Waco and militias are two completely different subjects, but since Leonard Peikoff confuses them, and we will be quoting him about what he considers a unity, we treat both subjects in one article.
The federal raid on the Mt. Carmel building complex outside Waco, Texas, began February 28, 1993 and ended 50 days later with the massacre of practically everyone inside, including 16 children two to eight years of age. It would be impossible to do the story justice in only a few paragraphs, yet we must keep some of the facts in mind as background for the remarks Mr. Peikoff made a few years later. We cite articles you can read on the Internet – see footnote  – and make the following observations:One question, as contentious as who fired first, is: How did the fire start? As Gary McGath notes in a book review (see references), “The principle of parsimony can be applied here: When vehicles are smashing the walls of a building which is lighted by kerosene lamps [not to mention firing methylene chloride and pyrotechnic grenades into that building] and a fire breaks out, a ready explanation for the fire comes to mind – and it is not that the people inside suddenly decided to torch themselves.” · · · Koresh, though he possessed some native practical intelligence, was a messianic hick. Years before the ATF raid the selflessness of his followers matched his willingness to sacrifice them to himself and the “Seven Seals.” But this human perversion was not a crime in the sense of a police matter. Though the Davidians were a repulsive bunch to recognize the human rights of, the alternative is to abandon human rights – which is what happened on February 28, 1993, outrageously so. Whatever crimes the Davidians had committed before the raid were, or should have been, a local police matter,  to be handled peaceably, and of no concern to the behemoth the federal government has become.
“Waco” is one among a number of other less well known abuses of government power. It dramatically revealed the growing militarization of police functions in America, the existence of a standing army directed inward, domestically, and the gangster-like corruption within its leadership.
If you expect the official Objectivists to agree with that assessment, read on.
Leonard Peikoff hosted a talk radio show from 1995 to 1999. It was mostly a good show, but cracks here and there hinted at the rot that became evident after 9-11 when “everything changed,” especially the face presented by the Ayn Rand Institute. During one show Mr. Peikoff was reading aloud an email from a listener and comes to (paraphrasing) “what the FBI did at Waco was an abuse of government power,” at which point Mr. Peikoff briefly interrupts his reading and mutters “I disagree.” This vignette is key to understanding the official Objectivists.
Did Mr. Peikoff know what had happened at Waco? If not, we might hope that if he had researched the subject he would have been appalled at the conduct of his government. Good books had been published about Waco before he began broadcasting his radio show. His ignorance would be another example where the official Objectivists cannot be bothered with investigating concrete details and facts or apparently even caring about them.
However enough facts about Waco were in the news at the time of the raid that Mr. Peikoff must have known a little, and the abuse at Waco was so great a little was enough. 
Mr. Peikoff’s “I disagree” comment was no fluke. Earlier at a Ford Hall Forum lecture he elaborated at greater length (Q&A of “What To Do About Crime” April 23, 1995.) He confuses the Davidians with a militia, and says – apparently ignorant of the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, and the history of FBI agents provocateur – that the FBI ought to infiltrate every militia in America.  The text below is a transcript of Mr. Peikoff’s statement. Italics indicate vocal emphasis, comments in brackets are by ARI Watch. Since Mr. Peikoff confuses the Davidians with a militia, and their guns with a military arsenal, while you read you will need to separate his specific remarks about Koresh from his general remarks about militias. 
“[Private] military formations ... should be entirely illegal in this country. No one, no matter what your view is on gun ownership, should be able to [that is, can legitimately] defend the idea that you are allowed to start your own army. There is nothing whatever in the Second Amendment or in the right to own a gun, there is nothing in the issue of personal self defense or hobby or target practice or animal shooting, that would have justified you in having an arsenal such as they had in Waco, or a military formation. When it gets to the point that citizens have their own armies and arsenals, that is the end of a free country. ... Now, why these people aren’t arrested, one and all, for this— [Sentence left incomplete. In other words, these people should be arrested, one and all, for this.] I’ve also heard the FBI say that they’re not allowed to infiltrate these paramilitary organizations until they commit a crime I think it should be a crime to start these formations. That [i.e. starting a militia group] is an objective recourse to physical force which any rational person has to take as a threat to the possibility of existing in peace. They should be infiltrated from top to bottom, we [that is, the FBI] should know every one of their names, their weapons should be confiscated and they should be treated as killers, which is what they are.”Actually, a proper militia is not criminal until it commits a real crime (and the crime would be a local, not a federal, matter). They do not “compete” with the government. They are legal per the U.S. Constitution’s 1st, 2nd and 10th amendments in the Bill of Rights,  which Mr. Peikoff evidently would repudiate.
