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Ayn Rand, the Movies, and the Idea of America

By Laurie Rice

Oct 02, 2014

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has recently released a little-known monograph by Ayn Rand called "Textbook of Americanism." The essay was written for an organization called The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. It was sent by Ayn Rand to FEE's founder, Leonard Reed, in 1946. Now, the full text is available online.
 
In my essay introduction for "Textbook of Americanism", called "Ayn Rand, the Movies, and the Idea of America," I explain the essay's historical moment -- how the U.S. had just come out of the chaotic theater of WWII and nations all over the globe were redefining their boundaries and identities; how the trauma and tension of the times lent extra urgency and rhetorical passion to Rand's writing.
 
I also explain why the movie industry was so close to Ayn Rand's heart. Her first glimpse of the New York City skyline in the background of a film had inspired her. Her pursuit of screen writing formed the skills that would help her emigrate out of an oppressive Russia. And her love of cinema would enrich the story telling that defined her career. In a post-WWII "Textbook of Americanism," Ayn Rand sought to defend the art form she loved and plead with the movie industry to embrace the values of freedom.
 
I explain:
"The tensions surrounding “Textbook of Americanism” are fascinating. It is written about the United States precisely at a time when the idea of the nation-state was crumbling from its own destructive methods, giving way to modern globalization. The essay calls for radical freedom during a dark American paranoia about speech, when communists were put on trial for their beliefs. It is Rand appealing in good faith to the movie industry she loved, at a time when Hollywood was deeply entrenched with the cronyists and communists she hated. It is Rand’s passionate advocacy of ideology while many intellectuals were blaming all systematic ideology for the genocide of the Jewish people. And it enjoins and participates in a propaganda war not long before the dawn of an Internet age that would democratize media and increasingly eliminate the power of propaganda."
 
While it's true that the information age has tempered the power of propaganda (and this is good), movies remain an important vehicle for the values that shape a culture. To that end, we are still making Ayn Rand's plea for the movie industry (and its cottage industry of movie commentary) to embrace the values of freedom, reason, individualism, and entrepreneurship. The Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy, recently completed, has been a major milestone in that effort.

Read more: 
Laurie Rice's essay at FEE.org, "Ayn Rand, the Movies, and the Idea of America"
Ayn Rand's essay, "The Textbook of Americanism"
Read The Atlas Society's blog on the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy 
Read about Ayn Rand's and Objectivists' efforts to end the military draft: "The Persuasion of Nixon
 
(Picture by Judd Weiss above, Laura Regan as Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?)

 

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Education Programs 2014

By William R Thomas

Feb 17, 2014

 The Atlas Society is focused on helping students at all levels develop a strong understanding of what Objectivism holds and why it is true. We are also interested in research developing Objectivism further. And we maintain, in this work, the spirit of benevolent interaction that characterizes open Objectivism.

For 2014, we have some new plans. Let me lay them out chronologically:
 

Continuing programs

 
Graduate Scholarships: We continue to support students pursuing advanced degrees in philosophy and related fields. The deadline to apply for 2014-2015 academic-year funding is March 1.
 
Atlas Summit student programs: The 2014 Atlas Summit will be held in Manchester, NH, June 19-22. Thursday, June 19, features two Objectivist Education courses, one introductory and one intermediate. And the rest of the Atlas Summit program is a smorgasbord of Objectivist ideas. It's the perfect way to learn about Objectivism or deepen your understanding.
 
Students can register for the Atlas Summit at a substantial discount from normal rates. And for financially-pressed students, we have a limited number of scholarships covering registration cost, room and board, and even travel.
 

Changes for 2014

 
Graduate Seminar—not this year: For ten years, we have offered in August a week-long Graduate Seminar in Objectivist Philosophy and Method. This year, however, we have been working with a lot of undergraduates through Students for Liberty and the Atlas Summit scholarship program. Meanwhile, long-time Graduate Seminar attendees are now pursuing their own careers. So for 2014, we are trying something new, and we won't hold a Graduate Seminar.
But here's what we will do instead:
 
Objectivism from the Source: For undergraduates, we will be launching in the fall a new series of live, distance-learning courses. We will start with "Objectivism from the Source," a seminar surveying the philosophy. We will be reading key Ayn Rand essays and exploring the meaning of her ideas for today's world. Full details on this course will be coming out by summer time. [August update: The course starts September 18. Get all the information here.]
 
