Murray Rothbard Versus Children’s Rights

Apr 222010

On FormSpring, someone asked me whether I agreed with the following quote:

Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights.

Unfortunately, FormSpring managed to delete the question and my reply. Or so I thought for a while: it was actually just delayed in posting. In any case, here’s a slightly edited version of my FormSpring answer:

Oh my god, no no no. That’s horrid libertarian drivel. (I wrote that, then I googled the quote. I was right: it’s from Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty.)

Parents are obliged to care for any child brought willingly into existence (i.e. not aborted) and then brought home (i.e. not adopted). By doing so, the parents create a creature with a right to life, yet utterly dependent on themselves, and they exclude others from caring for it. To do that, then withhold the food, clothing, or education that the child needs to survive in order to become a self-supporting adult — that would be a monstrous violation of that child’s rights.

Parents are obliged to care for their children for the basic reason that the owner of sailboat cannot simply leave a passenger swimming in the middle of the ocean. Contrary to concrete-bound libertarian nonsense, to do that would be an initiation of force and a violation of rights. That’s because the captain has assumed responsibility for safely transporting the swimmer, knowing that the swimmer’s life depends on his doing so. The swimmer has a right to be returned to land, where he can fend for himself. To leave him in the ocean would be murder.

The child is like the swimmer, except without the benefit of consenting to the journey. His parents created him as a dependent being, and they are obliged to nurture him in some very basic ways (e.g. food, clothing, shelter, basic education) until he can fend for himself. Or they must find someone else willing and able to assume that responsibility.

If people want to know why I recoil from the term “libertarian,” the fact that views like Rothbard’s on parental obligations are standard fare should be a clue. Sure, he might talk about rights and free markets, but clearly, his whole understanding of those topics is warped by concrete-bound rationalism about initiating force. If implemented, the practical result of his ideas would be a monstrously barbaric society. I don’t support that, and I won’t tolerate it. I oppose it!

The people who advocate views like Rothbard’s — or tolerate them from their political allies — are not my political allies, except perhaps on some very narrow, concrete issues. And I don’t wish to make common cause with them, nor be included among their number. The mere thought of Rothbard’s views in practice turns my stomach, and I hope that other lovers of liberty have the same reaction.

An Objectivist Recants on IP??

Dec 092009
Over at the anarchist-libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, intellectual property lawyer Stephan Kinsella posted “An Objectivist Recants on IP.” The posting describes how someone named Bala was mixing it up in their discussion threads and eventually came to conclude that “An Objectivist cannot and should not support the notion of Intellectual Property because it violates fundamental Objectivist principles.”
Unsurprisingly, the culmination of Bala’s odyssey and the central point that cemented the illegitimacy of intellectual property in his mind is a common one voiced by libertarians opposed to intellectual property: the notion that intellectual property rights inherently conflict with material property rights.
Ideas and patterns, on the other hand, presented a problem when I tried to treat them as “property”. While there is no denying the value of ideas in human advancement, exclusion of other individuals from an idea or pattern necessarily involves the initiation of force. For instance, how else is A to prevent B from incorporating A’s idea in his B’s product other than to force himself upon B’s property and coerce B to prevent him from doing so, thus violating B’s Liberty? In effect, recognising ideas and patterns as property is tantamount to saying that A has a moral right to initiate force against B simply because he has coined an idea. Thus, as an Objectivist, classifying ideas and patterns as “property” takes me into dangerous territory where I am ready to label the initiation of force as legitimate.

This is ultimately based on confusion about which kinds of ideas do and don’t properly count as intellectual property, as well as confusion about what does and doesn’t constitute a rights-violation. I addressed this (and more) a few years back in “Don’t Steal This Article!“, an analysis of the strongest libertarian arguments I could find against the legitimacy of intellectual property:

The first thing to note is the plain fact that people are routinely prevented from using their material property when it would violate any right — so the protection of intellectual property rights would not be unique in so “controlling” other people in their use of their material property. For example, my neighbor’s person and property rights are not violated when he is not allowed to spontaneously whack me in the head with his fully-owned two-by-four. His rights are not violated in preventing him from using his tangible truck to pull up to my house and drive off with my entertainment center. We are all restricted from using our persons and property to violate the rights of others, and such restrictions do not themselves constitute an infringement of rights because nobody has the right to violate rights.

