Brilliant and Sad
The brilliant article by McMenamin and Gorenc, "Subverting the First Amendment," contrasts ironically with the sad interview that Irving Kristol gave Tibor Machan in your January issue. While McMenamin and Gorenc bravely expose and attack the SEC's censorship of financial newsletters, Kristol casually tells REASON: "I have no problem with censorship at all. I'm for it.…I think that in a civilized society you have censorship." The SEC's thought and free-speech police would feel right at home in Kristol's "civilized society."
University of Hartford
West Hartford, CT
Regarding Jeff Riggenbach's article, "The Disowned Children of Ayn Rand," (Dec.): I believe Riggenbach to be guilty of the same type of irrationalism that he decries in Ayn Rand's diatribes against "hippies." Both employ hostile, sweeping generalizations. It was absurd of Rand to classify thousands of young individuals (whose only common characteristic was that they all happened to attend the same social event) as "scummy young savages." It is equally absurd for Riggenbach to classify students of objectivism as Moonie-types who regard every utterance of their "mentor" as unquestionable fact. Rand was human; she had her hang-ups. And so, apparently, does Riggenbach.
Mr. Riggenbach's points are well taken. But I suspect that were he to meet Howard Roark (or Galt or Rearden or Danneskjold) in person, he might classify Roark as "grim, humorless, regimented, [and] robotlike."
Robert G. Stone
Farmington Hills, MI
That was a brilliant retrospective on Ayn Rand. Let's see if I've got it right. In the '60s, young readers who took Atlas Shrugged literally turned on and dropped out. While smoking joints, they (some of them, one of them?) designed (daydreamed?) solar energy converters. So when these "true children of Atlas Shrugged" got together for a drug bash, I gather, they were really brainstorming new technologies, a bit like a technical staff meeting at IBM but less "grim, humorless, regimented, [or] robotlike." Like wow.
John C. Boland
New York, NY
Riggenbach's piece is entirely a continuation of his attempt to rewrite '60s history with the New Left portrayed as the champions of freedom and individualism. This has always been bosh. And the foolishness is only compounded by the thesis that the true spirit of Rand animated these folks.
The unfoundedness of Riggenbach's thesis is revealed by his continual reliance on the claim, as a means of arguing for Rand's influence, that no explicit disavowal of this or that hippie practice occurs in Atlas Shrugged! As his really hard-nosed evidence, Riggenbach cites a study in which 62 percent of those queried had considered themselves hippies and one-sixth of those queried cited Rand as someone they admired or had been influenced by. The care with which Riggenbach draws conclusions from these data seem to me to be symptomatic of the integrity of his little essay. I am sorry REASON chose to publish it.
Jeff Riggenbach, in his article on Ayn Rand as an avatar of the of the '60s, refers to the results of the Woodstock Census in support of his hypothesis. One respondent in six mentioned Rand as an individual he or she had "admired or been influenced by."
Possibly representative of this group is Jane Alpert, former radical fugitive, who "became devoted to Ayn Rand" while a student at Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York (1961). Alpert states in her autobiography, Growing Up Underground:
Ayn Rand's heroes and heroines moved me more than her ideas.…Although I rejected Rand's right-wing economics and political philosophy by the time I was fifteen, certain elements of the novels, which had more to do with psychology than with social ideology stayed with me for many years. The Fountainhead had planted in me the idea that bombing a building could be a morally legitimate form of protest. Atlas Shrugged portrayed the social revolutionary as hero. And Dominique and Dagny, brilliant, powerful, yet sexually passive heroines who submit to men they love, remained my role models long after I had forgotten where I first heard their names.
Alpert was arrested in late 1969 and charged with bombing the Whitehall Induction Center, the Marine Midland Bank, Chase Manhattan, and five other government and corporate buildings in New York City said to be associated with the Vietnam war.
San Antonio, TX
As an objectivist individualist, though not a "Randian," I take the strongest exception to Jeff Riggenbach's assertion in "The Disowned Children of Ayn Rand" that "'60s people," the self-realizers of the Me Decade, militant feminists, gay activists, and assorted "untraditional businessmen" are "true Randians." Rand's vicious denouncements of the "'60s people" and their successors of the Me Decade are not condemnations of "her children." Rather, they are denunciations of the children of philosopher and social psychologist George Herbert Mead and sociologist Charles Horton Cooley.…
The self that Rand portrays and defends in her works is characterized by the statement, "I am myself," or "I am I." Derived from objectivism's rational egoism and refined in Nathaniel Branden's biocentric psychology, it asserts, "I am the self that I created." It is quite the opposite of the socialized self of pragmatic social psychology and sociology that declares, "I am the self produced by forces in my social environment." Committed as they are to the idea that self-identity is socially determined, the self-realizers of the Me Decade seek liberation, not from this particular view of the relationship of self to society, but from one set of social forces over against another.
