The Night Watchman

A Small Beacon in the Night of Unreason
raised and maintained by Per-Olof Samuelsson

Correspondence with Second Renaissance Books

According to Objectivism (and, I might add, according to plain common sense), one should not take a stand in a personal conflict without first investigating the matter and making an effort to arrive at the facts. To prove that I have done so (something that has been questioned by some hooligans), I would like to quote the following correspondence I had with Second Renaissance Book (SRB) in 1995.

POS to SRB (February 17, 1995):

I just received your latest catalogue, and I noticed that you have ceased carrying any materials by George Reisman. Now, I know (since it was reported in [ARI:s newsletter] "Impact") that there are disagreements between Dr. Reisman (and his wife) and ARI:s Board of Directors, but the notice said nothing specific about those disagreement and stressed that they were of a non-philosophical nature. Thus, I am puzzled that SRB can no longer carry any of their books/pamphlets/tapes.

I am concerned with this mainly for the following reason: judging from what I know (the tape courses I have listened to and the extracts I have read), Dr. Reisman's forthcoming book on capitalism will be to the science of Economics what OPAR is to philosophy. It will certainly be the most important book on theoretical economics since "Human Action". Also, judging within my context of knowledge, Dr. Reisman's work on economics is grounded in a thorough understanding of Objectivism (which certainly cannot be said of von Mises or any other famous economist).

Such a book may have an enormous long-range impact on the science of economics and thereby, ultimately, on the fate of our civilization. It would be a tragedy if it were not widely promoted.

If I am wrong about this, and if Dr. Reisman has in fact departed from Objectivism (by word or by deed), then I would like to know the facts in the matter.

Your answer to this letter will be much appreciated.

Ed Podritske of SRB (March 21, 1995):

Please find enclosed a self-explanatory letter from the Ayn Rand Institute regarding the subject of your inquiry.

ARI (in the person of Peter Schwartz):

Dear [irrational inquirers],

In regard to your letter of September 1994, let me clarify the nature of our decision regarding TJS. We did not come to it lightly. Contrary to what you suggest, our difficulties with Edith Packer and George Reisman involve serious, moral conflicts; they do not represent anything as superficial as "personality clashes".

Dr. Peikoff has asked us to add that he agrees fully with ARI's position. Accordingly, he has broken off all personal relations with the Reismans, and has withdrawn from the 1995 TJS conference.

(Schwartz does not mention that the "serious, moral conflict" consisted in Dr. Reisman defending his property rights to his own essays. Also, he fails to mention that it was Dr. Reisman who had to persuade Dr. Peikoff to withdraw from the 1995 TJS conference.)

POS to Ed Podritske (March 27, 1995):

I thank you for your answer to my inquiry regarding Dr. Reisman, but I have to point out to you that the attached letter from Peter Schwartz is not self-explanatory; in fact, it is not explanatory at all.

To see this clearly, consider the Objectivist view of the relation of fact to value: that every "is" implies an "ought". A corollary of this is that value-judgements must always be based on facts, every "ought" must be based on an "is". A further corollary is that one makes a moral judgement (be it praise or blame), one has an obligation to state one's reasons for the judgement, i.e. state the facts that underlie it.

Mr. Schwartz' letter does not do this. It merely states that the conflict is moral and serious, but gives no slightest hint as to what the conflict is about. (To add that Dr. Peikoff agrees is to no avail to me, unless I know Dr. Peikoff's reasons for agreeing.)

(I should add that Mr. Schwartz' letter answers a point which was obviously raised by the persons he replies to, but is not raised by me. I do not believe that this conflict is merely a "personality clash". I hold that any "personality clash" must involve some issue of right or wrong. My dilemma in this case is that I do not know what wrongdoings Dr. Reisman and/or his wife are charged with. This is why I asked in the first place.)

You must have grasped from my first letter that I am concerned with learning the truth about this matter. But what your answer implicitly tells me is to base a judgement on ignorance (or on an "argumentum ad verecundiam", which is just a particular form of ignorance).

Please do not let me down. Give me the facts.

(Needless to say, I never got an answer to this.)

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