[From Bidinotto Blog] A Career Change


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Jerry: "The influence of Rand's ideas is so negligible as to not even register on a cultural 'Richter Scale.' We find the two major party Presidential candidates engaging in a competitive orgy of collectivist proposals while sugarcoating it with the most nauseating display of altruist and group-think 'justifications' that have ever been proposed outside of a totalitarian country.

"Outside of a few Objectivists - who are (unfortunately) essentially 'talking to themselves,' I have seen virtually NO criticism at all in the general media of McCain or Obama that takes them to task for their altruist premises. Not even mentioned.

None. Zero. Nada. Whatever criticism there is of their proposals amounts to quibbling over details and issues of 'expediency.'

"So where is this great cultural influence of Atlas Shrugged that we were so recently celebrating on its 50th Anniversary?"

Jerry, here is a very small piece of evidence -- from a most unlikely source, which is what makes it significant -- that Rand is being read by some members of the government. I posted the following to the Joe the Plumber thread, but it is relevant here.

"I heard something remarkable on television this evening. Governor Huckabee was arguing with a liberal about Obama's statement to Joe the Plumber that it was a good idea to 'spread the wealth around.' Huckabee said, with great conviction -- I immediately wrote down his words to be sure I had them exactly -- 'The important question is: Does the government have the right to take the money one person has earned -- because the government has decided he has too much money -- and give it to someone who has not earned it.'

"!!!!!"

Barbara

Barbara,

It is nice to see Huckabee and any other public figure giving out statements that Objectivists and libertarians would agree with. Even conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, have quoted or recommended reading Atlas Shrugged (but in the next breath he starts condemning liberals as being too "selfish." Didn't he read the whole book....?).

Anyway, I have not seen any criticism being directed at Obama (or McCain) in the "major media" outlets that explicitly calls them to task, utilizing an Objectivist argument (not just libertarian, but Objectivist). It is true that there are some occasional Op-Ed pieces in newspapers, but this is a trickle compared to the liberal/collectivist deluge applauding Obama's every move. BOTH of them are spouting collectivist-altruist arguments that are so virulent, they would make "Mr. Thompson" blush. And they are NEVER challenged,.at least in the major media.

One would think that after fifty years, we would at least see more evidence of the Objectivist positions being discussed/argued/advocated.

Yes, lots of people have read Ayn Rand. That is of course great. But still, her ideas are practically nowhere to be seen in the media discussions of this political campaign and coinciding financial catastrophe.

After fifty years, the voices of those advocating Objectivism hardly amount to a blip on the political/cultural radar screen (Please, no one come back with a statement that Objectivism is a "Stealth bomber!" If it's stealthy, then it is taking a very long time for its "bombs" to explode. Or even be felt.)

Look, I am not saying, we should stop advocating for our principles. I am merely pointing-out that so far there has been very little political-cultural influence from our philosophy.

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A related essay by Boeckmann on Romantic painting appears in a recent issue of Craig Biddle's journal, The Objective Standard. This is going to influence me (for one) in future writing I do on music aesthetics (if one of the ARI bunch doesn't beat me to it).

Roger,

Would you mind giving a brief explanation of what it was about Boeckmann's essay on Romantic painting that you found valuable and why it will influence your future writings on music? I haven't read the essay and I'm not going to subscribe to The Objective Standard just to read it.

J

Hi, Jonathan. I found both the essay in Mayhew's volume and the essay in Biddle's journal to be valuable. First of all, pertinent to the second part of your question, in the first essay, Boeckmann discusses architecture and literature, while in the second essay, he discusses painting -- but all of them in terms of this concept of "core combinations."

I'm not going to give his definition of "core combinations." I really think you should read one or both of the essays, if you are ~so~ interested that you need to know the genus-differentia details. But a core combination allows an artist to flesh out the artwork's theme. The theme is the abstract integrator, while the core combination is the concrete integrator. The core combination is a structural device (such as a plot-theme in literature) that allows the artist to stylize the artwork -- i.e., to select the details that allow the artist to embody the gist of a certain outlook on life and unite into a unified perceptible concrete.

I found the first essay stimulating, and it probably would have been sufficient springboard -- but the second one really nailed it. Boeckmann says that the visual arts represent physical objects by means of "particular uses of line, shape, form, tone, color, texture, and so on." He calls these the "design means" of the visual art work, and he says that the design means and representational content are unified by the visual art work's core combination, which he calls the "design-theme." He contrasts this with the core combination of a literary work, which is a "plot-theme", which represents "human action across time."

The really fascinating thing about music is that it uses both elements like those of visual arts (melody, tone, timbre, texture, etc.) and those of literary art (progressions of musical events). Since college, I have been a bit confused about what kind of terminology to use for the theme of a musical art work. Rand uses "theme" for the general, abstract meaning, while musical composers use "theme" to refer to the melodic subject of their work. But what would be the right term to use for the concrete integrator, the core combination in music? In parallel to Rand's and Boeckmann's terms -- "plot-theme," "design-theme," Roark's "one central idea" -- I think that "melodic theme" or "motif" (for instance) are ~just~ the terms needed to label core combinations in music.

