Rand disciple spreads her word

It has been a generation since one of the 20th century’s most widely read and well-known philosophers, Ayn Rand, died. And it has been more than a half-century since her most well-known novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” was first published. Yet Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, based on the moral value and supremacy of rational self-interest and free-market capitalism, is enjoying a major revival of interest.
Yaron Brook heads the Ayn Rand Institute, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., but this 48-year-old Ph.D. permits little grass to grow under his feet. His zeal to spread the philosophy and ethic of Rand takes him across the country and around the world. It brought him earlier this month to Atlanta.
In addition to delivering to students in a packed Georgia Tech classroom a speech containing the elements of Rand’s philosophy, Brook fielded tough questions for over an hour. He parried with the students on topics ranging from the industrial revolution to global warming, and from the Federal Reserve to religion.
One thing that emerged from the two-hour-long session, and which in large measure may account for the resurgence in Rand’s popularity, is that in many ways it is an inescapable reality that the disintegration of America’s economy — which Rand described in “Atlas Shrugged” — is playing itself out today, but in the very real world of 21st-century Western civilization.
Yet, while some critics of the massive growth in the size, scope, power and cost of American government in recent decades come off sounding like sour grapes, Brook is upbeat in his talks to students (his audience of choice). Brook shines not as some sort of cockeyed optimist hoping simply to raise money for a cause. He truly understands and believes in the ultimate power of the free market and of the free will of people exercising their rational self-interest, to prevail over the destructive forces of collectivism.
This blend of reality and optimism is most refreshing; but without the strength of Brook’s deep knowledge of history, economics and finance, it would have negligible impact on his audiences. It is this background that lends so much more credibility to his message than all but a handful of speeches I witnessed during my eight years in the Congress or in the seven years since.
When Brook dissects the downfall of the Big Three auto makers, it is a discussion about more than the size of government subsidies or the “evils of big government.” I suspect that Brook has little sympathy for those Detroit CEOs who recently were figuratively disemboweled by congressional inquisitors. He understands, and easily conveys to his audience, that the Big Three bailout resulted from the unholy alliance between Washington, Detroit and the UAW — a cancer that had been eating the foundation of this once-mighty industry for decades.
Brook loves to speak about the growth of the computer industry by American entrepreneurs beginning in the 1960s. His eyes noticeably light up when he does so, and not just because he understands how computers revolutionized the modern world. He truly grasps the fact that in America, even with an economy controlled far too much by government taxes and regulations, there remains sufficient residual freedom to permit men such as Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, the founders of Intel, to visualize, create and market the world’s first microprocessor; only it would be vastly more difficult for them to do so in 2009 than in 1968, when they began.
Were a Thomas Edison to attempt in 2009 what he was able to accomplish 125 years ago, federal agencies from OSHA to EPA would quickly stifle his genius. By hawking the works and ideas of Rand, Yaron Brook hopes to lay the groundwork for a resurgence of the spirit that propelled America from a lumbering, backwater nation to the agile economic engine for the 21st-century world. For all our sake, let’s hope he succeeds.

117 comments Add your comment

dbm

December 9th, 2009
1:35 pm

Robert Littel

December 7th, 2009
4:58 pm

I don’t think you really understand either Ayn Rand or the way our political and economic systems are working.

If a few people are using control of political parties to structure things to their unjust advantage, isn’t this an argument for limiting the power of government?

Robert Littel

December 9th, 2009
6:28 pm

dbm – Oh please, as a lifelong and now retired political and social theorist, I think I have a healthy understanding of what Ayn Rand was saying and how that has been perverted to justify the take-over and rape of the economy by would-be (wannabe) inheritors of the John Galt myth. The government is the enemy myth has been supplanted by the reality that 4000, or so, individuals now in control 1/2 of all the wealth in the country and have been using the government to make the economy their own personal ATM, looting out what they can before a total collapse, which they will conveniently blame on the poor, allowed and maintained just for that purpose. The interpretation of what she meant, is being carefully crafted to cover all contingencies and are in place to justify the crash the ultra-rich (the above mentioned 4000) are allowing to happen because it would take effort to do the actual work to avoid it, which would negatively affect their bottom line. It would surprise me NOT, if the ultra rich already have their gated hide-aways ready (in Argentina perhaps) and waiting in anticipation for the collapse they are planning and hope to leave when they pick up the pieces and start the cycle all over again, in their favor of course.

dbm

December 9th, 2009
9:00 pm

Robert Littel

December 9th, 2009
6:28 pm

So you admit that our 4000 enemies are using government to milk us dry. If government were properly limited in what it could do, they couldn’t do it.

