are also infallible. Also, the only holy Objectivist institutions are the ones that are supported by him.

In his 1989 article, “Fact and Value,” Dr. Peikoff asserted that in his view Objectivism is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded.” And under his godhood, Objectivism has, indeed, transmogrified into a “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded” cult.

The Ten Commandments of Orthodox Objectivism

Ayn Rand saw herself as the philosopher of reason, but the Gods and demigods who followed her have transformed her into the ultimate God of revelation and this has resulted in her philosophy of Objectivism deteriorating into some kind of a revealed religion or a cult.

Here are the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism which I had been assiduously following in the recent past:

1. Ayn Rand is the first God, her intellectual heir (Dr. Peikoff) is the second God, and those endorsed by the intellectual heir are the myriad demigods.

2. You shall not take the name of the Gods or the demigods in vain.

3. You shall regard every word written or spoken by the Gods and demigods as a holy writ that must be blindly accepted as the holy truth.

4.You shall regard the Gods and demigods as the most intelligent, knowledgable and effective philosophers in the entire history of human civilization.

5. You shall unleash all your firepower against anyone who finds himself in agreement with the viewpoints of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other heretical intellectuals.

6. You shall keep away from the enemies of Objectivism: the libertarians, moral agnostics, anarchists, and all those whom the Gods and demigods have condemned morally.

7. You shall believe that Nathaniel Branden was the one to blame for all that went wrong in his relationship with Ayn Rand, who, being a Godly figure, can never commit any mistake of morality.

8. You shall believe that The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden is“non-cognitive”. You must never read it and you must do all you can to dissuade the newbies from reading it.

9. The enemies of the cult are everywhere. You must be on lookout for not only the heretics outside the cult but also for the enemy within. If an Orthodox Objectivist develops heretical thoughts, you must not show him mercy—boot him out of the cult.

10. You shall share the quotes and articles of the Gods and the demigods in your social media timeline, and treat with suspicion all those who fail to like or retweet your posts. 

I owe an apology to those who were target of the castigation, trolling and excommunications campaigns in which I participated during the days when I was part of the Orthodox Objectivist cult. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Orthodox Objectivism is dead, long live Objectivism!


( categories: )

Hypocrisy of Orthodox Objectivists

Chanakya's picture

Ed Hudgins,

You are right on all the points. From what I have read thus far in books, journals, articles, blogs, I can draw the inference the policies that Leonard Peikoff and his closest associates in the ARI developed with such fanfare during the late 1980s and in the 1990s had only one aim—to ensure that Peikoff and his people enjoyed total philosophical, moral, legal, and (even financial) hegemony over Objectivism.

One of the reasons why their strategy has failed and they are now discredited in eyes of people like me is that they have themselves failed to follow their own positions. They have proved to be hypocrites. I am appalled as I read about the hypocrisy that Peikoff and his associates have displayed in their policies and conduct. How could they even think that they can get away with such nonsensical behavior in what is supposed to be a philosophy of reason?

They proclaimed in 1989 (through the “Fact and Value” article) that Objectivism is a closed system. But Objectivism was never closed for Peikoff and his closest associates. For them it was always OPEN. OPAR was published in 1990s and they called it the “Philosophy of Ayn Rand” which they shouldn't have as Rand was not around to endorse the book.

So the Closed System strategy was enacted only to ensure that the non-ARI scholars (People like David Kelley and others) did not have the moral right to write on Objectivist thought. Peikoff & Co. wanted to turn Objectivism into their personal monopoly. Well, they have failed. Objectivism, as you rightly point out, is today a de facto OPEN system.

Their campaign to erect a Great Wall of China between the Objectivists and the Libertarians was also meant to enhance their control over the Objectivist movement. But as you have rightly pointed out, they have themselves broken this position. Even in 1990s, Peikoff was happily giving interviews to Libertarian outlets. One of the biggest drummer boys of anti-Libertarianism, Peter Schwartz, is these days writing blogs for Huffington Post, which is worse than Libertarian--it is hardcore leftist.

Not so complete control

Ed Hudgins's picture

Chanakya -- I take your point but would add a context here. In 1990, David Kelley founded what was then the Institute for Objectivist Studies, now called the Atlas Society. Over the years it provided a means to promote, study, and build on Objectivism in an open way. A number of students who came through TAS programs ended up in academia or other positions where they could pursue intellectual or public policy activities from an Objectivist perspective. Thinkers and activists like Tibor Machan and Bob Poole were involved with TAS. Some TAS events attracted 300 attendees.

David Kelley made a major expansion on the philosophy in his book Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence. Here's where the closed approach is an intellectual shame. Wouldn't it have been great to hear debates and panel discussions about whether benevolence is, in fact, a virtue based on Objectivist principles? Such open discussion is the way other disciplines help develop thinking and explore ideas. It's the Enlightenment way.

In one sense, the open approach has won. One of the major reasons Peikoff and Kelley parted ways was because Peikoff declared that libertarians are evil and that even to have discussions with them about their mistakes, as Kelley did at the Laissez Faire Supper Club in 1988, would be to endorse their evil. In the end, one of ARI's major supporters, John Allison, ran libertarian Cato Institute, and ARI folks now regularly attend libertarian events. Second, while there are still ARI loyalty tests in a number of contexts, individuals regularly deal with ARI, TAS, and other Objectivist groups without being excommunicated.