This is not a huge breakthrough in understanding the aesthetics and psychology of music per se, but in ~connecting~ Rand's aesthetics to the analysis and evaluation of music. It really helped me to integrate those two areas of my thinking. Again, not that I couldn't have eventually done something like it myself, but it quickly made a connection that really helped clarify my thinking across the two areas.

Now, you perhaps don't need to read the essays, but I strongly recommend them. The analysis of The Fountainhead as a Romantic novel is ~excellent~, and the analysic of Friedrich's paintings is even ~better~. And no, I will not further discuss ~why~ I think so. If you want to find out, you will have to get them and read them yourself -- or find someone else willing to share the details.

But thanks for your question. It prompted me to verbalize what I had realized about Boeckmann's essays in relation to my own work, and making the implicit explicit is always a good thing. :)

REB

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One Monday 11 July 1994, I walked into a beautiful mansion in Irvington, New York. It was the home of the Foundation for Economic Education. I had never been to an event like this before. I had a salad bowl of emotions. When I left on Saturday, I cried as I drove across the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge. I like to think if I ever see any of those people from that week, I will still remember them. It was the best week of my life.

On the schedule for that seminar week were Lawrence Reed (now FEE's president), Burt Folsom, Hans Sennholz (1922-2007), Israel Kirzner, Barbara Dodsworth, Bettina Bien Greaves, Edmund Opitz (1914-2006), and Robert James Bidinotto. This was a great week. Bidinotto talked about "What is Freedom For?" It was easily the best talk of the week, and he had excellent competition.

It was also during this week that I first learned about David Kelley.

What happened to that insightful man I met in 1994? Well, Sennholz alienated a few people from FEE during his tenure there. Kirzner was one, and Bidinotto was another. Many of FEE's supporters (including myself) believed that Sennholz was trying to conservatize the place. One person who had popped in at the seminar described him as "difficult to work with."

When Don Boudreaux took over the FEE's presidency in 1997, Kirzner went back immediately. Folsom is still one of the best free market historians around and appears there regularly. He is an absolute joy as a speaker. I last heard that Greaves is in North Carolina. She has to be in her 80's or 90's, although she still probably knows more about Ludwig von Mises than anyone else.

For whatever reason, Bidinotto has never went back to FEE. At the time of this split, I remember thinking that they needed him more than he needed them.

If I went back to FEE, I think I would still recognize the place. It certainly seemed the same when I stopped in for a Friday night event in 2004. The principles are still the same as they were back in 1947--free markets, Austrian economics. The people are still as great and wonderful as they were in 1994. You won't find a much better ambassador for free markets than Lawrence Reed.

I hardly recognize Bidinotto at all. It's a tragedy. A guy who used to make insightful comments on the philosophical underpinnings of a free society now writes a blog where he shows the world his schoolboy crush on Sarah Palin (he's not the only one obsessed with her). When he attacked Ron Paul, my respect for him went out the door. His neo-con rants on the war were already making me wonder about him. It is very disappointing to see a good guy go bad like this.

I naturally wonder if his continued alienation from FEE has something to do with his anti-Paul vendetta. Ron Paul was a FEE trustee for some time. When Hans Sennholz died, Ron Paul made a speech in Congress praising him. If it is like most of the baloney I've seen in the history of the Objectivist movement, it likely has little or nothing to do with philosophy.

Strangely enough, up into the late 1990's, the ARI crowd was quite friendly to FEE. Much like Rand, FEE has never seemed comfortable with the L word (libertarian). Laissez Faire Books published an edition of Human Action, and Second Renaissance Books refused to carry it. When FEE published an edition of that big book, they sold it. I think this friendliness was mainly due to FEE's explicit rejection of anarchism and their refusal to take a side in the split over the revelations of Barbara Branden, in spite of the fact that FEE never had any trouble trying to link religion and capitalism. I'm guessing that the neo-con, imperialist war caused a final split between FEE and the ARI crowd.

The genocidal maniacs at ARI have completely ghettoized themselves. I fear that Bidinotto has been doing the same. The war has not only taken the country into bankruptcy. It is going to take down everyone who got on the ship, too. Considering that the pro-war Randists are some of the most stubborn people I've ever met, I imagine that they will be the last ones to head for the lifeboat.

And this leads to the root of the problem. Upholding and celebrating the good is a positive thing. It's the most effective way to raise your kids. You get nothing by punishing the bad, except for the hope that you have rendered the bad harmless. This is what has happened to a large portion of the Objectivist movement. It is now obsessed with punishing the bad. Punishing the bad has always been important to Bidinotto, and I think this is what has lead him to the dark side. The same thing happened to Anakin Skywalker.

It's funny that this announcement came at about the same time that Christopher Buckley announced that he is voting for Obama and quitting National Review. I wonder if Bidinotto is going after Buckley's job. It actually seems more appropriate for him.

