Transpower

Is the LPPa Platform Truly Objectivist?

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I wrote the original plaftorm for the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania, adopted in March of 1982, and am the principal author of the current platform, adopted in February of 2005. I've been a member of the Ayn Rand Institute for many, many years. I believe that our platform is thoroughly Objectivist--it is minarchist, not anarchist. I've read through Ayn Rand's entire corpus several times and am very conversant with it. So: I'd like to solicit comments from other students of Objectivism as to the veracity of my claim.

platformlppa2005.doc

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I read that document and I have to say it isn't Objectivist, not because of what it says, but because what is lacking. It lacks an explicit moral justification for liberty. Instead of providing a moral base for its political positions, it merely asserts them or makes feeble pragmatic / utilitarian arguments. Because utilitarianism is essentially altruism, that undercuts, rather than supports, liberty.

The lack of a proper moral defense of individual rights is what renders this platform, as well as most L/libertarian and conservative positions and arguments, totally ineffective when it comes to persuading those who do not agree or effectively guiding the actions of those who do.

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I read that document and I have to say it isn't Objectivist, not because of what it says, but because what is lacking. It lacks an explicit moral justification for liberty. Instead of providing a moral base for its political positions, it merely asserts them or makes feeble pragmatic / utilitarian arguments. Because utilitarianism is essentially altruism, that undercuts, rather than supports, liberty.

The lack of a proper moral defense of individual rights is what renders this platform, as well as most L/libertarian and conservative positions and arguments, totally ineffective when it comes to persuading those who do not agree or effectively guiding the actions of those who do.

OK, Betsy, then how would you modify the LPPa Statement of Principles to include a "proper moral defense of individual rights"?

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I wrote the original plaftorm for the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania, adopted in March of 1982, and am the principal author of the current platform, adopted in February of 2005. I've been a member of the Ayn Rand Institute for many, many years. I believe that our platform is thoroughly Objectivist--it is minarchist, not anarchist. I've read through Ayn Rand's entire corpus several times and am very conversant with it. So: I'd like to solicit comments from other students of Objectivism as to the veracity of my claim.

Whilst I get that libertarians and objectivists are clearly different, I am amazed that objectivists don't vote libertarian more or less en masse especially when the choice is between Hussein and Mr Dead?

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Whilst I get that libertarians and objectivists are clearly different, I am amazed that objectivists don't vote libertarian more or less en masse especially when the choice is between Hussein and Mr Dead?

Because they field such candidates as Ron Paul, a very religious man more anti-abortion than the Pope and who thinks terrorism against America is America's fault, to take some representative examples of his views.

To quote from the links I gave:

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.
The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.

To be charitable, the above is simply idiotic and clueless, and a perfect demonstration of the train wreck you get when you discard fundamental philosophic ideas. It really says something about the LP, that Paul is *worse* than either McCain or Obama.

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Whilst I get that libertarians and objectivists are clearly different, I am amazed that objectivists don't vote libertarian more or less en masse especially when the choice is between Hussein and Mr Dead?

Because they field such candidates as Ron Paul, a very religious man more anti-abortion than the Pope and who thinks terrorism against America is America's fault, to take some representative examples of his views.

To quote from the links I gave:

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.
The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.

To be charitable, the above is simply idiotic and clueless, and a perfect demonstration of the train wreck you get when you discard fundamental philosophic ideas. It really says something about the LP, that Paul is *worse* than either McCain or Obama.

But, dare I mention that Rush Limbaugh, for instance is anti-abortion and rejects the view that there is a constitutional separation of church and state. Many Republicans hold those views, and yet have the support of Objectivists.

Back to the original post, I agree with Betsy's assessment that the policy statement needs a statement of principle. It should appeal to reason. People need to know why you hold the views you do. I also note that the paper takes no position as to the military or the proper use of war. While it might seem out of place in the context of a state party platform, it is something that is of interest to many people, and, as pointed out above, is an area where Objectivists often find themselves in fundamental disagreement with self-professed Libertarians.

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OK, Betsy, then how would you modify the LPPa Statement of Principles to include a "proper moral defense of individual rights"?

