Thursday, December 31, 2009

Objectivism & Politics, Part 37

Politics of Human Nature 21: Conclusion. What can be gathered from this long series of posts on politics and human nature? Mainly, three major points: (1) Human nature is heterogeneous, that is to say, the innate propensities influencing political behavior vary from individual to individual; (2) An individual's vocation often accentuates these propensities, so that, for example, an individual with innate talents for using force will become even better at using force if he joins the military, an individual with an innate talent for manipulation will become even better at manipulation if he becomes a politician, etc. etc.; (3) These innate differences and the intensification that comes about through the division of labor in society accentuates a tendency towards faction.


Why is faction important? Because the presence of faction in political society will effectively prevent Objectivist political ideals from ever being implemented under a representative system of government. What I have sought to show in the "Politics of Human Nature" series of posts is how various psychological, vocational, and social types are biased against laissez-faire, so that they could never be counted on to support such a policy. They may be biased by reason of innate personal inclination, by reason of vocational interests and sentiments, or by reason of social interests and proclivities. This rooted bias against laissez-faire is widespread, intractable, and incurable. The overwhelming majority in both the ruling elite and the masses don't want laissez-faire—they have no use for it. Nor does there appear any convincing evidence that this can change without a prior change in human nature. Having a government that interferes in economic affairs, sometimes less so, sometimes more so, is merely part of the human condition.

Objectivism seeks to attain its political goals through persuasion. Let's see how this is likely to work in practice. In order to for Rand's political ideals to be implemented as part of public policy, it is not enough that the 50%+1 of the nation support laissez-faire. To have any chance of having "real" or "legitimate" laissez-faire, Rand's so-called "separation of the state and economics" would have to be written into the Constitution, via amendments. (Even this would not be enough, but we will ignore what else would be needed for the time being.) Now getting a Constitutional amendment passed is very difficult. It would require very large majorities--at least as high as 80%. There will be powerful, entrenched interests (i.e., all those who have a stake in the present "mixed-economy" system) that will fight any movement toward laissez-faire with every means at their considerable disposal. This being so, where are you going to get your 80%? Which psychological type, which social type, which vocational type would likely support laissez-faire in large numbers? We know which types will oppose it in large numbers: bureaucrats, intellectuals, welfare recipients, the homeless, the uncreative, the unfortunate, the poor, the incompetent, etc. This group is probably large enough by itself to prevent the political implementation of laissez-faire. But when we look at other types, at other factions in society, the prospect becomes even bleaker. Will military personnel likely support laissez-faire? Not likely. There might be a few exceptions, but these are people who get paychecks from the government and live by force. Why would Objectivism’s variant of laissez-faire, with its moralistic disapproval of the initiation of force (including the force required for the taxation necessary to support a military), ever appeal to the typical militaristic mind-set? What about religious people? Well, Rand regarded such people as enemies to her political ideals (because religion is "irrational"); even if Rand were wrong about why religion people are enemies of her political ideals (the fact that someone is irrational about religion doesn’t necessitate that they will be irrational in other spheres of life), she is probably correct about the final result—i.e., the majority of religious people will likely oppose laissez-faire. What about businessmen--entrepreneurs and capitalists? Here is one class in which Objectivists could hope to find allies. But even among businessmen, there will be significant opposition (for reasons explicated in an earlier post). In short, by the time one goes through all of society, one would be lucky to find 10% of the population amenable to persuasion on the issue of laissez-faire. The biases against it run deep, into the very core of human nature and the institutional incentives embedded in society.

Back in the early sixties, Rand wrote to a fan: "We will only have to wait decades [for Objectivism to win] " [AR Letters, 596] Those words were penned almost 50 years ago. What has happened in the interval? Has Objectivism won? Not even close. Support for laissez-faire remains a fringe phenomenon. While there are many supporters of market Capitalism, few believe in the extreme version of Capitalism preached by Rand. They recognize it as being political unfeasible, legally incoherent, and economically undesirable. To desire it and think it the "ideal" system is to lapse into utopianism.

65 comments:

john said...

That's it? 37 essays just to show the hurdles we face to before proper government can come into being?

All in vain. You could have just asked us. We could have made that list in ten minutes.

The only difference is: you overestimated our chances (from you point of view).

I won't go down the list and show how you let us off easy, except for one item: You WAY underestimate the obstacle of worldwide religious belief and superstition. Everywhere you look religious warfare and religious oppression is growing in most alarming ways.

Well Mr. Nyquist, I hope your troops are buoyed by your conclusion of pessimism for the cause of Objectivism. I certainly am elated that things are not as bad as we usually conjecture. Maybe the vision of Ayn Rand can still eek it out.

John Donohnue
Pasadena, CA

Anonymous said...

"Everywhere you look religious warfare and religious oppression is growing in most alarming ways."

Well I looked out of my window but can't see any. What's the view from your windows in the US?

BTW can religious warfare and religious oppression grow in non-alarming ways?

Perhaps if you've bothered to read parts 1-36 you might, like me have learnt something.

Anonymous said...

"I certainly am elated that things are not as bad as we usually conjecture."

Ya don't say! We'd have never have guessed, right troops?

Anonymous said...

As for the military not supporting Objectivism, spot on! Not only would Objectivists send them to start wars in the Arab world they'd eventually set America fighting every non-objectivist nation. Plus, they even had discussed privitisng the health care of the military! So there would be no Army Dr.s and nurses! The military would pay insurance for these services! Which would mean the soldiers would ultimately pay for it from their pay-checks. Heck you might say fair enough but would the soldiers agree? Plus, you going to drag non-military, medical personal into war zones? Just not practical, yet the objectivists claim to love the military. Yet you can imagine the conversations between them and the generals "we really need to capture the enemy capital" The generals would say impossible without masive casualties. So, the objectivists would say, we'd rather die than live in this world! Well they'd rather the soldiers died than they did.

gregnyquist said...

