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Objectivists cannot be Libertarians?

Posted by Esceptico 4 years, 9 months ago to Philosophy
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I have been told both politely and impolitely by fellow Objectivists that one cannot be both an Objectivist and a Libertarian. I have heard this even here in the Gulch. I profess to being both.

Rand went on rants, literally, against Libertarians. Do not join, she says, “‘libertarian’” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.”[“Ayn Rand Letter,” Vol 1, No. 7, page 3, Jan. 3, 1972.] It does not take one deeply schooled in argument to recognize the ad hominem attacks in this one sentence, but the significant point is she set up a straw man in that Libertarians as such do not subordinate reason to whims and are not anarchists. Yes, there are some Libertarians who do and are one or both of these things, but are some Objectivists.

A Libertarian is simply a person who subscribes to the Non-Agression Principle (NAP). Nothing more, nothing less. So long as a person agreed with the NAP, one could be a communist or an anarchist. Libertarians are united only by the NAP and not by any other unifying principles or outlook on life. To be a member of the LP there is one requirement and only one: you must agree to the NAP. [https://www.lp.org/membership July 11, 2016.]

Picking up the theme from Rand, Ayn Rand Institute “Distinguished Fellow” (whatever that is) Peter Schwartz went so far as to say Objectivists should not be “trafficking with Libertarians.” [“On Moral Sanctions,” by Peter Schwartz, May 18, 1989.] This sounds similar to me to a Jehovah’s Witness, or any other cult, proclamation prohibiting contact with the outside world. And, indeed, several Objectivists have shunned me ever since I said I disagreed with them. If I had been a JW, then I would be “disestablished.” The point is the same: disagree with the dogma and you are out of the club.

During 1985 Schwartz wrote a series of articles in his “Intellectual Activist” publication. These are published, according to the introduction, in a condensed version as Chapter 31 in the book “The Voice of Reason.” Schwartz again sets up the Libertarian as a straw man and then sets about attacking the straw man. I am not going to detail his laboriously stated errors and ad hominem attacks because it is not relevant to my question below.

Apparently the subject is still something of interest to ARI. Schwartz lists, among his Talks and Lectures credits, “Analyzing Libertarianism: A Case Study in Thinking in Principles.” [https://ari.aynrand.org/experts/peter.... July 11, 2016] I could not access this, but I image it is more of the same diatribe he previously presented. I say this because as recently as July 2, 2016, [https://ari.aynrand.org/blog/2016/07/.... July 11, 2016.] ARI touted a discussion to be streamed the following day on the subject. I missed that.

Here is the problem for me. A principle of Objectivism is the NAP. Restated in the words of Rand: “… no man may initiate—do you hear me? No man may start—the use of physical force against others.”

The only principle required of Libertarians is: “To validate my membership, I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

Over the decades, every time an Objectivist tells me I must choose between being an Objectivist and a Libertarian, I point out the above and ask a question. To date I have not received even the courtesy of an answer.

I ask: How are these two principles mutually exclusive?


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  • Posted by $ FredTheViking 4 years, 9 months ago
    Objectivism is an system of philosophy where as libertarians seem to pick things out that which they like from objectivism and reject things they don't like. For example, objectivist reject God on the basis of primacy of existence but many libertarians are Christians. Yet, the primacy of existence is a core principle upon which the entire system of objectivism rests on. In others words, NAP rests on the objectivist view on the rights of man. The rights of men rest on the objectivist definition of man and so on until you get the primacy of existence.

    The objection that Objectivist have about Liberatians is that by failing to adopt objectivism system in full, Liberatians simply cannot defend the objectivist principles they like. The reason is the principles necessary follow from the system.

    I like to compare Objectivism to Mathematics. It is like Liberatians are saying I like the law of multiplication but I am not too keen on the law of equality. The Objectivist says you dupe! The law of multiplication necessary depends on the law of equality!

    This is why some Objectivist may get frustrated by Liberatians who adopt some Objectivist's principles while rejecting others. I don't excuse Objectivist who use ad hominem in their rebuke of Liberatians. They should stay on point. To support the Objectivist's principles you like, the entire system of Objectivism is required. You cannot reasonably cherry pick from Objectivism. Such as simply adopting NAP and rejecting the the primacy of existence.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      I see it differently because to me Objectivists often read too much into what is actually said when it comes to libertarian, and I think you are doing that here. My question was very narrow and almost everyone here in the Gulch has expanded it to other things, many adding their own definition of Libertarian. This is what I meant by the straw man. My question is very simple and deals with one principle: the NAP.

