The Anti-Intellectuality of Donald Trump: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump

by Onkar Ghate | November 06, 2017

No one can speak for the dead. But as an expert on Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I’m often asked what Rand would have thought of President Trump, especially now, on the one-year anniversary of his election and in light of stories in the Washington Post and elsewhere trying to link Trump to Rand.

My wager is that were Ayn Rand alive today, she would condemn the whole Trump phenomenon. Far from seeing him or his administration’s actions as even partially influenced by her ideas, she would see Donald Trump as the kind of political figure whose rise she had foreseen and warned us against.

To appreciate why, we need to know something about her view of the country’s state. From the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1957 to her death in 1982, a constant theme in her writings is that we as a nation were in a state of intellectual and cultural bankruptcy.

The Democrats, liberals and political left had abandoned the intellect. Marx, although evil, was, Rand thought, the last intellectual voice worth confronting. When the Marxists entrenched in academia gave way or morphed into the likes of B. F. Skinner, John Rawls, Herbert Marcuse, and a sundry list of postmodernists preaching ethnic determinism, “back to nature,” the impossibility of objectivity and other anti-Enlightenment doctrines, their pretense to intellectuality was up.

This created an opening for the true heirs of the Enlightenment, the advocates of freedom and capitalism, to pick up the discarded banner of the intellect. They refused.

A few months before her death, Rand told an audience of her fans, no doubt to the surprise of many, that she didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter, whom she regarded as a small-town power luster. “There is a limit,” she told them, “to the notion of voting for the lesser of two evils.”

Rand did welcome Reagan’s strong language toward Soviet Russia and his promises to cut spending and taxes. But she warned that his invitation of the so-called Moral Majority to the halls of power would be a long-range disaster. By tying the (supposed) advocacy of freedom and capitalism to, in Rand’s words, the anti-intellectuality of “militant mystics,” who proclaim that aborting an embryo is murder and creationism is science, Reagan’s presidency would discredit the intellectual case for freedom and capitalism and embolden the anti-intellectual, authoritarian mentalities in the country.

Enter Donald Trump.

Trump’s salient characteristic as a political figure is anti-intellectuality. Because Rand saw this mentality as on the rise (she called it the anti-conceptual mentality), she had a lot to say about it, and it’s illuminating how much of it fits Trump.

In Rand’s terms, to be intellectual is to sustain through life the conviction that ideas matter. This means that knowledge, abstract principles, justice and truth are of personal importance to you, embedded in everything you value and informing your every action. “To take ideas seriously,” Rand says, “means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true.”

This is a demanding responsibility. To be intellectual requires real independence of judgment and enduring honesty and integrity.

It’s not just that Trump lacks these virtues; in comparison to, say, Jefferson, Washington or Madison, most of today’s politicians do. It’s that Trump projects disdain for these virtues.

On cable news, it’s now a regular feature for reporters like CNN’s Anderson Cooper to catalog Trump’s latest lies. But to call them lies misses the point.

A liar retains some respect for the truth: he tries to conceal his lies, weave a web of deception and make it difficult for his victims to discover the facts. Trump does none of this.

He states, for instance, that his inauguration crowd was the largest ever — when photos of his and past inaugurations are easily accessible. He declares to a national audience that “nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody” — when the Billy Bush tape of him boasting that he grabs women “by the pussy” is fresh in everyone’s mind. In defense of his Saturday Charlottesville statement, he says that unlike others he waits for the facts to come in before making judgments — when his Twitter outbursts are read by millions.

Trump makes no distinction between truth and falsity, between statements backed by evidence and statements unsupported by any evidence. This is why you can’t catch him in a lie. He doesn’t care.

Rand puts it like this: to an anti-intellectual mentality words are not instruments of knowledge but tools of manipulation. Trump’s description of how he came to use the phrase “Drain the swamp” captures this kind of attitude perfectly.

The phrase, of course, in this context is hollow. By his own admission, Trump was part of the swamp, a master at playing every side of a corrupt political system. To drain the swamp would be to get rid of people like him — not elect them to the presidency. But somebody suggested to Trump that he use the phrase. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s so hokey. That is so terrible.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ So, like, a month ago I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ The place went crazy. I said, ‘Whoa, watch this.’ Then I said [it] again. Then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it, I started loving it.”

Closely connected to this disdain for the truth is a complete amoralism. “The normal pattern of self-appraisal,” Rand observes, “requires reference to some abstract value or virtue,” such as “I am good because I am rational” or “I am good because I am honest.” But the entire realm of abstract principles and standards is unknown to an anti-intellectual mentality. The phenomenon of judging himself by such standards, therefore, is alien. Instead, Rand argues, the “implicit pattern of all his estimates is: ‘It’s good because I like it’ — ‘It’s right because I did it’ — ‘It’s true because I want it to be true.’”

Trump’s co-author on The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, said that in the eighteen months he worked with Trump “the word ‘moral’ never came up . . . that was not part of his vocabulary.” Other commentators have noted that, no matter how shameful his actions, like his whitewashing of the neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville, which in Trump’s telling contained some “very fine people,” it’s impossible to shame Trump. This is the reason.

The self-centeredness that an amoralist exhibits, Rand holds, is centered on self-doubt; he therefore exhibits a constant and pathetic need to be loved, to be seen as a big shot and as the greatest ever. Observe Trump’s steady refrain that he’s accomplishing feats no other president has or could, Washington, Madison and Lincoln included. One suspects that the fake Time magazine with him on the cover hanging in Mar-a-Lago was as much to assuage Trump’s anxieties as to impress the gullible and sycophantic among his guests.

The place that loyalty to abstract standards occupies in a moral person’s mind, Rand argues, is typically replaced in an anti-intellectual mentality by “loyalty to the group.” Observe Trump’s special focus on this. Loyalty is desirable — if it has been earned. But Trump demands it upfront. As former FBI Director James Comey and others have remarked, a pledge of loyalty was among the first things Trump asked of them.

The wider phenomenon this demand for loyalty represents is a profound tribalism, a world divided into the loyal and the disloyal, insiders and outsiders, us versus them. To get a flavor, listen to any Trump rally.

Rand argued that in a period of intellectual and cultural bankruptcy, if the anti-intellectual mentality is on the rise, tribalism will be ascending culturally and, politically, a country will drift toward authoritarianism and ultimately dictatorship.

Political authoritarians rely on scapegoats, who are said to be responsible for all the country’s troubles. The Communists demonized the bourgeoisie, the Nazis demonized the Jews, and the Socialists demonized the owners of private property. Hand us the reins of power, they said, and we’ll get rid of these undesirables.

