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Dormin111

What is ARI's current explicit view on "libertarianism"?

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I know Rand's and ARI's old view on libertarianism, but what is the current line in the wake of ARI's outreach over the last few years. Prior to their involvement with the Atlas Society, ARI worked with Students for Liberty, a libertarian organization which explicitly embraces a broad approach to political ideas, including the promotion of ethical bases for libertarianism ranging from Objectivism to leftist-social justice types. Yaron Brook and Don Watkins have also spoken to independent libertarian student clubs.

 

How do they reconcile these interactions with Rand and Craig Biddle's rejections of libertarianism, which to my knowlege have not been refuted?

Edited by Dormin111

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Yaron Brook, from here:

 

"I don’t think there’s been a significant change in terms of our attitude towards libertarians. Two things have happened. We’ve grown, and we’ve gotten to a size where we don’t just do educational programs, we do a lot more outreach and a lot more policy and working with other organizations. I also believe the libertarian movement has changed. It’s become less influenced by Rothbard, less influenced by the anarchist, crazy for lack of a better word, wing of libertarianism. As a consequence, because we’re bigger and doing more things and because libertarianism has become more reasonable, we are doing more work with them than we have in the past. But I don’t think ideologically anything of substance has changed at the Institute."

 

That sounds like a very significant change from the previous position.

 

J

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From Craig Biddle:

"IS LIBERTARIANISM AN EVIL DOCTRINE? Yes, if evil is the irrational and the destructive. Libertarianism belligerently rejects the very need for any justification for its belief in something called “liberty.” It repudiates the need for any intellectual foundation to explain why “liberty” is desirable and what “liberty” means. Anyone from a gay-rights activist to a criminal counterfeiter to an overt anarchist can declare that he is merely asserting his “liberty”—and no Libertarian (even those who happen to disagree) can objectively refute his definition. Subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain “wings” of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it. In the absence of any intellectual framework, the zealous advocacy of “liberty” can represent only the mindless quest to eliminate all restraints on human behavior—political, moral, metaphysical. And since reality is the fundamental “restraint” upon men’s actions, it is nihilism—the desire to obliterate reality—that is the very essence of Libertarianism. If the Libertarian movement were ever to come to power, widespread death would be the consequence. (For elaboration, see my essay “Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty.”)"

 

Putting aside for a second that the above quote is blatantly inaccurate, I don't see how Brook has made a significant change. If anything, he has completely ignored Biddle's position while reaffirming it.

 

Biddle says that libertarians are purposefully amoral. Brook says they less Rothbardian and more reasonable. Is the implication that Rothbardianism is amoralism and since libertarians are drifting away from that, they are beginning to embrace rational moral bases for liberty? If so, this is, again, a blatant misread of Rothbard. If not, then Brook seems to be saying that libertarians have always had moral ideas, but now they are getting better, in which case Brook disagrees with Biddle.

 

But even putting all of the above aside, is becoming less anarchist, less crazy, and more reasonable really enough to change ARI's current position? Why work with slightly better "evil," "irrational," "destructive," subjectivistic, nihilists?

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No doubt, whatever their view is, it will be totally riddled with random claims not backed up by any relevant citations or evidence.

...kind of like this post by you?

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Brook's explanation smacks of rationalization.  The Rothbard / Hess brand of libertarianism lost its dominance about forty years ago.  The ARI people wanted to make some strategic alliances and had to explain away their past statements.  This is what they came up with.

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From Craig Biddle:

"IS LIBERTARIANISM AN EVIL DOCTRINE? Yes, if evil is the irrational and the destructive.....

 

This was written by Peter Schwartz, not Craig Biddle.

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...kind of like this post by you?

I'm confused as to what kind of citations or evidence you would think that post to require? I mean aside from the two posts right above it which illustrate my point... Or the history of Objectivist writings on libertarianism, the vast majority of which, completely aside from content, does not conform to basic scholarly standards...?

