September, 7, 1996
The ARI-Reisman issue has caused a bitter rift among Objectivists. The leaders of the Objectivist movement are split into two camps, and the future spread of Objectivism will be affected by which side takes the dominant role. The future of Objectivism demands that the leadership is acquired by the individuals that best represent the Objectivist principles of honesty, rationality, and justice. Currently, the ARI group has condemned the Reismans as immoral. They have also demanded that uninvolved Objectivists take sides against the Reismans. In response to this demand, my wife and I undertook to discover the facts and make a just decision. Ultimately, we found that the present leadership of ARI is in the wrong. We wish to vindicate the Reismans, who have been unjustly condemned by the Objectivist "establishment."
The ARI-Reisman issue arose as a moral conflict in September, 1994, when representatives of ARI, Leonard Peikoff, Peter Schwartz, Harry Binswanger, Mike Berliner and others, condemned as immoral long-time Objectivists, George Reisman and Edith Packer. For many years previously, some of the ARI group had intermittent personal disputes with the Reismans. However, the condemnation by Dr. Peikoff and others was in a different league from the prior conflicts. This was a moral issue, not just personal, and the ARI side required uninvolved people like ourselves to "take sides." ARI refused to support the Reismans' The Jefferson School, the oldest school of Objectivism in existence, and fails to advertise Dr. Reisman's new treatise on economics, a defense of capitalism comparable to von Mises's Human Action and Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. ARI started to pressure and then to insist that people with no first-hand knowledge of the feud condemn the Reismans as immoral. A great injustice has been done to two innocent people, and a group of once-respected Objectivist leaders have stooped to making damaging and unsubstantiated accusations.
The material is organized as follows:
1. This letter from me regarding the ARI-Reisman issue and the related [Robert W.] Stubblefield case.
2. Letter from Gen LaGreca Sanford to our friends and acquaintances regarding this issue.
3. Letter from Gen to Dr. Peikoff, 7/30/95.
4. Letter from me to Dr. Peikoff, 7/30/95.
5. Letter from Gen to Dr. Berliner, 10/12/95.
6. Letter from Gen and me to Dr. Peikoff, 11/10/95.
7. Letter from me to Dr. Berliner, 3/2/96.
8. TIA's written contract with me to publish ozone article, 7/18/95.
9. Letter from me to Stubblefield summarizing our verbal contract, 8/31/95.
10. Letter from Stubblefield breaking previous contracts, 9/7/95.
11. Letter from me to Stubblefield objecting to breach of contract, 9/17/95.
The following chronology of the ARI-Reisman matter is excerpted from a November 10, 1995 letter by Linda Reardan and copied with her permission. For additional background material, see discussions by George Reisman, Edith Packer, Jerry Kirkpatrick, Linda Reardan and Jack Schwartz, copies of which may be obtained by writing to Linda Reardan, [address], and enclosing a 9x12 inch, self addressed, stamped envelope with $2.16 postage. I would suggest relevant material by leaders of ARI, but, to my knowledge, none exists.
Edith and George have had strained relations with Peter and with Mike Berliner for several years, while they have been friends with Leonard, and close friends with Harry, for decades. In conversations with me, Peter denigrates George's and Edith's intellectual accomplishments, and Harry states that he thinks the OGC should be, not an adjunct to established graduate schools, but a substitute for them.
Edith and George make criticisms to Mike, Leonard, and Harry about possible conflicts of interest on the part of Peter, and about Harry's ideas about the OGC. Leonard, too, criticizes Harry's plans for the OGC, but refuses to get involved any further.
Mike sends out a memo to the ARI Board of Advisors asking for feedback on Harry's and Peter's proposed salaries for the first semester of the OGC. George, Edith, and Jerry Kirkpatrick send memos to ARI and its Board criticizing the apparent plans for the OGC.
George and Edith are expelled from the ARI Board of Advisors, with Leonard's approval. He writes a private letter to Edith and George saying that he hopes that his personal and professional relationship with them can continue as before, but that he will terminate it if they become "active enemies" of ARI. Later in the month, Leonard softens his position, telling me (and the ARI Board of Advisors) that he regards the dispute between the Reismans and Peter, Mike, and Harry as a matter of clashing personalities and strategies. I try to convince him to hear Edith's and George's side of the dispute but he refuses.
Leonard makes Peter and Harry expand the Board of Directors (one of the main points George and Edith were arguing for). In the hope that the new board will help to control Peter and Harry, and that Leonard is beginning to face ARI's problems, Edith and George convey no further criticisms of ARI. In May, Harry writes a memo saying that no Objectivist should promote George's pamphlet on socialized medicine.
The ARI Board votes to terminate ARI's association with The Jefferson School. Leonard refuses to get involved (even while he continues to plan on speaking at TJS's 1995 conference).
