(This is the fourth and last part of a preliminary draft of an article on the Wedge Strategy of the "Christian Right" and similar ideological-political movements. Your comments, and especially objections, counterexamples, and suggestions for improvement, are strongly invited. Parts I, II, and III are linked to here.)
How effective are wedge strategies in action? The answer depends on what one wishes to accomplish. The Communists' "Popular Front" strategy of the 1930s and 40s was predicated on the Marxist presumption of economic determinism: the idea that it would be enough for a Marxist "vanguard" to change the economic and political situation - and then the minds of the masses would follow. A portfolio of wedge strategies would not change many minds, but to the Marxists, that was irrelevant as long as the "facts on the ground" were bent their way.
Through its various wedge strategies, the Popular Front strategy was indeed effective in bringing about an unprecedented collectivization of Western societies, including the United States. At the crest of this wave of collectivist economic policy in America, between 1951 and 1963, the top marginal US Income Tax rate was at 91-92%. Conscription into "National Service" - then mainly military - was not questioned. Most large industries were organized into fascist-style government-controlled cartels; the average American of that time could not imagine free competition in telephone service, transportation and travel, insurance, radio and television and so on. Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged in the first half of that decade; the America she depicted in her novel was recognizably close to the America in which that novel was written.
Yet the Marxists' belief in economic determinism proved itself false. With Earl Warren as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, silent for two decades after FDR's court-packing scheme, re-asserted the principle of constitutional review. The dominance of Keynesian doctrines in economics, and of Behaviorism in psychology, were challenged, and in the next decade were overthrown. Classical Liberalism, in America re-branded as "Goldwater Conservatism," became a political current that forced America's "political center" to move away from collectivism. Other countries moved farther and faster away from the collectivism of the 1950s than even the United States; it was now America that found its own still too-mixed economy hard pressed to compete in the world. By 1991 the top income tax rate was down to 31%; the fascist cartels were history, replaced by vigorous competition; and university economics departments found it hard to find even token replacements for their Keynesian and Marxist emeriti.
America's moment of relative freedom did not last. The downfall of collectivism in America and in most of the rest of the world in the last third of the twentieth century was itself accomplished by Classical Liberals, and their Libertarian auxiliaries, by means of wedge strategies consciously copied from the "triumphant" collectivists of the same century's middle third. Wedge elements of Capitalism had been sold to supernaturalists, pragmatists, utilitarians and opportunists by peddling the incidental or illusory overlap between supernaturalism, collectivism, pragmatism, altruism and utilitarianism, and various corrupt versions (especially "Libertarianism") of Enlightenment individualism on the one hand, and Classical Liberalism on the other. The economic and political conditions had changed - but the ideas in the minds of most Americans did not change, or - worse - regressed even farther from anything compatible with reason and individual rights.
Thanks to three decades of technological progress and increasing economic freedom across the world, much of it due to the short-term success of those Classical Liberal wedge strategies (a little freedom goes a long way) many more people, everywhere in the world, are able to participate in open discussions of ideas. Some are changing their minds, but others see that the very freedoms that have opened their eyes, stand in contradiction to their own deepest beliefs, supernaturalist or altruist or collectivist or all three. They know that they've been had. They understand, if they are intelligent enough to grasp those facts, that the recent explosion of individual freedoms will not do what that the wedge strategists sold them. That it will NOT merely help them be more effective and authentic supernaturalists, altruists and collectivists. That it can be used by us, their individualist enemies, to try to take the minds of their children away from the supernaturalist, altruist and collectivist ideologies held by their parents. What the supernaturalists, altruists and collectivists of the world want, is the opposite of enlightenment individualism. What they want is Directive 10-289. And because, like the Communists of the Red Decades, they must keep their agendas hidden, wedge strategies are the only strategies they have. In the last two decades, they have used those strategies to make political and economic trends in America reverse course.
Should Objectivists, still a minuscule minority in America and in the world, try to change the trend back again, by using wedge strategies just like everyone else? Whether or not a wedge strategy will be effective, depends on what one aims to accomplish. A wedge strategy movement can accomplish a few decades of concrete political results. But a wedge strategy does not often change minds. And when old ideologies persist in most human minds, their concrete political embodiments will tend to return.
Ayn Rand wrote, "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason..." Activism only becomes Objectivist activism, when it is advocacy that demonstrates the efficacy of reason. Of course, when one demonstrates the efficacy of reason, by using reason effectively in advocating for a cause, one works well for that cause. But it is the demonstration of the efficacy of reason, and not merely advocating well for a good cause, that promotes Objectivism.
This means that the Objectivist must practice the opposite of the wedge strategy: not try to select positions that fit the listener's pre-existing ideology, but rather argue by deriving the objectively true position, by logic, from the facts of reality and from principles - Objectivist principles - grounded in the facts of reality. It means avoiding appeals to intuition, emotion, unintegrated concretes, and especially appeals to popular ideas that can provide alternative support for a concrete political position, but that are ultimately derived, not from objective facts of reality, but from tradition or faith.
The Marxists, and the supernaturalists, tried to change minds by changing the relations of power: with wedge strategies when those were available, with gulags and crusades and jihads when they were not. Our goals, including our political goals, are different. One cannot eliminate political initiation of force from the world, except by changing minds first. Marxists and supernaturalists consider the wedge strategy a useful shortcut. Objectivists identify the wedge strategy as a dead - dead as in "brain dead" - dead end.