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Eiuol

Objectivism and Political Action

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It seems that political ideals of the ideal government gets a lot of attention. That much is fine and good, and worthwhile. But I'm not aware of much thought dedicated to achieving those ends. I don't know of Objectivist-leaning thinkers who have spoken about political action. Could there be a theory of political action unique to Objectivism, or if there isn't, what forms of political action would be compatible? 

Radical leftist politics (e.g. Communism, left libertarianism) has a lot to say about political action, particularly violent revolution and strong actions taken against oppressors and force initiators unilaterally. Insofar as Objectivism is radical and neither "rightist" nor "leftist", it seems useful to know about those methods - keeping in mind what constitutes force to a leftist is not identical and that capitalism as Rand sees it is not a solution to them. I'm not aware of any "rightist" theories of political action, except for fascism or authoritarianism, which both see initiating force as acceptable. I'm not aware of right libertarian, i.e. anarcho-capitalist, theories of political action. Does anyone know of good books to read on the subject, regardless of a book's stated position?

In Rand's work, there are hints of her views. Roark blowing up his building was a strong political act on top of an ethical statement. "Shrugging" is another, except that's limited to cases of just "it's too late, better to not play the game". Ragnar blew up ships. Additionally, "collateral damage" caused by bad political principles isn't necessarily a problem. The train accident in AS suggests to me that a similar act that's instead intentional and aimed at those complicit would be moral to Rand. Anyone have other examples in Rand's fiction regarding support of different types of political action?

It seems that the political action spoken about is voting. But voting only does any good if people are ideologically similar and if the system is at least "pretty good". I'm curious about more radical examples.

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I am less interested in radical means, and more interested in the proper means of achieving a rational society. Public opinion must change before the leadership will. As long as our governing officials are selected through the present democratic process, we can expect more of the same. And their governance will reflect the wishes of the electorate. Americans, as with all people, have the government they deserve. As for actively changing the ideological norms of the electorate, any act of force or destruction will not get the results desired; violating laws, even bad laws, has unnecessarily costs. Especially when violated violently. It's all well and fine to suspend disbelief for the sake of illustrating a point in a work of fiction. (I realize that the opening post does not suggest violence as a proper means, but only as an option.) But if you wish to keep it real, I would begin with, figuratively speaking, tearing at the fringes of political correctness. If people are to be persuaded to governance that allows for more self-governance and the protection of individual rights, the popular wisdom of the left, as well as the right, must be challenged publicly. Public opinion will precede any political change in a democratic society. And the only proper means of changing public opinion is through cultural influences, i.e., primary schools, mass media news analysis, and any form of entertainment. On a personal or individual level, one can engage in argument with those who more obviously oppose individual freedom, as long as one is in an appropriate environment (such as anywhere other than one's place of employment), and as long as one is well-versed in the major supporting ideas behind Objectivism. On a grand scale, one might undertake the establishment of private systems of learning, publish works that oppose and expose the flaws of popular politics, or produce art/literature that reflects the values of Ayn Rand's romantic realism. The Revolution, if one wishes to call it that, will be led by the professional intellectuals. If your desired ends are radical Objectivist reform, the proper means are to change minds, as many as possible.

As footnote, I don't expect any active, proactive, or unnecessarily offensive actions will hedge the majority of the American public toward a greater appreciation of Ayn Rand, at least not in my lifetime. I am hopeful of some sort of generation of rational egoists in the future; so, for now, I'll ignore the fact that Americans will be voting for the two most scandalous candidates in my memory. My political action will be to vote for Gary Johnson.

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There's nothing wrong with changing public opinion through those methods. I'm asking about what would and can be appropriate outside of those methods. For one, it is appropriate to respond to the initiation of force with force. You could work to convince people that what they're doing is initiation of force and eventually get them to stop. But why would you permit force initiated against you? Depending on how bad it is, you would want to take drastic measures so you don't have to keep putting up with the initiation of force.

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Sure, lawyer up. If your case gets enough attention, or support through some sort of political action organization, maybe it'll end up in the US Supreme Court. Maybe you need to be more specific as to what sort of force you're referring.

