Here we consider a few remarks Mr. Peikoff has made over the years about Yaron Brook’s performance as president of the Ayn Rand Institute, [*] with emphasis on Mr. Brook’s work promoting open immigration.
The first remark is from the talk “America versus Americans” that Mr. Peikoff gave at the Ford Hall Forum (6 April 2003), right after the culmination of ARI’s unstinting promotion of the Iraq War. In the talk Mr. Peikoff criticizes the Bush administration for having invaded Iraq – go figure  – and having invaded, how Bush is handling the occupation. He also analyzes the public’s reaction to Bush’s policies. Near the end he says:
In the article self-referentially titled “Peikoff vs. an ARI Board Member” (5 November 2010), Mr. Peikoff explains why he forced John McCaskey off ARI’s board of directors. He assures us that this “does not imply a lack of confidence in Yaron, who has done a splendid job.”
Mr. Peikoff’s website presents a weekly podcast where he, or Mr. Brook as guest host, answers questions sent in (we would say unwittingly) by fans of Ayn Rand. The website states: “Dr. Peikoff applies Ayn Rand’s revolutionary philosophy to real-world questions.” We want to quote from one such podcast made in 2013, where both men together discuss immigration. To make sense of it though, first here are a few snapshots of Mr. Peikoff’s position on immigration over the years.
In 1999 on his radio show he said he disliked Patrick Buchanan, who was running for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. Of all the reasons Mr. Peikoff might have given for his dislike he chose just this: Buchanan would end illegal Hispanic immigration, “build a wall.” That sufficed to trash the man.
From Peikoff’s podcast of 16 June 2008:
On his podcast of 28 June 2010 he says certain restrictions should be placed on the property rights of Muslims in America. He doesn’t consider the rights-respecting alternative: no Third World immigration.
On his podcast of 5 July 2010 he answers the question: “What is the proper government attitude toward immigration?” He considers two cases, the extreme case of a capitalist, laissez-faire society on the one hand, and the advanced welfare state we have today on the other. In the ideal capitalist case:
In response to that podcast Mr. Peikoff got another question, which he answered on 13 September 2010: “You said that if a country has laissez-faire it should not restrict immigration. What if New Zealand had laissez-faire, would it be obligated to accept all immigrants even if it resulted in becoming Muslim and having Sharia imposed.” The qualification at the end made it easy for Mr. Peikoff to respond and sound rational, at first:
Then suddenly Mr. Peikoff reverses himself concerning general immigration into today’s America. At the end of his 26 August 2013 podcast he shocks the Objectivist community with an honest and forthright statement about a bill then before Congress – the Rubio-Schumer amnesty immigration surge bill:
The podcast is like an earthquake in the Objectivist community. For once someone at ARI spoke out loud about a long range consequence of immigration.
Now ARI has a problem: apparent dissention between its president, Yaron Brook, and its founder, Leonard Peikoff. What are ARI follows to think? The two men decide to hold a public discussion about immigration, billed as a debate, and hash things out in the open. The discussion, moderated by Amy Peikoff, is spread over two Peikoff podcasts dated 7 & 14 October 2013.
Mr. Peikoff puts up a fight but on each point eventually lets Mr. Brook walk over him, and at the end apologetically confesses that earlier, in that August podcast, he didn’t know what he was talking about.
The Objectivist world is at peace again, the official one anyway.
In the course of the discussion Mr. Peikoff makes some good points even if he throws in the towel at the end. Consider this, in reply to Mr. Brook’s “rights of employers” argument:
LP: I’ll concede this much, if my facts are wrong—All very chummy. Then they say their good-byes to the audience, and walk away, one might imagine, arm in arm.
LP: And I don’t— [interrupts himself] I didn’t get them from first hand sources, I got them presented by [laughter in his voice, self-deprecating] impassioned radio hosts.
YB: [laughing gleefully] Yes.
LP: If they’re wrong then obviously I agree with you. And you obviously agree with me: we agree on the principles of who should be excluded et cetera.
