Nov 1, 1974
An Afterward from Readers, Authors, Reviewers (Nov. 1974)
“I think it ill behooves libertarians to hold any idee fixe [preventing] the evaluation of any man for what he actually is [or may become].”
Many of us will be heartened by your publication of Dr. Eysenck’s excellent review of John R. Baker’s Race [LR, August 1974]. Baker has indeed written “an important and impressive work which will undoubtedly become the classic book on the subject of race for a long time to come.” I would add the words “definitive” and “magisterial” in describing it.
In fact to my mind Baker has done for the biology of race what Robertson has accomplished for the politics of this subject in his Dispossessed Majority. Both of these books should be on the bed table of every man of influence in our Western Civilization. There has ceased to be any excuse for shilly-shallying on the matter of genetic differences, or for allowing the leadership of certain groups so to dominate our opinion-forming agencies that our people continue in ignorance of the truth.
For thousands of years the classes-masses conflict has been a worldwide battle which can no longer be regarded as inevitable. Science has given us the facts, and human society must now be restructured accordingly. Differences in status are not primarily due to social injustice and are not a cause for enmity or revenge. Nor can the “principle of redress” in fairness be used to penalize individuals or groups in a current generation for the mistakes and mis-matings of other lines of descent through the distant past.
I cannot help wondering why courageous scientific pioneers like Shockley still move defensively along one narrow genetic groove when a wide-ranging book like Baker’s is available to silence the major part of their opposition. It is rather like fighting a pride of lions with a pistol when a machine gun is waiting in the wings. Moreover, it would be my view that those who are guilty of leading the cover-up in this situation are more to be censured than any Watergate criminal—the damage they have done, and are doing, is greater.
Let me quote here a statement by another pioneer who, like Shockley, is a Nobel laureate, and, like Baker, is a life scientist. In his recent book, Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, Konrad Lorenz writes:
It is an indisputable ethical truth that all men have an equal right to the same chances of development, but this truth is all too easily converted to the untruth that all men are potentially equal…. The fallacy of supposing that, given the proper conditioning, anything may be demanded of a person, anything made out of him, underlies many of the deadly sins committed by civilized mankind against nature, including the nature of man, and against humanity. If a universally accepted ideology, and the politics ensuing from it, are founded on a lie, this is bound to have disastrous effects. The pseudodemocratic doctrine here under discussion undoubtedly bears a considerable part of the blame for the moral and cultural collapse that threatens the Western world.
Baker’s Race, freed from the suffocating suppression of our current media, can at one stroke rid us of this ideology and the collapse it is causing.
In his review of Race, H. J. Eysenck seems to join John Baker in missing the significance of the libertarian premise that man really is free. This huge debate as to whether the inferior test scores of Afro-Americans are due to hereditary or environmental factors becomes meaningless if an individual is capable of rising above the definition of himself that his heredity and environment seek to impose on him. The question then is really, does the genetic factor set a ceiling on how far up a person can come. That black geniuses do in fact exist should sufficiently answer that question.
I think it ill behooves libertarians to hold any idee fixe that would interfere with the evaluation of any man for what he actually is or what he may be capable of becoming.
Martin P. Choate
San Francisco, Calif.
I would like to see some discussion (beyond your review of Wild’s book some time ago) as to just where points of contact and disagreement between contemporary libertarians and existentialists lie. For the most part the objectivist dogmatism about reason is only vaguely irritating to me in your review. But I personally draw the line when it leads to Eysenck’s calm acceptance of Baker’s statement “one of these subraces advanced to a impressively high level of culture and here again the Negrids fell behind.”
It is clear from the context that entire cultures are being judged by the classic dogmas. on cognition, viz., reason is the highest level of human existence. Therefore to demonstrate racial superiority we measure cognitive ability.
I disagree with the premise and therefore the conclusion. Apparently we are to admire, for example, the highly centralized authoritarian Roman model based on the reason of Stoicism over the relatively libertarian societies of Africa.
Walla Walla, Wash. 99362
Thank you for sending a copy of Books for Libertarians, with a long and favorable review of my book entitled Race.
It is a strange fact that those who think as we do must nowadays call ourselves “Libertarians,” since the fine old term “Liberals” has lost its original meaning (Libertarians), first in the U.S.A. and now here in Great Britain, and has come to mean exactly the opposite!
John R. Baker
Kidlington, Oxford, U.K.
Of “Flunking Students” & “Mealy-Mouthed Professors”
I expected the kind of reviews on Objectivism in your [August 1974] issue to be what they turned out to be.
