Friday, October 27, 2006

Objectivists and Politics

Yes, I've read Leonard Peikoff's latest on the election, and I've read Robert W. Tracinski's sundry articles on it as well. I side with Peikoff on his larger point about the nature of the right these days, but I do not support the manner which he used to make his argument, which was weak at best. The parties do a lot to camouflage their agendas, and it does not follow that a person is ignorant of the role of philosophy in man's life to be taken in by it—but only to a point.

Getting that out of the way, I do not understand why some Objectivists get tied up in knots over general elections. If we had a parliamentary system of government, it would pay to care about elections, if only to place a dissenting voice in the government. But under our "winner take all" system, our vote is only worth the chance that it can swing an election. In most cases, that isn't much of a chance.

Furthermore, there will always be two parties in our system, and until we grow our numbers sufficient to set the national agenda, these parties will be unworthy of much support. We deserve a rational government--and nothing less, and thus I refuse to tolerate the current machinations of partisans from either party. If they want to support me on a single-issue project, fine, and if they propose a rational policy, I'll support it in turn--but nothing more.

And this is not to say that there aren't important evaluations that need to be made about which forces in our culture are the more present threat--but only as a means to determine what topics we talk about when we offer Objectivism as the alternative. My view is that while the religious pitchmen who come to my door look more like CEO's and less like they live under a bridge (in contrast to many of the leftists I run into), they are the deeper threat. If the skeptic-bound, nihilistic left seeks to hijack science in the name of environmentalism, the religious-bound right seeks to abandon it outright whenever it infringes upon its mystical creed--and it does so under the ostensive mantel of individualism, laissez-faire and concern for morality. That's unacceptable. It is taking away people who should side with us.

Lastly, I'll simply note my disagreement with Objectivists who have criticized efforts to confront the courts. I think the courts are the one branch of government where presenting Objectivist ideas creates a practical voice of dissent--given a consistent stream of arguments on the legal questions of the day. In my experience, there's no negative side to presenting principled arguments before a serious forum.


Anonymous said...

Leaving all that aside, what interests me is Peikoff's statement that anyone who votes Republican--even if a good candidate--is committing an immoral act.

"Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

If it is immoral to vote Republican, what about Tracinski who wrote an entire article arguing that we should vote Republican? Are we really to suppose that Tracinski is now an immoral person because of this? Or that this is even an immoral act?

What is the relationship between an immoral act and the character of a person? Can a person commit an immoral act and still be moral?

And if we decide that a person is immoral, what is our relationship with that person to be?

I've know Rob for years, and yes, I understand that many of his political arguments have not been popular--but I can only see good in this guy who is out there everyday fighting in the trenches.

Anonymous said...

Is Objectivism leaderless?

I have been an Objectivist for over a decade now, and I have never seen the movement as fractured as it is today. Who is that person who stands above the fray and unites? All I see is division, division, division.

David Carvell said...

Dr. Pekoff's article, is in Q/A format. The Q was supplied by me. The larger context was a query of his (or other's) interest in starting an Objectivist Party. I think this could make a greater difference than trying to salvage the two bankrupt parties currently in power. I'd be interested to see if there is interest in this.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Given the way our elections work, it is simply too early for a third party attempt by Objectivists. First, where would we draw quality candidates? Our numbers are far from ideal. Second, what will this party do when it inevitably looses? Third, just how much would this party gain once it elects the token Objectivist into the government? Would that be enough to raise the funding necessary to sustain the effort?

That said, there is a lot a small yet vocal core of Objectivists could do to attack the ideas of the status quo. They don’t need to run for office to activate such a program.

Do you want to help the change the culture and build the foundation for a better life? Give a kid in your life a copy of “The Fountainhead.” Introduce a friend to Ed Cline’s Sparrowhawk series. Underwrite the costs of bringing an Objectivist speaker to a campus near you. Subscribe to the Objective Standard—and share its articles with people you know. Write a letter to the editor or start up a blog. Go to one of Lee Sandstead’s art tours. Help me make CAC into the preeminent defender of the moral case for capitalism.

Any of these or other common sense ideas would have a practical benefit, right here, right now. An Objectivist political party? Not so much . . .

Nicholas Provenzo said...

>Is Objectivism leaderless?

I think so. A leader would be able to unite differing concrete opinions around a common, more fundamental view. Leonard Peikoff’s Q&A does the exact opposite, because it utterly fails to examine its subject in sufficient depth to justify its flip tone.

But does Objectivism need a sole leader to take Objectivists to the next level? I argue that Objectivism needs many leaders. In fact, I think we need something like an Objectivist leadership summit, to help develop our new leaders and their leadership skills.

Anonymous said...

Leonard Peikoff's statement is sort of like saying, "Fermat's Last Theorem is true. And if you don't agree with me, you don't have a firm grasp of mathematics." He may be right about the election and, having read The Ominous Parallels, I have an inkling of why he says what he does here. But he needs to do one thing when making statements like this: he needs to show his work!

Objectivism doesn't need leaders any more than mathematics needs leaders. As a philosophy, Objectivism is not about "following the leader." It is about conforming to reality.

True, mathematics is numerical and philosophy is not. But Objectivism is still susceptible to the same sorts of logic and proof as mathematics. That is necessary AND SUFFICIENT to establish the truth of Objectivism and any application thereof.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Diana Hsieh on her blog Noodle Food has "showed the work" that leads to Dr. Peikoff's conclusion. Thank you, Diana!

jay said...

Is Objectivism leaderless?

The problem is that while objectivists may well benefit from having a leader, the concept of a leader seems alien to those objectivists who would most qualify for this role. This I think is in the nature of objectivism. From what I see(someone correct me if I am wrong), objectivism is more about method then result. Therefore, Peikoff gave us the answer, and expects us to figure out how he got it on our own. I find it interesting that whenever there is a disagreement between objectivists, the disagreement somehow ends up being about the people involved instead of the issue. Meanwhile Peikoff very calmly and almost without notice makes his DIM hypothesis lectures(300$ worth) free, and we respond by saying, "he needs to show his work", well I think he feels he has and it is up to us now.

Finally I want to point out that Dr Peikoff is an actual person with actual values, and I believe right now is in the middle of writing a book that is his eqivalent of Atlas Shrugged. If he would rather do this then attempt the imposible task of answering infinate repetative questions about an election, I don't blame him. Perhaps instead of writing him a letter to question him about this, why not write him to thank him for his generosity in making his course free and wish him well with his new book.

And Nicholas, thank you as well for the wonderful work you do.