Fears of corporate influence on higher education are nothing new. But are colleges and universities, which receive smaller and smaller shares of their budgets from public funding, and which have struggled to bounce back from the 2008 recession, more likely to accept gifts with ideological strings attached than they would have been previously?
That’s the idea behind a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Academic Ethics, called, “BB&T, Atlas Shrugged and the Ethics of Corporation Influence on College Curricula.” It says it is the first study to track a particular set of donations by the financial services holding company BB&T to colleges and universities stipulating that they teach the works of free-market capitalist Ayn Rand and address the “Moral Foundations of Capitalism.”
How awesome of BB&T under former BB&T CEO John Allison to expand the diversity of ideas available to college students.
Such actions should not be condemned but applauded.
I wish there were such a program when I went to college — sadly the bulk of what I heard in the ivory tower was left-wing, progressive, anti-corporate ideology. Sadly, I did not learn about Ayn Rand until after college. I am thankful I did.
John Allison, ran a successful bank that was basically untouched by the financial crisis and did not need a bailout (read his book The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure for how the government caused the financial crisis and how BB&T prevented itself from being damaged by it). Allison also credits the moral code of Ayn Rand’s philosophy Objectivism — a philosophy for living on earth — in large part, for his and BB&T’s success.
Ayn Rand is such a great writer and profound thinker. Here is a link to quotes that demonstrate the breadth, clarity and depth of Ayn Rand’s thought — in her own words — so you can judge for yourself.
Like her or not — Ayn Rand is important and influential — she is, and should be, part of the college canon. Any proper business school that does not expose their students to the works of Ayn Rand is committing education malpractice.
The real disgrace are the college professors, journals and bureaucrats – funded by the government — who blackball professors who could expose students to Ayn Rand’s ideas. (Perhaps one day Inside Higher Ed could publish something about that.)
Sounds like the regressive Left is scared of their monopoly on young minds coming to an end. It’s about time.
Related: CISC Executive Director C. Bradley Thompson speaks to the incoming class of Lyceum Scholars at Clemson University on the nature of a liberal arts education.
This month, we discuss Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy with Greg Salmieri, who teaches at Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology and is co-secretary of the American Philosophical Association’s Ayn Rand Society. Click here to listen to our conversation.
But wait: Ayn Rand is most famous for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Where does she fit into mainstream, professional philosophy? Does she fit in at all? Salmieri encourages us to consider Rand with the perspective we afford others who have proven pivotal in philosophy: say, Descartes and Locke. In their own day, Descartes and Locke both did much else besides philosophy; but their larger critiques involved philosophy, and were deepened all the more so because they did not restrict themselves to their day’s philosophy. Those critiques have gone on to shape philosophy profoundly, so much so that today we can take their once-unique approaches for granted – and so we can take their being philosophers for granted. Perhaps we do not yet appreciate the impact Ayn Rand can ultimately have on philosophy?
Regardless of her present or future recognition as a philosopher, Salmieri unearths for us a wealth of ideas from Rand’s work. Rand did above all strive to be a novelist, especially in the romantic tradition of Victor Hugo. But as a novelist, she wrote of epic moral conflicts motivated by people passionately committed to particular values – particular moral philosophies. This broached her probing of what makes a value at once right and objective, but not impersonal or imposed. And it related to her more explicitly controversial perspectives, exemplified not least in her book titled The Virtue of Selfishness.
Join us as Greg Salmieri helps us further make sense of this and other ideas in Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy.
Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow and the Chief Content Officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. He has written and lectured extensively on philosophy and serves as Dean for the Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center in Irvine, CA. The Undercurrent’s Jon Glatfelter had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ghate regarding the recent shooting at the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, as well as religion and free speech more broadly.
The Undercurrent: Many of the major U.S. media players, including CNN and FOX, still have not published the cartoon contest’s winning piece. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Ghate: I haven’t kept tabs on which outlets have and have not published that cartoon, but there were similar responses in regard to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and, before that, the Danish cartoons in 2005-2006. Sometimes a media outlet would try to explain why it is not showing its audience a crucial element of the news story, and I think these explanations have revealed a mixture of motives at work.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list: fear, cowardice, appeasement, sympathy. Let me say a word on each. Some media outlets are afraid of violent reprisals and of the ongoing security costs that would be necessary to protect staff. And because the U.S. government refuses to take an unequivocal stand in defense of the right to free speech, the totalitarians are emboldened, which makes violent reprisals more likely. So that’s one reason. But despite this legitimate fear, I do think there is often an element of cowardice. The likelihood of an attack can be overstated, and of course if more news outlets publish the cartoons, it is more and more difficult to intimidate and attack them all, and less and less likely that a particular organization will be singled out. Here there is strength in numbers. A third motive is the appeaser’s false hope that if he gives in and doesn’t publish the cartoons, he will have satisfied the attackers and no further threats or demands will follow. Finally, many are sympathetic: out of deference to the non-rational, faith-based emotions of Muslims, they don’t publish the cartoons, even though those cartoons are news. They view the cartoonists and publishers as the troublemakers and villains. (The roots of this sympathy I think are complex and often ugly.)
