Some News from ARI

 Posted by on 26 February 2008 at 10:36 am  Announcements, Objectivism
Feb 262008

Some news from ARI:

  • Mary Ann and Charles Sures’ memoir of Ayn Rand, The Facets of Ayn Rand is now available on the web at
  • On Thursday, March 13, 2008, at 7:30 PM, Dr. Keith Lockitch will be speaking on “Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution” at the Hilton Costa Mesa (3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626). The lecture is free. More information is here.

    I’m delighted by the topic, because in the process of grading student papers on the argument from design, I’ve realized that gross misunderstandings of evolutionary theory are quite common. It’s definitely a topic that I’d like to study more, not just because it’s relevant to the refutation of William Paley’s argument for design, but also because I find it intrinsically interesting. Biology has always been — by a long shot — the most interesting of the sciences to me.

  • Brad Thompson published a great op-ed a while back entitled “An Open Letter to America’s Students–Will Atlas Shrugged Change Your Life Forever?” If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll find it here.

The Undercurrent

 Posted by on 24 February 2008 at 12:20 pm  Activism, Objectivism, The Undercurrent
Feb 242008

The Undercurrent now has a regularly updated blog. I’ve added it to my blogroll; it looks like it will be worth checking regularly. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the full post on the main page. I find that annoying, as it’s almost always easier to scroll past a long post that’s not of interest than to click through to posts that are of interest. But oh well.)

For those of you unfamiliar with The Undercurrent, here’s how they describe themselves:

The Undercurrent is a student-run newsletter. Its content is written primarily by (and for) college students across the country, with additional articles from the Ayn Rand Institute op-ed program and other writers.

We aim to release a print edition once a semester. The Undercurrent is distributed to college campuses nationally. If you’re interested in distributing on your campus (or anywhere else), more information can be found here.

The Undercurrent’s cultural commentary is based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, a philosophy she named “Objectivism.” Objectivism animates Ayn Rand’s fiction, but it is first and foremost a systematic and comprehensive philosophy of life.

It holds that the universe is orderly, comprehensible, and conducive to human flourishing. It affirms that human beings are not only capable, but worthy of living on earth. The individual’s own life and happiness comprise his own highest moral purpose. Man flourishes only in a society that values science, technology, freedom and capitalism. And beauty, too.

In these pages we hope to defend these values where they are under attack in our culture. To learn more about the ideas behind these values, you can begin by reading Ayn Rand’s books, such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, or by visiting the web site of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Just FYI, any regular blogger for The Undercurrent is more than welcome to join my OBloggers mailing list.

OActivists: An Easy Deal

 Posted by on 23 February 2008 at 8:00 am  Activism, Objectivism
Feb 232008

The new OActivists list — my informal private mailing list for Objectivists committed to fostering positive cultural change by effective advocacy of Objectivist ideas — will open for business on Tuesday. It already has over 80 subscribers, but I want to offer an easy deal for anyone interested in subscribing yet hesitant to make a commitment to engage in activism.

As you might recall from my original post, the list requires that subscribers meet two conditions.

First, subscribers must be Objectivists, meaning that they agree with and live by the principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Subscribers should also support the mission and activities of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Second, subscribers must be committed to engaging in intellectual activism to promote Objectivist ideas in online or print forums on a semi-regular basis.

The first criterion is pretty straightforward. But what does satisfying the second require? I’m willing make that very, very easy. Basically, at least once every six months while you’re on the list, you must post at least one comment advocating the Objectivist view on some news article, op-ed, or non-Objectivist blog. That comment doesn’t have to be long: just a few sentences will do. You could even just link to or quote from an essay by Ayn Rand or an op-ed from ARI. You’ll be alerted to plenty of opportunities to engage in that kind of minimal activism via the OActivists list itself.

In fact, you could even get started by posting a friendly comment on this positive review of The Fountainhead by a blogger.

