Rebirth of Reason

The Revolution Begins at Home.
by Andrew Bates

What do we want? A cultural revolution. When do we want it? As soon as possible, please.

The revolutionary thoughts of Objectivists are well considered and thus unlikely to produce mindless slogans for great throngs of 'idealistic' students to chant on protest marches. We see the need for change not through political revolution (just yet) but through an intellectual revolution. We see a need to change the ideas of our fellow men by changing the ideas propagated from universities, especially in the philosophy department and its closest descendents in the humanities.

To accomplish this we need to, as Ayn Rand instructed in What can One Do?, write letters to newspaper editors and leave no bromide unchallenged in party conversations. Furthermore, we need to get Objectivist intellectuals into influential universities. Rand's instructions, while important, seems to have as much effect as a piss in the ocean and can tax your time heavily or make you appear somewhat anal retentive or one dimensional at parties. Of course, there's nothing wrong with leaving people drop-jawed and pop-eyed at your determination to challenge mystic and statist views wherever they lurk but the hassle can seem more costly than the reward. The second strategy requires one to make a lifelong commitment to a career in research and to give up high paying private sector job. You have to be suited to research and many of us may not be.

Many of us might wonder then what an intelligent Objectivist could do to make a big impact without having to make a career move to becoming an academic? What could an intelligent Objectivist, fresh from graduation, do if he were considering becoming an academic but wanted to get some real world experience of the field that interested him?

That last question concerns me specifically. I am interested in economics and finance and have university qualifications in these fields. I have starting making my way through the works of those advocates of liberty who have written on these topics and have gained a good grasp of the theory. Unfortunately, I have found that my theoretical knowledge could not be applied to situations in the market until after the occurrence of what I should have predicted had I had a better understanding of the local market's actual mechanics. In choosing my career path I've come to realise that experience of work in the finance industry is an absolute necessity for success if I choose to become an academic at some later stage.

A commitment to working in the industry is all well and good until we return to the issue of changing people's ideas. Rarely are leading businessmen asked for their opinions on the government's policies by the current lapdog media. Still rarer are those working in the 'back offices' behind these businessmen asked for their opinions of what's wrong with the world. How then should a young Objectivist intellectual influence others while working in industry?

I decided that the best way I could do so was to commit to giving lectures on the writings of pro-capitalist economists on weeknight evenings at an Objectivist bookshop, Aristotle's. This enables me to influence others while forcing me to refresh my knowledge and learn more about the ideas of the great economists. One need not start with Mises or Reisman, however. It is of course best to introduce people to these ideas gradually and thus I have started with Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.

This book teaches people to look at the direct and indirect effects on all groups (not just one group) both in the short and long runs. In other words, it teaches people to consider the full context. The book concretises the lesson by showing how destructive policies have arisen where the lesson being ignored. It thus teaches people how to argue their points when debating with statists. I discuss the examples Hazlitt provides and link the principles to examples relevant to New Zealand. I also discuss differences between Hazlitt's suggestions and libertarian and Objectivist theory.

To those Objectivists with the intellect and oral ability to influence their fellow men and who want to do so but are not in a position to commit to becoming academics I recommend this discipline. It forces you to re-examine ideas you've read before and thus gain a fresher and deeper understanding of them while enabling you to both keep your job and influence a many people at once. It helps you develop and maintain your presentation skills and can help sell an important book at a bookstore near you. Moreover, by starting small, it allows you build into being a lecturer on ideas who could find work in an academic institution if you wanted to. Why not approach your local Aristotle's or Borders today?

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