Tag Archives: Ayn Rand

Robert LeFevre on Objectivism

From The Fundamentals of Liberty (page 6) – by Robert LeFevre

There are also those who contend that objectivity is everything. They contend that the world is real and that everything that is, is. They are correct in their contention as to the existence of reality. But they are not correct when they contend that the uses of the mind are also objective. It is from this argument that the assumption grows that accurate knowledge is totally objective and that anything that is incorrect is subjective.

Thus, those who favor objectivism attempt to make it appear that the “rational” man is one who has objective knowledge and the “irrational” man has only an opinion which remains subjective. This is a very attractive way of looking at things for it can always be interpreted to mean that you are “right,” and that anyone who disagrees with you is “wrong” and hence “irrational”.

The weakness in this philosophy relates to the fact that no one ever really knows everything about anything. You only know those portions of reality that you have observed and correctly understand. Knowledge is an open circuit, not a closed one. You can always learn more. This will be more fully demonstrated later on. The process of education is a continuing one.

The philosophy offered here actually combines subjectivity and objectivity without denying the valid features of either. The real world is objective. It exists whether you are aware of it or not. The uses of the mind are subjective. They relate to the manner in which you observe and the way in which you think. Knowledge is the correct union of the two.

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Remembering the Real Ayn Rand

From wsj.com:

By DONALD L. LUSKIN

Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been brisk—and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.

When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.

But it’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all.

Associated PressAyn Rand in 1962

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luskin

Still, most of the heroes of “Atlas” are big businessmen who are unfairly persecuted by government. The struggle of Rand’s fictional steel magnate Henry Rearden against confiscatory regulation is a perfect anticipation of the antitrust travails of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. In both cases, the government’s depredations were inspired by behind-the-scenes maneuverings of business rivals. And now Microsoft is maneuvering against Google with an antitrust complaint in the European Union.

The reality is that in Rand’s novel, as in life, self-described capitalists can be the worst enemies of capitalism. But that doesn’t fit in easily with the simple pro-business narrative about Rand now being retailed.

Today, Rand is celebrated among conservatives: Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) insists that all his staffers read “Atlas Shrugged.” It wasn’t always this way. During Rand’s lifetime—she died in 1982—she was loathed by the mainstream conservative movement.

Rand was a devout atheist, which set her against the movement’s Christian bent. She got off on the wrong foot with the movement’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., when she introduced herself to him in her thick Russian accent, saying “You are too intelligent to believe in God!” The subsequent review of “Atlas Shrugged” by Whittaker Chambers in Buckley’s “National Review” was nothing short of a smear, and it set the tone for her relationship with the movement ever since—at least until now.

Rand rankled conservatives by living her life as an exemplary feminist, even as she denied it by calling herself a “male chauvinist.” She was the breadwinner throughout her lifelong marriage. The most sharply drawn hero in “Atlas” is the extraordinarily capable female railroad executive Dagny Taggart, who is set in contrast with her boss, her incompetent brother James. She’s the woman who deserves the man’s job but doesn’t have it; he’s the man who has the job but doesn’t deserve it.

Rand was strongly pro-choice, speaking out for abortion rights even before Roe v. Wade. In late middle age, she became enamored of a much younger man and made up her mind to have an affair with him, having duly informed her husband and the younger man’s wife in advance. Conservatives don’t do things like that—or at least they say they don’t.

These weren’t the only times Rand took positions that didn’t ingratiate her to the right. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam war, once saying, “I am against the war in Vietnam and have been for years. . . . In my view we should fight fascism and communism when they come to this country.” During the ’60s she declared, “I am an enemy of racism,” and advised opponents of school busing, “If you object to sending your children to school with black children, you’ll lose for sure because right is on the other side.”

If anything, Rand’s life ought to ingratiate her to the left. An immigrant woman, she arrived alone and penniless in the United States in 1925. Had she shown up today with the same tale, liberals would give her a driver’s license and register her to vote.

But Rand was always impossible to pin down politically. She loathed Dwight Eisenhower, whom she believed lacked conviction. And in 1975 she wrote, “I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan,” primarily on the grounds that he didn’t support pure laissez-faire capitalism. But she endorsed Richard Nixon in 1968 because he supported abolition of the military draft. Rand was especially proud of her protégé Alan Greenspan for serving with Milton Friedman on Nixon’s Gates Commission, the findings of which led to today’s all-volunteer army.

Rand was not a conservative or a liberal: She was an individualist. “Atlas Shrugged” is, at its heart, a plea for the most fundamental American ideal—the inalienable rights of the individual. On tax day, with our tax dollars going to big government and subsidies for big business, let’s remember it’s the celebration of individualism that has kept “Atlas Shrugged” among the best-selling novels of all time.

