Jan 222014
 

I’m a bit late in blogging this news, but I’m delighted to report that the Institute for Justice has created a Food Freedom Initiative:

A new national initiative launched [November 19, 2013] by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: What we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about.

To kick off the initiative, IJ is today filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw–or unpasteurized–milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”

  • IJ is challenging Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban in state court on behalf of Herminie Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Learn more about their case: www.ij.org/FlVeggies.
  • Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods–such as baked goods–in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers’ markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Learn more about their case at: www.ij.org/MNCottageFoods.
  • In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000–plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Learn more about Christine’s case at: www.ij.org/ORMilk.

These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.

IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, said, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area–food–so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”

If you care about your access to foods of your own choosing and the rights of food producers to engage in voluntary trade, please consider donating to IJ! IJ is extremely effective and principled in their advocacy of liberty, and I know that my donor dollars are going to very good use.

P.S. With this initiative, the Institute for Justice is tackling a really important and growing aspect of statism in a way that resonates with ordinary Americans. They’re doing so on the basis of sound principles and facts, and they’re likely to effect change through the courts and public outreach. In contrast, ARI’s only activity in this area has been a series of propagandistic blog posts in defense of GMOs by an astrophysicist without an adequate understanding of relevant principles of biology. Basically, ARI’s approach seems little better than what Christian Wernstedt satirized here: The Tragedy of Milkia®: The Luddite Attack Against Industrial Dairy Progress. For this reason and about a hundred others, I’m glad that my donor dollars have long gone elsewhere, particularly to IJ.

Atlas Shrugged Video Contest

 Posted by on 17 December 2010 at 8:00 am  Announcements, ARI
Dec 172010
 

Lin Zinser of the Ayn Rand Center sent the following message to OActivists, and I thought that NoodleFood readers might like to review and vote on the videos submitted for the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest too:

The time for entries in the Atlas Shrugged video contest is over. We have over 100 entries, some by people on this list. And now it’s time to support your favorite video(s).

ARI is awarding an iPad to the video with the most votes, and it would be great if the winning video accurately related the story of Atlas Shrugged to current events or to the life of the videographer. With this in mind, we’re asking you to vote for your favorite video(s) every day from now until December 22. The winners in all categories will be announced December 23. Remember, you can vote for each video once per day. Encourage others to do so as well.

Vote here.

Thanks for helping to make the contest a success!

Some OList subscribers submitted videos, and so you might want to review and vote on those early and often. They are:

If you posted a video — or if you’ve just found one that you really like — please feel free to post a link to it in the comments.

 

Note from Diana Hsieh, 22 Feb 2012: If you’ve come to this page via “Checking Premises” or something similar, please note that I’ve written a length commentary on the criticisms circulating about me, including explaining my views of various controversial matters, in this post: On Some Recent Controversies. I’d recommend reading that, then judging me based on my full range of work, not just a few out-of-context snippets. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me privately at diana@dianahsieh.com.

***

Paul wrote this post, and Diana edited it with him. We meant to publish it under Paul’s account, but we messed that up by mistake.

Last week, Dr. Leonard Peikoff and the Ayn Rand Institute issued statements regarding John McCaskey’s resignation from the boards of the Ayn Rand Institute and the Anthem Foundation:

Diana and I have been giving serious thought to these statements. In addition, we had an in-person meeting with Yaron Brook in Denver on November 11th when he came to town on business, followed by a phone call on November 19th. We greatly appreciate the fact that he was willing to talk with us and help us better understand these issues. We had frank and constructive conversations, and at his request we are keeping the details private (with one exception below where he has granted his permission to discuss it publicly).

As a result of this new information, we’ve had to do a lot of hard thinking, and we’ve reconsidered some of our earlier views and actions. Our purpose here is to discuss our current evaluation of the events, including acknowledging some of our errors. In this post, we will discuss what we regard as the three most important issues, namely:

  1. ARI’s statement
  2. Peikoff’s statement
  3. Our “Fact Finding” Post

We will offer our judgments on some topics but not others. Now that ARI has clarified its view of recent events and its policies, each person can now fairly determine his future relationship with ARI, based on his concerns and interests. We don’t regard our thinking and decisions on some matters as appropriate fodder for further public discussion, although friends may inquire with us privately.

