Why I'm Voting for the Democrats

DianaHsieh's picture
Submitted by DianaHsieh on Sun, 2006-10-29 15:40

Dr. Leonard Peikoff recently posted the following Q&A on the upcoming election on his web site.

    Q: In view of the constant parade of jackassery which is Washington, is there any point in voting for candidates of either entrenched party? Throwing out the incumbents "for a change" is to me an idea based on the philosophy that my head will stop hurting if I bang it on the opposite wall.

    A: How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

    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. Religion, by contrast--the destroyer of man since time immemorial--is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

    The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

    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.

    In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life--which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

    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.

I fully support Dr. Peikoff's statement.

I am acutely aware of the concrete evils of voting for the Democrats: high taxes, environmentalism, welfare programs, socialized medicine, and gun control. Nonetheless, I will vote for Democrats as long as necessary, even for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

That is a substantial change for me, as some of you might recall. In the 2004 election, I was hopelessly torn by the choice between Bush and Kerry. While I knew that both were evil, I could not say Bush was apocalyptically evil while Kerry was merely ordinary evil. (Frankly, that middle ground was progress for me, as I'd been pro-Republican in the general vein of TIA Daily for many years beforehand.) I continued to pursue the matter after the election: I knew I needed to understand the relevant principles much better than I did. Listening to Dr. Peikoff's excellent DIM Hypothesis course made the most difference to me: upon hearing the whole course, I finally understood the real meaning of the posted excerpt on the 2004 election. Of course, I still had much more thinking to do. Dr. Peikoff's Religion Versus America and America Versus Americans lectures were illuminating, as was Dr. Yaron Brook's lecture The Morality of War and Dr. John Lewis' Ideas and the Fall of Rome. Dr. Brad Thompson's recent article The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism is also a must-read.

I mention those sources for a very specific reason: It's hard to understand the depth and power of Dr. Peikoff's position unless familiar with them, particularly his DIM Hypothesis course. Dr. Peikoff's position is not based on any casual survey of recent events; it is well-grounded in fundamental principles, particularly the essential factors governing philosophic change in cultures over the course of centuries. The Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in shaping individual lives, politics, culture, and history is a massive integration. While most professed Objectivists could summarize it, they do not genuinely understand it for themselves, i.e. based upon their own induction from the concretes. Dr. Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis course makes that induction so much more clear. It helps a person cut through the confusing sea of today's concretes, so as to see the essential trends. (Note: The Ayn Rand Institute has made Dr. Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis course available for free to registered users!)

As regards the election, the past two years of the Bush Administration and its Republican Congress have displayed the true philosophic commitments of today's conservatives more starkly than ever. In their domestic policies, the Republicans fully support socialism and statism. They simply so do in craftier ways than the Democrats. Most obviously, the Bush Administration successfully pushed its prescription drug plan -- a massive new entitlement -- through a Republican-dominated House and Senate. Even with his Democratic Congress, Clinton was unable to match that feat of welfare statism. As a general matter, the Bush Administration is not even slightly concerned with controlling spending or the growth of government. Consider these "hard facts" from Dr. Thompson's The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism:

    Government spending has increased faster under George Bush and his Republican Congress than it did under Bill Clinton, and more people work for the federal government today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. During Bush's first term, total government spending skyrocketed from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, an increase of 33 percent (almost $23,000 per household, the highest level since World War II). The federal budget grew by $616.4 billion during Bush's first term in office. If post 9/11 defense spending is taken off the table, domestic spending has ballooned by 23 percent since Bush took office. When Bill Clinton left office in 2000, federal spending equaled 18.5 percent of the gross domestic product, but by the end of the first Bush administration, government outlays had increased to 20.3 percent of the GDP. The annualized growth rate of non-defense and non-homeland-security outlays has more than doubled from 2.1 percent under Clinton to 4.8 percent under Bush.

    Increased spending inevitably means increased taxes. Thus, despite President Bush's much vaunted tax cuts, Americans actually pay more in taxes today than they did during Bill Clinton's last year in office. The 2006 annual report from Americans for Tax Reform, titled "Cost of Government Day," sums up rather nicely the intrusive role played by Republican government in the lives of ordinary Americans. The report says that Americans had to work 86.5 days just to pay their federal taxes, as compared to 78.5 days in 2000 under Bill Clinton. In other words, the average American has worked 10.2 percent more for the federal government under George Bush than under Bill Clinton. When state and local taxes (controlled in the majority of places by Republicans) are added to federal taxes, Americans worked for the government eight hours a day, five days a week, from January 1 until July 12, meaning they worked full-time for the government for more than half the year. As Tom Feeney, a congressional Republican put it: "I remember growing up and reading in some school textbooks that if more than half your paycheck went to the government, then you were living in a socialist society." Just so, Mr. Feeney.

The profligate spending of President Bush and the Republican Congress is thoroughly consistent with current Republican principles. In fact, Bush's massively expensive prescription drug plan was based upon the very same model of a "conservative welfare state" as his failed attempt to reform Social Security, his support for school vouchers, and his tax cuts. As Dr. Thompson explains:

    How does a conservative welfare state work? And how does it differ from a liberal welfare state? The neocons advocate a strong central government that provides welfare services to all people who need them while, at the same time, giving people choice about how they want those services delivered. That is what makes it "conservative," they argue. That is how the neocons reconcile Adam Smith and Karl Marx, Hayek and Trotsky.

    In practice, this means that the coercive force of the state is used to provide for all of the people's needs--from universal social security to health and child care to education--but the people choose their own "private" social security accounts; they choose their own "private" health and child-care providers; and parents receive vouchers and choose which schools their children will attend. The choices, of course, are not the wide-open choices of a free market; rather, the people are permitted to choose from among a handful of pre-authorized providers. The neocons call this scheme a free-market reform of the welfare state.

    As economic "supply-siders," the neocons occasionally support tax cuts--but not because they want to return to taxpayers money that is rightfully theirs. Instead, they advocate lowering the marginal tax rate because it will provide an incentive for people to work harder, earn more money, spur economic growth--and, thereby, generate more tax revenue that will be used to fund the conservative welfare state.

In other words, President Bush's occasional vaguely free-market rhetoric means nothing. The guiding ideal of his administration is that of total government control over our lives, albeit with some nominal choices sanctioned and regulated by that government. That's the kind of "freedom" that today's Republicans support -- and that TIA Daily routinely praises. It's worse than a farce: it's a dangerous illusion. Due to the apparent choices still available to them, Americans might not recognize the ever-tightening vise of government control until it's too powerful to effectively resist. To put the point somewhat crudely, the Republicans want Americans to indulge their power-lusting fantasy that their kinder, gentler form of rape is actually consensual sex, i.e. that their form of statism is actually freedom. It's not. If Objectivists can't see that, then America's prospects are very bleak.

Even more alarming, Republicans at the local, state, and federal levels are actively intertwining religion and politics. Republican candidates clearly display their Christian credentials in their campaign literature and declare their intention to govern by Christian principles. They claim that America was founded upon Christian principles -- and advocate a return thereto. They actively promote religion with state power and taxpayer dollars via faith-based initiatives. Many now openly reject the very idea of secular government, i.e. of separation of church and state. For example, Janet Rowland, the woman Colorado's Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez selected as his running mate, openly advocates teaching creationism in public schools, wholeheartedly supports faith-based initiatives, and denies any Constitutional support for separation of church and state. She claims that "we should have the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion."

Based upon recent threads on Objectivist discussion boards, many Objectivists seem to think that the meaning of Christian government in America is limited to marginal issues like abortion, stem-cell research, evolution, euthanasia, and the like. That's completely false. Christianity is an all-embracing worldview: otherwordly, mystical, altruistic, and authoritarian. Its holy scriptures are explicitly and unequivocally opposed to all the values of this world: success, wealth, pleasure, science, justice, love, reason, pride, independence, and even long-range planning. It demands poverty, incompetence, misery, suffering, mercy, humility, submission, miracles, faith, and death. In recent decades, ever-growing millions of American Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, have embraced an ever-truer faith. They are committed to living in obedience to God. They are rediscovering the actual meaning of the teachings of the New Testament. They are rejecting the common sense worldliness that has long tempered American Christianity; they are embracing the blind emotionalism of faith. Ominously, they are raising an even more radical generation of Christians, teaching them to be "sons of God" rather than "children of the world," just as Augustine demanded. This new Christianity is a whole new animal.

Unsurprisingly, these millions of serious Christians want to live in a society that reflects and supports their Christian values. Also unsurprisingly, they are perfectly willing to use the coercive power of the state to achieve that end. They fight to implement and/or retain laws criminalizing homosexual sex, forbidding the co-habitation of unmarried couples, and requiring modest clothing. They support the Bush Administration's vigorous prosecution of obscenity and heavy fines for indecency in the name of "family values." They demand that religious nonsense (i.e. "intelligent design") be taught as science in public schools. They demand the removal of un-Christian books from public and school libraries. Significantly, serious Christians will not be satisfied with success on those limited issues. They will demand strict divorce laws, limit access to birth control, prosecute adultery, and demand religious instruction in schools. To set a proper moral example for the children, they will force everyone to live a Christian life. They will silence critics of religion, whether by actively denying the right to offend religious believers or by passively permitting the intimidation of speakers. (Sadly, that's not much of a stretch in light of Bush the Father's response to the fatwa Salman Rushdie and Bush the Son's response to the Muslim jihad against the Danish cartoons.) Meanwhile, these Christians will continue to support socialism for the simple reason that the New Testament commands it. It demands total collectivization of property and distribution according to need. In passage after passage, it inculcates vicious hostility to wealth, in part on the grounds that the wealthy exploit the poor. Marxism collapsed as an ideological force with the Soviet Union, but Christianity can and will give socialism a new lease on life. The utter misery created by Christian socialism will not be a reason to abandon it; Christianity is explicitly opposed to worldy values like happiness and prosperity. It lauds the silent endurance of suffering and misery as a virtue -- and Christians will force you to be virtuous.

The size and power of the evangelical Christian subculture in America should not be underestimated. It is millions strong, generously funded, and growing quickly, often below the radar of the mainstream media. (See the excerpt from the DIM Hypothesis course for details.) Moreover, consider the slew of large Christian organizations seeking to influence American politics, such as American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, Christian Coalition of America, Pro-Family Law Center, and Family Research Council. All were created in the last 30 years. In addition, Christian conservatives are successfully infiltrating academia, filling the vacuum created by the ideological death of the left. (To head off a likely objection: Yes, Democrats are increasingly appealing to religion. However, they're doing so because they've seen the great success of the religious Republicans. For now, it's just opportunistic me-too-ism. If religious Republicans are rejected by the American people sooner rather than later, it will disappear. If not, Christian Democrats will gain power over their party and thereby eliminate the possibility of secular government.)

For those who understand the awesome power of philosophy in human life, the grave threat posed by this virulent new strain of Christianity is obvious. If America embraces the Christian government of the Republicans, the anti-reason and anti-life ideals Christianity will soon permeate every aspect of American life: politics, business, foreign policy, art, science, criminal and civil law, medicine, education, child-rearing, and more. Of all people, Objectivists ought to see that, precisely because Objectivism recognizes that philosophy is the fundamental driving force of human life and society. Yet many of Dr. Peikoff's critics dismiss the reinvigorated Christianity spreading throughout Republican Party as irrelevant or marginal, focusing only upon superficial issues of policy. They are utterly missing the point.

