Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quotations from"The Age Of Rand: Imagining An Objectivist Future World" by Frederick Cookinham (Part 1)

Dr. Tom Stevens, Objectivist Party Founder & Chair, has obtained permission from Frederick Cookinham, the author of The Age Of Rand: Imagining An Objectivist Future World, to reprint selected quotations from his book.

In this first installment, quotations were taken from the Introduction, Chapter 1 & Chapter 2. To enable you to research the context of each quotation, page numbers have been provided. These quotations do not necessarily reflect the ideas of Dr. Tom Stevens or the Objectivist Party.

If you like what you read, you can purchase the book at Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/Age-Rand-Imagining-Objectivist-Future/dp/0595351530


This is not a biography of Ayn Rand. Nor is it a learned treatise on her philosophic system, Objectivism. It is a speculation on what the world might be like if Objectivism catches on worldwide. (pg. 1)

I have been on a mission for thirty-seven years to dispel the stereotype of Objectivists as humorless, blue-suited atheist versions of Mormon missionaries. (pg. 1)

My interest is history, not philosophy. What has always fascinated me is the process by which ideas percolate through a culture and cause concrete changes. (pg. 1)

I will not go so far as to claim that the 21st century will be the Age of Rand, but I do not think it too reckless to say that it could be. (pg. 1)

It is tough to write about the future Age of Rand because there is simply no model for the triumph of a new moral system. It has never happened before. Every religion, philosophy and political system so far has included a re-hash of the moral system of Altruism. Without a model to guide us, we are flying blind into the future. (pg. 2)

The cultures of the world are merging into a single culture, due to the Internet, on top of radio and television and jet travel. Where Europe and America have been dominated by Christianity and the Middle East by Islam up to now, it is likely that some idea system, either a religion, a philosophy, or something, will soon come to dominate, not just a regional culture, but the emerging culture of Earth. To whatever extent Man moves into space, that move too will reflect some dominant view. Why not Objectivism? (pg. 2)

…an era of daily transformations of all our lives by technology will certainly favor a philosophy that celebrates science and invention. The message of this volume, then, is The Age of Rand may be coming. Join in preparing for it. (pg. 4)

I have capitalized the word “Objectivism” because it is the name Rand chose for her total philosophic system. In dictionaries, you will find it uncapitalized. Without the capital O it means the objective theory of reality, that is, the theory that when I close my eyes, the universe does not cease to exist, it goes on without me. That is the basis of Rand’s system, so she named the whole system after its most basic premise. (pg. 4)

Relating, integrating, finding the connections – between Rand’s past, present and future, her place in the lost perspective of history – that is the purpose of this book. (pg. 7)

Chapter 1

The Boy On The Bicycle

Rand wrote that the noble soul demands of himself that he be able to explain rationally his every thought, feeling and action. He makes sure of his facts before he opens his mouth. (pg. 11)

Face the facts! Set a goal and strive for it! The world makes sense, even if many of the people in it don’t. Your world makes sense if you do. Don’t panic! Cultivate your own garden! Make of your life a work of art! These are the messages of Ayn Rand. (pg. 12)

She was not well-informed. She got many facts wrong about the world outside her Murray Hill apartment. But she forged an iron chain connecting Aristotle’s laws of logic, Egoism, and free market economics. (pg. 13)

Anti-TribalThink TribalThink

In the 1960s, Nathaniel Branden was a young psychotherapist and Rand’s foremost protégé, and, for a while, her lover. After his break with Rand in 1968…Branden wisely said…“The Break” had been over a personal matter, not a philosophical one…And, he added, “The Break might even lead to good consequences, if it gets students to separate ideas from personalities. And if it gives them a feeling of being more on their own, so much the better”. (pgs. 13-14)

The Rand camp and the Branden camp have been completely on their own since Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982. On one side were Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, no longer married, but equally banished from Rand’s circle, and now, free of her spell, getting some distance and perspective on the whole experience. On the other side were Dr. Leonard Peikoff, heir to Rand’s money and copy-rights, and his fellow philosopher Dr. David Kelley: The keepers of the flame. Kelley would have his own Break from Peikoff in 1989, and this time it was over a philosophical difference. Peikoff founded the Ayn Rand Institute in 1985, and Kelley the rival Institute for Objectivist Studies (now called The Objectivist Center) in 1990. (pg. 14)

