Recently, Leonard Peikoff posted some comments urging people to vote for Mitt Romney. I’d recommend that you read it for yourself before continuing with this blog post.

I’m not insensitive to his argument: I agree with many of his observations on Obama and Romney.

For example, I am worried by the concentration of power in the executive branch under Obama. Yet such concentration of power seems to happen just as much under Republicans as Democrats: George W. Bush was hardly a paragon of restraint, and Obama has merely taken up where Bush left off. We have every reason to expect that Romney would do the same, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate than Obama. But maybe not… perhaps Romney would only differ from Obama by the areas in which he usurps even more executive power.

Also, I’m not remotely upset about the particular case that Peikoff cites of “Obama’s practice of ruling by executive order” … (e.g., his latest edict on immigration).” In fact, Obama’s policy change is really excellent, and it’s hardly clear that Obama overstepped his authority. In general, our immigration laws are a disgraceful mess of unpardonable rights violations, not to mention a major drag on the economy. They should be liberalized, with or without welfare reform. However, Peikoff has expressed strong support for heavy restrictions on immigration given our current welfare state in his podcast, so that might explain why he cited that example.

Also, I disagree with Peikoff’s approval of Paul Ryan. Ryan is only a fiscal moderate, not a fiscal conservative. Even if he were to become president, the deficit would continue to expand under his watch. Plus, Ryan is far more theocratic than Mitt, as can be seen from his support for “personhood” for zygotes.

Those are minor quibbles. My major disagreement with Peikoff concerns voting strategy. As I’ve argued in this blog post and this podcast segment, fiscal conservatives need to stop trying to “buy time,” as Peikoff advocates. (As Paul said about the second presidential debate: “We’re now seeing just how little time Romney would buy us.”) Instead, we must demand that the GOP earn our vote by refusing to vote for GOP candidates who are not true fiscal conservatives. That means accepting some pain in this election for the sake of major gains in future elections.

America has time for that, in my view: we’re facing slow and steady decline over the course of decades, not a sudden crash into dictatorship. Hence, for reasons explained in this podcast segment, I reject Peikoff’s apocalypticism: Obama will do significant damage in a second term, but likely far, far less than opening the door to totalitarian dictatorship, as Peikoff suggests.

Recall that Peikoff predicted sweeping repression and theocracy if George W. Bush were elected to a second term in 2004. Nothing remotely that bad came to pass. Instead, major damage was done on other fronts, particularly thanks to Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom” in foreign policy and his explicit repudiation of capitalism in his response to the financial crisis.

So Peikoff was wrong in his predictions in 2004, but that’s hardly surprising. Accurate political predictions are nearly impossible, even for professionals immersed in the political news. (That’s not Peikoff, by his own admission.) Such predictions depend too much on unforeseeable events, including the free choices of many, many people. Hence, I just don’t place much stock in anyone’s political predictions over the next four years, except to say that that apocalyptic predictions will very likely be very wrong. (Again, my reasons why can be found in this podcast segment.)

Mostly though, Objectivists need to understand that we might as well vote for the Man on the Moon as Mittens. We are a completely insignificant voting block. Our votes just don’t matter. So for Objectivists to make asses of themselves based on the pretense that a person’s vote reveals his deepest character is pointless and destructive. (Just to be clear: Although I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson, I don’t fault anyone for voting for Mittens based on their own personal judgments, so long as they’re based on fact.)

That doesn’t seem to be happening so much in this election, and I’m pleased about that. Or maybe I’ve just unfriended most of the asses. Either way, here’s to another crappy four years of American politics!

  • William H Stoddard

    I plan to vote for Gary Johnson myself, though of course for me it’s not a difficult question: California will go for Obama no matter how I vote. So I may as well vote for the candidate I actually agree with on a wide range of issues.

    But I do find myself hoping that Romney defeats Obama, for two main reasons:

    First, the Supreme Court. Supreme Court decisions are a crapshoot as far as individual rights are concerned. But it looks to me as if, in many recent decisions, the justices appointed by convervatives have been the unpredictable ones who sometimes made decisions protecting individual rights, whereas the justices appointed by liberals have been the ones who supported government right or wrong. Obama’s two nominees don’t impress me; I’d rather not see him choose any more justices—and whoever gets onto the court in the next four years will be there for a long time.