As if the prospect of Christian government in America isn't bad enough, the foreign policy of the Republicans is even more dangerous. The Bush Administration is not fighting a half-war against Islamic totalitarianism, as its Objectivist apologists claim. It is fighting an altruistic pseudo-war in which the lives of thousands of American soldiers and billions of taxpayer dollars are openly sacrificed for the good of the enemy.

To take the most telling example, President Bush has embroiled the American military in years of fruitless war in Iraq -- with no end in sight. On the present course, American can only leave Iraq in defeat, i.e. by withdrawing troops as the country sinks further into chaos. When that happens, Iraqis will be free to do as they please, namely to slaughter each other in religious and civil war culminating in the establishment of a repressive Islamic theocracy. That new Iraq will be far more dangerous to America than Saddam's regime ever was; it will be another Iran. Notably, Bush's lofty plan for Iraq diverges only slightly from that grim reality: he wants Iraqis to democratically vote themselves some new government, any new government. Since his basic goal is promote democracy rather than secure America, he's willing to accept an Islamic theocracy hostile to America, so long as Iraqis vote for it. That's what our soldiers in Iraq are fighting and dying to protect in President Bush's "war on terror." The fact that they have killed some jihadists is wholly irrelevant: militant Islamists are not in short supply in the Middle East.

America's bloody self-sacrifice in Iraq is the concrete reality of President Bush's "Forward Strategy of Freedom." According to that doctrine, the root cause of the "stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export" common to almost all countries in the Middle East is the absence of democracy. So the solution to Islamist terrorism is to allow Islamists the power of the vote. By implication, Islam is fundamentally unrelated to terrorism. As a "religion of peace," Islam cannot inspire or motivate terrorism, whatever the terrorists might say. Notably, Bush explicitly connected his Forward Strategy of Freedom to his own religious faith. He declared the spread of democracy to be America's "calling," a task to be accomplished with God's assistance and American sacrifice. Iraq was supposed to be the first major step: "the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." In fact, the only significant outcome has been an explosion of Islamism in Iraq.

President Bush's much-lauded Forward Strategy of Freedom has worked equally well elsewhere. The Bush Administration has vigorously promoted government by democratic vote in Muslim countries, even when that elevates violent Islamic totalitarians to power. Democracy brought Hamas to power over the Palestinian Authority, injected Hezbollah into the Lebanese government, and enshrined Islam as the law of the land in Afghanistan. Yet Bush continues to push for full-blown elections Egypt and Jordan, even though that would undermine the efforts of those semi-friendly countries to suppress militant Islam. By promoting democracy, President Bush is aiding our enemies, openly helping them gain political power that otherwise would have been out of reach. Yet he has not been deterred from his God-given mission by the ever-growing political power of the Islamists around the Middle East. Like any good Christian, he is impervious to the facts of this world.

The Bush Administration's foreign policy is influenced by Christianity in more than just this "love your enemies" plan for Islamists. In his recent talk, "Nothing Less Than Victory," Dr. John Lewis rightly argued that America ought to demand that the Muslim world wholly separate mosque and state. As in Shinto Japan after World War II, Muslims would be free to pray to Allah in their private lives, but Islam would be barred from public life and politics, including education. Muslims could rationalize that public secularism however they pleased -- or abandon Islam entirely. Such secular government in Muslim countries is required to eliminate their threat to the West. Yet President Bush is completely incapable of demanding anything of the sort. He does not believe in the separation of church and state; he's actively intermingling religion and politics in America. So he has no principled objection to states governed by Islamic law. He regards religion as a positive force in human life and in the state. He merely prefers Christianity to Islam.

In essence, by the very nature of his guiding philosophy of life, President Bush is incapable of defeating Islamic totalitarianism. He lacks the capacity to identify the enemy as Islam and to demand the separation of mosque and state. The result is not some half-good measures against Islamic totalitarianism. He's actively sacrificing American lives, dollars, and security in order promote Islamists to political power.

Even worse, by so doing while posing as a tough defender of America, the Bush Administration has substantially destroyed the critical ingredient in the battle for Western civilization against the Muslim barbarians, namely our will to fight. America's military might is awe-inspiring. If victory was the goal, America's military could probably crush Islamic totalitarianism in mere months, if not sooner. The only question is whether America has the moral confidence to use that awesome military power in the service of its own defense. In the weeks and months after 9/11, most Americans were eager to terminate the deadly ambitions of the Islamists. The Bush Administration bled dry that fighting spirit with years of war in Iraq, not to mention the ongoing appeasement of terrorists and the states that sponsor them. The cultural and political power of the Islamists in the Middle East has only grown since 9/11, so much so that many Americans now regard victory against the Islamists as impossible and self-defense as slow suicide. They do not think we can win; they aren't certain we deserve to win; they don't even know what "winning" would mean. That's obscene. In concrete terms, the loss of moral confidence means that America will not confront Iran or Saudi Arabia, even though they are the two ideological and financial fountainheads of terrorism against the West. Our government will continue to appease Iran with diplomacy while it openly pursues nuclear weapons. It will continue to pretend that Saudi Arabia is an ally.

Of course, I cannot imagine that the Democrats will wage anything like proper war against the Islamic totalitarians determined to destroy America. However, I can reasonably hope that their fearful cowardice will protect us from self-sacrificial wars. They will not sap America's will to fight, but perhaps even reinvigorate it by their inaction. For example, by pulling out of Somalia in disgrace, the Clinton Administration saved us from the self-sacrifice of Bush the Elder's humanitarian "war" to protect and serve a hostile population. Americans were not sapped of their will to fight thereby: most understood that we could and should have retaliated -- even though we shouldn't have embroiled ourselves in that mess of a country in the first place. In contrast, if Bush the Younger were in charge, American soldiers would probably still be dying senselessly in Somalia, just as in Iraq today, on the premise that Somalis really want freedom too.

The world would be a safer place today if President Bush refused to take any action in response to the 9/11 attacks. Fewer Islamists would be in positions of political power in the Middle East. Americans might be frustrated by the inaction rather than cowed by improvised roadside bombs.

Objectivists ought to recognize the total failure of Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly in light of the slew of articles and lectures on the topic in recent years by Dr. Lewis and Dr. Brook. Yet many seem utterly blind to the disaster, focusing only upon insignificant concretes. The fact is that the Bush Administration is not fighting a war against Islamic totalitarianism: as a matter of deliberate policy, it is promoting their political and cultural domination of the Middle East. Yet that's the Administration that TIA Daily praises, supports, and urges you to vote for -- precisely on the grounds of its "war on terror." It's appalling.

Those are my basic reasons for regarding today's Republicans as far, far more dangerous than today's Democrats. The problem is not some few individual Republicans but the whole Republican Party, including its leadership. It must be told in no uncertain terms to reverse course. It will only do so if punished by voters for injecting religion into politics and promoting Islamism in the Middle East. Yes, the Democrats are awful. Yes, it will be painful to vote for them. However, the alternative of Christian government is so much more dangerous to our liberties.

The fundamental philosophic principles required to clearly understand the nature of our choice in this election are not self-evident. They can be difficult to understand, even for someone long familiar with Objectivism. An honest Objectivist could be confused by the flood of irrelevant concretes and misleading analyses, particularly if attentive to the seemingly Objectivist defenses of the Bush Administration published in almost every TIA Daily and commonly posted on HBL (based on what I saw during my trial membership this spring). However, I think such confusion is possible only to a person without anything like a firm grasp of the relevant philosophic principles. That's why I agree with Dr. Peikoff's claim that "anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life--which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world." Sadly, that assessment has been confirmed by the flurry of concrete-bound objections to Dr. Peikoff's statement posted on various Objectivist forums. More particularly, most critics of Dr. Peikoff dismiss as insignificant (or even deny) the rise of a new form of Christianity among millions of Americans over the last three decades. They treat Christianity as relevant to little more than birth and death, i.e. to abortion and euthanasia, even though millions of Christians are determined to live by the actual teachings of the New Testament. They claim that America's sense of life makes theocracy impossible, as if the sense of life of a nation is independent of and impervious to massive changes in explicit philosophy. In essence, they do not recognize that Christianity is an all-encompassing philosophy with the power to drag America into a second Dark Ages if unchecked. In other words, they fail to grasp "the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life."

In response to Dr. Peikoff's claim, some argue that a person's vote reveals nothing about his understanding of Objectivism. In fact, a person's concrete actions often do reveal failures of understanding--particularly when the choices are stark. An Objectivist who occasionally shoplifts doesn't understand property rights (and more); an Objectivist who stumps for the Libertarian Party doesn't understand the role of fundamental philosophy in politics (and more); an Objectivist who admires Kant's philosophy doesn't understand much of anything. Similarly, an Objectivist who thinks that today's Republicans are less evil or as evil as today's Democrats fails to grasp the fundamental ideological commitments of the Republicans and the real life meaning thereof, particularly the totalistic crushing oppression of life in a Christian culture and under Christian government.

Moreover, I'm glad that Dr. Peikoff was so blunt, even though some were insulted. Many Objectivists needed to hear those shocking words. They needed to be told in no uncertain terms by the foremost expert on Objectivism that their understanding of the philosophy is seriously deficient. If Dr. Peikoff had stated his views in less stark terms, most pro-Republican Objectivists would have dismissed them without much consideration. Others would have remained oblivious to the enormous differences underlying the positions advocated by Yaron Brook, John Lewis, Craig Biddle, and Leonard Peikoff on one hand and Robert Tracinksi, Jack Wakeland, and Harry Binswanger (at least in 2004) on the other. A wake-up call was needed. Yes, it's blaring -- probably because the softer alarms weren't often heeded.

Obviously, a person who fails to properly understand Objectivism is not thereby dishonest or immoral. However, some of Dr. Peikoff's most vehement critics have interpreted him as saying just that -- wrongly, I think. Dr. Peikoff wrote:

    Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because "both are bad."

In my judgment, that claim of immorality presumes that a person understands the choice in question basically as stated, i.e. between an ever-weaker killer and an ever-stronger killer. If a person fails to understand that despite serious and honest effort, then his failure to vote for the Democrats would not be a moral failing, although still a serious mistake. More generally, the identification of a certain act as immoral doesn't imply that everyone performing it is immoral. For example, it's immoral for a husband to lie to his wife to spare her feelings, but if he's accepted the standard view of honesty, he might reasonably think that some "white lies" are proper. Such a husband has done something wrong by lying, even though he's not acted immorally in the sense of evading his knowledge. Hopefully, someone will tell him that he's doing wrong, that lying to his wife is immoral, and that he doesn't understand honesty. That's what Dr. Peikoff has done for Objectivists. (Of course, some pro-Republicans Objectivists are probably dishonest in their views. However, my point is simply that Dr. Peikoff didn't say that all were.)

Finally, I must comment upon some of the vicious attacks on Dr. Peikoff posted to the ObjectivismOnline and The Forum threads on his statement. To be blunt, I'm appalled by them, particularly by the many accusations of intimidation, bullying, dogmatism, and the like. (For example, Jack Wakeland began this post with "Thank you, [name omitted], for so quickly standing up to Dr. Peikoff's attempt to bully.") Such charges are absurd: a person does not dogmatically impose himself upon anyone else by expressing strong epistemological and moral judgments. (That's David Kelley's "tolerationist" view; it's not Objectivism.) Dr. Peikoff is certainly not obliged to sugarcoat his negative judgments for the sake of spineless cowards fearful of his disapproval, particularly not on such weighty issues like the fate of America.