The phone conference among Leonard, George, Edith, Harry, Peter, and Mike takes place, during which Leonard declares George and Edith to be immoral.
George sends out a letter to many Objectivists, explaining why TJS's 1995 conference will be cancelled, and defending Edith and himself against Leonard's, Peter's, and Harry's charges against them.
My intention is to provide you with an abundance of facts and leave the decision entirely up to you. I am receptive to your comments, but I do not wish to engage in a debate. I have spent far too much time on these matters already and wish to resume productive activities. Please feel free to make copies of these documents and to distribute them to interested parties.
The ARI-Reisman Issue
If all you need to know is that SOS, Gen and I have been condemned and ostracized by the major Objectivist leaders and institutions, and you require no more evidence of our immorality, then condemn us now. For you, the following "evidence" should be enough: Leonard Peikoff has asserted that Gen and I are "agnostics," are epistemologically flawed, and misuse Objectivist principles; ARI will no longer provide SOS with complementary educational pamphlets by Ayn Rand because I have not condemned the Reismans as immoral; second-hand, anonymous sources alleged that Leonard Peikoff said that a letter from Gen and me to him was "rude and demanding," and Bob Stubblefield, publisher of The Intellectual Activist, refused to publish my nearly complete article on ozone that TIA had contracted for, because, he claimed, I was an "agnostic" for refusing to condemn the Reismans as immoral. If the condemnations of me and my wife by Peikoff, Berliner, ARI, Stubblefield, and TIA is proof of guilt, then read no further.
However, if you require something epistemologically and morally more substantial, this letter presents my first-hand search for the truth in the ARI-Reisman matter. First, I list the major responses to our request for evidence against the Reismans, and, second, I show the events that surrounded our investigation, culminating in our own ostracism from the Objectivist "establishment."
Although it may give the impression that Objectivists are consumed in petty squabbles far beneath the stature of Miss Rand's heroes, please remember that people have free will, and even self-proclaimed Objectivists can fail to practice their professed ideals. Objectivism, as formulated by Miss Rand, will always be untarnished by lesser minds that claim to follow her. To people who are new to Objectivism. I advise studying Objectivism in Ayn Rand's own words and judging other Objectivists as rigorously as you would any person on the street.
Reasons and Responses Allegedly Showing the Reismans' Immorality
In the course of our investigation, Gen and I made a concerted effort to obtain first-hand statements from the major players. On the ARI side, we corresponded with Leonard Peikoff and Mike Berliner and read important letters by Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz to Dr. Peikoff. On the Reisman side, we heard from the Reismans and the Kirkpatricks. We discussed the issue with several who started out on the Reisman's side and switched to ARI's side: Dave Harriman, Gary Hull, Ed Locke, Arthur Mode, and Barbara Jackson. The responses given to our question "Why are the Reismans immoral?" follow. I cannot call them all "reasons," as you will see. Many are mere "responses," irrelevant or emotional reactions devoid of substantive facts or arguments. Some were purely arbitrary assertions and do not merit repeating.
1. The Reismans attacked, insulted and were hostile and unjust to ARI and its members and to The Jefferson School(TJS) speakers.
Those making these charges often provide no supporting evidence, just their assertion. Sometimes the evidence is said to be private. Other times the evidence is said to be in the Reismans' letters, e.g. those of Oct. 26, 1993. Without supporting evidence, the charge is an arbitrary assertion to be dismissed out of hand. To the extent that valid but private evidence truly exists, the people privy to such information can decide for themselves; but to request, much less demand, agreement from others while withholding this allegedly private information is illogical and unjust. The letters from the Reismans to ARI are critical of ARI and occasionally use inflammatory language. However, the main points are that contribution money may have been misspent, that the directors may have been paying themselves inappropriately in their dual capacities as directors and lecturers, and that the number of directors may have been insufficient.
I do not consider criticism of the management of ARI an "attack" (especially if it deserves the criticism). For a disinterested, expert opinion on the legitimacy of the Reismans' criticisms, I asked SOS's lawyer, who is an nationally known expert on the law of non-profit corporations. In his opinion, ARI might have had very serious legal and management problems. If the charges proved to be true, ARI's nonprofit status could be in jeopardy, ARI could be liable for years of back taxes as a for-profit corporation while it conducted business in California, and some directors could be liable for federal law violations owing to self-serving conflicts-of-interest. The appropriate action at that time would have been an investigation into the charges followed by correction of any problems that were discovered. Thus, I consider the Reisman's criticisms as constructive and in the best long-term interests of ARI. Sadly, ARI responded to these constructive criticisms by impugning the Reismans' morality. Subsequently, ARI followed some of the Reisman's suggestions, for example by increasing the number of board members, thus demonstrating that the criticisms were not so unreasonable after all.