One of the most disturbing elements of the 2016 presidential campaign was the vitriol directed by the candidates not at their political opponents, which we expect, but at large segments of the public. Sanders and Trump, the two candidates with the most enthusiastic followings, excelled at this. Sanders demonized financiers, drug companies, bankers, Wall Street and the so-called one percent. Trump demonized Hispanics, immigrants, journalists, free traders and elites.

During the 2007–8 financial crisis, sales of Atlas Shrugged soared, in part because people wondered how Rand could have foreseen America’s economic collapse. Sales should be soaring again — because the book is not primarily about economic collapse, but about cultural and intellectual bankruptcy.

At the novel’s start, we witness a crumbling world, with posturing intellectuals who have long ago abandoned the intellect but who continue to preach irrational, shopworn ideas, which everyone mouths but no one fully believes — or dares challenge. Part of the point of the story is that these pseudo-intellectuals will eventually be replaced by their progeny: people who more openly dispense with the intellect and who are more explicitly boorish, brutish and tribal, i.e., by anti-intellectual mentalities.

This is best symbolized by the appearance on the political scene, late in the novel, of Cuffy Meigs. Although I suspect we are only at the beginnings of a similar political descent, the parallels, unfortunately, exist. Meigs is a short-range amoralist uninterested in arguments or reasons or facts, who carries a gun in one pocket and a rabbit’s foot in the other. President Trump carries the nuclear codes in one pocket and Infowars in the other.

The only way to prevent this kind of political and cultural disintegration, Rand thought, was to challenge the irrationalism, tribalism, determinism and identity politics at the heart of our intellectual life, propagated by the so-called left and right and by too many others as well. We need to realize that whether the appeal is to ethnicity or gender or faith or family or genes as the shaper of one’s soul and whether the demand is to sacrifice the rich to the poor, the poor to the rich, the able to the needy, whites to blacks, blacks to whites, individuals to the nation or sinners to God, all of it is corrupt. We are rational beings, who are capable of choosing a logical course in life and who should be pursing our own individual happiness.

Unless we are ready to radically rethink our culture’s fundamental ideas, with the same intensity of thought our Founding Fathers exerted in rethinking government, our long-term trajectory is set and will play out. But the choice is ours — this is the message of Atlas Shrugged.

Thus I think Rand would have said that a President Trump is a predictable outcome, but not an inevitable one.

About The Author

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute

In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance

by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins | September 30, 2017

In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance  

Financiers don’t create the products that enrich our lives — they help grow the businesses that create the products that enrich our lives. Yet many people believe on some level that finance is immoral. Maybe not totally. Maybe it has some redeeming features. But at best it is regarded as a necessary evil. If our economic well-being depends on a vibrant and innovative financial industry, why does no one speak up to defend finance?

In their new book, In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance, Yaron Brook and Don Watkins dispel the prevailing negative myths about finance and clearly lay out the industry’s virtues within a moral framework. This ambitious book shows readers how a moral reframing can counter the vilification of financiers.

“Those who recognize the irreplaceable value of finance must change the terms of the debate,” says Brook. “The question should not be whether financiers are ‘greedy’ or selfish or motivated by money. The question should be: Do they profit through creating values that enhance human well-being — or are they parasites who line their pockets through short-range gambling and predatory exploitation?” Brook and Watkins argue convincingly that if we ask that question and answer it honestly, then the moral case for finance is undeniable.

Financiers use their minds to create wealth — not by taking existing materials and turning them into more valuable goods, but by taking existing wealth and putting it toward more valuable uses. Brook and Watkins show, in clear and straightforward language, that if we allow values to be gained in a free market and in a finance industry free of government interference to guide us, we will enjoy the benefits of a flourishing society.

Contributors: Yaron Brook, Don Watkins, Raymond C. Niles, Doug Altner.

What others are saying about In Pursuit of Wealth:

“This book destroys the myth advanced by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that, because it is driven by greed, Wall Street (the financial market) is the source of our economic challenges. Brook and Watkins prove the opposite, which is that finance, because it is a fundamentally moral activity consistent with man’s essential nature, is productive, innovative and a gigantic creator of economic well-being.”
John A. Allison, Retired Chairman and CEO BB&T, Retired President and CEO Cato Institute

“The 2008 financial crisis, taxpayer bailouts, and reckless Federal Reserve monetary policy, have enabled the left to both vilify the financial industry and shift the blame for government created problems to Wall Street. Yaron Brook and Don Watkins provide a much-needed counterbalance to this false narrative. Absent government and Fed interference, finance is an integral component of a vibrant free market economy, where value is not extracted but created. If liberal grandstanding and a biased media have blinded you to the truth, this book will open your eyes.”
Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and author of The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy — How to Save Yourself and Your Country

“An insightful collection of essays that gets to the heart of finance and its tremendous value. Yaron and Don do a masterful job of taking on complex topics and applying concise, objective analysis. It’s rare to find a book that looks at finance from both the economic and moral sides — all while being an enjoyable read.”
Dmitry Balyasny, Balyasny Asset Management

“The political issue of our time is, ‘Who caused the financial crisis?’ If you believe, like most people, that it was greedy bankers and an immoral financial system, then most socialist policies are justified. If you believe that only bad government policies could cause a problem that big, then no socialist policies are legitimate. Brook and Watkins in an easy to read, breezy style dismantle the greedy banker argument and illustrate how primitive arguments made more than 2,000 years ago are still with us. This book is a must — especially for non-financial types.”
Jeff Yass, Susquehanna Investment Group

“A cogent book explaining why profit motive, wealth creation and independent financial systems are moral imperatives.”
Avery More, Venture Capitalist


About The Authors

Yaron Brook

Chairman of the Board, Ayn Rand Institute

Don Watkins

Former Fellow (2006-2017), Ayn Rand Institute

The Immigration Debate

by The Editors | April 17, 2017

ARI’s viewpoint on immigration derives from our advocacy of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason, rational egoism and laissez-faire capitalism. In a free society, the government’s proper function is strictly limited to the protection of individual rights. That principle entails not only a policy of genuine free trade, but also “open immigration.”  

What is “open immigration”? What kind of government involvement in immigration is necessary to protect the rights of Americans? And what does this approach mean in today’s political context? Today’s America is not a laissez-faire capitalist society, but a “mixed economy” — a precarious combination of government interventions and pockets of freedom — with massive welfare and entitlements programs. What about the fears that immigrants are “taking our jobs”? Impacting our culture and politics? What about crime? And what about the jihadist threat?  

