Editor's Note: This article, from 1991, references "The institute." The Atlas Society was orginially founded as the Institute for Objectivist Studies.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.
-Arthur Hugh Clough
June 1, 1991 -- Ideas are the primary source of a society's culture and political life, and we look to intellectual change as the path to freedom, individualism, and a culture in which our values will be honored.
History throws this connection into bold relief. With the accuracy of hindsight, and a vantage point that lets us take in centuries at a sweep, we observe how the ideas that flourished in the Renaissance and Age of Reason led to the Enlightenment and its political reforms, and then to the Industrial Revolution.
But those who are fighting for the emergence of new ideas do not have this perspective. The dawn of a new age is a slow and cloudy affair, and it's sometimes hard to see what difference we are making. Objectivist ideas remain far outside the academic mainstream. The universities are filled with an ugly nihilism. Politicians keep repeating the mantras of the welfare state.
Nevertheless, we are not living in the Dark Ages. Communism is in collapse around the globe, as one country after another revolts against the naked threats and empty promises of collectivism. Free-market ideas are in the ascendancy throughout the West. Tax revolts seem to have put an upper limit on the growth of government.
In the universities, radicals have been trying to impose affirmative action on the curriculum, downplaying the great works of Western civilization in the name of "diversity." They have tried to impose speech codes to prevent blasphemy against the egalitarian faith. But they have run into fierce resistance from an increasing number of scholars who are beginning to grasp what is at stake. "Political correctness" has been denounced by many prominent academics, including the presidents of Harvard and Yale.
Outside the universities, the economy offers considerable scope for entrepreneurial ambition, especially in the fields of computers and communications. Indeed, by automating the use of information, pioneers in these fields are fomenting a technological revolution whose effects on human well-being may rival those of the Industrial Revolution.
The intellectual revolt against the Enlightenment that began two centuries ago has run its course. The ideas that spawned the revolt have nowhere left to go, and their effects hang on only by default. The ideas that will replace them are still fighting for acceptance. Intellectually, the sun is still on the horizon. But the land is bright with possibility.
The Institute's Role
We at the Institute believe that Ayn Rand is the philosopher of the new age, and we are committed to the task of extending her ideas and making them better known. The Journal will be a progress report to our members and friends. We'll let you know what we are doing: the courses, seminars, and colloquia we are offering and the research projects we have undertaken, as well as the activities of scholars and others who are associated with the Institute. We'll describe the signs of hope we see in politics, in culture, in the realm of ideas. And we'll address questions about how to interpret Objectivist ideas, and apply them to our lives.
Our efforts are made possible by the generous support of our members. The response to our membership drive has exceeded all expectations, and confirmed our sense that the time is right for the venture we've undertaken. We are grateful for contributions at all levels, but a special vote of thanks goes to our Founding Contributors, who have donated $500 or more.
We hope, finally, that communication will run in both directions. Let us know what you think.
Originally Published in IOS Journal Volume 1 Number 1 • Summer 1991