And one you should especially appreciated, the FB page "For the New Intellectual," while exposing the dark side of the closed approach, is one of the really great forums for Objectivist ideas! In the 18th century, the spread of the Enlightenment was facilitated by English coffee shops, where intellectuals could gather to crew on ideas. Today, FB pages and other online venues--SOLO--perform this function!

Intellectual heir? Who cares?

Chanakya's picture

Ed Hudgins, In a way you have taken a right stance on this issue, because whether Peikoff is an "intellectual heir" ought not to make a difference to the Objectivists.

But there is another angle to this issue. Try to think of the complete control that Mr. Peikoff have exercised on Objectivism since the 1980s. He has ensured that the entire Objectivist environment orbited around him.

He was able to declare that Objectivism is a "Closed System," which is a doctrine that makes no sense.

Many great scholars like Dr. David Kelley, George Reisman, John McCaskey, and many others have been excommunicated or discredited for reasons that are quite unclear. I think Objectivism has been beaten out of shape.

There is now very little chance of Objectivism making a recovery. There has been such downfall in intellectual capabilities in Objectivism.

Peikoff's Credibility

Neil Parille's picture

Incidentally, Peikoff said that Rand quit smoking when evidence indicated the connection between tobacco and cancer.

Of course, if you read the interviews of Dr. Dworetzky in the biographies or in the ARI's own 100 Voices, she quit because the doctor showed her an x-ray indicating she likely had cancer.

Who Cares?

Neil Parille's picture

Ed,

I think it's important because it goes to the credibility of Peikoff. And if it isn't the case that AR named LP her IH then what does that say about the credibility of the ARI in repeating this claim?

Of course the rewriting of Rand's material (by Mahew, Harriman, etc) tells me everything I need to know about the credibility of the ARI.

Intellectual heir? Who cares?

Ed Hudgins's picture

I was in the middle of those battles over "intellectual heirs," and my position was ultimately, "Who cares?" More precisely, independence is an Objectivist--I'd say human--virtue. This means relying on the judgment of your own mind.

Since we are not experts in everything, we must judge concerning whose thinking is credible and deserves extra attention. Concerning "What did Rand think?" about some matter, Peikoff certainly deserves our attention since he was for years her closest associate and friend. Also, his judgment about the nature of Objectivism and its implications is something we should attend to.

But that said, his authority as such does not determine truth in any matter. (Einstein was one of the most revolutionary thinkers in the history of science but his views on quantum physics didn't hold up even in his own lifetime.) David Kelley most notably presented views different from Peikoff's and I judge Kelley's views to be more valid. Of course, pretty much every self-described Objectivist believes Rand was wrong about homosexuality, a women president and many aesthetic pronouncements. We judge not only Peikoff and Kelley but her.

We can speak of Aquinas as the intellectual heir of Aristotle. We can speak of both Peikoff and Kelley as intellectual heirs of Rand in as much as they both work within (and in Kelley's case, try to expend upon) the system she developed.

But ultimately, we should care about whether our understands correspond to objective reality, not whether they correspond to the views of Rand, Peikoff, Kelley or anyone else.

Peikoff Rand's "Intellectual Heir"?

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

Years ago there was a video of Peikoff's life and in it (or so I've been told) he says that Rand explicitly told him that he was her intellectual heir.

That's the only proof I know of.*

Rand did dub Nathaniel her IH, but Barbara said that after 68 Rand realized this was a mistake and would never have another IH. Of course it's possible she changed her mind.

Jim Valliant said that Peikoff is entitled to call himself Rand's IH because he delivered the first complete course on Objectivism, wrote the first Objectivist book, etc. I don't know if this claim is supported by others.

Burns and Heller do not say that Rand named Peikoff her IH, but I don't recall if they discuss the basis for the claim.
__________
*Gotthelf, in his 2000 book, says Rand named Peikoff her IH. He said in the intro that he checked all the factual claims with the Archives.

"intellectual heir"

Chanakya's picture

Lindsay Perigo,

I would love to see any solid evidence to prove that Rand made Peikoff her "intellectual heir." I have tried my best to find some evidence but as of now I have not found nothing more than his own statement that he is Rand's legal and intellectual heir.

I don’t know why most Objectivists are so vociferous in defending his position as an “intellectual heir,” since there is no evidence that Rand anointed him as one. There is something wrong with the Objectivist mindset. I don’t know what is going on.

In some books and articles I have read that Rand made him her “legal heir” because there was no one else left in her life. He was the last man standing. Apparently he was very sycophantic with her and tolerated her all tantrums so he could last with her. If this is true then he has not become her heir on basis of his competence in philosophy.

And this shows in the way he has mismanaged Objectivism since 1982 (after Rand’s demise). The philosophy is going nowhere. It is orbiting an intellectual garbage dump.

Meant to say ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... on this or some other thread when the subject of Peikoff being Rand's "intellectual heir" came up: I'm pretty sure she never anointed him that. I believe Leonard just arbitrarily made that up. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, by all means present it.