Riggenbach seems to think that their nonconformity is evidence that the "'60s people" were children of Rand. But if their nonconformity was inspired by Rand's novels, then they misread those works. It is not nonconformity but psycho-intellectual independence that is the distinguishing characteristic of Rand's heroes and of those who take her ideas seriously. This quality precludes irrational, indiscriminate altruistic conformity as well as pseudo-individualistic nonconformity, but not rational, selective, self-interested conformity and nonconformity. Rational egoists are not abject nonconformists who value nonconformity for its own sake but are rational and self-interested people who conform to social norms and conventions that make sense. Their nonconformity is not nihilistic but selective and rationally motivated. The other-oriented nonconformity of the "'60s people" was not individualism and the alleged narcissism of the Me Generation is not rational egoism.
Insights and Irony
My compliments to Jeff Riggenbach for his fascinating article. While I cannot agree that the young people of the '60s and '70s are really Ayn Rand's offspring, to the extent the article suggests, I certainly agree that Rand had a powerful influence on them and that that influence has never been so well described as by Jeff Riggenbach. I found his article fascinating, informative, original.
I imagine it may make some members of the orthodox a little hysterical which is a shame. The article may overstate its case a bit, but that strikes me as much less important than the illuminating insights it provides.
Besides, I am not at all certain that at some points he was not speaking in irony.
Beverly Hills, CA
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Back in August your Trends column "noted the growing success of commercial farming and ranching of wildlife, in several cases saving animals from extinction." And now in December you are able to note: "What do we find as the lead story in the September 12 New York Times magazine but (we blush) 'Preservation for Profit,' a sympathetic account of game ranching in Kenya."
But as early as 1978 John Burton was arguing in The Myth of Social Cost, published by our Institute of Economic Affairs: "The serious problems of the environment and conservation exist where there is common and not private ownership. In Africa, for example, lions have been treated in the past as common property—fair game for anyone—with the result that their numbers have fallen drastically during the twentieth century. But in the UK lions are reared and held under private ownership (in game parks and zoos), and the British lion population has boomed. Indeed, British game parks are now exporting their surplus lions to Africa!"
The most delightful twist in this British story is that our enterprising new exporters are in the main members of the House of Lords, who have added lions and other magnificent creatures to the attractions of their inherited estates—attractions needed to bring in the tourists whose admission fees help to pay the ever rising costs of maintaining those estates!
University of Reading
Geller v. the FCC
I read with pleasure your comments (Nov.) on Simon Geller, the one-man FM broadcaster in Gloucester, Mass. As you know, we are proud to represent Mr. Geller, whose problems with the Federal Communications Commission typify what happens when government's rules and regulations become ends in themselves rather than a means to an end.
The paradox of Mr. Geller's case is that the FCC wants to take his license because he allegedly has not served the public interest, yet the only one to make this charge is Geller's competitor. The people of Gloucester who listen to Mr. Geller's station wholeheartedly support him. Thus, according to the FCC the public interest is what it, not the public, wants.
On October 22, 1982, the FCC refused to reconsider its decision to deny Geller's renewal application. Interestingly enough, four days later FCC Chairman Mark Fowler argued, in a speech to a group of broadcasters, that the government's handling of radio and television should be "indistinguishable from newspapers."
We intend to carry Mr. Geller's case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and to the Supreme Court if necessary, in order to prevent misguided regulators from depriving Mr. Geller of his license. The issues at stake demand no less.
Dan M. Burt
Capital Legal Foundation
I was pleased to receive the December issue and read the cover story ("Self-Help Housing") by Eric Martí. I don't really know what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised with the readability, clarity, and factualness of Eric's reporting. The concept at work in this unique housing program has never been easy to capture. REASON has done so in a very timely article.
I have shared my copy with Edward Ryan. We are agreed that the story was well done.
A number of us in the Pittsburgh area are indebted to Lynn Scarlett, who first sensed a potential story; to Eric Martí for his reportorial skills; and to you for putting it up front in your December issue.
E. Vaughn Gordy, Jr.
The Wesley Institute
Bethel Park, PA
E. Vaughn Gordy, Jr., was the director in the early 1970s of home builder Edward Ryan's philanthropic activities and was instrumental in the initiation of the Earned Home Ownership Program reported on in our December issue. —Eds.
As president of a foundation devoted to research on the human aging process, I am compelled to offer some comments on the review by Lowell Ponte of Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw's book Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach (Dec.).
I am sympathetic to Mr. Ponte's problem: the book does not lend itself to a brief lay review and requires extensive biochemical knowledge which many science writers do not possess. But Mr. Ponte's analogy between chemical intervention in the aging process and leftist social planners is most inappropriate. Such intervention in aging, with some trial-and-error risks inherent in any long-range therapy, falls within any definition of scientific progress and carries with it none of the moral or practical pitfalls of collectivist social planning.
