Last week, I listened to Leonard Peikoff’s podcast question on the election results. Given my strong disagreements with his October statement on the election, I wasn’t too surprised to find that I disagreed with much that he said. However, I didn’t expect to disagree with almost his whole analysis.

Here, I want to focus on two points: (1) the reasons why people voted for Obama over Romney and (2) the “catastrophe” of these election results. However, before reading my comments below, please listen to Dr. Peikoff’s statement for yourself. It’s less than five minutes long.

First: The Voters

Peikoff claims that the election shows that some American sense of life is left, but less than he thought earlier. He claims that Obama effectively bought off the country, and that something like 47% or 50% of people are only concerned with handouts from the federal government. He claims that immigrants are coming to America en masse for the sake of the welfare state, lacking any American sense of life.

Such claims cannot be substantiated. The election concerned a wide range of topics, and people voted for one candidate over the other for a wide range of reasons. Yes, some Obama voters wanted their government handouts, but I know many people who voted for him for other, better reasons. Similarly, some Romney voters wanted to impose a social conservative agenda, but I know many people who voted for him for other, better reasons. Also, we should remember that most people just barely care about politics. As a result, they’re remarkably ignorant about even the basics of political events and elections.

As I explained in this blog post, this election was not any kind of referendum on fundamental values that could magically reveal America’s sense of life. Contrary to the claims of some Objectivist intellectuals of late, a culture’s sense of life is complex, multi-faceted, and far deeper than politics. It cannot be fairly judged by yet another election between two statist candidates of slightly different flavors. Judging America’s sense of life on the basis of this presidential election is about as reliable and fair as judging a person’s sense of life based on which of the two abysmal movies he chooses to see at his small-town duplex. (For a lengthy discussion of cultural sense of life, see Ayn Rand’s comments in “Don’t Let it Go” in Philosophy: Who Needs It.)

Much of the problem, of course is that Romney didn’t just run an “empty campaign,” as Peikoff claims. Romney wanted to initiate a trade war with China, crack down on illegal immigration, massively increase military spending (presumably for even more pointless and debasing wars abroad), force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, socialize medicine at the state level, and deny gays the right to marry and adopt children. Such positions are not “empty.” They are deeply wrong — and they clash with better elements of American culture, including its respect for individuals and their rights.

I do not blame ordinary voters for refusing to vote for Romney due to these abysmal positions of his. Even many Obama voters determined to preserve entitlements and subsidies were not motivated by personal greed for handouts, as Peikoff claims, but rather by a confused stew of semi-altruistic ideals. That’s bad, but it’s not the same as being bought off.

Undoubtedly, Obama will be worse than Romney would have been on many issues. Undoubtedly, Obama’s spending is dangerously out-of-control, and ObamaCare will be entrenched over the next four years. I fear another financial crisis. Yet the fact is that Romney didn’t even campaign for economic liberty. Instead, he consistently me-too’ed Obama on taxes and regulations, he supported state-level ObamaCare, and he planned to continue to spend like a drunken sailor. The result was that the two candidates didn’t look terribly different to voters, even on economics.

Second: The Catastrophe

Peikoff describes the election as a “catastrophe,” “the worst political event ever to ever occur in the history of this continent,” and even “worse than the Civil War.”

Let’s get some perspective. The secession of the southern states threatened the very existence of America, including the union of the northern states. The secession of the southern states, unless crushed, would have set a very dangerous precedent in which secession would become the solution to any political dispute. As James McPherson describes in his stellar history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom, the secession of the southern states inspired northern states and cities to contemplate their own secession from the union. (Bye-bye, New York City!) The result of that would have been very bloody anarchy. Lincoln knew that, and that’s why preserving the union was his primary objective.

However, preserving the union was not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The Confederacy might have won the war, particularly given the skill of Lee in comparison to the string of abysmal Union generals before Grant and Sherman emerged in the west. An independent Confederacy would not have been content to remain in its own territory: its longstanding agenda was to create an “empire of slavery.”

Also, the Civil War killed over over 600,000 Americans. Proportionately, that would equal about six million people today. That was truly catastrophic.

