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Libertarianism vs Objectivism

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Dániel Boros
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I have been reeding the history of the objectivist movement on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia....tivist_movement , and that started me to think about the relationship between objectivism and similar ideologies. It seems that history was not kind to the movement and as far as I can tell the problems came from the inside and not the outside. It seems there was a general hostility by hardcore objectivists towards libertarianism and towards the Academy. That is a little puzzling since both of them seem to be -at least at first glance- to be the natural allies of objectivism. (I doubt Ayn would have ranked a church higher than the Academy.) I myself reached Ayn Rand by first getting interested in Ron Paul and than moved on to Milton Friedman and than finally ended my journey here.

I find that neglecting or working against the relationship of like minded thinkers is both irrational and unproductive. In a democratic society change can only come through numbers -that is reality- and discouraging cooperation of the people with common goals but with different ideas won't yield any results, and in fact will stop the possibility of change through legal means. If the system is broken, and if there are other people like us who want it fixed and know how to do it, how can it be wrong to refuse the helping hand they offer?

Ayn Rand stated that there can be no compromise in morality, and I agree. I however don't see any compromise in the idea of cooperating with someone as long as our goals are the same and our methods moral. Even if that person is a Christian like Ron Paul or a Utilitarian like Milton Friedman. It's like a business deal. Even if the shopkeeper is a communist I can still cooperate with him or her as long as we both benefit from it. Not cooperating on the other hand would be altruism.

There has been a lot of potential in the objectivist movement in the past, and most of it was wasted in the end. I hope the new one will do better and as far as I can tell it actually does.

Daniel

Edited by Dániel Boros
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as far as I can tell the problems came from the inside and not the outside.

I would like to hear more about this too. I just assumed that the people I heard about often (the Hsieh's, the Kelley's, the Branden's, Peikoff, Rand, Brook, Biddle, etc.) were all Objectivist intellectuals. But I've come across lots of sites that are explicitly anti-Hsieh, (again anti-Hsieh), anti-Kelly's-and-Branden's.. can't think of others off the top of my head but they're out there. I've personally found lots of useful information from all of these sites, ie: Kelley's site-the atlas society, but haven't looked more in-depth as to the causes of the "split."

Edit:

It seems there was a general hostility by hardcore objectivists towards libertarianism and towards the Academy. That is a little puzzling since both of them seem to be -at least at first glance- to be the natural allies of objectivism.

My understanding of it is small, but there are some major differences: [1] [2]

Edited by mdegges
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I think Objectivists might need to work on getting along with one another better, but beyond that the debates are meaningful and healthy for the movement as a whole.

Libertarians on the other hand tend to be anti-war, anti-federal government, anti-american, etc. They are nothing like us. The worst part is "They" means several radically different ideaologies. You have right wing nihilsts/existentialists, fundementalist christians, neo-confederates, mutualists (socialists), neo-kantian rationalists, satanists, neo-pagans, and others. It is a complete mess of a movement. Just bring up abortion, intellectual property, immigration or race and you will get a giant controversy on any of their forums.

Edited by Hairnet
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I did not say to ally with libertarianism. I said ally with libertarians whom we share a common goal with. There has been a group called christian objectivists, but that doesn't mean objectivism or objectivists in general agree with any religion or that objectivism has a double standard. Yes there are lots of different libertarians out there, and we should not befriend all of them the same way not all libertarians befriend each other. There is for example a libertarian party out there that has little to do with the things you described here.

They aren't anti war any more than objectivists are. Objectivists don't seem to support the war on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on Lybia and the war on drugs essentially all ward that libertarians are against. Ron Paul who is a libertarian supported the act against the perpetrators of 911, and repeatedly stated that most of them were Saudis. Yes Ron doesn't want a war against Iran and Saud Arabia, because the U.S. is broke and a economic collapse would be far worse than a war you don't start. Anti federal perhaps, but there are lots of things that should not be assessed on the federal level that currently are. Anti-american... no not really, at least not any more than Rand was.