The Brandens did not, of course, dare to show up at Rand’s calling hours or interment, but I was there, at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York. There was a light snowfall and no wind as I stood in the crowd at her graveside, listening to Kelley read Rand’s favorite poem – Rudyard Kipling’s “If” – and to Peikoff as he said: “Ayn Rand wanted no stone. Her achievements are her monument. She changed the course of history, and those who knew her, or knew her through her books, loved her, and do….” (pg. 14)

What Rand’s circle of the 1960s discovered painfully over many years will be re-discovered by new generations of Rand readers – the need to make that separation between ideas and personalities. Hopefully, all the subsequent books about Rand will make it unnecessary for every generation to go through all the same process of disillusionment that the first did. Those who pick up and read Rand’s books after this point will be…spared exposure to all the mishigoss; the cultlike aspect of the Ayn Rand circle. They will benefit from the ideas of Rand without getting enmeshed in the personality of Rand. But there is enough, and more than enough, of that personality in her novels that the cult-joining personality – who will make a cult out of anything, even a philosophy of thinking for oneself – will still be attracted, through her novels, to what he will call the philosophy of Objectivism, but which is really a game of aping Rand’s personality, especially its aspect of heretic-hunting. (pgs. 14-15)

Chapter 2

Who Was This Rand Person, Anyway?

Ayn Rand was born Alice, or in Russian, Alisa, Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905. She came to the United States in 1926, took the pen name Ayn (rhymes with swine, she used to say) Rand, and started writing screenplays. She sold one to Cecil B. DeMille, but it was never produced. She wrote a play, Night of January 16th, which was produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway, in 1935. Moving to New York with her husband, Frank O’Connor…she oversaw a successful run for her play and then published her first novel, We The Living, in 1936…Her success came with her novel The Fountainhead, 1943, which became a Warner Brothers movie in 1949 starring Gary Cooper. She wrote a dystopian future fantasy novelette called Anthem, published in 1938, as a vacation from writing The Fountainhead. She labored for twelve years, 1945 to 1957, on her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. (pg. 22)

Rand put that new philosophical system very succinctly when one of the Random House salesmen asked her, at a pre-publication sales conference, “Can you explain your philosophy while standing on one foot?” She replied by naming the four main branches of philosophy and giving a one-or two-word summary of her position in each: “Metaphysics: objective reality. Epistemology: reason. Ethics: self-interest. Politics: Capitalism”. (pg. 23)

Go to www.nathanielbranden.net and he will explain the problem with Rand’s use of the word “capitalism” to describe her politics. In Jefferson’s time, the word for Rand’s politics and Jefferson’s was “liberal”. Today the word “libertarian” is gaining currency for the politics of severely limited government, and of free enterprise. (pg. 23)

This ethical system of Rand’s is not about sacrifice of one person to another, or cheating, or the pious hypocrisy of telling the other guy you are doing him a favor when you aren’t. It is about two people who respect each other, and who both reject the ethics of Altruism and self-sacrifice. (pg. 24)

Respect. No illusions. No cheating or favors or lies, but more than that: no perceived need for cheating or favors or lies. That is the result of two people respecting each other’s right to live for his own sake – and of knowing that rational people are of value to each other. (pgs. 24-25)

Branden (originally Nathan Blumenthal) had written Rand a fan letter in 1949, when he was nineteen. She invited him to write, then to call, then to visit, then, with his girlfriend Barbara Weidman, to read as much of the Atlas manuscript as she had written. Nathan and Barbara transferred from UCLA to NYU to finish their schooling, and Ayn and Frank followed them to New York. The Brandens were married in 1953, both taking, as their nom de plume for their expected future writing, the name Branden. (pg. 25)

In New York, Nathaniel and Barbara introduced a series of friends and relatives to Rand, and they all met at Ayn’s (thirty-six East Thirty-sixth Street) every Saturday night, to read and discuss each freshly completed chapter of Atlas. Leonard Peikoff, destined to inherit Rand’s money and copyrights, was Barbara’s cousin (and fellow philosophy student under Sidney Hook at NYU), and Joan Mitchell was her childhood friend. All three came from Winnipeg. (pg. 25)

