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Yaron Brook on Ayn Rand: A Triptych

1. If you’ve not yet read it, don’t miss Yaron Brook’s excellent op-ed “Is Rand Relevant?” in the Wall Street Journal. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged,” is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.

There’s a reason. In “Atlas,” Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sound familiar?

The novel’s eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. “If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society,” Rand wrote elsewhere in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” “you can predict its course.” Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don’t just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society—particularly its dominant moral ideas.

Read the whole thing here.

2. Brook expands on these points in his recent interview with The Objective Standard. Here’s an excerpt:

YB: Atlas Shrugged is not primarily a political novel. It is a novel about what happens to a world that denounces its best minds as greedy and immoral. It’s a novel about what happens when, instead of thanking and rewarding the brightest and most successful, a nation denounces, despises, and shackles them. It’s a novel about what happens when the best minds stop allowing that to happen. Whether this last aspect of the plot will play out in real life is yet to be seen, but the parallels to date are remarkable.

CB: What would you say is the fundamental reason for these parallels? What enabled Ayn Rand some fifty years ago to effectively project what we are witnessing today?

YB: Ayn Rand understood that ideas shape society. A society that values reason, the individual, and freedom creates the United States of America. A society that denounces the mind, preaches self-sacrifice, and worships the collective creates Nazi Germany.

Thus, once Rand identified the basic ideas driving American society in the 20th century, she could predict the course we would take. She could not predict the details, or the timing, but she could see where in principle a country committed to the ideas that prevail in the United States would have to end up—if it did not reject those ideas.

Above all, Ayn Rand understood that our culture’s dominant moral ideal, altruism, is incompatible with freedom.

Virtually no one in Rand’s time or today questions the precept that we are our brother’s keeper, that self-sacrificially serving others is good, and that being selfish is evil. What Rand saw was that this was irreconcilable with the vision of man as an independent, self-sufficient, sovereign being who deserves and requires freedom. If a society believes man’s duty is to sacrifice for others, then it cannot countenance capitalism—a political-economic system that enables and encourages men to pursue their own interests, their own profit, their own welfare.

The deepest reason Rand saw America as moving toward statism, however, was our deteriorating respect for reason. A culture that respects reason, such as the Enlightenment culture of the 18th century, will embrace a political system that leaves men free to exercise their own reason. But for more than a century now, our intellectuals have been preaching that reason is limited, that faith is superior to reason.

Read the whole TOS interview here.

3. Brook is interviewed on Pajamas TV, where he discusses the increasing sales and philosophical depth of Atlas Shrugged, the crucial role of bankruptcy, the statism of Alan Greenspan, the phenomenon of today’s “tea parties,” and the need of a moral revolution in support of capitalism.

Check out all three!

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