December 20, 2011
The Year in Review—and Looking Ahead
The year draws to a close and as we look back on 2011, we see compelling evidence of an increasingly troubling economic, political—and, above all, philosophical—meltdown.
- As I write this, the predominantly socialist states of the eurozone teeter on the brink of collapse—from the periphery to its very core—with potentially global implications.
- Domestically, political paralysis has meant no progress toward curing our nation’s statist ills. Our nation is mired in a low-growth, high-unemployment quagmire; regulatory and environmental measures strangle prospects for business investment and expansion. Dodd-Frank and Obamacare loom, ominously, on the horizon.
- Government spending continues to metastasize—our national debt now exceeds $15 trillion. Our nation’s credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in living memory. “Stimulus” and “quantitative easing” have demonstrably failed. Yet mainstream politicians, bureaucrats, analysts and pundits call for more of the same.
- Finally, in response to failed policies, the newest phenomenon on the political radar is the Occupy Wall Street movement—which is little more than a rage-fueled outburst that demands not reform, but rather a ramping-up of the same statist policies that engendered the very crisis in which we find ourselves.
Against this backdrop—and in large measure because of it, we believe—interest in Ayn Rand, Objectivism and the work of the Institute continues to grow.
As a result we have not only concluded another very successful year at ARI, but have laid the foundation for what we are highly confident will be, with your assistance, an extraordinarily successful 2012.
In the paragraphs that follow I will summarize our major achievements for our fiscal year 2011 (which ended on September 30), and provide you with highlights of our plans for fiscal 2012.
In doing so, I hope to present to you a compelling case for your continued and increased support for the Institute.
The 201011 school year saw steady consolidation of previous years’ participation levels in both our Free Books to Teachers program and our annual high school essay contest.
- ARI distributed nearly 272,000 copies of Anthem, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to classrooms throughout the country.
- We received more than 22,500 essay submissions to our annual essay contests and awarded nearly $100,000 in prizes to winners and runners-up.
Of note on this front is the fact that in the month of December we have already begun to see responses for the current (201112) school year.
Initial data suggest that this school year will almost certainly see a massive increase in books requested, and essays submitted, before the end of May, 2012.
Two of our other college student outreach programs flourished in 2011:
- In 2011 we inaugurated our Books to Free-Market Students Program. We provided 8,500 copies of Atlas Shrugged to young people through free-market-oriented organizations. All of the books being distributed bear a bookplate directing readers to ARI resources for students and contain a small insert advertising the Atlas Shrugged essay contest. Books were sent to more than a dozen organizations, including the Foundation for Economic Education, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs, Adam Smith Institute, Students for Liberty, and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.
- ARI’s three-week summer internship program attracted twenty students this year (double the size of last year’s program) selected from a record 164 applications received from colleges and universities across the United States. A special emphasis is placed on offering internships to students relatively new to Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The interns spent their time in Irvine taking classes on Rand’s novels and ideas, and helping out in the office. Readings included Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We the Living, nonfiction articles by Ayn Rand and other Objectivists, and a number of works from other thinkers for comparative purposes (e.g., Plato’s Euthyphro and Phaedo). A highlight of the program was a Q&A by teleconference with former BB&T chairman and current ARI board member John Allison. Reviews of the program were very good; our evaluation of the interns as a whole was equally positive.
Finally, we remained actively engaged in academic outreach activities in 2011.
- Onkar Ghate, Debi Ghate, Keith Lockitch and I spoke at the Association for Private Enterprise Education annual conference, where we each participated in a session. Keith and I took part in an “authors meet critics” session for Why Businessmen Need Philosophy. Onkar presented on views of morality during the Enlightenment. Debi participated in a panel about opportunities outside the classroom with professors and students. Other Objectivists on the program included Brad Thompson, and Adam Mossoff (who attended as a result of grant support from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship.)
- The co-hosted ARI-Clemson Institute conference for BB&T programs took place May 31June 2. The academic sessions covered topics in Atlas Shrugged, the morality of capitalism, economics, business and the current state of the world. Onkar Ghate and I spoke during plenary and breakout sessions. Debi Ghate attended and gave brief remarks to the audience. ARI board member John Allison delivered the keynote address, “Teamwork and Independence.” Other Objectivists on the program included Eric Daniels and Brad Thompson of Clemson, Shoshana Milgram of Virginia Tech, and John Lewis of Duke University In all there were 65 attendees at the conference, comprised primarily of professors and deans in BB&T programs.
