North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Objectivism and Libertarianism

Objectivism and Libertarianism

A former member
Post #: 5
It seems that this topic is both popular and controversial, so I thought I'd add some literary and editorial references to the mix, with the intent of fostering rational discussion rather than "my party kicks your party's ass."

My interest in this topic has been dramatically renewed recently. I subscribe to Reason magazine, and I peruse the reason.com message board quite often. I was shocked to see a few weeks ago that, in response to an editorial posting on Ayn Rand, the libertarian masses expressed their negative views toward Objectivism, including gratuitous use of the "isolationist" and "cult" descriptors. Ironic, given that the Reason foundation was formed by several Objectivists, and that the magazine paid excellent homage for Rand's 100th birthday.

In doing further digging, I have been equally shocked at how much disdain there seems to be within Objectivist circles for anything Libertarian, especially considering that the latter describes the politics of the former. After some research, though, I am beginning to understand the issue causing this rift, and it does make a lot of sense.

The following is a very accessible comparison of Objectivism and Libertarianism, written by William Thomas at The Objectivist Center. He does a great job of highlighting the key points, and I believe a cursory review of this essay will show how certain types of libertarians could never call themselves objectivists, while other types of libertarians could, without self-contradiction, call themselves objectivists.
Objectivist Center Essay

This next one is a rebuttal by Walter Block of the now-famous Peter Schwartz piece ("Libertarianism: The Perversion of Libery," 1986) that came out guns-a-blazin' in opposition of anything remotely libertarian. Block's piece is not written terribly well, but it is a useful tool of analysis for putting Schwartz' attacks in perspective. I believe that, while Schwartz makes some very valid points, his arguments are largely ad-hominem and rely upon the validation of a libertarian stereotype he himself puts together. He presumes all libertarians to be theist, anarchist, nihilist, skeptic, or some combination of the four.
Whole thing here.

I am an unequivocal Libertarian; that is my politics provide for a laissez-faire system of both economic and social value, where the sole, but neccessary, purpose of any government is to protect its citizens from coercive force through the implementation of an objective system of adjudication and penalization. That I support a strong government, albeit limited to the role of arbiter and enforcer, means by definition that I am not an anarchist.

I believe that this "classically liberal" politics is not derived from man's God-given right to liberty, as the present administration believes, but that it is derived from a more basic ethical framework that does not require the presupposition of the existence of a supernatural being. That framework, when simplified a bit, is derived from one thing: Reason. That I embrace the Objectivist epistemology (how we know what we know), and the Objectivist metaphysics (how we exist and what existence is), means that I am neither a nihilist nor a sketpic.

It seems to me that the schism between Objectivism and Libertarianism strictly concerns the way one justifies (or chooses to be agnostic to) the ethical justification for an economic and social system in which value is freely traded and individual interests supercede collective interests. Objectivists approach the practical application of such a system from a philosophical base-- i.e. a laissez-faire system is the natural extension of a set of truths of knowledge, existence, and ethics. Many Libertarians, myself included, fall into that camp. Unfortunately, however, as William Thomas points out, there are people who subscribe to Libertarian political ideals but have no logical or reasoned justifications for those ideals. Anarchists, skeptics, theists, and moral subjectivists fall into this camp, and I concur whole-heartedly with Rand, Peikoff, Schwartz, et al. that they are all misguided.

Having said all that, it does raise an interesting question: do the political ends justify the means? Should Objectivists condone this second brand of Libertarianism if it means society embraces more pure forms of capitalism and less government coercion? Or to take a slightly different tack: several members of this board endorse the Republican party, a party which quite overtly relies upon the Judeo-Christian tradition as a foundation for its politics; is it appropriate for an Objectivist to condone a theistic justification, provided the political application is sound?

Perhaps these questions are overly provocative, but they seem necessary when we start discussing which political parties we endorse. Not all Republicans are Christians, not all Libertarians are Objectivists, and not all Democrats are pro-First Amendment. I don't believe there is such a thing as a political movement that maintains philosophical consistency and uniformity-- something Rand certainly understood-- but does that really mean that we are left with no choice but to conscientously object to any brand of politics where each participant does not explicitly reject subjectivism?