Another member of Rand’s inner circle in those days, and later a fellow lecturer at NBI, was economist Alan Greenspan, who went on to become President Gerald Ford’s Chief Economic Advisor in 1974, and was made Chairman of the Federal Reserve System by President Reagan in 1987. Greenspan has taken some ribbing from “serious” economists for his former association with Rand, and for his articles in Rand’s magazine The Objectivist in favor of the gold standard and against the Federal Reserve System he later headed. Joan Mitchell was briefly married to him, and since then to Branden’s cousin and fellow Toronto native, psychotherapist Allan Blumenthal. Greenspan hailed from Washington Heights, Manhattan, but otherwise Branden had surrounded Rand with a sort of a Canadian Mafia. (pgs. 25-26)

She died in 1982, three years after Frank. She left her money and copyrights to Peikoff, by now a philosophy professor, who had stayed loyal to her after most of her old friends had (according to Barbara’s and Nathaniel’s books) gotten tired of putting up with her crankiness. (pg. 26)

Most of the intelligentsia probably hope she will simply be forgotten, as the writer of a couple of bad novels, a supporter of Wendell Willkie, Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater, and as one of the “scoundrels” and “reactionaries” who persecuted those poor, dear, innocent Communists in Hollywood. (pg. 26)

Rand As Faust

Whether by accident or design on Rand’s part, though, she did end up with people around her who got more and more cult-ish as she got older. Today, these people make some breathtaking statements. Harry Binswanger, editor of The Ayn Rand Lexicon and the number two man in the Peikoff faction, has said in public lectures that even We The Living was one of the greatest novels in world literature, there were no negative elements in Rand’s character, praise of Atlas is probably impossible because there is no greater thing to which to compare it, all Objectivists should re-read all of Rand’s books at least once a year, and Rand was a once-a-millennium genius. (pg. 29)

Sometime during Atlas’s notes-and-outline phase, January 1, 1945 to September 2, 1946, Rand got the integration bit between her teeth, and never stopped running with it for the rest of her life. (pg. 30)

After meeting Branden, she decided that she could integrate a lover into her marriage and see no contradiction. She had already decided that she could integrate Frank, who was not heroic, into her insistence that she could love only a hero, and see no contradiction. Then Ayn insisted to Nathaniel that the two of them would be totally honest with their spouses and clear the affair with them before beginning their beguine, after which the four of them had to lie systematically for years to their friends about their “design for living.” She somehow integrated the micro-honesty with the macro-dishonesty, and saw no contradiction. Her strength, and her weakness, was that she had become an integration junkie. (pg. 30)

The pity is that Rand wrote no more fiction after Atlas. She wrote a brief sketch of a new novel, with the theme of “unrequited love” (this was during her post-Atlas-partum depression, when Nathaniel was slipping away from her as a lover after the first lustful couple of years), but then she started writing articles for The Objectivist Newsletter and never made any progress on the novel. (pg. 30)

After being repeatedly reminded of her promise to write a full treatise on Objectivism some day, she reportedly said, finally, “Oh, can’t Leonard do that?” Years after her death, Peikoff did write the long-awaited treatise. But Rand neither wrote the technical philosophical stuff she was not professionally qualified to write (she had no Master’s in philosophy, or any other subject, let alone a doctorate), nor the possible novels that she was. If she had delegated the non-fiction to, first, Branden, and, after her break with him, Peikoff, and had turned back to fiction herself, and if she had written novels in a reasonable amount of time – not the twelve years of Atlas, but a year for each of a series of simple, non-philosophical novels (mysteries, perhaps; she liked those) then we could have had, between Atlas in 1957 and her death in 1982, as many as twenty-five new Ayn Rand novels! (pg. 31)

Branden…says, “Rand has a right to be wrong sometimes. No need to turn bitterly against her, like petulant eight-year olds who have just discovered that Mommy and Daddy are not the omniscient beings they thought they were”. That’s Branden’s leavening of the Rand message: the distance and perspective gained through painful experience. (pg. 32)

Objectivism will be Stone Soup – that’s the story about the three lost soldiers who ask villagers for food. The villagers refuse to give them any, so the soldiers tell the villagers that they will make stone soup. The villagers’ curiosity is aroused as they watch the soldiers gather stones and boil them in a vat of water. The villagers bring vegetables, spices, and other ingredients to add to the stone soup, and soon they are having such a good time preparing a feast for the whole village that no one notices that the soldiers have in fact contributed nothing to the soup but stones. The very fact of Rand’s having been nothing but a cult guru who didn’t know a thing about philosophy will itself be the best proof of her philosophy: she will have proved that a bunch of amateurs – her readers – could write our own philosophy, but tapping into the best within us. (pgs. 32-33)