These are among the questions Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate cover in a wide-ranging discussion of ARI’s viewpoint on immigration and its application to today’s heated debate. They lay out what “open immigration” actually looks like and then consider the current state of America’s immigration policy, the value of immigration in a free society, the morality of illegal immigration, the issue of ideological screening, how America’s disastrous Middle East policy relates to the jihadist menace, and what to do about it

Brook and Ghate also step back to comment on the nature of today’s immigration debate itself. Noting that the debate is awash in collectivist premises and shoddy arguments, they point out, for example, how certain advocates in the debate present statistics tendentiously to serve a political agenda, rather than evaluating the data objectively and seeking the truth. Additionally, Brook and Ghate comment on disagreements over immigration among Objectivists.

Following up on that extensive discussion, which was recorded in October 2015, in a recent interview Yaron Brook tackled new aspects of the immigration debate, including the Trump administration’s immigration ban on several Muslim-majority countries, the refugee crisis and the proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.


* * *

In this brief Q&A exchange from 1973, Ayn Rand, herself an immigrant from the USSR, responds to this question: “What is your attitude toward immigration? Doesn’t open immigration have a negative effect on a country’s standard of living?”

* * *

Below are additional resources that indicate ARI’s approach to immigration and apply it to some current issues.

This brief talk indicates how the distinctively American principle of individual rights should guide a proper government’s domestic and immigration policy:

Speaking at the Ayn Rand Student Conference in 2016 Yaron Brook relates immigration policy to the philosophic issue of free will, and notes how determinism — a view negating free will — informs the outlook of some opponents of immigration:

On his radio show, Yaron Brook has discussed various aspects of the immigration debate. Here he comments on President Trump’s February 2017 ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries:

In these podcast clips, Brook offers a perspective on the situation in Europe, the refugee crisis, the moral ideas shaping the refugee policy of some European nations, and the longstanding failure of Western countries to address the jihadist menace:


About The Author

The Editors

The editors are Elan Journo, director of policy research; Steve Simpson, director of legal studies; and Carl Svanberg, editorial assistant.

One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election

by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016

American exceptionalism is real.

The United States is founded on a political philosophy, and a profoundly revolutionary one at that. The Declaration of Independence expresses the viewpoint eloquently: that individuals possess “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The Statue of Liberty symbolizes this vision, beckoning all who yearn to breathe free. The United States, having discarded most forms of tyranny, and having fought a bloody civil war over its toleration of the glaring, depressing exception of slavery, is more than the land of liberty. It’s a land where you shouldn’t even be able to imagine a dictator arising. The people will too jealously demand and too jealously guard their freedom.

Ayn Rand, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the midst of the nation’s political-cultural chaos, offered a fascinating comparison between the European and the American mind. “A European,” she wrote, “is disarmed in the face of a dictatorship: he may hate it, but he feels that he is wrong and, metaphysically, the State is right. An American would rebel to the bottom of his soul.”

No matter what the nation’s current problems, therefore, she said one thing is certain: “a dictatorship cannot take hold in America today. . . . Defiance, not obedience, is the American’s answer to overbearing authority.”

But, Rand cautioned, if “America drags on in her present state for a few more generations (which is unlikely),” the American spirit would further erode, and “dictatorship will become possible.”

On November 8, 2016, the United States took its first step toward dictatorship.

If that statement strikes you as blatantly false or as at best hyperbolic and unconstructive, I urge you to read on.

My argument is not that Donald Trump possesses the full mentality of a dictator. Some or even much of what he said during the campaign may perhaps have been in jest, a reality-TV personality’s attempt to shock, to entertain and to thereby gain billions of dollars’ worth of free media airtime. This appears to be Holman Jenkins’s reading in The Wall Street Journal. Trump, he writes, “was inventing almost daily a new episode of the 16-month Trump-for-president reality show to keep his audience from drifting off.”

You can also find family, friends and colleagues of Trump who attest that behind closed doors he is a different person, more measured, more thoughtful, more inquisitive, less bigoted, less prone to be triggered by the slightest of slights.

I admit that I have severe doubts about such a characterization of Trump. His Twitter rants; the fact that it is believable that the motivation for his run for the presidency was Obama mocking him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner; the self-centeredness and second-handedness, in which he constantly compares himself to others; the sexism and the joking about sexual assault, or, obviously much worse, the actual committing of it; the demands for “loyalty”; the inability to admit his own errors and injustices, instead doubling down on his arbitrary assertions and attacks; his admiration for dictators like Putin; and his obsession with “winning,” with “getting even” and with maintaining a constantly evolving list of enemies; none of this generates confidence. But my argument does not hinge on Trump’s actual character, as awful as that may be.

Nor is my argument that Trump in office will be able constantly to wield dictatorial powers, however much he may desire to do so, as when he ominously threatens to trample on the First Amendment by persecuting media companies that disagree with him, like The Washington Post and its owner, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The original American structure of government, devised by giants like Madison and designed in part specifically to check the ambitions and powers of an aspiring dictator, will prove a bulwark. (Although admittedly today there exist many structural worries; Ezra Klein points to one non-obvious one.)

A Trump administration, if viewed out of the full context, may even enact some measures others and I would regard as positive, including improvements to the tax code and replacement of Obamacare with something less harmful. But it will be in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. And even at this concrete level of policy, the Republican control of the presidency, the House and the Senate should give anyone pause who is concerned about, say, the campaign’s demonization of immigrants and of trade or the attempt to impose a Christian variant of Sharia law.

There is little doubt, for instance, that a Trump administration will try to appoint Supreme Court justices who, in defiance of the Constitution’s separation of church and state, will seek to undermine reproductive rights by imposing Christian religious dogmas on the country.

It is also important to recall that a king’s court is often more tyrannical than the king, whose public visibility often forces him to maintain a modicum of decency and justice. As of today, the talk is of appointing seasoned authoritarians like Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Sessions to positions of power.

But as destructive to freedom as I think a Trump administration is likely to be, this is also not my point.

My argument is that Trump publicly projected the mentality, methods and campaign of a would-be dictator—however much it may have been an act and however difficult it may be to enact specific decrees—and that he won the presidency because of this.

The issue is not Trump the person or what he might do to the country while in office. (Though these are important concerns.) The issue is what the success of his campaign reveals about the country.

It is of course true that not everyone who voted for Trump did so for identical reasons; indeed, many voters voted not for Trump but against Hillary, and there is ample reason to dread her ascendancy to the presidency.

