In his latest piece, “Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid,” Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, makes the argument that monopoly and excessive corporate concentration can lead to what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called the “curse of bigness.” Jim Woods doesn’t quite view Professor Wu’s argument in such simplistic terms.

By Jim Woods

There’s an op-ed in the New York Times that has been getting some buzz over the past few days. It is written by Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, one of the most outspoken advocates for harsher and more intrusive antitrust laws.

In his latest piece, “Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid,” Wu makes the argument that monopoly and excessive corporate concentration can lead to what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called the “curse of bigness.” Wu also argues that this “bigness” was a key component that led to the rise of Hitler, and that it was part of the economic origins of fascism.

What is that they say about an argument… if you have to resort to a Hitler reference, well, you’ve already lost?

Now, I don’t quite view Professor Wu’s argument in such simplistic terms. I do, however, think it ironic that fascism — which is just another form of big-government collectivism where the state is in control of the economy — is somehow the result of big business.

To be fair, Wu says it was the German economic structure, which was dominated by monopolies and cartels, that was essential to Hitler’s consolidation of power. And while it’s true that dictators throughout history nationalized industries and businesses under the threat of violence for their own nefarious purposes, it seems to me that blaming “big” industries for those nefarious purposes is a woefully misguided case of putting the cart before the horse.

But Wu doesn’t stop with just a look back at Nazi Germany. Instead, he applies the fear of bigness to what’s going on in the economy now, and particularly in places such as Silicon Valley, to argue that we need more invasive government and more antitrust law enforcement to rein in the bigness.

Here’s Wu’s basic thesis, in his own words:

“There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.”

But are antitrust laws really designed to resist economic concentration of power, or are they more like legal means to give the government more power over a free society?

According to novelist/philosopher and free-market champion Ayn Rand, antitrust laws were “allegedly created to protect competition.” Yet Rand argued that these laws were based on the “socialistic fallacy” that a free market will inevitably lead to the establishment of coercive monopolies. She further argued that it was government that was the cause of monopolies, not free markets.

As Rand writes, “Every coercive monopoly was created by government intervention into the economy: by special privileges, such as franchises or subsidies, which closed the entry of competitors into a given field, by legislative action… The antitrust laws were the classic example of a moral inversion prevalent in the history of capitalism: an example of the victims, the businessmen, taking the blame for the evils caused by the government, and the government using its own guilt as a justification for acquiring wider powers, on the pretext of ‘correcting’ the evils.”

Well, Wu certainly wants to correct what he sees as these evils, and he wants the government to do so much more than it has been doing.

“In recent years, we have allowed unhealthy consolidations of hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry; accepted an extraordinarily concentrated banking industry, despite its repeated misfeasance; failed to prevent firms like Facebook from buying up their most effective competitors; allowed AT&T to reconsolidate after a well-deserved breakup in the 1980s; and the list goes on,” writes Wu.

Note the term “we have allowed,” as if government was the moral arbiter of one group of individuals and the free exchange of ideas, capital and cooperation with another group.

Wu even doubled down on the Facebook (FB) and Silicon Valley consolidation trends in an interview Tuesday with CNBC, saying, “I think it could be very important, for example, to take action against Facebook to break-up some of their illegal mergers, especially Instagram and WhatsApp, to kind of recharge the innovation environment.”

Recharge the innovation environment, really?

I don’t know if Mr. Wu has visited Silicon Valley lately, but I can assure him that there is no shortage of innovation among tech startups. And, in fact, many are those startups would love to be acquired by the likes of Facebook or Alphabet (GOOGL) or Apple (AAPL) or any number of bigger suiters.

Oh, and who wins from such mergers? Well, it’s usually customers who get convenient access to better products, and shareholders of firms that are monetizing these acquisitions.

Facebook, for example, has seen its share price surge some 200% over the past five years. And while it’s not always the case that consumers or shareholders win when an industry consolidates, it usually always is the case that consumers lose when big government comes in and dictates the winners and losers.

Now, this is The Deep Woods, and in this publication, we dig into the deeper principles of an issue. Here, the principle involved is the proper jurisdiction over free peoples.

