To the editor ...

About a month or two back LewRockwell.com printed a nasty little piece by someone claiming Americans are too cowardly to fight for their rights against a tyrannical government. His op-ed was less well reasoned and well written than Ronn Neff's, which makes many valid points.

But the fact is that we don't need "the American public" as a whole, even assuming such an entity really existed. We need those folks who are willing to fight. They were certainly a minority during the American Revolution and are always, at all times in all places.

One thing the current anti-private-gun hysteria has brought forth is renewed exploration of the real reason for the Second Amendment.

It was not put in for hunting or for self-defense against private criminals.

Neither was controversial at the time. It was taken for granted in those two cases. The Federalists had to put it in to get the Constitution ratified, as a good many of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were quite satisfied with the Articles of Confederation and thought the proposed Constitution a Federalist power grab, which it indeed was.

That's the reason the First and Second Amendments were put in, in that order.

By the way, the Randians are terrible on this issue. Rand was indifferent to gun control, and Yaron Brook recently stated that registration might be OK!

Something even Joe Biden just came out against!

Of course "Objectivism" is as bogus a real philosophy as the invented nonsensical concepts of "psycho-epistemology," "social metaphysics," and "volitional consciousness" that Thomas Szasz takes apart in Faith in Freedom, 2004.

My main objection to Mr. Neff's essay is that we do not need any further demoralization in our ranks, but we need to build up the strongest possible fighting spirit. I once spent a year in the Israel Defense Forces near the Lebanese border and learned everything about all types of guns from A to Z.

I love guns and we need them.

Marcy Fleming
San Francisco, California
Posted April 12, 2013


Ronn Neff replies.

I'm a little puzzled by Miss Fleming's reply: I certainly do not disagree with her when she reminds us why the First and Second Amendments exist. And I'm not sure why she brings up the article accusing Americans of being cowardly. That was certainly not part of my argument, which was rather that I see no reason to believe that Americans are sufficiently devoted to their liberties. While it is true that the Second Amendment was written into the Bill of Rights as an attempt to help Americans defend their liberties against tyrannical governments, I don't understand why libertarians who seem to have no intention whatever of using them in that way keep talking about it.

Miss Fleming is probably right about what she says about Randians. I haven't really kept up with their contributions to current political discussions. I have no idea what Yaron Brook has to do with anything I wrote.

I don't know what Ayn Rand's attitude toward guns is — I can't think of any discussion of them in her writings (except that they are used to good effect in Atlas Shrugged). But I will take issue with Miss Fleming's sudden (in the context of her reply) rant against Objectivism. She offers no reason to believe that it is a bogus philosophy (I think it is a real philosophy), and in any case, Objectivism is certainly a body of thought serious enough that it deserves an objection more robust than a casual "Of course." I wonder what Miss Fleming's response would be if she read an article calling for gun control that began, "Of course, the claim that gun ownership is necessary to protect the nation from tyranny is as bogus an argument as, etc." I suppose I shall have to see what Thomas Szasz has to say about volitional consciousness, but I must say that I find the concepts "psychoepistemology" and "social metaphysics" mightily helpful to my own understanding of what people say and do. They were introduced in well-thought-out presentations and identify certain facts of reality. As for "volitional consciousness," I consider it to be a major contribution to all discussions of free will versus determinism.

And in any case, what did they have to do with the article to which she is replying?

Her main objection to my article, she says, is that "we do not need any further demoralization in our ranks, but we need to build up the strongest possible fighting spirit." The point of my article was not to demoralize anyone. The point was that I think a certain state of affairs exists in the world. The first question to discuss about any proposition is whether it is true, not whether it is needed and not whether it demoralizes anyone.

I'm afraid that when I hear as an objection to something I have written that it is demoralizing, my first reaction is, "Well, that's just too damn bad. Be an adult and think about whether it's true or not, do some linear thinking, and quit wasting your time talking about how it makes you or someone else feel." I appreciate that Miss Fleming thinks my article makes valid points, but if that is the case, the job at hand is to overcome the problems I cited, which cannot be done by focusing on whether my points are demoralizing.

The strongest possible fighting spirit will be built by people who have what it takes to face facts. So far, most of the people I am reading who keep telling us that the point of the Second Amendment is to preserve our liberties have no intention whatever of actually using guns to preserve their liberties. Rather, they keep telling us that it is not yet time to use them that way.

So when will that time be? How will we recognize it? Not that I'm advocating violence. I'm just sayin'.

April 12, 2013

Ronn Neff is senior editor of The Last Ditch.


Modine Herbey comments.

There is a bumper-sticker sentiment that reads, "Those who will not read have no advantage over those who cannot read." We might similarly note that those who will not use their guns have no advantage over those who have no guns.

