Part 5 - Human Passivity
A second critical difference that sheds light on the divergent universes of Henry James and Ayn Rand is how they conceived human action.
Henry James made his most famous statement about life and human action in The Ambassadors:
Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had? . . . I haven’t done so enough before—and now I’m too old; too old at any rate for what I see. . . . What one loses one loses; make no mistake about that. . . . Still, we have the illusion of freedom; therefore don’t be, like me, without the memory of that illusion. I was either, at the right time, too stupid or too intelligent to have it; I don’t quite know which. Of course at present I’m a case of reaction against the mistake. . . . Do what you like so long as you don’t make my mistake. For it was a mistake. Live!
In The Ambassadors, (1903), James told the story of Lambert Strether. Strether undertook a trip to Paris to bring Chad Newsome home to Boston to resume his successful career in advertising. Ironically, under the influence of impeccable European manners, Strether exhorted Newsome to abandon his career and stay in Europe. Throughout the novel, James explicitly stated his disdain for the active life. For example, early in the novel, Maria Gostrey, a guide to all things European, and Lambert Strether, the weary American in need of...
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 5
Ayn Rand was not the only great “mother” of the modern liberty philosophy. Isabel Patterson and Rose Wilder Lane have also been recognized for their intellectual contributions. But ideas don’t enact themselves, and other extraordinary women have been essential architects of the movement itself, especially one who deserves to take a place among that pantheon: the late Andrea Millen Rich.
At the age of 79, Andrea died last week at her home in Philadelphia after a long battle with lung cancer.
For nearly half a century, she had a profound influence on the growth of the libertarian movement, and on the countless individuals she befriended, mentored and supported. I was honored to be among them. She consistently went out of her way to help so many, including myself, bring out our best.
Andrea was actively involved with the Libertarian Party from its inception. She was president of Laissez-Faire Books for almost 25 years. She hired the brilliant polymath Roy Childs to edit the Laissez-Faire catalog, which became the monthly journal of the freedom movement. The LF locations in New York City and San Francisco were gathering places for freedom-lovers; I never missed a chance to visit when I was in town. And that’s only to mention a few of her many projects.
There are others who can speak more fully to Andrea’s achievements. I can only share a few memories of my experience with her as a microcosm of her larger impact.
In the fall of 1988, I was invited to speak at the Laissez-Faire...
Read Article : In Memory of Andrea Rich
Part Four - Smart Money
The Portrait of a Lady is considered the greatest novel by one of the greatest novelists in the English language, even though it is difficult not to see in the novel condescension and even outright mockery of Americans and American business and industry. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, on the other hand, defended American business and industry. The novel told the story of Dagny Taggart, a woman who fought to keep her railroad away from looters and who finally destroyed it rather than relinquish it to them, a woman who never lost her innocence, who found love, and who resolved to build a new railroad. In contrast to The Portrait of a Lady, Atlas Shrugged is considered absurd, awful, heartless, elitist, immoral, and of course, badly written.
Ayn Rand knew the value of money. Born Alisa Rosenbaum, into an upper middle-class family in St. Petersburg, Russia, Rand was the daughter of a chemist. The family enjoyed all the benefits of wealth he earned from his pharmacy business. As a child, Ayn Rand attended school, received instruction in French and German from private tutors, and read every book and magazine that made its way into the household. While still a child she decided to become a writer. She became enamored of The Mysterious Valley, a romantic adventure serialized in a French children’s magazine. Had circumstances remained the same, it is possible to imagine Ayn Rand growing up to be a more purely Romantic novelist....
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 4
Yes, you read that title correctly.
For us to make this point, we need to be very clear about what capitalism is and what it isn’t. This is especially true given the term tends to come with a lot of baggage.
This is what capitalism is not, at least as we use the term in this essay. Capitalism is not: consumerism, materialism, greed, exploitation, or even the pursuit of wealth and power. Those things may show up, but they are not what it fundamentally is (but more on this later).
So what is it? Put simply: Capitalism is freedom. Freedom in a particular area of life — that of commerce and trade.
Capitalism creates the space for (allows for) creation and movement in that particular area (dimension, domain) of life. Capitalism is separation of commerce and state, in the same way that freedom of religion is separation of church and state.
To be honest, we don’t even like the term “capitalism.” We prefer “free markets”, “free enterprise”, or “freedom of commerce.” Those phrases better point at the phenomenon that we’re referring to.
Freedom of commerce or capitalism or free markets or whatever you want to call it is not just an abstract concept, it impacts you every day. Freedom of commerce allows you to buy what you want, sell what you want, work for who you want, and hire who you want. It allows for the hundreds of voluntary interactions (transactions) that you have every week, even something as small as buying a cup coffee from your favorite local...
Read Article : Capitalism Has (Almost) Nothing To Do With Profit
Part Three - Divergent Universes
Henry James did not consider the subject matter of his novels to be inherently the proper one for all novelists. It was the proper one for him. An artist’s subject matter, James reasoned, sprang from his or her own consciousness of circumstances: “The thing of profit is to have your experience—to recognize and understand it, and for this almost any will do; there being surely no absolute ideal about it beyond getting from it all it has to give.” It is of course in terms of subject matter that Henry James and Ayn Rand diverge. The Jamesian subject matter was the old world. It gave him “considerable occasion to appreciate the mixture of manners” in America and Europe, and he created an ironic universe in which the well-heeled ground underfoot successful American capitalists. For Ayn Rand, art grew out of her appreciation of the terrible consequences of both tsarist Russia and the Russian Revolution. She created a benevolent universe in which American freedom and American capitalism brought life.
One critical difference that helps to illustrate the divergent universes of Henry James and those of Ayn Rand has to do with how they viewed money.
Henry James was born into a wealthy New England family, wealthy in a distinctly American way. James’s grandfather, William James, immigrated to the United States from County Cavan, Ireland, in 1789. He had little money when he arrived, but he’d brought with him ambition and a Calvinist...
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 3