Whether or not the Reismans were offensive in the way they discussed the management issues is not a moral issue. Consider the fact that Miss Rand kept up a professional relationship and endorsed the books of Isabel Paterson despite "[Pat's] incredibly offensive manner toward people...including me" (Letters of Ayn Rand, M. Berliner, ed., p. 276). ARI and the Reismans could have maintained a business relationship if ARI had not escalated the charges to a moral condemnation.
Finally, ARI's claims of being "attacked" first by the Reismans is hollow because we ourselves were attacked by Peikoff, Stubblefield, Berliner, and Hull nine months to a year before we made any public statement about ARI at all. We only asked questions. ARI's directors act as though a person's criticism, questions, or even silence, is a personal attack on them, which they must respond to with moral condemnation and ostracism.
2. The Reismans violated the property rights of Binswanger and Schwartz by distributing copies of their letters which contain the charges against the Reismans and the rationale for those charges.
Dr. Peikoff had copied the original letters first and sent those copies to the Reismans without any caution about copying them. The Reismans made copies of Dr. Peikoff's copies. Thus, the objection cannot be about copying as such, or else Dr. Peikoff would be equally guilty, but about the number of copies the Reismans made and to whom they were distributed.
Thus, the ARI group objects to the fact that the Reismans publicized the issue rather than keeping silent. The Reismans say that a member of the ARI board informed them that ARI would soon declare them immoral, which ARI soon did, but only to individuals. In the absence of any official statement by the ARI group either then or to this day, these letters provide the only written documentation of the thinking behind the condemnation.
The Reismans had a right to defend themselves publicly. They were told in advance by a Board member about ARI's impending condemnation. The Schwartz-Binswanger correspondence, which documented the dialog leading to the impending condemnation, revealed the lack of any rational justification for a moral condemnation of the Reismans. By distributing this correspondence, the Reismans prevented a damaging public statement from ARI. The Reismans defended themselves the only way they could against a public attack on their integrity – by distributing the evidence.
The condemnation of the Reismans is a public issue. ARI privately told numerous people, including ourselves, that the Reismans were immoral, thus making it into a virtually public issue. If ARI had in fact kept the issue private by severing personal relations with the Reismans but by not condemning them as immoral and by not withdrawing support from TJS, then ARI could claim the issue and letters were private. ARI's making the issue public and making it a moral issue gave the Reismans license to use the private letters in their defense. Further, the Objectivist public supports ARI projects and pays the salary of its executive director, Dr. Berliner, and others. This public also attended and valued TJS. And it values the Reismans as Objectivist leaders. Because their contributions and payments make ARI and TJS possible, the supporters of ARI and TJS have a right to an official, public explanation as to why ARI denounced the Reismans and rejected TJS, two very public actions.
This argument about copying the letters is often made as the worst offense of the Reismans. However, the Reismans had already been condemned as immoral (in September, 1994) before they mailed the letters (in November, 1994). The ARI group has yet to justify why they made the original moral condemnation. (Similarly. the ARI group may condemn us for distributing the attached letters, but we do so in self defense months after ARI and associates condemned and expelled us.) The net effect of ARI's focus on the issue of private letters is to divert attention from its own unjustified moral condemnation of the Reismans which preceded the Reismans' distribution of the letters.
3. Dr. Packer made the lives of the Directors of ARI miserable since the founding of ARI.
Dr. Packer was one of the original founding directors of ARI and had a right by charter to be on the board. If the others could not tolerate her presence, they had two choices, to quit or to vote her out. This is a personal and business issue that could have been easily resolved by a vote, and no moral issue is involved. If Dr. Packer's actions were immoral for the last decade since the founding of ARI, other ARI directors should have condemned her long ago. If her actions as ARI director have not been immoral for all that time, then her actions cannot retroactively be declared immoral today. In either case, whether or not she was difficult to deal with would not be a moral issue.
It is revealing that Dr. Berliner demands that Objectivists who were not involved in the ARI-Reisman dispute side with ARI and condemn the Reismans as immoral, and yet Dr. Berliner to this day continues to work with Dr. Packer as one of the two codirectors of the Foundation for the New Intellectual, established by Miss Rand. This business association undermines Dr. Berliner's assertion that Dr. Packer is immoral and impossible to deal with. By Dr. Berliner's own standards, he should break with Dr. Packer by resigning from the Foundation.
4. Dr. Packer acted "evasively" when charged with being "immoral" during a conference call between Peikoff, Schwartz, Binswanger, Berliner, Packer and Reisman on 9/19/94.
According to our understanding, Dr. Peikoff called this meeting so he could get to the bottom of the dispute that had been brewing between the Reismans and some other ARI directors. Instead, in response to letters by Schwartz and Binswanger urging that the issue be transformed from personal to moral, Peikoff charged the Reismans with immorality. Dr. Packer, a former lawyer, refused to answer the objections unless they were put in writing and she had time to formulate a response. Dr. Packer's reaction, which Dr. Peikoff interpreted as evasion, could easily be interpreted as indignation at being insulted, a reluctance to sanction an improper procedure, and a desire to have time to formulate a response. Evasion is failure to consider reality, not a failure to answer Dr. Peikoff's pop questions on the spot. Out of courtesy and justice, Dr. Peikoff should have presented the Reismans with written charges and evidence before the conference call.
