Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Report of the 3rd Atlas Meet in Delhi

The third edition of the Atlas meet in Delhi, held last Saturday, drew a bigger crowd than expected. Confirmations had come in from only four people, probably owing to the festival season, but we ended up with exactly double the number! Vikram, a young professional working in Delhi, attended for the first time, while the rest were all people who had turned up before.

The evening began with a rather enlightening presentation from Kumar Anand about the American financial crisis. Thankfully, he steered clear off economic jargon as far as possible, while giving us a thorough account of what exactly had happened. He drew some economic lessons from Atlas Shrugged, and demonstrated how interventionist policies in interest rates and the property sector had led to this collapse. A robust discussion followed, during which Barun made some astute observations about the crisis. After this, we were left with only a small window to view part 2 of John Galt’s speech. However, it was only 5 minutes long. We discussed the concepts of sacrifice and selfishness briefly, before moving on to the snacks break.

The second part of the meeting was attended by six, as Sunil Khetan and Kumar Anand took their leave. We began this with a brief presentation by me on our progress over the last couple of months. I also discussed the experiences of Argentina and Slovakia, two other countries that had received the Atlas grant. The conversation quickly moved to ways of spreading Ayn Rand’s ideas amongst school students. Broadly, we discussed the possibility of making an introductory presentation on Ayn Rand to students of classes 11 and 12, in the form of an interesting talk & audio/visual session. We decided that once we made our own content, all we would need to do is get permission from school authorities to spend a couple of hours on any one day with the students. This way, we would be able to make students aware of Rand, and, hopefully, interested enough to pick up the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. Getting permission from even five schools would mean a potential audience of 500 students. Poonam and Arun Virmani both responded very positively during this session, and agreed to participate actively in this initiative. As a first step, they both decided to ‘test the waters’ by seeing how some of their acquaintances in the education line responded to this idea.

We hope for an equally engaging session next month, with an even better participation. If you are interested in any of the ideas we discussed, and have some suggestions that you would like to share, please leave your comments.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ARI: Principles of a Free Society

The Ayn Rand Centre for Individual Rights, has launched a new website. The following message was sent by Edwin Thompson, an old friend, who has been interested in the various initiatives we have taken over the years in India, to promote the ideas of Ayn Rand, and build a community around it.

Principles of a Free Society

What makes a society free? What does it mean for an individual to be free—free to pursue his rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness? Just how free are we in the “home of the brave and the land of the free”? And most importantly, what must we now do to achieve the type of free society that our Founding Fathers envisioned? What did they miss that we must now fight for?

In a free society the government's role is crucial but delimited: the government possesses only those powers delegated to it and necessary for the protection of each citizen's individual rights against force and fraud. So long as men are dealing with one another voluntarily when they are trying to reach agreement or going their separate ways when they can not (i.e., exercising their individual rights), the state has no role to play in the affairs of men.

Consider these questions: In a free society, should there be:

  • regulations imposed on businesses in addition to objective criminal and civil laws?
  • a public education system implementing state-influenced curricula and teaching methods?
  • restrictions on free speech in the name of not offending others?
  • an ability for the government to seize real estate in the name of eminent domain?
  • a central banking system that holds a monopoly over the supply of money?

Principles of a Free Society is a new Web site that explores Ayn Rand's answers to these and many other questions. It presents and defines the principles that are necessary for a truly free society.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why Did Dominique Pose For The Stoddard Temple?

That dusty book had been staring at me from a forgotten little corner for several months, and I kept thinking I’ll pick it up again. Finally, I couldn’t resist it any longer. I lifted it, swept off the dust, and stepped into Howard Roark’s world, and I’m delighted to say that once again, I’ve been as fascinated by The Fountainhead as I ever was.

Beyond the fascination, it’s made me think more thoughts than I can begin to count. There have been questions, and I have found answers. Yet, of all the things, there is one particular incident along the course of the story that intrigued me for long. It’s about Dominique posing naked for the sculpture in the Stoddard temple. Ayn Rand does not delve into it – Dominique doesn’t say why she does it, and it is not clearly suggested elsewhere. Roark tells Mallory that she will pose. And she does. However, if one considers it carefully, that action contradicts the very premise that lies at the center of Dominique’s life – that the proud, the strong and the heroic cannot succeed in the kind of world that it is; that they should rather shut out the fire in their spirit, than create any inspiring product for a world full of second-handers to gawk over in hatred and bring down with glee. Yet, she leaves herself naked, literally, in body and spirit, to the very abuse she had always feared, and that she can’t bear. People destroyed the Stoddard temple, they slung filth on her exalted statue and drew lewd caricatures on its pedestal. And she always knew that it was doomed to such an end. So, why did she voluntarily immolate herself?