This, I believe, is the epitome of the reason an Objectivist political party would never work, as well as the reason the Libertarian party will continue to be marginalized and unsuccessful. The former cannot accept a political movement where every one of its constituents do not agree on the rejection of subjectivism, and the latter cannot come up with a unified justification for its laissez-faire politics. Note that the Republican Party uses a unified justification (religious dogma bearing family values), as does the Democratic Party (transfer of value for an egalitarian society and the 'greater good'). For us Objectivists, something is desperately needed to bridge the gap between the origin and the application of our ideals.
A former member
Post #: 161
Why is it that no one ever says anything about the Religious Left?
You know The Rev. Al Sharpton, The Rev. Jesse Jackson or Louis Faracon or how ever you spell his name. Yet, The Rev. Al Sharpton & The Rev. Jesse Jackson both have ran for prez. They both did real well also. I will also admit that Pat Roberson ran as well for the G.O.P. He also did pretty well. I just think when you make post about the Religious Right, you should also not forget that there is a Religious Left as well. Just a thought.




Jamie
A former member
Post #: 6
Jamie: you are right. Suffice it to say that both the Republican and Democratic Parties suffer from the same delusional acceptance of varying types of ethical subjectivism-- be it in the form of religion, cultural pandering, etc. I was not trying to advocate one over the other. Having said that, though, it seems to me that a Libertarian political framework that is congruent with Objectivist philosophy is more closely related to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party-- and as such I was merely trying to show that the Republican Party, too, is fraught with convictions that often run contrary to reason.
A former member
Post #: 163
Arron,


I wish I could really disagree with this point you made,

" I was merely trying to show that the Republican Party, too, is fraught with convictions that often run contrary to reason."

Very sadly I can not. Oh how I wish the G.O.P. would get back to the old days of better men like Barry Goldwater. Back to a real
" Republican " outlook on everything. It is my main hope that the G.O.P. does not get taken over by the, " Religious Right, " & some other " Sub Groups. " Yet they will not take my party without a fight. I do not have to fight them on Econ, they are right about thet. Yet some other things they are not as rational as they should be, thats for sure.




Jamie
A former member
Post #: 28
Hi All,
This is MOST EXCELLENT!!! Thanks Aaron and Jamie!!! I did want to ask who, besides Jamie, believes the republicans are not already overrun with religious zealots? Not saying the left isn't... Also, republican economic policy is mixed and certainly not "laissez-faire" although to some it resembles free market capitalism much more than the left. Unfortunately, economics in the "one party with two heads" is and has been the "status quo" that has driven us to the point we are at today and it is not a pretty picture. When one gives serious thought to how much of a shift there has been in manufacturing and processing from being domestic to now being foreign it boggles the mind. These companies are moving off-shore because our system is not laissez-faire. Foreign governments and peoples welcome these companies and the employment and productive wealth that they bring with them.

If libertarian laissez-faire were to be reinstituted in this country so many new businesses would spring up overnight that anyone who wanted to work would have many choices and employers would be very aggressive compensation-wise in hiring talent. There would be no unemployment with respect to anyone who truly wanted a job and to work and earn an honest living.

Hey, I'm going to leave it at that!

Thank you for your valuable time!

Sincerely,
Rob
A former member
Post #: 169
Rob,


I'd like to ask you why the libs are over run with nobody?
Why so few members? Why can't you win anything? Also why ask someone with no " REASON " anything? Like you say I am. You still have some crow to eat.