By what right, I ask you, does the government claim to legislate the free actions of individuals that make up corporations and companies?

These entities are freely associating with others, and using capital to make sound business decisions such as acquisitions, mergers, etc. We must assume here that these individuals are acting in what they consider to be their own mutual best interests, even if those choices ultimately turn out to be wrong.

The answer, of course, is the government has no right, and these companies are violating no laws. So, the government had to make up a new right, and that’s what they call antitrust laws.

Finally, the only real danger in the history of humanity from “bigness” is the rise of big government, i.e. the rise to power of those who wield the swords, guns and missiles — and, of course, the big laws they have restricting the freedom of citizens.


By Heather Wagenhals

We have a special treat here at The Atlasphere; the inaugural podcast show kicks off with host Heather Wagenhals financial colleague, Jim Woods.

Jim and I have backgrounds in the investment industries. We’ve had similar and diverse investment experiences and sharing the same philosophical beliefs learned through the characters of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Join us as we have a conversation about wealth, achievement, and the premise that wealth is more than money.

Who’s On:

Jim Woods is a 20-plus-year veteran of the markets with varied experience as a broker, hedge fund trader, financial writer, author and newsletter editor.  His books include co-authoring, Billion Dollar Green: Profit from the Eco Revolution, and The Wealth Shield: How to Invest and Protect Your Money from Another Stock Market Crash, Financial Crisis or Global Economic Collapse. He’s also ghostwritten many books and articles, as well as edited content for some of the investment industry’s most prominent luminaries. Read more about Jim Woods here.

Learn More with Guest Links:

This Week’s Lesson From the Lexicon:

Find today’s lesson on page 376 of the lexicon.
It references two separate essays from two different books, one from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as well as The Objectivist.
Follow along with our journey into Objectivism with the Ayn Rand Lexicon Objectivism From A to Z volume IV edited by Harry Binswanger with an introduction by Leonard Peikoff. Get your copy now!
Join us twice a month for The Atlasphere Podcast and Featured Article Narration. Be sure to like our Facebook fan page at  AND turn on notifications where you can participate in the show by directly ask questions and having your comments featured!

Special Offers:

Join us on Instagram ( ) for our daily inspiration through quotes from the works of Ayn Rand and other great philosophers and receive live broadcast alerts and announcements of new podcast episodes, events, and great articles from our contributors.
Are you looking to personally or professionally connect with other like-minded individuals for networking, dating, or experiencing the art of living well? If so, then you need to visit
Yes, The Atlasphere is a place where admirers of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged gather to discuss the art and philosophy of Ayn Rand, connect with others, and celebrate the art of living well.
Check out our great articles, reviews, personal and professional development resources all geared to help you practice the art of living well.
Visit our website at and enroll in our complimentary membership right now!

Follow us on Social Media:



The story of how the scientist-philosopher Thales came to predict a solar eclipse in 585 B.C. is an inspiring lesson in the triumph of rational, independent thinking. Lovers of reason should celebrate accordingly!


On May 28, 585 B.C.E., there was a solar eclipse visible in Asia Minor. Aristotle tells us that this eclipse had been predicted a year before by Thales of Miletus, a scientist, a philosopher, and a hard-headed businessman.

The unusual thing about this prediction is that Thales made it on the basis of observation and reasoning, rather than by consulting omens such as the entrails of an owl.

How did he do it? Well, unfortunately, he did not have any insights into astronomy, or into the building of astronomical instruments. If he had, then he would have been able to predict the day of the eclipse and not just the year.

Thales of Miletus (c. 624 BCE – c. 546 BCE)

What he did instead was travel to Babylonia. There he found the records kept of eclipses and other events by Babylonian astronomers and astrologers (at that time they made no distinction between the two) for hundreds of years.

Thales realized that by studying this raw data he could find patterns. That is how our brains work; we look for patterns in the data provided by our senses. That’s why we humans love music and puzzles of all kinds. Thales could see that there was an eclipse every N years, and 585 would be an N year, ergo, there would be an eclipse.

