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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 1:20amSanction this postReply
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To call anything in Rothbard "Randian" requires scandalous (in the context of an Objectivist forum) ignorance of Objectivism. Rothbard explicitly embraced a Thomist epistemology, while Rand starts her _Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology_ with an explicit repudiation of Thomist intrincisism. Rand's ethics is grounded in empirical, contextually observed facts of reality, starting with the observation that life is a process of self-sustaining action - a position that absolutely precludes anything in ethics from being metanormative. Rothbard, of course, embraced an intrinsicist ethics that he believed to be derived from metanormative principles. This position led Rothbard into arguments, such as his argument for "market anarchism", that from an Objectivist viewpoint hinge on an error in logic: scope violation, which Rand viewed as a symptom of intrinsicism. Rothbard, of course, never regarded Rand as anything other than an intellectual oponent, an oponent whom he ridiculed - or tried to - when he could not refute her. They would both be disgusted by an attempt to join them in some unprincipled posthumous alliance.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 2:43amSanction this postReply
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I agree with Adam. I admire Prof. Younkin's enthusiasm for his project, but I don't quite see the point. It's the same deal with Mises. Why the need to reconcile the irreconcilable, based on non-essential points of coincidence? If Kant's favourite colour were blue-green, would all this scholarly effort go into proving that Kant & Rand were really in the same team? This is *not* a ridiculous analogy, given that Kant the *political* theorist actually sounded very much like Rand at times & there's been no shortage of folk anxious to demonstrate that they had more in common than Rand thought. Why not treat *all* historical figures on their merits, rather than try to forge untenable posthumous liaisons?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 4:43amSanction this postReply
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Actualy, it is arguable that Rothbard is more of a Randian than Thomist, although he did attach himself to Thomism explicitly. Yet this may well have arisen out of Rothbard's very strong antipathy toward Rand the person. After their break, I believe, Rothbard penned his paper "The Mantle of Science" -- for the book Scientism and Values, edited by Schoeck and Wiggins and published by Van Nostrand and reprinted in Individualism and the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (Cato Institute, 1979) -- in part so as to show that the Randian Objectivist philosophy isn't original and its genesis, including in the field of epistemology, can be located in Aquinas and others. Whether this is successful is another matter. But it is all a bit more complicated than either Professor Younkins or Adam Reed make out.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 6:57amSanction this postReply
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The replies to Ed Younkins' essay by Adam Reed and "Linz" strike me as overreactions. When I read Younkins' essay, I didn't see him as arguing that Rand and Rothbard were "joined" -- he seemed to me to be explicating some of the points of similarity and difference, surely a worthwhile endeavor given (a) the historical connection between the two and (b) the often intersecting agendas of their latter-day adherents. I can see being misled by the title - but on reading the actual piece, it's indeed helpful explication.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 8:28amSanction this postReply
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Younkins' article is sensible. It is not "scandalous" to note Randian aspects of Rothbard's thought. Indeed since Rand in essence advocated a theory of reason, reality, self-interest, and political freedom/individual rights, anyone who adheres to these views, it would seem to me, is to that extent a Randian.

Rothbard believed in reason, clearly. He believed in the ability to know reality; he was a realist. He also believed man by his nature has individual rights to be free from aggression. All this is similar to Rand. And as some have argued, anarcho-capitalism is implied by Rand's political views even if she shied from that. So an anarchist is more Randian than Rand.

As for it being fruitless to try to "reconcile" Rand and Mises, Rothbard, etc.--I don't agree. To see common themes or ideas behind apparently dissimilar thinkers' work, e.g. b/c of different styles or arguments or concepts or terminology, can only help us gain a deeper understanding of the issues.

Younkins should be applauded not attacked for not being a Peikoffian Objectivist. This reminds me of how David Kelley was ridiculously savaged just for reading and liking Barbara Branden's bio of Rand.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 8:54amSanction this postReply
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Some of the comments so far are indeed overreactions. There clearly are more significant parallels between Rothbard (and especially Menger as well as Austrians more generally) and Rand than has heretofore been acknowledged by either of the two camps. Personally, I suspect that the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard is largely what blinds some Objectivists to the commonalities.
Having said that, I must admit that the issues involved are complicated and somewhat arcane. Superficially, the two groups do seem far apart. I applaud Ed's efforts to construct a synthesis of the two premiere defenses of laissez-faire society. I have made somewhat similar suggestions dating back to 1997. Moreover, there will be an issue of the JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES next year entirely devoted to "Rand and the Austrians" which may offer further elaborations of this theme.
Larry J. Sechrest

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 10:33amSanction this postReply
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Adam Reed's comment is somewhat puzzling to me. I don't think Ed Younkins is trying to put Rand and Rothbard in bed together on all questions. Reed begins with an epistemological point and then jumps to an ethical one. The epistemological point seems overdrawn. Aristotelian epistemology grounds concepts in the prescinsion by the observer of the essential nature of things from the things themselves. Rand grounds concepts in the prescinsion of the essential characteristics of things from the comparison of them to other things. Once concepts have been formed, both Rothbard and Rand attribute to logic the ability to use them to build arguments that inform us of the nature of reality--and that necessitate the free market for man to live qua man. They do differ strongly on the question of the necessity for and role of government in a free economy. Rand favored it, Rothbard opposed it. So far as ethics is concerned, there are differences that don't seem relevant to any discussion of their respective views on economic theory.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 11:11amSanction this postReply
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Stephen Kinsella writes:

"Younkins should be applauded not attacked for not being a Peikoffian Objectivist. This reminds me of how David Kelley was ridiculously savaged just for reading and liking Barbara Branden's bio of Rand."