As to the question which Mr. Ponte raises of whether Shaw and Pearson are scientists or science writers, we have worked with Durk and Sandy for several years, and we can assure REASON readers that their knowledge of the biochemistry of aging exceeds not only that of most "employees of universities or laboratories," to use Mr. Ponte's definition of a scientist, but also of many investigators in the field of aging research itself. We would remind Mr. Ponte that Albert Einstein was a clerk in a Swiss patent office when he published his first paper on relativity, and he spent his last years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, still trying to perfect his unified field theory, not as a laboratory or a university employee.…
Finally, concerning Mr. Ponte's complaint that Durk and Sandy's theories about aging are not supported by the standard double-blind trials involving large numbers of human subjects: there is a Catch-22 involved here. If those of us who are now adults have to await FDA approval of long-range trials to determine whether a specific aging therapy is effective, we shall long be in our graves before the results are in. We need Durk and Sandy's ideas to help us, as Mr. Ponte suggests, decide for ourselves which ones to pursue.
Paul F. Glenn
Glenn Foundation for Medical Research
The quotation at the head of the afterword in Life Extension by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw is attributed to Isaac Newton and reads, "No great discovery is ever made without a bold guess." If one statement can epitomize an entire book, this is it. It conveys the notion that even with a voluminous amount of scientific evidence, in order to synthesize a coherent concept, one must leap the synapse from the known to the probable. Lowell Ponte, in his review of this excellent book, misses this point. I doubt if he would ever have gone out into the rain if umbrellas hadn't been invented, for fear of what water might do to his head.
Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw are pioneers; they have gathered a massive amount of sound scientific data on aging and have presented it in an exciting, fresh, and sometimes even amusing manner. Perhaps Mr. Ponte confuses their use of humor and manner of dress for lack of scientific ability. Even though the authors devote an entire chapter to criticizing the antiscientific bias and cultism that pervades the "health movement," Ponte still attempts to group them with astrologers and witch doctors.…
For the intelligent reader, both lay and scientific, this book represents a monumental breakthrough. The heart of the matter is that there exists abundant evidence that aging and its manifestations can be prevented or retarded. This is the future of preventive medicine. If Mr. Ponte chooses to sit and wait until this knowledge has been extrapolated to humans, let him. Those of us who are making a bold guess will tell his grandchildren the results.
Jeffrey A. Fisher, M.D.
Center for Preventive Medicine
Great Neck, NY
In his review (Jan.) of T.W. Hutchison's new book, The Politics and philosophy of Economics, David Henderson adds one more layer to what should properly be called the "Keynesian cover-up." Henderson writes uncritically about the essay "Keynes and the Keynesians," in which Hutchison makes Keynes out to be a misinterpreted friend of economic freedom: it was the Keynesians, not Keynes, who were prosocialist and proplanning. This may be a popular tune to play these days, but it is not at all in harmony with the original score.
If Henderson wants to reconcile "Keynes the Hayekian" with "Keynes the Keynesian," let him go back and reread (or read) the General Theory. In the last chapter on the book, in which Keynes is writing specifically about long-run programs and not about stop-gap antidepression measures, Keynes pays lip service to some unspecified degree of economic freedom while actually advocating socialist schemes.
Two excerpts from this important final chapter will serve to illustrate. "Now, though this state of affairs [an economy in which the monetary authority pegs the riskless rate of interest at zero(!)] would be quite compatible with some degree of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital" (General Theory, pp. 376–77). This aspect of the Keynesian vision, of course, is pure Marxist claptrap. In the following passage, Keynes sounds more like a so-called market socialist. "I conceive, therefore, that a somewhat comprehensive socialization of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment; though this need not exclude all manner of compromises and of devices by which public authority will cooperate with private initiative" (p. 378). It should be noted that Keynes's sops to the individualist does not set him apart from other socialists but makes him all the more like them.…
Roger W. Garrison
Mr. Henderson replies: In the same chapter that Professor Garrison quotes, Keynes goes on to say: "If we suppose the volume of output to be given,…there is no objection to be raised against the classical analysis of the manner in which private self-interest will determine what in particular is produced, in what proportions the factors of production will be combined to produce it, and how the value of the final product will be distributed between them.…Thus, apart from the necessity of central controls to bring about an adjustment between the propensity to consume and the inducement to invest, there is no more reason to socialize economic life than there was before."
This is consistent with the quotes in my review and in Professor Garrison's letter. The "comprehensive socialism of investment" that Keynes called for was the use of fiscal policy to affect the overall level of investment, not government ownership and direction of capital.
Even if Professor Garrison had found drastic differences in Keynes's views over time, that would only illustrate the point of my review. Although consistency at an instant is a virtue, inquiring minds—like those of Keynes and Hayek—continue to grow, reaching different conclusions at different times.