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Jun 4, 2005 9:24 pm


Listmania and Maturity ...



Nearly everyone and everything gets on somebody's list of things these days. Nearly everyone even gets to be compared with Adolf Hitler at some time or other. Haven't the Hitlees heard of Godwin's Law? Glenn Reynolds tipped me off to the HitLerist and Jon Dresner calls our attention to Orac's"Who's Hitler Today?" about it. It's a good index to the folly of our times.

And, though they seem to be inevitable, lists in general are an index to our folly. Caleb McDaniel's list of the 10 Most Harmful Books of the 20th Century is a commentary on the silliness of lists. My favorite commentary on the silliness of lists is Koko's"I've Got a Little List" from Gilbert and Sullivan's"Mikado." You probably know it well:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed--who never would be missed!
There's the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs–
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs–
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with 'em flat–
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like _that_–
And all third persons who on spoiling tete-a-tetes insist–
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. He's got 'em on the list--he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed.

There's the banjo serenader, and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist--I've got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be missed--they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who"doesn't think she waltzes, but would rather like to try";
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist--
I don't think she'd be missed--I'm sure she'd not he missed!

CHORUS. He's got her on the list--he's got her on the list;
And I don't think she'll be missed--I'm sure she'll not be missed!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist--I've got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life–
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as--What d'ye call him--Thing'em-bob, and likewise--Never-mind,
And 'St--'st--'st--and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who--
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. You may put 'em on the list--you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed!
-- W. S. Gilbert

"Mikado" and its"I've Got a Little List" are parodies, of course. Our colleague, Jon Dresner, knows better than I do whether, when, and how Japanese people have found Gilbert and Sullivan's deliberate stereotyping offensive; but the stereotyping is so clear that it seems obvious that it mocks contemporary England every bit as much as it stereotypes Japan.

And so it is with lists: they tell you both about the lister and the things listed. I'm a bit like eb at No Important Matter. Having trouble organizing my priorities, my one priority is to make a list of things to do. It's almost as if my list is what I hope to be that day. Now, I don't speak for the Cliopatriarchs, but if I were making a list of who they are -- what they all have in common – I'd say that they are all:

1. Historians
Conversely, if I were making a list of who they are not, I would say, in descending order of certitude, that they are not:
1. Nazis
2. Communists
3. Objectivists
4. Right-Wingers
5. Libertarians
As I say, I'm less certain about it as you get to the bottom of the list. Some of us probably have greater libertarian instincts than others and I, certainly, have valued libertarian friends over at Liberty & Power. But I'm a little surprised that Chris Matthew Sciabarra at Liberty & Power calls my inclusion of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead on a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries"obscene." A Visiting Scholar in the Department of Politics at New York University, Sciabarra is also a founding co-editor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, so it's not surprising that he disagrees with my referring to Rand's work as"harmful." But he also crossposts his commentary at his own Notablog, where the criticism is more severe. There, a pseudonymous commentator,"Technomaget" courageously says of me:
"That guy is a moron if he:
1) Can't read her books and find out what she is saying in them.
2) Assuming that her ideas are responsible for the Me generation (that's a real stretch)
3) Creating a list that has no reasoning behind.
I might as well make a top ten morons of the year category and put him on it."
Well, Technomaggot, I've got some news for you: It's a free country and, since your dependent clause implying that I cannot read is false, it means that your conclusion is also false, but you are free to put me on any list of"morons" you want. I suspect that I'd enjoy the company on your list. And Chris Sciaberra is free to call whatever he wants to"obscene." But neither Sciaberra nor Technomaggot seem to get it: In a moment of weakness (it just seemed like years of agony), I read Ayn Rand and I don't worship at her shrine!

My lack of admiration for Ayn Rand is well known. Fourteen months ago, several of us crossed swords with the Randy libertarians at Liberty & Power -- Robert Campbell, Roderick Long, and Sciaberra -- when I agreed with Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy about the folly of Barnes & Noble stocking Rand's book on its Philosophy shelves. In January, I noted that, like others of our friends over at L & P, its new group member, Jason Kuznicki, was"hit in the head with a Randian brickbat when he was just a kid" but that he, at least, had gotten over it. Here, I recommended "The Fountainhead, Starring Skullforce", a parody of The Fountainhead to"the Randians-in-recovery" over at Liberty & Power."