It is bad enough that these libertarian scholars ignore such an obvious point, but the evasion reaches full bloom in Kinsella’s explanation of the alleged “taking” caused by the appearance of intellectual property. The charge is that, as intellectual property comes into existence, liberty is lost in a magical transfer of partial ownership from the owners of material property to an author or inventor, thereby unjustly preventing them from doing something they were otherwise free to do with their own property. But in no sense is any ability, permission, or liberty lost. Recall that intellectual property rights protect the manufacture of creations — objects which did not and would not otherwise exist. Before a novel has been written, absolutely nobody has the power to publish it, so its being authored cannot remove any liberty previously enjoyed by printers. And before some better mousetrap is invented, nobody has the power to produce it — so its being invented cannot deny manufacturers any previously enjoyed freedom.

Indeed, far from losing any power or liberty, the options available to owners of material property only increase with the appearance of intellectual property: they are presented with at least the potential to use their property in the production of new, life-serving objects in collaboration with an inventor or artist.

Bala’s friends there at LvMI are definitely not helping him out. How many of the other issues with his account of Objectivism and IP can you see and (constructively) address?

Libertarian vs. Objectivist Thinking

Nov 042009

The Cato Institute recently hosted a book forum with the authors of the two new Rand biographies, Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller, and Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns. Cato’s David Boaz ran the forum, setting the context, introducing the authors, and running the Q&A.

I am interested in the two books, so I wanted to hear the authors as they presented some of their thoughts and showed their mettle in the back-and-forth. The bottom line? Burns seems honest in her scholarship and sincere in her engagement. She said a lot of interesting things, and I want to hear more from her despite some weaknesses due to a lack of grounding in Rand’s system of thought. Heller didn’t come across nearly as well, which left me much less interested in her work. And then there’s Boaz.

Boaz began by speaking of the enduring influence of Rand, especially on libertarians and conservatives, and about the recent surge in interest in her and her work. He agreed with a Liberty magazine review of Heller’s book, saying that “There can be no question about the fact that Rand remains America’s most influential libertarian, with the possible exception of Milton Friedman, and America’s most influential novelist of ideas.” Extending this, Boaz characterized Atlas Shrugged as a libertarian book, and Rand as a libertarian who has done more than anybody in our time to introduce people to libertarian ideas.

What got my attention was Boaz’s treatment of the elephant in the room: he chuckled that many listening may wince at his talking that way, that indeed Rand would have disagreed with being classified as a libertarian (this would be an understatement) and that “many of her fans maintain that point even now.” He dismissed all of this, saying in effect that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. You see, “anybody who believes in individual rights, free enterprise, and strictly limited government is a libertarian. And Ayn Rand certainly did.” QED. Yet, he informs us, somehow this impeccable logic is lost on the “high priests” of Rand’s estate, who refused to let any of her material appear in his book, The Libertarian Reader.

As an Objectivist, I see a different puzzle here: Many people, libertarians in particular, clearly admire and profit from Rand’s ability to analyze and integrate, to identify widespread and longstanding false alternatives and package deals time and again, and to then offer something better. So I find it odd that when they see Rand apparently ignoring the incredibly straightforward point that she fits their definition, that they don’t pause to consider whether there might be some more basic reason for her balking so.

And of course there is. Here’s a hint: it’s an epistemology thing.

Concepts are important. They are how we organize our knowledge of the world so we can act in service to our lives. Good concepts are immensely helpful (see the basic ideas that ushered in the fruits of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution), and bad ones can really hurt us. What if, for example, your moral system left you seeing the bully and the victim who fights back as morally indistinguishable? As we’ve seen with pacifism, the result of such thinking is unjust and destructive to all concerned, both personally and socially: victims are morally if not legally discouraged from defending themselves, predators are only emboldened, and this view naturally translates to unjust and destructive cultural sentiments, laws, and policies like those against simply “violence”. So it makes all the difference to distinguish sharply between aggressive and defensive use of force because these are in fact morally opposite things with existentially opposite effects on human lives. Examples abound, but the general point to appreciate is that Objectivists are methodologically careful about this sort of thing because they grasp that accepting any concept which treats essentially identical things as opposites, or opposite things as essentially identical, ultimately means inviting difficulty if not disaster in our efforts to successfully navigate reality.

