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Murray Rothbard Posted: Sat, May 14 2011 10:21 AM

I have Ayn Rand to thank for starting me on the road that led to me becoming a Rothbardian and compared to the statists I think the two schools of thought share a lot of common ground.

I wonder if anyone knows of a response from the objectivists to Roy Childs open letter to Ayn Rand, which to me settled the minarchism/anarchism issue in Rothbards favour.

http://www.isil.org/ayn-rand/childs-open-letter.html

"The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else." - Frederic Bastiat
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Rcder replied on Sat, May 14 2011 12:24 PM

I have Ayn Rand to thank for starting me on the road that led to me becoming a Rothbardian and compared to the statists I think the two schools of thought share a lot of common ground.

That is extremely debatable.  They believe in moral absolutism, reject the subjective theory of value, and are completely beholden to a radical version of empiricism.  Moreover, objectivists generally consider their political philosophy to be a closed system, meaning that no one can add to or take away from what Ayn Rand or approved acolytes have written.  Their frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for anyone who isn't an objectivist has relegated them to total obscurity in the world of politics, even more so than libertarians. 

From what I've read of objectivism, it is a nonsense ideology in every sense of the word, and is full of inherent contradictions.

I wonder if anyone knows of a response from the objectivists to Roy Childs open letter to Ayn Rand, which to me settled the minarchism/anarchism issue in Rothbards favour.

From what I've read on objectivist forums, it hasn't changed anyones mind.  We are still referred to as ex-communists who are simply jumping on the bandwagon of a different "radical" ideology.

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MrSchnapps replied on Sat, May 14 2011 12:47 PM

moral absolutism

Actually, it's moral objectivism. There's a difference.

and are completely beholden to a radical version of empiricism.

It's not that bad--it's Aristotelian empiricism, and so it's not really comparable to any sort of modern empiricism. Instead of taking the empirical side of the analytic/synthetic distinction, it ignores it altogether. I'm pretty interested in it, though I don't care for Rand at all.

“Remove justice,” St. Augustine asks, “and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms?”
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Rcder replied on Sat, May 14 2011 1:07 PM

Actually, it's moral objectivism. There's a difference.

I fail to see how objectivist ethics isn't moral absolutism.  Rand sets up a clear dichotomy where actions that are egoist in nature are good and those that are altruist are bad.  You seem to know more about this than I do; is there some nuance here that I'm just not getting?

It's not that bad--it's Aristotelian empiricism, and so it's not really comparable to any sort of modern empiricism. Instead of taking the empirical side of the analytic/synthetic distinction, it ignores it altogether. I'm pretty interested in it, though I don't care for Rand at all.

One of the biggest problems that objectivists have with Austrains is that they utilize deductive reasoning from axioms.  I've seen many objectivists say that Mises reaches the right conclusions for the wrong reasons.  I know that Rothbard moved away from Mises' belief that the axioms used in economics were a priori in the Kantian sense, and instead opted for some sort of Aristotelian approach to where axioms are derived from (I have yet to read his work on this subject), but objectivists still seem to accuse this as being overly rationalist in nature.

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RagnarD replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 3:16 PM

I'd love to see this argument fleshed out further, after reading Roy Childs Open Letter to Ayn Rand posted above he had me completely convinced, after much searching I found an Objectivist response which is also quite convincing:

http://mol.redbarn.org/objectivism/Writing/RobertBidinotto/ContradictionInAnarchism.html

Here is the main passage that I'm hoping for an an anarcho-capitalist response to (btw incase it's not clear in this passage he merely refers to anarchists, in context it is a critique of an-cap):

You see, anarchists sincerely believe that they are merely advocating "competition" in the protection of rights. In fact, what their position would necessitate is "competition" in defining what "rights" are.

What anarchists omit from their basic premises is a simple fact: conflicting philosophies will lead to conflicting interpretations of the meaning of such basic terms as "aggression," "self- defense," "property," "rights," "justice," and "liberty." Deducing away, syllogism after syllogism, from these mere words does not mean that the people employing them agree on their meaning, justification or implementation.

Without a philosophical consensus, "competing agencies" (driven to maximize profits by satisfying their paying customers) will offer opposing, rival social factions any interpretations each wants. Definitions of "rights" and "liberty" and "justice" will become as much a matter of "competition" as will the methods, personnel and procedures each agency will offer to provide. And which agency will attract the most customers? Of course, the one that "gets results" by best satisfying consumer demand: i.e., the one which can impose its own definitions of "aggression" and "self-defense" on competitors.