Ayn Rand on Endorsing Anyone’s Future Work

Chanakya's picture

“Since men do not think or write automatically, since nothing gives them an automatic guarantee of reaching the right conclusions, it is impossible to endorse anyone’s future work, particularly in the field of ideas.” ~ Ayn Rand in “To The Reader” (The Objectivist Forum, Feb 1980)

[When I read such lines in Ayn Rand’s articles I get the feeling that she was against the idea of having an “authority figure” in Objectivism. When she says that she finds it impossible to endorse anyone’s future work in the field of ideas then how can we expect her to anoint anyone as an “authority figure.”]

Indulgences and Realists

Luke Setzer's picture

Ed, it sounds like the ARI Scholastics have adopted the old Catholic practice of achieving salvation through indulgences to the high priests.

I would call the evidence-demanding people "realists" rather than "skeptics" because of all the baggage tied to the latter versus the preponderance approach of the former.

Mark's Research into Barney

edpowell's picture

Objectivists are divided into sycophants and skeptics. The sycophants pour praise on whatever the latest proclamation is by the high priests of Objectivism, and engage in malicious attacks against any skeptic who raises objections. The skeptics simply insist on adequate proof when an insider makes a proclamation. The attacks on Mark's research into Carl Barney on social media are just the sort of mindless sycophant nonsense that occurs all over the web, and is reminiscent of the global warming enthusiasts attacking skeptics who point out that their theory doesn't hold water..

I recall all the talks and writings of Objectivists about “forgiveness” and that to forgive someone requires that the person publicly renounce their evil actions, make restitution to the victims, and show by example over many years that they have truly made efforts to change their character. Has Barney done that to his Scientology victims? I think Not. Maybe he just wrote a huge check to ARI and that's an alternate way to gain forgiveness in Objectivism nowadays. Brook et al. should be ashamed of themselves.

Ed

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

Excellent comment. I am largely in agreement. But what I am impressed with is the range and depth of your thought. You've gone *way* outside Randian orthodoxy. That is extremely rare for the Objectivist world. Largely because once you are exposed to the various other ideas out there you rarely stay with Rand. I myself while still a libertarian don't know exactly how to state my relationship with Objectivism. I'm Rand influenced and think she had some great insights but I see not a snow-ball's chance in hell that her philosophic system will have a future. There just is no way it can ever withstand the rigor of the academy (no matter how flawed today's intellectuals are there is still an intellectual division of labor and you must answer to that).

Induction is a hard sell and overcoming Hume's is/ought is equally as hard. I have seen interesting ideas for how to ground libertarianism coming from many different sources. And to be fair to Rand she does have some contributions. Its just that I don't think any *one* person has fully "nailed it" so to speak. There are ideas out there that are "floating around" that point to some version of a liberty society. I think that if humanity is to have a future some version of libertarianism is the gateway to futurism.

Also, great ideas about libertarianism and pacifism. Yes, that is a weakness of theirs however I have grown more sympathetic with it over the years given that the libertarians do have the revisionist school of history to fall back on as well as modern foreign policy history. Both strongly suggest that American military hegemony was a bad idea. But what the ideal foreign policy is is not easy. Foreign policy is a harder area than domestic economics. I think that Ron Paul's approach is far better than that madman Yaron Brook's. But Paul's ideas of withdrawal and the paleo-libertarian non-protectionism is probably insufficient as well. I don't have a solution but ARIan war-mongering is insane and unlikeable.

Which begs the question ...

VSD's picture

... why keep such a species in circulation? Let them kill each other off, if that's the pinnacle of their 'ungoverned evolution'.
"A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members."
"Whose judgment gets enforced? How does it get enforced?"
Two issues I find with this view:
a) that force is required, an absolute necessity, in the life of man
b) that (at least) one man (no matter who he his) has to force all the others in his direction, or down the hill we go ...
This also goes both ways: not just the little 'kings of mountains' who force their will on the rest of humanity even at the cost of destroying it, but also those 'perfectly wise and morally impeccable philosophers' who will have to spend a considerable amount of time and energy (if not their whole life) just to keep the rest of the loons from killing off the species.
Thus an individual, to be able to live as an individual, has to keep the brutish masses in check?
Don't look good for homo sapiens sapiens ... what's the value in keeping him around?
VSD

ARI Watch

Chanakya's picture

Mark Hunter,

Good points. I accept your logic.

ARI Watch

Mark Hunter's picture

The footnote explains the provenance of the documents dealing with the Reisman affair. The paper copies were placed online by Chris Wolf, on his own website and they were there for many years. The Reismans and all the other people involved had plenty of time to complain if they were forgeries and no one ever did. That earlier website is defunct.

I can’t imagine who would take the time and trouble to run ARI Watch. Obviously some crazy person. I mean, he has a talking frog, what more do you need to know?

George Reisman speech

Chanakya's picture

Neil,

If this speech is available anywhere, please send me the link. I would like to go through it. Thanks.

George Reisman speech

Chanakya's picture

Neil,

If this speech is available anywhere, please send me the link. I would like to go through it. Thanks.

ARI Watch

Chanakya's picture

Mark Hunter,

This is very interesting link. So if we go by what the website says, Mr. Reisman & his wife were excommunicated because they protested against some financial and management related misdemeanors.

If this is true, then this is a very serious matter--it shows that ARI is behaving like a self-serving cult.

But who runs this website ARI Watch? Are you the owner? How does ARI Watch get hold of these documents? Has the authenticity of these documents been verified by anyone else? They also have many other links--has all this information been checked.