I'm distraught to think anyone regards my brief comments (I can't speak for Adam) as a "savaging." Heck, I've happily published Ed's pieces in The Free Radical on numerous occasions, & hope to continue doing so. I have the highest regard for his scholarly acumen, & we are on the best of terms. But heck again, if we can't disagree with each other without the spectre of Peikovianism being invoked, then we are emulating the very thing we decry.

Linz

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 1:53pmSanction this postReply
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Excellent as usual Ed!!

Having come across Rothbard's work before Rand's in my own intellectual development, I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Rothbard and Rand not fallen out. My guess is Rothbard would have benefitted greatly from holding to a more consistenly Objectivist philosophical position, and the Objectivist movement would have benefitted from having another mind of Rothbard's caliber within it.

MH

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 2:59pmSanction this postReply
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Nice to see spirited discussion on the topic, and so many familiar faces. Special thanks to Larry Sechrest for mentioning the forthcoming issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, which will include an essay by Ed Younkins, and essays by many other theorists on the relationship of Ayn Rand to the Austrian school of economics.

I've always believed that there is substantive intersection between Rand and Rothbard; in my own book, Total Freedom, I spend some time discussing Rand's impact on Rothbard (who defended Rand in print before their "break" and who credited Rand with having convinced him of the case for natural rights).

Thanks, Ed, for bringing attention to this contentious area of study.

Post 10

Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 4:36pmSanction this postReply
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Long ago, I was browsing at random in the stacks of my university's library (as I was wont to do in those days), and purely by chance (I was not researching or looking for anything about Objectivism) I came upon the name "Murray N. Rothbard." I had opened a scholarly journal at its "Letters" page.

It was a letter from Rothbard to the journal, apparently in protest at an interviewer's dismissive treatment of some Objectivist--it may have been Rothbard himself, Nathaniel Branden, or Ayn Rand. Anyway, after Rothbard's letter there appeared a response from the journal editors ending in the words: "Mr. [the interviewer] had no further questions. Neither do we."

I have sometimes speculated that this humiliation--the anti-Objectivists having a very rhetorically effective last word--was a contributing factor to Rothbard's split from Objectivism. Because he is said to have craved intellectual respectability to a pathological extent. (I do not know whether this was true--it's just something I have heard.) He hated losing face among academics, I thought.

Rodney Rawlings

Post 11

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 12:11amSanction this postReply
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Rodney Rawlings writes, "I have sometimes speculated that this humiliation--the anti-Objectivists having a very rhetorically effective last word--was a contributing factor to Rothbard's split from Objectivism. Because he is said to have craved intellectual respectability to a pathological extent." I should think that Rothbard, like Rand, deserves better of his advocates than to be psychologized. Rothbard met his wife at a lecture on Thomist philosophy, so it is likely that he had chosen a Thomist foundation years before he met Rand. Rothbard was attracted to Objectivism because Rand and Aquinas shared many of their slogans, like Reason and Natural Rights. Rothbard split when he discovered that he and Rand used those labels in reference to very different concepts.

Aquinas and Rand both got their concepts of natural law from Maimonides. Maimonides was a physician and medical scientist, and he discovered that ethics in the Aristotelian sense could be approached as a natural science, based on logical deduction from empirically observed facts of reality. Man, being a biological organism, requires specific, objective conditions in order to live a normal (in the medical sense of healthy, that is happy and long) human life. The function of law in society is to give men these conditions, and the formulation of law, according to Maimonides, is to be approached as a prescriptive natural science, just as finding out what treatment will secure a long and happy life for an individual is the objective of the prescriptive natural science of medicine. Maimonides also equated natural law with Jewish religious law, thus explaining, the ancient observation that those who "walked" the Torah often lived longer and happier lives than those who did not, by his belief that God was both the creator of the natural world and the author of Jewish religious law.

What Rand took from Maimonides was the realization that the purpose of objective ("natural") law was to secure the preconditions of _life qua Man_. According to Rand, one of those preconditions, once men have discovered a way to do so, is the institution of government as a means of placing the use of retaliatory force under objective control. This is necessitated by the fact of reality, that an accuser's judgement of another's innocence is compromised by partiality, by confirmation bias and other biases in the collection of evidence, and by the fact that the accuser can minimize his _eventual liability for having been in the wrong_ by first depriving the suspect of life or limb or freedom, so that the suspect, if innocent, becomes less likely to be able to demonstrate his innocence. So as long as retaliatory force has _not_ been placed under objective control, all men live in fear that one could be forced into imprisonment or combat by another's false belief or dishonest claim. And in a social context in which men already know how to minimize the likelihood of wrongful punishment _by placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control_, it becomes a condition of optimal human life to live without fear that one might be deprived of liberty (or of life itself) without due process of law. Anyone who subjects another to unishment, without first having demonstrated the suspect's guilt by the most impartial and objective procedure available in their social context, has violated the individual rights of everyone around him by his reckless endangerment of their lives and freedoms.

