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Category Archives: Atlas Shrugged

Strikes, Capitalism and Trump: A Review of Atlas Shrugged – The Boar

Posted: February 26, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Ayn Rands divisive novel Atlas Shrugged offers both a frightening dystopia, where government regulation and totalitarianism force the gifted artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs to go on strike, and a hopeful utopia, where these gifted individuals are eventually free to produce great things. Rand warned in the 1960s that the US was a mixed economy heading towards dictatorship. With Donald Trump in The White House, it appears we are close to reaching that dictatorship stage, having perhaps reached it already.

There have been many protests against Trump, but strike action has also been taken. For instance, feminist groups have protested misogyny in the workplace and set up protests to close down streets, owing to Trumps appalling treatment of women. Though unlike in Atlas Shrugged, these strikes are also targeting neoliberal policies that have eroded social provision and labour rights.

Rand warned in the 1960s that the US was a mixed economy heading towards dictatorship

In addition, 127 top companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Twitter have all filed court papers against Trumps executive order on immigration, stating it violates immigration laws and the Constitution. Most of this action prevents the freedom of movement of workers, simultaneously suppressing the progress and innovations these companies can make; Trump is blind-sighted to the fact that a large portion of the money America makes from companies comes from foreign workers. Hence, we would also be seeing how a society that uses force to over-regulate the private sector could stagnate and come close to collapsing, which is a major event that takes place in Atlas Shrugged.

What the book also shows, however, is that great thinkers with tenacious wills can overcome such forces of tyranny. In the future, more and more companies will likely strike out against Trump, and though theyd be unlikely to cease production, they might move production outside of the US, and stagnate the American economy. Once even the most ardent Trump supporters see that they have become worse off than before, they will defect against him, and America will come full circle.

Once even the most ardent Trump supporters see that they have become worse off than before, they will defect against him

The US probably wont however, embrace laissez-faire capitalism with total free markets and minimal government regulation, given that this was the underlying cause of the financial crisis. Big banks abused minimal regulation, fuelled a prejudice against immigrants and poor people, that then helped lead to Trumps rise to power. Nevertheless, the theme of individuals against the collective, that was paramount in Atlas Shrugged, is likely to resonate with many Americans today. Given that many people are furious at Trumps love of mob-mentality, stupidity, and suppression of anything that disagrees with him, it is likely that his presidency is a ticking Atlas-Shrugged time-bomb.

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Whittaker Chambers: Crusading Journalist | The Liberty Conservative – The Liberty Conservative

Posted: at 11:44 pm

Because of his role in outing Soviet spy Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers other career, not that of paid witness he would become, has been overshadowed. For Chambers was a journalist par excellence. He had the distinction of having written for the New Masses, Time, and National Review.

At the time of his testimony, he was a highly-paid writer at Time. The pro-Hiss left no doubt wishes hed stayed at the typewriter rather than appearing behind a congressional microphone. Without Chambers, the Hiss case would never have gotten off the ground and Chambers would have toiled away his remaining days writing for Time, and Hiss leaking from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to Moscow.

To examine Chambers career without the Hiss case is, of course, impossible, but to examine his career solely on journalistic grounds reveals links between the different ideological magazines he wrote for. At first glance, a writer first for New Masses, then Time, then National Review shows chartable growth from communism to the mainstream then overshooting it into another political sect, the Buckley conservatives of the 1950s. But whatever party label he sported, his basic journalistic mission never changed, nor did his view of collectivist action.

While on the New Masses, Chambers differentiated himself from others by showing Marxists acting rather than preaching:

It occurred to me thatI might by writing, not political polemics which few people ever wanted to read, but stories that anybody might want to readstories in which the correct conduct of the Communist would be shown and without political comment.

The most praised of this formula, Can You Hear Their Voices? appeared in the January 1931 issue of the Masses, dealt with activist farmers who raid a food store during the worst of the Depression. Awakened to their collective power, they take food and arms into the mountains, like one of those resistance groups in a World War II film.

By the time his byline appeared in Time Magazine, Chambers had gone through six years of espionage work for the NKVD. NO longer pushing the history train toward the Revolution, Chambers was now trying to derail it. But the populist sense of reaching the masses via journalism remained.

Surveying the aftereffects on Western fellow travelers of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Chambers saw his armed band of farmers circa 1931 now betrayed by this nave cadre who themselves thought they had enlisted in the cause of antifascism but were merely serving another variant of it:

How could they know that Lenin was the first fascist and that they were cooperating with the Party from which the Nazis borrowed all their important methods and ideas? By last week even the dullest fellow traveler found outAfter Stalins purge, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Russian grab of half of Poland, 1940 betrayed the full sense of Stalin with his attacks on Finland, the seizure of part of Rumania and all of the Baltic States.

But Chambers hope for collective action remained, now centered on those who had fallen off the history train:

The Party had trained a group of men who would one day help destroy it. The literary intellectuals might be slow, lazy, self-important, impracticalbut they had reached their convictions not without years in the wilderness and days of blindness.

Chambers saw hope for a counterrevolution in Waldo Franks outline for action in Chart for Rough Weather and the writers observation that the struggle is for the human soul.

The election of 1944 saw the Partys most open and fervent support for FDR and the growing alarm of conservatives, and some liberals, about cultural dominance by Stalinists at home and their suspicious liberations of Nazi satellites abroad. It was also the year Chambers Ghosts on the Roof appeared in Time magazine. In it, Chambers was again trying to activate readers, this time through the approving ghosts of the murdered Nicholas and Alexandria toward the Party that murdered them. For the Czar, Stalin accomplished only what he had dreamed about:

What vision! What power! We have known nothing like it since my ancestor, Peter the Great, broke a window into Europe by overrunning the Baltic States in the 18th century. Stalin has made us great again!

Examining the Pact, the Czar noted rather enviously, I always wanted to take down those Poles a peg, but something was always tying my hands.

A decade later, Chambers again took up the familiar profession of journalism, this time on the staff of National Review. By now, he had gone through the emotionally brutalizing participation in the Hiss case, which provoked one suicide attempt. But his vision of journalism remained although this time focused on a very specific group: conservative Republicans. As opposed to 1941, he counseled his new comrades to cease their attempts at rolling back the New Deal (their stated editorial mission was for the magazine to stand athwart history, yelling Stop) and instead reap the benefits of accepting the drift of History:

Those who remain in the world, if they will not surrender to its terms, must maneuver within its terms. That is what conservatives must decide: how much to give in order to survive at all: how much to give up basic principles.

This sense of mission entailed cleansing conservatism of its more soulless elements such as Ayn Rand. Chambers review of Atlas Shrugged compared her atheistic capitalism to Karl Marx: He too admired naked self-interest and for much the same reasons as Miss Rand: because, he believed, it cleansed away the cobwebs of religion and led to prodigies of industrial and cognate accomplishments.

Thus, had there been no Hiss case, Chambers would have remained much of what he was: a crusading journalist. The familiar trajectory of the communist moving rightward fits him on the surface, but also doesnt. Along the way, he brought baggage with himnamely the Marxist baggage of journalism as a mass activator.

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Uber Is Doomed – Jalopnik

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Illustration credit: Jim Cooke/Jalopnik

If there is one quote that sums up the ethos of Uber, it might be this cut from the companys firebrand CEO Travis Kalanick: Stand by your principles and be comfortable with confrontation. So few people are, so when the people with the red tape come, it becomes a negotiation. But after a month marked by one disaster after another, its hard to see how Ubers defiant, confrontational attitude hasnt blown up in its face. And those disasters mask one key, critical issue: Uber is doomed because it cant actually make money.

After a discombobulated 2016, in which Uber burned through more than $2 billion, amid findings that rider fares only cover roughly 40 percent of a ride, with the remainder subsidized by venture capitalists, its hard to imagine Kalanick could take the company public at its stunning current valuation of nearly $70 billion.

And now, in the past few weeks alone, Uber has been accused of having a workplace that fosters a culture of misogyny, accused of stealing from Google the blueprint of a successful self-driving system, and has lost 200,000 customers over ties to President Donald Trump and how it responded to a taxi driver boycott.

Yet even when those factors are removed, its becoming more evident that Uber will collapse on its own. Barring a drastic shift in the companys businessan implausible rollout of self-driving car fleets across the U.S., an increase of fares by three-fold, or a complete monopolization of the taxi and ride-hailing marketsUbers lifeline is shrinking. Its business model could collapse if one court case, and there are many, goes against it. Or perhaps more pressing, if it simply runs out of cash.

That Kalanick quote about confrontation may be as innocuous as a random sound bite, but its representative of the ride-hailing giants methodology since its founding in 2009: a perpetual resistance to regulatory oversight; a belief that, ultimately, an unfettered market is the key to prosperity.

At first glance it seems like Kalanicks libertarian ideals have paid off. Most recently valued at a reported $69 billion, Uber has captured a majority of the ground transportation market and flipped the taxi industrya sector Kalanick once famously and snidely referred to as the Big Taxi Cartelon its head. His philosophy mirrors the mindset of one of his favorite authors, the laissez-faire Ayn Rand. In 2012, Kalanick proffered that Ubers battle against government regulations has an uncanny resemblance to the Randian philosophy. A billionaire fighting The Systemand prevailing. Its a good story for those who find truth in Atlas Shrugged.

Ubers long had skeptics, and its not innovative to paint Kalanick, 40, as the boogeyman of Silicon Valley, where unseemly savants exist in vast supply.

The precarious moment in the companys eight-year history falls on Kalanicks lap. Its his baby after alla startup founded on seemingly nothing more than a vague idea, without much regard for the workforce to make it possible, or even a clear idea of what business model it actually wants to pursue. Uber has jumped from one idea to the next: UberX, UberEats, autonomous cars, and now flying cars, of all things.

The impact of Ubers death would probably be as much of a rebuke of Kalanicks vision of running on a scatterbrained dream, not so much a solid business model and philosophy, that you could muster.

It would also be devastating for some. The livelihood of 11,000 employees across the world rests on Kalanicks decision to submit to that philosophywhich, at its core, is a ruthless way of doing business. At the very least, drivers in the pre-Uber market could earn a decent living. Conversely, for example, Uber drivers taking advantage of new vehicle solution pilot program in Boston renting cars by the hour through Zipcar will earn less than Massachusetts minimum wage. How innovative.

One of the biggest issues that has left Ubers business model hanging in the balance is its resistance to classifying its driversthere are reportedly600,000 in the employees, not contractors. If Uber is a house of cards, this is a key part of the foundation that, once removed, would demolish the structure.

Indeed, the company has said reclassifying drivers could force Uber to restructure its entire business model. The result of its opposition to readjust has been entirely expected. Without the perks and protectionsthat an employee may enjoyhealth care, benefits, gasoline and work reimbursements, vehicle maintenance, all of which could reportedly total as much as $730 millioncomplaints from drivers have piled up, ranging from low pay to new services like UberEats (a loathed food delivery service thats reportedly set to lose over $100 million annually) and UberPOOL, its carpool option which increases the companys take per-ride, lowers the take-home pay for drives, and is understood to be quite a drag for drivers and passengers alike. Drivers themselves said as much in a recent, disastrous question-and-answer session with Ubers president.

