The Objectivist Fashionable Non-Conformists

If you are anywhere near Objectivist circles on Facebook, you likely recently witnessed a spectacle of a well-known blogger attacking “organized Objectivism” and ARI/Peikoff in particular. This tantrum, and the underlying open vs closed subject, as been discussed ad nauseam. My position mirrors that of ARI and is explained quite well in Peikoff’s “Fact and Value” (https://ari.aynrand.org/issues/culture-and-society/religion-and-morality/Fact-and-Value) My interest is not so much that tired discussion, but the curious reactions from those who see ARI as the devil. These are not reactions to any new philosophical insight given by the “self excommunicated” blogger, merely to the fact that he attacked ARI and Ayn Rand. He was called courageous and an independent thinker, among other things. This is not unique to this situation.

To be skeptical to the point of agnosticism in all things is considered the essence of wisdom. You hear these sort of statements all the time. “Nobody is always right! Rand was far from perfect. I could never be Objectivist because I am too questioning and influenced by many thinkers.” The focus is never on truth, only on the act of rebellion, a focus on what they are not and what they are not is *extreme*. Rand discussed the smear of extremism as an anti-concept in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. (https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1964/09/01/extremism-or-the-art-of-smearing) If Objectivism is correct then extremism in Objectivism is no vice, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater. If Objectivism is incorrect than the errors should be exposed. I have written before about the abnegation of moral judgment that is agnosticism. It is neither wise nor courageous, quite the opposite. Just as we must decide upon the existence of gods and act accordingly, we must make similar judgments upon all knowledge available to us.

The labels and insults thrown my direction are amusing such as orthodox, obleftivist, boy scout, dogmatic, cultist, etc. If orthodox means I agree with the philosophy, I’m guilty. If dogmatic means I reject moral relativism and believe in objective reality, guilty once again. Objectivism is unique in its unwavering adherence to objective reality. There are plenty of other philosophies that will allow you to bring “your truth” with you. Objectivism is not one. It does not deal in blind followers nor those who wish to create their own reality.

This belief that indecision and skepticism equate with wisdom is commonplace today, even more so than in the past. Even Objectivism, a philosophy in direct opposition, has to deal with this insidious invader. Thinking is hard. Being an Objectivist is hard and demanding. You can’t do what you feel like, reason is always the final judge. Creating a whole new philosophy, as Rand did, is astounding. It is much easier to criticize and tear down than to create and build up. So here is the challenge to those who (unsuccessfully) attack Peikoff, ARI, and Rand. Build something better. Show us a superior philosophy and I will be the first in line.

Trump and the Left

I was recently eating in a local Mexican restaurant, the type where the staff is speaking Spanish and the food is amazing, and overheard the following conversation behind me from a middle aged man to an older couple with whom he was dining. Here’s a few snippets out of many idiotic statements.

Nobody in this place is voting for Trump, obviously.
His supporters are all just racists and bigots who love him as he says the racist things they wish they could say.
Nobody with an education would vote for him, he just gets these no skilled, no degree workers.
They just can’t deal with a woman president and they’re all sexist.
Well, the NRA is behind him. They just want these automatic guns legal and we all know nobody needs those.

I wanted to turn around and smack his condescending pompous face. I even had the little speech forming in my head to give him. People like him are the reason Trump won the Republican nomination. You have all these millions of people working hard to pay their mortgage and support their family. What happens when they get home after a long day of work and kids and flip on the TV? They get told that they are really all racists and live a privileged life. They are told they should feel guilty that their children go to a better school than some other children. They are told the money they worked their butts off for is not theirs and it will be stolen to pay for one new program or another. They are told they are the only people not to be classified as a victim. How in the hell do you think they’ll react?

