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Dennis Hardin

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Everything posted by Dennis Hardin

  1. Here is a link to a transcript of Playboy's interview with Ayn Rand published in March, 1964. Playboy's interview with Ayn Rand It changed my life.
  2. Excerpts from a dismal discussion of Ayn Rand in the current Playboy (April): It gets worse. “Atheism Wars” by John Gray Playboy first introduced me to Ayn Rand in Alvin Toffler’s fantastic 1964 Playboy Interview. I have always felt indebted to them for the respectful way in which they treated her ideas, even though they obviously rejected her political perspective. Now, a half century later, this idiot (professor emeritus at the London School of Economics) would have us believe that her thought “has no serious intellectual content.” How very sad.
  3. You were right to choose Attila as your moral ideal because you are expressing a viewpoint that is fully consistent with the mind-body dichotomy. As someone previously mentioned, your position epitomizes the “philosophy is useless” argument which Peikoff addresses in Understanding Objectivism. All three of the objections Peikofff deals with in that book reflect some form of the mind-body dichotomy. Your version amounts to the position: “What the hell use is philosophy for daily living?” The proposed “solution”? Stop analyzing everything. Get rid of it all--the judgmental attitude, the chronic concern with right and wrong, true and false. Get rid of philosophy and then simply enjoy the blissful existence of the practical-minded man on the street. As Peikoff says, the problem with all three arguments “is not philosophy or Objectivism, but philosophy or Objectivism wrongly understood.” Properly chewed,concretized and understood, philosophy is your greatest ally in dealing with reality and achieving your long-term rational self-interest. It will enable you to achieve mind-body integration and to fully grasp that the moral is the practical. Nobody would ever say: “Let’s do away with this obsession with reality; it interferes with my self-expression and my success in life.” Yet that is exactly what Attila’s position is expressing. Objectivism is nothing more or less than an intellectual tool for maximizing our effectiveness in dealing with reality. I really cannot recommend Peikoff’s book highly enough.
  4. Ayn Rand argued that fraud and violations of copyright/patent laws were indirect uses of force. As such, they do not involve anyone exercising literal physical force. The initial act of literal physical force is that of the government when it intervenes to stop such indirect violations of individual rights. It is clear that Ayn Rand understood these situations to be exceptions to the general prohibition of initiating physical force. I know that some people, namely rationalists, have difficulty dealing with the complexity presented by exceptions. Ayn Rand did not. Incidentally, this is exactly the same thing that the government would do when it intervenes to stop a private defense agency: using a literal act of physical force to prevent an agency from indirectly threatening the rights of all citizens by acting independently of the government. Saying that violations of intellectual property "amount to an initiation of the use of force" acknowledges that such acts are similar but different. That is exactly what Ayn Rand would say and what I am saying. They amount to an initiation of the use of force because they deprive the victim of his individual rights. Again, the key issue is rights, not force. Since they are similar but different, the first, initial act of literal physical force is taken by the government when it stops such actions.
