TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Further Thoughts on Why Objectivists Should Actively Campaign for Romney-Ryan

I’ve received many emails, comments, and questions about my endorsement of Romney and Ryan—too many to answer each one individually. So, as time permits, I’m going to address some of the recurring themes and questions here on TOS Blog.

The most common question I’ve received is, “Why do you call for actively campaigning for Romney and Ryan rather than just reluctantly voting for them?”

The reason I call for actively campaigning for them involves a few related points, and to see why they add up to grounds for a strong endorsement, you must view them together, as an integrated whole. I indicated these points in my original endorsement, but this is an important and highly complex issue, so I’m happy to elaborate.

The first thing to note is that either Romney and Ryan are going to win the election, or the Nihilist in Chief and his Band of Destroyers are going to remain in DC for another four years. I regard unprincipled religionists who have at least some respect for businessmen, technology, moneymaking, property rights, and freedom as substantially less dangerous than principled leftists, who loathe all of these things and actively seek to destroy them.

Although Romney and Ryan are statists, they aim to violate rights at a slower rate and in less immediately destructive ways than do Obama and company. Granted, the ways in which Romney and Ryan seek to violate rights are very dangerous (e.g., outlawing abortion), but the ways in which and the extent to which the Nihilists seek to violate rights—from trampling the First Amendment to aiding Islamist regimes to crushing or nationalizing entire industries—is substantially more dangerous, at least in the short term.

We need time to educate people about the moral foundations of capitalism. Such education is a prerequisite of major and lasting political change. And a Romney-Ryan administration would afford us more time to educate people than would the alternative.

The second thing to note is that no matter how hard the left tries to sell the notion that Ryan is an Objectivist, thinking Americans will not buy it. Ryan has stated explicitly that although he likes Rand’s novels and appreciates some of her ideas, he rejects her philosophy—and the conservative media are eagerly helping him spread the word about this. Further, Ryan’s Catholicism is obviously at odds with Rand’s fundamental philosophy and ethics, and his political views and voting record are clearly at odds with the principle of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.

Nor will thinking Americans buy the notion that Rand is a conservative. On major issues—from education to abortion to immigration—Objectivism and conservatism are clearly at odds, and both Objectivists and conservatives are happy to explain this fact to anyone who is confused on the matter.

Even so, given Ryan’s statements of appreciation for Rand’s books and ideas—statements ineradicably strewn across the Internet—the left will continue to say that he is an Objectivist, to quote his earlier and more sympathetic statements about Rand, and to say that his plans and proposals are applications of Rand’s ideas. Consequently, Ryan and conservatives in general will continue to deny that he is an Objectivist, to name differences between Ryan and Rand, and to deny that he is employing her ideas.

All of this works to our advantage.

If Ryan becomes vice president, we will have four years, possibly eight years—and then possibly another four or eight years—of Ayn Rand’s ideas being constantly discussed in the media, in boardrooms, at cocktail parties, in college classrooms, and so on. We can take advantage of this by writing, speaking, and explaining to people how any rights-respecting policies in question are in concert with Objectivism, how any rights-violating policies are not, and how to tell the difference. We can explain what rights are, where they come from, and how we know it; what rational egoism is, why it is the morality of life, and why altruism is the morality of death; what reason is, how concepts are formed, and so on. Most importantly, we can recommend Rand’s books and essays that will help people gain deeper knowledge of the issues in question. In short, we can help to rapidly educate large numbers of Americans in ways we didn’t think possible just a few weeks ago.

The urgent need to oust Obama combined with the urgent need to spread Rand’s ideas makes Romney and Ryan worthy of active support—coupled, of course, with the necessary qualifications, clarifications, and criticisms.

In the run-up to the last presidential election, I wrote an article titled “McBama vs. America” in which I explained why I regarded Obama and John McCain as essentially similar and equally unworthy of support. The current situation is different. Romney is not as awful as McCain, and Obama has proven to be worse than anticipated. The most significant difference, however, is that whereas Rand’s ideas were in no way connected to any ticket then, they are connected (however inaccurately) to the Romney-Ryan ticket now.

Ayn Rand’s ideas are true—but they can save America only if they are disseminated, discussed, and applied. A Romney-Ryan administration would provide an unprecedented opportunity to disseminate, discuss, and apply them.

If the goal is to see Obama ousted, Romney and Ryan elected, and Ayn Rand’s ideas spread, then voting for Romney and Ryan is a good strategy—and campaigning for them in addition is an even better one.

The bottom line is this: Our alternatives are a Romney-Ryan administration, a slower rate of increase in rights violations, and a great deal of discussion of Rand’s ideas—or four more years of the Nihilist, a faster rate of increase in rights violations, and likely far less discussion of Rand’s ideas.

One of those is markedly better than the other. I think it is worthy of active support.

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Creative Commons Image: monkeyz_uncle

Posted in: Ayn Rand and Objectivism, Politicians and Candidates

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Rod Gonzalez

    Mr. Biddle, As usual, you are right on point. This country, and what ever freedoms we may have left, cannot afford another Obama term. The Romney-Ryan team will at least give us time to continue finding that rare freedom minded candidate. Thanks for all you do.

  • Ilene Skeen

    The Simple Difference:
    Left/Right Dilemma vs Ayn Rand’s Vision

    The left and right believe in coercion. The left believes in economic coercion and social freedom. The right believes in social coercion and economic freedom (at least somewhat greater than the left).

    Ayn Rand said that the ideal system guarantees social and economic freedom. Not freedom from failure or freedom to loaf, but freedom to be left alone to pursue one’s own happiness in a society which is dedicated 100% to choice and 0% to the initiation of the use of force by any individual, group or government.