Going along with Mr. Peikoff’s confusion of the Waco Davidians with a militia, evidently he believes that the federal agents at Waco were not killers. Government corruption is simply not on his radar. The FBI are the good guys, automatically and always. To an official Objectivist freedom is a floating abstraction.
During our ellipsis in the above quote, after “the end of a free country,” Mr. Peikoff compares all American militia groups to the German Nazis. American militias hold up the U.S. Constitution as their inspiration (sincerely, with exceptions), the brownshirts held up Mein Kampf as theirs. Mr. Peikoff sees no difference between the two:
“That’s exactly what happened in the Weimar Republic. Every party and group had their own armies and you happen to know which ones became most famous. ... the SA and the SS started as paramilitary formations in the Weimar Republic.”It is true the Nazis used their SA brownshirts during elections to beat up would be voters in areas more likely to vote against them than other areas. But Mr. Peikoff’s argument is like saying that since a holdup was committed using a gun, guns ought to be outlawed. Of course it is not the gun that committed the holdup, and it is not an arsenal or a militia per se that is a crime or a threat
A militia is capable of threatening someone, and the question is who and why? John Dillinger (the bank robber) and any number of American Revolutionary War militias and guerrillas both used violence, yet possessed vastly different reasons for doing so. Private militias are the precursor to organized revolt against tyranny. Today it is far too soon, if ever, for that kind of revolt in America – many of our rights are still recognized and could be used to turn things around peacefully if enough people, even a substantial minority, come to their senses in time. But as the components of a totalitarian apparatus drop into place we should at least defend the existence of peaceful militias, if only because outlawing them violates yet another of our rights and is part and parcel of gun control. 
Gun control really is the subject here. As a practical matter a government cannot outlaw the peaceable assembly of gun owners who leave their guns at home without either outlawing peaceable assembly or outlawing gun ownership. What Mr. Peikoff advocates ultimately leads to gun confiscation (his protests to the contrary notwithstanding), unless it is ending the right of assembly and even association.
The essential error in Mr. Peikoff’s Weimar – America analogy is that per Weimar the marginal good guys were in the government and the bad guys were in the streets, per America the bad guys are already in the government. 
The essential error in Mr. Peikoff’s method of acquiring knowledge is his willingness to uncritically accept ATF / FBI testimony. 
Mr. Peikoff concludes:
“Notice also that they [the militia groups] don’t make any bones about having any reasonable case for this [i.e. organizing]. They admire this Koresh outfit, they call it a church, they are complete admirers of cultists.”A complete fabrication. Their feeling was not admiration for Karesh’s nutball Adventist church (it was not a militia) but disgust at what the ATF, FBI, and U.S. military did to it 1993 February 28th to April 19th.
Mr. Peikoff, however – as we began by noting – approves of the Waco tank-and-gas raid. He mentioned Waco again on his radio show. The theme was “ ‘Rightist’ Militias” (Mr. Peikoff’s emphasis, the comments in brackets are by ARI Watch): 
“I don’t think that the – actually – the FBI even started the fire. They simply wanted to come and break down the walls, which they had every right in the world to do. ... half the country is committed to the idea that this is an atrocity, and half to the idea, as I am, that this was valid reaction against armed maniacs. ... The question is the philosophy, and that’s what we want to talk about in this program.” [The ATF were not the armed maniacs?]For all their talk – Objectivist generalities about freedom and individualism – what you get is silence and complicity in the face of actual statist particulars. Not all the time, they have spoken out – and well – against some particulars, but the other particulars concern many of the most important issues of the day. “Waco” is but one example (see our main-page index for more). Their treatment of these issues undermines whatever else they do from the bad company it keeps.
“There are many individual rights that you lose when you team up with others in a gang.” [“Gang” is an emotional word for “group” with the connotation of criminal.]
“I don’t want to start on the details of Waco. I – at the time, and to this day – they got what they asked for ...”
“Now, as far as Waco was concerned, I think what was done at Waco is correct. ... The fact that these people got together with a massive armament in my opinion strips them of all their rights. Of all.”
Their statism is not overt like that of Marx and Hegel (who eventually led to Lenin, Trotsky, Hitler, and Stalin.  ) They don’t seem to know what they are doing. Call them sleepwalking statists, slouching towards a Soviet-style dictatorship.
They can be called something else too. Mr. Peikoff and everyone at ARI are pacifists, pacifists in the face of burgeoning totalitarianism. They make excuses for it again and again. We will withdraw the charge when they repudiate those excuses and write Op-Eds praising fighters like Rodney Stich instead of frauds like Paul Wolfowitz and Daniel Pipes.  ARI simply is not serious about an American renaissance. They abuse Ayn Rand the way the Nazis abused Nietzsche. 