FEE doesn't need Bidinotto. I doubt that they would want him now.

You need to read Eric Hoffer again, Bob. You can still be a great man.

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[....]

I hardly recognize Bidinotto at all. It's a tragedy. A guy who used to make insightful comments on the philosophical underpinnings of a free society now writes a blog where he shows the world his schoolboy crush on Sarah Palin (he's not the only one obsessed with her).

I wouldn't make that much out of Robert's gushing about Sarah Palin. He's not the only one who found himself charmed by her appearance and manner. This, too, shall pass. What's more important is: exactly what is he going to write about in the future, especially in the books he writes? Is it going to be fundamental analysis and how-to for moving to a rational, free society -- or neo-con apologetics for military interventionism? It will be very interesting to see what issues forth from his "pen."

Strangely enough, up into the late 1990's, the ARI crowd was quite friendly to FEE. Much like Rand, FEE has never seemed comfortable with the L word (libertarian). Laissez Faire Books published an edition of Human Action, and Second Renaissance Books refused to carry it. When FEE published an edition of that big book, they sold it. I think this friendliness was mainly due to FEE's explicit rejection of anarchism and their refusal to take a side in the split over the revelations of Barbara Branden, in spite of the fact that FEE never had any trouble trying to link religion and capitalism. I'm guessing that the neo-con, imperialist war caused a final split between FEE and the ARI crowd.

Hmmm, I would think that FEE's refusal to take a side in the controversy over Barbara's book would have ~guaranteed~ that ARI would split with them. Why would you think that their neutrality would have been acceptable to ARI?

The genocidal maniacs at ARI have completely ghettoized themselves. I fear that Bidinotto has been doing the same. The war has not only taken the country into bankruptcy. It is going to take down everyone who got on the ship, too. Considering that the pro-war Randists are some of the most stubborn people I've ever met, I imagine that they will be the last ones to head for the lifeboat. And this leads to the root of the problem. Upholding and celebrating the good is a positive thing. It's the most effective way to raise your kids. You get nothing by punishing the bad, except for the hope that you have rendered the bad harmless. This is what has happened to a large portion of the Objectivist movement. It is now obsessed with punishing the bad. Punishing the bad has always been important to Bidinotto, and I think this is what has lead him to the dark side. The same thing happened to Anakin Skywalker.

Perhaps you have statistics that could convince me otherwise, but I don't think the costs of the Iraq war are significant enough to sink the American economy and/or society. They're not trivial, but they're not decisively ruinous either.

Much worse, I think, is the corrupting effect of the U.S. government trying to intervene in situations where American citizens have not been attacked without provocation on our own soil. And that covers just about everything that has happened in American foreign and military policy since at least 1914. Ron Paul was right.

[...]

You need to read Eric Hoffer again, Bob. You can still be a great man.

A word of advice (if you wish your words to be considered by him): Mr. Bidinotto strongly prefers to be called "Robert." Probably for the same reason that I detest being called "Rog."

REB

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Errors in strategy have been made by both TAS and ARI, but I do not agree if you are equating the TNI cover article about Ron Paul with ARI re-writing or otherwise modifying what Ayn Rand actually wrote. Elsewhere in this Forum, these attempts to re-write the historical record have been documented. Doubters of ARI duplicity in this issue should review the references and check it out for themselves.

Let me make my position on this issue clear: ARI's attempts to "airbrush" the historical record on Objectivism and their altering of literary documents removes them (ARI) from further consideration as serious and trustworthy scholars. This is a deceitful practice for which there can be no excuse. And to have this perpetrated by the self-appointed guardians of the legacy of a philosophy that proclaims that Honesty and Integrity are among its cardinal virtues, is probably as bald-faced an attempt to negate and destroy a philosophy as we are likely to see. When, and if, they correct and restore the historical and literary record, it may be appropriate to associate with them.

Jerry, I completely agree with you that the attempts by various people associated with ARI to "airbrush" history and alter documents (and tapes) is morally outrageous. However, I don't interpret the nature of this evil and its consequences in quite the same way as you do.

1. The intellectual output of the writers at ARI is not rendered unvaluable, by virtue of the dishonesty on some occasions of some of its associates. Even when grossly hypocritical and contradictory to the morality of Objectivism, these people have good minds and they are producing valuable ideas. What is required of us is what was required of anyone who accepted ARI's condemnation of the Brandens and their dishonesty -- not to reject their ideas, but to more carefully analyze and assess them, looking for valuable insights, but not taking their ideas at face value (which should never be done, anyway!). Why? Because people are not all-black. At worst, they are morally mixed. Their intellectual output can be corrupted, but even the corruption is not total. There can be gems, diamonds in the rough, etc., and they should not be written off just because those people have not followed the philosophy consistently. That is how I have always proceeded, anyway, and I have greatly benefitted from this kind of careful perusing, taking-or-leaving, of the ideas of people I might well ~not~ want to associate closely with.

