Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Objectivism & "the Right"

Brad Malestein of Contemporary History has written a provocative essay entitled "Objectivism is Not Part of 'The Right'". Brad argues that TIA editor Robert Tracinski's is mistaken in his recommendation to create a "secular right." Brad writes:

What Mr. Tracinski proposes can only result in confusion and disaster. The confusion would result from the package-deal of putting Objectivism, a pro-reason, pro-egoism philosophy, under the same concept, The Right, as religious groups and pragmatist conservatives. The disaster would come in the form of Objectivists wasting untold effort combatting the package-deal, especially since it would be Objectivists themselves inciting the confusion.

I must admit to initially being somewhat taken aback by Brad's essay, having always considered myself part of the right, even when I was not an Objectivist and when my economic views would easily have been categorized as socialism-lite. My primary motivator at the time were my hawkish views with respect to Israel. While I was hardly consistent, I rejected the dovish peace-now groups and always thought Israel needed to defend itself using its strength.

Since becoming an Objectivist, I have considered Objectivism to be the lone, sane voice of the right, even if I was not always entirely happy with the whole left-right spectrum and its implications and have written about this. The reason for this consideration is obvious. The left has for the last 100 years been most easily identified with statism and since Objectivism advocates laissez faire capitalism, it is easily placed on the right. Of course, given the types of people that are included in both the "left" and the "right," things are not in fact this straight-forward.

If we follow Brad's advice then Objectivism must be placed in its own category, neither left nor right. In fact, this is as it should be. The whole left-right spectrum should be rejected as a completely inadequate description of ideological views. We need to return to identifying people's ideas by what fundamental principles they endorse, not by some arbitrary groupings of disparate groups on a spectrum without any unifying commonalities. A far superior approach would be to rely on Dr. Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis and its five categories for analyzing intellectual movements. I have already outlined my understanding of Dr. Peikoff's views here and here.

Nevertheless, I think it is important to counter the increasing influence of the religious right with Objectivist ideas. Tracinski's proposed "Secularism Reader," is definitely a step in the right direction and its publication will, along with many other efforts, hopefully result in increasing the awareness of all Americans in rational ideas and the proper foundations of a free society. I can't speak for Mr. Tracinski but I took his advocacy of a "secular right" as implying the eventual replacement what passes today as "the Right" with a political Objectivist movement. If so, I wholeheartedly support the project.

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