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Neoconservatives and Altruism

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The notion that if Democrats are allowed to expose themselves while in power then people will suddenly catch on and make it right is a myth. Impatience with Republicans does not change that.

But it is not a myth. The recent election and state of the Republican Party proves this. The Republican's turned a position of defending America's self-interest into nation building. President Bush openly stated that we need to stay the course, remain loyal to his cause. The American people have said no. The result is that the Republicans have lost the power of the Senate and the House. On a daily basis, Republican Senators are starting to publicly speak out against Bush's surge. I wouldn't be surprised if we see McCain's support for the war change after he returns from his latest visit to Iraq.

The Republicans have exposed themselves loud and clear and America has rejected their policies. Why would the same thing not happen if the Democrats took the Republicans place?

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How did socialists over the free market become your default position?

I don't see how this can be inferred from my argument.

But you can't find out from the superficial pablum on a party website what they are doing and how the system actually works.

I referred to the websites only to refute Betsy's argument that members of the party do not belong to some "collective". Each party in fact has a basic view on the purpose of goverment that ties its members together, as well as the mission to get as many of its members elected to office as possible.

There is no substitute for going out and learning the facts.
"The debate and misunderstanding among Objectivists really begins" with a tendency to substitute rationalist speculation for knowledge and experience.
Not being aware of what they do is not an excuse to ignore it as irrelevant in favor of foreign policy. Those who don't follow what the different branches of government are actually doing and how they pull it off with different people in charge, and who don't have to contend with actual policies on an individual basis because it isn't currently affecting them directly, seem to find it easy to make sweeping statements based on superficial generalities and speculation under the banner of "philosophy". It is terribly naive and does not work.
Rationalistic speculation and theorizing denouncing Republicans while dismissing the threat of Democrats as "only socialists" is not helping. Those without actual knowledge and experience should be very careful in how they allow themselves to be influenced.

Erich, I should preface this by saying that I've found your posts on environmentalism to be valuable and insightful, and while I will freely admit that I don't have your experience, I do try to welcome new facts and re-evaluate my beliefs when they're contradicted. That said, what you have written here is not constructive and is disrespectful. If you find that I'm mistaken about some subject, rather than condescending to me and accusing me of being rationalistic, I'd appreciate it if you demonstrated how my argument contradicts reality with the examples from your own experience. I'm here to learn as well as to share, but your response only discourages me from participating in the discussion.

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Couldn't Neocon almost be considered an Anti-Concept? Because the only time I've ever even heard of the term is from snarling hateful Leftists who use it as some kind of infinitely damning smear-word with no specific meaning. I'm skeptical that a significant amount of people who would identify themselves as Neoconservatives exist, or that a "Neoconservative movement" even exists.

It is an anti-concept the way the leftists you describe use the term. They are obliterating all distinctions between views other than their own, and therefore also the meaning of the views they denounce without identifying them.

"Neocon" does refer to a group of conservative intellectuals who became prominent around the early 1970's. But you are right that there is a real lack of explanation of just who they are now and conceptually why should be regarded as forming a movement in contrast to other conservatives or moderates, and what exactly the causal connection of the "neocons" is claimed to be for actual policy as opposed to the general influence of other liberal and 'moderate' views in the contemporary mush. The recent TOS article by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein seems to use the term to refer to the ideas of the Bush administration's failing mush together with a selection of supporting views by intellectuals, all rationalizing current foreign policy of sacrifice for 'nation building', etc. in contrast to a foreign policy of rational national self interest. Their analysis and criticism of foreign policy and its supporting ideas is clear enough, but more would be required to explain the so-called necons as a movement in its own right.

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From what I've seen so far, I honestly feel like a culture of doom and pessimism has developed amongst some Objectivists lately, with Leonard Peikoff being at the forefront of it.

As someone who has been involved with Objectivism for more than four decades and very sensitive to this issue, I would have to say this is nothing "that has developed amongst some Objectivists lately." It always was that way. Some individual Objectivists have been characteristically more optimistic and others more pessimistic. Also, each of us has had more optimistic and more pessimistic days within our own contexts. In my opinion, Ayn Rand was more optimistic about American culture than Dr. Peikoff and that was always the case.

The culture has changed since the 1960's, but remembering the savage rampages of the sixties' campus radicals and seeing the growing influence of Objectivism, I would have to say the cultural change is for the better. As for Objectivism, the leading spokesperson was once Ayn Rand and now it is Dr. Peikoff and, perhaps, that accounts for the observable increase in pessimism among Objectivists.