2. I don't think that the ARI malefactors we disdain are trying to "negate and destroy" Objectivism. I'm sure they think they are trying to preserve it. I just wish they would allow us to savor it, "warts and all," rather than deciding what we should be allowed to see and what not. But yes, they are not acting in accordance with their own ~professed~ philosophy. And that is because that is ~not really~ their philosophy, consistently and down to fundamentals. There is a large, ugly element of subjectivism and Primacy of Consciousness driving their behavior, and one can only lament that there would be a lot more positive, rational output from them, if they weren't so obsessed with re-writing reality to sanitize the historical record.

REB

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So where is this great cultural influence of Atlas Shrugged that we were so recently celebrating on its 50th Anniversary? If Atlas Shrugged is really the "most influential book in America, next to the Bible," why do we not see any substantial evidence of this great impact? The answer, I am afraid, is all too obvious.

One thing that has happened as a DIRECT result of Atlas Shrugged, and which strongly merits our fighting to keep it, is the voluntary military. Martin Anderson, one of Rand's younger associates during the 1960s, personally persuaded Richard Nixon to adopt the end to military conscription as one of the pledges for his 1968 Presidential campaign. And the son of a bitch actually KEPT his promise!!

Now we are hearing, from "both sides of the aisle," cries for "national service," with "incentives" (free college) given to those who will devote 2 years to "a cause larger than themselves" -- not just serving in the military (which ideally ~defends~ our rights), but in "community service," etc. If a super-majority Democratic Congress and Democratic President have their way, this will not only become the law of the land but, I predict, become mandatory.

We ~must~ fight this. It is the single clearest legacy of Atlas Shrugged, and the single biggest admission of the defeat of Rand's philosophy if we let it happen without a really big, nasty fight. I mean protests on the scale of anti-Vietnam activism. Even though I'm nearing retirement, I'll help, and I hope the others on OL understand the importance of it and will help, too.

One other note: I think that ARI's campaign of Rand books for high school students, while a bit heavy-handed and top-down, is a vital part of continuing to inject Rand's ideas into the culture. High school and college are the leverage point, the fulcrum, for cultural change. I'm continuing to support ARI for that very reason -- and, really, ~only~ for that reason. This campaign has not being going on long enough to produce tangible cultural results ~yet~, but it should soon. (We can only hope.)

REB

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Jerry: "The influence of Rand's ideas is so negligible as to not even register on a cultural 'Richter Scale.' We find the two major party Presidential candidates engaging in a competitive orgy of collectivist proposals while sugarcoating it with the most nauseating display of altruist and group-think 'justifications' that have ever been proposed outside of a totalitarian country.

"Outside of a few Objectivists - who are (unfortunately) essentially 'talking to themselves,' I have seen virtually NO criticism at all in the general media of McCain or Obama that takes them to task for their altruist premises. Not even mentioned.

None. Zero. Nada. Whatever criticism there is of their proposals amounts to quibbling over details and issues of 'expediency.'

"So where is this great cultural influence of Atlas Shrugged that we were so recently celebrating on its 50th Anniversary?"

Jerry, here is a very small piece of evidence -- from a most unlikely source, which is what makes it significant -- that Rand is being read by some members of the government. I posted the following to the Joe the Plumber thread, but it is relevant here.

"I heard something remarkable on television this evening. Governor Huckabee was arguing with a liberal about Obama's statement to Joe the Plumber that it was a good idea to 'spread the wealth around.' Huckabee said, with great conviction -- I immediately wrote down his words to be sure I had them exactly -- 'The important question is: Does the government have the right to take the money one person has earned -- because the government has decided he has too much money -- and give it to someone who has not earned it.'

"!!!!!"

Barbara

Barbara,

It is nice to see Huckabee and any other public figure giving out statements that Objectivists and libertarians would agree with. Even conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, have quoted or recommended reading Atlas Shrugged (but in the next breath he starts condemning liberals as being too "selfish." Didn't he read the whole book....?).

Anyway, I have not seen any criticism being directed at Obama (or McCain) in the "major media" outlets that explicitly calls them to task, utilizing an Objectivist argument (not just libertarian, but Objectivist). It is true that there are some occasional Op-Ed pieces in newspapers, but this is a trickle compared to the liberal/collectivist deluge applauding Obama's every move. BOTH of them are spouting collectivist-altruist arguments that are so virulent, they would make "Mr. Thompson" blush. And they are NEVER challenged,.at least in the major media.

One would think that after fifty years, we would at least see more evidence of the Objectivist positions being discussed/argued/advocated.

Yes, lots of people have read Ayn Rand. That is of course great. But still, her ideas are practically nowhere to be seen in the media discussions of this political campaign and coinciding financial catastrophe.

After fifty years, the voices of those advocating Objectivism hardly amount to a blip on the political/cultural radar screen (Please, no one come back with a statement that Objectivism is a "Stealth bomber!" If it's stealthy, then it is taking a very long time for its "bombs" to explode. Or even be felt.)

