A Note to Readers: I’ve made the decision to make my latest post into a multi-part series exploring both my understanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and why I struggle with publicly calling myself an Objectivist—primarily because of Dr. Yaron Brook and the Ayn Rand Institute distorting important aspects of her philosophy. This is part two of a five-part series. Read part one here.
Before I dig into my specific issues with what Yaron Brook said, I should say that Brook and I have always been politically misaligned. I want to believe there’s a level of honesty and good intentions in his attempts to make Objectivism more compatible with neo-conservatism, and to give him some credit, he hasn’t (yet) suggested Objectivism is in any way compatible with any religious beliefs (unlike the David Kelley-sanctioned producers of the terrible film versions, who inserted a scene in the third one set in a church in an attempt to suggest that Objectivism can support religion). I’m not sure if Brook honestly believes what he says (and is therefore an idiot much of the time), or is specifically tailoring what he says to make Ayn Rand more palatable to people who don’t actually believe in Ayn Rand’s philosophy.
Brook seems to want to attract the Orren Boyles of the world, almost at the expense of the Hank Reardens; this may be because he thinks that, once indoctrinated, those are the sort of people who will be most open to Rand’s philosophy. Coming from a secular liberal background, and having wholeheartedly embraced Objectivism, I absolutely disagree. I don’t think his method is the best. If he’s being intentionally dishonest to effectively trick people into hopping aboard the O-Train, that makes Brook a fraud. If he really believes some of the things he says, then he’s just a nut who will lure other nuts.
People should believe, with honesty and integrity, what they think is right, regardless of whether or not I personally agree with it. That’s a statement that, maybe, is the biggest indication of where I disagree with ARI. Their stated position, for example, is that Islamic terrorists are a threat to individual liberty and freedom, and therefore all Middle Eastern countries should be bombed back to the Stone Age—except Brook’s native Israel, the bastion of economic freedom and democracy. The reasoning? Thin the herd of dangerous people who disagree with us, and then pick off the rest before the dust clears. No need to win hearts and minds when brute force faster and easier.
Ayn Rand believed all religion, focusing mainly on the Judeo-Christian ethic, was a danger. She didn’t advocate war against them, however. She wasn’t against war in a clear-cut case of self-defense, but hell… The anti-communist to end all anti-communists was adamantly against the fights against its spread in Korea and Vietnam (“If you want to see the ultimate, suicidal extreme of altruism, on an international scale,” she wrote in 1967, “observe the war in Vietnam—a war in which American soldiers are dying for no purpose whatever”). She was even against World War II (part of her reasoning is that the U.S. got nothing out of its participation, and ceded far too much of Europe to the Soviet Union). Her reasons were nuanced and complex, but I’ll try to boil them down: war is pointless if the victors get no direct benefit from it (e.g., Canada invades us; we decimate them so they leave us alone), and a war fought for the purpose of forcing people to change the way they think (or, worse, simply killing as many of those who disagree with you as possible) is patently immoral.