Yes, you read that title correctly.
For us to make this point, we need to be very clear about what capitalism is and what it isn’t. This is especially true given the term tends to come with a lot of baggage.
This is what capitalism is not, at least as we use the term in this essay. Capitalism is not: consumerism, materialism, greed, exploitation, or even the pursuit of wealth and power. Those things may show up, but they are not what it fundamentally is (but more on this later).
So what is it? Put simply: Capitalism is freedom. Freedom in a particular area of life — that of commerce and trade.
Capitalism creates the space for (allows for) creation and movement in that particular area (dimension, domain) of life. Capitalism is separation of commerce and state, in the same way that freedom of religion is separation of church and state.
To be honest, we don’t even like the term “capitalism.” We prefer “free markets”, “free enterprise”, or “freedom of commerce.” Those phrases better point at the phenomenon that we’re referring to.
Freedom of commerce or capitalism or free markets or whatever you want to call it is not just an abstract concept, it impacts you every day. Freedom of commerce allows you to buy what you want, sell what you want, work for who you want, and hire who you want. It allows for the hundreds of voluntary interactions (transactions) that you have every week, even something as small as buying a cup coffee from your favorite local...
Read Article : Capitalism Has (Almost) Nothing To Do With Profit
Part Three - Divergent Universes
Henry James did not consider the subject matter of his novels to be inherently the proper one for all novelists. It was the proper one for him. An artist’s subject matter, James reasoned, sprang from his or her own consciousness of circumstances: “The thing of profit is to have your experience—to recognize and understand it, and for this almost any will do; there being surely no absolute ideal about it beyond getting from it all it has to give.” It is of course in terms of subject matter that Henry James and Ayn Rand diverge. The Jamesian subject matter was the old world. It gave him “considerable occasion to appreciate the mixture of manners” in America and Europe, and he created an ironic universe in which the well-heeled ground underfoot successful American capitalists. For Ayn Rand, art grew out of her appreciation of the terrible consequences of both tsarist Russia and the Russian Revolution. She created a benevolent universe in which American freedom and American capitalism brought life.
One critical difference that helps to illustrate the divergent universes of Henry James and those of Ayn Rand has to do with how they viewed money.
Henry James was born into a wealthy New England family, wealthy in a distinctly American way. James’s grandfather, William James, immigrated to the United States from County Cavan, Ireland, in 1789. He had little money when he arrived, but he’d brought with him ambition and a Calvinist...
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 3
Part 2- The Art of Fiction
Henry James wrote his essay “A Lecture on the Art of Fiction” in 1884 in response to novelist Walter Besant. Besant gave a lecture at the Royal Institution entitled, “Fiction as One of the Fine Arts,” and argued for a formulaic approach to novel writing—“laws of fiction [that] may be laid down and taught with as much precision and exactness as the laws of harmony, perspective, and proportion.” Essential to the laws of fiction, Besant proposed, would be that novelists write only from personal experience; that characters be only those recognizable from “actual life;” that the novelist’s gender, geography, and social class all confine the scope of his or her horizons: “a young lady brought up in a quiet country village should avoid descriptions of garrison life,” was one such prescription, as was “a writer whose friends and personal experiences belong to the lower middle-class should carefully avoid introducing his characters into Society;” and that a novel written in English should be didactic, possessing a “conscious moral purpose.”
James, who by 1884 had published seven novels, including The Portrait of a Lady, forty-six works of short fiction including “Daisy Miller,” and five works of nonfiction, was concerned that Besant’s formulaic approach to English literature would stymie creativity. James argued instead for the freedom of the novelist to shape a novel from imagination. An art of fiction, rather than formulaic laws of fiction,...
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 2
Henry James (1843-1916) is a major American author. His numerous novels and novellas include What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, The American, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Ambassadors. His fiction is considered among the best ever written in the English language. Reverently known as The Master, James was a realist who had a great deal more in common with the Romantic movement of the early part of the nineteenth century than he did with the Naturalists who dominated American and European literature during his lifetime.
In a previous essay I contrasted Ayn Rand’s novel We the Living with Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy to demonstrate how Ayn Rand successfully refuted the Naturalist worldview. In this essay, I compare Ayn Rand favorably to Henry James. Both Henry James and Ayn Rand were artists of the highest caliber. Both artists made significant and enduring contributions to American literature, but the academic literary establishment overwhelmingly favors Henry James and ignores Ayn Rand. What are the ideas, then, that Ayn Rand and Henry James contributed to American literature? Why are James’s ideas canonical while Rand’s are not?
Ayn Rand’s command of the English language, her interest in the novel as an art form, her interest in the practical concerns of fiction writing, and her psychological depth are equal to those of Henry James. The difference between the two novelists has little to do with art. The difference,...
Read Article : What Irony Replaced: Henry James, Ayn Rand, and American Romanticism Part 1
When Steve Ditko picked up the phone over two years ago, I stammered an introduction, thanking him for the generous checks he’d written for years to The Atlas Society. The 30-year-old philosophy non-profit organization had hired me, I let him know, and hence the call was my way of connecting with some of our longest supporters. In particular, Ditko deserved to know of our plans to leverage artistic means -- including a comic book -- to advance our shared commitment to the ideals of individualism, achievement, and rational-self-interest.
He was not rude, but he was also decidedly not interested in talking by phone -- and certainly not interested in meeting -- though when I offered that I might write to him, he did not object.
And so write, I did. As a follow up to our conversation, I sent him a few of the sketches from early pages of ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel which award-winning Marvel comics illustrator Dan Parsons and I were then in the early stages of adapting from Ayn Rand’s novella, first published 80 years ago. Now complete, the comic-style illustrated adaptation dramatizes Rand’s tale of how a collectivist society which repressed individualism would try to crush the ablest, by word and by deed.
A few months after I sent Ditko the offering, he sent a handwritten reply with a critique of the costuming. His interest in the clothes the hero wore is noteworthy, since costume was an area where Ditko innovated, as...
Read Article : Steve Ditko’s Indelible Legacy