Do you have a a comment of your own?

An exchange
between Steve Sniegoski
and Ronn Neff

Mr. Neff's reply.
Dr. Sniegoski's second reply.
Mr. Neff's second reply.
Dr. Sniegoski's third reply.
Mr. Neff's third reply.


Objectivism = Sharonism?
Comments on Ronn Neff's
"The Peace of Objectivism"



I know little about Objectivism, and what I have to say may be so obvious that Mr. Neff saw no need to deal with it in his column. But when he writes that the Objectivists' cheerleading for the "war on terrorism" signals their rallying around a flag, I have to say it looks to me as though the Objectivists — at least those of the Ayn Rand Institute — identify not so much with the flag that has the 50 stars as they do with the one that has a single, large, six-pointed star. (In this letter, I will focus on ARI, which is the "official" Ayn Rand organization. [1])

The Objectivists of the Ayn Rand Institute are distinguished above all by their staunch support of Israel — an Israel of the most extreme, Sharonist hue — and their concomitant demand that the United States fight to aid that country.

For example, the Institute came out with an "ad hoc" publication in April titled "In Moral Defense of Israel," and part of ARI's Website is devoted to that question. [2] ARI pontificates: "We hold that the state of Israel has a moral right to exist and to defend itself against attack — and that the United States should unequivocally support Israel." That's right, unequivocally. To show that Israel's moral purity warrants U.S. support, the publication continues: "Israel and those who attack it are not moral equals. Israel is a free, Westernized country, which recognizes the individual rights of its citizens (such as their right to property and freedom of speech). It uses military force only in self-defense, in order to protect itself." [Ibid.]

The publication features such pro-Israel headings as "Israel Attacked for Its Virtues" and "Israel's War Is America's War." [Ibid.] There is a claim that the defense of Israel contributes to the security of the United States — and one would expect no less from an organization that is physically situated in the United States. However, most of the articles contrast the moral purity of Israel with the diabolical nature of Islam and the Arabs. In fact, ARI expounds such a militant Zionism that by comparison Ariel Sharon almost appears the "man of peace" President Dodo proclaims him to be. As Justin Raimondo aptly observes: "The latter-day saints of the Objectivist faith have taken up the cause of Israel more fiercely than the most fanatical mystics, either Zionist or Christian." [3]

One ARI article maintains that the exchange of any land on the Israeli-occupied West Bank would lead to Israel's suicide. [4] This, of course, implies that Israel either must make permanent its undemocratic rule over a million or so Palestinians, bereft of citizenship rights, or ethnically cleanse the entire population. But imperial domination does not faze ARI: another article alleges that "only individuals dedicated to freedom have a right to 'self-determination' and to create a state." [5] Obviously, since the Palestinians are not, in ARI's view, "dedicated to freedom," it is perfectly all right to rule them with an iron fist, confiscate their property, deny them civil rights, and mete out various and sundry other cruelties for which the "dedicated to freedom" Israeli occupiers are notorious.

More shocking still, and in utter disregard of existing international law, ARI holds that it is perfectly proper to "deliberately target the civilians of an aggressor nation," as the United States did "when it dropped fire bombs on Dresden and Hamburg and atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings were moral acts." [6] It is just there, of course, that many civilized folk will simply tune ARI out. Definitively and forever.

Because in ARI's view the Palestinians do not enjoy the right to self-determination, their resistance to Israeli occupation amounts to "aggression" categorically, quite independently of whether any Palestinians ever engage in aggression against Israeli noncombatants. But that's the least of it: ARI wants the United States to apply the same philosophy right across the Middle East, recognizing that it "requires mass civilian deaths in terrorist countries." ARI seems to be saying that the protection of Israel necessitates and justifies the extermination of the non-Jewish peoples of the Middle East.