Reisman

Neil Parille's picture

In 2005 George Reismann gave a speech at the Mises Institute called something like memories of Mises Rand and Rothbard. I dont know if it's still available on the web.

Reisman Excommunication

edpowell's picture

Mark has collected all the information we have (much of it from Reisman's perspective, but including actual emails from each of the participants in the excommunication) on this page:

http://ariwatch.com/WhosWho/AR...

It's well worth reading in its entirety, as it perfectly illustrates what's wrong with Peikoff's approach to disagreement among intellectuals, and indeed, though it happened long ago, gives a clue as to why ARI are such dogmatic conformists today.

Fine post by Ed

Mark Hunter's picture

Fine post by Ed. He could put it on his website Objective Dissent so it can be easily found in future.

Peikoff “excommunicated” – with appropriate papal connotation – Reisman and his wife in 1993, ten years after Rand’s death.

On Reisman and Rothbard

Chanakya's picture

I think Reisman had very serious differences with Rothbard. In his book "Capitalism," Reisman takes on Rothbard on many issues and refutes him. In fact, in the Preface itself he speaks against Rothbard. Here's a quote:

"The distinctive intellectual background of that period included a long-standing disagreement I had had with Rothbard concerning whether or not the rate of profit had to fall in connection with capital accumulation."

Reisman was completely in Ayn Rand's orbit till the 1980s. As far as I know he ended his association with Rand (after her demise) because he was excommunicated by Leonard PEikoff.

I don't know the full details of what was the cause of the dispute between Reisman and Peikoff, but I am sure of one thing--Peikoff did a great disservice to Objectivism by evicting Reisman. Reisman is an intellectual of much higher caliber than Peikoff. His going away is a loss for the Ayn Rand school.

Peikoff, I think, has turned Objectivism into a personal cult by evicting so many great intellectuals. This is a tragedy.

On AnCaps

Chanakya's picture

Ed,

I agree with you that Objectivism can be quite complicated in the details. But all good things in life are complicated and difficult to achieve. Knowledge is never easy. Those who want to learn Objectivism or for that matter computer programming or anything else they need to put in some hard work.

I also agree with you that the AnCaps cannot be dismissed just like that. For that matter, even the supporters of existence of God cannot be dismissed. As Ayn Rand has said: “The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow.”

The AnCaps have to be contested. The Objectivists have come up with some good arguments to contest their ideas. Even Ludwig von Mises (even though he is the foremost philosopher of Libertarianism) has spoken very strongly against anarchism.

In The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Mises says: “A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples’ long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members. While Plato founded his utopia on the hope that a small group of perfectly wise and morally impeccable philosophers will be available for the supreme conduct of affairs, anarchists implied that all men without any exception will be endowed with perfect wisdom and moral impeccability. They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man’s or a group’s interests in the short run and those in the long run.”

You are also right when you say: “Rand thinks there should be a single legal final arbiter of the law in a geographic area, while Rothbard does not think that a single final arbiter is necessary.” Now try to imagine that we are living under a Rothbardian system where there are many arbiters for legal judgement, and in any particular dispute 5 different arbiters come with 5 different judgements. Whose judgment gets enforced? How does it get enforced?

Such are the questions that people the AnCaps are not willing to answer. They think that anarchism means Utopia of some kind. Utopia does not exist. It is a dream, which if brought into reality, will quickly transform into the worst nightmare of war lords and massive massacres.

Ethics and AnCaps

edpowell's picture

To be fair to Doug, I have studied Objectivism for over thirty years and it is quite complicated in the details. It is certainly true that ethical egoism is appropriate for all individuals, but it not true that an individual who is very smart (and thus can, like a chess master, see many "moves ahead") will come to the same conclusions about what is in his long-term rational self-interest than someone who is very dull. You wouldn't try to model the climate system on a TRS-80 for the same reason. People who are smart can work out the principles and some of the broad ideas of ethical egoism, but it's up to each individual, as best he can (and some people's best is not very good at all) how to apply it. So there is a biological element to ethics that Rand and her followers ignored. If 95% of the world is not smart enough to "get" Objectivism, then the Ten Commandments are looking pretty good at that point. That doesn't mean Rand's ethics are wrong, just that they are incomplete in that they do not account for biological variations in the conceptual faculty of the human species.

I am not an anarcho-capitalist, but I've read a ton of their material, and they are serious people with serious arguments that cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, as Harry Binswanger does. As conceived by the AnCaps, an AnCap society is NOT a society without objective law, indeed, to them, since the law in their system is "discovered" rather than "manufactured," an AnCap society is the only one that is capable of existing in a context of objective law. They point to the English Common law--laws made by individual judges in individual cases, but in dialog with each other and previous decisions--as an example of "discovered" law. Currently, in the US, law is "manufactured, in that there is this big marble factory called The Capitol Building that has an assembly line that cranks out law after law based on whim, irrationality, and irrational self-interest.

