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Ayn Rand was openly in favor of British colonialism, says Harry Binswanger

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In episode #18 of HBTV, Binswanger quotes Rand as having said "I am in favor of colonialism". This does not come as a shock to me, considering the public arguments that she put forth as to why it was morally just for the colonists to settle in America or for Jewish populations to settle in Palestine. If you're not familiar with her argumentation, she essentially argued that the British colonists and the Jewish settlers represented a beachhead of civilization and progress in places where backwardness and stagnation ran rampant. In the episode, Binswanger himself mentions India under British rule and argues that they benefitted a great deal in terms of Western technology while also conceding that moral wrongs were undoubtedly committed. 

Rand's statements on colonialism would be decried as reprehensible in today's ugly culture of nihilism where America (and the West as a whole) is supposed to get down on their knees and apologize to everyone on the globe for any perceived injustice. The reason why I wanted to make this thread is because I've found that Objectivists themselves tend to get squeamish on the subject. It's as if it is this elephant in the room which admirers of Rand's philosophy all need to dance around so as to not cast any light on it because it's perceived as an embarrassment. I do wonder if young Objectivists are more prone to feeling uneasy or dismissive in regards to Rand's views on colonialism than those who've been around for decades. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't doubt that's the case. 

What do you think? Let's discuss it. 

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sRXW58FZ_g&t=1483s 24:09 

 

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All historical examples of colonialism involve some moral wrongs, such as seizing property that American Indians had developed and were therefore entitled to under Objectivist principles.  A fully moral colonialism would scrupulously avoid such wrongs.  This leads us to the question, to what extent were historical examples of colonialism fundamentally moral enterprises tainted with some wrongness?

 

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6 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

All historical examples of colonialism involve some moral wrongs, such as seizing property that American Indians had developed and were therefore entitled to under Objectivist principles.  A fully moral colonialism would scrupulously avoid such wrongs.  This leads us to the question, to what extent were historical examples of colonialism fundamentally moral enterprises tainted with some wrongness?

 

But even to fuse into the discourse the idea that acts of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, or genocide were perpetrated by other groups besides white European men will most likely evoke an intense fervor among the mob since pointing it out will be interpreted as "not validating the lived experiences of colored folks" or something like that. Such a mentality expresses the primacy of consciousness in its raw nakedness. 

A seemingly basic question in regards to slavery is: who ended it? This obviously doesn't fit the agenda, which just goes to show you their nihilism. There is slavery in the world today, but they're more keen on blaming whitey for supposed historical wrongs. 

Virtue invites abuse. 

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American Indian Law – A Beginner's Guide

RE,

One does not have to be part of a culture of nihilism or any other negative current to criticize four-square some major atrocities of the British Empire in their colonies. An Objectivist should not feel embarrassment over each and every view of Ayn Rand's that was false. One does not need to agree with everything Rand ever thought to be an adherent of Rand's philosophy. One's identification with the philosophy should not, in one's own mind, be an identification with Ayn Rand. Rand's view on colonization, including the history of American colonies is not a philosophic view, but an historical view. Typical views on who was "the" American Indian in earlier times are ignorant, and Rand's views were in that vein. Objectivism is a philosophy. Views of Objectivists on history, including the history of philosophy, are not part of Objectivism because they are not part of philosophy per se. Furthermore, to be an adherent to the Objectivist philosophy is only to be in agreement with the essentials of the philosophy (I am concurring with Peikoff and Kelley on this point). Although Rand's esthetics and her theory of concepts are part of her philosophy, neither are essential to it, for examples.

A couple of serious books on the Indian Removal (Trail of Tears) of the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southern States are: Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars (2001), by Robert V. Remini, and Indian Removal (1932, 1953) by Grant Forman. I know most about the Choctaw. One of my great, great grandmothers was full-blood Choctaw (Line –1897). The mother of my first life-partner (man on right) was full-blood Choctaw. 

Edited by Boydstun
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1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

One does not have to be part of a culture of nihilism or any other negative current to criticize four-square some major atrocities of the British Empire in their colonies.

I agree. The problem, in my opinion, is one of emphasis. If you actively go out of your way to emphasize the crimes of Western colonialism above and beyond the crimes of other historical civilizations (e.g., the Spanish, the Muslim caliphate, the Mongols) then you are appealing to the rabid anti-Americanism of the nihilists. This is corrupt and cowardly. 