      Restated, the question is: how does the Objectivist principle not to initiate the use of force exclude libertarians whose only common principle is “I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals?” I find myself very close to most Objectivist doctrine and the LP. When I make a Venn diagram, I see no mutual exclusion between them. Have you done a Venn diagram?
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      • Posted by $ FredTheViking 4 years, 9 months ago
        Well, that is the major issue with Libertarians that Objectivist have to begin with. Libertarians define themselves loosely, where as Objectivist adopt Ayn's System entirely. Even among those that called themselves Objectivist that is devisions. There is those who hold Ayn Rand words as gossip (for a lack of a better word). Then there are those who have adopted the Objectivist system, but are more free thinking and more willing to work with libertarians. (Again "Free Thinking" is relative. Ayn Rand believe strongly in free thinking, but I am struggling to find better words).

        Actually, Leonard Peikoff did a podcast explaining that liberty isn't by itself a very sound basis for a moment, which the libertarians as a term is based. However, he did say that Objectivist may work with Liberation to achieve common political goals.

        The best I can do to answer your question.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
          Thank you. I appreciate another viewpoint on this issue. It still beats me how much venom the word “libertarian” generates in some people. As I see it, libertarians simply agree on the NAP, and any other belief that can fit under that tent is fine. I am okay with that. Rand should be, according to her writings, but more and more I think I see the effects of cognitive dissonance in Rand and many of her apostles.
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  • Posted by rbroberg 4 years, 9 months ago
    This from Binswanger:
    The “libertarians” . . . plagiarize Ayn Rand’s principle that no man may initiate the use of physical force, and treat it as a mystically revealed, out-of-context absolute . . . .

    In the philosophical battle for a free society, the one crucial connection to be upheld is that between capitalism and reason. The religious conservatives are seeking to tie capitalism to mysticism; the “libertarians” are tying capitalism to the whim-worshipping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy. To cooperate with either group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one’s own future.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      The principle of NAP goes back some 2,000 years---it was not original with her. Your statement about the libertarians "tying capitalism to the whim-worshipping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy" does not comport with libertarains actually say as distinct from what Binswaner says they say. This is exactly the straw man type of argument I mentioned in the opening.

      To “put up a straw man” is to intentionally caricature a person’s argument with the aim of attacking the caricature rather than the actual argument. Misrepresenting, misquoting, misconstruing, and oversimplifying an opponent’s position are all means by which one can commit this fallacy. The straw man argument is usually more absurd than the actual argument, making it an easier target to attack. It may also lure the other person toward defending the more ridiculous argument rather than their original one.

      Almossawi, Ali. An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments (Kindle Locations 133-137). The Experiment. Kindle Edition.
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  • Posted by Mitch 4 years, 9 months ago
    For me it’s simple, a Libertarian derives his/her belief from an ideological dogma where Objectivists (ideally) derive their beliefs in a sense of rational self-interest as long as it doesn’t infringe upon others.

    Even though I agree with the vast majority of the political stances of a Libertarian, I come to those beliefs in different ways, primarily the individual comes first. I disagree with the Libertarian stance on drugs because a personal freedom to use drugs effects the society that I live in and I don’t want my tax dollar going to these losers throwing their life down the drain (moocher). If we didn’t have a welfare state, I might have a different opinion.

    A Libertarian is closer to an anarchist then an Objectivists. Libertarians are 100% on for personal freedoms where an Objectivists is more in the just leave me alone camp, in my opinion. i.e. I don’t do heroin because it will affect my family and I would be a drain on society.

    'I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.'

    The above requires me to be a productive member of society, heroin use would preclude this…
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  • Posted by $ allosaur 4 years, 9 months ago
    I thought I was libertarian until the Libertarian Party trotted forth Gary Johnson for me to take a hard look at.
    Which I did.
    Sigh.
    So now I call myself an independent.
    Me also a dino carnivore, me is adverse to any limp-wristed namby pamby NAP, especially toward those who wish to disarm me, tell me what I'm supposed to PC think about eating meat or climate change and expect me to bow down to any Muslim whim, get swarmed by mooching illegals or tolerate some "I feel like a woman today" guy following a little girl into the ladies room.
    The best defense is offense against any evil aggressive affront.
    I am dino~
    Hear me ROAR!
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    • Posted by term2 4 years, 9 months ago
      Johnson is better than the other candidates, although he would never be elected after that terrible performance on Anderson Cooper's town hall. Just his half hearted stand on the war on drugs was pretty pathetic. I could have taken a more consistent stand and withstood that woman's questioning by simply saying that the existing war on drugs was already in place when her son died of an overdose.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      Johnson sure is a disappointment. Do you suppose the convention was rigged?
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      • Posted by freedomforall 4 years, 9 months ago
        No, but having experienced so many disappointing elections, 52% of the voting members at the convention may have gone along with Johnson (and Weld the Wicked), gambling on the chance of getting a breakthrough. The other candidates at the Libertarian convention may have had more of a hard core libertarian platform, but that could be perceived as the problem in getting enough votes to be heard. Time will tell if this gamble pays off in any way.
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        • Posted by $ TomB666 4 years, 9 months ago
          One of the problems I see with the Libertarian Party is that it tries so hard to be relevant (by adopting any position that it thinks will help it win) that it winds up without principles - just like the D's and R's :-(