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The notion that if Democrats are allowed to expose themselves while in power then people will suddenly catch on and make it right is a myth. Impatience with Republicans does not change that.

But it is not a myth. The recent election and state of the Republican Party proves this. The Republican's turned a position of defending America's self-interest into nation building. President Bush openly stated that we need to stay the course, remain loyal to his cause. The American people have said no. The result is that the Republicans have lost the power of the Senate and the House. On a daily basis, Republican Senators are starting to publicly speak out against Bush's surge. I wouldn't be surprised if we see McCain's support for the war change after he returns from his latest visit to Iraq.

The Republicans have exposed themselves loud and clear and America has rejected their policies. Why would the same thing not happen if the Democrats took the Republicans place?

Bush has sold his policy as a means to fight the terrorists and people are discouraged because there has been no visible progress. Democrats don't want the progress at all. And look at the damage that has been done and which will not be reversed if Democrats are allowed to outsource our foreign policy to the UN, with even more 'nation building'. Putting Democrats in power in order to defeat them makes no more sense than if someone had advocating Bush's 'nation building' as a means to prevent it.

But Republicans did not lose their majority in Congress over the war alone, despite the drumbeat in the media who push that beause they oppose the war. Politics always goes in cycles as people become disallusioned (including with all the charges of "corruption" used in for the last election). That has been happening for decades. It has nothing to do with it suddenly becoming clear to them that statism and sacrifice are wrong in principle, and it does not stop the general downward trend. People do not observe what is right from suffering under the bad. To argue for the worst statists to take power in the belief that it will expose them and undo the injustice is simply false. They only do even more damage.

For example, viros in particular have been hurting people for 40 years and nothing has been done to rescind their authority, it is only more or less intensely imposed, as the trend becomes worse, depending on who is in power. Whenever there is an opportunity to reign them in it should be done. Giving them more power in the naive belief that it will defeat them by exposing them does not work and is destructive to the victims sacrificed in the "demonstration".

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I think it’s a mistake to treat the individuals as if their membership to the party is an arbitrary characteristic, as if the Republican Party is a sports team. While in one way it is very much a team – the goal of the party is to see that its members “win” positions in government – unlike sports that membership is not random. The Republicans and Democrats both attract their members based on broad political views. Today, the Republicans represent “conservative” America, meaning those who want to see government uphold old or traditional values. The Democrats represent “liberal” America, those who want social “reform”. The socialists used the Democratic Party to advocate its ideas for government regulation, where the Republicans became known as the defenders of the free market (or at least freer).

I don't think this is true because, as longtime Speaker of the House Tip O'Neal observed, "All politics is local." As a result, in the cities of New York, California, and Illinois both the Republicans and Democrats are liberal with the Democrats being more so. In rural counties of the South, both the Republicans and Democrats are conservative with the Republicans being more so. Bottom line, all I can really say is that Democrats tend to be more liberal and Republicans more conservative.

I agree that you should vote for the best candidate, however how do you decide which is the best?

Nobody explained how to do it better than Ayn Rand, so I heartily recommend her article, "How to Judge a Political Candidate," in the March 1964 issue of the Objectivist Newsletter. While she carefully explains the principles that should and should not guide a rational voter, observe that nowhere does she recommend that he vote based on whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican nor endorse the idea of voting for a candidate with bad ideas in order to engender a backlash.

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Their analysis and criticism of foreign policy and its supporting ideas is clear enough, but more would be required to explain the so-called necons as a movement in its own right.

C. Bradley Thompson discusses the neoconservative movement in The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism, TOS, Fall 2006

Starting on page 28, under the title of Neoconservatism.

Compassionate conservatism has exerted an enormous influence on George W. Bush and his administration. But an even more influential philosophy, the reigning ideology of the conservative movement and Republican policy makers, is neoconservatism. Over the last 25 years, neoconservatism has come to dominate the conservative establishment, and, today, it is barely an exaggeration to say that neoconservatism is conservatism.

If you want a detailed explanation on the neoconservative movement and its influence on the Bush administration, this is the place to start.

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In 2007 there are virtually no decent candidates for political office. All of them are altruists and mystics to varying degrees

When, in all of history, was it ever not the case? All leaders, including the best American leaders and Founding Fathers, were all altruists and mystics to varying degrees.

and because of that, all of them are doing their part to push the country further downhill (while the engines of rationality push back).

