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Post 20

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 1:36pmSanction this postReply
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Loudius Fubqua writes:

Who or what, exactly, do you think the government is defending you from? I'd really like to know. Terrorists?


Here's what your government is protecting you from, so quit your damn complaining...

http://www.wnbc.com/news/4263089/detail.html




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Post 21

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 5:09pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you for your praise, Robert. If true, it would suggest neither George nor myself have any need to read your blog. Perhaps we should start our own? :-)

Now, while writing, let me say something on the subject of evil, and of Mr Riggenbach's equivocation in his point about its impotence.

There is a difference between evil in the personal sense and evil in a social sense, and it is here that Mr Riggenbach's equivocation lies. 

On its own, evil certainly is impotent, which is precisely the reason that evil loves company - evil is parasitical; it feeds off the good - without the good, evil could not survive, let alone flourish. Evil needs the good - without it, it is indeed impotent; but the good has nothing to gain from evil. As the popular saying goes, for evil to prosper it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.

Here is Rand's own view as given in Galt's Speech, which is a little more nuanced than Mr Riggenbach admits: "I saw that evil was impotent - that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real - and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it." Expanding on this in 'The Anatomy of Compromise,' she said: "The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles."

To concretise what this means, and to relate it to our current discussion, consider the regime in Atlas Shrugged, and that of Nazi Germany. Of neither could one say about them that there was "nothing to fear"; both were in desperate need of 'good men' to keep their evil going; both co-opted otherwise good men in order to keep them going, and corrupted them along the way.

Of the former regime, the figure of Robert Stadler and the example of Project X provides a picture of how an evil regime produces weaponry worth being frightened of; in the case of the Nazis, an 'amoral' technocrat in the service of the Nazi regime, a genius of production such as Albert Speer or Fritz Todt, demonstrates the reason that regime was able to conquer Europe and to strike fear into the rest of the world - these good men were not just doing nothing, they were turning over heaven and earth to keep these evil regimes going.

To call either regime 'impotent' then would be as absurd as saying about the Soviets that one has nothing to fear - as George shows so well, and as I'm sure both Mr Riggenbach and Mr Scaiabarra know  so well. To claim that the Soviets were 'impotent' when possessing the arsenal George describes is a feat akin to attempting to explain away the facts in front of one's face (which does perhaps explain the enthusiasm for David Hume amongst some paleo-libertarians and anarchists?)

Anyway, given all that, what then is one to make of technocrats who are willing to serve evil, and of anarchists and academics who are willing to evade evil and to apologise for it? For my part, and to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: "The more I see of such men, the more I live my dog."





Post 22

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 6:07pmSanction this postReply
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Tibor,

Thanks for citing the Civil War Ayn Rand quotes which were in the back of my memory but which I was not going to go digging up for the sake of Loudious, who has proved himself to be an unmitigated nutter. (Favorite word of the week -- thanks Cresswell!)

Alec




Post 23

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 6:15pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you Alec. Although as Lindsay is often rather keen to point out, I'm rather prone to being a nutter myself on occasions - though not I hope an entirely unmitigated one. :-)



Post 24

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 5:37pmSanction this postReply
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Shane,

Cookies are a gateway treat. They lead to brownies, and I think you know what that leads to. Fortunately, the DEA is on top of the situation, as documented by this classroom safety video.



Post 25

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 6:31pmSanction this postReply
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Another fine post, Peter, in #21...really good stuff...with one exception:

Thank you for your praise, Robert. If true, it would suggest neither George nor myself have any need to read your blog. Perhaps we should start our own? :-)


Don't push it, Cresswell. Don't push it.




Post 26

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 6:39pmSanction this postReply
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Peter,

No doubt your critics will be quick to point out how crappy the Soviet military was found out to be after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union broke up. They will tell you of tanks that would not run, a terrible morale among the troops, missiles that were inaccurate, and an obsolete air force. They will tell you of a purposeful conspiracy by America to over-inflate a non-existent threat from a third world military for the purpose of our own Imperialism. Don't buy it, it's revisionist shit of the worst kind.