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Well, I'm saying you're talking about political restricted to slow processes of voting that may be too slow for most issues. The democratic process isn't so good for political action, if you want bigger changes faster. It's not built for enacting large changes quick. Sometimes, revolutionary action is absolutely necessary. The only question is strategy. A lot of leftist thinkers, regardless of their political ends, seem to have thought a lot about political actions besides voting. Anything from violent revolution to forms of civil disobedience. I'm wondering what sort of political action would work for our sort of ideals.

Rand would probably advocate any particular action which preserves your self-interest, as long as you think long-term of its purpose as a demonstration or change to social structure. Roark's detonation is fictionalized for dramatic effect, but in principle, it's a suggestion that violent and radical action is at times appropriate and isn't only for "final measures". Since Rand said so little about political action in its entirety, I'm also wondering about thinkers to read up on.

Edited by Eiuol

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One article she wrote that addresses bringing about political change was printed in Philosophy: Who Needs It? and The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. 1, No. 7  January 3, 1972 as: "What Can One Do?"

Revolutionary action became absolutely necessary in the case of the Declaration of Independence. Special attention might be prudent to be drawn to the following excerpt from with it:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

This follows a listing of 28 facts put forth before a candid world. Even so, this was not directly a declaration of war/revolution. Had the King responded with reason rather than force, would the Revolutionary War have been necessary? (Rhetorical, at best.)

 

The Magna Carta was signed in 1215. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225. Aristotle was only rediscovered by the West in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was the ideas that were embraced, spread, accepted by minds recently reintroduced to reasoning and the proper methods of using it. It took 500 years to culminate into the Declaration of Independence. Discovered and put forth by reason, it was not until enough were persuaded by and held the conviction of the rightness of the reasoning that the force needed to overcome the age old notion that might makes right could be stood against and replaced with a different charter.

 

While irrationality may only understand violence ultimately, reasoning minds need to identify what is failing to instill and enable the methods of reasoning into the social structure. For the conceptual mind, ignorance is the default, it is what each individual is born with. Reasoning is the skill which must be discovered and learned. Meanwhile, another generation of minds are being formed by the molds of The Comprachicos. If you want to know what needs to be abolished, consider the institution that currently shapes social structures over time.

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Dream_weaver,

The link you provided underscores exactly what I meant by changing cultural influences, beginning with public schools. In the event that enough American citizens realize the root cause of the problem, then they might act as a majority in correcting that problem. Whether they take action politically or violently (or both) depends on the form of initiated force. Your brief history of individual liberty underscores the challenge of overcoming established cultural norms,i.e. ideology/religion/philosophy. From 1215 to 1776 is certainly a long time to alter publicly accepted standards of individual rights. Four score and seven years later, violence was the method of choice to enforce and extend that standard of liberty to a group of Americans previously denied their rights. But the gun is not the argument; it is a radical solution to the initiation of force; it may even be political. But if you want "bigger changes faster," you are choosing bullets over ballots, and in most cases, the blood-shed in unnecessary. Once the shooting starts, people tend to forget what they wanted in the first place. Either way, maintaining personal liberty is all the reason one needs for maintaining the radical persuader of the gun.

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It's always seemed to me that the oppression of the British upon its American colonial citizens was relatively light compared to (say) the oppression of peasants by the French king.

As DreamWeaver said though: ideas had changed, with Locke being the most important thinker in the English-speaking world. In parallel, economists like Adam Smith had started to explore the notions of rational selfishness ("The Theory of Moral Sentiments"). Also, the deist ideas undermined the importance of the church: an important institution that was entwined with the king. American intellectuals -- like Adams and Jefferson -- were intellectually ready for change.

Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense" was only published in January of 1776, but it sold 100,000 copies and is credited with taking the individualist philosophy to the man in the pub. At the time of the declaration, many Americans -- even if not yet a majority -- were open to a call for revolution. Could the revolutionary war have been feasible if only (say) 20% of colonists supported it while the rest were opposed? I cannot see how. 
I suspect that in her earlier days Rand thought Americans would be receptive to a Thomas Paine-like approach. I speculate that this might have motivated her early pamphlet: "Textbook of Americanism" (PDF here). By the time of her death, she'd basically concluded that the ideology of the average American was nowhere near what she had thought as a young girl in Russia. She clearly concluded that Capitalism was far away in America's future.

A sliver of American exceptionalism still exists in a sense that America's history has created laws and institutions that citizens still respect. But, much of this respect is habitual and actually at odds with their ideology. Today, the ideology of the average American is pretty close to the ideology of the average global citizen, and getting ever closer.