  5. Libertarian references to NIOF as an axiomatic principle “The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the ‘nonaggression axiom.’ ‘Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else.” For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard, p 27 (second edition-1978) Chapter entitled “The Nonaggression Axiom” “No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else. This is what libertarians call the nonaggression axiom, and it is a central principle of libertarianism.” Libertarianism: A Primer, David Boaz, p. 74 From the wikipedia article on the Libertarian Party: “Since the Libertarian Party's inception, individuals have been able to join the party as voting members by signing their agreement with the organization's membership pledge, which states, based on the Non-Aggression Principle, that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” from LewRockwell.com: In Defense of Libertarian Purity, Anthony Gregory “I consider myself a principled libertarian. Or a radical libertarian. I suppose there are many ways of saying it. Murray Rothbard called it "plumb-line libertarianism," and Walter Block has seen fit to embrace that terminology. I see it simply as the belief that initiating force is wrong.” Evicting Libertarian Party Principles: The Portland Purge, by L.K. Samuels [Objecting to the “LP Reform Caucus” in 2006] “So what are some of the principles that they believe must go? First and foremost is the non-aggression principle, which is considered the main threat to an election-oriented populism. If Libertarians would simply throw away this ideal, explaining LP policies on taxation, the drug war, foreign policy and military intervention would no longer be a campaign embarrassment.” From a libertarian blog (technoeudaimonia): : The Problem with Axiomatic Libertarianism “Many libertarians, following in the tradition of Murray Rothbard, propose that liberty is an axiom; that is, liberty is a self-evident fact. They include such thinkers as Hans-Hermann Hoppe with his libertarian version of argumentation ethics, Stephan Kinsella with his conception of estoppel, and Stefan Molyneux with his "universably preferable behavior". Non-aggression is thus singled out and separated from the rest of ethics, which leads to a separation of what is "right" and what is "good"; this is evident, for example, in many of the writings of Walter Block.” From a wikipedia entry on Hans-Hermann Hoppe: “Argumentation ethics argues the non-aggression principle is a presupposition of argumentation and so cannot be rationally denied in discourse. Many modern libertarian scholars have accepted Hoppe's argument, among them Murray Rothbard, Walter Block, David Gordon and Stephan Kinsella." I think the above might suggest that someone here is, indeed, "totally ignorant of the material they are referring to."
  6. OK. I will spell it out for you. The fundamental issue is how we determine what is a proper, moral governmental action. One cannot use a concrete act of initiating physical force to define what government can and cannot do. That is not the determining factor. Government’s role is defined by the delineation of individual rights. The use of force alone does not define rights. Rather, we define rights according to the requirements of human nature and proper human survival. Three obvious examples where the question of literal physical force is an insufficient criterion of proper government conduct are patents, copyrights and fraud. The government may initiate an act of physical force to deter someone from stealing someone’s intellectual property. And it may initiate an act of physical force to take money away from someone who has effectively stolen money through deception—e.g., selling bogus tickets to a concert or show. In these cases, no literal act of physical force occurs until the government takes action. These are obviously exceptions to the rule that the only way to violate individual rights is by initiating physical force. If you acknowledge that the government may initiate force in these instances—in the name of protecting individual rights-- there is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government may not initiate force (stop the unregulated use of force by private police agencies) in order to insure that it can do its job of protecting individual rights. There is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government should not have a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.
  7. The relationship between force and rights is a very important one. At the beginning of his thread, I suggested that defenders of anarcho-capitalism read Understanding Objectivism. One of the key points covered in that book is the connection between the evil of force and individual rights. The following is a brief summary of my own notes on this topic as taken from the book. From the perspective of the hierarchy of Objectivism, the principle of the evil of the initiation of force is more fundamental than individual rights. However, this does not mean that you can move from the evil of force directly to politics and government (as anarchists typically do). Another step is necessary, and that step is the clarification of the nature of rights. The nature of individual rights is the base of politics. When discussing rights—or any other issue related to politics—we must hold the context of everything that precedes politics, including all of ethics. The evil of the initiation of force is part of ethics. But one cannot proceed from “force is evil” to “government should ban it.” Government does not exist for the purpose of upholding morality. It cannot outlaw dishonesty or sexual promiscuity or pornography. The principle relating ethics to politics is: What is moral in ethics must be possible in politics. Society must institutionalize the conditions which enable man to live morally. That’s why Rand defines rights as “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.” “If a man has a right to his own life, then he has the right to take all those actions that are necessary, by his nature as a rational being, to sustain and protect it. In order to prove that a certain action is in fact a right, you have to prove that it is required by man’s nature.” Ayn Rand, Objectively Speaking (p. 47) Consider the implications of this for another ‘hot button’ issue with anarchists: copyright laws and patents. Objectivism says that, in accordance with the requirements of human life, a man should be able to profit from the efforts of his own mind. Therefore, he has the right to control who profits from his artistic creations and inventions. But the anarchist says that, because this will require “initiating” force to stop others from duplicating his work without permission, the artist and inventor has no such right. The reason such anarchists cannot find any such “right” is that they have never grasped that the issue of the evil of the initiation of force is not a primary. Just that principle alone is not sufficient to build a political theory. It is necessary to understand why it is evil. It is not an axiom. Paraphrasing Peikoff: If you start with the non-initiation of force as your axiom, there is no way to know how to interpret or apply that principle. That error alone--an error which reflects the epistemology of rationalism--underlies most of the massive folly called anarcho-capitalism. I have no illusions that anarcho-capitalists will grasp this and suddenly “see the light.” The implications of this are obvious, but I am not about to waste my breath repeating myself while certain posters keep telling me that I have not ‘addressed’ this or that issue when I have addressed it over and over and over again. I have better things to do than to try convince anarchist “true believers.” My primary purpose in posting this is for the education of other readers on this thread. For more clarification on this, please read Peikoff’s Understanding Objectivism.