1) ARI’s statement

First, given ARI’s position that The Logical Leap is a “major ARI project” on which they must take “one consistent position”, then it makes sense that McCaskey’s criticisms of the book constituted a conflict of interest incompatible with his serving on the ARI Board. We’re glad that ARI has made this known in its recent statement. In earlier internet discussions, some people made similar arguments, and in retrospect, one of our errors was to not give this view sufficient credence.

As an explanation of our earlier views, I (Paul) have served on the Board of Directors of a corporation — namely, my own medical practice. My medical group is not a small office practice but rather a major business operation with over 300 employees doing over $40 million of business a year. Its board members routinely make multimillion dollar decisions, and they take their fiduciary and conflict of interest policies very seriously. As part of that conflict of interest policy, board members of my practice cannot undermine or criticize major board decisions once made — such as opening a new branch office or signing a new hospital contract.

In other words, the group has a “one consistent position” policy on such major issues, much like ARI. Board members are expected to freely debate such issues as part of the process of arriving at a decision. But once the board has made its decision, individual board members are expected to support it publicly, or at least keep their disagreements private. (The board also has a mechanism for revisiting prior decisions when new evidence warrants.)

Furthermore, the board also supports for-profit medical conferences, lectures, and books, with the revenue flowing back to the medical corporation. So in this respect, there is a loose similarity to ARI. For such work, my medical group has established a policy that board members are allowed to dissent with medical and scientific conclusions expressed in books and lectures sponsored by the group, without that dissent being considered a conflict of interest. Hence, if a board-supported book written by one of the group’s physicians takes a particular position on, say, the proper use of MRI to diagnose certain cancers, any board member would be free to respectfully dissent in his own speaking or writing on that subject. In other words, my group exempts that sort of professional disagreement on medical issues from its “one consistent position” policy.

We assumed — wrongly, in retrospect — that ARI had a similar policy towards McCaskey’s disagreements with The Logical Leap, given that its theory of induction is new work, not part of Objectivism. We weren’t aware of our error until ARI released its recent statement.

ARI’s statement does not say when the Board decided to apply this policy to The Logical Leap. Yet we recognize that once that policy was in effect, McCaskey could not be on ARI’s Board. We’re pleased that McCaskey is now free to state his views of The Logical Leap, whether we agree with them or not in the end.

The range of views that ARI should support under its “one consistent position” policy is a separate question. We regard this policy as wholly proper for Objectivist principles and their public policy applications. Diana has serious concerns about applying it to new philosophic or other scholarly work, however good, including The Logical Leap.

Of course, ARI’s decision to apply their “one consistent position” policy to The Logical Leap is entirely their prerogative. That’s their decision to make, which donors can support or not.

2) Peikoff’s statement

We also appreciated Dr. Peikoff’s statement stating his reasons for demanding that the ARI Board remove McCaskey. In particular, as donors we appreciated his clarifying the nature of his relationship to the ARI Board. He has stated that he has and will exercise veto power over ARI’s Board, according to his judgment. In effect, Peikoff assumes the role of final Quality Control Officer over ARI’s Board, with ARI’s assent.

Prospective donors can have a range of legitimate responses to this new information. If a donor has confidence in Peikoff’s judgment on such issues, he may choose to maintain or increase his financial support. On the other hand, if a donor has concerns about Peikoff’s judgment on such issues, he may wish to earmark or reduce his donations so they won’t be affected by Peikoff’s judgment. Each donor will have to make this determination for himself. As donors, we are now glad to have this greater clarity which will allow us to better decide whether and how we wish to financially support ARI.

Peikoff also clearly expressed his personal negative moral judgment of McCaskey. Based on our own knowledge of McCaskey, we completely reject Peikoff’s characterization of him as “an obnoxious braggart” and “a pretentious ignoramus.” We regard that as a serious misjudgment of McCaskey. In the seven years we’ve known him, McCaskey has always acted as a gentleman and a scholar. Similarly, we still regard Peikoff’s earlier characterizations of McCaskey’s actions and views as unfathomable. Peikoff is not required to explain his personal judgments, nor are we asking him to. We merely wish to register our disagreement. We expect to continue to enjoy McCaskey’s intellectual work as well as our friendship with him.

