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Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 8:22amSanction this postReply
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Linz, your opening spoonful of sugar made this medicine go down/in a most delightful way.




Post 1

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
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Robert - by all means bring it back up. I did.

Linz




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Post 2

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 5:28pmSanction this postReply
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As far as counterfactuals go, this is a pretty safe bet. Rothbard would indeed be leading the anarcho-saddamist charge--that is, if anarcho-saddamism were not a self-contradictory label. But What Would Ayn Do? Ayn Rand (to my knowledge) opposed every war the USG ever joined, fomented, funded, started, or encouraged--save for the revolutionary war. And I'll venture a little guess: I'll bet the people here who knew Ayn Rand rarely if ever heard her denounce Khrushchev, or warn against the grave threat that he posed. Yes Ayn was an anti-communist--one among many. But you'd have to admit that she was a rather unconventional anti-communist, at least in her style of rhetoric.

Sadly, many contributers here take a rather conventional position on the issue of power. They favor it, when it's used in pursuit of favorable objectives. And I'm not just saying this. Military force is the most forthright, unveiled and unapologetic exercise of power imaginable.

Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and yes, Lew Rockwell stood and stand apart owing to their unconventional view of power. The unconventional view holds that the world has little to fear from Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, or Martha Stewart. Civilization has not been diminished and is not threatened because some people are evil, but because many are wrong.

They're wrong about power. They're wrong about the nature of power. They're wrong to think of power as a force of nature that can be controlled and employed to constructive ends. And above all, they're fatally wrong to ignore the magnification and consolidation of power occurring whilst power pursues (as opposed to attains) their own desired ends.





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Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 7:10pmSanction this postReply
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The unconventional view holds that the world has little to fear from Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, or Martha Stewart.

Loudious, when you are trying to make a point, it sometimes helps to actually look at what you are writing. 

And Ayn Rand, to my knowledge, supported the Civil War, bloodiest of any in the history of the U.S.

Alec




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Post 4

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 7:38pmSanction this postReply
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Linz,

I'm kind of hungry to see what makes you tick, as you suggested (still doing a lot of catch-up reading), so I read this article to see what all the shouting was about.

Rothbard was a party hound. Cool. Did 8 pages an hour. Real cool. Could talk the birds out of the trees. Wow (really - I admire this).

But when people say things like the following, do you think they are being toungue-in-cheek or are they revealing themselves? (From the article, talking about Mr. Rothbard):

When asked what was the source of his prodigious scholarly and popular output, he would reply: “Hatred is my muse.”

That's from the horses mouth, from an admirer and not out of context.

Also, there is a post by Loudius Fubqua above where the following bizarre utterance is posted:

The unconventional view [of power] holds that the world has little to fear from Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, or Martha Stewart..

Whazzat? Wait a minute. How can any concept be stretched, bent, ripped apart and put back together backwards, or any other way mutilated to include Martha Stewert with those two? Obviously this was bait - so I'll bite.

Loudius, dude, that's fucked up. Sorry. I won't even try to understand. My vocabulary holds no other term for what you said. Your comparison is just too fucked up for me to take anything else in your post seriously.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 3/08, 9:32pm)




Post 5

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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"I'll bet the people here who knew Ayn Rand rarely if ever heard her denounce Khrushchev, or warn against the grave threat that he posed."

Uh, didn't Rand denounce him when she denounced Kennedy for meeting with him?



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Post 6

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 8:46pmSanction this postReply
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Michael notes what he calls a "bizarre utterance" by 'Loudius' regarding the Rothbardian view of power: The unconventional view [of power] holds that the world has little to fear from Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, or Martha Stewart...
 
I make no claim myself regarding Rothbard's potential views on Saddam or Hitler (or even on Martha Stewart!), but such a view would be of a piece with his stated views on the Soviet Union, of which he argued at the height of the Cold War that we "have nothing to fear."

While certainly bizarre, as George Reisman argues this view develops as a rationalistic necessity from his anarchist views.

Reisman held that Rothbard's anarchism was essentially a position that was anti-government  rather than pro-liberty (a distinction that has most recently driven a wedge through the libertarian movement). In his own book Capitalism, Reisman observes that Rothbard backed himself into a corner as to how, in the anarchist society that Rothbard espouses, a credible defence force might exist in order to counter external threats.

Recognising that an anarchist society could not provide such a credible force, and rather than dismissing as absurd his devotion to anarchy, Reisman points out that Rothbard's own rationalism instead led him to claim, first, that there were no external threats to the US (which he claimed in any case was supposedly more warlike than even Nazi Germany) and, second, that what looked like a clear threat - ie., the Soviet Union - was in fact "devoted to peace."