John: "That's it? 37 essays just to show the hurdles we face to before proper government can come into being?"

I'll admit that the 21 posts (it's not 37: this post only concludes the "Politics and Human Nature" sub-series) merely scratch the surface; but doing full justice to the se psychological/human nature obstacles to laissez-faire would require several volumes, and this only a blog.

"You WAY underestimate the obstacle of worldwide religious belief and superstition."

I didn't really have the world in mind: I was thinking solely of America. I doubt that Rand was ever so unrealistic as to think that Objectivism could win out world-wide. She seemed, however, to have moments where she sincerely believed that Objectivism could win out in America, and that this could happen within a few decades.

Religion is such an obvious obstacle that there didn't seem any need to make a specific post about it. But is it really so very critical that it I am guilty of "WAY" underestimating it? Religion is just a manifestation of a deeper issue: the limits of human rationality, which has been discussed on this blog in some detail. Human beings evince a sort of functional rationality (which does not exactly accord with Objectivist "reason") when it comes to survival and reproduction. This functional rationality may even find extension toward promoting well-being, particularly in First World countries. But since motivation is essentially non-rational, conflicts and faction are inevitable; religion, politically speaking, merely provides yet another set of rationalizations to provide aid and comfort to various sets of factions.

john said...

Yes, my post was considering world wide. A human being is a human being and if Objectivist Politics and Ethics is the correct normative for man, it is not 'just' for the United States.*

Naturally, being closer to it in fact in the 20th century than any other culture in the world, Rand looked to America to be the brand leader.

Mr. Nyquist: "She seemed, however, to have moments where she sincerely believed that Objectivism could win out in America, and that this could happen within a few decades. "

The first part of that is understated, the second overstated. She always believed Objectivism, or the same under some other name, could win out. So do I. The "human nature" you think you have established as permanent and immovable is not. Not with consciousness being volitional.

However, it is not a sure thing BECAUSE consciousness is volitional. Western culture descended into utter superstition and Fascism for 1500 years after the end of Greece. It could do it again after the Enlightenment and the original American Revolution. And Objectivism.

Rand saw this. That is why your second phrase is an understatement. She was not optimistic for a quick reversal at the time she died.

I am proud to say it is looking more and more like Ayn Rand was wrong about that.

John Donohue

*Religious war and oppression IS increasing. I retract my "everywhere you look" if Mr. Anonymous retracts his narrow mindedness that the US is the only place we are discussing. Example: Nigeria, the largest nation in Africa is half-Christian, half-Muslim. They identify by tribe or religion, not as humans with universal natural rights. They hate each other. They kill each other. That's 150 million people Another example: the two factions of Muslims are STILL killing each other over the claim of ancestory back to some monk hundreds and hundreds of years back. And in the Middle East? ...

Anonymous said...

"Religious war and oppression IS increasing. I retract my "everywhere you look" if Mr. Anonymous retracts his narrow mindedness that the US is the only place we are discussing. Example: Nigeria, the largest nation in Africa is half-Christian, half-Muslim. They identify by tribe or religion, not as humans with universal natural rights. They hate each other. They kill each other. That's 150 million people Another example: the two factions of Muslims are STILL killing each other over the claim of ancestory back to some monk hundreds and hundreds of years back. And in the Middle East? ..."


Where do I, Mr Anonymous, begin with this drivel? As usaul when challenged the objectivist switches, of course he did not mean everywhere, when he said everywhere.
Yet again no evidence is given for religious oppression increasing and religious war to. As for Nigeria? I don't doubt the conflict may have a religious element to it, but like the vitaully all wats they all boil down to access over trade routes and resources. War is very expensive and it's highly unlikely that any war is fought pruely on religious grounds. As for the Middle East, of which you say nothing, that conflict between the Arab and the Isrealis is at heart over the resources in that area.
As for Nigeria, I find it hard to believe that the whole 150 million people hate each other! I doubt very much that the entire Christian population hates the entire Muslim population and wants to kill them and vice-versa. In the UK we have religious conflict in Northern Ireland but the majority of catholics and protestants did and do get on with each other. Again typical dogmatic statement from an objectivist but nothing to back it up.
Plus, how logical is "I will retract my statement if you retract yours" milarky. Gadzooks! We are no longer in the playground sir!

Anonymous said...

"...but doing full justice to the se psychological/human nature obstacles to laissez-faire would require several volumes, and this only a blog."

Bah! Ayn Rand could have done that in a single essay!

JJ said...

Anon doesn't like what you have to say so Anon reduces you to a mere mortal as compared to AR, who no doubt, would have been able to write it all out for us in a single short essay. Regardless, I think it was well thought out and am looking forward to more. Bravo, etc....

Jason

Anonymous said...

Erm...JJ anon was being ironic.

On the whole I do like this place.

I was being flippant when I said that AR could have done it in an essay, for all I know she did, but, like, badly, know what I mean?

Abolaji said...

"Religious war and oppression IS increasing. I retract my "everywhere you look" if Mr. Anonymous retracts his narrow mindedness that the US is the only place we are discussing. Example: Nigeria, the largest nation in Africa is half-Christian, half-Muslim. They identify by tribe or religion, not as humans with universal natural rights. They hate each other. They kill each other. That's 150 million people Another example: the two factions of Muslims are STILL killing each other over the claim of ancestory back to some monk hundreds and hundreds of years back. And in the Middle East? ..."
________________________________

As a Nigerian citizen who visited Nigeria in 2007 for my sister's wedding and 2008 for personal pleasure, and who has relatives living there safely at home, and just saw a friend who came into the country three weeks ago who is financially better off than I am, I can state confidently that while all kinds of tensions reside in Nigeria, the idea that your oversimplification of what goes on in Nigeria is valid is quite ridiculous.

