The New Clarion

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The Ackbar Spectrum

By Jim May · October 18th, 2011 12:11 am · 70 Comments ·

On the OActivists list, Rick Kiessig linked this post at his blog 12 Know More, where he proposes a way to “fit” the idea of individual rights into the prevailing “Left-Right model” of politics.  As readers of my posts will know, I do not believe this is possible, and would lead to the same sort of dead end as the well-known libertarian “diamond” graph, and for the same reason: it attempts to integrate valid knowledge and concepts with *invalid* ones.  In writing my answer to Rick on the list, it became necessary for me to finally lock down and explain what precisely IS wrong with the “Left-Right model”.  I’ve given pieces of that answer in many posts, but never put it all into one place.  This is that place.

Before I begin, however, I would like to segue in via a slight detour first.  Rick’s graphic reminded me of the visual aids to a joke I told to a teacher many years ago, to express my distaste for the conventional political “spectrum”:

I first drew the conventional spectrum on the blackboard, with fascism to the “right” and communism to the “left”, and then drew a dollar sign above it to make a triangle like Rick’s.  I explained that in this view, I was neither Left nor Right, but “Top”.  I then said that I didn’t care whether my opponents were “left wing nuts” or “right wing nuts”, because “they are all wingnuts, and they are all Bottom feeders!” and then circled the “bottom” to collapse it into a *point* on the vertical line.  He got quite a laugh out of it, but I know he got my idea.  (That was good ol’ Dr. Schlotzhauer.  He is who I think of when I refer to “old guard liberals” whom I could respect — and like that style of American liberalism, he is likely no longer with us.)

OK, down to brass tacks.

First, let us ground our ideas.  The left-right model purports to be a “spectrum”, or what I in math-speak would refer to as a one-dimensional finite coordinate system.  The essence of this idea is that points on the spectrum are located and defined by a single variable (hence: one-dimensional), which varies from a minimum at one end to a maximum at the other.

To be useful and valid, a spectrum must first be grounded in reality by meeting certain criteria:

1.  The Highlander test (“There can be only one”.)  What is the **single** variable being measured?  E.g. for the electromagnetic spectrum, it is wavelength.
2.  That variable must be **exhaustive**, i.e. all possible real-world measurements of that variable must fall *somewhere* on your spectrum, and be present in all concretes that are considered as possessing that variable. For example, all electromagnetic wavelengths fall somewhere on the EM spectrum; what does not fall anywhere on that spectrum, is not EM.  If some “EM” isn’t on your spectrum, it isn’t EM — or you’re measuring something other than EM.
3.  If there are two endpoints designated as the “opposite extremes”, the spectrum is finite, with a definite scope.  The variable is at an absolute minimum (usually zero) at one end and a maximum (100%) at the other.  From not there, to all there.  The *visible* spectrum has two endpoints, two extremes, set by the human eye.
4.  More to the political and Objectivist point: the variable must be important, a fundamental.  An inessential variable has the same consequences for your spectrum that a definition-by-nonessentials has for your concepts, and for the same epistemological reasons: it detaches it, and anything that relies upon it, from reality.  Instead of clarifying, it blinds.

Now take a look at the left-right model. Remember, the conventional spectrum has fascism at one end and communism at the other.  I challenge anyone to identify the fundamental variable that moves from a minimum to a maximum between communism and fascism.

While I’m willing to entertain any attempts at answering that question, I hold that there is no answer — because there is no fundamental difference between communism and fascism, and therefore of the supposedly opposite “extreme left” and “extreme right”.  Observe the equal presence in the Occupy Wall Street movement of the purported opposites; “right-wing” Ron Paulites and Zero Hedge “libertarians” mingling with actual communists and Daily Kos style “liberals”… and with sprinklings of anti-Semitism evenly spread all around.  Observe the relative ease with which Jared Loughner and the IRS plane crasher mixed “leftist” and “rightist” talking pints together in their screeds, enough that each “side” insisted that these crazies belonged to the other “side” all, with equivalent semi-plausibility.

The reason for this is simple: they aren’t “opposites” at all.  The “opposites” are two flavors of one kind of idea.  Jared Loughner belongs to all of them, all of the Occupiers.  He is one with them, and they with each other.  They are a *single* extreme.  The irony is that the more intelligent in the mainstream are able to notice this, up to the point of speaking of these “extremists” going so far around the bend that they “come back from the opposite direction”, i.e. that the “spectrum” bends around in a circle.  Obviously, that’s not a valid spectrum — but I’ve not seen anyone take the next step to realizing what that “spectrum” really is: a TRAP.

I will now illustrate how such a trap is constructed.

Imagine the following:  Over on OEvolve, a new poster has come along who claims to have come up with an idea that will revolutionize eating.  They have a Food Spectrum, which will serve as the ultimate yardstick which anyone can use to navigate the universe of food choices.

When pressed for more, however, all this hypothetical poster has to say is that his spectrum is defined at one end by grapes, and at the other end by coconut cream pie.

So — what’s the variable?  Well, grapes are fruit, while pies are man-made, so that would establish the variable as degrees of artificiality.  That *is* an important variable, as OEvolve members know… but there’s more.

Is it exhaustive?  Well, that’s an easy “no”.  Where do fish fit in there — next to the pie?  Are mushrooms “middle of the road”?  Or how about beef jerky, or celery sticks?  Evidently, the world of food is far larger than is dreamt of in this tiny little “spectrum”; and there simply is no rhyme or reason to slotting in these items onto this “food spectrum.  If you hate celery sticks, you could just as easily pigeonhole celery sticks as “extreme pie” or “extreme grapes”, depending on which of those you favor over the other.  Or, if you are sufficiently intelligent to get this far but no farther, you might just dismiss celery sticks as being “beyond the pale” — i.e. not food at all.

The variable is finite, at least; natural grapes are near the minimum of artificiality, while a Pepperidge Farm coconut creme pie comes pretty close to “food-like substance”.

That brings us to the question of fundamentality.  That’s where this one really falls down.  Can you imagine the absolute chaos that would result in the entire world of food if this “spectrum” were the only yardstick people had when dealing with food questions?  Imagine starting from there, examining all the options of sugary foods available to you — oh wait, you noticed that too?  Sugar is a pretty big deal, isn’t it — but it isn’t even accounted for in this “spectrum” of food; it’s just universally present, “underneath” it all, an unquestioned, unaddressable, unchallengeable, inescapable constant.

Isn’t that a bit suspicious?  Assuming you were sufficiently active-minded to even notice this sleight-of-hand, one could reasonably suspect having been played by someone with a vested interest in trapping you into a world of sugar — while excluding fish, mushrooms, beef jerky and celery sticks from the realm of “food”.  Good luck trying to introduce a person long trapped in this “food spectrum” to the notion of grass-fed beef!  “Grass-fed what?  I can’t eat that, there’s almost no sugar in it — it isn’t even food!

They can’t get here from there without rejecting everything they “know” and starting over!