I would preface everything with the essential justification for government in Ayn Rand's "Man's Rights" and "The Nature Of Government" to set the context and justify all positions by reference to individual rights. I would avoid all pragmatic / utilitarian arguments like "The denial of these freedoms fosters irresponsibility in the citizenry." (People have the right to be irresponsible and the welfare of a collective like the "citizenry" is not the proper justification for individual freedom.)

Lacking a proper moral foundation, all the platform contains is a collection of baldfaced assertions -- "We want this" and "We don't want that" -- that lack the moral grounding to win over anyone not already with you.

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Whilst I get that libertarians and objectivists are clearly different, I am amazed that objectivists don't vote libertarian more or less en masse especially when the choice is between Hussein and Mr Dead?

The political context is different in the USA because we don't have a parliamentary system like the UK, but a federal system based on local state organizations. As I wrote here:

Since assorted third parties of cranks already exist (e.g., Green, Libertarian, "Natural Law", Reform), I assume you mean to exclude those.
With rare exceptions, third parties are where cranks have to go. The reason is that a two-party system leads to both parties vying for the voters in the middle and that the American Constitution leads naturally to a two-party system.

The Electoral College works against third parties because a candidate has to win enough votes in enough states to win the Presidency. That means political parties have to be national parties yet offer a broad enough agenda in every state, despite regional differences. In addition, the way the rules of Congress have evolved, with important committee chairmanships and presiding positions going to the majority party, also works against splinter parties.

The result is that third parties in our system are an exercise in futility. In addition, voting is a rather ineffective way of "sending a message" and it is much better to send a message by sending a message -- i.e., by writing or speaking up in public.

P.S. Don't forget the capital "O" for "Objectivists."

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But, dare I mention that Rush Limbaugh, for instance is anti-abortion and rejects the view that there is a constitutional separation of church and state. Many Republicans hold those views, and yet have the support of Objectivists.

I don't think even Limbaugh and most conservatives are as virulently anti-abortionist as Ron Paul, nor as clear-cut about stating that there no barrier between church and state. But that is not the point in this case. First of all, Limbaugh is not running for President nor any other office where he can affect me via force. Ron Paul not only is in office already but wants more power, and worst of all, postures that he represents some alternative to Republicans and Democrats. To tell uninformed individuals that he represents something radically different, in the name of liberty, is massively destructive to the actual cause of actual liberty.

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But, dare I mention that Rush Limbaugh, for instance is anti-abortion and rejects the view that there is a constitutional separation of church and state. Many Republicans hold those views, and yet have the support of Objectivists.

I don't think even Limbaugh and most conservatives are as virulently anti-abortionist as Ron Paul, nor as clear-cut about stating that there no barrier between church and state. But that is not the point in this case. First of all, Limbaugh is not running for President nor any other office where he can affect me via force. Ron Paul not only is in office already but wants more power, and worst of all, postures that he represents some alternative to Republicans and Democrats. To tell uninformed individuals that he represents something radically different, in the name of liberty, is massively destructive to the actual cause of actual liberty.

Some comments on the above replies to my post:

1. A party platform is an applied political document, not a moral treatise.

2. Man's rights are required so that a man can function properly as a man--i.e., as a rational, ethical animal. I could have put something like this in the Statement of Principles, for clarity, but many (perhaps most) people would accept it as understood by the context. I still would like Betsy to give me some specific verbiage.

3. Ron Paul is a Republican. He is anti-choice, and he blames America for the problems of the world. I dislike him intensely, but--strangely enough--he has had much support from members of the Libertarian Party.

4. Discussion of the U.S. military is out of place in a state platform. The various national LP Platforms over the years cover this well; see especially the original 1972 LP Platform (written long before Rothbard and Childs took over the Party).

5. I tally the pluses and minuses of each candidate and then make my decision. Obviously I vote either Libertarian or Republican. If the choice must be McCain, Obama, or Barr, I'll have to go with Barr, warts and all.

6. So far no one has challenged any specific plank.

Thanks to all who responded.

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We stand firmly for the Principle of Non-aggression: that no one—neither a government agent nor any individual nor any group—may initiate force or fraud against an individual or his property.

Governments should not force individuals to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. Individuals should be left free to deal with one another as free traders in a free market.