Now consider the libertarian way of thinking about political classification. Rejecting the generally useless left-right spectrum, they offer a two-dimensional approach based on degrees of personal and economic freedom which is often shared via their educational and recruiting tool, the Nolan Chart. In this view, libertarianism is neither left nor right, and it stands fundamentally opposed to totalitarianism. This sets up the natural axis of size or extent of government as their key normative criterion, which is pretty easy to pick out in their policies and rhetoric and reactions to world events. This is also why libertarians have always had influential anarchists in their ranks: even those who might be wary of the “extreme” of anarchism have no principled objection to it because, in their own basic way of thinking, anarchism is the natural full opposite of the evil of totalitarianism — indeed, they have framed it as the pinnacle of libertarianism.

We can now appreciate what Rand was signaling with her outrage at being grouped or associated in any way with anarchists in particular and libertarians in general: she was refusing the mental, personal, and social chaos that flows from a fundamentally flawed way of seeing things. Rand understood that the essential concept in politics is individual rights, and so she identified totalitarianism and anarchism as indistinguishable in what’s important: their complete lack of an objective recognition and systematic protection of man’s rights. In contrast, as noted above, the libertarian way of thinking mis-classifies totalitarianism and anarchism as moral opposites by focusing on the inessential characteristic of size. If the purpose of politics is to sort out and enact the conditions required for people to successfully live among one another, this kind of confusion is about as disastrous as it gets — even while self-consciously seeking the good, the conceptual lens of libertarianism will drive you to its opposite.

And conversely, the libertarian framework fails to capture crucial differences. Consider a powerful government that performs all and only its proper functions in the defense of man’s rights, and one that happens to have all the same laws and institutions but also has, say, conscription on the books just in case war breaks out. These two governments are all but indistinguishable (and neither is smiled on) in the libertarians’ basic classification scheme based on size. But Objectivists see these two as moral opposites because one is committed to the essential task of the defense of man’s rights and the other is not. Even though not currently violating any rights, the government with conscription laws clearly rejects the key principle of the field. It has no principled defense against the slippery slope to serfdom we’ve seen play out in history all too many times.

The politics of liberty that Objectivism advocates really does depend on a particular philosophical foundation. The Libertarian movement might be in a better position to understand this if they weren’t so eager to set aside the fact that fundamental ideas are critically important.

While scholarly leaders like Boaz should surely know better, there are plenty of people who innocently adopt the libertarian way of thinking about government because it seems to line up reasonably well with fundamental American values like strictly limited government, respect for rights, and capitalism. (Indeed, I was just such a person.) But even innocent use doesn’t mitigate the very real problems and dangers discussed above. So Objectivists will continue to pointedly reject the libertarian label and its conceptual basis in the interests of moving our culture toward one that genuinely values liberty.

Tom Stevens’ Blog Post Reveals Him to be First-Rate Louse

Jul 032009

Paul and I just finished four lovely days of hiking in Acadia, Maine. (I’ll blog some about that later today, if I can.) We’ve had not-so-great internet access, however, so I’m a bit behind on some internet-dependent tasks, including blogging. However, tomorrow I’ll start a daily (but short) blog post on OCON.

However, I want to mention that Dr. Tom Stevens — of the so-called Objectivist Party has written the most absurdly offensive blog post possible: Farrah Fawcett’s E-Mail Reveals Ayn Rand Thought Their Sharing The Same Birth Date Had Significance. I won’t pain you by quoting the pompous blog post, but basically he accuses Ayn Rand of relying faith, superstition, and mysticism because she apparently made an offhand remark to Farrah Fawcett about them sharing a birthday.


A Taste of Libertarianism

Dec 052008

Well, here’s a little integration that caught my google-alerted eye: “John Galt Republican.”

A libertarian columnist at coined the term for himself, and now lays it out for the rest of us:

I submit, to a candid world, my explicit definition of what it means to be a ‘John Galt Republican’. And since Ayn Rand was agnostic with regards to political parties during her life, I’ve also realized that you can prefix your own political party affiliation with ‘John Galt’, if you agree with the items of definition, below.

These three of the 14(!) elements pretty much say it all:

1) You’ve read one or more of Ayn Rand’s works, and by doing so, your world views have either been changed or strengthened to a positive degree.