The counter-argumentperhaps one that would come from Kalanick himselfis that Uber drivers have the freedom to work whenever and wherever they want, or for the company at all. But the reality is that perception is built on a lie.

Uber, which didnt respond to questions from Jalopnik about its viability, recently paid $20 million to settle claims that it grossly misled how much drivers could earn on Craigslist ads. The companys explosive growth also fundamentally required it to begin offering subprime auto loans to prospective drivers without a vehicle.

Drivers with loans need to work to pay their monthly tab, thereby necessitating they work more for less, and so on. (Figures released in 2015 indicated that nearly 40 percent of Ubers driver force has no other source of income, while 30 percent work for Uber while holding down a second part-time job.)

To maximize their income, some have taken to sleeping in their car to be close to busier work areas. And beyond drivers, the company has also been accused of lying to prospective engineers about promises of lucrative stock options, in a move that could allegedly save it millions of dollars of tax deductions.

The Craigslist ads, for one thing, succeeded in reeling in drivers.

I thought I would try it out because I was desperate, said one driver who learned about the company after reading an online ad and declined to be named for fear of retribution in an interview with Jalopnik. Back then, the pay was quite a bit more than it is now. There have been a number of fare cuts since then. So, at the beginning, it was kind of different because not only was the pay higher, [but] because the pay was higher, there was a different type of customer that was using the service.

He added, And then contrast that with now with uberPOOL, a driver can be getting paid just 80 cents for a ride, and all the sudden you have these people who mightve been taking the bus, and now all the sudden theyre your boss for 80 cents and you better hop to and do what they say with a smile, or youre going to get a 1 star rating, if not [physically] assaulted in some cases.

That strikes at a core tenet of Ubers case that it provides a far-superior taxi service. Violent incidents, for example, involving drivers and passengers have popped up timeandagain against a backdrop of the companys campaign to prevent it from having to subject prospective drivers to extensive fingerprint background checks. Really, what is an Uber but a taxi with a smartphone app? Even then, taxi services have launched apps of their own.

Customers want to get from A to B quickly, pleasantly, and at a reasonable price, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigans Ross School of Business. The Uber thing worked because it was cheaper and, initially, it was more pleasant than the typical taxi. So thats why it worked. But people dont have loyalty to Uber, not even the drivers. The drivers tend to drive for both Uber and Lyft, its chief competitor and a company with a remarkably more cuddly public image, albeit one that is probably not deserved.

But its the driver classification as contractors thats routinely staked out as potentially devastating for Uber. A $100 million settlement for a high-profile federal class-action suit over driver classification was denied last year, but the judge in the case believes Uber has enough wiggle room to readjust and still survive, despite the companys insistence that it would have to wholly restructure its operations. While that case remains pending, more suits over the driver classification have continued to emerge.

If you lose a case in a statethe state asserts theyre employees for state lawit would encourage other states to file lawsuits, but you only lose state by state, Gordon said. If you lose it at the federal level theyre in huge trouble.

The part-time model can last forever, he continued. But with drivers doing this more or less full time, he said, Something has to change; the price of the rides has to change… And if what changes is these people end up being employees, then I think the whole house falls down.

Its not just Uber drivers who feel downtrodden. A widely-circulated essay published last week by a former engineer described a series of incidents that painted the companys headquarters as a space that fostered repeated, systemic sexual harassment.

The essay by Susan Fowler Rigetti alleged that her former boss, for instance, solicited her for sex.

On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasnt. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldnt help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

When Fowler Rigetti engaged with HR, she said, they responded that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this mans first offense … he was a high performer. Translation: Nothing would happen to him.

Kalanick immediately issued a statement that what Fowler Rigetti described is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. He added that it was the first time hed learned of the allegations. An investigation was ordered, and Uber hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct the internal probe.

But Silicon Valley is a small place, where high-profile talent bounce around companies on a regular basis. People talk. For Uber, the damage may have already been done.

I think this could definitely take a toll, said one former Uber exec who requested anonymity, adding: Its going to be difficult to continue to recruit the best and brightest talent.

Fowler Rigetti claims Uber had a game-of-thrones political war ranging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. Managers and peers duked it out, she said, while some attempted to undermine their direct supervisors with the intention of taking their job.

The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right, she said. The discontent and disorder at Uber HQ that she describes doesnt lend credence to the idea that its facilitating a decent work environment to succeed going forward.

In late November, the financial blog Naked Capitalism published the first of a series of pieces by transportation industry analyst Hubert Horan on the financial viability of Uber. The posts asked a simple question: Can Uber Ever Deliver? According to Horan, based on a significant amount of data on the companys finances that has been released, the answer is no.

Horan argues that, in order for Uber to prove that its domination of the taxi industry will improve overall economic welfare, it would have to earn sustainable profits; provide service at a significantly lower cost; create new competitive advantages through major product redesigns and technology/process innovations; and, eventually, be incentivized to pass on its efficiency gains to consumers.

This hinges on an autonomous driving fleet. Despite optimistic overtures from automakers and self-driving car start-ups, the likelihood of that coming to fruition, if ever, is decades away. Ford has an optimistic plan to roll out fully-autonomous cars by 2021, for example, but they would be limited to use in a geo-fenced area.

Kalanick himself has said the development of self-driving cars is existential to Uber. Labor drives up operating costs; removing 160,000 drivers from the equation makes it a lot easier to balance the books. Though Uber has a reported $11 billion war chest stowed away, by burning through billions at a rapid clip, the path and timeline to becoming a driverless car company however that would materialize is muddled.

Even then, Ubers likelihood of success appears slim.

If you put driverless cars totally aside, the near-term future of Uber is the question of whether they could succeed in establishing a reasonably secure quasi-monopoly position in the United States and other large developed country markets before the cash runs out, Horan said in an email to Jalopnik. This is certainly possible but by no means certain. If yes, cash flow would improve considerably. If no, cash flow problems could get worse as the world becomes increasingly aware that it will never generate sustainable profits in its core business. Kalanick said that Uber had an existential need to succeed in driverless cars. This suggests his optimism about taxi profitability is not what it used to be. And at the rate its going, Uber could crash and burn through its stockpile of cash by the end of the decade.

Like a lot of Silicon Valley companies, Uber has survived on the backs of wealthy investors that have propped it up, despite eye-popping losses for several years. Horans analysis found that Uber has maintained operating losses of $2 billion a year, surpassing any start-up in history, with a negative 143 percent profit margin. Thus Ubers current operations depend on $2 billion in subsidies, funded out of the $13 billion in cash its investors have provided, he wrote.

Further, Horan found that Uber passengers fares only covered 41 percent of the actual trip cost, suggesting it charges far-too little for fares. Even public transit systems, long lambasted for being money-losing ventures, perform better: for instance, fare revenue for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which serves the nations capital, accounts for 47 percent of its operating costs.

Uber … was using these massive [investor] subsidies to undercut the fares and provide more capacity than the competitors who had to cover 100 percent of their costs out of passenger fares, Horan wrote.

If a monopoly is the key to success, its hard to figure how Uber can achieve total dominance. In the third quarter of 2016, for instance, Uber lost $800 million, according to The Information, a tech news site. Its chief rival, Lyft, is backed by General Motors and recently secured market share gains against Uber in significant U.S. markets, the site said, adding that Lyfts continued relevance in the U.S. has changed the math for Uber in terms how much it projected it could profit from developed markets in the next few years.

Steven Hill, a former fellow at the New America Foundation think tank, who has regularly criticized Uber, said the company has been successful only because taxi service has kind of sucked.

I think ride-sharing may survive, but Uber may not, said Hill, who published a book on the so-called gig economy called Raw Deal: How The Uber Economy Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers.

Because the other thing thats really bedeviling Uber: instead of just focusing on being a good taxi company for the digital age finding the way, a sweet spot, to make that work, its blowing all sots of money [on] self driving-cars and China and now India. The company just so much reflects the megalomania of Travis Kalanick and whatever he thinks hes doing.

I mean, seven out of 10 silicon valley startups fail, Hill went on. Theyre producing a product or service that no one necessarily wants to buy at the cost you can produce it for. Capitalism 101, right? So thats what were seeing with Uber. At this moment, it does not appear that Uber is able to produce a service that customers will pay enough more to make it sustainable.

Its unclear in what markets Uber may be turning a profit, if any at all. The company reportedly said it wanted to achieve profitability in the second quarter of 2016, and it claimed at the time it had reached that goal in the U.S. and Canada. But by December, according to Bloomberg, Uber was losing money again in the U.S., to the tune of $100 million per year.

Its also striking that Uber tapped Wall Street banks for a billion dollar loan by convincing several financial institutions to focus only on its nearly $70 billion valuation, and not operating losses in certain markets. According to Reuters, regulators at the Financial Reserve were bothered by the loan because the banks carved out Ubers more mature operations from the rest of the business.

Thats a vague statement, but Reuters said the regulators scrutiny was not a surprise because it is rare for young, unprofitable technology firms to tap the leveraged loan market which is traditionally restricted to companies with long histories of generating cash. (The reserve declined to release any documents related to the loan in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, saying: Such information, including any statement confirming or denying that any such information exists, would constitute a disclosure of confidential supervisory information and thereby was exempt from public release.)

Again, its commonplace for venture capitalists and early stage investors to fund operating deficits. The belief is that the company is going to grow fast enough and that, with enough growth, its going to turn profitable, and its going to turn highly profitable, said Gordon, the University of Michigan business professor.

A common comparison to describe Ubers approach is Amazon, which lost money consistently over the first several years of its existence. As Horan notes, however, Amazons worst losses were $1.4 billion in its fifth year of operations, but shrank rapidly thereafter, while Ubers losses have been steadily growing and will be over $3 billion in its seventh year.

The problem with Uber, Horan argued, is that it doesnt have a powerful economy of scale that is, the savings in cost that are produced when production increases, particularly through fixed costs being spread out. Unlike Amazon, which had significant fixed costs, Horan said that 85 percent of Ubers costs are variable.

Uber cannot expand into new markets at very low cost since it faces unique driver recruitment, political lobbying and competitive marketing challenges in each city, Horan said.

Gordon said thats why the typical approach by venture capitalists with Uber probably wont work.

They dont have an economy of scale, he said. So, every day, venture capitalists fund loss-making companies, but not one [with] a model you cant see how its going to flip twice as many rides that you keep losing money on. Youre not going to start making twice as much money because youre doing twice as much rides. Its not like a factory [with fixed costs].

Maybe Kalanick knows something we all dont. Maybe Uber has a secret team of genius scientists wholl surpass all expectations of driverless cars and, somehow, have a fully-automated fleet of vehicles for the company to use everywhere within a few years. Maybe billionaire investors are actually fine with propping up a money-losing venture into perpetuity.

But until Uber can prove it has found a sustainable modelor, perhaps, stop the investor leaks of its financialstheres little to suggest it has the bandwidth to survive. Whether its sold, drastically shrinks its market footprint, or just outright shutters, its untenable for Uber to exist long term as the tech juggernaut it is today.