What "Principle of Non-aggression?" As stated, this is just an assertion. What is the basis for this "Principle?" As an Objectivist, I am well-aware that Ayn Rand, in her politics, as the end result of a long chain of reasoning, demonstrates that the purpose of government is to prevent the initiation of force by one individual against another, but this line of reasoning extends from Metaphysics and the metaphysical Nature of Man, to Ethics, the standard of good and evil for an individual, to proper behavior in a social context, which is Politics. And "should" is a moral statement. You can't say that justification for such a statement should be automatically understood, or is out of scope for such a document. Thomas Jefferson didn't think so in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. "Individuals should be left free to deal with one another as free traders in a free market," absent any moral justification, is completely meaningless. Who does this convince, and of what?

No, you don't have to give a 3-day lecture on philosophy to discuss assault and battery, but, for a statement of principle, you do need to be clear about this requirement for philosophical grounding.

Since John Hospers, Libertarians -- at least as represented by the Libertarian Party -- have found the grounding of political principles in more fundamental philosophical principles to be... well, inconvenient, or irritating. Too much thought required. I was there in Long Beach at the first Libertarian convention, with the booths of the Historical Revisionist Society (Nazis), Anarcho-Syndicalists, North American Boy-Love Association, and every other organization that could sign off on the "non-initiation of force" "Principle." That "principle" is a non-principle without a proper understanding of morality. It's just a way to tell people to "back off, I wanna do my thing." It's rebellion, it's not a principled stand.

What I have seen happen in actual political participation of Libertarians in politics is that the lack of philosophical underpinning means that the candidates retain an implicit Altruist morality and all of these strictures -- on free trade, free market, individual choice, etc. -- are based on a Utilitarian rationalization: They result in the greatest good for the greatest number. But that fails for the reasons Ayn Rand has stated, essentially, that if something is morally evil, then it is Evil. If something is "good," then it is Good. So, even if socialist policies like welfare and public education fail over and over, we should keep trying because they're "good," they're noble. You can't attack such rotten policies using a pragmatic argument because Pragmatism says "find the best way to accomplish good stuff." And Morality is where the "good stuff" is defined. You've lost before you've begun.

That's the problem.

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To amplify what alann wrote:

Libertarianism and atheism are concepts that are usually defined in negative terms. Just as an atheist is someone who does not believe in God, a Libertarian is someone who does not support the initiation of force (or if that is not the right definition, at least he doesn't believe in the power of the state). These don't tell you what an atheist or libertarian are, just what they are not.

Just as atheism, then, does not differentiate between an Objectivist, a socialist, and a pragmatist, a libertarianism doesn't differentiate between anarchists, religious mystics, altruists, and Objectivists. In actual practice, people subscribing to both labels often hold views at odds with the essence of that view, so there are libertarians, for instance, who are anti-abortion.

It is this fact that necessitates further clarity of philosophical premises.

You wrote:

2. Man's rights are required so that a man can function properly as a man--i.e., as a rational, ethical animal. I could have put something like this in the Statement of Principles, for clarity, but many (perhaps most) people would accept it as understood by the context.

On the contrary, among libertarians, these very things are in dispute. If you say "man's rights" the question arises: which rights? What are rights? Can animals have rights? Can a fetus? Does a government serve to protect rights, or is any government inherently a violation of rights?

The only way to establish clarity on these is by establishing the broader philosophical context.

I could go on, but instead I'll refer you to Peter Schwartz's essay (reprinted here) in case you aren't familiar with it.

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To amplify what alann wrote:

Libertarianism and atheism are concepts that are usually defined in negative terms. Just as an atheist is someone who does not believe in God, a Libertarian is someone who does not support the initiation of force (or if that is not the right definition, at least he doesn't believe in the power of the state). These don't tell you what an atheist or libertarian are, just what they are not.

Just as atheism, then, does not differentiate between an Objectivist, a socialist, and a pragmatist, a libertarianism doesn't differentiate between anarchists, religious mystics, altruists, and Objectivists. In actual practice, people subscribing to both labels often hold views at odds with the essence of that view, so there are libertarians, for instance, who are anti-abortion.

It is this fact that necessitates further clarity of philosophical premises.

