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Productivity of ARI

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Just curious as to your opinions on ARI. Would you call it successful or do you think it has not been as effective as it could be? If you were running it, what might you do differently?

That is a difficult question to answer with the limited visibility into internal operations possessed by those of us who do not work there.

From my perspective as an outsider, I think ARI has become much more effective since Yaron Brook became the executive director. Their operations are focused, integrated and growing rapidly. (This latter is a sign that their donor base is pleased with their work, and is giving them more money as a result.)

One area where I think their efforts have lagged somewhat is cutting-edge internet outreach. It took them much too long, for example, to establish a YouTube channel, and the stuff that's on it is still much too limited. ARI has had an annual lecture series for many years, for example -- why can't I find every single one of those presentations, in full, on their YouTube channel? I'm not big into social networking sites personally, but I suspect that functionality could also be leveraged. Why aren't there regional ARI donor meetups? Does ARI provide infrastructure for networking campus clubs together? Etc.

That said, though, I'm generally quite happy with how ARI has been performing in recent years. Are there things they could do better? Almost certainly. But they are trying to do something that has never been done before. There is no playbook they can turn to; they're making it up as they go.

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But they are trying to do something that has never been done before. There is no playbook they can turn to; they're making it up as they go.

Really? What are they trying to do? If breaking into the internet world is part of their goal, there are certainly services that can make that happen. Countless businesses have been forced to make the changeover, some have done it better than others.

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I've only been aware of the ARI for about 2 years now, so I am unaware how much productivity it's made. However, it's obvious just from the past 2 years it's been growing quite well.

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Well, this is hardly a complete picture, but according to Charity Navigator, they improved their rating from 2/5 to 4/5 since 2005. This is mostly because they increased their program expenses from $2.6m to $4.8m with a revenue increase of just 39%. This means that they are more efficient and/or donors are contributing more per capita.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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One area where I think their efforts have lagged somewhat is cutting-edge Internet outreach. It took them much too long, for example, to establish a YouTube channel, and the stuff that's on it is still much too limited. ARI has had an annual lecture series for many years, for example -- why can't I find every single one of those presentations, in full, on their YouTube channel?

I think there are two reasons for this: 1) They want to give their donors perks, so they limit who can view a lot of stuff via their own website; and all you have to do is register with them and you can see a lot more; they want to retain control on some level as to what does and does not represent ARI; 2) I'm sure they have some dismay over the fact that a lot of stuff on YouTube is a violation of copyrights. And I'm sure they wouldn't want to have major works all split up the way things get violated on YouTube.

There is a lot of garbage on that channel, because it is not edited prior to being posted. There is a lot of talent on display, as well, but I wouldn't personally rave about YouTube, because it is a case of more garbage than talent being on display. It's basically what happens when you let just anyone have their say -- the diamonds become difficult to find.

I even recently ran across http://www.aniboom.com from YouTube, which has many of the same problems. There is very good talent up there, but one has to dig and dig in order to find it.

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In that video, Yaron Brook talks about how ARI has improved over the last 8 years (since he has been president), and why he is optimistic (or, as he puts it, 'realistic') about ARI's future progress.

For summer reading prior to freshman year of high school, I was required to read Anthem. Although I cannot say that it changed my life, it certainly got me interested in Rand (although I did not come across Objectivism until over six months later). This was no doubt the work of ARI's project to introduce Rand's works into high schools. I finished reading Atlas Shrugged almost a year later, and it changed my life forever. I have ARI to thank for that, because my teachers, parents, and peers certainly would never had introduced me to it. :)

Thank you, Dr. Brook!

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I dont really like their output - way too many overpriced lecture series, and nowhere near enough solid books and scholarly articles. Also no journals of note (compare to JARS for instance) and a silly refusal to engage with the academic community. As a platform for buildilng on Ayn Rand's ideas they seem very poor, but in terms of spreading her basic ideas to people who havent heard of her before they seem to do better, although I think they sometimes undermine themselves by advocating loony positions which are likely to turn people off (nuke Iran!) . I guess it depends on what their goals are.

The free books to highschools thing is a great idea so credit to them for that.

Edited by eriatarka

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I dont really like their output - way too many overpriced lecture series

Does the sale of said lectures, by an independent entity, I might add, somehow limit their activity? Does the mass-sale of said lectures not constitute 'building on Ayn Rand's ideas'?

and nowhere near enough solid books and scholarly articles.

The Objectivists you do see in journals though - you can thank the support of the ARI for much of that, specifically the Anthem Foundation.

Also no journals of note (compare to JARS for instance) and a silly refusal to engage with the academic community.

Really? Could you point out where they make this point? They seem to be backing new Academics all the time (so long as they have a keen interest in working on Objectivism in colleges). Official employees at the Institute and people affiliated with them (I should point out, if the ARI is your workplace, you probably don't have time to be a full-time lecturer/academic or some such - so it's people like Andy Bernstein who do the footwork) are speaking at Universities across the country and abroad all the time.

