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Post 0

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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The most relevant portion of this discussion
was left to the end of the article when
"Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD) were
mentioned almost in passing. Libertarians
and Objectivists have no decernable "Military
Doctrine". They don't know how to raise money for a modern military, how to deal with
strategic threats, or how to deal with WMD from
any source. Rand understood almost nothing
of the actual Soviet military threat and
Libertarian/Objectivists critics of Reagan
still refuse to understand what caused the
Soviet Empire to collapse.

Rand had almost no understanding of the
relevance of military hardware in formulating
military doctrine. Objectivism has only
a "floating abstraction" for a competing
military model. Those who dismiss the
concerns over WMD will in turn be dismissed
by those who have even the most rudimentary
understanding of a modern military.

Dennis May [former Captain USAF & weapons
designer]



Post 1

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 8:13amSanction this postReply
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While I've not yet had a chance to read Chris's article, I've read these points from Dennis on other lists.

The principles for raising money for a military are no different than for funding government, in general. There have been proposals. Which will work best is hard to determine until we actually get a chance to try them out.

But as Rand said, ending taxation is not something we need worry about immediately.

As for "how to deal with strategic threats," the broad points/principles are well-established, even though libertarians often disagree (rather vehemently) about their implementation. Rand discussed this extensively. Trade, noninterventionism, no permanent alliances, etc. So, I disagree with his statement there.

As for the other points he mentions re: dealing with specific threats or WMD's in specific cases, they should be handled using the general foreign policies as guidelines. For concrete stategic/tactical issues, these are hardly the provence of _philosophy_ but of military science.

Objectivism should no more specify these specifics than it should what high definition TV standard we should adopt. But the _general principles_ tell us that _whatever is decided_ should be done via the free-market and engineering considerations, not by government edict. Dealing with the issues Dennis mentions is no different.

Dennis raises some very specific criticisms re: military hardward vis a vis military doctrice, but I am unclear what he actually means by this vague sentence, that strikes me as more "floating abstraction" than Rand's proposals for foreign policy. What are his specific referents/examples/proposals and _why_ should a general philosophy be dealing with those kinds of specifics?

I'll be off-line for the next two weeks, so won't be able to respond until then.

Russ Madden



Post 2

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 9:00amSanction this postReply
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Chris, this article is money, and a agree with your points. It has also prompted me to go buy your book, "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical." My question is a simple one, though: are you going to submit this to any journals for consideration?



Post 3

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 1:38pmSanction this postReply
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Your article is well written, although I do not necessarily agree with your conclusions.

I am curious what you think would have constituted the necessary reasoning for going to war with Iraq based on your discussed foreign policy principles. If it were proven that Iraq was directly involved with and helped train the 9/11 attackers, would that be sufficient cause for overthrowing the regime? Although the following link is to an often quite Right slanted view of events, the article raises a very good argument with evidence for believing that the al-queda/Iraqi link was quite real and ongoing.
http://www.newsmax.com/showinside.shtml?a=2002/8/13/95502

For our post-war behaviour, Yaron Brook in a recent talk advocated a complete withdrawl of forces immediately after overthrowing the regime. His view was that if the country presented problems again in the future, we go in militarily and overthrow the following regime as well. Unlike Peikoff, in this particular talk, he in no way advocated the nuclear destruction of major population areas in the Middle East - an idea which I think is beyond wrong.

I think the war in Iraq was necessary and morally justified, and I think we should stay in Iraq until we have confirmed the destruction of all WMD and the means of making them as well as killing all terrorists in the area. After that, we should leave - almost.

I'm not sure how we can effectively protect ourselves from the many threats in the Middle East without having a means of rapidly projecting force when necessary. To that end, I think, for our own self-defence, we will need to establish a military presence in the form of strategically located bases in Iraq. These bases can be protected by a minimum military presence to guarantee that they are available to us when and if they are required for additional strikes against our enemies. The idea of being dependent on the cooperation of countries in the region such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia to protect ourselves will never work.

Fred Gibson, Architect

Frederick@gibson-design.com Architecture Designed With Integrity
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Frederick Clifford Gibson Architect & Associates

679 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
415.227.1684 |tel| 415.227.1685 |fax|

ul. Micinskiego 8
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48.42.656.0752 |tel/fax|

(c)2003
http://www.gibson-design.com



Post 4

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 2:27pmSanction this postReply
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Just a few quick points in response to some of the discussants here:

1. Dennis is right that I do not deal extensively with the issue of WMD, but not because I thought the issue unimportant. I tend to agree with Russ that philosophy does not have to provide us with a fully specified roster of strategic military options. Broad principles can aid us generally in the construction of alternative strategies, and I defer to Dennis on the wisdom of such strategies. What I don't concede, however, is that the mere existence of WMD proliferation should be a pretext for US invasions all over the planet.

2. Thanks Ryan for your interest in AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL; this current essay won't be submitted to any journals for publication---other than THE FREE RADICAL, where it ~was~ published as part of the May/June 2003 issue. I ~might~ expand these points in another essay someday, in an attempt to create a more formal Objectivist-inspired model for the analysis of international politics.

