Ayn Rand Institute talk in London

Tom Burroughes's picture
Submitted by Tom Burroughes on Wed, 2009-02-11 08:42

Last night, along with such other SOLO members as Kenny (Ken Irvine), I went along to the Adam Smith Institute to hear Yaron Brook of the ARI, talk in general terms about the need to make the moral case for capitalism in the midst of the current crisis. Of course, many of his views will be standard fare to readers of Objectivist philosophy; what is striking, of course, is that in the UK "free marketeer" circle, Rand is still not always that widely understood. One guy at the event had never even heard of her. And he was attending an event hosted by a free market think tank!

I thought  Dr Brook gave an impassioned, engaging and very honest talk. He ducked none of the hard questions from the audience, such as whether he approved of the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects where there was a threat of massive loss of life. I did not necessarily think that he did quite enough to tease out the Randian view on selfishness and altruism for those unfamiliar with it, but overall he made a great impression.

There is no doubt in my mind that the ARI has seriously raised its game in recent times. I told Dr Brook that, and he smiled broadly. He is off to Oxford to the university. I am sure we will see him in olde England again. 



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mvardoulis's picture

Were there any other UKIP people in attendance other than yourself...? I'm curious to see if there is a potential Objectivist impact being made in UK political circles. Lord knows we need it on the other side of the Atlantic...

ARI focuses on outreach and engagment

Kenny's picture

I have managed to find some time to endorse Tom's account of the meeting and provide some further information. After the talk and questions, I spent at least a quarter to half an hour chatting to Dr Brook. He outlined, in my opinion, a change of direction for ARI.

ARI is engaging with think tanks, libertarian and conservative, on both sides of Atlantic as part of an outreach programme. He spoke positively about working with Cato and FEE in the US and the ASI and IEA in the UK. Dr Brook spoke critically of the Mises Institute, LewRockwell.com and the Independent Institute, especially on foreign policy and their anarcho-capitalist politics. During questions and in conversation, he had highlighted his differences with Ron Paul on religion and foreign policy.

Dr Brook also talked about the importance of making more material available free on the internet to stimulate interest in Rand and Objectivism. The new DC office is part of a strategy to engage with and influence Congress. Dr Brook did not mention the Atlas Society/Objectivist Center (or its staff) during his talk or during questions. He did agree with my private observation that it was "dying".

Dr Brook commented enthusiastically about several young philosophers whom he believes will take Objectivism forward in academia. Onkhar Ghate and Amy Peikoff were included but Diana Hsieh was not amongst them. Dr Brook highlighted the importance of Tara Smith's chair at Texas University during his talk. He talked about the philosophers breaking new ground. I forgot to ask whether this meant that ARI did not regard Objectivism as a "closed system".

Dr Brook does not regard himself as a philosopher and highlighted his Ph.D in finance. He sees himself more as someone who manage the progress of ARI and promote Objectivism. We agreed that there was a need for prominent Objectivist economists. I asked about George Reisman but Dr Brook commented that relations remain strained, not least because Reisman is associated with the Mises Institute.

Overall, despite my disagreements on foreign policy and torture, my impression of Dr Brook was very positive. He is taking ARI in the right direction. British Objectivists can look forward to more ARI events in the UK. We agreed to keep in touch and I hope to attend, finances permitting this year's OCON conference.

Feel free to ask more questions.

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