Nor am I alone among the Cliopatriarchs in not admiring either Ayn Rand or her so-called philosophy."Well," said Hugo Schwyzer, commenting at Volsunga on Human Events's original list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries and quoted at Slate,"if we lefties ever believed in banning books, we could come up with our own counter list. We could start with the works of William F. Buckley, Leo Strauss, Friedrich Hayek, and above all, number one on my list of harmful books: anything by Ayn Rand.
I can tolerate anyone, anyone, with two exceptions:
1. Folks who wear fur
2. Folks who developed an outlook on life from The Fountainhead."

With all due respect to my friends at Liberty & Power, my opinion is that Ayn Rand's Objectivism is in no meaningful sense a philosophy. It has more the character of a cult-like psychological disorder. If it persists into maturity, my shrink would call it:"delayed adolescent omnipotence."


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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I figured. You don't want a "nasty exchange"--just the opportunity for a nasty hit-and-run involving "humorous" references to Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan.

Incidentally, if you really want to assuage your doubts about what I "know", give "exchange" a chance. Rest assured, you'll soon find out.

My reputation precedes me because people like you like to dish it out but have a very low capacity for taking it. It doesn't work that way. Get used to it.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Boy, I'd sure like someone to explain to me how I'm NOT in the "Anglo-American philosophical tradition." That would be unprecedented, for sure. A dissertation on analytic meta-ethics and moral epistemology, an American passport, passable English skills, graduate degrees at "Anglo-American" universities...and I'm STILL not a member of the club. Dammit, I forgot to send my membership dues AGAIN!


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Ralph,

I've so far refrained from entering this "discussion" on Rand, because no part of it focuses on any issue of substance. But with your claims about who takes Rand seriously and who doesn't, I feel I should say something.

As a professional philosopher with eleven years of teaching under my belt, I take more than a passing interest in what is and isn't a "philosophy in any meaningful sense." And I'd be willing to put my career on the line to insist that Rand's work more than qualifies. If you'd like to argue that point, feel free. But arguing it means raising philosophical issues, not engaging in a insult-fest via snippets of autobiography and psycho-babble.

As for what your shrink would call Rand's philosophy, I'm not really sure it matters, except that your reference to shrinks raises the question of why Sigmund Freud is on your preposterous list alongside Ayn Rand. It also raises the question of precisely what feature of either of these writers you know anything about, and what qualifies you to comment on the subject in the first place. You speak rather cavalierly about Rand's "so-called philosophy." Coming from a not-EVEN-so-called philosophER, I don't find this a particularly authoritative claim, and I don't think anyone else should, either.

If you really want an example of adolescent behavior, re-read your post. With one exception, I haven't heard anything quite as lame since graduating high school. The one exception? The last time I read a blowhard critique of Rand on the web--from a person with about as much knowledge of the subject as you.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Yeah--the difference is that when I cross disciplinary boundaries, I make sure to know what I'm talking about, and if I make a mistake, I admit it. So yes, I think my post certainly does speak for itself. It also shows your inability to do the same, when push comes to shove. That speaks for itself, too.


Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

Luker is being disingenuous. First stirring up attention by including Rand along with Hitler; then feigning innocence by asking "why in the world would you think that equates them? lists are silly anyway." On the other hand, it's clear that Luker's attempts at expression are just his way of grunting, "me think free markets bad. me think they just as bad as hitler. urrgghh."

So, so what? We are used to living with anti-liberals. This is nothing new. The essence of leftists is that they equate peaceful, productive people with criminals; thus they are willing to use the power of the state to wield force against both. Again, this is nothing new.

I think it's really silly to talk about harmful books. No one can really trace out the causal connections. What we can do is judge individual, concrete human actions--whoever they were "influenced" by. And we can judge the relative substantive merit of competing ideas. So this is really just a complicated, fancy way of expressing our disagreement. Luker, whether he admits it or not, adheres to one brand of socialism, or criminality. But he tries to dress it up to make it seem all fancy and stuff.