Ultimately, it comes down to one's view of the following: were the colonists who came to America a force for good in world history? I would unhesitatingly answer in the affirmative. The philosophy of the Enlightenment, which the British colonists exported to the American continent (not without contradictions, of course), was fundamentally good. 

1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

One does not need to agree with everything Rand ever thought to be an adherent of Rand's philosophy.

I'm somewhat puzzled as to why you would inject this into the discussion, I wasn't making this point in my original post. I was making the point that (young) Objectivists shouldn't automatically discard Rand's more "controversial" positions because of outside pressure from today's culture. It's not a question of tribal loyalty. 

1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

Rand's view on colonization, including the history of American colonies is not a philosophic view, but an historical view.

Well, no, because her views on the Native Americans are indicative of her political views. Concretely, the question which Rand answers is: what is the status of property rights for inhabitants of a primitive society when such a society comes into contact with a more civilized group of people? Perhaps you will object to my generalizing language here, but my point is simply to get to the roots of what Rand was trying to explain. 

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43 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Concretely, the question which Rand answers is: what is the status of property rights for inhabitants of a primitive society when such a society comes into contact with a more civilized group of people?

Unfortunately, she was pretty much wrong about the historical facts and the nature of these societies. They were not primitive savages barely more advanced than a Neanderthal, like you could say of tribes in the Amazon. If they were, Rand might have a point. But they weren't. They had some notions of property, just not identical with Europeans. The Aztecs had beautiful cities with better hygiene than any European city. Most Native American cultures had very rich agricultural knowledge. Many had sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. There were rich systems of organization. Of course there were brutalities and disrespect towards individuals and strong notions of collectivism, but the Europeans did this as well. 

I like to imagine our modern-day society discovering a society like the ancient Greeks from 300 BC.  This is actually even a bigger technological and philosophical gap than Europeans had with the Aztecs or Inca. Would it be right to subjugate them for their alleged primitivism, murder them if they were inconvenient, or burn down their houses just to make room for yours? When people talk about colonialism, they don't mean selling down next to someone else and sharing space. They talk about use of force and racism. 

Yeah, it's great that the British brought great technology to India, but colonialism is the wrong way to do it. You could trade with them, you could have in exchange for mutual benefit, anything like that. It seems like Rand would say "but there is actually nothing you could trade since they are just that primitive". As advanced as we are, if we could trade with the ancient Greeks, we would find plenty of reason to do so. 

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11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Of course there were brutalities and disrespect towards individuals and strong notions of collectivism, but the Europeans did this as well. 

This statement strikes me as subjectivism. I think it would be a mistake to look for similarities among different groups of people whenever one can find them since what actually matters is the essence of each respective culture. Did mysticism, collectivism/tribalism, and brute force constitute the essence of Enlightenment philosophy (and the nations which it went on to inspire)? Clearly it did not. Look, I basically view this in terms of two broad societal trajectories, and then I make a judgment based on the type of culture I'd rather be surrounded by. On the one hand, you have the Native American culture "unblemished" by European influence, and on the other is the path of the Enlightenment with its shortcomings. Which society, in the long run, is more conducive to individual liberty? It's a rhetorical question, of course. Had the European colonists never settled in America, the world would've been considerably worse off for it, and we are living in an age where this is becoming increasingly more challenging to say without relentless abuse being hurled at you. No, verbal abuse is not a violation of my rights, but it could signify the beginning of an attitude which could lead to, say, hate speech laws being passed. 

11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I like to imagine our modern-day society discovering a society like the ancient Greeks from 300 BC.  This is actually even a bigger technological and philosophical gap than Europeans had with the Aztecs or Inca. Would it be right to subjugate them for their alleged primitivism, murder them if they were inconvenient, or burn down their houses just to make room for yours?

Something about this made me feel off, and I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what it was that irked me. 

