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November 23, 2016

George Smith on Rand's Insights on the U.S. "Slide Toward Fascism"

Just wanted to alert readers to a fine article penned by George Smith, "Ayn Rand Predicted an American Slide Toward Fascism" on the FEE website.

I was especially happy to see this discussion resurrected since Rand herself has often been tagged by her detractors as a "fascist"; my own essays on Rand's insights into the U.S. tendencies toward neofascism ("The New Fascism," as she called it) are indexed here. The discussion is particularly important in the days since the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Following Rand and others in the libertarian tradition, I've argued that the system of "crony capitalism" or what Roy Childs and others once called "liberal corporativism," is the system that exists in this country; it is not a free market and whether it is peppered with the authoritarian rhethoric (and policies) of the left or of the right, it all comes down to a civil war of pressure groups, each vying for special privileges at the expense of one another, a "class" warfare that not even Karl Marx could have imagined. For as F. A. Hayek so powerfully observed, once political power becomes the central means of gaining social control, it becomes the only power worth having. That is why he argued, in The Road to Serfdom, "the worst get on top." I've expressed my concerns for months now, but it remains to be seen just how much worse this tendency will be manifested in the new administration. Whatever the campaign rhetoric, time will tell. (Ed: And I am reminded by a colleague that in a country where, within a single week, the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series and Donald J. Trump can win the White House, anything is possible!)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States; I want to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving [YouTube link]. Be thankful that, for now, at least in some crucial aspects, this country remains, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "a republic, if you can keep it." Which makes Rand's insights into the degeneration of the American republic all the more trenchant.

November 21, 2016

A New JARS Website Debuts ... and a Sneak Peek at the Next Issue!

I know that World-Wide-Web search engines are being updated as I write this Notablog post, but what the heck!

I'm so very proud of the redesign of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies website, and all the work that our web designer, Michael E. Southern, put into it, that I'm advertising today the debut of our new site, fully updated with drop-down menus and user-friendly navigation:

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

I invite folks to take a sneak peek (or is that a peak sneak?) at the contents of the forthcoming blockbuster December 2016 double issue, a special 300+ page symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy." In the coming weeks, I will announce its official publication and provide an excerpt from the prologue written by the two coeditors on the project, Robert L. Campbell and me.

Symposium - Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy

The Nathaniel Branden Symposium features contributions from fifteen authors, providing critical perspectives from disciplines as varied as political theory, anthropology, business, film, literature, history, and academic and clinical psychology. The forthcoming announcement of its official release will include information on its print publication, as well as its electronic publication with JSTOR and Project Muse, and details on where readers might purchase single copies, including the very first Kindle edition in the 16-year history of this extraordinary interdisciplinary journal that made its debut way back in September 1999.

We've weathered storms and controversies, geographic moves and fires, but we are standing stronger and more vibrant than ever, especially since our 2013 collaboration with Pennsylvania State University Press began.

For now, welcome to JARS: The Next Generation Website. Watch this space for details on our newest blockbuster issue!

P. S. - And a special thanks to Julie Lambert and Heather Smith from Penn State Press for their invaluable input!

November 14, 2016

Ayn Rand and Google Doodles

I was interviewed by Andrea Billups this past summer about getting a Rand "doodle" into Google. Not knowing what a doodle was, at first, I was able to provide Andrea with a few thoughts. I'm just now finding the link to that essay on the site of the Atlas Society. It's a fun piece.

Take a look at "Dear Google: How About Ayn Rand on a Doodle?" by Andrea Billups.

November 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1401

Song of the Day: This Masquerade features the words and music of Leon Russell, who passed away today at the age of 74. Like "A Song for You," this song is one of my favorite Russell compositions. It first appeared on his 1972 "Carney" album, but became a Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 and R&B hit for jazz guitarist and vocalist George Benson. The recording was Benson's first single release, appearing on his signature 1976 album, "Breezin'" and it went on to receive the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Check out the Russell original and Benson's recording as well [YouTube links]. And check out a more recent version by the son of Barbra Streisand: Jason Gould. RIP, Leon Russell.

November 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1400

Song of the Day: Hallelujah features the words and music of Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Monday, November 7th, at the age of 82. Featured on his 1984 album, "Various Positions," the song would go on to much fame in film ("Shrek"), and in renditions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, the jazz-infused Lon Hope, the "Gentle" alto Sax, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris and our newest Nobel laureate for literature, poet-folk-rocker Bob Dylan [YouTube links]. But in remembrance of the remarkable songbook he left behind, it's fitting to return to the Cohen original [YouTube link]. RIP, Leonard.

November 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1399

Song of the Day: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("Main Themes"), composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith, graced the original TV show in various iterations for its mid-1960s small-screen run. It led to a series of spin-offs and film adaptations, including a 2015 movie version. The show was inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond series; indeed, Fleming contributed to the development of the original show, which featured two characters, one Soviet and one American, who join forces in a secret international counter-espionage agency called U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement). The Soviet agent, Illya Kuryakin, was played by the handsome, blond David McCallum and the American agent, Napoleon Solo, was played by cleft-chinned Robert Vaughn. It was a fun show that I'll always remember from my childhood. I post this theme in remembrance of Robert Vaughn, who passed away today at the age of 83.

