1) Tell us who you are? What’s the couple of sentence summary of what you do and what you’ve done?
I’m a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. I spend most of my time working with a variety of interesting people who are struggling with some area of their lives, helping them figure out what the problem is and how to fix it. I also spend some of my time writing or speaking on issues related to objectivism and libertarianism, including at the Atlas Summit!
2) When did you first become familiar with Ayn Rand and her works?
Quite an ironic story! Back in medical school, I was helping to organize a lobbying effort to get a law passed in New York City that would require certain businesses to buy health insurance for their workers. I considered myself a liberal democrat at the time – pro capitalism, but with regulation. While discussing my efforts on an online health policy email list, someone sent out an essay by Ayn Rand – “Man’s Rights.” I was struck by how novel the argument was and couldn’t stop thinking about it for a week.
3) What most interested you or hit you with an “Ah hah!” about her thinking?
When I first read “Man’s Rights,” I was struck by her claim that people have a moral right to their property. Prior to Rand I had only heard capitalism defended on the grounds that it was good for society. As I got into her thinking further, I was even more struck by how foundational her thinking was. She saw things about the world that were right in front of my eyes but that I had completely missed.
4) How does her work help or inform you today?
Her philosophy guides my life. It helps me make choices about my career, about my friends and life partner, and who I want to be internally. It helps me in the details of my work as a therapist. It helps me always look upwards and forward to the next goal or aspiration.
Prior to reading Rand, I had struggled in several areas of my life, including with my sexuality, and in managing the demands of the conservative, religious culture in which I grew up. I had been depressed a few times as well. Rand helped me with all of that, and I have been much happier ever since.
5) Rand wanted us to aspire to a world as it can be and should be. Can you tell us something optimistic you see in the world today or in the future?
Gosh, where do I start? We live in a world that would exceed the wildest imagination of anyone who lived a century ago, or even a generation or two ago. The number of people coming out of poverty all over the world is staggering. The quality of life I am able to have is impressive compared to my parents – with the internet, the iPhone, the ability to travel and see the world, and cheap audiobooks, to name just a few examples. Also, living in New York City, I’m inspired by all the new skyscrapers being built.