Archive for October, 2012
This was originally published in the latest issue of our newsletter, Ending Big Government.
Americans are hungry for Ayn Rand’s ideas and for her uncompromising and inspiring case for the free market. This is the time to get the message out.
How can you help? Here’s one way: By helping create a word-of-mouth buzz around Free Market Revolution through the 3 Rs: Read it, Review it, Recommend it.
There is an art to recommending books. I’m not by any means the world expert on this, but when I recommend a book, my aim is to craft an intriguing appeal to the potential reader’s values.
It’s important that a recommendation appeal to what the potential reader values—not what you hope he’ll get out of it. Most people aren’t walking around looking for a new philosophy of life or even a moral defense of capitalism.
But some of them may be looking for powerful arguments for free markets that are sure to put leftists on the defensive. They may be looking for an unapologetic case for cutting entitlements and regulations. They may be looking for a book that will tell them how to answer the perennial charge that they favor “the rich” over “the poor.” Those would be the features I would stress to someone who I thought might be in general agreement with the book’s theme.
On the flip side, I would not recommend a book to someone on the grounds that “This will change your political views.” People typically are happy with their current views. But they do have reasons for reading books that contain ideas they currently disagree with:
- “This book is indispensible reading for anyone who wants to understand why some people oppose the entitlement state.”
- “If you want to know why people are talking about Ayn Rand, this is the book to read.”
- “If you want to understand the strongest case against your views, this is the book to read—and refute.”
I also think it’s important, when possible, for your appeal to be intriguing. People may buy a book that sounds interesting—but they can be compelled to buy a book that’s intriguing, i.e., one that promises to answer a question they desperately want answered.
Take these two recommendations, and ask yourself which one is most likely to convince you to spend $20 on a book:
- “This book shows how morality is causing government to grow and how Ayn Rand’s moral defense of capitalism can stop that trend.”
- “This book examines the mystery of why, no matter who is in power, government always grows—and it lays out an innovative path for how to stop it.”
I don’t say that’s the greatest recommendation in the universe, but I think it illustrates the general point. You can most effectively create word-of-mouth buzz for Free Market Revolution (or any other book you want to recommend) if you can tap into people’s values in a way that provokes their curiosity.
My friend Jason Crawford, a tech entrepreneur longtime Objectivist, has a delightful and insightful post on the parallels between Ayn Rand and the Silicon Valley ethos. Here’s my favorite section, which contains a fascinating observation about entrepreneurship and investing I had never thought of before.
Going against the consensus
The virtue of independence—thinking for yourself—is the theme of The Fountainhead and a cardinal virtue of the Objectivist ethics. It’s also a part of the maker mentality: innovation comes from following one’s own judgment, not the herd. Fred Wilson says social proof is dangerous, while Brad Feld exhorts investors to make their own decisions.
In contrast to the makers, mere copiers like the Samwer brothers are looked down upon. In the Valley, you get more respect if you try an original idea and fail than if you copy an idea and succeed.
Rand’s basic conception of independence is having one’s primary orientation to reality, to the facts; not to other people and their ideas. To succeed in entrepreneurship and especially in investing, though, you need to go farther. You need to be not only be right, but non-consensus right. I first heard that idea and that phrase from Mike Maples, but I heard a variant of it from Peter Thiel in his recent Stanford lectures on entrepreneurship, and from Reid Hoffman at a Pando Monthly event.
The greens are trying to use Sandy to justify their anti-energy, anti-technology agenda. As Stefan Karlsson notes, if you just look at sheer numbers, there is no evidence that Sandy is anything other than a naturally occurring storm.
It is in fact not even the case that hurricanes have become more frequent. Statistics on hurricane frequency isn’t available for most of human history since the Indians of North America didn’t keep such statistics, nor was it kept during the first two hundred years of European presence in North America. However, data exists for the period since 1851, kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And that data shows that during the second half of the 19th century, 1851-1900 there were 97 hurricanes in the United States. In the second half of the 20th century, there were only 73 hurricanes. The decade with the single highest number of hurricanes was the 1880s, when there were 27 hurricances. Since “global warming” is generally believed to have begun around the year 1900, these results are the opposite of what the “climate change” alarmists wants us to believe, yet they are the true results.
Brenden O’Neill, meanwhile, has a profoundly perceptive piece on the parallel between Christians who say that storms are not natural occurrences but punishment for our sins against God and environmentalists who say they are punishment for our sins against Nature.
So in relation to Hurricane Sandy, we’ve all had a good old laugh at the American preacher who says the storm is “God’s judgment on gays” and also on President Obama for supporting gay marriage. How backward to treat a storm, a violent whim of nature, as a sentient force that is trying to say something to humankind! And yet, other claims that this storm is speaking to us, shouting at us, in fact, about our wicked or careless behaviour, are treated deadly seriously. So the Washington Post has published a piece by an eco-warrior who believes Sandy is the product of “global weirding” (that’s what greens freaked out by the lack of hard evidence for planetary warming have rechristened “global warming”), who tells us: “A wounded earth is speaking – are you listening?” Another eco-commentator chastises both Obama and Romney for refusing to talk about climate change in the current presidential campaign, and says that through Sandy, “the climate is now speaking to them – and to everyone else”.
So what is the climate “saying” to us? Basically that we have been bad, greedy, so obsessed with development and growth that we have let our planet fall into disrepair. In a video commentary that eerily echoes those issued by Christian cranks in the wake of every natural disaster, the influential American green Bill McKibben declares, “It’s really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means. . . We really, finally need to have this reckoning – either the fossil fuel industry keeps pouring carbon into the atmosphere and we keep seeing this kind of event, or we take some action.” The idea that a storm “means” something, that it has sentience, ideas, purpose, something for us to reflect on, is as daft when it is dressed up in green-leaning lingo as it is when it’s dolled up in Biblical nonsense. What McKibben is really saying is that mankind must reflect on his behaviour and change it. No, not by having less gay sex, but by stopping being so greedy.
Incidentally, my friend Alex Epstein, head of the Center for Industrial Progress, is debating Bill McKibben at Duke next week. I’ll be there live and I’m looking forward to it now more than ever.
For last week’s contest, we asked you to fill in the blank:
Time to fill in the blank! The best thing about capitalism is _________________.
We received 226 entries for the last contest. Wow. Love it.
This week’s winner of signed copy of Free Market Revolution is:
The best thing about capitalism is that it keeps capital away from capitols.
Congratulations Mike. Here are a few of our other favorites:
The best thing about capitalism is everyone gets their laissez-faire share!
The best thing about capitalism is its freedom from others’ isms.
The best thing about capitalism is that it institutionalizes win-win.
The best thing about capitalism is that I keep my capital.
The best thing about capitalism is: your wish isn’t my command.
The best thing about capitalism is: I choose my own nannies.
The best thing about capitalism is: production thrives and statism dies.
The best thing about capitalism is: What’s mine is mine.