Get off your Objectivist rationalist behind and learn about the world before making all kinds of moronic statements about it. Nigeria has 2 major non-traditional religions as you mentioned and many traditional ones, and there are sub-ethnic groups and sub-religious groups. People in Nigeria fight for various reasons from class warfare to ethnic divisions to religious disagreement to ideological differences to exploitation of oil resources in the Nigerian Delta region by foreign oil multinationals who have hurt the ecology of the region while fostering little development.

Educate yourself before making idiotic generalizations.
______________________________

As for Nigeria, I find it hard to believe that the whole 150 million people hate each other! I doubt very much that the entire Christian population hates the entire Muslim population and wants to kill them and vice-versa. In the UK we have religious conflict in Northern Ireland but the majority of catholics and protestants did and do get on with each other. Again typical dogmatic statement from an objectivist but nothing to back it up.
________________________________

Exactly. For one example, there are Yoruba Christians and Moslems who live side by side in the parts of Nigeria. While people with different religions can and do fight, it's only Objectivist rationalization that can make one confident of reciting uneducated philosophically inspired drivel as absolute fact without qualification.

john said...

I am glad you found a few pockets of stand-off or non-agression, if true.

These were the two items I read before opening my mouth.
Theism is an atrocity and subsumed under my usage of "oppression".

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/nigeria/index.html
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/nigeria-1.htm

john said...

attempting links again:


http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/nigeria/index.html

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/nigeria-1.htm

john said...

I guess you have to make full anchors:

NYTimes

Nigeria

Abolaji said...

John,

A deeper and experimentally validated theory for factional conflict was presented in 8th Chapter of "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer.

This is an interesting topic, but to cut a long story short, all I will say is that

1) human being fight over all kinds of differences.
2) most religious conflicts are also correlated with ethnic and political/resource control conflicts, because a prominent feature of many religions is to extend themselves by political control.

In other words, if you want to do business in Nigeria, you will learn a lot more by studying the nature of Nigeria and understanding what factors drive each conflict (often ethnic differences before religious ones, and even ethnic differences are correlated with economic differences) than to make some blanket proclamation that religion is the source of "increasing" conflict in a country that has already fought one civil war!

Abolaji said...

The second article is pretty good by the way. But again, arguing that religious conflict is on the rise in Nigeria is like saying that the influence of religion is on the rise in American politics. It's just empirically useless and so vaguely meaningful that it can be interpreted to mean anything.

Michael Prescott said...

"Western culture descended into utter superstition and Fascism for 1500 years after the end of Greece."

Objectivists often draw a hard-and-fast distinction between ancient Greece (the epitome of rationality) and the cultures that followed (cesspools of irrationalism), but I don't think this view is defensible.

Ancient Greece was hardly a paragon of rationalism, as E.R.Dodds demonstrated in his 1951 book "The Greeks and the Irrational." Even Periclean Athens (a very short-lived society) was a mixture of "rational" and "irrational" elements. The Greeks were more influenced by the pronouncements of the Delphic Oracle than by any treatises of Aristotle.

Rome was in many ways a far more "rational" society than Greece. It had a more sophisticated political system and a more elaborate and logical legal code, and its engineering feats far outpaced Greek accomplishments. After the breakdown of the republic, Rome was re-created as an empire, with a bureaucracy that was one of the marvels of human organization, and which permitted millions of people to live in relative peace, prosperity, and stability.

Even the Middle Ages, though plagued by superstition, were far from wholly "irrational." Major innovations in law, commerce, and engineering were made throughout medieval times. The network of mills throughout medieval Europe was an achievement no earlier civilization could have matched. "The Medieval Machine," by Jean Gimpel, details the remarkable progress made by medieval engineers and proto-capitalists. (Some of the same ideas are entertainingly dramatized in Michael Crichton's novel "Timeline.")

Though it's not a major point in this discussion, it irks me when Objectivists aver that the long period between the fall of Greece and the start of the Renaissance was a black hole. This oversimplified picture may be useful for polemical purposes, but it's a far cry from the truth.

Abolaji said...

Though it's not a major point in this discussion, it irks me when Objectivists aver that the long period between the fall of Greece and the start of the Renaissance was a black hole. This oversimplified picture may be useful for polemical purposes, but it's a far cry from the truth.

To cut Objectivists some slack, they are not the only ones that do this. The Medieval Ages being cast as being extremely backward because of the death of religion is a common narrative amongst atheists, I think, but I'm not sure which historian first rendered it or who noticed this story in atheist circles and argued for the right/revisionist side.

Anonymous said...

Mr Anonymous here, giving my details, which are Steven Johnston, Stockport, UK for anyone, like our Objectivist chum who seemed to take exception to the fact that I remained anonymous. Seems strange though that the only person that seemed bothered by that was an objectivist, surely he'd want to support my choice to remain anonymous? Life is about choices, right John?

John, is you really want to see religious oppression and a possible religious war have you heard of the ARI? Well they have such a downer on Islam they want the US to launch an all out nuclear strike on every Islamic country. Is that isn't religious oppression I don't know what is.

Most religious people I have met are men and women of dignity and integrity, just trying to make a living, raise a family, stay sane and live a good life.

The fact that you and I are atheists does not make us any smarter or 'better' than them. Does not make us any dumber or worse either.
When I look around the globe I don't share your view of increasing religious oppression and warfare. I mean where is this happening? In Europe? Asia? The Americas? Australaisa? Where John where? Is it worse now that it was during the Reformation? Or the Crusades?