The Founding Fathers? In the case of people with mixed premises, what makes the difference is not whether they have any bad ideas but whether they are more consistently right than wrong.

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How did socialists over the free market become your default position?

I don't see how this can be inferred from my argument.

You said what you thought were the distinguishing principles of the two parties and then said you were voting Democrat unless you can find a Republican candidate who is better.

But you can't find out from the superficial pablum on a party website what they are doing and how the system actually works.

I referred to the websites only to refute Betsy's argument that members of the party do not belong to some "collective". Each party in fact has a basic view on the purpose of goverment that ties its members together, as well as the mission to get as many of its members elected to office as possible.

The campaigns slogans on their websites have little to do with what they actually do and there is very little tying the factions together in any broad way. They don't even always strive to protect their own party members. When they work to keep their own party in power it is not over a central principle, but because they know that the party that controls the White House or has a majority in Congress has enormously more power in running the government. For example, in Congress committee assignments and chairmanships control what happens in Congress in ways you never see before anything is allowed to even come to a vote. Statements on their websites are spin and normally are not even a real beginning in understanding what they are doing and why. They know that and hope you don't.

There is no substitute for going out and learning the facts....etc.

I should preface this by saying that I've found your posts on environmentalism to be valuable and insightful, and while I will freely admit that I don't have your experience, I do try to welcome new facts and re-evaluate my beliefs when they're contradicted. That said, what you have written here is not constructive and is disrespectful. If you find that I'm mistaken about some subject, rather than condescending to me and accusing me of being rationalistic, I'd appreciate it if you demonstrated how my argument contradicts reality with the examples from your own experience. I'm here to learn as well as to share, but your response only discourages me from participating in the discussion.

The rationalizing I am referring to by Objectivists substituting claimed philosophical insights for knowledge of how the government actually works is not something you started. It has been going on at least for several election cycles since Leonard Peikoff began deducing and announcing that everyone should vote exclusively for Democrats, that it is immoral to do otherwise, anyone who doesn't do as he says doesn't understand Ayn Rand, etc. The result of that (thankfully with a minority following him according to informal polls on the different forums) has been a rash of all kinds of speculation in the name of philosophy by people who have no idea what the implications of their recommendations are. They aren't even necessarily the same as Leonard Peikoff's, but follow a trend of chaining together steps that seem plausible without really knowing. Philosophy is not a substitute for in depth knowledge in politics, science or any other field. Please do not be discouraged or feel disrespected, but do be very careful in the kind of arguments you allow to influence your political recommendations. The political situation is complicated and ugly enough to try to understand and sort out, with all kinds of political tradeoffs, and none of us can possibly keep up with all of it (or should want to in that sewer), but we have to start with a knowledge and basic understanding committed to what actually happens in fact and how before it can be evaluated by principles to determine what to do about it. It can't be deduced from what seems plausible. That is why I emphasized what I did. I urge everyone to focus in that direction, even if we don't always agree on all the particulars.

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How did socialists over the free market become your default position?

I don't see how this can be inferred from my argument.

You said what you thought were the distinguishing principles of the two parties and then said you were voting Democrat unless you can find a Republican candidate who is better.

Sorry, the quote levels were messed up in that. It should be:

How did socialists over the free market become your default position?

I don't see how this can be inferred from my argument.

You said what you thought were the distinguishing principles of the two parties and then said you were voting Democrat unless you can find a Republican candidate who is better.

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Philosophy is not a substitute for in depth knowledge in politics, science or any other field.

The Bush Administration rushed into 'nation building' in Iraq and Afghanistan without finishing the war and without a plan for occupying Iraq.

(Fiasco and Cobra II go into great detail about this political failure.) Its not just Dr. Peikoff or other Objectivist intellectuals that have predicted doom on the conservatives. Ayn Rand also stated they were doomed to perish.

From the Ayn Rand Lexicon p.373.

Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics--on a theory of man's nature and of man's relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice. When, however, men attempt to rush into politics without such a base, the result is that embarrassing conglomeration of impotence, futility, inconsistency and superficiality which is loosely designated today as "conservatism." Objectivists are not "conservatives." We are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish.

["Choose Your Issues," TON, Jan. 1962, 1.]

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When, in all of history, was it ever not the case? All leaders, including the best American leaders and Founding Fathers, were all altruists and mystics to varying degrees.

This maybe true, but the Founding Fathers did not let altruism or mysticism form the foundation of our Declaration of Independence, our Constituition, or our government.