From Kerensky To Reagan

She became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and cast her first vote in 1932: for FDR. He did run, it surprised me to learn, on the most conservative platform the Democrats had pushed in fifty years. In fact, he ran against the New Deal, not on it. Hoover was already “priming the pump”: making government loans to business, in the hope that business would hire the unemployed. It did not work when Hoover did it and it did not work when Roosevelt continued it under the name “the New Deal,” but it was that Hoover policy of pump priming that Roosevelt ran against. Then he got elected and continued it. (pg. 34)

Needless to say, FDR lasted about as long as Kerensky on Rand’s hero roster. Barbara Branden reports that Rand’s reason for her first vote was that Roosevelt was more “libertarian” than Hoover. (Later, that word became associated with a certain minor party, so Rand announced that it now meant…well, read Peikoff’s ally Peter Schwartz’s whole article “Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty” in The Voice of Reason and see how many implications are now supposed to lurk in that word.) (pg. 35)

Wendell Willkie was an Indiana power company executive and a lifelong Democrat when he snared, in a political upset, the Republican nomination for President in 1940. Ayn and Frank took six months off to work full-time, unpaid, on the Willkie campaign. Rand made speeches and fielded questions in a theater in New York, and on the street, sometimes dealing with unfriendly crowds. When the campaign was over and Willkie had lost, Rand asked him why he had not taken a more outspoken stand on individualism, when he had written so well about it before. Willkie said “Individualism? Well, I’m for it.” And walked off. Rand experienced a “horrible shock of disgust.” (pg. 35)

In The Objectivist Newsletter, in 1964, Rand at first cautiously recommended Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater as a presidential candidate. But in later issues that year she reported that Goldwater’s message, like Willkie’s, was getting watered down. After Election Day, she gave her postmortem. She wrote that Goldwater, given a chance to speak from the highest platform in the world, the doorstep of the White House, had nothing to say. (pg. 35)

Then the Libertarian Party was formed, in 1971, and since Rand already knew Murray Rothbard, its intellectual godfather, and disapproved of his “Anarcho-capitalism,” she never had a good word to say about it. (pg. 35)

Along came Ronald Reagan. By this time, a very cautious “buy” signal was all Rand could manage. Even that lasted no longer than it took Rand to decide that, as an abortion opponent, Reagan clearly know nothing about rights, and would therefore disappoint Objectivists in all other realms sooner or later. By Reagan’s time, no mere ideological commitment to “small government” would have made any difference. Rand had been burned too many times by political alliances. (pgs. 35-36)

In a way, though, Rand’s political instincts were shrewd. It never pays to get mixed up with a minor party (look at their lack of a record of accomplishment), and it never pays a writer to get mixed up with any political group, because a writer cannot control a real-life group the way she can the fictional characters in her novels. Rand’s lifelong pattern in political involvement was disappointment and withdrawal. But what an impact it might have had if she had endorsed the Libertarian party and guided it, and lent it the hard-hitting polemical style she wielded elsewhere. Any political application of Rand’s ideas, though, will have to overcome the obstacle of the essentially apolitical mentality of the typical Rand reader. It is hard to build a John Galt movement, because John Galt just was not a movement kind of guy. Can you see Galt quitting his regular profession and running for office, like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Can you see him wearing a boater at a political convention, handing out leaflets on the streets, or asking pass-ers-by to sign a petition allowing a Libertarian Party candidate, or an “Objectivist Party” candidate, on the ballot? You may say that Galt is supposed to be a physicist, not a politician, but even in the Age of Rand, there will have to be some people who do decide on a career as a professional politician. We can’t all be physicists. This will be one of the big conundrums of any individual influenced by Rand, and of any Age influenced by Rand: to the extent that that Age takes the novels literally as guides to action, that Age will have a hard time producing all the different kinds of people it takes to make a world. Someone will have to find a way to look up to Galt as a role model and still content himself with a career as a politician, or a mortician, or a janitor, or any number of other un-Galtlike things. He will have to ask his parents and teachers and the resident philosopher in his local Objectivist Community Center how to reconcile his admiration for Rand’s heroes with his own penchant for shaking hands and making deals in the coatrooms of Congress. He will be told that the virtue of Galtishness lies not in what you do (within the Non-aggression Principle) but in how well you do it, and in your integration of your self-interest with the rights of others. (That is, legislate all you like, as long as you do not violate the Non-aggression Principle.) (pg. 36)

Fountainhead Author. Four Letters.