Not just bizarre, then, but disgraceful.

As I said here a few months ago, I'd suggest a strong smack of Rothbard's rationalism is still extant not just at Rockwell.com and with their fellow travellers, but in most (note I say most) anti-war arguments (I should say rants) that have appeared here at SOLO. And so it still continues.

On a related note, I find it odd that Chris Sciabarra seemingly fails to address this important point in his own book Total Freedom, which its author describes as, in part, a "comprehensive discussion" of Rothbard.

(Edited by Peter Cresswell on 3/09, 10:46am)




Post 7

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 9:28pmSanction this postReply
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I'll just respond to the reponders in one place.

" Uh, didn't Rand denounce him when she denounced Kennedy for meeting with him? "

If Ayn's only denounciation included the US president in the same breath, then I think this supports my point. But don't get me wrong; I'm sure Ayn did disapprove of Khruschev. I'm just saying that she didn't base her philosophy or politics on an opposition to particular persons or groups. When Rand's latter day admirers brand their opponents "Saddamites" or when they characterise the threat to freedom as coming from islamofacists or al queda, or... fill-in-the-blank, they sound nothing like Ayn Rand herself.

"And Ayn Rand, to my knowledge, supported the Civil War, bloodiest of any in the history of the U.S."

If that's so, and supposing you can provide the evidence, then I stand corrected. The question then would be: is there any war outside present US borders, that met with Ayn's approval? If Ayn Rand's positions reflected those of her militarist followers, then there should be an abundance of evidence to that effect.

"Whazzat? Wait a minute. How can any concept be stretched, bent, ripped apart and put back together backwards, or any other way mutilated to include Martha Stewert with those two? Obviously this was bait - so I'll bite."

If you find her inclusion too upsetting, you can subsitute "J.P. Morgan." I won't mind. J. P. Morgan, IMHO, was not a threat the world either.

What is a threat to the world, and most particularly to americans? Simply this: That the a staggering accumulation and concentration of power in the US government since 9/11 can proceed unopposed, and largely unremarked, merely because the Bush regime is pursuing popular policies. That's what ought to concern any genuine advocate of liberty.







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Post 8

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 - 10:17pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you for that explanation, Peter.

What I was commenting on was how anyone could compare Martha Stewert against two bloody dictators like that - the magnitude of the silliness purporting to be learned (starting with the highfalutin sounding "counterfactuals" and so on) took my breath away. I didn't even stop to think about the theory of power. This completely short-circuited my rational capacity for a moment in a blinding flash of...

I hate to say it, but...

contempt.

Now here you come saying that Rothbard argued we "have nothing to fear" from the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. I intend to read some of him, although I will take your word for this fact here.

I really want to get back to my normal way of talking, but I am all out of expressions for these bizarre utterances. What you described is even more fucked up than the Stewert thing.

Michael




Post 9

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 2:52amSanction this postReply
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Ayn Rand on the American Civil War:

"This country has no guilt to atone for in regard to its black citizens. Certainly, slavery was an enormous evil. But a country that fought a civil war to abolish slavery, has atoned for it on such a scale that to talk about racial quotas in addition, is grotesque." (Ayn Rand, “Moral Inflation—Part III,” The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 14  April 8, 1974).

  

"A similar criticism is voiced by collectivist ideologists about the American Civil War. The North, they claim disparagingly, was motivated, not by self-sacrificial concern for the plight of the slaves, but by the 'selfish' economic interests of capitalism—which requires a free labor market.

"This last clause is true. Capitalism cannot work with slave labor. It was the agrarian, feudal South that maintained slavery. It was the industrial, capitalistic North that wiped it out—as capitalism wiped out slavery and serfdom in the whole civilized world of the nineteenth century." (From Ayn Rand, "The Man-Haters," Los Angeles Times, 1962).




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Post 10

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 3:52amSanction this postReply
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Peter writes:

 
On a related point, I find it odd that Chris Sciabarra seemingly fails to address this important point in his own book Total Freedom, which its author describes as, in part, a "comprehensive discussion" of Rothbard.

Let's put some of this in perspective.  Total Freedom surveys 170+ Rothbard books and articles.  Of this total, approximately 10-12% are about "foreign policy."  Which means that the vast bulk of Rothbard's published output is on topics as diverse as the methodology of the social sciences, the enterprise of economics, the political theory of libertarianism and anarchism, and a re-reading of American history.