  8. This should be fascinating. I saw D'Souza in debate along with several prominent libertarians at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in 2010. The debate was on the topic of whether religion was a destructive influence in America. It was religion on trial, so to speak. Obviously, D'Souza was among those defending religion. Afterwards, the audience voted in favor of religion, and I would credit D'Souza with that victory. FreedomFest 2010: Debate on Religion As I recall, none of those testifying against religion seemed well-versed in Objectivist philosophy. As is often true of certain 'Randite' libertarians, they imagine that they understand the Objectivist viewpoint but do a truly pathetic job of presenting it. I'm quite sure Bernstein will do much better. It will be interesting to see. D'Souza is not above using ad hominem to win debate points. While going one-on-one with Doug Casey at FreedomFest, D'Souza made a historical reference that Casey was not aware of. Casey asked about the relevance of D'Souza's reference, and he replied: "My point is that you are an ignorant man." Bernstein should be prepared for this such cheap theatrics.
  9. As others have suggested, the key thing to note about this quote from Ayn Rand is that she clearly distinguishes between religion and 'religious people.' She often said that many people are better than their premises, but she never wavered from her conviction that religion itself is absolutely antithetical to Objectivism. All religions--and especially Christianity--represent the philosophical enshrinement of the mind-body dichotomy, and Objectivism is diametrically opposed to that doctrine and all of its disastrous ramifications for human life and human happiness.
  10. It's called poetic license. I don't think Ayn Rand would likely contend that blowing up a building is the best way to resolve a breach of contract. The explosion and subsequent trial served a dramatic purpose in the context of the plot of The Fountainhead. Rand discussed the climax of The Fountainhead in her 1958 lectures on "The Art of Fiction," and you can read an edited transcript of her remarks in the book version (Chapter 5). She had to devise a climax which underscored and resolved all of the key conflicts in the novel--Roark vs. Dominique, Roark vs. Wynand, Roark vs. 'The Second Hander' (Keating), Roark vs. Toohey (who mobilizes public opinion to denounce Roark's controversial action) and Roark vs. Society. In each of these conflicts, Roark is shown to triumph. Alll of those conflicts were integrated into the act of dynamiting Cortlandt, and that would not have been the case with a simple lawsuit. I would argue that the use of such exaggerated plot devices is a key difference between naturalism and romantic realism.
  11. Again, we are back to looking at the real world as opposed to a fantasy world. As long as the private court did everything the government court would do, everything would be lovely. The problem, of course, is that it is very likely that the private court might not follow all of the procedural safeguards that a government court is required to follow. And in that event, someone’s rights have been violated. If the private court is operating separately from the government’s oversight, the government cannot do its job of protecting individual rights. The difference between a private company performing a specific service and the government is that the government's responsibility is to make sure that something does not happen--that force is not used improperly. That's why it requires jurisdiction over any agencies that may use force in any way.