Drawing a parallel to the American revolution, the royalists who wanted to tweak the status quo (including Benjamin Franklin, until quite late in the game) are like the large number of people who support Hillary or Bush or Romney, with a bit of resignation. Meanwhile, the animated and revolutionary fire can be found in the camps of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren. 

This does not seem fertile ground for a pro-individual revolution. Perhaps the Trump and Sanders movements hold an important emotional core of fighting back for oneself. Still, as long as they're combined with collectivist ideas of how a good system should work, they are destructive. I don't see any alternative to changing ideas first: not of everyone, but of a substantial minority.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Persuasion does help, and ultimately minds need to be changed. Yet it has its limits. Yes, I think the American Revolution as a whole was important to instill a degree of reasoning and individuality, but it still primarily only worked for "free-ish" people. Slavery was still pretty strong and more atrocious than any pre-colonial slavery, women still treated terribly - the American Revolution did little in that regard. So, I think it's important to consider more effective forms of change that are less focused on persuading people of similar cultural or social status backgrounds.

"Once the shooting starts, people tend to forget what they wanted in the first place. "
This is a sort of idea I want to question. For one, if the revolutionaries maintain a campaign of reasoned out explanations of their philosophy, the worry of emotionalism can be constrained. Even more, people would be quite excited about oppression being stopped. This is why I'd want to know about deeper analysis of political action.

By the way, I'm not talking only of violent responses to force. Sometimes, it's plain suicidal to do so. If a tank was trampling my home, I wouldn't want to grab a pistol and start shooting. I'd die pretty fast. Satire is one tool, or perhaps you become a hacker to destabilize government operations. Would these questions be purely strategic? Or is there a moral principle that would compel you to literally fight back in some cases?  

Edited by Eiuol

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Eioul,

One's counter-force must be appropriate to the initial force. So far, I have not seen enough context in your initiation-of-force scenario.

Are we talking about the jerk who stands in my way, preventing me from passing an otherwise unobstructed path, or the jerk who ignores common sense practices such as lowering his loud music, depriving me of my sleep? Are we talking about the state confiscating my property, even my life, as in conscription service?

If you could provide some context as to the scale of oppression, an appropriate strategy might be conceived.

I am apprehensive toward any revolution. If the ideals merit political action, an evolutionary change is much preferred. The ideals of Objectivism would certainly be worthy of popular support. But at present, the overwhelming majority of voters have no knowledge of those ideals. They don't know of Ayn Rand, nor her philosophy. Many who do misrepresent or distort her ideals. Rational thought is a volitional choice. The only radical strategies I've seen on display as of late are irrational, emotional, and violent. If it were possible to have a rational revolution, I would support it. As for now, questioning irrational conventional wisdom and contributing to this forum will suffice.

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I don't know of a good real life example to discuss. Part of what I'm wondering is what are some contemporary examples of political action we could discuss? I'd appreciate some examples from the last 50 years. The Cuban Revolution would be good to analyze, and I'd suspect violent revolution would've been appropriate to use towards South African apartheid. I don't know a lot about either, only that the ultimate ends in Cuba were morally questionable. Mostly, I'm thinking of large-scale socio-political contexts as opposed to local issues.

I don't see how "evolutionary change" would always be preferable. Violent revolution is strategically problematic, but loud protests and shouting down/silencing certain voices is appropriate especially in public places.  

You're right though that the type of oppression must be understood first.

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I don't know of a good real life example to discuss. Part of what I'm wondering is what are some contemporary examples of political action we could discuss? I'd appreciate some examples from the last 50 years. The Cuban Revolution would be good to analyze, and I'd suspect violent revolution would've been appropriate to use towards South African apartheid. I don't know a lot about either, only that the ultimate ends in Cuba were morally questionable. Mostly, I'm thinking of large-scale socio-political contexts as opposed to local issues.

I don't see how "evolutionary change" would always be preferable. Violent revolution is strategically problematic, but loud protests and shouting down/silencing certain voices is appropriate especially in public places.  

You're right though that the type of oppression must be understood first.

"Silencing certain voices"?

What does that mean? Whom do you wish to "silence"?