November 10, 2016

Russian Radical 2.0: Ayn Rand on Conservatives and Liberals

Anoop Verma, on his site "The Verma Report" (formerly "For the New Intellectual"), has posted a thread dealing with those sections of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical dealing with Ayn Rand's rejection of the conventional conservative-liberal polarity in American politics.

I just wanted to thank Anoop for bringing attention to this important issue on his site; those wishing to read his discussion should check it out here.

November 09, 2016

The Day After...

Some years ago, ABC Television showed a made-for-TV film about a nuclear attack on the United States called "The Day After." Well, for many, today is, indeed, "The Day After" the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America. His Trump Revolution, over which I expressed grave reservations, propelled him into the greatest bully pulpit the world over.

And yet, despite poll after poll expressing the possibility of a victory for Hillary Clinton, I had my doubts; this morning I expressed those doubts in a post on Facebook, in reply to a comment by my friend and colleague, Douglas Rasmussen, who thought Clinton would win. I wrote:

I have been thinking for a long time that there was a larger constituency that might vote for Trump but that was not showing up in the polls because people were embarrassed to admit it (and I don't blame them!). It's entirely possible of course that Clinton may have still won the national popular vote, but not the Electoral College. I was for neither candidate but hoping that some gridlock would remain to block either candidate's excesses; I'm of the belief, however, that whether this country elected a US-version of Evita Peron or a US-version of Benito Mussolini, there is little if any "establishment" check on the power of those who wield it in the shadows (though I am concerned about Supreme Court candidates who might rollback abortion rights, privacy rights or equal civil marriage rights, etc.). But most real "power" in the US resides outside of the official channels anyway: e.g., the Fed, what libertarians are fond of calling the "state-banking nexus" and the entrenched regulatory-welfare-warfare establishment that benefits "elites" who are forever in the shadows. The bottom line is: This country will see no fundamental change as long as the greatest powers that regulate our lives remain beyond the effects of the ballot box. Period. As long as all the institutional barriers to freedom remain a part of an entrenched system, no one man or one woman can possibly make a difference. They say the job of the next person to become President is to make the last one look good. Well, to the old bosses: welcome to the new boss. Today, the NY Daily News has on its cover a photo of the White House and the banner headline "House of Horrors". Let's just hope that the new boss doesn't make the last one become a candidate for a place on Mount Rushmore (which has a few questionable images sculptured into it already!).

In short, as the Talking Heads never tired of saying throughout the campaign, stealing a line from Bette Davis in "All About Eve": "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Let's just hope there is a truly emergent sunny day after the long, long night that still lies ahead.

November 04, 2016

Don Kates, RIP

Many years ago, when I was an NYU undergraduate, I became a founding member of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society. We staged many events over the years, from protests against draft registration under the administration of Jimmy Carter to all-day Liberty events covering everything from domestic to foreign policy. At one of these events, dealing with gun control and Second Amendment rights, we invited a speaker who turned political labels upside down. He was Don B. Kates, Jr., the editor of a remarkable collection of essays titled, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. The book was a revelation to me, and whether you disagreed or agreed with any of its contributors, one thing was for certain: Don Kates was a man who never tired of challenging the status quo. He was one of the most provocative writers and speakers who was ever featured at an event on the subject of gun control that I've ever witnessed then, or now.

Through the years, I have been privileged to be on his mailing list, enjoying his many enlightening posts and discussions, which always required you to pause and reflect, and occasionally, to just laugh out loud at the craziness of the world.

I was saddened to hear today that he passed away on November 1, 2016. I wish to send my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Postscript: On reflection, I remember that many years ago, Don had spoken to my mother a number of times on the phone, especially as I prepared for the SLS "gun control" event. He remarked that my mother had a voice like Lauren Bacall. Mom was elated. And he gave us a great laugh. He'd routinely ask me how "Lauren" was doing, after Mom had been diagnosed later with lung cancer.

November 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1398

Song of the Day: Go, Cubs, Go!, words and music by Steve Goodman, is the song of the day for the baseball team that has broken the 108-year World Series victory drought for the fans who will soon see a banner rise over Wrigley Field, now home to the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. I'd never thought I'd see, in my lifetime, the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year World Series victory drought (a consequence of the so-called "Curse of the Bambino") or the Chicago White Sox end an 88-year World Series victory drought (a consequence of the curse of the "Black Sox Scandal"), but the Cubbies have achieved something that is the stuff of legend, vanquishing the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat! With guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, they have a winning future ahead of them. Now I know that the Cleveland Indians have their own "curse" to conquer (the so-called "Curse of Rocky Colavito" that has prevented them from winning a World Series since 1948, though this Colavito "curse" traces to 1960). But this big New York Yankees fan congratulates the Chicago Cubs and their fans for a tenth-inning Game 7 victory and a World Series title! Anyway, check out the Cubbies' song [YouTube].