Quick Roundup 379

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paul Hsieh in the Denver Post

Paul Hsieh's excellent editorial on "How the GOP Lost My Vote" (via Noodle Food) was recently published in the Denver Post.

[T]he government's role is to protect each person's right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party's embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous.

If a woman chooses not to have an abortion for reasons of personal faith, then I completely respect her right to do so. But she cannot impose her particular religious views on others. Other women must have the same right to decide that deeply personal issue for themselves.
And he hasn't even touched the sprint towards socialism we have witnessed during the Bush administration, which would be bad enough alone!

Having said that, he indirectly does cover it: The Republican's "compassionate conservatism" is really just the misuse of the state to force everyone to practice the Christian "virtue" of charity.

Two Good Editorials on Greenspan

Harry Binswanger noted yesterday the publication of two good editorials on Alan Greenspan that appeared in smaller newspapers. One appears in Montana's Big Sky Business Journal and is by someone I've never read before, Evelyn Pyburn. She opens her article this way:
Anyone who has ever read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, both of which are novels by Ayn Rand, knows that the most dangerous traitor of all is the compromiser. Quite ironically as a former Ayn-Rander, Alan Greenspan proved Rand’s point most dramatically before Congress, last week.
The other one appears in the Grand Junction Free Press, and is by Linn and Ari Armstrong.

Objectivist Roundup

Blogging while I travel is a very hasty affair, and I frequently forget to contribute to roundups as a result. So this week, I am not in the roundup, which is posted over at Rule of Reason.

It's not about her.

Stephen Bourque isn't just alive and kicking. He's blogging, too, and has a good post on why mentioning Ayn Rand every fifth word isn't exactly the best way to raise the level of an intellectual discussion:
With this in mind, I would not wish to grant my intellectual foes a favor by contributing, however inadvertently, to the idea that Objectivists are followers of a "gospel according to Rand." When I argue points with friends and colleagues, I do not frame my statements in the form, "Well, Ayn Rand said..." or, "As an Objectivist, I believe that..." Why should this convince anybody? Listeners (or readers) who disagree with Ayn Rand to begin with will not be convinced by merely repeating her position on matters, and those who are unfamiliar with her work should not take her - or anyone else's - word for it. Anyone who is worth arguing with should care only about facts and their connections to principles. Mentioning Ayn Rand every few sentences would do more harm than good.
His focus is on intellectual activism, but he takes LB's essay, also worth a read, on the personal importance of the philosophy as his point of departure. And watch out for an interesting identification there regarding a common saying. I was lucky enough to have had my teach me that very distinction when I was very young. And no, Dad was not an Objectivist and, I am sure, had never heard of Ayn Rand at that age.

-- CAV


Mike N said...

Good point about not incessently using Ayn Rand's name in arguments and/or essays. I do think using it is ok when a quote source is required. But to advance the truth of her principles, one must be able to verify them using one's own process of logic. And when questioned on that, one's own ability to reduce to the perceptual level.

Kyle Haight said...

While I think Stephen Bourque makes a good point, it's also important not to go too far in the other direction. When I'm discussing philosophical or political issues, I argue the issues, but I also try -- at least once, often as an aside -- to indicate a connection between my views on the issues and Ayn Rand. This is particularly important if the person I am talking to seems intrigued by my position, because it gives them a pointer to follow-up on their own time.

We should not lean on Ayn Rand as a crutch covering an inability to argue issues from a first-handed perspective, but we shouldn't act like we're ashamed we owe her an intellectual debt either.

Gus Van Horn said...

Mike and Kyle,

I fully agree with each of you on your points.

Importantly, being able to articulate her ideas in one's own words is crucial to understanding them for oneself, which is the most important reason for gaining an understanding of it.


TommyC said...

I think it's a good thing to say "As on Objectivist..." when making a point (pursuant to the previous comments, i.e. this is not the reason given for your assertions). It lets people know that there is an integrated framework of ideas from which you are basing your comments. (Of course, this requires that you truly do understand the philosophy and can legitimately say you are an Objectivist; but if this is the case, then I don't think you need to worry about merely arguing from intimidation, i.e. by using her name as your only defense.)

Gus Van Horn said...


I see why you would want to do that, but there are better ways to indicate that you're arguing from an integrated body of ideas.

The problem with the phrasing "As an Objectivist" is that it is confusing because so many religious people use just such a formulation, and then to someone who has never seen a coherent body of rational thought (as opposed to a set of commandments), you SOUND LIKE you're guilty of the same type of thought process.

Sure, "As an Objectivist, I hold selfishness as a virtue," may be literally true, but why are you an Objectivist? Because the philosophy is supported by the facts and ties in with your previous thinking. "I am selfish because my life depends on me gaining the values I need from reality in order to live and flourish," is much more convincing and conducive to further discussion.


Jim May said...

There is another phrasing that I dislike along these lines:

"Only Objectivism has the solution/answer to..."

While this is eminently true in a lot of cases, it will IMO lose you a lot of audience; most people read that as a highly dismissive "No one else is worth considering on this issue". At least that's how I usually read it. I try to phrase it in a manner which reads as something like "So far, the Objectivist approach is the only one addressing all the points...."

Btw Gus, thanks for the meetup at the Ginger Man, Diana and I enjoyed it ... I wish we'd had more time to see more of the city. As it is, I get back to work in a few hours, and don't get another break until Turkey Day ;P

Gus Van Horn said...

Likewise. I'm glad to hear you arrived home safely.