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I'm confused as to what kind of citations or evidence you would think that post to require? I mean aside from the two posts right above it which illustrate my point... Or the history of Objectivist writings on libertarianism, the vast majority of which, completely aside from content, does not conform to basic scholarly standards...?

You could see what Dormin wrote above to get an idea. As written, your post said, "I don't know what their view is. Based on this (nothing), their view is probably crap."

If you're going to insult, at least have the decency to give a reason.

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Brook's explanation smacks of rationalization.  The Rothbard / Hess brand of libertarianism lost its dominance about forty years ago.  The ARI people wanted to make some strategic alliances and had to explain away their past statements.  This is what they came up with.

Indeed. Libertarianism hasn't changed. Brook's comments are rationalizations.

A truly Objectivist explanation would be to admit to the truth, which is that double standards have been, and continue to be, employed. The initial condemnation of libertarianism and the command that people not sanction its sanctioners was constructed as nothing but an excuse to punish or "excommunicate" certain people.

And it's perfectly transparent to rational observers. The Objectivist thing to do would be to apologize for past vices, not compound them.

Have you ever wondered why Objectivism isn't catching on in the culture? This is one of the major reasons. Those who are most prominent in wanting to lead the movement frequently and very publicly show themselves to be incapable of practicing Objectivism in their dealings with their own organizational associates and colleagues. They seem to think that they have the authority or charisma to convince others that an A is not an A.

J

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In addition to the essay On Moral Sanctions, The Intellectual Activist (while associated with the ARI and while Leonard Peikoff was listed as a contributing editor) also published an additional essay entitled On Sanctioning the Sanctioners which went even farther in identifying whom one must not associate with: those who associate with those who are not to be associated with!

 

On Sanctioning the Sanctioners

Copyright © 1989 The Intellectual Activist, Inc.
February 27, 1989
Volume IV, Number 20

Ayn Rand's principle of not sanctioning evil has an aspect that some TIA readers apparently do not see. It is clear why one should not, for example, sell goods to totalitarian states or provide shelter to escaping criminals or work as a PLO fund-raiser. Assisting one's philosophical enemies--i.e., those who hold values fundamentally antithetical to one's own--is ultimately harmful to one's own interests. And the corrolary of this principle is: neither should one sanction the sanctioners of one's philosophical enemies--e.g., the Armand Hammers and Donald Kendalls who have blazed the trail for trading with the Soviet government. It is irrelevant that such people may profess to be strongly anti-communist. They are in fact abetting communism--both materially and intellectually--thereby increasing the threat to the values of human life and liberty, and they deserve to be ostracized for it.

Two other, equivalent examples of philosophical enmity are of particular interest to TIA--and to those readers who have asked me why, in their words, "honest differences of opinion" cause me to dissociate from cerain individuals who "still agree with your basic philosophy." The first example is that of Libertarianism. Libertarians are patently not allies in the ideological battle for capitalism, regardless of how many free-market positions they may claim to endorse. Nor are those who support them (i.e., those who contribute to the Libertarian Party or lend their names to Libertarian magazines or promote Libertarian bookstores or serve as after-dinner speakers at Libertarian functions). They are all in fact furthering ideas and values fundamentally inimical to those of Objectivism. Consequently, TIA's editorial masthead, as well as Second Renaissance Book's catalogue of authors, categorically excludes anyone who openly preaches Libertarianism--or who supports the preachers. It is dishonest and self-defeating to treat such people as partners in the cause of reason, egoism and capitalism. They are not.

