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Atlas Society News

Student Program Success!

By Laurie Rice

Apr 02, 2015
Categories: Education

Easily, my proudest achievement in 2015 so far is The Atlas Society's success at the International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC). In February, we supported Students For Liberty as a sponsor at the annual event in Washington, D.C. 

Senior Scholar Ed Hudgins kicked off The Atlas Society's speaking track on Friday evening with his talk, "Can Silicon Valley Save the Republic?" In it, Hudgins re-iterated the message of his current book, The Republican Civil War, entreating the Republican party to jettison its anti-liberty baggage and embrace market entrepreneurship. 

TAS Founder David Kelley explored the foundations of Objectivism with talks such as "Why You Need Philosophy" and "Objectivism: Reason and Reality." And The Atlas Society's William R Thomas bridged Ayn Rand's ideas to a wider libertarian audience with his talk, "Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand," among others.

The Atlas Society hosted a table at the front of the conference, where staff spoke to numerous attendees about Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and The Atlas Society's work. 

(Clockwise from top left: Ed Hudgins opening The Atlas Society's track, Laurie Rice with a student named Dagney, William R Thomas speaking on "Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand," and David Kelley at The Atlas Society's table.)

In the months leading up to ISFLC15, I led a project to raise money for ten students to attend the conference as scholarship recipients of The Atlas Society. This is the third year I've led the project, with a total of 21 students attending ISFLC thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors.

The Atlas Society brought students from all over the country, with interests as diverse as law, politics, chemistry, art, film-making, raising a family, and one engineering student who is determined to "build the first permanent structure on another planet." (We think you can, Miles!) 

Afterward, many of the students said the International Students For Liberty Conference had changed their lives. They wrote about the effects of The Atlas Society's talks on their outlook:

* * *

"The International Students For Liberty Conference was by far the most amazing gathering I have ever attended. I didn’t know what to expect, but this event ended up being the most memorable experience of my life." —Violet Trammel

* * *

"Attending this conference really opened my eyes to the fact that things are changing and there is a large group of people who are thinking of how best to do that. It was truly eye opening coming from upstate New York where there are consistently six or seven people coming to the city’s Objectivist club to a conference in DC with over a thousand people. It gave me a lot of hope that more people are realizing the worth of liberty, the power of free will (and by extension free markets)." —Sarah Kearns

* * *

"At the International Students For Liberty Conference, I was able to hear from various speakers on Objectivism. I had read Atlas Shrugged before so I had a basic idea of Objectivism, but from the various speakers sponsored by the Atlas Society I was able to get a clearer view on what Objectivism is and how it works. By learning about the values Objectivists agree with and the values Objectivists disagree with, I was able to see how Objectivism can fit into my personal beliefs." —Ashton Welles

* * *

"Even though an obvious commitment to liberty was the common current running through these policy arguments, there was something even deeper, more fundamental than that holding them all in common – an underlying philosophy from which all else sprang. I learned about that philosophy when I attended the events that were sponsored by the Atlas Society. David Kelley, a Princeton-trained philosopher, a friend to the late Ayn Rand, and the founder of the “open” faction of Objectivism, helped me to understand the finer points of a worldview that seemed to inform the entire libertarian movement (though I know not all libertarians would readily agree with that statement). Dr. Kelley was explaining the foundations of Objectivist philosophy; moreover, he explained why we, as activists for liberty, needed to understand philosophy.

'Political views are governed by peoples’ underlying beliefs,' he told us. Learning to spot these beliefs – the premises on which people’s politics are based – would help us to be better advocates for liberty. I left his lecture feeling more confident than ever in my ability to explain why I was a libertarian – and why everyone should be.Through the speakers of the Atlas Society, I came to agree with many parts of libertarianism. They opened the door to this way of thinking in a way that I didn’t think was going to happen."
—Thomas Cooke

* * *

(TAS's scholarship students: Kasey Orthmann, Trevor Hazen, Thomas Cooke, Tanisha Canty, Sarah Kearns, 
Violet Trammel, Ashton Welles, Chad Platt, Miles Drazkowski, Anna Kalkbrenner. Thanks Judd Weiss for many photos.)

