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  1. Recently, several media outlets have made a connection between Ayn Rand and Donald Trump. They have made this link based on an interview in which Trump stated, “It [The Fountainhead] relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.” Going further, several media sources have made the claim that Trump is stacking his cabinet with people who share Rand’s views because some of them have read her novel Atlas Shrugged. In drawing such parallels, media pundits are likely not focusing too much on the particulars of Trump’s actions and policies, many of which fly in the face of Rand’s stated views—from his overt racism, to his proposal to criminalize flag burning, to his promises to protect welfare programs, to his proposed expropriation of money from Americans to fund infrastructure spending. Rather, they are making a broader claim about Trump’s overall approach to morality and values, which they believe is an embodiment of Rand’s ideal of selfishness. In making this claim, the media appears to consider Trump and his cabinet members “selfish” in the sense that they are willing to say and do anything (including using the power of government) to achieve the ends they want to achieve, with no regard for others. Yet this understanding of selfishness is fundamentally at odds with Rand’s own conception. Instead of using any means whatsoever to achieve his or her ends, Rand held that a rationally selfish person is one who uses his or her own mind to the best of its ability to survive, thrive, and achieve personally chosen goals through his or her own independent thought and effort, and by engaging in voluntary, win-win relationships with others. In order for all individuals to survive and thrive, Rand held that their government must enact policies that unconditionally protect their individual rights, including the rights identified by the American founders: life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Setting aside the question of whether Trump and his acolytes are rationally selfish in their own lives, it’s clear that many of Trump’s proposals ignore individual rights in favor of defending the so-called collective prosperity of the nation. To use Rand’s terms, Trump rejects individualism and espouses collectivism in the form of nationalism. In the economic realm, several of Trump’s policies, including his abandonment of the TPP and his proposed tariff on goods from Mexico, prevent individuals from participating in volitional economic interactions without paying a hefty fee. These policies and others that Trump has proposed, which are examples of economic nationalism, prioritize protecting the alleged interests of the nation over the legitimate rights of the individual to trade freely. If Trump had really been influenced by Rand, he would know that free trade is the hallmark economic policy of a rights-protecting government. But instead, since his policies protect the group or the nation over the individual, they are ultimately another form of collectivism, as Rand defined it. When it comes to personal liberties, specifically abortion, Trump has stated that he thinks the government should punish women who choose to have an abortion and 100% outlaw it. According to Rand, abortion is a highly private medical decision. But Trump would rather this decision be made arbitrarily by the state or by the collective decision of voters. In either case, the policy undermines an individual woman’s right to make choices that affect her own body. By contrast, Rand called abortion a “moral right” for women everywhere, writing: “who can conceivably have the right to dictate to [a woman] what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?” But it’s not just Trump’s avowed policies that are collectivist; it’s also his racist, xenophobic attitudes. Rand called racism “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Trump has revealed his racism on multiple occasions, such as when he called Mexican immigrants all manner of vile names throughout his presidential campaign, ignoring the fact that most Mexican immigrants are decent, hard-working, honest individuals who are not criminals. Likewise, when a Mexican judge ruled against Trump, in a lawsuit dealing with Trump University, his immediate response was to question the judge’s decision because of his race. Trump’s damning of an entire ethnic group, such as Mexicans, on the basis of their country of origin, is plain and simple racism. And Trump’s racism reveals the ugly nature of collectivism, in that it utterly disregards the individual’s beliefs, values, and actions, automatically attributing to an individual both the best and worst characteristics of the collective group or race of people with which that individual is associated. In stark contrast to Trump and his positions, a truly rational and selfish person, in Rand’s sense of these terms, would understand the need for individual rights to be protected and would reject collectivism in all its manifestations. Rand viewed humans as rational and independent entities capable of making decisions for themselves; Trump views humans as sheep needing to be shepherded, or (in the case of non-Americans) as wolves that need to be walled off to protect said helpless sheep. Rand’s view is individualistic; Trump’s is collectivistic. Hence it is clear that Trump is far removed from Rand and from her distinctive conception of rational self-interest; instead, Trump falls squarely in the collectivistic and irrational realm. Therefore, we must fully disaffiliate Ayn Rand and her philosophy from the statements, actions, and policies of President Trump, regardless of Trump’s alleged infatuation with Rand and her characters. * * * For more on this subject, we recommend Ari Armstrong’s post at Freedom Outlook. Creative commons-licensed image courtesy of Flick user Gage Skidmore. The post Is Donald Trump Really Selfish? appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  2. Recently, several media outlets have made a connection between Ayn Rand and Donald Trump. They have made this link based on an interview in which Trump stated, “It [The Fountainhead] relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.” Going further, several media sources have made the claim that Trump is stacking his cabinet with people who share Rand’s views because some of them have read her novel Atlas Shrugged. In drawing such parallels, media pundits are likely not focusing too much on the particulars of Trump’s actions and policies, many of which fly in the face of Rand’s stated views—from his overt racism, to his proposal to criminalize flag burning, to his promises to protect welfare programs, to his proposed expropriation of money from Americans to fund infrastructure spending. Rather, they are making a broader claim about Trump’s overall approach to morality and values, which they believe is an embodiment of Rand’s ideal of selfishness. In making this claim, the media appears to consider Trump and his cabinet members “selfish” in the sense that they are willing to say and do anything (including using the power of government) to achieve the ends they want to achieve, with no regard for others. Yet this understanding of selfishness is fundamentally at odds with Rand’s own conception. Instead of using any means whatsoever to achieve his or her ends, Rand held that a rationally selfish person is one who uses his or her own mind to the best of its ability to survive, thrive, and achieve personally chosen goals through his or her own independent thought and effort, and by engaging in voluntary, win-win relationships with others. In order for all individuals to survive and thrive, Rand held that their government must enact policies that unconditionally protect their individual rights, including the rights identified by the American founders: life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Setting aside the question of whether Trump and his acolytes are rationally selfish in their own lives, it’s clear that many of Trump’s proposals ignore individual rights in favor of defending the so-called collective prosperity of the nation. To use Rand’s terms, Trump rejects individualism and espouses collectivism in the form of nationalism. In the economic realm, several of Trump’s policies, including his abandonment of the TPP and his proposed tariff on goods from Mexico, prevent individuals from participating in volitional economic interactions without paying a hefty fee. These policies and others that Trump has proposed, which are examples of economic nationalism, prioritize protecting the alleged interests of the nation over the legitimate rights of the individual to trade freely. If Trump had really been influenced by Rand, he would know that free trade is the hallmark economic policy of a rights-protecting government. But instead, since his policies protect the group or the nation over the individual, they are ultimately another form of collectivism, as Rand defined it. When it comes to personal liberties, specifically abortion, Trump has stated that he thinks the government should punish women who choose to have an abortion and 100% outlaw it. According to Rand, abortion is a highly private medical decision. But Trump would rather this decision be made arbitrarily by the state or by the collective decision of voters. In either case, the policy undermines an individual woman’s right to make choices that affect her own body. By contrast, Rand called abortion a “moral right” for women everywhere, writing: “who can conceivably have the right to dictate to [a woman] what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?” But it’s not just Trump’s avowed policies that are collectivist; it’s also his racist, xenophobic attitudes. Rand called racism “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Trump has revealed his racism on multiple occasions, such as when he called Mexican immigrants all manner of vile names throughout his presidential campaign, ignoring the fact that most Mexican immigrants are decent, hard-working, honest individuals who are not criminals. Likewise, when a Mexican judge ruled against Trump, in a lawsuit dealing with Trump University, his immediate response was to question the judge’s decision because of his race. Trump’s damning of an entire ethnic group, such as Mexicans, on the basis of their country of origin, is plain and simple racism. And Trump’s racism reveals the ugly nature of collectivism, in that it utterly disregards the individual’s beliefs, values, and actions, automatically attributing to an individual both the best and worst characteristics of the collective group or race of people with which that individual is associated. In stark contrast to Trump and his positions, a truly rational and selfish person, in Rand’s