Research Workshop:  For the most advanced scholars, we continue to offer a monthly Research Workshop online. In the Research Workshop in Objectivist Philosophy, we discuss new and classic writings deepening and extending Objectivism. The Research Workshop is open to scholars with a systematic understanding of Objectivism. If you are interested and think you are qualified, send me a note to inquire.
 
Objectivist Studies: We plan to revive the Objectivist Studies monograph series. We will be drawing on new studies like those featured in the Research Workshop to provide the anchor content of the new monographs, which we expect to feature debate between the authors of the anchor essays and critical commentators. Our previous Objectivist Studies monographs have garnered praise and attention. We hope the new series will, too.
 
Atlas University: Throughout the year, we will also continue to build our online library of Atlas University video courses. Look for new Atlas Shrugged scene commentaries introducing Ayn Rand's ideas. And look for new additions to "Reason," David Kelley's and my in-depth discussion of the Objectivist epistemology and philosophy of mind.
 
With all these programs on offer, in 2014, we think any student or scholar interested in Objectivism at any level will find a welcome in our engaging courses. We will continue to look for new minds and fresh thoughts on how to grow and understand the insights of Objectivism.
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2013: Strong growth across digital channels

By Sherrie Gossett

Dec 30, 2013
Categories: N/A

There's a lot to celebrate at The Atlas Society this year, including the fact that our digital channels performance met, and in some cases greatly exceeded expectations. We want to thank you, our supporters, fBest SEO practices, boosting web traffic and online engagementor making this possible.  

Total viewership (of all digital channels combined) grew by 33% this year. Significant changes include a 145% increase in views of our YouTube channel and exponential growth in time spent viewing YouTube videos (from over 168,000 minutes per year in 2012 to over 1.2 million minutes in 2013). Visits from mobile device users more than doubled over 2012, reinforcing our plans to move to a responsive (mobile-friendly) site.
 
The surge in video results and in visits from mobile devices aren’t surprising: they parallel global Internet, content consumption, and technology trends years in the making. Keeping abreast of specific trends within those technology arcs, and responding in a timely fashion to them, has enabled The Atlas Society to become more competitive and has raised the profile of the organization and its content.

Load time and page speed metrics (which are directly related to viewership results) indicate we edged out direct and indirect competitors—even other Drupal sites known industry-wide for their speed, like The Economist and big-budget sites like CNN.com. As we were collecting and analyzing these site performance metrics, we were busy implementing three new technologies to boost site speed further. When it comes to online delivery of content, as with all businesses, there is no "arriving"—instead, there's a need for continual improvement and adaptation.

When we switched to Drupal in 2010 as our content management system, we knew it had a great track record in facilitating the best possible results in search engine optimization. Prior to the site launch in 2010, an SEO strategy was devised and implemented. That strategy ranged from the choice of Drupal, down to specific modules, and coding on thousands of pages of content. Some of that coding is static, some is added every time a piece of content in developed. And we're constantly scanning the industry for the best tools, strategies, and tactics, to further boost the visibility and performance of our online initiatives. So, while we can't share our "secret sauce," the recipe continues to yield strong results, and the ingredients are always changing. This is all in service of the "main dish" of course: the content.

So what exciting things are ahead in 2014? If you haven't received our Annual Report or the latest member letter from our intrepid CEO Aaron Day, contact us at tas@atlassociety.org. If you'd like to contact Aaron directly to discuss organization intitiatives planned for the new year, you can reach him at aday@atlassociety.org.

As always, we're grateful and inspired by the partnership that we hold with you, our supporters. You actions in supporting TAS financially, as well as sharing TAS content, emailing articles to friends, posting reviews of our books on Amazon.com, rating our content pages, or commenting on the pages of this site, all contribute to and are key to our success.