The second example pertains to one's view of Ayn Rand. There are those who, not content to distort and disparage Objectivism, feel compelled to smear Ayn Rand as well. They launch hostile personal attacks against her--they denounce her for allegedly causing those who agree with her to live unhappy lives--they concoct ax-grinding, arbitrary psychologizings about her--they strive to tarnish her achievements and to "humanize" her character by bringing her down to their own sorry level. This attitude, unsurprisingly, generally goes hand-in-hand with a sympathetic view of Libertarianism, and I disavow both camps for the same reason: they represent irrational, unjust assaults upon profoundly important values. I have no significant values in common with those who explicitly hold such odious views--nor with those who, by their actions, implicitly endorse them. If those views constitute "honest" disagreement on the part of people objectively seeking the truth--then the concepts "honesty," "objectivity" and "truth" have been stripped of all rational meaning; and then everything, from communism and religion to terrorism and Libertarianism, becomes just a matter of opinion. Those who hold such a position are free to peddle their beliefs wherever they wish--but will simply have to do so without my cooperation.

 

 

J

 

 

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Putting aside for a second that the above quote is blatantly inaccurate, I don't see how Brook has made a significant change. If anything, he has completely ignored Biddle's position while reaffirming it.

Biddle says that libertarians are purposefully amoral. Brook says they less Rothbardian and more reasonable. Is the implication that Rothbardianism is amoralism and since libertarians are drifting away from that, they are beginning to embrace rational moral bases for liberty? If so, this is, again, a blatant misread of Rothbard. If not, then Brook seems to be saying that libertarians have always had moral ideas, but now they are getting better, in which case Brook disagrees with Biddle.

Yaron Brook isn't trying to change anyone's views on Libertarianism.

Yaron Brook has shown that he is willing to work with and be polite to anyone who is respectful, reasonable, and isn't seeking to undermine Objectivism, irrespective of what he thinks about their ideas. ARI has been interacting with religious people, liberals, libertarians, nationalists and other ideologues, both in the US and abroad.

That's not a philosophical statement of any kind. You're reading too much into someone saying "we think they're OK, they've come a long way since the old days". That's diplomatic pleasantries, not someone trying to analyze a philosophy. All he said was that Libertarianism has become less crazy. He never said that they've become philosophically compatible with Objectivism.

That's not why ARI works with them. It's because ARI is willing to work with almost anyone, so long as it allows Ayn Rand's philosophy, or at least her name and a few of her ideas, to reach people who would otherwise not hear them. In the past, Libertarianism couldn't do that. No one sane was listening to Libertarians, because they had nothing sane to say. Lately, they've been becoming more and more relevant.

 

The initial condemnation of libertarianism and the command that people not sanction its sanctioners was constructed as nothing but an excuse to punish or "excommunicate" certain people.

Excommunicate who? Murray Rothbard? When was he ever "in", and in need of excommunicating? What are you talking about? Why would Rand want to "punish" random Libertarians?

No, that's not what's going on. When Rand, or Schwartz, or anyone else expresses a negative view on Libertarians, they are expressing a philosophical stance. A well argued, sensible stance against anarchism and other terrible views. No different from speaking passionately about Marx, or Kant, or Ronald Reagan, or anyone else.

And when a Libertarian or three of them come in here and fail to so much as address the arguments, and instead launch into wild speculations about their motives, that's just as aggressively, stupidly irrational and insulting as if a communist decided to stroll in here and declare that Rand was wrong about Marx and was only railing on him because she had a secret beard fetish. 

 

Not only that, but anyone denying that she had a beard fetish is un-Objectivist, and the main reason why Objectivism isn't more popular. How dumb is that?

Edited by Nicky

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Yaron Brook isn't trying to change anyone's views on Libertarianism.

Yaron Brook has shown that he is willing to work with and be polite to anyone who is respectful, reasonable, and isn't seeking to undermine Objectivism, irrespective of what he thinks about their ideas. ARI has been interacting with religious people, liberals, libertarians, nationalists and other ideologues, both in the US and abroad.

That's not a philosophical statement of any kind. You're reading too much into someone saying "we think they're OK, they've come a long way since the old days". That's diplomatic pleasantries, not someone trying to analyze a philosophy. All he said was that Libertarianism has become less crazy. He never said that they've become philosophically compatible with Objectivism.