    Second, even if, as seems likely, Romney is no better than Obama, the things Obama has done are bad enough so that he deserves to be repudiated. Establishing that even a president who got in with a strong majority isn’t free to do anything he likes once he’s in office is a good thing.

    Sad to say, this seems rather like making a case for favoring Mr. Thompson over Eugene Lawson or Floyd Ferris. I can quite understand your dislike of both candidates.

  • Kyle Haight

    At this point I expect I will vomit, pull the Romney lever and then vomit again, but I understand Diana’s position. If you genuinely believe that Romney and Obama are equally bad (as I did with McCain and Obama in 2008) then Diana’s position makes perfect sense. I just don’t agree with her on that question, so my tactical voting decision comes out differently.

    I am in wholehearted agreement with her view that a person’s candidate choice per se does not reveal the depth of his or her character. These issues are complicated, not self-evident, and there is ample room for honest disagreement. We Objectivists all share the same political values; we do not and need not share the same strategy and tactics.

  • Paul

    I agree with Diane on this. I would also add that I don’t think it helps promote Objectivism when some of its spokespersons affiliate themselves with the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News in general or the “tea party” (whatever that is).

    • Don Kenner

      I’m not sure that supporting a vote for Romney constitutes affiliating oneself with Glenn Beck, etc. If I vote for Gary Johnson, am I affiliating myself with every libertarian spokesperson? Am I damaging the cause of Objectivism by “affiliating” with libertarians, given the philosophical differences between libertarianism and Objectivism? Perhaps my vote is just a vote, not an endorsement of all others who vote the same way.

      • Paul

        I didn’t mean to imply that at all. I was just taking this opportunity to express an ongoing concern I have that acquaintances of mine tend to view Objectivism by the company some of it’s adherents keep. Certainly, voting for Romney, Johnson or Obama says nothing about affiliation with anyone else. I probably should have saved my comment for another thread to avoid confusion.

  • john gold

    Where i live the high immigrant areas are violejt and places im afraid to go. I think the same is true in europe.

  • john gold

    Unless we stop immigration it will be almost impossible to elect a non leftist president. The subtheme of the obama campaign is that romney is a rich white guy.

    John Gold

  • Sajid Anjum

    Dr. Peikoff also does not consider the fact both the House and the percentage of governors is overwhelmingly republican. The democrats only have a very slim majority in the senate. Obamacare passed because the democrats owned the house, had a supermajority in the senate and had a young and motivated democratic president with a strong agenda. Given that the budget is actually controlled more by congress than by the president, doesn’t it make much more sense to vote for a president that opposes the dominant party controlling both, the house and a substantial number of governor slots? I think that would buy everyone far more time than an intention to “to vote for whatever Republicans in my district are running for the House and the Senate.”

    Check out predicted results at

    Some stuff on voting.

  • Steve D

    Peikoff is correct. If it was a choice between Romney and Hillary Clinton I would agree with Diane but Obama is not Hillary. Obama and Romney are nowhere close to equally bad. Not because Romney is good but because Obama is so bad it’s hard to imagine anyone worse. The overarching short term issue is the rising debt and the weakening military and they work together. Right now a concerted effort exists to bring down America. All other considerations are irrelevant since once our military and economy fall below a certain point, nothing will bring it back. It will be game over. Our enemies will not allow us to come back. Vote for the candidate who you think will most likely slow this process.

  • Steve D

    I disagree with his last statement though. I would not vote Republican across the board. I would get rid of Obama and then research each candidate independently to determine which one least deserved to be ostracized.

  • JT

    I’m pleased with this post. Based on what I’ve heard from Dr. Peikoff, I don’t think he’s close to as knowledgeable about political facts as he is about political philosophy.