It does not offend me that he compares Rand to Hitler. This is only natural for the leftist mentality. What is offensive is that he believes that peaceful human interaction may be punished by the force of the state's army. All the rest--comparison of Rand to Hitler--is just a stark illustration or consequence of this fundamentally illiberal mindset.


Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

Luker, "This kind of johnny-come-lately response to a conversation he hasn't bothered to read seems characteristic of Stephan (not Stephen) Kinsella."

Sigh. Why you people always want to make it "about me" is mystifying. I am really not that special, not worth making into some kind of big target. Better to just focus on substance.

"It is, finally, nauseating to be told yet one more time that in putting Rand on the List I "compared" or "equated" Rand with Hitler. If I made a list of things to do tomorrow and it included "get dressed", "deposit a $1,000,000 check from Objectivists at L & P for my brilliant List", "take a shower" and "kill myself for pandering to the Objectivists at L & P" -- I do not think that I would have compared or equated the four things."

You are pettifogging. You clearly are classifying Rand's books along with Hitler's as both being "bad". Sure, you probalby think Hitler is way worse than Rand. So what? As I said above, your "comparison" does not bother me at all; it is just an outcome of the fact that you are illiberal (I take it you are, which is why you have Rand on your list). (BTW, I am not an Objectivist nor, I believe, are most people on this list.)

The truth is that anyone who believes that a principled advocacy of individual liberty, property rights, economic liberties, etc. (like Rand or other libertarians) is "bad" is simply an opponent of human freedom. But we live among these type of people; most people are illiberal to some extent. This is no surprise. Most people are therefore criminality-advocates to some extent. Again, no surprise.

Anyone that believes untrammeled human liberty is "bad" is necessarily going to be making the mistake of categorizing Hitler along with libertarians--since he views them as bad. This is not especially offensive; it's just an outcome or symptom of the underlying error of opposing libertarianism--human rights and liberty.

What is wrong is the opposition to Rand's and other libertarians' advocacy of individual rights. It is substantively wrong; it is an error on Luker's part. But he shares this error with most of the human race. Quibbling over whether he is really "comparing" Rand to Hitler is just a waste of time. He clearly believes (a) Hitler's evil actions were bad; and (b) putting in place a system of principled individual rights and liberty is bad. To this extent he has necessarily to classify them as similar. The problem is that while he is right about (a), his position (b) is simply mistaken.


Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

Luker: "You are correct in guessing that I am not a libertarian. You are incorrect in thinking that libertarians are the only people committed to human freedom. I'll put my record of deeds up against yours any day."

Libertarians are those who oppose all forms of aggression--the initiation of violent force against innocent victims. If you are also opposed to aggression, you are a libertarian. If you are not opposed, then you are in support of some forms of aggression. Those who are in favor of aggression are what some people might call "criminals," but in any event, it's hard to see how advocates of violence and aggression can be good advocates of "human freedom." You see, human freedom requires the absence of violent aggression.

It always amazes me that advocates of varying degrees of institutionalized aggression try to squirm and deny what they are really in favor of. Look, I'm in favor of free markets even if some people would be unemployed or whatever; I admit it. Why don't you people just admit: you are in favor of aggression--sometimes. You are willing to break an egg to make an omelet. At least it's honest.

For more discussion of this issue, see my What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist; The Trouble wiht Feser (On Libertarianism); On Jonah Goldberg's Youthful Phase; see also these threads, which show some conservative types trying to wriggle out of being labeled advocates of aggression despite clearly endorsing it: e.g., my debate with Ed Feser et al. about the nature of criminality and aggression in this thread; the Chronicles thread I participated in with Scott Richert about the non-aggression principle; see also recent post on LewRockwell blog lately about this and Thomas Woods versus Thomas Fleming, Storck, et al.; and a Chronicles blog thread I participated in with Fleming et al.


Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

Irfan, thanks to Luker for reuniting us! We are all in this together, dude. Sniff.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/7/2005

You are correct in guessing that I am not a libertarian. You are incorrect in thinking that libertarians are the only people committed to human freedom. I'll put my record of deeds up against yours any day.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/7/2005

Mr. Valliant, From what I can gather, you are a good example of why Ayn Rand's books should be on a list of harmful books. The preening self-adulation, the certainty that the world and other people were made for your conquest, is -- well -- pretty disgusting.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/7/2005

Not at all. I'm a Methodist and am quite prepared for you to deny that it is a valid belief system. I doubt that I'd bother to argue with your denial, because I have my own doubts about its theological coherency. In its contemporary manifestations, it's pretty mushy.