The secession and Civil War constituted a grave existential threat to the United States. To say, as Peikoff does, that it was known that “freedom and normalcy” would return at the end of the war is false. Americans didn’t know who would win the war. They didn’t know what kind of government or nation they would have after the war. And they didn’t know what freedoms would or would not be respected and upheld by the government after the war. Such is only known to us now, when the historical perspective smooths away the painfully rough edges and unknowns of the past.

Another four years of President Barack Obama will be damaging, undoubtedly. (Four years of Romney would have been damaging too, just in somewhat different ways.) Yet that cannot be fairly compared with the Civil War: they’re not even remotely in the same category.

In addition to the comparison to the Civil War, Peikoff said that Obama’s re-election means that “it’s going to be four years of a government single-mindedly out to destroy America at home and weaken it abroad.” Such a dire prediction is not supported by Obama’s record or by his plans. With the House controlled by the GOP, Obama will not even have the latitude that he did in his first two years in the White House, let alone any “single-minded” government at his disposal. Moreover, when is government ever “single-minded”?

Obama is not a defender of individual rights by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, as I explained in my own post-election podcast, his views are significantly better than the Republicans on some important issues. Hence, Obama’s second term offers hope for strengthening abortion rights, reforming our insane immigration laws, and repealing of the Defense of Marriage Act. Those would be positive developments not possible under Republicans.

Peikoff also indicated that totalitarian dictatorship was now perilously close, although “even after four years [of Obama], it is too early to achieve complete totalitarianism.”

Undoubtedly, America has its share of political problems. Many of those problems are quite serious, and most are unlikely to improve under Obama. Still, I simply cannot take secular apocalypticism seriously: the full context of facts paints a very different and far more hopeful picture of our future. Moreover, as I explained in this post, accurate political prediction are nearly impossible even for those immersed in the political news, and Peikoff’s 2004 prediction about the effects of a second Bush’s term is grounds for doubting his current prediction about the effects of a second Obama term.

In my view, the roots of American culture run deep — deeper than Peikoff and many other Objectivist intellectuals seem to think. On the whole, America respects the rule of law, free speech, and political dissent. It lauds achievement, technology, and hard work. It values honesty, integrity, and justice. These core values were not undone by this election, nor revealed to be illusory. They cannot and will not be undone by four more years of Obama in the White House.

America will survive Barack Obama — just as America survived George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and so on. America will survive Barack Obama — just as America would have survived Mitt Romney.

The Way Forward

Unfortunately, many Objectivists have been griping of late about how the election revealed the supposedly dismal state of the American culture. That’s unwarranted and unproductive in my view. You don’t win hard-working, responsible people over to your side by painting them as America-hating welfare queens.

American culture is far from perfect, but it’s improved tremendously in recent decades in many ways, as Dr. Eric Daniels explained in this interview on Progress in American History. Still, I recognize that free market ideas have taken a beating of late. The cause was not Obama: Obama just cashed in on the utter failure of the pragmatism and “compassionate conservatism” of George Bush and his fellow Republicans. Honestly, I’m slightly relieved that Mitt won’t be able to inflict further damage of that kind on America, as he surely would have done.

At this point, instead of bemoaning the abysmal state of American culture, advocates of free markets need to start asking themselves: “Why aren’t these ideas resonating with more Americans?” That’s a critical question to ask because many, many Americans are intelligent, thoughtful, hardworking, fair-minded, benevolent, and reasonable people, yet they don’t understand or support free markets.

I will not blame Americans for that disconnect. I want to strengthen and leverage the genuine values and virtues commonly found in Americans, whatever their political views at present. It’s my job as an intellectual to figure out how to do that well, not bemoan the supposed death of America.

Personally, my focus with Philosophy in Action Radio is finding effective ways to persuade people to embrace the principles required to live happy, healthy, and joyful lives. I want to strengthen people’s understanding and practice of justice, independence, responsibility, rationality, and other virtues in their relationships, careers, and parenting. Based on the growth of my audience (here too), I’m doing something right.

Basically, my goal is to foster people’s rationality and value-seeking — and thereby create a more rational, value-oriented culture. I don’t often gripe about the current state of politics. When I discuss politics, I much prefer to discuss the contours of a free society. I’d rather offer a positive vision of what the future can and ought to be, rather than bemoan the problems of the present.

