An Afterward from Readers, Authors, Reviewers (Jan. 1975)
“The July issue was the best ever, with its [essay on] the American Revolution…Keep up the good work. | David D. Boaz | Nashville, Tenn”
To respond to my three Critics, in the November and December issues of Libertarian Review:
AN AFTERWORD FROM Readers, Authors, Reviewers
Childs to His Critics
Mr. Scheiderer asks me how I can possibly compare the intellectual stature of Miss Rand and Dr. Rothbard…and then he undertakes a comparison. I compared them twice: once to point out that they are the only two major defenders of capitalism concerned with defending capitalism from the standpoint of justice, and a second time to claim that they represent, in different respects, the “completion of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the philosophy behind the American revolution.” This is entirely accurate. As far as their relative intellectual stature is concerned, it is true that Dr. Rothbard is not a philosopher, but then Miss Rand is not an economist, historian, or scholar. It may be somewhat misplaced to compare them at this stage, however, particularly when we consider that Dr. Rothbard is more than twenty years younger than Miss Rand. Who can predict what this indefatigable writer shall produce in the course of the next two decades. Personally, I would not want the twentieth century to be without either Dr. Rothbard or Miss Rand.
My criticisms of Dr. Branden’s lecture on government are also valid. I did not claim that a “comprehensive” criticism should be equated with a “valid” criticism, only that if Dr. Branden had given his course after the anarchist criticisms of limited government had seen print, his government lecture would have been much different—and perhaps even stronger.
To Mr. Goldman and Mr. Warner: lam not a Student of Objectivism, which is not to say that I have not studied Objectivism. I am a Libertarian. And it should be unnecessary to point out that I was not writing an essay on the philosophy of Objectivism, but rather reviewing a lecture series by Nathaniel Branden. That should explain sufficiently why I concentrated on what Dr. Branden had to say, rather than on the views of Miss Rand, not to mention the fact that Miss Rand has taken great pains to separate herself both from Dr. Branden and from his lecture series. Objectivism is indeed the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I correctly identified Dr. Branden’s lectures in my review as “building on the work and thought of Ayn Rand.” Far be it from me to neglect Miss Rand; indeed, I expect to do her full justice in my forthcoming book on Rand and Objectivism. In short, gentlemen, I reviewed what I claimed to review, and not something else. Is this a defect?
Now in all fairness to Dr. Branden, the Basic Principles of Objectivism course is far more than a mere “commentary” on Miss Rand’s philosophy: it is a systematic presentation, elaboration, and defense of her philosophy. Moreover, a good many points which Dr. Branden makes are not made in the works of Ayn Rand at all. Finally, these lectures have been in existence longer than most of Ayn Rand’s nonfiction writings. Surely this complicates matters.
As for the remark that Ms. Barbara Branden was merely “delineating one of Rand’s more fundamental points” when she discussed the role of purpose in thinking, it should be unnecessary to point out to such scholars that this particular point has been presented many, many times during the last few centuries of the history of philosophy. Indeed, it plays a central role in such modern works as Brand Blanshard’s masterwork, The Nature of Thought, published in 1939.
And what, may I ask, is this despicable reference to Dr. Rothbard as “a known plagiarizer”? Has Libertarian Review lately opened its pages to slander? [Readers will recall that Messrs. Goldman and Warner requested that their letter be published “exactly as written.” I decided to honor this request, thinking, “By their presents ye shall know them:—KTP]
One final note. I dislike Dr. Albert Ellis’ book Is Objectivism a Religion? very much, but in that title, he has caught a grain of truth. This is illustrated in the Goldman‐Warner letter when they refer to Dr. Branden “before the fall”—clearly a religious metaphor. “Fall”… from what? While I do not in any way wish to convey anything less than a vast respect for the achievements of Ayn Rand—a respect which does not extend to most of those who consider themselves her “students”—I think it would benefit a great many people to consider what it is in her works or her philosophy which tends to produce a certain religious type of mentality on the part of admirers. Many of these people lack any sign of independence whatever. While that does not invalidate the truth of much of what she says, it should give one pause to consider that pattern carefully and analytically. If there is anything wrong with my review of Basic Principles of Objectivism, it is that I did not consider any of these questions. I hope that the readers of Libertarian Review will find that reason enough to do so themselves.
R. A. Childs, Jr. West Seneca, N.Y.
LR is better all the time. The July issue was the best ever, with its bibliographical review concerning the American Revolution. I only wish it had come out a year earlier so I could have found the right books to read for my class in history of the American Revolution. You should do the same thing for other periods of history—it would be a real help for us students who don’t know which books represent the best analysis of whatever period we may be studying.