James Hughes on Ayn Rand and Anarcho-Objectivism

Interview conducted by Wayne John Sturgeon

1) Please could you introduce yourself and how you came to develop the paradigm of Anarcho-Objectivism?

Hi, I’m James Hughes, author at http://anarchobjectivist.wordpress.com. I was involved with the Objectivist community and the Ayn Rand Institute, including taking a class at the Objectivist Academic Center, donating to that organization and promoting their “books for teachers” program in my local community for ten years. During that time, like most Objectivists, I dismissed anarchism out of hand, based on the arguments made by Rand in “The Nature of Government.” After becoming involved with the founding of an Objectivist community on reddit, several anarchists who had been influenced by Ayn Rand took part in our discussions and I was introduced to the writings of Roy Childes, George H. Smith (whose book, “Atheism: The Case Against God” I had enjoyed learning from several years earlier), and Morris and Linda Tannihill and their arguments for anarcho capitalism, namely the fundamental contradiction between the basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics and monopoly government.

2) What is “Anarcho Objectivism” ? How does it differ from the minarchism of Ayn Rand who herself was very critical of anarchists and libertarians?

The basis of anarcho objectivism is that there is a contradiction between the objectivist ethics and the idea of monopoly government. Our argument is that to maintain a monopoly on the use of force a government must necessarily initiate the use of force against its citizens to keep them from seceding. This, combined with the concession that taxation must be voluntary, renders Ayn Rands ideal government more like a security and arbitration company in a field of many offering the same services.

We think that Rands comments on the hazards of monopoly, along with insights from the field of Austrian Economics, give us good reasons to expect the same level of inefficiency and corruption that monopoly  creates in any other field.

3) Wouldnt a consistant application of  Rands Objectivism lead to a Rothbardian form of anarcho capitalism as she herself in an article in the book “The Virtue of Selfishness” argues for ultimately a “Voluntarist” model for governmental financing?

Yes, I think the logical outcome of Rands system of government (which can’t force citizens to support it through taxation or by barring secession) is de facto anarcho capitalism.

4) To what extent does the classical anarchist individualist tradition of Max Stirner influence your paradigm of anarcho-objectivism?

Not to any extent that I know of.

5) Are there are similar aspects in the philosophy of Nietzche to that of Ayn Rand?

Nietzche certainly influenced Rand and was instrumental in her intellectual development, but in the end her philosophy is quite different in almost every aspect.

6) What do you think of Agorism and Counter Economics?

I think that Agorism is another name for the strike of Atlas Shrugged. They certainly represent our best strategy, combined with education, for escaping the effects of oppressive government.

7) Anton Levy of the Church of Satan is cited as sourcing Ayn Rand as an influence and describing his school of “satanism” as “Objectivism with Ritual” -how would you counter this?

Satanists themselves have highlighted the fundamentala differences between satanism and objectivis and they range from metaphysical to political, with LaVey supporting extreme government measures like “breeding licensing.”

8) Whats your views on Ayn Rands support for the State of Israel and Zionism?

I think she was wrong. She tends to throw the word savage at any group she doesnt approve of while ignoring that rights are conditions of human life, not “western” lives or “technologically or intellectually advanced” lives. It is clear that the state of Israel is an occupying force of a democracy that has a jewish majority that oppresses the palestinian people through a forced blockade of their coastline and a literal wall.

9) Can “Atlas Shrugged” be read in an revolutionary anarchist fashion?

Absolutely. The strike and the “removal of the sanction” are important concepts in anarchist thought that are very nicelt demonstrated in atlas shrugged. Also, the protagonists use many of the traditional methods of anarchists to achieve their goals, including direct action, sabotage, use of alternative currencies, founding of intentional communities, and the destruction of government support structures like infrastructure.

10) Could there be a “Left Objectivism” that would allow for some kind of wealth redistribution maybe along the lines of a voluntarist Georgist land value taxation?

Wealth redistribution from an Objectivist viewpoint could be validly seen as justice in the context of taking back wealth that was aquired by force and giving it to its rightful owners.

11) Does Anarcho Objectivism offer any critique of fractional reserve banking or provide any template for a form of monetary reform?

So far the only writings I know of are my commentaries on the federal reserve as a monopoly on currency that creates ripples of market distortion, including the creation of a politically privileged class of bankers and financiers whose money is not earned by the creation of value, but is rather a product of theft.

12)  How would Anarcho Objectivism deal with the problem of a one world govermental corporatist Oligarchy?

I think that economics teaches us that a swarm of smaller more agile companies can out manuver a large high overhead beaurocracy, so our solution would be to go into the business of security and arbitration.

13) In the book “The Return to The Primitive” “The New Left and the Anti Industrial Revolution” Ayn Rand rightly refers to racism as a kind of tribalist collectivism and then offers a powerful critique of feminism,enviromentalism and multiculturalism-does Anarcho Objectivism follow and develop this line of reasoning?

Largely, yes.

14) Murray Rothbard once criticised Ayn Rand for creating what to him was a political “Cult”-what do you think of this?

I think the criticism is justified and was a major fault of the movement itself, but I don’t think that the failings of individuals of the movement says anything about the philosophy itself.

15)  Do you think there can be a philosophical difference between “Individualism” and “Egotism” or are these two always the same?

As I understand it, Egotism is the word that is used to describe “psychological egoism” while individualism is a particular philosophy.

16)  Where can one find out more about Anarcho-Objectivism and what are your future projects?

I am currently working on a book that expands on the anarchist interpretations of Atlas Shrugged.

You can learn more at http://anarchobjectivist.wordpress.com

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss some of these very interesting topics!

James Hughes