YB: I think we agree on the principles.
LP: So there’s really no philosophic disagreement between us, but there is a factual, and I’m prepared to say that on those type of issues you might [laughter in his voice] be right [laughter from YB].
YB: [Laughter and irony in voice] And I might be wrong.
AP (moderator): [interrupting] I think we’ve done a lot of good here.
YB: [continues mockingly, seemingly good-natured laughter and irony in voice] I’m even willing to concede that I might be wrong.
LP: Now, we are over time. I think the issues have been aired. And I’d like to conclude by saying how much I respect and admire, and [laughter in his voice] probably will come even on detail to agree with, Yaron. And I think this is significant because this is about the biggest issue that we have disagreed about for some time, and I was actually apprehensive about talking to him about this issue. Partly because I didn’t control that I was gonna get all upset, and partly because [laughter in voice] he might refute me, so. But I never at any point regarded him as philosophically defective or non-Objectivist. And I assume you felt the same?
YB: Oh absolutely, and I mean this just shows that when you agree on the fundamentals philosophically, yeah there’re going to be disputes about how we interpret, or do we have 50 years, or do we have 20 years, I mean those are reasonable disputes given the complexity of applying philosophy to have, and it should, you know, if we came away with a real disagreement about philosophy that would be a problem.
LP: What’s interesting is that the disagreement is essentially over facts. What are these people effect do, [sic] and what will affect this party, and what – so it’s not at all over what should immigration policy be.
YB: No, I mean we even agreed, which I wasn’t sure you, we agreed on, on the citizenship versus immigration, because I think that’s something we should highlight and fight for.
LP: Yeah, that’s really crucial.
Mr. Brook hosted the Peikoff podcast of 6 January 2015. A lady had sent in a question about charity: If charity isn’t an obligation or a virtue should she continue engaging in it? An excerpt from Mr. Brook’s answer follows. Emphasis in the original (Mr. Brook’s grammar leaks a bit toward the end):
I don’t think Mr. Brook, and the others at ARI, could get away with such pronouncements as “The solution to illegal immigration is to make it legal.” without a vestige of self-sacrifice in their followers. (This is a Christian problem, even if otherwise there are some fine things in Christianity.) Mr. Brook banks on latent altruism in his followers undermining their authentic self-interest.
He takes them for suckers, even if he believes, on some level, his own rhetoric. He believes it, and he doesn’t believes it – which is his contradiction, his self-deception.
Mr. Brook’s arguments are special pleading, devoid of principle, uttered to fool rather than discover. If he really thought Objectivism and “rationally self-interested reason” – good grief – entailed open immigration, he would advocate open immigration for his beloved Israel (from those countries it is not at war with). Yet precisely because he loves Israel he would never do such a thing.
One day someone might ask Mr. Brook what it is about America he hates so much that he advocates the opposite here.
“We are All Israelis Now” – except Israel can have a wall and we cannot.
As for Peikoff, his is a different case, I think. Obviously intelligent, why is he – in the end – so stupid? It’s a puzzle. Unlike the glib and tendentious Brook, steeped in and executing the Jewish cultural agenda, Peikoff might be making an unintentional mistake: allowing his rationalism to overrule common sense. Unlike Brook he might not be trying to harm us, yet he would destroy us all because he cannot keep in mind, beyond the influence of the day, the big picture, a large enough chunk of reality to encompass what Third World immigration entails. Another problem is that he has made it his mission to parrot Ayn Rand, unable to recognize her mistakes (see Ayn Rand on Immigration ).
Besides that, he is an older man easily steamrolled by the much younger Brook’s aggressiveness. Under the influence of what Peikoff later came to deride as “impassioned radio hosts,” for a brief time his vision widened, then after a good browbeating by Brook the blinkers dropped down again. Don’t look to the left, don’t look to the right, think of the Tequila—
What is it Froggy?
... This essay’s gone off the rails into psycho crystal ball land.