  12. Thanks again for your comments, Don. My question to you would be: How is the government supposed to protect individual rights if it does not have oversight over the use of force? I don’t know about you, but I seriously doubt if the honor system is going to work. This brings us back to the moral issue—i.e., the moral legitimacy of the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of the citizens within its jurisdiction—i.e., to prevent the initiation of force. It cannot do so unless it has control over the use of force. That’s simple causality. If the government does not control the use of force, it cannot protect individual rights. Any agency that tried to usurp the government’s authority by using force on its own, independently of the government or governmental oversight, would be acting to prevent the government from doing its job. Such action by an independent agency would constitute a de facto threat to the rights of all the citizens within the government’s jurisdiction. So I argue that, in such cases, the government's action is retaliatory and not an initiation of force. In reality, the government has to be able to do its job of protecting rights. To say that it cannot, in a technical sense, “initiate force” against those who obstruct its proper function of protecting individual rights is sheer rationalism—i.e., focusing on concepts severed from reality. And further, the government’s action against private parties who use force is exactly equivalent to what any private agency would have to do when confronted with another agency with a conflicting interpretation of the law. So to say that it’s okay for private agencies to do it but not a government “monopoly” is to endorse a contradiction. That’s the inherent nature of force—one party prevails. And to say that there would not necessarily be any such conflicting interpretations is to live in a dream world.
  13. This talk by Cato president John Allison to The Heritage Foundation on January 15, 2013 is playing on C-Span's Book TV this week-end. It is excellent. Allison should be well-known to Objectivists. He is the former CEO of BB&T and is a major contributor to the Ayn Rand Institute. He does not mention Ayn Rand by name in this talk even though everything he says is pure, undiluted Objectivism. This talk is given to promote his book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure. The most interesting thing about the talk, to me, is the fact that Allison's focus is on a proper moral defense of capitalism. Despite the fact that he is speaking at Heritage--a conservative think tank--Allison argues that capitalism's defenders must take up the ethical cause of rational self-interest. Hooray for C-Span!! John Allison at the The Heriitage Foundation
  14. Whether markets can operate without the precondition of the rule of objective law is precisely what we are arguing here. You argue that there can be a "market" (i.e., competition) in the control of "gunfire" (i.e., force). That's the consequence of rationalist thinking: ultimately you have no grasp of what your ideas mean in reality. The more levels of abstraction you put between your floating concepts ('police agencies,' courts, laws, et. al.) and their referents in reality (men with guns pointed at each other), the easier it is for you to go on entertaining the foolish fantasy of "anarcho-capitalism."
  15. That may well be because you are unwilling to evade the fundamental difference between the free exchange of goods and services and the exchange of gunfire.
  16. This comment reflects zero progress in your understanding of the concept of objective restraint on the use of force. I don't know if you are honestly unable to grasp the concept or actively working to sustain an evasion, but in either case, there is obviously no point in wasting further time with you discussing this matter. Your follow-up post was pure invective. So, again, no comment by me is needed here.
  17. I‘m sorry if this response seems less than civil, but you will need to learn to express yourself more succinctly if you expect me to respond. I do not have the time to read 3000 word essays on a webforum and then respond to every point. Particularly not when the purpose of the essay is to defend an elaborate fantasy whose entire theoretical basis consists of a falsehood—the alleged “immorality” of limited government. And I suspect that when people need thousands of words to convey a simple theory, they either do not know what they are talking about or the theory itself defies rational comprehension.
  18. Thanks, Tony. I agree with what you say. One thing I frankly have never understood is why Rand would be totally exonerated because she obtained verbal approval of the affair from Barbara and Frank. Really? That makes whatever she did after that hunky dory? Suppose the rumors are true (and I obviously don’t know one way or the other) that the affair drove Frank to become an alcoholic. Was it then okay for Rand to continue the affair because he had given her the go-ahead? I have a real problem with that. Rand told PLAYBOY that she would step in front of a gun pointed at her husband. Then why would she not care about the pain he may have been enduring? To repeat, I am only speculating here. I could be way off base. Perhaps the affair did not cause Frank much in the way of personal anguish. Anne Heller (Ayn Rand and the World She Made) told me she believed Frank was hurt more by Rand’s refusal to let the affair die than the affair itself. Maybe so. I just know from personal experience how excruciatingly painful infidelity can be.