As a platform for buildilng on Ayn Rand's ideas they seem very poor

I highly disagree. There has been some great work so far - although I personally would like to see more powerhouse, new work and such, I understand that the ARI can only dedicate itself one way. As Yaron Brook said at OCON this year, their job is to prolesytise Rand. They need people like us though, working in our respective fields, using her ideas, building on them. That's how Objectivism is going to win.

although I think they sometimes undermine themselves by advocating loony positions which are likely to turn people off (nuke Iran!)

That's your opinion on what they say, and to back it up, you would have to explain such a position, and then we'd have to have a debate about it, and that's not appropriate to this topic, so please keep such irrelivancies and unsubstantiated points to yourself.

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ARI is doing a great job spreading Objectivism and, most importantly, educating future Objectivist intellectuals.

Today there are many books written by Objectivists who have been educated in ARI's academic programs; there are many high-school students reading Ayn Rand's books due to ARI's efforts; there are frequent Objectivist op-eds, TV and radio appearances; and then there are long-term projects like preserving all of Ayn Rand's papers.

Best of all, they're doing all of this without watering down or compromising Objectivism; they're remaining absolutely true to the philosophy. For instance, they haven't chosen to de-emphasize controversial parts of Objectivism in order to attract, say, conservatives or libertarians. They do not hesitate to take a principled stand, even if other people will say it's unpopular - see for example their call for a vigorous prosecution of the war against the Islamic terrorists and their sponsors.

In other words, they don't try to "get along with" their intellectual enemies.

Contribute a minimal amount of money to ARI and you'll get their monthly newsletter; you can then read for yourself about all of the projects they're doing.

All of this is quite exciting and I must say I'm a bit jealous of younger Objectivists today, because nothing like this existed thirty years ago when I was new to Objectivism. Back then, there was very little in print about Objectivism beyond what Ayn Rand herself had written; attending taped lecture courses was one of the few ways to learn systematically about the philosophy. Today, we have, for instance, good books on the Objectivist Ethics (by Tara Smith); a complete treatment of the philosophy (Peikoff's OPAR); books of essays examining Ayn Rands fiction works individually; AND an ambitious young person can get an excellent education in Objectivism, taught by the experts at ARI's Academic Center.

A good, uncompromising defense of the necessary philosophical underpinnings of a free society is what ARI is providing. It's exactly what Western Civilization needs desperately now; nothing less will get the job done.

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ARI is doing a great job spreading Objectivism and, most importantly, educating future Objectivist intellectuals.

I have to agree with Jay P. As someone who was also around 30 years ago and just discovering Objectivism, I can tell you that if you are in your teens or early twenties and just coming to know Objectivism, that your resources are much, much greater than was available to us. Not only didn't we have the Internet, but back then there were no organized groups studying Objectivism that were available to newcomers to the philosophy. Most of Ayn Rand's books and collections were written and available, but if the local store didn't carry them, they were hard to find. Maybe if you lived in NYC or other very large metropolitan area that had been influenced by the very early Ayn Rand meetings (her so called "Collective") or offshoots of the defunct NBI, you might have been able to find others who knew about Objectivism and were eager to talk about it. But most of us didn't have that luxury. It took me almost 10 years to find others who were interested in the philosophy. I first discovered The Fountainhead in high school (late 1970's) and didn't move to the Dallas area and was able to get involved in regular discussions of Objectivism until mid to late 1980. One of the first, if not the first, email based discussion groups, Bob Stubblefield's Objectivist Study Group (OSG) did not become available until about 1989 -- and I didn't even have a reason to have a computer back then.

The resources available now make it seem like a paradise compared to back then; and ARI is on the forefront of legitimate resources on Objectivism. There are a plethora of Objectivist study groups, computers and the Internet make it possible for you to find others interested in Objectivism merely by putting Objectivism in an Internet search box, and you can have regular contact with others interested in discussing the philosophy.

Can it be even better? Sure. But even after 50 plus years of the philosophy being available, it is still a new philosophy, so don't expect the world to change overnight to accommodate Objectivists. That ain't going to happen. However, after observing the influence of Objectivism over the past 30 years, I can tell you that we are making headway. But the point is to make headway without compromising the philosophy, which I think ARI does very well.

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This criticism strikes me as lacking any context. The fact that you don't like something doesn't speak to the aspect of whether it is effective in acheiving rational ends given the resources available.

I dont really like their output - way too many overpriced lecture series, and nowhere near enough solid books and scholarly articles.

Well, price is relative to those market segments they are trying to target with the products. If one debates price it may be with the implicit idea that getting all the ideas, with as many products to as many people should be their goal with every product. But then that would say they should give every thing away, which of course takes donated funds. Have you considered that some programs are profit generating because a certain market will pay the price, and that that profit might to go supplement other programs?

So who buys scholarly books, vs the cost of production, and the added difficulty of getting publishers on board.

Also no journals of note (compare to JARS for instance) and a silly refusal to engage with the academic community.

This is simply not true. Listen to a few OCON academic panels and you'd understand that there are serious efforts out there to engage mainstream academia. Have you considered that the silly refusal might be on someone else's part? Also if you're concerned about a specific event or item that was refused, realize that with limited resources one need not take every opportunity. As such, a method of selecting which opportunities are most valuable is important. I would think criteria such as getting a reasonable hearing, risking sanction of opposing viewpoints would factor into such a thing. Which particular policies do you have an issue with?

