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.”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jan 30, 2011: Atlas Sunday Club Philosophy Salon

The new year's first Atlas Sunday Club Philosophy Salon will be held on the following date:
January 30, 2011
5:30 PM onwards
Health Center Building
University of Mumbai
Kalina Campus (On the right-hand side as soon as you enter the campus gates)
Santacruz East
Mumbai - 55

First, we have some good news to share!
Professor Mugdha Karnik, who teaches at the University of Mumbai and is a fan of Ayn Rand's novels, has just completed her translation of Atlas Shrugged into Marathi. Her work is availabled through Diamond Publishers. For more details, read the post immediately below this one.

Professor Karnik has accepted our invitation to attend the Atlas Sunday Club Salon and read out some of her favorite passages from the novel in Marathi. It would certainly be unusual to hear the sound of Atlas Shrugged in a regional language.

Next, we shall screen a short 3-minute film "The Sixth Sense" that dramatizes the concept of mysticism versus rationality. We will specifically discuss the influence of new-age mysticism--the concepts of ego-illusion and Universal Consciousness--and the arguments that refute it.

Gear up for an EXCITING meeting ahead!
For assistance with directions, please call: Deepak at 0 9769 331 585 or Jerry Johnson at 99303 12 685.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Atlas Shrugged in Marathi

"When the idea of translating Atlas Shrugged occurred to me, I was overtaken by awe. The prospect of finding the words that matched Ayn Rand’s powers of expression, conveying the philosophy clearly, and bringing alive the drama in her novel in Marathi was quite challenging. Most importantly, I wanted to be true to the meaning and sense of the text." Mugdha Karnik recounts her thoughts and experiences while undertaking this task of translating Ayn Rand's masterpiece.

I read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ at a time when I had just bid goodbye to the Marxist-communist ideology and movement. Confusion raged in my young mind—about communism and my individualistic aspirations—I was tormented about being selfish and egoistic. Ayn Rand’s novels inspired a new confidence in my own identity; her ideas were weapons to fight my self-doubts about my morality.

When I started working with the University of Mumbai, mediocre academics ruled the scene, much as they do today. The majority of our vice-chancellors occupying their offices

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests 2011

The Ayn Rand Institute has announced essay contests for We The Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The Institute offers 521 prizes and $ 81,000 in prize money.

We the Living Essay Contest Information

Eligibility: 10th, 11th and 12th Graders

Entry Deadline: May 5, 2011


Select ONE of the following three topics:

The Communist war hero and much feared Party member Andrei Taganov is completely dedicated to the Party’s cause. Why then does he lose respect for the Party — and why does he fall in love with Kira Argounova?

Although the USSR has collapsed, many people still argue what was argued throughout much of the 20th century: communism is a noble theory that men unfortunately fail to live up to in practice. By reference to the story and specific events of We the Living, explain why you think the novel’s author would accept or reject this argument.

What does Kira Argounova mean when she says that communism forbids “life to those still living”?

Anthem Essay Contest Information

Eligibility: 8th, 9th and 10th Graders

Entry Deadline: March 20, 2011


Select ONE of the following three topics:

Contrast Equality’s view of morality at the end of the novel to the morality exemplified by his society’s institutions, practices, and officials.

Anthem’s theme is, in Ayn Rand’s own words, "the meaning of man’s ego." Explain the ways in which the characters and story in Anthem illustrate this theme.

To fully control a man, dictators must not only enslave his body, but also destroy his mind. Discuss how the leaders and society in Anthem seek to accomplish this tyrannical end.

The Fountainhead Essay Contest Information

Eligibility: 11th and 12th Graders

Entry Deadline: April 26, 2011
FIRST PRIZE: $10,000
10 THIRD PRIZES: $1,000
45 FINALISTS: $100


Select ONE of the following three topics:

After the Stoddard trial, Dominique Francon marries Peter Keating. Given her love for the integrity of Howard Roark's buildings and person, why does she do this? What is she seeking from the marriage? How does her action of marrying Peter relate to her deeper convictions and conflicts?

In dynamiting Cortlandt Homes, Howard Roark breaks the law. What is his moral and philosophical argument for the rectitude of his action?

Choose the scene in The Fountainhead that is most meaningful to you. Analyze that scene in terms of the wider themes in the book.

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Information

Eligibility: 12th Graders, College Undergraduates, and Graduate Students

Entry Deadline: September 17, 2011
FIRST PRIZE: $10,000
5 THIRD PRIZES: $1,000
25 FINALISTS: $100


Select ONE of the following three topics:

What do you think is meant, in Part III of Atlas Shrugged, by the phrase “utopia of greed”?

Why does Francisco D’Anconia, heir to the greatest fortune in the world and a productive genius with boundless ambition,change his course and pose as, of all things, a playboy?