Andrew Robert Bissell - 6/7/2005

"It _still_ doesn't mean that anyone working in either the continental or the Anglo-American philosophical traditions grants Rand a moment's notice as a philosopher."

In other words, if Rand isn't taken seriously by academics, that means she's not a philosopher, irrespective of whatever insights or solutions to philosophical problems she may have achieved? There's a handy Objecti-cultist word for this sort of thinking: "social metaphysics."

I suppose it's a similar line of thinking that would allow Objectivism to be derided as a "cult," while Methodism--by virtue of its larger numbers of followers--somehow qualifies as a valid belief system.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/7/2005

This kind of johnny-come-lately response to a conversation he hasn't bothered to read seems characteristic of Stephan (not Stephen) Kinsella. It is, finally, nauseating to be told yet one more time that in putting Rand on the List I "compared" or "equated" Rand with Hitler. If I made a list of things to do tomorrow and it included "get dressed", "deposit a $1,000,000 check from Objectivists at L & P for my brilliant List", "take a shower" and "kill myself for pandering to the Objectivists at L & P" -- I do not think that I would have compared or equated the four things.


Hugo Schwyzer - 6/6/2005

Let me just weigh in and say, a. I agree with Ralph here, and b. my own beef is not with Rand (I've only read the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) but by her most passionate enthusiasts, whom I first encountered in high school and whom I have found to be remarkably self-centered as a group. I have no specialized knowledge of Rand as a philosopher, and dozens of encounters with folks of execrable politics who formed their weltanschaaung from her books. That's it.


James Valliant - 6/6/2005

I love fur--only the REAL thing, mind you--and I love to adorn my wife in it when I can't figure out a way to wear it myself.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/6/2005

Thanks, Jason, I stand corrected by you about the first point. I said, repeatedly, that I appreciate my friendship with several of L & P's group members, including yourself. It does seem to me that there's been a strange sort of mob action going on among people who otherwise like to regard themselves as proudly individualist thinkers. The ratio has been six on one. I tend to avoid that sort of piling on and almost always join in the defense of the one, when I see it happening. Frankly, it is particularly objectionable that this has been dragged out over three days and today it co-opts in comments our much more important Symposium.


Jason Kuznicki - 6/6/2005

Ralph, you wrote six months ago that I was more interested in other things than Rand, which is certainly true. But just recently you wrote that I had "gotten over" Rand, which is a mistake. I still think Rand was a great thinker, a great writer, and correct about a wide variety of philosophical issues, though certainly not all of them.

I hope this does not seem like splitting hairs, but I would not want anyone to think me a part of the anti-Rand camp, and your recent statement seemed to imply it. This was the point of my comment.

As to being a part of the "amen corner," yes, I came to the discussion a bit late, and I am well aware of it. I'm not actively blogging right now, I have not been actively blogging for over a week, and I was quite busy for much of the last few days. I wanted only to correct what might have been a misperception about my views on Rand--and to note that even with your subsequent claims of humor, I've completely been unable to see what's funny about comparing anyone's work to Hitler. Call me humorless, but your original post doesn't look the least bit to have been offered in jest.

I know you've discussed this to death already, and I have no interest in rehashing the discussion. Believe me, it was never my intent, and for the sake of everyone else I think I'll just drop the whole thing. I know the two HNN group blogs don't always get along, and I'd hate to contribute any futher to the animosity.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/6/2005

Jason, In the first place, there was an opportunity to correct me about your sense of Rand six months ago, when you joined L & P. In the second place, you keep repeating what your colleagues have said ad nauseum that Hitler is incomparable. The Objectivists _keep_ saying it, despite the fact that I'd already said that. Glad to know that we're in agreement on that point. If you don't have time to correct all nonsense in the world, you apparently do have time for the amen corner.


Jason Kuznicki - 6/6/2005

"apparently L & P bloggers don't bother to read the posts that they attack."

On the contrary, we do read them. It's just that, to be frank about this, there is a woefully large amount of nonsense in the world and only so much time to correct it. We simply deem Rand to be far more worth defending than Dewey, whose defenders I am sure are quite up to the task on their own.

