Saturday, August 11, 2007

Libertarians and Objectivists

Here is the letter that I referred to in my post below. I've gotten permission from Paul McKeever, who runs the Freedom Party, to make this available on my blog. I'm putting it here in it's entirety, uncut.

I'm also embedding an interesting video by Paul McKeever on the David Kelley/Leonard Peikoff split in Objectivist circles. For those not in the know, David Kelley is affiliated with the Atlas Society (formerly The Objectivist Center), and Leonard Peikoff heads up the Ayn Rand Institute (and was declared Ayn Rand's intellectual heir by Ayn Rand... you make whatever you want out of that sort of declaration). I intend to respond to both, but it might have to wait until after the Seminar.

You can also refer to an earlier post of mine on what you need to believe to be a libertarian. It might have some relevance here as well.
Hi Peter:

I will not be in attendance. For the record, my reasons are as follows (and you can quote me on this if you would like to do so):

1. As an advocate of committing to reality and to rationality, I think it is a vice to use drugs to escape reality, but I do not think it a vice to use drugs per se. As Canada's marijuana laws apply to consenting adults, I regard those laws to violate a person's life, liberty and property, and I condemn them as wrong. I openly advocate repealing said laws, and I regard Marc Emery's arrest as being a vicious act, and an act for which the governments of Canada and the USA deserve moral condemnation. I oppose, in no uncertain terms, the extradition of Marc or any other Canadian to the USA in respect of marijuana cultivation, purchase, sale or use (whether medical, recreational, or other). In these senses, Marc and his colleagues have my unmitigated support.

2. I openly support the ultimate goal of eliminating government intervention in the economy: I am a capitalist, and my party is unapologetically pro-capitalist. Freedom Party takes the view that just as today's level of collectivism was decades in the making, the feasibility of restoring individual freedom and a capitalist social system necessarily will take some time. Accordingly, Freedom Party proposes not revolutionary, overnight change of all collectivist policies and laws, but changes - at as fast a rate as is feasible - to policies that could actually be implemented at this point in time. As an example, we are in favour of eliminating the Ontario government's health insurance monopoly, and - simultaneously - eliminating Ontario's income tax. The reverse - imposing the monopoly and the tax - both happened in 1969. What is feasible one way is feasible in reverse.

3. Unlike the libertarian movement, Freedom Party rejects anarchism. We believe and fully promote a government the role of which is solely to defend life, liberty and property, and to remedy violations to same.

4. We reject the libertarian idea that the non-initiation of coercive physical force is axiomatic: we regard the non-initiation of coercive physical force as a principle that is the logical consequence of a commitment to reality and reason.

5. We reject the idea tolerated by libertarianism, and promoted by many libertarians, that individual freedom and capitalism are founded upon the whim of a supernatural being, upon the greater good, or upon the consensus of the governed.

6. We do not agree with the libertarian idea that life, liberty and property can be defended effectively by a government that has no particular commitment to reality, to reason, and to the idea that every individual's highest purpose is his own happiness. Ensuring freedom and capitalism are a government's legitimate ends, but commitments to reality and reason are its means. Those ends do not justify those means. Rather, those means lead to just ends. Freedom Party takes the view that if, and only if, government takes care of its own commitment to reality and reason when making decisions about governance, then justice, individual freedom and capitalism will be inescapable logical consequences.

7. Freedom Party rejects libertarianism's attempt to promote one or more conceptions of "liberty" as a political value that need not be justified on any particular metaphysics, epistemology or ethics. We will not put the cart - liberty - before the horses: reality, reason, and rational selfishness. If one advocates freedom on grounds of obedience to an alleged supernatural entity's alleged commandment, or on grounds of deference to popular consensus; or if one implicitly or explicitly treats such grounds as legitimate - the effect, if any, of the effort to promote freedom on such grounds can be nothing but tyranny. Individual freedom cannot be achieved by giving sanction to ideas that are dismissive, even scornful, of the facts of reality or of rational, independent thought.