All I've faced is some Muslim guys at work asking me if I'd read the Koran. Annoying I know as it do feel a bit uncomfortable saying no as some of them are friends. I understand how much their faith means to them and they are trying to save my 'soul', I suppose that is how they'd see it. Or I get the Mormons or the Jehovah's witnesses trying to tell me about the word of God. But that hardly amounts to oppression or warfare. Take a holiday in Rome, headquarters of the Catholic Church and you'll find gay bars even there! Yep, even the Pope is powerless to stop that! I do think you over-estimate the influence fo religion.

Anonymous said...

If ancient Greece was so cilivised how come this was the norm?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_greece

What would be the Objectivist answer to a civilised society built on slavery?

Anonymous said...

"Rome was in many ways a far more "rational" society than Greece. It had a more sophisticated political system and a more elaborate and logical legal code, and its engineering feats far outpaced Greek accomplishments."

Michael I agree with you up to a point but I'm sure this guy would have taken you to task on how rational a society Rome was.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartacus

john said...

I must respond but briefly. . .

Ayn Rand correctly identified that tribalism (ethnic differences defended by violence) is indistinguishable in essence from religious belief as expressed in political theocracy. Both are instances of collectivism. Additionally, so called "classism" is famously often driven by religion. Example: Muslim apologists bristle when told that they conquer, convert and enslave "by the sword," because they can spin statistics of 'not having killed too many people.' That's right, if you won't convert you are given the choice of becoming a second-class citizen and oppressed slave (higher taxes, limited civil rights etc) or being killed. If you wish to count that as a non-religious facet of Muslim oppression, have at it. Objectivists see through it. Any instance where sharia law is actually officially enforced or allowed to exist in fact is an atrocity. We don't care if you call it resource struggle, ethnic strife, tribal influence or in fact hatred over religion. It is all collectivism.

I hope Christians are not too proud of their moderation on this subject. There but for the Reformation and Enlightenment go they.

Rome had a period when the political system was nominally "a republic". We all know it descended into an Imperialist fascist state. Did they still know how to build a viaduct using reason? Yes. So did Hitler. If your political system enslaves and oppresses its own citizens, it cannot be characterized as "rational." I accuse all social democracies of the world of this type of contradiction, including the current manifestation of the United States.

Finally, conceded: Greece was not completely rational and there were some pockets of rationality during the ascendancy of Christian governance of Europe. No problem.

In fact, I will make another point in support of Mr. Nyquist's conclusion that prospects are fairly dim, when looked at a certain way, for the triumph of Ayn Rand's Objectivism.

In the history of the West, the periods of time are brief and the percent of influence is less than a majority, for "Objectivity." There was the partially objective element of classical Greece, which with the death of Aristotle and later the Helenes of Syracuse and Alexandria at the hands of Rome descended back into superstition and collectivism. There was the 1700s Enlightenment culminating in the birth of the US, in which theocracy and political collectivism was on the run. That has withered away to a great extent. Conclusion: most of the history of the West was Platonic, superstitious and politically not free, with these tiny pockets of liberation and objectivity as the exception.

This does not mean that Mr. Nyquist is correct and Objectivism is unfit for man qua man. Just because it appears that many human beings prefer supernatural belief, politically enforced obligations of interdependency without consent and a refusal of actual freedom and autonomy as too scary, does not prove his thesis. Just as she projected in Atlas Shrugged, the mass of the collective is impotent against the few if they wake up and step up to objectivity, reason as an absolute and the proper life of man as a free autonomous sovereign.

Anonymous said...

"Ayn Rand correctly identified that tribalism (ethnic differences defended by violence) is indistinguishable in essence from religious belief as expressed in political theocracy"

Did she? I think you are just stringing words together here. This statement just does make any sense.

Take America, on paper there should be a total seperation of church and state, yet it is one of the most religious countries on the planet and had been since the days of George Washington.

"Just because it appears that many human beings prefer supernatural belief, politically enforced obligations of interdependency without consent and a refusal of actual freedom and autonomy as too scary, does not prove his thesis."

I take it you are talking about the great unwashed here, the masses?
What nonsense, what patronising piffle and the irony of an objectivist stating this is cosmic. They are the ones that cannot think for themselves and turn to Ayn Rand, Piekoff and the ARI for the answers to everything.

"Just as she projected in Atlas Shrugged, the mass of the collective is impotent against the few if they wake up..."

I hear the sound of trains destined for the gas chambers...or am I being too harsh? All I can say is just try it buddy and you'll see how impotent the masses are.
As for the Enlightenment, you a fan of the great thinkers of that period then? Kant, Hume, Comte et al.

"If your political system enslaves and oppresses its own citizens, it cannot be characterized as "rational." I accuse all social democracies of the world of this type of contradiction, including the current manifestation of the United States."

Now, like Karl Marx, I would agree with John on this point. Freedom is an illusion under capitalism.

As for the nonsense of paying higher taxes under Islam, err...have you checked this? In some Gulf states like UAE, dubai etc there is zero tax, which surely you would approve of? Unlike say, for mischiefs sake that collectivst paradise that is Isreal, which had a looter friendly 42% tax rate! Ahh but you cry it is only that high to pay for the army to keep them nasty Muslims at bay. Again, correct, but they also have a welfare state. Which is collectivism/looting/mysticism/subjectivism/superstition at it's best/worst, right John?

Anonymous said...

Help me out here, Greg, John, anyone but is the ARI saying that the protection of Israel necessitates and justifies the extermination of the non-Jewish peoples of the Middle East?

Anonymous said...

Plus, is the ARI saying that as the Palestinians do not enjoy the right to self-determination, their resistance to Israeli occupation amounts to "aggression" categorically, quite independently of whether any Palestinians ever engage in aggression against Israeli noncombatants?

I understand that Objectivists view the Palestininas as 'savages' their words never mine.

Michael Prescott said...

"I'm sure this guy [Spartacus] would have taken you to task on how rational a society Rome was."