From The Inner Jefferson by Andrew Burstein

As president, Jefferson's interest in religion expanded, but he would not allow himself to be drawn beyond the merely earthbound lessons that Christianity bore to him. This he clarified to Rush, who believed strictly in Jesus's divinity. "To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed," wrote the president, "but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense which he wished any one to be." What Jefferson found in Jesus was "every human excellence.(35) (p. 259)
Though he(Jefferson) was convinced that the universe could not have been created and maintained but by an intelligence, a "superintending power" capable of "design" and "consummate skill," he did not articulate what heaven meant to him, if anything. This is not to suggest that because Jefferson's most prominent position with respect to religion was in separating it from politics and promoting tolerance, he was indifferent to what faith meant to the individual. He, like other leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, adopted the approach that religion(as any other moral sentiment) should originate from active thought; it was not "a matter of mere receptivity," a strange, supernatural power which struck a person and produced conviction. Religion was the opposite of dogma.(41)

The power of reason alone could draw Thomas Jefferson to the infinite, as he himself once suggested to his nephew Peter Carr: "Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because , it there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." (p.261)

Reference 35 and 41 can be found in the Notes at the back of the book.

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Philosophy is not a substitute for in depth knowledge in politics, science or any other field.

The Bush Administration rushed into 'nation building' in Iraq and Afghanistan without finishing the war and without a plan for occupying Iraq.

(Fiasco and Cobra II go into great detail about this political failure.) Its not just Dr. Peikoff or other Objectivist intellectuals that have predicted doom on the conservatives. Ayn Rand also stated they were doomed to perish.

From the Ayn Rand Lexicon p.373.

Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics--on a theory of man's nature and of man's relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice. When, however, men attempt to rush into politics without such a base, the result is that embarrassing conglomeration of impotence, futility, inconsistency and superficiality which is loosely designated today as "conservatism." Objectivists are not "conservatives." We are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish. ["Choose Your Issues," TON, Jan. 1962, 1.]

Is this intended to mean that specific knowledge is not required?

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From what I've seen so far, I honestly feel like a culture of doom and pessimism has developed amongst some Objectivists lately, with Leonard Peikoff being at the forefront of it.

As someone who has been involved with Objectivism for more than four decades and very sensitive to this issue, I would have to say this is nothing "that has developed amongst some Objectivists lately." It always was that way. Some individual Objectivists have been characteristically more optimistic and others more pessimistic. Also, each of us has had more optimistic and more pessimistic days within our own contexts. In my opinion, Ayn Rand was more optimistic about American culture than Dr. Peikoff and that was always the case.

The culture has changed since the 1960's, but remembering the savage rampages of the sixties' campus radicals and seeing the growing influence of Objectivism, I would have to say the cultural change is for the better. As for Objectivism, the leading spokesperson was once Ayn Rand and now it is Dr. Peikoff and, perhaps, that accounts for the observable increase in pessimism among Objectivists.

No one should underestimate the value of Leonard Peikoff's lectures and writing on Ayn Rand's ideas, especially on the history of western philosophy, Ominous Parallels and OPAR, but it is true that he has been openly pessimistic for a long time. Here is one example:

I have a bleak view of the future. I can't pretend that I don't. I mean I can't say there is no hope, but I don't have a lot of hope. And one of the things, to show you the extent to which I carry this -- you may think this is needlessly apocalyptic -- is that in the recent meetings with the publisher, one of the demands that I made to which they agreed is that there's going to be at least 50,000 copies of every one of Ayn Rand's works printed on acid free paper within the next ten years -- because I believe that -- most of it now is on paper with acid and that paper crumbles after a certain number of decades -- and I want the feeling -- it's reached this stage of practicality in mind -- that if civilization does go under there will be 50,000 copies of each of her works on enduring paper, which I'm going to promptly see are disseminated it to the most far out spots in the world: New Zealand and India and Africa and in caves and you name it -- because I don't know what will be left if there is an ultimate holocaust -- with the hope that one of these 50,000 will be dug up somewhere. So does that qualify as having a bleak view? -- 1989 lecture series, "Moral Virtue", "Question and Answer", last question.

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I agree that you should vote for the best candidate, however how do you decide which is the best?