For the record, I wouldn't compare Freud or even Mahan to Hitler, Mao, Lenin, and so forth. I think the latter are in a class by themselves, and it's hard to find others even remotely like them.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/6/2005

I'm glad to have the correction on your personal experience. In fact, I've read a post of yours in which you testify to Rand's having had a sort of emancipating influence in your life.
I've been over the Hitler thing a number of times. I don't recall _any_ L & P bloggers objecting to it when, say, John Dewey was included on Human Events' list with Hitler. I made the point about everybody being compared with Hitler and that being the end of argument -- apparently L & P bloggers don't bother to read the posts that they attack. They just see dear Ayn way down on a list topped by AH and they get all red in the face.


Jason Kuznicki - 6/6/2005

"In January, I noted that, like others of our friends over at L & P, its new group member, Jason Kuznicki, was "hit in the head with a Randian brickbat when he was just a kid" but that he, at least, had gotten over it."

This is quite inaccuate. While I am more interested these days in the Enlightenment and in 18th-century intellectual history in general, I still have a profound admiration for Rand, and I also find including her book on a list with Hitler's absurd.


Steven Horwitz - 6/6/2005

See my reply to this over at L&P. I chimed in on a Left2Right thread ridiculing the original list, and would gladly produce email to confirm it, both of which were long before I saw your list. So your claim of selective outrage is baseless.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/6/2005

Rod, This is a point already stated by one of your L & P peers in this discussion. If you don't read what's already been said, there's no point to having a discussion at all. It _still_ doesn't mean that anyone working in either the continental or the Anglo-American philosophical traditions grants Rand a moment's notice as a philosopher. This is the second time that you have repeated a point already made, as if it were first made by you. _Really_ tedious. So, I'm done talking with you or anybody at L & P about the issue.


Roderick T. Long - 6/6/2005

In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand independently anticipated crucial aspects of Kripke's and Putnam's work on necessity and reference, including the crucial idea that a concept can include as-yet-undiscovered properties of its referents (the solution to the positivist and Kuhnian claim that reference changes every time definitions change). What more is needed to establish Rand's credentials as a serious philosopher?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2005

I doubt you know what you're talking about and I certainly have no interest in having nasty exchanges with you. Your reputation, long since, precedes you.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2005

I'll try to remember your low toleration for anything that is silly the next time I am tempted to engage in it. I don't recall your having objected to the Human Events list at all. It was only when someone thought that Rand belonged on such a list that the silliness got to you and demanded a full accounting. There's something overly defensive in that and you might want to think about it.


Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 6/5/2005

Technomaget posted to my blog again this morning; he apologizes for calling you a moron and has a bit more to say:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/technomaget/


Steven Horwitz - 6/5/2005

I certainly agree with the silliness of the whole enterprise Ralph. Even so, to compile a list of 10 or 12 books, out of all the books of the last 200 years, that are the most "harmful" *does* suggest that those books are at a rough level of harmfulness. Yeah, I suppose you could argue that the top 3 are REALLY harmful, the next 4 are "quite" harmful, and the last few "pretty" harmful, and then everything else misses the cut. A stretch though.

And Rand's work is certainly not "sacred" to me, nor to Chris I would argue. Whatever her failings, however, they haven't caused anywhere near the harm to real human beings and real human societies as have many of the other books/ideas on your list.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2005

Does putting Objectivists on the same list with Nazis mean that they are the equivalent of each other?


Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 6/5/2005

Ralph, honestly: I don't object to any and all lists; what I objected to was a list that didn't seem to have any reasonable criterion for including Rand with Hitler and Lenin. You have to know that any list that includes Hitler, by its nature, is going to raise a few eyebrows in the "guilt by association" department.

I certainly do not feel any need to protect Rand's work as "sacred text." At all. I have written many criticisms of Rand's work myself, and, in my Notablog post, I actually linked to a monograph of mine, Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation, that takes Rand and many of her proteges to task for the awful, harmful things they said about gays and lesbians in the early Objectivist movement.

Moreover, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is most definitely not a "cult" periodical. We have featured in our pages very vigorous criticism of Rand---from Bill Martin and Slavoj Zizek on the left to libertarians and conservatives on the right.