Trump is their anger. Everyone else plays identity politics, why shouldn’t they? They don’t fear or hate immigrants, they resent them. They don’t hate women, but they are sick of being called sexist every single time they say anything negative about any woman. The left elites discuss “fairness” as opposed to justice. (true justice, not perversions of it like the meaningless “social justice” or “environmental justice”) There is nothing “fair” in the way they are being treated. If Trump is Frankenstein’s monster, the liberal left is Dr. Frankenstein himself.

There are exceptions of truly bad people like white supremacists getting behind Trump. Trump has also brought out the worst in many people. But the average person casting their vote for him is not bad or evil. They are sick and tired and very angry. I don’t blame them. He is not the answer and he will not solve the problems. He is the equivalent of becoming frustrated assembling your new IKEA desk and in a rage smashing it to bits. There are other, better options that are neither Clinton nor Trump, but that’s another topic for another day.

If you think this election will be the end of the backlash you are sorely mistaken. Trump will likely lose but in four years there may be another Trump, only with more charisma and a better filter. If that candidate comes along in 4 years he will win. The solution is to end the class warfare, to stop treating everyone as part of one collective or another and start treating people as individuals. The neo-Marxism in our culture doesn’t want that to happen. The historical reaction to Marxism has been fascism, the solution to both is individualism and liberty. Unless the culture changes, the politics will only get worse.

[EDIT: Unfortunately it did not take four years, the anger came out in full force this year]

Why San Bernardino Will Happen Again

Only a small time ago I wrote an extensive blog post that, unfortunately, applies here. My contention was that we didn’t have to worry about ISIS injecting operatives into Syrian refugees nearly as much as we should worry about the inherent danger in a religion that has not adopted reason or found a way to coexist with non-believers. While many, many Muslim people are good and lead a non-violent life, there exists in their religion the seeds for just this sort of thing no matter how modern or moderate they appear.

The same thing could have been said about Christianity before the adoption of things like natural law and Aristotle. But, for the most part, that is no longer the case. My problem is not with Muslims, not with a certain nationality or race, but with a belief system that is anti-human to the core. War has been declared on us multiple times from ISIS to 9-11 to Iranian hostages. Before we can truly defend ourselves and end that threat we have to first be able to name what it is we are up against.

The physical war must be directed at those Islamic Jihadists who actively attack or threaten western civilization. The average Muslim is not and should never be a target of that war. But in the battle of ideas Islam itself must be questioned, no matter how un-PC that statement is. These attackers are not “extremists” but hold a viewpoint (one of many) that is consistent with their holy books.  We can either name what the cause of all this destruction is or we can continue to bury our heads in the sand, judging these people as nutjobs because under our value system they would have to be. These Jihadists don’t share that value system and viewing them from ours is a huge mistake.

These are the concrete repercussions of bad philosophy left unchallenged.  This is why ideas matter.  Any belief system that holds women as second class citizens, wants gays put to death, and treats humans as nothing more than slaves deserves no respect.  This is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge.  Until the world does, expect more events like those in California or France.

The Middle East refugee problem

Since the Paris attacks and the subsequent discussion of how to deal with the refugee crisis, I have been pretty quiet on the issue. Anyone who knows me knows this is a rarity, I usually form strong philosophical positions quickly, but this case is incredibly difficult. There are people I respect and usually agree with who have drastically different opinions on the matter. While these people have supplied very rational reasons for their views, in general the vast majority of arguments I’ve heard (on both sides) have been flimsy, emotional, hateful, or well-intentioned but naive.

In general immigration is a good thing. Economies are not zero sum, not a fixed pie that refugees or immigrants only take away from. Every productive immigrant not only takes part of the pie but in their production they make the pie bigger for everyone under capitalism. Barring infectious disease, criminal history, or similar glaring problems anyone whom is offered work in the US should be able to freely come and make a better life for themselves and their family. I would add that no immigration or refugee situation should be funded with taxpayer money, but private organizations and charities should be the source of funds.

