Mind you, I've seen things from the ARI show up on the op-ed pages of my local paper. These are usually the sorts of "laissez faire über alles" that one generally gets from Randians and corporate libertarians. These arguments are part of the general shell game of the kleptocracy, railing against government regulations that have been placed on businesses, but never, ever, complaining about the favors and privileges that businesses receive from government. It's "heads I win and tails you lose," a profitable little game that depends upon selective arguments and special pleading.
I forget if it was Rand or Nathaniel Branden, her then favorite acolyte, who once made the statement that selective enforcement of the law was a pernicious doctrine that is commonly used to provide the illusion of legality to what is basically a corrupt system. Given a broad enough law, everyone is guilty, so then the policeman becomes the only and arbitrary judge of who is punished. Of course, the same is true for philosophical principles, only more so, and the little hypocrisies in which people engage tells you volumes about their prejudices, their "unexamined premises," to use more Randian jargon. Selective argument is one of the most powerful weapons of rationalization, and a doctrine that holds reason and rationality above all else often resorts to rationalization to come to the "proper" result.
So I've seen the op-ed pieces from the ARI about affirmative action being racist, and about how health care is not a "right," and how environmental laws are crippling the economy, and, for that matter, how all regulations on corporations are crippling the economy. I hadn't seen any of the pro-abortion rights articles that the ARI has cooked up, but maybe I just missed them.
I also noticed, in my brief little foray, that Leonard Peikoff, who founded the ARI, has moved to a more distant connection with it, no longer being either on its board or staff. Cynic that I am, I notice that the ARI has a budget of about $5 million per year, and that it's director, one Yaron Brook receives a salary of $352,538 per year, which is 7/8 of the entire administrative expenses of the Institute. However, given that Peikoff is Ayn Rand's legal heir, and that the ARI's primary program is to supply copies of Rand's books to high school students (duck hunting where the ducks are, to quote Barry Goldwater), I imagine that Peikoff's royalties from that program may exceed Brook's salary. Just sayin'.
In any case, Rand's books sell even without the ARI collecting donations to pay for them, giving Peikoff the freedom to say anything he damn well wants to, and that would include such things as endorsing John Kerry for President and supporting Democrats in the 2006 election. I'm thinking that the ARI must be somewhat more circumspect; otherwise, some of that tasty donation money might be at risk. That money goes to those who follow the plutocracy/kleptocracy's strategy of "socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor," to use the old quote.
Still, squirreling around in the ARI's archives can be scary.
On October 2, 2001, when he was still part of the ARI, Leonard Peikoff wrote an article that blamed Iran for the WTC bombing (with a nod to the Taliban and a possibly prescient comment that Bush did not seem much interested in pursuing the Taliban leadership as a target). Peikoff essentially called for a full scale war with Iran.
That's pretty ignorant. How many of us have chuckled at the congressmen, etc. who did not know that there were both Sunni and Shia Muslims? There was not a single Shiite among the 9/11 hijackers, and every one of them was connected to schools and mosques that have been financed by Saudi Arabia, not Iran. One would think that a Randian philosopher would understand that education and philosophy matters, but, oh, hell, who am I kidding? No, I wouldn't. Besides, some ARI folks get their licks in on Saudi Arabia, as we shall see.
Still, Peikoff seems to have come to his senses, at least in part, and how many of us can say that we were thinking clearly just three weeks after the WTC went down? But other articles on the ARI web site are much more chilling.
In “'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense" by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein, we are told that the real threat to America is something called "Islamic Totalitarianism," which is much more academically acceptable a phrase than "Islamofascism," isn't it?
The civilian population of an aggressor nation is not some separate entity unrelated to its government. An act of war is the act of a nation—an interconnected political, cultural, economic, and geographical unity. Whenever a nation initiates aggression against us, including by supporting anti-American terrorist groups and militant causes, it has forfeited its right to exist, and we have a right to do whatever is necessary to end the threat it poses.
Given that a nation's civilian population is a crucial, physically and spiritually indispensable part of its initiation of force—of its violation of the rights of a victim nation—it is a morally legitimate target of the retaliation of a victim nation. Any alleged imperative to spare noncombatants as such is unjust and deadly.
That said, if it is possible to isolate innocent individuals—such as dissidents, freedom fighters, and children—without military cost, they should not be killed; it is unjust and against one's rational self-interest to senselessly kill the innocent." -- "'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense" by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein
Oh, and it gets better. In "The 'Forward Strategy' for Failure," by Yaron Brook and Elan Journo, we get the following:
To defeat Japan thoroughly, however, required even more: To cut short the war and save untold thousands of American lives, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs laid waste to vast tracts of land, killed thousands of Japanese—and demonstrated that if Japan continued to threaten America, thousands more Japanese would suffer and die.
That overwhelming and ruthless use of force achieved its intended purpose. It ended the threat to the lives of Americans and returned them to safety—by demonstrating to the Germans and the Japanese that any attempt to implement their vicious ideologies would bring them only destruction. Defeated materially and broken in spirit, these enemies gave up. Since then Nazism and Japanese imperialism have withered as ideological forces.
Today, American self-defense requires the same kind of military action.
Yes, the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute has called for massive thermonuclear strikes against Iran, Saudi Arabia, and any other country harboring "supporters of jihad against the West who cheer when Americans die."
A number of years ago, I made an attempt to deprogram a Randite or two, and my most potent argument seemed to be that Rand's "John Galt Pledge" was unworkable:
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." --from Atlas Shrugged
It's a potent promise, actually, similar to the virtue that some people believe can be obtained from Aikido, the ability to protect yourself from the predations of others, but to refrain from harming innocents. In my attempts to deprogram Randites, I started with the fact that it is sometimes impossible to keep from harming innocents, what we call "collateral damage." Then what? Because once the line is crossed, once you allow yourself to harm, even kill, innocent people for the sake of your own interest, then where is your morality? How much of a sham does this make of your ethics?
A few actually wavered, and maybe later they began to think critically about Randian philosophy. Maybe they even began to think for themselves.
But I am now left with the unsettling feeling that perhaps they just cranked it up to 11, and rationalized it all into a nice genocidal package, just like the folks at the Ayn Rand Institute. Dear god, they really are bugfuck crazy.