“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
Let’s head back in time…In 2004, a mere decade ago, the US national debt rang the register at $7.4 trillion. That represents “debt per citizen” of over $25,000. You, me, your neighbor, your 4-yr old grandson, you name it and they’re portion of the U.S. debt is $25k.But flash forward to today and you’ll see […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Ayn Rand would not like this book.
She wouldn’t like its subject matter. For Rand, libertarians were “hippies of the right,” who “subordinate reason to whims” and “substitute anarchism for capitalism” — a “monstrous, disgusting bunch” of “intellectual cranks” who “plagiarize my ideas.” Rand evidently regarded libertarians’ arguments as unworthy of engagement, since she never, in fact, engaged with them. A book celebrating this dreadful movement and tracing it to her would be far from welcome.
Nor would Rand like the book’s style. Rand’s tolerance for humor in general was limited; her tolerance for humor directed at herself and her own ideas was zero. In Rand’s view, humor was a “denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at”; this made humor a “destructive element,” legitimate only when directed at objects despicable or worthless. But to “laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values,” was “monstrous,” and to “laugh at yourself” was the “worst evil that you can do,” a form of “spitting in your own face.”
That Rand’s conception of humor might be bizarrely narrow — that there might be forms of affectionate humor, in which respect and admiration could be mixed with a keen appreciation of foibles and a heightened sense of the ridiculous — seems never to have crossed her mind. Thus, a book by a devoted libertarian making fun of the libertarian movement even while celebrating it would have baffled her; and a book making fun of Ayn Rand herself, even while acknowledging the value of her influence, would have enraged her.
But Jerome Tuccille didn’t write this book for Ayn Rand. He wrote it for, as he says in the dedication, “deviationists all over the world.” Welcome, deviationist!
We can argue about when the libertarian movement began. We could point to the Old Right of the 1930s and ’40s, to the classical liberals and individualist anarchists of the 19th century, or even to the 1640s with the Levellers in the English Civil War. But the libertarian movement as we know it today began with the publication of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in 1957; and in the decades that followed, reading Atlas Shrugged was the most common entry point into that movement (as it was for me as a geeky high schooler in 1979).
That’s not to say that the libertarian movement was made in Atlas’s image. Influence takes many forms, and reacting against various aspects of Rand’s thought — her egoism, her atheism, her adulation of big business, her doctrinal rigidity — was as common a libertarian response as was emulation. But Rand had set the terms of discussion by asking the right questions and highlighting the crucial issues, and had laid out a radical and inspiring vision of individual human creativity and initiative set free from rulership, violence, and unreasoned dogma — a vision that no one could confuse with the conventional political nostrums of left and right.
Jerome Tuccille was present at the creation as the ripples from the massive pebble that Rand had dropped into world culture were beginning to spread out in various directions, sometimes merging with other ripples to form new shapes and trajectories as the terrible beauty of the libertarian movement was born.
Tuccille knew most of the major figures and organizations, and in It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand he offers us a lively and frequently hilarious memoir of the movement’s early days — before the Libertarian Party was founded, before today’s vast constellation of libertarian think tanks and periodicals existed, and before Friedrich Hayek’s and Milton Friedman’s Nobel Prizes and Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia would win libertarianism a tincture of respectability in mainstream circles (if “mainstream circles” isn’t too mixed a metaphor).
Tuccille’s portrait of the libertarian movement is drawn in broad impressionistic strokes; it’s not intended, and should not be regarded, as a literally accurate record of all the doctrines and personalities involved. In reality, for example, Ayn Rand did not endorse anarchism, condemn private charity, or deny the existence of degrees of evil; Andrew Galambos credited Thomas Paine with ghost-writing the Declaration of Independence, not with inventing the word “liberty”; not all libertarians were enthusiastic about the Barry Goldwater campaign (Murray Rothbard, for instance, denounced Goldwater as a dangerous nuclear warmonger); and Rocco Fantozi’s name was not Rocco Fantozi.
It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand is a jazz improvisation on the early history of the modern libertarian movement, not a transcript. But what a sax solo! (Of course, Rand didn’t like jazz either.)
In light of the widespread tendency to regard libertarians as right-wing apologists for the corporate elite, one of the many strengths of Tuccille’s book is its stress on libertarianism’s distance from conservatism. “The ‘capitalist’ system under so much attack from left-wing groups today,” Tuccille reminds us, “is actually state capitalism, an economic ideal as far removed from the ideal of free-market capitalism as an equal degree of state socialism would be”; and the “squabbling over property rights that always plagues attempts at dialogue between the Left and Right” stems from a failure on both sides to distinguish between “legitimate private property” and “monopolistic corporate property established with the help of the state.”
(Rand, who sometimes championed the corporate elite as “America’s persecuted minority” and at other times condemned them as an “aristocracy of pull” reaping the benefits of “a mixed economy with government controls slanted in favor of business,” would perhaps have agreed with Tuccille’s remark on even-numbered days.)
In the years after the first publication of It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand, the movement would continue to grow and change. Tuccille would go on in 1974 to run for governor of New York on the Free Libertarian Party ticket, famously courting publicity by reenacting, in Central Park, Lady Godiva’s famous anti-tax/anti-clothing ride (not himself taking the role of Godiva, I hasten to add); and the Internet would give a dramatic boost to libertarians’ numbers and influence.
Ayn Rand is no longer as dominant an entry point into libertarianism as she once was, though her books continue to sell well and her public visibility is higher than ever (indeed, part two of an Atlas Shrugged film trilogy is being released in the same month as this e-book). Perhaps nowadays it usually begins with Ron Paul — though it often ends someplace very different.
Tuccille describes the early libertarian movement as having an Ayn Rand right, a Karl Hess left, and a Murray Rothbard middle; and as having myself one foot in each of those camps (yes, I have three feet; you have a problem with that?), I can happily report that all three are still going strong, though the Randians have finally split into officially pro-tolerance and anti-tolerance factions (and some of the former could even admit to enjoying this book).
Some of Tuccille’s predictions from 1972 are a bit saddening, as in the case of his forlorn hope that in the near future we would all be “living in a less militarized and more decentralized atmosphere than exists today.” But he is sometimes more successful as a prognosticator, as when he notes in his 1997 afterword: “The computer has already replaced the Molotov cocktail as the preferred weapon of revolution, and the hacker may hold the key to subverting the system from within” — words that can be seen as prophetic 15 years later, in our age of WikiLeaks and Anonymous.
Tuccille characterizes today’s libertarian movement as “sober and cleanshaven” in comparison with its beginnings; but if you want to see the freewheeling, eccentric, occasionally feud-riven crazy quilt of “left-wing anarchists and acid-dropping love children; middle-class tax resisters and blue-collar hard hats; right-wing free traders and intransigent individualists” whose portrait Tuccille limned with mingled affection and frustration four decades ago, with its mix of neckties, tie-dyes, and dollar-sign pins, just browse the libertarian blogosphere — or stop by one of the annual libertarian festivals like Libertopia or PorcFest.
Even the floating ocean platform libertarians that Tuccille describes are still with us, with serious funding behind them this time around, though many of the captains have recently (as of this writing) jumped ship, or platform, to a charter city project on the terra firma of Honduras.
The party (not necessarily the Party) continues. Come on in, the water’s fine. Or possibly spiked with acid.