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Ayn Rand was an philosopher, not a politician. Philosophers have readers/students/people who agree with them, not members or allies. Any Libertarian is free to read/be a student of/agree with Objectivism. They don't need my consent or support.

It's not just that Libertarians disagree with fundamental Objectivist principles, it's that they usually have no interest in secular philosophy whatsoever. And, on the rare occasion they develop an interest, their irrationality (beyond that of even conservatives and liberals) is quickly revealed.

Feel free to contradict me: Name one aspect of Objectivism (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, aesthetics) just one prominent Libertarian agrees with consistently, on principle and in a provable way (ie. he wrote or spoke about it extensively enough, and his actions are fully consistent with his words).

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But I've come across lots of sites that are explicitly anti-Hsieh, (again anti-Hsieh)...

That is patently false. Objectivistliving is not "anti-Hsieh." Some of the members are sometimes critical of Hsieh's ideas and bad behavior, but some of them are also sometimes in agreement with her ideas and appreciative of her productive behavior. The site's co-owner often praises Hsieh for her passions and efforts, and he wishes her success and happiness.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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That is patently false. Objectivistliving is not "anti-Hsieh." Some of the members are sometimes critical of Hsieh's ideas and bad behavior, but some of them are also sometimes in agreement with her ideas and appreciative of her productive behavior. The site's co-owner often praises Hsieh for her passions and efforts, and he wishes her success and happiness.

J

The site contains large amounts of comments on Hsieh, a vast majority of them of the negative variety. So what exactly is your problem with describing the site as anti-Hsieh?

If that's not what makes a site anti-someone, then what does?

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Ayn Rand was an philosopher, not a politician. Philosophers have readers/students/people who agree with them, not members or allies. Any Libertarian is free to read/be a student of/agree with Objectivism. They don't need my consent or support.

It's not just that Libertarians disagree with fundamental Objectivist principles, it's that they usually have no interest in secular philosophy whatsoever. And, on the rare occasion they develop an interest, their irrationality (beyond that of even conservatives and liberals) is quickly revealed.

Feel free to contradict me: Name one aspect of Objectivism (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, aesthetics) just one prominent Libertarian agrees with consistently, on principle and in a provable way (ie. he wrote or spoke about it extensively enough, and his actions are fully consistent with his words).

Whether they need our support or not is not the question. The question is do we need theirs and whether we want to wait another 50 years before we decide to do something.

Look at Ron Paul. He originally run as a libertarian candidate. When that didn't work out he ran republican and he achieved tremendous success, and he did it without giving up an inch from his ideas.

Why would be wrong for us to do the same thing? Yes libertarians don't have much interest in philosophy, but so what? People don't have to be interested. Rand never said that everyone should be a philosopher. She always envisioned change through the opinion moulders of society.

Libertarians are for limited government and pro human rights and pro capitalism and that is the most important thing in politics and not wars and whatever else you can think of what libertarians should not support.

  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology: Reason
  3. Ethics: Self-interest
  4. Politics: Capitalism

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I think that Ayn Rand believed and I rightly so, that a political movements divorced from a philosophical tradition is less than impotent but destructive to the erstwhile goals of that political movement, because they cannot in any coherent way articulate the why.

From the Lexicon

I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.

This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism. Reason in epistemology leads to egoism in ethics, which leads to capitalism in politics.

Because libertarianism basis itself on floating concepts, it chases itself into absurd ideas like anarchro capitalism, Green libertarianism and Libertarian socialism.

The libertarians of her time liked what she said about capitalism but rejected the need for an integrated philosphy. This is the basic reason Ayn Rand was against libertarianism

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Daniel, if the first responsibility of a government is self defense how would wars and the way they are fought not be one of the most important things?

Its not that libertarians lack interest in philosophy as such, its that they specifically don't agree that the way that you achieve a conclusion is part of the conclusion.

Without the reasoning behind why one should support free markets you get governments cracking down on the bigger companies in the name of competition.

Without the reason behind general nonaggression you get a military that is held back until the enemy crosses your border or fires its first missile.