Scratch the last two paragraphs. Mr. Peikoff’s outbreak of common sense, several years ago and buried inside an obscure audio podcast, means nothing. The standout fact is that he supports, has always supported, Yaron Brook and the rest of the immigration enthusiasts at ARI. He gives them a platform from which to broadcast their anti-American poison, and rewards them with six figure incomes while they do it. They produce audio clips, video shows, talk shows, editorials, interviews, blogs, social media, a national student newspaper, an email newsletter, so far one congressional staff talk – all hawking open borders. As far as immigration is concerned Mr. Peikoff is no better than a Leftist America hater. He fails to see the contradiction – whether in an ideal America or the America of today – between everyone on earth having a right to move here, and the philosophy he claims to defend.
He wants to “change the world,” his bosom associate speaks of “changing the culture.” We don’t want a new world or changed culture, not in their sense of new and change. If to them that is philosophically defective they can make the most of it.
In contrast to the self-proclaimed perfect philosophical specimens at ARI, the immigration disaster is very real to rank and file Objectivists. Few of them have the high income ARI leaders do to insulate themselves from the demographic effect of what those leaders advocate. Students still debate the immigration issue among themselves. Even some of the better known and better heeled Objectivist bloggers (though no official ones) allow some real debate on the subject, rather than the easy takedown wrestling match the conclusion of which we just witnessed.
The continued rumbling from the hinterland prompted the Peikoff podcast of 2 March 2015: “Why is there no agreement among Objectivists on the issue of immigration?” hosted by Yaron Brook. Before we get to Mr. Brook’s answer we examine the chinks in the armor Mr. Peikoff once used, and some Objectivists use now, to intellectually oppose advocates of today’s Third World invasion.
Mr. Peikoff claimed that though open immigration is morally required in an ideal libertarian society (a totally false claim we maintain, but let it pass), open immigration is impractical in a welfare state. For short call Objectivists who believe this, “Practic-Oists.” One problem with the Practic-Oist “laissez-faire open-borders good, welfare-state open-borders bad” position is what one might call the cause-effect continuity problem. Even those in the Practic-Oist camp believe that a society that is predominately laissez-faire must, morally, have open borders. Where do you draw the line? At what point does creeping statism entail closing the borders? Are we at that point?
Another problem is that compared to that scenario, from open borders to closed borders, the actual order of events in America progressed in the reverse direction until the Silly Sixties. To start with, there was virtually no immigration from the Revolutionary War to the 1830’s – the population grew by natural increase, not by immigration – and virtually no non-northwest European immigration (except for slaves, unfortunately) until the late 19th century. The Civil War was a huge leap from predominately laissez-faire towards statism, statism which was further augmented after the borders became more open toward the end of the 19th century. 
Another problem is psychological. No one wants to think he lives in a slave state. A healthy person tends to be optimistic, accentuate the positive as the old song goes. Consequently he thinks America is freer than it actually is. Wherever a Practic-Oist might draw the line between laissez-faire and welfare state, society seems closer to laissez-faire than it really is, and thus – in the Practic-Oist view – closer to the moral imperative of open borders than it really is.
The worst problem stems from Mr. Peikoff’s error – the fatal flaw alluded to above – concerning foreigners and individual rights. When he says that foreigners have a right to move here, an inalienable right as a human being, and that he opposes immigration (as he did briefly) despite that based on its consequences, his opposition sounds – and is – pragmatic. A person hearing his argument and who wants to be good knows which side to choose. (In fact the paradox is only apparent. We should take a hint from consequences, that is, reality: a foreigner has no inalienable right to enter the U.S. or any other country but his own.)
All of which leaves a hole in Mr. Peikoff’s argument big enough for an official Objectivist to drive his moralizing truck through.
Mr. Brook answers the question, why don’t Objectivists agree on immigration, by dividing it – à la Peikoff – into two questions, one for a free society and one for a mixed economy. At first he generalizes beyond the immigration issue: