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Dr. Peikoff on which party to vote for: GOP or Democrat

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It's particularly inappropriate to claim that Peikoff is somehow unaware of the existence of people who treat Objectivism rationalistically (as a religion), given the literally years of his life that he's spent combatting rationalism inside the Objectivist movement.

I'm not sure if you're talking to me or not, but if you can tell me where I made that claim, I'd be happy to retract it.

"awareness" and "tailor statements for" are two different things.

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That statement, if taken literally, actively promotes dogmatism. No, I don't believe that we should tip-toe around what we say to avoid misleading n00bs who aren't thinking individually anyway. Regardless of who it effects, the statement is contrary to the idea of individual thinking. It promotes the unquestioning acceptance of the leader's statements and makes it clear that, if you question his opinions, you are one of them.

Do you think that Peikoff should append everything he says with "use your own reason, decide for yourself if this is true..."? Objectivism has this funny little thing about having reality as its final arbiter. So conformance with reality is not dogmatism.

And again, the ONLY people who read the statement the way that you say are the people who don't really get the whole independant thought thing in the first place. It doesn't in any way contradict the idea of independant thinking, so why prop up someone's misconstrued idea of it? Anyone who cares about Peikoffs opinion of them, or cares about getting excluded from the label "Objectivist", is a 2nd hander, and I'd be crazy to advocate that Peikoff should specifically tailor his statements to make 2nd handers feel better about themselves.

I've heard the "oh, gosh, people are going to think Objectivism is a cult, or dogma" thing (I know you didn't say it, but the psychology of it comes from the same place as your argument) for years. It doesn't really impact the philosophy. Objectivism is not a cult, anyone who understands that knows it, and frankly, it's the last charge we should be afraid of.

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I'm gonna go ahead and end my participation in this debate. This isn't because I'm a wimp or anything, but I've had my say and this debate is going in circles, with neither side conceding any points to the other.

I hold nothing against anyone in this thread or against Dr. Peikoff. Let's just call it a difference of interpretation, brought about by the imperfections in the English language.

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I think I will too. We can agree to disagree.

I've already stated that I disagree with Peikoff, only in the timing of the potential threat, and I'm not worried if he thinks i don't understand the Philosophy. If he is right, I'll come to understand it at some point.

Edited by KendallJ
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As a side note, I know that there are other people in this thread who agree with me. I would appreciate it if some of you could help me out, because I'm growing a bit weary of answering the objections of about 32021034968 people by myself.

The first couple of times I read Dr. Peikoff's statement, my position was similar to yours. I thought he made a blunder and that some of the posts here were suspicious. But after a few days of thinking and discussing with a friend, I think that my position may have been due to all kinds of weird assumptions regarding Peikoff's intent and audience, and probably many other assumptions that might not be appropriate to discuss publicly, and that Kendall and Inspector's positions might be correct, generally.

Hope that helps. I'm also like you in that I don't call myself an Objectivist (I haven't finished reading all of Ayn Rand's books.)

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I've already stated that I disagree with Peikoff, only in the timing of the potential threat, and I'm not worried if he thinks i don't understand the Philosophy. If he is right, I'll come to understand it at some point.
Kendall, does that imply that you agree with this paragraph from Dr. Peikoff's post:
In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.
Edited by softwareNerd
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Kendall, does that imply that you agree with this paragraph from Dr. Peikoff's post:

I don't think the letter comes with enough data for me to evaluate this statement's validity. I've already planned to purchase some of the courses mentioned before this came up so I will evaluate it in the context of more data...

If it is a really complex chain for Peikoff to get from Objectivist principle to voting democrat then I will probably disagree with him on this. If the chain is simple and I'm missing something then I will probably agree with it.

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I don't think the letter comes with enough data for me to evaluate this statement's validity.
Do you think a statement that clearly classifies Harry Binswanger and a few others as having no understanding of the role of philosophy in man's life should have come with a couple of extra summary sentences about where the reader should look for the evidence?

If one leaves out this critique about other Objectivists, then the statement is similar to what Dr. Peikoff has said before. I doubt we would even have had a thread about it; and definitely not one like this.

The critique was obviously not aimed at non-Objectivists, since they wouldn't care anyway. So, what I take away from the essential new point that Dr. Peikoff is making (whether that was his intent of not) is that Binswanger does not understand Objectivism and is being rationalistic. Do you think that's a correct assessment of the nature of this communication?

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Do you think a statement that clearly classifies Harry Binswanger and a few others as having no understanding of the role of philosophy in man's life should have come with a couple of extra summary sentences about where the reader should look for the evidence?

If one leaves out this critique about other Objectivists, then the statement is similar to what Dr. Peikoff has said before. I doubt we would even have had a thread about it; and definitely not one like this.

The critique was obviously not aimed at non-Objectivists, since they wouldn't care anyway. So, what I take away from the essential new point that Dr. Peikoff is making (whether that was his intent of not) is that Binswanger does not understand Objectivism and is being rationalistic. Do you think that's a correct assessment of the nature of this communication?

That is the sticky issue isn't. What does this say about people whom we know to be prominent objectivists, such as Binswanger. It seems to imply that Peikoff is taking that direct a swipe at him. I know very little directly about Binswanger's position. I think it would be interesting to see if this topic comes up on HBL and how he deals with it. A lot depends on their personal understanding of where each is coming from Binswanger may read this totally differently than you or I do. Needless to say I still think I do not have enough information to evaluate the validity of the statement.

I do know this, this is probably not some sort of backhanded swipe at Binswanger. Peikoff has no qualms about making any sort of split, very open and very direct. He and the others at ARI believe very much in keeping the philosophy as pure as possible. If he really intended this implication at Binswanger as strongly as it seems to imply, I think he would have targeted him much more directly. That leads me to believe there is something we don't understand about how he means it, or the implications of how he means it.

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If he really intended this implication at Binswanger as strongly as it seems to imply, I think he would have targeted him much more directly. That leads me to believe there is something we don't understand about how he means it, or the implications of how he means it.
I agree, this is what one would expect. I actually expected a clarification to be posted, making it clear, one way or the other.

As it stands though, without any clarification, I cannot see how Binswanger can be exempt. I mean, you and I and everyone on our forum might simply be ignorant. On the other hand, what of someone who is a professional Objectivist philosopher and who recommended a Republican vote just a few years ago?

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I am late to the party and am posting without having read most of the thread, but whatever happened to Dr. Peikoff's call to End States That Sponsor Terrorism ? The U.S. Democrat Party is the world's most influential political organization aiding and abetting terrorists.

Speaking of that article, I posted the link to another forum last month and got the most obscene, scalding attacks on Mr. Peikoff (I mean, serious ad hominem attacks) in response. 9/10th of the world's people (at least people in the IT business) are not ready for what he had to say. They accused him of knowing little about history, all the way up to being an insane nutcase. Amazing. If you want to get yourself banned from most forums of general interest, post Dr. Peikoff's article. :lol:

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The following quote came up on the HBL. It's from Leonard Peikoff in 1992:

I want to stress at this point that the above is Peikoff's recommendation for November, not Ayn Rand's or Objectivism's. A philosophy is a view of the universe; it does not back candidates. There can be legitimate differences among people of the same philosophy in regard to political tactics and strategy. So please think the issues over and judge for yourself. I have merely told you how (and why) I propose to vote in November--if I can.
How does this reconcile with:

In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.
Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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As far as how Peikoff's view squares with other things he's said, the only person who can explain is him.

However, Peikoff is simply advocating what, in practice, Objectivism has stood for all along: that philosophy moves the world.

Which means: matters such as the current effects of economic policy A, B, C, or the personality and integrity of candidates D, E F, or the effects of defense policy G, H, I are secondary. What matters are ideas, the rest will follow from that. And basically, at this point in time, the Republican Party and its backing by the Religious Right is the biggest ideological threat to our country and they should be kicked out before they do any more damage.

The GOP is ineffectual at enacting capitalism because they don't have the ideological basis with which to defend it. Meanwhile, the Administration IS waging half-hearted wars overseas that they are unable to carry through properly because of their altruism and religious fundamentalism, costing us lives, resources and credibility.