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Silencing as in forms of verbal protest or interfering with others so that the other side isn't heard. Perhaps silencing neo-nazis to give a big example, or even Trump supporters are a less extreme example.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Silencing as in forms of verbal protest or interfering with others so that the other side isn't heard. Perhaps silencing neo-nazis to give a big example, or even Trump supporters are a less extreme example.

I don't think I can agree with this. As repugnant as I find both neo-Nazis and Trump supporters (in that order, though I suppose that there is some overlap), I don't believe that the best means of spreading a "philosophy of reason" is to try to stop the non-rational from being heard. I don't believe it is an appropriate means of persuasion.

Over the last several years, and to some extent based on my experiences on this very forum, I have come to believe that there are right ways and wrong ways to express even that which we can agree is the truth. "Right" and "wrong" are pursuant here (as they always are) to our goals and values. Where we value persuasion, I believe that the tactics of modern protestors are antithetical towards reaching that goal. I think that they serve to drive away those who are generally open to reason, yet currently unconvinced of a given reasonable argument. I believe that the people who primarily seek "to provoke" (like some of our own members), who insult, who turn to propaganda rather than substantive argument, and who engage in the kinds of bullying tactics you're advocating here, signal a perceivable weakness in their own arguments, and are more easily dismissed.

While what you're discussing does not (ordinarily/necessarily) rise to the level of "force," I believe it is similar to force in some respects you might consider. When force is employed, "right" does not necessarily triumph; rather, it is the strongest -- the mightiest -- which prevails (and which might be evil). And in a contest of drowning the voices of our opponents out, it is not necessarily the correct argument which will carry the day, but the loudest (and possibly most numerous) voices. If this theoretical shouting match were to be held today, I cannot imagine that it would go well for those who champion reason and liberty, who are a minority by a wide margin.

Actually, I think that the "voice of reason" (which has a distinct quality, a particular character, and is not often to be heard in megaphones, at populist rallies, or on bumper stickers) is typically rather quiet, and sometimes only on the lips of a very few. Rand was louder than most, perhaps, but even there I cannot imagine her ever deigning to do what you're suggesting. That is not how we appeal to the best in others. It is not how we reach out to their own ability to reason, which is precisely what we must do, if we mean to persuade them of the truth.

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I placed my question in context of political change as opposed to persuasion towards a philosophical position. Persuading people to a philosophy could only happen with persuasion, as long reaching conclusions through one's own mind is part of that philosophy. But here I'm talking about discussions that have bearing on the socio-political order. Some political issues would lead to a profound impact on your life, more than say alteration of tax code. Persuasion is workable for some people. But a "give and take" resulting in gradual progress to the better/reasonable political system is a theory by Rawls called reflective equilibrium. Yes, the same Rawls who Rand condemned. It would rely on operating on epistemic and moral principles focused on one's fallibility and not judging too hard.

For sure, persuasion has its uses especially for people amenable to rational thought. Except, what about people -not- amenable to rational thought? Those people would just overwhelm your position and drown out all sense and reason. By the way, don't lose track of the political context. I am not thinking of attempts to persuade people of philosophical positions like "egoism is better than altruism". Your life is impacted a lot more directly by alterations to law like abortion laws. When it comes to politics, the only people to drive away by using tactics like insults and provocation are people already unamenable to reason, or the people targetted, or people who already take a standard liberal/Ralwsian approach to politics. I imagine other people would see you as totally justified and be persuaded to at least think of you as a person of moral fortitude.

Of course when you resort to such measures doesn't mean truth or morality prevails. The loudest would win out. To me, that suggests a need for measured response. You do something like out-yell an opponent only if you are sure you'll win the battle. Reason can employ strong responses, it's not limited to persuasion. Clearly, if a person pulled a gun on you and threatened to shoot, reason would say use force in response if possible. Indeed, protests might not go well, but if you push on, you may reap the benefits.

I'm working off a principle of self-interest, that we aren't trying to talk about the greatest good for society. Your and Repairman's responses gives me a sense of seeking agreeability for political change because it's calmer or easier. I don't know of any history where persuasion alone works, only that persuasion is one piece. As far as justice and integrity are concerned, it is good to be a warrior of sorts, employing rhetorical technique both verbally and with protests. There are a such thing as enemies that deserve some form of resistance.