I have to make it clear that loyalty to Israel is not merely one ARI position among many; rather, it is central to the work of the organization. According to ARI, speakers have "garnered more than 3,200 minutes of radio airtime interviews on such topics as the war on terrorism and Israel's moral right to exist." And the publication asks its readers for help in spreading the pro-Israel message:

If you agree that Israel is the victim, that it is in the right, that it deserves staunch intellectual defense — please send a (tax-deductible) contribution to the Ayn Rand Institute. Your financial support will help us produce more editorials, arrange more campus lectures that promote a rational solution to terrorism in general — and that present a moral defense of Israel in particular. [7]

Why do the "official" Objectivists support Israel? It does not seem to flow directly from the philosophical principles of Objectivism, though Rand was personally pro-Israel. According to Raimondo, Rand held that

the Palestinians are "savages" and [she] reiterated her unconditional support for Israel. Since every word Rand ever uttered is worshipped as holy writ by her followers, that's it as far as the "Objectivists" are concerned, and we'll hear no further arguments. [8]

As I have stipulated, I am no expert on Objectivism, but I am not so sure how far the "Randroid" argument takes us in this case. While Rand was pro-Israel, it is not apparent that she advocated an American military defense of Israel, much less anything like the offensive moves that the ARI expounds. In fact, Rand tended to oppose American military intervention. As the noted libertarian scholar Roy Childs writes: "She spoke often rather fondly about 'isolationism,' and seemed to have been sympathetic with the America First Committee." Childs continues: "For years, I have tried to find a coherent foreign policy in her works, and have always failed." [9]

What now looms so large at ARI seems to have been, at best, only in the penumbra of Rand's thinking. That suggests another possible explanation. Most of the leading figures of ARI, beginning with the leader, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, appear to be Jewish. [10] If evolutionary biologist Kevin MacDonald is correct, it is their Jewishness that explains their pro-Israel focus. [11]

The ARI Objectivists openly call for the sacrifice of individual freedom, property rights, legal norms, and human life itself to advance the interests of Israel — or, rather, some ultra-Sharonist vision of "Greater Israel." Mr. Neff, I believe, diagnosed a deeper, philosophical flaw in the Objectivists' support of the state; at the same time, though, it is not apparent that all non-anarchists go so far in advocating the trampling out of all vestiges of human liberty as do the current crop of Objectivists. But whatever the cause, the same thing can be said about "official" Objectivism that one of Rand's favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, said about the revolutionary ideology of his day. As his revolutionary ideologue Shigalov admitted in The Possessed:

"I have started out with the idea of unrestricted freedom and I have arrived at unrestricted despotism." [12]

August 16, 2002

Mr. Neff replies

Dr. Sniegoski's description of what one finds at aynrand.org cannot be gainsaid; and he is right: it goes far beyond anything Rand discussed publicly.

Of course, Peikoff was a long-time confidant of hers, and it may be that she imparted such views to him in the course of unrecorded conversations.

Or that he overheard them before he became the heir apparent.

I take issue with three points:

(1) That "loyalty to Israel is not merely one ARI position among many; rather, it is central to the work of the organization." It is certainly an active element of the ARI site, but a look at the Site Index shows that aynrand.org is really quite a large site and contains seven "micro-sites," some of which are "micro" only by comparison with the rest of the site. To be sure, ARI would not even consider publishing an anti-Israel essay; but then it would not consider publishing an essay critical of Microsoft, either, or an argument against abortion. Randians are a pretty hard-line sort in that once they take a position, they brook no disagreement.

(2) That ARI is stridently pro-Israel because Peikoff (and other dominant personalities at the organization) are Jews. The ARI position on Israel is so irrational that one naturally looks for an explanation. But if the Jewishness of Peikoff and others is to be taken as that explanation, one needs yet another explanation for the gentile Objectivists' being pro-Israel (e.g., David Kelley) and yet a third for the fact that there are Objectivist Jews who are not pro-Israel. (They do not write for ARI or the Objectivist Center, of course.)

My own speculation is that atheism has become more central to Objectivism's "sense of life" than big-name Objectivists will admit — more central than individualism. Israel is secular enough for them, and the Palestinians are "mystical" enough for them, that they can draw distinctions and take sides. Just as Rand's play Penthouse Legend (AKA The Night of January 16th) was a "sense of life" drama, I believe that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is a "sense of life" conflict for them, and they have allowed the sense-of-life aspects of foreign policy to overrule the more linear-principle aspects.