More generally, Dr. Peikoff deserves far better treatment from Objectivists than he's received of late. Apart from Ayn Rand, he's undoubtedly the most knowledgeable and accomplished Objectivist philosopher -- by far. No one else could have so skillfully and clearly systematized Objectivism as he did in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. For that feat alone, he deserves the deep respect and admiration of Objectivists. In action, such respect means that Objectivists ought to give his arguments careful attention and scrutiny, even if ultimately disagreeing with them. That's hardly too much to ask. However, that's not happened in this debate. Dr. Peikoff has been attacked in the very same terms as I often heard in TOC circles, i.e. with the same casual disregard for facts and the same specious arguments about intimidation. Also like at TOC, many people have dismissed his arguments as absurd without any substantial effort to understand them. That's inexcusable.

[This final paragraph was obviously written for the NoodleFood version of this post. I've retained it for the sake of completeness, as well as to make my position more clear. To be pointed: Linz, I think you've done wrong in the invective you've slung at Dr. Peikoff.]

To be perfectly clear, I will not tolerate any such attacks upon Dr. Peikoff in the in the [NoodleFood] comments on this post. Disagreement is fine, but I want nothing to do with anyone who treats him with the dismissive contempt I've seen elsewhere. My admiration for Dr. Peikoff and his accomplishments means something to me, something serious and important. So those supposed Objectivists who cannot treat Dr. Peikoff with some minimal respect are kindly invited in advance to remain silent [in the NoodleFood comments].


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Of course I have!

atlascott's picture

And let me state this crystal clearly.

I LOVE DR. PEIKOFF'S WORK. I think Ominous Parallels is genius. OPAR was just what I needed to fill in the gaps after reading (and re-reading) Ayn's essays.

My comment is made tongue in cheek. It is attempt at wit, drawing attention to what I believe to be the incorrect emphasis placed on a lesser threat (Christianity) versus a substantially greater threat (Socialism).

He might, however, feel a little funny about calling the banners against Christianity if we go from Bush II to USSA under Obama in 8 years, with nary a peep out of Christianity.

Just like I'd have to eat my words if Obama turns out to be a friend of free market capitalism.

Scott DeSalvo

www.desalvolaw.com
FREE Injury Report and CD Reveal the Secrets You Need to Know to Protect Your RIGHTS!

drop the fatwa

Jmaurone's picture

It should also be noted that Peikoff has already stated a week ago on his podcast that he is NOT voting for Obama... 

....A SHOW OF HANDS: A Cautionary Tale of Heroes in Exile....

Scott, your idea here is way

Lanza Morio's picture

Scott, your idea here is way off.

Dr. Peikoff has worked passionately since the 1950s to rid the world of collectivism. To imagine he would be or could be embarrassed about anything is ridiculous.

Have you read the Ominous Parallels? Have you read OPAR? Have you listened to some of his courses available at the Ayn Rand Bookstore?

Talk about context-dropping. Sheesh.

Imagine how embarassing

atlascott's picture

Imagine how embarrassing this will be for Dr. Peikoff if Obama is elected and he does his Socialist totalitarian routine...

Scott DeSalvo

www.desalvolaw.com
FREE Injury Report and CD Reveal the Secrets You Need to Know to Protect Your RIGHTS!

I

Elijah Lineberry's picture

think the idea of the unpopularity of the Bush administration causing inevitable defeat for the Republican candidate, although conventional wisdom, is highly optimistic.

What would be more likely is the unpopularity of Hillary Clinton bringing down the Democrats.

Her 'negative' numbers are just astounding.

You could have a monkey as the Republican candidate and it could reasonably expect 45% of the vote, every Southern state except Arkansas and Virginia, the 'Plain' and 'Rocky Mountain' states except Colorado Sticking out tongue

There is evidence that having Hillary on the ticket jeopadises Freshman Democrat house members, and many of them are terrified of her campaigning anywhere near their districts next year.

Something which is not widely understood about her supposed popularity is 1 in 6 Democrats voted against her in the Primary last year, and her percentage in November was a lot lower than Elliot Spitzer received, and Charles Schumer in 2004....seeing her 'Bottom of the ticket' in quite a few New York congressional districts.

Too close

I'll bet that it will be a very close election (provided there are no 3rd party candidates). I think it is too far off to call right now though. There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then. The President's approval numbers are low, but congresses numbers are at record lows. I think there will be a lot of turmoil in the next election cycle.

Wm

Want my bet?

Matty Orchard's picture

Nominations: D: Clinton R: Giuliani

Winner: Clinton

I think that the Dems will go for a familiar name and Reps will go for a 9/11 hero that has some appeal to centrists, Clinton will win because Bush is so unpopular at the moment and will probably remain that way. Any takers? 

Every

Elijah Lineberry's picture

4 years I take a very close interest in the US Presidential elections, the year in the run up to the Primary season, and the 10 months from New Hampshire to the General Election. Laughing out loud

Have been doing so for 20 years and find it great fun, especially as I have accurately predicted the winner of each state during these 5 Presidential contests...(yes, yes I know what you mean but there is no need to dwell on Florida in 2000) Eye...and consider myself a 'World Authority' on the subject. Smiling

One interesting parallel between this Presidential Contest and the first one I observed during 1987/88 (apart from Joe Biden, Ron Paul and Al Gore), is the impossibility of visualising any of the Democrats actually being elected President, despite the media interest.

Back in 1987 the media were running stories (with a straight face) trying to imagine "President Gore", "President Dukakis", "President Gephardt" (wtf?)Sticking out tongue and for a brief period around Christmas 1987 even "President Simon"...(former Senator from Illinois).

The idea of "President Bush" or "President Dole" was never entertained, and laughed off with a "well the Republicans have to have a candidate, too, I suppose" Sticking out tongue

Looking at the field from both parties at the moment it seems faintly ridiculous to suggest there would be a "President Obama" or "President Clinton"...yet these scenarios are widely commented on, including the 'Heir-to-George-McGovern-let's-have-an-unelectable-policy-programme' "President Edwards".

I can easily imagine, however, "President Giuliani" "President Romney" and "President Thomson"....(although "President Mccain" seems a non starter nowadays).

All three are very impressive on television (especially Romney, to my surprise) and seem to talk about issues of interest to the American voting public at large. Smiling

Chris

Lanza Morio's picture

Hi Chris, regarding the Christian Coalition - certainly they are less confident now than they were before. Reality just El-Kabonged them on the head and they are forced to reconsider what God wants.

Short-term that's a very good thing. As far as what the future holds with the CC, your guess is as good as mine.

J.D. Hayworth, Missing Link, Declared Extinct

Ted Keer's picture

At the risk of repeating myself James, the answer is that the best people to have in office are neither Democrats nor Republicans but the best candidate for the particular office contested. America is not a parliamentary or coalition system with coherent voting blocks. Party affiliation will almlost certainly mean that commitee chairmanships will change. But the Democrats, just like the Republicans, will not be able to break a Senate filibuster.

Frankly, it's better for the left to have to put up or shut up now rather than risk getting Hillary and both houses in a sweep in '08. What will matter now will be how Bush completes his term and who stands up under what principles for the next election.

A lot of horrible Republicans are gone now, and although I might only support 1/200 Democrats, (Most of whom are dead or in their 80's) I say good riddance. I am happy with the results.

Jim V

Chris Cathcart's picture

Do you -- or anyone else -- see any other big "pluses" in the Republican category?

Right off? Not really. The differences in the two parties' positions on taxes is the most obvious advantage for Republicans.

This doesn't mean the GOP nowadays likes spending less, as Diana correctly points out. Their mentality is more the "let the economy grow and provide the greater revenues" approach. Which would solve any deficit problem in time if spending were kept in check. The Dems are vile on this point for the obvious reasons.

While it's not exactly a "plus" for the GOP -- more like a larger minus for the Dems -- the GOP has some kind of advantage when it comes to national defense, terror, etc. The argument here is generally that while GWB may be doing a lousy job at it, the Dems aren't going to be any better and probably worse. I could accept all of Diana's criticisms about how GWB has been acting as an enabler for Islamofascist theocrats abroad, and still raise the challenge as to how the Demo-Europhiles could do better.

Oh, and as another plus relatively speaking, the GOP does seem to do better on gun-control issues. Not that there's an imminent threat of people's guns being taken away, but it's nice knowing that one party seems firmly committed enough to that not happening; with the Dems I don't know what you might get given enough time, Europhiles that they are. It's nice knowing that the GOP would act as a safeguard on this just to be sure.

Taxes are the biggest plus, they're friendly to gun-ownership rights, and they're less worse on defense/terror. I don't know what else gives them much of any advantage these days. I know that for Ayn Rand, this wouldn't be enough anyway. If you remember her views on Reagan, it didn't matter that he was more the way the Republicans are supposed to be than what they've become; his position on abortion was enough for her to oppose him.

With the two major parties, it's like comparing rotten apples and rotten oranges. They're each bad in their own ways. But consider something like this: Roe v Wade isn't getting overturned anytime soon, while tax hikes are perhaps as close as a presidential election away.

Heads and Tails

Jeff Perren's picture

"At first I thought, "Well, this is a kick in the head to the 'Peikoff position'. Here you have the Democrats we're supposed to vote for to oppose religion embracing those very same ideas as the Republicans." On the other hand, it illustrates the "Peikoff position" to the extent that it shows that even the Democrats feel obliged to pander to it."

Heads I win, tails you lose. Proponents of Freud argued in a similar vein 50 years ago. I'm reminded of the scene in Life of Brian. "Well, what chance does that give me? Alright, I AM the messiah!"

Don't be angry, Fred. Just a little post-election stress relief humor.

Jeff

The Election

Fred Weiss's picture

I found a couple of things curious in this election and a couple of things *very* encouraging.

The most encouraging thing is that apparently all of the anti-abortion propositions (including parental notification) went down to defeat, particularly the most visible and the one that the religionists had staked the most on - the one in South Dakota. One would hope that in this vote the country has once and for all sent a loud and clear message on this subject - and that the "pro-lifers" have heard it.

There were a couple of other obnoxious propositions, such as the one in California which would have imposed massive taxes on oil companies to pay for "alternate" energy research, that also went down to defeat.

I have been unable to find the results of the various "eminent domain" propositions - I believe there were about 8 around the country. If anyone can find a web page which summarizes it, I'd appreciate it.

The most curious thing to me was that a number of the winning Democrat candidates, e.g. the one who defeated Rick Santorum, were themselves staunchly "social conservatives", including opposing abortion and stem cell research. At first I thought, "Well, this is a kick in the head to the 'Peikoff position'. Here you have the Democrats we're supposed to vote for to oppose religion embracing those very same ideas as the Republicans." On the other hand, it illustrates the "Peikoff position" to the extent that it shows that even the Democrats feel obliged to pander to it. One of the Fox commentators noted that the Democrat senate candidate in Tennessee referred to God more often than his Republican opponent. (The Republican won, btw).

One other good thing. According to reports, the Republicans largely held their evangelical base but went down to defeat because their support among other groups, e.g. "independents", dropped significantly. In other words, evangelicals alone are not enough for Republicans to win. So, if we are heading toward "theocracy", the theocrats don't yet have sufficient clout by themselves to carry an election.

All that said, the Republicans deserved to lose. It would be nice, too, if in 2008 they could find a candidate who could actually speak the English language.

Jim

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Jim,

We have no way of knowing and a serious candidate has to come in with some kind of credibility on these issues. Diana has stated in her piece that she will vote for Hillary Clinton in the next election. Hillary Clinton is no Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir.

Until and unless the Democrats nominate a Zell Miller, a Bill Nelson or even a Bob Kerrey they will have no credibility on the national security issue. I mean most Americans can just imagine Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi spreading their legs for the Islamofascists...