- ARI’s outreach to professors and scholars also included contributions to the academic literature—enriching the understanding of Ayn Rand in academic circles. For example, Onkar Ghate contributed several new essays on Rand’s fiction and philosophy to scholarly publications. For the Ayn Rand Society’s forthcoming volume Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology, Dr. Ghate contributed two pieces. (The Ayn Rand Society is an affiliate of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, and is unaffiliated with ARI.) Dr. Ghate also wrote a new article for the upcoming expanded edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living,” edited by Robert Mayhew, on the character Leo Kovalensky. Finally, Dr. Ghate has two contributions to the forthcoming Blackwell volume Ayn Rand: A Companion to Her Works and Thought, edited by Allan Gotthelf and Gregory Salmieri. One of the articles is on the concept of man as a being of self-made soul; the other discusses the free mind and the free market.
Education—Understanding Ayn Rand’s Ideas
As you know, earlier this year ARI announced plans for the Ayn Rand Institute Campus program—an online education platform to deliver educational content about Ayn Rand and her ideas to students of all ages, anywhere in the world. Thanks to a very generous $5 million contribution, our goal is well on its way to realization.
This past year saw significant progress toward plans to launch the ARI Campus site in early January of 2012.
In early 2011 ARI’s Education and Research Division contracted with a web development firm that specializes in online education. Over the past year the pace of development has been intense, as we designed a website and worked on the first ten courses for launch.
On the website development side, the major accomplishments include the following:
- Design of a new website that will host the Campus courses. This site combines elements of both a CMS (content management system) and an LMS (learning management system). The site will also contain community aspects such as course discussion boards, user profiles, and other elements to encourage participation in the courses and continuing engagement with the offerings on the site as well as other Institute programs and offerings. The Ayn Rand Institute Campus is unique and innovative in its melding of these elements (general content, courses and community) in a single online platform.
- Implementation of best practices to have the Campus “sell itself” using technology, social media and internet marketing techniques.
On the course development side, we are pleased to report the following:
- We have identified ten courses across a spectrum of topics, levels and styles with which to launch. Launch courses will include beginner and advanced material, repackaged and new courses, and different course formats (e.g., different numbers of instructors, and straightforward e-learning content versus “documentary style” courses).
- The courses will be multimedia productions that bring together video and/or audio content with text and images on the screen to support the primary course content. They will be interactive in that students will be encouraged to take quizzes, respond to thinking prompts, and submit questions. In addition, they’ll be encouraged to use discussion boards and other site-wide interactive elements. All the courses make use of ARI assets from the archives, weaving in images of manuscript pages, book covers, photographs, etc., where appropriate. Courses include the following:
- Moral Virtue by Leonard Peikoff (a multi-media adaptation of the existing audio course )
- The Philosophy of Education by Leonard Peikoff (a multi-media adaptation of the existing audio course for web delivery)
- Ayn Rand: Radical Thinker, with instructors Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate and Keith Lockitch
- The Ayn Rand Bookshelf, with instructors Debi Ghate and Elan Journo
- A Writer’s Life, produced by the Campus team
- Anthem, instructor Keith Lockitch
- We the Living, instructor Onkar Ghate
- The Fountainhead, instructor Keith Lockitch
- Atlas Shrugged, instructor Onkar Ghate
- “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” produced by the Campus team
Finally, to support the intensive course development schedule and manage the cost of ongoing AV production over extended periods, we contracted with a local consultant and constructed a green-screen studio on-site, from which we can develop high-quality video content for years to come.
In short, this massive, multi-year, multi-million dollar effort is on target both in terms of its goals and timeline—and we plan to launch the Ayn Rand Institute Campus in January.
Advanced Training—the New Intellectuals
In light of the forthcoming launch of the Ayn Rand Institute Campus, and based on a review of more than ten years’ experience, this year the OAC began a significant restructuring.
- We have established a new, two-part program for the education of future Objectivist intellectuals. The new, one-year Core Course will introduce students to Objectivism and its applications in an intensive fashion appropriate for undergraduate students; our Advanced Education Program is geared primarily for graduate and professional students as well as some working professionals.
- In April we launched a new seminar course for students in our Advanced Education Program. Taught by Onkar Ghate, the course on philosophical thinking brings together advanced students from the academic and policy track.
- Nineteen students completed the OAC Core program in May. This brings to 62 the total number of students who have completed the four-year Core program since its launch in 2001.
- The OAC established an alumni association for graduates of the OAC Core program, in which these former students will receive various forms of support and advice to help develop their careers and apply their OAC education.