All ancient societies practiced slavery -- including Greece, as an anonymous commenter pointed out. There was no difference between Rome and other previous or contemporaneous societies on this score (except that Roman slaves were *sometimes* better treated).

That being the case, we have two options. Option #1 is to say that all societies prior to the abolition of slavery in the 19th century were "irrational."

Option #2 is to say that judging ancient societies by modern standards is anachronistic, and that defining "rationality" as "anything we consider good" is not useful.

"Reason" is not, in fact, a term with any normative content at all. It is value-neutral. The scientist working to develop biological weapons for terrorism is using "reason," even as he plots to kill millions. Reason doesn't tell us what our aims should be; it tells us only how to achieve aims we've already chosen.

For people who don't see this, the word "irrational" becomes a synonym for "behaving in a way that I find objectionable." Thus everyone in history, and in the modern world, who does anything we disapprove of is "irrational." Only we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are practicing "reason." For Objectivists, this means that Ayn Rand, her followers, and a small number of approved thinkers (Adam Smith, John Locke, Aristotle, etc.) are "rational," and everyone else is "irrational."

When the term "reason" is used this way, it is little more than an emotional ejaculation, equivalent to "Aristotle -- yay! Hegel -- boo!" Which is, in fact, what most of Objectivist theorizing boils down to.

Anonymous said...

I take your point Michael about judging ancient societies by todays standard and yes, I was the anon that pointed out that slavery existed in Ancient Greece.

But Spartacus was a man who lived in that time, grew up in the salt mines and said no, slavery is wrong and te only way he and his followers saw to end it was to destroy Rome. Was he so wrong? I admire what the Romans achieved, but Spartacus was the finest fellow that antiquity has to offer.

But that is slightly to go off the subject as have you read this?

"Muslim apologists bristle when told that they conquer, convert and enslave "by the sword," because they can spin statistics of 'not having killed too many people.' That's right, if you won't convert you are given the choice of becoming a second-class citizen and oppressed slave (higher taxes, limited civil rights etc) or being killed. If you wish to count that as a non-religious facet of Muslim oppression, have at it."

This from an Objectivist, know I don't know if John is a memeber of the ARI but haven't they posted on their website that Muslims must 'convert' to the Objectivist way of thinking or face being nuked off the face of the Earth? Aren't they as guilty of the 'convert or die' attitude?

Anonymous said...

"When the term "reason" is used this way, it is little more than an emotional ejaculation, equivalent to "Aristotle -- yay! Hegel -- boo!" Which is, in fact, what most of Objectivist theorizing boils down to."

And yet they wonder why the academic world does not treat them seriously...you couldn't make it up.

Resident said...

Abolaji,

"They identify by tribe or religion, not as humans with universal natural rights."

Your demand that they should cease identifying as anything but human beings seems pretty totalitarian to me!

"They kill each other."

Eh, the one side is attacking, the other defending. But such trifles never bothered Randians.

"the two factions of Muslims are STILL killing each other over the claim of ancestory back to some monk hundreds and hundreds of years back."

So this is it. You try to lecture others and then refer to "some monk" in Islam? Please ... Si tacuisses ...

Anonymous said...

Standard objectivist fare there Abolaji. You get a personal insult followed by a dogmatic assertion delivered in a shrill tone that would shame a left-wing street paper. By the time you’ve picked it apart and started to ask them questions they’ve gone.

Abolaji said...

Resident,

Those were statements originally made by John Donohue. Take them up with him if you have issues with them. If you share my disdain for that kind of reasoning, great. IF you have issues with how I responded, let me know.

Laj

Anonymous said...

Actually Laj they were made by:

John Donohnue
Pasadena, CA

Why he feels the need to tell us which city and state he lives in escapes me.

Resident said...

Sorry, Laj, I mistook you for the author.

My beef is indeed with the posting, not with your response.

However, I cannot agree with statements reducing this particular conflict in Nigeria to trade routes.

But the underlying problem is one that Randians share with non-Randians, that religious conflicts are somehow extra-bad, that it is somewhat okay to fight over things like trade routes but not over "religious" reasons (not a clearcut term either). Not that I condone Muslim aggression in this case. But comments like the one in question condemn both sides to a conflict, even that on the defense.

Another point, raised by Mr Prescott's posting:

The chief fault of Randian thought, the one why it calls itself Objectivist, is that it equals rational with good and thinks there is always only one rational position. However, it is clear that slavery is a perfectly rational institution, even if we may ethically condemn it.

Rational doesn't equal rationalist either, nor does it equal reasonable. Rationalism might be a rational view but IMHO hardly a reasonable one.

Resident said...

Anonymou,

"But Spartacus was a man who lived in that time, grew up in the salt mines and said no, slavery is wrong and te only way he and his followers saw to end it was to destroy Rome. Was he so wrong? I admire what the Romans achieved, but Spartacus was the finest fellow that antiquity has to offer."

The Spartacus you are talkin about exists only in film. The historical Spartacus had no intention of "ending slavery" or "destroy Rome" (for which, if he intended that, you would earn condemnation) but simply of freeing himself and his followers. A fine chap maybe but hardly the finest.

Xtra Laj said...

However, I cannot agree with statements reducing this particular conflict in Nigeria to trade routes.

I'm not sure where I did that. I think for the most part, the conflicts/tensions in Nigeria have always existed but have become more noticeable and salient because of global trade and technology of all sorts, so I disagree that they are due to the *growing* influence of religion.

Anonymous said...

"but have become more noticeable and salient because of global trade and technology of all sorts, so I disagree that they are due to the *growing* influence of religion."

The marxists here, which is just me I think, would agree.

Anonymous said...

Resident, his followers, this is Spartacus, were roughly 120 000. This goes to show why he is simply the finest fellow antiquity has to offer.