Kalanick has pushed an enterprise on little more than a grandiose bet: that Uber could exist on a playing field of its own with few regulations, carving a path to financial salvation by dominating the taxi market simply through the sheer force of investors with bottomless pockets. It isnt working.

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Uber Is Doomed – Jalopnik

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Jim Brown, new Ayn Rand Institute CEO: ‘Culture and society out there can look pretty irrational. Just look at the … – Los Angeles Times

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:44 am

The Orange County-based Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), founded in Los Angeles in 1985 to advance the writer’s philosophy of objectivism, recently announced that Jim Brown has taken over as the new chief executive officer.

The nonprofit organization, which moved to Irvine in June 2002, distributes free books to teachers, sponsors cash-prize essay contests for high school and college students and offers free online courses for adults. It was founded by longtime Orange County resident Leonard Peikoff, the author and philosophy professor whom Rand, who died in 1982, chose as her heir.

The Russian-born writer escaped Soviet Russia, came to America and lived in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, writing screenplays, a Broadway play and nonfiction works on epistemology which to Rand was the study of how humans acquire knowledge art and ethics. Her best-known novels include “Anthem,” “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” which depicts a dystopian U.S. where thinkers and creators go on strike when confronted with aggressive new regulations.

“Atlas Shrugged” was not critically well received when it was published in 1957, but it became a best-seller and later a rallying cry for the tea party movement.

In 1962, Rand was asked to write a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times. Her first was a brief introduction to objectivism. She described it as objective reality in metaphysics, reason in epistemology, self-interest in ethics and capitalism in politics.

In a 1959 TV interview, according to BBC News, Rand had offered this explanation: Man’s “highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness and that he must not force other people, nor accept their right to force him, that each man must live as an end in himself and follow his own rational self-interest.”

In 1985, Michael S. Berliner, then the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, attempted to clarify what he considered a misconception that Rand’s philosophy gave rise to or was somehow associated with libertarianism. He explained that she “thoroughly repudiated libertarianism and the anarchism that dominates that movement.”

“Objectivism stands for reason, rational self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism, including absolute individual rights,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times. “It is a systematic, integrated view of existence, in direct contrast to the anti-philosophic, subjectivist approach of the libertarians. Having no interest in fundamental principles, libertarians make common cause with anyone, including terrorists, opposed to government, especially the United States government,” he wrote.

With the naming of Brown, the institute has deviated from its two previous leaders, who were academics. In a statement, ARI referred to his 30-year finance career and military service in the U.S. Air Force.

Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the United States Air Force Academy and an MBA from Harvard Business School, it said.

The husband, father and retired chartered financial analyst was interviewed at his new office in Irvine.

Below are excerpts from the conversation.

Weekend: Do you have a favorite lecture by Ayn Rand?

Brown: I do because it’s the only one I ever saw in person. In 1977, I saw [Ayn Rand deliver her talk] “Global Balkanization” at the Ford Hall Forum [a lecture series at Northeastern University from 1961 to 1998] in Boston. I walked in and [former Federal Reserve Board Chairman] Alan Greenspan was sitting on the floor playing chess with someone in the foyer. By then, he’d been on President Ford’s Council of Economic Advisers, so even then he was famous. Of course, when Ayn Rand came up this little, tiny woman with this heavy Russian accent it was amazing. I’ve reread that talk a few times. This is the essay in which she talked about classifying people according to ethnicity or arbitrary racial classifications, and she systematically demolishes it as any type of rational thinking at all. The Q and A was interesting too. She was so clear on what she wanted to say in answer to every question.

Weekend: How can the Ayn Rand Institute improve?

Brown: We have to get the ideas out and we have challenges in that area including resistance in the culture. I don’t have to remind anyone reading this that the culture and society out there can look pretty irrational. Just look at the last election. But that’s not the biggest obstacle to our success. I think the biggest obstacle to our success is right here in the objectivist movement. Sometimes, we can’t get out of our own way.

So the room for improvement is what we can change about our movement. How can we make the movement more effective? I really believe strongly and we are starting to develop this idea here at the Institute that we need to develop a sense of community among objectivists. And that can only begin here at the Ayn Rand Institute. If we are going to try to help foster and develop this, it has to start here. We want to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, objectivism. That is what we are about. So we have to give people something of value, probably over a period of years, before we can expect to have earned their support. Just like Say’s Law in economics, you have to produce before you can profit. That is what I think we’re doing: We’re investing in people’s minds, persuasion and in the influence of a philosophy that’s a gift to the world in my view. When we have done that, we can hope and expect that they will support us because we will have earned it.

Weekend: What’s your favorite work by Ayn Rand Institute founder Leonard Peikoff?

Brown: For comprehensive understanding, “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.” For sheer pleasure, [the audio lecture course] “Eight Great Plays.” I love it. For immediate impact on my life, his objective communication course is excellent. I still use “motivation, structure, concretize, delimit” everywhere I go.

Weekend: Which Ayn Rand book is the most effective in reaching the reader?

Brown: “Atlas Shrugged.” There are a lot of ways you could measure what’s most effective, but the way I interpret your question is which Ayn Rand book has the biggest impact on the maximum number of people, and it has to be “Atlas Shrugged.” Everyone’s talking about “Atlas Shrugged.”

Weekend: Businessmen are depicted as villains not just as heroes in “Atlas Shrugged.” Can you name three businessmen who are like villains in today’s mixed economy?

Brown: If you look at [Ayn Rand’s] “The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy,” she talks about the money-making mentality and the moneymaker versus the money appropriator. [ Rand] also states in there, pretty explicitly, that there’s often a combination and a mix. That’s the way I think of most of today’s businessmen. It’s difficult to evaluate in today’s mixed economy who’s the moneymaker and who’s the money appropriator. For example, I’d put [GE Chairman and CEO] Jeffrey Immelt as more of an appropriator, though he’s undoubtedly a talented businessman. I’d put [Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO] Rex Tillerson along the lines of the moneymaker, besides obvious ones such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and probably Jeff Bezos.

Weekend: Is there a single quality that you acquired during your military aviation career that uniquely applies to your new role as CEO?

Brown: The first thing that comes to mind is an appreciation for working cooperatively and collaborating with people. If you have a big air crew, you can’t just be the boss and make commands. You’re in charge and you can’t just tell people what to do if you want to get some new programs done or you’re trying to move classes through administration to train 500 pilots a year. You have to give people responsibilities, have them commit to their responsibilities and own it. If you can get people to own their responsibilities, then reporting to you is a cooperative venture, not a command-and-control venture. I really learned that in spades as a flight commander and as a squadron commander when I was training pilots.

Weekend: What is the Ayn Rand Institute’s greatest success in its 32-year mission to advance objectivism?

Brown: Getting Ayn Rand’s books specifically her fiction into people’s hands.

Weekend: How do you guard your leadership against sycophants in favor of people who might be more willing to tell you and ARI what they think you might not want to hear?

Brown: That’s a very good question. It’s a reason for collaboration. You only get sycophants if you’re an authoritarian, because you can’t spot them if you’re an authoritarian.

Weekend: What is the most misunderstood part of objectivism?

Brown: I think it’s this notion of objectivists as righteously selfish people who are mean-spirited, unconcerned and unloving. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Weekend: How will you know you’ve succeeded at ARI?

Brown: The first successful milestone that I would really take pride in is when people say that the Ayn Rand Institute is a wonderful place to work.

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Jim Brown, new Ayn Rand Institute CEO: ‘Culture and society out there can look pretty irrational. Just look at the … – Los Angeles Times

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Right Turn: Q&A with gay Republican Anthony Rek LeCounte – Metro Weekly

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:47 am

Anthony Rek LeCounte Photo: Julian Vankim

Coming out as gay now is the easiest thing in the world, says Anthony Rek LeCounte. No one has a problem with it, especially in D.C.

Coming out as Republican? Not so much.

Ill often find myself trying to talk around my political views in conversations with folks in D.C. or in New York or New Haven, in ways Im much less likely to do when it comes to my being gay, says the 27-year old Arlington resident and board member of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans. Its harder navigating the question of, When do you make the reveal that youre a Republican and how do you squeeze that in there?’

Thats not to say that coming out gay was simple for LeCounte, who was raised in a close-knit conservative military family by devout evangelical parents. His father, an Army officer, is also an ordained minister. Despite their religious beliefs, his parents eventually came to accept his sexual orientation, as well as his relationship with his boyfriend.

My parents are conservative Christians, says LeCounte. Theyre still not going to be going to any gay pride parades or anything like that. I dont see them joining PFLAG or anything. I dont know how they square what their thoughts on my being gay are with the church. Im under the impression they think its a sin, but Im not actually sure. Theyre working through that their own way, and as long as our relationship continues to be warm, Im happy to let them develop as they will.

The oldest of four children, LeCounte spent his childhood moving to various army bases: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, even Germany. The constant moving forced him to learn how to adapt to new situations and make new friends quickly. Its a skill LeCounte has carried into adulthood, charming people with his outgoing nature, intelligence, and warm Southern drawl.

Given his familys conservative background, its not surprising that LeCounte eventually gravitated to the Republican Party. Whats also not surprising particularly in our current political climate is that people often take issue with the fact that hes a Republican who happens to be both gay and African-American.

Ive had a number of folks make crazy remarks at bars or on Facebook. A number of people have defriended me because of it, he says. I had an acquaintance who I ran into at a bar, and we chatted for a little bit. Later, he texted me and said something to the effect of Id forgotten you were a Log Cabin Republican, and like theres nothing more disgusting to me than a Log Cabin Republican. And I responded, Okay, well, you have a good night, too.’

LeCounte points out that Log Cabin hasnt gotten the credit it deserves for working within the GOP to advance LGBTQ rights.

A lot of folks dont realize, for example, that the lawsuit that led to the repeal of Dont Ask, Dont Tell, was a Log Cabin lawsuit, he says. Or that the Log Cabin Republicans submitted a white paper to the Trump administration about the executive order. [National Log Cabin President] Gregory Angelo has been in constant consultation with folks on the transition team, and later, in the administration, and has a bunch of them on speed dial. Were making progress behind the scenes. We are getting folks who agree with us. We are turning the tide on a lot of LGBT rights issues from a Republican perspective.

Asked why the organization he belongs to hasnt gotten a fair shake, LeCounte targets the staff at some national LGBTQ organizations.

Theres a saying in politics that personnel is policy,’ he says. A lot of these nonpartisan groups are staffed by aggressively left-wing progressive folks who, even if their organization say, We believe X, Y, and Z, have their own biases which then affect their decisions. If an LGBT candidate is pro-life, or supports gun rights, or holds a bunch of other conservative positions that run deeply counter to what the progressive movement is doing, a lot of these groups dont want to be associated with those kind of candidates. So theyll either endorse against or theyll just pretend the candidate doesnt exist.

