George H. Smith

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About George H. Smith

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  • Birthday 02/10/1949

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  • Full Name
    George H. Smith
  • Description
    Writer -- author of "Atheism: The Case Against God," "Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies," and "Why Atheism?" My most recent book, "The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism," will be published by Cambridge University Press in April 2013.
  • Articles
    I write weekly essays on the history of libertarian thought for (a branch of the Cato Institute). See the index of my essays at:
  • Favorite Music, Artworks, Movies, Shows, etc.
    West Coast Jazz greats, such as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Shorty Rogers, etc., etc. I have posted numerous music videos on YouTube as smikro1
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    Bloomington, IL
  • Interests
    Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people
  1. Dio Lewis on Lysander Spooner and Prohibition Smith discusses Lewis’s rare insights on Spooner’s personal life, and his libertarian case against prohibition. My Essay #241 was posted on Friday. Ghs Excerpt In his obituary of Lysander Spooner (Liberty, May 28, 1887) the anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker wrote: He died at one o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday, May 14, in his little room at 109 Myrtle Street [Boston], surrounded by trunks and chests bursting with the books, manuscripts, and pamphlets which he had gathered about him in his active pamphleteer’s warfare over half a century long. The trunks and chests mentioned here ended up in Tucker’s warehouse, which also housed his printing press and stock. Tragically, the warehouse burned down in 1908 and destroyed everything inside. Tucker was unable to recover financially, so the fire ended the publication of Liberty, which was the cornerstone of the radical individualist-libertarian movement in America. Equally as tragic was the loss of Spooner’s collection of unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and other personal material. Without this material it has been impossible to write a detailed biography of Spooner. We know little about his personal life and preferences, but some information was provided by Dio Lewis (1823-1886), Spooner’s friend and personal physician in later life. Dio Lewis was a homeopathic physician who stressed the importance of exercise, sunlight, proper diet and other natural factors in the prevention and cure of diseases. In his many books—including New Gymnastics, Our Digestion, Weak Lungs, Chastity—we find a fair amount of sound advice sprinkled with only a minimal amount of quackery, at least by nineteenth-century standards. The relevant book for our purpose is Talks About People's Stomachs, published in 1870. Here we find two discussions of Lysander Spooner. Although these passages have nothing to do with Spooner’s political views, I have never seen them quoted or cited in any published discussion of Spooner, so I hereby quote them for their historical interest alone....
  2. Gerrit Smith, Lysander Spooner, and Dio Lewis on Prohibition Smith discusses Gerrit Smith’s arguments for prohibition and the reply by Lysander Spooner, as published in a book by Dio Lewis, Prohibition: A Failure. My Essay #140 has been posted. Ghs
  3. Final Comments on Wendell Phillips and Non-Voting Smith concludes his discussion of the no-voting theory of Wendell Phillips by explaining Phillips’s attitude toward taxes and the limits of democracy. My Essay #237 has been posted. Ghs
  4. Anarchism Versus Limited Government Abolitionism Smith discusses how William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips differed in their approaches to non-voting. My Essay #236 has been posted. Ghs
  5. Abolitionism and Modern Voluntaryism Smith discusses some similarities between the anti-political abolitionists and contemporary voluntaryists. My Essay 235 has been posted. Ghs
  6. I was asked on Facebook whether I still had a copy of the transcript of my original interview with Nathan. I replied: I had a transcript of the original interview for years, but I lost it in storage (with almost everything else I owned) in 1995. The interview took place in 2 parts, each 3 hours long, so the 6-hour transcript was extensive, unedited, and highly interesting. It was much different, both in tone and content, from the published interview. I did not come across as a sycophant who asked questions like "Do you plan to write about this?" and "Could you give illustrations?" I later complained to Nathan about the published interview I never gave. He replied candidly. He said that he agreed to the interviews with Reason to increase his book sales and his clientele, so he wanted something fairly simple and something that focused on his psychotherapy, not his abstract views on theoretical psychology. Here is one example. In my interview I spent a fair amount of time on how we could objectively judge the relative effectiveness of various types of psychotherapy. In this regard I mentioned "Psychotherapy: The Purchase of Friendship," a book in which William Schofield questioned whether any particular type of psychotherapy had better results than any other. Rather, the success of any method had a great deal to do with the "purchase" of a friend who would listen sympathetically to one's problems. I recall that we discussed this issue for around 30 minutes, and I thought Nathan raised some interesting points. But none of that, or anything close, appeared in the published interview. Nor did many other theoretical issues, such as my questions about Nathan's theory of volition. Most importantly, I didn't let Nathan off the hook if I thought an answer was insufficient or evasive. That's