3. Thank you, Fred, for your comments. That's a provocative link that you provided. If it were proven that the Iraqi regime had ~clear~ ties to Al Qaeda and to 9/11, I would have led the cavalry into Baghdad. I am not convinced that these ties were formal, and given the hostility between Ba'ath and Al Qaeda gangs, I tend to doubt a pre-war alliance between them. Indeed, the US army did what Osama bin Laden desired, but couldn't do: toppling the secular "infidel", Saddam Hussein. War, however, can change dynamics dramatically, and I worry about further proliferation in the wake of this military action.

Given the current situation, a military presence is certainly prudent. What I question, however, is the establishment of a new U.S. colonialism and the folly of nation-building.

More to follow, I'm sure.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 5

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 2:29pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, thanks for making the article available for discussion. We probably agree on more than we disagree: if I were to fault your thesis, probably it would be for not being radical enough, both in your application of history and in your application of Objectivist epistemology to the problem. I do disagree with your reading of my part in our earlier exchange on SOLO, and I would enjoy - and I think our culture would benefit from - some good dialectic here.

Being a good radical, I will start by asking, what is your concept of fascism? It is clear that our concepts of fascism differ, and that each of us thinks of ours as corresponding to Rand's. I am older than you, and have the advantage of having been there; you have the advantage of being closer to the topic, and (at least this is my impression) having read it in greater depth.

In the 1960s, every literate person knew what facts of reality grounded the concept of Fascism; every educated person was familiar with its intellectual provenance. While Rand was becoming notorious for her radical re-conceptualization of some common concepts, such as "morality", "virtue", and "selfishness", I do not remember - or perhaps I did not notice - any radical re-conceptualization, on her part, of the concept of "Fascism". I think that she was using the word in its ordinary sense, one corresponding to common dictionary definitions of the time. It is also clear from your article that you are using "Fascism" in a rather different sense. For example, one dictionary Rand was using, the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (either 1951 or 1961, they had identical bindings so I don't know which one she was using, but I checked and their definitions of "Fascism" are the same) had the following definition:



fascism (....) n. [ .... ] 1. The principles of the Fascisti; also, the movement or governmental regime embodying their principles. 2. Any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible suppression of opposition.



Contrast the top defining characteristic in the relevant definition, "centralized, autocratic", with the following claim in your article: "Rand never saw the New Fascism - .... - as authoritarian in character". Or contrast "exercising regimentation of industry, commerce and finance" with your "neofascism was never about central planning" (which, in fact, it was, from its erection of New Deal agencies, to its climax in Nixon's wage and price controls, to its last flaccid twitches in the recent imposition of asset forfeiture on Internet banks.)

It may be that Rand did do a radical re-conceptualization here, and her "New Fascism" was something significantly different from plain old Fascism, and I just didn't notice. Maybe an actual definition of this "New Fascism" is lurking somewhere in Rand's writings, or in your article, and I didn't notice that either. In that case, I'd like to know what that new concept is, and how it differs from the old one. Right now, to paraphrase Charles de Gaulle (on completion of the Maginot Line in 1938: "France is finally prepared for the previous war"), I still think that you are wasting your intellectual ammunition in combat against the previous enemy.



Post 6

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 3:12pmSanction this postReply
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First, let me say Adam, that I have generally enjoyed not only our correspondence, but the many points you have made in all these discussions. I think that one of the most insightful comments you ever made in the SOLO discussion was this one: “To paraphrase ben Gurion, one has to fight Hussein as if there were no Bush, and fight Bush as if there were no Hussein. That's a difficult program, but we live in difficult times. And, in even more difficult times, ben Gurion's strategy worked.”

On the concept of fascism, I’m going strictly by what Rand saw as its ~economic~ essence: the union of business and government. I think there is a distinction between the old “fascism” and the “New Fascism” (or what I’ve termed “neofascism”), however. What unites them is the business-government “partnership.” What distinguishes them is that the first is authoritarian, while the second is more akin to “liberal corporatism.” It retains liberal institutions and democratic procedures, while keeping much of the business-government politico-economic alliance outside the sphere of democratic control. The whole panoply of regulatory agencies, central bank manipulations, and pressure group pork-barreling has been the result of an incremental process over many years, creating a whole complex structure of privilege that cannot be altered by simply changing the political party in power. The “New Fascism” may or may not entail nationalism and extreme regimentation, though in war time (both world wars come to mind), the U.S. fully embraced “War Collectivism” in the regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, as well as the suppression of civil liberties. All the more reason to take ~very~ seriously the consequences of a long-term policy of perpetual war. (I’ve written on war collectivism in "World War I" in a recent OWL post; scroll down at: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/internet.htm; I also hope to republish an essay of mine on “Government and the Railroads in World War I.”)