But it is wrong to whitewash the campaign as Jenkins does in his article, calling Trump’s performance “the upbeat, improvisational show” most of his fan base “were waiting for.”

It is also wrong to think that the campaign’s success stems mainly from supporters’ reasonable responses to real grievances, among the most significant of which are the country’s ever-increasing economic controls, the conformist demands for political correctness and the failure honestly to confront Islamic totalitarianism.

Worries about economic controls and economic stagnation do exist, but there is much evidence to suggest they do not explain Trump’s support; here’s some of that evidence. Besides, Trump often implied a whole new set of economic controls on foreign trade, immigration and outsourcing. So the desire is to repeal controls supposedly unfavorable to “my people” (as Trump often refers to them) and instead impose crippling controls on others, labeled outsiders.

And in regard to the current problematic norms about political correctness and discussion of Islamic totalitarianism, what better way is there to convince sensible people across the political spectrum that these norms are in fact necessary, than Trump’s pronouncements about, say, Muslims, Hispanics and women’s genitalia? If Trump is what it means to face the threat posed by Islamic totalitarianism, who wants to go down that road? If Trump is what the absence of political correctness looks like, who wants to discard it?

The grim facts are that the campaign was designed to appeal to base sentiments and that it succeeded in major part because of this.

Consider some of the campaign’s mantras, slogans and strategies, which together echoed the methods and voice of dictators through the ages.

To begin, Trump painted a false picture of America, where everything is in decline and everything is a “disaster,” with no prospect of sunlight to dispel the darkness. To be sure, there are real and important problems in the country, but Trump spoke as if Silicon Valley and the age of the Internet had never occurred, producing previously unimagined products available to all Americans, even if their wages have stagnated. The progress in quality of life over the last few decades is real and widespread. It’s not as though only California, New York and the so-called elites enjoy iPhones, Google Maps, Netflix, YouTube, Uber, Airbnb and Facebook, leaving middle and rural America oppressed and desolate, like District 12 in The Hunger Games.

Next, and crucially, to this America engulfed in darkness, Trump offered up scapegoats responsible for our misery. Like communists demonizing the bourgeoisie, Nazis demonizing the Jews, socialists demonizing owners of private property, and egalitarians demonizing the one percent, Trump demonized Hispanics, immigrants, journalists, free traders, elites, Muslims (all Muslims, not just supporters of Islamic totalitarianism), the “mainstream” media, among other groups. They, he said or implied, are the source of all of our struggles. Get rid of them, and America gets rid of all her problems.

How are we to get rid of this sundry list of scapegoats? Through political power. More precisely, by handing Trump whatever political power he deems necessary to make America great again. He, somehow and singularly, knows what to do. “I alone,” Trump declared, “can fix it.”

What would Trump do in power? No one knew, including Trump and his supporters. He said he would negotiate and deal with everyone on everything. All any of us could know is that, somehow, these would be the greatest deals we had ever seen. Trump has no abstract, political principles or even any firm policies or political views. And when he spoke of specific actions he would take, which themselves were often inconsistent with one another, few of his supporters actually believed him. A small sampling: he would build a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexican border and, somehow, make Mexico pay for it; he would, or maybe he wouldn’t, withdraw from NATO; he would be mercilessly tough with Putin and simultaneously have a great relationship with him—in fact, maybe it would be good if Russia electronically hacked America even more; he would, or maybe he wouldn’t, ban all Muslims from entering the country.

Billionaire Peter Thiel, a Trump supporter, stated it perfectly as he reiterated the formulations of some earlier commentators: those “who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally.” This indeed is what Trump’s campaign seemed to expect of its supporters. It is also what every dictator expects.

Trump in his campaign projected himself as unconstrained by any previous statements or commitments he had made, unconstrained by any facts, unconstrained by the truth. This was not just the routine flip-flopping of today’s politician. A presidential candidate who regularly indulges in conspiracy theories like the birther smear of President Obama is in a different and new league. A candidate who, after the disturbing recording of his disgusting remarks to Billy Bush surfaced, can go on television before millions of Americans and declare that “no one respects women more than me, no one,” projects a special pride in being above the facts, which limit other mortals but not him.

And too many of Trump’s supporters, driven by fears that he himself had helped inflame, and fixated on scapegoats, admired him for precisely this attitude.

Most political campaigns today are vacuous. Think of Obama’s slogans of hope and change. What kind of change? Change you can believe in. But Trump’s campaign was of a different order. Trump would drain the swamps, smash a rigged system, and make America great again. How would this dramatic upheaval occur? Trump consistently and proudly defied the need to be pinned down by anything, including the platforms and positions of the Republican Party. When Trump answered to the question of whether he would accept the election’s result if he were to lose, that America would have to wait and see, he captured the entire flavor of his campaign. Hand Donald Trump power—and wait to see what he does with it. As Jenkins encapsulates it, Trump’s “platform comes down to ‘trust me’—a remarkable mandate if you can pull it off.”

But this is not a mandate. It is the demand for a blank check on political power, a check which heretofore Americans had been unwilling to sign. Not this time.

The fact that Trump will be unable fully to exercise this power does not change the nature of the demand or of the grant.

Even more worrisome, this follow-the-leader authoritarianism is not a disease confined to Trump’s campaign, to the Republican Party or even to the so-called right. It appears to run deep in the veins of the country, infecting also independents, Democrats and the so-called left. It was clearly discernible, for instance, among some of the fervent supporters of Bernie Sanders.

Writing in January 2016, a student of political science warned that Trump’s support had likely not crested because of widespread authoritarian sentiments in the American population, including among Democrat-leaning and independent voters. (The proxies these political scientists use to measure authoritarianism are certainly debatable.)

Perhaps the most disturbing poll of the election came out in April 2016. In a Quinnipiac University National poll of registered voters, when asked whether “America needs a powerful political leader that will save us from the problems we face,” a majority, 54%, strongly agreed, and 26% somewhat agreed. For those leaning toward Hillary, it was 45% and 29%; for those leaning toward Sanders, 43% and 32%; and for those leaning toward Trump, 83% and 13%. When asked whether “What we need is a leader who is willing to say or do anything to solve America’s problems,” 27% of registered voters strongly agreed and 26% somewhat agreed. For those leaning toward Hillary it was 20% and 17%; for those leaning toward Sanders, 17% and 25%; and for those leaning toward Trump, 54% and 30%.

Pause on those numbers. Let them sink it. And then let me offer two incidents that I think drive home the meaning of those numbers.

