Recently, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about groups like the Cajun Navy, which rescued hundreds of people during Hurricane Harvey. The organization formed spontaneously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and is stimulating a new and much-needed conversation. When you compare the voluntary provision of important public services by the “Cajun Navies” of the world to those provided by government agencies like FEMA, it’s hard to deny how much better the voluntary organizations perform. Based on many of the discussions I’ve been having about recent events, it is obvious that many people realize something important is almost “hiding in plain sight.” Common Sense on Public Services Yet almost half of the country’s resources go to the government. ‘We the People’ already provide each other with most of the services we rely on, but this fact often goes unnoticed. Whether it’s the production and supply of...
David Kelley is retiring from The Atlas Society, which he founded in 1990 under the name of The Institute for Objectivist Studies. But I can’t imagine David with an “emeritus” moniker retiring from the world of ideas that he has helped to shape. I was at the founding event in New York City that February nearly three decades ago. I spoke at Summer Seminars and attended one-day New York events in the 1990s, and I had the privilege of working for many years with David at the Atlas Society. Knowing The Atlas Society and David as I do, I offer my own picks for his three greatest intellectual hits. First, in The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, he explained that Objectivism is an open philosophy—indeed, that to be “open” is what separates a philosophy from a dogma. Objectivism originated with Ayn Rand, is defined by certain principles, but has its own logic and implications that might even be at odds with some of Rand’s own thoughts. The philosophy is open to revision and new discoveries. One implication of David’s understanding—and of the virtue of independence—is that individuals must come to the truth through their own minds and their own paths. David, therefore, rejected the practice of too many Objectivists of labeling those who disagreed with some or much of the philosophy as “evil.” In many cases they are simply mistaken. He rejected the practice of refusing even to speak with individuals who called themselves...
A young woman flees a communist country, works her way to the top of her field, meets the man of her dreams, and becomes a symbol of American capitalism. I could be referring to Ayn Rand, but I was really talking about Melania Trump. At first blush, you would never put these two in the same sentence, but as a Trump supporter and devotee of Rand, I think that Rand would not only relate to Melania, but truly admire her. Like Dagny Taggart, and many of the other Randian heroines, Melania has thrived because of her femininity, and not in spite of it. It’s not a surprise, then, that Rand was a big fan of Marilyn Monroe. But Melania is a sort of Sophia Loren for the new century: glamorous, highly sensual, and most importantly, proud to be a woman. Not in the phony, crass version of modern womanhood peddled by Jezebel writers and women’s march participants, but because she truly exemplifies what Rand called the “essence” of femininity. Rand defined femininity as an almost mystical force that only amplifies when a woman meets a man she can “hero worship,” as Rand put it.  Melania’s steadfast support for her husband, and her early attraction to what she called “his mind,” is evidence, to me of their classic Randian relationship. Like Rearden and Taggart, they celebrate the masculine and feminine opposition in each other. I also think Rand would get a kick out of Melania’s apparent abundant supply of hutzpah. She seemed to shrug off the harpies who criticized her for not moving...
A quest for an integrated theory of fictional narratives must begin by asking why human beings listen to and tell stories. Jonathan Gottschall, a Washington & Jefferson College Distinguished Research Fellow specializing in literature and evolution, contends that we are genetically wired for story: “Like a flight simulator, fiction projects us into intense simulations of problems that run parallel to those we face in reality . . . . Fiction is a powerful and ancient virtual reality technology that simulates the big dilemmas of human life.” So fictional narratives expose us to what life’s concretes can teach us, without endangering our lives every minute of the “lesson.” Ayn Rand had a different emphasis. She contends: “The primary value [of art] is that it gives him [man] the experience of living in a world where things are as they ought to be.” Both purposes seem legitimate: solving current problems and providing a vision. Our integrated theory must be inclusive. At times, only a glorious vision can make some aware of a “current problem.” We can learn via concepts and abstractions, too, but that’s relatively new in human history and certainly too difficult for children under six to do. Life’s first lessons, then, must be imparted via concrete illustrations that exemplify the abstraction. Because we may be genetically geared (through our “ancient virtual reality technology”) to be fond of narratives, we remain fond...
The Atlas Society (TAS) announces that David Kelley, PhD, its founder and Chief Intellectual Officer, will retire at the end of 2017. Two years ago, Kelley informed his colleagues on the Board of Trustees that he wanted to leave full-time work for TAS at the end of 2017, to pursue his own research and writing in philosophy, pending a successful execution of a transition plan. The  early 2016 appointment of Jennifer Anju Grossman as CEO, says Kelley, “was a huge step forward for the organization. I’m leaving TAS in good hands.” Kelley will continue to participate occasionally in TAS programs as writer, speaker, and advisor. Dr. Kelley founded TAS in 1990 to help launch an independent branch of the Objectivist movement and to advance the philosophy. Prior to 2016, Kelley was actively involved in managing the organization as CEO or co-CEO. His intellectual contributions include: The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, which established the organization’s commitment to open discussion, debate, and expansion of Objectivism; Unrugged Individualism:...

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