How could you not imagine Rand supporting the things I suggest? Looking at Rand's characters, there are pretty major acts of protest. Not that it's proof of a position, but she never shied from her characters taking revolutionary action. Galt's speech quite literally silenced any response, Dagny shot a guy at the end of AS, Ragnar blew up ships. These are not acts of persuasion. They weren't quiet. 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

... Dagny shot a guy at the end of AS, Ragnar blew up ships. These are not acts of persuasion. They weren't quiet. 

They weren't acts of persuasion, but nor were they a way of taking control of a geographic area.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I placed my question in context of political change as opposed to persuasion towards a philosophical position.

I think that there are two fundamental approaches to "political change": via peaceful means (which means "persuasion") or via physical force.

If we decide on revolution, on physical force, then so be it. I think there's no moral barrier against such a decision, unless we judge it ahead of time to be impractical or unfeasible. But then the question resolves as to how best to use force to create our freer nation, and I suspect that the answer will not be found in "silencing" dissenting opinion. Moreover, it would possibly be ironic, and hypocritical, if we were to prosecute a war to create a nation where people are free to speak their minds by compelling them not to speak their minds, against their will. It might undermine our claims to moral authority. (We may as well talk about "drafting" our own revolutionary army.)

If we decide on peaceful means to change -- to persuade -- then so be it, but then we will not do so through such "silencing" either. When I'm aware of some individual or group trying to "silence" another, it does not inspire me to seek out their rationale or further views; instead I conclude that they must be assholes (and I don't think I've yet found myself in error on that score).

Unless or until we opt for the forceful creation of a new state (which would undoubtedly lead to violence, so we must do so with eyes wide open), then I think that our means to political change should reflect the best available means of persuasive efforts. We win the political battle by winning the philosophical battle.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

For sure, persuasion has its uses especially for people amenable to rational thought. Except, what about people -not- amenable to rational thought?

There may be extreme cases of people who are actually not amenable to rational thought, as such, though I think this must be quite rare (given how much life depends upon rational thought, to say nothing of happiness). More often, we are confronted with people who are not disposed to reason (typically on some more or less delimited subject) in a suitable time frame, or who we do not currently know how to reach via reason.

Again, philosophically, I believe that we must do the heavy work of arguing pro-reason, which is a deep and long-term project. But when that does not work, and when we are in physical threat, or under assault, then we respond to those people with such physical force as we can muster, in retaliation. (Those who are not amenable to reason in whatever capacity, who do not otherwise constitute a physical threat, are best left alone to suffer the consequences of their own devising.)

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

When it comes to politics, the only people to drive away by using tactics like insults and provocation are people already unamenable to reason...

As far as I'm concerned, if we've given up on trying to persuade someone of the truth, then insult away... if that suits you emotionally. (More often than not, I'd rather spend my energy elsewhere. I have found the joys of insult hollow and fleeting.) But take care that you give thought to the "optics" of such an approach to those who might yet be reachable by reason who are not yet persuaded of your side (who are even, perhaps, ignorant of it).

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I'm working off a principle of self-interest, that we aren't trying to talk about the greatest good for society.

I am as well.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

There are a such thing as enemies that deserve some form of resistance.

Yes, but intelligent resistance. Resistance which is compatible and consistent with the philosophy for which we fight. Ours is the side of reason and persuasion; we do a poor job of arguing for it by employing tactics which functionally work against both.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

How could you not imagine Rand supporting the things I suggest? Looking at Rand's characters, there are pretty major acts of protest. Not that it's proof of a position, but she never shied from her characters taking revolutionary action. Galt's speech quite literally silenced any response, Dagny shot a guy at the end of AS, Ragnar blew up ships. These are not acts of persuasion. They weren't quiet.

Shooting people and blowing up ships are open warfare. And when you believe we can carve out a freer nation, then by all means, let's do so. But in the interim, Ayn Rand did not shoot people or blow up ships (so far as I know): she wrote novels and essays. Acts of persuasion.

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Well that's the thing. You seem to assume "revolution" and "violent change" are the same thing. And, not so explicitly, but perhaps assumed, we have "acts of persuasion" and "working through the political system" as equivalent on the other hand. 

But why must that be so? I think the point Eiuol is trying to get it is that the choice isn't between working through the political system on one hand, and acts of force. Might there be direct action strategies for political change that are not working through the political system or "educating" (which is the usual broad term) and that don't necessarily involve uses of force? Leftists, as Eiuol mentioned, have been largely successful at using such tactics as sit-ins, strikes, blockades, counter protests, civil disobedience and non violent resistance, boycotts, shaming, community organizing, direct provision of services, ignoring the state, going around the state, etc.