This does not mean they are ineffectual, however. They are very organized, tend to be very favorable to religion, and seem to be power-lusters when they attempt to circumvent laws and/or give the President as much power as possible and/or take away various freedoms in the areas of privacy and free speech. This is exactly what Rand talked about with the "Mystics of Spirit" and the "Mystics of Muscle", as being 2 sides of the same irrational coin: the Republicans exhibit both tendencies. The Republicans are scary-religious, morally confident (regarding those religious ideas), politically potent, and power-hungry.

By comparison, the Democrats and The Left (even by their own admission) are politically ineffective at this time, even though they are still a threat to freedom. The Left is anti-principle, morally timid, politically less effective, and can be dealt with later.

The election has become a matter of neutralizing the threat of an intransigent, confident religious Right. And since the Republicans have been very organized and making a point of acting/voting as a block, it is going to be necessary to vote against them across the board, to deny them this possibility.

I agree with Peikoff, and voted that way (early voting in CO).

[edited to correct spelling of word "privacy"]

Edited by gadfly
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Speaking of that article, I posted the link to another forum last month and got the most obscene, scalding attacks on Mr. Peikoff (I mean, serious ad hominem attacks) in response. 9/10th of the world's people (at least people in the IT business) are not ready for what he had to say. They accused him of knowing little about history, all the way up to being an insane nutcase. Amazing. If you want to get yourself banned from most forums of general interest, post Dr. Peikoff's article. :lol:

I know this is off topic, but...

I was just discussing the same topic as that article with both of my night-shift co-workers. Neither of them are Objectivists: one is a Christian and the other is largely a leftist. Both of them were in full agreement with me and with a policy of very assertive national defense, William Tecumseh Sherman style. So that’s 3/3 in one particular IT shift. :lol:

Thought it might help to hear that.

Edited by Inspector
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I'd like to address some of the points made in Tracinski's article.

If your local congressional candidate has championed a particularly evil agenda... then by all means vote for the other guy. But if your local House and Congressional candidates are unexceptional, then your vote is really about which party should have the power...
I agree with this, and I don't think Peikoff's comments are meant to apply to extremely good Republican candidates or extremely bad Democratic candidates.

If you want to have a debate over how to fight and win the War on Terrorism, you'll have to have it within the right. The left contributes nothing but proposals for surrender, appeasement, and passivity.
Tracinski points out that there are voices on the right advocating proactive solutions to the WoT. But they are in the minority... and proactive voices are similarly in the left as well. Right now, we're giving NK and Iran "strong warnings" - how will that change under either party's congressional control?

If you want to have a debate over big government over small government, you'll have to have it within the right. The left contributes nothing of value.
Both the left and the right want to continue runaway spending.

What about a debate on the place of religious fundamentalism in our government?

The more the left fades from the scene, the more the national political debate will be a debate within the right... [A dominating party]tends to split... The more the Republicans dominate American politics, therefore, the more intensely they will debate among themselves.
This doesn't make sense to me. If people who want neither socialism nor fundamentalism cast a blind eye on the rise of American fundamentalism... what reason would the Republicans have to not push an increasingly fundamentalist policy?

The willingness of otherwise-rational people to tolerate fundamentalism is today's problem. We'll fight against increased taxes, but ignore it when conservative fundamentalist politicians put god back into politics. In this context, I think that Tracinski is the one who hasn't considered everything, and that Peikoff sees something that his colleague isn't aware of.

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Before I criticize Dr. Peikoff's statement, I want to distance myself from people who have said things like -- to paraphrase -- "LP is wrong because only someone who is demented would say such a thing." You don't have to give Latin names to this to see how silly it is.

I also disagree with GreedyCapitalist, who wrote: "I don’t understand how Dr Peikoff could have failed so grossly to consider the evidence and been so disrespectful of his peers." A bit milder than "senile at only 75" but the fallacy is the same.

Here's my criticism. Bush's alleged theocratic programs, particularly the "Faith Based Initiatives," are a fraud. Like Napoleon, who was no christian but promoted christianity to foster docility in the masses, Bush hands out the money furnished by Faith-based Initiatives to buy political favor. Unlike Napoleon's program, there's little religion in it. Consider this MSNBC review of the book Tempting Faith:

Book says Bush just using Christians

Oct. 13, 2006

More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, [David Kuo]the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider's tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

...

He says some of the nation's most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as "the nuts."

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as "ridiculous," "out of control," and just plain "goofy," Kuo writes.

... Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly "nonpartisan" events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

... Kuo attributes Bush's 2004 Ohio victory "at least partially to the conferences we had launched two years before."

...

... when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on "compassion" social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.

The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims, with organizations friendly to the administration often winning grants.

... Kuo quotes an unnamed member of the review panel charged with rating grant applications as saying she stopped looking at applications from "those non-Christian groups," as did many of her colleagues.

...

The administration uses "Faith-based Initiatives" for political graft like every welfare program since welfare program number one. There is nothing theocratic about it. If the christians started to vote democratic their Faith-based handouts would evaporate overnight. Bush is after power, not christianity.

It could be argued: Small difference, vote against this power. OK, but don't call it a theocratic state.

Dr. Peikoff's conclusion is right even if for the wrong reason. In the national election -- and that's what he was talking about -- vote Democrat, even though (as he put it in the 1988 election) you must force your arm to pull the lever. The neocons' loony foreign policy is destroying America far faster than the Democrat's loony economics, which doesn't differ much from the Republican's loony economics anyway.

Edited by MarkH
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... am I to understand that Dr. Peikoff is recommending a Democrat vote for the 2008 elections...
Why would you understand that? He refers to "the coming election" and not the 2008 election.

By the way, in my last post I should have written "congressional elections" instead of "national election."

Edited by MarkH
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Since Dr. Peikoff is speaking of decade-long changes, I assume that his recommendation holds true for the foreseeable future. The obvious caveat is that things can change, parties can change. So, the obvious caveat is that things might change and he might change his recommendation.

With that caveat, Dr. Peikoff is explicitly recommending a general rule of voting out the Republicans regardless of the individuals on the ballot. Though he did not say so, I would assume that he would agree that some extremely bad individuals may be exempt, and that his recommendation applies to the "typical candidate".

From this, it is safe to say that if the political situation in the U.S. does not change substantially, and if the candidates for the 2008 race are within the range of the typical Republican and Democrat candidates we have seen in the past, then Dr. Peikoff would recommend voting the Republicans out.

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I guess Dr. Peikoff can rest easy tonight. Judging by the Forums for Ayn Rand Fans, the Forum for Objectivismonline.com, and the NTOS message board (North Texas Objectivist Society), there aren't many students of Objectivism who thinks that he is infallible. So his status as the "Objectivist Pope" has been dethroned. Not that he ever wanted that position in the first place. In fact, he has been quite irritated that some people would think of him that way. And when one touts a philosophy that holds independence as a virtue, one has to expect to get some flack here and there. We are not members of a lock-step cult, after all.

However, I have to take issue with those saying that Dr. Peikoff was giving an argument from intimidation or an appeal to authority in the following two quotes:

"Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a

rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because 'both are bad.'"

"In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life - which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

Dr. Peikoff sees the Right, insofar as they are pressing for religion, as killers with a strong ideology behind them, who want to take over the government, making further and further encroachments against the separation of church and state, until the United States Government is fully supporting, with tax donations, the ideology of Christianity. That would make this country a theocracy, even if the President would not be considered The American Pope.

I agree with his reasoning, especially insofar as President Bush and others in his party have pushed for and have gotten "faith based initiatives" pushed through and are now law. That is, your Federal tax dollars are now supporting your destroyers on the Right. And they know they are doing this. Leading Conservative talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, have said that the Right needs to do this because we need to catch up with the Left, who has had government support for their programs for decades. And when asked about the separation of church and state; they say that there is no such legislation, it only says that there cannot be a Federally sanctioned church. In other words, so long as the booty is spread out to all true believing Christians equally, then the US Government is not supporting a particular church -- they can support Catholic initiatives, Protestant initiatives, etc. and claim that they are not supporting a church; so they hope to be able to get away with it.

It is obvious that the Christian Right sees themselves as having the same philosophy, despite some grudging differences on how to worship and other relatively minor details -- minor when compared to the ideology that morality ought to be legislated by the government; that Christianity ought to be enforced at the point of a gun. The fundamentalist Muslims want to use the sword, but the Christians are going to be more humane about it, they will enact laws based on The Ten Commandments; and many of them say that this country was founded on the Sermon on the Mount!