The Undercurrent: Some have condemned the contest’s organizer, Pamela Geller, and the winning artist, Bosch Fawstin. They say there’s a world of difference between good-natured free expression and malicious speech intended solely to antagonize. What do you think?
Dr. Ghate: I disagree with many things that I’ve heard Pamela Gellar say but I refuse to discuss her real or alleged flaws when totalitarians are trying to kill her, as though those flaws, even if real, justify or mitigate the actions of the aspiring killers. The New York Times editorial to which you link is a disgrace. After a sanctimonious paragraph saying that we all have the right to publish offensive material and that no matter how offensive that material may be, it does not justify murder, the rest of the editorial goes on to criticize the victim of attempted murder. As my colleague and others have noted, this is like denouncing a rape victim instead of her rapists.
And notice what the editorial glosses over: in the first paragraph stating that offensive material does not justify murder, it concludes with the seemingly innocuous point that “it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.”
This is the actual issue. Why don’t you similarly have to tell a group of biochemists or historians, when they disagree about a theory, that their disagreements don’t justify murdering each other? The answers lies in the difference between reason and faith, as I’m sure we’ll discuss, a difference the editorial dares not discuss.
But contra the editorial, the Garland event had a serious purpose. Look at the winning cartoon: it makes a serious point.
C. Bradley Thompson: The Abolitionist Movement and Its Lessons for Today
John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free-Market Cure
Andrew Bernstein: Objectivism versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead and Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs under Capitalism
Eric Daniels: From “Sputnik” to the Internet: Real Solutions for Reforming Science Education
Onkar Ghate: “Charlie Hebdo”, the West and the Need to Ridicule Religion
Peter Schwartz: Defining Basic Moral Concepts and Principles and Anti-Principles in Ethics (advanced talk)
George Selgin:Money Under Laissez-Faire andThe Destabilizing Consequences of Central Banking
Amesh Adalja: Infectious Diseases and National Security
Rituparna Basu: Understanding the Arguments for Universal Health Care
Michael S. Berliner: How Music Saved a Life: Ayn Rand and Operetta
John Dennis: Making Decisions in Context
Ray Girn: LePort Schools Information Session
Gena Gorlin: Battling Depression and Anxiety: Insights from Moral Philosophy and Clinical Science and The Science of Self-Control: What We Can (and Cannot) Learn from Contemporary Psychologists
Elan Journo: The Jihadist Movement and The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
Ryan Krause: In Defense of Monopolies: How Antitrust Criminalizes Business Strategy
Andrew Lewis: Magna Carta and Its 800-Year Legacy
Keith Lockitch:Climate Change and Ideology
Shoshana Milgram: Moral Self-Defense: How-To Advice from Ayn Rand and Filming “The Fountainhead”: Ayn Rand’s First Plan
Jean Moroney: Aligning Your Subconscious Values with Your Conscious Convictions and Fueling Achievement with Objectivist Values
Adam Mossoff: Life, Liberty and Intellectual Property: Why IP Rights Are Fundamental Property Rights
Gregory Salmieri:Epistemology and Justice in the Age of Social Media
Thomas Shoebotham:The Legacy of Beethoven,Schumann and Musical Poetry,Chopin, the Bel Canto Pianist,Mendelssohn: Classicizing Romanticism,Berlioz: The Symphony Reimagined, and Liszt and the Virtuoso Tradition
Steve Simpson: Free Speech Under Siege
Aaron Smith:Benevolence, Goodwill and the Rationally Selfish Life
Tara Smith: How Does Objectivity Apply to the Law? and Constitutionalism–the Backbone of Objective Law
There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.
But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.
Here is the cartoon that the NY Times has written such hateful and disparaging things about — you decide.
As I wrote last week, many intellectuals in America and elsewhere have taken an attitude of appeasement toward the terrorists and their sympathizers, thus ensuring that their attacks will continue. Of course, violence is not justified, they say, but should we really go out of our way to celebrate those who offend others or humiliate “marginalized” groups? (In this case, the answer is “yes.”)
Already, we are seeing that attitude toward the organizers of the event in Garland, who are being called “Islamophobes” and purveyors of “hate speech,” always with the caveat that of course violence is not justified.