Look, I am not saying, we should stop advocating for our principles. I am merely pointing-out that so far there has been very little political-cultural influence from our philosophy.

Jerry, someone needs to write a book on the morality of a free society. I don't mean something like Rothbard's (IMO) awful book The Ethics of Liberty. I mean a book making the case for rational self-interest and individual freedom. And against altruism and "acting for a cause larger than yourself" (i.e., collectivism). I'm not the person to write it. Someone of Robert Bidinotto's stature and ability could do it, if he wanted to. And it would (or could) be a blockbuster.

REB

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Roger: "Jerry, someone needs to write a book on the morality of a free society. I don't mean something like Rothbard's (IMO) awful book The Ethics of Liberty. I mean a book making the case for rational self-interest and individual freedom. And against altruism and 'acting for a cause larger than yourself' (i.e., collectivism). I'm not the person to write it. Someone of Robert Bidinotto's stature and ability could do it, if he wanted to. And it would (or could) be a blockbuster."

Roger, someone did write such a book, and it was a blockbuster. It's called Atlas Shrugged.

The question is why it has not had a greater influence. I disagree with you about ARI. I believe their influence has been predominantly pernicious, despite the fact that they have published some good material. It is not the airbrushing and dishonesty per se that are the crucial problems; rather, it is what these signify -- which is a true believer mentality, a fanatical attitude toward ideas perhaps best typified by Peikoff's hysterical interview with Bill O'Reilly about the Iraq war, and Craig Biddle's injunction that we bomb mosques and schools in Teheran. They have become known for this sort of off-the-wall "philosophizing " -- and so has Objectivism. They need to go out into the real world, and deal with real people, from politicians to Joe the Plumber, instead of the stick figures resrepresenting good and evil whom they see as populating the world. With few exceptions, those who control ARI live in an ivory tower, as much as any Jesuit; and they create a host of little Jesuits in turn. They posture as being too pure to contaminate themselves with the battles that must be be fought if our ideas are to be heard. Is the Objective Standard going to reach people as the New Individualist was doing? Is refusing basic information to reputable writers and scholars going to enhance their reputation for fair-mindedness and rationality? Is refusing to sell George Reisman's Capitalism because he offended Harry Binswanger going to win adherents to capitalism? Is damning the movie "Titanic" as communist propaganda going to get Objectivism a fair hearing? Is demanding that we nuke Teheran going to spread the ideals of Objectivsm? How can such people expect to be taken seriously?

An organization that has, for all these years, flatly refused to cooperate with and win the support and best efforts of the many talented people at the Atlas Society and the thousands who would happily follow them -- because they disagree over whether Objectivism is an open or closed system-- has defined itelf as monumentally silly at best, and self-destructive at worst. It hasn't the faintest idea of how to win the hearts and minds of people repelled by dogmatism and fanaticism.

Barbara

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Chris Baker, your remarks about Robert Bidinotto -- that he is a "good guy gone bad", that he now inhabits "the dark side" -- are typical of what I was protesting about ARI: a fanatical insistence that only those who agree with you are virtuous, and that any disagreement is a proof of evil. Will it never occur to you that we live in a complex world, that many of the issues we must deal with do not have simple answers, and that reasonable and decent people may disagree?

Barbara

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Roger; Your point about Objectivism and the draft if quite correct.

I agree that the Democrats in Congress will try and create two or more years of national service. I know IJ has fought these proposals as high school graduation requirements and if a court challenge becomes necessary they will lead one.

One of the worst Supreme Court decisions is the Selective Draft Cases which came down in 1918. Every case that has attempted to challenge the draft uses this case as its basis. The Holzers had an excellent article in the October-November '67 Objectivists which is worth rereading. I believe the Selective Draft decision was written by Justice McReynolds the same person who wrote Parker the decision that was over-ruled by Heller.

Maybe we can get Bob Levy and Alan Gura to saddle up against another bad Supreme Court decision.

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With few exceptions, those who control ARI live in an ivory tower, as much as any Jesuit; and they create a host of little Jesuits in turn.

Barbara, this is quite unfair to Jesuits. The Jesuits were noted as front line fighters. They were notable missionaries and were often the first to interact with non-Western societies, often providing the first description of a people and their language. The number of grammars and dictionaries of foreign languages written by Jesuits outnumers those by any other source. Jesuits are noted for their schools, and they are well versed in Scholastic philosophy. And the Scholastics are the ones with the ivory tower angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin reputation. But even then the mediaeval Scholastics engaged in vigorous and open debate, unlike the ARIans, who brook no dissent, and sanction no tolerationism.

From Wikipedia:

Early missions in Japan resulted in the government granting the Jesuits the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in 1580. However, this was removed in 1587 due to fears over their growing influence.

Francis Xavier arrived in Goa, in Western India, in 1541 to consider evangelical service in the Indies. He died in China after a decade of evangelism in Southern India. Two Jesuit missionaries, Johann Gruber and Albert D'Orville, reached Lhasa in Tibet in 1661.