The question that has to be asked is not about refugees or immigrants in general, but about middle eastern, mostly Islamic refugees. A person coming from Mexico grew up in a culture of western civilization with a secular government. A person from Syria or Yemen did not. They come from a culture that has abandoned reason and the influence of classical philosophers. While Christianity was rediscovering Aristotle before the Enlightenment, Islamic scholars were purging him. While Aquinas was trying to allow reason and faith to coexist Islamic scholars, who had been more receptive and tolerant up to that point, headed the opposite direction. During the cold war the US would (rightfully) not allow a communist with the intention of overthrowing the republic to move to the US. Liberty does not mean helping enemies destroy yourself. Is Islam comparable to communism in this aspect? Both are not innate qualities like race but choices. (a limited choice perhaps in a country 99% Islamic)

The rhetoric is that ISIS are a bunch of kooks distorting Islam but that’s simply not true. It’s easier to assume evil people like Hitler were insane than to accept the fact they were doing what they thought was right and moral. But everything ISIS says and does is right there in the Koran and other holy books. When you look at Wahhabism, Salafism, and Islamic doctrine ISIS are merely fundamentalists and their beliefs make sense in that context. Their gripe (and main target) is Saudi Arabia which conversely has twisted Wahhabism to allow their dictatorship to continue. (which is why they will never take refugees) When you understand how these people are brought up, how they have been taught to place all value in religion and little value in reason the idea of radicalization is not far fetched. A Muslim born and raised in the West has grown up with at least some Western values and secular leadership. These refugees have been told to reject both their entire lives. That is a recipe for trouble. The only answer is a rejection of faith for reason, or at least some sort of coexistence. I don’t see an Islamic Aquinas anywhere to do so.

So what to do? Obviously the vast majority of refugees are victims of bad governments and cultures who would be peaceful and more concerned with their families and lives than abstract religious principles. But those same principles still leave an easy way to turn to violence at a much greater rate than a Muslim raised in the US. Vetting must be extensive with preference for those with links to western schools or professionals whom are well educated, along with those with social links and family already here. If there are any unanswered questions the US must not allow entry for its own self defense. We should welcome these refugees as Americans if they choose to permanently migrate, but we should not be blind to the inherent risk and this fanciful belief that Islam is only a religion of peace. Most importantly, ISIS must be destroyed for a long term solution.

The Hobby Lobby decision was right (for the wrong reasons)

I was both happy and sad at the supreme court decision involving Hobby Lobby, contraception, and government mandates.  The ruling preserved a small amount of freedom and property rights, but did not address the bigger issues and made no clear distinction as to if this ruling would apply to similar cases.  The judges themselves seemed to not really grasp the issues at hand and in a very divided court voted down political lines.  Since then reading articles from politicos, friends on Facebook, and even George Takei I see both sides as equally unwilling to face the question the court refused: Does a person or the government/majority have a right to the products of one’s work and one’s property?

The Left loves laws with good intentions, no matter the cost, so it is no surprise they hate the ruling.  They say the right tries to legislate morality (the right does) but evidently they feel they can do the same in the sake of “being fair” or for the little guy. (or lady in this case)  The fact is nobody is forced to work for Hobby Lobby or any one company.  Interactions between people are contractual and both sides have a say in that contract, employee and employer.  The free market does the best job of allowing those contracts to form organically without one side or the other controlling all the power.  If one is really concerned about the little guy they should be against any government interference as the force and coercion of government may be for you today but against you tomorrow.  Democracy is not a blank check to rob the minority at the will of the majority.  At its essence that is what it is, robbery, violence, using the force of a government gun to tell a private individual (or collection of private individuals) that their property and business are not their’s to run, but instead belongs to the mob.  The person who produced the ideas that created or grew a company have no say while the need of the employee is all that matters.  What happens when someone else has a greater need than that employee?  The gun of government will be used again because once you destroy the property rights of one person you destroy the concept for everyone else.