Preview of Democratic President

Jeff Perren's picture

If you want to get a glimpse of what a Democratic president might sound like on that subject, catch interviews of the last two days with Nancy Pelosi.

No, I won't try to summarize them here and now.

Jeff

Jim

James S. Valliant's picture

Do you think that the Dems can be successful in national elections after 9/11, and maintain this stance? Wouldn't a Dem elected to the White House in '08 have to prove he's (or she's) "tough on Islamic terrorists" -- or risk killing their party's chances in national elections for the foreseeable future?

Those Dems who were, once upon a time, against the Soviets simply felt a practical reality -- one that Clinton could avoid so long as the public perceived no like threat. Out of power, the Dems can politically exploit the full range of criticisms of Bush. But, in power, would they have really acted much differently?

After 9/11, it remains to be seen what a Dem president would actually feel obliged to do.

National Security and Foreign Policy

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

Many of us have looked at how Presidents respond to major threats. The Democratic Party of today does not have anything close to an FDR, a Harry Truman or even a JFK when it comes down to responding to a significant external threat. They are doormats and everybody in the world knows it.

Jim

Chris

James S. Valliant's picture

Thank you, Chris.

On this issue, I see your point. Within certain limits that transcend party-politics, and all other things being equal, taxes will be higher under Dems.

Of course, we must bear in mind our "odds" with the Republicans even on this score: On occasion, we get a Reagan and we get a tax cut. Sometimes, we get a "read my lips," and then higher taxes. Other occasions, we get temporary, automatically dissolving tax cuts.

The tax cuts do not seem to have shrunk government, either, although they certainly had some impact in keeping spending from growing still faster.

Do you -- or anyone else -- see any other big "pluses" in the Republican category?

May I also ask a similar question, already suggested by Lance? Have the Republicans -- in power for the last six years -- on balance -- advanced or harmed individual freedom?

BTW,

Chris Cathcart's picture

The latest results should give the GOP some cause for rethinking about priorities. The nice thing about the GOP is just what the Dem-ogogues berate them for: keeping taxes low (which means keeping taxes low on those who pay the most). So the GOP has its "rich buddies" whose tax bills they want to keep low. So now is a time for a question, given that within two years we have a looming Dem re-takeover of the White House and Congress, something that'll have the DIMmers circling the wagons quick enough. So with Dems in power, it's the end of any talk of lower taxes, and on with the talk of higher taxes. The question here being, how much do the Republicans value lower taxes compared to running the Iraq War the way they've been running it, and compared to pandering to the Christian Right and to rednecks? If it falls lower, they've not earned the right to the people's vote.

Much as I'm not a Rush Limbaugh fan, he's the voice that the GOP needs to be following -- and it's the voice on where the GOP is supposed to be strongest, the economy and taxes. It's supposed to be stronger on defense, and it could and should be, but it's running things too much like the military-industrial-complex theory would say it's running things, with no end in sight to involvement in Iraq. So GWB could keep on enriching his buddies that nasty way, or do the right thing and win the fucking war the way it can and should be won, and let his rich buddies get richer the old fashioned way by keeping their taxes low.

From the standpoint of what the GOP's money source and good political sense would want, GWB's doing a nice job of screwing it up for them. I don't think GWB's present course is what the GOP wants; they should be focused not on defending him, but on retaining control after '08. So, in that sense, hopefully the '06 outcome is a wake-up call and that they go the smart route rather than the politically and existentially toxic combination of Military-Industrial-Complex and Christian Right.

Jim V

Chris Cathcart's picture

Okay then, guys, forget the "advantages" of a Republican majority -- what's the "empirical" case for Republicans over Democrats in general?

One advantage is that when Republicans want to cut taxes and have done so a few times. Democrats fight tooth and nail against tax cuts. The last time the Dems went along with a tax cut was back in '81 when Reagan had the political clout to see to it that it happened. With Republicans in majority in Congress, the sunsetted tax cuts would have been extended; with the Dems in charge and GWB lacking the clout, I don't see these tax cuts being extended -- or it's going to be much tougher to get it done. Dem Congresses have ushered through big tax hikes ever since '81, getting Bush Sr. and Clintoid (most eagerly) to go along. We could get into semantical debates on whether the sunsetting of the present tax cuts amounts to a tax hike, but it's all the same in reality -- the government and its assorted parasites getting their grubby mitts on more than if the tax cuts were kept in place.

Democrats hate, HATE, HATE tax cuts. That alone makes them pretty damn vile.

(And as it goes with politics today, while the voters didn't like the Iraq War as it's being run and voted accordingly, they're getting, as a side effect, no more easy breaks on tax cuts in the next few years. And tax cuts are actually popular. The Dems have something bordering on a "principled" opposition to tax cuts, even if they're popular. Remember, last time these fuckers cut taxes on their own was 45 years ago. Once the party went McGovernite, no tax cuts save for '81. Oh, BTW, the Dems didn't even control the whole Congress in '81; the Republicans had a majority for a short two years in the Senate in '81-82. So, really, it was a GOP White House with a popular referendum on tax cuts and a GOP-run Senate that were instrumental in making tax cuts a political reality.)

Lance

Chris Cathcart's picture

I also feel good knowing that the Christian Coalition will have to re-group and re-think their positions. I don't imagine this will crush them politically but it had to hurt.

Lance, I would agree with Diana, Dr. Peikoff, et al, that the Christian Right is a dangerous and politically-powerful gathering element, and the regrettable part is that this election was not a referendum on the Christian Right, but on the Iraq War. I don't see why the Christian Right should be particularly bothered by this outcome, nor the Objectivists any less rightfully concerned about (fearful of?) their underlying influence in politics.

Dan

Chris Cathcart's picture

The significance of voting in this election is primarily symbolic. As Objectivists, our votes may not count for much, but our voices are each as powerful as 1,000 Democrats or Republicans. This is particularly true when our voices are united and our reasoning sound. The fundamental question here is not who to vote for but why to vote for him.

At this point in history the Objectivist vote is not going to significantly effect the outcome of an election. But one's public support of a political party does have long term consequences. Men like Rob Trancinski, Yaron Brooke, and Lindsay Perigo speak to a much broader audience that just Objectivists. It matters what they think, who they support, and why they support him. That is why the issue is so important.

If ideas move history, then one must be aware of which ideas are dominant and where they are leading us. Please don't try to reduce this issue to the significance of one man's vote.

I agree with the first part, about the important part being not who to vote for, but the reasons for voting that way. However, we shouldn't be getting into begging questions. I think everyone here is agreed that both major parties as we know them are vile, and each in their own way strongly committed to killing off the good in this country. The idea is to replace the major parties as we know them, but that's a long-term thing requiring major cultural change. So it's certainly not me reducing this issue to the significance of one person's vote; I'm responding to those folks who are treating it that way. You have Peikoff declaring things about people who vote some way, and you have Diana posting about why she's voting a certain way, not merely why one party would be better than another right now.

I agree with the part about Objectivist voices being more powerful -- and that's the arena where Objectivists can make an impact. Not in the voting booth.

I liken the act of voting to rooting for a sports team. If it accomplishes anything, it's as an expressive act. But I despise the major parties right now too much to express support for either. I'll be glad to take part in the rooting once the necessary cultural changes have taken root and become effective in the political realm.

Phil

James S. Valliant's picture

I have none of the obvious personal investment in a "position" that you seem to have -- and (are you were paying attention?) I have no position here to defend -- yet.

Linz

James S. Valliant's picture

Linz,

Don't write the Epilogue, just yet.

Uncertain at the moment, I have no long position statement to make -- and it's hard to see how anyone could have "wiped the floor" with me.

I will wait for Jeff -- who always has something worthwhile to contribute -- but from these responses, especially Phil's, it's becoming clear that the issue is not one of Republican superiority -- a case no one, I think, can make.

Of course, this does not mean that one should vote for the Dems, either, but it's a good starting place for the discussion. Uh... "starting place."

It may not be "earlier than you think" about the world -- but it's way too early to denounce me as a pomo-wanker, my friend.

No Takers, Indeed!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

James Valliant, as someone who went through the agonies of the damned having to rethink himself after reading PARC, I am pained and dismayed to say that in this instance your modus operandi sucks. How much time went by before there were any takers for my Turandot challenge? Actually, we don't know, since there have been no takers still! And you as a Hsiekovian in this debate have the gall to bitch about "no takers" a mere few hours after posting a dumb challenge re the empirical difference between Republicans and Democrats as though the non-Hsiekovians were blind Republican-worshippers. Jesus H. Christ!

You've been appropriately punished—Phil Coates has wiped the floor with you. Phil Coates!!

I'm shortly going to write an Epilogue to this sorry affair, which I'll post separately.

Linz

The Dimocrats?

Jason Quintana's picture

Bill -- So does that make me an M4 or a D2?

- Jason

(Yes, I have been making jokes (and very direct comments) about about certain people who previous to this debacle have been considered to be untouchable in certain circles. I know that jokes about them make some people uncomfortable. Personally I believe they deserve it. That certainly doesn't make me a nihilist. And please don't lump Jeff Perren in the same category as me. He has been EXTREMELY diplomatic in these discussions.)

Jason

Bill Visconti's picture

You wrote:

"Ladies and Gentleman, we can all breath a sigh of relief. The Democrats won the House (and maybe the Senate). The dastardly philosophical premises of the Republicans have been thwarted. Chalk one up for the DIM Hypothesis."

My response:

Jason, I don't know what your personality is like in real life, but your internet personality sucks. You seem like a nihilist. All your posts reveal is a desire to attack anyone who agrees with Dr. Peikoff or Diana. You add nothing to the conversation except insults.

I'll be blunt. You really irritate me. So much so that from now on I intend to skip any post with your picture attached to it.

Takers, Later.

Jeff Perren's picture

James,

Ur... maybe you'd be willing to have a little patience. I've written enough words to compile a short book in the last two weeks. Coming in after closing arguments and demanding the case be re-tried -- when no one has addressed those words very much -- is a bit much, don't you think? Maybe you could review them (and Speicher's, et al) and make some statements. Or is the claim that they are 'concrete bound' now enough? (No, I'm not leveling having used that phrase at you personally.)

Anyway, like I said. If I have the time and energy, I may say more on the subject later. Right now, I'm under some deadlines.

Jeff

"Blowing Off" the Arguments

PhilipC's picture

> what's the "empirical" case for Republicans over Democrats in general? [Jim]

I don't know about Jeff, but my policy is not to repeat arguments and posts or "summarize" them when the previous ones have been ignored.

Also, Jim, please pay attention:

The main points that have been made by the people I listed in my last post are -against- the idea that theocracy is imminent, that the Left is dead, that religion is the overwhelming threat in the short run. It is not (necessarily - Jeff and me and Linz and the Speichers, Tracinski, and so on might disagree on this) the position that Republicans are better than Democrats. Or even that one should have just voted for the former.

Once again, you are writing a "one-liner" asking another question, instead of engaging the points I and Jeff and others have made. It's as if you don't want to take the trouble...and expect us instead to keep spending a lot more posts trying to satisfy you when we've already done the work and you are "blowing it off."

....

Note that this is exactly the point that I was making in my last post here about: "brushing aside any very detailed engagement" and here: "you simply can't argue with people who are unwilling to concretely and empirically study them in sufficient detail".

....

Jim, I have noticed you doing this on other threads and on other topics and it is infuriating:

A long chain of discussion has gone on, sometimes for weeks. And the side you disagree with has invested many hours making a long list of arguments and presented a *lot* of evidence. You never systematically take them on point by point. Days later, you make some very short post saying something aksing a Socratic question along the lines of "please tell me what your point is" or "what evidence do you have'.