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All for one and that one is me. What I said had little to do with the "common good", whatever that might be. If having your rights protected can only be achieved by having others rights protected as well, than so be it.

I think that Ayn Rand believed and I rightly so, that a political movements divorced from a philosophical tradition is less than impotent but destructive to the erstwhile goals of that political movement, because they cannot in any coherent way articulate the why.

That's how the USA was founded. In the end Classical liberalism is no different from Modern Libertarianism. When I said libertarians are not interested in philosophy I was referring to the average Ron Paul supporter and not to the guys at the top. In Libertarian philosophy the non aggression principle is an axiom and not something that is derived from other axioms. That is the big difference between Objectivism and Libertarianism. On a political level libertarians and objectivists stand for the same values. Yes Libertarian is a term used by many, but that is no excuse to look at the people who have the right goals in mind.

Daniel, if the first responsibility of a government is self defense how would wars and the way they are fought not be one of the most important things?

When you have the strongest military in the World and the question regarding war is either to attack Iran or Saud Arabia or both and when you have 16trilion $ in debt, that increases by one trillion each year and when you have indefinite QE3 and 0% interest rates, than the likelihood of the USA's collapse due to foreign military intervention is rather small. Don't worry about hosing during the flood. Republicans and Democrats will destroy the country faster than any foreign enemy could, or did you not read Atlas Shrugged?

Edited by Dániel Boros
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Whether they need our support or not is not the question. The question is do we need theirs

No, we don't. Libertarians are a fringe minority, and whenever they "support" Ayn Rand's ideas, they do it by misrepresenting them to others. They do that to the point that most of the general population actually associates Ayn Rand with Libertarianism, despite the fact that she openly denounced the movement.

What we need is for Libertarians to start acknowledging that Objectivism is not something they understand or stand for. That their contact with Objectivism, which is a philosophy not a political movement, is tangential at most. That Ayn Rand is not their personal hero, because you have to be passionate about reading and understanding someone's work, before declaring them your personal hero.

Look at Ron Paul. He originally run as a libertarian candidate. When that didn't work out he ran republican and he achieved tremendous success, and he did it without giving up an inch from his ideas.

Good point. We definitely need to find conservatives who are willing to understand and support Objectivism. We also need to find young Liberals to do the same thing.

What we don't need is entrenched Libertarian pacifists and anarchists who aren't capable of having a conversation, let alone understanding anything.

Libertarians are for limited government and pro human rights and pro capitalism and that is the most important thing in politics and not wars and whatever else you can think of what libertarians should not support.

You spent most of your stint on this board arguing against Capitalism. Now you're claiming that you're for it? Are you no longer in favor of multiple competing governments?

And if you're claiming to support Ayn Rand's politics, then you don't get to decide what is and what isn't important to Ayn Rand's politics. She already decided. And she explicitly declared the government's use of retaliatory force essential to viable Capitalism.

Your choice is to agree or disagree with her, and then state your agreement or disagreement honestly. Don't try to manufacture agreement where there is none.

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When you have the strongest military in the World and the question regarding war is either to attack Iran or Saud Arabia or both and when you have 16trilion $ in debt, that increases by one trillion each year and when you have indefinite QE3 and 0% interest rates, than the likelihood of the USA's collapse due to foreign military intervention is rather small. Don't worry about hosing during the flood. Republicans and Democrats will destroy the country faster than any foreign enemy could, or did you not read Atlas Shrugged?

Objectivism is against pragmatic solutions in Politics. We are concerned with what is right, not with what is a lesser evil. Just because, in the short term, Libertarian pacifism won't harm the US as much as D/R socialism will (debatable proposition, btw.), doesn't mean we should support them.

Besides, I'm not a nationalist, I care about rational people everywhere, and I believe it is in out shared interest to stick together in the face of tyranny. That's the political ideal I want people to understand, not "here's a bunch of nonsense I can't defend except by saying that it's not as bad as what the Republicans and Democrats are pushing".