Well, here’s the best answer that I can offer…

As I perceive it, the meaning of this action of hers was, very simply, that for once, her resolve broke. Using a common phrase, she probably ‘couldn’t help herself.’ This was the one opportunity, perhaps the only she would ever have in her life, to be a part of a monument dedicated to the source of human greatness: the fearless, passionate and independent spirit. It was to be the only such monument ever to be built, and what a part she had to play, to be the very center of it; to not just contribute to its spiritual significance – but to define it. Her naked form – with Roark’s structure dedicated to it – was to be the only answer offered to anyone who came to the Stoddard ‘temple of the human spirit’. It was her intense posture that was to lead one to experience a silent, uplifting solitude, and the feeling – if one knew how to feel it – that how great a gift a human life is. That was perhaps too great a power for Dominique to resist, and too great an opportunity for her to surrender, even in a world that she despised. For once, even though she felt that the construction of this temple was a crime because of the tragic end that it would face, it was worth it. It was worth it, just to know the fact that it existed, to view it with her own eyes, to feel it, to be a part of it, to make that vision possible, even if was just for a few moments that led to destruction. The power of that possibility, for once, defeated her. The Stoddard temple, in fact, is Dominique’s defeat.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hindi Translation: "Meaning of Money" from Atlas Shrugged

We now have a draft Hindi translation of the "meaning of money" speech by Francisco d'Anconia, in Atlas Shrugged. The PDF file can be download from here. Or Visit Ayn Rand in India website. The translation has been done by Deepa Pathak.
Given the current economic slowdown, and renewed interest in Ayn Rand's masterpiece, I think, this translation might help reach out to new readers.
I would greatly appreciate your comments, and welcome your suggestions that might help in improving this draft.
Also, if you have any thoughts on ways of disseminating the Hindi text, that would be quite useful.

Update About The Third Atlas Meet in Delhi


Here is the updated schedule for the Atlas Meet in Delhi on Saturday, the 26th of September:

4.30 pm - 6 pm: Savor Ayn Rand's philosophy and study her ideas. Two separate discussions are planned for this session.

Discussion 1: A presentation by Kumar Anand on the current financial crisis, followed by a discussion.

Discussion 2: Viewing the John Galt's speech video, part 2, followed by a discussion.

6 pm - 6.30 pm: Tea and snacks break. Those interested in coming in only for the second session, are free to arrive during this time.

6.30 pm - 7.45 pm: An update on the activities and accomplishments of the Ayn Rand in India group, followed by a discussion on ways to spread Ayn Rand's ideas amongst students.

Do confirm your participation at info[AT]aynrand.in, in case you are interested. For further details of the event, please refer to our earlier post below.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Phrases That Have Cost America Its Freedom

In the context of the debate about Obama’s interventionist policies raging all over the US and beyond, I found an extremely pertinent and enlightening editorial by Edward Cline, titled ‘The Perilous Ambiguities in The Constitution’, published on the site ‘Family Security Matters’.

Cline explains how two specific ambiguities in the American constitution have been exploited by interventionist administrations throughout American history, giving them the opportunity to attack and destroy the individual rights that lie at the foundation of the United States. The two ambiguities are the two phrases, ‘general welfare’ and ‘regulate commerce.’ ‘General welfare’ figures in the pre-amble and at other places in the document, and ‘regulate commerce’ is part of the commerce clause (article 1, section 8).

Cline talks about the rationale behind the use of these phrases in the American constitution, and their hopeless vagueness, that has been used as a destructive weapon against freedom. He quotes the reasons and interpretations that were offered for these phrases by the founding fathers of the American constitution, and others after them. Unfortunately, no conclusive definition has ever emerged, and none is ever likely to, considering the virtually undefinable nature of these phrases. This is perhaps one of the most unfortunate instances “of how an ambiguity in crucial language can become perilous and destructive, even in the most well-intentioned and cogent statements.

It also serves as an example of why Ayn Rand always spoke about the need for language to be clear, precise and unambiguous. Vague, unexplained, or ill-defined terminology has always been a weapon of those who propagate systems of un-reason. In this tragic instance, the founding fathers of the greatest political document ever, in an attempt to preserve the basic, inalienable rights of rational human beings, handed their adversaries the means to destroy them.

Interestingly, Ayn Rand recognized that there were problems in the American constitution. Judge Narragansett, one of the heroes in Atlas Shrugged, is shown adding a fresh clause to the document, towards the end of the book: 'The Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade...'

One wonders, in reality, how long and difficult the battle for that kind of an amendment is going to be.