In November 2015 I spoke at an ARI-sponsored event during AM560’s Freedom Summit in Chicago, which attracts fans of talk radio; Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity were among the headliners. An informal poll of attendees at the start of the conference indicated that about 40 percent were supporters of Trump. I spoke about immigration. Early in my talk I mentioned Nancy Pelosi’s incredulity when she was asked where in the Constitution is Congress granted the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate; her response to the questioner: “Are you serious?” The anecdote drew laughter. A few moments later I asked where in the Constitution does it authorize building a wall to keep out immigrants whom Americans want to hire. At that point all hell broke loose.

Some members of the audience stood up and started reciting speeches to try to drown me out, and many others shouted and jeered. At one point a woman, looking me up on the Internet, asked me if I was Canadian, to which I replied Yes; she proceeded to declare to the crowd something to the effect of “Why should we listen to him, he’s an immigrant from Canada!” (I politely inquired whether she thought the validity of my argument depended on the color of my passport.) A few people in the audience were scared for my safety and contacted hotel security. Immediately after the talk a few embarrassed members of the audience came up to me and said that the crowd’s reaction reminded them of the behavior of spoiled college students, behavior they all supposedly decry. Indeed, the only other times I have encountered such mindless opposition is on some college campuses when speaking about the Danish Cartoons crisis and Islamic totalitarianism.

Now the second incident. In January 2016 at a campaign stop in Sioux Center, Iowa, Donald Trump half joked that he has “the most loyal people. . . . I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone [an immigrant? a journalist?] and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay. It’s like incredible.”

Although the audience laughed, it was no joke. Perhaps more than anyone else, Trump understood the special nature of much of his political support. To those clamoring for a leader who will say or do anything to save them, he promised to play the role.

This is what it looks like for a growing portion of the populace to be ready to welcome a dictator.

What this election exposes is that the distinctively American spirit, which would brook no tyrant, has, as Ayn Rand feared, continued to erode.

The causes of the erosion, all philosophic in origin, are numerous. Too many of us today are uneducated or mis-educated, deceived by anti-Enlightenment ideas that have now been dominant in our educational institutions for more than a century. “Knowledge is power,” said Francis Bacon. This is profoundly true. It is only genuine knowledge of the world and of the self that gives us a sense of control over our own lives and confidence in planning and achieving our own path to happiness. But with too many schools devastated by progressive education, too few of us achieve this intellectual state. And even if we try, when we reach college age we are met all too often with multiculturalism and other theories that teach that our identity comes from membership in some group and that, powerless, our fate is actually determined by forces outside our control. The doctrines of collectivism and determinism are the fertile ground that scapegoating requires.

“We couldn’t help it!” the various versions of determinism encourage us to plead. If only the external factors that are responsible for wrecking our lives and country were eliminated—the bourgeoisie, the Jews, immigrants, bankers, the one percent—all would be well. It’s no accident that it was not free will, reason and individualism that the tyrannies of the twentieth century preached, but some form of racial, ethnic or economic collectivism and determinism.

With American educational institutions no longer teaching the Enlightenment foundation of America, the major way the American spirit endures is through the practice and love of business. “The chief business of the American people,” Coolidge rightly said, “is business.” What area of the country—not in expressed viewpoint or political affiliation but in spirit—is more quintessentially American than Silicon Valley? The optimism, the dynamism, the initiative, the merging of abstract theory with money-making practice, the can-do attitude and the calculated risk-taking that the Valley encourages and rewards—this is the spirit that made America the world’s leading nation.

But this vitality is now concentrated in Silicon Valley and the technology sector because too many other industries and areas of the country and of life are controlled by the regulatory-welfare state. Hemmed in by the FDA, the FCC, the SEC, the EPA, and the rest of the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies, too many of us genuinely feel out of full control of our lives. And coddled by the welfare state, too many of us fail to develop a robust sense of personal responsibility and pride in the most life-affirming of activities: productive work.

There is a further important cause that we must be willing to face: religion. Most analysts expressed bewilderment at the considerable support that Trump received from evangelicals. If you conceive of the appeal of religion as primarily doctrinal—that followers have been persuaded that their religion is true and that the doctrines of other religions are false—the support is bewildering, because Trump didn’t share many of their particular dogmas. But if you recognize that the attraction of religion stems much more from the mentality it encourages and the psychological environment among believers that it fosters—if you recognize that the particular dogmas are almost accidental, that, for example, most evangelicals would be Muslims if born to Muslim parents or born in a Muslim-majority country, and vice versa for most Muslims—then Trump’s allure to evangelicals should have been expected.

Trump’s call for blind, unquestioning followers, his trafficking in conspiracy theories and disregard for facts and science, his claim that we are close to the end of days and that he, unerring and alone, can save us, his promise of miracles like building a wall and making Mexico pay for it—all of this and more should be seen as attractive to a religious mindset, especially of a fundamentalist variety. The content of Trump’s comments was not unimportant, particularly his list of enemies and scapegoats, but nor was it the primary source of his appeal.

And the fact is that this growing religious mindset is incompatible with the American spirit of independence and individualism.

But although these and many other forces have contributed to the erosion of the American spirit, it is not gone. Running against, in Sam Harris’s words, such “a terribly flawed candidate” as Hillary, against whom many people were voting, Trump did not win the popular vote. More importantly, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, from virtually all reports, were the most despised candidates and choice for president in recent American history. This is good news. It offers hope for a brighter future.

The success of the Trump campaign will no doubt make the journey harder. It will make it even easier to dismiss truly pro-freedom, pro-American self-defense positions as bigoted and anti-intellectual. And just as the creeping authoritarianism of the Obama administration helped pave the road for Trump, and as the Republican Party’s embrace of religious fundamentalists encouraged the Democratic Party to also get religion and bring it into politics, so now the Republican Party’s embrace of a demagogue will encourage the Democratic Party to run similar candidates. There were elements of demagoguery in Sanders’s campaign and in the blind infatuation of many of his supporters, and one lesson the Democratic Party is likely to draw is that Sanders had a better chance of defeating Trump than did Hillary.

But for any admirer or fan of Ayn Rand’s vision and ideas, the job ahead is clear. We need to help both ourselves and our fellow citizens grasp, when so many of us are disillusioned but not yet ready to succumb to dictatorship, that we can solve our own problems. There is a better way, there is a shining, positive vision for America offered in the pages of Atlas Shrugged.

To attain it, we need to discard the empty slogans of the Republicans and the Democrats and to replace today’s intellectual bankruptcy with real ideas. There are many Americans fed up with the tribal, regressive nature of so much of the right and left. What we all need to gain is a deeper, fuller understanding of the idea of America and its philosophic roots in the not-yet-fully-realized promise of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason.

