IOS/TOC/TAS Death Watch

 Posted by on 26 December 2008 at 4:20 pm  False Friends of Objectivism
Dec 262008

That pretend-Objectivist organization lately known as “The Atlas Society” has canceled its 2009 Summer Seminar due to financial woes. They intend to spend the time and money saved working on their ancient booby-trap of a web site. Robert Campbell posted the letter he received from Will Thomas. Here it is, in full:

Thanks again for sending me your presentation ideas for the planned 2009 Summer Seminar on Objectivism in Theory and Practice. I’m sorry to say that we will not be holding a Seminar next year after all.

The Summer Seminar is a vital part of our community-building and academic efforts. We do not intend to abandon those goals. Actually, we envision resuming the Summer Seminar tradition in 2010.

Our decision to suspend the Summer Seminar in 2009 is due to the economic circumstances and a constructive rearrangement of staff priorities looking forward.

It’s obvious to everyone that the future lies on the internet. It has become clear to us at TAS that one of our most urgent priorities is to update, invigorate, and expand our website to make it a more powerful vehicle for outreach and education about open Objectivism. With the web, we can and do reach hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. The Summer Seminar, for all that is an intense and uplifting personal experience, can only touch, at most, a few hundred people each year. If we have to choose between the two, the choice is clear.

Making our internet plans a reality will require taking substantial amounts of staff time, including mine, away from other projects and refocusing on web projects. Even in normal economic times, we would not be able to avoid the conflict by hiring additional staff, since key aspects of the web project require the expertise of current staff.

So please look for us to put up an improved and livelier web presence in 2009, and keep an eye out next Fall for the call for proposals for our 2010 seminars. Assuming things continue according to plan, I’ll be writing back to you in the Fall to see if you would like to renew your proposals. I’m sorry we won’t be able to invite you to speak this year.

My best guess is that the Summer Seminar will not be resumed in 2010 — or ever. IOS/TOC/TAS is a dying beast.

In recent years, their summer seminar has been ailing in a serious way. It went from about 300 attendees in 2003 (when I last attended) to something like 100 in 2008. (In contrast, ARI’s OCON has grown from about 300 attendees in 2003 to over 500 in 2007 and 2008.)

The only other discernible activity of the organization has been its magazine, The New Individualist. That failed to draw a broad readership, as they’d hoped. More importantly, its editor Robert Bidinotto left TAS entirely in mid-October, apparently on not-so-friendly terms. (That link is temporarily unavailable, unfortunately.)

Oh, and no one seems to know what the heck David Kelley does with his time; he hasn’t produced anything substantial in many years.

In short, IOS/TOC/TAS has been dying for some years now. And with the Ayn Rand Center now open and active in Washington, I don’t think it can survive much longer. As someone who wasted far too much precious time with them, I think I’ve earned the right to say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”

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