On April 21, 2008 during his biweekly podcast, Mr. Peikoff was asked if there was a particular level of intelligence required in order to understand Objectivism. He replied:
“... intelligence ... is the capacity to deal with wide abstractions that do not float, with wide abstractions tied to reality. And that is what a philosophical intelligence can do. So all you have to do is be intelligent. There’s no way of saying intelligence seven degrees versus five degrees. You have to be on the top level, but of abstractions, not of technicalities. You have to be able to say: when I [that is, a hypothetical person] talk about justice, when I talk about concepts, when I talk about the law of identity, I’m able to grasp that clearly while keeping in mind enough instances so it’s not floating. If you’re on that [level] that’s all the intelligence you need. And that is very very hard for people to do ... because the more abstract a concept becomes the farther it’s removed from direct perception. And at a certain point people tend to break that connection and then they just have floating, platonic archetypes.”As when people have no problem with bizarre federal raids yet claim to love “freedom” and advocate “laissez-faire capitalism.”
Mr. Peikoff’s answer is all very well, but to him it is a floating abstraction.
1 Articles and books on Waco:
See especially the book No More Wacos by David Kopel and Paul Blackman. Its promotional website has some worthwhile links:
The references above are reputable, which we note because a haze of lies and error surrounds this subject. Most of the lies attempt to exonerate the ATF / FBI, but there are, if not lies, stupid willful mistakes from government critics. (Avoid Linda Thomson, a crank even if much of what she says is true.) Two of the most significant lies in the “exonerate” category are that concentrated CS gas is harmless and that pyrotechnic devices were not used in the final assault.
2 Two or three minutes into the raid one of the Davidians, who was also an attorney, called 911 and tried to get the raid stopped.
The subsequent Treasury Department’s report describing the raid concluded (emphasis added):
“... four agents from the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fireams (ATF) were killed ... when David Koresh and members of his religious cult, the Branch Davidians, ambushed a force of 76 ATF agents.”This is beyond ludicrous considering the firepower the ATF brought with them and the way the ATF planned and executed the raid.
3 The buildings more or less burned to the ground, but the flagpole – anchored in the ground – was left standing. Now strange to relate the ATF had its own flag. After the wreckage had cooled federal agents replaced the burned Davidians flag with three others: the ATF, the Texas and the Stars and Stripes – so that for a time one had the obscene spectacle of these emblems waving in the wind above the ashes of Mt. Carmel – and several dozen unrecognizable corpses.
4 The final assault destroyed most of the evidence concerning the original ATF raid. Two weeks later the remaining debris was bulldozed and carted away. A bullet-hole ridden front door disappeared while in government custody.
5 With the possible exception of one of them: immigration violations. Perhaps even those should be handled locally at first. In any case immigration is outside the purview of the ATF.
6 The official Objectivists have made so many similar wanton pronouncements (regarding torture, WW II, Iraq, Iran, Israel, etc.) that blundering would be a lame excuse. (See also Harry Binswanger’s remark about the Church Committee in “The Big Lie: Intelligence Failure in Iraq” reviewed on this website, and his reaction to Edward Snowden quoted in Harry Binswanger and the Surveillance State.) Mr. Peikoff’s comments on Waco, here and later, come from a combination of willful ignorance and statism.
7 The FBI has a checkered history and the checks are numerous. Its conduct of or COINTELPRO, the Vince Foster affair, the Oklahoma City bombing,, Ruby Ridge, robbing the tyrannosaur fossil “Sue” from its discoverers, the phony War on Drugs, the phony War on Terrorism, etc. show that entire groups within the FBI, going right to the top, are no better than gangsters. See
FBI recruiters advertise for honest men, and sometimes (perhaps even most of the time) attract such men. Some of them as agents never happen to witness internal corruption, those who do eventually quit and/or become whistleblowers. (See footnote 15 below.)
The point here is not to trash the idea of government or advocate anarchy. Even the best organization may acquire, as rare and temporary exceptions, corrupt men – always sought by the organization’s leadership, expelled and prosecuted when discovered. Our current government, however, is riddled with corrupt men (even by welfare state standards – the corruption goes far beyond socialism), the vetting process itself is corrupt, and the problem will get irremediably worse unless recognized and addressed as the top priority – not just “bump and runs” – of mainstream media and the public.
“Infiltrate the militias” and “Rah, Rah, invade Iran!” (see Relentless Propaganda: Redux for Iran) further entrenches authoritarian government and gives gangsters yet more leverage over us.
8 Transcript by Chuck Prime, quoted on HPO.
9 They are regulated by individual states to various degrees. For a good review of the history of militias, the current legal situation, and what real militias are like today, see
“The Rise of Citizen Militias”
by William Jasper, The New American February 6, 1995.