The argument between the AnCaps (primarily Rothbard) and Rand was one of extreme nuance leading to extreme animosity, akin to the "Judean People's Front" sketch from Monty Python's "Life of Brian". Rand's conception of "government" is NOT Rothbard's conception of "the State". In Rand's view, when you get right down to it, both the police and the army could be "private"--that is organized locally and paid voluntarily. This was how the US operated for quite some time in the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary period, so there is a historical precedent for this. And, obviously, "courts" in Rand's view, could also be private arbitrators, up to a point. It is only at that last point, the point of ultimate legal decision making, where Rand and Rothbard part company. Rand thinks there should be a single legal final arbiter of the law in a geographic area, while Rothbard does not think that a single final arbiter is necessary. That's the sum and substance of the entire disagreement between AnCaps and Objectivists on politics. No wonder they hate each other with a passion approaching a thousand suns. Eye (In addition, and only tangentially related from an argument standpoint, but crucial in the current animosity, the Rothbardians are essentially pacifists, in that though any given individual has the right to self-defense, collections of individuals do not, whereas Rand and her followers are indistinguishable from neocons when it comes to issues of war and peace. The Rothbardian argument against war--all war, not just those fought stupidly by the US government--is based on the fact that nothing "The State" does is legitimate, especially when it engages in war.)

Now, I agree with Rand on the question of a single final arbiter (though I disagree with both on war and peace matters). I do so because I do not think a heterogeneous society could operate with different precedents in different courts in the same geographic area for long without devolving into violence. In a small homogeneous society, I think Rothbard's scheme could in fact work, and there are examples from the Old West that support Rothbard's view. The Rothbardian mistake, echoed by Stefan Molyneux in his anarchist books, is that "shunning" and expulsion from society would be sufficient to exclude breakers of the peace from interaction with other members of the community (until if they get violent they'd be killed in self-defense). The problem with this formulation is that it cannot work in societies where A) everyone does not know everyone else (i.e, cities) and B) where large subgroups of people don't care if they are outlaws, they just hang around with all the other outlaws. And heterogeneous societies produce close-knit subgroups that are not amenable to social control from the majority. The Mafia doesn't care that most American think their system is evil. Hell they don't care that most Italians think their system is evil. They have enough of a subgroup population to impose their system despite attempts at law enforcement. Rothbard's and Molyneux's shunning would be something the Mafia would laugh at. So a single unified set of laws with a single decision point and a single hierarchy of courts to which law enforcement must respect (even if police were "private" and the laws were discovered rather than manufactured) in my view is necessary to deal with the Mafia, MS-13, Al Qaeda, etc., in a society that is of heterogeneous culture like the US today. But my disagreement with Rothbard does not mean that I disrespect his writings or his arguments. They are serious arguments that should be approached with scholarly care and attention, not dismissed out-of-hand like many members of Objectivism, Inc. do.

I echo your recommendation of Reisman's "Capitalism", though I've only read parts and not all the way through. However, Reisman is closer on may issues to Rothbard than to Rand, because Reisman is a serious scholar who studied, as did Rothbard, under Mises. Where Reisman excels, contra both Mises and Rothbard, is in his rejection of their deductive praxeological epistemology for Rand's inductive epistemology. In that sense, Reisman surpassed both Mises and Rothbard as a thinker, though all three have many important insights into economics.

biologic foundation for ethical egoism

Chanakya's picture

Doug,

I am prepared to give you the benefit of doubt--perhaps you have not fully analyzed the import of these words: "biologic foundation for ethical egoism." The idea that there is a biological foundation to ethical egoism is totally irrational. It will point towards pseudo-sciences like *eugenics*, which caused so much harm in Europe during the first half of the 20th century.

I have enjoyed certain videos of Molyneux, but I don't agree with all that he says. He is, at times, too emotional, and at times he lets his prejudices dictate his political and cultural ideas. In other words, Molyneux is not consistent.

What Rand has provided is the fundamental basis for an ethical theory. According to her theory what is good for man qua man (or as a rational creature) is ethical.

Also this entire idea of AnCaps is complete nonsense. Capitalism requires rule of objective law. In a lawless world, capitalism cannot exist because there are two possible violators of man's rights--1. Government; 2. other men. You need a government based on objective laws to ensure that other *men* are not able to violate the rights of *man*.

I would recommend the wonderful book by George Reisman "Capitalism" if you are interested in knowing what is the fundamental precondition for a capitalist society to exist.

biologic foundation for ethical egoism

Chanakya's picture

Doug,

I am prepared to give you the benefit of doubt--perhaps you have not fully analyzed the import of these words: "biologic foundation for ethical egoism." The idea that there is a biological foundation to ethical egoism is totally irrational. It will point towards pseudo-sciences like eugenics, which caused so much harm in Europe during the first half of the 20th century.

I have enjoyed certain videos of Molyneux, but I don't agree with all that he says. He is, at times, too emotional, and at times he lets his prejudices dictate his political and cultural ideas. In other words, Molyneux is not consistent.

What Rand has provided is the fundamental basis for an ethical theory. According to her theory what is good for man qua man (or as a rational creature) is ethical.

Also this entire idea of AnCaps is completely nonsense. Capitalism requires rule of objective law. In a lawless world, capitalism cannot exist. There are two possible violators of man's rights--1. Government; 2. other men. You need a government based on objective laws to ensure that other *men* are not able to violate the rights of *man*.

Greg

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

Ayn introduced the moral dimension to economics missing from their thinking, and from libertarians. Force equates with evil and without objective laws governing the upholding of contracts and placing objective control over the threat of force statism or tyranny would rule.

