Here I catch up on my brief summaries of Leonard Peikoff’s podcasts.
Should a man reveal intense romantic interest in a woman? Peikoff replies that it depends on context; it’s “all a question of detail.” Under the appropriate circumstances, yes, it’s appropriate to communicate passion. He talks a bit about those circumstances.
What is the basis for laws against self-incrimination? Here Peikoff surprised me a bit. My first thoughts went to the abuses inherent in forcing people to testify against themselves. But Peikoff makes a more fundamental argument. He explains that we properly support a just government to protect our own lives and property. But when the government is trying to convict a person of a serious crime, whether rightly or wrongly, the egoistic justification for joining the government is to that extent broken. Egoism dictates that, while people may be punished for lying under oath, they cannot properly be forced to incriminate themselves.
Next, Peikoff discusses the cynicism often behind the phrase, “drinking the kool-aid.”
What about the marriage of minors? Peikoff replies that marriage is a contract, and government can’t sanction a contract with a minor. I basically agree, but I add that people do mature at different ages. I believe that a court should be able to grant adult status to a responsible 17-year-old, if petitioned. Should a pregnant 15-year-old be able to marry the father? Colorado Statute 14-2-109.5 sets an age limit for common-law marriage at 18. Colorado law provides for marriage under 18 with parental approval, and this strikes me as reasonable:
14-2-106. License to marry.
(1) (a) …[T]he county clerk shall issue a license to marry and a marriage certificate form upon being furnished:
(I) Satisfactory proof that each party to the marriage will have attained the age of eighteen years at the time the marriage license becomes effective; or, if over the age of sixteen years but has not attained the age of eighteen years, has the consent of both parents or guardian or, if the parents are not living together, the parent who has legal custody or decision-making responsibility concerning such matters or with whom the child is living or judicial approval, as provided in section 14-2-108; or, if under the age of sixteen years, has both the consent to the marriage of both parents or guardian or, if the parents are not living together, the parent who has legal custody or decision-making responsibility concerning such matters or with whom the child is living and judicial approval, as provided in section 14-2-108…
Obviously, just because marriage under the age of 18 is allowed doesn’t mean it’s usually a good idea.
What are the limits to the right of self-defense? Peikoff sensibly answers that things like nuclear weapons, private armies, and biological agents properly are restricted, though he adds that a private force can be appropriate depending on one’s property holdings and risks. (I imagine that a business operating in a dangerous part of the world would need a private force, for example.) However, Peikoff seems not to have finely considered the nature of guns. He suggested than an Uzi may be prohibited, but that’s rather arbitrary. A reasonable standard is that, if a weapon is inherently used discriminately — i.e., to stop a particular threatening person — it should be allowed for self-defense. Weapons that cannot be used in a domestic defensive situation without inherently endangering third parties should be restricted. This standard easily differentiates guns from tanks and nuclear bombs (and it also comports with the historical understanding of “arms.”)
Finally, Peikoff discusses some of the fiction he likes.
Should government intervene in the economy to protect the environment? Peikoff answers no, except when particular property rights are violated by a particular party. However, he notes, first-in-time rights apply; if somebody builds a home next to an established factory, the homeowner can’t properly sue the factory for air pollution. One “cannot launch a claim against industrial civilization as such.”
Is it possible to experience love without physical attraction? I won’t try to summarize Peikoff’s interesting remarks on the matter, as they’re both subtle and far afield from the main purpose of this blog.
Can reading Ayn Rand become escapist? Peikoff says that reading great literature for inspiration is much different than a “refusal to face reality.”
Finally, when is it immoral to help a stranger? We are “right to value human life,” Peikoff notes, so obviously we should help strangers in an emergency when doing so risks no substantial values. However, if our choice is between saving a stranger and saving one’s spouse, the proper choice is equally obvious. He discusses a few other scenarios.
Word has it that Peikoff is wrapping up work on his book on DIM, or “disintegration, integration, and misintegration,” as an explanation for the basic flows of human history. I expect the book’s publication to be a watershed event.