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Sunday, April 14, 2013

• • A Less Intrusive Government Could Still Maintain a Safety Net 
Capitalism  | Friedrich Hayek, who showed that support for a safety net can co-exist with a deep appreciation for the freedom and utility of markets, has more to offer the right at present than Ayn Rand.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

• • • Atlas Shrugged Book Club, Entry 4: How Their World Is Like Ours 
Atlantic Monthly Atlas Shrugged Book Club  |Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  |Paul Ryan  |Image  | From: Conor Friedersdorf
To: Michael Brendan Dougherty, Garance Franke-Ruta, Jerome Copulsky
Subject: Part I, Chapters 6 through 10

My Fellow Shruggers,

What I wouldn’t give to tag along with Francisco d’Anconia to a Washington, D.C., cocktail party. Too often, Ayn Rand characters make their points with lengthy, repetitive speeches that unfold over many paragraphs and give the reader too little credit. But d’Anconia has a wonderful talent for pithy one liners that knock interlocutors off guard even as they provoke thought.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

• • • Calling All Readers: Join the Atlas Shrugged Book Club 
Alan Greenspan  |Atlas Shrugged  |Paul Ryan  |Image  | Published in 1957, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is one of the most controversial novels in American history, and a hugely successful one too: It has sold more than a million copies ... since 2010! Alan Greenspan, Clarence Thomas, and Paul Ryan have cited it as a significant influence on their thinking. Tea Party-affiliated entertainers touted it at the height of the protest movement. And fans and critics alike found it relevant to the 2010 election.

But how many people who invoke the book have actually read it since high school? Or ever?

Since it’s likely to remain a touchstone in American political discourse for the foreseeable future, some colleagues and I decided to assemble a small group to read and publicly discuss the novel -- a book club of sorts, and one we’d like to encourage every interested reader to join.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

• • • Stop Calling Paul Ryan a Randian 
Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  |Paul Ryan  | If you’re a liberal who rolls his or her eyes every time you hear someone on the right describe President Obama as an Alinskyite or a Marxist, understand this: That’s exactly how libertarians feel when Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate, is described as a devoted Randian. I understand that Ryan has described himself that way. In fact, I mocked him at length for doing so, pointing out that if he were a character in Atlas Shrugged, he would doubtlessly be a villain. [....] As far as I’m concerned, Ryan is preferable to a Randian on some issues and would do much better to adopt Randian positions on others, but the point isn’t whether the label gives him too much or too little credit, or whether it’s good or bad to be a Randian. The point is that the label is inaccurate. And anyone who comes away believing that if elected he’ll govern like an Objectivist is being severely misled about his past actions and present proposals.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

• • If Paul Ryan Were an Atlas Shrugged Character, He’d Be a Villain 
Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  |Paul Ryan  | How would Ayn Rand feel about the Department of Homeland Security and the federalization of airport security? Had an unusually canny infiltrator carried out a successful terrorist attack on Galt’s Gulch, does anyone see a scenario where the book’s heroine, Dagny Taggart, starts submitting to genital pat-downs by agents of the state before being permitted to board a plane? How would Lawrence Hammond, the capitalist automaker, and Dan Conway, the upstart who out-competed an entrenched corporation, feel about Rep. Ryan’s 2009 vote for the auto-industry bailout? Do you think Francisco D’Anconia would’ve felt admiration for Rep Ryan’s TARP vote? I think the copper tycoon would’ve eviscerated him with slyly cutting remarks during a Georgetown cocktail party.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

• • • Ayn Rand's 1967 Appearance on 'The Tonight Show' With Johnny Carson 
Atheism  |Ayn Rand Institute  |Egoism  |Video  | I was [...] struck by Rand's vehement opposition to the Vietnam War, which I'd forgotten about, perhaps because the Ayn Rand Institute is so consistently bellicose and interventionist in its foreign-policy advocacy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

