CEOs Pushing Ayn Rand Studies Use Money to Overcome Resistance

Discussion in 'Politics' started by 2cents, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. this is going to make a few happy people on ET... the irony is that its precisely because the John Galts & crew have been at it for a few decades already - gigantastic tax evasion, i know, i am an investment banker... therefore pushing even conservative govts to increase taxes to, well, unsustainable levels, period - that you guys don't have a country right now...

    other little details:
    . Rand's world is a sovietocracy, there is no elected president, leader nor anything approaching... no wonder nothing works...
    . her characters refer to reason as their guiding principle every other page of the book, while its nothing but blinding passion thats actually guiding them throughout the tome...

    those minor points aside, if you have time for a thousand odd pages, there are some good passages... but yeah, the cliff notes version shld be rather thin... anyhow, just one man's opinion....

    April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Ayn Rand's novels of headstrong entrepreneurs' battles against convention enjoy a devoted following in business circles. While academia has failed to embrace Rand, calling her philosophy simplistic, schools have agreed to teach her works in exchange for a donation.

    The charitable arm of BB&T Corp., a banking company, pledged $1 million to the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2005 and obtained an agreement that Rand's novel ``Atlas Shrugged'' would become required reading for students. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, say they also took grants and agreed to teach Rand.

    The author, who died in 1982, used her self-righteous heroes to promote objectivism, a philosophy that embraces reason and individualism, while rejecting religion. While Rand, an advocate of free markets, would support a university's getting paid to teach her works, the idea riles academic ethicists.

    ``A corporation crosses a line and a university is complicit in crossing the line if it accepts money'' and accedes to a request to assign specific books, said Jonathan Knight, director of the program on academic freedom, tenure and governance for the American Association of University Professors, in Washington. ``It's unique in my experience.'' Knight has worked in the field for 31 years.

    As universities seek ways to bolster finances, such as with top level sports teams, donations to dictate curricula are still rare. Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, a nonprofit organization in Irvine, California, that promotes objectivism, said some professors are re-evaluating Rand.

    ``We're definitely seeing more of an interest in the academic world,'' Brook said. He said he senses a softening of opposition from academics and sees more conferences and articles about Rand.

    `Absolutist Ethics'

    ``Ayn Rand has a kind of absolutist ethics,'' Brook said. ``She believes in right or wrong, good and evil, but based on secular principles, not religious principles, and I think there's an appeal for that now.''

    Alan Greenspan, later the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, was among Rand's early disciples, in the 1950s. Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, calls Rand's ``The Fountainhead'' one of his favorite business books. John Allison, chief executive officer of BB&T, deems ``Atlas Shrugged'' the best defense of capitalism ever written, and requires managers to read it.

    Rand believed American universities had been taken over in the 20th century by thinkers who rejected her notion that many of life's questions have one right answer, said Judith Wilt, an English professor at Boston College.

    `Places for Discourse'

    ``Universities as places for discourse and argument and a kind of searching tend to be more interested in what Rand would call vagueness,'' said Wilt, 66, who is teaching a seminar on Rand and contemporaries such as John Steinbeck and Arthur Miller. ``Universities tend to be interested not in closing the argument, but in keeping it open.''

    Rand was born in Russia in 1905 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1926. Businessmen who were guided by their own consciences or self-interest were the heroes of her novels. ``The Fountainhead,'' published in 1943, tells the story of architect Howard Roark, who blows up a housing project he designed rather than compromise his vision.

    `I Love It'

    ``I love it because it's so motivating,'' Cuban, 49, said in an e-mail. ``It's about an individual standing up for and believing in himself, ignoring what others think.''

    In ``Atlas Shrugged,'' Rand describes the collapse of the U.S. economy when the most productive industrialists, led by John Galt, withdraw from society.

    ``Atlas Shrugged'' has sold 6 million copies since its first printing in 1957. After sales sagged to an average of 77,000 a year in the 1980s, they climbed steadily and topped 185,000 last year, the Rand institute said, citing publishers' data.

    Allison's BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in March pledged $2 million to establish the first U.S. chair in the study of objectivism, at the University of Texas at Austin.

    That school and 27 others have accepted an aggregate $30 million from the bank's foundation in the last decade.

    ``These gifts are really about the study of capitalism from a moral perspective and all we want is to make Rand part of the dialogue,'' said Bob Denham, a spokesman for BB&T, the parent of Branch Banking & Trust Co.

    The BB&T Charitable Foundation made a five-year, $1 million commitment to the University of North Carolina Charlotte in January 2005 after a dinner meeting between Allison and Claude Lilly, then dean of UNC Charlotte's business school.

    `Required Reading'

    The grant agreement described ``Atlas Shrugged'' as ``required reading'' in a course about the fundamentals of capitalism.