That situation is further complicated by the two-front war Log Cabin must wage, not only against the Left, but from extreme social conservatives within the Republican Party, who wear hostility towards the LGBTQ community as a badge of honor. LeCounte believes that they are a dwindling minority, even within the GOP.

Theres the sense now that the mainstream of America is pro-LGBT, and therefore, the party needs to, at the very least look like its moving in that direction. Even if theres still some policy disputes, he says. So a lot of the rank-and-file Republicans find in Log Cabin a way to reach out directly to the LGBT community, or at the very least, ways to be and seem more inclusive.

Although LeCounte was not a Trump supporter in last years election he felt Trump was insufficiently conservative he is keeping an open mind when it comes to policy, preferring to score the presidents job performance on an issue-by-issue basis.

He is concerned, however, about the highly partisan nature of politics in Washington that threatens to keep Trump supporters and opponents in separate silos.

I think theres a mutually reinforcing epistemic closure where President Trump isnt talking to a lot of the folks who could probably help him policy wise, he says. And a lot of those people arent willing to help because apparently even just sitting on his economic counsel is grounds for people to boycott your company. He points to the recent boycott of Uber, believed to be friendly to the Trump administration until it pulled away.

I think Trump would probably be more amenable to hearing some criticism and changing his mind about things, if there were a sense that it was being offered as constructive criticism, LeCounte says. We need folks who are Democrats or libertarian or even nonpartisan being willing to work with the administration to offer better ideas, good ideas, course corrections, and to do it from a place where theyre willing to say, Yeah, Im working with the administration to do this. Im going to own part of this, too. This is a team effort.’

METRO WEEKLY: When did you first realize you were a conservative Republican?

ANTHONY REK LECOUNTE: When I was in high school, I was Democrat, but I was a pretty conservative one, because I was an evangelical Christian. I actually used to listen to Christian talk radio on my way to and from school. I listened to Focus on the Family with James Dobson and some other conservative talk radio, so I always had Christian conservative-style views.

Then, I kind of swung hard libertarian. I read half of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I went into college as this libertarian democrat, and then swung pretty hard left because of Yale.

MW: What about Yale changed your views, particularly if Atlas Shrugged appealed to you?

LECOUNTE: The social aspect of college. I was surrounded all the time by people who were just incredibly far left, and left in a way that I had never really experienced before. Growing up, a Democrat was a Mark Warner-style Democrat, or a Joe Manchin, or a Bill Nelson. Liberals were not that liberal. Especially in the military. Views in the military run the gamut, but all the Democrats were much more like working-class Democrats. When I went to Yale, everyone was aggressive, Marx-reading social Democrats, quoting Europe or citing Europe for every policy.

I started to realize that, on a lot of things, I was kind of out of sync. It gradually reached a crescendo by senior year when I realized that I was skeptical of a lot of the policy goals [of liberals]. The entire social justice movement made me uneasy. Identity politics has always made me uncomfortable and has always struck me as everything thats wrong with politics, and so that was a source of friction.

Then the Tea Party rose up, and I remember having conversations where Id say, Some of the stuff theyre saying, they have a point, or Some of the criticisms youre launching are just really unfair for these folks. While that was happening, my conservative friends were increasing in number and I was having more conversations with them. They were having me look at other sources of information. I started reading stuff like National Review, and Heritage this was before The Daily Signal CATO, and Reason, and I started seeing alternate points of view that started making a lot of sense.

In 2012, I realized, Holy crap. I think Im Republican. So I made the switch, went out and volunteered for Mitt Romney, voted for Mitt Romney, and got my job in right-leaning politics, and it was off to the races from there.

[callout]Read: LGBTQ Letters to President Trump[/callout]

MW: Do you feel your military upbringing influenced your political leanings?

LECOUNTE: Certainly. The military is a very right-leaning community, but not necessarily in the ways a lot of folks think. There is a lot of the traditional three-legged stool Republicanism you know, social conservatism, economic conservatism and foreign policy, obviously. But a lot of folks in the military are just libertarian.

A lot of that comes down to the environment youre in. If youre in the military, as a service member or a dependent, your entire life is heavily regulated by the government. Your kids go to federal government schools. You go to government doctors. A lot of times, youre doing your shopping at government stores. You see, in just about everything you do, what a command economy looks like, and its really inefficient and frustrating and limiting. It leaves a lot of folks thinking, Man, free markets are awesome.

You get this sort of libertarian atmosphere where one of the most popular bumper stickers I remember seeing was Government philosophy: If it aint broke, fix it till its broke. You say that to anyone with military experience, whether as a dependent or a service member, and theyll immediately relate and have stories for you. I feel that sort of experience really primes you for a more libertarian world view.

MW: Have you ever experienced any pushback from the African-American community because you are Republican?

LECOUNTE: The simple answer is yes. I actually got into this heated argument at a gay bar last week. A few Black Lives Matter protesters were there, and they werent protesting, just having a drink. I was there with some Republicans and they realized that we were a Republican group, so they came over to talk to us.

Initially, they were friendly. We were happy to talk to them. Then they brought up Black Lives Matter, and I had a mild disagreement about a tactical question and they flew off the handle. Within half-an-hour, one of them was shouting Youre a traitor to your race. Youre a self-hating black man. One said, I protest so that we can have fewer people like you. So I can stop people like you.

Those incidents, fortunately, dont happen too often now, but if I make a mistake and Im walking down the street in D.C. with any kind of Republican paraphernalia there will be comments. Especially in 2012, I would wear my Romney/Ryan pin and more than a few times someone on the Metro would just have very choice remarks. Every so often, they would threaten violence. On four or five different occasions, Ive almost been the victim of a hate crime for two reasons: once for being gay, and the others for being a Republican while black.

Anthony Rek LeCounte Photo: Julian Vankim

MW: Have these altercations ever turned physical?

LECOUNTE: They would have, but I managed to remove myself from the situation. Two of them were on the Metro. In one case, there was a Metro worker who wasnt inciting the incident, but was very approvingly standing by the guy who was. It was an awful situation.

Thats part of why I generally dont go around with Republican paraphernalia thats visible anymore. Nowadays, you just dont know. Its kind of par for the course. Youre used to it. Sen. Tim Scott got up and gave a speech a couple days ago about how he got all manner of invective for supporting Jeff Sessions nomination for attorney general. He read some of the tweets that folks were sending him. They were calling him a house negro, which Ive been called. Ive also been called a house faggot. Its just kind of par for the course if youre a minority Republican. There are certain comments you know youre going to get. MW: Why is that?

LECOUNTE: Because a lot of folks take politics personally. In a way that I think conservatives, like myself, try not to. Instead of just saying, Oh, this person disagrees with me. Thats interesting, a lot of folks take it as a personal affront that you disagree with them, especially if you disagree with them as a black man or a gay man or a woman.

MW: Do you expect more African-Americans to become Republicans as time goes on?

LECOUNTE: I hope so. Ive noticed that in the last couple of elections, young black voters, especially young black male voters, vote significantly more republican than older black voters, and obviously, more than black women. In 2012, for example, among young black men, a full one-fifth of them voted for Mitt Romney. I dont know what the numbers were for Trump, but its probably higher this time around. [Editors note: Only 13% of African American men voted for Trump, with just 9% of African Americans 18-29 regardless of gender voting for him. Source: Mic.]

I would expect that as a lot of those folks grow older, and as the Republican party makes more of an effort to be inclusive to black voters and actually starts to show up, you will see a lot more folks voting Republican. What that will look like and to what degree the Republican Party will capitalize on that, I have no idea. I would hope that within a few election cycles we get to a point where a Republican getting double digits of the black vote is normal and expected. And then a dam will break, because once it becomes normal to see black Republicans, it will encourage a lot of other folks to say, Hey, I dont have to be a Democrat. Then things will get interesting.

MW: As a group, LGBTQ people overwhelmingly identify as Democrat. Why do you think that is?

LECOUNTE: A lot of it comes down to historical Republican opposition to the LGBT rights movement, which is understandable. Republicans bitterly opposed same-sex marriage. Of course, Democrats did, too, but the Republicans were a little bit more enthusiastic about it. Republicans pushed a lot of the marriage amendments that are still in the constitutions of thirty-something states. Republicans, to this day, are opposing a lot of the trans rights stuff. So I think a lot of LGBT folks see Republicans as the party of the opposition to their civil rights.

There are also a lot of folks in the Republican party who are happy to take up that mantle. I think those folks are a shrinking minority of the party, but theres a lot of them, and theyre pretty loud. For that reason, a lot of LGBT folks take Democrat versus Republican very, very personally in a way that I find completely understandable.

MW: Do you feel that more LGBTQ people would become Republican if the Party stopped its opposition to our rights?

LECOUNTE: I think so. I know a lot of gay people who have conservative ideas about national defense or economic policies or various social issues that are not gay rights. I think a lot of those folks would be more willing to identify as Republican if they didnt feel that by doing so they were running counter to their interest in terms of issues like same-sex marriage or anti-discrimination laws.

MW: What do you view as the difference between being a conservative and being a Republican?

LECOUNTE: To be Republican is more of a partisan tribal kind of identification. Its This is my team, this is my coalition, Im invested in this Partys agenda, this Partys goals, this Partys candidates.

Being a conservative is more about a philosophy. Some folks are conservatives first, and theyre Republicans because that is the closest thing to a conservative. Some folks are Republicans first, and they are conservative when the Republican Partys conservative, and theyre not conservative when the Republican Partys not.

Im more of a conservative first, a libertarian-leaning conservative. And to the extent that the Republican Party is the best vehicle to promote the conservative and libertarian policy goals, thats the umbrella that I want to work within. If at some point, it somehow became the case that Democrats were much better on a lot of those issues that I care about, then I would happily support either a particular Democratic candidate or even the Democratic Party at large. For now, though, that doesnt seem to be the case.

MW: You were famously one of the Never Trump Republicans during the last campaign. Do you feel Donald Trump is a conservative, or is he just a Republican?

LECOUNTE: Well, hes definitely Republican. I think, more than anything, the president is a populist. He wants to do what the American people really want, and especially the things that they want that run counter to elite opinion.

For example, elites love trade deals. A lot of voters dont, so Trump wants to represent the voters who dont like those. Similarly, with immigration or other issues. I think his goal and the way he sees himself is to represent the folks whose voices arent usually heard. Sometimes, that veers him towards the conservative direction. He favors tax cuts and he has appointed a conservative, libertarian-leaning Supreme Court justice. But sometimes that leans in a complete other direction, like with protectionism, for example. Conservatives are generally very anti-protectionist. We dont like tariffs, and were generally very fond of trade deals.

MW: Have you changed your mind about Trump from how you viewed him during last years campaign?

LECOUNTE: I think the campaign is one thing, and the administration is another. I sort of take a similar approach to Trump that I did to President Obama. When President Trump does things I agree with, Im going to praise him, and when he does things I disagree with, Im going to oppose him. Im just taking it issue by issue, trying to influence him to do the things I support the way I would any other president.

MW: Based on what youve seen so far, do you largely agree or disagree with his actions as president?