I’m not suggesting that there are ~no~ elements of central planning in the new fascism; clearly, in addition to the wage-price controls you mention, centralized control of the currency through a cartelized banking structure is key. But economy-wide central planning is usually not a part of a neofascist arrangement. The system has varying degrees of centralization in different sectors and industries, but this is usually the product of ad hoc, patchwork regulation that, over time, blocks market entry and creates various monopolistic rigidities.

I’m certainly open to using a different label for what I’m seeking to describe, given how “loaded” the term fascism actually is. But whether we call it the “new fascism” or “neofascism” or “liberal corporatism” or “corporate welfare statism,” the result is the same: a politico-economic structure that has evolved to benefit certain groups at the expense of others.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 7

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 5:12pmSanction this postReply
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Bravo, Chris! Thanks for the much-needed reminder of historical context, principle, and Randian radicalism in analysis.



Post 8

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 6:06pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Chris, for the clarification. Now I think I see what you are driving at; when you write that you are "certainly open to using a different label", "given how 'loaded' the term fascism actually is", I can only agree with you. Instead of "loaded," though, I advocate switching to a different term, because "fascism" refers to a concept with a specific sense - and in that specific sense, "fascism" has been, ever since the spectacular failure of Nixon's wage and price controls, in decline. Can anyone imagine the Internet if the telecommunications industry were still the monopolistic cartel, a.k.a "The Phone Company", that it was at the height of American fascism in the sixties and seventies? Can one imagine Jet Blue, which my stepdaughter just flew home on yesterday, in the decades when cartelized airlines were called, in the laws incorporating their cartel, "the chosen instrument" of government policy?

At the height of the New Fascism, the "union of business and government" that Rand wrote about was an open, genteel, legally sanctified marriage, to which both partners were faithful and of which both were proud. Today, neither partner will openly admit to having been in bed with the other; their "union" is more like the chance coupling between a drunk and a whore in the gutter behind a pissoir. They will always be with us. Even when our devoutly wished for amendment separating economy and state becomes part of the US constitution, some second-hand "businessmen" and their corrupt partners will immediately start working on loopholes. So what?

Now that I know what you mean, on to the substance.

My analysis, driven as it is more by Rand's method than by the specific outcome of her analysis in her time, is that the main threat we are facing today has so little in common with fascism, that bringing in the concept of fascism to the fore can only obscure the current threat. Fascism, whether of the Mussolini-Saddam variety or of the Nixon-Chirac variety, is putrefying, slowly decaying in our political life to the level of background noise. We will continue to choke on its stench for many years still, but a corpse, however malodorous, is not an enemy. The current threat is something entirely different: the emergence of klepto-communitarian/klepto-theocratic authoritarianism, rooted in pre-enlightenment communitarian and religious traditions of communal enforcement of universalist "natural law," as in "compassionate conservatism" and "crimes against nature." As in Leo Strauss, Lee Kuan Yew, George Bush and Rick Santorum. They are the live, current enemy, even if the corpse of the previous enemy still stinks.

AdamReed

Context matters. There is seldom only one cause for *anything*.



Post 9

Friday, May 16, 2003 - 6:23pmSanction this postReply
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Wonderful article, Chris. A class act, as always.
:-)

Debbie Clark



Post 10

Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 4:51pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, I don't have time for a full, formal reply, but here are a few key points that illustrate where we (and other O'ists, I will presume) differ. The article makes your case nicely (as your clear writing style usually does), but here are the key substantive problems, as I see it, of course.

For reference, the article in question is at:
http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Understanding_the_Global_Crisis__Reclaiming_Rands_Radical_Legacy.shtml
http://tinylink.com/?yioepUwqPR

CMS:
But I remain wary of any long-term U.S. expansion into the region. And I believe that a projected U.S. occupation of Iraq to bring about "democratic" regime change would not be comparable to the German and Japanese models of the post-World War II era.

CN:
The assumption that the Iraq war (circa 2003) automatically implies a long-term expansion into the region is not necessarily true, and is in fact denied repeatedly by the Bush admin. So insofar as this undergirds your arguments, there is a problem.

CMS:
For those of us bred on Ayn Rand's insight that politics is only a consequence of a larger philosophical and cultural cause-that culture, in effect, trumps politics-the idea that it is possible to construct a political solution in a culture that does not value procedural democracy, free institutions, or the notion of individual responsibility is a delusion.

CN:
We agree on this statement-of-the-case in terms of principle. But what is the underlying assumption in terms of facts? By raising this (admittedly important) point, you are implicitly suggesting that the people of Iraq are necessarily insufficiently advanced to handle a rights-based political milieu. The first answer to that is that neither you nor anyone knows this for certain until such a thing is attempted.

But you might also suggest that we know ENOUGH at the outset to think success is unlikely. The reason I disagree with this is because of the very persuasive events that have taken place next door in Iran. In short, the truth is getting through, however that process may be truncated. And it's getting through in such a way that it's having profound effects on the political structure, which MEANS it's having effects on the average Joe's basic philosophy.