sense of these terms, would understand the need for individual rights to be protected and would reject collectivism in all its manifestations. Rand viewed humans as rational and independent entities capable of making decisions for themselves; Trump views humans as sheep needing to be shepherded, or (in the case of non-Americans) as wolves that need to be walled off to protect said helpless sheep. Rand’s view is individualistic; Trump’s is collectivistic. Hence it is clear that Trump is far removed from Rand and from her distinctive conception of rational self-interest; instead, Trump falls squarely in the collectivistic and irrational realm. Therefore, we must fully disaffiliate Ayn Rand and her philosophy from the statements, actions, and policies of President Trump, regardless of Trump’s alleged infatuation with Rand and her characters. * * * For more on this subject, we recommend Ari Armstrong’s post at Freedom Outlook. Creative commons-licensed image courtesy of Flick user Gage Skidmore. The post Is Donald Trump Really Selfish? appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  3. Elan Journo is Director of Policy Research at the Ayn Rand Institute, author of Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism and co-author with Onkar Ghate of the book discussed here: Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond. Journo and Ghate’s book was the subject of a recent controversy at UCLA where students and administrators sought to have it banned on the grounds that the title was “inflammatory.” * * * As soon as I opened your book, I immediately noticed that ARI has been writing about America’s crippled response to Islamic totalitarianism since 2001. As a country, have we really been pursuing an ineffectual foreign policy for fifteen years? At its root, what has been wrong with our foreign policy? American foreign policy has been a disaster. Immediately following 9/11, the U.S. could easily have ended the jihadist menace, but instead our troops—who are the best trained, best equipped warriors in the world—end up mired in what our leaders openly admit are unwinnable wars. It’s been fifteen-plus years since the attacks of September 11, and this enemy remains undefeated. Moreover, it’s a marker of the confusion and evasiveness of U.S. foreign policy that the nature of the enemy is still a subject of debate. It’s not just Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or scattered factions. We face an ideological movement. The enemy is defined, not primarily by their use of terrorist means, but by their ideological ends. They fight to create a society wherein every last detail of the individual’s life is dominated by Islamic religious law or sharia—a cause inspired and funded by patrons such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and above all, Iran. In our book, we call this political-ideological movement Islamic totalitarianism. In our culture, however, we’re at a point where many people don’t understand why the response to 9/11 was ineffectual, nor that there’s a definable enemy, nor what can be done to defend ourselves. Some now doubt that we can ever end the jihadist threat. Many people lay the blame for this debacle on the military, which is a monstrous injustice. Taken together, you can see why people might feel demoralized. In our book, we explain what went wrong and what to do about it. The fundamental problem, we argue, lies with the philosophic ideas shaping—and undercutting—American foreign policy. In particular, irrational ideas about morality have led to a destructive foreign policy. This a bipartisan, longstanding problem. That kind of explanation may surprise people, but the fact is, moral ideas play a crucial and rarely appreciated role in policymaking. Our culture’s conventional ideas about morality have subverted our ability to understand the nature of the enemy we face, to define our self-interest, and to defend ourselves. Despite being militarily and economically the most powerful nation on earth, the United States lacks a coherent foreign policy, let alone a conception of our self-interest. What we show in the book, in fact, are the many ways in which American foreign policy has been self-sacrificial. A very poignant example of the lack of a self-interested foreign policy is the way in which our government controls soldiers in the field through what you call “battlefield ethics” and the laws of war. Can you briefly explain why it’s wrong to issue a blanket prohibition against something like bombing non-military buildings? My co-author Onkar Ghate has a piece early in the book on the issue of civilians in war, and we deal with the issue of morality on the battlefield in a number of pieces (in my prior book, Winning the Unwinnable War, the topic receives considerable attention, too). The basic issue here is that a proper government should protect the lives and freedom of its own citizens. The only moral justification for war is self-defense, and if the government has taken the momentous step of going to war, it must enable the military to defeat the enemy threatening our lives. That perspective sets a moral framework for what soldiers should and should not do on the battlefield. Contrary to what many people think they know about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in reality, our soldiers were subject to the rules of engagement (the battlefield ethics, in effect) that systematically prevented them from using all necessary force to win, to crush whatever threats we faced—and even to protect themselves. You can find lots of news reports, for example, noting how—in line with Washington’s battlefield ethics—American forces were ordered not to bomb key targets such as power plants, and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hid) lest they offend the sensibilities of locals. This has many destructive results. It contradicts our government’s proper function. In effect such rules of warfare subordinate the lives of our own troops to the lives of enemy fighters—along with civilians in the war zones. It’s morally wrong for our government to put Americans in harm’s way, but prevent them from advancing the notional mission and protecting their own lives. There’s a great deal more to say—including the debilitating effects of such rules on the morale of our own fighters, even as it hands the enemy a huge advantage. I encourage your readers to explore the book for more. Shifting gears a little bit, your book suggests that one of the major failings of U.S. foreign policy has been the attempt to introduce democracy to conquered countries like Iraq. Why isn’t democracy the solution? George W. Bush called his policy the “forward strategy of freedom.” A more accurate name is the democracy crusade. And, as my colleagues and I predicted from the outset, it was a debacle. But I challenge the premise of the question: why think “democracy” is the solution? Facing an enemy seeking to harm us, the government’s primary task is to eliminate that threat. That’s what would protect our lives and freedom. That’s what should have been our government’s goal. That’s the solution. Our task is not to make the Middle East, or any other part of the world, peaceful, unoppressed, and prosperous. So, as we argue at length in Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism and in Winning the Unwinnable War, the basic purpose of Bush’s democracy crusade was irrational and contrary to our self-interest. To ask what went wrong with the democracy crusade is to ask a loaded question. The only thing that the American spread of democracy in the Middle East could achieve was to strengthen and empower the region’s ascendant ideological movement, the Islamist cause, which we should be fighting to defeat. And indeed, Bush’s policy encouraged that enemy. “Democracy” is a much-abused and misunderstood idea, and that sowed confusion about what Bush’s policy sought to do. We untangle those confusions in the book and explain why the spread of “democracy” was contrary to American interests. One of Bush’s premises was the fantastical idea that everyone, everywhere yearns for freedom. That idea is false, however; just look at the appeal of Islamic totalitarianism. And the fact that it is so easily refuted offers you a clue to how Bush’s policy was grounded in self-delusion, not reason. The U.S. and other western nations are very friendly with nations like Saudi Arabia, which you call “The Other Islamic State.” If democracy is not the solution in the region, what’s wrong with working with countries like Saudi Arabia if doing so serves one of our wider goals such as stability in the region? This question is a great illustration of a false alternative firmly embedded in how people think about foreign policy—a false alternative that highlights the uniqueness of an Objectivist approach. The question comes down to: Either we uphold some kind of idealistic policy — for example, the democracy crusade — that’s in fact selfless and destructive, or else we throw aside moral principles and ideals and instead pursue what’s seen to be in our self-interest and thus “practical.” And because such “interests” are divorced from moral judgment, some people wonder, why not deal with such monstrous regimes as Saudi Arabia? What this boils down to is: be moral or be practical. Ayn Rand rejected that view: it was a false choice, albeit one that people find unavoidable given the moral views they hold. This moral/practical dichotomy crops up everywhere, not only in foreign policy. This false alternative stems from a (wrong) view of what it means to follow moral principles: the default view is that morality is equated with selfless service to others, which is contrasted with the conventional view of what it means to be concerned with one’s own interests. The latter is seen as base, even amoral, but “practical.” Ayn Rand comes to morality with a fundamentally different framework. She advocated a morality of rational egoism, and in her view to define and pursue one’s self-interest requires thought and the guidance of objective moral principles. On her premises, there’s no moral/practical dichotomy either in ethics or in foreign policy. To unpack your question further, let’s take each element in turn. What should our policy be toward Saudi Arabia? The starting point for that is to judge the Saudi regime by an objective moral standard: is it a free society? are its actions friendly toward us? In fact, the Saudi regime is an oppressive monarchy distinguished by its imposition of Islamic religious law. Moreover, Saudi wealth has fueled the proselytizing for the Islamic totalitarian movement, for decades. It is a scandal that the U.S. treats that regime as an ally. There’s much more to say about it, but that should be enough to indicate that a truly self-interested approach would be