Has the United States become truly and thoroughly “polarized”? Two camps (very broadly speaking) face each other with extreme positions, implacable in their intent to defeat the other, incapable of tolerance for the opposing view, and screaming insults and shaking fists? If this isn’t polarization, what is? Ayn Rand believed that the answer to that question was fundamental and urgent enough to justify devoting her first issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (October 11, 1971) to “Credibility and Polarization.” Almost always, a controversy that won that kind of attention from Ayn Rand involved epistemology—specifically, the nature, pivotal importance, and (often) abuses of concept formation. “One of their methods,” she wrote, speaking of modern intellectuals, “is the destruction of language—and, therefore, of thought and, therefore, of communication—by means of anti-concepts.” An anti-concept is a word attached to a compound of vaguely related examples, an aura of emotional disapproval, and an approximate meaning. It is destructive to clear thought because its intended meaning, what it is meant to convey without naming it, remains implicit. “Polarization” was in vogue, back then, because President Richard Nixon seemed to be challenging the liberal consensus (not very effectively, it turned out!). People no longer conducted their discussions mostly in terms of the “New Frontier,” “Great Society,” and, going back further, “New Deal” consensus. The liberals had assumed, mistakenly, that that...
The idea for a symposium on the life and thought of Nathaniel Branden came in 2012, two years before Branden’s death. Branden himself knew about and approved of the symposium but never saw it completed before he passed away. The editorial board of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies conceived of this symposium as a wide-ranging, probing treatment of Branden’s vast and complex career, not just of his years with Ayn Rand. The response from potential contributors exceeded their expectations; they were inundated with submissions. What was supposed to be one volume became two. The once-slender manuscript grew to over 300 pages bearing the title “Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy.”  This is the first such work of its kind to assess Branden as a central figure in both philosophy and applied psychology in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the contributors to this collection come from various disciplines and represent different, sometimes incompatible positions, the editors received no contributions from the more “fundamentalist” Objectivists, and none from scholars associated with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). The editors emphasize this fact in their prologue not to display resentment or animus, it seems, but as a sort of disclaimer—and explanation for the largely positive tone that characterizes much of the content here. I have striven for impartiality regarding the Branden-Rand split and have, I think, made a good-faith effort to maintain the critical detachment...
“There are some rules I’m perfectly willing to obey,”  explains Howard Roark, the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s 1943 best seller, The Fountainhead.  “I’m willing to wear the kind of clothes everybody wears, to eat the same food and use the same subways. But there are some things which I can’t do their way.” Howard Roark is nominally an architect.  But his unwillingness to “think the way of company men” is what makes him the quintessential entrepreneur.  It’s his entrepreneurial nature that makes him a beacon for those of us who have experienced the soul-numbing conformity of a corporate job - and given us the courage to strike out as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs Can Relate Have you ever experienced a toxic work environment where creativity takes a backseat to conformity and productive achievement is trumped by political ploys?  Once I worked for a popular New York hotel during a time of reorganization.  I had a dual reporting line to two executives -- call them Pointy Boss and Round Boss.  Pointy Boss told me to “buy this software.”  A few days later, Round Boss told me to “cancel this software subscription.”  Basically I was set up to fail.   Pointy and Round were engaged in an office power struggle -- neither were focused on what my skills were or how to best use them to improve the company’s earnings. By contrast, entrepreneurship is about that sensible, pointed focus that gets things done. It’s about resourcefulness and ingenuity, industry and efficiency.  It’s also about...
I haven’t made up my mind about the debates regarding “nationalism,” conducted mostly in terms of epithets and denials, that have poisoned political debate since Donald J. Trump burst onto the U.S. political scene. “Nationalism” has been defined as an aspect of our self-identification with our country or “homeland” that is “…based on shared characteristics such as culture, language, race, religion, political goals or a belief in a common ancestry.” More narrowly, it has been defined as the favoring of self-government by those living in a nation” rather than by an occupying power, say, or colonial power. Yet another definition, which takes us into the controversy that arose in the 2016 election, is “the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one's own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.”  Our overnight most famous contemporary “nationalist” is Steven Bannon, the successful businessman, movie producer, and revolutionary media innovator who became head of President Trump’s successful election and is now his national security advisor. That Mr. Bannon has become perhaps the most feared, loathed, and attacked (and smeared) man in America says little about his...
Ayn Rand issued many oft-repeated admonitions—almost all relating to the requirements of reason. None is more famous than “Check your premises,” which could be called Clue #1 in solving the eerie mystery that drives Atlas Shrugged. Another is “Context, context, context!” In my neck of the woods, Long Island, the newspapers and news shows are alight with stories of arrests and indictments in the little township of Brentwood. Last September, this suburban town of 60,000 began to discover bodies in the woods: seven of them by the end of that month--all teenagers, most from the same school, all beaten, hacked, or stabbed to death. Two were girls only 15--one black, one Latina--lifelong best friends and school basketball players. The two girls had been slain while fleeing for their lives, brought down by baseball bats and machetes, then finished off as they lay helpless. Police were criticized for permitting a situation like this to develop. All suspicions were focused on a gang called M-13 [“Mara Salvatrucha”], teenagers from El Salvador who were students in the Brentwood Union Free School District. But no arrests were made at that time, nor for six months, until now, when local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) broke the case. Tonight, 13 gang members are arrested and charged in a 41-count indictment; except for two who were juveniles when the murders were committed, those arrested face the death penalty or life in prison. The oldest is 21. Once upon a time, as the...

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