5) You do not care to talk about Ayn Rand’s (or anyone else’s) metaphysical views.

13) OPTIONAL: You have an affinity for laissez faire capitalism.

Good grief, what a mess. Capitalism as optional?? And in a political context, no less?
Rand/Galt advocates an integrated system of philosophy — each element is essential and intertwined with the rest. As I commented there,

This part of a candid world can only say: Rand understood that her politics flowed from her metaphysics, and she showed how capitalism was its only valid expression. I know who John Galt is, and he would have nothing to do with the vast majority of those meeting this confused “definition.”

What’s the point of adding that Galt qualifier if it doesn’t really mean anything? Sheesh.

Reflections from Reason

Dec 022008

Do we need a reminder of even how some of the better elements of the libertarian movement can be hostile to Ayn Rand? Perhaps not, but here’s one that ran across my inbox a little while ago. It’s a tidbit from a December 2008 Reason article on the origins of their magazine:

[Tibor] Machan: Manny [Klausner] was never an Objectivist, and even Bob [Poole] was more mild-mannered about it. I was the philosophically grounded one, but I stylistically repudiated the atmospherics of the Objectivist world. I was excommunicated back in 1963 from the Rand thing. [Oh whatever, Tibor.]

[Bob] Poole: We wanted a magazine for thinking people, not Randians. As time went on and various marketing strategies were tried it became clear that Rand was some people’s cup of tea and not others’, and if we wanted to be influential being an explicitly Objectivist magazine was not the recipe for doing that. [Emphasis added.]

Bob Poole’s first comment is offensive as stated, but I’m willing to be generous, given that this was an “oral history.” Perhaps he meant that he wanted a magazine for all thinking people, not just Randians. (I’ve seen Poole speak a few times; he never struck me as hostile to Objectivists. However, my memory might not be what it should on that score.)

However, it’s his second comment — that “Rand was some people’s cup of tea and not others’” — that’s just so very libertarian. Reason couldn’t possibly insist that their writers agree on any fundamental principles, like respect for reason, right? No way! That might alienate some people, namely people whose “cup of tea” is supernaturalism, mysticism, and altruism. So anything goes — and the result is today’s often disgustingly postmodern Reason. (Or rather, that’s what it became after the departure of the sensible and interesting Virginia Postrel some years ago. I’ve paid it very little attention since that decline.)

The libertarian movement took so many ideas from Ayn Rand, while often spitting in her face in a manner worthy of James Taggart. If only they’d learned her most basic lesson — that philosophy matters because it’s the fundamental motor of human life — the history of the last 50 years might be different.

A False Friend of Liberty

Nov 052008

Note: I meant to post this some weeks ago, but the bailout derailed that plan. While it pertains to the just-past election, it’s still relevant.

The absurdity that Ron Paul is a defender of liberty should now be at an end, given his endorsement of the worst possible candidate for president, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.

The Constitution Party seeks to impose Biblical law on America. I was going to quote some relevant sections of their platform, but the Preamble says it all:

The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

Let’s consider what that would mean in practice.

On abortion:

The pre-born child, whose life begins at fertilization, is a human being created in God’s image. The first duty of the law is to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. It is, therefore, the duty of all civil governments to secure and to safeguard the lives of the pre-born. …

We affirm the God-given legal personhood of all unborn human beings, without exception. As to matters of rape and incest, it is unconscionable to take the life of an innocent child for the crimes of his father.

No government may legalize the taking of the unalienable right to life without justification, including the life of the pre-born; abortion may not be declared lawful by any institution of state or local government – legislative, judicial, or executive. The right to life should not be made dependent upon a vote of a majority of any legislative body. …

In addition, we oppose the funding and legalization of bio-research involving human embryonic or pre-embryonic cells.

Finally, we also oppose all government “legalization” of euthanasia, infanticide and suicide.

On drugs:

The Constitution Party will uphold the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs and to enforce such restrictions. We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into these United States from foreign sources. As a matter of self-defense, retaliatory policies including embargoes, sanctions, and tariffs, should be considered.

On marriage:

The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted.

… Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual unions.

… We affirm the value of the father and the mother in the home, and we oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.