- In September, as part of the new Advanced Education Program, the OAC team hosted a two-and-a-half-day workshop on preparing for the philosophy job market. Four Objectivist scholars who are already on the market submitted their dossiers for feedback (including their CV, dissertation abstract and writing sample) and participated in mock interviews and practice job talks. Four other OAC students who are currently in PhD programs and expect to be on the market in one or two years were invited to observe. The workshop was led by Dr. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, (former chair of the Philosophy Department at UNC Chapel Hill) with additional advice and insights from Dr. Darryl Wright and the OAC faculty.
- Following our most rigorous application process to date applying new admission standards, 26 students were admitted into our new Core Course which began in mid-October.
Publishing and Cultural
Again 2011 marked a year of strong readership of Ayn Rand and other Objectivist works; publication activities likewise continued at a brisk pace.
- Total sales of English-language versions of Ayn Rand’s books in 2010 (the most recent full year available) was 872,770.
- Total sales of Atlas Shrugged in all English text editions including eBooks was roughly 350,000—higher than any year previous to 2009. Weekly net sales of Atlas Shrugged reached an all-time high at the end of April and beginning of May 2011.
- Atlas Shrugged sales for the period January to June, 2011, were 292,000 copies, including hardcover and eBooks. This is roughly the same as the record year of 2009.
New entries into the publishing market included:
- iPad Amplified Edition of Atlas Shrugged was published by Penguin/Apple in mid-September 2011. ARI staff compiled archival documents, photographs and other images, audio and video recordings and reviewed the layout.
- 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand was published by Penguin.
- Penguin also published a revised edition of Why Businessmen Need Philosophy, titled Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist’s Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, edited by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston.
- The 75th Anniversary edition of We the Living was published in June in both mass market and trade paperback.
- The 50th Anniversary edition of For the New Intellectual was published in early September.
- Penguin published a new Teacher’s Guide for “Atlas Shrugged,” written by Onkar Ghate.
- And finally, a graphic novel of Anthem was published, also by Penguin.
We also worked to promote Ayn Rand and her works throughout the broader culture in a variety of ways:
- April and May were declared “Read Atlas Shrugged” month—featuring press releases, ARI-sponsored promotions, study aids, audio and video content, and links to the essays and books excerpts.
- Jeff Britting’s adaptation of Anthem had a successful world premiere run in Austin, Texas. Almost 1,000 people saw the production, with every performance being sold out. ARI gave a grant of $9,000 to support the production, which we hope will be reprised elsewhere.
- We assisted filmmaker Chris Mortensen in the creation of his documentary Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged.
- Zogby completed another national online survey in early October 2010 on the readership of Atlas Shrugged. The results were very similar to last year’s, with 29 percent of the 2,100 sample of U.S. adults indicating that they have read the book (versus 25 percent a year before).
Media and Public Policy—the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights
Our policy group and the Ayn Rand Center produced a steady and influential stream of commentary on public-policy issues throughout 2011.
We continue to maintain the blog site Voices for Reason where ARC writers comment on key issues of the day. We became a weekly fixture on the widely viewed conservative/free-market media site PJTV.com—with Elan Journo, Don Watkins and me offering commentary on a host of business, economic and political issues.
ARC analyst Don Watkins and I co-authored a regular column, The Objectivist, on the Forbes.com website. This provided an outstanding platform for disseminating our perspective; for example:
- Responding to Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Don and I published “It’s Time to Kill ‘the Robin Hood’ Myth” at Forbes.com, garnering more than 19,600 views and 5,500 social-media “shares”—the most, so far, for one of our columns.
- Our column “The Entitlement State Is Morally Bankrupt,” which keyed into the much discussed “Ponzi scheme” comment by Rick Perry, was viewed at Forbes.com by more than 22,500 people.
- Our November 18 column, “Before the Entitlement State,” had 27,000 views, and we have been told that this piece will appear in the January 2012 print edition of Forbes—a major success.
- Finally, we published “What We Owe Steve Jobs,” commenting on the passing of Mr. Jobs. The article was viewed at Forbes.com by more than 18,000 people.
- We also wrote a column dispelling the notion that wealth is a fixed social “pie”. The article garnered more than 15,000 views on the Forbes.com site alone (the second-highest tally so far) and led to several media interviews.