All these facts are true, but out of context. The morale of the troops in 1989 was not that of 1969, the rusting broken down tanks of 1989 were not in that condition in 1969, their aircraft and tanks were never designed for quality, but quantity - an advantage that they maintained to the degree necessary to allow for battlefield competitiveness, with over 27,000 battle tanks by 1971. Lastly, comes their huge nuclear arsenal, an arsenal that some have estimated a mere 40% would have hit their target and functioned properly - in other words only a trifling 600 to 800 ICBMs with 10 to 25 megaton warheads could have been used effectively. The revisionist will avoid late 1960s to early 1970s comparisons, and opt for the time periods well before or well after these dates; they are frauds with a horrendous agenda.

George 

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 3/09, 6:59pm)




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Post 27

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 - 8:07pmSanction this postReply
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Peter and George,

In Post 19, Robert gave you both a complement. (Proof of his sincerity lies in the fact that he forgot to provide a link to his blog.)

Seriously guys, this particular thread, which I thought would be a real piece of work from the way it started, has turned into an outright agreeable lesson that is a pleasure to read because of you both. Remarkably high quality.

I wish I could contribute more in here, but I lack the knowledge. So I will just say thank you. I hope this continues.

Michael




Post 28

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 12:18amSanction this postReply
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Hey, what are you doing here? Linzi opened this thread to drain off the Rothbardian scum. You don't look like Rothbardian scum. So what's a nice objectivist like you doing in place like this? Slumming, I suppose. Well, you've come to right place. Now consider this:

If the US government and its coalition of the bribed cannot succeed in occupying Iraq outside of the green zone, then how is it possible for a foreign government to conquer and occupy the US? I'm sorry, but I really don't think I'm being a "nutter" just for asking. I think I'm posing a question that objectivist militarists here would be very hard pressed to answer. The USG is being pinned down by a minor insurgency isn't it? US military recruiters are having an increasingly difficult time getting new volunteers, aren't they?

A government is necessary to protect the country from foreign invaders. Everyone knows that. But what everyone knows cannot be squared with the evidence before our eyes. And neither can the position be argued, since there's (apparently) no way to show that governments do, in fact, defend their citizens.

I dunno, it just seems to me that believing that we're ruled for our own benefit is on par with believing in leprechauns. An allegiance to the state seems to me very like an ordinary faith accepted with an extraordinary degree of credulity, so that a benevolent lord might be replaced by a collection of liars and fools and knaves.

If you have to believe in something, then why not the concept of a benevolent universe? You know, the kind of place where our well-being is actually not dependent on the good judgement of political "leaders." A place where we don't have to wrestle with questions of how to control the people who are controlling us. As far as basic metaphysical presuppositions go, the benevolent universe concept has a lot to recommend it. Production organizes itself. Wealth distributes itself--and the "natural" tendency of wealth to concentrate appears curiously absent once you stop trying to redistribute it.

What would become of justice if we simply stopped trying to administer it? I don't know. But I think it would be the height of hubris to assume that the benevolent universe notion holds no implications for controlling violence. Perhaps dealing with the criminal element is actually not as much of a problem as we've been led to believe.

If each man could be content to order his own liberty, I think that we should have an ordered liberty for all. But to exceed this is to exceed our competence. Let that be the lesson of the state. And let us learn it finally.



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Post 29

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 4:40amSanction this postReply
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Peter C. writes: "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"... and then, he proceeds to accuse me of "cherry-picking" among Rand's and Rothbard's work.

Well.

First of all, my book, Total Freedom was not focused on Lew Rockwell and antiwar.com (and the book did come out almost 2 years prior to 9/11).

Secondly, there is nothing essential about Rothbard's work that I overlook in that book, and the book is a thorough methodological critique of that work.  The critique, in my view, goes to the heart of Rothbard's mistakes.  So how am I supposed to defend either the methodological or substantive aspects of Rothbard with which I disagree?  Where in my writing is there even the hint of a suggestion that I think Rothbard got it all right?  In fact, one of the things I say about Rothbard is that his context-dropping (his lack of a fully "dialectical" approach, as I would put it) is the key to his weakness as a social theorist.  (And I should add:  There are crucial aspects of his work where he keeps context, and where I believe his insights are most valuable.)

As for "cherry-picking Rand's writing," I have already said that yes, Rand did favor a "commensurate counter-attack" (in the words of her political mentor, Isabel Paterson) against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.  But I have also pointed out that, for years after the end of that conflict, she was still questioning the US entry into the European theater of World War II on the side of the Soviets.