  19. Don, Thanks very much for your comment. Trials by private agencies would only be possible with close governmental oversight, again, to insure procedural objectivity. Consider the frequency with which trial verdicts are overturned because of some seemingly trivial error on the part of the court—allowing the use of tainted evidence or questionable testimony, etc. Any hint of impartiality is sufficient cause to void a guilty verdict. The role of the government is to insure absolute adherence to due process—rules of evidence, jury selection. et. al. Without ironclad safeguards on due process, there would be no assurance that justice was served in a given case. So, yes, in the absence of such oversight, the government can legitimately intervene to stop a trial conducted by a private agency in the name of protecting individual rights. If there were no such oversight, what would stop alleged “victims” from paying private agencies to conduct “trials” for the purpose of prosecuting anyone they considered guilty of having harmed them? There would be nothing to insure the impartiality of the outcome. The government would be justified in acting on principle to prevent the initiation of force by such agencies, even if, in a given instance, a particular agency acted properly (i.e., observed appropriate due process) without governmental oversight. That is the only way a government can guarantee the protection of individual rights in all cases.
  20. You confuse throwing out a bunch of unsupported assertions with an argument. You have not shown how competing police agencies could provide an objective restraint on the use of force. (Which is understandable, since they can’t.) You’ve just blurted out the absurd contention that somehow they can. And you have not shown how their conflicting interpretations of the law would not lead to chaos and bloodshed. Your answer to the issue of conflicting interpretations of the law was no “answer” at all. You offered this “solution”: “ If it is possible (and of course we are in agreement that it is) to verify objectively that one interpretation of justice is valid whereas another one is not, then it does not matter who employs the procedures in question.” When I explained that this is typically anarchist, rationalist crap, you came back with: “Oh, I didn’t really mean that there is one interpretation that’s verifiable, I only meant basic principles, blah-blah.-blah.” I consider your long-winded, ambiguous posts to be nothing more than a poor effort at obfuscation, and I will continue to repeat the essential points as long as you continue to try to bury them in needless complexity and confusion.
  21. I know that you believe I should understand what you think you said, but since I don’t, and since you refuse to acknowledge any points I make…. Let’s keep it as simple as possible. The case for monopoly government arises from the fact that, in a free society, force must be kept under objective control. This is not possible when competing police agencies operate under conflicting interpretations of the law, which you have conceded would occur. This will necessitate aggression by one agency against another (or against private citizens). The case against monopoly government is based on the false claim that such a “monopoly” requires coercion against innocents who do not consent whereas private defense agencies do not. But since they will often be operating under different interpretations of the law, private agencies must also use coercion against innocents who do not consent. "Competition" in the creation of objective restrictions on the use of force is hopelessly impracticable, and will destroy the precondition for a free market. Obfuscate that
  22. I found your first paragraph utterly confusing and bewildering, but after considerable effort, I think I succeeded in breaking it down into something comprehensible. You seem to be saying the following: My Translation of 2046: Dennis defines coercion as “excluding others from choice,” then offers two very different instances of “excluding from choice”: A. Coercion means “excluding others from choice.” Using coercion against aggressors is justified. B. Coercion means “excluding others from choice.” Using coercion against competing agencies which produce law and provide protection from aggressors is justified. Dennis argues that A implies B because in both cases someone is excluding others from choice. He says they are the same thing. This is the fallacy of equivocation, because the market agency which produces law and provides protection is not excluding others from choice. (End of translation) To begin with, the fallacy of “equivocation” does not apply here because I use the same meaning for coercion (i.e., excluding others from choice) in both statements. I am not switching the meanings of the term coercion, so there is no “equivocation.” If I argued that A by itself implies B (which I didn’t), you could call this a non sequitur or perhaps a diversion, but not an equivocation. In fact, I never argued that A implies B. An additional premise is required, as follows—As soon as any "market agency" begins imposing its view of law and justice on someone outside that agency, it is “excluding others from choice.” Therefore, coercion may be used against them to stop them. That's my argument, and it is not an "equivocation." This is rationalist nonsense, and very typical of anarchist thinking. It is not consistent with the Objectivist viewpoint that "it is possible. . . to verify objectively that one interpretation of justice is valid whereas another one is not." There are an infinite number of issues where vast disagreement is possible. Certain basic principles can be established, but the interpretation of those principles and their application to specific contexts can be incredibly complex. There will always be room for reasonable disagreement among the most rational men about any number of political problems. Have you ever been exposed to the intricacies of contract law, to take just one example? It is hard to believe that someone--even a rabid anarchist--could maintain such a fantasy. Here is what I am saying, in brief and simple form: Imposing their own view of law and justice on an external party (another such agency or private citizen) puts a “market defense agency” in exactly the same position as a monopoly government. That’s the inherent nature of coercion. Period. That’s the bottom line. It is clear from reading your post that you have no interest in understanding my position, which is invariably the case with anarchists. With all due respect, I see no point in continuing further discussion with you on this matter. I’m sure we both have better things to do than waste each others’ time.