[Data sources: Google Analytics, YouTube analytics, Wistia analytics. Site performance data from Site Auditor and Google, via Raven SEO Tools]


EXPLORE:
Countdown for matching campaign by Aaron Day
"Our donors have been so impressed with our progress that they have committed to match up to $200K in donations if we raise $200K new or increased donations from a broad public campaign to increase general donor support and engagement. I’m writing to ask for your support to help us achieve an even wider impact.  A gift of $500 would be worth $1000 if received December 31."

 

 

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The Atlas Society at Libertopia 2013

 
Objectivist and libertarian communities often discuss their utopian potentialities, so the prospect of the Libertopia Festival—by its name alone—seemed a good location for The Atlas Society to reach out to attendees with information about Ayn Rand and the philosophy of Objectivism. I managed a table at the conference along with a friend, Caitlin Ewing, who helpfully gave her time. We handed out essays, stickers, palm cards, and copies of TAS's new pamphlet, Myths About Ayn Rand (now available as an ebook for $0.99). Many people approached the table to take materials, tell us about their favorite Ayn Rand works, and learn more about The Atlas Society.
 
The fourth annual Libertopia took place August 28 through September 2 in San Diego. Its producer was Sky Conway. The event is hosted by the Libertalia Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to spreading the principles of free-market economics and voluntaryism.” The Libertopia Facebook page describes the event as “an annual festival of peace, freedom, music, community and ideas that will change the world.”
 
 
The emphasis of the 2013 conference, in particular, was that personal freedom precedes political freedom. For instance, many libertarian lecture-based conferences organize their speaker topics by “culture” and “politics” simply for clarity. But Libertopia used its “tracks” (“Relationships,” “Off The Grid”…) to demonstrate how individual lifestyle choices might directly affect the political sphere. Courses on practical matters such as communication, home-birthing, or Krav Maga (a form of Israeli martial arts) were touchstones for a more political speech called “Alternatives to Government Institutions,” by Roderick Long. “We abolish the state not by smashing a concrete thing,” said Long, “but by interacting differently with each other.”
 

Speaker James Peron, in his talk “The Culture of Liberty,” reflected on Hayek’s desire for a culture which embraced change courageously, warning that conservatives and timid people alike would use the government to prevent change. In “Misogyny, Homophobia, and Empire,” Angela Keaton argued that abusive power structures in society mirrored a larger structure of state abuse against citizenry. Other key presenters included Jennifer Grossman, CEO of Jag TV; Matt Amberson of DeadEasyLife.com; Michael Badnarik, author of Good To Be King: The Foundation of our Constitutional Freedom; Jeff Berwick of The Dollar Vigilante; and Jayant Bhandari, entrepreneur and investment advisor.

In addition to the talent and diversity of the speakers, there was an interesting make-up of attendees. If mainstream libetarianism is already a fringe movement, then the Libertopia crowd is the fringe of the fringe. Here were the intellectual suits and the pressed linen of the West coast entrepreneurs, as expected, but also rugged rural anarchists and sweet California star-children, drawn to libertarianism as much for its “peace and love” as for its economic feasibility.

In the evenings, after sessions were over, Libertopia featured formal dinners, casual social time, an open mic, showings of libertarian movies such as The Silver Circle, and performances by singer Tatiana Moroz. There was also the presentation of the annual Sovereign Award, given this year to J. Neil Schulman, writer of the Agorist novel Alongside Night.
 
Objectivists attending Libertopia would have noted that speakers often worked from the premise of anarchy. While Rand argued for vast reductions in government power, she held that government had a legitimate role in maintaining the objective application of force. But the spirit of individual initiative and problem-solving at Libertopia was highly in line with Objectivist principles, as well as the program's focus on embracing change and innovation.  
 
Related Readings: 
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Introducing searchable video

By Sherrie Gossett

Feb 22, 2013
Categories: N/A

by Sherrie Gossett

Videos have famously lagged far behind text when it comes to searchability. Apart from the textual data associated with videos, it's been largely impossible to benefit from the many types of search engine optimization available for text

I was intrigued when MIT announced in 2007 that it had developed a video search capability by using speech recognition software to create a transcript and then applying textual search. The technology was available to students wishing to search certain MIT video lectures. Since then multiple iterations of this approach have been developed, some better than others. Two years ago MIT Technology Review reported on TalkMiner, a tool that scans lecture videos for words used in presentation slides, (The tool was developed by the Fuji Xerox Palo Alto Laboratory in California.)