Ignoring the fact that it has already been offered at great length. And that you simply are not willing to or don't have time to slog through it. And then you append a line like "NO TAKERS?" which suggests that people have not stepped up to the plate to debate YOU...as if you had written enormously detailed posts laying out the arguments and evidence!!

Would you be allowed to do this in a court of law or in preparing a case?

No Takers?

James S. Valliant's picture

Okay then, guys, forget the "advantages" of a Republican majority -- what's the "empirical" case for Republicans over Democrats in general?

Jeff

TRowland's picture

See my most recent Blog Entry for some on this. Here are some short answers.

Yes, men have free will. But the history of the world indicates that even in the presense of relatively good ideas (like the Enlightenment) free will does not work automatically nor does it always choose to think. Thinking is, after all, difficult sometimes and when the ideas it has to consider are abstract and the most rational ideas subvert short-term self interest (public schools, earmarked funds for your pet project, etc.)rational ideas are not guaranteed acceptance. As Peikoff points out in the DIM lectures Disintegration (entropy?) is the default position. (This series is really important, Jeff, even if all you want to do is defeat it.)

To use the firehouse analogy to answer your last question, it's hard to fight the arsonist when he's in bed with the fire-fighter. And when the arsonist is first-rate and the fire-fighter is third-rate, it's almost impossible. That's why it's sometimes necessary to change ownership of the firehouse, even if the new owner is a third-rate arsonist. Better a third-rate arsonist in the firehouse than a third-rate firefighter in bed with a first-rate arsonist.

Uh...

James S. Valliant's picture

Well, no one on the political Right did anything about it, Jeff.

Prognostication

Jeff Perren's picture

"Peikoff deserves a lot of credit for identifying and naming Islamic jihadists in theocratic Iran as our enemy following 9/11. He had actually figured it out well before 9/11."

With all due respect to Dr. Peikoff, quite a few people across the political and philosophical spectrum saw that even before 1979, when it became obvious to damn near everyone but the committed Left.

Hell, even Saddam Hussein saw them as a danger and engaged in a several-year long war against them. (Not for the right reasons, of course.)

Jeff

Is Rebublicanism toast?

Lanza Morio's picture

Peikoff deserves a lot of credit for identifying and naming Islamic jihadists in theocratic Iran as our enemy following 9/11. He had actually figured it out well before 9/11. 5 years later small numbers of people are beginning to see it as clearly Piekoff did then. Most still don't see it all.

He also saw the mess in Iraq for what it is before the 2004 election. Since at least the 1970s the Republican party has been viewed as more rational and more friendly to liberty than the Dems. That view was based more on hope than on fact. There is simply no truth in the idea that Republicans are friendlier to liberty than Democrats. It feels good to let that truth wash over me because it is the truth.

I also feel good knowing that the Christian Coalition will have to re-group and re-think their positions. I don't imagine this will crush them politically but it had to hurt.

Okay, Shoot

James S. Valliant's picture

Jeff and/or Phil and/or Linz (not that these are interchangeable units),

Could you please lay out what you see as the "empirical" case for the superiority of a Republican majority in Congress (or, the Presidency, for that matter)?

> I tire of repeating

PhilipC's picture

> I tire of repeating myself. [Jeff]

At a certain point, when you've presented more than a dozen pieces of directly relevant, diligently gathered and carefully presented, inductive evidence from surveys, from history, from current events, from statements by the very people and leaders being speculated about and they have not been engaged, it is clear that no more is needed or will have any effect.

It's enormously significant that people haven't been willing to engage these points. They consider them beside the point.

The reason is the thinking method they tend to employ.

The reason our opponents on this issue of current politics and philosophical trends are pretty much brushing aside any very detailed engagement with you, Jeff (as well as myself, the Speichers, Tracinski, etc.) is largely because they are *deducing* what -has- to happen from principles taken out of context. Since they are on a rationalist, deductivist premise rather than an empirical, look at the actual world, 'reality check', inductive premise, they are unwilling to focus on arguments based on the latter.

This is why they tend to dismiss what we are saying along the lines of "reality check" type arguments as "concrete bound".

They think it's as simple as postulating that socialism, which is the heart of the Left and of Democratic nihilism, has died and that religion, which is the heart and unchallenged dominant force of Republicanism today, is alive and driving the culture and therefore it is a direct deduction that the latter is the great threat and not the former. Of course, all four of these premises are false:

i) that socialism is dead
ii) that socialism (as opposed to relativism, subjectivism, altruism, collectivism, nihilism, postmodernism) is the philosophical heart of the Democrats or the liberals
iii) that religion is what is driving the direction of the culture
iv) that religion is the heart and dominant force of the Republicans.

i) - iv) are certainly debatable (and I'm willing to be proved wrong on any one of them). And in principle, if I had an engaged audience willing to get into the details, I could do very long posts on each of these four issues. But they are heavily detailed, heavily empirical, heavily FACTUAL issues and you simply can't argue with people who are unwilling to concretely and empirically study them in sufficient detail. Or who would rather "do philosophy" exclusively.

Or try to directly deduce the political state, direction (and worst of all -speed- of change) of a complex country -solely- from it. While pooh-poohing all other factors (or boundary conditions).

The best analogy I can come up with for this kind of rationalistic context-dropping is fr0m the branch of physics known as mechanics: It's as if someone were to launch a pin ball and try to determine which pins it would hit solely by deduction from the initial impulse and Newton's laws of motion without taking into account the elasticity of the posts, the nearness or the walls, the weight of the ball, and the tilt of the table.

Assertions from Noumenal Self

Jeff Perren's picture

More of the same assertions and assumptions that have been challenged or entirely refuted several times. Very few of which are addressed by Mr. Self, and those poorly.

But, I tire of repeating myself.

Anyone interested should read my posts earlier in this thread as well as the comments -- on both sides -- on The Forum and NoodleFood.

And, of course, he or she should continue to examine both historical facts and the real world we live in today. Then be as objective as possible. It's the only way to form a reasonable prediction about the future, or even to understand what is happening now.

If I have the time, patience, or energy to expose yet more weakly grounded views, I'll pick up the debate later.

Jeff

Significance of Voting

Dan Edge's picture
The significance of voting in this election is primarily symbolic.  As Objectivists, our votes may not count for much, but our voices are each as powerful as 1,000 Democrats or Republicans.  This is particularly true when our voices are united and our reasoning sound.  The fundamental question here is not who to vote for but why to vote for him.  

At this point in history the Objectivist vote is not going to significantly effect the outcome of an election.  But one's public support of a political party does have long term consequences.  Men like Rob Trancinski, Yaron Brooke, and Lindsay Perigo speak to a much broader audience that just Objectivists.  It matters what they think, who they support, and why they support him.  That is why the issue is so important.

If ideas move history, then one must be aware of which ideas are dominant and where they are leading us.  Please don't try to reduce this issue to the significance of one man's vote.

--Dan Edge

Re: You guys ...

Chris Cathcart's picture

... shouldn't be making jokes about this. The country was *this* close to theocracy. Thanks to DIM, the Dems—those rational, freedom-loving Dems—have saved the day for now. But DIM-Dems must be eternally vigilant. There are more elections in 2 years. If the Republicans win, they could be the last free elections ever.

Oh, no joking about it at all. No seriously, the best part about all this is that the way to fend off a theocracy is to vote a certain way. I shit you not. It's Diana's doing. She voted Democrat, ergo theocracy was fought back for now. It's there in those graduate-level logic textbooks somewhere, or implied in the DIM course. The course of society hinges on how you vote.

C'mon, Linz, this is obvious.

More Links

James S. Valliant's picture

Noumenal Self chimes in here and here.

A Friendly Semantic Suggestion

Ted Keer's picture

Phil, the better word is assassins or provocatuers, not insurgents. Insurgents are domestic rebels, not foreign agents. Al Qaida operatives like Al-Masri (which means "the Egyptian") and Al-Zarqawi, in poor health, as pictured on the right, fit the latter definition. Callingg them insurgents makes it seem that there is a popular uprisingg against us. At this point, there is not.

Ted

> We have no specific goal

PhilipC's picture

> We have no specific goal of destroying a specific enemy. [Lance]

1. Al Qaeda insurgents specifically. 2. Shiite militias specifically. 3. Baathist Saddam loyalists specifically.

> The lives of American soldiers are very literally put on the line, not to fight and win a war, but to see to it that the Iraqi government becomes a Democracy.

Not exactly. The main purpose was first for Saddam to be removed as a danger, then for the country to become stable as a vital -ally- in the war on terrorism, not a breeding ground for the Iranians or the terrorists. And a crucial base to seek out and destroy the rest of the terrorists (and Iran) in the Middle East. We can't do that solely from the continental U.S. We need bases and allies...in more than just the military sense...in the Middle East to win the war on terrorism. Since that's where their breeding grounds are, among the Arabs and the Persians.

The idea of making it a western rights-respecting democracy will probably be unworkable, so we'll probably end up being willing to settle for a (not very free) ally with someone like Maliki or someone like Chalabi holding the reins of power and dependent on us or on Nato or on the Turks, etc.

Bush's error was not one of HIS INTENTION being for Iraq's government to become Isamist or a pawn of Iran, obviously, but i) of simplistically thinking Iraq would suddenly be remade into postwar Germany or Japan, an island of westernism in a medieval sea, ii) thinking we couldn't just knock down the dictator and leave chaos and a breeding ground for Al Qaeda behind.

I'm surprised you and Diana and op ed writers like Ethan Journo don't know all this. Iraq 101. It's been published: It's in books about the war, in interviews with Administration figures, magazine analyses such as in Foreign Affairs, etc.

Again, do not confuse -intent- with -execution-.

You guys ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... shouldn't be making jokes about this. The country was *this* close to theocracy. Thanks to DIM, the Dems—those rational, freedom-loving Dems—have saved the day for now. But DIM-Dems must be eternally vigilant. There are more elections in 2 years. If the Republicans win, they could be the last free elections ever.

If I see any more irreverence toward Dr. Peikoff, I'll have to ask those responsible to stop posting here.

Linz

"Chalk one up for the DIM

JoeM's picture

"Chalk one up for the DIM Hypothesis."

Yeah, somehow, I don't think that was it... Sticking out tongue

But Peikoff has his "golden moment," regardless...I think the next few years will be make-or-break for him...

Theocracy on Hold

Jason Quintana's picture

Ladies and Gentleman, we can all breath a sigh of relief. The Democrats won the House (and maybe the Senate). The dastardly philosophical premises of the Republicans have been thwarted. Chalk one up for the DIM Hypothesis.

- Jason

Dems win House, Republicans trying to hold Senate

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

It looks like the Democrats have won the House of Representatives and the Republicans are trying to hold the Senate, probably winning in Tennessee and Missouri. Montana and Virginia look like they're going down to the wire.

Jim

Questions

Jeff Perren's picture

I have some questions for those who are inclined to believe that Evangelical Christianity (or religious faith more generally) is, or within a generation or three will be, a serious problem in the U.S.

Do you believe that individuals have free will?

Granted that ideas can influence the young and that some of them may require a period of re-evaluation to dismiss those ideas, is it not equally true that many young people will simply dismiss those ideas out of hand. And this, for several reasons.

One being that they are able to look at reality and think for themselves. Another that religion is fundamentally at odds with reality. A third that there are, in fact, many alternative belief systems -- even apart from Objectivism -- that are much more pro-reality, pro-reason to which these same people are likely to be exposed over the same period of time.

