ZEIGLER INTERVIEW CLARIFIED
I'd like to clarify two comments in my REASON interview "Advertising and Social Change" in October 1972.
They deal with references to my work with Albert Ellis, the psychologist, and contain two unfortunate word choices: "ghost" and "originated". They appeared in the following quote: "I was a bleeding-heart liberal up until the age of 36. At that time I was doing some ghost writing for Dr. Albert Ellis, the psychologist, and I originated the now-famous debate between Ellis and Nathaniel Branden."
First, Dr. Ellis does all his own writing, except where he collaborates with someone and gives that person joint authorship in one of his papers or books. For a time, I was doing volunteer public information work for the Institute for Rational Living, one of his non-profit organizations, because of my high regard for Dr. Ellis and my belief that his theories could go a long way toward helping people become more rational in their dealings with each other and society.
I suggested to Dr. Ellis' assistant, at that time, the possible content for several articles. She asked that I write them, and when I did, Dr. Ellis recommended that they appear with my name as the author. Since the articles were, for the most part, a reflection of Dr. Ellis' own contributions and not mine, and could possibly give me undue credit, I did not pursue his invitation to look for a publisher. On further reflection, I think this was a mistake, since having read all of his books thoroughly, I believed that written material that pertained to his ideas could be of dramatic help to many people. This event no doubt planted the original seed in my motivation to pursue my current work: that of attempting to introduce a massive dose of "psychotherapy" through the mass media in order to remove the blocks from those people and institutions that would restrict our individual freedoms and rights.
Regarding the Ellis/Branden debate, I had recommended that Dr. Ellis debate Ayn Rand. When Dr. Ellis tried to arrange for such a debate, and Ayn Rand categorically refused to debate him (or anyone else), he personally arranged a debate with Branden, with whom he had been friendly for several years previously.
I trust this clarifies my statements in reference to a man to whom I, the Libertarian movement, and society are greatly indebted.
New York, NY
COMPETING MONETARY SYSTEMS
Since a number of people have asked me, I just want to say publicly that I do indeed favor the immediate repeal of the laws regarding legal tender and gold-clause contracts.
I don't want the government to fix the price of gold or otherwise legally enact a "definition" of the dollar, however. Let the fiat money float in domestic as well as international commerce. Let the government's notes circulate—as part of the "no short term dislocations" stipulation in my article ("Let's Establish a New Gold Standard," REASON, July 1972). Their value should stabilize in due course when the Treasury stops the wild printing press and fixes the quantity. But always there should be private monetary systems to compete with the floating dollar. This would be the domestic analog of the floating international system which we already have.
Committee for the Anti-Inflation Amendment
DIFFICULTIES WITH POLYGAMY
I read with interest Paul Gross' article "The Ethics of Polygamy [REASON, July 1973]." The attraction of the "variety" offered by a multiple contractual relationship is one which has been in need of examination. However, in spite of a well conceived argument, Mr. Gross' article has some fundamental difficulties.
One problem stems from the Judeo-Christian view, which Mr. Gross seems to share, that marriage legitimizes "physical contacts." What Mr. Gross fails to do is answer the question can not one have "a variety of intellectual, emotional and physical contacts" legitimately outside of marriage?
Another problem with Mr. Gross' article arises from the notion that each prospective or actual partner has "the same values of character" in the same degree and respect. In the scene from ATLAS SHRUGGED, which I feel Mr. Gross incorrectly interprets, Dagny Taggart is profoundly disturbed by the fact that Francisco D'Anconia, Hank Rearden, and John Galt do not possess "the same values of character" in the same degree. Dagny Taggart is faced with the difficult prospect of discriminating between them by means of selective focus. She is struggling with the necessity of polarizing her opinions, of singularizing her actions and thoughts. Miss Rand hardly argues polygamy in this scene.
Just as in indiscriminate sexuality, it is one's selective awareness which is fractionalized in a polygamous affair. There are far more benefits to be derived from the exercise of selective attention than there are from bifurcating consciousness. Morally, discriminating is more consistent with what men should be. In any contract the most discriminating participants are those who are most aware of the implications and the consequences of their actions.
Furthermore, Mr. Gross' argument does not solve the problem of change in human relationships. Mr. Gross assumes that there exists a status quo of emotions and it is this emotional stasis which functions as the pivot of a polygamous entente. Realistically such a stasis, if it exists at all, is the death of any emotional relationship. Human beings are subject to intellectual and emotional re-evaluation. These changes in judgment occur when new data becomes available or when one re-assesses the importance of one or more of his fundamental values. Thus polygamy offers no more guarantees than a monogamous relationship. In fact, polygamy compounds them.
