Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Conservatives Will Vote for McCain

I have maintained that conservatives will vote for McCain in the end, despite all their grousing now. My argument has been on a superficial political level: Democrat smears and October Surprises will anger Republicans so much that they will be driven to the ballot box to punish the Dems for their injustice. I came to this from introspecting over the last four or five elections and noticing what most motivated me to vote against the Democrats.

There is a deeper philosophical reason.

Have you noticed that only Objectivists are bothered by McCain's often repeated statement about sacrificing for something greater than self-interest? In their lists of grievances against McCain -- which include McCain-Kennedy, McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, opposition to tax cuts and his love of being a "maverick" -- conservatives never mention McCain's explicit altruism.

Obviously, they don't object because they share McCain's morality. Only Objectivists hold that rational self-interest is a virtue. Only Ayn Rand's radical philosophy challenges the traditional morality of altruism. Only Objectivists see a red flag when a politician exhorts people to sacrifice to the collective, for that way lies statism and dictatorship. Thomas Jefferson was remarkably astute when he included the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence; writing before Kant, Hegel and their long tradition, he included nothing about sacrificing to the state or the collective.

Whenever there is a conflict between ethics and politics, people go with their morality. Ethics is more fundamental than politics. A man's politics depend on his ethics. If he believes in the morality of self-interest, then he will want freedom and capitalism. If he believes in altruism, then he will want state intervention in the economy. If he is consistent enough, he might even share John McCain's dream of using the state to orchestrate an orgy of collective sacrifice for something greater than self-interest.

In the end, conservative lip service to capitalism and freedom will be undermined, as it always is, by the conservatives' altruist ethics. They might disagree with McCain's politics, but they have no answer to his ideals. The tragedy is that McCain's ideals are pure poison.


Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

One of the reasons that I stopped being a Libertarian or Objectivist is because they take their arguments to extremes - reductio ad absurdum.

Maybe Europeans (who have no sense of self-government or individual sovereignty) sacrifice themselves to "the state" but Americans know that being patriotic is in our self interest because our friends and family and neighbors are "the state."

There's a balance between individualism and being a good reliable civilized friend/neighbor/citizen - unless one is totally alienated from one's community through intellectual snobbishness or sociopathy.

Anonymous said...


That post is evidence that you never understood Objectivism on anything but the most basic of levels. Before rejecting it like you have, you'd do well to actually learn it first.

Objectivism doesn't mean the "sociopathy" that you smear it with. There is no need to balance or compromise individualism with anything, only the need to properly understand what it actually does mean.

I really doubt you actually read more than 20% of Objectivism, if that, or else you wouldn't have mentioned "extremes," considering that Ayn Rand wrote a seminal article which thoroughly demolished that weasel-term.



'Haf, I haven't been writing much lately but I have been reading. And I like your election coverage so far. Keep up the good work!


Myrhaf said...

Inspector, thanks. In fairness to Patrick, who is a conservative, not an Objectivist, I would like to answer the substance of his criticism, rather than just dismiss him as one doesn't understand. The way principles work is a complicated issue, addressed best by Peter Schwartz in lectures and articles. I can see how Patrick would come to his opinion because I shared his reservations in the early '80s. I can't do this issue justice today as Wednesday is my busiest day at work and I shouldn't even be taking time to write this comment. I'll try to do a post on this in the near future.

EdMcGon said...

You forgot one reason to vote for McCain: Who else are you going to vote for now?

I would have voted for Fred Thompson, but he had already dropped out of the race by the time of the Georgia primary. Fred was the only candidate in both parties even remotely close to objectivism.

As I stated before, I will happily consider a third party candidate. Until one comes along...

Myrhaf said...

I'm waiting for the candidates to be decided before I make my choice. But I'm leaning toward voting for the Democrat. If I'm voting for big government, I'd rather voter for the secular devil I know than the one who is beholden to the religious right when he gets in office.

But the point of this post was not who I am voting for but who conservatives will vote for. I'm not a conservative.

EdMcGon said...

McCain and the religious right haven't exactly been bosom buddies over the years. In fact, I think the religious right will go down with Huckabee's ship as an influence on the coming election.

Jim May said...


The reason why I still am an Objectivist is precisely that -- it DOES take its arguments to "extremes", which is to say: we do not fear the ultimate logical end of our ideas -- because we know where their logic leads, and do not fear it.

Ideas are like roads. As individuals, we are free to choose the road we travel, how fast we go, and to change roads at any time.

However, we are NOT free to alter that road, in particular its ultimate end. In the same manner that the physical roads possess a physical shape that is beyond the driver's ability to change, ideas possess a logical identity that dictates where they must lead -- and that end is not subject to our desires or intentions.

So long as you travel a given road, you are travelling inexorably towards its physical terminus; so long as you accept a given idea, you travel towards it logical end result. Your choice in the matter can only affect *which* roads you travel, and which ideas you accept.

This is the principle which has been described as "the inexorable logic of ideas" and which I call ideological causality.

The upshot of this, is that it is possible to understand the logic of ideas, in order to know what "road" you are on. This is how we can know where we came from -- and where we are going.