“It gives you a good shot at finding something that wasn’t mentioned in the title or abstract but is buried deep inside the video,” Larry Rowe, president of FXPAL, told the magazine.

The need for good video search capabilities is clear: who wants to wade through an hour or more of video just to find that passage that you remember and want to revisit? Even forwarding and rewinding through 15 minutes of video can be frustrating. Add to this the explosion in popularity of video on the internet and it's clear why so many smart minds have been focused on a breakthrough in this area. (This is the year that video will account for nearly 90% of all consumer IP traffic according to Cisco Visual Networking Index.)

So we're excited to make video search available on the Atlas Society site now, thanks to the brainiacs over at Wistia.com, in partnership with 3Play Media, What you get: a simple, intuitive interface which allows you to search and interact with video content. Examples are here, here and here.

So what the heck can you do with this?
Take a look at our Atlas University video on "Appreciating reason." As you play the video the transcript scrolls along in real time. If you want to disable the scroll function, just click on the blue icon at top right.

Print a transcript
Right next to the blue lock icon is a printer icon. Click on that to open the transcript in a printer-friendly mode, click print, and you're good to go.


                                                                                                    Searching inside the video

You can search the transcript without interrupting video playback.

Once you enter a search term, the total number of instances of that term will be displayed graphically as white vertical lines above the search box. In the example at left, you can see that in this video lecture there are 5 instances of the term "religion." You can click on any of the white lines to jump to that instance in the transcript and the video will jump to that place. Or you can scroll down the transcript and view your term highlighted. Click on any highlighted term (or any word for that matter) and the video will jump to that point.

Wistia first grabbed my attention when I heard about their superior metrics, which include heat maps! (Yes, heat maps!) That led to us using Wistia's hosting services.

So if your liberty-based organization is looking for a way to up your video impact you might want to check out the Wistia value proposition.

And just to tantalize you, here's an image of one of their heat maps:

Drop me a line to let me know your thoughts on the video search function.

Sherrie Gossett

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TAS, Students Converge in Washington

By The Atlas Society

Feb 22, 2013
Categories: N/A

This weekend, more than 1,400 students and alumni gathered in Washington for the sixth annual International Students For Liberty Conference, and The Atlas Society was there in force to spread our open Objectivist message and connect with students from around the country and around the world.

Edward Hudgins addresses studentsAtlas Society staff members gave six talks, several of them to packed breakout rooms. Edward Hudgins’ presentation on “Republicans, Libertarians, and What Is Really Possible in Politics” drew the attention of Red Alert Politics, too. David Kelley’s talk contrasted Ayn Rand with another advocate of liberty popular among students, Friedrich Hayek; Alexander R. Cohen connected Rand to John Locke in his talk on “Atheism, Human Nature, and the Philosophy of the Declaration of Independence.”

In his talk, Aaron Day, himself a resident of New Hampshire, explored whether initiatives such as the Free State Project are actually creating real-life Galt’s Gulches. Day, a serial entrepreneur, also participated in a panel on entrepreneurship organized by Alumni For Liberty. William R Thomas addressed popular “Myths about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.” And in a second talk, Cohen explored whether rights principles apply to how universities—which generally don’t use force—govern student life.

Aaron Rainwater and Laurie Rice at the Atlas Society table | Dan CarvajalThrough our partnership with Students For Liberty, The Atlas Society obtained a prominent table outside the conference’s main hall. There, we gave out material on our ideas and the opportunities we offer students—and we got about 10 percent of conference attendees to sign up for more information. Some also signed up for Objectivist activism kits from TAS. We exhausted our supply of “Who Is John Galt?” stickers and gave out hundreds of copies of Thomas’s book Radical for Capitalism and a new collection, Myths about Ayn Rand, featuring essays by Kelley, Thomas, Cohen, and Laurie Rice.

During the conference, Aaron Rainwater interviewed students about the influence Ayn Rand has had on their intellectual and political lives.

