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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

 The Oxford comma; Is a comma grammar? 
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Defenders of the Oxford comma point to an almost certainly apocryphal story of the student who dedicated a piece of work to “my parents, God and Ayn Rand”. But anyone who writes such a thing has bigger problems than punctuation. Any sensible person would edit and remove such messes as this, whether they use the Oxford comma or not.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

• • Not free to choose 
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Image  | You mentioned that Ayn Rand’s books outsell Karl Marx’s 16-fold, a fact that must be “gratifying” to fans of the strident critic of government intervention (“Who’s shrugging now?”, October 20th). That is an apples and oranges comparison. One reason for the disparity is that Marx’s writings are available free online, whereas Rand’s works still enjoy copyright protection and cannot be legally reproduced by any but the rights holder.

• • Not free to choose 
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Egoism  |Image  | Rand espoused a theory of human behaviour that never has nor ever will match reality, a Utopian society of individuals behaving selfishly, in a self-regulated and moral fashion. It was and is an ideal of questionable foundation. What sweet irony, but apparently totally lost on the spokesman from the pro-Rand think-tank in India, that her popularity in that country is partly based on a very much unregulated “thriving trade in pirated editions”.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

• • • The individualist philosopher has fans in some unlikely countries 

Altruism  |Atlas Shrugged movie  |Ayn Rand Institute  |Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  |Capitalism  |Paul Ryan  |Yaron Brook  |Image  | The producer of “Atlas Shrugged Part II”, a film based on Ayn Rand’s book praising profit-makers and decrying altruism, expects to lose money on it. Harmon Kaslow hopes the movie, launched in 900 American cinemas on October 12th, will gross $10m, though he and six like-minded Randians raised $20m to pay for it. Plans for the trilogy date from 1992. “Part I”, released in 2011, cost $8m and brought in less than $5m; critics panned it as “incoherent”, “half-baked” and “stiff”. Detractors abound, but Rand’s books boast a growing following. Devotees are mostly American (the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, said her books were required reading in his office). Her appeal stretches elsewhere too. Edward Hudgins of the Atlas Society says monthly non-American visits to his website have risen from 7,000 to 11,000 in two years. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute says foreign fans are mainly in Britain, Canada, India and Scandinavia.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

• • Free cities in Honduras 
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Atlas Shrugged  | Your article about the concept of “free cities” in Central America (“Honduras shrugged”, December 10th) incorrectly described me as a “libertarian activist”. I am neither. I am a serious scientist and businessman focused on solving the poverty problem, through both policy advising and entrepreneurship. Also, framing this story with an Ayn Rand reference and a history of failed libertarian projects is amusing, but also a missed opportunity to tell a truer story that has nothing to do with ideology.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

• • Oxford comma, still with us 
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Atheism  | Proponents of the [Oxford] comma insist that without it, you might be prone to absurdities such as the apocryphal “I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” The response, by the anti-Oxford crowd, is simply “don’t write that. Write “my parents, as well as Ayn Rand and God”.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

• • Paying the piper 

Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism  |John Allison  | Bloomberg claims that John Allison, the former chairman of BB&T, a bank holding company, succeeded in influencing many universities’ curricula in return for large donations. At least 60 schools, it is claimed, agreed to create a course which had "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand—which promotes laissez-faire economics and is Mr Allison’s favourite book—at its heart.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

 Republican economics: The rise of the anti-Keynesians 

Capitalism  |Paul Ryan  | Supply-side economics [...] is only one piece of [Paul] Ryan’s intellectual furniture. He has also paid homage to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Robert Mundell, a Nobel laureate who champions the monetary straitjacket of fixed exchange rates.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

• • On Paul Ryan’s budget plan 

Inaccurate  | A reader from Alameda, California, places an emphasis on the intellectual antecedents of Mr Ryan’s plan. Andrew Laurence reminds us that: “Congressman Ryan is an admitted devotee of Ayn Rand, who believed that helping the poor, whether it is done by government or through private efforts, was not only wrong but positively immoral”.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

 When socialism and libertarianism collide 

America’s deep and longstanding libertarian tendencies explain why this country produces so many libertarian theorists and any libertarian billionaires at all. It explains why communist politics were a flop on the fruited plain ages before the ages of Ayn Rand and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

 Brooks and Ryan’s false choice 

Tea-party Americanism is a blend of elements taken from conservative revisionist historians, Rush Limbaugh, evangelical Christianity, Ayn Rand novels, Fox News, and right-wing magazines and think tanks. The rhetoric of free markets and small government is certainly a salient part of tea-party Americanism, but it is deployed largely in identity-defining contrast to the “socialists” in the Democratic Party.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