(3) That I derived Objectivists' contempt for individual rights from their not being anarchists. Like Dr. Sniegoski, I recognize that there are many libertarians who are nonanarchists but who do not advocate the complete trampling of individual rights and who are not warmongers. (One thinks of the writers at the Future of Freedom Foundation.) It is not because Objectivists are in love with the state that they have fallen so far from the implications of Rand's vision of liberty. It is that they are in love with the United State, and always have been.

For 40 years they have watched what she identified as fascism wax in this country. Yet their fervor for the United State has not waned. Even on constitutionalist premises — perhaps especially on constitutionalist premises — one should expect to see some genuine hostility to the wickedness that is so present a threat to them. And neither they nor Rand ever expressed the hostility toward it that the United State has merited and merits. There is no telling what absurd and evil propositions will come tumbling out of intellects that such a love has corrupted.

Reply posted August 19, 2002

Dr. Sniegoski replies

As I said in my previous letter to the editor, I don't claim expertise regarding Objectivism. It appears that Mr. Neff, a long-time observer of the Objectivist scene, differs considerably with some of my analysis. Although in one instance our differences appear to be largely semantic, elsewhere Mr. Neff's causal arguments seem to conflict with empirical evidence or logic, at least as far as I can see.

I wrote that "loyalty to Israel is not merely one ARI position among many; rather, it is central to the work of the organization," and that appears quite clear — though "central," of course, does not mean primary function. (I did not intend to imply that ARI is a pro-Israel front group.) It is not the case simply that ARI would never publish an anti-Israel statement, as Mr. Neff notes, but rather that ARI advocates that the United States "unequivocally support" Israel. In essence, ARI holds that the United States should back any policy the Sharon government might take. That is a very significant position to take; it would be an unheard-of diplomatic stance — that U.S. foreign policy should, essentially, be made by a foreign country.

Even if we simply take into account the amount of space and effort devoted by ARI, support of Israel seems to loom very large. As I pointed out in my earlier letter, there is a special publication devoted to the issue, a Web page, lectures at colleges and universities, and a fund-raising advertisement on the theme. In addition, the ARI lecture series this fall on the applicability of Rand's philosophy will start with a discussion of the "war on terrorism" by Israeli Yaron Brook.

I implied that the Jewishness of the leaders of ARI may account for their pro-Israel militancy, a point Mr. Neff rejects. As compared to the general population, Jews certainly tend to be more supportive of Israel. Why would Objectivist Jews be any different? The fact that some Gentiles support Israel while some Jews do not does not undermine the idea that Jews, by and large, are far stronger supporters of Israel than Gentiles.

I did go to "The Objectivist Center" site to see what the TOCers were saying on Israel. And they were about as extreme as the ARIans. There was a major article by a Tal Ben-Shachar on "Israel's right to self-defense," with "self-defense" meaning the right to dominate the Palestinians on the West Bank. After seeing a piece by Shawn Klein ("The Judgment Days") identifying with the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, I couldn't help but conclude that Jews and Judeophilia loom large in organized Objectivism.

Of course, Objectivist groups' promotion of a defense of Israel would tend to elicit Jewish support in terms of membership and money. In short, both the ARIans and the TOCers appear both heavily Jewish and stridently pro-Israel. It stands to reason that groups that promote Israel will attract a Jewish membership, who then will promote Israel. Somehow I don't think Arab-Americans would be attracted to these Objectivist groups.

Mr. Neff strongly implies that it is atheism that causes organized Objectivism's Israelophilia. But I am unaware of any particular Gentile atheist support for Israel. To the contrary, the strongest Gentile support seems to come from fundamentalist Christian fundamentalists. Moreover, it is not apparent that Israel is more secular than the Palestinians. Israel officially supports the Jewish religion, while the Palestinian Liberation Organization has called for a secular state in Palestine. Also, it would be odd if atheism should cause anyone to support the Jewish West Bank settlements, which are largely inhabited by fervently, if not fanatically, religious Jews. In Israel, secular Jews tend to be the group least in favor of the settlements, and religious Jews the most supportive. On top of that, one would think that the whole Biblical belief that God has given the land of Israel to His "Chosen People" would turn off militant atheists. In essence, it does not appear that there is any pro-Israeli proclivity among atheists or any logical reason for such to exist.

