Leonard Peikoff Takes Legal Action
Leonard Peikoff has decided to take legal action against me for having “illegally” translated Ayn Rand into Swedish. To make this intelligible, some background is needed:
Short Chronology of Events
- Late 1970s: I translate Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal into Swedish. The translation is published in 1984 by a small publishing company (Lindfors). (The translation is good but not perfect – by the standards I have today – and it is also marred by numerous printing errors. I intend to make a revised translation, some time before I die.)
- 1987: Henrik Unné plans to publish essays by Ayn Rand as a pamphlet series, and I agree to make the translations. I seek and receive Leonard Peikoff’s permission for this venture. This pamphlet series is issued 1987–1996 under the title Objektivistisk skriftserie (“Series of Objectivist writings”). 37 numbers are issued during these years, most of them by Ayn Rand, a few by Leonard Peikoff and one each by Harry Binswanger, George Reisman and James G. Lennox. The venture is financed by Henrik Unné and all the work is done by me (not only the translation but also the manual work, from copying to stamping and carrying the issues to the post office). Unfortunately, we never manage to get even 100 subscribers.
- 1995: Henrik and I decide to publish a Swedish translation of Anthem. (This book had been published in a Swedish translation – not by me – before, but it is now out of print and is not of very good quality, anyway. I had made my own translation back in the 70s, but now I go through it very carefully.) With the help of Richard Ralston at ARI we receive permission to publish it, and it is published in 1996. – We also plan to publish The Virtue of Selfishness in Swedish (all of Ayn Rand’s essays in this book had already been published separately in Objektivistisk skriftserie).
- 1993–96: In the December issue of ARI:s newsletter Impact, it is announced that “due to irreconcilable (non-philosophical) disagreements with ARI’s Directors, Edith Packer and George Reisman have been asked to step down from the Institute’s Board of Advisors”. [Italics mine.] In November 1994 I receive George Reisman’s account of the background to this break. I proceed to ascertain the facts and write letters to both parties to the conflict. I receive prompt and straight answer to every question I ask from George Reisman and nothing but evasions and gross ad verecundiams from the other side.
- June–July 1996: I receive a scribbled note from Michael Berliner (then ARI’s Executive Director), telling me that Dr. Peikoff will probably “stop giving you permission to reprint AR articles unless you eliminate TJS [The Jefferson School, run by Reisman and Packer] from your recommendations”. [There was a list of Objectivist organizations in the first issue of Objektivistik skriftserie.] I then write directly to Leonard Peikoff, demanding that he give me his actual reasons for condemning the Reismans. He answers that the quarrel is “none of your business”; that “it consists of personal disputes that have nothing to do with Objectivism and could not be proven to outsiders even if I wanted to” and that “I must withdraw all cooperation from your venture and prohibit any further reprinting of Ayn Rand material”. I then tell Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Berliner in no uncertain terms to get lost. (The full text of my correspondence with Peikoff and Berlineris on my web site.) – Henrik Unné (who has known me since 1982 and worked with me since 1987) decides to take Leonard Peikoff’s side; the “skriftserie” is closed down.
- 1997–2001: I work on completing the translation of The Virtue of Selfishness (giving a “final touch” to the essays already translated and translating the Branden essays). I decide to make the translation available to those interested, either free of charge or by paying me a voluntary sum of money to cover my own copying and postage expenses. (About 50 persons so far have availed themselves of this offer.) A complementary copy is sent to Leonard Peikoff together with a cover letter, in which I write:
In case you wish to put me in jail for this, or destroy my life in some other way, I would like to point out that the attached manuscript is not for sale. I merely let whoever is interested read it. The people who have read it so far have paid me a small sum to cover my copying and postage expenses. I have made a point of making such contribution strictly voluntary.
He has not responded to this in any way.
- 2006: A Swedish free-market think-tank and publishing company (Timbro) is planning to publish a volume of essays by Ayn Rand. I am told by e-mail from a representative of Timbro that they had wanted to use my translations, but that they have been forbidden to do so by ARI (I assume he meant The Estate of Ayn Rand). I answer that if they want to, they may use my translations and put another name to it (or say they have been made by “an anonymous benefactor”), but it does not seem they will follow this advice. (The volume is expected to be released early next year.)
- 2001–2006: I translate The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution and then offer it for reading on exactly the same terms as The Virtue of Selfishness; I inform Dr. Peikoff the same way and in the same words. This time, he reacts:
Thank you for your kind letter of October 6, 2006. I have been waiting for it since May 2001.
There is a simple solution to this conflict, namely that Leonard Peikoff gives me back the permission to translate and publish essays by Ayn Rand that he granted me in 1987 and then revoked in 1996. However, he will not do that, since it requires
- that he apologizes to me for having revoked it in the first place, and (perhaps more importantly)
- that he apologizes for his outrageous treatment of George Reisman and his wife, Edith Packer, in 1993–94. (In case you have not been informed, it was the fact that I took the Reismans’ side in this conflict that made Dr. Peikoff revoke my translation permission.)
I must say I am morbidly curious to know what punishment Dr. Peikoff expects you to mete out against me:
- Capital punishment?
- Fines so large that I will be reduced to begging my bread for the rest of my days?
Good luck, anyway. See you in court.
cc: Leonard Peikoff
PS (October 27, 2006): Someone who cares about me [George Reisman] has told me that if I take this matter into court and lose, I could be charged for Peikoff’s attorney’s fees, which are probably at the rate of $600 an hour or more. Now, given the utter stupidity (and viciousness) of Leonard Peikoff’s action, it is not necessary that I lose the law-suit. But this is nothing I can gamble on. Being reduced to starvation is nothing I look forward to – especially since only a handful of friends will even so much as thank me for it. So I have reluctantly decided to stop all distribution of my translations, until such time as Leonard Peikoff decides to act as a human being.
A great step forward has been taken on the road toward a New Renaissance… (No, I am joking. Should be: “toward a New Dark Age”.)