5. For 20 years, Dr. Reisman "evaded" philosophy in books and lectures by discussing economics without reference to the primacy of philosophy over economics.
In a review of The Government Against the Economy, published in 1979, Dr. Binswanger writes "Dr. Reisman explicitly champions the fundamental principles of capitalism: individual rights. Integrating economics and political philosophy...[A] rare sight of a powerful and original mind in full control of his subject. It establishes George Reisman as an economic thinker of the first rank." Dr. Binswanger never claims that Dr. Reisman "evaded" philosophy. Dr. Reisman's latest treatise, his life's work (which the person making this claim had not read, although it had been publicly available for months) is full of integrations with philosophy. The first three chapters contain 21 footnotes to the work of Miss Rand in addition to numerous references in the text. The idea that Dr. Reisman, in lectures and in print, would have consciously ignored the facts of reality publicly on a massive scale for 20 years without Miss Rand, Dr. Peikoff, Dr. Binswanger and others dissociating themselves from him is preposterous. Again ARI supporters are rewriting history and moral standards decades after the fact.
6. Ayn Rand refused to read Dr. Reismans Government Against the Economy for moral reasons, namely, that he "evaded" philosophy.
On the contrary, according to Dr. Reisman, Miss Rand read part of his book and had no major objections, certainly no moral ones. (She only read part, because her husband, Frank, had died recently and she was not well.) If Miss Rand considered Dr. Reisman and his book to be immoral, she would not have continued her association with him, as she did.
This blank response represent ARI's "official" answer to Gen's request for ARI's reasons in condemning the Reismans. In a letter on ARI stationary, Dr. Berliner preceded his answer with the words "for your eyes only." Although we asked him for facts and reasons to justify ARI's public denunciation, he instead asked us, in effect, to help him cover up ARI's justification (rather, its lack of justification). Given that ARI's actions have caused irreparable harm to innocent Objectivists including ourselves and have damaged the spread of Objectivism, Dr. Berliner's request for our secrecy amounts to asking the victims of persecution to help the persecutor hide the basis for his offense. In effect he asks: Please don't reveal to the world that I have no reasons for ostracizing you and your valued friends from Objectivism. Despite Dr. Berliner's request, I will not be an accomplice to ARI's cover up. Dr. Berliner, as Executive Director of ARI, gave the following answer to Gen's request for facts and reasons.
First, he said, many other Objectivists and former friends, including nine whom he named, have dissociated themselves from the Reismans. This argument is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad verecundiam, appeal to authority. Further, given the pressure put on us, I wonder how many of those people disassociated themselves from the Reismans because of threats from ARI and company to break contracts, withhold literature, and otherwise cut off relations, for example (see below). Second, he alleged "a long history of behavior by Edith that was hostile, abusive, and manipulative." He gave no evidence to support this allegation – an allegation that contradicts years of first-hand knowledge of Edith by Gen and myself. This is an arbitrary assertion. Third, Dr. Berliner asserts that the Reismans initiated the public attacks on ARI. If "attacks" refers to the Reisman's 1993 letters to the ARI Board, these letters were sent to the Board and some Advisors but were not made public until after the Reismans were declared immoral a year later. The letters were critical but not hostile, and they conveyed a constructive aim to correct some management deficiencies in ARI. These letters were neither attacks nor public. However, Dr. Berliner neglects to specify the thing or event that he calls an "attack," so perhaps he refers to something else. Dr. Berliner also fails to provide any time frame for a person to judge who "attacked" whom first. Fifth, Dr. Berliner concludes that "I'm not willing to count them as advocates of property rights [because of their dissemination of private memos [by Schwartz and Binswanger] which they agreed not to disseminate." The Reismans deny ever promising not to disseminate the memos. As discussed above, the Reismans were justified by self-defense in publicizing the letters condemning them. Sixth, Dr. Berliner made the astonishing admission that there is no conclusive evidence of the Reismans' immorality, "However, much of the 'evidence' was in personal conversations with me, Harry et al, so it's basically my (our) words against theirs. Also, most of this occurred well over a year ago, and the details have hardly been in the forefront of my consciousness." Thus, he says, we have to take the words on faith of Schwartz, Binswanger and Peikoff. Finally, Dr. Berliner expresses a deep personal hostility toward Dr. Packer that might explain some of his and ARI's actions, "[G]iven the treatment that Edith subjected me to and her apparent conviction from almost the beginning that I am an incompetent boob who, absent her guidance, would run ARI into the ground – it's been a particular pleasure to have her completely out of my life." Besides being a case of argumentum ad misericordiam, such a statement raises the legitimate question whether Dr. Berliner's management skills were up to the demands of running ARI. Especially because Gen and I years ago privately heard vehement criticism of Dr. Berliner's management by a member of the board of advisors (who is still on ARI's side), because of the opinion of SOS's lawyer, and because many of the Reismans' 1993 suggestions were later adopted by ARI, the evidence tends to confirm that the Reismans 1993 criticisms were largely valid.