Finally, regarding Mr. Neff's reference to the "United State," I am not certain what that means. If it means support for a consolidated-centralized United States, other groups — such as mainstream liberals — have been strongly in favor of that transmutation but by no means as gung-ho for Sharon's Israel. If, on the other hand, love of the "United State" means fervent nationalism, it is odd to call people nationalists who want their country to "unequivocally support" a foreign country. If a group in the 1930s advocated such a position regarding the Soviet Union, they would hardly have been regarded as staunch American patriots; and in the 1950s, individuals associated with such a group would have been investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

One would think that nationalists would advocate a policy favorable to their own country above all others — as does Pat Buchanan, who describes himself as a nationalist and advocates an "America First" policy. To propose that the United States "unequivocally support" Israel serves to subordinate American foreign policy to Israeli policy. Instead of an American nationalist position, what ARI promotes can be categorized as an "Israel First" policy.

As I keep saying, I claim no expertise on Objectivism. It is intriguing, however, to see this group take such an extreme position in advocating a "war on terrorism" to enhance Israeli power. I would assume that there is more than one cause for the phenomenon, but precisely what all the causes are is not clear. While I am presenting my differences with Mr. Neff, at the same time I credit him with introducing to TLD this very worthwhile topic, which certainly deserves greater scrutiny.

Reply posted August 28, 2002

Editor's note. Mr. Neff, Mr. David T. Wright, and I all prefer to describe the band of human wolves ravenously battening upon America as the "United State." In a note preceding the main text of Dark Suits and Red Guards (1997), I wrote:

So that readers unfamiliar with The Last Ditch will not mistake for a misprint the first occurrence of the phrase "the United State" in this book, I must explain here that I deliberately use that formulation to refer to the post-Appomattox unitary state ruled from Washington and New York City. Shelby Foote, eminent historian of the War for Southern Independence, has noted how Americans typically said "the United States are ..." before Lincoln and "the United States is ..." afterward. They were, and are, right to do so. Take the phrase "the United State," then, as my attempt to enforce G.C. — grammatical correctness.

In fact, as is evident from our context here, I do not "enforce" any such thing in these present pages. But naturally I do seek to popularize it.

Nicholas Strakon
August 28, 2002

Mr. Neff replies

Dr. Sniegoski has detailed a fault of the official Objectivist sites in so many ways that it is a pity his work is relegated to the LTE corner of TLD.

He and I disagree on two primary points:

(a) That Sharonist Zionism is central to the work of the two primary Objectivist sites; and

(b) that the primary Objectivist sites are Sharonist Zionist because their principals are Jews.

On the first point, I concede that the two primary Objectivist sites contain much that might lead to Dr. Sniegoski's contention, and it may be simply that he and I mean different things by "central." But let's not let this exchange be merely semantic.

I contend that while Zionism is important to the work of each of the sites, it is not central to that work. In this connection, for a reason to be given later, I shall be speaking only of ARI's site, aynrand.org. As I argued before, there is quite a lot of material on that site that has nothing to do with foreign policy, and since neither Dr. Sniegoski nor I have access to a list of all the text files on it, it is difficult to make the case for either side by counting.

There is, I think, another possible measure. On the Internet there is an extraordinary site — archive.org — where one can take a look at superseded Web pages. (The Ditch cannot be so viewed because it has been at its current address for less than a year, and archive.org seems to be about a year behind in posting the contents of its archives.) If one puts in the URL www.aynrand.org, the list that comes up gives the date of August 1, 2001, as the last archive for that site before the atrocities of September 11. (The site that actually comes up gives an earlier date as its last update.)

On the site as it existed before those atrocities, there is no "microsite" for Israel at all. There are six topics for aynrand.org's "media link" section. On the site as it exists today, there are those six and two more, a radio show and the "Moral Defense of Israel." On the old site, there are three "moral defense" projects: opposing Clinton's and Colin Powell's "volunteerism" campaigns; defending Microsoft; and defending Elia Kazan. Today, the "moral defense" of Israel is clearly dominant.

