This post reproduces a short q&a with The Atlas Society on how the worldview of Ayn Rand and Objectivism influenced me personally and as a scholar interested in energy, history, political economy, and public policy. [For more information, see “The Fall of Ken Lay: An Interview with Former Enron Insider Robert Bradley Jr.” (April 1, 2006) and “Political Capitalism: Warnings and Reality” (February 4, 2013)
I am a classical-liberal intellectual, or at least a student of classical liberalism.
I specialize in energy history and public policy. That has led me to business/government cronyism. And that had led to trying to understand contra-capitalism as it applies to organizational failure.
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead was on my summer reading list in high school. I was not into reading at the time and picked up this fat book one June evening. I got hooked on page 1, practically from “Howard Roark laughed.” I remember exactly where I was at the time!
The first time was reading The Fountainhead and thinking how it spoke to me in a ‘second hander’ world regarding a lot of my fellow students at school.
The second time (and I had left Objectivism for some years) was realizing that the artificial boom/decisive bust of Enron—the company where I worked for 16 years—was right out of an Ayn Rand novel. And the real tragedy there was philosophical, with Ken Lay being a second hander and Enron trying to invent its own reality.
The philosophy of Objectivism has helped me to ‘understand the world,’ not unlike what the Austrian School of economics (realistic economics) has done on another level. Objectivism completes, or at least is an important element of, classical liberalism.
Rand and Objectivism remain decades ahead of where society and culture are today. It is a slow process, sometimes, to expand the realm of reason and shrink the realm of faith.
In my area of energy, for example, the foe is a postmodernist philosophy where the dominant thinking is that if we all believe that the human influence on climate is a problem, then it is a problem. And if we can all believe renewable energy is the solution, it is. But climate and energy reality are quite different. Hence the recent attempt to criminalize what the other side claims is ‘climate denial.’
But to be optimistic, some of us Objectivists/classical liberals must see our work as a placeholder in the present to be ‘discovered’ or ‘mainstreamed’ in the future. And so the Atlas Summit is a way to remind ourselves that our work is good and worthy, maybe even heroic, and to enjoy truth and beauty for its own sake.
[Hear Rob Bradley speak at the Atlas Summit, July 11-13, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada!]