Nobody explained how to do it better than Ayn Rand, so I heartily recommend her article, "How to Judge a Political Candidate," in the March 1964 issue of the Objectivist Newsletter. While she carefully explains the principles that should and should not guide a rational voter, observe that nowhere does she recommend that he vote based on whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican nor endorse the idea of voting for a candidate with bad ideas in order to engender a backlash.

Emphasis added. It is precisely what I perceive to be an endorsement-towards-backlash that I reject and that is a central source of my objections to those who have advised Objectivists to vote Democrat exclusively. One supposes the ostensible object of the desired backlash is Religion or, more precisely, the Sticky-Glue, proto-philosophical consistency provided by Religion that many if not most Republicans use to "validate" their pre-existing altruist/collectivist premises.

Okay.

Then what?

In my view, those altruist/collectivist Republicans will continue to be so albeit sans any consistent, let alone rational, foundation . . . In this they will continue to be just like their equally bad altruist/collectivist Democrat brethren.

To put all this another way: I fail to see how such a backlash, even if successful at dislodging Religion as a validator, can do anything in particular to dislodge generally the altruist/collectivist premises that are not necessarily dependent upon it (thank you Herr Marx, et al.) and that dominate the culture. Furthermore, in my view the two major political parties will simply continue to be what they are now: different sides of the very same altruist/collectivist coin or, rather, the same "party" seen from two slightly different perspectives, with no other viable antidote-contender on the scene.

The key to the future (as it is in all things) lies in INDIVIDUALS and not the particular political party to which they might belong.

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...nowhere does [Ayn Rand in "How to Judge a Political Candidate," Objectivist Newsletter, March 1964] recommend that [you] vote based on whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican nor endorse the idea of voting for a candidate with bad ideas in order to engender a backlash.

Emphasis added. It is precisely what I perceive to be an endorsement-towards-backlash that I reject and that is a central source of my objections to those who have advised Objectivists to vote Democrat exclusively. One supposes the ostensible object of the desired backlash is Religion or, more precisely, the Sticky-Glue, proto-philosophical consistency provided by Religion that many if not most Republicans use to "validate" their pre-existing altruist/collectivist premises.

Leonard Peikoff, who is the major proponent of voting exclusively for Democrats, does not appear to be recommending a 'backlash' strategy. He actually believes that the leftists are better. His position has distilled down to his formulation in a recent radio interview in which he stated he believes that only liberals are fighting for freedom.

Most of us, however, are more aware of the damage being down by the Democrat left and see the at least relative merit of many Republicans on many issues. There is a lot of frustration with Republicans for going on damaging tangents of their own and for failing to remedy obvious wrongs, leading to the so-called 'backlash strategy'. Often this frustration does not recognize actual political causes holding up reform, including the differences between Republicans themselves, but much of it is also justified. The 'backlash' strategy is not.

There are real dangers, both short and long tem, in believing that if only the public saw more directly the implementation of government policies by politicians more strongly imposing them that there would be a backlash leading to lasting or important change as people "catch on". That notion of a strategy has been fallen into by the frustrated for many decades at least, but it does not work and never has.

People do not learn what is right by exposure to evil; intensifying their exposure does not change that. In extreme cases, the damage can jolt some victims into rethinking issues or refocusing on principles they had previously taken for granted without realizing the implications, and it sometimes in turn motivates certain individuals to fight back out of self preservation on some specific issue that impacts them directly, but that is all. It does not by itself reverse or roll back poltically imposed destruction and it does not by itself change the course of political philosophy or its implementation: As Vespasiano wrote, it does nothing to "dislodge generally the altruist/collectivist premises".

Deliberately voting for more 'consistent' advocates of evil generally only causes more damage as sophisticated politics hides the nature of much of what is being done and why. It needlessly sacrifices more helpless victims, who are horrified when they hear of the 'backlash' strategy promoted at their expense. And what we recognize as destructive policies are almost always supported by a large number of voters, who when they take power as a political majority are emboldened by their gains in power, who use it, and who propagandize their political victories as showing 'popular support'.

We live in a mixed society and have no choice but to slug it out. The bad elements do not mean there is no good, but neither do the good elements mean that there aren't some real travesties going on. We can only push back in any way we can, one fight at a time, trying to buy time for our own lives and to fight the longer term intellectual battle and its implementations that will influence the outcome in the end.

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In fact, for me the most interesting thing right now is not the battle between the two major parties, but the battle of the two major political bases--the grassroots, but organized, voters--with each other and their own parties. I believe there has been a real shift in political power back toward the populace. Consider influence of moveon.org et al. on the left's political policy and rhetoric, or the impact of talk radio and the bloggers on the Harriet Meirs issue, for instance, on the right. Hillary has gotten booed by her base, and look how Bush's support has completely collapsed (with no Republican candidate looking very promising as yet).