You wrote:

2. Man's rights are required so that a man can function properly as a man--i.e., as a rational, ethical animal. I could have put something like this in the Statement of Principles, for clarity, but many (perhaps most) people would accept it as understood by the context.

On the contrary, among libertarians, these very things are in dispute. If you say "man's rights" the question arises: which rights? What are rights? Can animals have rights? Can a fetus? Does a government serve to protect rights, or is any government inherently a violation of rights?

The only way to establish clarity on these is by establishing the broader philosophical context.

I could go on, but instead I'll refer you to Peter Schwartz's essay (reprinted here) in case you aren't familiar with it.

Yes, I read Peter Schwartz's essay many years ago--it is a correct analyis of the anarchist wing of the LP. The LPPa has, however, always been minachist, and we've taken great pains to avoid the problems that he brings up.

Now to answer your questions

1. A right sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context.

2. Animals do not have rights because they do not have freedom of the will or the freedom to think or not to think. Nonetheless, "cruelty to animals" is a crime.

3. A fetus does not have rights until human brain waves begin to be generated at the 20th week.

4. The only legitmate function of government is the protection of individual rights.

I believe all of this is implicit, if not explicit, in the LPPa Platform.

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3. Ron Paul is a Republican. He is anti-choice, and he blames America for the problems of the world. I dislike him intensely, but--strangely enough--he has had much support from members of the Libertarian Party.

I'd remembered him as a Libertarian (Googling indicates he ran as the LP candidate in 1988). Evidently he understood that getting the backing of the Republican party was more practical. It's logical that he has a lot of remaining LP support because his personal platform is essentially the same: mouthing "liberty" while remaining clueless about its fundamental nature.

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1. A right sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context.

This is a very abstract statement and a person needs to be clear about the facts that give rise to it. If he isn't, it is just an arbitrary idea unattached to reality that he does not properly understand and cannot apply to the real world.

2. Animals do not have rights because they do not have freedom of the will or the freedom to think or not to think. Nonetheless, "cruelty to animals" is a crime.

Same with this idea. How do you know animals don't have free will? Why do rights depend on free will? Some claim that animals have rights because they can feel pain. If animals don't have rights, why is animal cruelty a crime?

Incidentally, Ayn Rand and all the Objectivists I know think that someone who is needlessly cruel to animals is a very sick and evil person who should be shunned, boycotted, and denounced but, because animals do not have rights, he is not a criminal.

3. A fetus does not have rights until human brain waves begin to be generated at the 20th week.

Why does having brain waves confer rights? This is another arbitrary conclusion and it is at odds with the Objectivist view that a person gains rights at birth. (I won't rehash the whole abortion controversy here, but you can do a search and find it.)

4. The only legitmate function of government is the protection of individual rights.

Without a proper philosophical grounding of this statement, someone who thinks he has a right to his fair share of your income could use the above statement to claim it is a legitimate function of government to use force to protect his right to your income.

I believe all of this is implicit, if not explicit, in the LPPa Platform.

I don't. As a test, discuss this with an advocate of the welfare state or an anti-abortionist or an Objectivist or even a fellow Libertarian who disagrees with you on some of your points. Then you'll see how much of this platform is unclear or untrue.

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But, dare I mention that Rush Limbaugh, for instance is anti-abortion and rejects the view that there is a constitutional separation of church and state. Many Republicans hold those views, and yet have the support of Objectivists.

I don't think even Limbaugh and most conservatives are as virulently anti-abortionist as Ron Paul, nor as clear-cut about stating that there no barrier between church and state. But that is not the point in this case. First of all, Limbaugh is not running for President nor any other office where he can affect me via force. Ron Paul not only is in office already but wants more power, and worst of all, postures that he represents some alternative to Republicans and Democrats. To tell uninformed individuals that he represents something radically different, in the name of liberty, is massively destructive to the actual cause of actual liberty.

That sounds like a massive case of hair splitting to me. People either support abortion rights, or they oppose them. If someone opposes them, I don't really care whether they are "virulent" about it or not. Plus, I doubt very seriously that religious conservatives like Huckabee are any less opposed to abortion than Ron Paul. As for Limbaugh, no, he isn't running for office, but he encourages people to vote for certain candidates, and is influential over much of his audience. If he's anti-abortion and holds the view that there is no separation of church and state, it affects his assessment of candidates.

