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Revised from Original Publication, February 01, 1997. After a noisy and sometimes nasty presidential election, and the upset victory of Donald Trump, and the turmoil of his first days in office, it’s not surprising that Americans are consumed with politics. But it’s worth remembering that the founding premise of the nation is that the role of government is to enable us to lead our private lives in safety and freedom. As a philosopher who has devoted his life to the study and teaching of Objectivism—a code for living created by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand—I am much more interested in how we choose to conduct our daily lives. At the core of the Objectivist approach is the belief that we need principles to live by, not rules. By "rules" I mean self-contained prescriptions about concrete actions or situations, telling you what to do or how to do it. Fasten your seat belt. Don't smoke in elevators. Don't have sex on the first date. Don’t lie. Don't drive over the speed limit. Don't hit below the belt. For many rules there is a rationale provided by some broader principle. But when rules take the place of principles, as happens so often today, I say, don’t let...
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On January 19th of this year, The Hill reported that the incoming administration was proposing that "the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely."   The public backlash has contributed to the hysterical opposition greeting the new administration. The NEA states it is an "independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities." How can anyone discontinue that? Conventional wisdom holds that supporting art is the right thing to do. This artist dares to disagree. In the 70's I had the great fortune to study art in Holland. It was a "soft" socialist country whose various social welfare programs included one that gave stipends to artists.  At 20, I was curious about how it worked. Claudette was a close friend and also a student at the Free Academy Psychopolis in The Hague, Holland, and was receiving a stipend that covered her rent and expenses each month. She was carefree, passionate, had lots of...
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This article was originally published on  “They are playing it straight!“ That was the first comment on the live stream as my interview with Ayn Rand went live, conducted 35 years after her death.  Maybe people figured it was going to be satirical, but this would be impossible, at least for me. Jennifer Grossman of the Atlas Society made an excellent Rand, in her ideas, costume, and even accent. In order for me honestly to interview her, I had to suspend disbelief.  As soon as Ms. Grossman proposed this, I saw the merit in the idea. Rand died in 1982 and too few today know her work. Instead they accept the caricatured reputation. This is the sad fate of fame. Even the greatest thinkers have their great works reduced to slogans and phrases. It’s happened to Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Darwin, Freud, Hayek, and thousands of others, and it’s happening to Rand too. What if we brought the person back to life and had him or her present a biographical story and passing observations on our times in contemporary vernacular? I’ve seen...
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During the past week or so, as the inauguration of Donald Trump took place against the near hysteria of opponents, what has characterized editorials, marches, and public confessions of faith by famous Hollywood Stars? That’s right—name calling. Speaking to the “Women’s March” on Washington, the day after Mr. Trump was sworn into office, Hollywood actress Ashley Judd seized a microphone and hissed, referring to the new President of the United States: “I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege…. I am not as nasty as your own daughter being your favorite sex symbol, like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.” Ayn Rand’s literary genius—in fiction and, if possible, still more in nonfiction—manifested itself in command of suspense, philosophical action, evocation of complex sensory experiences, a tone of conviction absent...
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Republished from 2012 With President Donald Trump  and Congress moving forward on promises to Build That Wall, here are four crucial facts that Republicans and conservatives must keep in mind. First, the reason so many immigrants come to this country illegally, especially from Mexico and Latin America, is that the federal government has failed for decades to provide an easy means for legal entry for those who want to come here to work. Second, minor children were not responsible for their parents’ choice to bring them here illegally. Do those kids—many now adults with their own children—deserve to be penalized, their families broken up? Third, the choice of most immigrants to come here illegally was morally right and should be applauded. In most cases, poor Latinos face two choices: 1) Stay in their own countries, wallowing in poverty, watching their families suffer, with little opportunity for prosperous, happy lives; or 2) Seek the best life possible for themselves and their loved ones by entering the United States illegally. Poverty and lack of education and political connections make it impossible for many to secure legal permission to come to America. It would be morally contemptible...


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