Partly, I think my issue with what you said is that the philosophy of Ancient Greece (in particular the contribution of Aristotle) played a key role in the formation of the modern West, so your hypothetical scenario just makes no sense. No Greece, no America. Again, this just goes back to my whole point about which type of worldview is more conducive to the development of a free and rational society. Had the Greeks built on top of their great legacy instead, they could have possibly been the America (philosophically, that is) before America, whereas the Native American tribes could not so long as they consistently acted in accordance with the pillars of their worldview. You can say "well, they could have gotten there with time", but suffice it to say I'm highly skeptical. Just look around at the world today. Where exactly is this America 2.0 to be found? The closest comparison that comes to mind is Hong Kong, which does have its own relevant history with the British. 

Ideas matter, as I'm sure we can agree. 

Edited by RationalEgoist
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5 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Did mysticism, collectivism/tribalism, and brute force constitute the essence of Enlightenment philosophy (and the nations which it went on to inspire)? Clearly it did not.

But it did characterize colonialism. When the Spanish interacted with the Aztecs and the Inca, the conquistadors truly only cared about short-term self-interest, didn't care about reason, and were more keen to manipulate native leaders rather than interact with reason. And if anything, the people that colonized South America at that time were quite interested in spreading their brand of collectivism through Christianity.

On occasion, there were colonists who did carry with them Enlightenment philosophy. English colonists were a little better, but that's pretty limited to 1650 - 1770. A very mixed bag, with a very large portion of them being something like Calvinists (you know, predestination and the most vociferous views on the inherent depravity of man). I certainly wouldn't celebrate them as a broad category, mostly because they were not really representative of Enlightenment philosophy. And more importantly, any argument about natives being primitive doesn't really apply. 

50 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Had the European colonists never settled in America, the world would've been considerably worse off for it

I don't think the issue is that Europeans settled in America. In a sense, the natives were better off being introduced to some European ideas, but since this was usually done with violence and force. There were silver linings, sure, but imagine what it would be like if the majority of colonists would have traded. Certainly, the Aztecs and Incas were not paragons of reason, and they were sometimes as brutal as any conquistador, for similar reasons. You could argue that there were various ways that natives were better off (the art was certainly better), but I don't think you could argue rationally that it was okay to initiate force on almost all natives. You might say that it was great that the Europeans killed Montezuma, and made the Aztecs better off politically, but they pretty much just subjugated them in a new way, and in a racist way. In terms of medicine, no, they were not better off, same with agriculture. 

1 hour ago, RationalEgoist said:

Partly, I think my issue with what you said is that the philosophy of Ancient Greece (in particular the contribution of Aristotle) played a key role in the formation of the modern West, so your hypothetical scenario just makes no sense

I should have given a better example. Imagine as a spacefaring civilization we landed on a planet with civilization at the stage of the ancient Greeks. Some of them we might want to call savages, in the way that Sparta was pretty brutal and anti-reason. Others, like Athens, would seem more promising, and be grasping at a better philosophy, but sometimes express collective dictatorship through absolute democracy. You might be right that the historical and philosophical trend of the natives was towards a more intense mysticism. The problem is, so much stuff was deliberately destroyed that we really don't know what their philosophical trends were like. Besides, since these alien Greeks would probably be receptive to the knowledge of more advanced civilizations, there would be no reason to treat them like absolute savages. I think natives were the same way. 

Often when the natives first encountered Europeans, they were very curious and wanted to show their goods and show the Europeans around. 

2 hours ago, RationalEgoist said:

Native American tribes could not so long as they consistently acted in accordance with the pillars of their worldview.

The worldview that many European colonists in North America acted on was an intense Protestant worldview. If anything, most Enlightenment thinkers were in Europe. To the extent that Enlightenment ideas were brought along with colonists, they were the people far less violent with less interest in initiating force, and trying to trade with natives. What you are saying what truly fit fine with saying that "Europeans had a lot to teach, and it's not bad that such ideas might even outright replace the cultural values of natives". I agree with that. I'm pushing back against the idea that Rand had about natives being savages, and being totally okay with violence perpetrated against them on the premise that they were savages. 

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One one hand Hong Kong is an example of success in colonial behavior. I don't know at what cost. If the progress they made is the measure of the virtue of such behavior then the question is: would they have made the progress without the force that was applied.

Some will say that Pinochet killed a few of the population but pushed through free market policies. The issue is the force that was being used. If colonialism can be without force, then it would be like "we use this unwanted land" and trade with you. That would work. But is that colonialism?