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No, we don't. Libertarians are a fringe minority, and whenever they "support" Ayn Rand's ideas, they do it by misrepresenting them to others. They do that to the point that most of the general population actually associates Ayn Rand with Libertarianism, despite the fact that she openly denounced the movement.

A minority yes, but a minority that has been growing constantly that last few years.

Maybe if there were more objectivists among libertarians they could help libertarians to present Rand's ideas correctly. That's what Yaron Brooks been doing.

He has been on Stossel's show (who is a libertarian) and gave lectures to tea party members and he didn't denounce them at all.

I am well aware that Rand denounced libertarians, but unless she had a valid objective reason that applies today as well, I don't care.

What we need is for Libertarians to start acknowledging that Objectivism is not something they understand or stand for. That their contact with Objectivism, which is a philosophy not a political movement, is tangential at most. That Ayn Rand is not their personal hero, because you have to be passionate about reading and understanding someone's work, before declaring them your personal hero.

Good point. We definitely need to find conservatives who are willing to understand and support Objectivism. We also need to find young Liberals to do the same thing.

Ron was not a conservative, he became one just so he could be elected in the two party system. If marriage can be considered a deal why can't politics be considered as one as well? Ron Paul became a republican to achieve his goal and it was his philosophical integrity that got him as far as he is now, but if a objectivist were to ally with a libertarian he would loose all credibility. Why?

I doubt anyone could find an objectivist liberal. They are socialists in both name and action. Republicans are only socialists in action.

What we don't need is entrenched Libertarian pacifists and anarchists who aren't capable of having a conversation, let alone understanding anything.

I wish you would stop using faulty generalization. When I mention the libertarian party and limited government I wasn't thinking about anarchists who are not part of the party and not for any government.

Most libertarians are not pacifists at least I never heard of any libertarian who was. They are no interventionists in other words anti imperialists and anti nation builders.

The argument that libertarians are pacifists lacks proof: Yes libertarians don't want to wage war against Iran and Saud Arabia, but there's no guarantee that such wars could help against Alqeda. They would just move to another country...

Libertarians aren't anti war they are just not for unnecessary bloodshed. There may be a good case for war but as long as no one is there to say it no one will hear it.

You spent most of your stint on this board arguing against Capitalism. Now you're claiming that you're for it? Are you no longer in favor of multiple competing governments?

And if you're claiming to support Ayn Rand's politics, then you don't get to decide what is and what isn't important to Ayn Rand's politics. She already decided. And she explicitly declared the government's use of retaliatory force essential to viable Capitalism.

Your choice is to agree or disagree with her, and then state your agreement or disagreement honestly. Don't try to manufacture agreement where there is none.

I don't see how my theory that suggested that objective laws can be provided by the free market makes me an anti capitalist. Also it's a theory and it's mine, but it doesn't mean I am endorsing such a system.

Also in my second theory that I posted later I clearly stated that if force is to be privatized there should be a government that regulates the private police and writes laws in addition to its exclusive military.

The point I tried to always make that defining government as "monopoly on force" is in fact an argument from tradition and therefore not necessarily valid. What matters is objective law and monopoly on law and not the monopoly on force.

These are hypothetical. I do not claim to know the answer. Maybe that is why I put up topics about them :), but I do believe firmly that an argument from tradition is invalid even if Rand herself was the one who made it.

Objectivism is against pragmatic solutions in Politics. We are concerned with what is right, not with what is a lesser evil. Just because, in the short term, Libertarian pacifism won't harm the US as much as D/R socialism will (debatable proposition, btw.), doesn't mean we should support them.

Besides, I'm not a nationalist, I care about rational people everywhere, and I believe it is in out shared interest to stick together in the face of tyranny. That's the political ideal I want people to understand, not "here's a bunch of nonsense I can't defend except by saying that it's not as bad as what the Republicans and Democrats are pushing".

I don't think what I suggested was pragmatism. Many countries collapsed due to spending issues related to war. Certainly government has to protect its citizens, but it has to protect itself as well. No money no guns.