Iraq has (had) a more repressive information structure than Iran, but it also has a more secular philosophy to begin with, not to mention a tradition of capitalism (of sorts) "on the street." Again, I'm shortening my presentation here, but there are a number of factors that suggest Joe Iraqi might not be the incorrigible savage that has characterized similar states in the past.

CMS:
But even if procedural democracy were to come to Iraq, it may be no less despotic than the brutal dictatorship it usurps, for majority rule without protection of individual rights is no check on the political growth of Islamic fundamentalism.

CN:
There is evidence that Bush & Co. understand the difference between "Democracy" and "rights-based" government and that they are resisting efforts to focus on the former alone. For Objectivists, the distinction and relative value of each is old news, not a real debate topic at all.

CMS:
The lunacy of nation-building...

CN:
It is lunacy in its purest form. But I think all realize that this is an opportunity for Iraqis. Pure "nation-building" isn't in anyone's mind or intentions. The role of the USA (both in actual and stated terms) is to build a relatively narrow channel. The hope is that the Iraqis will enter, but if they don't, that's the risk the USA is taking.

CMS:
Even though I support relentless surgical strikes against terrorists posing an imminent threat to the United States, I have argued that America's only practical long-term course of action is strategic disengagement from the region.

CN:
There is doubt in my mind about whether you can have this cake and eat it. You can't just send a Rambo-crew into any part of the world whenever you want. Without substantial engagement, it's unlikely you'll even know when or where to send them. And in a very real sense, the Iraq war WAS a surgical strike.

CMS:
In the long-run, I stand with those American Founding Fathers who advocated free trade with all, entangling political alliances with none.

CN:
So do I, but they were speaking of normal circumstances, not a world with a powerful group explicitly proclaiming the USA in their crosshairs.

CMS:
The central planners of socialism learned this lesson some time ago; the central planners of a projected U.S. colonialism have yet to learn it.

CN:
If USA colonialism is at the heart of your argument, then it's a false assumption and your whole argument topples. Again, in both real and stated terms, there is a national security justification and basis here. There is NOT any self-enriching basis here (such as the lame "stealing their oil" argument.)

CMS:
But it took centuries to secularize the Western mind, and it is liable to take generations to accomplish a modicum of cultural change among Islamic nations.

CN:
It's happening - however incompletely - in ONE generation next door in Iran. What you are missing is that this sort of transformation can take thousands of years - or, 20. You cannot just average the extremes and there's your argument.

[This post was in excess of size restrictions for this board so I have posted it in two parts. Please go to the next message.]



Post 11

Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 4:52pmSanction this postReply
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CMS:
Rand, who wrote minimally on foreign policy, recognized nevertheless that "[t]he essence of capitalism's foreign policy is free trade-i.e., the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges-the opening of the world's trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another" ("The Roots of War").

CN:
And the same thing applies to DOMESTIC policy. This does not, in any way, deny the need to erase criminals and conspiracies, such as the mafia. We don't "trade" with them, and leaving them alone is not an option. (I am not suggesting that last part analogizes to foreign affairs.)

CMS:
The crisis of U.S. foreign policy led Rand to a key radical insight-that there was an inextricable connection between government intervention at home and abroad. Rand states unequivocally: "Foreign policy is merely a consequence of domestic policy" ("The Shanghai Gesture, Part III").

CN:
I agree that it's an important, and true, insight. But I think you are being more precise than Rand herself, because you call the two "connected," whereas Rand uses the term "consequence," as if one causes the other. In fact, both domestic and foriegn policy arise from the same basic premises. In a nation of mixed or inconsistent premises, there's no surprise that the result is poor, whether local or foreign. I think Rand thus implies that the mistakes in both realms will be similar both in type and in degree.

Therefore, in the current context, we really ought to treat America's philosophical failings as a constant. I agree with you and Rand that there is a new and "predatory" fascism gaining currency, but your argument seems to suggest that by doing less, there is less harm done. But this idea (which is valid in some degree) would apply just as well to domestic affairs. In short, I don't think the philosophical failings of the USA have anything unique to suggest vis-a-vis foreign policy.

Your essay correctly echoes Rand's numerous critiques and analyses of the mixed economy and it seems easy to agree that we oughtn't export it:

CMS:
Thus, the New Fascism exports "the bloody chaos of tribal warfare" to the rest of the world, creating a whole class of "pull peddlers" among both foreign and domestic lobbyists, who feed on the carcass of the American taxpayer, causing massive global political, social, and economic dislocations ("The Pull Peddlers").

CN:
...but the mistake you're making again relates back to your faulty assumption that the goal is export. The goal is primarily defense, albeit from a long-term defense perspective.

Your references to remarks by Ron Pisaturo give your essay a bit of a straw-man quality. Pisaturo's advocacy of a nuclear first strike is truly fringe and is not on any agenda, again, neither implict nor explict. And he is indeed a colonialist, and that is simply not what's on the table. In response to Pisaturo's nuclear strategy you say:

CMS:
I submit that this "cure" is far worse than the disease....Let's analyze Pisaturo's proposal more closely.

CN:
Why bother? You express understandable angst....