First, how can one compare the intellectual stature of Rand and Rothbard? Miss Rand’s achievements involve a philosophic level far beyond Mr. Rothbard. Their premises, in fact, appear to be opposite: Objectivism does not lead to anarchism. Second, a “comprehensive” attack by libertarian anarchists on limited government does not constitute a valid attack. Mr. Childs writes as if an attack per se is proof of error. But Mr. Childs’ review fairly characterizes Objectivism (though Nathaniel Branden no longer speaks for Ayn Rand’s philosophy) compared to Mr. Masters’ article.
To begin with, necessarily those who have a predominantly subjectivist psychoepistemology are going to have difficulty with a philosophy advocating a focus solely on objective reality. The “psychological straight-jacket” is the attempt of a mind committed to whim finding itself having to check itself against objective standards. The “paralyzing” is the conflict of contradictions between such a mind and Objectivism.
Mr. Masters notes as “deeply insightful” and “particularly devastating” Ellis’ rejection of the morally earned character. I refer you to John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged for understanding the Objectivist theory of self-esteem, and what, and who, Ellis (and, evidently, Mr. Masters) is attacking.
One last word. I once wrote in response to an article in the University of Maryland newspaper that “Libertarianism is a coalition of anarchists, classical liberals, disaffected conservatives, flunking students of Objectivism and new leftists in a volatile mixture of rationality and irrationality which can only foster the latter while obliterating the former.” After your two reviews on Objectivism, I stand by that evaluation.
Edward L. Scheiderer
LR has proved a very stimulating publication and I commend you highly on its content. Of all the libertarian publications I have read, LR is the most interesting and serious-minded. It is unfortunate that my first communication with you should be of a negative nature.
Regarding Robert Masters’ review of the book Is Objectivism a Religion?, by Albert Ellis, I can only be appalled by the respectful treatment that was given to portions of Ellis’ book. While correctly rejecting much of Ellis’ reasoning, Masters seems quite pleased with Ellis’ attack on what Ellis regards as Objectivism’s “deification” tendencies.
Ellis’ thesis was basically that because Objectivists are profoundly dedicated to that which they value they are religious. Because they value such things as the philosophical principles of Objectivism, Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes, Ayn Rand herself, uncompromised liberty, etc., they must be considered “religious.” According to Ellis this is because traditionally devout advocates of various religions hold their values seriously, have heroes and are deeply psychologically involved in their values. Therefore Ellis concludes that Objectivists are religious, because devoutly religious individuals and Students of Objectivism have a few attributes in common. So, since religious people have quality A and Objectivists have quality A, Ellis concludes that (Objectivists = religionists. Even the most naive logician could see the fallacy involved here.
This similarity is of an extraordinarily trivial nature compared to the fundamental difference between the two doctrines expressed in the broadest of epistemological dichotomies: faith vs. reason.
If non-Objectivist libertarians are puzzled by Students of Objectivism, it is probably because they fail to grasp that value worship is a central attribute of the Objectivist’s sense of life and ethical motivation. Probably much of the “wishy-washiness” of modern intellectuals and educators has rubbed off on many libertarians, because it unfortunately pervades the libertarian movement. Ayn Rand seems dogmatic and “absolutistic” to them because it is considered unintellectual and unscientific nowadays to take a firm, absolute stand on any issue.
But a cultural trend does not repeal the law of identity, and I intend to remember that it can’t. In my career as a professional philosopher, I will not sacrifice to mealy-mouthed professors my vision of value, this absolutistic earth, and John Galt.
I am not sure what Mr. Scheiderer means by a “predominantly subjectivist psychoepistemology”; however, my own observation has been that those who experience major conflicts in trying to apply Objectivism to their lives are often serious, honest people who are genuinely concerned with knowing the truth and with living meaningfully. I hope Mr. Scheiderer would not write such people off as “committed to whim” (although I am not sure what that means, either).
As to the theory of self-esteem, I confess that I do not see anything very attractive about the notion that one must “earn” the right to consider oneself worthy of living—which is exactly what Objectivism maintains. But Mr. Scheiderer does not pursue this issue, so neither shall I.
Mr. Pennington represents Ellis as arguing “that because Objectivists are profoundly dedicated to that which they value they are religious.” In fact, Ellis organizes his case around ten different “characteristics of the religiously minded person,” none of which have anything to do with dedication to values [unless one considers, e.g., “intolerance of opposition” or “unrealism and anti-empiricism” essential to being dedicated to values). I wish Mr. Pennington well in his career as a professional philosopher, but I hope he displays higher standards of intellectual precision in that career than in his letter.
New York, N.Y.