Given the lack of evidence against the Reismans, Dr. Berliner and ARI evidently try to keep their reasons for their moral condemnation secret because they have no valid reasons.
8. If you do not condemn the Reismans as immoral, we will stop providing Ayn Rand's pamphlets for your organization to distribute, we will refuse to publish any article you have written for our publication at our invitation and we will break without compensation any contractual agreements we have with you.
Mike Berliner of ARI and Bob Stubblefield of TIA both cut off relations with me and SOS because I refused to condemn the Reismans as immoral. Neither Mike nor Bob made a serious attempt to persuade me. Neither gave pertinent facts or objective arguments. In support of their actions, both uncritically accepted false assertions of Leonard Peikoff (e.g., that I am an "agnostic") without caring or attempting to validate them. And both made and executed threats of retaliation instead of rational arguments. These are other examples of "responses" that are not "reasons."
9. If you ask for proof, you are an agnostic and epistemologically flawed.
Dr. Peikoff, in effect, gave this response when Gen and I asked him for evidence supporting his position (which was our response to a letter from him asking for my views). Further, in "refutation" of our letter, which merely requested evidence, he delivered a 1/2-hour lecture to students at the San Francisco "Objectivism" conference, 1995. In this lecture Dr. Peikoff constructed a hypothetical situation quite different from the actual ARI-Reisman conflict and concluded that everybody must take sides or be condemned as an agnostic. This was a fantastic argument. Assuming he had valid evidence to condemn the Reismans, he, Dr. Peikoff, was refusing to divulge it and simultaneously condemning us for not making a decision without it. If Dr. Peikoff had any valid evidence, he or others would have presented it long ago, so his lack of proof was obvious. Further, we were never agnostics in any sense, because we had made up our minds, based on what we knew. In fact, in our letters to Dr. Peikoff, we clearly stated that we believed the Reismans to be innocent because the immorality charges were unproved. By demanding proof from him to support his charges, we were demonstrating that we were most definitely not agnostics, but the opposite. We have said to Dr. Peikoff (in effect), "Because you made the charges, you must justify them. Otherwise, your claims are arbitrary, and the Reismans are innocent." That is the position of an Objectivist, not an agnostic.
On top of his false accusation of being agnostics, Dr. Peikoff intimated that our epistemology might be flawed solely on the basis of whether we agreed with his San Francisco lecture. This lecture presented a contrived conflict implying that whoever did not take the side of the person with more prestige (by implication, Dr. Peikoff) was agnostic and immoral. Please see Gen's letter for a detailed analysis of Dr. Peikoff's lecture. In essence, Dr. Peikoff responded to our request that he support his condemnation of the Reismans by making unsupported condemnations of us, too.
Despite having opinions on the subject, we were not making public statements for a long time out of fairness to Dr. Peikoff. We would make no public statement until we had heard his reasons. The fact that we asked him for his justification is evidence of our sense of justice toward Dr. Peikoff. Public silence is not agnosticism. It is sad that Dr. Peikoff would take the silence of friends as a threat when it is really an indication of respect. Dr. Peikoff's reaction now appears as the sign of a guilty conscience. Gen had been a friend of Dr. Peikoff for 28 years and I for 10. We would think that our friendship was a value and our good character was well established. Instead of responding with facts, Dr. Peikoff twisted our act of rationality and justice into immorality by condemning "agnostics" in a public forum. When we asked Dr. Peikoff for facts, we would have been swayed to his point of view with solid evidence and convincing arguments. But Dr. Peikoff"s response convinced us, sadly, that he had no evidence and that he was stooping so low as to attack his admirers for the crime of seeking facts.
Although much condensed, this list summarizes most of the arguments we have heard, or "responses" that substitute for arguments, intended to justify the moral condemnation of the Reismans. Not one constitutes a reason for a moral condemnation. Given that nearly everyone I asked had new and unique responses, I would not be surprised to hear still more invalid arguments offered in the future. Many Reisman-bashers have chosen their sides and are now devising new rationalizations for a moral condemnation that should never have been made.
Treatment of Those Who Request Facts Before Passing Moral Judgment
While Gen and I searched for valid moral reasons for ARI's condemnation of the Reismans, we found that the manner in which we were treated was as revealing as the content of the responses. Our treatment further confirmed that the main individuals doing the condemning had no reasons but instead demanded blind loyalty or else.