Click here to read the entire article, and here to browse through the other editorials Edward Cline has written on this site.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 3rd Monthly Atlas Meet in Delhi

The third monthly Atlas meet in Delhi is round the corner! As usual, it is scheduled for the fourth Saturday of the month - the 26th of September. It is rather bold of us to choose a date that coincides with a festival weekend, but we thought we'll stay with our original fourth Saturday decision (out of respect for our principle!), and hope that some of you can make it even amidst the festivities. Or perhaps, because of the festivities.

Here are the details about the 3rd Monthly Atlas Meet in Delhi:

Proposing a new structure

We have introduced some changes in our structure this time to offer participants more flexibility. If you've been regular with our updates, you would know that there are two parts to our meeting - 'savor & study' and 'spreading the initiative'. This time we will keep each part distinctly separate from the other and limit each to 1 hour and 15 minutes, with a long break in-between. The idea is to give the participants the freedom to attend only one or the other session, depending on their interests, and convenience. Of course, you are free to attend both if you're interested!

Also, this time we are planning to experiment with having two simultaneous discussions during the 'savor & study' session, so that we can accommodate a wider range of interests. Once again, you can choose the one that interests you more. Some of the issues that were suggested at the last Atlas Meet, are posted here.

26th September 2009

4.30 pm - 7.45 pm

The Agenda
4.30 pm - 6 pm: Savor Ayn Rand's philosophy and study her ideas. Two separate discussions are planned for this session. Details will be posted soon.

6 pm - 6.30 pm: Tea and snacks break. Those interested in coming in only for the second session, should arrive during this time.

6.30 pm - 7.45 pm: Discussion on ways to spread Ayn Rand's ideas amongst students.

The Venue
inlingua International School of Languages,
N-12, first floor,
South Ex - I

It is an open meeting - anyone interested in Ayn Rand's ideas is welcome. If you're planning to attend, please let us know either through the comments column below, or drop us a line at info[AT}aynrand.in.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Live: Ayn Rand Answers Questions

Robert Mayhew has edited an unique compilation of the best of Ayn Rand's question and answer periods. The Q&As are categorized into chapters drawn around broad themes such as politics, ethics, metaphysics and epistemology, aesthetics, etc., and then into smaller sub-sections. We can hear, almost, Ayn Rand on: ethics, economics, modern art, politics, philosophy, freedom of the press, foreign policy, Ronald Reagan, Booby Fisher, gun control, sports, and many more.

We can almost hear her! The volume also provides a snap shot of Ayn Rand as a person, at different times, responding to different issues. On display are her wit, warmth, patience as well as indignation and her brilliance. Having heard quite a few of Ayn Rand's lectures, along with questions and answer sessions on audio tapes many years ago, this book is a very welcome.

Read more about this new book: Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of her Q & A, by Ayn Rand, Edited by Robert Mayhew.

Dr. Harry Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute, recently selected a sample set of Q&As from the book. Read the selection on Capitalism Magazine.
Ayn Rand Answers by Harry Binswanger (September 1, 2009)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Protest in Washington against government spending

On September 12, a huge protest took place in Washington against the leftist schemes of the US Government. We may not have even heard of it as the media coverage of the rally is virtually non-existent. But it was actually a very big success, with a crowd estimated at close to 1 million.

Many Objectivists attended the event, including philosopher Harry Binswanger, who posted a report of the event on the HB List. In his evaluation, there were several good things about the protest, though he did have some misgivings as well. The positive news according to him was that:

- "The protestors gave every evidence of being decent, middle-class Americans. There were far fewer weirdoes than at other such events, and the people were in a different universe from the bearded, work-shirted nihilist/Goth/aged-hippies typifying leftist demonstrations."

- "The signage held by the protestors was often of a *conceptual* level. There were some that just attacked Obama (e.g.,Obama as a blood-dripping ghoul), but the word "socialism" appeared surprisingly frequently in the signs, and one even had "collectivism" on it."

- "There was a scattering of Ayn Rand influenced signs--not only "Who is John Galt?" but also at least one sign using the term "looters," and one man wearing a black t-shirt with Galt's oath in white print on the front!"

- Yaron Brook, director of the Ayn Rand Institute, was one of the speakers at the event. Unfortunately, "he was in a late group of speakers that were each given only two or three minutes. He began with a good opening, "I am a refugee from socialism," going on to explain that he is an immigrant from a socialist country. He defined the United States as a country based on individual rights, and concretized that a bit. His best line was, "You are not your brother's keeper." The speech was very well delivered and the crowd reaction was favourable to it [but not any more favourable than to those of all the others], even though it was really too brief a speech to have any significant overall effect."

