WSJ: Remembering the real Ayn Rand

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Donald Luskin has an excellent article “Remembering the Real Ayn Rand” that begins by discussing the new movie:

Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been briskâ??and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.
When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.

See his full article for much more, including a sensible discussion of the ways in which big businessmen are often no friends of capitalism and the ways in which Rand was neither a conservative nor a liberal.
Mr. Luskin is co-author with Andrew Greta of a new book, scheduled for publication next month, titled I Am John Galt: Today’s Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It. Judging from this article, I guessing it’s pretty good.

Hedge-fund manager Barry Colvin raises funds for ARI outpost in NYC

A new article in the Wall Street Journal begins:

Forget tea leaves: Wall Street is turning to Ayn Rand for guidance.
Hedge-fund manager Barry Colvin has raised $60,000 to start a Greater New York outpost of the Ayn Rand Institute, the first chapter in the country for the Irvine, Calif.-based nonprofit dedicated to the late free-market philosopher and novelist.
“The idea is on-the-ground reconnaissance,” said Mr. Colvin, vice chairman of Chicago-based Balyasny Asset Management. Mr. Colvin contributed the bulk of the funds but rallied donors for the rest.
“It’s our civic duty to pound the table about making people challenge their own ideas behind what they think the role of government should be,” he said.
As a kick-off, Mr. Colvin will co-host a series of debates next month on freedom, government and capitalism with Demos, a public-policy research and advocacy group based in New York.

Ayn Rand popular among high school students at the Long Island "Ethics Bowl"

A new article “At Ethics Bowl, L.I. Teenagers Debate Slippery Issues” in the NY Times begins:

Ethics are a good thing, and almost everyone is said to have them. But by some accounts, they are like muscles in the brain, strong or atrophied, depending on exercise.
So consider the second annual Long Island High School Ethics Bowl, held on Saturday, a form of contest among athletes of ethics â?? students from eight high schools who spent a full day thinking up a sweat over the blacks and whites and grays of right and wrong.

And ends:

Do they read Aristotle on self-realization, Epicurus on the dangers of self-indulgence?
Many of the students interviewed mentioned Ayn Rand, the libertarian philosopher-novelist, as their favorite philosopher.

See the full article for more background.

No "sanction of the victim" from

Forced to choose between having a fulfillment center in Texas and enjoying its tax-free status as an internet retailer, Amazon choose to close its fulfillment center. This sounds like a win for Amazon customers, a lose for Texas taxpayers, and probably a draw for Amazon itself.

The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a lobbying group for small businesses working to eliminate Internet sales tax loopholes, criticized Amazon’s decision to close the Irving center.
“Texas retailers collect and remit sales taxes every day â?? whether the sale happens in a store or online,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the group. “ was asked to play by the same rules, and has responded by eliminating hundreds of Texas jobs. Amazon could have chosen to collect the sales tax as Texas retailers do, but instead they opted to protect their special sales tax loophole to the detriment of hardworking families.”

World premiere of Anthem on stage in Austin

It sounds like Jeff Britting, whom many of you may recognize as the manager of the Ayn Rand Archives for the Ayn Rand Institute, has been up to interesting stuff lately.
From a new article at

Austin Shakespeare opens 2011 with the world premiere of a new stage production based on the Ayn Rand novella, Anthem, adapted by Hollywood composer Jeff Britting. The new drama plays in the Rollins Studio Theatre at The Long Center from Jan. 19 -23.
Adapted by Hollywood composer Jeff Britting, who wrote the score for the Academy Award-nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, the work will include an original score and projections also crafted by Britting. Staged as an oratorio, the production will function as a play with music underscored throughout the production.
Based on the Ayn Rand novella of the same name, Anthem addresses the importance of individualism in a totalitarian world. The staging includes a strong video component to compliment the intimate setting of The Rollins Theatre.

See the full article for much more.

Great story: Jaroslav Romanchuk teaching free market principles to Burmese dissidents

Kelley Currie at The Weekly Standard blog has this beautiful anecdote about our beloved Jaroslav:

I met Romanchuk about a decade ago in Thailand, of all places. He was sent to me by colleagues at the International Republican Institute, where I was working at the time, to help with a problem I was having with my Burmese dissidents. They were good guysâ??committed to democracy and willing to risk their lives for it. They were also big admirers of Communist economic theories, and did not seem to understand the infrangible link between the economics of Marxism and its political tyranny. My attempts to get them to read the Economist and Adam Smith were going nowhere, so I got the idea that it might help them to hear from someone who had actually lived under a Communist system and had run away from it screaming.
Enter Romanchuk. He was as close to a pure Ayn Rand-spouting Objectivist as I have ever met, not to mention an incredibly brilliant economist who gave my well-intentioned Burmese dissidents brain cramps when he clearly explained how oppressive an economy based on redistribution and “social justice” actually was in real life. You could have heard a pin drop when he told them about the unsuccessful attempts on his life as a result of his work with an opposition political party under Lukashenko’s dictatorship. He also exhibited an unbelievably foul sense of humor and could, naturally, drink us all under the table, which he proceeded to do every night. Because he had street credibility, the Burmese dissidents could relate to him immediately. They never stopped asking for me to bring him back for a second round, but unfortunately I was unable to do so.

See her full blog post for more context for this anecdote.

Let a thousand Atlas Shrugged movies bloom?

If you’re not already familiar with it, check out ARI’s “Atlas Shrugged Video Contest.” I think this kind of contest is brilliant, and I salute their innovative efforts here.
It also reminds me of a comment a friend of mine made recently on Facebook, concerning the new Atlas Shrugged movie:

[I’ve long thought Aglialoro should] encourage the production of multiple versions, with a variety of artistic interpretations, styles, production qualities, of Atlas Shrugged as a movie.
I actually think the control that Aglialoro, or any other producer, wants to exert over the film is the biggest obstacle. They want it to be great. Naturally, we sympathize with them, and applaud them for this. This has been the obstacle keeping the movie from being made for so long.
It’s ultimately pointless: How much can Aglialoro affect the quality of the film? He’s pretty much limited to choosing the director and other essential staff. This is large, but… he also needs to ask how great he is at choosing, influencing, controlling artistic interpretation. Or for that matter, his directors or any other key creative contributors.
If instead of clutching the rights to make the movie, he made them free and invited all comers… we could see multiple versions made. I think this would stimulate much greater discussion of the interpretation of the book and the creative merits of each movie, and it would be a discussion which would last for years not just the few weeks or months that the feature film hits the box office. … Keep reading »

Read the rest of this post on our blog for the Atlas Shrugged movie.

Megan McArdle's critique of WikiLeaks

Since publishing our article yesterday in defense of WikiLeaks, I’ve been on the lookout for good articles presenting the case against WikiLeaks. Megan McArdle provides a pretty good one.
UPDATE – (Dec 12) For two more interesting perspectives on WikiLeaks, see Ron Paul’s defense of WikiLeaks and Clay Shirky’s insightful review of the long-term implications of WikiLeaks. The latter may be the most even-handed commentary I’ve seen.
Got additional insights on the subject? Share them in the comments below.