Matt Cook, Ph.D. is an economist, bestselling author, and composer based in Los Angeles. He founded Braveship Media, an entertainment consulting group, and US Common Sense, a government transparency organization whose data have been used by almost every major news source. He currently works in private equity and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Stanford University and earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. MM: Thank you for sharing a bit about your book Sabotage with us, Matt. MC: My pleasure, Marilyn. I wrote it nearly ten years ago, so it’ll be a fun retrospective. MM: Are any aspects of the plot based on real events? MC: At Stanford, there’s a tradition called “The Game.” Teams of students race around the San Francisco Bay Area over twenty-four hours, solving a chain of clues. During my freshman year, we lost terribly and didn’t finish the race. The year after, our team came in first among the undergraduates. That time, our team had drawn from a variety of fields, including chemistry, physics, economics, mechanical engineering, and computer science. The creative synergy was exciting. I wanted to write a story about a team whose different academic backgrounds would enable them to solve a puzzle of international consequence. One of the themes in the story is the idea that outsiders to a field can view problems through a different,...
Police are investigating what motivated three university students to set fire to the Tulane University dorm room door of Peyton Lofton. Lofton, a sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans, is an officer of the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter on campus, as well as a member of Turning Point USA (TPUSA). There was initial speculation that the arson attempt was politically motivated, although according to Fox News station WVUE in Louisiana, police report that the motive is “not yet clear.” What is clear is that hostility toward students who don’t conform to the liberal majority consensus on college campuses has been on the rise.   One Class recently asked 1500 college students whether the political climate on campus affected them academically and socially. Of the conservative students polled, less than half said they felt welcome on campus. Just over 10% of them have considered transferring schools because of a political encounter. Over 37% of them admitted to feeling unsafe on campus. And a stunning 55.1% said that they hid their political views from friends. While liberal students also reported difficulties on campus, the numbers are significantly lower. The same poll found that, by contrast, 82.3% of  liberal leaning students reported feeling welcome on campus. Less than 5% considered transferring schools because of a political encounter. The...
Is a free and open society more susceptible to the dangers of envy? It’s an interesting question to me, because most often the envy charge is used against socialism, or any kind of outcome-egalitarian form of society. The argument there goes like this: Socialism is just based on envy! Socialism is motivated by this anti-rich sentiment, anti-success, envious feelings by those people less successful, less wealthy, and so forth—and that’s simply an illegitimate motivation. So we can dismiss socialism on moral grounds. Or sometimes the envy-charge against socialism is that it institutionalizes envy. Under socialism, we are all supposed to be equal in outcomes. But to keep everyone roughly equal requires a lot of monitoring about who has what and how things are distributed. And that leads to everyone in the society—not just the government—snooping and scrutinizing everyone else constantly. Does his apartment have more windows? Did she get a new dress—where did the money for that come from? On a smaller scale, we can imagine this: If you come from a large enough family, you’ve got a bunch of kids sitting around the dinner table, and the mom says she’s going to give everyone an equally sized slice of cake. Well, just imagine how hyper-scrutinous all of the kids become: they are looking very carefully at every cut of the cake that the mom makes, and then all of the complaints and the bad feelings if someone’s slice is slightly smaller or slightly bigger. So that’s an institutionalization...
Climate Change (aka Global Warming) is becoming an even bigger issue with the new Democratic congress and its calls for a “Green New Deal.” The very name should be a reminder that statist controls were always an integral part of the extremist environmentalists who now use global warming as justification for central planning after the collapse of the Soviet model discredited centrally planned economies. The recent United Nations Climate report equally stressed socialist economic planning while the Paris Accord, from which President Trump withdrew, included $100 billion per year of aid from wealthy nations to Third World ones in compensation for past environmental damage to the world. That’s why most of them voted for the accord. Climate change is happening in parts of the globe. It has been warmer in the Arctic, oceans are rising at the rate of about one foot per century, and there’s been record cold in central Asia and in the Southern hemisphere, e.g. Argentina and Australia. Also indeed some record cold weather in the U.S. What the Warmers (climate changers) need to prove are three major points. That humans can control or modify climate change. That such changes are necessary for human survival or at least prosperity. That the cost of such modifications will not wreck economic well being in the developed world nor stop growing prosperity in the less developed. Unfortunately, events are not being properly analyzed but rather have triggered a cascade of billions of...
Editor's Note: This essay was written in 1991 about the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, it appears that socialism is coming back from the grave. The basic differences between socialism and capitalism highlighted in the article have not changed. The ghost of Karl Marx, a specter that haunted Europe for over a century, was finally exorcised when the Soviet Union abolished its Communist Party, and then abolished itself. But socialism isn't dead. Will capitalism survive? If it does, it will owe a large debt to a woman who witnessed the birth of communism, and became one of the most eloquent defenders of capitalism. Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, in what was then czarist Russia. She was twelve when Lenin seized power, and spent her youth observing the horrors of Marx's ideas in practice. She fled the Soviet Union as a young woman, arriving in New York with little English and less money. She wrote two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead in 1943, and Atlas Shrugged in 1957, which continue to sell at a vigorous pace. She founded a philosophical movement, Objectivism, which challenged the conventional wisdom in philosophy, psychology, politics, and other fields. Rand was the most profound critic of socialism, and defender of capitalism, in our time. She was not an economist. It's obvious now that Marx wasn't much of an economist either. But like Marx she was a prophet who grasped the deep moral issues at stake in the way we organize...

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