Part 1—Antipathy It is difficult to think of two American authors more antithetical than Ayn Rand and Theodore Dreiser. According to his 1965 biographer, W. A. Swanberg, Dreiser firmly believed himself morally and intellectually superior to most Americans, especially those in the middle class, which he held in contempt. He was a lapsed Catholic who condemned religion although he remained essentially religious and in a state of continual agonized doubt. He was both morbidly oversexed and tortured by performance anxiety. He idealized women but was in fact a liar and a womanizer. Ambitious, lazy, unscrupulous, and cheap, he was a social climber who complained that American society failed to appreciate his genius (Swanberg 15-41). He became wealthy under capitalism at the same time that he openly defended Russian communism. When Ayn Rand began her career as a novelist, she was already what she would later conceptualize as an Objectivist. She consistently defended American business men and women and the American middle class. A matter-of-fact atheist, she had a theory of sex based in self-esteem. An immigrant from communist Russia, she expected nothing from America but the freedom to use her mind to achieve. She was a free-market capitalist, with a strong work ethic, and a determination to write best sellers. For a young Ayn Rand, chomping at the bit to be a novelist, Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy, would have been particularly goading, a literary...
Douglas Den Uyl is vice president of educational programs for Liberty Fund. Douglas Rasmussen is a professor of philosophy at St. John’s University . They co-wrote Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics (Pennsylvania State University Press). It has often been said that markets are led “as if by an invisible hand” to bring about order and cooperation among people....
Gordon Gekko: Stop telling lies about me and I'll stop telling the truth about you. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) Scams and rackets, hoaxes and frauds … are as old as humanity itself. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 25 million Americans lose in excess of $2.5 billion to fraud each year. Science, the exemplar of the taming of Nature by Reason, is not exempt from swindles. Indeed, the cloak of respectability facilitates longer-running rackets that ensnare the good, the bad, and the ugly (of character). The Piltdown fossils were claimed to be half ape, half man. If only. The famous Beringer fossils were all pre-planted to fool Beringer. The remains of the ten-foot-tall Cardiff Giant, an exhibition that attracted enthusiasts from afar, were carved out of stone. Then there was “Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” a prank (known as Sokal’s Hoax) by a physicist—a willfully nonsensical paper that a then-respected journal published. Sokal was only having an inside laugh at his own profession. But some fields are so open to a corruption of the mind, that the con artists...
This Women’s History Month, we turn to words of female empowerment from an unlikely source: Gene Simmons. In the age of #MeToo, the mere suggestion that the long-tongued KISS co-founder and frontman might have something valuable to say should make heads spin. Once heads stop spinning, some women’s heads may actually explode upon hearing what Simmons actually has to say. The rock mega-rockstar acknowledges as much in his recent best seller, On Power. “If you are a woman, I must say something...that will make me sound like a misogynistic blowhard.  But please get past that knee-jerk reaction because it is not your friend in the real world.” In the real world Simmons writes about, men and women are different.  He argues that women -- particularly beautiful women -- have a power that that they may choose to ignore, or to exploit: The power of sexual attractiveness. His peroration on the power of female sexual attractiveness goes on for pages, employing more italics than any other section in the book.  It’s worth quoting at length: “So let me say this clearly: Ladies, if you are interested in harnessing this type of power, first be honest with yourself about how you look.  That is to say, be honest about how you are perceived.  And if you find that you have this power that is unique to your sex, you should not feel ashamed to use it.”   “People may look down on you or try to shame you for it.  Do not listen to them. Your...
Ayn Rand polarizes.  There are those who declare that everything about Ayn Rand has already been decided. Whether Andrei is better than Leo, what Dominique really wanted, whether John Galt is one dimensional, what Rand meant by the train wreck, whether anarchy is politically viable, whether you can mention the names “Nathaniel Branden” and “Barbara Branden,” and what is up with Eddie Willers—for over 70 years, in journals, newsletters, internet forums, and books, it has all been discussed to death. There are others who claim that where Ayn Rand is concerned, there is nothing to discuss. She is a bad writer with dangerous, reactionary views. Period. Then there are those who love her, but who have put her away, as they would put away childish things, for the sake of respectability. Finally, there are those, of whom I am one, who practice a form of Open Objectivism, using Ayn Rand’s ideas as a point of departure for their own journey through life. But that isn’t really what I want to write about, except to say that I know. My perspective on Ayn Rand is a little different. I did not read her work seriously until I was an adult and facing some very adult problems, which she helped me to solve. This essay is not about how everything worked out for the best, however. It is about the tools used and the hard work done during midlife to right my course and to make the life I want with the time I have left. It is about how I found Ayn Rand’s ideas indispensable to creating that life, even...

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