Over the past few months, I’ve realized that promoting a free society requires more than just the usual “moral arguments for capitalism” typically offered by Objectivist intellectuals. For most people, such arguments are too far removed from their daily lives and values to even capture their attention, let alone resonate with them. That’s part of why the surge in interest in Ayn Rand hasn’t amounted to much cultural or political change, including in this election.

In my view, lasting advances in freedom require that people connect political liberty with their own deeply-held and actively-practiced positive values. First and foremost, people need to personally experience the benefits of pursuing their values on the basis of rational principles. Before they can understand and embrace rights as a principle, they need to live by reality, reason, and egoism as dominant themes in their lives. In essence, political activism can be worthwhile, but it cannot create cultural change by itself. Ultimately, I think, political change depends on cultural change, and cultural change depends on personal change.

Over the course of decades on the air, religious conservative advice talk show host Dr. Laura gradually drew that connection between practical ethics and politics for the religious right, and we’re reaping her bitter fruit today. We need to use that same method to create a culture that preaches and practices reason, egoism, and ultimately, rights.

I’m not belittling political activism. It matters, and if that’s what you want to do, that’s wonderful. My point is that lasting political change requires strengthening the basic philosophic values of the culture, at a deeper level than most Objectivists suppose.

America has time to do that, in my view. So as I work on it via Philosophy in Action Radio, I’m busy enjoying all that America has to offer, culturally and economically, thanks to the fact that we are still a fundamentally free society. That’s what I was most grateful for during this delightful Thanksgiving holiday.

  • http://funwithgravity.blogspot.com/ mtnrunner2

    I’ve tried several times to listen to Dr. Peikoff on practical matters, but after his totally off-the-mark estimate of the 2008 elections I bailed out entirely. The above statements about being close to totalitarianism reinforce my dim view (pun intended). I guess I need my premises checked, eh? Although I do intend to read The DIM Hypothesis.

    I took the idea of voting for Gary Johnson under serious advisement this year, however I simply ended up voting for what I regarded as the lesser of two catastrophes (Romney). Unfortunately I have almost nothing positive to say about him, which is awful!

    I would agree that we still need to change the way people think before we can have any kind of major victory. Gary Johnson was not limited to 1% simply because there was this huge constituency of people on the fence who didn’t think he could win. He only got 1% because a significant number of people actually think Romney is right. They think that America means freedom, but we need Medicare and we have to keep Mexicans out and “defend” marriage, etc. Seriously. We have a long way to go, and I think it depends greatly on younger generations that don’t have these bad ideas.

    However, thanks to a better independent intelligentsia (outside universities) there is actually a debate beginning about real issues. That is definitely a reason to give thanks.

    My goal lately has been to get the term “individual rights” out there, and to contrast thought vs. coercion. That provides a good lead into economic issues that are topical.

    PS – You and Paul are doing great! Thanks!

    • Andrew Dalton

      What was Peikoff’s “totally off-the-mark estimate of the 2008 elections”?

  • Ash Ryan

    Again, amen! I had much the same thoughts when I heard it.

    I also thought it was odd that Dr. Peikoff echoed Romney’s own excuse for why he lost the election (that Obama somehow simply “bought off” nearly half the country).

    And I thought his remarks on immigration were particularly strange in this context, as immigrants did not win the election for Obama—after all, they still have the lowest voter turnout of any demographic group (which makes sense, as I assume illegal immigrants generally can’t even register to vote!). And the idea that immigrants are flooding into America to take advantage of welfare handouts is flat-out false, and just plain offensive—as if America is now the biggest welfare state around, and no longer the land of opportunity at all. I’ve read that as a group, illegal immigrants actually put more into the welfare system than they take out (for instance, in Social Security withholdings from their paychecks, and being unable to take Social Security benefits when they retire), Most illegal immigrants that I know of work two or three jobs to support themselves and their families back home, not on handouts but on what they earned through hard work.