So, I ask again. Do you believe that such ideas are like gas and that individuals can and will be affected by them against their will and personal observation and reasoning with which nature endows them?

Further, do you think only Objectivism can provide the gas mask? (Granting, it is the most effective one.)

Further still, do you believe that the numbers and/or influence of Objectivist, and other pro-reason, pro-freedom intellectuals is so small or weak that they can not slow or stop this, even without believing that religious influence in the current culture and political system is nowhere near what has been claimed?

Plausible

Matt Miklautsch's picture

I am not exactly sure where I heard this explanation, though most likely from someone at ARI. For a long time our leaders failed to identify our enemy as Islam or Islamic terrorism but instead simply referred to our enemy as "terrorism". President Bush has spoken many times about the "peaceful religion of Islam" and other comparable absurdities.

Explanations

Jeff Perren's picture

"I have not heard any plausible explanation why our troops are in Iraq instead of Iran besides that Iraq was run by a relatively secular government and President Bush did not want to offend Muslims."

From whom did you hear this and why do you regard it as plausible?

Bush is Evil

Matt Miklautsch's picture

Instead of taking the necessary actions to protect the individual rights and lives of Americans, President Bush instead sacrifices the lives of American soldiers now and American civilians in the future. How this is anything short of evil I have no idea. I am equally at a loss as to how a Democratic President could possibly do any worse.

To avoid damaging mosques or killing civilians or seeming insensitive our soldiers are taking unnecessary risks. Sometimes these utterly sacrificial policies result in the immediate deaths of our troops, while other times the deaths of our troops comes later, when these terrorists "live another day".

And while focusing on a comparatively insignificant enemy Iraq, our far greater enemies Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria remain as of yet basically unchallenged. I have not heard any plausible explanation why our troops are in Iraq instead of Iran besides that Iraq was run by a relatively secular government and President Bush did not want to offend Muslims. While the loved ones of those who die in future terrorist attacks grieve the loss of their loved ones, hopefully they will sleep well knowing that their loved ones died to avoid hurting Muslim sensibilities.

And what about President Bush's domestic attacks on the lives and individual rights of Americans, stem cell research and abortion being just two examples?

Jeff

James S. Valliant's picture

I'm not yet "converted" -- at least not all of the way.

Arson

Jeff Perren's picture

James,

That's part of what the debate is trying to settle. But, if so, I'll take the inept one anyday. (And part of the debate is about who that is, too.) Anything to buy time to make Objectivism more prominent.

But metaphors will not take us very far, so I'll probably say very little more until I've studied more.

You can help by telling us something about your 'conversion'. There was presumably some time at which you were not convinced of the correctness of Peikoff's position (not that you were opposed to it, you may simply hadn't have been decided), but now you are. What did you observe or realize that pushed you?

Jeff

Jeff

James S. Valliant's picture

Aren't we really dealing with two arsonists?

Thomas Sowell's view

Jeff Perren's picture

Because he is so damned smart, he was able to put the choice much more succinctly than I have.

For anyone who hasn't yet made up his or her mind about candidates:

"Better a third-rate fireman than a first-rate arsonist." Thomas Sowell

Jeff

P.S. I'll respond at length to Tom's latest later.

Jeff,

TRowland's picture

People have been "fighting bad laws" since, my guess, the first bad law (say about 2000 B.C. or earlier). And we've probably got more bad laws on the books than ever. But that's the whole point of LPs saying, "The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the governmment, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements ... [it] is not the political concretes, but fundamental philosophy [i.e. epistemology][that will determibe the survival of this country]." He continues, "And in this area, the only real threat to the country now [not tomorrow when things might change due to free will; now] is religion and the Party which is its home."

To argue against this you have to claim that something FUNDAMENTAL [epistemological] on the Democratic side is as fundamental as religion and at least as dangerous and as ambitiously promoted. It doesn't do the job to merely list the bad laws and compare numbers. And it certainly doesn't do the job to count on the American Sense of Life. People will reject bad laws a lot sooner than religion. But the rejection will not hold if the fundamental is wrong. That's why LP posted his message.

Sidenote to Jason, can you see that if Bush is more principled than the other side, that only makes it worse for us?

Tom

Jeff

James S. Valliant's picture

So far, you're the only one who even seems to recognize that there is an argument on the other side -- "abstract" as it may be -- and I've not mentioned DIM at all.

Reactions to Bad Laws

Jeff Perren's picture

"Friday, June 23, 2006 was the one-year anniversary of the now-infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision (Kelo) that stripped Americans of any meaningful federal constitutional protection for their private property.

What a difference a year brings. Since the Kelo decision, Americans across the nation have risen up to protect their traditional private property rights from government takings abuse."

This quote is from an argument about an Idaho proposition on the ballot to combat Kelo. I use it here to illustrate what Americans - from either party - can do, and sometimes actually do, in response to bad laws.

Jeff

P.S. I have no idea what the affiliation of the person who wrote this might be. But I can make a good guess.

P.P.S. What's most interesting about the argument over this proposition is that both sides are invoking the desire to protect private property rights as the basis of their argument.
Prop 2 Idaho

OK, Jeff

TRowland's picture

I think you're right, abstract arguments are difficult. And I often fail to give enough concretes. But LPs original message is a straightforward application of the Objectivist philosophy of history with enough concretes to get started. Diana and others have supplied more. Along the way I've tried to make sure we don't get sidetracked by focusing only on the concretes but that we keep Peikoff's original message firmly in mind. If all of that hasn't convinced you, I'm sorry, of course, because I think Peikoff is right and I think you and the Speicher's are wrong. But this is a long term project, like the Strike in Atlas Shrugged. The fact that all the evidence didn't convince Dagny is not so much a function of the evidence as it is a function of the abstract theory that has to integrate the evidence and that she has to grasp and accept. I'm willing to keep the discusion going, perhaps on a new thread?

Tom

Peikoff on Religion

Jeff Perren's picture

"There have been mystic revivals before in the United States, as there have been racial antagonisms and back-to-nature movements. But in earlier years these were comparatively isolated manifestations, cut off from the nation's intellectual leadership, in conflict with the country's dominant trend. Such is not the case today."

Peikoff, quoted by Speicher

There hasn't been any mention here that one of the more obvious explanations for the greater visibility of the religious Right is the expansion of media in the last 25 years. The Internet, SMP enabled mobile video phones, mobile TVs etc make it much easier to spread any message, much more quickly.

This may make the religious Right more visible, and possibly more dangerous. But at the same time, and to the same extent, it makes them easier to combat. Expose a dark-adapted virus to the light and it disintegrates.

The religious Right's rise in influence is, to a great extent, the result of the faux-liberals and what has been called their nihilism, their moral relativism, skepticism, and political correctness over the years since 1968. (Though, of course, the roots of the trend go much further back.) It was around that year that the country took a sharp turn toward the widespread moral degradation that the religious Right are cashing in on.

During the same period (though to a lesser extent), Objectivism has experienced a considerable rise itself, in numbers and influence.

I'm confident the better philosophy will win and the signs are increasing all the time.

Jeff

Persuasion

Jeff Perren's picture

"It seems to me that the nature of the threat posed by the Religious Right is not being understood at all, folks."

Understood by whom? I assume you mean the posters and readers of this and other Objectivist forums. How likely is that given the audience? It's been argued extensively, with much evidence, that it is Dr. Peikoff, et al who do not understand the Religious Right, as it really is and in terms of the influence it is likely to have in the next 20 years or so.

It's remotely possible that I and others could be wrong on this, the evidence - both concrete and philosophical - is mixed and future predictions of the culture are inherently uncertain to a degree, since individuals have free will.

If so, there is every reason to believe I'll see it soon enough. But the extremely thin, highly abstract arguments put forth so far don't go anywhere near convincing me. Among other things, it should be possible to make a good case without mentioning DIM at all.

Jeff

Jason

James S. Valliant's picture

I am not attempting to "soften" anything. Believe it or not, what I am attempting is sincere inquiry, and your insults don't advance this important debate.

We are often told that voting is the selection of the "lesser of two evils." Well, the greater long-term threat is the Religious Right. Of that I am now convinced.

I am still not convinced I should uniformly vote Democrat -- but it's not those "three questions" that are the deciding factors for me. Putting them in bold doesn't change that, either.

It seems to me that the nature of the threat posed by the Religious Right is not being understood at all, folks.

Peikoff's political strategy

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

Exhorting a vote for a given candidate means you are willing to accept the consequences if his being elected. Previously, Peikoff exhorted Objectivists to vote for Bill Clinton. I can only assume that Peikoff judged the results of domestic politics in that election to be more important than national security.

Clinton made it possible for the Chinese to obtain better rocket launch and satellite technology, he eviscerated the CIA, he appeased Saddam over an eight year period, he repeatedly did not repond to terrorist attacks on our embassies, warships and foreign outposts. These appeasing policies also have longterm consequences for the US. Namely, our diplomacy becomes alarmingly ineffective because all other countries have to do is call our bluff.

Jim

Yea, what a choice. Bah.

JoeM's picture

Well, it's just hours away from voting time. I'd like to have more time to decide and chew things, but that's not an option.

I've given this issue more weight than I would have because I've shifted away from supporting the (American) Libertarian party. I was convinced by the arguments on old SOLO, Kilbourne's arguments, I think, to vote Bush because of the war, but that was somewhat reluctantly, given the religious nature of the Republicans, and the remnants of my former Libertarian ideas. I found Peikoff's argument well-presented, and I believe he's sincere.

But I just can't bring myself to vote "for" the Democrats, for the same reasons I no longer support the Libertarians.

It's the war. I WANT to believe that Bush and co. are committed, and I'm grateful that no new attacks have happened. I've not found myself bothered with real-life harrassment from the religious right; even though I'm gay, I don't consider marriage an issue enough to care, and haven't found myself attacked by the Patriot act in any way. I don't intend for it to happen, either, so I do sympathise with Peikoff there.

I also hear the arguments against Bush for NOT being "Kass" enough. But if that's true, then what makes me think the Dems would do any better? I think they'd do worse. As long as the Republicans are committed to the idea of using government to do the "limited" job of protecting the citizenry, I'd rather use that committment to protection WHILE we challenge them on the religious issues. I'd hate to think that the Dems would come in and open us to harm by being weak militarily before the world.

But I'm still convinced about the primacy of philosophy over politics, so I'm not holding my breath that we can "get by" for long with the Republicans, who are too much of a package deal for me.

I know what I want to vote "Against," and what I want to vote "for", I just see no choice in either of the three parties as being "ideal." I do worry about abstaining if it is mistaken for apathy, so my vote is that the choices are not valid, long or short term. I know there is no "ideal" at the moment, but I can't be swayed by the argument that I'm immoral for refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. In the long run, I'm voting for the ideal, and would rather worry about that then the outcome of tomorrow's vote.

Tom and war and answers

Craig Ceely's picture

"As for the war, we've already answered that."

Yea, Tom, and with the blood of frivolously sacrificed Marines and soldiers in both the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and in Iraq, that civil war to which none in power will yet admit.

Treason indeed. Shameful. Disgusting.

But, as the Psalmist offered, none so blind as he who will not see; music I hope Bush and his "friends" have sung to them in the Hell of their choice.

Linz

TRowland's picture

Maybe it's time to review what Peikoff actually said about the morality of voting for what. Here is the quote (missing from Diana's transcript above):

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter.

Certainly that is true on its face. The question, of course, is which is which? And virtually all the debate has been about whether the Demcratic or Republican Party is the more likely to play the part of the latter and how soon. This is a proper debate. For if you believe that the Democrates are the more likely to take away our rights and sooner, then it would be immoral for you to vote for the Democrates.

