Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Peikoff Might Get Kind of Lonely

As I've recently stated, I have somewhat mixed feelings about the likely Republican loss in next week's Congressional elections. The Republicans have been really bad and certainly deserve to lose, but all the Democrats offer are on most issues even worse ideas, such as raising taxes, raising spending even more, trade protectionism and higher minimum wages. But then again , divided government have often proven to beneficial as Congress and the President have for partisan reasons blocked each other's harmful actions.

In any event, regardless of whether my prediction that Republicans will lose turns out to be correct, I won't be either celebrating or get depressed. Because either way, liberty will lose.

One argument against the Republicans that are invalid are the ones offered by Ayn Rand's official "intellectual heir" Leonard Peikoff.

In it, he argued that the Democrats stand for socialism and that the Republicans stand for theocracy, both of which are of course unacceptable for an Objectivist. But since socialism is more or less dying according to Peikoff while theocracy is rising, it would be immoral not to support a socialist (Democrat) over a theocrat (Republican).

Anyone who doesn't understand this doesn't understand the philosophy of Objectivism,according to Peikoff.

But Peikoff's argument rests on a extremely ambigous and misleading use of the terms "socialism" and "theocracy". He never defines them, which I would have thought someone claiming to be dedicated to reason and objectivity would do since it is highly relevant. First, what does "socialism" mean? Socialism comes in 3 basic varities (there are of course further sud-divisions within each, but in this context they aren't relevant): Communism, Anarcho-Socialism/Left-Anarchism and Social Democracy.

Since Anarcho-Socialism/Left-Anarchism have never really been a powerful force, so they can for this context be disregarded. Which leaves us with two relevant varities: Communism and Social Democracy.

Peikoff's description of socialism as a dying force is only true with regards to communism. Communism in its traditional form now really exist only in Cuba and North Korea and it probably won't last very long even there. And they are not likely to be a significant force elsewhere ever again given the failed track racord of communism.

However, Social Democracy is anything but dying. It have become the established social system in just about every Western country, and that looks unlikely to change as even the "right-wing" parties have adopted it. And the socialism that the Democrats stand for is not communism but social democracy. And even more of it than today.

What about the "theocracy" of the Republicans? By invoking the "theocracy" he tries to imply that the Republicans are like the Taliban. But just what kind of theocratic measures are Republicans proposing? Of this, Peikoff says nothing, absolutely nothing. Sure, the Republicans are the party of the Christian Right. But first of all, even their agenda, while being deplorable, are far preferable to the one offered by the jihadists. Having moral equivalance between the Christian Coalition and the Taliban is like having moral equivalance between the Swedish Social Democrats and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge movement . And secondly, while most Christian fundamentalists are Republicans, it is not the case that the most Republicans are Christian fundamentalists or that they control the Republican party. The Republicans have after all controlled all three branches of the American government for years now, and have America become a theocracy or even moved more closely to it? No.

As I've now shown, Peikoff's arguments make no sense at all, yet he claims that anyone who don't agree with them don't understand a philosophy that supposedly is based on reason.

Which takes us to another interesting aspect of this. As Stephan Kinsella pointed out on the LRC blog, there are at least two leading Ayn Rand Institute associates which have advocated support of the Republicans-Harry Binswanger and Robert Tracinski.

Indeed, Tracinski in his recent column about the election seemed almost as passionate about his rejection of the Democrats as Peikoff was about his support of them.

So, is the ARI going to keep as leading fellows two persons who according to Peikoff
don't understand Objectivism? Or are they to be added to an ever growing list of "ex-communicated" people (people thus offically classified as "anti-life, anti-reason etc. ) including David Kelley, George Reisman, Per-Olof Samuelsson and others?


Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Tell more about the excommunication of this "Samuelsson"--I hadn't heard of that one. It's like a frickin' soap opera!

4:13 AM  
Anonymous RnBram said...

A thoughtful post. I quite understand why you've commented as you have.

In Peikoff's defense, however, he rarely speaks unless it is in important essentials, He also speaks for the long term. In so brief a statement there is no need for him to present explanations of socialism (which, Rand showed, = communism) —it is up to us to grasp the essentials.

Socialism is intellectually bankrupt, even if it is still rolling on its own momentum. It is also based on largely ethico-political arguments, which are derivatives of their vacuous epistemology.

In contrast, religious mysticism is on the rise, as the epistemological alternative to Leftist irrationalism. Religion has more historic momentum, and gains ethical and political support from the momentum of the altruist, statist Left. Philosophically the altruist, statist Right has no real opposition aside from a minuscule Objectivist population. As such it is the cultural default.

The more concrete, short range view is based on the need to oppose violence from the Islamic world. Although the threat is quite real, supporting Republican religion merely adds gas to the philosophical fire. Peikoff grasps that the short term risk is minimal as against the long term risk.

The Islamists are an inept enemy, the religious right is not. Worse, the Right's 'opposition' to Islamic enemies is bringing death and financial destruction to Americans - nearly the same number of military casualties as 9/11 civilian casualties and nearly a trillion taxpayers dollars thrown at the Middle East— with no significant reduction in 'terror' risk. Could the Democrats be any worse?

Impair the rise of the religious Right. Kick them out of Washington and let the Islamists raise the ire of Americans, causing both parties rethink. As a tactic it isn't great but, in Peikoff's often profound judgment, it's the best strategy.

I could not 'see' the full significance of all this when I thought Bush would be better than Kerry, now I think I do. Peikoff was rejecting Bush then, and he was right. As for Tracinski... hmmmm... watch him, he may be right tactically and wrong strategically. And, be fair to Binswanger, his initial thought was to cast a blank ballot, which cannot be considered as full disagreement with Peikoff. All of us can change our judgments as we build integrations by weighing essentials.

Kind regards to pink Sweden, from pink Canada ;-)


5:05 PM  
Anonymous Per-Olof Samuelsson said...

Kinsella (and anyone intersted): You can read about it on my web site (www.nattvakt.com).

11:11 AM  

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