Such disagreements over personal judgments are not unusual in intellectual movements. Peikoff himself notes that he is at “personal enmity” with some long-standing ARI Board members to the point that he is no longer on speaking terms with them — and this includes individuals that many other Objectivists deeply respect. Such disagreements need not be a problem provided that the relevant parties behave objectively towards one another.

3) Our “Fact Finding” Post

Some people have publicly criticized us for making our inquiries about this issue and publicizing our findings in our NoodleFood post, “The Resignation of John McCaskey: The Facts.”

Our actions and motives were also criticized by ARI during their call to the OAC students in ways we considered inaccurate and unfair; we were greatly disturbed and angered when we learned of them. Yaron Brook also bluntly criticized our actions during our in-person meeting with him on November 11, and we had a frank discussion about this issue.

Yaron Brook has granted us his permission to publicly discuss his criticisms of our actions, so that we could publicly respond — and we greatly appreciate that.

In ARI’s view, the fundamental problem wasn’t that our post was inaccurate or biased. Rather, the problem was our very attempt to inquire about what they regarded as a fundamentally private matter, including Peikoff’s initial e-mail.

Yaron Brook explained to us that the core issues were covered by ARI Board confidentiality provisions, and that anything we discovered could only be “nibbling at the edges” of a core that we could not know about. Hence, our inquiries as such were inappropriate and would only fuel more unwelcome public debate at a time when the right thing would have been to encourage others to remain patient and calm. He told us that the proper alternative would have been to express our concerns to him privately (which Diana did shortly after McCaskey resigned), accept the fact that he could only tell us some information, and then deal with the inherent uncertainty as best we could — which might in essence include telling him, “We don’t like what’s going on, and as donors we’re keeping our eye on you.” (Yaron Brook’s words, not ours.)

We understand his position, and in retrospect we can see why ARI takes that position. Unfortunately, ARI contributed to this difficulty by allowing the release of Dr. Peikoff’s e-mail, then refraining from substantive comment for two months. They’ve subsequently apologized for that, and we appreciate it.

As for us, we had important values at stake as moral and financial supporters of ARI — as we explained in our post. We didn’t know what Peikoff’s letter implied for ARI’s future, particularly whether ARI would turn away from its policy of “fostering a rational, vigorous discussion of Objectivist ideas” — a policy we greatly valued and supported. We couldn’t ignore Peikoff’s letter and continue to support ARI, as if nothing had happened. Yet we didn’t want to withdraw our support from ARI absent compelling reasons.

Basically, we were stuck in limbo due to our lack of information about what had happened and what ARI’s future policies would be. We didn’t expect that more information would be forthcoming from ARI or Peikoff, after our initial inquiries. Hence, we attempted to gather whatever relevant information we could, so we could make the best possible decisions. In essence, we wanted to learn precisely the kind of information that Peikoff and ARI have now provided.

As to why we published our factual post, we knew that many of our friends felt similarly confused and conflicted about the implications of Peikoff’s letter for ARI and the Objectivist movement as a whole. Many were struggling to understand the basic facts, such as what the “forum” was that Peikoff referred to in his e-mail. We were troubled that so many online arguments were premised on false factual claims — for instance, that McCaskey published his Amazon review before resigning from ARI’s Board.

Also, Diana planned to write a post on Robert Tracinski’s “Anthemgate” essay, which we regarded at the time as an unfair and dishonest attack on ARI. To do that, readers first needed to be clear about the publicly-available facts about McCaskey’s resignation.

For these and other reasons, we regarded our factual post as helpful to people sincerely concerned about these events. And at the time, we received many supportive e-mails from people on all sides thanking us for our factual post.