On another note, this video is sort of difficult to watch. Harry makes the case for killing a child when out of the womb if it is severely damaged. He has trouble understanding why some parents would choose to keep such a child. It's a different thread of course.

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Proper identification is key to integration. In a discussion the more precise the terms used and the more agreement on the precision of terms between participants, the better the chances of a reasonable discussion.

Were the new world indians, in a broad sense, uncivilized savages? If it is true 'they' were, then a case could be made that the Europeans in North and South America were morally justified in all their actions regarding all land and resource use. And removing any impediment to their actions by displacing or killing 'savages' would be justified. It would be morally equivalent to removing the bison herds in order to farm, not that removing bison actually accomplished anything like that but if the case were that that action was needed it would be justified in the sense of 'proper' human flourishing. I only viewed some segments of the video, but in one section HB states, or I inferred based on the clip, his meaning to be that America is the epitome of western values in promulgating freedom and respect of individual rights therefore 'colonialism' when practiced by and for western hegemony is morally justified. 

The other broad term is colonialism. It seems there are at least two 'kinds', today we speak about "colonizing" Mars or the Moon. In this sense it means, or I take it to mean the settlement of a 'virgin frontier'. But I recognize another sense of the meaning to pointing to one society subjugating another, the more commonly held 'moralized' position of modern sociology studies.

 

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On 1/9/2023 at 9:54 AM, RationalEgoist said:

. . .

Ultimately, it comes down to one's view of the following: were the colonists who came to America a force for good in world history? I would unhesitatingly answer in the affirmative. The philosophy of the Enlightenment, which the British colonists exported to the American continent (not without contradictions, of course), was fundamentally good. 

. . .

"A force for good in world history" needs to be taken on to "more a force for good than evil in world history." The Five Civilized Tribes were called civilized because they quickly adopted ways of the European settlers while the tribes were in their earlier areas in southeastern North America. They did not have writing, firearms, or the wheel until exposed to these by the Europeans. They had not reached the Iron Age. An early European visitor to the Choctaw tribe, before European settlement and the Indian Removal, recorded of them that there was no art and no religion. They had the usual human trinity of language and ability to draw and make music, of course. He recorded that they laughed and danced a lot, and he ended his travel log saying "The Choctaw are a happy people." Their sense of property was sharpened by exposure to the European settlers (mostly, English, Scotch, and Irish in this region). That included the ownership of slaves imported from Africa. Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee owned slaves and brought them along to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears (1830's). These tribes were instructed by Christian missionaries of course. An enslaved man who belonged to a Choctaw created the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" as he looked over to the Red River in the area of the Choctaw Nation within Indian Territory. I have visited the stately Council House of that tribe. They had a written constitution for their government; the tribe had a government there within Indian Territory. (That immediate jump means such peoples don't have to go through the usual bloody transition from tribes to chiefdoms before transition to states.) Ownership of land in Choctaw Nation before late in the nineteenth century was entirely tribal, as I understand it so far. The Choctaw Nation had allied with the Confederacy. Some of the interviews of formerly enslaved persons, interviews conducted in the 1930's under WPA, which are available online from the Library of Congress, are of former slaves to Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee in Indian Territory. One distinction of the slavery there was that the owners did not separate enslaved families, which seems a little more civilized than European owners in SE America.

I think our conception of a force for good in a peoples or in the entire world is a valid concept from a scanning sort of look at things. When we think that way, we are leaving aside all the people who died on account of the progress. I recall that John Hospers once gave an estimation of the population of North America when the Europeans found it and remarked that though so many natives died from the ensuing engagement (mostly lack of immunity I think), the native population of North America was today greater than back then. My half-Choctaw life-partner was quick to notice some moral obscenity in such a remark.

But going with usual talk such as "force for good in the world" I'd estimate Yes, on net Yes.

By the way, I'd not exaggerate the debt to ancient Greece for the advantages of our living in the present America. The flourishing of science and technology was won as much by the revolt of Galileo and Newton against Aristotle, jettisoning much of him, as by their embrace of parts of him. There are other ancient civilizations to whom the advantages of living in America today are owed. Greek geometry was for our good. Aristotle's discovery of logic was for our good. His shrinkage of the mystical was for our good. His ideas about what we call mechanics or optics and scientific method were impediments to our good. Thankfully overcome.