Again libertarians aren't really pacifists they just disagree with the current foreign policy.

What I meant was that government has a tendency to grow and that right now there's a better chance to stop than when the country is called the new USSR. In Atlas Shrugged the government collapsed, but that is fiction. If you look at reality you will see that dictatorships can exists for hundreds of years. I am merely suggesting that defending rights when there is none left may be too late or at least ineffective.

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When I said libertarians are not interested in philosophy I was referring to the average Ron Paul supporter and not to the guys at the top. In Libertarian philosophy the non aggression principle is an axiom and not something that is derived from other axioms. That is the big difference between Objectivism and Libertarianism.

That is also the big key to the differences. Axioms are not arbitrary principles assembled randomly to create some feel good platform. A principle is a general demonstrable truth upon which other truths depend. The non-aggression principle at best is a variant of viewing the initiation of physical force as wrong while ignoring the contexts where retaliatory force is proper. The Libertarians treatment of freedom is similar. Ripping it from the political context that identify how to determine what are the specific individual rights are that government should be charged with by the individuals to uphold and protect within an objective basis, the Libertarians idea of freedom is elevated into an axiomatic principle and treated as a primary that man should feel free to do just about anything.

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I usually find the "libertarian" conversation (not just here, but in general) to be so confused that there's little profit in trying to suss it all out. But, for what it's worth, here are a couple of cents:

There's a difference between "libertarianism" as a philosophy and the Libertarian political party. A libertarian, in the sense of someone who "believes in capitalism," but has detached that from other philosophical considerations, and doesn't even believe that those considerations matter, is wrong. But a member of the Libertarian political party has not necessarily divorced his personal political philosophy from metaphysics, epistemology, ethics.

Though Objectivism is not a political party, and though the philosophy encompasses far more than politics, it makes sense that -- to take political action -- like-minded Objectivists would act in concert to achieve political change. When folks act in that fashion, and especially in an ongoing fashion keeping infrastructure and etc., we tend to describe it as a "political party." Supposing that Objectivists by-and-large supported... oh, I don't know, a measure to legalize marijuana, it is unlikely that they would demand that all those who plan on voting for that measure take a test as to their stance on measurement omission. Every yea vote would count alike, whether from an Objectivist, or from a wacky Christian, or etc. In this way, an Objectivist political party would "make common cause" with those who seek to legalize marijuana, but "for the wrong reasons." This does not mean that Objectivists would thus pander to wacky Christians to seek their votes, but it does speak to the reality of how voting works. Unless Objectivists believe that it would be wrong to ever attempt to implement political change, finally they would have to work within an organization that... might come to look a lot like the Libertarian party does. So if the Libertarian party is hopeless for this purpose and cannot be salvaged, that's fine. But what then? Do we need an "Objectivist party"? Or are we saying that the Republican party is somehow more closely aligned to Objectivist philosophy...?

Which leads me to this:

Objectivism is against pragmatic solutions in Politics. We are concerned with what is right, not with what is a lesser evil. Just because, in the short term, Libertarian pacifism won't harm the US as much as D/R socialism will (debatable proposition, btw.), doesn't mean we should support them.

I *really* hope this doesn't become the umpteenth thread discussing the merits of Obama vs. Romney, because I have no interest in spending my time contemplating those folks, but...

Aren't Objectivists (which is not to say "Objectivism" necessarily, but possibly including "prominent Objectivists") continually arguing that we ought to support X Lesser Evil in politics, and specifically because it is the "lesser evil"? Am I imagining/misremembering that happening?

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Aren't Objectivists (which is not to say "Objectivism" necessarily, but possibly including "prominent Objectivists") continually arguing that we ought to support X Lesser Evil in politics, and specifically because it is the "lesser evil"? Am I imagining/misremembering that happening?

You are not wrong, but as you said that has little to do with objectvism in general.

Which is why I don't think it's relevant...

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To clarify: I'm a newbie to these sites, so that may well be true. But that is the impression I got from reading around. (Not to say there aren't any real criticsms raised, but threads like this, for example, are not exactly just 'critical of her ideas.')

Thanks for the link, I’d forgotten that thread and found rereading it very entertaining.

People are free to express “Anti-Hsieh” sentiments on OL, so it should be no surprise that you find them there. IMO the reason Checking Premises began was the lack of a forum allowing criticisms of her that would also be a kosher place for Peikoff devotees. OL is certainly no such place. Even Betsy Speicher's forum is, I gather, off limits to such people following her trenchant critiques of DIM and the 2006 voting piece.

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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The site contains large amounts of comments on Hsieh, a vast majority of them of the negative variety. So what exactly is your problem with describing the site as anti-Hsieh?

My promblem with describing the site as "anti-Hsieh" is that it is not accurate. Unlike most other Objectivist sites, OL is an open site where people are free to post their views and to argue their positions without meddling from owners and moderators. One can be criticical of others' ideas there without having one's posts deleted or being banned for offering a polite but dissenting opinion. The fact that comments which are critical of certain people's ideas and behaviors are allowed does not make the site "anti" anything, it only makes the individual commenters "anti" those ideas and behaviors.

If that's not what makes a site anti-someone, then what does?

Reality. A is A. A site which allows the freedom of its members to express their ideas on any and every subject is a site which allows the freedom of its members to express their ideas on any and every subject. A site which was set up to be critical of one person is a site which was set up to be critical of one person. OL is an example of the former.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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To clarify: I'm a newbie to these sites, so that may well be true. But that is the impression I got from reading around. (Not to say there aren't any real criticsms raised, but threads like this, for example, are not exactly just 'critical of her ideas.')

But that thread IS critical of her ideas, not to mention of her bad behavior.

J

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My promblem with describing the site as "anti-Hsieh" is that it is not accurate. Unlike most other Objectivist sites, OL is an open site where people are free to post their views and to argue their positions without meddling from owners and moderators. One can be criticical of others' ideas there without having one's posts deleted or being banned for offering a polite but dissenting opinion. The fact that comments which are critical of certain people's ideas and behaviors are allowed does not make the site "anti" anything, it only makes the individual commenters "anti" those ideas and behaviors.

Reality. A is A. A site which allows the freedom of its members to express their ideas on any and every subject is a site which allows the freedom of its members to express their ideas on any and every subject. A site which was set up to be critical of one person is a site which was set up to be critical of one person. OL is an example of the former.

J

I (sarcastically) apologize. I never meant to suggest that OL's forum software or bandwith-provider is anti-Hsieh.

But its content is anti-Hsieh. And anyone who can read can verify that.

P.S. The content of the forum comes from members, not owners. So, unless the owners are willing to select content, their views are irrelevant to whether the site is anti-Hsieh, pro-Hsieh or fair to Hsieh. What makes that site anti-Hsieh is the content, which comes from all the anti-Hsieh content providers.

Edited by Nicky
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Dániel, perhaps you should answer the one direct question I asked: Did you change your mind on Capitalism, under which the government holds a monopoly on retaliatory force? You used to be against that.

If not, I don't see the point of this conversation. If you think Objectivist Politics is similar to the things you argue for in some of the other threads, you're pretty obviously wrong.

Aren't Objectivists (which is not to say "Objectivism" necessarily, but possibly including "prominent Objectivists") continually arguing that we ought to support X Lesser Evil in politics, and specifically because it is the "lesser evil"? Am I imagining/misremembering that happening?

Support? I never heard Peikoff or anyone at ARI suggest that we ought to support any political parties. As far as I know, they've all been consistently urging Objectivists to reject all bad policies and ideologies, even as they vote for/ contribute monetarily to the lesser evil in an effort to avoid the greater one coming to power.

The OP isn't suggesting that we merely vote Libertarian this year (which I plan on doing, as my avatar might betray - in fact I consider Johnson a great candidate, not just a "lesser evil"), he wants us to work together towards some supposed common goal because Libertarianism and Objectivism are supposedly similar ideologies.

Edited by Nicky
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