Jesuit missions in Latin America were very controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal, where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments. The Jesuits were often the only force standing between the Native Americans and slavery. Together throughout South America but especially in present-day Brazil and Paraguay they formed Christian Native American city-states, called "reductions" (Spanish Reducciones, Portuguese Reduções). These were societies set up according to an idealized theocratic model. It is partly because the Jesuits protected the natives whom certain Spanish and Portuguese colonizers wanted to enslave that the Society of Jesus was suppressed.

Jesuit priests such as Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded several towns in Brazil in the 16th century, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and were very influential in the pacification, religious conversion and education of Indian nations

Jesuit scholars working in these foreign missions were very important in understanding their unknown languages and strived to produce Latinicized grammars and dictionaries. This was done, for instance, for Japanese (see Nippo jisho also known as Vocabvlario da Lingoa de Iapam,(Vocabulary of the Japanese Language) a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary written 1603) and Tupi-Guarani (a language group of South American aborigines). Jean François Pons in the 1740s pioneered the study of Sanskrit in the West.

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I have noticed that the public likes gossip, but has only a limited tolerance for bickering over specific points and technicality-based denials.

Look at OJ Simpson. He got off a murder rap on technicalities, but the public did not swallow it. They simply stopped bickering with Simpson supporters. Now he is in a situation where, if it were any other famous person, there would be some kind of movement to set right the wrong parts of the criminal proceeding and decision in Vegas. But nobody cares. The overall feeling is, "Finally they got him."

Look at President Bush. He and his staff lied several times to the American public about WMD, etc., while he filled his cronies's pockets with war waging loot and plunder. He has done some good things in his administration, but nobody cares. When he recently popped out in his many cuckoo clock like announcements about the economy, he has been ignored. People won't bicker with Bush supporters about him lying anymore, but they no longer believe a word he says.

(Incidentally, am I the only one outraged at seeing him going for the big "wreck everything while you still can" maneuver—firing from the hip as he falls off his horse—to ensure his cronies can still get lots of wealth during the following administration?)

ARI is in the same boat. The one organization that will not spread Rand's ideas to the mainstream is ARI, I don't care how many op-eds they write or books they give away to schools or TV shows they go on. When they venture out, it will always boil down to someone like Bill O'Reilly asking Peikoff if he is Dr. Strangelove.

I believe that people will end up adopting many of Rand's ideas. Some of them are in the mainstream already. I don't think the Joe the Plumber issue (Obama's "spread the wealth") would have been noticed even as recently as a previous Clinton election, but now the core idea is the right one being focused on in the right way. It is one that Rand had hammered against all her life.

But this penetration of Rand's ideas is not due to ARI. ARI people can split hairs all they want, redefine things at will, bicker to their heart's content, try to intimidate people who question Rand's ideas and behavior, organize into closed societies, etc., but ARI will never be seen on a broad scale as an organization supporting reason. It has the public image of a cult. And this is due to one very simple reason. It does things that cults do and nobody else does.

People tire of bickering about it, but they will not grant ARI an unearned reputation just because they shut up. Reasonable people who see the weird excesses simply turn off and go somewhere else to get Rand's ideas, like watching the Huckabee show. Even some very famous former Rand intimates do that. :)

I don't believe ARI will change in any fundamental aspect on these cult-like excesses, but if it did, there would be a lot of real heart-felt repudiating needed to get important enough on the national scene to make a difference in this world. People in general don't trust cults enough to care about what they say unless it is something over-the-top they can laugh at.

I know this fact is uncomfortable for many Objectivists to face. It is so for me. But I see nothing at all to be gained by ignoring reality. In my heart of hearts, I want it fixed. But I don't care enough about the perpetrators to bother with them too much (except for ad hoc things like PARC). Let them be. They are a side-show. I think building an alternative, then letting people decide what they want for themselves, is a much more productive approach.

Still, on a very deep level, I feel that the existence and continuation of this situation is an enormous betrayal of everything I sought and found through Objectivism in my youth. Rand's shining vision of a philosophy for living on earth, a philosophy of reason and heroic production, the one that excited me so much that I practically did not sleep for 3 days while reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time, has become famous—when people look at things like the words coming from some ARI writers—for "nuke 'em all" bigotry, snarky bickering over nothing and cult-like excommunications.

It makes me sad and revolted beyond words.

Michael

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Michael and Roger; I want to make a further point about Martin Anderson, Nixon, and the draft.

Martin Anderson had a reputation from his book "The Federal Bulldozer". Nixon was looking for academics with new ideas. Nixon heard about Anderson and contacted Anderson. The draft was an issue. Anderson provided Nixon with the economic ideas that gave Nixon a cover for ending the draft.

Is there any ARI scholar who could reach to a contemporary politician and bring before him or her an important idea like ending the draft

Edited by Chris Grieb
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Michael; I wanted to agree with your comment about OJ's latest trial.

There are statements that have been reported by the police that I would find distributing but because it's OJ I could care less.

It is nice to see that what goes around does come around.

