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Closing the Book on the Open Letter

This is the third entry in my Antistatism Series. Before I can make my own case for antistatism, I must pause to redress a famously misaddressed letter on a related subject.


In 1969 Roy Childs began an Open Letter to Ayn Rand with these words:

The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism. As far as I can determine, no one has ever pointed out to you in detail the errors in your political philosophy. … Why am I making such an attempt to convert you to a point of view which you have, repeatedly, publicly condemned as a floating abstraction? Because you are wrong. I suggest that your political philosophy cannot be maintained without contradiction, that, in fact, you are advocating the maintenance of an institution — the state — which is a moral evil. To a person of self-esteem, these are reasons enough.

In part, Childs’ Letter, “Objectivism and the State,” was a response to Rand’s article “The Nature of Government,” in which she had called anarchy a “naive floating abstraction.” Childs went on in his Letter to complement Rand’s dismissal:

[L]imited government is a floating abstraction which has never been concretized by anyone … a limited government must either initiate force or cease being a government … the very concept of limited government is an unsuccessful attempt to integrate two mutually contradictory elements: statism and voluntarism. [Emphasis in original.]

Even those admirers of Ayn Rand’s who are wholly unfamiliar with Childs will be unsurprised to learn that his Letter failed utterly to persuade the philosopher it addressed. Could Childs have done better, then? What arguments would have been more persuasive? Why did Childs fail, fundamentally?

Continue reading Closing the Book on the Open Letter

Footnote on Iraq — Or: Anarchism by Juxtaposition II

It seems it is beginning to dawn on the war hawks that they just might (maybe, possibly1) have been duped. It’s a pathetic spectacle.

I’m not, note well, talking about any of those “Bush Lied” marginalia. To a dedicated hawk, the issue of whether the Bush administration provided disingenuous rationales for the invasion is […]

Premature Identification

One of the things I find most striking about Objectivism is its subtlety. I’m in the minority. The lucidity of Ayn Rand’s writing, I think, tends to fool her admirers nearly as often as it fools her critics. She reduces complex issues to essentials, casts fine lines of distinction in sharp relief, illuminates the obscure, and penetrates the impenetrable. She makes it look easy.

It’s not easy.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. And an argument, to be refuted, must be comprehended, which means it must be surrounded with understanding. Ayn Rand made dispatching her opponents look easy because, far more often than not, she had them surrounded.

To my dismay, I’ve observed too many who call themselves Objectivists surround their interlocutors’ arguments, not with understanding, but with mere words. This isn’t comprehension; it’s circumlocution.

And in fact, it’s often worse than that. Continue reading Premature Identification

Thinks I, What Is the Country a-Coming To?

Wrong.
Wrong.
Wrong.
Wrong.

Right on the money.

For me, watching Objectivists and like-minded minarchists react to the Kelo decision is like watching a drunkard stumble through a game of hopscotch.

So what are the Objectivists drunk on? In a word: statism. In two words: limited government.

Continue reading Thinks I, What Is the Country a-Coming To?

Anarchism by Juxtaposition I

These tendencies of the times cause the public to be more disposed than at most former periods to prescribe general rules of conduct, and endeavour to make every one conform to the approved standard. And that standard, express or tacit, is to desire nothing strongly. Its ideal of character is to be without […]

Confirmation Bias in Chiaroscuro

Diana Hsieh’s credulousness extends (about 217 years) too far. Soylent government is people.

Plaudits: No Treason

Final Arbiter: Idol Prattle

Among some Objectivists I have noted a fetishistic obsession with finality in arbitration, and I have been well-disposed to them for that, for this unlikely obsession reveals something quite … miraculous. Sublimated Christianity, it appears, was inadvertently taken up into the Objectivist corpus as Ayn Rand breathed life into it in the mid-1950s. […]

Follow the Bouncing Ball

If Arthur Silber isn’t careful, we’ll have another market anarchist on our hands.

[4/10/07 — Long-overdue update: Silber did indeed turn anarchic, though it looks like John T. Kennedy of No Treason called it well before I did.]

Thoughts For Election Week

Diabolical, diabolical democracy: it forces you to care what other people think, then to worry about what they might be persuaded to think, and, finally, to hope in desperation that they can think at all. Example: Were it not that I lived in a democratic order, One Million Moms scared of guns would concern […]