          Selecting these two Republican ex-Governors as candidates is but another compromise.
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          • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
            I agree. The Big Government Party will win, but it would have been nice to have a charismatic spokesman on various national TV shows explaining the LP position. John McAfee would have been ideal, I think, because he already has a nationally known name, he explains the principles well, and has the humph to make an interview with him interesting. I think even Johnson falls asleep when he is interviewed, and, as a result, he is not invited often.
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            • Posted by freedomforall 4 years, 9 months ago
              Yes, Johnson needs work on his presentation skills. One of the big problems with the process of national elections is that the emphasis is on who is better looking, taller, and can shout the loudest, instead of who makes the most rational arguments and has a record of success without looting.
              The media and the debate organizers want the debates to be just another reality show and the result is ignorant savages like Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton, and Trump. Put them all in a leaky rubber boat and let the sharks eat the lot.
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          • Posted by freedomforall 4 years, 9 months ago
            Actually the Libertarian Party (nationally) has not done what you allege in any past election (that I recall.) (Perhaps I misunderstand what you mean by that statement. Details?) Their problem in getting votes has arguably been that they stuck to their principles of constitutional government, individual liberty, non aggression, and ethics, but the media just portayed the party as looney and the ignorant public did not question that statist biased view.
            Now what you say may be true of the liberals who pretend that they are libertarians and say they are libertarian. I have met quite a few of those ignoramuses who hate to pay the taxes that liberals impose but still want the liberal programs.
            I agree that the current candidates (especially Weld the Wicked) are a compromise on libertarian principles.
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  • Posted by jscrump59 4 years, 9 months ago
    I view the "Strike" as activist enterprise. In going against the status quo by withholding their intellect they were performing a action against their antagonists however low key. The antagonists recognized that productive talent was being withheld from them and that they viewed it as a hostile action.
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  • Posted by Wanderer 4 years, 9 months ago
    "No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force." - Helmuth von Moltke

    Objectivism lives in the ideal world of the imagination. Libertarians live in the frustrating and imperfect real world where, making things work means compromise.

    Hold out for perfection or compromise but, whichever, be yourself. Who cares what label people apply to you? Screw the labels. If Ayn Rand doesn't like it she can come back and argue her corner.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      I don’t often see where Libertarians compromise on the NAP, though the current LP candidate for President (Gary Johnson) has and he has been reprimanded and chided for it. The Objectivists who say one cannot be a Libertarian and an Objectivist have not put their statement to the Venn diagram test.
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      • Posted by jdg 4 years, 9 months ago
        Johnson and some of the LP's past candidates try to compromise with the public by taking gradualist positions (such as to legalize marijuana but not all drugs) even though the party's platform is absolutist. This is understandable but has the drawback that it invites accusations of contradiction and hypocrisy.

        The LP, at least as it has been run to date, is all about taking and publicizing idealist, absolutist positions, and hoping to draw the major parties toward those positions following the model of the Socialist Party in the 1920s (which never elected anyone to a higher office than mayor of Milwaukee, but ended up with the Democrats adopting its entire platform). But as long as the LP follows that model, it makes more sense for gradualist candidates to run in the major parties, not the LP. Of course, Johnson did run as a Republican in 2012, but got nowhere.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
          In my opinion, Johnson and Weld individually or combined don't have enough charisma to make a public speech let alone run something. Joh McAfee would have been a great PR guy on the road.
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 9 months ago
      You got that wrong. Subjectivism lives in the world of the imagination. Libertarians the could be said to settle for wrong answers for various reasons

      You can argue with the dead but not the living. Objectivists demand facts and proof and accept nothing that isn't realistic and without understanding it's nature. They don't get frustrated if the answer isn't to their liking they just keep observing and and testing and never accept wrong answers.

