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Objectivists on War and the State

Randian Dislikes Me

by Stephan Kinsella on December 9, 2009

in Uncategorized

Objectivist Diana Hsieh says:

Kensella [sic] is an unhinged and dishonest bit of nastiness, and he deserves to be shunned by all reasonable people — not treated as a civilized interlocutor.”

I can’t say I’m very bothered by this: this is the same person who officially announces her change in allegiance from David Kelley to Leonard Peikoff (both the decision, and the Official Public Announcement, is enough to raise eyebrows), and who writes:

On this Memorial Day, I would like to honor the three men of the American Civil War who understood the terrible need for total war: President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, and General William T. Sherman. Their vigorous prosecution of the war preserved the Union, the very first nation founded on the principles of individual rights — and, at the time, the only such nation. In so doing, they ended the most loathsome violation of rights ever known to man: chattel slavery. Without them, without the brave Union soldiers who fought under them, America would not exist today.

So thank you, Mssrs. Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman. We are forever in your debt.


Ayn Rand Endorses Big Government

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on May 31, 2009 06:33 PM

Following up on my earlier post, several readers wrote me about my query about the Randian comments that a large government is okay in some cases. Jeff Keller writes:

I think the originator of that quote was Roger Donway (from David Kelley’s Atlas Society/TOC, not the Ayn Rand Institute). He wrote…

“Limited government” means a government restricted to certain purposes, namely, the defense of individual rights; “small government” means a government that absorbs a small percentage of the gross national product. If a country has been invaded, its government might absorb 50 percent or more of the nation’s product to mount a defense—and yet remain a “limited government” in the relevant sense. Conversely, a government that abandons its military and police missions might spend very little of the national output, but if it spends that little on health, education, and welfare, it is not a “limited government.”

The above is from a piece called Government, Yes! Leviathan, No!

I recall hearing David Kelley make a similar point: that smallness of government isn’t the primary concern, but whether it functions within its legitimate authority (Kelley, et al.’s view of legitimacy, of course). That was at the 1999 TOC Summer Seminar, which I attended. I think it was during a debate Kelley had with Randy Barnett over anarchism vs. minarchism, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

In The Libertarians’ Albatross, Butler Shaffer recalls John Hospers who “recently wrote that ‘voting for George W. Bush is the most libertarian thing we can do,’ and that ‘a continued Bush presidency . . . might well succeed in preserving Western civilization.’ Kerry ‘will weaken our military establishment,’ he went on, quoting favorably from a statement made by Rand, in 1962, to the effect that paying 80% for taxes was justified ‘if you need it for defense.'”

As Stan Lee used to say: ’nuff said.

Update: See also Anthony Gregory’s skewering of Randian statism (including the 80% tax remark) in The Ideal Randian State.


Rand on Collateral Damage

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on May 31, 2009 10:30 AM

From Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of her Q&A:

If we go to war with Russia, I hope the “innocent” are destroyed along with the guilty. There aren’t many innocent people there—those who do exist are not in the big cities, but mainly in concentration camps. Nobody has to put up with aggression, and surrender his right of self-defense, for fear of hurting somebody else, guilty or innocent.

This goes beyond merely tolerating collateral damage; it’s actively calling for it. I guess it should be no surprise there is an Objectivist article entitled No Apologies for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I guess when Rand vociferously denounced libertarianism, there was a reason. (Roderick Long also discussed Rand’s “war” remark on the HNN Liberty & Power blog a couple years ago.)

It’s remarkable–given that Rand was such an outspoken proponent of individual rights–how many people she would appear to view as having no rights or radically curtailed rights: “savages” like the Native Americans and other nomads (so it was okay for Americans to kill them and conquer them), and Arabs (so American oil companies “really” owned the oil their technology helped discover under Arabian soil); Germans and Japanese during wartime; “innocent” Russian citizens during the Cold War; and who knows what rights she would have attributed to anarcho-libertarians (I think she called us the “hippies of the right“), draft dodgers and pacifists!

I stumbled across Rand’s observations on war while looking for a comment I’ve read in the past but am now unable to locate. The comment was by an Objectivist, perhaps Peikoff or Binswanger, and went something like this: Libertarians are wrong to favor “small” government; in certain situations, e.g. war or defense from an invasion, it could be appropriate for the government to consume more than half the GDP, if necessary. (If you know who made the comment or its location, please let me know.)

Update: see Ayn Rand Endorses Big Government; also Roderick Long, Randians on the Warpath.

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