It is clear that this spectrum is worse than useless for any purpose related to food.  Not only is it not “exhaustive”, but the variable, such as it is, is not really fundamental at all.  While there is a correspondence between processed foods and poor nutrition, there are plenty of naturally occurring “foods” that are worse than a Twinkie (poisonous mushrooms, for instance).  Other variables can be divined from the postulated “extremes” — color, for example, if we’re talking about Concord grapes — but again, that variable has a tenuous at best, and non-essential at worst, relationship to food.  Poisons come in just as wide a variety of colors.  The real variable, of course, is actual nutritional content — of which sugar levels are a dominant component.

I expect that, at a minimum, the paleos in the audience would have some fun trying to “extend” that system, but I hope that my point is made.

As used in mainstream political discussion, left-right is not merely an invalid spectrum; it is my contention that it was built that way, intentionally, by the academic Left (more on that choice of terminology in a minute), for the express purpose of “you can’t get there from here”.  It is intended to trap people into their little space of omnipresent statism.  In the meantime, liberty floats unmoored from its principle, now absent from the basic terms of mainstream political thought.  It drifts in fragments all over the false spectrum without rhyme or reason, while the flavors of statism, firmly at home, grows in all directions between its twin “extremes” of Leftism[*] and conservatism.  Thusly scattered, it registers to most people as an accidental, optional abstraction, making the process of identifying the *proper* political variable a far harder struggle than it should ever be.

Imagine what it does to those minds sufficiently active to try and make sense out of that hash.  Such will take one of three courses:

1. Accept the false alternative, surrender the principle, and pick whichever mixture of statism and liberty seems to cost him the fewest uncomfortable contradictions.  You’ll find the better “conservatives” here.
2. Abandon politics entirely, leaving it to the lesser minds that currently dominate the field and either don’t notice contradictions at all, or know how to exploit them.  This is all the highly rational yet compartmentalized people you know who parrot utter crap, when they can be bothered to think about politics at all.
3. Transcend it all and work to independently discover and define a proper spectrum for themselves — including the identification and abstraction of the correct principle (individual rights), and thusly the correct, exhaustive and fundamental variable (liberty).,  From there, it’s a quick step to measuring that variable, and defining a new spectrum, complete with the properly opposite extremes — tyranny versus capitalism.  That’s us.

In the meantime, while advocates of liberty are essentially homeless in this milieu, statists are at home *everywhere*.

Our job as advocates of liberty — one extreme of the *valid* political spectrum — is to help as many people as we can to reach #3 — not to “patch” a worse-than-nonfunctional product.

To put it in terms of Rick’s graphic: in my joke to Dr. Schlotzhauer, I did not “extend” the left-right model.  I *collapsed* it into the correct model, by *replacing* the non-essential left-right distinction with the essential “top-bottom” one: liberty versus tyranny.

I have long considered this topic to be a big deal.  I believe that we Objectivists *and* our allies in the Tea Party, such as they may be, must nail this down as a key part of fighting our single enemy intellectually — as well as solidifying the ground we stand on.  Individual rights simply cannot be “fit in” or otherwise expressed in terms established by the left-right model.  As nearly all of us encounter every day when we try to communicate the principles of liberty, we have to deprogram all kinds of crap out of a person’s intellectual way before we can even *introduce* them in any substantial way to our ideas.  Consider how off-base is so many people’s reaction to Atlas Shrugged, even among those who love the book!

When people are asking the wrong questions, the answers don’t matter!

In studying and integrating the flow of ideas in this culture, the role of the left-right false alternative as a trap is been one of the most prominent ones I see.  I believe that demolishing that “spectrum” outright is a key step in breaking the flow of ideas, the basic *terms* of political thought, from the academic heights dominated by the Left[*], into the culture at large (including most conservatives and many libertarians.)

[*] Some notes regarding my terminology:  I use the term “Left”, capitalized, as a proper name to designate that cultural-philosophical movement that most people associate with the political “left”, particularly socialists.  It designates what became of the Enlightenment post-Kant, i.e. a mutated, zombie anti-Enlightenment that has nothing to sustain it but the destruction of all remaining vestiges of that Enlightenment.  Like James Taggart coming to his dead end when he realized that he sought John Galt’s death at the price of his own, the Left will cease to exist should it achieve its goal.

The other side, which I rarely ever refer to as “rightist”, is conservatism, born of religious anti-Enlightenment reaction, the voice of the ancient feudal order speaking with pretensions to Enlightenment modernity, but ultimately distrusting it and logically seeking return to that benighted era before it ever existed.  Conservatism’s only hope is to be the last man standing after the Left destroys the Enlightenment for it.

Historically distinct yet philosophically commensurate, they form the twin fists of our single philosophical *and* political enemy, or the relatively insignificant “bottom” of the triangle opposite Objectivism.

So, when I write “left” or “right”, it is during those relatively few times where it is necessary for me to distinguish between the opposing “teams” of mainstream politics in terms compatible with mainstream commentary.  As such, considering that spectrum’s fundamental brokenness, its only remaining utility for me and for friends of liberty in general, is comparable to that of identifying team colors in a football game.  You know that they are playing against each other, and that there are two teams, so it’s useful for keeping track.  Beyond that, the colors tell you nothing about the fundamentals of how they play that game… or that it is the same game they are playing.

(edited to remove bits of an email that weren’t supposed to be here; apologies to Rick Kiessig.)

70 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Inspector // Oct 18, 2011 at 5:52 am

    A trap, indeed. I think you have a very good starting point here for a mainstream article.

    I want to make sure I understand this correctly – the fundamental flaw in the libertarian diamond model is the middle-corners, i.e. the left and rightmost points that sit in the middle of the vertical axis. Is it that these points don’t represent an endpoint of any kind, basically? And as such don’t deserve an actual graphical distinction? Such that they should properly be mere points on the lines leading to their respective totalitarian endpoints at the bottom?

    Also, I’m not entirely clear are you advocating the triangle model, or that the whole thing is not possible to model at all?

    Interestingly, the triangle model is in fact used in a rather interesting series of war games that simulate the second world war – Hearts of Iron II. Near as I can tell, this arose out of simple necessity to depict historical events, rather than any particularly deep philosophical insight. Although some insight may indeed be present.

    Now, the actual difference between “right” and “left” is that of the mystics of muscle vs spirit, at least, that was my understanding. If there is something to model, this would be it.

  • 2 Inspector // Oct 18, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Also, I’m totally calling the traditional left-right line “The Ackbar Spectrum” now. That is just brilliant.

  • 3 Roger Theriault // Oct 18, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I’ve actually had discussions about the spectrum many times over the years. I ask people what the fundamental difference is between the two extremes. When they can’t tell me, and when I point to the fact that the two extremes are fundamentally the same, almost all agree, and then I just take the imaginary line and fold it in half. The two original extremes now meet at one end to form a new extreme, where they belong together, and I am on the other end, the other extreme. Almost everyone understands, and I think I’ve led a few people to re-think the whole issue.

    Thanks for the post. The curent left-right spectrum is something that needs discarding.

  • 4 madmax // Oct 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    This is one of my favorite subjects; the left-right distinction. I agree with the essence of Jim’s post but I want to add a point. Both left and right agree that the individual must be sacrificed to something “higher” than themselves. Thus both leftists and rightists are collectivists. But it is what they think individuals should be sacrificed for that is interesting and important.