    Both the left and the right say that some people have more rights than others and the government’s job is to pick winners and losers of whose rights need to be sacrificed to whom. The left/right dilemma is that in the field of rights, there are always winners and losers. If that sounds like a contradiction, it should because it is.

    Ayn Rand says that ALL people have equal rights and the government’s job is to protect individuals from the initiation of force by any other individual, group or government.

    To further elaborate, Objectivists know that actual rights cannot be in conflict and if rights appear to be in conflict, it is a mistake, an error, not a fundamental flaw of the universe. Contradictions cannot exist in reality. At least one of the positions must be wrong!

    The US is in a hole, but Ayn Rand’s vision is the way out. If Objectivists can bring Ayn Rand’s ideas to the mainstream, more people may be willing to admit that the current system is failing and neither left nor right have the solution. The second step is the idea that a solution is possible, and that’s where Objectivists need to step up and promote a society dedicated 100% to choice and 0% to the initiation of the use of force by any individual, group or government.

    This is a very simple principle. It has never been tried.
    The new book, “Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government” by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, should get all the help it deserves to be part of the election discussion. The message is simple: INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM IS RIGHT, INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM WORKS, THE UNIVERSE DOES NOT REQUIRE SACRIFICES.

  • Walter Hudson

    It’s fascinating to watch this argument play out, because the same argument is going on amongst libertarians, conservatives, and philosophically hodge-podged tea partiers. Imagine what could be accomplished politically if these desperate groups could unite under the logic presented above, that either Romney or Obama will be elected president and that the choice will have meaningful consequences.

    There is a prominent idea among many activists that one’s vote is some kind of sacred endorsement of everything a candidate has ever said or done. But political endorsements are never comprehensive affirmations of everything a candidate stands for. They are always compromises which take place in the context of available viable options. Voting for Romney, endorsing his candidacy, and working on his behalf does not bind one to him philosophically.

  • Anonymous

    Craig, I am circling a bit tighter around the bait. Yet, part of your argument is not proving out. This is not a deal killer, but my concern yesterday was that Ryan’s stated contradictions and, essentially, bald-faced lies regarding Rand and Objectivism would simply be red meat for the left.

    Specifically, the left’s intelligensia will argue just the opposite, that Ryan is not, nor never really was, a devotee of Rand and Objectivism. They will be the ones who immediately come out and simply point out that he used Ayn Rand as a means to ingratiate himself to the Tea Party crowd.. That the minute he was criticized by the real power players in the GOP (the religious right) he will immediately return to his actual philosophy and disavow her categorically.

    Well, just this morning I see that this is, in fact, exactly what the left is doing. Lawrence O’donnell (I know, I know, he’s a nightmare) is all over this with a stinging review of Ryan, the GOP, and Ayn Rand.

    So, the actual opportunity here is that the left will be cheering on Ayn Rand’s stated positions to illustrate the utter extremism of Ryan’s present positions – such as outlawing abortion, and interventionism by the military.

    This is an unusual and bizarre reaction by the left, but ought not be surprising.. You have to admit, it is interesting that at this point to see an avowed socialist such as O’donnell using Ayn Rand’s philosophical consistency as a gigantic club to beat over the head of Paul Ryan.. it appears that it doesn’t matter who wins, vis-a-vis publicity regarding Ayn Rand.. That, in fact, Ayn Rand may actually win irregardless the outcome of the election…

    As for the state and health of the country, I am circling closer still.

  • David Elmore

    Again, I agree, Craig, with both of your points: 1) buy more time to create an Objectivist critical mass and 2) foster an environment more conducive for the discussion of Rand’s ideas.
    I think the “buy more time” argument should be an objective value. If Objectivists agree that we need lots more time to build our critical mass, and we agree that there is one presidential nominee seemingly capable of doing that, then that nominee becomes an objective value, no matter how unprincipled he is. If he is an objective value, then campaigning for or extolling him (while simultaneously critiquing him and exposing Rand’s ideas) becomes an objective value.

  • Fernando Daza

    Whatever success obtained by objectivism to reach people´s mind´s at this point in time has been achieved in a restless, autonomous way. I personally believe people should suffer the consequences of their mistakes for their minds to open to new ideas. Endorsing the Romney-Ryan formula expecttin to ¨buy¨ some time it´s a mistaken, opportunistic strategy. I wonder of Rand´s thoughts about this matter??

    Cualquier logro que haya alcanzado el obejetivismo a este momento se debe a una lucha autonoma para llegar a la mente de las personas. soy de los que piensa que la gente debe padecer las consecuencias de sus errores para que sus mentes se abran a nuevas ideas. el oportunismo de apoyar la formula Rommney-Ryan para ¨ganar¨ tiempo solo trera confusion y retrardara el avance. Me pregunto que habria pensado Rand sobre esto??


  • Anonymous

    R/R are certainly altruists, but I think it is going too far to call them statists: their political goals are not explcitly what Obama’s goals are. Further, I think you need to contrast the 2 positions more (by not applying that term to R/R) going forward in your “campaigning.”

  • James Beley Jr.

    Well said… thank you for mensioning context.

  • James Beley Jr.

    Perfectly said. More time for Objective philosophy to work is indeed an objective value. Anyone who disagrees is context dropping… and that’s a dangerous game.

  • James Beley Jr.

    Strongly agree…
    “Ayn Rand’s ideas are true—but they can save America only if they are disseminated, discussed, and applied.”
    … and this takes time. Let’s actually survive long enough for our grandchildren to see this happen. I believe survival is still on the objective value list, yes?

  • Michael Henson

    If you’ve been hesitant to sign on so far, consider the magnitude of what you just said about the Left’s reaction. If they expect to use Rand as a weapon against Romney/Ryan, then the Left will be *forced* to approach Rand’s philosophy honestly – for the first time in history – if they want to maintain the illusion that they are respectable intellectuals. They will be up against the fact that anyone who can and does read has all of her source material available from any bookstore – physical or electronic – and can easily judge their description of her ideas for himself.

