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Wednesday, February 8 - 3:59amSanction this postReply
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Coincidentally, this came up as a Random Past Article, Lindsay Perigo's praise for Reagan: 

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Perigo/A_Salute_to_Ronald_Reagan.shtml

Ed Hudgins wrote: In 1987, Reagan famously stood before the barrier in Berlin meant to keep the people from Communist East Germany from escaping to West Germany, and demanded of the Soviet leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  

 

I have to point out that Pres. John F. Kennedy also used Berlin as a teaching point: 

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.
Let them come to Berlin.
There are some who say -- There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future.
Let them come to Berlin.
And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists.
Let them come to Berlin.
And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress.
Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen.
Let them come to Berlin.

 

(Archived on American Rhetoric here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfkberliner.html )

... and for all of that, Rand certainly did not endorse President Kennedy, calling his program "The Fascist New Frontier."  The reason why - and why she villified Reagan - is the easy phrase "the free world." What is it that makes us "free"? And why is communism not "free"?  The answers to those questions are from the core of Rand's assertion that political solutions cannot be achieved unless you begin from fundamental philosophy. Politics rests on morality, which rests on epistemology and metaphysics. Rand was uncompromising in that.  Today, too many who identify themselves as Objectivists or students of Objectivism are ready to accept our conservative comrades as political allies.  But with friends like them, who needs enemies?

 

I do understand the perhaps "cultural" intersections between Objectivism and conservatism.  Conservatives are traditional individualists: they take responsibility for themselves, their homes and families.  Perhaps the telling example is the fact that some majority (maybe 60%) of those who self-identified as "Tea Party" said that Social Security and Medicare were good programs. Those people largely worked their whole lives, and those "hand-outs" were their part of their due, paid for with taxes taken from them.  (Along with the retirement funds that were stolen from them by Wall Street "capitalists," another mixed bag of mixed premises.) 

 

Culturally, I saw in the Reagan Administration many good though isolated markers. I liked the fact that Nancy Reagan over-rode the conservative James Watt who denied a permit to The Beach Boys to play in Washington DC for the Fourth of July, calling them "the wrong element" and offering Wayne Newton as his choice.  

 

Basically, in the Reagan years, I came off my strike, as did many others.  It was the Me Generation. Nathaniel Branden's books were in reprints in the bookstores. If you recognize the Bush and Clinton administrations as a continuation of the Reagan Revolution, then you know how and why the National Debt Clock was turned off. I have not seen the wage level I had back then since then.  And those were bigger dollars. 

 

But rather than a wholesale endorsement of the Reagan Administration, I understand that as a glimmer of what will happen when Objectivism is the implied philosophy of our civilization -- explicit to the intellectual leaders and just "common sense" to everyone else.

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 2/08, 4:02am)



Post 1

Wednesday, February 8 - 4:06amSanction this postReply
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Ed Hudgins wrote: "Of interest, Rand herself questions how many of the Soviet missiles and nukes would work, given the clunky state of Red technology."

 I heard the same thing some years before Reagan from one my libertarian comrades who graduated from MIT.  In fact, he was sure that many of ours would not work, either... (To me, that claim seemed like a consequence of collectivism on both sides.  I mean, it's not as if there were a free market in ICBMs with Super Bowl advertising and discount coupons...)

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 2/08, 4:07am)



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Wednesday, February 8 - 8:04amSanction this postReply
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In Ed's column, the second and third sentences are: "... Rand died in 1982, only a year into Reagan’s presidency. So on the occasion of his birthday, let’s ask why Rand didn’t like Reagan and whether, if she had lived, she would have reevaluated her opinion of the Gipper."

 

That is a reasonable question.  Ed quotes Ayn Rand where she said, “...the appalling disgrace of his administration was his connection with the so-called ‘Moral Majority’ and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling, apparently with his approval, to take us back to the Middle Ages via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.”

 

But she died before she could see what Ed described like this: "His energies went into two goals. First, he wanted to roll back the Soviet bloc, and thus the threat of nuclear war, rather than resigning himself, as his predecessors had, to containing its expansion. And second, he wanted to roll back the power and scope of the federal government." [Ed put that in bold]

 

So, Ed's supposition is simple.  Ayn Rand died before she was able to see what kind of president Reagan would be.  No one in their right mind would ever argue that her opinion on religion, the religous right, the mixture of religion and politics would change.  But would she have found enough things about this president to like and admire him (while still holding her same opinion of his religious views)?  We can't know... only guess.  And our guesses aren't too important.  It is the issues and principles themselves that are important.