Thales lived from about 624 B.C. E. to about 546 B.C.E. He was involved in politics, and ancient sources also tell us he once predicted a bumper crop of olives, and bought up all the presses he could find — which he then sold to the farmers when his crop prediction came true.

He may have been the first scientist to study electricity and may have written books on astronomy, but none survive. He may have been the first to propose the spherical shape of the earth, but no one is sure. We do know he did original work in geometry.

The unusual thing about this prediction is that Thales made it on the basis of observation and reasoning, rather than by consulting omens such as the entrails of an owl.

What Thales did with the Babylonian astronomical raw data was a tour de force of complete thinking: he used induction, followed by deduction. First, he induced from the data the generalization that eclipses occur at certain intervals, then he deduced that 585 would be the next year in that pattern.

People tend to become overly fond of one of those two operations at the expense of the other, and that does not work. The “intellectual,” especially, tends to be too deductive and not sufficiently inductive.

He creates a theory and then, like Pygmalion, he falls in love with his own creation. He starts predicting future events all over the place, based on his pet theory. Eventually something happens that his theory does not account for, and he gets all upset, because he is unwilling to amend his theory.

Thales’s successful prediction caused a wave of enthusiasm for science in Greece, just as Newton’s explanation of celestial motion caused a wave of excitement for science and reason in the western world of his day.

These triumphs for reason and science raised man’s hope for a philosophy that would likewise be based on reason — a philosophy that anyone could arrive at independently.

Thales’s successful prediction caused a wave of enthusiasm for science in Greece.

With such a philosophy, mankind would be liberated from the purveyors of religious revelations of truths that only they can know and the rest of us must take on faith.

Thales’s eclipse meant that every man could be his own scientist and philosopher. A distinction started to be made between religion, which tells you what to think, and philosophy, which teaches you how to think.

May 28 should, therefore, be celebrated as the birthday of reason by all mankind.

Remember crayoning and cutting out pictures in elementary school? If you are old enough, you might remember Captain Kangaroo on TV and his construction paper and safety scissors. Turkeys and pilgrims for Thanksgiving, and three ships for Columbus Day.

Imagine the child of the future, in every land and tongue, learning about Thales in first grade, and drawing pictures of solar eclipses. Then, in middle or high school, he will learn about induction and deduction, and about the deeper implications of Thales’s feat: the fact that anyone could make the same prediction, that we live in a universe of objective facts open to the understanding of all, and that no priesthood has an exclusive pipeline to truth.




On the surface, Locke writer-director Stephen Knight has given us a minimalist movie about a man, his car, and his mobile device. For 85 minutes we watch a man who pours concrete for a living, driving alone in his car and talking on the phone. On a deeper level, however, this is a movie about something subtle and important: The role of honor.

Steven Knight’s tidy film Locke has given me more to think about than any other recent movie.

It is the story of Ivan Locke, construction director for big buildings in the UK. It is the evening before millions of metric tons of concrete are to be poured in the foundation of a 53-story building, the biggest pour outside of nuclear reactors in European history.

Locke is in love with his buildings. He goes on at one point about how this one will be visible from twenty miles away and cast a shadow a mile long at sunset. He doesn’t work for his employer or for the money — he works for the building. He is a master of his profession. Give him a problem and he’ll solve it.

But now he faces a problem that’s a little harder to solve. It appears this quiet, organized man who loves his wife and sons has made a mistake and the consequences are going to be very painful. I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you what the mistake is. Let me assure you it’s nothing revolting like child molesting or even embezzlement. But it was a moral lapse.

He doesn’t work for his employer or for the money — he works for the building. He is a master of his profession. Give him a problem and he’ll solve it.

Locke means to put things right, to whatever extent possible. He gets in his car and drives to London in an effort to do so. The entire movie takes place in his car and Tom Hardy, with his sleek beard and sleeker Welsh accent, is the only actor we see. All the dialogue is on the car phone.

Locke abandons the building and leaves the pour to his assistant, who is good at his own job but not up to the task. He has to explain to his wife why he’s not coming home. He has to face the wrath of his boss. But he’s made his decision. He’s not going to let the bad situation he’s caused get worse.