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Hi Transpower, what is so unpalatable to you, regarding Objectivism , that you're unprepared to call yourself one?

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Hi Transpower, what is so unpalatable to you, regarding Objectivism , that you're unprepared to call yourself one?

I'm not sure I understand. Transpower didn't say that he or she wasn't an Objectivist. To the contrary, he or she is asking whether a specific platform is "Objectivist."

If I understand Transpower's second post, the party platform is intended to be a statement of position, and that other documents are more appropriate place to express the moral underpinnings. If that's the case, I suggest to Transpower that the LPPa produce such a document (if it hasn't been done so already), and share that with us so that we can understand the context behind the platform.

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Hi KPO'M

Transpower's position is made clear by the following quote " Yes, I read Peter Schwartz's essay many years ago-- it is a correct analysis of the anarchist wing of the LP. THe LPPa has , however, always been minachist, and we've taken great pains to avoid the problems that he brings up"

Isn't this statement enough to suggest that he/she is not an objectivist?

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1. A right sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context.

This is a very abstract statement and a person needs to be clear about the facts that give rise to it. If he isn't, it is just an arbitrary idea unattached to reality that he does not properly understand and cannot apply to the real world.

2. Animals do not have rights because they do not have freedom of the will or the freedom to think or not to think. Nonetheless, "cruelty to animals" is a crime.

Same with this idea. How do you know animals don't have free will? Why do rights depend on free will? Some claim that animals have rights because they can feel pain. If animals don't have rights, why is animal cruelty a crime?

Incidentally, Ayn Rand and all the Objectivists I know think that someone who is needlessly cruel to animals is a very sick and evil person who should be shunned, boycotted, and denounced but, because animals do not have rights, he is not a criminal.

3. A fetus does not have rights until human brain waves begin to be generated at the 20th week.

Why does having brain waves confer rights? This is another arbitrary conclusion and it is at odds with the Objectivist view that a person gains rights at birth. (I won't rehash the whole abortion controversy here, but you can do a search and find it.)

4. The only legitmate function of government is the protection of individual rights.

Without a proper philosophical grounding of this statement, someone who thinks he has a right to his fair share of your income could use the above statement to claim it is a legitimate function of government to use force to protect his right to your income.

I believe all of this is implicit, if not explicit, in the LPPa Platform.

I don't. As a test, discuss this with an advocate of the welfare state or an anti-abortionist or an Objectivist or even a fellow Libertarian who disagrees with you on some of your points. Then you'll see how much of this platform is unclear or untrue.

1. True, but I don't think further explanation is needed in this Forum!

2. Animals are organic machines, in essence. What separates us from them is our freedom to choose to think or not to think--our freedom of will. Animals are constructed, by nature, to initiate force; 80% of the animals in the ocean die by being swallowed by other animals. Ethical humans, on the other hand, do not initiate force. Cruelty to animals is a crime because there is a victim--the animal.

3. Miss Rand said (ARL, IV, 2, 3) "One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months." I'm aware of, and disagree with, the ARI position that rights begin at birth. The LPPa Platform position is scientific; it defines the beginning of human life as the onset of human brain waves and the end of human life as the cessation of human brain waves.

4. I suppose we could add a philosophical Preamble to the platform to provide the grounding for the Statement of Principles. Some LP Platforms do, in fact, include a Preamble.

5. I don't think anything is untrue in the LPPa Platform. However, I've had some individuals misunderstand the Non-aggression principle to mean "non-intervention!" This is most unfortunate. It is perfectly proper for the Good to intervene to stop the Evil.

On metaphysics, Miss Rand was an atheist but not a materialist. She took "consciousness" to be an axiomatic concept, and therefore not entirely biologically derived. For me, ethical human beings have a metaphysical unit. The whole collection of metaphysical units constitutes the Metaphysical Realm. This Realm is natural, not supernatual, and is rational not mystical. It can be understood scientifically, in my opinion. Therefore I'm not a 100% pure Randian or 100% pure Objectivist, but I do think of myself as a student of Objectivism, and I do accept all of Miss Rand's work in ethics, politics, esthetics, and economics. One Non-Objectist member of the LPPa has told me that the LPPa Platform is too Objectivist...