Jamie
A former member
Post #: 37
Here are some other articles on this matter:

http://www.aynrand.or...­


http://www.aynrand.or...­

http://www.aynrand.or...­
A former member
Post #: 29
Hi All and Jamie,

The Libertarian Platform is scary to most people because they haven't ever heard it, seen it, or lived it. The biggest obstacle libertarians have to overcome on the left is getting people off the public tit, the right needs to get their religion out of everyone's face, and both sides can't fathom a laissez-faire economy. We got the preachers lathering up the right...the race-baiters lathering up the left...and the libertarians just want to be left alone and not have the left legislating the theft of their wallets and the right legislating their bedrooms. Most libertarians are individuals who stand on their principles and one of those principles is to be left alone and to leave others alone. It's hard enough to get the "two heads" of the one party to agree on anything...now imagine how hard it is to get libertarians together! Libertarians have won many local and regional elections. The main reason why libertarians have a rougher time is they don't get the media airtime that the other candidates get just by the talking heads mentioning them or a story or event they are involved in. Generally speaking there is a "media blackout" against libertarians but we are getting around that now with the internet.

I don't recall saying specifically that "Jamie has no reason"... Perhaps your comprehension of the communication was in error and perhaps my choice of words, their assembly, and punctuation was not perfect in conveying my message. Either way, I only meant to cause "heartburn" for those people too insecure to KNOW whether they have reason or not...

The same thing goes for any perceived "insults."

Have you ever heard the saying "If the shoe fits, wear it?"

Your assumptions of my intentions and the directions of those assumptions are plainly and clearly your own.

I do not have to apologize or "eat crow" for anyone's (not yours specifically jamie or anyone else) perceived insecurities or erroneous assumptions (again, not yours specifically jamie or anyone else).

"DISCLAIMER"- None of my letters, numbers, symbols, words, combinations of letters and/or numbers, assemblies of and/or combinations of any of the aforementioned items, to include all fonts and sizes of fonts, styles of fonts, colors of fonts, punctuations, word spacing, line spacing, paragraph spacing, etc. et al...should be held to have been directed specifically at any person, place, or thing in and or at any time in the past, present, or future...in, on, and /or around any specific moon, planet, sun, galaxy, and/or universe...to include any sub-space continuum and/or anomaly, and/or any alternate, parallel, or opposing universes in and outside of the past, present, and future cosmos. All Rights Reserved.

That being said...we are all in this together whether we like it or not...eventually we will either hang together or be hung separately.

Thank you for your valuable time.

Sincerely,
Rob
A former member
Post #: 173
Rob,

You seem to have a prob making out that I & I alone missunderstood you.

Lets review in the last post you said,


" Your assumptions of my intentions and the directions of those assumptions are plainly and clearly your own."

I don't recall saying specifically that "Jamie has no reason"... Perhaps your comprehension of the communication was in error and perhaps my choice of words, their assembly, and punctuation was not perfect in conveying my message. Either way, I only meant to cause "heartburn" for those people too insecure to KNOW whether they have reason or not...



" The same thing goes for any perceived "insults." "



" Have you ever heard the saying "If the shoe fits, wear it?" "


I do not have to apologize or "eat crow" for anyone's (not yours specifically jamie or anyone else) perceived insecurities or erroneous assumptions (again, not yours specifically jamie or anyone else).


Lets also see what someone else said in this matter. Lets see if I am the only one that misunderstands you.

Todd said,

" Rob was insulting to others. "

" Rob, By clear implication, in the guise of paying me a compliment, you pointedly insulted Jamie and others on this discussion thread. Rather than apologizing and moving forward, your defense tries to be too clever by half, perpetuates the insult, and you try to make me a party to making your insult. "



" Regardless of what I think about them, you ( ROB) have called them irrational.... "


" as your ( ROB ) quick resort to insults demonstrates...."



" Perhaps, with time to reflect, an apology will be forthcoming...."




So am I the only one here that has a " misperception " or
" assumptions" on this? Do we misunderstand you? It appers that Todd also my have this " SO CALLED MISPERCEPTION "


Jamie
A former member
Post #: 9
Aaron,

Thanks for posting the comments. They sound reasonably fair and open minded. I was wondering what the main differences were between Objectiveism and Libertarinaism.

Norm
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