CMS:
But when an Objectivist advocates mass murder and U.S. colonialism and supports the oil industry's employment of the government like a mercenary private protection agency to secure its foreign financial and material holdings, it is beyond baffling.

CN:
That may be if it was OBJECTIVISM rather than AN OBJECTIVIST; again, this all has a straw-man quality. On what's to be done, you and Perigo agree:

CMS:
Just because we cannot do everything to change the system radically and immediately, does not mean that we should do nothing to lessen threats to our freedom.

CN:
But who said "surgical strikes" combined with de facto isolationism is the right level of action? From my perspective, I think "surgical" strikes are indeed the way to go, but I view the Iraq war AS a surgical strike. Perhaps one or two other nations need the same, somewhat extreme level of attention. Your essay just seems to blithely assume that the ultimate goal for Bush & Co. is much more. But there's no compelling reason to think that at all. You seem to be working openly from a Roman Empire-derived perspective. You make this all-but-explicit:

CMS:
Is there not any other way to deal with such despotism short of establishing a new U.S. colonialism?

CN:
Of course there is, and current American actions and words clearly put the lie to your false dichotomy.

This already got longer than I intended (to your credit, there's a lot of depth in your essay, more than I can possibly address here and now), so let's just get to your conclusion:

CMS:
The Middle East is a region with many oppressive, theocratic regimes at war with human life, human liberty, and human justice. But even when the U.S. government retaliates appropriately against those who act out their jihad-ic desires, it cannot hope to transform that region's despotism by creating, necessarily, a garrison state at home to support a colonial occupation abroad.

CN:
"Necessarily" is the key point of disagreement. In fact, neither is even overhwlmingly likely.

CMS:
Destroying American liberties in order to "liberate" the few remaining "savages" who survive the nuclear winter is not a prescription for peace, "homeland security," or freedom. Unless one wants the New Fascism to look a lot like the old one.

CN:
You're seriously over-the-top here, again, implicitly responding to the whacky and irrelevant Pisaturo.

Chris, you've got a plethora of interesting observations here, and especially many prescient quotes from Rand, a few of which you amplify nicely. But it just doesn't add up to more than the sum of your parts. The basic assumption - that the Iraq invasion is merely modern American colonialism - is not nearly the undisputed fact that you presume. I suspect we'll agree to disagree, but would you at least concede that if it isn't colonialism, the rest of your argument falls?

Charles Novins



Post 12

Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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Hi to all,

I found my way here from anti-war.com. I am, admittedly, a non-academe type bordering on anti-intellectual, but have been blessed with insight and perception beyond my formal education.

I am new to this game of foreign policy review etc. However, the current administration has compelled me to take charge and do what I can to help save the free world.

Forums/articles such as these will go a long way to heighten public consciousness. I have started a library of reference files to which I will add my first of many Object... related articles.

I am too wet behind the ears to contribute a response, in the same league as what I have read here but my day will come!

Thanks,
to All.



Post 13

Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 9:24pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks to both Ross and Debbie for their kind words with regard to my essay. And thank you, too, Stella, for coming here and taking a look around. I look forward to future posts from you.

I found Adam's newest post to be very well put. I think Adam makes some excellent points with regard to the theocratic, pre-enlightenment, communitarian tenor of the current threats to American freedom. I don't think that this ideological trend supplants the threats posed by the corporatist structure of our political economy, however, for all the reasons that I describe in Chapter 12 of my book, AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, and in Chapter 7 of TOTAL FREEDOM: TOWARD A DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM. Make no mistake about it, however: the trends to which Adam points are real, and not to be underestimated.

I'd like to address the various points made by Charles Novins. Thanks a million, Charles, for your very detailed reading of my essay.

Charles says that the Bush administration has denied repeatedly that there will be any "long-term expansion into the region." Nevertheless, I think that any attempt to transform the Iraqi government into a democratic regime must entail some kind of long-term expansion into the region. I don't see how it can be avoided if democratization is the expressed aim.

A point of clarification is in order, however: I do not believe that "the people of Iraq are necessarily insufficiently advanced to handle a rights-based political milieu." I agree that it is a very positive sign that Iraqi society is more secular than other Arab societies. But it is also plagued by a virulent tribalism and it is going to take a massive change in the culture toward individualism if such tribalism is to be transcended. That change cannot be imposed politically, as it were.

The events in Iran to which Charles points are indeed encouraging. He is absolutely correct that the intellectual revolution taking place in Iran is happening in one or two generations (I do point to Michael Ledeen's discussion of this in my article). But that's only because these intellectual trends are arising, spontaneously, as part of an ~internal~ dynamic within Iranian society, rather than imposed from without. I think this makes an enormous difference.

On nation-building: The neoconservative intellectual agenda, which has profound influence over the current foreign policy-makers, is very clearly aimed toward constructing democratic nation-states. And it is for this reason that I don't consider the Iraqi war, swift as it was - thank goodness, to have been a purely surgical strike. Surgical strikes don't require nation-building, which is what the neoconservatives advocate.