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I wouldn't make that much out of Robert's gushing about Sarah Palin. He's not the only one who found himself charmed by her appearance and manner. This, too, shall pass.

I actually see some good in Palin. Her husband has actually been a member of the Alaska Independence Party. I imagine Bidinotto (and many others on this board) are horrified by this fact.

It will be very interesting to see what issues forth from his "pen."

The world has changed completely since Bidinotto got his 15 minutes of fame with the Willie Horton article. Less people buy magazines because they can get stuff on the Web for free. It's even tougher to be a full-time writer now than it was back then.

Hmmm, I would think that FEE's refusal to take a side in the controversy over Barbara's book would have ~guaranteed~ that ARI would split with them. Why would you think that their neutrality would have been acceptable to ARI?

FEE never sold books like that anyway. They have never sold any of Nathaniel Branden's books. The only Rand book they ever did sell was Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. As a general rule, they didn't sell biographies, except for Leonard Read and Ludwig von Mises. Their catalog was more academic and scholarly.

Laissez Faire Books was happy to sell the book because they knew that people would buy it. Roy Childs had always believed that the affair was the reason for the split.

Perhaps you have statistics that could convince me otherwise, but I don't think the costs of the Iraq war are significant enough to sink the American economy and/or society. They're not trivial, but they're not decisively ruinous either.

Many articles said that it cost about $4 trillion to "win" the Cold War. At the time, that was about the entire federal budget deficit.

They are already talking trillions with regard to the current situation in the Middle East.

Ultimately, the biggest gorilla of all is still the welfare state. Some are saying that this will soon bring a tab of $50 or $100 trillion. If the WTC and the wars had never happened, Bush would still be an absolutely terrible President. His record in domestic affairs is one of the worst we've ever had. He has shown us that a conservative is just a socialist who goes to church every week.

Much worse, I think, is the corrupting effect of the U.S. government trying to intervene in situations where American citizens have not been attacked without provocation on our own soil. And that covers just about everything that has happened in American foreign and military policy since at least 1914.

It actually goes back further. I once read a speech in which Lincoln talked about having American troops involved in the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion. What were American troops doing in China during the Civil War, especially if Abe was so concerned about preserving the Union?

WW1 is when the interventionism really started to have a bad influence. It likely lead to the Bolshevik Revolution and the Third Reich. The American people gained nothing from this--they never have.

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I have pretty much "lost faith" in Objectivists and/or Objectivism "saving the world," or even giving it a gentle nudge away from the precipice. Objectivists cannot even make allies amongst themselves. They have not even been able to explain and/or extrapolate upon the philosophy among academia (with a few notable exceptions) and have had negligible infuence among others of an intellectual bent.

One problem here is that there is way too much influence on choosing philosophy as a career. One college professor told me flat out: "They have to stop telling these kids to go into philosophy." These people could also go into psychology, law, business, or economics. The bottom line is that it is extremely difficult to get a job in philosophy. There are more openings in the other areas.

And in the popular culture?

Robert Heinlein, L. Neil Smith, Erika Holzer.

You are also forgetting about the man who is arguably the most famous Objectivist of all. I'm talking about Jimmy Wales. You can look him up on Wikipedia. He's one of the people who created that web site. This is also why he will never kiss the feet of the Chinese autocrats. He will never censor Wikipeida.

The answer, I am afraid, is all too obvious.

I have an answer for this. However, I would be engaging in a pot-kettle-black argument.

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The trick to being an influencial Objectivist is to be a true expert in your field and integrate that with your philosophical principles. You'll always have an audience that wants and needs and respects your expertise.

Another way is to understand gross deficiencies in the philosophy when you try to logically extrapolate off those principles leaving the land of data and empiricism for the dogmatism that always exists in mental absolutism. That is why my basic political activist principle is we should move in the direction of greater freedom, not that we need and should have pure market laissez-faire capitalism, which is the basic political principle of Objectivism.

The Objectivist ethics have been corrupted by Ayn Rand's polemical misuse of "selfishness" which she redefined. It was like using a two-by-four to whack the head of a mule to get its attention, but the culture really didn't appreciate it. "Rational self-interest" is a much better formulation. It even invites an explanation on why it's a redundancy, albeit a necessary one. This does not mean, however, that she was wrong about altruism being the ethical basis of all collectivisms.

But again, a basic principle isn't enough. Much more needs to be known about human psychological and social realities before one can say "Change your ethics--all the way down." That's like saying stop being who you are.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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At the same time, they seem to be losing membership support and their Summer Seminars have consistently drawn fewer and fewer attendees. How many attended this summer's meeting in Oregon? The ARI Summer institute had close to 500! The year before, in Baltimore, the TAS Summer institute claimed over 100 attendees, but was closer to 60, if you exclude the TAS staff and the featured speakers.

ARI still has the advantage of placing the cards in every book.

For some inexplicable reason, they appear to have been unable (or unwilling) to attract a growing list of supporters.