    Old-school Christianity and its political offshoot, conservatism, believed that the individual should sacrifice his worldly pleasures to god for the salvation of his eternal soul. (Also, society itself depended on this so as to restrain the depraved nature of man.) That is the way sacrifice and altruism were expressed pre-Enlightenment. Leftists believe that the individual should be sacrificed to the *have-nots* for purposes of creating social/political/economic equality in this world and that this egalitarianism is the ultimate expression of moral virtue. (Also, Leftists believe that if egalitarian equality is not achieved then society will be destroyed; environmentalism is an example of this.) I think that it is egalitarianism that distinguishes the form of collectivism and altruism that both left and right share.

    In my view, the egalitarian version of altruism DOMINATES our culture and is the ruling paradigm. It is Leftists who are our overlords. Most of today’s Conservatives are Leftists. Just look at the Republican candidates for confirmation of that fact. None of them challenge egalitarianism, they just want to water it down and throw in more religion to the mix.

    Paleo Conservatives, ethno-nationalists, the HBD crowd – these are closer to the conservatism of the 19th and early 20th century. Belloc, Kirk, Straus, Vogelin, etc are all your true anti-Enlightenment conservatives. Mainstream conservatives are what I call hybrids. They are a mix of watered down conservatism and watered down Classical Liberalism. You can’t really call Rush Limbaugh or the Andrew Breitbart crowd true conservatives. They are a mixed bunch. You want a true conservative, read Larry Auster. If you were to travel back in time to the 19th century I am sure that all conservatives sounded like Auster; racialism and all.

    Anyway, great post on an interesting subject.

  • 5 Necrovore // Oct 18, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    There are three varieties of the Primacy of Consciousness, and each one has its own political party. The Republicans believe that reality ought to be subordinate to God. The Democrats believe that reality ought to be subordinate to society. The Libertarians believe that reality ought to be subordinate to one’s own wishes and flights of fancy. Each political party seeks to use government to impose the will of its chosen consciousness on a recalcitrant mankind, and they have faith that this forceful imposition will work, and if it does not, they would hold that the world is to blame, that death would be okay because the kind of world that clashes with their desires is too evil to live in, anyway.

    As long as people hold to the primacy of consciousness they will not be able to advocate capitalism consistently. I’ve heard people from all three sides advocate capitalism, but all of them abandon capitalism if they see a conflict between it and their cherished primary consciousness.

    People will not embrace capitalism or individual rights until they understand them, and they will not understand them until they understand the idea that reality exists independently of any consciousness. This is the idea that is unique to Objectivism and it is the idea that needs to be spread first. Capitalism works because it is the best way for a civilization to deal with reality. Individual rights work because they leave each person free to deal with the part of reality that he or she has to deal with. Those who hold to the primacy of consciousness will never recognize the need to deal with reality (or will have a preconceived notion of how to do so, which they will not hesitate to impose).

  • 6 Jim May // Oct 18, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Inspector: the horizontal axis is superfluous, measuring a non-essential (and largely unidentifed) variable. From the standpoint of political fundamentals, it is irrelevant; the one variable of the *proper* one-dimensional axis is: liberty, individual rights.

    That is not to say that there aren’t significant differences between left and right; they are simply not significant at this fundamental level, in the manner that “artificiality” is not fundamental to nutrition, but is nonetheless important to things like recipes.

    See my new post on conservatism’s historical and logical relation to a particular form of authoritarian society: the Dark and Middle Ages. The Left has little or no connection to the medieval era beyond the broadest measure; they are both forms of statism. The differences *are* important; just not in regards to the basis of politics.

  • 7 Jim May // Oct 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Mainstream conservatives are what I call hybrids.

    Yes, but they are not the core — and it is the core that moves the mass. The core is determined by fundamentality; that is, the movement’s “extremists” — not by mere numbers. This is measured by examining ideological heirarchy. Contradictions are ultimately unstable, and must resolve — conservatives must either abandon classical liberalism, leaving nobody but Objectivists anywhere near it — or abandoning conservatism at root and thereby becoming something fundamentally different.

  • 8 Jim May // Oct 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    FYI, I wrote about another candidate for the actual variable in the left-right model in this older post on “tabula rasa”.

  • 9 Michael // Oct 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I think you also described conservatism/conservatives as a cargo cult earlier back and I think that is also an astute description

  • 10 John Smith // Oct 19, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I always just break it down as follows:
    Right – Individualist
    Left – Collectivist

    A “Conservative” is just like a “Libertarian”, in that it means different things to different people. But most Conservatives are demonstrably leftists as are most libertarians.

    Unfortunately there is no mainstream right-wing movement in the world today.

  • 11 Inspector // Oct 19, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Jim,

    Well the trouble is that the “Left” and the “Right” do exist as actual factions, and there does exist actual and meaningful differences between them, even if in the end those differences aren’t directly relevant to the question of freedom vs tyranny.

    Of course, this sort of situation, where a variable exists that isn’t essential to a primary axis of measurement, would be exactly the sort of thing to be modeled by a second axis.

    If I read you correctly, you’re saying that the danger is that it would be perceived as being on the same level of importance as the primary axis, and/or that since that axis would itself represent an error, it would be misleading to place Laissez-Faire along its continuum.

    I have to concede both points, but suggest that this might be able to be cleared up, or at least mitigated, in the labeling of the graph.

  • 12 madmax // Oct 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I always just break it down as follows:
    Right – Individualist
    Left – Collectivist

    Yes. Or another way of putting it is that “Right” stands for liberty and “Left” stands for coercion. But this takes us to the Non-Initiation-of-Physical-Force principle as the foundational premise of politics. The NIOF is held in contempt by everyone except Objectivists and the VonMiseans (and even there many of them are anarchists).

    The argument that “if individuals are left free then they will destroy society” is accepted by Left and Right. The idea is that non-violent consensual behavior leads to societal harm. I think it is referred to as “the problem of collective action”.

    So the Left believes that if you allow corporations to be free they will destroy the working class or destroy the ozone layer and thus destroy the earth. Conservatives believe that if you allow no-fault divorce and gay marriage you will destroy the nuclear family and thus destroy the foundation of civilization. “Unrestrained” individual freedom is seen as something bad.

    That is what we are up against. On the political level what Objectivists have to do is to sell NIOF to a significant enough minority of the population. Who knows, maybe 10% might be enough. But we don’t even have half a percent now. Which is why the current Left-Right scale dominates. Everyone thinks force needs to be wielded, but in their own way and for their own idealized ends.

    A “Conservative” is just like a “Libertarian”, in that it means different things to different people. But most Conservatives are demonstrably leftists as are most libertarians.

    Yes. This is because most conservatives and libertarians still accept altruism and egalitarianism as moral ideals. And egalitarianism is the sine qua non of Leftism. If you are not an egalitarian, you are not a Leftist.

  • 13 Inspector // Oct 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    “And egalitarianism is the sine qua non of Leftism. If you are not an egalitarian, you are not a Leftist.”

    Madmax,

    Good point, that – I had the sense that the whole muscle vs spirit angle was too abstract for a political spectrum and would have to be translated into different terms. That may be a good hint as to what those terms might be.