    With Romney/Ryan, they have to face her out in the open. If they want to maintain the respectability of any part of their worldview, that’s the one thing they can never, ever do.

  • David Blankenau

    How much better do you think it could it be if the ticket was Ryan-Romney instead of Romney-Ryan? Just wondering…

  • Mark Laughlin

    Given that I expect the economy to be horribly worse by 2016 regardless of who is elected, I worry that the voting public will at that point say “objectivist” ideas were tried and failed and turn sharply left again. Perhaps better to let the wreckage fall down around Obama’s head to help the public see clearly the source of their problem.

  • David Elmore

    It doesn’t matter WHAT is being said in the political and media realm about Rand over the next few months or years, per se. What does matter is that they are being SAID – sparking the curiosity of those in the world who are largely honest and independent in their thinking (the only people who are actually attracted to Rand anyway). They will make up their own minds.
    By way of an analogy, how many of us Objectivists have heard horrible things about a personage in history or a person in our circle of acquaintances? And then when you actually investigate the personage or extensively communicate with the person, you realize what was said was categorically mistaken. I think this kind of scenario will play out thousands (or hopefully millions) of times over the coming years concerning comments about Rand.

  • Anonymous

    Michael, I appreciate your comments. And I agree with your point that by using Rand they will be taking a complementary risk…

    The video by O’Donnell is very telling. It points out the left is circling Ryan like sharks in freshly bloodied water right now. O’Donnell’s references to Rand were only partly honest; he is using them as a means to simply point out the extremism and dishonesty of Ryan (and by extension the Tea Party and the GOP) as compared to Rand (whom the left generally abhors).

    The short snip taken out of context about the family unit not mattering is a glimpse of what their M.O. will be going forward. So, for the expediency of the media moment, from the perspective of the left, this is very effective.. It tends to energize their base.

    How this will or can manifest going forward remains to be seen, but at the end of the proverbial day here we still have two political machines hell bent on furthering the inversion of the individual to the state. This is the core issue to me in evaluating active support, or to simply hold my nose and pull the GOP lever because the fiscal crises demands it.

    Like I said, I am circling the bait but not ready to bite.

  • Steven Stoddard

    I’m tempted to think of this as almost like a “perfect storm.” First, Obama exposes the nature of socialism much more starkly than expected. Then Ryan brings Ayn Rand, i.e., the solution, into the discussion. It feels like history has moved into the fast lane. (Or jumped on the John Galt express…)

  • James Hughes

    I am not so confident that the privileges to big business that Romney will uphold distort the market and violate rights less than the policies of the other ticket.

  • Anonymous

    Our civil discourse out here at TOS Blog plainly supports Craig’s thesis.. It is evidence that we are serious, willing to think and evaluate our position in this particular political issue, and most importantly care deeply about defending and promoting Objectivist ideas .. as opposed to simply spitting out personal attacks or engage in bandwagon politics.

  • Steven Swenson

    I seem to remember, reading somewhere, that that’s one of the strategies of the left. To try to set their own rules that give them an advantage and then force you to play by your own rules.

    They’re free to be as contradictory as they wish. But they’re going to call out Romney/Ryan every time they are perceived to be doing something contradictory.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    And there is some kind of false perception that voting for a lesser evil is not still voting for evil. That making a pragmatic decision based on subjective reasoning is somehow consistent with objectivist ideology. Subjective reasoning is the antithesis of objective reasoning.
    What good are your principles to you or to anyone else if you willingly set them aside when it is inconvenient or not practical?
    If you cannot make a sound, fact based, consistent with reality argument in favor of your ‘practical alternative choice’ to Obama being re-elected – a choice that is not subject to reasonable scrutiny (such as some of the arguments against this post in my other comments which obliterate the arguments presented here with real-world historical realities about Ryan’s so-called promotion of ‘objectivism’ and ‘Rand’ – which is nothing of the sort) then your reasoning is purely pragmatic and therefore subjective in nature – NOT objective.
    It is akin to saying “Well guy A wants to cut off people’s legs and a lot of folks are voting for him because they assume if they do he will cut off ‘other’ people’s legs and not theirs. Guy B only wants to break peoples legs so many of us are going to vote for him because at least that means our legs won’t be cut off. Guy C says he will stop all harm anyone’s legs, but no one supports him so I’m going to vote for B.”
    The only guy in that scenario that is not responsible for harm coming to people’s legs is C.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Furthermore, political endorsements are going to be perceived as a general support for what the candidate generally represents. If you don’t like Romney, if you didn’t like McCain or Bush or Dole, or Bush 1, etc. what do you suppose is going to let the RNC know that you don’t like Romney as a choice when you go ahead and vote for him anyway out of ‘expedience’?

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Don’t kid yourself. Obama is not seeking socialism. Socialism is a means to an end. Obama not unlike the RNC schills is seeking Oligarchical fascism. Limited numbers of government elites controlling, but not being responsible for, as many aspects of the economy as possible. Socialism is just the vehicle he is using to promote his candidacy. Is poverty really going down? Are the have nots really improving their lot under more than 100 years of progressive legislation? Is wage disparity increasing or decreasing? Is government getting smaller or bigger?
    And as I have already mentioned twice, Ryan has dismissed objectivism rather succinctly.

  • Paul Hsieh

    I plan on “actively campaigning” for good ideas and good policy proposals (as I have been doing all along).