Edited by Boydstun
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A funny thing about “colonialism” is that when you contemplate human history, it is difficult to distinguish colonization from other forms of human movements. Many people mistakenly think that the various American Indian tribes came into territory never before occupied by humans, and have been living there since. That’s true at some remote point in history, but does not represent the reality that we know. In the Pacific Northwest, Salishan people moved into territory occupied by Athabascan tribes, and displaced / absorbed them almost without trace, and the Athabascan people had earlier displaced various other people like the Tsimshian and Chinook (using modern names of survivors). People don’t talk about that as colonization, actually we don’t talk about it at all. There are many similar examples throughout the world: the Bantu colonization of Africa, the Arab colonization of the Middle East and Northern Africa.

It is generally held that “Europeans” colonized the New World, the English colonized much of South Asia and parts of Africa, the French and Belgians colonized most of Africa, the Russians colonized Siberia and the Caucasus. People do not typically talk of the Goths, Mongols and Third Reich as colonization, they talk of “invasion”. What sets colonization apart from invasion is the underlying method: reason versus force. What gives colonization a bad rep is the later replacement of reason by force. India as a colony under direct rule of the British Parliament was the final step in the transition from trade (which has existed for millennia) to force. The intermediate step is the fact that trade was not being being conducted in a civilized nation following the rule of law, when legitimate trade interests of the East India Company were infringed from various sides due to the decline of the Moghal Empire, and the chaos that ensued.

Is colonization a good thing or a bad thing? The question makes as much sense as asking if it is a good thing for a nation to expand it territory. The idea that everybody has a proper place that they should remain in – “we have no business in ___” is just wrong. It’s easy to apologize for an evil by pointing out that at least they made the trains run on time; it’s also easy to condemn any good because somebody on the good side engages in evil. I find efforts to transport highly developed modern knowledge and moral codes back centuries ago and morally evaluate people before there was any rational moral code to be, well, evil. It is right to trade values with other people, it is wrong to use force to get people to act. It is pointless to try to micro-divide moral codes so that we can forgive suppression of political dissent in case we build 400 miles of paved roads.

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1 hour ago, DavidOdden said:

What sets colonization apart from invasion is the underlying method: reason versus force.

Well, can you give examples of colonizing behavior that is characterized by reason? I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but it seems like an exception as far as world history. It would be good to have an example of "colonialism gone right", but most examples I can think of are disregard of reason. 

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I can’t give you any examples of any large-scale social phenomenon that is characterised purely by reason. OCON really does not constitute large-scale. An example of primarily reason-based colonization, of the US, is being carried out right now by people from Asia, Africa and Latin America. You may not want to classify that as colonization, though I can point you to a number of African, Asian and Latin colonies in my town (the term “community” is of course more politically correct).

If we turn the clock back to the late 1500’s and 1600’s, why exactly did Europeans come to America? It was not to wage war against Indians. It is true that some of them had a rational desire to engage in irrational religious conduct that was forbidden in the old country, so the choice to emigrate was influences by something other than strict reason, but as I said, the moral code developed by Rand was not available to them, so like all activities for the preceding innumerable millennia, there was a significant taint of irrationality involved in the mix. The problem is not the colonising, it is the orthogonal tendency of men to “go bad”. If we subtract the irrational component of Islamic jihad which played a major role in African history, the (indigenous) development and spread of civilizations in Africa is predominantly “colonization gone right” – moving into new areas, bringing new technologies and trade. Clearly they were still well behind their colleagues in Europe. There is also a similar colonization from Taiwan starting about 3,000 years ago, extending to Polynesia, Southeast Asia and all the way to Africa.

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On 1/10/2023 at 7:22 PM, DavidOdden said:

The problem is not the colonising, it is the orthogonal tendency of men to “go bad”.

But I don't think colonialism refers to the act of settling in an area where other people are. At least, in this context, we don't mean settling, we mean something about an area subservient or dependent upon the mother country, and some kind of mercantilist policy of taking resources and sending them back.

If you're only talking about how people can settle in other areas and incidentally do something bad, because bad things can happen anywhere, then I have no disagreement with you. Except, the motivating factors when it comes to settling North and South America, as well as Africa, were either forcibly exporting Christianity, forcibly taking resources, or sometimes a third option, leaving the mother country to be able to go on about the most irrational aspects of Christianity. 