So what is this movie actually about? Honor. Locke is going to do the right thing even if his life crashes around his head.

Now, I am very suspicious of honor. As a student of the Civil War era, I’ve seen a lot of Southern pseudo-aristocratic honor, which is the honor of arrogant hypocrites who like to rape women.

I also think of honor killings in the Middle East. Cultures of honor are often cultures of collective shame and violent retribution. I know not all honor is like this, but let’s say honor has left a really bad taste in my mouth. (For a different view of honor, see Kirsti Minsaas’s review of the movie Rob Roy, for the Atlasphere.)

This film redeems the concept of honor for me. It redeems it for me because there is no pomp in Locke’s honor. He is just a rational man taking responsibility for his deeds. He’s basically an Objectivist with some emotional baggage. He speaks in terms of solving problems.

<<<Missing Video>>>

If he has a tragic blindness, it’s one perhaps some Objectivists would share with him: He believes every problem can be solved if you just “draw a circle around it.” The movie teaches him some powerful lessons on that subject. But he does not swerve from his course.

This film redeems the concept of honor for me, because there is no pomp in Locke’s honor. He is just a rational man taking responsibility for his deeds.

This is a thinking person’s movie. Look at the pun of the protagonist’s name: Ivan Locke. Ivan is Russian for John. Ivan Locke pours concrete. John Locke believed only concretes exist. And Ivan Locke is trying to hold up something like an implied social contract when he goes to right his wrong, echoing John Locke’s political concept.

The film came at a serendipitous time in my writing. I’m working on a book called Killing Cool: Fantasy vs. Reality in American Life. During the last two or three days I have been writing about the nature of adult wonder, which I define as the virtue of choosing to be open to the world and not taking it for granted.

One of the examples I give is how I feel wonder at the operation of conscience in a man. (Think Oskar Schindler.) Ivan Locke gives us an impressive example of a man of conscience to wonder at, a man as solid as concrete, a demonstration that a tragic hero is still a hero.

Kurt Keefner is a teacher and writer. He is author of the forthcoming non-fiction book Killing Cool: Fantasy vs. Reality in American Life. You can visit his blog at and browse his past Atlasphere columns through his directory profile.

A Viable Plan to Eliminate Income Taxes?

From George Will’s article “A National Sales Tax” at

The power to tax involves, as Chief Justice John Marshall said, the power to destroy. So does the power of tax reform, which is one reason why Rep. John Linder, a Georgia Republican, has a 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules.
His bill would abolish the IRS and the many billions of tax forms it sends out and receives. He would erase the federal income tax system — personal and corporate income taxes, the regressive payroll tax and self-employment tax, capital gains, gift and estate taxes, the alternative minimum tax and the earned income tax credit — and replace all that with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption.

The article continues:

Under his bill, he says, all goods, imported and domestic, would be treated equally at the checkout counter, and all taxpayers — including upward of 50 million foreign visitors annually — would pay “as much as they choose, when they choose, by how they choose to spend.” And his bill untaxes the poor by including an advanced monthly rebate, for every household, equal to the sales tax on consumption of essential goods and services, as calculated by the government, up to the annually adjusted poverty level.
Today the percentage of taxpayers who rely on professional tax preparers is at an all-time high. The 67 percent of tax filers who do not itemize may think they avoid compliance costs, which include nagging uncertainty about whether one has properly complied with a tax code about the meaning of which experts differ. But everyone pays the cost of the tax system’s vast drag on the economy.
Linder says Americans spend 7 billion hours a year filling out IRS forms and at least that much calculating the tax implications of business decisions. Economic growth suffers because corporate boards waste huge amounts of time on such calculations rather than making economically rational allocations of resources. Money saved on compliance costs would fund job creation.

You can read George Will’s full article at, and you can learn more about the Fair Tax plan at
Walter Williams also wrote favorably about the national sales tax back in December, in his article “National Sales Tax.”