In my opinion, the only mitigating factor is the War on Terrorism, and whether idealistic terrorism is a more immediate threat to liberty in this country. So it looks like the bad guys trying to take over are the Socialists idealists, the Muslim idealists, or the Christian idealists. Socialism is no longer a viable idealism for most of the West; Muslim idealism doesn't stand a chance (at least not in this country); and Dr. Peikoff is right that the Christian idealists are up in arms and rising to take over.

When Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it didn't last much longer; not as the great "country" that it once was. The moral authority backed by the power of the state led directly to the Dark Ages.

I don't want to see that happening to The United States of America.

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Diana wrote regarding Dr. Peikoff's statement (I've added links to the Ayn Rand Bookstore for her two references):

If you listen to his "DIM Hypothesis" course, as well as his lecture on "America Versus Americans," you [addressing someone who had disparaged Dr. Peikoff's statement] might glean some slight understanding of them. That's what changed my mind on the matter, as well as reading and listening to Yaron Brook, Craig Biddle, John Lewis, and Bradley Thompson.
Can anyone show any of these individuals, especially Yaron Brook, agreeing with Dr. Peikoff? Not necessarily mentioning his particular statement but promoting its conclusion: Vote Republican in the congressional elections of 2006?

I can't find any of them doing this, but I may have missed it. Criticizing the neoconservatives over certain details is not the same as Dr. Peikoff's conclusion.

Yaron Brook, as head of the Ayn Rand Institute, would have to speak carefully because, as Kyle noted, under 501c3 the Ayn Rand Institute itself cannot explicitly promote a political party or candidate.

Edited by MarkH
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I'm sorry, I've only read the first two or so pages of this thread and everybody appears to be talking about voting either Democrat or Republican, so maybe my question is addressed already in the later pages, in which case, just reply with a quote... but I really don't understand why it is immoral to abstain from voting altogether. I know Peikoff's reasoning is that it is immoral to do so because one should do whatever is in one's power to stop the "rotten, even stronger, amibitious killer" -- and that can be done through voting for the "rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer". But, isn't this ascribing the creed that the ends justifies the means to this situation?

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After surveying current political trends, myself and people who share my view have come to the conclusion that the left has made greater inroads into controlling our lives and are likely to continue doing so in the future. Notice how most people now think that the government is obligated to provide us with health care.

The question is, is the government providing it? The trend in socialist countries recently has been toward privatized medicine. Just take last year's "supreme court" decision in Canada (Quebec) that not allowing individuals to buy private insurance IS a violation of their rights. I have a difficult time believing that universal healthcare will be realized in the United States. If it is, I believe the trend would eventually be reversed as it is now being reversed or collapsing elsewhere.

Compare that to the number of people who think that abortion should be outlawed.

Where on earth do you live? San Francisco? There are incredible numbers of people in this country - I would say at least 70% of the population - that believe that abortion should be outlawed under at least some circumstances. Likely far more people than those who think government is obligated to provide universal healthcare. You can often have a rational argument with someone about universal healthcare. You cannot argue with someone about an issue like abortion when they believe they have a mandate from God.

We also, in most cases, choose economic freedom over the types of freedoms that Republicans wish to take away. If, tomorrow, they outlawed homosexuality, abortion, smoking, pornography, and flag-burning, my life would not be affected one bit.

Four out of the five issues listed above would affect me and my household. My life and the lives of those most important to me would be affected a great deal if the first four out of five activities were made illegal. Therefore, I will vote Democrat. I concur with those in this thread who have criticized the big government Republicans. We might as well have big government Democrats who don't want to take away non-economic personal freedoms as well.

What makes you think the religious right would stop at outlawing homosexuality or abortion if those goals ever become realized?

Having to watch the nonsense of Pat Robertson and his 700 Club on a weekly basis while growing up, and watching how he is still revered by people like my parents, gives me some peculiar insight into just how extreme the religious right actually are. Tune into that show sometime, if you get the chance. The numbers of these people and their influence is growing. Note the large numbers of megachurches sprouting up in the landscape. Also note that Christian religious leaders now openly sympathize with Islamists because their religious puritanism in the Middle East (something the religious right would love to duplicate here in the United States) is becoming diluted with secularism.

I have not read Peikoff's DIM hypothesis, but after reading this thread I am certainly very interested.

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