What I'm getting at is that, essentially, Rand is referring to the same historical activities as I am, but she and anyone else would be wrong to characterize those activities as even remotely encouraged by reason, or the search for liberty, or a more flourishing life, or economic development. These people weren't mistaken about reason or all of these things; they were seeking out something else entirely. The result is, not surprisingly, interactions with a heavy dose of force directed at the natives or disinterested in any attempts with reason. At the very least, I'm saying there is very little to admire or appreciate about colonialism in North and South America. 

 If you want to include other forms of settling as colonialism, that's fine, but let's focus on this subset. I can't speak to much detail about British colonialism, but I know quite a bit about colonialism in the Americas. 

 

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On 1/10/2023 at 5:22 PM, DavidOdden said:

You may not want to classify that as colonization, though I can point you to a number of African, Asian and Latin colonies in my town (the term “community” is of course more politically correct).

If we go that route then any kind of immigration or emigration is colonization.  Ultimately going to the supermarket would become colonizing it … and then letting go.

Colonizing has to involve some sort of ownership of "something" in an area beyond one's borders. The question is how should this ownership occur. The way the British would do it was back it with force of arms. Maybe that is how it should be done, but then why? Or why not?

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Colonial America began as business, notwithstanding the tale of religious freedom concerning immigration into Massachusetts one was taught in grade school. An early step towards religious tolerance was for an  advantageous business environment in the Carolinas, as put to paper by John Locke. 

The Carolinas

The Pilgrims

Once the British lost the American Revolutionary War, they stationed more troops in their colonies and made sure there was no repetition of their American mistake.

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12 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

If we go that route then any kind of immigration or emigration is colonization.  Ultimately going to the supermarket would become colonizing it … and then letting go.

That is exactly the point. To paraphrase the point that Binswanger made in that clip a few minute earlier, colonialism isn’t a term that we can use. It has become completely corrupted. We may struggle to rehabilitate words like “capitalism” and “selfish”, and occasionally people try to rehabilitate “greedy” (hat tip to David V), but I don’t see that imperialism or colonialism is a term that clearly identifies a good concept that needs to be salvaged. We should instead focus on countering conceptual corruption over terms like “justice; equal; right”.

Colonialism is particularly useless as an identification since it generally picks out exactly one thing: the establishment of government by France, Belgium and England in Africa, and the subsequent withdrawal of Europe from those territories. Those European governments created nations where there were none, which is in contrast to Asia where an existing nation found itself without a government. We should remove Belgium from the discussion, since their conduct was utterly without merit and I defy anyone to find evidence that Rand approved of the Belgian’s conduct in Africa. What came to be known as “colonies” started out as trade interests, which naturally requires the rule of law and therefore a government. There were certainly many local kingdoms such as the numerous Igbo kingdoms, the Oyo Empire, the Egba Empire, the Bornu Empire and so on, but these empires rise and fall with each invasion from a competing empire or death of a despot. Actually, what first impelled the transition from merely protecting trade interests to direct control in 1862 in what is now Nigeria was Britains war against slavery. It is true that they used their military power to put an end to slavery, thus establishing their first “colonial” presence.

The philosophical question that should be under discussion is this: what should a civilized rights-respecting government do with respect to a land lacking a civilized rights-respecting government (so, no government, or only a considerable less rights-respecting form of government). Would it be proper for the contemporary US to send troops to Crapistan in order to build a nation more like the US? Proposed candidates are Iran, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Cuba, Belarus and Afghanistan. I don’t think the answer is the same in all of these cases. We can then translate that reasoning into an answer to the (hypothetical) question “Should the US invade the Moghal Empire and build a rights-respecting rational nation?”.

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44 minutes ago, DavidOdden said:

The philosophical question that should be under discussion is this: what should a civilized rights-respecting government do with respect to a land lacking a civilized rights-respecting government (so, no government, or only a considerable less rights-respecting form of government). Would it be proper for the contemporary US to send troops to Crapistan in order to build a nation more like the US? Proposed candidates are Iran, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Cuba, Belarus and Afghanistan. I don’t think the answer is the same in all of these cases. We can then translate that reasoning into an answer to the (hypothetical) question “Should the US invade the Moghal Empire and build a rights-respecting rational nation?”.