Of course, I will encourage subscribers to do more than just the minimum: they can write letters to the editor, publish op-eds, speak to local groups, write to their representatives, and so on. In fact, I hope that a person’s experience with a wee bit of activism will embolden more. However, that wee bit — just one comment in a public forum every six months — is all that’s required to subscribe to the OActivists list. Basically, that’s five minutes of time every six months. That’s not asking much in exchange for the value of subscribing to the list, I don’t think.

If that sounds like a fair deal to you, you are more than welcome to subscribe to OActivists via its web interface.

A New List: OActivists

 Posted by on 18 February 2008 at 8:38 am  Activism, Announcements, Objectivism, OList
Feb 182008

A message for Objectivists:

We Objectivists often lament the sorry state of the culture. Too often, faith and emotion are lauded as superior to reason, the individual is merely a means to some collective, service to others is deemed more noble than personal happiness, and rights are nearly forgotten in politics. Yet we’re also inspired by the unexpected inroads forged by the Ayn Rand Institute over the past few years, particularly by the wild success of their program offering “Free Books for Teachers.”

However, the Ayn Rand Institute cannot change the culture on its own, not even with our financial and moral support. It’s just too big a task for a few dozen professional intellectuals. Objectivists must effectively advocate their values in the forums open to them, if they want to see substantial and enduring change in the values of the culture.

Thanks to Lin Zinser’s FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine), I’m now convinced that so much more is possible than most people imagine when like-minded people join forces in a loose, ad hoc way. In those ongoing efforts, FIRM’s “Activists” mailing list for people committed to promoting freedom and individual rights in medicine in Colorado has been of surprising value. It enables us to quickly and easily alert each other to opportunities to advocate good ideas, to discuss effective methods of argument, to praise and encourage the work well done, to report on our own accomplishments, to marvel at our impact on the debate, to inform others of useful sources of information, to brainstorm about venues for advocacy, to announce upcoming events, and more.

I’ve realized that a mailing list modeled on similar lines — but specifically for Objectivists committed to fostering positive cultural change — could be of similar value. So I’ve created OActivists @ Here’s the basic list description, including the requirements that all subscribers must satisfy:

OActivists is an informal private mailing list for Objectivists committed to fostering positive cultural change by effective advocacy of Objectivist ideas. Its basic purpose is to facilitate communication about matters of mutual interest to Objectivist activists, such as opportunities for advocacy, methods of persuasive argumentation, announcements of upcoming events, useful sources of information on issues, examples of advocacy, and the like.

To join the list, you must be an Objectivist, meaning that you agree with and live by the principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. You should support the mission and activities of the Ayn Rand Institute. You must also be committed to engaging in intellectual activism to promote Objectivist ideas in online or print forums on a semi-regular basis. (Notably, arguing with other Objectivists does not qualify as intellectual activism!)

If you meet those criteria, please subscribe via the web interface. If you have any questions about the list — including whether you qualify — please e-mail me, the list’s owner and administrator, at [email protected]. Subscribers will be expected to respect the purpose of the list. Those who prove themselves disruptive to its basic aims will be removed.

To give people time to subscribe, the list will not open for discussion until Tuesday, February 26th.

Finally: OActivists is not an Objectivist discussion list. Objectivists (including myself) have wasted far too much time and energy arguing amongst ourselves about minutia in far-off corners of the internet. We can do better. We can defend our values from attack in debates that matter. We can refute the standard strawmen of our philosophy. We can introduce people to rational, principled philosophic ideas. We can do all that more effectively if we communicate. That communication is what OActivists aims to make easy.

Update #1: OActivists has 55 members in just 24 hours. Excellent!

Update #2: Now it’s 72 members in 48 hours. Even better!

More Intellectual Activism

 Posted by on 5 February 2008 at 6:17 pm  Objectivism
Feb 052008

On the new Intellectual Activism blog, the owner Fuzzy Dunlop was kind enough to post an inquiry of mine. Go check it out: From Fiction to Philosophy. If you don’t have the necessary password, follow the instructions in this post. (It’s just below this one, if you’re on the main page.)