As for the person who called you a "moron": he operates his own blog, and he was responding in the comments section of my post. You can find his blog here.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2005

Chris, I got that point. I took no personal offense in it because it wasn't directed at my person. I did take offense at being called a "moron" by a pseudonym. Do you object to any and all lists? Were you offended by my list of things Cliopatriarchs were not? It put Libertarians and Objectivists on the same list with Nazis and Communists. My point is that you apparently have a felt need to protect Rand's work as sacred text in ways that I don't feel the need to protect the work of my own religious community. What's up with that?


Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 6/5/2005

Ralph, if I may, I didn't call ~you~ obscene. I just found it offensive that Rand, who emigrated from the Soviet Union and who extolled the virtues of human liberty, would be found on the same list as Hitler and Lenin.

But you persist in attacking those of us who take Rand seriously as "devotees of a cult," so there's no place to go with this discussion---except down.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2005

Steve, To a certain extent, you are arguing with what happens on _any_ list. That's why I prefaced the post with a _long_ piece about the silliness of lists. When I list the five things that I think most Cliopatriarchs are _not_, does that mean that I have put Libertarians or, even, Objectivists in the same category with Nazis and Communists? Of course not.
The same principle applies to other lists, as well. My list of things to do today -- let's say, bring in the mail, tell the lawyer to redraft my will, mow the lawn, etc -- doesn't mean that each of those things is of equal importance or even in the same league with each other.
So, when I say that Rand's work is in the lower half of my list of the ten most harmful books, it doesn't imply that they are harmful in the same way. Some people argued that _Mein Kampf_ didn't even belong on such a list because it had relatively little impact in Germany and -- besides, it is such a turgid read that it simply does little "harm." So, if you argue that Rand's work, albeit turgid, does little material harm to the lives it touches, does that put it on the same list with _Mein Kampf_?
There's a problem with the whole business of making lists -- it flattens out things that are much more complicated than they appear to be on a list -- I said that in several different ways and I don't quite understand why I'm having to say it again, except that devotees of a cult object to finding their sacred texts listed as harmful.
I'm a Methodist. If you want to put Wesley's Notes on the New Testament on a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 18th Century, be my guest. I may think you wrong -- even hopelessly wrong. I won't call what you've done "obscene" or call you a "moron."


Steven Horwitz - 6/5/2005

FWIW... I concur with Chris's characterization of the inclusion of Rand's work on a list that includes the tomes of mass murders, anti-Semites, etc. as obscene. Please, please show me the tangible harm her work has caused that would lead one to even consider making a comparison to the other books included on your list Ralph. Even in the worst reading of Rand that I can legitimately construct, the harm to the world that vision could have caused is far, far less than the other items on your list. I'd really love to know where the Randian utopia or the Randian individuals are that she has supposedly spawned that have caused so much harm.

My real trouble, aside from your ad hominems at those of us who, even if we don't agree with all or even most of them, take her ideas seriously (do I at 41 suffer from delayed adolescence?), is that your implicit understanding of the content of her ideas is gravely mistaken, and your extrapolation of the actions and beliefs of her looniest followers to those of serious scholars is exactly the sort of thing that Left and Right are doing to each other all the time these days, and to no good end if the idea is mutual understanding. No one should call Islam a religion of violence because of the actions of a small group of its practitioners. Doesn't the same apply here?

Calling Rand's books among the most "harmful" books of the last two hundred years really is obscene, *given the other books on the list*. Calling them the most "wrong" books of the last two hundred years would have been a far more legitimate, though I'd still say mistaken, argument. Unfortunately, many folks seem to have fallen into the trap Human Events set when they seemed to confuse "harmful" and "wrong."


Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 6/5/2005

I posted a reply to your response at L&P (cross-posted at Notablog). See here.


Grant W Jones - 6/4/2005


http://50thstar.blogspot.com/2005/06/ten-worse-books-and-argumentum-ad.html


Ralph E. Luker - 6/4/2005

Irfan, As a philosopher who has been given the prerogative of blogging on History News Network, you seem a little quick to cop a disciplinary boundary. It was what I would have expected from you. Apart from that, I think I'll let your comment speak for itself.