This is similar to the position that Galt found himself in as he talks to Dagny in the valley. He thinks that it is a mistake and wrong, because self-sacrificial, for Dagny to return to Hell. But if she is not convinced, she must go. And he explicitly says that hers is a mistake in knowledge.

Similarly, Peikoff judges those who disagree with him as making a mistake in knowledge. They have "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life -- which means that [they do] not understand the philosophy of Objectivism."

I think this is also true. I think it's a rare student of Objectivism that understands its philosophy of history and the foundational role of epistemology in shaping history.

As for the war, we've already answered that.

James

Jason Quintana's picture

"Peikoff has hardly 'made a fool of himself' over this issue, anymore than Tom or Diana have. And, speaking of moralistic sounding off, the sort of 'strong moral tone' involved in calling Peikoff's statement either an 'empty emotionalist rant' or 'tactic of drumming up support among the faithful' doesn't seem justified to me -- and, as you know, I voted Republican."

I have detailed in several earlier posts the errors of Peikoff and Diana.  Some more thorough arguments on these points can be seen here on SOLO and also over on The Forum.  The Speichers have done an excellent job of critiquing every element of what they've said.  If you would like to challenge me on these points you are welcome to do so.  In one of the earlier posts I outlined why the core arguments made by the "Hsiekoffians" are absurd and insulting.  Lindsay and others have made similar objections.  Yes, they've made fools of themselves.

I wouldn't say the same thing about Tom.  He is in the same category as you.  You are apologists (loyalists to Leonard and Diana) who attempt to soften what they've said and then turn the debate into a discussion about the evils of the Republicans -- which you won't get me to disagree with.  The problem is that the discussion avoids the much more important questions that  Lindsay asked several times during the course of this thread.   Nobody on this forum likes Christian conservatives.  Nobody likes Bush's domestic policy and no one likes how the war in Iraq is going.   I would argue that Bush is more principled then any of the likely Democrat replacements, but beyond that I don't see much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans.

The issue that is under contention here on this thread was outlined in Lindsay's three questions which I will post one more time.

1) Demonstrate that a Christian theocracy is indeed imminent, bar toppling the Republicans now.

2) Demonstrate how the sins of the Republicans justify a blanket vote for the Democrats.

3) Demonstrate how not so voting is immoral, and illustrative of a deficient understanding of Objectivism.

These are the positions taken by Leonard and Diana.   If you want to defend them, you will have to deal with these issues.  Changing the terms of the discussion won't accomplish this.

 - Jason

You might be far more

PhilipC's picture

You might be far more convincing, Jim, if you had something substantive to say.

Mirror Needed

James S. Valliant's picture

You might be far more convincing, Phil, if you showed the slightest evidence of understanding why Diana said what she did.

The American Military in Iraq

Lanza Morio's picture

Linz, the US Army is babysitting in Iraq. We are not at war. We have no specific goal of destroying a specific enemy. There is zero chance that the threats against the United States will end on the current course. Zero chance. Not 1%. Not 50%. ZERO. The Repubs talk tough but what they are really doing is babysitting Iraqi citizens. The lives of American soldiers are very literally put on the line, not to fight and win a war, but to see to it that the Iraqi government becomes a Democracy. Did American soldiers sign up to fight and die for the Iraqi flag? Hell no.

Immediately following 9/11, Bush spoke well about ending states that sponsor or harbor terrorists. I no longer believe he has the guts to do that.

Diana Goes Off the Deep End

PhilipC's picture

> President Bush's foreign policy is active, deliberate, and blind self-sacrifice. That's not error. It's EVIL. [Diana on NoodleFood, Monday, 11/05/06--emphasis added]

Wow!

I had thought many previous statements by Diana betrayed a reluctance to learn the actual facts, to do research, to read the position papers and decipher the news, reading beyond the lies of the media. But this is the most ludicrous over the top exaggeration yet:

Skipping all the steps from error to moral lapse to outright EVIL.

Bear in mind that she is saying this of a man who did what Clinton wouldn't after bombings of embassies and many other attacks and overwheliming evidence of terrorist intentions:

George W Bush mobilized the country to **take the offensive and strike back** against two states that harbored terrorists or tried to develop nukes for intimidation and conquest. And had he not done this, Al Qaeda would have surely created another 9-11 by now.

Bear in mind that he correctly identified the three most dangerous countries in the axis of evil that Clinton and his own father had allowed to metastatize.

Bear in mind that what course he will take on Iran is not yet finally determined (but I would be willing to bet that he takes down thier nuclear weapons, no matter the cost or at risk of impeachment...Democratic, appeasement-oriented Congress or not.)

Bear in mind that she is saying this of a man who has tried to put the country on a war footing, beef up the CIA and intelligence, taken active measures to dry up the financial resources of the Islamists, tried to get diplomacy and economic pressure to work against them, beefed up Special Forces and worked with cooperating nations to hunt down the terrorists everywhere.

Bear in mind that he has been willing to go to war overseas at great financial and political cost, which the Clintonistas never were.

Bear in mind that he has been unwiling to "cut and run" realizing the importance of Iraq having become a central front in the war on terror.

Bear in mind that he has stayed the course (whether he planned or executed it well is a separate issue from his moral status & whether the war in Iraq will actually be lost) despite the fact that he has watched his political support drop from the nineties to the thirties.

Bear in mind that he is hunting AND KILLING terrorists, their cells, and Al Qaeda supporters around the world. That he has caught and imprisoned many of them in Guantanamo and other places where they can't be in contact with other conspirators.

Bear in mind that this aggressiveness has *kept us safe* for the last five years from another 9-11 and the thwarting of the numerous hair-raising plots Bush's employees and appointees have kept us safe from during that period. Not for want of trying by the terrorist cells and their financiers.

Bear in mind that she is conflating compromise and poor planning of a war with active and -deliberate- appeasement or support of Islam.

Bear in mind that failure to succeed is not the same as failing to try.

Bear in mind that this is said of a President who grimly keeps just inside his desk drawer a list of 'most wanted' Al Qaeda faces and grimly and righteously draws a line through each one... Moussaui...Zarqawi...Saddam...Bin Laden as each is captured and killed.

Bear in mind all the many bits of context and the steps Bush has tried to take and the single minded focus he has had on winning that Perfectly Platonic Diana is not merely dropping, but obliviously throwing away with both hands.

.....

(I could ask DMBH what on earth would be Bush's **motive** for 'self-sacrifice', but that would probably be lost on her... and would just provide her with the opportunity for another tortured bit of psychologizing about Bush. The way the Left, of which she is the dupe, used to do about Nixon and Reagan.)

Red State America

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

I grew up around people who no doubt would be derided by Peikoff as dangerous faith-based evaders Smiling. My paternal grandparents were an estate lawyer and banker respectively in Northwest Iowa. My grandfather used to say it was all well and good to pray to God, but it took money to run a church. My uncle is a cantankerous ex-Marine who has retired from his insurance business. When I was a kid, I used to like to go pheasant hunting with him and talk about actuarial tables.

The people in these rural communities believe in self-reliance and personal responsibility and haven't quite grasped what that means consistently in the abstract. That said, I'd much rather be flagging down a car for assistance in rural Iowa than many places I've lived since...

Jim

Loyalty to Friends under Fire

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In a context where Islamo-Fascists are hellbent on destroying western civilisation, and he is getting it in the neck from all directions for being too KASS in going after them, George W. Bush is my friend. I believing in rallying around friends under siege, whatever their faults; worry about their faults when the crisis is averted. Peikoff says anyone who doesn't vote for filthy Democrats across the board tomorrow is immoral in that instance. I say anyone who does vote for filthy Democrats across the board tomorrow is traitorous in that instance.

Linz

Which?

Jeff Perren's picture

I could not have said it better:

"The left today is not the left of the 40s and 50s, which was wrong but still had its values. The modern left now stands for nothing, and promotes aggressively this nothing -- the anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, multiculturalism, moral relativism; anti-masculinity, anti-assertiveness, anti-value. Anti-life.

"The right, though it has its share of wrongs, is now the only party remaining that still encapsulates many of the values that the American people had had since the country was started. I don't say vote the party line, as that'd be ludicrous. But if you find tomorrow that you share affinity with more Republicans than Democrats, it won't be because of religion, but because of values, because of the American way of life and the pursuit of happiness here on earth."
Free Capitalist on The Forum

Just to add some fuel to the fire

TRowland's picture

When I was an undergrad at Maryland University in the late 70s my major was philosophy and my advocacy of Objectivism was open and obvious -- I was the president of the Ayn Rand Club on campus. I got raspberries and argument but no outright dismissal and certainly no discouragement of my career plans. Indeed, I was heavily promoted by one well-known philosopher of science whose name I forget but who was my advisor on my Honors Project.

When I entered Ohio State's PhD program, there was likewise no discouragment of my career plans. It's true that after a roundtable discussion with Alan Gotthelf I kept the arguments out there without naming their source in Objectivism. It was, indeed, the belief at that time (1982) that open support of Objectivism would be a deterent. I left the program for reasons that had more to do with finances and a growing disgust with the state of philosophy than anything.

From a philosophical perspective, which includes DIM, I think Diana is correct in her claim that "IF the right were to gain control of the universities they would shut down Objectivist Acedemics." The Ayn Rand Google alerts that I get are enough to convince me.

Worth Reading

James S. Valliant's picture

I highly recommend the thought-provoking material on this subject to be found at Noodlefood by Paul Hsieh and Mike Williams.

Diana, Thank You

Jeff Perren's picture

"So why not ask instead of instantly dismissing me?"

A fair question and a fair response. I should have said 'unsupported', which is what I meant. It wasn't intended as a dismissal, so much as a request for data and argument. (I understand that you are busy and have no obligation to honor that request; and also that you may do so when you have time. I await that eagerly.)

I've no doubt most Objectivists would find it difficult to obtain positions in universities. It's difficult for anyone, very likely more so for them. But 'slammed shut' implies one has no chance, and that I disputed. If it means they must lie low until receiving tenure, so be it. It's disgusting and they shouldn't have to do that, but if it's necessary, it's necessary. If that's pragmatism make the most of it.

(Incidentally, I received my BA in Philosophy from UCLA in 1984 when the hostility to Ayn Rand's ideas was at least as great, and probably greater, than it is today. I couldn't even get 3 professors to write letters of recommendation for grad school as a result of my open praise for Objectivism. I've been there.)

I'm very glad to see more Objectivist-oriented students entering grad school --- in every discipline. I believe it is the wave of the future, and the not very far off future at that. Dr. Brook made a similar statement in a press release not too long ago. (Sorry, I don't have a handy reference.)

There are many obstacles ahead. I'm confident they can be overcome by knowledgeable, committed Objectivists if they can keep an eye on practical matters while staying true to their ideals. Not easy, and I applaud you for making the effort. I spent some years in graduate school and know how difficult it can be. (It's tough even in Physics, and from an 'ideological' perspective, not merely a technical one. Just imagine challenging a professor about the basis of QM.)

While I understand you didn't do it for my sake, I'm grateful that you chose the path you did. Your voice is valuable.

immigration

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

The demographics of immigration will have a much larger effect on America than the strength of the evangelicals relative to the mainstream denominational peers and immigrants trend center-left.

Electoral college-wise for presidential elections, we've settled into a pattern. Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa are swing states. I see no real reason why any of these states except New Hampshire will stay Republican longterm.