New Blog on Activism for Objectivism

 Posted by on 4 February 2008 at 8:30 am  Objectivism
Feb 042008

An up-and-coming Objectivist intellectual from my OBloggers list recently created a blog specifically to discuss methods for effectively advocating Objectivism. It’s password protected, so that discussions are private. I can give out the password, but I will do so only for Objectivists I know and trust. You must promise not to distribute the password except on those same terms. (As usual, friends and admirers of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, David Kelley, Chris Sciabarra, and the like need not apply.)

The blog is Intellectual Activism. E-mail me for the password, if you’re interested and if you think you qualify.

Eric Daniels on Capitalism

 Posted by on 19 January 2008 at 8:33 am  Announcements, Objectivism
Jan 192008

Mark your calendars, New Yorkers:

The Morality of Capitalism

Who: Dr. Eric Daniels, speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute and visiting scholar at Clemson University’s Institute for the Study of Capitalism

What: A talk making the case that capitalism is the only moral social system. A Q&A will follow.

Where: Kimmel Center, Room 914, New York University, 60 Washington Square South, NY, NY 10012 Maps and directions:

When: Wednesday, January 23, 2008, at 7 pm

Registration: Attendees must RSVP to [email protected]

Description: Despite the enormous success of American capitalism at producing material abundance and political freedom, critics continue their assault on the system, calling it immoral. In this lecture, Dr. Eric Daniels makes the case that capitalism is the only moral social system. He also examines the conventional defense of capitalism, which relies on the practical, economic argument, and illustrates why only a defense of pure laissez-faire capitalism can succeed.

Bio: Dr. Eric Daniels is a visiting scholar at Clemson University’s Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He taught for five years at Duke University, in the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, and at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate in American history. He has lectured internationally on the history of American ethics, American business and legal history, and the American Enlightenment. Daniels’s publications include a chapter in Abolition of Antitrust and five entries in the Oxford Companion to United States History.

Eric Daniels is one of my favorite speakers. So go, if you can!

National Review Does It Again

 Posted by on 6 January 2008 at 12:31 am  Objectivism
Jan 062008

Yet again, National Review manages to reach new lows in its swipes against Ayn Rand. In a just-posted article, Michael Novak describes the “many different belief systems are found among people who call themselves atheists.” His second type reads as follows:

Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the “death of God” has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will. This is the kind of moral nihilism that communist and fascist regimes depended upon, to justify the brutal use of power. It appears, also, to be the kind of atheism that Ayn Rand commended.

That gross misrepresentation is required for Novak’s argument that the ethical practices of morally decent atheists are basically those of Christianity, “all the way up the scale from mere sentiments, to effective personal help to the poor, and to heroic self-sacrifice.” Since that’s obviously not true of Ayn Rand, Novak can only marginalize her by falsely lumping her with amoralists (!!), fascists (!!), and communists (!!!). Intellectual dishonesty doesn’t get any worse than that.

FCC Censorship

 Posted by on 1 December 2007 at 7:35 am  Objectivism, Politics
Dec 012007

Since I’ve not paid much attention to the news lately, I’d not heard of this latest attempt at censorship by the FCC. It’s very disturbing, for all the reasons cited in this excellent op-ed:

Doing Violence to Free Speech by Don Watkins

The Federal Communications Commission recently asked Congress to hand it broad powers to regulate “excessive violence” on TV, the way it currently restricts “indecent” speech: broadcasters who violate the FCC’s limitations on “excessive violence” will face crippling fines and, potentially, the loss of their broadcast licenses. Isn’t it time to ask: How did a country that reveres free speech end up with a government agency that imposes continually expanding speech restrictions–and where will those restrictions end?

Free speech means the right to express the products of the mind (scientific conclusions, artistic creations, political views, etc.) using whatever words or images one chooses over a medium one can rightfully access, without interference by the government. It means the right of a publisher to publish a controversial novel; the right of a newspaper to run an article criticizing the government–and the right of broadcasters to decide what content will flow over their airwaves.