The task ahead is a long-term and educational one. Nobody said it would be easy. It is, perhaps, harder than anyone of us had thought.

But it wasn’t easy to create America, either.

That noble idea should remain a beacon. In Ayn Rand’s final words of advice, “Don’t Let It Go.

Image: “Make_America_Great_Again_hat_(27149010964).jpg” by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original

About The Author

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute

Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond

by Elan Journo and Onkar Ghate | September 07, 2016 | ARI Press

Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond

The military strength of the United States is unmatched in all of world history. Yet fifteen years after September 11, Islamic totalitarianism is undefeated, emboldened, and on the march: from Paris and San Bernardino to Brussels and Orlando. Why?

The fundamental problem lies in the irrational philosophic ideas that permeate — and subvert — American foreign policy. The United States is a military superpower, but it lacks the self-confidence and moral certainty needed to defend itself and its ideals. And our political and intellectual leaders evade the nature of Islamic totalitarianism.

After 9/11, the Ayn Rand Institute predicted that the prevailing ideas about morality would undercut our foreign policy and cripple us in action. Those predictions have proved correct.

Can we end the Islamist menace and secure our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on earth? Yes — easily — if we adopt the right philosophic ideas to guide our foreign policy.

What People Are Saying:

“Anyone interested to know why fifteen years after the expulsion of al-Qaeda and its host Taliban regime from Afghanistan, and five years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, jihadist Islam is still on the march must read this brilliant collection of essays.” 

Professor Efraim Karsh, King’s College London and Bar-Ilan University, author of Islamic Imperialism: A History

* * * 

“I find this collection of essays heartbreakingly rational, masterfully reasoned, entirely clear, prescient—and therefore utterly heartbreaking — because the handwriting was on the very sky, from the moment Khomeini held our diplomats hostage — and by 2001, you and your team at the ARI were on duty speaking out against the willful blindness, cowardice, irrationality, and denial that has characterized the failure of American foreign policy under both Republican and Democratic presidents.”

Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., Fellow, the Middle East Forum, author of fifteen books, including The New Anti-Semitism and An American Bride in Kabul

* * *

“This brilliant collection of editorials and interviews is a moral tour de force. . . . Onkar Ghate and Elan Journo offer a clear and consistent presentation of what a moral and rational American foreign policy ought to look like. The essays also offer original and insightful analyses of the West’s suicidal questioning of its own right to exist. The shameful appeasement, the destructive altruism behind our war efforts, and the tragic ways our government has become an agent for the self-defense of the citizens of enemy countries at the expense of its own citizens are all expertly and impressively highlighted. This original and intellectually honest book dares to identify the only antidotes to the current crisis we face in fighting Islamic terrorism: reason, rational self-interest and a merciless strategy designed to vanquish the enemy. This book will inspire and infuriate many in our culture. It provides that rare combination of philosophical principles applied to concrete political problems. The solutions provided here are the only viable ones in our culture today.”

Jason D. Hill, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, De Paul University

* * *

“[A] cornucopia of topical essays that relate to the crisis in which we find ourselves as 2016 draws to a close. . . . Since 9/11 and even before, the West has been loath to comprehend the threat of spreading Islamic extremism, now so correctly called ‘totalitarianism.’ . . . This book should be a primer for leaders around the globe and a text to be read by students hoping to go out into the working world in leadership positions. Highly recommended.”

Carol Gould, broadcaster and author of Don’t Tread on Me: Anti-Americanism Abroad, and Spitfire Girls.

About The Authors

Elan Journo

Senior Fellow and Vice President of Content Products, Ayn Rand Institute

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute

New Book: Defending Free Speech

by The Editors | July 26, 2016

Defending Free Speech

“[S]o long as you have free speech, protect it,” Ayn Rand said. “This is the life-and-death issue in this country . . .” Ayn Rand is right; free speech is indispensable. Yet, today our freedom of speech is under attack, and increasingly so. Consider some recent examples:

  • To terrorize us into self-censorship, Islamists slaughter cartoonists for the depiction of Mohammad and threaten to murder allegedly “blasphemous” authors like Salman Rushdie.
  • To shield their feelings from “offensive” speech and controversial ideas, college students demand “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” on campuses.
  • To end the climate change debate, our government investigates ExxonMobil for climate apostasy.

To address these and other attacks on free speech, ARI recently published Defending Free Speech, which former Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose describes as “a timely collection of excellent articles on current threats to free speech.”

Edited by Steve Simpson, ARI’s director of Legal Studies, Defending Free Speech analyzes not only the threats to free speech, but also the ideas that underlie those threats, as well as the better ideas — reason, egoism, and individual rights — necessary to defend this precious right.

The book serves as both a warning and a call to action: defend free speech — or we will lose it.

Harvey Silverglate, civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, describes Defending Free Speech as a “remarkable collection of essays . . . [that] should inspire and mobilize any friend of liberty to fight even harder for what we all must recognize is a do-or-die battle to protect the core of our civilization.”

Contributors to Simpson’s book include ARI senior fellows Dr. Onkar Ghate, Elan Journo and ARI founder Leonard Peikoff.

We at ARI have always been staunch defenders of the individual’s unconditional right to free speech. We have, for example, defied the growing climate of self-censorship by publicly showing various controversial depictions of Mohammad, including the Danish Cartoons, the Charlie Hebdo magazine covers and Bosch Fawstin’s winning artwork from the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas.

Join us in the fight for this extremely important value. Buy your copy of Defending Free Speech today. More about the book, the contributors, and what others are saying about the book is available here.

Additional resources:

About The Author

The Editors

The editors are Elan Journo, director of policy research; Steve Simpson, director of legal studies; and Carl Svanberg, editorial assistant.

Defending Free Speech

by Steve Simpson | July 02, 2016 | ARI Press

Defending Free Speech

[A] timely collection of excellent articles dealing with current threats to free speech.

— Flemming Rose, former editor of Jyllands-Posten and author of The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech

[This] remarkable collection of essays . . . should inspire and mobilize any friend of liberty to fight even harder for what we all must recognize is a do-or-die battle to protect the core of our civilization.

— Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties lawyer, co-author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses (The Free Press, 1998), and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (

Freedom of speech is indispensable to a free and civilized society, yet this precious right is increasingly under attack today.

  • Islamic totalitarians repeatedly threaten and kill those deemed blasphemers, while our political leaders stand idly by, and many intellectuals blame the victims.
  • College students seek “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” from controversial ideas and fly into fits of rage at the slightest offense.
  • The government harasses Tea Party groups, preventing them from speaking out during an election, and it investigates oil companies and advocacy groups for the “crime” of dissenting from climate change orthodoxy.