Notably, during our “fact finding” inquiries, we never asked anyone to breach any confidentiality agreements. We made sure to first secure McCaskey’s permission for the release his e-mails (or to report on his spoken remarks) about The Logical Leap before inquiring with those who received those e-mails (or heard those remarks). We didn’t pester strangers, but only contacted people we already knew. We never asked any ARI Board members for confidential information. Rather, we wrote Yaron and one other Board member we knew to express our concerns as donors. Our motive was not to dig into private matters, but to learn what we could about matters already made public by Peikoff, ARI, and McCaskey in order to guide our own choices. Moreover, we were careful to identify the limits of our knowledge as best we could.

Furthermore, recall that the online debates at the time were highly charged, fast-paced, and divisive. We hoped to help steer them in a more constructive direction by encouraging people to focus on facts rather than engaging in speculation, to remain calm rather than acting in anger, and to keep the full context in any moral judgments. In addition to our public posts and comments, we made numerous private efforts to discourage friends from making baseless attacks or overblown criticisms of ARI, Peikoff, and McCaskey. We think we helped reduce some of the most egregious speculations and wild emotionalism by our public and private comments.

Ultimately, the online discussions snowballed wildly out-of-control, particularly in the wake of the OAC call. To some extent we were caught up in that, and we regret that. However, once the statements by Peikoff and ARI were published, we realized that people (including us) needed time to think rather than to continue the heated arguments, and so we closed the relevant NoodleFood comment threads.

In retrospect, we recognize that we did not (and could not) have understood some critical issues at the core of the controversy until Peikoff and ARI released their respective statements. Most illuminating were their statements about their respective policies for dealing with these kinds of conflicts.

Since meeting with Yaron, we’ve re-examined our choice to make our inquiries and write that factual post. After some hard thinking, we believe that we acted reasonably on the whole, given what we knew at the time. Of course, knowing what we know now, we would have acted differently. But we cannot criticize ourselves on that basis: actions should be judged in their actual context, not in retrospect.

4) Concluding Thoughts

In this post, we’ve tried to give a fair evaluation of the major events and to explain why we acted as we did. On the whole, we attempted to steer the debate in a constructive direction. Yet sometimes we acted hastily, from anger, or based on supposition. That was wrong of us, and for that we apologize.

We’re certainly willing to take any justly-deserved lumps for our mistakes and to learn from them. We’re willing to accept criticism, but we think that any such criticism should be based on our actual actions, statements, and motives — as opposed to inaccurate portrayals thereof. So if you believe that we owe you an explanation or apology for something we’ve done — or if you want the facts about what we’ve done and why — please e-mail us.

Now that ARI has explained recent events and its future policies, we do not regard further debate on those matters as fruitful. Donors, students, and intellectuals can and should decide for themselves the nature and scope of their future support for and involvement with ARI based on their individual context of knowledge and values.

Personally, we’re glad for the clarity we’ve gained from the recent statements from Peikoff and ARI, as well as from our discussions with Yaron Brook. We’re now able to evaluate these matters for ourselves and act accordingly.

We do not plan to offer any further public comments on our views. Instead, we plan to return to our own intellectual and activist projects. During this process, we never wanted ARI to implode over this matter — unlike Robert Tracinski or the supporters of David Kelley. Even when angry and distressed, we still hoped that ARI would weather the storm and thrive. We still want that now, even though our own future relationship with ARI is not fully settled.

For now, we merely want to repeat something I (Paul) wrote on November 2, 2010: “As the current election shows, America needs Ayn Rand’s ideas more than ever, and we need the ARI to help disseminate those ideas.” We still believe that. With ARI’s latest statement, we hope that it will be able to return to devoting its full energy to spreading Objectivist ideas in the culture. We hope they succeed in this vitally important task.

Note: Because we do not wish to fuel any unnecessary further online controversy, we are disabling the comments for this post. Anyone with comments or questions can e-mail us privately.

A Note on Recent NoodleFood Comments

 Posted by on 12 November 2010 at 9:15 am  ARI, McCaskey Resignation
Nov 122010
 

I’ve been completely overwhelmed with the volume of comments on the posts on Dr. Peikoff’s and ARI’s statement over the past two days. I’ve deleted plenty of offensive and rude comments, but I’m sure that I’ve missed others. I was from home most of the day yesterday, and utterly exhausted when I got home. But to be honest, I’m sure that I’ve let some slide that I should not have due to my own frustrations. That’s wrong, and I regret that.

