Andrew Bernstein’s London Speaking Tour

While Objectivist speakers are not a rare sight in London, this week will see one of the most ambitious endeavours to bring Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and the various ways in which it can be applied to our lives, to audiences throughout the capital. Dr. Andrew Bernstein, one of the leading experts on Miss Rand’s philosophy, will embark on a week-long speaking tour, giving talks at seven events over the course of seven nights.

Dr. Bernstein is the author of several books, most notably The Capitalist Manifesto, in which he presents not merely the practical arguments for liberty with which we’re all familiar, but the moral foundations on which it rests, and which so many attempts to promote free market ideas lack. His full biography is available on his website.

The first of Dr. Bernstein’s talks, Sunday at the Admiralty (tonight 19th Feb) in Central London, will present The Trader Principle, the idea that a proper human exchange involves trading value for value, as opposed to one side coercing or defrauding the other, or the notion that life is a zero-sum game.

On Monday, in a special Libertarian Home event, Dr. Bernstein will give a talk titled Religion Versus Morality, in which he will argue that not only does religion not lay the foundations for a valid code of ethics, it is in fact its antithesis. You can purchase Live Stream access to this event, if you are not able to travel to London.

The Moral Basis of Capitalism, a talk based on The Capitalist Manifesto, will be delivered twice: Tuesday, at the London Philosophy Club, and Friday, at the LSE Hayek Society. As the title suggests, the talk argues that Capitalism is the only just system, and as is rarely the case, it begins by clearly defining the relevant concepts. Those who are able to attend Dr. Bernstein’s first two talks have a great opportunity to delve deeper into the philosophy on which this case rests.

Wednesday’s talk is titled The Truth About Climate Change, and will suggest something often missing from how many people think, and certainly talk, about this issue: looking at the historical evidence as an essential part of the process of forming an opinion, and judging the issue based on its impact on humans, rather than “the planet”.

The Adam Smith Institute will host Dr. Bernstein on Thursday for Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism, a fascinating look at how great minds produced incredibly beneficial results that advanced their own lives as well as mankind, and did so in the face of bigotry and discrimination the extent of which is almost inconceivable to those of us living in the West today.

Dr. Bernstein’s final event, on Saturday, will be a Q&A on the philosophy of Objectivism. This will be a four-hour-long in-depth discussion, intended for those who seek to understand the ideas presented by Ayn Rand to a degree which some may find hard to achieve even after reading her books. Some knowledge of Objectivism is highly recommended for those who plan to attend.

Copies of many of Ayn Rand’s books will be sold at most of these events at heavily discounted prices. Pamphlets featuring some of her most popular and philosophically ground-breaking essays will be available for free.

Ayn Rand’s Words Live On

Earlier this week, the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA announced that Penguin Random House will be publishing a “lost” novel that Rand wrote in 1934. The title is Ideal which shares the same title as a previously published play of hers. This novel will be released by July 2015, in a single volume with the play.

At this year’s upcoming 2014 Objectivist Summer Conference (Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, June 27-July 4), the Ayn Rand Institute will be hosting a Q&A session about the book. Ayn Rand’s intellectual heir, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, will be answering questions there concerning this “lost” novel.

wpid-ayn_rand1.jpgAround the 1950s, Ayn Rand became well-known for her two works of fiction: Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. These novels promoted and supported a new philosophy which she called, Objectivism. Objectivism includes 5 major philosophical branches: 1) metaphysics, 2) epistemology, 3) ethics, 4) esthetics, and 5) politics. These divisions make up her philosophy that essentially stresses individual rights and freedom from coercion to find happiness for oneself. It is a guide for how to live life here, on earth.

Following her fiction, she wrote non-fiction which further developed, explained, and expanded her own Objectivist philosophical theory.

Ayn Rand spent her entire life creating a world that she saw as possible for man to attain. Inspired by the works of Aristotle, she wrote about man as a hero. She glorified his accomplishments and vision throughout the ages. She believed in heroes.

Heroes are needed more than ever before in this country. We require leaders who can take responsibility for their actions, as with the Benghazi attack. We need heroes who can say that the Affordable Health Care Act does not work. We desire frontrunners that will butt heads with the NSA. We want individuals to stand up for themselves and their country at large. Men and women who will put an end to this mixed economy and allow for the free market system to thrive. People who will seek to teach others about man’s ego and his right to use “I” in a sentence – to use “I” as a basis for a rational, moral foundation.

Ayn Rand wrote and spoke about those invisible heroes, and there has been controversy over it ever since. Yet, her voice continues to grow stronger with each passing year.

Do you want to know why this “lost” novel means so much to the country right now? It is because Rand’s books are prophetic and the American people are crying out for a hero that has yet to be found. America burns for inspiration, guidance, and eloquence to combat these rough times.

We the people are desperately searching for the ideal hero who is always there in Ayn Rand’s novels.

Thursday: Is Inequality Fair?

Of course it is. But do you kow why? Thoroughly? Does the suggestion that your taxed, regulated and barely-above-average position in life is somehow unfair on other people make your blood boil? Is your desire to improve your lot unfair too? Can you defend this in terms of some technical economic theory, or do you understand the deep ethical roots of this emotion? Which is the better argument when debating your peers?

yaron-brookThese are the kind of question you can hope to get answered at an event this Thursday at the museum home known as Dr Johnson’s House, a venue in the City of London, where Yaron Brook – principal spokeperson for the Ayn Rand Institute will tackle the topic “Is Inequality Fair?”.

This event has been organised by the London Ayn Rand meetup in the form of Teresa Bianchi and Libertarian Home regular Priya Dutta. I do feel a sense of pride that the Libertarian Home meetup helped Teresa, Priya and Yaron get together and get this organised (credit is also due to Liberty League).

Objectivism has a lot to offer libertarians, so please do clear your diary and RSVP; the ARI doesn’t send nearly enough people over to London so it’s great that Yaron is stopping by again. The event starts from 1830 on this Thursday, May 15 at Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE.

Rise Headless and proceed scientifically

It is not often I read fiction, and the ghost horror genre is not something I would have chosen straight away. Yet in Rise Headless and Ride, it is as if the author Richard Gleaves listed the seven virtues named in Galt’s Speech together with their opposites and mapped them onto the hero and villain directly. For a fan of Rand’s philosophy good quality fiction is a huge relief.

You might think the supernatural is not the realm of clear rational long term thinking, or a respect for moral science – indeed for science of any kind.  Yet, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief in psychometry, tarot cards and ghosts then you’ll be rewarded with a story about the scientific method of living life.

Jason Crane, our protagonist and the last descendant of Ichabod Crane, is a nerdy bullied orphaned teenager displaced from familiar surroundings and dumped into the high school at Sleepy Hollow, of Legend fame. The town is obsessed with the supernatural – it’s good for business – but no-one takes it seriously, especially Jason. His main allies are Eliza, his Grandmother, an aging genealogy enthusiast seeking one last adventure; and Joey the gravedigger’s son and lead singer in the school band. A murder and a genealogy project draw Jason into the world of the supernatural where it becomes obvious he has a Gift for extra-sensory perception. It is a schoolmaster’s gift, an ability to see the truth through visions triggered by objects, but Jason has difficulty accepting it. By turning to scientific experiments, however, he proves to himself that it is real and decides he must believe his own eyes.

The text is light and easy to read, characters are rich, and the emotion is often raw. There are no philosophical treatises embedded in the centre like 1984 and the climax is a homage to the thrilling chase of the legend, not a wordy speech like Atlas Shrugged. Yet the ideas are there: a love of life, respect for the true value in people, independence of mind, rationality and justice all presented in brief touches that are sensitive to the plot.