 

In Marotta's comment it is strange that he is dismissing Reagan, ala Rand (who he often enough dismisses), and doing it on the basis of a Kennedy quote.  Kennedy was, after all, a life-long Catholic.  And the fact that Kennedy took a strong stance against the Soviets, as he should have, as he needed to, does not diminish Reagan's even stronger stance and his work to end the Cold War.

 

Marotta went on, writing, "Rand's assertion that political solutions cannot be achieved unless you begin from fundamental philosophy. Politics rests on morality, which rests on epistemology and metaphysics. Rand was uncompromising in that."  There needs to be context here.  If by "political solution" one means a long-term, lasting solution to politics as a whole, that is absolutely correct.  But what if the context is a political solution to, let's say, reducing an onerous tax rate, and it can be achieved by majority vote of a bunch of politicians (many of whom I would not sit at a dinner table with).  That change isn't the entirety of politics and it isn't on a solid foundation that ensure it will last.  But it is in the right direction and it is the right thing.  And it is context dropping to not see that.

 

There are far too many Objectivists who take a perfectionist approach to politics - at least to some degree.  And it can take the form of context dropping.  We have categories of knowledge and they are hierarchical.  Political science does rest upon ethics which does rest upon epistemology.  But that shouldn't be taken to mean that we should oppose a vote to reduce onerous regulations because some of supporters aren't adequately pure ideologically.  That is dropping context.

 

Reagan followed Carter.  Which direction did Reagan take us?  What was the choice?  Four more years of Carter?

 

It is very true that no lasting freedom can be won and held on a political system that rests on the moral bed of altruism and the underlying foundation of faith.  But it makes no sense to not move forward in any of these key areas (morality, epistemology, politics) when a gain can be made.  Make positive changes, nail them down as best as one can, then go after gains in the other areas and show the world how they integrate.  I don't think we are likely to progress in any other way.

 

I think that Ed's article celebrated the spirit of Ronald Reagan.  He wanted to reconcile that with his admiration of the spirit of Ayn Rand.  And I understand and agree with and applaud that.  I'm reminded of what Nathaniel Branden said about Reagan winning him over when Reagan went to Moscow and spoke at the University of Moscow, delivering a thundering lecture on the moral virtues of Capitalism.  Here are NB's words from an interview: "... I tell you one thing he did that impressed me so much it almost wipes everything else off the mat. It’s something I found thrilling beyond words. And that was: he was in Russia, and he gave a speech in the University of Moscow. And the theme of the speech was to explain to the people there what American capitalism is. Here is the President of the United States, in a distinguished university in a country with whom we’ve had hostile relationships for decades — getting up, and in the most passionate yet totally non-belligerent way, explaining what economic freedom means, what capitalism means. It was so extraordinary in the moral clarity that he brought to his presentation that I’ll remember it, with great admiration, forever."

 

I had been out sailing... out of the country for over a year.  When I left we were still deep in the Carter malaise and didn't even know it.  It was an ugly new normal.  When I came back you could feel the increase in energy, optimism and excitement.  And I'm not talking about just in politics for those who agreed to some degree with Reagan.  And I'm not talking about the improved economic conditions.  It was more like a national sense of life change.  We are emotional as well reasoning beings and that which oppresses us politically or economically will also create a background mood that isn't pretty.

 

I agree with Ed's assessment.



Post 3

Wednesday, February 8 - 8:11amSanction this postReply
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Marotta comments on the idea that many of the Soviet missles wouldn't have worked, and goes further to say that many of ours might not work.  I think that this is a bit strange for two reasons.  One reason is that only one missle needs to work and hundreds of thousand of people are incinerated.  That alone should caution someone against the idea that because these are the products of a government - created with little to no competition involved that they will therefore not work at all.  The second reason is that technology has advanced since the sixties.  Who out there remembers what a car made in sixties was like in reliability compared to one of today's cars?



Post 4

Wednesday, February 8 - 4:51pmSanction this postReply
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I thought there was a lot of smooth, clear, clean reasoning in this article by Ed Hudgins, and I agree with essentially all of it. Ayn Rand's dislike of a principled, classy, freedom-loving man like Reagan -- and her support for the amoral, sleazy, far less freedom-loving Nixon -- was, and is, almost inexplicable. Ultimately, in the post-war period, Clinton and Reagan were our two most libertarian presidents. Had Rand lived to 1992 or so, she almost certainly would have changed her mind about Reagan. Reagan wasn't remotely a capitalist. But helping defeat communism in Europe, and somewhat shrinking the American regulatory state, count for something.

 

(Edited by Kyrel Zantonavitch on 2/08, 4:53pm)

 

(Edited by Kyrel Zantonavitch on 2/08, 4:53pm)



Post 5

Wednesday, February 8 - 8:49pmSanction this postReply
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Abortion was, in practice, the #1 political question for Rand, a total deal-breaker. It didn't become a big issue nationally until after the Roe decision in 1973, after the last time Nixon ran for office. He never had to address the issue. Reagan did, and it was the kiss of death chez Rand.