You haven't read the literature to say things like this. Rand's moral arguments are inadequate. Legitimate and good natured scholars have shown that she did not provide a biologic foundation for ethical egoism (Michael Heumer is one, Molyneux is another - and both respect Rand). No one has yet. There are various positions put forward in an attempt to provide for moral virtue and the NIOF. Intuitionism is one, Hoppe's "argumentation ethics" is another. I think both of them have advantages over Rand's ethics which has big, big holes in it. (David Gordon of the Mises Institute has a video course on the strengths and weaknesses of Rand's philosophy. He lays out the problem with Rand's ethics. Its somewhere on the internet.)

Also, as I keep saying, when Objectivists argue that you need a state monopoly for protection and security forces you are overlooking the arguments that the AnCaps are making (read David Freidman's book for God's sake). Monopolies result in poor service everywhere we see them. Why would it be different with protection services?

AnCaps have put forth ways in which competing protection services would harmonize without "gang warfare" that address all the weakness with standard Minarchism (Rand's view isn't even the best one for Minarchists; Robert Nozick put forth the best Minarchist arguments). If you read the literature you will see that there are better arguments for market anarchism then there are for minarchism. The problem with both is that you need a high IQ population with a high degree of social trust and a shared moral ethos; what Ancaps will usually describe as the result of "Shelling Points" (what Rand would have called "shared philosophical premises"). If you had a shared "culture of liberty", there is little reason to believe that anarchism would be impossible but minarchism wouldn't.

Objectivists really don't know the Rothbardian / Ancap arguments. You live in an echo chamber and you keep stating the same thing over and over. This has been going on since Rand herself.

Minarchist libertarianism

Chanakya's picture

Greg,

From Doug's comment I can only make out that he has not read my blog. Had he read it, he would have acknowledged that I am NOT an Orthodox Objectivist.

I have clearly mentioned in my blog that I am leaving the Orthodox brigade--more importantly, I am being sarcastic towards the orthodoxy in Objectivism. I wrote this to let out my feelings of "sarcasm" and "disgust" at the way the orthodox community is sacrificing truth in name of preserving the current power structure within the movement.

I agree with you that Ayn Rand has introduced a moral dimension to economics. She was not a Minarchist libertarian because the "minarchists" do not acknowledge that there is a moral angle to economics. Rand had serious differences with Ludwig von Mises over the issue of the ethical fundamentals of good economics.

Also, Rand's original contributions are not primarily in substantive philosophy, but in methodology. She created connections between ethics, metaphysics, politics, aesthetics, epistemology and also economics -- this is her great contribution.

Doug II

gregster's picture

The Objectivist politics is a Minarchist libertarianism; ie "the Night Watchman State". Its a voluntarily funded monopoly limited government based on an updated Classical Liberalism. That is libertarianism. That’s a better explanation Doug, thank you. I agree as far as that goes.

Why should a person trust in a generalist like Ayn Rand who was a novelist by profession over a specialist like Friedman, Hoppe and Rothbard that were all technicians who were by profession economists and political scientists? Ayn introduced the moral dimension to economics missing from their thinking, and from libertarians. Force equates with evil and without objective laws governing the upholding of contracts and placing objective control over the threat of force statism or tyranny would rule.

Chanakya

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

"Also, she did not propagandize libertarianism--it will be more fair to accept that she was a "philosopher" of Objectivism."

What the hell does that mean? Its a stupid statement that O'ists love to parrot. The Objectivist politics is a Minarchist libertarianism; ie "the Night Watchman State". Its a voluntarily funded monopoly limited government based on an updated Classical Liberalism. That is libertarianism. Period. And I may add that it is a version of libertarianism that is subject to the criticism that the market anarchists make; namely what is to stop this monopoly from being corrupted? And why is government monopoly bad in every other area but ok for security and protection services? And saying "anarchy will lead to gang warfare" (ala Rand) is no answer.

The Rothbardians and Hoppians and Friedmanites (David not Milton) have detailed answers for why under certain cultural circumstances there will be a harmonization of private law systems that will not lead to "gang warfare". Why should a person trust in a generalist like Ayn Rand who was a novelist by profession over a specialist like Friedman, Hoppe and Rothbard that were all technicians who were by profession economists and political scientists? Think about that. Its ridiculous to think that a generalist like Rand could find solutions for all these technical epistemological and political problems. Jesus is it ridiculous to think that.

I don't think Ayn Rand can be called a ego maniac. She was a egoist which is a great thing to be. She was not a maniac, she was a very logical thinker.

Spoken like a true cultist. Even Christians have more eloquent ways to express their love for their prophet. And that is just what you sound like: a zealot expressing love for a prophet. Rand by all the evidence accumulated had a *very* disagreeable personality. It didn't help that she was on diet pills; ie a form of speed. And the difference between "egoist" and "egotist" bears little difference in the realm of psychology where you find anti-social behavior rampant among Objectivists; the more serious the personality defect the more dedicated the Objectivist. As for being a "logical thinker", it would be accurate to say that she was selectively logical. She was decidedly illogical in *many* areas which she ignored out of either ideological blindness or disinterest. In total big picture, it can not be said that "Rand was a logical thinker". She had some brilliant insights and some MAJOR blind spots (human psychology for one, evolutionary biology another).

