Do We, Now?

On a whim, I started watching the live stream of the Republican National Convention just moments ago. I was well rewarded:

“And we have the ingénue-ity [sic] to develop alternative sources of energy too.” — Condoleezza Rice.

Objectivism Misfires

This is the tenth entry in my Antistatism Series.

Objectivism has nothing substantive to say about the private ownership of firearms, and nothing at all to say about the revolutionary and radical implications of the Second Amendment. Objectivists, in the aggregate, tend to follow Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in thinking of the right to keep and bear arms as a peripheral issue in politics. After all, “A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war.” For Objectivists per se, there is no concern that Americans might ever need to shoot their way to a free country; they intend to think, write, and talk themselves into that state.

Since Objectivism itself has no substantive position on the right to keep and bear arms, Objectivists have assumed varying positions. Some are trenchant supporters of the Second Amendment; some are tepid supporters; some seem to want no truck with guns at all. If there is a consensus among Objectivists, it is this: Individuals have the right of personal self-defense, and a proper government must permit the personal ownership of small firearms at least for this reason, and probably for sport and target shooting as well. Notably, there is not a consensus amongst Objectivists against what is presently called “reasonable gun-control.”

Leonard Peikoff, for example, argues that the right to self-defense implies that citizens should be permitted to own only those firearms suited to the purpose of personal defense or other “domestic use[s],” and that the private ownership of fully automatic weapons, or other weapons that are demonstrably ill-suited to stopping a burglar or dropping a moose, should be outlawed. Given the radical meaning of the Second Amendment, that it exists to empower the people to forcibly check the expansion of government power, it is clear from his position here that Peikoff either misunderstands, rejects as outmoded, or rejects fundamentally the principles of the Second Amendment. (Lest it appear I might agree with Peikoff on this issue, let me pause to note that, while I have argued in this series that the Second Amendment is outmoded, I have not said what implications, if any, this has for contemporary gun-control debates.)

As I have already alluded, Objectivists have no interest in violent revolution, except to preempt one through intellectual and cultural revolution. As is plain from their reverence for the Declaration of Independence, Objectivists agree with the Founders on right of revolution (in theory). It should also be plain, from their treatment of gun rights, that they part ways with the Founders, radically, when the question arises of what the people should do when, in the the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.

No. That is wrong. Objectivists do not part ways with the Founders when this question arises; they part ways with the Founders when it doesn’t arise.

Continue reading Objectivism Misfires

Update on The Antistatism Series and Universals

A recent comment on “It’s Ours To Lose” has inspired me to write up a brief progress report on my Antistatism Series. I’ve been considering posting a progress report for … years … now, but I’ve had other things on my mind.

First, since this may not have been clear, the series is not complete. I estimate it is no more than half written, and probably less. Some long-planned, long-delayed posts include:

  • “Dark Matter” — a post about the supposedly inert masses Objectivism blithely assumes will follow the New Intellectuals into Atlantis.
  • “The Progressive Tax on Virtue” — Objectivism argues that men of lesser ability benefit more from capitalism than do the greatest producers. Objectivists have perhaps not realized just how right they are.
  • “The Finance Argument” — mum’s the word, for now.
  • “Consent of the Governed: Anti-concept” — self-explanatory.
  • The following posts are less likely to make it in to the series:
    • “Ayn Rand’s Cartesian Politics” — my notes on this one are too sparse, and I’ve forgotten what the post was going to be about. (Though I’m sure it had something to do with Objectivist politics being rationalistic.) I mention it just in case …
    • “How Newton Made America” — ideas move history in more complex ways that I have seen Objectivists appreciate. Nietzsche had important things to say about this. I think Newton had more to do with the founding of the United States than anyone has recognized thus far.
    • “Objective Law in One Sentence”
    • “Dear Prudence” — not how the Objectivist politics is wrong, but why it is.

Second, the overarching thesis of the series is that the Objectivist politics is the best attempt at justifying the state ever put forth, but that it is still rationalistic, i.e., detached from reality, therefore there exists no justification for the state. Antistatism, or complete skepticism about the state as an institution, will be substantiated inductively by the end of the series. The planned structure of the argument is: define antistatism; show that politics must be justified inductively; contrast the Founders’ extensively inductive, clever, and subtle statecraft with the pie-in-the-sky, hand-wavy statecraft of Objectivism (and this is where I’ve left off); identify fatal lacunae in Objectivism’s extant and implied statecraft; universalize and essentialize these criticisms so that Objectivists are not tempted to filibuster with post-hoc revisionist interpretations of their own politics; account for how a philosophy as subtle and powerful as Objectivism made such profound errors when it reached politics; and, finally, review the argument and consider the implications for anarchism.

Third, readers should keep in mind that the series, like everything on this blog, is a “live rough draft.” I expect to revise extensively. Still, my live rough drafts are pretty damn good, I think, and definitely worth reading and considering carefully despite their inchoate state.

Regarding universals: I am nowhere near done with “The Solution to the Problem of Universals.” Nor am I done here. I have much revision work to do, and I haven’t forgotten it.

The World Cup

For several years I was mildly curious about soccer. It seemed odd that the whole world but the U.S. followed the sport fanatically. I made it a point to catch a game or two on TV, to see if I was missing something.

Years later, my curiosity had shifted. I no longer wondered why the U.S. didn’t appreciate soccer. I wondered what the hell the rest of the world saw in it.

Eventually, I read an article somewhere that offered a plausible hypothesis. The writer, a neoconservative, I seem to remember, argued that soccer, low-scoring, slow-paced, circuitous soccer, was a sport apropos the goal-disoriented, crypto-nihilistic foreign mindset. Europeans or Africans, for example, are satisfied to cheer at a public nothing happening furiously for ninety minutes, just because they are satisfied to shrug through a private nothing happening placidly for threescore and ten years. The American mindset, in contrast, stresses man’s power to shape the world to suit his purposes. Likewise, when nothing is happening in his life, an American seeks to make something happen. When nothing happens in his sport, he wants a refund.

For the past few years, I have begun to wonder whether World Cup fever might not be catching over here. I seem to be overhearing more soccer-fan conversations. This year, it has been more pronounced than ever. It’s depressing to consider: maybe we’ve finally become Europeans.

I hope this is just a harmless case of pessimistic confirmation bias.