We continued our issue-specific applications of the Objectivist perspective as well:
- In the run-up to Earth Day, we launched a concerted effort to raise awareness of ARI’s unique position, including a livestreamed Q&A with Keith Lockitch and Rituparna Basu. An essay by Alex Epstein, “Six Myths About Oil,” appeared on FoxNews.com. Epstein also published an opinion piece on the demonstrated safety of nuclear energy, and was a panelist at a conference held at UCLA on climate change and alternative energy.
- Among our commentary articles, Tom Bowden published an opinion piece in the Daily Caller on what’s really at stake in the debate over the constitutionality of Obama’s health care legislation. The piece was featured prominently on the front page of the site’s opinion section, and prompted many comments from readers.
- We are researching and will be developing a white paper/policy report on the debate over how pharmaceutical companies market and provide educational resources to physicians and researchers. The project is expected to yield a substantive report and a number of spin-off editorial articles, all produced under ARI oversight. In addition, we have begun research on a number of editorial projects in the area of health care policy. Our initial focus will be on the nature and scope of current health care regulations, and their impact on physicians and medical care; our longer-term objective is to develop further our expertise on the critical issue of health care.
In addition to writing, of course, ARI spoke out—frequently and before large, diverse and receptive audiences—on key public policy matters.
In New York and in Chicago, ARC hosted talks and debates on a number of the most critical policy issues of the day.
More than 4,000 people attended one or more of our three-event First Principles debate series in New York (or viewed the events online). The debates focused on three crucial issues that are foundational to the public-policy debate in this country:
- Government: What Is Its Proper Role? (March 10, 2011)
- Freedom: For Whom and for What? (April 7, 2011)
- Capitalism: Is It Moral? (May 2, 2011)
In Chicago more than 2,000 people attended one or more of six talks held in that city. Those talks included:
- “Capitalism: Who Needs It—Ayn Rand and the American System,” Yaron Brook (June 2010)
- “Using Ayn Rand’s Values to Create Competitive Advantage in Business,” John Allison (September 2010)
- “Why Should Business Leaders Care about Intellectual Property?—Ayn Rand’s Radical Argument,” Adam Mossoff (November, 2010)
- “In Defense of Finance,” Yaron Brook (February, 2011)
- “The Menace of Pragmatism: How Aversion to Principle Is Destroying America,” Tara Smith (March 2011)
- “Health Care Reform: Setting Doctors Free,” John David Lewis (May 2011)
Moreover, we have had the opportunity to give a number of talks and participate in a number of panel discussions over the past year.
- For example, I recently took part in a panel discussion, “Navigating the Markets Three Years After the Financial Crisis: Investment Opportunities, Corporate Governance and Financial Performance in a New Global, Regulatory Environment,” at the University of San Diego School of Law.
- I also spoke to Tea Party Patriots at the American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona, with more than 2,000 activists in attendance. Tom Bowden also spoke at a major convention for Tea Party groups in Virginia. He addressed more than 2,500 attendees and led an hour-long breakout session on the same topic: how Tea Party activists have much to gain from grasping Ayn Rand’s moral defense of individual rights.
- ARC hosted a forum for foreign think tanks in November 2010 in Washington, DC, on Intellectual Property Rights with Adam Mossoff and on “Ayn Rand’s Books and Her Ideas” with Tom Bowden. ARC also hosted a law conference put on by Tara Smith with funds from the Anthem Foundation. Participants included George Mason University law professor Adam Mossoff, Institute of Justice attorneys Dana Berliner, Steven Simpson, Larry Salsman, and the Ayn Rand Center’s Tom Bowden and Lin Zinser.
We remained active in our commitment to advocacy of a proper foreign policy:
- Immediately after the killing of bin Laden, Elan Journo appeared on more than 20 radio programs nationwide to present ARI’s distinctive perspective on that development and foreign policy in the region.
- We sponsored a one-day foreign-policy conference in Washington, DC, this past September. The goal of the conference, “September 11th—A Decade Later: Lessons for the Future,” was to evaluate all that has happened—both in the United States and in the Middle East—over the past decade, taking stock of recent developments in particular and discussing the way forward for U.S. policy in the region. The conference featured three panel discussions with a number of distinguished experts in the field of history, foreign policy and national security studies.
Our ability to reach new audiences with our events, talks, debates and conferences has been greatly enhanced with the advent of “livecasting.” Streaming our events online has led to an estimated 21,000 people viewing ARI and ARC events, with a total of some 60,000 views since we began using the technology.