I'm so grateful for the effort and presence of mind the scholarship students brought to the conference, for my colleagues at The Atlas Society who create such quality lectures and content, and for the benevolence of the donors who made our presence at the event possible. 

Now that ISFLC is over, The Atlas Society is looking ahead to The Atlas Summit, June 18-21 in New Hampshire, where we hope to similarly teach and inspire students toward an understanding of Objectivism. You can help us to provide scholarships for interested young people by contributing to The Atlas Society now. We also hope you'll join us, as the Atlas Summit is a wonderful chance to be in a community of Objectivists from all walks of life. 

(Thank you messages from students to donors for enabling them to attend the conference.)

Please contribute now to help students learn about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. 

Read more: 
Learn about The Atlas Summit, June 18-21 in New Hampshire
The Atlas Society at #ISFLC15 by Laurie Rice
The Atlas Society to Bring 10 Students to #ISFLC15 by Laurie Rice


The Atlas Society to Bring 10 Students to #ISFLC15

By Laurie Rice

Feb 04, 2015
Categories: Events

[Update! Read about The Atlas Society's success at ISFLC, here!]

I am so proud to announce that The Atlas Society is bringing ten scholarship students to the International Students For Liberty Conference! ISFLC15 is at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C., February 13-15. The Atlas Society is a sponsor at ISFLC and we will feature a number of speakers and sessions. Generous donors have made it possible for us to host ten bright, ambitious students who are looking forward to learning about Ayn Rand, Objectivism, capitalism, and freedom. Here are some of their stories.

* * * * *

Trevor Hazen is a senior at Cornell College, double majoring in Economics & Business as well as Politics. Trevor has served on the Institutional Research Academic Advisory Committee where, he says, "[he has] seen first hand how regulation of institutions takes the time and resources of faculty away from actual students." Trevor says:

"America as a country has seen a degradation of liberties for common citizens. NSA spying revelations, spurred by Edward Snowden, highlight the desperate need for advocates of libertarianism and a redistribution of power from a coercive federal government to the civil society we currently occupy. As humans, we strive for happiness in life. It is my belief that each individual should be afforded the right to pursue his or her own interpretation of what constitutes personal contentment."

 * * * * *

Tanisha Canty is a senior and a Pre-Law and Politics major at Cornell College. She is a member of the College Republicans, the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Mock Trial Squad. Tanisha says: 

"I would like to attend this conference to explore more about Libertarianism because I feel it is a vastly underrepresented and misunderstood perspective in both the political and collegiate arenas. If I were able to attend this conference, I would be able to converse with like-minded individuals and hopefully bring back new ideas about how to promote Libertarianism to campus. Attending this conference would be informative about the true meaning of Libertarianism and aid me in my goal of pursuing my own views which expand beyond the realm of conservatism. Libertarianism, for me, distinguishes itself from other perspectives with its underlying premises about freedom to live one’s life and respecting the rights of others in the pursuit of that freedom."

* * * * *

Chad PlattChad Platt is a senior at a private high school in Sheridan, Oregon. Chad developed a strong global interest after spending a month on a plantation in Costa Rica and spending two weeks in Mexico. He plans pursue more global experience this summer by tutoring in Taiwan and working on houses in rural Peru. Chad says: 

"I have attended more than one talk on Libertarianism, and I always find them insightful and captivating. I think there is so much more for me to learn on this subject, and I think ISFLC is a definite way to learn more. When I first heard about Libertarianism and Objectivism, I was immediately fascinated and wanted to learn everything I could about both. I'm reading both Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. I like both of these books because they convey very different ideas than any that I have gotten from other books. The ideas are far from the norm, and they are causing me to explore new ideas and philosophies and to evaluate them for myself. 