Again, thanks for all your comments.

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2. Animals are organic machines, in essence. What separates us from them is our freedom to choose to think or not to think--our freedom of will. Animals are constructed, by nature, to initiate force; 80% of the animals in the ocean die by being swallowed by other animals. Ethical humans, on the other hand, do not initiate force. Cruelty to animals is a crime because there is a victim--the animal.

By that standard, the animals we kill to eat and for furs and leather are victims too. Should killing animals to satisfy human needs be a crime?

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Actions aren't crimes simply because they involve victims, they're crimes because they involve a particular type of action that needs to be criminalized: the violation of rights. Cheating at cards or lying to your wife about going out with the fellas or accidentally spilling someone's drink or practical jokes involve victims, too. Are those crimes? Criminal justice must start by recognizing the nature of rights. Animals don't have rights because their consciousness is not purely volitional.

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2. Animals are organic machines, in essence. What separates us from them is our freedom to choose to think or not to think--our freedom of will. Animals are constructed, by nature, to initiate force; 80% of the animals in the ocean die by being swallowed by other animals. Ethical humans, on the other hand, do not initiate force. Cruelty to animals is a crime because there is a victim--the animal.

By that standard, the animals we kill to eat and for furs and leather are victims too. Should killing animals to satisfy human needs be a crime?

This is where "philosophical nuance" comes into play. Farm-raised animals are the property of the farmers and therefore slaughtering them is not a crime--because property may be disposed of, and the property in question was raised for that purpose. However the conditions of their raising could be questioned. Killing wild animals on one's property (or on the property of another with permission) for food is also not a crime. Sport hunting (without actually taking the kill home to eat) is a difficult question for me, however. I can justify it on the grounds that thinning of the herd may be required for "eco-balance." I do not hunt (as it is against my moral intuition), but I would not prevent others from hunting.

Another possible approach to this problem is to ask: does the proposed action reduce, or increase, the overall entropy of the world? Slaughtering animals for food does reduce entropy, because humans reduce the entropy of the world much more so than animals do. Gratuitous abuse of a pet increases entropy without any prospect of a corresponding reduction of entropy elsewhere.

Having said all of this, I don't think I've nailed it. We left out a plank regarding animals in the LPPa Platform and decided to leave the question up to county Libertarian committees and local municipalities...

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On metaphysics, Miss Rand was an atheist but not a materialist. She took "consciousness" to be an axiomatic concept, and therefore not entirely biologically derived.

Ayn Rand was not an idealist either. She held that consciousness is a faculty of certain complex organisms and was entirely biologically derived. Man's volitional nature is a causal consequence of his biological nature.

What separates her views from those of materialists, however, was that she held that consciousness was not biologically determined. See the section titled "Human Actions, Mental and Physical, as Both Caused and Free" in OPAR, Page 62.

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This is where "philosophical nuance" comes into play.

This is why philosophy is necessary.

Farm-raised animals are the property of the farmers and therefore slaughtering them is not a crime--because property may be disposed of, and the property in question was raised for that purpose.

So if an animal is someone's property then cruelly abusing it is not a crime because property may be disposed of and the property in question was raised for the purpose of abusing it?.

Killing wild animals on one's property (or on the property of another with permission) for food is also not a crime. Sport hunting (without actually taking the kill home to eat) is a difficult question for me, however. I can justify it on the grounds that thinning of the herd may be required for "eco-balance." I do not hunt (as it is against my moral intuition), but I would not prevent others from hunting.

Philosophy is particularly necessary for resolving "difficult questions" without using emotions as tools of cognition (aka "moral intuition").

Another possible approach to this problem is to ask: does the proposed action reduce, or increase, the overall entropy of the world? Slaughtering animals for food does reduce entropy, because humans reduce the entropy of the world much more so than animals do. Gratuitous abuse of a pet increases entropy without any prospect of a corresponding reduction of entropy elsewhere.

What does this mean? I've been studying Objectivism for over four decades (and other philosophies even longer) and I never heard of this.

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