Finally, a very important indicator of our impact has been a series of congressional briefings that ARC has launched on Capitol Hill. The first, held in early November, was hosted by the Republican Study Committee’s executive director, Paul Teller. Thirty legislative aides (who are often the key decision-makers in the policy-making process) as well as six members of Congress attended my presentation, in which I focused on the budget battle in Congress.
In 2012 we will build upon the successes I have detailed above. Some highlights:
- In January we will launch Ayn Rand Institute Campus, which will usher in a new era in our ability to reach people around the world with Ayn Rand’s ideas. This will impact, in profound ways, our ability to teach Objectivism. At the same time, the OAC restructuring will allow us to invest our resources more effectively—training new intellectuals in order to give them the greatest opportunity possible to succeed and impact the culture.
- We will continue our Chicago speaker series, this year with three debates and three talks. We will again hold a series of events in New York, with a focus this time on a series of talks by leading Objectivist intellectuals. Our debate series with Demos, the first of which was held in Seattle last month, will continue with events all across the country.
- We will hold our next congressional briefing in February, the first of a total of nine such briefings planned for 2012. This is a new and exciting opportunity: our ability to speak directly to congressional groups such as the Republican Study Committee and the Tea Party Caucus will, if successful, give us unprecedented influence in the public-policy debate over the next few years.
- In late spring we should have the final figures for the Free Books to Teachers and essay contests for 201112. As mentioned above, we expect this to be one of our best years ever, with projections right now indicating a 25 percent increase in books ordered and a 15 percent increase in essay contest participation.
- This summer will see the second year of our new Books for Free Market Students program—which we are very hopeful will see even greater success in 2012. We will continue active participation in academic conferences around the country and internationally, and we plan to increase our summer internships by 50 percent to thirty students.
- In the fall two new books will be published: Leonard Peikoff’s much-anticipated The DIM Hypothesis, as well as Don Watkins’s and my forthcoming book on the moral foundation of free markets (the book’s title is pending). Our book promotion strategist will be in place to ensure the widest possible exposure for these works, and for other Objectivist works as well.
- We will, of course, continue to write and speak out in the media on the critical issues of the day. With 2012 being an election year—and with philosophical, political and economic trends likely to remain deeply troubling—we expect there to be no shortage of opportunities for us to advocate forcefully for freedom, individualism and capitalism.
- Finally, throughout the year we will develop and execute our new Digital Strategy Initiative. As I mentioned in a letter this fall, the Initiative will result in a much-enhanced presence for ARI on the web and on the proliferating new media and platforms that are increasingly part of everyone’s lives. Our capital campaign for this Initiative is ongoing; by next month we expect to have raised $600,000 toward our $1.5 million goal. The Initiative has the aim of “putting Ayn Rand’s ideas at the world’s fingertips”; that is, leveraging our resources through new technology to exploit emerging opportunities on the web; with e-books and downloadable, shareable media; on mobile devices and their applications; and throughout all of the new the social media.
To sum up: 2011 was a year of great accomplishments here at ARI; and more important, throughout the year we have worked to build the foundation for even greater impact in the year ahead.
At the beginning of this letter I outlined some of the major challenges facing the culture. There is no doubt that 2011 saw the continuation of political and economic trends, rooted in bad philosophy, that are now coming to a head.
The situation is, to put it mildly, serious.
But because it is so serious, and so obviously disconcerting to so many people, we have been able to make ever-increasing inroads into the culture.
- One indicator of course is the continued resurgence of readership of Ayn Rand—and the relative ease with which we are now able to produce, publish and promote new works presenting the Objectivist philosophy. Media mentions of Ayn Rand are easily double what they were just three years ago.
- Another is the increased participation among young people in our free books, essay contests and internship programs. Interest in the OAC, and the quality of applicants, continues to improve each year.
- Another is our success in securing media appearances two to three times each and every week on TV, web and radio, as well as our regular column on Forbes.com.
- Still another is the reception I received a few weeks ago, as I stood in the Rayburn House Office Building and addressed a group of House members and their staff. This would have been unthinkable five years ago.
All of what we have accomplished is the direct result of the support we have received from you.
Your continued, or, if at all possible, your increased, support at the end of this year will allow us to execute all of the plans I have laid out above—and more.
Next year, Americans are likely to face continued economic distress and political chaos and acrimony. Most will confront this distress without knowing the real sources of the challenges that our nation faces.
With your help we will be able to speak out more forcefully and effectively than ever—giving potentially millions of Americans the answers they are so urgently seeking.
Thank you for your consideration and I hope that we can count on your support!
President and Executive Director
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