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Libertarianism--Is Thomas Fair to Schwartz and Peikoff?

Libertarianism--Is Thomas Fair to Schwartz and Peikoff?

2 Mins
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January 26, 2011

Question: Why does Mr. Thomas mislead people into thinking that Peter Schwartz and Leonard Peikoff attack Mises and all those who call themselves "libertarians," when they obviously do not? Schwartz uses the uppercase "L" and Thomas the lowercase "l"--Schwartz focuses on the Party platform and Rothbard, while Thomas focuses on "classical liberalism" and a broader category of thinkers, some of whom Ayn Rand knew and admired?

Are you trying to smear them as less tolerant than they really are and setting-up a classic "straw man"? Is Mr. Thomas' essay the "serious analysis"--or was Schwartz's?

Answer: I hardly think I was misleading anyone. I thought this point was transparent. But if citations would help, here they are:

Peter Schartz was not simply referring to the Libertarian party. See his " On Moral Sanctions ," in which he discusses the question "Is Libertarianism an Evil Doctrine?" And also see his "Libertarianism: the Perversion of Liberty" in The Voice of Reason. In that essay, he refers to "the Libertarian movement" (311). He discusses other libertarians than Rothbard and other writings than the party's. He also there discusses people who are libertarians who do not endorse subjectivism, anarchism, or nihilism. Of them, he says that they "simply refuse to see what is inherent in the fundamental nature and founding purpose of Libertarianism." (p. 331) I hope you appreciate that for an Objectivist to say that someone refuses to see is to say that they are an evader of facts. Willful evasion of facts is at the heart of evil in the Objectivist view. Nowhere in that essay does he exempt any post 1970 libertarian from that judgment.

To my knowledge, you will find nowhere a quote from Schwartz or Leonard Peikoff that accepts "libertarian" as a valid political position or endorses anyone qua libertarian. To be sure, Mises is a hero to Objectivists, but not as a "libertarian" and in spite of his various explicitly Kantian philosophical views, which many Objectivists seek to explain away (for my part, I agree that Mises' theories, or at least the good ones, do not require Kantianism). Schwartz's position has been endorsed by Peikoff, and the Ayn Rand Institute remains critical of self-described libertarians, even those who are not affiliated with the Libertarian Party. The Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute are two prominent libertarian organizations which those Objectivists ignore or reject.

If you are aware of some reference that I have overlooked, please let me know. You might want to query the Ayn Rand Institute for an update on Schwartz's position. I'd be interested to know what they said.