  • 14 madmax // Oct 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I had the sense that the whole muscle vs spirit angle was too abstract for a political spectrum and would have to be translated into different terms.

    I would say this about Rand’s MoM and MoS. MoM represent Communism and thus philosophic materialism. MoS represent Christianity and thus philosophic idealism. Those are crucially important concepts and Rand was a genius for identifying that and packaging it the way she did. But it is hard to formulate a political spectrum around.

    I think that it is the egalitarian conception of “equality” which is the motivating soul of Leftism. Even when Leftists argue for something that Objectivists might agree with if presented in the right way, like same sex marriage, they never do it on the grounds of individual liberty (when was the last time you ever heard a Leftist use those terms?). They defend gay marriage on the grounds of “equality”. Their views on foreign policy likewise are driven by egalitarianism. The West is stronger and thus has unequal power than the Muslim world. We therefore are the villains. This is the way it is with everything with the Left.

    Both Leftists and Conservatives are altruists. But Leftists are egalitarian altruists and that is the secret to their destructive power. It is also that egalitarian altruism which I refer to as the dominant socio-cultural-political paradigm of our age. We do not live in a Conservative society as some Objectivists would lead you to believe with their constant obsession with “imminent theocracy”. We live in an egalitarian liberal world with pockets of still remaining social conservatism. We live in a post-Christian world where the dominant philosophic influence is post-modern skepticism and relativism with some remaining Christian elements. And politically, the dominant Leftist political influence is more Rawls than Marx (although with the OWS crowd that might be changing as the Left becomes more radicalized).

    The Left is the great evil of our age. They are so bad that I almost, almost, feel bad for conservatives. I don’t but I think that there is some decency left on the Right. There is no decency on the Left. They are nihilist to their core. It is hard not to hate them intensely.

  • 15 Inspector // Oct 20, 2011 at 7:01 am

    It just occurred to me, though, that egalitarianism may not fit into this kind of spectrum. Yes, on the one end is the left, their hardcore being totally egalitarian. But the right isn’t exactly anti-egalitarian. As you move right on the triangle, you’re not necessarily becoming less egalitarian.

  • 16 madmax // Oct 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    As you move right on the triangle, you’re not necessarily becoming less egalitarian.

    I think you do. Egalitarian altruism is what supports the welfare state and the majority of the regulatory state. All Democrats are egalitarians and the pretty much all Republicans are egalitarians only less so. Even Ronald Regan didn’t cut the welfare state. Why? His Christian altruism and I am sure if you were to dig you would find that he too was corrupted by egalitarian premises.

    There are non-egalitarian ideologies on the Right. Take hard core Paleo-Cons like Pat Buchanan. Now he might argue for a small welfare state but he doesn’t believe in the equality of all people and all cultures. He believes a country should be defined by race, religion and culture. So he would argue for a white ethno-state with a public respect for Christianity and Christian ethics. That is decidedly non-egalitarian.

    Or take the Nazis as another example. Many O’ists see them as Leftists. This is wrong. True, the Nazis believed in socialism for Germans; thus there is some egalitarianism. But the most relevant fact about the Nazis is that they considered themselves racially superior to the rest of the world. This is the very opposite of egalitarianism because it believes in better or worse, and absolute moral evaluations and cultural distinctions. That’s not egalitarian. The Nazis were an extreme version of racial conservativism, a point most Objectivists are completely oblivious too.

    There are other things at play here to be sure. For example, Leftists are moral relativists. Conservatives are not. Leftists are skeptics. Conservatives are largely Platonic Realists. But I think that the conceptual common denominator of Leftism, if you will, is that it is grounded in the egalitarian form of altruism. It explains essentially ALL Leftist thought and policy. I can’t think of case where it doesn’t predict with extreme precision what a Leftist will do or advocate. And today, pretty much everyone in politics and the media is infected with egalitarian thus Leftist premises.

  • 17 Inspector // Oct 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Interesting; thanks for making your case. I’ll have to give that some more thought.

  • 18 Jim May // Oct 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Inspector: Yes, these factions exist, and have differences. The point is that none of the differences are nearly as fundamental as the commonalities.

    Left-right is, therefore, relatively useless at best and obfuscatory at worst except for referring to the shallowest of issues.

    I like my candidate the best so far (the “nature vs. nurture opposition”), and yet even that fails when one realizes that “nature vs. nurture” is a false alternative — just like egalitarianism vs. caste/aristocracy, and left-right. Both act as rationalizations for what IS the primary, which is the subjugation of the individual to “greater good” which underlies both “sides” and set them as a unity against Objectivism, the Enlightenment and Americanism.

    It’s perfectly legitimate to add subordinate “axes” to differentiate between political systems. The trick is in recognizing that only one is fundamental — freedom vs. tyranny — and that further differentiations are of less importance, relevant mainly to specialists.

    John Smith: I’ve often thought something like that myself. But all you are doing is tossing the existing non-essential variable (whatever it is) and replacing it with the correct one while retaining the existing terms for the extremes. I’m fine with that; it is the underlying variable I’m primary concerned with replacing.

  • 19 Jim May // Oct 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Egalitarianism is not fundamental at all, and is not the “sine qua non” of Leftism. One need merely examine the hierarchical society that communism logically becomes (as opposed to its stated intentions of the “classless society”) to know that.

    *Collectivism* is the sine qua non of Leftism. Moral sovereignty rests with the collective, society, God, race etc. and the individual is subordinate. Society sets moral terms of relationships in this view, i.e. society “decides”. Of course, in practice, it is society’s “representatives” who must divine what it is that this nonexistent entity says, so logically you have rule by an elite.

    When ideological causality is done with all the various siblings on left-right, you have tyranny by the elite. It doesn’t matter which path of initial egalitarianism, or initial aristocracy, you took to get there.

    All the nonessentials must logically collapse to the essential alternative, in logic and in practice. That’s how ideological causality works; over time it “purifies” to the core principle, up to and until the *opposing* principle becomes operative.

    Conservatism agrees with this. Objectivism reverses it.

  • 20 L-C // Oct 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Could you elaborate a bit on that last point, Jim?

  • 21 Inspector // Oct 22, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I think that false alternatives are fine for a second axis, as it can be explained that the top of the pyramid position isn’t a “middle ground” as much as it’s a “neither one of the false alternatives,” or more simply, a “third way.” Which makes sense, what with the shape and all.

    “The trick is in recognizing that only one is fundamental — freedom vs. tyranny — and that further differentiations are of less importance”

    I think it is plausible that this could be successfully done.

    The trick now is to find the correct fundamental attribute to be measured to differentiate left from right. Would that the DIM book were out.

  • 22 Myrhaf // Oct 22, 2011 at 9:06 am

    You could also call the libery vs. tyranny model capitalists vs. anti-capitalists or capitalists vs. socialists.

    The left-right model, which goes back to the French Revolution, has endured because both sides are anti-capitalist, and to them capitalism is unreal. Each side loathes the other, but they admit the other side on the spectrum because both sides want a society in which the individual is subordinate to a higher power. The left subordinates the individual to society; the right subordinates the individual to God. Neither wants to admit the possibility of a society in which power is subordinate to individual rights.