  • RussK

    Craig: I am now considering voting for Romney, but I still don’t know if I could actually do it; that will depend on what they say from here on out. I think Ryan is going to get into step with Romney, which will help kill my enthusiasm. I still do not accept the idea of actively campaigning for Romney, nor buy into the idea that Romney is better than Romney in any important sense–at least McCain was more honest in his style of conservatism. Because there are so many of Romney’s positions that Objectivists cannot support, I see no way we could actively campaign for his ticket. Objectivists need to speak out on all the wrong positions held by the candidates, as well as set the record straight on Ayn Rand, so as to not let the media define her ideas. Additionally, and for the reasons mentioned above, I’m saddened about the prospect that there may not be an Obomney article in the same light as the McBama one you wrote.

  • Steve Ingalls

    Gimmee a break. Are you saying that all outcome-based decisions about voting for president are examples of percept-bound pragmatism? Are you saying that tactical thinking eschews principles? Are you saying that my vote in a specific presidential election carries the weight of an entire political philosophy and bad outcomes that result represent a complete failure of my integrity? Just want to be sure that’s really what you’re saying.

  • Pablo Romero

    Considering that they both have voted on legislation that allows marriage (that is, a civil contract between two consenting individuals) to be defined solely as between a man and a woman in accordance with their religious ideas (DOMA)– calling them statists is quite accurate. They believe in using the force of government against the individual for their own reasons. The only thing in which they disagree with the Democrats is on what spheres of the individual’s private life should the government be dictating through force.

  • Brennan Cheung

    It sounds like all of us are in agreement that Romney is the lesser evil. I find it strange however that people use the pragmatic argument of choosing the lesser evil when Ayn Rand was clearly against pragmatism and would not endorse candidates that were close but still not ideal.

    The argument has been made that people will become more familiar with Objectivist ideas if Romney is elected. While Ryan has said he favors Objectivism he has clearly demonstrated the opposite (much like Greenspan).

    Clearly Ryan is not endorsing Rand right now and Romney seems quite far from here ideology as well. What evidence is there that more people will be exposed to Objectivism with Romney/Ryan than just the passage of time regardless of who is in power.

    Besides, if the argument can be made that a Romney/Ryan presidency means Capitalism and Objectivism—which clearly it will not—then the Left will say, “See, we tried it and it doesn’t work.” LOSE!

    If there is a significant number of people voting 3rd party the media are more likely to cover it and THAT will bring more exposure to alternative principles. It will also convince more people to come on board. See the TED talk entitled “How to Start a Movement”. You will take away 2 things: the first few make all the difference, and the minority can quickly become the majority. WIN!

    If the Republicans begin to think they can not win the election because too many people are voting 3rd party then they may be forced to adopt some of those principles. WIN!

    Using the proverbial frog in boiling water, I say choose what is principled. If it ends up being that Obama is elected then things will certainly get much worst. But with only these 2 options things are going to get worse regardless. At least if things get worst quicker people will realize it. If it slowly gets worse then I fear people will not recognize the problem and be complacent.

    If any of you have read the book “Starving the Monkeys”, the author makes the argument that a fast collapse is preferable to the a slow collapse. I would happen to agree with this as well. Read the book, or whatever else you can find on it, for the explanation.

  • Anonymous

    “Statism holds that man’s life and work belong to the state…and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.” (AR)
    R/R’s social views, however altruistic, do not appear to be so threatening and ‘Statism’ does not fit in a significant way. Thus, I would like to see a stronger distinction made between the candidates in order to defeat Obama.

  • Steve Ingalls

    Can we put an end to this strange idea that Ayn Rand would only ever vote for ideal candidates? From Robert Mayhew’s Ayn Rand Answers: “I endorsed Nixon in 1968, not very enthusiastically, on the premise that he was the lesser of two evils. But I no longer think I can vote for him.”

    Rand, Ayn. Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A. NAL Trade, 2005. Print.

  • Stuart R Scott

    Compromise is a strong, negative word when you ask someone to support a candidate who doesn’t share your views.I believe as you that compromise is the only way to go in our situation. Four more years of Obama is an intolerable burden that our country might not survive.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    re: “The first thing to note is that either Romney and Ryan are going to win the election, or the Nihilist in Chief and his Band of Destroyers are going to remain in DC for another four years ”
    This is blatant pragmatism. And pragmatism is not objective in nature. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy when people who should know better fall into ‘consensus’ wish-thinking instead of standing on principle. To admit a choice is less than ideal, especially when there are far superior (albeit, less likely) alternatives such as Gary Johnson is abandoning principle for the sake of expedience. And it tends to disregard a great many given realities to arrive at it as anything close to a rational choice. It is in fact a rationalized choice.
    There are circumstances where following what appears to be pragmatic reasoning is in fact in line with rational thinking. But I do not think either of them apply here. The first is when there really are only two choices – but in any free election there is never just two choices. Even if there are only two names on a ballot, you always have the options of either abstaining or writing in another name. So that case will never apply as long as we have free elections.
    The other case is when the one alternative is sooooo bad that it’s consequences are akin to a survival choice (avoidance of death) and therefore stopping it is more important than standing on principle. This is the argument most are making in support of a ‘against Obama’ vote for Romney, but I don’t think it is justified in reality.
    First, the executive is not only branch of government. Part of the problem with Obama is a legislative branch that is either incapable or unwilling to do their job and stop his abuses of executive authority. So balance any presidential vote decision with active and ongoing activism in the local and state elections. (support candidates even outside your own district if they are worthy so that the house and senate properly challenge the over-reach by the executive regardless of who wins).
    Second, the ‘alternative’ must be a significant enough improvement over the choice you are trying to prevent to justify choosing it. I don’t think, based on the record, that you can make this assertion about either Romney or Ryan. They are peas in the same pod, just maybe not as blatant and a little more ‘right friendly’. The best you can hope for may actually be a worse scenario than 4 more years of Obama. i.e. they lull the current tea party and 99% dissent back into complacency while the progressive core of DC re-gears to continue the endless procession of incremental growth. Nothing changes, things just slow down a little until the uproar settles back to lethargy! Nice fix!

