Robert Campbell

A call to boycott the Ayn Rand Society

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I'm posting this at Irfan Khawaja's request. (Correction: I initially stated that he is not a member here. Apparently he is a member, but highly inactive.)

Keep in mind that I am serving (primarily) as the lightning rod.

I cannot quit the Ayn Rand Society because I was never eligible to join it. I do not have a degree in philosophy and therefore cannot join the parent organization, the American Philosophical Association.

That said, the decision to invite Yaron Brook to give a talk at an ARS meeting has never made sense to me, except as a demonstration of allegiance, and of inside influence, by the ARIans who are now in complete control of the Ayn Rand Society. So I do support the call for a boycott.

Robert Campbell

BOYCOTT THE AYN RAND SOCIETY

This may turn out to be the least-publicized call for a boycott ever, but I’m going to call for one anyway: Philosophers attending the APA Eastern Division Meetings this year should boycott the meeting of the Ayn Rand Society. Frankly, in my view, they should boycott the Society itself.

For twenty-five years now, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has vilified libertarians as “nihilists,” and declared them too evil to “sanction,” i.e., too evil to endorse or deal with.

“Boycotted and condemned.” I like that.

IS LIBERTARIANISM AN EVIL DOCTRINE? Yes, if evil is the irrational and the destructive. Libertarianism belligerently rejects the very need for any justification for its belief in something called “liberty.” It repudiates the need for any intellectual foundation to explain why “liberty” is desirable and what “liberty” means. Anyone from a gay-rights activist to a criminal counterfeiter to an overt anarchist can declare that he is merely asserting his “liberty” — and no Libertarian (even those who happen to disagree) can objectively refute his definition. Subjectivism, amoralism and anarchism are not merely present in certain “wings” of the Libertarian movement; they are integral to it. In the absence of any intellectual framework, the zealous advocacy of “liberty” can represent only the mindless quest to eliminate all restraints on human behavior — political, moral, metaphysical. And since reality is the fundamental “restraint” upon men’s actions, it is nihilism — the desire to obliterate reality — that is the very essence of Libertarianism. If the Libertarian movement were ever to come to power, widespread death would be the consequence. (For elaboration, see my essay “Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty.”)

Justice demands moral judgment. It demands that one objectively evaluate Libertarianism, and act in accordance with that evaluation. It demands that one identify Libertarianism as the antithesis of — and therefore as a clear threat to — not merely genuine liberty, but all rational values. And it demands that Libertarianism, like all such threats, be boycotted and condemned.

Despite some tricky-looking verbal gymnastics, ARI has not disavowed that view (and explicitly says that it has not). So vilification of libertarianism and libertarians remains the official view of the Ayn Rand Institute despite their paradoxical (that is, hypocritical) decision to make common cause with a few libertarian organizations.

The Ayn Rand Society (ARS) is a nominally distinct entity, but every single member of its Steering Committee is in some way affiliated with ARI. In any case, this year, they’ve decided to invite Yaron Brook as the main speaker at their APA Eastern Meeting (see the very first link in this post). Yaron Brook is the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is therefore the man responsible for ARI’s continuing policy of defamation. ARS has invited him to address their meeting despite that fact, and absurdly enough, has invited two libertarians to respond to him. The Steering Committee’s knowledge of Brook’s institutional role–and of ARI’s ideological position–are, in my view, sufficient to justify a boycott of the meeting. (Read this exchange if you’d like a sense of Yaron Brook’s moral stature and his method of cognitive functioning. It’s best read in conjunction with this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

It makes things worse that intellectually, Brook is a shallow propagandist entirely lacking in bona fide qualifications as a political philosopher. (Nonetheless, like all Objectivist pseudo-intellectuals of his type, he insists on describing himself as an “expert.”) It’s therefore a mystery why ARS’s leadership would have invited him to speak at the APA. In 2012, I asked both the late Allan Gotthelf (ARS’s founder*) and James Lennox (the current co-chair of ARS’s Steering Committee) why Brook had been invited. Neither of them had an answer. If you’d like an answer, feel free to ask Lennox or his co-chair Gregory Salmieri for one, and share what you hear from them. But my own inference is that they have no defensible answer to give. I also find it a mystery why James Otteson and Peter Boettke would have accepted an invitation to discuss libertarian politics with someone responsible for a mass-movement campaign of anti-libertarian defamation, but I suppose one mystery begets another.

I’m happy to say that I’ve convinced at least one major philosopher to back out of an invitation to speak at an ARS event, and have convinced a few prominent libertarians to let their membership in ARS lapse (or in the case of those who had already let it lapse, not to renew their membership). I’d like to add indefinitely to that list.

Whatever you do, don’t seek refuge in the excuse that philosophers are obliged to have conversations with those with whom they disagree on moral issues. (Scroll down in the link to my exchange with Matt Zwolinski.) The response to that is: “no kidding.” The question is whether philosophers ought to help burnish the reputation of organizations that suborn and facilitate decades-long campaigns of character-assassination. If you want to be a part of that of effort, feel free. But then take responsibility for being a part of it. And don’t complain when you’re treated accordingly. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

*Correction (added after posting): To be precise, Gotthelf was ARS’s co-founder, along with David Kelley and George Walsh. ARS was co-founded by the three of them in 1990. But Walsh died in 2001, and Kelley has not been active at the leadership level in ARS for decades. Gotthelf was the central figure at the heart of ARS, and was responsible for the decision to invite Brook.