    Anyway, your post covered the major points very well, that was just one other issue that I found particularly wrong in Dr. Peikoff’s analysis. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.haight Kyle Haight

    Diana says “My point is that lasting political change requires strengthening the basic philosophic values of the culture, at a deeper level than most Objectivists suppose.” I’d like to make a parallel observation: effective political advocacy requires tying policy issues to values in terms that the target audience can grasp first-hand. In today’s concrete-bound culture this requires going beyond basic philosophic values. Because many people don’t know how to (or don’t see the point in) connecting their specific values to abstract ideas, we need to be able to sketch the links for them and to teach them the benefits of doing so themselves.

    This is hard, particularly for people who already have a strong commitment to abstract political principles. It’s easy to say “This policy violates individual rights, so it’s immoral and should be abolished.” It’s also unconvincing — not only to people who don’t value individual rights, but even to people who do but don’t see the connection to their own concrete values.

    Here’s an interesting exercise. Ask yourself what specific, concrete values of yours have been damaged or destroyed by the increasing loss of freedom in the country. Don’t stop with generalizations like “My money is taxed away” or “Things cost more because of regulations.” Having less money, or having to pay more for things, means there are specific things you can’t buy that you otherwise would have — a vacation, a house, a better car, an earlier retirement, a second medical opinion on a lingering health issue, a better education for your children, beef instead of chicken for dinner. You should be able to come up with a really long list of such things, major and minor. (If not, well… why are you concerned about the loss of freedom?) The first time I tried this I found it surprisingly difficult, but that’s what it really means to grasp how the loss of freedom harms you, personally. And that’s what we have to be able to show to other people: that supporting anti-freedom politicians and policies means throwing away their concrete values.

    There’s another benefit to this exercise. Sometimes, in the process of identifying the concrete values you think you can’t have because of the loss of freedom, you discover that you actually can still have them with a bit of thought and effort. It’s easy and seductive to decide that you can’t successfully pursue some value because of some government exaction, and simply never try — and never trying means never succeeding.

  • http://smukalla.com/ Daniel Smukalla

    Fantastic posts! I’ve been waiting to read this.

    Your solutions for the future are inspiring and motivation. Much more positive than having a screaming match with an uninformed voter and calling them a lotter and rotter.

    “Ultimately, I think, political change depends on cultural change, and cultural change depends on personal change.”

    Such a beautiful line! I may have to quote that line in future discussions.

  • shemsky

    Why shouldn’t secession be a (peaceful) solution to political disputes? Do you think that individuals or groups of individuals have an obligation to remain in associations that they don’t wish to remain in? It sounds to me like you’re putting the welfare of the state above the rights of individuals.

    The northern states should have disolved ties with the slave states, and kept those ties disolved until the slave states abolished slavery.

    • http://www.philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

      I don’t believe in any right to secession, because that can only lead to anarchy. (As for why I’m opposed to that, see: http://www.philosophyinaction.com/archive/2012-10-28-Q2.html )

      In some cases, not secession, but the dissolution of a political union can be a fine thing, as in the case of Czechoslovakia. However, that has to be done with the consent of all sides, simply because the countries can be better governed apart — not because one side is committed to the enslavement of millions.

      Moreover, in the case of the south, the southern states would never have been willing to limit themselves to the south. They were deeply ideological and expansionist: they would have fought for western territories, invaded Cuba, and demanded that the north recognize their slaves as property.

      For the north to have permitted the south to secede would have worked as well as appeasement worked with Hitler, and for many of the same reasons.

      • shemsky

        So you’re saying that if one group of individuals are being discrimintated against and/or taken advantage of by the rest of the political body, they still need the consent of those that are treating them unfairly to break the political ties that bind them together? That sounds unreasonable to me. I’m not talking north vs south here – you said you don’t believe in any right to secession.

        • http://www.philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

          Just to be clear, I do believe in a natural right of revolution. But… I don’t want to be arguing about secession on this thread. It’s too far-afield. I’ve got another post on the topic that I’ll try to get fixed up and posted sometime soon, and then we can argue about it there to our heart’s content.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sherrykarr Sherry Karr

    Great post. Peikoff’s podcast was really hard to listen too – I am tired of doom and gloom generalizations. Thank you for writing on specifics, and giving good reasons to back your statements that are based on the reality of who Americans actually are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.a.gainey Karen Adair Gainey

    “I’d rather offer a positive vision of what the future can and ought to be, rather than bemoan the problems of the present.” Excellent. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Lewis/100000672376450 David Lewis

    This analysis is simply stunning. I think you’re misrepresenting Peikoff’s analysis. For example, you said:

    “To say, as Peikoff does, that it was known that “freedom and normalcy” would return at the end of the war is false. Americans didn’t know who would win the war.”