I do discuss, briefly, Rothbard's foreign policy pronouncements, but my central focus is on what I take to be the essential problems in Rothbard's model, which relate to his dualism, and the methods by which he attempts to resolve those dualistic tensions (which includes various kinds of "monism," among which is his rationalism).  In other words, my project was to reconstruct in one book, the structure of Rothbard's social theory and to critique that structure both generally and in its concrete parts, from a methodological-epistemological perspective, along essential lines.  Three points:

Firstly, what too many readers here are doing is this:  They are focusing on that 10-12% of Rothbard's corpus (which includes, btw, his many polemical, rather than primarily theoretical essays on the warfare state) and reifying it as if it were the whole.

In writing my book on Rothbard, just like in writing my book on Rand, I was much more interested in a broad and comprehensive picture of the whole.  I may have written a monograph on Rand's pronouncements on homosexuality, because the subject interested me, but if you look at Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, I devote all of 2 pages to it (out of nearly 500).  I just didn't think it essential to grasping the structure of Rand's approach.  Now, granted, Rothbard's foreign policy views are of far greater consequence than Rand's views on homosexuality, but to act as if those views were all-consuming is to give them a much greater priority than their volume would indicate.

Moreover, we're not even talking about Rothbard's views of foreign policy in toto; we're talking about Rothbard's view of the US-Soviet conflict in the Cold War.  With regard to things like World War I and World War II, his essays on "war collectivism" are not in any essential opposition to Rand's own views on those wars as I explain here

Secondly, I find it odd that on a site where we have debated and "praised" the utility of "contempt," that a criticism is being made of Rothbard concerning his "hatred" as motivation for his writing.  Dare I say it:  Lindsay Perigo, the very founder of this forum, does a lot of denouncing on this site, for things he finds abhorrent.  But he does not lack for a good sense of humor.  I think of Rothbard in roughly the same terms; he did a lot of denouncing, but he had a good sense of humor.  And, Lindsay might barf at the suggestion... but I am tempted to think that Lindsay and Murray would have had quite an enjoyable night of sparring, sitting in a bar thrashing about the questions of the day.

Thirdly, Rothbard was not "anti-state" as a primary.  His political-ethical presuppositions begin with Lockean rights of "self-ownership"; he was "pro-rights" and "pro-liberty" and defined the state as the chief violator of those rights.  He saw history as a grand battle between "Liberty" and "Power."  I think he can be criticized, and criticized much, for the ways in which he dichotomizes too many social phenomena along this scale.  But to say that he was "anti-state" primarily and not "pro-liberty" is a misreading, in my view.

Cheers,
Chris




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Post 11

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 3:13amSanction this postReply
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Ayn Rand, too, believed "at the height of the Cold War" that Americans had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union.  She considered the Soviet Union an embodiment of almost pure evil, and, as such, impracticable, unworkable.  The evil, she always taught, is the impotent.



Post 12

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 5:03amSanction this postReply
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Peter Creswell writes:

Reisman held that Rothbard's anarchism was essentially a position that was anti-government rather than pro-liberty (a distinction that has most recently driven a wedge through the libertarian movement). In his bown book Capitalism, Reisman observes that Rothbard backed himself into a corner as to how in the anarchist society Rothbard espouses a credible defence force might exist in order to counter external threats.


Peter, I think I'll use this occasion to answer objectivists generally. So, henceforth, the "you" refers to the generic "you" and not to "you" specifically.

One who stands for liberty stands against power. Yes, that was Rothbard's position, and it is my own.

Who or what, exactly, do you think the government is defending you from? I'd really like to know. Terrorists? There are some ex World Trade Center occupants who might--had they survived--taken issue with the value of this particular service. If government's taxation were some form of advance payment for services about to be rendered, then don't you think their heirs might be entited to a refund? And while we're at it, how 'bout some free flight coupons for the people who stood in the x-ray line and surrendered their pen knives and nail clippers in order to board that plane? The people who sat on the tarmac and listened as the attendant slowly explained and then demonstrated the workings of a seatbelt, followed by the procedures of a water landing that, alas, was not to come. Where was your FAA then? I guess we know why the new agency in charge isn't called the FAA, don't we?

Underlying the "who would defend us?" question is the unspoken premise that the government does. But where is the support for this idea? By what manner of reasoning? With what evidence? Am I defended because a department of the goverment uses the word "defense" in its title? Is my home secure for the same reason? Am I defended because a high school student believes he's defending me, based on... Based on what? Could it be that my supposed "defense" amounts to nothing more than the fact that no one has thus far gotten around to killing me? That would the giraffe argument:

Q: What's that?
A: It's a can of giraffe repellent
Q: Giraffe repellent?!?!
Q: Does it work?