I have been away on vacation so have fallen behind on making posts in this thread.

I agree with what you are saying about a shift in political power back toward the populace. This is not the first time this shift has happened in recent history. The first President Bush lost his second term because he had alienated the Republican voters. Ross Perot and Admiral Stockdale ran a grass roots campaign that captured almost 20% of the vote. This allowed Clinton to win the Presidency.

Looking at this last election a similiar thing happened. By focussing on James Webb's victory in Virginia, one can see a grass roots, populace movement taking place. Webb,a former Republican, was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. He had no business winning Virginia but he did. His victory gave the Democrats power and I find it significant that he gave the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

James Webb sees himself as leader of a populist movement and discusses this in his book Born Fighting. He traces the role the Scots-Irish played in shaping and forming America. He concludes his book with

"Who are we? We are the molten core at the very center of the unbridled, raw, rebellious spirit of America. We helped build this nation, from the bottom up. We face the world on our feet and not on our knees. We were born fighting. And if the cause is right, we will never retreat." p. 343, Born Fighting by James Webb

I'll catch up on the rest of the posts that occurred while I was on vacation when I find the time.

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Leonard Peikoff, who is the major proponent of voting exclusively for Democrats, does not appear to be recommending a 'backlash' strategy.

Frankly Erich, if you would read my posts more carefully, both here and in the "Peikoff on the coming election" thread, you would see that I have never referred to a "backlash" strategy. This is a term that was attributed wrongfully to one argument I presented, based on Craig Biddle's article Notes on the Coming Election. Furthermore I have argued more than once that the Democrats could not be worse than the Republicans. When you challenged this by saying that I was being rationalistic and not basing my characterization of the parties on experience, I asked you to refute the argument with your own experience. That is a open invitation; if I am wrong, I want to be proven wrong so I can be corrected. But I do not appreciate having my posts distilled so inaccurately after all the time I spent writing them, and I cannot continue to post to this debate so long as my views are simply dismissed (as rationalistic, as pessimistic, or what have you) rather than given their due attention.

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...nowhere does [Ayn Rand in "How to Judge a Political Candidate," Objectivist Newsletter, March 1964] recommend that [you] vote based on whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican nor endorse the idea of voting for a candidate with bad ideas in order to engender a backlash.

Emphasis added. It is precisely what I perceive to be an endorsement-towards-backlash that I reject and that is a central source of my objections to those who have advised Objectivists to vote Democrat exclusively. One supposes the ostensible object of the desired backlash is Religion or, more precisely, the Sticky-Glue, proto-philosophical consistency provided by Religion that many if not most Republicans use to "validate" their pre-existing altruist/collectivist premises.

Leonard Peikoff, who is the major proponent of voting exclusively for Democrats, does not appear to be recommending a 'backlash' strategy...

Leonard Peikoff, who is the major proponent of voting exclusively for Democrats, does not appear to be recommending a 'backlash' strategy.

Frankly Erich, if you would read my posts more carefully, both here and in the "Peikoff on the coming election" thread, you would see that I have never referred to a "backlash" strategy.

Clearly I was responding to Vespiano's post with no mention of you at all. I added to the discussion by Vespiano and Betsy with supporting comments on the fallacies of the 'backlash' theory after mentioning that it does not appear to be endorsed by Leonard Peikoff. Please do not take my statements out of context.

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Clearly I was responding to Vespiano's post with no mention of you at all. I added to the discussion by Vespiano and Betsy with supporting comments on the fallacies of the 'backlash' theory after mentioning that it does not appear to be endorsed by Leonard Peikoff. Please do not take my statements out of context.

The ‘backlash’ theory was introduced to the thread when it was mistakenly attributed to me by Betsy. I regarded discussion of this theory as a refutation of my position without reference to the arguments I posted here. Maybe this was a hasty conclusion, and it was an error to direct the comment to you directly.

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Clearly I was responding to Vespiano's post with no mention of you at all. I added to the discussion by Vespiano and Betsy with supporting comments on the fallacies of the 'backlash' theory after mentioning that it does not appear to be endorsed by Leonard Peikoff. Please do not take my statements out of context.