Yes, he lost and I believe that Rome would have followed him and his followers to the end of the earth to destroy them. If he did try to destroy Rome, then more power to his elbow.

Rome showed how cililized it was with how it dealth with the survivors of his army, they cruxified every surviving man, woman and child.

Resident said...

Laj,

sorry but I have no time for this "I did not say that" game when I never said you said that. But there is a comment above, responding to Donahue, that states:

"Where do I, Mr Anonymous, begin with this drivel? ... I don't doubt the conflict may have a religious element to it, but like the vitaully all wats they all boil down to access over trade routes and resources. War is very expensive and it's highly unlikely that any war is fought pruely on religious grounds."

Though this comments (I don't care by whom) notes some religious elements, it disregards them as unimportant in favour of trade routes (exactly what trade routes runs through Nigeria?) and economics.

Another commenter aptly calls this Marxist and I think it is a Marxist prejudice working here: that everything is about economics. Well, it isn't.

What the actual causes for the Nigerian situation are is not for us here to decide. There is indeed the question why Muslims in the north suddenly insisted on becoming increasingly suppressive but I don't think economics is the main answer to that.

"it's highly unlikely that any war is fought pruely (sic!) on religious grounds."

I can agree with that - but looking for that purity is anyway nonsensical in this world.

But that doesn't mean that religion is merely a pretext all the time. Nor does that mean that a war fought primarily for religious reasons is ipse facto bad or worse than one fought for non-religious reasons.

Resident said...

Hi Spartacus,
where have you been. We searched for you but you didn't show up.
Sorry, I don't think numbers decide who "the finest fellow" of antiquity is. If it did, Alexander and Xerxes would certainly beat and. And did you really actually have all that men or where you simply one among several leaders?

Maybe what Crassus did was the most civilized thing in the world, but when your men crucified their prisoners it wasn't exactly great either.

If you tried to destroy Rome (which you never did), then an axe to your ellbow. All you wannabe destroyers of civilization have never come up with anything better. Just chaos and disorder.

Anonymous said...

Well Spartacus can’t make it today but George Washington can and he has this to say.

“You are correct; I never came up with anything better than the British had. King George and Parliament were as civilised as my times got, I am sorry I fought a war against them as my laws were just the same as theirs. Can you believe I whined that the penalty for disobeying the King and Parliament were fines, flogging, improsinemtnet and death. Can you guess what the penalties for disobeying my laws were, yep the same!”

Anonymous said...

More from Washington:

“Hell I tried to separate the church and the state in the republic but I couldn’t even get that right. There isn’t a senator that does not believe in god, in fact in some of the Southern States some senators claim to have actually met Jesus. I even fell out with Tom Paine as he was upset that I kept slaves, but then, didn’t everybody? I mean keeping slaves was acceptable…that Lincoln! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, curse his bones. In fact when it came to voting, well I was not going to let the slaves vote, as for the native American Indians don’t make me laugh…ditto for women to! In fact, only around 1 in every 30 adults over the age of 18 I gave the vote. But look on the bright side King George didn’t gave any of us the vote.”

Abolaji said...

Resident:
sorry but I have no time for this "I did not say that" game when I never said you said that.


Agreed, and I have asked Marxist "Anonymous" to use a distinctive signature to sign his posts or to number himself so that his identity can be tracked with no success. But one of the things that I hope we can agree on is that there is a risk of being misinterpreted when we respond to comments based on our synopsis of them without taking time to figure out who said them and how they were intended to be received. If you quoted who you were responding to when responding and maybe attached a name to the post, as you just did, this could have been easily avoided.

I agree with the substance of just about everything you've written.

Anonymous said...

“have asked Marxist "Anonymous" to use a distinctive signature to sign his posts or to number himself so that his identity can be tracked with no success. “

I feel terrible now, obviously a number of you are confused, well at least two of you are. Can you forgive me?

Anonymous said...

"I agree with the substance of just about everything you've written."


That’s just what Milton Friedman said about Keynes.

Abolaji said...

That’s just what Milton Friedman said about Keynes.That’s just what Milton Friedman said about Keynes.

And he obviously did (maybe not to you, but to me).

As for the problems with not signing your name, it's a problem with *everyone*. It's the few that choose to engage you that will make it an issue.

Anonymous said...

Well I don’t wish to cause any issues with the men and women of this site, who have better things to do than engage with me. On an intellectual level of course. I could not, countenance, engaging on any other level.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_von_Bismarck#Health_Insurance_Bill_of_1883

Whilst we are asking favours of each other can I ask one of you? I’m not sure if you, Laji, do use meaningless terms like “semi-socialist countries” or using terms like “socialised medicine”. If you do will you and others please, please, please stop. The state providing ‘free’ medicine is nothing to do with socialism, as my above wikipdeia link shows. Nor is nationalisation or welfare or any of the other reforms carried out in the name of ‘socialism’. Socialism is nothing to do with reforming capitalism. Got it? Phew! Glad we cleared that one up. If you want someone to blame for ‘socialised medicine’, welfare or nationalisation why don’t you try the conservatives, Bismarck was one and it’s him and his ilk that are to blame for all the above ‘ill’s I mentioned.

Steven Johnston

Resident said...

Dear President Washington,

I do not fault you for fighting this war - but neither do I pretend that you are this great, unprecedent, unsurpassable heroic figure. (But please, change your wet clothes when you come in from the fields.)

But you obviously do not understand what separation of church and state - a concept not contained in the text of the U.S. constitution nor in the 1st amendment but over time nonetheless established in all U.S. states - means: it does not mean that the people cannot elect whomever they please into office.

So if there is no atheist among Senators (if that is true) I can only say: so what!

Resident said...

Abolaji,

Thanks for your response.