far different. We touch on this in the book, and I look at another regime, Pakistan, that has also been undeservedly treated as an ally, and what a principled approach looks like. Let me say a brief word about the issue of regional “stability,” which you raised in the question. “Stability” is a slippery term, and it’s difficult to think of a period of “stability” in the Middle East. Quite the contrary: that region has been ravaged by coups, revolutions, civil wars, inter-state wars, guerilla insurgencies — for decades, and long before the U.S. was a major factor in the area. In my view, our interest is not primarily regional stability but protecting the freedom of Americans. Our chief concern should be fending off, and when necessary retaliating against, hostile forces emanating from that region. As you note, the oppressive nature of the Saudi regime is often ignored by our foreign policy makers, but lots of college students are part of the movement to divest from Israel because of alleged human rights violations. Given that, is it appropriate for the U.S. to continue to support Israel in the ways that we do? My upcoming book on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict answers that question in detail. But the short answer is: No, we shouldn’t continue down the current path because U.S. policy toward Israel is a train wreck—a mess of conflicting motives, aims, and short-range goals. The net result is harming our interests because our policy fails to evaluate the moral standing of the adversaries in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict properly. A conventional view today is that the U.S. is strongly supportive of Israel. In certain narrow ways, Washington has been supportive, but it has also done a lot to subvert Israel. A true picture of U.S. policy would have to include the fact that American policy has empowered our enemies in the region. What’s needed is a principled backing of Israel, for its virtue as a free society facing a common foe, the Islamist movement. My view of the conflict, and America’s stake in it, is indicated in a talk I gave a couple of years ago, which I encourage your readers to watch on YouTube. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which you mentioned, has captured the imagination of many students. But I regard that movement as negating justice, rather than upholding it. The leaders of the BDS movement single out Israel, which is basically a free country, for alleged wrongs, but there’s no comparable outrage at actual, well-documented, incontestable violations of individual rights by the Middle East’s various theocracies and dictatorships. That should set off an alarm in your mind, if you care about justice and freedom. In our conversation today we don’t have time to dig into the wrongs Israel has been accused of, and to form a view of the conflict and the moral standing of the adversaries, you would have to look into those accusations; I examine the major issues in my upcoming book. If your readers are interested in the BDS issue, I did a podcast with an expert on the subject, Dr. Asaf Romirowsky. Do you see a direct link between The West’s failure to confront Islamic totalitarianism abroad and the increasing threats to free speech and safety at home? Absolutely. These two issues are entwined. The failure to defeat this enemy has been compounded by our repeated appeasement of its assaults on the freedom of speech. Had we defeated the Islamic totalitarian movement years ago, had we shown its ideal to be a lost cause, it’s hard to imagine any of its foot-soldiers daring to carry out a massacre such as we saw at French magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. And this pattern goes way back. Two significant episodes in that pattern were the 1979 hostage-taking of American diplomats in Iran, and the 1989 Iranian bounty put on the head of the British author Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. For years we at ARI have been at the frontlines in the battle over freedom of speech, and my colleague Steve Simpson sums up our view of the dynamic in his superb book, Defending Free Speech. He discusses that issue in the book’s Introduction, which you can read online for free. You’ve documented how deeply entrenched the problems are and the size of the threat, but you don’t see any of our current political parties as offering appropriate solutions. What can people who are interested in a solution do? The problems with American foreign policy stem from the influence of irrational philosophic ideas, and it will take considerable work to change direction. But it’s doable. The starting point is to understand the situation. So I encourage people to educate themselves. Read, understand the key issues, and speak up—when and where you judge best. My hope is that Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism and Winning the Unwinnable War can help people make sense of American foreign policy since 9/11, and thereby empower them to be more effective advocates for their own ideas. * * * Follow Elan on Twitter for a chance to win one of 15 copies of his book Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism. Click here to enter the sweepstakes. The post Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: An Interview with Elan Journo appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  4. Elan Journo is Director of Policy Research at the Ayn Rand Institute, author of Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism and co-author with Onkar Ghate of the book discussed here: Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond. Journo and Ghate’s book was the subject of a recent controversy at UCLA where students and administrators sought to have it banned on the grounds that the title was “inflammatory.” * * * As soon as I opened your book, I immediately noticed that ARI has been writing about America’s crippled response to Islamic totalitarianism since 2001. As a country, have we really been pursuing an ineffectual foreign policy for fifteen years? At its root, what has been wrong with our foreign policy? American foreign policy has been a disaster. Immediately following 9/11, the U.S. could easily have ended the jihadist menace, but instead our troops—who are the best trained, best equipped warriors in the world—end up mired in what our leaders openly admit are unwinnable wars. It’s been fifteen-plus years since the attacks of September 11, and this enemy remains undefeated. Moreover, it’s a marker of the confusion and evasiveness of U.S. foreign policy that the nature of the enemy is still a subject of debate. It’s not just Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or scattered factions. We face an ideological movement. The enemy is defined, not primarily by their use of terrorist means, but by their ideological ends. They fight to create a society wherein every last detail of the individual’s life is dominated by Islamic religious law or sharia—a cause inspired and funded by patrons such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and above all, Iran. In our book, we call this political-ideological movement Islamic totalitarianism. In our culture, however, we’re at a point where many people don’t understand why the response to 9/11 was ineffectual, nor that there’s a definable enemy, nor what can be done to defend ourselves. Some now doubt that we can ever end the jihadist threat. Many people lay the blame for this debacle on the military, which is a monstrous injustice. Taken together, you can see why people might feel demoralized. In our book, we explain what went wrong and what to do about it. The fundamental problem, we argue, lies with the philosophic ideas shaping—and undercutting—American foreign policy. In particular, irrational ideas about morality have led to a destructive foreign policy. This a bipartisan, longstanding problem. That kind of explanation may surprise people, but the fact is, moral ideas play a crucial and rarely appreciated role in policymaking. Our culture’s conventional ideas about morality have subverted our ability to understand the nature of the enemy we face, to define our self-interest, and to defend ourselves. Despite being militarily and economically the most powerful nation on earth, the United States lacks a coherent foreign policy, let alone a conception of our self-interest. What we show in the book, in fact, are the many ways in which American foreign policy has been self-sacrificial. A very poignant example of the lack of a self-interested foreign policy is the way in which our government controls soldiers in the field through what you call “battlefield ethics” and the laws of war. Can you briefly explain why it’s wrong to issue a blanket prohibition against something like bombing non-military buildings? My co-author Onkar Ghate has a piece early in the book on the issue of civilians in war, and we deal with the issue of morality on the battlefield in a number of pieces (in my prior book, Winning the Unwinnable War, the topic receives considerable attention, too). The basic issue here is that a proper government should protect the lives and freedom of its own citizens. The only moral justification for war is self-defense, and if the government has taken the momentous step of going to war, it must enable the military to defeat the enemy threatening our lives. That perspective sets a moral framework for what soldiers should and should not do on the battlefield. Contrary to what many people think they know about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in reality, our soldiers were subject to the rules of engagement (the battlefield ethics, in effect) that systematically prevented them from using all necessary force to win, to crush whatever threats we faced—and even to protect themselves. You can find lots of news reports, for example, noting how—in line with Washington’s battlefield ethics—American forces were ordered not to bomb key targets such as power plants, and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hid) lest they offend the sensibilities of locals. This has many destructive results. It contradicts our government’s proper function. In effect such rules of warfare subordinate the lives of our own troops to the lives of enemy fighters—along with civilians in the war zones. It’s morally wrong for our government to put Americans in harm’s way, but prevent them from advancing the notional mission and protecting their own lives. There’s a great deal more to say—including the debilitating effects of such rules on the morale of our own fighters, even as it hands the enemy a huge advantage. I encourage your readers to explore the book for more. Shifting gears a little bit, your book suggests that one of the major failings of U.S. foreign policy has been the attempt to introduce democracy to