On this Holiday, Give Thanks to the Producers

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s an unforgettable Thanksgiving scene at the mansion of Hank Rearden, a self-made millionaire industrialist whose achievements include the invention — after ten years of toil — of a revolutionary new metal, stronger, cheaper and more durable than steel. In addition to Rearden, seated at the table for Thanksgiving dinner are his mother, his wife Lillian, and his brother Philip, all of whom are wholly dependent on Rearden and his wealth. Continue reading >>

[video] Making Sense of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as complicated as it is controversial. This summer I gave a talk that unpacks the conflict and makes it more intelligible. In the talk, which is now online, I explore how intellectuals conceptualize and debate the issue, and spotlight the distinctive value of an Objectivist perspective on it. The talk is a kind of preview of certain points in my upcoming book, “What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Watch it now.

How Books Propel a Philosophic Movement

What does it take to propel Objectivism as a philosophic movement? It’s essential to articulate the meaning of Objectivism and to exhibit its value in concrete form, by reference to the events, trends and developments of the times.

To that end, books are crucial. I took part in this panel with three of my colleagues from the Ayn Rand Institute. We discussed ARI’s strategy and the thinking behind it, and we took questions on our current book projects. Recorded July 6, 2016.

Why Trump should disrupt the scandalous US-Saudi relationship

[] On Donald Trump’s first foreign trip, he is visiting one of our putative allies in the Middle East: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For the president, who has been called the great “disruptor” of American politics, the trip is an opening to begin undoing the deplorable U.S.-Saudi relationship.

For years, the U.S. has embraced Saudi Arabia as an ally and sold it billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons. But at the deepest level, Saudi Arabia is hostile to our ideal of individual rights. While the regime is seen as standing with us against Islamic State, or ISIS, Saudi Arabia embodies and exports its own brand of Islamic totalitarianism. . . . Continue reading.

What Vox’s Will Wilkinson Gets Right — and Horribly Wrong — about Trump and the Islamist Menace

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I applaud Will Wilkinson’s essay at criticizing the Trump administration’s view of the jihadist threat, but I can offer only one cheer, not three. Wilkinson tries to put the threat in perspective, and although he makes some important points, he exhibits a mile-wide blind spot. Thus, in his own way, Wilkinson fails to understand the Islamist menace, what enables it, and the urgent necessity of confronting it.

Let’s take stock of Wilkinson’s basic argument. His two main points line up with observations I’ve made in the past. First, he refutes the idea — apparently held by Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon among others in the administration — that the jihadists pose an existential threat, comparable to what we faced in World War II from Nazi Germany and the Soviets. When you look at the empirical data and compare military strength, however, the U.S. is in a class by itself. For example, Wilkinson notes, the “combined military budget of the nine biggest-spending Muslim-majority countries came to about $186 billion in 2015. The United States alone more than tripled that, spending $596 billion in 2015.”

The Islamic State (or ISIS) has some rifles, explosives, and pickup trucks, but no navy, no air force, nothing comparable to the vast war machine of Nazi Germany or the Soviets. So, however you tally the material strength of all the jihadists on the face of the globe, they are way, way overshadowed by America’s towering might. When faced with the material weakness of ISIS as a military force, Wilkinson writes, “defenders of the [Trump administration’s] clash of civilizations view tend to retreat to the idea that radical Islam is waging war on the West in secret.

Continue reading “What Vox’s Will Wilkinson Gets Right — and Horribly Wrong — about Trump and the Islamist Menace”