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That you must accept F and V to be intellectually compatible with ARI (and Objectivism) merely means ARI is intellectually corrupt at the core.

Yaron Brook respecting ARI is like a university or college president respecting his institution. It is not an intellectual's position. Certain things are to be said and done--like raising money. If ARI had a position opposite to F and V he would either endorse that too or not be there. Nobody would care about what he actually thought. Has he ever given any representation of thinking it out to a conclusion or is it just the conclusion served on a platter out of the ARI kitchen? I mean, even if he has there is also a way of memorizing the original rationalization. Did he even ever do that?

--Brant

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This is an excellent example of why I don't belong to any organizations...

Collectivists inevitably become fixated on the intellectual fantasy of ideological purity, and their only cohesiveness depends on excluding the "infidels". So all you end up with is animosity, backstabbing, and wasted time that could have been spent doing something productive like securing your own independence.

Greg

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Jonathan,

OK... I didn't know.

I continue to recommend posting comments on Irfan's site if you want a reply from him.

Robert Campbell

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This is an excellent example of why I don't belong to any organizations...

Collectivists inevitably become fixated on the intellectual fantasy of ideological purity, and their only cohesiveness depends on excluding the "infidels". So all you end up with is animosity, backstabbing, and wasted time that could have been spent doing something productive like securing your own independence.

Greg

The plumbers' union won't have you.

--Brant

admit it

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This is an excellent example of why I don't belong to any organizations...

Collectivists inevitably become fixated on the intellectual fantasy of ideological purity, and their only cohesiveness depends on excluding the "infidels". So all you end up with is animosity, backstabbing, and wasted time that could have been spent doing something productive like securing your own independence.

Greg

The plumbers' union won't have you.

--Brant

admit it

I wouldn't touch any freaking union with a ten foot pole even though I was offered ample opportunities to join over the years. They're for weak unproductive collectivist failures who can't compete as sovereign independent individuals in the private sector Capitalist free market.

Greg

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The Internet is a time sucker-upper.

--Brant

I substitute the internet as an entertainment alternative to television,

which is passive, unspontaneous and non interactive. :wink:

Greg

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The Internet is a time sucker-upper.

--Brant

I substitute the internet as an entertainment alternative to television,

which is passive, unspontaneous and non interactive. :wink:

Greg

I dunno. Was it "interactive" when I put my fist through it?

--Brant

joke alert, joke alert

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Seems like a waste of time. I've enjoyed reading Ayn Rand's books but I can't keep track of all the different organizations which claim affinity with her philosophy. Yaron Brook seems like a good guy who will probably be named Peikoff's successor. Then maybe there will be more unity in the Objectivist movement.

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Seems like a waste of time. I've enjoyed reading Ayn Rand's books but I can't keep track of all the different organizations which claim affinity with her philosophy. Yaron Brook seems like a good guy who will probably be named Peikoff's successor. Then maybe there will be more unity in the Objectivist movement.

If I were channeling Barbara Branden I too would affirm an Objectivist movement, but while giving ARI a good sideswipe. In my opinion, however, there is no Objectivist movement. The necessary moral commonality isn't there because of a serious incompleteness and some wrong-headedness too in the ethics. the heart of the philosophy. Therefore the default is to the conservatives and Tea Partiers who use their inbreed ethics and American values. That's where you'll find the gravitas--and the neo-con war-makers--if you want a war. There is some gravitas with ARI. It's neo-con pro-Israel. I'm pro-Israel, but not a neo-con. The President is a half-assed neo-con, btw. He might get us into a war with Russia.

--Brant

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Yaron Brook seems like a good guy who will probably be named Peikoff's successor. Then maybe there will be more unity in the Objectivist movement.

Neither Yaron Brook nor anyone else at ARI is in that position. Leonard Peikoff has said that he will be the one and only pope; he intends to choose no successor.

Robert Campbell

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Yaron Brook seems like a good guy who will probably be named Peikoff's successor. Then maybe there will be more unity in the Objectivist movement.

Neither Yaron Brook nor anyone else at ARI is in that position. Leonard Peikoff has said that he will be the one and only pope; he intends to choose no successor.

Robert Campbell

It's easy to be his successor. Just get permission from Nathaniel Branden's estate to do You Tube readings chapter by chapter of The Vision of Ayn Rand.

--Brant

charismatically--hire a great actor movie star

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Seems like a waste of time. I've enjoyed reading Ayn Rand's books but I can't keep track of all the different organizations which claim affinity with her philosophy.

I hear you, Robin. The true value of Ayn Rand's ideals can only be realized in how well we each live by them... and being dependent on an organization, any organization, sure isn't one of them! :laugh:

Greg

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