    Or, you can stop promoting just ‘change’ via wish thinking and pragmatic reasoning and actually seek the beginning of a real solution!
    Gary Johnson, 2012

  • Scott Webster Wood

    I am saying that there will be no significant change in American politics if there is no significant change in American politics. It seems like a no brainer, but I began to notice the complaints of many people about their politicians boiled down to the same essential things: lack of conviction or principles, hypocrisy and going back on stated principles, equivocation and compromising on key issues, essentially behaving pragmatically after elected. Well how do you suppose you are going to get anything other than pragmatic representatives when you vote pragmatically to get them? You are in fact being represented!
    There is absolutely nothing in a Romney vote that will discourage the RNC from giving you yet another Romney. You are communicating to the Republican establishment that as long as they can continue to put their favorite son in place and convince you that the ‘alternative is worse’ you will blindly follow their lead and support their schill as long as the other option is perceived as worse.

    Give me a break! This is rational how? This is little more than someone arguing:

    Well candidate A wants to cut off people’s legs and a lot of people are voting for him expecting that he will cut off other people’s legs to their benefit.
    Candidate B is only advocating ‘breaking’ people’s legs so a lot of folks that don’t want their legs cut off are voting for him because they think he has a chance to win.
    Candidate C wants to stop all harm to legs, but no one supports him, therefore I’m voting for B.
    (the only person in that type of scenario that is not responsible for harm being done in the event of an A or B win is C – I prefer to do the ‘right’ thing, not simply what is practical. I suggest you look up pragmatism on the Rand lexicon if you think that any flavor or form of it is in any way ‘objective’ in nature – it’s not)

  • mtnrunner2

    I’m far from enthusiastic but I agree. The opportunity to talk about Rand, and the opportunity to get rid of Obama are very good reasons.

    And frankly I regret voting Democrat last time (in protest more or less), since the Religious Right is still fairly marginal, the left is at least as morally righteous, and the passage of the health care bill was an utter disaster.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    And based on Rand’s explanation of Pragmatism (not my own) can you say for certain what any ‘outcome’ will be? Can you predict the future with absolute certainty? And tactical thinking is fine, so long as you do not ignore realities in the process.
    What did the first four years of Obama give us? It gave us the upsurge of Tea Party sentiment. That gave me hope, but the nomination of Romney tells me that either they still don’t get it or too many of the ‘right’ as a whole are still drinking the coolaid. Perhaps four more years of Obama would convince more people just how bad the ideology of statism is.
    The fact remains, Romney represents a similar statism, just a different flavor of it. Changing the flavor will just switch the nature of the opposition, not strengthen any alternative. At least not by itself. All you need do is look at historic elections going back more than 100 years to see evidence of this. (Progressivism is not new by any stretch, it reaches back all the way to Teddy Roosevelt if not even somewhat in Abraham Lincoln although not identified as such at that time)
    Some argue of a ’split vote’ and point to things like Ross Perot as an example. Fair enough, but Perot didn’t constitute an ideological alternative to either party, but more of a distilled subset of conservatism. Of course he siphoned off conservative votes! Yes, Gary Johnson was originally a Republican candidate and holds many conservative views, but he is by no means a typical conservative. He was ignored by the RNC because of this differentiation. He has appeal to that illustrious ‘independent middle’ that supports neither conservative or liberal ideas consistently. He will siphon off votes from both sides with his common sense ideas.
    But imagine what even a Johnson loss of any significance would do. It would not only raise his views onto the national scene (many of which are quite consistent with the political views of Rand, even if not identified as such) and it will send a bold and clear message to both parties that the status quo is suffering by way of support. Even with a loss, it will send a message to BOTH the RNC and the DNC that if they keep putting forward the same kinds of candidates, they are going to start losing support to more reasonable alternatives.
    However, I am not convinced that a Johnson vote is an automatic loss. The dissent on both sides – Tea Party and OWS – share some views with the Johnson platform. Those in both camps upset with the current choices could benefit with a Johnson vote. But money and exposure are not in his favor. I would assert that if he got more exposure, more people would support him and it could very well have a snowball effect. And, in fact, that is how he won his first term as Governor of New Mexico. (at the start of the NM primary season, only 2% of people polled even knew who he was – but he won)
    With that said however, if people that ’should’ know better blindly follow the tried-and-true (failing) approach of pragmatic reasoning and voting based on practicality rather than on sound principle and conviction, no – Johnson or anyone else representing a true positive change and real solution will ever win and we are all fucked!

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

  • Pablo Romero

    If you don’t think it is threatening, ask the tens of thousands of couples that are deported and separated each year. Thanks to Romney and Ryan’s support for DOMA, same-sex couples who marry are ineligible to sponsor their partners for naturalization and immigration in the way that heterosexual couples are. Thanks to Romney and Ryan’s rights-violating mixed-bag approach to immigration- which is the prevalent approach in the GOP- it is nearly impossible to obtain residence, much less citizenship, unless one has very powerful people and employers pulling the strings for you.

    Considering that these lives are ruined because people like Romney and Ryan believe that the state has the right to mandate that only a marriage contract between a man and a woman be recognized as legitimate- how exactly is that not “disposing of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good”- considering that Romney and Ryan’s platform to support DOMA is “to save the institution of marriage” and “for the greater good?” It seems to me that the evidence leans heavily towards R/R being statists- social engineering is another branch of statism. Whether you want to rationalize away the fact that they are not is another thing altogether, but the shoe fits.

  • Pablo Romero

    Indeed, Nixon only appeared to be the lesser of two evils. But as Miss Rand soon realized, voting for the lesser of two evils is still letting evil through the door.

