Saturday, September 30, 2006

Roderick Long on the Collective Action Problem

Many Objectivists, in supporting the use of weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations, make the claim that relatively few civilians are truly innocent. For example, Diana Hsieh wrote:

"No government -- no matter how repressive -- can possibly maintain its grip on power when actively, seriously opposed by a majority -- or even a dedicated minority. The fact that people in Iran might grumble about the concrete policies of their government does not mean that they oppose it in principle. Sure, a few do that -- but the sputtered-out student revolts of a few years ago indicate that they were nothing more than a small minority."

As Roderick Long notes, such arguments ignore the problem of collective action:

"In any case, the claim that refusing to rise up against a tyrant counts as de facto consent to the tyranny embodies a collectivist fallacy: confusing the individual with the group. It’s quite true, as La Bo├ętie and Hume famously pointed out, that tyrannical governments cannot survive without the acquiescence of their subject populace. But to suppose this means that the individual members of this acquiescing populace have consented in some straightforward and unproblematic fashion ignores the collective action problem (see here and here) involved. If we all resist the tyrant, the tyranny will fail; but if I resist the tyrant first, without sufficient support, I’ll just be martyring myself for nothing. Coordinating simultaneous and effective resistance is, notoriously, no easy task. "

"In an article in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (or The Return of the Primitive, as her heirs have chosen to rename it), expressing empathy for some dissidents on trial in the Soviet Union, Rand wrote: 'I do not mean that I would have been one of the accused in that Soviet courtroom: I knew enough, in my college days, to know that it was useless to attempt political protests in Soviet Russia.' Doesn’t that make Rand herself one of those Soviet citizens who made no 'significant protest' against the regime and so are allegedly morally culpable? A reductio ad absurdum, surely.

New Blog

There is a new blog discussing Objectivism which is associated with Greg Nyquist, author of Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

James Valliant, Ayn Rand and Libertarianism

On pages 69-70 of The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, James Valliant discusses Rand’s disapproval of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party (LP). According to Valliant “[t]he Brandens, along with many others, believe that Rand was intolerant and ‘close-minded’ because she denounced the Libertarian Party.” (PARC, p. 70.) In support of his claim that both Brandens and “others” disagree with Rand’s denunciation of the LP Valliant cites to PAR once and to Peter Schwartz’s article on libertarianism once.

Valliant proceeds to discuss Rand’s perceived need for “systematic honesty in forming political and intellectually alliances.” He mentions those libertarians who are anarchists and believe in unilateral disarmament. He then claims that the differences between Rand and the libertarians were “not so trivial as the critics suppose.” (PARC, p. 70.) It isn’t clear who Valliant claims the “critics” are -- Nathaniel Branden, Barabara Branden, LP officials, all of them, some of them?

Mr. Valliant would better make his case if he actually cited Barbara Branden’s view of Rand’s relationship with the LP and libertarianism. According to PAR’s index, the LP is mentioned on three pages and the libertarian movement on one page.

Barbara Branden notes that the LP has been divided by those who advocate limited government and strong defense on one hand and anarcho-capitalists on the other. Branden’s conclusion is: “In the opinion of many people, the anarchist wing has deeply undermined the effectiveness of the Libertarian Party in recent years. That wing was the particular source of Ayn Rand’s indignation repudiation of the party that had been formed in the image of her political philosophy.” (PAR, p. 413.) This quote doesn’t indicate to me that Branden believes that Rand’s repudiation of the LP was “intolerant” or “close-minded.” Nor does it indicate that Branden thinks Rand was wrong to disassociate herself from the LP due to the presence of anarcho-capitalists and advocates of unilateral disarmament. If Valliant is basing his contention on something Branden said someplace else, then he should cite it.

Valliant does quote Branden’s claim on page 391 that Rand exhibited “despair” and “pessimism” because she was wary about younger writers who wrote about her philosophy. (PARC, p. 70.) Branden references M. Gladstein’s The Ayn Rand Companion and D. Rasmussen’s The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. According to Branden, Rand had letters sent to them threatening lawsuits. (PAR, p. 391.) The libertarianism of these authors (if they are both indeed libertarians) isn’t mentioned.

Nathaniel Branden in Judgment Day discusses Rand's position vis-a-vis the LP and doesn't criticize her for it (p. 231).

Valliant’s discussion of Rand and libertarianism is yet another example where he fails to present evidence to support his claim.

Incidentally, the Ayn Rand Institute has a collection of Rand’s statements concerning libertarianism and the LP. The reader is free to decide for himself if Rand’s statements are intolerant or close-minded.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Then Athena Said

Then Athena Said is a new book by one Kathleen Touchstone. According to the publisher:

"According to Objectivist David Kelley, financier Michael Milken has done more for mankind than humanitarian Mother Teresa. Working from this statement, Then Athena Said examines Objectivism, a philosophy founded by Ayn Rand, and ultimately concludes, in opposition to essential claims of Objectivism, that other people are a fundamental part of reality. In making this claim, Then Athena Said reconsiders Objectivism's central social tenet, the Trader Principle, which dictates the bilateral exchange of value for value between independent equals; elevates 'reproductivity' to be on par with productivity, Objectivism's central virtue; and derives a 'heuristic' for charitable giving. Relying, in part, upon economic theory, decision theory under uncertainty, and game theory, Then Athena Said examines unilateral transfers—including charity, childrearing, bequests, retribution, gifts, favors, forgiveness, and various infringements against persons or property—within the Objectivist framework."

Someone had to plunk down $49.95 for this book and I just did. I'll have some posts once I receive it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rand Sighting

Jeff Tucker and David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute briefly discuss Rand and Leonard Peikoff.