So… if ever you see a comment that you regard as out-of-bounds, please hit the “flag” link at the bottom of the message. Then I’ll review it as soon as I can. Please understand that I’m not at my computer 24/7, so that process might take a few hours.

To be clear, my general policy is that anyone is welcome to express their disagreement with or disapproval of Dr. Peikoff, Dr. McCaskey, Dr. Brook, the Drs. Hsieh, ARI, Craig Biddle, or The Man in the Moon. They’re welcome to agree and praise too. Those judgments should be based on fact, not fiction. They should be explained, not merely asserted. They should be sober and respectful, not insulting.

At this point, however, I’d like to offer a stronger suggestion than basic civility and fairness. You should chill out for a few days, so as to give these matters some serious thought. That’s what Paul and I are doing. If I can figure out how to shut down these comments for the next few days, I’ll do that. (If I can’t do that by technical means, I might do it by fiat.) Frankly, I need the break, as I feel like I’ve got 50 people talking to me at once.

Emotions are running high, and it’s too easy to get caught up in them. That’s not helpful to anyone. So I recommend that you take a few days — alone with your own thoughts, and perhaps in serious conversation with someone you respect and trust — to process what has been said in these two statements. In thinking about the mistakes that others made, you might also think about whether you might have acted better too, given what you knew at the time. Again, that’s something that Paul and I are doing.

With these two statements, we have a new level of clarity about what has happened and what ARI’s policies are. Let’s not squander that opportunity to seriously think about these matters in a fresh light.

Update: For now, I’ve closed the comments on all of these posts, including this one. Now… how about that mosque in New York City? ;-)

Nov 112010
 

The Ayn Rand Institute has posted its statement on John McCaskey’s resignation. Again, Paul and I expect to comment on these matters next week.

Leonard Peikoff Explains

 Posted by on 10 November 2010 at 1:56 pm  ARI, Leonard Peikoff, McCaskey Resignation
Nov 102010
 

Leonard Peikoff has posted a statement explaining why he demanded John McCaskey’s resignation from ARI’s Board. People interested in this matter should read it. I should mention, for the sake of clarity, that Craig Biddle is the magazine founder and I’m the PhD with a podcast.

Paul and I will comment on this statement and some other matters later, likely early next week. Until then, and thereafter, I can only ask that my Objectivist friends and supporters, however upset, strive to be calm. We’re all in danger of saying things in the heat of anger that we’ll later regret, and I’d recommend against that. My hope has always been that the Objectivist movement not self-destruct over this issue, and I still think that’s possible.

My super-strict comment policy will remain in force on this post.

Biddle Answers Questions

 Posted by on 8 November 2010 at 2:00 pm  ARI, McCaskey Resignation, Objectivist Movement
Nov 082010
 

Craig Biddle has posted a short FAQ entitled, “Answers to Questions about ‘Justice for John P. McCaskey’“. This is his reply to various questions he has received on his essay, “Justice for John P. McCaskey“.

 

Note from Diana Hsieh, 22 Feb 2012

If you’ve come to this page via “Checking Premises” or something similar, please note that I’ve written a length commentary on the criticisms circulating about me, including explaining my views of various controversial matters, in this post: On Some Recent Controversies. I’d recommend reading that, then judging me based on my full range of work, not just a few out-of-context snippets. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me privately at diana@dianahsieh.com.

***

In the debate about John McCaskey’s resignation from the Boards of ARI and Anthem, one point of contention is whether McCaskey acted properly in publicly posting Leonard Peikoff’s letter. No one denies that he had permission to do so, from both Peikoff and ARI. The question is whether he had good reason to make the letter public, given the ensuing controversy.

Although I can’t speak for McCaskey, I believe that a person is entitled to defend himself against claims and demands he regards as unjust by sharing the relevant facts with interested parties.

In this case, McCaskey had a legitimate interest in ensuring that he was judged fairly by friends, colleagues, and donors in light of his resignations from the ARI and Anthem Boards. Given the serious accusations made by Peikoff, that required McCaskey to reveal the precise claims and demands made by Peikoff, in Peikoff’s own words.