Let's talk about "cherry-picking" for a moment.  Few of you on the other side of this discussion have genuinely come to grips with Rand's opposition to the major 20th century wars, or her radical assessment of the relationship between domestic and foreign policy.  In this thread, only George Cordero says what must be said by those of you on the other side:  "... 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."

Bravo!  I respect that George, immensely.  I'd rather somebody say Rand was wrong, than act as if she never said all the things she did say about the nature of war (in general) or the specific wars of the 20th century.

Turning back to Pearl Harbor:  There is not a single substantive reference to Pearl Harbor in all of Rand's published or unpublished writings (except for a comment about it in conjunction with a film scenario she was working on, entitled "Top Secret").  The only substantive reference to Pearl Harbor shows up in The Ominous Parallels, a book published with a preface by Rand that voices stunning approval for its author and his work.  In fact, in this instance, Leonard Peikoff seems to imply agreement with those revisionist historians who believe that FDR knew what he was doing in provoking a Japanese attack, serving the leftist agenda of "push[ing] this country into World War II," as Rand had put it, on the side of the Soviets.  As Peikoff writes in his fully Rand-approved book:

Judged by the standard its leaders publicly set themselves---the restoration of employment and prosperity---the New Deal was a failure. At the end of the thirties there were still ten million people unemployed, about two-thirds of the number without jobs in 1932. The problem was not solved until the excess manpower was sent to die on foreign battlefields.

This echoes a point made by Nathaniel Branden in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:  "It is part of the official New Deal mythology that Roosevelt 'got us out of the depression.'  How was the problem of the depression finally 'solved'?  By the favorite expedient of all statists in times of emergency:  a war."

Peikoff continues:

Once again, a period of rising statism in the West was climaxed by a world war. Once again, the American public, which was strongly "isolationist," was manipulated by a pro-war administration into joining an "idealistic" crusade. (On November 27, 1941, ten days before Pearl Harbor, writes John T. Flynn, "the President told Secretary Stimson, who wrote it in his diary, that our course was to maneuver the Japanese into attacking us. This would put us into the war and solve his problem.")

This is the same John T. Flynn applauded by Barbara Branden in a quote I cited here and the same John T. Flynn, whose work Rand herself lists in the bibliography to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.  Peikoff continues, echoing points made by Rand in her essay, "The Roots of War":


The result of the first crusade had not been a "world safe for democracy," but the emergence of modern totalitarianism. The result of the second crusade was not the attainment of "four freedoms," but the surrender of half of Europe to Soviet Russia.

From the founding of the United States through the 1920s, the "private sector," as it is now called, was the nation's dominant element; the state and the principle of statism were always encroaching, but always peripheral. The New Deal, including its progeny of wartime controls and its Fair Deal successor, ended this historical relationship.

After the two Roosevelts, America was no longer an essentially capitalist country with a sprinkling of controls. Nor was it a socialist country. It was, and still is, a modern "mixed economy," with the philosophic base and the political future that this implies. In a mixed economy, one of the two elements gradually withers away. That element is not the state.

America had beaten the Fascists. It had stamped out Hitler. But it was turning into the Weimar Republic.


It is Peikoff's point in that book, of course, that America itself is moving toward fascism.

On the issue of the Soviets, Peter is correct that "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]," but I have already argued that there were crucial differences between Rand and Rothbard on these questions, even if their policy prescriptions and historical judgments were not as fundamentally opposed as one would think at first glance.

Now, it is true, as George puts it, "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."  Rand may have been wrong, in George's view, but I don't think George would argue that this made her any less of an "Objectivist."  When the founder of that philosophy says things about wars like World War II, which would have placed her in the "Hitlerite" category---a war that, it would seem, is ever more clear-cut than the current conflict in Iraq---I would therefore suggest that people on the other side of this debate pause for a moment when characterizing virtually all of the opponents of the current war as "Saddamites."  I would prefer it if such advocates would do exactly what George has done:  Reject Rand's analysis and assessment unequivocally, and the analysis and assessment of those opposed to the current war, and move on.  Since I have no use for quasi-religious debates about who is the "True Objectivist," you'll get no argument from me on that score.