On the archived site, I found only six articles dealing with terrorism and Palestine, even though the current hostilities date from Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount almost a year before September 11. (On the current site, four essays come up if one uses the search term "Temple Mount," all of them dated 2002.)

An organization that has been around as long as ARI has been surely would have made its central work clear before now. On the basis of discussions of Palestine and terrorism as they existed before September 11, no one would ever have thought that the well-being of Israel was central to ARI at all. It is entirely possible that ARI could lose its focus and make the welfare of Israel its central work, but I think I have shown that the welfare of Israel is not central to ARI as such.

What about The Objectivist Center? I have a challenge. I have not looked at the archived site (which is shown at http://web.archive.org/web/20010711222601/http://ios. or g/ — last year, the organization was known as the Institute for Objectivist Studies). I am confident that similar results would be obtained from an examination of it; if someone should learn that they are not, I will reluctantly concede that Dr. Sniegoski's case is much stronger than it appears to me now. I trust Strakon will reopen the debate just enough for the egg to be applied to my face.


Now for the second point: the explanation for the Sharonist Zionism in the two primary Objectivist organizations.

Dr. Sniegoski argues, "As compared to the general population, Jews certainly tend to be more supportive of Israel. Why would Objectivist Jews be any different? The fact that some Gentiles support Israel while some Jews do not does not undermine the idea that Jews, by and large, are far stronger supporters of Israel than Gentiles."

He is right that the fact that some Gentiles support Israel does not undermine the idea that Jews are stronger supporters than Gentiles. Moreover, there is nothing inconsistent in holding that the reasons for Jews' support are different from the reasons for Gentiles' support. And a strong case could be made that the reasons for the one are no different from what they are for other groups of Jews, and that the reasons for the other are also no different from what they are for other groups of Gentiles. I go further: I think the empirical evidence for such an answer is probably very strong.

Certainly as each organization takes a more and more strident position, each will attract more Jewish support and money. I would not be surprised to see that there are few Arabs who support the two organizations. (Similarly, neither organization has ever enjoyed substantial black or Hispanic support. Like libertarianism, Objectivism has never been particularly attractive to any groups other than Jews and white Gentiles.)

Nevertheless, I think that that conclusion would be false. I suggest that there is another reason for the support of the sites for Israel and that that reason applies equally to Jews and Gentiles. It is related to those aspects of Objectivism that make it different from other philosophies. My conclusion, however, is based only my "sense" of how Objectivists see themselves, of what they take to be important in the world, and of how they approach matters.

A hint of the explanation I shall offer is seen in Ayn Rand's contention concerning the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: that when one sees a civilized man in a conflict with a savage, one must side with the civilized man. That is virtually the only argument she ever gave publicly for her support of Israel. Please note: it lacks any sense of the area's or peoples' history (even propaganda-history); it suggests no appreciation for the subtleties of foreign-policy; and it does not even draw on her own philosophical principles.

I suggest that the matter is more of a "sense-of-life" issue for the Randians than it is anything else. Israel conducts her foreign policy in a manner in which Objectivists would like to see America conduct hers — without the groveling, without the disdain for "national self-interest," without the altruism. Israel is a little country facing the enmity of a dozen or more other countries, all larger than herself. Israel has made the desert bloom, while her enemies remain trapped in medieval (if not prehistoric) living conditions with a medieval religion, despite their immeasurable wealth — wealth that they could not tap, produce, or develop themselves. They could only nationalize it after the capitalist countries of the world had done the work for them. Still, this brave little country takes no crap from anyone. She defies the world and does what is right in her own eyes. She even dares to antagonize her primary benefactor when that benefactor begins to waver and lose her own moral vision. And when Israel goes to war, she whups her enemies.

That, at least, is a common view of Israel, and it is just the sort of view that would appeal to anyone who loves a novel in which the high point is an architect's blowing up a housing project he designed because "second-handers," in the course of building it, betrayed his design. It is the sort of view that would appeal to anyone who loves a novel in which a main character blows up the incalculable wealth of copper mines that his family have been building each generation for 400 years, leaving behind the message, "Brothers, you asked for it."