    This is not what Peikoff said. He said “…at the end, everyone knew that freedom and normalcy would return.” Did he mean that everyone knew what would happen at the end of the war? Or, did he mean that, after the war was over (i.e. “at the end of the war”), everyone knew that normalcy would return. You obviously took him to mean the former.

    However, he goes on to draw a comparison to the end of this election. It’s over. Now, at the end of it, we don’t know that any kind of normalcy will return. At the end of the civil war, we still had a country. We returned to normalcy. I think the analogy stands – we have uncertainty even as we are certain about the outcome of the election.

    What’s worse, 600,000 died in a bloody civil war. You estimate that it would be about 6 million people today. Will 6 million people die because of Obamacare? Based on what I know of the law, it’s certainly plausible, possible even – possibly more deaths. You run Modern Paleo, you’re familiar with how shitty peoples’ health can be by following a SAD. Obamacare opens the door pretty wide for death panels and serious rationing of services. Millions of people could realistically die due to non-availability of life-saving drugs or medical interventions because they are “not worth the money.”

    While you claim that Peikoff makes unsubstantiated claims, some of your claims are equally unsubstantiated. For example, you claim Romney wants to, “force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term”. This is sort of true, but deserving of some fact-checking. When asked about abortion, Romney said,

    “Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are. That’s not where America is today. Where America is is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in the country, terrific.” source: http://factcheck.org/2012/07/twisting-romneys-abortion-stance/

    To be fair, that’s a horrific statement. But it doesn’t mean he would force women to carry unwanted pregnos to term. While leaving it up to states to decide the issue is awful, it would still be possible to get an abortion in more liberal states or states where conservatives weren’t *that* conservative. That’s pretty scary, but not *as* scary as an all-out abortion ban.

    You also said, “socialize medicine at the state level”. I agree that Romney liked his healthcare plan, and that’s a shame. But I am a little confused about some of the details of Romney’s plan for the rest of the states. And, that’s because it seems like Romney himself was confused. His campaign did say, “We will give the state initiatives and money so that they can manage these decisions on their own. But, of course, we’d like them to see them continue that pre-existing band [sic] for those who have continuous coverage.” source: http://factcheck.org/2012/10/whats-romneys-plan-for-preexisting-conditions/

    Does that mean Romney would socialize medicine at the state level? Not exactly. It means he’ll let states decide if they want to socialize medicine. Again, I think some states would do this. Others might not. It’s scary, but at least I would have the option to move to a state that didn’t impose draconian healthcare laws. My choice just got a lot harder with a national healthcare law.

    This piece seems like you’re giving Obama a pass on some things. Did Obama voters vote because of some confused altruistic ideals? Possibly. Pew Research shows that most people really want fewer government services and a smaller government overall. However, we just voted for a president that promised to expand government in more than several ways, so there’s a disconnect there. Were people “bought off?” I find this claim interesting, because in some ways I think so, and in others I think not.

    Obama did very well, demographically, among people who needed something. For example, he did well in states with very high unemployment. That doesn’t exactly spell out peoples’ motivations, but there are handouts to be had by voting for Obama – tax money (i.e. subsidies for education and job growth) from rich people, for example. I think it’s a reasonable assumption that some – perhaps many – were “bought off” in some way or another though I don’t know of any study that confirms that.

    Finally, while I think it’s great that your show is doing well, I think you miss the mark on the “usual moral arguments for Capitalism” – in scare quotes. I assume they are scare quotes since it’s not clear that you’re quoting anyone. You juxtapose this to your approach, stating that people need to, “connect political liberty with their own deeply-held and actively-practiced positive values.”

    I think people tend to do what they think is right. They might not think in terms of political principles, but I think their sense of right and wrong bleeds over (to some extent) into their decision on who to vote for every 4 years. Is there a need for a distinction between a moral case for capitalism and a practical application or connection between rational values and political liberty (i.e. capitalism)? I don’t think so – not if the moral is the practical. Maybe some arguments don’t do enough in the way of concretization, but that’s not what’s being argued here.