conquered countries like Iraq. Why isn’t democracy the solution? George W. Bush called his policy the “forward strategy of freedom.” A more accurate name is the democracy crusade. And, as my colleagues and I predicted from the outset, it was a debacle. But I challenge the premise of the question: why think “democracy” is the solution? Facing an enemy seeking to harm us, the government’s primary task is to eliminate that threat. That’s what would protect our lives and freedom. That’s what should have been our government’s goal. That’s the solution. Our task is not to make the Middle East, or any other part of the world, peaceful, unoppressed, and prosperous. So, as we argue at length in Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism and in Winning the Unwinnable War, the basic purpose of Bush’s democracy crusade was irrational and contrary to our self-interest. To ask what went wrong with the democracy crusade is to ask a loaded question. The only thing that the American spread of democracy in the Middle East could achieve was to strengthen and empower the region’s ascendant ideological movement, the Islamist cause, which we should be fighting to defeat. And indeed, Bush’s policy encouraged that enemy. “Democracy” is a much-abused and misunderstood idea, and that sowed confusion about what Bush’s policy sought to do. We untangle those confusions in the book and explain why the spread of “democracy” was contrary to American interests. One of Bush’s premises was the fantastical idea that everyone, everywhere yearns for freedom. That idea is false, however; just look at the appeal of Islamic totalitarianism. And the fact that it is so easily refuted offers you a clue to how Bush’s policy was grounded in self-delusion, not reason. The U.S. and other western nations are very friendly with nations like Saudi Arabia, which you call “The Other Islamic State.” If democracy is not the solution in the region, what’s wrong with working with countries like Saudi Arabia if doing so serves one of our wider goals such as stability in the region? This question is a great illustration of a false alternative firmly embedded in how people think about foreign policy—a false alternative that highlights the uniqueness of an Objectivist approach. The question comes down to: Either we uphold some kind of idealistic policy — for example, the democracy crusade — that’s in fact selfless and destructive, or else we throw aside moral principles and ideals and instead pursue what’s seen to be in our self-interest and thus “practical.” And because such “interests” are divorced from moral judgment, some people wonder, why not deal with such monstrous regimes as Saudi Arabia? What this boils down to is: be moral or be practical. Ayn Rand rejected that view: it was a false choice, albeit one that people find unavoidable given the moral views they hold. This moral/practical dichotomy crops up everywhere, not only in foreign policy. This false alternative stems from a (wrong) view of what it means to follow moral principles: the default view is that morality is equated with selfless service to others, which is contrasted with the conventional view of what it means to be concerned with one’s own interests. The latter is seen as base, even amoral, but “practical.” Ayn Rand comes to morality with a fundamentally different framework. She advocated a morality of rational egoism, and in her view to define and pursue one’s self-interest requires thought and the guidance of objective moral principles. On her premises, there’s no moral/practical dichotomy either in ethics or in foreign policy. To unpack your question further, let’s take each element in turn. What should our policy be toward Saudi Arabia? The starting point for that is to judge the Saudi regime by an objective moral standard: is it a free society? are its actions friendly toward us? In fact, the Saudi regime is an oppressive monarchy distinguished by its imposition of Islamic religious law. Moreover, Saudi wealth has fueled the proselytizing for the Islamic totalitarian movement, for decades. It is a scandal that the U.S. treats that regime as an ally. There’s much more to say about it, but that should be enough to indicate that a truly self-interested approach would be far different. We touch on this in the book, and I look at another regime, Pakistan, that has also been undeservedly treated as an ally, and what a principled approach looks like. Let me say a brief word about the issue of regional “stability,” which you raised in the question. “Stability” is a slippery term, and it’s difficult to think of a period of “stability” in the Middle East. Quite the contrary: that region has been ravaged by coups, revolutions, civil wars, inter-state wars, guerilla insurgencies — for decades, and long before the U.S. was a major factor in the area. In my view, our interest is not primarily regional stability but protecting the freedom of Americans. Our chief concern should be fending off, and when necessary retaliating against, hostile forces emanating from that region. As you note, the oppressive nature of the Saudi regime is often ignored by our foreign policy makers, but lots of college students are part of the movement to divest from Israel because of alleged human rights violations. Given that, is it appropriate for the U.S. to continue to support Israel in the ways that we do? My upcoming book on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict answers that question in detail. But the short answer is: No, we shouldn’t continue down the current path because U.S. policy toward Israel is a train wreck—a mess of conflicting motives, aims, and short-range goals. The net result is harming our interests because our policy fails to evaluate the moral standing of the adversaries in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict properly. A conventional view today is that the U.S. is strongly supportive of Israel. In certain narrow ways, Washington has been supportive, but it has also done a lot to subvert Israel. A true picture of U.S. policy would have to include the fact that American policy has empowered our enemies in the region. What’s needed is a principled backing of Israel, for its virtue as a free society facing a common foe, the Islamist movement. My view of the conflict, and America’s stake in it, is indicated in a talk I gave a couple of years ago, which I encourage your readers to watch on YouTube. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which you mentioned, has captured the imagination of many students. But I regard that movement as negating justice, rather than upholding it. The leaders of the BDS movement single out Israel, which is basically a free country, for alleged wrongs, but there’s no comparable outrage at actual, well-documented, incontestable violations of individual rights by the Middle East’s various theocracies and dictatorships. That should set off an alarm in your mind, if you care about justice and freedom. In our conversation today we don’t have time to dig into the wrongs Israel has been accused of, and to form a view of the conflict and the moral standing of the adversaries, you would have to look into those accusations; I examine the major issues in my upcoming book. If your readers are interested in the BDS issue, I did a podcast with an expert on the subject, Dr. Asaf Romirowsky. Do you see a direct link between The West’s failure to confront Islamic totalitarianism abroad and the increasing threats to free speech and safety at home? Absolutely. These two issues are entwined. The failure to defeat this enemy has been compounded by our repeated appeasement of its assaults on the freedom of speech. Had we defeated the Islamic totalitarian movement years ago, had we shown its ideal to be a lost cause, it’s hard to imagine any of its foot-soldiers daring to carry out a massacre such as we saw at French magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. And this pattern goes way back. Two significant episodes in that pattern were the 1979 hostage-taking of American diplomats in Iran, and the 1989 Iranian bounty put on the head of the British author Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. For years we at ARI have been at the frontlines in the battle over freedom of speech, and my colleague Steve Simpson sums up our view of the dynamic in his superb book, Defending Free Speech. He discusses that issue in the book’s Introduction, which you can read online for free. You’ve documented how deeply entrenched the problems are and the size of the threat, but you don’t see any of our current political parties as offering appropriate solutions. What can people who are interested in a solution do? The problems with American foreign policy stem from the influence of irrational philosophic ideas, and it will take considerable work to change direction. But it’s doable. The starting point is to understand the situation. So I encourage people to educate themselves. Read, understand the key issues, and speak up—when and where you judge best. My hope is that Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism and Winning the Unwinnable War can help people make sense of American foreign policy since 9/11, and thereby empower them to be more effective advocates for their own ideas. * * * Follow Elan on Twitter for a chance to win one of 15 copies of his book Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism. Click here to enter the sweepstakes. The post Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: An Interview with Elan Journo appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  5. STRIVE’s Objectivism Q&A on Sunday, February 5th stretched nearly an hour overtime while students eagerly discussed several issues in politics, property rights, epistemology and more with Dr. Harry Binswanger and Dr. Gregory Salmieri. Dr. Binswanger is the author of How We Know and The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, and was an associate and friend of Ayn Rand in her last years. Dr. Salmieri is the co-editor with Alan Gotthelf of A Companion to Ayn Rand, the first volume to offer a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Rand’s entire corpus. The two experts applied their vast knowledge of Objectivism to treat each question with characteristic thoroughness. One student was interested in applying Rand’s political philosophy to the controversial topic of antibiotics. They asked: should legal barriers be placed on the usage or sale of an antibiotic if its usage will likely breed bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic, thereby denying others from enjoying its benefits? Is this a case where an individual’s freedom should be limited for the good of society? To begin with, Dr. Binswanger rejected any reference to ‘the good of society.’ Only the rights of individuals are at stake in any such instance. Using an interesting analogy, he also questioned whether individual rights are in fact violated here. He asked rhetorically whether the government should be able to prevent you from putting a lock on your door, because criminals will then be more likely to break into your neighbor’s house which doesn’t have a lock. “The fact that you protect yourself from something bad, meaning someone else might get hurt instead,” Dr. Binswanger explained, referring to the use of antibiotics, “does not mean you have violated their rights.” Addressing the issue from another angle, Dr. Salmieri proposed that a lot of cases where the system of rights doesn’t seem to apply, or where there appears to be market failure, are actually cases where there hasn’t been creative thinking about how the principle of property rights applies in that realm. He explained that, because a drug-patent lasts only twenty years, the owner is incentivized to sell as much of it as he can within a short period, thus accelerating the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing. However, “the continued value of the patented product depends, not only on the initial intellectual act of coming up with it, but on the continued management of the frequency of usage of it.” Therefore, Dr. Salmieri suggested that the solution might be to increase the duration of the patent “for as long as the drug continues to have medical use.” Politics was a recurring theme throughout the Q&A, with one student asking if it is justified to vote for the “lesser of two evils” in an election. Dr. Binswanger and Dr. Salmieri were unanimous on the point that “if there is a clear lesser of two evils, you should vote for the lesser evil.” Additionally, Dr. Salmieri recommended finding at least a minimal way to think of the better candidate as a positive rather than merely a lesser negative. For instance, if Obama were running against Hitler, you could say that Obama has at least some vestige of respect for human life. Another student asked what the philosophical takeaway would be from imagining a hypothetical Martian who perceives reality with an entirely different sensory apparatus than our own. Dr. Binswanger answered that, while the Martian may perceive colors as sound, or heat as vibrations, the information picked up by its senses would still be the same information that we pick up with ours. “Neither one is right, neither one is wrong. They’re both just different ways of responding.” The crucial takeaway is that sense-perception is always ‘valid’ in that it presents us with information about reality. The question of validity – of ‘right and wrong’ – only arises with regard to our conclusions about the information we receive. The similarities between the Martian example and the phenomena known as synesthesia were also discussed. While it was acknowledged that the two have much in common, Dr. Salmieri noted that synesthetes often perceive something in addition to normal sense-perception – such as having particular colors associated with particular numbers. This, however, is most likely the result of a strong association formed in early years, and therefore does not tell us about perception. At STRIVE’s next Objectivism Q&A, Dr. Gregory Salmieri will once again be joining students live to answer their questions about Ayn Rand’s philosophy. We highly encourage you to tune in on Sunday, March 19th, from 4:30 – 6:00 PM PST. Be sure to sign up here and submit your questions in advance! The post Objectivism Q&A Recap: A Conversation with Harry Binswanger and Greg Salmieri appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  6. STRIVE’s Objectivism Q&A on Sunday, February 5th stretched nearly an hour overtime while students eagerly discussed several issues in politics, property rights, epistemology and more with Dr. Harry Binswanger and Dr. Gregory Salmieri. Dr. Binswanger is the author of How We Know and The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, and was an associate and friend of Ayn Rand in her last years. Dr. Salmieri is the co-editor with Alan Gotthelf of A Companion to Ayn Rand, the first volume to offer a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Rand’s entire corpus. The two experts applied their vast knowledge of Objectivism to treat each question with characteristic thoroughness. One student was interested in applying Rand’s political philosophy to the controversial topic of antibiotics. They asked: should legal barriers be placed on the usage or sale of an antibiotic if its usage will likely breed bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic, thereby denying others from enjoying its benefits? Is this a case where an individual’s freedom should be limited for the good of society? To begin with, Dr. Binswanger rejected any reference to ‘the good of society.’ Only the rights of individuals are at stake in any such instance. Using an interesting analogy, he also questioned whether individual rights are in fact violated here. He asked rhetorically whether the government should be able to prevent you from putting a lock on your door, because criminals will then be more likely to break into your neighbor’s house which doesn’t have a lock. “The fact that you protect yourself from something bad, meaning someone else might get hurt instead,” Dr. Binswanger explained, referring to the use of antibiotics, “does not mean you have violated their rights.” Addressing the issue from another angle, Dr. Salmieri proposed that a lot of cases where the system of rights doesn’t seem to apply, or where there appears to be market failure, are actually cases where there hasn’t been creative thinking about how the principle of property rights applies in that realm. He explained that, because a drug-patent lasts only twenty years, the owner is incentivized to sell as much of it as he can within a short period, thus accelerating the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing. However, “the continued value of the patented product depends, not only on the initial intellectual act of coming up with it, but on the continued management of the frequency of usage of it.” Therefore, Dr. Salmieri suggested that the solution might be to increase the duration of the patent “for as long as the drug continues to have medical use.” Politics was a recurring theme throughout the Q&A, with one student asking if it is justified to vote for the “lesser of two evils” in an election. Dr. Binswanger and Dr. Salmieri were unanimous on the point that “if there is a clear lesser of two evils, you should vote for the lesser evil.” Additionally, Dr. Salmieri recommended finding at least a minimal way to think of the better candidate as a positive rather than merely a lesser negative. For instance, if Obama were running against Hitler, you could say that Obama has at least some vestige of respect for human life. Another student asked what the philosophical takeaway would be from imagining a hypothetical Martian who perceives reality with an entirely different sensory apparatus than our own. Dr. Binswanger answered that, while the Martian may perceive colors as sound, or heat as vibrations, the information picked up by its senses would still be the same information that we pick up with ours. “Neither one is right, neither one is wrong. They’re both just different ways of responding.” The crucial takeaway is that sense-perception is always ‘valid’ in that it presents us with information about reality. The question of validity – of ‘right and wrong’ – only arises with regard to our conclusions about the information we receive. The similarities between the Martian example and the phenomena known as synesthesia were also discussed. While it was acknowledged that the two have much in common, Dr. Salmieri noted that synesthetes often perceive something in addition to normal sense-perception – such as having particular colors associated with particular numbers. This, however, is most likely the result of a strong association formed in early years, and therefore does not tell us about perception. At STRIVE’s next Objectivism Q&A, Dr. Gregory Salmieri will once again be joining students live to answer their questions about Ayn Rand’s philosophy. We highly encourage you to tune in on Sunday, March 19th, from 4:30 – 6:00 PM PST. Be sure to sign up here and submit your questions in advance! The post Objectivism Q&A Recap: A Conversation with Harry Binswanger and Greg Salmieri appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  7. At The Undercurrent, we recently launched #SelfishAndHappy, our national initiative rallying college students to write to their campus papers explaining how reading Ayn Rand has benefited their life. We’ve committed to posting well-written submissions on the TU blog. * * * The following is a letter to the editor from Tyler Ashby, a student of psychology, YouTube podcast host of Objectivist Discussions, and moderator of the Objectivism Q&As at STRIVE. Like many Americans, I was raised Christian. Growing up, God was the center of the universe, and so I sought to learn everything I could about him. Around the age of 13, I began studying the works of famous apologists who argued for the existence of God and the validity of his doctrine. As a consequence of my devotion, I became very fundamentalist, convinced that if the Bible were true, it should be the guide to my life. However, the more I studied, the more I began to experience a deep sense of cognitive dissonance. I felt something was terribly wrong with the code of ethics that I was learning. I was being taught that one’s purpose in life is to serve others, but a value I held even more strongly was that I had a right to my own life and liberty. This contradiction led me to seriously reevaluate my convictions. At age 16, I began dropping the arguments for God’s existence that I had studied one by one, as the criticisms I had encountered struck me as too compelling to ignore. Eventually, I saw flaws in the last argument I had and I dropped my belief in God rather abruptly. In doing so, however, I had taken a sudden step into personal chaos and uncertainty. I started reading Ayn Rand, along with many other philosophers, around the time that I was leaving Christianity, in the process of becoming an atheist. I did this because I knew that I needed help. I knew very well what the consequences of killing God were, so to speak. It meant abandoning the basis for my entire view on morality and how I came to understand the world. After all, according to the Christian worldview, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” I understood the necessity of having an explicit philosophy, or of having an integrated view of existence as Rand would put it. She argued that everyone has an implicit philosophy, a set of ideas and premises