Gambling promotes an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a decline in the moral fiber of our country. We are opposed to government sponsorship, involvement in, or promotion of gambling, such as lotteries, or subsidization of Native American casinos in the name of economic development. We call for the repeal of federal legislation that usurps state and local authority regarding authorization and regulation of tribal casinos in the states.

On immigration:

We favor a moratorium on immigration to these United States, except in extreme hardship cases or in other individual special circumstances, until the availability of all federal subsidies and assistance be discontinued, and proper security procedures have been instituted to protect against terrorist infiltration.

On the judiciary:

We commend Former Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court for his defense of the display of the Ten Commandments, and condemn those who persecuted him and removed him from office for his morally and legally just stand.

On statehood:

We acknowledge that each state’s membership in the Union is voluntary.

By endorsing a candidate from the Constitution Party, Ron Paul has clearly shown that he’s no friend of liberty. Instead, he’s endorsed a theocratic government in which Christians would force everyone to comply with the demands of their faith at the point of a gun.

The fact that Ron Paul is still regarded as a defender of liberty within libertarian circles shows — yet again — the effects of rejecting any philosophical foundation for liberty. The word “liberty” loses all of its meaning, such that statists (and kooks) of all stripes are regarded as pro-liberty friends and allies.

Jul 282008

Yesterday, I got the following FaceBook message from Tom Stevens. (I’m reproducing it because it’s a form letter from someone wholly unknown to me.) It said:

I am the Objectivist Party Presidential Candidate and we need 9 registered Colorado voters to list as Presidential Electors. There is no obligation but if we do not get said registered voters, we will not be on the ballot.

If you could help by letting us list you, it would be appreciated.

In Liberty,

Dr. Tom Stevens
Presidential Candidate
Objectivist Party

I wrote up a quick reply, then realized that my comments might be of interest to NoodleFood readers. So I put a bit more work into it, so that I could post it here. (Be forewarned, I wrote the comments below before I realized that this guy is a Libertarian. More on that below.) Here’s my response:


I can’t grant your request. While I am a strong advocate of cultural and political activism, I think that attempting to change American culture via a third party is not just ineffective but downright counterproductive.

The problem with American politics today is not that Americans are looking for an Objectivist candidate but the major parties will only run statists. The majority of voters are reasonably satisfied with their choice between left-wing and right-wing statists on Election Day. Objectivists must work to change the culture toward secularism, reason, egoism, and individual rights. Only then can we expect better politicians to mount a credible campaign, let alone win elections.

That cultural change will be felt within the major parties — so long as Objectivists don’t sequester themselves into political irrelevance in their own unelectable political party. If Objectivists (and sympathizers) demand that the major parties court their vote, then political change for the better is possible.

The history of the political influence of the abolitionist movement bears out this analysis. Abolitionists created new political parties, some focused on the single issue of abolition and others broadly pro-liberty. All such parties failed to gather any significant votes; they had no positive impact. If anything, they had a negative impact, in that they siphoned off strong abolitionist voters that the fledgling Republican Party would have otherwise had to woo. Eventually, the Republican Party did adopt abolitionism — due to effective cultural activism, not those minor abolitionist parties. By uncompromising moral arguments, a small band of committed abolitionists changed American hearts and minds about the evils of slavery in just a few decades. (Brad Thompson discusses this fascinating political history in his excellent lecture course, American Slavery, American Freedom. Hopefully I’ve remembered it reasonably accurately.)

Today, if the small but growing number of Objectivists and sympathizers gravitate to an Objectivist political party, the Republicans and Democrats could safely ignore us for decades to come, knowing that they’ve already lost our vote. That’s a license for more statism, not less.

Objectivists should follow the same model as the abolitionists: change American hearts and minds, and the politicians will follow. Political advocacy can and should be a large part of those efforts to change the culture, as seen in the activities of the Ayn Rand Institute and Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). Unlike running wholly unelectable candidates for office, that kind of activism works. And that’s where Objectivists ought to be focusing their time and efforts.

After writing most of the above, I examined the web site of this proposed Objectivist Party in more detail. In my first look, I’d noticed a strongly anti-libertarian statement in the platform itself, in the form of this quote from Harry Binswanger:

The “libertarians”…plagiarize Ayn Rand’s principle that no man may initiate the use of physical force, and treat it as a mystically revealed, out-of-context absolute…In the philosophical battle for a free society, the one crucial connection to be upheld is that between capitalism and reason. The religious conservatives are seeking to tie capitalism to mysticism; the “libertarians” are tying capitalism to the whim-worshipping subjectivsim and chaos of anarchy. To cooperate with either group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one’s own future. (Harry Binswanger: “Q & A Department: Anarchism,” TOF, Aug. 1981, 12.)