Post 6

Friday, February 10 - 4:20amSanction this postReply
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Steve,

without going into the whole issue which president was the least offensive to Ayn Rand I'd only like to answer two of your points:

 

But what if the context is a political solution to, let's say, reducing an onerous tax rate, and it can be achieved by majority vote of a bunch of politicians (many of whom I would not sit at a dinner table with). 

 

 But that shouldn't be taken to mean that we should oppose a vote to reduce onerous regulations because some of supporters aren't adequately pure ideologically.

 

Yes it should!

Apart from the fact that my stomach would turn to deal with people I'd not 'sit at a dinner table with', there's the tiny little problem that we're not only supporting that one topic they are pushing in our favor but we're supporting the entire politician, his doctrines, politics itself, by supporting such isolated topics. The one reduced tax rate or removed regulation is almost always accompanied by another increased tax or suppressive regulation (money has to come from somewhere to pay for the state). Our societies, our political realities, do not change by single solutions but only by comprehensive solutions. Everything else is temporary 'fixing' that will not solve the issue. Yes it helps to get along - no it does not solve the problem. Just keeps us going a little longer (hopefully until we find a real solution).

Personally I think that the context dropped here is that of the entire politician and his politics, which cannot be reduced to that one single topic. We're making deals with the devil by accepting air conditioning to ignore the blasting furnaces of hell. Thanx but no Thanx ... that just perpetuates hell.

It's not a question of perfectionism to the last pimple on every politicians a.. but of the basics underneath those politics. As long as those are not sound, any law in our favor or against us is just arbitrary randomness and usually accompanied by a slew of other laws and regulations to our disadvantage, as they are not governed by a sound political principle but by random favoritism of the politician in question.

VSD



Post 7

Friday, February 10 - 11:32amSanction this postReply
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Apart from the fact that my stomach would turn to deal with people I'd not 'sit at a dinner table with', there's the tiny little problem that we're not only supporting that one topic they are pushing in our favor but we're supporting the entire politician, his doctrines, politics itself, by supporting such isolated topics.

There has to be some distinction, some way to know where to draw a line that objectively separates who we could morally work with on a given issue, and who we couldn't.  How do you find that line?  Notice that it is easy to take this to an extreme where ANY difference, however small, would mean that no one could ever work with anyone else.  I assume that if circumstances prompted it, you and I could stand side by side opposing some ugly piece of regulation.  Yet we have some differences even though we have more agreements.  So, how do you find that line?

 

I tried to make that line the direction.  If something is moving the right direction, one should be able to side with anyone supporting that step and I do not believe it involves any sanction of all of the positions that other person holds that one disagrees with.  You are always free to call out the things that you don't agree with.  If a person is too far from sound principles... to the degree that it makes sense to call them evil, that's a different story.
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The one reduced tax rate or removed regulation is almost always accompanied by another increased tax or suppressive regulation (money has to come from somewhere to pay for the state).

But that isn't the case I presented.  I'm talking about the net effect of a single vote.  Is that net effect in the right direction or the wrong direction?  Joining with a democrat to vote against an onerous tax doesn't mean you cease to be vigorous in opposing all his attempts to move in the wrong direction.
----------------------

 

Our societies, our political realities, do not change by single solutions but only by comprehensive solutions. Everything else is temporary 'fixing' that will not solve the issue. Yes it helps to get along - no it does not solve the problem. Just keeps us going a little longer (hopefully until we find a real solution).

I disagree with this.  Change is far more often a product of a very large number of single solutions (where a trend is in a distinct direction).  Change via a comprehensive solution would be great but it is unusual - at least on as large a scale as would be the conversion from where we are now to where we'd like to be.

I don't give a damn about getting along.  I advocate less getting along when it comes to progressives.  They should be called out for supporting a dishonest, toxic and evil ideology.
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Personally I think that the context dropped here is that of the entire politician and his politics, which cannot be reduced to that one single topic.

Moderates and many in the GOP do indeed drop that context.  What they are doing is valuing "getting along" above moving in the right direction.  The proof of that is that they are willing to "get along" on occasions where the net effect is in the wrong direction.  But going to the other extreme - failing to make any progress in the right direction, while standing in the corner being pure... that is just another way to fail.  Both don't work. Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire but he negotiated with them on nuclear arms AND was as effective an opponent in the cold war as he could be - single solution, by single solution.  Wars are made of a series of battles and they are made of skirmishes and so forth... down to the level of the actions open to a given individual at a given moment.
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As long as those [basics under those politics] are not sound, any law in our favor or against us is just arbitrary randomness and usually accompanied by a slew of other laws and regulations to our disadvantage, as they are not governed by a sound political principle but by random favoritism of the politician in question.