Why is this happening? What can be done?

This hard-hitting collection provides answers. Applying Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to the most pressing free speech issues of the day, the essays in this book reveal the attacks on free speech to be the product of destructive ideas — ideas that are eroding Western culture at its foundation. They expose those ideas and the individuals who hold them, and, importantly, they identify the only ideas on which Western civilization can be sustained: reason, egoism and individual rights.

What others are saying:

“Ever since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the Ayn Rand Institute has been a morally and intellectually consistent defender of free speech. There is no ‘free speech, but’ exception in ARI’s approach to this important right. Its position is based on a simple truth: the individual is the most important minority in any society. Thus, for a society to be decent and civilized it has, through the force of reason, to be serious about the protection and cultivation of individual liberty.”

— Flemming Rose, former editor of Jyllands-Posten and author of The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech

“In the land of the free, the freedom of speech is being quietly but methodically destroyed. In the razor-sharp new book Defending Free Speech, authors Simpson, Ghate and Journo make the indispensable moral defense of why this basic human necessity must be defended with renewed urgency. Highly recommended!”

— Jonathan Hoenig, Fox News contributor,  

“The Ayn Rand Institute’s director of Legal Studies, Steve Simpson, has put together a powerful set of short essays that, taken together, powerfully demonstrate the ways in which freedom of speech is essential to the survival of our Western civilization as we’ve come to know, but too often under-appreciate, it. For those who have been asleep or imprisoned in a mind-set of wishful thinking, this collection speaks with burning intensity and powerful logic to the urgent and solemn duty of those of us still awake to redouble our efforts to turn the tide before it is too late.

Defending Free Speech . . . is short enough to make its dire point without hemming and hawing, but detailed enough to force the reader to take the endangered state of our culture of freedom deadly seriously. Anyone who reads this book and does not immediately devote himself to a renewed and reinvigorated defense of liberty has probably drunk too much post-modern Kool-Aid to deserve the freedoms that our predecessors fought and died for.”

— Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties lawyer, co-author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses (The Free Press, 1998), and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (

“Freedom of speech, the last standing pillar of American freedom, is teetering. Islamic jihadists and American liberals have joined forces to assault this crucially important freedom. Thankfully, we have the Ayn Rand Institute to explain the deeper philosophic meaning of free speech and why it must be defended at all costs. I urge all Americans to read this important book. Your life depends upon it!”

— C. Bradley Thompson, Executive Director, Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism and author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty

“Over the last few decades, writers from the Ayn Rand Institute have consistently provided the most incisive analyses of free speech controversies that I have read. These scholars unfailingly cut to the heart of a dispute over offensive speech or campaign spending on political speech, for instance, by exposing contesting sides’ deeper, operative premises about the basis of all speech and the conditions of freedom itself. For anyone seeking a grip on our ceaseless battles over free speech and the abiding principles at stake, this collection should be immensely illuminating.”

— Tara Smith, professor of philosophy, University of Texas, Austin, and author of Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System

“[Defending Free Speech] couldn’t be more timely. Free speech is increasingly under attack, not just on university campuses where students demand “safe spaces” where they are protected from hearing ideas they disagree with, but also by State governments who are attempting to silence — and sue — those who disagree with government policies on issues such as combating climate change. . . .

The fact that governments are not just failing to protect their citizens’ rights but are actually violating their rights is even a greater travesty, such as in the case of Massachusetts threatening to violate Exxon’s right to free expression of its view on climate change. Once the government reverts its role from the protector to the violator of rights, our ability survive and flourish, to produce and profit, is thrown out.

It is for that reason that all businesses should care about freedom of speech. Fortunately, in Defending Free Speech, they — and we — can find the intellectual ammunition to do so.”

— Jaana Woiceshyn, associate professor of business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, Canada, and author of How to Be Profitable and Moral: A Rational Egoist Approach to Business

“Once upon a time, Americans could count on intellectuals, journalists, and politicians to stand up for free speech. . . . But today’s intellectuals and pundits are ominously muted; and, in a painful twist, free speech is now under attack in the very academic institutions that once cherished and protected it.

It’s high time to renew and reinvigorate the argument in favor of unconditional free speech. Defending Free Speech takes an important step in that direction.

[F]reedom of speech is a cornerstone of peaceful, civilized society. And, as Simpson concludes in his excellent book on the subject, ‘If you value free speech, now would be a good time to start making yourself heard’

Jim Brown, writing in The Objective Standard

“[Defending Free Speech] is both a warning and a call to action, detailing the recent history of threats to free speech in America and imploring the reader to defend this precious right on the basis of Enlightenment and Objectivist principles. Regardless of whether one subscribes to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, the powerful essays in this book will help readers to understand and navigate the current areas of controversy in the contemporary free speech debate.

 This book is a valuable addition to the intellectual arsenal of anyone who wishes to preserve this right.”

Daniel Pryor, communications associate at Students for Liberty

About The Author

Steve Simpson

Former Director of Legal Studies (2013-2018), Ayn Rand Institute

Standing up for Free Speech

by The Editors | June 17, 2016

Standing up for Free Speech

Following the 2015 attack on the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas, it’s clear that standing up for free speech is more important now than ever. At ARI, we’re doing just that. And we have been uncompromising defenders of freedom of speech for decades.

After the jihadist massacre at the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Onkar Ghate explained in “Freedom of Speech: We Will Not Cower” why anyone who values his freedom must stand up for the right to free speech. ARI also sponsored two panel discussions featuring Jyllands-Posten’s Flemming Rose that addressed the cartoons controversy. In a podcast titled Freedom of Speech, “Islamophobia,” and the Cartoons Crisis, Elan Journo interviewed Flemming Rose on the climate of self-censorship in the West. And, in his talk, Free Speech and The Battle for Western Culture, Yaron Brook explained why it’s crucial to defend freedom of speech.

Islamic totalitarianism is not the only threat to free speech today, but to fight it we need to realize that the primary threat is not the terrorists but our understanding of free speech, it’s importance — and our willingness to defend it. In his talks Free Speech Under Siege and Is the First Amendment Enough?, Steve Simpson discussed the views of free speech in American culture that are emboldening the enemies of free speech.

In a special episode of The Yaron Brook Show, titled “The Climate Inquisition,” guest host Steve Simpson discussed how the government’s investigation of Exxon Mobil, et al., is a threat to free speech, the connection between freedom of speech and freedom of thought, why freedom demands conceptual clarity and what you can do to defend freedom of speech.