We first heard of the controversy from the Reismans when they sent us copies of correspondence dating from 9/27/94 and earlier. Of all the evidence available at that time, the most revealing was the letter from Peter Schwartz to Dr. Peikoff. Mr. Schwartz attempted to make a long-standing personal dispute with Dr. Packer into a moral issue by means of emotionalism devoid of facts. Thus from the first, I was more convinced of the Reismans' innocence by the attacks on them than by the Reismans own comments.
I then heard of a meeting among Dr. Peikoff, Dave Harriman, Gary Hull and Linda Reardan. Dr. Peikoff was to make a definitive statement on the ARI-Reisman issue. After the meeting, in October, 1994, I called each of the younger philosophers to hear Dr. Peikoff's judgment. Linda gave a detailed rendition of the meeting. Dr. Peikoff definitely called the Reismans immoral, and he gave 4 reasons (included above). Gary Hull said that Dr. Peikoff did not call the Reismans immoral and told me that I knew all the facts already, which was odd because I was not a participant at the meeting and could not have known what Dr. Peikoff said. Next I called Harriman. He said that Peikoff stated clearly that the Reismans were immoral. Later, Dr. Peikoff told several different people that he considered the Reismans immoral. I have no explanation for Hull's claim that Dr. Peikoff said the issue was personal and not moral, but every one else I contacted testified that Dr. Peikoff declared the Reismans immoral.
Through June of 1995 we avoided talking to almost anyone about this issue, and then only to close friends in private. We never talked to casual acquaintances about it and never made a public statement for several reasons. 1) We had not heard Dr. Peikoff or a representative of ARI make a public statement giving their reasons. We were not going to make any statement without first-hand information from Dr. Peikoff and ARI out of fairness to them in particular, and from basic principles of justice. 2) Hoping that Dr. Peikoff, ARI. and the Reismans would resolve their dispute privately, if possible, we did not want to make it more public and jeopardize any sensitive discussions. 3) While we could not imagine what immoral actions the Reismans might have done, Gen and I both expected Dr. Peikoff, intellectual heir to Ayn Rand, to have some very damning evidence that we had not yet heard. In fact, it seemed equally inconceivable that the Reismans were immoral or that Dr. Peikoff would make charges of immorality without proof. But one or the other had to be true. By this time, we had each decided that the condemnation of the Reismans was unjustified, based on the context of knowledge available to us at that time. However, clear proof from Dr. Peikoff would have changed our minds.
On July 3, Dr. Peikoff wrote to Gen and said someone, he could not remember who, told him that "Rick has broken with or denounced the ARI in the name of loyalty with the Reismans," and he asked if this were true. Gen and I each wrote back to Dr. Peikoff (attached letters dated 7/30/95) saying these accusations were untrue. We gave him our current views, asked him politely for the facts behind the Reisman condemnation and invited him to provide the convincing evidence of the Reismans' guilt. We offered to discuss the issue with him over the phone (which he never did). Thanks to his writing first, we felt that this was our opportunity to find out his reasons first-hand. Instead, without consulting us, Dr. Peikoff answered our letter by devoting a half hour of his public San Francisco lecture course to attacking "agnosticism." A month later Dr. Peikoff replied to our response to his inquiry by sending us a taped excerpt of that lecture. He explicitly said that the half hour "anti-agnostic" excerpt was a repudiation of our answer to his inquiry and that he would not address the ARI-Reisman matter unless we agreed with the ideas he expressed in the tape. He claimed further that our application of the onus of proof principle to him, requiring him to support his moral accusation of the Reismans, is a misuse of Objectivist principles. So instead of reasons and facts, Dr. Peikoff replied by falsely accusing us of agnosticism and misusing Objectivist ideas, requiring that we submit to an unspecified epistemology test, and, most significantly, refusing to give any evidence on the ARI-Reisman issue. That was our "reward" for seeking his views first-hand.
Despite Dr. Peikoff's allegations, both Gen and I are not and never have been agnostics in any sense of the word. We kept silent until we had collected enough information for a fair and informed public decision. However, we always had our private opinions. We never believed that no decision was possible. By analogy, in the play, A Man For All Seasons, about Sir Thomas More, when King George demands the endorsement of Sir Thomas on an important matter of state or lose his head, Sir Thomas simply keeps silent. In the end of the play, Sir Thomas maintained his silence but was executed anyway, not for attacking the King, but for refraining from attacking the King's enemy, i.e., for his silence. Similarly ARI requires Objectivists to condemn the Reismans or be ostracized. Objectivists who maintain their silence for whatever reason are punished as enemies of ARI anyway, not for attacking ARI but for refraining from attacking ARI's perceived enemy.