"But one of the things that I hope we can agree on is that there is a risk of being misinterpreted ..."

Absolutely! The various anons and the various ways of quoting and responding confused me in the beginning, which is why I later desisted from adressing people and only referred to comments which are as good or bad as they are regardless of who made them.

"I agree with the substance of just about everything you've written."

Thanks!

Steve,

I don't think that the German health care system, started (somewhat) by Bismarck and necessarily be compared to other forms of "socialised health care" (note: not socialist health care) as practised for instance in the English NHS. I know too little about the proposed American system to comment on it.

Anonymous said...

Geroge Washington responds.

Thank you Resident, but the awful truth is I'm was just a another of the

"...wannabe destroyers of civilization have never come up with anything better. Just chaos and disorder."

At least Spartacus wanted to free the slaves, I regret not listening to Tom Paine over that matter.

Resident said...

Dear dead former President,

I don't see when you tried to burn London to the ground, and pillaged Warwickshire.

I don't see when you tried to dismantle the functioning thirteen states then in exinstence in North America to replace them with chaos.

But maybe Mr Pain would have done so. I suspect so. You shouldn't associate with such low-lives as him.

Anonymous said...

Washington responds.

“Right just to clear up over my buddy Spartacus, when he said he would destroy Rome, he did not mean physically destroy Rome! Just the principles on which it stood. You’d make a good spin Dr. Resident, I don’t feel too bad about myself now.

As for Tom Paine being a low life we should never have left him help frame the constitution. You, and that shining example of virtue Theodore Roosevelt are correct when you describe him as low-life.

Good to see my war on civilization was right and Spartacus was wrong/

Don’t talk to me about the US constitution I wrote the freaking thing! I framed it so the principles of it were not based on the Christian religion, now look at the Senate, it’s full of these pompous, stuffed shirts spouting religious BS, all trying out do each other on the religious front. Not what we founding fathers intended. “

Anonymous said...

Washington writes.

"I don't see when you tried to dismantle the functioning thirteen states then in exinstence in North America to replace them with chaos."

True, but in fairness to my nemesis King George, neither did he.

Anonymous said...

“I don't see when you tried to burn London to the ground, and pillaged Warwickshire.”

Had Washington, in order to save the republic, been forced to do both, or either of these, what would you have liked him to do?
Remember that America was a colony of the British Empire, in a sense if was part their ‘Rome’


Steven Johnston

Resident said...

Mr Washington,

"my buddy Spartacus, when he said he would destroy Rome, he did not mean physically destroy Rome!"

Only he did not say it. Don't project your urges on other beings. How can you be buddies if you never met?

"You, and that shining example of virtue Theodore Roosevelt are correct when you describe him as low-life."

I don't feel to bad about being in the company of Teddy Roosevelt. Maybe he is overrated as a president but so are you!

"Good to see my war on civilization was right and Spartacus was wrong"

You waged a war on civilisation? I thought you left this to Mr Paine.

"Don’t talk to me about the US constitution I wrote the freaking thing!"

No, you didn't! And everybody can read it so we don't need the supposed author explaining it.

"I framed it so the principles of it were not based on the Christian religion, now look at the Senate, it’s full of these pompous ..."

Again, there is no requirement for the people - whom the constitution gives the selection of Senators and Representatives to elect non-Christians if they feel others are more qualified.

"True, but in fairness to my nemesis King George, neither did he."

King George doesn't need your fairness as nobody had accused him of that. At best your statement vindicates Crassus as he crucified those who crucified (some of) their prisoners before. I wouldn't go that far.

Resident said...

Mr Anon,

"Had Washington, in order to save the republic, been forced to do both, or either of these, what would you have liked him to do?"

As I am not American, I have no inclination of thinking the well-being of your revolution (bei it justified or not) justifying any means.

Anonymous said...

Washington responds.

“I was overrated as a President? Maybe, but at least I was not a proto-Hitler like Teddy was.

Though when I said, government of the people, by the people for the people that was just BS. I mean I only gave 1 in 33 of them the vote!

How did I get away with it? King George & Parliament gave 1 in 4 the vote, though not in the colonies of course.

As for waging a war on civilisation, I was fighting British civilisation, which at that time was the most civilized country on the planet.”

Abolaji said...

Steve (who I presume is also Spartacus):

Whilst we are asking favours of each other can I ask one of you? I’m not sure if you, Laji, do use meaningless terms like “semi-socialist countries” or using terms like “socialised medicine”. If you do will you and others please, please, please stop. The state providing ‘free’ medicine is nothing to do with socialism, as my above wikipdeia link shows. Nor is nationalisation or welfare or any of the other reforms carried out in the name of ‘socialism’. Socialism is nothing to do with reforming capitalism. Got it? Phew! Glad we cleared that one up. If you want someone to blame for ‘socialised medicine’, welfare or nationalisation why don’t you try the conservatives, Bismarck was one and it’s him and his ilk that are to blame for all the above ‘ill’s I mentioned.

I cannot honor this request. You have a very different view of human nature (and language) from myself. One of the problems I have dealing with Marxists, who are to me very similar to Objectivists (intellectuals taken up with a ideologically charismatic Jewish genius with an insulated, rationalistic/anti-empirical and limited view of human nature) is that Marxists think that they can hide behind the claim that true socialism (or communism or Marxism) has never been realized and that we should not talk about the real world as being motivated by just the kinds of ideas Marxists and Objectivists preach when the shoe fits. Only perfect Marxism or Objectivism would truly work (of course, they then point to limited examples of what they desire when it suits them, but that is another story).

This to me is nonsense. The main reason why Marxism gained traction was because it claimed to be a scientific solution to the kinds of problems that social democrats and egalitarian liberalism saw with capitalism. Peter Singer has pointed out that Marxism has a view of human nature that is not compatible with what evolutionary biology etc. is bringing to light and that if the Left wants to be realistic about its commitment to egalitarianism, then it needs to incorporate what science says about human nature into its criticism of inequality.