      That is what people who have no morals, values, ethics or self respect do and then try to window dress it into something acceptable to the rest of us. Problem is we don't absolve you.Only you can do that. People who can absolve themselves of being second raters or willing to accept false premises fall in a special category called amoral. Some folks call them politicians though.
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  • Posted by jdg 4 years, 9 months ago
    For the same reason that Rand kicked out Alan Greenspan in the '60s for aesthetic disagreement. Objectivism has always been much more her personal empire, ruled by her whims, than it was ever about a consistent set of principles.

    Objectivism could be purged of these contradictions and come out stronger, but I don't think anyone in the organizations wants to take on the job. It's like the situation 60 years ago, after Stalin's death, when no other Soviet wanted to be the first to denounce him.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      An astute observation. I say that as one who intimately knew two of the “inner circle” in 1960s. Your analysis also explains the dogmatic requirements she demanded, and underscores Michael Shermer’s conclusion about Objectivism in the chapter “The Unlikeliest Cult” of his book “Why People Believe Weird Things.”
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    • Posted by Rex_Little 4 years, 9 months ago
      It was widely believed at the time that Rand's motivation for denouncing the LP was that John Hospers (their first Presidential candidate) was another one of those who, like Greenspan, had been kicked out of her inner circle. Whether that's true or not, her stated reasons didn't hold much water. She accused Libertarians of "stealing my ideas without giving me credit", but Hospers' campaign book, Libertarianism, quoted her books directly--hundreds of times--with a footnoted reference for each quote.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
        Perplexing, isn’t it. Incredibly she claimed credit for the NAP and said the libertarians stole it from her. I guess she did not study enough to know the NAP goes back a couple thousand years. I seem to remember something about Hospers at the time, but not enough to comment. Certainly what you say “fits” Rand’s general conduct.
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    • Posted by $ prof611 4 years, 9 months ago
      "Objectivism has always been much more her personal empire, ruled by her whims, than it was ever about a consistent set of principles." WHA? Objectivism is not about a consistent set of principles???
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      • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 9 months ago
        That excuse is not going to last forever just as it didn't last for any of the others. The three basic principles are the foundation. The rest assists in how to approach different problems or issues. The rest is the individuals honesty, self respect and choice. If they choose a Plato answer they were either not being honest or chose to join a non thinking collective. Eseptico's additon of Communism is a an example of the latter.
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      • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 4 years, 9 months ago
        Only if you fail as an independent thinking and reasoning individual and the principles three of them all point in support of independent thinking and reasoning. prof6's comment corrected I had to do an ignore to clean up the dots in this case.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
        I think you are correct about her personal empire. Out of respect, I suppose we should call her Empress Ayn
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        • Posted by rbroberg 4 years, 9 months ago
          I am sensing resentment of Rand, but some admiration of Objectivism. It's certainly possible to appreciate statements and concepts of an individual while feeling distaste or even disgust for their voice, appearance, or clothing. But I think Rand was quite the voice of reason. I also think she worked extremely hard to develop a coherent, unified philosophical theory derived from basic observations about the world. So while there may be some discord among Objectivists as to certain particulars, I think you would be hard pressed to find Peikoff, Binswanger, or even Bernstein differing as significantly in their opinions on Objectivism as in supporting Libertarianism as a movement without certain qualifications.

          Finally, I am concerned that your statement represents a double standard. Is it not possible that some libertarians consider objectivists as non-Libertarian due to their support of wars against Saudi and Iran?
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          • Posted by jdg 4 years, 9 months ago
            That view is out there. But I would put foreign policy at the top of the list of issues that not all libertarians agree about. I'm not sure if all Objectivists agree about it either.

            I take a fairly pragmatic view on foreign policy; I think a country has to. Which of course will get me flamed because "pragmatism isn't objectivist", but how else do you decide when you don't know everything and your principles don't always give a clear answer either?
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            • Posted by rbroberg 4 years, 9 months ago
              I am not sure how to address the question other than to point out you set pragmatism as a principle, then say principles don't give a clear answer.
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              • Posted by jdg 4 years, 9 months ago
                I do not set pragmatism as a principle. I use it as a tool, in situations when tools I trust more don't answer the question of what to do. Sometimes you have to guess, both about other leaders' intentions and about whether their claims of moral purity, injury, etc. are true. And sometimes you need an ally badly enough that you have to look the other way about his immoral actions elsewhere.
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                • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
                  Osmo A. Wiio, a Finnish professor of communication, developed communication “laws” which I have found to be true:
                  (1) Communication usually fails, except by accident.
                  (2) If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes damage.
                  (3) There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant by your message.

                  Restated: Whenever you say something, if there is any possible way for another to misunderstand what you say, you will be misunderstood in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time, and then they will tell you what you “really” meant by your message.
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