I was beginning to be curious about the interest in my views, first from Dr. Peikoff and then from Gary Hull, who had questioned at least one mutual acquaintance about my views without my knowledge. Why would they care about my opinion? I wasn't involved. I had not said a word against anyone. If this is a personal issue, why must I take sides? Why do they seem to want my agreement so badly? A few other friends behaved oddly. One friend of five years, who had recently joined OSG, broke off relations with us because, among other questionable reasons, he said he didn't like the restaurants we chose! We wondered why he would be so afraid of naming the issue and what had happened to his moral courage. Considering the whole context of evidence, I conclude that the insecurity of defending an indefensible position has led these Objectivists to consider any non-believers, especially (at the risk of sounding self-congratulatory) those with a reputation for publicly exposing myths and defending the truth, as threats both to their self-esteem and to their positions in the Objectivist "establishment."
One of the students in Dr. Peikoff's class in which he denounced "agnostics" was the publisher of TIA, Bob Stubblefield. At the same conference, by Mr. Stubblefield's own admission, Dr. Hull told him he should check out my views on the ARI-Reisman issue. Following the cues of Drs. Peikoff and Hull, Mr. Stubblefield called me after the conference, demanded to know my views on the ARI-Reisman issue, called me an "agnostic," and unilaterally broke his contract with me to publish my article which was virtually done. His disgraceful action is detailed below.
Gen also wrote to Dr. Berliner and asked for the reasons why ARI morally condemned the Reismans. Even though we knew others had tried without success to get a definite statement, we felt it almost a point of honor to ask each of the major players for their first-hand views in order for them to present the most favorable defense of their side. On October 20, Dr. Berliner wrote back "Dear Gen and Rick (for your eyes only)." Dr. Berliner gave no remotely convincing reason for condemning the Reismans as immoral and stated the whole issue was his word against theirs.
On February 12, on behalf of SOS, I left a phone message for Dr. Berliner at the ARI office requesting 50 to 100 complementary copies of Ayn Rand's pamphlet on environmentalism that I routinely had included in Packet #1 Overview of Environmentalism. Dr. Berliner wrote back that he had assumed "you agreed with the Reismans' assessment of ARI, Peter, myself and others – or at least considered our reactions to the Reismans' behavior to be baseless and unjust. I certainly haven't heard of any disavowals by you of the Reismans' attacks on ARI." According to Dr. Berliner, ARI will not cooperate with SOS and me because I have not "disavowed" the Reisman's "attacks," that is, declared the Reismans immoral.
The Stubblefield Case
Many of you have wondered about SOS's activities this past year, and what happened to my article on stratospheric ozone that was to be published in The Intellectual Activist (TIA). Briefly, Mr. Stubblefield, publisher of TIA, gratuitously broke a contract with me last year, after I had spent a summer researching and writing an invited article for TIA, and refused to pay me anything for my work. Enclosed are copies of the contract and supporting letters.
For about four years, TIA editors Linda Reardan and Paul Blair had repeatedly invited me to write an article on the ozone hole for TIA. Notably, in the spring of 1995, Mr. Blair was calling me once a month to ask me. Despite the demands of a new career, I finally agreed to TIA's request, and Mr. Stubblefield entered into a verbal contract with me to publish an article in TIA. For about four months in the summer of 1995, I worked on weekends and evenings researching and writing.
As a result of Dr. Peikoff's and Gary Hull's odd curiosity about my views on the ARI-Reisman issue and the mysterious loss of a few friends with no logical explanation, I decided to protect my considerable investment in research and writing by this time. I asked Mr. Stubblefield to commit to writing his verbal agreement to publish my article in TIA, to which he agreed after some hesitation. Gen and I deliberately waited for Mr. Stubblefield to sign the contract, which he did (7/15/95, attached), before we sent our replies about the ARI-Reisman issue to Dr. Peikoff. Mr. Stubblefield did not mention any "requirements' that TIA authors must morally condemn the Reismans and must be uncontaminated by any charges (proven or unproved) of "agnosticism" before he signed the contract.
I completed the article and submitted a first draft to Mr. Blair just before the San Francisco conference. At Mr. Stubblefield's request, I then waited for him to read it and decide on a 3000- or 6000-word article. There was no doubt about publishing it at this time nor about its quality, only about the length, which I left to Mr. Stubblefield to decide.
After the San Francisco lectures, I had responded to the latest editorial suggestions by Mr. Blair in a second draft and was still waiting for Mr. Stubblefield to decide on the article's final length. Mr. Blair and Mr. Stubblefield suddenly stopped returning my phone messages. My growing suspicions were confirmed when Mr. Blair finally returned a call and said that Mr. Stubblefield would call me back later and I should stop working on the paper until further notice. I pointed out that we had a deadline and if I stopped work as instructed, I would miss the deadline. He said to stop anyway.