On the issue of US colonialism, I do not buy the "stealing their oil" argument either. But the character of US interventionist political economy is not typically "colonial." Rand was right to view the ~crux~ of US overseas intervention as financial in nature; the whole network of governmental subsidies, privileges, and such, has created enormous political, economic, and social distortions across the globe. There is every reason to assume, given the closed bidding process and the crony-contracting that is already going on, that this interventionist structure will simply be extended to Iraq during the period of occupation. I do not view this as a victory for capitalism. (As an aside: When I ask, in my essay, "Is there not any other way to deal with such despotism short of establishing a new U.S. colonialism?," I do not aim that question at the Bush administration. I do, however, aim that question at the various Objectivist commentators whose essays I've analyzed in my article.)

On the issue of the connection between foreign and domestic policy, Charles tells us that I'm being more precise than Rand who saw the latter as a ~consequence~ of the former. Yes, of course, both arise from the same basic premises; but if the basic premises of the latter are collectivist and statist, it is perfectly understandable why these same basic premises would be at work in the former - hence the inextricable connection.

To this extent, it was ~Rand~ who actually suggested that "by doing less, there is less harm done." Rand uses the biological analogy when she asks: "If you have a disease, should you get a more serious form of it, and will that help you?" I think Rand implies that "[w]hat we are now doing to others . . . we began by doing it to ourselves." She does not revel in the extension of neofascism beyond national borders; I believe she sees this as an extension in the scope of harm. It's not enough to say that "we shouldn't export" neofascism. We can't help ~but~ to export it, because that is the ~system~ we have. This is why Rand said that as long as this ~system~ is in place, it can only engender "parasitism, favoritism, corruption and greed for the unearned." As I say in my essay, "its power to dispense privilege, Rand emphasizes, '~cannot be used honestly~'."

This doesn't mean that the US can never use defensive force; but it does mean that American citizens must be forever vigilant in any time of national emergency, since such emergencies have often been used as a pretext for vastly expanding the power of the state.

As for Ron Pisaturo: I do not believe this is a straw-man. Listen to Yaron Brook. Listen to Leonard Peikoff. These gentlemen have openly advocated use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and the destruction of most of the Arab states. Pisaturo simply provides us with the ultimate logically horrific conclusion to which such strategies must ultimately lead.

I do not believe that Bush & Co. are aiming for a new Roman Empire---indeed, compared to Pisaturo, Bush is eminently reasonable. And as I said: I still take Bush at his word when he says that the purpose of this war was to rid Iraq of WMD and to build a democratic regime. It seems, however, that we will have a long wait before WMDs are actually found and democracy is actually installed.

My warning against a garrison state and a colonial occupation are simply that: a warning... specifically, a warning to those Objectivists who don't seem to appreciate the systematic nature of Rand's critique of contemporary political economy. By contrast, Charles suggests that neither the garrison state nor colonialism is likely, to which I must reply: From your lips to God's ears. :) I sincerely hope that I'm totally wrong and that my fears are totally unfounded. My goal is not to win debating points.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 14

Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 5:42pmSanction this postReply
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RAGNAR’S RAIDERS & HODGSKIN’S DIS-EASE
There are two points that I want to elaborate on regarding your article, Chris (the second point will be in a later post).
The first concern is one of a personal matter for objectivists who support military invasions such as that on Iraq as a response to terrorism. In objectivism, certainly as Rand in her fiction promoted, there is a wide range of options available for those who come from an objectivist background to respond to issues that we believe are wrong.
Let’s say that Architect reacts to having his vision of a building he designed twisted by others (state bureaucrats, contract violators, etc., etc.) by blowing the building up. Or perhaps Ragnar’s Raider begins on a Robin Hood-like series of hijackings of government-owned ships on government gold which is then distributed to Architects.
Would these persons not be viewed as terrorists? Would not others who support their philosophy be “persons of interest”? In other words, in the world that Big Shot Objectivist (I have changed the names to protect the innocent) and other objectivists are promoting and actively trying to create, with military escapades and the natural consequence of reducing civil liberties, then come back to bite them? “Persons of interest” are non-suspects. They aren’t charged with anything, deny any involvement in unsolved crimes against the state, and they may be careless, so to speak, about victimless crimes such as black market sales, use of illegal substances. Certainly most objectivists have had friends and associates in this category, even if they may not themselves qualify.
Will Big Shot Objectivist be taken to the local FBI or police office to confess to some nonspecific crime because he is now considered a “person of interest,” possibly knowing an Architect or Ragnar’s Raider who may be under suspicion? Shouldn’t all objectivists be considered as “persons of interest” because some of their heroes are terrorists? If the Trotskyite (democratic socialist) Strauss-loving neocons suddenly realize that this small group of supporters of their military follies may hold terrorist cells and, who knows, weapons of mass destruction, then they, just like muslim fundamentalists, should be the subject of FBI searches, public ostracism and investigation for other possible crimes? Certainly the ideological rift is great between democratic socialists and objectivists. I doubt that a “Prince of Darkness” such as Richard Perle would object. Does Big Shot Objectivist even understand allying himself with the neocons lead to consequences far from his intent? Should Big Shot Objectivist denounce Architect or Ragnar’s Raider? Should Big Shot Objectivist be judged evil for not grasping that he is putting a stake into the heart of objectivism by his intellectual failure? Should Big Shot Objectivist then be purged from objectivist circles due to his context-dropping, just as he has purged others for far less harmful context-dropping?
The second question I will address in a later post on Hodgskin’s Dis-ease



Post 15

Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 8:07pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you Chris, for your lucid presentation, very useful in my efforts at acquiring a better understanding of the Objectivist point of view. I have an elementary question regarding the issue of statism. In an economy functioning according to Objectivist principles, how would capitalists confront the problem of an industry wide, perhaps even Marxist, labor union that attempted to seize control of a factory or a series of factories within an industry? I am sure this question is taken up in detail elsewhere. If you could direct me to what you consider a valid Objectivist discussion of this problem, I would be grateful. Also, what you refer to as neo-fascism, I refer to as “electoral fascism.” It is the electoral element that has opened the door for an alliance between the economic state-corporate interests and the leaders of the sizeable flock of deliverable voters who comprise the Religious Right.
Regards,
Jim Caldwell
PowerDemocracy.org



Post 16

Monday, May 19, 2003 - 3:54amSanction this postReply
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Good article, much better than Perig's disapointing rantings.

American foriegn policy was about free trade and setting a good example to all. Unfortunately it has run off the rails and now America is reaping what it has sown. It has used force to create and maintain Israel. It has used force twice in Iraq when not being aggressed against. It has military bases in 160 other nations. It bribes and blackmails its way around the diplomacy table. The word is fascism. National socialism, American style. It is high budget fascism – fueled not by a booming economy of patriotic nationalistic Americans, but riding instead on empty promises, growing debts and a stupid populace.
The only hope for world peace and freedom is the overthrow of America.
That is what jefferson meant by his quote.



Post 17

Monday, May 19, 2003 - 4:58amSanction this postReply
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Thanks to Kenneth, Jim, and No. 6 for your thoughts on this thread. Here, I'd like to address challenging questions raised by Kenneth and Jim.

Kenneth wonders if an Architect blowing up the building of his design or a Pirate hijacking government owned ships would be viewed as terrorists. Further: "Would not others who support their philosophy be 'persons of interest'?" and does this not lead to internal contradictions in the positions of those Objectivists who promote current military escapades?

First, let me say that one man's "terrorists" are another man's "freedom fighters." That doesn't mean that the terms are hopelessly mired in subjective connotations. But clearly, they are, at least partially, perspective-dependent. I suspect that the people who threw tea into Boston harbor would have been viewed as terrorists by the British colonialists, while Americans view them as the harbingers of legitimate revolution. One thing that certainly separates Howard Roark and Ragnar Danneskjold from Osama Bin Laden is that neither Roark nor Ragnar targets innocent life to make a point. Roark makes sure that the building he bombs is unoccupied so that no innocent man loses his life, and he's perfectly willing to pay civil damages by rebuilding the structure for nothing according to his specifications. And Ragnar is targeting statist government shipping, not every boat owned by an American national.

Still, Kenneth's points are very interesting insofar as they raise issues of culpability. It was said that Timothy McVeigh read ATLAS SHRUGGED, but surely Ayn Rand is not responsible for his acts of violence. I don't think it is illegitimate to imagine a situation whereby a US government run amuck would target those "persons of interest" who lend ideological support to the Roarks and the Ragnars. And internal contradictions are a bitch, which is why the sacrifice of principle in the current situation can very easily come back to bite one in the butt.

Thanks, Jim, for your kind words, and also for suggesting "electoral fascism" as a descriptive phrase for our current system. (I'm not inclined to advocate the overthrow of the US government, as No. 6 suggests, because I believe that no change in politics---without a fundamental change in culture---will make a difference.)

Jim asks how an economy functioning according to Objectivist principles would deal with "the problem of an industry wide, perhaps even Marxist, labor union that attempted to seize control of a factory or a series of factories within an industry?"

In the abstract, I can certainly understand why capitalists would attempt to protect their property from such a seizure. But the possibility of an industry-wide Marxist labor union taking control in a laissez-faire capitalist society is virtually nil because monopolistic labor unions, like monopolistic businesses, require---almost by definition---the interventionist power of the state to block entry into the labor market. Since a laissez-faire economic situation would effectively destroy the government's power to grant privilege to either business or labor, I simply can't imagine that kind of industry-wide seizure. Furthermore, I have to confess that my undergraduate senior honors thesis was focused precisely on labor history and the Pullman strike. What I discovered in my research was that labor strikes in general were closely related to the ebb and flow of the business cycle. Throughout American history, labor strife intensified during downturns in the economy. Since a laissez-faire capitalist economy would destroy the government's ability to control the money supply and interest rates, thus ending the boom-bust cycle, I think that the possibilities of a market-generated and economy-wide depression are extremely low. (There are other external forces that might depress an economy, but in this instance we are talking about market cycles---which are rooted in ~political~ intervention.) Hence, my view is that the general economic conditions that lead to violent labor strife would be almost nonexistent.

