The Night Watchman

The only authorized source of the thoughts and opinions of Per-Olof Samuelsson


Hatred of George Reisman for being George Reisman

George Reisman is a top rank economist. And when I say "top rank", I do not mean to compare him with the common-and-garden variety of Nobel Prize winners in economics. I mean to compare him with such giants as Adam Smith, Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and Ludwig von Mises. 1)

Such a high estimate, of course, is open to disagreement. Marxists and Keynesians would not agree. And (for reasons far beyond the scope of this essay) not even all Austrians agree. 2)

But I am not alone in this high estimate. Let me quote what Dr. Harry Binswanger wrote in a posting to the "Objectivism Study Group" on March 22, 1992:

From where I sit, it looks like George Reisman will end up being the most important economist of the 20th century (with von Mises second). His views are revolutionary.

And in his own magazine The Objectivist Forum (April 1980), he wrote a very favorable review of Reisman’s The Government against the Economy. I quote the last paragraph:

Aside from all its other merits, The Government against the Economy offers the 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. 3)

So this was where Harry Binswanger was sitting in 1992, and had been sitting at least since 1980. Today, he is sitting on a very different chair. Today, he insists that George Reisman should be boycotted.

This is not idle talk on my part. A couple of years ago, an Objectivist in Norway was creating an anti-environmentalist web site and included in it a few quotes from Dr. Reisman’s writings. He was told by Harry Binswanger that he must not do this, and – being the kind of Objectivist he is – he immediately complied. 4)

And it is worse than this – worse, because it reveals the depths of intellectual and philosophical corruption to which only Objectivists can stoop, and then only Objectivists who have reached a "leading position" in the "movement".

In 1995, Dr. Leonard Peikoff gave a lecture to rationalize his own break with Reisman. Like the coward he is, he did not bother to mention Reisman by name in that lecture, or give a single concrete detail; instead he rambled on to the effect that whoever does not take his side on faith is guilty of "moral agnosticism". (See my essay "Leonard Peikoff on Warring Friends" – an article that properly should be titled "Proof that Leonard Peikoff is Dishonest".)

If there ever were a Big Lie, this is it. To condemn evil is to be guilty of moral agnosticism – as long as this evil is committed by Leonard Peikoff or his close associates.

Harry Binswanger runs en e-mail discussion list, called the "Harry Binswanger List" or "HBL" for short. To be admitted to the HBL, one has to take a "loyalty oath", to exclude the various "enemies of Objectivism", such as libertarians and "tolerationists". (It is not an oath of loyalty to the truth, and certainly not an oath of loyalty to rational egoism, such as Galt’s oath; it is an oath of loyalty to a party line, and a fairly cheap one at that.) Included among those "enemies" are – guess what? – moral agnostics.

This, of course, is a smoke-screen. Like the coward he is, Harry Binswanger will not say that he excludes those who take George Reisman’s side in a personal conflict. So, without saying it openly (in the kind of fresh air where issues can be faced), he is trying this piece of dirty innuendo: if we side with George Reisman, we are indifferent to morality.

I am not a moral agnostic – I know right from wrong – and I do not hesitate to call this evil.

Supposedly, there is such a phenomenon as "hatred of the good for being the good" – at least Ayn Rand claimed there is. In such a case, a person does not hate the good because he mistakenly takes it for evil. He knows what the good is, and he hates it because of that.

So why does Harry Binswanger – who is quite obviously aware of George Reisman’s value, even his greatness – hate George Reisman so much that he wishes the Objectivist community to boycott him? Why, when he sees a great man – and realizes his greatness – does he wish to see his reputation destroyed? In view of the quotes I have given, is it possible that he hates George Reisman for being bad? Or is he projecting and in facts hates himself for not being George Reisman? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

And why does this not cause a cry of outrage from the Objectivist community?

Well, I got a very nice dedication (and one which I am very proud of) in my copy of Capitalism: A Treatise of Economics: "To Per-Olof Samuelsson, one man of integrity, courage, and intelligence among a crowd of pretenders." Whether I possess those illustrious qualities may of course be disputed. But that Objectivists, by and large, are a crowd of pretenders, is simply beyond dispute.

And why, in view of the above, are Objectivists making such an ado about Immanuel Kant being "the most evil man in history"? Is it just to avert attention from matters much more closely at hand?


1) I am not a professional economist, but the writers I mention I have read extensively. Maybe I should include David Ricardo (and a few others), but I have not gotten around to reading him yet.

2) Those interested may read Israel Kirzner’s review of Capitalism (Review of Austrian Economics. 12 (1999). I do not agree with this review, but at least professor Kirzner states his case in fairly understandable terms (as opposed to those who refrain from stating a case at all and expect everyone to agree regardless).

3) Another favorable review, written by John Ridpath, appeared in Peter Schwartz’ magazine The Intellectual Activist (January 1980). A couple of poignant quotes:

In a world awash in ivory-tower theory totally divorced from reality, and pragmatic action totally divorced from theory, this book is a reassuring demonstration of the vital link between theory and practice. […] It is a book written by the type of person that, in my judgment, Ayn Rand has referred to as a "new intellectual", which is why the book can offer us the kind of fundamental guidance we need if we are to avoid the chaos and tyranny of a socialist future.

Well, this was some years ago…

4) Another Norwegian Objectivist, Vegard Martinsen, once told me privately that he wanted to launch a campaign to give George Reisman the Nobel Prize in Economics. That was in the early or mid 90’s. I have heard nothing of this campaign since.


"What will happen to the world now, without her anger?"
(George Reisman after Ayn Rand’s funeral in 1982, quoted in Edith Packer’s pamphlet "Anger".)
"Now anger has gone out of the world."
(Unidentified speaker at the same funeral, quoted by Mary Ann Sures in Facets of Ayn Rand.)

Published by : Per-Olof Samuelsson, Drakensköldsgatan 3, SE- 632 25 Eskilstuna, Sweden
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