8. Similarly, for an advocate of reality and reason to attend an event known to be a libertarian one - one which brings together people who share a commitment to a political principle, but which includes expressly accepts the notion that liberty can be grounded upon obedience to the whims of a supernatural being, or upon deference to popular will, the advocate of reality and reason necessarily implies that liberty does not depend upon a commitment to reality and reason; he effectively gives irrationality a pass, and an unwarranted reputation as a rationale for individual freedom. Yet, all the while, the enemy of the freedom he seeks is the very irrationality that he implicitly sanctions by his participation.

As an advocate of freedom, and as the leader of Freedom Party, I choose to withhold that sanction, because I think that justice demands it of me.

I trust you will understand my reasons, even if you disagree with them.

Sincerely,

Paul McKeever
Leader, Freedom Party of Ontario


16 Comments:

Blogger BBS said...

So much for the concept of having an open mind. I think he could use a one on one with Marc. Soon.

I guess you could say I'm no more of a Libertarian than Mr. McKeever but I choose to go to LSS not because I'm a Libertarian but because many of the concepts intrigue me. I relish the opportunity for some rational and irrational discussion. Throw in a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful location, some tunes and a pint or two of Liberty ale - what more could you ask for.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Libertarians arrived at their conclusion of no government because of their study of history showing that all governments no matter how small to begin with and no mater how limited originally by constitutions will always in the end grow into large entities that constantly erode personal freedoms. I have read extensively on the philosophy and they do an extremely good job of pointing out the many follies of government. The big question is whether or not a society can safely function with no government at all. For that reason although I think government could easily be removed from almost everything I have some unease about the no government at all proposal.

9:46 AM  
Blogger ALW said...

1. I don’t think McKeever makes any distinction at all between anarchists and libertarians. This does not seem like a tenable position.

2. As a recovering ex-objectivist, I can’t help but notice that “closed-system” advocates - like Peikoff, McKeever and Rand herself seem to base their certainty not on rationality, but total infallibility. Additionally, I can’t help but wonder what would become of non-adherents to objectivism in an objectivist world. Do these people have no sense of humour? Do they laugh at jokes that don’t have a rational premise? If they managed to smash one of the two great evils - the excess of the state - would they actually go out and enjoy or it would they sit around writing more articles mocking folks who go to church?

3. I find it particularly rich that McKeever claims to be “realistic” about how political change will come about - this from the dude who, like Austrian economists attacking Milton Friedman, spends more time alienating those who would be most sympathetic (like, say, the kinds of people who organize/attend the LSS) than focusing energy on unambiguous opponents.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALW: your conduct prove's McKeever's point. On your own blog, you advocate voting for....JOHN TORY.

Unbelievable.

12:28 PM  
Blogger ALW said...

Actually Anon, your comment proves my point: that objectivists are so anal-retentive they don't want any allies that don't commit to 100% of objectivist tenents. That makes for a mighty small pool you guys are fishing in.

John Tory (and my blog makes this clear) doesn't get me excited about politics. But he's better than Dalton McGuinty, so I'll support him. (Yet another psychosis that objectivists suffer from: comparing real-world options to imaginary perfect ones).

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Libertarian said...

ALW,

John Tory is worse than McGuinty. Supporting him shows that you are NOT a libertarian. NOT principled in your stances and you are only helping to propagate SOCIALISM.

I don't have to be an Objectivist to even know how pathetic one must be to support John Tory.

I might not agree with Mckeever's decision to not attend the LSS but at least the Freedom Party is committed to capitalism.

7:51 AM  
Blogger ALW said...

Hey Anon,

How is Tory worse than McGuinty?

I would have supported Stalin over Hitler, by the way. Do you disagree with that?

2:09 PM  
Anonymous libertarian said...

Yes I disagree with that. I wouldn't have supported Stalin or Hitler. Faced with evil vs. evil, I'll only choose good.

Just like I won't support McGuinty or Tory. If I don't have a Libertarian or Freedom candidate to vote for, I won't vote.

Tory is worse than McGuinty because he claims to be "conservative" but he won't even lower taxes. He has said clearly that he won't lower taxes. He is for more increased spending.

He doesn't have one capitalist policy! He is for more big government, more spending etc.

Because he can't differentiate himself from the Liberals, this makes him and his party irrelevant, don't you think? And support for him only sanctions more big government.