    I think the biggest issue should be the ever-growing national debt. Paul Ryan is proposing to increase it over the coming years (albeit slightly less than Obama wants). Moreover, his voting record from a pro-freedom standpoint has been dismal. He backed practically every bad law that George W. Bush wanted–and got. Look it up.

    If “buying time” means supporting candidates who want spending cuts that would significantly reduce the welfare-mandate state (not measured by projections of future growth) without eliminating any whole departments, then I can accept that. But if “buying time” means supporting candidates who want to spend & borrow & inflate more while they proudly don the mantle of “fiscal conservatism,” then I’m not on board.

    • Anthony

      Why is the debt the biggest issue? Those who lent their money to the government did so voluntarily. Not only that, but they did so with the knowledge that the only way government is likely to pay them back is off the backs of future taxpayers.

      • Anthony

        One downvote. Zero answers.

        • Steve D.

          That’s because you answered your own question, two sentences later.

  • Andrew Baker

    I disagree. Obama seems to have the soul of a dictator. Excluding the horrible domestic policy events, the Benghazi scandal is just too much evidence for me to conclude otherwise. His scapegoating of crappy video-maker and attack on free speech at the UN is just anti-American.

    True, no great event may happen that installs a dictator, but I don’t want to take that chance. My impression is Obama and his associates want pure unadulterated power and when you have motivated people there is no telling how much they can accomplish in four years. It is not unheard of in history for dictators to rise is about a decade.

    Maybe my evaluation of Romney is off, but I see him as just a middle of the roader politician whose political aspirations seems to be having the accomplishment of being the president. I don’t see him as truly desiring to control people. I don’t expect much from him otherwise. The odds are 2% he may do the right thing economically. If this assessment of Mitt is incorrect then I would probably not vote for Mitt either.

    • Ashley King

      Soul of a dictator, for sure. Contempt for capitalism (you didn’t build that), the constitution, and for the truth (Benghazi).

  • christopolis

    Obama for President. The only hope for recovery is to first hit bottom. Obama gives us the best chance of hitting bottom the soonest. No change will come until we hit bottom. There will never be a time that includes any amount of prosperity where the electorate wakes up and says wow it could be even better if we were more free.

    • Jim May

      ” Obama gives us the best chance of hitting bottom the soonest. No change will come until we hit bottom.”

      Please tell me you are not an airline pilot.

      I point to the aftermath of Rome in the West as a counterexample to this “hit bottom” argument. That is an extremely bad trade.

      • christopolis

        Are you an economist? You are comparing two totally different data points. Also can you let me know why slipping into dictatorship would be any worse than plunging in after a crash? With a crash at least there is a chance of heading in the right direction during the recovery. With a slow death there is very little chance if any.

  • Anthony

    You’ve said a few times now that you won’t fault anyone for voting for Romney. What about someone who voted for Obama?

    I’ve considered it, especially after watching the first debate. Obama is at least “the devil we know”. Romney might do just about anything.

    Right now I’m planning on showing up, voting for/against the amendments, and leaving the President spot blank. But I’m pretty well undecided. About the only thing I know for sure is that I’m not going to vote for Gary Johnson.

  • Bjj Troll

    The Progressive movement in American politics is like a freight train and that train has been building its momentum – with only occasional resistance – from the late 19th century up to the present day. Short of a revolution or governmental collapse, I don’t believe quickly bringing it to a dead halt is a realistic option. I believe our best bet is to slow its progress For that reason, I’m voting for Romney. While I expect to be disappointed by Romney, I am reasonably hopeful he will do less damage than Obama. I say this after having abstained in the 2008 election where I felt that, in that case, the Republican candidate would have only further sullied the name of free market capitalism.

    Businessman/Capitalist who chose an admitted admirer of Ayn Rand as his VP vs Community Organizer/Ivy League Professor/closet Marxist who chose to put perhaps the biggest buffoon in politics a heartbeat away from the presidency. When looked at in this light it just doesn’t seem like such a difficult choice. And while I supported Gary Johnson during the primaries, I just can’t overcome my distaste for the very wide streak of anti-government nihilism that runs through the Libertarian party.

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