What does the story of Atlas Shrugged have to say about the relative powers of good and evil and the conditions under which one is victorious over the other?.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Friends Of Labor

Trade unions in India have demanded economic stimulus packages intended to increase employment in the next budget. They also emphasized the need for a national minimum wage law, which would bring in NREGS workers too under it. Curiously enough, the memorandum also calls for a prohibition on the entry of foreign companies and big corporates into the retail trade. Higher wages are expected by labor leaders when industries which make such higher wages possible are supposed to be regulated and taxed out of existence. Ayn Rand had the typical anti-capitalistic mentality in mind when she criticized people who desire cheap gasoline and at the same time want the industry to be taxed out of existence.

We all have long known how determined the trade union representative is in saving the little man, the hapless worker from the oppression, suppression and exploitation by the wicked capitalist. The unrepentant trade union leader is marked by an ever exceeding cynicism, self-imposed economic illiteracy and stupefying moral bankruptcy. In his eyes, if left to himself divorced from the clutches of the state, the businessman is omnipotent. What makes him really dangerous is not his omnipotence as such, but the fact that he is full of caprice and whim. His range of planning hardly proceeds beyond a day, and he has always had a hard time coming in grips with the fact that others too are driven by selfish motives. The only hope of the worker then lies in the totalitarian state. By the virtue of its cozy alliance with trade union thugs, the state can put a solid rein on his excesses by disciplining him whenever he exercises his whim. In the process, the state successfully legislates out of existence an artificial construct of “heartless” economists: the age old law of supply and demand.

Intellectual dishonesty is apparent in the claims of labor union leaders. If higher wages could be legislated into reality with no cost, we would have achieved it long back. The fact that they don’t demand a drastic raise in wages is enough proof that they are fighting their own knowledge that artificially higher wages would put many out of their jobs. Observe the fact that they stand in the way of any progress like increased capital investment which would significantly improve the lives of workers and show them the way out of poverty. Whatever their motives it is not a genuine concern for laborers. As labor leader Fred Kinnan says in Atlas Shrugged: “Didn't they scream that they were the friends of labor? Do you hear them raising their voices about the chain gangs, the slave camps, the fourteen-hour workday and the mortality from scurvy in the People's States of Europe?”

The notion that the Government can raise the living standards of workers violates virtually every known principle of economic science. The fact that wages are determined by the marginal productivity of labor which in turn depends on the level of invested capital is so fundamental to the issue that no labor leader can claim ignorance of it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Video Contest

The winners of the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest are announced. In this contest run by the Ayn Rand Institute, the participants were expected to create a short web video within the time limit of three minutes, on how Ayn Rand’s best selling novel relates to their own lives or the society in which they live in.

The winners are:

First place: Lessons from Atlas Shrugged SD by Reg Schickel

Second Place: Lemonaid by Charlotte Jarrett

Third Place: The American Nightmare by Mike Schnell

Thursday, January 13, 2011

India's Commonwealth Games: A National Disgrace

The Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi in October happened to be a national disgrace, instead of accomplishing the collectivist goal of generating "national prestige". The Indian Economy stagnated under socialistic policies for more than four decades. In 1991, amidst the massive economic crisis, the Government began a process of deregulation. The country was economically liberalized and in the last two decades, we have witnessed immense progress. However, the quest for national prestige proves that the collectivist mindset still remains. The commonwealth Games should be opposed primarily for moral reasons, and pragmatic reasons should take the second place, writes Chak Kakani in the winter issue of The Objective Standard.

[This article was originally published in The Objective Standard and is reprinted here by special permission. © 2011 The Objective Standard]

Over the past few years, the Indian government spent $8.5 billion to host the Commonwealth Games (CWG), a multisport event akin to the Olympics, which were held in New Delhi from October 3 through 14, 2010.1 The official purpose of the CWG was to generate “national prestige” for India.2 But the Games did no such thing. In fact, the CWG were a national disgrace. The games showcased a contradiction embraced by Indians that threatens to destroy the economic and political progress they have achieved over the past two decades.

For more than four decades after India gained independence from England in 1947, India’s economy languished under the weight of the socialist policies stemming from the collectivist mind-set of the Indian people. As the economy faltered, India borrowed heavily from other countries and, especially, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 1991, due to decades of low productivity and mounting debt, India faced a massive economic crisis: The Indian currency was destabilizing and the government could not pay its debts.

To receive extensions on the debt payments due, the Indian government reluctantly agreed to certain “deregulations” of its economy. In one such allowance, the government loosened restrictions on foreign investments, enabling foreigners to purchase up to 51 percent ownership in certain state-owned enterprises.3 This and similar pragmatic steps resulted in an influx of capital, stabilized the currency, satisfied lenders’ concerns about India’s ability to eventually pay its debts, and led the IMF to temporarily defer India’s loan payments.4 This process of “deregulation” came to be known as “the economic liberalization of India.”