“Although our investigation leads us to believe that the vast majority of individuals involved in militia organizations do not remotely resemble either the menacing villains or the pathetic misfits portrayed by the media and the militia critics, those elements do indeed exist.”Quoting with approval Samuel Sherwood, a militia advocate:
“It is better to suffer under unjust laws than to resort to anarchy and lawlessness,” he says. “The suffering is an indication that something is wrong and should motivate people to change what is wrong. If you simply evade the bad law, you allow the injustices to multiply and the ‘rule of law’ to be mocked.”Presumably even, and even to an extreme extent, when the injustices themselves mock the ‘rule of law’. (The only criticism we have of this article is of its loose and trendy denunciation of “hate.” Hate, by itself, is neither good nor evil, it depends on the object hated. As Aristotle said, “Justice consists in loving and hating aright.” Well, OK, he said it in ancient Greek.)
Regarding Mr. Peikoff’s desire that the FBI infiltrate militia groups, he got it in Operation Patriot Conspiracy – PATCON – which resulted in the Oklahoma City bombing. See
10 The virtue of armed militias goes back to the founding of the United States. In the year 1788 James Madison in Federalist Paper #46 said that compared with almost every other nation Americans possess “the advantage of being armed” and that even the largest of governments fears an armed populace:
“Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”After estimating that the largest “regular army” a national government of the U.S. would be able to muster would number no more than 25 or 30 thousand men, he observes with approval:
“To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments [that is, leaders] possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.”
To have any effect a militia must exist before one is necessary. Here is Justice Joseph Story writing in Commentaries on the Constitution (1833):
The militia is the natural defense of a free country against foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. ... The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms has justly been considered the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.Today it could only be a last ditch stand. Militias are rather impractical for defending against modern tyranny. And there is the danger that what would amount to a second revolutionary war could degenerate into chaos. Though you might find a great deal of goodwill in a militia, we doubt you would find many people in a militia today who understand the rudiments of Objectivist politics. But, again, armed revolt is the last resort, when relying on sense-of-life and hoping for the best would be better than certainly becoming total serfs.
(Quoted in article referenced in previous footnote.)
For most people today the time spent in a militia would be better spent in such efforts as promoting the ideas of freedom (or promoting organizations which do it), setting up legal low-power radio stations, producing or promoting exposé movies, infiltrating the mainstream media, and other propaganda efforts.
Ayn Rand featured private military formations – good ones along with the bad – in Atlas Shrugged, something else Mr. Peikoff did not consider in his wholesale denunciation of them.
About the issue of gun control, ARI has this to say in “Tips for Running Successful Club Meetings” on its website, accessed March 2013: “... often Objectivism does not even have any position on a concrete issue (e.g., gun control ...).” If Objectivism had no position on an elementary individual right, what good would it be?
11 See footnote 7.
12 Mr. Peikoff’s Ford Hall Forum comments were in response to a question about the Oklahoma City bombing which had recently occurred. At the time the news media were claiming the bombing had been perpetrated by a militia group. Mr. Peikoff assumed that was true.
Two years later ARI published an Op-Ed in the same vein long after the militia story had been exposed: “Goal of the Oklahoma Bombers and the Militias: Sacrificing the Individual to the Whims of a Group” by Robert Tracinski, June 18, 1997. Worse, the Op-Ed failed to mention any problem with the official story of the bombing. “Timothy McVeigh brought destruction on Oklahoma City because he was motivated by collectivism.” Maybe so, but what motivated the FBI to cover up the existence of others involved in the bombing?
Besides turning a blind eye to government corruption in the Oklahoma City bombing, Mr. Tracinski misrepresents the militia movement, and uses an old trick to do it. Instead of criticizing one of the best of the militias, and thus all of them, he goes after the worst (and phony) – the Montana “Freemen” – and leaves the reader to conclude that they are all like that. (Peter Schwartz pulls the same stunt with libertarians – see Who’s Who on this website.)
13 Quoted by D. van Oort in “The Logic of Illogic” The Resister Winter 1997, vol. III no. 3). He neglects to furnish the radio show’s date.
14 With help from strange bedfellows. See Antony C. Sutton on the Links page of this website under “Arming Our Enemies.”
15 See the interview link on the Links page of this website.
16 The analogy is less than perfect: considering Nietzsche’s inconsistency the Nazis had some excuse. The official Objectivists have no excuse whatever regarding Ayn Rand. A telling example of their abuse is their admiration for Franklin Roosevelt’s principal legacy, presenting it as a practical implementation of Objectivist politics. See Ayn Rand on WW II on this website for what she really wrote on the subject.