As for discussions of labor unions in the Objectivist literature, the first essay that comes to mind is Nathaniel Branden's contribution, "Common Fallacies About Capitalism" in CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL. Rand herself supported the right of labor to organize voluntary unions, boycotts, and strikes. She opposed the state imposition of "closed union shops," but also opposed the state imposition of "right to work" laws (see Barbara Branden's note on this in the "Intellectual Ammunition Department" of THE OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER, June 1963). Rand also believed that organized labor had been "much more sensitive to the danger of government power" than almost any other group, serving as a bulwark against the extension of interventionism. She argued that it was ~businessmen~, not workers, who had "initiated the policy of government intervention in the economy." Unions fought on ~principle~ against such things as labor conscription in World War II (one example of Rand's opposition to the extension of government power on the pretext of a national emergency). On these issues, see Rand's essays, "The Moratorium on Brains" and "A Preview" in THE AYN RAND LETTER; also "The Wreckage of the Consensus" in CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL.

Nevertheless, Rand recognized that labor had pursued a contradictory policy, like every other group in the "mixed economy," and it too would be another victim of advancing statism.

Cheers,
Chris



Post 18

Monday, May 19, 2003 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
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Excellent Read. I order to avoid overloading the comments page I posted an extended response on my own site.



Post 19

Monday, May 19, 2003 - 3:20pmSanction this postReply
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I just wanted to thank Michael Van Winkle for a very provocative discussion of my article, and for raising some important questions. I want to recommend that people visit the link that he has posted here because I'd like to quote from his contribution.

Mike is correct that I don't mount a full defense of the free-trade argument in this essay. Clearly, the free-trade argument raises significant questions given our current system. It is for this reason that we can't move successfully to free trade in the international sphere without a similar movement in the domestic sphere; freedom is a multidimensional achievement.

For the most part, I endorse what Michael calls the "classical sense of free, autonomous individuals exchanging goods without intrusion or impediment by government." The modern conception, which includes trade between "'nations' and 'trade agreements' and 'no tariffs'," has its advantages insofar as it brings attention to governmental impediments to trade. As Rand defines it, free trade is "the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges-the opening of the world's trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another..." So while free trade demands the abolition of impediments, it also emphasizes the links between ~private citizens~ "dealing directly with one another."

It is for that reason that we need to remember---as I state in my article---that nations are only groups of ~individuals~. And, in fact, when I discuss the three basic levels of Rand's analysis---the personal, the cultural, the structural---it must be emphasized that each of these levels is constituted by ~individuals~. I define level 1 as the "personal" (note, not the ~individual~ :) ) because it entails a focus on fundamentally ~personal~ dimensions (psychology, psycho-epistemology, and ethics). But the cultural and the structural are no ~less~ individual than the personal. The cultural and the structural may entail large-scale institutions---products of both human design and spontaneous social interaction---but these institutions are still institutions generated by ~individual~ actions over time.

Michael is correct that "[w]hen we 'trade' with China, we are not exchanging goods with free, autonomous individuals." He wonders if we are "somewhat morally culpable for the existence of tyranny if we boon its structure with economic aid," and asks further, "is it in our self-interest to keep alive a parasitic communist nation?"

Here's my thoughts on the matter: Given the ~current~ global system, if ~individuals~ (or private corporations) wish to trade with authoritarian regimes ~or~ individuals living in countries that are dominated by authoritarian regimes, let them. However, they should absorb ~fully~ the risks of trading with entities that do not fully recognize the institution of private property. They do not have the right to have the US government ~socialize~ their risk and run to their defense with the military or at taxpayer's expense.

The advantage of allowing trade with foreign nationals in countries that are less free than ours is that it tends to bring these countries into the world market, and markets---by their nature---have a long-term insidious effect on authority. They might make authoritarian regimes stronger in the short-run insofar as they might bolster their economic health, but international marketing connections among individuals are likely to have a long-term liberalizing effect. Markets can also be the purveyors of Western cultural ideas of individualism and the permeation of these ideas into foreign markets should be encouraged. And in this day and age, with revolutionary communicative institutions such as the Internet, the prospects of cultural permeation have been augmented exponentially. So, other things being equal, I think that free trade should be encouraged---by getting rid of impediments.

The ~problem~, however, is that most of the trading arrangements currently at work---even the ones that are, ostensibly, "free" trading arrangements---are filtered through political mechanisms: the International Monetary Fund, the Export-Import Bank, the World Bank, Federal Reserve monetary and interest-rate manipulations, outright subsidies, guarantees, and so forth. These mechanisms create political "pull-peddling" and massive distortions across the globe.

That's why, ultimately, the call for capitalism, the unknown ideal, is a call for world-wide revolution.

Cheers,
Chris



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