Some of the less enthusing aspects of the event, according to Mr. Binswanger, were:

- "Most of the Objectivism-related sign holders when asked whether he or she was an Objectivist, answered "no." They cited libertarianism or religion--rather than Objectivism--as their allegiance."

- "Although the gathering understood the statist threat and came out to fight it, they were not the sort of people who could be at the vanguard of any movement to take the nation towards capitalism. At best they can retard the drift towards statism."

He concludes with the following thoughts:

“At the very least, the event proved that there are hearteningly many who will follow Objectivism - if the intellectual leadership will lead in that direction. ...The final good news is that the American sense of life, however limited it may be intellectually, is still strong enough to throw a big monkey wrench into the reactionary "progressives" dreams of wrecking this nation.”

Mr. Binswanger's comments have been extracted from a longer post that you can read by registering on his website http://www.hblist.com

Pictures of the event can be seen at http://912dc.dhwritings.com/ , a page created by David Hayes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ayn Rand essay contests for students

The Ayn Rand Institute has been organising essay contests for students for over two decades now. ARI has just announced the 25th annual The Fountainhead essay competition 2010, for high school students (classes 11 and 12, or equivalent). Also, the 17th annual Anthem Essay contest 2010, for students of classes 8, 9 and 10. The 10th annual Atlas Shrugged essay contest 2009, is closing on 17 Sept 2009.

ARI awards $81,250 in prize money each year to the winners of its essay contests.

Almost every year, Indian students, or students of Indian origin figure among the list of winners in one or more of the different categories. Two students from India, Nishaad Rao of the Galaxy International School, Rajkot, and Sushmita Sircar of Convent of Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi, are among the winners of The Fountainhead essay contest 2009. Nishaad Rao's essay can be read on his blog Careless Whispers. Ayn Rand in India initiative plans to recognise their efforts by offering them special awards. In 2007, a student of Indian origin based in the US, had won the first prize in The Fountainhead essay contest. One can read the winning essay here.

Ayn Rand in India initiative has been launched by the Liberty Institute in India in 2009, with the support of Atlas Foundation and Ayn Rand Institute. Earlier, Liberty Institute, on its own, had organised The Fountainhead essay contests for 7 years between 1996 and 2002.

As part of the Ayn Rand in India initiative, this year we tried to promote the Atlas Shrugged essay contest 2009. Posters had been sent out to over 500 high schools and colleges across the country. In addition, emails were sent to hundreds of institutions.

These essay contests have proven to be one of the most effective ways of introducing ideas of Ayn Rand to the newer generations of readers. We would appreciate your help and suggestions in promoting the various essay competitions among students in India.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Film Mohandas – An Angry Voice Against Injustice

‘Institutional crime’, ‘political corruption’, ‘impersonation’, ‘fraud’, are all words commonly heard, thrown about as they are in newspaper reports, news debates and sundry discussions about the country. We all know these crimes take place, and mostly we have learnt to accept them as part of our system. When we hear about them, we just shake our heads. There is either a sense of resignation or a sense of guilt, but we are not angry.

Mohandas is a film that is angry. No, it is not an intense drama with raised voices and passionate speeches, neither does it make sympathy seeking appeals on the viewer’s consciousness. It is, very simply, crisp storytelling that is quietly dedicated to presenting facts – the facts about the life of a conscientious man from a poor background, Mohandas, whose identity, and job, are stolen by a thug. It pulls you into his world, and the world of the few unknown people who are trying to fight the ironic battle of proving that he is himself. None of them are presented as caricatures, lamenting their bad lucks and cursing the world. In fact, they are all optimistic people who have their happy moments. They are hopeful because they cannot imagine how such a battle can ever be lost. The story keeps you pinned to your seat, as you are intrigued by these unusual circumstances, much like the journalist in this story who comes to a nondescript village to explore this case, and left guessing about what will eventually happen; at the same time, it progresses, relentlessly and unforgivingly, towards the answer you constantly dread.

Mohandas wins, and it is a happy moment. But it is temporary. It does not let him – or you – escape facts. Then his story plunges into a hard-hitting, bitter defeat, and that is permanent. The dark curtain finally drops, and you are left wondering if another end was even possible. If you are still doubtful, the director leaves you with a little note saying that the film is dedicated to the memory of three people – Safdar Hashmi, Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath. Safdar was bludgeoned to death while performing a street play, Halla Bol, in 1989. Satyendra Dubey, an IIT graduate, was murdered point blank in 2003 after he attempted to expose the contract mafia in an NHAI scam. Manjunath, a Sales Manager with Indian Oil Corporation was murdered on-the-job in 2005 while dealing with the petrol pump mafia.