And maybe some also legitimate strategies, from this point of view, that do justify uses of force? Most people assume it would be moral to, say, assassinate Hitler. Why sit and wait for him to be voted out? Yes Ayn Rand wrote novels, but what about the character Ragnar Danneskjold? What about sabotage, piracy, hacking, rioting, property destruction? When is that okay versus not okay? Peikoff stated it was, for example, from his point of view moral to hack into statists' servers.

And yet Objectivists and Objectivist organizations seem to simply repeat the mantra of personal improvement, learning, and "we need to educate people," and still largely supported voting for the supposedly least offensive candidate. (Rand herself having famously said that it would be hugely immoral for John Hospers to steal a single vote from Nixon.) Could it be that these tactics are stale and it's time to start working outside the political system (nonviolently)?

 

Edited by 2046
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6 hours ago, 2046 said:

... Leftists, as Eiuol mentioned, have been largely successful at using such tactics as sit-ins, strikes, blockades, counter protests, civil disobedience and non violent resistance, boycotts, shaming, community organizing, direct provision of services, ignoring the state, going around the state, etc.

When people organize things like "Occupy Wall Street" or "Tea Party" rallies they can be successful in rallying people to a cause, and then making the political classes react. However, they do so by tapping in to some existing ideology among the people reacting. Many non-participants read about "Occupy" or "Tea Party" and are sympathetic to their cause. I doubt the effectiveness of action if it does not appeal to a pre-existing ideology.

BTW, Objectivists have done a few rallies, standing on sidewalks with signs. I remember Bush Sr. making some remark about them when he noticed the protest at some event he attended. Of course, given the number of Objectivists, these tend to be a small group of people doing the protesting. Perhaps this just advertises that politicians can ignore such people :) 
Again, without some degree of wider intellectual support, I think such things are basically a waste of time.

On the other hand, I think Edward Snowden's political action was illegal but good (even if not necessarily for him personally).  I can see the appeal if his goal was to make government snooping public.   Absolutely not something I myself would have chosen to do, but I can empathize with where he is coming from. One could probably come up with many similar possible scenarios.

I guess the classic Objectivist mantra boils down to "it's too early". This is why Objectivists worked on "personal improvement": i.e. convincing other people. The thrust has always been long-term: the essay contests and the free-books program. Still, the ARI did set up a Washington office, probably in attempt at being more like CATO etc. in being able to speak to legislators.

Recently, the movement I've seen among Objectivists is away from "personal improvement" of others and toward personal improvement of themselves. In other words, they're doubling down on "it's too early". It's basically an admission that things aren't going to change fundamentally in our lifetimes. Also, there's a context that life is generally good and has been getting better, because human beings keep doing good stuff that creates value above what is constrained by bad politics. In that context then, the key question is not: "how do I change society", but "how do I achieve personal happiness".

If you believe "it's too early" (or "it's way too early") it changes your focus. I see this trend among many Objectivists in their personal lives. Over the last year I've seen the Objectivist student-organization (Undercurrent) move in that direction too, and I think that's great.

Edited by softwareNerd
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8 hours ago, 2046 said:

Well that's the thing. You seem to assume "revolution" and "violent change" are the same thing.

Hmm. I don't think that every revolution is necessarily violent. But if we were today to declare the Objectivist Free State, or whatever, in the emptiness of Wyoming, then I would expect that we would eventually have to endure violent resistance from those who would contend our right to do so. (And as we are not yet in a position to endure that sort of resistance, I think it's not yet time for our declaration.)

Even those examples/tactics you mention later (many of which I support) are all seemingly predicated on force or the willingness to use force.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

And, not so explicitly, but perhaps assumed, we have "acts of persuasion" and "working through the political system" as equivalent on the other hand. 

When it comes to "working through the political system," or obeying the law generally, I don't believe anybody has the moral obligation to do so; only we must consider what is practical in our own individual lives, in terms of when to resist or disobey, and what the result is likely to be for us. (No one is called upon to be an Objectivist martyr.)

