Extremism (was Brin on privacy)

Lee Daniel Crocker (lcrocker@calweb.com)
Mon, 23 Dec 1996 14:31:57 -0800 (PST)

> I have a remarkably low tolerance for extremists of any stripe,...

If you are aware of this fault in your reasoning process, why do
you allow it to continue? Content-free judgments like "extremist"
or "simplistic" or "unnatural" are convenient ways to connote without
having to denote; that is, to judge without having to define a
standard of judgment, or scale of measurement.

Many of Rand's arguments certainly deserve criticism. She glosses
over, almost to the point of willful ignorance, the prevalence of
blind chance as a player in human success, weakening her arguments
for capitalism on moral grounds (though not on practical grounds).
Her views on sexuality, and on homosexuality in particular, are so
divorced from the reality known by those with more experience that
they should not be taken too seriously. I am thoroughly unpersuaded
by her defense of monopoly government and intellectual property law
in light of Childs and Breyer.

But that does not mean that one should either discount all of her
ideas--most of which are remarkable, beautiful, and sound--because
she missed a few, or that one should discount them with a broad and
vague characterization like "extremist". Instead, if one finds the
ideas somehow unsatisfying, try to root out /why/, and whether the
fault in reasoning is ours or hers. Since reading AS and her other
works, I have tried this many times, and I must admit that I almost
always find the fault is mine (the few cases above are exceptions,
and very rare ones).

I think your feeling of revulsion to things you characterize as
"extremist" may have some usefulness as a mental shortcut, because
many ideas that fit that epithet are indeed evil ones; but I do
not think that induction from those few cases is valid reason.