ARI has always defended free speech. In 1989, when Iran put a fatwa on Salman Rushdie, ARI answered with a full-page ad in New York Times written by Dr. Leonard Peikoff called “Religious Terrorism vs. Free Speech.” And in 2006, we not only argued extensively for the right to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons, but we also defied the calls for censorship by publicly showing the pictures.

We will go on fighting for free of speech and defying those threatening to silence us. And that’s why we’re publishing Bosch Fawstin’s winning contribution from the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas.

That‘s Why I Draw You

We won’t cower.

Image: Ralwel via

About The Author

The Editors

The editors are Elan Journo, director of policy research; Steve Simpson, director of legal studies; and Carl Svanberg, editorial assistant.

The Gene Revolution

by Amanda Maxham | November 2015 | Center for Protection of Intellectual Property

The Gene Revolution

Mankind has been improving plants and animals for millennia. Simply by selecting and breeding those they liked best, our ancestors radically improved upon wild species. Today’s biological inventors, with a deeper understanding of genetics, breeding, and heredity, and with the protection of intellectual property rights, are using the technology of genetic engineering to start a “Gene Revolution.”

In the field of medicine, custom-built genetically engineered microorganisms are brewing up rivers of otherwise rare human hormones, life-saving medicines, and much-needed vaccines. In agriculture, scientists are combining their understanding of plant genetics with laboratory techniques of modern molecular biology to “unlock” the DNA of crop plants. By inserting genes from other plants or even common microorganisms, they are able to give plants desirable traits, solving problems that farmers have faced for millennia — faster and more precisely than ever before.

But despite its successes and a bright future, biotechnology is under attack by activists who spread misinformation and foster consumer mistrust. They have been directly responsible for onerous regulations and other hurdles to innovation that are threatening to stifle what could and should be the “third industrial revolution.”

In an effort to combat this misinformation, this paper situates genetic engineering within mankind’s long history of food improvement and then highlights how genetic engineering has dramatically improved human life. In it, you’ll find 29 plants, animals, and microorganisms, from insulin-secreting E. coli to engineered cotton, from cheese-making fungus to chestnut trees, that represent the promise and possibilities that the Gene Revolution holds — if we hold precious and continue to protect the freedom to invent and the power of scientific innovation.

List of Genetically Engineered Innovations:

1. Insulin, genuine human insulin, brewed up by the vat

2. Tumor- and arthritis-fighting drugs like Humira and Avastin, which are just two of many created with biotechnology

3. Ebola antibodies genetically engineered and then grown in tobacco plants

4. Flu vaccines with a new customizability and quickness

5. Artemisinin, 35 tons of the malaria-fighting medicine

6. Chymosin, the cheese-making enzyme used in 80% of cheese eaten worldwide

7. Vanilla flavoring cheaper and closer to the original

8. Sterile mosquitoes released to fight dengue fever

9. Avian-flu-resistant chickens halt the spread of bird flu

10. Herbicide-tolerant crops are the world’s most popular genetically engineered crops

11. Insect-resistant trait fortifies corn, cotton and eggplant against burrowing insects

12. “Vaccinated” papaya saved Hawaii’s papaya farms from a nasty papaya disease

13. Saving your OJ . . .

14. . . . and bananas: two of your breakfast favorites could use a boost from genetic engineering

15. The Arctic Apple, the world’s first truly non-browning apple

16. Non-browning potatoes, less susceptible to black-spot bruising

17. Triple-stacked rice grows come rain or come shine

18. Pink pineapples . . .

19. . . . and purple tomatoes: two novel fruits with added nutrition and color

20. Fast-maturing salmon grows in about half the time

21. Bringing back the mighty chestnut, a tree that was wiped out by a fungus

22. Golden Rice could save millions from blindness

23. Golden bananas are fortified with beta carotene

24. Non-toxic cotton seeds are packed with protein

25. Cassava engineered to fix some of the crop’s fatal flaws

26. Daisy the hypoallergenic cow: the first cow that doesn’t produce an allergy-causing protein in her milk

27. A better brew: wine and beer engineered for flavor and fun

28. Roses are red, roses are blue: genetic engineering aids in the quest for the first blue rose

29. Glofish, genetically engineered aquarium pets

Read the essay.

Image: Mopic via 

About The Author

Amanda Maxham

Former junior fellow and later a research associate (2012-2018), Ayn Rand Institute

Understanding the Jihadist Menace

by The Editors | June 16, 2016

Understanding the Jihadist Menace

Since 9/11, ARI has argued for the need to understand and properly define the enemy that struck us. That’s a necessary condition for combatting it effectively, a point Bush and Obama’s policy failures confirm. After Orlando, Brussels, Paris, Garland, and so many other attacks, the need to understand the enemy has only grown more urgent.

Who is the enemy? It is hopelessly superficial to think of the enemy as “terrorists” (many groups use that tactic) or “haters” or Al Qaeda or “violent extremists,” etc. Bin Laden has been dead for years, and Al Qaeda has been damaged — but clearly the threat persists, notably in the shape of the Islamic State. And, contrary another common view, it’s misleading to portray them as “hijackers of a great religion.”

Even as many in our culture not merely fail, but refuse, to grasp the nature of this enemy, for years ARI has been unflinching in defining the enemy. It is the Islamic totalitarian movement. This is a cause that encompasses many factions, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, the theocratic regime in Iran, the Islamic State, along with numerous al Qaeda offshoots. What unites them is the common goal of imposing their interpretation of Islamic law — by force. They are holy warriors, pursuing a jihad, in the name of religious totalitarianism. And like other totalitarian movements — Nazism, Communism — that ravaged the twentieth century, the jihadists seek to eradicate freedom. They strive for subjugation and conquest.

To learn more on this crucial issue and on how to combat the Islamist menace, the following ARI articles, blog posts, and videos are a good place to start.

Image: Yuriy Seleznev via

About The Author

The Editors

The editors are Elan Journo, director of policy research; Steve Simpson, director of legal studies; and Carl Svanberg, editorial assistant.

Further Reading

Ayn Rand | 1957
For the New Intellectual

The Moral Meaning of Capitalism

An industrialist who works for nothing but his own profit guiltlessly proclaims his refusal to be sacrificed for the “public good.”
View Article
Ayn Rand | 1961
The Virtue of Selfishness

The Objectivist Ethics

What is morality? Why does man need it? — and how the answers to these questions give rise to an ethics of rational self-interest.
View Article