You can't restrict people from associating the desire equality under socialism etc. with government policies driven with the egalitarian vision in mind. I cannot stop people from talking about capitalism as being motivated by greed and competition and promoting inequality and having no inherent safety net for the not-so well off.

I'm of the opinion that if more leftists had a deeper appreciation for what science says about human nature, I would over time become a leftist because that is where most of my natural sympathies lie. I want an equality fostered by strong charity but not charity so heavy handed that it destroys competitive incentives and induces poverty. Moderation is not a bad thing you know!

Resident said...

Mr W.,

what corner of this world are you from that you regard Teddy Roosevelt as a proto-Hitler?

You must be Anglo-American of course since you view Britain as the most civilised country on the planet. How convenient.

Anonymous said...

Actually Laj the SPGB, of which I am a member has been quite consistent on what socialism is and isn’t since it’s inception since 1904.

But thank you for taking the time to respond I really wish I could take the time to answer your question, but I’ll have to duck that one, for various reasons but would love it if you were to e-mail your query/questions raised here to enquires@socialiststudies.co.uk

One point though, please don’t ever become a leftie! There is a world of difference between a leftie and a socialist.

On our website you’ll find a rebuttal of the criticisms Pete Singer levelled against socialism.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

I’ll do a deal with you laj, if you can visit our website and find any support for reforms of capitalism, such as the NHS, welfare etc I’ll eat my hat. If you can’t will you please stop saying they are socialist policies or use such terms ‘socialised medicine’

Just type Socialist Studies into google you’ll find us.

Steven Johnston

Anonymous said...

Resident, it pains me to say it, but at the time of the War of Independence Britain probably was the most civilized country on the planet.

As for the Teddy Roosevelt comments, they came from an American.

gregnyquist said...

John: " The 'human nature' you think you have established as permanent and immovable is not. Not with consciousness being volitional."


This is a palpable non sequitur. Merely because "consciousness" is volitional does not mean that there are no innate desires or emotive tendencies that will bias the choices people make in one direction or another. The scientific evidence for such tendencies is enormous. The evidence for Rand's view of the matter? We're still waiting on that one. I've been asking this question for nearly 20 years: where is the evidence for Rand's view? I'm still waiting for an answer.

"[Rand] always believed Objectivism ... could win out.... However, it is not a sure thing BECAUSE consciousness is volitional."

Merely because "consciousness is volitional" (i.e., they can choose) does not mean Objectivism can win. Not all choices are equally likely. Depending on the psychological type, certain choices are far more likely than others. For example, people can choose to cut their arms off: in that sense, it is in the realm of the possible. But I'm not going out on a limb to suggest that very few people would ever choose to do such things; and if some philosopher created a movement based on amputating limbs, his ideology would never "win out."

Estimates on the likelihood of behavior is an important component behind the logic of the social sciences. It allows us to make estimates as to what is likely, what is possible, what is improbable, and what is nearly impossible in the realm of social action. Applying this methodology to Objectivism, it is difficult to conclude that Objectivism will ever win out. There are far too many people who are, for psychological and economic self-interest reasons, intractably biased against it. (In addition, there is the problem in Objectivism of too many empirically dubious claims, but that is a consideration affecting only a handful of people.)

Abolaji said...

I’ll do a deal with you laj, if you can visit our website and find any support for reforms of capitalism, such as the NHS, welfare etc I’ll eat my hat. If you can’t will you please stop saying they are socialist policies or use such terms ‘socialised medicine.’

Steve,

I wish I could continue this discussion in good faith, but I cannot. I think it is a shell game that Objectivists (and Marxists) play. Objectivists play a more mixed form, moving between their capitalist ideal, and claiming that America was able to benefit from being as close to it as possible. In your case, you are arguing that because Marxists want to overthrow capitalism, they don't sympathize with leftist causes that reform or redistribute the wealth in a capitalist economy.

I can't remember who said of Marxism, "Good theory, wrong species!" Oh, it was E.O Wilson:

"What I like to say is that Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species. Why doesn't it work in humans? Because we have repro­ductive independence, and we get maximum Darwinian fitness by looking after our own survival and having our own offspring. The great success of the social insects is that the success of the indivi­dual genes are invested in the success of the colony as a whole, and especially in the reproduction of the queen, and thus through her the reproduction of new colonies.

This was I think one of the main contributions of the idea of kin-selection. We now understand quite well why most species of social insects have sterile workers, and therefore can have communist-like systems. In which the colony is all, the individu­al is only a part of the colony, and the success of the whole community is what counts far above the success of the individual. The behavior of the individual social insect evolved with refe­rence to what it contributes to the community, whereas the genetic fitness of a human being depends on how well it can individually use the society. We have become insect-like only by extreme contrac­tual arrangements."

http://www.froes.dds.nl/WILSON.htm

I find it hard to believe that anything will change that sentiment on my part. I could argue details all day long, but I know from experience how difficult it is to debate an ideology that does not subject itself to specific empirical criticism. I hope you understand this.

Cheers,
Laj

Resident said...

Anon,

"Resident, it pains me to say it, but at the time of the War of Independence Britain probably was the most civilized country on the planet."

How so? Is there some chart to measure civilizedness? It is just plain old self-centredness, thinking oneself the greatest. And because the U.S. wasn't around, you must of course think that its "mother country" would be next best thing. Well, there is not the next best thing and there never was!


"As for the Teddy Roosevelt comments, they came from an American."

So what? Am I to take nonsense seriously because they come from an American? Are American unable to develop a pathological hatred of other Americans, presidents included? Would you like to ask Mr Bush about it?