• • ‘A Shell Game of Oppression’: Readers Critique the Cult of Smartness 
Capitalism  |Egoism  | After reviewing Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes, I solicited reader emails on meritocracy, the ruling class, and related subjects. The responses serve as a reminder that most Americans have views and opinions far less predictable than you'd expect from following debates in the media. And they included a couple of riveting personal stories. [....] John is a pessimist: [....] “I, for one, ascribe to a cynical view of human nature. Hobbes said that man's natural state was basically civil war. Ayn Rand, centuries later, most eloquently stated what we had known all along: self-improvement is what we should strive for, because the rest will fall into place. Not an earth-shattering concept by any means, but good in that it dispenses with the notion that interaction between humans should be governed by grand human constructs like our own ineffective political bureaucracy or the idiosyncrasies of case law. Focus on the self is paramount. While Objectivism has intrinsic flaws, none are so debilitating as to trash its central philosophy of the self. When we stop worrying about the how to game the system and start worrying about our own pathetic accomplishments, then and only then can we rise above these miserable elitist human constructs and achieve BOTH equality AND a society based on the beautiful idea that merit must, should and ought to be rewarded.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

• • Why Conservative Bestsellers Are Widely Ignored 
Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  | [Mark Levin] seems to be under the misimpression that all utopianism is statist. “Utopianism’s authority... knows no definable limits,” he writes. “Utopianism relies on deceit, propaganda, dependence, intimidation, and force... In utopia, rule by masterminds is both necessary and necessarily primitive, for it excludes so much that is known to man and about man... Utopianism requires power to be concentrated in a central authority with maximum latitude to transform and control.” So many counterexamples come to mind. Has he never heard of Ayn Rand? In her utopian novel Atlas Shrugged, the plot unfolds with all the capitalists in society withdrawing to a hidden Colorado valley where private property is sacrosanct, the initiation of force is prohibited, and sex among consenting adults proceeds after a completely rational assessment of partners. There are all sorts of reasons Galt’s Gulch wouldn’t work. But no one can say that it relies on a central authority with “maximum latitude to control.” And it is anything but statist!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

 For Critics of Libertarianism, It’s Always 1964 
Critics of American libertarianism clarify nothing by acting as if the early 1960s are the only prism through which libertarian ideas should be evaluated. Never mentioned is how much misery the application of libertarian ideas could’ve prevented at other historical moments -- as the slave trade began, for example (something [Jonathan] Chait’s nemesis Ayn Rand would’ve objected to in the most strenuous terms imaginable) or during the rise of Prohibition.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

 The Attempt to Pin Ron Paul’s Shortcomings on Libertarianism 
David Boaz wrote a 2008 post titled "Ron Paul's Ugly Newsletters" that included the following passage: “[....] Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

 How Much of Rick Perry’s Secret Energy Plan Will Be Revealed Today? 
Atlas Shrugged  | He’ll just pull back some regulations, and poof, 1.2 million jobs created and energy independence. It’s no wonder he appeared not to care about the outcome of the debate: he’s got John Galt’s motor!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

• • Perry’s Problem: A Pitch That Contradicts Decades of GOP Rhetoric 
Atlas Shrugged  | It’s no wonder that [Mitt] Romney, successful businessman and one term governor, is the preferred candidate on the economy, and regarded as having superior experience when compared to a rival who has spent his whole career inside the confines of government. Inserted into an Ayn Rand novel, [Rick] Perry would likely as not wind up a villain, the kind of pol with whom Hank Rearden regrets having to deal, and who gives a rival of Dagney Taggart a taxpayer-funded subsidy that confers an unfair advantage. Meanwhile, Romney would be the ambitious self-made man who suffered a regrettable bout of moral confusion, like Francisco d’Anconia or Gail Wynand -- the sort of character whose unseemly actions are mourned but forgiven. And Herman Cain would be Ellis Wyatt, a likable hero, but ultimately incidental to the plot.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