What you will get, however, is the same response I have been giving for many years, because, in my view, by repudiating this Randian analysis and assessment, you will have obscured a crucially important aspect of her radical legacy.




Post 30

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 12:13pmSanction this postReply
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Writes Tibor Machan:

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).


I don't see how this validates the civil war, only that it argues that a country that went through a civil war that ended slavery shouldn't feel collectively guilty about slavery.

"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).


I don't see how this justifies the actual war either, only that it states that the capitalism of the North was incompatible with slavery, and thus slavery ended there first. We must remember that the war itself involved conscription, taxation, censorship and murder of innocents, all of which Rand always claimed to oppose.



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Post 31

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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Unm... Chris. You're one BAD dude, man.

I want to write something intelligent or clever, but I'm still learning. Got a ways to go to get back to smartass mode...

My, my, but you do talk a pretty mile...


Michael






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Post 32

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
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What you will get, however, is the same response I have been giving for many years, because, in my view, by repudiating this Randian analysis and assessment, you will have obscured a crucially important aspect of her radical legacy.


Ayn Rand: The Russian Republican. Yep. I think you're right; it doesn't have the same ring.



Post 33

Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 5:35pmSanction this postReply
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I think we’re missing an important point about Rand’s approach. See if the following rings true.

 

Trying to derive policy from Rand’s writing is often futile. Her focus was on the fundamental premises that drive intellectual movements and consequently culture and politics. She seemed to loathe making policy prescriptions but instead she defined ultimate goals, principles, and put forth general commentary. However, she had ample criticism for existing policies! She used philosophy as a tool to veto contemporary positions; she was fierce and prolific when attacking existing policy and proposals.

 

Take for example her writings of Vietnam. She says no good reasons are given for our involvement; but instead we’re told we must be altruistic and support the South Vietnamese even if they want to vote in communism. But when it comes to suggesting a war policy she devotes only 3 paragraphs out of the 79 in "The Wreckage of the Consensus". And she states that she is in principle for withdrawal if only a leader existed who could consistently put forth the right policy, but in the current context withdrawal is appeasement and wrong! In essence she gets to advocate both positions presumably in difference senses.

 

If she had omitted those 3 paragraphs, I would never have guessed her position. Her ability to think contextually is something I don’t think most people fully comprehend (obviously this doesn’t apply to Chris). That’s why I think it is foolish to guess what she would say about the current war. I have a suspicion that she would surprise us all. I would have enjoyed her opinion regardless if I agreed or not. I didn’t agree with her position on Vietnam.

(Edited by Jason Pappas on 3/10, 6:38pm)




Post 34

Friday, March 11, 2005 - 12:27amSanction this postReply
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If I may do a Diabolical & quote myself, including a quote from Rand conspicuously lacking in the above apologetics for appeasement & Saddamy, from my article Saddam's Succours #2:

"Some Saddamites are claiming the posthumous imprimatur of Ayn Rand for their views. She too would surely have opposed this war, they claim.

"The hell she would!

"None had greater contempt for those she called 'new isolationists' who purveyed the view that 'the fate of other countries is none of our business.' 'The purpose of this new isolationism,' she wrote, 'is to play on the American people's legitimate weariness, confusion & anger over Vietnam, in the hope of making the U.S government afraid to become involved in another foreign war of any kind. This would paralyse the U.S. in the conduct of any foreign policy not agreeable to Soviet Russia [read: totalitarian states & their apologists].' None was more adamant in the view that 'a dictatorship – a country that violates the rights of its own citizens – is an outlaw & can claim no rights.' She had no hesitation in saying that a free country had the right – but not the obligation - to invade a Nazi Germany, a Soviet Russia or a Cuba."

'Nuff said, methinks.

Linz





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Post 35

Friday, March 11, 2005 - 3:58amSanction this postReply
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I actually agree, gents:  Trying to derive a foreign policy from Rand's writings on history is as futile as asking "What Would Jesus Think?"  Or "What Would Jesus Do?" 

My point, of course, is that Rand took nuanced positions against virtually all the wars of the 20th century, and endorsed quite a bit of so-called revisionist historical interpretation.  And though, on those grounds, we cannot say a priori where Rand would stand on any of the current conflicts, I think it's safe to say that whatever she would have said would never have been "knee-jerk" one way or the other.