LECOUNTE: Its a bit of a mixed bag. I think hes done some encouraging things. Hes done some frustrating things. Mostly, though, he hasnt done much yet.

MW: Whats the best thing you think hes done?

LECOUNTE: The Gorsuch pick, by a mile. Im very excited about the Gorsuch pick. That is the happiest Ive been about politics since November 2014.

MW: Whats the worst thing you think hes done?

LECOUNTE: Probably the travel ban, or whatever were calling that. I have a very Christian perspective about refugees and taking care of the victims of horrific situations around the world, especially in a situation where we had a hand in why its that bad. Seeing that translators who worked with us in Iraq who finally got their visas are now being turned away at the airport is very frustrating.

The administration does seem to be figuring out some of the things that work, and figuring out some of the things that they should be doing differently, and so I hope thats one of the things where cooler heads will prevail, but I guess well see.

MW: Do you think the LGBTQ community has been overreacting to some of the actions taken by the Trump administration?

LECOUNTE: There was an article I think it was in The Washington Post that said something to the effect of Not every Trump outrage is outrageous. I think a lot of folks are inclined to think the worst of the new administration, and so every time they hear a whiff of rumor of something awful, theyll dial it up to 11 immediately, even if the rumor was never credible or it wasnt clear where it was going to go, or whatever.

I think a more productive approach that a lot of conservatives are taking is: Relax, lets wait and see whats going to happen. Lets actually find out if this thing is actually unprecedented or if its just an ordinary thing.

MW: Do you think that people should take Trump at his word when he promises to do things like signing the First Amendment Defense Act, or fulfill other promises that hes made to social conservatives, or is that just pandering for political reasons?

LECOUNTE: I think candidate Trump was trying to get those people to feel like their concerns were heard, without necessarily giving them everything they want. Because candidate Trump made a point of saying like, Im going to be pro-LGBT. The quote was You can expect forward motion on LGBT rights in this administration.

To the extent that hes not actually done anything to undermine LGBT rights in any meaningful way maintaining the order, saying that, for him, same-sex marriage is a solved issue LGBT rights groups, as well as LGBT voters, should keep their powder dry. If he actually promoted the First Amendment Defense Act to undo the anti-discrimination laws, then thats a reason to get up in arms, but for now he doesnt seem to be pushing that at all. Im not aware of any serious push within Congress. I think that last session, they didnt even get it out of the House. Its definitely not getting out of the Senate. So its never going to get to his desk to sign or veto.

MW: How do you feel about Mike Pence?

LECOUNTE: I would love to meet him in person. He seems like he would be a very, very Midwestern guy, in the most salt-of-the-earth, folksy, down-home sort of way. I get the sense that he doesnt actually want to be controversial. When the Indiana fight happened over the original Religious Freedom Rights Act, [critics] came out and they said this is awful for these reasons. Mike Pence went back and said, All right, change the law. And they changed the law, and he signed it.

I think he doesnt get enough credit for the fact that he did call for the law to be changed and he did sign to change the law, which he didnt have to do. Again, thats something folks like [North Carolina Gov.] Pat McCrory just didnt do. That has to count for something.

MW: How do you respond to people who say, Youre young, gay, African-American, and Republican. Why are you a Republican? Do you have an elevator speech or any explanation that you would give to them?

LECOUNTE: I really should work on an elevator speech. Ive been thinking about ways to do that. Its really context-specific. Sometimes, to be honest, Ill just ignore the question if I dont feel like answering it.

But when I am in the mood to answer the question, the simple version is I am a young, black, gay man who was mugged by reality, and I dont want that to happen again. Im a guy who gets a paycheck and I want to keep more of my paycheck. Im a guy whose family is in the military, and I want to know that our militarys keeping us safe and that were looking out for our military. Im a guy whos mom was a military police officer, and I want to know that our policies around law enforcement are productive and fair for both suspects and the accused, as well as safe and fair for law enforcement.

Im a gun owner who wants to make sure that my gun rights are being protected. Im a person of faith who cares that religious liberty continues to exist in this country. Im a person who cares deeply about education policy, and I want to know that my kids, if or when I have any, will be able to go to good schools and that we will have a serious degree of choice in terms of being able to make sure theyre well-educated.

On a lot of those issues, the Republicans in general and conservatives have the right ideas about how to move forward, whereas Democrats are off in the wrong direction. Democrats are, obviously, not at all pro-gun anymore. A lot of them oppose school choice. They have various opinions about the military that Im a little bit skeptical of. While, yes, I might disagree with where the Republican Party stands on LGBT issues right now, as far as being black and young, the Republican Party has loads to offer me that I think the Democratic Party does not.

For more information about the D.C. chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, visit For information on the national chapter, visit

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Right Turn: Q&A with gay Republican Anthony Rek LeCounte – Metro Weekly

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The Narrative Gap – Huffington Post

Posted: February 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

As I am writing these words, I am experiencing, like many of you, stress, fatigue, and dismay. It’s a reaction to the deluge of lies, deceit and purposeful, vindictive chaosas Jon Stewart called itthat is being thrown our way. Its exhausting and quite disheartening to view the sad state of American democracy at this point.

Weve medicated ourselves with excessive media, narratives, and fake news, to the point that we can no longer tell truth from fiction. The vile, Fascist-Authoritarian mono-myth has reared its ugly head, spewing hatred and not caring about anyone but itself. It relies on peoples cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. Its breaking families apart, creating deliberate chaos which is, in actuality, hurting people.

Throughout this wave, I sit and ask myself, what good can come out of this?

Through my pain and sadness, I begin to think forward and ask: How do we start to build a more just and caring world?

My solace in the past few months is the groundswell and the Rise of the #Resistance, and the #Stand people are taking. Not only against the Authoritarian regime, but as a stand for a kind humanity, a real democracy, and a flourishing planet.

People are mobilizing, organizing, coming together, and bringing in their unique genius to power this movement of solidarity. People are finding their calling, meaning, and power in activism. We are all called to be activists and bring our unique voice to the rising of the people.

It feels like we are starting to bridge the Narrative Gap of the progressive and liberal movements.

I see the idea of the Narrative Gap as part of the predicament of all times – but especially of our age.

We have no shared reality with our fellow humans. We are disembodied, immature people, finally waking up for the first time. We are looking for a new human narrative and coming to the Collective Journey as a new evolutionary moment of our human story.I have written extensively about the Collective Journey – you can read more here! But, in essence:

Integral thought refers to a range of philosophies and teachings that seek a synthesis of science and spiritual ideas to attain insight into the nature of the universe. Luminaries of the Integral Thought Movement offer an excellent framework for the spiritual-psychological-societal evolution a human can have with their model of:

Wake Up > Grow Up > Clean up > Show Up.

The process goes something like this: the experience of a person’s waking up moment is a lot like Neo waking up from the Matrix. Usually, this is a messy experience, similar to the sewers where Morpheus picks up Neo. As we get our bearings in our new woke experience, we start growing up as a well-rounded, mature human being. Cleaning Up is what we do when we clean up our act by practicing respect and accountability. We begin to take responsibility for our actions and practice respect to ourselves, our fellow human and the planet as a whole. As we move through this spiral of growing, we get to show up as our highest selves. We work in service to the Collective and ourselves. This is the idea of being in a superpositioned state, which I introduced in the Collective Journey Part 1: The idea of operating from the individual perspective while being part of a collective, and the seamless behavior we are starting to experience as we lead lives online and offlinealmost at the same time.

The Collective Journey comes into being when: Mature, woke, empowered humans start coming together. They bring their unique voices and are acknowledged by others.

I see a huge difference between an actual Collective Journey and Collectivism.

One can find the Collective Journey in geopolitical and social movements. Some examples are: Standing Rock, Our Revolution, environmental groups and the Cleantech industry, social justice and social entrepreneurship.These groups and others like them aim to support everyones quality of life. They look at what makes a world work for all people.

The other groups that are showing up en masse represent that dark side of Collectivism. They possess a StarTrek Borg-like mentality of unification. These are the alt-right narratives that are forming globally, the anti-intellectualism and climate-deniers. All weaving false and hateful stories under a singular idea.

This myopic approach is the antithesis of the multi-thread, multi-POV, and complex system approach of the Collective Journey. This concept of collectivism has brought us totalitarian regimes. It’s fuelled by the selfishness of Neo-liberalism, toting Ayn Randian-beliefs of glorified self-interest. These are morally bankrupt humans who seek to unify ideas and race with hate.

It is interesting to me how the light and dark sides of these ideas can form. The NeoLiberal philosophy holds two tenets of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism as its highest ideals. Self-Interest and Capitalism-promoting individualism. It forgoes the two other tenants of Reason and Reality. It embraces the Mono-Myth of Nationalism as a totalitarian concept. It also uses the new and old archetypes for minorities and race. To that it adds a newly adopted concept of the snowflake, as a derogatory term for liberals and progressives:

Calling someone a snowflake combines every single thing a college freshman loves: trolling people on the Internet, a self-satisfied sense of the superiority of ones own impeccable powers of reasoning, and Fight Club. Nineteen-year-olds around the nation read Atlas Shrugged and then watch Brad Pitt wax poetic about how real masculinity means getting to punch Jared Leto in the face, and now feel enlightened. – GQ – DANA SCHWARTZ – Why Trump Supporters Love Calling People “Snowflakes

The interesting thing is the origin of this term, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary: In Missouri in the early 1860s, a ‘snowflake’ was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slaverythe implication of the name being that such people valued white people over black people. This use seems not to have endured. In affect, its use today is the opposite of its origins.

Derogatory names are a telling indicator of being immature. The tenets of the Collective Journey look at woke and mature human beings, coming together from a stance of empowerment. This empowerment does not come from belittling others, it comes from individuals doing their own personal growth work. When they show up as part of the collective, they come to support and collaboratenot compete and fight.

How do we move from a linear point of view to the emergent complex system? How do we evolve from the authoritarian Mono-myth into the collective journey?

Bigger, complex, diverse, and pluralistic narratives, are becoming part of the global narrative. It has its roots in many movements of the past. You can find its origins in the Summer of Love, the Civil Rights Movement, the Womens Liberation and all the way back to the Abolitionist Movement. In recent years this narrative showed up in Occupy Wall Street, Our Revolution, Standing Rock and now the Womens March on Washington. It’s appearing in the breathtaking plethora of #Resistance movements that are happening globally. They are all using every digital and physical platform to bring forth their stories. From social media, video, to marching and rallying in the streets, the narratives that are being created are multiplatform and have diverse perspectives.

How do we use the Collective Journey as a blueprint to build a strong future?

The architect and futurist, Buckminster Fuller, patented and coined the term “Geodesic Domes. These were a lattice of intersecting icosahedrons and were extremely strong for their weight.

“I did not set out to design a geodesic dome,” Fuller once said, “I set out to discover the principles operative in Universe. For all I knew, this could have led to a pair of flying slippers.” Fuller believed that by observing nature, we can tap into its exquisite design.