  • 23 Neil Parille // Oct 22, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Although people often say Objectivism is a form of conservatism or a version of the Right, it does share a sort of egalitarianism with the Left. In a sense both O’ists and Leftists consider human beings “bundles of ideas.”

    According to O’ism there is nothing that prevents anyone from accepting good ideas and transforming his or her life. Ayn Rand once said that you could raise someone’s IQ from 110 (moderately above average) to 15o (borderline genius). (Ayn Rand Answer, p. 179.) This was nonsense when Rand said it in the 70s and it’s nonsense now.

    As Murray pointed in The Bell Curve, there is a correlation between intelligence and morality. It takes a certain amount of brain power to understand that self control and planning is better than living. That is why crime is more prevalent in lower IQ groups.

    Of course whenever I’ve heard O’ists discuss The Bell Curve or related ideas they go ballistic every bit is much as the typical Leftist. One prominent O’ist wrote that to believe that intelligence was largely hereditary was an assault on self esteem and couldn’t be true. So much for 100 years of research on intelligence.

    I also think that this is why O’ists tend to support “open immigration” with just as much as enthusiasm as the Left, although the reasons in this case are a little different.

  • 24 Neil Parille // Oct 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

    “It takes a certain amount of brain power to understand that self control and planning is better than living [for the moment].”

  • 25 madmax // Oct 22, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Egalitarianism is not fundamental at all, and is not the “sine qua non” of Leftism… …*Collectivism* is the sine qua non of Leftism…

    I disagree. Collectivism vs individualism is the fundamental variable to a correct political spectrum. You have argued this yourself. There are many *forms* of collectivism. Burkean Conservatism is one. Leftism is another. What is required then is to determine what is the fundamental premise of each type of collectivism.

    When we look at all of the variants of Leftism: communism, socialism, welfare-statism, anarcho-socialism, corporatist fascism (non-Nazi variety – the Nazis were not Leftist), modern liberalism – what jumps out at us is that all of these political systems have egalitarian aims at their core. It does not matter that they end up in non-egalitarian societies. Just the same way it does not matter that many Leftist sometimes use egoist justifications for the welfare state. What is *driving* these political ideologies is some version of equality of outcomes and the minimization of the difference b/w the haves and the have-nots.

    If a person does not believe in egalitarianism to some extent then that person simply *can not* be a Leftist. Egalitarianism explains Leftism. I never argued that it explains collectivism.

  • 26 madmax // Oct 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I disagree with the general thrust of Neil’s argument but on one point he is right. Objectivists do avoid the subject of race and IQ like the plague. I wish they wouldn’t because I think that any differences in hereditary traits can be acknowledged without destroying the legitimacy of the NIOF premise and laissez faire. I think there are deterministic premises underlying the entire approach of the racialist right which Neil represents. But Objectivists will never be able to refute them if they keep pretending that they don’t exist.

    At some point O’ism will have to deal with racialism because it is not going anywhere. The broader subject here is genetic determinism and that is a growing ideological phenomenon that has many variants; on both the left and right. Objectivists can’t ignore it forever.

  • 27 Neil Parille // Oct 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Mr. Max,

    The concepts of egalitarianism and relativism are somewhat slippery.

    The left employs them all the time, but does anyone really believe in them? Can anyone believe in them?

    Take egalitarianism for example. The left doesn’t believe that all cultures are equal. If they did they wouldn’t be harping on “racism, sexism and homophobia” all the time. When is the last time you heard a leftist lament the decline of Dutch Calvinism or Italian Catholicism? The encouragement of mass immigration into the West is designed to eliminate what’s left of these reactionary forces.

    The late Sam Francis wrote an essay on egalitarianism, the name of which escapes me. He pointed that is really a way to replace one ideology with another.

  • 28 madmax // Oct 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Neil,

    The driving force of the Left is not egalitarianism. I never said that. The driving force is altruism; a largely secularized version of Christian ethics or as Auster himself put it: Christianity without the god of the Bible. (Auster is right about that.) I said that the Left’s *form* of altruism is distinguished by egalitarianism.

    With altruism, you need something to sacrifice for. Christianity believes in sacrificing worldly pleasure to god. Your beloved traditionalists want to sacrifice individual liberty for a white ethnic Christian state. The Left claims equality as its preferred ideal for sacrifice the overwhelming majority of the time. It is “power inequality” which dominates Leftist discourse. You can see this at any Leftist blog.

    It doesn’t matter if Leftist politics actually lead to equality of conditions or the total equality of all cultures and demographics. What matters is the stated ideal. Does Christian self-sacrifice lead to heavenly bliss and salvation of the eternal soul? No. There is no god, there is no heaven and there is no eternal soul. But Christianity still has its stated motivations and premises and so does the Left.

    As for Dutch Calvinism and Italian Catholicism, part and parcel of altruism is the sacrifice of the haves to the have-nots, sacrifice of the strong to the weak – whether real or imagined. Whiteness, Christianity, masculinity, and heterosexuality are considered to be “haves” and thus they are considered oppressive forces by the Left. This is part of the Marxist revolutionary paradigm (of oppressor and oppressed). Therefore the Left attacks these things. I am very sensitive to this (well I don’t care about the attack on Christianity) although most Objectivists aren’t. I think they are wrong. Hopefully they will wake up to this particularly repulsive element of Leftism.

    But regardless, the Left is motivated by the twin demons of altruism and egalitarianism. Without those two things there would be no Left. If Leftists didn’t obsess about power imbalances or inequalities what would they obsess about?

  • 29 Andrew Dalton // Oct 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Neil,

    Rand’s view on IQ does not establish that Objectivists view humans as merely “bundles of ideas.” At most, it shows that Rand may have been wrong on one issue (which is not even part of philosophy).

    It is also nonsense to say that “there is a correlation between intelligence and morality.” The empirical claims are irrelevant here, because you are making the fundamental error of equating ignorance and/or error with immorality, which requires evasion. This is a good illustration of why philosophy is prior to the specialized sciences; all the data in the world won’t help you understand reality if you make a dog’s breakfast with your own concepts.

  • 30 Neil Parille // Oct 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Mr. Dalton,

    I never said that Rand’s view of intelligence was part of Objectivism. Nonetheless, I’d say a certain view of human nature is paramount to Objectivism. Part of this is certain beliefs about human intelligence and rationality. To the extent that these are wrong, I think there are reasons to reject Objectivism.

    I didn’t (or didn’t mean to) equate intelligence and morality. You can be dull and be moral; you can be be smart and immoral. However, people with lower intelligences have a harder time understanding the value of self restraint and the like.

    Mr. Inspector,

    Yaron Brook said the DIM will be out by summer 2012. I wonder if the book will ever be published.

  • 31 Inspector // Oct 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I’m aware of the schedule for DIM. Dr. Peikoff is an old man who has well earned the right to act like one (I mean that in a complimentary way), so don’t think I’m complaining *too* hard about that.

    Anyhow.

    Myrhaf, I think you’ve got it, and it is of course as obvious as I suspected. Perhaps the variable I’m looking for is what the proponent wishes to sacrifice to. On the right, it is God, or the rules of God, a Godly theocratic order, etc. On the left it is Society.