The real parallel hero here, though, is not Howard Roark or Francisco D'Anconia or even Hank Rearden. It's Bjorn Faulkner of The Night of January 16 (AKA Penthouse Legend). Faulkner, for whose murder his mistress is on trial, is clearly dishonest, a rapist, a forger, a power-seeker on a grand scale, and a swindler. His mistress loves him not in spite of what he was but because of what he was. The jury was to be drawn from each evening's audience, and Rand wrote the play with a different ending for each verdict. And their verdict would be made on the basis of each juror's sense of life, a "pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics," his "emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence."

The kind of people who find Bjorn Faulkner and his mistress Karen Andre heroic will also find Israel heroic. The error comes in forgetting that Faulkner and Andre are symbols. Israel — at least that adolescent Israel I described above — would be a symbol for what a heroic, self-confident country can and should be. But no Objectivist would ever think that stock swindling was virtuous, so on a biographical or empirical level no Objectivist would ever find Faulkner heroic. It is only the symbolic Faulkner who can be heroic. If, however, you forget that Israel is a real country, with a real history, and if you never study that history, it is possible to end up confusing symbolism with foreign policy.

I do not think this is an isolated error among Objectivists. To take one other example, Rand's delight and praise of the Apollo 11 mission was in contradiction to what she had written about government projects in her essay "The Monument Builders." But on the basis of her sense of life, her love for genius and for achievement, she praised it. So treating the symbol as reality is not an error the principal Objectivists make only when writing about Israel. But it is an error they seem always to have made with respect to Israel. This is in the nature of things a difficult proposition to prove, and I will not attempt it here. I am merely presenting it, along with a few reasons for believing it. I recommend that anyone interested in the possibility get a copy of the play and read it — it is quite short — and see whether my suggestion carries the "ring of truth."

I offer one final consideration to suggest that Objectivists, even the Jews among them, are not driven to and by their Zionism in quite the way that most Zionists are: I doubt — and again I am prepared to have egg smeared on my face — that anyone will find on the ARI Website or on the TOC Website any rejection of a position contrary to their own as "anti-Semitic." I think no one will find them trying to destroy the careers of critics of Israel. That is just not the Randian style, and I will be amazed if I am shown wrong. It is, however, commonplace among other supporters of Israel, and the difference hints at a more profound difference lying at the root of their Zionism.

I go further. I suspect that if there is any "anti" tossed around at all, it will be "anti-mind," "anti-reason," "anti-life," "anti-productive." And maybe even "anti-American."

Reply posted August 30, 2002

Dr. Sniegoski replies

Mr. Neff makes some excellent points. I would especially like to comment on his perceptive observation that Objectivists portray Israel as the embodiment of the Objectivist ethics — upholding "selfishness," productive success, and Western civilization in contrast to the Arabs' whining, incompetence, and savagery. It is remarkable how radically the official view of liberals in the United States differs from that of the Objectivists, as envisioned by Mr. Neff. For liberals, the Israeli Jews hold ultimate victim status, having suffered the greatest evil of all time, the HOLOCAUST. No matter now wealthy, Israeli Jews are portrayed as being powerless and faced eternally with another HOLOCAUST at the hands of powerful aggressors. As ultimate victims, Jews must always be defended.

It does make me wonder. Do Objectivist (and liberal) supporters of Israel really identify with Israel because she embodies their own respective values? Or do they identify with Israel first and then project onto her their own Objectivist (or liberal) values? Given the fact that the Objectivist and mainstream liberal views of Israel differ so radically, it is my belief that the second situation prevails. Furthermore, if Israel really embodies the ethics of Objectivism, why does she need or deserve U.S. government support any more than a Randian hero would need or deserve a government subsidy?

I think the question continues to call for further analysis.

August 30, 2002; posted September 6, 2002

Mr. Neff replies

I think that Dr. Sniegoski has missed my main point.

I did not say that Objectivists portray Israel as anything, and certainly not as an embodiment of the Objectivist ethics. Indeed, the point of the parallel with the hero-crook Bjorn Faulkner was that the matter does not hang on ethical questions at all, but on a "sense of life."