Alexander McCobin addresses last year's conference | Judd WeissFrom a roundtable of a dozen individuals six years ago, Students For Liberty has grown to a network of 900 student groups, including some dedicated to Objectivism. The “International” in the name of its flagship conference is no hyperbole: SFL is active in Europe, Africa, and Latin America as well as the United States. SFL is led by an Objectivist graduate student in philosophy, Alexander McCobin, and with the assistance of The Atlas Society, it has recently launched an Objectivism initiative.

Through and beyond our work with SFL, The Atlas Society continues to prioritize outreach to students. We are making staff members available to speak at SFL regional conferences and on individual campuses. We are producing activism materials for campus clubs. And this year, our Atlas Summit will begin with a special day for students, featuring a systematic introduction to the Objectivist philosophy. 

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The Atlas Society at Students For Liberty Regional Conferences

By Laurie Rice

Oct 29, 2012
Categories: N/A

UDATE: Attention SFL Regional Conference Directors! The Atlas Society has SPEAKERS available for SFL Regional Conferences in 2014! See our staff list. Contact Laurie Rice at lrice@atlassociety.org for details. 

Students For Liberty, with their boundless energy and persistent success, are easily compared to a force of natureand their annual regional conferences are no exception. The conference season begins like a single leaf turning yellow on a tree or the first migratory bird crossing the sky: someone mentions that he'll be in a particular college town for a conference, someone else comments on looking forward to a popular liberty speaker. Then, one day, the excitement is in full color and volume, due to the strategic planning and internet savvy of SFL's staff. Once the regional conference dates are set in mid-July, online channels are surged with announcementsemails, Web site posts, Twitter feeds, shared pictures, Facebook cover banners, status updates, and memesall toward the good of a nation-wide (and increasingly world-wide), months-long rally of liberty in the fall. SFL will have hosted a total of 15 regional conferences across the U.S. (and five European conferences) by the end of the rush on November 17.David Kelley, Ken Stanford, and Andrew Kaluza in Dallas, Texas | Photo: Alec Weisman

As part of The Atlas Society's ongoing alliance with Students For Liberty, and in our mission to promote Open Objectivism, TAS has dispatched staff members to a number of SFL's conferences. On October 13, TAS Founder David Kelley was the keynote at the regional conference in Dallas, Texas, where he spoke about the primacy of the individual as the basis for liberty. Dr. Kelley's keynote speech was so appreciated that he received a standing ovation from the audience. Alexander Cohen, Managing editor of TAS's Business Rights Center, attended Regional Conferences in Tempe, Arizona, on October 20 and in New York City on October 27; Cohen and TAS Director of Advocacy Ed Hudgins will attend the Philadelphia Conference on November 10; and Assistant to the COO Aaron Rainwater will be at the Northwestern conference on November 3 and at the Denver, Colorado conference on November 10. Will Thomas, TAS Director of Programs, will attend the Boston conference on November 3, where he will host a table and give a talk on "Objectivism in Liberty."  

I attended the conference in Gainesville, Florida on October 13, where I represented TAS, expanded our network, discussed the ideas of Objectivism and Ayn Rand with other attendees, gave away all my Atlas Shrugged Part 2 T-shirts, and offered resources and information to students. Speakers at the Florida conference included Sharon Harris of Advocates for Self-Government, Professor Harold Orndoff of the Institute for Humane Studies speaker series, and Professor Sam Staley of Florida State University. Professor Nikolai Wenzel, also of the IHS speaker series, gave a lively talk about the nature of a free market in contrast to the government regulations which caused the economic crisis. Opening and closing keynote speakers were Lawrence W. Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education, who spoke about "The Unsung Heroes of Liberty," and Tom Palmer, VP of the Atlas Network and Cato Senior Fellow, who spoke on the message of his new book, After The Welfare State. (Followers of TAS may remember David Kelley's essay, "Ayn Rand and Capitalism: The Moral Revolution" in The Morality of Capitalism, a similar joint project of the Atlas Network and Students For Liberty.) A student panel with Colin Harris, David Deerson, Zac Corbett, Michael Zeman, and Kate Franzese featured best practices to promote liberty and strategies for the success of student groups. To that end, The Atlas Society has also hosted efforts with Students For Liberty to provide Objectivist resources to student groups, including the availability of TAS staff as speakers and student scholarships to TAS's annual conference, The Atlas Summit.    