The effect is complete.

After you leave the theater, it takes you a while to realize that the film did not make any attempt to fill you with a feeling of futility or pessimism. All it did was transport you into a world that you may have only seen from a distance – the world of living in a system where you have no recourse to justice. Ayn Rand spoke constantly about how imperative it is for a government to protect individual rights. She defined individual rights, the proper role of a government and the need of a system of justice to be inviolate. This film shows you the invisible walls that stifle a human life when the people running the machinery of a government makes a mockery of justice by aiding the violators of rights instead, or turning a blind eye towards the victims. It does not have to leave you pessimistic, but it certainly makes you feel that urgent need to do something.

We had a debate on optimism vs pessimism in our last Monthly Atlas meeting. This film is extremely pertinent to that. Whatever side of hope one chooses to adopt, it is important to be aware of the facts. Pessimism will still mean a capitulation to hopelessness, but let optimism be out of defiance rather than ignorance. Knowledge, no matter which direction it points, is always a value.

Click here to explore a blog dedicated to Manjunath, and here to find out about the Satyendra Dubey murder case. Here is a link to the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New York, Sept 14, 2009: A discussion on financial crisis

The objectivist club at the New York University, is hosting a discussion on "The Cause of Financial Crisis - Government Meddling". This is very critical issue. Ever since the financial crisis broke last year, questions being raised as to whether the crisis is a consequence of lax regulation of the financial sector in the US, or is it because of distortions in the financial sector created by the government regulations. The event flier identifies the issues:
Many regard the financial crisis as a failure of the free market and “greedy” businessmen. But is capitalism really to blame for our current economic mess?
In this panel Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, and John Allison, chairman of BB&T Bank, will argue that today’s crisis is a failure of the un-free market. Massive government intervention, from Washington’s affordable-housing crusade, via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies, laid the groundwork for the crisis. The panelists will evaluate the government’s response to the crisis and suggest alternatives.

They also will explain why the free market has taken the blame for a crisis caused by government intervention. While most people are quick to blame capitalism for any evil because it encourages selfishness and rewards the profit motive, Dr. Brook and Mr. Allison will argue that these traits are precisely what make capitalism a moral system.
Please view the complete invitation flier here.

On Aug 1, 2009, the New York Times carried a long and interesting article, "Give BB&T liberty, but not a bailout", the reporter quotes Mr Allison as saying, “put balls and chains on good people, and bad things happen.”
Mr. Allison, who remains BB&T’s chairman after retiring as chief executive in December, has emerged as perhaps the most vocal proponent of Ms. Rand’s ideas and of the dangers of government meddling in the markets. For a dedicated Randian like him, the government’s headlong rush to try to rescue and fix the economy is a horrifying realization of his worst fears.
Indeed, so many bad things are happening that many followers of Ms. Rand, known as objectivists, believe that the ugly scenario in her 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” — in which the government takes over industry as the economy progressively collapses — is playing out in real life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ayn Rand the favorite author of a wanted drug dealer...

Still on the topic of celebrities who relate to Ayn Rand, here is an unlikely one who points the arrow towards what has forever been a contentious issue relating to free markets, and the right of a government to impose a ban. The name is Marc Emery, but he is better known as the ‘prince of pot.’ He has been in the Marijuana trade for decades as a manufacturer and supplier of cannabis seeds and is one of the 50 most wanted drug dealers in the US. Currently based in Canada, he is facing extradition to the US, and will plead guilty before a Seattle court on September 21 to a charge of manufacturing marijuana. He professes complete agreement with the economic and political aspects of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, claiming her to be his greatest influence. Click here to read an interview with him that was published in the Mid-Day newspaper a few months back.

True to Ayn Rand’s teaching, he has not treated his profession as a shameful secret. Quite to the contrary, he proudly proclaims himself as a champion of unregulated free markets, and the right of adults to choose whether they wish to take drugs. Chased by the US government as a criminal, he took sanctuary in Canada for several years. Canada has a more lenient drug policy than the US, and Emery finally naturalized there. Based in Vancouver till his jail term, Emery speaks vociferously on public forums and in the media about virtually every issue related to drugs, including the rights of adults to choose. He also heads a political party, and has run for office several times. Now, following a complex legal arrangement, he faces five years in a US prison. He is currently on a ‘farewell tour’ and is speaking at different venues in the world about drug-related issues.

In the Mid-Day interview mentioned above, amongst other things, he talks about the fact that the harms associated with smoking grass have been grossly over-estimated by popular channels.

It will be interesting to hear what people here have to say about the right of adults to purchase drugs freely, and the banning and criminalizing of the drug trade.