    A chinese strategist by the name of Zhuge Liang once pointed out that marshalling your forces into a lost battle was foolishness, when you could instead divert them for a counter-attack and retake the lost ground with fresh troops. Right now there is the option of giving Gary Johnson enough votes to be a significant contender in the next election cycle. Unlike all other candidates on the ballot this year, including Ron Paul, Johnson speaks bluntly, clearly, and his position is backed up by his record (which is more than can be said for Romney or Ryan, much less the nihilists.) It is extremely naive to think that somehow Romney and Ryan will turn back the tide of Obamacare and Medicare: they are religious altruists, they will compromise on the grounds that we are our brother’s keepers and will capitulate, perhaps even expand Medicare.

    Both of these men have acted in ways that violated the individual rights of others in favor of their religious dogmas (the backing up of DOMA, their stances on stem cell research, abortion)– what makes anyone think that they will not violate individual rights on the economic sphere as well, if there is enough of a religious impetus? One does not sit at the table with a cannibal merely because said cannibal uses a knife and a fork. Actively campaigning for these men is to endorse a course of action one hopes they will take– but said course of action is impossible, it goes against the very core of the beliefs which they hold true.

  • Tony Palmeri

    1) There is a fairly high likelihood of *three* Supreme Court appointments during the next Presidential term. Just something to think about… There are *long* term consequences that go beyond just the next four years.
    2) Scott WW: Your accusation of pragmatism is unfounded and wearing thin. You keep ignoring, denying, or evading the fact that someone *could* have a principled reason for concluding that their best option is to vote for Romney. You may disagree with the line of reasoning, the *relevant* principles involved and the context where those principles apply, or assumptions about what is likely to happen in the future depending on the outcome of the election — but falsely accusing everyone who disagrees with you of “pragmatism” will not win anyone over to your side.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Ryan says early on he was inspired by Atlas Shrugged but completely disagrees with Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. Obama was inspired to teach constitutional law, but he completely disagrees with capitalism. So maybe capitalists should not only vote for, but enthusiastically support Obama since it’s going to mean more exposure for the subject of captalism?

  • Todd Walton

    Damnit, I’m upset. Any Objectivist *could* have been making these very same arguments about Ron Paul, who has also expressed support for Ayn Rand, has a son named Rand Paul that people assume is a reference to Ayn Rand (but which is not), and would have been far far better about rights than Romney and Ryan.

    But it was so damned important to eschew Ron Paul because he is called a “libertarian”, and so many vocal Objectivists are against any kind of association with libertarianism.

    But if someone as thoughtful and intelligent as Craig Biddle can say “the association with Rand will be wrong, but we will get the opportunity to refute it! it’ll be great!”, then why the hell couldn’t we have done the same with Ron Paul? Where were these arguments when Paul had a chance?

  • Alex Holland

    I am not yet convinced that actively campaigning for R&R is a good idea. There are few things more complex or more difficult than predicting the specific evolution of society. Speculating on one particular possibility, even when based on reasonable facts and assumptions, has a high probability of being wrong. Craig makes the hopeful prediction that actively supporting R&R would help slow the growth of statism , and engender wider discussion of Rand, whose ideas would win out among the more rational because they are true. As much as I would like to agree, another possibility is that the statist policies of pragmatic conservatives continues to help drive society toward inevitable crisis. Leftist marketing machines, cultural and main stream media biases heap reams of direct blame for the crisis on Capitalism and Rand’s ideas, helped by explicit support of those more principled, while further discrediting these ideas in the minds of the wider non-philosophical public and drowning out any counter arguments or rational criticism from sources such as the Objective Standard. As evidence for this possibility, consider the housing crisis and how the general public came to view “unregulated Capitalism” as the cause.

  • Keith Sketchley

    People aren’t thinking logically about the difference between voting for someone and campaigning for them. Obviously either one advances their probability of winning. A big factor in elections is the voters who don’t bother to vote. Beyond that are those who aren’t strongly motivated to work for the candidate, so may not bother to. But there is no contradiction in doing both – if the candidate is not worth helping they aren’t worth voting for, as by doing either or both you are helping them get elected. As for Ryan’s candidacy giving publicity to Ayn Rand’s ideas, you’ll have to see how that plays out – the left may realize they are shooting themselves in the foot by publicizing her, at least in the long run. That Ryan explicitly recognizes “natural rights” is also good (though he probably does not understand them well) as it is a most worthwhile subject that of Objectivism can put a proper foundation under. As usual, the quandary objectivists find themselves in is a Hobson’s Choice. Each voter must make the best decision in a messy arena. Predicting the political future in the near term is not possible – guesstimating is, and that forms a basis for a decision. I expect many people will disagree that Obama is worse than expected – his badness was predictable from his ideology and behaviour. I could point to at least one way in which he better than expected – military action. (GWB talked good but did not act strongly enough. I reiterate the choice is a judgement call as to which is the lesser evil – debaters should recognize that, to keep perspective. PS: says that Ryan has a relatively good record on climate and energy. IIRC McCain did not.

  • Anonymous

    Russ, thanks for your comment. I agree and have repeatedly said that Objectivists should speak out against R&R’s rights-violating proposals and policies, and that we should state or clarify Rand’s actual ideas whenever possible.

    As to the the issue of enthusiasm, I am not enthusiastic about Romney and Ryan qua politicians; I’m enthusiastic about the possibility of a slight slowing of government spending, a slight decrease in the rate of rights-violations, and a substantial increase in discussion of Rand’s ideas. Her philosophy is the only thing that can save America, and we need every minute we can muster to spread it.
    If Obama had not proven to be as evil as he is, and if Romney hadn’t selected Ryan as his veep, I may well have penned “Obomney vs. America,” and, as you can imagine, it would have looked pretty similar to “McBama vs. America.” But the situation today is different: One of our alternatives is clearly better than the other.