Very good points. I must add one other example like "colonizing the moon" where there is nothing there except a suspicion by other countries.

But there are some emotionally evocative situations. We land somewhere on our ship, where people enslave other people. Meaning we witness people being sold on at the public square. In that sense, we would have the moral right (not obligation) to intervene by force, even if they are not trying to sell us. In fact that would be a question regarding "what is the selfish thing to do?".

Also in a case where there is cannibalism going on or we have come across a culture like the Thuggies of India (assassination cult). If these are encountered, the case would be clear-cut. Coexisting would be too difficult, a change is needed.

Nowadays we see that the Taliban will turn their women into second class citizens as have other countries. Does that give us a right (not obligation) to invade and grab a swath of land where they can be free? Maybe it does, I am posing it as a question.

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I think we do have to talk about obligation, not just permission. There are two kinds of obligation to be concerned with. The first one relates to the values of the would-be invaders – us, I suppose. Do our values obliges us to undertake actions, in order to remain honest to those values? The second relates to the specific commitment implied by an invasion or other military act. When we initiate an act for a (valid) reason, does that imply a commitment to carrying through in reaching that goal?

Respect for rights is a value, should a nation act to gain and keep that value? Should the US have aided the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, likewise should the US have aided South Korea in resisting the invasion from China / North Korea? Should the US have aided South Vietnam in its attempt to repel the communist invasion from the north? And then, once we have decided that we should aid Hungary in its struggle for freedom, is this a whimsical decision, or have we thought out the consequences of taking action and do we accept responsibility for the actions that we take?

I reach different conclusions in these particular cases, but they center around the question of commitment to success. My opinion is that the US should have aided the Hungarian Revolution, and that we were right to defend South Korea. It was a betrayal of our core values to turn our backs on Hungary. The best argument that could be made in favor of the US choice in 1956 would be that the alternative could have been too costly (perhaps the thinking At The Top was that the Soviet Union would retaliate with nuclear weapons). I also conclude that the war in Vietnam was a futile act of self-sacrifice not reflecting a commitment to protection and preservation of individual rights – it was an effort to demonstrate to the Soviet Union the ends to which we were willing to go to oppose their influence (and w.r.t. the conduct of the war, to demonstrate that we were willing to pointlessly wrassle with a tar baby). For analogous reasons, I would hold that military action in Afghanistan is pointless. Despite my affection for South Sudan, there is no point in the US getting actively involve in a race war.

“Nuke Tehran” has been a popular slogan in some Objectivist circles, but I disagree with the premise. Sure, we may technically “have the right”, but is it a rational thing to do? What will be gained – or sacrificed? It could be appropriate if the mullah regime were on the brink of launching nukes at us, but they aren’t. Were we to launch a large-scale boots-on-the-ground plus bombing invasion with the intent get rid of the current government, would that get us to our goal? If not, do we have a moral obligation (being true to our own values) to refrain from ill-conceived slap-dash actions like assassinating Raisi in the hope that somehow this will free Iran?

 

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3 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

Respect for rights is a value, should a nation act to gain and keep that value? Should the US have aided the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, likewise should the US have aided South Korea in resisting the invasion from China / North Korea? Should the US have aided South Vietnam in its attempt to repel the communist invasion from the north? And then, once we have decided that we should aid Hungary in its struggle for freedom, is this a whimsical decision, or have we thought out the consequences of taking action and do we accept responsibility for the actions that we take?

Not that I disagree, but this may require a different thread as in this may be a "Just War Theory" kind of an issue. The reason I say this is: Is our support for South Vietnam or South Korea or Hungary an act of colonization? If so, why?

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Someone made the case that "British" as opposed to others, as in Spain, Portugal or France, type of colonialism was better. In the case of Hong Kong and perhaps South Africa there may have been benefits, but in the Middle east, a great deal of instability is caused by the British influence there. The inability to draw their own borders with voluntary participation has caused some major problems. I noticed that the OP says that Rand was in favor of colonialism but the title mentions British. 

The fundamental problem that is not mentioned is the demeaning attitude that the colonialists had toward the natives. The idea that they are primitive and therefore "less than" inevitably will create a unequal basic rights, not in support of individual rights. In all cases, rebellion is over this issue, including in the American revolution. In addition Britain did support slavery so it is hard case to make.

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