    Note that this places both Communism and Fascism on the Left. As it should be.

    And since a free society wants none of that, it registers a zero on the scale, thus the tip of the triangle.

    This has potential.

  • 32 Jim May // Oct 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    L-C: The idea there is that when you start with a false alternative between two purpostedly opposite “sides” and then wait for each side to follow the logic of their premises, eventually the artificial distinction gives way to the fundamental one.

    For example, take egalitarianism, which is proposed as a candidate for the variable of the left-right system. Egalitarianism is at is maximum on the Left (i.e. the idea that everyone is the same, deep down, and that moral distinctions between individual are ultimately arbitrary), and at its minimum on the Right, where we find the notion that there are *innate* *moral* differences between human beings, which are properly reflected in society in the form of classes.

    The egalitarian notion that “we are all morally the same” is a direct outgrowth of the premise that individuals are interchangeable — i.e. that particular individuals do not matter. This is a key component of *collectivism*, which holds that it is not the individual nor his particular moral choices that author who he is — it is his collective which does this. This fundamental is, therefore, what drives egalitarianism to its real-world results: Harrison Bergeron, where equality of results ends up logically destroying equality-before-the-law — and freedom with it. We would necessarily have a society of an undifferentiated mass ruled over by a special groups whose job it is to enforce the erasure of differences. See “Anthem”. Yes, the “special class” contradicts the notion of egalitarianism, but that’s because IT WAS NEVER ABOUT EQUALITY — it’s about collectivism.

    Meanwhile, over on the “anti-egalitarian” “right”, we have the notion of moral determinism, as Neil has kindly demonstrated in his comment. Remember what I just said about collectivism? The anti-egalitarian side “opposes” it by declaring that egalitarianism fails because it seeks to obliterate the differences between human beings, because said differences are immutable — they cannot be changed.

    You see, a man’s moral character is not authored by society, as the egalitarians hold. It is determined by his (genetic) nature. Human beings per se are not interchangeable; it is blacks, whites, women, IQ levels etc. that are interchangeable.

    In practice, this provides the basic rationale for a caste society, operating on a Platonic model of a ruling elite enforcing moral guidance on the unruly, anarchic, untrustworthy, “fallen” masses. Feudalism, in other words.

    What’s the difference between this end result and the egalitarian one? Only the minor point that the feudalists are upfront about the elite class at the end of their road.

    That’s how the genuine premise informs and logically drives both “sides”, and ultimately collapses them together as their road merge into highly similar endpoints with minor, non-essential differences in detail.

    It is collectivism which is common to both, and it is the real driver of both. Both hold that it is the collective to which a given individual belongs which is the author of his soul — and therefore, that any choices made by any individual is of little or no consequence for his identity. They differ only in regard to where the draw the lines. The Left seeks to smear all of humanity into one undifferentiated mass, “one neck ready for one leash” — while the conservatives seeks to balkanize mankind into smaller smears of similarly undifferentiated individuals.

    The old Nazi proverb “What you believe is no disgrace; the swinishness is in the race” works equally well in both contexts.

    What doesn’t work in either context is this one: “Man is a being of self-made soul.” This is by design. You can’t get to individualism as Objectivism understands it, from there. Go ahead and try it: How to reconcile the idea of human nature as a given, but human character as subject to one’s choice, under the idea that individuals are interchangable?

    You can see the logic at work in Neil Parille’s first comment. Observe how he sidesteps the distinction between (genetic) nature and (moral) character, en route to the following laugher: “In a sense both O’ists and Leftists consider human beings ‘bundles of ideas.’”.

    He does it despite that concept being fundamental to Objectivism and discussed by me elsewhere on this blog (“Unchaining the Good“). So long as he remains a conservative, the logic of his ideas does not permit him to do otherwise.

    TRAP.

  • 33 Jim May // Oct 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    And since a free society wants none of that, it registers a zero on the scale, thus the tip of the triangle.

    Actually no, liberty does not register as “zero” on that scale; it doesn’t register anywhere. If you are a programmer, it’s the difference between a “null” result, and a result of zero; the difference there is that “a result of zero” means that the given attribute of a given object measures zero; while a “null” result means that the object does not have that attribute, i.e. that it is inapplicable.

    If you are not a programmer, consider the following: what color is a proton? If you understand what gives rise to a color — that a material reflects a subset of the various frequencies of white light hitting it — you’ll know that a proton cannot have color in that sense; the notion is inapplicable. That is not the same as saying that something has a color of black.

    Similarly, “to whom does the individual sacrifice” is a question that is *inapplicable* to a free society; it does not answer “nobody” (or zero, or “black”) to that question; it never asks it in the first place.

  • 34 Neil Parille // Oct 24, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Jim,

    Do you dispute the science behind The Bell Curve?

    Do you dispute that people with lower IQs are more likely to engage in criminal and anti-social behavior?

    -NP

  • 35 Inspector // Oct 24, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Jim, aye, I’ve dabbled in programming. Excellent point.

  • 36 Inspector // Oct 24, 2011 at 5:17 am

    “According to O’ism there is nothing that prevents anyone from accepting good ideas and transforming his or her life. Ayn Rand once said that you could raise someone’s IQ from 110 (moderately above average) to 15o (borderline genius). (Ayn Rand Answer, p. 179.) This was nonsense when Rand said it in the 70s and it’s nonsense now.”

    Does anyone else see how lame this is? These repeated gotcha games with obscure Rand quotes?

    An offhand comment of unclear context is not a valid source by which one can determine whether something does or does not fit the descriptor, “According to O’ism.”

  • 37 Inspector // Oct 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Besides, didn’t he just get done with a big spiel about how Ayn Rand Answers was a totally invalid source?

  • 38 Neil Parille // Oct 25, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    Mayhew has rewritten Ayn Rand Answers, but this quote is accurate.

    Do you agree that one can change his IQ that substantially?

  • 39 Inspector // Oct 25, 2011 at 5:39 am

    I think that one could change their *apparent* IQ substantially. It all really depends on what one means by IQ, and how the test for it is structured. But you didn’t account for those questions before deciding you had grounds to attack Rand.

    Your repeated MO here is along the lines of this dramatization: “Aha! Here is an offhand remark from Ayn Rand taken out of context. I will somehow discredit Objectivism with it despite the fact that Objectivism does not equal every single word that ever came out of Ayn Rand’s mouth.”

    This Ad Hom routine of yours got tiresome some time ago.

  • 40 Drew // Oct 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    From my anecdotal perspective (in response to the assertion that intelligence and morality are linked), I notice that the absolutism and clarity that is needed for moral decision-making is within grasp of those with less intelligence, arguably more so than the genius. The more intelligent person, having greater cognitive “horsepower,” can create rationalizations and sustain a complex-web of evasions and levels of deception that would be impossible for someone of low IQ. Bernie Madoff comes to mind.

    Neil, you state, “Do you dispute that people with lower IQs are more likely to engage in criminal and anti-social behavior?”

    You denied that you are trying to establish a causative connection between intelligence and morality, but you state “people with lower intelligences have a harder time understanding the value of self restraint and the like”.

    So what’s your point?

    I heard that “people with lower intelligences” have a harder time understanding differential calculus and boolean algebra.