The Buckminsterfullerene molecule was discovered at Rice University by Harold Kroto, Robert Curl, James R. Heath, Richard Smalley and Sean OBrien in 1985. It is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula C60. It has a cage-like fused-ring structure (truncated icosahedron) which resembles a football (soccer ball), made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons, with a carbon atom at each vertex of each polygon and a bond along each polygon edge. Wikipedia. The scientists who discovered it named it in honor of Buckminster Fuller and his vision.

I would like to introduce a metaphor that will evolve my original model for the Collective Journey. My initial design is in the diagram below.

This model is likened to a cross section you get of a tree when you want to examine its circles. You know the tree is a far more complex system – but from that vantage point, the tree appears to be two dimensional. So is the Collective Journey suggested model above. It is but a glimpse into a complex, emergent and ever-evolving system. The Collective Journey in its three-dimensional form might resemble the Buckminsterfullerene molecule.

Below are a few anecdotes about the Buckminsterfullerene molecule. These can be of use in making it a great metaphorical candidate for the evolved model of the Collective Journey:

Fuller looked at complex systems of nature and how everything in nature collaborates . He mused that this structure, which symbolizes complexity and strength would appear in nature. He was proven when the molecule was discovered in 1985.

Each node on the molecule is critical to its strength and structure – so is every voice coming into the collective. Each node is unique and vitalTogether weaving a powerful structure.

The narrative that is created is networked, porous, multi-platformed, diverse and emergent. The archetypes that show up are multifaceted and ever-evolving. Like Fuller, if we observe our narratives as being part of nature, we will view them from the complex systems perspective.

For our species to survive and evolve beyond these troubled times, we need to take a longer view of evolution. We need to start looking at our Collective Journey as the next phase of our planetary society. We need to gain the Cosmic Perspective. The perspective that views our place in the universe as the speck of dust we are. We need to cultivate the awe of the grandeur of the universe.


Carl Sagan, one of my favorite thinkers and scientists, gave us one of the first vistas into our place in the universe, by suggesting the crew that was piloting the distant satellite, Voyager 1, rotate and take an image of our solar system, as it exited in 1990.

His reflections of this picture were immortalized in Pale Blue Dot. At times like these, I hold on to these words almost as scripture. I practice looking at the longer perspective of our species and our planet. I actually hope we finally show up as the evolved species we have the potential to become:

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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Why Ayn Rand Would Have Opposed Donald Trump – PanAm Post

Posted: February 13, 2017 at 9:49 am

After Donald Trump announced a number of cabinet picks who happen to be fans of Ayn Rand, a flurry of articles appeared claiming that Trump intended to create an Objectivist cabal within his administration.

Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his cabinet with fellow Objectivists, proclaimed one article. Would that it were so. The novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was a passionate champion of individual freedom and laissez-faire capitalism and a fierce opponent of authoritarianism. For her, government exists solely to protect our rights, not to meddle in the economy or to direct our private lives.

A president who truly understood Rands philosophy would not be cozying up to Putin, bullying companies to keep manufacturing plants in the United States, or promising insurance for everybody among many other things Trump has said and done.

And while its certainly welcome news that several of Trumps cabinet picks admire Rand, its not surprising. Her novel Atlas Shrugged depicts a world in decline as it slowly strangles its most productive members. The novel celebrates the intelligent and creative individuals who produce wealth, many of whom are businessmen. So it makes sense that businessmen like Rex Tillerson and Andy Puzder would be among the novels millions of fans.

But a handful of fans in the administration hardly signals that Trumps would be an Ayn Rand administration. The claims about Rands influence in the administration are vastly overblown.

Even so, there is at least one parallel we can draw between a Trump administration and Rands novels, although its not favorable to Trump. As a businessman and a politician, Trump epitomizes a phenomenon that Rand harshly criticized throughout her career, especially in Atlas Shrugged. Rand called it pull peddling. The popular term today is cronyism. But the phenomenon is the same: attempting to succeed, not through production and trade, but by trading influence and favors with politicians and bureaucrats.

Cronyism has been a big issue in recent years among many thinkers and politicians on the Right, who have criticized big government because it often favors some groups and individuals over others or picks winners and losers.

Commentators on the Left, too, often complain about influence peddling, money in politics, and special interests, all of which are offered as hallmarks of corruption in government. And by all indications, Trump was elected in part because he was somehow seen as a political outsider who will drain the swamp.

But as the vague phrase drain the swamp shows, theres a lot more concern over cronyism, corruption, and related issues than there is clarity about what the problem actually is and how to solve it.

Ayn Rand had unique and clarifying views on the subject. With Trump in office, the problem she identified is going to get worse. Rands birthday is a good time to review her unique explanation of, and cure for, the problem.

The first question we need to be clear about is: What, exactly, is the problem were trying to solve? Drain the swamp, throw the bums out, clean up Washington, outsiders vs. insiders these are all platitudes that can mean almost anything to anyone.

Are lobbyists the problem? Trump and his advisers seem to think so. Theyve vowed to keep lobbyists out of the administration, and Trump has signed an order forbidding all members of his administration from lobbying for 5 years.

Its not clear whether these plans will succeed, but why should we care? Lobbyists are individuals hired to represent others with business before government. We might lament the existence of this profession, but blaming lobbyists for lobbying is like blaming lawyers for lawsuits. Everyone seems to complain about them right up until the moment that they want one.

The same goes for complaints about the clients of lobbyists the hated special interests. Presidents since at least Teddy Roosevelt have vowed to run them out of Washington yet, today, interest groups abound. Some lobby for higher taxes, some for lower taxes. Some lobby for more entitlements, some for fewer or for more fiscal responsibility in entitlement programs. Some lobby for business, some for labor, some for more regulations on both. Some lobby for freer trade, some for trade restrictions. The list goes on and on. Are they all bad?

The question we should ask is, Why do people organize into interest groups and lobby government in the first place?

The popular answer among free-market advocates is that government has too much to offer, which creates an incentive for people to tap their cronies in government to ensure that government offers it to them. Shrink government, the argument goes, and we will solve the problem.

Veronique de Rugy, senior fellow at the Mercatus Center, describes cronyism in these terms:

This is how cronyism works: A company wants a special privilege from the government in exchange for political support in future elections. If the company is wealthy enough or is backed by powerful-enough interest groups, the company will get its way and politicians will get another private-sector ally. The few cronies win at the expense of everyone else.

(Another term for this is rent seeking, and many other people define it roughly the same way.)

Theres a lot of truth to this view. Our bloated government has vast power over our lives and trillions of dollars worth of favors to dole out, and a seemingly endless stream of people and groups clamor to win those favors. As a lawyer who opposes campaign finance laws, Ive often said that the problem is not that money controls politics, its that politics controls money and property, and business, and much of our private lives as well.

Still, we need to be more precise. Favors, benefits, and privileges are too vague a way to describe what government has to offer. Among other things, these terms just raise another question: Which benefits, favors, or privileges should government offer? Indeed, many people have asked that question of cronyisms critics. Heres how the Los Angeles Times put it in an editorial responding to the effort by some Republicans to shut down the Export-Import Bank:

Governments regularly intervene in markets in the name of public safety, economic growth or consumer protection, drawing squawks of protest whenever one interest is advanced at the expense of others. But a policy thats outrageous to one faction for example, the government subsidies for wind, solar and battery power that have drawn fire on the right may in fact be a welcome effort to achieve an important societal objective.

Its a valid point. Without a way to tell what government should and should not do, whose interests it should or should not serve, complaints about cronyism look like little more than partisan politics. When government favors the groups or policies you like, thats good government in action. When it doesnt, thats cronyism.

In Rands view, there is a serious problem to criticize, but few free-market advocates are clear about exactly what it is. Simply put, the problem is the misuse of the power that government possesses, which is force. Government is the institution that possesses a legal monopoly on the use of force.

The question we need to grapple with is, how should it use that power?

Using terms like favors, privileges, and benefits to describe what government is doing when cronyism occurs is not just too vague, its far too benign. These terms obscure the fact that what people are competing for when they engage in cronyism is the privilege of legally using force to take what others have earned or to prevent them from contracting or associating with others. When groups lobby for entitlements whether its more social security or Medicare or subsidies for businesses they are essentially asking government to take that money by force from taxpayers who earned it and to give it to someone else. Call it what you want, but it ultimately amounts to stealing.

When individuals in a given profession lobby for occupational licensing laws, they are asking government to grant a select group of people a kind of monopoly status that prevents others who dont meet their standards from competing with them that is, from contracting with willing customers to do business.

These are just two examples of how government takes money and property or prevents individuals from voluntarily dealing with one another. There are many, many more. Both Democrats and Republicans favor these sorts of laws and willingly participate in a system in which trading on this power has become commonplace.

Rent seeking doesnt capture what is really going on. Neither, really, does cronyism. Theyre both too tame.

A far better term is the one used by nineteenth-century French economist Frederic Bastiat: legal plunder. Rand uses the term political pull to describe those who succeed by convincing friends in government to use the law to plunder others or to prevent them from competing.

And she uses the phrase the Aristocracy of Pull, which is the title of a whole chapter in Atlas Shrugged, to describe a society in which political pull, rather than production and trade, has become the rule. Its a society that resembles feudalism, in which people compete to gain the favor of government officials in much the same way that people in feudal times competed for the favor of the king so they could use that power to rule over one another and plunder as they pleased.

The cause, for Rand, is not the size of government, but what we allow it to do. When we allow government to use the force it possesses to go beyond protecting our rights, we arm individuals to plunder one another and turn what would otherwise be limited instances of corruption or criminality into a systemic problem.

For example, when politicians promise to increase social security or to make education free, they are promising to take more of the incomes of taxpayers to pay for these welfare programs. When they promise to favor unions with more labor laws or to increase the minimum wage, they are promising to restrict businesses right to contract freely with willing workers. When they promise to keep jobs in America, they are promising to impose tariffs on companies that import foreign goods. The rule in such a system becomes: plunder or be plundered. What choice does anyone have but to organize themselves into pressure groups, hire lobbyists, and join the fray?

Rand memorably describes this process in the famous money speech in Atlas Shrugged:

But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims then money becomes its creators avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once theyve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

Observe what kind of people thrive in such a society and who their victims are. Theres a big difference between the two, and Rand never failed to make a moral distinction between them.

In the early 1990s, Atlantic City resident Vera Coking found herself in the sights of a developer who wanted to turn the property on which she lived into a casino parking lot. The developer made what he thought was a good offer, but she refused. The developer became incensed, and instead of further trying to convince Coking to sell or finding other land, he did what a certain kind of businessman has increasingly been able to do in modern times. He pursued a political solution. He convinced a city redevelopment agency to use the power of eminent domain to force Coking to sell.

The developer was Donald Trump. His ensuing legal battle with Coking, which he lost, was the first of a number of controversies in recent decades over the use of eminent domain to take property from one private party and give it to another.

Most people can see that theres a profound moral distinction between the Trumps and their cronies in government on the one hand and people like Vera Coking on the other. One side is using law to force the other to give up what is rightfully theirs. To be blunt, one side is stealing from the other.