What Aquinas took from Maimonides was the equation of natural law with metanormative principles ordained by God through revelation of religious law. While Rothbard formulated his own, ostensively secular metanormative principles, he took from Aquinas the notion of metanormative principles independent of any actual observation and measurement of the natural world. So it is not surprising that Rand condemned his views as intrinsicist, just as Rothbard, once their differences became clear, condemned Rand's as unprincipled. This had nothing to do with Rothbard's (or Rand's) purported psychopathology. It had to do with their ideas.

Post 12

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 1:38amSanction this postReply
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Adam - I'm curious. What is your evidence for Rand's getting her view of natural law from Maimonides? Did she, or anyone who knew her, testify to this? Or are you assuming/inferring she got it from Maimonides indirectly via Aquinas?

As I recall (though I haven't read around this for years) Rothbard *was*, as Rodney says, so preoccupied with "respectability" that he went to great lengths to demonstrate that the ideas he in truth got from Rand (who was not respectable) he *actually* got from someone else.

I note that on this thread it's the anarchists who are intent on demonstrating that Rand & Rothbard were, notwithstanding what they themselves had to say on the matter, intellectual bosom buddies. If Rothbard were alive, he'd be a Saddamite, joining Chomsky in railing against US "imperialism." The anarchists argue that Rand would have been a Saddamite as well. Funny that.

Rothbardians, anarchists, Saddamites et al should leave poor Ayn alone & not try to enlist her to their cause - which they know she wouldn't join - when she's in no position to protest.

Post 13

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 3:10amSanction this postReply
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Linz - My own parents were born in families very much like Rand's, only 4 years later. It would have been unthinkable for someone growing up in a turn-of-the century Jewish intelligentsia family, anywhere in the old Russian Empire, _not_ to be well-read in the intellectual history of the Jews. This had nothing to do with religion (my parents, like Rand, grew up atheist) but rather with getting the advantage of a second perspective on questions of culture and philosophy. If I ever have time, I may write more about Rand's use of Jewish sources. That Rand herself seldom credited these ideas to their origins should not prevent us from recognizing the obvious connections.

Post 14

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 5:06amSanction this postReply
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Linz,

With respect, I am not an anarchist and as far as I know neither are Chris or Tibor Machan (please correct me if I'm wrong).

MH

Post 15

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 7:38amSanction this postReply
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At the end of the day, learned Adam Reed overlooks both the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty and William of Occam's point about the razor--i.e. assumptions ought not to be multiplied beyond necessity. All roads lead to Rome. Truth will out, and all that. So two giants, Rand and Rothbard, hurl thunderbolts at each other but neither strikes a mortal blow. Reed's rage is over epistemological means, not transcendental ends. Back to the Actonian law that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Let's keep our eye then on the fact that the State and statism constitute the crisis of our time. Austrianism and Objectivism both have vital roles to play. At base theirs is a clash, if there is a clash, of really companion ideologies. Let each carry on in its own way. Let each say that the enemy of my enemy--the runaway State--is my ally and maybe even my friend. WHP

Post 16

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 8:10amSanction this postReply
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BTW, I am no anarchist but I argue neither are all those libertarians who support any sort of legal order. They may claim that government has to be statist/coercive but this is to beg the question, and they also aim to have competition among legal orders, but this may yet render governments quite moral. For more on this, see my “Anarchism and Minarchism, A Rapprochement,” Journal des Economists et des Estudes Humaines Vol. 14, No. 4 (December 2002), pp. 569-588.

Post 17

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 10:57amSanction this postReply
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"Anarchists"? I meant my dear friends Dr Larrikins & Dr Diabolical. The former has *marked* anarchist tendencies, & the latter, in the pursuit of ecumenism, is an anarchist every Tuesday & Thursday (a dialectical anarchist, of course).

Post 18

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 11:14amSanction this postReply
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Hahaha!!

Sorry Linz, I misinterpreted you when you said "I note that on this thread it's the anarchists who are intent on demonstrating that Rand & Rothbard were, notwithstanding what they themselves had to say on the matter, intellectual bosom buddies."

It seemed to me you were saying that ONLY the anarchists on the board were interested in the intellectual connections.

MH

Post 19

Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 12:04pmSanction this postReply
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"Because he is said to have craved intellectual respectability to a pathological extent."

I've heard this charge against Rothbard before (Nathaniel Branden makes it in his memoir) but I find it very strange. If intellectual respectability had been one of Rothbard's overriding goals, he certainly chose an odd way of pursuing it. He could have gotten farther in academia if he had "softened" and "moderated" his views; he doesn't seem to have shown any inclination to do so.

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