Mr. Luskin is chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics LLC and the co-author with Andrew Greta of “I Am John Galt,” out next month by Wiley & Sons.

Atlas Shrugged – The Movie: Release Date April 15, 2011

A story of Man against the State:

 

The First 10 Minutes of Atlas Shrugged

A written review:

Atlas Shrugged Movie: The First 10 Minutes

 

 

Lemonade

“Atlas Shrugged” Movie Update

BigHollywood.com reports:

Exclusive: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Producer Sets Record Straight On Upcoming Trilogy

by John Nolte

If there’s a production with a longer and more colorful history behind its troubled march to the silver screen than Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged,” the story of that particular episode of development hell has not yet been told. Published in 1957 and a perennial bestseller ever since (the novel sold a half-million copies just last year), the struggle to realize Rand’s sprawling and epic dramatization of her theory of Objectivism as told through a dystopian tale of the world’s best and brightest, feeling they’ve been exploited by an ungrateful society, putting their talent on strike, eluded even the author herself.

atlas-shrugged-book-cover

Throughout the decades, stars from Barbara Stanwyck to Angelina Jolie have expressed interest in bringing the novel to life, but it’s going to be producers Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro who finally break the curse. Directed by Paul Johansson, who also stars as John Galt, and co-starring Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Matthew Marsden as James Taggart, principal photography wrapped this very day. Which means…

Yes, there will be an “Atlas Shrugged” movie. Well, at least a part one.

Big Hollywood has enjoyed two visits to the film’s set, which our own Charles Winecoff will be writing more about soon, but due to the fact that much of what we’re reading in the media regarding the film’s production doesn’t coincide with what we’ve seen and heard for ourselves, I asked producer Harmon Kaslow to help set the record straight.

Much has been made of the film’s reported budget of $5 million, especially for a project major studios have shied away from out of budgetary concerns. Like most smart producers, Kaslow won’t talk specifics, but there’s more to the story than the $5 million:

“The amount expended on the movie is far north of $5 million. The movie is based on Part 1 of the book (the book has 3 parts) … so the film is based on about 27% of the book.”

This is the first I’ve heard that this production is only the first of three films, and while I haven’t read ”Atlas Shrugged,” those who have tell me a trilogy is the perfect way to tell the story on screen. Like “Lord of the Rings,” the natural breaks in Rand’s novel practically demand it be told in three parts, and a single feature film, even a long one with a hefty studio budget behind it, would almost certainly short-change the novel’s legion of faithful fans who, regardless of budget, are most concerned about seeing an adaptation that doesn’t compromise Rand’s philosophy. To that end, Kaslow assures the Randians:

“The movie is a direct ‘adaptation’ of the book included using much of the dialogue written by Ayn Rand.”

Assuming we’re talking in the area of  $15 to $20 million to film the entire novel, with no big star salaries that’s still a low budget but not a ridiculously low budget. As far as the casting of unknowns, as is the case with any film, budget constraints are a reality and when you’re working in the arena of millions as opposed to hundreds of millions, you’re not going to get a Charlize Theron or Angelina Jolie.

taylor schilling
Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling)

Kaslow told me, “The talent cast in the movie was selected on the basis of the director’s and producers’ belief in their acting skills without taking on the ‘distractions’ often associated with ‘A-List” talent.’”

I’m sure that doesn’t mean they would’ve turned down the distraction of an Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron or another A-lister, but as we’ve seen many times before, acting ability, screen presence and the chops necessary to deliver a memorable performance can come from unknowns. After all, like all great actors, at one time Jolie and Theron were unknowns.

In any case, like “Harry Potter” and the “Narnia” films, the real star here is the project itself, Ayn Rand, and Objectivism. If the performances rise to the occasion no one’s going to care that there’s no familiar name above the title.

Warner Bros. Studio
John Galt (Paul Johansson)

In a Sunday piece for Daily Finance, Bruce Watson took some pretty hard shots at the production claiming it’s nothing more than a desperate and cynical rush job using an inexperienced director in order to allow Aglialoro to hold onto the film rights, which were set to expire last month had filming not begun. I asked Kaslow about this directly:

“John Aglialoro finally decided to marshal the production because it was apparent that a studio would not …

“While the rights would revert back to the estate if production did not commence by June 14, 2010, the goal of the producers is to produce a film worthy of epic nature of the novel that will satisfy the millions of persons who have read the book, but also appeal to a wide audience (so as to introduce them to the Ayn Rand’s work).