Furthermore, McCaskey’s resignations from the ARI and Anthem boards would be public knowledge and, given McCaskey’s prominence in both organizations, would be natural topics of public discussion by Objectivists. Hence, as I shall explain below, it was appropriate for McCaskey to publicly post Peikoff’s letter as part of his explanation for his resignations.

At the time McCaskey was considering resigning, for him to request some public statement from Peikoff as to what exactly Peikoff believed McCaskey to have done was reasonable. As we’ve learned, Peikoff subsequently chose to make his previously private letter to Arline Mann as his statement for public consumption — as opposed to editing it or issuing a different statement. That decision was entirely Peikoff’s prerogative. And once Peikoff made that choice, McCaskey was then entitled to use that letter as his basis for explaining his resignation.

In various e-mail and internet discussions, some have suggested that McCaskey could have resigned from the ARI and Anthem Boards without releasing Peikoff’s letter. They further claim that McCaskey should have done so, given how damaging the public release of that letter has been to ARI, Anthem, and Peikoff himself.

If McCaskey resigned without releasing the letter, supporters of Anthem and ARI might naturally wish to know why he resigned. His choices would then include:

1) Giving a false excuse (e.g., “family demands” or “other commitments”).

2) Refusing to offer any reasons (even to friends/donors) and instead remaining silent on the issue.

3) Explaining his reasons, but paraphrasing (without quoting) the reasons cited by Peikoff.

4) Explaining his reasons but only circulating Peikoff’s e-mail via private conversation and/or correspondence.

However,

1) Would have been dishonest.

2) Would require McCaskey to remain silent in the face of suspicions of wrong-doing by his friends, colleagues, and donors that he could only regard as undeserved. A silent resignation would naturally lead people to wonder whether McCaskey had done something wrong to force his resignation — or if he had quit on a lark. But on this approach, he would be unable to defend himself by explaining what had really happened. Expecting him to silently fall on his sword in such a fashion would be asking him to commit self-sacrifice.

A silent resignation would have also been a grave disservice to ARI and Anthem donors who have donated substantial sums based (in part) on confidence in McCaskey’s work and judgment. Many donors, including Diana and me, would want to know the facts, so that we could act on those facts, rather than from ignorance or supposition.

3) Would have strained people’s credulity given the surprising accusations made by Peikoff against McCaskey. Any summary or paraphrasing that McCaskey offered would have seemed incredible, and many people would have doubted McCaskey’s truthfulness. Again, this approach would subject him to unjust moral judgments from friends, colleagues, and donors.

Instead, McCaskey could have been more vague: he could have merely cited some intellectual disagreement between himself and Dr. Peikoff. However, that might have raised doubts about his commitment to Objectivist principles, unfairly so, in his view. Moreover, McCaskey’s resignation was due to Peikoff’s ultimatum, not merely an intellectual disagreement. That ultimatum is essential to any explanation for the resignation, particularly from Anthem, an organization that McCaskey founded. An explanation without mention of the ultimatum would have been less than honest, and it would have only raised more questions.

4) Would have been untenable in the long run. Given the number of people reasonably wanting to know why McCaskey resigned and given the nature of Peikoff’s letter, that letter would have been publicly posted somewhere in short order — but in a far less-controlled fashion.

Such a posting would have created a controversy similar to what we’re seeing now, but with much wilder and more baseless speculations. The current firestorm has been bad enough. But that controversy has been made more manageable by the fact that that McCaskey cited Peikoff’s letter in the up-front, sober fashion that he did, rather than having the letter be first publicly posted on any of the various disreputable anti-ARI websites.

Given these other four alternatives, I think McCaskey acted reasonably in requesting that any accusations against him be made available to the public in a form authorized by Leonard Peikoff himself. That way, others could judge for themselves whether Peikoff’s claims and demands against McCaskey were appropriate.

Of course, people can (and do) differ in their judgments as to whether Peikoff’s claims and demands against McCaskey were accurate and just. But at least the various discussions are made easier by the fact we know in Peikoff’s words, what Peikoff believes McCaskey to have done wrong. Think of how much more contentious any discussion would be without that information.