Over the next two decades,

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Regulated Patient

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started withdrawing its approval of Avastin, a drug used for slowing down the spread of breast cancer in the month of December. It had approved its use for various forms of cancer in the recent past. The drug itself will not be removed initially, but the breast cancer indication from the label will be taken off as the first phase. The excuse is that the potential benefits to the patients do not outweigh the risk incurred. The collectivist notion which runs through such policies is that voluntary preferences of individuals do not matter and our regulatory authorities are entitled to decide taking in “the highest science” in to account. This highest science, of course, should come from the all-knowing state, the agency of brutality and torture. Never mind the fact that we are trying to reconcile so incompatible two elements as that of force and mind! Or that individual desires give us a different picture!

Tom Bowden rightfully asks in Pajamas Media: “Can risks and benefits really be weighed at the level of society as a whole? A society is only a collection of individuals. A society doesn’t enjoy life, or suffer—only individuals do. Metaphors aside, a society doesn’t get sick and die—only individuals do. To appreciate the difference, consider how a rational patient with breast cancer decides whether to undergo drug treatment.”

Here science is being used against its right beneficiaries by the FDA irrespective of their wishes and the context of their lives. Needless to mention, it makes no sense to argue that the state knows better than the individual comprising it-Or that it has right to take decisions which have life and death control over them through coercive means. The unscrupulous sales of poor quality drugs will ensure that a drug manufacturing company will fall by the wayside in no time. What purpose is served by substituting the preferences of the authorities with that of individuals and weakening that process of healthy market correction?

As Alex Epstein informs us: "To prevent patients from choosing their own risks is to prevent the rational, contextual judgments that their lives require--which often means to condemn them to suffering and death. The history of the FDA is filled with bans or delays of drugs like Interleukin-2, TPa, and various beta-blockers that many would have benefited from had they been free to take them. The death toll from such bans is, according to conservative estimates, in the hundreds of thousands."

Monday, January 3, 2011

A statistical video on human progress over the past 200 years

Watch this amazing video that plots the wealth and health of 200 countries over the past 200 years!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Two Champions Of Liberty

Frederic Bastiat, the most brilliant Economic journalist of all times passed away last week 160 years back.

I personally feel grateful to have come across Bastiat’s petition of the candle makers early in my life. He was the first proper Economist I had read. He held views strikingly similar to that of my favorite novelist-philosopher, Ayn Rand. Both made no theoretical original contribution to their respective fields, but arguably have advanced the cause of liberty more than almost everyone else. They spoke obvious truths which were habitually ignored. Few were as good at reductio ad absurdum as Rand and Bastiat. Both are looked down upon by the academia for lacking theoretical depth, writing intelligently, and characteristics which amounted to “lack of scholarly virtues” and “incompetence” in the eyes of the establishment. Despite the truckloads of avoidable mistakes both have made, they have shown us how much is possible without compromising intellectual rigor or pandering to men’s innate predispositions which are so inimical to the spirit of liberty. It is hard not to see the exceptional talent which roars through their works.

Bastiat, like Rand clearly saw the error of anti-capitalists who abhorred doctrines, systems and principles and ridiculed their “practice without theory and without principle.” They were united against the absurd claim that theory and practice stood opposed to each other. Both rejected pragmatism and understood where irrational skepticism and moral relativism will lead us to. Everything is “a point of view”, they knew, is a notion in which only fools and liars believe in, as it is a rationalization of the unjustifiable attitude that anything goes as long as one can get away with it! Men, both held, can’t survive by adopting a strategy of living on the range of the moment. Bastiat knew that economic science in itself can’t pronounce value judgments, but didn’t hesitate in seeing robbery for what it is, unlike later economists like Mises who were tied down by their rejection of moral absolutism. They found agreement in the conclusion that if morality was pitted against the self interest of a person, he will be forced to give up his moral sense. Bastiat went beyond to say that man will lose his moral sense or respect for law if one stood against the other. Rightful interests of men, they knew, won’t ever clash. The absurdity in imposing morality through force was something Rand and Bastiat stated in strikingly similar words. Rand, like Bastiat, scorned Government officials as exacting parasites. “Naked greed and misconceived philanthropy”, it is true, is the root of all social evils. When Bastiat asked “If mankind is not competent to judge for itself, why do they talk so much about universal suffrage?”, Rand thundered, according to the tribal notion, “You’re incompetent to run your own life, but competent to run the lives of others”. They had the same answer to the welfare state: “At whose expense?”

Their views on self interest were ridden with inconsistencies, but what they got right is far less appreciated by free market thinkers even today. Bastiat, unlike Rand held the largely indefensible position that one can work in social sciences without any reference to self interest. There is much merit in his position, though, in the sense that one would be compelled to support Capitalism even if one believed in the moral code of altruism, a point which Rand didn’t concede. However Bastiat missed the larger truth that people vote altruistically (as recent studies on voter behavior tells us), and as long as they remain in the state of colossal economic ignorance they are bound to support policies which harm the very larger good they have in mind. If voters rejected the morality of altruism, at least the ones who get a raw deal in the end will oppose a disastrous policy. If they considered altruism a virtue or common good a worthy end to pursue, the ones who oppose such a policy would be statistically insignificant.