But the victims of the use of eminent domain often lobby government officials to save their property just as vigorously as others do to take it. Should we refer to all of them as special interests and damn them for seeking government favors? The answer should be obvious.

But if thats true, why do we fail to make that distinction when the two sides are businesses as many do when they criticize Wall Street, or the financial industry as a whole, or when they complain about crony capitalism as though capitalism as such is the problem? Not all businesses engage in pull-peddling, and many have no choice but to deal with government or to lobby in self-defense.

John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank (and a former board member of the Ayn Rand Institute, where I work), refused to finance transactions that involved the use of eminent domain after the Supreme Court issued its now-infamous decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another. Later, Allison lobbied against the TARP fund program after the financial crisis, only to be pressured by government regulators into accepting the funds. In an industry as heavily regulated as banking, theres little a particular bank can do to avoid a situation like that.

Another example came to light in 2015, when a number of news articles ran stories on United Airliness so-called Chairmans Flight. This was a flight from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, that United continued to run long after it became clear it was a money-loser. Why do that? It turns out the chairman of the Port Authority, which controls access to all the ports in New York and New Jersey, had a vacation home near Columbia. During negotiations over airport fees, he made it clear that he wanted United to keep the flight, so United decided not to cancel it. Most of the news stories blamed United for influence-peddling. Only Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal called it what it was: extortion by the Port Authority chairman.

The point is, theres a profound moral difference between trying to use government to plunder others and engaging with it essentially in self-defense. Its the same difference between a mobster running a protection racket and his victims. And theres an equally profound moral difference between people who survive through production and trade, and those who survive by political pull.

Rand spells out this latter difference in an essay called The Money Making Personality:

The Money-Maker is the discoverer who translates his discovery into material goods. In an industrial society with a complex division of labor, it may be one man or a partnership of two: the scientist who discovers new knowledge and the entrepreneur the businessman who discovers how to use that knowledge, how to organize material resources and human labor into an enterprise producing marketable goods.

The Money-Appropriator is an entirely different type of man. He is essentially noncreative and his basic goal is to acquire an unearned share of the wealth created by others. He seeks to get rich, not by conquering nature, but by manipulating men, not by intellectual effort, but by social maneuvering. He does not produce, he redistributes: he merely switches the wealth already in existence from the pockets of its owners to his own.

The Money-Appropriator may become a politician or a businessman who cuts corners or that destructive product of a mixed economy: the businessman who grows rich by means of government favors, such as special privileges, subsidies, franchises; that is, grows rich by means of legalized force.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand shows these two types in action through characters like steel magnate Hank Rearden and railroad executive Dagny Taggart, two brilliant and productive business people who carry a crumbling world on their shoulders. On the opposite end of the spectrum are Orren Boyle, a competitor of Reardens, and Jim Taggart, Dagnys brother and CEO of the railroad where she works. Both constantly scheme to win special franchises and government contracts from their friends in Washington and to heap regulations on productive businesses like Reardens. Rearden is forced to hire a lobbyist in Washington to try to keep the bureaucrats off of his back.Government does not create wealth. It can use force to protect property and freedom or it can use that force to plunder.

When we damn special interests or businesses in general for cronyism, we end up grouping the Reardens in with the Orren Boyles, which only excuses the behavior of the latter and damns the former. This attitude treats the thug and his victim as morally equivalent. Indeed, this attitude makes it seem like success in business is as much a function of whom you know in Washington as it is how intelligent or productive you are.

It is unfortunately true that many businesses use political pull, and many are a mixture of money-makers and money-appropriators. So it can seem like success is a matter of government connections. But its not true in a fundamental sense. The wealth that makes our modern world amazing the iPhones, computers, cars, medical advances and much more can only be created through intelligence, ingenuity, creativity and hard work.

Government does not create wealth. It can use the force it possesses to protect the property and freedom of those who create wealth and who deal with each other civilly, through trade and persuasion; or it can use that force to plunder the innocent and productive, which is not sustainable over the long run. What principle defines the distinction between these two types of government?

As I noted earlier, the common view about cronyism is that it is a function of big government and that the solution is to shrink or limit government. But that just leads to the question: whats the limiting principle?

True, a government that does less has less opportunity to plunder the innocent and productive, but a small government can be as unjust to individuals as a large one. And we ought to consider how we got to the point that government is so large. If we dont limit governments power in principle, pressure group warfare will inevitably cause it to grow, as individuals and groups, seeing government use the force of law to redistribute wealth and restrict competition, ask it to do the same for them.

The common response is that government should act for the good of the public rather than for the narrow interests of private parties. The Los Angeles Times editorial quoted above expresses this view. Whats truly crony capitalism, says the Times, is when the government confuses private interests with public ones.

Most people who criticize cronyism today from across the political spectrum hold the same view. The idea that governments job is to serve the public interest has been embedded in political thought for well over a century.

Rand rejects the whole idea of the public interest as vague, at best, and destructive, at worst. As she says in an essay called The Pull Peddlers:

So long as a concept such as the public interest is regarded as a valid principle to guide legislation lobbies and pressure groups will necessarily continue to exist. Since there is no such entity as the public, since the public is merely a number of individuals, the idea that the public interest supersedes private interests and rights, can have but one meaning: that the interests and rights of some individuals takes precedence over the interests and rights of others.

If so, then all men and all private groups have to fight to the death for the privilege of being regarded as the public. The governments policy has to swing like an erratic pendulum from group to group, hitting some and favoring others, at the whim of any given moment and so grotesque a profession as lobbying (selling influence) becomes a full-time job. If parasitism, favoritism, corruption, and greed for the unearned did not exist, a mixed economy [a mixture of freedom and economic controls] would bring them into existence.

Its tempting to blame politicians for pull-peddling, and certainly there are many who willingly participate and advocate laws that plunder others. But, as Rand argues, politicians as such are not to blame, as even the most honest of government officials could not follow a standard like the public interest:

The worst aspect of it is not that such a power can be used dishonestly, but that it cannot be used honestly. The wisest man in the world, with the purest integrity cannot find a criterion for the just, equitable, rational application of an unjust, inequitable, irrational principle. The best that an honest official can do is to accept no material bribe for his arbitrary decision; but this does not make his decision and its consequences more just or less calamitous.

To make the point more concrete: which is in the public interest, the jobs and products produced by, say, logging and mining companies or preserving the land they use for public parks? For that matter, why are public parks supposedly in the public interest? As Peter Schwartz points out in his book In Defense of Selfishness, more people attend private amusement parks like Disneyland each year than national parks. Should government subsidize Disney?

To pick another example: why is raising the minimum wage in the public interest but not cheap goods or the rights of business owners and their employees to negotiate their wages freely? It seems easy to argue that a casino parking lot in Atlantic City is not in the public interest, but would most citizens of Atlantic City agree, especially when more casinos likely mean more jobs and economic growth in the city?

There are no rational answers to any of these questions, because the public interest is an inherently irrational standard to guide government action. The only approach when a standard like that governs is to put the question to the political process, which naturally leads people to pump millions into political campaigns and lobbying to ensure that their interests prevail.

Rands answer is to limit government strictly to protecting rights and nothing more. The principle of rights, for Rand, keeps government connected to its purpose of protecting our ability to live by protecting our freedom to think and produce, cooperate and trade with others, and pursue our own happiness. As Rand put it in Atlas Shrugged (through the words of protagonist John Galt):

Rights are conditions of existence required by mans nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate mans rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.

A government that uses the force it possesses to do anything more than protect rights necessarily ends up violating them. The reason is that force is only effective at stopping people from functioning or taking what they have produced or own. Force can therefore be used either to stop criminals or to act like them.

The principle, then, is that only those who initiate force against others in short, those who act as criminals violate rights and are subject to retaliation by government. So long as individuals respect each others rights by refraining from initiating force against one another so long as they deal with each other on the basis of reason, persuasion, voluntary association, and trade government should have no authority to interfere in their affairs.

When it violates this principle of rights, cronyism, corruption, pressure group warfare and mutual plunder are the results.

Theres much more to say about Rands view of rights and government. Readers can find more in essays such as Mans Rights, The Nature of Government, and What Is Capitalism? and in Atlas Shrugged.

In 1962, Rand wrote the following in an essay called The Cold Civil War:

A man who is tied cannot run a race against men who are free: he must either demand that his bonds be removed or that the other contestants be tied as well. If men choose the second, the economic race slows down to a walk, then to a stagger, then to a crawl and then they all collapse at the goal posts of a Very Old Frontier: the totalitarian state. No one is the winner but the government.

The phrase Very Old Frontier was a play on the Kennedy administrations New Frontier, a program of economic subsidies, entitlements and other regulations that Rand saw as statist and which, like many other political programs and trends, she believed was leading America toward totalitarianism. Throughout Rands career, many people saw her warnings as overblown.

We have now inaugurated as 45th president of the United States a man who regularly threatens businesses with regulation and confiscatory taxation if they dont follow his preferred policies or run their businesses as he sees fit. A recent headline in USA Today captured the reaction among many businesses: Companies pile on job announcements to avoid Trumps wrath.

Are Rands warnings that our government increasingly resembles an authoritarian regime one that issues dictates and commands to individuals and businesses, who then have to pay homage to the government like courtiers in a kings court really overblown? Read Atlas Shrugged and her other writings and decide for yourself.

Steve Simpson is the director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute where he writes and speaks on a wide variety of legal and philosophical issues. This article was originally published on Read the original article.

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Why Ayn Rand Would Have Opposed Donald Trump – PanAm Post

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Why I’m Running for California Governor as a Libertarian – Newsweek

Posted: February 12, 2017 at 7:44 am

My thirties started off in countries ravaged by environmental destruction and dictatorships. Back then, I was a journalist for National Geographic, spending most of my time abroad, even though I still called Los Angelesmy birth cityhome. In the 100+ countries I visited, I reported on some harrowing stories: the Killing Fields in Cambodia, the near total deforestation of Paraguay, and the tense nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan. I always hoped my words and on-camera television commentary brought some sanity and peace to the chaos.

While on assignment in Vietnam near the demilitarized zone, a near-miss with a landmine that could have been catastrophic sent me back home to the safety of the United States. Desiring stability, I started a real-estate development business with capital saved from my journalism. America was booming and my business thrived. I soon sold most of my real-estate portfolio, allowing me to live off my long-term investments.

I was lucky, for sure. Only a year later, I watched America, its banking system, and its real-estate market collapse. I watched friends lose everything, and my government try to fix something it had partially caused. The lessonsthe distrust of big government, crony capitalism and unmanageable debtseared themselves into my value system.

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Zoltan Istvan and Libertarian candidate John McAfee stand next to the Immortality Bus in Charlotte, North Carolina, December 5, 2015. The pair met while on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. Anthony Cuthbertson

Like many entrepreneurs, I became a libertarian because of one simple concept: reason. It just made sense to embrace a philosophy that promotes maximum freedom and personal accountability. Hands off was my mottoand in business, if you wanted to succeed, those words are sacred. But hands off applies to more than just good entrepreneurial economics. It applies to social life, politics, culture, religion, and especially how innovation occurs.

