John Newnham missed the mark: "How do you know a meritorious idea?" asked Michael.Perhaps I was being too rhetorical. My point was that what you regard as a meritorious idea is a function of who you are inside, not what the idea is.
Implied in this question is the old "how can we know anything?" or "how can we know reality or truth?"
Swing and a miss! Strike two... JN: "While I was reading, I was thinking about others, Rand for example, who were *sure* of themselves and their ideas... "External evidence is all there is. We have no way to view the inner self. Sometimes, with some people, we have diaries and journals that are private writings. These illuminate the interior for those on the outside. Rand's journals are controlled by people who maintain her public image. Admittedly, nothing in them shows any hint of doubt... about anything... Ciro's point is that such obvious certainty is not necessarily the experience from the inside.
Ciro replied: "Were they, John?"
I think there is much evidence to confirm that they were, Ciro, and very little evidence to suggest that they were not.
In fact, the way that Ayn Rand allowed or encouraged a collective to form around her indicates a psychological need quite different from the external projection of the always-self-assured Mrs. Logic.
In additiion, Rand's rejection of Rothbard's free market protection agencies has nothing to do with the merit of the idea, and everything to do with her personal (childhood) experience of the Russian civil war.
John, I understand your points and at one level, I must agree. However, once you turn the problem over, and see it from the perspective suggested by Ciro, you perceive facets that were not apparent at first.
For instance, reading the Q&A, Rand deferred some questions, for instance on how to solve South Africa's problems. She said that there is no solution for the situation. What she meant was: she did not know one. (Obviously, there was one, and it was quite simple: abolish the apartheid laws.) Similarly, on the question of capital punishment she said that it was moral but as a technical issue needed to be solved by jurists some time later. In other words, she waffled. There is much of this equivocation in her work once you start to look for it.