  • Anonymous

    I think that would be much better. Alas…

  • Justin Oliver

    Rand endorsed Barry Goldwater, and I don’t see much difference between him and Ron Paul.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Technically speaking, most of the increase in interest in objectivism and Rand we’ve seen in the last 4-5 years has been the result of Obama. I’d even argue the original comments on Atlas Shrugged by Ryan were at least in part an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of some of that growing interest. If the argument is that we should not only support but enthusiastically promote Ryan (dispite his statements that he ‘completely disagrees’ with the philosophy of objectivism) because of he allegedly increases attention to objectivism, Obama is by far more responsible for the growth of attention to O’ism than Ryan.
    If it’s not a valid reason to promote and support Obama, why should it be a reason to promote and support Ryan?

  • RussK

    Craig, thank you for the reply. You continue to hammer home your very reasonable position on how proper it is to support the Romney-Ryan ticket for this election cycle. Additionally, your newest blog entry, “Principle vs. Pragmatism in Supporting Romney-Ryan” gives further reason why the ticket should be supported: one can’t list in bullet form all the differences between Romney-Ryan and President Obama, but the article does a good job presenting the current, most important ones. I have no doubt now that debt and economy are the most important issues for this election.

    One argument I usually make in regards to not voting, is that, if one continues to vote (Republican), the only candidates that will be elected in the future will be the same old rights violating politicians. Unfortunately, the stakes may be too high to abstain or register a protest vote in this election.

  • David Blankenau

    Assuming that you’re right and Obama WAS one of the biggest factors in Ayn Rand’s resurgence:
    the difference-maker is that Romney/Ryan are NOT hell-bent on actively, INTENTIONALLY destroying America. That fact alone may buy us some much-needed time to educate more people on the proper moral principles of a free society. At any rate, Obama has outlived his usefulness in this respect.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Now you are making an apples-oranges argument. The (apple) assertion was we should support Ryan because he will increase interest in Objectivism. Obama is more responsible for interest in objectivism than Ryan. So why not vote for and enthusiastically support Obama then if that is the specified reason to support Ryan?
    As far as your argument (the orange), that you assert Obama is ‘intentionally’ trying to destroy America – yet Romney supports many of the very same policies that Obama has been criticized upon by the right (Patriot act, NDAA, bailouts, nationalized health care, even mandates, etc.) what difference does the ‘intention’ make if the results are identical? Is that the consolation prize?
    “Well at least Romney didn’t set out to destroy the country when it was destroyed”

  • Scott Webster Wood

    And you aren’t considering the difference between your vote supporting the candidate in the only way the parties give a crap and your vote reflecting your lack of desire to support crappy candidates. The RNC has 0, zilch, nada, nichivo, bupkiss, none, nil motivation to stop giving you crappy alternatives to Obamas/Clintons/Kerrys/etc if you keep voting for the crappy alternatives they give you.

  • David Blankenau

    What good is increased interest in Objectivism if this country is destroyed before we can make it a permanent fixture in our political/cultural debate? The RATE of destruction is key here. With Obama/Biden, we have very little time left. With Romney/Ryan, we buy TIME to win the minds of the American people.

    Yes, Romney and Ryan support a number of rights-violating policies, but at least they are SOMEwhat open to IDEAS, and will slow down the rate of America’s destruction (which is far more than can be said of Obama/Biden). At this point, that’s as much as we can hope for from our current collection of statists.

  • Greg Gerig

    I’m having to pinch myself here, for all of the usual reasons. Here we have a vigorous argument in condemnation of Mr. Biddle’s qualified endorsement of the Romney/Ryan ticket, on the grounds that it represents “ignoring realities” and that “voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.”

    We read a little farther and find, from this same writer, a qualified endorsement of… Gary Johnson?

    We are talking here about the same Gary Johnson whose grasp of rudimentary philosophical identification is so inept and/or corrupt that he’s pledged his enthusiastic “solidarity” with the most openly-coercive anti-individualist, anti-capitalist and anti-liberty organization in existence in America today: “Occupy Wall Street” – apparently on the basis of a pinpoint Venn diagram intersection on the issue of corporatism.

    “Ignoring realites,” indeed.

    [On February 12 last I did a thorough piece on the contemptible absurdity of freedom-loving people (to say nothing of objectivists,) attempting to make common cause with "OWS," posted at the Santa Monica Tea Party's Meetup site here: ]

    There are two operative references that bear on this debate. One is the clear admonition of both Miss Rand and Dr. Peikoff that philosophy does not dictate how one should vote in elections – conversely that differences on strategy in voting do not render one “inconsistent with objectivist philosophy.” Since there is not, and likely never will be, an American Presidential candidate who is consistently objectivist, by the above standard there could never be a candidate who is worthy of an objectivist’s vote. I say: bunk.

    The other is that context-dropping is not a sound method of evaluating any question – in this case, the context that given that there is no objectivism-consistent candidate in this election, any choice other than a refusal to vote altogether is *of necessity* a pragmatic choice – within that factual context. Given that context, the individual voter is left with the task of, indeed, choosing the best from a collection of non-objectivist candidates, based entirely on political strategy.

    I submit that a politician not only incapable of identifying the nature of an organization violently hostile to every single value recognized under objectivist philosophy, but who actually *supports* that organization, is orders of magnitude worse than a candidate of mixed premises who nonetheless labors under no such catastrophic blindness.

    Come to think of it, there is a third reference that bears review here: Peter Schwartz’ 1985 article “Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty” – every bit as relevant today as it was then. You’ll find it reprinted in the collection “The Voice of Reason.”