Jimmy Wales Profiled in Wired Magazine

Atlasphere member and long-time Objectivist Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales is profiled in this month’s issue of Wired Magazine, in an article titled “The Book Stops Here.”
The article discusses the origins and success of the Wikipedia project, of which Jimmy is the founder.
Some of you may also remember Jimmy as the founder and owner of the Moderated Discussion of Objectivist Philosophy (MDOP), which was the largest Objectivist discussion forum of its time and the predecessor to what became the We the Living project.
Our congratulations to Jimmy and the Wikipedia team on their high-profile coverage in Wired magazine!

Greatest Tax Evader in U.S. History

If you can wade through a vitriolic dislike for Ayn Rand and a cynical misrepresentation of her philosophy, the article “Tax Evader as Super Hero” is rather interesting. It begins with the following story:

Today?s Capitalism Gone Mad story in the general press goes beyond Marx, Engels, Jonathan Swift, Mel Brooks, even the late great Ernie Kovacs. It concerns a man of mystery named Walter Anderson whom a New York Times story calls the greatest tax evader in U.S. history. Since the U.S. has the lowest rate of effective taxation on corporations and wealthy individuals in the developed world, that is quite an achievement. But the fellow, Walter Anderson, appears to be quite a character, to say the least.
First of all he has a penchant, some might say a fetish, for changing his name, which apparently started early, since his mother informed government agents that he had been born Walter Anderson Crump. He apparently developed a series of other aliases to hide his assets, dressed exclusively in Black, and somewhat like the great Chicago utilities swindler of the 1920s and 1930s, Samuel Insull, established so confusing a set of corporate entities even the prosecutors couldn?t figure them out.
But that is only the beginning. Anderson started 15 years ago with MCI, formed his own long-distance phone company, profited apparently from the deregulation and entered the business that really interested him ? space travel. The downfall of the Soviet Union enabled him to buy the rights to the Mir space station for $31 million. He then founded Rotary Rocket, a space travel business that didn?t quite work out, and then continued his telecommunications businesses, setting up “offshore entities” in the British Virgin Islands and Panama to transfer his assets.
Meanwhile, according to the U.S. government, he transferred at least $450 million out of the U.S. between 1995 and 1999. In 1998 for example, he paid only $494 total in federal taxes.

Anybody who makes over $100 million per year by privatizing space travel, while managing to pay less than $500 in taxes, deserves some consideration in our book.
See the full story for more information.

Irvine: John Ridpath Lectures on George Washington

From the Ayn Rand Institute:

George Washington: Integrity and the Founding of America

By John Ridpath
The Founders of America all viewed George Washington as their leader, and many of them, including Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Hamilton, held him in awe. Washington was indeed a man of heroic courage and unbending integrity. In this lecture John Ridpath presents the struggle behind America?s founding, the intellectual context of the time and the central role in that struggle–exemplified in the life and career of Washington.
Hyatt Regency Irvine
17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California 92614
$5 for self-parking, $9 for valet
Monday, February 21, 2005
Bookstore opens: 6:30 PM
Presentation: 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Q & A: 9:00 PM to 9:30 PM
For more information:
Phone: 949-222-6550

The Fountainhead Soundtrack, by Max Steiner

The soundtrack for The Fountainhead movie has been recently released on audio CD, with a lavish 32-page color booklet.
Chris Sciabarra wrote an insightful review of the recording for Navigator, including this excerpt from the liner notes:

Steiner’s score suggests that he felt a strong affinity for The Fountainhead. There is, to be sure, no documentary evidence to prove this (indeed, all that we have on paper are Steiner’s notes to his orchestrator, Murray Cutter). However, the music, especially the heroic Roark theme, so perfectly conveys the feel of a Rand novel, it is hard not to think that Steiner was personally moved by the story, and its message. Steiner uses his music to convey important information to the audience. For example, he establishes subtle “links” between characters through the music…. Steiner demonstrates an insight into the metaphysical nature of the “evil” that opposes Roark…. His use of the “redemption theme” is carefully placed and always conveys what Rand intends. There is even a musical link made between Dominique’s malevolent sense of life, and Wynand’s tragic flaw. All in all, the evidence suggests that Steiner had a strong, intuitive insight into what Rand was up to.

Check out Sciabarra’s full review for additional information.