The Right has come out saying what a great win this is for “religious freedom” and some even foolishly say for capitalism.  The ruling does neither justice.  Why must it be religious freedom and not just plain old run of the mill freedom?  The religious right is fighting for a protected class with more rights than the average American and not surprisingly, it is for the religious.  What if an atheist company owner had strong moral objections to the morning after pill?  This ruling does nothing to protect him or her, they don’t have the magic shield of religious freedom to duck behind.  We’re in a country where religion is shoved down the throat of the non-religious continually but that’s not enough, now atheist, agnostic, non-religious, and non-mainstream religious have become second class citizens in yet another way.  There is a more basic freedom here, freedom of association and speech, that if truly was protected there would be no need for special religious freedoms.  The next time some Republican candidate starts preaching about how much he wants to protect religious freedom, you’d better be hoping he’s talking about your particular religion or you may find yourself cast aside with the heathens.  Would an American Rastafarian or someone who uses ayahuasca in their religious practices get the same sort of protection from the conservatives when it comes to such scary drugs?  I doubt it.  The Left is the mugger who at least is honest about the gun to your face, the Right is the smiling friend who steals your wallet when you’re not looking.  Neither side is your friend.

The correct, constitutional, and only moral ruling would have been 9-0 saying that a business, being property, is protected by property rights and the owner(s) can decide how to run their business how they see fit.  If someone doesn’t like it they don’t have to work or shop there.  In fact in a free society (with a proper Fourth Estate publicizing) people would be free to boycott and dissuade others from shopping at such a place.  There are other options than “there should be a law” to change the way the world works.  There are two ways to deal with people, by mutual consent and contract or by force, either direct or force channeled through the voting booth.  Both initiations of force are equally evil.  The real shame is that the 9 most powerful judges in this country took it for granted that using government force and coercion was legal and moral and they only seemed to quarrel over who should be the victims.

Skepticism and Agnosticism are not rational

I’ve been called a moralist, a dogmatist, and closed-minded when it comes to philosophy. Among Libertarian circles, I often seem more in agreement with Aquinas and Catholics than the rampant skepticism that runs unchallenged today. In the tradition of Kant and Hume (and others) you cannot ever really know anything.  People take this as wisdom when in reality it is cowardice. To actually be for something, to believe that we can know right and wrong, is a fundamental concept of Objectivism yet even among fans of Ayn Rand the ghost of Kant and Hume still holds sway. 

When I talk like I am certain of something it is because I am and I have to be to live.  This does not mean I cannot be wrong or make mistakes, both certainly happen, but it does mean I trust in my own mind and rationality.  The prime example is the issue of a god. Agnosticism is not enlightened or thoughtful, it is simply lazy.  I have more respect for the view of atheism or belief than one of simply not thinking of the issue.  How we ought to act depends on these judgments and determines our morality.  I am an Atheist and act accordingly.  To not hold a viewpoint is willful ignorance, a complete abdication of thinking.  This is not just restricted to the issue of gods but every aspect of our life.  

You are without water in the middle of the desert and happen upon a pond full of water.  You must make a decision, do you chance drinking the water if it is potable or move on if it is poisonous. Are there plants living in the water?  Is it clear or is there moss growing?  You must decide if it is water or poison and with that affirmative opinion decide your actions. The skeptical approach is not deciding, neither drinking the water nor moving on because “you just can’t know for sure” and you soon face a 100 percent chance of death.

While it is obvious in this example that you must make a choice the same logic exists in less obvious situations in our lives.  Sometimes our conclusions are wrong, but that does not mean we should give up the business of making conclusions.  We implicitly make these choices all the time.  An agnostic will either make decisions as if he believes in a god or no god, or lives a tangled mess of inconsistency.  

It is the easiest thing in the world to be a skeptic. It has always been trendy to be against things. It is so much more difficult to think, understand, and form well reasoned opinions and then act upon them.  That is called being rational, not close-minded.