    BB&T donated $500,000 last year to Johnson C. Smith University to help endow a professorship on capitalism and free markets, with lessons including ``Atlas Shrugged.'' It's the fourth endowed chair at the historically black college in Charlotte.

    `` I don't believe I have to advocate that people accept Ayn Rand's philosophy,'' said Patricia Roberson-Saunders, who holds the chair. Roberson-Saunders, who will present Rand with other texts, said students will benefit from reading about a world view held by ``people with whom they will have to work and for whom they will have to work.''

    Marshall announced in January that it received $1 million to establish the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism. As part of the curriculum, an upper-level course will focus on ``Atlas Shrugged'' and Adam Smith's ``The Wealth of Nations.''

    Marshall spokesman Dave Wellman wasn't immediately available for comment.

    `Crossing the Line'

    After BB&T mandated that some schools teach ``Atlas Shrugged,'' grant seekers became aware of Allison's interest and now tailor their applications by stating up front their interest in Rand, Denham said.

    Scholars scoff at the Rand bounty, saying her ideas are too shallow to build courses around her.

    ``Rand could not write her way out of a paper bag,'' said Harold Bloom, a professor of the humanities and English at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Bloom, 77, is the author of ``The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages'' (Harcourt, 1994), an examination of the most important works in Western literature. Rand isn't on the list.
  2. what ayn rand wrote is nothing more than capitalist porn.

    i've read the book it is sitting on some shelf somewhere. it is full of erotic passages and S&M situations.

    the reason why business men like her books is that she validates their basest feelings into a 'philosophy'

    silly rand, and sillier readers.
  3. Interesting post. Ann has already received too much consideration and advancing the idea that her 'pulp' fiction is worthy of academic study is absurd.

    'Absolutist Ethics', whether based on religious or secular principles is also absurd because both fail to realize that, aside from a tiny but of black and a tiny bit of white, the majority of the human issues are grey.

    The use of 'trains' (when it was clear that planes would become the dominate force) in the story and the complete failure of the author to recognize the womens lib movement shows that the subject matter is as weak as her philosophical conclusions. It is interesting that she came from Russia, an authoratarian culture, this explains her world-view of only seeng things in black & white.
  4. <i>"...and the complete failure of the author to recognize the womens lib movement shows that the subject matter is as weak as her philosophical conclusions."</i>

    Indeed, Rand published Atlas Shrugged in 1957 while <b>completely neglecting</b> even a single mention of the Women's Lib movement, the Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 terror attacks, and many other key issues of her day!
  5. Yes, the central character in Atlas Shrugged isn't a woman, that's for sure. Clearly, Rand was a misogynist.

    And yes, the book is basically a vehicle for Rand's soft core porn. Anyone who has read the book would know that there's a ton of S & M sex scenes in it.

    Excellent observations, guys.
  6. I had a professor once at USC who called Rand's work "complete and utter Juvenilia." It was the first time I ever heard that word. lol
  7. I always was more compelled by "We are the Living," verses Fountain Head or Atlas Shrugged.

    It was much more an illustration of the Red v White Revolution and the Bolsheviks from a first hand view than I had ever read before.
  8. The womens lib movement was well past its beginnings in 1957. Any informed person in that time should have seen this. The other things you mentioned are specific events: not wide-sweeping movements. I wouldn't have necessarily expected her to use the phrase 'womens lib' but she should have been in-tune to the changes blowing in the wind.

    That aside: the storyline in the book and the world-view advanced is shallow.
  9. There are plenty of bona fide criticisms you could apply to Atlas Shrugged (For instance: All the characters are either 100% heroic or 100% villainous, with nothing in-between.), but the points you've made border on the absurd....Sorry.

    * Dagny Taggart- The cigarette smoking, multiple gentlemen shagging, motherhood rejecting, <b>strong and self-assured, pioneering business leader</b> is anything BUT the typical female 1950's literature, pre-women's lib protagonist!

    * How could the story have possibly involved commercial airliners (instead of trains), when the entire plot revolves around two dissimilar siblings who <b>inherited the old family transportation business from their father</b>?!

    * Comparing Atlas Shrugged to novels written purely for entertainment purposes ('shallow storyline'), is comparing apples-to-oranges. A.S. is a political/philosophical manifesto that was only written in novel form to make it more easily readable than dry philosophy texts like Descartes, Spinoza, or Nietzsche. I've even seen A.S. criticized as 'didactic'... as if conveying the philosophy of Objectivism isn't supposed to be the entire point of the book!
  10. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.... But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."
    -- 'Atlas Shrugged' 1957

    This is the worst quote ever. Law or no law, we're all guilty of something. Fess up people to your imaginary crimes and do the time. It's for the good of your country.
    #10     Apr 12, 2008