I would highly recommend SFL regional conferences. The topics are important, the speakers are great, the cost is little, and the energy is irresistable. 

I would highly recommend that TAS readers attend a regional conference by Students For Libertyeveryone is welcome (not just students), the events feature quality speakers, they are well-organized, the topics are important and of immediate relevance, the attendees are bright and engaging, the cost is little to nothing, and the energy is irresistable. Check to see if there is an upcoming conference in your area. I and my colleagues at The Atlas Society look forward to our ongoing work with the Students For Liberty and to The Atlas Society's presence at the 2013 International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C., February 15-17.

 

UPDATE: November 12, 2012. The Students For Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference was covered by Michelle Ma in The Daily Pennsylvanian. Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged are mentioned and Ed Hudgins' speech, "Fighting For Freedom Against Re-Elected Obama" is cited extensively. Read the article at The Daily Pennsylvanian.

UPDATE: Our condolences go out to the friends, family, and community of Andrew Kaluza, who died in July of 2014. He is pictured above with Ken Stanford and TAS's founder David Kelley at the 2012 Dallas Regional Conference. 

 

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Getting Ayn Rand Right

 "Ayn Rand defended individual freedom" is the newest in exasperated articles calling out mainstream journalists for their misrepresentation of Ayn Rand and her ideas. The item is by Amanda Carey and Justin Lesniewski and it appears at 

DoubleThink Online, a magazine of America's Future Foundation. TAS readers may remember Justin Lesniewski as the intern on the set of Atlas Shrugged Part 2 who gained his position at the movie by way of an essay contest.

In the context of Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as a vice-presidential running mate, The Atlas Society's release of an audio of Paul Ryan at a 2005 celebration of Ayn Rand, and other Rand-positive remarks by Ryan, the flood of media surrounding the Ryan-Rand connection has made numerous errors in representing Rand's ideas.

Carey and Lesniewski have written a confrontation for journalists and a perspective piece for "anyone who admires, appreciates, or respects the ideas of philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand." For those Rand-enthusiasts, it's a relatable description of each disappointing encounter with yet another "short-sighted straw [man] and underdeveloped ad [hominem]." The article highlights innacuracies in publications such as The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The New Yorker. Carey and Lesniewski explain:

You see, we read all those things, flipped through our own copies of Atlas Shrugged, and struggled to find one word that pointed to what any of them were saying. The tragedy hidden behind all of these dismissive, catch-phrase 'refutations' is that the true power behind Rand’s ideas and their impact on American politics are being missed.

We want to clear the air. Nowhere does Rand say that every rich person is good and every poor person is evil, that money should be stockpiled by any means possible, or that people should be treated like objects. We can only conclude that those who state otherwise are willfully trying to distort and misrepresent her ideas.
 

Similarly, The Atlas Society works to "clear the air" and hold journalists accountable. In our Myths About Ayn Rand section, we debunk common misconceptions about Rand and her works (including two of the myths mentioned above: Ayn Rand Was Simply Pro-Wealthy and Pro-Business and Ayn Rand Was For Dog-Eat-Dog Selfishness.) Alongside writers such as Carey and Lesniewski, The Atlas Society and our members can help to hold the media accountable for the portrayal of Rand's ideas. Ultimately, we seek to educate people about Ayn Rand and the ideas of Objectivism. Journalists looking to write correctly about Rand's ideas should start here. We also welcome questions about Objectivism here.

EXPLORE:

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's Ideas: In The Hot Seat Again by The Atlas Society
Ask a question at Objectivism Q&A 
Myths About Ayn Rand by The Atlas Society and staff
A Challenge To Journalists by Laurie Rice
What is philosophy? by William R Thomas
What is Objectivism? by William R Thomas
What is the Objectivist view of Law and Government (Politics)? by William R Thomas
Can Reporters Handle the Truth? by David Kelley

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Now on Scribd: "Radical for Capitalism"

So, maybe there's no free lunch, but hey, here's a free book: Radical for Capitalism: An Introduction to the Political Thought of Ayn Rand, by Will Thomas, now on Scribd. Read it, share it, download it, pass it around, comment on it.