As to extra-legal means of persuasion, I think that's fine (again speaking generally). If there was a law which restricted... buying copies of Anthem for schoolchildren, say, but ARI wished to carry that on in secret, and could without enduring too-extensive damage, then that's fine. That's moral.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

But why must that be so? I think the point Eiuol is trying to get it is that the choice isn't between working through the political system on one hand, and acts of force.

I was discussing "force" in my last post because Eiuol was trying to defend his specific suggestion of "silencing" others by reference to acts of force, such as shooting police officers and blowing up ships.

The point I was making (or was attempting to make) is that these are categorically different things. It's possible I overstepped in doing so, or that I am simply wrong, because I can see that certain forceful political strategies are themselves persuasive, at least (as I will discuss below). However, much of what I'd written was about that proposed tactic specifically, which I continue to think inadvisable, in that I hold that it is not persuasive to reasonable people, but repellent.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

Might there be direct action strategies for political change that are not working through the political system or "educating" (which is the usual broad term) and that don't necessarily involve uses of force? Leftists, as Eiuol mentioned, have been largely successful at using such tactics as sit-ins, strikes, blockades, counter protests, civil disobedience and non violent resistance, boycotts, shaming, community organizing, direct provision of services, ignoring the state, going around the state, etc.

While I believe that things like sit-ins and blockades and (many forms of) civil disobedience do involve force (whether or not they turn violent), I agree with you that these are potentially reasonable means of fighting against some injustice. Not merely for the damage they might cause aggressors directly, but for what I'd discussed earlier (the "optics"), in that these might cause -- or historically have caused -- some people to investigate or reconsider their notions.

I think that non-violent resistance has sometimes been used to great effect, famously of course by Gandhi and King, and if Objectivism had an MLK to draw attention to our cause, and specifically to demonstrate to the world that ours is the side of peace, and civilization, and brotherhood/harmony... well, that would be a tremendous thing.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

And maybe some also legitimate strategies, from this point of view, that do justify uses of force?

Perhaps (taking for granted that we're talking solely about using force against force, in retaliation, and directed against those who have initiated it). Again, this would depend on what is reasonable for the individual involved. But I believe that's true for most questions of "obeying the law": does an Objectivist have any moral duty to drive within the speed limit? No, I don't think so, but it is typically best to watch for speed traps and avoid accidents, regardless.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

Most people assume it would be moral to, say, assassinate Hitler. Why sit and wait for him to be voted out?

LOL, this could probably be its own thread. At a certain point, of course, I think it would have been moral to assassinate Hitler. I don't know about the popular time travel/baby Hitler idea, and without knowledge of the future, I have to imagine that there was a point in his life when even Hitler had rights. I don't know if I could pinpoint the date where assassination would have been warranted, morally, though at a certain point I think it would have been unreasonable to expect Hitler to ever be "voted out" of office (as for example, when he began to outlaw other political parties).

It's more interesting for me to ask myself, what if he had maintained a full democracy -- not restricting those institutions in the slightest -- while acting as Chancellor (or even with the additional Presidential powers) and a demagogue to do all of the things that Hitler yet did, historically. Even there, he would certainly have invited assassination at some point, though again, I'm not sure that I can say exactly when.

These are difficult questions for me, and I don't think I'm as yet able to answer them with any confidence.

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

Yes Ayn Rand wrote novels, but what about the character Ragnar Danneskjold?

Part of what occurs to me to say -- and this might depend upon my faulty memory of the events of Atlas Shrugged -- is... wasn't Ragnar affiliated with the shruggers? He was able to wage a form of (as I'd described it) "open warfare," in part because he had the support of other very powerful individuals who were working towards the Gulch. If we somehow reach that point, where we could openly defy a tyrannical government ("tyrannical," at the very least, in comparison with the state we would create in its stead) and get away with it, that's fine.

But if someone were to "go Ragnar" today, I expect that this person would be bringing the hammer down upon his own head, and probably his associates, too. I don't think it would wind up with Galt's Gulch, or the rejuvenation of the United States, but in a severe blow to whatever exists of the "Objectivist movement."

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

What about sabotage, piracy, hacking, rioting, property destruction? When is that okay versus not okay? Peikoff stated it was, for example, from his point of view moral to hack into statists' servers.

I think that my standard for most of those things is the same as suggested above: it depends upon the individual's context. ("Rioting," specifically, I'm more unsure of, in that it seems a little too indiscriminate. It makes me think of poor, downtrodden communities destroying themselves and each other, and I don't believe that much good comes of it.)

