This is to let you know, if you aren't aware of it already, that we have had to cancel next summer's TJS conference, after having signed contracts with Leonard Peikoff and a major hotel to hold it. More importantly, it is to provide you with knowledge of essential facts, which apparently cannot be obtained elsewhere. We've been told that people calling up the Ayn Rand Institute are told simply that there is a moral conflict between them and us. The specific nature of the conflict is not stated and no evidence of any kind is offered. The attached materials demonstrate that no evidence of any moral breach on our part exists.
The reasons leading up to the cancellation go back to serious disagreements with Peter Schwartz dating from 1990, and with Harry Binswanger, starting in 1993. These disagreements led to our being thrown off the ARI Board of Advisors in November of 1993 and to Second Renaissance Books refusing to sell Edith Packer's tapes and pamphlets shortly thereafter (and refusing to return her master tapes except on unreasonable, arbitrary terms).
At the time we were thrown off the Board of Advisors, Leonard Peikoff sent us a letter which concluded with the words: "For all our sakes, let me say in conclusion that I hope this crisis can be contained, and that we can go on as before both professionally and personally."
Evidently, Dr. Peikoff did not think it necessary to urge containment of the crisis to Peter Schwartz, who in August 10 of this year informed us in a letter that "The Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute has voted to refrain from announcing, in its publications, TJS conferences and to refrain from awarding scholarships to TJS conferences." Dr. Peikoff's failure to urge the policy of containment to Peter Schwartz was all the more surprising in that under the charter of ARI he possessed absolute veto power over all of the Institute's policies and, at the same time, was to receive the sum of $40,000 for his lectures at TJS. His attitude was that we would be able to go on with the conference despite the loss of ARI's announcements and access to its mailing list, which had come to be essential to our advertising. Somehow, he projected, we would find a way to continue to be able to pay him his fee.
Nor was the policy of containment urged on anyone but Edith Packer and myself when Dr. Darryl Wright, an important prospective lecturer, informed us in early September that he had decided against speaking for TJS (only a few weeks after enthusiastically discussing the various topics he might speak about), on the basis of what could only have been the promptings of Harry Binswanger and/or Peter Schwartz.
Matters reached a crisis when a group of ARI's contributors began to learn of the situation--particularly ARI's policy of refusing to announce TJS conferences. In response, this group prepared an extremely polite and respectful letter expressing disagreement with the policy, and proceeded to gather the signatures of some twenty ARI contributors in support of their letter. Our only connection with the letter was to send its authors a xerox copy of the above-mentioned August 10 letter of Peter Schwartz, in response to their request for confirmation of the existence of ARI's policy. Moreover, whenever any prospective signer of the letter called to question us about it, our advice to the person was not to sign it, out of concern for his jeopardizing his future relationship with ARI.
We believe that knowledge that this letter was in preparation is what led Dr. Peikoff to conclude that it was we who were not containing the crisis and to decide to break his personal and professional relationship with us. We believe that he arranged the conference telephone call of September 19 (which is described in our enclosed memo to him and the ARI Board of Directors dated September 27 of this year), in order to judge as immoral our response to the accusations made against us in that telephone call, and thereby find a specific pretext for breaking with us. We believe that this conclusion is supported by his handwritten comments, made in advance of that telephone call, on most of the items that accompanied our September 27 memo (all of which are included herewith). We believe that this conclusion is also supported by two of the items themselves, namely, the letters by Peter Schwartz and Harry Binswanger
In that telephone call, he both strongly asserted his moral condemnation of us and stressed that he would honor his contractual commitment to speak for TJS in 1995.
I must say that I was actually frightened by his stress on honoring his contractual commitment, and decided then and there that I had to do everything possible to get him to agree to withdraw from the conference. This was because I judged that going ahead with it represented playing financial Russian roulette, so to speak, in which TJS would incur several hundred thousand dollars of liabilities to enrollees, speakers, and the hotel, and at any moment he might decide that his moral obligation was then to withdraw, after it was too late for us to avoid devastating loss. Thus, several days later, I called him and asked if he would like to be let out of his contract. To my great relief, he said yes.
Once that was settled, my hopes for holding the conference actually began to revive, and Edith and I considered ways of going forward without him. The final blow, however, came on October 4, when Dr. Peikoff met with three of our five remaining philosophy instructors and told them both that he judged us to be immoral and that they were nevertheless free to decide to speak for us. We concluded that prima facie this represented placing our speakers in a position in which out of regard for their own legitimate interests they would no longer agree to speak for us and we could no longer ask them to speak for us. At that point, we cancelled the conference, at the cost of a substantial financial penalty we had to pay to the hotel whose facilities we had reserved. Our consideration was that anyone who spoke for us would necessarily jeopardize his future with ARI, and that even if Dr. Peikoff were magnanimous enough never to hold it against the person for speaking for us, the same could certainly not be said for Peter Schwartz and Harry Binswanger who, Dr. Peikoff had repeatedly said he could not control.
The only explanation I can give at this point for Dr. Peikoff's uneven application of the criterion of "containment" and for his response to our memos to the ARI Board of Advisors of October 1993, is the attitude he expressed to Linda Reardan in July of this year, to the effect that he considers rejection of Peter Schwartz and Harry Binswanger to be a rejection of him and thus of Objectivism. Obviously, we disagree with Dr. Peikoff on this matter, because we believe that serious criticism of these gentlemen is both warranted and is in the interest of Objectivism. In addition to the criticisms we express in the materials that accompany this letter, we must stress our disagreement with Harry Binswanger's policy of discouraging graduate students in philosophy from pursuing their doctorates and, when asked for his view of how ARI's contributors would regard this policy, his attitude that he didn't care about what the contributors thought.
In closing, I want to say that I unequivocally reject the notion that the attacks made on us are aimed primarily at Edith and the alleged difficulties of dealing with her, as has frequently been alleged by those concerned. They are aimed at me and at TJS. If they were aimed at Edith, there would have been no reason to destroy TJS, which is what has happened, at least as far as summer conferences are concerned.
The essence of the situation is that Peter Schwartz and Harry Binswanger do not want to answer to criticisms, neither ours nor anyone else's, and, we are sorry to say, that Leonard Peikoff does not want them to have to answer either. Because they do not want to admit this, they have decided to get rid of us, by declaring us to be immoral.
Edith and I have devoted over thirty years of our adult lives to fighting for Objectivism. We will continue to do so. Our plans include both a book service and a newsletter, which is to be called The Rational Alternative. We also expect to hold seminars and at least short conferences in the future. We chose the name for our newsletter before any of the developments of the last two years occurred. Its theme will be rational alternatives to irrational theories and policies that are prominent in today's culture. It will certainly not be directed against anything so small as the matters we have had to discuss in this letter or in the items that accompany it.
P.S. Please feel free to show this letter and the accompanying items to anyone you wish, and to reproduce them.