“During the course of Aglialoro’s efforts to get the film into production, the project had definitely attracted a number of very reputable directors … however, given Johansson’s passion for the material and desire to execute a faithful cinematic vision of the book, the producers believe they found a director that most will believe is a diamond in the rough.”

Kalsow also took exception to Watson’s description of Johansson’s directing experience as mostly confined ”to the set of the teen-oriented soap opera.”

Director Paul Johansson’s inaugural feature film (The Incredible Mrs. Richie – 2004) won a [Daytime] Emmy as Outstanding Family Special, plus he has experience directing a substantial amount of television.

Johannson did win a Daytime Emmy for writing the “Mrs. Ritchie” screenplay and was nominated for his direction that won Gena Rowlands an Emmy and James Caan a nomination.

Avco Cinema
James Taggart (Matthew Marsden)

No one, including the ”Atlas” producers, can predict how a project will ultimately turn out, and that’s true whether your budget is $5 million or $200 million. And no one would argue that the challenges involved in bringing such an ambitious and epic story to the screen aren’t made that much more difficult with with limited resources, including taking a chance on a director making his theatrical feature debut. However, from all we’ve seen and from our discussions with the producers, director, and cast, there’s no doubt that everyone involved is passionate about telling this story and most importantly, dedicated to remaining true to Ayn Rand’s philosophical vision — which would’ve likely have been compromised bigtime by a major studio.

As of now the plan is to release part one of “Atlas Shrugged” in theatres sometime during the second quarter of 2011 and start production on the second part the following fall.

‘Atlas Shrugged’ Rights Holder Sets June Production Start Whether Or Not Stars Align

From Deadline.com:

‘Atlas Shrugged’ Rights Holder Sets June Production Start Whether Or Not Stars Align

By MIKE FLEMING

For almost two decades, Hollywood has tried unsuccessfully to turn Ayn Rand’s 1100 page classic Atlas Shrugged into a feature film with actresses ranging from Angelina Jolie to Charlize Theron to Faye Dunaway. John Aglialoro, the entrepreneur who  17 years ago paid $1 million to option the book rights, is tired of the futility and is taking matters into his own hands. He’s announced that he is financing a June 11 production start in Los Angeles for the first of what he said will be four films made from the book.

Aglialoro, who had a hand in writing the script by Brian O’Tool, is taking on this ambitious plan with an unproven director, and is weeks away from production without stars to play Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt and the other roles. He’s moving forward despite the conventional wisdom that without stars, it could ultimately be the audience that shrugged.

Aglialoro, CEO of exercise equipment manufacturer Cybex International and UM Holdings, would hardly be the only entrepreneur who uses his resources to make a picture happen, one in which he took on a creative role. David Ellison, son of Oracle’s Larry Ellison, made a co-financing deal with Paramount, and one of the first projects from his Skydance slate is the aviation thriller Northern Lights, which casts him as co-star. Dan Pritzker, the billionaire son of Hyatt Hotels chain magnate Jay Pritzker, financed and directed a pair of jazz films: Bolden stars The Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie as pioneering horn player Buddy Bolden; Louis is an honest to goodness silent film–with dialogue title cards and musical accompaniment–about the childhood of Louis Armstrong. Pritzker is working on a plan to show the latter in venues with a live orchestra. I saw the silent film and thought it was well made, but I have doubts Pritzker will sway the business from its 80 year infatuation with “talkies.”

Atlas Shrugged will be directed by Stephen Polk, an actor/producer whose father, Louis Polk, was once MGM chairman. He considers Atlas Shrugged to be his feature directing debut, though Polk acknowledges he stepped in and helmed the 2008 indie Baggage. Aglialoro was unavailable to speak directly, but sent a missive indicating that he’s courting actresses like Theron and Maggie Gyllenhaal to play Taggart. Sources in the camps of both actresses were aware of the project, but neither is planning to go to work on Atlas Shrugged next month.

Normally, when there is such a rush to begin production, it’s to keep an option on material from expiring.

Polk said they are not intimidated to film a storied book even if stars don’t align. “For more than 15 years, this has been at studios and there has been a whole dance around who’ll play the iconic roles,” Polk said. “Making it an independent film was the game-changer. Everybody is saying, how can you shoot this movie without a star? We’re shooting it because it’s a good movie with great characters. We’ve been in pre-production for months, but kept it a mystery. Part of the reason is because there’s so much crap about how you need a great big budget and stars. We aren’t looking for big names to trigger press or financing.”

Polk said that the idea of cutting through the bureaucracy and just getting started is consistent with the book’s themes of capitalism and taking entrepreneurial risk. The story centers around Taggart, a railroad executive  who watches society crumble around her as government takes control over industry and innovators begin to disappear.