The ‘backlash’ theory was introduced to the thread when it was mistakenly attributed to me by Betsy. I regarded discussion of this theory as a refutation of my position without reference to the arguments I posted here. Maybe this was a hasty conclusion, and it was an error to direct the comment to you directly.

I hadn't noticed anyone attributing a 'backlash' theory to you in particular, but it is a common fallacy (and has been at least for many decades), and therefore worth refuting.

You had actually said

"You and others seem to think that I am saying we should vote for the Republicans just to get back at them for being unprincipled pragmatists and religious fanatics. Maybe I would do that during peacetime, to deny them power to show my disapproval at how they’ve failed to live up to their mission. However, I actually believe that Bush’s war policies are worse than what we could expect from the Democrats."
"Punishment", whether or not in "peacetime", isn't the same as a "backlash" approach, but I also previously explained why that too would be inappropriate and dangerous for many of the same reasons. It is so easy for well-meaning people to fall into "punishment" and "backlash" theories out of shear frustration, but it is a big mistake to not recognize all their consequences.

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You had actually said
"You and others seem to think that I am saying we should vote for the Republicans just to get back at them for being unprincipled pragmatists and religious fanatics. Maybe I would do that during peacetime, to deny them power to show my disapproval at how they’ve failed to live up to their mission. However, I actually believe that Bush’s war policies are worse than what we could expect from the Democrats."
"Punishment", whether or not in "peacetime", isn't the same as a "backlash" approach, but I also previously explained why that too would be inappropriate and dangerous for many of the same reasons. It is so easy for well-meaning people to fall into "punishment" and "backlash" theories out of shear frustration, but it is a big mistake to not recognize all their consequences.

I think the consequences could be dangerous, and my comment was very "off the cuff". I don't know that it would never be appropriate, but I agree you shouldn't vote for someone merely out of anger or frustration.

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I think the consequences could be dangerous, and my comment was very "off the cuff". I don't know that it would never be appropriate, but I agree you shouldn't vote for someone merely out of anger or frustration.

Hardly anyone would say they are in such stark terms, but it happens all the time. An understanstable frustration or anger leads in turn to bolster voting "theories" for "backlash", etc. that I have heard for ages.

On rare occasions a "punishment" can have an effect even if no long term good comes of it. When the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area was approved by Congress in the early 1980's to greenline private property in several counties across two states, Washington and Oregon, it caused so much anger that a Republican US Senator lost re-election. He came back into office later much more contrite. Whether it did any good at all in the long run and at what expense in the short term is an open question, but he did get the message. But the heavy handed Greenline land use prohibitions are still there doing immeasurable damage. Once these things are in place you don't get rid of them, you have only moved down several rungs of hell "forever". The viro preservationists never give up anything like this. All you can say for the battle is that when the viros used the Greenline at the Gorge as a romantic-sounding model for other parts of the country such as in the northeast -- misportrayed with the usual imagery -- it helped to stop them by bringing people in from the Gorge to talk to people about what it really was. (The viros don't use the term "Greenline" anymore.)

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...

There are real dangers, both short and long tem, in believing that if only the public saw more directly the implementation of government policies by politicians more strongly imposing them that there would be a backlash leading to lasting or important change as people "catch on". That notion of a strategy has been fallen into by the frustrated for many decades at least, but it does not work and never has.

...

Counting on backlash may be a strategy that doesn't work, but I can think of one good example of a bad politician being in office, and the mess he made of things setting the stage for (and greatly helping) the election of a much better man.

I'm thinking of the presidency of Carter leading to the election of Reagan.

Carter was perhaps the most sickeningly altruistic man we've had as a president for a long time - incessantly lecturing Americans about how we needed to sacrifice more and put up with privations. Also, in not responding to direct aggression against Americans (in Iran) he brought our foreign policy of appeasement to a new low.

The man was an embarassment. Heck, I knew many Democrats in 1980 who were ashamed of him. His antics weren't enough to convince people that there's something wrong with altruism, but they sure knew there was something wrong with Carter.

This dissatisfaction was one reason Reagan not only won in 1980, but won by a huge margin. So huge that, when I went to watch the election returns at 5PM on the West coast, there on the TV was a picture of Carter, already conceding the election. During the campaign, Reagan had masterfully kept exposing Carter's ineptitude, asking people, for example, if they were better off now or four years ago. Though the people voting didn't fully realize it, Carter's presidency ended up placing the blame for failure and stagnation squarely on the statism Carter had been pushing.