But this attitude is a form of justifying violence, in the same way that criticizing a rape victim for dressing provocatively is a justification of rape. It says, you brought this on yourself, or you provoked your assailant, or you are the type of person who deserved this. In all events, the message is that your actions, not the actions of your assailants, are the relevant cause of the attack.
There are many circumstances in which it’s appropriate not to take sides in a debate or to criticize one side or the other or both. But that applies only when there actually is a debate to take sides in or to ignore. It seems too obvious to point out, but a debate does not exist when one side is trying to kill the other.
The moment someone resorts to violence in response to speech is the moment that the issue is no longer about the merits of any side’s position or the character of the speakers but about whether we are going to have the freedom to take positions — that is, to think for ourselves — at all. If we fail to support those who are trying to speak, we necessarily end up condoning, and therefore supporting, those who are willing to resort to violence. There’s no middle ground in a dispute like this, because there’s no middle ground between speech and force. Free speech cannot exist when some people are willing to resort to force.
Whatever one thinks about Charlie Hebdo and the organizers of the Garland event or of any of the arguments or positions they take or support, there is no question that Islamists who threaten and use violence want to shut down all debate, all discussion, all thought, and all criticism of their religion. That is why they resort to violence.
BBC has a pretty creative cartoon sketch on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, which is pretty good and well-meaning for the most part in the dialogue, though it gets a few things wrong (and some of the artistic interpretations are reprehensible, i.e., equating the dollar sign with a snake). Overall it is worth a watch. Below are some comments on the bolded parts of the dialogue.
Morality and selfishness sound like opposites – but not according to the Russian-American novelist of the 1950s, Ayn Rand. She thought it was obvious that behaving rationally meant putting your own interests first: you actually have a duty to be selfish. Altruism or self-sacrifice are immoral, she claimed, as is asking for help from others.
What Rand actually said was that one had no DUTY to help others — she was perfectly fine with (private) charity, and yes asking for help. She also would not call selfishness a duty, but a virtue that must be chosen.
Here is Ayn Rand on the difference:
One of the most destructive anti-concepts in the history of moral philosophy is the term “duty.”
An anti-concept is an artificial, unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The term “duty” obliterates more than single concepts; it is a metaphysical and psychological killer: it negates all the essentials of a rational view of life and makes them inapplicable to man’s actions . . . .
The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.
It is obvious that that anti-concept is a product of mysticism, not an abstraction derived from reality. In a mystic theory of ethics, “duty” stands for the notion that man must obey the dictates of a supernatural authority. Even though the anti-concept has been secularized, and the authority of God’s will has been ascribed to earthly entities, such as parents, country, State, mankind, etc., their alleged supremacy still rests on nothing but a mystic edict. Who in hell can have the right to claim that sort of submission or obedience? This is the only proper form—and locality—for the question, because nothing and no one can have such a right or claim here on earth.
The arch-advocate of “duty” is Immanuel Kant; he went so much farther than other theorists that they seem innocently benevolent by comparison. “Duty,” he holds, is the only standard of virtue; but virtue is not its own reward: if a reward is involved, it is no longer virtue. The only moral motivation, he holds, is devotion to duty for duty’s sake; only an action motivated exclusively by such devotion is a moral action . . . .
If one were to accept it, the anti-concept “duty” destroys the concept of reality: an unaccountable, supernatural power takes precedence over facts and dictates one’s actions regardless of context or consequences.
“Duty” destroys reason: it supersedes one’s knowledge and judgment, making the process of thinking and judging irrelevant to one’s actions.
“Duty” destroys values: it demands that one betray or sacrifice one’s highest values for the sake of an inexplicable command—and it transforms values into a threat to one’s moral worth, since the experience of pleasure or desire casts doubt on the moral purity of one’s motives.
“Duty” destroys love: who could want to be loved not from “inclination,” but from “duty”?
“Duty” destroys self-esteem: it leaves no self to be esteemed.
If one accepts that nightmare in the name of morality, the infernal irony is that “duty” destroys morality. A deontological (duty-centered) theory of ethics confines moral principles to a list of prescribed “duties” and leaves the rest of man’s life without any moral guidance, cutting morality off from any application to the actual problems and concerns of man’s existence. Such matters as work, career, ambition, love, friendship, pleasure, happiness, values (insofar as they are not pursued as duties) are regarded by these theories as amoral, i.e., outside the province of morality. If so, then by what standard is a man to make his daily choices, or direct the course of his life?
In a deontological theory, all personal desires are banished from the realm of morality; a personal desire has no moral significance, be it a desire to create or a desire to kill. For example, if a man is not supporting his life from duty, such a morality makes no distinction between supporting it by honest labor or by robbery. If a man wants to be honest, he deserves no moral credit; as Kant would put it, such honesty is “praiseworthy,” but without “moral import.” Only a vicious represser, who feels a profound desire to lie, cheat and steal, but forces himself to act honestly for the sake of “duty,” would receive a recognition of moral worth from Kant and his ilk.