* * * * *

Sarah Kearns is a third-year undergraduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology. She is studying biochemistry and taking extra math and physics courses to "further [her] understanding of nature and reality." Sarah says: 

"I was introduced officially to the philosophy of Objectivism last year, but I have always held the tenets throughout most of my life so it made sense when it all came together as a single sense of life. When I first read Atlas Shrugged, it was indescribably life changing. My familiarity with libertarianism is similar; I’ve only had a little over a year of being aware of its existence but I support it. It was comforting to know that I am not alone; that there are philosophies and political views that I can fit into and that unite everything into universal concepts that are right and that could benefit the world. The reason why I want to come to this conference is to learn how I can help people realize that change can happen, and that the way things are isn't right, but that a right way exists and it can be pursued, and achieved."

* * * * *

Ashton Welles is 16 and a high school senior in Oregon. Ashton says: 

"My largest strength is my willingness and ability to do hard work. Using this ability, I was able to get a year ahead in school, and I will be finishing high school when I am sixteen. I found that my regular school program was not challenging enough for me, so I decided to take extra courses in math, science and economics. From all of my studies, I had a lot of ideas for potential careers. I considered everything from being an inventor to being a filmmaker. I decided, however, that I want to go to Wall Street to become an investment banker. I realized this after studying economics and learning how the stock market works. I plan on studying finance in college to prepare me for my career on Wall Street. With this career, I have the chance to help a lot of innovators raise money for their start-ups."


* * * * *

Miles Drazkowski is primarily interested in a career as an engineer, but has an alternate focus on history, economics and government. He attends school in Oregon and will graduate this year. Miles says: 

"I want to build the first permanent structure on another planet. To this end, I am pursuing a career in engineering. I am currently attending the Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. I am also studying advanced Physics courses and Calculus at school. 

I have taken part in a number of robotics competitions and made to state-level competition. These were team competitions. One of the many facets of the competition is that it involves a set of concept called the CORE values. The concepts cover teamwork, leadership, responsibility and sense of friendly competition. Part of the competition each year has a theme, where the teams investigate an area of human endeavor that is a current issue. Our group did a robotics project and presentation on bio-3D printing for medical purposes and explored ways to make the printing more efficient. From this I learned about presentation, research and the scientific process. "

Forwarding the creation of new innovations to improve conditions of living is my goal. Concepts like Jeremy Rifkin’s zero-marginal cost society and laissez faire capitalism have therefore caught my attention because of their rationality and alignment with innovation. I appreciate the unusual, and I often champion ideas outside of the norm. Needless to say, my inclination has always been and will always be a society based on logic and sound reasoning; that is what has truly driven me in my desire to create a better world. 

Atlas Shrugged is the only book by Ayn Rand that I’ve read, but it was the most influential book I’ve ever read. The way that Rand writes does not force you to accept her view. Her writing warns of the dangers of socialism and her solution; that is what immediately hooked me. I relished John Galt’s radio speech and Francisco’s speech about the significance of money. While reading the book I saw that Rand’s philosophy was not so different from my own. Her views on societal organization into a libertarian or laissez faire social system largely coincide with my views. 

The truth is I don’t know what I’ll find at the conference, but I do know that I’ll have my views challenged. I have LP.org on the news feed on my laptop, but I tend to study political ideologies on my own. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss these ideas with others. By developing my point of view, I plan to use my knowledge to create a free society and help carry it beyond this planet."

* * * * *

Kasey Orthmann is a senior at a private high school in Sheridan, Oregon. He says: 

"My priorities for academic program are to gain as many life skills as possible in the areas of leadership, planning/organization and logic; additionally, being able to learn anything I want to once I've finished school, raising a happy family and being able to educate others.

My main strengths are in art, as that is where my interest and career lay, but I am also strong in science, logic, political debate and music. My current positions of leadership are running the video production for external promotion for the school and editor of the Lower, Elementary and Middle School Yearbook.