So, I thought, however counterproductive the endeavor, it didn’t seem to be corrupt. That’s one reason why I was willing to write such a detailed reply to the request. However, on reading the biographical information on Tom Stevens, the founder and 2008 presidential candidate, it became perfectly clear that he’s a Big-L Libertarian in Objectivist clothing. See for yourself:

Dr. [Tom] Stevens is the Founder of the Objectivist Party. He was elected to the Judiciary Committee of the Libertarian Party in 2006 and re-elected in 2008. He served as a New York State Delegate to the Libertarian Party’s National Convention in Atlanta in 2004, Portland in 2006, and Denver in 2008. He currently serves as President of the Libertarian Freedom Council, a national organization of students, young professionals and entrepreneurs and also serves as a member of the LPNY State Committee. In the Republican Presidential Primary, he was a supporter of Ron Paul and served as Political Consultant and New York State Coordinator for the Paul For President Coalition.

(I might add that I find other aspects of the biography, particularly the range of college-level courses that he’s taught somewhere unspecified “during the past few years,” as suspect.)

So that makes clear to me the value of this endeavor so-called “Objectivist Party.” Libertarians are not allies in the struggle for liberty. So while I think that my comments above are worthwhile as general points about political and cultural activism, this request was not worth so many electrons.

Update: July 3rd, 2009: For all that you need to know about Tom Stevens’ view of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, see his blog post Farrah Fawcett’s E-Mail Reveals Ayn Rand Thought Their Sharing The Same Birth Date Had Significance. First, you’ve got to be kidding — only he’s not. And second, UGH.

Singleton on Libertarians

Jun 122008

Alex Singleton of the British Telegraph made the following interesting statement about the British Libertarian party:

What it will do, like the Libertarian Party has done in the United States, is to tarnish the libertarian brand, allowing the crazier aspects of libertarian thinking to come to the fore, and achieving nothing of any merit.

I don’t know anything about the UK Libertarian Party so I can’t comment on them. But there is the interesting issue (which Singleton did not pursue) of why the American LP has allowed the “crazier aspects” to dominate.

A good place to start is Ayn Rand’s own critiques of Libertarians here and here. Peter Schwartz has made similar comments here.

If a political party purports to defend “liberty”, but it takes the position that no proper philosophical grounding is necessary to defend that view, and hence it welcomes “supporters” who advocate all manner of good and bad philosophical views as equal allies in the cause of liberty, what will be the natural outcome?

Just as Gresham’s Law states that, “Bad money drives out the good”, the philosophical equivalent is that bad ideas will drive out the good whenever their respective adherents attempt to cooperate as a political party.

Over time, the inevitable demands to compromise will cause the better people to lose to the worse ones, and the crazier elements of the party will soon dominate. As Ayn Rand astutely noted:

“In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

The same is true of compromise between those who trade in genuine currency and those who trade in counterfeit money. Or between genuine defenders of freedom and the faux defenders.

For further discussion on this interesting topic, I also recommend her thought-provoking essay, “The Anatomy of Compromise” from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Here’s one brief excerpt to whet your appetite:

The three rules listed below are by no means exhaustive; they are merely the first leads to the understanding of a vast subject.

1. In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

2. In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

3. When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

Alex Epstein on Market Neutral

Mar 112008

In this 35 minute “Market Neutral” podcast, Chip Hanlon interviews ARI’s Alex Epstein. The description reads: “Ayn Rand Institute analyst, Alex Epstein, discusses government’s proper role in ‘fixing’ the subprime mess. He also weighs in on Libertarians, with remarks that may surprise given the recent euphoria surrounding long-shot presidential candidate, Ron Paul.” (Via Mike)

I was able to listen to this podcast in early January. It was definitely interesting, particularly the comments on Ron Paul and libertarianism. I’m not sure that I agree with Alex’s analysis of libertarianism, but it was good food for thought.

Update: I recalled what in particular I disagreed with in Alex’s analysis of libertarianism. It’s posted in the comments.

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