I don't think it is fair for a libertarian to criticize Mckeever while supporting Tory. That is, if you claim to be libertarian.

2:54 PM  
Blogger ALW said...

Yes I disagree with that. I wouldn't have supported Stalin or Hitler. Faced with evil vs. evil, I'll only choose good.

Based on that statement, I can conclude you prefer to face hyoptheticals than real world decisions.

John Tory isn't a conservative. But Dalton McGuinty is more of a statist than Tory. Since Tory is the only realistic alternative to McGuinty, I'll take that.

The fools who support the Freedom Party are fiddling while Rome burns. Change towards smaller government any any remotely libertarian or conservative movements have always come from within main parties.

You can pat yourself on the back for supporting the FP all you want, but doing so doesn't advance the cause of liberty in the political rea, because the FP has zero chance of electing any members.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous libertarian said...

If you think that you are advancing the cause of liberty by voting for Tory, you are living an la-la land.

If you think that change has ever come in the form of smaller government from ANY of the main parties, you ARE living in la-la land. Sorry to inform you but our federal and provincial governments have NEVER gotten smaller, EVER.

Wake up dude! The PCs are socialist, and if you support them you should be ashamed of yourself.

Don't knock us principled capitalists/libertarians/objectivists for supporting what we believe in.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Don't knock us principled capitalists/libertarians/objectivists for supporting what we believe in."

hear here.

9:31 AM  
Blogger P. M. Jaworski said...

If you're faced with the option of evil vs. evil, then not choosing is not an option. That option set would be evil vs. evil vs. nothing/abstain. You didn't provide that third option, so your example is faulty.

This is an argument about tactics, not an argument about who is or isn't a libertarian.

Objectivists maintain that a small government is of secondary importance. *All* libertarians do as well. No libertarian believes that a small government is an end-in-itself.

Some libertarians, like ALW, believe that working within the major parties may be an effective means of getting smaller government. Some libertarians, like Libertarian and third-party supporters, believe that this is an ineffective method of getting smaller government.

The third party supporters often cite history as proof that working within major parties fails. I used to think that this was a really good argument for supporting third parties. But then I wondered when, in history, a third party has been an effective vehicle at shrinking the size of the state. I cannot think of an instance.

"True" libertarians are found in big parties, third parties, in think tanks, in Objectivist circles, and so on. People make different judgments about effectiveness, and place their bets.

I put my money, for instance, in an index fund of the S&P 500. I believe this will be an effective way to maximize my returns over the long run. Others, just as interested as me in maximizing their returns, make different judgments. We can try to persuade one another that we are using the wrong vehicle for what are our common aims, but we cannot judge from the fact that I made this decision that I, in fact, do not want to maximize my returns. I do.

We can wonder about sincerity. But why not take people at their word, and try to encourage each other, and use different methods to attain our common and shared goal? That goal is a smaller government (for sometimes different reasons or motivations).

I choose to encourage everyone, since I, unlike Objectivists, do not believe that I have the unvarnished *truth* and can predict the future course of human history. I make judgments about what is most effective, but support everyone interested in social/political and economic liberty, since I'm not absolutely certain that my methods are best, and since I just don't know everything that needs to be known.

If you know the future, please tell me what stocks to invest in. Because the last week was brutal for my bottom line...

2:43 PM  
Anonymous libertarian said...

I know the future. It is bigger government. And it will be made bigger by the main parties.

It's the inherent nature of a political system that rewards compromise and deal making with special interest groups.

The future doesn't look bright. Vote libertarian/freedom or some other small principled party.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

''If you're faced with the option of evil vs. evil, then not choosing is not an option. That option set would be evil vs. evil vs. nothing/abstain. You didn't provide that third option, so your example is faulty.''

We have fixed the coin Keating, heads collectivism tails collectivism!

9:31 AM  
Blogger P. M. Jaworski said...

anonymous (last anonymous): I don't understand your comment.

If it's intended as a critical comment about what I said, then I'll ask you to read again the quote that you cite back to me.

If I say to you that you have all and only two choices: A vs. B, then you can't say that there is a third choice. It's a matter of logic, not a substantive point that I was making.

12:29 AM  
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5:41 PM  

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