It also means that a man can be held responsible for knowing those things -- and that is the responsibility which the concept of "extremism" is designed to evade. You followed the ideas they sold you and followed their logic all the way to the end, and the results were disastrous? Well, duh, don't be so consistent, they say -- don't go to *extremes*. If you are on the road to hell, stay on it -- just don't go so fast!

If you wanted to go to New York, but the road you are on leads to Los Angeles, are you going to change raods to one that leads to New York -- or are you just going to slow down?

Well, the logical end-of-road of "extremism" is the toleration of inconsistency, known as the vice of hypocrisy. Except they don't call it that, of course, they call it "moderation", and sometimes "balance". I have at least twice had a conservative question my opposition to hypocrisy, attempting to argue that it is a necessary thing -- while evading the fact that it is only necessitated by their insistence on travelling the road to hell.

Of course, ideas are a two-way road; if you can know where you are going, you can study ideological history and hierarchy -- in other words, you can learn where a given ideas comes from, logically and historically -- and where it could not have come from. Both the Left and conservatism have a vested interest in keeping that particular sort of understanding in the dark -- conservatives, in order to pass off the "America is a Christian nation" fraud -- and the Left, to evade their socialistic (as opposed to liberal) ideological lineage. Both want to get away with claiming Americanism as their own, even as the roads they travel lead further and further away from it.

Now let me illustrate how I know that Patrick was never on our road. Had he ever been, he would have easily understood that if patriotism is indeed in our rational self-interest, there is no conflict and no "balance" to be imposed -- i.e. there is no negative "extreme" that arises out of this 100% consistent application of moral individualism.

But Patrick doesn't make that connection. From somewhere, he has the idea that Objectivism's logical end-of-road is the psychopath, who (among other things) is an extremist who does not value society or patriotism. Well, it is not *our* road that leads to the destination he sees. That is because he's standing on someone else's road, not ours. He is responsible for identifying whose road it is -- what concept of "individualism" leads to psychopaths? He has not done so.

He already has one important clue that he needs to look back and see what road he's on; it's the same road travelled by those who, fearing (rightly) that hell is its terminus, have told him not to go to "extremes".

Anonymous said...

I was going to provide further clarification of my comment in light of what Myrhaf said, but... frankly I can't top how Jim May put it.

Thanks Jim! That's entirely where I was going with my comment.

If I was short, it is because Patrick was making a fraudulent claim - that he had an understanding of Objectivism and therefore rejected it. Poppycock! Nobody who even remotely understands Objectivism could claim to have rejected it on the basis Patrick claims - since that is not even remotely what Objectivism is.

And I say fraudulent rather than mistaken because it really is that basic of an error - it is not possible to have studied Objectivism in any sort of depth and to have made a mistake of that kind. And since he hasn't studied it in any kind of depth, he is in a position to know that he isn't qualified to make that kind of claim about Objectivism.

That one "stopped being" an Objectivist inherently implies that one *was* at some point an Objectivist and *actually held* some sort of understanding of Objectivism - two things that are not true of Patrick and he knows it!

That deliberate fraud is why I reacted so strongly. I don't take kindly to fraudulent defamations like that - the biggest problem facing Objectivism right now is that so few know what it is, and so many spread misinformation about it - like Patrick did.

That's why I reacted so strongly.


Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

No, I haven't studied Objectivism in depth. I'm afraid Objectivists put me off it as they were a little to dogmatic for my tastes.

Anonymous said...

"No, I haven't studied Objectivism in depth. I'm afraid Objectivists put me off it as they were a little to dogmatic for my tastes."

That's quite different than what you said before.

As to dogmatic people - yes, some people who *claim* to be "Objectivists" are quite dogmatic.

Which is why anyone with an interest should study the actual philosophy itself, rather than some random internet yob's take on it.

Present company included, even.


Myrhaf said...

By "dogmatic," I suspect he means what Objectivists call "rationalistic." Rationalistic is no more rational than moralistic is moral. And some Objectivists, particularly young ones, can be rationalistic. They spin cloud castles of deductive reason that are not inductively attached to reality. They can be a pain in the ass.

But sometimes empiricist-minded types accuse Objectivists of being dogmatic or rationalistic because they can't see the principles or the ties to the facts of reality. They can't see how bad premises lead to bad reality on this Earth.

In my experience, when someone brings up the accusation of dogmatism, it's futile to argue any longer. Any attempt to persuade will be seen by the accuser as further proof of dogmatism. Best just to say, "Go thy way and I'll go mine."

Jim May said...

I'm afraid Objectivists put me off it as they were a little to dogmatic for my tastes.

I've been put off by other Objectivists myself -- it still happens occasionally -- but it speaks only to those people. I know that because I have a roadmap -- i.e. I understand the ideas they profess, and can therefore identify what, in a person, follows from the ideas, and what doesn't.

It's pretty clear, for example, that Tom Cruise is quite the credulous muddle-headed idiot, but until I know something of what Scientology is, I cannot make a causal link between it and Cruise's behavior -- because individuals have free will; Cruise could be that way for any reason of his own choosing, regardless of what he professes to believe.

Just because someone *says* he's going to New York, you can't know that he really is going there unless you look at the road itself. Only then will you know if his intentions and his actual driving are linked.