By using the word “perverted”, you also admit that they aren’t really following Ayn Rand.

Have you read any of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction?

Robert Littel

December 9th, 2009
9:51 pm

dbm – The 4000 enemies using the government are the 4000 richest Americans, who are trying to concentrate as much wealth in their pockets as they can, not the “collectivists” you blame, while setting us up for the fall they have no interest in stopping. Ayn Rand was a hack writer with a narrow focused imagination who was probably toilet trained as a child with a gun to her head. If you assign any more to her “Objectivist” drivel, you share some of her traits, but with an added measure of gullibility and a need to have answers dumped in your lap, rather than understanding the world is a far more complicated place than Ayn Rand laid out in her childish philosophy and overly contrive narratives. Following Ayn Rand makes about as much sense as following Elmer Fudd on a hunting trip.

dbm

December 9th, 2009
11:51 pm

Robert Littel

December 9th, 2009
9:51 pm

I see plenty of vitriol in your post, but no proof.

Would the 4000 richest be able to do what you say they are doing if the collectivists hadn’t helped persuade people to accept an interventionist government?

You didn’t answer my question. Have you read any of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction?

Robert Littel

December 10th, 2009
9:10 am

dbm – You don’t read very well, do you? I stated, in my first post that at age sixteen, I had read EVERYTHING that she has EVER published, including her play “Night of January 16th”. I was impressed, because I was a child and had yet to expand my knowledge much beyond that point. I will grant that what she said made me even more interested in learning more about political and social theory and its application to reality. You, obviously, once having read her contrived and childlike scribblings, adopted their perspective as your own, using them as a template against which everything else was to be measured, and like any disciple of any hack pseudo-religious doctrine, you have closed your thought processes down once you found a “truth” that served to release you from the responsibility of further thought. Please, if you wish to duel with me, you are going to have to make the climb to a more intricate and complicated playing field than exists in your tiny reality.

dbm

December 13th, 2009
6:25 pm

OK, Robert Littel, let’s go back to your first post.

“The Virtue of Selfishness” is not the basis of our current economic system. In particular, the role of government in our current system is quite contrary to the essays “Man’s Rights” and “The Nature of Government” in that book.

“Atlas Shrugged” does not say or imply that only the elite few need to be protected. In fact, it indicates that they are more able than the rest to protect themselves if proper protection is not available.

“Atlas Shrugged” does not defend stealing wealth. It defends producing wealth.

If you want me to believe that you have refuted Ayn Rand, you need to begin by talking about Ayn Rand, not some straw woman.

Robert Littel

December 15th, 2009
5:53 pm

dbm – As the world was shutting down and John Galt’s mountain hidden camouflaged hide-away became the refuge of those who, “are more able than the rest to protect themselves if proper protection is not available”, we see that production and the well being of society became a secondary function to gathering enough for ones-self and sitting out a world gone crazy until they could emerge and establish a new order. That view is not far off from the reality we face, where those with massive wealth are trying to funnel as much of it as they can into their pockets, rather than contributing to fixing societal pressures that are leading us to the edge of collapse. I have no doubt that contingency plans exist for the protection of the rich and their wealth in case of what, without concerted effort they seem not interested in preventing, not because it is a collectivist conspiracy, but because it is easier to run and hide than deal with reality. The forces leading us to disaster are varied and monumental, but not least among them is the acceleration of the process by the selfishness of the ultra rich, in their effort to get as much as they can as fast as they can, and to hell with the consequences. The problems of the world are too large for them to face, so they loot what they can get as fast as they can get it, gutting the world economy and when the collapse occurs, they turn around and blame the poor, always and forever, the perfect victim and fall-guy. Ayn Rand created a fairy-tale reality and you are just gullible enough to swallow it, making you the patsy and probably a willing soldier to man the gates, when the rich need you to protect them from an angry world they were partly responsible for.

It has been 45 years since I was a sixteen year old impressed with the scribblings of your heroine, and just as long since I’ve read anything she had to say, because it became evident, upon reflection and wider exposure to the world, that she wrote nothing but fiction, and bad fiction at that.

dbm

December 16th, 2009
10:55 pm

Robert Littel

December 15th, 2009
5:53

There is a very big difference between going on strike and using government to drain wealth belonging to others.