 

There is some truth in that.  But you can only argue one point, or vote on one issue at a time.  The basics are in metaphysics, epistemology, morality and political principles and you can't argue all of them at once at each instance.  You pick the best fight at the moment and fight to win a move in the right direction and you know that you are going to have to win many battles in many basic areas before there is a sound foundation.
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Here is the thing.  If we had to wait till the vast majority of the people were properly educated in all of the different basic principles, we would be waiting forever.  We have to fight as we go.  Otherwise, it would be like General Patton waiting to deploy his troops until such a magical time occurs that he can end the war with a single stroke that involves no single solutions, no build up, no momentum.  That isn't how change occurs in the world with the ebb and tide of opposing ideologies at work.  Change is the measured trend in a direction and what is measured is the average direction of all of those single solutions.



Post 8

Saturday, February 11 - 12:49amSanction this postReply
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Steve,

Fighting is one of my biggest issues, single topic, 'fight' du jour, whatever you want to call it. Maybe that's my line of distinction where to cooperate and where to withdraw: is the goal attainable only by fighting, by destruction, by violence even if it's against one single individual? (individual being my other 'big topic' but let's skip that as it does not add to this discussion)

You make some very good points, that of course there is some progress, even in the right direction (to avoid progressivism ;), and yet still the bottom line is: monkeys throwing stones. If mankind as a species, with all it's progress over several high civilisations blossoming and dying again (most/all of them violently) over the millenia, has still not managed to outgrow it's propensity to live and let live by force, then all the taxes in the world, all the regulations, all the religions, all the humanitarians, all the 'good fights', are subject to that force or at least gravitating towards it. I as an individual am no exception - I too have these violent urges to defend my freedom, my property, my peace of mind in my hermitage. And yes: with force when push comes to shove, which it will sooner or (than) later and most likely ending in the destruction of my hermitage, my property, my freedom, my life.

Look at the net outcome: not one century (dare I argue one generation?) goes by that there is not some major war, some revolution or other. No millennia that a civilisation is blossoming and being torn apart by violence. Even that 'shining beacon of freedom and peace' as America is always portrayed, is now subject to (fear of) terrorism, to violent progressivism (now that they can no longer hide their evil intentions behind politicians), to a revolution within it's own borders. A revolution tearing down everything that the other revolution at the beginning sought to give us. Pleasing symmetry I'd say ...

So yes: I admit to "standing in the corner being ... " well not pure but disillusioned. The net outcome is that we're teetering on the brink of another global war (worse of course across the pond but more 'expected', even accepted here, than in the 'shining beacon'), with more unprincipled twitchy fingers (Germany and France being no exception with their Frauke Petry and Marine le Penn happy to ride Trumps coat tails) on the triggers of various guns, with larger egos that rational sense and no moral foundation whatsoever.

That is also why I denounce Donny the Trump card: he may implement some sound regulations, he may favor some of your preferred tax-payers with reductions, but on a net scale what does he really stand for? Being without an alternative we'll of course have to wait and see, or argue and fight and see in some cases, however without a rational basis, without predictable, even outspoken or written down credible goals and intentions, you're at the mercy of his temper, of his own cronyism, of his own bullying ego. And you not only accept that in a president, you think it's 'normal', even justify it because you cannot have a president without at least one pimple ... don't get me wrong: I'm not asking for Gaia where everybody is in total agreement with everybody else singing OM. I am however asking for some basic principles that should be a non-negotiable part of a government that demands to govern me. I have yet to see such a government or presidency or society or country. They prefer to 'fight it out'.

Which by the way is what I personally find most repulsive about Trump, just to round out the argument to the people 'I'd not sit at dinner with'. Who needs another alpha with a big ego as his only recommendation, when humanity is having another orgy of violence? Really think he'll protect you from all the other bellowing alphas and make your home, your property, your freedom, secure and untouchable? Respect your constitutional rights and boundaries after you've supported him on some topic where he was moving in the right direction? I'm not counting on it, which is why I live as far apart from other humans as humanly possible, to put more distance between that force and my own - to postpone 'fighting the good fight' as long as possible.

What good can come from constant destruction - even if it is the destruction of evil?

VSD

PS: and yes I understand that your arguing, your 'fighting the good fight', is not necessarily done with force (education, conviction, minarchism, pick your favorite 'weapon') - however if you follow any argument to it's final conclusion I have yet to find one that was implemented without force because the other side of that argument did willingly and peacefully concede defeat - a word itself already implying force



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