As a platform for buildilng on Ayn Rand's ideas they seem very poor.

As in... ?

but in terms of spreading her basic ideas to people who havent heard of her before they seem to do better,

So maybe that is the particular mission of the institute. Advancing her ideas might be left to Objectivist academics, of which it is the primary mission of ARI to create more of. In which case your empirical observations would exactly fit with what they are trying to do, and mean they are doing it right.

although I think they sometimes undermine themselves by advocating loony positions which are likely to turn people off (nuke Iran!).

This is the difference between an organization interested in gaining a position at the expense of the principles it's trying to advocate and one that is actually trying to gain a position and not lose the meat of the ideas which it's advocating. Popularity of an idea is not the basis for advocating it if one is seriously interested in living by principle. This is what "serious" Libertarians do when they associate themselves with the kooks that make up most of their party in the name of building a bigger base. Yeah, that's worked well.

I guess it depends on what their goals are.

You got that right.

For an organization whose annual budget is still in the single digit millions (maybe we just went over 10...), ARI is doing spectacularly. One must realize how early we are in the process of idea changing. The religious right has some 40-50 years head start.

Kudo's to Yaron and his staff.

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For an organization whose annual budget is still in the single digit millions (maybe we just went over 10...), ARI is doing spectacularly. One must realize how early we are in the process of idea changing. The religious right has some 40-50 years head start.

Not to take issue with anything else Kendall said, since I agree with it, but I'm not sure 50 years is the right date to take into account as to when the Religious Right began to take shape. Perhaps as a specifically political movement in the United States that might be about right, but Christianity qua (pseudo) philosophy has been around for much longer -- give or take two thousand years! The Enlightenment almost drove religion out of the realm of ideas taken seriously about 200 years ago, but then Kant brought so much uncertainty to intellectual thought that religion became the default position. That is, when the secular people were uncertain of their position, this left room for the religionists to gain dominance. So, it began to happen about 200 years ago.

But when one is talking specifically as a political movement, one could say that the Religious Right began to gain dominance in some people's minds when the nihilists and the socialists held supremacy politically in this country. In other words, it was a reaction against socialism and communism -- especially on the premise that socialism and communism were against God and therefore against man. That it was the godlessness of the socialists and the communists that led to those evil governments -- and part of the reason they were evil, according to the religionists, is that they are godless and therefore have no "higher power" guidance.

Of course, the Religious Right will lead to the same evils, if taken fully seriously; because any non-rational basis for a government will lead to the wholesale elimination of individual rights. And the only consistently rational approach is from the Objectivists; and that philosophy has only been around for 50 years.

Sometimes I think some people are looking for a short-cut; some means of getting Objectivism to the forefront without having to convince anyone of the rationale of Objectivism. Well, that cannot be done. The rational resources are there, and more are being created on a timely basis, and the only thing that can be done is to make it available and to promote it as much as possible. ARI is doing an excellent job of doing that. If you want more, then you can take up the task of promoting reason yourself; and if you don't have those skills, then you can donate to ARI.

The world isn't lost, yet, but if you want them to water down the philosophy and compromise their principles, then it will fail, and the world will be lost. There are enough resources available now to make great headway, and that is happening. If you want more, than at least donate more to ARI because they are funding a lot of material created by the new intellectuals. If you think they are moving too slowly, then I think you need a little historical context as to what it takes to have a philosophical revolution -- these things do not happen overnight.

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Yeah, what Kendall said! :lol:

I don't have too much to add. I did want to say that I am by no means wealthy, but I do donate what I can to ARI. Perhaps if some of you aren't happy with their efforts, you should send them $5, $20 or $50? If ARI had the multi-million dollar budgets of CATO or Heritage, I'm sure they would be more visible in more ways.

(And let's not forget the office being opened in Washington DC. A lot of time, money and effort are going into that new center which should make ARI more visible in more areas.)

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I don't have too much to add. I did want to say that I am by no means wealthy, but I do donate what I can to ARI. Perhaps if some of you aren't happy with their efforts, you should send them $5, $20 or $50? If ARI had the multi-million dollar budgets of CATO or Heritage, I'm sure they would be more visible in more ways.

For that matter, ARI allows you to earmark your contribution to support a particular program (within some limits). So if you really like the free books program, but don't like some of the other things they do, send them money earmarked specifically for the free books campaign. I've always thought that the free books program in particular was something that should really transcend the normal pro/anti-ARI partisanship. Surely any self-proclaimed Objectivist should agree that getting more people to read Ayn Rand is a good thing.

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For that matter, ARI allows you to earmark your contribution to support a particular program (within some limits). So if you really like the free books program, but don't like some of the other things they do, send them money earmarked specifically for the free books campaign. I've always thought that the free books program in particular was something that should really transcend the normal pro/anti-ARI partisanship. Surely any self-proclaimed Objectivist should agree that getting more people to read Ayn Rand is a good thing.

I think they are doing better with the website. I only became aware of them about 3 years ago - but the website they have now is better than it was then.

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