As Hispanics and Asians, which are the largest growing demographic, pour in, evangelicals will find themselves to be strangers in their own country.

On Academia

DianaHsieh's picture

Jeff, my claim that the right will "slam shut the door on Objectivist academics" if they gain control over the universities was not an "unwarranted assertion." It was unsupported in my post, but that's not the same. Look, academia is my profession. I regularly speak to other Objectivist academics. I regularly read and hear reports on the response to Objectivism in academia. I've been doing so for years. So maybe, just maybe I have some facts at my disposal of which you might be unaware, e.g. like the personal reports of John Lewis and Brad Thompson. So why not ask instead of instantly dismissing me?

However, even apart from that, you might consider the attitude of the conservative intellectuals at _National Review_ to Ayn Rand. They're still proud of Whittacker Chambers' review of _Atlas_. That's because they know that Ayn Rand is their enemy.

Jeff asks: "And, by the way. If the so-called Left slammed shut the door to academia, how is that Drs Reisman, Locke, Lennox, and a dozen others gained and retained their jobs?"

Yes, some few made it through. While I'm not sure of the history of the particular people you mention, I do know that the stanard practive was to assiduously conceal your affinity for Objectivism until tenure was secured. Moreover, philosophy was more closed than some other disciplines. As a general matter, philosophers could not get jobs if open about their interest in Objectivism. Many graduate students today still conceal that interest for fear of reprisal. If you ask those involved in Objectivism in academia ten years ago, they'll all tell you that many promising students opted not to even try academia, knowing that their chances of success were so slim. Thanks to the disintegration of the left, those chances are much much better today -- and that's why we're suddenly seeing a spurt of Objectivists entering philosophy grad school. (It used to be 0-1 per year, now it's four with as many coming next year.)

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

What the hell ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... sort of wimp-out KASSless retort is "gracious sakes alive"??!!

What has become of the valour in Valliant, the vice in Weiss?

Pussies.

Pomowankers.

Brandroids.

Blouses.

Burp

Fred Weiss's picture

"Gracious sakes alive, Phil!"

That was my reaction, too.

However, having had his little belch, I'm sure Phil feels better now.

Phil

James S. Valliant's picture

Gracious sakes alive, Phil!

Fred has strongly held opinions, sure, but he hardly takes the gratuitous insult prize around here -- Fred's not even in the running for the Robert Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award or anything -- and the very observation reveals buckets about your own... uh... "perspective," sir.

There are many things much worse than bad manners -- and which cannot be excused by good manners.

Hypocrisy about Civility

PhilipC's picture

> I'm very tired of hearing the venomous and insulting comments directed at Peikoff, Diana, and other ARI intellectuals who are supporting their position. [Fred Weiss]

This is funny coming from you, Insult Boy. Why is it that the person who is the very worst on this list for injecting venom and put-downs and personal attacks into perhaps more than half of his posts is -exactly- the person who rushes to the forefront to complain about insults and lack of civility from others? A display of highly selective outrage: Only when it is -his- allies or people he likes who are insulted does he notice.

Now I suppose, Fred, you'll either deflect it with a joke or come up with some rationalization about why it's really different when you do it or when the target "deserves it" or how you are -really- not ever insulting. What you will not do, I very strongly suspect, is admit any error or admit that I make a good point, or resolve that you will try to change YOUR OWN posting style in any manner whatsoever:

Part of your posting style is to always take the offensive.

In both senses of that word.

"It's later than you think"

sjw's picture

Fantastic post.

Fred W.

TRowland's picture

Yes,what did happen to all that "political capital?" Could it be that it got sacrificed on the same alter that the powerful "Bush Doctrine" got slautered? Where there are altruists there will always be those willing to accept the sacrifices. I think one thing we know for sure: George Bush is not a man of principle. How could he be? He is a man who may have thought how un-Christian and un-seemly and filled with the sin of pride it would be to press his advantage. The thought occurs that this is the source of all the "optimistic" "it's-not-as-bad-as-some-think" points being made. Well, my answer is, of course we don't have a Christian Theocracy, George is not a man of principle and he's a coalition builder. Just wait till a principled advocate of sacrifice gets elected (it ain't Hillery).

Tom

Jeff

TRowland's picture

What you've said is not psychologizing in my understanding, but an identification. I think that the original recommendation was based on neither optimism or pessimism, but on a broad philosophical-historical perspective and integration. The aftermath on the various forums is an attempt to break down (analyze) LP's integration (synthesis) (see the DIM Hypothesis Session 2). That analysis has overtones that could be psychologically identified as 'pessimistic' and 'optimistic'. Each side has focused, I think, on identifying the consequences of "staying the course" -- i.e. continuing to support the lesser of two evils in elections. One side uses statistics to support its optimistic view, the other side uses different statistics to support its pessimistic view of the outcome. My attemt has been to stay clear of both sides and get back to what I think is LP's broad perspective. Hopefully what you read below holds out optimistic hope for the future without wallowing in the pessimism of imminent disaster.

The World of Atlas Shrugged?

TRowland's picture

I see two fundamental differences.

1. Atlas Shrugged -- i.e. we live in a world where the bright shining world of Galt's Gulch has been not only concretized but given a philosophical foundation. And it's not just an abstract ground for a society of individuals, it's a guide for living as an individual.

2. Atlas Shrugged -- i.e. we live in a world where we can miss the disintegration because the best amongst us have not disappeared. The disintegration of the society in AS is much faster than anything going on today (which supports the conclusion that none of the disasters is imminent).

But that doesn't mean that no action is necessary. And the necessary actions are, in my opinion, both positive and negative. Positive? See #1. Promote and advocate. Negative? I'd say, "See #2," but there isn't enough context. How can I make this clear and persuasive in short compass? I don't know, but here's my shot. Be prepared, psychologically, to go on strike to whatever degree is necessary to speed up the distruction of those institutions that most promenently support the disintegration -- a kind of mini Atlas Shrugged. Find ways to destroy the institutions that are Ms or Ds but are currently carrying the weight of the world (e.g. the Republican Party), so that through their destruction the weight shifts. Until Objectivism is the last philosophy standing.

There is hope, I think, in such an approach. But both parts are necessary. Without both parts of the equation we just muddle through as we have been, hopping that the critical mass will be reached in time by argument alone, without clear, causally connected consequences. Parents say, "Amen." /;-)

Tom

Pessimism

Jeff Perren's picture

I respect those on the other side of this debate, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the divide is more psychologically based than philosophical. Dagny's optimism may have been misplaced, but mine is not.

I don't fault those who feel differently; there is much about which to be pessimistic. But I do not share it.

And anybody who is annoyed at 'psychologizing', tough.

Jeff

Putting some ironies in the fire

Fred Weiss's picture

Just to add to what those two extraordinarily bright guys - Tom Rowland and Jim Valliant - had to say, the one thing that really got to me, that really emphasized how pathetic and useless the Republicans are, was when they were unable to get drilling going in ANWR - and that with decisive majorities in both houses. They then added insult to injury by putting new restrictions on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico - some of that btw in order to appease the new *Republican* senator from Florida!

How many of you remember Bush crowing about how much "political capital" he had to spend given the results of the 2004 election and the mandate he thought it gave him? Where did that go?

Curiously, CNN just showed a program entitled "Broken Government: Where the Right Went Wrong" with Jeff Greenfield. The thesis was the growing number of "conservatives" who are disenchanted with - guess what - the Republican Party. Ironically, that includes some Christian conservatives who don't think the party has fought hard enough for them! But the main thrust was from people like Dick Arney and Andrew Sullivan who think that the Bush administration has completely betrayed core conservatives values of limited gov't. A number of them also expressed strong disapproval of Bush's goals in the Mideast, echoing very many of the same points Yaron Brook has been making...including on this one (even more ironically)Bill Buckley.

There were actually specific comments that maybe it would be better if the Democrats did take one or both houses - in order to put a break on Bush.

Like James V. I will also vote Republican, but nonetheless I'm very tired of hearing the venomous and insulting comments directed at Peikoff, Diana, and other ARI intellectuals who are supporting their position. I may not agree with it entirely but they are bringing up valid concerns, concerns that are not even unique to Objectivists on the political Right.

P.S.: I especially enjoyed Tom R.'s bringing in Dagny Taggart as an analogy to the anti-Peikoffs. It was a brilliant little response to the accusation that Peikoff, et. al, were like Dominique Francon. Smiling

It's later than you think...

atlascott's picture

We are past the point of the American politician being a self-interested, ignorant crook being a funny punchline to a joke.  It is a depressing, omni-present reality.  A generation of Americans spoon fed nihilism cannot seem to stand against corruption, even when a politician is caught red-handed.  Our media reports Jennifer Aniston's supposed breakup with Vince Vaughn rather than legislation which legalizes political gulags and torture, and which destroys Constitutional protections.  Republicans and Democrats fight viciously, but it is solely to determine who gets to move the the front of the line to plunder what wealth remains in this civilization-in-decline. 

I applauded Bush's early response to 9/11.  I was afraid at the domestic direction he was moving us in.  Freedoms destroyed by government legislation are never voluntarily returned.  Increased taxes are never rolled back.  We edge closer to ruin.

Democrats are afraid and will not roll back abridgments of personal freedom implemented during President Bush's terms, because they have to be 'tough on terror' and they are only interested in expanding their personal wealth and power.  Republicans will further abridge personal freedom, as they continue to expand their personal wealth and power, and politicize theri religious preferences, in direct contravention of the Constitution.  There are no true representatives in Washington.  In order to amass that sort of support, and wealth, and power, in those dirty circles, you must become filthy and corrupt.  An honest candidate doesn't stand a chance.  And even if an honest one gets in, how can you accomplish anything in such a den of theives?

I guess, philosophically, we are about 75 years behind Germany in the 30's and 40's.  The USA was Enlightenment while Germany invented post-modernism, and gave birth to Socialism, Communism, and Nazism.  Americans can no longer identify themselves individually or stand on their own.  They define themselves, their identities, needs, and dreams based on group membership.  African American, Latino, Feminist, Pro-Life, Republican, Democrat, Cancer-Survivor, Christian, Muslim, Homosexual, Herterosexual, you name it.  America has conceded the first and most important ideological battle on the way to a collectivist hell--by defining itself, its issues, and struggled based upon group membership rather than individual merit, individual needs, and individual dreams.  Peikoff had it right in his Ominous Parallels.

Americans would never accept totalitarianism, or a dictator, or substantial abridgment of freedoms?  Holding aside the reality that we already are, favoring instead the African exploits of Brangelina and Madonna, the same was said of that jewel of intellectualism and culture, Germany, in the 1930's, before it ignorantly and voluntarily had its experiment in collectivism.  The Germans made the mistake of taking ideas seriously.  Nihilism MEANT something.  The world found out what that was.

Is it our turn, now?  Maybe.  And it does not seem to matter who is elected, Democrat or Republican, unless we begin to force our leaders to hold to the Constitution, and to limit themselves and their gluttony.  A new, bloodless Revolution, in which freedom takes its rightful place as America's defining principle, alongside equality, in its properly-limited place:  equality before the law.

And as an aside, the next person who wants 'proof' that there is a risk of America turning into a religious theocracy, deserves a boot in the ass.  You cannot prove what is a speculative future.  But keep you eye on the common thread that is getting alot of these folks elected, and watch how they legislate their religion, and then consume our wealth with the appetite of Mammon, and fall upon any enemy or threat to their power like starving jackals.  Nothing in the future is certain, but bad trends mean something.

Scott

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur!

Thanks, James

TRowland's picture

And your last two points are exactly the point.

Tom

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