After all, would you hire an agency that couldn't adequately protect your own interpretation of your rights? Consider the justly-maligned profession of defense attorneys. They'll defend any client for a buck, using any argument, any tactic to boost their chances of winning, truth be damned. (When people today say, "I need a good lawyer," do they mean "I need a pillar of integrity" -- or do they mean instead: "I need a guy who can win for me"?) Would anyone argue that it is merely the fact of "government courts" that make these shysters possible? Don't you suppose that they would find similar employment in a totally privatized system, in which the "sovereign consumer" reigns?

Then why limit such amoral, anything-to-win behavior only to attorneys? Isn't it reasonable to assume the same motives would govern at least a significant portion of "protective agents"?

 

 

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 3:41 PM

If there is no "philosophical consensus" then objectivism can't come about. If objectivism does come about it ends in anarcho-capitalism. I've had this conversations with objectivists before: All taxes are involuntary, it doesn't matter what you're using them for. Therefore it's what objectivists would consider the violation of you're rights. Therefore taxation must be voluntary. If taxation is voluntary then the government can go out of business. Furthermore all that matters it that the right laws (those to life and property) are enforced, not who enforces them. By this measure it would be illegal for me to protect someone else. Bodyguards and "rent-a-cops" are of course legitimate forms of transactions in the objectivist standard. The same holds true for private arbitration. Therefore the government must provide a good service or it will go out of business.

Objectivism is anarcho-capitalism.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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suuruna replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 4:42 PM

I think it's important to note what the passage you quoted is trying to address: the deductive argument that objectivism is self-contradictory by advocating for a government.  Just before that quote, the author talks about "What theory or interpretation of "rights" is to be used?  Rand's?  Henry George's? Lenin's?" then continues on about how competing protection of rights could lead to competing definition of rights.  But it seems like they're dodging the point.  The argument is RAND's definition of rights and simultaneous argument for a state are contradictory, not that for every arbitrary definition of rights, government is logically unjustifiable.  The point is enforcing a monopoly is coercive by the principle of non-aggression that objectivists and an-caps supposedly both agree on.  Either objectivism doesn't actually consider coercion to be in-principle wrong and considers maintaining the government monopoly through coercion as justified, or their "government" is not actually a monopoly, and is just their idea of an ideal rights-protection agency.  

The talk about defense attorneys and people having different ideas of "rights" seems irrelevant.  The author's complaint with an-cap seems to be "not everyone is an objectivist," so it's possible that people will spend money on bad things and people will do bad things.  Not sure how they can see consumers and people in arbitration/protection as being potentially immoral in an an-cap system, but not see how this doesn't change if there is only one arbitration/protection agency called the government.  An-cap just says it's legitimate to court consumers with a competing agency because it is voluntary.  I don't see how it helps to grant an air of authority and legitimacy to a single group of people.  I admit that I'm not an objectivist and do not know all of their views, but based on what the author of that critique says, I imagine they'd say that a government is only legitimate in objectivist terms as long as it is only protecting rights.  If one day the government that's been happily protecting rights decides to round up the 17 year olds and kill them all, I should hope an objectivist would no longer consider that government legitimate, and wouldn't be opposed to seeking arbitration and protection from someone else.  As in, that simply calling something a "government" doesn't grant it legitimacy.  It does not follow from this that there can be only one "legitimate" source of protection or arbitration... in fact, stopping a competing agency that's itself acting morally would render that first government illegitimate.  As Neodoxy said, if the objectivist is principled, they shouldn't object to multiple legitimate arbitration and protection agencies coexisting, and that's just an-cap.  If it's important for there to be a "final say" in such matters, regardless of the circumstances, they are contradicting themselves.

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I think she was brilliant. A nice fusion of Nietzsche's ethics and Aristotle's epistemology makes for a good system. Is it without critique? No. But the people on here splitting hairs saying she's a "statist" or "short sighted" and so forth are really...well...splitting hairs. It's the same distinction between anarchist and minarchist that makes the ancaps point and froth at the mouth shouting STATISTS! as though Objectivists are anywhere near the statism of the RepubliCrats.

Rand was definitely an individual, and she paved the way to a movement saying capitalism and greed are not bad things. How she can receive so much criticism on this forum is beyond me.

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 4:57 PM

"How she can receive so much criticism on this forum is beyond me."

A lot of that comes from the zeal of her followers and her ethics. Randian ethics and praxeology can be reconciled, but they don't reconcile easily.