Lastly, Mr. Gross' argument seems to be nothing more than a plea for legitimizing unselective "need" consummation either heterosexual or homosexual. At base, then, one wonders at Mr. Gross' sincerity in his use of the word "Ethics" in his title.
Gordon E. Castanza
WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
I read Paul L. Gross' The Ethics of Polygamy with interest.…But I can see a number of flaws in Gross' praiseworthy attempt to get out of standard categories.…
In the first place: why call it 'marriage'? This is a point I dislike also in Rimmer. What is a marriage supposed to be? A lifelong commitment to love a person? A commitment to love a person for specific values, long-range? A state-sanctioned sexual relationship? A contractual sexual relationship? A living together relationship? A relationship sanctioned by custom? All of these versions have flaws. State law, custom, and contract seem utterly irrelevant to the matter of whether people are to love and make love. Long range commitment isn't obviously any kind of sine qua non. I don't see why people should reject sexual pleasure, or emotional reinforcement, just because they know no one they would want to stay with long-range. In particular, adolescents can probably best learn how to form good sexual relationships by a period of experimentation starting in childhood. Falling in love, without promises or contracts, can be a joyous and informative experience, even if it lasts only a few hours or weeks. As for living together—I am suspicious of the idea, at best. I admit that I am hardly the model of rational self-esteem Gross postulates (is anyone?)—but I think that being too closely exposed to others is bound to lead to your imposing restrictions of one another, if you are also trying to be lovers. To use Gross' example: why on earth should Dagny call her relationships with Galt, d'Anconia, and Rearden (I say Wyatt, too) marriages? It won't make the slightest difference to her. She need be neither proud nor ashamed of what she does with them. Marriage has significance only as a public acknowledgement of a legitimated sexual relationship- but the point of individualism is that such legitimation isn't needed.
As to bisexuality—it's not just a matter of physical/physiological fit of sex organs. I recommend that Gross and anyone else interested spend a lot of time reading Desmond Morris' various books. The main releasers for sexual behavior—and the brain centers which control sex are not that closely linked with the reasoning centers of the neocortex; what turns us on is determined more by a mixture of innate stimuli, imprinting, and more gradual conditioning—are all features of the body which for men are present in women, and vice versa. Some people may be imprinted differently, others may have flexible tastes or enjoy homosexuality in conjunction with triadic or higher polyadic sex (especially since sex is mixed with mother/child, reassurance, and mutual grooming signals in human innate behavior). Fine. But that matter of human sex preferences not being psychologically inherent is only a half-truth, and even the learned half are not always that readily modifiable. Some learning is irreversible or nearly so. I have no intention of trying to rewire my own nervous system into bisexuality—nor do I think gays should do so.…
Finally, I think it's the demand for official sanction which gets nonmonogamists in trouble. I have never wanted official sanction for any sexual relationship of mine, nor have the people I was making love with. This doesn't spare us all harassment, but it does spare us the harassment that goes beyond what simple fornicators endure. People who seek to restrict my freedom of action are my enemies—and I see no reason to go around proclaiming my moral defiance to such people. Martyrdom can almost always be avoided. Nor does this secrecy impose any psychological strain—if one keeps one's private life private, one can share one's values fully with those who are involved in it.
Gross is doing the right thing in trying to think outside standard categories—but he hasn't yet seen how much room there is for novelty.
William H. Stoddard
La Jolla, CA
LOVE OF RAND'S HEROES
Although I agree with Paul Gross ["The Ethics of Polygamy," REASON/July, 1973] that the choice of polygamy should be left to individuals, I question whether the practice of polygamy is synchronous to individuality. Moreover, I seriously doubt whether his use of Ayn Rand's fictional situation in ATLAS SHRUGGED gives polygamy the philosophical and psychological credibility he says it has.
One of the most damaging conclusions many admirers of Ayn Rand make is to think that people holding Objectivist principles must be like the characters in her novels, and that the only way they can fully practice these values is to live in Atlantis or Galt's Gulch. Their error is grave—in more ways than can be enumerated here.