The antagonist – Hadewych Van Brunt – is a typical slick talking villain whose charming and flirtatious ways grate on Jason and on the reader. Yet in private the villain is a slob operating with a sense of entitlement and destiny reminiscent of Gail Wynand, but without any redeeming features. He rationalises his evil deeds as altruism directed towards his son. We pity the villain just as Jason has to decide whether his life will be best served by beheading him with a spade. The book is not short of gore.

Eliza wants Jason to settle in and sets him up with a friend, in the form of the villain’s son Zef, but our hero has high standards of the people in his life and will make up his own mind. Their first encounter ends with Jason humiliated in a stunt initiated by the school jocks. Jason is not afraid to tell Zef that he should not have gone along with it. From here the hero’s successes are gained through the application of reason and honest conduct, his major setback – a disaster of such magnitude that it remains unresolved after 349 pages – is the result of a momentary breakdown in honesty and independence. A lapse motivated perhaps by altruism, and a respect for the wishes of credulous Eliza, that sees Jason acting against his better judgement.

arise-headlessThe book is not perfect – the maternal love between Eliza and Hadewych is hard to grasp. An ill advised forward slash interupts the final chase, I think I noticed one continuity error, but one struggles to find fault. These are minor flaws in a great book which deserves to do very well. Thanks to a flood of positive Amazon reviews it has made it to the top of the best-sellers list for US horrors, but it has not been easy for the author. The unfulfilled love between Joey and Zef was enough to have the book temporarily classified as erotica and pulled from the best-seller lists for a range of key genres. Today, justice is done and a free promotional period begins right in time for Halloween, part of a compensating deal with Amazon. As a result, you can now download the book to your Kindle reader on any Amazon Kindle device and both major smartphone platforms – and it is available to order in paperback internationally.

I suggest you do, as this thrilling story is well worth your time.

 

Rise Headless and Ride, by Richard Gleaves (part 1 of the “Jason Crane” series)

Paperback $11.24 and free on Kindle today.

 

 

Audio: The Moral Case for Capitalism with Yaron Brook

Yesterday was a productive day for Libertarian Home topped off nicely with an evening lecture at the LSE by Dr Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute (hashtag #LSEcapitalism). As regular readers will know, I regard myself as an Objectivist (though some more dogmatic Objectivists would want to disown me) so this was quite special for me. I was also able to grab the speaker from his extensive extra Q&A in the corridor at LSE and take him over to the London Ayn Rand Meetup, which is a relatively new meetup that I would like to see grow. I think some of you would agree, which is presumably why I found you there.

Yaron received an impressively warm welcome, which is nice to see, the crowd at the LSE was more mixed. It’s important that we make VIP’s like Dr Brook feel welcome, and like there is an activist base in Europe they are able to work with. I do hope everyone had a great evening quizzing Yaron after I left.

Before continuing, I suggest you grab headphones or shut the door or whatever and start up the following audio. This is my quick scruffy badly encoded iPhone grab of the lecture. The official LSE podcast promises better.

Yaron’s basic argument is familiar to anyone that has looked him up on YouTube, and this recording promises little new. His delivery last night though was clear passionate and laced with engaging humour and semi-rhetorical questions. It was powerfully done. If you’d like to get the most of listening to his delivery, I would certainly suggest waiting for the superior audio. It does not come across especially well on my scruffy echoey version.

The argument is like this: history tell us that capitalism is bloody wonderful. It’s not exactly the best thing since sliced bread – it preceded sliced bread by 150 years and enabled it’s creation. It also enabled us to see at night, to be spared hours of repetitive labour, to really gain the majority of all the luxuries of today in a very very short period by historic standards. This is one reason to think that capitalism should be a really popular idea. It is not.

