Friday, January 13, 2006

Intellectual Activism: Off the Reservation . . .

Like most Objectivists, I take issue with the libertarian philosophy—the philosophy of capitalism without a corresponding grounding in epistemology and ethics. I argue that one can not effectively advocate the principle of individual rights unless one first understands the processes of the mind and its need for freedom, as well as the corresponding need to place the right to retaliatory force under objective control. As has been said many times before, Objectivism is not libertarian. Neither is CAC.

Accordingly, I must publicly indicate my disappointment that in the time since he left CAC, Mr. Skip Oliva, a former policy expert, has chosen to become a contributing writer to libertarian organizations such as and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Why do I take umbrage with Mr. Oliva’s participation in these groups? Because they are proud, outspoken enemies of Ayn Rand and her ideas. They pick and choose ideas of Rand’s that support their myopic obsession with anti-statism, while attacking her larger, more foundational ideas and saddling her and her supporters with smears such as this.

The logical outcome of the libertarian position—the position of trying to secure capitalism without a legitimate philosophic base—is anarchy. I don’t understand why Mr. Oliva has chosen to align himself with such an untenable intellectual position. I can find no innocent explanation.

The tragedy is that during his time at CAC, Mr. Oliva performed heroically, and did so with little or no remuneration. In the time that I worked with him, I found him to be a passionate defender of the victims of the government abuse of power. He was a methodical thinker and a relentless activist and I admired him greatly, even when others questioned—and outright attacked—his style. Some of his contributions were brilliant and have yet to be duplicated, even by those with far more scholastic training than he. My evaluation of his service should not imply that there were not times when I disagreed with him deeply. I often did. At the time, however, I simply thought his head was in it, and the results were usually good, if not great.

I can only think that during that period of unrewarded hardship and effort, Mr. Oliva turned on the movement that he felt had abandoned him. This is tragic, but if so, the mistake lies with him. One’s ultimate justification for being cannot be the sanction of others. The alternative to the current lack of Objectivist political and legal activism is not to make one’s bed with the libertarians, simply because they are anti-state. The alternative to being ignored is not to embrace one’s spiritual enemies as an act of revenge.

Instead, one must live for the truth—the whole truth, even if that means that one must stand alone. And sometimes, regrettably, that really stinks . . .

Accordingly, while I wish Mr. Oliva my best, I must properly disassociate this organization with him on the above grounds.

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