One error Mr. Gross makes is to imply that to love one of Rand's heroes is to love them all, in the same way, since their values spring from the same root. His assertion that Dagny Taggart's love for Galt, Francisco and Rearden is the same response to three different men overlooks the fact that these men are different. It overlooks Dagny's response as an expression of her own growth—that the degree of love she feels for each man corresponds to the degree to which the manifestation of her own values has evolved. Considering the expansion of Dagny's experiential understanding, it is fitting that at the height of her understanding she should be rewarded with her love for Galt.
A person with more perception than Mr. Gross ascribes to Rand's characters would recognize that his response cannot be the same to all individuals. He would recognize that all individuals are different and that his response to them must take into account the idiosyncracies of character inherent in each person's personality. Further, he would know that when an individual responds to values he perceives in another, he does more than merely respond to reflections of his own basic values: he responds to the manner in which the other person expresses those values. One does not love mere abstractions; he loves another person who holds these abstractions as values.
Polygamy, as Mr. Gross describes it, suggests a capability to love more than one person to the same degree: which means, that the objects of one's love would have to be the same person. This is impossible, to say the least, and an insult to the individuality of the people involved.
In his interpretation of the vows made between the principal characters in Anthem ["…And we shall join hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire…"], Mr. Gross does not seem to understand the word "alone." Being alone does not mean being with someone else. As for myself, I'd rather walk with a man who is capable of walking alone than with one whose fulfillment is achieved only by walking with others.
Finally, Mr. Gross would choose a polygamous relationship in fulfillment of his individuality. I would choose monogamy as an expression of my individuality. I suggest that there is a significant difference.
The only justification I can see in polygamy (minus Mr. Gross' requirement of equal value-response) is in its temporal nature—as a phase of fulfillment on the way to the more complete expression of values one enjoys in a monogamous relationship.
MR. GROSS replies: In answer to the important points my critics raise:
1. I intended my article to be narrow in scope, dealing only with the problems of polygamous marriage. I did not present my full view of love and sex, by any means. Nor did I mean to imply that a highly valued romantic-sexual relationship (which is how I define "marriage") requires a formal contract, long-term commitment or church-state sanction. It does not. Indeed, such "bonds of wedlock" are more likely to strangle love than to preserve it. I refer readers to Harry Browne's superb book HOW I FOUND FREEDOM IN AN UNFREE WORLD (Macmillan 1973) for a full-dress libertarian approach to love, sex and marriage.
2. Every person's code of values defines certain broad limits to his emotional responsiveness. As in the example used in my article: Dagny Taggart's code of values makes it possible for her to respond romantically to such men as Galt, Rearden and d'Anconia—and impossible for her to thus respond to creatures like Wesley Mouch. Basic attitudes and life-view must be reasonably similar for marital partners to stay in business. That is not to say that a man must possess the same virtues in the same degree as Galt for Dagny to react romantically to him. Such identity is clearly impossible—and not even desirable, from Dagny's viewpoint. The people one loves must share the same basic values, perhaps, but variances in their expression of those values, as well as differing interests, personalities and experiences make it impossible for any two people to be loved in the same way or to the same degree. Such diversity of interests, backgrounds and personalities is one of the most potentially rewarding aspects of polygamy.
3. A selective thing, is love, but not exclusive. Love of blueberry pie doesn't preclude love of apple pie. Just so with people: a person can love more than one other person, and without treason to any of them, since all of one's emotional responses are caused by the same hierarchy of values. Love is selective, however; it is the response one grants—discriminately—to people (note the plural) who exhibit qualities one finds attractive. To argue for polygamy is hardly to advocate promiscuity, wherein romantic attraction is largely dropped as a criterion of selection. In fact, I contend that a polygamous person may be more selective, more discriminating, than any monogamist, in that he can be eclectic in his relations to others, as contrasted to the exclusive commitment to one person present in monogamy, which often forces people to strangle interests not shared with the other spouse. A polygamist need make no such sacrifices to marital "fidelity." He is free to discriminate among partners to find one who best satisfied his needs at any given time—not frozen into an emotional/intellectual/sexual status quo wherein his freedom to select and discriminate is defined (and limited) by his spouse's range of interests and capabilities.
I am single—not polygamous or even monogamous yet. Nor am I bisexual or homosexual. Mr. Castanza and Ms. Wortham imply that I have an overriding commitment to some such "depravity" (by their evaluation) which has warped my thinking to justify my "indulgence." Not so. I really did mean what I said in my article: I'll leave polygamy for the heroes and the damn fools. But I wish them luck.