About the book:
This 30-page booklet explores the political theory of Ayn Rand, a topic that has catapulted to the national stage this election season following the nomination of Rep. Paul Ryan (a self-described enthusiast of Rand's ideas and novels) to the Romney ticket. [No, we're not endorsing Romney-Ryan, or anyone else, in case you're wondering. -SG]

Critiques of Ayn Rand that denounce her for a cold materialism are simply off-point, the author argues. "Rand looked out on the world and saw endless vistas of possibility for human beings. Hers was not the despairing, post-religious nihilism that characterized so many twentieth century philosophers. Rand’s works endow the essential activities of modern human life, including productive work, the use of human reason, and exchange through the marketplace, with the spiritual stature of moral greatness. That her works have this inspirational value is clearly evident in their enduring popularity. Rand projected a sense of nobility appropriate to modern scientific and industrial civilization, embracing business life and technology with a wholehearted appreciation of their potential. This is one basic aspect of the vision she projected in her novels, and it is this exalted view of industry, individualism, and the free market that had the strongest effect on American culture of all her ideas.

But Rand was also distinctive for giving her readers a sense of coming at social and political problems with a clean slate. She was a “radical for capitalism” not only in her indifference to public opinion and her willingness to champion ideas that the mainstream widely abhorred, but in her method of analysis. As the philosopher Lester Hunt has noted: “the cardinal value of all [Rand’s] work… [is] her ‘radicalism’ … in the very literal sense of a tendency to approach an issue in terms of its root (radix) in the issues that underlie it.” She stands out among classical liberals for the clarity with which she declared her political ideal and her indifference to tradition, and especially in her ruthless quest for the fundamental issues embedded in any question. Rand set down standards and definitions: freedom as freedom from force; rights as principles sanctioning that freedom; and rights as unified by a right to life and expressed in an objective code of law. These ideas shaped the terms in which a new movement of free-market advocates would debate political theory. When Rand spoke of liberty, her wide following knew exactly what she was arguing for. Her legacy has been to point classical liberalism in a fresh direction, inspiring two generations of free-market thinkers and offering a distinctive and thoroughly integrated moral defense of the political order that laissez-faire requires."

> View
Radical for Capitalism: An Introduction to the Political Thought of Ayn Rand

 

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Students, Scholars Discuss Foundations of Ethics at Graduate Seminar

By The Atlas Society

Aug 06, 2012

What can science teach us about the choice to think and how to strengthen our ability to focus? What should Objectivists make of claims that humans have desires wired into us by evolution? And just what is the choice to live, and is there a basis for saying that anyone who does not make that choice is wrong? These were some of the questions students and scholars investigated at the Atlas Society Graduate Seminar on the foundations of morality last week.

Student-led sessions included a workshop on a forthcoming paper on whether life or happiness is the ultimate value and a presentation by psychiatrist Ray Raad on scientific research into free will. Raad later commented: "Putting together a presentation, in particular, helped me to learn about one area of Objectivism in more depth and to understand how it relates to recent empirical studies. I came away with a deeper appreciation of Ayn Rand's many insights and the connections among the many principles in the Objectivist system of thought."

To learn more about the 2012 Graduate Seminar—including the reading list, if you want to explore any of the topics—read the syllabus.

Each year’s Graduate Seminar focuses on a different theme, and next year’s topic has not yet been chosen. Applications are normally due in the spring. To hear about this and other exciting Atlas Society events—including events for students and non-students at all levels of knowledge—sign up for our email list.

The Graduate Seminar’s longstanding lead faculty, TAS founder David Kelley and Director of Programs William R Thomas, were joined this year by two TAS staff members who were teaching the GradSem for the first time and two outside scholars: University of Oklahoma Professor Emerita and George Mason University Senior Fellow Neera K. Badhwar, Rockford College Assistant Professor Shawn Klein, Business Rights Center Managing Editor Alexander R. Cohen, and Director of Advocacy Edward Hudgins.

 

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