that directs how one thinks and draws conclusions about the world. Even if one isn’t self-aware enough to identify their most basic convictions, there are fundamental ideas and values one must either accept or reject in the process of living one’s daily life. As a Christian, I believed my purpose was to serve God’s will and serve others as a consequence. I became confident in my convictions by praying to God and trusting the gut feeling that came from that. I judged the actions of others based on biblical scripture, pride and self-esteem were indistinguishable but nonetheless sinful, and moral guidance primarily meant what I ought not to do. Without a belief in God, however, the basis of all those convictions was lost. So, I turned to secular philosophers to find help in reshaping my view of life. The New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens were incredible inspirations to me, but I found their cases for morality to be unsatisfying. They argued that benefiting human life should be the purpose of morality because it’s intuitive and useful, but I felt this argument was inadequate. Rand’s argument was a lot more persuasive to me because it detailed how moral values are necessitated by the requirements of man’s life, how pursuing one’s goals in life requires taking a particular, moral course of action, and how this gives rise to human life as the standard of value. What attracted me to Rand’s philosophy was that it argued that reason can be a means to discover morality, and also that reason can be a means to knowledge, that one can be confident in their understanding of the world. Morality didn’t feel like a compromise of rationality, and as a consequence, my moral values were something that I could refine or reconsider, rather than merely dogmatically assert. I was also more confident in asserting myself in moral arguments about politics and other issues because I no longer had to argue from a religious faith I struggled to prove. I had secular reasons for my views, and those reasons applied to everyone, not just those within a religious sect. Rand’s philosophy gave me a new focus in life: living the best life that I could for myself, without the guilt of knowing that I could never do enough to make others happy. I could strive for my own happiness, not by ignoring others in the process, but by befriending only the people that I care about, those that bring value to my life, not take it away. This was a life to be celebrated, not a vale of tears, with many achievements to be made and values to be created – and this life was mine to live on my own terms and for my values. I came to see virtue as primarily a means of achieving positive values, not negating what’s evil in the world. Justice for example, to me, is not primarily about punishing criminals, but about promoting and building up the virtuous people around you. Honesty is not primarily about not lying, but about allying yourself with the facts of reality, and accepting that doing so is the only way we can succeed and thrive. I’ve benefited the most from Rand by obtaining a better grasp of what I want from life and knowing how to achieve it. To conclude, I’d like to say that I’ve been greatly inspired by Rand’s profoundly positive outlook on life, and so I’ll share a quote from Atlas Shrugged that’s stuck with me since the day I read it: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” The post #SelfishAndHappy Submission: Tyler Ashby appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  8. At The Undercurrent, we recently launched #SelfishAndHappy, our national initiative rallying college students to write to their campus papers explaining how reading Ayn Rand has benefited their life. We’ve committed to posting well-written submissions on the TU blog. * * * The following is a letter to the editor from Tyler Ashby, a student of psychology, YouTube podcast host of Objectivist Discussions, and moderator of the Objectivism Q&As at STRIVE. Like many Americans, I was raised Christian. Growing up, God was the center of the universe, and so I sought to learn everything I could about him. Around the age of 13, I began studying the works of famous apologists who argued for the existence of God and the validity of his doctrine. As a consequence of my devotion, I became very fundamentalist, convinced that if the Bible were true, it should be the guide to my life. However, the more I studied, the more I began to experience a deep sense of cognitive dissonance. I felt something was terribly wrong with the code of ethics that I was learning. I was being taught that one’s purpose in life is to serve others, but a value I held even more strongly was that I had a right to my own life and liberty. This contradiction led me to seriously reevaluate my convictions. At age 16, I began dropping the arguments for God’s existence that I had studied one by one, as the criticisms I had encountered struck me as too compelling to ignore. Eventually, I saw flaws in the last argument I had and I dropped my belief in God rather abruptly. In doing so, however, I had taken a sudden step into personal chaos and uncertainty. I started reading Ayn Rand, along with many other philosophers, around the time that I was leaving Christianity, in the process of becoming an atheist. I did this because I knew that I needed help. I knew very well what the consequences of killing God were, so to speak. It meant abandoning the basis for my entire view on morality and how I came to understand the world. After all, according to the Christian worldview, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” I understood the necessity of having an explicit philosophy, or of having an integrated view of existence as Rand would put it. She argued that everyone has an implicit philosophy, a set of ideas and premises that directs how one thinks and draws conclusions about the world. Even if one isn’t self-aware enough to identify their most basic convictions, there are fundamental ideas and values one must either accept or reject in the process of living one’s daily life. As a Christian, I believed my purpose was to serve God’s will and serve others as a consequence. I became confident in my convictions by praying to God and trusting the gut feeling that came from that. I judged the actions of others based on biblical scripture, pride and self-esteem were indistinguishable but nonetheless sinful, and moral guidance primarily meant what I ought not to do. Without a belief in God, however, the basis of all those convictions was lost. So, I turned to secular philosophers to find help in reshaping my view of life. The New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens were incredible inspirations to me, but I found their cases for morality to be unsatisfying. They argued that benefiting human life should be the purpose of morality because it’s intuitive and useful, but I felt this argument was inadequate. Rand’s argument was a lot more persuasive to me because it detailed how moral values are necessitated by the requirements of man’s life, how pursuing one’s goals in life requires taking a particular, moral course of action, and how this gives rise to human life as the standard of value. What attracted me to Rand’s philosophy was that it argued that reason can be a means to discover morality, and also that reason can be a means to knowledge, that one can be confident in their understanding of the world. Morality didn’t feel like a compromise of rationality, and as a consequence, my moral values were something that I could refine or reconsider, rather than merely dogmatically assert. I was also more confident in asserting myself in moral arguments about politics and other issues because I no longer had to argue from a religious faith I struggled to prove. I had secular reasons for my views, and those reasons applied to everyone, not just those within a religious sect. Rand’s philosophy gave me a new focus in life: living the best life that I could for myself, without the guilt of knowing that I could never do enough to make others happy. I could strive for my own happiness, not by ignoring others in the process, but by befriending only the people that I care about, those that bring value to my life, not take it away. This was a life to be celebrated, not a vale of tears, with many achievements to be made and values to be created – and this life was mine to live on my own terms and for my values. I came to see virtue as primarily a means of achieving positive values, not negating what’s evil in the world. Justice for example, to me, is not primarily about punishing criminals, but about promoting and building up the virtuous people around you. Honesty is not primarily about not lying, but about allying yourself with the facts of reality, and accepting that doing so is the only way we can succeed and thrive. I’ve benefited the most from Rand by obtaining a better grasp of what I want from life and knowing how to achieve it. To conclude, I’d like to say that I’ve been greatly inspired by Rand’s profoundly positive outlook on life, and so I’ll share a quote from Atlas Shrugged that’s stuck with me since the day I read it: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” The post #SelfishAndHappy Submission: Tyler Ashby appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  9. STRIVE’s Online Mentor Q&A Program aims to provide students and career-oriented young people with opportunities to learn from real-world, active professionals about everything from crafting a purpose to setting and pursuing goals, to the myriad life lessons they’ve picked up in pursuit of their dreams. Here, TU Writer, Julian Hook, reports on the latest session with businessman Kendall Justiniano. * * * At STRIVE’s first Mentor Q&A of the new year, students were surprised to find out that Kendall Justiniano does not, as a rule, make New Year’s resolutions. An accomplished chemical engineer, businessman, and longtime Ayn Rand enthusiast, Justiniano is currently a business director for PolyOne Designed Structures and Solutions LLC. With his track-record of success, making and fulfilling resolutions is something he obviously has had a lot of experience with. However, he explained that picking just one particular time out of a year to set goals has never made much sense to him. “I like the idea and I like the spirit of making resolutions because it’s an aspect of evaluating where you’re at and trying to paint a picture of where you want to be… But I just find that I’m doing that a lot more often than once a year.” He also observed the widespread expectation that a New Years resolution will go by the wayside by February. “Frankly, I feel that goal pursuit is a lot more important than that. I don’t want to trivialize it.” As it turned out, goal setting and value-pursuit were two major