In two phone conversations on 8/30/95 and 8/31/95 Mr. Stubblefield demanded my views on the ARI-Reisman issue, accused me of being an "agnostic," and offered a settlement agreement, which I accepted. Mr. Stubblefield told me that Gary Hull had urged him to find out my views on the ARI-Reisman matter. On the phone with me, Mr. Stubblefield insisted that I reveal my views. After I stated that my views were personal, Mr. Stubblefield told me that he could not publish my article on the basis of my alleged "agnosticism," which Dr. Peikoff had just denounced. He proposed to compensate me for the shorter article, but he would not publish it. I accepted this compromise offer for $900 without publication instead of the agreed upon $900-1600 with publication. In return for his payment, Mr. Stubblefield asked for a copy of the manuscript, which I sent by FedEx. Mr. Stubblefield did not specify, and I did not consent, that the manuscript must be further revised until it was acceptable to him. My synopsis of our agreement is contained in an enclosed letter (8/31/95, attached).
Subsequently, Mr. Stubblefield unilaterally broke our third, verbal contract (9/7/95, attached). Mr. Stubblefield's letter of 9/7/95 states that he will not pay me any compensation for the ozone article despite his series of contracts and commitments and despite the effort I had put into the article, which TIA had repeatedly asked me to write. He said clearly, "We will never publish the article unless, of course, you come to understand why you should not be agnostic on the Reisman vs. Peikoff matter." Consider the implicit principle here: Any agreement can be broken unilaterally and without compensation if one party chooses to disapprove of any (unrelated or undisclosed) thought he (incorrectly) attributes to the second party.
Then, as an afterthought, he began to hint that the paper was not fit for publication. Mr. Stubblefield argued for the first time that I must continue to edit the article until it was 3000 words in length and editorially acceptable for publication by his standards. We never discussed such a condition in our 8/31/96 agreement. That he would even consider I would continue to work for him indefinitely to polish an article that he had no intention of publishing is truly bizarre.
He also demanded that this polished article be submitted in time for the January issue. Because he had instructed me to stop work on the article weeks ago, meeting such a deadline now was impossible. After unilaterally breaking the contract without compensation, Mr. Stubblefield was now retroactively adding his own arbitrary and impossible terms to the contract so that I would appear to be violating the contract instead of him.
After consulting with a lawyer, I decided to sue TIA. After four months of time and legal expenses equal to any possible compensation for the paper, I conceded that Mr. Stubblefield was better at evading justice than my wallet was deep, and I dropped the case. Mr. Stubblefield had discovered that he could avoid being served simply by not answering the door. Meanwhile my legal expenses skyrocketed every time the Sheriff attempted to serve Mr. Stubblefield, who, he said, was probably "hiding behind the curtains." Because obtaining justice in the courts was virtually impossible financially, this letter and the attached copies provide you with the evidence so you can be judge and jury.
ARI-Reisman Issue: Conclusions
After this letter, some ARI supporters may say, in effect, "Sanford really was for the Reismans' and against ARI, so we were right in ostracizing him." Please remember that Gen and I were cast out nine month ago for failing to condemn the Reismans, not for attacking ARI. The Reisman's alleged crime was for attacking ARI. But we did not attack ARI; we merely refrained from attacking the Reismans without proof. If someone says we were ostracized for attacking ARI, please remember that that is not true. The "agnosticism" charge also is false since we were clearly defending the Reismans. Dr. Peikoff knew we had already stood up for the Reismans' innocence. Dr. Peikoff was not disturbed because we failed to take any side, he was disturbed because we failed to take his side.
I conclude that the charges of immorality leveled at the Reismans have no validity. Peikoff, Schwartz, Binswanger, Berliner and others converted their intermittent personal feuds with the Reismans and their loyalties to each other into a moral issue with no valid basis. The lack of evidence is conclusive. ARI and associates' defensive and vindictive reactions to innocent questions and mere silence is a further confession of ARI associates' guilt in making gravely unjust and highly damaging accusations without justification. Finally, the lack of any statement analogous to those by Peikoff and Schwartz on the David Kelley affair confirm ARI's indefensible position in the current matter. By disregarding facts and justice, the directors of ARI have profoundly damaged the reputation of ARI and set back the spread of Objectivism. The condemnation of the Reismans and the destruction of their school is a grave injustice, but the hostility toward all who criticize or even question ARI indicates a deep contempt for the process of thought itself. According to the ARI group, the side you choose is more important than your reasoning process. Given the flawed thinking and morality of the ARI faction, the value of future intellectual works by those individuals is questionable. I, and the leadership of SOS, no longer consider Dr. Peikoff and the directors of ARI as spokesmen for Objectivism.
Miss Rand's works and those that she approved by others in her lifetime are Objectivism. However, all statements by those who claim to be Objectivists must be judged not according to the prestige of the individual or his institution but according to the facts of reality.
Richard F. Sanford, Ph.D