That's not why ARI works with them. It's because ARI is willing to work with almost anyone, so long as it allows Ayn Rand's philosophy, or at least her name and a few of her ideas, to reach people who would otherwise not hear them. In the past, Libertarianism couldn't do that. No one sane was listening to Libertarians, because they had nothing sane to say. Lately, they've been becoming more and more relevant

 

ARI's leadership has published and publicly endorsed Peter Schwartz's article, "On Moral Sanction" (linked above), in which Schwartz viciously condemns libertarianism as not just incompatible with Objectivism, but explicitly anti-Objectivist by way of subjectivism and nihilism. Arguably, "On Moral Sanction" could be considered a metaphorical "founding document" of ARI right along side "Fact and Value." Though both were published a few years after the start of ARI, they represent the moral assertions at the basis of the Peikoff-Kelley division, and thereby differentiate ARI from other Objectivists. In other words, it is a very well-known and important document.

 

Yaron Brook's dealings with libertarians directly contradict "On Moral Sanction." You say that ARI will work with anyone who is respectful of Rand's ideas, but according to Schwartz, this cannot possibly include libertarians who are, by definition, amoral and irrational. Either someone is amoral or the embrace some form of morality, that is an on and off switch, not a matter of degree. Brook's explanation entirely bypasses Schwartz's arguments and thereby doesn't rectify the situation. Brook even says, "there has not been a significant change in terms of our attitude towards libertarianism." Well, doesn't that mean ARI still thinks libertarians are on the same moral level as the Iranians Islamic totalitarian regime as expressed by Schwartz?

 

I have no problem with ARI workingman with libertarians, but if they are to do so, they should issue a retraction of "On Moral Sanction" or at least make a far more explicit and clear explanation of what has changed in the libertarian movement over the past twenty years.

 

Also, your last quote is misattributed to me.

Edited by Dormin111

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" You say that ARI will work with anyone who is respectful of Rand's ideas

I didn't say respectful of Rand's ideas. I said respectful. 

 

but according to Schwartz,

Why do I have a feeling that this isn't going to be followed by anything even remotely resembling something the man actually said?

 

this cannot possibly include libertarians

Fine, I admit: I cheated. I'm not telepathic, I knew this was there by reading it.

Please quote Mr. Schwartz's statement to the effect that Libertarians can't possibly be respectful. Or, if you can't, just stick to what I, him or anyone else actually say. There's no point in talking, if you're just gonna argue against yourself.

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Nicky, you stated that ARI will deal with anyone who is "respectful, reasonable, and isn't seeking to undermine Objectivism." Surely being "respectful of Rand," as well as recognizing reality and the importance of reason, is a part of not "seeking to undermine Objectivism."

 

Schwartz says, "Libertarianism belligerently rejects the very need for any justification for its belief in something called “liberty." It repudiates the need for any intellectual foundation to explain why “liberty” is desirable and what “liberty” means." Also, "Subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain “wings” of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it." And, "since reality is the fundamental “restraint” upon men’s actions, it is nihilism—the desire to obliterate reality—that is the very essence of Libertarianism."

 

I consider these to be statements that libertarianism seeks to undermine Objectivism. If they (and the rest of the essay) do not indicate that libertarianism undermines Objectivism, then why would ARI not deal with libertarians up until a few years ago?

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Excommunicate who? Murray Rothbard? When was he ever "in", and in need of excommunicating?

Indeed, Murray Rothbard was never "in," which is why I wasn't referring to him. This discussion is about ARI Objectivists advising Objectivists not to associate with libertarians, and not to associate with those who associated with libertarians. So, those who were denounced, punished or "excommunicated" were fellow Objectivists, like David Kelley, for example. Are you aware of the history of the movement, and the reasons that certain people were denounced and invited to leave the movement?

 

What are you talking about? Why would Rand want to "punish" random Libertarians?

Who said anything about Rand? We're talking about the ARI's self-contradictory position on dealing with libertarians, not Rand's views or actions on the subject. Rand wasn't alive when the ARI was founded. She played no part in purging the movement of members due to their views on libertarians or their talking at libertarian events.