I would not have any problem if the top intellectuals who followed her were like her. It would be great if the stood their ground on every idea and did not make any compromises

Jesus Christ what world are you looking at? ALL the Objectivist "elites" act like her. That is why they are so damned unlikeable. They all role play John Galt and "are uncompromising on their principles" especially when it is NeoCon or Zionist propaganda like bombing Iran. They all behave like spoiled children the way she did frequently; throwing tantrums and framing them as "allegiance to principle". The one exception was David Kelley and his group who are somewhat more mature although not without their problems too.

In SOLO some authors have coined the word "Obleftivist" for the Objectivist who are taking liberal positions on many political issues.

"Obleftivists", or Left-Objectivists, are some of the most dogmatic and orthodox Objectivists out there; ie the ARI gang. They combine leftist cultural positions, "open immigration" insanity, Neo Con on steroids American Imperialism and Zionism. That IS the Objectivist political position (or suite of positions). Throw in a *complete demonization* of the Rothbardian legacy and the Rockwell Paleo-Libertarian view and you have mainstream Objectivism. Objectivism can not produce one significant intellectual in any area. And when it comes to American history or Foreign policy history or sociology or cultural analysis or even economic history, Objectivists pale in comparison to the Austrio-libertarians. Objectivists hold opinions that are almost identical to those held by Neo-Conservatives in all those areas. I'm tempted to say that Objectivism is just a subset of Neo-Conservatism which while not technically true nevertheless is close to the mark.

Bill O'Reily was right to call Yaron Brook "Dr. Strangelove". And Billy O'Reily was an idiot Neo-Con who didn't even know how to leverage his wealth and fame to score with women without sexual harassment. Jesus Christ, and people tell me that Game is bullshit. lol

Chanakya, you are an example of Randian dogmatism. Everything you wrote confirms the Objectivism-as-blind-ideological-cultism that so many Conservatives and Reactionaries see when they look at the Randian world. I too see it now. Wow. It hits me like a blast wave whereas even 2 years ago I didn't see it. Its eye-opening.

propagandizer versus philosopher

Chanakya's picture

Greg, exactly. Rand was not a propagandizer. A propagandizer is someone who would make compromises to win support. But Rand never compromised. She never backed out from a philosophical position that she had taken. She was never a propagandizer, she was a philosopher. As far as Libertarianism is concerned that is more of a political movement--it is not philosophical movement. Rand has commented adversely on the libertarians of her times--perhaps due to her bad experience with Mr. Murray Rothbard.

Garbage Bandler II

gregster's picture

If nothing else she has been a great propagandizer for libertarianism

You're out of form Doug. Get that gaming going, get your leg over, do something different. You're cranky. You say there is some value in Rand. Oh, really?

Egoism

Chanakya's picture

Doug,

well.. I don't think Ayn Rand can be called a ego maniac. She was a egoist which is a great thing to be. She was not a maniac, she was a very logical thinker.

Also, she did not propagandize libertarianism--it will be more fair to accept that she was a "philosopher" of Objectivism.

Her philosophy is a black and white kind of philosophy. Either some thing is good or it is bad, there is no middle ground with Rand. She always stood her ground and never backed from defending her ideas. This is why I admire her.

I would not have any problem if the top intellectuals who followed her were like her. It would be great if the stood their ground on every idea and did not make any compromises. But unfortunately many of the Objectivist scholars are now making too many compromises.

In SOLO some authors have coined the word "Obleftivist" for the Objectivist who are taking liberal positions on many political issues. They are not standing their ground.

Do the problems start with Rand herself?

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

Ayn Rand's legacy is being marred by the cultist followers who often blindly toe the line

Maybe there was something about Rand and her philosophy that attracted so many people that would become cultists?

I'm not saying there is no value in Rand. If nothing else she has been a great propagandizer for libertarianism. But she was a difficult woman who had a grandiose view of her accomplishments and importance. She was an ego maniac in essence. She attracted similar psychologies. Thus the phenomenon of Peikoff, Binswanger, Shwartz, Brook, etc...

Cultish followers

Chanakya's picture

Olivia, You are right. Ayn Rand's legacy is being marred by the cultist followers who often blindly toe the line that many intellectuals affiliated to ARI propose. In fact, Rand was against the idea of creating an institution in her name.

She has said in a number of interviews that she had learned an important lesson from the bad experience that she had with NBI (Nathaniel Branden Institute). The important lesson was that she must never allow another institution in her name to come up. In her life time, she never allowed an institution like ARI to come up. It is only after her death that the created this institution which has now become a roadblock to wider dissemination of her philosophy.

The ARI intellectuals (a few of them) act like the medieval Scholastics, they have turned her philosophy into some kind of scripture which only they can interpret. I was for 2 years their supporter, but now that I have realized that many of their ideas are flawed, I have moved away from them.

Anoop...

Olivia's picture

Well done.