* * * * *

Violet Trammel is a senior in Sheridan, Oregon, intending to major in Forensic Science with a concentration in Chemistry. Violet says: 

"I feel that I have very strong integrity among my classmates and family. I know what I know, and I'm not afraid to say it. I have always felt very different from others, but I've become confident in my beliefs. I have interests in many subjects, such as social studies, ethics and religion. I'm also very curious about how government fits in with humanity. 

I will be attending college to pursue a degree in Forensic science. Criminal psychology is my passion. During the summer I led a Forensic Science Club for students fifteen or older. I wrote the curriculum, planned the lessons, organized the experiments and promoted the club. It was a pleasure teaching other students about my career interest. I have also become very passionate about America's current justice system, and how we can improve it. 

I have read many books involving corrupt governments such as Atlas Shrugged, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Antigone and The Crucible. Before reading these books, I thought our government was great; I didn't feel like anything was wrong. But I have now come to realize that my liberty, as well as my children's liberty, is at stake. I want to educate myself more on this subject so I can make a difference for future generations."

* * * * *

Thomas Cooke is a senior at Cornell College, majoring in history and minoring in Politics. Thomas says: 

"I am a strong writer and communicator. I have a deep interest in law and public service. I am the Chair of Cornell’s College Republicans chapter, President of our Phi Alpha Delta chapter, and the Opinions Editor for The Cornellian student newspaper. I expect my future career to involve work as an attorney and then a later transition into work for the government. I have not yet decided in what area of government I would be able to do the most good, but my main concern is ensuring that the government does not become so powerful as to destroy the aspects of private life that government exists to protect.

I have read a number of Ayn Rand’s philosophical lectures in her book “Philosophy: Who Needs It?” I have also read John Galt’s 80-page monologue from Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand has said much that I agree with. What I found most inspirational in her work was her emphasis on the ability of individuals to achieve great things, and the importance of living in a society that allows them to do so.

I have been a libertarian since I first found out what the party stood for in sixth grade. I have always agreed with Thoreau’s sentiment that the government has not “of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.” As a high school debater who competed at the national level, I advocated libertarian principles in every argument I made. This past summer, as an intern for The Heritage Foundation, I watched Cato Institute interns with envy as they went to work every day advancing the kind of conservatism that I believe has a real future in the United States. And up until Election Day this November, I was campaigning for Rod Blum, a liberty-minded Republican businessman who just got elected Congressman for Iowa’s 1st District.

My interest in going to this conference stems from my interest in being surrounded by people who believe as I do, but have thought about it longer. I’m interested in hearing how their libertarianism might differ from mine, how they would respond to criticisms of libertarianism that I sometimes have difficulty answering, and how they would apply libertarian principles to contemporary problems. I also want to know what everyone has to say about Rand Paul, who I have met on a couple occasions and whose career is of great interest to me. Moreover, I want to attend the conference because politics is my passion and libertarianism is the driving force behind that passion. I love to learn about it, talk about it, and think about it. I truly want to see a libertarian revolution sweep the country and I believe that today’s youth comprise the generation that can truly accomplish that."

* * * * * 

Anna Kalkbrenner is a senior at Cornell College majoring in Politics and International Relations. She has served in the United States Marine Corps  and hopes someday to work for the Cato Institute. Anna says:

"I am interested in politics in general and consider myself a libertarian. It is more than a political ideal to me, it is a solid philosophy that I wish to see embraced more fully in our country. 

I served in the United States Marine Corps for five years as an Arabic linguist and worked near the beltway for eight years after that as a defense contractor. The government's role in our day to day lives is of great interest to me and something I am interested in pursuing after I graduate. 

Attending this conference would be a very exciting way to be introduced to the people and organizations that play a role in promoting individual freedom in America."


* * * * *

Contribute to The Atlas Society today to help us educate more students about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. 