I would suggest that you read the links that have been posted on this thread so as to understand the ARI's positions, and then also investigate the history of the movement, and the condemnations of Objectivists that have occurred due to their doing exactly the same thing that the ARI is now doing (and the same thing that Leonard Peikoff had been doing at the same time that Kelley was doing it -- promoting Objectivism by reaching out to libertarians).

J

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A few questions:

 

Why were libertarians ever judged collectively by Objectivists in the first place? Aren't we supposed to judge each individual on his own ideas and actions? Isn't that the just thing to do according to Objectivist principles?

 

Brook says, "I also believe the libertarian movement has changed. It’s become less influenced by Rothbard, less influenced by the anarchist, crazy for lack of a better word, wing of libertarianism."

 

If one says that libertarianism is "less influenced" by Rothbard and the anarchist crazy wing, one is admitting that the Rothbardian anarchist crazies have not been eliminated from the movement, but that they are still active and exerting some influence. Therefore, in working with libertarians, one is joining in with those crazies, being tolerant of them, and sanctioning them according to the ARI's previous articles on the subject. Wasn't the primary Objectivist complaint about libertarians that they were willing to align with and be tolerant of crazies merely to form a united political front?

 

Is the idea that now it's okay to band together with the crazies because there are fewer of them? If so, what objective principle was used in identifying the limit of crazies that an organization or movement may have, and beyond which joining their organization becomes an act of "sanctioning the sanctioners" of evil? When, and, more importantly, why, did principles and zero tolerance give way to a vague, undefined percentage and selective tolerance?

 

J

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Mountain out of a molehill. 

 

The points that "subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain 'wings' of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it," have been made, and they stand. This is why libertarianism is not the same as objectivism, and this is why libertarianism is "evil" in t he sense of being irrational and destructive (even though it shares political concepts with objectivism). 

 

However, objectivists live in the world, and to get our ideas out to people, to help them to see the light, as it were, we sometimes have to speak at events hosted by people who disagree with us, or whom we disagree with. I don't see this as a big deal. 

Edited by secondhander

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  I have found the amoralists to be the easiest to talk to. They aren't actually nihilists (destroyers), they just think that their values can't be justified because of the "is-ought" dichotomy. 

 

 The duty ethic guys are way worse. Rothbard's heir Hanns Herman Hoppe is a good example of extreme rationalism, conservatism, and intrinsicism in the movement.  

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Indeed, Murray Rothbard was never "in," which is why I wasn't referring to him. This discussion is about ARI Objectivists advising Objectivists not to associate with libertarians, and not to associate with those who associated with libertarians. So, those who were denounced, punished or "excommunicated" were fellow Objectivists, like David Kelley, for example. Are you aware of the history of the movement, and the reasons that certain people were denounced and invited to leave the movement?

More nonsense. After Rand's death, Kelley and Peikoff had a philosophical dispute that lead to Kelley splitting from ARI and founding his own non-profit. The dispute was about Objectivism (As detailed in Kelley's book: http://books.google.ro/books/about/The_Contested_Legacy_of_Ayn_Rand.html?id=C6x38zJL3ccC&redir_esc=y), not anyone associating with Libertarians.

A few questions:

 

Why were libertarians ever judged collectively by Objectivists in the first place? Aren't we supposed to judge each individual on his own ideas and actions? Isn't that the just thing to do according to Objectivist principles?

 

Brook says, "I also believe the libertarian movement has changed. It’s become less influenced by Rothbard, less influenced by the anarchist, crazy for lack of a better word, wing of libertarianism."

 

If one says that libertarianism is "less influenced" by Rothbard and the anarchist crazy wing, one is admitting that the Rothbardian anarchist crazies have not been eliminated from the movement, but that they are still active and exerting some influence. Therefore, in working with libertarians, one is joining in with those crazies, being tolerant of them, and sanctioning them according to the ARI's previous articles on the subject. Wasn't the primary Objectivist complaint about libertarians that they were willing to align with and be tolerant of crazies merely to form a united political front?