  23. There is some fascinating research being done in the field of neuroscience on the topic of what is call “downward causation” and its connection to human volition. Here is one book on the topic: Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will (Understanding Complex Systems) Synopsis: The research isn’t all that new. Here is a quote (actually more of a paraphrase) from a lecture David Kelley gave on The Nature of Free Will around 20 years ago:
  24. To monopolize is to dominate by excluding others from choice. Force necessarily involves excluding others from choice: it is one party imposing its will on another. This is true any time one party exercises coercion. The barring of competition is simply one instance of force. So there is no equivocation here. Let’s examine the difference between what you call “legitimate” coercion and “illegitimate” coercion by concretizing both (since my case against anarchy in “The Childs-Peikoff Hypothesis” is that it is based on rationalism). “Legitimate” force would presumably include things like police intervention to stop theft or assault or to penalize someone for those crimes. In either instance, the thief or assailant may well refuse to sanction or consent to the use of force against them, but you would say no ‘consent’ is necessary. “Illegitimate” force (in your view) would be arresting someone for pulling a gun on a “suspect” (thief or assailant) without the authority to do so—by a private individual or ‘defense agency.’ Or arresting someone for pulling a gun on a neighbor for trespassing. In the last instance, the person is being arrested because the law does not allow you to threaten someone’s life for trespassing. In all these instances, the people arrested are acting outside the province of the law, which makes them ‘aggressors’ (in the eyes of the law). Here again, the parties being arrested would deny sanction or consent to the arrest, claiming they were simply acting in self-defense. In the first instance, you claim the lack of consent doesn’t matter. In the second, you seem to say that it does matter. But then later you say this: With that comment, you have acknowledged that a lack of consent is just as much of an issue with anarchy as with limited government. The entire case for anarcho-capitalism rests on the consent issue. When anarchists argue that the government has no right to stop a private defense agency from using retaliatory force, they are basing the agency’s right to act on someone’s choice (consent) to use their services instead of the government’s services. That is the whole “moral” raison d’etre for this curious phenomenon called anarcho-capitalism. Since you have conceded that the lack of consent is just as much of a problem for the anarcho-capitalist as for the minarchist, no further discussion is really needed. The main case for anarcho-capitalism is based on a moral argument: that individuals should be able to make their own private choice as to how they enforce their right of self-defense. If that’s true, then this should extend to a further question: Not just to whom they delegate their right of self-defense, but whether they choose to delegate that right in the first place. Perhaps no such agency meets their “objective” criteria for administering force. And there is no stone tablet that says individuals must “consent” to abide by some established “objective code” of retaliatory force. If the withholding of consent is the issue, the question of restricting the right of self-defense to an established “objective code” is also necessarily thrown into the mix as well. Anyone could argue that his “objective code” is superior to any others being offered on the “market.” Repeating what I said in a prior post: If there is something inherent in the nature of force that requires that one agency have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force—if, in reality, that is a precondition of freedom--then limited government is not at all inconsistent with Objectivism. The ‘consent of the governed’ means: the members of a society recognize the reality that society can only exist if individuals relinquish the use of private, nonobjective force—and that those who do not recognize this threaten the liberty of everyone else. The practicality of limited government and whether this is the best way to establish objective law is not the issue. (Obviously it is. No sane person disputes that.) No one would have “cooked up” the wacky notion of anarcho-capitalism but for the alleged “moral” arguments. So I’m not about to waste my time trying to “prove” that limited government is a more practical solution. Give me a freakin’ break. I have better things to do.
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