During the 2007–8 financial crisis, sales of Atlas Shrugged soared, in part because people wondered how Rand could have foreseen America’s economic collapse. Sales should be soaring again — because the book is not primarily about economic collapse, but about cultural and intellectual bankruptcy.
At the novel’s start, we witness a crumbling world, with posturing intellectuals who have long ago abandoned the intellect but who continue to preach irrational, shopworn ideas, which everyone mouths but no one fully believes — or dares challenge. Part of the point of the story is that these pseudo-intellectuals will eventually be replaced by their progeny: people who more openly dispense with the intellect and who are more explicitly boorish, brutish and tribal, i.e., by anti-intellectual mentalities.
This is best symbolized by the appearance on the political scene, late in the novel, of Cuffy Meigs. Although I suspect we are only at the beginnings of a similar political descent, the parallels, unfortunately, exist. Meigs is a short-range amoralist uninterested in arguments or reasons or facts, who carries a gun in one pocket and a rabbit’s foot in the other. President Trump carries the nuclear codes in one pocket and Infowars in the other.
Lisa VanDamme, founder of VanDamme Academy, has launched an online book club called “Read With Me” at readwithmebookgroup.com.
Writes Lisa on Read with Me:
The single, animating element of my career – the one that provides me with an endlessly replenishing daily dose of endorphins – is teaching literature. I am not a literary scholar. I cannot classify works by “school” or “movement,” I cannot describe how they reflect the historical period in which they were written, I don’t know how to inventory their various literary devices. And I don’t care to.
If I have a unique talent as a teacher of literature, it boils down to this: I am passionate about great books. Hugo wrenches my heart and makes me weep tears of anguish and of wonderment. Rostand stirs me to noble ambition in work and love and life. Tolstoy challenges me to think – and to feel – on planes higher than I had ever known. Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Rattigan, Sinclair Lewis – all have helped me to see, in the words of English professor Mark Edmundson, “that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than I had thought.” I derive profound personal joy from literature, and I have a knack for helping others do the same.
That is why I started Read With Me. I know so many people – thoughtful, intelligent, motivated people – who avoid reading the classics. And for understandable reasons: they’re busy, they don’t know what to read, they’ve never been taught how to enjoy it, they have unpleasant memories of tedious discussions in high school English…
If you are intimidated, uninitiated, jaded, disillusioned or just plain busy – read with me. Let me show you what reading can be.
It’s September 2, Atlas Shrugged Day. What better way to celebrate than by giving a copy to a student who wants to read it?
Right now on Free Objectivist Books, there are over 120 students looking for donors to send them copies of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and other Objectivist books. A few minutes and a few dollars can put a copy in their hands.
In case you haven’t heard of Free Objectivist Books, it’s a website for the purpose of giving away copies of Objectivist books to students who want to read them. Students sign up with their name and school, and say what book they want to read and why. Donors choose which students they want to sponsor, and then send them the books directly. As a donor, you’ll get a personal thank-you from the student, and when they finish reading the book, you’ll get to hear their reaction. It’s a simple, easy, direct form of activism that is unusually motivating and rewarding.
This video is a wonderful discussion between two Ayn Rand scholars — professors Ben Bayer and Greg Salmeiri — each warmly reminiscing about the first time they read Ayn Rand’s epic novel, Atlas Shrugged.
The video is to kick off the launch of The Atlas Shrugged Project — an eight-month, chapter-by-chapter, online discussion of Ayn Rand’s bestselling novel, Atlas Shrugged. To facilitate the discussion, ARI will host a weekly interactive broadcast on Facebook Live led by experienced teachers to help readers explore the intricate plot and abstract themes of Rand’s most philosophical novel.
The Ayn Rand Institute invites everyone to join The Atlas Project, an eight-month, chapter-by-chapter, online discussion of Atlas Shrugged. To facilitate the discussion, ARI will host a weekly interactive broadcast on Facebook Live led by experienced teachers to help readers explore the intricate plot and abstract themes of Rand’s most philosophical novel.
Objectivist and radio talk show host, Amy Peikoff, “The Logical Atheist” debates Fox News’s Tucker Carlson about a study that purported to show that atheists are more closed-minded than religious people.