8 hours ago, 2046 said:

And yet Objectivists and Objectivist organizations seem to simply repeat the mantra of personal improvement, learning, and "we need to educate people," and still largely supported voting for the supposedly least offensive candidate. (Rand herself having famously said that it would be hugely immoral for John Hospers to steal a single vote from Nixon.) Could it be that these tactics are stale and it's time to start working outside the political system (nonviolently)?

It could be that you're right. Obviously I still have thinking to do in these areas, though I continue to believe that what "the Objectivist movement" needs most of all is to do a better job of spreading its ideology (the job it has done, and especially over the last several decades, I would rate as "very poor" or even "self-destructive").

In light of your post, I think I must withdraw nearly everything else, except that I continue to believe that the specific tactic of "silencing" others via shouting them down, or whatever, works against our ends.

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You said a lot Don, so I'm responding to the overall ideas you conveyed. I've nothing to add to 2046's post, the post is a good summary of my thoughts.

There isn't only peaceful or physical force means of political change. I think it'd be short-sighted to stick to those options. There are powerful actions to take which pull at social norms of acceptability. By silencing, I mean something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w211KOQ5BMI. Not peaceful, but not violent either, all while making a clear message of protest. It would silence a dissenting opinion for sure, but if the dissenting people are emotionalists or all around irrational, I see no moral advantage to still talk to them by persuasion and substantive argument. I emphasize "dissenting people" there, as some dissenters are quite rational - people I deem to be mistaken due to differing knowledge I'd make sure to be a voice of reason towards them.  

I said before persuasion is a necessary piece of political success. You must remember though that the dissenters are also attempting persuasion, at least some recruitment. If a Trump rally was filled with people shouting to deport all illegals and muslims, going in to persuade them otherwise would be fruitless. It seems like you would opt to do nothing directed at the rally. Write an article, maybe. Why not -add- something more? Trump supporters aren't fringe moonbats, it's a real thing, so a protest like playing music really loud looks pretty wise. It takes careful judgment to do it properly. Importantly, it suggests moral strength, pride. Prideful that you can push back against irrationality.

You're right that "going Ragnar" could be suicidal. That's an argument about strategy. Most of what you said was aimed at moral opposition non-persuasion, except in a dire situation like living under tyranny. The only justification for that belief I can think of is Rawlsian reflective equilibrium. To be more specific, it's thinking that people start with a set of beliefs, and being faced with dissenting beliefs leads one closer to agreement or the truth. Society would eventually reach equilibrium through gradual give and take. So if you agree with that, it wouldn't make sense to use non-persuasion. Is that something you agree with? Whichever your answer is, please tell me in more detail your moral basis to your stance. So far, it sounds like your arguments are about preferring not to get up and yell sometimes, or a psychological argument that it'd repel dissenters (optics, as you phrased it).

"In that context then, the key question is not: "how do I change society", but "how do I achieve personal happiness"." -sNerd
To me, it's the opposite. I've always been focused on personal improvement of myself. Because of that, I see actions besides persuasion as really important. It leads me to supporting more short-term actions than only long-term strategies. I'd totally set up a protest filled with loud music. Not to persuade people per se, or to pull people to my side, but to bring change faster and effectively. Change is possible in our lifetimes. Well, not if we -only- play the long-game.

 

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Re: "It's too early"

Meanwhile, in the non-objectivist world...

image.jpeg

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2 hours ago, 2046 said:

Re: "It's too early"

Meanwhile, in the non-objectivist world...

1. As intimidating as that photo is, it really is not at all more intimidating than average if you consider various other scenes across a few past generations. 

2. Well, "people are idiots" does not imply "I can convince them or force them to be non-idiots".

3. With that said, if activism is on interest to you, and you enjoy "living in the future" by 'fighting for it today", I can see that too. Purpose is a good thing.

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'd totally set up a protest filled with loud music. Not to persuade people per se, or to pull people to my side, but to bring change faster and effectively.

I don't understand what you mean. You say the music will not pull people to your side, but it will bring change faster. What's the mechanism here?

DonAthos likes this

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Oh, I meant it wasn't a motivator for me to want to act, although it probably would  work well as a form of protest - if I had a plan alongside it.

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