Rand’s approach, which she labelled ‘Objectivism’, starts from the claim that there is an objective reality out there and that human beings understand it through reason not emotion. There is no God. We survive by pursuing our own rational self-interest. She thought it followed from this that the highest moral purpose was for each of us to pursue his or her own happiness. The weak shouldn’t expect any help from the strong.
Here is what Rand actually said on the issue on the relationship between the weak and strong:
In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong. [Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 186]
All forms of collectivism were evil in her eyes. The role of government was nothing more than to protect individual rights of ownership and to let the powerful flourish.
Yes collectivism (the subjugation of the individual to a group) is evil. However, under capitalism everyone flourishes as power is decentralized amongst the smallest minority on earth — the individual — as opposed to centralizing all power with the state as collectivists advocate. Quoting Rand:
A disastrous intellectual package-deal, put over on us by the theoreticians of statism, is the equation of economic power with political power. You have heard it expressed in such bromides as: “A hungry man is not free,” or “It makes no difference to a worker whether he takes orders from a businessman or from a bureaucrat.” Most people accept these equivocations—and yet they know that the poorest laborer in America is freer and more secure than the richest commissar in Soviet Russia. What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.
The difference between political power and any other kind of social “power,” between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.
Returning to the BBC description:
In her bestselling novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead she portrayed uncompromising characters who relentlessly pursue their own visions. In Atlas Shrugged her hero John Galt declares “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
You can learn more about Ayn Rand — in her own words — by visiting AynRand.org
Devi Shetty is obsessed with making heart surgery affordable for millions of Indians. On his office desk are photographs of two of his heroes: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.
Shetty is not a public health official motivated by charity. He’s a heart surgeon turned businessman who has started a chain of 21 medical centers around India. By trimming costs with such measures as buying cheaper scrubs and spurning air-conditioning, he has cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to 95,000 rupees ($1,583), half of what it was 20 years ago, and wants to get the price down to $800 within a decade. The same procedure costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“It shows that costs can be substantially contained,” said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, of Shetty’s approach. “It’s possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost.”
Medical experts like Reddy are watching closely, eager to see if Shetty’s driven cost-cutting can point the way for hospitals to boost revenue on a wider scale by making life-saving heart operations more accessible to potentially millions of people in India and other developing countries.
“The current price of everything that you see in health care is predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency,” Shetty, 60, said in an interview in his office in Bangalore, where he started his chain of hospitals, with the opening of his flagship center, Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City, in 2001.
What’s the difference? India has a predominantly private healthcare system not controlled by the government — unlike the semi-fascist/semi-socialist United States which is predominantly government controlled. All those controls and regulations create monopolistic “opportunistic” pricing and inefficiency.
The article mentions that Shetty has on “his office desk photographs of two of his heroes: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.”
Perhaps he should also have photos of Ludwig Von Mises and Ayn Rand.
For Obama, the government’s role is to set our goals, determine our priorities, and centrally plan our lives so that we achieve these priorities. […] Obama’s agenda comes down to taking a bunch of money from us, directing it to purposes he thinks we should value, and using the power of government to coerce individuals and businesses to act in the way he thinks they should act. […] Is that really a worldview consistent with the founding ideals? [Sorry Obama, We Aren’t Family]
Professor Onkar Ghate at The Ayn Rand Institute: as an excellent op-ed on “Freedom of Speech” in wake of the murder of the French Cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo:
When foreign governments, religious leaders and their faithful followers threaten and murder individuals for daring to speak, anyone who values his own life and freedom must stand with, and speak for, the victims.
We call on everyone to post and publicize the content that these totalitarians do not want us to see, as we are doing here.
It does not matter whether you agree or disagree with the particular book, cartoon or movie that they seek to silence. We must defend our unconditional right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
The totalitarians are counting on self-censorship: that their threats and attacks will leave most of us too scared to speak out and criticize their doctrines. They then have a chance of killing the few individuals brave enough to defy them.
We must end any hope that this strategy will prove effective.
In the wake of the attacks on Sony, many people rightly observed that if The Interview were put up on the Internet and made widely available, the attackers’ goal of silencing the filmmaker would be unachieved. The same goes for criticism and satire of Islamic doctrine.
If we now all defiantly make the content and images the jihadists wish to ban widely and permanently available across the web, the attackers will have failed. They may have taken the lives of the editor and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, for which we grieve, but they will not have taken their freedom.
The alternative is to cower and stick our heads in the sand in hope that the issue goes away. But this will not end the threat. It will only make our freedom disappear.