themes of the Q&A session. When asked if there were any primary guiding principles that have been most important to him and his success, he outlined a framework (indirectly inspired by Leonard Peikoff’s course “The Art of Thinking”) that he finds particularly useful. Simply put, the framework involves breaking value-pursuit down into four activities: defining one’s values, discovering the means of attaining them, doing the work and, finally, reflecting on and assessing the course one is on. For instance, the first activity involves asking such questions as “What are the things that are most important to me; what are the things I want to pursue?” The second activity follows from the first. It involves asking “if there’s a particular career I want to pursue, what do I have to do to get to it?” The third one involves the actual practice of pursuing one’s values, “whether through education, training, or being out in the workplace.” As for the fourth activity, it involves “spending time to figure out if what I’m doing matches with my values.” “It’s really a kind of mindfulness framework if you will. Normally, in the course of a day, I do all four of those things.” Related to the second stage in this framework, Justiniano shared a practical tip for discovering what’s necessary to achieve success in one’s chosen field. If you find someone who has already achieved success in the career you are pursuing, he recommended taking the time to solicit a 30-45-minute interview with them. “I have never found a ‘no’ behind that.” He also recommended asking for the names of two or three other people in the field to follow up with. “You can very quickly come to a much deeper level of understanding [of your chosen career] simply through that process.” In response to a student’s question about re-evaluating goals, Justiniano also touched upon the problem of how to know when it is time to quit. He emphasized that passion is often a more important factor than talent. “Feeling a sense of reward is absolutely critical in maintaining your motivation.” On the other hand, if you feel that the issue is your level of talent, you might want to try sticking with it. “In general, if someone is able to paint a good path, and they are diligent, and they continue to find reward from it, I find that most people can be successful.” Of course, success doesn’t come without experiencing failure along the way. But Justiniano stressed that failure is simply “a part of what’s going on every day,” and that it stops being the disaster most people want to make it when you start to become more reflective about your life. “When you realize there’s nothing wrong with failure and that it’s a big part of learning, you suddenly get a positive outlook over a lot of things in life where before you might have gotten down on yourself.” Towards the end of the Q&A, Justiniano reaffirmed how immensely valuable Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has been to him. As someone who works in heavy industry—largely fossil fuel based—he remarked that his job is assaulted from all sides of the culture. Rand’s philosophy provided him with a valuable moral sanction on this front. “Just to know that what I did was right and good and valuable and that I love it for the right reasons was incredibly empowering.” The post Mentorship Q&A Recap: A Conversation with Kendall Justiniano appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  10. STRIVE’s Online Mentor Q&A Program aims to provide students and career-oriented young people with opportunities to learn from real-world, active professionals about everything from crafting a purpose to setting and pursuing goals, to the myriad life lessons they’ve picked up in pursuit of their dreams. Here, TU Writer, Julian Hook, reports on the latest session with businessman Kendall Justiniano. * * * At STRIVE’s first Mentor Q&A of the new year, students were surprised to find out that Kendall Justiniano does not, as a rule, make New Year’s resolutions. An accomplished chemical engineer, businessman, and longtime Ayn Rand enthusiast, Justiniano is currently a business director for PolyOne Designed Structures and Solutions LLC. With his track-record of success, making and fulfilling resolutions is something he obviously has had a lot of experience with. However, he explained that picking just one particular time out of a year to set goals has never made much sense to him. “I like the idea and I like the spirit of making resolutions because it’s an aspect of evaluating where you’re at and trying to paint a picture of where you want to be… But I just find that I’m doing that a lot more often than once a year.” He also observed the widespread expectation that a New Years resolution will go by the wayside by February. “Frankly, I feel that goal pursuit is a lot more important than that. I don’t want to trivialize it.” As it turned out, goal setting and value-pursuit were two major themes of the Q&A session. When asked if there were any primary guiding principles that have been most important to him and his success, he outlined a framework (indirectly inspired by Leonard Peikoff’s course “The Art of Thinking”) that he finds particularly useful. Simply put, the framework involves breaking value-pursuit down into four activities: defining one’s values, discovering the means of attaining them, doing the work and, finally, reflecting on and assessing the course one is on. For instance, the first activity involves asking such questions as “What are the things that are most important to me; what are the things I want to pursue?” The second activity follows from the first. It involves asking “if there’s a particular career I want to pursue, what do I have to do to get to it?” The third one involves the actual practice of pursuing one’s values, “whether through education, training, or being out in the workplace.” As for the fourth activity, it involves “spending time to figure out if what I’m doing matches with my values.” “It’s really a kind of mindfulness framework if you will. Normally, in the course of a day, I do all four of those things.” Related to the second stage in this framework, Justiniano shared a practical tip for discovering what’s necessary to achieve success in one’s chosen field. If you find someone who has already achieved success in the career you are pursuing, he recommended taking the time to solicit a 30-45-minute interview with them. “I have never found a ‘no’ behind that.” He also recommended asking for the names of two or three other people in the field to follow up with. “You can very quickly come to a much deeper level of understanding [of your chosen career] simply through that process.” In response to a student’s question about re-evaluating goals, Justiniano also touched upon the problem of how to know when it is time to quit. He emphasized that passion is often a more important factor than talent. “Feeling a sense of reward is absolutely critical in maintaining your motivation.” On the other hand, if you feel that the issue is your level of talent, you might want to try sticking with it. “In general, if someone is able to paint a good path, and they are diligent, and they continue to find reward from it, I find that most people can be successful.” Of course, success doesn’t come without experiencing failure along the way. But Justiniano stressed that failure is simply “a part of what’s going on every day,” and that it stops being the disaster most people want to make it when you start to become more reflective about your life. “When you realize there’s nothing wrong with failure and that it’s a big part of learning, you suddenly get a positive outlook over a lot of things in life where before you might have gotten down on yourself.” Towards the end of the Q&A, Justiniano reaffirmed how immensely valuable Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has been to him. As someone who works in heavy industry—largely fossil fuel based—he remarked that his job is assaulted from all sides of the culture. Rand’s philosophy provided him with a valuable moral sanction on this front. “Just to know that what I did was right and good and valuable and that I love it for the right reasons was incredibly empowering.” The post Mentorship Q&A Recap: A Conversation with Kendall Justiniano appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  11. Hone your Writing. Learn about Objectivism. Get Paid. The Undercurrent seeks applications from qualified students to become part of our growing team. This spring we’ll hire up to two interns to work collaboratively via email with our editorial team, producing content for TU’s blog. Selected interns will be paid by the article, with more money being paid for articles that require more work. Who: College students seeking experience writing about Objectivism What: Paid internship, up to $300 for three to four blog posts When: Spring 2016 (February-May), applications due February 20 Description: Selected interns will participate in the process of producing content for our edited blog that communicates an Objectivist analysis of politics and culture. The internship program permits students to engage with the publication through the production of two types of content: reporting pieces and editorials. Those interested can apply here. Requirements: Write three to four pieces for TU’s blog and have them approved for publication by our editorial staff. The requirements of the internship can be fulfilled either by writing one editorial piece and three reporting pieces or two editorial pieces and one reporting piece. Editorial pieces will be paid at the rate of $125 each and reporting pieces at the rate of $50 each. Questions: [email protected] The post Spring 2016 Editorial Internship: Apply Today! appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  12. Hone your Writing. Learn about Objectivism. Get Paid. The Undercurrent seeks applications from qualified students to become part of our growing team. This spring we’ll hire up to two interns to work collaboratively via email with our editorial team, producing content for TU’s blog. Selected interns will be paid by the article, with more money being paid for articles that require more work. Who: College students seeking experience writing about Objectivism What: Paid internship, up to $300 for three to four blog posts When: Spring 2017 (February-May), applications due February 20 Description: Selected interns will participate in the process of producing content for our edited blog that communicates an Objectivist analysis of politics and culture. The internship program permits students to engage with the publication through the production of two types of content: reporting pieces and editorials. Those interested can apply here. Requirements: Write three to four pieces for TU’s blog and have them approved