Ive been a passionate science and technology guyan advocate of radical innovationever since I can remember. In college, I focused on the ethics and challenges of science for my Philosophy degree. But my stories for National Geographic and my witnessing of the Great Recession viscerally reminded me that government and the growing fundamentalism in Congress was desperately trying to control innovation and progresseven at the expense of peoples health, safety, and prosperity. With plenty of free time after the sale of my business to mount a challenge, I decided to use my writing skills to fight this backward thinking.

I began penning The Transhumanist Wager, a philosophical novel published in 2013 that blasts Luddism. The controversial libertarian-minded manifesto has now been compared to Ayn Rands work hundreds of times in reviewsthough I often point out my book is quite different to Atlas Shrugged. Nonetheless, the popularity of my novel thrust me into the radical science and tech movement as a public figure, whose main hub was right where I live in the San Francisco Bay area.

Looking for a way to take science and technology into the political realm, I decided to make a run for the U.S. presidency in 2016 as the self-described science candidate. I knew I couldnt win the election, but it was a great way to awaken many Americans to the desperate plight of our countrys increasingly stifled science and innovation sector. My experience in media has helped propel my candidacy. I spoke at the World Bank, appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, was interviewed by the hacker collective Anonymous, and consulted for the U.S. Navy about technology, among other things. Even 2016 Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson invited me to interview as his possible vice president. Alone in his New Mexico house, we talked shop for 24 hours solid. He chose Governor Bill Weld as his VP, but I left Johnson knowing I would soon be making a stand for the Libertarian Party.

Due to the fact I was arguably the first visible science presidential candidate in American history, I ran a very centric, science and tech-oriented platform, one that was designed to be as inclusive of as many political lines as possible. With leadership comes some compromise, and I veered both right and left (mostly left) to try to satisfy as many people as I could, even when it meant going against some of my own personal opinions. I believe a politician represents the people, and he or she must never forget thator forget the honor that such a task carries.

The front view of California State Capitol. Zoltan Istvan has announced he is to run for California governor in 2018. David Fulmer/ Creative Commons

One thing I didnt stray from was my belief that everything could be solved best by the scientific methodthe bastion of reason that says a thing or idea works only if you can prove it again and again via objective, independent evaluation. Ill always be a pragmatic rationalist, and reason to me is the primary motivator when considering how to tackle problems, social or otherwise. I continue to passionately believe in the promise of using reason, science and technology to better California and the world. After all, the standard of living has been going up around the globe because of a singular factor: more people have access to new science and technology than ever before. Nothing moves the world forward like innovation does.

Yet, in the political climate of 2017, few things seem more at risk as innovation. A conservative, religious government stands to overwhelm California with worries about radical tech and science, such as implementing Federal regulation that stifles artificial intelligence, driverless cars, stem cells, drones, and genetic editing.

Sadly, the same could be said of immigration, womens rights, and environmental issues. Then theres Americas move towards expanding its already overly expensive military, which you and I pay for out of our pockets so that generals can fight far-off wars. America can do better than this. California can do better than this.

And we must. After all, the world is changingand changing quite dramatically. Even libertarians like me face the real possibility that capitalism and job competitionwhich we always advocated forwont survive into the next few decades because of widespread automation and the proliferation of robot workers. Then theres the burgeoning dilemma of cyber security and unwanted tracking of the technology that citizens use. And what of augmenting intelligence via genetic editingsomething the Chinese are leading the charge on, but most Americans seem too afraid to try? In short, what can be done to ensure the best future?

Much can be done. And I believe it can all be done best via a libertarian framework, which is precisely why I am declaring my run for 2018 California governor. We need leadership that is willing to use radical science, technology, and innovationwhat California is famous forto benefit us all. We need someone with the nerve to risk the tremendous possibilities to save the environment through bioengineering, to end cancer by seeking a vaccine or a gene-editing solution for it, to embrace startups that will take California from the worlds 7th largest economy to maybe even the largest economybigger than the rest of America altogether. And believe me when I say this is possible: artificial intelligence and genetic editing will become some of the first multi-trillion dollar businesses in the near future.

We can do this, California, and it doesnt have to be through stale blue or red political parties, which have left many of us aghast at the current world. It can be done through the libertarian philosophy of embracing all that is the most inventive and unbridled in usand letting that pave the way forward. A challenging future awaits us, but we can meet it head on and lead the way not just for California and America, but for all of humanity.

Zoltan Istvan is a futurist and ran in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a candidate of the Transhumanist Party.

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Go Ahead, Women’s Marchers, Strike. Nobody Will Miss You – The Federalist

Posted: February 11, 2017 at 8:56 am

The people who headed up the Womens March on Washington a few weeks ago (hereinafter Marchers) now have a strike in the works. They should think carefully before starting.

A strike is not the same thing as a protest. A strike matters because it interferes with material production. When theres a strike at the North Pole, the elves stop making toys. If Santa Claus has no toys, kids stop leaving him cookies. This forces Santa Claus to negotiate with the elves so they will go back to producing.

If the elves strike succeeds, it is for two reasons. First, the elves cooperate with each other. If just a few quit working, they only make more work for the working elves, then get fired by Santa Claus. Second, the elves make something that people want before the strike. People miss their product when it disappears. If the elves only made knockoff Barbies with pre-snarled hair before the strike, or if not enough elves quit working to make a real dent in production, their strike wont work.

The first problem is uniting the workers for the strike. Things at the shop are so bad that the great majority of workers have agreed to take the risk of refusing to work. They can only help themselves by helping each other, sharing the risk and making the line together.Crossing picket lines betrays a fellow schlep, and the evidence is that theres a picket line to cross.

Feminists would like to make scabs out of women who disagree with them or have more pressing duties than activism, but what if there are more scabs than strikers? So if there were 6 million Marchers on January 21, that leaves more than 310 million Americans who didnt show up in DC or at their nearest local march.

Lets say ten people wanted to march for every one who did, which makes 60 million Wish I Could Marchers. We still havent collected enough people to bargain. We dont have enough strikers building a picket line the remaining workers would hesitate to cross (and in real life, picket lines are made of people, not wishes). In these right-to-work days, we couldnt even makeshift an effective union. Enough workers are enough satisfied to keep the shop open.

What kind of shop are we talking about here, anyway? Thats the Marchers second problem. Committed contrarian Janet Bloomfield analyzed the male and female U.S. workforces a few years ago and reached this conclusion: If women took the day off, with the sole exception of NURSES, nothing would happen. No one would die. The world would continue to function. The hair salons and primary schools and retail clothing stores would close, and the male management structure would have to find some way to answer their own phones for a day, but essentially, nothing would happen.

Bloomfield details what the world would look like if Atlas shrugged, using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Its worth the read. Men overwhelmingly work in the places that keep the sine qua nons of contemporary life operational. They have the jobs that generate and deliver our electricity and gas; they build and maintain the robots in our kitchens and garages; they take out almost all of the trash; they run die Herz Maschine und die Moloch Maschine; and this list could go on for a long time.

But if Atlas concubine doesnt show up for her job (which she has a hard time describing but involves a lot of social media platforms and the word facilitator), and Atlas sister boldly cancels her classes (while leaning on her advisees to don stupid hats), and Atlas mom doesnt put his birthday card in the mail, Atlas isnt going to care.

The March itself was an informative trial run for the proposed strike. Every person who marched that day was not at her/his/zeir job (paid or unpaid), but the gears of civilization failed to grind to a halt. Planes took off and landed, appendixes were removed, sewage left our houses and never came back. The only people who missed the Marchers were those with whom they share domiciles.

To be fair, the March was on a Saturday. Lots of people have Saturday off. But there was also a womens strike the day before (you got it: Friday). That day, 7,408 women refused to work. The number of oppressors they brought to the negotiating table has not yet been reported.

A stronger womens strike effort was hostessed by Betty Friedan on August 26, 1970 (that was a Wednesday). Twenty thousand strikers showed up in New York, while other strikes were held around the country. Do you remember the stock market catastrophe that day? Do you remember the gridlock on every interstate, and how there were no cornflakes for weeks? No, because they didnt happen.

The most significant economic impact of these events was probably the amount of travel and hype they generated. The absence of all those Marchers or strikers from their normal tasks on each of those three days failed to depress the systemically sexist GDP. Them being offsite from their normal work did not shut down the shop. Donald Trump filled his sleigh with racist toys and put them in stockings all over Michigan and Pennsylvania.

That means the events didnt work as strikes. One day of absence from work brought no significant material loss to anyone higher up.

The workforce has enough women in it that if they all agreed not to show up, there would be a noticeable public impact. The difficulty from a strikers perspective is that most of the work women do would still get done.

The day women dont show up for work would be the day women take care of their own kids, make their own lunches, and wash their own dishes. If they kept not coming to work, a lot of unemployed men would get jobs, a lot of made-up jobs would get un-made-up, and a lot of women would move back in with their parents. The economy would technically shrink, but the greater impact would be its reconfiguring. An extended exodus of women from the formal workforce would primarily amount to an undoing of the tangled job-trading women do with each other.

The day men dont show up for work, however, will be a trial run for Armageddon. It will be cold and dark; there wont be phones, TV, or Internet; and people will yell at you if you open the fridge. If men kept not coming to work, the only people happy would be preppers.

So, Marchers, consider. If you call a strike, make it a real one. It needs to halt production. It needs to cripple the economy. It needs to empty the bellies of the overlords and make them beg for the sweet music of your demands.

Traditionally, strikes last longer than one day. In the absence of a union, strikers dont get paid, so you should factor that in. Skilled nurses will be key, but I dont have any great leads after that. I am genuinely curious to see if you can get it done.

Rebekah Curtis is a housewife with a writing and indexing hobby. She has written for Babble, Touchstone, Modern Reformation (forthcoming), and is co-author of LadyLike, a collection of essays from Concordia Publishing House.

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Go Ahead, Women’s Marchers, Strike. Nobody Will Miss You – The Federalist

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Apply Today for Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship – Bay Net

Posted: February 7, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Apply Today for Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship

Annapolis, MD On Feb. 4, Delegate Deborah C. Rey announced that her office is accepting applications for the Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship the 2017-2018 school year for residents of District 29B. The other delegates representing the other Districts will offer this same opportunity for their residents.

Applicants for the Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship must attend a Maryland college, university or approved career school. The applicant must be enrolled for full-time or part-time attendance.

In addition to completing an application, an official transcript is required, a resume, two letters of recommendation, an essay comparing one of the following Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged characters to a public individual: John Gualt, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Wesley Mouch or James Tagart.

All Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship applications are due by April 15, 2017, so dont delay. Applications are filed electronically and email instructions can be found on the last page.

Del. Rey can be reached at: Deborah C. Rey, Delegate, District 29B, St. Marys County, Maryland House of Delegates, 6 Bladen Street, Rm 323, Annapolis, MD 21401, phone: 301-858-3227.

If you know someone wanting to continue their education, please encourage them to apply. You can find the complete application form here.

Contact Shertina Mack at


Apply Today for Maryland Taxpayers Scholarship – Bay Net

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