    You claim, ” For most people, such arguments are too far removed from their daily lives and values to even capture their attention, let alone resonate with them. That’s part of why the surge in interest in Ayn Rand hasn’t amounted to much cultural or political change, including in this election.”

    I disagree, at least in part. There is some good evidence that people *are* being influenced in some way to favor smaller government and fewer government services – even if they agonize over the actual implementation of such ideas. Pew shows that:

    “The survey also finds that far more voters continue to favor a smaller government with fewer services than a bigger government that provides more services. Currently, 56% say they would rather have a smaller government providing fewer services; 35% prefer a bigger government. These opinions have changed little over the course of Obama’s presidency. In October 2008, however, opinion was more evenly divided (46% smaller government vs. 40% bigger government).” source: http://www.people-press.org/2012/09/24/for-voters-its-still-the-economy/

    This suggests that more people favored big government as Obama took office. After his election the first time around, there was a pronounced shift in the culture. People wanted less government. This correlates to a spike in sales of Atlas Shrugged. Was it caused by Ayn Rand’s ideas? Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but I think it’s a mistake to completely discount the correlation as a mere coincidence not worthy of additional study or consideration. I also think it’s a mistake to underestimate the possible efficacy of Rand’s ideas in just the last 8 years. Even Obama felt the need to respond to Rolling Stone about Ayn Rand. That would never happen if he didn’t think she was a threat on some level. You don’t take shots at dead people who you think are insignificant. I doubt that question would even be raised by RS if she weren’t having an impact of some kind on the culture.

    Americans are still very confused, and I do think stressing the positive is better than harping on the negative. At the same time, the negative is very real. I think America will probably survive Obama, but I also think we’ll have bigger bruises than if we had elected Romney, at least in the short-term. Right now, I think the short-term is crucially important. This wasn’t a ho-hum election. Come to think of it, each election seems increasingly important. At the end of every four years, government is bigger. It’s just a matter of how big it gets. In that respect, I think Romney might have been a better choice.

    I, too, was thankful on Thanksgiving for the freedoms I have left. But I was also not as happy as I wanted to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davbauc David Baucom

    An auspicious article in which I see wisdom and depth in its “mountaintop-view” addressing of complexities… And regardless of my (un)certainty as to how apt it was, your metaphor of the “choice of two abysmal movies at the small-town duplex” was well-conceived.

    I’m mixed though on it. Some points of contrast…

    You say: “In my view, the roots of American culture run deep — deeper than Peikoff and many other Objectivist intellectuals seem to think…. These core values were not undone by this election, nor revealed to be illusory. They cannot and will not be undone by four more years of Obama in the White House.” But the issue is not “undoing,” but rather (strong) *eroding,* is it not? I’m prone to agree about core values being deeper…. But I remind myself: that is only at present. We can’t base our thoughts of the future on our sense of average social character today…

    Going further, you say: “America will survive Barack Obama — just as America survived George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and so on. America will survive Barack Obama — just as America would have survived Mitt Romney.” But to my point of *erosion*: America *didn’t* survive these presidents *intact*, did it? 2000′s incarnation of American health care didn’t survive intact after Bush’s prescription drugs benefits program. And 2008′s incarnation of health care didn’t survive Obama’s first term. Each administration paved the way to a worse situation. Erosion, erosion, erosion — at a steadily increasing pace — is not best painted as “survival.”

    I think you should give Peikoff a pass on saying Romney had an “empty campaign” — I took that to mean on his lack of asserting of American spirit, values. Romney didn’t aggressively campaign on most of those bad issues like abortion, and I think “empty” wasn’t an unfair term for the same reasons you outline in your last “Voters” paragraph on how alike Romney was to Obama. Is “vacuous” slightly better? I think it’s what Peikoff meant.