(Tucker labels Peikoff a feminist, a more accurate description would be an individualist or, even more definitively, an Objectivist).
Who used to be a socialist and became a “liberty-loving capitalist” when he found the American dream?
TheBlaze contributor Yaron Brook introduced himself on the first episode of “The Yaron Brook Show,” sharing his story of being born and raised in Israel and knowing from age 16 that he wanted to move to the U.S. Yaron was once a socialist and collectivist who believed that individuals needed to sacrifice for the good of society, but not anymore. He now describes himself as a “freedom-loving, liberty-loving capitalist.”
He explained that the new show will offer his “unique perspective, particularly on the Middle East and what is happening there.”
Yaron is the executive chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute and the co-author of “Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.”
One woman, one microphone, one key to the Ayn Rand Institute audio archives — that’s Rise & Fall: How Ideas Move the World, a podcast about the power of philosophic ideas hosted by Ayn Rand Institute research associate Amanda Maxham. “Ideas surround you,” Maxham said. “Ideas shape the way you act, how you feel, what you think is good and what you condemn as evil. Whether it’s the first spark of a new invention or the fall of Rome, ideas shape the world. Rise & Fall illuminates those ideas, one at a time.”
Maxham chooses a theme for each episode and then digs into ARI’s audio archives, where every lecture, radio program, course and Q&A from Objectivist voices that were caught on tape over the past fifty years waits to be uncovered. She weaves these audio gems together with commentary and original interviews to create each episode of Rise & Fall.
The topics vary, from genetically engineered mosquitoes to the use of language, from “Islamophobia” to courtroom justice, but no matter the topic, Rise & Fall looks at the world through the lens of the power of philosophic ideas. Listeners are encouraged to call the toll-free Rise & Fall line (888-673-5553) to leave a message with reactions to the show or questions for the host and guests. Maxham plans to use these reactions in shaping future episodes. Each episode also features an original illustration by former Institute intern Robert Simpson.
Here are summaries of the first three episodes, slated for release next week (available now on YouTube here):
Episode 1: The Four Events That Significantly Emboldened Islamic Totalitarians: The Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Salman Rushdie Affair, September 11th and the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Are we in the Western world doomed to more and more attacks by Islamic totalitarians? And what can anyone do about it? The answer might surprise you.
Episode 2: Nature’s Deadliest Killer: The recent outbreak of Zika (a mosquito-borne virus) in the United States brings mankind’s battle against mosquitoes and the diseases they carry to the forefront. We have many tools we can use to fight mosquitoes, such as DDT and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), so why aren’t we using them?
Episode 3: Anti-Concepts: “Islamophobia,” “meritocracy” and “extremism.” These three anti-concepts obliterate clear thinking and shut down thoughtful discussion. Have you unwittingly accepted them into your thinking?
IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Washington Post recently stated that several of Donald Trump’s appointees are fans of Ayn Rand, the novelist-philosopher most famous for her 1957 best-seller Atlas Shrugged.
“It’s a testament to Ayn Rand’s impact that a president can’t fill a cabinet with successful business leaders without including people who’ve been inspired and influenced by Rand’s heroic depiction of entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow Onkar Ghate, author of the essay “One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election.”
Ghate goes on to note that it’s important to keep in mind that none of Trump’s picks claim to be adherents of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. “Rand called herself a radical for capitalism. A cabinet filled with appointees who embraced her worldview would have a very different agenda than this administration is likely to have.”
What would an Ayn Rand agenda look like? According to Ghate: “One thing you can be sure of: it wouldn’t focus merely on rolling back some of the controls and redistribution programs of the Obama era. It would focus on liberating us from the regulatory-welfare state and moving America forward—toward a government devoted to safeguarding individual rights.”
Ayn Rand was an advocate of free trade between free countries (unilateral if necessary). Quoting Rand: “The essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade—i.e., the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges—the opening of the world’s trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another.” In her view, countries to not trade, but actual people do.
Ayn Rand was for liberal immigration, especially for productive individuals (she would have no limits on H-1B visas). As an immigrant, under Trump’s policies, she would probably have died in a Socialist Russia concentration camp rather than coming to the U.S.