for publication by our editorial staff. The requirements of the internship can be fulfilled either by writing one editorial piece and three reporting pieces or two editorial pieces and one reporting piece. Editorial pieces will be paid at the rate of $125 each and reporting pieces at the rate of $50 each. Questions: [email protected] The post Spring 2017 Paid Internship: Apply Today! appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  13. Objectivism Q&As is a new program by STRIVE that features experts in Objectivism answering questions by students interested in learning and understanding Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Students have the opportunity to ask their questions one-on-one with Objectivist intellectuals and are able to follow up on their questions for further clarity. The goal is that students around the country can have direct access to the scholars most qualified to improve their grasp of Objectivism. * * * Last Monday, Dr. Gregory Salmieri answered questions from students as part of Objectivism Q&As. Dr. Salmieri is an Anthem Fellow and a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University. As part of his most recent project, he served as the co-editor of A Companion to Ayn Rand, which is the first volume to offer a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Rand’s entire corpus. The intellectuals featured in Objectivism Q&As, including Dr. Salmieri, are personally invested in making sure that students have a chance to expand their knowledge and walk away bringing something new to their own lives and to those with whom they interact. During the Q&A, one student asked Salmieri about an event in Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, where the protagonist Howard Roark, displeased with the state of his career, stopped working as an architect and found a job in a quarry. The student wondered if he would make the same choice if he could never return to the profession he loved. “He doesn’t really know for sure whether he’ll be able to come back,” Salmieri explained, “but he’s very confident that he will… and he has reasons for thinking that it’s not worth continuing to work in the kinds of jobs that are immediately available to him.” Salmieri discussed the risk analysis Roark did before making the choice that he did and explained how knowing the direction of one’s life and career path can help in making such decisions. Salmieri also answered a question about a curious statement by John Galt in Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. When a friend was worried about John Galt, Galt replied, “Of course I’m alright, professor. I had to be. A is A.” The student was wondering if Galt believed that no accidental harm could come to him or that his well-being was somehow pre-determined. Salmieri replied by saying, “It stands out to me as a little bit of an odd line.” He described some of the ways that Ayn Rand may have intended it to be read, such as a casual comment among friends. He also discussed the philosophical implications of the line, such as the role of luck in a person’s life, and how one should view accidental tragedies. Ayn Rand’s novels weren’t the only topic of questions during this session. One other question was whether life is suffering as some philosophies argue, given the kind of struggles and hardships inherent in living, or whether it’s true that the universe is benevolent as Rand argues. In his answer, Salmieri dismissed the religious ideal by saying that “the Garden of Eden is awful…that is not a good life, that is not a human life.” He explained that the kind of effortless, unproductive leisure found in such depictions of paradise is not a fitting way of life for humans. As Salmieri put it, “Life is about achievement, and achievement is an effortful thing, and often that effort is very pleasurable.” In contrast to most religions, Rand’s view of life was that the pains and suffering that one encounters in life are incidental and do not define man’s life. Rather, the life of a rational being is one of purposeful struggle towards a noble goal, with one’s ultimate goal being the fulfillment of one’s life. The Objectivism Q&A program will feature many more Objectivist intellectuals, including Dr. Harry Binswanger, who is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation, has been an instructor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center since 1994, and was a personal friend to Ayn Rand during her later years. We highly encourage you to tune in on Sunday, February 5th at 1 pm PT/ 4 pm ET and ask questions of Greg Salmieri and Harry Binswanger. The post Objectivism Q&A Recap: A Discussion with Greg Salmieri appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  14. Objectivism Q&As is a new program by STRIVE that features experts in Objectivism answering questions by students interested in learning and understanding Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Students have the opportunity to ask their questions one-on-one with Objectivist intellectuals and are able to follow up on their questions for further clarity. The goal is that students around the country can have direct access to the scholars most qualified to improve their grasp of Objectivism. * * * Last Monday, Dr. Gregory Salmieri answered questions from students as part of Objectivism Q&As. Dr. Salmieri is an Anthem Fellow and a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University. As part of his most recent project, he served as the co-editor of A Companion to Ayn Rand, which is the first volume to offer a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Rand’s entire corpus. The intellectuals featured in Objectivism Q&As, including Dr. Salmieri, are personally invested in making sure that students have a chance to expand their knowledge and walk away bringing something new to their own lives and to those with whom they interact. During the Q&A, one student asked Salmieri about an event in Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, where the protagonist Howard Roark, displeased with the state of his career, stopped working as an architect and found a job in a quarry. The student wondered if he would make the same choice if he could never return to the profession he loved. “He doesn’t really know for sure whether he’ll be able to come back,” Salmieri explained, “but he’s very confident that he will… and he has reasons for thinking that it’s not worth continuing to work in the kinds of jobs that are immediately available to him.” Salmieri discussed the risk analysis Roark did before making the choice that he did and explained how knowing the direction of one’s life and career path can help in making such decisions. Salmieri also answered a question about a curious statement by John Galt in Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. When a friend was worried about John Galt, Galt replied, “Of course I’m alright, professor. I had to be. A is A.” The student was wondering if Galt believed that no accidental harm could come to him or that his well-being was somehow pre-determined. Salmieri replied by saying, “It stands out to me as a little bit of an odd line.” He described some of the ways that Ayn Rand may have intended it to be read, such as a casual comment among friends. He also discussed the philosophical implications of the line, such as the role of luck in a person’s life, and how one should view accidental tragedies. Ayn Rand’s novels weren’t the only topic of questions during this session. One other question was whether life is suffering as some philosophies argue, given the kind of struggles and hardships inherent in living, or whether it’s true that the universe is benevolent as Rand argues. In his answer, Salmieri dismissed the religious ideal by saying that “the Garden of Eden is awful…that is not a good life, that is not a human life.” He explained that the kind of effortless, unproductive leisure found in such depictions of paradise is not a fitting way of life for humans. As Salmieri put it, “Life is about achievement, and achievement is an effortful thing, and often that effort is very pleasurable.” In contrast to most religions, Rand’s view of life was that the pains and suffering that one encounters in life are incidental and do not define man’s life. Rather, the life of a rational being is one of purposeful struggle towards a noble goal, with one’s ultimate goal being the fulfillment of one’s life. The Objectivism Q&A program will feature many more Objectivist intellectuals, including Dr. Harry Binswanger, who is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation, has been an instructor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center since 1994, and was a personal friend to Ayn Rand during her later years. We highly encourage you to tune in on Sunday, February 5th at 1 pm PT/ 4 pm ET and ask questions of Greg Salmieri and Harry Binswanger. The post Objectivism Q&A Recap: A Discussion with Greg Salmieri appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
  15. In the Spring of 2016, we launched our first campus writing initiative, #CapitalistAndProud. With the successful conclusion of #CapitalistAndProud in December 2016, we’re proud to announce our latest initiative: #SelfishAndHappy. In partnership with STRIVE, we’re calling on our readers everywhere to write to The Undercurrent to explain their answers to the question: How has reading Ayn Rand benefited your life? Ayn Rand’s revolutionary morality of selfishness has impacted the lives of countless individuals since she first published The Fountainhead in 1943 and Atlas Shrugged in 1957. We’re hoping that you have a story to tell about reading Ayn Rand and how being exposed to the morality of selfishness changed your life. To encourage submission, we’ll publish well-written pieces on our blog, which will make them eligible to win a cash prize of $100. Pieces should be between 650-750 words in length and be your original work. All submissions for the writing contest should be sent to [email protected] Concurrently, our partner organization, STRIVE, will be running a social media contest. Those interested should submit a short video between one to five minutes in length explaining their answer to the same question used in the writing contest. Videos will be shared on social media and STRIVE will select one winner to receive a prize of $100. Submissions for the social media contest should be sent to [email protected] Visit STRIVE’s Facebook page to learn more. Don’t forget to chime in on our Facebook page and tweet us @tundercurrent. Creative commons-licensed image courtesy of Flickr user Elvert Barnes. The post Announcing #SelfishAndHappy: A New Campus Writing Initiative appeared first on The Undercurrent. Link to Original
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