The Atlas Society at #ISFLC15

By Laurie Rice

Feb 04, 2015
Categories: Events

We're pleased to announce that The Atlas Society will be a sponsor of the 2015 International Students For Liberty Conference! ISFLC15 is at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C., February 13-15.

The Atlas Society will help to kick off the conference with Edward Hudgins speaking in a general session on Friday, then host a speaker in each time slot for the rest of the weekend.

We're also proud to announce that we will be hosting ten scholarship students at ISFLC15, thanks to generous donors. The Atlas Society will have a table at the conference where we will speak to students and other ISFLC attendees, offer a chance to win $1000 in the Crony Capitalist contest or win a raffle for a DVD set of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy, pick up copies of pamphlets such as Myths About Ayn Rand ($2.99 on Kindle), and learn about opportunities to attend The Atlas Summit.

If you're in the D.C. area we hope you will join us! Register for ISFLC15 at  http://isflc.org/registration-information/

Friday February 13, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm
Breakout Session #2, Virginia Suite

Can Silicon Valley Save the Republic? by Ed Hudgins
Economic and personal liberty are being eroded by governments as the entitlement culture transforms independent individuals into servile subjects. Yet against this bleak background, new entrepreneurs are creating revolutions in one sector after another, and cynical Millennials still love technology.  Can the GOP avoid the dustbin of history by transforming itself into a futurist party, bringing in modernist achievers, and jettisoning its anti-liberty baggage?

Saturday February 14, 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Breakout Session #3, Roosevelt 5

Why You Need Philosophy by David Kelley
Political views are governed by peoples’ underlying beliefs--their philosophical premises. Learning to spot these premises in political arguments will make you a more effective advocate for liberty. David Kelley will show you how.

Saturday February 14, 11:15 am to 12:15 am
Breakout Session #4, Roosevelt 5

Objectivism: Reason and Reality by David Kelley
Ayn Rand’s philosophy defends liberty from a perspective rooted in objectivity. Learn what objectivity consists in and why reason is an “absolute” that can never be compromised.

Saturday February 14, 3:45 pm to 4:45 pm
Breakout Session #5, Roosevelt 5
Objectivism: Values and Virtues by William R Thomas
Ayn Rand’s “Virtue of Selfishness” is a morality that places ethics on a factual footing. Learn how a love of freedom and achievement derives from a basic commitment to one’s own life and happiness. Learn why flourishing requires virtue, and what kind of virtue it requires.

Saturday February 14, 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Breakout Session #6, Roosevelt 5
Myths about Ayn Rand and Objectivism by William R Thomas
Is Objectivism cold and heartless? Was Ayn Rand for the rich and against the poor? Is Objectivism elitist? These and other common myths about Ayn Rand's thought are discussed and debunked.
(Get Myths About Ayn Rand on Kindle for $2.99.)

Saturday February 14, 6:15 pm to 7:15 pm
Breakout Session #7, Roosevelt 5
Our Fantastic Non-Fiction Techno-Future, or Can Libertarians Live Forever? by Ed Hudgins
Incredible revolutions are underway in medicine, transportation, and robotics that could surpass the information revolution in their impact in our world. And a live-extension and human-enhancement transhumanist technologies could mean you’ll live forever! But these revolutions could be snuffed out by the wrong philosophy. A moral revolution of reason and achievement is necessary if the future is to be a bright dream come true.

Sunday, February 15, 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Breakout Session #8, Roosevelt 4
Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand by William R Thomas
As Ludwig von Mises explained, economic theory assumes a “subjective” value theory: that people ultimately act based on their preferences. Ayn Rand defended an “objective” value theory and attacked philosophical subjectivism. This session explains how economics relates to philosophy and how subjective economic value relates to objective moral values. Is economics “value-free?” Is economic calculation a fallacy?
Read more about The Atlas Society's relationship with Students For Liberty: 

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?)



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.

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]

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."




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: 

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


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. 


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.