While the difference between the Objectivist treatment of Israel and the liberal one is striking, it is by no means unusual. Often, when Rand was discussing some current issue she would say that such-and-such a side was right, "but not in the way they mean." The classic example was her opposition to the war in Vietnam. She was probably the only critic to hold both that it was a stupid war and that the United States should win it.

Moreover, it is worth remembering that the Objectivist position on Israel was first formulated in the early years of Israel's history, and it was stated publicly only after the Six-Day War. It is hard to remember, but in those days the Holocaust simply was not a central theme of Jewish writers or supporters of Israel. There was not even a specific word for the crimes of the Third Reich against the Jews. Their status as the ultimate victims had not yet emerged. (Watch the movie "Exodus"; the suffering of Jews in that movie is usually discussed as something that they overcame, and their eventual victory proves their special status in the world.) In those days, I suspect even liberals did not think of Israel in victim terms.

Dr. Sniegoski raises an interesting question when he asks whether a Randian hero would need or deserve a government subsidy. Rand was opposed to government subsidies, and I assume that all Objectivists (even those not associated with the major centers) would reject them. While her heroes are uniformly self-sustaining, standing in no need of the approval or appreciation of others, she regarded it as a gross injustice when such real-life heroes were denied approval or appreciation. It was more a question of "emotional fuel"; it falls into the category neither of need nor desire, but is rather a kind of nourishment. A real-life Objectivist hero would deserve help, but only because he didn't need it.

Now ... would the official Objectivists support the discontinuing of foreign aid to Israel? One would assume they would (but not for the reasons pro-Palestinians might give). I went to the TOC Website, which has a page on which one may post questions about Objectivism. I asked them, "I know TOC is favorably disposed toward Israel, but not in favor of foreign aid. Would TOC be willing to see all aid to Israel ended?"

The answer I received is worth including in this discussion.

TOC's answer

Thanks for getting in touch with us. You commented on foreign aid:

Comment — I know TOC is favorably disposed toward Israel, but not in favor of foreign aid. Would TOC be willing to see all aid to Israel ended?


TOC does not have a position on foreign aid to Israel as such. In general, Objectivism holds that government has a single purpose: to protect its citizens' rights to freedom from the initiation of force. As military defense is one legitimate component of government, it is conceivable that there might be a defense rationale for aiding an ally. I don't really see how supporting Israel helps a current U.S. strategic military interest, but perhaps a case could be made on those grounds. Israel is a military ally of ours, and is a democracy. But most foreign aid projects simply are not within the proper province of government.

Of course, Objectivism is not opposed to foreign aid: any individuals who want to aid foreigners should be free to do so, as long as they do not finance wartime enemies of their own country. So TOC would not favor ending all aid to Israel. But it might suggest ending most of the tax-financed aid that currently goes there, or to any country or person.

Best wishes. I hope you are or become a TOC member, and help us fight for a more rational and freer culture.

— William Thomas
Manager of Research and Training
The Objectivist Center
email: wthomas@objectivistcenter.org
Tel: Mon/Wed (845) 471-6100


It is conceivable that Mr. Thomas is speaking only for himself. But I'm inclined to think he is not.

In any case, I can think of little to say about this answer. It has been a long time since I have talked to any constitutionalist as pro-government as the official Objectivists are, and I had forgotten just how much in the way of a tax-supported undertaking they could stomach.

"Radicals for capitalism," my eye.

Reply posted September 6, 2002

Editor's note. I now close this correspondence between Mr. Neff and Dr. Sniegoski. I continue to invite TLD readers to comment on their exchange as well as on Mr. Neff's original column.

Nicholas Strakon
September 6, 2002


© 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.


To Mr. Neff's column

Other reader response
to Mr. Neff's column.

If you found this article to be interesting, please donate to our cause. You should make your check or m.o. payable in U.S. dollars to WTM Enterprises and send it to:

WTM Enterprises
P.O. Box 224
Roanoke, IN 46783

Thanks for helping to assure a future for TLD!

Notice to visitors who came straight to this document from off site: You are deep in The Last Ditch. You should check out our home page and table of contents.