Economics tells us that capitalism is great and that planned economies are simply not possible. It tells us that it is stupid to flog that particular dead-horse, yet flogged it is, and the blood on the pavement is that of the poor vulnerable and sick that were not saved (this is my imagery, Dr Brook was not quite as graphic). It also explains why, as a solution to information gathering, communication and decision making problems capitalism works wonders (again not explored in any depth by Dr Brook). Rather than going to detail with the LSE audience he simply argued that the award winning economists on the side of free markets have good solid explainations for it’s success. Yet this is not that popular either. Despite all the libertarians coming to the movement via Mises and Hayek, the mainstream dismisses this.

Yaron Brook LSE Talk

Yaron argues that our objection to capitalism is based on a moral stance against self-interest. Because trade works on account of mutual self-interest, because it generates “win-win” outcomes, Yaron said we clearly identify traders as self-interested, and correctly so. Yet our moral code, taught to us by family and religion, is that selfless behaviour is a virtue. Yaron named some religions that do this, but I don’t think he meant to blame them exclusively since, in the corridor, he later spoke about the New Atheists in similar terms. The point is that the moral consensus is that selflessness is good and selfishness is bad. Though traders are really self-interested in the sense of seeking their private flourishing – something we all seek – Yaron argued that the package deal of that kind of self-development with “lying cheating S.O.Bs” is enough to cause society to distrust businessmen as a group, as if they were all crooks we are yet to catch.

Dr Brook ended the talk by describing two of the seven objectivist virtues. He argued that rationality was the source of all human value. We “suck as a species” when it comes to downing buffalo and taking on sabretooth tigers. All our achievements, from the time of savages with spears, to the computers of the information age, come from our minds, from observing reality and forming strategies to deal with it. This is how Yaron justified the second Objectivist virtue – honesty – because if your survival and flourishing has always been dependant on dealing with facts then dealing with lies is a foolish and wasteful strategy.

This focus on rationality is also the source of the one anti-value that Yaron described – force. He showed that force, be it a gun to the head or a Government regulation, negates reason and rationality. It denies us our autonomy and forces us to respect an authority, even if we think it is wrong. It is this that we ought to be extracting from society – coercion in all it’s forms – and instead we should focus on helping each other to be rational and learning how to apply that, because from rationality and self-interest all else follows.

 

 

UPDATE: The LSE podcast is now online, the Q&A (the official one) begins at 46:30

The Jason Crane series volume 1 is out.

Normally when I recommend books, I set them up as revenue generating links. Not this time. Richard Gleaves, the objectivist playwright, videographer and now author has released the first in his series of horror books. I’ve seen (and used) enough of Richard’s other work to order it on ahem.. faith and to mention it here as a piece of news. It is not often “our lot” write books with the potential for mass appeal.arise-headless

My hero is an atheistic kid who discovers that certain supernatural things are real — so it’s a what if story for Objectivists, exploring how would you react and proceed. It’s not an Objectivist story per se, but it is consistent with an Objectivist sense of life and concerns. It’s moral code is essentially pagan and pro-heroic view of man.

From the blurb:

JASON CRANE just turned seventeen years old. He’s a STAR WARS fan and a history geek. He doesn’t believe in ghosts or the afterlife. He doesn’t believe in psychic powers or tarot cards. He doesn’t believe in the HEADLESS HORSEMAN. But SLEEPY HOLLOW will change all that. Because Jason Crane has a heritage to claim.

Apparently, Gleaves is looking forward to writing off ghost hunting trips as a business expense. Hopefully, he’ll take a break and finish off that video series first!

 

UPDATE Jennifer Snow’s review reads:

One of the best aspects of this book, I think, is that it is multi-generational.  Too many novels that focus on a young adult protagonist (sixteen in this case) treat older people as if they were a different species and only the shallow, transient interests of the young protagonist are important.  In this case, while Jason Crane does exhibit youthful preoccupations, this is shown more as a stage of development, a striving toward adulthood to take on adult concerns without being a faux adult.  It also lacks the Lord of the Flies-style situation where the young people are abandoned by their elders to degenerate into savagery.  I much prefer this treatment to The Hunger Games and even Harry Potter.