Ayn Rand was a principled defender of free speech for both corporations speaking against statist policies, and misguided college students burning flags, as neither are violating the rights of anyone. Quoting Rand: “The communists and the Nazis are merely two variants of the same evil notion: collectivism. But both should be free to speak—evil ideas are dangerous only by default of men advocating better ideas.”
Ayn Rand was a fiery opponent of racism which she regarded as a species of collectivism, that — like fascism and communism — unjustly benefits the chosen group at the expense of individual rights.
Ayn Rand was an uncompromising defender of a women’s right to abortion who would make feminists blush. Quoting Rand: “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”
Ayn Rand was a non-militant atheist, who was philosophically for reason as opposed to religious faith (“blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason”) which she regarded as the “negation of reason.”
Ayn Rand was an advocate of the separation of church and state.
Ayn Rand was an advocate of voluntary trade for mutual gain and benefit in both material and spiritual values. Quoting from Atlas Shrugged: “The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.” She correctly observed that such a voluntary trade is a win-win situation.
Ayn Rand was for the sanctity ofproperty rights and would have nothing but contempt for Trump’s securing property via eminent domain. Quoting Ayn Rand: “The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”
Ayn Rand was a radical for laissez-faire capitalism. She even published a non-fiction book of essays on the subject called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Quoting Rand: “Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.”
The Post piece does mention these views occasionally, but takes no time to explore them and “connect the dots.” At other times The Post makes patently false claims, such as, “Roark, the character Trump says he identifies with, rapes a woman in The Fountainhead,” when in fact, Ayn Rand described that scene as a “rape by engraved invitation,” i.e., consensual sex.
Ayn Rand was a philosopher advocating the supremacy of reason
Ayn Rand named her philosophy Objectivism and she described it as follows: “My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that…”
Realityexists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
Ayn Rand did not view individual rights as self-evident; rather, the concept of individual rights flowed from the fact that one’s survival and flourishing (life) in a social context requires the equal freedom to act by one’s mind (reason). Or, in her words:
“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.”
Ayn Rand was the 20th century’s greatest advocate of freedom
In Rand’s view, there are only two ways people can deal with each other: by force (physical coercion) or reason (peaceful persuasion). The job of government is to use the first to protect the second. Rand regarded individual rights not as permissions to be regulated at government whim, but as inalienable. Government’s role is to protect individual rights by banning the initiation (starting) of physical force (which is the only way rights can be violated).
Ayn Rand’s opposition to government coercion is why those associated with the Alt-Right, and the equally bigoted Regressive-Left, despise and defame Ayn Rand: their vision of a government regulated world requires the threat and initiation of physical force by the state. Both the Alt-Right and the Regressive-Left regard rights as alienable privileges to be violated and dispensed with as their ideology sees fit. To the Alt-Right and Regressive Left, Ayn Rand is a mortal enemy.
Objectivists would regard Trump’s ideology as perverting his “good” policy positions
This is not to say that Rand, would oppose all of Trump’s policy positions, but it is enough to show that Trump’s cabinet is not Objectivist.
“A Trump administration, if viewed out of the full context, may even enact some measures others and I would regard as positive, including improvements to the tax code and replacement of Obamacare with something less harmful. But it will be in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. And even at this concrete level of policy, the Republican control of the presidency, the House and the Senate should give anyone pause who is concerned about, say, the campaign’s demonization of immigrants and of trade or the attempt to impose a Christian variant of Sharia law.”
Being an Atlas Shrugged fan does not make one an Objectivist
Reading Atlas Shrugged does not make one an Objectivist any more than reading the Koran makes one a radical for Islam. How the Washington Post conflates Donald Trump’s anti-freedom policies with Ayn Rand’s philosophy boggles the mind. In their list of Trump cabinet picks, there is one real Ayn Rand hero — former BB&T CEO John Allison — whom Trump rejected.
If one wishes to know what an actual Objectivist thinks of Trump’s electoral victory study Dr. Ghate’s essay; and if one wants to grasp Ayn Rand’s ideas in their totality there is no better book then Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. One does not have to agree with the arguments in Dr. Peikoff’s book, but at least one will not be attacking a straw man. Only then can an honest, intelligent discussion of Ayn Rand’s benevolent, life-enhancing, human “philosophy for living on earth” begin.