But in 1927, just as radios were becoming widely used, the government seized control of the airwaves, declared them “public property,” and assumed the power to regulate them in the name of the “public interest”–an undefinable term that can be stretched to mean anything. Thus broadcasters’ right to free speech was cut off at the root, as the government, having irrationally barred broadcasters from owning the airwaves they made valuable through their technological innovation and broadcast content, went on to dictate how those airwaves could be used.

Initially the government pledged that only “obscene” speech–materials that “depict or describe patently offensive ‘hard core’ sexual conduct”–would be barred from the air. But having abandoned the principle of free speech and established itself as the unchecked arbiter of what could be said on the airwaves, the government was later able to ignore its pledge and, in 1978′s FCC v. Pacifica ruling, expand its speech restrictions to include the broader (and even more nebulous) category of “indecent” speech. Thus, broadcasters could be fined for anything from profanity to sexual double-entendres, to vague references to sexual acts. Now, advocates of censorship are appealing to this precedent in order to justify regulating “excessively violent” content as well.

Moreover, Americans had been assured that speech restrictions would apply only to broadcasters operating on the “public airwaves.” But now, in its quest to regulate “excessive violence,” the FCC is insisting that its regulatory mandate be expanded to cover subscriber-based media such as satellite and cable TV.

If we allow this progression to continue, it is only a matter of time before the FCC starts restricting “offensive” philosophic or scientific views (as some religious opponents of evolution would like). And having gutted free speech on radio and television, what is to stop the government from censoring the Internet, books, and newspapers?

What made this trend toward increasing censorship possible–and inevitable? When the FCC assumed the power to subordinate free speech to the “public interest,” it declared, in effect, that individuals are incompetent to judge what speech they and their children should be exposed to, and so their judgment must be usurped by all-wise FCC bureaucrats, who will control the airwaves in their name. Given this disgraceful principle, it did not matter that the FCC’s initial restrictions were supposedly limited to speech pertaining to sex: if the government knows what’s best for us in the realm of sexual speech and can dictate what we watch or listen to, then there is no reason why it should not control what ideas we should be exposed to across the board. To reverse this destructive trend, therefore, we must do more than resist new speech restrictions–we must abolish existing ones and restore our commitment to the principle of free speech.

Does this mean that parents must be forced to let their children view programming they regard as indecent or violent? No. It is a parent’s job, not the government’s, to decide and control what his child watches, just as the parent is responsible for deciding what he himself watches. If a parent determines that a show is not appropriate for his child, he is free to change the channel, turn off the TV, or block his child’s access to it in some other way. His need to monitor what his child views on TV no more justifies censoring broadcasters than his need to vet what his child reads justifies censoring authors.

Americans face a choice: free speech or censorship. There is no middle ground.

Don Watkins is a writer and research specialist at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand–author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Copyright (c) 2007 Ayn Rand(R) Institute. All rights reserved.

ARI’s Growing Impact

 Posted by on 28 November 2007 at 12:49 pm  Objectivism
Nov 282007

Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, sent out this heartening bit of news today. I’m reposting it with permission:

Dear ARI Contributor:

I have outstanding news that I wanted to make you aware of as soon as possible.

As you may already know, Tom Bowden’s op-ed, “Deep-Six the Law of the Sea,” appeared in the November 20 edition of “The Wall Street Journal.”

The impact of that op-ed has been extremly encouraging. Both Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. John Kyl of Arizona have referenced Tom’s article; see, for example:

This is a major milestone for the Institute–with not only our views making the editorial pages of one of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers, but for that editorial being cited approvingly by two prominent U.S. Senators.

I believe that this is clear evidence of the extraordinary potential that we now have to make an impact on policy issues.

Who would have thought, five or ten years ago, that something like this would have been possible?

Our ability to continue to produce articles such as Tom Bowden’s–and to get them published in the nation’s leading newspapers, where they come to the attention of key policymakers–is directly related to the support we receive from donors such as you.

Likewise, your continued backing of our media and advocacy efforts is vital to our success; so I hope you will consider a special contribution to ARI to allow us to keep this momentum going; you can do so online at:

Thank you again for your support of our efforts!


Yaron Brook
President and Executive Director
The Ayn Rand Institute


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