April 13, 2013

Modine Herbey is an editorial assistant and occasional commentator at The Last Ditch.


Miss Fleming replies.

Let me respond to Mr. Neff's points.

OK, Yaron Brook is the heir to Leonard Peikoff who is the heir to Ayn Rand and who runs the Ayn Rand Institute. Mr. Brook is the official spokesman of Objectivism and alternates every other week on Leonard Peikoff's Blog giving answers to questions. His recent comments were in response to a listener's question about the Objectivist view on gun control.

Ayn Rand was on the Raymond Newman radio program around 1980 and uttered her indifferent comments on private guns there. That Mr. Neff is not aware of those comments is irrelevant here. Rand made them despite the one pro-private-guns episode in Atlas, and her remarks condemn her.

On "volitional consciousness," Szasz makes the point that volition predicates action, not a mental state. Consciousness is not an action and is not limited to human animals only.

On "social metaphysics," Szasz makes the point that metaphysics is a system of first principles and cannot be a disease. Syndrome is a group of symptoms or signs typical of a disease. Obviously the bogus concept of "social metaphysics" makes no sense at all.

Szasz points out that Branden's pompous definition of "psycho-epistemology" on page 93 of Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem is contradicted by Branden's definition of "mind" on page 26 of the same book wherein Branden writes that "mind designates specifically man's consciousness."

So you can just call it "consciousness" or if you want to be a pompous ass, call it "epistemology." Psycho-epistemology makes no sense at all.

As Szasz notes, Branden used words to impress himself and others. Not to understand or explain. How this Brandenian rubbish could be considered well thought and identifying facts of reality as Mr. Neff claims remains a mystery on the epistemological level of the Trinity.

I specifically brought it up because 99.99 percent of libertarians are brainwashed Randroids at heart, and this includes the self-designated "anarcho-capitalists" or "Rothbardroids" like Mr. Neff. And I thank him for fully confirming my suspicions in this area.

Read serious philosophers like Popper or Randall or Blanshard. Rand is not in that category and Branden even less so as either a serious philosopher or psychologist.

Interested readers can consult Szasz's Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices, 2004, Transaction Books.

Since Rand is the real Fountainhead of libertarian thought it is right to give the Randroid view in this discussion.

It's called intellectual integration, Mr. Neff.

No, Mr. Neff has not proven anything about the state of affairs in the world, and no will know what that is until the time arises. And, yes, his piece was precisely intended to demoralize.

And let's spare the phony pieties about non-violence. The state's anti-private gun efforts are per se a violent initiation of force. And should be met with counterforce. There, I said it!

How would Mr. Neff [verb omitted] that libertarians are not going to use the Second Amendment principles? Maybe his immediate friends but all libertarians? And even if one was not in a personal position to counteract state violence because of age or infirmity or advanced illness why would that preclude him from supporting and championing others who might?

Mr. Neff never cited any facts or any problems at all, he merely cited his unverifiable opinions, which we are all better off ignoring as they are precisely intended to demoralize and who the hell needs that? As a philosophy major and teacher I do not require any lectures from the likes of Mr. Neff on "linear thinking."

Modine Herbey's non sequitur adds nothing to the discussion. I read Mr. Neff all too well. And I have to say that outside of Mad Tommy's Chronicles I have rarely encountered such a tone of unjustified condescension as exhibited by Mr. Neff in his non response.

You can publish this if you want, but you won't, and in any case I have made my points.

Marcy Fleming
San Francisco, California
Posted April 18, 2013


Mr. Neff replies.

Miss Fleming is, of course, free to yammer on about anything she wishes and in any way she wishes, irrespective of their relevancy or accuracy. I make it a policy and a practice not to respond to anyone — especially anyone who has never met me and who has never spent five minutes with me — who actually imagines that she is capable of discerning what my intention may be about anything. It's really not possible to have a discussion with such people.

Since Mr. Strakon is free to post any other messages she may fire our way, I will state this intention: I will be replying to no more of Miss Fleming's rants. Others who may have questions or comments related to what she says are, of course, welcome to write, and I will do my best to reply.

P.S. Richard Lawrence of The Objectivist Reference Center has supplied as many remarks and quotations as he was able to find pertaining to Ayn Rand's view of the Second Amendment, gun ownership, and gun registration. The page is here: www.noblesoul.com/orc/essays/guns.html.

Scroll down to April 2003 and April 2006 for the most substantive remarks.

I am unable to judge the accuracy of the quotations.

I now close the correspondence between Miss Fleming and Mr. Neff. — Nicholas Strakon

To the article.

To the Neff table of contents.