Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dr. Yaron Brook on Ayn Rand

DB, I understand why you remained quite silent in your afterthoughts, over and above your reason given. It would take a weeks’ worth of commentary to deal with the issues raised by Dr. Brook.

I will not attempt that which DB has so wisely decided on which to pass.

Suffice it to say, this interview is a reminder of why I have ignored the work of the Ayn Rand Institute.

I will only comment on a couple of issues.

For me, my libertarian journey all started with Ayn Rand. For this I will be forever grateful for her work. I believe a plurality, if not a majority of those who describe themselves as libertarians (of any stripe) would say that the first introduction was through one of Rand’s novels.

DB: …we are unclear as to whether Rand herself would endorse what is in this interview.

BM: I am also unclear regarding this, I offer a couple of snippets:

From “The Virtue of Selfishness”

“The Nature of Government”

“All the reasons that make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.”

Note: she specifically uses the term “retaliatory”.

YB: When those lives or property are endangered, threatened or actually attacked, it is the job of the American government to do whatever is in its power to stop those attacks, to get rid of the threats, to allow Americans to live in peace without that threat laying over them.”

BM: Brook is clear that pre-emptive strikes are not only appropriate, but morally proper for government action.

Rand clearly supports government as the proper (and monopoly) agent of force. I find Rand somewhat confused and conflicted on the entire contradiction of individual freedom as opposed government monopoly in certain specific roles (police, national defense, courts).

On the one hand she holds government must have the monopoly of violence over a given jurisdiction while on the other hand being quite aware of the abuses of this monopoly power. If she attempts to address the inherent impossibility of the task she assigns to government, I am not aware of it.

Also, form “The Virtue of Selfishness”


“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”

BM: Dr. Brook’s comments seem splattered with racism. It is difficult to imagine destroying a regime as he advocates numerous times without destroying countless millions living within the boundaries of that regime.

Where is the respect for the individual in this view? Why not advocate going after specific individuals that have, through evidence, been found guilty of specific criminal acts? Is this not the only proper view to take if one supports the individual as Rand does?

YB: …Atlas Shrugged is a brilliant novel that draws people in because of its mysterious plot and the larger than life characters.

BM: The focus on “larger than life characters” has struck me as one of the drawbacks of Atlas Shrugged, and perhaps why I have more of an affinity in some ways to Anthem. One comes away from reading Atlas painfully aware that virtually none of us is a John Galt, Francisco d’Anconia, etc. Therefore, what difference can we make?

The real world is much different. We can see as much today in the political scene behind Ron Paul. Countless thousands of individuals have made it possible for Ron Paul to achieve the success he is achieving – by taking roles as precinct leaders, delegates, etc.

Hundreds of people write for sites like LRC and Mises. There are dozens of well-read libertarian sites such as DB. Almost all of the people involved in these efforts are regular Joes – I expect I would enjoy having a cup of coffee with most of them. Having a cup of coffee with John Galt (Ayn Rand)? That would seem more painful than enjoyable. And to have the picture painted that only a John Galt can effect change is in some ways demoralizing.

I say all of this as a very minor point. I will end where I began: for me, it all started with Ayn Rand, and I will forever be grateful for her work.

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