Some of them are just plain boring. At the IOS seminars I attended, just about everyone seemed to be going through the motions with their presentations. This was definitely not the case with the presenters I've met at FEE. Those people were alive and enthusiastic.

ARI, unfortunately, is totally unacceptable as an alternative, given their policies to exclude or refuse to cooperate with other Objectivists and libertarians.

Many of these people are happy to stay away from ARI. If ARI did reach out to them, I think these people would tell ARI to go away. It's the same reason why I would not want to form an alliance with the Church of Scientology. ARI will die pretty quickly once Rand's copyrights expire.

And what will be ARI's response? Well, let's see. Maybe they will step up their distribution of free copies of Ayn Rand's novels to high school. 2) Write more letters to the editors of newspapers. 3) Suggest the country can be saved if only inquiring young minds buy lots and lots of the highly-priced CD sets of lectures from our ARI gurus.

I personally don't think ARI gives one hoot about what happens to this country. They will pump the well of Ayn Rand until it runs dry. I suppose eventually they will dig up Rand's grave and sell her bones on E-bay. They have produced very little.

That being said, I have long had a problem with Rand's belief that the country needs a "philosophical re-education." We don't have time for it. When the forest is burning, you put out the fire first. Meanwhile, the fire continues to spread and burn everything in its past. People like the ARI crowd still claim that we need a "philosophical re-education."

And what will TAS do? You know, I haven't a clue. I certainly hope they do.

They've barely done anything in their 18 years or so. I suppose they will continue to do nothing.

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Now, regarding the Ron Paul cover and article, I agree that the cover may have been "over the top," provocative and certainly prone to be regarded as offensive by Ron Paul supporters.

It actually was not the only attempt by some people to smear Ron Paul. Lots of people who claim to be for limited government attacked Ron Paul. That makes me question their sincerity.

With regard to movie character comparisons, many people call Ron Paul "Doctor No." It's a title he wears as a badge of honor. When 434 charlatans vote to expand federal power, he votes no.

If the article itself, had made-up or rewritten what Ron Paul had said, then there may be some ground for a comparison. However, as I remember the article (which was not nearly as inflammatory as the cover), its main point was contrasting what Ron Paul had said in his Presidential campaign, with what he had actually done in practice as a Congressman.

I never saw it. On Bidinotto's blog, he mainly seemed concerned that Ron Paul believes that the US military should actually defend the USA. Bidinotto has expressed his love for the empire on his blog, his love of military bases all over the world, his love of killing poor people in faraway places. He's the typical laptop bombardier.

This is a guy who participated in the YAF walkout. What happened to him?

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Jerry, here is a very small piece of evidence -- from a most unlikely source, which is what makes it significant -- that Rand is being read by some members of the government. I posted the following to the Joe the Plumber thread, but it is relevant here.

People read speed limit signs. That doesn't mean they obey them.

Are these "member of government" actually doing anything? With regard to Alan John Maynard Greenspan, the answer is definitely a big no.

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TAS is evaporating along with its talent. At least it hasn't been very destructive to Ayn Rand's ideas, unlike ARI. She had good reason to want her name not put on clubs and institutions, but to respect that would have meant the basic impossibility of successful professional and financial parasitism. Ayn Rand as a soapbox. You can be an Objectivist philosopher or a philosopher, not both. Peikoff is not a philosopher and I strongly suspect that is why Sydney Hook turned his back on him and didn't recommend him for a teaching position.

--Brant

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Chris Baker, your remarks about Robert Bidinotto -- that he is a "good guy gone bad", that he now inhabits "the dark side" -- are typical of what I was protesting about ARI: a fanatical insistence that only those who agree with you are virtuous, and that any disagreement is a proof of evil. Will it never occur to you that we live in a complex world, that many of the issues we must deal with do not have simple answers, and that reasonable and decent people may disagree?

In that very same post, I also made some very nice comments about people who don't agree with me on everything. I don't agree with FEE on everything, but I am happy to support them. I still go to their events. I support them and everything they have done.

It is only a question of how much disagreement and what type of disagreements I find acceptable. At this point in time, I find attacking Ron Paul virtually inexcusable. I feel the same way about supporting the wars. I am mainly disappointed because I once had a very high opinion of the man.

There was one guy in town who knocked on thousands of doors for Ron Paul. He did this in spite of the fact that he supports the Iraq war and is pro-abortion. He did it because he understands economics and knew that Ron Paul is the only one who has sound economic ideas.

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Baker; On the question of the Iraq war do you think Ayn Rand would agree with you? Do you think Ayn Rand would agree with you or Robert Bidinotto?

Don't fret. I'm not going hold my breath waiting for your answer.

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I wouldn't make that much out of Robert's gushing about Sarah Palin.

As I said, he's not the only one. He's a recent article about Mister Bell Curve. The neo-con says: "I'm in love. Truly and deeply in love."

http://www.eandppub.com/2008/09/charles-murray.html

The mugshot of him is hilarious. He looks like he is seeing a dirty picture of her.

Edited by Chris Baker
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