Friday, 28 January 2011

Event Report: ASI seminar with Yaron Brook

Wednesday saw me attending a seminar entitled "How to be a rational egoist" with Yaron Brook at the Adam Smith Institute. I had expected a talk about applying rational egoism in practical contexts, but the talk was much more political.

Dr Brook argued that in order to win the political argument over free-markets and, by extension, the fight for practical freedom we need to rethink and reject mainstream ethical systems and adopt an Objectivist moral code. As a student of Objectivism, I understand this as a set of values which guide the choices of an individual and have as their purpose the individual's survival and flourishing.

The talk progressed through a series of examples which demonstrated that self-interest is not revered in our culture, but is practiced in the market. That showed the difference between selfless, self-destructive and rationally selfish actions.

There was a darker moment in the Q&A (at 32 mins) where a member of the New Zealand Libertarian Party asked approximately "As an objectivist in the UK what can we do?" and seemed to dismiss the UK Libertarian Party as "nowhere", which caused me to speak up as you see in the video. On playing it back, I realised the comment was much worse - that we are "all over the shop". I think both of these of comments are objectively true, at least they characterise the party's indecisive and ineffective campaigning and public communication up to this point, and this is not a reputation I think we can afford in future.

Dr Brook's answer was framed according to the circumstances in the US, where Bush and Obama have moved quickly and consistently in the statist direction. He believes that trouble, including a massive economic disaster, is ten or twenty years away and that we must buy time to allow us to "turn a corner" before then. Culturally he believes there is work to do in terms of creating Objectivists in order to vote for some future Objectivist or a compatible non-Rothbardian Libertarian Party.

I would add to Yaron Brook's recommendation. There is the critical task of creating that future party which a future Objectivist culture can vote for. I believe that LPUK's policies are already non-Rothbardian and broadly minarchist in a way that is sufficiently compatible with Objectivist thought. By addressing its internal problems and building a well funded operational team the UK Libertarian Party can be the party Dr Brook foresees. While it is being built it will also work to shift our cultural norms towards rational self-interest.

I hope that British Objectivist's will see a strong LPUK as in their self-interests over the span of their lives and will bring to the Party the brilliant white heat of their intellect. It will take 10 years or more to do, but to get there, that heat must be applied to building a core LPUK operational team.

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