I think Linz is probably right about one thing:  I don't think Rand would have had any moral objections on the face of it to even a semi-free country toppling a dictatorship, such as that of Saddam Hussein. 

But that's not the end of the story.

For Rand, the central questions for such a military action would have related, properly, to the interests (i.e., the life, liberty, and property) of the citizens of the United States.  She would have asked of such a military action:  Of value to whom and for what? 

It is on those questions that Rand's views would not have been as clear cut---one way or the other.  And it is why I believe it is possible for people, in the post-9/11 world, to have reasonable differences of opinion on these questions.




Post 36

Friday, March 11, 2005 - 5:25amSanction this postReply
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Chris, I agree with your latest post on Rand's views of foreign policy, and only wish more people would argue these issues on their individual merits -- not on the grounds of "What did Rand think?"





Post 37

Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 12:31amSanction this postReply
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Just so we're clear here: I was most certainly not arguing that one should arrive at foreign policy conclusions according to one's assessment of "What would Rand think?" I was challenging the claim of the anti-liberationists (premised on "What would Rand think?") that she would have opposed the liberation of Iraq. I was challenging it because it's bollocks. But even if it weren't bollocks, the liberation was justified.

Linz



Post 38

Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 3:41amSanction this postReply
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George,

it's revisionist shit of the worst kind.
Do you therefore dismiss any "revisionist" history out of hand?

It seems to me that the question ought to be not whether any specific view of history is revisionist or, for want of a better term, mainstream; but whether or not the view being presented is Objectively accurate. In most cases the mainstream, received views are probably more or less correct, but I don't dismiss the possibility of so-called revisionists being correct on occasion - for instance the Austrian economists' view of the Wall St crash differ greatly from the commonly received view that it demonstrates flaws in capitalism. 

Simply dismissing all historical revisionism out of hand as though it were all somehow intrinsically wrong simply by being revisionism runs the risk of dismissing truth.

MH

(just figured I should say something you probably won't agree with, in a benevolent effort to prevent this nervous breakdown you're worried about ;-))





Post 39

Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 7:31amSanction this postReply
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MH,

You're hair-splitting with me. You knew exactly what I meant with using the term revisionist derisively. It is no different than when one says, "extreme leftist or rightist propaganda". By saying that, one is not saying that all leftist or rightist positions are intrinsically wrong, one uses the terms derisively because of the overwhelmingly common tendency for extreme right or left positions to be solely agenda oriented. The purpose being not to shed new light on an issue, but to obscure the truth, by making the history fit the agenda.

Virtually all of what is commonly known as revisionist historical research is a sham. The number of what one could call legitimate non-politicized revisionist historians offering alternate views of mainstream history is miniscule. For the most part 'revisionism' is not true historical scholarship, but a an attempt to deconstruct objectively derived historical facts. Revisionism today is primarily the province of the most disreputable and hate-filled "scholars" ever to soil historical scholarship. Whether they are disproving that the 'holocaust' ever occurred, proving the 'African origins' of western culture, proving a CIA conspiracy to kill Kennedy, or in the context of my remarks, 'giving a determinist-intrinsicist' explanation for the fall of the Soviet Union; one need not search very hard for true underlying agenda to these assertions.

Lastly, historical revisionism is not merely an 'alternate' view of a historical event, such in the 'Wall Street' example that you gave. In the main it can be recognized by the way in which it substitutes theorizing and politicalization, for empirical evidence and objective proof. Two historians using legitimate research methods, but coming to different conclusion about the causes of the '29 stock market crash, does not place one or the other as a revisionist historian. It simply puts one in the minority view and the other in the majority view; this is not revisionist history. If you're looking for a revisionist historian on this topic it’s not the example you gave me; look for the guy claiming the crash was orchestrated by a "Jewish world conspiracy" and you have found your revisionist.

If your looking for signs of intrinsicism in historical research, start with the revisionist, don't end with them. Overwhelmingly, revisionist historians are the post-modernist artists of historical scholarship.

George

PS: I would like to extend my heartfelt and sincere thanks for your having re-established our proper relationship towards each other.

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 3/12, 7:52am)




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