 Libertarians Aren’t All Selfish Jerks 
Egoism  | There are a lot of libertarians working on issues that could be construed as self-interested - lowering taxes is the obvious example. There are even some hard core Ayn Rand sycophants who embrace little more than themselves. Find that repugnant? Have at ‘em! But you’re just misinformed if you think that libertarians as a whole care for nothing more than their self-interest. Countless libertarians are working to advance the freedom and fair-treatment of people other than themselves.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

• • • Must Christian Voters Choose Between Ayn Rand and Jesus? 
Atheism  |Atlas Shrugged  |Individual Rights  |Video  | “Do you think [Atlas Shrugged] is compatible with Christianity?” [my friend] asked me, as if deeply conflicted by the question. He very much hoped so. Much of its plot coincided with his moral intuitions... the idea of objective right and wrong, the importance of doing what you regard to be right without compromise, even its mockery of original sin as a moral abomination. But its atheistic passages are explicit. Unnerved by cognitive dissonance, he explained that the Bible also struck him as profoundly true, and that his own life was testament to Christianity’s transformative power. He felt particularly conflicted about Eddie Willers, a character whose moral goodness is beyond question, but who is abandoned by his friends because he lacks their intelligence and intellectual courage. “Why not treat him more like Jesus would have?” he said. “I don’t see how that would harm the important parts of Ayn Rand’s message.” Mind you, he couldn’t defend that position. It’s just what he felt to be true.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

 The view from somewhere 
Political labels are impossible to escape entirely in this corner of the blogosphere, if only because those of us engaged in a game with different objects are constantly beset upon by people who don’t understand them. But the reader earnestly attempting to size me up and assess where I’m coming from is owed a few words about influences far more powerful than my ideological proclivities. Attending Catholic School in grades K - 12, I also read Ayn Rand at an impressionable age. I like to think that the countervailing forces resulted in just the right amount of guilt.

Friday, December 31, 2010

• • • Question of the week: “Atlas Shrugged” 
Atlas Shrugged  | [Atlas Shrugged] ignited a sense of responsibility and self-control in me that I had never been aware of. Instead of lecturing me about the virtues of achievement and taking responsibility and using your talent for good like my parents did, it SHOWED the virtues to me through Hank Rearden and Dagny and Francisco and Galt. Suddenly, I felt ashamed that I had gone through my whole life the way that I had. People have a responsibility to give life and society everything they’ve got. That’s the message I got. And I had been scoffing at that moral imperative from day one.

• • • Moderation in Randian things 
Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  | We’ve all met people who invoke Ayn Rand to justify behaving like a sociopath in their personal relationships. I’d still recommend that any adolescent suffering from Catholic guilt read the passages about Hank and Lillian Reardon’s relationship as a primer on a kind of manipulation to which they should never succumb. In typically ego-maniacal fashion, Rand use to insist that her philosophy must either be accepted or rejected wholly. Her most sycophantic devotees and her staunchest critics both make the curious mistake of believing her.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

 Will games take over our lives? 
Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  | By 2015 the integration of games into classrooms will prompt political activists to open up a new front in the curriculum wars: Creationists will want their own version of Civ (a six-day assignment), liberals will invent a multiplayer game where multi-ethnic kids cooperate to run an organic farm, and libertarians will cast youngsters as John Galt in an epic free market answer to “The Legend of Zelda.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

• • Writing that influenced me 
Atlas Shrugged  | The philosophy presented in Atlas Shrugged is flawed in many ways. And really, Dagny, you’d rather be with John Galt than Francisco D’Anconia? Have you no appreciation for wit, humor or brevity? Still, I found it so stimulating as a sixth or seventh grader to read a forceful, uncompromising challenge to conventional morality and social norms.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

• • • Getting Ayn Rand objectively wrong 
Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  | Hendrik Hertzberg is a talented writer, and his blog at The New Yorker is definitely worth reading. Exceptional recent entries include remarks on the death of William Safire and this fascinating mini-history of Germany’s Social Democratic Party. Hard to say how a man so consistently informed could permit himself this lapse in a post on Ayn Rand. [....] What an utter misrepresentation of Objectivism.