Slate‘s Dave Weigel (my friend, etc., etc.) has scooped me on two points on the John Allison-Cato Institute-Ayn Rand Institute story — one minor, one major. We’ll start with the major one first, his conclusion.
One of the big sticking points between Cato libertarians and Objectivists has to do with foreign policy. Cato’s foreign policy shop wants peace if possible and wars with sharply defined missions if necessary. Many Objectivists have more of a scorched Earth foreign policy.
After 9/11, Ayn Rand Institute founder Leonard Peikoff took out a pro-war advertorial in newspapers titled “End States Who Sponsor Terrorism.” He called for “mass death in the terrorist nations” and lamented, “the greatest obstacle to U.S. victory is not Iran and its allies, but our own intellectuals,” who weren’t so comfortable with sanctioning that mass death.
ARI board member and Cato president-to-be John Allison has publicly represented his views on foreign policy as being sympathetic to Cato’s. That may now be the case, but what did Allison think of Peikoff’s kill-them-all initiative at the time? Take it away Dave Weigel:
In 2001, after Peikoff published newspaper ads making the “end states” argument, he posted in a Randian message board about how it came together.
“I had a lot of help which I want to acknowledge,” wrote Peikoff. “John Allison was my primary inspiration and unfailing morale-booster; he suggested the ads in the first place, and then, with another donor, financed them.”
The minor point on which Weigel scooped me may not turn out to be so minor in the long run. When I broke the story, I had notes from an Objectivist message board and some live tweets that I found from Earl Pearson, an Objectivist, who was present at the Q&A at ARI.
Now Weigel has found another live-tweeter named Arthur Zey. What he wrote down at the time confirms some of what Pearson reported of Allison’s controversial remarks.
It is clear to me now that ARI and John Allison do not want to release the Q&A, so let’s try another tack. There were a lot of other people in the room at that Objectivist conference. If you would like to help establish a more thorough record of what was said there, feel free to drop me a line.