…a long historical perspective on Rand will place her, in your grandchildren’s eyes, firmly in the multi-thousand year trend toward secularism and toward inclusion of all Mankind in everything our peasant ancestors were excluded from, mainly wealth and decision making. (pg. 38)

Rand found homosexuality personally disgusting, but on a much more fundamental level taught that human life is about that which makes us human and not about that which divides us, like sexual orientation. So the revolution she started has outrun even what she herself would have been comfortable with, as any revolution worth its salt will do…The problems over Gay versus Straight, Male versus Female, White versus Black, and so on will be sorted out and the excluded will be included, because all these differences are trumped in the end by our common humanness – and no one should realize that more vividly than the reader turned on to philosophy by “the greatest salesman philosophy has ever had.” Philosophy, by definition, is about the human: the consciously chosen. (pg. 38)

At The Starting Gate

Will the twenty-first century be the Ayn Rand Century? She is poised to cash in on the near future’s reaction against religion. I can think of nothing better to give all religion a black eye than for a generation to associate religion with the kind of fanaticism that crashes planes into buildings…but only if people have something with which to replace religion. A man has to believe in something. Why not himself? (pg. 40)

Building a “Museum of Capitalism” is not the answer. It will, though, be of interest once the Age of Rand has arrived. And it may, if handled creatively, rouse some interest in the benefits of free competition among the young in the meantime. But if it is just about the tycoons of the past, who were always first in line for government subsidies, and who “externalized” their pollution and other costs of doing business on all of us, no. The audience has already seen its fill of portraits of dead while male tycoons…But what the people of the world want and need is millions of micro-loans, to start millions of micro-businesses that will grow and make everyone into something of a tycoon. Then build a museum to celebrate that process. Some libertarians are already on top of this phenomenon. African economist George B.N. Ayittey, in his book Africa Unchained, expresses high hopes for an Africa empowered by micro-credit, cottage industries and a new generation of better-educated and more results-oriented leaders than the last generation, with its simple faith in socialist revolution. And Alan Greenspan has recently said that many small banks are better than one big central bank, even from the point of view of each bank’s own bottom line: it seems that small banks investing in innovative companies can actually get a better return on their investments than big banks in a sluggish, politicized economy. If Objectivists are the ones to champion micro-loans, Objectivism will see growth to put Rand’s recent book sales figures to shame. The Ayn Rand Institute and The Objectivist Center will need Yankee Stadium for meetings. The New York Times will start having Objectivist opinion on the editorial page, not in the right-wing ghetto on the Op-Ed page. Here’s the place to start: Three organizations that make micro-loans and give their first leg up to the James J. Hills and Cornelius Vanderbilts and Bill Gateses of the future: Accion New York, the Trickle Up Program (www.vita.org/trickle), and the Grameen Bank (www.grameen-info.org). Muhammad Yunnus, an economics professor, started the Grameen (“Village”) Bank in Chittagong, Bangladesh in 1983. The bank makes loans as small as $50 in the poorest villages in Bangladesh and guides the borrowers through something like American investment clubs or Junior Achievement. In the chapters ahead, you will see how this relates to the Adversarial Principle and alternative institutions, how it acts as a counter to the socialist assumption of a government monopoly in every industry, and how it will become the winning strategy for a future Objectivist Party. (pgs. 41-42)

Rand is poised to cash in on the near future’s reaction against ethnic tribal-think…What does the Internet do, but encourage the individual to think of the whole world as his domain, for him to communicate with freely, and from which to buy, and to which to sell? What has ever subverted national borders and language barriers and ethnic prejudice like the Internet? What is the computer mouse but a symbol of individual choice? (pg. 42)

Even if Rand is seen as a dilettante in philosophy, or as an amateur, or even as a phony and cult leader, she still said certain things that needed saying. (pg. 42)

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