 Crying for freedom 

In Kabul a 26-year-old handyman called Jamshed speaks for many compatriots when he lists the pros and cons of the new Western-imposed order. Compared with life under the Taliban, he appreciates the new “freedom to listen to music, to go out with your wife, to study or do whatever you want.” But he cannot help remembering that “under the Taliban, you could leave your shop to pray and nobody would steal anything…now the government is corrupt, they take all your money.” Jamshed has never read John Stuart Mill or Ayn Rand. But whether he is ruled by theocrats or Western-backed election winners, he knows what he doesn’t like.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

• • • Capitalism’s martyred hero 

Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  |Capitalism  |Personal life  | Reviews of two Ayn Rand biographies: Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by Anne Heller and Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, by Jennifer Burns.
Anne Heller is more informative on Rand’s early years in Russia. Jennifer Burns is better versed in conservative thought. Both are well worth reading, partly because Rand’s life was so extraordinary and partly because the questions that she raised about the proper power of government are just as urgent now as they ever were. Rand was the single most uncompromising critic of the collectivist tide that swept across the capitalist world in the wake of the Depression. For her, government was nothing more than licensed robbery and altruism just an excuse for power-grabbing. Intellectuals and bureaucrats might pose as champions of the people against the powerful. But in reality they were empire builders who were motivated by a noxious mixture of envy and greed. Rand’s heroes were a different breed: the businessmen and entrepreneurs who felt the future in their bones and would not rest until they had brought it to life.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

• • Godly but ambitious 

Capitalism  | Never afraid of breaking the mould [Adnan Yousif, chairman of the Union of Arab Banks] confesses to admiring Alan Greenspan, a man (of Jewish origins) better known as a disciple of Ayn Rand, the prophet of rugged capitalism, than as a scholar of holy scripture. Mr Yousif has read the former Fed chairman’s memoirs “three or four times”, he says.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

• • • Atlas felt a sense of déjà vu 

Atlas Shrugged  | Books do not sell themselves: that is what films are for. “The Reader”, the book that inspired the Oscar-winning film, has shot up the bestseller lists. Another recent publishing success, however, has had more help from Washington, DC, than Hollywood. That book is Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

Friday, September 12, 2008

 A new kind of eastern promise 

In “Bioshock”, a hit video game from last year that was heavily influenced by the libertarian philosophy of Ayn Rand, the main villain builds a fantastical city under the sea, where businesses can escape the stifling grasp of government. If you are an internationally minded entrepreneur looking to set up a small to medium-sized business, that is probably going a little far. But where should you set up shop?

Friday, July 04, 2008

 Old heads on young shoulders 

A report published on June 26th by Opinionpanel, a research outfit that specialises in polling students, documents a big shift in political allegiances on campus since 2004. In those days the Liberal Democrats were the students’ favourite; support for the Tories hovered between a fifth and a quarter, and a third supported Labour. Now fewer than a quarter support Labour, and the Conservatives have soared to 45%. [....] As well as changing today’s political landscape, this shift will have consequences in future years—albeit ones that are hard to predict. If these hard-headed youngsters shift rightward as they age, the nursing homes of the future could be filled with wild-eyed disciples of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

• • It’s mine, I tell you 

The Fountainhead  |Egoism  | “I am the most offensively possessive man on earth. I do something to things. Let me pick up an ashtray from a dime-store counter, pay for it and put it in my pocket—and it becomes a special kind of ashtray, unlike any on earth, because it’s mine.” What was true of Wynand, one of the main characters in Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead”, may be true of everyone. From basketball tickets to waterfowl-hunting rights to classic albums, once someone owns something, he places a higher value on it than he did when he acquired it—an observation first called “the endowment effect” about 28 years ago by Richard Thaler, who these days works at the University of Chicago.

Monday, June 09, 2008

• • • The free-knowledge fundamentalist 

Atlas Shrugged  |The Fountainhead  | Profile of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales.
Ayn Rand believed that truth exists independently of the minds and opinions of people. This ran directly counter to the postmodernist view that there are many truths, depending on the perspective of the observer. And Wikipedia’s process seems, on the face of it, to assume the postmodernist rather than the Objectivist stance. The truths described in its millions of articles evolve over time and through the dialectic of editing wars, leading to a new and fuzzy concept of reality dubbed “wikiality”. “Ayn Rand would be turning in her grave,” thinks [Wikipedia co-founder Larry] Sanger. Mr Wales takes a different view. “I think that reality exists and that it’s knowable,” he says, adding that Wikipedia aims not for truth with a capital T but for consensus. “You go meta,” he says, meaning “beyond” the disputes and to the underlying facts. For instance, when deciding how to describe abortion, “I may not agree that it’s a sin, but I can certainly agree that the pope thinks it’s a sin.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

 Anything but sub-prime 

Least helpful predecessor: Take a bow, Alan Greenspan. Granted, you have to make a living, but do you really need to make life so much harder for poor Ben Bernanke? Stick to touting your best-selling autobiography by reminiscing harmlessly about your days playing jazz and hanging out with Ayn Rand.