  • Scott Webster Wood

    equivocate moar now. OWS is about as diverse as any tea party gathering. Yes, there are a number of anti-american, pro-progressive government expansionists in the crowd, but I’ve seen an equal number of anarchistic, anti-government-anything para-military militia types at tea party gatherings. We can mince and pick and choose which particular individuals we wish to use when casting demonizations on this group or that, or we can look at ‘reality’ once again and realize that there are a lot of people who participated on both sides who simply wanted an end to cronyism and corruption in government.
    I’m not a fan of OWS because of a lot of the overriding or underpinning influence of the statist types. But I also recognize from many interviews that I have seen that there were a number of people with good points in the crowd – barring the idiotic college students wanted exemptions from their student loans, etc.
    You can drink the coolaid and take on the opinion of whatever the spin machines on one side or the other ‘want’ you to think or you can think for yourself and examine the realities that exist all around you.
    I have never been hesitant to admit that Johnson appeals to BOTH the tea party sentiment and much of the sentiment expressed by many OWS participants. Many people at both events are fed up with the special interest bullshit! So why not support a candidate, that instead of towing the party line and trying to marginalize this group or that, instead appeals to both?

    To quote him directly from his interview on news after he visited Zuccati park:
    “Well, I found outrage over the fact that there is inequality in this country. That government favors well connected individuals, groups, corporations, as opposed to a government that is supposed to create a level playing field for all of us to be able to live and prosper in. [..] I share in the outrage over the fact that, really, it isn’t a fair system. It should be, but it’s not, and I think in many cases [..] for the most part it’s not about criminality on wall street, it’s about that they were not allowed to fail. I would like to just summarize it that everybody is outraged over the inequity and I hope it gets focused on the fact that government, perhaps, is at the root of all of this.”

    Do you disagree?

  • Greg Gerig

    #1. Read my article posted at the SMTP Meetup site. To repeat, it is located right here:

    I will not waste my time repeating for you my analysis of the blatant irrationality of attempting to equate the Tea Party with “OWS,” and I’m not going to explain for you the illogic of attempting identification on the borderline case either.

    #2. Johnson’s view on corporatism and interventionism is a separate issue from Johnson’s pledge of solidarity with an organization that is dedicated to the overthrow of human rights and Western Civilization as a whole. Your attempt to conflate the two didn’t work.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    And as far as ‘politicians incapable of identifying the nature of an organization’ – Have you seen this list?:
    Try comparing it to Barry’s sometime. I am searching at the moment trying to find something said by Gary that props up the organizers of OWS. He’s in a position where he has to appeal to as many people as possible because so many are brainwashed by the partisan bickering, so I do not discount the possibility that he has misstepped in his support of the opinions he has heard by ’some’ at the OWS by improperly identifying the organizers or those trying to exploit the supporter sentiment as being the ones actually responsible for what he has heard – but I have yet to find any.
    As far as the libertarian party, I’m not a big fan of them either – in part due to some of the arguments put forth by Schwartz – or at least those that still apply to the party as a whole. (1985 was a while ago, the party itself was just over a decade old. Should we judge the Republican party by what it stood for in 1867?) But more importantly, my support for Johnson is not party based. I do not vote for parties, I vote for candidates. Again, I’m not a cool-aid drinker.
    I would say the same for anything said by Rand and Peikoff were it not for the fact I cannot seem to find anything even resembling what you are citing. In fact, Rand implored people who sympathized with her philosophy to vote for Nixon in the republican primaries and Leonard Peikoff went so far as to state of the 2006 election: “In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.”
    So I would be curious to know how you arrive at such a conclusion. But even if they had said something similar to what you suggest, I would not only likely interpret it different based on what you have presented, but I wouldn’t drink Rand/Peikoff coolaid any more than I would Republican or Democratic coolaid if I had cause to consider it to be ill advised. (such as Rand’s endorsement of Nixon turned out to be in hindsight)
    The more I look into what you said and compare it with what actually ‘is’ or actually happened, the more my original assumption about you is re-enforced. You really seem to be working extra hard to get your perception of reality to adhere with your wish of how it should be. But then again, from someone defending a pragmatic vote for Romney, that does not surprise me in the least.

  • Scott Webster Wood

    I’m not interested in wasting my time reading more of your ‘opinions’. I have seen enough of them in this thread to know what to expect. I was not ‘equating’ the tea party with the OWS except to the extent that people demonstrating in both groups are fed up with cronyism. (and I only stated this because PEOPLE IN BOTH GROUPS ARE FED UP WITH CRONYISM)
    Straw man moar now as well.
    But show me where Johnson ‘pledged solitarity with an organization’ in his comments on agreeing with the sentiments he heard expressed. Try citing some facts to support your arguments. I do.

  • Greg Gerig

    “I’m not interested in wasting my time reading more of your ‘opinions’. I have seen enough of them in this thread to know what to expect.”

    I rest my case.

    But by all means, go for that “last word.”

  • Scott Webster Wood

    Actually I read part of it before even posting that comment. I just wanted to see if your ego was as over inflated as I presumed it was. The part I read, again, was apples oranges because I already addressed the fact the only comparison I made was to the sentiments of people ‘at’ (not those ‘behind’) OWS. I already conceded some of those organizing the original event are of considerably questionable esteem as well as some of those exploiting it. The latter can be said of the RNC, Romney and Ryan also however.
    But then again, if you actually read any of my comments and weren’t so fixated on your own self-fluffing confirmation bias, you’d know that much.
    Your post addressed prima facie things I already stated I agree with. So what? It does not make what I quoted from Johnson any less succinct. Cite some evidence. (but then again I’ve already said that – three times)

  • Don Duncan

    Voting is primarily participation and support of coercion. No progress toward NAP can be made by supporting gov’t. That action contradicts NAP. You may wish gov’t would defend the non-aggression principle and claim its only justification is to do so, but that will not change the fact that gov’t has been and always will be the antithesis of NAP. The only way to limit gov’t is not to create it. Failing that, removal of support until expiration is required.