    You say: “He claims that immigrants are coming to America en masse for the sake of the welfare state, lacking any American sense of life.” Well, he did say: “We are increasing rapidly the number of the population that never shared the American sense of life.” And yes, seemingly to the contrary, you, Francisco G., myself, and Binswanger have all observed that immigrants today are generally not the handout types: As Craig Biddle noted recently, the foreigners who yearn for (and deserve) to come to America to work are *more American* than the “ersatz Americans” who live here now as welfare parasites. But Peikoff’s full point is one which abstracts the issue further into the future and invokes a principle which seems solid if not unassailable: “If you combine immigration with a welfare state, there is no possible way out except to attract people from all over that want those favors….” If we keep expanding the welfare state *and* expanding immigration to those who don’t share the American way of life, that can only lead to more parasitism and a devolution of American culture. So his statement about “increasing the number of the population who don’t share the American sense of life” in that sense seems parabolically set toward being more and more true, regardless of the “good immigrant ethic” around today. I agree with you and Francisco about the latter, but to Peikoff’s point, how can it hold?

  • http://twitter.com/SnowDog2003 Snowdog

    Good analysis, except for your conclusions on the Civil War, namely that secession would have led to ‘bloody anarchy’ and an ‘empire of slavery’. That’s all conjecture, and yet you’re willing to sacrifice 600,000 American lives for it?

    People have a right to secede. There is no such thing as an unaccepted obligation, and none of the people living during the Civil War were a part of the union’s creation. The forcible union of the southern states with the north was just the action of a large gang using brute force to dominate its weaker neighbors. No one has a moral right to subjugate another. Not the southerner to the slave, nor the northerner to the southerner.

  • http://twitter.com/aforgottenman –Rick

    Wonderful commentary…between some of Dr. Peikoff’s more recent postings and Dr. Brook’s cuddling with libertarians at every corner I am beginning to wonder if the Ayn Rand Center leadership is beginning to lean away from Rand and more toward the likes of David Kelly…Objectivists seem to be as confused as Republicans about their identity and overall philosophy. Since when did a border determine an individual’s motives?

  • Ian L

    I think Obama’s reelection does signify something more sinister than you write. I don’t think it’s the end of the world, but I do think it is a sign that America does want a more active and large government in their lives.

    It also struck me as nearly hypocritical for your to say Piekoff can’t possibly predict how Obama’s second term is going to play out, but then in the next paragraph you declare that it isn’t going to be so bad. How do you know?

    • Ian L

      I would like to revise my comment. I don’t think you claim to know how Obama’s term is going to go, but I think you might be downplaying the effect he will have on rights violations.

      • Ian L

        *He could have.

        • http://www.philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

          I could be underestimating the evils of Obama’s second term, undoubtedly. Much will depend on what the GOP in the House does: I expect some but not enough resistance from them. In general, I see a range of likely better and worse outcomes for this second Obama term. (Note: By “better,” I merely mean “less bad,” not overall good. Still, I think that Obama could do genuine good on particular issues, notably immigration and gay marriage.) None of those likely outcomes — or even the unlikely outcomes — comes remotely close to being a catastrophe of the magnitude of the Civil War.

          Also, on the merits of political predictions: my view is that the particulars of any president’s term are nearly impossible to predict. Even people who follow politics as a profession are sure to embarrass themselves with such predictions.

          As for seeing Obama’s re-election as a sign that “America does want a more active and large government in their lives,” that might be true, but I don’t think that can be inferred from the election results. Elections are not philosophical referenda, and that’s particularly true in this case, given that Romney didn’t offer any credible alternative. Romney wanted an “active and large government” to meddle with different aspects of people’s lives than did Obama.

  • Laura

    When is the blogger going to publicly apologize for her shameful, unprovoked, lengthy and public personal attack on Chris Sciabarra?

  • jackcade

    Seems to me that Peikoff is correct – socialised medicine permanently destroyed liberty in the UK and it will do the same to the US.

    With the left openly announcing their final triumph in the educational establishment, the US does seem to have hit the fatal iceberg.

    ‘“I’m ecstatic,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. “This has been the third rail of education, and the fact that you’re now seeing half the nation decide that it’s the right thing to do is a game-changer.”

    Who is Arne Duncan? Obama’s Secretary of Education. This is the guy who targeted “white suburban moms” for opposing Common Core, Duncan’s personal project to bring all American children under the federal government’s thumb.’

    http://ruleofreason.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/teaching-for-indoctrination.html

   
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