one reason I asked Roy and Tibor to participate--to ask follow-up questions in the event I missed something. They asked a few such questions, but not very many. One thing that impressed me about Nathan was the depth and extent of his knowledge of Freudianism and other schools of psychology. He was also well read in the contemporary literature. (He was very familiar with Schofied's book, for example, and had obviously given considerable thought to Schofield's points.) Lastly, Nathan freely acknowledged his uncertainty about some issues I raised. For these and other reasons, I thought the original interview I gave made him look far better than the interview he conducted with himself. But Nathan was a savvy businessperson, and he knew what he wanted. It had not been that many years since his split with Rand, and he was still attempting to establish his business and his independence from orthodox Objectivism. Nathan seemed very pleased after the interviews were over, which is why it came as such a shock when a different interview was published in Reason. Reason never sent me a copy of Nathan's version; I only saw it after publication. Had I seen it before publication, I almost certainly would have protested, or at least insisted that my name not be used as the interviewer. It really was an embarrassment--a type of "guru" interview in which the subject is never challenged..
  7. I happened to run across this 1973 piece from Reason Magazine, which contains an interview I supposedly conducted with Nathaniel Branden. (I also wrote the Introduction.) I say "supposedly" because the printed interview differs radically from the real one. After inviting Roy Childs and Tibor Machan to accompany me as backups in Nathan's offices on Sunset Blvd., I asked many theoretical questions, including methodological questions, about psychology. Overall Nathan did an excellent job responding to those questions, and I looked forward to having this substantive discussion published, partly because it illustrated that Nathan was a much deeper thinker in matters of philosophical psychology than his critics had given him credit for. But before the interview was published I got a phone call from Nathan. He said that some of the questions were so abstract and technical that he feared they would not be interesting to many readers. He then asked if I would consent to having him edit the interview and revise parts of it. I should have refused, but at that time I was overly deferent to Nathan, so I agreed. I never imagined the extent to which Nathan would change the interview. In truth, he virtually redid the entire thing, so the interview as printed, despite a few similarities here and there, is largely a self-interview. I was annoyed when it was published, because it comes across as a softball piece of fluff, at least on my end. Nevertheless, some of Nathan's comments are worthwhile in their own right. Another bit of libertarian trivia that you won't hear from any other source. -8)
  8. I missed this one, #232. Abolitionism, Violence, and How William Lloyd Garrison was Almost Killed by a Mob Smith discusses the prevalence of violence against abolitionists during the 1830s, and how Wendell Phillips became an abolitionist. Ghs
  9. My latest Excursions Essays, #233 and #234. Can Abolitionists Vote or Take Office Under the United States Constitution? Smith discusses the arguments of Wendell Phillips that abolitionists should not vote or hold political office. More on Wendell Phillips and Anti-Political Abolitionism Smith discusses the arguments of Wendell Phillips that abolitionists should not vote or hold political office. Ghs
  10. Abolitionism: The Schism Over Voting Smith discusses the split in the American Anti-Slavery Society over voting, equal rights for women, and other causes. My Essay #231 has been posted. Ghs
  11. Abolitionism: Wendell Phillips on Voting and Political Action Smith discusses the controversy over whether the U.S. Constitution is pro-slavery, as illustrated in the opposing views of two leading abolitionists: Wendell Phillips and Lysander Spooner. My Essay #230 has been posted. Ghs
  12. Abolitionism and Self-Ownership Smith discusses the crucial role played by the inalienable right of self-ownership in the abolitionist crusade to abolish slavery. My Essay #229 has been posted. Ghs
  13. How not to Make a Fool of Yourself in Arguments Smith discusses some elements of credibility and offers advice on how to engage in arguments. My Essay #228 has been posted. Ghs
  14. Concluding Remarks on Fallibility and the Moral Implications of Beliefs Smith explores the indispensable role of value commitments in our quest for knowledge. My Essay #226 has been posted. Ghs
  15. During the early 1970s, while I was discussing with Branden some details about a forthcoming 2-record "Seminar" recording for Academic Associates, he made some interesting comments about Peikoff. After I noted the remarkably similar writing style between Peikoff's monograph "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" and Rand's published works, Branden said that Peikoff wrote the piece with Rand "constantly looking over his shoulder"--thereby implying that Rand had as much to do with writing the monograph as Peikoff did. Branden also said, with obvious sarcasm, that Peikoff got his better ideas from rummaging through the wastebaskets of himself and Rand. Although Branden could be critical of Rand, I never heard him badmouth the woman, despite their bitter conflict. But this was not the case with Peikoff. Branden had very little respect for the intellectual ability of the guy. Later edit: Branden observed that Peikoff had been placed on "probation" a number of times by Rand for his failure to understand Rand's points. Long after Nathan, Barbara, and other members of the Inner Circle clearly understand Rand's principles and arguments, Peikoff continued to struggle with them. Ghs