Would Reagan have been able to win if he had followed, say, Gerald Ford? Maybe, but the election debate would not have been cast in as much contrast, so I don't know. And even if he had, he probably would not have won by such a wide margin. (It was his big margin that gave him such a mandate to get things done, and also, as I remember, gave the Republicans control of the Senate.)

I don't remember anybody advocating, in 1976, that one should vote for Carter with the idea that it would mean Reagan would win in 1980 - so I'm not claiming this as an example of a "backlash strategy" that worked. But what I am arguing for is that here's a case of political backlash: a very bad politician getting elected, and this fact leading almost directly to the election of a much better man, who then had a mandate to change things.

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Is it really necessary to quibble on this word? Do you honestly think a regular Forum member is going to use "feel" in the sense of being an irrational person who uses their emotions as mystic guidance, or do you think it safe to assume that when I say "I feel" it is something along the lines of "I have an impression" or "a solid gut-feeling"?

I think that if you are a rational or common-sense enough of a person, it is perfectly fine to use feel or gut-feeling in the sense of an immediate (or not necessarily immediate) subconscious evaluation of something.

I guess I would have said "I think" if this were a seriously well thought out hypothesis, but for now I say "I feel" to convey that this is a strong impression I have gotten.

I was giving you the benefit of doubt. Because there are so many things wrong with your post, I wanted to give you an opportunity to think about it and maybe revise your comments.

You say,

In fact, compared to the way things looked in the beginning of the 20th Century I would say that America has been thriving lately.

Maybe, if you are a big government conservative

The Objective Standard, Fall 2006, p. 16

Here are some hard facts. Government spending has increased faster under George Bush and his Republican Congress than it did under Bill Clinton, and more people work for the federal government today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. During Bush’s first term, total government spending skyrocketed from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, an increase of 33 percent(almost $23,000 per household, the highest level since World War II).

And what has been the cost of this thriving? In particular, lets look at what the War in Iraq is doing to our military.

Robert gates, last month recommended that Admiral Mullen become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing ousted Marine General Peter Pace. Gates recalled when he made his announcement that an aide had recently asked Mullen what he was most concerned about.

“The Chief of Naval Operations said, ‘the Army,’” a bemused Gates reported.

When Mullen became the Navy chief in 2005, he sent thousands of Sailors to Iraq to help take the load off the Army, which by then was well on the way to tapping out its brigade on Iraq rotations. He sent Navy EA-6B Prowler flight officers to come up with electronic means to battle roadside bombs. Submariners were assigned to staff jobs outside the submarine community. He dispatched ordnance disposal teams to Iraq to de-fuse the explosives that litter the country.

Now Mullen is worried that his Sailors are also becoming overstretched.

“I’ve seen our leading edge explosive ordnance technicians over there who are very much leading the fight. And I am concerned. Their pace is very, very high.” Mullen said recently on the Navy’s Web site. (Proceedings, July 2007, p. 15-16)

You ask,

Do you really think that Lieberman or Giuliani want to, or are going to, destroy America?

Lieberman and Giuliani may not want to destroy America but their ideas will. I find it somewhat ironic that you would link Lieberman and Giuliani together. The neoconservatives would agree.

Giuliani-Lieberman Ticket

Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani-Lieberman, or Romney-Lieberman, or Allen-Lieberman, or Gingrich-Lieberman? Perhaps. But a reinvigorated governing and war-fighting Republican party is surely an achievable goal. And a necessary one.

Finally you state,

From what I've seen so far, I honestly feel like a culture of doom and pessimism has developed amongst some Objectivists lately, with Leonard Peikoff being at the forefront of it.

I find the charge of pessimism the most ironic statement of all.

If the political trend of the world remains unchanged, the same fate– collapse and ultimate dictatorship–is in store for the countries of Western Europe, which are farther along the statist road than America is, and which are now obviously in process of decline or disintegration. (The Communist countries and the so-called “third world” have long since fallen, or never risen to anything.) A European dictatorship need not be identical to an American one; dictatorships can vary widely in form, according to a given people’s special history, traditions, and crises; in form, but not in essence.

Most of the East is gone. The West is going.

The following statement was made by a German intellectual after the Nazis fell from power. In the early days of Hitler’s regime, he recalled, anyone troubled by the Nazi practices and concerned about Germany’s future was shrugged off as an alarmist.

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you konw for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. (2) (Bold is mine.)

(The Ominous Parallels, p. 300-301)

A culture of doom and pessimism? I think not.

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