The Los Angeles Review of Books has a tepid review of Free Market Revolution. But, hey, all publicity is good publicity. Two points worth highlighting:
For Brook and Watkins, the answer is more markets, not less, and less government, not more. They make the familiar case that rational beings pursuing their long-term self-interest are better decision-makers than a distant government filled with bureaucrats subject to distraction or corruption.
That’s not our argument. Our argument is that each individual has a right to exist for his own sake, and that the government exists to protect that right. No bureaucrat, no politician, no mob carrying the banner of “the public interest” has a right to impose its will on the individual by force.
Even someone as repeatedly amazed by the power of the market to allocate scarce resources, drive innovation to unimagined heights, and ensure the continued production and distribution of increasing varieties of goods and services, as indeed I am, does not necessarily need to look to capitalism for a philosophy that can be applied across the range of all human endeavors.
The market doesn’t explain why I love my three mischievous and exhausting children so much. It doesn’t explain why I find bonfires at the beach so aesthetically fulfilling. And most importantly, it doesn’t explain why the best comedy to ever run on American broadcast television–namely “Arrested Development”–was cancelled after just three seasons.
For these important issues (and countless more), we must look elsewhere.
I don’t get the line about Arrested Development (although I share the reviewer’s consternation at its cancellation) but his general point about our book is clear: we say that a philosophy of capitalism is a sufficient guide to life, but it isn’t.
Except we don’t say that. In fact, what we say is quite the opposite. We have an entire chapter on ethics, and about the moral principles a human being needs to pursue and achieve his own happiness. Our point about capitalism is that it’s the only system that leaves the individual fully free to live according to those principles. We’re also clear that we only touch on ethics, and that Rand’s work contains an entire philosophy of life: a philosophy that does help answer questions such as the basis for love and affection and for esthetic enjoyment.
As we put it in the Introduction, “This book is written from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and all of the philosophic ideas in it are hers. . . . But the focus of the book is not Rand’s philosophy as a whole but one element of it: her moral defense of free markets.”
The point I want to emphasize is that, although Free Market Revolution is about Rand’s political philosophy, Rand was not primarily a political philosopher. She was a philosopher, concerned primarily with the question of what kind of life the individual should live. Politics and economics were, for her, important but derivative issues. In short, her ethics of rational self-interest was not a rationalization for capitalism–she embraced capitalism because she believed in rational self-interest.