  • 41 Neil Parille // Oct 26, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    Consider Rand’s denial of instincts, her belief that cancer was caused by “bad premises,” her inability to accept that her husband’s dementia was biological (she forced him to write papers on his psycho-epistemology), etc.

    Leonard Peikoff was once asked if Rand’ thought intelligence was genetic. He said that for Rand it didn’t matter because we only use a small part of our brain. I don’t know where this “we only use 5% of our brain” comes from, but it is silly. If I lose 20% of my mental functioning due to an accident, it’s no big deal because I can just “focus” a little more?

    My point is simply that Rand’s view of human nature is a little naive and, in addition, puts her closer to the left than the right.

  • 42 Inspector // Oct 26, 2011 at 5:39 am

    And my point is that your attacks are pointless, since they are grounded in areas outside of philosophy. It’s a giant series of ad hominem attacks against Rand the person and not Objectivism the philosophy.

    I could go on – as I have with your previous posts – to show how you’re taking all this crap out of context in a very unfair way, or some of it is from dubious sources and likely not true at all.

    But what would be the point of that?

    The way I see it, you’re either ad homming big time, or just yelling at the air. What I mean by the latter is that Objectivism is not some kind of Rand cult, and I could care less what her personal life, non-philosophical beliefs, or day-to-day applications were. The philosophy stands alone. So even if all you were saying about Rand were both true and accurate (which it isn’t) it wouldn’t matter one whit.

    And I’m pretty sure everyone else here feels the same way. So I think you’d better go sell that somewhere else, because nobody’s buying it here.

  • 43 Neil Parille // Oct 26, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    What did I say that was inaccurate?

    I agree with lots of what Rand wrote, so I’m not sure what your point is. And are you claiming that Rand’s view of human nature is not an essential part of her philosophy?

  • 44 Neil Parille // Oct 26, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    Let me give a concrete example. Consider Objectivism’s opposition to homosexuality. Isn’t it based (in part at least) on a theory of emotions, which is related to a theory of human nature?

  • 45 Myrhaf // Oct 26, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Objectivism is not opposed to homosexuality. Ayn Rand thought it was disgusting, but philosophy is about broad fundamental ideas that apply in every era, not every opinion of a philosopher. Ayn Rand’s favorite color was turquoise, but that does not mean every Objectivist must love turquoise. Likewise, Ludwig von Mises thought homosexuality was “morbid,” but that opinion is not part of Austrian economics.

    I agree entirely with Mr. Inspector in this dispute. Neil Parille’s comments remind me of something Roy Childs said to me in the 1980′s. He said Leonard Peikoff is a bad Objectivist because he chooses to live in California. You see, Ayn Rand thought NYC was the only place to live, therefore all good Objectivists should live there. Childs was doing what Libertarians and others often do: turning Ayn Rand’s personal opinions into Objectivism, thus turning the philosophy into a cult.

    I think Libertarians tend to do this because the philosophy is not fully real to them. They do not understand the role of ideas. The idea of Objectivism as a cult — with Ayn Rand’s followers as mindless “true believers” — is much more real to them, so they keep returning to her personal opinions in order to refute and destroy the philosophy.

  • 46 Drew // Oct 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Kneel Peril states, “Consider Objectivism’s opposition to homosexuality”.

    Objectivism has opposition to homosexuality? That must create a lot of cognitive dissonance for those gay Objectivists, such as those on the Ohomos list.

    This is just silly. Ayn Rand had some false opinions. Maybe she was a real bitch sometimes. Woopty doo.

    “Isn’t it based (in part at least) on a theory of emotions, which is related to a theory of human nature?”

    This is just regurgitated, Nyquistian mantra from the “ARCHN cult”. *Yawn*

    Emotions have neurochemical/electrophysiological, psychological, and psycho-epistemological components. Homosexuality probably involves a lot more of the genetic/deterministic factors than was considered in Rand’s time, but I still don’t think that it is 100% understood.

  • 47 Inspector // Oct 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Myrhaf is spot on. Homosexuality vis a vis Objectivism is just one example of the inaccuracy of your statements. Until you learn to appreciate the difference between Objectivism the philosophy and every word that Ayn Rand ever spoke, I don’t really feel the need to address all of your numerous errors in your characterizations, Mr. Parille.

  • 48 Inspector // Oct 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    “I agree with lots of what Rand wrote, so I’m not sure what your point is”

    And as I said, if it is your claim that you’re not trying to Ad Hom Objecitivism by impugning Ayn Rand, then you’re yelling at the air. Nobody cares about these obscure non-philosophical opinions that your often dubious reckoning claims Rand had.

    “And are you claiming that Rand’s view of human nature is not an essential part of her philosophy?”

    I’m claiming that her view of human nature **that was presented as a part of her philosophy** is an essential part of her philosophy. And that anything else is of questionable relevance.

  • 49 Neil Parille // Oct 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Rand said homosexuality was “immoral.” I’d like to see the examples of when Rand said x was immoral while she really meant “it’s not my cup of tea.” O’ists who think homosexuality is ok are just like David Kelley’s “open Objectivists.”

    Rand said you could raise your IQ from 110 to 150, but she didn’t mean “intelligence as measured by IQ” like everyone else means.

    So Rand is a wonderful, precise thinker, except when she isn’t.

    Myrhaf,

    Why do you claim that libertarians don’t believe in the importance of philosophy or ideas? While there may be some dispute as to the relative importance of ideas vs. other factors and also how ideas influence culture, everyone believes ideas are important. Consider Murray Rothbard. He wrote 100 times more about ideas than Leonard Peikoff. Obviously he though ideas mattered.

  • 50 Myrhaf // Oct 27, 2011 at 8:54 am

    The libertarians think they can ground politics on the non-aggression axiom without the more fundamental philosophy of reason. They are subjectivists who say it does not matter what you believe as long as you accept the politics, and it’s no coincidence that the more consistent libertarians such as Rothbard end up anarchists. Understanding the role of philosophy in man’s life and in politics is not a matter of quantity.

  • 51 Inspector // Oct 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    “Rand said you could raise your IQ from 110 to 150, but she didn’t mean “intelligence as measured by IQ” like everyone else means.”

    Wait, what? I’m not sure what you’re saying here. I think you may have typed that wrong.

    Listen, you have to stop putting these snippet quotes up here like that. I’ve already shown several times that you’re being inaccurate and, frankly, really unfair by just ripping them out of context like that. I’d suggest a full and fair treatment that includes all the necessary context, but, quite frankly, I don’t think that’d be productive at this point.

    I think you know exactly what you’re doing and are deliberately presenting half-truths to support your own, slanted, view of Rand.

    And it doesn’t even matter whether you’re sincere in that view or not because, either way, you’ve demonstrated that you’re not going to act in good faith in presenting your quotations and arguments on the topic of Rand.

    But, even beside that point, this is now the third or fourth time I’ve said this: stop attacking Rand like it matters to the validity of Objectivism. If you have a problem with a position of Objectivism, then address that position of Objectivism DIRECTLY. Don’t just say that Rand was mistaken about some vague and distant point of human nature. Say specifically what point of Objectivism you think is wrong.