Well, we anarchists would much prefer to buy our own giraffe repellent at market prices in the amounts that we actually require. If I don't require as much as the USG would prefer to sell me, then perhaps it's because I don't have as many enemies (er, giraffes) as they do, or as much to defend. But what little I do have I have earned--by providing a service the value of which is evidenced by the buyer's free choice, and not by someone's theory of social necessity supported by a premise they haven't examined and couldn't defend if they tried. Governments, like terrorists, resort to guns because they have neither arguments nor value to offer. But even so, a government rests not on force, but on a foundation of unquestioning faith. You can accept this faith as your own, but you must choose to do so.

Eventually the weight of contradiction will become too great to bear. In time, the unquestioned necessity of a government defense will come increasingly into conflict with the undeniable evidence of the government's inability to provide it.



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Post 13

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 11:57amSanction this postReply
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Hi Chris,

"Secondly, I find it odd that on a site where we have debated and "praised" the utility of "contempt," that a criticism is being made of Rothbard concerning his "hatred" as motivation for his writing."

His words, not mine. His words explicitly. But I didn't criticize anything there about Rothbard except ask a question. (Alright, alright. if a question is too smartass, it could be interpreted as criticism. Ahem... not that I am saying mine was...)

I know he was a buddy of yours and mentor. So to be fair, there is another aspect to the hatred remark that I should mention. Robert Ludlam once stated that he could only get his writing flowing after he got really mad about something. It's emotional fuel. Maybe that was similar to what Rothbard was saying. I just marveled at the choice of the word "hate."

BTW - Since when does hatred focused on specific things stand in the way of general good humor and carousing?

I will stand by my unambiguous opinion of his view that the Soviet Union held no threat to the USA, especially in the context of the times. I do admit that a hiccup (or burp... ahem... I will not take this metaphor any further) by a major thinker becomes much more highly magnified than if it came from a lesser mortal. But for one who is intending to start reading a thinker like Rohtbard, a statement like that almost takes the wind out my enthusiasm.

Cheers to you too (really - no sarcasm intended).

Michael





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Post 14

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 1:26pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Michael; I didn't mean any sarcasm by my "Cheers" either... I sign many of my emails that way.  :)

I do suspect that that is precisely what Rothbard meant:  when he got angry, the juices got flowing, and he just banged out quite a lot of material.

I should confess that, well, I get angry too. :)  Don't we all?  One of Lindsay's terrific virtues as an editor of The Free Radical is to know what buttons to push with his writers; he sometimes tries to incite me to get my "juices" flowing, and I think he's noted that when he does that, I often bang out a piece in blazing speed, and that, often, it has a high "KASS" ["Kick-Ass"] quotient (as he would put it).

BTW, Jeff R. is correct with regard to Rand; Rand was a lifelong opponent of the Soviet Union.  As Barbara Branden put it in her biography, she bore the "scars" of communism her whole life.  Rather than advocating an invasion of that country, however, she believed that the United States should have marginalized it---taking away its moral sanction and isolating it in the global community.  In such essays as "The Moral Factor," Rand even expressed anger at Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan for having "exaggerate[d] the power of the most incompetent nation in the world," and for having manipulated American "fear" of a Soviet military build-up, which was "not a patriotic service to the United States."  And during the "Cold War," she opposed the "hot" wars that were designed to "contain" Communism in both Korea and Vietnam.




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Post 15

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 1:46pmSanction this postReply
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I noted George Reisman's "valuable observation that Rothbard, because he knew that under anarchism there could be no armed forces capable of protecting us, refused to recognize that any nation or group could endanger us" [quoted from Barbara] - and as Reisman noted this really does highlight Rothbard's rationalism and his consequent evasion of the facts, and also that of his followers.

Unlike Chris, I don't think this point is of marginal interest in discussing Rothbard - or I might say in discussing the Rockwell and antiwar.com nutters - since it demonstrates so effectively the level of evasion they are prepared to countenance in making their 'arguments.' When the facts don't fit, they simply ignore the facts, or 'cherry-pick' the facts to suit.

Quite frankly, I'd suggest that if you're putting together a "broad and comprehensive picture" of a subject, then surely one should not overlook views that derive from a subject's fundamental errors, and which highlight the egregious extent of those errors - particularly when one makes claims to be a 'context keeper.' Forget percentages, look for essentials.

Anyway, the evidence of both rationalistic evasion and cherry-picking appears in Rothbard, and also in this thread above.