What, specifically, would you suggest that people with massive wealth ought to do?

Ayn Rand does not believe in conspiracy theories of any kind, nor do I. It is philosophical errors, not any conspiracy, that have gotten us into this mess. Philosophy is far more powerful than any conspiracy could ever be.

Big business gets blamed a lot more than the poor when things go wrong. It is not any one economic group, demographic group, or pressure group that is to blame, but rather the widespread tendency to look too much to government to do things. Widespread anti-business prejudice doesn’t help any either.

Atlas Shrugged deals with the role of the mind in man’s existence, a crucial fundamental issue. It does not purport to be an encyclopedic catalog of everything that was going wrong with our society at the time, let alone what may have gone wrong subsequently.

If it has been 45 years since you’ve “read anything she had to say”, then you can’t possibly have “read EVERYTHING that she has EVER published”. Also, you probably read a greatly altered version of her play that does not do it justice.

Robert Littel

December 18th, 2009
2:17 pm

dbm – I don’t buy ANY religion and you have clearly made this woman into one of your gods. Like all moral (or philosophical) absolutists, it is dogma that trumps the exigencies of reality, in your mind. I have no tolerance for delusional superstitionism (religion), or your particular doctrinaire deification of Ayn Rand and her rantings. Government is not the enemy, it is the battleground in the tug-o-war used by the rich to enhance their well being at the cost of the individual and it is the tool by which the individual attempts to defend against this elitist control. At any given time it is in the hands of one or the other of these two forces until the rich gain total control (where we are headed now) until those left out, rise up to make a correction (almost always violent). The resulting correction is ALWAYS blamed on the oppressed victims, who are only trying to redress the inequities handed down from above. That is what happens when 4000 individuals control 1/2 of all the wealth and they have a cadre of doctrinaire pseudo-religious automatons like you to do their bidding. They will cut you loose at the first sign of trouble, if you haven’t already martyred yourself in service to them already. Grow up, you have bought a pig in a poke.

dbm

December 19th, 2009
12:48 am

Robert Littel

December 18th, 2009
2:17 pm

You keep saying that I have made a religion of Ayn Rand’s writings and that I am blind to reality, but you offer no evidence of either.

I’m not saying government is the enemy. I’m saying it is a tool which has been heavily misused.

Robert Littel

December 19th, 2009
2:29 pm

Enter your comments here

Robert Littel

December 19th, 2009
2:42 pm

dbm – The entire Right-wing has become more of a dogmatic religion than a political entity, with deviation of any kind considered heresy against accepted doctrine. When it comes to dealing with real problems, flexibility and pragmatism has given away to blind adherence to myths and superstitions that can be easily spoon fed to the ignorant (ex. teabaggers), or just disinterested masses (so-called independent voters who often cluelessly walk into a voting booth not knowing whom they are going to vote for). For those of us who look at the world as something that must be saved, we have a hard time deciding whether it is the ignorant and clueless who are more of a threat, or the devout (like yourself) who are too lazy to make the effort to try, or too selfabsorbed to care.

dbm

December 21st, 2009
12:35 am

Robert Littel

December 19th, 2009
2:42 pm

“Right-wing” is a very vague, sweeping term. It can be very misleading. I am not involved in any attempt to condemn people as heretics or whatever. You haven’t proven anything about Ayn Rand or about me.

I agree with you that the world must be saved. What we disagree on is what it must be saved from.

Robert Littel

December 22nd, 2009
12:32 pm

dbm – It has to be protected from those who are the true leeches, who always find it easier to blame the victim instead of facing reality. I think it is easy to see that it is the small group (about 4000 individuals) that control 1/2 of all the wealth in the country, and who are perpetuating the “ever expanding pie” nonsense, that cannot be maintained indefinitely, are the ones who will bring us down as a nation, not those who are pointing out that the game is rigged to fail.

dbm

January 26th, 2010
1:36 pm

Robert Littel

December 22nd, 2009
12:32 pm

What the world must be saved from is bad ideas – philosophical errors – not any person, group, or movement.

dbm

March 8th, 2010
10:25 am

Perhaps I should make clear that the way to fight bad ideas is with better ideas, NOT with suppression.