We are delighted to have Yaron Brook again with us on 14 May 2016 in London where he will be speaking on Capitalism and Inequality at the Benevolent Laissez-Faire conference conference hosted by Libertarian Home.
One year ago, I was stood in a corridor outside the LSE’s Old Theatre. A member of staff tapped me on the shoulder and said “excuse me, are you leaving with the speaker?”. Having met earlier that day we had discussed going over to the London Ayn Rand Meetup that evening, but Yaron had been speaking here, in the corridor, for over an hour already – should I just go home? The steward had retrieved Yaron’s coat from the green room but didn’t know what to do with it, Yaron was surrounded by eager young people and the conversation did not look like stopping. Despite the breadth of questions he spoke like he was recalling, rather than calculating, the correct answer. He knew his stuff and his audience were enjoying a rigorous debate. I accepted the coat and, tossing it over my arm, I thought to myself that I was now in it for the long haul.
So I stood, holding Yaron Brook’s coat and watched the debate unfold. He had been on stage for 79 minutes giving his talk “Capitalism Without Guilt: the moral case for freedom” that had included a long Q&A and was followed by a busy book signing session. At the end of that session another steward had come over and told him a group of students were waiting outside hoping to ask him a few questions. Acknowledging that I would be kept waiting, we agreed that those students were his priority and that it would be fine, “I’ll check my trains”, I think I told him. The corridor Q&A lasted 90 minutes before Yaron glanced around for his coat and the group broke up. Yaron had been talking for three and one-quarter hours and looked fresh. I had been listening for three and one-quarter hours and was exhausted. As we walked out of the building he was asked if he had met the Koch brothers. He had, and they were not objectivists, so they were doing the wrong thing. As we arrived at the pub, he continued to be challenged about the necessity of mass-surveillance in fighting modern terror. It all sounded familiar already. Had we been followed from the University? Yes we had. It was some of the same determined people asking the questions.
I left for the train before Yaron Brook stopped working. This was, I recall, fairly early on in his tour of Europe and he had a few more days like this in London. People (strangely, even some objectivist people) complain that he is paid $400,000 dollars a year. These people have probably not watched him work.
Born in Israel in 1961 Yaron grew up to be a good socialist and a good Israeli. Then as a teenager in 1977 he read Atlas Shrugged and, like many, it set his life on a new course.
Drafted to the Israel Defense Force, he achieved the rank of first sergeant in the military intelligence division (Aman not Mossad). He remains passionately defensive of his nation. On leaving Aman, he went on to achieve a BSc in engineering at Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology. Aged 26 he decided to leave Israel with his wife to find the best life for the two of them – in America – where he felt they would enjoy more freedom. Brook then set about selling framed reprints of romantic art to objectivist customers, the first of three business ventures.
His next move was into Finance. On arriving in America he joined the University of Texas in Austin for an MBA and then went directly into a PhD finishing up in 1994. During the final year of his PhD he began working as an assistant professor at Santa Clara University, having moved to California. A little later, once his PhD was complete, he launched Lyceum International to host objectivist seminars and conferences. The pitch was:
a new organization sponsoring low-priced Objectivist conferences throughout the world. Whereas other Objectivist conferences occur only once a year in fixed locations, 21-C conferences occur every other month in locations as varied as Austin, Baltimore, and London.
By 1995 the conference was drawing in key objectivist figures such as Leonard Peikoff, and Harry Binswanger. This is, I think, how Yaron proved his usefulness to the Objectivist community. Cheap accessible events build community and big set pieces like the 1995 conference help solidify it. In 2000 Yaron was appointed executive director and president of the ARI.
Nevertheless in 1998 Yaron partnered with Robert Hendershott to form BH Equity Research, which Yaron describes as a hedge fund. He also carried on teaching financial ethics at Santa Clara University for another two years before joining the Ayn Rand Institute. In the meantime Lyceum International merged with book sellers Second Renaissance. The Ayn Rand Institute eventually tidied up this network of closely associated companies by completing the acquisition of Second Renaissance and Lyceum in 2003. They now operate the merged entity as the Ayn Rand Institute eStore and as Objectivist Conferences. Yaron continues to be president and de-facto figurehead of the organisation while he also maintains his role as managing partner in BH Equity Research.
Yaron has co-authored the book a “Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government” and contributed to “Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea“; he was a columnist at Forbes and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Investor’s Business Daily.
He will be speaking in London at the Battle of Ideas, at an Adam Smith Institute lunch event and at an exhibition of Atlas inspired art at Hay Hill Gallery. He is also, of course, a core panelist at The Causes of the Cost of Living Crisis debate at which he will bring a moral perspective to the economic problems discussed there.
Tickets to the Causes of the Cost of Living Crisis debate are on sale from £11 (£6 concessions) for unregistered users and at £8 for registered meetup users. Newsletter subscribers will also receive a promo-code for £8 tickets.