    For example, let’s even suppose your point about IQ were true (and it’s not!). **What part of Objectivism does this invalidate?**

  • 52 Neil Parille // Oct 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Mr. Myerhaf,

    Can you give me names and specific citations to books or articles so that I can investigate your claim?

  • 53 Myrhaf // Oct 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    You can find the entire argument with quotations in Peter Schwartz’s essay on libertarianism.

  • 54 Neil Parille // Oct 27, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Mr. Myrhaf,

    I think Schwartz’s essay is silly. You can find a good refutation of it in Walter Block’s essay in Reason Papers 26 (although I don’t agree with everything he says).

  • 55 Neil Parille // Oct 28, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Mr. Myrhaf,

    Do you really think Schwartz’s Rothbard quote establishes that Rothbard has “scorn for ideas–even his own”?

  • 56 Myrhaf // Oct 28, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Jeez, are you still going on this? You think Schwartz’s essay is silly. I have nothing more to say to you.

  • 57 Jim May // Nov 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Neil is executing a program. And sadly, like a lot of badly written software, it has lousy exception handling. Like such a program, it simply doesn’t notice what it was not preprogrammed to recognize and handle. Hell, I don’t even think he passes the Turing test.

    But to his credit (or to whoever wrote him), he hasn’t crashed that I have seen.

    He has inspired me to take notes for a future post on this “execution of programs” (or repetition-of-mantras) pattern that is the signature of the inactive mind. For those on HBL, that’s is my basis for why I do not completely agree with the good Dr. Binswanger on the concept “meme”.

  • 58 c andrew // Nov 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Jim,
    Do you consider the concept of “meme” to be the default handling of ideas in the inactive mind? That the concept of meme is similar in function to the process Rand describes as …or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy…

  • 59 madmax // Nov 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Jim,

    Neil, in case you haven’t yet realized it, is a Nyquistianian; ie a ContraAynRander. It took me years to fully understand what the Nyquistians were and now I know. They are Alt-Right wingers or the “New Right”. Which as you know better than anyone really is the old right dressed up in the latest materialist / ev-psych garb.

    There are three wings to the “New Right”. One is the Christian inspired “Traditionalist” Right. The leader there is Larry Auster. The second is a neo-Pagan (and anti-Judeo-Christian) Traditionalist Right; see TIKI magazine. The third is the the human-bio-diversity movement. This is the evolutionary right intellectual movement inspired by Charles Murray, Richard Lynn and Phillip Rushton. Its popularizer is Steve Sailer. They have a lard internet presence; the “Steveo-sphere”.

    Neil and Nyquist are somewhere in that mix as I have seen Nyquist comment on Auster’s blog. I myself wrestle with the issues that the Alt-Righters raise. I think that Objectivism and laissez-fair can answer them but they haven’t done so yet. But the Objectivist movement right now is just too small to deal with the non-immediate threat of race realism or the evolutionary right’s version of genetic determinism.

    For what its worth, I think that Peikoff’s M2 hypothesis is probably wrong. A Christian theocracy presupposes a white population. If America becomes non-white majority I don’t think Christianity will ever have any real bite to it. What you will get is a race war in North America that will tear it to pieces and then North America will fracture into regions and suffer regional conflicts. There is probably a really good sci-fi story in that somewhere.

    But you’re view of a rational approach to memes sounds interesting. Basically, I would say that Rand’s pycho-epistemology is a FAR better tool than Dawkins’ memes. Neil’s errors run deep; to his very processing of information. I know this because I wrestle with this myself. Methodology is everything. If you make mistakes deep enough down the epistemological line, then you end up way off course. It then becomes very tough to “course correct”. That explains Mr. Parille.

  • 60 Inspector // Nov 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “For what its worth, I think that Peikoff’s M2 hypothesis is probably wrong.”

    It should be noted that Peikoff himself has spoken about the immediate danger of the left vis a vis the more distant M2 danger. It is not a refutation of his hypothesis to say that the Obama regime is a more immediate danger or to say that a period of non-M2 civil wars is likely coming is not to say that Peikoff’s hypothesis is wrong.

  • 61 Inspector // Nov 5, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Ech, that last sentence was a mess. Hopefully the idea got across.

  • 62 The Twenty-Five Tents — The New Clarion // Nov 6, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    [...] of certain fundamental ideas that heretofore have been largely obscured behind the facades of the Ackbar Spectrum. They both represent the ongoing ideological clarification that we seem to be undergoing at the [...]

  • 63 Neil Parille // Nov 9, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Mr. Max,

    If Nyqyuist is wrong, why don’t you go on his blog and shoot his arguments down?

    In fact, why don’t Objectivists ever deal with serious critiques of Objectivism?

  • 64 Inspector // Nov 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Neil,

    Your second sentence is… I don’t know how you could even claim such a thing. You just, in this very thread, got done talking about Peter Schwartz’s essay. There is also Peikoff’s essay dealing with the Kellyites. The term “ever” simply isn’t warranted.

    Beyond that, perhaps we have different ideas of what constitutes a “serious” critique. Your ad-hom trolling of this site, for instance, is not.

  • 65 Neil // Nov 10, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    Schwartz’s article is a discussion of libertarianism. Peikoff’s essay doesn’t count because Kelly is an Objectivist.

    So in the 30 years following the death of Rand you can come up with all of two articles?

  • 66 Neil // Nov 10, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Mr. Inspector,

    I discuss this question in more detail here –

    http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2011/05/can-objectivism-be-criticised.html

    This post points to some articles that Objectivists might consider responding to —

    http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2011/07/reading-list-for-open-minded.html

  • 67 Inspector // Nov 10, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Neil,

    You said “ever.” So I really only had to come up with one. You of all people should watch your wording, given that your comments here are primarily gotcha games with Ayn Rand quotes. The irony with you is, once again, stunning.

    Kelly is an Objectivist? No, that’s nigh the entire point of Peikoff’s essay: he isn’t. And, as I said, differing ideas of “serious critiques.”

  • 68 Neil // Nov 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Mr. Inspector,

    Prof. Mack’s critique of Rand to which I referred in the previous post is not serious or scholarly?

    -Neil

  • 69 Inspector // Nov 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Neil, the links you offered go to criticisms which match the level of the ones you’ve leveled here. I.e. laughable and/or dishonest. I’d discuss any of them happily with an honest student, but none with a troll like you.

  • 70 Authoring Ourselves: On Ideological versus Physical Causation — The New Clarion // Nov 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    [...] None of this changes when you swap in some other physical cause. Jump from “nature to “nurture”; now the physical causation involved is one’s environment. From that bizarre “your tools condition your mind” notion that Ayn Rand lambasted in “Atlas Shrugged”, to Marx and his economic determinism, to the Left’s fetish with the deterministic power of society — the end result is the same: if you came from culture X, that is what determines your identity. That’s what you were seeing when some Leftists were asking if Barack Obama was “black enough” — and why Lefties, like religionists, become unhinged in the face of “apostates” who don’t follow the expected program (Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter for four quick examples.) Then you come to Harry Belafonte and his infamous “race traitor” comments, and you see how all of these examples start blending together when viewed from the correct perspective. (Funny how that happens!) [...]