In summary, McCaskey was morally entitled to defend himself by releasing Peikoff’s charges against him in Peikoff’s own words. If the specific tone and contents of Peikoff’s letter has caused any damage to ARI, Anthem, and the Objectivist movement, then the primary responsibility lies not with McCaskey but with the letter’s author — who chose to authorize its release in that particular form and who has chosen to let that letter be his only public statement on this issue.

Finally, from ARI’s standpoint, the release of Peikoff’s letter has created an unwelcome controversy. They’ve had to divert resources they could have allocated for other uses such as their public outreach, cultural, and educational programs. Personally, I believe that the long-term negative impact on their effectiveness can be minimal, provided that they navigate through the current short-term problems in a proper fashion. As the current election shows, America needs Ayn Rand’s ideas more than ever, and we need the ARI to help disseminate those ideas.

Nonetheless, the conflict between Objectivists on this issue reveals a real divide. That suggests to me that a controversy of this sort was likely to erupt sooner or later anyways. McCaskey’s resignation may have been the trigger in this particular case, but I strongly suspect that some other issue would have eventually arisen that would have created a similar level of controversy.

Hence, we may as well work now to learn what we can from this conflict — and in particular, to identify principles to help us better manage the inevitable disagreements (whether major or minor) between Objectivists. We are paying an unpleasant price right now for the controversy over Peikoff’s letter. But if we don’t pay it now, we will almost certainly have to pay a higher price in the future when the next big conflict arises, particularly as Objectivism becomes more prominent in the culture over time.

As difficult as this conflict has been, I believe that McCaskey did the right thing in releasing Peikoff’s letter. And in the end, I think the Objectivist movement can emerge from this controversy stronger than ever.

Diana helped Paul edit this post, and she agrees with it fully.

 

This morning, Craig Biddle posted the following update to Facebook:

I regret to announce that because of my recent statement “Justice for John P. McCaskey,” the Ayn Rand Institute has cancelled my ARI-sponsored speaking engagements in the coming weeks. These include scheduled lectures at Kansas State U, U of Michigan, U of Minnesota, U of Wisconsin-Madison, and U of California-Irvine. I’m sorry that ARI has canceled these events, and I hope to reschedule them in the near future.

At present, I’m not aware of any further public information on that decision. As much as that worries me, I’d recommend not leaping to conclusions, as I can imagine some reasonable explanations for ARI’s action. Whatever those reasons, I very much hope that ARI explains its decision and its policies publicly. That strikes me as very important now.

Also, I strongly urge OAC students to take advantage of the upcoming OAC call in order to better understand ARI’s position on this whole controversy. (Even though I’m still an OAC graduate student, I won’t be on the call because I’m not currently involved in any OAC programs. They didn’t offer any graduate classes last year, and they don’t seem to have plans to do so this year.) I hope the call goes well, and that it’s helpful to students.

 

Craig Biddle posted a personal statement this morning about Leonard Peikoff’s moral condemnation of John McCaskey. You can find it on his personal web site, here: Justice for John P. McCaskey.

If you’re interested in this issue, I recommend that you read it. Paul and I will have something to say about it next week.

My comments are open to discussion of this statement and related matters. However, my strict comment policy stands: any commenters must be not just civil but also respectful in the process. I will strictly enforce the rule against personal attacks by deleting objectionable posts.

Update 10/29: To forestall any confusions, Paul and I wanted to make one point clear now. Like Craig Biddle, we think that a person can judge Dr. Peikoff’s ultimatum about and moral condemnation of Dr. McCaskey as wrong, while still very much respecting and admiring Dr. Peikoff and his achievements. Moreover, a person can do that while judging the Ayn Rand Institute to be blameless in this matter. That’s basically Paul’s and my view. We have some concerns about ARI’s future, but we regard their silence on Dr. Peikoff’s letter and Dr. McCaskey’s resignation as the right course. Unless something changes, we expect to continue our support of ARI.

Update 11/7: Craig Biddle has posted a short FAQ — Answers to Questions about ‘Justice for John P. McCaskey’ — to reply to questions that he’s received on his essay.

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