Edit

This problems only get more distinct as people around here drift more towards moral subjectivism.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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suuruna replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 5:07 PM

@thetabularasa, I hope you don't see my post as "rabid criticism," and I imagine I speak for most ancaps when I say that I recognize that objectivists and minarchists have a lot in common with ancaps, and that Ayn Rand has been important in introducing people to the idea that capitalism and voluntary association is not villianous.  But I think that the step from "tiny government" to "no government" is an important one to talk about, and I don't think it should just be ignored when it is brought up.  I think criticisms against minarchism go a long way in dispelling the aura of legitimacy that something called a "government" gets, and helps focus on protecting rights rather than protecting institutions that protect rights.  And sometimes it's hard, weird, or anxiety-provoking to think about a society that different from what most of us live in.  But that doesn't mean sabotaging the good arguments from people I don't agree with on everything... it's not like ancaps all agree on everything, either :P.

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RagnarD replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 5:37 PM

I unfortunately completely agree with  the posts so far, I guess it comes down to both Childs and the Objectivist writer above are right, but Childs arguement antecedes the Objectivist argument.   That is anarcho-capitalism will lead to conflicting versions of rights being upheld, but to enforce anything else is to institute a violation of rights. 

While recognising the an-cap position is consistent while the objectivist one isn't, it still leaves me straddling the fence between the two.  Hoping to bypass those conflicts arising under an-cap by reversing the trend of centralization through education leading to competition for "the most minimal minarchy".  Yes I realise it's highly unlikely, but preferrable IMO.

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Neodoxy:

"How she can receive so much criticism on this forum is beyond me."

A lot of that comes from the zeal of her followers and her ethics. Randian ethics and praxeology can be reconciled, but they don't reconcile easily.

Edit

This problems only get more distinct as people around here drift more towards moral subjectivism.

On moral subjectivism..... so there's nothing wrong with murder, right? Ought murderers be punished?

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Bert replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 6:10 PM

No.

Then again Rand believed we should defend Israel because they are the more technologically advanced state and the Arabs are primitive racists - what kind of logic is that?

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 6:17 PM

"On moral subjectivism..... so there's nothing wrong with murder, right? Ought murderers be punished?"

We've been over this before

I believe murderers ought to be punished. I believe you ought to be sending me money every month, and I believe that more people ought to wear nice clothes. What I believe ought to be is a preference, it does not magically cross the uncrossable is/ought gap. Morality by its very nature is subjective because there is no objective way to determine morality. Everything within moral language and sentiment follows the same rules as preference precisely because they are one in the same.

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Bert:

No.

Then again Rand believed we should defend Israel because they are the more technologically advanced state and the Arabs are primitive racists - what kind of logic is that?

Yeah, and Mises was a minarchist, yet we're on a forum on Mises.org. Petty stuff, friend.

My whole counterargument to moral subjectivism is in the opposition to the consideration of murder somehow possibly being permissible. That's essentially what it means: that there are no moral absolutes, which deductively implies that murder can, indeed, be perfectly fine to commit.

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 6:31 PM

Then why is murder wrong?

You know that things are gonna get fun when you start asking that question :P

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Bert replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 6:31 PM

Yeah, and Mises was a minarchist, yet we're on a forum on Mises.org. Petty stuff, friend.

I never read anything from Mises condoning violence in regards to an opposition that's actually having their rights violated from said state.  It's not petty, it gives insight on Rand's views.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Bert:

Yeah, and Mises was a minarchist, yet we're on a forum on Mises.org. Petty stuff, friend.

I never read anything from Mises condoning violence in regards to an opposition that's actually having their rights violated from said state.  It's not petty, it gives insight on Rand's views.

It gives insight into her views but nothing having to do with moral subjectivity. That was my point.

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Bert replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 7:24 PM

Her view isn't based on some form of morality?

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Anenome replied on Mon, Dec 3 2012 7:36 PM
 
 

It's a shame that Rand didn't swallow her pride and accept an-capism. I think she was enamored with her own ideas too much, prideful, clearly.

And I largely came to libertarianism from reading Rand. Rand and LeFevre.

But considering the mental leap it takes to abandon the assumption of government, it's perhaps not that surprising. It takes a lot of effort to imagine how things could work absent a coercive governmet, and without being able to imagine how anarchy could work I don't think people will let go of government.

Which is the major reason why I think once libertarians set up the first anarch society that actually works, people will be both shocked and awed and the dominoes will begin to rapidly fall in our favor.

 
Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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Anenome:

 
 

Which is the major reason why I think once libertarians set up the first anarch society that actually works, people will be both shocked and awed and the dominoes will begin to rapidly fall in our favor.

 
 
I think it'd be awesome. The Minerva Project was a good go at it, but they didn't have weapons lol.
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Not only did they not have weapons (major facepalm there IMO), but they also announced themselves (i.e. "the Republic of Minerva") to the neighboring states! I think it was really quite foolish of them to expect the neighboring states to play nice.

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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