As I remember, Ayn Rand taught that each individual mind must judge according to its own lights - and that act encompassed the true virtue of integrity and individualism. Cultism is the death of individual judgment. She remains one of my greatest heroines, but at times she was outright odd on certain positions. Beethoven, and her criticism of him, is a good case in point. She judged him to have a "malevolent" sense of life! One only needs to listen to Beethoven's 9th and his 'Ode to Joy' to wonder what the hell she was talking about! Like any human being, sometimes she could be profoundly wrong. That is not to diminish her as a woman of great genius, but only to diminish her as an infallible goddess. Smiling Yet, she was still goddess-like (perhaps 'heroic' is a better term) in my eyes in her accomplishments and writings. Who else in the 20th Century had such broad clarity of thought and integrity to it? It's a great pity her cultish followers at the ARI refuse to make such distinctions. Welcome aboard!

Rewriting of Rand's works

Chanakya's picture

Neil,

I have always believed that the intellectuals who have rewritten Ayn Rand's journals and essays are like the mediocre architects in Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, who try to change Howard Roark's designs even though they do not have 1% of his talent or his passion for architecture.

Rand's works should be published as it is. No one should change it.

Brandroids

Neil Parille's picture

Linz. I've never met a Brandroid. For the record I had many email exchanges with Barbara during the PARC Wars and she was pleasant. I think I exchanged two emails with Nathaniel.

I never met either.

But take for example Valliant. He defends the rewriting of Rand's posthumous work because to do otherwise would draw the wrath of Peikoff
Can you name a Brandroid who does the equivalent ?

Orthodox Objectivists

Neil Parille's picture

I have never had a pleasant debate with one. When orthos such as Diana Hsieh and Jim Valliant posted here they were not pleasant people.

Amy Peikoff seems pleasant enough so that appears to be the one exception. But even she will stay silent when her control Yaron Brook smears people.

uhm

Tore's picture

one hundred percent it is being a jerk. for real. 

Orthodox

Chanakya's picture

Ed, I was only making a humorous commentary on what I see as the typical Ortho-Objectivist attitude of lashing out against anyone who disagrees with even a single tenet of the system. Smiling

I would not say it was being a jerk, but in retrospect it does seem like that. I think the problem that schisms and excommunications have become a part of the Objectivist culture. If you look at the articles and pronouncements since the late 1980s, we find that the top Objectivist philosophers are constantly ranting against others. Such habits have been picked by the followers of Objectivism in the social media.

I think this needs to change.

I respect your apology

edpowell's picture

but I'd ask the question, what was your motivation for the attacks on other people when you were in the religious phase? And having gone through this phase yourself when you acted like a jerk towards heterodox objectivists, why do you think being a jerk is a requirement for being an orthodox objectivist? I ask this, because i really have come to believe that all of the Orthodox Objectivists are, when it comes to personal interactions, really truly horrible people who I would want nothing to do with anyway, whether I agreed with them on their philosophical positions or not.

Classroom Discussions versus Objectivist SJWs

Luke Setzer's picture

I meant that the program delivers entire classroom sets of books (30 or more) along with a teacher's lesson plan for them so the entire class can read and discuss. This exposes young minds who might not otherwise be exposed. But your other points are taken well and understood. I cannot comment about the young minds exposed who later enter the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) and the outcomes of that process, good or bad. Perhaps others here have insights.

I have less problem with declaring Objectivism as a "closed system" than I have with the floating definition of what "closed system" even means. It seems to vacillate with the whims of the powers who declare it closed. Either define the damned thing or don't. Again, the ARI people are guilty of the same "crimes" against Objectivism of which they accuse others such as The Atlas Society (TAS). The very fact that they call themselves "The Ayn Rand Institute" and include that letterhead on all their publications, all while declaring themselves as an "authoritative" source for her "closed system," grants a borderline mind-control quasi-sanction of her name to those materials.

Orthodox Objectivists have some of the same nasty traits as Social Justice Warriors (SJWs).

Free books

Chanakya's picture

Luke, free books mean nothing. Any teacher who is interested in Rand's ideas can always buy the book which usually costs less than the price of a Pizza. Everyone can afford these books.

I don't think that Rand's books need to be popularized through free book distribution. These books are selling in millions and they are in best seller list more than 70 years after their publication.

The main issue is to ensure that there is rise in the cultural and political influence of Rand's ideas. In this area, the efforts of Dr. Peikoff I think are serving as a road block. But proclaiming that Objectivism is a closed system, he has ensured that the mandarins of the mainstream culture will not take note of it.

While Rand's books are popular, her Objectivist philosophy has reached a dead-end. This is unfortunate.

Peculiar and Abusive

Luke Setzer's picture

The ARI often makes pronouncements with no basis in the writings of Ayn Rand, especially on foreign policy and immigration. These same people who condemned David Kelley for "deviating" from Objectivism do it themselves. Their self-concepts are completely skewed.

I still think they do some good work in some areas such as the Free Books to Teachers program, but the bad has grown to outweigh the good.

<Many Oists go through a religious phase.>

Chanakya's picture

You are right. It was a religious phase, and not one of "reason". I am glad that I could get over the religious phase in two years. The Orthodox Objectivist positions on several issues do not stand the test of reality. They are constantly ranting against this and that person. But their is no logic in their arguments. Also, their political positions are obsolete. Their positions on the Welfare State, Islamic terror problems are unconvincing.

Congratulations, Anoop

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Many Oists go through a religious phase. You've been through one and come out the other side with your integrity intact.

Truthism is more important than Dogmism. Anything that is true ought to be deemed to be compatible with Objectivism, but alas, the mercenary gurus would have it otherwise. That includes Brandroids as well as Randroids.

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