On related points:
  • Chris takes issue with Reisman's claim, saying that "Rothbard was not "anti-state" as a primary." Perhaps he could explain this claim with reference to Rothbard's enthusiastic celebration of the overthrow of Saigon by the communist Vietcong; celebrated because, he said, it represented "the end of a state" - something apparently that should be celebrated regardless of context, in this case the context of the brutal regime that ended this partiular state.
  • Chris has already offered examples that highlight the cherry-picking Rand's writing to say that she was 'opposed to WWII' while, as Barbara has noted, dropping the context of all her statements on the war. Jeff Riggenbach gives us a further example of this technique. I'll leave it as an exercise for others to show him why..
  • And 'Loudius'? Am I the only one who doesn't have a clue what he's talking about? Does he? Do I hear the phrase 'straw man'? Or perhaps 'straw giraffe'? He's either blanking out the threat of terrorism (following the tradition of his mentor, no doubt) or he's just a nutter. In the first place, he's helping to prove my point; in the second, frankly, there's nothing worth responding to.




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Post 16

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
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Chris,

Yea gods! I didn't mean to imply that the meaning of your "cheers" greeting was meant to contain the implied meaning of sarcasm - so that when I replied that way, I really meant that I was meaning to say... I was meaning to say... uhm, I was meaning to say that I meant...

Oh hell! Why do you think you think, anyway?

Michael




Post 17

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 2:13pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, not to advocate an invasion of the Soviet Union [Rand] is not the same thing as saying of the Soviet Union that "we have nothing to fear" [Rothbard], and I question why you would suggest that it does.



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Post 18

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 3:15pmSanction this postReply
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Peter,

Your recent comments caused me to reflect and wish to post on this subject.

 

At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union had over 1400 ICBMs - New York City alone had an estimated 60 targeting her. Twice during the Cold War, the Soviets reached our version of Defcon 3 alert status. There were thousands of Soviet undercover agents throughout the United States, and loosely organized cells for the purpose of sabotage when needed. Throughout the world the Soviets had millions of troops stationed on the borders of satellite states with American troops less than a few feet away. Add to this a Central Command system led by many fanatically zealous Generals that had been strongly advocating a first strike for years.

 

During the high-water mark of Soviet expansion - she controlled over 1/4 of the earths surface, inflicted an estimated 20 million deaths from genocide, was preparing to stage mid-range ballistic missiles 90 miles from our shores in Cuba, was spreading Communist insurgencies throughout our hemisphere, and was arming and financing Middle-Eastern terrorist organizations.

 

Any talk that minimizes the real and terrible threat that this posed to America, and free nations everywhere, is naive at best. I have said it before, and I will say it again; being a great philosopher, composer, artist, economist, or businessman does not translate into being a superb military grand-strategist or genius in geo-politics. Naturally, the incredible intellectual brilliance of geniuses affords them a much better grasp than the average man even in fields that are not their specialty, therefore one should not be dismissive of their input.

 

Having said that, let me now state a blasphemy; Ayn Rand was not the best word on geo-politics or military strategy – as well as dozens of other specialized fields. Far lesser minds overall, were greater minds than hers when it came to these particular fields. The attempts by some of the anarcho-traitors to silence or embarrass objectivist by appeals to Ayn Rand’s views in these areas do not shake this objectivist to the slightest degree. Especially so, when her references to a subject are far more of passing oberservations than formal work on the subject. You must excuse me if I would rather defer to a Winston Churchill, than Rand on the degree of threat that Nazi Germany posed prior to the outbreak of the war. 

 

I hear she commented negatively on Beethoven, and preferred cats over dogs. Sorry, I’m not going to throw away my dvds, nor take my dog to the pound. In strategic and geo-political matters I will use other sources as the starting point from which to amass my knowledge of the subject; and those sources are military historians/analyst, government documents from the time periods in question, and the enormous advantage that hindsight affords due to previously unreleased documentation, evidence, statistics, memoirs, and research. A hindsight that Ayn Rand herself did not possess when she made many of the comments being reffered to.

 

Now, on questions of Philosophy and having a rational tool for living my life - if you see me swaying towards Kantian nonsense - feel free to throw her name into my face.

 

George

 

PS: One more note. Yes, I am fully aware that one must have a firm grounding philosophically in order to rationally ascertain the morality, or lack of morality, of a nation going to war within a given context. But that grounding does not automatically correspond to the ability to make a proper assessment on events to which one has a limited knowledge. Winston Churchill was no objectivist - but he was firmly grounded in the objectivist principles that pacifism and appeasement only lead to disaster. Given the information he had, the sources he had, and a military background that stretched decades - he was able to make the rational assessment of what England's proper position should be in regards to German expansionism.

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 3/09, 5:59pm)




Post 19

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 4:03pmSanction this postReply
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Peter and George, your recent posts on this thread are so good that I have nothing to add except: bravo!




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