 

Is the idea that now it's okay to band together with the crazies because there are fewer of them? If so, what objective principle was used in identifying the limit of crazies that an organization or movement may have, and beyond which joining their organization becomes an act of "sanctioning the sanctioners" of evil? When, and, more importantly, why, did principles and zero tolerance give way to a vague, undefined percentage and selective tolerance?

 

J

These aren't questions, they're just a dishonest delivery system for false assumptions and logical fallacies. Edited by Nicky

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I know Rand's and ARI's old view on libertarianism, but what is the current line in the wake of ARI's outreach over the last few years.

Here's the thread from when the shift took place:

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=23555&page=1

I feel that the topic has been pretty well beaten to death.

Here's a recent upload that's worth the 2 hour investment. It dates from 1981, thus 5 years prior to Peter Schwartz's sad effort to portray libertarianism as something it's not. It's from a Libertarian Party conference. If Schwartz was right, could it have even taken place?

Too bad there wasn't a pre-debate, then post-debate vote to determine which side this audience of libertarians felt had 'won', like they do with Intelligence Squared debates. There's no question in my mind that Smith utterly demolished Friedman here.

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More nonsense. After Rand's death, Kelley and Peikoff had a philosophical dispute that lead to Kelley splitting from ARI and founding his own non-profit. The dispute was about Objectivism (As detailed in Kelley's book: http://books.google.ro/books/about/The_Contested_Legacy_of_Ayn_Rand.html?id=C6x38zJL3ccC&redir_esc=y), not anyone associating with Libertarians.

Aren't you aware of the events which precipitated the "philosophical dispute," and which caused Peikoff to construct a "philosophical dispute" by which to condemn Kelley?

These aren't questions, they're just a dishonest delivery system for false assumptions and logical fallacies.

Heh. They're logical fallacies? Really? Then identify specifically how my statements are logically fallacious. Put them into the firm of syllogisms and demonstrate their fallaciousness. Identify specifically which statements are which types of fallacy.

Anyway, Brooks' comments on the ARI's positions on dealing with libertarians are what's called "spin" and "saving face." Spinning and saving face are not Objectivist virtues. Truth, apologizing for errors, and admitting to and correcting mistakes are Objectivist virtues.

J

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All he said was that Libertarianism has become less crazy. He never said that they've become philosophically compatible with Objectivism.

 

 But that's exactly the point in contention. What exactly does "less crazy" mean, and who exactly is "less crazy" and in what way are they such? We are not told, no one in particular is cited or referred to. Any scholar attempting to criticize a philosophical point of view should be bound by basic standards and this does not meet them.

 

We can sort of infer from the context that "less crazy" may mean "there are less anarchist libertarians" and "there are less Misesian and/or Rothbardian libertarians," but this seems completely false. Yaron is joking himself if he thinks this is the case. With the rising influence of Ron Paul, there are more Rothbarians and anarchists than ever, and their influence is only growing, and their scholarship is of a vastly greater quality and quantity than anything ARI is putting out. One can examine the number of hits ARI's web sites get versus the "less-influential-crazies" to see an example of just how "less influential" they are.

 

From the way many Objectivists tend to use the scare capital L and speak of libertarians as if they all believed the same things (and in things like amoralism, irrationalism, and nihilism), why is it even asked if "They" have become compatible? Of course some libertarians can be compatible, some not, and to more or less degrees. But it is ignorant statements like this, backed with no relevant evidence or citations or specifics and with the kind of moralistic, inquisitorial tone that turns average people off to Rand's philosophy. If anything, the average person interested in liberty is prone to be swayed towards the cool-headed and gentlemanly Ron Paul, or the lucid and upbeat tone of Murray Rothbard, and everyone probably can provide examples of "Randroids" who seem like the "crazies" who are becoming "less influential" every day. It's a shame really.

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