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 […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
In September 2009, when President Obama made a primetime speech pitching his not-yet-passed health care overhaul, he made the following promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” To prove his seriousness, he further promised that “there will be a provision […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.” — Emperor Palpatine, The Return of the JediJon Stewart made great comedic hay during the Bush Administration out of the enormity of Dick Cheney’s “Sith Lord” malevolence. Events in Iraq in the past week have made especially palpable Cheney’s Palpatine-like quality.As Iraq unravels, you may suspect that Cheney might now […]
Entrepreneurs are high-tailing it out of the United States, and it’s the politicians’ faultThe U.S. government is driving some of its most productive citizens abroad. The only beneficiaries are countries such as Singapore and Switzerland, which offer sanctuary to Americans fleeing avaricious Uncle Sam.Three years ago Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s founders, joined 1,780 other […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
As the world gets more digital, people forget about the benefits of transacting in cash. And government officials know that.
Regulation is supposed to keep you safe and make the economy function smoothly. At least that’s what they tell you in the news. But there’s another cost to regulation. One that you won’t hear about unless you have to deal with directly. And for the people in the economy who do, they’re the ones who have to pay the final cost.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
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.